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, May 29, 2016

A Day of Remembrance

When you make your plans for the Memorial Day holiday, remember to start here:  

Memorial Day Writers Project (info from Google)

Twice a year, on Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day, the Memorial Day Writers Project provides a creative venue for veterans and their families, and those who have been touched by war. Day-long readings and performances take place, rain or shine, in a tent adjacent to the Vietnam Memorial (near Constitution Ave and 21st St NW).  This year, the open mic project takes place from 11:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Monday, May 30.

The Memorial Day Writers Project (MDWP) was founded in 1993 for Vietnam Veterans by Vietnam veterans Mike McDonell and Clyde Wray.

All authors, poets, singers, and songwriters are invited to take part in this semiannual event and bring copies of their books, chapbooks, and CDs for sale at the MDWP tent. MDWP participants have also come together to read at veterans' gatherings, college campuses, churches, high schools, book stores, and libraries.

For more info, go to or email dick_epstein@

The prose, poetry and songs presented on their web site represent a sampling from their open mic venue on the Mall. The men and women represented there speak the truth, their truth, and offer a look inside veterans−your neighbors−the grey-haired man two houses away or the woman across the street.

The following Author Anonymous poem has been "touched" by many hands, but these lines are some of the latest excerpts I found . . .

It is the
not the preacher,
who has given us freedom of religion.

It is the VETERAN,
not the reporter,
who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the VETERAN,
not the poet,
who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the VETERAN,
not the campus organizer,
who has given us freedom to assemble.

It is the VETERAN,
not the lawyer,
who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the VETERAN,
not the politician,
who has given us the right to vote.

Thank you to all who have served and are serving; deepest condolences to the families who lost heroes in the continuing struggle to keep this country safe and our freedoms intact.

Memorial Day info you may not know . . .

Every Memorial Day, the U.S. flag is quickly raised to the tops of flagpoles, slowly lowered to half-mast, and then raised again to full height at noon. The time at half-mast is meant to honor the million-plus fallen U.S. soldiers who have died for their country over the years. Re-raising the flag is meant to symbolize the resolve of the living to carry on the fight for freedom so that the nation’s heroes will not have died in vain.

Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day and was initiated to honor the soldiers for the Union and Confederate armies who died during the American Civil War.

Celebrations honoring Civil War heroes started the year after the war ended. The establishment of a public holiday was meant to unify the celebration as a national day of remembrance instead of a holiday celebrated separately by the Union and Confederate states. By the late 19th century, the holiday became known as Memorial Day and was expanded to include the deceased veterans of all the wars fought by American forces.

In 1971, Memorial Day became a federal holiday and was given the floating date of the last Monday in May. The original national celebration of Decoration Day took place on 30 May 1868.

Be safe out there, friends, and have an enjoyable holiday, but please remember who and what we celebrate.

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

PS: The ‘toons are from Facebook.
Choosing Carter  -- Kindle  /  Nook  /  Kobo   /  iTunes/iBook
Deadly Star --  Kindle  / Nook  / Kobo
Amazon Central Author Page:

Sunday, May 22, 2016


cj Sez:  Overwriting is a problem for new writers, and even experienced writers fall victim to the problem. It’s definitely something I’m guilty of in my early drafts. I recently came across some help and thought Lyrical Pens visitors might be interested as well.

What is overwriting, you ask? Overwriting can be defined as verbosity—a tendency to write too much and/or too flowery. (According to Google, “If a speech or writing style is flowery, it uses too many complicated words or phrases in an attempt to sound skillful.” Sounds a bit like academia to me.) Plain and simple writing is not only okay, it’s easier to read and understand.

A few ways to avoid overwriting:

Start your story where the action is. The beginning of a book is often the most overwritten part. When info dumps and backstory creep into the first chapter, readers (ergo agents) most often put down a book after reading the first few pages, sometimes before the end of the first chapter. Much of the backstory dumps are a result of the author’s newly created history for the character. These are things the author needs to know to create realistic personalities. Readers don’t need to see these facts on the page. They will discern the info either from bits of dialogue or character responses. If the extra pieces of info are important to the story, they can be reworked into later chapters as needed. If they are not important…

Trust your reader’s intelligence. Watch the repetitions. Don’t say the same thing three different ways. Readers really can remember what they read.

Watch the jargon and watch the purple prose. A well-placed new word is
interesting, maybe a touch of flowery language (if the character and the scene call for it), but your reader shouldn’t have to go to Google to find out what you mean. At the minimum, put the word or phrase into context or explain it during some dialogue. Do not, however, try to explain the obvious.

Well-placed metaphors are memorable, and too many metaphors, no matter how clever, are distracting. Symbolism, alliteration and other prose devices don’t tell stories. Emotions, characters and plot do. 

Don’t over-describe the action. I call those unneeded action details “stage direction.” For example: “John walked across the room, stuck the key in the lock, opened the door, and walked into the hallway.”  All that is needed might be, “John left the room, closing the door quietly behind him.” Readers will understand the rest of the action.  PS: Be judicious in your use of adverbs and adjectives.

Don’t over-describe the scene. Yes, scene and a sense of place are vital to the story, but don’t put something into the scene that has no relevance to the story. Describing a character’s office or living room in detail is only important to the degree that it describes the personality of the character. There's an old trope credited to author/playwright Anton Chekhov, that applies to writing. In a letter to a friend in 1889, Chekhov wrote, "One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it. I believe the exception would be if an item is a red herring.
Dialogue is not conversation. Dialogue is conversation concentrated. Brief. Always with the story in mind. To quote a recent piece I read: “If two characters shout for several lines of dialogue, neither character needs to say ‘I’m upset.’ Their actions will tell the reader they’re upset.” That’s the familiar Show Don’t Tell rule, though I don’t really understand how the reader will know those two characters are shouting unless you use the dreaded exclamation point, which some famous authors advise have a one- or two-per-book limit. Along that same vein, strong dialogue does not need to be supported by tags such as sneered and roared. Disruptive dialogue tags can distract the reader from the actual dialogue. “Said” and “asked” may be boring, but they help the pacing by being “invisible” to the reader.

To get rid of overwriting, edit mercilessly. Grit your teeth, take a deep breath, and kill your darlings. Okay, save them in a file for future ideas, but delete them from the story.

Do you tend to over-write? Let us know how you handle the purple prose.

Note: I’ve just registered for the Alabama Writers’ Conclave 2016 conference. It’s being held July 15-17 this year in Birmingham, AL. Check it out:  

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


PS:  If you’d like to do a guest post on Lyrical Pens to market a new book, drop me a line at   I can offer topic suggestions, a questionnaire, or you can write on a topic of your choice. Caveat: This site is definitely PG 13.    
PPS:  The "toons" are from Facebook.
Choosing Carter  -- Kindle  /  Nook  /  Kobo   /  iTunes/iBook
Deadly Star --  Kindle  / Nook  / Kobo
Amazon Central Author Page:

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Things that inspire me to write

cj Sez: The following pieces of info make me really happy:

James Lee Burke was born in 1936. (I’m not that old, but it reassures me I don’t have to be a twenty- or thirty-something to succeed. Okay, okay, so I should have started earlier.)  In the back of Burke’s novel, Wayfaring Stranger, on the “About the Author” page, I found this comment: 

“His novel, The Lost Get-Back Boogie, was rejected 111 times over a period of nine years and, upon its publication by Louisiana State University Press, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.” 

And this from author Chris Bradford: “There is no failure except in no longer trying.” 

You get the idea. It’s my motto: Keep on Keeping on.

Sunset...Dauphin Island, AL
There many things that inspire me to keep writing: My family, my friends, writers conferences, memories of places I've seen,  
and the wonderful critique group to which I belong. Each member brings a special writing/reading strength to the process of critiquing, and I've benefited immensely from their contributions to my WIPs. Ergo, because I must submit at least a few pages for every meeting, I am inspired to write. (Disclaimer: We’ve been on a brief hiatus while Michelle Ladner practices being a new mother. I understand it’s difficult to think and type and tend to a newborn all at the same time. Can’t imagine why.) 

It can be hard to find a compatible group of writers knowledgeable in the genre in which you write, but I highly recommend trying. The input can be invaluable and the camaraderie priceless.

Need a reason to make your writing the best it can be? (This comes from a past issue of C. Hope Clark’s fantastically informative newsletter, FundsforWriters,

“Nobody reads a mystery to get to the middle. They read it to get to the end. If it’s a letdown, they won’t buy anymore. The first page sells that book. The last page sells your next book.”
                                          ~Mickey Spillane

Style question: I was once asked this question: “If you've published a novel (or, lucky you, more than one novel), could you tell me whether or not the internal dialogue is italicized?”

My answer: I’ve seen it in print both ways. When you self-publish, the choice is pretty much yours. However, the rule there is, be consistent throughout the book. When you have an editor and a publisher, the choice is not yours.  I had read in one how-to book that if you use "he/she thought," the rule was that you didn't italicize the actual thoughts. But when Crimson Romance published my novel, Deadly Star, their editor required italics on all internal thoughts, no matter what. My best guess answer is that “the rule” depends on who’s in charge of the final product.

How do you handle internal dialogue? If you’re self-published, which do you prefer? Ital or no Ital? 

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:

The Dauphin Island shore photo is by Jeff D. Johnston. The other ’toons are from Facebook.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Honoring Moms

cj Sez:  I read someplace recently that love is the deepest emotion we share with one another. So, to all the Moms out there. . . I hope your Mother’s Day is filled to the brim with love.

A bit of Mother’s Day history (from

Anna Jarvis originally conceived of Mother’s Day as a day of personal celebration between mothers and families. Her version of the day involved wearing a white carnation as a badge and visiting one’s mother or attending church services. But once Mother’s Day became a national holiday, it was not long before florists, card companies and other merchants capitalized on its popularity.

Jarvis initially worked with the floral industry to help raise Mother’s Day’s profile, but by 1920 she had become disgusted with how the holiday had been commercialized. She outwardly denounced the transformation and urged people to stop buying Mother’s Day flowers, cards and candies. 

In the U.S., people spend more money on Mother’s Day than on any other holiday, but we’re not alone in honoring our moms. Versions of Mother’s Day are celebrated in 40 countries, and traditions vary depending on the country. In Thailand, for example, Mother’s Day is always celebrated in August on the birthday of the current queen, Her Majesty Queen Sirikit. Another alternate observance of Mother’s Day can be found in Ethiopia, where families gather each fall to sing songs and eat a large feast as part of Antrosht, a multi-day celebration honoring motherhood.

When we lived many miles apart, I sent each of my sons flowers on Mother’s Day, because they have always been a source of pride. And besides, I wouldn’t be a mother without them. This year, my sons gave me a dozen roses. They could have given me a dandelion stem as they did when they were little, and I could not have felt more loved.

I can’t end this day without remembering my Mom, as I do most every day. I’m grateful that she was the mother who soothed my fears, dried my tears, and patted my rear when I needed it. Thank you, Mom. You are forever in my heart.


Before I close this post, I want to thank Mahala Church for all her help with the Lyrical Pens blog site over the years. I will miss your input very much. Best wishes for great successes in your new ventures.

PS:  No matter how old a mother is, she watches her middle-aged children for signs of improvement.  — Florida Scott-Maxwell
Choosing Carter  -- Kindle  /  Nook  /  Kobo   /  iTunes/iBook
Deadly Star --  Kindle  / Nook  / Kobo
Amazon Central Author Page:

The Toons are from Facebook pages.