Friday, January 29, 2010

The Middle

The beginning of a story is actually quite short. It is important because of its role to engage the reader (literary agent or acquisition editor) and make them crave more. It has to be interesting. It has to be something the reader can relate to, even if it is set in a different time period or location than the reader has directly experienced. And it has to move the story forward. (It has to be compelling.)

That is where the middle begins - from that set of the first act. (In Kathryn's Beach, the middle begins when she begins her return to California.) The middle swells with the ongoing collection of secondary characters and secondary story lines (sub-plots) that all lead to the finale.

Whether the characters are compadres of the main character or complications (antagonists), they need to be added naturally in the flow of the story. The 'other' characters, the cast of extras, come and go in the scenes as bridges, as someone who is a 'prop' for an action, as reality builders - like being in the middle of the Macy Parade without ever mentioning the croud is unbelievable.

While there are little morals or messages in every book, if you search for them, they can't be the story. The story has to be about drama and human drama resonates best with the reader because they are, after all, human.

The story has to continue to move forward. That's what people mean when they say a book is a page-turner. When the writer stops to describe something at length or go off on a side adventure, the story stops. That is the point where the reader can lay down the book and go get something done.

This is where experienced writers talk about showing rather than telling. Look back on my post review of the ms by Cathy Cole, there is an example of showing and telling. Actually, some telling is not only okay, it is necessary.

Another element of storytelling is pacing. This is one of my favorite writing elements. Just like it is important to vary the length of sentences, paragraphs, and even chapters, changing the pace keeps the work from becoming, boring.

Think of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. (Sorry to use a beginning as an example) That whole intro would have been horribly boring if the pace hadn't have been quick. The way Dickens resolved that was with short sentences and a sing-song rhythm to it.

"It was the best of times. It was the worst of times." Dickens only changed one word in those two sentences, so the paces moved quickly. And of course, I like literary writing styles - I'm all jazzed when I read that excerpt (extract).

So the middle is moving along, solving problems, adding two and solving one, but solving them to propel the work forward to the end. It is developing the characters to make them real and give them personalities.

By name, the middle is the least discussed section of the story because we talk about writing in general. Yet, that is where the drama unfolds and the literary devices are used. (Google: Literary Devices). I think it is the literary devices that make the difference between telling a story and being a storyteller.

Next...more middle.

Showing/telling, look here:

Google "pacing in writing" for more info. Here is one link I like:

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Beginning

Besides having a basic understanding of the English language (assuming an English language market is the target), a sense of storytelling is required to write fiction.

We begin storytelling as children and quickly learn what holds an audience's attention. We improve our skills as our audience matures (and peers are less polite to listen if bored) and develop a sense of when we have their imagination captured and when we are losing them. Without real-time feedback, some of us learn to take that skill to pen and paper.

Writers write right. A story has a beginning, middle, and end. Nothing new about that. But where to begin?

I read mss where the character's entire life is reviewed for several pages - or more. While it is a common writing exercise to write character sketches, that is not the beginning of a story. If I remove all the pages of personal history from the ms, and start where the action begins, that is the real beginning of the story.

The beginning is the opening scene. Often a short set-up, and I mean short, a few lines to set the location, perhaps the time period or time of day or season, and the character who will move when you shout "action." But if the season (for example) has no importance, then leave it out. If the snow storm is important to what happens, perhaps a contributor to what happens, then put it in. Otherwise, mention it when it matters or not at all.

(I'm a bit off the grid with my literary fiction, but in Kathryn's Beach, nature mirrored her emotions since she denied them during her exile. In KB the 'moods' of the weather and the ocean mattered. As she became more 'alive' in High Tide and Storm Surge, those items were less prevalent. This is what I mean about them serving a purpose or leave it out.)

Very soon a conflict must arise and the main character set upon a quest toward conflict resolution. That is the beginning, not way before the beginning when the 42 year old character was growing up - year after year of history.

At some point writers mature, and move away from the need to write full character sketches, and simply imagine the character and set about the business of writing. I think there is a danger for inexperienced writers to flesh out too much of their character before writing.

I've discovered when they do excessive fleshing, they know things about the character that don't get shared with the reader. When that happens, the story is disjointed. Things happen that seem to the reader out of character, whereas to the writer (because of their mass information about the character) that item makes sense.

Some say all the prewriting that is stuffed in the beginning of the ms is the prologue. They might even set it apart and call it the prologue.

While the practice of prologues is popular in many countries, most readers and aspiring writers will notice it is lacking in American fiction writing. Keep that in mind if the plan is to enter the American market.

In America, the prologue is sometimes used by self-published writers because of a need to be better understood and in some cases, a defense of their work. I respect the prologue where it is the local custom, but honestly I rarely read them. I expect the work to stand on its own merit.

The middle begins tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Practically Perfect

It's back to blogging about writing, though I could easy wander off and explore more of Arizona than write about writing.

Besides a computer and the right software (and the better-than-average knowledge of how to use it), there is more to writing than typing into the night. (Even if you write with pen and paper, at some point, the ms has to go digital.)

There is good writing and great writing. In my opinion, perfect grammar is good writing. And... it can be horribly boring. That doesn't make for a great piece of fiction.

Writers [often] either cling tightly to grammar rules or are totally unaware they exist. There are plenty of people who don't know the eight parts of speech or the 48 prepositions, yet they are excellent fiction writers.

While it is important to get the basics of grammar right, so the reader doesn't stumble over every sentence and stop reading, that doesn't make for a great story. The goal is to be practically perfect in matters of grammar while telling a great story.

Great fiction writing is storytelling. Fiction writing is a craft. No one would think of going out and buying a set of wood chisels and a good slab of kiln dried exotic wood and start to intricately carve a door. The craft of writing requires practice, learning the elements of the craft, and mastering them.

In addition to the craft elements, there is a certain amount of industry knowledge needed. A mansucript isn't exactly the same as a term paper in school. (I've listed several items about format in other posts.)

Tomorrow I'll begin a short series on what I think it goes into great fiction. Pay attention if you have the slightest thought of submitting to Cactus Rain when submissions open.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Move Over Kodak

I've been playing with a digital camera rather than attending to my blog post. I didn't think it would take this long. Sorry this posted late. Opps.

Maybe I'm too 'old school' but I enjoy using my 35mm camera much more than this one. Perhaps I'll mess with it more and get the feel of it.

There is something about the weight of a camera (mine is from the early 1980s) around my neck that says, I'm here to take pictures -- not snapshots.

I like sizing up the shot, flicking the release on the bayonet mount lens and switching to the desired lens. I like deciding if this photo shoot needs the auto winder, a tripod, or just me. I like the feel as I spin the lens rings to find the focus. I like being able to adapt the aperture to just the look I'm after.

Frankly, I know I need to read the manual a couple more times. And the software that comes with the thing is so 'dummy proof' that it isn't easy to use. Why do they always assume we don't want to make choices and decide things? Yeah, I know, I'm the first one to contact tech support when I need help. But seriously, it is much easier to take an on-the-go snapshot with my $18.00 cell phone. And it plays MP3 too!

I have no idea what I was going to write before I got sidetracked, but here is a picture of the foothills (are they foothills if there are no mountains???) with snow on them at Sierra Vista last week.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Road Trip Ends...

After the storms, which were many, I left Sierra Vista Saturday morning. On the advice of a local, I headed to Tombstone. The pristine desert was beautiful in the overcast light. Those are the days to get the best pictures since more of the UV light is filtered by the rain laden clouds and the colors are not washed out, but brilliant. Even the brown brush was a rich brown and the straw-yellow weeds were a beautiful contrast.

I didn't stop to take pictures, since I was aware that the soaked sand along the road can be easy to get stuck in and I didn't bring the Jeep for this trip.

Tombstone was a major disappointment as I followed the highway through town. The town would fit into our Arrowhead Ranch neighborhood. South of town I turned back, not willing to go to Bisbee on this trip.

I happened to spy a sign that pointed west. After parking and exploring a leather shop on the highway, I walked in the sprinkling rain to the heart of the treat of Tombstone. There were speciality shop after speciality shop on the boardwalk streets. The street was closed to cars and it was very welcoming to wander around town and look at all the treasures Tombstone holds.

I am most certainly going back to explore Tombstone when it isn't raining. I want to ride on the Stagecoach, maybe even the trolley. And I am going to go into every shop they have. I can probably do without the reenactment of the shootout at OK Corral. I'm not much of a gun person, but this is definitely an old west town that is more than a gimmick. With heavy heart, I turned north to return home.

I am falling in love with southern Arizona. I could do these road trips forever. I wonder if Arizona Highways would hire me?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Even More Road Trip

The plan for today was to repair my lights - did it. It turns out that I didn't need screwdriver after all.

A short drive around town revealed a lovely place. Much more shopping than I expected, several places to get Chinese food, and very new and very old neighborhoods.

Since it was dark when I arrived last night, I missed the planned turn, and it was overcast today, I still haven't gotten my sense of direction. It will probably right itself one I go out in the sunlight.

I didn't stay out long enough to go exploring on a mini road trip to get desert rain photos because the southern Arizona weather included:

1) Rain - more than we get in a year, which brings...
2) Flash flooding (remember the flood of 1981?)

and in nearby areas was a tornado warning (been in one - sounds like a freight train when they hit your house) and

blizzard conditions for the mountains near Tucson.

A side note to Carrie: Remember when we went to the Grand Canyon? The place where we stopped for fuel on the Indian Reservation was Verde Valley. From there to Flagstaff, the road closed today. They have three feet of snow and two more coming.

The Governor's office has declared a state of emergency for the entire state of Arizona.

That's all for now...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

More Road Trip

This is going to sound really odd. (Don't they all?)

The drive wasn't as pretty or tiresome as going up to the Rim Country in Pine. I haven't been to Tucson in about thirty years. I don't remember the desert being so overgrown, which is a really stupid thing to say considering most cacti grow about an inch a year.

There was no rain on the drive, which I had hoped for. I rolled into town (look up Sierra Vista, AZ) after dark. I was promptly stopped for having the licence plate lights out on my car. That was a bit funny since I haven't had a violation of any kind, not even a photo enforcement speeding ticket, since my university days. (Being a scholar at the time, I quickly realized that tickets were a waste of good money and one that I could control.)

I pulled over and rolled down my window, only to have this young (the age of my kids, I think) officer tap on the passenger side window. It wasn't a ticket, only a repair order and they don't even require the parts receipt sent with the form. In this documentation world, that seemed odd.

Finally a light mist started as I reached the populated part of town (about 10 miles from the place where the Highway Patrol stopped me about my light) and missed the main turn (they don't have the street names well lit here). I went to the auto parts store and ended up buying only a Phillip's screwdriver, but left with the directions to two other parts stores and the part number for the Mustang light I needed.

At the second store, there were only a handful of shoppers - all in the light bulb section, I might add. So in the morning I will swap out the bulbs. I don't think what I bought looks anything like what the guy at the first store showed me on my car. He went out in the cold damp air, in the dark, and showed me how to swap the 'lamps' -- things come apart, then the glass bubble without any metal end, snaps in the holder part.

Anyway, as I was going to mention in the first place, there is something about this town that seems 'home' - and I've never been here before. I've moved many places I've never been before for a job, so it isn't a problem for me to go into the unknown. I actually like exploring - watched too many StarTrek reruns as a kid, I guess. I am most anxious to go look around tomorrow, which is today since my blog posts at 2 minutes after MN.

Good job I didn't go north to Flagstaff. They are expecting 60 inches of snow in the next few days. There is no way my baby Mustang would manage that.

So in a few hours, I'll go explore Sierra Vista. I'll let you know what I find...might post a picture too.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Road Trip

Some of this week's posts are prewritten since I am going on a road trip in search of, among other things, photos of the desert rain for the Cactus Rain website.

Granted [the State of] Nevada has us beat in the mountain department, but Arizona is full of mountains and ranges -- and the Mogollon Rim leading to the plateau that is home to the Grand Canyon and others.

We have rock mounds made of granite boulders, some with petroglyphs on them. Four miles from our house is a small (by standard) extinct volcano with whitish pertoglyphs on the black rocks - breath taking.

I'm heading south to the Tucson area and beyond. I will be exploring the southern mountain ranges - from the road, not hiking alone.

I'm looking forward to the trip and rather write about beautiful Arizona than the publishing industry, which is quiet right now.

Look at the blogs and industry news services, most of the 'news' is about eBooks and their host of readers, or fortune telling the future of the industry, which is silly. How could anyone have imagined ebooks 20 years ago? (Okay, StarTrek did, but we didn't get our hover cars, much less personal sized shuttles, who knew we would get their hand held communicators and desktop computers?)

The industry is quiet, busy setting their 2010 Christmas catalogue (yes, really) to debut at the BookExpo America coming in a few short months.

I'm enjoying this down time - perfect timing for a road trip. All the Cactus Rain writers are busy with rewrites adding a variety of adjectives to my name, heh heh heh...but so far, in the end, I am redeemed.

Happy writing my rainbabies and contest writers. Dazzle me when I return.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Winter Monsoons

The winter monsoons have begun. They will last a week, perhaps a slight bit longer. Growing up, my time was split between the bigness of Los Angeles and the vastness of the desert.

In the desert it was always a celebration when it rained. Wild flowers and cacti blooms were sure to follow and a temporary sparse green carpet would grow over the sand. It is perfect for the fruit trees too. (I desperately would like an orange tree and a white peach tree in my yard.)

When I was in Kindergarten we couldn't go out to play because when it rains in the desert, it doesn't mess around - it rains! Our teacher had us look at the drops dancing on the new "Lake Playground" and played Beethoven and Mozart as we watched the water dance in the water ball of a magical miniature kingdom.

I think of that every time I stand at the door to smell the clean scent and watch the drops dance on our swimming pool.

Just thought I'd share...I know you guys are cold. Someday maybe you can visit me during the winter monsoons.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Civil Rights Day

In America today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. I've heard several news outlets refer to it in subtext as "Civil Rights Day."

As a social worker by trade and heart, I like the idea of expanding the day to encompass all civil rights. I don't think Dr. King would mind.

I heard him speak once on television. My grandmother liked him and I watched him with her. I remember the day he was shot. Jack and Bobby Kennedy too.

It is things like that at a very young age that shapes a person, I suppose. Due to my age at the time, all three are lumped together in my memory, as if in a short, short span of time. I'd never see anyone really shot. (In Westerns, the one guy would shoot more or less in the direction of the other, and the second guy would grab his stomach and fall down.)

This was different. This was real. When I saw their families after, I remembered what it was like when my dad died too. I felt a bond with those kids.

My grandmother, a woman who had polio and raised 13 children, told me about Rosa Parks. She talked about how a man should not ask a lady for her seat, regardless what color either of them were. That stuck with me. My grandmother had no use for the idea of colored drinking fountains and white drinking fountains, much less anything else separate like that. She said we were all God's children, and she meant it.

Had Dr. King lived, I imagine he would have expanded civil rights beyond race to gender, age, handicap, religion, and anyone else not treated fairly. So I don't think he would mind if we expanded his day to Martin Luther King, Jr. -- Civil Rights Day.

Make today a day of justice, tolerance, and most importantly -- acceptance of each other.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Buzz-Buzz, MS Buzz


Yes, I'm reviewing a manuscript. I'm not sure many people have done this on blogs, so - here goes! (I think I'll call this 'book PREviews'.)

Where There's Smoke is an Irish mystery by Cathy Cole. The story follows firefighter Jo Woods as she races to uncover the arsonist who has a distinctive signature and keeps one step ahead of her -- until he turns his attention to getting her off his heels.

Where There's Smoke is very well written. The pacing is right. The twists are unpredictable. All the bits are tied up nicely in the end. It is as any good mystery should be.

Throughout the ms Cathy kept the reader right along side Jo as she pieces together the clues and makes sense of them.

Cathy eases her readers into the story with the first word by putting them inside the breathing suit, looking through the mask at an inferno of flames and smoke, while Jo and her partner frantically search the house for the sleeping family. Jo ignores the call to get out, then is thrown to the grown from the second story by the explosion. That'll teach her to not listen. (I might have misused the word 'eases'?)

Jo isn't the only one who doesn't listen. She is sure she saw something that fits with other 'accidental' house fires, tying them together. Not only will no one listen to her, she doesn't know who to trust. You have to admit it takes a well informed arsonist to make fires look like accidents to the fire inspector. Maybe they are accidents. She did hit her head hard in the explosion.

I love Cathy's wordsmith abilities. Rather than long, boring bios of the characters, she tells the readers exactly what they need to know - and nothing more than needed at the time: Flanders is the type of guy who could start a war in heaven.

And look how smoothly Cathy transitions from telling to showing in this bit: Voices were screaming her name. Saying it over and over again until it rolled into one confused word.
‘Jo! Jo! Jojojojo!’

I've read WTS twice now. The first time was a year ago and it needed a few rewrites. In this reading the rewrites have tightened the pace and the story beautifully.

Both times I couldn't figure out who the antagonist was until the very end as the cast of suspects was weeded out one-by-one in the final few pages, while the brigade rushes to save a family from the cunning fires of the murderous arsonist.

Not to offend anyone, but I have never read a better manuscript - not even mine (and I'm a damn good writer). That is why I pleaded with Cathy to let me write a review.

You'll have to watch for this one. It is sure to get published. I hope it comes to America too. It is an amazing read. Well done, Cathy!

Quirky? Will it catch on? I'm just wondering. So what do you think of the idea of an MS review? I might do a couple of them this year.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Yeah, yeah, every minute I spend on the internet is productive time. That's why I don't have a new novel finished. Ahem.

So when you aren't in a social-networking-site-mood, try this puzzle:

Click to Mix and Solve

Hey, it's a beach thing...I can't help myself.

Why do I do goof-off stuff like this? That is a question that baffles many.

BTW, I saw on the internet that my new book, Storm Surge is being sold "used" for $44.62. Excuse me for being good at math, but that is over 9 times what I make on a new [autographed] copy of my own book, and over twice the list price. It was probably one of the books I gave to someone. Soooo, it is a wee bit difficult to get 'motivated' to write when I see stuff like that. I'm just saying, "I'm taking the day off."

Ahhh, feet up. Listening to my screen saver ocean sounds and pictures of Seal Beach. This is heaven. Well, actually being there would be heaven. But this is nice. See ya tomorrow with something special from Ireland!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Amazon Author Page

Ya know I call 'em like I see 'em.

I wrote in my January newsletter about my author page over at I have no idea what link I used the first time, but it was totally confusing and I never did 'activate' my author page. (Not that any thinking person would let me 'activate' anything.)

So... anyway, I was looking at someone's Amazon Author Page, wishing I had the smarts to understand what that one page said regarding how to do whatever it is that needed to be done. At one time, this was the kind of thing I'd ask my web designer to do. Yep, she is great like that. I am trying to do more of this stuff myself. (I do First Draft mostly on my own.)

Somewhere on that other author's page, I saw a link and bravely clicked on it. It was a totally different page from the one the day before. It was easy. Upload pic, yep, I can do that and I can even make them smaller, if I need to do that.

There was a problem that only book 3, Storm Surge, appeared in my choices of books to add to my page. The old versions of KB and HT were there. But the new 'in-print' versions of Kathryn's Beach and High Tide were hidden on a little (short) link line in the used section. They didn't appear in search results by my name or title, but they did by ISBN, and they were the new books!!!

Today's post is to say that a real live person answered my help question via email. We (not really me) fixed both the Amazon Author Page and the search thing for KB and HT, the new releases, that are in print and so nicely match Storm Surge.

That person said in the final email: "Thanks for writing back. We agree that the more recent editions of your books are the better choice for customers, and have selected them as the editions that should appear on the Author Page and in search results. This change may take 1-3 more days to take effect. I will continue to monitor your page to ensure that this change is successful."

Actually everything was fixed in a couple of hours (Amazon must have super computers and servers and ....). But can you imagine? She/he was going to follow-up (monitor)? That was more than I had expected from such a huge company. I am still amazed. Thrilled. WOWed.

This is the person who helped me. Talk a bow, please. L. Kittredge

I had resigned myself that my book situation was pretty much the way it would stay. Good thing I tried again. So if you have books on, go do the Author Page. You can't possibly screw it up in a way that they can't fix it.

Bravo! L. Kittredge!

See how it turned out?

Next pesky project is to recreate my video that is on YouTube. I've misplaced the master copy and I sort of, um, need it to post it on my author page. Sheesh! Whose day was it to keep an eye on me?

And if you didn't read my newsletter, it is posted on my website (link at the top of the sidebar). Best to subscribe so you don't miss the special stuff that isn't posted on my website. I don't send them out annoyingly often, but I do send info to my list sometimes.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Judging Criteria:

A master's level teacher friend, one of the judges of this contest, and I discussed a rubic of guidelines for the judges. It basically provides a universal scale so the judges are all on the same page, and a total score can be assigned to each work.

While that is an excellent idea because it is inherently fair, I've decided to make this reflect the industry. When agents or publisher's acquisition editors read works, they don't score them. The work either delivers or it doesn't. Close only counts in horseshoes.

As the gatekeeper, I will screen out any entries that have not followed the guidelines posted yesterday. I am not expecting to disqualify any entries. However, the point of the guidelines, besides giving everyone some idea of what to do, is they are an exercise in submitting to agents. It is well known that one must follow to the letter any submission guidelines set by the agent.

So with that cold reality in mind, these are the areas the judges will consider:

Title: Does it fit, is it interesting, does it encourage the reader to keep reading.
Voice: Is it active or passive. Active is what we're after. Too much telling - not enough showing.
Pace: Does the pace fit the piece, does it change to fit the circumstances.
Sequence: Good flow of events from beginning to end. Logical.
Character: Interesting, believable, developed.
Dialogue: Accurate for the character, realistic.
Use of Literary Devices: Use any literary devices that fit. These are bonus points, and tie breakers.
Grammar: It goes without saying, do your best. It doesn't have to be letter perfect, but do make sure that you don't slop through and miss full stops (periods) or indenting paragraphs, subject/verb agreement, the basics.
Overall appeal: Was this an interesting read.

The judges are from France, England, and the USA. They are editors, writers, educators, beta readers, and proof readers. You do NOT need to Americanize your spelling. We're all cool with the 'z' being replaced with 's' and no full stops after titles, like Mr and Dr.

Judge's note: The element is either present or it isn't. Almost doesn't count. Please prepare a bio for me to post about you!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Contest Information

I am not among the elite judges for this contest, but I am the gatekeeper.

Follow the guidelines to the letter to get your entry read by the judges. Ask questions in the comment section or email me.

Contest Guidelines:

Genre: Short Story, any genre. Unpublished.
Voice: First person, present tense. No exceptions.
Topic: Any topic except torture, child abuse or domestic violence, and nothing racial or gender degrading.
Category: Two, published and unpublished author.

Word Count: 500 to 1,000 words (+ or - 10 words).
Limit: One entry per person.
Eligibility: Everyone is eligible to enter, unless prohibited by law. Under age writers should get their parent's permission.

Format: Standard ms format. Send submission in Word or WordPerfect document. All entries will be converted to pdf for your security. Writer's names will be removed from the judges' view.
Submission: Send your work as an attachment to your email. In your email include contact information and which category you are entering.
Fee: None.

Deadline: Entries must be emailed to me at by February 22, 2010, Arizona Time Zone. (GMT -7 hours).
Prize: $50 USD to one winner of each category.

Judging will close March 14th. All entries will be posted on a hidden page on my website that only the judges will have the address. It will be set up similar to the archive newsletters on my site. Judging guidelines will be posted tomorrow and on the judges' page which will become available toward the close of submissions.

Winners will be contacted by email. Have a 30-word bio ready and a pic that can be used to announce the winners on First Draft.

Helpful links:
Manuscript info from First Draft: This is way more info than you need, but this is easier than posting multiple links.
Genre descriptions:

Thank you, Peggy Nolan for the sticky app info.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Blog Bling!

It may not seem like I like bling with First Draft looking so unfinished, but I like bling and girly stuff. Peggy Nolan added First Draft to the list of blogs she likes to read. I'm passing on the bling.

The rules are:
1. List 10 things that make you happy.
2. Try to do at least one thing on the list today.
3. List 10 bloggers who brighten your day.
4. Those of you to whom I give this award are to link back to my blog and perpetuate the happy with your own lists and recipients and whatnot.

Ten Things That Bring Happiness to Me
1. My three awesome sons
2. Friends and extended Family
3. Writing novels
4. Anything about the writing craft
5. California [beaches] and Arizona
6. Music that inspires me
7. Serenity moments
8. Creative moments
9. Native American people, culture, art
10. Theatre
11. Smiling (a bonus item)

Blogs I Love to Read and Pass Along Blog Bling To:
(This always puts me on the spot. I read a lot of blogs. The list is in no particular order.)

The Distant friends:
Carolyn Sheppard
Carol Anne Strange
Nick Daws
Glynis Smy
DJ Kirkby
Glyn Pope
June Austin
Ella Press
Ivana Marić
Anita Davison
Andy Kemp

The Americans!
Peggy Nolan
Jen Garsee
Marsha Stewart (American living in England)
Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Karen Dionne
Joy Collins
Susan Gabriel
Edward Patterson
Humble Writers (Humble TX)
Katie Hines

When the Bling Arrived

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A moment to reflect and recollect...

First of all, if you don't know that I am a huge fan of Carolyn Sheppard's music, you simply have not been paying attention. When she sent me the link to her latest YouTube addition, I knew that I would share it with everyone.

There are songs that have a quality about them that reaches into the soul of all but the deadest of spirits. Combined with fantastic music and Carrie's beautiful voice, this is one of those songs. Please listen.

Peace and love...

Follow Carrie's blog here:

Double click on the video above to go to her YouTube page and listen to more musical videos.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

New Goals for Blogging

This is the time of year we take a breath, get a contented grin on our face, and make all kinds of self improvement promises to ourselves. We were told at sometime in our life that if we tell others about these goals, we will be inclined to meet them (under fear of public failure if we don't). That doesn't work for me.

The reality is, we need a set of skills or tools to accomplish our goals. Often there is a great abyss between our desire for change and the goal. That is where a plan and method fit. It needs to be ordered steps that are measurable with benchmark dates that are reasonable (and obtainable).

I'm beginning to chuckle at the number of people I know personally who have said they are going to try to be more diligent with posting regularly on their blogs. In the famous words of Yoda (StarWars), "Do or do not, there is no try."

Yeah, that was helpful, Nadine.

How about this? Since it is obvious that everyone using blogger knows how to post a new post, go to that window and look at the bottom of the box where you write your brilliance. See at the bottom left are the words, "Post Options"? Click on that and you can schedule when your post will go live. Easy-peasy.

There, you have your new tool to meet your goal. For the times when you have time to write several posts, but don't want them all posted "now," this is an easy way to use that creative (or quiet) moment to set up future posts.

We know that people follow blogs that post on a regular schedule better than they follow a sporadically posted blog. Set up a schedule of posting. Commit to it.

Many publishing industry bloggers post once a week. That allows time for them to get picked up in the media and jet propelled onto everyone's tweets and other wire-like services (they milk it for all it's worth). That proved successful during the blog party last summer. My opinion is that people don't follow as well if posts are less than once a week.

Honestly, I don't tweet, so perhaps I'm not maximizing the potential of my blog. I am convinced that First Draft has not drastically improved the sell numbers of the trilogy, which was why I was talked into blogging. That brings us to the topic of purpose. Chose a topic to blog that interests you and that you think will interest others.

I like to talk about writing, the craft and the industry, much more than I like being all commercial about marketing my books. (You have to decide on your own if you want them.) I like to give information that would have been helpful when I was starting out, but wasn't there then. Judging by the traffic through First Draft, it seems there is some interest in this information.

A word about following blogs. Even if you blog on one of the other formats, become a follower on the blogger blogs you read. Why? Because people who are looking for blogs do click on those links to see if you are 'like-minded' and find your blog. I also visit the blogs of people who comment on my blog. Those two ways are how I found most of the blogs I read. So if you want your blog found by others, try following blogs that are likely to attract the audience you want.

Good luck and best wishes in obtaining your 2010 blogging goals.

Social media overview here:

(Don't forget to click on the contest link on the sidebar to the top left of this post.)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Kathryn gets Skinned with SkinIt!

Microsoft’s first ever retail store opened in Scottsdale’s Fashion Square Mall last October.

Seems the folks over at the MS store have invited local authors to add their book covers to SkinIt skins through something going on involving Facebook. (Ah! Now you know why I’m back on Facebook!)

Joy Collins, my friend on the other side of town, forwarded an invitation to local authors to participate in the MicroSoft Store/SkinIt/Facebook project.

Deanna is the store contact person. She offered to help me do the prep stuff this Thursday (you knew I’d need help, didn’t you?). I’ll blog about what went on when I met with Deanna. Should be cool.

I like tech stuff, I’m just a bit slow on the uptake on some of it.

For the three-day event in the store (Jan 22, 23, & 24) my time to be there (and do what???) is Friday, January 22, from 5-6 PM. If you are in the Phoenix area, stop by and check out the skins from my books.

The Scottsdale MS Store:
What is SkinIt?
Joy Collins:

Well, ain’t that cool! I played with the 'design your own skin' feature on the SkinIt site. They have the template to skin my laptop. Interesting process. What do you think about all of this?
I've added a pic of my laptop (open) with its new skin on it. See above.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Here We GoOOoooOoo!

Here we go, a brand new year! I have lots coming in 2010, personally and professionally. Here is one idea I thought I'd float to all of you (and your friends). If the interest is there, I'll go forward with it.

I'm thinking of doing a contest. You know the deal about contests is they can be big money makers -- the entry fee. Writer's can also bust their budget by indiscriminately entering tons of fee requiring writing contests. It is worth the fee if you win a notable contest and there are some really good ones around -- this isn't that.

Here is what I'm thinking (let me know if there is any interest). These aren't the official terms, just floating ideas.

Genre: Fiction, any genre, but has to be written in first person/present tense. Never done that? Well, it is good practice.
Topic: I haven't decided if I'll give a topic or a first line or what (I'm making this up as I type it, can you tell?) Probably none.
Word Count: At least 500, not more than 550.
Two categories: One for published writers and one for non-published writers.
Fee: none.
Limit: One entry per writer.

Format: Standard ms format in either MS Word or WordPerfect docs.
Deadline: Not sure. I might make it due so I can post the winners on my 300th blog post or maybe June (Just pulled June out of my hat???).

Judges: I have to talk to people about this. Depending on how many writers enter, it could be a lot of work and they ain't getting paid, unless having their name all over First Draft counts for anything.

Prize: How about $50 USD to the winner of both categories. I'll see if Cactus Rain can pay for it because, ya know, I'm a starving writer too.

The catch: Well there isn't a catch. There is no anthology being done with the submissions. No publishing contract forthcoming. Probably won't publish the winning piece on my blog at all because that screws first rights to unpublished pieces.

So spread the word in your blogs, tweets, and email lists among your writer friends. Use this link:

If there is enough interest to not make me look like the Village Idiot AND I can get judges for it, then we'll go forward. The way to show interest is to write in the comment section that you're game for the challenge.