Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Blurbing, and how to do it...

Many readers think that writers just tell stories. Writing books takes a lot of time, effort, diligence, and craft to get the story down on paper so that readers can enjoy it.

But writing doesn't stop there. Once a book is written and polished, a writer has to sell it to agents and publishers, not to mention to readers. ;-) Doing all that requires many hours of painstaking work writing in very different forms. Query letters must be constructed to catch agents' attention. Synopses are written to show the scope of the story to publishers. And if all those obstacles are overcome, writers must construct blurbs or back-cover copy to catch a reader's eye.

Ruth Harris says it's never too early to start on a blurb. Check her 8 Tips for Writing That Killer Blurb. for more on her methods. Harris describes good blurbs as a "...little bit act, a little bit craft, a little bit commercial poetry.

Joanna Penn's How to Write a Back Blurbs for Your Book  uses examples to help explain what blurbs must do.

Mark Edwards explains that a well-written blurb/product description helped his book rise to #2 at Amazon.co.uk. Check out his five steps here: Product Description: AKA The Blurb

And Marilynn Bylery's Writing the Back Cover Blurb for genre-specific hints.


So, now for my turn. Here is a first try at a blurb for FRIENDLY FIRE.

Our deepest wounds  come from those who should be our greatest protection.

At least that's what Laura Grace Chandler wishes were true, but she knows the look of a child whose parents are MIA from her many years of teaching. And though she thinks her time binding up the wounds is over, she finds herself caught at ground zero when she looks into Samantha Smith's eyes. 

And now, Laura Grace must act, do whatever it takes to heal the abuse Samantha has suffered. Just when she has finally won her battle to adopt Samantha, she finds her biggest and most devastating battle is yet to come. 

Let me know what you think. Does this hook you? Of is it too wordy?   Come on, be brutal. I can take it... ;-)


Be sure to check out award-nominated author Lori Benton's latest book--The Pursuit of Tamsen Little John  that goes on sale today. Lori is a finalist in The Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Book Awards for 2013 in Inspirational Romance for her debut book--Burning Sky--and a finalist in the ECPA's 2014 Christian Book Awards for Burning Sky. Be sure and check out this up and coming author. I interviewed her August 20, 2013.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Happy Birthday!

Today is our doggy Doodle Poodles' fifth brithday and after all the hours they've watched me type, they demanded a turn. ;-)

Hurry up, Mommy!

 It's our birthday and we'll bark if we want to! ;-)

We won the Golden Ticket five years ago when we got to come home together with 
Daddy and Mommy.

Worn out on our first day

Yum, Mommy!

And though we fight over our toys...
Tag-Team Fetch
And worry when our family is gone...
On duty
We know we've got it good...
Max in Mommy's lap

Casey and Daddy's arm

King Max!
Did you want this?!?

Puppy Heart


And we are brothers forever!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Anniversaries and Such (and a few nifty links)

The cherry trees are in full bloom in Cherry Hill. Enjoy!
Today marks an important anniversary for me. One year ago, I took over the Goals Threads at the Book and Writers Forum from the wonderful S. P. Bowers. I hope I'm helped others keep their writing on track. I know having to check in at the beginning, middle, and end of every month has really kept me on my toes and on track.

It was six years ago in March that a dream introduced me to my two main characters--Laura Grace Chandler and Samantha Smith. I had no clue where they were going to take me, but I'm enjoying the roller-coaster ride. Through their story, I've learned about abuse, social work, foster parents, foster families, foster parent training, Georgia's Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS), and all sorts of other interesting problems in today's world. Along with Laura Grace and Samantha, I've worked through some terrible results of abuse. They and their friends and not so friendly neighbors have spawned at least three more stories. I really had hoped to celebrate this anniversary with a complete draft of FRIENDLY FIRE, but I'm not upset that I can't. A better story is preferable to a premature ending that doesn't do the story justice.

I've been blogging for the last four years and ten months and through that I've made fast friends and learned more about writing than ever knew existed. Thanks to you all!


And now for this week's LINKS! I love both of these.

Check out Kristen Lamb's Premature Editing post. I've been very prone to this problem lately. I wanted reach a completed draft so badly that I've slashed a few keepers who are starting to bud. Thanks to Scrivener, I've been able to recreate much of what's been cut.

Catherine, Caffeinated's info on Contact Forms  Be sure to check out my new Contact Form on the left. (I promise it works. I tried it out and contacted myself!) ;-)


Have a wonderful and productive week! Hopefully Spring is finally here. ;-)

Monday, March 24, 2014


 You have to show emotions, but which one fits which scene with which character? We all want to know.

Try this Emotion Chart   From I Love Charts

What's not to like about this chart? There are six main categories of emotions--disgust, sad, happy, surprise, fear, anger--in the center. Each is then broken up into four to five more definitive levels and then again in to two more. For example, take sad. Level two includes guilty, abandoned, despair, depressed, lonely, bored. For level three of depressed, the chart includes inferior and empty. I could spend hours with this nifty little chart. ;-)

But then, I have to figure out how to show the specific emotion my character is feeling. What body language and internal feelings will it take. 

So, I turn to this next item on my list. Have you tried THE EMOTION THESAURUS by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi?

From the Amazon description: One of the biggest problem areas for writers is conveying a character's emotions to the reader in a unique, compelling way. This book comes to the rescue by exploring seventy-five emotions and listing the possible body language cues, thoughts, and visceral responses for each.

Using its easy-to-navigate list format, readers can draw inspiration from character cues that range in intensity to match any emotional moment, including situations where a character is trying to hide their feelings from others. The Emotion Thesaurus also tackles common emotion-related writing problems and provides methods to overcome them.

This writing tool encourages writers to show, not tell emotion and is a creative brainstorming resource for any fiction project.

The book breaks down over seventy emotions into Physical Signals, Internal Sensations, Mental Responses, Cues for Acute of Long-Term, and Cues for Suppressed emotion. Sometimes I disagree with the suggestions, but at least it gets me thinking. ;-)

Do you have a nifty helper to suggest for finding the right emotion for a character? Or for refining the actions that show an emotion? If so, please share! And get emotional...well, let your characters get emotional. ;-)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

I've Got Links and the Self Lovin' Bloghop

As you know, I'm chin-deep in revision/re-imagining/rewriting/re-everything with FRIENDLY FIRE, so here's some inspirational links to keep us going.

There's a lovely checklist on this one and suggestions for polishing it off. Check out the links at the end, too.
How Do You Know When Your Manuscript Is Ready?

I love this one! There's so many words to weed on this list, it should keep us busy for a while.
Plague Words and Phrases

I particularly like Ame Dyckman's "Door Test" and Lisha Cauthen's list of when to let it go.
How Do Authors Know When Their Manuscripts Are Ready?

And for you OUTLANDER fans:

Outlander Starz Instagram 

STARZ Outlander 

And if you aren't a fan...What are you waiting for?  

And now the Self Lovin' Blog Hop from Tara Watson. She wants us to do something radical. She wants us to tell something positive about ourselves. I didn't have to go far to find something. Look at the rest of this blogpost. I'm want to encourage others with helpful links. That's right, I'm a natural-born encourager. If you know me from the Goals posts at Book and Writers Forum or from the WFWA Write-A-Thin, you've gotten a taste of my love of making others feel good about themselves. That's the goal of Tara's Bloghop! So, go on board and make some positive noise!!!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


Have you ever taken a class, read a craft book, or discussed your WIP with someone and felt the earth shake under your feet when you realized that you've missed an important facet of your plot? Well, this week has been that sort of week for me. As I understood my pot until this week, I only saw one facet of Samantha's reaction to the abuse she has had to endure. She was a withdrawn child, quiet unto eeriness. Now I realize that her journey is fraught with a much more explosive reaction and, therefore, so is Laura Grace's.

Donald Maass is the President of Donald Maass Literary Agency and a premier agent. He's written Writing the Breakout Novel, The Fire in Fiction, and conducts many writing workshops every year. Last week he lead the member of the WFWA on an intensive look at Writing with Emotional Power. He has a book in process on these very topic and used some of the exercises from it for our workshop.

Don began the week by telling us that our genre, Women's Fiction,  is different from others in some specific ways. For one thing, there are more internal passages in which the protagonist moves through emotional reactions to the events and problems around her. For another, the protagonist's journey will necessitate more telling passages. Women's Fiction feels deeply--character and reader--and it takes telling/showing, inner/outer, and implicit/explicit emotions to do it. Effective WF fires the heart and uses small, throw away emotions and details. Small events can cause big emotions His aim was to teach us how to craft and control the reactions, shape emotional effects, and intentionally get a specific reaction. The MC must have room to have angst, but the proper use of internal narration and telling passages is a must, so that the story will be as griping and intense as any thriller, suspense, or mystery. The question becomes: Will the protagonist grow enough to handle the thrill ride of her life? There has to be room for doubt.

So, how do you accomplish those twin differences without boring your reader to tears? (Unless it's tears you want at that point ;-) Don has specific answers for that question.

  • Lesson 1 How to Transform Blah Scenes with Inner Turning Points: Every scene must have change and the protagonist's emotional reaction to that change is the story. How does this change affect the MC? Is it good or bad? How does it affect others in the scene? What does this change mean to the MC's journey throughout the story?

  • Lesson 2 How Actions Provoke Or Not and How to Judge: How does your MC react to a difficult choice. Making the choice visible using unique details for the setting and recording the reaction of the MC is key. Once you let external action speak to the internal reaction, you bring the reader into the key turning point moment.

  • Lesson 3 Emotional Surprise and How to Achieve It: If your MC always reacts emotionally the way the reader expects, the story becomes boring. So, drill down into the second and third emotional reaction layers to create a strongly felt event. 

  • Lesson 4 Constructing Extended Passages of Telling: Telling isn't always bad if it is constructed in a way that pulls the reader in. In places where your MC is stuck, self-doubting, morally offended, etc., the writer should dig down for those interior reactions, the bedrock of the character's life.

  • Lesson 5 The Emotional Arc of Your Audience: Finally, a writer must control and direct the reader's emotional journey, too. We took a secondary character and plotted out what we wanted the reader to feel in the beginning, middle, late middle, and end. In one of these stages, we had to go for the opposite reaction than what the reader expected. And this is were FRIENDLY FIRE was rocked off its foundation for me. ;-) Samantha is a little hellion, not all sweetness and light as I saw her before. Now Laura Grace must earn her stripes as a mother against much higher odds. Before I saw the story as Laura Grace vs. the world in her fight to protect Samantha. Now, I realize I must let Laura Grace face  the challenge of mothering a disturbed teen.
To be completely open about this, I have to admit that John has been trying to get me to see this for over a year. Yep. That long and I've been reluctant (he says stubborn) to see the need. Well, now I do.

So, what does that mean to my strive to complete the FRIENDLY FIRE MS this month? It means that I have a complete overhaul coming instead of a celebration of completion. And you know what? I'm good with that. It's going to be a much better story, a more gripping read--one that will stick with the reader longer. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Don Maass Workshop, FRIENDLY FIRE Update, and a Reminder

It's a busy week and I'm learning so much! This is the week of WFWA's Don Maass Workshop on Inner vs Outer – Writing with Emotional Power. The description is:

What’s the best balance between inner vs. outer, telling vs. showing, emotions vs. actions? This hands-on writing workshop by master craft instructor and agent Donald Maass will equip you with the techniques that give manuscripts high emotional force.

Mr. Maass has retooled his trademark ideas for Women's Fiction specifically, and I'm going to soak it up and then apply the new craft to FRIENDLY FIRE. Just answering the Introduction Questions helped me fine tune my WIP already. Check them out!

1- What do I want my readers to feel most strongly as they read my novel.
Determination, love, and triumph: My MC must overcome depression, grief, and fear of aging. The determination to accomplish this is key to her growth. Love is the reason she finds the determination to reach out and help an abused foster child. And finally, triumph from making a child's life better and facing the wounds from both of their pasts.
2- What do I like best and least about my MC?
I love my MC's ability to rise up out of depression from losing her husband of 30+ years and the long-time grief of childlessness. Even though she is getting older and slower, she still has the strength to put herself on the line--heart, mind, body, and soul--to help a sexually abused foster child. Though she thinks she no longer has the strength to do much, still she tries. Once she has a plan to help, she isn't easily deterred.
3- Pick a blah scene.
Oh, there are many to choose from! I have narrowed it down to her dark hour when she thinks she must give the child up to her newly released from prison father. It's a tough scene where she tries to come to terms with relinquishing her desire to be a mother yet again.

If I'm a bit absent around the blogosphere, you'll know where I am. Working hard on my assignments for this workshop.

FRIENDLY FIRE Update: I'm nearing the halfway mark in my reread/edit/hole filling mission. Some of the scenes have been good, but others are horrid. ;-) That's the way writing is, isn't it?

Easter Reminder: Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. If you'd like a Lenten devotional, AN EASTER WALK is now available as an ebook.

 Here's the blurb from Amazon:

Need to get ready for Easter? Along with the new spring clothes, candy eggs, and lilies, take a walk with Christ to Jerusalem and the Cross. Join the crowds at the Temple and the Last Supper in the Upper Room, and find His message of peace and hope. Preparing for Easter is the focus of the Season of Lent. Many see it as a time of repentance for sins committed during the year and reflection on Christ’s sacrifice. An Easter Walk from Palm Sunday to the Ascension provides forty devotions and is a great way to contemplate Christ’s purpose and mission and to consider the importance of following Christ’s steps throughout the year. An Easter Walk is a companion volume to A Christmas Walk.

Zan Marie Steadham is the author of An Easter Walk and two books on church history. She is a 2009 Georgia Author of the Year Nominee. She writes fiction, devotions, and poetry and is a member of a member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association and the CompuServe Books and Writers Forum.

I hope you have a fun and productive week of writing, reading, or just relaxing. ;-)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Creed all Writers Need

Here it is--the Creed we all need to take into if we're serious about our writing.

Writer's Rebel Creed
Thanks to S A Larson, we have not excuse this year. None. Join the crowd, the determined, the writers who will succeed. And check out SA's to-dos to be a Writer Rebel in 2014.

I would be honored for you to join me in committing to this CREED. All you have to do is add your name to the linky list below. There are two optional commitments you can also make:
  1. Copy the CREED Badge and paste it on your site, encouraging others to join us.
  2. Write one post a month somehow related to your journey in following the CREED. Choose a day and time to your liking. Just include the badge in your post, linking back to this post so others can join in. Share your post via Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr or however!
Remember - neither of those are required, only suggested. Best of luck with the CREED and keep in touch! Last year we had 99 writers commit. Let's see if we can double that or even more, this year! 
Now how easy is this! Just join us.
For my sharing I'd like to tell you the two steps I'm taking to up my game, to prove I'm serious about my writing.
  • Starting March 2 I'll be taking a Don Maass Workshop sponsored by the WFWA focused on Inner vs Outer – Writing with Emotional Power
  • May 1 is the start of the first WFWA contest--The Rising Star Contest for those who haven't previously published a WF novel. I'm working on polishing up my first 35 pages and preparing a 2-3 page synopsis. Wish me luck!
What about you? What are you doing to prove you're serious about your writing this year?

FRIENDLY FIRE Update: I finished editing Part 1 on Saturday. The first thirty-five pages are out with some beta readers and getting good reviews from those who have reported back already. Thea, my big sister, my reader-in-reserve, really liked it and wants to read more. What can I say? I'm excited and gratified. On I go. Next stop, part 2 edited and filled in. ;-)