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, July 23, 2017

On-line trolls

cj Sez: A fellow writer was grieving and questioning what to do about a one-star review on Amazon that complained about something that wasn’t even in her novel. Obviously, the reviewer hadn’t read the book.

One- and two-star reviews can be devastating, both for future sales and on the author. Wherever there’s an opportunity to post a review, there will be trolls with low ratings—whether they’re warranted or not. I’ve seen reviews by people who purchased an item on Amazon then rated the product one star because they thought delivery took too long. Had nothing to do with the quality of the product.

So where am I going with all that? It’s to reinforce why comments and reviews need to be put in perspective. I go back to the bell curve example (the one I usually use for critiques). Don’t let the bottom naysayers persuade you that your work isn’t good. Hiding within the electronic wafers of the Internet are nameless, faceless, and wretched on-line trolls. (Whew! I feel better now.)

We can’t realistically expect all reviews to be five-stars (okay, we do, anyway). I admit to having desperate pangs when someone dings a story. Yes, it skews the “average,” but then I re-read the good reviews that I do have (some posted, some not) and calm down a bit. I remind myself that I cannot please every reader out there. Duh. That’s the reason there are a gazillion different stories in multiple genres for the gazillion different readers.

If you receive a poor review from an on-line troll, I suggest you consider the source, and please do not respond to the reviewer. That might dig a deeper, darker hole than you want to dive into. For a review like that mentioned in my first paragraph, perhaps a conversation with Amazon (if that’s where it is made) might get the unfair/unjustified review removed. Might. If you're like me, you'll tend to console yourself with a mood enlightening treat.
Banana cake ala mode (quasi healthy?)
Speaking of reviews . . . have you taken the time to give an on-line review for the latest book you read? You might be able to refute some troll.

I’m nearly finished reading my first YA “eco mystery” and have loved it. I sat in on the author’s workshop at the recent Alabama Writer’s Conclave and decided I wanted to see how Claire Datnow incorporated her research into a mystery that would appeal to kids. I don’t usually read YA, but I’ve found this one very well written. When I reach the end of “Operation Terrapin Rescue,” I’m going to find a place to review it.

Personal observation truism: People watching is next to Godliness and cleanliness for writers. It's the reason I can't go to a library or a park or a coffee shop to write. All I do is people watch.

That’s it for this post. You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.

NOW ON AMAZON:  A really amazing, super-duper deal for your summer romance reading.  A Crimson Romance bundle of 10 novels about athletes and the sports they love, Bodies in Motion, includes my novel, Choosing Carter.  10 wonderful reads for 99 cents on Amazon  Other ebook bundles still available on Amazon:  More Than Friends and California Kisses 

“Bad Day at Round Rock” short story in The Posse anthology @
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Sunday, July 16, 2017

Introducing new novels . . .

cj Sez:  Carolyn Haines’s Familiar Legacy Mystery Series hosted a Facebook launch party July 14 (Flag Day and Bastille Day).

For the few who don’t know her, Carolyn Haines is the USA Today bestselling author of more than 70 books. She is a recipient of the Harper Lee Award for Distinguished Writing and the Richard Wright Award for Literary Excellence, as well as the "Best Amateur Sleuth" award by Romantic Times. Haines writes in a number of genres, from cozy mystery to horror and short fiction. She got her start in publishing in romantic mysteries with one savvy black cat detective called Familiar. She's delighted to bring back the first Familiar stories—and to introduce Trouble, son of Familiar, in a delightful new Familiar Legacy series which will feature a number of talented authors (and cat lovers!).

Books in the Familiar Legacy Series are:

Bk 1 Familiar Trouble by Carolyn Haines launched July 10 and is available on Amazon.

Bk 2 Trouble in Dixie by author Rebecca Barrett has a launch date of August 14 and is available now for pre-order on Amazon 

Rebecca Barrett writes historical fiction, post-apocalyptic fiction (writing as Campbell O’Neal), children’s stories, and short stories of life in the South. An avid reader all her life and a product of “front porch” socializing, she became a story-teller at an early age. Trouble in Dixie features that handsome, sleek, black cat detective, Trouble.

Bk 3 Trouble in Tallahassee by Claire Matturro is scheduled to launch September 12

Bk 4 Trouble at Summer Ranch by Susan Tanner will launch in October.

More new titles in the series are scheduled to launch in 2018.

In other publishing news, the publisher for “Bad Day at Round Rock,” my historical fiction short story in The Posse anthology, has co-written another Western novel. California Bound, co-authored by John O’Melveny Woods and Frank Kelso, is being introduced in two steps. The cover reveal is scheduled for July 19, 8 to 9 p.m. CDT on Facebook . . .

The novel is scheduled to launch on August 16 also at 8 p.m. CDT with an interactive Facebook party. The launch comes complete with prizes. Be sure to stop by and leave a comment for a chance to win. Here’s a trailer snippet for California Bound 

One of the blogs I follow is that of author/editor/blogger-supreme Hope Clark at  Her “Funds for Writers” blog has been on the Writer’s Digest’s 101 Best Websites for Writers list every year since 2001. Anyway, to quote Hope:

“Writing well takes time. It isn't an instinct. You are not born with it. You do not accidentally write a stupendous tale. You develop this talent with hard work and a crazy number of hours invested in making your craft better.”

That means all writers, but especially aspiring writers, need to participate in workshops, critique groups, conferences, and read relentlessly in the genre they write. Before a writer can develop his/her own writing voice, s/he must read the good works of other published authors.

To inspire you to look at your own work-in-progress, I’ll leave you with one of Elmore (Dutch) Leonard’s famous first lines: 

“Chris Mankowski's last day on the job, two in the afternoon, two hours to go, he got a call to dispose of a bomb.”—Freaky Deaky (1988)

That’s all for today, folks. You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.

PS: Click on the highlighted book titles for the buy link. 
A word from my sponsors:
NOW ON AMAZON:  A really amazing, super-duper deal for your summer romance reading.  A Crimson Romance bundle of 10 novels about athletes and the sports they love, Bodies in Motion, includes my novel, Choosing Carter.  10 wonderful reads for 99 cents on Amazon  Other ebook bundles still available on Amazon:  More Than Friends and California Kisses 
 “Bad Day at Round Rock” short story in The Posse anthology
newsletter sign-up at

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Blogger Recognition and how Lyrical Pens came to be

cj Sez:  I’ve been tagged for a Blogger Recognition Award--a kind of blogging award chain letter, and here are the rules:
1- Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
2- Write a post to show your award.
3- Give a brief story of how your blog started.
4- Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.
5- Select other bloggers you want to give this award to.
6- Comment on each blog and let them know you have nominated them & provide the link to the post you created.

And here are my responses: 
1-  Thanks Candace Marley Connor, a wonderful SCBWI author, mother, and fellow Mobile Writers’ Guild member, for nominating me to participate in this blogging event. It’s a bit like practicing flash fiction, and that’s a great writing exercise.  (By the way, Miz Connor’s post for this event is downright wonderful. Just click on her name to read it.)

2-  I am now writing a post to show my lovely award. 

YIPPEE ! Quite lovely, don’t you agree?

3-  Here’s the brief story of how the Lyrical Pens blog got started:

Lyrical Pens began on June 22, 2009, when I clicked “publish” on my first post. You can click on the date to read it. Joyce Scarbrough was my first (and only) commenter…Thanks, Joyce, although it seems to have started a one-of trend (sigh). The blog was intended as a marketing tool for three writing/critique-group buddies (Mahala Church, Tracy Hurley, and me) who wanted to “get our names out there.” Mahala and Tracy had just co-founded the Mobile Writers’ Guild, and I had joined them as a charter member and Secretary…or maybe that was Treasurer (faulty memory). Go-getter Tracy worked through the technical part of building the website, and it hasn’t changed all that much since it began. Sadly, Tracy Hurley died in December 2010, and Mahala and I carried on. Today, where once there were three, there is now one. Mahala retired from the site in 2016.

4-  Two pieces of advice to new bloggers: First piece of advice comes with a caveat: “To thine own self be true.” That is to say, identify your goal for the blog and write your posts with that in mind. Do you want to share tidbits of personal data to grow your relationship with fans and readers? Do you want to share professional writing stuff for fellow authors? Maybe it’s a combination of both, which is where Lyrical Pens sits, although it does lean more toward the professional writing information.

Second piece of advice: A blog is a great way to build an author brand if you link your posts to your author Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, et al. Be sure to embed buy links and book trailers.  Did you notice I wrote “author Facebook page?” I have two FB pages, one for personal and one for author stuff. Your personal social media followers aren’t there to be sold to; they want to share conversations. Keep the advertising low-key on those sites. A new book notice or reminder is fine, but heavy slugs of “Buy My Book” advertising in every post might drive away some of your new Friends.

5-  I'm nominating one author, Sojourner McConnell (the nom de plume of Vicki Goodwin Turner), for this award. Sojourner is a relatively new blogger and has a brand new book release with great reviews, “Who’s That in the Cat Pajamas.”   
6- I dropped Sojourner a note to alert her about the award.

Okay, that’s my post for today, and I’m sticking to it. You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.

And now a word from my sponsors:
NOW ON AMAZON A really amazing super-duper deal for your summer entertainment: Bodies in Motion. A Crimson Romance bundle about athletes and the sports they love includes Choosing Carter (rafting and off-roading)  As of this morning...10 Novels for 99 cents    (Buy Link: )     Other ebook bundles still available on Amazon:  More Than Friends and California Kisses 
summer reading . . . Arriving tomorrow, July 10:  ,
 “Bad Day at Round Rock” short story in The Posse anthology @
newsletter sign-up at 
POSSE TRAILER for "Bad Day" short story:             

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Critique groups

cj Sez:  One of my writing partners once had to leave a long-time relationship with a critique group because one member 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 manuscripts 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.

The comments that fall at either end of the bell curve (Junk on the left end — Raving Marvelous on the right end) carry less weight and can be generally discarded, after I digest them, of course. Sometimes I 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. This is where the comments seem to focus on the same thing. Sometimes they're positive (ooh, love those comments). More often they point to something that needs a good edit.

I've also found that the level of experience of the author/critiquer/reader is important to how I analyze the critique. Someone, doesn’t have to be an author, who reads a lot in my genre may make exactly the comments I need to hear . . . because s/he could be rendering the opinion of an on-the-library-shelf browser. That browser is the person I want to reach and entertain. I've been fortunate to have found two 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 could be helpful in the long run.

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.

In other news: 
Smashwords conducted a survey which they described as "We're looking to identify potential data driven insights that can help authors and publisher make their books more accessible, more desirable and more enjoyable to readers." You can read more about their results and analyses here:   **  

(**This caveat from James Jackson, immediate past president of the Guppies, the Sisters in Crime online organization:   “Because Smashworks best sellers and total volume are so skewed to Romance (especially relative to overall book sales by category), applying much of these results to Mystery/Suspense /Thriller is to make the assumption that our readers react the same way Romance readers do. I'm highly skeptical that those who primarily read Romance make the same kinds of purchasing decisions as those who primarily read Mystery/Suspense/Thriller.”)

I've spent the past three days at the Alabama Writers’ Conclave in Hoover, AL (Sunday a.m. headed home as you read this piece). Great learning weekend. Not a lot of money for a lot of info and networking opportunities. I recommend you try it sometime.

Note:  The Alabama Writers' Conclave was organized in 1923 and has been in continuing existence since. To find out more, check out their website:  

Okay, you-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same. In the meanwhile, here's a wish for wonderful successes with your work, and I’d love to hear how you deal with the personalities you’ve encountered in your critique groups. You are in one, aren't you?


God Bless the U.S.A. on its 241st birthday July 4. 

Wishing you and your family a safe and happy celebration.

COMING ATTRACTIONS . . . Arriving July 10:  A new Crimson Romance bundle about athletes and the sports they love, Bodies in Motion, includes Choosing Carter (rafting and off-roading) Watch for it on Amazon.
Ebook bundles still available on Amazon:  More Than Friends and California Kisses 

 “Bad Day at Round Rock” short story in The Posse anthology @
newsletter sign-up at