Friday, October 30, 2009


The Festival on LYRIS 5 by Nick Daws

Wow! I've read some of Nick's non-fiction works, but until the Blog Party, I didn't know Nick wrote fiction for publishing.

The Festival on LYRIS 5 is certainly a fun read. Nick adds humor in word choices and the precarious situations Rick Barrett finds himself in this fast paced galactic adventure. There is the perfect amount of SciFi 'stuff' to satisfy fans of Science Fiction, yet it isn't so hard-core to be off putting for any reader of any age.

As to be expected from Nick, LYRIS 5 is well written and engaging from the first moment to the last. I didn't see the big twist coming at the end and would have never, ever imagined it.

This is a fantastic little book (novella) which is complemented by the wry illustrations of Louise Tolentino. If I did book reviews The Festival on LYRIS 5 would get a galaxy full of stars.

Nick Daws is a professional freelance writer in the UK.
Visit Nick's fantastic blog:
Purchase The Festival on LYRIS 5 here: or go to and search by author or title.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Manuscript Formatting

To continue the list I started last week:

These things can be set up to happen automatically:

a) 1" margins all around. Top, Bottom, and both sides;
b) Double space lines;
c) Number pages, either top right or bottom right - you wouldn't believe the number of people who don't number the pages;
d) Header on every page, the order varies, but the header should contain the working title and the author's name (or at least last name);
e) Title page should include contact information in the lower left corner, (name, mailing address, phone number, email address, genre and word count);
f) It is my personal preference to have widows & orphans turned OFF, but probably most people accept either format. I think it looks less 'neat' with it turned on, though be careful about them. Google or go to 'help' in your software and learn what Widows & Orphans are -- especially if you are going to self publish and have to do the formatting. They really make a book look self-published (in a bad way);
g) Use a sensible font and pt size. Agents read such a large part of their day, make it easy on their eyes. Don't get cute with fonts. Besides, if it is online rather than in print, your font might not be supported by their software. Someone once used a font I didn't have (hard to imagine, I have tons of them) and it was $29+ to purchase it -- I passed.

These things have to be done manually:

a) One space (only) between sentences.
b) Insert page breaks at the end of a chapter so the new chapter begins at the top of a new page. Do not hit the 'enter' key repeatedly to do this, you have to use the page break function or you are totally screwed when you edit or do rewrites.
c) Center Chapter heading, use the center function, do not tab over and guess at the center. A computer might seem like a modern typewriter, but it behaves differently if you don't use the computer functions.
d) Use the tab rather than the space bar to begin a new paragraph.
e) Technically the first sentence of a Chapter is not indented. I ignore this because I begin my books (always) with a line of dialogue.

I'm sure I've forgotten a thing or two. I do these things automatically because I have done them for years. Sitting here looking out the window at the snow it is a bit harder to think of them for a list. Review their website, many agents and publishers list specific guidelines for submissions. These serve two functions, they want things that way and they want to see if you can follow instructions.

This stuff is for fiction mss, not for non-fiction...though a memoir is not fiction, it is done in a novel or fiction format.

Additions to this info or questions about it are welcome in the comment section. We're all in this together. Like Nick said yesterday, don't obsess - but do remember you are applying for a job as a novelist against tons of other applicants. Look sharp. Write well.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

More on Manuscrips (mss)

The question continues on the 'single' or "double" quote marks for dialogue in UK mss. I asked UK writing guru, Nick Daws, his opinion since he is my "go-to guy" and head moderator of writer's forum.

Nick said:
Both single and double quotes are used in Britain. I would say that single quotes are still more common, but double are widely used as well. Of course, quite a lot of books we get here are by US authors originally. I guess their UK publishers don't think it's worth bothering to change all the quotes from double to single!

In the end, a lot of it probably comes down to house style. An independent UK publishing house I've had some dealings with, Tindal Street Press, uses single quotes in all of its books. Large, multi-national publishers often use double, though. I suppose it's more convenient for them to apply one style in all the countries they operate in.

I followed up with asking what he would do if he was submitting an ms to a UK literary agent and here is his answer:

Personally, with a UK publisher, I would use single quote marks unless there was good reason for using double. But really, I don't think it's that important, as long as you're consistent.

So there you have it.

I've thought more about formatting mss, since I don't want to short sheet the information that I can share.

It is far easier to set up your word processing software in the beginning than to go back and fix everything after the fact. If you are the hands on type of learner, here is an easy tip:

Paste a page of your ms into a new document. Then go through the menus at the top of the page (or ribbons if you are using MS Word 07). Go through each drop down menu item, even if you know what "print" and "save" is. Take your time and when you get the print window, explore each thing that you can click on to customize the features. You don't have to waste a ton of paper, but do look at each item and explore what it does.

Continue methodically working your way though each function until you come to something new. Learn it. If it is a simple task, move on to the next item. It is a waste of time to go through this quickly and not really learn the new functions.

This will take a week or maybe two, but you should know a whole lot more about your software and be able to command the functions you need to produce a professional looking ms after you've mastered your software.

I use WordPerfect and can customize my tool bar. One of the things I did was to change "save" to "save as" so that I would be prompted rather than accidentally overwrite something in haste...or fatigue. Most likely you can do this with MS Word, though I am only aware of the small tool bar at the top left that can be customized. However, you need to learn and master the software you use.

Tomorrow I'll make a more comprehensive list than I mentioned last week.

Meet Nick Daws, professional writer and contributor to the Blog Party:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Last Draft

One of the things I wasn't going to do with my blog was write about how to write. For one thing, there is tons of stuff on the internet about writing - not to mention all the books on how to write.

Well, anyway - I've gone and done it, haven't I?

Okay...the next tip is to put away the perfect little ms and research the literary agents or publishers for a list of where it will be submitted. When that gets boring, work on query letters.

Then pull out that ready-to-go ms and read it aloud. Is it really ready to go? Listen to what you are saying. If that ms was written by someone else would it really be finished? Best go through it with an objective eye. You only get one shot to shop that ms to each of your targets. Make it a good one.

Some people say the most common error is shopping an ms before it is ready for a professional to read it. I agree. Put your best foot forward.

Get everything ready, your ms, your query letter, your synopsis, and your list of targets (agents or publishers). Then begin to query.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Dialogue Tags -- according to...ME!

Keep in mind that I write literary fiction. It isn't something many people write and for good reason, it isn't all that popular.

More or less, though, there are writing skills that cross the genre. This is, of course, my take on how to write. The popular wisdom runs the gamut on dialogue tags from zero, nada, absolutely never to use what is needed.

It is one of the most annoying things I've found in reading is to lose track of who is saying what in a conversation. It annoys me so much that the second time I have to stop reading the story to count down and figure out who said a particular line, I toss the book in the trash bin. So here is my take.

One thing that should help is it is unlikely every character talks like every other character. That helps with keeping straight who is talking. For example, in High Tide, Shasta is a six year old who lived on the street with her homeless family. Now what are the odds that she is going to speak well? Slim. So Shasta throws in a double negative every once in a while, because that is how real kids talk. The nuns, on the other hand, generally speak in full sentences. Other's speech is determined by their ethnicity. And, if you've read my books, the Parade Lady really plays a trick on Kathryn with her Southern Rural Appalachian dialect. So number 1 on the list is make the characters speak like they would in real life according to how you have described them.

Another thing that can be done is to make the narrative surrounding the dialogue clear enough about the situation that it is clear what is happening and the conversation makes innate sense. Don't go overboard and make the narrative boring or the reader will never get past it to the dialogue.

And finally, the basics:
a) When the dialogue is a short conversation of 6 or 8 lines between two people, it is probably going to be easy enough to follow without dialogue tags;

b) When person 1 and person 2 take turns, it is easy to keep track in a short conversation that goes 1-2-1-2-1-2. But if someone speaks outside of that ping-pong style, if someone interrupts and takes two turns, like 1-2-1-2-2-1 then it might be necessary to tag the switch up. Certainly give that conversation a second or third going over to make sure it is clear to your reader;

c) When it is a two person conversation that is rather long, add a dialogue tag once in a while as a benchmark to make it easy for the reader to be certain who is speaking.

d) When there are more than two people in the conversation, then it is likely dialogue tags will be needed to make clear who is saying what - maybe not on every line. On occasion a third person can jump into a two person conversation, say a line and leave with it clear what happened. For example, and this isn't the world's greatest example, two people are on the street arguing or at least disagreeing about where they are going. When they hop into the taxi, person one says to the driver a destination and the cabby replies his one line in the whole scene, then person one continues to talk with person two.

Now the nuts and bolts of dialogue. In the USA we use double quote marks at the beginning and end of spoken words, with single quote marks for something quoted within a spoken text. In UK English, single quote marks are used where we use double quote marks.

In the US, commas and periods (full stops) are usually placed inside the ending quotation marks. Colons and semicolons are placed outside quotation marks. Question marks and exclamation marks are placed outside or inside the quote marks, depending on the sentence structure. (Look up that one, if it applies.) Just keep in mind to review American punctuation rules if you aren't an American writer, but plan to shop your ms to the American industry.

Keep tags simple. There is nothing wrong with saying 'said'. The best thing you can do for dialogue is read it aloud. If you say something different from what you wrote, what you said is probably better than what is in print. Swap it around.

Most publishing houses have their inhouse standards on dialogue tags. There is probably lots more on this on the Internet. There are probably plenty of writers who disagree, but this is my take on dialogue tags.

The main thing is that your writing is not work to read; not for agents/publishers or for your readers. You want your ms read clear through. You want your book published. You want readers to love your book so much that they tell others about it.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Q & A

There was a question left on the wall of my filedby page which basically said: Do you have any general info/advice that I could start with toward publication?

This is a huge topic, so I'm going with the single most important thing a person can do for their manuscript. Assuming the story is compelling and the basic writing skills have been employed -- this is the 'fix' that can get an ms noticed.

Now that nearly anyone with a computer and a few word processing skills, with discipline, can crank out 80,000 words. The key is to be very completive when you shop your ms to a literary agent or a publisher. You need a killer query letter -- and I'm not the person to ask about writing query letters.

Here are a few basics to clean up the ms to make it look professional. The easiest and rarely found on the Internet or books is that there is only one space between sentences in an ms. Yep. Wild, isn't it? Put two spaces in the search function of your word processing program. In the 'replace' space put in one space. Swap the spaces in the whole ms.

Next, another easy fix, double space the lines. Those are the two big cosmetic items. Their importance is purely a matter of passing through the visual test that the writer has a clue and the ms should make it to the next test -- actually reading it!

The thing to know about these readers is they are pros and they are human beings -- greatly overworked and often brilliant human beings. So give them a killer first line. Open with a memorable line. Delete long (or short) descriptions (bios) of your characters. Don't describe the setting except in terms of the impact or interaction of the setting in relationship to the character. Move the story forward.

Be careful with flashbacks. Start the story at the beginning of that story. Forget backstory. Seriously. Forget backstory. Make your story show what makes your characters 'tick' -- why they do what they do. Backstory is telling and telling in the early pages of your ms will be the kiss of death to getting the whole thing read by that very important person you want to love your story.

So go through the ms word by word, sentence by sentence, from the beginning to end. Do it several times. Read it aloud. If you can corner someone to sit through a full reading with a copy for them and for you, then do it. Bribe them. They will stop you when you read it different from how you wrote it. Look carefully at that part because how you said it, particularly in dialogue sections, is most likely better than how you wrote it.

Clean the ms as best you can following the above instructions. Ask a friend or two to read it and comment honestly. Tell them that 'loving it' doesn't help you. You want them to look for disconnected timelines, out of character behaviors that do not fit with moving the story forward. Was the story satisfying? Ask them to mark places they got bored - those are places to look closely for telling or other bad habits that stop the story. Make the fixes and ask another friend or two to read it for you with similar instructions.

Hire a proof reader to make the basic grammar corrections. A proof reader usually costs less than an editor and if the story is sound, that is all you need done.

Then submit your ms to well researched targets, whether they are lit agents or publishers who don't require an agent. If your ms looks professional (minus the basic amateur mistakes in formatting) and reads well, the story has a shot at doing its job to land a contract to publish.

Questions? I'll try to answer or find someone who can.

My filedby page:

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Pop Quiz?

What happens if you write a guest blog about typesetters and send it to a very bright Argentinean teen?

You have to look at this. It made me laugh at what she did to my plain ol' email submission. Please leave her a comment. (Click on the first line below the date after the last comment.)

Introducing the bright, talented, beautiful -- Ella!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Winter Preparations

All the Arizona periodicals have pictures of the fall colors. Some of the neighbors have been busy closing their cabin for the winter. I hear others out cutting wood.

We have been in a mood of cleaning the garage (not me), rearranging furniture in three rooms (not my idea either, but I love the results), and getting set for a comfortable winter. I've been looking for lily bulbs, but always get pointed to the tulips. Almost everything here in the mountains strikes me as comical.

It isn't so funny to give readers tulips when they are looking for lilies. I've been thinking a lot about the list I want to build for Cactus Rain as I wash windows (my idea) and clean rain gutters of pine needles. I'm aiming for the top end of the 'mid list' and expect that my writers will go on to great things.

It is exciting to redesign the wheel in a way that makes sense for a modern world. Besides the technology advances, publishing hasn't changed much for 150 years. I think it is about time for that change. Don't you?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cactus Rain Publishing

If you read my October newsletter, you know that I'm launching Cactus Rain Publishing. The letter came back from the Arizona Corporation Commission approving the Limited Liability Company for Cactus Rain Publishing. All that is left to do officially is to publish the legal notice in the newspaper, then file the affidavit of publication with the AZ Corporation Commission.

Cactus Rain Publishing is a boutique publisher specializing in distinctive voices in novels for adult readers. Cactus Rain Publishing is going to reinvent the idea of a small press. In the search for the highest standard in writing and publishing, both the work and author will be vetted. Most of the writers will be foreign authors writing in English, but there will be other surprises on the website once it is launched.

The writing will be fresh and unique for an American publisher. And the writer will actually make money for the hours, weeks, years of work to bring a story to life for the enjoyment of their readers. No lit agent required, but the query letter should be stellar and make me ask for a one page synopsis.

Joyce ( has started working on the website. Currently the URL redirects to my personal website. Just wait until you see what she is doing! OMGosh!

I have bids for the logo. The contract is back from the lawyer. And I'm working with the debut author to begin the 2010 catalogue. There will be online sales and I'm working on securing real distribution with a distributor who has impressed me for years.

So that's my excuse for not having another ms written. What do you think about that news? Questions?

Monday, October 19, 2009


Last Saturday I was in Phoenix and had lunch with Joy Collins and Cathy Marley. We met at the Glendale Olive Garden for a chance to catch up, talk shop, and have the Olive Garden's fabulous salad -- plus I was delivering their copies of the Blog Party Book.

We did the usual, "How have you been?" conversation. Cathy asked how I'm doing in Pine. I told a few stories, mostly about the javelina. They were very active last week. Joy and Cathy told about the javelina attacks in Sedona -- thank God, Sedona isn't too near Pine. Actually, they told me lots more about javelina than I really wanted to know.

One thing for sure, those are large, stocky animals and have the reputation of being quite dangerous -- which I believe without a doubt. I was trying to describe the sound they make when they call to each other, it is more like a scream. I'm more sure of it after being outside a few minutes ago hearing one a few houses away.

They seem to have a territory, like most animals. Every few days their travels bring them by Jean's house (where I'm staying). One will call, then another, another, and another -- from every direction, it seems. I think they are saying, "Hey guys, let's go meet at Jean's house and scare the beejeebies out of Nadine."

The other night it sounded like a dance troupe was on the front deck, dancing the Jitter Bug. At first I was sure people were coming to the door -- in the middle of the night. It took forever for Jean's dog to wake up and bark until they left. (Some watch dog!)

Anyway, Joy said javelina's have poor eyesight. I couldn't help going with that and explaining how, because the cabin is built on a mountain, one end of the deck has quite a bit of clearance, while the part that turns and runs across the front of the house ends close to the ground.

As the javelina come up the mountain, they walk under the deck. Since they are the size of a large dog, only more stout in stature, (with the poor eyesight and all) they must be smacking their forehead on the cross beams of the deck. Thump, thump, thump...until there is a really loud one and they must reach the end of their ability to go any farther -- I'm not going out to check, so I'm just guessing, because I see them come out from the side of the deck, form into a group again and head across the road. I was a bit dramatic telling the story, hand to forehead with each "Thump."

Joy and Cathy think I should write these stories down. (There were other stories about local customs and a few colorful people I've met.) I might tell a few of the animal stories from time to time, but I best not tell too much about the locals if I want to stay here a while.

If anyone is interested, there are 4 copies of the Blog Party book left.

Find Joy here:
Find Cathy here:

More about Javalina:

Now we all know more about Javalina than we really need to know.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Ivana's Interview

I cannot fully express my appreciation for the people who support and encourage me. One friendship I treasure is with Ivana Marić in Croatia. Ivana blogs at Willing To See Less. Here is an interview she did recently. Nadine

My guest blogger today is Nadine Laman, a wonderful author and a very dear friend of mine. Our friendship started some three months ago, when I discovered FiledBy, a social network for authors and readers to meet. Nadine is a writing mentor and a personal cheerleader, often a shoulder to cry on. I am glad to have met her and to have read and reviewed her books, Kathryn's Beach, High Tide and Storm Surge. Today, Nadine is answering some of my questions on the trilogy and the writing process.

Q: Tell us how Kathryn's Beach was born!
A: Kathryn's Beach began as a short story banged out and emailed to a friend who had "cabin fever" during an ice storm. The friend wanted more, and the novel was born. In 21 days, I emailed a chapter or two to her each night until the draft of the story was finished.
Once my friend pushed for more story, I got serious about Kathryn's story and used the skills I had learned in writing classes to transform it into a novel.

Q: At that time, did anyone know you were writing?
A: Until that time, no one except my husband knew I wrote. I'm not sure he read any of my works, but he knew I wrote a short story a night after our boys were in bed and the house was quiet.

Q: Did you encounter any difficulties in writing Kathryn's story? Were there any obstacles in getting the books published?
A: The difficulty was that I had type cast Kathryn as a wounded person in search of redemption from the responsibility she felt for the death of one of her young clients. It was a balancing act to push her to move forward for answers and keep her wounded an appropriate amount of time. The dilemma became writing a weak character without making the writing weak. To complicate matters, I had set it as literary fiction - one of the least popular genre.That was almost a sure way to make certain that the book would never be published. Not to mention that writing in first person, present tense is a terrible idea. It has no commercial appeal. The books have been turned down because they were written in first person, sight unseen.

Q: How did Kathryn's Beach grow into a trilogy?
A: My friend asked for more, for a second book. At that point I knew there had to be a third book to finish the story; a beginning, middle, and end - the first rule of writing.The question was then, how to make each book complete, unique, and lead to the end of the third book that not only was satisfactory as an end to the book, but to the trilogy as a whole.

Q: You mentioned Kathryn's Beach was originally a short story. Was it difficult to expand it into a full-size novel--a trilogy, to be exact?
A: What saved me in transitioning from a short story writer to a trilogy of novels, was the writing classes I had taken at university. I suppose it can happen that a writer has an innate sense of writing, but most of the time, the tools of the craft set the foundation for becoming a novelist.

Q: You are very supportive towards novice writers. What is the best advice you can give to us who are just starting out?
A:I believe anyone can write, but to write well a person has to learn the skills of the craft: character development, dialogue, pacing, story line with arcs, literary devices. These are not hard skills to learn and it only takes a bit of discipline to apply them and the guts to write so that it can withstand the reader's test.

Thank you for being my guest today, Nadine, and for doing this interview!

This is a blog to be followed and a writer to anticipate her debut novel, Ivana Marić

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Buzz-Buzz, Book Buzz

Storm Surge
Nadine Laman
Nadine Laman Books (2009)
ISBN 9780982332122
Reviewed by Cherie Fisher for Reader Views (10/09)

It was a nice surprise to see that Nadine Laman finished her third book in the Kathryn McKenzie series. The first two books in the series are “Kathryn’s Beach” and “High Tide.” You do not need to read the other two before this one, but I highly recommend that you do not miss them. As with the first two books, this one does not disappoint.

“Storm Surge” takes place four years after “High Tide.” The story begins with Kathryn getting the surprise of a lifetime when her Grandfather McKenzie publicly announces his retirement and appoints her to take over the family empire. This sends the press into a feeding frenzy and she knows that the quiet life that she has built for herself has come to an end. As she comes to terms with the changes, she leaves the job that she has had for several years and has come to love as a Social Worker at St. Mark’s convent.

As Kathryn leaves her beloved beach behind to move into her new position and the family mansion, she finds herself cleaning up her cousins’ messes and that she is less than welcome by them. She also begins to unravel family secrets, threats to her life and very suspicious corporate activity. Just one of those issues would be enough for anyone to handle, but Kathryn must meet them all head on. As usual, with large doses of her prized coffee, she does beautifully.

As Kathryn faces all these challenges, she is confronted with her own health challenges and must dig deeper than she ever has to deal with them. As she does, she learns who she can really trust in her life and that being courageous is the only thing that will get her through.

“Storm Surge” is very well written and as usual with Nadine Laman’s work, I did not want it to end. Hopefully, we will see more of her work in the near future.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Free Book Offer

Here is an offer from my good friend Joy Collins.

We are trying a crazy thing to try to get COMING TOGETHER into the hands of more people. Could you blog this or send it out to your mailing list?
Thanks a bunch.

Here ya go, Joy!

Chalet Publishers is giving away free e-copies of their new novel COMING TOGETHER - A story of love and intrigue in Rio!

We know once you read it you will fall in love with Daisy and Luis and Rio.

This offer is good from 12:01 AM (today) October 14, 09 to 6 PM October 16, 09 Pacific Time. (Pacific time is -8 hrs GMT)

So, if you would like to have your free copy of Coming Together, send a blank email during that time frame to Put FREE BOOK in the subject line.

We will send a PDF version of the book back to you by return mail.

Chalet wants to give books away! So, tell your friends about this novel and they will also receive one by emailing us.

There are no gimmicks. Just good will and total belief in a book we know you won’t soon forget!

This is simply our gift to you.

Don’t look for strings attached.

There aren’t any!

Personal note: Joy doesn't know (unless she reads this) I'm reading Coming Together now. How's that for coincidence? Pretty cool, eh?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Confessions, Endorsements, Disclaimers, and other stuff

I mentioned last Friday that I might disclose a possible conflict of interest endorsement this week. Well, here it is.

Months ago I was looking for my old book covers on the internet and going through changing the ones I could to the new covers.

I found and signed up (free) so I could edit the cover art for my books. I emailed 'help' to add Storm Surge and change the publisher info (I couldn't do that myself).

A conversation ensued with Renae at Filedby and as I do with many beta sites, I gave feedback. She was prompt at helping me make the changes on my books. So I got interested in the site because the regular social networks I'd tried (as we're supposed to) didn't 'flip my cookie.'

I thought (and have said) filedby was what I was looking for in a site to chat with my readers about my books. No silly games and quizzes and I was not limited to 140 characters. My books aren't on amazon so reviews can't be posted there. I encouraged people to meet me on my page and chat with me or post reviews of my books on my fan site at

Well anyway, I guess my input was useful to the filedby people, they certainly said Thank You often enough. (Very nice people - did I mention?)

One day they sent an email saying they had upgraded my free basic account to Premium Plus.They never said why they did that, as far as I remember it was sort of a group hug thing. They never asked for anything in return from me.

Of course I'm going to continue to tell them what I like and what doesn't work for me - that's what I do. The upgrade makes no difference in my opinion of their site. Filedby works for me and I like what it adds to my portfolio.

My Filedby page:

Filedby membership info:

Monday, October 12, 2009

Human Resilience and Character Development

Writer, Susan Gabriel is a family therapist and I am a social worker (and a writer). Anyway, last week we were talking about human resilience. Since then, I've been thinking all weekend about resilience.

I have no problem putting down a novel (or throwing it in the trash) after reading less than the first chapter. I don't like reading. I read for information not recreation, even if it is fiction. If the writing is flat and boring me to death, then I'm done. (Unfortunately, I have the same reaction to real people - unless they are my clients.)

So what do I want to see in writing? Humanity. Whether the novel is about human people or fantasy people, I want to see human qualities. Here again, I'm back to crashing the urban myth that to learn to write well one must read [in their genre].

I'm probably going to be denounced by the powers that be, but that is like telling someone that they must go to art museums to learn to paint or sculpt. First you have to learn the techniques then go observe how others have applied them.

There is a certain amount of observation of people one can do. However, if you want to learn about people, then read a book on basic human growth and development. Take a psych 101 class. Don't just copy what you read in other writer's works - they might have it all wrong.

What's this have to do with resilience? Everything. What does this have to do with character development? It means I think that the standard advice is flawed. That is the wrong kind of research to do if you want to be a great writer. For one thing, most of the books out there really aren't that good, regardless of the sales records (that just reflects on the effectiveness of the marketing).

A few years ago one of the television networks ran promos that good television was all about drama. I'd add that it was about HUMAN drama. You have to understand resilience to know how to push your characters beyond their strengths, have them react, regroup, and succeed.

In high school senior English/college prep English, Miss Barbee made us identify the flat and round (well rounded) characters in everything we read that year. Not every character should be well rounded - who really cares what the waiter looked like?

You have to write in 3D (three dimensional) - flat, round, and very round main character (like not everything in a painting is in the foreground). While you are telling a lovely story with perfect pitch in the plot, sub-plot, and all the elements of writing, push your MC and make them interesting. Make them human. They can't just survive, they have to thrive and you can't make the obstacles too easy.

So back to the reading bit to learn to write (to tie up the loose ends in this post). AFTER you learn the techniques then read as a writing student. Look at how the techniques were applied. for enjoyment and quit justifying it by thinking you are learning to write.

Susan Gabriel:

Friday, October 9, 2009

Blogger homework, read the links

Irene Watson gave me a heads-up that the Federal Trade Commission was looking at the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in relation to bloggers. (see link #1 at the end of page).

I am not even sure I understand everything, so you'll have to read this stuff for yourself. Don't ignore it because the fine is BIG if you screw up and get caught. (see link #2)

One discussion Irene and I had was about non-American bloggers. Personally, I wouldn't think anyone blogging on American sites should ignore learning about this new development - it might apply even to foreign bloggers, if blogging is on an USA site. Yeah, policing might be a task.

My take on this is they didn't take this step because a few people get free books in exchange for a book review. Most of us know there is little control over how the review gets written, and frankly, it is kinda fun to see how they turn out. Nonetheless, I suppose beginning December 1, this year, we should consider noting compensation of any kind we get.

Sure it is the usual thing where everyone has to take notice because some companies set up blogs and hired people to give bogus endorsements - so goes the rumor, but anyone who pays attention to the industry already knew that. It was the news two years ago. It was also rumored that some companies tried, briefly, to hire people to write bad stuff about other companies.

All of that is childish and I don't think any of us grown-up types stoop to that stuff. The thing is, I don't care if someone gives me a book [I usually buy or trade books], if I hate the book, I'm not going to say I like it. I might not say anything, but I'm not going to Hell for lying over something like that.

So I guess it is true confession time. Maybe I'll write about my recent conflict of interest next week. Stay tuned.

Link #1
Link #2


Meet Irene Watson here:

No compensation has been given for this post. We are friends - that's why we talk about book stuff with each other.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Whoo-Hoo! Newsletter!

I don't know if anyone noticed, there was no Sept newsletter (from me). Well I made up for it this month! Check out the October newsletter!

Also I forgot to add a link for Glyn Pope yesterday. Go check it out.

And...skip down to Monday's Book Buzz by Ivana, I added her picture.

And...go look at Andrew Revels' website, what is he celebrating this month, besides this, "Did you see the good news for my show? I got picked up by a TV station so it's going to be syndicated seven days a week in 32 counties in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Illinois."

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Writing Resources

Glyn Pope and I have continued commenting on the Beta Reader post from the other day. I recommended the book: The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes (And How To Avoid Them) by Jack M. Bickham.

This is a little book that actually has useful information for the beginning novelist. It is also a good review for experienced fiction writers. The chapters are short and to the point. Of course, I think Mr. Bickmam is a genius since he says such things as "Writers Write" - one of my signature comments too.

I thought it might be useful to all of us if people would post one of their favorite writing books in the comment section. Please, everyone is invited to jump in and contribute.

Find Glyn Pope here:

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Proof Positive (I love being a writer)

The Blog Party Book proof arrived today. I couldn't wait to get back to the cabin and hold it in my hands.

Geeze, one would think I hadn't seen a proof book before (this is number six for me). It isn't like it is a novel I wrote.

I looked through every page reliving the blog party and the community that developed during those four weeks.

Silly as it is to print the blog party, I love that book. I've ordered 20 copies that will be added to my website for sale.

There is a picture of it in my October newsletter (which will be posted on my website soon - subscribe to get a notice when it posts).

Monday, October 5, 2009


by Ivana Marić, Croatia, guest blogger

Storm Surge by Nadine Laman: Grandfather McKenzie announces his retirement at a staged media event, naming who will succeed his rule of the McKenzie multi-billion dollar empire. In the four years Kathryn has known him, he never mentioned his plans to retire. None of the McKenzie heirs are thrilled about the announcement. The first lesson is, "Money corrupts!" Lesson two: "Everyone has an agenda!"

Preceded by Kathryn's Beach and High Tide, Storm Surge is the last book in the trilogy. Though I tend to love the first in the series best, it's not the case with this one; Storm Surge is my favorite in this series. It's different than the first two in many ways. In Kathryn's Beach, Kathryn is broken and struggles to make peace with her haunting past; in High Tide, she is confronted with changes and is doing her best to resume her life. All she learned and knew will be put to test in Storm Surge. When Grandfather McKenzie's announcement comes like a bolt from the blue, she needs to change her simple way of life in order to carry out her new duties as the heiress of a multi-billionaire worth business empire. She becomes the most powerful woman in California. But with power comes obligations, responsibilities and many tough decisions-not to mention danger and loss of anonymity.

Storm Surge was a read that made me hold my breath and flip the pages to find out what happens next. Once again, Kathryn proves herself as an intelligent, smart, compassionate and strong woman able to cope with any problem coming her way. She is thrown to the sharks, faced with the dark side of a world she never wanted to be a part of and carries it out graciously and without corrupting her own system of moral values. The ending was everything but predictable. As the families dirty laundry comes to surface, Kathryn is faced with a terrible illness-her own. It almost kills her, but with some help from her lovable friends she returns stronger.

I just love the way Nadine builds up her characters and story. Her writing is a wonderful example of show, don't tell . The characters crystallize through their actions, not words and descriptions.The last pages leave more than enough space for one more book, and it's amazing how the last chapter is tied back to Kathryn's Beach.

I'll miss Kathryn. As I said in my previous reviews of Kathryn's Beach and High Tide, she is as real as she can be. It was wonderful to watch her unfold to the maximum of what she can be in Storm Surge. Luckily, we'll spend some more time together as I'm translating Nadine's books into Croatian!

Meet Ivana Marić, Croatia. She is a English and German student, a novelist, blogger, and most importantly, a mom. Visit Ivana's blog

Friday, October 2, 2009

Beta Readers

No, I'm not ready for beta readers. I've goofed off most of the summer. I guess there is a first time for everything.

Recently I was reminded again how lucky I am to have the beta readers I have. It took a bit of prodding, but they eventually understood that telling me they love every word wasn't helpful. I do want to know what they like and what works - so I don't change those parts, because after a couple of rewrites it all looks like crap to me.

What really helps is when they point out problems like they got lost in the dialogue or there was no transition to a location change, which was confusing.

Sometimes they will say, find another word (you're over using this one), this sentence needs changing (it doesn't make sense), or this paragraph is out of place. Usually when a sentence needs to be rewritten, there is no fixing it, it needs DELETED.

I'm not afraid of the delete button. I have been known to cut 5,000 words in a weekend marathon read.

The thing is, no one's first or second draft is ready to shop. The first few drafts are to bang out the story - from beginning to end. If an ms is shopped before its time, that lit agent or publisher has been lost. Once they reject an ms, they don't want it back - unless they say the story has merit, but rewrites are needed.

Usually I won't read for anyone who won't make changes or take suggestions. Why bother to read for them? It is simply a waste of time. All they want is to be told it is wonderful and frankly that is their mom's job, not mine.

Most of the time, when someone calls their ms their baby, they aren't ready for useful beta reads. Let's face it, we think our kids are wonderful. We aren't supposed to be objective and detached about our kids, but we are supposed to be objective about our mss during the rewrite stage.

So if someone reads for me and says it is wonderful, I either figure they love me very much and can't see the trees for the forest or they have no clue about writing. Same goes for crit groups when no useful suggestions are given or taken. It is a waste of time, unless it is serving the purpose of a feel good session - but it is also a set up for lots of rejection letters from literary agents.

It is a good mix to have reading maniacs and writers (two different groups) on your beta reader list. Readers can point out what works and doesn't work for the general public. Writers can point out craft tool errors. Friends help friends, not whitewash the truth about their ms.

So there is that, find yourself really good beta readers.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Writers write

On the distraction scale, today ranks in the high range. Too many thoughts on too many subjects and I'm struggling to come up with a decent post for today. I keep telling myself that writers write.

Nothing is wrong, I simply go through the topics like switching channels on the television. They all seems pedestrian. I've been writing for a long time, so that isn't good enough. Writers write.

One distraction is figuring out how to tell an unpublished writer who I have known for years that the story is great, but the writing isn't bold. They take risks with the plot that are absolutely brilliant, yet in the end, I don't know the characters.

I understand not writing boldly. There are so many people who think they know me after reading my books. Perhaps they do - up to a point. But I would hope I am more than the sum of my writing. Perhaps it is my own fault for keeping more of me private than it appears. One of my sisters-in-law said she understood...but would tell me later. It has been almost a year. Understood what? Has she forgotten or changed her mind?

So that's it, that's what I got for a post. It is nothing to write home about, that's for sure.

This is what my horoscope on Yahoo said:
Have faith in yourself and, especially on Thursday and Friday, in others. The people around you are quality.

I'm certainly delighted with the people in my life, so here's to you. Thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings.