Friday, April 30, 2010


The explanation and discussion of the Haiku can be complicated or simple. I will try to make it simple. A Japanese form that has taken root in English, it consists of 17 syllables divided into three lines. The first line has five syllables, the second has seven, and the third has five. The allure of the Haiku is its brevity. In only a few syllables, it delivers deep and surprising meaning.

The Japanese use various forms for their Haiku, and some English poets, though they have not stuck to the 5/7/5 format, have found success with the three line form. The first line may be a reference to nature—a season, a flower, a bird, an insect. The second may have a contrast to the image chosen in the first line. By comparing the first and second lines, the third line may draw an insight or deliver a startling, unexpected image. One does not have to know the Japanese formats in order to be successful in writing the haiku, but it helps. Here are three written by Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) translated into English.

The sea at springtime
All day it rises and falls
Yes, rises and falls

Temple bells die out
The fragrant blossom remain
A perfect evening

An ancient pond
A frog jumps in
The splash of water

Don’t be surprised if you find the above poems translated in many different ways. The pond poem has hundreds of translations. It’s usually titled “The Old Pond.”

This has been a very brief and incomplete discussion of the Haiku. Much more information can be found online, where you can study its history and get tips on how to write Haiku. You can also learn what English poets have done with this form.

I do not include any of my own in this essay, but I would certainly like to read some of yours. If you wish to leave one in the comments, I will be happy to respond.

L. Luis Lopez, Ph.D. , has published three books of poetry, including two award winners: Musings of a Barrio Sack Boy, A Painting of Sand, and Each Month I Sing. Presently, he is in transitional retirement at Mesa State College in Grand Junction, Colorado, where he has taught English, Mythology, Latin, Ancient Greek, Greek and Roman literature classes, and was Director of the Academic Honors Program. You may email him at

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

We've Got Style

As a fiction editor, I encounter confusion from writers about how to treat numbers, the time of day, and references to printed materials. I base my edits/suggestions on a combination of Chicago Manual of Style and what I see and experience from traditional publishers. As a submitting novelist, you might as well get your manuscript into the best shape you can before sending it to anyone.
Here are some general guidelines:

Numbers one through one hundred are spelled out as words. Larger numbers, especially dollar amounts, can be written as numerals, but it’s not a mandate. Be consistent within a paragraph.
  • Lucy had seen the movie twelve times and spent exactly $132.45 in the process.
  • At age ninety-nine, Stella always let out her cats when she left the house. Still, she hoped to make it to a hundred and two, just to show up her sister.
If you give an exact time of day, use numerals and lowercase for a.m. and p.m. Few publishers use small caps anymore. For general hour references (which could have o’clock after them) use words.
  • Jackson looked at his watch: 1:45 p.m. He’d gotten up that morning at four and left the house by five.
Use numerals for years, but never use an apostrophe. Decades aren’t possessive. Never start a sentence with a number either.
  • She left home in 1982 but didn’t mature until she took up meditation in the 90s.
Gun calibers should be expressed in numerals except in dialogue.
  • Granny loaded her Ruger .22 and took aim.
  • “I’ll get the Colt forty-five,” Gramps shouted.
Almost all references to printed materials can be made italic. Quote marks should be reserved for spoken dialogue only.
  • Janie used her copy of Rolling Stone to fan away the smoke.
  • In a moment of clarity, she grabbed a pen and wrote out a list: get a job, lose five pounds, call my mother.
If you have strong feelings about how you want certain things to be styled, have that conversation with your editor in advance.


L.J. Sellers is an award-winning journalist and editor and is the author of the Detective Jackson mysteries, The Sex Club and Secrets to Die For. Her new novel, Thrilled to Death, will be released in August. She also loves to edit fiction and works with authors to keep her rates affordable. Contact her at:
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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Limerick

The limerick is a fixed form of poetry. It is usually humorous, often nonsensical. The lines are short, swift, and catchy. The limerick is made up of five lines, all basically anapestic in meter (short, short, long). The first, second, and fifth lines usually have three beats (or feet), while the third and fourth line have two. The first, second, and fifth lines have the same end rhyme, while the third and fourth lines rhyme, thus forming a couplet. There are variations to this pattern.

Here is an example from my own pen:

A Limerick for October

I can hardly wait for October
For then the German beer flows over
And I sit and I sip
Holding mug to my lips
At the inn called Aye Bee Sober.

The form is simple; thus, it is easy to make up limericks on the spot, and it often turns into a reciting sport, some made up and some remembered. They are fun to play with, but they lend themselves to bawdiness. For anyone who wishes to get the full feel of the limerick (including much bawdiness), I suggest The Lure of the Limerick by William S. Baring-Gould, Clarkson N. Potter, Inc./Publisher, New York. Eighth Printing, February, 1970.

I close with an anonymous limerick I found in Perrine’s Sound and Sense, p. 234, Tenth Edition.

An Epicure Dining at Crewe

An epicure dining at Crewe
Found a rather large mouse in his stew,
Said the waiter, “Don’t shout
And wave it about
Or the rest will be wanting one too."

Have you tried your hand at writing limericks? If so—or if you want to try it now—why not share with the rest of us in the comments?

L. Luis Lopez, Ph.D., has published three books of poetry, Musings of a Barrio Sack Boy, (winner of a Writer's Digest award in poetry) A Painting of Sand, and Each Month I Sing (winner of the American Book Award 2008). He is a professor at Mesa State College in Grand Junction, Colorado. You may contact him at

Monday, April 26, 2010

Building the Author’s Ethos: Writing Philosophy

It is important to write a great book. It is important to study the craft of writing in order to edit, revise, and rewrite that great book. But the work of a writer doesn’t stop with crafting a great book. The writer must think about his or her career as an author – in regards to what he or she writes and, just as important (if not more), what his or her audience wants.

Ethos, in general, is a distinguishing character of a person—what he or she stands for. In rhetoric, ethos is something a speaker must develop in his or her repertoire in order to affect his or her audience. In addition to the distinguishing character, the person needs to also establish expertise and knowledge.

What does this mean for a writer looking to develop his or her ethos?
For one thing, it means a writer needs to know what his or her writing philosophy is. Why do you write (aside from the love of it)? What do you hope to illustrate in your writing? What themes, narratives do you find yourself drawn to in your writing? Do these themes, narratives connect with you outside of your role as writer? Who is your audience? What do you want your audience to receive from your work? Where do you see your work going? How?

It is important to know what your “distinguishing character” as a writer is. Knowing this will help you develop the next part of your ethos: the marketing plan. Once you know who are you as a writer, what you bring to the table, and how what you bring is important to your audience, you have to develop a plan to market your wares—your expertise, knowledge…your BOOKS—to your audience.

First, the writing philosophy.

When I first started teaching, I was asked, “What is your teaching philosophy?” I didn’t have an answer initially. I wasn’t sure what a teaching philosophy was. I just knew I loved teaching.
And many writers just know they love writing.

A writing philosophy is much like a teaching philosophy. In a teaching philosophy, you are answering questions, such as:
  1. What are your objectives as a teacher? What do you, ultimately want to accomplish?
  2. What will you do accomplish these objectives?
  3. How will measure your effectiveness?
  4. What is so great about teaching? Why is it important? How will you make the institution of teaching better?
Essentially, in that teaching philosophy, we want to know the basic beliefs, concepts, and attitudes—the philosophy—of the teacher.

We want the same things for the author.

Remember the italicized questions I wrote at the beginning of this article?
  1. Why do you write (aside from the love of it)? What do you hope to illustrate in your writing?
  2. What themes, narratives do you find yourself drawn to in your writing? Do these themes, narratives connect with you outside of your role as writer?
  3. Where do you see your work going?
  4. What will you do to accomplish these goals? How will you determine success, effectiveness?
  5. Who is your audience? What do you want your audience to receive from your work?
Each of these questions should be thought about and answered to develop an effective writing philosophy.

Now, don’t worry if you can’t write this quickly. There is no set word count to it either. It takes time—and as many words as you need—to write your philosophy. One book written does not a writing philosophy make. Your writing philosophy will no doubt change as you move through your newness as a writer and develop yourself.

The point is to know who you are and what you bring to the literary table so that you can effectively articulate these things with anyone who asks…especially your audience.

Shon Bacon is an author, editor, and educator. She has published both creatively and academically, and her debut solo novel, Death at the Double Inkwell, will be released June 2010; you can read an excerpt here. Shon also interviews women writers on her popular blog ChickLitGurrl: high on LATTES & WRITING. You can learn more about Shon's writings at her official website, and you can get information about her editorial services at CLG Entertainment. Currently, Shon is busy editing, promoting her debut project, writing screenplays, and pursuing her Ph.D. in Technical Communication and Rhetoric at Texas Tech University.

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Friday, April 23, 2010

One Method of Creating Characters in Fiction

I once heard mystery author Diane Mott Davidson speak at a convention. She said her fictional victims were often based on annoying people she met in real life.

Until I wrote The Desert Hedge Murders, my characters were completely imaginary, most likely influenced by memories of everyone I've ever known, even if they were only actors in a movie.

With this second Sylvia and Willie mystery, I tried something new. In creating The Florida Flippers, a travel club of elderly ladies, I borrowed the names of four of my female relatives, aged them, and kept that imagined appearance in my mind as I wrote their story. One of the characters, Kristina Grisseljon, is the mother of my protagonists, Sylvia Thorn and Willie Grisseljon. She was briefly in the first novel of the series and is not modeled after a real person.

Linda Swayble, one of the Flippers, is named after my sister-in-law Linda, who sadly passed away just before the book was released. I added about fifteen years to her age, exaggerated a couple of her most endearing personality traits, and then expanded her bio, description, and speech mannerisms. When I dumped her into the novel, the fictional Linda was full of surprises--a first-class worrier and way more timid than I expected.

Marianne, Gail, and Diane were named after my cousins, sisters in real life. I've assured the cousins I will let everyone know my Flippers' characters and behavior are drawn completely from my imagination. For instance, red-haired cowgirl wannabe Marianne, who line dances with the sexy cowboys at a country bar in Davie, Florida, and plays Blackjack in Laughlin, Nevada, is actually a lovely white-haired grandma and first-grade schoolteacher in Oklahoma. She does not, to the best of my knowledge, wear cowboy boots.

Similarly, the real Gail would never kick anyone with her orthopedic boots, unless he truly deserved it. Cousin Diane, my first reader for all of my manuscripts, did not really win the lottery and does not live in The Sanctuary in Boca Raton, Florida.

Using real people to create characters in a novel has certain risks, of course. I wasn't thinking of real people while writing about the killers and victims in these mysteries. Although . . . someone who knew me in high school thought I was very tough on old boyfriends in The Prairie Grass Murders. But those were Sylvia Thorn's old boyfriends, not mine. Totally imaginary. Honest.

Have you ever used a real person as a model when writing a fictional character? Did you let your real person model read the manuscript?

Patricia Stoltey is a mystery author, blogger, and critique group facilitator. Active in promoting Colorado authors, she also helps local unpublished writers learn the critical skills of manuscript revision and self-editing. For information about Patricia’s Sylvia and Willie mystery series, visit her website and her blog. You can also find her on Facebook (Patricia Stoltey) and Twitter (@PStoltey).

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Pitfalls and Pratfalls of Editing

We recently had an interesting discussion at the Blood Red Pencil office -- yes, we do have an office, which is actually a list where we meet virtually (or is that virtually meet?) to discuss topics, scheduling, etc. And here you thought we just flew by the seat of our pants, didn't you?

Anyway, in this thread, we talked about the fact that some of the basic standards of editing that used to be the norm across the board of publishing - The Chicago Manual of Style - The AP Stylebook - the UPI Stylebook - and The Elements of Style by Strunk & White are no longer adhered to as strictly as they used to be.

The issue was raised about what happens when an independent editor makes manuscript changes and the author submits to a publishing house and the house editor comes back and makes conflicting editorial changes.

Good question.

I noticed in the recent line-editing of my mystery, Open Season, which will be released by Five Star Cengage /Gale in December, that they are following the strict use of commas to offset phrases. The editor who worked on the book before I submitted it to Five Star did not. For example "… did little to brighten the place up but, hey, it was home."

The first editor took the first comma out and that put a stronger pause on "hey". The copy editor at Five Star put the comma back.

While that may be more grammatically correct, I prefer it the other way. Maybe because I'm an actress, so the delivery of lines is important, and I find that line awkward when said with two pauses.

Here at The Office, another question was raised. What if this editing conundrum happens with an author one of us has edited and that author comes back and complains that she paid for services NOT rendered?

Well, actually, services were rendered, and just because the second editor had a different approach to style doesn't negate what the first editor did. In the case of my book, I think my first editor gave me what I paid for even though the second editor took issue with comma usage. My first editor helped me strengthen characters, tighten the plot, and weed out unnecessary wordage, and I ended up with a better book. Comma usage or not.

Some people think that with so many independent publishers cropping up, the editing standards seem to be blurring even more. That may be true to a point. But I know from my experience with a few NY publishers that each house there had small variances in their style standards. Some used the Chicago manual, others the AP, and a few made me wonder what manual they used.

As authors and editors, I think the best approach is to recognize that nothing is cast in stone, especially not our work. The publishing houses have the last say in how books are edited and formatted, and we would save a lot of hair-pulling if we just let the little things go. That way we can fight for the big things that matter more in a story than where the comma is.

What has your experience been? How do you handle conflicting edits?
Posted by Maryann Miller, who has been on both sides of the editing table and appreciates a good editor. Visit Maryann's Web site for information about her editing services and her books. When she is not working, Maryann loves to play farmer on her little ranch in East Texas.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Dialogue is Not Necessarily How We Talk

Last month I talked about what dialogue is. This time I’ll share what dialogue should not be.

Common mistakes:

Unnatural dialogue. Using characters’ names repeatedly. Laughing words. “You’re crazy,” laughed Justin. (Correct: said Justin with a laugh or Justin laughed. “You’re crazy.”)

    Over-descriptive dialogue. Too many adjectives and adverbs. We don’t speak like this: “When I looked at the blood red velvet petals of the roses, I knew this wasn’t just a Valentine’s gift.”

      Lecture dialogue. Long speeches. Too much information. A “teaching” moment or a device to show off all the research you did for this story.

        Exposition. “As you know, Ted, my daughter was an A student in college and a sprinter, but she lost a leg in a car accident, and is staying home now.” Do the characters’ have the information already? Are you just trying to provide info for the reader?

          Talking heads. No action or setting in between to remind us where they are, what they’re doing, besides talking. When you’re writing a scene, it might help to think of our characters as being onstage. Your reader will want to know what they look like, what the stage setting looks like, how they move around, body language or choreography. This is also called “beat” or “grounding.” Rather than having people talking back and forth for pages at a time (talking heads), bring the reader back to the setting occasionally (about every 3rd paragraph, at least).

            Filler dialogue. Unnecessary (like “How are you?” “I’m fine.”) Fails to move the plot forward.

              Redundant dialogue. Repeated in narrative and dialogue. Example: Almost immediately, Armstrong saw a periscope break the water in front of him. “Periscope,” he said, pointing.

                Ho-hum dialogue. Lacks tension and/or conflict. Conflict doesn’t necessarily mean an argument. It can be a civilized conversation in which each character is determined to thwart the other’s agenda.

                  Cloned dialogue. All the characters sound the same. Some people use contractions, others don’t. Some show their education with big words, foreign phrases, etc. Some talk in math terms or sports terms. People talk differently to family members than they do to co-workers.

                  Stilted dialogue. Stiff, formal, perfect English—unless you want to portray your character this way. But use it sparingly.

                  Use of dialect or slang. Be careful and use it like a very strong spice—just a little goes a long way. When you use an unusual spelling, you divert the reader’s attention away from the dialogue while he’s trying to figure out what word that is. If the dialect gets too thick it becomes a matter of translation, rather than reading. The occasional dropped “g” or words like “gonna” or “lemme” isn’t a problem—but don’t overdo it. You can let your readers know your character is southern or French by mentioning that in narrative.

                  Taglines. Whenever possible, try to use an action instead of a tagline (he said, she said). One of the reasons for not using a lot of taglines is to develop each person’s distinct voice, so that all your characters don’t sound the same. Hint: If you do use taglines, it’s better to stick with the word “said”, rather than trying to come up with substitutes such as cry, interject, interrupt, mused, state, counter, conclude, mumble, intone, roar, exclaim, fume, explode. These are “telling” words. Let the words in the dialogue show the emotion. And you can NEVER smile words, or squint them, or laugh them.

                  DIALOGUE CHECKLIST (From Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne & Dave King)

                  Read your dialogue out loud (or listen while someone else reads it).

                    As you read, watch for places you feel like changing the wording—do so.

                      How smooth and polished is your dialogue? Could you use more contractions, sentence fragments, more run-on sentences?

                        Is your stiff dialogue really exposition in disguise?

                          How well do your characters understand each other? Do they ever mislead one another? Any outright lies?

                            How about dialect? Are you using a lot of unusual spellings? If you rewrite your dialect with standard spellings does it still read like dialect?

                            OTHER GUIDELINES (From How to Grow a Novel by Sol Stein)

                            What counts in dialogue is not what is said but what is meant.

                              Whenever possible, dialogue should be adversarial. Thing of dialogue as confrontations or interrogations. Remember, combat can be subtle.

                                The best dialogue contains responses that are indirect, oblique.

                                  Dialogue is illogical. Non-sequiturs are fine. So are incomplete sentences and occasional faulty grammar suited to the character.

                                    Dialogue, compared to actual speech, is terse. If an individual’s dialogue runs over three sentences, you may be speechifying. In actual accusatory confrontations, however, longer speeches can increase tension if the accusations build.

                                      Tension can be increased by the use of misunderstandings, impatience, each character going off a “different script.”

                                        Characters reveal themselves best in dialogue when they lose their cool and start blurting things out.

                                          In dialogue, every word counts. Be ruthless in eliminating excess verbiage.

                                          A native Montanan, Heidi Thomas now lives in Northwest Washington. She has had her first novel published, Cowgirl Dreams, based on her grandmother. Heidi has a degree in journalism, a certificate in fiction writing and is a member of Northwest Independent Editors Guild. She teaches writing and edits, blogs, and is working on the next books in her “Dare to Dream” series.
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                                          Tuesday, April 20, 2010

                                          Which Is Better: Single POV or Multiple POVs?

                                          Recently, I read a mystery that was written from a single point of view. The simple story followed one path from beginning to end with only occasional side trips. Of course, the POV character had to be in every scene. It worked.

                                          When I write, however, I tend to intertwine the lives of several characters, all of whom have a story to tell. The complexities mimic life as I have seen it, and I portray each character as an individual and allow him or her the freedom of expression and perspective. I do, however, limit point of view to one per scene, or I use a double space to indicate a POV change if that becomes necessary for the logical progression of the story. I’ve found that a few readers tend to get lost because they can’t keep the characters straight—particularly in the beginning. Yet, for most people, my stories work, too.

                                          So please share with us your preference as a writer and/or as a reader. Why is that your preference? What makes a story come to life for you? Do you find it’s easier to relate to a story if you are following the perspective of just one character all the way through? Or do you like the shadows and nuances created by multiple POVs—one at a time—as the story progresses?


                                          Linda Lane writes, edits, and publishes books. A few advance review copies of her latest novel, Treacherous Tango, are now available.

                                          Monday, April 19, 2010

                                          Will the Real Ghost Please Rise Up

                                          Lately I have been reading about a literary flap going on in France, about a new film starring Gerard Depardieu as – guess! – a ghostwriter! It’s called L’Autre Dumas (The Other Dumas), and explores the 150-year old theory that Alexandre Dumas, the author of The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo, used a ghostwriter named Auguste Maquet to write his famous stories for him.

                                          Despite my degree in Literature, I had never heard about this controversy that has not yet been resolved. I still don’t know what the truth is, although I’m pretty sure it’s less dramatic than the movie portrays. Some scholars claim Maquet was simply a researcher, nothing more. Others claim Maquet was the unsung genius behind a flamboyant bon vivant who was too busy spending money to actually work.

                                          The facts that no one seems to dispute are:

                                          Dumas was a writer who loved high drama in fiction – and also in life. He had a hedonistic lifestyle and enormous flair for living large – and little or no money sense. He was plagued with chronic debt.

                                          Maquet was a talented writer who couldn’t get published because he didn’t have a “name.” His collaboration with Dumas, in which he provided plot structure and historical context (many of Dumas’ novels depend heavily on historical facts), allowed him an excellent income. In return he gave up the rights to the novels that bore Dumas’ name. (Although later on they did have some disputes over money and recognition. Dumas won the recognition; Maquet won the money.)

                                          Here’s the bottom line: Dumas died broke. Maquet died rich.

                                          And here’s another bottom line: Dumas is still famous. His grave in Paris, where he was reinterred with great ceremony in 2002, is still visited today by literature lovers. Maquet’s grave – not so much. Even with this new movie, it is doubtful that Maquet will ever be given the recognition that Dumas enjoys.

                                          So who is still alive long after he died? Obviously, Dumas. Kind of raises the question: who is the real ghost here?

                                          Whatever the truth, a ghostwriter getting some fame at last, even 150 years later – as a ghostwriter myself, this makes me sneakily happy.

                                          When I was in high school, I discovered The Count of Monte Cristo and fell in love with Edmond Dantes, the hero of the story. I’m still very fond of him. As for the three musketeers, they were a bit macho for my taste, but they had some exciting adventures that ensured I kept turning the pages.

                                          I don’t really care if Dumas or Maquet wrote those books. Both of them are dead now, but the stories he (or they) wrote are still alive. And that’s the important thing, isn’t it?

                                          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 30 non-fiction books and memoirs. To learn more about her books or services, visit

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                                          Friday, April 16, 2010

                                          More Detectives Around the World

                                           Today is the final day for the 2010 Detectives Around the World event and I have the honor of interviewing a mystery fan – our very own Dani Greer.

                                          For those of you who don’t know, Dani is the force behind The Blood-Red Pencil blog, an accomplished editor, artist, mentor of writers, friend of the Earth, and voracious reader. Her favorite books to read and edit? You guessed it – mysteries!

                                          You’ve made no secret of your love of cozies. What attracts you to this form?
                                          To put it simply, no blood and guts. I have a really weak stomach. That goes for sex, too. In a cozy, I get a protagonist I can relate to - they're weak, too. I don't have to face all the violence and gore, and when there's a romance built-in, as there often is, I get the sweet old-fashioned hearts-and-flowers relationship, with not too much gore there either. It's the perfect world.

                                          Is editing mysteries different from editing other fiction?
                                          I actually chart the storylines to keep track of the clues, potential red herrings, and where the plot is moving. It can get very complicated, convoluted even, and the author has to wrap up all the assorted plots at least to some degree, or the reader won't be very satisfied. So it can get a little challenging, keeping it all straight. Of course, the more one reads mysteries, the easier it is to predict outcomes. I like the ones that slap me upside the head with a surprise ending. When I'm just editing, and not reading for pleasure, I read the first few chapters, and then the last. This helps me watch for clues throughout the book that lead me to the resolution. And, no, it doesn't spoil a good read! I hear all those gasps out there.

                                          Are there special writing or editing challenges for different kinds of mysteries?
                                          A couple of points come to mind. First, an editor has to develop a good "ear" for era. I love history mysteries, and nothing can pull a reader out of a story faster than a modern expression or word from the wrong time period. For example, a policeman would not issue an APB in 1925 because the acronym for All Points Bulletin didn't come into popular use until the 1960's. The technology for radios in police vehicles was brand new in the mid-twenties though, so that could be included, although probably in a large city setting, not a small village police department. That's just one example.

                                          Mysteries are also often written in series, and one place an editor plays a useful role is in making sure facts and events from previous books are accurate to the current novel. You don't want uncomfortable loose ends from book-to-book. For example, if the protagonist began a romantic relationship in one book, the reader needs to know what happened to the love interest. The author can't just drop the situation in a subsequent book without some explanation. We are sharp - we remember everything! We'll want to know what happened to handsome Fred and why he's not dating Sally anymore.

                                          For the last six weeks, Detectives Around the World has conducted a round-robin contest where readers are voting for their favorite all-time fictional detective. Who’s your favorite and why?
                                          Most of my favorite sleuths are amateurs, and I have far too many modern names to list here. (Got out of that one quick, didn't I?) I love Jane Marple, of course, and even have the BBC videos with Joan Hickson who reminds me so much of my German Oma, it's uncanny. I think I inherited my love of mysteries from her - she always had a "crimmie" to hand.

                                          Do you have a favorite Detective Jackson mystery?
                                          The last one, of course. Which isn't even in print yet. Hehe. (Note to readers: Dani is a beta reader for the Detective Jackson mysteries.) It really is the best so far. Sometimes the third or fourth book in a series can lag a tiny bit, but not in this series. L.j. Sellers really put a tight thriller together, what I call "not quite cozy" because it's a police procedural. But she writes with sensitivity, so I can recommend them to any reader. I'm also enjoying the character development in this series. The reader gets to know these people, and they grow on an emotional level. We're not just given a fast plot and interesting, contemporary themes. Our regulars are changed by the events, and that shakes things up a bit more.

                                          What do you enjoy more, reading, editing, writing, modeling, or painting?
                                          None of the above, although I enjoy them all. I love brainstorming the best. I just wish I could get paid to do it.

                                          Is there a question you always hope to be asked and never are?
                                          How much shall I write that check for? Snort! I'm going to write that into a novel someday - the one entitled, In My Dreams.

                                          Thanks a bunch, Dani! How much should I write that check for? Not.

                                          And now for our readers' chance to win a copy of Secrets to Die For. Today's question - What is your favorite mystery novel or series and why?

                                          Charlotte Phillips is the co-author of the Eva Baum Detective Series, many short stories, and contributor to multiple blogs. Learn more about Charlotte, her books, and her short stories at:


                                          News, Views and Reviews Blog

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                                          Push Your Characters Hard—Please!

                                          Photo by Reba Bear, via Flickr
                                          Whether intuitively or formally, creative writers learn early on that conflict drives story.

                                          Ignore this at your peril.

                                          I once edited a political thriller whose central character was homosexual and autistic (I’ve changed a few details here). While our country has made strides as concerns tolerance, even today the notion of living openly gay is rife with conflict.

                                          But the author chose not to explore it; to him the topic felt clichéd.

                                          And I’m thinking, huh.

                                          But he still has that autism angle, right? Again, societal acceptance has grown as we learn more about this condition, but still—to actively participate in the plot, this character will be fighting an uphill battle that most would consider heroic. The stuff of great story!

                                          But this author swung wide—he decided he wants the autism to be completely accepted in the world of his story.

                                          And I’m thinking, huh.

                                          And I'm concluding: Where’s the story?

                                          Authors love their characters, I know. “Going too easy” on them is a problem developmental editors comment upon all the time. But I don’t usually have to apply that comment until the middle of the book, where instead of rising action, I find the protagonist meeting the same type of challenge over and over to similar results. Or until the climax, where the author stops just short of exerting the kind of pressure on his character that might create believable, permanent change in her life.

                                          But this author refused to allow enough conflict to get his story underway. His reasoning: he wanted to write a happy story.

                                          Well, he had “happy. He just didn’t have “story.”

                                          James N. Frey, author of How to Write Damn Good Novel, says that the best plots force our characters to act at “maximum capacity.” We get to know these characters by how they act when pushed into a corner. In a recent two-day workshop, Frey plotted an entire book-length thriller by entertaining suggestions from the group of fifty workshop participants. In many cases he rejected one plot point after the other (role modeling perfectly what we as authors must do), admonishing participants not to lay down too many clues.

                                          “You want to make it too easy on the hero,” Frey kept saying. His implication was two-fold: How can the hero be heroic if his task is too simple? And if the obstacle surmounted is like hopping over a toothpick, how can the author expect readers to care?

                                          Instead, Frey urged us to think of how this character would solve the puzzle at hand if he could not find an obvious clue. This step often forced the hero into relationship with others in the story—not all of whom he desired relationship with—and to dig into his past to unearth long forgotten or undervalued skills. Pushing the character to the wall renewed creative effort on the part of the plotters by provoking our “inner reader”: “No clues? Oh no! What will our character do?

                                          I’m all for writing happy stories. Life offers up enough chaotic tragedy. But we’ll only remember your book as a “happy story” if your protagonist faces an extreme challenge--and then surmounts it. Even children delight in conflict—as soon as that Cat in the Hat appears in Dr. Seuss, they know he’s going to be trouble!

                                          To earn their keep, all of your main characters should act at maximum capacity. If the villain in the political thriller I mentioned worked at maximum capacity, he would embrace his knowledge of the character’s vulnerabilities—including homosexuality and autism—to thwart him. You know he would. Otherwise, what kind of lame antagonist would he be?

                                          I give this author high marks for giving his character conflict-laden traits, but there's no point in doing so if he won't make use of them. He worries too much about cliché. If you have created in your character a fully dimensional individual whose goals are pitted against the goals of an antagonist—whether that be a person, society, inner demons, or Mother Nature herself—your story will not be clichéd.

                                          It will be interesting.

                                          Once that conflict is set up, apply enough pressure to your protagonist so that she acts at maximum capacity—please! Your readers will love it. And should she triumph over the obstacles set before her, I guarantee your readers remember your book as the happy story you set out to write.

                                          Former BRP contributor Kathryn Craft is a developmental editor at, an independent manuscript evaluation and line editing service. Her series of posts here at BRP "Countdown to a Book," details the traditional publication of her debut novel, The Art of Falling, by Sourcebooks, available from Her series, "Turning Whine into Gold," appears at Writers in the Storm. Connect with Kathryn at her Facebook Author Page and Twitter.

                                          Thursday, April 15, 2010

                                          Author Platforms: Author Website

                                          Last month, we talked about what an Author Platform is. Our project plan is to build the platform, bit by bit, each month. I could start this project by telling you to draw out your blueprint for the platform, but I won’t. I could, but I’m afraid we’d all end up huddled in a dark closet. Let’s just take it step-by-step.

                                          If you haven’t already done it, create a web page for yourself. The URL should include your name. Mine is: You could also call it something like, but I think it’s easiest to just use your name. If you call it something like,, you won’t pop up on an Internet search as easily when someone Googles your name to try to find you. If you call it the name of your book, how many websites will you have to maintain by the time your fifth or fifteenth book comes out?

                                          Create the site yourself or pay someone to do it. Which you do depends on your skill and/or finances. If you’re going to build your own or even if you plan to turn it over to someone else to do, I recommend you visit sites and note what you like and don’t like, what pages you would like to have, the colors, the pictures, the layout. Spend some time doing research. One site I like to browse is Xuni. They do professional sites for a lot of well-known authors. You may not be able to afford them, but you can get great ideas for your own site.

                                          Start with a few pages. You can add more later. And, no, don’t wait until you have a published book to promote.

                                          Keep your site clean, make it easy to read and easy to navigate. Put your navigation buttons on every page in the same place - at the top or in the sidebar. I started my website years ago. Within a few years, it had grown to around 40 pages. One day, I stopped, looked at it, and decided to take a machete to it. It was too big to be easily navigated, let alone managed.

                                          Provide useful information to the public. Yes, put stuff about you (you are trying to build your platform, after all), but include pages that are for your readers or visitors. I have several pages of Resources for Writers, plus a page of Contests and a page of Events for writers. These, too, will build your platform.

                                          Make some of your pages ones that are updated often, so visitors will come back to your site. My pages of Contests and Events are updated every week. The Resources pages are updated whenever I post a new article. The point is to make your site one that people visit, and if it’s static they won’t bother coming back.

                                          Something to keep in mind: Building and maintaining a website will cost money.

                                          An alternative: Blog hosts, like Wordpress and Blogger, are now offering templates that allow you to create multiple pages. You can use those pages to create a website-look to your blog. If you do, the same rules apply to your blog/website. Keep it clean, easy to navigate, welcoming, not stagnant, and preferably in your own name.

                                          We could have started with creating your blog, but I’m assuming most of you already have one, so creating your website is our first step in building your platform. At the very least, go reserve your name so it’ll be yours when you do decide to create your own website.
                                          Helen Ginger is a freelance editor, blogger, and writer. She teaches public speaking as well as writing and marketing workshops. In addition, her free ezine, Doing It Write, which goes out to subscribers around the globe, is now in its eleventh year of publication. You can follow Helen on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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                                          Wednesday, April 14, 2010

                                          Exploring: Web Resources for Crime Writers

                                          Do you need to pick a gun for your protagonist to hide in her bedside table? Would it be helpful to learn more about the way police officers talk, the codes they use? Do you know what happens to a body as it decomposes? How quickly does a victim die after ingesting rat poison or an overdose of aspirin?

                                          No matter what you need to know to make your mystery or thriller realistic and accurate, you can probably find the answer on the Internet. Knowing where to look is half the battle. If you understand how to use your search engine effectively, you’ll save yourself many trips to the library, and you won’t have to ask your policeman neighbor down the street to read one more chapter of your manuscript (thereby tempting him to arrest you for stalking).

                                          Government agency websites, police forums, experts who have websites or blogs, online classes from private investigators—all of this information is a keystroke away. These are the best sites and link lists I’ve found so far.

                                          Government Agencies

                                          Center for Disease Control
                                          Emergency Preparedness and Response

                                          Federal Bureau of Investigation

                                          U. S. Drug Enforcement Administration

                                          Law Enforcement Forums and Blogs

                                          6 Ways Law Enforcement Uses Social Media to Fight Crime
                                          by Lon S. Cohen at Mashable: The Social Media Guide
                                          "1. Police Blotter Blogs
                                          2. The Digital “Wanted Poster”
                                          3. Anonymous E-Tipsters
                                          4. Social Media Stakeout
                                          5. Thwarting Thugs in the Social Space
                                          6. Tracking and Informing with Twitter"

                                          Lee Lofland’s blog, Graveyard Shift
                                          "Lee Lofland is a veteran police investigator who began his law-enforcement career working as an officer in Virginia's prison system. He later became a sheriff's deputy, a patrol officer, and finally, he achieved the highly-prized gold shield of detective."

                                          “Ask a Cop” and “Forum Posts” at Real Police

                                          Spartan Cops: Aiming to Help Cops

                                          “Writing on the Beat” by Denis Faye at Writers Guild of America, West

                                          Crime Writers and Writer Organizations

                                          American Crime Writers’ League Writer’s Links

                                          Sisters in Crime blog

                                          Article links on Writing Mysteries at

                                          Experts and Other Resources

                                          American Association of Poison Control Centers

                                          Links at Research, Publications & Resources
                                          Florida State University, College of Criminology and Criminal Justice

                                          Gun Directory: The Complete Gun Review and Reference Guide

                                          Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes, a blog and online classes for writers from a couple of private investigators. Highly recommended blog. Classes are reasonably priced.

                                          D. P. Lyle, M.D. Articles
                                          The Writer’s Forensics Blog (author, D. P. Lyle, M.D.)

                                          You’ll be able to find more links on your own, links more specific to your own story. Remember to narrow your search as much as possible. If you have any favorites I haven't mentioned, we'd love to have you leave a comment and share the link.


                                          Patricia Stoltey is a mystery author, blogger, and critique group facilitator. Active in promoting Colorado authors, she also helps local unpublished writers learn the critical skills of manuscript revision and self-editing. For information about Patricia’s Sylvia and Willie mystery series, visit her website and her blog. You can also find her on Facebook (Patricia Stoltey) and Twitter (@PStoltey).

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                                          Tuesday, April 13, 2010

                                          Word Play

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                                          New Monthly Feature – Word Play by Morgan Mandel

                                          How to Play

                                          Today, and every second Tuesday of the month, we’ll play with a chosen word or string of words. I’ll make a choice, offer some uses, then invite you to comment below with a sentence using the word(s) we’re playing with. If you wish, you can use one of the phrases in my illustrations and expand on it, or you can make up an entire sentence from scratch, as long as you use the monthly word(s). Hopefully, this exercise will inspire us to take a new look at words and use them in fresh and exciting ways. To start with, I've chosen an easy word, but you never know what I might pick next.

                                          Be sure to add your name and website or blogspot with your comment, in case someone really likes what you've written and wants to visit you.

                                          Also, if you happen to know of an instance in your own novel or someone else’s that illustrates the meaning of the monthly word(s), be sure to mention that as well.

                                          April's Word - Overpowering

                                          Caution: When you use an adjective, do so sparingly for emphasis.
                                          Here are some overpowering examples I've thought up. Note that in many of these instances overwhelming might also be substituted, but don't do so if you offer an example here.

                                          Overpowering cologne/perfume – An overpowering scent hit me in the nose last Friday morning at the train station. I had to hold my breath to get away from it.

                                          Overpowering urge/compulsion - I have an overpowering urge to check Facebook again.

                                          Overpowering weakness – I possess an overpowering weakness for chocolate.

                                          Overpowering emotion – My main character, Julie, in Killer Career, has an overpowering fear of elevators.

                                          Overpowering presence – Also, in Killer Career, Tyler’s overpowering presence hid his character flaws.

                                          You could also use overpowering as a verb, although ing verbs are not as strong. Still, for variety, you may wish to sprinkle in one or two. Here are some verb examples:

                                          Overpowering the urge to drink takes much willpower.
                                          Overpowering the hands of time is impossible.
                                          Overpowering her opponent proved easier than she thought.

                                          Now it’s your turn at Word Play.
                                          Play in the comment section below.

                                          Morgan Mandel

                                          Monday, April 12, 2010

                                          Components of a Good Writing Workshop

                                          Recently, a friend of mine asked for advice on starting a workshop for writers. I quickly went back to my days in the MFA program, where the major part of the program was the weekly fiction workshop. The advice I gave my friend closely adhered to those things learned from the MFA program as I learned a great deal about myself as a writer and as a critic within our fiction workshops. For anyone that's interested in starting a writer's workshop, I hope this information proves useful.

                                          In my experience, there are three components that are necessary for a good writing workshop, and they are:
                                          1- A great moderator
                                          2- Appropriate size for the workshop
                                          3- Rules for the workshop

                                          MODERATOR. A moderator has to be kind yet firm and have a great knowledge of storytelling. This is the person that the workshop participants are relying on to guide them as writers. It also doesn't hurt that the moderator has some publishing credits. Participants want to feel that they are learning from someone who has experience in the field. A moderator also has to know when to speak and when to sit back and let the participants guide the workshop.

                                          SIZE OF WORKSHOP. This can be debated, but I wouldn't have more than 15 people in any one workshop. When I pursued my MFA, we had 10 students in the fiction program. It was large enough so that each writer received ample reads, write-ups, and suggestions for his or her work, yet it was small enough so that writers were able to connect with one another beyond the stories. That connection ultimately helped us to see more of what a writer was trying to do in a work; therefore, our critiques were more likely to help a writer.

                                          WORKSHOP RULES. Yes, some might say that rules cramp their style, but for a workshop, it is important to have rules set. Rules not only protect the writers, but they also protect the integrity of the workshop and its mission. The rules we had for our MFA fiction workshop were more aligned to how the workshop would be structured and what each participant would be obligated to do during the workshop.

                                          Workshop met one a week for approximately 2, 2.5 hours. During that workshop, we discussed works from two writers, so each writer received an hour of discussion on his/her work, and there was a short break in between sessions.

                                          During the week, our job was to read and mark up each reading and write a one-page letter to the writer that addressed what we liked, what our concerns were, and what suggestions we offered. We would then meet up for the workshop.

                                          During the workshop, the moderator did just that--moderate. To begin each workshop session, our professor would ask, "So, what would you like to talk about today regarding X's work?" He then would take notes as we went around the circle, each of us adding something to the agenda. We would say things like "Dialogue," "Character development," "The heart of the story." Once that was done, our professor would ask if anyone wanted to jump in first, and then we would begin. The professor remained silent for most of the session. He would jump in if he thought we stayed on a topic too long or if we were moving beyond the purpose of the session: to help the writer better his/her writing. Aside from keeping us on track, our professor made sure we touched upon all components addressed in the agenda.

                                          Once a session was complete, the writer would receive a huge packet complete with all the marked-up versions of his/her work and critique letters written by workshop participants. The moderator, too, would mark up the story and write a letter, and the writer would receive that material then as well.

                                          One important component of the workshop, one that might seem weird but proved to be a necessity, was that at no time did the writer speak; we played "The Author Is Dead." During his/her session, the writer would take notes of what others had to say, but sessions were not treated as trials. The writer did not have an opportunity to jump up and defend his/her work. And the reason behind this was a simple one. The minute a writer jumps in and tries to tell participants what he/she meant to do with the story, the dynamics of the workshop shifts. Participants start to feel attacks for their thoughts and speak less. Silence, and lots of it, quickly builds. In my experience, keeping the author "dead" is a great thing. It teaches the writer humility--learning to accept his/her issues within a story without attacking. It forces the writer to listen and to be open to the idea that a story isn't perfect just because it's done. There is always something that can be fixed, and you (as writer) might be too close to the work to see where those changes need to be made. Also, it teaches the writer that sometimes there is no need to build a defense. If there are 9 or more people reading your work and the majority believes X is a big problem in your work, the problem isn't that the reader didn't "get" what were you trying to do. The problem is you as writer failed to develop X in a way that makes for a solid read. That's not a debate. There's nothing to defend, typically. It means it's time to get back to the drawing board with revisions and rewrites.

                                          There was one time in which the writer could speak, and this came at the end of a session. Once all comments were made by the participants, the writer was allowed to speak, to ask questions about concerns he/she had in the story that wasn’t addressed during the session.

                                          I'm a big fan of writing workshops. I've participated in formal and informal workshops, and even with the informal workshops, having rules are important. Participants need to know what's expected of them and what they will get out of the workshop. In the end, a workshop needs to have a purpose, and typically, that purpose is to help writers better their writing. Everything that is done in preparation for the workshop and what is done during the workshop should directly connect to that purpose.

                                          Have you had experience with writing workshops? What great things did you learn through the workshop? What problems did you find, if any?

                                          Shon Bacon is an author, editor, and educator. She has published both creatively and academically, and her debut solo novel, Death at the Double Inkwell, will be released June 2010; you can read an excerpt here. Shon also interviews women writers on her popular blog ChickLitGurrl: high on LATTES & WRITING. You can learn more about Shon's writings at her official website, and you can get information about her editorial services at CLG Entertainment. Currently, Shon is busy editing, promoting her debut project, writing screenplays, and pursuing her Ph.D. in Technical Communication and Rhetoric at Texas Tech University.

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                                          Saturday, April 10, 2010

                                          Book Review: Secrets to Die For

                                          Have you heard of the Detectives Around the World blog event? If not, and you love mysteries, you’ve been missing out. The event, which began in March with readers around the world nominating their favorite fictional detectives, culminates this week with bloggers around the world blogging about their favorites. I was fortunate enough to draw my first choice – Detective Wade Jackson of Eugene, Oregon.

                                          My blogs this week include two here at The Blood-Red Pencil: today I review Secrets to Die For and on the 17th, I interview one of the Detective Jackson series beta readers, editor Dani Greer. (Dani jumps in to mention that she and L.J. are both founding members of the Blood-Red Pencil. We're engaging in a little blatant self-promotion!)

                                          Secrets to Die For
                                          By L.J. Sellers
                                          Echelon Press Publishing
                                          Copyright 2009
                                          ISBN: 1-59080-654-9
                                          Trade Paperback
                                          Second in the Detective Wade Jackson mystery series
                                          286 pages

                                          In your favorite mystery of all time, how many pages does it take for you to meet and fall in love with a new character? Less than 2.75? And how long before your heart is racing in fear for that new character? More than three pages? In The Sex Club, L.J. Sellers introduced us to Detective Wade Jackson and proved she could plot a thrilling mystery. In the sequel, Secrets to Die For, Detective Jackson takes on another case and Ms. Sellers cranks up the suspense. Once past page three, I couldn’t put it down.

                                          When young child advocate Raina Hughes’s battered body is found in close proximity to one of her client’s homes, the case appears to have an obvious culprit—the boy’s drug-addicted, ex-con father. But in good mystery fiction, cases are never simple. There’s a serial rapist on the loose in Eugene, Oregon, and some of the evidence surrounding Raina Hughes’ murder points in that direction. So which is it? Can Detective Jackson solve the case before the body count rises?

                                          L.J. Sellers rips current social issues from editorial pages, wraps them in exciting, multi-faceted mysteries, and delivers thrilling reads. Pick up any Sellers mystery and you’ll find the full package–loveable, flawed human beings with interesting, imperfect lives; twisted, mean-spirited villains that we love to hate; “good” guys who aren’t so good; “bad” guys who have standards; a suspenseful tale with enough plot twists and red herrings to keep the mystery fascinating to the last page and leave the reader begging for more.

                                          So what’s missing? In this humble reviewer’s opinion–book club discussion questions. The Detective Jackson mysteries tactfully handle social issues not generally discussed at the dinner table–teen sex, abortion, homosexuality, and rape, so far. The topics make the books ideal book club reads and can lead to some lively, thoughtful discussion.

                                          What’s next for Detective Jackson? Keep an eye out for Thrilled to Death, due out in August and sure to be a popular beach read.

                                          In the mean time, I highly recommend Secrets to Die For. But beware—you’ll be hooked on the series.

                                          LJ Sellers has generously offered a copy of Secrets to Die For to one of our readers at BRP. To get your name entered in the drawing, leave a comment on one of the posts (today or April 17). Today’s comment topic:

                                          Do you enjoy reading about social issues in fiction? What topics make you uncomfortable? Does inclusion of uncomfortable subjects make books more or less intriguing?

                                          Charlotte Phillips is the co-author of the Eva Baum Detective Series, 2009 President for The Final Twist Writers Group and contributor to multiple blogs. Learn more about Charlotte and her books and short stories at:


                                          News, Views and Reviews Blog

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                                          Friday, April 9, 2010

                                          Writing as an Art -- Painting the Plot

                                          Our detailed character sketches shape and define the people who will populate our story. The completed outline places them in the action and draws them, via our plot, down the roads that converge at the climax and flow into the conclusion. However, the plot’s following the exact route we’ve mapped out can almost be guaranteed not to happen.

                                          Let’s consider why the plot may not take the route we had envisioned by comparing it to the work of an artist who’s recreating a spectacular mountain scene on canvas. In her mind, she knows exactly what she wants to paint; so early one October morning, she heads out to find just the right angle from which to capture the majesty of the landscape. While she’s unloading her gear, the sun climbs over the horizon and dances down the dark peaks in a progressive unfolding of the new day. She positions the easel to allow a panoramic view, then sketches the scene on the canvas as a guideline before squeezing dollops of paint onto her pallet.

                                          Meanwhile, the sun continues its upward trek toward its zenith, chasing away shadows and pulling back the curtain to reveal splashes autumn colors that pop out of the evergreens blanketing the mountains up to the timberline. Barren peaks, like baldheaded sentries, rise above the colorful collar to watch over the valley below.

                                          The artist puts the final touches on the painting as the sun draws the curtain back across the scene and slips behind the mountaintops, banners of pink and blue stretching across the sky to announce its departure. She steps back and views her work in the soft light of dusk. A smile tugs at the corners of her mouth. The picture does not at all depict what she’d envisioned. In fact, it captures an entirely different scene, one of more vivid color, greater contrasts, increased depths. But it’s good, maybe even great. How great? Only time will tell.

                                          What does all this have to do with plot? Everything. The landscape of the story—aka plot—begins in the muted shades of its dawning. Each scene brightens the roads traveled by the unique assortment of characters who meet at the zenith—the climax—and wend their way quickly to the end of the story.

                                          Some might argue that the painting represents the setting, yet the setting, or backdrop, likely will remain more or less as intended throughout the book. The plot, however, will no doubt change as the writer gives each character the opportunity to tell his or her story. Then, just as the artist adjusted the painting as the sun traveled across the sky—adding color, contrast, and depth, the writer adjusts the plot as the light shed by the characters while they travel across the pages gives greater color, contrast, and depth to the story. At the end of the day when the story has been completed, the writer may well step back and smile because it’s good, maybe even great. How great? Only time will tell.


                                          Linda Lane, writer/editor/publisher, thrives on helping other writers to make their stories great. She's edited two award-winning books, and a third on which she served as part of an editing team has been accepted for consideration as a Pulitzer Prize nominee. Her second novel, Treacherous Tango, has just been released, and she's beginning the sequel that will tell "the rest of the story."

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                                          Wednesday, April 7, 2010

                                          Fun With Words at the Mule Barn Truck Stop

                                          For a change of pace from all the serious posts on writing, I am pleased to offer this bit of nonsense from my friend, Slim Randles. While this one might not be laugh-out-loud funny, it is a bit of a groaner. Enjoy...

                                          “I can’t stand winter,” said Herb Collins, who had dropped in at the Mule Barn’s philosophy counter for a quick cup. “There’s nothing to do.”

                                          “Get out and enjoy it,” suggested Doc. “Go skiing. Go ice fishing. Build a snowman. Do something. Then you’ll feel better.”

                                          “I don’t think your advice will take,” said Dud. “Herb seems to be intransigent on this one.”

                                          We all looked at Dud.

                                          "You see, he said he couldn’t stand winter,” Dud continued, “which shows he has a proclivity for intransigence on that particular subject.”

                                          We looked at him some more.

                                          “If he were to take up a winter hobby,” he continued, “he could stop being intransigent and enjoy things more.”

                                          Even Herb was staring at him now.

                                          "I usually,” said Herb, “enjoy a proclivity in that direction, but winter is pretty boring, so maybe I really should be intransigent on this point.”

                                          “Well Herb,” said Dud, “even though you might have a proclivity this season for being intransigent on your attitude about winter, you could kinda ease up and consider a hobby. That way you’d be showing a proclivity for transigence.”

                                          “Transigence?” said Doc. “I thought those were people who lived under bridges. You might want to look that one up, Dud.”

                                          Dud blushed as we laughed.

                                          “Say Dud?” said Steve, the cowboy. “Wasn’t proclivity last month’s word?”

                                          “Yes,” said Dud, “and I believe I’ve used it a couple of dozen times already.”

                                          “And now this month’s word is intransigence, right?”

                                          Dud nodded.

                                          “Well then,” said Doc, “it looks like you are going to have a proclivity for saying intransigence this month. That’s a veritable plethora of proclivity my friend.”

                                          Dud pulled out a pencil and grabbed a napkin.

                                          “How do you spell it, Doc?”

                                          “Spell what?”


                                          We just groaned. Sometimes education can be ugly.
                                          Brought to you by the soon-to-be-announced syndicated radio program, “Home Country.” We thought you should be warned. Slim's Web site where you can find information about his books, his columns and his life as an outdoorsman.
                                          Posted by Maryann Miller, who appreciates that Slim shares his wit and wisdom with the readers of Visit Maryann's Web site for information about her editing services and her books. When she is not working, Maryann loves to play farmer on her little ranch in East Texas.

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                                          Tuesday, April 6, 2010

                                          Ask The Editor Free-For-All Today!

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                                          It's back - The Ask the Editor Free-For-All

                                          Last month's Ask the Editor Free-For-All drew a terrific response from our readers, with corresponding great answers from our editors. I counted 68 comments in all. Hopefully, the tradition will carry forth, bringing us even more wonderful questions and answers.

                                          In case you're new to what's going on, this is where you get to ask those embarrassing questions you're dying to know the answers to, but don't want to sound silly asking them of an acquisitions editor or agent.

                                          Here's how it works:

                                          Today, and Every First Tuesday of the Month, The Blood-Red Pencil holds what we call the Ask the Editor Free-For-All. I scour e-groups beforehand, putting out a cry for likely guinea pigs; no, seriously, I mean candidates. Even if you don't see the call in one of my e-groups, you’re more than welcome to join in.

                                          I’m sure many of you have questions you’d like to ask editors. Maybe you’re submitting a manuscript or thinking of submitting one, but are afraid to ask for an explanation of a fine point that really bothers you. You don’t want to sound like you don’t know the business, yet you’d really appreciate knowing what to do before you submit. Doing the wrong thing could mean rejection. Here’s your chance to get an answer before it’s too late.

                                          Even if you haven’t reached the submission stage, a question or two might be hindering you from getting down to writing, or perhaps producing your best work.

                                          We’re offering you a chance to put our mind at ease by solving some pesky problems beforehand. Ask and one of our able editors will answer.

                                          To Submit A Question, Follow These Easy Steps:

                                          Leave a comment in the comment section below. Make sure you include your name and blogspot or website not only for promo, but so we know you’re legit.

                                          One or more of our editors will hop over during the day and answer your question in the comment section. If an editor feels your question needs a more lengthy explanation, you'll get a comment to the effect that an entire post will be devoted to the subject at a later date. If that's the case, you'll receive even more promotion. You may even be told where to send a jpeg of your book cover and/or yourself and a buy link.

                                          If you wish to leave your e-mail address with your comment, you may, but it's not required. Because your question may require a follow-up, it wouldn't hurt if you do mention somewhere in your comment where you heard about our Ask the Editor Free-For-All. That way we can contact you so you don't miss the answer.

                                          Remember to check back here not only for your answer, but also the answers to other people's questions. You never know if they could prove helpful as well. Since some are on Digest, questions and answers may carry on through Wednesday, and possibly Thursday.

                                          As I mentioned before, don't be afraid that your question might seem silly. We all start somewhere. That's how we learn.
                                          Okay, bring on the questions!

                                          Morgan Mandel