Tuesday, February 24, 2015

February Author Interview: Linda Grimes

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I met Linda Grimes at the Books and Writers Forum, and boy, am I glad I did! Her paranormal urban novels will rock your reading world. The sharp characterizations and wry sensibility of her main character Ciel Halligan will have you glued to your seat and turning pages. They should carry a warning: Compulsive reads—if you start, you will not stop.

Her latest, The Big Fix, is just the ticket to let you in on what those of us who have read all of Linda’s Ciel Halligan books know—this is one sexy, sassy, sarcastic aura adaptor. Don’t call her a shape-shifter unless you want to be smacked with a lecture on the impossibility of that. ;-)

I suggest you read them all to relish the whirlwind life of Ciel Halligan.

Aura adaptor extraordinaire Ciel Halligan, who uses her chameleon-like abilities to fix her clients’ problems—as them—is filling in on set for action superstar Jackson Gunn, whose snake phobia is standing in the way of his completing his latest mega-millions Hollywood blockbuster. There’s only one thing Jack fears more than snakes, and that's the possibility of his fans finding out he screams at the sight of one. Going from hero to laughing stock isn’t part of his career plan.

Seems like a simple enough job to Ciel, who doesn’t particularly like snakes, but figures she can tolerate an afternoon with them, for the right price—which Jack is offering, and then some. What she doesn’t count on is finding out that while she was busy wrangling snakes for him, his wife was busy getting killed. When Ciel goes to break the sad news to the star, she finds out Jack was AWOL from her client hideaway at the time of the murder.

Ciel begins to suspect Jack’s phobia was phony, and that he only hired her to provide him with an alibi—but if she goes to the police, she’ll have to explain how she knows he wasn’t really on set. Up against a wall, Ciel calls on her best-friend-turned-love-interest Billy, and her not-so-ex-crush Mark, to help her set up the sting of a lifetime.

ZM: Linda, your characters are deep and rich.  Do you have any specific exercises that you use to get to know your people? Do they develop as you write, or do they come to you as complete people from the start?

LG: Thank you! You are so kind. And thank you for inviting me here today.

Ciel was pretty much who she is from the start. She appeared in my head as a complete personality. Of course, she's growing as the series goes on, but the basics were all there from the beginning. Same with Billy, who elbowed his way in right away, daring me to try to ignore him (which turned out to be impossible—the guy is irrepressible). Mark, on the other hand, has always been more of a mystery to me. He's been slower to reveal himself, but he's getting there. I'm learning more about him—some of it quite surprising—with each book.

ZM: What’s your writing and publishing journey been? How do you get your stories out to readers?

LG: It's been like sliding my way, barefoot, across a frozen pond strewn with banana peels. In the dark. Never knowing where I was going, forever fighting cold feet … 

Oh, all right. Maybe not quite that bad, though it did feel uncertain in the beginning. But every time I fell—i.e., got rejected—I picked myself up, brushed the frost off my rear, and kept on going. I'm stubborn that way.

Seriously, I got kind of a late start with publishing, probably because I suck a multitasking. I started my first novel (Catspaw, a paranormal suspense I might let out of the drawer someday, but no guarantees) way back in the dark ages. Then I got married, hopped around the globe for a bit with my husband, had a few kids, and settled down. Read tons, wrote for my own distraction. Found the Compuserve Writers Forum, and started thinking maybe … just maybe … I could actually do something with my "hobby."

When my youngest went off to college, I decided if I was ever going to make a go of writing, I'd better prioritize it as my job. I wrote In a Fix, to make sure I could write more than one novel, while giving the aforesaid Catspaw a cooling off period. Turned out I really liked writing funny stuff better serious stuff. Huh. Who knew?

I started querying agents, many of whom were quite taken with the concept of aura adaptors, but weren't sure how to sell it. It got to be kind of a joke around here: query, send pages, get agent reply of "I'd totally read this book, but I'm not sure where to sell it—good luck!"

Most of the responses were encouraging enough that I stuck with it. (Definitely not all the responses, but I conveniently ignored those. Stubbornness and denial: two tools that work for me.) I finally found the right agent (Michelle Wolfson, of Wolfson Literary Agency). She loved In a Fix enough to convince me she'd work her butt off to find it the right home. And she did, even though she had the same responses from editors as I had had from the previous agents I'd queried—they loved the concept and the humor, but most didn't know where they'd sandwich it in on their list.

I was at the point of giving up on Ciel and Co. (thinking to move on to another project) when I got The Call. Michelle had sold not only In a Fix, but the next book, too (which, no, I hadn't actually written, but figured I probably could). My egg cooker signaled my hard-cooked eggs were done at exactly that moment. I tried to take the top off the cooker with one hand, and burned the crap out of my fingers. I'm pretty sure Michelle thought I was screaming in delight—and I was—though not only delight. Talk about having something burned into your memory!

As for how I get my stories out to readers … well, my publicist at Tor (doesn't that sound fancy? I'm one of many Tor authors she works with, so not really that special) sends out advance reading copies to reviewers, sets up signings, things of that sort. I do what I can via social media. I have a website (www.lindagrimes.com), a Facebook author page, and a Twitter account, all of which give readers easy access to me and my books. When I have a new book coming out, there are usually several kind bloggers who feature it in some way (thank you!), which is the best kind of exposure.

ZM: I’ve seen your books described as paranormal, urban fantasy, and mystery. What genre do you think fits the best? Have you ever written other genres?

LG: They're a little bit of all of those, I think. Tor labels them as urban fantasy (UF). I think of them as light urban fantasy, because much of what is called urban fantasy is darker than what I write. So, for me, LUF it is. (Don't you just LUF that? *grin* Or perhaps that should be *groan*…)

ZM—Many craft books stress that writers must read and read a lot. Who is your favorite author, or what is your favorite genre? What draws you to a book you read for enjoyment?

LG: I couldn't possible pick a favorite genre—I read and love so many of them! It all depends on my mood. I'm drawn by any book that engages my curiosity—and I'm curious about a lot of things. What can I say? I'm nosy by nature.

My absolute all-time favorite author is Diana Gabaldon (no surprise there). I couldn't for the life of me tell you what genre she writes, unless, I don't know, is "BIG" a genre? Her books are feasts for a book-lover's soul—anything you could possibly want in a read. Action, adventure, mystery, romance, history, humor, tragedy, and, yes, even some science fiction—all can be found between the covers of her books. (As opposed to my books, which are, admittedly, more of a snack than a feast. But I comfort myself that sometimes, if you're only a little peckish, a light snack is just the ticket.)

 Linda grew up in Texas, where she rode horses, embarrassed herself onstage a lot, and taught teenagers they'd have to learn the rules of English before they could get away with breaking them for creativity's sake. She currently resides in Virginia with her husband, whom she snagged after he saw her in a musical number at the now defunct Melodrama Theater in San Antonio. (There's nothing like a rousing chorus of "If You Wanna Catch a Fish You Gotta Wiggle Your Bait" to hook a man for a lifetime.)

Like her globetrotting main character, Linda has spent her fair share of time overseas, though fortunately under less stressful circumstances. Kidnapping and daring rescues are all well and good in fiction, but she prefers sanity in her real life.

Next Week: I join the Insecure Writers Support Group. Tune in to find out what's it's all about. ;-)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Four February Mini Book Reviews: U. Carbone, D. Gabaldon, H. Michael, L. Thompson

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DANCING IN THE WHITE ROOM Ute Carbone: Women's Fiction

Using the ski slopes--both competitive and recreation--Carbone creates a fascinating look into what it means to grow up and take responsibility for your decision. Good Read

A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES Diana Gabaldon: Historical Fiction

In the sixth book of Gabaldon's amazing Outlander series, she creates the story of the turmoil leading up to the American Revolution by focusing on the Fraser/McKenzie family and its social setting. Must Read

CROOKED LINES Holly Michael: Christian Literary Women's Fiction

Using a young girl in America and a young man in India, Micheal explores what it means when "Our lives are written in crooked lines and God straightens them." Good Read

WHAT'S LEFT BEHIND Lorrie Thompson: Literary Women's Fiction

By exploring what's left behind after a death, Thompson shows what it means to live our lives fully. Must Read

Next Week: Author Interview with Linda Grimes!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

17 Ways to Answer: What Can You Say About "Said"?

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 I love it when one of my favorite authors and Forum friends puts on her writing teacher hats at her blog. Joanna Bourne not only writes the very best Historical Romances, but she can write anything and teach anyone how to do it. Her latest technical topic is "On Beyond Said" and with her permission I'm going to share her expertise and use a few examples from of my own to illustrate the point. It's only fair to tell you up front that I hate using said in my writing. I love using some of these other ways and it's not by using asked, screamed, yelled, whined, etc. in place of it. ;-) (Joanna's words will be Italicized.

Elsewhere someone was wondering whether to use 'said'.
Or not.
 I keep talking about tagging, actually.
So I will do it some more.

Here are a couple of simple, basic guidelines in the tagging of dialog:

1) Make certain the reader knows who said every line of dialog. No confusion.

2) Don't forget there are lots of ways to tag dialog. Be adventurous.

3) You can almost always tag with 'he said' and you will be invisible

4) You can tag with the equivalent of 'he said' and you will be less invisible.
.....   'he muttered', 'he whispered', he 'remarked', 'he answered', 'he objected'.

5) In the choice between 'he said' and one of the saidisms,
you are about all the time better going with 'he said'

6) You can tag with an action

.....   'he began to put the fire out', 'he stabbed Guido', 'he activated the bomb', 'he put oil on the salad', 'he reconsidered'
Action tags are good.
Action that occurs close to the dialog tags it. The action has to be performed by the one speaking. It has to be in the same paragraph.

7) Tagging actions are separated from dialog by a period.
..... I piled my cookies closer to the edge of the tray so the little ones could reach them. “Glad they’re a hit."
..... Her hand tightened and my bones ground together. “Why didn’t you come back for me when you got out?”

8) Unless the action occurs inside the sentence.
..... “You’re old enough for the truth, Samantha,” his face tightened, “the whole truth."
..... “I was there and I'll not sit here,” I glared at him, “and have you murmur murder in my ears all night.”
(You can write this sort of sentence with em dashes instead of commas, but why would you want to?)

9) 'Said' and its brother saidisms are always separated from dialog by commas.
.....  Raising my voice over the chatter, I said, “Well, of course kids love sweets, but since I taught teens, I don’t have a clue what to do with little kids except ply them with cookies.”
.....  “Samantha,” she whispered.
If you do not know whether something is a 'saidism' or an action, go sit and think about it for a while. Over there.

10) Do not double-tag. If an action or other method tags the dialog, don't add 'he said'. You will eliminate many 'he saids' from the manuscript by following this simple rule. Over a lifetime you will eliminate a small mountain of them.
..... NOT “Cause people call me Sam and that’s a boy’s name,” she said and rolled her eyes.
..... BUT “Cause people call me Sam and that’s a boy’s name.” She rolled her eyes.

11) Do not mistake actions performed by the mouth, tongue, lips and throat for saidism. One does not grin, laugh, mime, simper, chortle, frown, or sneer words.
Go ahead. Smile me a couple words.
The  readers won't care about this but grammar purists all over the English-speaking world are grinding their teeth. Can't you hear them?
Can one 'grind out' words? Spit them out? Cough them out?
I'm still thinking about this.

Also, one does not hiss dialog containing no 's' or 'z'.
It's not, "Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum," he hissed.

12) Many lines of dialog are tagged by responsion. We know who spoke because they are taking turns. (Middlemarch does this for pages.)
Tweedledee said, "Your fault!"
"Not," Tweedledum snapped.
"Is not."
"You're the one who put Cicero in the pudding."

13) Many lines are tagged by 'voice'. The reader knows the speaker because no one else sounds like that.

14) Many lines are tagged by special knowledge, by location in the scene, by what the speaker perceives.

15) You can tag with Internal Monologue. This assigns the dialog to the POV character.

.....  “I’m older than the kids here, too.” My gray hair was a dead give away.

16) You can tag with Internals, which also assigns the dialog to the POV character.

.....  “Shows does it?” My bitterness shocked even me. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t—”

17) You can tag with Direct Address in a two-man conversation or where it tags the next line of dialog or responsion or where the Direct Address identifies the speaker. 'Not now, Papa' tags the daughter as the speaker.

Careful not to over use this. Real speak contains very little Direct Address.

In short, tagging dialog gives the writer a lotta freedom of choice. We only start out with 'said'.
We don't have to stay there.
There's a whole big universe of clever things to do with words when we jump off and let go.

I hope Joanna's masterclass in dialogue tags helps your writing and your understanding of what writers do as they construct scenes and dialogue.

Update: I'm polishing the first 35 pages of Mother's Day like crazy and struggling with creating synopses of varying length that still carry a flavor of my writing. That's hard work, let me tell you.

Next Week: February Mini Book Reviews!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Garuanteed Worst Advice and Best Advice on Writing

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When I saw Charlotte Rains Dixon's prompt for January 16 in her new book, I was off to the races. Words flowed out and I saw that I needed to share my thoughts on the Worst Advice and the Best Advice I've been giving. For some reason, both centered on writing. Are you surprised? ;-)


The Worst Advice I've received about writing is easy. Truly, how lame is "Write what you know"? As if research wasn't invented way back when the first scribe wrote out the first records in mud tablets with a sharpened stick? We've kept records, recorded stories, and shared them all ever since then.

And the advice wants to limit me to a finite number of things that I've been able to cram into my head through experience? Bah! I have far better things to learn yet. And, let's be honest, as long as I can learn, I can write about things I don't know--yet.

The Best Advice is easy too. It's Read, Read, Read; Write, Write, Write; Re-write, Re-write, Rewrite! All of this is one piece of advice really. That is Work With WORDS. Glorious words are the building blocks of every thought, every story, every invention, every discovery. Without words, our minds can't organize, can't create, can't fulfill its purpose.

Here's where I'll get very personal. We were created in God's image to create. And He gave us the building blocks for everything when He made us able to use words. 

So, go forth and multiply the words of the world. Read, read, read! Write, Write, Write! Re-write, Re-write, Rewrite!

Next Week: I'll post the February Tip!

Update: MOTHER'S DAY is complete! The story is ready to polish (re-write) and, hopefully, share soon.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Author Interview: T. I. Lowe

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I met T. I. Lowe through the American Christian Fiction Writiers Contemporary/Women’s Fiction Facebook group and I’m so grateful that I did! Her book Goodbye and Second Chances is a fabulous read. Check out her website—T. I. Lowe. Here’s my short mini review from last week’s post. 

A Christian story starring a rock star might be unlikely unless it's Goodbye and Second Chances--an uncommon love story I know all of you will enjoy.

And that’s an understatement! Check out the Amazon blurb.


From bestselling author of Lulu's Cafe.

Some mistakes create accidental blessings.
Jillian (Jewels) Whitman lives with her mistakes and tries to move past the biggest one of her life - Dillon Bleu - Rocker and once best friend. 

After saying goodbye to the lakeside trailer park of his youth, Dillon sets out to make something of himself only to discover all he needs is his Jewel. After hitting it big in the music industry, Dillon heads back to ask for a second chance. 

Only... Nothing is ever as easy as it seems... 

A southern tale of rags to riches where a man's worth is ultimately found in his heart.

ZM—Tell us a bit about where your stories come from? Do you have specific types of stories that you prefer?

T.L.— I love sharing stories that bring to light many life obstacles my readers my face or can at least relate to on some level. Lulu’s Café explores domestic abuse and the lead female escaping it. Goodbyes and Second Chances takes a look at self-worth and how we tend to let the world dictate our place in society, which is completely bogus. As my lead Rock Star Dillon Bleu would say, your worth is not found in your wallet. It’s found in your heart. And my upcoming book, Coming Home Again, sheds light on a woman’s struggle to overcome rape. Yes, the subjects are deep, but I like to think I address them in a readable fashion.

As to what type of stories I prefer? Well, I’m a sucker for a happy ending! I’m not saying my own stories will always deliver this, but I sure do hope so!

ZM—Unlikely characters always rivet my attention and I love the complex nature of your characters. They grow and change as the story develops. Do you have any specific exercises that you use to get to know your people? Do they develop as you write, or do they come to you as complete people from the start?

T.I.— Lots and lots of daydreaming. I spend a lot of time pondering my characters’ backgrounds. I like to get to know them before I tell their story. As with any relationship, the characters develop even more as we go along with them revealing themselves more and more. 

A good example of this is one of the side characters in Goodbyes and Second Chances. This character bugged me to no end until I shared more of him with the readers. And that someone is none other than Maverick King. I got right attached to him and his story definitely needed to be shared.

But characters evolve a good bit as a story develops also. My main character in Coming Home Again talked me right into changing her name to Savannah and as I got to know her more, she was absolutely right. Savannah suits her much better.

ZM—What’s your writing and publishing journey been? How do you get your stories out to readers?

T.I.— This has been an unexpected journey. One I never thought would go any further than keeping a promise to my mom. She passed away September 2013, but not before she made me promise to share Lulu’s Café. I wrote this novel as my creative outlet while she and I set out to go to do battle with lung and brain cancer that in the end claimed her life. So after a few months of mourning, I set out to fulfill my promise to her and published through Createspace. Never did I imagine there would be people falling in love with this story, much less READING it! But Lulu’s Café has made an impact that can only be described as a God Wink. It’s all Him. When I receive an email from a woman thanking me for giving her courage to seek a safer, better life, I know I’ve done something!

And of course, I had no clue about the editing and proofreading aspect. I’ve learned a lot since and have found an awesome editor, Carole Cudnik. She’s helped me tremendously in the last few months with finding my way.

And my readers are the reason why I keep writing. They are fiercely loyal to me and have happily helped spread the word about my books. They are why both books are bestsellers.
God has blessed it all tremendously and it can only be him as to why this country girl has found an audience in the vast sea of books.

ZM—Tell us what you’re working on now. Any word on a new book?

T.I.— I’m so excited about my book series Coming Home Again. I have three books complete and ready for editing. There may even be a fourth. One certain character from the last book keeps insisting he has more to say so we’ll just have to wait and see. I’m hoping to publish the first book in May.

ZM—Many craft books stress that writers must read and read a lot. Who is your favorite author, or what is your favorite genre? What draws you to a book you read for enjoyment?

T.I.— I’m an avid reader. I am truly passionate about reading. I’d like to share a little saying I shared on my blog. 

I'm not a book snob or a person snob.

All books, just as all people deserve a chance.

Some seem to weave into your life, while others may not be a perfect fit.
Some may be but brief encounters. While others seem to grasp hold of you and become a permanent part of you.

No matter...
They all deserve a chance.

I do lean towards books that inspire me. One of my favorite authors is Charles Martin. I’ve read all of his books and they always leave me inspired. I feel like our writing is on the same page, so to speak.  And that is the importance of a strong faith in God. I like how God is all of his books, but he doesn’t beat the reader over the head with it. I try to do the same.

ZM—Finally, what questions do you wish interviewers would ask, but they never do? And, please, don’t forget to answer them. ;-)

T.I.— Don’t you think I’ve jabbered enough! ;-)
Let’s see… What do you hope will be your gain from this career? A legacy that I can be proud of. I want to show my two children, Nathan and Lydia, that their dreams are attainable, if they are willing to step out on faith and put in the hard work. And more importantly never take someone telling them NO when it comes to their goals. 
I also never want to be ashamed to share my books with my children. My teenage son has read three of them so far and I feel good about that. I think it will open his eyes to how harsh the world can be and my desire is that he sees he has to stand up and be a shining light for God as my lead male characters have done. 

T.I. Lowe is a southern belle that resides on a small farm hidden in the boonies near coastal South Carolina. Most days you can easily find T.I. in her kitchen, whipping up homemade treats for her babies and neighbors or glued to her computer keyboard. She enjoys drifting away in the fictitious world of the latest novel while bathing in the warm southern sunshine with a glass of iced tea in hand.

"I am running with patience the race set before me, looking unto Jesus, my author and finisher of my faith."

T.I. has just released her second novel, Goodbyes and Second Chances.
She is currently working on the Coming Home Again Series.

Next Week: I'll see if I can scare up a snip for you. ;-)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

January Mini Book Reviews: C. Asaro, B. Davis, W. Lamb, T. I. Lowe

It's a new year and you have to have books, right? ;-)

  UNDERCITY Catherine Asaro: Science Fiction

Undercity is a stirring addition to Asaro's Skolian Empire Series. The main character is an unlikely hero--Major Bhaajan--a PI with a voice you'll love.

 THE WISHING TIDE Barbara Davis: Women's Fiction

What's the best way to deal with a painful past? The Wishing Tide takes a look at this through three points-of-view. A must read!

 I KNOW THIS MUCH IS TRUE Wally Lamb: Literary Fiction

I know this much is true--Wally Lamb is one of the best writers I've ever read and I Know This Much Is True is one of the best books I've ever read. This look at an identical twin of a paranoid schizophrenic is amazing. This is a must read if you like deep characters.

 GOODBYES AND SECOND CHANCES T. I. Lowe: Christian coming of age/romance 

A Christian story starring a rock star might be unlikely unless it's Goodbyes and Second Chances--an uncommon love story I know all of you would enjoy.

Next Week: I'll interview T. I. Lowe! Come and make her welcome in the Shade!

Mother's Day Update: I'm one chapter from being able to say that I'm done with the MS! You can start holding your breath now. ;-)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

January Writing Tip: What It Takes to Succeed as an Author

I hope you've gotten off to a good start on your Writing goals/resolutions this January. I'm whittling away at the few remaining chapters of my WIP. If all goes well, I'll have a completed MS to polish and submit to a couple of contests this year. 

And, by finishing, I'll achieve the first of many hurtles that line the path to publication. Did you know that: the oft-heard stat that only 5% of people who try to write a novel ever finish, has some basis in fact? Try Kristen Lamb's post, "What are the REAL Odds of Being a Successful Author" for confirmation.(Thanks to Kristen for inspiring this post!)

But, there's more to it than finishing. Kristen L. goes on to say that only 5% of those who finish will join a critique group and read craft books to learn how to make that MS better? 

And that only 5% of these will apply the things they learn to their MS.

And that only 5% of those who apply the things they learn and attend conferences where they get a request for pages will actually send them.

How many of these writers will land an agent right away? Yep, 5%.

And how many are willing to gut their novel to make it better? 5%.

What about self-publishing, you ask? Only 5% of them do the hard work of building a social media platform to promote their book and seek professional editing and apply it.

Kristen L. goes on to say that only 5% of those authors will keep writing more books until they click with readers and will seek professional editing to make them better.

After I read all of the stats, I had to take Kristen's advice to control what I can control when it comes to my stories to heart. I vow to:
  • Take the decision to write seriously (Check)
  • To write the book (Check)
  • To edit the book (Check)
  • To finish the book (Check)
  • To learn the craft (Check)
  • To accept critiques and learn from them without getting my feelings hurt (Check)
  • Network (working on it)
  • Follow through
  • Not give up after rejection
  • Write more and more books
  • Do everything I can to lay a foundation for success
And I vow to listen to good advice like Kristen's and remember that this isn't easy. None of this is easy. And I vow to stay the course, do the work, and write my books. Wish me luck!

 Next Week: The first Mini Book Review for 2015 will hit the Shade. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

January is the Perfect Time for a Bit of Goal Setting

"The greatest thing about writing is that it’s just you and the page. The most horrifying thing about writing is that it’s just you and the page. Contemplation of that dichotomy is enough to stop most people dead in their tracks."
MIND GAMES [Excerpt from THE CANNIBAL’S ART (not published; in progress). Copyright 2014 Diana Gabaldon]


It's the time of year to make resolutions...What? Have you already broken yours? ;-) 

As writers, we all have to set goals if we're going to ever finish our stories. So, here's a few idea for you to try out for your writing resolutions for 2015. 
  • List all of your dreams for 2015 and then prioritize them.
  • Divide your dreams into monthly goals.
  • Select small manageable bits for weekly goals that add up to the monthly and yearly ones.
  • If you achieve the week's goal, there's no reason you can't dive into another the next week's goal. ;-)
  • Recognize the times that Real Life throws you a curve and don't beat yourself up. Remember the goals will be there when you are ready to dive back in.
  • Think about trying some writing prompts on the hard days when words are illusive. Charlotte Rains Dixon has a great new book of prompts with suggestions for how to use them.
And if your goal is the dreaded Query, look at these ideas:
Yes, that dreaded "Q" word that strikes terror in the heart of many a good writer. And I'm reaching the point that I need to get serious about it.

Julia Sondra Decker has some great tips.

Another suggestion is to try to write a query for the first twenty to fifty pages of your WIP. Check out agent Kristin Nelson's post on this technique for pitches. And her videos about finding the plot catalyst.

Also, try these questions:
  • Who is the MC?
  • What does the MC want?
  • What's in the MC's way?
  • What happens if the MC fails?
 What's your main goal for 2015 or for January 2015? I'd love to hear about it and cheer you on. If queries are in your near future, good luck and happy hunting!

Next week: What it takes to be in the five percent of writers who get published.