The Agent Query Epiphany

Wednesday, July 31, 2013
I get writing-related emails from people I don’t know all the time.

Mostly, it’s people who have a product they’d like me to advertise on my blog. But occasionally, I get emails asking for writing help. Recently, I received an email from a wannabe published author—and got more than I expected.

I got an epiphany.

The email started with a long explanation of the writer’s struggle to get his work published, and a plea for help. The manuscript had been attached (and please, wannabe published writers, don’t send an attachment to someone you don’t know, hoping to get feedback. Nobody I know will open attachments under those circumstances) and an impressive author bio had been included, as well as contact information. But one very important piece of information wasn’t included: why the person had contacted me.

I racked my brain, wondering if I’d met this (local) writer at one of a half-dozen regional conferences. Was he a friend of a writer friend? Did he read my blog? Had we met at church? A restaurant? What was our connection?

I had no clue. In the end, I figured this writer had randomly sent out a general cry for help. Possibly, he’d sent a whole slew of random emails. And you know what? It annoyed me a bit, that he gave no reason for why he’d reached out to me. That’s when I had my palm-slapping-forehead epiphany.

I finally understood how frustrating or annoying it must be to agents when they receive a generic query. When it’s obvious that a wannabe published author has sent the same query to dozens of agents without a thought as to why the writer chose the agent.

Not that an agent has time to wonder over each and every query. I know that time-crunched agents will often skip the query and go straight to the pages. But if they like what they read, I’m sure they go back to the query. And I can see now how very important it is, to explain why you chose that agent, why you think you and the agent would be a good fit, or what kind of connection you might have.

Maybe you met at a conference, or you love the same books, or you love the books they’ve represented. Heck, maybe the connection is just that the agent represents women’s fiction and you write women’s fiction.

Even something that basic is enough to let an agent know you took a little time to be choosy. Because we want to feel special, I think, whether we’re a high-powered agent—or just an everyday plodder, sitting at her computer in her jammies.

P.S. If you have a manuscript and are querying, you might want to check out this swell spot for what agents (and editors) are looking for (and maybe mention the connection when you query!).

~Cathy C. Hall
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Interview with Bryan Mooney, Runner Up in the WOW Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Welcome, Muffin fans, to today's interview with Bryan Mooney, runner up in our Flash Fiction contest. His story, The Mountain, is a challenging piece, filled with drive and perseverance. If you haven't read it yet, take a moment to consume this spectacular story, and then return here while Bryan and I talk shop about the story and writing in general.

Bryan is originally from the Midwest, but over the years he has traveled the globe extensively, before moving to the sunny beaches of South Florida.

Where is Bryan’s most inspirational location to hatch a new novel? “Oh that has to be Key West,” he was quoted in a recent interview. “Hemingway hung out there and wrote some of his best works in the low key place in the sun. But my all time favorite place to get lost in, has to be on one of the thousands of Greek Islands.”

His love of the Greek isles shows in his work. His most recent romance novel, A Second Chance is set on a remote Greek island. It is the story of a man traveling to a family reunion, who mistakenly disembarks from a ferryboat, onto the wrong island. He is stranded on the idyllic paradise for a week, waiting for the next ferry and checks into the only hotel on the island. The romantic hilltop retreat, he soon discovers, happens to be run by his first love.

When not penning romance novels on the beach, he and his wife Bonnie travel the world. Bryan enjoys sailing, gourmet cooking, ballroom dancing, photography, tennis and he loves to incorporate these activities into his novels.

WOW: Congratulations, Bryan! Welcome to The Muffin! I’ve read The Mountain about four times now and I’m impressed the consistency of conflict. It can be difficult to find a story that balances internal and external conflict. You have done a great job! How did this story idea develop?

Bryan: My short story, The Mountain, is the ultimate story of an attempt to have total control over someone. The heroine of the story refuses to be dominated and using her intellect and perseverance triumphs over all of her adversities. She refuses to accept the world on their terms, but more importantly, she refuses to give up.

The story begins with the age old question…What if you were put somewhere where someone tried to control your every thought and your day to day life? What would you do? How would you survive? The Mountain is just one answer.

WOW: Bryan, you definitely answer the question – and make readers think! One of my absolute favorite parts of The Mountain is the twist. Give me a story that catches me off guard with a plot twist any day! How does this make your piece stand out? Why do you think it's an element forgotten by many writers?

Bryan: The twist in the story The Mountain remains its strongest feature. Such a twist is very difficult to employ successfully which is why many modern day authors have abandoned even trying to utilize it. I have always loved to use a twist to keep my readers hooked and enthralled with my work. I want them to think and try to guess the ending. I always try to keep my stories fresh and interesting. An intriguing twist at the end is the best way.

WOW: Agree, agree, agree! As an editor, I think a twist is so important in flash fiction. It’s a storytelling element that sets a story (with a similar theme) apart from others. Makes it memorable. You achieve that goal! As I read your bio, I’m intrigued by the statement that you write romance that features strong female role models. How difficult is it to find that voice?

Bryan: I take a strong and independent woman and then put her into an impossible situation. Using all of her skills, intelligence and personal strength, she escapes the inescapable to be a better and stronger person.

For example, my recent book A Second Chance is the story of a headstrong female doctor who travels to Greece and has made a commitment in her life. She is tempted by life’s circumstances to change her mind and break her commitment and thus the conflict in her life torments her.

In my book Love Letters, a successful entrepreneur is intrigued by the love letters she finds in some old books at a flea market and decides to track down the author. She is fascinated and touched by the tenderness and love he writes in the letters. Then she finally meets him and that's when the story really begins.

Many readers have compared my books to the writings of Nicholas Sparks, James Patterson and Nora Roberts. I have no difficulty in finding and using a strong female voice. It surrounds us and all we have to do is listen for it.

WOW: Excellent advice! You mention quite a few authors whose work your books have been compared to. Are these the authors who inspire you? What have you learned from reading their books?

Bryan: The authors who inspired me from an early age on would have to be Daphne du Maurier, John Cheever, Nicholas Sparks and of course O. Henry. Their view of the world is so fresh and necessary and sometimes quirky. They taught me first and foremost to tell a good story, don’t disappoint your readers and for god’s sake, never bore them. As an up and coming author, I think I have accomplished that in my writings and my readers apparently agree.

WOW: All four authors are among my favorites. Okay, Bryan, you have conquered a WOW! contest, you have penned a number of books. What's next in your writing career?

Bryan: What’s next? Lots! I am putting the final touches on a new book entitled, Indie- A Female Vigilante. Early reader responses to my latest book about a headstrong independent woman have been fantastic. Pre-orders for this book have been incredibly strong. I expect it to be released in July of this year.

Catawampus is the next book in the romantic Nick Ryan Mystery Series and and will be available in bookstores in late August. Nick is a down to earth investigator who uses cold hard logic rather than special effects to solve his cases. He has lost Katie, the love of his life and he slowly recovers as he tries to find his way in the world.

And, a collection of my best and award winning romantic short stories is due out late August or early September. The new book is titled A Box of Chocolates.

It is going to be a busy summer for me. All of my books are available worldwide in both e-Book and paperback format through at Books By Bryan Mooney and also at Barnes and Noble, Nook, I-Pad and most other electronic media.

WOW: Thanks for sharing this information, Bryan. I’m sure our readers will want to check out more of your writing. Again, congratulations, and wishes for continued success.

by LuAnn Schindler
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Freeze Frame: Writing Life Moments

Monday, July 29, 2013
By Jane Hertenstein

As a writer and a working woman, it’s easy for me to get overwhelmed—especially when facing the blank page. In freshman comp we’re told to “write what you know,” but that is sometimes easier said than done. At the end of a busy day, I’m not sure anymore what I actually know or if it is simply assumed.

The same goes for memory. If writing what one knows or, put another way, memoir, is about what happened, then there is still room for a thousand different angles. What “happened” depends on where one stands in the story.

Your story. Anne Sexton is quoted as saying, “It doesn’t matter who my father was; what matters is who I remember he was.”

Your memoir matters. Many of us are looking to write memories—either in the form of literary memoir or simply to record family history, in order to pass down stories to children or grandchildren. Writing about the past can be therapeutic, helping us to make sense of the here-and-now. For some, myself included, writing can be the cause of anxiety.

So what I do is look at life in bite-size pieces. In my book Freeze Frame: How to Write Flash Memoir I de-construct the process I use to stir up memories and write about them. Just like how a camera focuses and gives us a snapshot, I freeze-frame a memory from the past, something that actually happened, crop it or enlarge it, and bring it into focus. Flash!

Publishers of literary journals are eager for flash, the haiku of prose, where every word counts. There is no widely accepted definition for the length. Some journals are asking for no more than 100 words. Six Minute Magazine is looking for quality fiction that can be read in under six minutes. Morgen Bailey has put out a call for six-word flashes for Flash Fridays. The upper limits of flash might be 1,000 words. Tin House Magazine runs a column every Friday for flash a 1,000 words or less. Regardless of length—flash is hot. In one 12-month period I’ve had over 20 such flashes accepted.

For some, flash is a proper story with a beginning, middle, and end. I propose with flash memoir that one not look for plot but write for the “ah ha” moment. That may be an impression, a vignette or scene with a simple take-away, or a stream-of-conscious journaling, where the present is captured and poured out onto the page.

One way I do this is to improvise. Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way instructs us to “make time,” not wait to “find time” for writing. She suggests free writing where for 10 – 20 minutes you write whatever comes into your head without editing, without even lifting your pen from the page. Her method is called Morning Pages.

Flash memories come unbidden, unconnected—yet can stay with us like last night’s undigested roast beef. Try not to get bogged down with facts—or exactly how it happened. Our memories are flitting fireflies, one minute we see them like the light of day and in the next instant we are floundering in darkness. Allow yourself to get distracted and let your mind wander. But, no matter what, stick with it.

In my book Freeze Frame: How to Write Flash Memoir and at my blog Memoirous I have a section on where to submit flash memoir. Good luck flashing!


Jane Hertenstein’s current obsession is flash. She is the author of over 40 published stories, a combination of fiction, creative non-fiction, and blurred genre both micro and macro. In addition she has published a YA novel, Beyond Paradise, and a non-fiction project, Orphan Girl: The Memoir of a Chicago Bag Lady, which garnered national reviews. She is a 2x recipient of a grant from the Illinois Arts Council. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in: Hunger Mountain, Rosebud, Word Riot, Flashquake, Fiction Fix, Frostwriting, and several themed anthologies. Her latest book Freeze Frame: How to Write Flash Memoir is available through Amazon. She can be found blogging about Flash Memoir at
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Author Interview: Audry Fryer on her new book, Secrets, Lies, & Apple Pies

Sunday, July 28, 2013
Audry Fryer is one of our WOW! blog tour partners and we are thrilled to find out she's written her second book. Find out more about Secrets, Lies, and Apple Pies and all about Audry herself!

Delicious deceptions abound in this spiced-with-drama, sweet-with-humor novel.

When a random text message appears on her husband’s phone from Josephine, a friend as close as family, Braeburn thinks little of invading Reed’s privacy . . . until she reads it, “Whatever you do, don’t tell Braeburn.” This threatening message combined with an unseasonably early snowfall dangerously coating the country roads near her small Pennsylvania town of Scarlet’s Mill, sends Braeburn careening out of control in more heart pounding ways than one.

Now, baking apple pies for her sister’s business—despite being horrible at preparing a homemade pie crust—may be Braeburn’s only hope for recovery. Since moving into the farmhouse with her mother at the Scarlet family’s orchard, Braeburn has been tormented by questions surrounding the events on the day of her accident. What was Josephine hiding? And, was her entire marriage based on one big lie?

Secrets, Lies, and Apple Pies will leave you wanting more. This is a great story that is expertly written. Fryer has outdone herself!

E-Book: 279 pages
Publisher: Audry Fryer; 2 edition (July 24, 2013)
Twitter hashtag: #SLApple

Secrets, Lies, and Applie Pies is available as an e-book at Amazon.

About Audry Fryer:

Audry wrote her first novel, Going Barefoot in Greener Grass, while her twins were napping and her oldest was at pre-school. Now, she has her second novel, Secrets, Lies and Apple Pies available for Kindle. She lives with her John Deere fanatic husband, adorable son who happens to be a Lego-maniac, Southern Belle at heart twin girl, giggly, fun-loving twin boy and the family's very furry dog. This interesting bunch lives on a quiet country road in Southeastern PA. Aside from writing (which Audry squeezes in when she can), her day consists of "Mom's Mini Van Shuttle" and enjoying what each season has to offer her and her family.

Find out more about Audry by visiting her online:
Audry's Blog:

Audry's Facebook page: https://

-----Interview by Crystal J. Otto

WOW: Secrets, Lies, and Apple Pies made me hungry the moment I saw the cover, as well as throughout with the descriptions of the pies and discussions about the best pie crust. Are you a pie baker or what gave you the idea for the apple pie theme?

Audry: First of all, thank you for finding my cover appetizing. I actually took the photo on my kitchen counter one afternoon while my children were at school. The apple was a Gala which was perfect because that’s the name of one of my characters. I think I had sliced up a half dozen of them before getting the right shot. When my kids got off the bus that afternoon, I said to them, “I hope you guys are hungry.”

In answer to your question, yes I do indulge in quite a bit of baking and every Fall I must bake at least one apple pie. As I was teaching a close friend of mine the art of assembling a homemade pie crust (she happens to be a great cook and yet was frustrated that this was one thing she couldn’t seem to do), I became inspired to create a story with this very theme. There’s something very special about baking something from scratch. It takes time and patience, not to mention a little skill. But, for all that effort, the rewards are, well, delicious!

WOW: I’ll be waiting for my apple pie; it sounds like it would be well worth the drive to come visit! Just in case not all of our readers are invited for a visit, tell us some of your baking secrets and tips. And of course, I want to know which crust you prefer!

Audry: It was my mom who taught me, completely hands-on, how to prepare a homemade pie crust in just the same way her mom taught her. So, believe it or not in this age of everything being one click on the internet away, I use a recipe from the good old-fashioned cookbook, Joy of Cooking.

My mom is the expert pie baker in the family. She prefers to use shortening instead of butter and to roll out her dough after it has chilled in the refrigerator for at least an hour. I’ve figured out a few tips on my own to make an awesome apple pie. I think a sprinkle of nutmeg and cinnamon on the apples makes all the difference. Plus, I have a hand crank apple peeler that slices the apples flat and makes fun spirals out of the peel that my children have a great time devouring.

Also, in my novel there is a debate over crumb-topped pie versus an eye appealing top crust. For the record, I like a buttery crumb-topped pie. The funny thing is my parents have been debating this issue for years with my dad insisting on a lattice top crust and my mom preferring a crumb-topped one.

WOW: I'm hungry again and seriously considering a visit to Pennsylvania now! As I was reading, I was curious if Scarlet's Mill, PA was a real place and in finding out it is, I'm curious if some of the places in your book really exist. Can you tell us more about the physical places in the book and which ones are real?

Audry: Yes, Scarlet’s Mill, PA is a real place a few miles from where I live. However, the town as it is described in Secrets, Lies and Apple Pies is pure fiction. The real Scarlet’s Mill is a small community of homes along a few winding country roads. The area does date back to the Civil War Era and one of the historical homes had once existed as an important stop on the Underground Railroad.

The places described in Secrets, Lies and Apple Pies are taken from my everyday travels around my corner of Southern Berks County, PA. Scarlet Orchards is loosely based on a local orchard, Weaver’s Orchard, that I have visited often to pick my own fruit, take a hay ride and shop in their farm store. Cold Creek Road from the novel doesn’t exist, but there are many similar twisting and turning downhill roads around here such as one nearby called Cold Run Road. The church with the angel statue is a mix of imagination and a real place. During the “Snow-Apocalypse” that the late October snowstorm of 2011 is known as around here, I was diverted in completely different direction and happened to pass an old church with an angel statue that I couldn’t seem to forget. And, finally, just like a scene from the story I have attended the Oktoberfest celebrations in Reading, PA. This past year, since I knew I was going to write about it, I was claiming I was doing “research” while enjoying good food, drink and music.

WOW: That's my kind of research! (As well as great time management—and speaking of which...) Secrets, Lies, and Apple Pies was a book I truly enjoyed. I never would have guessed you had written it while raising three children and being an active blogger. Where do you find the time? How do you stay focused and what tips do you have for other writers?

Audry: It’s definitely a balancing act especially since I’m such an involved mom. Completing Secrets, Lies and Apple Pies plus blogging took sticking to a daily routine. I’d take advantage of my oldest leaving for school and my twins being sleepy, to quickly write some coffee-fueled blog posts. Then once the twins left for afternoon Kindergarten, I made sure that I blocked out at least two to three hours for working on my novel. Actually, after having a busy morning and knowing I was in for an active late afternoon, sitting back to write with a mug of hot tea felt blissful. As for staying focused, I remind myself often of the big picture. A writing career is something I have always dreamed of doing and if I was going to make it happen, there was only way to do it—sit and write!

WOW: That was a great lead in to my next question—thanks Audry! How do you write? Do you come up with an outline first or do you sit down with a pen and paper? What is most motivational for you?

Audry: I write exclusively on my laptop but I start with a pen and a notebook in order to form a basic outline of the beginning, the middle, the climax and the conclusion. In my notes, I lay out the story, how it will end and a detailed storyline for each character. I’ve learned the hard way (as in deleting over a hundred pages) that I can’t start writing until I have a full understanding of my characters and the key plot points. That said, I go into a scene with a main objective (I have a degree in Elementary Education, so that’s the teacher in me) but as I write I’m very open to discovering where the characters take me. As I get deeper into the story, I’m always thinking (usually while driving to soccer practice or while I’m in the shower) about details and about what’s working or what I need to change. When I read, I like to be entertained and that’s the type of writing I want to provide to my readers.

WOW: As one of your readers who was definitely entertained, I have to know: what's next for you? Have you already begun work on your next project? Can you give us a sneak peak?

Audry: At the start of the summer, I bought a brand new notebook and started brainstorming ideas. I’d like to start a series of books involving five friends. So far for the first book, I have a title, How Lucy Got Lucky, and a general idea about how a large win of cash/prizes changes the life of one down-on-her-luck woman. I’d like the story to come around to the discovery that perhaps Lucy was lucky before the win, but she never realized it. I’m toying with having the big win occur on the long running tv show, The Price Is Right. I always wanted to go on that show and play Plinko!

WOW: The research for How Lucy Got Lucky sounds like it might be really interesting for you and the entire family. I'll be waiting to hear more. In the meantime, is there anything else you'd like to share with readers and fans?

Audry: I would like to ask readers and fans for their support. Hopefully, you will enjoy Secrets, Lies and Apple Pies and if you do, please tell a friend, like my Facebook page and/or take time to write a nice review. That kind of help can do wonders for an author, especially one just getting started.


Audry often participates in our WOW! Blog Tours to help other authors and she plans on doing her own tour with Secrets, Lies, and Apple Pies within the next few months. To view all our touring authors, check out our Events Calendar. Keep up with blog stops and giveaways in real time by following us on Twitter @WOWBlogTour.

Get Involved! If you have a website or blog and would like to host one of our touring authors or schedule a tour of your own, please email us at
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Mapping a Personal Essay

Saturday, July 27, 2013
Four years ago, I began writing a weekly newspaper column. It runs on the editorial page of local weeklies and shares my version of events that affect those of us who live in the area.

It's really a 500-word personal essay that draws on my experiences and offers commentary, insight into my world. I like to add humor to the mix, but sometimes, I end up with a serious piece.

No matter what style, I drive home the point I'm trying to make. I mean, that's what the reading audience wants: an authentic voice.

And, that means I use a road map, of sorts. My process looks something like this:

  1. Pick a topic. What this means: Aggghhhh! It's Sunday night and I have a Monday deadline. What shall I write about? Actually, I have a running list of ideas that I keep on my desk. After selecting one, I determine if the topic is timely, first. You can't write about ice fishing in July. Well, you can, but it doesn't make as strong an impact. A good starting point for finding a topic is to think about events that you see as a turning point in your life. These cause-effect moments make powerful essay fodder!
  2. Narrow the focus. If a thousand ideas are running through my mind (or if only one comes to mind), I like to draw a mind map. This breaks down the topic and let's me get a visual idea of the direction the essay could take. Here's an example I used a few weeks ago. I'd read an article in the Wall Street Journal about parents using smartphone apps to get kids to do chores. The apps use points or stars as incentive and once the child completes "x" number of chores and marks it on the app, they get to pick a reward. Seriously? I knew I wanted to write about this, and after I'd mapped out ideas, I decided to take a multi-generational approach to the topic: how I learned responsibility, how my kids learned responsibility, and how my grandkids are learning responsibility. Then I broke each of those areas down and added examples to prove the point I was hopefully trying to get across.
  3. Freewrite. Personally, I skip this step a lot of times because I think I don't need it. When I teach the art of the personal essay, I include it because it does help flesh out details. With that said, I like to use it when I'm recalling an event or moment that I want to add to the essay. It helps put that time in chronological order. Freewriting is easy. Just write without stopping for a set amount of time. Usually five or ten minutes will do the trick.
Creating a mind map fine-tunes the direction of the personal essay. The best part: it may take you down a road you want to rediscover.

LuAnn Schindler is a freelance writer and editor from Nebraska. Read more of her work, including her weekly column, "Nebraska-isms," at her website.
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Friday Speak Out!: Using Evernote and Word to Organize, Guest post by Linda Brown Holt

Friday, July 26, 2013
Keeping notes on index cards is fine, but if you have Word and a good browser, you can use free technology to help you keep track of facts and ideas more efficiently as you write your historical novel. These tips apply to research conducted online as well as through print media, interviews, and so forth.

In writing my novel, The Black Spaniard, about the early years of Beethoven, I have found the following resources very helpful:

· Evernote. This free organizational system is easy to use if you stick to basics. Create notebooks for your novel and for subcategories. When you find a Web page with info that you want to refer to again, simply drop it into your novel’s main notebook or subcategory.

For example, I have a notebook called The Black Spaniard, but I also have subcategory notebooks titled 1-TBS-Friends, 1-TBS-History, etc. (TBS stands for The Black Spaniard). This also helps you avoid unintentional plagiarism, since the source URL is saved with the file. To download, go to . (See example 1)

Example 1

· Word Files. This should work with other word processing programs, too. I have a file folder in My Documents titled, The Black Spaniard. For a while, I was keeping subcategory notebooks within it, but I found it was easier for me just to stash all my Word documents, such as daily work, what happened in different years, etc., rather than put them in folders. When I need a document fast, I use the Search tool. I am a rather chaotic person and that works for me; but if you are logical and organized to begin with, you may want to make subfolders for categories. (See example 2)

Example 2
· Word Documents. I am writing about the years 1770 through 1804, so I have a single Word document for most of those years. I insert a table that shows five seasons for each year (winter, spring, summer, fall, winter) and plug in reminders or data that will be helpful when my story moves to that time period. (See example 3)

· Documents Relating to Trips, Expenses. You can create notebooks in Evernote and folders/files in Word to keep track of work-related travel, expenses, and so forth. These can be stashed with your creative work and research or kept separate depending on your personal style.

While writing on index cards worked well in the past, I find that technology has enabled me to keep track of information and sources for The Black Spaniard much more quickly and efficiently. With the individual Word documents for every year covered in my novel, I find that the book is practically writing itself, and I don’t have to interrupt the creative flow to go look up a character or event. With this easy-to-use system, you’ll find that writing a historical novel has never been easier or more enjoyable!

 Linda Brown Holt teaches Humanities courses with Southern New Hampshire University and Thomas Edison State College. A former journalist, she is the author of two novellas under the penname, Simone Marnier, and is currently writing a novel about young Beethoven. Her Web site is, and she tweets @ReligiousSchola and @PoetOfZen .


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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The Unreliable Narrator

Thursday, July 25, 2013

For many writers, dialogue is a straightforward thing. One character says something, perhaps asking a question, and the other character responds, leading to another comment by the first character and so on.

I understand why they write like this because dialogue is much trickier if it isn’t straight forward. One character asks a question (Did you eat the last piece of cake?) and the other character:

Lies. No. Zoey did it.

Asks another question. There was cake?

Answers with an apparent non sequitur that is somehow revealing. I don’t even like chocolate.

This type of dialogue is crucial if you are writing a story with an unreliable narrator. In a limited third person point-of-view, you can create an unreliable narrator by giving us a character who lies and never letting us in on his thoughts.

In a first person novel, it gets much more difficult to accomplish, but David Levithan succeeds in Every You, Every Me (Alfred A. Knopf 2011). Levithan handles it by giving us an insecure character who can’t bear to think about what he has done and what it might all mean.

Because Evan is a tortured soul, he waffles back and forth about exactly what happened. In one line of text he reveals what he is really thinking, strikes it out, and tries again. Other times, he reveals more than he meant to let us know and then tries to take it back.  Here is an example:

“I only knew it was morning because I was so tired.
"I hadn’t really slept. I never really sleep anymore.

Creating an unreliable first person narrator is a tricky balancing act. Reveal too much too early and you lose the tension that you need to build in your story. Lie and you risk losing the reader over this betrayal, unless you can create a narrator who isn’t even sure he can trust himself.

It’s a tricky task but one Levithan pulled offed in an amazing way. It won’t work with every story, but maybe you’re working on something that would benefit from an unreliable narrator. Do you think you’re up to crafting some tricky dialogue?


Read more of SueBE's posts at her blog, One Writer's Journey.
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Author Eric W. Trant Launches his WOW Blog Tour for Wink – a thriller set in a rural Gulf Coast town

Wednesday, July 24, 2013
& giveaway contest!

A moving, fast-paced and incredibly emotional story about love, friendship and transformation.

In this thriller set in a rural Gulf Coast town, Marty Jameson finds refuge in the attic from his mother's abusive rages. But only during the day. At night the attic holds terrors even beyond what he witnesses in his home. With a family made up of a psychotic mother, a drug-dealing father and a comatose older brother withering away in the spare bedroom, Marty feels trapped.

Next door, wheel-chair bound Sadie Marsh obsessively watches Marty's comings and goings from her bedroom window, despite her mother's warning about the evil in that house. Evil which appears to Sadie as huge black-winged creatures.

Marty, emotionally torn by the violence and dysfunction in his family, is drawn to Sadie and her kindly mother. But if he is to save his new friend from the supernatural horror threatening them all, Marty must transform himself from victim to hero. And to do so, he must first confront what lurks hidden in the shadows of his attic.

Wink is a thriller that captivates readers and leaves them longing for more. Trant is a talented author whose character descriptions go far beyond the physical.

Paperback: 275 pages

Publisher: WiDo Publishing (May 7, 2013)

ISBN: 193717834X

ISBN-13: 978-1937178345


Twitter hashtag: #WINK

Wink is available as a print and e-book at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Book Giveaway Contest:
To win a copy of Wink, please enter using the Rafflecopter form at the bottom of this post. The giveaway contest closes next Friday, August 2nd at 12:00 AM EST. We will announce the winner the same day in the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

About the Author:

Eric W. Trant is a published author of several short stories, including "Apple Tree" and "One Small Step," and the novels Out of the Great Black Nothing and Wink.

Eric is an advocate for organ donation and lost his 18mo son in May of 2012. Eric and his wife courageously donated their son’s heart, kidneys, and liver. The couple went on to begin a foundation to support organ donor families. Eric speaks openly about this emotional journey on his blog and the topic of organ donation is very close to his heart.

Find out more about the author by visiting him online:

Author website:

Author blog:

Author Facebook page:

-----Interview by Crystal J. Otto

WOW: Eric, I enjoyed reading Wink (it certainly grabbed my attention and kept me at the edge of my seat) and would hope you could share with us where the ideas for this thriller came from? Marty’s uncle in particular?

Eric: I decided I had enough to write the story in 2011. I can't say where I got Uncle Cooper from, or the glass eye, but I can say I have an unhealthy fear of losing my eye. For me the glass eye was a fine piece of horror, since I cannot think of too many things scarier than that, and since I wanted to write something scary, the eye took on a life of its own.

WOW: I’m not sure what to say to that, except my eye is watering and I may be developing the same fear… thanks Eric… I’ll be changing the subject now.

The release of Wink and the anniversary of your son, Dastan’s passing away are very close together. I know from previous conversations that one of your speaking topics is staying motivated in the face of defeat, can you tell us more about what kept you motivated and keeps you moving forward during this very difficult anniversary?

Eric: This year has been one of change and facing fears. In March, I left my corporate job and struck out on my own as a business owner. On top of that we met my son's heart recipient, a one-year-old baby girl, and the kidney recipient, a seventy-year-old woman. I finalized the edits for Wink. My wife and I decided to have another baby, and at the end of June we heard a heartbeat and confirmed I landed a three-pointer from the sideline. In the face of all that stress I find joy with my family, and it cannot be underestimated how much of an impact it had on us to meet the recipients and be welcomed not as friends but as family. I look around and wonder what the heck I was ever afraid of, and why defeat is even a word. I suppose an underlying faith that everything will be all right is what keeps me going.

WOW: Congratulations on the new addition as well as so much emotional healing over the last year. That’s fabulous for you and your family! (Readers, you’ll have to wait until February to find out if the baby is a boy or girl and exactly what his/her name will be)! Things seem to be going well in your personal life, but let’s face it, as writers, we realize that rejection is a necessary evil. Do you have some stories to share about your journey to publication? Recommendations for others?

Eric: Most rejection is because the writing is immature. You don't ride a bike for a month and head to France. It takes ~TIME~ to grow. It takes ~WORK~ to improve. It is not realistic to expect your first book to be published, nor your first short story. My first book published was my fifth written, and Wink is my seventh book written. I don't know how many shorts I wrote before I published one, but it was on the order of dozens. I've read at least two feet worth of books on writing, and that does not include the blogs I've poked around on or the books I've forgotten I read. Do your research and keep writing and improving. Rejection is not a sign to quit—it is a sign to grow.

WOW: So much for my plans of entering my four-year-old in the French Open…good analogy though Eric, you said it well.

Your first short story was published in 2009; what are you doing differently now that you wished you would have done with that first publication? What do you wish you would have known then? Have things gotten easier?

Eric: I would do nothing differently. I learned from each point in the process. I learned to be selective of your publishers. Do not take all the editorial advice you receive. Find your voice and stick to it. Read inspirational writers while you write. Things do not get easier. With each step upward the pressure increases, because the publisher raises their expectations for sales and professionalism, while the audience becomes less forgiving of your work.

WOW: That’s sound advice; my daddy always said “take it with a grain of salt” and you make a good point about finding and sticking with your voice.

I’ve heard good things about WiDo publishing; it sounds like they did a lot to make things easier for you as the author. There are many author choices right now including self-publishing, what about WiDo publishing appealed to you?

Eric: I found WiDo through networking with other bloggers online. I was fortunate to know some of their other authors, who all raved about their experience with WiDo, and since I had read some of WiDo's books, I knew they were reputable with an outstanding editorial team. I rank them as a mid-sized publisher, owing to the large number of authors and books they have published, a paid staff, and because they distribute through Ingram and Baker & Taylor, Amazon, B&N, and wherever books are sold. I want to grow, and WiDo is a fine step up for me.

WOW: Sounds like you’re on the right path for that growth right now. Congratulations! At what point did you say to yourself, "It’s only impossible until someone does it.” When did you realize Wink was a possibility for you?

Eric: That quote came to me from a character in one of my books. A little boy said it when someone challenged him that he spoke of an impossibility. I liked the quote so much I wrote it down in my personal quotes and put it up on my website as a sort of mantra. It's true, you know. People always say it's impossible until someone does it.

WOW: Speaking of growth and excitement … any sneak peeks for us about what is in your future?

Eric: My current work is an apocalyptic piece that combines elements of McCarthy's The Road with character-driven action much like that on AMC's Walking Dead. A supernatural undertow drags the reader deeper into the storyline by suggesting that not only are we not alone, but there is a reason and a design even to such horrors as the end of the world. It is my goal not just to write an end-of-the-world piece, but to create an original and thought-provoking piece that explains why such things happen.

WOW: Anything you’d like to add as far as future plans for your writing or your family?

Eric: My future in writing includes making this a full-time gig. By 2018 I hope to be writing full-time with a backlog of books and an ever-growing audience. My future in family includes another child, due February 2014. He or she will be named with an F, because our first names begin with A, B, C, D, and E. Weird, huh?

WOW: Eric, I don’t think that’s weird at all … we have an A and a C and our son will be born at the end of September and we chose a B name. If you’re weird, so am I and I’m glad to be in such good company!

----------Blog Tour Dates

Wednesday, July 24 (today!) @ The Muffin
Don’t miss the exciting thriller Wink by Eric W. Trant. Wink’s WOW! Blog Tour begins with an author interview and a give-away!

Thursday, July 25 @ Book Flame
Break the mold and win with today’s stop at Book Flame where you’ll have a chance to win a copy of the new thriller, Wink (#WINK) and hear from Eric Trant with his guest post: “Breaking the Molds for Men and Women in Literature.”

Friday, July 26 @ All Things Audry
Don’t miss today’s win/win stop for Eric Trant and his new thriller Wink (#WINK)! Not only is it your chance to win your own copy of Wink, but join Eric to find out “How Writing Heals.”

Tuesday, July 30 @ A Writer’s Life
Talk about interesting! Join Eric Trant as he discusses “How Small Town Living Made Me a More Interesting Writer” and Win a copy of Eric’s new thriller, Wink (#WINK)!

Thursday, August 1 @ Sharing with Writers
Win a copy of the new thriller, Wink (#WINK) by Eric Trant and hear his thoughts on “Author Intrusion: Good or Bad?”

Thursday, August 1 @ Writing is Easy
Find out why Eric says caution should be taken when branding yourself, and win your own copy of his fabulous new thriller Wink (#WINK).

Friday August 2 @ CMash Reads
Eric Trant talks about being your authentic self with today's guest post "Why You Should Be Yourself in Writing and Marketing" stop by CMash Reads for this exciting discussion and your chance to win a copy of Wink (#WINK) Print-US/Canada residents OR eBook-open to all.

Saturday, August 3 @ Book Worm
Today is your chance to win a copy of Wink by Eric Trant (#WINK) and read his fascinating guest post: "Can a Faith-Based Person Write Supernatural Fantasy?"

Monday, August 5 @ Books I Think You Should Read
Don't miss your chance to win a copy of this great thriller and read Elizabeth Parker's review of Wink (#WINK) by Eric W. Trant.

Tuesday, August 6 @ Renee's Pages
Don't miss another chance to win a copy of Eric Trant's thriller, Wink (#WINK) and read his guest post about "Author Intrusion, Good or Bad?"

Wednesday, August 7 @ World of My Imagination
Win your very own copy of Wink (#WINK) by Eric W. Trant and see what Nicole thought after reading this fabulous thriller set in a rural Gulf Coast town.

Friday, August 9 @ Read These Books and Use Them
Don't blink or you'll miss your chance at Wink (#WINK). Today is your opportunity to win a copy of Eric W. Trant's thriller, Wink and read what Margo had to say about this small town thriller!

Tuesday, August 13 @ Steph the Bookworm
Today could be your lucky day to win Eric W. Trant's thriller, Wink and read a book lover's review of this moving work!

Wednesday, August 14 @ Words By Webb
Join Jodi as she does a 5W's interview with Eric W. Trant, the author of the fabulous thriller, Wink!

Friday, August 16 @ Literary R&R
Wink makes a stop for a giveaway and review!

Monday, August 19 @ Books & Such
Teri Polen reviews Eric Trant's thriller, Wink and offers readers a chance at a giveaway for this fast paced 5 star action packed thriller!

To view all our touring authors, check out our Events Calendar. Keep up with blog stops and giveaways in real time by following us on Twitter @WOWBlogTour.

Get Involved! If you have a website or blog and would like to host one of our touring authors or schedule a tour of your own, please email us at

Book Giveaway Contest: Enter to win a copy of Wink by Eric Trant! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. We will announce the winner in the Rafflecopter widget next Friday, August 2nd.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!
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Denise Heinze: Runner Up in the Winter 2013 Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Congratulations to Denise Heinze, who is one of our runners up in the Winter 2013 Flash Fiction contest with her story, "The Pact." Two women make a pact to do something--to find out, read her story! If you haven't had a chance to read "The Pact" yet, you can read it here

Denise doesn’t know what she loves to do more—teach literature or write it. But since the two aren’t mutually exclusive, she enjoys the best of both worlds as an English professor and an author. Whether discussing fiction or creating it, she finds the written word the Route 66 to self-discovery.

A PhD graduate of Duke University she lives in Durham, North Carolina and teaches at North Carolina State University. She writes fiction, creative nonfiction, memoirs, and poetry. She is especially partial to historical fiction and has written a novel about her ancestor, Louisa May Alcott. Her work appears in Now and Then, Thought and Action, Reunions, Short Stuff Magazine, and Gemini Magazine.

WOW: Welcome, Denise! "The Pact" is a humorous look at what could be a very serious topic--older people who want to commit suicide before illness or old age overtakes them. What made you want to give it a humorous spin?

Denise: Laughing at something disturbing seems to have the effect of generating power over it, if ever so fleeting or illusory. There’s nothing inherently funny about suicide, of course, or death. But these women choose not to be paralyzed by their fears, which is less about death than the deterioration of their bodies and eventual loss of dignity that might result. Their comical attempt to end it all is a celebration of their valiant efforts, not to die, really, but, in their fearlessness and independence, to live their lives to the hilt.

WOW: What was your inspiration for this story?

Denise: Well, I’m not exactly a spring chicken, so thoughts of my own mortality tend to seep through that brick wall of denial most of us construct against death. I wonder how I might face it once I reach that point (hopefully not for a very long time), which has led me to wonder how others do.

WOW: How do you feel entering contests helps writers with their writing and/or their career?

Denise: Contests provide writers with a deadline. Deadlines are motivating. So is the potential for monetary awards, recognition and possible publication.

WOW: Deadlines are fantastic! Besides placing in the WOW! flash fiction contest, you have quite a bio! You have a PhD and teach literature at North Carolina State University. How does teaching literature help with your own writing?

Denise: It’s a continual workshop, of sorts. I have the distinct privilege and pleasure of teaching the greatest American writers to bright and engaged students, so I am continuously analyzing what these authors write about, how, and what actually works with a 21st century audience. But on the flip side, creative writing helps me teach the literature as well, since I know first-hand what it means to compose the very phenomenon I teach. That’s a unique perspective afforded my students, one I offer in addition to my experience writing about literature, as a scholar.

WOW: And your ancestor is. . .Louisa May Alcott? That's amazing. Tell us a bit about the book you've written about her.

Denise: I take some real liberties with Louisa May—I hope she isn’t turning in her grave! It’s a kind of mash-up: I wonder what would have happened had Louisa May met and befriended Harriet Jacobs, the former slave from North Carolina whose remarkable story includes striking a secret bargain with one white man in order to avoid the licentious and perverse harassment of another. When that deal falls short, Jacobs hides out in her grandmother’s attic for nearly seven years before she finally escapes north.

WOW: That sounds like an amazing story. I would love to read that. (smiles) So, what's next for you? What are you working on?

Denise: I’m having great fun with flash fiction, and I’m trying my hand at poetry.

WOW: Thank you, Denise, for taking the time to talk with us today.

Enter our summer flash fiction contest. Details at the link:

Interview by Margo L. Dill--visit her blog at
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Swapping in Writing

Monday, July 22, 2013
Like everyone else in the world, I have bemoaned the fact that there are not enough hours in the day. Enough hours to go to my 9 to 5, grocery shop, organize 25 years of family photographs, help my daughter pack for college, go to percussion practice (my son’s practice, not mine),  write and just plain breathe. And guess what gets cut from the to-do list most frequently? Yes, I can hear you all answering in unision: writing. Again and again I promise myself to put writing first and again and again I break that promise. Until Weight Watchers.

Recently, a friend explained to me how Weight Watchers works. You get a certain amount of points per day, different foods “cost” different amounts of points and when you used up all your points you’re done eating for the day. So she got to come to my daughter’s graduation party last month and eat a homemade pierogie.  She didn’t eat much else but she got that all important (to her) pierogie. So each member of Weight Watchers can tailor his or her eating to what they really need. If they really need a small cone of ice cream, they eat a salad for lunch and supper. They swap foods around until the points even out.

I realized life is like that. The minutes of our day are the points and everything we need to do is the food. I really need to write but find myself waiting for a block of time to magically appear. Usually by the end of the day when everything else is finished (as finished as my days ever get), it’s either too late or I’m just too tired and I say “Forget it. Tomorrow.” I need to swap writing into my life.

I found half an hour to swap writing into my life. I lunch for half an hour each day. Fifteen minutes I spend actually eating and fifteen minutes leafing through the newspaper or the magazines left in our lunch room. I’ve decided if I want to read I’ll do it during the first fifteen minutes while I eat leaving the last fifteen minutes for writing. Although I usually cook supper, I also clear the table. I’ve gotten my family on board to swap out those fifteen minutes of spooning leftovers into containers, loading the dishwasher and cleaning the counters for writing time.

Like Weight Watchers, swapping time takes some determination. In the beginning I found myself watching my family clear the table. Finally they convinced me this is not a chore that needs mom supervision. It is not brain surgery. It is not even laundry sorting or algebra homework. They CAN do it.

You might be saying, “Fifteen minutes here, fifteen minutes there…how will that ever add up?” The truth is, I’m less likely to jump into something home or family related if I know I only have fifteen minutes. Instead of saying to myself, “Gee, I could be using this hour I set aside for writing to do fill-in-the-blank.” I say, “Gee, I only have fifteen minutes. Not enough time to really start anything else.” Maybe as the days go by I’ll find another fifteen minutes here or there. But for now I’d just like to say thank you to the Weight Watchers people. Maybe I’ll lose enough chores to finally finish that novel.
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Blogging Basics

Sunday, July 21, 2013
It’s hard to believe now, but I first came up with the idea to start a blog in October 2007, around the same time I decided that developing a website for my business was a necessity. As my writing career has evolved and had its share of ups and downs, so has the blog, titled Renee’s Pages.

At first I focused on freelance writing topics, being a work-at-home mom and sharing clips of my articles. Over time I gained a few regular followers, and it felt great to be involved in a supportive writing community. However, when I failed to post regularly, the followers slowly waned. I blame this on the fact that I had regular paying writing and editing gigs that took up a lot of my time, and some of it is a result of never having a clear vision for my blog. I never took the time to sit down and make a blogging schedule or brainstorm a list of what I really wanted to write about. I just sort of posted when I felt like it.

About three years ago I started dabbling in writing fiction and reading interviews with authors and agents that stressed the importance of author platforms, specifically blogging. I realized I needed to revamp my website and figure out where my blog was going. I also needed to think positively and figure out what the heck my platform was going to be on the off chance that I actually sell a book one day. I sat down and thought about the topics of my two works-in-progress, a middle-grade and YA novel. One focuses on a tale of time travel to the 1980s and the other is a coming of age story set in the 1990s. I’m also a celebrity gossip junkie and rely heavily on music as part of my creative process. One day I want to completely redesign my blog when I have more time and resources, but for now I use one of the basic templates in Blogger. I kept the name, Renee’s Pages, and added a subtitle, “The Writing Life of a Pop Culture Junkie.” It seemed fitting.

I spend a lot of time watching old television shows and movies through Netflix and on cable and I finally figured out I can write about how my favorites relate to my book and article topics. Voila! There’s my platform. I’ve also tried to study blogs I admire for more ideas on how to improve the blog. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

1. You must post regularly. For now, even once a week would be great for me, but two to three times a week seems to be the standard in most of the popular, highly-trafficked blogs I visit.
2. For writing-related blogs, readers love giveaways! Network with other writers and agents and soon you’ll have more products to give away than you know what to do with.
3. Network with other writers and develop a regular schedule of author, editor and blogger interviews and guest posts.

Do you have a blog? Do you update it regularly? What tips do you have for gaining more traffic and visibility?

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer who loves to blog about books, movies, music and celebrity gossip and writing. Visit her website at
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Is There a Place for Realism in Your Writing Dreams?

Saturday, July 20, 2013
by Anil Jadhav (
Is there a place for realism in your writing dreams? No matter what your dream is--to publish a novel, to secure an agent, to write a well-read blog--you have to understand the way the business side, the realistic side, of writing works.

All writing takes creativity and imagination, whether you are a poet or a business writer. Writers are often dreamers, dreamers who have a way with words and a way to make readers see their dreams. You have to have this as a writer. You also have to be a bit optimistic and dream of your success, or the rejections that you are most likely to receive (or the bad reviews or the poor sales) can crush your soul and your creativity.

All of this is important. BUT, and this is a capital letter BUT, if your goals include publication or readers or even monetary compensation, you need to understand how the business works. How do you send out query letters? How do you drive readers to your blog? How do you submit to literary magazines? And if you don't know, how do you figure this out?

You can do any number of things: go to a writing conference, join a writing group with writers of all experience levels, read a book, visit writing blogs, subscribe to a writing magazine, or join a professional writing organization. First, before you figure out what you need to do though, you need to figure out your goals. Those goals SHOULD (oh no, another capital letter word!) affect how you go about being realistic about your career.

For example, if you are a picture book writer, you probably have a lot of creativity pouring out of you--you see images in your mind; you figure out words to match those; you imagine children and parents reading your book at bedtime. But what do you need to know to reach the goal of publication? You need to figure out who publishes books like yours and how to submit books to those publishers. You need to work on your platform during this time, too.

So, how would you figure out how to do this? Read a lot of picture books, look up the companies that publish ones like yours, join SCBWI and read their free resources, go to a picture book workshop or take a class, and join a critique group. In the middle of all your creative work, you need time for these real-life experiences to reach your goals.

Don't ever stop dreaming. Don't ever stop writing. Don't ever stop picturing yourself as having writing success. But in the middle of your dreams, make some time for the reality you need to reach your goals.

What do you dream? How do you plan to reach your dreams? 

Margo Dill is a published children's author and trying to wait patiently for her two picture books to come out within the next year or so! She teaches online courses for WOW! and has one about starting your career as a children's writer coming up on August 8, 2013. For more information about WOW! and the classes that are coming up, please see 
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Want to contribute to The Muffin?

Friday, July 19, 2013
Want to contribute to The Muffin?

Friday's are "Speak Out!" days. We allow posts from contributors for promotion. If you'd like to submit a post, please make sure that it's about women and writing.

Your post can be about: writing inspiration, balancing family life/parenting with writing, craft of writing fiction/nonfiction, how-tos, tips for author promotion/marketing/social media, book reviews, writing prompts, special opportunities (paying markets for writers), publishing industry news/gossip, and anything you think our readers will love.

Please make sure that there is take-away value to our readers. No press releases please. We're more interested in hearing from our core audience--personal essays and humorous anecdotes are encouraged as well, as long as they provide something useful to our audience--including a good laugh! ;)

How To Submit: Submit your 250 - 500 word post in the body of your email to our blog editor Marcia Peterson: Please put "Friday Speak Out! Submission" in your subject line. Upon acceptance, we will ask for your bio, links, bio photo, and any other pics to illustrate the article. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Writers: What Are You Afraid Of?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

If you say you never experience fear about writing, I'd say you're not being honest. At some point in our writing lives, we've experienced the scariness of rejection, the trepidation of sending a blind query, the fear of not meeting personal expectations. Fear of failure.

But do not let fear hold you back.

I know, easier said than done, right?

I took my own advice recently. About five years ago, I queried a prestigious regional magazine, offering an intriguing historical piece about a house in the area I live. The features editor showed interest and wanted clips. I sent three of the best clips I'd written. His response: "Nope, these don't do it for me."

Let me tell you, that knocked the writing wind right out of me!

Since then, I've scoured every issue of this magazine, analyzing the style, and let's be honest - I'm wondering why my writing style wouldn't be a great fit!

As each new issue arrived in my mailbox, I'd grow a bit more frustrated, primarily with myself, for being afraid of what the rejection meant and the effect it had over me.

Then, I decided to do something about it. The publication advertised for writers. I sent a short bio and listed a few places I've been published. An hour later, I received a reply AND a welcome to the magazine.

Doesn't being scared let you know you're on to something important?

It certainly does.

It allows you the opportunity to confront failure and turn it into a meaningful lesson. I just wish it hadn't taken five years. :)

by LuAnn Schindler

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A Right Way to Become a Writer?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013
I’ve had so much to think about lately. This world of writing and reading is certainly filled with ideas and advice. Even those who don’t write have opinions about writerly topics. I am blessed to have friends who write, friends who read, author friends, friends who have been published and friends who hope to be published. I think it’s my nature to be a peacekeeper, because up until recently I hadn’t even been involved in a conversation about what qualifies someone as an author or the difference between being self-published and traditionally-published.

I found out that some small independent book stores won’t shelf books by local authors who are marketing their books on Amazon. The following day I heard a story about how an author was treated poorly by another author because their book had been self-published instead of traditionally-published. I wrinkled my forehead and phoned a friend. The conversation went something like this:

Me: “Isn’t an author is an author is an author? I mean, who cares how exactly you got published, you’re published, right?”

Tiffany: “I know what you mean, but it’s like the GoodHousekeeping stamp of approval if you’ve been traditionally published. Do you know what I mean?”

Me: “Not really. I’ve seen good books that were self-published and terrible books that were traditionally-published. Explain this to me again.”

Tiffany: (sigh…) “Things are changing and I know where you’re coming from Crystal, but if you stop at Starbucks in Manitowoc, Wisconsin or Starbucks in Philadelphia you know exactly what you are getting. The Starbucks name offers some credibility. Sure you can get a great cup of coffee at the local coffee shop, but you don’t know that until you try it. Surely you can agree with that?”

Me: “I hear you, and of course we are talking coffee and I’m pregnant and can’t have any – thanks … but I guess I’m just the kind of person that would rather visit the local coffee shop and take a chance. That’s exactly how I feel about books. I wouldn’t choose a traditionally-published book over a self-published book. I’d find out more about each book and choose which ever one appealed to me most. Am I really all that different than the rest of the world?”

Tiffany: “You’re different alright Crystal … but from an author perspective, if you have a chance at being traditionally-published it adds to the credibility of your book and it’s like being the valedictorian instead of just making honor roll. All this will probably change as self-publishing becomes more widely accepted, but in the meantime it’s just how it is.”

Me: “I think this will be my blog topic on WOW! this week – I want to hear what others have to say. What do you think?”

Tiffany: “That’s a post I’d definitely read!”

So… Here I am asking for your thoughts and ideas. Part of me feels like self-publishing my first book to get my name out there and then approach a publisher with my second novel. Then again, will a publisher take one look at me as someone who was self-published and shut that door? Is there really only one chance to make a first impression in this industry? Is there really a right way to do things and a wrong way? What is your experience?

Crystal J. Casavant-Otto 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, two young children (Carmen 6 and Andre 5), three dogs, two rabbits, four little piggies, and over 200 Holsteins. Crystal and her husband, Mark, are expecting another son at the end of September. You can find Crystal blogging at:
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Meet Flash Fiction Top Ten Winner, Mike Throne

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Mike Throne lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and three daughters. A graduate of Goshen College, Mike spent twenty-five years running a windchime company until, in 2006, he sold the business to begin working on his new passion—fiction writing. He has been learning his new craft through courses at Northern Virginia Community College, George Mason, and, a Christian-based online writers’ resource. Other stories written by Mike can be seen at When he’s not writing, Mike enjoys camping with his family.

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on placing in the top ten in our Winter 2013 Flash Fiction competition! What inspired you to enter the contest?

Mike: I love micro-fiction and the WOW contest is the best micro-fiction contest I know of. There are a limited number of entries, the fee is reasonable, feedback is available, and the quality of the writing is excellent. Obviously, I appreciate the fact that the "Women on Writing" contest is also open to men. It is the encouragement that I receive from contests like this one that keeps me going when there isn't much other positive feedback coming.

WOW: Thanks for the kind words about the contest. Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, Boarder in an Old Green House?

Mike: Sadly, it's where I see us going as a country in the not too distant future. With our casually excessive spending and unwillingness to tax enough to cover it, I foresee serious problems for everyone, but especially for the elderly. We simply cannot afford to keep all the promises we've made and unless we admit that and resolve to fix it soon, I see a significant drop in our standard of living as the inevitable result, again, especially among the elderly. Boarding houses used to be popular in the last century and I suspect that they will be again, as a low cost option for those who can't afford a home or an apartment.

That said, life in a boarding house is still life, and there can be positives in any living arrangement. Boarder in an Old Green House is the portrayal of a couple who grow closer, despite this backdrop of a wrecked economy and their best days being behind them.

WOW: You did a great job with the story. What was your editing process like? Do you have any specific editing techniques to share?

Mike: Most of my stories get edited to a pulp. I go over each one again and again, saving a version every five or ten minutes. A friend from my old writers' group said that I sculpt my stories, starting with a block and refining them over and over again. Often the final version is very different from the original,

The most difficult part of my editing process is that I often can't tell if I have anything worth keeping for days, even weeks. After I write and edit a story, I love it and think everyone else should as well, because it's clearly one of the best stories ever written. It's only after the euphoria settles that I can read it though more realistic eyes and I can begin see the serious issues. At that point, I either dump it or go back through and edit it another two or three hours, then sit back again and see what I have.

WOW: In your bio you mention running a windchime company for twenty-five years, which you sold in order to pursue fiction writing. How did you orchestrate that change, and how would you compare your life then and now?

Mike: I started by selling windchimes at craft shows and flea markets, then, about five or six years in, began wholesaling and, eventually, grew the company into an actual factory. After many years of too many employees, I wanted out. I'd been approached by a number of brokers and even went as far as to have a contract in my hand, but the contract was written by the buyer, for the buyer, and I didn't feel optimistic about being able to resolve the issues.

In the end, I decided to sell it to a good friend of mine who was the regional manager of a larger business than my own. So one day at lunch, I brought out my laptop, showed him the spreadsheets I'd prepared, and suggested that it would be a wise decision to sign on. It helped that his wife was my HR person. Because of the situation, I was able to achieve a number of things that were important to me and allow him to buy it without putting any of his own money down, which was fortunate since he didn't have any.

That part of the transition has worked out remarkably well. My friend's doing a wonderful job and the business continues to thrive. (If you buy an Arias, Weatherland, or Corinthian Bell windchime, those were mine.)

The writing side is going a bit more slowly. I find it difficult to remain focused and come up with story ideas, and am often frustrated by my lack of production. But I trudge on and am happy to see gradual progress in my ability despite the occasional setbacks.

WOW: It's exciting that you're following your dream and we wish you the best. You also mentioning camping with your family as a favorite activity. I have to admit, I’m not a camper. What are your favorite and least favorite things about camping?

Mike: My favorite thing about camping is, at the end of the day, after my daughters have gone to sleep, sitting with my wife next to the fire and sipping a beer. I love spending time with my three daughters and find that camping gives us the chance to be together in unusual settings. We've made two cross country camping trips since I sold the business and are just about to start on our third and likely final trip. On this trip, we'll go from Virginia to Colorado to see some friends and camp in the Rockies, then go up to South Dakota to camp at our favorite place in the country, Custer State Park. Herds of buffalo roam freely throughout the park, along with other wildlife, and we love the cool, breezy air of the upper Midwest.

My least favorite thing has to be pulling the trailer. We have a hybrid, so it's not too big, but the wind plays havoc with it sometimes. On the whole, camping's always an adventure and it's always worth it.

WOW: OK, you do make camping sound better! Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Mike. Before you go, can you share your favorite writing tip or advice with our readers?

Mike: Thanks for the interview. The only advice I have is the same advice I give to myself --keep at it. Don't stop, don't give up, and good things will eventually happen.


Our Summer 2013 Flash Fiction contest is OPEN
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What Do You Read?

Monday, July 15, 2013

As a writer what do you read?

Don’t know what to answer? I’ll help you. Pretend you’re lounging in your jammies. Look down at the floor
next to your bed at the pile of books balancing precariously until a dog or small child wanders in and upsets them. What type of books are they?

Are they mainly books in the genre you write? That’s good. After all, you should be learning from the masters in your genre. But you should also be reading the new authors to your genres to see what new tricks they bring to the table (or new mistakes, it never hurts to learn from other’s mistakes). By reading your genre you can get a feel for what your audience expects as well as avoid repeating tired plots or aspects. So immerse yourself in your genre!

Are many of the books in your TBR pile writer how-to books? We all love them. Some writers – I won’t name any names but they’ve confessed right on this blog – are a bit obsessed with writer how-tos. We all are searching for the magical key to writing the best book we can. And, ever hopeful, we are certain we will find it in that next how-to book. You may never find the magical key but you will learn something. So read those how-tos!

But what else do you read? If you hope to make it as a writer the answer should be: everything. Romance, history, mystery, YA, children’s, memoir, politics, humor, newspapers, magazines, blogs, tweets. You never know where the nugget of idea for your next WIP will be hiding. Maybe in the “Weird News” section of your local newspaper, maybe in the background of a character in a blockbuster thriller, maybe in the memory of a politician.

As writers we can learn, even from the genres we don’t seek out on a regular basis. Recently I read a genre which is my daughter’s favorite (but not mine) at her request. I felt it was “eh” but one particular scene stuck with me long after I finished the book. So I began asking myself why? Why could I not forget that scene in a series I would not read again, in a genre I didn’t particularly care for? Because the fact is, good writing is good writing no matter what shelf you find it on. So I dissected that scene until I felt I knew what made it so memorable. Hopefully I can use that information in my own writing.

So don’t let your TBR list be defined by what you write or even by what you particularly like. Read it all and see what unexpected things you’ll find.

What do you read and what lessons have you learned from your TBR?
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