Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Writing Tips - Favorites

We all have our favorites.

Favorite color, favorite animal, favorite team…

What other favorite items come to mind? Maybe some of your own?

Favorite scent? Mine’s vanilla.

Favorite wine? I’m a sucker for a good Merlot.

Favorite outfit? I love a casual sundress. Like wearing PJs in public.

Favorite sports player? He’s long since retired, but Doug Flutie’s my guy! I still have a collector’s box of Flutie Flakes…

What does this have to do with writing?

Every person has favorites - including your characters.

Have you made a list of your character’s favorites?

Please share! Your character's favorites and your own. Anyone else like a good Merlot?

Friday, August 27, 2010

And Now For Something Completely Different...

"It's not pining, it's passed on. This parrot is no more! It has ceased to be. It's expired and gone to meet its maker.This is a late parrot. It's a stiff. Bereft of life, it rests in peace. If you hadn't nailed it to the perch it would be pushing up the daisies. It's rung down the curtain and joined the choir invisible. This is an ex-parrot."


Publishers Weekly is opening up to self-published books - but it comes with a price tag - Select Quarterly Service Interesting, considering they hardly take notice of small publishers - just the big boys in New York.

Lots of great giveaways at Luxury Reading

Blogging and comments were covered by two people this week - Lee at Tossing it Out and Alex J. Cavanaugh


Ready for some publishing and promoting resources?

Dan Poynter’s Para Publishing
John Kremer’s Bookmarket
Selling Books
Mystery Promotion
Ink Tree Marketing


I’m still dealing with my mom’s situation. She’s out of the hospital and in a rehabilitation facility now and I’m taking care of all her bills and such. Fortunately, she finally decided she couldn’t go home and has selected a nice studio apartment at an assisted living facility. I’ll be making at least one more trip back to Oregon soon…


I recently attended the wedding of my nephew, and this was the Groom's Cake! Looks good, doesn't it?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

What Don’t You Do Now That You’re a Writer?

I was thinking back to the time when I wasn’t writing - about nine years ago. (I wrote a lot in my teens and early 20’s, but put it on the back burner for a while.) There were a lot of things I did that I just don’t do now. Some of it was fun, but some are necessities that I really shouldn’t slack on.

Let me give you an idea of what I no longer do that I should:

Remember birthdays. If I remember your birthday after the fact, feel privileged.

Keep up with household chores. Hey, a spotless house is overrated.

Read endlessly. I still read, but not as much as I should.

Cook nice dinners for my husband. Pasta takes less than ten minutes and yes, we eat it often.

Keep up with my roller coaster stuff. I’m a fanatic and used to know every coaster in every park and what new ones were going in… LOL! So much for that.

Take photos professionally. Yes, I’ve been a pro photographer for twenty years now, but once book signings and such figured into the equation, my days of shooting weddings and portraits went by the wayside. Okay, maybe that was a good thing…

My list could go on…

What have you quit doing (that maybe you should still be doing) since becoming a writer?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Your Special Writing Spot? And an Award!

Every writer has his or her unique writing habits. I admire those who can write anywhere, especially surrounded by distractions. Now, I can write ten-fifteen minutes here and there, and occasionally while others are present. However, if I’m going to write for more than thirty minutes, some prep time is required to prepare my favorite location:

End corner of new couch with pillows fluffed just right. Check!
Padded lap tray. Check!
CD player and headphones. Wait, forgot CDs. Okay, check! (No, I don’t own an ipod.)
Fresh bottle of water. Check!
My writing notebook and a pen. Check!
All set, ready to write. Whoops, drank too much water earlier! Okay, now I’m good.
Discover CD player’s batteries are on the fritz. Retrieve new ones.
Write for a few minutes and realize I’ve killed yet another pen. Get a new one. Two, just in case.
Cat decides he wants to spread across my notebook. Spend a few minutes pacifying Spunky before I shove him off my lap.
Phone rings. Caller ID informs me I can ignore it. Our answering machine kicks in and I hear this loud “If you’d like to make a call, please hang up and try again.” Get up to stop the stupid recording.
Few more minutes of writing… wait, where’s the rest of my notes? Spend a few minutes searching my office.
I finally get in some writing time and then… it’s almost dinner time and I have NO idea what I’m making tonight! Mad panic as I put away all of my writing props and run to the kitchen.

Okay, does this sound like anyone else’s writing habits?

Mason Canyon at Thoughs in Progress gave me the You Deserve a Star Today Award! Thanks so much - I needed that!

I’d like to pass it along to six people who are still with me despite my weird absences this summer:

Stephen at Breakthrough Blogs
Rayna at Coffee Rings Everywhere
Jai at Jai Joshi’s Tulsa Tree
L’Aussie At L’Aussie Writing
Hannah at Musings of a Palindrome
Terry at Terry Lynn Johnson

I could’ve given it to dozens more! Just know I appreciate those who visit Spunky every week.

Friday, August 20, 2010

And Now For Something Completely Different...

"Well, on second thought, let's not go to Camelot -- it is a silly place."


No book news this week, as I frantically put this together Thursday evening after my seminar. So instead, I have a list of references for writers! Will make this a regular feature for a while, as I could list thousands of websites...

Full listing of all genre classifications at BISG

Want to know if that publisher/editor/agent is legit? Check out their listing on Preditors and Editors

More publisher listings at Every Writers Resource and Publishing Central

Copyright your work.

Got a legal question? Visit Ivan Hoffman’s site for dozens of free articles about publishing legalities.


"Why yes, I AM comfortable! Why do you ask?"

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Importance of a Professional Book Editor

Hiring an editor is something all writers need to consider.

I teach classes on publishing and promoting and encourage every writer to hire a professional book editor. Why? If you decide to self-publish, it will be your reputation at stake. If you don’t hire a professional editor, it will show in your work. Skipping this vital step may mean the difference between success and failure in terms of book sales and your status as a quality author. The #1 complaint about self-published books is the poor editing. Don’t be part of the problem - be part of the solution! I also encourage those submitting their manuscripts to publishers to hire an editor. Close to 95% of all writers skip this step, so if your work has been professionally edited, it will stand out from the pack! Many small publishers don’t have an editor on staff and require the submission of edited manuscripts only.

Rather than go into the value of a professional book editor or levels of editing or discuss why authors shouldn’t edit their own work, I’m presenting some quotes from experts, publishers, and authors in the industry:

“Do not try to proof your own work. You are too close to the manuscript and will miss some typographical errors. You need a professional with fresh eyes to proof your work.”
Dan Poynter, “Hire a Proofreader”

“An editor does more than just check for grammar ans spelling mistakes. They also make sure that your plot is solid with no unexplained parts that would detract from the story. They make sure that your character remains steady and consistent. They double check to make sure that your people act consistently.”
Penelope Diaz, “Why Do You Need to Hire an Editor?”

“I wrote a blog about having an unbiased second set of professional eyes look over a MS. (See You Need an Editor) I think editing your own MS is like representing yourself in court. What's that saying? Only a fool reprsents themself? Something like that.
“One needs to pay a professional to do the work. The best advice I could ever give an aspiring writer is to pay the $$$ for an editor. Most will do a chapter for free, so you can get an idea if you are getting your money's worth.”
Stephen Tremp, Breakthrough Blogs

“There is nothing wrong with unpolished writing, but there is no excuse for not having it cleaned up by an editor.
“Each book presents a different challenge. Some require punctuation corrections while others demand a rewrite. According to Brenner Information Group. Editors average sixty-one hours of work per book. Yes, editing is a rewording activity.”
Dan Poynter, “Hire a Copy Editor”

“Typos, misspellings, and other goofs from bargain-basement copyediting diminish a book’s credibility and embarrass author and publisher. Less obvious is the lack of developmental editing, which can cause a book to miss its market. In a development edit, a market-savvy editor guides an author in producing a more saleable book.
“Even authors who market their manuscripts to agents and publishers can benefit from professional editing - before submission.”
John Kremer, “!001 Ways to Market Your Books”

“Authors generally don’t make very good editors… for their own books. We’re too close to it. So hire an editor.”
Peter Bowerman, “The Well-Fed Self-Publisher”

“The truth is, everybody could benefit from an independent editor, so long as you hire a good one. Don’t tell me you already know how to write, so you don’t need an editor. Even the best writers need editors!”
Alexis Grant, “Should You Hire an Editor for Your Manuscript?”

“There is so much an editor can do for your manuscript that you can't do for yourself. Pacing, structure, inconsistencies - so much beyond the line edit.”
Karen K. Brees, Ph.D.
Headwind: The Intrepid Adventures of OSS Agent Katrin Nissen (Chalet, Summer 2010)
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Preserving Food (Alpha Books 2009)
Website - Karen Brees

You poured so much effort into that manuscript. Why potentially shoot yourself in the foot by not having a professional edit your work?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


To whom do you dedicate your book?

This is a topic I don't see discussed very often, but almost every book contains a dedication. For me, it's very important. In just a line or two, I honor someone who has made a difference in my life and my work. It's usually the last thing I write, too.

Since I have six books, I won't mention every dedication. But Book I of my YA series I dedicated to my husband:

For my wonderful husband, Craig, and all the hours you spent without me while I pursued this dream. Thank you my love, for your belief, your support and your endless patience!

Considering how much time I spend in front of my computer and on the road, dedicating a book to my greatest hero and best friend was the least I could do.
I also dedicated books to my best three friends; my mentor Trish; two cousins; another mentor who had just passed away; and to my fans.
So, tell me - to whom have you dedicated your blood, sweat, and tears?

Friday, August 13, 2010

And Now For Something Completely Different...

What makes you think she is a witch?
Well, she turned me into a newt.
A newt?
I got better.

I did two seminars in the North Carolina mountains on Thursday, so I'm traveling home today… 


At The Alliterative Allomorph - all you ever wanted to know about Ithaca!!

You HAVE to watch this video about the people at Twitter - Helen’s daughter is in it! Straight From Hel

Free kids’ books at Barnes and Noble! See Nancy at Realms of Thought for details.

Big thank you to DL Hammons of Cruising Altitude for hosting the High Drama Blogfest! That was my very first writing blogfest, too.

And I managed to win some free books, too!
Chicken Soup for the Runner's Soul is on its way from Lynette at Crazed Mind
And the audio book of The Bourne Objective arrived this week from Mason at Thoughts in Progress
Thank you, ladies!!!


This was to be a relaxing and productive summer. Only two book signings and five seminars to teach. No problem!

However, after going at full speed as author and speaker for over six years now, I finally crashed and burned. I’m still eager to speak, but writing has lost its luster.

My mother went into the hospital on July 4th, which has led to many calls, details, bills, and trips. There’s still another big trip coming up in the next month or so. Thankfully, she was released on Tuesday and is not in rehab for a few weeks.

Through all of this MESS, my blogging has suffered. Okay, all my online stuff has suffered. But many of you still stop by and comment, either on this post or my Sunday Sillies… and I really appreciate it.

My goal is to get through this month to the best of my ability. I will continue to post several times a week, visit as many friends/blogs as possible, and get this blog cleaned up by mid-September. (It really needs a major overhaul.)

So please continue to hang with the Spunky. I’m trying!


Spunky has decided that if he occupies my bag, I won't be able to leave!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Are EBooks Really Green?

I came upon an article the other day that implied that EBooks are not as green as we'd hoped.

Raz Godelnik, co-founder and CEO of Eco-Libras, started looking into toxic waste issues such as materials used in EReaders and the recycling of such units:

"According to the EPA, Americans generated about 3 million tons of electronic waste in 2007. Out of all that waste, only 13.6 percent was recycled."

According to Raz, over half of that is shipped overseas for dismantling.

He also addressed energy consumption and environmental impact. (Only Apple makes environmental data available.) Raz compared life cycle conequences, too:

"When I compared the carbon footprint of the IPad Wi-Fi and 3G Model provided by Apple (130k CO2) with the carbon footprint of an average physical book ( 7.46 kg CO2...) I found a breakeven point of 17.4 books, meaning that in terms of carbon footprint, the IPad becomes a more environmental friendly alternative option for book reading once its user reads the 18th book on it."

He mentions that the life cycle of an EReader factors into the equasion as well. Raz points out the increased usage of recycled paper to create books has made them greener than in the past, and that both print books and EReaders are growing more ecologically friendly.

What's your opinion? EBooks still a greener option?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Photo Tuesday

The world is full of great places for a story's setting. The bustle of a large city like New York. The romance of the beaches of the Bahamas. The mystery of the Orient.

I'll provide another idea for your storyline - have you considered the beauty of a high desert?

When most people think of deserts, they picture sand and camels. The Sahara and Death Valley come to mind. But high desert is different.

I lived in New Mexico for four years and it is the perfect example of high desert.

High desert is just that - high elevation. (As in, you get to use the high altitude directions on cake mixes.)

There's more rock than sand.

Scrub brush and cacti abound, but so do pine trees at the higher elevations.

There's rolling hills and large mountains.

Yes, it's hot in the summer. (Dry heat people! Humidity's around 11%) But it's also cold in the winter. And it snows. Sometimes a lot!

It doesn't rain often, but there's definitely a thunderstorm season.

There's also a dust season, Yes, tumbleweeds are for real!

Fewer bugs, but more poisonous critters.

It's often windy. Okay, where I lived, it was always windy! And there was always a headwind, no matter which direction you faced.

The air is thinner.

Since rocks outnumber trees, many buildings are made of adobe. (Such a fun word, isn't it?)

Fall mornings, it is cold before the sun rises, and at its coldest the moment the sun crests the horizon.

And the most beautiful thing about high desert - sunsets. The gradual shading of yellow to orange to red to purple to blue to black is indescribable. Sorry no photo - I always meant to take a picture!

I used a high desert setting and the city of Albuquerque in Book IV of my series, incorporating most of the above into my story.

Are you ready to incorporate a high desert into your story?

Friday, August 06, 2010

High Drama Blogfest!

DL Hammons of Cruising Altitude is hosting a High Drama Blogfest Giveaway!

I am posting my entry just a little early, as I am traveling at the moment.

This is an excerpt from The Circle of Friends, Book V…Heather

A crash from upstairs shattered the silence. Heather almost dropped the bottle as she spun around, her eyes wide. She had not even bothered to look for Dawn’s car in the parking lot, assuming her sister would be at work. Clearly, she was not alone in the house and Heather gripped the plastic bottle tightly in her hands. Her mind raced as she tried to process the situation. Glancing again at the empty bottle, panic suddenly gripped her as she realized Dawn might have consumed both the beer and the sleeping pills.

Heather cautiously approached the stairs and grasped the railing with her free hand. Peering upstairs, she noticed the bathroom door was closed.

“Dawn?” she called, placing a foot on the first step.

No reply met her ears, but Heather could distinctly hear sobbing. Fearfully she pounded up the stairs, her long strides carrying her rapidly to the landing. She recognized her sister’s tearful wails as they echoed within the confines of the bathroom. Dawn’s cries bordered on hysteria.

“Dawn?” cried Heather, pounding on the door. “Dawn!”

“Go away!” her sister screamed, her voice cracking from the effort.

“I’m not going anywhere!” roared Heather, the empty bottle still tight in her grasp.

She seized the handle, prepared to break down the bathroom door if necessary to gain access. To her surprise, it was not locked. Heather forcefully threw open the door and the momentum carried her into the bathroom. Once inside, she stared in horror at the figure crouched on the floor.

Cowering in the corner of the room, her back pressed against the shower door, sat a creature Heather scarcely recognized. Clad only in a t-shirt and underwear, Dawn’s thin frame trembled violently. Her arms were wrapped around her legs, her bony knees and elbows protruding unnaturally. Dawn’s face, once full and round, now appeared gaunt and stretched. Mascara streaked down her prominent cheekbones and her hair hung in tangles. Heather’s sister had always been stocky, but now, she could not weigh over a hundred pounds.

“What the hell are you doing?” cried Heather, too stunned to move.

“None of your business!” Dawn screamed, her small fist striking the floor in emphasis. “Go away!”

Clenching her own fists in anger, Heather remembered the empty bottle in her hand. She held it up for Dawn to see.

“Did you finish this bottle of sleeping pills?” she demanded.

“Yes I did!”

Heather’s eyes widened in horror. “What? Are trying to kill yourself or something?”

“So what if I am?!” screamed Dawn, gasping for air.

Angered by her response, Heather’s brows came together. Slamming the plastic bottle on the counter, she prepared to unleash her fury on Dawn.

“You idiot! Do you realize what that would do to Mom if she came home and found you dead?”

“She wouldn’t care!” Dawn retorted, her voice cracking from the force of her reply. “And neither would you!”


For more information on Book V of my series, visit the "Spunky's Books" page above or The Circle of Friends website.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

And Now For Something Completely Different...

"Stop that, stop that! You're not going to do a song while I'm here."

Really different - on a Thursday!

I’m traveling again due to family, and I have a scheduled post for DL Hammons’ blogfest, so my Friday gig moved to today.


DL Hammons of Cruising Altitude is hosting a High Drama Blogfest Giveaway!

Elizabeth at Mystery Writing Is Murder explains how to use the Google Reader - thank you!

Is there an industry uprising? (And not so wise words from a publisher) Straight From Hel

Terry Lynn Johnson’s WEBSITE for her Dogsled Dreams book is up!

Sunday Bits and Pieces from Patricia Stoltey - some good stuff here!

Having fun with your writer’s voice at Jane’s Ride

And if you’ve NOT seen the trailer for Sharktopus, visit Musings of a Palindrome now!


While in Oregon, I was able to visit the Abbey where my father’s ashes are kept, and I remembered to take photos…

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Christine Verstraete - Nonfiction to Fiction

Today, I welcome Christine Verstraete who enjoys writing mysteries, children's fiction and short stories.

Besides writing her children's book, Searching For A Starry Night,(just released for Kindle and coming in a new print version), Christine has had short fiction published in various anthologies including Timeshares and the upcoming Steampunk'd from DAW Books, plus in Dragons Composed and The Bitter End: Nautical Tales of Terror. Her latest spooky stories in ebook include "Motherly Love" and "The Killer Valentine Ball" (coming in October.)

Making the Switch from Nonfiction to Fiction

Being trained in journalism is a good thing for writing nonfiction, but it can be a bad habit to overcome when it comes to writing fiction. Yes, I had an advantage in terms of knowing sentence structure, grammar, etc, but fiction has its own style.

Early writing partners will attest to my complaints that I just didn't get it. I didn't think I could make the transition. I don't know why. As I mostly wrote for newspapers, I was used to "just the facts." Stringent writing. No exaggeration.

Then one day it clicked.

I practiced. I kept writing even when I read other "better" works that made me want to throw in the towel. I started with short stories and kept writing, going on to completing a children's mystery and an adult mystery.

Sure, I still sometimes struggle. (Who doesn't?) Sure, there are still authors far better than I am, whom I read for enjoyment and to look at their writing style.

Look around and you'll always find someone thinner, richer, better looking, more talented, etc. So? The bottom line: You can't let surroundings, outside criticism, self-doubt or anything else stop you from reaching your goal.

That's the real lesson I learned in transitioning from one writing genre to another: just keep writing.

The old adage, practice makes perfect, really holds true. Like with anything, you can't improve, you can't build on what you know, you can't change or grow, unless you keep at it.

Even later when you're sending out a novel or stories and still getting no's (yes, many writers (except maybe ultra-famous ones) still get rejections), the temptation to quit is strong. Discouragement weighs heavy. It's easy to get depressed and doubt your abilities. Especially with a novel, it can be a long, tedious process from first draft to finding a publisher or agent, and acceptance. You go through all the stages of grief and despair.

Making the transition and finding your own writing "voice," does come over time. Yes, some writers have quick successes. Some take longer to peak or like me, are "late bloomers."

That's okay. Writing is not a race. There isn't a timetable. You can start at any age. The only requirement: keep going. Be the Energizer Bunny. Write until you sign The End. Write and submit until someone says yes, then start all over again.

Thanks for letting me meet your blog visitors! Any questions, or anyone want to share the story behind their first publishing success (or rejection?)

* Website
* Blog
* eBooks page
* Searching For A Starry Night on Kindle,

**CONTEST: Anyone commenting on any of the blog stops on the tour can win:

* One person who comments on any of the blog tour stops will win a free Kindle copy of Searching for a Starry Night. (You can download Kindle for PC free here.)

* One person will also win a miniaturized dollhouse collector's edition of the first chapter from the first print edition, made by miniaturist LeeAnn Borgia. See myblog for links and photo.

** To celebrate the revised Searching for a Starry Night, one person will win a copy of the new print version when it is available.

Blog Tour Schedule:
Thurs, 7/22: Acme Authors Link - Real vs. Fictional Friends
Mon, 7/26: Morgan Mandel's Double M blog = Dogs and Such
Tues, 7/27: Killer Hobbies with Camille Minichino - Crafts and Writing, what comes first?
Weds, 7/28: Marian Allen- Talking about Writing
Thurs, 7/29: Helen Ginger, Straight from Hel - Getting Kindleized
Fri, 7/30: J.E. Taylor's blog – Writer's Quiz and Other Stuff
Mon, 8/2: Killer Crafts and Crafty Killers - craft how to with Anastasia Pollack – Writing and Crafts: Make Easy Miniature Cloth Decorations
Tues, 8/3: L. Diane Wolfe, "Spunk on a Stick" – Making the Switch from Nonfiction to Fiction

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Frugal and Focused Tweeting

Interview with Carolyn Howard-Johnson and a short review of her latest book!
Frugal and Focused Tweeting for Retailers: Tweaking Your Tweets and Other Tips for Integrating Your Social Media by Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Paperback: 130 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1451546149
Available - NOW!

You may be thinking - I don't have a retail business. But if you are a business owner, and that includes author or service provider, this book is for you!
I began reading this book a couple weeks ago. First thing I noticed was the ease at which I could slip into the book and jump to a specific chapter if I wanted to know about one certain aspect. It also provides little things we can do to tweak our Twitter accounts and Tweets that we might not have considered otherwise. And it's those little things that make the difference on Twitter!

Carolyn was also nice enough to answer a few questions:
1 - What's the biggest mistake new Tweeters make?
Diane, of course we're talking about Tweeters who have an agenda other than connecting with old friends. Tweeters who are marketing. Tweeters who are branding themselves. Tweeters who have some product or service to sell. And that includes writers. The biggest mistake they make is giving up before they get started, explore the network a bit and learn how to use it effectively. Mind you, this doesn't have to be done all at once. But I tell my clients, don't give up until you've realized (actually seen!) benefits. And you will! Mind you these benefits might be sales ($$$$), but there are many others. I list them in Frugal and Focused Tweeting (http://draft.blogger.com/).

2- What extras (Tweetdeck, etc.) do you recommend?

I use Tweetdeck. Also use Social Ooomph avidly to do tasks that Tweetdeck doesn't do and some that it does. But my approach is that Tweeters don't need dozens of these apps. The idea is to keep Tweeting simple. Frugal of money but also frugal of time. So I give people a list in the Appendix of Frugal and Focused Tweeting of the essential tried and true applications they need to do a great job, urge them to try them one at a time, tell them not to duplicate efforts. I mean there are some 70,000 apps out there for Twitter. Why not use what others have found work well--especially "others" like me who just want something that works well and costs little or nothing. There is no point in trying and using everything that comes along. That just confuses things. I think my Appendix list covers one app for every essential process a Tweeter will eventually need.

3 - Is it ever too late to salvage a sagging Twitter or organize a large one?

Oh, no! Isn't it wonderful. That's a principle of marketing. It is never too early to start, but also never too late. Same for rejuvenating an old effort. Do remember, though, that even promotions don't work unless they're promoted well. And, luckily, that's the power of the Internet. It lets us cross promote (cross pollinate if you will!) so well. That means when we Tweet well, we can let it work for us on our blogs and Web site and every other social network we play with. And they can contribute to our Twitter account. Now, multiply that exponentially by networking with other Tweeters and bloggers. Really! It's magic!

By the way, see how I just my retail Twitter account on my blog. It keeps the page fresh and new, even when I haven't blogged for a while - Frugal Retailing Recent Tweets are fed (meaning no work on my part!) to the right column every time I Tweet!

Carolyn Howard-Johnson's web site: How to do it Frugally

If you have any questions for Carolyn, please leave a comment!