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

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Guest C. Hope Clark talks about the importance of networking

cj Sez: I am excited to welcome C. Hope Clark to Lyrical Pens. Hope authors the well-respected Funds For Writers. (The site has been on Writer's Digest's “101 Best Websites for Writers” list every year since 2000. Yowza!) Today Hope shares her thoughts on why writers should network…and “the magic that happens in a face-to-face.” 

You Are Not Alone . . . and Shouldn’t Be
By C. Hope Clark

Writing is a profession of isolationism. If we didn't have internet, we'd be recluses of the highest order. Or would we? 

Writing takes considerable alone time, but without the internet we would be out amongst the masses, getting ideas, discussing concepts because, after all, we can’t know it all. Add to that connecting with agents, publishers, editors and the public in general. In years past, writers made a point of meeting other writers, and coming into New York to dine with editors. Agents were life-long friends. Hemingway often socialized with Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, Sylvia Beach, James Joyce, Max Eastman, and he was acquainted with the painters Miro and Picasso. He appreciated rubbing elbows with other creators, even if in many circles he was considered their superior. Back in those days they propelled, endorsed, and gossiped about each other, making for great news . . . and sales.

Paris...1920s networking
Networking is critical in any profession. While we need the alone time to create, we need feedback on our quality. We need professionals in the other aspects of writing and publishing to guide us. We need to see how those ahead of us got there. Regardless of how independent we think we are in your publishing, which self-publishing has allowed us to be, we still find ourselves needing the knowledge of successful indie authors, graphic designers, formatters, and the people at CreateSpace, IngramSparks, Draft2Digital and other self-publishing resources.

We cannot know it all.

Then there’s the magic that happens in a face-to-face. Meeting people in person comes with its own rewards that are more unobtainable online. Professional organizations, Yahoogroups, critique groups, and conferences make you walk in as a writer and see how you measure up. While that scares introverted types, rarely do we walk away from those experiences without knowledge we would not have achieved otherwise.

Online, we learn what we query, but sometimes we aren’t certain which questions to ask. We search and search, hoping we are hitting the nail on the head, but then nobody is there to tell us whether we did.

In person, we can achieve so much more. For instance:

Sitting in a conference, we hear the best-of-the-best talk about how they achieved their success with anecdotes we might not find in a blog post or magazine interview.

Sitting in a conference class, we hear how-tos and examples, but then hands shoot up. We hear questions we hadn’t thought to ask, which makes us think of additional questions, and we find our own hand rising.

Seated in a room, we grow weary of the silence so we introduce ourselves to the people on either side of us, or across the table. The conversation leads to promotion tactics and publishing preferences, and soon you’re meeting them after class or following them to the lobby, excitedly sharing comparison.

We share business cards and email addresses in person, the eye contact visceral because they have connections . . . or you have connections they want, and in exchange they are willing to make introductions for you, barter editing each other’s book, or promote each other.

We sit next to a writer who has won awards, and we learn how that works. We enter a presentation of panel of authors who’ve made six figure incomes from their talent, and we are able to ask detailed questions as to how those journeys took place.

We sit in a class, hearing the lecture, but that’s not what’s important. The charisma, the passion, the excited enthusiasm of the speaker makes you listen keener and raises your own excitement. This person has done something with their writing, and they are who you’d like to be. You want that feeling. 

However, many authors avoid conferences because of the cost. There are ways to diminish that expense.
Share a motel room with someone.
Watch for conferences closer to home, or close to relatives you need to visit.
Volunteer to work the conference in exchange for the fee.
Apply for scholarships. Some conferences have them but do not advertise them. Ask.
Apply to your state arts commission seeking financial assistance.
Ask your writing group to sponsor you, with you bringing back handouts and lesson plans that you in turn will teach them.

Or you could apply to writing retreats, many of which have scholarships and financial aid. They may not have speakers, but they often have other writers on site whom you can still share experiences and knowledge with.

Or you can join professional organizations like Romance Writers of America or Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators and learn from those local chapters or attend their one-day conferences held around the country. That cost is minimal.

Regardless how you network, find ways to step outside yourself and learn from others. If I had not attended a Sisters in Crime chapter one Saturday, I would not have heard about libraries needing writers to teach. From there I landed a contracted gig enabling me to get paid for speaking in three dozen appearances across my state. From there, I was chosen for the SC Humanities Speakers Roster, opening up more doors.

None of this was on my to-do list for the year, but I was willing to make the adjustment. The grant was not on the internet. The roster was on the web, but I didn’t know about it until getting involved with this grant.

       Networking opens doors. Face-to-face exchanges can create ideas and connections found no other way. You cannot answer all your problems yourself. We do not operate in a vacuum. The maxim that it’s better to have more than one set of eyes carries merit.

Conference and retreat references:

C. Hope Clark is founder of, a resource of grants, crowdfunding, agents, publishers, and markets with calls for submissions. Her newsletter reaches 35,000 writers. She is also author of six mysteries in two award-winning series, with the latest being Echoes of Edisto released August 2016. /

cj Sez: Thanks, Hope. This is great. Guess I need to do more thinking outside my little box and getting outside of my comfort zone. And best wishes for great sales and marvelous reviews on your new release, Echoes of Edisto.

Readers: Got a thought to share or a question?  The comment section is open and waiting for you.

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

Choosing Carter  -- Kindle  /  Nook  /  Kobo   /  iTunes/iBook
Deadly Star --  Kindle  / Nook  / Kobo
Amazon Central Author Page:

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Time to check the progress on my goals

cj Sez:  My goals for 2016 included critique group meetings, speaking at writers’ groups, attending a conference or two, and entering contests.

I also wanted to outline/plot that young adult fantasy I’ve been mulling over, complete the first book in a detective series, and rewrite/change a western love story into a western romantic suspense. Several months into these projects, the dust is settling around me, and I wonder how much of this ambitious schedule is wishful thinking. So I decided to break down the schedule and track my progress or lack thereof.

Our critique group has been able to meet once with a promise to meet again. I have, however, infringed on their computers by sending them pages of my newly completed short story … that would be the western romantic suspense. (More about that later.) Goal kind of achieved.

The Pensters Group, a gathering of writers who meet in Fairhope, AL, invited me to speak to the group on September 10. Looking forward to that. Goal achieved…almost.

The first conference I attended this year was the Alabama Writers Conclave in Birmingham, AL, in July. Now, I’m registered to attend Bouchercon in New Orleans in Sept.  Goal achieved.

I entered the first twenty pages of my unpublished, uncontracted, unagented, and heretofore unfinished detective story in a contest: The 2016 Freddie Award for Writing Excellence (FAWE), sponsored by the Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America (FMWA). I have from now until December 31 to finish the manuscript. Goal achieved (because I entered).

I really like the protagonist in the detective story that I hope to turn into a series. There is a neat supporting cast as well. Jannecka Konner—“My name is pronounced Yahn-ekah, but my friends call me Jake.”—is a Yankee transplanted to the deep South. (Sounds a lot like me.) She is learning her way around Mobile, Alabama, at the same time she’s launching a career as a private detective. There’s the suspicion of infidelity, a murder with an unexpected twist, and a young boy in danger of being sucked into the foster care system. Jake’s sassy repartee with the lawyer who wants to be her lover is fun to write.

The also-unfinished young adult fantasy has been moved to a further-back back burner. I can’t seem to make myself want to study the genre yet. I do have it in my mind to return to this manuscript once I get the detective manuscript completed. (That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.) Goal missed.

The western romantic suspense short story is historical fiction, one of those complicated mixes of true, not-so-true, and outright lies. It’s out for a beta read right now. I’m excited about this story and hope I’ve hit all the right buttons. If it gets a beta-reader seal of approval, I will submit it for consideration to a publisher planning a western anthology. If it fails the test, I'll have another go at it. Here’s the story’s current tag line (I say current, because it’ll surely be changed again):

Men are murdered, an innocent man is accused of the crime, outlaws are shot down in the streets, a girl becomes a woman:  A romantic suspense torn from the pages of West Texas history.

What do you think? Would that invite you to open the book and read the first page?

Be sure to stop by Wednesday when Lyrical Pens welcomes C. Hope Clark as the featured blogger. Hope authors the well-respected Funds For Writers. (The site has been on Writer's Digest's “101 Best Websites for Writers” list every year since 2000.)

Okay, you-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same. And remember, flood-ravaged Louisiana needs your help and your prayers.

Choosing Carter  -- Kindle  /  Nook  /  Kobo   /  iTunes/iBook
Deadly Star --  Kindle  / Nook  / Kobo

Amazon Central Author Page:

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Guest Jim Jackson delves into the Author's Toolbox

cj Sez:  Lyrical Pens is honored to have Jim Jackson as the guest blogger today. Jim is president of the 600+ member Guppy organization, a chapter of the international Sisters in Crime writers group. (Disclaimer: I’m a rabid fan and avid-lurking member of both groups.) Today Jim offers up some neat ideas on how to polish a manuscript to perfection.

Author’s Toolbox: The Auditory Read Through

Every author develops a toolkit containing writing skills and techniques, preferred software and hardware, and proven processes to develop a polished manuscript. I’d like to suggest authors add the Auditory Read Through to their stockpile of available tools.

If you are like most modern authors, you compose your first draft using a word-processing program, which means you first see your words on a screen. You may rewrite your manuscript using a screen to display your text, or you may print out a copy of your manuscript, make handwritten corrections and then convert those back to an electronic form.

Many authors have learned that they find different problems when they view their manuscript on the screen compared to what they find when using a hard copy. I suggest that you will also discover different issues when you read your manuscript out loud.

Even if on previous read-throughs you silently sounded things out in your head, you did not fully utilize your sense of hearing. Before the written word, stories were spoken, and you should listen to yours to discover a few last issues you may have missed.

My approach to the Auditory Read Through
I print out the manuscript single-spaced applying the same font, type size, lines per page and page size as the publisher will use. As I read, I’ll see, for example, a long paragraph that needs splitting or dialogue that runs unbroken for two pages. [I am not worrying about exact layout, orphan lines, where words break on a line, or anything like that.] 
What am I listening for? Anything that doesn’t sound right on a sentence-by-sentence basis, as well as considering a paragraph or page as a whole. Whenever I stumble or trip over a word, there is a good chance I need to rewrite something. This gives me the opportunity to straighten convoluted sentences and exchange flabby diction with precise wording. Often on the read-through I'll discover I used a word several times
within a short span. I never saw the multiple uses on screen or page, but my ear picks it up.

I pay particular attention to adverbs: are they covering for a flabby verb? Make sure every adverb is necessary. As an example, consider the line, “She quickly walked to the sidewalk.” With the multitude of verbs available to describe exactly how she moved to the sidewalk, this sentence employs a lazy approximation for what the reader should visualize as they read.

Where I used multiple adjectives, can I replace them with one perfect descriptor?
Have I noun-ized verbs (xxxxx-ness) or verbed nouns (xxxxx-ize).
Are my verbs ending with “ing” appropriate?
Have I fallen into a repetitive pattern? Do too many sentences share the same form? Are sentences all the same length?

You can do as I do, printing out the manuscript and reading it aloud to yourself, or you can use software that reads the words to you. I’ve tried both and they both work well. Using software has the added advantage that you use only your ears, since you aren’t the one reading. Plus, it can be entertaining when the software butchers a word it doesn’t know.

Some people record themselves reading their manuscript out loud. While they are reading, they muzzle the internal editor. Once they start the playback, they are truly listening (since they are not also reading). I haven’t used this technique, but it is intriguing, although it seems like extra work—but folks swear by it, and I may try it sometime.

I find the best time in my manuscript creation process for the Auditory Read Through is once I think the manuscript is ready for a final nit check. You may want to wait until you believe you have polished the manuscript to perfection. Others may find it’s useful much earlier in their process.

If you’ve tried the technique, how did you think it worked for you? If you haven’t performed an Auditory Read Through, do you think you might?

James M. Jackson authors the Seamus McCree mystery series. ANT FARM, BAD POLICY, CABIN FEVER, and DOUBTFUL RELATIONS. Jim also published an acclaimed book on contract bridge, ONE TRICK AT A TIME: How to start winning at bridge, as well as numerous short stories and essays. He is the president of the 600-member Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime. He splits his time between the deep woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and the open spaces of Georgia’s Lowcountry.

You can find more information about Jim (including social media links) and his writing (including purchase links) at his website

cj Sez: I loved this post, Jim. It’s spot-on for how to uncover the weaknesses—and strengths—in manuscripts. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to stop by…and congrats to the whole Guppy group on their anthology, Fish or Cut Bait, A Guppy Anthology, being nominated by Killer Nashville for a 2016 Silver Falchion Award. Lots of good stories in there (readers can check it out on Amazon.) 

Jim's latest book, Doubtful Relations, is hot off the presses, having launched yesterday!  Be sure to 
check it out as well.

Okay, you-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same, but please take a moment to share your thoughts or questions in the comments below.  

Choosing Carter  -- Kindle  /  Nook  /  Kobo   /  iTunes/iBook
Deadly Star --  Kindle  / Nook  / Kobo
Amazon Central Author Page:

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The quest for writing discipline

cj Sez: While my writing discipline is pretty much non-existent, Elmore Leonard’s writing process was admirably consistent.

Writing well into his 80s, Leonard's writing process remained the same. He settled in at his home office in Bloomfield Township, Michigan, around 10 a.m. behind a desk covered with stacks of paper and books. He lit a cigarette, took a drag and set about to writing — longhand, of course — on the 63-page unlined yellow pads that were custom-made for him.

When he finished a page, Leonard transferred the words onto a separate piece of paper using an electric typewriter. He tried to complete between three and five pages by the time his workday ended at 6 p.m.

'Well, you've got to put in the time if you want to write a book,' Leonard told The Associated Press in 2010. 

(Excerpted from an August 20, 2013, article by the United Kingdom’s Daily Mail.on Elmore Leonard’s passing. Read more:

The problem for me is, once I’ve written the story, it’s nigh unto impossible for me to go back and change it. I don’t mean edit it, I mean really modify it. And now I have a short/short story (about 4,100 words) that I want to expand to between 8,000 and 12,000 words. The task is brought on by a desire to submit the finished product for consideration in an anthology.

It used to be, when I was B.R. (Before Retirement), that I worked better when I had a short-term deadline. That said, I thought if I gave myself a deadline, I’d have the incentive to keep going. Found out that’s not true. I have managed to bury that deadline under procrastination that I call “research.” Of course, research is necessary for accuracy, but it's those side forays into historical rabbit holes that do me in. 

However, I’m not giving up. Yesterday, I polished off a couple of paragraphs, added a few more, and last night I made a note or two when I went to bed. I get a lot of good ideas just before or just after I fall asleep so I keep a note pad and a pen right next to the bed. Sundays are for family and etc., so I won’t be sitting in front of the computer for very long. But Monday? Monday, I’ll get right back at it.

I suppose some of you might call that procrastinating. Nope, I’m calling it, Delayed Discipline.

That’s all for now, but how about you? When do you get your best ideas? Let me know how you conquer the blank page in front of you. I need all the help I can get.

Just a reminder: Choosing Carter is among the novels in the More than Friends bundle that publisher
Crimson Romance has slated for release on September 15.

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

Choosing Carter  -- Kindle  /  Nook  /  Kobo   /  iTunes/iBook
Deadly Star --  Kindle  / Nook  / Kobo

Amazon Central Author Page:

Sunday, August 14, 2016

How long should a manuscript be?

cj Sez: I’ve written on this subject before, but I think it bears repeating every now and then. Every author begins their literary careers hearing that writing has “rules” to follow. 

The rules that kept (and keep) hammering away at me were show don’t tell, use active voice, be sparse in writing dialect and also with adverbs and gerunds (those ly and ing words), no more than two exclamation points in the whole story, pay attention to the word count, and on and on. I think we all recognize that rules are made to be broken and are revised as trends and tastes change. We’ve also heard writers point out the exceptions to the rules. The thing is, unless you’re a Stephen King, a James Patterson, or a J.K. Rowling, you can’t count on being the exception. And trying to be the exception to a rule can end in failure, especially for newbies. I read somewhere that for every successful exception to a rule, there are at least 100 or more failures.

I have a friend who told me she had a manuscript in excess of 200,000 words that she wanted to submit to an agent. That got my attention. As a former corporate journalist/report writer, I tend to very tight writing. Too tight, editors have told me, so I’m obviously not an exception to the rules. If that were not so, perhaps I would have seventy novels under my belt as one of my other friends does. (In my dreams.) I love to write suspense and mysteries, and after a recent editor review, I was interested in what agents/publishers were looking for in manuscript length for a paperback or hardcover book (eBooks can be very different). Then I thought, why not research the generally acceptable word counts for different genres? Briefly, this is what I found:

Between 80,000 and 89,999 words is probably what you should be aiming for in literary, mainstream, women’s, romance, mystery, suspense, thriller and horror novels. Below 80,000 might be considered too short for everything except chick lit books which tend to be in the 70-75,000 range. On the top side,100,000 is said to be okay, but passing that level would make it an expensive book to publish—something a lot of publishers are averse to now.

What I found with regard to the high word count of my friend is the opinion that she may need to do more editing; or perhaps, she’s writing the start of a series, and this is her way of achieving continuity.

Because of all the world-building and descriptions inherent in good science fiction and fantasy stories, these novels tend to run longer, into the 100,000 to 115,000 range.

Middle grade word counts vary between 20,000 to 55,000, depending on the subject matter and age. With books aimed at 12-year olds (upper middle grade) I saw a range of 40,000 to 55,000 words. On the lower end of middle grade, the suggested range was 20,000 to 35,000 words.

The word count for YA can easily run between 55,000 to under 70,000, unless it’s YA sci-fi or fantasy where, like adult sci-fi/fiction, the word count is understandably larger.
These are usually expected to be one line per page for 32 pages, so 500-600 words is a good target.

Westerns, which are often exciting short reads, can be anywhere from 50,000 to 80,000 words.

The word count for memoirs is the same as for novels, so a number of 80,000 to under 90,000 is recommended. Unfortunately, memoirists are notorious for writing long because they feel they have to write exactly what really happened. This genre definitely requires a good editor to keep the manuscript under the six-figure length (100,000) that scares off agents.

Where does your manuscript stand when it comes to the word count rule for your genre? I plan to work my way up to smack-dab in the middle of the preferred count. Maybe I’ll have a better shot at agent/publisher acceptance if I’m not hoping to be an exception to the rule.

Another blog heads-up:  Susan Spann has written another great post, this one on “Understanding eBook rights.” Here’s an excerpt:      

“Whether you publish traditionally or as an author-publisher, it’s critical to understand the rights you own—and the ones you give away (even temporarily) by contract. Otherwise, it’s impossible to tell if you’re getting an excellent deal, an industry-standard arrangement, or an offer you should walk (or run) away from.”

Drop by Writers in the Storm to read more:

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

Choosing Carter  -- Kindle  /  Nook  /  Kobo   /  iTunes/iBook
Deadly Star --  Kindle  / Nook  / Kobo

Amazon Central Author Page:

Sunday, August 7, 2016

What invites you to pick up a book?

cj Sez: As an author and reader, the first thing that catches my eye when I’m looking for a book to buy/read is the cover. It will be someone or something I can relate to in a personal way. 

Then I check out the back-of-the-book blurb that gives me a snippet of what the book is about. If my interest is still piqued, I read a couple of first pages then read a couple of pages in the middle of the book. (I check the middle to see if the excitement I found at the beginning sags. No one likes a saggy middle.) Like every reader I know, I do this many, many times before I make a final selection.  

When you’re in a bookstore or library, what piques your interest in a book?

I tend to like stories with great dialogue and character narratives. Robert B. Parker, James Lee Burke, and Elmore Leonard are some of my favorite authors. They produce great story content and write wonderful repartee. I want to get most of the story’s sense of place, characterization, emotion, and plot from the action and the dialogue (see the Burke meme). 
 I also appreciate humor, even in some of
the dark scenes.

   What is your preference . . . lots of delicious  narrative or sassy and deep point-of-view  dialogue?

  Follow-up question:  Who are your favorite  authors? What about their writing appeals to  you?

 Exciting ups and downs, i.e., conflicts, must  always be in the story to hold my attention, but I’m not interested in grabbing for tissues. I don’t want to cringe at something a character says or does, even if it really does happen in real life. I believe I have enough grief going on in my life, and don’t want to cry while reading. I’m drawn to strong heroines and hunky heroes…they don’t have to be young, wild, and good-looking, but they do have to be likable. (And for me, the villain has to be villainous, even if there’s a hint of sympathy for him.) I want the heroine/hero to win and the story to end with a promise of something positive for the good guys. That’s the story arc I want to see.

What keeps you reading? Obviously, plot and content of any good book are de rigueur, but when those two requirements are met: Is it a strong, smart heroine, an equally smart and incredibly attentive hero, or a perfect ensemble of characters? 
From Facebook

Okay, that’s it for today. There’s a storm coming in, and I need to get this posted and the computer shut down. Last month, a lightning strike in a neighbor's yard blew out my son’s computer monitor. Can't afford another right now, so I'm gone. You-all guys, keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.

Choosing Carter  -- Kindle  /  Nook  /  Kobo   /  iTunes/iBook

Deadly Star --  Kindle  / Nook  / Kobo

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Blatant Self-Promotion: CHOOSING CARTER to be bundled

cj Sez:   Choosing Carter is one of six—count them, six—contemporary romance novels being repackaged by publisher Crimson Romance into one primo bundle titled More Than Friends.

The six-book bundle is currently scheduled to be available September 19 at all Crimson Romance outlets for the low, low price of 99 cents.   

Wow!  99 cents for Choosing Carter and five more contemporary romance novels . . . SUCH A DEAL!  (I think I just used up my allotted number of exclamation points.)

Watch for it … September 19 … but, of course, I will remind you.

I’m currently refreshing a previously published short story (yes, I have the rights), getting it ready to submit to another anthology.  The 2016 Alabama Writers Conclave conference has inspired me. My task is to up the word count on the old story from 4100 to between 8,000 and 12,000 and get it done before September 15. I don't think there will be more characters, but I will surely need a lot more action and mystery in it. I think I can; I think I can; I think I can. Wish me luck?

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

Choosing Carter  -- Kindle  /  Nook  /  Kobo   /  iTunes/iBook
Deadly Star --  Kindle  / Nook  / Kobo