Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Book Release - TODAY!

Today my book is up on Amazon. I didn't schedule any blog tours, and in fact, I haven't even announced it on Facebook yet. I have trouble promoting myself. Maybe I should pretend this book belongs to someone else. I can always sing someone else's praises.

If you haven't read Alex Cavanaugh's guest post on maintaining momentum, scroll down to the previous post and read it. My problem is ... I don't have a lot of momentum to maintain!

So I'm telling my followers here ... if you purchase The Last Daughter, I hope you'll review it on Amazon, tweet about it, talk about it on GoodReads. Even if you don't like it, I hope you'll review it. It's the silence that's the killer--not the bad reviews.

This is an exciting day. Very different from holding a print book in my hands, but fun just the same. Celebrate with me.

Sunday, August 25, 2013


Alex Cavanaugh is one of my writing heroes. He is founder of the Insecure Writers Support Group, and almost every blog I visit, I see an encouraging comment from him. He does a great job of promoting others too. During the month of September, Alex starts a challenging blog tour promoting his new book, and he'll participate in his first twitter party. Get dates and details HERE. Alex knows his blog subject well; he maintains momentum!

Maintaining Author Momentum
by Alex J. Cavanaugh
Building an author platform takes time. Looking back, I now understand why my publisher wanted me online a year before the release of my first book. It took me a while to network, make friends, and build momentum.
Most authors grasp the efforts required before and during a book release. They do blog tours, appearances, interviews, giveaways, and start planning the next book. When the dust settles, they retreat back into the writing cave and out of the spotlight.
Call me clueless, but I missed that last part!
I slowed down while writing and ventured online just a little bit less, but I never ground to a halt. Hey, it took me a year to build that momentum! If I lost it, I’d have to do it all over again. I was determined that wouldn’t happen. (I’m ambitiously lazy.)
Now some writers maintain momentum by producing a lot of books in a short amount of time. I’m a slow writer though, so I knew that plan wouldn’t work for me. I had to keep promoting, which meant maintaining my online presence.
Of course, I don’t like promoting my own books, so did other things instead. I just kept building my blog and Twitter following, co-hosted the A to Z Challenge, participated in blogfests, and started the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. After all, I wasn’t online just to promote my book – I was there to support and encourage others.
Did it work? Well, eleven months after its release, my first book hit the Amazon Best Seller chart.
I also wrote my next book during that time, and when it was released, it also hit the Best Seller charts. Both books eventually soared to the top of the Amazon UK charts as well. And while I’m blessed with a publisher who promotes my work, even they said my online activity had a huge impact on sales.
Maintaining momentum is important. So is consistency. Together it’s like a heartbeat, one that keeps your platform alive.
I know every author is different, but if I’d pulled back and vanished, my chances of success would’ve also vanished. No Amazon Best Sellers. No Insecure Writer’s Support Group. No blog growth or opportunity to really make a difference in this community. And it would’ve been a great loss.
Guess there’s something to be said about being clueless!
Alex J. Cavanaugh
Alex J. Cavanaugh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design and graphics. He is experienced in technical editing and worked with an adult literacy program for several years. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Online he is the Ninja Captain and founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. The author of the Amazon bestsellers, CassaStar and CassaFire, his third book, CassaStorm, will be released September 17, 2013.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013


I first met Anna Castle in my Sisters In Crime/Guppy writing group and couldn't resist asking her to prepare a guest blog for me. She's an interesting person, as you'll find out when you read this post. Anna recently retired from managing a digital archive at the University of Texas at Austin. Writing is now her full time job. Isn't Anna Castle a great name? We'll be seeing on it her book covers soon! Visit her website to learn more about her books.

The Joy of Research
by Anna Castle

The Internet is great for overviews, generating ideas and picking out clothes or cars for contemporary characters, but it can only get you so far. The library is indispensable for a writer of historical fiction like me. But the most fun can be had by getting out there and looking at the world in which your story is set.

My to-be-published-someday-soon Francis Bacon mystery series is set in Elizabethan England. I can't travel back in time and London has changed a tad since 1585, but many wonderful old buildings have been preserved. Museums are full of intriguing furniture, tools and other things my characters might have used. Places like Kentwell Hall (http://www.kentwell.co.uk/) host Tudor-themed events where costumed re-enactors engage in traditional tasks. I found a character at Kentwell.
I do a lot of walking, a major pastime in the UK. The cities may have changed, but parts of the landscape would still be familiar to my characters. I love the English countryside and trust me, it is all kinds of different from Texas, where I live. They have rain: lots of it. They have these soft, cool breezes drifting out from under dark thickets. In Texas, thickets are full of snakes and rarely cool or soft. Descriptions from my favorite British authors make more sense now that I've walked where they walked when they were writing. Christopher Marlowe might have walked up this very road on his way from Canterbury to Cambridge. How cool is that?

One of the characters in my current WIP, set in Victorian London, finds herself obliged to burglarize some Mayfair houses and country estates. (Her intentions are honorable, I assure you!) My problem was getting her and her crew in and out with the goods undetected. Crime fiction lends a whole new perspective to touring the stately home!

I study these houses like a villain, not an architect. If it weren't for those burglar bars (surely modern), could my gal get in these windows? Then how far is it to the library? Which rooms will she pass on the way? Do they have gas lamps on the landings?

To make the most of my trips, I do a lot of planning; online, of course. I look for houses in my period of interest on sites like the invaluable National Trust (http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/). Wikipedia has lists of museums in most major cities with links to their websites, where you can get hours of operation and directions via many forms of transport. The Brits have lots of online resources for ramblers: favorite walks, long and short, all over the country. Everybody everywhere has lots of travel info these days. I know where my characters are from and how they spend their days, so I try to go where they would go and see whatever I can see. I hope these experiences enrich my books. And hey: nice work if you can get it!

Anna Castle is writing two mystery series. The Francis Bacon series is set in Elizabethan England. The first book, Murder by Misrule, will be published one way or another in 2014. The Lost Hat, Texas series is set in the present, in the hill country west of Austin, where Anna lives. Black and White and Dead All Over is under revision. Find out more at www.annacastle.com.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Grieving Elmore Leonard

October 11, 1925 - August 20, 2013
Elmore Leonard said something years ago that stuck with me: When something sounds like writing, I rewrite it. 
I think that's great advice for all of us--no matter what we write.
You can find a number of articles talking about Mr. Leonard and his writing during this time, or you can visit his website. Since I never met him, there's nothing I can add except this:
Awhile back, I entered a mystery writing contest and asked for a critique. One of my judges wrote the following, and it's the best compliment I've ever received on my writing.
Voice/Writing style:
Judge 1: There's definitely a passion in your writing about the topic. I believe you genuinely are enthusiastic about the characters, and that shines through.You have a streamlined writing style very similar to Elmore Leonard, and it's excellent. Work on pacing and plot, and your style will carry you far.
Rest in Peace, Mr. Leonard.
We'll miss you.
And you won't be forgotten.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Dreading the Read-Through? Me too!

Here's the banner advertising The Twelve Days of Christmas. Things are moving so fast with the production of this book, these stories, I'm nervous. My deadline is Sept. 1 and the release of my single story is Oct. 1. I just finished it today... well, the first draft. Tomorrow I'll read it in its entirety to see if it makes sense. If it doesn't .. panic time!

I don't know how writers deal with multiple deadlines. Or multiple deadlines with multiple publishers. Juggling stories and dates, characters, plotlines and settings ... oh my! I don't care how many white boards or excel sheets they have--it has to be mind-boggling and nerve wracking! What if a story won't come? What if an author finds a major, MAJOR plot hole that changes/prevents what she'd originally planned, promised in the original pitch?

Can you tell I'm dreading reading my 8000 word story, expecting the worst? I've made my list of things I know I'll have to add and flesh out. That'll up the word count some. I'll read a hard copy with pen in hand. After I do the final revision, I'll send it to a reader/freelance editor who'll do her part.

When you do a final read-through of a project, how do you approach it? What do you look for? Do you have a weakness when it comes to writing short fiction--with characterization, plotting, conflict? 
Or maybe I should ask ... when you read a short story, what ruins it for you, what will make you quit reading? Share!

Thursday, August 8, 2013


When Sandra Orchard wrote this post, she had no idea she was writing to, and about, me. I'm one of those writers who has trouble determining my main character's goal. If she'd asked me what Cory's goal is, I'd have said, to get the girl. Or I may have asked ... when? before he meets Bretta or after? Before he realizes his life is about to change, or after it changes? Okay, I tend to complicate things--as you see, so Sandra's use of the word urgent really helps. To read an excerpt of her books Fatal Inheritance and Deadly Devotion just click the titles.

by Sandra Orchard

Your novel’s main character needs a goal.

You know this, right?

But do you really understand what it means?

At a writer's conference I recently attended, I asked every single writer who had an appointment with me this question: What is your hero's goal for the story?

Only one out of eight gave me a satisfactory answer. Most had a lot to say about what the hero or heroine would learn through the story, especially spiritually, since we're talking Christian fiction, but very few of the writers I talked to had nailed down a concrete, visible, urgent story goal for their main character.

If you're writing commercial fiction, and want to be published, your hero needs a goal.

A concrete goal.

New writers often get confused by the lingo. Writing teachers talk about long-term and short-term goals, internal goals and external goals, needs and wants, not to mention scene goals.

I find that most Christian writers don't have a problem with the character's long-term goal, which often tends to be abstract. It's what the character wants (or needs) out of life in general.

Where writers run into trouble is in identifying what is often called the "short-term goal". I prefer to call it the character's story goal, to differentiate it from the very short-term changing goals the character has in each scene.

The character's story goal not only needs to be concrete, it needs to be achievable within the time constraints of the story. The story is over when your main character reaches his/her goal or fails to reach it.

Now, if you're thinking, I write romance…the hero's goal is to win the girl, think again.

Okay, occasionally, winning the girl is the singular story goal, but it's not enough for the goal to simply be concrete and achievable.

It needs to be urgent.

If the hero could wait until next month or next year to pursue his goal or solve the problem then there's no urgency to propel the story forward.

We suspense writers like to call this urgency the ticking bomb. If the hero doesn't reach the goal by a certain time, boom.

In my newest release, Fatal Inheritance, my heroine's goal is to hang onto the century farmhouse she's inherited from her recently deceased grandparents.

Her sister and brother-in-law are fighting the will. Land developers are vying for the land. One of them, or maybe someone else, wants her out of the house so desperately, he or she goes to great lengths to scare Becki Graw into leaving.

As for urgency…

Since the house is in a rural community, that isn't a commutable distance from where Becki worked, she quit her job. She planned to live on her savings until she found a job nearby. However, she hadn't counted on necessary house repair expenses, nor on the suppressed economy in the area that makes finding a job near impossible.

Added to that, her sister's threat to break the will cannot be ignored. She is determined to make it happen yesterday.

Then when Becki cannot be persuaded to go quietly into the night, the threats mount and her choices morph to give up the house or die. Which of course, adds urgency to the cop-next-door's goal to catch the person behind the threats.

When choosing a goal for your main character, be sure his or her motivation is strong. He or she must have something significant enough at stake to keep pushing forward when it would be easier to just quit. But that’s a lesson for another day.

Any questions? 


Sandra Orchard is a multi-award-winning Canadian author of inspirational romantic suspense/mysteries. Her summer releases include: Fatal Inheritance (Aug, Love Inspired Suspense) and Deadly Devotion (June, Revell). She is an active member in American Christian Fiction Writers, The Word Guild, and Romance Writers of America. To find out more about her novels, or read interesting bonus features, please visit www.sandraorchard.com or connect at www.Facebook.com/SandraOrchard


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

IWSG: Unwelcome Deadlines

Today is IWSG day-the first Wednesday of each month. IWSG stands for Insecure Writers Support Group and was founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh. You can follow other IWSG members here on twitter using the hashtag #IWSG.

Our purpose is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. Join us!

After 16 months in Oklahoma, we're back in Louisiana. Full time. A couple of friends helped us load the truck and tie everything safely in place. Our Okie friends and church are sweet memories now. So far, I've received one phone call, several text messages and emails and visited on Facebook with them. They always make me smile. Hubby and I have never shared friends (as a couple), and I've never had many non-writing friends. I don't know why. Oklahoma was an unusual experience. A blessing in a number of ways. 

Hubby will be officially retired on Thursday. We'll embark on a different kind of adventure. A little scary.

I used to be very organized. I used to be able to multi-task. Since being home, I'm having trouble writing or even accomplishing more than one thing at a time. Deadlines loom and I'm having to force myself to write. Forced writing isn't good writing. I envy those writers who can whip out a story with no trouble at all and shoot it to their editor with so much confidence they never wonder if that story is good ... or even readable. I'm not that way. I struggle. I feel as though I always struggle to put one word after the other. I struggle with my characters' motivations and strengthening the conflict. I'll ask a question I've asked a hundred times: how do we know, really know a story is good, if it hangs together, is logical, plausible and ready to be sent to the editor? When we're satisfied with it, you say? What if we're never satisfied?

I have a Sept. 1st deadline for a  9,000 word Christmas story. I'm struggling. Any advice?