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.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Meet Ally Shields

I can't help but wonder how many of us receive a couple of rejections and give up. More importantly, how many of us actually make serious changes as a result of our rejections? Ally Shields has some excellent tips that will help us strengthen our stories.

Avoiding Rookie Mistakes by Marketing Too Soon

                                             by Ally Shields

Writing is fun. It's the publishing end that makes us tear out our hair. I made many mistakes in the process, but I'm only highlighting those that resulted putting my work out there before it was ready.

My first query letter was vague, something about a witch who solved crimes, nothing about the specific plot. A more experienced writer suggested I follow this checklist:

·        Condense the story to a one-page synopsis.

·        Condense it further to an elevator pitch.

·        Write a logline.

I couldn't believe how difficult this was, and I didn't understand the term, logline. It also became clear I didn't understand my basic plot. If I didn't get it, how could an agent, editor or reader? I went back to the story, adding and deleting, to clarify the storyline. (For help with loglines and elevator pitches try this site: http://writingnorthidaho.blogspot.com/2011/10/blurbs-for-success-loglines-elevator.html. A good discussion of the synopsis can be found here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/holly-robinson/book-synopsis-tips_b_2426724.html.)

As soon as I passed the plot check, I jumped into the query process and received good initial responses. Unfortunately, my writing didn't live up to the query, and interest dwindled. Why? Because the first round of editing was up to me, as the writer—not the grammar and typos that everyone looks for—but passes through my manuscript looking for specific problems.

1.  Point of View: Is it consistent and clear throughout, without head hopping? Check here for an in-depth discussion: http://www.dbjackson-author.com/blog/index.php/2012/03/01/writing-tips-point-of-view-and-voice-part-i-overview/.

2. Five senses: Is each major scene grounded with as many of the five senses as possible without becoming artificial? Sight and hearing are easiest, but smell, taste and touch can often be added with just a little effort. The payoff is adding a richness that allows readers to share the experience.

3. Backstory/narrative: Backstory and narrative slow the pace of your story. Limit both to only what is necessary and dish it out in small amounts.

4. Over-used and/or weak words and phrases: Skipping this pass can ruin a good story by making it seem amateurish. I've found a program that helps (Cliche Cleaner), but my editor finds other words I've missed. My over-used words change: in one book it was eyebrows, in the next stared. My next word obsession was well. I use the Find function to ferret out weak, tired, or vague words: just, that, few, several, most. A longer list is on this website: http://goinswriter.com/weak-words/.

5. Pacing: Are the scenes in the right order with enough variation in intensity to keep the reader turning the pages? Take a look at structure forms, such as Blake Snyder's Beat Sheet: http://www.blakesnyder.com/tools/.

I spent three years writing, submitting, rewriting, and abandoned the project twice. I changed names, POV. Gradually, I figured out the issues, but failure was a harsh teacher. I burned a lot of publishing bridges and collected 167 rejections. Finally, I sat down and rewrote the manuscript from the beginning using everything I learned during all those required passes. When finished, I submitted Awakening the Fire, a Guardian Witch story, to three small presses. Two responded immediately, and I signed with one.

The book became a series: two books are published, a third coming in July. I have an approved story-arc for seven. It was a rough journey with a big payoff. I guess I learned a thing or two along the way.

Ally Shields is the pen name of Janet L Buck, a writer born and raised in the Midwest, along the Mississippi River, the setting for her urban fantasy series. After  a career in law and juvenile justice, she turned to full-time writing in 2009, and Awakening the Fire, the debut novel in her Guardian Witch series, was released in September 2012.  The author still lives in the Midwest with her Miniature Pinscher dog, Ranger. When not writing, reading or visiting her grown sons, she loves to travel in the US and abroad. Way too often she can be found on Twitter.

Contact links:

Buy Links:



Monday, June 17, 2013


Judy Hogan's contribution to Be A Real Writer packs a wallop. If you want to write a novel you'll learn a lot from this short piece. If you're a time-waster/procrastinator, you'll feel embarrassed and guilty. If you whine that you 've written two or three novels and can't sell them so you aren't going to write any more--publisher's loss--read on, and learn. Judy Hogan is a perfect role model for all of us.

            For twenty years I debated: am I a real writer?  I finally decided I was.  I’d been writing: diary, poetry, even a novel.  Nothing published, but it finally hit me: a writer is one who writes.  Then at age thirty-one my first poem was published in a poetry journal a friend, Paul Foreman, and I started, Hyperion Poetry Journal.  My writing life now, at age seventy-six, is more settled, confident, and ritualized.  I have five poetry books out, two non-fiction, and a mystery, Killer Frost.  I expect another mystery, Farm Fresh and Fatal, and a new poetry book, Beaver Soul this fall.

            I have about seventy unpublished books.  I have a great drive to write and feel best when I’m writing.  I use a schedule, spend two hours each morning writing in my diary, then, when I can free the time to write a book, two hours in the afternoon, and two hours in the evening.  I set aside two months when I won’t be teaching or otherwise distracted, this year, July-August.  I’ll do my farm work, a good break from the intensity of creating, let my mind go slack, pick figs, preserve soups for the winter, read mysteries. 

            Elizabeth George’s Write Away gave me my model.  Once I get my basic idea, I use George’s character prompt form to brainstorm new characters: what they look like, how they talk, what their goal is, in life and in the story, significant events, etc.  I want them to become alive for me.  Then I start sketching out the scenes.  I can usually rough out the whole novel.  Some chapters have several scenes; some only one. 

            Then I start composition. If the story moves in an unexpected way, I trust that intuition and follow it, even if the killer changes.  I often draft the whole novel in six weeks, normally 60-70,000 words.  I write by hand and revise as I type it on the computer.  Generally, I don’t change a lot.  I compose like a Japanese painter–study what I want to make vivid, see it clearly in my mind’s eye, and when it is quite real to me, then I describe what I see and hear.  I hear the dialogue better than I see the people.  The roughed out scenes are a guide, and I always reread what I wrote my last session, or more if I need to get into the flow of the novel.  Then I send it to two readers who like my work and help me find inconsistencies or more detail I might need.  Typing and later getting it published and promoted I can do with more interruptions, but composition needs me to become immersed in my book.  It’s work, but very gratifying, and it uses all of my mental life: feelings, experiences, personal history, concerns for justice.  I’ve been active in my community to improve conditions, but my best gift to other people and to justice is the books I write.
Judy Hogan’s first mystery novel, Killer Frost, was published by Mainly Murder Press in CT on September 1, 2012 in both trade paperback and e-book formats.  Her second novel in the Penny Weaver series comes out October 1, 2013. Beaver Soul, a poem written about her early experiences in Russia, will come out from Finishing Line Press, in KY, on September 1, 2013.  Judy founded Carolina Wren Press (1976-91) and was co-editor of Hyperion Poetry Journal, 1970-81).  She has also published five other volumes of poetry and two prose works with small presses. She has taught all forms of creative writing since 1974. She joined Sisters in Crime in 2007 and has focused on writing and publishing eight traditional mystery novels.  In 2011 she was a finalist in the St. Martin’s Malice Domestic Mystery contest for Killer Frost.  The twists and turns of her life’s path over the years have given her plenty to write about.  She is also a small farmer and lives in Moncure, N.C., in Chatham County near Jordan Lake.
Judy's website has fascinating information. Pop over there for a visit.

Monday, June 10, 2013


While Jo Huddleston's piece isn't exactly a how-to, I learned a number of things and made mental notes as I read: 1) write story ideas down--as detailed as possible. 2) Pray! 3) Don't give away any of my writing books. 4) Pray. 5) Be peaceful, patient and faithful. 6) Pray! 7) Never give up! 8) Pray! Jo has more than 200 articles and short stories in more than fifty different publications. I hope her Be A Real Writer contribution inspires you.

Note: Jo will give away a copy of Beyond the Past so leave a comment to be included in the drawing. Please leave your email address.

How The Caney Creek Series Came to Be

The setting of the Caney Creek Series is the Southern Appalachians of East Tennessee where my ancestors and I were raised. I’ve listened to older generations tell stories at family reunions about time before telephones and automobiles. Their stories fascinated me and caused me to want to write about a time before I was born.

This story began to percolate in my mind in the late 1990s. I’m what writers call a panster type of writer. I don’t outline my plot on paper. My entire plot and characters simmer in my mind before I write a word.

 While this story still rumbled around in my mind, in 2001 I received a life altering health diagnosis with a negative prognosis. My first symptom was the loss of penmanship that nobody, even I, could read. Then I began to have involuntary muscle spasms that prevented me from holding my fingers on the home keys of a keyboard. I couldn’t write and couldn’t type—this was before speak-to-type.

I thought my writing career had vanished. I cleaned out my files—even trashed all my rejection letters I’d been saving. I gave away most of my writing craft books.

My mind was still intact but my body wouldn’t do what it was told. My balance while walking started to diminish and I quit going to writing conferences. My doctor advised me not to drive. I was dependent on my family to even get to my doctor’s appointments and still am.

In 2008, I began to improve. My hands were steadier and I could get my story started.

I’ve outlived my doctor’s prognosis by two years. I’ve finished the second of a 3-book contract and feel fine other than fatigued when I don’t stop to rest now and then. Fatigue brings on more unsteadiness in my hands and legs.

From 2001 to 2008 I had a lot of time to meditate. A relative marvels that I’ve never questioned, “God, why me?” I have not become bitter because of the health issues. I think God just gave me time to understand a lot of things when I was inactive. I’m a more peaceful, patient, and faithful me.

Book 1 in the series, That Summer, hibernated for seven years, and then became a story on paper. When I finished That Summer, I thought I had accomplished my goal. However, I found I couldn’t leave my characters in some of their situations. I had to write at least one more book about them. Book 2, Beyond the Past, came to be. I’m now writing Book 3, in the Caney Creek Series, Claiming Peace, scheduled to release in September 2013.

Jo Huddleston's debut novel, That Summer, released in December 2012 as the first book in The Caney Creek Series. Beyond the Past is Book 2 in the series. Huddleston holds a B.A. degree with honors from Lincoln Memorial University (TN), and is a member of their Literary Hall of Fame. She earned a M.Ed. degree from Mississippi State University. Professional membership: American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW).

Visit Jo at her website: http://www.johuddleston.com/p/home.html  and her blog:

 You can purchase Caney Creek series books at the following links:

Signed copies available in left sidebar of Jo's blog: http://www.johuddleston.com

Paperback copies available at publisher’s site: http://www.donaldjamesparker.com/sOSProducts.aspx

Friday, June 7, 2013

Meet Cindi Myers

Do you know Cindi Myers? You should. She's written more than fifty books, and has one of the best, up-to-date marketing newsletters around. Cindi started her newsletter in 2000 as a way to share her publishing information with others. Be sure to visit her site, but first read her post on:

Time Management For Writers

The dream: you sit down in your beautiful office, your favorite beverage of choice close to hand. Soft music plays in the background and a scented candle fills the air with your favorite perfume. You open your laptop and the words flow. You lose track of time as your story unfolds. Hours later, you emerge from a trance, thrilled with the day's work.

The reality: you carve out a few hours to devote to writing and just as you sit down to work, the school calls to inform you that your child has the flu and is projectile vomiting in the office. The Fed-Ex man arrives with a package, the cat delivers a dead mouse to the doorstep, your mother calls, and you realize that if you don't do laundry right now you will have to go naked for the rest of the week. And then your favorite episode of Castle is on and you really can't miss it!

Finding time to write around the demands of family, home and day jobs is a challenge every writer faces. After 17 years as a full-time writer, I've developed a few tips and techniques to help you make the most of the time you have to write.

1. Take Inventory. Borrow a technique from successful dieters and spend a few days to a week tracking your time. Write down what you do all day in 30 minute blocks. Analyze the results and identify places where you're wasting time and vow to avoid these traps in the future.

2. Eliminate and delegate. Get rid of activities you can live without. Cut out the volunteer job you hate. Give the kids or your husband a chore that will free you up for writing time. Get rid of the clutter to make cleaning house easier or better yet -- lower your standards for house cleaning.

3. Carve out writing time. You've probably heard this one -- get up an hour earlier. Go to bed an hour later. Give up watching one show each evening and use that time to write instead.

4. Set a schedule and keep it. When you commit to an exercise program, trainers advise you to schedule a time and place to exercise and commit to doing it every day for at least six weeks. Do the same with your writing.

5. Make your writing portable. Carry a notebook with you everywhere. Write while your kids are at sports practice. Write on your lunch hour at your day job. Write before and after work, while you ride the bus on your commute, or anywhere you have a block of 10 to 30 minutes. It's not the ideal fantasy, but you'll be surprised at what you can accomplish.

I hope these tips will help you find more time to create the great stories that are inside you, waiting to be written. 

Cindi Myers is the author of more than 50 novels, including The View From Here. Find out more at www.CindiMyers.com

Monday, June 3, 2013

Meet L. Diane Wolfe

Many thanks to L. Diane Wolfe for being my first guest blogger. I asked her to tell us how to write a nonfiction book because I wanted some instruction. I hope you pick up on her energy, visit her websites and blog, and check out her book below.

How to Write a Non-Fiction Book
Most writers fall on one side of the equation - they write either fiction or non-fiction. Those who write fiction are storytellers and feed off their imagination. To them, writing non-fiction sounds about as fun as penning an essay. Many wouldn’t even know where to begin.
Writing non-fiction is very different than writing fiction. I’ve written books in both genres and it does require a shifting of mental gears. Non-fiction can be just as fun though. Plus, being the author of a non-fiction book has its advantages, including credibility as an expert and more media opportunities.
Below are the basic steps for writing a non-fiction book.
1 - Pick a topic you know well. You could try your hand at something new, but with non-fiction it’s all about your expertise. Consider it this way - what could you teach others?
2 - Create a basic outline. Group subjects into chapters and create a basic flow of information.
3 - Research! No matter how well you know a topic, there is always more to learn. Take lots of notes. Jot down facts, figures, resources, links, etc.
4 - If you will be quoting any sources or using images, get permission. Information and photos on the Internet are copyrighted by law. Better to get permission than to get sued.
5 - Organize your notes. Everyone has their own style, but group the notes according to each chapter topic. (I’ve literally cut my notes apart, laid out sheets of paper with each chapter’s subject, and then placed the notes where they fit best.)
6 - Once your notes are organized, adjust your outline accordingly and add details. If you are seeking a publisher or agent, they will want to see a detailed outline first, sometimes even before you’ve written the book. If you are self-publishing it, this will help you stay on track with your writing.
7 - Begin writing! One of the unique aspects of non-fiction is the ability to start with any chapter in the book. Often non-fiction in what I call a fact form - a presentation of information. But some non-fiction, especially historical non-fiction, is written with a storyline. The subject of your book will help you decide which method will work best.
8 - Once you start the first round of edits, note what is lacking. What areas need more information or details? You also want to ensure the writing has voice. It may be non-fiction, but your personality and voice need to come through loud and strong. If it doesn’t, then yes, you will have a boring essay on your hands!
9 - Editing non-fiction is also different in that you’ll need someone who knows the material and can edit for content, not just grammar, flow, and structure.
They say if you want to learn a subject even better, you need to teach it. Writing a non-fiction book achieves just that and allows you to share your expertise with others. And there’s something really satisfying in sharing.
Now, who’s ready to write a non-fiction book?
L. Diane Wolfe
Professional Speaker & Author
Known as “Spunk On A Stick,” Wolfe is a member of the National Speakers Association and the author of numerous books. Her latest title, “How to Publish and Promote Your Book Now,” covers her publishing seminars in depth and provides an overview of the entire process from idea to market. “Overcoming Obstacles With SPUNK! The Keys to Leadership & Goal-Setting”, ties her goal-setting and leadership seminars together into one complete, enthusiastic package. Her YA series, The Circle of Friends, features morally grounded, positive stories. Wolfe travels extensively for media interviews and speaking engagements, maintains a dozen websites & blogs, and assists writers through her author services.