Month: April 2014

Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?

“Take out a piece of paper and a pencil. Number from 1-10.” These are words every fourth grader dreads, and could only mean one thing: dictation. Just when you realized your cursive S looked funny because you accidentally turned it into a treble clef, the teacher would say, “Next sentence.”
Whenever quotes were involved, dictation was a double whammy. Do the quotation marks go before or after the period? Why couldn’t the punctuation police just make them go directly underneath? Mere millimeters to the right or left made the entire sentence wrong. Don’t get me started on the metric system.

If I could just get through fourth grade, I would never have to take dictation again. Too bad my name starts with the letter s, but surely I could get by in life without ever using quotation marks. But alas, my writing is flat without them. Conversations make characters tick and paragraphs talk. If you want your story to come alive for the reader, the people must speak, and yes, this means quotation marks.

Before hives break out from a flood of fourth grade memories, I do three things when letting my characters speak on the page. First, I put quotes around only what they say. Next, when in doubt, I always use a capital letter. Last, I indent whenever a new character speaks. For everything else, we must keep our editors in business.

Sometimes writers balk at quoting real live people in writing, and for good reason. Besides punctuation police, there are plagiarism police roaming planet Earth. Again, let the characters speak-especially because they are real. Rarely would you carry a tape recorder around (does anyone ever do this anymore?), so you wouldn’t write verbatim what the person actually said. Don’t let this stop you from quoting them.

In my first book Tornado Valley: Huntsville’s Havoc, I used a disclaimer: “Thank you to … for agreeing to be named as the real people they are, while allowing the author to fictionalize their conversations for the purpose of telling their true stories.” In each case, I received permission from the interviewees, but I wanted the reader to know too. I remembered actual conversations to the best of my ability, but the words were mine. Many words were cut with a lot of dot, dot, dots, because a tornado in your peripheral vision could spark some choice words you may not wish to see in writing.

I hope this wasn’t just ‘a tale of fourth grade nothing,’ but that you, too, will strive for livelier stories with more conversations and quotes. Besides, I heard that in fifth grade, they diagram sentences. No wonder I don’t feel smarter than a fifth grader.

Check out some more encouragement and writing tips in my latest book WRITE, BABY, WRITE: You Can Do It! Available at: Amazon ($0.99)

You may be a Writer if?

– You get out of bed in the middle of the night to correct a comma.
– You decline a social invitation because of a conflict…in your book.
– You get a Kindle for Christmas, a Kindle case for your birthday, and a Kindle charger for Mother’s Day.
– You gain ten pounds in one month while on the B.I.C. program-Bottom in chair.
– You own at least one cat-as if owning a cat is possible.
– You have a marital spat over something that happened in your book.
– You type on an imaginary keyboard when you’re talking to someone in person.
– You’ve had a great day if you’ve doubled your word count.
– You whip out a Thesaurus during conversations.
– In case of a fire, you grab your laptop first.
– You talk to yourself and have conversations with imaginary characters.

And the list goes on… Any of these apply to you? Guilty.

Just a little fun for today, we’ve gotta keep it real. Check out some more fun insights and writing tips in my latest book WRITE, BABY, WRITE: You Can Do It!
Available at: Amazon ($0.99)

Are you an Indie Writer?

Are you an Indie Writer? A what, you ask? Well, you might be an indie writer if you self-publish. Think about your reaction when self-publishing was just mentioned. Was it positive, inquisitive, or downright negative? For some reason, opposing sides are established outright whenever self-publishing is laid on the table. One side puts up their dukes and gets ready to defend their authorship rights. The other side muses pish-posh, those self-publishing advocates are at it again.

In fact, even the connotation of the word, self-publish, draws a line in the sand. Some have abandoned the stigma altogether and declare themselves to be indie writers. Indie is short for independent, but has a rebellious ring to it, don’t you think? I’m thinking of Indiana Jones. I personally like the term for the simple reason that most folks have heard of indie movies, or indie bands, but rarely of indie writers.

Independent people like this sort of thing. It only makes sense that such persons would also like complete control over every aspect of their written works. Complete control meaning: deadlines, editing, marketing, publishing, book covers, title and chapter names, length, genre… oh, just everything. An independent author can do just about whatever she wants. However, along with that freedom comes total responsibility. Not only will she reap the lion’s share of book royalties, but she will also shoulder the full charge of success or failure for her book ventures. I can’t think of any better example of reaping what you sow. Do you think you could be an indie writer?

My latest book, WRITE, BABY, WRITE: You Can Do It! dives into the exciting world of indie writing and self publishing. I have my books at several locations, but the biggest player in the business is Amazon. In my book you can find more information on self publishing, or directly from Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing-KDP (ebook publishing) or Amazon’s Createspace (Print versions). Amazon publishing tools are free to use and provide indie authors with a powerful and friendly platform to get your story into the hands of readers. You Can Do It!

Available at: Amazon ($0.99)

A Weird Writer’s Block

You thought you’d heard them all! When it comes to excuses for not writing, you’ve heard ones like: I might not have it in me anymore, I don’t have time, and what if no one likes it? Or worse, what if no one cares? Well, I’ve got a new one for the books. I’m afraid to write because I’ll gain weight.

My latest book, WRITE, BABY, WRITE: You Can Do It! even dealt with the whole writer’s block issue. But it didn’t deal with my gaining fifteen pounds in the process of writing it. Yep, I took the whole ‘butt in chair’ principle to heart in order to finish writing. Indeed, I finished. Unfortunately my butt paid the price. Instead of writing in solitude, my constant companions were three nosy cats and three (or was it thirteen?) not-so-nutritious donuts. I thought it would be okay since the donuts were the little ones. Not so. I also have my neighbor to thank for introducing me to sea-salt caramel gelato. My figure didn’t stand a chance after chapter one.

Now that the book is in the care of Amazon, I can focus on my health. After three months of staying faithful to the free Lose-it app,, and keeping my butt out of the chair by exercising it, I’m back down to my pre-writing weight. This whole scenario strangely sounds like having a baby. I would argue that birthing a book takes as much out of you, except you’ll be lucky if the book incubation period is only nine months.
I am finally ready to face the blinking cursor again. I can kiss the weight gain excuse goodbye. But first, I am taking one proactive step before I begin my next book. My writing computer has been moved to an upstairs bedroom furthest from the kitchen. My bottom will actually have to leave the chair to go to the kitchen. By the way, have you tried the sea-salt caramel gelato?

Available at: Amazon ($0.99)

Featured Book of the Day – Author Marketing Club

Well, Here goes… I experienced some good success with a book promo run in the fall with a different book promotion site, but this week on April 4th, I am trying out Author Marketing Club’s featured book of the day, WRITE, BABY, WRITE: You Can Do It!. I will provide an updated review of the Author Marketing Club promo performance. It’s the first time I have used the paid promotion features, but it’s always been a great site for promoting free ebooks! It’s pretty affordable promotion option with a good traffic volume level.

Available at: Amazon ($0.99)