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, January 27, 2019


cj Sez:  Let’s talk a bit about story. 

   What follows in this post are excerpts and tidbits of information that I’ve gleaned from many sources over the years. First let’s agree that a story needs a beginning, a middle, and an end. What is often forgotten, especially by new authors, is that a story also needs an arc—a rise and fall of tension and emotion.

   Wiktionary defines a story arc as: “An extended or continuing storyline in episodic storytelling media such as television or comic books.”  The term was coined in 1988 in relation to the American TV series “Wiseguy” and could (and does) sometimes unfold over many episodes. 

   In terms of what authors do, I think the Oxford English Dictionary version provides a more apt definition:  a story arc is “(in a novel, play, or movie) the development or resolution of the narrative or principal theme.”

   A strong arc, or rise and fall, is part and parcel of the author’s ability to develop plot and character.

   This graphic is attributed to Kurt Vonnegut . . . part of a presentation he gave to illustrate the story arc of “Cinderella.”

   In fiction writing, the best ways is to start a story is to put the protagonist in the middle of a conflict. This is where the author is making a promise that this story will lead somewhere that’s worth the reader’s time. Don't start with the protag going through security and struggling to put her luggage in the overhead compartment of the plane as she begins her vacation. Start when the engine next to the window seat she is in flames out. 

   After that the opening hook, creating more conflict, twists and turns is the bulk of story. The ending is like a punch line at the end of a joke. The author has been throwing in confusion and misdirection, then surprise! s/he takes the reader to an ending that is totally unexpected.
In a video interview with Scott Myers, “The Clues to a Great Story,” Andrew Stanton, one of the key members of Pixar says this:

“Storytelling is joke-telling. It’s knowing your punch line. Your ending. Knowing everything you’re saying from the first sentence to the last is leading to a singular goal. And ideally confirming some truth that deepens the understanding of who we are as human beings.

“. . .  probably the greatest story commandment, ‘Make me care.’ Please, emotionally, intellectually, aesthetically… make me care.”

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

Another wonderful  review for CHOOSING CARTER (free on Kindle Unlimited):  “I take my hat off to Petterson for this great mystery story. She effortlessly develops the characters with realistic dialogue, and keeps the plot moving along with lots of twists and turns. Even though it's been classified in the romance genre, I would recommend this book to any thriller/mystery fans.”

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Sunday, January 20, 2019

Stephen King's 22 lessons

cj Sez: In his memoir, "On Writing," Stephen King shares some of his ideas on how to be a better writer.
It would be a rare day for any writer to agree with all of King’s advice while disregarding that offered by, say Kurt Vonnegut or Anne Lamont. Perhaps, though, there is one or two on the list that resonate and that you might want to adopt or adapt into your own writing process.

 1-STOP watching television. Instead, read as much as possible.
 2-PREPARE for more failure and criticism than you think you can deal with.
 3-DON’T waste time trying to please people.
 4-WRITE primarily for yourself.
 5-TACKLE the things that are hardest to write.
 6- WHEN writing, disconnect from the rest of the world.
 7-DON’T be pretentious.
 8-AVOID adverbs and long paragraphs.
 9-DON’T get overly caught up in grammar.
10-MASTER the art of description.
11-DON’T give too much background information.
12-TELL stories about what people actually do.
13-TAKE risks; don’t play it safe.
14-REALIZE that you don’t need drugs to be a good writer.
15-DON’T try to steal someone else’s voice.
16-UNDERSTAND that writing is a form of telepathy.
17-TAKE your writing seriously.
18-WRITE every single day.
19-FINISH your first draft in three months.
20-WHEN you’re finished writing, take a long step back.
21- HAVE the guts to cut.
22-STAY married, be healthy, and live a good life.

(Read more about each piece of his advice here:  “22 Lessons from Stephen King on How to be a Great Writer”  )

cj Sez: There are a few of those that I absolutely agree with (especially number 1), but some of them not so much. How about you? Which would you adopt or adapt?
Monday, January 21, 2019, is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a national holiday honoring one of the most influential and iconic leaders of the civil rights movement. It is celebrated each year on the third Monday of January, near his birthday of January 15.

Reverend Doctor King received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for his work in the civil rights movement to establish equal rights for African-Americans.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. 
 —Martin Luther King, Jr. 

He was assassinated on April 4, 1968, and Congress passed a bill establishing the holiday in honor of Dr. King in 1983.

In his proclamation speech, President Ronald Reagan said: “We rejoice because, in his short life, Dr. King, by his preaching, his example, and his leadership helped to move us closer to the ideals on which America was founded.”


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

Another 5-star review for DEADLY STAR: "Petterson's sharp style is perfect for international intrigue. She is spot-on with her research and fills what could be boring scientific information with a hefty dose of intrigue and romance that kept me reading. Mirabel's cryptic sense of humor is perfect for her bantering with the other characters and made me laugh aloud at times. Congratulations to Petterson for creating a smart, funny, and sexy protagonist that I would like to see again. With Mirabel and Sully's backgrounds, there is potential for many adventures and thrills for years to come. Petterson's excellent descriptive detail kept me on the edge of my seat in every one of the car scenes. The romantic tension is intensified from the first page to the last, yet never exaggerated."

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Sunday, January 13, 2019

Conferences for your 2019 calendar

cj Sez:  For your 2019 calendar, a few upcoming reader/fan/author conferences.
Jan. 26: 

February 8-10, 2019:  Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Winter Conference SOLD OUT
(cj Sez: The 20th annual Winter Conference of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators is sold out. Their waitlist is full, and their registration is closed. I put this note in the post to let you know I didn’t ignore this [obviously] popular genre conference.)

March 14-17, 2019: SleuthFest 2019  Sponsored by the Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America

July 9-13, 2019: ThrillerFestXIV    

July 24-27, 2019 Romance Writers of America RWA2019

August 9-12, 2019:  SCBWI’s Annual Summer Conference in Los Angeles. “Registration begins sometime in April.”

August 22-25, 2019: 14th Annual Killer Nashville International Writers Conference

October 31-Nov 3: In Dallas, 50th year of Bouchercon


Passing along information that I gleaned from FB posts, so do your due-diligence investigation:

From George McVey page
"Attention Kindle Unlimited users:
If you have kindle unlimited you will see they offer a new "scroll" feature. DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT use this feature. Because of the way it's designed you're actually really really hurting the authors who get paid per page with that feature. It does NOT recognize page changes and only gives the author a credit of 1 page read. Even if the book is 100+ pages. So do your authors a courtesy and DO NOT use the scrolling or page flip features."

(cj Sez: The Amazon “enhancement” cited above was implemented in March of 2018. Ergo, I have no idea if this is still an issue or if it ever was. Indie Authors: Can you clarify?)

An excerpt from Fiction University ( “Writing every day is a goal. Writing a novel is a goal. If you want to move forward every day, you’ve got to set a goal every day.”

(cj Sez: And now for the rest of the story: “A goal without a plan is a wish.”  Herman Edwards)

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

PS:  Happy Birthday to my son, Jeff.

Click to buy
Choosing Carter is free on Kindle Unlimited at the time of this post.  
Here’s one of the 5-star reviews: "Bryn McKay, still struggling with the aftermath of a car accident that injured her and led to the imprisonment of her younger brother, Robbie, a year earlier seems vulnerable at the start of this novel. Her relationship with Carter Danielson, a man struggling with his own demons, magnifies that vulnerability, as does their reluctance to commit to one another. The story takes a decided turn though, when Bryn learns that Robbie has escaped from prison, and is believed to be part of a terrorist plot. Using an insider’s knowledge of everything outdoor, the author plunges the reader into a story filled with danger at every turn. Together Bryn and Carter raft the Colorado and hike the rocky canyons of Echo Park, playing a game of cat-and-mouse with a team of terrorists that have recruited Robbie. The author paints the scenery with the skill of an artist, one that leaves you feeling as though you can actually touch the rock walls of Echo Park, and feel the icy Colorado River. The interplay between Bryn and Carter hooks the reader early on, and it’s easy to root for these two lost souls. A thoroughly enjoyable read!"

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Sunday, January 6, 2019

Writing strengths

cj Sez: I’m a visual person (is that a right brain or a left brain thing?), and that shows up like screenplay scenes in my writing. 

Scenes and dialogue are the least complicated for me to write.

   I enjoy creating the details that permit my readers to visualize where the characters are and what they are seeing. I try to keep my details sparse and incorporated into the flow of the scene’s action. I don’t tell the reader the office is small and crowded. I’ll let the character do that by having her desk chair bump against the wall when she stands up or spins around to retrieve a document from her printer that’s sitting atop the three-drawer file cabinet near her left elbow.

   Writing dialogue is another favorite. I especially like it when I can create almost an entire scene with dialogue and need to use only one or two “said” tags. It works well with two characters, and with a bit of finessing, also works with three characters. 

Dealing with personal introspection / emotions / internal dialogue is more difficult for me since I “see” the action in my stories, something akin to movies in my head. Narrative doesn’t exist in movies unless there’s a voice-over, so I tend to use very little of it. I’ve been told and I do understand I need more narrative in my novel, so I’m working on expanding my use of internal dialogue.

By the by, my scenes also incorporate at least one of the five senses—sight, smell, sound, taste, touch—as well as journalism’s five “Ws”: who, what, when, where, and why. I also add the “H”: how.

Okay, I’ve confessed. Now it’s your turn. What is your writing strength or weakness?


I don’t use Wordpress, but I know a lot of people who do. I understand there’s been a change in the product that’s driving some users crazy. Perhaps the information on the Writers in the Storm blog about the new Gutenberg version will give you some helpful pointers.

That’s it for the first post of 2019…amazing, isn’t it?    2…0…1…9    Wow.
You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.

Deadly Star is free on Kindle Unlimited at the time of this post.  Review: "cj petterson has crafted a tale of murder, espionage, and romance which builds to a dramatic and satisfying conclusion. With a gift for well-written dialogue and a deft touch at creating suspense, Ms. petterson delivers a must-read story in Deadly Star."

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