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 ( 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 ( 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


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 or connect at