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, June 29, 2016

Essay Markets –Get Paid for Your Words!

cj Sez:  Author Joan Leotta visits Lyrical Pens today, blogging about how essays have the potential to add to a writer’s credentials and income.

Captured from Facebook

Joan says:     If you write short stories, you know the drill: Begin with a bang, fill in the details and swoop the reader up with a good ending so they will not forget your tale. Well, if you know all of that, but you want to make money, think about writing essays. Non-fiction in general pays more than fiction (unless you are a best-selling novelist) essays are like short stories except they not only use snippets of real life, they are fully based on a real event or personal memory. If you view sticking to the truth as a strait jacket, then stop reading. If you view that as a creative challenge, keep write (pun intended) on and warm up the deposit slips.

The personal essay is very much alive—in regional and national magazines and anthology collections. A local women’s magazine has paid me about $100 for three different essays and the larger, regional women’s interest magazine paid me $200 for a memory of a trip to Dallas with my mother. Chicken Soup for the Soul paid me $200 for my story of how I said good-by to my grandmother for the last time.

Often these essays are family stories that I have been telling my children for a long time.  For about half of the essays I’ve sold, I wrote the essay, polished it and then found a market. For the other half, I’ve written on themes in an editorial calendar, a publication’s list of upcoming subject focus.  If a publication does not have a theme list, let the seasons be your guide—flowers in spring, mothers in May, fathers in June—you get the idea! When mining personal memories remember that if they are sad, you will need to provide some positive element—how you overcame the pain and are now a successful person—something like that. People like positive.

Editors are people. Also remember, these magazines (and anthology in the case of Chicken Soup) will expect your work to be presented according to their guidelines and on time. No fudging deadlines.

The following website . . . . . . is a good place to start looking for places to send your work. They list many markets for essays—most pay. The website also has tips on crafting essays.

So, get out the family album to rev up your memory engines and start writing!

Joan Leotta is a writer and story performer who loves playing with words in many genres—journalism, poetry, essays, stories, and books. Joan is available to speak to groups on writing both fiction and non-fiction. Check out her book of short stories, inspired by objects—Simply a Smile. The book is available in kindle format and as a paperback.     

Simply a Smile includes a collection of short stories which contain Historical Fiction, Romance, Mystery, and tales of Family. Each was inspired by a piece of art or an object as simple as a shell, a recipe, a button, and a historical marker. These stories are meant for simple reading pleasure and to leave you, the reader, with a smile as the book closes. 

cj Sez:  Best wishes, Joan, for great sales of Simply a Smile. It sounds like an enjoyable read. And thanks for sharing some great tips. I think I’ll hit the library shelves to read a few magazines for ideas then buy an issue or two when I’m grocery shopping.  Little caveat to writers on the seasonal suggestion: There’s usually a long lead-time on seasonal/holiday stories that can range from six months to a year, so it’s a good idea to double-check with the publication editor for the submission dates. 

You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to the same.
Choosing Carter  -- Kindle  /  Nook  /  Kobo   /  iTunes/iBook
Deadly Star --  Kindle  / Nook  / Kobo

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Deep Point of View

cj Sez: I like to write as much into deep point of view as I can. I’m not always successful, and it always takes a few edit cycles to get what I want.
(All the 'toons are from Facebook)

Deep point of view is intense. It encompasses the sights, sounds, and actions, filtered through a point of view character but goes deeper into her/his emotions, actions, and reactions. In deep point of view, the character owns the page.

Following are a couple of the tips I picked up a few years ago from a blog and adopted into my writing: (The examples are from my work in progress which, of course, will be honed even further.)

1. Make as many of your dialogue tags disappear as possible.

Dialogue tags do clarify a speaker, but they also remind readers that they are reading a story. In deep point of view, tags are often replaced by action, body language, voice description, emotion. How the words are said and the actions behind the words reveal a lot about a character’s emotional state of mind.

Distant point of view: “That’s not something I care to share,” she said.

The reader can’t understand what she means. Is she naturally a private person? Maybe she’s being a bit belligerent.

Deeper: “That’s not something I care to share,” she said, wadding her napkin into a ball.

Her action gives a clue that what she doesn’t want to share upsets her. The “she said” reminds readers that they’re reading a novel, and it’s also redundant. (If dialog is in the same paragraph as the character’s action, then the action character is also the speaker.) In this sentence, I would have to eliminate the action to make it correct. But I want to give the character some emotional action to develop the persona more fully. So, let’s go deeper still.

Deeper still: “That’s not something I care to share.” She wadded a napkin into as tight a ball as she could get it then started picking it apart with her fingernails, shredding the paper into a pile of confetti.

The character’s body language adds a deeper point of view. The character’s emotional state of mind is revealed…without telling.

2. Make your thought words/sense words disappear

Thought words/sense words are telling words. They put an author on the page and again remind readers they are reading a novel. They are contrary to the “real life experience” of deep point of view.

How often do you personally think, I’m thinking about tomorrow’s party?  Or I’m wondering if … whatever?

You don’t. And if you’re writing in deep point of view, your characters don’t either. Oh, they’ll think, wonder, and see, hear, and feel; but they won’t add the filter words. They’ll just do it.

Distant: She felt his hands around her throat and wondered if she was going to die.

     The reader doesn’t feel what the character feels. The author has told the reader what the character thinks/feels.

Deep:   She tore at the fingers squeezing her throat. This is it. I’m going to die.

     (No thinking. No wondering. Just showing what’s happening and pulling in the reader.)

Another tip: Our worldviews are shaped by our life experiences and expectations. These are also the things that make up characters’ backstories. Ergo: Know your characters so thoroughly that you know reflexively how they will react in every situation.

As you explore deep point of view, know that there are many reasons to break the rules. Explore and discover the tips and tricks, and then use what works for you and your story. Remember, you are in charge…you are the captain of your story.

Let me know what you think. Will you go exploring?

Be sure to stop by Wednesday and read what author Joan Leotta has to say about how to get paid to write for essay markets.

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

Wednesday, June 22, 2016


by Guest Laurel Peterson

cj Sez:  Today, Lyrical Pens welcomes poet/novelist Laurel Peterson. Laurel is not a relative of mine, but I believe she’d be a wonderful addition to the family. Take it away, Laurel.

Thanks, cj, for offering me a spot on your blog today. I’m delighted to be here.

I had a wonderful professor in graduate school who said poets couldn’t write novels, and I’ve read some novels by poets that bear out his point. But I’m a poet with two published poetry chapbooks and a full-length collection coming out next year from Futurecycle Press, and I’ve written a mystery novel titled Shadow Notes, released May 17th by Barking Rain Press. And there are others out there that have done both successfully—perhaps some of you reading this!—so I’m going to challenge his thesis. I would say that poetic focus can be an advantage in writing novels.

That professor, the poet Dan Masterson, had four “rules” for poetry, which are equally as useful for novelists. First, he said, write lines good enough to go on a t-shirt. While I think novelists don’t agonize over each individual sentence in the same way poets do (we’d never finish our novels!), we do care about our language. It must capture attitude or mood, as well as conveying information. It can’t be the easiest word that comes to mind. Instead it has to be the right one, and often has to convey multiple layers of meaning. (cj Sez: That is so true, Laurel. To quote Mark Twain: “The difference between the right word and the almost-right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.”)

The second rule is to use concrete imagery: not he walked by some pretty flowers (what kind of flowers? what kind of walk? how pretty?) but he sauntered past a mass of delicate lemon-colored roses spilling over a grey split-rail fence.

The third, an engaging story line. Well, that’s self-explanatory, no?

The fourth, some center of emotional pain or truth. This is the core of what we need to do as writers—communicate real human experience to our readers. In Shadow Notes, my protagonist Clara Montague is afraid of losing another parent, frustrated at her inability to talk to the one she still has, lonely because she has returned to a town where she has few friends. Those common human emotions draw readers to our stories and keep them there, rooting for our characters to win.

Poetry teaches a writer to pay attention to details—the right word, the right image, the most important moment to portray. All of us who love words care about those things. So what do you think? Is being a poet an advantage or a disadvantage when writing a novel? Thanks for reading, and I’d love to hear from you!

Laurel S. Peterson is an English professor at Norwalk Community College in Connecticut. Her poetry has been published in many literary journals and she has two poetry chapbooks. Her first mystery, Shadow Notes, has just been released by Barking Rain Press. Find her on Twitter (@laurelwriter49), Facebook, LinkedIn, or at her website:

Clara Montague’s mother Constance never liked—or listened—to her but now they have to get along or they will both end up dead. Clara suspects she and her mother share intuitive powers, but Constance always denied it. When Clara was twenty, she dreamed her father would have a heart attack. Constance claimed she was hysterical. Then he died.
Furious, Clara leaves for fifteen years, but when she dreams Constance is in danger, she returns home. Then, Constance’s therapist is murdered and Constance is arrested.
Starting to explore her mother’s past, Clara discovers books on trauma, and then there’s a second murder. Can Clara find the connection between the murders and her mother’s past that will save her mother and finally heal their relationship?  

cj Sez: Thank you so very much, Laurel, for sharing this great information with Lyrical Pens readers. I am not a formal student of linguistics, but syntax and semantics are important to my writing, so, yes, I believe being a poet is an asset. And with your attention to emotional detail, I expect Shadow Notes to be the first of your best sellers

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Clichés as Themes for Novels

cj Sez:  How does one come up with an idea for a novel? 

I usually find something in the news, but that’s too incredibly ominous and ugly right now. So, let’s get lighter. First, let's agree that novels need a theme, a premise on which to hang the action and plot points. An overall theme continues as a thread through the novel. It lets a writer connect the dots of subplots to the main plot. One way to get a handle on finding your theme/premise might be to think about describing your novel in one sentence, as with a cliché. Of course, you wouldn’t really use the cliché as part of a back of the book blurb, just the idea of it should help polish the brief paragraph.

Caveat:  A cliché is, by definition, a trite and overused expression . . . a figure of speech that has become tiresome and uninteresting. Several experts advise against the use of clichés in your narrative. In fact, author and editor Sol Stein has this advice: “Cut every cliché you come across. Say it new and say it straight” (Stein on Writing, 1995).

Clichés are those taboo things that writers should avoid like the plague, but they can be good fodder for this exercise. Think about it. For a romance story, how about this? “Love will find a way.” Then every time you put an obstacle in a character’s path on the way to her/his happily ever after, that obstacle can be overcome with some kind of act of love . . . even self-love (conceit, egotism) is fair game. 

For a love story (which doesn’t always end happily ever after): “Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.” 

Or how about this for a YA or memoir: “A coming of age story.” That old saw keeps the threads of the story tied to some agonizing affliction and growth of young people over a longer time span. 

A possible theme for Choosing Carter, my latest novel, could be “My brother’s keeper.” The novel is about an American woman that wants to extract her brother from a domestic terrorist cell. I’ve alluded to it in my marketing blurbs. 

What if one of your characters is fond of vocalizing clichés? I say, okay. Use them, but only in that character’s dialogue. Another warning here: Too much/too often can become distracting to your readers. Even Stein's new and straight words can become hackneyed when used too often.

I’m going have another go at my latest WIP’s theme and premise with clichés in mind. Wish me luck, and I wish you luck with yours. If you have a different way of working on the theme/premise of your stories, let me know how you do it. I love, love, love learning new methodologies.

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
PS The toons are from Facebook. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Putting yourself out there: The act of self-promotion.

cj Sez:  Today, Lyrical Pens welcomes novelist D. J. Adamson discussing how she goes about the important business of marketing without breaking the bank. 

I worked in sales and marketing before deciding to self-publish. This background gave me the confidence to go forward. I’d trained many people to successfully sell and market. Combining what I knew before with what I know now allows me to pass on some of the tips I’ve learned about selling and marketing my books.
At the beginning, I played with social media, went to conferences and networked, purchased promotional packages. Did I have success? Some, but nothing that put me on the Amazon’s “most sales list” or matched Hugh Howie’s numbers. 
As a past business person, I know a business needs to eventually run in the black. Maybe not the first year, but eventually. So after two years, I pulled up my expenses and balanced them with my assets. DEPRESSING. Yet, instead of discouraging me, it motivated me to do it all differently. Here is what I found:
1.                   I no longer go to conferences unless the attendees include readers as well as writers.  Writers don’t buy books. Or very few.
2.                  I go to conferences that are close by and don’t cost a flight and hotel to attend. One conference cost me two thousand dollars and I sold one book. I joined active association, like Sisters in Crime, National Women’s Book Association, SCBWI, Mystery Writers of America. I became active.
3.                   I remind myself that I am as good as my last book. I received one award, was nominated for another, and received 4+ stars on my novels. Many Goodreads people “Want to Read” my work, but, sales diminish after the book has been out there for a year. I need to produce one to two novels a year. And let me emphasize, Good Novels. That means, I need to be disciplined in my schedule. I work my writing at least four to six hours a day and spend about five hours a week on social networking and promoting.
4.                  I used to work many social networks. Now, I am only on Facebook and Twitter.  I also limit how much I promote my books, only doing so when I have a special promotion going on, revealing a new cover, or mentioning a launch.  Don’t you thumb right past those twenty posts requesting, “Read My Book”?
I use social networks for networking, not marketing. I meet new people in the industry and by putting myself out there, I am received.
5.                   I use my Kindle freebies only before I launch a new book. I hold maybe one/two .99 cent promotions. I try to do a Goodreads giveaway once a month. I offer two, sometimes three books. I send them by camel.
6.                  I use snail mail to keep others updated on my new work. I’ve found postal mail more beneficial than email. It takes nothing to hit the delete button on a computer. The person getting the postcard has to see what the card is about and who it’s from before giving it a toss in the trash basket.
7.                  I set a dollar limit for promoting a book. If you look around, you’ll realize a whole industry has developed to swallow authors’ dollars, promising to get their books noticed. I have limited my promotional money to $500 a book. I know that sounds low, but I think I have sold more books in this past year than the two years combined. I advertise on free or low-cost sites. Amazon ads have been very successful, and the cost is low. Finding a way to get to readers or promote without spending a lot of money has become actually very fun. I had create my book trailers. Go to my website to see for yourself. They aren’t bad. They are also on YouTube, and go figure this, the trailer of Outré has been seen by almost five thousand viewers. Did that turn into sales? Probably not. But five thousand people learned my name.
8.                  I created a newsletter. “Le Coeur de l’Artiste” reviews books and interviews authors. I publish it monthly. It comes out, like any other deadlined project, on the 15th of every month. Sometimes not until midnight, but one minute before, I press the send button. The newsletter has not necessarily created sales, but it has branded my name as a writer. Plus, I find a great satisfaction in promoting other authors.
Stephen King said in his work On Writing that to write you need to read a lot. You need to read what is good and what is bad. I read at least five-six books a month, just for the newsletter. I also try to read one or two books on promotion and craft.
9.                  I began accumulating email addresses as soon as the newsletter idea came to me. So far, my “Le Coeur de l’Artiste” list is almost two thousand readers. I don’t promote myself in the newsletter, but it can be found on my website. I also offer it to many readers as a PDF.  The newsletter has been so well accepted that I now have a blog, “L’Artiste.” I produce it three times a month. I include others besides authors: musicians, scriptwriters, playwrights, etc. The blog emphasizes that getting the story out has many forms.
10.              There are great books out there on promotional ideas. Read them all. Take an idea, put it on a card then try it out. One idea at a time. If it doesn’t feel good to you or didn’t pan out, throw the card away and pick up another.  Don’t be bashful; ask others to help promote stories. I have rarely been told to “beat it.” In fact, I think it’s a writer’s responsibility to help other writers. We all know how defeatist we can feel when things aren’t going well.

      I am not sure I was helpful to anyone reading this. I am merely sharing my experience so far. I want to write for a long time, which means I need to be sensible about what I do, both with time and money. It might also sound like my whole life is consumed behind my computer. I still teach a full load of classes, grade papers, make dinner, clean house, and find the time to give my family a hug.

      Putting yourself out there is the ultimate KEY to being SUCCESSFUL.  Please share with me your promotional stories, both the horror stories and those that gave you some success. You can reach me on Facebook, Twitter, or my Website. And don’t miss the latest issue of “Le Coeur de l’Artiste.”

cj Sez: Thanks, D.J., for sharing your marketing methodology with Lyrical Pens readers. Lots of great tips in there. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Suppose runs right up Amazon’s ladder to the Most Sales List.

If you’ve got a question or comment, be sure to let D.J. know, either here or directly on her website. We’d love to hear from you. Okay, you-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.

D. J. Adamson is the author of the Lillian Dove Mystery series and the Deviation science fiction-suspense trilogy.  Suppose, the second in the Lillian series, has just been released.  She also teaches writing and literature at Los Angeles colleges. And to keep busy when she is not writing or teaching, she is the Membership Director of the Los Angeles Sisters in Crime, Vice President of Central Coast Sisters in Crime and an active member of the Southern California Mystery Writers. Her books can be found and purchased in bookstores and on Amazon.

"What did he want to know about me?” 

“If you were still alive.” 

Connivers, murder and the international shipment of drugs unites the local PDs and the Federal Government, and drags Lillian Dove into a hailstorm of manipulation and danger; whereby, she is given two choices: Join? Or die trying.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Golden Donut and Help for the Dreaded Synopsis

cj Sez: Check it out . . .Lee Lofland’s Graveyard Shift has posted a news item:

“BREAKING NEWS!! Zombie Invasion
Earn FREE Registration to Writers' Police Academy”

Yes, use your imaginations to write a KILLER story about the photograph opposite, using
exactly 200 words
and you could win a FREE registration to the 2017 Writers’ Police Academy, along with the Golden Donut Award!

Superstar author Tami Hoag is our contest judge!

Hurry, the contest deadline is July 1st

The Golden Donut contest is open to everyone of all genres, and you do not have to be
present at the 2016 Writers’ Police Academy to win.

Click the link below to enter and for contest details and submission requirements!


One thing writers hate doing but most certainly will have to do at some time is the Dreaded Synopsis. An agent may request it in the submission materials, or an editor might want it, and publishers who accept submissions without an agent will also request it.

In other words, writers have to squeeze the heart and soul of their 300- or 400-page literary masterpiece into about 500 words. Self-published or traditionally published, you will need that one- or two-page synopsis before you’re published, and you’ll certainly need it afterwards. With exception of the tell-all ending (necessary in a synopsis), it feeds into many marketing blurbs. 

I’ve spent hours and hours running down a few of Google’s rabbit holes searching out hints and clues and studying methods on how to accomplish the task. Then this wonderful site dropped into my inbox when I was recently recruited to critique an aspiring writer’s work. One of the requirements for the thirty-page submission was to include a synopsis, and the project coordinator forwarded a url to help. The post is from 2012 but was new to me. If you've read it before, maybe this is the time for a fresh look. There are eleven “fill-in-the-blanks” steps to ease you on down the road—each step is followed by relevant examples, using a familiar movie—and then there’s a final example of how it would look, all put together.
1.   Opening image
2.   Protagonist Intro
3.   Inciting incident
4.   Plot point 1
5.   Conflicts & character encounters
6.   Midpoint
7.   Winning seems imminent, but…
8.   Black moment
9.   Climax
10. Resolution
11. Final image
      Putting It All Together

I highly recommend a visit to this site if you’re in need of some help on creating the synopsis for your latest work. I have it bookmarked, because I KNOW I will be using it in the future.

What about you? How do you write a synopsis? Was this method helpful?

Okay, 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

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Flogging the Fear of Failure

cj Sez: Watched a TV interview with James Patterson this morning, and I was encouraged to learn that his first novel was rejected thirty-one times before it was published. Even after publication, it didn’t “do all that well.” Failure didn’t discourage him; it encouraged him. He wanted to write.

So, where did his worldwide success come from, besides having some natural talent for story telling? What he did was set about learning and analyzing the genre he wanted to write, so he could become the best writer he could be. Like most authors (I think the generalization is true), he started out writing part-time because he had a day job. Now, he writes full-time, every day but Sunday. As of January 2016, his books have sold more than 350 million copies worldwide.

From bios I’ve read, many, if not all, successful writers have some fear of failure, especially at the beginning of their careers. Perhaps they get an idea they’re excited to develop. The words flow like magic onto the page, but the farther they get into the writing, the more they start to second-guess their story-telling abilities. Doubts creep in: Someone’s already told this story, better. No one is going to read this drivel. It’ll never sell.

Those possibilities exist for all authors, even James Patterson, Stephen King, Patricia Cornwell, et al., and sometimes, though not often, they have a book that doesn’t sell. Fortunately for their fans, they never stop writing their wonderful stories.

In his memoir, On Writing, Stephen King writes: “I had been playing with the idea of writing a little book about writing for a year or more ///but had held back because I didn’t trust my own motivations—why did I want to write about writing? What made me think I had anything worth saying? The easy answer is that someone who has sold as many books of fiction as I have must have something worthwhile to say about writing it, but the easy answer isn’t always the truth.”

If you want to reduce your chances of failure, study the craft…workshops, conferences, writers’ groups, read-read-read…and publish a professional, well-edited book.

I also suggest that you write for yourself first. When you’re the only one you have to please, it reduces the stress of arranging coherent sentences into a story arc on a blank page.

What was the first thing you wrote? A poem? A memoir? A little piece of fiction? If you’re like me, you kept it and every once in a while, you resurrect it and wonder, “What was I thinking?”

Passing on a note:  2016 Killer Nashville Scholarship Offer . . . The deadline isn't until July 1, so you have time. Hop on over to for more details. 

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

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

PS:  The toons are from Facebook.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Nine Tips for Young Authors

cj Sez:  I was fortunate to participate in a Young Authors Conference in Mobile, AL, earlier this year (see my April 3 post), and developed a couple of handouts for these talented writers.
What follows are nine tips for young authors, with a quote from Harper Lee to introduce the task. I think, however, they apply to all authors. See if you can find one that fits a philosophy of yours.

Nine Tips for Young Writers

“I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide.”     Harper Lee

9. Take the business minor. You'll need it later.

8. Being nice and being kind aren't the same thing. You don't always have to be nice . . . you always need to be kind.

7. You're perfect just the way you are. Honestly, I have been on a diet for most of my life, and didn't need to be back then. I was fine.

6. Worrying about what other people think is such a waste of time. You can't control it. All you can control is how you behave. Behave well.

5. Regrets are such a waste of time. Both having them and avoiding them.

4. Take risks. The worst thing that can happen is that you fail. And really, how bad is that?

3. Your life won't work out the way you expect. 
It will be great but different.

2. You know that dream of being a writer? It works out.

1. First, and foremost, Set a goal
make a plan to reach it, and
go for it.

Since authorship is truly a business, I believe #1 and #9 are the way to start. I’ll admit to being prejudiced though, because that’s how I started the process, and it worked for me.

If you have a tip to add to the list, let me know. I’d love to pass it along.

The yin and yang of eBooks vs.“real” books is back in the news. I found the following opposing views:

“Books are Back” by Simon Jenkins reports on slowing eBook sales. Read it here

Or are they?  Read the 2015 challenge here:

Okay, you-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same. And you folks in my home state of Texas, be safe. Turn around, don’t drown.

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

Deadly Star --  Kindle  / Nook  / Kobo
(PS: The toons are from Facebook.)