Guest post: Mystery Short Stories by mystery author Warren Bull

Tonight’s guest blog post is brought to you by mystery novelist, short story author and blogger Warren Bull and for something a little different it’s…

Warren Bull and Nancy Pickard discuss the Mystery Short Story from Sisters in Crime. Border Crimes Chapter Meeting, February 5, 2011

“When the two riders appeared out of nowhere, I knew they came to kill my pa.” So begins our own Warren Bull’s short story, “Beecher’s Bibles.” 
That first line gives a sense of time. “Those two riders aren’t on Harleys,” Warren said. The word “pa” also implies it’s historical. Finally, it sets the scene for the story and draws the reader in. What happens next?

Warren invited friend and fellow short story writer Nancy Pickard to help him present the February program on writing mystery short stories. The first line of the story is crucial, and Warren said it can take as long to come up with the right first line as it takes to write the rest of the story. 
Warren got his start writing short stories because of the Manhattan Mystery Conclave’s contest. (For which he wrote the winning story!) Since then, he’s had a number of stories published and now has his own collection of short stories available: Murder Manhattan Style. 
Short stories present different challenges from writing novels. You don’t have a lot of words.

Here are some of the elements discussed by Warren and Nancy:

  • Characterization must be achieved quickly. Warren said that can be accomplished with a few well-chosen words of description, such as this line: “When I met her, I figured she was the sort of girl who ironed her own socks.” Dialogue helps define character and Warren finds writing in first person does, too.
  • Pacing must be tight. Action must start immediately in a short story. It’s a struggle for horror writers who like to set up the mood and atmosphere, said Nancy.
  • A “crucible moment” should be part of every short story, according to Harlan Ellison, Nancy said. That’s a severe test that may be the most important moment in that character’s life.
  • Epiphany is another important element in a short story. Every story needs that “ah-ha” moment, said Nancy. Learning that at a writer’s conference at William Jewell College in the early 1980s completely changed her approach to writing short stories, she said, and she was much more successful after that.
  • The iceberg describes the form of a short story, according to Ernest Hemingway. Warren said what you see and read in the story is only a small part of what’s going on.
  • Endings of mystery short stories do tend to be resolved and tied up neatly – frequently with a twist – and often with plenty of surprises along the way, as opposed to the sometimes ambiguous endings of literary short stores.

You can see these elements in Nancy’s and Warren’s favorite short stories. Nancy likes “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” by Hemingway (read it at http://www.mrbauld.com/hemclean.html) and “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” by J.D. Salinger (read it at http://www.nyx.net/~kbanker/chautauqua/jd.htm).

One of Warren’s favorites is short enough to be reprinted here in its entirety:

The Soap Bubble

It is.

It was.

“It’s a completely satisfying story with a popping good ending,” Warren said.

Other advice: 
Follow the directions exactly for submissions to contests, anthologies and magazines. Don’t believe that if the editor likes the story enough, he or she will take the time to correct grammar, punctuation and format.  (As a former magazine editor, I cannot emphasize this one enough. Editors are stressed-out people with too much to do; make their jobs easier and they’ll love you.)

Markets: 
Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock magazines.
 Anthologies. 
E-zines.  Check out http://sandraseamans.blogspot.com for a list. 
Contests such as the one for Mystery Writers of America. 
More info:
 Warren’s blog at http://Writerswhokill.blogspot.com.

I love your soap bubble. It reminded me of one of my favourite Shel Silverstein poems, Snowball. Thank you, Warren.

Warren Bull is a multiple award-winning author who has been nominated for a 2012 Derringer award.

He has more than forty short stories published, the novels, ABRAHAM LINCOLN FOR THE DEFENSE, HEARTLAND and MURDER IN THE MOONLIGHT available at http://www.warrenbull.com/kindle_editions.html and a short story collection, MURDER MANHATTAN STYLE available at http://www.warrenbull.com.

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If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with fantasy / SF author Terry Ervin – the five hundred and eighteenth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me. I also now have a new blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

Guest post: Self-publishing and Expectations by thriller author Ethan Jones

Tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of self-publishing, is brought to you by thriller author Ethan Jones. See below for free eBook offer!

Self-publishing and Expectations

As writers, we want everyone to not only read our books, but also love them. The reality is, of course, a bit less stellar and much more sobering. Not everyone will love your books. Not everyone will read your books. In fact, even your closest friends and relatives may not buy and read your books.

Arctic Wargame, my debut spy thriller, came out officially on May 22, although I uploaded it on Amazon.com a few days before that date, just to make sure everything worked fine. I promoted my work extensively on my Facebook personal page (which has almost 200 friends) and Facebook author page and my Twitter account. I e-mailed pretty much everyone on my e-mail contact lists. I put up posters at my workplace and announced it on the newsletter of the church I attend. The result: I can count the book sales from this blitzkrieg with the fingers of one hand.

What is happening here? Why aren’t these people who I consider friends and close acquaintances buying my book? They don’t love me? They don’t care? What, then?

You may have wondered about these things if your experience is similar to mine. The answer to these questions is complicated and lies as much in your expectations as in the reaction of your friends and relatives.

In terms of expectation, there is nothing wrong with aiming high and dreaming big. But self-published writers need to brace themselves for the most likely scenario of a slow start of their career. Gaining recognition and gathering a readership is generally a marathon, not a sprint. Even many traditionally published authors attest to many difficult starts. Allow yourself time and be prepared for a long journey. Nurse patience and develop a hard skin for negative criticism and rejection.

In terms of your friends and relatives, they are not really to blame. At least not en masse. They love you, of course, each in their own way. Some of them are forgetful, fully intending to check out your work, but then life got in their way. Others simply are non-confrontational and do not want to tell you they are simply not interested in the genre in which you write. After all, we have different tastes and what you spent a year or more writing, re-writing and revising may just not be their cup of tea. Then, you could even have the occasional acquaintance or “friend,” who considers your success as a threat or resents it for whatever reason and has has no intention of supporting your efforts.

The bottom line is that even if all your friends and acquaintances bought your book, that is still quite a limited number. The goal of each author is to sell to complete strangers, who pick up your book solely because they heard something good about it, and they want to enjoy a great story. Then, if they like it, they will want to tell their friends about your work.

During the first few days that Arctic Wargame and my two short stories were published I used to check my sales and ranking almost every hour. Now I checked it once a month, just to make sure there some activity is taking place. I promote my work vigorously and I advise you do the same. We can’t control who buys our books, but there is something we can all control: how much promotion and marketing efforts we put on our products. I know we are writers, but self-published authors have the additional task of becoming salespersons. We need to take our work to the public and hope and pray they will enjoy our stories.

And don’t forget to keep writing. Perhaps your second, third or twentieth book will become a best-seller.

I will! Thank you, Ethan. 🙂

Ethan Jones is a lawyer by trade and lives in Canada with his wife and his son.

The author of Arctic Wargame, a spy thriller available on Amazon as an e-book and paperback, he has also published two short stories: Carved in Memory, a prequel to Arctic Wargame, and The Last Confession, both available on Amazon as e-books.

His second spy thriller, Tripoli’s Target, was released in fall 2012.

His debut spy fiction novel, Arctic Wargame, and two short stories, Carved in Memory and The Last Confession, are also available on Amazon.

His blog is http://ethanjones.blog.com.

** NEWSFLASH ** Arctic Wargame is available FREE on Amazon from 9th to 11th October only!

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If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with children’s / YA author Ashley Howland – the five hundred and sixteenth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me. I also now have a new blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

Guest post: Two Word Story Starters by Roxanne Porter

Tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of inspiration, is brought to you by Roxanne Porter.

Two Word Story Starters

Oftentimes, getting started is the hardest part. You know where you want your story to go. You even have a good grasp of who your characters are. Or maybe you don’t. Maybe you just want to start writing and see where the muse takes you. Whatever style of writing you chose, whether planned ahead or just stream of consciousness, you need a start. Some place to begin.

With that in mind, I suggest the following: two word sentences. Just subject and verb and that’s it. Often the simplest starts are the best. Think “Call me Ishmael.” So, for your writing pleasure, here are five prompts to get you started.

Prompts:

1. He shuddered.

2. She froze.

3. They cringed.

4. We laughed.

5. It fell.

Example:

It fell. I watched it fall, frozen. I knew if, when, it hit the ground it would shatter into a million pieces. I knew the sound it would make, the knife-like crash that pierces your eardrums and signals that something has gone horribly wrong. And yet I couldn’t get myself to move; the tall, delicate goblet spinning through the air in slow motion as the marble floor rose up to meet it.

CRASH

Too late, I realized my mistake. That was the third glass I’d knocked over this week. She was waiting.

SWAT

The slap stung and I spun around with a hiss of pain and outrage.

“I can’t keep anything nice around here because of you!” she shrieked, making me wrinkle my nose in distaste. I couldn’t stand her voice.

“It’s not her fault, dear,” he said, picking me up, “She doesn’t know any better. She just likes shiny things.”

I rubbed my cheek against his. I liked him. He always smelled of the outdoors; of grass and trees and nice things. She stank like weeds.

The woman continued to talk but I ignored her, watching as she swept up the shiny shards I’d made. She looked up and glared at me.

I met her eyes, safe in his arms. Then I carelessly lifted a paw and licked it, completely ignoring her.

Maybe now she’d learned who ruled this home.

Thank you, Roxanne!

Roxanne Porter is a freelancer and regular contributor for http://www.nannyjobs.org.  She helps in providing knowledge about nanny services, and jobs to the community, and loves writing on nanny-related articles. You can be in touch with her at r.poter08@gmail.com.

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If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with food writer and private chef Isabel Hood – the five hundred and fourteenth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me. I also now have a new blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

Guest post: Debunking the writer’s block myth by Marlene Caroselli

Tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of writer’s block is brought to you by non-fiction author Marlene Caroselli.

Debunking the writer’s block myth

If you are alive, you are thinking. And, if you are thinking, you can record your thoughts. What if you have no thoughts about the book you wish to write? Rubbish–it’s all in your head–quite literally. There are several options available to you for getting those thoughts out of your head and onto paper or a computer screen. First, though, you need to let time be your guide.

Fiction

Begin collecting ideas, articles, web sites, et cetera that you’d like to explore in that book of yours. When your folder has at least 50 resources or references, begin to organize them. Use the stratification technique: Simply create six or more columns–Character, Location, Dialog, Plots, Scenes, Timeline, for example. Then start adding details to each of the categories. Each time you come across or think about something you’d like to include in your book, jot down your idea. Don’t worry about spelling or editing problems until the book is done. You can save the title until the end as well. For many authors, the title evolves as the book is being completed. Other authors, though, like to have the title before they start. It doesn’t really matter; the choice is yours.

Once you have a bulky set of details in each category, begin writing. Commit to two pages a day. Your book can be done in six months, sooner if you write quickly. Form a network of friends who will encourage you to keep on your writing schedule. Remind yourself each morning, “If I get nothing else done today, I will complete my two pages.” Some authors, when temporarily groping for words, just write anything that is in their mind until their brain stops meandering and gets back on the writing track. It’s an excellent method of pulling thoughts out of a brain that is headed toward hedonism, if only temporarily.

Non-fiction

Be sure there no other books out there that parallel your planned manuscript. Publishers have enough rejection-reasons already–don’t make a duplicated idea one of them. Do your research and if you find you do have a unique idea, begin your book by using the stratification method again. This time, though, divide the main topic into 10-20 subtopics. Then go back and add points to each of the topics (which will become the book’s chapters). To illustrate, if your overall theme is career advancement, you could have these divisions:

SECTION 1: GETTING THE JOB

Updating your resume, Finding a job, Going on an interview

SECTION 2:  DOING WELL ON THE JOB

Handling office politics, Getting a raise, Working on a team, Making a contribution

SECTION 3:  GETTING A PROMOTION

Gaining visibility, Having a mentor or sponsor, Engaging in benchmarking

SECTION 4:  THE MANAGERIAL RESPONSIBILITIEs

Leading, Communicating, Maintaining good morale, Increasing productivity.

Presidential speechwriter Robert Orben once remarked that he gets up every day and searches the Forbes list of the richest people in America. If he doesn’t find his name on it, he goes to work. Whether you have a full-time job and do writing on the side, or whether you have made writing your full-time job, you have the same obligation Orben does. You have to go to work if you want to complete that book. Claiming writers’ block as a way to postpone that obligation means the work, and the book, will never get done. You are better than that–you’re a writer, not an excuse-maker.

Thank you, Marlene!

Dr. Marlene Caroselli (www.saatchionline.com/LainaCelano), is an author, keynoter, and corporate trainer.

She has published over 60 books, including Jesus, Jonas, and Janus: The Leadership Triumvirate, and Principled Persuasion, named a Director’s Choice by Doubleday Book Club.

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If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with multi-genre author Michael J Bowler – the four hundred and ninety-ninth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me. I also now have a new blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

Guest post: 5 Free Ways to Market Your Cozy Mystery + 1 by Kathryn Elizabeth Jones

Tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of marketing, is brought to you by Christian and cozy mystery author and interviewee Kathryn Jones.

5 Free Ways to Market Your Cozy Mystery + 1

Cozy mysteries are a mysterious breed. They include a murder, of course, but a sort of prettied up version of the slash murder and guts variety. The murder, with all of its gory details, is not what’s important here but the drawing out of a superb investigation, by an amateur cop no less.

The interesting thing about a cozy, other than the unique writing of it, is the marketing that follows, for not all book reviewers read mysteries, and cozy’s are not for all readers.

But for those who review them and those who read them, marketing your cozy mystery in just the right way will create the interest in your book that you need and want.

According to a recent Verso survey, it was estimated that 49.2% of readers discovered books through personal recommendations, and this beat out bookstore staff recommendations, advertising, search engine results, books reviews, library visits—even blogs. What this tells me is that you have to talk about your book enough that others read it and recommend it to their friends and relatives.

  1. One of my favorite free ways to market my books is to open my mouth. That means when I’m at a restaurant, when I’m standing in line at the post office (sending yet another book off to a reviewer) when I’m at the supermarket, I speak. No, I’m not obnoxious, I just begin a conversation. A good start off point: Have you ever read a cozy mystery? If the answer is yes, you’re off to a good start. You can talk about your book. If the answer is no, you’re still off to a good start. You can share what a cozy is, and if the person still retains interest you can tell him/her about your book.
  2. Focus on mystery reviewers, even cozy mystery reviewers when seeking for reviews of your book. You want a reviewer that has reads cozies before, or at the very least a mystery. Sure, other reviewers can give excellent reviews of your book, but the cozy mystery reviewer can tap into the elements that he/she knows makes a great cozy. Try:
    1. http://www.stepbystepselfpublishing.net/reviewer-list.html
    2. http://karinafabian.com/index.php?name=content&pid=28
    3. http://www.theindieview.com/indie-reviewers/
  3. Get creative at your book signings. There’s nothing worse than going to a book signing with a bored looking author sitting behind an equally boring table. Take a look at your book. My cozy mystery, Scrambled, has scrambled eggs on the cover. So I took an old plate and wrote with permanent marker around the edge of the plate the first line of my book. (If I bake the plate in my oven for 30 minutes at 150 degrees, the writing will never fade and the plate can be eaten off of). I am also giving away free scrambled egg recipes. Yellow paper, of course.
  4. Blogs written with a cozy mystery slant. October is coming up, and with that, all that makes Halloween great. If your book is coming out near October, why not create some blogs of a more spooky nature? Are you also a short story writer? At this site alone, there are numerous ways to get the word out about your book: submit your short story to Morgen Bailey, have it critiqued, and she’ll include links to your website and books. Bailey also offers options to submit flash fictionbook listing, poetry, a spotlight, a guest blog or all of the above options if you choose.
  5. Get some interviews under your belt. These interviews could be with a mystery blog site or with a radio blog owner. Mystery blog sites are many, and radio blogs are increasing in number. Check out The Authors Show at: http://theauthorshow.com.
  6. Try some free video. I have recently discovered a fun site called animoto.com. At the site you choose music, pictures, video and text that fit into a 30 second video. The video is easy to produce and you can share it later with your social media friends. This is a great, fun way to promote your cozy for free.

Keep in mind that the above options for marketing your next cozy are free, but in your searching, paid options will become available. Decide beforehand if you’re going to pay a reviewer or a radio blog personality, or even a video site to help you market your book.

In the end, your cozy will stand out from the crowd the more creative effort you put into promoting your work, while still remaining within your budget.

That was great (especially number five, although I could be biased). Recent interviewee Patricia Rockwell publishes cozy mysteries. 🙂 Thank you, Kathryn!

Kathryn has been a published writer since 1987. She has published various newspaper stories, magazine articles, essays and short stories for teens and adults.

She is the author of A River of Stones, a young adult fiction novel dealing with divorce published in 2002, and Conquering your Goliaths—A Parable of the Five Stones, a Christian novel published in January of 2012.

One of her newest creations, a Conquering your Goliaths—Guidebook, was published in February 2012, followed by Scrambled in September 2012, is her first cozy mystery.

Kathryn graduated from the University of Utah with a B.S. in Mass Communication and a minor in Creative Writing. Her studies included work in creative writing, public relations and journalism. Recently, she has opened the doors to Idea Creations Press, a publishing services company that caters to writers and their writing, publishing and marketing needs.

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If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with YA novelist Saskia E. Akyil – the four hundred and ninetieth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at Smashwords, Sony Reader Store, Barnes & Noble, iTunes Bookstore, Kobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum and you can follow me on Twitter, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

Guest post: Finding Your Footing on the Mountain of Success by C. S. Lakin

Tonight’s guest blog post is brought to you by multi-genre author C.S. Lakin.

Finding Your Footing on the Mountain of “Success”

There’s a moment for many writers when a tectonic shift occurs in their writing process, one that may not even be all that noticeable on the surface, but sends out powerful waves across the landscape of their writing life. I’ve seen this happen with dozens of my editing clients as they near either the completion of writing their book or upon finalizing a rewrite and seeing “the end” near in sight for that particular project. This shift manifests in various ways, but the early signs start with questions about “what to do, now that I’m done”.

An Incursion of Unwanted Emotion

Most writers write in the hopes that they will sell their book, connect with a readership, and make money from the sales. Their priorities may not be in that order, but it’s usually the goal when writing a novel or nonfiction manuscript that it get “out in the world” of readers. And that’s expected and reasonable. So, here’s what tends to happen—especially with an author completing her first book. The engulfing joy of writing and expressing creativity and voicing ideas now becomes infiltrated with a subtle, growing anxiety. Soon to join that is a cocktail mix of emotions: trepidation, fear, self-doubt, worry, despair, frustration. Whether these come flooding into the writer’s mind and heart full force or just niggle at the back of her mind—they come.

Now that the intensity of the writing journey is over for the moment and the writer has breathing room, and can step back and look at her accomplishments, often any feelings of significance, achievement, or success are squelched before they can nurture the artist in the way they should. We should be able to step back when done creating a work of art—be it a novel, a song, or a painting—and spend some time in that special place of accomplishment. But this rarely occurs for the writer.

Feel the Earth Move under Your Feet

How much of this is self-imposed and how much is society-imposed is not something I can answer. However, I do believe we as artists need to be aware of this shift and understand that we can actively change how we respond. Why should we? Because if we think back to why we create in the first place, we will usually agree that we do so because of the fulfilling and satisfying experience expressing creativity gives us. There is no deeper joy to an artist than to create, to immerse herself in the creative experience, and then to step back and look at what has been created. That stepping back moment is a precious one, and unfortunately it often gets trampled on by the anxiety of “what comes next.”

I believe if we pay attention to this shift and “feel the earth moving” underneath us, drawing us away from the joy of writing and into the morass of anxiety over whether or not our book will be published, we can steady ourselves and roll with the earth (I live near San Francisco, so the earthquake motif is a natural one for me to default to—pun intended).

Beating Themselves Up over Perceived Failure

Think about this: Some people aspire to reach the top of Mt. Everest. They may spend years of their life training, saving money, and obsessing over this goal to stand at the top of the world. I’ve watched (a bit obsessed myself) from the comfort of my couch these intrepid folks risking their lives to reach this pinnacle. Much of their success will depend upon their skill and training. But there’s no accounting for a freak storm that might come along and take them down. Just read Jon Krakauer’s book Into Thin Air if you want to see how bad luck can cancel out all the odds in your favor of succeeding. I am intrigued by these climbers who, upon having to quit for one serious reason or another just short of reaching their coveted goal, fall into deep depression, and their evident sense of total failure and worthlessness is plain for all to see. How can these people put so much of their heart and joy into the need to get to the top? Can’t they be satisfied with having made it to 27,000 feet instead of 29,000? They have still climbed higher than almost all the humans who have ever lived on earth—isn’t that good enough? But it’s not. They torture themselves over their failure, which to them is absolute and unforgivable.

Many writers do the equivalent in regard to their writing. If they don’t sell millions, make some best-seller list, become a household name like Stephen King, they are miserable. In fact, it’s worse than that. For some, if they can’t get a book contract, or earn more than their advance, they feel the same way. What used to be a joyous experience (writing) has now become a burden and a source of great pain. I see it all around me—even in writers I would define as quite successful by the world’s standards. But, to them, that success is just not good enough, and they feel that “failure” means they are a failure. In effect, they have lost their way through the bucolic land of creativity and are wandering in despair in the gloomy marshes of self-doubt and the need for success.

Step Back and Admire the View

I would be lying if I said I haven’t wandered off the path into said marsh more than once. I think all artists do from time to time. However, if this process of surfacing from the joy of being creative into the marsh of despair and anxiety over a lack of “success” is repeated many times over, year after year, it can destroy our spirit. There are numbers of climbers who never quite made it to the top of Everest. Years later they still feel like failures in life. You’d think with the kind of panoramic perspective they’re used to having at the top of a mountain they could don a healthy perspective about their life and their significance. For that’s what it’s really all about—learning how to find significance in the journey of creativity without it being dependent on the tangible societal measures of success.

My advice, then, as a writer who’s been on this journey to publication and success for twenty-five years, is to step back and get a perspective on how obsessed you might be with “success” and instead find significance in what you create. Remind yourself that the joy of the process is valid and vindicating in its own right. The more you can shift your perspective, the less the ground will shift under you.

Thank you, C.S.!

C. S. Lakin is the author of twelve novels, including the seven-book fantasy series “The Gates of Heaven.” She also writes contemporary psychological mysteries, including her Zondervan contest winner Someone to Blame. She works as a professional copyeditor and writing coach and loves to teach the craft of writing. Her websites are dedicated to critiquing fiction and building community to help survive and thrive in your writing life: www.LiveWriteThrive.com and www.CritiqueMyManuscript.com. Come join in! You can read more about her and her books at www.cslakin.com. Follow @cslakin and @livewritethrive. Facebook: C. S. Lakin, Author, Editor.

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If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with humorous novelist and memoirist Jade Heasley – the four hundred and eighty-third of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me. I also now have a new blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

5a.m. Flash 060812 – The New Writer

Every now and then at 5a.m. (probably posted by my clone) I will be bringing you a newsflash, update on what I’m doing, invited guest piece, or whatever takes my fancy, and today is about The New Writer magazine and their subscriber newsletter. They provide so much information in the newsletter that replicating their latest edition (which I had permission from the lovely Merric to do so) would have run to 12 Microsoft Word pages, hardly a ‘flash’, so I’ve done a bit of a synopsis here…

  • The newsletter starts off with news and views around the internet and from useful sites to events around the UK.
  • It’s then packed with competition information (some of which I hadn’t got already so have added, accredited of course, to my blog’s competitions page), submission opportunities and much more.

The New Writer is an incredibly active magazine beyond the page and their own opportunities include…

  • TNW’S editor Suzanne Ruthven is also Commissioning Editor for Compass Books at John Hunt Publishing. Compass Books for new writers focuses on practical and informative ‘how-to’ books. Written by experienced authors who also have extensive experience of tutoring at the most popular creative writing workshops, the books offer an insight into the more specialised niches of the publishing game.  All submissions for Compass Books should come initially in the form of a biography, synopsis and full chapter breakdown to suzanneruthven333@gmail.com. Writers’ guidelines can be found at http://www.compass-books.net/submissions.html&i=11. Compass Books is also on Facebook.
  • The New Writer Magazine Online Writing Course: Plotting & Coursing The Novel. This is an ideal course for those who have just started a novel, and for those who have got ‘bogged down’ with an existing one. Discover how to kick-start the narrative with Suzanne Ruthven, editor of The New Writer who has tutored this course at Horncastle College (Lincs) and the University of Wales’ Writers’ Summer School.  Participants should have completed at least the first 2-3 chapters, and be able to submit a full synopsis of the novel at the time of registration. The course includes: Lesson One Who’s going to read my novel?, Lesson Two: Plot and Theme, Lesson Three: Characterisation, Lesson Four: Pace and narrative style, Lesson Five: Bones and Padding, Lesson Six: Publishers and Agents. The fee is £20 per lesson paid in advance via PayPal. This ensures that the writer pays only for the tuition received and can withdraw from the course at any time. For more information send an email to suzanneruthven333@gmail.com marked Subject: online writing course.
  • The New Writer’s website (http://www.thenewwriter.com) explains, “It’s different and it’s aimed at all writers: the short story writer, the novelist, the poet, feature writer, anyone with a serious intent to develop their writing to meet the expectations of today’s editors. Launched in September 1996, in every issue you’ll find original short stories, a showcase for new poetry, articles, book reviews, market information, news and readers’ views.”
  • Apart from being incredibly supportive of writers on the page, and via email, The New Writer can also be found on Facebook (where you can ‘like’ them… and I’m sure they’d love it if you wrote something on their wall) and Twitter (where you can follow them and again I’m sure interaction would be appreciated).
  • Subscriptions (see http://www.thenewwriter.com/subscribe.htm) are just £27 for 18 months’ worth of magazines or £49 for three years. I’ve been a subscriber for at least double that and it feels like it has ‘grown’ as I have. 🙂
  • They welcome (from subscribers) articles, features, shorts (including a 300-word max micro fiction… regular readers of this blog will know how much I love my flash fiction and I keep meaning to submit!), news items, poetry and even a ‘Writer’s Rant’ – see their guidelines page for more details.
  • Speaking of shorts… The New Writer recommends Catherine Smith’s The Biting Point from Speechbubble Books.
  • TNW Index: You can now check on the contents of the first 100+ issues of The New Writer.  The new improved index is now available as an attachment, simply email admin@thenewwriter.com and type Index in subject.  The TNW index will give you details of every feature, fiction and poem that has appeared in the magazine since the first issue in 1996 in alphabetical order by author.  In addition, TNW back issues are available (not many left of the first dozen or so – but there are some) at £1.50 each (to subscribers only) plus p+p (see the magazine).  So if you see something you fancy it couldn’t be easier to read it. If you live in the UK and request the Index and do decide to order some back issues, please send a cheque payable to The New Writer if it comes to £5 or more, otherwise please send postage stamps to The New Writer, PO Box 60, Cranbrook, TN17 2ZR.  If you live overseas please email (admin@thenewwriter.com) for a quote.
  • They also have a Writer’s Library with a great selection of books.
  • Almost finally, classified ads printed in The New Writer magazine are charged at the following rates for all ads up to 50 words:  £10 as a one-off;  £15 in two consecutive issues;  £20 in three consecutive issues.  Further placings, longer ads and small display ads by negotiation. Again an email will do the trick.
  • Oh and they even kindly mentioned me (which I hadn’t spotted until I started compiling this ‘flash’)… 🙂 “Amazing list of 440+ interviews with writers, poets, agents, publishers etc by Morgen Bailey can be found here: https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/blog-interviews” which just goes to show how supportive they are of writers… ‘new’ or otherwise. 🙂

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You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me.  I also now have a new blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

Guest post: What makes a Compelling Character? by Paul Lell

Tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of characters, is brought to you by science-fiction / fantasy author Paul Lell.

What makes a Compelling Character?

We’ve all read piles of information on how to make a believable character, right? Make them guy/girl next door. Give them foibles. Make sure they have flaws and strengths in equal measure, etc. There are dozens of schools of thought on the subject and no one method is right or wrong for everyone, or in every situation. But thinking about it the other day, and chatting with some friends about what sorts of things folks would be interested in hearing a writer talk about, the subject of making them compelling was raised.

You see, making them believable is only half of the battle. Most people don’t want to read a book about the average person next door unless there is something extraordinary about them, or their lives. And more often than not, having something extraordinary going on in your life, will bring out some extraordinary characteristic in yourself, just to cope with what life has thrown at you. Well, either that, or you get run over by whatever situation has arisen… But again, who wants to read about how Bill woke up one morning to find his kitchen counter levitating two feet above the floor, then was crushed to death by it when whatever magic caused it to behave so strangely suddenly gave out?

No, we want to hear about how Bill figured out what was causing such strange behavior in his kitchen furnishings, and harnessed it somehow. How he was changed by it. Maybe he has no idea and metaphysics (or just advanced physics, depending upon how we choose to explain the levitating counter) are not his bag. Then maybe some other person or agency who has a much keener interest in those disciplines shows up to take over the situation and Bill is suddenly forces to deal with being suspected of complicity with whatever force has latched onto his kitchen counter. How does he do that? What reserves, known to him or not, does Bill tap into in order to deal with this craziness?

In my first book, ‘The First Key of Kalijor’, there is a scene where the main characters engage in a high speed chase through a heavily populated archology on Mars. On the back of an ancient two-wheeled motorized vehicle, they weave through heavy pedestrian traffic while dodging (or not) their enemy’s gunfire and trying to escape with as little personal and collateral damage as possible. But why? Why didn’t they just call the authorities? Why not have professionals take care of the situation and go home to relax in front of the vid screen and catch a movie?

I submit to you that there is that one little nugget of crazy that a compelling character has to keep in the back of their otherwise every-person personality. There needs to be that ever so slight (or maybe much more significant, depending upon what your goals as a story teller are) unbalance to a good character that compels them to take up the yoke and forge ahead into the craziness that their lives are about to become with the beginning of any good story. Without that, they’d just call the cops and watch through the window as the trained professionals came around to sweep up the mess outside their front door.

Or, in the case of our friend Bill, he’d just disappear one day, kitchen counter and all, and nobody would ever hear the story of how his kitchen came down with a bad anti-graviton infection and Bill used it to learn how to dominate the niche market of roadside human tire-jack service…

“one little nugget of crazy” I loved that. Thank you, Paul!

Paul Lell is a Science Fiction writer and publisher, best known for his series, ‘The Keys of Kalijor’ which can be found on all major eReaders and at all major online booksellers. You can read more about Paul Lell, his books, and his crazy life, at www.Kalijor.com.

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If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with murder mystery and children’s author Deborah Nicholson – the four hundred and fifty-third of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me.  I also now have a new blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

5a.m. Flash 040812 – 10 tips for new writers

Every now and then at 5a.m. (probably posted by my clone) I will be bringing you a newsflash, update on what I’m doing, invited guest piece, or whatever takes my fancy, and today brings you a ‘woo hoo’…

Prolific blogger and Twitterer Tony Riches has posted one of my articles on his blog, namely ’10 tips for new writers’. It covers ‘show don’t tell’, dialogue, adverbs and a bunch of ‘do’s and ‘don’t’s. 🙂

To see the full article go to: http://tonyriches.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/guest-post-morgen-baileys-10-tips-for.html.

Thank you, Tony. 🙂

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You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me.  I also now have a new blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

5a.m. Flash 030812 – Poetry tips by Cathriona Lafferty

Every now and then at 5a.m. (probably posted by my clone) I will be bringing you a newsflash, update on what I’m doing, invited guest pieces, or whatever takes my fancy, and today’s is on the topic of poetry…

I’m a relatively active member of LinkedIn and get their weekly updates and on yesterday’s Aspiring Writers Promotions summary was a new link by Cathriona, mentioning her Haiku poetry tips. I write very little poetry but have written some Haiku in the past and enjoyed it… to me it’s like flash fiction – trying to boil down what you want to say to its very essence – my shortest 5pm Fiction flash fiction to-date is a 44-worder called Stuffed. Given that Haiku is generally 17 syllables long, I’m about 300% over target. 🙂

For more see: http://poeticthoughtsbycathriona-poetry.blogspot.com.es/2012/07/creating-images-with-haiku.html.

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You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me.  I also now have a new blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.