What Makes a Novel?

A lot of people begin writing by the seat of their pants. They just sit down and start keying in the words as they see the story unfolding.

Starting Line to Finish Line

There's not anything wrong with this if you already know where your story is going and how to get to the end. If you don't, you'll stall out after about 50 pages or less.

The reason this happens is that beginning writers don't realize that there are narrative elements crucial to a novel--at least to a successful novel.

From the simplest to the most complex, from the shortest to the longest, a successful novel is always characterized by these elements:
  • a structured story
  • about an appealing character
  • struggling against great odds
  • to achieve a worthy goal.
This is true of every successful novel. Indeed, it is as true now as it was for the first story tellers in the caves a few millennia ago.

Takeaway Truth

These elements: structure, character, conflict, and goal are the crucial elements of any good story--novel, movie, video game, or whatever kind of story may be created in the future.

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Thursday3Some: The Army Doctor's Forever Baby by Helen Scott Taylor

I'm happy to welcome Helen Scott Taylor to SlingWords today. A few years ago, Helen and I were on a group blog together. That blog has gone to the big cyber graveyard, but Helen and I have stayed in touch.

About Helen Scott Taylor

USA Today bestselling author, Helen Scott Taylor, writes sweet contemporary romance set in the UK and Europe. Helen lives in South West England near Plymouth between the windswept expanse of Dartmoor and the rocky Atlantic coast. As well as her wonderful long-suffering husband, she shares her home with a Westie and an aristocratic Burmilla cat. She believes that deep within everyone there's a little magic.

Find Helen Online

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Amazon Author Page * Goodreads

About The Army Doctor's Forever Baby

Army doctor, Captain George Knight, is career focused and eager to see action. When he helps out a fellow doctor, Sandra Fisher, after an accident, he's not looking for romance. But this pretty, unassuming woman has secret hidden depths that fascinate him. When he's sent away to war, Sandra has her own challenges to face. Can their love survive the heartbreaking test that fate has in store for them?

When did you write The Army Doctor's Forever Baby?

I wrote this story in the spring of 2014, and it was published in May of that year.

What was the spark that gave you the story idea?

The general idea for this story had been floating around in my head for a while. I had already written a number of books in my Army Doctor's series and this is the story of the parent's of the hero from book #1. This story is very dear to my heart as I drew on personal experience for some aspects of the story.

Why do readers buy The Army Doctor's Forever Baby?

Readers who pick up my sweet romance Army Doctor's series buy this book as it is a prequel and reveals how everything started.

Buy The Army Doctor's Forever Baby by Helen Scott Taylor

Amazon Kindle * Kobo * iTunes * Nook

Takeaway Truth

If you're looking for sweet romance, look no further than a book by Helen Scott Taylor.

Meet John & James aka Forgature

Today, I have something a bit different for you--a couple of young writers who have indie published their collaborative fiction, Darkquisition. You'll see the byline on the cover says Forgature.

About John & James aka Zürthüryx Qosdarlu &Thejyreq Ldeikone

John and James, writing as Zürthüryx Qosdarlu and Thejyreq Ldeikone, comprise Forgature. As you can see, they're adventurous and are playing around with various elements of novel writing and publishing.

They have taken some English classes--some college level--and written fiction for school and for fun. They've also taken a college level seminar on fiction writing.

Find Them Online

Website * LinkedIn * Twitter * Author's Den * Deviant Art

Welcome John and James

I've offered the guys some advice about writing, publishing, and marketing because they're excited about writing and really are interested in telling their stories. I like to encourage anyone who loves to write so I'm hoping you will do the same.

Comments Today

I'd like to do something a bit different today. John and James tell me they're serious about wanting to be authors so I'm asking you to leave a comment for them. If you're a reader, tell them what you like to read and what about a book attracts you when you're browsing for books.

If you're a writer, give them some good advice about writing, publishing, or marketing. Writers, be sure and leave the title of your most recent book with 1 buy link.

My Personal Questions To Them

What are your real names?

John and James are our real names. John’s pen name is Zürthüryx Hemtolig Qosdarlu. James’s pen name is Thejyreq Vazgothicus Ldeikone.

How do you pronounce that?

John’s would be pronounced as Zir (with ir as in sir) – thor (as in thorough) – ix (as in Trix), Hem (as in Hemingway) – tol (t as in t and ol as in saul) – ig (with the b as in big), and Qos (as is cozy) – dar (as in daria) – lu (as in lucy)

James’s would be pronounced as The (as in the) – jyr (j as in j and yr as in ire) – req (as in requiem), Vaz (v as in v and az as in jazz) – gothic (as in gothic) – us (as in us), and L (as in lucky) – deik (de as in d and ik as in icky) – one (as in one)

John and James Tackle the Dirty Dozen

1. In which genre do you write and why that particular genre?

We’ve dabbled in a couple genres over the years. They include action/adventure, fantasy, romance, comedy, drama, and suspense. Our most recent book is action/adventure with some fantasy elements in it. We like all these different genres because they each have their own unique flair. We especially like fantasy though because we get to be extra creative. We get to come up with things that don’t exist in the real world. Also, we can combine real things with the things we came up with ourselves.

2. What's your most recent book and what's it about?

Our most recent book is Adventure Arc the First: Entity of Ascendancy, and it’s the first in the Darkquisition series.

The city of Vallone is run by a hellish government. They have an artifact called the Tablet of Omainu. It’s a threat to the world, but they don't know how to use it yet. Meanwhile, a team of vagabonds known as Hex Immortal arrive in Vallone with the intention of liberating it even though this means taking out the government in order to acquire the tablet.

3. As an author, what can readers expect when they read one of your books?

In a nutshell, they can expect to see what we’re all about. Our writings reflect our interests. They can also expect something written to the best of our ability, an unapologetic attitude for what we put in them, lifelike characters, engrossing stories, contemporary issues, more adult themes, entertainment, and (gasp!) some education on various topics.

For the Darkquisition series, you can expect something along the lines of the United States of America Constitution mixed with heavy metal music (yes, we really do think this is the best description for it). You can also expect us to not shy away from any topic in it.

4. How did you "become" an author? For instance, was there a moment when you said: "I think I'll write a book."

We don’t remember the exact moment when we became authors. We’ve been writing for most of our lives. We like to think we always were authors; it was our fate. For this book, we decided to start writing it in May 2009. We wanted to prove something could be written that had graphic content in it, but also intelligence.

5. What's the best thing about being an author?

One thing is being able to use our imagination. There’s a big thrill for us in coming up with something from nothing. Another is we get to express ourselves. We can share our opinions about things with others. We also like to think that we can maybe educate or enlighten some people about real issues with the use of fictional characters, events, and settings. One more is that we get to have control over something. We can ultimately do things the way we want to do them. However, the best thing would have to be having somebody like something one of us has written. Knowing somebody appreciates your work is one of the best feelings there is.

6. What's the worst thing about being an author?

One thing is not getting respect from a lot of non-authors. We know what we do isn’t the most important thing in the world, but it has some merit. Another is it’s hard to get somebody interested in your book and then having him or her review it (at least for us it is). One more is having a lot of ideas for pieces, but not having enough time to write them all. We have to pick our battles. None of this is enough to deter us though.

7. Do you have editions of your books available other than ebook editions?

No, we don’t have any at this time.

8. Do you listen to audio books? If so, what device do you use?

No, we haven’t listened to any yet.

9. What device do you use to read ebooks?

We haven’t read any ebooks yet.

10. If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?

Go in with both guns blazing, or should we say both hands typing. You have to give it your all. You should also write want you want to write about. Don’t write about what’s popular at the time just because it’s popular. It won’t come off as authentic and it won’t necessarily make you more successful.

11. If you could tell readers one thing, what would it be?

Yes, we’re insane. But we’re still sane enough to know it though. We’d also like to say thank you to our readers. You guys and gals are the sheaths for our swords.

12. What is your big dream (or goal) as a writer?

One of our big dreams (or goals) is to someday tell all the naysayers out there they were wrong. We did make it as professional writers. Another is to create a lot of controversy. This is how we know we’ve done something special. One more is we’d like to inspire at least one of our readers to go on to do something great.

Buy Kindle Edition of Adventure Arc the First: Entity of Ascendancy (Darkquisition)

Buy Smashwords Edition

Buy Print Edition from Lulu

Takeaway Truth

Don't forget to leave a Comment for the guys. I'm sure they'd appreciate it if you pick up a copy of their book. (Only 99cents.)

Why Stories Begin With Change

A story begins with change. You've heard that. Do you know why it begins with change? Because change flips the status quo end over end.

In the beginning, you may be troubled but surviving okay. Then, someone or some thing threatens you, and the status quo is over.

Change has an ongoing downstream effect on a person.

Ongoing Effect

You have a great job one day; you're successful and well paid. The next day, you're fired. This change is perceived as negative. It may change everything including the way you look at yourself.

Let the change of unemployment exist for a while, and your self-concept may start to change. The change—being unemployed—can force you to confront your true self because maybe you never believed in your success.

Change: Unexpected & Surprising

What happens when you face the truth? Maybe you felt as if you were a poser—fooling everyone. Change will force you to either admit you were a fake, and you become the loser you really felt you were. Or you change and become the person everyone else already thought you were. Or maybe you were a success but you hadn't realized that success requires ongoing hard work and commitment you never really put into your career. So you change in that direction.

Change can have unexpected and surprising effects on a person—on a character. Sometimes the result is good; sometimes it's bad. It's never indifferent.

Humans Resist Change

It seems inherently human to resist change. Psychologists say that change of any kind is threatening to the self-concept, and the self-concept is what you will cling to, fight for, and resist changing, regardless of whether the change is anticipated to be good or bad. That's why so many therapists now use cognitive therapy—bringing the conscious mind into the battle to change one's thinking.

Whether you're talking real people or characters, change means we are no longer in harmony with ourselves and the world around us. Change means we must change. Sometimes the change is external, but external changes will create internal changes. All the while, we will subconsciously struggle to maintain the status quo because of the built-in need to protect the self-concept.

Analyze Yourself to Inform Characterization

The self-concept or self-identity wants to maintain itself as it is. This is why changing a habit is so hard. Have you ever tried to change a habit? Was it easy? Probably not. If you succeeded, how did you do it? What kind of external changes have occurred in your life? Did they cause internal changes in how you thought or how you viewed someone or a situation? How did you feel about that?

Do you see how your own struggle, your own feelings, can be mined to create characters that grip the imagination?

Takeaway Truth

Jumping into a scene where change occurs is the literary narrative technique know as in media res, Latin for into the middle of things. This is how successful authors hook readers. Start where your character is involved in crucial action that's going to change the character's situation.

How To Fill the Creative Well

I started to call this post How to Know When You Need to Get Out in the Real World, but that title was a bit long even though that's really what this post is about.

The Creative Well & Why It Depletes

When I was a little kid, my grandparents had a water pump. It was a heavy iron contraption that required muscle power to pump up water from an underground well.

All You Need? Muscles

Most of the time, water pumps just need muscle power to produce water. You crank and crank that iron handle and water flows. But, sometimes, you can pump until your arm feels as if it will fall off, but no water comes out of the spout.

What happened to all the water? It's still down there, but it wasn't used for a long time or it was used to much so it stopped working. To get it going again, the pump must be primed, by pouring fresh water down the well in order to get the flow going again.

Creative Well Needs Priming Too

Same thing with your creative well. If you draw from it continuously, without replenishing with fresh ideas, experiences, and thoughts, the well may seem to dry up. That's when you have to prime it to get it flowing again.

Priming The Creative Well

I recently committed to another novella project for a box set. That makes 2 novellas I need to write in the next few weeks. I'm also trying to get the next full-length book set up for pre-order, reviews, etc. Then there's the book to help you blog faster and easier that I want to finish compiling and the next short story in A Moment in Time.

Suffice it to say that I've been slinging words fast and furiously. Normally, I walk every day which keeps my imagination strong, but the weather has been so lousy that I've been cooped up inside. This morning, I couldn't string ten words together that had any life. I knew I needed a break.

Errands Spur Creativity

So hubby and I made a run to Dunkin Donuts for several pounds of coffee. We chose the newest location which seems to be trying to recreate the "Starbucks" experience, but the hordes of kids and teens from surrounding subdivisions were negating their best efforts. Definitely some character ideas there.

Next we went to the brew-it yourself supply store. We're putting in a small vineyard at our country property. Someone gave my hubby a brew-your-own beer kit so now he's interested in that too. He "cooked up" the batch of beer this past week. It's fermenting now so we needed 2 cases of beer bottles and bottle caps. He's waiting for his capper and hydrometer to arrive from Amazon then he'll be ready to bottle the California-style pale beer when the fermentation is complete. He's already planning his next batch which will be an Irish Red.

We bought bottles, caps, and some more Star San which is for sanitizing the items in brewing. while he shopped, I talked with the clerk and learned quite a bit. (I'd been too busy writing this month to read everything hubby had read about brewing beer.)

My Creative Well Is Bubbling

Now, my head is spinning with ideas about a character who brews his own beer. Why not? In Scents and Sensuality, Sean, the hero, owns a small vineyard in Texas, out near Junction. Sean had an experimental patch of Sangiovese grapes which we plan to plant in our little vineyard.

Next we stopped at a gun and ammo store. Yep. More supplies for the creative well because this year I'll be writing more about characters with guns.

In fact, everything we did helped fill my creative well. This is the fun part of research--getting out and talking with people and learning things first hand.

How about you? What have you done lately to keep your creative well filled?

Takeaway Truth

Never underestimate the importance of your creative well. Fill it often to keep the flow of creativity going.

Video: YouTube Updates Copyright Dispute Process

I was excited to see a that YouTube is trying to make it easier to submit a Dispute of a Copyright Infringement Notice.

Be sure and check out the new Copyright Information from YouTube that offers:
  • Manage your content on YouTube
  • Copyright support and troubleshooting
  • Learn more about copyright
*** Special Offer: (1) Subscribe to my YouTube Channel -- JoanReevesAuthor -- (2) click to LIKE any of the videos (3) come back here to this post (4) leave a comment with your email address (written out, not as a hot link) on this post. I'll send you a special report about using video as a marketing tool. Offer good from now through 01/31/2015. ***

For those who upload videos or who are thinking about going the video route, this is heartening news because if you upload any video with music to YouTube, you get an immediate Copyright Infringement notice.

The first time I uploaded a video and immediately got a Copyright Strike, I almost had a heart attack because I'm a huge supporter of copyright and was incensed that someone accused me of violating a copyright.

Why This Happens

Of course, I learned that this is the default practice for YouTube and is not personally aimed at the user uploading the video. That's their automated process for enforcing copyright protection for music.
It's a good thing that YouTube is trying to protect the rights of musicians, composers, and performers.

Since just about everything I ever published has been pirated, I wish there were something similar to protect writers' content.

How To Dispute A Copyright Strike

1. About a minute or so after you upload a video, the music on the video will trigger an automated notice. Next to the video you'll see a notice of a Copyright Strike or infringement. In your Video Manager, you'll see Copyright Notices. Click on it.

2. A window will open with information about your music which explains why you got the notice. You'll see a button to remove the music or to Dispute the copyright strike. Click to DISPUTE the notice. Fill out the form giving the reason why you say you have the legal right to use the music.

Example, if you obtained the music as a Registered User on Animoto: "The music on this video was obtained from the Animoto Music Library and is licensed for use by Animoto Registered Users. I am an Animoto Registered User."

3. You'll have to "sign" your legal name to the claim form.

4. Submit the claim. You'll have to affirm a couple of times that you wish to dispute the claim. Hang in there and keep doing it. You'll feel as if they're trying to coerce you not to dispute the claim, but just follow the procedure.

5. You'll receive acknowledgement of your claim filed along with a date that the dispute will be resolved.

6. Check your Video Manager to make sure the claim has been resolved. Check frequently until you get the notice that it's resolved because they won't email you that it has been.

7. Periodically, check your Video Manager Dashboard to make sure you have no claims. I've had a couple of instances where the claim dispute I filed seemed to "take," but a week later, I noticed that the video was again flagged for copyright infringement.

*** Special Offer: (1) Subscribe to my YouTube Channel -- JoanReevesAuthor -- (2) click to LIKE any of my videos (3) come back here to this post (4) leave a comment with your email address (written out, not as a hot link) on this post. I'll send you a special report about using video as a marketing tool. Offer good from now through 01/31/2015. ***

Takeaway Truth

Video is another tool in your promotion/publicity tool box. Learn how to use it, and make sure you follow the rules when you use someone else's work. Don't be afraid to assert your rights when you're in the right.

Thursday3Some: The Detective's Dilemma by Karen McCullough

Please welcome Karen McCullough (Magic, Mystery, Romance) to the Thursday3Some Spotlight.

About Karen McCullough

Karen McCullough’s wide-ranging imagination makes her incapable of sticking to one genre for her storytelling. As a result, she’s the author of more than a dozen published novels and novellas, which span the mystery, fantasy, paranormal, and romantic suspense genres. A former computer programmer who made a career change into being an editor with an international trade publishing company for many years, she now runs her own web design business to support her writing habit.

She's won an Eppie Award for fantasy and has been a finalist for other Eppie Awards as well as Prism, Dream Realm, Rising Star, Lories, Scarlett Letter, and Vixen Awards, and an Honorable Mention in the Writers of the Future contest. Her short fiction has appeared in several anthologies and numerous small press publications in the fantasy, science fiction, and romance genres. She lives in Greensboro, NC, with her husband of many years.

Find Karen Online

Website * Blog * Facebook * Twitter * Pinterest

The Detective's Dilemma

Although Sarah Anne Martin admits to pulling the trigger, she swears someone forced her to kill her lover. Homicide detective Jay Christianson is skeptical, but enough ambiguous evidence exists to make her story plausible. If he gives her enough freedom, she’ll either incriminate herself or draw out the real killers. But, having been burned before, Jay doesn’t trust his own protective instincts…and his growing attraction to Sarah only complicates matters.

With desire burning between them, their relationship could ultimately be doomed since Sarah will be arrested for murder if they can’t find the real killer.

1. When did you write The Detective's Dilemma?

I wrote the first draft about eight years ago, but I knew it had some problems so I let it sit on my hard drive for a couple of years. In looking for another story, I found this one and realized I still liked the basic idea and plot very much, so I pulled it out again, rewrote it and submitted it.

2. What was the spark that gave you the story idea?

I can't remember exactly when it popped into my brain, but the vision of a young woman being forced (and I mean literally, physically forced) to shoot her much older lover came to me as a very vivid scenario that I had to write down. The scene was so compelling to me, I had to know the rest of it. Why was this woman alone? Why did someone want her lover dead? When Detective Jay Christianson walked into the story, I knew it was going to get interesting.

3. Why do readers buy The Detective's Dilemma?

A. I can only guess, of course, but reviewers seem to like my hero and heroine quite a bit, and particularly the heroine. She's a woman who has seen a lot of tragedy and had a lot of bad things happen to her. But she refuses to let them defeat or diminish her. When her world falls down around her, she sets about rebuilding it. She rarely slips into self-pity and refuses to let herself wallow in it when she does.

Buy The Detective's Dilemma by Karen McCullough

All Romance Ebooks * Amazon Kindle * B&N Paperback or Nook * Kobo * Kensington Publishing 

Takeaway Truth

A little vacation can always be found between the covers of a book. Plan your weekend "getaway" by buying a book today.

Jacquie Biggar Tackles the Dirty Dozen Interview

I'm happy to welcome a new friend to SlingWords this morning. Please enjoy this interview with Jacquie Biggar.

Jacquie is giving away an e-copy of Tidal Falls to one lucky commenter. To be eligible to win, just answer this question in Comments: Do you believe in second chances?

Jacquie Biggar: In Her Own Words

From the time I was twelve years old, I knew I wanted to be a writer. That year I wrote a short story called Count Daffodil after spending countless hours searching for ideas. The story garnered me an A and was read aloud through the school's loudspeaker system. Needless to say, after that I was hooked.

I grew up, got married, raised a family and left my writing urges to simmer in the background unattended.

After owning and operating a successful diner in my hometown for a number of wonderful years, I'm ready to take up the writing reins and see how far I can travel.

Find Jacquie Biggar Online

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Pinterest * Goodreads

About Tidal Falls

Nick Kelley spent the last few years of his life working as a dog handler in the U.S. Marine Corps. His sole focus was to keep his team alive in the midst of chaos. When he fails to notice an IED in time and loses most of his teammates, Nick shuts down. It takes meeting and falling in love with a woman in danger to make him realize life’s worth living.

1. In which genre do you write and why that particular genre?

I write romantic suspense because I like to read of strong heroes and heroines who overcome impossible odds to find their happy ever after.

2. What's your most recent book and what's it about?

Tidal Falls is the story of a woman who finds herself in a loveless marriage with a dangerous man. She takes her daughter and some incriminating documents and flees across country to Tidal Falls. Once there, they slowly begin to build a new life for themselves. When she meets the handyman next door, sparks fly. Can these two find a way to get over their pasts and give love a second chance, or will her ex find her and make her pay?

3. As an author, what can readers expect when they read one of your books?

An emotional connection to the characters, some humor, and a little spice.

4. How did you "become" an author? For instance, was there a moment when you said: "I think I'll write a book."

I always enjoyed making up stories, but the support I found from my parents and teachers cemented the dream for me.

5. What's the best thing about being an author?

Making up your own world.

6. What's the worst thing about being an author?

Insecurity, am I good enough? Will people like what I write?

7. Do you have editions of your books available other than ebook editions?

Yes, I have paperback copies available through Amazon.

8. Do you listen to audio books? If so, what device do you use?

No, but I’d like to start.

9. What device do you use to read ebooks?

My iPad has the Kindle app, also I own a Kindle Paperwhite which I love!

10. If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?

Take online courses, as many as you can.

11. If you could tell readers one thing, what would it be?

If you enjoy a book you’ve read, please leave a review. It’s a big help to authors and to other readers searching for new books.

12. What is your big dream (or goal) as a writer?

To be a NYT bestseller.

Excerpt, Tidal Falls

“How did you find me?” Sara fell back as Tom pushed his way inside, followed closely by Sam, and then she caught sight of Fiona being led in by two other men. Her friend was cuffed, her arms pulled taut behind her back. Her mouth, covered by a bright red handkerchief tied so tight it cut into her whitened cheeks, highlighted an obscene bruise. Her eyes, one of them black and blue, filled with tears, begging Sara to forgive her.

“GPS, my dear, you’ve heard of that I presume? I traced you from your own phone, that wasn’t very smart of you. So, this is where you’ve been hiding.” He waved the others into the room, locking the door behind them.

“What, no kiss for your Husband? You do recall you have one of those, don’t you?”

He looked the same, so tall and handsome standing there in his perfectly pressed suit and tie, not a hair out of place. A wolf in sheep’s clothing. It was so obvious to her now. The narrow, cold eyes, the supercilious attitude, the rigid stance, the not-so-well-hidden-anger, had he always been that way? She didn’t like to think so. How could she have been so wrong about him? He’d pulled the wool over her eyes from the beginning.

Buy Tidal Falls by Jacquie Biggar

Amazon Kindle U.S. * Amazon Kindle International

Takeaway Truth

Remember, Jacquie is giving away a free book. To be eligible to win the free e-copy of Tidal Falls, just answer this question in Comments: Do you believe in second chances?

Book Settings: Baby, It's Cold Outside

Don't you love books where the settings are so organic to the story that you feel as if you're there?

Shiver and Read

Winter is particularly fun to read about if you're a January couch potato like me. I don't like cold weather, but I'm not opposed to reading about blizzards and gale-force winds if I'm curled up on the couch and snuggled under a fleecy throw.

That's exactly where I was when I read Prey by Linda Howard. Linda did a great job of making me  shiver in the early winter storm that hit Montana, trapping the feisty heroine and the all-male hero in the great outdoors. Her books are always great entertainment. Linda has another winter-set novel, Ice. I'm looking forward to reading it now.

Experienced Enough Snow To Last Forever

Maybe I empathize a little more than usual with characters in the cold because I went through a blizzard in the Dakotas many years ago. Trapped inside for 3 days with no electricity when it snowing horizontally outside is not my idea of fun. I turned that experience into a novella published years ago. Now, I'm taking that story and turning it into a full length book.

Books Recs

Want another icy setting in a book? Try The Terror by Dan Simmons. Others that might tickle your winter fancy are anything set in Russia from Dr. Zhivago to Gorky Park to One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, although that one is almost too frigid to stay warm while reading.

Takeaway Truth

Summer heat or winter cold, what setting do you like?

Review: Living on One Dollar

Could you live on 1 dollar a day? Probably not. In most countries, more than that is frittered away on a daily basis. Even the citizens in what people call third-world countries, struggle to live on the equivalent of 1 dollar. It just doesn't go very far.


Imagine having to feed yourself, put a roof over your head, pay for the means to cook the food and warm yourself during cold days, pay for transportation on those rare occasions when you must travel to a larger village, pay for medical care, and pay for any of the other situations that arise in life.

That was the task undertaken by Ryan Christoffersen, Zach Ingrasci, Sean Leonard, and Chris Temple, 4 friends majoring in International Development.

These guys didn't hang out in Pena Blanca, the mountain village in rural Guatemala, for a few days or a couple of weeks. They committed to living there for 2 months. Their summer experiment resulted in the award-winning documentary Living on One Dollar, released in 2013.

No Skills, But Lots of Heart

In watching this, I think how ill-equipped these guys were to tackle something like this. I suspect they had no clue it would be as hard as it was. They didn't know how to build a fire or grow vegetables. Still, they were game to try it all.

They lived the way the people in the village lived and created a monetary situation representing the uncertain economics of being a day laborer. Though ill-prepared for living in primitive conditions for two months, the four friends stuck it out, fighting daily hunger, inadequate sanitation, fleas, and all the other situations that plague the citizens there.

Scenario Repeated Worldwide

These same situations affect over a billion people all across the globe. The guys weren't looking for answers because they already knew there are no easy answers. I think they were trying to understand how people manage to survive and even find happiness despite their struggle.

The generosity of people who had so little but were willing to share what they had with neighbors who had even less even to making sacrifices so that a friend could get medical help was overwhelming.

Brought Back Memories

The film is poignant and uplifting and reminded me of years ago when I lived in Okinawa. We had bought a stereo that came in a large cardboard box. We flattened the box and put it out for the trash, but it disappeared a short while later. The next day I saw the box up on the hillside behind our apartment. It had been incorporated into a wall on one of the shanties there. That was just one of many memories about being confronted firsthand with extreme poverty.

By U.S. standards, my family was low income. I've always had deep respect for those who try so hard to make a living. But my experience living in southeast Asia makes me believe that the poorest person in this country is rich, compared to the poor in other countries.

Be An Informed Giver

If you have money to spare in your budget, make a real difference. Pick a charity that funds desperately needed improvements in other countries--treating malaria, treating worms, providing clean water, buying chickens or livestock for families, providing micro financing so people can start a small business, and so many other worthwhile projects.

Check GiveWell for reputable charities and also Charity Watch to make sure your donation goes to the people, not to overhead and expensive lunches and bonuses for the heads of the charities.

I saw the film on Netflix. If you don't have Netflix, you can buy the film Living On One Dollar for $9.99, and it's worth the price. You can also donate through the Living On One Dollar website--there's a clickable button at the bottom so scroll down.

Takeaway Truth

This is a small planet. If the people in one country are starving, that affects the whole world. Do your part to help.

Thursday3Some: Stormy by Tina Gayle

On this cold January morning, I have Tina Gayle who writes hot reads for mature adults. So pour a cup of your favorite hot beverage and let's talk.

About Tina Gayle

Tina Gayle grew up a dreamer and loves escaping into a good romantic book.

She is currently working on two different series the Executive Wives’ Club and the Family Tree series, both of which combine elements of women's fiction with the passion of romance.
Married 25 years, she and her husband Mike love to travel and play golf. She can’t wait for Mike to retire so they can do more of both. You can read the first chapter of any of her books on her website.

Find Tina Gayle Online

Website – www.tinagayle.net
Blog – www.tinagayle.blogspot.com
Twitter – @AuthorTinaGayle
Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/pages/Author-Tina-Gayle/214633841921560
Google+ - https://plus.google.com/+TinaGayle

About Stormy, a Second Chance at Love (Mature Rating)

A widower, a divorcee, co-workers, lovers...a future together...marriage?

Consoling each other for years over each other’s misfortune, Karen and Daniel turn a friendship into a weekend of unbridled red-hot passion. The heat between them leads to thoughts of a future together. That is…

Until children, an ex-husband, an unexpected heart-attack, a conniving trophy-wife, guilt, and personal choices come between them. Will the heat of their passion let them break from the past and move into the future?

1. When did you write Stormy?

The original title of my book was Weathering the Storm. About month before I decided to publish, I changed it to Stormy. Why? I wanted something short and to the point. Also I felt it went with the cover image better.

2. What was the spark that gave you the story idea?

I was working on the 3rd book of the Executive Wives Club series, which is about an older woman and her trials to find love. I started thinking about how difficult it was for women over a certain age to find romance books that reflect their situation. I talked to a number of women over the age of forty and decided they needed a hot, short romance to read.

3. Why do readers buy Stormy?

Mainly, because of the reason I listed above. Women want a romance that reflects their situation. Yes, you might be over forty, but that doesn’t mean you don’t want to find love. The majority of readers want to connect with the characters and enjoy seeing how they approach life trials. This is a book written for mature adults.

Buy Stormy by Tina Gayle

Amazon Kindle


Takeaway Truth

The first of many weekends approaches. Have you selected your weekend read yet?

Inspiration for An Enduring Love by Wareeze Woodson

What terrible weather the whole country is having this January. That makes it perfect to stay inside where it's warm and curl up with a good book. Perhaps An Enduring Love by Wareeze Woodson, my guest today.

Wareeze Woodson In Her Own Words

I am a native of Texas and still live in this great state. I married my high school sweetheart, years and years ago. We raised four children and have eight grandchildren, and grandchildren are Grand. At the moment, all my children and my grandchildren live within seventy miles of our home, lots of visits. My husband and I still love each other after all these years, the stuff romance is made of, Happy Ever After!

Today's Prize

Wareeze is giving away an ebook copy of An Enduring Love. To be eligible to win, you must leave a comment with your email address. (Write it out. Don't leave as a hot link the spammers can harvest.) Entries accepted until midnight, Jan. 16, 2015. Wareeze will select the winner, post the winner's name in Comments, and email the winner directly.

Find Wareeze Woodson Online

Website * Facebook * Goodreads * Twitter

About An Enduring Love

Latvian born Rebecca Balodis marries Rhys Sudduth, an English diplomat. Shortly thereafter, he is summoned home to attend his father’s death-bed. Unable to accompany him, Rebecca remains behind and becomes trapped in the turmoil plaguing her country. Rhys is informed she died in the upheaval. 

Nearly four years later, Rebecca, along with her son--Rhys's son--escapes to London. Intent on reuniting with Rhys, she attends his sister’s ball only to discover that Rhys plans to announce his betrothal to a young debutante later in the evening.

Trouble, tangled in suspense and danger, follows her from Latvia. Can Rebecca and Rhys ever find or even recognize an enduring love? Is it worth keeping?

What Lead Me to Write An Enduring Love

I love period romance and wanted to write something a little different from the standard with the ton acting in the traditional way. I wanted adventure, abductions, thieves and danger both before and after the ball.

In An Enduring Love, there is a harrowing journey to reach England, an evil villain and enough danger to keep the pages turning. I thought long and hard about what I would do in a similar situation faced by the heroine of the story, Rebecca Sudduth. How would I react if left in a hellish dilemma?

My husband is a man of honor and must sail back to England without me. I have a secret that would keep him by my side. Will I choose the selfish course and cling to him, or will I allow him the opportunity to bid a last farewell to his father.

That’s the situation in which Rebecca found herself. She chose to let him go, planning to join him. Below you will find a letter. One that is not included in the book, but it gives insight to the story.

The Year of Our Lord 1813

My Dearest Husband,

I write with my heart filled with sorrow. My beloved mother has passed on to join my father in Heaven. I can only be happy for her although sadness weighs me down. I am now acquainted with deep sadness and how you must mourn for your father. Grief makes it hard to write, but you deserve to know why I am delayed in departing this land.

At the moment, I am trapped in Latvia due to the up-rising in my country. I do not know how long it may be before I am allowed to travel to England to join you. There is a guard placed outside my gate to prevent my departure at present, but I will travel to Rica at the first opportunity and board a ship to London. Perhaps all will settle quickly. I can only pray it shall be so.

I cannot wait to be in your arms again, to kiss your dear face and gaze into your eyes once more. With words, you painted a lovely picture of your home in England and of your relatives. The thought of meeting your family holds much pleasure for me, especially since I am now alone.

Take care, My Love. I shall write to let you know as the hour of my departure grows closer. Keep safe and know you have my enduring love.

Yours Always,
Rebecca Sudduth

Buy An Enduring Love by Wareeze Woodson: Amazon Kindle
* Soul Mate Publishing

Takeaway Truth

The weekend is coming and promises to be another wet, cold one so don't delay. Get your weekend reading now.

Book Description Tip for January

Have you ever been excited about a book because of its cover or its title? Did you click the book link to go to its webpage and read more about the book?

Once at the webpage, have you ever begun to read the description and found your excitement fading? Even worse, have you openly scoffed at the description and then moved on to another book page?

I have. Like most readers, I figure if the description is poorly written, then the book probably is too.

Writers, Heed This Advice

Never start a book description with any of the following:
  • This book is about....
  • This novel is about....
  • This mystery is about....
  • This book is close to my heart.
  • This book took me 5 years to write.
1. Cut the generalizations! Writers do all of the above because they're trying to warm up their engines, searching for words to say what the book is really about.

No warming up the engines. You're not a race car; you're a writer. You should know what your book is about, and you should be able to convey that succinctly and entertainingly in one sentence ideally. Get it down to that one or two sentences, and you'll be able to put that across compellingly in a slightly longer form like the one to three paragraphs of a solid book description.

2. Write everything down then tightly edit. Yes, put all those wandering, meanderings on paper then cut away the dross, removing anything that doesn't convey an exciting story as well as all the meaningless "warming up your engine" words and phrases.

3. The book description should read like a microcosm of the book. Initially hook the reader, lead into the characters, motivation, and conflicts, and end with a hook that makes the reader click to buy the book.

4. If you need to improve your blurbing skills, go to any bookstore and read the inside cover flap of dozens of New York traditionally published books in your genre. Or, go to any ebook seller and read the book description of the most popular books in your genre.

Takeaway Truth

A book description should read as compellingly as the book itself. If yours doesn't, then work on that skill until you have mastered it.

(This article previously appeared in WritingHacks, my free subscription newsletter for Writers. Subscribe today if you want to read articles like this as soon as they are published.)

Brutally Honest Advice About Writing

Right now, I'm hearing a lot of authors who were previously successful are having to go back to a day job and writing on the side or giving up the writing completely because it has become so hard to earn a living.

How Do I...

Ironically, I'm also getting requests again for advice on how to make it as a writer--mostly from young people. Just this past week, I've had 4 such requests.

I answer everyone, and I believe in being honest--especially with beginners. Perhaps some of you who are readers and thinking about becoming writers might be interested in my standard advice. Here it is.

Brutally Honest Advice About Writing

1. If you had a story you wanted to write, and you've written it, then don't worry about anything else. Especially if you can't easily think of other stories you want to tell. Especially if you read what follows and think it sounds like a lot of hard work. It is a lot of hard work. So go find what you want to do with your life and forget about writing as a career.

2. Still here? Okay. If you want a writing career, these are the basic things you need to do in order to give yourself the best shot. Learn how to tell a story the best way you can and present it the best way you can--text free of errors, a cover that looks like something NY publishing would put on it, and a book description that reads like the back cover copy of a bestselling hardcover book. Also, learn how to effectively market and promote your book and your brand. Then make sure you have the persistence to do all that over again.

3. Use your name, or a compelling pen name, and brand it and what you write and how you write it every way you can.

4. Know your chosen genre inside and out by reading extensively in it. Then know your audience. Who is the reader who wants your book? Young? Old? Male? Female? Age, and every other demographic you can imagine.

5. Start studying books on narrative technique right now so you can master the skills necessary to translate your ideas into a story that is compelling. Check out any of the books from Writers Digest publishing. Your local used book store probably has dozens. Study them exhaustively and do the exercises they give.

6. Brush up on grammar. Just because it's digital publishing doesn't mean it can be full of grammatical errors or typos. If you publish, some reader reviewers will crucify you grammar, manuscript, and sentence construction are deficient.

7. As I said, read a lot in your chosen genre, but don't just read. Analyze the books you read. Take them apart for characterization, viewpoint, setting, exposition, dialogue, etc. See how other authors use words to create the story vividly and compellingly.

8. Write a lot. Then write some more. Build the discipline of writing every day.

9. Join a critique group and online writers' communities. Make sure the members of the critique group are of every skill level. They don't even have to write in the same genre as you if they're sufficiently experienced to recognize good writing, regardless of genre. Learn from those who blaze the way.

10. Avoid asking these for their opinion on what you write: your parents, siblings, best friends, significant others, or co-workers at your day job. You'll never get an objective answer. People close to you always have a vested interest. They fall into these groups: afraid to hurt your feelings or they're not readers and don't know what's good or they have hidden resentments and will use this as a means to wound you. 

12. When you finish your manuscript, have it professionally edited. If you can't afford a freelance copy editor (Google search for that), find a retired English Lit teacher, librarian, bookstore owner, or well-read book lover, and see if they will read your book and tell you their honest opinion.

13. When the manuscript is ready, get someone competent to proofread it.

14. Get a professional cover done with correct size parameters and dpi. (Many freelance artists do affordable book covers. Several have websites with pre-made covers that they customize for clients--from $10.00 on up.) Nothing screams amateur like a bad cover. (Readers don't buy books from someone they think is an amateur.) If you want to compete, you have to have a good cover because that's the first thing readers see.

Takeaway Truth

It's like baseball. We all start out in the minor leagues. Whether we get to go to The Show is dependent on many factors, some beyond our control. But you have to do the above 14 things to even have a shot at the big leagues.

Of January, Birthdays & Football Games

In our family, we have 7 birthdays in January.

Sometimes, it's just plain hard to get together for parties and celebrations during what is usually the coldest month of the year for this part of Texas.

Add some rain to the cold, and you get a really messy weekend just as this one has turned out. So the family get-together we were going to have at the ranch ended up being changed to a sub sandwich buffet at home, to be served during the Dallas Cowboys/Green Bay Packers playoff game.

You see, all of the January birthdays, except for 2, belong to Cowboy fans who think they might expire if they don't get to see the game. *LOL* That's okay. I find sports fanatics vastly amusing.

Therefore, today's quote is a 3-fer: one for January, one for birthday, and one for football fans. That's American football, of course.

"January brings the snow, makes our feet and fingers glow." - Poet Sara Coleridge

"They say that age is all in your mind. The trick is keeping it from creeping down into your body." ~ Unknown (And may I say, "OMG! That's so true.")

"Football teaches you hard work. It takes a lot of unspectacular preparation to have spectacular results in both business and football." ~ former Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach (Wow. That sounds just like the writing business.)

Takeaway Truth

If you have a January birthday, take heart. You can always have a delayed celebration after the spring thaw. As for football, don't worry. There will be a new season next year. Oh, and that cold weather? I refer again to the aforementioned spring thaw.

Blogging & Marketing Books: 3 Reviews

During Christmas and New Year's I downloaded 62 free books onto my Kindle.

Many of them were books about blogging and marketing. Quite frankly, I do this fairly regularly because I want to make sure my blog content hasn't been scraped and used as filler for a book.

Fortunately, I found no issues with any of the books.

Review Goal for 2015

I didn't review much last year so one of my goals this year is to post more reviews. With that goal in mind, here are reviews of 3 books about blogging and/or marketing. I am reviewing them en masse because the books bear many similarities.

Why En Masse Reviews

1. These 3 books are very short.

2. The covers of 2 of the books are very similar--at first glance identical except for title and author name.

3. The content is very generic and very basic in each book which makes me conclude the target audience for each book is a beginner who knows nothing at all of the subject matter.

4. The fiverr webpage cited at the end of each book is the same URL which leads to a fiverr user "faith22" from Tunisia.

Now, there's nothing wrong with books for beginners. After all, if you're a beginner, you have to start somewhere. However, if you know the most basic information, you need books that provide more specific information. Also, these books are no longer free. They're each priced at $2.99. If I were spending $2.99 for a book, I would expect more content.

How To Write a Blog That Not Only Draws Traffic But Creates a Following by Albert T. Andreas

32 pages

Now $2.99.

13 Steps to Successful Blogging by David S. Woodyard

33 pages

Now $2.99.

Internet Marketing Success Secret by Olen L. Dover

60 pages

Now $2.99.

Takeaway Truth

Try free books often. If you pay for a book, take a sample to make sure you're getting value for your hard-earned money.

10 Ways to Create Laughter

Oh my goodness! What a cold, dreary gray day. Thankfully, not too many of our winter days in Texas are like this.

I'm sitting by the fire, catching up on lots of "stuff" that litters my life confetti on a lawn after a windstorm.

Must be time to have a few laughs. Right? (Thanks, Frank, for sending me these.)

10 Ways to Create Laughter

1. At Lunch Time, sit in your parked car with sunglasses on. Point a hair dryer at passing cars and see if they slow down.

2. Page yourself over the intercom and don’t disguise your voice.

3. Every time someone asks you to do something, ask if they want fries with that.

4. Put decaf in the coffee maker for 3 weeks. Once everyone has gotten over their caffeine addictions, switch to espresso.

5. Finish all your sentences with “In Accordance With The Prophecy.”

6. With a serious face, order a Diet Water whenever you go out to eat.

7. Specify that your drive-through order is “To Go.”

8. Five days in advance, tell your friends you can’t attend their party because you have a headache.

9. When the money comes out the ATM, scream: “I Won! I Won!”

10. Tell your teenage children over dinner that due to the economy, you’re going to have to let one of them go.

Takeaway Truth

Bet I made you laugh.

Thursday3Some: In His Sight by Pamela S. Thibodeaux

The Thursday3Some Spotlight has been turned on for the New Year, and it's shining on In His Sight by Pamela S. Thibodeaux.

About Pamela S. Thibodeaux

Award-winning author Pamela S. Thibodeaux is the Co-Founder and a lifetime member of Bayou Writers Group in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Multi-published in romantic fiction as well as creative non-fiction, her writing has been tagged as, “Inspirational with an Edge!” ™ and reviewed as “steamier and grittier than the typical Christian novel without decreasing the message.”

Find Pam Online: Website * Blog * FaceBook * Twitter

About In His Sight

Grade school teacher Carson Alexander has a gift that has driven a wedge between him and his family and put him at odds with God. Lorelei Connor is a mother on the run. Can their relationship withstand the tragedy lurking on the horizon?

When did you write In His Sight?

I started writing the story in 2009. It was completed and published in 2010.

What was the spark that gave you the story idea?

I began writing this story as a contest entry for White Rose Publishing’s 2009 “Hearts Crossing” contest; however, with my husband’s illness and subsequent death, I was unable to complete the contest entry.

In 2010, I finished the story by sheer determination feeling as if I didn’t, I would never write again. I submitted the complete project to Pelican Book Group and with some editing and revising, the finished story became my first romantic suspense!

Why do readers buy In His Sight?

Readers who love Christian romantic suspense enjoy In His Sight.

Buy In His Sight by Pamela S. Thibodeaux: Amazon Kindle * Pelican Book Group.

Takeaway Truth

A New Year and new books to read--how wonderful. For a romantic suspense that's different, try In His Sight.

5 Steps to Writing a Poem by JoAnne Myers

The New Year has begun so why not try your literary hand at something a bit different like writing a poem. JoAnne Myers is here to give you some tips to do just that.

Why Write in a Different Form

Quite simply, writing in a different form broadens your narrative horizons and helps you think outside the box. It spurs your imagination and enables you to see the world from a different perspective.

About JoAnne Myers

JoAnne is a long-time resident of southeastern Ohio. She worked in the blue-collar industry most of her life, but she also has written and published several novels and paints with oil on canvas her favorite medium. When not busy with hobbies or work, she spends time with relatives, her dog Jasmine, and volunteers within the community. She is a member of the International Women’s Writing Guild, Savvy Authors, Coffee Time Romance, Paranormal Romance Guild, True Romance Studios, National Writers Association, the Hocking Hill's Arts and Craftsmen Association, The Hocking County Historical Society and Museum, and the Hocking Hills Regional Welcome Center. She believes in family values and in following one's dreams. Her original paintings can be found at Books and Paintings by Joanne.

Find JoAnne Myers Online

Email: joannemyers at frontier dot com
Amazon Author Page
Facebook Author Page
Books and Paintings by JoAnne

JoAnne: In Her Own Words

I have enjoyed art since childhood. My collection of poems, entitled, “Poems About Life, Love, and Everything in Between,” spanned 30 years of writing. This collection of 134 poems, provides a glimpse into my heart and mind. It was written with love and respect for others. Some poems were written in a time of sorrow, others in joyous celebration. Life is like that.

To kick off the new year with generosity, I will be awarding 2 people, residents of the Continental United States, who comment, leaving their email with their comment, their choice of one of my books. This is open for comments until Jan. 14, 2015. (Do not leave your email address as a hot link. Write it out the way you see my email address written out above so the spammers won't grab it.) These are the book choices:
  • Murder Most Foul
  • Wicked Intentions
  • Twisted Love
  • The Crime of the Century
  • Flagitious
  • Loves, Myths, and Monsters
  • Poems About Life, Love, and Everything in Between.
I will post the winners' names in the comments section of this post and notify winners by email. When I notify you that you are one of my winners, please tell me which book you would like to receive.

My Tips on How to Write a Poem
by JoAnne Myers

1. The first step in any poem is coming up with subject matter. What will make the poem profound and interesting will be the hidden details or qualities you discover, or what the subject reminds you of, your unique perspective. Do not feel that you have to choose profound or "poetic" material. Anything can be the subject for a poem, such as my poem “Why Do People Lie?”

2. The key to writing about a person, place, or thing is to concentrate deeply on the subject and choose specific words to best capture the subject. Do not worry about "style," about writing in a "beautiful" or a "poetic" way. Poems do not have to rhyme, but should be heartfelt. If your attention is focused on "being poetic," that takes your attention away from the subject of your poem.

Even if the poem is about you or your life, you should focus on accurately communicating an aspect of your experience. For example, my poem “Being a Laundress” came from the fact that I work as a laundress in a nursing home.

3. You also need to communicate your insights to the reader. Do not state the obvious. Everyone knows that grass is green, and fire is hot. You should choose words that describe the smell or taste or texture of the grass, or how the grass makes you feel.

4. Choose the right words that express your subject matter. Think of the words "sun and light bulb.” Both describe light, but different kinds of light. The best form for your poem will depend on what it is about and the mood and feelings you want to create in the reader.

5. If you are writing about a feeling or an abstract concept such as Love or Death, which cannot actually be seen or heard, think about it like electricity. It is invisible. However, you can see the effect of electricity on objects that are visible. You see a room light up when you flip the switch. You see and hear a television program when you plug the television cord into an electrical socket.

Abstractions such as Love and Death do not look, sound, or smell like anything. Nevertheless, they affect everything around them. Describe their effect on those they have touched.

5. Rewrite. Behind most successful writing, whether that is a novel or poem, there is a huge amount of rewriting.Write different versions, then look them over and compare. How do they look on the page? Try reading them aloud. Which versions are most interesting to read? Are there any places where the look or sound becomes distracting, for example, if you have one very long line that sticks out too much?

Every poet has his or her own way of working. There is no right or wrong method. Just have fun with it, and the poem will usually come together. Here are two poems of mine to illustrate what I mean.

Turn A Page

I now turn a page of life’s great book,
and start on a sheet that’s bright and new.
I now have a chance to start at the top,
and be careful the whole way through.
My last page is filled with lines of life,
that’ll soon be just memories of times gone by.
Of lessons I learned, good times I had,
and the friends I made through and through.
Those lessons and friends will not be forgotten,
though the next page be ever so fair.
For the leaf that tells of these past years,
shall be for eternity there.
This year marks the thirtieth year,
of my joyful birth.
I hope to live on forever,
and increase abundantly in worth.
So as I turn slowly the well worn page,
that tells of all these happy years.
I am rather glad and rather sad.
I’m happy, but then there are tears.
I bid adieu to my family and friends,
and gaze upon the new.
But remember though I’m happy or sad,
I often think, dear life, of you.

I Could

I could count the passing years,
or build an endless bridge.
Or count the loss of past lovers,
hoping someday to make amends.
I could walk a million miles,
or sail an ocean ridge.
Nothing is forever,
and everything depends.
I could tell you my secrets,
and hope they all come true.
Or give my love to a stranger,
someone just passing through.
I could wait until I am older,
to see if I am wiser.
Or count my blessings now,
and while away the hours.
I could make my dreams last forever,
by locking them away.
Or make new ones with you,
if only you had stayed.
I could forgot all my troubles,
and all the wrong I’ve done.
Or remember how happy we were,
back when we were young.
I could dance in the dark,
wishing with all my might,
that you were here with me,
till the morning light.
I could love you forever.
What a simple thing to do.
If only you were here,
and if only we weren’t through.

Buy Poems About Life, Love, and Everything in Between: Outskirt Press

Winner Eligibility

Remember, JoAnne is giving away 2 print books. You must be a resident of the lower 48 to win. To enter, leave a comment with your email address between now and Jan. 14, 2015. JoAnne will post the winners' names in the comments section of this post and notify each winner by email. (Do not leave your email address as a hot link. Write it so the spammers won't harvest your address and spam you to death.)

Takeaway Truth

Try writing a poem as an exercise to free your creativity or just because you want a different way to express emotions. You may find you really like this short form.

Writing Advice for the New Year

Complaining about pop culture? Is that you?

Many people can't watch television or a movie without complaining about the pop culture of today's world. These people see nothing of value in today's music, novels, art, and other aspects of contemporary culture. They can't seem to find value or appeal in any form of entertainment.

And yet, many of these same people write books!

What's Wrong With This Picture

Yes. They write books and complain loudly about other writers who produce "inferior" books that sell like the often-mentioned hotcakes. The complainers have nothing good to say about contemporary entertainment, and they're stunned because their own books don't sell well.

I think those complainers need to face a truth that seems to have escaped them: they live today, not in the retro 1950's or the counter-culture 1960's or the disco 70's or whatever decade they thought was relevant.

Write For Today, Not Yesteryear

If you live in today's world, which you do unless you have a time machine stashed in the garage, then you must write for the time in which you live. It doesn't matter if your writing is as exquisite as Bronte or Austen or Dickens or whatever brilliant writer you may admire if the time in which you live doesn't support writing of that style, plot, or voice.

If you want to be a professional writer, write for today's readers. That doesn't mean to dumb it down, but it does mean to not be intellectually snobbish and disdain the average reader.

If you're not selling the way you want to be selling, don't disdain the books--and their authors--that do sell. Don't dismiss them out of hand. Instead, read the best-selling books in your genre. See what it is about those books that make readers eager to grab them. Compare your books--plot, premise, characters, tone, voice, execution--and see what the other authors bring to the table that you don't.

Takeaway Truth

Open your mind. Observe. Analyze. Be willing to try something new. Take action. That's a sure-fire formula for improving. And for living with a sense of optimism.

Book Cover Art Contest Closes Soon

Book Covers = ART
Cover Art Contest closes soon. Get your entry in today.

You only have 10 days left to enter your book cover in the annual Judge A Book By Its Cover Contest, or JABBIC, sponsored by the Houston Bay Area Romance Writers of America.

This annual contest with the funny name, JABBIC, was the first to celebrate book cover art, and it's closing January 15! Have you entered yet?

Why Enter JABBIC 2014

The submitted book cover art will be judged by booksellers around the world. The winning cover in each category will be featured in a full-page color ad on the inside front cover of the April 2015 Romance Writers Report, the official Romance Writers of America publication.

Again this year, Reader's Choice Winners from each category will be featured on the Houston Bay Area RWA web site. Hundreds of thousands of votes were cast in last year's contest during the Reader's Choice voting. That kind of exposure is priceless!

This contest is open to self-published authors as well as traditionally-published authors in any genre. Celebrate your cover art and the artist who created it by entering today.

  • Entry Deadline: Entries must be received by January 15, 2015
  • Entry Fee: $15
  • Eligibility: Published in 2014
  • What to Enter: The cover of your book or novella published by a traditional house, self-published, ePublisher, or POD during 2014
  • Entry Format: Electronic files (JPG or GIF) only
  • Categories: Contemporary Series, Single Title/Mainstream, Historical, Romantic Suspense, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Paranormal, Sexiest Cover, Young Adult and Inspirational
  • Judges: Booksellers in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia
  • Top Prize: Winners in each category will be featured in a full-page color ad on the inside front cover of the April 2015 Romance Writers Report
More Information

For more information, an entry form, and rules, please visit the JABBIC contest website or contact Contest Coordinator Leslie Marshman at: judgeabook at hbarwa dotcom.

Takeaway Truth

It's easy to enter, and you'll get a lot of exposure for your book and the artist you used. Enter today!

New Year? Hidden Opportunities!

Many people are simply burned out on making resolutions for the New Year. I've heard a lot of  people say, "Why bother? I never keep resolutions anyway?"

If you're disillusioned, then look at New Year as merely an opportunity to keep what you do that works for you, and to try different things to see if they might help you live healthier and happier -- perhaps becoming more successful in your chosen career in the process.

Michael Josephson who publishes the website, WhatWillMatter, said this: "Approach the New Year with resolve to find the opportunities hidden in each new day."

Hey, that's doable by anyone! Just open your eyes, mind, and heart to the little things that might otherwise go unnoticed.Remember, God is in the detail.

Takeaway Truth

Happy New Year from the Written Wisdom division of SlingWords.

Review: Los Angeles Plays Itself

If you are a movie buff, you must see Los Angeles Plays Itself.

Directed by Thom Andersen and narrated by Encke King, who could probably be a voice double for Robert Wagner any day of the week, this documentary with a film noir style has finally been released. I say finally because it was actually created in 2003, but it took years for the "fair use" complications to be cleared up.

Why Watch This

Los Angeles is arguably the most filmed city in the world. As the documentary points out, it's nothing to drive down a street in L.A. and see cardboard signs taped to lampposts directing those in the know to a film site.

Los Angeles Plays Itself is made of clips from dozens of movies, still photographs, intellectual discussions of the symbolism used by movie makers in selecting the various buildings, streets, and neighborhoods to put across their own social, political, and psychological viewpoints in their movies.

From the golden age of cinema to today, these sites--like the Ennis House (Blade Runner, Rush Hour, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and many more)--are still being used, but many of the neighborhoods no longer exist. Many of the buildings--bet you recognize a lot of them--have been demolished so this documentary is also an important record of the Los Angeles that no longer exists.

The voice-over commentary connects all of those elements to create a portrait of a city known the world over as the "home" of Hollywood.

Where To Find It & Other Info

CineFamily has a list of all the movies mentioned in the documentary along with the official trailer for the film.

Watch the trailer on YouTube.

You can watch the film on Netflix which is where I saw it, but it's also on GooglePlay ($3.99) and VUDU ($2.99)

If you want to own your own copy, Amazon has DVD and BluRay Editions.

Takeaway Truth

Los Angeles Plays Itself will enchant film historians, critics, and movie buffs, but it's also a film that will interest and entertain the average movie-goer because it's an "insider's look" at the world of movies.