Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Contest Overload

After running two contests in a row, I'm finally back on track with writing, bloggging (sort of) and doing all the other stuff that needs to be done.

First of all I ran the Absolutely Write First Page Contest.  Fun to read all the entries and then argue with myself about some of the scores and the judges.  So not only to the entrants sometimes feel they got shorted, so does the contest coordinator.  Laying all that aside, it was easy to see what people did right and what others did wrong.  A great way of seeing what works on a first page.

Second, I coordinated the YA Category of the UtahRWA HOW contest.  Again, getting to read all the entries was enlightening.  I didn't agree with all the judges, but could again see why the winners took the high scores.  This one wasn't as easy.  Finding judges to help out was a wild ride, but I finally got the finalists off the the final judge, only a day or two late.

If you're wondering why I put myself through running contests, along with entering them.  Well, I'll tell you.  You learn alot by seeing how the contests run, how the judges evaluate things, and more than that why the winners are the winners.  Where else could you get all this information without paying for it.  It makes you a better writer to see how the winners of other contests do what they do.  It's also great to judge, because often times you can compare how you rated things by seeing those same entries in other contests.  I love it when I pick the best on of the entries sent me to judge, and it actually end up winning the category.

I learn so much by helping with contest.  I advise you do the same.  And then take the time to read the entries as they come in, evaluate them yourself, and then see what the judges say and how things turn out.  Lots of fun without putting anything on the line.

Now back to work and the real process of writing.  Hope to see you all in a contest in the future, either coordinating, judging or at least entering.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Have a great writing day.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Five R's to make Creation Easy

There are so many wonderful tips out there.  This one is again from Trent's Smart Writer Newsletter.  He really does some great stuff.  Coming up with blogging ideas is what stumps me, but writing novels never has me running out of ideas.   But doing these five R's might help some of you readers out there, so here are some great ideas.

Content Creation Made Easy

Are you struggling with creating consistent, quality content?

If you are not a professional copywriter, coming up with new content regularly can be a difficult task. Many people get writer's block or their brains freeze up while staring at a blank screen. However, to be a successful Internet marketer, you must create fresh and interesting content regularly. Otherwise, your traffic will dry up and hard-earned subscribers will lose interest.

How do you overcome this challenge?

Content creation doesn't have to be hard. Just follow my 5 Rs of content creation and things will start to flow a lot more smoothly.
Even before I open my trusty word processor, I head over to Google's Keyword Tool. I use it to research key words/phrases that people are using to search for answers to their particular problem.

I start with something related to a subject that I'm interested in writing about and get ideas from there.

For example, "content creation." That led me to other popular search terms like blog content creation, content creation help, online content creation etc.

Without first researching your topics, you'll find yourself running out of ideas to write about and/or guessing what your readers would be interested in learning. You'd be surprised how many different suggestions and variations you can get from your initial thought after doing even the smallest bit of research.

Google is not the only source for content ideas. Visit popular forums and read what questions people are posting there, things that are related to your topic. You can also try Yahoo! Answers.

Bottom line - better content comes from better research.
Creating an outline first is how I always start my content creation. It helps me to get my thoughts organized and to rearrange ideas until I feel good about the flow of my content.

Then I expand the bullet points into complete paragraphs. An outline also creates a roadmap as I progress from chapter to chapter until I finish my report or e-Book.
Adding some personal experiences helps to humanize your content. No one likes to read text that sounds like a sermon.

Share stories or provide examples like I have done above to make it more interesting and help your readers connect with their own situation.

Revealing a bit of your personal side or personality is very important, especially if you are writing about a technical topic. A picture is worth a thousand words and can quickly simplify a complex concept that otherwise would take you many words to explain. Studies have shown that people retain information quicker and longer when you engage their visual senses.
If you are going to edit your own content, then read your text aloud. I print my copy and then read it back to myself. This forces me to read every word rather than allowing my mind to autosuggest words that are not there.

Don't just rely on the automatic spelling and grammar checker. For example, no software in the world can flag the error between their and there. Here are some more common mistakes; lose and loose, it's for its and further vs. farther.

I use a professional copyediting service to proof read my final manuscript before I publish it into an e-Book. Believe me, it is well worth the expense.

If you can't afford the cost, have a friend who has never seen your copy read it and allow them to critique your content freely. You don't have to accept all their suggestions but at least you'll have the benefit of another pair of eyes having reviewed your content.
Our brains have two parts - the left side is analytical and the right side is visual and tends to see the whole picture. Use both sides of your brain when writing content - but one side at a time.

Let the right half of your brain start writing as the creative juices flow. Don't interrupt it by stopping to correct errors (other than obvious typos).

Once you have your first draft completed, allow the left side of your brain to take over and start being critical and analytical as you go over your copy.

Rearrange words, paragraphs and maybe entire chapters until you feel comfortable how each paragraph and chapter flows into the next respectively. This is where you need to wear your editor's hat rather than be the creative writer.

Don't be afraid to tear apart your initial outline if you think it will improve the product. Just be careful that perfectionism doesn't stop you from launching your masterpiece altogether.

I realize the above 5 Rs may seem a bit daunting at first, especially to the inexperienced writers out there. But with some practice, all this will become second-nature and you'll be creating content like a professional copywriter in no time at all.
By Achinta "Archie" Mitra.



Friday, June 10, 2011

Guest Post by Benjamin Sobieck

Flawed P.I.s, Gotta Love 'em: A Guest Post by Crime Author Benjamin Sobieck

I've been lucky with my invented PI characters.

First there's Jack "Keeper" Marconi, former prison warden turned private dick who specializes in chasing down escaped convicts, especially the ones who like to murder cops in cold blood, like in THE INNOCENT, or the bad guys who murdered his wife in GODCHILD.

Then there's MOONLIGHT FALLS and the forthcoming MOONLIGHT RISES from StoneGate Ink. Richard "Dick" Moonlight is a former cop and suicide survivor who has a little piece of bullet lodged inside his brain, right smack up against the cerebral cortex causing him at best the occasional blackout or memory loss (especially during times of other words, all the time), but at worst, the very serious possibility of coma and/or death should the bullet shift. He also always seems to be making the wrong decisions, more often than not, when it comes to women. In a word, he's an easy lay.

What's my point?
When it comes to the PI thriller market, you can't dish up the same old/same old anymore. You've got to give the reading audience a character who will stick out from the crowd and at the same time be believable in all his or her, unbelievableness...if that makes even an ounce of sense.

Up and coming crime fiction star and CLEANSING EDEN author, Benjamin Sobieck, follows the line of the fallible PI pretty closely in the form of Maynard Solomon in a short he did with famous blogger and blog talk radio host Giovanni Gelati for Gelati's ever growing Trestle Press. "Who Whacked the Blogger" is fun, violent, warped, and just plain funny. It's also crafted by two dudes who love their work and make it show. Check out the story anywhere where E-Books are sold.

Mr. Ben...It's time to give us the low-down on Maynard...

11 reasons to enjoy Maynard Soloman

Now before you roll your eyes and say, "Another serialized PI? Puh-leez," I want to tell you why Maynard Soloman is different. I, too, had read a million incarnations of Sam Spade. Maynard Soloman might've worn a fedora, but that's where the similarities end.
Here are 11 reasons Maynard Soloman is worth a look.
1) He was forced into retirement from his career as an investigator for the Obscenities Division of a local police force. He got stiffed on some medical bills, so he has to keep working. Which is why he...
2) Bought a Winnebago. Not only can he see the country (a staple of any retiree's dreams), he uses it as a...
3) Mobile office. He bought a police scanner and spray painted the words "Maynard Soloman Investigation Services" on the side. He's not too worried about the 'bago looking junky because...
4) The Winnebago takes a beating in every story. In "Who Whacked the Blogger?" he had to outrun a competitor when chasing an ambulance containing a potential client. In "Maynard Soloman Solves the War on Drugs," some punks break windows and spray paint graffiti on the side panels. That had Maynard...
5) Cursing in his own special way. A typical Maynard line would be, "Some punk-ass fruit bats spray painted the 'bago with a gal-damn penis." He's got a potty mouth rooted in a mix of early 20th Century cuss words and his own inventions. "Fruit bat" is someone who is both fruity and bat-shit insane. He also invented...
6) The 'nard Bag. As he can't afford an extra large sleeping bag, he invented the 'nard Bag. Simply pick out a pair of the largest sweatpants you can find. Cut the legs and sew them together so there is only one leg. Says Maynard, "It's pure mollycoddling." He enjoys stretching out, especially when...
7) He has health problems. It's an overarching theme across the stories. It's not clear yet what they are, but Maynard knows he can't outrun time. Speaking of time...
8) Maynard is clueless about technology. It's always baffled him. In "Who Whacked the Blogger?" his client runs a blog. Maynard spends most of the time trying to figure out what that means. He's also behind on...
9) Crime trends. In "Maynard Soloman Solves the War on Drugs," he is solicited by a teen to buy some cold medicine for him. Maynard becomes suspicious when he hears the medicine must contain pseudoephedrine. "Sounds like a fake drug to me. Are you trying to play a prank on me?" Maynard says. Of course, readers know pseudoephedrine is kept behind the counter because it's used to make meth. But the clueless Maynard Soloman thinks he...
10) Knows everything. He's absolutely convinced the world is much stupider than he. It's the big dumb world's fault he can't walk up to a drive-through and place an order. He can see the obvious answers when no one else can. That's why he can be so bold as to proclaim he's solved the War on Drugs in, "Maynard Soloman Solves the War on Drugs." But he's not so bold as to...
11) Use weapons of any kind. He was denied a concealed carry permit, probably related to the messy forced retirement situation. But he says the real reason is, "I cross too many state lines in the 'bago. Don't want one of my old police buddies to throw me in the slammer."
I hope you'll check out Maynard Soloman. I had a ton of fun writing him. More adventures are on their way. In the meantime, check out "Who Whacked the Blogger?" and "Maynard Soloman Solves the War on Drugs."
For more on Benjamin Sobieck:


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Ghost Inside and Out

I'm gearing up to release Tawny's Ghost, last year's Utah RWA Golden Pen winner.  Along with that I'm looking for other people to share real live ghost stories with me.  I know the inspiration for my book came from living in a haunted house, (an old farm house, not a rundown mansion) where all of us had experiences with the ghosts.  It was unnerving for some of the family, but interesting to me and quite the rush once in awhile.

Ghosts aren't scary, they're just people like you and me, but sometimes the unexpectedness is what gets you.  My ghost had certain ways that he thought his house should be, and by golly don't you new people change that.  Also, I'm sure often times he was lost, or he'd lost something inside the downstairs closet, and his nightly riffling through it made sleeping a bit rough. 

Share your stories with me.  I'm eager to hear them and include some of them in my promos for the book.  Also, I'm selling necklaces like in the book.  The stones (crystals) have powers to help you contact the other side.  If you're interested contact me, some of them are pictured at 

Let's see how many people are out there that have their own hauntings to rave about.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Are You Blogging The Best That You Can?

My friend Katie and I were talking just last night about blogging and the challenges it presents.  My main challenge is time, TIME!  I know some other bloggers feel the same way I do.  It just seems like between the daily job, the church responsibilities and writing, there's not much time left.

So today I get this post for Trent Steele's Smart Writer's Newsletter.  If you haven't subscribed to that it gives you some good tips on how to make your writing work for you.  Anyway, I digress.   On there is a guest post by Julie McCormick that I absolutely found informative and interesting.  Not being a great blogger I've found that maybe putting helpful hints about blogging may help someone else.  So I posting Julie's post here.  I hope you find it as helpful as I did.

Become A Blogging Success Story: Part 1

Blogging isn't something that only the nerdy types or teens do anymore, and it most certainly goes beyond posting pictures of your children (or pets) and griping about your job.

Blogging is, for some, a business or a source of extra spending money. It's also a source of money, power, and satisfaction. But as it goes in professional sports, there are millions playing in the neighborhood little leagues, but a very small minority will ever make it to the big leagues.

So how do you improve your chances of taking your blog from beyond just a hobby into something that you add to your resume and turn into cash?

1. Be prepared to pour in your blood, sweat and tears
Very rarely does a blog go from a readership consisting of your family, friends, co-workers, and admirers (or enemies) that have figured out how to stalk you online, to an overnight success. Sure, if you break a big story and CNN picks it up and gives you a shout-out, you might get an instant influx of visitors, but the chances of that happening are slim. So instead of banking on a miracle, be prepared to slave away at it for a bit.

Know that you will at times doubt yourself and your ability to go on, that you will have to force yourself to blog when you really don't feel like it. Be prepared, perhaps, not to know what "free time" is anymore. This may not be true in all cases, but for someone like me that runs a news oriented blog, it's a 24/7 operation. A blog focusing on, say, technology might not have to be so vigilant in covering breaking news.

2. Before you start blogging, think about what you will be blogging about
My interests are so varied that I couldn't pick just one topic to blog about, and I knew I'd probably get bored writing about the same thing day after day, week after week, year after year. That being said, if you want to establish yourself as an expert in a field or topic area, then a more focused blog will be most suitable.

3. Avoid free blog services
Resist the temptation to start with a free blog on Blogger, WordPress or any of the other free, hosted blogging services. You will kick yourself later, trust me. If you're serious about taking your blog beyond a recreational activity, do yourself a favor and buy a domain and web hosting. You can start with something as simple and cheap as GoDaddy, and move as your site grows.

I started out with shared hosting, and since then I can't tell you how many times I've been kicked off hosts due to my site's growth and resource usage. These days, we have our own server.

4. If you use a pre-made template, at least customize some parts of it
A unique design will make your blog more memorable. If you do use a pre-made template that thousands of other people have also installed on their blog, which I have nothing against, try to customize it at least a little bit. At the very least, pay someone $50 to make you a nice logo.

5. Consider a collaborative effort
You'll have to share the profits, but sometimes two (or three or four...) is better than one. It takes some pressure off of you as you're not the sole blogger, and if you need to step away for a few days, there's someone else to cover for you. Just choose your partner or partners wisely, and strongly consider getting your partnership arrangement in writing, just in case things sour one day.

6. Socialize and network with others
Join Twitter and Facebook and start a conversation with your readers. Make sure to reply to comments on your blog. By talking with your readers, you'll keep them checking back in and you'll be at the forefront of their minds, making them more likely to become a repeat visitor.

Repeat visitors are very important in establishing your blog. Fly-by traffic is still worthwhile, but building a loyal readership base is crucial. Making friends with other bloggers and website owners can also be beneficial as they can help drive traffic your way.

But it's not as easy as it looks or sounds.

Many have tried and failed. It can be done, and it doesn't take a huge advertising budget, a staff of writers, or luck. However, it does take some degree of talent (if you are a horrible writer, I'd advise against pouring your heart into making a career of blogging) and a whole lot of dedication and drive.

Having a plan also helps, although if you don't have one you can still become successful; it just might take you longer as you figure things out along the way. I've been doing this for years now, and I've learned a lot along the way.

In Part 2 I'll talk about what NOT to do, and how to avoid some of the pitfalls.
By Julie McCormick

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Doppleganger.

Everyone knows what a doppelganger is, right?  Well maybe not.  It's your look alike, the same you only in a different place and maybe different hemisphere, but still you exactly.  Looks like you.  Talks like you.  Walks like you and most importantly thinks like you.  So is that a bad thing?  I think not.

Think of all you could do if you and your doppelganger got together.  I need at least three. 

Number ONE:  That's me of course, would sit at the computer and write all day long.  Put out three books a year.  Do book signings, meet people and generally (oh no the dreaded ly word) play long and hard.

Number TWO: would take care of working.  Earn money, work day and night, and pay bills.(my least favorite past-time.

Number THREE:  This one would do all the things I hate.  Re-writes for one.  Deadline buggers, (while I sleep of course) and last but not least, take care of all the other interruptions that keep me from doing what I want to be doing at the moment.

Wouldn't that be awesome.  I need to be replicated, many times over.  Maybe not too many times.  Remember the movie Replicated?  I don't want a -- I like pizza Steve-- me.  I could live without someone who makes me look more stupid than I actually am.  I do quite a good job of that all by myself, thank you very much.  Okay, where was I?  Oh yes, replicated.

Just think how much fun I could have with two other mes that get-- well Me?  How awesome would that be.  We could belly laugh at the same jokes, watch all my favorite shows without all the griping.  Oh, and we'd always agree on what to eat for dinner.

Doppelgangers head my way.  I'd take you with open arms.  Forget the trying to take over my life, we'll just share and trade places when we get sick of doing what we're doing.  Sounds good, No?

Well, as long as they remember who number one is.  Crap! They want to take over.  How do you get rid of a doppelganger?  (comment me and let me know)


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Librarians, more fun than a barrel of Monkey

I know I don't usually write about my life, but here goes.  I was on a panel of Romance Writers at the ULA. If you don't know what that is, it is the Librarians all around the state.  It was a wonderful time.  There were Librarians from all walks of life.

Well, did you know they have their own comic strip?  I'm not one of the crowd, but even I got a kick out of the comics.  You should check them out, it's called unshelved.  I especially loved the homeless guy living in the ceiling.  Never would have guessed that was based on a real story.  They were a wonderful bunch of people.  And who should a writer love more than their own best supporters.  Hand up in High Five to Trish for the invite.

Not only that, but that hard to get booksigning that I've been asking for at the big book store chain (You know who I mean) handed me the signing on a silver platter, along with begging on their hands and knees.  No not really the hands and knees thing, but they did make sure to ask three times to make sure that I would contact them.

Another High Five to Trish.

Next High note, Now a keynote speaker at the School Library Association in 2012, yahoo for that.  Trish's hand is going to get sore with all the slapping.  Maybe a slap on the back would work better.  Then a speaker at a BookExpo.  Can you say hitting the big time?  Well maybe only in this state, but what more could you ask for as a result of one tiny panel thing.  Okay, so check out your local Librarians next time you see them and tell them thanks for all the support they give the local writers.  So now to the comic strip and more fun stuff.

Keep at it, write and have fun.  And I'll see you on the flip side.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Wicked Ways

I know that writing has its ups and downs, and so does doing things on the internet.  I've lately had the desire to kick my computer to the curb.  It is my best friend with an attitude, or it could be the user is inept at best.  Whatever the problem the computer and I fail to see eye to eye on a regular basis.

Am I alone in my frustrations, or does the computer have a vendetta against me.  High CPU usage, failure to save changes in a document, or just random messages that I don't understand are becoming the norm.  Maybe it is time to update my old dinasour into a new and sleeker model, preferably one not powered by hamsters running on a wheel.

Okay, so I got off on a rant.  Back to the wicked ways.  I've gone over the edge with the darker side of writing again.  Am I alone?  Or are there others out there who enjoy the supernatural side of things.  Do you identify with the humans in the paranormal love story, or are you more drawn to the monster side of the equation.  I love the dark side.  Maybe there is something in my that longs to be turned loose and free to kill whomever annoys me. 

Being Human has become my number one TV show, okay so Supernatural still ranks up there, but am I alone in this?  Let me know what you think.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Murder with a twist.

I'm so ready to kill someone.  No, I'm not mad, but have learned all about bullets, guns, and writing about the death scene.  I have first hand experience watching someone dying, just ask my middle daughter.  She died over and over until she was about sixteen. 

First there was the gut-wrenching scream, followed by the crash to the floor and the writhing about.  No blood in sight though.  I learned early on I could kill her with a few words, or a little swat to the butt.  Not as fun as bullets and guns.  But still successful all the same. 

So I don't really write terrorist novels, or spy thrillers, or mysteries, so why would I want to know how to shoot someone.  Well, I really don't, but I might have to consider shooting someone in one of my books so I can use all that knowledge I've gained.

I rather prefer them being torn apart by a werewolf, conjured into nothingness by a witch, or maybe smoked in the fire from a dragon's mouth.  Much more fitting to the type of books I write.  But the allure of the handgun that fits in my pants pockets took on a surprise interest. 

I'm not so sure I could personally pull the trigger, but I might have one of those voices in my head just crazy enough to do it for me. 

Belonging to a writer's group is one of the things you need to put on the top of your list.  So much to learn and so little time to put all that knowledge into practice.  Contact any of the groups you know of, or if you can't find one, contact me and I'll try to pass some knowledge along to you. 

Well there you have it.  My usually way of killing has gone out the window, replaced by dreams of jacketed bullets flying a 1700 yards in half a second and doing all sorts of damage to the intended victim on the other end of the sites.  Killing just took that unexpected twist.

Happy writing all.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

White Noise and the Voices in My Head.

Have you ever heard voices when no one else is in the room?  I have, not only characters from books, but other worldly voices.  Am I psycho?  Maybe and maybe not.  I heard a comment that writers are never alone, and I can vouch for that.  I do have characters yelling at me to get their story told.

That's right yelling at me.  Poor Tavin MacLellan, the keeper in my newest novel yelled for almost three weeks.  I kept telling him he had to wait until Tawny and Timmy got married before his chance to get onto the paper would arrive.  Darn pushy scot anyway.  Well he's better now that he's found someone else to be interesting in, namely Viola.  But I'm drifting off.  Where was I?  Oh yeah.

Voices, not the characters in my head, but a actual voice.  I've watched Ghost Hunters and I can see that I'm not alone.  But hey, is there anyone out there that's heard voices late at night in their house?  I'd love to hear the stories, if you don't mind sharing.  I also like the scary ghost stuff, so share those too. 

I used to live in a haunted house, just ask my kids.  When I got married to a mechanic, there ended up being cars in other places than the driveway.  My ghost, who just happened to be a man, seemed a bit upset about that.  He actually yelled at me about letting someone put cars in the garden.  The nerve of some ghosts.  It was my house after all.  It made me wonder exactly what he was doing, and why he thought he should be able to dictate what happened at the house.  Curious little thoughts.

I'd love to have comments.  Tell me your story.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Monkey on my back and other distractions

Here I am again, letting so much time go by between blogs.  I've been working hard on pounding out critiques and writing my newest novel, titled: Keeper of the Southern Gate.  I'm excited to be writing again after the hectic running around during the holidays.  That monkey from them didn't climb off though.  I find that January with all its birthdays has me running around like the proverbial chicken without a head.  TIME!!! Just a bit of my own would be lovely.

Well there is the number one thing that everyone wishes for.  Splitting mine, between children, music, writing, advertising, finding book reviewers.  HINT HINT.  If any of you reviewers out there are interested my door is wide open, and that means a free copy of Quicksilver for you.  YEAH.

Okay, so I'll stop yelling.  I want just two days a week to write and have time to myself, but that monkey hanging on my back keeps just digging in.  There is not enough days in the week, and I just had more added to my plate.  Oh well, I'll knuckle down and spend more time doing the little things, and less time wasting.  Is that true?  Do I really waste time.  Well I don't waste time blogging, that's for sure, huh. 

Okay, so that little monkey will get worn down and let out of that cage that seems to be holding him.  I hope you have time in your life to spare.  Any hints?  Feel free to comment and let me know.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New Years the Cold Bear and resolutions

Speaking of monsters, the cold weather turns me into a grumpy bear.  I hate it, hate the snow, hate being outside in the cold.  I know, you say move somewhere warmer.  IF ONLY!!!  Anyway, my grumpyness shows up along with the snow and cold. What better way to spend my time than sitting inside my warm house and typing on my computer.  Email, Fanstory, Blogging, and yes, even working on those manuscripts, query letters, and contest entries.

That said, I've made my new year's resolution list.  Number one, same as always, lose weight.  Hard to do when you spend so much time sitting on your butt and playing on the computer.  However, with the new stationary bike, I vow to spend some time each day pumping my legs enough to match what my fingers do.

Number two, write, write, write.  I hope to finish two books this year.  A lofty goal, but I want to really push the publishing envelope this year.  I'd like to have a book a year if not two hitting the shelves.

Number three, and one that I hadn't considered until this year, up the contest entries.  Why?  You ask.  I'll tell you.  Entering contests with your writing gets it in front of the publishers and agents that wouldn't give your query letter a second look.  That's a great way to worm your way into their hearts.  I know, I entered a contest and had a publisher anxiously awaiting me finishing the novel.  Is she going to publish it?  I don't know, but at least she wants to read the whole thing and is excited about it.  More than I can say for sending out cold queries. 

There you've got my list. Oh, and try to blog more often than once a month, LOL.  Have a great year.  I'd like to hear what you have in mind for your new year. 

More monsters bad and good are coming out of my head this year, I'll keep you updated/