Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Sneak Peek

I'm going to let you all in on a little secret. The fourth book in the Caribbean Adventure Series has been approved and released. Why is it a secret? Mainly because I have not yet launched my mind-blowing, record selling marketing campaign. At least I hope so. The 'real' truth is that the arrival of the proof came at a time when I was working towards a number of deadlines, writing and otherwise.

This book, aimed at children 7-10, is set in Montserrat and features the adventures of Mark, Kyle and the infamous Chee Chee. It starts off in St. Kitts, but quickly takes a turn from the ordinary when Mark and Kyle travel into the past to the island of Montserrat where, with Chee Chee's help, they must try to save the Carib people from being destroyed by a volcanic eruption.

Fury is the first book that I have written without actually having visited the place in which it is set. When I wrote Pirates at Port Royal, it was very important for me to see the Port Royal, Jamaica so that I could understand what the boys would have experienced when they arrived there in the present day. However, since the scenes in Fury that feature Montserrat are all set in the past, I felt that I could release the book without the visit.

Some of you may know, and some may have just googled and found out that Montserrat is a small island in the Caribbean which experienced a catastrophic volcanic eruption about 16 years ago. In this book, I wanted to capture the hopefulness and resilience that a strong people can find in themselves when faced with a disastrous event. It took me over a year to capture this and I am very happy with the end product.

Fury is available in paperback and kindle, so take a read and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Reluctant Knight

Good Morning Readers & Writers,

As I embark on my summer vacation, I've asked my good friend, writer Doug Glener, to say something in my stead.  He's written a bang-up adventure, so I hope you'll give it a shot.

I'll turn it over to Doug:

I had an extraordinarily vivid dream one night: knights were sitting in front of heavenly pools, helping the earth-bound in distress. I woke up, the dream leaving a lasting impression on me. A few years passed, and in the background of my mind, I turned over the dream, believing it held the genesis to a story. 

The dream had something of a magnetic effect, pulling odd bits of history, my past, and other seemingly unrelated things to itself. A narrative began to form - I could literally see various scenes from the book. I just had to figure out how to get from point A to point B, and so forth. This process was an act of faith, believing that my subconscious would lead the way and fill in the missing bits of plot. That's exactly what happened, and the result was The Reluctant Knight.

Percival Adler always dreamed of going on a quest-until he stumbled into a real one. Now he's found himself entangled in an adventure with a Mongol warlord, an insane pharaoh, and the greatest samurai of 19th-century Japan. The cast of characters takes to Manhattan in search of a legendary relic that gives its wielder unimaginable power. Inside: lost civilizations, time-traveling warriors, suspicious parents, barbarous hordes, and one unforgettable ride.

Doug Glener did play far too many hours of Dungeons & Dragons while attending Paramus High School, but he did not step through a portal or meet Tesshu.

After completing high school, Doug went to Vassar College, where he had the privilege of taking classes with professor of English, Dean Mace, who was his writing mentor for manyyears. Then came a stint as a professional musician (Doug’s band appeared on Star Search). Once that had run its course, he picked up the pen and became a writer. He also picked upthe sword and earned a black belt in aikido.

Doug is the co-author of Wisdom’s Blossoms: Tales of the Saints of India (Shambhala, November 2002). He lives in Encinitas, California, and enjoys spending time with his family, biking, and meditating.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

I'm the language police and you're under arrest!

Back in 2007 when I was still new to blogging I was unceremoniously pulled over by a helmeted laptop cop, a regular visitor to my blog, who cited me for misspelling ad nauseam. I Googled the expression and discovered that my version, ad nauseum, did not exist. Duh, I told myself. The expression is derived from nausea, so where on earth did I get that second u? I did a quick search of the blog and found I had misspelled the word not just in the current article, but in another I had posted a few months earlier.

My gratitude for that citation was profound. I had always been a little--okay, a lot--impatient with writers who inadvertently break the rules of the language in their Internet scribblings (and, needless to say, in their books). Yet I had made this egregious spelling error on my own blog, not once, but twice. I was mortified, but thankful for the directness of the language cop. I admired her seeming inability to shrink from what some might consider a sensitive issue. I imagine that all writers are sensitive about errors in their work; I know I am, which is why, unlike my blog friend, I rarely point out glaring errors in the writing of authors I know--the exception being friends who ask me to edit their work and clients who pay me to do so.

Correcting minor errors in articles submitted by guests of Novel Spaces is something I do routinely. As a blog administrator, I also correct typos, incorrect formatting, and sometimes language errors in members' posts, not routinely, but now and then when I stumble across them. What I never do is send an e-mail to the author citing him or her for the mistakes.

I know, I know. I'm a craven coward who dreads causing offense or embarrassment. I've seen the reactions of writers across the web to having their errors pointed out, heard the screams of "Spelling police!" and "Grammar Nazi". I also have time constraints like everyone else; it's more efficient all around to just make a quick edit and move on. But I never do this without a little pang of remorse. The spelling-cop (who became a good friend) ensured that I'd never again embarrass myself on the world wide web or anywhere else by writing ad nauseum instead of ad nauseam.

What do you do? Do you point out language errors to writers as you find them in the knowledge that every word we write, even informally on the Internet, reflects on us professionally? Or do you just you move along knowing that we all err at times?

Saturday, June 15, 2013

I’m In Line With the Outline

Ah, the bane of every writer’s existence, you.

Okay, maybe it’s not that bad, but I’m willing to bet there are at least a few of you reading this right now who loathe the very idea of writing a story outline. Show of hands: are you the deliberate, methodical sort who prefers to draft an outline, synopsis, or at least a scribbled list of bullet points before they set out to write a new story? Do you consider yourself more of a free spirit when it comes to your writing, daring to throw caution to the winds by slinging words and seeing what happens? There is no “right” or “wrong” approach, of course; just what’s “right” for the individual writer, and a lot of us even jump back and forth, depending on the situation.

Based on years of talking to new writers at conventions and book signings, the word “outline” apparently carries with it all sorts of soul-eating nightmares. I can certainly understand that to a point. The term conjures visions of Roman numerals and headings and indenting and upper-case letters and more headings and more indents....MOMMY! MAKE IT STOP!

:: Ahem. ::

As a writer of fiction for licensed properties, providing my editor and the licensor an outline for my proposed story is a necessary aspect of the job. Most work-for-hire projects of this sort begin life with an outline or, in this case, a synopsis laying out the plot’s broad strokes. My outlines/proposals for these types of projects usually run ten to fifteen pages, as that’s the maximum the licensor normally wants to see. The version I keep for myself often runs longer, and I insert bits of detail here and there for my own use. Then I augment that with a collage of Post-It notes, cocktail napkins and other scraps of paper along with texts and eMails I send myself as I begin working to transform my proposal into a full-blown story.

And not a Roman numeral in sight. Hey, it works for me.

Over the years, I’ve become so accustomed to writing a synopsis before starting a new story that it’s now an ingrained habit. While I’ve written my share of stories where I just start typing and let things work themselves out as I go, more often than not I at least jot down some high level plot points and maybe a twist or two, which serve as a rough roadmap for the tale I’m trying to tell.

Some people might think that having any sort of outline hampers their creativity or somehow locks them in to a particular story path, but the key at this stage of story development—for me, at least—is to keep things loose in the beginning. I tend not to dwell on too many details early on, preferring instead to let those things grow and evolve as I write, and if things change along the way, then so be it. Even when I have a vague notion of how a story will progress, I still love that kick I get when the characters and plot take off on their own and I’m just pounding keys as fast as my fingers will fly while trying to keep up. As Jack Sparrow might say, I treat my outlines as a guideline, rather than an actual rule.

All right, then, you who’ve been reading this: What are your thoughts on outlines? Love ‘em? Hate ‘em? Necessary evil, nuisance, or life saver?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Is That a Cowlick In Your Bangs Or Are You Just Happy To See Me?

When I was a kid, my hair drove my mother crazy. My red-headed sister had masses of curls; my baby sister had ringlets. Me, I had thick, wavy, unmanageable hair only controlled by braids. On the right side of my hairline I have a cowlick. As a result, I have always worn bangs to hide it. Back in the '50's they were the Mamie Eisenhower version (look it up on Wikipedia). Hideous.

I've grown into my cowlick. I don't like the term (couldn't it be a pony lick?) but I do relish knowing that one part of me refuses to be tamed. Forget trendy hairstyles, the cowlick dictates how my hair is worn.

Over the years, I've learned to embrace my imperfections. What others see as flaws, I view as my own uniqueness. Yes, I'm blind as a bat, but when Gloria Steinem rocked aviators, glasses became “cool.” Eyewear was suddenly a feminist statement.

I've never been in style. I was the girl who read Tolstoy in studyhall FOR FUN. I suppose I was a nerd. Never went to the prom but was the editor of the school paper. When I was 30 and working at the sheriff's department, a young man of 18 told me I was the coolest girl he'd ever met. I married him.

Now, turning 62 on June 14th, I love my quirks. I have fewer filters when I talk, I don't worry about how I'm perceived. I bite my nails like I did when I was five, but I save a lot of money on manicures. I wear what's fun, even if it isn't comfortable. I like bright coral lipstick and glittery purple eyeshadow. To me, they go well together. Nobody dares to scold a senior citizen.

I'm also able to be more honest in my writing. When authors say we cut a vein and bleed all over the page, we're are talking about unveiling the parts of ourselves that are difficult to face. I'm not talking about tossing all the angst on the computer screen—save that for your journal. I don't like it when a novel becomes a soapbox or a way to address the wrongs done to you in life. Get over it. Self-indulgence only entertains one person, and that would be you.

Readers can feel the ring of truth. It resonates in them, makes them feel intimate with the author. They can also tell if their emotions are being manipulated. When what I'm writing makes me uncomfortable, I know I'm on the right track. Although I might want to turn away from the train of thought, that's all the more reason to plow ahead. I may not like exposing myself to the world, but I'll take responsibility for it.

In my first book, “Fools Rush In,” I wanted readers to know that drug dealers have their justifications for their criminal activities. I knew this from working with an undercover narcotics team and actually having to deal with a part of society most people would avoid. I didn't need the reader to like the bad guys, but I forced them to see their side of things. In the sequel, “Where Angels Fear,” I stood by my belief that adults are free to choose their sexual activities, whether I approve or not. As an added bonus, the socialist in me reared its head when I realized I don't really like rich people. I make them suffer.

In my third book, “A Snitch In Time,” I'm facing the fact that I don't make a very good friend. I have terrific, supportive friends surrounding me. Do I reciprocate? Not nearly enough. So, I'm punishing my protagonist Christy by confronting her on this score. She takes too much for granted until it's gone. Oh yeah, and there are several murders along the way. And astrology.

Like my books, I'm a work in progress. I don't have all the answers, but I find the questions intriguing. I'm secure enough to come clean and trust readers to understand. Maybe even relate. Because, you see, I have this cowlick that just won't behave. I kind of like it that way.    

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


I was planning to write my post on a totally different (and of course fascinating) topic, but as I scrolled through the last few posts a sad truth occurred to me. NovelSpacecs features a wide breadth of genres and books written by clearly talented writers, but I have only read the books of a few of my fellow novelnauts.

If I'm the only one in this pickle, I'm going to be really embarrassed. I have a good reason for this, at least it sounds like a good excuse to me. I have not been reading very widely for a long time, as I am usually reading for research and this restricts me to a particular genre. Reading is always fun, but recently I always have a double agenda.

Charity begins at home, so I'm going to make a pledge to read at least one book by each of our bloggers let's say by the end of the year. I hope that those of you, bloggers and followers, who are in the same position as I am consider joining in this pledge.

Sign here .....

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Promotions, Promotions, Promotions

Lately, I’ve been reading and writing a lot about book promotions.  Most lines of evidence lead me to two conclusions: more books = more exposure; and free promotions = more exposure.

Several weeks ago I did a particularly disastrous promotion for my new eBook, The Mummies of Blogspace9.  I could barely give away a few hundred copies, and I wasn’t sure why.  Now I think I know why.

There appears to be a giant correlation between the number of good reviews and the number of people who will read your book.  And it makes sense when you think about it.  There have never been more books out there, and there have never been more free books out there.  

I download free books regularly, as well as books I buy.  But like most people, I have no interest in cluttering up my life or Kindle with titles I don’t intend to read.  So I'm choosy.  I don’t care whether I’m paying for the books or not - I have a limited amount of time to read, so I’m going to be looking for a great cover, a great blurb, and some great reviews.

And perhaps because of the relationship between reviews and readers, most of the free book sites won’t even touch your listing unless you have 18-20 great reviews.  And I didn’t yet have that for The Mummies of Blogspace9 (which in fact, you can help remedy by reading and reviewing this fine tome).

But I did have 18 great reviews for my first novel - Grave Passage.

Grave Passage explores crime on the high seas, and introduces a valiant and original protagonist. Henry Grave is an investigator for the Association of Cruising Vessel Operators. A former P.O.W., Henry is as cunning as he is charming, and at 84 years of age, he fits right in with his fellow passengers.

When retired FBI profiler Robert Samson is murdered onboard the cruise liner Contessa Voyager, Henry Grave is sent to investigate. Samson was giving a series of lectures on cold case crimes he felt he could crack. But he got cracked first. Henry has just five days before Voyager reaches Miami. There, the FBI will question the passengers, but the case will have grown cold and the killer will walk free unless Henry can find him first. With the help of a television actress, a cosmonaut, and a Venezuelan general fighting extradition, Henry draws on skills honed in a Nazi prison camp to track down a couple of passengers who might have their own reasons for taking this particular cruise, reasons unrelated to the sumptuous meals, delightful shipboard activities, and exciting ports of call.

12 million people take a cruise each year.
Most have fun.
Some die.
Henry Grave investigates.

So I decided to try another giveaway.  I started planning two weeks in advance, and I planted listings on twenty-six free book sites and five Facebook sites.  I didn’t pay a dime.  My promo would run from June 7-9, offering a free download.

And I know what you’re thinking - it’s hard to make money when you’ve giving something away for free.  Initially I hoped I would make up for that in volume, but I can see now that this was just folly.  On the other hand, I have six titles on Kindle, eleven total on Amazon, and I have sold more copies for actual money in the last two days than I have in the last month.

I’m writing this on the morning of June 8, nearly a day and a half into my promo, and so far, I’ve given away over 9,000 copies of Grave Passage.

If even some of those lucky readers leave a review, and maybe pick up one of my other titles, I’ll figure this has been a great success.  And even if they don’t, it has nonetheless been an interesting learning experience.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Email: the backup plan

As I sat by the computer thinking that my blog post should be the 9th, it occurred to me that the schedule had changed.  So I checked the email sent by Liane a few months ago, and alas, my blog date is the 7th.  I could not think of anything to blog about even as I marveled at how information stored via email could be accessed from anywhere there is an internet connection.  And then it struck me, that “AHA” moment, why don’t I blog about email as the backup plan?

Several years ago my husband in his enthusiasm to see West Indies cricket team play (and ultimately lose) went to a web site that contained a virus and crashed my computer.  At that time, I didn’t have any backup system.  Fortunately I had email.  I often worked on my laptop, my work computer and my home computer and constantly emailed myself my files, especially my word documents.  When the computer crashed, I was in the middle of a manuscript with a deadline and I was frantic.  Then I remembered I had emailed an earlier version to myself.  I had my backup—my email.

Of course I lost other files in the process and by the time my hard drive was restored the computer ran slowly as if it was bogged down by the after effects of the virus.  It reminded me of a person who suffered a stroke:  even when they recovered, the after effects lingered.  So eventually I got a new laptop: a convertible tablet/laptop.  And since I wasn’t going to trust my important files to chance, I had a backup in the clouds.  Which was a good thing, because my husband again in his quest to see West Indies play (and again lose) went to another live streaming cricket website and once more crashed my computer.

I had my files saved in the clouds, but only up to 2 Gb.   The problem:  I exceeded the 2 Gb.  Again I was frantic.  But, I had email.  I still email my manuscripts and other files that I’m working with to myself on a regular basis.  This allows me to pull them up on my smart phone and read or edit while I’m away from home.  I searched my email, and there were my latest manuscripts.  Once again I was saved by email.

So while there are many backup plans: flash drives, external hard drives, the clouds, you name it, simply emailing yourself your files (that is those small enough to be emailed) can save you a lot of trouble in the long run.  So whether or not I have an automatic backup system I will continue to use email as quasi backup system.
What about you, do you ever use email as a way of backing up your files?

Monday, June 3, 2013

Erotica and Audio Books

Some of you know and some don't, but I write erotica under the pen name, PYNK, and myself and bestselling author Carol Taylor, of Brown Sugar fame, have just released an anthology of two novellas called INSIGNIFICANT OTHERS. The two stories, Erotic City: Miami, and The Ex Chronicles: Plan B, also sold separately, are sequels to our previous titles, Erotic City and The Ex Chronicles.

Our publisher, Insatiable Press, is an newly formed imprint of AudioGO. Publishers are convinced that erotica sells better in electronic format, and especially in audio format, due to readers preferring to read the title on a device or listen to a narrator in private, as opposed to holding a printed book, especially if the sexy cover or title means those around them will know what they're reading - some see that as a violation of privacy.

I think as far as audio goes, to have a narrator with a sexy and natural voice read a story to you so you can relax and take it in, vs. turning the pages or scrolling through, makes for a much more enjoyable experience, though as a result of a very unofficial poll on my Facebook page, it seems there are still a great number of readers who prefer the printed book, no matter the genre.

So this is a good and exciting time for erotica authors, based on new technologies, and the popularity of, yes, Fifty Shades of Gray, but all in all, readers are looking for good stories, and erotica that isn't just about sex, but that is a page-turner with a plot and memorable characters. Excuse me if I do say so myself, but INSIGNIFICANT OTHERS is just that. (Shameless plug, sorry!) Carol Taylor and I agreed to focus on the theme of infidelity, which makes for great discussion. Erotic City: Miami surrounds the lives of a newly married couple who own a swingers club in Atlanta, and the drama that ensues in their newest location in Miami, and The Ex Chronicles: Plan B explores the erotic relationships of four best friends in New York, London and Amsterdam, and how they maneuver their careers, and love lives.

Our talented editor, Robert Podrasky says, "Carol and Pynk share an edgy, sexy sensibility in their books that readers love, and we are very excited to partner with them on this special project, which brings their complementary styles and enormous talent together for the first time.”

Needless to say, we're thrilled about this release, which is the first in a 4-part novella series. Parts 2 - 4 debut every six months, in November 2013, May 2014 and November 2014.
This post is about the recent preference for erotic books in audio format, but I admit, it's also a way to hopefully help spread the word about our newest title, both among our fellow authors, and readers.
Thanks for the opportunity. Feel free to share your opinions about whether or not you think readers prefer certain genres in certain formats. Our blog page is You can also find us on Facebook at

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Writing advice from the greats: Henry Miller

In my last two posts on writing advice from the greats, we looked at Kurt Vonnegut's 8 tips for writing great stories and 6 writing tips from John Steinbeck. These guidelines worked for Vonnegut and Steinbeck, and they'll work for you. I've been guilty of doing the opposite of what successful career writers do: I've worked on too many things simultaneously so I began to feel overwhelmed and could not focus on any; I've wasted time waiting for inspiration or the right 'mood' to get down to work; I've edited to death instead of finishing and starting a new book... My transgressions run the gamut, and some are an ongoing challenge, but re-reading proven advice from the masters always gets me back on the rails.

We'll wind up the series with some advice from Henry Miller. Enjoy!

Henry Miller's 11 Commandments

  1. Work on one thing at a time until finished.
  2. Start no more new books, add no more new material to ‘Black Spring.’ [Or, finish your WIP!]
  3. Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.
  4. Work according to Program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time!
  5. When you can’t create you can work.
  6. Cement a little every day, rather than add new fertilizers.
  7. Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.
  8. Don’t be a draught-horse! Work with pleasure only.
  9. Discard the Program when you feel like it—but go back to it next day. Concentrate. Narrow down. Exclude.
  10. Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing.
  11. Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.
There it is - the best writing advice I've found. You'll find many other authors repeating the tips in these three articles. My own advice is to take what works for you and dump the rest. Take Miller's #11, for example. You can't always write first; children, day jobs, illness, general vicissitudes of life can get in the way. But if we make our writing a priority and follow much of the advice at least some of the time, we'll stand a better chance of completing the stories we want to write.

Happy writing!

Liane Spicer