Writer’s Wednesday: Award-winning Author L.C. Hayden on Promotion

I invited L.C. Hayden to be our guest today because I’ve always been fascinated by her unique way of promotion. This is just one way to think outside the box when marketing your books. Please help me in welcoming L.C. Hayden to The Editing Essentials!

L. C. Hayden is the creator of the award winning Harry Bronson Mystery Series. Critics are hailing her latest release When the Past Haunts You as the best mystery of 2012. This February, the book was nominated for the 2013 Watson Award and hit the Number 2 Kindle Police Procedural Best Seller spot.

Visit her website at www.lchayden.com and check out her books at www.tinyurl.com/LCHayden. She invites you to be her Facebook friend at Lc Hayden and Tweet her @LCHayden1.

Cruising and Promoting

I’m lucky.

I’ve done over fifteen cruises. I’ve been to the Caribbean, Mexican Riviera, Panama Canal, the Mediterranean, and others. Most, more than once.

“That means you’re rich,” you say.

“Nope. I’m just doing my job.”

“Wait! You get paid to go on these cruises?”

Yep. I’ve been contacted by Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and Princess Cruise Lines to do writing presentations during their days at sea. They want and expect forty-five minute power point presentations that are both amusing and informative. That’s followed by a fifteen minute signing section.

That’s it. That’s my entire job. I’ve done as few as two presentations during a sixteen day cruise and as many as eight. It all depends on the number of days at sea.

There’s a set of guidelines I’m expected to follow, but they are all common sense rules. I’m not allowed to wear short-shorts. I can’t sit at the bar and drink. I can’t gamble or participate in any games where I can win, such as bingo. I’m not allowed to mention other cruise lines or seat up front at any of the cruises’ shows.

In return, I and my guest of choice receive a free cruise, discounts at the ship’s stores, photograph discounts, and more often than not, cruise excursion discounts. One of the ship’s stores carries and sells my books. At the end of each cruise, I pick up my check.

Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?  It is. I love cruising all over the world and promoting my books at the same time. Some of my most faithful followers are those I met at one of these cruises. So how did I land such a lucrative job?

By pure luck. Someone heard me speak, and he (she?) recommended me to the person who hires for the cruise lines. They called and the interview lasted for a bit over three hours. At the end of the conversation, they said they’d send me to the Caribbean on a five day trial basis.

During those presentations, I had everyone from the captain to the cruise director to the bar attendant to the . . . well, you get the idea. Everyone was there to evaluate me. I must have passed because soon after that, I was sent on longer more exotic cruises. I average one or two cruises a year.

I’m now to the point where people are e-mailing me, asking when and where I’ll do the next cruise so that they can join me. Unfortunately, most of the time, I can’t tell them simply because I don’t know. Sometimes the company calls me one or two months ahead of time. Although it hasn’t happened to me, they might even give you a week’s notice.

I have such fond memories of these cruises. I remember one time in Tahiti I saw a gorgeous necklace made of sea shells and macramé. The natives sold it for $20. I thought that was a bit too expensive for macramé and sea shells so I passed it up.

Soon as I got back to the ship, I regretted my decision. But much to my heart’s content, the next island also sold them, and they were charging only $18. I whipped out my credit card only to be told that they didn’t accept credit cards.

I dashed to look for my husband—my walking cash machine. By the time I returned, they were sold out.

At the next island, I was prepared. The natives sold theirs for $15. I bought it and proudly wore my unique necklace for the rest of the cruise. When we got home, I went to Walmart to buy some milk. I got the milk and noticed that the store sold the same unique necklaces for $4.99.


While in Barcelona my husband and I walked Las Rambles, a mile long street filled with museums, eateries, parks, and stores. I wanted to take some pictures of Spain’s outstanding architecture, so we deviated one block away from the path. The visual site rewarded me with early European structures. Fascination filled me as I snapped picture after picture. I was so involved with the task at hand, I failed to notice the group of ladies who had gathered across the street.

My attention riveted toward them when one of them threw an unopened orange Fanta toward my feet. The can burst as it collided with the pavement. I distinctly heard them chanting, “No pictures. No pictures.” Then it dawned on me. We had wandered into the Red Light District.


Then there’s the time I decided to shoot some rapids in Huatulco. I love the feel of gently floating down a peaceful river and a size two rapid is nothing more than gentle moving water with a bump here and there. But as it turned out, the rapids were really four’s and five’s. Afterwards, I asked our guide about it, after all, we had been promised one’s and two’s.

He shrugged. “What can I say? It rained.”


There’s so many more misadventures I could share, but space is limited. All I can say is that I’m so thankful that I’ve landed this oh, so tough job—but hey somebody’s got to do it.

Thank you, L.C., for joining us today! Feel free to post an questions or comments for her on how she promotes her books. She’ll be with us all day. Thank you!

Writer’s Wednesday: New York Times Bestselling Author Brenda Novak on Branding Yourself As a Writer

Today I’d like to welcome New York Times bestselling author Brenda Novak to The Editing Essentials! Because marketing is one of those “Must-Do” items on every author’s list, I asked Brenda, who does marketing so well, to give some tips on it. Please welcome her!

New York Times & USA Today Bestselling Author Brenda Novak is in the middle of writing a brand new small-town contemporary series. Come meet the long-time friends who have made Whiskey Creek the “Heart of Gold Country,” with WHEN LIGHTNING STRIKES, WHEN SNOW FALLS and WHEN SUMMER COMES. Brenda also runs an annual on-line auction for diabetes research every May at www.brendanovak.com (her youngest son has this disease). To date, she’s raised over $1.6 million. 


There’s a buzzword in the industry that makes almost any author sit up and take notice: branding. Everyone’s talking about it; everyone wants to be effective at it. But…what is it, exactly? And how important is it that we learn to market in this way?

An author brand is like any other kind of brand—Coke, Pepsi, Kellogg’s, Andersen Doors. The most familiar brands evoke immediate recognition and association with particular products or even a level of quality in a certain product. Basically, branding translates into a sort of shorthand. I see a Nora book, I automatically know what kind of experience I can expect by reading it, so I pick it up without having to think twice or do any research. Having a reputation and a loyal following helps with all those impulse buys that are so critical in the book business.

Branding is also important because it enables the author’s name in and of itself to become a marketable commodity. James Patterson is now using his brand to sell stories co-authored by other people. He’s even expanding his brand to include many different types of stories. Now that he’s so strongly associated with a good story, he can do that.

How did he build such a strong brand? By writing consistently great stories. That always has to be first. But there’s more to it than that. Branding is an on-going process and doesn’t generally happen overnight. It’s most difficult in the start-up phase. As well known as they are, Coke and Pepsi are still out there, advertising and building name recognition. It’s like pushing a ball uphill. If you stop pushing, it rolls right back to the bottom—something else encroaches and takes the attention of those you’re hoping to reach.

Specifically, an author brands herself by developing something that is consistent and unique in her writing. I do that by making sure every book I create delivers a deeply emotional, evocative story. How is my brand different from other authors who write in the same genre? My books are known for their deep characterization in a genre that is often more plot-driven (as you drift toward the suspense side). Once you know what you want your brand to be, you establish it through your writing style and “voice,” as well as your promotional efforts, until it becomes recognizable to others.

Some tools an author can use to build her brand are:


  1. Paid Advertising
  2. An interesting and constantly updated Web site
  3. Strategic Contests
  4. Blogs and chats (See? I’m building my brand right here <G>)
  5. Newsletters
  6. Charity/Volunteer work
  7. Networking
  8. Joint-promotion with other authors and businesses
  9. Speaking
  10. Writing articles
  11. Press releases/media attention
  12. Author response to fan letters/e-mails
  13. Mailers to booksellers/fans
  14. Samplers

Your brand is your promise to your readers. When my readers buy my books they want to be able to count on a certain type of read. Therefore, I make sure I deliver that kind of read. Everything I do professionally is geared around building my brand and my career, so my website reflects that brand, my promotional materials reflect it, my charity auction reflects it, and my workshops/blogs reflect it.

Think about how solicitors make you feel. Because we are approached by so many who are trying to sell us something, the melee is deafening. We learn to filter and filter quickly, which means, in order to be effective in today’s marketplace, we have to be creative marketers. So my question to you is: How can you reach people who are already tired of the signals that are constantly bombarding them via the telephone, TV, computer, etc? How can you set yourself apart?

Throw out some ideas, and I’ll be happy to contribute. 🙂

Thank you so much for being here today, Brenda! Feel free to post questions or comments for Brenda, she’ll be with us all day. Thank you!

Writer’s Wednesday: Award-winning Romance Author Kristine Cayne

Today we’re excited to have Kristine Cayne as our guest on The Editing Essentials. Please join us in welcoming her!

Kristine Cayne

 Award-winning author Kristine Cayne is fascinated by the mysteries of human psychology—twisted secrets, deep-seated beliefs, out-of-control desires. Add in high-stakes scenarios and real-world villains, and you have a story worth writing, and reading. Kristine’s heroes and heroines are pitted against each other by their radically opposing life experiences. By overcoming their differences and finding common ground, they triumph over their enemies and find true happiness in each other’s arms.Today she lives in the Pacific Northwest, thriving on the mix of cultures, languages, religions and ideologies. When she’s not writing, she’s people-watching, imagining entire life stories, and inventing all sorts of danger for the unsuspecting heroes and heroines who cross her path. To learn more about Kristine and her stories, visit her website: www.kristinecayne.com or her blog, http://kristinecayne.blogspot.com/ or on Facebook. http://www.facebook.com/KristineCayneAuthor

WD: What is your favorite book of all time you can read again and again?

KC: My favorite book of all time, and one of the rare books that I’ve read several times is Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Jamie Fraser will forever be the standard to which I compare all heroes. Likewise, Clare is the perfect example of the strong capable heroine who is nonetheless at ease with her femininity.

WD: What is your favorite part about creating a new story? Creating characters, plot, conflict, sex scenes, action scenes, etc.?

KC: There is so much that I enjoy about writing. If I have to pick, I’d say that my favorite part is romantic scenes. It can be sex, or it can be flirtatious bantering. Both are immensely fun to write.

WD: What do you like about writing your characters?

KC: One of the great joys I get from writing is seeing my characters come to life. When I first start planning a story, the characters are vague, ill-defined, and mysterious, like figures in a dream. I can see them, but I can’t quite identify them. As the story unfolds, the characters start to seem real. I find myself thinking things like: “no, he would never say that” or “of course, that’s exactly what she would do in this situation.” By the end of the book, I’m talking about them like they are my friends: “he wants to try something new tonight” or “he likes how the sunlight puts highlights in her hair.”

Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to conduct interviews with some of my characters with my critique partner acting as interviewer. It was so fun to see how they responded to questions. 🙂

WD: What are your goals for 2013?

KC: I’ve got a full load planned for this year. My goal is to publish three stories this year. One, Deadly Betrayal, from my Deadly Vices romantic suspense series. And two stories from my Six-Alarm Sexy series, Everything Bared and one that is not quite officially named yet. My stretch goal is to publish an additional book from the Deadly Vices series, Deadly Deception.

I’ve never written this much before, nor have I ever written two books concurrently, but I’m going to give it a shot. Without goals, I’d never accomplish anything!


WD: What do you like about doing Blog Hops?

KC: I love the chance to meet new readers. A blog hop is like a huge party where every invitee brings a couple of friends from another “circle.” It mixes things up and expands your group, hopefully resulting in lasting friendships.

WD: What is the most outrageous, fun, or interesting giveaway you’ve done, or seen as a giveaway for a Blog Hop?

KC: While participating in an erotica/erotic romance blog hop, there was a grand prize of a gift certificate to an adult store. The gift certificate in itself was not super interesting or outrageous, but imagining all the items bought by the winner in a basket, well, that made me smile.

WD: What advice would you give to new writers?

KC: LOL! I’m still learning. Each book is a new adventure, and each day is a struggle to get focused. Before you publish, all you think about is writing. But afterward, you have a slew of different hats to wear and you quickly become distracted. I have to work very hard to keep myself on schedule and to pull away from online activities. As I said, I’m still learning. 🙂

Thanks so much, Kristine, for being our guest today! If you have questions or comments for Kristine, please feel free to post them here. She’ll be checking in throughout the day. Thanks!


Writer’s Wednesday: An Interview with NYT Best-selling Author, Julie Hyzy

We’re excited to have Julie Hyzy as our guest today! I’ve watched Julie grow as an author over the years, and it has been one of the neatest journeys to see. We are so happy for her success! Please help us welcome Julie to The Editing Essentials!

A relentless snoop since childhood, Julie Hyzy gets to play detective these days by writing amateur sleuth adventures. An Anthony, Barry, Lovey, and Derringer Award winning author, Julie is thrilled to be able to call herself a New York Times Bestseller as well. She writes two series for Berkley Prime Crime: the White House Chef Mysteries and the Manor House Mysteries. She also has several backlist and original titles available as e-books. http://www.juliehyzy.com/

WD: How old were you when you began writing?

JH: I wrote my first book at about age six or seven. Right about the time I realized I had the capability of recording the stories I made up in my head. Back then I even drew pictures, too.

WD: Did your family support your writing habit when you started?

JH: My parents were supportive of everything I did. They read (and gently critiqued) all my early novels (Mary King Mysteries) and when I hand printed my weekly eight page neighborhood newspaper, my dad would take it to work to make copies for me to distribute (sell) to indulgent neighbors.

WD: How many rejection letters did you receive before selling your first novel?

JH: Wow. I have no idea. A lot. I queried agents for the most part, and those rejections came in quickly and in bulk. Rejections became the norm, which in a way was good. After a while you get used to them. In fact, I trained myself to embrace rejection. Why? Because getting those “No thank you” notes in the mail (and yeah, this was via snail mail) was proof that I was following my dream. If I wasn’t submitting I couldn’t be amassing all these rejections, right? So they became a good thing.

WD: What was your reaction when you sold your first novel?

JH: Amazement. Disbelief. Joy.

WD: What person in your life–family, mentor, friend–pushed you to continue writing on days when you really didn’t want to?

JH: To be perfectly honest, I’ve never had that day. Even on my worst writing days when the words don’t come, I’ve known that this is what I’ve always wanted to do. I may slow down. I may not get any good words done for a couple of days, but I never stop wanting to do it.

WD: Your relationship with Michael A. Black has led to a collaboration of characters. Could you share how you two decided to put your characters together in Dead Ringer?

JH: Mike and I were critique partners for a very long time. We got to know one another’s styles so well that when we decided to write a short story together, it was easy. After that, just for fun, we decided to end our next respective books (my Deadly Interest, his A Final Judgment) with last chapters that dovetailed. My Alex St. James met up with his Ron Shade at a gas station. That was fun, too. Then we wondered, could we write an entire novel together? It became a challenge. And so we decided to try.

WD: Are there more collaborations planned for Ron and Alex, or for Michael Black and Julie Hyzy?

JH: At this point, Mike and I are super busy with other projects. But I’ve learned to never say never.

WD: What are your current writing habits? (How often do you write? What’s your schedule?)

JH: I try to write every day, Monday through Friday. Things don’t always work out as planned, but that’s my goal. I like to get at least 1,000 words in a day, but this year has been busy and that’s been tough. Right now I’m facing a deadline and if I don’t hit at least 2,000 words a day for the next three weeks, I’ll be sunk. I like to do my email and a little bit of promotional work in the morning and get started on whatever project I’m working on by 11:00. If I can write solidly until 3:00, that’s a fabulous day. Doesn’t always work out that way.

WD: What made you want to write the Manor House mysteries?

JH: I love mansions—the kind you tour on vacation—with rooms that number in the hundreds. Like Downton Abbey … The stories those rooms could tell! Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to live in such a house. I used to dream up floor plans and design rooms. Now that I’m all grown up I’m doing that for real—but now I also get to invite readers to join in the fun.

WD: Now that you’re a NYT Best-selling author, something many authors can only dream of becoming, what is your next challenge?

JH: My next challenge, honestly, is to always write a better book than the one before. That’s what I always hope to do.

WD: Which of your stories was the most difficult to research?

JH: I’d have to say that the White House Chef Mysteries are pretty difficult to research. Although there’s a lot of information available on the White House, there are details that are nearly impossible to find. While there have been some wonderful White House staffers, and former staffers who have answered my questions, it would really be best if they’d just let me in for a couple of days to wander at will. I promise not to make a mess. You think I have a chance?

WD: If there was any part of your career you’d like a re-do on, which would it be?

JH: I think I should have started submitting work sooner. I didn’t submit in earnest until 1999. I’d been writing on and off for all my life but had never made writing a priority. Maybe that’s fine. Maybe I wasn’t ready. But I think I could have been. I wouldn’t change any bit of the journey I’ve been on, but it would have been nice if I’d started sooner.

WD: You edited for a while before writing full-time. What did you learn about your own writing by editing someone else’s work?

JH: Actually, I edited while writing full time. Editing another person’s work is always an eye-opening experience. As an editor, I become an objective reader. In that role I believe I’m better able to catch problems, whether they’re word choices, consistency issues, plot holes, or character considerations. When we’re too close to our own work, it’s hard to see these things, but when I stepped back and caught them in others’ works, I was able to bring fresh eyes to my stuff. What a wonderful experience. Truly valuable.

WD: What is the best thing about being a writer, in your opinion?

JH: I have the best job in the world. I spend the day making up stories and bringing characters to life. I can’t imagine anything I’d rather be doing.

WD: What does your family think of your success?

JH: So far, they seem pretty pleased. My husband and kids were even more excited than I was when Fonduing Fathers hit the New York Times Bestseller list. They are incredibly supportive and always helping me, whether it’s setting up a launch party or passing out bookmarks.

WD: What do you have lined up for 2013? Goals? Books? Vacations?

JH: I’m currently working on WHChef #7 and as soon as that’s finished, I’ll start on Grace (Manor House Mysteries) #5. Both of these manuscripts are due this year, with WHChef #7 due in just about six weeks (insert panicked shriek). I’d like to add to my Alex St. James series by releasing a new Indie title for her, and I’d like to continue Riley Drake’s adventures with a sequel to Playing With Matches.

WD: You inspire writers and readers everywhere. What was the most important lesson you’ve learned as an author? What advice would you give to struggling/beginning authors?

JH: Me? Inspire writers and readers? Not sure about that. But I do have advice. First of all, don’t give up. There is so much rejection out there, whether it be from agents, editors, reviewers on Amazon and BN.com, or even friends and family. They say that writers need a thick skin. I don’t have that, and rejection always hurts, but I know that if I wasn’t putting my work out there—exposing it, making it vulnerable to others’ opinions—then I would be writing only for myself. That’s not my dream. My dream is to reach people with my words, whether I’m simply entertaining or – even better – making them think. If to be able to do that I have to risk myself, then so be it. Rarely does success come without rejection. Part of the deal.

The other advice I’d give is to read. Read in your genre. Read outside your genre. Read fiction and non-fiction. Read books by successful writers about how they’ve done it. Read books and blogs by experts in the business. There is so much knowledge out there at our fingertips. Learn, be hungry, be thirsty. Be a sponge.

Oh, and most importantly: Write every day.

Thank you, Julie, for being our guest today! If you have questions or comments for Julie, please feel free to post a comment to the blog. Thank you!

Introducing Susan Pawlicki, Editor at Written Dreams

As Written Dreams expands to be a great resource for authors, I look for the best people to help grow this business with me. I was so impressed with Susan’s editing skills, it seemed the perfect fit for her to be a part of our team. Introducing Susan Pawlicki, our talented non-fiction and fiction editor at Written Dreams!

WD: Tell us about your family. What do they think of your editing?

SP: I have two daughters at home, Emily, who is twenty, and Sarah, who is seventeen. Both are students at the local college; Emily is studying art education and Sarah is still in the decision making stage. (Historian? Lawyer? Psychologist? ) Both girls have become avid readers and writers, which is a true joy in my life. They are most happy about my editing for Written Dreams: I truly enjoy the process of editing and I’m a happier person when I have a project at hand.

WD: What are your hobbies? What do you like to do in your free time?

SP: I’m a voracious reader who enjoys everything from “Paradise Lost” to Calvin and Hobbes, so I always have a book or two going. My daughters are both great readers as well, so years ago we designated one table in the house to be the “Reading Table”—right now it has (let me check) twelve books on it ranging from a history of snowflakes to Robert Penn Warren’s All The King’s Men—I’m teaching it in a couple weeks—to a volume on Mary Todd Lincoln and her maid/confidante, Elizabeth Keckly.

In the summer I’m an enthusiastic bike (the pedal kind) rider and outdoor runner; at the moment, though, I’m running on a treadmill to get ready for the Illinois Half-Marathon at the end of April. I like riding the bike because you can cover a fair amount of distance in a short period of time, and out here in rural Illinois it’s just beautiful in the spring, summer and autumn—there’s always something to be discovered on a ride. Running makes me feel fit and healthy, and it challenges both my self-discipline and my will. It makes me a stronger person.

WD: What compelled you to get into editing?

SP: I’ve always loved writing and about the time I began teaching writing at the local college, a friend who was starting a business asked me to look over some writing for him. The volume of writing grew to the point he felt uncomfortable asking me to do the work as a friendly gesture, so voila—I became an editor. And the rest is history! 🙂

WD: Who are some of your favorite authors to read?

SP: My favorite author is F. Scott Fitzgerald. He’s my favorite. What a vocabulary that man has! Emerson and Thoreau. I’m a big fan of Kazuo Ishiguro, too; reading Remains of the Day was a revelation to me; the writing is beautiful without calling attention to itself and rarely has a character been created so three-dimensionally. Hemingway. C.S. Lewis—The Screwtape Letters seems mandatory reading for consideration of good and evil. Terry Pratchett—how can one man be so profound and yet so funny? Robert Penn Warren may well be joining the list; I’m reading All The King’s Men to teach it for a homeschool high school literature class, and his writing thus far is extraordinary!

WD: Who, in your life, has had a large impact on your way of thinking?

SP: Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau are up there at the top of the list. Both have greatly influenced my religious and spiritual beliefs, as well as my philosophy of daily living. My daughters, who over the years have brought up or pointed out the obvious that my adult brain was overlooking, have also been a great influence.

WD: What compels you to continue reading a story?

SP: Real characters, an initial intriguing plot element. The Twelve Tribes of Hattie begins with a young girl trying to save her twin infants from dying of whooping cough—I was sucked into the story line immediately! Ishiguro’s The Unconsoled creates a dream-like atmosphere in which you’re unsure of what is real and what is not right from the first page.

WD: What advice would you share with beginning writers?

SP: Write, and then write some more. Don’t get pulled away from your writing by outside distractions, and don’t give up too soon. This business of writing takes a lot of hard word and discipline.

WD: What advice would you share with seasoned writers?

SP: See advice for beginning writers. I don’t think the process ever changes that much…Even when you’ve had a measure of success, writing is about putting part of yourself out in the world for others to see, and that in and of itself can be scary or discouraging.

WD: What is one goal you’d like to accomplish in 2013?

SP: I’m a goal-oriented person, so it’s hard to limit myself to one! I’d like to help multiple authors get published. I want to run a 2:45 half marathon. And I’m taking my own advice and writing a story a week—if you’re trying the project, too, feel free to drop me an email—we can commiserate! 🙂

Thanks, Susan, for being our guest today so others can learn more about you! If you’d like to contact Susan, you can email her at Susan@writtendreams.com. To see a list of our services go to: writtendreams.com


Writer’s Wednesday: Best-selling Author Russell Davis on the Writerly Math

I’m excited to have Russell Davis as our guest today. I first met Russ through a mutual friend, and got to know him outside of the publishing world. Since then, we’ve worked together on different projects throughout our careers. I’m always amazed at his eloquence with words. If you’re struggling with word count, this is the perfect article for you. I hope you enjoy!

Best-selling author Russell Davis has written and sold numerous novels and short stories in virtually every genre of fiction, under at least a half-dozen pseudonyms. His writing has encompassed media tie-in work in the Transformers universe to action adventure in The Executioner series to original novels and short fiction in anthology titles like Under Cover of Darkness, Law of the Gun, and In the Shadow of Evil. In addition to his work as a writer, he has worked as an editor and book packager, and created original anthology titles ranging from westerns like Lost Trails to fantasy like Courts of the Fey. He is a regular speaker at conferences and schools, where he teaches on writing, editing and the fundamentals of the publishing industry. A past president of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, Russell now writes full time, and teaches for Western State Colorado University’s MFA in Creative Writing. His next short fiction collection, The End of All Seasons, is due out soon. He maintains an irregular presence on his website http://morningstormbooks.com. Or you can reach him at: http://www.western.edu/academics/creativewriting.

                                Doing the Writerly Math

Writing is a hard job. Oh, it’s not digging ditches in the winter or paving highways with hot tar in the desert sun, but my guess is that there are a lot more people who do those jobs every day (or something like them) who wouldn’t sit in front of a computer trying to make up readable prose for hours on end. It can be just as taxing – mentally, if not physically – and there are certainly times when it’s pure drudgery. When I’m talking to my students at Western State Colorado University, I often find that they’re intimidated by word count. Not early on, when the word count requirements are lower, but when the challenge ratchets up in the second semester and they’re required to write a minimum of 25,000 words for their end of semester project. Many of them have never written even close to that number of words in a single piece of fiction and it can seem like a huge number of words.

Then I tell them that it’s a practice work, and that they should write something brand new for their thesis, which must be at least 55,000 words. Sometimes, the mental grinding of gears, gnashing of teeth, and rending of cloth is so loud in their minds, that even I can hear it. Here’s the funny part, at least to me. 55,000 words is a short book. It’s about the length of most adult series titles like The Trailsman or Don Pendelton’s Executioner series. Also about the length of a category romance. Most genre fiction titles published today run 80,000 to 90,000 words, and in epic fantasy, it’s not uncommon for a book to be several times that length.

For a newer writer, that can seem not just like a big number, but an insurmountable one. A Mount Everest of pages in a single story. They are certain that while others have done it, they themselves will succumb to the lack of oxygen at such heights (choked to death by an errant plot line) or die in the freezing cold (axed by a villainous, yet unexpected, character). This is why doing the writerly math is important, and something I teach to every incoming group (and repeat regularly, since writerly panic is pretty common, too).

Let’s do the math, shall we? If you can force yourself to write one page a day – that’s typed, double-spaced, in proper format – you’ve got an average of about 250 words. One page isn’t much. This blog post is longer than that, right? So, subtracting one day off for life happens, let us suppose you write your page a day six days a week. 250 words x 6 days = 1500 words. Let’s make another supposition for our writerly math. Let us assume that you do this 50 weeks a year, because you take two weeks per year off to dig ditches or pave highways or something more fun than writing. 50 weeks x 1500 words = 75,000 words. That, my friends, is longer than an adult series book or category romance, and nearly the 80,000 words of a typical genre title. Not too bad, and a page a day is hardly even exercising your muse.

Maybe your muse is in better shape than the above example. Maybe you can do two pages or 500 words in a day. Suddenly, you’re writing 150,000 words per year (that’s almost three of those series books). Maybe your muse is a real badass – you know, Arnold Schwarzenegger when he was Conan or Stallone as early Rambo – and you can come up with three pages a day or 750 words. Now, you’ve gotten to 225,000 words per year.

And maybe a part of you is saying, “Three pages?! I can do three pages in my sleep! My muse is a GOD!” And you can do five pages a day, 1000 words, and with nothing more than the will to put the words down day in and day out, you’re delivering 300,000 words per year.

Here’s the thing: you probably won’t do one or two or even five pages necessarily every day, six days a week. Life happens and it gets in the way sometimes. But what does happen, if you can think of writing this way, is that the novel you want to write is possible. It can be done, by you, and here’s something even better: the more you write, the more you practice your craft, the faster you’ll be able to put words on the page. Writing is a lot like exercise, and the more you work your writing muscles, the stronger you’ll become. (Even better, most writers find that the words get better, too, and they don’t have to revise quite as much!)

So, know your pace – what you can reasonably do in a given day, allowing for life happens at least somewhat – then do the writerly math. Suddenly, your novel isn’t Mount Everest, but a gentle hill in the park. Novels are written one word at a time. Think about that for a moment. One word at a time. Not a sentence, a paragraph, a scene, or a chapter. Novels are built of individual words, and your novel – whether it’s 55,000 words or a 300,000 word epic fantasy is no different in that regard. You’ll write it one word at a time, and you should do the math so that you can see the summit before you set out on the journey.

Even the most hesitant of aspiring writers can manage one word at a time, I imagine. After all, that’s how this blog post was written, and it’s just shy of a thousand words. I didn’t even do the math.

Thank you, Russell, for sharing your experiences, and being our guest today. If you have questions, or comments for him, he’ll be with us all day. Thank you!

Writer’s Wednesday: Look Who’s Talking With Nebula-Award Winning Author Elizabeth Ann Scarborough

I’m so excited to have Elizabeth Ann Scarborough at The Editing Essentials! I’ve admired her tenacity and determination to be a successful author for a long time. She never gives up, no matter what the circumstances. Back in 2004, I was thrilled when she wrote a story for my anthology, You Bet Your Planet. Please help me welcome her today!

Elizabeth Ann Scarborough is the author of 38 fantasy/science fiction books, 24 solo novels including the Nebula-award winning HEALER’S WAR and 16 in collaboration with Anne McCaffrey, including the two most recent, CATALYST and CATACOMBS, Tales of the Barque Cats. Her most recent novel is THE TOUR BUS OF DOOM, set in a town suspiciously like Port Townsend. It’s her third story featuring the heroic Spam the cat, and is a spoof on the zombie craze. The first book SPAM VS THE VAMPIRE is the first of the “purranormal” mysteries. Bridging the novels is the novelette, FATHER CHRISTMAS. Please visit her website at: http://www.eascarborough.com/

Look Who’s Talking

The most important thing I need to know when I write a story is whose story it is. In fact, sometimes the viewpoint is the story when the plot is a familiar or classic one and the usual cast of characters is as time-worn as the Velveteen Rabbit’s fur. There aren’t all that many plots, after all, and none of them are actually new–or haven’t been for a very long time. But the stories we want to tell, and the ones readers gravitate towards, have certain universal elements that make them familiar.

If the central viewpoint is enlightening and informative of an entirely different facet of a story, it can actually make it new, suggesting an entirely different series of events than the original. Reinventing the villain from the Wizard of Oz, Gregory MaGuire created Wicked, the Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (The Wicked Years). As Elphaba’s thoroughly grown-up tale, it becomes not only one different Oz-ish story but a series of them almost as extensive as the original Oz books. Elphaba isn’t thoroughly wicked, and those characters we’ve previously seen as thoroughly good, turn out simply to have had good press.

On a less complex level, other fairytales are often retold from a different character’s viewpoint to try to shake up a stereotype and allow readers to rediscover the tale from a new angle. Cinderella has been written, acted and sung from the viewpoint, at least partially, of the wicked stepsisters and their mother. In the past year, two different movies were made about Snow White, who may have been the protagonist, but the wicked queen, her stepmother, was the interesting, glamorous one. The reinvention of her character for Julia Roberts was brilliant and put a modern, accessible twist on the role that it never would have had if told only from Snow White’s viewpoint.

The “villain” usually doesn’t see himself or herself as a bad person, and neither should the writer when telling their versions of the story. It’s very possible the hero and the villain simply have different goals in life, or different interests in certain outcomes. We probably all know someone who has a lot of “bad luck” although there is never, according to them, anything they did to bring it upon themselves. They were either justified, victimized by circumstances, or someone was plotting against them.

Your characters don’t have to be totally good or wicked to see things in such dramatically different ways as to set them at odds with each other.

I had a very nice mother, but her memory of certain events we both attended is so unlike mine that they might not have been the same occasions. If we were characters in one of my stories, I’d try to understand why she saw it her way as well as why I saw the same incident so differently.

That kind of conflict is certainly less dramatic than the fairytale kind and yet can be used to good effect if one bears in mind how annoying and baffling it can be to have people you thought you knew and even liked behave in ways you consider immoral or selfish, as in The Help, while they disapprove of you just as strongly.

I do admire an author who can capture the nuances of human nature accurately and use them to turn a plot at the same time. M.C. Beaton, aka Regency romance writer Marion Chesney, writes a series of contemporary mysteries that’s fun partially because it counters traditionally romantic stories while retaining a sense of reality.

The heroine, Agatha Raisin, a successful ad exec now a detective, is always falling madly for some good looking man, and at least two of them are interested in her only when she stops stalking them, and starts stalking murderers. There’s nothing remotely like a romantic novel romance in Agatha’s life, but there is friendship and admiration, unexpected emotional support when she least expects it and sometimes fleeting mutual lust. It isn’t done cynically but it seems very true.

The mysteries themselves aren’t nearly as involving as the characters. By now we all know that if the killer isn’t a psycho nut job it’s someone who stands to gain through love, or more probably money. But Agatha’s character makes it fun again, and ventilates scenarios that otherwise might be a bit stale.

Less specifically, but still of great practical benefit, understanding your characters and writing them as if they were real people with their own memories of events can be very helpful in submitting stories to theme anthologies. I edited four and published stories to about fifty more.

For instance, in an anthology about Warrior Princesses, which I proposed during a time when Xena was very popular, each contributing writer had a distinct idea about what a warrior princess was. I was particularly floored by a two page submission from a friend who hasn’t written another story before or since, about a retirement home for aging warrior princesses, as told through correspondence between the facility and Her Fierce Highness’s anxious adult daughter. Absolutely ridiculous and yet well enough grounded in familiar concerns that I felt that if there were real warrior princesses, of course they would need a specialized retirement home.

In Anne McCaffrey’s touching story, The Ship Who Sang, Helva, the heroine, is challenged about whether or not she has been trained to have a sense of humor. “We are directed to develop a sense of proportion, sir, which contributes the same effect.”

As writers, it’s up to us to find our characters’ perspectives.

One other thing. While it’s necessary to have speeches properly attributed in dialogue, if you can tell who’s speaking by what each character is saying and how he or she is saying it, it is very successful dialogue.

Thank you, Elizabeth, for your sharing your tips and being with us today! 🙂 If you have questions for her, please feel free to post. Thank you!


Essay by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, © 2012.


Writer’s Wednesday: New Mystery Author, M.E. May

Today I’d like to introduce new author, M.E. May. I had the pleasure of editing her novel, Perfidy, published by True Grit Publishing, an imprint of Weaving Dreams Publishing, and I’m so excited to have her join us today! Please help me in welcoming M.E. May to The Editing Essentials.

M. E. May was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, and now lives near Chicago with her husband, Paul, and Husky, Iris. Her two children and four wonderful grandsons all live in central Indiana. She studied Social and Behavioral Sciences at Indiana University, where she learned about human nature and social influence on behavior as well as finding her talent for writing. Her first novel, Perfidy, is a crime thriller in which a young woman’s desperate search for her missing mother reveals long held secrets and lies that will change her life forever. This the first book in M. E. May’s Circle City Mystery Series. To learn more, visit her website at: http://www.memay-mysteries.com

WD:    Did you choose the genre, or did the genre choose you?

MEM: That’s an interesting question. I would say the latter. For many years, I told myself I had a book in me. At one point, I contemplated writing a comical piece about the dating world. Anyone who’s been out there knows what I mean.

One of my favorite genres is fantasy, but I believe it takes a special person to create a new world like in JRR Tolkein’s The Hobbit, and Lord of the Rings.

The mystery genre chose me, because this is where my talents flourish. My interests in psychology, sociology, and criminal justice prevail. It’s been an interesting journey from reading and trying to solve a mystery to creating the clues that lead readers to a solution. Through this process, I’ve learned a great deal about police procedure, forensics, private investigation, and much more that I may not have taken the time to research had I not been creating these novels.


WD: What was your inspiration for Perfidy? A person, place, an event? How did you get started?

MEM: In 2008, my husband and I agreed I should leave my full-time job and take a year to get started on writing. I will admit, it took several months for me to really sink my teeth into it once I had the premise for Perfidy.

In 2007, Lisa Stebic and Stacy Peterson disappeared without a trace. These types of cases don’t generally stay in the news very long, but Stacy’s husband was quite verbal. As a police officer, he apparently didn’t feel a need for discretion. He continually proclaimed his innocence and claimed that Stacy took off with another man.

The situation of a police officer’s wife going missing was the spark which brought the idea behind Perfidy alive. Of course, my imagination took over and my story doesn’t end the way many feel Lisa and Stacy’s story end.

I used Indianapolis as my setting because it’s my hometown and I know it well. The police department there has been great about answering any questions regarding police procedure. The Indianapolis governmental website, www.indy.gov, carries a lot of good information about how the city governmental offices are structured and provide good contact information.

I try to keep it real. I want an Indianapolis police officer to read Perfidy and be able to tell others, “That M. E. May really knows her stuff.”

WD:    I understand Perfidy is the first novel in a series. Are you afraid the series will become dull or difficult to write after a while?

MEM: When I designed this series, I decided to create it so that there was a different protagonist in each subsequent book. You will see many of the predominate characters in each book, but the focus will be on someone different.

For example, Perfidy centers around Mandy Stevenson. She is the daughter of Captain Robert Stevenson, the Commander of the Homicide and Robbery Division. In Perfidy, you will meet several police officers from Homicide and from the Missing Persons Unit. One of the homicide detectives, Erica Barnes, will be the protagonist in book two of the Circle City Mystery Series, entitled Inconspicuous (to be released in September 2013).

WD:    If you could be any of the characters in your novel, who would you be?

MEM: The protagonist, Mandy Stevens. She is a mixture of my personality traits and beliefs. However, she also has a strength I wished I had possessed at her age. Although a bit naïve as are most twenty-two year olds, she has a confidence and determination I admire.

WD:    Is it more difficult for you to write: good characters or bad characters? And why?

MEM: “Good” characters are harder for me. Although they are the “good guys,” they are human and cannot be perfect or they will not be realistic. They must have flaws. As a reader, I like characters with depth. In order for me to relate or to decide how I feel about a character, I must have those elements which irritate me about them as well as those that endear them to me.

The “bad guy” is much easier. No one is supposed to like him/her. It also gives me the opportunity to look at the world through a different type of mind. That’s not to say the reader won’t feel some sympathy for the antagonist, depending upon what has led him/her to commit the crime. Someone who is having a psychotic break with reality would gain more sympathy than a sociopath who has no regret for what he/she has done.

WD:    How do you feel about writing short stories?

MEM:  When I started this venture, I entered several flash fiction contests. Many of those only allowed 500 words, some less. I found that very difficult. I believe I am just one of those people who cannot tell a story without going into a lot of detail.

Then I joined the Speed City Chapter of Sisters in Crime. They asked if I would write a short story for their upcoming anthology called Hoosier Hoops and Hijinx. I was hesitant at first as I lacked confidence in my ability to produce an adequate story in short form. However, they allowed me 7,500 words and somehow the story just flowed. They have accepted my story, “Uncle Vito and the Cheerleader” and the anthology will be released in October 2013. This may have been the boost I needed to give short stories another shot.

WD:    Have you thought about crossing genres, or writing a stand alone?

MEM: I think a stand-alone is a possibility, but I don’t have anything in mind at the moment. I’ve thought about another series about a private investigator, but that’s still in the planning stages. Crossing genres—at this point, I don’t see it happening. As I said earlier, my interests lie in areas that mesh with the mystery genre. I believe writing these stories is my destiny.

Thank you so much for sharing with us today! If you have questions for M.E., feel free to post comments for her. She’ll be with us all day. Thank you!

Writer’s Wednesday: Introducing Cheryl Yeko

Today our special guest is Cheryl Yeko. Cheryl is relatively new to the publishing world and wanted to share her experiences. She is a Wisconsin author. Visit Cheryl’s website at: http://www.cherylyeko.com/ or contact her through the social media sites: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ProtectingRose, Twitter: https://twitter.com/cherylyeko, or Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5406425.Cheryl_Yeko

My writing journey was swift and exhilarating, and my head is still spinning. My life quickly immersed into the world of writing. I love it! But, there have been surprises and setbacks along the way.

When I was younger, I devoured romance novels. My problem was that once I started a novel, I found it impossible to put it down until I reached the happily-ever-after. As such, as life’s struggles crept in, I found the time spent reading was interfering with work and family. I went cold turkey, and stopped reading novels altogether. A decision I now sometimes regret, but it is what it is. Whatchagonna do?

Then a few years back, my husband bought me a Kindle and I rediscovered my love of all things romance. My children are grown so I now found the time to read. Two years later, I finally came up for air and decided to try to write a novel. So, I checked out some books from the library, signed up for some online classes and began my manuscript on PROTECTING ROSE. I spent the next eight months writing my novel. When I had finished it, I was clueless on what to do next. I found the local RWA group in Milwaukee and joined. I also joined a critique group, which I think is an essential writing tool.

That’s when I realized I had written my novel in a passive voice, instead of an active voice. A newbie mistake that most new writers make. I spent three months fixing this issue, as well as tweaking overused words and learning the ‘romance’ language. I even entered my WIP (work in progress) in some contests, receiving some really nice feedback, and finaled in the 2011 Launching a Star Contest. I submitted PROTECTING ROSE to three publishers, and received two offers. The coolest thing I’ve learned is that the very weakness that caused me to stop reading romance novels years ago, is now my greatest strength. My muse is always active.

PROTECTING ROSE won the 2012 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence. What a thrill! I was hopeful that the New York Times bestselling list was next. LOL! Well, color me naïve.… But, it was still awesome to be recognized by my peers! PROTECTING ROSE was released in paperback in October, so, we’ll see how that goes. I have to say, it is really cool to hold a book in my hand that I wrote, and I’m looking forward to conducting some book signings in the near future.

PROTECTING ROSE has garnered some nice attention, and I’ve actually grown a decent fan base, but it still tends to get lost in cyberspace among the many, many other novels offered on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I had no concept of all the marketing activities being an author would entail, and I’m still struggling to wrap my mind around that. But, if you don’t market your books, you can expect your novel to fall into the novel wasteland. Isn’t that a song? If not, it should be!

My latest release A MAN TO TRUST is based on a double murder trial that I sat on as a juror last summer. Of course, the romance is totally made up, but the details of the crime are based on what I learned over the two weeks of trial. I plan to market more strategically and consistently from here on out! No. really, I mean it ;>)

The characters in A MAN TO TRUST are loosely based on individuals involved in the case as well. I built a romance between the lead detective on the case, and the widow of one of the murdered drug dealers. How fun is that!

This is the second book, in a series of three. The first, PROTECTING ROSE, was my debut novel and released last December. A MAN TO TRUST came out October 24th this year. My third novel planned for this series is Rick and Sheila’s story, (no title yet) who are both characters from PROTECTING ROSE. Rick is also in A MAN TO TRUST. My plan is to complete the arc and bring all the characters together one last time. This time, Rick gets the girl!

Thank you, Cheryl, for being our guest today! If you have questions or comments for Cheryl, she’ll be with us all day. Thank you!

Writer’s Wednesday Meet Alice Duncan, Author of the Spirits’ Series

We’re so excited to have Alice Duncan as our guest today. I first worked with Alice a few years ago on one of her earlier Daisy Gumm Majesty Spirits’ novels. I fell in love with Daisy instantly. I, at that time in my life, had never met a character like her. I enjoyed reading about her adventures, and got sucked into her world–in a good way. Daisy is full of spunk–just like Alice is in real life. We worked together on Hungry Spirits, Genteel Spirits, and High Spirits, and it was one of most enjoyable times in my editing career. If you enjoy female characters who never give up, check out the books about Daisy Gumm Majesty and Alice’s other novels. Maybe next time we’ll learn about how she came up with Mercy. 🙂

Award-winning author Alice Duncan lives with a herd of wild dachshunds (enriched from time to time with fosterees from New Mexico Dachshund Rescue) in Roswell, New Mexico. She’s not a UFO enthusiast; she’s in Roswell because her mother’s family settled there fifty years before the aliens crashed. Alice no longer longs to return to California, although she still misses the food, not to mention her children, one there and the other who is in Wyoming. Alice would love to hear from you. You can contact her at alice@aliceduncan.net or visit her website at www.aliceduncan.net or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/alice.duncan.925

I’m sure everyone’s heard authors are always asked where their ideas come from. Truth to tell, I can’t remember anyone ever asking me that question. Go figure.

However, I love writing stories set in the 1920s, because the era is so fascinating. Think about it: the War to End All Wars had just ended (unfortunately, WWI didn’t end all wars); people were freaked out; the entire world was floundering in a depression; a gigantic influenza epidemic had wiped out almost a quarter of the world’s population (and this, right after the war); young people were feeling as if nothing mattered (read F. Scott Fitzgerald if you don’t believe me); they began rebelling in earnest, drinking and dancing to *jazz* and frittering their lives away, thereby freaking out their parents; the Volstead Act was passed, making the distilling and selling of liquor illegal (thus spawning an era of violence almost worse than what we’d been through in the war). People were struggling to make sense of a world that just didn’t seem to make sense any longer. It’s an absolutely fascinating era.

Anyway, something rather interesting occurred several years before I began writing novels, and I used the experience in my “Spirits” books, starring Daisy Gumm Majesty, spiritualist extraordinaire, who supports her husband and herself in Pasadena, California, in the early 1920s. Daisy’s sixth book, ANCIENT SPIRITS, was published in January 2012. You can read all about it here: www.aliceduncan.net

A long, long time ago (well, maybe twenty years or so), my daughter Robin and her then-boyfriend went to a yard sale in Pasadena, CA, where they found an old, beat-up Ouija board. They decided to pay the fifty cents the yard-sale person was asking for it. When they did so, the person said, “Be careful of that thing.” Naturally, Robin and Otto (the boyfriend in question) thought she was joking.

So they took the Ouija board back to Robin’s apartment and started playing with it. The board came with the usual triangular planchette, and Robin and Otto sat across from each other and placed their fingers lightly on the planchette. Instantly, the planchette moved to the letters painted in a double crescent above the numbers on the board. In astonishment, Robin and Otto watched as the planchette spelled out, “Mom Mom Mom Mom Mom.” Nothing else. Just “Mom Mom Mom Mom Mom.”

A little freaked, Robin brought the board to my house. Not that she thought the board was asking for me. She just thought maybe if she used it in another location, it might be more informative. So we sat in my living room, the Ouija board on a table between us, settled our fingers lightly on the planchette and asked if there was a spirit in the room. The planchette zoomed to the word “Yes” in the upper left corner. Robin and I stared at each other for a second, then we both shrugged and asked if the board’s spirit could enlighten us about the curious incident of the “Mom Mom Mom Mom Mom” thing.

The spirit seemed to have a little trouble communicating, but it could answer yes-or-no questions. Eventually, Robin and I learned that a troubled young man used to live in Robin’s apartment building. We never did learn who the young man was, but he clearly had a mother problem. We’d already kind of figured that out. Then, because we were still curious, we asked the spirit his name. Very slowly, the planchette spelled out “Rolly.” Rolly? Strange name. So we asked it more questions.

Honest to God, it turned out (if you believe in these things) that Rolly has been with me all my life. According to him, we were married in the eleventh century in Scotland. We had five sons together. Sounds ghastly to me, but Rolly claimed we were soul mates, and he’d be with me forever. Both Robin and I agreed that, if you have to be haunted by a spirit, it’s kind of nice if it’s one that adores you. In my personal case, given my history with men in this life, it’s also probably a good thing that he’s been dead for a thousand years.

Because I was puzzled by Rolly’s inability to spell well, I asked him about this deficit in his education (trying to be very polite about it). Turned out Rolly was a soldier, and in Scotland back then, soldiers didn’t need no schooling. They needed to be able to be really, really strong and kill people. So. Okay. Not only did I have a soul mate following me through my life (or my many lives, if you believe those things), but I, who write books for a living (well, all right, I don’t. But I’ve had a bunch of books published, and if there was any fairness in the world I’d be earning a living at it), have an illiterate forever devotee. Gotta love it.

By the way, my half-brother once told me that spiritualism runs in the family. When he was a little boy, his mother and aunts used to drag him to séances all the time. Whenever there was a bump in the house, his mom would tell him, “Oh, it’s just Edna.” Edna had died several years earlier. I didn’t know about this until after my first Daisy books were published.

Anyhow, when Daisy Gumm Majesty appeared in my cluttered brain in 2002 or thereabouts and told me she was a phony spiritualist in Pasadena, California, in 1921, I decided to give her Rolly. What the heck, y’know? Why should I have all the fun?

Thank you, Alice, for being our guest today, and sharing with us how Daisy and Rolly came about. If you have questions for Alice, she’ll be with us all day. Please help us in congratulating her on having two novels–Genteel Spirits and Fallen Angels becoming  2012 finalists at the New Mexico Book of the Year awards.