Thursday, December 27, 2012

Five OLD habits to bid farewell in 2012

Free Google images
Dear Bloggie Friends:
After a well-deserved break, I’m back to the blogosphere!

I hope you are enjoying the holiday season and recharging your writing batteries to welcome 2013.
I’ve been reflecting on some bad writing habits –I must confess– that have impeded me from writing in the last quarter of the year.
1)      Procrastinating (I’ll do it tomorrow)
2)      Making time (I’m too busy this week)
3)      Lying to myself (It’s not as important as…)
So, before the year is officially over, I’d like to share some bad habits that writers, especially aspiring writers are guilty of. Yes, old habits are oftentimes hard to break but not impossible to overcome.

1)      I don’t need to follow any rules:

Think again my fellow writer! We ALL need to pay heed to the rules. For instance, when entering a contest you have to follow their instructions, otherwise you’ll ruin your chances at participating. This also applies when submitting your manuscript. Not following instructions can give the impression you are careless.

2)      Don’t play the blame game:

If your manuscript is not accepted, don’t blame yourself or the publisher. Use this opportunity to edit it or submit it to a different publisher.

3)      Leave your ego at the door:

We’ve all been there! We think our work is better than anyone else’s. It may be so, but being egocentric can discourage a potential publisher, agent, and/or fellow writers (especially if you’re not published yet).

4)      My publisher can do the marketing:

Wrong! Nowadays most writers do their own marketing through social media, word of mouth, networking, and community events. The good old days where even small authors had an agent or publisher to do the leg work are gone. The modern writer/author is also a multi-tasking entrepreneur.

5)      Don’t leave for tomorrow what you can do today:

Procrastinating is a writer’s worst nemesis. As I said before, this is my biggest problem. So this year I plan to write at least one page per day. I’ll remind myself by setting a reminder on my smart-phone, another one on my laptop calendar, and post-it notes on my fridge.

So as we put our old habits to sleep, a new dawn awaits.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Out of the Loop

Dear readers and bloggie friends,

I will be out of the loop (or should I say the blogosphere?) for a while. I'll return by mid-fall.

Thank you for your patience and loyal readership.
Enjoy the rest of the summer!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Challenge Yourself and Others

In the spirit of all things fun in the summer, I decided to have a little writing challenge for my fellow bloggers. I started a short story for blogging purposes only (Don’t worry, I won’t publish it and take ALL the credit, LOL!), and I want you, my fellow bloggers to fill in the blanks.

Instead of leaving a comment, please leave a sentence or two (or more if you’d like) to continue the story below. I’ll publish your sentences in the order received so the next blogger can add to the developing story. You have carte blanche in regards to characters, plot, dialogue, etc. Let’s see what comes out of it and let the writing fun begin!

It was a gloomy autumn afternoon. Agatha got off on Peel Station. She looked at her watch and noticed she was two hours early for her book launch. Her first published book. She walked towards Ste. Catherine Street and went inside a coffee shop. She sat next to the window, staring blankly at a throng of dark trench coats that glided like ghosts across the street. Agatha

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

How Book Shepherds Can Help Authors

Today's post is an article by my guest, Scott Lorenz, President of Westwind Communications who talks about book shepherds (Truth be told, this is new info for me).

I recommend authors look into hiring a book shepherd for a current or upcoming writing and publishing project. A book shepherd is someone whose expertise in books and publishing will help you throughout the entire book process. From cover art, editing, dealing with Amazon to locating a printer, a book shepherd will assist you from start to finish.  

I am a proponent of using a book shepherd because there are so many things to know about in the book publishing process and so much is swiftly changing its extremely difficult to keep up with it all. It takes a person with experience to guide you along the way and that’s what a book shepherd does. Hiring a guide is a concept that’s been working for humankind for thousands of years. If you were going to a foreign land and wanted to see and do as much as you could would you read a guide book or hire someone to show you? Consider yourself fortunate if you can afford a book shepherd as it is well worth the money spent.

Dan Poynter recently compiled a comprehensive list of book shepherds. At the top of his list is Shel Horowitz who explains his role: “Basically, I walk unpublished writers through the process of becoming well-published authors. I start by helping them determine if they should publish traditionally, self-publish, or subsidy publish--and then help them complete all the steps for their choice, then work with them on the marketing as the book nears completion.”
Tanya Hall is a unique book shepherd in that she works for a national publisher/distributor. “So instead of working in a vacuum without any up-to-the-minute feedback on trends, pitches, etc like most book shepherds operate, I have the luxury of a sales force and team of experts behind me to guide the direction I give to my clients. Most of our clients “in development” go through an editorial project development phase, followed by any number of services ranging from design to printing to (if accepted for publication/distribution by our review committee) distribution and marketing.” For more information, visit her website
The Bottom Line: If you can afford to spend a few hundred to a few thousand dollars on a book shepherd, I highly suggest you do so as it will help save your sanity! There are so many exciting changes in the book publishing business it’s practically impossible to keep up with them all. The book shepherd will help you through the entire process or just a piece of the process where you need it.
Check out this audio interview about book shepherds I did with Clark Covington at this link:
For more information you can contact Scott at:Westwind Communications
1310 Maple Street
Plymouth, MI 48170
Office: 734-667-2090
Cell: 248-705-2214

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Six Tips to Editing your Fiction

The editing process can be tedious at times. For me, this is a love/hate relationship. I sometimes despise it and sometimes I enjoy it. Here are some wonderful tips (reminders) when you're editing your work. I wish I could take credit for them, but I got these tips from an article I read a couple years ago in the Writer's Digest. Do you follow some or any of these tips?
1. Try not to make things overly complicated. Alyssa once told me to take the plot out of its braid and throw it in a ponytail. Simple, but brilliant. Problem was, when I did this I had quite a mess to comb through.
2. Don’t be afraid. Of anything. If I can delete nearly my entire manuscript, you can axe a chapter that doesn’t fit.
3. Brainstorm several ways to reach each plot point. Choose the most unique.
4. Revision should not impede on your writing time. When you write, just write. Try to keep from listening to your brain’s insults.
5. When it’s time for revision, whittle away. If you can make a sentence more concise, do it.
6.Question everything. I often refer to the following questions, which are tacked to a corkboard in my office:
·         Does the book start with an inciting incident that will force your MC to act, and challenge your MC to grow?
·         Is there is enough emotion, tension, suspense, etc.? Or too much?
·         Is something too obvious? Does something come too easy because you need it to advance the plot?
·         What can you do to make each scene stronger?
·         How can you weed out your cliched sentences and/or ideas?
·         Is there a motivation for each event? What about a purpose?
·         Are you keeping your MC from attaining a goal? This is a must until the ending.
·         Will your reader wonder about or hope for something pertaining to your MC as they progress through the story?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Losing Everything, Finding Yourself

Some weeks ago I watched Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday where she interviewed Sarah Ban Breathnach, the bestselling author of Simple Abundance. She had already been her guest in the Oprah Show nine times and Oprah admits Sarah’s the reason she writes in her gratitude journal to this day. Ms. Ban Breathnach sold seven million books, becoming an instant sensation and multi-millionaire. Fifteen years later, however, Sarah tells Oprah that she has lost it all: her love, her home, and her way. She told Oprah that it took losing everything to help her find herself.
In one of my several trips to Spain in the nineties, I received Simple Abundance as a gift. I immediately fell in love with the book which became my cheerleader whenever I needed a pep talk. Sarah’s words were comforting. I always admired her ease to convey analogies and “feel-good” stories. She reminded me to enjoy simple things, live every moment to the fullest, and above all, to be grateful.
I had no idea Sarah had started as a freelance writer, living paycheck to paycheck before writing her bestselling book. She is one of the few (lucky) writers that made it big, so big, that she was able to buy Sir Isaac Newton’s chapel which became her private writing studio.
In the interview, she explained how she was on the New York’s Best Seller’s List for more than two years and went from making six-figure royalty checks to literally nothing.
As I continued to watch the interview, I learned that she started as a struggling writer, made it to the top, achieving what every single writer dreams of, and ended up where she had started. Ironically after all that success, she found herself living “a simple life” in a room out of her sister’s apartment. I was in disbelief.
Sarah confessed that at the pinnacle of her success, she didn’t want to ask for help (bother anyone). She felt she could manage her business and handle success. She added, “I’m a smart woman, I wrote Simple Abundance so I should be able to figure it out by myself.” Bad financial advice from her ex-husband also led her to a downward spiral into hell. Despite all this, she didn’t see it as a fall from grace, just a fall that helped her move on to her new sense of awareness. She stated that she’s at peace now and financially stable again.
In her new book Peace and Plenty, Sarah shares that the great spiritual lesson is to “guard your heart. Watch your treasures for what it’s your treasure will be your heaven on earth”.
Since the publishing of her new book, Sarah has moved out of her sister’s place. She is enjoying simple pleasures again (e.g., listening to the rain and writing in her gratitude journal). Towards the end of the interview she quoted T.S. Eliot, “We go back to where we began”.
In Oprah’s words of wisdom, I’ll leave you with, “True success is the feeling of reward and self respect.”
Do you agree with Oprah’s thought? What about T.S. Eliot quotation? Did Sarah’s story inspire you in some way?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Agony of Writing

Google images
Howdy, fellow bloggers! I’m back after a six-week hiatus. I felt guilty for neglecting my blog for such a long time, but I had to take care of personal matters.

Finding time and inspiration to write my latest blog post proved to be difficult. My break turned into a hobgoblin that stole my creativity along with two articles I started writing.

It was until today that my muse, disguised as an article, remembered my address and paid me a visit. The article was about Khanh Ha, a Vietnamese author and his first novel, Flesh. The blurb says that this book “takes the reader into dark and delightful places in the human condition, places where allies are not always your friends, true love hurts, and your worst enemy may bring you the most comfort.” I was intrigued. If you are, too, check out his book tour at

In this article, Mr. Ha stated what my mentor always told me, “Write what you know”. He also shared his seven rules for writing a novel:
#1—Find discipline in solitude, in aloneness so you can meet your characters. It’s like a rendezvous with ghosts. Then make that meeting every day or every night with no excuses.

#2—Write each scene as if it were the only thing in your universe—it must command all your attention.
#3—Write one scene well and that scene would breed the next scene.

#4—Leave room for readers to participate: don’t overwrite.

#5—Stop where you still have something to say so the next day you won’t face a dry well.
#6—Read each day to keep your mind off your own writing.

#7—Don’t believe in anybody’s rules except yours.
I appreciated that he added this wonderful quotation by Toni Morrison who once said, “I wrote my first novel because I wanted to read it.”

Do you follow any of these rules? If you're writing your first novel, do you find inspiration in Morrison’s quotation?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Hiatus & an Award

Dear Bloggie Friends,

As you may have already noticed, I didn't post last Wednesday. I've been under the weather, fighting a terrible cold that sent me to the clinic. Tomorrow I'm travelling to the USA therefore, I won't be posting until next week.

I also want to thank Melissa Kline at Reflections on Writing for passing along the "Sunshine Award".

Although I'm supposed to answer some questions and follow some rules after receiving this award, I will have to break the rules due to the circumstances mentioned above.

Thank you for your continued support and readership.
Have a great week and I'll see you next Wednesday!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Blind Faith

Show, don’t tell. I can assume all writers know this as Writing 101. Whenever I failed to comply with this rule, my manuscript would come back with red markings. My mentors always told me to use metaphors, similes, or strong verbs/adjectives to describe what we perceive with our five senses without telling the obvious.

My mentors guided me through the learning process: I trusted their advice. But, did that mean I had to forget about my instincts? Through this process, I accepted their suggestions blindly because I was afraid of stumbling along the way. However, all that changed when I started trusting that little voice inside of me: my instincts. One of my mentors had suggested deleting a few sentences and changing some words in my final draft. I didn’t. These sentences spoke loudly; they vibrated in my skin. My instincts were right. My story got published.

Just like writing, in real life we sometimes need guidance. Last Sunday I took my husband to O. Noir, a local Montreal restaurant, to celebrate his birthday. (Click on the hyperlink to learn more about this fabulous experience). O Noir is a play on words in French for au noir, which loosely translates, in the dark. The servers are visually impaired. When you get there, you order your food at the bar before entering the pitch-black room. Once the barmaid has taken your order (she’s not visually impaired by the way), your server guides you to your table. He tells you where your utensils, napkins, plate, and glasses are.  

After an hour, my senses were heightened: I started distinguishing my server’s voice among the cacophony of sounds. My hands were quick to learn the objects around me. My hearing clearly made out what instruments the band was playing (The members of the band are also visually impaired, and are aptly called, Les ombres, The Shadows). Although my server guided me to our table, my other four senses guided me at the table (and I’m happy to share there were no incidents).
I wanted to share this amazing experience and use it as an analogy because I realized that whether we’re guided in our writing journey or not, we ultimately have blind faith in our instincts.
Do you trust your inner voice when you write?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

My Kind of Town

A street in Istanbul - May 2011
While blogging, I was listening to Frank Sinatra’s “My Kind of Town”. In this song, Sinatra sings about specific places in Chicago and people’s friendliness.   

This song inspired me to write a post about setting which is one of the essential elements of a scene. Setting is the physical background of the story – a distinct time, place, social circumstances, as well as mood or atmosphere.  
The setting in most of my stories has been inspired by places where I’ve lived and/or visited. I said, “most” because there’s always an exception to the rule. A few of my stories take place in cities I’ve never been to. Although it's a rewarding experience, writing about a place I am not familiar with is time-consuming. I had to ensure the description and facts were accurate.

I enjoy, however, describing the setting -especially one that is meaningful to me- because it gives me the opportunity to travel there once again along with my characters.
Do you use familiar places in your setting? Do you have a special place that you’ve used more than once in your stories?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Symbolically Yours

Henry Fuseli (1741-1825) The Nightmare
Yesterday, a friend of mine asked me to brainstorm on symbols that she could use for one of her characters. I did a little research and provided her with some examples, taking into consideration that her book is for tweens (pre-adolescents).

I read that “understanding symbolism deepens the meaning and enhances the reading of many great literary works including short stories, novels and poetry.”

Some symbols may be obvious and some may be more subtle or hidden so that the reader must really think and study the work to grasp the author's true meaning.
One of the websites I found says that “Writers may also use symbolism to allude to a mood or feeling without coming out and stating that particular emotion. For example, a writer might use the symbol of a lily to represent purity or a ray of sunshine to represent hope.”

Examples of Common Literary Symbols:


Authors Known for their Use of Symbolism:
Edgar Allan Poe
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Herman Melville

Do you use symbolism in your stories? Do you think symbolic imagery is necessary to deepen your story?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Creative Process

Last night while talking to a dear friend and fellow writer, she confessed having a hard time jotting down the whirlpool of ideas that are spinning in her brain. I wonder if she was being hard on herself when she told me she sometimes doubted her creativity.

Today, I found an article by author and creativity coach, Emily Hanlon. She says, “The Inner Critic is terrified of the creative unconscious because it is the home of feelings, emotions, images and it is chaotic and unexpected. The Inner Critic likes order and loves the status quo, which is antithetical to the creative unconscious.” In the excerpt below, she explains more about this inner struggle we writers go through.
Creativity is a subtle and magnificent dance between the rational and the intuitive, between the left and right parts of the brains, between technique and imagination. Both partners in this dance are absolutely necessary and are needed in equal proportion, which means that imagination is not more important than technique and vice versa. If you only live in the imagination, you will never get organized, you will never complete your story. However, if you start from the rational, linear, organizational part of the process, (i.e. Gotta have the perfect opening sentence and first paragraph... better yet, an outline...) you will never fall into the rich, passionate cosmic landscape of the imagination where anything is possible.

However, the main problem I have seen in my twenty-five years of teaching fiction writing is over-dependence on the rational part of the equation. People want to get the story written and get it out. (Whatever that means?) They want to leap frog the process, get the words down on the page and finish the story. This is to symptomatic of the goal-oriented society that we live in, a society that is striving upwards toward success instead of embracing the deeper, more powerful and life changing journey of descent that takes us into the creative realm of the true self.

When we write from the imagination we are writing what we "know" but from such a deep level of knowing that we don't know that we know it until it is revealed in our writing. This is often the truer aspect of self, the part that we do not readily show to the world, and sometimes do not show even to our self — at least not consciously. This is what makes the journey such risky business. This is also the great joy of writing; when we are true to the process, we discover worlds within we did not know existed.

An image I use to describe the intuitive journey of creativity is "falling down the rabbit hole" into Wonderland. This is a perfect metaphor for the creative journey which can never take place in the "real" or conscious world. Writing, whether it be fiction, poetry or nonfiction, finds its origins in the dark, fertile chaos of the unconscious — your personal Wonderland.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Serendipitous Find

Hemingway's studio at his house in Key West, Florida

When I choose books, I usually read the jacket and sometimes, the first few pages to see if I get hooked. I gravitate towards names, cities, or events that I consider somewhat meaningful (I guess because I secretly wish to be linked to the story). When this happens, I believe it’s a serendipitous find. It’s a Eureka moment, I tell myself, “I must have this book!”
I’ll give you a couple of examples. I read The Bastard of Istanbul, by Elif Shafak, and I fell in love with two paradoxical characters that were not only beautifully developed but intriguing as well. I empathized with Asya, the rebellious and non-conformist daughter of a tattoo parlor owner. I envisioned myself being on the streets of Istanbul again as I read the rich description of the city. This was the same case with Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits, a book that I couldn’t put down (literally!). I read this book in 1998 and I still remember some scenes and characters.

Last summer while browsing the sidewalk sales (commonly known in Montreal as vente de trottoir), I came across a book titled, Claudia. I flipped the pages to see if this was a serendipitous find or just “another” book on the sales table. Well, I was thrilled when I discovered one of the characters was born in the same month and year as me. The main character has lived and visited the same cities/countries I have, and even the cover of the book it’s meaningful to me. I bought it! How could I leave it behind? It was only $1.00 and it was in mint condition. I’m reading it now and so far, I’m enjoying it. Let’s see if I change my mind once I finish it.
Have you found books you regard as a serendipitous find? Have you come across books that you consider “a must have”?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

I've Been Tagged!

I was tagged by D.G. Hudson at Rainforest Writing

This is a great way to get to know your fellow bloggers and to highlight other wonderful blogs.

The Rules Are:
1. You must post the rules.
2. Post eleven fun facts about yourself on the blog post.
3. Answer the questions the tagger set for you in their post, and then create eleven new questions to ask the people you've tagged.
4. Tag eleven bloggers, however, you can break the rules and tag fewer people if you want. Make sure you hyperlink their names/blogs.
5. Let them know you've tagged them!
6. Have fun!

My Answers to D.G. Hudson:

1- How long have you blogged?I created my blog in March 2010 so I've been blogging since then.

2 -
Do you have a pet?
Yes! I have two very spoiled kitty cats (female).

3 -
Do you like film noir?
Yes. Citizen Kane is one of my favorite ones.

4 -
Do you pick male or female protagonists the most when you write?
I think I pick them equally. It depends on the mood or the storyline.

5 -
Which female actor in LOTR would you want to be if offered a part in the movie?
Neither. I'm not a fan of The Lord of the Rings. I don't dislike the film, it's just not my cup of tea.

6 -
Which male actor in LOTR would you want to be if offered a part in the movie? (this is assuming Makeup and Costume can do miracles. . .)
Same answer as #5.

7 - Where do you write? (which room, or place is most comfortable)
Sometimes in the office and sometimes in my bedroom (wherever it's quieter).

8 - What beverage is beside you while you're writing?
None. I usually don't eat or drink while I'm writing.

9 - Do you listen to Music while writing?
No, only when I'm editing.

10 -
What is your favorite city?
Positano, Italy. Runners up: Washington, D.C. and Istanbul.

11 - Is there a phone in your writing place?
No. My cell phone is always off. The landline phone is in the kitchen.

My Tagged Bloggers:

Jay Paoloni, Actor
Under the Tiki Hut

Maria Zannini

One Word Pundit

My 11 questions for those tagged are:
1) What's your favorite classic (book)?
2) Whose writing style would you like to emulate?
3) Have you taken workshops to hone your writing?
4) Do you have a mentor?
5) Which is your favorite cuisine?
6) Which is your favorite season?
7) Which genre do you write/read?
8) If you had the chance to run off with one of your favorite characters, who would it be?
9) Which song brings you to tears?
10) Have you used someone else's secret in one of your stories/books/poems?
11) Do you believe in soul mates?
Now go on and have fun! If you have any questions regarding this game, let me know.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

How real are your characters?

Ernest Hemingway said, “When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.”

Do you agree with his statement?

I don’t want to be biased just because he’s one of my favorite authors but I concur. Real characters are beautiful. This post could be a follow-up to my previous one about compelling characters.

I am finishing up a story where my characters were inspired by real people. Although I changed their physical traits and names, their essence and emotions are still palpable. Their spirits continue to live on in the ink of my paper because their story needed to be told.

Are your protagonists the extension of someone you know?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Coffee + Facebook = Blogpost

Today we had a power outage in my neighborhood due to a gas leak. It has lasted close to eleven hours. It was serious since it was announced in the local news and four thousand people were evacuated. Fire trucks and police officers were standing by.

So here I am, at a downtown coffee shop typing up my latest post. Unfortunately, I cannot concentrate in this noisy environment.

When I logged in, the page that popped up said I needed to connect to my Facebook account
in order to access explorer.
 I'm surprised they didn't ask me to order coffee in order to use their free Wi-Fi.

So in honor of a mélange of caffeine and technology I am posting an excerpt from
the Book Marketing Expert's article about Facebook pages.

Understanding Facebook Content Interaction

Fan Pages now have a fabulous feature called Facebook Insights.

Head on over there for some really interesting information and
insightful (hence the name) data.
First, you can find Insights on the left side of your page.
Once you're there you can see all sorts of data on the information you post.
1) Reach: This is the number of unique people who have seen the post
for 28 days after publishing the post.
2) Engaged Users: These are people who have engaged with your post

in some way: i.e. clicked the link.
3) Talking about this: This is an interesting number and you've no doubt

seen this pop up right under your "Likes." These actions are: liking the post,
commenting, sharing the post, responding to a question, or RSVPing
to an event.
4) Virality: This is the number of people who have created a story from

your page post.
Watch these numbers for some great insight into what fires up your fans
and what leaves them cold.
It's not just about getting "Liked," it's about staying "Liked."
Creating insightful, helpful, and engaging content is one piece
to the puzzle; the other is timing
and receptiveness of your fans. Though I've outlined 'general' user
guidelines in this piece, be sure to check the Facebook Insights
for key data that will help your fan base thrive!
Quick Ways to Promote your Facebook Fan Page

* Put your Fan Page URL in your signature line
* Email your newsletter list
* Add a Facebook Fan widget to your blog and website
* Add your Fan Page URL to your biz cards
* Tweet the link to your followers
* Notify your "Friends" on your personal profile that you now

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

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Good Cop / Bad Cop

We’ve all watched or read stories about good vs. evil, hero vs. villain, good cop vs. bad cop, and we usually tend to empathize with the most compelling character. Note that I didn’t say the good guy, I said compelling.

Today I was asked to describe what a compelling character meant to me. My answer was brief, yet to the point:
The most compelling characters are those who appear internally consistent and yet are capable of surprise. They have to be well-developed and reliable. They learn, and sometimes, change from experiences they have encountered and endured throughout the story. In order to create gripping characters, a good writer explores and finds what motivates these characters to do or say certain things. My mentor always told me that a believable character must have a driving need, desire, ambition or goal; a secret; a contradiction; and vulnerability. This will avoid crafting a flat or two-dimensional character. Whether these characters are the heroes or the villains, the reader will empathize with them. When reading, the characters seem to be in front of us. We get to know them so well that we feel a sense of loss by the time we finish reading the book. In other words, when we read, we are supposed to live vicariously through these characters.

What about you? Who do you usually empathize with? What’s your idea of a compelling character?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Including Humor in your Writing

You don’t have to be Mr. /Mrs. Happiness, a clown, or a comedian to inject some humor into your writing. Whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, a dose of humor can be a breather in some of the more serious or sad scenes/chapters. In my previous posts, I talked about finding inspiration in pain and difficult situations. What about funny situations? For instance, Kathryn Stockett’s, The Help, offers great comic relief in some of the chapters that were loaded with controversy. How often do you use humor? Can you think of other books that use comic relief?

I don’t recall the source of these tips; however, they’re right on target.
1. BE STRATEGIC. Don’t scatter jokes willy-nilly; instead, think of humor as parenthetical information. Many nonfiction writers find the best places to integrate humor are in titles, sidebars, visual illustrations or cartoons, and anecdotes to illustrate their points. For a great example of the use of visual humor, see Roizen and Oz’s You Staying Young.

2. USE IT SPARINGLY. Unless you’re writing about an inherently funny topic, you should limit the humor you use to selective references. Its purpose is to grab the reader’s attention and help you make points in creative ways. Don’t confuse the reader by coming across as a comedian.

3. KEEP YOUR FOCUS IN MIND. Be sure your use of humor doesn’t distract from or demean the true purpose of your project. Have someone read your manuscript and then give you a candid critique with this in mind.
4. LET YOUR READERS KNOW YOU’RE LAUGHING. When using humor in writing about a difficult subject—your own illness, for example—your first responsibility is to give your readers permission to laugh. Find subtle ways to let them know that not only is it OK to laugh, but you want them to.

5. STEER CLEAR OF SARCASM. This humor style may work in some arenas, but many readers find it hurtful and mean, and because it often relies on tone, it can be especially hard to pull off in writing. Sarcasm is a tool most of us pick up at a young age as a way of feeling better about ourselves by putting others down. I recommend leaving it there.
As writers, it’s up to us to use everything we can to make sure we lasso our readers and keep them in the corral. Don’t let fear of being funny on the page hold you back. Remember the old saying: “If you can get them to open their mouths to laugh, you can get them to open their hearts to learn.” And that makes for effective writing.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Cold Weather, Warm Thoughts

Last week I was forced to take a break from blogging. This week was almost a repeat but a very dear friend of mine told me, and I’ll paraphrase, “The human soul tends to find inspiration in pain rather than in happiness.” His words touched me. That’s when I remembered that last March I wrote an article titled, The BeautifulProcess of Writing from Pain, which talks about writing as a catharsis.
The second week of January proved to be a challenge for me professionally and personally. On top of that, we had a snow storm that lasted two days (And this is only our first one this winter!). The fluffy blanket outside only helped me find excuses for not writing.
My friend shared that he writes (poetry, blog posts, stories) even when there’s turmoil in his life. He’s right! I think of Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, Raymond Carver, and J.D. Salinger to name a few that found solace in their writing even when their lives needed to be re-written.
In the past I’ve found inspiration in the falling snow. So why not do it again?
Do you find solace in writing? Do you get inspired by challenges?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

I will be back next Wednesday!

Hello Bloggie Friends,

I regret to inform you that due to circumstances out of my control I won't be posting an article this week. However, you'll see me around next Wednesday. Promise.

Have a productive week and keep on writing!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Getting Back to Business

Happy New Year Bloggie Friends!

Hope you all had a wonderful holiday season. Slowly but surely, a lot of us are getting back to business, writing, that is. I know some of you published your book(s) last year. How did you market it? Did you go with an agent? Did you do it yourself?

I received this article via e-mail and I want to share it with you.

It used to be that promoting a product was an expensive undertaking, one that required excessive amounts of funds for television or radio advertising, or slightly less for publications of the paper variety. And promoting books, in particular, meant making deals with booksellers to get top placement in their stores.
Authors, of course, would have to go on multi-city tours of their home country and even the world in order to give interviews to television, radio, and newspaper/magazine reporters, as well as host signings. This was both an expensive and time-consuming process. But these days things have changed dramatically. Not only can writers publish and sell their own eBooks (or paper books) online; they can also promote them in a number of ways that are far less expensive or even free. Here are a few to try.
It used to be that promoting a product was an expensive undertaking, one that required excessive amounts of funds for television or radio advertising, or slightly less for publications of the paper variety. And promoting books, in particular, meant making deals with booksellers to get top placement in their stores.
Authors, of course, would have to go on multi-city tours of their home country and even the world in order to give interviews to television, radio, and newspaper/magazine reporters, as well as host signings. This was both an expensive and time-consuming process. But these days things have changed dramatically. Not only can writers publish and sell their own eBooks (or paper books) online; they can also promote them in a number of ways that are far less expensive or even free. Here are a few to try.
1. Build a contact list. Whether you get contacts through your website, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or any number of other social networks, you can use the strength of numbers to promote your book. Post messages with excerpts to drum up interest, offer deals for followers, and encourage "friends" to become brand ambassadors, bringing more people on board to enjoy the same benefits of membership that they do, as well as hyping your book online and in real-world settings.
2. YouTube videos.
Videos to promote books have become something of a sensation on YouTube, with offerings for books like "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" and "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" topping the list for views. Some of these "trailers" have high enough production value to make it look like a movie is actually in the works, while others are student-project level. But it's an innovative and trendy way to promote your book (all you need is a video camera and a few willing friends). Although well-known and high-paid authors often do something similar for television, their ads tend to contain nothing more than some flashy graphic text and the author spouting one-liners. The YouTube versions are more like full-scale movie trailers.
3. Giveaways. While giving away your work for free might not sound very appealing, it is a good way to bring in new readers. So give away a few copies to loyal fans and offer freebies to the first, say 50 new members who sign up at a set time and date. You'll probably get hundreds of new accounts that will hopefully make up for the number you gave away and then some.
4. Contests. There's no better way to get people to give you contact information than to hold a contest. In the publishing arena there are many ways you could go with this. You could ask readers to provide potential names for an upcoming book (with a free copy and a mention in the book going to the winner). Or you could ask them to send in character sketches and then work the winning entry into a future project. You might even hold a contest for a couple of lucky readers to win a trip to join you at a book signing. There are so many possibilities and all of them should net you new readership.

5. Listen and respond. Communication studies have shown that the best way to keep a relationship going is to ensure open channels of dialogue. So when readers comment you need to make an effort to reply. This will endear your fans to you and keep them coming back for more, as well as encouraging them to talk you up to everyone they know.
Reprinted from "The Book Marketing Expert newsletter," a free ezine offering book promotion and publicity tips and techniques.