Monday, April 29, 2013

Critical Thinking

Today I took part in a critiquing workshop for writers of children's books. It was the first time that I had participated in any sort of group critique. I had no idea what to expect and I found it quite fascinating.

I'm sure that there are many different approaches to critique groups, and you may have had your own experiences. In this one, we allotted an equal amount of time to discussing each author's work. We spent a little less than one half of this time discussing things that we liked about the piece. Some of the second half was spent on things we thought needed improvement. The author was not expected to participate during these sessions. She (only women were present) then given the remaining time to address issues that had been raised and to ask questions.

I submitted the first few chapters of Book 4 of the Caribbean Adventure Series, Fury on Soufriere Hills. I was particularly interested in seeing how an American audience would perceive and understand the book, so firmly set in the Caribbean. I received a very positive response from the group. Interestingly enough, those positive comments will help me to strengthen the book just as much as the negative comments. For example, one reader said that she looked forward to reading more about Chee Chee's antics, the mischievous monkey at the center of the story. This made me realise that I needed to further reinforce his role in the story.

I found it very difficult to keep quiet as the readers discussed a particular area of the story that one lady did not follow. It was a section that I had wrestled with quite a bit and the discussion made me realise that I had not yet conquered that beast. Another lady had difficulty believing a bit of the action and I was very happy that I did not interject as another participant used her experiences climbing the Peruvian mountain, Machu Picchu to explain why the scene might seem confusing. Both ladies gave invaluable insight into how the scene could be perceived negatively and how I could solve the issue.

All in all it was a very civilised and extremely helpful afternoon. I hope that I made helpful contributions to the other authors. Perhaps I was fortunate in being thrown into a group that worked well, at least on this occasion, but it is something I would definitely try again and recommend to others who have not tried it.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

E-Book Experiment: Preliminary Conclusions

Like many writers, I’ve experienced my share of frustrations.  For me, the biggest of those frustrations is the difficulty of finding readers.  Like many writers, I’d be happy to become famous and/or rich as a result of my work, and like most writers, I probably won’t.

If you’ve been paying attention to the publishing industry over the last few years, you’re aware that it is in such a massive state of flux that even insiders don’t know what’s going on.  E-publishing, self-publishing, and an independent publishing renaissance have all been game changers.

It may never have been easier to publish a quality book.  But it has definitely never been harder to attract readers.  Two years ago, I did a promotion on, where I offered a Kindle version of my mystery novel Mediterranean Grave for free for three days.  I publicized this on Twitter, my blog, and on Facebook, and I gave away nearly 2,100 copies.

Last week, as part of my E-Book experiment, I offered my new e-book The Mummies of Blogspace9 free on for five days.  I promoted it on all my networks, blogged about it, Twitted about it, wrote several posts on Novel Spaces, featured it on all my networks, and spent $130 for promotion.  I even made an animated book trailer!  Ultimately, I gave away 304 copies.

I had my best day on Friday, April 19, when the book jumped to Amazon rank 2,640 for free books.  That means that on my best day, there were still 2,639 books being given away in greater quantities than mine.

This is saddening.

I found myself thinking of our recent California housing crash, when so many houses came onto the market that even beautiful luxury homes could he had for a fraction of what it cost to build them.  I think that’s where the publishing industry is right now.

Supply is rapidly and radically outpacing demand.  That being said, I’m not going to give up writing, and I don’t know anybody who is. 

I have been blogging, posting, Tweeting, and Facebooking regularly for a long time.  And many of my fellow writers out there are doing this as well, developing and maintaining a platform.  If anyone out there is finding that this has worked for them, and that they are satisfied with their sales, I would like to hear from them.

I’m not suggesting that a platform is a waste of time, or that it’s not worth doing.  It remains an essential part of our toolkit.  I’m not going to stop.  But as a strategy, it’s incomplete.

If the editors, agents, and other gatekeepers of old are gone, as they seem to be, then the new gatekeepers are us.  We are readers before writers, and we are reviewers.  I review books regularly and religiously, and I look at reviews before I pick a book.  I might not read all the reviews, but if a book has 200 good ones, and I was interested anyway, I’ll probably pick it up.

What I won’t do is stock up on low-priced or free e-books just because I think I’m getting a bargain.  I’ve never downloaded a book that I don’t plan to read, and I don’t know anyone who has.  I just don’t want to read something if I think I’m going to waste my time.  So without question, I’ll pick a free book with fifty five-star reviews over a more expensive one with fewer stars.

So what does this mean for us writers?  I think it means that in order for our work to get noticed, we need readers and we need reviewers.  And we’re not going to get readers without reviewers.  Maybe the most effective thing any writing community can do for its members is to regularly and honestly read and review the work produced by those members.

Because once you have fifty reviews for your book, you start to get noticed.  And once you start getting noticed, readers read.

It should go without saying that a poorly-written book is not going to sell, nor should it.  And a dishonest review is going to get you nowhere in the end.  But until we can work together as an effective guild of artists, we're just disparate groups of writers hoping to make it into the big leagues.

If that sounded like a request for reviews, it is.  Read my book.  I’ll read yours.  If you don’t like it, you can tell me.  I’m already old and cranky.  But if you do like it, hey, do me a favor and let everybody know.

My e-book experiment isn’t over.  I’m going to wait until I get twenty-five good reviews, and then I’m going to submit it to Book Bub, in hopes that they can blast it all over creation to attract more readers.   One positive note - I had hoped that this experiment would draw attention to my other books.  And it did - I sold twenty-four more copies of my other novels than I had the week before.  Not a lot, but it's not nothing. 


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Sensory writing

I recently saw an episode of the List, an entertainment television program, where they were discussing how aroma influences behavior.  The example that stood out most in my mind was the effect of smell on a person’s choice when buying shoes. In the experiments they took identical shoes and placed them in identical showrooms.  In one they sprayed a specific (don’t remember what it was) scent and the other they did not.  People were willing to pay up to $10 more for the pair of shoes in the showroom with the pleasant aroma.  This kind of aroma therapy has been capitalized on in the work place where in some Chinese factories they spray the scent of lavender blossoms during breaks, because they found workers were more productive after the break when they smelled lavender.  A few other examples included the scent of strawberries made people perform better on tests, and smelling peppermint increased track athlete’s performance in competition.

This episode of the List came on the heels of a “Pretty Little Liars” by Sara Shepard reading marathon.  One of the things that struck me about Sara Shepard’s writing is that she is a very sensory writer with the sense of smell being dominant.  In her books characters seem to make associations based on smell.  When they have a memory, the distinctly remember the scent.  Every place that is described seems to have an associated or a characteristic smell.  And that is pretty powerful.

Sensory writing appeals to the senses, not just the obvious ones like sight and sound.  The readers not only get an idea of how the settings or characters look physically, they get the texture, and they get smells that they themselves associate with things and experiences.  Sensory writing transforms you to the place and you could smell the honeysuckle, you could hear the faint voices in the background as well as the birds chirping loudly, the rhythmic thumping of the shovel, you could feel the goose bumps on the character’s arms and the rough jeans chafing their skin; you could smell the character’s fear, feel the character’s love or anger or anxiety without the author being overly descriptive.

Liane’s last post Local Color deals with capturing the atmosphere of a setting; the unique color of a place.  This is how it is accomplished, through sensory writing.  We incorporate things from the outside world through our senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, touch.  Therefore the best way to capture the essence of a setting is to appeal to all of those senses.  And just like the aromatherapy that was addressed on the episode of The List that I saw, smell can be a very powerful sense to appeal to. One of the reasons is that people make emotional associations with aroma, even if the aroma is unpleasant.

In my home country of St. Kitts, there is a lovely fortress set on a hill called Brimstone Hill that sticks out from the central mountain range.  I had a lot of great memories picnicking there, exploring the fortress with its intricate engineering and being transported back to a time in history; seeing the lovely Caribbean Sea in the distance like a diadem sparking in the sunlight and looking at the lush green vegetation of Mt. Liamuiga.  But to get to the hill, you have to pass through an area infused with the noxious sulfurous scent of Brimstone; you know, that rotten egg smell as if someone just farted.  As unpleasant as the smell is, every time I get a whiff of it, I am reminded of all the pleasant experience I had at Brimstone Hill.

Sensory writing is powerful writing.  Are you a sensory writer? 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Local Color

Writing coaches recommend that writers use local color in their stories to make them come alive. Every location, real or fictional, has unique sounds, sights and flavors. The characters in a story don't live in a generic town; they live in a town in a particular place where the stench of the swamp permeates when the wind blows south,
where little blue buses called "Conchita" bustle along the main street, where a paraplegic veteran sits in a cart in front the courthouse and curses the gov'mint every Saturday morning.

I'm from the Caribbean so a reader might expect to find a certain island flavor in my storiesinfusions of hot sunshine, white beaches, clear turquoise waters, lush vegetation, and market stalls heaped with mangoes and pineapples forming the perfect pictorial background to my scenes. They might expect colorful characters from the postcolonial melange of cultures, the syncopation of soca, calypso and reggaeand they would very likely find these. But local color extends far past the touristic image of a tropical paradise. Those elements are not the whole picture.

Particularly exciting to me are the languages, myths and legends of the region. There are many versions of English, English Creole and French Creole spoken in the Anglophone Caribbean, varying from island to island and even within territories.  Then there are the mythsthe tales of jumbies in Trinidad (duppies in Jamaica, ghosts elsewhere), the lagahoo (loup-garou or werewolf elsewhere), douens and La Diablesse... Penetrate deeper and a kaleidoscope of fantastical human, animal and supernatural characters emerge.

Some myths blur the lines between reality and fiction. When I was a child one of the tales with which my father held us in thrall was the story of the giant snake. It lived in forest pools, he said, and every so often it would come out and raid nearby villages, swallowing livestock and children whole. This horrifying creature was called a wheel, and years later, whenever I swam in deep forest pools after a long hike, the image of the wheel lurking below never failed to send shivers down my spine even as I laughed and splashed with my fellow adventurers. Suppose the thing was real? Why was it called a wheel anyway? Did it put its tail in its mouth and roll through the forest like a hoop? Suppose one lived down there? Would it emerge from the green, shadowy depths and pull me under where it would proceed to swallow me whole as I thrashed in vain, while my companions ran (or swam) for cover?

I subsequently discovered that the snake is not a wheel but a huile, French lexicon creole for oil, and the name is derived from its fluid movements in the water. The huile is also known locally as macajuel, a Spanish creole form, I think. It is a type of boa constrictor and is related to that famous South American giant... the anaconda. My father did not invent the huile; the darned monster is real.

The more I write, the more I feel the urgency to capture the colors of this place. The old spaces are being razed; the old words are dying out, replaced with the Americanisms of cable television. I remember standing in front of a literature class a few years agowe were reading a novel by local novelist Michael Anthonyand not one of those teenage suburbanites knew what laglee was. (It's the sticky white sap of the chataigne or breadfruit tree that's spread on twigs to trap birds.) When I was a child no boy worthy of the name would be ignorant of the existence and applications of laglee. The colors are fading fast, including those of the old characters, the lagahous, douens and that man-eating she-devil, La Diablesse, who are retreating further and further into what's left of the tropical forests.

There's only one way to keep them alive: on the pages of our books. Keeping them alive has become an important part of my mission. Do you feel a compulsion to conserve the colors of your patch of earth?

Liane Spicer

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The World Is My Office

I started thinking about this topic after reading Jewel's post about coping with one's writing environment. There was a time when I believed that writing could only take place within a designated “writing space.” If not a dedicated office with a door to separate me from the distractions of the world—or my household, at least—then at least a corner of one room where I could establish my work area, with “strict” instructions to the other denizens of my abode that “This is where I write. No trespassing, yo.”

When my day job called for me to commute to a corporate workspace, my home office was my primary writing realm. I had it set up just so, with oft-used references close at hand, a television and requisite DVDs and such situated nearby (one of the “hazards” of writing media tie-in fiction is the need to refer to relevant television episodes or films), and a fully-functional arcade game in one corner.

That’s for reference, too. Honest. I use it to…uh…choreograph space battles. Yeah, that’s it.

Then, my day job converted all of us cubicle dwellers into full-time telecommuters, and now I work at home. So, what used to be my retreat after a long day at the office was converted into my primary office for that work. I had to reconfigure a few things to allow for a second computer and its peripherals, shelf space was given over to work-related reference manuals and other assorted bits and items, and so on. Instead of being here a few hours a night and on weekends, now I’m here. All. Day. Every. Day.

By the time the schedule calls for me to sit down and write in the evening? I’m sick of this place. When the weekend rolls around, I want to run screaming into the woods behind my house.

Then, what had been obvious to everyone know, ever...finally dawned on me: I could probably write almost anywhere, if I tried hard enough.

This was not an easy sell for me, you understand. I used to make jokes about all the so-called “writers” who seemed to always be taking up space in the coffee shops and bookstore cafes around town, hunched over their laptops and trying to look accomplished and/or erudite while they checked e-Mail or updated their LiveJournal or played Solitaire or Tetris. Now, I aspired to be one of these people, if only for a few precious hours. I also hoped to be more productive.

I started with baby steps, with trips to the library one or two evenings a week and the odd Saturday morning. Of the various things I’ve tried, this one still seems to work the best. But, I like a little background buzz while I work, so I soon began experimenting with other locales. I used to go to the coffee bar at a local Borders book store, but soon after I started that, Borders imploded. I’ve avoided Barnes & Noble for that reason. Alternatively, I’ve made use of table space at a favorite restaurant, while being sure to order generously from their menu, of course. And hey! The game’s on! Fancy that.

At first, I was worried about the distractions which might come from such environments, but I long ago figured out that I’m able to tune out the worst of the chatter and other noises, even if I don’t have my mp3 player with me. After a few tentative fits and starts, I figured out how to write pretty much anywhere with little or no trouble. Airplanes, on a patio or in a waiting room, sitting on the bleachers while my kids take their Taekwondo lessons, and so on. Sometimes I even eschew my laptop and kick it old-school, pen and paper style. While I’m driving, I talk into a recorder and then transcribe my rough descriptions and dialogue into something more coherent.

Another option I’m considering is a “cowork” space, a few of which are starting to pop up here in the Kansas City area. One particular location that’s caught my attention seems geared to teleworkers and freelancers who are just looking for a change of venue as a means of boosting productivity. You can rent a desk and have access to printers, scanners, and copy machines, conference and presentation space, a business address for mail and packages and even a break room with complimentary coffee and tea. They offer pricing plans from half days to full months, with a sliding scale of amenities based on your plan of choice. Such a location provides a relaxed yet professional atmosphere that’s a step up from the library or coffee shop, and seems to present a nice change of pace from my home office. Plus, you never know; I might meet a potential client or two.

How about you? Are you adamant about your dedicated writing space, or can you wing it just about anywhere?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Guest author Janis F. Kearney: On Seeing a Real Writer in the Mirror

Janis F. Kearney
Author & Book Publisher
I’ve been a published writer for ten years now. Still, I find that I want to pinch myself when I hear others describe me as an author and writer. After a lifetime of writing, and a decade of publishing books, it is still not an easy thing to take for granted…that title of published author; a real writer.

Why?  I often think back to my childhood in the Arkansas Delta.  I knew nothing of writers who looked like me. And, because of that, I decided early on that I must be different, or just plain strange to dream of becoming something that no one like me had ever been…or, at least that is what I, in my narrow experience, believed. Yet, dreaming was synonymous to breathing for me. I dreamed of becoming a writer or a missionary - two divergent dreams that filled my nights and days.  Albert Schweitzer was someone I sought as I read about his devout goodness, and his obvious courage, as he traveled the continent of Africa. Even as a child I hoped that a life of doing good wouldn’t have to be the same as a life of drudgery.  If not a missionary, I found myself praying; then a writer, an author, like the women and men who spent their lives creating worlds that girls like me could travel without ever leaving my small world of cotton fields, and graveled roads.

So, these days, when I find myself speaking to youth about overcoming the handicap of growing up wanting to be something that no one believes you can be; their responses are more often than not, disbelieving smirks. The beauty and tragedy of youth is the belief that the world begins and ends the moment they arrive within its orbit. To say that anything was ever better or worse…or, different before they arrived, is almost always met with cynicism…or, at the least, fodder for close investigation. `Were there really no black writers in existence during your childhood?’ They ask.  The answer, of course, is… no.  But, for a little black girl growing up during the pre-civil rights era in the Deep South, no black writers existed, just as there were no black engineers or doctors, or firefighters or policemen.

Real writers of my childhood were people like Betty Smith, author of my favorite childhood novel,  A Tree Grows in Brooklyn; or Kate Douglas Wiggins, who wrote the American classic Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm; or, a bit later…the iconic Ernest Hemingway, author of  For Whom the Bell Tolls.  Great writers all…but, there was no Go Tell it on the Mountain, by James Baldwin; or The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, or Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison, in either my parents’ threadbare bookcases or the bookcases at Fields Elementary School.

Yet, miracles do happen. I left southeast Arkansas at 17, and learned that real writers come in all colors, cultures and hues. I also realized that I could one day become a real writer if I worked hard enough for it. I had no desire to become a real seamstress, cook or homemaker…but, writing; that was something that gave me reason to dream. A real writer whose name aligned the spines of books, and whose face smiled out at each reader.  A real writer who was once that little black girl from Arkansas’ cotton fields and gravel roads, who believed her dream of writing made her both different and strange.

Janis F. Kearney, publisher, author and presidential diarist, grew up in the Deep South; the daughter of Arkansas sharecroppers and the twelfth of 19 children.  In her first memoir, Cotton Field of Dreams, the author wrote with unvarnished truth of her early years of poverty and struggle, and the invaluable lessons learned from two amazing parents.  In her second memoir, Something to Write Home About: Memories from a Presidential Diarist, Kearney relives a most unlikely chapter in her life – her days as President William Jefferson Clinton’s Personal Diarist.  In her most recent book, Daisy: Between a Rock and a Hard Place, Kearney chronicles the amazing journey of one of America’s most unforgettable Civil Rights heroines – Daisy Lee Gatson Bates, the face and voice behind the 1957 Central High Integration Crisis.  For more information about the author or her books, you may go to, or visit her Facebook Page, 

Sunday, April 14, 2013


by Sunny Frazier

Yesterday, I went to a sci-fi gathering at an eclectic bookstore in Clovis, California. Normally, I avoid this genre because I've never read sci-fi or fantasy. However, I've dragged my friend Che to a number of bookish events she was reluctant to attend, so I owed her.

I don't know who Dr. Who is, but apparently the kid in the suit and bow tie was representing. I felt awkward sitting next to the barefoot woman with the gypsy scarf and leg bracelet, despite the fact that I do astrology (I'd thoughtfully left my crystal ball at home). I still don't know where a mandolin fit into the picture—did I miss something?

There were interesting readings: penguin armies on the rampage, vampire bartenders, severed hand in a Humvee, proof of ancient aliens. These subjects never come up at the mystery events I attend. No, my friends and I are more concerned with the best way to kill people and where to hide a body. Information you can really use.

The trivia contest for free books involved knowing novels like Dune and Lord of the Rings cover to cover. Answers were contested and people googled on their phones to double-check. It all sounded like gibberish to me. The fact that people actually knew the answers set the nerd bar very high.

But, you know, I found much of the same energy and camaraderie among these fantasy aficionados as I see with my murder-loving friends. I could even feel myself being pulled into their strange world of stranger worlds. Maybe I've been too genre-phobic all these years. The level of imagination coming from this group stunned me. Mystery writing requires a certain amount of control and at least one foot in reality. None of that seemed to apply with these authors.

As an acquisitions editor, I've had to open my mind to a wide range of reading material. I introduced a Western line even though Lonesome Dove was the only real Western I'd ever read. I was able to stretch a bit on paranormal plots but drew the line at the werewolf/vampire/zombie trend. However, Oak Tree Press is trying a contest this year for our Mystic Oaks line so yes, bring on all of the above. I can handle it.

Bottom line: maybe I'm ready to explore genres outside my comfort zone. But, I think I have to draw the line at romance writing events. I hear those authors are STRANGE!            

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Unintended Consequences

I recently let go of a story that I had been holding back for over a year. It was edited by Liane and I think that was late in 2011. I submitted 'The Soup' to the St. Somewhere Journal and it was published in their April 2013 issue.

(Note, this is NOT a children's story.)

I don't recall what prompted me to write on this particular topic. This is unusual for me because I usually recall the passing word or image that planted the first seed of a story in my mind. I do know that the ending was never in doubt; it was the natural culmination of the chain of events and so it was a genuine surprise that so many readers have seen the ending as a "twist". Was this a failing on my part to use foreshadowing to prepare my readers?

Another response that has surprised me is from two readers who have connected personally with the story and have seen it as a warning of sorts. I wish that I could honestly say that I wrote it with that in mind; that I planned that the story would have an impact on someone, even save their life. The truth is that, while I usually write my children's story with a particular theme in mind, The Soup was just a story that came to my mind and out through my pen without a motive. (Of course, I won't admit that when I eventually accept my Pulitzer Prize ;-). )

Have you written a story and then been surprised at how others have perceived it, or the things they have discovered in it, things that were so well hidden they were invisible even to you?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

E-Book Experiment - Part 2

In my last post, I outlined my plans for an ambitious e-book promotional campaign, so this week I want to talk about how it’s going and what I’ve learned.

First off – The Mummies of Blogspace9 is DONE!!!  It’s finished, edited, Kindle-ized, and published.   Here’s my marketing prose:

The Mummies of Blogspace9 is a taut, high-stakes thriller about a team of archaeologists who inadvertently dig up more than they bargained for. Demons of antiquity are not easily amused, nor are those who’ve sold their souls to protect them. The Mummies of Blogspace9 will fill your heart with terror and with glee (but not at the same time, because that would be very strange, and also pointless).
You’ll laugh out loud, cringe in fear, and shake your head with delight. Here are some plot elements you might enjoy:
1) undead mummies;

2) archaeology;

3) very attractive protagonists who you will develop crushes on;
4) carefully-chosen fonts;

5) delightful full-color, high-resolution illustrations.

Here’s a blurb from one of Leon’s posts (Leon being a protagonist)
“None of us knew what was at stake. And that’s the thing about archaeology - you never know what you’ll find when you start digging into an ancient pyramid. Maybe some burials, mummies even. But surely not a five hundred year-old secret worth killing for.
Had I known at the onset that seven weeks later most of my friends would be dead, I would have left Peru in a heartbeat. But of course I didn’t know that.
I didn’t know that a demonically-possessed Spanish Grand Inquisitor would haunt the crap out of us, or that a pair of undead conquistador knights would help us find the secret to putting down walking mummies.
And surely, I wouldn’t have just sat around had I known that something was watching from inside that pyramid, some malevolent force that could animate the dead.
But it’s all true, as you’ll come to realize.”
The Mummies of Blogspace9: Horror has a new URL
 Support the arts, why don't you!  Only 99¢, so pick up a copy today at
For the bargain price of 99¢, I’m a little surprised that anyone can resist it.  Yes resist it they apparently can.  So that’s why it’s now time to execute the rest of the plan.
A caveat – I don’t think the book is worth 99¢.  I think it’s worth a hell of a lot more than that.  I worked hard on it, and I think it’s really good.  And judging by the lack of negative reviews, I’m thinking that most people agree.  Now, the fact that there are no reviews at all might suggest that nobody has actually read it yet, but I try to look at the positive.

I think the book is worth about $99, and I think it would be a good idea if people paid $99 to download a copy.  But they’re not going to.  The world of books and e-books is changing so fast that nobody knows how much a book is worth.  So I figured I’d try something affordable in hopes of dramatic results.

I put links on all my networks: on Facebook, Twitter, webpage, blog, LinkedIn, Independent Author Network, etc.  I even produced a dynamic book trailer for YouTube, which is rapidly going viral (if 5 views can be counted as viral).  You can have a look by clicking this handy word.

So I’m going to give this a week or so to judge the efficacy of my plan.  The next step is to implement a paid promotional campaign.  I tried to pay BookBub $230 to promote a free version to their readers, but they wouldn’t let me.  Seriously.  And I’m not sure exactly why. I got a nice rejection letter and it made me feel better. 

I think partly it has to do with the fact that I was trying to promote my book as a thriller, and most thriller titles don’t include the word “mummy.”  This could be a problem for cross-genre titles, and it’s making me rethink my new line of pirate erotica novels.  Maybe PIROTICA is not the way to go.

But I was able to convince some other kind folks to take my money.  
From April 15 to April 19th, you can download a copy for free.  

Just go to the page on Amazon.  Not that there’s any reason you should wait, because it’s still only 99¢, but if you have frugal loved ones, please let them know. 

And to help get the word out, I did the following: I paid $35 to ebook boosters to blast out notices to fifty free ebook sites; $45 to whizbuzz to promote my promotion; and $50 to Books & Authors to promote my promotion to their readership.

So here’s what I will be reporting on in my next post – the results of my free promotional campaign.   That being said, I can always use help, so if any of you readers would be so kind as to share this on your websites and family newsletters, I’ll be happy to get you a free copy (between April 15 and April 19).  Any help and ideas would be most welcome.


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A writing evolution- learning to cope in your writing environment

You know those people who need background noise to concentrate?  They have to have music blasting, a television blaring; IPOD so loud that even with earphones jammed in their ears the entire room can hear the music.  Sometimes in the absence of noise they even hum to themselves.  Well I’m not one of those.  I have to have absolute silence to concentrate.  Why?  I don’t know how to filter sound.  I listen to everything: the lyrics of songs, the muted conversations in the background of the main characters on the TV.
Having absolute silence worked for me in high school though I shared a room with five garrulous siblings.  During exams I went back to the high school in the evenings and studied.  Yes other students were there and for most of them playing and socializing took precedence over studying.  But there were always empty classrooms that I could occupy to get a few hours of studying done; and then there was the University of the West Indies Extramural Center and the teachers college all within close proximity to my home. 

It worked when I was in college when I could sequester myself in a quiet room in the library and concentrate.  It even worked in graduate school when writing my dissertation. I would put my baby to bed and then work on it most of the night into the wee hours of the morning surviving on just three or four hours sleep.

Recently I found what worked in college and high school was not working for me.  Just like studying for an exam, I need total quiet when I write or prepare material for my classes.  But each time I sit down to write I hear the inevitable “Moooommmmmmmmy!” followed by bawling.   My ears perk up, my heart race and I rush to see what the problem is, fearing the worst until I hear the statement “My brother is being mean to me.”  I’m relieved that my worst fears didn’t come to fruition, but now my concentration is broken as I referee the issues between the kids.  When I finally resettle, before I can complete a paragraph, my older daughter delves into a longwinded spiel about the interactions between the kids in her class and all their dramas without an end in sight.  I would like to tune her out but I feel obligated to listen, after all, how could I foster communication without lending my ears?
I originally wrote between the kids’ bedtime and mine to circumvent the problem.  But now that my oldest is getting older, her bedtime has been edging a little closer to mine and my husband who was always an early bird, is now going to bed the same time as I do.  Plus, as I get older, I find 3 or 4 hours sleep is not enough.  I need at least six, preferably eight or else I get pounding headaches.  
So what do I do?  How do I get my writing in?  I installed a filter between my ears and my brain.  I had to.  I have learned and I am still learning (it’s a work in progress) to tune out background noises.   Right now I am writing this blog as I sit at the mall in the middle of a toddler play program with a microphone blaring out “If you’re happy and you know it,” and kids dancing and following the actions.

When I first started writing, a seasoned author gave me some very important advice, “Don’t find time to write, make time to write.”  Now I totally understand.

How has your approach to writing changed over time?

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Guest Post - Jaime L. Lincoln, freelance editor

The Simplicity of Writing

Jaime L. Lincoln
I’ve loved to read, for as long as I can remember.  My love has been encouraged by my mother, other family members and several teachers throughout the years.  I didn’t learn how to read in the traditional way.  My mother was concerned, that I was only able to make sounds of letters and not recognizing or forming complete words once I finished kindergarten.  As the concerned parent she is and always has been, she called my grandmother, who, at the time, was an elementary school teacher.  My grandmother became concerned too and, together, they devised a reading plan for me.  This reading plan was conducted long distance about thirty years ago. At the time, we lived several miles apart from each other.  Nevertheless, the plan was made and put into practise.   

After several weeks of intense flash card therapy, I began to read and have enjoyed it ever since.  I enjoy becoming a part of the story and being transported to different worlds.  It was later that I would learn more about the connection between the craft of writing and reading.

Of course, I had completed writing assignments and learned the difference between a noun and verb and had also learned the proper structure of a sentence.  I was taught the key components of writing early; from the introduction, to the plot, to the conclusion and how important character development is.  While learning all this, I didn’t completely understand the connection between writing and reading until my later school years.  It honestly never occurred to me how the stories I loved to read became those stories.   Or how the things I was learning about writing, were essentially the same things the authors had learned and used to keep me engrossed in their stories.  My understanding of the craft of writing intensified during these years.  It is a craft that can seem complete, yet its simplistic nature is often complicated.  I began to write and the more I wrote the better I became.   Surprisingly, my enjoyment of writing was more than I bargained for. 

My confidence level was high, but as my confidence grew my writing remained at the same level.  It turned out I was doing the bare minimum to get by and writing what needed to be done to obtain a passing grade on the assignments given.   If it hadn’t been for a dedicated teacher, taking the time to teach me some key elements, I believe my writing wouldn’t have improved.  She noticed my lack of taking my writing to the next level.   She taught me about a few components I still use to this very day.  The key component she taught me was to never assume the reader knows what you are conveying; it is your job as the writer to inform them of every possible aspect.   This is achieved by giving as many descriptive details as you can without revealing everything.  These principles have become a foundation and can be quite resourceful, not only when I’m writing but also when I’m working on editing projects. The key is to know the delicate balance of achieving this goal.  It takes quite a bit of practice and patience to achieve this.  

Writing can be a pleasure, instead of the overwhelming fear that has seemed to plague its reputation.  I believe once the fear has subsided and the simplicity is embraced the process can flow smoothly; especially if those key components are applied to the process.  Since my non-traditional introduction to the world of reading and writing, I’ve been in constant awe of the process.  It is because of this, I often encourage others, which include my clients about how easy the process can be and I will continue to do so.


Jaime L. Lincoln was born and raised in St. Louis, MO and currently still resides there.  She has always had a passion for reading.  The writing bug bit her later in life and she’s been able to enjoy both.  She followed her dream and launched her editing business in May 2012.  For details and contact information, please visit her blog at