Review: Parallax by Jon Merz

I've had Parallax by Jon Merz on my Kindle for several weeks. Finally, I found some reading time, and what a treat this mob hitman novel was.

I'll admit from the start that I'm not a big fan of hitman novels, but the character of hitman Frank Jolino was so finely drawn that I was hooked within the first few pages.

I'd love to see Jolino in other books because he was intelligent, articulate, droll, and at ease in his own skin. He also surprised me because he had a moral compass. Add all that to the fact that he was a vintage mystery reader, and you get a guy who is complex, appealing, and likable.

Oh, yeah, he kills people for a living, but they're by no means innocents undeserving of being whacked, but Merz lets the reader draw that conclusion. He doesn't state the obvious and then hammer it home.

Less likable is Ernst Stahl, once an idealist radical and now a jaded assassin, despite constant reminders from Stahl's character that he was completing a job only to save his son. His moral compass is stuck on "anything goes in the name of paternal love."

Not Just Another Mafia Book

When the two end up in some odd paranormal mutual awareness of each other, it's interesting albeit rather unbelievable, but the compelling character of Frank Jolino keeps the reader turning the pages. You probably won't suspend disbelief, but you'll be compelled to keep reading. You'll also be rooting for Frank to figure a way out of the mess and to, somehow, end up with the babe who has some surprises of her own.


I downloaded the book in February, and there are numerous "glitches" in the book. I won't call them typos because, since I publish ebooks, I know that they are conversion errors that occur when punctuation marks in a Word manuscript get changed to weird symbols when the manuscript is converted to different file formats like HTML which Kindle uses for their digital publishing. Don't let this deter you from enjoying the book.

Takeaway Truth

Do not read the Product Description of Parallax because it's a spoiler of what are meant to be neat plot twists. Just buy the book. Ignore the glitches, and start reading. Frank Jolino will hook you just as he did me.

Design Personal Gravatar

Usually, in January of each new year, I reprint this post you're about to read for new readers. This describes how to design your own personal Gravatar.

I forgot to do this and last week, a civilian (non-writer) whom I had contacted via my phone asked how I got that "little JR picture" to appear next to my name.

The answer: It's easy! Here's how you brand your name with your own logo, like the one I created years ago that appears here, or your profile pic or whatever you choose. That little JR picture is called a Gravatar.

(This article previously appeared on Writing Hacks, my subscription newsletter for writers. Subscribe today if you'd like articles like this as soon as they are published.)

Gravatar Defined

A Gravatar is an acronym for Globally Recognized Avatar. It is the image that follows you all over the Internet.

You've seen it as the little picture that shows up next to your name if you make a comment on a blog site or forum. In too many cases, the image that appears next to your name when you hop around the Internet is some generic graphic. You can change that gray block or weird little pic to an image that personally identifies you, and only you.

Above you see the gravatar that I created. You also see it as my favicon in the address bar of my blog (Favicon is for another day.). You also see it any time I make a comment on a blog. It's always the graphic image you'll see next to my name in the online world. It's the image that is linked to my identity.

Follow me as I tell you how to create your own gravatar so you can use it to help you in your branding effort.

Get Your Own Gravatar

1. Visit Gravatar and sign up for a free account. All you need is your email address.

2. Read the image size requirements.

3. Create the image you want to use--either a logo as I have done or a picture of you or whatever--based on those parameters.

4. Upload the image.

In mere moments, you have your Globally Recognized Avatar or Gravatar--your personal avatar.

5. Register any email address you use so it will be linked to the Gravatar you created.

6. Click the email confirmations sent for each email account.

That's all there is to the process.

More Info

You can link any number of email accounts to your gravatar. If you want to set up your sites to display gravatars when someone comments on your site, it's easy because there are plugins available for the leading blog softwares and content management systems.

You can view the tutorials on if you need some help along with more information about the subject.

By the way, all gravatars are rated with an MPAA style rating so you can restrict your site to show only the gravatars whose content you are comfortable with. That way you won't have any naked body parts or anything else popping up on your site that your other visitors might find offensive.

Takeaway Truth

Creating and displaying your own gravatar is just another way to brand your identity and Internet presence.

Publish Review On Amazon

Consider today's post like a PSA (Public Service Announcement) for readers and writers.

Since good reviews are considered to be a valuable component of an author's success, I like to post this article once a year on how to publish a review on Amazon. Also, Amazon is always tweaking their various processes so some things have changed since the last time I posted this.

Why Bother

Some of you may wonder why anyone would go to the bother of writing and posting reviews on Amazon or anywhere else. There are several reasons people do this. Sometimes someone may have a specific, individual reason for publishing a review, but, for the most part, the ones below usually comprise the main reasons.

1. The desire to tell others how great something is. You praise a book, movie, album, product, etc. that deserves it just because you like it so much that you want to tell others about it.

2. If you're an avid reader, posting reviews helps you belong to the community of people who love reading.

3. If you're an author, doing something like this is a means of self-promotion, if done correctly, and not obnoxiously. You publish in order to get your name out on the Internet for the purpose of growing "name recognition."

4. It's fun to tell other people about good products, whether that's a print or digital book.

How To Post An Amazon Review

Posting or publishing a review on Amazon is really quite simple. Anyone can do it.

1. Locate The Item

On Amazon, find the item you want to review by using the Search function for the specific category. Click on the item when you see it.

2. Button: Create Your Own Review

Scroll down that book's page until you find those words and click them. A new page opens.

3. New Page: Create Your Review

On this page, 3 items are listed: 1. How do you rate this item?" (Click on the number of stars you wish to give it.). 2. Enter a title for your review. 3. Select a review type. (Either video or written.) Select the review type of your choice and start creating it. Written reviews need to be at least 20 words. ew type, either Video or Written. Select one and start creating it.

4. Label Review

Here you'll find a box that can be checked: "Label this review so customers know you purchased this item at Amazon."

When you finish creating your review, click preview.

5. Preview/Publish

Look your review over. If you want to make changes, click Edit. If you're satisfied with it, click Publish.

After you click publish, there are options that allow you to check to share on Facebook or Twitter.

If you decide to write reviews, don't hide behind anonymity and use the review procedure as a way to insult or slam someone. If you have a personal agenda against the author, take it up with the author. A review isn't a forum to air personal grievances or attack someone. Insults and personal attacks are not reviews.

Takeaway Truth

When writing reviews, be honest, but try to be kind if you have critical comments. No one sets out to create a bad product so give the creator the benefit of the doubt.

Add Power To Your Writing

Please welcome Caroline Clemmons, author of Brazos Bride.(Isn't that a beautiful cover?)

Caroline writes mystery, romance, and adventure. She's been a stay-at-home mom (which she claims as her favorite job), a newspaper reporter and featured columnist, assistant to the managing editor of a psychology journal, and bookkeeper. Caroline and her husband live in rural North Central Texas with a menagerie of rescued pets.

You can catch Caroline on her blog on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays where she offers book reviews, giveaways, interviews, and miscellany. Also, find Caroline on Facebook
or Caroline on Twitter just about any day (No E in Caroline on her Twitter handle).

Add Power To Your Writing
by Caroline Clemmons

Are there authors you read simply for the beautifully expressive way they write? There are numerous authors I turn to for inspiration. One of the reasons for their impact is they use active verbs, unique metaphors, and nouns that paint word pictures. They never tell, never use clichés; instead, they show so well we drink in their pages.

Each of us knows to avoid weak words: felt, just, simply, etc. But avoiding those words is not enough, we have to come up with dynamic ways to express our character’s thoughts and feelings so people will read and reread our books.

For instance, I might write: “The Gothic Revival house had been opulent at one time, but now displayed its age.” Nothing really wrong with that, is there?

Sarah Addison Allen in The Girl Who Chased The Moon:

The house looked nothing like the rest of the houses in the neighborhood. It had probably been an opulent white at one time, but now it was gray, and its Gothic Revival pointed-arch windows were dusty and opaque. It was outrageously flaunting its age, spitting paint chips and old roofing shingles into the yard.

I might write: “Dust motes danced in the dwindling sunlight.” Picturesque, right?

Sarah Addison Allen wrote: No lights were on, but the last sunlight of the day was coughing through the dining room windows, directly to her left.

Can’t you picture the sunlight streaming in through a window like someone’s mouth coughing little particles of dust motes into the room? Not a pretty picture perhaps, but the allusion is terrific in the book.

Has stress ever left you disoriented or frozen? Here is Lori Wilde’s description of her heroine’s reaction in All of Me:

"Yes," Jillian said, but she could barely hear herself. She was a bright kite who’d broken loose from its tether, flying high into a cloudless blue sky. Up, up, and away, higher and higher, smaller and smaller. Soon she would disappear, a speck in the sky. What was happening to her?

Go through your favorite books and pick out choice phrases you wish you’d written. Go through your work in progress and see if there are places you can reword to increase the vivid idea you wish to convey. Editing for vivid verbs, unique phrases, and picturesque nouns will result in greater readership.

In my latest work, Brazos Bride: Men of Stone Mountain, Book One, I struggled with making the three Stone brothers’ dialogue distinctive. They are similar in appearance and share a close bond. Naturally, their speech is similar. But each needed a distinctive speech pattern so the reader could recognize the speaker without action or dialogue tags. Oh, I usually include the tags, but the point is to make the dialogue so specific that a tag is not necessary. I hope you will read Brazos Bride and will find the dialogue (and the entire book) satisfies you.

Quick Synopsis: Brazos Bride

Hope Montoya knows someone is poisoning her, but who? She suspects her mother was also poisoned and knows her father was murdered. Who wants her family eliminated? She vows to fight! She realizes she won’t last the eight months until she turns twenty-five and her uncle no longer controls her or her estate. Never will she be dominated by a man as she was by her father, as she has seen her mother and grandmothers dominated. If she marries, she gains control now, but only if she weds a man she can trust. Only one man meets her requirements. Can she trust him to protect her and capture the killer...but then to leave?

Micah Stone has been in love with Hope since the first time he saw her. But he was accused of her father’s murder and surely would have hung if not for his two brothers’ aid. Most in the community still believe him guilty. But the drought has him too worried about water for his dying cattle to care about his neighbors’ opinions. When Hope proposes a paper marriage in exchange for land on the Brazos River and much needed cash, her offer rubs his pride raw. His name may be Stone, but he’s not made of it. He can’t refuse her for long, and so their adventure begins.

Except: Brazos Bride, The Wedding Night

She looked at her hands. Perhaps she was unreasonable. Or maybe insane for sympathizing with a man who'd had to work harder because of her family.

"I know it is an odd situation. If—if you wear your shirt and britches, I guess it would be all right if you slept on top of the cover here." She patted the bed beside her.

He froze. Not a muscle moved, and he only stared at her. Had she misunderstood? Did he think her offer too forward?

She babbled, "That is, if you want to. You said I should trust you. Well, maybe you would be more comfortable where you are." Why didn't he say something? Would he prefer sleeping in a chair to sharing the bed?

From the street below, she heard raucous laughter and someone called to a man named Ben. Music from a piano, she supposed in the saloon, drifted in through the open windows. A gust of breeze moved the curtains and slid across her skin. In this room, though, there was no sound.
Slowly, he rose and extinguished the lamp as he moved across the room. She slid one of the pillows beside hers then scooted down. What had possessed her to offer him half her bed? Would he think she invited more?

Too late to take it back now, for the mattress dipped as he stretched out. Quaking inside at the thought of him so near, she turned her back to him. She heard his weary sigh, as if he relaxed for the first time in a long while.

"Good night," she offered, and hoped he understood the finality of the phrase.

"Yep. Good night, Mrs. Stone." The mattress shook as he turned his back to her. She felt the soles of his feet press against her ankles. He must be several inches too long for the bed and she guessed he had to bend his legs to fit. She didn't dare turn to see firsthand.

She lay perfectly still, afraid to take a deep breath. Soon his breathing changed and she knew he slept. Outside the open window the town quieted and the distant tinkling of the piano was the only sound. Light from the full moon illuminated the room and slanted across the bed. A soft breeze drifted across her, lulling her in its caress.

With a sigh, she fought to relax, but abdominal pain kept her awake no matter how her body cried for rest. Perhaps if she planned, she’d forget the pain and chills that racked her frame.
Plan, yes. She needed a plan for food preparation when she returned to her home. No, Micah said he had a plan. Oh, dear, once more he took charge when it was her life, her home. Maybe Aunt Sofia and Uncle Jorge would have left by then and things would be fine. Already she felt more secure. She sensed her eyelids drifting closed and the sleep’s blessed relief approaching.

A gunshot ripped apart the night.

The blast startled her and she screamed as something thudded near her head, showering her hair and face with splinters. Panic immobilized her. What had happened?

Micah dragged her onto the floor as a bullet ripped into the mattress.

Takeaway Truth

Readers, Caroline's latest book Brazos Bride is bargain-priced at only 99 cents at Amazon. Check it out today.

Language Resource

I've used online language translators like Google Translator quite a bit. The easy-to-use translator helps me understand some of the email from international readers and also to create profile biographies on some of the foreign websites that sell my books.

I have a pretty good grasp of some of the romance languages in that I can understand what I read rather well--just don't aske me to speak the language!

Beyond French, Italian, and Spanish--and Japanese which I still understand the spoken language a bit even though it's been more than 30 years since I lived in Japan--I'm just a mono-lingual girl--with a southern accent at that.

Characters Speak Foreign Languages

Languages fascinate me. My dad, a farm boy from Louisiana who ended up in Europe on D-Day, had a knack for languages. He easily spoke German and French, having picked them up during the war. He never lost the languages from disuse either.

I've been playing with a piece of writing and wanted two of the characters to be Cherokee and to have a bit of conversation in which they relate something, thinking other people in the room wouldn't understand them. I finally found a distant relative who can help me with the quest, but not before I spent a lot of time trying to find a resource online.

In my research, I stumbled across a great language resource called Omniglot described as an "encyclopedia of writing systems and languages." Omniglot was created in 1998 by Simon Ager who continues to maintain and develop the website. In 2008, he incorporated Omniglot as a company, Omniglot Ltd. Mr. Ager does translation and interpreting work also.

With serendipity at work, I noticed Kim Komando also had a mention of it in a recent newsletter.

What Is Omniglot

Omniglot is amazing. I've taken the following from the website because it gives a succinct description of what you will find on Omniglot.

Details of more than 180 writing systems, including Abjads, Alphabets, Abugidas, Syllabaries and Semanto-phonetic scripts

Information about over 500 languages

More than 300 con-scripts - writings systems invented by visitors to this site

Tips on learning languages

Language-related articles

Useful foreign phrases in more than 150 languages with quite a few audio recordings

Texts, language names, country names, colours and songs in many languages

A language book store

Links to language-related resources

Check out the Omniglot sitemap to help you find what you want. There is also a list of all the featured writing systems and languages in an A-Z index. By the way, if you find the site helpful, they can use your support via a donation through PayPal.

Although it didn't help me with the characters I was molding, I did have fun perusing the site. I found a phrase in Cheyenne that I loved!

Mónésó'táhoenôtse kosa?

This means: "Are you still riding the goat?" And that phrase means, "Are you still separated from your spouse."

Great phrase in any language! I'll use that somewhere, somehow.

Takeaway Truth

What a great resource for writers or for anyone who needs some language help--or if you're just curious about what your name is in other languages.

Happy Birthday, Just One Look

I'm preoccupied with final proofs of my next romantic comedy Kiss On My List. I hope to have it uploaded by the end of this month.

However, I wanted to take a moment to comment on concluding my first year as an indie author. One year ago yesterday, I uploaded first ebook file to Amazon's Kindle publishing program. Two days later, it was live and started selling.

I had planned to add up all the sales of this book so I could post that stat as a way to show how empowering being an indie author can be. Trying to catch up on everything that fell through the cracks during the weeks leading up to the wedding didn't allow for that yet.

When I get this next book uploaded and get my income tax filed, I will post about those sales for Just One Look. I think they're in the neighborhood of 100,000 for that book, but that's just a guess. So check back next week when I'll report back on the book that started my indie revolution.

For the first time ever, an author has a convenient and affordable way to get her work in front of readers.

Takeaway Truth

Nothing ventured; nothing gained. Sometimes by venturing a little into the unknown, one may gain rewards that are stunning.

Wallow In Spring

Ah, the vernal equinox occurred a few days ago on the 20th. I love spring for the same reasons everyone loves this season of renewal.

Robin Williams said, "Spring is nature's way of saying, Let's party!"

I must concur. Spring brings renewed energy and a feeling of well-being. It also brings an optimism to most that makes us believe we can do just about anything--get healthier, plant a garden, lose weight, write a book, or achieve that which our heart desires.

Wallow in that feeling. Celebrate it by setting a goal. Take action to achieve what you want. Envision accomplishment. Think better thoughts.

Takeaway Truth

You become what you think about so design a system of thoughts that helps you be what you want to be.

Review: 44 by Jools Sinclair

I have a confession to make. I am not a Young Adult fiction reader. After my youngest daughter got past the lower age threshold for young adult fiction, I didn't pick up a YA book again.

Until I started reading ebooks.

Ebooks Changed Things

A couple of years ago when I got my Kindle, I was hooked by some free books that turned out to be young adult fiction. I enjoyed them immensely. I was surprised by how sophisticated and hip they were, yet still intelligent and enjoyable for an older audience that doesn't use the word "like" every 15 seconds.

After I finished my analysis of the ebook market, I started shopping for books strictly by the Product Description. To my surprise, I found a lot of the books with intriguing premises were YA. I loved Bella Street's books. She's got the entire series now as a boxed set: Apocalypse Babes: The Complete Series for only $4.99 for the entire 6-book series. Now that's a bargain!

The last YA book I read was 44 by Jools Sinclair, and it was so compelling that I immediately bought the second book in her series. I haven't had time to start it yet. Since I'm in-between wedding errands today, I thought I'd give you a quick review of 44.

About the Book

This book has an amazing 172 reviews with 136 of them 4 and 5-star reviews. I'm sure the author doesn't need my two-cents, but I'm giving it anyway. *g*

When the book opens, the reader may think that this is just another teen angst story albeit the heroine has more than the usual real reasons for being emotional. You see, seventeen-year-old Abby Craig fell through the ice a year before the story begins, and she drowned.

With her sister, and guardian, weeping over her body in the ER, she somehow returned to life. But she's not the same Abby. She's lost bits and pieces of herself.

Even though, as I read, I was thinking "this is just another teen book," I couldn't quit reading. The author draws you in with a quietness made suspect by the dawning suspicion that something just isn't right. When Abby begins having visions, you know your suspicions aren't groundless.

That's all I'll tell you. In fact, if you want this book, don't even read the Product Description or the other reviews. Don't let anything take the edge off the story and spoil the surprise at the end.

Actually, that's one of my pet peeves with the way movies, TV shows, and books are marketed now. Everything is revealed either in the trailers or the online comments and reviews. I like to be surprised. I have to admit that 44 surprised me.

Well done, Jools Sinclair. Well done.

Takeaway Truth

Branch out and read other genres. You may find some incredible books.

Learn About MUSO

Have you heard about MUSO, the company that acts as your agent to send Takedown Notices to websites that illegally upload files of your books?

That's right. Retain MUSO to help you combat book pirates, Copyright infringers, etc. All those people who steal your intellectual property rights and make it even harder for you to make a living by writing.

An Author's Lot

If you're an author, chances are you know more than you ever wanted to know about book piracy and copyright infringement. In fact, if you have proven to be a popular ebook or print author, you've probably already been victimized by having illegal free downloads of your books made available or illegally reproduced or illegally obtained copies of print books made available for sale on websites.

Cold Hard Truth

What you might not know is what MUSO can do for you. After using their services for several months, I'm happy to say they offer an effective way of dealing with those who steal the food from your children's mouths. No, they won't get every illegally uploaded book file out there, but neither can you. The problem is huge and growing.

Am I being overly dramatic in characterizing copyright infringement that way? No. I'm not. Copyright infringement is eating away at your income. Get enough pirated editions of your work out there and it will become more difficult to sell your book. Even legitimate book buyers may sometimes download free copies of your book because they don't know that the free download is illegal.

When someone lessens your ability to make a living by writing--and that's what copyright infringement does--then your income drops. If your income decreases enough, you'll eventually have to find a different way to make a living.


"The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a United States copyright law that implements two 1996 treaties of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). It criminalizes production and dissemination of technology, devices, or services intended to circumvent measures (commonly known as digital rights management or DRM) that control access to copyrighted works."

Toothless Dog

The problem with the DMCA is that it is a toothless watchdog. It provides a procedure for a rights holder to notify someone who is infringing on copyright. What is bad is that these websites that infringe put the burden of proof on you, the rights holder, not the person who wants to upload your pirated book file to every file sharing website in the known universe. They don't require uploaders to prove they are the rights owner, but just try getting them to remove the illegal upload.

They require you to send forms, proof of rights ownership, and jump through innumerable hoops before they will withdraw the illegally uploaded file. Plus some of these websites will even send you intimidating emails that threaten legal action against you!

Until the government starts levying high dollar fines and prison terms on those who knowingly violate the copyright laws of this country, nothing will change. I bet Internet Service Providers would subject their clients to a closer scrutiny if these Providers were sanctioned for letting these illegal websites operate under their umbrella.

My Experience

From the second month of publishing ebooks, I started finding websites with illegal uploads of my ebooks. That was demoralizing and overwhelming. Depressed doesn't begin to describe my mood last summer when in one day I found 10 servers that had dozens of my book files on each server.

How could I even find the time to send Takedown Notices when each notice required a half a dozen steps in order to be accepted for review? When I realized that one site, in one day, had enough illegal downloads to have paid all my monthly expenses including my mortgage if the downloads had actually been sales rather than thefts, I knew I had to do something.

My Solution

I'd heard about MUSO, a company that acts as your agent in sending Takedown Notices to websites that illegally upload your book files, so I researched them. Then I signed up. They may not catch every illegally uploaded file, but at least I know that they are acting on my behalf every day. I know that I am doing the best I can to stem the tide of illegal uploads.

I heartily endorse MUSO. Check them out here to see their standard U.S. Pricing page.

By the way, MUSO is outside the U.S., so there will be a Conversion Fee added by your credit card company to your monthly billing. My credit card charges 45 cents.

Learning Experience

MUSO automatically finds the illegal uploads when you correctly fill out your campaign information. I have Google Alerts on my books set up so I get an email when a file is found too. With MUSO, if you find something they didn't catch, you can send the link via your Dashboard / Add Files.)

I'm the type of person who asks questions when I don't understand something so of course I emailed MUSO about this. James Mason with MUSO has helped educate me. So I'll pass this on to you because you need to know these things.

About a file I had found that MUSO didn't list on my Dashboard, James explained:

"The link you enter in the 'File URL' field on the Add Files tool needs to be the page where the file can be directly downloaded."

You find this out by clicking to download and see if it opens the Download window.

James went on to explain: "So if the page you're entering doesn't let you directly download your product, but links to another site for the download, then this page is what we call the 'Source URL'. This distinction is important because we send the DMCA takedown notice to the site that is hosting your content, and not to sites that simply link to this content."

Aha! The file in question was hosted at Furk dot net which apparently is a common Source. Furk is called a cyberlocker.

Cyberlockers and Torrent Downloads

MUSO does takedowns at cyberlockers and, just recently, added takedowns of Torrent Downloads to their arsenal.

James explained cyberlocker. "A cyberlocker site can be defined as any site which allows you to download the content for free, without having to register or pay for an account. Almost all cyberlockers allow a free 'slower' download, and then you can optionally register and pay for the 'premium' faster download speeds.

If you follow the download links on the website, it asks you to register, and then asks you to pay before you can download the content. In most cases these sites are spoofs and don't even have the content they offer, and because cyberlockers offer free downloads they are far more popular."

I guess it's cold comfort that customers of this website who are paying for downloads probably end up with nothing. Serves them right. However, the website is still making money if only by duping these customers.

Readers, if you want to read good books, the popular books everyone is talking about, be willing to purchase them from legitimate booksellers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, All Romance Ebooks, Smashwords, XinXii, and any of the other "real" booksellers on the Internet.

Takeaway Truth

Until there are sanctions against those who violate the DMCA, and those who host the websites of those violators, little will change. Do the best you can to protect your intellectual property either by sending Takedown Notices yourself or retaining someone to act as your agent.

Note: If Joan Reeves aka SlingWords helps you get ahead, please consider buying one of my books (Written Wisdom is perfect for writers--readers too!), subscribing (only $.99 per month) to the Kindle Edition of SlingWords, or making a donation of any amount by clicking the button below. Thank you for your moral support and any monetary support you see fit to contribute.

Bestselling Author Patricia Kay Teaches

USA Today Bestselling Author Patricia Kay teaches as well as writes. Learn from a master about how to make a scene in her a new class that starts March 25.

Making A Scene

This is a Two Week Master Class, an intensive class concentrating on writing compelling, dramatic, exciting scenes.

Pat said, "We will study various types of scenes and the components necessary to make sure each scene is completely effective. You will learn a new way to look at your scenes and how to give each scene the test to see if it's doing the job you want it to do."

During the 14-day class, there will be 12 lessons presented with homework assigned for each. Questions and discussion will be encouraged. You'll have the chance to post different types of scenes to be read and critiqued.

Prerequisite for the class: each student must currently have at least 100 pages of a work in progress.

Dates: Sunday, March 25th, through Saturday, April 7th

Cost: $40 per student


To sign up and pay through PayPal, visit Pat's website and click the PayPal link which gives instructions for how to make payment.

Pat also has a special offer for her students from the January class, Challenge to Write, so be sure and click the link to obtain a discounted rate.

If you have any questions, email Pat: classes at patriciakay dot com.

Takeaway Truth

If you need to improve your narrative skills, now is the chance to learn from bestselling author Patricia Kay.

Should You Use Pseudonym by Shana Galen

I'm happy to welcome Shana Galen to SlingWords. Shana is the author of numerous fast-paced adventurous Regency historical romances, including the Rita-nominated Blackthorne's Bride.

Her books have been sold worldwide and featured in the Rhapsody and Doubleday Book Clubs. Shana, once an English teacher in Houston's inner city, is now a full time writer. She's also a wife, a mother, and, in her own words, "an expert multi-tasker."

Shana's latest release is The Rogue Pirate's Bride. Gorgeous cover, isn't it?

You can find Shana on Facebook and also at Jaunty Quills. Now, please welcome my friend Shana Galen.

Why Use a Pseudonym?
By Shana Galen

One of the first decisions a new author must make when she sells is whether or not to write under a pen name. When I sold, I was more or less told I would have to write my historical romances under a pseudonym. I was also told I could write under my real name for my chick lits. So I've been on both sides of the fence.

Let's start with the assumption that when you sell, you will have a choice. Why do so many authors choose to write using a pen name? Ask three authors and you'll get three different responses. The most typical response has to do with privacy concerns.


Your day job might be a factor in whether or not you use a pen name. Since I was teaching in a middle school at the time of my sale, I didn't mind using a pseudonym and neither did my employers. School administrators do prefer that romance writers use pseudonyms. They don't want to deal with parental complaints over material that might be considered "objectionable."

Since I've never used my married name on a book, none of my students or their parents were aware that the seventh grade English teacher had published books. It was lovely not to deal with unhappy parents-if any really would have cared-but since I did teach writing, it was frustrating to have to be so careful not to blatantly use my own experiences as a writer in the classroom.

Sometimes family concerns are an issue. Perhaps you have a husband or wife in a career where advancement might be hampered by the boss's judgmental opinions. If you have children, as I do, you might also consider maintaining their privacy through the use of a pen name. We all know there are crazy people out there, and we are responsible for protecting our families.

Keeping business and private life separate is another factor to consider. It's much easier to do if you have a separate email for your author correspondence and a separate author page on Facebook. I know authors who mixed the two and then had to go back and make changes because they didn't want fans to know all of their personal information.


Like me, authors choose to write different types of books under different names. This can be a tricky decision because it makes cross-promotion difficult. But some authors feel like the books are different enough that different names are required to brand the book and let the reader know what she is buying.

This differentiation is particularly important if you write both young adult and adult novels. Kids may choose to read your work under all of your pen names, but parents will appreciate the clarity of knowing the content of one book is geared for kids, while the content of another is not.

Of course, many authors only write one type of book. If privacy is not a concern, your name itself might be.

What's in a Name?

My real name, Shane Bolks, is not a very romantic-sounding name, so I was not surprised when my editor asked me to change it on my historical romances. From a marketing standpoint, a "Shane Bolks" can hardly compete on a historical romance shelf littered with names like Johanna Lindsey and Julia Quinn. Some names just sound more romantic.

I didn't have a name in mind when I was told to adopt a pseudonym. I told my editor I wanted to be shelved between Gabaldon and Garwood. She came back with Shana (a variation of Shane) and Galen, which fits nicely between two of my favorite authors.

It is strange to see a name other than your own on your book, and there's a certain thrill when you see your real name on that bookstore shelf. I must admit that seeing Shane Bolks on the cover of my now defunct chick lits did make me feel a little bit exposed. Now that I'm married, Shane Bolks has also become a pen name, and I find I like it that way. I prefer a division between business and personal. In the end, this is a decision that always comes back to personal preference.

Are you considering using a pseudonym? Why or why not? What factors influence your decision? I'll be checking in all day and would love to read your comments. One person who comments will be randomly chosen to win a signed copy of my latest release, The Rogue Pirate's Bride.

Takeaway Truth

The generosity of authors in sharing their knowledge always amazes me. I hope you will thank Shana by putting her on your "to be read" list.

P. S. Be sure and leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of The Rogue Pirate's Bride.

History of Cinderella

Recently, as a guest blogger on LaBelle Books, I wrote about the Cinderella Myth which continues to be one of the most popular folktales in the world.

Cinderella Tales has different versions of the story. You may be surprised to find the Cinderella story not only in European countries but also in India, Vietnam, and Africa.

Not Just Kids

Lest you think that only girls are interested in Cinderella, I want to mention the Cinderella Project at the University of Southern Mississippi. This is only one of many such projects.

If you want to learn more, there's a collection of Cinderella stories that might interest you. An online search will give you more hits than you have time to pursue them. I particularly like the Cinderella book cover gallery at SurLaLune Fair Tales.

A Millennium Later

Nearly 1200 years later, and Cinderella is still having her story told. Don't let the title of my romantic comedy, Nobody's Cinderella (Book 1 of San Antone Two-Step), fool you. It's still a Cinderella story with heroine Darcy Benton wishing on a star instead of to her fairy godmother for the prince she wants. In this case, the prince is Chase Whitaker, owner of an oil exploration/production company.

The Shoes Have It

I knew, as I prepared the book to publish, that I wanted some pretty, sexy shoes as the cover art. After all, what is Cinderella without a pair of knock 'em dead shoes?

Most stories don't show Cinderella and her prince living happily ever after. Of course, I plan to show that they do in Cinderella Blue, Book 2 of San Antone Two-Step, which stars Darcy's brother Bruce.

Takeaway Truth

Personally, I like to see love validated in sequels.

Scanning Secrets

Today's tip will help you if you must scan documents that contain images and text. In a recent issue of Kim Komando's Download of the Day email newsletter that I just got around to reading, she wrote about a free app that makes text editable.

Free OCR is an optical character recognition app that identifies text in an image and lets you pull it out and make it editable.

You upload a scanned image or a photo of the document to the site in any of these formats: JPG, GIF, TIFF or BMP. The software is for Windows XP, Vista, Win 7; and OS X.

Takeaway Truth

1. Kim Komando offers great tips. 2. Free is good!

Earth Laughing

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: "Earth laughs in flowers."

Spring has come to Texas. If the quantity of wildflowers is any indication, the earth should be responding with great big belly laughs because the countryside is abloom with bluebonnets, primroses, and field after field of yellow bitterweed.

Other wildflowers will be popping up in the next few weeks. In the yards in my neighborhood, azaleas are blooming and loquat are ripening on the trees.

The display is breathtaking. Most states have their own variety of wildflowers and landscape flowers so you can partake of nature's bounty regardless of where you live.

Takeaway Truth

Get out of the house and shake those winter doldrums with a drive in the country.

St. Patrick's Day & Irish Authors

Yes, I claim Scotch-Irish as part of my heritage. Today, on St. Patrick's Day, we celebrate all things Irish, but you won't catch me drinking green beer.

I've always thought it was rather ironic that St. Patrick was the patron saint of Ireland because he was not Irish. He was Welsh and a mere 16 years old when he was captured by Irish raiders.

Taken to Ireland as a slave, he lived there for 6 years before he escaped and returned home. After he entered the Church, he returned, as an ordained bishop, to Ireland.

Although little is known about his work in the northern and western parts of Ireland, two authenticated letters from him survive. From those two letters come the only universally accepted facts about his life. Most scholars accept the latest reconstruction of old Irish annals that state Patrick died in 461 AD on March 17 which is why this day is celebrated in his honor.

I find the various incarnations of his name that show the progression of pronunciation and spelling very interesting. The Latin, Patricius. Primitive Irish, Qatrikias. Old Irish, Cothraige. Middle Irish, Pátraic. Irish, Pádraig. Old Welsh, Patric. Middle Welsh, Padric. Welsh, Padrig. Old English, Patric. By the 7th century, Patrick had become a revered patron saint of Ireland.

Irish Backstory

How fitting to talk about Irish authors today. For such a small country, Ireland has had a rather large influence on world literature. If you are into contemporary fiction, you can find a list of 10 Contemporary Irish Authors who are deemed important to read.

You can go back to the classics and look at a list of 40 Famous Irish Authors like Bram Stoker who created Dracula, the poet William Butler Yeats, and even Frank McCourt who wrote Angela's Ashes.

Truly, in western Europe, the Irish have one of the oldest vernacular literatures, after Greek and Latin. The arrival of Christianity in the fifth century is considered to have brought literacy to Ireland even though they had a simple writing system known as ogham that they used for inscriptions. There's a great Wiki on Irish literature if you'd like to read more.

Takeaway Truth

Celebrate St. Paddy's Day by reading a book by an Irish author. I plan to.

Readers Ask Questions About Ebooks

Since I've received this question a couple of times and have answered it each time, I thought I might address this issue on the blog too. There may be other readers wondering about the same thing.

Differences In Ebooks

Some readers wonder why ebooks aren't formatted exactly like print books. For instance, in print books, scene changes are indicated by a blank space between paragraphs, like 2 double spaces. Sometimes you see 3 asterisks between paragraphs.

In print books, it's very easy to indicate a scene change, but it's not so easy in digital books. In print, you can just double space twice when you're typing the manuscript. The copy editor picks it up. In digital books, although you can use HTML code to force a blank line, doing this to create the equivalent of 4 blank lines is not a cut and dried issue because of the varying protocols from the many ebook sellers.

No Extra Blank Lines

1. Some digital publishers will reject a file that has more than 1 double space between paragraphs.

2. Some files that are uploaded for Kindle or Nook or Smashwords are read on devices other than dedicated e-readers, i.e., computers, laptops, smartphones, Palm Pilots, iPads, iPods, etc. so extra lines between paragraphs, while looking fine on a Kindle or Nook, may end up being a multitude of extra lines when read on some other device. There are simply too many variables in how a digital book can be read.

3. When formatting for Kindle, every space break--best indicated by blank line, centered asterisks, blank line--must be formatted individually. In fact, every thing that is not a paragraph--special emphasis of italics or bold or centering--must be formatted individually. For this reason, a lot of writers will simply ignore space breaks as we call them.

Print Publishing

Whether blank lines or a blank line-centered asterisks-blank line are used in a print book is entirely a style issue established by each publishing house. The "double line blank space" or the centered asterisks preceded and followed by a double line blank space are both used and are both correct to indicate a change in scene, time, or viewpoint character.

Digital Publishing

As stated above, each digital publisher has specific format protocols to follow. Remember with paragraphs and pages that flow rather than end at specific points, having a lot of empty space is not a good thing.

Viewpoint Changes Changed

Another reader wondered why viewpoint changes aren't indicated by a new chapter or at least a scene break.

In recent years, in popular fiction, viewpoint is handled more casually than in the past. I, and most popular fiction authors, do not use asterisks or blank lines to indicate a viewpoint change because if the change is clearly indicated by narrative signals, readers know whose "head they are in."

This relaxed attitude about viewpoint changes started several years ago, primarily in romance, where in intimate scenes, viewpoint flows back and forth between the main characters. To interrupt that flow, especially in a love scene, with asterisks, blank spaces, or whatever "hard signal" you use, breaks the reader out of the story.

Personally, I use space breaks and special text formatting, i.e., bold, italics, etc. when necessary even if it takes longer to format a manuscript.

Takeaway Truth

Readers notice things. I'm pleased when they ask questions because in articulating the answers, I learn.

National "Everything You Think Is Wrong" Day

Finally, a holiday for all of those who feel as if we're screw-ups. Yep. Some days it seems as if everything I think, say, and do is wrong. Now I know March 15 is the National Day for wrong-thinking so I'm going to save all my flubs for that day.

Don't believe me? I wouldn't lie to you, baby. Check it out for yourself at National Whatever Day. Bookmark the site. Lots of thought fodder there.

I wonder if they established March 15 as this national day because of the whole Caesar, Brutus, Ides of March thing? And who is this amorphous they who make these determinations anyway? I'd better not hazard a guess since I'd probably be wrong.

I'm going to sit on the porch and drink wine and not think.

Takeaway Truth

Beware the Ides of March--and don't bother thinking today.

Greek Encounter

My guest on SlingWords today is Mona Risk who told me that she never thought that hazardous waste analysis would lead her to writing novels!

When her Ph.D. and work in chemistry landed her international contracts to refurbish laboratories, she traveled to more than sixty countries on business or vacation. To relax from her hectic schedule, she avidly read romance novels and mentally plotted her own books.

Eventually she left a scientific career to share with her readers the many stories brewing in her head. Mona likes to set her stories in the fascinating places she visited from exotic Belarus and historical France, to the beaches of Greece, the monuments of Egypt and the mysterious Islands of Seychelles.

Now, here's Mona to tell you why she set her latest romance novel on the Island of Mykonos, Greece.

Greek Encounter
by Mona Risk

There is always a special story behind the official story of a book, or a special reason that leads an author to select a particular setting for her novel. Why did I set my latest in Greece?

Granted, it’s a romantic place, an attractive island and a fabulous resort where tourists flock in summer. But then there are so many equally beautiful sites that I’ve visited during my numerous travels. Yet, they didn’t stir a similar yearning in my heart or even talked to my muse. It’s probably the Greek blood running in my veins that makes me love to go to Greece and share its beauty with my readers.


From a book written by my uncle who lived in Canada, I learned that my ancestors dwelt in the Island of Salonika. The father, Yorgho Zanis, was a merchant selling fabrics in the old market area.

After his death, his three sons decided to immigrate to America, build their fortune and come back to their roots as rich men. But after they sailed for two days, one of the brothers became violently ill and had to disembark in the first port where the ship docked. He settled in Alexandria while his brothers continue to New York.

I visited Greece six times over the years and discovered its islands and beaches with renewed pleasure. I knew from the first time that I wanted to set a story there. Here's a sneak peak at Greek Encounter.

Can the pain of the past bring about the happiness of the future?

Stefano Kostapoulos plans to demolish the dilapidated Pink Villa inherited from his grandmother and build a modern resort on the Greek island of Mykonos. But the American co-owner refuses to sell his shares and sends his attorney to Greece—a lawyer Stefano plans to shred to pieces at the hearing.

Except that Counselor Ashley Sheppard is a gorgeous redhead who knocks Stefano off his axis when he meets her incognito. Sparks fly during a first encounter that leads to a memorable night of passion.

In court, Ashley is in for a nasty surprise. Her handsome Greek god is the opponent. Her heart gnaws with pain, yet she attacks him with all her strength to defend her grandfather’s case.

Stefano wins the lawsuit, but is about to lose Ashley. To keep her in Mykonos, he strikes a deal with his old enemy. Does Ashley dare to trust the Greek playboy? Or even understand her grandfather’s strange change of heart regarding the Pink Villa?


Ashley walked to the center of the room, addressing the judge. “Your honor, I came all the way from the USA to attend this hearing. Mr. Zanis is my grandfather. He’s also an eighty-two-year-old man in bad health. In Mykonos, you heard of this scandal and the feud between Mr. Zanis and the Kostapoulos family.” Crossing her arms, she surveyed the audience and studied their expressions, as her words were translated in Greek. Mostly curious smiles, interested looks, and a few sarcastic grins.

“Let me tell you the beautiful but sad story of two young people who loved each other. George Zanis—Yorgho as he was called here—was twenty, from a relatively poor family, who couldn’t afford to send him to college. He made the big mistake of falling in love with the prettiest girl in Mykonos. Elena was the daughter of the powerful mayor and richest man in town. To be able to ask for her hand in marriage, Yorgho worked two and three shifts a day as a mechanic and saved all his money. And then he did a crazy thing for the girl he loved. He bought an old house no one wanted, renovated it, and offered it to his girlfriend.”

During translation, she scanned her audience and let her gaze rest on Stefano. “As a lawyer, all I’ve seen in my life and in my personal experience are jerks who take advantage of innocent girls, or womanizers who collect nights of pleasure.”

A collective gasp answered her bold accusation. Stefano narrowed his eyes.

“But these young people were different. Innocents who believed in love.

Unfortunately, Yorgho was rejected by Elena’s family. As a last resort to win her hand in marriage, he decided to seek his fortune in America and come back a rich man to marry her. Elena promised to wait for him. Like many young lovers, they gave in to their passion and shared a night in each other’s arms. Big mistake,” she spat out, with a disgusted glance toward Stefano who smiled.

God, how she wanted to punch that smile. She spun toward the judge. “You know the rest. A pregnant Elena was forced to marry to save the honor of her family. She lost the child two days before her wedding. What you don’t know is that Yorgho and Elena remained friends all their lives and exchanged letters once or twice a month. Elena visited the Pink Villa regularly to read her best friend’s letters.”

Not The End -- Greek Encounter is available on Amazon.

* * *
Joan, thank you for hosting me on your beautiful blog.

Takeaway Truth

It's my pleasure to host authors. Try new authors and new genres. You may find some great books.

How To Make Mozzarella Cheese

We're up at our Hill Country house for a little R&R after our daughter's wedding. One of our sons and his family are vacationing at our home in the Houston-area since it's spring break for their kids so the Hill Country quiet is what we needed.

My husband had asked me to pack the ingredients for a batch of mozzarella because he wants to "help" me make pizza. (I learned that recipe in Italy when we went.) That's one of the downsides of being a good cook--your family always wants you to cook rather than ordering out or going out.

In my romantic comedy OLD ENOUGH TO KNOW BETTER (Book 1, The Good, The Bad, and The Girly), my heroine is Stormy Clarkson, and her hobby is making artisan cheeses.

I guess you could say that Stormy taught me how to make mozzarella. In the opening scene, she's demonstrating how to make this cheese in your own kitchen.

When I wrote this book, I actually procured all the ingredients and did this myself to see how it was done. I mean, how can I tell others, in a scene, how to make mozzarella at home if I haven't done it myself?

So today I'm going to whip out my Kindle, open it to my copy of Old Enough To Know Better, click on the recipe in the Bonus Features section and make some mozzarella. I thought I'd print the recipe here in case you haven't read the book and would still like to make this cheese. It's easy.

Stormy's Recipe for Homemade Mozzarella Cheese
from Old Enough To Know Better by Joan Reeves


5 quart covered stainless pot with a heavy bottom.

1-cup Pyrex measuring cup.

2-cup Pyrex measuring cup.

dairy thermometer that reads 20°F to 220°F that's 20°C to 110°C.

long bladed knife.

cheesecloth or a non-terrycloth dishtowel.

8 inch strainer.

large container to catch the draining whey.

1000 W microwave oven.


Note: I ordered citric acid powder and Junket Rennet (Junket is a brand name.) online. I also purchased a dairy thermometer from online. All this is supposed to be available at health food stores, artisanal food shops that cater to home canners, and some pharmacies, but I couldn't find them in my local area.

1 gallon of milk of your choice

1 and 1/4 teaspoons citric acid powder dissolved in 1/2 cup cool water

1/2 tablet Junket rennet tablet suspended in 1/4 cup cool water


1. Warm milk over gentle heat 88°F (31°C). Be careful not to scorch the mixture.

2. Dissolve 1 and 1/4 teaspoons citric acid powder into 1/2 cup cool water in the smaller measuring cup. Add to the 88°F milk. Stir well.

3. Dissolve the 1/2 tablet of Junket Rennet in the 1/4 cup cool water using the smaller measuring cup. Stir thoroughly into the warmed milk mixture. Let set undisturbed for one to two hours, until a clean break is achieved.

4. Using the long bladed knife, cut the curd into 1/2 inch cubes.

5. Warm the curds and whey over low heat. Stir gently to keep the curds separated until the temperature reaches 108°F (42°C). Keep it at that temperature for 35 minutes. Stir every 5minutes to keep the curds separated and off the bottom of the pot.

6. Line the 8 inch or larger strainer with cheesecloth or a 100% cotton open-weave, clean dishcloth. Place the strainer over a 1 gallon container. Pour the curds and whey through this strainer. Let it drain for at least 15 min. At this point, you can save the whey to make ricotta cheese. (If you would like a recipe for ricotta cheese, please e-mail me.)

7. When it has finished draining, place the curd in a large bowl, break it up, and thoroughly mix in 1 teaspoon of salt.

8. Place 1 cup of the salted curd into the 2 cup measuring cup. Microwave on high for 45 seconds. (If your microwave is less than 1000 watts, you may need to adjust the time in order to get the desired elasticity.)

9. Separate the hot curd from container, using the back of a fork. Turn it out on a clean work surface or larger bowl if necessary. The curd is hot so be careful. Knead with your hands to distribute the heat evenly.

10. Return the curd to the large Pyrex measuring cup. Heat again in the microwave for 20 more seconds. Remove, stretch and fold the curd to make it smooth and elastic. Shape into a soft ball.

11. Place the soft ball of cheese into cold, salted water (about 1/3 cup of salt per quart of water) in an airtight container.

12. Place the container in the refrigerator, and let it age for at least a day. You can store in the fridge up to a week.

Takeaway Truth

I love putting Bonus Features in my books. I also love this cheese. It is so good! Try it.

Brand Images With Copyright Notice

Before my daughter nixed the idea of publishing one of her bridal photographs on SlingWords this past Saturday, I had already prepared the image by "branding" it with a copyright notice.

This is easy to do. If you're using your own photographs on your websites and would like to at least make it more difficult for someone to "lift" the image without your permission, let me tell you how to go about it.

There are a lot of free and fee-based apps that accomplish this. I like Watermark Tool because it's easy to use and free.

"Watermark Tool is an online watermarking software that allows you to quickly and easily protect your images with a visible watermark."

There are a lot of options available, and you can personalize the branding by text size, color, and position of the brand.

The basic Watermark Tool is free. You don't even have to register if you don't want to. You have instant access to the app.

If you want more features, then sign up for WMT Plus which gives you a higher file size limit, the ability to save your watermark settings for future use, and the option to use an image as a watermark.

Takeaway Truth

Do what you can to protect your images and keep someone from unauthorized use of them. This is one way.


Yesterday was our youngest child's wedding. I cried like a baby.


Because she was so beautiful.

Because a couple of years ago, I was scared she might not survive a DVT.

Because a couple of years ago, I didn't know if she'd ever be able to walk normally again.

She was beautiful, radiant, and, most of all, so happy as she walked gracefully down the aisle on her father's arm. The groom was handsome, loving, and so happy--and ready--to marry the one woman who seems made just for him. Indeed, there could be no other for either of them.

For all those reasons, I wept tears of joy as did many people in the church.

From the Brahma Sutras: "When the one man loves the one woman and the one woman loves the one man, the very angels desert heaven and come and sit in that house and sing for joy."

Takeaway Truth

Love is the greatest of all emotions.

Best Wishes, Adina and Mike

I have been told in no uncertain terms NOT to publish a picture of my daughter in her wedding dress in case her fiance, by some weird happenstance, sees her in the completely stunning wedding gown before the wedding ceremony late this afternoon.

That's right. Today is the big day! Finally. I hear Etta James singing At Last inside my head.

Our baby, the last of our little chicks, is getting married today. As My husband said, "Bring on the empty nest!"

Darn. There goes Etta James singing again.

Takeaway Truth

Adina and Mike, we love you!

3 Marketing Habits To Adopt

Every author is constantly trying to figure out how to sell more books. What worked last month, may not be effective this month. Part of the problem is that everyone is looking for an instant fix. A magic answer. The rest of the problem is that there is no magic solution and no one way that works for everyone.

(This article previously appeared on Writing Hacks, my subscription newsletter for writers. Subscribe today if you'd like articles like this as soon as they are published.)

Here are 3 habits that you can use to help you though.

1. Think Long Term.

You need to develop a marketing strategy that focuses on long term goals. Becoming a "name" or selling a 10K books this month isn't going to happen overnight. Be patient and write some achievable goals designed to help you increase your name recognition and awareness of your brand. Start with one thing, i.e., blogging every day, and build your brand. Or decide Twitter will be your go-to network to build your brand. Learn all you can about it. You can't possibly hit every social network and be effective. So decide what is doable for you.

Make a plan. That old axiom still applies: Plan your work; work your plan. Be consistent. Be patient. Be in it for the long haul.

2. Know your brand.

Yeah, you there. What is your brand? What kind of writing are you known for or want to be known for? You need to give a lot of thought to this because it's virtually impossible to market yourself and/or your work unless you know what your product is. If you honestly don't know how to market your work, then find an author who writes a similar book. See how they market themselves. Emulate. Don't copy. Con't try to be that author. The world doesn't need another Nora Roberts or Amanda Hocking or Joe Konrath. Besides, you'll never be anything but a pale imitation so it's always best to be you.

Be yourself, but learn how to present yourself and your work. Once you've discovered or determined your identity as a writer, decide how you're going to get that point across. Then at every opportunity, display your brand online and in the real world.

3. Increase your visibility.

You must be noticed. No one will want to find your books if you sit quietly in a corner. Investigate low cost ways that make a big impact. Write articles, book reviews, blog, guest blog, comment, speak up, Tweet, Facebook, attend writers club meetings, network. There are thousands of ways to get noticed online and in the real world.

Figure out what you can do that's just a step out of your comfort zone. You see, you have to step out of your comfort zone to grow. If you're not satisfied with your sales numbers or your career growth, you must do something different because if you keep doing the same old thing, you'll keep getting the same old results.

Takeaway Truth

This is the year to do something different. Take action. Discover your writer identity. Draw up a plan. Get moving now.

"Old Enough" Now Available Everywhere

My experiment with Amazon's Kindle Owners Lending Library aka Prime Select is ended. I had my "cougar-licious romance" enrolled in the program.

As of yesterday, OLD ENOUGH TO KNOW BETTER (Book 1 of The Good, The Bad, and The Girly), the book I had enrolled, is now available at all the major ebook sellers.

My Experience

I gave a detailed report last week in Writing Hacks, my subscription newsletter. Here's a condensed version for those who don't subscribe.

Having a book enrolled in KOLL, Kindle Owners Lending Library, was an interesting experiment. For me, it wasn't particularly advantageous. Others made out like bandits, I understand, but my books are already low-priced. I mean, if I were going to exercise my Prime right to "borrow" a book at no cost, I would get one of the more expensive ebooks I want to read--not a book that's already at a low price point.

Upset Readers

Also, I received emails from readers who were upset because the book wasn't available for their Nook or their iPad. They knew they could get a Kindle app for other devices, but they simply didn't want to buy from Amazon. I found there are a lot of people with that sentiment.

So, I gathered my stats and bided my time. When the contracted time limit for the book expired, I immediately uploaded it to the other ebook sellers. In fact, I stayed up until 2 AM to get that done.

Takeaway Truth

Try new things. Some will work out; some won't. But you won't know until you try.

Defining Moments

When I teach characterization to aspiring writers, I often talk about the defining moment, that moment that changes a character and sets him on a new path. Just like characters we create and try to make come alive on the page, we too have defining moments in life.

Today, I'm pleased to welcome Liz Flaherty to SlingWords because she's going to talk about a defining moment. In this case, the defining moment was in her own life.

Liz hangs out at Facebook so drop by and say hello. The lovely cover to the left is her new book, One More Summer, from Carina Press.

Now, please welcome, Liz Flaherty.

Defining Moments
by Liz Flaherty

Life is new and wonderful for me these days. I retired from the post office in 2011, promptly gained 15 pounds—overnight, I swear!—and promised my grandkids, The Magnificent Seven, that I would make each of them a bed-size quilt. I also planned to write all day, every day. What was I thinking?


I’ve learned to write when I feel like it, sew when I feel like it, and maybe even to eat a little less. I’ve gone back to school, where, yes, I am far and away the oldest kid in class. I’ve learned to share the house and sometimes even the kitchen with Duane, my husband of, oh, lots of years.
And I’m having a Very, Very Good Time.

My fifth book—I’m not an overnight success, but I never give up—One More Summer, is a new release by Carina Press. It's already out digitally and will be released in print May 1. I am thrilled to the point everyone I know rolls their eyes as soon as I open my mouth.

Defining Moments

I’ve had several defining moments in my life, ones that changed me forever. I imagine you’ve had them, too, and I’d love to hear about them. This post is about the first one I remember. It’s also about being amazed, overwhelmed, and triumphant.

Fun With Dick and Jane

If you are of “a certain age,” you probably remember the Dick and Jane series of books from the first grade. The first word of the first book (I think it was the gray one) was “Look.” I don’t know if other children knew how to read before they started school, but I didn’t, so there began my amazement. Words on paper, starting with just that one, would open more windows to me in my life than any other one thing.

By the end of the first week of school, I had read the whole book. I sat on a spare stool in the barn and read to the cats while my mother and brothers did the milking. When I went to school and told the teacher what I’d accomplished, she said, no, I had not and that lying was a sin. She grabbed my arm and shook me.

Uh, Not So Much Fun

Just that quickly, I was overwhelmed. I was six years old—believe me when I say I wasn’t above lying—but not about this. Not about something as important as a book. As reading. (My older brothers, on the other hand, I would have thrown to the wolves in a heartbeat. I was such a little darling.)

Then she made me read the book aloud, standing beside her desk with the thin volume’s paper covers trembling in my hands while everyone else got to go to recess. I stumbled here and there, and I’m sure the tales of Dick, Jane, Sally, and their pets have never been narrated in a more pathetic, halting voice. But I read it. The whole damn book. And that’s when I learned about triumph.

After that, she let me read with the second grade sometimes and made sure I had all the books I wanted to read at my disposal. I don’t remember if she apologized or not, nor do I think she ever particularly liked me. I hadn’t even thought of Mrs. Sullivan for years until today, when I was thinking about reading and books and what they mean to me.

Still Reading

Fifty-five years after the first grade—yes, really!—I remain amazed by the joy of reading, of black marks on a white page being entire exciting worlds unto themselves. Although I still love holding a book in my hands, holding a Kindle is no less exciting. The more things change, intone people of my age and older, the more they stay the same. Uh-huh. That’s about right.

Some Things Don't Change

I’m also still overwhelmed. By emotional and mental cruelty, yes, but also by how much there is out there to read. To enjoy or not. To learn from or not. There are, as t-shirt wisdom tells us (these t-shirts are likely my age or older, too—I don’t know), there are “so many books, so little time.”

And triumph! From reading that first “Look,” to being able to read that book when the teacher thought I couldn’t, to writing and selling my own books, the feeling of success has never gone away. Never lessened.

Grateful Because...

Mrs. Sullivan may not have liked me much, and memory tells me I didn’t have warm fuzzies about her. I am nonetheless grateful to her.

Because she amazed me by giving me that first book on that first day and telling me the first word was “look.” I’ve been looking and reading ever since.

And because she overwhelmed me by introducing new feelings and making new demands on my six-year-old self.

I’ve been overwhelmed much of my life. By saying Yes too often. By burning too many candles at both ends of the day. By saying, "Of course it’s a book," when a manuscript seemed beyond redemption.

There are much worse things than being overwhelmed. Being bored for one. Playing it too safe for another. I like overwhelmed—it’s as good for my soul at 61 as it was at six.

And because she introduced me to triumph when I read that damn book for her. And gave me a taste for it.

What about you? When was your first defining moment?

Takeaway Truth

Reflecting on those moments that made you the person you are helps you know yourself. Know yourself and what made you, and you'll know how to create a fictional character who seems real.