Thursday, December 31, 2009

12 Things a Writer Needs

Happy New Year's Eve to all. It's been a hectic holiday season with family home for the past week. We've enjoyed spending time with our children and our granddaughter. Needless to say, not much work got done, but that's what the holidays mean. I've given up feeling guilty about it. I don't see the family nearly enough and time is too short. Still, the season is drawing to a close, and it's time to start focusing on work once again.

Today while waiting for my mammogram, I read an article about the designer Donatella Versace and what 12 things she can't live without. I immediately started thinking about what 12 things, as a writer, I need. Here's my list:

1. a thesaurus
2. a dictionary
3, a grammar reference book
4. a current copy of Writer's Market
5. a current copy of Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market
6. a good word processing program
7. a reliable computer
8. a reliable internet connection
9. a quiet work space
10.a small pad of paper and a pen
11.a "jump starter" such as Creative Calisthenics or The Write Brain Workbook
12.a supportive group of writing friends

What are the 12 things you feel you need, as a writer? Please share your thoughts with me.

Of course, there are always New Year Resolutions. I'm going to try to keep mine simple. I want to finish the sequel to my middle grade novel. I also want to gather my writing tips into a collection suitable for eBook publication. Lastly, I want to find publishers for my picture book and my adult short story anthology. 2009 has been a productive year for me, and I hope this streak continues into 2010. Have you made any resolutions? I'd love to hear about them.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays to all, whatever you may choose to celebrate. Each of us can find something about the season to bring gladness to our hearts. It is a time for getting together with family and friends and sharing with others less fortunate.

What do you do to celebrate? Do you have a favorite tradition? Do you chose to spend the day with family or strangers? Do you donate to the local food bank, or help serve a meal to the homeless? Maybe for you the joy is watching your children's eyes as they see the holiday decorations on homes in the neighborhood. If you celebrate Christmas, do you splurge and buy for all, or do you draw names and get one special gift. Are you a crafts person? Did you make your holiday gifts for your friends and family?

This year, I chose to crochet market bags for all my friends. In an effort to be more "green," I felt a reusable market bag would be a useful gift. In this same vein, I sent out my newsletter via email rather than snail mail. Although I have to admit, I do enjoy receiving holiday cards, they seem like a waste of paper. After the holidays, they usually end up in the trash or recycling so I often cut off the face of the card and use it the following year as a gift tag.

Keep a journal during this time. Make notes of the fun stuff and the disasters. One never knows what will make good material for an article or a story. Remember, most editors are looking for holiday stories six months in advance, so you'll need those notes in June when the sun is shining and you're thinking of the beach.

Tell me what you plan for the holidays or your favorite holiday memory. I'd love to hear from you.

Have a wonderful holiday season and a productive new year.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Interview with author Julie S. Dobbins

Today, my guest is Julie S. Dobbins, author and narrator of Melissa and the Green Blanket.

Julie please tell us about yourself by answering the following questions.

1. How long have you been writing?

Since about 1978. It could have been a little earlier, but that’s when I focused more on writing instead of drawing. That was also about the time that I discovered The Hobbit and fell in love with what a really good story can do; where it can take you. I had always enjoyed reading, but The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings touched me in a special way. Maybe it was because it was fantasy and it took me away from all of my 15 year-old girlish angst.

2. What made you decide to become a writer?

It started to come easier than drawing. I have some old drawings that I did in Jr. High school that are actually pretty good, but I wasn’t consistent. One drawing would be good and the next one would be a disappointment.

With writing, I could be more consistent. If I felt inspired, I could get it down on paper. With art, what I drew didn’t always match my feeling of inspiration, so I took the more satisfying road.

I didn’t write much after high school. I dabbled with it a little every now and then, but nothing serious. It wasn’t until my son was about six years old that I started to get serious with it again. He loved to be read to, and I needed something new to read to him one night. I pulled out my old copy of The Hobbit, thinking it would be too mature for him but I would give it a shot. He loved it! So we went through the whole series. From there we went to The Chronicles of Narnia. I guess rereading those great stories awakened the creativity that was sleeping deep inside.

3. What influences your writing?

Books, of course, but also old movies, cartoons, life. My son is a major influence and so is my husband.

I love Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia. I am also influenced by Peter S. Beagle. I love the way he makes the unbelievable, believable.

4. What is your writing process?

Hmm. I’m sure I have one, but I have no idea what it is. I try to keep pen and paper handy so that I can jot something down when I think of it. Sometimes ideas just come to me fully developed, sometimes I start with one thing and it ends up completely different. With fiction, I work on it until it becomes stale and then leave it alone for a few days or weeks. When I go back to it, the story seems fresh and I have new ideas for it.

With nonfiction, I work on it pretty steadily. I’ll take a break from the writing part to do research, but I don’t let it rest until I’ve finished it. After it’s completed, I set it aside for a few days and then go over it again to tweak it.

5. How did you come up with the idea of a multi-media package?

Two things in particular influenced how we did Melissa and the Green Blanket. First, Harold and the Purple Crayon is my all-time favorite children’s book. That directly influenced the artwork - simple line drawings with just the crayon (or blanket, as in my case) being in color.

Secondly, Amy Grant and Chet Atkins released a CD and VHS package of The Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat back in the 1980’s. That influenced the narration with the accompanying music. I knew I wanted the book to be small, so the booklet size not only worked well but completed the package. My husband is a professional musician, so adding the PDF files of the transcribed music was just a natural thing to do. Combining all of it into a multi-media package was a logical result.

I went to bookstores wherever we went to see if there was a multi-media package like ours, and there wasn’t. Some were close, but not with all that we offered. Now there are more on the market like ours, but we were one of the first.

6. What came first, your story or Craig's music?

The story came first, actually. Our son was visiting his grandparents one afternoon and Craig and I were talking about some of the funny things Bennett would do. That led to talking about other children and their antics, which included Melissa. During the reminiscing, I said, “Melissa and her green blanket....” As soon as I said it we both said, “That’s a children’s book title!” I grabbed a pen and notebook and pretty much wrote the story right then.

As a musician, Craig is always working on a new tune so it wasn’t long before he was creating a piece of music that we realized was “Melissa.”

7. In the book you state Melissa is the daughter of your illustrator, David Moon. Why did you choose Melissa as your role model?

I used to babysit Melissa years ago. She’s in her early 20’s now and doesn’t seem to need a babysitter anymore, for some reason. The story was a natural because she used to do the things in the book. She didn’t want her mother to wash her blanket because she had it with her all of the time. Pretty much, the story is just telling what I used to watch her do.

Do you always base your characters on children you know?

Not always. I have written a couple based on my son, but he doesn’t want me to use his name for the character. Otherwise, I’m influenced by the children I know or observe, but I haven’t based any stories on them.

8. Tell us about your other writing. You mentioned you've written other children's books, but this is your first published work.

I have a few that are finished and several that are works in progress. The ones that are finished are all short, so I’m collecting in one book. They make good bedtime stories because they are short. Let’s see, there’s Never Invite a Scorpion to Dinner, Bennett is a Dinosaur, Corduroy Crocodile, and The Turkey-Moose. I need to look through my files to see what can be added to it.

9. Why did you and Craig decide to self-publish the CD and picture book?

We have been self publishing for years. (My husband writes instructional guitar books, some of which have been picked up by traditional publishers like Mel Bay and Warner Brothers.) So we knew what we were getting into.

We had originally pitched the idea to our editor at one of the guitar book publishers. Although our editor was excited about the project, he couldn’t get it to go through. We were encouraged that he thought it was a good idea, so we pursued it ourselves.

10.Tell us your thoughts about self-publishing vs traditional publishing.

I have experienced both and have had a good experience with each endeavor. Life was a little easier with the traditional publisher, though. They had all of the upfront expense and I did’t have to use my living room for a warehouse. They also helped with the promoting of the book and they were able to get it into bookstores that are not open to self published authors.

11.Tell us about your marketing strategy for Melissa and the Green Blanket.

When “Melissa” was first released, I arranged an interview/article in our local newspaper, a radio interview, a book signing at a store, and readings at the library and Chick-Fil-A for family night. I was working on scheduling a couple of television interviews when I had to drop everything to help with a family health crisis.

Now I am having to start promoting all over again. I am getting the CD reviewed (thanks, Penny!), I have attended a book festival and a music festival, and I have sent the CD to a homeschooling magazine for their product review column. We have also had a CD signing at a bookstore and we promote “Melissa” whenever my husband has a performance. Sometimes we give copies away to a child who seems to particularly enjoy hearing the music.

Since its release, it has been available through Craig’s website (, on Amazon, CD Baby, and more websites than I can remember.

12.What are your thoughts about children's writers needing an agent or not needing one.

Never having had an agent, I don’t know that I’m qualified to say much on this subject. My husband does the dishes and mails the review copies for me. Does he count as an agent?

A lot of publishing houses are still open to unagented submissions for children’s books, including some publishers that require an agent for their other genres. So, having an agent isn’t really needed for getting published.

One agent rejected Melissa and the Green Blanket because he “just wasn’t enthusiastic enough” about my project to represent it. Rejection isn’t personal, it’s really subjective. That particular rejection, by the way, ticked me off just a little bit. What if that agent isn’t “enthusiastic” about coming in to work that day? His rejection had less to do with my work or whether it fit his contact list and more to do with how he happened to feel at the moment.

On the other hand, I have watched Peter Beagle’s agent/manager, Connor Cochran, and I would love to have someone like him representing me. Connor makes things happen and he takes care of everything so that all Peter has to do is write or show up for engagements. I would love to have someone to keep up with submissions, marketing, and all of the business end of writing while I just spend my time being a writer. Of course, I’m no Peter Beagle so I don’t have a Connor Cochran.

13.Do you have any tips for new writers wanting to enter the field of children's writing?

Write. Keep writing. Observe children. Establish yourself by writing articles for magazines. Attend the Muse Online Writer’s Conference where you’ll get to meet a very supportive and encouraging group of people in addition to some great workshops. The Institute of Children’s Literature has an excellent writing program and they have helpful information on their website.

Follow the submission guidelines. Read them carefully and then do what they say. Rejection letters are just part of the process. If you follow the guidelines you can reduce the number of rejections because you won’t submit a children’s story to a romance publisher.

14.Where can people learn more about Julie S. Dobbins?

Currently the best place is at My blog is posted there as well as links to any other websites where I can be found. I plan to launch my own website sometime during 2010.

Julie, thank you for being my guest today and sharing your writing experience with us.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Review Melissa and the Green Blanket

Melissa and the Green Blanket
Written and told by Julie S. Dobbins
Music by Craig Dobbins
Illustrated by David Moon

This review is based on a review copy provided by Julie S. Dobbins in exchange for review, all reviews being my own opinion without guarantee or assumption of liking or disliking.

Melissa and the Green Blanket
is a multi-media package containing an illustrated children’s storybook and a CD/CD-ROM. The disc includes guitar solos, “Melissa” and “Appalachian Lullaby,” by Craig Dobbins, an audio version of Melissa and the Green Blanket narrated by author, Julie S. Dobbins, and a CD-ROM still movie of the delightful illustrations in Melissa and the Green Blanket, again with narration by Julie S. Dobbins and guitar solos by her husband, Craig. As an added bonus, Mr. Dobbins has included a pdf of the music score for both of his original tunes.

This professionally packaged set would make a delightful gift for any young child. Julie’s voice, with her Southern accent, is soft and soothing, and she tells her story in a manner that will keep children attentive. It is the delightful tale of Melissa who adores her green blanket and what happens when it disappears. It’s a theme all children who have had a “blankie” will be able to identify with. The music played by accomplished guitarist, Craig Dobbins, adds to the tale. The illustrations by David Moon are simple, but endearing.

I’m looking forward to sharing this story with my own granddaughter.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Penny Sansevieri - 20 Ways to Get Website Traffic (Reprint)

Today, I'd like to share an informative article written by Penny Sansevieri. Ms. Sansevieri knows marketing inside and out. She has a free newsletter and has graciously given permission to share reprints of her material.

Featured Article - 20 Simple Ways to Get Massive Traffic to your Website
Embarking on an Internet marketing campaign doesn't have to be difficult, tricky, or complicated. Here are a few simple ways (twenty in fact) that you can easily implement to get tons of traffic to your site right now!

1) Write articles: believe it or not this is an incredible tool for driving traffic. Well-written, relevant articles can net you quite a bit of activity to your website. Don't forget to add your URL in your byline. Articles should be 500 to 2,000 words in length. You can send articles to sites like:,, and

2) Social bookmark *everything* - and I do mean everything, you can bookmark each page of your site and each blog entry you post. While this might seem tedious it's worth it. You'll see a strong increase in traffic if you social bookmark each page on your site and each of your blog entries.

3) List yourself in the best directories - you'll have to pay for this but since most people don't do this (since everyone's looking for a freebie) you could really enhance your traffic by getting a listing:,

4) Get yourself listed at: - it's not easy to get listed there but worth the effort.

5) Review: if you can review hot new products or books within your market, head on over to and start positioning yourself as an expert. In order to do this effectively you'll want to create an Amazon profile and make sure and sign each review with a reference to your URL (your website). You can also go to and to review products as well.

6) Offer a freebie on craigslist: you'll be amazed at how much traffic you get from a single craigslist ad. They key here is to send people to a page on your site and make sure they have to sign up for something (like your email newsletter) before they can grab their freebie. That way you're not just getting traffic, you're also building your list.

7) Create a "recommended by" list on your page - you can do this by logging on and creating an account at and then tagging articles, blogs and other content you think is important to your readership. Then offer this page as a resource site. You can add a link to this page in your email signature line or on your website.

8) And speaking of your email signature line - do you have one? If you don't, create one. Believe it or not, people do follow these links. You'll be amazed how many folks read email signature lines. I have one and change it several times a year, depending on what we're doing or promoting or what books I have coming out.

9) Lend a helping hand: you can be an answer person at Yahoo Answers - you don't have to spend hours on there but maybe a few minutes a week. Make sure and include a link back to your site by your answers.

10) Set up a social networking site using,, or Squidoo. It's free and easy to do, just don't forget the all-important link back to your site!

11) Make sure your blog has an RSS feed so if you capture a reader you don't lose them if they forget to bookmark your site or blog.

12) Join relevant groups at Yahoo groups You'll find everything from groups on growing your small business, writing books, finding your passion, even underwater basket weaving. I dare you to find one that isn't right for what you're promoting. When you do find the right group, join and participate as you can!

13) Podcasting is another great way to drive traffic. Start a podcast by going to AudioAcrobat - yes, this is our affiliate link. There are other programs you can use, but I love AudioAcrobat. You can record the podcast over the phone quickly and easily and then hit the "send" button on your computer once it's recorded and the system will syndicate it to 27 podcast directories including iTunes. It's a great way to let people know about you and your website!

14) Start a blog and then once you do, start commenting on other people's blogs, linking to them from your site or adding them to your blogroll.

15) Inbound links: don't squander your time (or a perfectly good link) on smaller low-traffic sites. Instead spend your time going after high traffic, high quality sites. Good sites should have a PR (page ranking) of 4-6 depending on the market. You can find out what a site's page ranking is by downloading the Google toolbar, which comes with a PR feature built in.

16) Start an email newsletter: while it may not seem like a newsletter that you email can drive traffic to your site, you'd be surprised at the effectiveness of this type of promotion. If your newsletter (like your articles) is interesting and relevant to your audience you'll find that it has a huge pass-through factor. Meaning that it is passed from one email subscriber to another. Also, if you have an email newsletter you should never, ever go to a single event without your handy sign-up sheet. Yes, you can even use offline events to drive traffic to your website.

17) And speaking of offline efforts: if you're ever quoted in a magazine or other publication, make sure and mention your URL as it's appropriate to the topic. Don't be too pushy about this, but do not forget to tell folks you have a website that may be a great resource for the topic of your interview.

18) If you have products to sell why not get a store on eBay? This site gets a tremendous amount of traffic, and on your sales page you're allowed to list your URL. Another great way to get an inbound link and a way for people to find you.

19) Load a video on YouTube and 57 other video sites - if you don't have a video or don't know how to create one, contact us and we'll refer you to our fabulous book video people!

20) While this isn't a tip per se it's still important. If you're going to go through all the trouble of getting traffic to your site, make sure your site is converting this traffic into something. Get folks to sign up for something, your newsletter, the RSS feed on your blog. Whatever it is, getting their email address will help you re-market to them when the time is right. Studies show that visitors landing on a site often don't buy the first time. That's ok! You want to get them into your marketing funnel so you can market to them again and again - not in a way that's obtrusive, offensive or downright annoying but in a way that is helping them with their own mission. An example of this might be an email newsletter. A helpful, informative newsletter is a fantastic funnel. A blog is another great way to keep people in your marketing loop without bombarding them with "please buy my stuff" email messages. Also, make sure you know what your traffic numbers are before you launch into any Internet marketing campaign. By traffic numbers, I mean how many people are visiting your site. You want to know this so you can gauge a before and after view of your marketing efforts.

Penny C. Sansevieri, Editor

Reprinted from "The Book Marketing Expert newsletter," a free ezine offering book promotion and publicity tips and techniques.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Spirit of the Season

I'm reposting a letter from Carolyn Howard Johnson which she published in her newsletter, Sharing With Writers. If you can participate, this looks like a good way to give to others who are in need, while doing a little shopping for your family and friends.

“The holidays are upon us. I’m excited to share this amazing holiday catalog with products you have never seen before. It’s called the Spirit of the Season Catalog - - for your gift giving pleasure - - but also as an example of an excellent approach at the kind of promotion that is effective for authors because it is helpful for others. So won't you please visit this transformational approach to gift giving.

“For those of you who are tired of trinket filled catalogs and are looking for special gifts that change people’s lives, the Spirit of the Season Catalog is perfect.

“For the first time ever, this online catalog offers a shopping experience that is fast, fun and green. It features bestselling books, unusual and personally - empowering, self - enriching products and services in a varied collection from amazing authors, coaches, gurus and mentors.

“You’ll find gifts in the Spirit of the Season Catalog in the following
categories: art, inspirational, motivational, business opportunities,
success & wealth building, health and energy healing, Law of Attraction
workshops, intuitive healing, all genres of fiction and a variety of non - fiction to empowering products that will light anyone’s life and many more too numerous to mention.

“Many sellers are even giving a portion of their earnings to charity helping others around the world like the women of an African village (who actually make the jewelry we are selling) and the children of St. Anthony’s Orphanage in Italy.

“The brainchild of Denise Cassino and Dr. Anna Maria Prezio, the Spirit of the Season Catalog ( will be issued seasonally. The unique aspect of the catalog is that the founders take no profits but offer joint venture partners an opportunity to showcase a vast array of Internet based products and their amazing artistry often overlooked during the holiday shopping experience.

“It’s the catalog that keeps on giving throughout the season(s). Please share it with your friends, family and contacts! You can do so by simply copying this letter, adjusting it to your needs and sending it to others.

“I shared this opportunity with writers before and several Sharing with Writers subscribers are part of it. Thus, we can't go wrong when writers share with writers.

“Happy Writing, Promoting and Editing, too. And Happy Holidays, too!”
Carolyn Howard – Johnson

Thanks, Carolyn, for sharing this opportunity with everyone.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Interview with author Beverly Stowe McClure

Today, my guest is author Beverly Stowe McClure. I've asked Beverly to tell us a bit about her latest children's novel, Just Breeze

1. Beverly, Breeze is an unusual name for a character. How do you create your
character names?

Breeze just came to me. I don’t know exactly from where, but it was fun and fit the girl in my story. Other character names have come from different places. Rebel came from a college girl that played drums in a small band that performed for our elementary students. Sometimes I struggle with names and try different ones until a name clicks.

2. How did you decide on the "secret" identity of Cam?

That took awhile. At first I thought he’d be an alien, but I didn’t want Just Breeze to be a fantasy. Breeze and Amy gave me the idea of who he might be when they were guessing what Cam’s story was. One suggestion was in the witness protection program. Ah-ha, I though. Secret agents sounded like fun.

3. Why did you choose to use the first person voice?

Breeze chose it. She wanted to tell her story through her eyes. So we did.

4. Breeze's siblings are twins. What exposure, if any, have you had to
this dynamic in a family?

Very little. Twins sounded like fun though, to add to Breeze’s feeling of being an outsider.

5. You have sense of what it's like to be a middle grade student. What
is your exposure to this age group?

Besides raising three boys through their middle grade and high school years, I also have three granddaughters who suffered the angst of those teen years. I taught fifth-grade students for ten years too, and they face some of the same uncertainties about themselves the Jr. high kids face.

6. Football plays a minor role in the story, why did you choose this
theme as a focus for marketing, e.g. key chain, note pads, etc.?

In the part of the country where I live, the autumn season means Friday night football, from elementary through high school and college. The timing of the release of the book was perfect for the football theme. Cam and Tony play football in the story, so the tattoos and football stuff made sense. Hopefully some boy readers will be attracted by the football theme, even though the main character is a girl. Cam and Tony are important supporting characters.

7. You have four other novels published for teens. Why do you like
writing for this age group?

I think I’ve never grown past that age myself. And I can write stories about teens who are what I wish I’d been or done. Besides, I prefer reading young adult books.

8. How do you choose your plots and themes? For example, recently I
reviewed one of your other books, Caves, Cannons and Crinolines, and it
is set in the civil war. This story is present day.

Many times, the story chooses me from a place I’ve been or from something I’ve read. The forthcoming Caves, Cannons and Crinolines that you reviewed (thank you) came about after a visit to Vicksburg, MS, and I learned the history of that city during the Civil War. I knew I had to tell the story of the women and children who lived during the siege. My paranormal, Listen to the Ghost, was the result of a trip to Charleston, SC, where we took a twilight walking ghost tour of the historic district. According to legend, many of the old houses have resident ghosts. The idea for Secrets I Have Kept came to me from a magazine article I read about ocean plants being used for medical purposes. Rebel in Blue Jeans is contemporary and loosely based on my horses and ranch life. And Just Breeze just happened.

9. What message do you want readers to take away from Just Breeze?

Hopefully, that everyone is different and we should accept the beauty that is within us as individuals.

10. Now that you've published several books, do you feel that you've
become successful? Why?

As far as having my books published, yes. I would, however, like to see more people reading them. An unread book is a sad, sad book. My characters are waiting to tell their stories.

11. Your previous books were with Twilight Times Publishing. Why did
you choose to submit this manuscript to 4RV Publishing?

4 RV Publishing’s books are lovely. So are the books from Twilight Times. Different publishers prefer certain types of books, and Just Breeze seemed more in line with the books 4 RV produces.

12. Do you have any tips to share with authors wanting to break into
children's writing?

Never give up. Be patient. Learn all you can about the business. Write the best story you can write. Edit it again and again, as many times as necessary. Have someone read the manuscript then edit it again.

13. Where can people learn more about you and your writing?


Thanks, Beverly for taking the time to answer these questions. It's always interesting to see how writers create their stories and characters.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Review Just Breez by Beverly Stowe McClure

Just Breeze
By: Beverly Stowe McClure

This review is based on a review copy provided by Beverly Stowe McClure in exchange for the review, all reviews being my own opinion without guarantee or assumption of liking or disliking.

Just Breeze is a delightful read for middle age students. Although the main character is female, there are enough male characters that even boys would not be disappointed. This is a tale of finding oneself, dealing with the imperfections with which one is born, making and keeping friends, and knowing when to keep a secret and when to divulge it.

Ms. McClure has a youthful voice and tells this story in the first person. It's easy to be drawn into the book and to endure Breeze's trials right along with her. The reader can identify with Breeze's out of control hair, her shiny braces, big feet and bean pole body. While Breeze sees herself as everyone's "buddy," and the person everyone sees when they need something fixed, she is more than that. It takes the new kid in town to see beyond her tangled red hair and to give Breeze a new way to see herself.

This story is more than just about a girl meeting a boy. It is the tale of kids with problems. One comes from a home where the parents are always working, another lives with a grandparent, and one has a secret identity. While Breeze's family seems "normal," her siblings are older twins which leaves her feeling like the odd one out. These are typical kids struggling in school, trying to fit in with their peers, and learning about honesty and relationships.

Although this story deals with some difficult issues, it is an easy read for a middle grade student. The tone is light and peppered with humor. Ms. McClure knows how to weave a tale that will keep the reader turning the pages to see what happens next to Breeze and her friends. I enjoyed it Just Breezeand recommend it.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Kindle Giveaway

I just entered a contest to win a free Kindle from Noobie (worth $259!) and I wanted you to have a chance to win one too!

All you need to do to enter is to click the link below or copy and paste it into your favorite Internet browser:

Be sure to read the email you get from Noobie after you register. You'll get your own unique link that you can use to earn even more entries in the drawing!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Finding Time to Write - Day 7

Today, my guests are authors, Anjali Banerjee and Charlee Compo, both very talented writers.

Anjali, please tell us about your writing schedule.

"I find I have to treat writing as a job and also as a habit. Practice, practice, practice. I try to write in the morning every day, before I go to work. I have a daily goal. Small steps. Kaizen. Some writers organize their year by writing deadlines on a calendar.

"My daily goal varies, depending on the following:

-whether I'm giving presentations, speaking at conference, schools or libraries,
-the demands of my day job.

"Some days, I don't get any pages written. Some days I'm just brainstorming. Some days I'm revising a manuscript, in which case I might have to plow through 50 pages a day. When I actually do have time to write, I shoot for three to six pages a day."

Anjali Banerjee

Now to Charlee. Please tell us how you organize your writing time.

"The one thing I suggest every writer must have when he/she is writing a book is a good, concise compendium of each character, place or location, horse/keep/ship etc. If you have a compendium of your novel with who's who and how they relate to one another, idiosyncrasies, traits, won't mistakes later on. As you create a character, add him/her and if you later write a sequel or reference that character in another book, you won't have him green-eyed in one and blue-eyed in the other.

"A good file cabinet with hanging files with appropriate names for research material is a must, as well. Having cheat sheets beside your computer for html code or ascii symbols for é, õ, î et al is a time saver and keeps you organized. ANYTHING you use on a daily basis should at the very least be in a protective cover sheet or laminated and easily at hand.

"Books on your genre, on grammar, research should be readily at hand, as well.

Charlee Compo

Thank you Anjali and Charlee for sharing your tips.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Finding Time to Write - Day 6

My guest today is Ann Charles. She writes part-time while working full-time and raising her family. I asked Ann how she organizes her time. This is what she shared with me:

"Per day, that depends, but I probably average the following per week:
Writing--I write one book a year currently, from Jan to June, and devote a good 20 hours a week to writing during that time.
Editing--Probably 10 hours editing per week during that Jan to June timeframe.
Networking--About 4 hours a week networking from Jan to June. From July to December (when I'm wearing my marketing/promo hat), probably more like 10 hours a week in networking-related things.
Marketing--Again, from Jan to June, maybe 3-4 hours; from July to Dec, more like 20-30 hours a week.
Queries--For the past few years, I have had an agent so I haven't spent much time at all querying.
Research--About 3 hours a week while writing my books.

"I determine how much time I devote to them based on how much time I can manage to round up in between work, kids, and my husband and life."

I also asked Ann what she thinks it means to be an organized writer.

"It seems like part of being an organized writer has to be a character trait. I'm a big-time right-brain pantser when it comes to plotting and writing my books, but when it comes to marketing/promo and goal setting, I'm disgustingly organized and left-brained. I have a five-year plan, a career plan, yearly goals, monthly goals, and weekly goals; and I keep a post-it note of "to dos" next to my keyboard that I update almost daily. I didn't always used to be this organized when it came to non-writing writing-related tasks, but I learned a couple of years ago that I work best when I have written goals to meet. Also, the more I learned and dabbled in the marketing and promo side of writing, the more messy my desk and files became. Soon, I was forced to be organized or risk losing crucial information or missing important meetings/deadlines.

"So, for me, it seems to be partly my character trait (I am a Virgo, after all) to be organized, but it's also a learned trait after wading deeper into the fiction-writing business.

"How do you get to the point of being an organized writer? Since writers these days have to wear three hats (writing hat, promo/marketing hat, socializing hat), it seems the business forces you to become more organized to succeed. OR you can just hire an assistant and be as messy as you like."

Ann Charles

Ann, thanks for stopping by today and helping me to understand more about organizing the writing life.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Finding Time to Write - Day 5

Today, my guest is Matt Briggs who works full-time as a technical writer
and writes fiction in his "spare time." He has published five works of fiction, including Shoot the Buffalo, just re-issued by The Publication Studio in Portland. His second novel will be released in early 2010.

"I write when I first wake up, before I begin the work that people pay me to do. I work as a technical writer. I do okay with technical writing in terms of pay. I am paid very little or nothing for my fiction. I would starve dead on the proceeds from my fiction writing.

"I average about 800 words a day. Sometimes I spend the time revising. I feel guilty if I am not actually typing and making new word combinations. Revising is enjoyable but feels to me sometimes like I'm cheating because usually I'm just organizing or even removing what I've already written. On those days my overall word count is probably negative.

"I'm a very bad editor, but typically people who are not writers, that is the people who pay for writers, often don't understand the difference between a writer and an editor. I have worked at getting to be a better editor, but it is futile. It is a different task compared to the act of writing or revising. Writing is about making mistakes. Revising is usually about identifying what works. In contrast, editing is about making the writing easier to understand. Copyediting, yet another skill, is about removing the mistakes and making the writing conform to a standard such as the Associated Press (AP) Style Guide. A polished piece of writing requires all four skills applied to it. Yet, I've often worked for people who don?t understand this. They'll hire editors as their writers or expect their writers to edit. None of this works out well.

"I also make a list when it comes to writing tasks. I'm always making schedules and trying to keep to them even though it is futile. My fiction writing isn't a proper job or even an obligation.

"No one is asking me to write fiction. If I stopped writing fiction, I'd probably be the only one who noticed. I don't feel bad about this, but really, are you really clamoring for the next Russell Edson, Lydia Davis, or even Stephen King book? When Stephen King retired the first time this seemed more notable than another book by the guy. With the type of writing I like to write and read, there just isn't that hunger for more. I like Julian Barnes a lot. I've read a handful of books from him. I will probably never read another Julian Barnes book again. Not because I don't like his books, but there are already a ton of great books in existence. There are more great books than I can read in my lifetime. I bought an ISBN scanner and scanned all of my books into LibraryThing. I had maybe 1,200 books at that that time. These are all of the books on shelves in my house including the ones I haven't read. If I generously doubled this, that would be about 2,000 books that I've read in my life so far. I'm nearly 40. So let's say I live to 80 and keep up the same reading clip I've kept up so far, that means I'll read less than 5,000 books before I die. There is a finite number of books that can be read. But there is infinite number of books that can be written. Writing this now I find this kind of alarming. It makes me think I should be choosy. You could do the math on how many meals you had left in your life, and then you'd never eat crap again. You'd become obsessed with only putting food in your mouth that was an experience. But that is an exhausting way to live. No one does that. Sometimes you are hungry and you eat whatever is in your cupboard. You do what you can. I write because I like writing. I read because I like reading. I make reading lists because I there are certain things I want to read and if I don?t write it down I'll forget and end up reading whatever is in the cupboard.

"I like writing fiction in the same way I like reading. I feel like if I make a schedule for it then it is somehow more serious and I can organize my effort into making something big like a novel or book. With a schedule I will treat it like a job. But it is only like a job. I?m not paid much for it. I don't have to track my progress or status with anyone.

"I keep thinking about Tobias Wolff saying "Time is a writer's friend." He said this at a reading and it was clearly something he said a lot. I think he said this to convince himself of it because I don't think time is a writer's friend. Time is my enemy. It doesn't mean I need to rush or anything, but there is only so much time, which means only so many books I can read and only so many pages I can write. And anything I read or write displaces other things that I could be doing that might be better for me and actually make me happy. Time is a fixed resource and once I use it, it is gone. I believe an efficient way for me deal with this scary thought is to write a little bit every day. I enjoy writing this way. It happens in the same way that other things happen in my life such as taking a bath or going for a walk or answering the mail. I can enjoy it. Very quickly 800 words becomes a short story or a chapter or a novel and that is another problem, but it isn't the problem of writing."

Matt Briggs

Matt, thanks for joining me today and sharing your thoughts.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Finding Time to Write - Day 4

Today my guest is Karina L. Fabian, a full-time writer. I asked Karina the following questions and she was gracious enough to provide me with the answers.

Karina, How much time do you devote per day or per week to: writing? editing?
networking? marketing? queries? research? How do you determine how much time
to devote to each of these?

"I can't really tell you because I don't measure them. I have a schedule of
days and tasks. Monday, I do work for the Catholic Writers Guild and any
conferences I'm participating in. Tuesday is marketing day; Wednesday is all
for writing; Thursday writing and the basic administration; Friday, computer
work--websites, clearing out files, back-ups, etc. I also blog twice a week
and miscroblog/Tweet three times a week. I try to make an hour each day for
some kind of writing--whether an article, edits, etc.--on my non-writing

"Since I'm a seat-of-the pants writer, the research is usually done in
conjunction with the writing. Sometimes, I edit before or after I write or
when I get stuck.

"I let the tasks determine how much time I spend. When I have a conference
coming up, I spend more time on preparation and webwork (because I want
folks to look at my websites.) When I have a contract or an overwhelming
inspiration, I will put other things aside and write like mad. When I have a
contract, I can get a book done in about six weeks; when I don't, they
languish, sadly, moving forward at a snail's pace.

"I'm not sure one ever reaches the point of becoming "an organized writer."
Quite often, our writing lives are influenced by things we cannot
control--an unexpected acceptance, a submission that never gets a reply, an
event that ties perfectly to our book's theme (and is thus presents a great
marketing opportunity." Then, of course, our lives can influence our
work--from creativity to time--more than they would for say, a plumber.

"The key is finding a system that works for you--something that lets you move
toward your goals as a writer and not spin your wheels in fruitless efforts.

Karina L. Fabian

Thanks, Karina, for sharing these tips with my readers and me.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Finding Time to Write - Day 3

My next guest is Tamara Kaye Sellman ( who works in several different areas of the publishing world (writer, editor, literary outreach, networking).

"For me, the schedule changes radically everyday. I'm one of those people who has ongoing projects as well as one-time projects. I used to be more "organized," meaning I slotted certain hours and days to do certain kinds of word, but everything varies so much that I just have a feel for prioritization now. It all gets done, and on time, and I rarely have to work outside of my normal hours (8:30am to 4pm). I've learned to be flexible with my time after years of juggling and so it's no longer a stressful thing to do so, but I remember a lot of anxiety about getting it all done. Probably it's worth adding here that I say "no" to a lot of things all the time (and refer
clients or projects, when I can) when I feel like I have too much on my plate.

"Deadlines determine much of it for me, but also, the work I do for others almost always comes first (that is, I won't work on my own novel manuscript if I have an editing project due).

"In addition, my number one time management tool is the Google Calendar. There, I color code the category where my work fits (such as purple for my creative writing projects, orange for my blogs, teal for my writers' community outreach work); this way I can reduce the schedule by day, week or month, at a glance, by focusing only on one project, or I can look at all of my projects together to see what's coming up. I also share calendars with a couple of agencies and that helps me to see what things are going on in their world so I can plan accordingly.

"As a working mom, I also build in my kids' activities here as well as my own appointments AND time off that can't be taken away; this way, I guarantee myself some recharge time during the week that's not just a harried lunch break at my desk. I also never answer emails on weekends or work unless I absolutely have to or am traveling.

"The writer needs to figure out what it means for them to be organized.

"For me, it's piles of paperwork kept in their assigned places (traditional files for active projects don't work for me), a well-kept Google calendar, and the discipline to keep things on schedule (while being flexible in the face of personal necessities like caring for sick children or working around lagging sources).

I" think a writer knows they are organized when they can sit down in their workspace and aim their focus on the work at hand without being delayed by the administrative tasks that surround it.

"Arriving at that organizational zen is really more a matter of mindset than anything that can be made physically apparent. I can have a hugely messy office and still be organized in my thoughts, after all. If you haven't already figured it out, I'm not a proponent of clean desks and tidy offices! And I don't know a busy editor or a writer who cares that much about office clutter. To do so would take too much time away from the real work.

"But if you can't work in a slightly chaotic world, you may need to rely on hanging files, electronic reminders in your Blackberry, a rolodex: really, whatever it is that keeps you on target. Only you can know what that is for certain.

Tamara Kaye Sellman

Thanks, Tamara, for being my guest today.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Finding Time to Write - Day 2

Day 2 of my series of guest bloggers. Today, Devon Ellington, ( multi-talented, full-time, professional writer is sharing her thoughts on how to be an organized writer.

"I write full time, although I still make the occasional foray into
backstage Broadway work, if something good's offered.

"I devote as many hours per day to each aspect of the writing business as
possible, dependent on deadlines and payment. The earliest deadline with
the highest payment gets first priority. Deadlines are reshuffled as
necessary. I usually spend a full eight hour day on my work -- more if
necessary, less if it's appropriate.

"It has to be WRITTEN before it can be edited or marketed or anything else,
so the writing comes first. I do my first 1K of fiction at the very
beginning of the day, after my yoga, but before I do anything else, and
then I see what's due when and figure out the rest of my day.

"The beauty of it is that I get to structure each day as it needs to be
structured. I'm not stuck in a 9-5 rut. If I want to take off a day, I
do. If I want to take a trip, or spend a day researching rather than
haunting job boards and prepping queries, I do.

"The less structure I have, the more large swaths of uninterrupted work time
I have, the more productive I am.

"The amount of time spent each day depends on what's on the current roster.
Social networking is the thing to fall by the wayside first. Research,
queries, marketing is all dependent on what's due when, what has release
dates, what are the long term projects, what are the short-term projects,
and figuring out how to slot everything in each day to get it all done.

"(It helps if) you take the time up front to set up systems. Once a system that works for
you is in place, it's quite easy to pull what you need for whatever work
you're doing.

"For instance, at the top of every year, I set up a pitch log and a
submission log, so that I can keep track of pitches and submissions, track
payments, track pub dates, and see what needs follow-up. I took the time
to set up an invoice form. I create a clip file for each article as it is
published, both electronically and as hard copies, so if I need to use them
for other pitches, I don't have to hunt them down. I set up files for new
projects as they're created or the contracts are signed.

"I don't throw out the research files as soon as the book or article is
finished, because usually I write again on the same topic, and why do all
the research again?

"It should take 15 minutes to put together a sparkling pitch with relevant
clips. If you're constantly taking an hour or two to hunt down
information, you lose billable time, you get discouraged because of the
wasted time, you wind up not pitching as often, and you don't land as many
well-paying jobs.

"When you find that the system you've set up doesn't work for you, you
change it.

"If you put it aside to do "tomorrow", you wind up with piles of paper on
your desk and around it, and you can't find anything. I still have too
many unfiled papers on and around my desk, but I've gotten much better
about setting up the systems and tracking everything, and the payoff has
reflected financially and emotionally in the quality of the work.

"I don't have the luxury of writer's block. I just sit down and do it."

Devon Ellington

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Devon.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Finding Time to Write

Over the next few weeks, I will be posting guest bloggers. These wonderful people all helped me when I was researching an article which now appears on the Writing World web site. (

The first person to visit is Poetry writer and editor of The Centrifugal Eye, Eve Hanninen. (

"I write full-time and part-time, depending on my editing schedule for the magazine, and many tasks often overlap. Sometimes my writing is not for me.

Per week:
writing - avg. 25-50 hrs
editing - avg. 30-80 hrs
networking - 10 hrs or more
marketing - avg. 1-10 hrs
queries - 1-2
research - avg. 2.5-10 hrs

"For me, this is a typical "by needs" schedule, based on the features and regular requirements dealing with editing and writing for the magazine. My personal projects and freelance editing (also freelance artwork) require flexibility, and I gauge hours spent based on routine writing and editing. I try to work on personal projects 2-3 times a week, and market my work during slower mag sub-reading periods; 1-4 of my own sub packages go out per quarter, typically.

"To even start to be organized as a writer, I think writing has to be thought of as a job first, before a creative venture. Most people take having a job seriously. They set their alarms and adhere to a schedule.

"Clearly marked files (whether in a file cabinet or on a hard drive) help keep research materials, notes and manuscripts in order. I use several calendars pinned to the wall next to my desk to jot writing and editing tasks on (make sure the daily spaces are big enough to write down at least 5 or 6 tasks per day!), and I try to adhere to the calendars' schedules as closely as possible -- making sure to cross off what I accomplish.

"I also re-establish writing priorities almost everyday, making sure to choose the most important task first, in terms of deadlines, desired results, compensation, to complete. And then the second, and so on.

"Writing more specific and detailed lists often help me greatly. It helps me to sort out what smaller activities are necessary to get past before the larger ones can be completed.

"Notebooks and lots of pens or pencils nearby the usual work area, if you have one (and I recommend having one -- it reinforces the "going to work" attitude) are a must, but also in key areas around the house (or other workplace) for those ahHA moments.

"Also keep track of all correspondence with care, as good records of contacts make your other writing jobs more streamlined. And keep a notebook or binder that lists all pertinent information about your submissions to publishers and journals! You may be surprised to hear how many longtime writers keep poor records of submission. As and editor, I run into this issue all the time! Dates, journal and editors' names, article or poem titles, whether simultaneous submissions or reprint rights offered -- all these things in one place avert time-consuming letters and emails about duplications and other problems which probably won't arise if you're keeping good records."

Eve Hanninen

Thanks, Eve!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Muse On Line Writing Conference 2010

It's time to sign up for next year's Muse OnLine Conference. This is one writing opportunity you don't want to miss. This conference is the brain child of Lea Schizas and Carolyn Howard-Johnson. A large number of talented writers, editors, publishers, and agents donate their time for a week to offer live chats and forum workshops in a variety of writing areas. This year, as in past years, there have been sessions devoted to web site building, writing for the trades, children's writing, world-building, improving your writing skills and a number of other sessions to improve your writing. New this year were live sessions where you could pitch your novel directly to a publishing house such as Damnation Books, White Rose Press, Wild Rose Press, 4RV Publishing, Twilight Times Books, and others.

Next year's conference will be held October 11 - 17, 2010. Only those who register and follow Lea's INDIVIDUAL EMAIL request will get updates throughout the year about upcoming new workshops and pitch sessions she'll be hosting in 2010 before the 2010 Conference.

To register go here:

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Read It Out Loud

Today, I read Hope Clark's latest Funds for Writers newsletter. In it, she wrote an editorial listing things one should do to make their writing improve. While her thoughts were not new, they are ones which should be remembered. Briefly, she mentioned reading your work out loud; making a print copy instead of reading on the computer; take a break from the work and look back at it later; read your printed copy someplace other than your work area; use a thesaurus; and edit one area of your project at a time - e.g. first grammar, then sentence structure, then voice, etc.

What struck me as a great idea, and one I didn't know existed, was the possibility of having your work read back to you when there is no one around to listen. There exists a web site, Here you can paste your manuscript into the provided blank, then sit back and listen to your work as it is read to you. If you're like me, you may be shy about reading your "baby" to someone else. Yet, I've learned the importance of hearing your work read out loud. Here is a way not to feel intimidated by reading to someone else, but the experience is greater than simply reading (or whispering) the words to yourself. Try it and see.

Thanks, Hope, for this tip.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

What Do You Do When You're Stuck?

Okay, I have to admit, I'm stuck. I'm working on the sequel to my middle grade novel, Ghost for Rent. When I wrote the original book, I had several people say they'd love to see my young sleuths tackle more ghostly mysteries and that they could see a series. This sounded reasonable to me and I began work on the second book, Ghost for Dinner.

We live in an area of high paranormal activity. Several of the older buildings around town, including the high school, what used to a notions shop, a restaurant, and a few houses have had ghostly sightings. It's easy to see where my MC could take on another "mystery." I decided the restaurant was the next place to go ghost hunting, but I wanted to tie it to my first book, which had left one skeleton in the closet, so to speak.

I've woven in back story and moved the plot along until Wendy arrives at the restaurant and the ghostly happenings begin. Unfortunately, I seem to be "stuck." I'm not comfortable with novels, as I'm more used to the short story. I'm finding it difficult to give my MC enough problems to make the story interesting. I'm also having a problem getting the ghost from the restaurant back to Wendy's house where they found the skeleton in the first book. A skeleton not associated with any of the ghosts haunting Wendy in the original story.

All of you who write for middle grades or young adults, what do you do when you're stuck? I have put the manuscript aside a number of times and have written short stories, craft articles, non-fiction articles, and two picture books, but I keep coming back to my middle grade ghost novel. I want Wendy to solve this next mystery. How do I get back on track? Any ideas? Thanks.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Guest Blogger, Terri Main, "Beyond Writers Guidelines"

Today, we have a guest blogger, Terri Main, author of Creative Calisthenics, a wonderful book filled with tips to "jump start" your muse. I reviewed this book a few months ago and I'm still impressed with Ms. Main's ideas. Below are some of her thoughts on the best way to study a magazine to ensure article acceptance. Read through to find a link to a free guide to help you with this process.

Beyond Writers Guidelines:

One of the old chestnuts of wisdom about magazine writing is to study the publication. However, rarely do you hear anyone tell you how to do this. Too many writers, with good intentions, just read, take random notes and end up more confused than when they started. Like anything else, if you have a plan you will do better. So, here is a simple plan for studying a magazine.

Start with the Cover. Editors design covers to attract readers. What they feature most prominently on the cover tells you what that editor considers to be the most interesting articles in the magazine. Write down the name of each article featured. Put a star by the main article featured. Go through several back issues doing this. Do you see a theme emerging?

Study the Table of Contents. Look down the table of contents. Make a list of each article. Mark off those written by staff writers and ones likely to be written by freelancers. Categorize the topics like: health, home improvement, food, cars, celebrities, etc. Again look for patterns. Also, note the columns. Are they written by the same person each month or do they have different “guest” writers? Those “guests” are probably freelancers.

Study the Articles. What is the average word count per article? What type of leads do they use (story, statistics, quote, etc)? Do they use pictures? What is the article structure or type such as: how-to, problem exposition, persuasive, celebrity profile, Q&A interview, etc. Once again look for common patterns. Editors reveal their preferences through the articles they publish. These preferences are often not even known to them and will never appear in the writer's guidelines.

Study the Photographs. What type of photos do they have with the articles? Were they stock photos or ones likely provided by the author? Were they of people, scenery, activities, processes?

Study the Advertisements. Advertisers know their market. You can find out a lot about the readership by looking at the ads. Are the models glamorous or more like everyday people? What products are being sold? What type of people would use those products? What appeals are being made such as economy, quality, status, utility, safety, altruism, etc.

I can see you saying this is a lot of work. And your point is? Of course, it is a lot of work, but if you do this type of work, you will know that publication as well, if not better than the editor, and dramatically increase your chances of selling to them, To help you do this analysis you can download forms at either or

Terri, thank you for stopping by and sharing this valuable information.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Ghosts and such

Tomorrow is Halloween. It's the time for ghosts, goblins, vampires and such to take to the streets and school or church sponsored parties.

Instead of eating candy, gorge yourself on a good spine-tingling book. Stephen King and Peter Straub come immediately to mind.

This is where I do a little horn tooting and suggest my own, Ghost for Rent. This middle grade novel is perfect for reading on Halloween or any other day when your son or daughter, ages 9-12, might be looking for a little taste of a paranormal mystery.

Check out my web site: for an excerpt and reviews. Or, go straight to Hardshell Word Factory for a print copy or Fictionwise for download. It is also available in Kindle at Amazon.

Happy Halloween.
Ghost for Rent:

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Interview with author Marilyn Meredith

Today as my guest, I'm pleased to talk with the talented Marilyn Meredith. Ms. Merdith has agreed to answer some questions about her books and the writing craft.

1. Marilyn, would you first tell us a little about yourself and what led you to a writing career?

I've always written--stories and plays when I was a kid; as a young adult and mom, plays for my Camp Fire Girls, PTA newsletters, then my first novel, an historical family saga based on my own family genealogy. That was the first book published--but took a very long time to get to that point. I wrote a second family saga based on the other side of my family too. After it was published, knew I wanted to continue writing, but wasn't sure what. Decided on mysteries since that's what I loved to read.

2. What is your writing process?

When I'm starting a new book I begin gathering materials about some of the subjects I think I might like to write about. I think about what I'm going to write, jot down notes and information about characters, but I don't really do a detailed plot. When I have enough to get started, I try to think of a good place to begin and I sit down in front of the computer and write.

I try to write every single day except Sunday. Mornings are my best writing time, but when I really into the story, I might write whenever I have a free hour or two.

I read every chapter to my writing critique group. I think of them as my first editor. I do a lot of rewriting too.

3. How did you become interested in writing mysteries?

I sort of answered that in the first question. I've always loved mysteries and it seemed like the logical next step in my writing career.

4. Does mystery writing have certain rules a writer should follow? What are they?

Yes, of course. The rules about writing well apply to mystery writing too. That's why there are so many books about writing and writing mysteries.

The biggest rule for mysteries is to play fair with the reader. The reader ought to know as much about what is going on as the sleuth and be able to try and figure out who the guilty part is--though it's always fun to surprise the reader.

5. In Dispel the Mist, Tempe eats out and cooks a lot. Why do you feel food is so important to your story telling?

I like to read about food in books--in fact it irritates me when food or eating is never mentioned in a book. In real life people are always wondering what they are going to have or fix for dinner. Tempe isn't much of a cook--but her husband Hutch is.

6. Tempe Crabtree is Native American and you have set this series on a fictional reservation. What are your ties to Native Americans and have you spent time on a reservation?

We live very close to the Tule River Indian Reservation (the reservation that I borrow from for my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mysteries) and in fact, I can see the back of the mountains that is part of the reservation from my house.

I have a great-grandaughter who is a quarter Tule River Indian, and a daughter-in-law and granddaughter who are part Yaqui. Except for the fact that they are all beautiful, I know they are not any different from the rest of us because of their Native American blood.

7. How do you research your books?

My research is different for every one of my books. For Dispel the Mist I learned about the Hairy Man and was fortunate to be able to go with the college's anthropology class to visit the Painted Rock to see the pictorgraphs. Once I saw these 500 to 1000 years old drawings, I knew I had to write a story about Tempe that incorporated the Hairy Man. Often the idea comes first, something that intrigues me, and I do what research is necessary after that.

8. You've published a number of books. What other genres do you write and which is your favorite?

Besides the historical family sagas, I've written ghost stories, psychological horror, and Christian horror. Whatever I happen to be writing is my favorite at the time--but right now mystery is my favorite.

9. Are all of your books published with Mundania Press, and how did you find your publishers?

I've had many publishers over the years. Right now Mundania Press is publishing my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mysteries. I met the publisher at a writing conference and asked him if he'd be interested in publishing the series. This was after the first publisher passed away.

Oaktree Press publishes my Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series. The previous publisher decided to cease her business. I'd met the Oaktree Press publisher at a conference and asked her if she'd like to publish the next book in the series. I spoke at a conference she was giving, and I signed the contract while I was there.

10. Do you have an agent, and do you think an agent is important for new writers?

Over the years I've had several agents, but don't have one now. Because I'm with small, independent publishers, I don't really need an agent. But if an author wants to be published by a larger New York publisher, an agent is the only way to get one. Because I kept writing books and wasn't getting any younger, I decided finding a publisher myself was the way to go for me.

11. What is your marketing technique, and, if you don't mind my asking, how much of your own money do you spend promoting your books?

I do a lot of online promotion like this kind of interview. I'm on Facebook and Twitter and other social networking sites. I belong to MWA, Sisters in Crime, Epic, and the Public Safety Writers Association.

I go to conferences and conventions every year--my favorites are Epicon, Mayhem in the Midlands, PSWA's conference, and next year I'll be going to Bouchercon again. I also like Left Coast Crime, but haven't attended for a couple of years.

Book and craft fairs and festivals are also favorites of mine. I love speaking at libraries and for service and social groups.

When I go out of town, of course it's expensive if I have to fly and stay in a hotel. My hubby often goes with me and it seems like a vacation.

12. I see you are an instructor for Writers Digest School. How did you become involved with doing this?

I'm no longer working for them, but I was an instructor for ten years. I loved it. It's been awhile, but I believe I applied and was accepted more or less like any job.

13. Where can readers find out more about Marilyn Meredith?

My website: has lots of information on it. Also I have a blog: and I try to blog every day. I also have a monthly newsletter and if anyone wants to subscribe she/he can write to me at: and put Newsletter or Subscribe in the Subject.

14. Do you have any tips for new writers hoping to become novelists?

Learn as much as you can about the craft of writing. Read the kind of books you want to write. Then write, write, write--and rewrite until it's as perfect as you can make it. When you are at the stage where you're ready to submit to an agent or editor, read their guidelines carefully and submit exactly the way they've asked.

Marilyn, I appreciate your taking time from your busy writing schedule to share this information with me. Thank you.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Review Dispel the Mists

Dispel the Mist
Author: Marilyn Meredith
Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-59426-402-3
eBook ISNB: 978-978-1-59426-403-0
Published by: Mundania Press LLC

Dispel the Mist, is another intriguing mystery in the Tempe Crabtree mystery series, written by talented author, Marilyn Meredith. While this is part of a series, the book stands alone. Dispel the Mist immediately pulls the reader into the problem at hand and keeps up the pace for a suspense-filled adventure. Ms. Meredith weaves a story, peopled with believable characters, delightful aromas, and credible scenery.
Set in an around the fictitious Bear Creek Reservation, Tempe is a deputy sheriff reassigned from her usual job handing out parking tickets to a possible murder investigation. High profile Supervisor Lilia Quintera drops dead from what appears to be a heart attack. Since she was a healthy, active woman with no history of heart problems, the local police decide to launch an investigation.
As Lilia was half Indian, lead detective Morrison, calls in Tempe believing her own Native American ancestry will be a help in getting answers to several troubling questions. Lilia has made several enemies both in her support of a group home for developmentally disabled people and her non-support of a proposed Indian owned and operated resort complex. As Tempe delves into the problems surrounding Lilia's death, she finds Lilia's husband, as a former nurse, is the prime suspect. Other people, however, have motive and access such as Lilia's sister, Connie, the antagonistic group home neighbor, Duane Whitney, and Tempe's own mentor, Nick Two John.
Tempe is troubled by dreams of her grandmother and the legend of the Hairy Man, a mythical creature who together with the other animals was responsible for the creation of man. Tempe seems no closer to solving the mystery of Lilia's death when she gets a strange phone call warning her to stay away from the Painted Rock. A trip to visit old friends on the reservation includes a visit to the Painted Rock where Tempe is surprised to find a pictograph of the Hairy Man and has an olfactory vision of wood burning and food cooking. Why would someone warn her away from this spirit filled area? Why is she having these dreams of the Hairy Man?
As the book draws to a close, Tempe receives a call to return to the Painted Rock, apparently from Detective Morrison's assistant. It's dark, the roads are narrow and winding, a thunderstorm is brewing. What will Tempe find at the Painted Rock? Is it really Detective Morrison waiting for her? Has he found out who killed Lilia Quintera? Does Tempe have an unknown protector? Read Dispel the Mist for the surprising answer to these and other questions.
If you enjoy Dispel the Mist, look for the other Tempe Crabtree mystery books.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Interview with author VS Grenier

INTERVIEW with author VS Grenier

I am pleased to have multi-talented writer, publisher, and editor, VS Grenier as my guest today.

Virginia has agreed to answer some questions about writing and her latest book, Babysitting SugarPaw.INTERVIEW with author, VS Grenierestions about writing and her
latest book, Babysitting Sugarpaw.

1. Virginia, please tell me a little about yourself and how you became a

Well I'm a mother of two (soon to be three) wonderful children. My background isn't in writing, but merchandise Marketing. I learned how to hone my writing skills at the Institute of Children ’s Literature a year after the birth of my daughter. The idea was to write as a hobby while staying home and raising my kids. I never really dreamed of becoming published. I figured if I did great, if not . . . well at least I'm having fun.

2. How did you come up with the idea for Babysitting SugarPaw?

I got the idea from a picture I saw while working on one of my ICL assignments. I first wrote the story as a magazine short story for younger kids. Later I expanded, changed, and revised the story into a picture book after sharing the story with Kevin Collier who did the first short story illustration for StoryBox Library. He thought it would make a cute picture book so I set to work. Some of the antics
SugarPaw pulls are from my own childhood . . . while others are things my children have done.

3. How is writing for children different from writing for adults?

Yes, you have to write a story that engages young readers while showing how the characters have grown either externally or internally without a bold moral. Children don't like in your face lessons in stories anymore. You also have to write tight . . . meaning you can't have a lot of unnecessary details. You'll lose your
readers. Adults I think are a bit more forgiving when an author has more detail than needed to tell a story.

4. What is the process for writing a picture book for children?

That's a hard one to really put into words. Besides having a beginning, middle, and end . . . you need to be able to develop you characters in under 1000 words while also telling story that engages your reader. Not easily done. You also need to use little description because the pictures will show that part of the story for you. However, you have to have just enough description so the illustrator can see your characters as you see them, too.

5. How did you find your publisher, Halo Publishing International?

I actually work as a freelance editor for Halo Publishing, but that doesn't mean I didn't go through the same submission process all authors go through. My manuscript had to be reviewed by a panel of editor just like everyone elses does and I also had to come up with a marketing plan to show how I would help to sell the book if published as well. I also had to have my book editing by another editor and go through all the other steps a book goes through before it hits the presses.

6. Do you have an agent and do feel it's important for new writers to
have one?

I don't have an agent because right now I only write short stories, articles, and picture books. Normally you don't need an agent for those areas in children's writing. But I have looked around in case I decided to send my YA novel off one of
these days. Most likely I'll stand a better chance at publication with an agent when it comes to chapter books and novels I write. This is because most publishers don't look at manuscripts sent in by the author. They like agented submissions.

7. What types of marketing techniques do you use to promote your work?

Interviews (radio, blog, etc), book signings, school visits, contests, teaming up with companies such as First Book, book fesitivals, community events, and so on. One of the best things to do is try and think out side of the box.

8. I know you've also written non-fiction writing articles and publish
both a writing newsletter
and a children's magazine ( What
other types of writing do you do?

That's really it besides my books I'm still working on and submitting. Running Stories for Children Publishing, LLC pretty much keeps me busy when my kids and family aren't.

9. Where can readers learn more about VS Grenier?

On my author website

10. Any tips for new writers wanting to enter the field of children's

Join a writer's group such a critique groups or workshops. Read the type of books you want to write so you know what's already out there and selling.
Read interviews on authors in your genre of writing. No you'll always have revisions even after you get an acceptance. And never give up.

Virginia, thank you for being here today and answering my questions.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Review Babysitting Sugarpaw

Babysitting SugarPaw
Author: VS Grenier
Illustrator: Kevin Scott Collier
ISBN: 978-1-935268-06-2
Halo Publishing International

VS Grenier has written a delightful book, Babysitting SugarPaw, for 3 to 8 year old readers and their parents. Every parent and child dreads the first time a babysitter comes to the house. What will happen? How will the child react to his parents leaving? How will the babysitter deal with misbehavers?

Ms. Grenier addresses the issues of honesty and friendship in a fun to read story with wonderful full-color illustrations. Bonnie Whiskers never babysat for SugarPaw Bear before and what she finds is a young bear with ideas of his own on what he can and can't do.

Little SugarPaw doesn't make it easy for Bonnie Whiskers, but she finds positive ways to deal with SugarPaw's devious plans. Read along as SugarPaw tries his hardest to make life difficult for Bonnie. Does Bonnie survive her night of babysitting? Does Sugarpaw get his own way? Will Bonnie come back to babysit again?

Whether you are a parent thinking of getting a babysitter, or a young adult heading out to babysit for the first time, read Babysitting SugarPaw to find out the answers to these questions.

Now a little bit about Ms.Grenier and how she is using her book to help children learn to read.

Utah Author Helps Bring Children Their First Book

Author VS Grenier, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Stories for Children Magazine, celebrates her debut picture book, Babysitting Sugarpaw, about the importance of telling the truth and getting to know others. When asked what inspired Grenier to write this particular story, she said, “I really enjoyed writing Babysitting SugarPaw which is based off some of the antics I pulled as a child with my babysitters. I feel children will love the mischief SugarPaw creates and parents will appreciate the subtle ways Bonnie Whiskers teaches how to be honest and a good friend.

“I love writing children’s books! I finish one book and then get another idea from my own childhood or from my kids. It takes all my talent to create a book, run Stories for Children Magazine, and raise my children. But, I love it! It is such a surprising turn in the road to finally see one of my books in print. I hope to bring many more to children and share with them my love of the World of Ink.”

VS Grenier has also joined forces with First Book to help children find the love of reading and writing. Here is what Bonnie Johnson from First Book had to say about Grenier joining their cause.

"First Book provides new books to children in need addressing one of the most important factors affecting literacy – access to books. Since 1992, First Book has distributed over 65 million new books to children from low-income families in thousands of communities nationwide.

"Programs that serve predominantly children from low-income families can receive books from First Book and that is why VS Grenier has joined First Book in our fight to bring children their first book.

"First Book works with many different authors and/or publishers big and small! We are thrilled to be working with VS Grenier at First Book in our donation program. We have done similar donations and generally because First Book works with thousands of recipient groups across the country we try to find a group near an author and/or publisher that could benefit from a donation such as this."

So how can you help VS Grenier give children their first book? You can help Grenier bring a child their first book a few different ways. The process is simple and anyone can help.

1. Place an order for an autographed copy of Babysitting SugarPaw and 25% of the sale will go to books for First Book. Place your order at

2. Buy and donate Babysitting SugarPaw to First Book. Once we reach the 100 book level First Book will proceed in donating the books to a group in VS Grenier's area. Place your donation at

3. Tell your friends about Babysitting SugarPaw and how VS Grenier has joined First Book in bring children their first book.

If you would like to know more about First Book please visit their website at

To learn more about VS Grenier and Babysitting SugarPaw visit

To learn more about Stories for Children Magazine visit

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Muse On Line Writing Conference 2009

The Muse Online Writers Conference is over until next year. Once again, Lea Schizas, founding mother of the conference gathered some of the finest talent to share their knowledge and expertise with thousands of writers from all over the globe.

For those of you who missed the conference, here’s the list of workshops which were offered:
12 Stages of the Writer's Adventure with Beth Barany
Adding Suspense with JD Webb and Pepper Smith
Article Marketing with Jan Verhoeff
Assaulting A Writer's Thinking with Lea Schizas
BEFORE COPY EDITING with Claudia Suzanne
Bipolars Don't Twitch: Mental Illness Workshop with Cathy Chance
"Blogging Your Way to Greater Recognition-and More Sales" with Joyce Anthony Building Blocks of Fiction Writing: Characterization and Plotting with Tambra Kendall
Creative Block Buster 2 with Lisa Gentile
Creative Calisthenics with Terri Main
CRIT GROUPS 101 with Missye K. Clarke
Decorate Your Work with Sprigs of Humor with Ron Berry
DialogueWorkshop with Devon Ellington
Editing and Book Design: What Happens When You Have Finished Writing Your Book with Jill Ronsley
Facing your fear of writing with Tamlyn Leigh
Fine Tuning the Senses with Jane Bernard
Finding Your Writing Voice Through Personal Essays with Ann Hite
First Pages and the YA market with Kim Baccellia
Frugal Writer’s Guide to Web Sites with Susan K. Stewart
How To Promote When You Don't Know How with Jamieson Wolf
How to Write Power Sentences with June Diehl
How to Write Your Bio, Get a Headshot & More with Sheri Gormley
Infusing The Romance Novel With Emotional And Sexual Tension with Laurie Sanders
It's All About You! Writing Personal Stories with Carol Celeste
Knocking on Heaven's Door with Chantelle Osman
Monsters and Mayhem with Christina Barber
Non-Verbal Communication - with Margaret McGaffey Fisk
On Being a Professional Amateur with Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff
Pet Writing for the Beginner with Carolyn Ettinger
"Pick Your Poison" with Joyce Anthony
Pre-Publisher Book Marketing with Karina Fabian
Pump Up Your Opening with Earl Staggs
Research Workshop with Susan K. Stewart
“Schizophrenic Doesn't Mean Multiple Personality" with Joyce Anthony
"So, you want to be a Freelance Writer" with Bob Medak
True Lies - Writing Covert Training and Missions for Fiction Writers with D.S. Kane Using Social Media to Attract Readers with Cheryl Corbin
Using TLC for go AFTER the Money with Dyanne Davis
Website Makeover with C.F. Jackson
When Viewpoints Stray...So Do Readers with Phyllis Campbell
"World Building in Science Fiction and Fantasy," with Christine Amsden Writing the Short Screenplay: From Concept to “Fade Out” with Kristin Johnson
Write as Tight as Granny's New Girdle with Margot Finke
Writing a Teacher's Guide to Accompany Your Children's Book with Carol J. Amato Writing for kids and teens with Beverly S. McClure
Writing for love and Money with Dyanne Davis
Writing for the Trades: How to Make Money Writing Non-Fiction - And How NOT to P*SS Off Those You Need to Interview! with Linda J. Hutchinson
Writing Love Scenes That Sizzle with Tambra Kendall
Writing with Impact with Dr. Bob Rich
WRITING RESOURCES 101 by Mary Andrews
The Art and Science of Self-Publishing with Susan K. Stewart

In addition to these fabulous workshops which were available 24/7, several publishing houses and agents were available for live pitch sessions. Many of the workshop presenters also participated in live chat sessions.

If you didn’t have an opportunity to sign up for this year’s conference, be sure to sign up for next year’s. Information about registration will be available in November at the Muse Conference home page Stop by to see some of the testimonials of attendees this year.

Monday, October 19, 2009

National Writing Day

October 20, 2009 is National Writing Day. Join the fun and check out how you can participate by going to their web page

You can submit your writing, start a gallery, look at writing tips, read writing samples from published writers, and popular writers and celebrities talk about writing.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Gone for the Week

Greetings fellow writers. I just wanted to let you know, I'll be gone for this week. I'm attending the annual Muse Online (free) Writers Conference. If you didn't sign up for it this year, registrations will be available probably in November. It's a great conference with a lot of talented people dedicating and volunteering their time to making it a success.

This year, I'm volunteering as a chat moderator and helping to save those chats for people who miss them. It was time for me to give back after attending the conference for so many years. In addition to the live chats, there is also a week long forum where you can post questions, do exercises, and get feedback from other participants and the presenters.

Here's the web site so check it out:

Friday, October 9, 2009

Inteviews with The Zombie Cookbook contributors (continued)

Today, our first guest from The Zombie Cookbook is Lisa Haselton.

1. Hi Lisa, what attracted you to this particular anthology?

It sounded like fun...a zombie cookbook.

2. How did you research this market to see if your story would fit with
their needs?

I didn't, actually. I saw Kim's call for submissions and let 'zombie' and 'cookbook' percolate in my mind for a while, then one night a slew of poems came to me. I sent in my best one and it was accepted, and that prompted me to want to write a short story. That took longer to pull together, but it all worked out.

3. What is your process for writing a horror piece?

I sit down with an idea and write. I have a natural inclination to include a bit of horror in just about anything I write. Sometimes I'll sit down and think I'm writing a happy story about a mom walking her child in the park when I blink and the
child is, well, I won't get horrific, so I'll just say, that the child turns
into a monster and Mom doesn't survive.

4. Is horror your specialty? If not, what do you prefer to write and why?

I don't know if it's a specialty, but I always enjoy writing it. I write
in several genres.

5. How did you come up with the idea for your story?

Well, the poem just came to me while I was trying to sleep. And then I wanted to tie the story into the poem, and that took some work. I'd never written about zombies
before and didn't know much about them. A friend told me they have an
aversion to salt, so I did a few Google searches and got some details. I let
the information sit for a while and eventually I sketched out a story while
I was on vacation that seemed to work. I didn't want to make it gory, my
story is a bit upbeat for a zombie tale, I think.

6. Tell us a bit about your other work.

I have short mysteries and other fiction published. My first romance novel was published earlier this year. This was not a genre I ever thought I'd focus on, but now I have my second novel coming out by the end of the year. It's a nice change of pace. I have agent interest in a paranormal thriller. I also have some haikus published. I write non-fiction, too, for magazines.

7. Where can people learn more about you and your writing?

You can look me up at and

8. Any tips for writers thinking about submitting to an anthology?

I think anthologies are great for getting exposure - your name gets mixed
with others in the business. My first 'anthology' was a short essay in a
calendar last year. Now I have The Zombie Cookbook this year. I have a haiku
in a calendar for next year and am striving for short stories in different
genres. Follow the guidelines and submit on time are my biggest tips - along
with proofing the submission before mailing it in.

Thanks, Lisa.

We also have Cinsearae Santiago with us to answer these same questions.

1. Cinsearae, what attracted you to this particular anthology?

Along with straight horror, I also like horror comedy, and doing a horror comedy concerning zombies sounded like fun, *lol*. The title, “The Zombie Cookbook” alone sounded like a hoot!

2. How did you research this market to see if your story would fit with their needs? specializes in all types of dark fiction, which is right up my alley. I’m also on board as a Book Cover Artist, having designed the cover for the anthology, so I pretty much knew the ins and outs already.

3. What is your process for writing a horror piece?

Oh, that’s easy. I just look at the world’s current events, and how people act towards each other in this day and age. Human behavior plays a big part of what I incorporate into a horror story.

4. Is horror your specialty? If not, what do you prefer to write and why?

Horror is part of my specialty. I write Paranormal Romance, but with a much darker edge to it. I’m not a real believer in h.e.a’s and fairy-tale endings. That’s all cute and everything, but I prefer stories with tension, drama, something to keep me on edge, wanting more. The eeriness and horror aspects only adds more excitement These are the stories I like to create.

5. How did you come up with the idea for your story?

I’m not quite sure, *lol*. I heard a voice in my head yelling about ‘the human condition’, and I suddenly had an idea. How would a zombie in this day and age respond and react to eating certain types of people---those on medication, ones with artificial parts, implants, ones that strictly have junk-food diets…the list was endless! It became a comedy because this ‘poor zombie’ cannot find a plain, ‘untainted’ meal and makes a few wisecracks about us humans. It’s a bit tongue-in-cheek, to say the least!

6. Tell us a bit about your other work.

I’m currently working on a Dark Paranormal Romance series, ABRAXAS, which features a slightly different kind of ‘vampire’, amongst other ghoulies, demons, ghosts and beasties. Magic also abounds, and I’m currently working on the 5th book in the series, due out next year. Anyone interested is more than welcome to visit

I’m also Editor/Publisher of Dark Gothic Resurrected magazine, which specializes in the Gothic/horror/paranormal genres. It comes out twice a year in the spring and fall. I also founded the Gratista Vampire Clan dark writers group, and we publish a bi-annual anthology with assorted themes in the genre. We’re over at

8. Where can people learn more about you and your writing?

They can visit my homepage, for all sorts of info, free downloads of book excerpts, view book trailers, and lots of other goodies.

9. Any tips for writers thinking about submitting to an anthology?

Research the market first and foremost. Read their guidelines carefully, and always give the editor your best, polished work!

Our final guest for today is Linda Neiswender.

1. Hi Linda, tell me what attracted you to this particular anthology?

The Zombie Cookbook was so different, zombies plus recipes- how could I resist? It appealed to my sense of fun and started my mental wheels turning immediately. The story almost wrote itself.

2. How did you research this market to see if your story would fit with their needs?

The market seemed pretty much wide open on this one, not too many zombie cookbooks out there other than the rock band by the same name. So I ran with my original idea, as the guidelines said they were open to anything new.

3. What is your process for writing a horror piece?

I start with the horror focus, in this cased zombies, and try to see if I could give any different spin to it. I also like to throw in some humor with the horror, not being a strictly blood and guts kind of gal. This is only my third horror piece, for Heaven's sake!

4. Is horror your specialty? If not, what do you prefer to write and why?

I haven't written enough to have a specialty yet, but speculative fiction is what I write the most, especially flash speculative fiction. Just growing up in the South, hearing the rich language, I lean towards literary fiction as well. I guess you can say I write all over the place.

5. How did you come up with the idea for your story?

"Zombie + recipes + letters + editor + mayhem = story" was pretty much it, with some humor tossed in to cut the gore. I just brainstormed it after I wrote the initial letters, deciding to kill off the Zombie Cookbook's imaginary editor. Sorry Kim Richards.

6. Tell us a bit about your other work.

I've been published in flash fiction and poetry, and have several partially completed novels lurking in my bottom drawer. I'm a writing newbie as far as publication goes, but my love of writing has been life-long. I want to see some new publishing credits so I'm firing up the story machine in my noggin and may be tackling some new arenas like literary fiction and fantasy.

7. Where can people learn more about you and your writing?

My general blog is Land of Lin at, and I hope to have a writing blog up soon, once I get a decent picture of myself without the Yeti headgear (yes that is my writing hat for tough scenes, to scare my brain into making that word quota).

8. Any tips for writers thinking about submitting to an anthology?

Do some research on the publisher's other anthologies if possible and follow submission guidelines to the letter. Write your piece to the call for submission if you can rather than submitting something you already have as a “make do.” You'll stand a better chance at acceptance.

My thanks to all these wonderful writers for sharing their useful writing tips.