Friday, May 29, 2015

Review: Last Family Standing, by Jennifer Allee

last family standingTwenty-five years ago, Monica Stanton gave up her baby girl for adoption. Now the young woman wants to meet her birth-mother. In person. On nationwide television. Competing on a survival show. So the first time Monica sees her daughter, the first time she learns the young lady's name, is on camera.
Oh, the delicious things one can do with this premise!
Jennifer Allee wrote Last Family Standing in first person, present tense--a surprise that takes a minute or two to get used to, but it works. The idea that present tense gives an immediacy to the story has been debated among authors for ages, but considering the number of surprises Jennifer slaps Monica with, I really can't imagine this novel being written any other way. There truly is a sense of experiencing for myself the surprises sprung on the main character.
The premise may give the impression of a riotous comedy, but that's not quite right. Although there are a multitude of humorous scenes, this is definitely a Women's Fiction drama. Monica grapples with her role as Jessica's birth mother. How should she be "mother" to a stranger? Should she even try? These are only two questions, there are plenty more. There's curiosity: "What is she doing now? Has she been happy? What has her life been like?" And there's suspicion: "Why now? What does she want from me?"
So, in between the comedic incidents that happen when a city woman goes native, we find soul-searching questions and a wrestling match with guilt.
Women's Fiction fans are gonna like this one.
Add to Technorati Favorites
Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Authors: Beware of the Phantom Career

There’s a buzz-worthy phrase I've been hearing lately around the Interwebs lately: phantom career. It applies to writers and other creative types who end up in an entirely different career than the one they wanted after spending more time on things related to writing but that weren't actually writing.

Why Don’t You….

For instance, I've set up my own WordPress sites because I don’t want to pay someone and also because I want to be able to update them on my own. I like knowing all the pieces of my business even if eventually I’ll outsource them.

However, I get tons of requests from authors to do this for them. They tell me they’ll pay me for my time or that I should do this as a side business, etc. But I hesitate in doing this because I don’t think people realize how time consuming this really is, and also because I don’t want to be in that business. I can picture myself getting calls from authors wanting things updated on their site and making changes for them, and all the while having no time to actually write.

My Almost Phantom Career

I had a phantom career for a brief time once. I’m really good at scheduling book tours for myself. I know a lot of bloggers, I've done it for my indie books on the cheap and while it takes time I was able to do a nice little marketing effort for each one of my books.

People kept telling me to do this for authors, and I did for a while. It paid nicely. But guess what? It took me completely out of writing. I was spending so much time organizing tours and reminding authors about their posting commitments that I didn't have time to focus on marketing myself. I had started a separate business for myself that was moving me from someone who wrote to someone who promoted writers.

What About Blogging?

By far, the biggest complaint I hear about blogging is that is takes time away from writing. Just last week I heard a writer say, “I believe writers write and bloggers blog.” Dramatic sigh. Is blogging a phantom career? Depends on how you do it. But one thing I know, it’s an effective marketing tool.

I blog professionally. It keeps me on my toes with writing and pitching freelance work and also gives me an instant way to promote my books. Blogging in this case is not a phantom career for me, because writing is my career. When clients pay me to blog (to write) I’m earning a living as a writer.

Blogging to help promote my stuff also keeps me working as a writer. So it’s not a phantom career, it is an element of my writing career. Others may argue the point in blogging and everyone needs to do what’s right (or write!) for them.

How to Know If You’re In a Phantom Career?

Authors and other creative types are very susceptible to phantom careers because we always need to do other things in order to keep our creative business going. Some authors get into podcasting, providing services for other authors, or reviewing books. All of these are okay but if they keep you from writing, you might have a phantom career on your hands.

I recently sold a few websites for that very reason. I found that they weren't adding to my writing life much and they took up time. I still have scads of blogs left (I always have too many blogs) but getting rid of even a couple sites helped me focus on the one thing I want to do: continue writing.

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: How to (Really) Make Money BloggingVisit her website for more info,
Add to Technorati Favorites
Bookmark and Share

Monday, May 25, 2015

Art Writing

Google Free Images
One of my favorite ways to develop my writing chops is to use art. I choose a painting or photograph and let my imagination run wild. 

This exercise was first introduced to me through a workshop presented by a singer/songwriter, Kerry Grombacher.

Kerry Grombacher
He brought an Ansel Adams photograph and instructed us to write using these three criteria: (1) What do you see? (2) What do you know? and (3) What can you imagine?
As a class we created interesting short stories using that formula. 

Google Free Images

One such piece that I did for the Weekly Challenge is titled Tissot Tale. Using Kerry's lesson I wrote about Tissot's Holyday. What did I see? People gathered around a picnic. What did I know about it? The surroundings appear to be in the Fall, given the color of the leaves and the dress of the people. Some of the people seem relaxed and content, others unhappy, or reflective. What could I imagine? Quite alot, actually. The result is here, and is one of my favorite pieces. It won First Place that week and then 3rd place in Best of the Best for the year 2013. Another art/writing experiment here, also did well.

The "what can you imagine?" part of the exercise is limitless. I thought it might be fun to jump in and imagine up some facts about this painting. 
Google Free Images

I'll go first:  I think the little girl holding book is thinking that her boots are too small and her feet hurt.

What do you think?
Add to Technorati Favorites
Bookmark and Share

Friday, May 22, 2015

Chosen: The Lost Diaries of Queen Esther: A Book Review

Because I'm a cheapskate, I found this book on an internet site that offers free and bargain Nook or Kindle e-books. I must have hundreds of them safely downloaded to my Nook and Kindle accounts, all quietly awaiting their turn to be read. Sadly, much like Facebook posts, they're pushed farther on down the line as each day passes (and as I download even more free books), so many of them will no doubt remain unread until the day I die and then someone tosses out my hardware and all is lost... sigh.

On a brighter note, Chosen: The Lost Diaries of Queen Esther will not be among those lost. It was well worth the money I would have spent on it had I actually purchased it. Chosen is just one of the historical novels about Biblical characters and other historical women written by Ginger Garrett, and it's a good one. A great one, on fact.

Chosen first caught my eye because I'm always interested in books that take place in Biblical times. I'm familiar with Esther's story in the Bible where she saved all of Israel when she risked her own life by approaching King Xerxes without his advance request, but other than that, I knew little else about the young Jewish woman who was torn from her home and destined to save her nation.

Written in diary form, the book tells of Esther's despair at being dragged from the simple life she led with her cousin Mordecai, as well as her true love, Cyrus (fictional), to the sumptuous, sometimes decadent life in the harem of King Xerxes. The historical detail and exquisite imagery that Ms. Garrett weaved throughout her book brought Esther, Mordecai, his nemesis Haman, and King Xerxes to life. Despite being a work of fiction, Chosen read as a sad, true-to-life, exciting, and inspiring description of Esther's life before and after ascending to the position of King Xerxes's wife.

I'd never given much thought to the palace intrigue of those days, although vaguely, I knew it existed. I'd given no thought to the preparations women were forced to undergo before becoming a concubine of the king, nor to the savage rivalries that arose between some of them to garner the coveted position of queen for themselves. Yes, some of this story was a matter of informed, skilled conjecture. It had to be. Nevertheless, details like the above brought me closer to the reality of Esther's life and the perilous times in which she, and other Jews, lived. 

I paid nothing for this book, but having read it, I will gladly pay for other books by Ginger Garrett. I think I've found a new favorite genre author. Anyone who enjoys historical fiction that deals with real-life people will enjoy Chosen: The Lost Diaries of Queen Esther. 

It's available in both print and e-book versions at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I heartily recommend it. 

Add to Technorati Favorites
Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

One Great Source of Continuing Education for Writers: Podcasts

Last week I attended the Colorado Christian Writer’s Conference. I attend two or three writer’s conferences a year and have for years. I attend for the continuing education value, fellowship, networking and to pitch my work to agents, editors, and publishers.

While attending the recent conference I realized much of the same content I was paying for was available for free in many of the podcasts I listen to on a regular basis. I had been listening to podcasts since June 2005 when Apple added them to iTunes in version 4.9.  I’ve learned never to assume someone knows about podcasts.

What is a podcast? It is a digital audio file made available on the Internet for downloading to a computer or portable media player. Typically podcasts are available as a series. One of the fun things about them is they are free. Subscribers can receive new installments automatically. You can listen to a podcast on your computer, an iPod or an iPhone or other smartphones.

They are a terrific way to get a free education. I regularly listen to several writing podcasts that I recommend. I find them both educational and motivational. Here are five that are helpful to me.
  1. Firsts in Fiction was created by Aaron Gansky to help writers navigate the tricky waters of writing. Of late, Alton Gansky, Aaron’s father, has been serving as co-host. The podcast comes from a Christian worldview. Alton Ganksy is the director of the Blue Ridge Christian Writer’s Conference. The podcast dissects elements of fiction writing each week. If you’ve ever wondered how to create memorable characters, unforgettable plots, or emotionally powerful prose, this is the podcast for you. It is a best podcast for Christian authors. Website:  Podcast: 

  2. Joanna Penn created The Creative Penn Podcast. Its audios are posted at least every two weeks. They cover interviews, inspiration and information on Writing, Publishing Options, Book Marketing and Creative Entrepreneurship. The podcast is exceptionally motivational and has excellent information on the business and craft of writing. She is a New York Times and USA Today, best-selling author. Website: Podcast: 

  3. Mur Lafferty created the I Should Be Writing podcast. I have been listening for a decade. Winner of the Podcast Peer Award and the Parsec Award, this is a show about a writer going from wanna-be to pro. Focusing on the emotional roadblocks one finds in a writing career, this show speaks to over 8000 listeners every week. Mur is the winner of the 2013 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. She is one of the worst kept secrets in science fiction and fantasy publishing. She is also the author of the Shambling Guide Series. She also is a co-host of the new Ditch Diggers podcast dealing with the business of writing for pros. Website: Podcast: 

  4. Mignon Fogarty is the creator of Grammar Girl Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing and the founder and managing director of Quick and Dirty Tips. A magazine writer, technical writer, and entrepreneur, she has served as a senior editor and producer at many health and science websites. She has a B.A. in English from the University of Washington in Seattle and an M.S. in biology from Stanford University. Grammar Girl provides short, friendly tips to improve your writing. Covering the grammar rules and word-choice guidelines that can confound even the best writers, Grammar Girl makes complex grammar questions simple with memory tricks to help you recall and apply those troublesome grammar rules.  Website: Podcast:  

  5. Justin Macumber created The Dead Robots’ Society podcast. It offers advice and support to aspiring writers. The hosts are all writers. Weekly they share their stories.   Discuss of topics important to the world of writing delivered in a fun and informal format is the thrust of the podcast. Website: Podcast:

Continuing education for writers doesn’t have to be expensive. Sometimes it is as close as downloading a file from the Internet onto your computer.

Add to Technorati Favorites
Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Announcing the 2015 Storming the Short Story Contest


Writers on the Storm (ACFW – The Woodlands) 
Houston Christian Authors (ACFW – Houston)

in partnership with Chalfont House Publishing’s fiction imprint HopeSprings Books


The Short Story contest is open to all authors, published or unpublished, 18 years of age or older.

Entries & Fee: 
An original 4,000-6,000 word short story. Entries must not have been previously published in any form.

Entry fee $25.00 via PayPal.
Entry fees are non-refundable. Entry fees are used by the local ACFW Chapters to finance the contest, as well as fundraising for local chapter events.

Theme: Dancing

Your short story can be about anything as long as it fits into the one of the genres listed below, contains the theme mentioned above, and has a clear faith element (Christian). The theme should be obvious to the reader. For instance, if the theme was “Storms” there would need to be a storm in your story somewhere. Metaphorical storms would not count.

Categories and definitions:
  • Contemporary
    • Stories set in year 1960 or after that do not fit in one of the other categories
  • Historical
    • Any story with a setting prior to 1960
  • Mystery/Thriller/Suspense
    • Contemporary 
    • Romantic suspense would fit here
  • Romance
    • Contemporary
  • Speculative
    • Any type of science fiction, fantasy, horror, or combination.
    • If it’s weird, it goes here.
  • Young Adult/Middle-Grade
    • contemporary, Earth-based, regular fiction
    • Protagonists younger than 20 years
The Contest Committee reserves the right to combine categories if a minimum of 5 entries are not received.

This is a Christian fiction contest. No objectionable content allowed. 

Category Coordinators will determine whether the entries meet the required theme, content, and formatting requirements. Entries that do not meet the requirements will not pass to judging.

First Round judging: Panelists will score entries based on 5 categories. Scoring results will be returned to the contestant as feedback. Panelists can only vote in categories they have not entered as a contestant.

Final Round judging: HopeSprings Books will select stories for publication from the highest rated entries and will award at least a first prize in categories with 5 or more entries.

Winning entries will be edited with the cooperation of the author prior to publication. Winners retain copyright to their work, but the publication contract will be a 7-year license of the paperback, ebook, and audiobook rights. 

Proceeds from the sale of the anthology will be donated directly to the ACFW Scholarship Fund, but authors can receive a report each quarter upon request.

 Proceeds donated to the ACFW Scholarship Fund

June 1st - Contest is open for entries.
June 30th - Submissions closed (Midnight Central Time).
August 1st - Scoring begins.
August 15th - Scoring ends.
August 31st - Winners announced.

Formatting Requirements:
  1. Name should not appear anywhere on the entry
  2. Bible verses must be referenced in a footnote or endnote
  3. Manuscript pages must be in standard format:
    • Double spaced
    • 1-inch margins
    • Size 12 Times New Roman or Courier font (Including the header)
    • Unjustified and aligned left text with no extra space between paragraphs
    • Begin one third the distance from the top margin 
    • Scene breaks should be indicated with a single (#) or triple pound sign (###) as their own line with a single blank line above and below
    • Header should contain the category and title aligned left and the page number aligned right. 
Add to Technorati Favorites
Bookmark and Share

Monday, May 18, 2015

Actions Define Character, by LoRee Peery

Author LoRee Peery
I’ll never forget what my editor pointed out in my first release, Moselle’s Insurance. “Eric is not heroic in the past. No matter what, a hero must always be a hero--even as a young teen.”
According to Colossians 3:12-15 (NASB), a Christian character puts on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. He or she bears with and forgives another. Above all, they put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. They seek peace, and are thankful.
Life happens to people. We struggle. The same goes for characters.
Romans 5:3-4 And not only this (see verse 2), but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope.
I have a computer file on Christian character where I note the following:

God has a specific purpose for each saved life
Repent=change=mind and heart create an altered life
Be willing
Don’t be a believing unbeliever (in the “church”)
Change is immediate

Ordinary person is equipped and enabled to become extraordinary
What am I holding on to that prevents me from holding on to Jesus?”
Compassionate invitation
Commitment to complete conformity
Complete release in order to hold onto Jesus

I didn’t note where that list came from, they may be sermon notes. But that list applies to fictional characters as well as Christian authors.

Do you see conflict in that list? Novels entail internal conflict, which can be viewed as spiritual conflict, as characters deal with external conflict.

May the Lord be with you as you continue to create Christian characters within the context of story.



A Nebraska country girl, LoRee Peery attempts to see God’s presence every day. Often that gift comes from nature, and she is most relaxed in the outdoors. The call of a cardinal draws her to look for the distinctive flash of crimson. A meadowlark’s melody always transports her to the farm where she grew up. A rainbow holds special significance, since one appeared the day of her father’s funeral and means the promise of the Lord’s presence in her life. She clings to I John 5:4 and prays her family sees that faith. You can find her at or the Pelican Book Group site

Paisley and Rob love each other, but neither is willing to correct what needs to be fixed in their relationship, so Paisley relocates out of state. When she discovers a secret that may repair Rob’s view of his past, she reaches out. Rob is still bitter over Paisley’s inability to commit and her habit of running, but he believes she sincerely cares for him, so he investigates her claim to have found his unknown heritage. After the emotional turmoil of meeting a family he knew nothing about, Rob’s love for Paisley convinces him to reconcile their differences. His world is incomplete without Paisley. However, she is reluctant to move forward, and has an opportunity to flee again. Will Rob help convince Paisley the answer is not to move again, but lies with the Lord, or will Rob lose Paisley forever?

Find Paisley's Pattern on sale on the Pelican Book Group site!

Add to Technorati Favorites
Bookmark and Share

Friday, May 15, 2015

Book Review: How To Market A Book

We've all been there.

Our first book has just been published, and we sit at our computers, admiring our shiny baby. It's so pretty, so perfect.

So of course the readers are just going to flock to it and buy it up in droves...right?

Most of us hope that will happen, but unless we're really lucky, or some presidential candidate releasing a memoir or position piece, the likelihood it will happen are pretty much slim to none.

That's where marketing comes in.

But we're authors. We have no clue about marketing!

And that's why Joanna Penn's How to Market a Book is just what you need. We authors, unless we've got a marketing background already, really have no idea how to promote ourselves. We're sometimes lucky if we can manage a Facebook page. Knowing what to put there? Fahgeddaboutit!

Ms. Penn's book takes you step by step through basic marketing principles all the way to more advanced topics such as whether you should do public speaking engagements and how to launch your book.

For me, this book is really helpful because while I'm making book sales without any marketing, I know I could be doing so much more than I already am, so it's helped me figure out what my next steps are. Whether to add podcasting or do short posts on YouTube are also things I'm now considering because of her book.

Ms. Penn doesn't make it easy--it's not a "do A, B, and C, followed by X, Y, and Z, and, Poof! You've got yourself  all the marketing you need" type of book. You do have to do research on what's appropriate for your genre. You have to know who your comparable authors/books are. But if you're in this author thing for the long haul, this is a book you can't afford to be without. Baby steps are a requirement. You're not going to become J.K. Rowling overnight. Maybe not even in five years!

But if you follow the steps, you will eventually get further down the path and sell more books.

And you may even have some fun while doing it!

How to Market a Book is available from Amazon, and other retailers. At Amazon, a print copy is $13.95, and Kindle is $5.99.
Add to Technorati Favorites
Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

My Books Aren’t Selling! – 10 Actions You Can Take

My Books Aren’t Selling! – 10 Actions You Can Take
Derek Haines
Note: This article originally appeared on JustPublishingFebruary 10, 2015. Used by permission.
My Books Aren't Selling
With so many books now published on Amazon in particular, the competition to attract book buyers is fierce. While there are countless sources of advice and marketing tricks on how to sell e-books and books, the most important factors of all are to have a good product and to attract positive attention to your books.
If you have published more than a couple of titles, perhaps it has been some time since you analyzed what you are really doing to attract attention. As with all things Internet, change is the only constant, so while certain approaches may have been successful a year or so back, it is not necessarily true that they are working now. If your book sales have slowed down, maybe it’s time to take stock and look for action you can take to improve your chances.
Sure, writing better and publishing more often will help, but what can you do to help your existing titles maintain long tail income?
1. Your Book Is Lost In The Forest. One of the easiest actions to take to help book sales is to change the genre and category. Having a book lost in the forest of genres such as Romance or Science Fiction it is competing against hundreds of thousands of other titles. A good tip is to make your own specific category and reduce the competition. Here’s how it’s done.
You might be wondering how to get into these categories if you can’t select them from the KDP dashboard. It’s pretty simple. First, you must select Non-Classifiable as one of your categories, and then you must email KDP through the dashboard with the full path of the category you wish to appear in (e.g. Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > Mystery & Thrillers > Mystery > Series).

2. Poor Performers. If you have a title or two that failed to gain any traction whatsoever after more than six months, unpublish them, as they can only have a negative effect on your other titles. If you don’t want to waste all the time you spent on writing them, see if you can discover why they didn’t work and then you can always do a complete rewrite and publish them again later under a new title and cover.

3. It’s A Dog! If you have self-published a book, or even a few, and sales have not come your way, it’s time to take some positive action. Get them off the market asap, then beg if you have to, but get a few people to read your book and then tell you the absolute truth about it. Take their criticisms on the chin no matter how tough it is, then get an editor and start work on improving your book and making it saleable.

4. Your Cover Is Crap! This must be the biggest single factor that kills book sales. Book buyers hate crappy covers. If you have a did it myself cover, get a cover professional designer immediately. For between $50 – $200 you can get a professionally designed book cover for e-book and paperback. No matter how good your book is, a lousy cover will kill sales stone dead.

5. Freshen Up Your Blog. How long is it since you changed the design of your blog? A year or more? Blog design is changing rapidly, so a new theme and layout can help in making your blog more attractive to visitors. Keep it clean, lean and easy on the eye and avoid sidebars full of unnecessary clutter. If you only have a static website, it really is time to change over to a blog. Websites do not attract repeat visitors, because as nothing changes, there is no reason for visitors to return.

6. Increase Traffic To Your Blog With Twitter. The easiest way to increase visitor traffic to a blog is by leveraging Twitter. Unlike other social media platforms, Twitter has evolved into an electronic billboard. It’s not about communicating or socializing – it’s about getting your message out, and often. A single Tweet has an active life of around one minute, so Tweet often! If you have a follower count on Twitter of less than 10,000, it’s time for you to do some hard work. Actively follow people every day, and use services such as ManageFlitter to unfollow inactive accounts and those who do not follow back. Create lists of influential Twitter accounts and follow their followers. One important point to note however, is that Twitter is not a great platform to sell books. Pumping out buy my book links just does not work. Twitter is a great traffic generator though, so forget selling books on Twitter, and concentrate on using it to attract people to you, your blog and its content.

7. Monetize Your Blog. There are costs involved in maintaining a blog, particularly if it is a self-hosted WordPress site, so why not cover these costs with advertising revenue? If you generate enough traffic, you may even find that carrying a modest amount of advertising on your blog generates a sizeable side income. Ok, if your book sales are slow, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Blogging is writing too, so don’t be shy in accepting writing income in another form.

8. Write Blog Posts More Often. Nothing brings traffic faster than fresh and informative content. As an advertisement for your writing skills, regular blogging is by far the best way to show off your skills. Take some time away from your current manuscript and write new content for your blog at least twice a week. And then of course, blast it out on Twitter.

9. Spread The Word Wider. While Twitter and Facebook are the go to platforms for self-published authors, there are other sites that can deliver a lot of attention and traffic. From my experience, Stumbleupon is one of the most underrated, and for years now I have got a lot of steady monthly traffic from it. Others to consider are Reddit, Pinterest, Scoopit and of course, Linkedin. However, and probably surprisingly, the most important social media network is Google+. Every time you post on Google+, it is indexed by Google Search, and with your profile image! But here’s the big tip. When you post on Google+, make sure you create a headline. To do this, put a star at the beginning and end of your headline, then add your text. Example: *This Is My Headline*. Now it will appear in bold, and be indexed by Google in a flash.

10. Don’t Give Up. There are probably a million or more e-books listed on Kindle that have been abandoned by self-publishers who simply gave up because they didn’t get rich in a month. With just a little bit if work, jumping above these is easy. Finding a way to climb higher though will take work, patience, experimentation and perhaps even a bit of luck. But isn’t it true that the harder you work, the luckier you get?

Appended Footnote: Here’s how my tip about using Google+ works.  This is a screen grab of Google Search only 30 minutes after posting this article. Number 2 out of 70 million ain’t bad!

google index
And yes, I know I missed the apostrophe in aren’t in my search string, but it still worked.

Just Publishing is maintained by Derek Haines, a grumpy, old English teacher, author and habitual blogger, who has a long held interest in self-publishing, as a means of freedom of expression rather than as an avenue to instant riches and fame. 
Add to Technorati Favorites
Bookmark and Share

Monday, May 11, 2015

The 7 Deadly Sins of Writing

I recently ran across an article that included a list of the seven deadly sins
--wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. When I surveyed my own life in an effort to identify those sins in me, I came to a horrible realization.

I am guilty of all seven.

And to make it even worse (as if anything could be worse than being guilty of the seven sins that hurt God the most and impede my spiritual life), they're mostly due to...gasp!... my writing. This is not good.

How do I rid myself of these horrible characteristics and still continue to write? After all, I can't imagine not writing. I live and breathe writing. I dream writing. I wake up writing--well, at least my brain does. I'm just a hair above comatose most mornings, so I'm glad my brain feels well enough to carry on in my absence. On the other hand, I can't continue to sin against God. Identifying my inadequacies and correcting them seems to be the only way I can obliterate these sins from what I enjoy doing the most, i.e., playing with, tweaking, editing, and hopefully, publishing words. Many, many words.

Let's take them one at a time.

1.  Wrath--Anyone who uses a computer knows about wrath. Try to control it. Enough said.

2.  Greed--To my way of thinking, greed is the act of wanting more than you deserve or are rightfully accorded. Merriam-Webster defines greed as "a selfish and excessive desire for more of something (as money) than is needed." Note the three defining words: selfish, excessive, and needed. I'm guilty of at least dreaming about a huge advance and lots of income from my hugely successful book. But... greed is greed, whether it's acted upon or just dreamed of.

3.  Sloth--Now here's one of which I am clearly guilty. I've been known to take sloth to newer and higher levels. Upper stratosphere levels. To Mars and back levels. I can find more excuses to put off sitting down and writing
--not Facebooking, not playing games or checking the latest stock averages (particularly useless, since I have no stocks) or checking my email every other second, but actually writing--than Stephen King has bestsellers. It's easy to call my sloth by other names: procrastination, writer's block, malaria. But slothfulness is not attractive  (have you ever seen a sloth? If not, see below.), nor is it productive. It's lazy.

See what I mean? This is not a handsome fellow by any stretch
of the imagination.
4.  Pride--Ah, pride. Even though I thank God every day for any bit of talent I have to write and know that it's only through His provision and His blessing that I am able to do so, I feel a bit--okay, a lot--of pride whenever I think about my books in print. Even though pride is a very human characteristic, and I don't think being proud of somebody else is sinful, it would behoove me to reel in the personal satisfaction and instead be more aware of those who have helped me in my journey to publication and to thank my Heavenly Father.

5. Lust--I don't write anything remotely lustful, so experiencing lust, even vicariously, isn't an issue with me. But lusting for success and a modicum of fame in my career is. I find that practicing patience helps tamp down my lustful side.

6.  Envy--Oh, but envy! Yes, I can relate to that. I know people who are successful at what they do most often worked very hard and earned everything they are accorded. Still it's natural to feel a little bit of "why can't that be me?" when we hear of other authors signing contracts or see pictures of them opening up their box of books, but dwelling on "why them and not me?" is envy, pure and simple.

7. Gluttony--This is me through and through. No one can devour more munchies than I can while writing. Afterwards, I'm not sure if I'm binge-writing or binge-eating. In any event, I find greed and gluttony to be first cousins. Greed is the "wanting" and gluttony is the "having." There's nothing wrong with wanting, and there's nothing wrong with having. But when taken to excess, neither one is attractive.

Not even on a sloth.

Add to Technorati Favorites
Bookmark and Share

Friday, May 8, 2015

How Do You Fascinate People?

One of the peeps in my art group suggested a book called How the World Sees You: Discover YourHighest Value Through Science of Fascination by Sally Hogshead. I was intrigued and picked it up. The book asks the question, how do you fascinate people?

Isn't that a curious one? It applies to all of us, of course, but I couldn't help of creative people, who to me are all very fascinating. But what makes me gravitate toward one creative person and not the other? It isn't always their work but their whole vibe, or something we call their brand. It’s their attitude, the way they come across, how they communicate, and their creative works.

Creative people sometimes struggle with marketing, and to me this book helps answer the question: How can I market myself effectively? I have a background in marketing, and I've been successful at it sometimes, but I’m not always sure why. Other times I think I’m doing all I should and don’t see the same benefits as when I stop trying to do what everyone else is telling me and just be myself. And that’s what the book is trying to get across, that when you capitalize on your unique characteristics you will have success, or more importantly, you’ll draw people to you.

The book is short, filled with common sense items, but also contains insight that helps put things in perspective in a way I hadn't look at them before. There is a personalized test that helps you figure out how you add value. I was reminded a bit of StrengthsFinder in taking this test, and I think each one of these types of tests can provide insight in how we come across so we can present the very best version of our personality to people.

The author says you “don’t learn how to be fascinating, you unlearn boring.” I loved that. There is a test that roots out your top two “Fascination Advantages” in communication that when used correctly can help people see you in the best light possible. Think about the impact of that as a creative person trying to market! It’s very powerful. 

In taking the test I found out my main advantages were passion and prestige, and said I added value by:

  • Captivating others with a vibrant and attractive style of communication.
  • Being approachable and transparent, which makes you an "open book."
  • Intuitively understanding ideas and feelings of others.

Examples of this advantage area are: Leonardo Da Vinci, Ronald Reagan, Audrey Hepburn, Oprah Winfrey, and George Lucas.

As I looked at the big successes I’d had in my life, this made sense. I sold 1,000 copies of my first poetry book in a year because I was just telling my story, and tapping into ways that others might relate. I grew my platform by being approachable. I became a relationships writer because I understood how people felt about trying to find friends or a soul mate or just get along better. My “This I Believe” essay was successful because I shared a piece of my childhood that was painful but left people with the hope that pain could be left in the past.

There’s more to all this, of course, much more than I can describe in the space of a blog post. In addition to the main areas you’re best in, there is also something called a “dormant advantage” which you should try and avoid. This is an area where you’ll lose people, fail to build trust, and fail to sell your products.

I’m all for ways that help us become more self-aware, which is an area creative people can struggle with. We hear a compliment and get sucked in rather than listen to the context of what is being said. We get an offer and jump at it without realizing what it really means for our life and career. We fail to sell our creative products and blame it on publishers, editors, and agents. This is the type of book that can help us move away from the negatives of the creative career paths and focus on more of our strengths. 

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: How to (Really) Make Money BloggingVisit her website for more info,

Add to Technorati Favorites
Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Guest Post with Lisa Hannon - Preparing for the Future of Writing

*This post originally appeared here, and is used with permission.

"There are pros and cons for 140 character limits."

Even if Twitter goes away someday, writing short statements with a clear point is good practice.
But me, I’m just not a 140-character kind of girl. I’m only now beginning to utilize Twitter, and to this point, only as a way to point to my blog or to a LinkedIn post.  But, as a very smart guy pointed out to me, it’s not necessarily a vehicle to express yourself; it’s a place to point to the place where you express yourself.  Even so, I still have to write and rewrite anyway, because restricting myself to 140 characters makes me crazy.

Why? Because I write like I speak, and I talk in run-on sentences.  Sometimes you have to wave a hand in front of my face to get me to shut up, as I get verbalicious.  I also have a tendency to invent words.

But Twitter, to me, is pretty much always going to serve as “Hey, hey! Look over there!” It’s a tool to point elsewhere. One big reason is because I find those 140 words dangerous—I can’t explain my way out of terse statements—and how many terse statements have you seen get companies in deep trouble on Twitter?

I have lots to say. I’m a writer. Comes with the territory.
Specialize to monetize
I think all of us have a lot to say. And if you’re not already, it’s time to become the world’s greatest expert in something, whether it’s underwater basket weaving, writing, finance, marketing, technology or some other favorite subject.

People simply won’t follow a blog that’s all over the place. I know this, because I’ve had a personal blog for years that I’m remodeling now. My plan is to think about it in terms of exactly the specialties I’m talking about here—to drink my own Kool-Aid.  My 24 followers just won’t cut it in a world where 24,000 is seen as chump change.

Why would that be again? Because the last part of that heading is “to monetize.”
There are a lot of ways to add passive block advertising to a blog, from Google AdSense to Amazon partnering, and a lot of people who explain that better than I ever could. However, without followers, the big companies are never going to knock on your door, either.

And, if you don’t specialize, you’re simply not going to get followers—so go where they hang out. What do they want to hear? Ask them. Start figuring it out. Start reaching out to the people who might be interested in what you’re writing, and getting the right content in front of them.
Speak to your reader, but don’t exclude new readers
Lastly, blogs and content for the web in general just aren’t textbooks. Write like you speak. Stop worrying about complete sentences.

Don’t get me wrong—you need to spell everything correctly and use reasonably constructed grammar; you don’t want to sound like a complete goober.

I tend to use odd grammar constructions and Southern speech patterns for comic effect, but that’s my persona. I try to use it sparingly in the business venues, but in my Texas community newspaper articles, it’s much more liberally sprinkled into the text, and much closer to my personal daily speech.  Different writing venues mirror my speech patterns in my personal life and my business life.

Wherever you write, you need to know who you’re writing to and for, and specialized, informational blogging is no exception. Keep your voice consistent, and speak to your reader in ways that make them comfortable, and makes them want to hit that “Follow” button.

I pick one person to write for most of the time, and write as if I’m talking directly to him. It happens to be my husband. I also don’t  cuss every third word in my daily speech patterns, so my blogs could also easily get a G rating.

A lot of the millennial-focused blogs have writers who are comfortable cursing when they speak, and when they write.  I’m not their audience, and when I stumble into one accidentally, they make me blink rapidly and leave even faster. But is limiting your audience that much really a good idea?

Bluntly, who’s got more money to spend? My generation? Or theirs?

If I don’t leave, it’s because the content in and around the cuss words is amazing. Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen often—all the f-bombs fuzz my ability to decide whether the rest is worth sticking around to read.

My writing doesn’t exclude the millennials, but their writing often excludes me.  Choices abound. They lost me because they chose to lose me.
Keep it short, but don’t make me jump for nothing
This post is over 800 words, and that’s pushing it. More than a thousand and you’ve definitely lost your reader.

But my biggest pet peeve right now is if you give me a paragraph or two, then make me go to page two for a key piece of information. It’s just transparent clickbait, as we all get more Internet savvy.
 Annoys me.

So, what annoys you?
What makes you go back?
Avoid the first one, and adhere to the second one.
It’s that simple, or as complicated as you want to make it.

 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. Her blog about writing can be found at
Add to Technorati Favorites
Bookmark and Share

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Procrastinating Writer

Photo by Bryan Furnace
It seems like I always have the best of intentions.

Unfortunately, my intentions and what I can accomplish in a given amount of time do not always mesh.

I’ve been facing this problem a lot lately. I think it goes back to being slightly-overly optimistic…okay, maybe exceedingly so. I think I can accomplish a project in two weeks. It ends up taking three. Or five. Or seven. (Or worse—more!)

Some of the time, it’s my own fault. I don’t realize I have a ton of appointments, as is the life of a mother with a child with a rare disease, which cuts dramatically into the amount of time I actually have available—and decreases my focus (sometimes) when I am able to work. S

Sometimes, things come up: play dates for my daughter, or she drags her feet on her schoolwork (since we homeschool.)

Or we get up so late in the morning that I feel obligated to take my husband lunch (since I didn’t get it fixed before he left for work.)

Then there are the times when I’m just my own worst enemy. I find ways to procrastinate.

Facebook is a big source.

So are their games—I must admit, I’m slightly addicted to one right now and I find myself bumming over there whenever I don’t know what else to do. Five minutes here, ten minutes there…it really adds up.

Then there’s the things I do that act like things that are good for me—learning a new skill. Or relearning a skill, as the case is currently. Signing up on Duolingo to refresh the French I learned in college…that’s a good thing, right? I keep telling myself that. And it’s good to be bettering myself. But doing a lesson every day is thirty minutes I could be working on writing.

Or the fact I just got a new computer, so am on the learning curve for not only Windows 8.1 (from Vista), but the latest version of Word and Scrivener. Oh boy. Lucky me. (Insert sarcastic font here.)

So when I sit back and wonder just why my next book isn’t out yet, I can point at all of these things. Some of them are legitimate—learning where everything is in Word and Scrivener has been a headache, and I kind of wish I’d put off my conversion by about a month. And we wrapped up kindergarten early (Yippee!!) Although we’re planning to start First Grade in June. (How am I old enough to have a first grader anyway?) But did I need to play my Facebook game as much as I have? No. Did I need to start relearning French? Now? Nope. Am I going to stop? Probably not because I am enjoying it despite the fact their grammar is about to give me an aneurysm.

But I do know one thing…

Procrastination, thy name is Liberty.

Question for you: Are you like me and find ways to procrastinate on your writing, and know you’re doing it in the moment? Or are you more the type who under promises, but over delivers, because you know yourself and your strengths and weaknesses?
Add to Technorati Favorites
Bookmark and Share