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, October 31, 2012

Charles McIinnis, Author

This week, cj and I welcome Charles Riley McInnis. Charles grew up Clio, Alabama, a small rural town populated with about a thousand Scots-Irish descendants. He earned his B.A. from Huntingdon College and his M.S. in Physics from Auburn University. He lives in Fairhope, Alabama where he devotes his time to writing with the Five Rivers Writers' Group, teaching computer courses, and traveling. Charles is a member of the Baldwin Writers Group, Mobile Writers Guild, Gulf Coast Writers Association, and the Alabama Writer's Forum. His fiction has won numerous awards including first place in the Gulf Coast Writers Association's winter writing contest, and he was their featured writer for February 2012. His short story, "Mim's Ensign" was published in the April 2012 edition of the Magnolia Quarterly. He won second place in two of the Baldwin Writers Group's 2011 writing contests and is published in their anthology, Collected Words: From Writers of the Southern Coast,

And if all that wasn’t enough Charles made it as a finalist in not one, but two categories in the 2012 Faulkner contests—was a short list finalist for the 2012 poetry competition and his short story was a semi-finalist! You have the opportunity to read some of Charles work online in the Southern Delta Literary Magazine. Keep an eye on this guy. He's going places in the literary world.

Five Things to Consider If You Self-Publish
Charles Riley McInnis

The line between traditional brick-and-mortar publishing and self-publishing is fading. Writers are learning how to use online publishers to produce and market quality work effectively. After studying the status of the publishing world for the past year, I have found the following five items to be important if you are considering self-publishing.

1. A book should be regarded as a product designed to provide entertainment or information to an adequate segment of the reading population. Beginning writers see themselves as artists. They fail to think of writing and publishing as a business. Publishers must make a profit to stay in business. If the publishers do not believe that your book will turn an acceptable profit, there is no reason for them to publish it.

2. If your work was rejected for publication, it did not fit the publisher’s current economic model. Your work may be well written and contain entertainment or information, but does it contain entertainment or information for which readers will pay? The traditional publisher must provide a capital outlay to publish your book. Your self-publishing and economic plan will be different and should require less capital outlay. In addition, you have control and can work on your time table.

3. After completing your work, subject it to quality control. Have it reviewed and edited. Publish your book so that it meets the highest standards of comparable books. Do not place a substandard product on the market. Your reputation as writer and publisher is at stake.

4. When preparing to self-publish, don't be a jack-of-all-trades. Find a master to do those things that you don't do well, especially the items critical to success. Book cover design and a professional editing are essential to success. Be sure to format your book properly before publishing it. Engage a competent editor.

5. Start early with a marketing plan. Put your best business suit on early and draw up a plan that includes marketing. Target your readers and keep them in mind as you write. Develop an interesting author profile and include it on your book cover. Learn to use social media effectively to market your product.

Success in self-publishing comes from producing a quality product that is attractive to a sizable portion of the public. Produce a well-designed product that fills a need of the readers. Produce such a product and market it vigorously, and you will be successful. The cream always rises to the top, regardless of the container. Got milk?
I'm with Charles. Get the bolts and bits and pieces of your new creation wrapped tightly before sending it  into the unsuspecting world to be published, no matter who does the dirty work.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Editing is a Must!

The lack of editing by traditional publishing houses has annoyed me for many years. With the addition of e-publishing et al to our choices, I believe even more strongly that eliminating copy editors as part of their idea to downsize was a bad idea for the publishing houses. They have the opportunity to outsmart those who have taken independent publishing to new heights and are doing it poorly. No, I don't think all self-published material is poorly written; however, in my experience, I have found the well written and well edited self-published material to be in the minority. Nothing jerks me out of a story like a mispelled word (see what I mean) or a jumbled sentence. By the time I'm reduced to reading a sentence aloud to try and decipher what the author was trying to say, the whole paragraph is lost to me. I've read far too many books with great bones, but they are missing the muscles, tendons, ligaments, etc. to hold them together. (My nursing background springs into focus from time to time.)  

Many of you have heard me wax eloquent at workshops, critique groups, and over a cuppa about the importance of self editing and professional editing. I firmly believe we do our readers an injustice when we don't take the time to make our work the very best it can possibly be. We need to remind ourselves every day that readers are our bread and butter; readers are a well educated lot who know junk when they read it; readers want to be caught up in the story and taken for the ride of their lives.

This week I read posts from two of my favorite blogs that support my theory. Don't we all love to read things that support what we believe?

Rachelle Gardner is one of an excellent group of agents who post on "Books & Such" and this blog post spoke to me: Why It’s More Important Than Ever to Master Your Craft. Gardner writes that readers may not be able to put what they don't like into writerese (lack of tension, poor characterizations, plot arc missing) but they certainly know when to toss a book aside or not recommend it to others. And dear to my heart, she points out that punctuation does count and it's up to us as authors to decide whether we want our books to be doorstops or proudly displayed. The link to the site for Books & Such Literary Agency is

Right behind Gardner's blog came one from Joanna Penn at The Creative Penn, another favorite site of mine. Writing A Novel: “You Mean, I Need to Edit?” Of course, you see why I liked it. Penn reminds us that the editing of our manuscripts can be the deciding factor in its success. Her guest blogger, Nick Thacker (who always has good things to say), shares some valuable tips to ramp up our manuscripts.The link to the site for The Creative Penn is

Bandaids aren't enough.

A quote from Michael Crichton says it all.

“I think every writer should have tattooed backwards on his forehead, like ambulance on ambulances, the words ‘everybody needs an editor." Michael Crichton


Thursday, October 18, 2012

P. T. Paul - Guest Author

It has been such a pleasure to welcome so many talented and well written authors to our blog this year. Today, the exuberant, well published and honored,  P. T. Paul visits.  She received her B.A. in English from the University of Montevallo in 2007, and her M.A. in Creative Writing from the University of South Alabama in 2009. Her thesis, “Southerner” was the first creative writing thesis chosen to represent the University of South Alabama in the Coastal States Graduate Schools Master’s Thesis Competition, and was also the first creative writing thesis to win the USA University-wide competition for the outstanding thesis in the 2010-2011 competition. “Southerner” was published as “To Live & Write in Dixie” by Negative Capability Press in 2010, and is available at and

P.T. is currently working on a novel and a book of poetry and will be included in the upcoming “Literary Mobile.” Her eclectic style has placed her work in numerous publications and earned many accolades. She was featured in the 2012 spring issue of Avocet Nature Journal and the April 2012 Birmingham Arts Journal “Storm” edition. That edition included her first prize poem “Another Word for Gone” from the Alabama State Poetry Societys’ “Storm” competition. P.T. was interviewed in the October 2011 inaugural issue of the Baldwin County Now “Boomers” magazine which featured excerpts from her novel-in-progress Hope Is For Sissies. She was a featured reader at the 2011 Alabama Book Festival, and featured fiction writer in Connotation Press’s April 2011 edition, in which her short story “We R Books” was published.

P. T. writes book reviews and blogs for the Alabama Writers Forum, and is President of the Pensters Writing Group, which is celebrating its 48th year on the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay, and has over 100 members. She has taught Creative Writing for the Eastern Shore Institute for Lifelong Learning (ESILL), and poetry and prose at the Writing Center in Mobile, is a member of the Alabama State Poetry Society and the Alabama Writers Forum.  In her spare time (purely tongue in cheek), she has been published in the Oxford American Magazine, the Birmingham Arts Journal, the Austin International Poetry Festival anthology, the Limestone Dust Poetry Festival anthology, the Tower, the Oracle, and other publications, and has won numerous scholarships and prizes for both poetry and prose.  And here is an inkling of why her work is so highly valued.

The Importance of Writing About Ordinary Lives

P.T. Paul

As I prepare to teach a class on memoir for the Odyssey program at the University of South Alabama, I am reminded of a story told to me by an acquaintance. He was conducting a writing workshop and one of his students was a quiet, middle-aged woman.

“So,” he asked, after reading her one-page character assignment, “why did you decide to write about being a policeman?”

“Because they have such interesting jobs,” she replied.

“But, didn’t you say you have a job?”


“Then, why don’t you write about YOUR job?”

“Because I’m just an ordinary cook. That’s not very interesting. Policemen are interesting.”

“Cooks can be interesting, too. I’m sure we can find something interesting about your job. We’ll work on it together. Now, where do you work?”

“On a riverboat.”

When I decided to pursue my Masters degree in Creative Writing at the University of South Alabama, I realized that I had been writing for most of my life about my search for identity, and that the result of my efforts was actually memoir. But I doubted that anyone would find my ordinary, humdrum life worth reading about.

It was not until my first book signing at Bienville Books that I understood what I had written. After reading “To Live & Write in Dixie,” my oldest nephew informed me that he had learned more about his family history from my memoir than he had ever known before. I had breathed life into the faded photographs in his mothers’ album, had given him the story behind the names and dates in the family Bible. I know now that this is perhaps the highest and best use of memoir – to wrap the flesh and blood of memory around the bare bones of history.

And this is true no matter who you are or how ordinary you believe your life to be; whether you’re a policeman, or just a cook on a riverboat.

Thank you, P. T.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

MAC September Contest

There is no winner to congratulate for the September contest, but for those of you interested, I finally got around to posting the October contest today. Best of luck.


Greta Sharp, Guest Author

Today we welcome Greta Sharp, a talented writer/journalist (yes, Virginia, there is a difference) that lives in Mobile. Greta writes for newspapers, business publications, and trade journals. She and her husband, an accounting professor at Spring Hill College, coauthored the book Antebellum Myths and Folklore  in 2009. Greta gives us some idea of the differences in writing for a newspaper.

When I began writing for the newspaper in 2004, it was my first foray into real (and by real, I mean paid) journalism. The lessons I learned cutting my teeth on that section, first called Suburban, then Neighbors and finally Mobile-Press, have helped me with every writing assignment I’ve worked on since.
Writing for a newspaper is funny. They talk about column inches. I just hit ‘word count.’ The paper has a constant appetite for news. I learned deadlines are often concrete. It’s sometimes a lightning-speed turn-around. If you can compose on the computer, you’ll be much better off in the long run.

Size matters, or never use a big word when a little word will do. Yes, we’ve all heard newspapers are written at a third grade reading level. The bottom line is you are writing for the general public, providing news for the masses. Don’t use the term ‘incendiary event’ when ‘fire’ works just as well. Use simple and understandable terms.

Lead on, McDuff. People are much more likely to read your article if the lead is interesting. Use action words, make people laugh or even use a cliché. (It’s a cliché for a reason, after all.)

Double, triple and quadruple check. When you are putting your words out there for the whole world to see, make sure they are correct. Confirm dates, times, prices and phone numbers. Pay special attention to names…Kelly or Kelley? Sharpe or Sharp? You’ll rarely be congratulated for getting something right, but you’ll always hear about it if it’s wrong.

Info MIA. Missing information is part of the story. If you’re writing about an event where the location will only be revealed to ticket holders, that information is part of the story. Don’t leave it out just because you don’t know or can’t share the information. Sometimes no news is news.

Damn me with faint praise. Don’t expect your editor to compliment you on your story. Your job is to write good material. The editor’s job is to polish it, not plump up your ego. If you get another assignment, that’s the indication she likes your work.

Sadly, I report that Greta is one of the very talented writers the slowly disappearing Press Register laid off during their massive downsizing. Mobile will suffer withdrawal pains for a long time to come. Greta has been a major adjunct to local information: not just getting news out but creatively getting local news out  for all the family members, school friends, church friends, community organizations, business colleagues, etc. etc. etc. to see. She has been a strong supporter of writing and reading activities for children in the community. If the first few weeks of the newly minted Press Register are an indication of the future for news in our area, how dismal for the reading public.

Greta, there is a huge chunk of friendly Mobile absent in the Sunday morning paper. You are missed.