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Showing posts from May, 2015


BSP. Not sure what it is, then head over to the BookShop Blog for a good article about it - or at least one related to authors. Wikipedia hasn't caught up with us yet. This June, we're all about BSP for our resident bloggers and you'll get to learn much more about them and their publications. Join us throughout the month. Don't forget to connect with the Blood-Red Pencil on Twitter and Facebook too! We're going to practice BSP everywhere. How about you, readers? Are you into it or would you rather not do it? Leave us a comment.

Where Do You Get Ideas?

One question authors are asked frequently is “Where do you get your ideas?” I don’t know about other authors, but I have an idea tree at the edge of my yard, and when I’m ready to start a new book, I just go out and pluck one from the branches. But sometimes, the tree’s not in fruit-bearing season, so I have to look elsewhere. Sometimes the ideas for books come when you’re looking for something else. When I was embarking on the journey to write Dangerous Connections , book 5 in my Blackthorne, Inc. series , all I wanted was a place to set what my daughter calls my “MacGyver Opening Gambits.” I thought my covert ops team might be dealing with the Mexican drug cartels, so I was searching for a setting in Mexico. I ran across an article about how American engineers were being kidnapped to build cell phone networks so the cartels could communicate privately, and wham! The story took a whole new direction. For my Mapleton Mystery series , which is set in a small town, I have to deal w

EEK! What is the Right Word?

Okay, somebody else said it first, but the proper use of entitled or titled is another Pain in the English Language. One just has to do a Google search on the topic to find differing, and conflicting, opinions. Did you know that entitled was the preferred word until the 21st century? Books, plays, and music were entitled, not titled . According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary entitled means: to give a title to: designate to furnish with proper grounds for seeking or claiming something. (this ticket entitles the bearer to free admission.)    The second definition is the one that most of us associate with the word, which is probably why many of us find the usage a bit awkward for naming something - my mystery is entitled Doubletake . However, that usage is correct, ungainly as it is as it trips off one's tongue, and it has been making a bit of a comeback. Maybe someone did some research and found out that the use of entitled to mean named goes back centuries, and enti

Indie Publishing Right Now

The week before last, I had the pleasure of attending the RT Booklover’s Convention in Dallas, Texas. And while this is primarily a reader event for Romance lovers, there were quite a few workshops and networking opportunities for writers. I’d never been to this conference before, so I didn’t know what to expect. I had a fantastic time, though, and more importantly, I learned a lot about what’s going on in the industry for indie writers right now, today. Me gearing up for the book signing at RT Dallas The short answer to “What’s the state of indie publishing today?” is that things are constantly in flux. But then again, the same goes for the traditional publishing industry. One of the workshops I attended was presented by a panel of agents and editors from the big five publishers, all of whom agreed that trends are flipping and shifting faster than they ever have before. Where once any given sub-genre would stick around for a couple of years at the top of the popularity pile, no

On This Memorial Day

Tips for Managing Your Files

Spring has sprung and it is time to do a little spring cleaning. For me, that means sifting through and deleting old computer files I no longer need. The chore is made easier by having an organized filing system. I’d like to offer the following tips on organizing and maintaining your precious manuscript documents. The tips apply no matter what platform you use: MAC, Windows, or Linux. Having an organized system makes it easier to find the document you are looking for and for finding the documents that need to be backed up. Many users do not realize that you can create a folder on your Desktop (the screen that comes up when you turn your computer on with all of your program icons). If you want to get fancy, you can choose a specific icon to represent your project. A program called Iconator allows you to create an icon from any jpeg image you have saved on your computer. You change the icon by hovering over the folder image, right click the mouse, select Properties , select

Memos for Plotting

Among other things, today is "National Memo Day." A memo, or in its original, longer form, memorandum , is defined as "a short note designating something to be remembered, especially something to be done or acted upon in the future; reminder ." As a non-plotter, it's important to keep track of ideas, clues, story reveals, character development and all the myriad details that keep those dreaded plot holes and continuity errors at bay. Some writers use lengthy outlines, some jot notes on legal pads, some use voice recordings (I know one author who dictates all his novels while hiking), some keep a separate document file, or use a program like Scrivener to help them keep track of their stories. I use a foam core board and sticky notes, and it's as close as I can get to plotting. There's no particular ordering of my notes. If I place a clue in chapter 6, I'll note it on my board. Then, when it's dealt with, I can toss the note. As the bo

Kindle Scout

My book, Indiscretion , has been on Amazon’s Kindle Scout program for an entire week as of today. It’s been on and off the “Hot and Trending” list, which I guess is natural. This is measured by how many people read the sample and nominate my book during a thirty-day period. I’ve done some promotion, but there’s a fine line between promo and overkill. I try to be cognizant of where that line is. That said, self-promotion has never been an easy fit for me. So what is Kindle Scout, you ask? This is from the Kindle Scout website: “Kindle Scout is reader-powered publishing for new, never-before-published books. It’s a place where readers help decide if a book gets published. Selected books will be published by Kindle Press and receive 5-year renewable terms, a $1,500 advance, 50% eBook royalty rate, easy rights reversions and featured Amazon marketing.” Bloggers have debated the pros and cons of the program. From my point of view, the answer depends on where you are in the publishi

Manual Dexterity

So there you are, clattering away at the keyboard and filling page after page with enthralling dialogue and vivid imagery. Suddenly, your fingers halt as your brain wrestles with a question of grammar. You have a sentence in mind, but you’re not quite sure if the phrasing is acceptable. What do you do? Do you forge ahead, risking potential editorial wrath? Do you take the not-quite-easy way out and re-write the entire line, thus avoiding grammatical conflict? No! You grab that coat by the lapels and consult the Chicago Manual of Style. Now in its sixteenth edition, the CMOS gives definite and definitive answers to your most pressing prose questions. Is the singular they acceptable, or is the more formal (if slightly stilted) he or she required? Are social titles always abbreviated? What on earth is an em dash, and when should you employ one? Even a first-time reader will find that the CMOS is user-friendly, with clearly marked sections, a cross-referenced inde

Late Bloomers

In 2011, the Oscar for writing was given to David Seidler for The King’s Speech . He was 73, and it was his first Oscar and first nomination. In his acceptance speech he said his father had told him he’d be a late bloomer. The audience laughed, since obviously his father was right. David Seidler also said he hoped that his record as the oldest person to win this particular award was broken quickly and often. I’m with him. Some might say I’m a late bloomer too, because I didn’t start my writing career in earnest (that is, quit my ‘day job’ and went full time) until I was nearly 50. My writing flowers may have begun to bloom in the autumn of my life, but I had plenty of other flowers blooming in the springtime too. Who says we have to plant the same flowers all our lives? Like tulips in the spring, sunflowers in the summer, dahlias in the fall, and poinsettias in the winter, we can bloom in every season of our lives. As David Seidler and other late bloomers like him sh

Different Gardens

Creating a beautiful flower garden is an art—whether it’s to grow May flowers, bright summer blooms, or richly-hued blossoms that rival autumn leaves for vibrant color. Great writing is also an art, and flowers can play a vital role in our stories—from the bouquet that delights the protagonist to the vase of buds that sends chills down the back of a terrified character. Covers, too, offer great opportunities for flowers to promote our stories. One of my new branding techniques is to include some kind of flower on each of my book covers, and I've updated my first two cozy thrillers to reflect that. Treacherous Tango , for example, now depicts a black rose with drops of blood falling onto it from the title. A Brother Betrayed shows a yellow rose licked menacingly by raging flames. Both bear significant relevancy to the stories within—a necessity if a reader is to tell my book by its cover. No matter how gorgeous or striking a cover may be, it will let the reader down if it’s fals

The Writer and the Secret Fan

Photo by Cara Lopez Lee When I read Lisa See’s   Snow Flower and the Secret Fan ,  I was captivated by the idea of two women sharing a history by exchanging notes in the folds of a fan. I teach young writers for Denver’s Lighthouse Writers Workshop , and I decided to create an exercise using fans. The opening of a fan is a vivid metaphor for storytelling. I often talk to writers about scenes in terms of opening a fan or accordion. It’s a dynamic way of visualizing the question, “What’s happening between the lines?” Sometimes we get so caught up in pushing a scene from point A to point B that we glide over opportunities for a more intimate look at the character’s experience. We may offer sensory descriptions, but overlook imbuing those descriptions with the way a character's emotional state and personal history affects the way the view looks, the way tones sound, the memories that smells evoke. We may write dialogue, but neglect to reveal the physical tells or intruding thou

Time Out for Some Fun

Back in April we found out from humorist Slim Randles that Dud had pretty much given up on writing his book and had taken up playing accordion. Much to the relief of his friends and his dear wife, Anita, Dud is once more squeezing words out of his computer and the accordion is resting. Here is Slim to tell us all about it... Dud looked at his Anita across the kitchen table and smiled at the wonderment of her. She didn’t take him for granted, and he didn’t take her for granted, either. Seemed like a nice way for a man and his wife to be in love. But how was he going to translate this? This has been the problem for several years now with the book. Dud shook his head slowly. Anyone who thinks writing a novel is easy should spend an hour inside my head first. It’s been several years since he began writing “Murder in the Soggy Bottoms,” the book that the rest of Dud’s people referred to as “The Duchess and the Truck Driver.” “What’s the matter, Hon?” “Oh … nothing. Just thinking

The Flowers that Bloom in the Spring...

...Tra-la... Have nothing to do with the case. Mikado - WS Gilbert Laburnam Walk Photo of Temple Newsam House, courtesy of TripAdvisor I usually bedeck my books with flowers, both wild and cultivated. More often than not, they do indeed have nothing to do with the case. They’re part of the setting, marking the seasons, differentiating between town and country gardens, hedgerows, meadows, moors, and woods. Sometimes, though, they have other purposes. In Heirs of the Body , the 21st Daisy Dalrymple mystery (just reissued by Minotaur in trade paperback), I use a pleached walk of laburnam to suggest the threat of poisoning. The seeds are deadly. In fact, I use the walk for a different purpose, and another plant is used later in the book to poison one of my characters. In another book, I killed a victim with oleander he himself had nurtured and cherished in his conservatory. Perhaps the most fun I’ve had with flowers was when I used them to indicate character and

Let Your Writing Bloom: 3 Tips

It is said that April showers bring May flowers. For us writers, sometimes our inevitable writing droughts seek those showers so that we can bring forth the blooms of new writing. Back in March, I wrote a BRP post titled " 3 Ways to Reclaim Your Passion for Writing ." This month, I want to add three more suggestions on how you can grow your writing. Find Time Stealers in Your Daily Life We all have them--those activities that steal time from our daily lives but that offer no real rewards. Examples? Almost EVERYTHING that has to do with electronics, especially when we don't take time to break away from those activities. Spending too much time on Facebook or any form of social media, whether on the computer or on our smartphones and tablets. Checking email every five minutes. Keeping notifications for all apps on so that we're distracted by every ding, chirp, and bell. Take an honest look at a 24-hour chunk of your life and write down how much time you spend doi

Accountability for Authors

One of the biggest struggles that we have as authors is keeping focused on doing our job in a world that is full of distraction. And I’m talking about distractions like family, the day job, sleep, and the need to occasionally eat. Not having time to write (or procrastinating away that time) is one of the top problems that we writers have. I know that the busier I get, the harder it is for me to stick to my writing schedule. I’m sure the same goes for all of us. What’s a poor, busy writer to do? I’ve recently discovered a fabulous way to stay on task and to receive encouragement from other writers who are in the same boat as I am. You’ve heard of critique groups and writing partners, well, I recently joined an accountability group. We're all in this together photo by Liam Quinn via Flickr Commons So what’s an accountability group and how does that help the writing process? The accountability group that I belong to was organized as an off-shoot of another, much larger w

5 Tips For Avoiding POV Speedbumps

Sometimes in a story you need to convey information to the main character or to the reader that your main character would not be privy to. This is often done by switching the point of view character. There are times when this method works well, such as cycling between POV characters for suspense. There are times when it needlessly interrupts the story. Another technique is to use news articles, diaries, etc. often offset or in italics. Some readers love this type of interruption. Many loathe the interruption and scan read or flip past it. Let’s look at a few ways to keep the main character informed without switching point of view. 1. Spying. Dick learns information by intentionally listening or watching while attempting to not be seen. This type of scene is fraught with tension and fear of him getting caught. He can be in the room next door, in a surveillance van, watching people through a camera lens, sniper rifle, or on a remote camera feed. 2. Eavesdrop

How to Grow Your Writing

‘Now is the month of maying,  When merry lads are playing,  Fa la la la la la la la la la la  Fa la la la la la la.’ *  English madrigal, Thomas Morley (1595)  There are many similarities between learning to be a successful gardener and learning to be a successful writer. Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned:  Sunshine = Praise. Both are necessary and make your garden or your writing ‘bloom’. Too much, however, can lead to sunburned leaves or dangerously over-inflated egos. Stones. Most gardens suffer from some degree of rocky soil, so work is necessary before anything decent will grow. Removing pebbles from soil takes time and so does decent writing. No one becomes an expert in a day. Or a week. Or ever. However, you can never get rid of all the rocks and carrots will grow around them. Your writing will adapt too - twists are a good thing. The necessity of fertilizer. Remember a little goes a long way. And... remember what natural fertilizer is m