Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border

Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border
photo by Gene Tunick of Eureka, Montana

Monday, January 30, 2012

Tip O'Day #279 - Who Do You Write For?

Guest blogger Thomas Avery on writing for your audience.

I believe, as an Indie writer, I connect best with people of similar interests, rather than a broad audience.

My writing entertains me and that is who I write for first. Not everyone wants to read a mystery about an actor/aviator from the 1930's who drinks too much. My passions have always been mystery novels, classic films and aviation. I have tried to inject these into my novel and I had fun, too. My philosophy: if it entertains me, it will entertain someone else too.

This author writes under the name T.E. Avery and his first e-book will be published soon on Kindle. Learn more here.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Tip O'Day #278 - Think in New Ways

Novelist Amy Charlotte is today’s guest blogger on the topic of freshness.

Try to describe things in fresh, new ways. I can't emphasize that enough. Avoid cliches. Write about what you're passionate about. When you're writing imagine the smell of an absent lover's shirt.

Listen to songs that evoke strong feelings. The Elvis tune, “I’ll Be Home on Christmas Day,” is one of my favorites to listen to while writing.

Dixon says: It's amazing how sensory inputs can lead to more sensory writing. An old lover of mine liked to sprinkle herself with baby powder instead of cologne, and the talcum scent never fails to put me in a bittersweet, reminiscent mood. For me, listening to favorite old artists like Moody Blues, James Taylor, Electric Light Orchestra or Carly Simon also seems to get the creative juices flowing.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Tip O'Day #277 - Audiobooks

Guest blogger Judith Deborah on cruising with your favorite books.

I adore a good story, and am a hopelessly smitten movie buff with fangirl-esque attachments to certain actors and actresses. I'm also a mother of young children with very little quiet time in which to read. All this has made me an ardent proponent of the audiobook. My iPod is loaded with them, and I've burned more books to CD than I can count. I've thus been kept happily entertained through many an evening's cooking or afternoon of shuttling around town from one after-school activity to another.

A monotonous or uninspired narrator can crush a book, so tread carefully. Actors, particularly British actors, are often an excellent choice, as they are trained at accents and stage performance and are able to bring a whole range of voices to life. Performers like Robin Suchet, Juliet Stevenson, Derek Jacobi, and Alan Cumming are a joy to listen to; their performances are so fine, and so carefully thought out, that they bring new layers of nuance to the material. Juliet Stevenson's reading of Barbara Pym's wonderful novel Excellent Women, for example, is pitch-perfect, as is Patrick Tull's reading of The Hound of the Baskervilles and Robin Bailey's reading of Agatha Christie's The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. At the top of the heap is the incomparable Jeremy Sinden, whose readings of a handful of P.G. Wodehouse's novels are all hilariously on-target.

Fans of twisty mystery stories can find Judith’s newly released novel, A Falling Knife, available in paperback and for the Kindle. Also, check out her website.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Tip O'Day #276 - Universal Themes

I rarely recycle old blog posts, but this one seems worth revisiting. It was Tip O’Day #15 from a year ago, written by Yours Truly - Dixon.

Have you ever read a story – even a full-length novel – and wondered “so what?” Okay, some guys rob a bank and in the end they all die in a hail of bullets. Or geeky boy meets hot girl and loses her due to a falsehood, but they get back together in the final chapter. Or a wealthy CEO has his job, reputation and lover stolen, but manages to climb back to the top.

So what?

There are Universal Themes found in literature. “The moral to the story,” so to speak. There are many opinions about what they are, but I like a recent post by Rachel Mork which is found here.

She lists 12 Universal Themes:

1. Man struggles against nature.
2. Man struggles against societal pressure.
3. Man struggles to understand divinity.
4. Crime does not pay.
5. Overcoming adversity.
6. Friendship is dependent on sacrifice.
7. Importance of family.
8. Yin & Yang: Just when you think life is finally going to be easy, something bad happens to balance it out.
9. Love is the worthiest of pursuits.
10. Death is part of the life cycle.
11. Sacrifice brings reward.
12. Humans all have the same needs.

Maybe I’m way off base, but I think much of the distinction between literary fiction and commercial fiction has little to do with grammar, vocabulary, style or subject matter. To me, it comes down to whether plot is primary, or whether the Universal Theme is supreme, woven through practically every page of the work.

Of course, there are other considerations. Much of genre fiction follows a fairly strict formula, and many authors of book series don’t create much of a character arc for the protagonist. But ask yourself – is a Universal Theme threaded through the novel, or is “the moral of the story” mostly an afterthought, even inferred?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Saying for Writers #110 - Vorse

Another Quotation which Might (or Might Not) Inspire You to Write:

"The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair." - Mary Heaton Vorse

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tip O'Day #275 - Wet Behind the Ears

Guest blogger Tami Kidd on some surprising (to her) achievements.

(After raising two children and the turmoil of an unhappy marriage,) I now have the time to do what I've always LOVED to do, write.

Until last year when I entered the NaNoWriMo challenge, I never dreamed I'd actually finish a novel. I did. As part of finishing, the winners were allowed to get hard copies of their books published through CreateSpace.

I never previously considered self-publishing, mostly because it was called vanity publishing and real writers didn't do that. They were supposed to get published through traditional publishing houses. I decided to give it a shot and now my book is available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble and it has gotten some great reviews. I still consider myself wet behind the ears and I'm learning as I go. I know one thing: the hardest part about publishing is promoting.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Tip O'Day #274 - Covers that Kill

Blog host Dixon Rice on effective e-book covers.

I’ve been editing comments for a blog post I'm planning next week about how readers decide to choose the e-books of unfamiliar authors. There seem to be five primary factors: cover design, the blurb, sample pages, reviews & ratings, and recommendations from friends. As authors, there’s little we can do about the last two, but I’ve got some thoughts on the others. Although I’m no graphic design pro, I’ll start with book covers.

In my humble opinion, it seems many self-published writers (and some designers) begin with a concept that works well at hard cover size, and then reduce it to thumbnail size for the e-book. This often results in a cover with jumbled images and teeny-tiny, illegible text.

Other problems with e-book covers may include: (1) Not reflecting the genre or subject matter; (2) Type that’s out of sync with the imagery or genre; (3) Typography that’s too complex, too busy, or lacks contrast with background; (4) Visual confusion from competing images and types; and (5) A lack of focus.

Let me share a bit of the journey with my thriller e-book, the first of a serial killer vs serial killer series set in the early 1970s. I worked with Suzanne Fyhrie Parrott - after discussing The Assassins Club with me, she emailed a series of rough concepts, shown here. I liked the feel of the body outline but thought it was too clich├ęd. The black/gray bearded character doesn’t appear in later books of this series, so that was out. I liked the scarlet winged logo a lot, and that ended up in second place. The beer stein pierced by a knife appeared dramatic, but I never warmed to that image - not sure why.

Since quite a few scenes take place in a rundown Montana roadhouse where the antihero bartends, the cocktail glass best reflected the story. But it didn’t yet “say” serial killer. And there were perspective issues – the top and base of the glass were equally in focus, as well as the cocktail napkin. Turning the glass to a sideways view solved the perspective problem. Suzanne and I brainstormed a few changes – the handle of a pistol in the corner, or a couple of bullets standing next to the cocktail glass. We wanted to better reflect the story, without making the cover too busy. Then I mentioned “bullet holes” and Suzanne sucked in her breath. The next day, she emailed me a design which became the final cover with very little refining.

Dixon blogs, well...right here at Wredheaded Writer. The Assassins Club is available on Kindle or Nook.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Saying for Writers #109 - Cheever

Another Quotation which Might (or Might Not) Inspire You to Write:

“For me, a page of good prose is where one hears the rain [and] the noise of battle.” - John Cheever

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Tip O'Day #273 - The Freedom of Fantasy

Guest blogger Rosalie Skinner, author of the 8-book Chronicles of Caleath series, on resources and tasks of a fantasy author.

For a fantasy writer, every sunset inspires. Even a cup of tea, a taste, a smell, a chance encounter adds fuel to the colour of Caleath’s world. A science article read, a whale watching trip experienced, a near death moment survived, a broken relationship shared, grief, life, love – not a moment of life escapes as trivial. Every experience becomes a resource for my novels.

That’s the freedom Fantasy allows. The fantasy writer must incorporate endless research and her version of reality, while keeping things believable. Doing this with skill and finesse is the writer’s task. Getting readers to empathize with the world you create is the benchmark of successful fantasy writing.

Learn more about this author at her website or her blog.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Tip O'Day #272 - What a Difference a Comma Makes

Guest blogger Gael McCarte on eliminating common mistakes.

“Let’s eat grandma.” – Why? Won’t grandpa miss her?

"(The girls) …were jumped by three men as they went for a walk in their long dresses." – Really? Imagine being jumped by men wearing long dresses?

Missing punctuation, inattention to detail, dangling modifiers – these are common mistakes. The cure? Read it out loud! They are funny when someone else writes them, deeply embarrassing when you do. Such mistakes hide from the eye but are more obvious when spoken.

To learn more about Gael, check out here.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Tip O'Day #271 - Clear Your Mind

Guest blogger Heidi Mannan on creativity.

Relax. Creativity is the the lifeblood of good fiction. To tap into raw creativity we have to turn off our logical left brain. The only way one can accomplish this is through relaxation.

Sometimes relaxing during plotting or writing can be hard. We want our characters to be well-rounded and sympathetic. We want the plot to clip along at the perfect pace, the setting to entice, the voice to charm. It's a tall order and can bring stress into a writer's world. But stress is the enemy. If we're tense, our minds freeze. If we're worried about our stories, our creative flow chokes. We have to let it all go.

One of the best ways to do this, to clear the mind of left brain antics and free our creativity, is through physical exercise. It doesn't matter what kind of exercise as long as it's intense enough to make us focus on it instead of our stories. Not only does exercise provide space for the unconscious to come in, but it increases blood-flow to the brain, which makes us smarter. A smarter brain mixed with right brain activity makes for some seriously creative problem solving.

Another way to relax and get out of the left brain is to meditate. Watching dancing flames, listening to rhythmic drumbeats, and taking a hot shower are proven methods to creative inspiration. I personally find long walks in the woods very inspirational.

To learn more about Heidi, check out her website.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Tip O'Day #270 - Writing Output

Guest blogger Charles O. Maul doesn’t believe in writer’s block.

Write every day no matter what comes out. Force yourself to do this and things will right themselves.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tip O'Day #269 - Traditional Publishing

Guest blogger Jonnie Comet (from a Q&A pamphlet prepared when his novel Deirdre, the Wanderer was being marketed).

The current model of publishing, espoused by all the major publishers, retailers and, unfortunately, most authors is to have an expensive, premier agent in Manhattan approve your book, send it to a large, famous and well-established publisher as well as to his friends at the New York Times, have Ingrams distribute it to Barnes and Noble, and then sit back and wait for the Today show to schedule your TV interviews and the filmmakers to call. Though a precious few do find success this way, what I call the ‘B&N model’ is inherently flawed in numerous ways.

Conspicuously, it gives voice to only a very elite few. If the agent has never heard of you, he will regard your voice as unimportant to the market and unlikely to earn him any money, since if you were any good he would have heard of you. Notice that, besides being circular logic, this attitude cements the agent(s) as the chief arbiter between what gets said by whom to whom, the gatekeeper of free speech in a free market.

And just because something is not out in the market now doesn’t mean it wouldn’t do well in the market if some industrious marketer got off his bottom and set to work. To me, the very fact that it’s not there suggests an opportunity. A marketer should want to be the first and only one to discover new talent and to reap the benefits. But to the average publisher or agent, the fact that it’s not there, for whatever reason, suggests that it has no right to be. He’d rather take an easy 15% from a sure thing.

This model of publishing has existed since at least the 1920s and remains the default which many people think is the only sensible way to publish and market books. It’s flawed ethically and economically. I’ve tried for years to figure out why it persists; and I can only imagine that it’s centred in ego or establishmentism, something more having to do with the personalities in question than with logic, common sense or marketing savvy.

You can learn more about this author at Jonnie’s blog.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Tip O'Day #268 - Motivated by Junk

Guest blogger Ellie Mack on an inspirational book.

I’m an avid reader, and am often inspired by books. I've read some really bad ones, too – which have motivated me to keep pursuing my dreams.

I once read a book that in the first chapter, the female protagonist goes to the door, knocks and waits. When she approaches the massive wooden door, she’s wearing jeans, a polo shirt and sandals, and has shoulder length honey blonde hair. As she looks over the rail at the valley below, apparently she undergoes a wardrobe change and total makeover. When some guy answers the door, he takes in her sight - khaki trousers, a button down oxford, and her flaming red hair is now cut in a swing bob. Seriously? And this got published? Well, that book continued to puzzle me with discrepancies and a failing plot. If that author could get published, why can't I?

I still have that book. I won't ever read it again, but it's a motivational tool for me.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Tip O'Day #267 - She's an Indie!

Guest blogger Kathy Rowe on self-publishing.

My first venture into self-publishing was Mind Games. Doing a 190K word book was probably more than I should've done but I took my time, did more research, and learned the hard knocks of formatting.

After two years of hard core writing and publishing, I have three full-length novels, one novella, and nearly a dozen short stories out. My books can be found on Amazon, Smashwords, BN, All Romance Ebooks, and BookStrand. I'm by no means financially successful. In fact I'm looking at about $100 in royalties this quarter.

Many ask me why I decided to remain Indie. Well, I think the greatest incentive is FREEDOM. I can write what I want (if it sells or not, well, I'm to blame). I can publish when I want, not having to wait 2-5 years for a traditional publisher to start the presses running. I keep a greater percentage of the royalties, control my book covers, and am free to impart my personal side into my writing. Would I take a publishing contract if offered? Maybe - if it was juicy enough!

Until the big publishing contracts and movie deals start rolling in, I'll happily remain an Indie author, publisher, and farmer.

To learn more about Kathy, check out her blog.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Tip O'Day #266 - Have No Fear

Guest blogger Raquel Monday has a writing blueprint.

Never be afraid to delve into the unknown; it will remain unknown if you never venture into it. I write genre-bending books and enjoy going from one to another. I usually write two books at one time, one being intense and one being a children's fairytale or poetry.

When I get stumped as to what direction the storyline is going I use a sketchpad envisioning where I want the characters to go and how they will get to the end of the story, sometimes this helps me with the words if I have a visual to go by. Kind of like a blueprint.

Learn more about Raquel at her website.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Tip O'Day #265 - A Personal Mission

Guest blogger Jeannie Walker on a story close to her family.

My true crime book Fighting the Devil: A True Story of Consuming Passion, Deadly Poison and Murder is about the killing of my millionaire ex-husband. He discovered his new wife and bookkeeper had stolen thousands of dollars from him. After he demanded the money back, he started getting sick. While he was in the hospital, doctors were mystified as to how an otherwise healthy, energetic man could become so deathly ill. He told everyone within earshot that his wife and bookkeeper were killing him. He died in the hospital while strapped down to his bed with restraints on his hands and feet and tubes in every orifice.

At the request of the Sheriff, I became a sleuth to help solve the murder. I did, in fact, help law enforcement solve the crime. My children filed a civil suit against the widow, which gained us access to medical reports and other facts which I used in the book. I also attended the trial and secured the court transcript.

I dedicated my book to the Sheriff, who sadly passed away before he saw any justice in this case. Although it cost me thousands, I self-published the book. I did not send the manuscript to any agents or publishers, mainly because I did not want to sign away any rights. The story has been in the national news and has been the subject of two TV documentaries.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Tip O'Day #264 - "One Sentence Writing Tips IV"

Over the holidays, I asked folks in my online network to share one-sentence writing tips. We’ve been looking at them all week, and here’s the Final Five.

Mike Snyder – “Write characters, not caricatures.”

Linda Swink – “There is no one right way to create a story.”

Kristen Wood – “Fall in love with your characters; if you don't, no one else will.”

Mark Terry – “Omit unnecessary words.”

Claudette Walker – “Enjoy your writing or others will not.”

Dixon says: Mike and Kristen rang my bell with their comments, since I write character-driven fiction. I often start out with a flawed character in a challenging situation and then ask, “What if…?” When I see clearly what the first 3-4 chapters will look like, and have a foggy idea of the resolution, then it’s time to start putting ink on some perfectly good paper. To me, a cast of strong yet imperfect characters being forced to make difficult choices creates the plot, not the other way around.

Linda’s comment is spot on – there are many roads that will take you from page first to page last. Taking the easy path often results in writing that feels safe and familiar – and boring. Fight your way through the brambles instead of following the freeway. You’ll probably run into Linda somewhere along the way.

My first drafts are always fat, and then I put Mark’s advice to work, weeding out words and phrases that aren’t absolutely vital. I keep thinking I’ll get to the point where removing one additional word will change the entire story; however, the truth is that I eventually get sick and tired of editing.

Claudette’s tip is last for a good reason. Writing should be enjoyable. I recognize that some folks write for therapeutic reasons, to cast out the demons of a toxic upbringing or brutal relationship. All of us have moments when fighting our way through a scene is only slightly easier than battling a battalion of orks. Even so, there is satisfaction in coming up with the right words to describe a key scene, penning a character so readers everywhere will recognize the type, and arriving at long last at those magical words, “The End.”

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Tip O'Day 263 - "One Sentence Writing Tips III"

Over the holidays, I asked folks in my online network to share one-sentence writing tips. Here are four more.

Jackie Pelham – “Let the muse flow then wait a few days and edit.”

Dixon Rice – “Most of us can’t find our own mistakes; if there isn’t a local writing critique group, start your own.”

Gil Roscoe – ‎"One must stand up to life before one sits down to write." (Thoreau)

Michael Snell – “Replace ‘Driving my car down the road, I threw a can out the window’ with ‘Driving my battered green 1997 Subaru down Route 6, I threw an empty Diet Mountain Dew can out the window.’ “

Dixon says: Michael provided a great example of using specific details to breathe life into a scene. Jackie and Gil got in touch with the soul of the writer. Me? All I could come up with was a crappy little nuts-n-bolts tip about getting out of the house in a way that doesn’t make your Significant Other suspicious. Sigh…

Tomorrow, more one-sentence writing tips from Mike Snyder, Linda Swink, Mark Terry, Claudette Walker and Kristen Wood.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tip O'Day #262 - "One Sentence Writing Tips II"

Over the holidays, I asked folks in my online network to share one-sentence writing tips. Here are four more.

Karen Mueller Bryson – “Be precise and concise; eliminate all unnecessary words.”

Kathy Dunne Dunnehoff – “Be a finisher!”

Ellie Mack – “Writer's write; it's what separates us from the pretenders and wannabes.”

Charles O. Maul – “Get an agent and go for it.”

Dixon says: Like yesterday’s tips, these are all great. Karen certainly hit the nail on the head. In my critique group, I’ve found many of my comments concern word choice – either picking the wrong word, or using eight words when a couple will do. Kathy teaches writing at the local college, and knows whereof she speaks. I’ve heard that literary agents spend huge amounts of time pushing authors to finish works for which the writers already received an advance. I thought of Ellie’s comment when I stopped at the dry cleaner today; the clerk told me, “I’ve always thought of writing a book…” Finally, I like Charles’ advice. Even if you don’t land an agent, the pursuit is good for the soul. By writing a query and synopsis, and polishing your book so it’s ready for submission, you’ll learn a lot about the craft of writing and the heart of your story. If nothing else, you’ll also learn patience.

Tomorrow’s post will feature one-sentence tips from Jackie Pelham, Gil Roscoe, Michael Snell and yours truly.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Tip O'Day #261 - "One Sentence Tips I"

Over the holidays, I asked folks in my online network to share one-sentence writing tips. I’ve received sixteen so far, and will put up three or four a day while inventory lasts. If more tips dribble in, I’ll make room.

MaryChris Bradley and Melanie Jackson contributed variations on “Plant your butt in the chair and write.”

Gail Buesnel – “Dangle participles at your literary peril.”

Jonnie Comet – “All good stories are about characters.”

Dixon says: These are all excellent. MaryChris and Melanie remind us of the difference between writers and wannabes - the discipline to sit down and write something on a regular basis. Gail's tip makes me think of the poorly edited self-published books I've seen lately that were rife with misspellings, run-on sentences, misplaced modifiers, tense confusion, and subject/verb mismatches. If you're a lover of language, it's enough to make you cringe. Finally Jonnie reminds us that, even in a tightly-plotted tale, character is what keeps the reader turning pages.

Tomorrow will see concise tips from Kathy Dunnehoff, Ellie Mack and Charles O. Maul.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Novel Excerpt Exchange #3 - James Kellogg

Novel excerpt exchanges help expose readers to new authors, as well as being a way for writers to support one another. This is the third one for me.

The selection below is from novelist James D. Kellogg. He is a civil engineer by training and an outdoor enthusiast by choice, and both elements are obvious in his thriller, E-Force. He and his wife Kristen are raising their four kids near Glenwood Springs, Colorado. You can contact James by email or visit his website.

This 1,200-word excerpt is from chapter 5 of E-Force.

Tempers were flaring at the manager’s meeting. Colt was certain that the Salem Witch Trials couldn’t have been more chilling. With the suddenness of an ocean squall, the forum had degenerated into a hostile volley of accusations and defenses. The handwriting on the wall was plain for Colt to see. The days of EcoFriends were numbered.

A female manager turned on the other five women. “I’m not paying the price for the bitch that ratted on us! Everybody knows I’ve put my heart and soul into this organization.”

“You’d sell us out in a heartbeat if you could profit!” One fiery vixen charged at the haughty accuser. “How much is the FBI paying you?”

“That’s right. Fight it out!” A man pumped his fist.

“Let’s make them all take polygraph tests.” One board member stepped between the two potential combatants.

“There’re better ways to get a confession than that,” another person said.

“Enough of this!” Howard Anderson finally took control. “We’re tearing ourselves apart because of one traitor. If we’re going to survive, we’ve got to stick together. The truth is going to come out. Whoever is guilty has one last chance for redemption. I’ll give you until the end of the week to come to me and confess. Then we’ll figure out how to make things right again.”

Adjournment was an armistice in an escalating war. At the reprieve, people scattered. Colt looked for Deb, but she was gone. The air in the building seemed poisoned. He hurried outside where he could breathe.

“Damned horde of barbarians,” Colt muttered on the sidewalk, shaking his head with disgust for the behavior his colleagues had exhibited. The organization was supposedly founded on trust and loyalty, yet every leader was bent on crucifying one of their own.

Anderson has lost his mind. Colt stormed toward the street. It was insane to prop up the terrorist group E-Force as a means to stabilize EcoFriends. It’s like skydiving without a parachute so you didn’t risk getting tangled in the lines. Everybody’s following him into the sea like a bunch of damned lemmings.

Without a doubt, Colt regretted his involvement with EcoFriends. Foolishly, he’d been a complacent passenger in his life and work. It was time to move behind the wheel and take command. EcoFriends was going to be part of the past, not the future.

“Colt, wait for me!” a familiar voice said.

Colt turned to see Deb dart across the street. A car braked to avoid running her down. She drew alongside Colt, ignoring the blaring horn as the vehicle resumed course.

“You almost got killed!” Colt was alarmed by Deb’s reckless action.

“What does it matter?”

“I don’t understand why you would ask that.” Colt evaluated his friend’s pale sickly appearance. “What’s going on? Where’ve you been?”

“Vomiting in the restroom.” Deb’s voice wavered. “We need to have that talk.”

“Let’s get away from the street.” Colt grabbed her by the arm. “I’ll walk you to your car.”

The pair didn’t speak during the brisk trip to a parking lot at the end of the block. When they reached Deb’s vehicle, she couldn’t contain herself any longer.

“Colt, can I trust you to keep a secret?” Deb asked in a hushed tone.

“Of course you can trust me,” Colt said, frowning. “What’s going on Deb?”

“I’m the one who went to the FBI. I told them about the money laundering.”

“So it was you.” Colt’s pulse quickened. “Holy shit. The meeting must have been a nightmare for you.”

“I can’t believe what’s happening.” Tears welled up in Deb’s eyes. “When I called from a payphone, the FBI agent promised my statements were confidential. I don’t know how Anderson found out. Colt, I’m scared.”

“It’s going to be okay.” Colt dabbed a tear from her cheek. “Nobody can pin the leak on you.”

“There’s more to the story.” Deb’s eyes were hollow. “All the dirty money went to E-Force.”

Colt’s heart skipped a beat at the assertion. Deb had uncovered the truth. Months ago, Colt had discovered that tens of thousands were going to E-Force. But he had done nothing. Like a fool, he continued to divert funds from his chapter, knowing the money was being laundered and funneled to E-Force.

“Is that what you told the Feds?” Colt sputtered. “How do you even know that?”

“I overheard a conversation between Anderson and Cain. And, yes, I told the FBI!”

“Deb, keep your voice down.” Colt cast a nervous glance around. “Maybe we should talk inside your car.”

“I haven’t told you the worst part,” Deb said after they were seated in the vehicle with the doors shut. “I’m not sure if I should.”

“What could be worse?” Colt felt as if he was about to be sentenced by a judge.

“Zed Cain is part of E-Force.” Deb was trembling. “If he finds out I know the truth, he’ll do something terrible. Colt, I don’t know what to do.”

“Just calm down.” A shiver rippled through Colt’s body. “This is bad, but I won’t let anyone hurt you. Did you tell the FBI about Cain?”

“Not yet.” Deb was obviously struggling to retain her composure. “But I’m going to. It’s the only way to stop these crimes.”

“But you don’t know who tipped off Anderson.” A light bulb went off in Colt’s head. “Maybe he’s got somebody inside the FBI.”

Deb shook her head with doubt. “We’re talking about Howard Anderson, not some foreign government.”

“Then how did he find out?” Colt’s unease was growing. “That’s a serious question, and we’ve got to find an answer.”

“Once Cain and Anderson are behind bars, it won’t matter. Then I’ll be safe.”

“It’s not going to be that simple.” Colt gripped Deb’s shoulder and looked her in the eye. “Something’s not right. There’s a hidden trap waiting to snare anyone who decides to be a hero.”

“Then what am I supposed to do?” Deb thumped a fist against the steering wheel. Another tear rolled down her cheek.

Colt suddenly felt conspicuous. “I don’t know yet, but we need to continue this conversation at a different time and place.”

“Okay, you’re right.” Deb nodded and reached for a tissue. “I’ll call you when I get back to Boise.”

They hugged for a few seconds before Colt stepped out onto the pavement. Deb ventured a weak smile and waved goodbye. Feeling lost and lonely, Colt looked after her car until it was swallowed in the traffic.

With eyes cast downward, Colt turned and walked away. Before he traveled twenty paces, a shadow crossed his path. Colt looked up to find Zed Cain standing in front of him. The man’s tall figure was imposing. With long black hair, he resembled a fierce Comanche warrior from days of old. Colt stopped dead in his tracks.

“Are you lost?” Cain asked without an ember of warmth.

A chill went down Colt’s spine. Did the alleged E-Force member suspect something? Maybe he overheard part of the conversation with Deb.

Colt managed a dismissive air. “I forgot where I parked. My vehicle’s over there. See you at the next meeting.”

Colt moved past Cain and retreated toward his Land Cruiser. He maintained a casual stride and resisted the urge to cast a backward glance.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Tip O'Day #260 - Beware of C.O.F.A. Syndrome

Guest blogger Rosalie Skinner, author of the 8-book Chronicles of Caleath series, says to beware of becoming a Compulsive Obsessive Fantasy Author.

Imagine being able to travel to any time and place in your imagination. With no restrictions on world size, character numbers or physical laws. Take your pick of character traits, cultures, hierarchy, and villains, throw in a heroine or two, add a hero worth following to the ends of a dozen worlds. Bring with your imagination a set of circumstances that might give your troupe of heroes a little grief, a chance to shine, grow, fail, succeed, discover, teach, learn, and love.

Sound like fun?

Take care though. This daydreaming of other worlds, creating details, forming climates, cultural differences, standards and religions can be compelling. The danger lies in becoming obsessed. I speak as one who has been there. When you find each day spent in reality clashes with the moments you are able to retreat back into the world of your creation, it’s time to write. Write, and keep on writing.

Eight books later, the story is down, the conflict resolved, the characters are finally quiet. For now. There are rumblings, still. The danger doesn’t dissolve. It remains in the shadows, in the quiet moments when imagination can run amok.

Learn more about this author at her website or her blog.
Dixon says: Of all my addictions and obsessions, writing is my favorite.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Tip O'Day #259 - An Eclectic Reader

Guest blog Aline Tayar on reading eclectically.
I find much modern literature disappointing so keep going back to the classics. Have just finished The Darwin Economy - a book I learned about when the author appeared in a radio debate and was attacked very rudely by the libertarians in the audience. BBC and NPR on radio are especially good sources of information on books. The Observer too. I’m currently working on short stories and trying to decide if I should self-publish a novel or hold out for an agent - the process of searching for one is so dispiriting.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Tip O'Day #258 - Being Indie

Guest blogger Thomma Lyn Grindstaff on writing and getting published.

One of my novels is published with a small press, but since then, I decided to take the independent author route. I love the freedom of self-publishing, though there's nothing wrong with choosing a small press, either, or with going for publication with a larger publisher. It's a decision every author must make for herself, and there's nothing wrong with changing tracks if that's what an author believes is right for her art and career.

In today's environment, where the publishing industry is changing so rapidly - largely due to the rise in popularity of e-books - writers are presented many choices. The Internet brings with it opportunities of which writers of yesteryear could only have dreamed. Regardless of which path (or paths) a writer chooses, she should continually work to hone her craft. There's always something new she can learn. In my opinion, it's better to write from the heart than to chase fads; a writer should strive to write the story she would most want to read.

Speaking of reading, the best thing an aspiring author can do is to read widely. The best authors, to my mind, are also voracious readers who love both skillful words and engaging stories.

Thomma blogs here and her website is found here.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Tip O'Day #257 - A Publisher is Born

Guest blogger Lynn Hubbard on being Indie.

A passionate writer, I only write when I’m inspired. I can go weeks without working on my book and then sit down and write thousands of words at a time. I do not use a timeline; I get into my characters’ minds and write whatever they would do given the situation.

So my writing style is very different from most romance books. People either hate it or love it. I’m very glad many more people love it! I don’t think I could write with a deadline; it would be too stressful for my characters. Therefore I’m an Indie. An independent author. For a long time I did not realize that I was an Indie. I just wanted to do it myself. I’m very artistic and love designing and creating whether it is a novel, a cover, a website, etc.

I didn’t want someone picking apart a manuscript that I poured my heart into, so I decided to self-publish with an online company. I was tickled to death at first, and then I started looking at the numbers. Everyone gets some. Later I read a book that inspired me to start my own publishing company. So I did and Lemon Press Publishing was born. Not only do I publish my own books but I also help other Indies get their books online or into print.

For more on Lynn’s books visit here and her publishing company is found over here.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Tip O'Day #256 - "Blind Dates"

Guest blogger Mark Souza on how readers choose a book.

Readers choosing their next book are similar to someone searching for a date at a club or watering hole. Reviews are like exhortations from friends before a blind date. This is not usually enough to seal the deal. Your friends’ opinions don’t always jibe with yours. You want to see for yourself if you’re a match.

Say we have entered the Barnes & Noble Bistro and Bar on a busy Friday night. There are a plethora of choices, including the one recommended by your friends. The first thing you’ll do is pick out those you find attractive. The cover is the first evidence of what to expect. A good cover is one that makes the reader stop and look closer. Does it catch the eye? Does it set the tone for what’s inside? Does it look professional?

After narrowing our candidates to a handful, we’ll want to dig a little deeper. In our dating analogy, we’d sit down and start a conversation to find out what we have in common. In terms of books, this is where we read the blurb. Here we’ll learn about the genre and premise, and whether the author can write worth a damn. If an author can’t hold your interest for one paragraph, what hope is there of holding your attention over 300 pages?

Then we may crack the book open and read the first page or two. Readers look for voice, effective language, and a story that grabs them by the lapels on page one. Spelling and grammatical errors or lifeless prose are huge danger signals.

So whether browsing for a book choice, or looking for a date at the local watering hole, the selection process is same. Physical attraction often comes first and then it’s time to look deeper. A book has to convey a bevy of positive cues in a very short amount of time in order to be selected, and there is very little tolerance for shoddy appearance, obvious flaws, or flaccid prose. Take a little time and do it right.

Connect with Mark online at his website.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Tip O'Day #255 - Book Signings

Guest blogger Deb Peters has a different viewpoint on book signings.

I don't normally have my book signings at a book store, because I feel it is so impersonal and the book store only does it so people will buy a book – one you brought or one from their store. I have something different each time and I get all kinds of responses. I also get new readers who might not have known I existed. With me, you get to know the author and what drives her to write time after time in different genres for all different ages. Meeting me is like going to a book store but more personal. I am very outgoing and love people. I will not get offended if you do not buy my book. In fact, I will tell you which libraries my books are at. I want the reader to enjoy my books while I am still alive.

So what is a book signing to me? It's where you get to meet the author and learn about all their books. If you like one or two and you have the money, you can buy one. If the author sells out, they can order you one. If you already have one, bring it along, and the author signs every book sold and ordered and delivers it back to the reader. If you use reading devices to read, maybe you can just meet the author and let them know you liked or loved it.

Dixon says: It's interesting having followers from different genres in different countries - India, New Zealand, Germany, England, Denmark... The picture here is from Kosovo.
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Sunday, January 1, 2012

Tip O'Day #254 - Writing Resolutions

Guest blogger Ellie Mack on making (and missing) goals.

I have magazine articles, and a shared column that I've been published in. So far, I have never submitted a novel for publication. That was my goal for 2011; however I wasn't as diligent as I should have been. Also, that pesky thing called bills has kept me pretty busy doing other jobs, cutting into my writing time.

I am currently pursuing some online articles, as well as continuing my novels. I have two completed novels but haven't finished editing them. I also have several in various stages of completion. I keep working towards the goal of being a published novelist but still, I can honestly call myself “published.”

Dixon says: I thought this guest post from Ellie would be appropriate for the first day of 2012. It seems not a week goes by without someone telling me, “I’ve always thought about writing a book.” The difference between authors and all those folks thinking about authorhood is simply this: doing something about it on a regular basis.
I don’t care if you only write one good sentence each day. In a few years, you’ve got a novel written. And as Sidonie Gagrielle once said, “Writing only leads to more writing.” After a while, one good sentence a day just isn’t good enough.
Happy New Year to you, and to those you love, and to those loved by nobody.