Wednesday, September 17, 2014


Dear Readers...

Normally, I use my blog posts to give a little writing advice or introduce you to someone who can give you some writing advice. But today the tables are turned. I'm the one who needs a little advice and since Dear Abby doesn't field writing questions I'm relying on you, readers. Please tell me what you think.

Dear Readers,

I haven't worked on my WIP in one month and one day. It's not writer's block, exactly. In fact, I have
so many things I want to add to it but I'm not sure if I should. But let me start at the most fictional characters, mine are composites. A little bit me, a little bit of people I've met and a little bit of my imagination. Physical characteristics from one person, the speaking style of another, the quirks of another. As I mined my teenage daughter's friendships for many of the characters for this YA novel, I would tell her jokingly who was "going in my book".

Then, a month ago my daughter's best friend died. He was a young man just beginning to create his adult life when a stranger who shouldn't have been behind the wheel of an automobile took that all away from him. Many of his characteristics had found their way into one of my main characters.

I am torn. Part of me feels compelled to finish this novel, as if it will "capture" him, even if my daughter is the only one who reads this manuscript. But another part of me feels like a vulture writing a character based on him. If his family somehow recognizes him will it be painful for them? What about my daughter? How would his loved ones (and I) feel if someday I made money from a book containing a character based on him?

I don't know what to do so I am doing nothing. I haven't written anything in a month but every night I write and rewrite scenes in my head. Would it be better for everyone if I just abandon this WIP? Should I write it without the end plan of publication? Or should I pursue publication? What would you do?

Jodi is a WOW Blog tour organizer, always looking for her next WOW author. Contact her at Her blog Words by Webb is at

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014


When Competition Gets Ugly

I suppose some folks can watch a football game and knit or fold laundry or write a blog post. But I’m not the kind of fan who can cheer for my team and do something else. When I’m watching football, I’m all in. Screaming, yelling, dancing—well, let’s just say that I’m invested in the outcome of the game.

I call it “competitive.” (The mister calls it “annoying.”)

Competition can be a good thing. It pushes me to work harder, to keep trying, to always give the best that I can give. As a writer, I love the competition of a good literary contest. I love to win prize money and I love the validation from my peers. Every time I make a pitch to a market, every short story I send out in the world, every agent who gets a query, it’s all competition. I want to win acceptance. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

But there’s another kind of competition in the writing world, the kind that can go wrong in a snap, the sort we don’t often talk about: the not-so-friendly competition among our writing peers.

Maybe it’s our writing group. Or maybe it’s the writing friends we’ve made from attending the same conferences, or a bunch of writers that have come together to form a group blog. Heck, it might be a passel of writers we’ve never actually met. And honestly, we might not even realize that we’ve slipped into competing with them. Until the day when a writer in one of our groups has achieved success and we think, “Are you kidding me? Her?” Because what we’re really thinking is, “But I’m the better writer. It should’ve been me.”

Uh-oh. Competition is fixin’ to bring out something ugly in us.

Because once that competitive mindset kicks into full gear, it’s not long before we get…well, fanatical, obsessively dwelling on another person’s writing journey, constantly comparing achievements, allowing someone else’s business to become our business. Ultimately, we can waste a whole lot of hours and energy and brain cells that could’ve been used much more productively. And as grammatically incorrect as the expression is, it comes down to this: “Ain’t nobody got time for that.

So if you’ve found yourself sliding down that slippery slope, call a time out. The end game is about what you want to achieve; it’s about working hard and believing in yourself. It’s about sticking to your game plan and not worrying about anyone else’s game.

Give a cheer for your friends when they have success, and then get back to your journey. Make competition work for your writing, and before you know it, you’ll be screaming, yelling, and doing the happy dance for your own success!

(But don’t blame me if you’re also a tad annoying.)

~ Cathy C. Hall

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Monday, September 15, 2014


Lifting the Curtain: The Disgrace We Call Urban High School Education by D. A. Russell (Review and Giveaway)

It's probably no surprise to most readers, who pick up Lifting the Curtain: The Disgrace We Call Urban High School Education by D. A. Russell, that there are problems in our cities' high schools. Media likes to blame the teachers and administrators, and often legislators create laws to try and "fix" the problem. What's refreshing about Lifting the Curtain is Mr. Russell is an urban high school teacher. He is in the middle of the problem, and he has researched it. Even better, he's not just a whistle blower. He's created several workable and practical solutions to tackle the issues that plague our high schools.

In the first 2/3 of the book, Russell explains why he writes about this issue as well as a survey he created for urban educators and high school students (and the results) and then eight systemic failures in the schools. The last third of the book is the solutions--there's not just one as he points out. It's not JUST the teachers, or ONLY parents, or THE administrators. The pages are adorned with illustrations from a tenth grade student, Jessica Fitzpatrick, who took Russell's stick figures and created cartoon-like drawings to capture his points.

So what are some of these systemic failures that Russell sees from his own experiences and from studying the surveys? Here's just a sampling of his list: unqualified administrators, rampant cronyism, inclusion classes, special education hijacked by parents, burned out teachers, and teacher unions. Although you may or may not agree with each of his points, his passion for getting to the root of the problem and helping teenagers is all over these pages. One of his main points is right now, this is what is going on in our schools, and we are failing our kids. Shouldn't we shake things up a bit, change things around, to reach more teens and bring them success? This book makes me want to shout from the mountaintop... Yes!

His solutions may also be controversial to some, but these are ideas you will see on blogs and in the news. Again, he is saying, "We need to do this. We need to change. Here's how we start." What I love is that he's not just pointing out the problem, and he's not targeting any one group as being wrong. His solutions range from fixing trust and integrity issues within the walls of the schools to allowing children to receive failing grades so they know they need to try harder, from focused professional development plans for teachers to make-up days for absences or truancy and more.

If you believe in education and want to help urban students succeed, Lifting the Curtain is a book for you to check out. All educators would benefit from reading it, regardless of where or whom they teach. Mr. Russell is brave to tackle this emotional and tough topic, and he does so with grace and passion.


Find out more about the book by visiting, the Lifting the Curtain blog, and the book's Facebook page.

***** BOOK GIVEAWAY *****

To win a copy of Lifting the Curtain: The Disgrace We Call Urban High School Education, please enter using the Rafflecopter form below. The giveaway contest closes September 29 at 12am EST. We will announce the winner the same day in the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Saturday, September 13, 2014


How to Critique

I hope Cathy Hall’s recent post, The Critique Epiphany inspired those of you who don’t have critique groups to seek one out.

If you’re not sure how to critique, here are some tips to get your started.

  1. You may not have a lot of experience critiquing, but you do have experience reading. Essentially, that’s what you’re doing. The difference is that you get the chance to tell the author what you think . . . within reason.
  2. A good critique points out what works and what doesn’t. Start with what the author did right. Maybe she picked a topic you love or her description is so solid that you feel like you could walk into her setting. Tell her. Then you move on to what doesn’t work. She’ll be more ready to hear it now that you’ve put her at ease. Whew! She did something right.
  3. When you make suggestions for change, keep them fairly broad. You absolutely despise this writer’s dialogue. All of her characters, including the husband, the sons and the Seal Team (doesn’t every novel have a Seal Team?) all sound like fifteen year-old girls. That’s a problem but don’t underline all of the dialogue that doesn’t work. Mark a few lines then reflect on her “big picture.” “As much as I like the story, I’m having trouble telling the voice of one character from another.”
  4. Share What Has Worked for You. If you’ve also struggled to develop voice or setting or plot, share what worked for you. “You might try developing a vocabulary each character. It worked for me.” She might take your suggestion, but she might not.
  5. Remember, you are playing in someone else’s sandbox. This isn’t your story. It belongs to someone else. You’re only there because you’ve been invited over to play. Your opinions are just that. Your opinions. In my group, when we aren’t sure if we’re helping or just stirring things up, we point that out. “It’s still your sandbox. Not mine.”

It may take time before you feel comfortable critiquing the work of other writers. After all, it is a skill. Many writers are introverts and attending a critique group requires us to put ourselves out there, both by sharing our work and by sharing our ideas on the work of others.

That said, it is worth learning to do well. Friendships with other writers often grow out of critique groups and no one will understand you or your work better than someone else who writes.


Sue teaches our class, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins in October; places in the class are open.

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Friday, September 12, 2014


Friday Speak Out!: Are You Writing at the Wrong Time of Day?

by Rochelle Melander

"The right thing at the wrong time is the wrong thing."—Joshua Harris

According to scientific research, our bodies peak for physical, social, and intellectual tasks at specific times of day. Researchers offer broad suggestions about when we do best at various activities. For example, many of us do well at intellectual tasks during the late
morning while we excel at creativity in the evening when we are tired and more open to new ideas.

But even scientists admit that peak working times are different for each of us. Though some people can be classified as early birds or night owls, many people don’t fit easily into any category. As a writing coach, I encourage clients to examine their own life in order to discover when they write best. Here’s how:

+For the next two weeks, try working at different times of day. Keep a journal of your work. For each session, note the time, where you are writing, how the writing went, and any important external details. Additional details might include preparing beforehand, working in a quiet house, or trying to meet a deadline. Did you feel engaged? Creative? Did you experience flow or did you encounter blocks?

+Review your writing journal. When did the most productive writing sessions occur? When did your second best writing sessions happen? Did anything besides time of day contribute to your productivity?

Once you know when you write best, schedule your writing during those times of the day. Keep your second-best times as a back up for those gnarly days when your precious time gets taken up by drama or you need the extra hours to complete assignments.

What I learned from my writing journal: I’m a morning writer. I’ve always believed that if I squander those early morning hours, I’m done for the day. But after reading this article in 2012, I played with my schedule. I wrote at different times of day just to see if I could be productive at other times of day. I was surprised and delighted to discover that I enjoyed drafting work in the afternoon and evening. But I also found that I had a hard time polishing work at night—I was too tired. I encourage you to play with your writing schedule, too. You might find enough extra time to finish a new novel this year!

* * *
Write Now! Coach Rochelle Melander is an author, a certified professional coach, and a popular speaker. Melander has written ten books including Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (And Live to Tell About It). As the 
Write Now! Coach, she teaches professionals how to write books fast, get published, and connect with readers through social media. Get your free subscription to her Write Now! Tips Ezine at

Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Thursday, September 11, 2014


And Remember...Writing Advice

Graphic | EKHumphrey
I tried something new with my most recent editing classes. I created a survey in the middle of the class and, out of 33 students, I received a handful of responses. I wanted to know what they wanted to know about the editing industry.

The responses trickled in and I answered their questions during the final week. There were the “How can I find clients?” and Microsoft Word questions, but one question stuck out:

Q: What things do you wish someone had shared with you when you were first starting out in editing?

A: These are elements I think everyone should know, whether someone shared them with me in the beginning or if I just intuited them:
  •  Don’t judge your author.
  • Consistency is incredibly important.
  • Don’t edit from the original document. (Always make a copy!)
  • Give yourself downtime and break during an edit. You’ll be a better editor for it.
  • Don’t overbook yourself.
  • In editing, perfection is unattainable, but try to get as close as you can.
  • Remember you are human.

Expanding these to writing is not too difficult. So, here are my answers if you had asked me what do I wish someone had shared with me when I first started out writing. As with my editing, it’s been so long since I started, I’m not sure if others advised me about these or not…! But these would be the start of what I would tell someone starting out in writing:
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself about your own progress. All your writing friends may have completed their 160th NaNoWriMo novel, but it’s okay if you want to take your time to craft your novel.
  • Constancy is important for getting the words down. Carry a notebook and pen. Make daily appointments to write. You’ll be much better for it.
  • Backup your work. (I have the original 3.5-inch floppy disks from my early writings and have hard copies!) You just never know when you will want to reread what you wrote eight years ago.
  • Get up and take a break or a walk. Your writing will improve if you get up and look around the world beyond your computer screen.
  • Perfection comes from polishing your prose. Revise (and revise again!) to make that prose shine. 
  • Make conscious decisions. Know why you should use this word over that one. Your writing will thank you.
  • Take writing classes and read books. Lots of books! Your life will be richer for it and your knowledge will soar.
  • Never give up.
What do you wish someone had told you when you first started writing? As a writer, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and editor living in North Carolina. She also reviews for San Francisco Book Review.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014


Book Review: Waiting For You by Tracy Tegan, Review by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto

Book Description:

Three years after the worst moment of her life—walking in on her husband in the midst of cheating—Kimberly Morgan has put her life back together. Sure, she hasn't started dating again, but she has a great job as a social media expert ... until she doesn't. When her company abruptly goes belly-up, she watches her savings trickle away as she searches for new work.

While interviewing for a new company, she is recruited for another job: wife to an Australian businessman who needs to smooth over his immigration problems so he can focus on the task of making money, and an American wife who doesn't require wooing is just what he needs. He's drop-dead gorgeous and rich: What's not to like? But when the heart yearns for happily-ever-after, will a make-believe marriage be enough?

I’m a romantic at heart and thoroughly enjoy a Hallmark Move Channel weekend movie or a Drew Barrymore movie. I read Fifty Shades and enjoyed certain parts of it. That said, I am happy to give Waiting For You by Tracy Tegan 4.5 stars. There were parts of the story that made me blush, times I was cheering Kimberly on, and of course those moments where the reader can see the writing on the wall and you just want to shake the characters because they are acting foolishly. Each of Tegan’s characters was well written, Waiting For You was beautifully edited (a pet peeve I had with Fifty Shades by the way…because it seemed almost unedited), and just when I thought I had it all figured out, something new and exciting happened.

Waiting For You is a light read. I have been reading a lot of memoirs and manuals lately and this was a nice story to read while sipping coffee in the rocking chair on our porch. That’s usually how I feel about YA so I would say the book has been marketed well and placed in the appropriate genre.

Do I think I’ll be picking up Tegan’s other books from time to time? Sure.

Would I recommend Tegan’s work to others? If Fiction, Romance, and/or YA are their thing…absolutely!

I am so happy to have stumbled upon an author I hadn’t heard of before and reading Waiting For You was a pleasure.

Genre: Fiction/Romance/Young Adult

About the Author:
At heart Tracy Tegan is a storyteller and has been making up stories in her head or for her five wonderful nieces for as long as she can remember. With the encouragement from her family she finally decided to give life to some of the voices in her head and put paper to pen.

After spending the last seventeen years as a dot com strategy consultant, and professional blogger about relationships, dating and issues pertaining to gender equality, Tracy Tegan decided to put her knowledge of internet marketing to good use and self-publish her first novel.

The response has been better than expected with critical reviews like “A unique romance“, “Absolutely thrilling and adorable“, “Enjoyed it! A truly lovable love story“, “Absolutely Unforgivable is an absolute must read“, “Tracy Tegan’s `Absolutely Unforgivable’ is one of those romance stories that will sweep you off your feet within the first few pages and will not let you go until the very last page“, “It’s compelling, sexy, and in the end, deeply satisfying“, “This book was amazing, and you truly fall in love with all of the characters in the book“, “This book had everything, hot guys, rock bands, suspense, drama, everything! Love, Love, Loved it“.

While she admits she never expected to reach the New York Times best sellers list with her first book, she was more than thrilled with what she had accomplished in terms of sales and positive response to her writing and with that has already begun work on several new projects including a sequel to Absolutely Unforgivable which promises to shock and surprise readers by taking the story on a very unexpected twist and turn that fans of Billy Snow and Stacy Keller will never see coming.

Tracy’s Books:
• Absolutely Unforgiveable (May 09, 2013)
• Snow (August 11, 2013)
• It’s You (January 19, 2014)
Waiting For You (June 01, 2014)
• A Second Chance (2014)
• Deadly Desire (2014)
• Love Ever After (2014)
• Primal Love (Coming Soon)
• New Beginnings (Coming Soon)
• Save The Date (Coming Soon)

Finding Tracy Online

Waiting For You is available on Amazon.

Crystal is a church musician, business owner, active journaler, writer and blogger as well as a dairy farmer. She lives in Reedsville, Wisconsin with her husband, three young children (Carmen 7, Andre 6, Breccan 11 months), two dogs, two rabbits, four little piggies, a handful of cats and kittens, and over 200 Holsteins. You can find Crystal blogging and reviewing books and all sorts of other stuff at:

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