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Saturday, January 18, 2020

 

How Being a Writer Has Ruined TV for Me



I’m going to start this post off by saying that I know I probably shouldn’t be watching as much TV as I do. Darn you, multiple streaming services that give me access to all my favorite procedural and true crime shows at the click of a button! But sometimes, at the end of a long day or week, you just want to veg out and take a break from all the stress and massaging your temples that writing and editing and trying to be creative can bring.

However, writers are likely more observant than most people. So, what should be a relaxing and passive exercise can be even more stimulating for the following reasons.

You are probably more apt to notice continuity errors in the show. I remember watching the TV series “Parenthood” when it first came out. The main character, Adam Braverman, owned a shoe factory. It was the family business and most episodes featured him interacting there with employees and customers. But when the second season started, he all of a sudden had a jerk boss that had never been there before. I realize this character was added to show tension, but to me I felt like there should have been some explanation, like Braverman shoe company being bought out by an investor or something. Either that little detail was left on the cutting room floor, or a new set of writers weren’t briefed on the first season details.

You notice when an actor shows up more than once on a TV show, but is playing completely different characters. While watching a re-run of “Law and Order: SVU” one day I realized the sleazy bad guy of the episode was actually the actor that now plays one of the regular detectives on the show. I scratched my head for a few minutes before putting together that the seasons were years apart and sometimes actors rotate in and out of shows as different characters. Or maybe I’ve seen too many episodes of the show, but in my defense, it has been on the air for 20+ years. It’s also exciting when you notice a now-famous actor was a guest star in a TV show when they were a young child or teenager. Everyone has to start somewhere, right?

You fail to suspend disbelief when plot holes happen. I’ve been re-watching the series “Crossing Jordan” lately, which focuses around the shenanigans of a medical examiner’s office in Boston. First of all, I’ve never seen worse security than in this morgue. In one episode, a man with a gun showed up and gunned down a woman there to identify a body. There are constantly random people showing up in autopsy rooms and bodies going missing, leaving me to wonder if just anyone is allowed to stroll into the building, get off the elevator and duck into whatever room of their choosing. I’ve also been having a blast watching old episodes of “The X-Files.” I’m still scratching my head over the episode “Native,” where Scully couldn’t seem to figure out a character she was hanging out with was about to turn into a werewolf (even when he disappeared into a bathroom, screamed as he transformed, and then burst through the bathroom door and attacked her). After the attack, she told Mulder she didn’t know where they guy who had turned into the werewolf was. Really?

You can logically explain why a character just simply vanished (otherwise known as “Death by Focus Groups.”) I always love it when a character disappears from one season to the next—especially if the previous season had an entire arc built around why that character was even there in the first place. It becomes obvious that a character either took a better offer on another TV show or the focus groups decided the character was pointless. As a writer, I can also usually tell that a show must have been cancelled and picked back up by another network (this happened to the country-music drama “Nashville”). You could tell when new writers took over because it took a much darker turn and a few key characters just sort of dropped off the face of the earth with no explanation.

Don’t even get me started on watching movies.

Do all these reasons make me want to quit watching my old favorite TV shows? Nah, not a chance.

I’m curious to know if being a writer has affected how you watch TV and films.

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who also blogs at FinishedPages.com.

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Friday, January 17, 2020

 

Friday Speak Out!: Choosing Names


by Saralyn Richard

I’m often asked how I go about choosing names in my books, and the question always catches me by surprise. Choosing names for characters and specific places in books is a necessary task, one that, for me, happens organically as the stories unfold.

I might compare the process to naming a baby, except that I have many more naming opportunities for characters than for real-live people, so weeks and months of pondering doesn’t seem necessary. Still, once a character is named, I begin to think of him with that name, and I rarely feel inclined to change the name to something else, so it is somewhat important to get the name right from the start.

Detective Oliver Parrott, whose first appearance in Murder in the One Percent sets the stage for the series, is a perfect example. Parrott is strong, smart, and quite articulate—just like a parrot. He also has a pet cockatiel named Horace. More importantly, Parrott’s name is a nod to Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot.

Sometimes I name characters after friends or colleagues whom I admire and wish to honor. That can be dicey, though, particularly if the characters have traits or challenges that their namesakes might not relish reading about. If I anticipate such a problem, I will check with the person to make sure she’s okay with it. Since most of the people I know have good senses of humor, I’ve never had anyone object.

Of course, in fiction, all characters are derived from my creativity, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is coincidental. Once in a while, though, I have named a character after someone who is dear to me, but who has passed on. For me, this is a way to keep her memory alive, as it remains in my heart.

The Detective Parrott mysteries, Murder in the One Percent and A Palette for Love and Murder, take place in Brandywine Valley, Pennsylvania. That is a real place, and many of the names of restaurants, hospitals, museums, attractions, and even the police department, are represented by their actual names. The Hunt magazine, which appears in both books, is a phenomenal resource for me in creating the settings and situations. So many Brandywine Valley people have opened their minds and hearts to me, and I strive to do justice to them.

There is a common practice in Brandywine Valley to name mansions and to call them by name in conversation. That gives me more opportunities to create names. One of my homes is called Bucolia, a reference to the peaceful, bucolic nature of life there. Another is named Manderley, after the home in Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca.

As Rick Riordan said in The Lightning Thief, “Names have power.” It’s the job of an author to harness that power for the sake of the story. The creation of names is one of the privileges of being an author, and one of the most fun.

* * *
Mystery and children’s book author, Saralyn Richard, won the Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Readers’ Choice Award 2019 for her first novel, MURDER IN THE ONE PERCENT. The book was also a Finalist for the Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award for Best Procedural Novel 2019, and garnered other honors and kudos. A PALETTE FOR LOVE AND MURDER, out in February 2020, is the second title in the Detective Oliver Parrott series. Richard’s children’s picture book, NAUGHTY NANA, has reached thousands of children in five countries. A member of International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America, she has lived in New Orleans, St. Louis, and Chicago, and now lives in Galveston, Texas. Richard loves to connect with readers through book clubs, organization meetings, or on social media at the following links:
https://twitter.com/SaralynRichard
https://wwwfacebook.com/saralyn.richard,
https://wwwlinkedin.com/in/saralyn-richard-b06b6355/,
https://wwwpinterest.com/saralynrichard/,
www.saralynrichard.com

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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, January 16, 2020

 

The Reason We Fail

I fail a lot. Before 8am. Every day. I have failed at everything from diets to relationships and every dang thing in between. I've missed work, missed parent teacher events, and I nearly fell over attempting to stand still (but gosh those high heel boots looked good even though I couldn't walk or stand in them). You've failed too, right? Didn't win that writing contest? Didn't sell as many book copies as you'd planned? It's only mid-January and you gave up on your resolution or New Year goal?

This is a hot topic at our house. We have teens and tweens mixed with toddlers, and of course adults. We make a lot of mistakes, and we talk about how we can do better. We are a noisy group and most of us enjoy a loud conversation and we don't go to bed until we are satisfied. We also ask "WHY?" a lot...like "why did you do that?" "why didn't you do that?" "why are you treating your sister that way?" "why do you think your coach did that?" etc...

My son recently made a poor choice with a coach for a team sport he participates in. He felt like a failure. In the situation, he definitely failed to make good choices, yet he is an 11 year old boy and is in no way a failure.

Why did he fail? Why do I fail? Why do you fail?

Here's why:



You are going to fail. I am going to fail. It's not the fault of anyone except us. In my son's case, it's not his coaches fault by any means. We sometimes set our expectations too high. We don't always put in as much work as we should have. There's no magic pill going to make me thin and there's no guarantee the book you're working on is going to be on the top ten list. Every day is not going to be a win. Here's what we need to remember about failing:

We have a choice of failing. (period) or failing forward. It's ok to be upset and disappointed. It's okay to cry. We just have to put on our big girl (or big boy panties) and make the changes necessary to move forward. As for help when necessary. Evaluate the steps that led us here and do things differently next time around. Human nature leads us to blame someone instead of taking personal responsibility - but it's not your spouses fault, it doesn't matter that you went to XYZ college, and if we are talking about losing weight - there's no magic pill. When I eat the garbage and don't exercise I can't expect to lose the weight. The Oreo cookie is not to blame - my lack of willpower IS!

You are standing in your own way. I'm standing in my own way. I need to keep that mirror close by as a reminder. What are ways you've failed forward? How do you remind yourself to keep plugging away? What works for you?



Crystal is the office manager, council secretary, financial secretary, and musician at her church, birth mother, Auntie, babywearing mama, business owner, active journaler, writer and blogger, Blog Tour Manager with WOW! Women on Writing, Press Corp teammate for the DairyGirl Network, Unicorn Mom Ambassador, as well as a dairy farmer. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband and their five youngest children, two dogs, four little piggies, a handful of cats and kittens, horses Darlin' and Joker, and over 250 Holsteins.

You can find Crystal milking cows, riding horses, and riding unicorns (not at the same time), taking the ordinary and giving it a little extra (making it extraordinary), blogging and reviewing books here, and at her personal blog - Crystal is dedicated to turning life's lemons into lemonade and she has never (not once) been accused of being normal!

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Wednesday, January 15, 2020

 

Read to Assemble a Writer’s Toolbox

This is one of my favorite writing quotes, and Stephen King has the weight to carry it off. After all, he’s been selling his work since 1967 and has published something like 83 novels. Go ahead. Try to argue.

But when I saw this quote today, I realized something new. You also need to read widely. After all, a good toolbox contains a wide variety of tools.

Read poetry. Interested in winning the WOW Flash Fiction Contest?  Then read poetry to learn how to make every word count. Reading poetry will also enable you to study how to create powerful imagery and writing that resonates emotionally with the reader.

Read picture books. As in the 32 page books written for young children. Written for pre-readers, they are meant to be read aloud. Picture books will teach you how to make your words sing and how to engage in word-play. Want to do all of this and also learn to tell a story in 500 words or less? Picture books are the tool for you. Picture books contain a full plot, beginning, middle and end, as well as multiple attempts to solve the problem all in a limited word count.

Read horror. Horror will teach you to create suspense. You will also learn to select setting details that allow you to manipulate your reader’s emotions. Depending on what you describe and how you describe it, a sunny day can be uplifting or ominous, cheery or harsh.

Read speculative fiction such as fantasy or science fiction. In fantasy and science fiction, authors must build bridges that bring the reader into an unfamiliar landscape. Authors also use emotion and other familiar elements to help readers identify with character who are truly alien.

Read epic novels. Whether you choose fantasy, horror, or historic fiction, read sagas with huge casts of characters. You will learn how to introduce large numbers of characters to your readers and how to bring these characters forward when necessary and when to let them retreat into the background.

Read graphic novels. Sometimes I look at a page I’ve just written and realize my characters are talking an awful lot and saying very little. Characters in graphic novels have to get to the point in short order. Learn to make every word of dialogue count by studying this format.

Read mysteries. Even if you aren’t writing a who-done-it, mysteries will teach you how to dole out information a bit at a time. You will learn how to foreshadow coming events and revelations and how to create false leads.

If you want to stock your tool box, read. Read often and read widely unless you think you can fix every writing problem with a hammer.

--SueBE

To find out more about Sue Bradford Edwards' writing, visit her blog, One Writer's Journey.  Sue is also the instructor for  Research: Prepping to Write Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins  March 2nd, 2020. 

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Tuesday, January 14, 2020

 

Interview with E. Izabelle Cassandra Alexander, Summer 2019 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

E. Izabelle Cassandra Alexander was born and raised in a little village in Hungary. After immigrating to the US, she first lived in New York. There she graduated with honors from Monroe College with a Bachelor's in Information Systems before moving to Chicago, where she earned her MBA in Business from Webster University.

Izabelle wanted to write her first novel at age eight and wrote her first poem in fourth grade. In 2013, she refocused to pursue her life-long dream of writing and began taking writing classes at Oakton Community College and online. Since then, she’s a member of numerous writing and poetry groups, attending workshops and conferences, continuously updating her writing and editing skills.

Izabelle writes short stories, creative nonfiction essays, flash fiction, plays, and poetry. She’s currently working on a few novels and a series of children’s books along with illustrations.

Several of her short stories, creative nonfiction essays, and poetry have been published by Oakton Community College in 2016, 2018, and 2019 issues of their annual print literary journal, Spark, as well as by The International Library of Poetry in four of their print anthologies between 2004 and 2008. By The Scarlet Leaf Review on their website in 2018, and by the Illinois State Poetry Society (ISPS) on their website and in the ISPS print anthology, Distilled Lives, Volume 4, 2018. Also, in Yearning to Breathe, a print anthology by Moonstone Art Center in 2019.

Her nonfiction essays “Disciplined Discipline” (2017) and “My First Camel Ride” (2019), and her flash fiction “Invisible Love” (2018) each received an Honorable Mention in contests by WOW! Women on Writing while they chose many of her flash pieces as finalists. In The New York City Midnight Challenge Flash Fiction Contest, she won the first round within her tier with her flash fiction titled “What Eyes Can’t See” in 2018. Some of her poems, fiction, creative nonfiction essays, and plays had been selected by Oakton Community College as a finalist to represent them in the annual Skyway Competitions over the last six years.

You can find Izabelle at: izabelle2012.wixsite.com/Izabelle

And on Patreon at: www.patreon.com/IzabelleAlexander

Read Izabelle's unforgettable story here and then return to learn more about the writer.

----------Interview by Renee Roberson

WOW: Welcome, Izabelle, and congratulations! “Fragments of Bones” is a haunting and introspective story that unfolds at just the right pace. What are some of your favorite genres of writing to experiment with?

Izabelle: Last year, I experimented with fantasy, science-fiction, ghost stories, and some light horror. I want to do more of that in 2020. I’m reading Steven King’s “On Writing, a Memoir of the Craft,” and it inspires me to write a sci-fi/horror piece and see what happens. I’m also interested in supernatural and paranormal stories and planning to write in that genre, too, this year.

WOW: Those genres are right up my alley, and I know a lot of readers here enjoy them, too.  We can't wait to see what you come up with. Your work has been published in several literary journals. What tips would you offer writers offering to break into this medium?

Izabelle: Once I read that, “it’s a numbers game.” So my advice to any writer who’d like to see their work published in a literary journal or magazine is to submit, submit, and submit. The more you submit, the more chances there are that your story or poem will find a home and encounter the readers you intended to reach.

Also, although evaluating literary work is subjective, it helps to read what the journal usually publishes. So you can send your work more fitting to their “taste.” Always follow submission guidelines.

WOW: Very good advice, thank you. It is indeed a numbers game and tied to how appropriate your piece is to the tone of the journal and their themes. Writing flash fiction is an art form. How do you write and revise pieces when you have a limited amount of words?

Izabelle: I first write the story, which may be much less or more in terms of word-count than what is needed for a particular call for submission. If I need to cut it down to fit into the word-count requirement of flash fiction or micro-fiction, I need to evaluate if the story is right for this compression. Some of my stories land themselves for longer lengths, where I feel that if I try to distill them down to 500 or 750 words, they will lose a lot of substance. In a way, the stories do have their own life and form, and it’s a delicate balance to find which should be a flash piece and which should be a two to four thousand words short story or longer. Sometimes, I will write two versions of the same story, the longer work, of course, expanding on the flash piece’s ideas.

So, let’s say the limit is 1,000 words (which is for WOW’s creative nonfiction essay contests), and my story is 1,500. I will begin by cutting anything unnecessary or redundant. Then I go through the piece, again and again, replacing words of three or four with one or two to say the same thing with brevity. I cut anything that’s not essential for the story and not needed for clarity.

Usually, those last five or so words are the hardest to cut, but I always find the way, so I’m confident, it can be done. I find that my best short pieces are the ones where I had to painstakingly delete anything above a certain word-count. Having to do that forces you to examine each word. Each word must earn the right to be included.

WOW: You mention in your bio that you enjoy attending writing conferences and workshops. What has been your favorite so far, and why?

Izabelle: My favorite one to attend is the Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference’s Writers Competition and Festival. Eight community colleges compete against each other in several genres, fiction, creative nonfiction, drama, and poetry.

I usually submit to this, and many of my stories and poems have been selected to represent Oakton Community College. I’m enrolled and have been taking classes at this college over the years. The event not only provides exposure with an open mic session, but also offers four different workshops (fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and drama) each year hosted by one of the eight participating colleges.

WOW: Oh, that does sound fun! Festivals are a great way to get your work out there. After earning an MBA, what made you decide to refocus on your writing career several years ago?

Izabelle: I wanted to write since I was about eight-years-old. I remember going to the library to do research on the jungle because, in my book, the plane would crash there, and I needed to be able to describe it. In fourth grade, I wrote my first poem (a translation from a Russian poem about the four seasons, a class assignment). I continued writing after that, especially in my teenage years. From an early age, I’ve been journaling. Writing seems to be something integral to me, and I always dreamed of one day writing my life story.

Several years ago, I’d read Rick Warren’s “Purpose Driven Life.” Twice. It made me realize that writing is not an option for me. It’s something my experiences were preparing me for throughout all my life, but it never had the center stage. Always it was something I’d do later.

I began attending classes at Oakton Community College to attain a teacher’s certificate. My first love was to be a teacher one day. When I was five, that’s the answer I gave if anyone asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up. Also, I took a writing fiction class, which lead me to one of the writing groups I have attended for seven years now.

During the thirty observation hours required for one of the classes, I was also working on my first NaNoWriMo. I wrote a short story about a little bluebird, Millie (around four thousand words), and the teacher suggested that I share it with the children (3rd and 4th graders). They loved it and said, “Ms. Alexander, we want to see what happens to Millie and Cecilia, you need to make this a chapter book. We want to see it there on the shelf. You need to write a whole series about Millie.”

It was an honor to be asked by the children to continue the story and make it a book. I’d go and read to them after completing the first, second, and third books and invite them to come up with the chapter titles. I’d also read Millie’s stories to the 5th and 6th graders (my son’s class at that time). What an amazing experience! That is what got me to refocus on writing. Those children were and always will be an inspiration to me.

"The Amazing Adventures of Millie" will be a series of seven or eight books with my drawings as illustrations (also suggested by the children). They are books with heart and effortless learning and a little bit of magic.

WOW: What an incredible story! You know you are on to something if children are continuing to ask you how the story ends. It sounds like you are quite the multi-talented writer and artist. I love how you say you realized writing was not an option for you. We are glad you chose to follow your heart and pursue your dream with a fervent passion. Good luck in all your writing and publishing endeavors.

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Monday, January 13, 2020

 

Georgia Stories on My Mind Blog Tour And Giveaway

Come visit Georgia within these pages as you read heartwarming stories shaped by local traditions and legends. The characters live life to the fullest through joys and hardships. Inhale the essence of Georgia’s revitalized small town squares while eating hand- scooped ice cream on a park bench. Each town has its own magic. Sometimes the most real things in life are things we cannot see but those that deeply touch us, as the folks in these tales learn. Share smiles and shed tears as you travel the curving road of life with these Georgia characters. Are you ready for an unforgettable experience of hope, faith, trust, reconciliation, and love?

Print Length: 259 Pages
Genre: Short Story Anthologies
Publisher: Touch Not the Cat Books
ASIN: B07FXVRZGG
ISBN-10: 0999597612
ISBN-13: 9780999597613

Georgia Stories on My Mind is available to purchase on Amazon.com.

Book Giveaway Contest

To win a copy of the book Georgia Stories on My Mind by Jackie Rod, please enter using Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post. Giveaway ends on January 20th at 11:59 PM EST. We will announce the winner the next day on the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

About the Author, Jackie Rod

“A good book transports me to another time and place. It lets me feel the sensation of heroes and heroines— dark loneliness, deep passion, a father’s pride and a mother’s grief.” Jackie Rod is a fiction writer, loving wife of a legal beagle, and mother of three children who has blessed her with seven fantastic grandchildren. After Jackie retired from teaching, her love of words and stories led her to begin writing fiction. Reading and traveling enrich her life and she jumps at the opportunity to teach a workshop or attend a writing conference. She belongs to five writing chapters/groups. Jackie’s work can be found in twelve published books on Amazon, in several Metro Atlanta libraries, and independent bookstores.

You can find Jackie at:

www.facebook.com/JackieRod
www.Twitter.com/Softnsilk
www.LinkedIn/com/in/jackie-rod-32bba255 www.Pinterest.com/JackieRod
www.JackieRod.blogspot.com
www.Instagram.com/jackierod039

---- Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW: Congratulations on your book! Tell us a little bit about Georgia Stories On My Mind. What can readers expect?

Jackie: Georgia Stories On My Mind highlights strong women living in small southern towns. In each heartwarming story a woman works through relationships with friends, family and lovers. Day-by-day she must deal with the realities of life that make her struggle through inner frailties to find her true self. We cheer for each heroine as she realizes her strengths. I invite you to take a short journey to Georgia and meet the people who live life to the fullest through joys and hardships. Share smiles and shed tears as you travel the road of life with them and experience the gamut of human emotions. Hope, faith, and love give each of us a purpose to move away from the doubts of yesterday and into the light of tomorrow.

WOW: I love it! And I know readers will too. What inspired you to write this book?

Jackie: I was born in Atlanta, Georgia and have lived here most of my life. We travel a lot, and my area of the world is hard to beat. We travel out of the country every year and love seeing the beauty of the people and the earth. There is a uniqueness about small towns across the land—especially the charming towns in Georgia. I wanted to share my part of the country with others: Stone Mountain, Gibbs Gardens, and Savannah. We are known for our southern hospitality. Come on down and have a cold glass of sweet tea or a slice of watermelon and sit a spell. Bottom line, there is no place like home.

WOW: You could invite me over for sweet tea anytime! I’m so impressed to find out that you taught for 31 years. How did teaching help you with your writing?

Jackie: Thirty-one years in the classroom immensely enriched my life. With a Master’s degree in more than one field, I taught thirteen subjects and in every department but math. Primarily I taught behavioral sciences and social sciences. History, Sociology, and Psychology gave me worlds of material to incorporate into my writing. The first thing I learned was how blessed I was to have three wonderful children at home. The second thing I learned was how much students appreciated a competent, caring instructor. Helping them grow intellectually and emotionally inspired me to be their best mentor. They filled my days with joy and made my job a walk in the park.


"You’ve got a book in you. Write it and change your life forever."


WOW: I am sure you have tons of material to draw from! For anyone who is struggling to write, what advice would you give them? 

Jackie: You’ve got a book in you. Write it and change your life forever. Be passionate about your work. Attend writing workshops to improve your craft. We can never learn too much about the writing industry. Make writing a habit and stick to a schedule. Create short term goals and long term goals. Join a critique group and learn from experienced, talented writers. Invest in a good editor for advice and ideas. Believe in yourself and your ability to touch others’ lives with your words. Don’t let anyone discourage you. Write on!

WOW: Fantastic advice! You have quite a lot of short stories published in anthologies! What draws you to short stories?

Jackie: I enjoy writing lengthy short stories, but I don’t write brief short stories. I don’t enter contests, because lots of the contests require short-short stories. The best thing about writing lengthy short stories for an anthology is working with 6-8 other authors who are friends. We plan the anthology and create a bible with a location, time frame, and theme. With a very busy life, I can write forty pages and keep it glued together. It’s more work to write a long book when I have to stop and start and stop again.

WOW: I totally agree about the appeal of short stories over writing a book. What's next for you? What are you working on right now?

Jackie: I have two books which will be finished in 2020. Driven is the story of a lonely truck driver who lost his only child in a hit-and-run accident. The death caused a breach in his marriage. The mother blamed herself for letting the little girl walk the puppy that ran into the street. He blames himself, because he gave his daughter the puppy for Christmas. Along the road, he identifies with needy families with children and becomes a beacon of hope for them. He asks for his wife’s aid, and she steps up to the plate. Their mission brings them closer and helps them overcome their guilt to feel alive and love each other again. The second book, Bittersweet, is about three writers who bond at a writing conference. They live near each other, become soul mates, and critique each other’s work. The youngest and most passionate writer is diagnosed with cancer. In a selfless act of caring, the other two women put their lives on hold and finish their friend’s book for her to hold in her hands. A blessing indeed.

Of course, I will continue to teach writing workshops, do readings and signings for libraries and bookshops, and attend writing conferences. My books are in several libraries and bookshops.

WOW: Those books sound amazing! I can't wait to read them. Best of luck on your books and on the blog tour!

--- Blog Tour Dates

Today @ The Muffin
What goes better in the morning than a muffin? Grab your coffee and join us as we celebrate the launch of Jackie Rod's blog tour of her book Georgia Stories on My Mind. You can read an interview with the author and win a copy of the book.
https://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/

January 14th @ Lori's Reading Corner
Visit Lori's blog today and read author Jackie Rod's guest post about editing. You can also enter to win a copy of her book Georgia Stories on My Mind.
http://www.lorisreadingcorner.com

January 15th @ Cathy C. Hall's Blog
Visit Cathy C. Hall's blog today and read her review of Jackie Rod's book Georgia Stories on My Mind.
https://c-c-hall.com/

January 16th @ Caroline Clemmons Blog
Stop by Caroline's blog today and you can see a spotlight of the book and an interview with author Jackie Rod. Also win a copy of the book!
http://carolineclemmons.blogspot.com/

January 18th @ A Day in the Life of Mom
Visit Ashley's blog today and you can read Jackie Rod's guest post about how time is limited and precious. Plus, you can enter to win a copy of the book!
https://adayinthelifeofmom.com/

January 20th @ Memoir Writer's Journey
Make sure you stop by Kathleen's blog today and read her review of Jackie Rod's book Georgia Stories on My Mind. You can also win a copy of the book!
https://krpooler.com/

January 21st @ Amanda Diaries
Visit Amanda's blog today and you can read her review of Jackie Rod's book Georgia Stories on My Mind.
https://amandadiaries.com/

January 22nd @ Look to the Western Sky
Stop by Margo's blog where you can read Jackie Rod's guest post about being a cheerleader for others. You can also win a copy of the book Georgia Stories on My Mind. Don't miss it!
https://www.margoldill.com

January 22nd @ Cathy C. Hall's Blog
Visit Cathy's blog today and reading Jackie Rod's guest post about being a homegrown Georgia peach.
https://c-c-hall.com/

January 23rd @ And So She Thinks
Visit Francesca's blog today where you can read Jackie Rod's guest post about the value of critique groups and writing groups.
https://andsoshethinks.wordpress.com/

January 24th @ Coffee with Lacey
Come by Lacey's blog today and read her review of Jackie Rod's book Georgia Stories on My Mind.
http://www.coffeewithlacey.com

January 25th @ Bookworm Blog
Stop by Anjanette's blog today and you can read her review of Jackie Rod's book Georgia Stories on My Mind. Enter to win a copy of the book as well!
http://bookworm66.wordpress.com

January 26th @ The Frugalista Mom
Visit Rozelyn's blog today and read Jackie Rod's guest post about precious moments.
https://thefrugalistamom.com

January 27th @ 12 Books
Visit Louise's blog and read her review of Jackie Rod's book Georgia Stories on My Mind.
http://www.12books.co.uk/

January 28th @ A Storybook World
Join Deirdra at her blog today where you can read Jackie Rod's guest post about the importance of conferences.
http://www.astorybookworld.com/

January 30th @ Author Anthony Avina's Blog
Visit Anthony's blog today where he will be spotlighting Jackie Rod's book Georgia Stories On My Mind.
http://www.authoranthonyavinablog.com

January 31st @ Author Anthony Avina's Blog
Visit Anthony's blog again where you can read his review of the book Georgia Stories On My Mind and you can win a copy of the book!
http://www.authoranthonyavinablog.com

February 1st @ Ali's Bookshelf Reviews
Come by Ali's blog today and you can read her review of Jackie Rod's book Georgia Stories on My Mind. Plus you can win a copy of the book!
http://alisbookshelfreviews.blogspot.com/

February 3rd @ Author Anthony Avina's Blog
Visit Anthony's blog where you can read an interview with author Jackie Rod and read her guest post about family and friends.
http://www.authoranthonyavinablog.com

February 4th @ Ali's Bookshelf Reviews
Visit Ali's blog today and read author Jackie Rod's guest post about how reading changes your life.
http://alisbookshelfreviews.blogspot.com/

February 6th @ Memoir Writer's Journey
Stop by Kathleen's blog today and read Jackie Rod's guest post about the joys of life. Don't miss this one!
https://krpooler.com/

February 7th @ The Frugalista Mom
Stop by Rozelyn's blog today and you can read her review of Jackie Rod's book Georgia Stories on My Mind. You can also enter to win a copy of the book!
https://thefrugalistamom.com

February 8th @ Bookworm Blog
Stop by Anjanette's blog again and you can read an interview with author Jackie Rod and read the author's guest post featuring writing tips. Don't miss!
http://bookworm66.wordpress.com

February 9th @ Leonard Tillman's Blog
Visit Leonard's blog and read his review of Jackie Rod's book Georgia Stories on My Mind.
http://leonardtillerman.com/

February 10th @ Madeline Sharples Blog
Visit Madeline's blog and read Jackie Rod's guest post about marketing on social media.
http://madelinesharples.com/

February 11th @ 12 Books
Visit Louise's blog again and you can read Jackie Rod's touching guest post about wisdom. Don't miss it!
http://www.12books.co.uk/

February 12th @ It's Alanna Jean
Visit Alanna's blog where you can read a guest post by the author about faith, hope, and love.
https://itsalannajean.wordpress.com/

February 16th @ Joyful Antidotes
Visit Joy's blog today and you can read her review of Jackie Rod's book Georgia Stories on My Mind.
https://www.joyfulantidotes.com

Keep up with the latest tour dates on Twitter: @WOWBlogTour


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

To win a copy of the book Georgia Stories on My Mind by Jackie Rod, please enter using Rafflecopter below. Giveaway ends on January 20th at 11:59 PM EST. We will announce the winner the next day on the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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Sunday, January 12, 2020

 

The Road to Success...


The road to success... Is it inevitably lined with failures?

On CBS Sunday Morning I recently saw a story on Tanya Tucker. She made a comment that struck me. Here it is:

"I feel like … those mistakes are part of my success. To be able to go through those things and come out on the other side, I think, is success. I don't think you could be successful unless you've had a lot of failures, and I've had some."

Her comment made me reflect on my own failures, along with reflecting on what lessons those failures have taught me.

image courtesy of Pixabay


Lesson # 1: Making things public makes a difference.
I had been floundering with a picture book. It was a project I was incredibly committed to, due to its subject matter (a stray dog). I sat on it and sat on it, but wasn't submitting it anywhere... until a writing friend, Donna Volkenannt, nudged me. I made it public, and declared a date when I would submit it.

Because it was out there for all the world my 3.5 readers to see, I made the deadline. The manuscript was sent... It was verbally gushed over and "accepted" by the publisher, only to be later rejected by a lesser editor. It's remained dusty ever since.

Lesson # 2: Having a thick skin is needed if you want to be a writer.
A few years ago I wrote a middle-grades manuscript that sang. It was shiny and perfect... or so I thought.

Then I sent it to be professionally edited by Margo Dill. I knew she would sing my praises, because my novel-wannabe was ready for immediate publication. It really was.

Margo did give me specific praise. However, she also gave me specific suggestions. Her detailed and thorough critique made me completely rewrite (mostly from scratch) my story... and now, it's being considered by three different presses.

(If I had sent out my original hot mess, there would be no nibbles. Publishers and editors would take a cursory glance, curse, and reject it hurl.)

Lesson # 3: Being held "accountable" makes an impact.
This is similar to lesson # 1. I had written a manuscript (the one from lesson # 2) and wasn't doing anything with it. I'd written a draft, had gotten to "the end," and took it out occassionally to dust it off and make it shiny again. Submit it anywhere? Fuhgeddabotit.

Then a group of writers and I started a writing accountability group--thanks to J Glenn. She suggested it, and two years later, it's still going strong. The other writers (not always me) post their short-term goals every week, along with reporting on their successes, their rejections and their struggles. Because it's an amazing group of writers, their encouragement, feedback and suggestions are priceless. We do it via Dropbox, so it's free and user-friendly.

Because of the Butt-Kickers (what we call ourselves), I've rewritten, revised and submitted my manuscript... and have gotten a few preliminary nibbles.

So. What failures have you experienced that taught you a lesson? Do you think we must face some failures in our pathway to success--if it ever comes when it comes? Stumbling minds want to know...

Last summer, Sioux Roslawski took a trip around Iceland. One day, she spent part of the morning at some mudpots--bubbling "creeks" of stinky, hot mud (thankfully this image is not a scratch and sniff one). She thinks of those mudpots when her writing smells... and when her WIP is a hot mess. You can check out Sioux's writing by checking out her blog.




Saturday, January 11, 2020

 

Questions About Pen Names


By Bobbie Christmas


Q: I’m publishing a book of rebus puzzles. Should I use a pen name or my own name? I know some authors use another name when they switch genres, so readers don’t become confused. Your thoughts are appreciated.

A: I love to hear when writers of one style turn to another, as in the case of your writing word puzzles. The switch to a totally different genre does sometimes trigger the wish for a pseudonym, but the choice is yours.

Readers don’t easily get confused. They can tell the difference between a work of fiction and one of nonfiction. Even if you wrote in various fiction genres, such as romance, thriller, mystery, and science fiction, each book cover explains what the book is about. How would it baffle readers?

One of my most successful clients writes both thrillers and fantasy novels. She has won awards for both genres and sold the separate genres to different publishers. She has a big following for both genres and uses her real name for both. Using a pen name for one or the other genre might have cut down her fan base and reduced the overall sales of her books.

Personally, I love my name, and the only reason I would use a fictitious one is if I were to write something in which I took no pride. Omar Sharif did not write under other names when he shifted from acting to screenwriting to writing about bridge; he took advantage of his popularity.

One time a fellow author at a book signing admitted to me that she wrote in so many genres and had so many pseudonyms that she sometimes forgot who she was supposed to be on a particular day at a specific event. She said gatherings of authors had become a nightmare to her, because of her various names. At general book signings where authors were invited as a group, she brought five or six books with various pseudonyms, and no one knew who she was. Guess who was confused. Not readers; the author was the confused one.

No rule applies to using pen names. The choice is a personal one. Before you decide to use an alias, though, think of the pros and cons. The only pro I see is that it gives authors anonymity when necessary. The cons are numerous, though.

Q: I own a business, and I am writing a humorous book critiquing the dating habits of American men. Parts of the book are a little off-color, and I don’t want it to impact my business negatively by being “out there” where my clients might read it. Can I/should I publish anonymously? How in heaven’s name is that done? Maybe a pen name? How do I navigate this terrain in the book proposal, which is complete except for this aspect?

A: You’ve hit on one of the reasons why some authors use pen names. Pick a good nom de plume, and on the title page of the proposal below your name, drop down two lines and add, “Writing as” and add the pseudonym you have chosen. In other words, the book proposal should include your real name, but the actual book probably should not.

Q: Is there a section on a government website to add a pen name?

A: Pen names, or pseudonyms, are left up to authors, and authors may have a variety of reasons for not using their real names. As far as I know, though, there is no registry for pen names. The only rule of thumb is not to use a pen name that is the name of a well-known author or celebrity. For example, you are likely to be sued if you use J. K. Rowling, Stephen King, or Tom Hanks as your pen name.

***


Bobbie Christmas, book editor, author of Write In Style: Use Your Computer to Improve Your Writing, and owner of Zebra Communications, will answer your questions, too. Send them to Bobbie@zebraeditor.com or BZebra@aol.com.

Read Bobbie’s Zebra Communications blog at https://www.zebraeditor.com/blog/.

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Thursday, January 09, 2020

 

Writing Lessons Learned from Love It or List It


Are you familiar with Love It or List it? The home makeover show where the designer is pitted against the realtor? In the end, the homeowner must decide whether he or she will love it (and stay in their newly remodeled home) or list it (and move into the great new home the realtor has found).

I don’t go in for most home makeover shows; they’re awfully repetitive in either style or design. Plus, I can’t really get invested in people looking for homes with a $965,000 budget. But Love It or List It is different and I’m ridiculously hooked. And in the midst of watching the latest episode, I thought, “Oh. My. Word. There’s a writing lesson here!”

The Assessment

The program begins with the designer and the realtor doing a walk-through of the home. Invariably, one of the homeowners absolutely wants to move and the other wants to stay and it’s up to the designer and realtor to take a look around and see what the homeowners need. (It’s almost always the same: a dedicated office, a playroom, a laundry room. Basically, it’s more space, and it doesn’t take a designer or realtor to figure out that obvious point.)

And now for the lesson, writers. Let’s say you have a manuscript that’s not selling or that you can’t quite finish, or in some other way is a mess. Step back and take an objective walk-through of your manuscript. DO NOT GO BIT BY BIT. If you want to get an idea of the problem, a read through AT ONE TIME is critical. And yes, it might take five hours, but believe me, if it’s a basic problem (sagging middle, boring or predictable, major plot holes), you’ll finish that read through and you’ll know. So it’s on to Step Two.


The Plan (And Implementing It)

Next, the designer and realtor find out what the homeowners want. The realtor takes this list and starts hunting for houses that fit the bill. The designer looks at the mess of a house and somehow—and here’s what’s particularly riveting for me—comes up with a vision of how she can fix this house so the homeowner will love it. There’s a give and take and lots of conflict for the design team and the realtor as there are plenty of constraints involved. Hopefully, you won’t have too many constraints. You just have to figure out a plan.

So for the next lesson, assuming you have figured out the problem(s) in your manuscript, it’s time to come up with a plan to fix ‘em. First, you’ll need to see the vision of what your manuscript can be; take your time here, giving it plenty of thought. Next, make a chart of everything you’ve decided must change. Be as detailed as possible! This will come in handy when you sit down and actually start the work. And depending on what kind of mess you’re dealing with, this phase could take a while so quit fooling around and get started!


Are You Going To Love It? (Or List It?)

That’s what our hard-working realtor and designer always ask the homeowners after the eye-opening walk-through of the newly improved home. The homeowners may not have everything on their wish list but it’s always amazing what the designer has managed. What must be decided is whether there is enough in the remodeled home for them to stay or if it’s time to move on. Oh, the suspense of it all!

For your final lesson, maybe you, too, have been at that manuscript for months. You’ve checked your chart and were able to fix the plot holes—and that’s huge!—but you might not have fixed that predictable ending. The point is, you’ve put in a lot of work and now it’s time once again for you to do a read-through. Are you going to love it (and keep working to fix any additional problems) or are you going to leave it (because there’s just too much that still is not working and frankly, you suspect it will never work) and move on to a new project?

Love it or leave it? Only you can determine what’s next for your writing, but isn’t this a lot more exciting than talking about revision? And seriously, I can’t wait to hear what you decide! (Or for that matter, to watch the next episode of Love It or List It!)

~Cathy C. Hall





Cathy C. Hall has plenty of manuscripts that she loves (and more than a few that she's left behind). If she can pull herself away from Love It or List It, she'll finish a few of those picture book manuscripts she adores. And possibly even the kitchen renovations she started back in October. (And by kitchen reno, she means the wallpaper fiasco.)

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Wednesday, January 08, 2020

 

It's Time for the Word of the Year: What's Yours?

Every year around this time, I write a post about my Word of the Year. This is something I started doing in 2016 when I was going through a divorce and was feeling overwhelmed with every aspect of life. The thought of making new year's goals or resolutions was completely out of the picture. My critique group member had read the book: One Word That Will Change Your Life, and she had successfully navigated her way through an entire year, making positive changes focused on this one word she chose. So I thought--why not? If any of you have been through a life-changing time, you know you're often desperate to latch on to anything that will help you make your way through--you're surviving!

Even though, I'm mostly over that hump now and back to writing and enjoying life again, I still prefer the "one word" New Year's goal method rather than coming up with a bunch of goals and resolutions. This year, it's a little different for me because I do have some goals that I'm trying to accomplish each day--working 1 hour and 15 minutes on my own writing before working my day job, teaching WOW! classes, and helping editing clients. But luckily, that all falls under this most glorious word that I chose for 2020:

CREATE! 


As you can see in the photo above, I included my words for each year since 2016: Organization, Peace, Calm, and Grow, so that I can build on them--I do make improvements in each area each year, but there's always room for more growth. 

I chose CREATE this year because I am ready to create the life  I want to live. I want to create books, my business, a better life for my daughter and me, a peaceful and beautiful home, a fun trip to visit my best friend, and who knows what else. But it is a year of creation, and I can't wait! 

Plus I got my daughter in on it, too. When I made that poster above, she also made hers (she's 9!) and hung it in in her room:


So how about you? Have you ever chosen one word to focus on throughout the year? My critique group member shared this site here with us, which helps you figure out your word by answering some questions. I just meditate on it each year, and my word comes to me. But there are all kinds of ways to do it: brainstorm, journal, talk to a friend, check out the site, read the book, and meditate. 

I'd love to hear your thoughts below. But whatever you decide, I hope 2020 is your best year yet! 

Margo L. Dill is the managing editor for WOW! Women On Writing and teaches classes throughout the year on novel writing, writing MG and YA novels, and school visits. Check out more about her here! 

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Tuesday, January 07, 2020

 

Interview with Susan Moffson: Runner Up in Summer 2019 Flash Fiction Contest

Susan Moffson has been working in the field of international development for over 20 years, some of that time spent living and working in Africa. For the past nine years, she has worked for the non-governmental organization, Jhpiego, the leading partner in a consortium implementing a global health project, the Maternal and Child Survival Program. She has written several work-related blogs about the program’s positive impact on women and children and has realized she is a journalist at heart. Susan loves to write fiction, pulling from her time abroad, to capture the incredibly rich and varied cultures she has been fortunate to experience.

***

WOW: Congratulations on your top ten win in our Summer 2019 Flash Fiction competition! Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, “Madagascar Lolita?”

Susan: Yes, I lived in worked in Madagascar and was at a restaurant when an older French gentleman referred to a young bartender/waitress as a Madagascar Lolita. I found this moment really disturbing and could never get it out of my head. I also saw a lot of older men, often European, exploit young African women during our years living in several African countries. Trafficking and exploitation of vulnerable women, in Madagascar and elsewhere, is a huge problem and is a story that needs to be told.

WOW: Your story was a compelling look at this problem, well done. What do you enjoy about flash fiction writing versus the other kinds of writing that you do?

Susan: I just love the challenge of trying to write a plot in so few words and especially enjoy the element of surprise at the end; it's always such a challenge to write an effective ending. Often times I write several drafts and it takes some time for me to find the right ending that will resonate.

WOW:We’d love to know more about your writing routines. Any favorite tools or habits that get you going?

Susan: One thing that gets me going is reading other flash stories. There is so much great stuff out there--especially on WOW!

WOW: As with many writers, I’m guessing that reading may be a favorite activity. Any recent favorites you can recommend? What’s next on your reading list?

Susan: Yes! I really loved Madeline Miller's "Son of Achilles" and "Circe." They were so refreshing and unique and hard to put down. I also really enjoyed Diane Setterfields "Once Upon a River, which was lyrical and beautiful and sad

WOW: Thanks so much for chatting with us today Susan! Before you go, do you have any tips for our readers who may be thinking about entering writing contests?

Susan: I've had more success with contests like WOW, that cap the number of submissions. Some of the very well known ones get so many submissions it's very difficult to place.

****

For more information about our quarterly Flash Fiction and Creative Nonfiction Essay contests, visit our contest page here.




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Monday, January 06, 2020

 

The Monthly Work Cycle of a Freelance Magazine Editor



As I sat thinking about how I’m going to start organizing my daily calendar for the new year, it also occurred to me that readers may be interested to know what a day in the life of a freelance magazine editor looks like.

No day ever looks the same. The magazine world runs in production cycles, so each week looks a little different. Also, the majority of the staff of the magazine I work for are remote. Working from home has pros and cons, as I’m sure you can imagine. I get paid a set salary per issue, and can also pay myself out of the editorial budget if I have to write individual articles (besides the editor’s letter). This position offers no benefits, however, so it is strictly contract work.

I thought it would be simplest to break down the cycle by week:

Week of Jan. 6, 2020. This week, writers and photographers are busy tackling the assignments for the February issue I gave them over the last few weeks, and we are behind due to the December holiday. This is the week I focus on things I need to write myself, such as the calendar of events in the back of the magazine (which also requires me to request photos), an article I write each month called “Renee Wants to Know,” the editor’s letter, a nutrition article I haven’t been able to assign and several advertorial profiles of medical professionals for a special advertising section on health and wellness. We also have our monthly staff meeting on Jan. 9 at a local coffee shop, where I’ll distribute the finalized editorial budget to our sales staff so they can make any last minute sales calls.

Week of Jan. 13, 2020. The creative designer takes my final editorial budget, coupled with the final page count from the publisher, and puts together thumbnails of the magazine. I check over the thumbnails on my end to make sure all stories are accounted for in the layout. I will continue writing and editing things assigned to myself in this week. Because we have a special advertising section, I will make revisions on the profiles from the advertisers as they come in and upload them to the Dropbox account we use to share content as they are finalized. I’ll also edit stories as they come in from writers and upload them, as well as request invoices from the writers. As photographers send me their photo galleries for stories, I’ll make a selection of five or six images and upload them to the assigned story folders in Dropbox, which is how our designer gets everything to lay out the magazine. Because of the way the month falls, I will most likely be proofreading the first few drafts of the magazine over the weekend, and sending my edits to our designer to make.

Week of Jan. 20, 2020. We are scheduled to go to the printer Jan. 21. I will be looking at the final proofs of the magazine this week and making sure everything looks good. I also take one last look at the PDFs of pages as the entire book is being uploaded to our printer. During this week I also ask any writers for invoices that I may not have received and submit them to the publisher. This is a good week to file all my e-mails related to this issue and look ahead at my Excel spreadsheet where I keep my departments organized for each issue. My goal will be to have stories for the March issue assigned by Jan. 24.

Week of Jan. 27, 2020. I continue filing e-mails and plugging in any story holes for the March issue and respond to e-mails from writers and PR professionals I may have put on the back burner. I'll also file future story ideas in a folder or into my Excel spreadsheet with the corresponding issue.

Then I'll start the process all over again for the following month.

I hope this post has been helpful for you. I’d also love to hear your observations about this type of cycle and any questions you may have.

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and magazine editor who also blogs at Finished Pages.


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Sunday, January 05, 2020

 

Meet Cassandra Crossing - Runner Up in the 2019 Quarter 4 Creative Non-Fiction Essay Contest with "Why Are You Here?"

Congratulations to Cassandra Crossing and  Why Are Your Here?. and all the winners of our 2019 Quarter 4 Creative Non-Fiction Essay Contest!

Cassandra's Bio:
Cassandra Crossing immigrated from Hungary and now resides in the Chicagoland area. Poetry and writing have been her life-long dream. She writes from personal experience about love, despair, loss, and hope. Her work includes short stories, creative non-fiction essays, flash fiction, plays, and poetry. She’s also working on a few novels and novellas. Two of her creative nonfiction essays including “Why Are You Here?” as well as “Sorrow,” and her flash fiction “Allure” were finalists at contests by WOW! Women on Writing. Cassandra’s creative nonfiction essay, “Things That Matter” and her play, “The Chair” had been selected by Oakton Community College as finalists to represent them in the annual Skyway Competitions in recent years.

You can find some of Cassandra’s work on her website: ccrossing888.wixsite.com/cassandra and can support her on Patreon: www.patreon.com/CassandraCrossing.

If you haven't done so already, check out Cassandra's expertly written story Why Are You Here? and then return here for a chat with the author.


WOW: Congratulations Cassandra! Thank you for writing this expertly written and very moving essay and for sharing with our readers! What is the take-away you'd like readers to gain from Why Are You Here?

Cassandra: The reason I wrote this essay was that this experience touched me deeply and made me refocus on the fact that I am not alone. No matter what situation we struggle with, there are always others who share similar heartaches and pains. So I wanted to put this story out there to help mothers who had lost their children through a custody battle by letting them know they are not alone. I, too, feel their anguish.

Also, the second reason was to show that instead of fading away in depression, we can make at least a small difference in the children’s lives who are the victims of their parents’ separation and divorce. Instead of becoming envious of the mothers who weren’t forced to experience the torture of this magnitude, let us love and give our time and attention.

Lastly, in the end, we must forgive those women who stepped in and pushed us out to fill our place in our children’s life.


WOW: What a beautiful explanation and reasoning - thank you for being so candid. 

Where do you write? What does your space look like?

Cassandra: I write anywhere and everywhere it seems. For example: at the airport, on vacation, on the plane flying, at the doctor’s office, in my car, waiting for my son at school, at the library, at the college cafeteria, in bed, in the kitchen, sitting outside on my mother’s stairs, anywhere I take my laptop, which is usually everywhere.

My favorite places in the summer and spring are my 8th-floor balcony with a view of the city’s skyline, on Evening Island at the Chicago Botanical Gardens, and by the pool at our home. What makes these places the best place is the beautiful, colorful, fragrant flowers surrounding me.

My favorite place in cold weather or on late nights is my living room. Where I’m surrounded by family pictures on the walls, memories, our three sweet cats, flowers, plants, and tranquil music.

From time to time, I write at my desk on the “BigMac” in my small office area. Usually, this happens when I’m working off of some critiques I’d received from WOW or one of the writing groups I belong to, and I’m using my laptop to display the suggestions.

When I’m at home, no matter where I sit, the common denominator is that my silk-furred calico cat will snuggle up purring in my lap, by my side, or at my shoulder.


WOW: Other than your calico cat of course - who is your support - what have you found to be most supportive in your writing life as well as in life in general?

Cassandra: My faith in God has been my highest support throughout my life. Journaling about the traumas, losses, heartaches I experience helps me understand myself, the purpose of these horrible events in my life, and how to use them for good. I came to realize that if I write and share, it gives these painful experiences a voice which transmutes their pain. If by my writings, I can help others to feel less hurt, less lost, less unworthy, and less alone, my struggles will have meaning. Then I don’t regret having to go through them. When I read Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Life, I realized how my purpose lies in writing about these events that shaped me into the person I am today, one who has empathy and strength.

My son has been the most supportive in my writing life. He encourages me to keep going and tells me how impressed he is by my taking one little thing and making it into a rounded out story with meaning and value. He’s also the reason I kept going when I lost my daughter.

Members of the small writing group I started two years ago, the poetry group I joined a year and a half ago, the personal growth group I’m part of for nearly three years, and some of the members of a larger writing/critiquing group I attend for almost seven years have been most supportive of my writing and help me to grow as a person and a writer.


WOW:  So happy to hear you have so much support - it makes all the difference on the hard days. Now I need to ask: Is Why Are You Here? part of something larger you are working on? It reads like a small chapter of a larger work - if it is, when can we expect to read it? If it isn't - why not?

Cassandra: Over the years, I wanted to write a memoir about how I lost my daughter, about my abuse-filled childhood, about the struggles in my adult life, but it seemed too daunting of a task. Also, too painful. Instead of waiting to have the time and when I feel completely healed, I decided to write short essays. Focusing on one part, one kernel of the past at a time helps me to find the emotional strength to dig deep and explore the truth and hurt I’m writing about.

I’ve been working on putting these creative nonfiction essays together, along with my fiction and poetry, into collections, and I plan to have them published next year.

WOW: 2020 Sounds like it's going to be a very exciting year for you, and your readers as well!

One last questions before we part ways for today: Do you often enter contests or is this a first? What would you like to tell other authors concerning contests and submitting their work?

Cassandra: Yes, I’ve been submitting my work to contests, literary magazines, and journals starting six years ago. At first, only sparingly, but in the last three years, I’ve increased my submissions as I gained more confidence in my writing after devouring any knowledge available about the craft.

Last year, I created a spreadsheet to keep track of my submissions since many organizations accept simultaneous submissions, but they want original, unpublished work. Also, I read Chelsey Clammer’s piece about submissions and rejections, and I wondered about my acceptance/rejection ratio.

It’s a numbers game, I’ve been told. The more you submit, the more chances you have to be accepted. A lot of the time, the deciding factor is based on the preference of the judge or editor.

I usually purchase the critique from WOW. It helps me see what I need to work on and what works already.

WOW: Oh how exciting to hear and thank you for sharing your thoughts today. We will be looking forward to hearing more from you in 2020 and beyond! 


Interviewed by Crystal Otto who just keeps on keeping on!


Check out the latest Contests:

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Saturday, January 04, 2020

 

The Importance of a Writing Habit

Let's talk about habits. It's an important subject considering how we are all talking about New Year's Resolutions. What makes resolutions so unique is that most of us are fitting in a new way of living or being that we aren't used to already. It could be a new exercise routine, a healthier diet, or a more positive outlook. For writers, maybe you are increasing your word count, promising to read more, grow your platform or take a class. Whatever it may be, it's a challenge you want to take on for the new year.

But back to habits. For me, brushing my teeth is a habit. I do it twice a day and floss at night. I do it without thinking and haven't gone a day without brushing at least once. I read somewhere that you should add writing in somewhere that's already a habit. Like teeth brushing. So, brush your teeth, then write 500 words.

For me, I realized recently I have made a habit of writing. I tend to write on the weekends and I devote Sunday (if not both weekend days) to working on something.

Here's why habits can help:

Recently, I received feedback on a story that was mostly positive but I read critical remarks about the story that overwhelmed me. I felt exhausted just thinking about the story and wondered if I should ditch it. Soon my brooding shifted into reluctant writing. On Sunday, I brought up the story and made a few comments for myself about what I wanted to change in the piece. It wasn't much but it was something. Habit superceded the bummer feeling I was dealing with and I made progress. Now, my perspective on the story has changed and I feel like I can take it on.

As you approach your 2020 resolutions, consider transforming a goal or resolution into a habit. Whether it's a certain time of day or after a certain activity (like teeth brushing), add your resolution. Even if it means breaking your resolution into tiny pieces and tiny activities you can sprinkle around your habitual activities. This will especially help you during a sluggish day or two.

With any luck, your resolution will become an embedded part of your lifestyle.

Happy New Year everyone!







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Friday, January 03, 2020

 

Do this before you promote your next book


By the editors at JustKindleBooks

As an author you’re most likely spending some amount of time and money trying to increase your book sales. While there’s no sure-fire way to catapult a book to the bestseller list, many authors try their hand at various types of book promotions. These range from Goodreads giveaways and Amazon book ads to blog tours and running paid promotions on sites like BookBub. For some, authors promotions pay off, leading to lots of sales and new reviews all while breaking even on the spend. But for many authors the book promotion process leads to a small, temporary bump in sales, a few additional reviews and typically, a negative return on investment.

So, what separates success from poor results when it comes to book promotions? It all comes down to how well your book resonates with the audience you target it to. Some books just resonate better than others. But why and what factors influence how well a book resonates? Typically, it has do with the book packaging.

Fortunately, there are some relatively simple ways to amplify how your book resonates with potential readers.

Before you spend money on marketing or book promotions, make sure your book is “packaged” in a way that maximizes sales and resonates with your prospective readers. Your book packaging includes your cover, description, price, back matter and book reviews. If these are off in any way, your marketing and promotion efforts will not deliver the results you hope for.

Here are 5 tips to prepare your book for a promotion:

1. Question your book cover 

Take a hard look at your book cover and compare it to the covers of bestselling novels within your genre. Take note of aspects of the bestsellers’ covers, such as imagery, font, color schemes, mood and overall look/design. The covers of the bestselling books in your genre typify the “look” of your genre. Take a look at your cover, then ask yourself two questions: 1) “Does my book cover scream my genre?” 2) “Does my cover look similar to the covers of the bestsellers in my genre?”

Readers should be able to instantly identify the genre of your book with a quick glance at your cover, and they should associate your cover with the bestsellers by the look and design of it.

Advice: Make your cover look similar to the covers of bestselling books in your genre.

2. Rewrite your book description

Amazon typically shows about 4-6 lines of text for the average Kindle book description before inserting a “Read More” link that expands the rest of the description. It’s crucial for authors to capture the reader’s attention and curiosity within these first few sentences. Use these first few sentences to: 1) convey your book’s genre (typically you can do this indirectly) and 2) seduce the reader into wanting to know more. If you need inspiration, read the book descriptions of bestsellers within your genre. Also, be sure to avoid potentially offensive words that could trigger Amazon to flag your book as “adult” or worse get it blacklisted from automated merchandising. Any profanity, explicit sexual terms, pejorative slurs, and derogatory terms should be eliminated from your book description. For more information on book covers and book descriptions see this article.

Advice: Convey your genre and hook your reader in the first two sentences of your description.

3. Use your back matter to drive actions

The last few pages of your book are known as your “back matter.” This is where you traditionally find acknowledgements and an “about the author” section. This is prime space to promote other books and your brand. Avoid using this space for traditional purposes and instead use it to drive book sales, reviews, and even new followers on social media channels. Here are four things you should be doing with your ebook back matter:

  • Request a review from readers. Many readers are more than willing to write book reviews, but they need you to give them the idea and a link.
  • Links to your other books. If your book is part of a series, make it easy for readers to find out what happens next by offering order links to your other books.
  • Newsletter. Ask readers to sign up for your newsletter so they can get updates on your next books.
  • Links to social media. Grow your social media by providing readers with the links to your Facebook page, Twitter, Amazon author page, or your blog.

Advice: Use your back matter to drive reviews and sales.

4. Price your book low

Many authors think in terms of setting their book price to earn them the most amount of money based on a price elasticity model. For example, the Kindle royalty rate is 70% at price of $2.99 and only 35% at a price of $0.99. So selling 5 books a day at $2.99 earns you a lot more than selling 10 books a day at $0.99. With a price elasticity model you are trying to maximize your earnings based on daily or weekly sales volume.

You may earn more money pricing your book at $2.99, but you may miss out on the benefits of a lower price point. For example, the more books you sell at the lower price, the more reviews you will get. Strong reviews help your Amazon detail page covert visitors into purchasers. Also, if you are selling more books, you’ll be higher in the rankings, and books in the top 10 in any sub-genre surface organically in Amazon’s “popular” and “best-seller” widgets.

Advice: Try pricing your book at $0.99 for a while and a $2.99 for a while and then compare your number or reviews, sales, and sales of other books during each period. KDP also has a pricing tool that will help you pick the best price for your book. The tool is in beta, and has been for sometime. We think Amazon has forgotten about it or given up on it. It’s a great idea but not executed well, still it’s worth seeing what it has to say about your book’s price.

Should you price your book at free?

Many author’s new to book promotion question the viability of setting a book price to free and then spending money to promote it at that price. There are two questions to ask when considering a free book promotion. 1) Does it make sense to price your particular book for free? 2) What are the benefits of pricing your book for free?

Here’s the quick answer to these questions.

It makes sense to give away your book when it’s the first book in a series, a prequel, or genre fiction and you have published plenty of other titles in the same genre. In each of these cases the reader who got your book for free is likely to go on to purchase another book by you if they enjoyed the free book. It can also make sense to give away a book at, or soon after, launch if you don’t have reviews for the book and you need some reviews to help sales.

In terms of the benefits…giving your book away can lead to:

  • Increased sales or other titles
  • More reviews
  • New Amazon followers
  • Kindle Unlimited page reads
  • New fans
  • Audiobook sales (if your book is available in this format)

To learn more about the benefits of free promotions and the different ways to set your book price to free see Six Benefits of Setting Your Book Price to Free.

5. Get more book reviews

After looking at your cover and book description potential readers look next to your reviews to help them make the purchase decision. Both the quantity and quality of your reviews matter.

So how can you get more reviews? Oftentimes, readers would be happy to leave reviews for their favorite authors, but the thought simply doesn’t occur to them. Using your back matter to ask for reviews is one technique, reaching out to your fans on social media is another. For more ideas see 7 Strategies for Gaining Book Reviews.

Advice: Don’t be shy about asking for reviews in the right places.

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We hope these tips help you to package your book for optimal sales. And remember, the long-term best sellers in your genre can often teach you plenty. Take notice of how they package their books and consider doing what they are doing well. Adjusting your cover, description and back matter can be a lot of work, but if you plan to spend money promoting and marketing your book it will pay off.


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