Friday, August 30, 2013

What's in a Name?

Names are important. We spend a lot of time and energy naming our pets, our children, our books, even our properties. So when I first thought of creating a little press to publish my own books, I wanted a clever brand that would really communicate what my writing was about. I started using Hotbutton Press in emails and on a blog ten years ago. Now I'm ready to take that a step further with a website, business registration, tax forms, etc. Easy peasy, right?

Wrong.

I'm a little hot under the collar. Someone else beat me to it and there is another Hotbutton Press already.

Dang.

So now I have to come up with Plan B.

What about Red Button Press? Red is my favorite color. A search brings up all kinds of Do Not Press the Red Button links. Too weird to consider.

Sigh.

How about Red Queen Press since I'm affectionately dubbed the queen around here? Already taken again.

Red House Press? Gone too.

I just want Hotbutton Press! Hubbo suggests it's just a darling and I should get over it. Maybe he's right.

But that still leaves me without a name I can personally relate to - something that properly reflects not only the books I'd like to self-publish, but all the non-fiction how-to and articles that I really love to write, and even some writing contests to engage other writers.

Who knew something this basic would end up being such a challenge?

I think it's important to get it right because branding is such a big deal in marketing today. It's too easy to confuse the public if you don't communicate clearly what you're about. I mean, it's not just a name - it's how the world will recognize you in real life and on all the social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

How would you approach this? Have you created your own self-publishing entity? How did you choose the name? Did you search online to make sure the name wasn't taken already? Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over? Please do leave a comment!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Rule of Twenty

I've been to a number of writing workshops focused on how to deal with those moments when your story seems to hit a brick wall. Now, nobody said writing was easy. If you're trying to make (or supplement) a living at it, you learn it's a job. You have to show up at the "office" and work. You can't wait for your muse. I believe it was Nora Roberts who said some days you have to drag her, kicking and screaming, to your computer (or notebook).

The late Robert B. Parker, speaking at a SleuthFest conference said, "There's no such thing as writer's block. Sure, writing can be hard. But can you imagine calling a plumber to fix your clogged toilet and having him tell you he can't show up today because he has plumber's block?"

One technique that's been mentioned in a good number of workshops I've attended is to invoke the "Rule of Twenty" (not to be confused with another post I did on the "Rule of Three"). The idea is that you come up with twenty pos­si­bil­i­ties for any sit­u­a­tion. There are no bound­aries. As a mat­ter of fact, the totally off-the-wall ideas some­times end up being the strongest.

When I was writing Deadly Secrets, my character was searching for something, and there had to be a reason why he couldn't come right out and ask about it, or the book would be over. There's no story if a character says, "Hey, Joe, I need that painting your grandfather handed down to you," and Joe says, "Sure. Here it is." So, I started listing all the sorts of things Justin, the character in question, might be looking for, and why he had to keep his search a secret.

The first things that come to mind will usu­ally be the obvi­ous, the mun­dane, or the clich├ęs. By the time you get past the first ten, you’ll have some­thing usable. By twenty, you’ll prob­a­bly have some­thing that’s unique to you.

I don’t adhere strictly to the twenty, but I do write down as many pos­si­bil­i­ties as I can think of—and often recruit the Hub­ster to come up with some as well. I've been known to pose these sorts of questions on my Facebook page as well. You never know where that perfect idea will come from.

For example, as a non-plotter, I don't always know where a scene is going. In my current WIP, I reached the following point and hit that wall. (Note: Gordon and Metcalf are searching for a missing woman, and they're in the middle of a snowstorm.)

Now what? Gordon took off after Metcalf, but at a considerably more cautious pace, testing muscles and joints. No serious pains, but he'd feel it tomorrow, and have some Technicolor bruising to show for his mishap.

Puffing, he arrived at the rock outcropping. Disturbed snow leading to a narrow gap in the rocks told him Metcalf was inside. Not willing to squeeze inside the cramped quarters, Gordon held back. "You have anything?"

Metcalf emerged holding a—

This is a perfect place to try that "Rule of Twenty." What sorts of things can you come up with? (For the record, Hubster's immediate response was "a bear" which I don't think I'll be using.)


Terry Odell
is the author of numerous romantic suspense novels, mystery novels, as well as contemporary romance short stories. Most of her books are available in both print and digital formats. She’s the author of the Blackthorne, Inc. series, steamy romantic suspense novels featuring a team of covert ops specialists, the Pine Hills Police series, set in a small Oregon town, and the Mapleton Mystery series, featuring a reluctant police chief in a small Colorado town. To see all her books, visit her website. You can also find her at her blog, Terry's Place, as well as follow her on Twitter, or visit her Facebook page.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Does Your Story Need a Prologue?

Kristen Lamb, an author, editor and writing coach recently addressed this question on her blog when she wrote about The Seven Deadly Sins of Prologues. Since I write prologues for most of my mysteries, I hopped on over to see what sins I was committing. Being a good Catholic girl raised with the guilt-syndrome, all I had to do was see the word "sin" and I broke out in a cold sweat.


What a relief it was to find out that prologues are okay for certain books and within certain parameters. Some agents and editors still say prologues are out, period, and some readers skip them entirely when reading, although I can't imagine why. When I get a new book I read everything including the copyright page. I want to find every trace of blood, sweat, and tears that a writer put into the book, but maybe that's just me.

For my Seasons Mystery Series, the books start with a prologue, mainly because that's the way the stories came to me. The prologues are written from the POV of the victim of the crime, and I have a hard time starting a new book any other way. I liked that approach when I read Barbara Parker’s Suspicion of Guilt, where the reader meets the victim, "The night she was murdered Althea Tillett had hosted a party for her best girlfriends."

That was a great opening line that introduced an innocent young woman in such a way that the reader was outraged at her murder. Right away Parker invested the reader in the story, so you just had to read the rest to make sure there was justice for Althea.


Another effective prologue was cited in an article Marg McAlister wrote for Foremost Press. In The Prologue - When to Use One, How to Write One, McAlister shares from a contemporary novel, Mary Stanley's Revenge that opens with, "Millicent McHarg sat on an iron chair on the patio in the back garden where the Buddha with its green lights resided."

The rest of the short prologue introduces the theme of revenge and sets up a sense of the drama to come, while establishing the central players in the story.

Both Kristen Lamb and Marg McAlister gave pros and cons for using a prologue and had similar tips for if you decide to write one:
  • Keep it short - the 23 pages that introduce Canterbury Tales no longer works
  • Don't use it just for an info dump
  • Make sure it connects to the main story
  • The writing style should match the rest of the book
  • It must have a hook of its own, while connecting to the main story
If you'd like more tips check out How to Write a Prologue at E-How.com.

I'm curious. How many of you skip prologues entirely? If you are a writer, do you utilize them in your own work?  Do you have any other tips to share?


Maryann Miller
is a novelist, editor and sometimes actress. Her most recent release is Boxes For Beds,  a mystery available as an e-book and paperback. It does start with a prologue that passes the Kristen Lamb test of effective prologues. Stalking Season is the second book in the Seasons Mystery Series. The first book, Open Season, is available as an e-book for all devices. To check out Maryann's editing rates visit her website. When not working, Maryann likes to take her dog for a walk and work outside on her little ranch in East Texas.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Why Read a Short Story or a Collection?

The Blessing or Curse Collection, a sequel to my thriller, Forever Young: Blessing or Curse, is now available. This collection contains five short stories, about five very different types of people who take a pill to be young again.

Instead of dwelling on the thriller aspect, the collection focuses on how the choice to take an experimental pill impacts not only the lives of the test subjects, but also that of their spouses or significant others. The only thriller mention comes toward the end of the collection in a very short bonus section in which the villains from the first novel plot their next moves.

Since not everyone might like to read all the stories, I'm also offering a choice to read one or more separately. Catch a glimpse of the covers in the panorama below.


What the stories are about:

Who'll Mend This Broken Man - Desperation forces Consuela to order the Forever Young pill to cure her husband, Diego, from Parkinson’s Disease; but is the cure really a curse?

What I Did for Love - Strawberry blonde model, Sherri, sees her popularity fading, along with her looks. The pill can bring her fame and fortune, but what about love?

Too Much of a Good Thing - Ezekiel, an African-American male, can't get it up for his lady love, Luana. Will the pill draw them closer together or drive her away?

Suspicion - Doormat, Dee Dee Marshall, takes a bold step when evidence points to her husband's infidelity.

For the Love of Dog - Overweight Chicago Police Officer Walinski must pass a new physical or lose his job, along with his beloved canine partner. Can the young pill offer security, when danger lurks in the line of duty?

You may ask why anyone would want to read a short story or a collection of them? Here are some reasons:
  • It's easier to finish a short story if you don't have much time, and don't enjoy keeping track of what happened the last time you put the book down.
  • You're curious about how the theme will play out
  • You enjoy variety
  • Part of a series you're hooked on.
Any other reasons you can think of?



Experience the diversity & versatility of Morgan Mandel. For romantic comedy: Her Handyman & Girl of My Dreams. Thriller: Forever Young: Blessing or Curse. Science Fiction/Romance Sequel: Blessing or Curse Collection. Romantic suspense: Killer Career. Mystery: Two Wrongs. Twitter:@MorganMandel Websites: Morgan Mandel.Com & Chick Lit Faves

Monday, August 26, 2013

Layer Four: Internal Conflict Scenes

Internal Conflict scenes introduce and explore the personal dilemma your protagonist struggles with. The verbal camera is focused with a tight spotlight beaming on the protagonist in the background. Use these scenes to reveal the protagonist’s back-story and show him dealing with his guilt, pain, or need which leads up to - and is resolved by - his point of change.

These conflicts test the protagonist’s character and faith. They make him question who he is and what he does. These are the emotional complications or ties that bind that complicate the overall story problem. 

If the love interest has equal weight, you can explore her personal dilemma and point of change in these scenes as well.

Internal conflict scenes can be flashbacks, dreams, and revelations of back-story through memories or an encounter with a friend or foe.

You can show him exhibiting one type of behavior in the beginning and a complete reversal of behavior at the end to show the point of change.

These scenes reveal the event that happened in the past and how it changed him: he deals with the death of his partner, the loss of his wife, the child he didn’t save.

The internal conflict often culminates in the section after the climax, where we find out if the protagonist lives happily ever after. It can also culminate just prior to the climax.

That does not mean other characters cannot be in these scenes or that he is not doing anything. It means the verbal camera is zeroed in on his thoughts, feelings, actions, and reactions to the underlying problem that drives him and complicates the overall story problem.

Exercise:

1) If you have a story idea, list ten ideas for events that will happen to reveal the protagonist’s personal dilemma. The first scene should introduce his personal dilemma. The last scene should resolve it. If you are dividing the scenes between protagonist and love interest, list ideas for scenes that introduce and resolve her personal dilemma.

In our continuing Thriller plot, Dick’s personal dilemma focuses on his marriage. His marriage is on the rocks because he is a workaholic. He had planned to retire but this latest crisis forces him to keep working.

1. Dick and Sally make plans to go on a long-awaited vacation. He gets a call.

2. Dick informs Sally that he isn’t retiring after all. He can’t tell her why.

3. Dick and Sally fight about the vacation. Looks like we’ll have to cancel it.

4. Sally gives Dick an ultimatum. He asks for more time.

5. Sally accuses Dick of having an affair with Jane at work. Dick is called away.

6. Dick finds Sally packing her bags and asks her to stay.

7. Sally tells Dick that she received a call from Ted and that he said there was no reason for Dick to stay at work. That he is lying to her.

8. Dick tells Sally the truth about the meteor.

9. Dick and Sally spend the evening together knowing it may be their last.

10. Dick and Sally leave for the airport to go on their vacation.

2) If you already have a rough draft, save a copy of the draft as “Internal Conflict” and delete everything except the scenes that involve the protagonist’s internal dilemma. Are they in a logical cause and effect order? If not, can you revise them so that they are? Which order would best serve your plot?

3) How will the personal dilemma complicate the overall story problem? How is it resolved? 

The internal layer adds a personal touch to the story and allows the reader to gain sympathy for your protagonist.

Stay tuned for the summary on how all four layers work together.

For previous posts on the four layers, check out:




Diana Hurwitz is the author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit DianaHurwitz.com for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Friday, August 23, 2013

A Question of Villainy

Photo by David Bleasdale, Flickr
The Screwtape Letters, by C. S. Lewis, purports to be a collection of letters written by a senior devil (Screwtape) to his nephew Wormwood, a junior tempter. In one of these missives, Screwtape notes, the great (and toothsome) sinners are made out of the very same material as those horrible phenomena, the Saints.

Screwtape is here alluding to the fact that certain people are born with a potential for greatness, endowed with exceptional gifts and talents which set them apart from the general population, and enable them to shape their own destinies. The same principle holds true when it comes to characters in literature. To restate Screwtape’s observation from a Fantasy-writer’s perspective: a first-class villain is a hero gone bad.1

Quentin Crisp once defined charisma as the ability to influence others without the use of reason. This is a prime attribute of heroes and villains alike: wherever they go, they stand out in a crowd. Heroes tend to downplay their charisma in the company of lesser mortals. (Superman, for instance, takes on the nerdy persona of Clark Kent to suppress his identity.) A villain, by contrast, consciously asserts his presence for purposes of intimidation. (When Darth Vader enters a room, everybody else registers a shiver of uneasiness.)

Heroes and villains alike are often gifted with superior intelligence. Intelligence renders a hero quick-thinking in the face of a crisis. If he has to jump to a conclusion, it will be the right one. If lives are at stake, he’ll improvise brilliantly to effect a rescue.

By contrast, intelligence in a villain is the key to power. A first-rate villain always has one or more long-range schemes under way. This gives him a starting advantage over the hero who has to play catch-up. A villain’s agenda is self-serving and his methods are ruthless. If at any point, a villain is forced by necessity to make a temporary alliance with his heroic counterpart, he will always be on the lookout for an opportunity to regain the initiative.

Photo via DoodleDeMoon on Flickr
 A first-class villain knows that sooner or later, he’s going to run into opposition, and never succumbs to the temptation to let his guard down.2 Instead, he looks for opportunities to stretch his lead. When – eventually - by dint of bravery, bloody-minded persistence and luck, the hero finally catches up with him, a first-rate villain never whines. On the contrary, he has his pride: he can be defeated, but never cowed. A first-rate villain is a class act3 – someone we’re forced to admire, even after all he has done, as he stands before us in chains.

Which brings us to the final point in this month’s installment. This discussion will continue next month. In the meantime, suffice it to reiterate that a villain, like his heroic counterpart, needs greatness to make him memorable.

Notes

1There are, sad to say, more noteworthy villains than villainesses in Fantasy. (The best specimens I know of come from the media, including the evil Amazon princess Callisto from the Xena Warrior Princess TV series, Mystique from the X-Men movies, and of course, Catwoman.) In view of this relative scarcity, and to avoid padding out this article by doubling up on the pronouns, I’m going to treat the masculine forms as generic.

2 For an entertaining perspective on the challenges of being an arch-villain, check out Peter's Evil Overlord.

3John Shea, who played Lex Luthor in the TV series Lois and Clark, succinctly summed up the class advantages of villainy in terms of “best clothes, best lines”.


Debby Harris is an independent editor living in Scotland. Please visit her website for more information about her editing services and fees.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The First Fifty Pages

Last year, I had the pleasure of attending the MWA University held in Denver. I recapped the sessions on my own blog, and today I'm sharing how I've put one of the sessions to use. Reed Far­rel Cole­man, an author and adjunct pro­fes­sor of Eng­lish at Hof­s­tra University, suggested that when you're starting a new project, you begin each day by starting at page 1 and editing until you get to the point where you're adding new material. He says he does this until he's written 50 pages. If you want to see the rest of what he said about editing during his session, you can find it here.

For my next book, the third in my Mapleton Mystery series, I decided to give that method a try. My normal writing process is to print out each completed scene and read it in a non-writing environment (usually in bed). Then, the next day, I go over that scene, fixing anything I noted on the previous night's read. This gives me a running start for writing the next scene, and it tightens the writing. Some of the frequent things I catch on this read are confusing dialogue, weak or repeated words, and pronouns that aren't clear.

Sure, using my basic method, if I caught a problem that needed to be addressed in an earlier chapter, I'd go back to fix it. But I'd never gone back to page 1 every day.

How did it work? The first few days felt "normal" because I was doing what I always did, backing up a scene or two and getting my momentum going. But this time, it was more than just reading to get that start; I was editing.

And, because the book is the third in a series, there are characters I already know, and plot threads that have been established in the previous books. How much time should be spent bringing readers up to speed? Reading the first three chapters over and over showed me where I was moving too slowly. I recalled what Michael Connelly said at CraftFest when someone asked him how he dealt with readers who might not have read his earlier works, who didn't know Harry Bosch. He said he made a conscious decision to leave most back story out. "The books are there. Let them catch up."

When I write, I don't bother with things I don't need to know right then. So, if I found I needed to show Gordon dressed for cold weather, I'd go back and show what he was wearing. Paula was initially described in chapter 2 as "a little on the skinny side of slim." (Later, I cut the "a little" because qualifiers are weak and slow the pace). Because I read this phrase each time I went through the manuscript, it 'stuck' and I could show her running five miles even though the weather was terrible, and taking only half-portions from the buffet table, or picking at her meals. Others will do entire character studies before starting to write, but that would drive me crazy. I prefer to let my characters show me who they are.

The result? I have 50 pages that are holding together. I know my characters, I know my setting, and when it comes time to do the final edits, I won't have as much to do.


Terry Odell
is the author of numerous romantic suspense novels, mystery novels, as well as contemporary romance short stories. Most of her books are available in both print and digital formats. She’s the author of the Blackthorne, Inc. series, steamy romantic suspense novels featuring a team of covert ops specialists, the Pine Hills Police series, set in a small Oregon town, and the Mapleton Mystery series, featuring a reluctant police chief in a small Colorado town. To see all her books, visit her website. You can also find her at her blog, Terry's Place, as well as follow her on Twitter, or visit her Facebook page.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

5 Focal Points for Writers Reading Books


I always get a good laugh when, invariably, my writers come back to me and say, “How on earth can you read for pleasure?  You’ve ruined reading for me!  Now all I see are major flaws.”  Yes, that does happen, at least in the beginning, after your eyes are opened to the elements of great writing.  I always do assure them that that will pass, and they’ll be able to read for pleasure again without picking a book to death.  Yep, I’m more attuned to the flaws as well, although when a book is too chock-full of them, I quit it.  But, oh, the joys of experiencing a story and characters written by a master of the craft! 

We can all learn from the pitfalls and brilliance of other writers—learn what not to do, what didn’t work, and what did.  I’m not talking copy-edit stuff, not grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc., and not even really stylistic issues (wordiness vs. tightness, show vs. tell, etc.), but rather the deeper elements that go into a great book. 

| First off, what about the author’s voice is appealing?  (If it’s not, you won’t still be reading).  Is it that the voice fits the genre?  For example, taking you back to a long-lost time in a historical novel, where the language is fuller and slower, rounder through the edges?  Even sometimes when the prose borders on purple, we’ll forgive it if it “fits.”  Or is it harsh and flat, as in edgier fiction, where that fits as well?  Is it the way the author changes the cadence, becoming staccato in the action scenes, and slowing to a denouement waltz on a mellifluous river of words? 

| Does the story start off with characters in conflict, or is the “real-life” part too easy?   Does the beginning story-question knock the hero’s socks off in some way, while showing life as he knows it up until now?  Book after book after book (unedited) these days start with folks enjoying parties, cocktails, dinner, etc., and even if the repartee is witty, you start to lose interest.  Where did the beginning fall apart?  Can you pinpoint the exact place?  Or, did the story begin with teasers in the scene, implying more going on under the surface than meets the eye? 

“Locking my office, exhausted from working late, I stepped down the marble hallway thinking of dumping my boyfriend and soaking in a nice hot bath.  Light shone from under my legal partner’s door.  He never stayed this late.” 

Now, this character can act from here in myriad ways, but the questions linger—why is her partner staying late?  And what’s wrong with the boyfriend?   

| Does the story keep moving?  Or does it have a sagging middle, scenes with no point, and you find your mind wandering?  Where, exactly, did the storyline lose you?  Find the place.  It’s not difficult.  What would you have done to shoot it forward again?  What’s the missing plot point, and where, specifically, would you have put it?  How would you have then built on that? 

| Could you predict where the story was going?  The ending?  As writers, we should always be trying to do so.  Always asking ourselves: Is this going to happen or that?   Not just, will he master his fear and win the day, whatever the day is, but also, how is this going to happen?   I confess—I’m disheartened when I figure it out.  But I’m blown away when the author takes me across a mountaintop I didn’t know existed but nonetheless fits.  Ah, such unpredictable heaven! 

| Does the hero end up being who we thought he was?  Did he change and grow?  If yes to the former and no to the latter, you were probably bored enough to not finish the book.  And while contrived character traits are just as tedious, when a protagonist is quirky enough, real enough, with foibles and strengths that we can relate to, but in the end masters something within himself that saves the day and does it with unexpected growth, then we feel satisfied.  But if he was changeless, what situations would you have put him in to force him to grow?  If he was predictable, how could you have dug deeper and found the unique aspects to him?  What does your creativity say that those unique aspects are? 

As writers we must read for so many reasons.  Finding what works and what doesn’t is just part of why we do so.  But as Samuel Johnson said, “The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent reading in order to write.  A man will turn over half a library to make a book.”  


Award-winning author and editor Susan Mary Malone has five traditionally-published books to her credit (fiction and nonfiction) and many published short stories. A freelance editor, forty-plus Malone-edited books have now sold to traditional publishers. You can see more about her, and what authors say about working with her, at: MaloneEditorial.com

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Going the Long Way Around

Photo courtesy of stock.xchng
Hello, dearies! After much squinting and persuasion, your Style Maven is now sporting a new pair of glasses. The frames are lovely; the price tag was anything but. That said, I am indeed delighted to be able to see past the end of my nose again.

I blame texting.

Not for my nose, mind you. That was left up to genetics. No, it’s the new prescription; I’m certain it was caused by text messages. Those tiny little screens make things difficult enough, but when you must wade through the myriad “pls” and “ppl” and “ur” that pepper each electronic missive, I think the eyes give out in protest.

While certain acronyms and abbreviations are usually welcome (CMOS, anyone?), you would be hard-pressed to find an editor willing to give the green light to most of the slang terms found on the Internet today. Though it’s likely to be understood that pls is intended to mean please rather than Polyester Leisure Suit (thank heavens), taking the time to include those apparently tiresome vowels will win brownie points from editors and readers alike.

The Chicago Manual of Style has a lot to say about abbreviations and slang; there are nearly two pages full of reference points listed in the index. While those references focus almost exclusively on strict rules regarding technical, geographic, and medical terms, a fair amount of leeway is given to writers of fiction. Dialect and usage specific to characters and locations are recognized as useful tools for effect, although that usage admittedly falls outside the scope of the CMOS.

As language continues to grow and develop, words and usage drop in and out of favor. Electronic publishing is pushing boundaries in every direction, with novels, articles, and non-fiction pieces of all kinds cropping up online. While I don’t expect to see an entry about the proper use of adorbs in future editions of the CMOS, I’m certain that Internet slang terms will be addressed in-depth at some point.

And won’t we all be plsd about that?

Do tell! What’s your take on Internet slang? Helpful or heinous? 

Photo courtesy of Darrick Bartholomew

The Style Maven has been unable to knit for several days, thanks to an unfortunate incident involving a hammer, a bag of chocolate chips, and a recalcitrant flux capacitor. She spends her enforced leisure time in the company of books and her favorite coffee mug.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Seriously, Serialize

Photo credit: Google Images
Publishing is changing, books are changing, reading itself is changing – and it’s all changing so fast that authors can feel that they can’t keep up. What’s a writer to do?

First, we need to remember that changes in book publishing and the way readers access reading material is nothing new. Stone tablets gave way to inky scrolls which gave way to printing presses, and at every stop along the way Luddites cried.

Somehow writers evolved to meet the new technologies. Back in the Victorian Era, which wasn’t really that long ago, historically speaking, one of the new publishing tactics was publishing novels in serial form in magazines and newspapers. Charles Dickens is perhaps best known for using this form, starting with The Pickwick Papers in 1836, but Dickens was not alone – in 1893 Mark Twain first published Pudd’nhead Wilson as a serial in The Century Magazine, and Joseph Conrad and George Eliot published some of their works in serial form as well.

Maybe we can learn from these authors of the past. Today’s authors have a perfect venue for serializing our new works or even Works In Progress: blogs.

There are some good reasons for serializing. Perhaps the most obvious is that it can be a productive marketing tactic. Like many writers, I am not a big fan of marketing, especially the marketing of my own books. I do a better job of marketing my ghostwriting services, and thus surprise surprise, I've made more money on ghostwriting than at selling my books. Hmm, perhaps there is a connection.

But it doesn't feel like the dreaded “marketing” to write a blog. I already write regular blog posts about my writing life, so it’s like a no-brainer to also post my WIP in segments as I write it, in the hope that people will read it, like it, and come back for more of the same. And when the serial is finished, I hope that people will want to buy the book in one piece. It worked for Dickens, so why not me?

Another benefit of serialization is that it keeps the writer writing, spurred on by appreciation, helped by critiques, and motivated by the simple pressure to deliver on the promise – in writing – to finish the book. This sometimes leads to stress, but a little stress can be motivating. I have found that ideas and scribbles that may have stayed ideas and scribbles have actually become real projects – I have to finish them because my readers what to know what happened. (So do I.)


I’m still new at serializing, and do not pretend to be an expert. But in my next post I’ll discuss some of the things I've learned about writing blog serials and how they have worked (or not) for me. Meanwhile if you want to check out my current WIP serial, called Grandma’s Masks, it’s available on my blog www.primary-sources.com/blog/category/serial-fiction. (See? I’m getting better at marketing already!)


Kim Pearson is an author, ghostwriter, and owner of Primary Sources, a writing service that helps others become authors of professional and compelling books and articles. She has authored 6 books of her own, and ghostwritten more than 40 non-fiction books and memoirs. To learn more about her books or services, visit http://www.primary-sources.com/.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Nancy Martin's Rules of Writing and Promotion: Part 3

In this final of three installments, novelist Nancy Martin takes time from the release of her latest mystery, Little Black Book of Murder, to talk with Kathryn Craft about her recent Facebook promotions. Now that we've heard about how fun and popular they were, it's time to scratch the bottom line...

Kathryn: Now the tough question—do you think your efforts have translated into sales? What lessons have you learned from these efforts that you can pass along to our readers?

Nancy: Let me say first that I am usually embarrassed by plugging myself, and cringe when I see writers openly campaign for awards and reader attention. In a recent New York Times column, essayist Philip Lopate said there is nothing more becoming in an author than modesty, and I am firmly in that camp. Sure, self-promotion might work, but I am too Presbyterian to do it! I think too much unseamly shilling demeans the writing. And readers aren't stupid. They recognize ego and flop sweat when they see it. That said, you can see why I may not be the best person to give advice about promotion efforts.

To answer your question: I only do promotion when I can track sales. Throwing ideas and resources against the wall in the hope that they'll work is . . . not smart. I used to get in a car and travel for two weeks after my launch date, stopping at bookstores I had mapped out in advance. Some years I hit forty or fifty stores and forged relationships with a lot of booksellers along the way. I took gifts and bookmarks. I chatted with everyone and promised to send cupcakes to their mystery reading book clubs, then I got in the car and did the same thing in the next store. One year I did a tour by air, but who wants to endure that torture anymore? But I pretty much stopped traveling to do events—except for my local bookstore—because the cost was astronomical and inconvenient and didn't result in especially reliable sales figures.

I stopped using snail mail to send postcards because the cost has become prohibitive. Conferences are also expensive, and they're so jammed with other writers who all seem to be shouting about their books that it's hard to stand out, so I rarely attend anymore.
Another writing rule: If a conference makes you feel bad about yourself, don't go back.
I stopped blogging when our group blog hits began to decline and our back-blogger growth leveled out. (I blogged at The Lipstick Chronicles, which was one of the first, and it was successful for many years.) Yes, the daily busy work of maintaining a blog felt as if I was making progress—it was fun, and I loved the interaction with my blog sisters and back-bloggers—but I could no longer justify the year-round time and resources necessary to maintain such a blog when I couldn't pinpoint resulting sales of more than a couple hundred copies once a year.

Besides, Facebook was coming on strong, and I can better quantify the sales that result from Facebook posts, links and ads. I did the paper doll campaign because Facebook has great analytics. Is Facebook waning now for writers? Maybe. Are writers building false numbers of "fans" by doing giveaways that attract people who won't necessarily buy their books when crunch time comes—and therefore are muddying their own tracking waters? I think so.

I don't use Twitter much, because it all seems to be writers selling themselves to each other—at least, in the mystery genre—and writers are notoriously bad about buying each other's books. I have seen many a Twitter-savvy author lose their publisher because of poor sales. Because they're promoting themselves to other writers instead of their true reading audience? Maybe so. (I do use Twitter to find good craft-related material, and I see new writers using Twitter to successfully network themselves into the business.) Right now, Goodreads seems to be the place where book lovers can be more directly reached, so that's the next thing for me to master.

I do maintain an email list, and I send a newsletter to readers once a year. I keep my website as current as possible. I go to library conventions like ALA and PLA and my state library conference to meet as many librarians as possible because they can really spread word of mouth.

Perhaps the most successful promotions for me, however, are those that my publisher negotiates—the co-op display at the front of Barnes & Noble stores. If it's true that eighty percent of sales happen within twenty feet of the front door, the front-of-store real estate is golden. My publisher pays for my books to be displayed there for two weeks after launch, and that's like having a billboard in front of consumers who walk in with the intent of buying something to read. I owe Barnes & Noble a lot. This summer, some of my old paperbacks have been featured in in-store displays.

My publisher also sees that advance copies of my books are sent to publications that review books. Timely reviews in the big four industry periodicals---Booklist, Library Journal, Publisher's Weekly and (I hate to admit it) Kirkus—are vital because they reach librarians and booksellers who order books. Sometimes I am featured in articles in those industry magazines—thanks to my publisher. Penguin also gets my books reviewed in places like Romantic Times, Mystery Scene, and other consumer-oriented magazines. I rely heavily on my publisher's remarkable sales team and the marketing team. I can't imagine trying to accomplish everything on my own.

What all this means is that advance planning is crucial. I recently received an email from a writer who had just self-pubbed his first book and he asked me to tell him how to promote it. I wanted to say: It's taken me thirty years to get where I am! Take down your book! Learn the business and re-launch it in a year when you've mastered a few things. It's like the surgeon who says he's going to write a book as soon as he finds the time, and the writer who responds she's going to take up surgery as soon as she gets a few free minutes to learn how to hold a knife. Real book marketing is a business. It's not to be approached like a hobby.

But it can be learned. It takes study and diligence.
But here's the main thing, my primary rule when it comes to promotion: The best way to sell your book is by writing another book.
It's almost impossible to whip up consumer enthusiasm for one book. It's easier when you have three products to sell, but one is . . . a lot of work without great results. I write one book every year, and I'm now supplementing that with short e-books that are tied to my series. (Some authors are doing this better than I am. Check out Deborah Coonts. She is building reader enthusiasm.)

What readers really want is not promotion. They want more good books. Writing well--and regularly--is still the time-honored method of building a solid readership. Promotion is important, but writing is more important.

Write.

Then write more.

It's what you love, right?

Nancy won't be able to answer comments today, as she's traveling across Pennsylvania for one of her rare bookstore appearances, at 2 pm tomorrow, August 18, at the Doylestown Bookshop, Doylestown, PA. On behalf of Nancy and the BRP thanks for reading, and good luck with your own book promotion efforts. Let us know what's worked for you!

Missed something? Catch up on Part 1 and Part 2 of Nancy's Rules of Writing and Promotion.

Winner of the 2009 Lifetime Achievement award for mystery writing from Romantic Times magazine, Nancy Martin announces the release of the ninth book in her Blackbird Sisters Mystery Series, Little Black Book of Murder. The author of nearly fifty pop fiction novels in mystery, suspense, historical and romance genres, Nancy created The Blackbird Sisters in 2002—mysteries about three impoverished Main Line heiresses who adventure in couture and crime—as if “Agatha Christie had wandered onto the set of Sex and The City.” Nominated for the Agatha Award for Best First Mystery of 2002, How to Murder a Millionaire won the RT award for Best First Mystery and was a finalist for the Daphne DuMaurier Award. No Way to Kill a Lady was a 2012 Bookscan mystery bestseller. Nancy lives in Pittsburgh, has served on the board of Sisters in Crime and is a founding member of Pennwriters. Find Nancy on Facebook.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Nancy Martin's Rules of Writing and Promotion: Part 2

In this second of three installments, novelist Nancy Martin takes time from the release of her latest mystery, Little Black Book of Murder, to talk with Kathryn Craft about her recent Facebook promotions. We pick up where we left off, with Nancy telling Kathryn how she was inspired by Fifty Shades of Grey...

Nancy: It hit me that I could do a countdown to my book launch and post a different pink dress every day for fifty days on Facebook. I wrote a couple of sentences about each dress and why it was iconic, but I always included info about my book, too—usually providing a link to a bookseller.

Within the first two weeks, the campaign went viral. I started out with 600 "likes" on my author page, and by the end of the fifty days, I had over half a million people looking at my pink dresses—and seeing info about my coming book. My publisher jumped on the bandwagon and bought some FB ads, and we were careful to steer viewers to booksellers where they could pre-order books. Before the book was published, the publisher knew they needed to print more copies, and we also knew how many ebooks had been pre-ordered. My local bookstore received many orders for autographed copies.

It all meant that No Way to Kill a Lady came out of the gate a Bookscan mystery bestseller (and stayed there for six weeks) and the sales of hardcovers and ebooks were better than I—or my publisher—anticipated. The main lesson I learned? My readers enjoyed the pink dresses. By using FB analytics, I could see who my readers are—their ages, where they lived—and I was making them happy with pink dresses.
Writing rule: Know who your reader is. Be as specific as you can, because if you can narrow down your audience, you stand a better chance of reaching them.
But that was last year. The FB rules have since changed. Now I must pay a "sponsorship" fee to reach the "likes" I've already built. This is okay with me—FB has to make money somehow. We're all in the business of sales. But constantly changing business models mean we must all be nimble.
Writing rule: Stay informed about the business.
Kathryn: Tell our readers how you reinvented the campaign for Little Black Book of Murder? I've loved the results! The title is great—now that you've really settled into the branding, has it affected the way you conceive the books?

Nora Blackbird paper doll
in navy velvet Givenchy
Nancy: This spring I was casting around for an idea to promote my August release, Little Black Book of Murder, and a friend suggested paper dolls because my readers obviously like fashion. My Penguin editor had mentioned paper dolls a couple of years ago, but the idea didn't grab me as feasible. I don't have an assistant, and my children---so helpful when they were in high school!--are no longer available for office work. This time, I thought I could make it work on Facebook.

In May I worked with an enthusiastic graphic designer to create the dolls—we went back and forth for several weeks about what each of the Blackbird sisters should look like—and she took care of ordering the die-cut dolls. (Which also function as bookmarks, by the way, with all the info about my series printed on the backs of each sister.) Yes, the dolls turned out to be adorable!

You may love the results, but they were not nearly as successful as the Fifty Shades of Pink campaign.

First: The expense of hiring a designer, printing the dolls and postage was high. And the labor of sending the dolls to readers who requested them was very time-consuming for me during the weeks when I was trying to finish the next book in my series. (It always happens this way. If you're scheduling yourself right, you are launching a book a year and finishing a book a year---usually at the same time.)
Another writing rule: Don't let promotion interfere with the writing.
Also: I'm not sure I paid close enough attention to my demographics. My readers are primarily women between the ages of 40 and 65. Women who are too busy to jump through a lot of hoops. The process of participating in the campaign was too complicated.

My previous campaign required nothing of anybody--except clicking to buy my book. But to get the paper dolls, readers had to go to my website, send me their address, and I had to package up the dolls and make many post office runs. Then the reader had to create the clothes, snap photos and post their photos on my Facebook page, etc. It was all too complicated. My readers have busy lives with no time for all this back-and-forthing.

Would I do the paper doll thing again? No. But it was fun while it lasted. We will know in another week if our efforts were successful.

Please leave questions for Nancy! Just don't ask her how her campaigns have impacted sales—you'll have to check tomorrow's final installment for that one.

Winner of the 2009 Lifetime Achievement award for mystery writing from Romantic Times magazine, Nancy Martin announces the release of the ninth book in her Blackbird Sisters Mystery Series, Little Black Book of Murder. The author of nearly fifty pop fiction novels in mystery, suspense, historical and romance genres, Nancy created The Blackbird Sisters in 2002—mysteries about three impoverished Main Line heiresses who adventure in couture and crime—as if “Agatha Christie had wandered onto the set of Sex and The City.” Nominated for the Agatha Award for Best First Mystery of 2002, How to Murder a Millionaire won the RT award for Best First Mystery and was a finalist for the Daphne DuMaurier Award. No Way to Kill a Lady was a 2012 Bookscan mystery bestseller. Nancy lives in Pittsburgh, has served on the board of Sisters in Crime and is a founding member of Pennwriters. Find Nancy on Facebook.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Nancy Martin's Rules of Writing and Promotion: Part 1

In this first of three installments, novelist Nancy Martin takes time from the release of her latest mystery, Little Black Book of Murder, to talk with Kathryn Craft about her recent Facebook promotions. Or click through to read parts two and three. Nancy, welcome back!

Kathryn: Nancy, Congratulations on your new release, the ninth in your Blackbird Sisters mystery series. New York Times Bestselling Author Susan Andersen said of your series, “Smart intrigue dressed in cool couture.” Was that true from the very beginning? When did you realize that you could turn that into a marketing advantage on Facebook?

Nancy: Thanks for your good wishes, Kathryn. The use of haute couture clothing in my books began early in the creative process as I built my main character, Nora Blackbird. If Nora was supposed to attend fancy balls and galas for her job as a society columnist, she needed great clothes to wear. But the whole point of her needing a job in the first place is that her parents ran off with her trust fund, so she's broke and can barely afford to pay her electric bill. How to solve her wardrobe problem?  

I had already decided Nora would be deeply influenced by her late grandmother—a great lady Nora still admires, so it was a short leap to inventing a closet full of Grandmama's vintage couture that Nora could dip into as needed. I will confess that I'm not terribly interested in clothes for myself, so researching the great designers has been a challenge. I was gratified and taken by surprise when so many readers responded to the clothes in the first mystery, How to Murder a Millionaire. In subsequent books, I increased the pages devoted to Nora's clothes.
One of my writing rules: Please your reader!
This Oscar de la Renta was Nancy's #1
in her Fifty Shades of Pink countdown
But it wasn't until Pinterest came along (and I got addicted to it!) that I realized I could be making the clothes more of a marketing hook. I could attract more fashion-oriented readers if I played up Nora's closet on my website, on my Pinterest boards and on Facebook, too. Now Penguin also spends more time crafting cover art that will attract fashionistas, so it's a team effort to please established readers and attract new ones.

Kathryn: Tell us about the pink dress campaign and its impact on your number of social media followers. Was Pinterest involved in this campaign from the start? 

Nancy: I didn't come up with the pink dress idea until I was scrolling through Pinterest while trying to train my own fashion eye.
Another of my writing rules: Never stop researching.
Pink is Nora's favorite color, so I'm always on the lookout for great pink clothes. (I don't make up Nora's outfits. Because I don't want to be wrong about the fashion, I always choose real dresses—that is, dresses which were designed by well-known couturiers and which still exist—so looking at designer outfits has become part of my writing routine.)

Last summer, I happened to open my calendar to count how many days before the launch of No Way to Kill a Lady, the eighth Blackbird Sisters Mystery—which was pubbed after a three-year hiatus—and I saw I had fifty days to build enthusiasm for the book. Well, last summer, the number fifty meant Fifty Shades of Grey—it was everywhere from late night comedians to popular magazines and conversations on the subway. It was impossible to miss!
Another of my writing rules: Pay attention to cultural trends. I use them in my stories, and I use them in promotions, too.
I am not fond of gray, but pink—! It's so Nora! It hit me that I could do a countdown to my book launch and post a different pink dress every day for fifty days on Facebook. I wrote a couple of sentences about each dress and why it was iconic, but I always included info about my book, too—usually providing a link to a bookseller.

Feel free to leave questions for Nancy—but don't beg spoilers! You'll have to check back in with tomorrow's installment to see just how well this campaign worked for Nancy, and how she tweaked it for her next title!

Winner of the 2009 Lifetime Achievement award for mystery writing from Romantic Times magazine, Nancy Martin announces the release of the ninth book in her Blackbird Sisters Mystery Series, Little Black Book of Murder. The author of nearly fifty pop fiction novels in mystery, suspense, historical and romance genres, Nancy created The Blackbird Sisters in 2002—mysteries about three impoverished Main Line heiresses who adventure in couture and crime—as if “Agatha Christie had wandered onto the set of Sex and The City.” Nominated for the Agatha Award for Best First Mystery of 2002, How to Murder a Millionaire won the RT award for Best First Mystery and was a finalist for the Daphne DuMaurier Award. No Way to Kill a Lady was a 2012 Bookscan mystery bestseller. Nancy lives in Pittsburgh, has served on the board of Sisters in Crime and is a founding member of Pennwriters. Find Nancy on Facebook.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Having a Little Fun


As some of you may know, Wednesday is Hump Day, and if we get over today, we sail on to Friday and the end of the work week. For some bloggers, like my friend LD Masterson, it is a good reason to offer some humor to help folks over the hump. How appropriate, that it is Wednesday and my turn to blog here at BRP, so here are a few funnies to help you through the day.


First up is something from Pearls before Swine. In the first panel we see a bunch of lemmings at lemming's leap. One of them says, "Okay guys. It's time to end our little lemming lives. Bob you start us off."

Bob says, "All right,Fred." (but the word is spelled alright.)

Fred says, "Wait, wait! You yelled alright in that speech balloon but that's not a word Bob. It's all right - two words - ask anyone."

As Bob is falling off the cliff he says, "Oh crap really?"

Fred says, "It's a shame to go out on a grammatical error."
 
From Crankshaft. Crankshaft and a buddy are sitting on the bench at the ballpark with the old-timers ball team. The friend says, "I was just thinking, a pitcher can have a bad inning, or he can have a bad outing, and they both mean the same thing."

Crankshaft says, "You think too much."

Now another wacky definition from B.C. and Wiley's dictionary-- Photo finish – the Facebook post of you and the secretary at the office party that ended your career.

I love this one from One Big Happy.  Ruthie is sitting at the table writing a letter that reads: 

Dear pencil company,
I like your pencils a lot. But I think you should change the number on them to 7 or 9 or 10.
Anything but number 2.
Because of that whole potty thing.
Signed,
Ruthie

Another wacky definition from BC and Wiley's dictionary -- Milk Duds - cufflinks on a dairy farmer.

Here's one from Zits that will give all bookstore owners pause. Jeremy and his mother, Connie, are at the mall. She says to him, "We should go into the bookstore and get a book from your summer reading list."

Jeremy says, "You mean just go in there, pick a book off the shelf, and buy it? Is that still done?"

Connie tugs him into the store, saying, "I'll walk you through it."


Maryann Miller
is a novelist, editor and sometimes actress. Her most recent release is Boxes For Beds, an historical mystery available as an e-book. Stalking Season is the second book in the Seasons Mystery Series. The first book, Open Season, is available as an e-book for all devices. To check out her editing rates visit her website. When not working, Maryann likes to take her dog for a walk and work outside on her little ranch in East Texas. She believes in the value of a good walk or a good chuckle.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Seven Ways to Write Better Stories by Failing

Help! They’ll hate my story. I can hear them now. ‘It’s lovely and so… you!’ Yes, they hate it. 

Even if they say they don’t, can we believe them? At least, the verdict we get from an agent or competition judge will be honest. But honesty is cruel. No wonder new writers shudder when entering a major contest.

Since 2009, many of the 3500+ contestants in the Writers’ Village fiction award have asked me ‘Please be kind!’ Their terror is real. Why?

If readers reject our story, they stomp on our soul.

Here are seven defences against the terror of rejection.

1. Join the club!

Virtually all authors who have left an enduring legacy were scorned in their debut years. It took Agatha Christie 23 attempts to get her first novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles into print. Every publisher in London laughed at William Golding’s The Lord of the Flies.

Even J K Rowling had her new novel The Cuckoo’s Calling turned down by ten publishers before they discovered who had written it.

Tell yourself ‘early rejection is the sign of fame to come’. Logical? No, but often true.

2. Blink away the fairy dust.

Few novels get published today by writers who want to ‘express themselves’ or ‘write their lives’. If you set out to write solely for yourself you will write garbage. Write what the market wants then you can be as individual, within those constraints, as you wish.

Salman Rushdie didn’t start by writing Literature. He honed his skills as a copywriter for the ad agency Ogilvy & Mather. Only then was he qualified to embark on Midnight’s Children, which won the 1981 Booker Prize.

Be realistic about what publishers today will publish.

3. Welcome rejection as a free lesson.

A failed story is a great story if it teaches us something about our craft. If our writing hasn’t succeeded yet, it’s because we haven’t failed enough. What’s more, early success is dangerous. Next time, our novel might not earn out its advance. And our confidence collapses.

But if we have lived with failure for seven years, we sigh. We carry on. It goes with the territory.

4. Know the odds - and play the game regardless.

Can pessimism be a positive emotion? Yes, if it encourages us to persist against the odds. And the odds of a new writer being accepted by a reputable agent are around one in 2500, or so a top agent Luigi Bonomi once told me.

Accept the odds and soldier on.

5. Start with low-risk projects.

Don’t embark on a novel from day one. Chances are, you won’t finish it. Learn your craft with short stories. That’s how Joyce and Hemingway did it. Enter them systematically in short fiction contests. In each one, try out a new technique.

Soon you’ll get a feel for what judges look for - and agents too. Every submission teaches you a new craft skill.

6. Be content with small successes en route to stardom.

When you do embark upon that novel, agents will be genuinely impressed if you’ve won a dozen major awards. Your first paragraph might actually get read. But if a story fails to impress a contest judge, improve and submit it elsewhere. Eventually it will win, because every submission has refined your skills.

7. Keep yourself motivated by reading the latest best sellers.

Stephen King once gave this advice to newbie writers: ‘Read the latest best seller. Then ask yourself “How come this garbage was even published?”’ With some notable exceptions, popular novels are not distinguished by literary talent. Only by the persistence of their authors.

Those authors succeeded because they learned early on, that Failure is a Good Thing. But persistence is better.


 Dr John Yeoman, PhD Creative Writing, judges the Writers’ Village story competition and is a tutor in creative writing at a UK university. He has been a successful commercial author for 42 years. A wealth of further ideas for writing fiction that sells can be found in his free 14-part story course at: Writers-Village.org/Academy-intro

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Question Buried in a Story's White Space

A few weeks ago, I read a wonderful book, Recipe for a Happy Life by Brenda Janowitz, and I realized something. Every time I landed on white space -- between chapters and scenes -- I rushed to get to the next words in the story. Janowitz was obviously doing something right in how she ended her chapters and scenes. Twists, surprises, questions regarding the character's ability to grow, and disasters were some ways in which she chose to end chapters and scenes.


Other strategies that writers might incorporate into their stories include revelations, questions left unanswered, and a great piece of dialogue that leaves the reader wondering what the dialogue means. In Aaron Elkins' Writer's Digest article, "Three Ways to Know when to End Your Chapters," two other ways to consider ending chapters are breaking chapters where shifts in the story occur (change of place, time, or point of view, for example) and breaking "chapters in the heart of the action." After all, if you break a chapter in the middle of action, the reader will be more compelled to read further to see how the action concludes.

It was in this moment of thinking about the GOOD things Janowitz was doing in her story that I thought about the white space. Of course, white space helps visually. White space can improve legibility and comprehension, increase attention, and can create the right tones (Why Whitespace Matters). It also acts as a separator (11 Reasons Why White Spaces Are Good in Graphic Design), like we often see when separating scenes and chapters in a book.

Aside from the benefits of using white space, I found something else about white space: a question.

What's the question?


Within that white space, readers see that question. They have picked up the book and have voraciously read the first scene. When they come upon that first block of white space, this question appears. And it continues to appear at every scene and chapter break.

It is the writer's responsibility to develop a strong story that will make the reader answer YES to the question, each and every time until the story concludes.

In revisions, as you're making passes for other components you want to rewrite, make a pass for scene endings and a pass for chapter endings. Try on your Reader's Cap, and ask yourself if you'd want to read further based on the endings.

Keep the reader wanting to see what happens next in your story.



Shon Bacon is an author, doctoral candidate, editor, and educator. She has published both academically and creatively while also interviewing women writers on her popular blog, ChickLitGurrl: high on LATTES & WRITING. She's the author of mysteries, Death at the Double Inkwell and its sequel, Into the Web, the short story "I Wanna Get Off Here" (in the short story collection, The Corner Cafe), and the romantic dramedy novella, Saying No to the Big O. You can learn more about Shon's writings at her website, and you can get information about her editorial services at CLG Entertainment. Currently, Shon is busy pursuing her Ph.D. in Technical Communication and Rhetoric at Texas Tech University ... and trying to find the time to WRITE.

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