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, September 30, 2018

Are audiobooks the next big thing?

cj Sez: The subject today is a set of pros and cons for audiobooks.

   A friend of mine was talking about his love of audiobooks. He listens while he drives, while he works, while he gardens; he listens everywhere and every chance he gets. He cites the advantage of hands-free “reading.” He also notes that the market for audiobooks seems to be exploding. That, of course, makes the medium a valuable source of revenue for authors.

   Being the contrarian, I said that listening to audiobooks while driving was a bit dangerous because they are distracting. You’re either going to pay more attention to the road or to the book. One or the other will suffer. He, the multi-tasker claimed to have no problem with that.

   Since my opinion about the risks associated with listening while driving was based on old research, I decided I needed to update my information. I almost immediately uncovered some answers in another Jane Friedman blog post.

   *Author Kristen Tsetsi, in her August 2018 post on Jane Friedman’s blog, writes:

Cognitive psychologist Daniel T. Willingham, “Ask the Cognitive Scientist” columnist for American Educator magazine and author of The Reading Mind, among others, notes another difference: “[Reading] requires decoding and [listening] doesn’t.”

From her personal experience, she related:

“For the seasoned reader of text, audiobooks also help develop critical listening skills, according to Reading Rockets. I can attest to this—it definitely takes concentration and a commitment to pay attention.”

   My point, exactly. However … back to the pros, also from Kristen Tsetsi:

“The book lover in me, though, is even more grateful for the audio option. In just eight months I’ve been able to “read” thirty-eight books I otherwise wouldn’t have. I’ll still use air quotes around “reading,” but only for the sake of accuracy. My cheater shame has been edged out by the conviction that writers write in order to have their words experienced, and that readers and “readers” alike just want to experience them. Period.
“Comparing audio books to cheating,” Willingham writes, “is like meeting a friend at Disneyland and saying ‘you took a bus here? I drove myself, you big cheater.’ The point is getting to and enjoying the destination. The point is not how you traveled.”

   The audiobook medium is definitely growing in popularity and not only because of the hands-free convenience. Readers who want large-print books are faced with a limited selection, and the exploding audiobook market can fill that need. That said, I stand by my opinion that there are times/places where an audiobook may not be the best way to “read” a book.

   What’s your favorite way to enjoy a book? Physical book, eBook, audiobook, or all versions at different times for different reasons?
cj Sez: Now that it’s autumn, the stores are going full bore with sales on Halloween-Thanksgiving-Christmas/Hanukkah/kwanzaa-New Year’s items. Staying with that theme, I thought I’d share the first of my plans for the holidaze: Halloween.

   I bought a Nordic Ware Skull Cakelet pan and experimented with pizza calzones one night last week. I didn't get the pizza dough thin enough on the first few attempts, but the concept was grossly perfect. The idea is that when you break one apart, the tomato-sauced bloody cheese and pepperoni guts spill out. I think I'm going to use the skull pan to make small lava cakes with a red cream cheese filling that comes oozing out as brain matter when you take a bite. What do you think?  Gory enough? Hee Hee 

   On Oct 27 I’m planning to go to my first costume party in a hundred or so years. The Mad Catters (the group of authors responsible for that wonderful Familiar Legacy cat detective series) are giving an
author-reader meet and greet Halloween costume party at Angela Trigg’s (aka Rita and Prism Award winning author Angela Quarles) newly re-opened Haunted Book Shop. I have only half an idea of which author I’d like to dress up as, but I’m pretty sure my escort will be Sherlock Holmes. Lots of spooky stuff on the schedule, including a treasure hunt and a decorate-a-wooden-coffin contest. If you’re anywhere near Mobile, you are cordially invited to come and join the fun.

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


Stop by Amazon and pick up copies of DEADLY STAR and CHOOSING CARTER. Fast, exciting reads and a Christmas gift that keeps on giving. (A hint in case you have only two more paydays until Christmas.)

Send me an eMail that you’ve left an Amazon a review for me to read—good, bad, or simply “I read it.”—and I’ll put your name in a raffle to receive a gift bag of goodies. I’ll be drawing a random name on December 6 (my sister’s birthday) and will post it on my Facebook page, so be sure to stop by.

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Simon&Schuster Author Page =

Sunday, September 23, 2018

At last . . . fall

Welcome to the first day of fall.
Since this post is going live on Sunday, Sept 23, I said “first day” because, officially, my local autumnal equinox occurred at 8:54 p.m. C.T. Saturday evening, Sept. 22.

copyright Jeff D. Johnston
What is the autumnal equinox, you ask? According to my eNews source, it's actually a dual-purpose event. It marks the beginning of fall in the Northern hemisphere and the beginning of spring in the Southern hemisphere. If you are geographically challenged, it means at 8:54 p.m. C.T. on Saturday, Sept. 22, autumn began officially in my space in the world, but a different season began on the other side of the equator:  Spring began on Sunday, Sept 23, at 3:54 p.m. S.T. in South Africa and at 11:54 a.m. E.T. in Australia. These time zones can be so confusing. The equinox does have astronomic logic to it, albeit some of it based on scientific imagination.

The word “equinox” means “equal nights.” Equal nights happen when the sun’s rays are exactly over the earth’s celestial equator, which is really an imaginary line: an abstract projection of the terrestrial equator into outer space. The terrestrial (or geographic) equator divides the Earth into the Northern and Southern hemispheres…0° latitude.

The other thing to remember is that after the equinox, the length of the days changes. They get shorter and cooler in the Northern hemisphere and longer and warmer in the Southern hemisphere.

Just thought you’d like to know, because
Copyright Jeff D. Johnston
maybe you can find a use for some of it in one of your novels. Setting is one of the more important pieces of a good scene, and weather will inevitably play a part in that. Personally, I’m looking forward to days when the heat and humidity along the Gulf Coast aren’t combining to reach triple digits. My protagonist is doing the same thing.

I just re-read a Jane Friedman** post that said that the main character might not really change at all, that the change readers see may be an illusion; that is, forces and circumstances in the story have created outcomes that cause the character to reveal his or her true self.  What do you think?

Upcoming book signing in Mobile . . .

Local authors are being featured. If you’re in the area, please stop by and say hi. I might be handing out candy…if it doesn’t melt first.

Books are acts of composition: you compose them. You make music: the music is called fiction.
                                                 .... E. L. Doctorow

Writers, if you have a book launch coming up and want to schedule a post on Lyrical Pens for your blog tour, drop me a note.

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

5 Star Reviews
Stop by Amazon and pick up copies of DEADLY STAR and CHOOSING CARTER, (to keep me in good standing with Simon&Schuster), and if you take a moment to leave a review (good, bad, or just “I read this one”), I shall be forever grateful.
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Sunday, September 16, 2018

Writing the bones

cj Sez: To quote a friend of mine, hurricanes have the predicable trajectories of a Frisbee.
Hurricane Florence spaghetti model
   Please join me in praying for the victims of Hurricane Florence and helping when you can.
   “As I have mentioned before—” That’s my sneaky way to introduce a subject I’ve written about before, story structure.

   Back when I was still working full time, I spent three days in San Francisco at a screenwriting seminar led by author, lecturer, and story consultant Robert McKee. The experience was invaluable in showing me how to create the scenes that create a story. Then years later (in 2014), I happened across a post titled “Adapting screenplay to novels,” by author James Preston. Mr. Preston’s post explained how he reverse engineered a screenplay into a story.

   Side Note: The Oxford Dictionary defines “story” as:  An account of imaginary or real people and events told for entertainment.

The following is an excerpt from Mr. Preston’s post.

“Remember, a story is about somebody who wants something.  Something stops them from getting it.  They try to get it and either succeed or fail.

A Plot Point is something that changes the story, turns it into something unexpected, usually by changing the heroine’s goals.

Since I am talking about adapting this structure to novel writing, I will use page numbers to show locations in the manuscript.  Assume a 200-page manuscript.  We’ll see how it works as minutes.

Let’s talk about the bones, the skeleton that is one way of building your story.

1. Hook.  Something interesting happens that grabs the reader’s attention.  This is the very beginning of the story and it is important!

2. Twist. The story goes off in a different direction.  It’s not what you thought it would be.  This can come anytime before . . .

3. Plot Point One.  About 20% in.  For our mythical 200-page books, this is around page 40.

4. Midpoint. A watershed moment.  You guessed it.  Page 100 .

5. Plot Point Two. Everything the heroine did is wrong.  Page 160.

6. Climax. The heroine solves the problem, or doesn’t.  This is less precise.  Say around page 180.

7. Denouement.  Loose ends are tied up.  Everybody who wasn’t killed and eaten goes home.”

  So my question is, how would your novel stack up against Mr. Preston’s skeleton? Mine will need work.
BSP (blatant self promotion)
   A book signing is in my future and yours too should you choose to stop by. Sept 29 at Mobile Bookseller from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Local authors are being featured, so if you’re in the Mobile, AL, area, you are cordially invited to stop by and say “hey!”

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

Stop by Amazon and pick up copies of DEADLY STAR and CHOOSING CARTER, (to keep me in good standing with Simon&Schuster), and if you take a moment to leave a review (good, bad, or indifferent), I shall be forever grateful.
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Sunday, September 9, 2018

A bit about apostrophes

cj Sez: How to properly use an apostrophe in some plurals has always plagued me, especially when input from critique readers challenges me.

I always have to get on the Internet and search, so I decided to go to THE source for writers, The Chicago Manual of Style. I recorded the proper usage in a handy-dandy Word document that I keep on my computer and thought I'd share my findings with you.

A Google search for how to use apostrophes gave me the following excerpts of questions by wordsmiths and the answers provided by a CMOS correspondent:

Plural Names

Q. My boyfriend and I are having a battle royal over the use of apostrophes in plural names. In his PhD dissertation he repeatedly refers to a family by the name of Wallace. When he refers to them in the plural, he insists that the correct form is “the Wallace’s,” which seems entirely incorrect to me. I hold that it should be “the Wallaces,” just like “the McDonalds” or “the McPartlands” or “the DeVitos.” He is backing up his position with the example “the G.I.s,” which he insists should be pluralized as “the G.I.’s.” Please help. This is ruining our dinner conversation!

Apostrophes do not make nouns plural
A. Usually in such arguments, the woman is right. Yours is no exception. The plural of names of persons and other capitalized nouns is usually formed with the addition of s or es. An apostrophe is never used to form the plural of family names. Write “the Wallaces,” “the Joneses,” the “Jordans,” etc. See paragraph 7.8 of the sixteenth edition of CMOS for the full statement of the applicable rule. As for G.I., Chicago style is GI (no periods), the plural of which we write as GIs. See 10.4 and 7.14.

Possessives and Attributives

Q. When indicating possession of a word that ends in s, is it correct to repeat the s after using an apostrophe? For example, which is correct: “Dickens’ novel” or “Dickens’s novel”?

A. Either is correct, though we prefer the latter. Please consult 7.15–18 for a full discussion of the rules for forming the possessive of proper nouns. For a discussion of the alternative practice of simply adding an apostrophe to form the possessive of proper nouns ending in s, see paragraph 7.21.

Q. I have suddenly become an editor and am having trouble on a daily basis with the numeric use of decades. First, is “the 90s” or “the ’90s” correct? We often see the apostrophe omitted these days. Next, if a sentence contains the phrase, “Perhaps the 70s best director . . .” (meaning, the best director of that decade), “70s” is both plural and possessive. Should it be “70’s”? “70s’”? Other than reconstructing the sentence, what’s an editor to do?

A. Strictly speaking, ’90s, with the apostrophe, is correct. The ’70s’ finest director was Martin Scorsese, particularly for his work on Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore and Taxi Driver.

Journalists' AP Stylebook differs
Note the apostrophes, both of them. You are always free to write “seventies’ finest.” Or, “The finest director of the ’70s was assuredly Francis Ford Coppola, for his work on the first two Godfather films and Apocalypse Now.”

cj Sez: Hope you found a nugget in this post that you can use. By the by, the Seventeenth Edition of The Chicago Manual of Style is now available. Click on the cover photo to find out more.

Upcoming book signing in Mobile . . .
Sept 29, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Book Seller: Local authors are being featured, me included. 

If you’re in the area, please stop by and say hi.


Writers, if you have a book launch coming up and want to schedule a post on Lyrical Pens for your blog tour, drop me a note.

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


Stop by Amazon and pick up copies of DEADLY STAR and CHOOSING CARTER, (to keep me in good standing with Simon&Schuster), and if you take a moment to leave a review (good, bad, or indifferent), I shall be forever grateful.
Qrtly newsletter sign-up:

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Labor Day 2018 and author/reader relationships

cj Sez:  I wish you an enjoyable Labor Day.

Did you know?  Labor Day is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

   The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on a Tuesday in 1882 in New York City, but in 1884, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.
Relationships.  I may have written a post about this before, but I think it’s worth repeating for all the authors building their fan bases. 

   I’ve read some really good articles on this subject, and the following post is a product of some of the things I’ve learned.

   The dictionary defines the word “relationship” this way:

[ri-ley-shuh n-ship] 

1. a connection, association, or involvement.
2. connection between persons by blood or marriage.
3. an emotional or other connection between people:  the relationship between teachers and students.
4. a sexual involvement; affair.

   Really, you don’t need another person to have a relationship. You can have a relationship with anything, animate or inanimate

   In the movie Turner and Hooch, Tom Hanks’s Turner character builds a crazy relationship with a big, slobber-faced dog. What you see here is a compulsively neat, bachelor detective whose tidy world encounters household destruction and chaos. . . The Odd Couple redux.

   In the 2000 movie Castaway, Tom Hanks’s marooned character creates a relationship with an inanimate object. A Wilson-brand volleyball takes on a persona. He gives it a face and a name and talks to it as if were another person.

Pet Rock 2018
In the mid-1970s, it was the Pet Rock craze.

  Every day we interact with animals, objects, and people of all stripes—family, friends, coworkers, strangers, et al. Our relationship with each is different, depending on the need.

   Authors create relationships (interactions) between characters in their stories.

   If I’ve gotten you interested enough to continue reading this brief post, then I’ve begun to build a relationship with you, my reader. This reader/author relationship is all about how long can I continue to entertain your interest in what I’m saying … the excitement of learning something new or discovering a statement that suddenly makes sense to you.

  That's how stories must progress if you’re going to keep your audience interested in your work.

   A writer’s skill at creating a story that draws in a reader emotionally and intellectually is what keeps the reader coming back for more. That’s when you’ve got the beginnings of a relationship.

   One of the most important relationships authors can have is the one they have with their readers … the relationship they build with their writing. 

  How do you build a reader relationship and grow your fan base? Know your intended audience as thoroughly as you know your characters, understand their wants, and write the best story you can that appeals to their emotions and intellect.

   Caveat: It is the author’s responsibility to maintain the relationship. The reader doesn’t owe you anything and can end this promising author/reader relationship at any time—sometimes for no apparent reason.

   If I’ve given you something to think about, then I’ve done my job, and I’m done here. What kind of things do you do to keep your fan relationships alive and growing? Facebook? Twitter? Newsletters? Give-aways? All of the above? What works best for you?

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


Stop by Amazon and pick up copies of DEADLY STAR and CHOOSING CARTER, (to keep me in good standing with Simon&Schuster), and if you take a moment to leave a review (good, bad, or otherwise), I shall be forever grateful.
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