Guest Post

HAVE A BOOK TO PROMOTE? Lyrical Pens welcomes guest posts. Answer a questionnaire or create your own post. FYI, up front: This site is a definite PG-13. For details, contact cj

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Critiquing the critiquers

cj Sez:  I have a writing partner who had to leave a long-time relationship with a critique group because someone took a personal dislike to her and made the meetings miserable. Not a nice thing, and certainly one no writer should have to experience. The fact is, finding a compatible critique group is almost as hard as finding a spouse (okay, maybe not THAT hard).

I know my words aren't going to please everyone, but what I hope to get out of each meeting are objective comments. I also know that may not happen 100 percent of the time, and that means I analyze critiques of my work on a bell curve.

Those at either end of the bell curve (JunkMarvelous) carry less weight and are generally discarded, after I digest them, of course. Sometimes I can find a nugget in there that says maybe I should tweak a line or two or three. The critiques I really look at, however, are those that cluster in the middle; that is, they seem to focus on the same thing. That's when I know for sure that I've missed on something at that point. 

I've also found that the level of experience of the writer/reader is important to how I analyze the critique. A newbie writer who reads a lot in my genre may make exactly the comments I need to consider because she/he could be rendering the opinion of my on-the-library-shelf browser, the person I want to entertain. I've been fortunate to have multiple critiquers of that caliber. They were very helpful. I’ve also encountered writers who try to squash everything into her/his voice and rules. A bit pedantic, perhaps, but helpful in the long run. (I must admit I tend to that personality quirk much too often, but I'm working on it.)

Yep, the bell curve works for me, even though negative critiques can sometimes get my goat before I discard them. I've learned that writers have to keep an open mind and be thick-skinned in order to keep writing.

From my Facebook page
Now for some BSP (blatant self promotion). I eQueried Crimson Romance publishers for the romantic suspense novel I recently finished, and (drum roll) they offered me a contract!  The tentative title is “CONFLUENCE OF TERROR.” I’ll be dropping hints and blurbs about the story from now until publication, so stay tuned. (Now I have to get cracking on my next manuscript--I'm only on Chapter 13.)

In the meanwhile, here's a wish for wonderful successes with your work, and I’d love to hear how you dealt with the personalities you’ve encountered in your critique groups. You are in one, aren't you?

You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.


DEADLY STAR (Publisher: Crimson Romance)   (B&  (


Sunday, May 24, 2015

Remembering the fallen heroes on Memorial Day, May 25, 2015*

To honor our fallen heroes.
It wasn't always Memorial Day — it used to be known as Decoration Day—whatever the name, it's a day of remembrance for all those who have died in the service of the United States of America.

Born of the Civil War, Memorial Day began as a holiday honoring Union soldiers, and some states still have separate Confederate observances. Mississippi celebrates Confederate Memorial Day on the last Monday of April, Alabama on the fourth Monday of April, and Georgia on April 26. North and South Carolina observe it on May 10, Louisiana on June 3 and Tennessee calls that date Confederate Decoration Day. Texas celebrates Confederate Heroes Day on Jan. 19 and Virginia calls the last Monday in May Confederate Memorial Day
The first Decoration Day, the 30th of May, 1868, was chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular Civil War battle.
The “National Moment of Remembrance” resolution passed in Dec. 2000 asks that at 3 p.m. local time, all Americans “Voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of Remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to ‘Taps.’”

Red poppies are known as a symbol of remembrance, and it's a tradition to wear them on Memorial Day to honor those who died in war.  

In 1915, inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields,” Moina Michael conceived the idea to wear red poppies on Memorial Day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war. She was the first to wear one and sold poppies to her friends and co-workers with the money going to benefit servicemen in need. (cj Sez: When I was little, we called it Poppy Day instead of Decoration Day, and I always had a red, paper poppy to wear.)

The casualties of each U.S. war: 
Civil War: Approximately 620,000 Americans died. The Union lost almost 365,000 troops and the Confederacy about 260,000. More than half of these deaths were caused by disease.

World War I: 116,516 Americans died, more than half from disease.

World War II: 405,399 Americans died.

Korean War: 36,574 Americans died.

Vietnam Conflict: 58,220 Americans died. More than 47,000 Americans were killed in action and nearly 11,000 died of other causes.

Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm: 148 U.S. battle deaths and 145 non-battle deaths.

Operation Iraqi Freedom: 4,422 U.S. service members died.

Operation New Dawn: 66 U.S. service members died.

Operation Enduring Freedom: 2,318 U.S. service members have died as of May 12, 2014.

cj Sez: I am in awe of their sacrifice, and it is with profound respect that I humbly say thank you to the families that America's fallen heroes left behind.  May God Bless.


DEADLY STAR (Publisher: Crimson Romance)   (B&  (

Composite Photo Credit: Jeff D. Johnston
*Data from multiple on-line sources.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The All-Important First Page

cj Sez:  Many writers’ conferences offer writers opportunities to pitch their stories to agents or editors. Pre-conference submissions of a chapter or a few pages for consideration is also popular. One conference I know of offered attendees a chance to have the first page of their manuscripts reviewed by three publishers. (I’m sure other conferences have done something similar.) The idea was to critique one page and then give the writer an idea of how successful the manuscript might be in getting a request to see more pages.

The 'toon is from my Facebook page.
The publishers stopped reading some of the submissions before finishing the page.

The submissions ranged from fiction to non-fiction and adult to YA, but the rejected pages seemed to have similar problems. The judges identified four blatant writing miscues that caused them to stop reading:

1.      The story’s opening paragraphs failed to establish where the story was taking place, the time, and the setting.

2.      The beginning was too slow. Too many details, too much description, too much backstory, or too many charactersand all of that on the first pagecaused the judges to lose interest. The opening paragraphs also lacked action or a hook to entice the readers to continue to read.

3.      The writer didn’t establish a clear point of view. She/he headhopped or mixed first or third person with omniscient points of view.

4.      Mechanical errors earned a speedy rejection. What are mechanical errors? They are the typos, punctuation errors (a lot of them involving dialogue), and unclear syntax that can destroy a good story.   

What agents or publishers see in the first few paragraphs of a manuscript is what they expect to see throughout each scene and chapter. That makes for an acceptance or early rejection.
If you re-read the paragraphs of your manuscript, would you see any of these miscues?

Lyrical Pens would love to hear how you construct a first page. Do you re-write yours? I usually re-write mine many times as I work through a manuscript.

Love this Chicken 'Toon from Facebook
   Okay, you-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try
   to do the same.

   DEADLY STAR (Publisher: Crimson Romance)   (B&  (
   PS: I intend to use the list to analyze a short story
   I’ve just started, to make sure I stay on target.

Friday, May 15, 2015


cj Sez:  

Today (May 15) is Global Awareness Day for Tuberous Sclerosis. In connection with the event, author (and friend) Jennifer Lawler is doing a fundraiser for the Tuberous Sclerosis in honor of her beautiful daughter, Jessica, who suffers from the disease.

The TS Alliance does terrific work in supporting research into this disease and in supporting families of people with it.

Today only, one of Jennifer's publishers (Crimson Romance) has lowered the price of all her romances to just 99 cents for the Kindle edition. This is a steal of a price, plus all royalties earned today will go to the TSA.

If you've never read any of her romances, now's the time to pick one and give it a try. If you're already a fan, now's the time to stock up on the ones you haven't read yet!

Clicking on any of Jennifer's Crimson Romance covers on this page [] will bring you right to the Amazon link where you can purchase the book.

And thank you.


PS:  For more information on the evil effects of Tuberous Sclerosis, check out the Alliance website at

PPS:  Today is the last day to enter the Summer of Love Book Giveaway. For a chance to win 16 romance novels (including my DEADLY STAR), enter at  Good Luck!

Sunday, May 10, 2015


ALERT, ALERT:  The Summer of Love romance novel contest ends on May 15, and there will be more than one winner. In the meantime, special prizes are being given away almost daily. Check out how to enter for the next prize at 

cj Sez:  Did you ever open a book, read a few chapters (or even a few lines), and then put it down because of errata, i.e.; those typos, misspellings, and factual errors that drive a pedantic like me crazy. One or two will make me shake my head and pause; a lot of them will stop me in my tracks.

I used to find that indie books were the worst. They tended to be poorly edited if not poorly written. Now, I’m finding errors in books by established authors and big publishing houses who should know better. Perhaps it comes down to the time it takes to do a detailed copy edit vs. getting the book on the market.

The problem with self-published books is that they are so often done on a shoestring (cost-wise) that the author cannot afford to pay for a copy editor. Unfortunately, I’ve come across some writers who simply don’t want to go through the process.

(From my author Facebook page)
Speaking from experience, self-edits and beta readers do not, will not, and cannot catch everything that a professional copy editor will. When I was gainfully employed, one of my report/column-writing rules was to get as many people as possible to read the document . . . the more eyes on it the better the end product. That wasn’t easy to do when I was on deadline, and my work wasn’t on the top of someone else’s to-do list. But the effort was so worth it.

The same thing is true about an author’s manuscript. I, me, personally, want my manuscript to be the best I can make it. I read the document on the computer screen, and then I print a few pages. Because the text looks different when printed, I’ll spot the missing comma, period, or quotation mark that was missed on numerous computer-screen read-throughs. Sometimes, I make a copy of the printed page. Copying changes the size and look of the font once again, and I will (too often) find something else to correct.

My advice: Don’t presume that because you’ve typed “The End,” your manuscript is finished. It’s probably months away from being ready for publication. It needs fresh eyes. It’s a personal and financial consideration for each author, but please consider hiring a copy editor if you can afford it. Caveat: Expect that if your manuscript is accepted by a publisher, their punctuation rules for how they want their publication to look may differ from your copy editor’s input, and there could be more changes to be made.

Got any horror or triumphant stories to share? Send them along. Lyrical Pens would love to read them.

 You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.


Saturday, May 2, 2015

Call for Submissions and Miscellaneous Musings

Looking for a publisher for your unpublished romance story? Digital-first publisher Crimson Romance is open for submissions. The following is from their website at :

While your work can include other genre elements, Crimson Romances must focus first and foremost on a hero and heroine’s emotional journey together towards love. Romances, by nature, must be between consenting adults and have a happily-ever-after or at least happy-for-now ending
They’re also interested short romance stories for their Subverted Fairy Tale Anthology: According to the editor, their submission call for 10,000- to 30,000-word romances based on classic fairy tales but subverted in fun, fresh, original ways remains open until June 1. See their submission page for more info.

cj Sez: I’m still mulling potential titles for my finished novel, and that keeps me un-focused on my current work. I sat down at the computer about 4:30 this afternoon. It is now 8:00, and I have mopped the kitchen floor, baked a pound cake, washed dishes, and created two new paragraphs and five new lines of dialogue for my lady detective. They must be important lines because I’ve polished them at least a few times.

Of course, I’m also having to fend off a half-inch-long mosquito that sneaked into the house when I went out to feed the cats. The spring hatches of black and white, Asian tiger mosquitos are very aggressive biters. The insect is described as being a quarter-inch long. Not the blood-thirsty little devils in my yard. . . . Got her!   

Time to go drizzle a glaze on the cake, and then I’ll get back to the story. I promise.

Okay, you-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.

PS: The Summer of Love romance novel contest ends on May 15, but in the meantime, special prizes are being given away almost daily. Check out how to enter for the next prize at  Maybe it'll be my romantic suspense, DEADLY STAR.

PPS: The 'toon is a favorite from my Facebook pages.