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Results 1 - 25 of 6,828
1. aprilhenry @ 2016-05-02T12:13:00

Less than two months ago, I got this note:

April, I can't begin to explain how much of a role model you are to me. I love all of your books; especially Girl, Stolen:) Recently, my dad passed away and my house burned down. And I look to your books and you inspire me to finish and accomplish a book I have been working on. I have been writing a kidnapping novel hence you are my favorite. I never thought i would see myself as a writer, and you have showed me that you can do anything and accomplish my dreams. One day I hope to have my book published and I would LOVE to send a copy to you and get your approval. I can't begin to explain again about how much you mean to me and how skilled you are.

Thank you so much
Your #1 fan, Carlie

When I wrote back, I found out that Carlie was only 13, and that just a month earlier her dad had set their house on fire and then killed himself. This girl had lost so much, yet she was sending love to me.

I sent her back a box of all my books, signed. But I wanted to do more. Maybe a Skype visit? But her librarian, Jessie McGaffin, had other plans, as you can read about here:

http://nevadaiowajournal.com/news/bestselling-author-visits-nms.html

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2. Vulnerability

I’ve been doing some work with difficult characters over the last few months. Either the character in question has some pretty obvious flaws (which are part of who they are), or they do some pretty flawed things over the course of the story. Or both. It’s not that the characters I’ve been working with in my editorial practice are unlikeable, it’s that they’re human, quirky, realistic.

People are not all good, all the time. That doesn’t happen in real life, nor should it happen in fiction. But in fiction, you have to always keep in mind the idea of “relatability.” Because a character doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Like Tinkerbell needs applause, the characters in novels need readers to believe in them and relate to them in order to be real. In the publishing world, if I can’t relate to your character, as a reader, chances are, I’m not going to get too deep into the story. I may even put the story down.

But sometimes characters must do things that aren’t exactly relatable. They must be mean, or selfish. They must act in a way that hurts others, or themselves. They must get away from their own best interest.

So how do you make a character like this accessible to the reader through good times and bad?

Vulnerability.

Sounds simple, but what does that look like on the page? I’ll prescribe my magic solution: Let the character admit that they’re being a butt, and it will humanize the behavior. It will get the reader on the character’s side. Just like in real life, in fictional life, an apology or owning up to a mistake go a long, long way.

Here are some examples. If a character is being cruel to another character, they could do something like this:

“Takes one to know one!” I shouted. I was being so terrible to Brady, but I couldn’t get past him telling the teacher on me. He was supposed to be my friend.

While the reader may not agree with the behavior, at least they know that the character acknowledges it and has a reason for it. Even if that reason isn’t that valid, at least the character knows they’re in the wrong. Even if the emotion blows over soon, the character has taken the time to guide the reader through their less-than-noble feelings. The character here is being a butt, but the behavior is coming from a place of hurt. In other words, vulnerability.

If they admit that woundedness, they become more human and less of a jerk in the reader’s eyes.

The same applies to actions. Play with vulnerability and motivation there, too. For example:

I knew it was wrong to steal. That’s the first thing we learned in Sunday School. And yet here I was, sitting in my car with a brand new MP3 player, still in the box, burning in my pockets. They hadn’t even stopped me. I can sell it and help Mom with rent. I can sell it and help Mom with rent. I kept that on a loop in my head, but it didn’t make me feel any better about what I’d done.

In this example, the character has shoplifted something expensive. But they feel bad, which is one layer of vulnerability. And they did it for a noble reason, which is another. So we have two things that help sell the reader on the behavior.

The other vulnerable thing to smooth over tough-to-swallow words or actions is how they handle themselves after the fact. Does the first character apologize to Brady, even if it’s at the very end of the story? Does the second character go back to the store and pay them for the MP3 player once the financial emergency is over? Admitting their wrongs to the reader in the moment, and admitting their wrongs to others in the story: a two-pronged approach to broadcasting vulnerability.

If you have tough-to-motivate stuff in your manuscript, how might you use vulnerability to help build a bridge between the character and the reader?

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3. Monday Mishmash 5/2/16


Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.

Here's what's on my mind today:
  1. It's the Little Things  Sometimes little things make me smile. Like my metallic green pen I just bought. Writing in my day planner in that sparkly green makes me happy. Yay for the little things. :)
  2. Editing  My editing schedule has been CRAZY! I'm not sure how I got through the number of edits I did in April. It's made me realize I need to scale back a bit because I'm seeing physical effects of the stress now and that's not good.
  3. Recovering  So far this year, I've had 5 books come out. The entire Into the Fire trilogy and the first two books in the Curse of the Granville Fortune series. In a word, I'm exhausted!
  4. Shift to Adult  My focus recently has shifted to adult. I still have several YA manuscripts in different stages, but I'm also working on several adult and new adult manuscripts. Maybe I'm finally growing up, but I really like writing for adults. Remember when I said I never would? Never say never!
  5. Writing Time  I'm hoping to sneak in some writing time. Last month was all about editing, and I need to write.
That's it for me. What's on your mind today?

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4. Interesting blog posts about writing – w/e April 29th, 2016

Here’s my selection of interesting (and sometimes amusing) posts about writing from the last weekabout writing from the last week:

Writing Suspenseful Fiction: Reveal Answers Slowly (Jane K. Cleland)
https://janefriedman.com/suspense-slow-reveal/

Best Use of Story Flashbacks (Mary Keeley)
www.booksandsuch.com/blog/care-treatment-flashbacks/

Getting Your Novel to the Finish Line (Janice Hardy)
http://blog.janicehardy.com/2016/04/getting-your-novel-to-finish-line-part.html

9 Ways to Rock Your Query Letter (Maria Vicente)
www.mariavicente.com/post/143475957432/9-ways-to-rock-your-query-letter

Give your manuscript a running start (Joe Moore)
https://killzoneblog.com/2016/04/give-your-manuscript-a-running-start.html

5 Ways to Smash Through and Finally Start Writing (Jerry Jenkins)
www.jerryjenkins.com/5-ways-smash-finally-start-writing/

What I’d Like To Say To Young Writers, Part Two (Chuck Wendig)
www.terribleminds.com/ramble/2016/04/26/what-id-like-to-say-to-young-writers-part-two/

How to Weave a Message Without Pummeling Your Readers (James Scott Bell)
www.writerunboxed.com/2016/04/26/how-to-weave-a-message-without-pummeling-your-readers/

An Ambivert Walks Into A Writing Conference... (Carla Lopez Lee)
http://bloodredpencil.blogspot.com/2016/04/an-ambivert-walks-into-writing.html

Life isn’t Fair—A Classic Problem (Kathryn Craft)
http://writersinthestormblog.com/2016/04/life-isnt-fair-a-classic-problem/

The Five Modes of A Writer’s Life (James Scott Bell)
https://killzoneblog.com/2016/04/the-five-modes-of-a-writers-life.html


If you found these useful, you may also like my personal selection of the most interesting blog posts from 2015, and last week’s list.

If you have a particular favorite among these, please let the author know (and me too, if you have time).  Also, if you've a link to a great post that isn't here, feel free to share.

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5. Writer Wednesday: Didn't You Just Say That?

April has been a crazy month for me with more edits than I've ever had in a single month. It also made me notice a trend. Writers tend to repeat themselves.

I found myself using the delete key quite often and commenting that something had already been stated, usually in the same paragraph or on the same page. As writers, we don't want to do this because it's insulting to the reader. Readers are smart. They'll remember things and even pick up on things the writer might not have realized. Trust me. I taught 8th grade language arts and saw it happen all the time.

Another error that goes in the same category is saying something in the narration that gets repeated in the dialogue that follows it. When this happens, it's usually is a case of Tell then Show. Just show. Let the dialogue speak for itself and use your narration for better things, like setting the scene or witty internal thoughts. 

So without repeating myself—See what I did there? ;) —trust your readers to be intelligent enough to remember what you've already told them. 

*If you have a question you'd like me to answer from the other side of the editor's desk, feel free to leave it in the comments and I'll schedule it for a future post.

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6. Adding a Stance

When I talk to client about world-building, I talk a lot about context. If, for example, there is a magic in a world, I want to know if a) magic is common, b) the protagonist has experienced magic before (if yes, how much? what kind? etc.), and c) how they feel about it. So when a streak of green lightning flies across the room, I am looking to the protagonist for clues. How they react to it will tell me a lot about how magic operates in the world.

But this sort of approach isn’t just for world-building. You can add an emotional stance to almost everything. How does your character see the world? How they react to stuff will be a very good guide.

For example, if they see the new kid in school, they might say:

There’s Bo, the new kid in school.

This is merely factual, but is there an emotional signature there? No. So the reader is still wondering…so what’s the deal with this Bo guy? Do we like him? Is he weird? If he’s important, I want to know more about him right away. One answer (other than putting Bo in the plot or in scene with the protagonist, which I would also recommend) would be to add an emotional stance.

For example, here are some more complex reactions we can have to seeing Bo:

There goes that Bo, swaggering like a show pony. Who does he think he is?

There’s Bo, on the fringes of the cafeteria with the cool drama kids already . Would he say something to me today? I hope so.

And then there was Bo. Was he the one who shot off that green bolt during homeroom? What if he’s an algae elemental? What if he can help me figure out the Slime Pond mystery?

Here we have three different attitudes about Bo, because I’ve let the narrator have an emotional stance in addition to providing basic information (“There’s Bo”). In the first example, the emotion about Bo is quite negative. In the second example, it’s attraction to Bo. He’s already off fraternizing with some other group, but the narrator hopes that he’ll come pay him or her some attention, too. The third example gives world-building context but there’s also an emotional signature of intrigue. We get the feeling that algae elementals (ha!) are quite rare, and they’re desirable, at least for the narrator.

I could play with this stuff forever. For example, what if algae elementals weren’t rare? How would we convey that idea through the narrator’s emotional stance?

And then there was Bo. Was he the one who shot off that green bolt during homeroom? Great. The first new kid we’ve had in ages and he’s another dang algae elemental. This stupid school is teeming with them.

Don’t just settle for describing something or someone. It’s in how you describe them that the reader will be able to read the narrator’s attitude and emotion toward them. It’s all about context, folks!

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7. Adding a Stance

When I talk to client about world-building, I talk a lot about context. If, for example, there is a magic in a world, I want to know if a) magic is common, b) the protagonist has experienced magic before (if yes, how much? what kind? etc.), and c) how they feel about it. So when a streak of green lightning flies across the room, I am looking to the protagonist for clues. How they react to it will tell me a lot about how magic operates in the world.

But this sort of approach isn’t just for world-building. You can add an emotional stance to almost everything. How does your character see the world? How they react to stuff will be a very good guide.

For example, if they see the new kid in school, they might say:

There’s Bo, the new kid in school.

This is merely factual, but is there an emotional signature there? No. So the reader is still wondering…so what’s the deal with this Bo guy? Do we like him? Is he weird? If he’s important, I want to know more about him right away. One answer (other than putting Bo in the plot or in scene with the protagonist, which I would also recommend) would be to add an emotional stance.

For example, here are some more complex reactions we can have to seeing Bo:

There goes that Bo, swaggering like a show pony. Who does he think he is?

There’s Bo, on the fringes of the cafeteria with the cool drama kids already . Would he say something to me today? I hope so.

And then there was Bo. Was he the one who shot off that green bolt during homeroom? What if he’s an algae elemental? What if he can help me figure out the Slime Pond mystery?

Here we have three different attitudes about Bo, because I’ve let the narrator have an emotional stance in addition to providing basic information (“There’s Bo”). In the first example, the emotion about Bo is quite negative. In the second example, it’s attraction to Bo. He’s already off fraternizing with some other group, but the narrator hopes that he’ll come pay him or her some attention, too. The third example gives world-building context but there’s also an emotional signature of intrigue. We get the feeling that algae elementals (ha!) are quite rare, and they’re desirable, at least for the narrator.

I could play with this stuff forever. For example, what if algae elementals weren’t rare? How would we convey that idea through the narrator’s emotional stance?

And then there was Bo. Was he the one who shot off that green bolt during homeroom? Great. The first new kid we’ve had in ages and he’s another dang algae elemental. This stupid school is teeming with them.

Don’t just settle for describing something or someone. It’s in how you describe them that the reader will be able to read the narrator’s attitude and emotion toward them. It’s all about context, folks!

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8. Interesting blog posts about writing – w/e April 22nd, 2016



Here’s my selection of interesting (and sometimes amusing) posts about writing from the last weekabout writing from the last week:

Small Press Storm Warnings (Victoria Strauss)
http://accrispin.blogspot.com/2016/04/small-press-storm-warnings-pegasus_22.html

Five Comparisons NOT to Make for Your Book (Chuck Sambuchino)
www.writersinthestormblog.com/2016/04/five-comparisons-not-to-make-for-your-book/

Creating Promotional Copy That Works (Marcy Kennedy)
http://blog.janicehardy.com/2016/04/creating-promotional-copy-that-works.html

Know Your Rights (Contracts/Dealbreakers) (Kristine Kathryn Rusch)
www.kriswrites.com/2016/04/20/business-musings-know-your-rights-contractsdealbreakers/

What Makes a Great Villain? (Jerry Jenkins)
www.jerryjenkins.com/makes-great-villain-checklist-writing-good-bad-guy/

It's a High Stakes Game (Michael McDonagh)
http://querytracker.blogspot.com/2016/04/its-high-stakes-game.html

Are You Being Taken Advantage of as a Writer? (Janice Hardy)
http://blog.janicehardy.com/2016/04/are-you-being-taken-advantage-of-as.html

The Little Dialogue Ditty That Always Makes You Look Bad (Larry Brooks)
https://killzoneblog.com/2016/04/the-little-dialogue-ditty-that-always-makes-you-look-bad.html

Why an Agent’s List is Never Full (Janet Kobobel Grant)
www.booksandsuch.com/blog/why-an-agents-list-is-never-full/

Writing Lessons From The Masters (James Scott Bell)
https://killzoneblog.com/2016/04/writing-lessons-from-the-masters.html


If you found these useful, you may also like my personal selection of the most interesting blog posts from 2015, and last week’s list.

If you have a particular favorite among these, please let the author know (and me too, if you have time).  Also, if you've a link to a great post that isn't here, feel free to share.

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9. Writer Wednesday: Editing While Writing?

On this week's Monday Mishmash, Mirka Breen asked me how I manage my time to be able to edit for others while still working on my own writing. Quite honestly, I'm terrible at it. ;)

I binge write. Whenever I have a small gap in my editing schedule, I fast draft a book. The reason is that I can't (I've tried, but I can't!) write and edit at the same time. I can, however, revise one of my books will also editing for clients. So, sometimes I split my day between those two tasks. 

I find writing to be all-consuming though. When I'm drafting, my brain can only focus on getting that story down on screen. I become somewhat obsessed with the characters and world I've created. They dictate my life few a couple weeks, and only when I'm finished drafting do they release me back to the real world. This is why I write so quickly! 

I wouldn't recommend this method of time management to anyone else, though. I'm the first to admit it's completely insane, but this is how my brain works and what works for my schedule, so here I am. ;)

*If you have a question you'd like me to answer from the other side of the editor's desk, feel free to leave it in the comments and I'll schedule it for a future post.

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10. Meet the cover model for The Body in the Woods


Wow! Meet Isabelle Varga, the model pictured on the cover of The Body in the Woods. She recently contacted me to let me know that she is not only on the cover, she is also a fan. So of course I asked her a bunch of questions.

Q. How did you get into modeling?
A. I started modeling right before I turned 15. I was competing for Miss New Jersey Teen USA and a photographer who was doing my headshot for the pageant called an agency and I was signed as a model.

Q. Are you still in school?
A. I go to high school and take off when I get called to work. It was hard at first to balance modeling and school but I learned to do all of my homework in the car or on set at lunch break. I also learned to get ahead of assignments on weekends if I knew I was booked for a job that following week. My time management skills are really good from working.

Q. Do you have to be accompanied by an adult?
A. My mom always came with me to the shoots. Now that I am almost 19 I drive myself to most shoots. I am fortunate to work with the same clients so I know the team very well.

Q. How much did you know about the book before you did the shoot?
A. When I was called to shoot for your book cover I didn't know much until I got to the studio. The photographer, Jonathan Barkat, was shooting several different covers at once. I was told the name of the book at the shoot. I was not allowed to take any pictures since it was not going to be released for several months.

Q. How much of what you see on the cover is real and how much was done in Photoshop?
A. It was an awesome shoot....the dirt and ferns were real and they were piled around me and on me as I lay on the floor. They did several different poses until they found the one they liked best. The eyeshadow was real and it was super cool to see the images on the computer. I did not see the final image until it came out.

Q. How long did it take?
A. The shoot took about 7 hours because several covers for other books were shot simultaneously. Your cover probably took about 2-3 hours. It was a lot of putting the dirt and ferns on me then taking them off to move positions then covering me again.

Q. Do you like modeling? What do you plan to do after you graduate high school?
A. I absolutely love modeling. It has been an amazing experience to work with some of the best photographers and makeup artists in the world. I absolutely loved shooting your cover. The first time I saw it in Barnes and Noble was incredibly fun. All of my friends texted me when it came out. I also loved shooting a Canon commercial which aired in Tokyo. I am very fortunate to have been exposed to different cultures and amazing adults who have helped shaped me into the person I am today. I have a very strong work ethic which started when I began modeling. I was just accepted into college and I will attend Bentley University in MA in Sept. I am going to study Marketing and Media and Culture in college with a minor in management. I hope to work for a major fashion company one day in their marketing department. I also plan to compete in more pageants and hope to be Miss USA one day.

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11. Interesting blog posts about writing – w/e April 15th, 2016



Here’s my selection of interesting (and sometimes amusing) posts about writing from the last weekabout writing from the last week:

Safety Tips for Writers (Rachel Kent)
www.booksandsuch.com/blog/26880/

16 of Our Favorite Kindle-Publishing Resources for First-Time Authors (Marisol Dahl)
www.thewritelife.com/favorite-kindle-publishing-resources/

What “Let It Go” Really Means (Lisa Cron)
www.writerunboxed.com/2016/04/14/what-let-it-go-really-means/

Necessary Adjustments with A Forward View (Mary Keeley)
www.booksandsuch.com/blog/necessary-adjustments-with-a-forward-view/

How your personality type wreaks havoc with your writing (Kelly Simmons)
http://writersinthestormblog.com/2016/04/how-your-personality-type-wreaks-havoc-with-your-writing-and-10-things-you-can-do-about-it/

Coloring Inside the Lines (Wendy Lawton)
www.booksandsuch.com/blog/coloring-inside-the-lines/

Answering Questions about Queries (Rachelle Gardner)
www.rachellegardner.com/answering-questions-queries/

But What’s the Story? (Marie Lamba)
https://marielamba.wordpress.com/2016/04/11/agent-monday-but-whats-the-story/

You Can Fool Some of the People . . . (Tracy Barrett)
http://yaoutsidethelines.blogspot.com/2016/04/you-can-fool-some-of-people.html


Submissions & Queries (L. Diane Wolfe)
www.elizabethspanncraig.com/4203/4203/

The Urge to Avoid Risk (Janet Kobobel Grant)
www.booksandsuch.com/blog/urge-avoid-risk/

All You Need To Know About Character Transformation (James Scott Bell) [Jon’s Pick of the Week]
https://killzoneblog.com/2016/04/all-you-need-to-know-about-character-transformation.html

Writing an Email Query That Actually Gets Read, All the Way Through. (Jeanne Kisacky)
www.writerunboxed.com/2016/04/09/basic-tips-for-writing-an-email-query-that-actually-gets-read-all-the-way-through/



If you found these useful, you may also like my personal selection of the most interesting blog posts from 2015, and last week’s list.

If you have a particular favorite among these, please let the author know (and me too, if you have time).  Also, if you've a link to a great post that isn't here, feel free to share.

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12. Interesting blog posts about writing – w/e April 8th, 2016



Here’s my selection of interesting (and sometimes amusing) posts about writing from the last weekabout writing from the last week:


2016 Publishing Trends (Jordan Dane)
https://killzoneblog.com/2016/04/2016-publishing-trends.html

Contract Basics (Contracts/Dealbreakers) (Kristine Kathryn Rusch)
www.kriswrites.com/2016/04/06/business-musings-contract-basics/

What a Haiku is (Kelly R. Fineman)
http://kellyrfineman.livejournal.com/875143.html

When It’s Time to Stop Querying Your Manuscript (Maria Vicente)
www.mariavicente.com/post/142344213586/when-its-time-to-stop-querying-your-manuscript

Relevant (Donald Maass)
www.writerunboxed.com/2016/04/06/relevant/

Simultaneous Submissions (Rachelle Gardner)
www.booksandsuch.com/blog/simultaneous-submissions/

This Simple Story Structure Changed My Life (Jerry Jenkins)
www.jerryjenkins.com/simple-story-structure-changed-life/

Basic Errors (Mary Kole)
www.kidlit.com/2016/04/04/basic-errors/

5 Reasons You Need a Writing Mentor — And How to Find One (Leigh Shulman)
www.thewritelife.com/5-reasons-you-need-a-writing-mentor/

Good Writers are Consummate Liars (Gregory Frost)
https://marielamba.wordpress.com/2016/04/04/agent-monday-writers-should-learn-from-liars/

Part 2: 10 Myths That Sabotage Unsuspecting Novelists (Larry Brooks) [Jon’s Pick of the Week]
https://killzoneblog.com/2016/04/part-2-10-myths-that-sabotage-unsuspecting-novelists.html

Finish Your Doggone Story! (James Scott Bell)
https://killzoneblog.com/2016/04/finish-your-doggone-story.html



If you found these useful, you may also like my personal selection of the most interesting blog posts from 2015, and last week’s list.

If you have a particular favorite among these, please let the author know (and me too, if you have time).  Also, if you've a link to a great post that isn't here, feel free to share.

Add a Comment
13. Data Recovery And How I Recovered My Book

How I Lost My Novel And Discovered Free Data Recovery

books and glasses data

 

One of the amazing things that I will always be grateful about in my 10 years of writing experience is free data recovery software that rescued my already complete novel that I almost lost after my computer crashed. I didn’t begin writing from a young age until later when I developed interest for reading novels. The twist, suspense and outcome of most fiction stories I read really fascinated me.

 

Juggling between family life, paying bills and writing my novel were real challenges for me when my writing career was in its budding years. The burning desire to write really pushed me to overcome all odds over the years. I started with publications that paid me quite well to meet my basic needs. I also wrote for several travel magazines. As the passion for writing developed I discovered that I could actually write stories that most people could relate to and put them in novels. My love for novels and life experience keeps my writing passion alive which is a hobby that I favor most. The time I lost one of my complete novels that I had saved in my PC is however fresh in my mind.

 

It was an ordinary morning when I settled in my study with a cup of coffee to begin my day’s work. I started my computer and it just send me a string of error messages. I knew that my computer had crashed and that my hard drive was dead. This was a big frustration because my latest complete novel that I had not published was right in there. I frantically checked for any loose cables but everything seemed fine. I booted my computer into a safe Mode and amazingly gained access to the system. My joy was however short-lived because I couldn’t find even a paragraph of my novel. The thoughts of losing my novel that I had painstakingly written were racing in my mind and I panicked. I had heard about free data recovery tools but I didn’t know any credible source that could help me.

 

My best friend Tim recommended me to use a free data recovery program and directed me on finding one that had once saved him when he had lost his thesis paper before his final examination in college. I navigated through the software’s website at binarybiz  and found out that the software could recover lost files from hard drives, memory cards, mobile phones and other storage media. I checked for an option to get the software and found the downloading option which I quickly used.

 

The first thing I did after downloading the free data software was to specify the file I was looking for to get precise search results and then activated the scanning process. This was through after a few seconds. With the software, I could preview the details of the file that I wanted to recover. I then went ahead and followed the simple instructions on the interface to help me recover the file containing my novel. This was through soon than I had expected. The software did not overwrite data and was very brief and easy to use.

 

I recovered my novel and successfully published it which would have been impossible without the free data recovery software. I have so far attended and hosted numerous book talks. I am currently working on another novel and on my website. I also find time to write for other websites and recommend the data recovery software for users looking for solutions to recover lost files.

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14. An Interview with One Story


A new interview with me — the first to come out since Blood: Stories was released — is now up at One Story's blog, part of the publicity leading up to the One Story Literary Debutante Ball. Many thanks to Melissa Bean for conducting the interview, and for her very kind words about the book.

Here's a taste:
MB: On that note, what inspires your stories?

MC: Daydreams and nightmares created by anxieties, fears, and desires.

I don’t write fiction for the sake of therapy, per se, but I am prone to anxiety and I have an active imagination, so it’s often the case that a story starts from one of my weird anxiety fantasies.
Read more at One Story...

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15. What have you got lined up in the coming weeks and months?

Where is Jon - compressed


I'm looking forward to this weekend's Write Stuff Conference. It'll be my seventh time there (and second as a presenter).
In addition to Friday night's Page Cuts session, I'm giving three talks on Saturday: The 3 Cs of Conflict; Writing for YA/Tweens, and a dialogue presentation, Say it again, Sam (using dialogue to maximum effect).

I'm also attending NJ SCBWI's summer conference.


2016, April 8th - 9th  
Write_Stuff_2016_logo_with dates below whiteThe Write Stuff Conference, Best Western, 300 Gateway Drive, Bethlehem, PA 18017

2016, June 4th - 5th
NJ SCBWI Summer Conference
(attending)
Crowne Plaza/Holiday Inn Express, 900 Scudders Mill Rd, Plainsboro Township, New Jersey 08536



How about you?

What have you got lined up in the coming weeks and months?

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16.

I love April because it's National Poetry Month and along with that, RhyPiBoMo!

RhyPiBoMo is a month-long challenge for children’s writers to learn more about rhyming, poetry and poetic techniques.

Everyone is encouraged to follow along! Here is the pledge:

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17. Writing Tips

Maybe one of these nineteen writing tips will be what you need to take your writing to the next level.

http://litreactor.com/essays/chuck-palahniuk/stocking-stuffers-13-writing-tips-from-chuck-palahniuk

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18. Interesting blog posts about writing – w/e April 1st, 2016



Here’s my selection of interesting (and sometimes amusing) posts about writing from the last weekabout writing from the last week:

The Myth of the Average Reader (Cathy Yardley)
www.writerunboxed.com/2016/04/01/the-myth-of-the-average-reader/

The Four Classic Conflict Types (Janice Hardy)
http://blog.janicehardy.com/2010/07/enemy-mine.html

Business Musings: Introductory Remarks (Dealbreakers/Contracts) (Kristine Kathryn Rusch)
www.kriswrites.com/2016/03/30/business-musings-introductory-remarks-dealbreakerscontracts/

What Are Your Characters Not Saying? (Janice Hardy)
http://blog.janicehardy.com/2016/03/what-are-your-characters-not-saying.html

Do You Have the Right Critique Partners? (Rachelle Gardner)
www.booksandsuch.com/blog/critique-partners/

The Deadly Description Mistake You Must Avoid (Jerry Jenkins)
www.jerryjenkins.com/deadly-description-mistake-must-avoid/

5 Tips to Sustain You in the Query Trenches (Kathryn Craft)
http://writersinthestormblog.com/2016/03/5-tips-to-sustain-those-in-the-query-trenches/

The Publisher’s Going to Change the Title Anyway (Janet Kobobel Grant)
www.booksandsuch.com/blog/the-publishers-going-to-change-the-title-anyway/

Dealing With Self-Doubt: Tips from 7 Popular Authors (Michael David Wilson)
https://litreactor.com/columns/dealing-with-self-doubt-tips-from-7-popular-authors

An Author’s Giveaways: of Time and Books (Elizabeth Spann Craig)
www.elizabethspanncraig.com/4145/an-authors-giveaways-of-time-and-books/



If you found these useful, you may also like my personal selection of the most interesting blog posts from 2015, and last week’s list.

If you have a particular favorite among these, please let the author know (and me too, if you have time).  Also, if you've a link to a great post that isn't here, feel free to share.

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19. What Comes Before Part Two: Best Character, Basic Action, Weakness and Choice

Hello again! A couple of weeks ago, I gave you the start to a worksheet I use for every new project to help fill out my premise, story world, and how I choose to tell your story. Now I’d like to elaborate further on that sheet and go into the beginnings of character.

Before you ever start outlining or even writing your draft, you have to know your characters. Some people do this by filling out a “twenty questions” for each character. Some start writing and discover their characters in the moment. I find that understanding the answers to the questions below (and questions I’ll highlight in the third part of this series in a couple weeks), helps me know what a character will do in any given situation. If I’m ever stumped over what a character might do in a moment, I consult my sheet.

So you’ve already determined your premise, story execution, story world, and story challenges. You probably already know who your main character is, but if you don’t, now is the time to decide who your best character is for telling the story. The girl who has lived for fifteen years in the kingdom dungeons? Or the prince who can’t get his life together? If there are multiple characters you want to tell the story through, now is the time to sort that out.

Once you’ve determined your best character, you’ll want to outline your basic action. This is the action that drives your main character throughout the entire story. Basic action is also informed by story execution – if you plan to use the Journey Principle (see last post), then chances are, your character’s basic action will involve moving toward a specific destination. Your character’s basic action for the entire book will be traveling toward the castle/the space ship/the other side of the US etc. Or, if the story takes place around a competition, then the basic action will be competing/preparing for competition. This might seem remedial, but in those moments when our stories get away from us, remembering what your character’s basic, primal action for this story is will make a world of difference.

Now, think about what taking that basic means for your character. Characters don’t just act without thought or reason – you have to give them motivation to take that action. And that involves weakness.

Character weakness can and should be an integral part of your actual story structure. It should propel your character’s personal journey, the basic action, and provide obstacles for him/her along the way. Weakness offers the potential for character change, which is a big part (maybe the biggest) of making a character and her story interesting.

So what is your character’s weakness? It could be that he or she is afraid to live their lives to the fullest because they lost a parent/friend/partner. Or, that he/she is sheltered and ignorant of the world around them – they have to overcome this fear or this lack of knowledge to actually begin the basic action.

Once you’ve identified the weakness and basic action, it’s important to consider who that character is at the end. What do they look like as a changed person? What does the basic action teach them about overcoming their weakness? Perhaps the sheltered person has taken a trip to a developing country and learned that there are lots of suffering people in the world. This character is now a changed person: he or she is no longer sheltered, and perhaps now they have a desire to help people.

The changed person is very satisfying for a reader. How many times have you seen a movie or watched a show and noticed that the character has little to no growth or change? And to be sure, change doesn’t have to translate into positive growth – change can mean someone becomes disillusioned, or cruel, or greedy. Take a look at Walter White in Breaking Bad – Everyone’s favorite teacher gets cancer and through genius and desperation becomes someone he always had the potential be – a virtual Scar Face.

All of this ties into the moral choice your character must make at the end, a choice that they can only make now that they are a changed person. The decision would have been easy to make (or non-existent) before they changed, but now that they have reached the end and learned so much and became a different person, the moral choice will be much harder to make. It’s a confluence of their old life and their new. For the sheltered person, it could mean going back to their country and living their life with a new perspective, and perhaps becoming a volunteer. Or, being offered a chance to stay in this new place and create more radical change. Neither is wrong – but do you think this character would have had a hard time making the choice before?

Okay, I think I’ve given you enough to chew on for this second part in the What Comes Before series – my next post will be going into more depth on character and structure, so be prepared! As always, I hope this was useful, and I’ll be back in a couple of weeks with the last part in the series.

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20. 14 Travel Bloggers Share their Branding Secrets

Travel bloggers have different ideas on what they've done to set themselves apart--meet 14 travel bloggers who share their branding secrets. Travel writing and blogging is an enormous field--Google brings up 399,000,000 results for the term "travel blog" alone. Travel writers who try to cover it "all" end up with a little bit of content to suit a lot of people a little bit of the time. That translates into few regular readers.

The post 14 Travel Bloggers Share their Branding Secrets appeared first on Linda Aksomitis.

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21. Writer Wednesday: Choices of a Hybrid Author

Let's face it. The publishing world is changing. I've been a hybrid author for a while now, releasing books both through self-publishing and through traditional publishing houses. Honestly, there are pros and cons to both, and I feel you have to do what is best for you and your book.

I decided to branch out into writing adult, because I'm not writing enough age groups already, right? ;) Well, when I sat down to do my taxes (Eek!) I realized my self-published Ashelyn Drake books tend to sell better than my traditionally published Ashelyn Drake books. Hmm… It could be the age levels affecting this. It could be a lot of things, actually. Oddly enough, Ashelyn Drake sells better on Barnes and Noble than Amazon, too. (Don't ask me how I feel about B&N doing away with the Nook. I'm still crying over that.) But I've decided that my first Ashelyn Drake adult titles will be self-published. 

You can ask my agent how I feel about self-publishing. It makes me crazy nervous. Even though I've done it before, I panic. Why? It's a LOT of work to self-publish. A LOT. But if sales are better, I think that work is worth it. Does this mean I'll self-publish all my adult titles? Nope. I'm a hybrid author and I don't see that changing, because like I said, there are pros and cons to self-publishing and traditional publishing. 

But I feel really good about self-publishing Lies We Tell. Did I just title drop? ;) Scared? Yes. But good at the same time. I'm weird like that. And since Lies We Tell is with my editor now, it might be coming your way sooner than anticipated.

*If you have a question you'd like me to answer from the other side of the editor's desk, feel free to leave it in the comments and I'll schedule it for a future post.

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22. Trunked manuscripts . . . after you’re already published

Years ago, a friend told me that getting published was the easy part. It was staying published that was difficult.

I laughed a little. I died inside.

I was still trying to get published the first time, let alone a second or third time, and I wasn’t having a whole lot of success.

But perseverance won, and eventually I did get published. And because I was one of those annoying overachievers, I’d already written first drafts of the second and third books in my trilogy by the time I turned in my first book, which meant that I had some free time.

I wrote another — unrelated — book, revised it a bit, shared it with a few critique partners and my agent, and when I had another stretch of free time, I went back to it to make the manuscript shine.

But something was wrong. There were huge parts of the book that I loved, but I knew it had problems, and I wasn’t sure how to fix them. I knew the book wasn’t strong enough to give to my publisher, so I put it aside to wait for a spark of brilliance to tell me how to fix it.

That book is still waiting. I had to move on. So I finished writing my first series (again), and I wrote another new book. I gave it to critique partners. I gave it to my agent. I revised the snot out of it. And I thought it was ready, so I gave it to my publisher. They said they didn’t think this was the very best followup to my first series.

Crushed.

I started thinking about that thing my friend had said years before. I started wondering if maybe she was right. I’d been published! People liked my book! But I’d put one new book aside because I knew it wasn’t ready, and I’d had to put the other new book aside because my career wasn’t ready.

But because I had no desire to starve to death and a very strong desire to keep my career in motion, I wrote yet another new thing (while finishing working on my first trilogy). All the necessary people liked it and approved it, and that book became my second series. (For those wondering if that pattern continued, it did not. There were no books between that one and what will be my third series.)

I’m sharing all this because I think a lot of writers believe that once you’re published, you can hand in new books and a couple of years later, they appear on shelves. Not true! New books must go through the same rigorous acquisitions process as the first one, but this time with sales records of your previous books as a key factor in what the publisher decides to do.

I know a lot of authors who’ve written new things after they’ve been published, and for one reason another, had to trunk them. Maybe they knew from the start it wasn’t ready. Maybe their agent said it wasn’t ready. Maybe their publisher said it wasn’t ready.

And you know, there’s no shame in that. Trunked manuscripts — no matter what stage of your career they were written — are still useful creatures. There are no wasted words in writing, even if those words never make it to the bookshelves. All that experiences goes into the next new thing, which will be even stronger than the last ones.

We all have trunked manuscripts. Lots come before getting published the first time, but they happen after, too. For a lot of writers.

And it’s totally okay. Just keep writing. Keep looking forward. (And hopefully one day, you can resurrect the trunked manuscripts you particularly love. That is my plan!)

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23. Interesting blog posts about writing – w/e March 18th, 2016



Here’s my selection of interesting (and sometimes amusing) posts about writing from the last weekabout writing from the last week:

How Do We Maintain Believability in Our Writing? (Janice Hardy)
http://blog.janicehardy.com/2011/07/nope-not-buying-it-how-do-we-maintain.html

Deepen a Reader’s Emotional Connection to Your Story (Angela Ackerman)
www.writersinthestormblog.com/2016/03/deepening-a-readers-emotional-connection-through-shared-experiences/

The Dreaded Synopsis (Mary Keeley) [Jon’s Pick of the Week]
www.booksandsuch.com/blog/the-dreaded-synopsis/

Action vs. Suspense (Joe Moore)
https://killzoneblog.com/2016/03/action-vs-suspense.html

The Author’s Voice (Rachelle Gardner)
www.booksandsuch.com/blog/authors-voice/

How to Survive the Marathon of the Middle and Finally Finish Your Novel (Jerry Jenkins)
www.jerryjenkins.com/survive-marathon-middle-finally-finish-novel/

Other People’s Heads (Dave King)
www.writerunboxed.com/2016/03/15/other-peoples-heads/

Socializing at Conferences – How to Come Out of the Box (Piper Bayard)
www.writersinthestormblog.com/2016/03/25512/

4 Lessons for Authors on the Current State of Publishing (Jane Friedman)
https://janefriedman.com/4-lessons-publishing/

The 5 Questions I Ask Every Writer When I’m Considering Offering Literary Representation (Maria Vicente)
www.mariavicente.com/post/140327179587/the-5-questions-i-ask-every-writer-when-im



If you found these useful, you may also like my personal selection of the most interesting blog posts from 2015, and last week’s list.

If you have a particular favorite among these, please let the author know (and me too, if you have time).  Also, if you've a link to a great post that isn't here, feel free to share.

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24. So... About My Demise

So you may have noticed... I stopped writing for a while.

Stories. Books. This blog.

I completely stopped writing everything except for day-job-related minutia and a few other important bits.*

When I started my writing journey during the summer of 2007--yes, almost nine years ago now--I had big dreams. I thought I would be able to conquer the world and find some kind of fame as an author. I was trying to escape some very sour realities at the time. The first year or so after my second son, Max, was born challenged me like nothing else had in life. If you need details, they're all here in the archives of this blog.

I had started writing with big dreams, and reality intervened. I played the agent game with my first book and garnered more rejections than I care to count. It wasn't a very good book and my query letters sucked, too. I started writing short fiction and found I had a taste for it. Goals evolved. Someday, maybe, I would qualify for a writers' group. I set my sights on the HWA and became an affiliate member.

And I wrote another book or two, played the agent game again and even came just a little closer.

What if I could become an active member of the HWA? It would only take three professional sales...

I published more stories than I should have, some of them mildly embarrassing in hindsight, but they are all my progeny, ugly or not. The rejections piled up, but so did my little black ribbons--those publications I chased and chased and finally caught. Some of them are defunct now, Nossa Morte, Necrotic Tissue... I finally made the pages of Shimmer. I sold my first two professional rate stories to Shock Totem and the HWA's Blood Lite II anthology.

And then my third son was born and my wife committed suicide. My writing sputtered to a stop. It's all here if you want to dig. It's all here to read and process--right in the archives of this blog.

But what you will not find is how I lost my writing way. Chasing publication in honored magazines and anthologies made me a better writer. I cared, once. My first wife's death didn't end my writing career. I did.

You see, once upon a time, there was a gold rush. Ebooks happened in a big way. Self-publishing happened. Money sang a siren song not unlike that which led a deluded young writer during my first year. I no longer wrote for the right reasons.

Here's a hint: it's not about money. It never has been, and if organizations like the HWA expect professional pay to be a gatekeeper in the active society, it isn't because that pay means more than the commitment to achieve that pay. Members should care that much about their craft. The writing--the stories--are everything.

I've written a little since then. I've dabbled. I published a few stories a year or so back and sold my third professional rate piece. I could be an active HWA member, but I'm not. I've always needed a goal in front of me, not behind. I need that distant shore, something to chase, something to make me better again.

And I found it. The stories are there. I just need to tell them, right.

My son asked if I still blogged. Here's your answer--and I don't even know if blogging is something one does anymore.




*you can ask Kim about the asterisk


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25. Monday Mishmash 3/21/16


Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.

Here's what's on my mind today:
  1. Drafting  I'm trying to finish up the first draft of my Ashelyn Drake romantic suspense sequel before my daughter is home for Easter break.
  2. School Visit  I'll be visiting Blairstown Elementary School on Thursday and doing three presentations. Wish me luck!
  3. Out of the Ashes Releases Tomorrow!  Book two in the Into the Fire Trilogy comes out tomorrow! I'm a little excited. ;) Because of that, there will be no Writer Wednesday this week since I'll be posting on release day instead. 
  4. Into the Fire Free Promotion Success!  I was so happy to see all the free downloads of Into the Fire last week during the free promotion. 

  5. Easter  Hoppy Easter to all if I don't "see" you before then.
That's it for me. What's on your mind today?

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