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, November 30, 2016

Trouble rewriting? Guest author Kristina Stanley has an app for that

cj Sez:  Today’s guest post is by author Kristina Stanley who asks “Do you need help rewriting your first draft?” She’s got some tips and a new app to help. Take it away, Kristina:   

Whether you’re a plotter or a panster, you’ve completed a first draft. Congratulations!
Now what? If you’re anything like me, you’re asking yourself:
                * Where do I start my manuscript rewrite? 
               * How do I keep track of all the writing tips I’ve read and apply them to my story?
       What should I change to make my story better?
       Am I ready to share my manuscript with others?

Wouldn’t it be nice to have an app that would help you through the rewriting process?

But First: What is Rewriting?
A comprehensive rewrite is the first step in the self-editing process. I’m not talking about copyediting or proofreading. You can do that after you’ve completed your rewrite.

Rewriting your first draft means analyzing your story from a high-level perspective and fixing any weak areas. You want to make sure that the story structure makes sense, the scenes are tense, there are no plot holes, and you haven’t left any subplots unfinished.

During the rewrite, you also take a hard look at your characters. How often do they appear? What are their goals? What gets in the way of their goals?  Characters will drive the tension in your story, and tension is what keeps a reader reading.

Finally, the rewrite should examine your settings. Do you make the most of your settings? How often do you use the same setting, and is it too often? Do your settings help with the tone of your scenes? Settings are key to keeping your reader engaged, so don't ignore them.

How can we help you?
We’re building Feedback, an app for writers that provides a guided approach to tackling comprehensive rewrites.

With Feedback, you can focus on plot, character, and setting. You can evaluate on a scene-by-scene basis or on overall novel structure. Feedback will show you the most important structural elements to work on first.

Feedback will guide you through the rewriting process by asking you questions specific to your manuscript, enabling you to evaluate your own story.

Once you import your manuscript, Feedback automatically captures information such as word count, number of scenes per chapter, character names, and chapter and scene breaks, using this information to create the first set of reports. Any updates to your manuscript will still need to be completed in the writing app you used to create your first draft.

Feedback helps you visualize your manuscript. Forget about yellow stickies or white boards. Feedback will draw character arcs, provide reports on scene evaluation, and show your rewriting progress.

Feedback is a learning tool. If you’re having trouble with a certain element of fiction, just click on the rewrite tip associated with that element and find out how to improve your writing. There’s no need to search through dozens of writing books to find the piece of advice you need.

On the technical side, Feedback will be a secure, web-based app. This means you will be able to access Feedback from any device you use.

Find out more:
Our goal is to launch Feedback in the spring of 2017. In order to create an app that is valuable to writers, we’d like your input on building Feedback. Sign upand we’ll send you updates on the development progress and ask you the occasional question to help define the product. As a bonus, we’ll send you rewriting tips available only to our subscribers.

Are you as excited about Feedback as we are? Show your support by helping us spread the word and share this post. You can find us at  

Your support means a lot to us, so thank you!

Kristina Stanley is the best-selling author of the Stone Mountain Mystery Series. Her first two novels garnered the attention of prestigious crime writing organizations in Canada and England. Crime Writers of Canada nominated DESCENT (Imajin Books, July 2015) for the Unhanged Arthur award. The Crime Writers’ Association nominated BLAZE (Imajin Books, Oct 2015) for the Debut Dagger. Imajin Books published her third novel in the series, AVALANCHE, in June 2016.

Her short stories have been published in the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and The Voices From the Valleys anthology. She is the author of THE AUTHOR’S GUIDE TO SELLING BOOKS TO NON-BOOKSTORES.

As the co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Feedback Innovations, a company started to help writers rewrite better fiction, she made up her own job title because she thought it sounded cool!

Find out more about her and Feedback at

cj Sez: Thanks so much for stopping by, Kristina, and best wishes for great response to your new app. Okay, you-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.

PS:  Don’t forget about that great gift idea…the Amazon sale on More Than Friends …99 cents for 6 romance novels! Click on this URL to order:
Amazon Central Author Page:
Choosing Carter  -- Kindle  /  Nook  /  Kobo   /  iTunes/iBook
Deadly Star --  Kindle  / Nook  / Kobo

Sunday, November 27, 2016

A bit of show don't tell

cj Sez: Time for a couple of show-don’t-tell examples, and these are wonderfully wrought by a master. Take note of the beautiful switch from passive voice to action that carries the reader along with the story.

Tell: The house had a huge and beautiful front yard.

Show:  “The lawn started at the beach and ran toward the front door for a quarter of a mile, jumping over sun-dials and brick walks and burning gardens—finally when it reached the house drifting up the side in bright vines as through from the momentum of its run.”

(Can’t you just see that yard?)

Tell: The windows were open when I entered the room, the curtains flapping in a strong breeze that rattled the ornate picture frame on the wall.

Show:  “I must have stood for a few moments listening to the whip and snap of the curtains and the groan of a picture on the wall.”  

(You know from the whip and snap of the curtains that there is a sharp breeze coming through open windows.)

                        (Quotations from THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald.)

Do these two simple examples give you any ideas for your story? If you changed something, let me know how you did it, won’t you?

Now a word from our sponsor:  
In the six romantic stories that Crimson Romance bundled into a collection called More Than Friends, BFFs discover there's more to friendship than a few pats on the back and lending a shoulder to cry on when things get rough. Following is a blurb from one of the novels:

Sweet Texas Kiss: Gavin Cooper can't wrap his mind around why country music superstar Macy Young would end up inheriting his family home. Seeing his childhood memories handed over to the first woman to break his heart strings. Luckily, Macy can't sell the house for one year - plenty of time for him to find a way to get it back. Can a country star and a country veterinarian find a way to bury their animosity and rediscover their first love in the process?

The Amazon site says the sensuality level for the bundle is sensual. Fair warning on the advertising, my Choosing Carter is not.  

The More Than Friends bundle = six novels = hours of reading for 99 cents!  (And today, the Kindle version is 73 cents! Now there’s a great stocking stuffer for some lucky reader. Be sure to click the URL that follows to find this package, because there’s more than one bundle with that same name.  

Stop back by Wednesday when Lyrical Pens hosts author Kristina Stanley who writes about a new app to help with rewrites.

Okay, you-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same. And if you’re closing in on the end of NaNoWriMo, KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK.

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

Amazon Central Author Page:

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Why "that" book?

cj Sez: I found the questions below at another blog and thought what a great idea. So, here are some questions for you authors and readers.  

What makes you want to buy a book – the cover or the blurb on the back of the book?

For me, it's both. As a reader the cover has to grab me, then the blurb has to make me want to know more about the story.

When you get into a story, what keeps you reading? Is it the bad boy hero or the tough, strong-willed woman or the cast of characters that help push the story forward?

Heroine or hero, I have to find a plot. I like to find humor and some quick repartee in even the darkest of moments. When my heroine is about to go where she’s shouldn’t go and has never been before, I want the scene to be scary, yet challenging but not convoluted. Does that make sense?.

What makes you like one author more than another?

I’m a wordsmith, but I’m not into graphorrhea*. That is, I love being enchanted by an author’s
voice…how s/he uses a few precise words and syntax to evoke some visualization and/or emotion in me.
                   *    graphorrhea \ı graf-ә- rē-ә \ n : mental disorder marked by the writing of a long succession of meaningless words.   “A novel of such great length and of so little worth could only have been written by someone caught in the grip of graphorrhea.”

If you’re into reading a series, when do you get tired of it…or do you?

I’m not usually a series reader because that requires I read the novels in a specific order.  That’s not to say I haven’t gotten caught up in a series. As long as the author keeps the story line and characters fresh, I haven’t had a problem reading a series. It’s when a series gets formulaic, the story line get stale, and the plot threads take the same direction over and over that I’m no longer interested in reading the next book.

Which brings me to reviews:  Do you take the time to write a review?

Constructive feedback is manna to writers who have spent hours, days, months, or years creating their story. Amazon, Facebook, Goodreads, etc., we watch these sites religiously because we want to know our strengths and our weaknesses . . . no trolls, please.

As an author, I look at the questions I've just explored and realize they are really questions I need to ask readers, because the answers would contain lessons I need to learn.

How about you? How would you answer these questions? So leave a comment, already.

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

HOLIDAY GIFT GIVING NOTE:  To make your holiday gifting $$ go further, set aside a buck (less than the cost of a cup of coffee or a glass of tea) and buy “More Than Friends,” a bundle of six novels offered by Crimson Romance on Amazon—my novel Choosing Carter is included. For 99 cents, you can buy hours and hours of reading enjoyment for yourself, a BFF, or a grab-bag party gift. Check it out at…
Amazon Central Author Page:
Choosing Carter  -- Kindle  /  Nook  /  Kobo   /  iTunes/iBook
Deadly Star --  Kindle  / Nook  / Kobo

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Natural events and supernatural stories

cj Sez:  Lovers and star gazers take note . . . Get ready for one enormous, astronomical show!
Tomorrow, November 14, 2016, you’ll be treated to the biggest supermoon in almost 70 years!

According to scientists, tomorrow’s supermoon will be the biggest so far of the 21st century, and we won't see another one like this until November 25th, 2034.

Supermoon status occurs when the lunar orb will be near or at its closest elliptical-orbit point to the Earth…its perigee. High tides are a little higher, male deer begin to grow velvety antler nubs (“Full Buck Moon” is what the Native Americans called a July supermoon), and, according to some, lunatics run loose on the streets and werewolves howl their loudest.

The word lunacy comes from the Latin “lunaticus,” meaning, in modern language, moonstruck. Everyone knows that when the moon is full, the crazies come out. Right? Not so says science of the myth that spawned werewolves

It was feared that those affected by lycanthropy would grow extra long canines and feast on human flesh when the moon was full. (I’ve read that younger werewolves can transform when the moon is only 80% full; older werewolves need a 100% full.)

The theme of lycanthropy as a disease or curse became an accepted cinematic and literary theme in the 1941 film, The Wolf Man (Lon Chaney starred) which contained the now-famous rhyme:
Even a man who is pure in heart
And says his prayers by night
May become a wolf
When the wolfbane blooms
And the autumn moon is bright.

Wikipedia says the most prominent werewolf in the Harry Potter novels is Remus Lupin, who's portrayed as struggling with his curse and terrified of infecting someone. The series also includes a werewolf villain, Fenrir Greyback, who fits more with the older image of werewolves. The Potter books, while showing the intense threat the humans transformed to bloodthirsty monsters pose to the population, essentially use werewolves as a metaphor for marginalized groups who have been discriminated against in modern society.

The myth of full moons and werewolves became so popular that, in 1985, a team of scientists did a study on the concept that a full moon (full harvest moon or full wolf moon, or full snow moon, or full buck moon, et. al) could affect human behavior as it does the tides. You can rest easy. No evidence of such an effect was forthcoming.

Really? What about Little Red Riding Hood?  And what about this:  

In 2005, scientist Dr. Colm Kelleher and reporter George Knapp published a book detailing a scientific investigation of a ranch in Northeastern Utah where paranormal activity was taking place (Hunt for the Skinwalker). Despite not finding enough hard evidence for “scientific” publication, among the more than 100 incidents they described were large animals with piercing red eyes that they say were not injured when struck by bullets.

Other researchers tie the wolf creatures to ancient Navajo witchcraft practices. Many of the Navajo call these tribal witches Skinwalkers. Sightings of these creatures persist throughout the Navajo Nation, although few are willing to talk about it.

So why do we blame the full moon for strange happenings? Probably because we’re expecting the correlation, and we can point to that full moon for confirmation. All you have to do is take one look at the sky on November 14th, and you'll understand what all the fuss is about.

Okay, now that’s settled, You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same. By the way, you can sleep tight. Werewolves don’t exist…do they?

HOLIDAY GIFT GIVING NOTE:  To make your holiday gifting $$ go further, set aside a buck (less than the cost of a cup of coffee or a glass of tea) and buy “More Than Friends,” a bundle of six novels offered by Crimson Romance on Amazon—my novel Choosing Carter is included. For 99 cents, you can buy hours and hours of reading enjoyment for yourself, a BFF, or a grab-bag party gift. Check it out at…
Amazon Central Author Page:
Choosing Carter  -- Kindle  /  Nook  /  Kobo   /  iTunes/iBook
Deadly Star --  Kindle  / Nook  / Kobo

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Editing out the gremlins

cj Sez: How many times have you edited your work, over and over again, only to find another mistake glaring at you from the pages of what you thought was your final edit? Today’s Lyrical Pens guest Judy Penz Sheluk posts her thoughts on the subject. She’s a bona fide, wage-earning editor, so be reassured that, yes, it happens to everybody. Read on:

Judy Says: In my day job, I’m the Senior Editor of New England Antiques Journal, so you’d think that I’d be able to find every single mistake in my own work. And the truth is, I do tend to write “clean,” at least when it comes to spelling, punctuation and grammar. I’m even okay with finding the spots where I’ve inexplicably changed my protagonist’s eyes from brown to green or the antagonist’s body type from slim to stout. But it’s what I like to call the “niggly” stuff that most authors, myself included, have the hardest time finding— not because we don’t want to, but because we’ve written multiple drafts, and read and reread our work so many times.

Here are some examples, found in my “final” draft of my new release, SKELETONS IN THE ATTIC (rest assured, these have been corrected!):

Misty Rivers, psychic to Callie Barnstable, protagonist: “I’ll leave you my card. Please call me if you find yourself needing any assistance, any assistance at all. And thank you for the tea and cookies.”
Editor: The tea was never poured. [Impressive catch]

Callie Barnstable to Royce Ashford, contractor/next-door neighbor/possible love interest: “I really like the way you knocked down that wall in your house.”
Editor: When was she in his house? [Answer: in a previous draft, but certainly not in this one]

Callie: I stopped my Garmin and closed my eyes, trying to remember standing there.
Editor: What’s a Garmin? [Answer: a GPS for running that shows pace/time/mileage etc. When you’re into a sport (I’m a runner), you assume everyone in the world knows the lingo. Bad assumption. I changed it to my GPS wristwatch.]

Does this mean that every single mistake is caught before publication? I wish I could say yes, but the reality is even after beta readers, professional editors, and proofreaders, the odd crazy thing happens. In Skeletons, there’s mention of a “t-shit.” Yes, somehow that slid past countless pairs of eyes and spell checks. It’s almost as if “t-shit” found its way in there on its own after everyone had done their job (something we in the industry like to call “gremlins.”) However, because of the cost and time involved, most publishers have a “rule” that there has to be a specific number (which can vary by publisher) of significant errors before the book is pulled and corrected.

Here’s an interesting blog by professional editor Arlene Prunkl that addresses this very subject:

Have you found errors in books before, and did they make you laugh, cry, care less or cringe?

What goes on behind closed doors doesn’t always stay there…

Calamity (Callie) Barnstable isn’t surprised to learn she’s the sole beneficiary of her late father’s estate, though she is shocked to discover she has inherited a house in the town of Marketville—a house she didn’t know existed. However, there are conditions attached to Callie’s inheritance: she must move to Marketville, live in the house, and solve her mother’s murder.

Callie’s not keen on dredging up a thirty-year-old mystery, but if she doesn’t do it, there’s a scheming psychic named Misty Rivers who is more than happy to expose the Barnstable family secrets. Determined to thwart Misty and fulfill her father’s wishes, Callie accepts the challenge. But is she ready to face the skeletons hidden in the attic?

   Leith Hampton placed the will in front of him, smoothing an invisible crease with a well-manicured hand, the nails showing evidence of a vigorous buffing. I wondered what kind of man went in for a mani-pedi—I was surmising on the pedi—and decided it was the kind of man who billed his services out for five hundred dollars an hour.
   He cleared his throat and stared at me with those intense blue eyes. “Are you sure you’re ready, Calamity? I know how close you were to your father.”
   I flinched at the Calamity. Folks called me Callie or they didn’t call me at all. Only my dad had been allowed to call me Calamity, and even then only when he was seriously annoyed with me, and never in public. It was a deal we’d made back in elementary school. Kids can be cruel enough without the added incentive of a name like Calamity.
As for being ready, I’d been ready for the past ninety-plus minutes. I’d been ready since I first got the call telling me my father had been involved in an unfortunate occupational accident. That’s how the detached voice on the other end of the phone had put it. An unfortunate occupational accident.
   I knew at some point I’d have to face the fact that my dad wasn’t coming back, that we’d never again argue over politics or share a laugh while watching an episode of The Big Bang Theory. Knew that one day I’d sit down and have a good long cry, but right now wasn’t the time, and this certainly wasn’t the place. I’d long ago learned to store my feelings into carefully constructed compartments. I leveled Leith with a dry-eyed stare and nodded.
   “I’m ready.”

Judy Penz Sheluk’s debut mystery novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose, was published in July 2015. Skeletons in the Attic, the first book in her Marketville Mystery Series, was published in August 2016.

Her short crime fiction appears in World Enough and Crime, The Whole She-Bang 2, Flash and Bang and Live Free or Tri. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Crime Writers of Canada, International Thriller Writers and the Short Mystery Fiction Society.

Find Judy on her website/blog at, where she interviews other authors and blogs about the writing life.

Find Skeletons in the Attic:

cj Sez: Gremlins are a special curse for me. I’ve usually got the manuscript open on the computer and correcting things as the pages roll out of the printer. Great excerpt from Skeletons in the Attic; sounds like a marvelous read. Best wishes for great sales and marvelous reviews…and thanks so much for the post. And readers, tell us about the gremlins that haunt you.

Okay, you-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same. I do want to pass along the good news that publisher Crimson Romance has included DEADLY STAR in their California Kisses bundle, slated to release on January 30. The bundle of TEN romance novels is priced at .99 cents and will remain on sale for a minimum of six months. Watch for it, and of course, I’ll be reminding you.

In the meantime . . . CHOOSING CARTER is part of a thoughtful and frugal holiday gift idea: More Than Friends”is a bundle of six novels offered by Crimson Romance on Amazon. For 99 cents, you can buy hours and hours of reading enjoyment for yourself, a BFF, or a grab-bag party gift. Check it out at…

Think of it . . . a purchase now, a purchase later, and you can own sixteen romance novels for about two bucks. Can we say, "Super bargain?"
Amazon Central Author Page:
Choosing Carter  -- Kindle  /  Nook  /  Kobo   /  iTunes/iBook
Deadly Star --  Kindle  / Nook  / Kobo