Monday, March 30, 2015

Working Your Facebook Author Page

Last November, I shared some tips about working your Facebook Author Page to appeal to your readers. Then I disappeared from my own author page for a while, posting sporadically, forgetting to respond to comments, basically violating everything I've ever said about keeping up with the page. This negligence is an annual event. As I've said before, the last quarter of the year doesn't belong to me. October isn't too bad, but the time period from the end of that month through New Year's belongs MSB and family. The first two weeks of January are spent catching up.
During the first week of catch-up, I discovered my page had gone from almost 700 followers with a reach of over 1000, to almost 700 followers with a reach just above 200. Whomp! What a drop!
First thing I did was to hold a "First Monday" Giveaway, using an idea I stole from one of my favorite mainstream authors, Joe Finder. To enter the giveaway drawing, the participant needed to leave a message and tag a friend. I created ads for each book in the giveaway and posted regularly. By the end of the week, my reach extended to almost 4K. I wish I'd saved that graphic. It was beautiful! But I do have this one, showing what happened the following week:
facebook 2
You can see the drop in reach after the giveaway. But the total page likes jumped. They went up through the giveaway efforts and other activities from the 680 I reported in October to 820. I went on a spree the following week and sent invitations to all my regular FB friends to "like" my page. Not all did, of course, but my total page likes increased to the number you see now.
This handy-dandy little chart is one of the reasons I like having a FB author (or fan) page. This overview shows me how many people clicked on my page (people engaged), how many commented or at least clicked "like" on a post (new likes), and how visible my page is in general (reach). But the other charts offered are just as handy. Try this one:
facebook 3
This one lets me know that the silhouette of the handsome cowboy topped all my other posts so far this week, which is great, since my current WIP, Riding Herd, is a contemporary western romance.
Here is an overview of the month:
facebook 4
The spikes represent my deliberate efforts with the give away and the "like" invitation spree.
Want to get more specific? Try this:
facebook 5
The above charts those who see my page by gender, age group, and location, and the one below indicates how many were actually engaged with the page during this month:
facebook 6
Many of the charts have buttons to push so you could get more specific. I can find out how many likes, comments, and shares I've received this week, and get the more specific information of the percentage increase or decrease over last month at this time. There's a chart that shows how many organic, paid, and "un"likes I've had in a period of time. If you want to know it, FB provides the chart to tell it--except for the "who" in the matter. You can see who "likes" your page, but unless you have a phenomenal memory, you probably won't realize who "unliked" your page.
As they say, knowledge is power, and these charts give me knowledge of who my followers are and what they like. These charts aren't available on our regular Facebook pages, only when we open a fan page. Granted, there are tons of folks out there whose numbers would be considerably better, so don't look at how tiny my audience is. Consider instead what you could do with this knowledge if you had it. If you had my charts, and you were trying to appeal to young women, 25-34 years of age, you'd need to revamp your posts. If your reach is below your follower count, you may want to put some life in your page.
If I've helped you decide to open a page based on this post, send me a note along with the link. I'd love to be among the first to "like" you!
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Friday, March 27, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression

Every author needs some help from time to time.

For me, I needed a hand on improving how I portray emotions in my writing. Saying, "she seemed angry," or "He smiled happily," had gotten old, trite, and a bit of a handicap. Recently on Goodreads, I'd seen some of my writer friends reading The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, and after investigating it a bit, I decided this was a book I needed on my bookshelf.

I was far from wrong. From the moment it arrived on my doorstep (I ordered a hard copy because I prefer that for my reference books,) it hasn't been far away when I've been writing, and its resources were vital in the final edits for the book I published just last week.

The first three sections teach you why you need to balance emotions and be creative in using them in your scenes, how to avoid melodrama (unless it's desired,) avoiding clichés, and tips on using the thesaurus. The vast majority of the remainder of the book takes you alphabetically through a variety of emotions--from adoration, defeat, and envy, to insecurity, relief, and worry. Every entry has six sections: a definition, physical signals, internal sensations (very helpful for your 1st person narrative/tight 3rd person,) mental responses, cues for acute or long-term emotion, cues for suppressed emotion. One or two have a seventh section to describe reactions and how they're different in men.

The authors urge you to look beyond just their book and how people you observe demonstrate various emotions, and many of their entries are from their own observations.

I really feel this book has been very helpful in not only my own understanding of those around me, but in my writing. As writers, we tend to live somewhat solitary lives, and if you're like me, you have weeks where you spend more time with your characters than with your spouse, so observing how others express emotion can sometimes become a bit of a foreign concept. This book can definitely act as a bridge, and become a quick reference guide when you're stumped on how your characters should act.

The Emotion Thesaurus is available through Amazon Kindle for $4.99, and as a paperback for $11.49.


Liberty Speidel has been a voracious reader since reading her first Nancy Drew book. But she was telling stories long before then with her figurines from Disney's Rescue Rangers. When she's not writing, you may find her gardening, baking, crocheting, or hiking. A lifelong Kansan, she now resides in the Kansas City metro area with her husband, children, and chocolate Labrador where she could rival Captain Jean Luc Picard in consumption of Earl Grey tea. She is the author of Emergence , Retaliation, and Capitulation, novellas and novels in her series featuring superhuman and police detective Darby Shaw.

She blogs sporadically at
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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Guest Post: How to Write a Memoir in 12 Easy Steps with Lorilyn Roberts

*This post originally appeared here. Used with permission.

By Lorilyn Roberts

All of us have lived through dramatic times of ecstasy and pain. For the sensitive and sensate person, memories of these events are etched in the psyche and have molded us into who we are. A memoir is a way to touch at the heart of those feelings and allow them to be shared with others.

A memoir is different from an autobiography because it takes a “snapshot” of certain events in a person's life. A memoir tends to read more like a novel. Usually a memoir is written in more colorful language than an autobiography and only relevant information is included. Not everything about a person's life should be shared. So how do I get started, you may ask? Here are twelve steps I followed in writing my memoir of adoption in Children of Dreams.


1. A memoir should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. There should be a problem, a conflict, and a resolution. 
2. It might be helpful to pull out old pictures, diaries, and objects to bring to memory the experiences you are writing.  If possible, go to the scene and relive the events in your mind.
3. Allow your feelings to flow freely from your mind and heart—they may be painful, terrifying, hurtful, crazy, or not understood, but to write a good memoir, you must bring the buried nemeses to the surface and write with passion.
4. Listen to music that will transport you from your surroundings to the time and place of the memoir. I like classical music, but anything that stirs your emotions and allows your mind to be absorbed back into that moment will work.
5. Don't do any major editing until you've written all that you can remember. Worry later about clean-up. If you edit too soon, you may change something that is important.
6. Expect to feel like you are going crazy. Your feelings may create powerful emotions that are buried deep, but when you write those hidden passions and distorted thoughts on paper, it can be cathartic. The story may even write itself and come to a resolution you never thought possible.
7. Make sure you validate facts. A memoir is based on truth, so dates, times, names, people, and sequence of events are important. Otherwise, your credibility may come into question if something you have written is shown not to be true. It may be necessary to change names or locations, and this is acceptable provided you put a disclaimer at the beginning.
8. A good memoir is rich in color—metaphors, similes, descriptions, dialogue, and feelings will make your memoir come alive.
9. After you've written around one hundred pages, take some time to reflect on what you have said. Then put it aside for a few days, don't look at it, and come back and re‑read it. It will be easier to spot things that need to be revised or rewritten. Save deletions for later.
10.  Be kind to yourself. Writing a memoir is a very personal, gut-wrenching journey.
11. After you have written the rough draft and edited it as much as you can, including deletions, give your memoir to some trusted friends for feedback. You may see a pattern in their comments, and that's a good indication of what needs further revision. Don't be shy and seek a professional editor if needed.  
12. Never give up. Never, never give up. Need I say it again? Never, never, never give up.
Why write a memoir, you may ask?  First, the memories are important to you. The intimate details will soon be forgotten if they are not written down. The memoir validates your experience and gives meaning to your life. Your memories become a treasured journey for others to learn from and enjoy.
A memoir can be a gift to your children, your parents, your friends, your country, and the world. Only you can tell the story that you've been given, and other people's lives will be enriched. Most of all, if you're like me, you will be set free from the past and empowered to write your next story.

You will be changed and healed in ways that would not have been possible without writing your story. Having gone through the journey twice, you will be wiser. Perhaps you will touch others in a way you couldn’t have imagined because the “gestalt” of your experience is universal. Most importantly, you will have accomplished what you set out to do, and that is to write your memoir.

I say it again, never give up. It will be worth it when you have finished.

To learn more about Lorilyn Roberts, visit
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Monday, March 23, 2015

It's About Time!

Okay, readers, take out a clean sheet of paper and a pencil. It's pop quiz time. (Has your stomach sunk to your ankles yet?)

All right then, can you tell me which of the following is the hardest part of being a writer?

1.  Coming up with story ideas
2.  Plotting
3.  Researching
4.  Writing
5.  Editing
6.  Writing and editing the proposal
7.  All of the above
Sometimes sleepy turtles on a wobbly log are faster than
the time it takes to get news on our babies... er, books.
Time's up. Pencils down. And the answer is... ready? None of the above! Yep, the hardest part of being a writer is the waiting. (I know, I know. I cheated by not giving you that option, but hey...) Back to my thoughts.

Waiting, as any writer will tell you, is without a doubt the hardest part of our profession, and it doesn't matter if the wait is twenty seconds or two years. Time slows down when you wait. (That's a scientific fact I just made up.) It also speeds up at the most inopportune times, but that's a topic for another day.

Time crawls like a dead snake when you're waiting for your agent to tell you if your proposal and manuscript are ready (and worthy) to send out to prospective publishers. It might be seven seconds since you sent that email to him, but it feels like seven months. He might get back with you in ten minutes, but to you, it might as well be ten years because that's how much you've aged.

Time flows like frozen yogurt in Antarctica when you're waiting to hear if This Is the One Publishing House wants the full manuscript, or if it made it to this or that committee, or if they think it would make a great series.

Perhaps worse, though, is that time screeches to a whiplash-inducing halt when you're waiting for the contract to arrive before someone at the publishing house decides they really don't like your plot/characters/writing style/pacing/humor/hair color/or homemade tomato soup after all, yells, "stop the presses!" (if anyone ever says that anymore), and the whole thing goes down the drain.

But all that zips by at warp speed compared to waiting for your book to be... published. Yes, when that happens, when we finally have a contract signed and we know for certain our baby will see the light of day, somehow time is altered so that a day is like a thousand years.

Sound familiar? I don't think that's what Peter meant when he wrote, "But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day." (2 Peter 3:8), and he almost certainly wasn't talking about me waiting for my book to show up in the mail. Still, we can take comfort in knowing that even in Biblical days, time had a way of twisting around and driving us nuts.

It's nobody's fault and no one is prolonging the wait just to make us writhe in agony while we wait for that one special email with our edits or cover art. No, they're working just as hard to get our books published as we did to get them written. And I know this is hard to swallow--I know it is for me--but there are other authors out there whose books deserve the attention of the staff at This Is the One Publishing House just as much as ours do. Yes, that's right. Odd, I know. You mean the publishing world didn't come to a screeching halt when my manuscript arrived? (No, Deb, it didn't.)

For them, however, time flows much more quickly than they desire. There aren't enough hours in the day for the emails, phone calls, meetings, decisions, conferences, reading, and whatever else editors and their staff members do to make our dreams come true. They want to see our book in print smelling all bookish and inky paper-like, with its pretty cover with our name splashed across it, and the glorious back cover copy, and those compelling words we wrote inside those covers just as much as we do.  After all, their salaries (and the future of the publishing house) depend on how much that book and hundreds and thousands like it can bring in. They are every bit as invested in our books as we are.

But as with all good things, they do happen eventually. (Thought I was going to say, "come to an end," didn't you?) They happen and we're thrilled and the editor and staff are thrilled and our agent's thrilled and the hard work of the marketing gets kicked up yet another notch and we're so darned excited and yes, thrilled, and happy and so are all the others and then... it dawns on us that we need to write another one (which we should've been doing all along between checking our email seventeen times an hour). Because there's no reason why we can't writhe in agony and write the next best seller at the same time. It's what we do, folks.

When you really think about it, no matter how long it seems to take to see our book in print, it takes only as long as God allows. It's all in His timing, His perfect timing. We can writhe and wring our hands and moan and groan and second-guess ourselves and our value as writers and check our email all we want, but if it's not in God's perfect timing that our book be published on that particular day or week or month in time, then it's just...not...time.
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Friday, March 20, 2015

Business for Authors: How to Be an Author Entrepreneur

Joanna Penn has been a popular indie author for several years now, and while I’d seen some of her articles around the web I hadn’t read any of her books. Until now.

I liked her approach to writing as a business, and even though I've been a full-time freelancer for a decade I still found valuable takeaways or information that underscored my business approach. It’s nice to have someone agree with your approach, especially in the writing world where we’re often alone, just us and our computer.

Just recently I've begun to look at my business plan and rethink it. The way I approached things worked for the first ten years, but now I’m trying to revamp certain pieces of my business, and this paragraph stood out for me:

Here are some of the factors to consider in your production plan:  How many books do you want or need to write this year? This will depend on your business model and how your cashflow works, as well as your speed and confidence in writing. Some authors put out a book every month or bi-monthly and money for those books (as a self-published author) starts to kick in two months later.

At one point I was putting out nonfiction books fairly regularly, and noticed that when I would release the next book, all the other books would get a bump in sales. Frequency kept my books out there. Then, I got busy getting regular writing clients, and my book production fell off a bit. I went several years without releasing anything. I’m working on changing that, and found the info in Business for Authors very helpful. If anything, it reinforced my plans.

I also liked her “writing is a job” approach. I hear too many times from authors who talk about the craft of writing while ignoring the business end. This stood out for me:

I heard thriller author Lee Child speak at Harrogate literary festival one year and he said that the job of being a writer is just like being a trucker. Don't make excuses about not feeling like it today. You just get in your truck and drive.

So true! She also said, “If you don’t get paid, it’s not a business.” Earning money from our creative pursuits is not wrong and does not stifle creativity. If you’re truly in business you do everything you can to earn a profit. This line of thinking helps you make better choices when it comes to writing and marketing your book.

The author also talks a lot about virtual assistants. Just recently, I’ve begun to consider whether this is a good choice for my business. I’m not sure if I’m there yet but I liked some of the options Joanna Penn threw out there, like hiring a virtual assistant for:

  • Finding appropriate book reviewers and pitching for book reviews
  • Transcribing podcasts or interviews
  • Formatting newsletter/email blasts
  • Formatting/scheduling blog posts and organizing guest posts 
  • Scheduling social media posting to multiple sites 
  • Book promotion scheduling and notification of free books
  • Maintaining data on book files and testing them before upload 
  • Making images or SlideShares for books and creating other marketing material
  • Pitching media or finding sources to pitch 
  • Responding to email and screening emails
  • and more.

I learned a lot in this book and would recommend it for any author. 

Cherie Burbach is a poet, mixed media artist, and freelance writer specializing in lifestyle and relationships. She's written for, NBC/Universal,, Christianity Today, and more. Her latest book is: Emotional Affairs: How to Stop, Prevent, and Move On from an Emotional Affair. Visit her website for more info,

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Finding Your Voice - Lisa Hannon, Guest

Meet Lisa Hannon! Lisa is a good friend, and considered a mentor by the members of the Fort Stockton, Texas Writers Group, Critique Cafe. Here 's what she has to say about finding your voice.

Finding your voice

“If you don’t turn your life into a story, you just become a part of someone else’s story.” Terry Pratchett

Have you ever had someone say to you, “You write just like you talk; I could ‘hear’ your voice while I was reading every word.”

Congratulations! You’ve found within yourself that attribute an author needs most of all—your voice.  The good thing about this ability you’ve already developed is that, when you sit down to write your novel, you will also be able to write down your character’s words in their voice.  If you haven’t developed it yet, you can, very easily.

Listen. To yourself, to others, to your characters. Listen a lot.

The biggest trouble I’ve gotten into in a novel is when I’ve started telling my characters what to do and attempting to crowbar them into my outline. When I stopped listening to their voices, they simply stopped talking. And doing. And that meant my fingers slowed on the keyboard, dragging and stumbling, until I finally had to put that novel down. And, until I’m willing to listen to my characters, that’s where that particular piece will stay.

Oh, but when I listened, they ran and fought and loved and argued and cried and loved some more, and I was scrambling like mad just to write it all down fast enough. That’s what writing feels like when it’s right.  When you stop listening, they stop talking. So listen, watch, learn and write.
How do you make sure each character sounds different in dialogue, especially when they’re regionally similar, with comparable patterns and colloquialisms?  Give them a verbal tic.  Be sparing with it, and even if you are, you may still have to go back and take a lot of them out later, as they get annoying.  One character might start every third sentence with, “Here’s the deal…”  This can be because they’re insecure and explanatory, or overbearing and bossy.  Another character might end every sentence or nearly every sentence on the upswing? Yeah, it’s annoying, but that one little piece of punctuation can define a character very clearly.  

Start listening to the people around you talk, if you don’t already. Note how they speak, the patterns of their speech, their intonations and their accents, as well as what they’re talking about.  Steal whatever you need for your characters.

Business Writing

My current day job is writing proposals. My most successful proposals have been those which I wrote in the same way I speak in business situations. However, in that world, I construct my speech very differently than I do at home, or with my extended family.  You probably do as well.
I do this because I’ve worked virtually for a number of years. In order to make it easy for the other people on the phone, who are not necessarily native English speakers, my voice slips into deliberate Midwestern newscaster blandness. That is, of course, other than the occasional, apparently inescapable “y’all.” 

However, while my vocal intonations and word choices may change, my vocal patterns do not. I am to the point, blunt without being impolite, and tend to cut through the drek to stay on agenda as much as possible.  This is exactly what I do in written documents, as well. “Here is what you asked for—I look forward to working with you after we win the bid.”

I have written a number of unpaid articles for LinkedIn, and plan to continue. Bluntly, I am still struggling to find my voice in those. It remains somewhere between proposal-speak and opinion-speak, and I’m working on it.  By writing. And reading. And listening.

Op/Eds or Blogs
Another way to exercise your writing voice is to write opinion/editorial pieces for your local paper. Papers are almost always looking for local writers who are dependable and who have a point of view that might matter to their readers.  Don’t just write it as a “here’s my opinion” throwaway piece. Write it as if you were speaking to your first reader, whether imaginary or real. Most of my op/eds are written as if I were speaking to my extended family, with my amazing first reader, my husband, sitting beside me.

You won’t make much money—I don’t even charge the primary small-town paper I write for—but you will get your writer’s chops, and have proof that you know how to write to a deadline week after week. 

If you’d prefer to blog, then blog. Oddly enough, it’s probably the most personal writing I do and probably the most boring for other people. It’s the place where I put my photographs of this beautiful country, as well as some of my crafting results, baking recipes, my ambitions, all kinds of things that are important to me and not necessarily to anyone else. It’s where all the stuff that I write that doesn’t fit anywhere else goes.  

If a blog is where you choose to exercise your voice and want it to be heard, please note that the philosophy, “If you build it, they will come,” does not work for anything other than baseball fields and Kevin Costner.  If you want blog traffic, you’re going to have to work for it—and that is a whole other column on its own.

My Voice, as Opposed to Your Voice

Every writer has a voice. My “natural” voice tends to be colloquial Texan, more East than West.  I’ve included the ending I wrote for next week’s Fort Stockton Pioneer op/ed in the next three paragraphs. The gist of this “Thinking Out Loud” column opines that so many of the issues we face in this country are because we are so polarized: black/white, Democrat/Republican, liberal/conservative. 

You name it; we pick a side to be on.  My tendency to listen to both sides often gets me in trouble.
“Here’s the deal about fences.  If you build them right, they’re quite comfortable.  Mine’s about a foot tall, easy to step over, padded quite nicely so I don’t bruise myself, and has nice little seats built on it every ten feet or so. It’s where I sit while y’all rabbit on about whatever you are emotionally invested in for a belief system.  It lets me remain comfortable until I hear something that I can agree with, or at least nod and say, ‘You have a point.’
Which drives my husband crazy.
I married a conservative. My family is conservative. I live in a conservative state.  But I’m thinking out loud that this does not mean I’m allowed to stop thinking. You’re not either. Don’t just nod when someone puts a bowl of ca-ca on the table and tells you it’s chocolate pudding. Tell ‘em it smells funny. And don’t take a bite of it.”

And Finally
I wrote each of the sections above in the voice I was referencing—or at least I gave it the old college try. Go back and read it again, if you like. Did you pick up on the fact that I used almost no contractions in my section on Business Writing? That’s because I don’t use them in my business meetings, as they’re confusing for those people who know English only as their second language.  I also keep my colloquialisms to myself, other than to help people laugh and relax before getting down to business.  

There are also very, very few places in my life where I actually find myself speaking in complete sentences, so I long since discarded the subject-verb-object rule. You’ll find sentence fragments sprinkled like rose petals across the silk sheets of my writing.  Not necessarily proud of that, and oh my, do I hate the little green squiggly lines of the grammar autocorrect. But I choose to write that way because I choose to speak that way.

The My Voice section was also written the way I actually speak.  This particular section is simply written in my relaxed trainer/writer voice, as were the Fiction and Op/Ed blog sections.
I’m about up to my chin in this whole self-referential stuff, so I’m going to stop here.
What do you think about your voice? Do you still have a way to go? Do you think I’m right about how important voice can be in writing? What taught you most about your own voice? How do you hear your character’s voices? Mostly through their actions or their dialogue? Please add your comments below. 

Thank you, Jody Day, for reaching out to ask me to guest post today. I was honored to be asked, and pleased to supply the post!

Lisa C Hannon is a 30-year veteran writer and editor, including print, web and video content for business and industry, as well as decades of opinion writing for community newspapers. In her eclectic career, she has served as a newspaper editor, website writer, designer and editor, and a communications consultant, among other less savory occupations such as carnival ride operator. Her awards include honors from the Texas Gulf Coast Press Association for serious and humorous articles, as well as photography. She also won the Telly Award for scriptwriting for a video history of the United States Army. Along with writer, mother, grandmother and ranch wife are just a few of her current identities, thus the title of her blog, “Trials and Tribulations of the AADD,” which can be found at

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Monday, March 16, 2015

Baking Up a Story

Bread from my kitchen
(C) Liberty Speidel
I love baking.

In fact, I even note that in my author bio for my books and blog appearances.

Ever since I got married, I have been experimenting with baking. Most of the time, I follow a recipe, and it comes out perfect or nearly so. Sometimes I'll rush it, realizing I just didn't have enough time before an appointment to be baking. Or I'll put bread up to rise, and forget it's there, take the kids or dog for a walk, then when I get back, it's risen so much, the dough is practically falling onto the counter.

But about 18 months ago, I was forced to go gluten free. Not my family, just me.

It kind of took away the love of baking for me. Especially since no matter what I did, every bread I tried to bake with this new, wheatless flour turned into a dense brick that didn't even really look like bread. Or taste like it. And if I made regular bread, I wasn't allowed to have it so I couldn't tell if I'd done something wrong so I could fix it next time.

Luckily for me, I had a friend who was already walking the gluten-free road, and knew a thing or two, and she was able to come alongside me and tell me what I was doing wrong. Well, that, and getting a really good gluten-free cookbook helped too.

Once I started learning the science behind gluten-free baking, I started loving it again. My bread actually was edible! And I preferred it over the sandpaper claiming to be gluten-free bread at my grocery store.

When we start out as writers, we tend to follow a formula--something we know or believe will work. We practice it over and over again, until we think we've got it right. We throw in some yeast, er, tension and everything comes out right...or so we think.

Someone tastes our story, and there's too much sugar. Or not enough salt. Back to the drawing board. We start to question whether we've been baking up our story as well as we originally thought. It can be really discouraging.

Until you have a friend who is further down the writing path come alongside you and show you where you went wrong. Tweak the salt here, take out some sugar. Add more yeast. Throw in an egg (or two!) for richness.

The more advice you take from your friend, the better you're able to see the error of your ways. You go back to them time and again, refining the recipe for your story until you finally have it as close to perfect as you both can get it.

And finally, it's time to enjoy the fruits of your labor!

Following a recipe for writing a novel is wonderful--we have to know a few things about story structure to obtain the best results--but having that extra pair of eyes to help improve the recipe is what every story needs.

Liberty Speidel has been a voracious reader since reading her first Nancy Drew book. But she was telling stories long before then with her figurines from Disney's Rescue Rangers. When she's not writing, you may find her gardening, baking, crocheting, or hiking. A lifelong Kansan, she now resides in the Kansas City metro area with her husband, children, and chocolate Labrador where she could rival Captain Jean Luc Picard in consumption of Earl Grey tea. She is the author of Emergence , Retaliation, and the forthcoming Capitulation, novellas and novels in her series featuring superhuman and police detective Darby Shaw.

She blogs sporadically at
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Friday, March 13, 2015

Friday Book Review: Uncharted Redemption

Uncharted Redemption
book 2 of the Uncharted series
Keely Brooke Keith
Edenbrooke Press

Feb 24, 2015
Kindle $3.99
Religious fiction, near future

Buy on Amazon

From the Publisher:
Levi Colburn, resentful of his father, haunted by his mother’s tragic death, and pained by his love for the unattainable Mandy Foster, breaks from the Land’s tradition and begins to build a life of his own. When rebels tear through the village of Good Springs, Levi vows to deliver justice and restore the woman he loves. As tradition stands in the way of redemption and threats from the outside world begin to appear, Levi must learn his greatest battles cannot be fought with his fists. Romantic, suspenseful, and filled with adventure, Uncharted Redemption weaves dramatic new layers into life in the Land.

My review:
Keith’s dedication helps the reader understand the theme of book two in the Uncharted series- “For every girl who ever felt ruined.” Societal dictates aside, the people of the Land, descendants of a mysterious island settled by those desiring a peaceful civilization during the American Civil War, have created a near-Paradise generations later. Untroubled by the outside world, they work the land, practice the arts, have some pre-industrial manufacturing, and live a life of mostly tranquility. Naturally there must come evil in the form of a family who felt cheated and passed down this resentment from father to son on the Land, culminating in this episode.
While this book stands alone, readers new to the series may at first have some difficulty keeping the characters identified. A family tree would perhaps be beneficial. The novel focuses on one of several communities on this large island, Good Springs, where the settlers first came ashore. The village overseer, Samuel Colburn, also serves as the preacher and justice of the peace, in modern terms. His son, Levi, is expected to take his place, but chooses not to follow tradition and become a carpenter. Spurned years earlier by the neighbor girl he loves, Mandy, as well as long-held resentment from the death of his mother, Levi carries an enormous chip on his shoulder. When his sister Bethany, and Mandy, are attacked, and Mandy kidnapped, Levi must choose to grow past his resentment and take his place in society as a man. He finds Mandy, who has managed to slip away from her captors, and stays by her side during her recovery. But Mandy has kept a secret for many years that also defies Land traditions and keeps her locked in a cage of self-denial and bondage.
The story of their journey to personal freedom and united commitment makes for a joyous read.
The “meanwhile” part of the story flashes to a parallel event taking place in the outside world, one which will eventually challenge everything held dear.
Some readers may find the acts of violence in this book disturbing, though they show the depth of necessary action in this community that has virtually no experience with criminal disobedience.  
Readers of near future and paranormal fiction will enjoy this series. Occasionally sloggy sections are easily dismissed, in my opinion. This author, I’m sure, will continue to grow her obvious story-telling skill.

About the Author:

Keely Brooke Keith, author of the Uncharted series, is a bass guitarist and frequently performs and tours with her husband, singer/songwriter John Martin Keith. When she isn't writing stories or playing bass, Keely enjoys dancing, having coffee with friends, and sifting through vintage books at antique stores. Keely resides on a hilltop south of Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and their daughter, Rachel.

Connect with Keely:
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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Play Day Ideas for Characters of All Ages

I read a post recently by a new author who was on the hunt for her missing Mojo. She'd been going along just fine, then one day poof! End of writing spree.

She's in good company. Who hasn't experienced it?

One of my favorite things to do to perk up the ol' muse is to take my characters on vacation and give them--and me--a break.There is no limit. I can take them anywhere on the planet and have them experience anything at any time in history. The only rule is to keep them in character. If my character is a grump, than he must remain a grump as I'm waltzing him along the Danube. If she competes with Pollyanna for the optimism award, she must remain optimistic in a battle during the Crusades.

The point is to take them away from your story setting and write their responses and interactions in a new setting. You can always include a little extra challenge, depending on what you need to practice. Blindfold your character and have him describe a circus. Give your Regency heroine dialogue with 21st Century college coed. Have a tactile experience in a petting zoo.

Here are some more play day ideas:

  • Take your historical character to Cape Canaveral--or take your 31st century character to NASA
  • Bring your ultra-modern business woman to 1920s Oklahoma
  • Take a date to a Mardi Gras ball in the 18th century
  • Let your computer nerd chat with the foreman of an architectural dig in Egypt
  • Send your cowboy to the Louvre
  • Fly your disciple of St. Paul to Mars to visit with those who took 'em up on the one-way ticket deal.
  • Have an auditory experience in Africa
  • Have an auditory experience in a preschool
  • Let your historical character describe contemporary New York
  • Let your chatterbox draw a shy immigrant into a conversation
  • Give a chariot racer a ride around a NASCAR track
Because none of this will ever see the light of day, because it doesn't affect your WIP, and because it's nothing more than a vacation from word-count goals, you can play all you want. Then your jealous muse and truant mojo will get jealous and return to your side.

And when they do, net 'em and put them back to work.

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Monday, March 9, 2015

Updating Old Book Covers

A few months ago I decided to update some of my nonfiction books. It's been a few years, and one thing I've noticed is that covers have really been amped up a notch. When I started putting my books out there (ten years ago), I did the covers myself and that seemed to work fine for a while. But no more!

And that's a good thing. Writers are putting more effort into their covers because readers do judge the quality of books in part by the cover. We're visual by nature and the first thing we're usually attracted to is the cover. So my books really needed an update.

I'm doing the covers first and then also going through them and updating the content. It's been a few years, and some of the stuff I wrote about needs a refresh. So this is a two-part process.

All of these re-done covers were created from someone on Fiverr. I tried out different people who offered a cover creation service and found it a very easy process. I think these covers are a huge improvement over what I had, don't you?

  21 Ways to Promote Your Book on Twitter 


21 Simple Things You Can Do to Help Someone With Diabetes 

Date Ideas for Every Season 

Internet Dating Is Not Like Ordering a Pizza

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Friday, March 6, 2015

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

Why would I review a twenty years old book? Why review a book that most writers have read?

Those are great questions. The answer is simple. While first published in 1995, "Bird By Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life" by Anne Lamott is as relevant today as the day it was published. The book has become a definitive how-to guide for new and aspiring writers. 

The book has been a national best seller. It continues to have excellent sales. As of today (3/5/2015), twenty years after publication it still ranks #958 on's overall best sellers rank. More amazingly it ranks:

#1 in Books > Reference > Words, Language & Grammar > Speech
#1 in Books > Reference > Writing, Research & Publishing Guides > Writing > Journalism & Nonfiction
#1 in Books > Textbooks > Communication & Journalism > Journalism

I don't know about you, but I would love to have a book with as consistent a sales history as "Bird by Bird." Let's take a more in depth look at this wonderful little book.

An entertaining and helpful guidebook that covers every step of the writing process, the reading of "Bird By Bird" has become something of an initiation for hopeful writers. Anne Lamott drives home the point of the need for regular writing and facing the fact that getting published will almost certainly not make you more contented, wealthier or good-looking.

An entertaining and helpful guidebook that covers every step of the writing process, the reading of "Bird By Bird" has become something of an initiation for hopeful writers. Anne drives home the point of the need for regular writing and facing the fact that getting published will almost certainly not make you more contented, wealthier or good-looking.

Her book’s genesis comes from the notes of the lectures Lamott delivers to her writing classes. The book begins the way all writing classes do – sit down and write. Write, write, and write and the revise and rewrite before you worry about agents, book titles, etc. She reminds us to sit at our computer, bring up our word processing program, stare at the screen and write. She gives practical advice on not looking at the size of the task, but viewing it as a series of small assignments.

Lamott investigates the depths of both the formal elements of writing such as plot, character development, dialogue, setting, point of view and the less concrete but infinitely more injurious obstacles facing a writer, that is acceptance the "[expletive deleted] first draft" and killing the perfectionist inside you standing between you and your shitty first draft. 
  • She talks in practical terms about defeating writer's block and what to do when you have crises of faith. 
  • She talks about finding a sturdy soul to read your “[expletive deleted]” draft and not being devastated when the reader has more than a few suggestions. 
  • She also touches on the subject of learning to deal with professional jealousy, a bound to happen fate "because some wonderful, dazzling successes are going to happen for some of the most awful, angry, undeserving writers you know --- people, who are, in other words, not you."

"Bird By Bird" isn't all that ground-breaking a book. I have read similar works providing insights on the writing life by authors Annie Dillard and Natalie Goldberg. Ask anyone in the position to make a comparison and more likely than not they'll say "Bird By Bird" surpasses all. “What, then, is it about "Bird By Bird" that strikes a chord with so many readers and writers?” to quote a question asked by reviewer Sarah Brennan.

Anne Lamott's advice is all harvested from personal experience. Her guidance is caring, keen and so good-naturedly explained it's easily employable. I agree again with Sarah Brennan that “ultimately, it's her uncanny and self-effacing humor, natural, unaffected tone and anecdote-as-life-lesson adeptness that make Bird By Bird such an effective teaching device. Hers is a refreshingly conversational, approachable, enjoyable didacticism that leaves you with the feeling that
  • if you were to meet Lamott, you're pretty sure you would be instantaneous best friends
  • however far you descend into the pits of frustration, self-loathing and despair, the writing life is worth it.”

Anne Lamott gives us all hope as she shares, "Even if you only show the people in your writing group your memoirs or stories or novels, even if you only wrote your story so that one day your children would know what life was like when you were a child, and you knew the name of every dog in town --- still, to have written your version is an honorable thing." It would be fun to sit down for a day and talk and laugh with Anne Lamott.

Maybe if we learn some of the lessons from "Bird By Bird" someone will read or maybe even review our book twenty years after publication. You never know, it just might could happen.

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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

21 Surefire Ways to Sink Your Writing Career

Volumes--some of them long and tedious, others funny or serious, but always helpful--have been written on how to make it in this world as a writer. I don't doubt there are successful authors out there whose sole output has been writing books about writing books, while never actually writing a book about anything else. Yes, I know. Confusing. But if a writer wants to become a published author, there's no dearth of books telling him or her just how to do it.

However, I think there's just as much to be learned about getting our work published and available to readers by knowing how to drown your desire to write, destroy your ego, and demolish your career (along with your chances of being published). After all, if you know the pitfalls, you can avoid them. At least that's the plan. So with tongue in cheek, I present the following points gleaned from personal experience (not mine, of course), so you can take heart in knowing they've 1.) actually happened, 2.) might actually happen, or 3.) wouldn't in a million years actually happen, but help round out the list. Here goes:

1.  Decide right off the bat not to take the advice of anyone who isn't Stephen King, John Grisham, or fill-in-the-name-of-your-favorite-author. So what if they've been at this for thirty years and had many books published after years of rejection? That's their experience; yours will most certainly be different (and more positive).
Speaking of Stephen King--he has bats on his iron fence in Maine!
How cool is that? He must not have been home that day or he
would no doubt have come out to greet me. 
2.  Tell everyone you know--the ones still listening to you, at least--that you know what your readers (a.k.a. your mother, grandmother, aunt, and closest friend) want more than editors, publishers, agents, or anyone else remotely engaged in the writing process. Their advice is to other writers. Not you. You're the exception.

3.  Write, write, and write some more, but never, ever submit that work to anyone because you're perpetually in the editing (read: stalling) stage. There will be time for submitting once you're finished making it even more perfect than it already is.

4.  Don't read. Don't follow the advice of writing professionals everywhere that writers are readers. You don't have time to read--you're too busy writing! You don't have to read the work of others (published others, I might add) to learn from their techniques because you're busy gaining experience by writing, not by taking the time to note what worked or didn't work for others.

5.  Don't learn the spelling, grammar and/or punctuation rules. If, by chance, you happen to hear about them, whatever you do, don't follow them. Ever.

6.  Don't break those rules occasionally. Once you learned them (if you have, that is), don't stretch your creative muscles enough to break one once in a while.

7.  Play copious games of FreeCell. It's good for the brain cells. Tell people who catch you that you're resting your thoughts and your subconscious is actually writing like crazy, while you hit "play again" over and over and over...

8.  Write down story ideas, file them away, but never, ever use them.

9.  Lose those story ideas over the years and when you want them, they're gone forever because you thought they were so intellectually stimulating and ... well, so just plain genius, that you'd never, ever forget them. But you did.

10. Use ever as often as possible.

11.  Buy a new computer. Learn how to use it. Make sure it has FreeCell loaded on it and thoroughly test it to be sure your subconscious will have something to do.

12.  Don't write anything while you're waiting to hear from an editor on a previous submission (provided you've edited that work until it's perfect enough to submit). Just wait. And wait. Don't start anything new because any minute now you're going to be up to your ears in edits from the editor assigned to you at Very Special Publishing House that enthusiastically and gratefully accepted your manuscript. No sense confusing your subconscious.

13. Get organized. Often. Re-organize your desk/office/filing system/FreeCell scores as many times as necessary to avoid writing. Your subconscious is doing all that behind-the-scenes work anyway. You might as well get ready for the flood of acceptance letters or emails you'll be getting any day now by rearranging files, dusting your desk, or changing the light bulb in that Hemingway-style lamp you spent three weeks looking for on your new computer.

14. Join a writing group, secretly thinking you know more than anyone else will. But you join anyway since your expertise will be sorely needed by others. Find excuses why you can't bring any of your work to be critiqued. When they keep asking, find an excuse why you can no longer attend.

15. Find another writing group and start all over again.

16. Look around you and see other members of your writing group (assuming you've stayed in one) being published. Listen as they share their successes or congratulate one another on completed manuscripts or for actually submitting something. Watch them console those who have taken the plunge and been rejected. Feel superior because you have no rejection stories to share--or acceptance stories, for that matter. Feel out of place because deep down you know you're an impostor.

17. Finally see the light and then use it to flog yourself repeatedly for being that impostor you recognized at the last writing group meeting.

18. Give up. Swear you'll never write again. It's too hard. Besides, no one wants to read your work. You're not talented/skilled/creative/funny/serious/
inspirational enough, anyway. There are millions of books out there--maybe billions. Who needs yours?

19. Forget that the only person who can write that book roaming around in your head is you. Yes, there are billions of books out there, but do any of them have your name on the cover? Do any of them have your uniqueness imprinted upon them? Are any of them steeped in your life experiences, your sense of humor or pathos or inspiration or terror or mystery or romance? Are any of them the culmination of all the hard work you've put into your career; the introspection, the doubts, hopes, ideas, or failures you've experienced? Are any of them written by you?

20. Refuse to learn from any of the above. Accept that what you love doing more than anything else in this world isn't what you've been put on this earth to do after all. Give up on yourself, your career, and on God's desire for your life.

21. Hate yourself forever.

If, on the other, you decide to give it another shot and become the author you're supposed to be, avoid all of the above. Like the plague. (Oh, and don't use clichés.) Write, edit, study, read, join, submit, get rejected again and again. Pay your dues. Then write, edit, study, read, join, submit some more. Get accepted. Become a published author. Do it all over again.

And finally, celebrate your decision to join the ranks of writers all across the world and through the ages who have the same feelings of inadequacy and fear and hopefulness and desire and yes, sometimes even success that you do.

So go ahead, treat yourself. Play a game of FreeCell.

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