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, November 29, 2015

Why that book? Why that author?

Tis the season  . .. 
cj Sez: I found the questions below at another blog a few months ago and thought what a great idea. So, here are some questions for you authors and readers.  (I hope you reply.)

What makes you want to buy a book – the cover or the blurb on the back of the book?
For me, it's both. 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 also like to find humor and some quick repartee in even the darkest of moments. When my heroine is about to go where she shouldn’t go or has never been before, I want the scene to be scary yet challenging at the same time.

What makes you like one author more than another?

I’m a wordsmith, but I’m not into graphorrhea.* That is, I want to be enchanted by the author’s voice…how she/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?

As long as the author keeps the storyline and characters fresh, I don’t have a problem with continuing to read a series ad infinitum. It’s when the storyline gets stale and takes the same direction over and over that I’m no longer interested in reading the next book, and I'm on to the next author.

Which brings me to reviews:  Do you take the time to write a review?
Without readers, authors have no audience, without an audience, authors are out of a job. Whether it's written on Amazon, Facebook, Goodreads, blogs, etc., constructive feedback is what keeps us going. We want to know our strengths and our weaknesses. We're polite; we say please and thank you.

I’d love to know your answers to these questions. So write in, already.

In the meantime, 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

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Thanks Readers and Writers

Thank you following Lyrical Pens over the years, our ups and downs, and a lot of sideways, as we forge ahead with our writing, teaching, and sharing. c j and I had a wonderful time sharing with other authors at the recent Home for the Holidays coordinated by Mobile Writers Guild and hosted by the Mobile Public Library. It brought back so many wonderful memories of these events.

 Tracy Hurley and I founded the Mobile Writers Guild, and we brought together the first Home for the Holidays at the library; Tracy in her Santa hat, laughing all the way. We miss you, Girl!

It's a joy to see the tradition continue, an event that brings authors together. As c j said, not a lot of books are always sold at book events, but the opportunity to commiserate, see what other authors have been doing in the quiet of night, and hear readings from their books is heartwarming. We know and understand the hard work and effort that brought them to the podium.

A very HAPPY THANKSGIVING! to all writers and a HEARTY THANKS to our readers!

Reading Turkey Trot

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Writers Guild and tightening up my saggy middle

Incognito me drinking water, bottom center.
cj Sez: Authors’ showcase events are notorious for resulting in few book sales for the authors who participate. The big reason I like to attend is to get my name recognition out to local readers. Home for the Holidays, co-hosted by the Mobile Writers Guild and the West Regional Branch of the Mobile Public Library, took place on Nov 22 and attracted a meeting room full of debut and established writers with decorated tables displaying their books for sale. I really did have a good time interacting with other writers and happily sold (surprise) three books: one Choosing Carter, one Deadly Star, and one of the Christmas through a Child’s Eyes anthology.

When I look at what books sold, I realize they are all published by an imprint of F+W Media … in 2015, 2013, and 2008. I’m not sure how that happened. It was certainly not intentional on my part. I didn’t submit to F+W media. Those manuscripts were submitted either to Crimson Romance or to Adams Media. It seems I have a “voice” (i.e., write in a style) that fits their editors’ interests. That, I think, is one of the keys to writing: Finding your voice, your personal style.

My first interest was in screenwriting. In 2001, I flew from Detroit to San Francisco to take a three-day seminar from Robert McKay, who conducted seminars on screenwriting.

The experience was invaluable because I learned to visualize my story and how to write in terms of the characters’ action-dialogue-and scenes that show the story. How characters react and what they don’t say can speak volumes.

I’ve talked with writers who visualize some movie star or other playing a character in their books. Is that something you do?  I can’t do that. I don’t see a specific person, I visualize the whole characterization—I’ll leave it to Stephen Spielberg or Francis Ford Coppola (ha ha) to find the best mega-star for the role.

Most us, and I am very much included in that generalization, have a wonderful idea on a theme. A lot of writers (me included) also know how we want the story to end, so that’s all set. It’s the middle that gets us. It wants to sag. Like an old married couple, sometimes the excitement fades away. Unless we work at it.  

Working at it probably means changing some things around. For me, changes in the middle almost always mean rewriting the first chapter partially or entirely more than a few times.

To help me out in this process, I read the dialogue aloud as I go along. Does it sound natural? Are the sentences too complete and so full of blah-blah information that they slow the pace of the story?  This can happen anywhere, but it very often happens in the middle part of a story when I’m trying to get the word count I want/need. Sometimes, I change a character’s name, a story thread, a sentence structure, or, as was true for Deadly Star, the whole genre (which went from an action/adventure to a romantic suspense). I also might give the protagonist another challenge or two (read that, conflict) in order to bring back/ramp up the thrill.

What do you do to shore up the saggy middle of your story? And if you don’t ever have one, don’t tell me. I’d feel so inept.

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


PS:  Pray for peace; pray that our leaders. 
PPS: I think that picture of me at the library is one of my better shots. %>)
Choosing Carter  -- Kindle  /  Nook  /  Kobo   /  iTunes/iBook
Deadly Star --  Kindle  / Nook  / Kobo

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Teaching Moments . . .

cj Sez: The English language is littered with obscure quirks and twists, and writers seem to find a way to encounter every one of them. A few of my favorites follow.

The Christmas Grinch notwithstanding, here are proper usages for Stink, Stank, Stunk:
… Stink is the present or future form.
… Stank is the past form, use it when you refer to some time that has already happened, such as last night, yesterday, or last week.
… Stunk is the participle form, it means you must use have, has, or had with it).

… What is that stink I smell?
… Frying that fish will stink up the whole house.
… She sure stank up the kitchen last night with that burned milk!
… I'm sorry, but the baby's diaper really stank on the way home yesterday!
… The house hasn't stunk this badly since the day we found that rat behind the dryer.
… If you hadn't stunk up the bathroom, I wouldn't have opened the window and let your orchids freeze in the snow.

Then there’s this tricky usage/spelling: Pick up, Pick-up, Pickup

… Will you pick up my dry cleaning?
… “Have we met” is such a stale pick-up line.
… My pickup truck is red.

(Excerpts from a blog by a fellow Sisters-in-Crime member:)
By Lois Winston

It happened again the other day. I received the results of a contest I had entered and discovered that one of the judges had circled every “was” in the entry and wrote in large capital letters -- PASSIVE VOICE.

Editors like action verbs. “Was,” along with its brothers and sisters (is, am, are, been, were) is passive and a surefire way to a rejection letter.


Passive voice is when an action is acted upon the subject, rather than the subject acting.

The car was driven by Anna is a passive sentence. Anna drove the car is an active sentence. However, Anna was happy to drive the car is not a passive sentence. Anna is expressing emotion. She is acting, rather than being acted upon. Of course, there are more interesting ways to write the sentence to show Anna’s emotions, but that’s a separate discussion.

One of the easiest ways to tell whether your sentence is active or passive is to analyze the position of the subject, verb, and direct object.

In active voice, the subject (the one performing the action) will come before the verb (the action), and the verb will come before the direct object (that which is being acted upon.)

There are instances, though, when passive voice is necessary to the unfolding of a story or better suited to the realism of the dialogue. When we speak, we don’t first think whether our sentences are active or passive before uttering them. We just speak them.

Manipulate a sentence to avoid passive voice in conversation, and you often transform snappy dialogue into stilted dialogue.

For example: Billy ran into the house and cried, “Mom! Come quick. Snoopy was hit by a car!” This passage accurately illustrates the way a child might respond to a car hitting his dog. Snoopy was hit by a car is a passive sentence because Snoopy is being acted upon by the car, but the child mentions Snoopy first because the dog’s welfare is uppermost in his mind. Also, by placing the last sentence in passive voice, the author is actually ratcheting up the tension. We don’t know until the very end exactly what hit Snoopy. A stray baseball? A nasty neighbor? A falling tree limb? Although “A car hit Snoopy” is active voice, using it actually lessens the impact of the sentence.

Still squeamish about the use of “was”? After you have finished your manuscript, do a search of the word. Check each sentence to see if you can rewrite it to avoid using “was.” If you can, and it doesn’t detract from the pace, dialogue, or meaning of the passage, do so. If not, leave it. Some “was” were meant to be.

Except . . . the subjunctive:
The what, you ask? Subjunctive case or mood is one of the most misunderstood rules in the English language -- and virtually unknown to most contest judges who will circle a “were” and write in a “was” because the subject is singular.

The subjunctive applies to cases of “wishfulness” or “what if” situations. In these cases, “was” becomes “were,” as in, I wish I were taller. “Were” is also used when a sentence or clause uses “if,” “as if,” or “as though,” but only in instances where the statement is contrary to fact.

Examples include: If I were taller, I could see the stage better, Her twelve year old son acts as if he were in kindergarten, or The maid behaved as though she were queen. Because I cannot grow taller, the twelve-year-old is not in kindergarten, and the maid is not a queen, all the statements are contrary to fact, and “was” becomes “were” even though the subjects are all singular.

Keep in mind, though, that the key statement here is “contrary to fact.” “If” statements that are not contrary to fact retain the singular form of the verb. “If I was at Starbucks that day, I don’t remember” is a correct sentence because the statement is not contrary to fact whether or not I can recall the event.
I keep a list of the quirks and twists that I run across, like the stink, stank, stunk,  and Lois’s blog above. Do you keep a list, or do you run to Google? 

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


PS:  Pray for peace in this crazy world
Choosing Carter  -- Kindle  /  Nook  /  Kobo   /  iTunes/iBook
Deadly Star --  Kindle  / Nook  / Kobo

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Salute to Veterans

Dear Veterans,

My family and I greatly appreciate you and your family's sacrifices that give us the privilege to leave in a democratic and free society. For those of you still in the field, we pray for your safety. For those of you who returned home with physical and emotional disabilities, we pray for your healing. We support the hiring of veterans and wish you all the BEST!  Mahala

In Honor of My Mother, a WAVE

In Honor of my Father, a Marine

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Silver Falchion winners, Veterans Day

cj Sez: The Killer Nashville International Conference was an amazing weekend of workshops and presentations. My fellow panelists on the Writing Romantic Suspense panel were awesome. Congratulations to the Silver Falchion Winners:

Best Attending Author:  Palmetto Poison – C. Hope Clark
Best Novel:
Romantic Suspense: Truth Be Told – Hank Phillippi Ryan
Cozy/Traditional: Hunting Shadows – Charles Todd
Historical: Death on Blackheath – Anne Perry
Private Detective/Police Procedural: Field of Prey – John Sandford
Speculative: Fear City – F. Paul Wilson
Literary Suspense: The Day She Died – Catriona McPherson
Political Thriller/Adventure: I am Pilgrim – Terry Hayes
Crime Thriller: In the Blood – Lisa Unger
Best First Novel:
Cozy/Traditional/Historical: The Life We Bury – Allen Eskens
Literary Suspense: The Weight of Blood – Laura McHugh
Mystery/Thriller: The Black Hour – Lori Rader-Day
Best Children’s Picture Book: An Armadillo in Paris – Julie Kraulis
Best Children’s Chapter Book: The Haunted Library – Dori Hillestad Butler, Illustrated by Aurore Damant
Best Middle Grade: Still Life (The Books of Elsewhere, Book #5) – Jacqueline West
Best Young Adult: Grunge Gods and Graveyards – Kimberly G. Giarratano
Best Nonfiction: Mainstream Crime Reference: 400 Things Cops Know – Adam Plantinga
Best Single-Author Collection: Seeing Red: From the Case Files of Detective James T. Kirkland – Terry Odell
Best Multi-Author Anthology: In the Company of Sherlock Holmes: Stories Inspired by the Holmes Canon – Edited by Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger
Best Long-form Novelty Fiction/Poetry/Graphic/Experimental: The Undertaking of Lily Chen – Danica Novgorodoff (Graphic Novel)
Best Nonfiction: Memoir/Biography: Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War – Karen Abbott
Best Nonfiction: Academic: The Figure of the Detective: A Literary History and Analysis – Charles Brownson
Best Nonfiction: True Crime: The Skeleton Crew: How Amateur Sleuths Are Solving America’s Coldest Cases – Deborah Halber

Veterans Day is November 11. Originally known as Armistice Day, it began as a day to remember the end of World War I. Germany signed an armistice with the Allies that signaled the end of the war at 11 a.m. on 11 November 1918. President Woodrow Wilson declared the day a holiday in 1919, and it was renamed Veterans Day in 1954. 

I send my grateful Thank You to all who have served and are serving in our United States military. To the men and women risk life and limb as they are sent into harm’s way to protect our American freedoms, I pray the Lord will watch over you and bring you safely home. SALUTE !!

From my Facebook page.
NaNoWriMo writers, are you plugging along? Stay with it! When the challenge ends at midnight November 30, you'll have the draft of a brilliant new novel.

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