Life and loving in remote Vietnam

Hi everyone. Welcome back to the blog. Dusting things off around here I see it’s been a while since my last post. I’m going to fix that with regular (I hope) Wednesday guest posts. First up we have author Adam Mann talking about writing romance.

Here’s Adam:

Hi, my name’s Adam Mann and I live and write in a mountainous area in the north of Viet Nam.

Why Viet Nam, I hear you ask?

I came to work here in 1997, and I’ve been here ever since apart from some short inputs in Cambodia and Malaysia. Before that I had worked in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa for more years than I care to record. My work was always with low income families in villages in remote areas, and basically I had to try to develop some sort of sustainability within their livelihoods, so that they didn’t always have to live from hand to mouth.

I retired four years ago and started to write romance novels.

Why romance novels, you frowned at me.

Well I’ve always enjoyed my family life, in spite of dislocations and difficulties. As you can imagine working in remote areas, with limited electric power, and very limited communications is not for everybody, especially wives and families. The result was I’ve been married four times – the first ended with three children and unfortunately I became a widow; the next produced another child but the remoteness ended that in a divorce. The third was quite humorous; I met a devastatingly beautiful lady from the Gujarat. We found we liked one another, and that like became love and marriage until one day her first husband turned up! Really not joking! She told me that she thought she was divorced, but her family explained to me that a divorce from an arranged marriage is very complicated, and that marriage had to be dissolved.

In Viet Nam I tried to learn the language! I employed a young lady as a teacher, and she complained to me that I never had a social life outside my work. She started to introduce me to her friends, and I’m a sucker for drop dead gorgeous, especially dark haired beautiful widows, so she brought with her three teenage children, and now between us we have seven adult children, and four grandchildren.

Now you ask again why romance novels? After four wives, not to mention the ladies in between that I can’t mention, I think that I do know a thing or two about love, passion and marriage, in detail.

Most of the time I dream up stories whilst I am supposed to be sleeping, and I get up and write down the outline of the plot often in the middle of the night. When I start writing in the morning the actual details may change a bit, and sometimes that is decided by my characters in the story! I have to keep a careful track of my characters’ names, and I try not to duplicate them.

Now my books, I know you’ve been dying to ask me.

I only write Happy Ever After endings, but of course with some complications and problems in the story, but I find that I couldn’t write sloppy sex; it just wasn’t real – it takes more than a kiss to cement a relationship.

What I don’t like is four letter words, and my reason for that is a bit strange, but many of those four letter words actually mean something quite different in another language, and I know because I’ve worked there. I’m not a prude, and I do use these words when I get attacked by a rose bush or a bee, or I drop something heavy on my toe!

Please have a look at my website: and you can also find me on Twitter @adammannauthor and on Facebook at

The Showers by Adam Mann
Published by Global Publications Group LLC.


The Showers Front CoverBill Harrison meets Helen Roberts, a lovely farmer’s ex-wife at a farmhouse in the West Yorkshire Dales, as he guides a group of guests on a pony trekking holiday.

Helen decides to take the lead and actually joins James in the shower! He soon finds himself helping out on more than a holiday romance, but also some of the guests looking for ancestors in a local church registry; a young student couple running into their own romantic problems; and Amanda, her teenage daughter, who wants to learn to drive.

In the midst of all this the wife’s belligerent former husband, Harry, turns up who had abandoned her and her unborn child nearly twenty years earlier. Harry Townsend is being pursued by the local constabulary on a murder enquiry, and might have been looking for a place to hide out, and reluctantly accepts a small cash handout from Bill.

Then Helen finds that some elements of local society have a memory longer than the twenty years since she divorced her first husband for desertion, and the most spiteful can still remember his name.

The police catch Harry; they overcome local spite and gossip, and Bill and Helen live happily ever after.

This book is sexually explicit and is designed for adults and the over 18’s.

Adam Mann’s Bio:

Adam 200Adam Mann has written twenty-four romance books all based in parts of the world where he has lived and worked. As a result five are in sub-Saharan Africa, eleven are in South or East Asia, and only seven based in the UK. One based in war torn Eastern Sri Lanka is still in draft form.

Adam has been married four times. His first wife died, the second divorced him, the third marriage was annulled as that wife had forgotten to get divorced, and the fourth wife is fit and well. They have between them seven children and four grandchildren. As a result Adam thinks he knows a bit about life and loving.

Adam has lived and worked in Vietnam since 1997, where he lives in a provincial city with his wife, and has a constant stream of visitors from the families of their seven adult children.

Cindy here again.

Thanks for stopping by. Be sure to check in every Wednesday to see what talented author we have talking about writing.

Keep writing

Writing goals for the New Year

I should have posted this January 1 but things happen (I’m a procrastinator). But better late than never, right? A new year usually means resolutions for a lot of people. I don’t like the word resolutions. I could never stick to them. I call them goals. I’ll be focusing on writing goals here but if you want to see all my goals (and why I didn’t blog at all last year) check out my blog post on my personal site.

Indie publishing has given writers new opportunities. A chance to write the stories we want and reach readers hungry for new ideas. With that in mind I started self publishing in 2013. Just a few short stories, but I want to release books as well this year. I have high (but realistic) hopes for my writing career. For it to have any chance of taking off though I need to write. A lot.

This year’s writing goals include writing 600,000 words, editing six novels (at least), blog regularly, grow the group. Part of the writing goals also include reading at least 25 books this year. I try every year to read more and every year I fail. This year I’m hoping that will be different.
Tools to help me

The first tool I’ll be using to help me is a spreadsheet that lists my yearly word count targets. I’m posting a picture of it here to keep me honest.


To keep track of my word counts I went to a post by Sidney Bristol. She has a great word count tracker on her blog that is great for seeing how my progress is going for various projects. Check out her post here:

I’m also creating a business plan this year. To help me with coming up with the plan, what to include, what I should think about, I found these guest posts by Denise Grover Swank to be very helpful:

What are your writing goals for the year?

Happy writing!


Part 4: Unleashing Your Muse – Free Writing Act III

Happy Thanksgiving! On this holiday Monday we have Cyndi Faria finishing up her series on Unleashing Your Muse.

Here’s Cyndi!

Cindy, thank you for having me guest post on GWN. Today, I’m wrapping up my 4 part series on Unleashing Your Muse by Free-Writing Act I, Act IIA, Act IIB, and Act III. To review the prior blog posts, click on the highlighted Acts.

Act III is my favorite 25% of the novel. It’s where all the action takes place, the plants are revealed, the loose ends are tied up, the villain is defeated, and the H/h prove they’ve changed and attain their happily ever after. Below is the information you’ll want to include in your free write:

Plot and Characterization Combined:

  1. The challenge;
  2. Acceptance of the challenge;
  3. Allies from Act 1 show up and join forces with allies from Act II to help defeat the minor villains;
  4. Minor villains are defeated or killed off or punished;
  5. May, briefly, interact with main villain;
  6. Gifted tools/information for journey;
  7. Lose ends from the plot are resolved;
  8. Romantically, the H/h come together;
  9. Character transformation is shown (Example: change of clothes);
  10. Character transformation is proved by facing greatest fear;
  11. Final battle against the villain;
  12. Hero uses his tool/talent to defeat the villain;
  13. The hero is shown transformed (show new behavior);
  14. H/h is recognized as a true hero;
  15. Hero gets the girl (heroine gets the guy);
  16. H/h  get their HEA/goal; and
  17. Final Image Opposite of Opening Image.


Using the movie The Village by M. Night Shyamalan, I’ve free written the bullet point items into a paragraph format (note: the numbers preceding each sentence correspond to the numbers above):

At the end of Act IIB, the heroine Ivy Walker is devastated when her fiancé Lucius is struck down by the villain (Noah). (1) Unless Lucius receives “medicines” from the far away towns, he’ll die. And, because of the village rules, the only person who is allowed to save Lucius is Ivy. (2) She volunteers to seek “medicines” that will save Lucius’s life, but the towns are only reachable by traveling through the forbidden forest. (3) With the help of her father, she details her intentions to the Elders, (4) who after consideration grant her permission to “preserve innocence of the village inhabitants”. (5) Before she leaves, she faces Noah and slaps him, further angering Noah by rejecting him fully. (6) Her father presents her with the tools (gold watch and medication list) she’ll need to save Lucius. Her father shares an Elder secret: the monsters in the forest are, mostly, “farce” and a ploy to keep the people from leaving the safety of the village. (7) Loose ends are tied up, when it’s discovered Noah has found a hidden monster costume and is the one who’s been terrorizing the village. (8) Romantically, Ivy goes to an unconscious Lucius and promises him she’ll save him. (9) Transformed, she wears a yellow gown. (10) All her life she’s dreamed of becoming one of the boys who prove their courage by turning their back to the forbidden forest. Lucius holds the record. Ivy enters the terrifying forest with two boys that are too scared to venture further. They leave her to face her quest alone. In the forest, she lets go of the belief that her gender and handicap (she’s blind) are what keeps her from facing her fear of being useless. After all, she’s proved braver than the boys. Her love for Lucius keeps her focused. (11) Then Noah, dressed as a monster, attacks Ivy. (12) Because of her blindness, Ivy uses her gift of spatial awareness to relocate a hole she fell into earlier. With her back to Noah—like the boys’ game—she stands in front of the hole. Noah rushes her, but she ducts just in time and Noah falls into the hole. He dies. (13) With renewed determination, she runs to the town. (14) Because of her transformation and compassionate nature, she’s aided by a patrolman who gets her what she needs. She returns to the community as a heroine. (15) The final scene shows Ivy and Lucius holding hands, his steady breath can be heard, and (16) someone says Lucius is going to live because of Ivy. (17) The final image, Ivy is no longer an incapable but has transformed to a knowledgeable Elder.

Now it’s your turn. Practice on movies. It’s fun.

Or unleash your muse and free-write Act III.

This can be a combination of sentences, thoughts, dialogue, or whatever pops into your mind. There are no rules.

I usually write 3-5 pages, single-spaced. Sometimes information that belongs in other acts creeps in. That’s okay—just start a new section titled Other Acts and when finished move the information to where it belongs.

Thank you for joining me and I hope to see you next month!

Happy Writing, Cyndi Faria

Visit Cyndi’s website:
Visit Cyndi’s Amazon Page: Amazon Author Page

About the Author:

“Cyndi Faria writes with passion and her stories touch the heart.”

—Virna DePaul, Bestselling Author

Author Photo B-WCyndi Faria is an engineer turned romance writer whose craving for structure is satisfied by plotting heart-warming paranormal romance stories about Native American folklore, cursed spirits, lost souls, harbingers, and even a haunted coastal town. If you love a tale with courageous heroes and heroines, where their unconditional love for each other gives them strength to defeat their inner demons, Cyndi Faria invites you to enter the pages of her stories.

On and off her sexy romance pages, this California country girl isn’t afraid to dirty her hands fighting for the underdog and caretaking rescued pets. Find her helping fellow writers and leading readers to happily-ever-after at

Cindy here again!

Thanks for being here, Cyndi! Great series of articles and lots to think about!



Welcome to the start of another week at the GWN blog! Today we have Jim Cort talking about the subjunctive mood.

Here’s Jim!

Verbs, in addition to number and tense, also have mood. Mood is the trickiest aspect of verbs.  The mood our verbs are in nearly all the time is the indicative mood.  They indicate; they make a statement; they tell the truth about something.

But it’s also possible to say something that is not true.  We can wish that things were other than they are.  We can suggest that things be changed. We can hope they would be. This is the business of the subjunctive mood.

The subjunctive is kind of a stealth construction.  Most of the time it looks like the indicative. The present form is the same as the regular unadorned form of the verb.  This means you’ll notice it only in the third person singular (he, she, it), which has no final –s.  You’ll also see it in the verb be, which has the form be instead of am, is, and are. The past subjunctive is the same as the past tense except once again for be, which uses were for all persons.

So, how does this work?  Here are some examples: If I were ten years younger…  We propose the mayor remain in office. It’s essential that the Army do its part. If this boulder weren’t here, we could pass by.

All of these sentences express thoughts contrary to reality.  They are wishes; they are proposals; they are conditions or possibilities. The use of the subjunctive “defuses” the statements.  They are not as definite as indicative statements.

You’ll find the subjunctive used after verbs like:

  • to advise
  • to ask
  • to command
  • to demand
  • to desire
  • to insist
  • to propose
  • to recommend
  • to request
  • to suggest
  • to urge

or after phrases like:

  • It is best (that)
  • It is crucial (that)
  • It is desirable (that)
  • It is essential (that)
  • It is imperative (that)
  • It is important (that)
  • It is recommended (that)
  • It is urgent (that)
  • It is vital (that)
  • It is a good idea (that)
  • It is a bad idea (that)

Having said all this, there’s one more thing I need to say. Just about nobody uses the subjunctive in English any more.  Most grammar experts agree that it’s little used and hardly missed. H. W. Fowler, the Great Guru of Grammar, called it “moribund” in 1926, and it hasn’t gotten any livelier since.

Most English speakers aren’t even aware there is such a thing as the subjunctive until they study languages like German or French or Spanish, where it plays a more active role.  Interestingly enough, expressions in the subjunctive are commonly used today:

  • Be that as it may
  • God bless you
  • Long live the king
  • So be it
  • If it please the court…

Most people think of these expressions as old fashioned, not subjunctive.  And so, of course, they are.

What does all of this mean to you?  Nowadays, subjunctive constructions have largely been replaced with “should” or “would” constructions: Instead of We propose the mayor remain in office,the trend is We propose the mayor should remain in office.  Sometimes no helping verb is used.  If you write If I was ten years younger…, the Grammar Police won’t come knocking on your door. Chances are no one will notice at all

Of course there are still grammar sourpusses who insist on If I were…  These folks are in the minority.  The language belongs to the people, and the people have decided that subjunctive is no longer useful.  Don’t be thrown if you see it someplace, but don’t be bullied into using it yourself if you don’t want to.

The moral of the story is: if you use the subjunctive according to the guidelines here, you won’t be wrong.  And if you choose not to use the subjunctive, you won’t be wrong.

It’s a win-win situation.  How often do you find one of those?

Cindy here again!

Thanks for being here, Jim.  Thanks for the great information!

Happy writing!



But Mr. IRS-Man, I’m not American… or How to Get an ITIN

Welcome to the GWN blog! Today we have author Joan Leacott talking about something important to non U.S. authors. The ITIN.

Here’s Joan!

What is an ITIN or TIN?

An International Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN or TIN) is an identification number used by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the administration of the US tax laws.

Why Should You Get an ITIN?

To avoid a 30% withholding tax on book sales made on through an American publisher (e.g. HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster) or distributor (e.g. Amazon, Smashwords). You will also need an ITIN to complete any W-8 BEN forms which may come your way.

When Should You Get an ITIN?

Preferably before you have any book sales. Then you won’t have to complete an American tax return, with accompanying ITIN application, to get a refund of the withheld amount. Life is so much simpler when the papers are in order.

Before We Begin, a Caveat

I am not a lawyer or an Acceptance Agent. These instructions are based on my personal experience and the procedures as I knew them in January 2013. Your experience may differ. Anything I say here is superseded by the information on the IRS website at

How Do You Get an ITIN?

The IRS revamped their process in January 2013. Three forms must be completed and sent to the IRS offices currently located in Texas.

  1. A completed W-7 Application Form accompanied by
  2. Documentation proving your identity, and
  3. A signed letter from the withholding agent (e.g. publisher or distributor), on official letterhead, showing that an ITIN is required to pay you.


You can use an Acceptance Agent, a person who’s had IRS training at a cost of $250 or so, but it’s not a requirement. If you follow instructions carefully, you shouldn’t need to.

1) Form W-7: Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number

You can get a pdf version of the form at and complete instructions at

It’s fairly straightforward if you follow the instructions, except for one detail, the Tax Treaty number. The spot where you type this is tucked away under item H in the Reason you are submitting for W-7 section. Here’s a snippet of my W-7 form showing the Tax Treaty number for Canada highlighted in yellow.



If you’re reading this article from a country other than Canada, you can find your Tax Treaty number in Table 3, starting on the second last page, here:

If you’d rather read a printed booklet, there’s a pdf available at

Don’t forget to date and sign the W-7 after you’ve printed it.

2) Proving Your Identity

A list of acceptable forms of identification is provided in the instructions linked above. The easiest one to use is a valid passport, which is what I did. If you don’t have a passport, the instructions state which other documents, used in combination, are acceptable.

You can submit your actual passport (not the best idea), have your passport certified at a US Consulate or Embassy (if you don’t mind standing in line), or submit a certified copy of your passport.

A certified copy is NOT the same as a notarized copy. Notarized copies are no longer accepted by the IRS.

To get a certified copy of a Canadian passport, you need to two forms:

a)      A letter requesting a certified copy of your passport

b)      A completed PPTC 516 Request for Certified True Copy of Canadian Travel Document

Both are available here:

Take, or mail, both forms to your nearest Passport Canada Office. You can either pick up the copy and the original or have both mailed back to you. You will have to leave your passport with them, but you’ll get a receipt for it.

For the Passport Canada Office nearest you, go to

If you’re reading this article from another country, please refer to your passport office procedures to get a certified copy. The Passport Canada staff will also let you know when the copy will be ready for pickup or delivery.

3) A signed letter from the withholding agent

The withholding agent is the publisher (Penguin, Harlequin) or distributor (Amazon) of your book.

If you’re working through a publisher, get the letter from them.

If you’re working through Amazon, go to You can get it with only a partially completed author account. Fill out the form with the current date and the name exactly as completed on the W-7 form, print it, and you’re ready to go.

Sending Your Completed Forms to the IRS

You should now have your three pieces of paper ready to go.

1)      A completed and signed W-7 form with the correct Tax Treaty number,

2)      A certified copy of your passport, and

3)      A dated letter addressed to you from your publisher or Amazon Digital Services.

Only US embassies in Beijing, Frankfurt, London, and Paris can process a W-7 on site. So fold the three papers into an envelope, affix sufficient postage (two regular stamps in Canada) and send it to:

Internal Revenue Service

ITIN Operation

Mail Stop 6090-AUSC

3651 S. Interregional, Hwy 35

Austin, TX 78741-0000


The IRS will return the certified copy of your passport under separate cover from the ITIN certificate.

It took three months almost to the day to get my ITIN certificate in the mail. It’s expected to take less time out of tax season (January 15 through April 30).

Using your ITIN

Once you get your ITIN certificate, you can record the information at your various author accounts.

The number has the format 123-45-6789. Some websites want the hyphens, others don’t. If you fail with one format, just try the other.

The Legal Entity Name is the full name as shown on the ITIN certificate.

One last warning. You will be expected to report earnings and pay income taxes in Canada, or wherever else you live. Honesty is always the best policy.

Author Bio: Joan Leacott writes authentic multi-generational stories of people living and loving in today’s world. She is currently working on the second book of the Clarence Bay Chronicles set in a small town on the eastern shores of Georgian Bay, Canada. Read more about Joan and her books at http://joanleacott/ca.

Copyright © 2013 Woven Red Productions. Feel free to distribute this article, but please do so in its entirety including author credit.

Cindy here again!

Thanks so much for being here, Joan! I need to go through this process right now so this is perfect timing.

Happy writing!


Unleashing Your Muse (Free-Writing Act 1)

Welcome back to the GWN blog! Today we have our monthly columnist Cyndi Faria talking about unleashing your muse. Cyndi will be a regular guest on the blog and will be appearing monthly on the first Monday of the month. We’ve got her twice this month though so don’t forget to come back August 26 when she’ll be posting part two of unleashing your muse.

Here’s Cyndi!

In my opinion, free-writing is the act of unleashing your muse after a short talking to. Sure, you might think, isn’t that plotting? Well, it’s kind of a cross between pantsing (writing-by-the-seat-of-your-pants) and plotting.

Today, I want to show you how to successfully use free-writing to craft Act 1 of a romance novel (Act II and III will follow in future posts).

Let’s begin by looking at what goes into Act 1:

Note: If you can’t wrap your mind around this information now, that’s okay. Just commit the bulleted items to memory and unleash your muse.

  • Opening Image: This image will be the opposite of the final image in the story. Example: If in the beginning the hero is a playboy, at the end he’s shown in a committed relationship—maybe proposing or even married.
  • Meet the hero(H)/heroine (h).
    • -> What does your H/h fear, as a result of backstory (show don’t tell)? Think: Indiana Jones and snakes.
    • -> If you are familiar with the Enneagram (if not, visit my website here.), list the H/h’s personality type’s strength and weaknesses, fear and desire, and what they must learn about themselves by the end of Act II in order to defeat the villain (Character Arc).
  • External Goal: What does H/h want in life? Must be able to take a picture of external goal?
  • Internal Goal: What do they really want? Example: To be loved, needed, etc.
  • What is happening to your H/h right before something serious triggers a primal response that entices/forces them to leave their ordinary world? (See my blog post: Tipping Point) (Example: Die Hard—A policeman must save his wife who’s been taken hostage by terrorists.)
  • Cute Meet: How does the H/h meet and what is it about that person or situation that links the H/h together in a permanent-for-now way? (Example: How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days—Advertising executives for competing agencies come together on a bet, he to get her to fall in love with him in 10 days and she to lose him in 10 days.)
  • What special skill or tool does the H/h possess? This will be important during the climax of the story when H/h uses his/her special skill to defeat the antagonist. (This Means War: The heroine played by Reese Witherspoon combines her knowledge as a Product Tester with hero Chris Pine’s weaponry skills to defeat the bad guy.)
  • Antagonist: May meet the antagonist and/or his associates at this time.
  • Secondary Characters: Introduce secondary characters that can rally during the climax and help the H/h defeat the antagonist’s associates.
  • Lastly, right before the H/h enters Act II—or accepts the challenge—there will be a debate section where he/she takes pause to consider the ramifications of leaving behind the old world. Firmly, he decides to step into Act II. In Blake Snyder’s book Save the Cat, he discusses the debate in depth saying, “…it’s important to remember that the debate section must ask a question of some kind.” In the case of Die Hard: Will the hero save his wife?

Once you know the answers to these questions, you’re ready to unleash your muse and free-write Act 1.

This can be a combination of sentences, thoughts, dialogue, or whatever pops into your mind. There are no rules.

I usually write 3-5 pages, single-spaced. Sometimes information that belongs in other acts creeps in. That’s okay—just start a new section titled Other Acts.

Next Unleashing Your Muse post, I’ll list what belongs in Act II and Act III.

Happy Writing, Cyndi Faria

Visit Cyndi’s Website:

Visit Cyndi’s Amazon page: Amazon Author Page

About the Author:
“Cyndi Faria writes with passion and her stories touch the heart.”

—Virna DePaul, Bestselling Author

Author Photo B-WCyndi Faria is an engineer turned romance writer whose craving for structure is satisfied by plotting emotional and cozy paranormal romance stories about Native American folklore, cursed spirits, lost souls, harbingers, and even a haunted coastal town. If you love a tale with courageous heroes and heroines, where their unconditional love for each other gives them strength to defeat their inner demons, Cyndi Faria invites you to enter the pages of her stories.

On and off her sexy romance pages, this California country girl isn’t afraid to dirty her hands fighting for the underdog and caretaking rescued pets. Find her helping fellow writers and leading readers to happily-ever-after at


Cindy here again!

Thanks for being here, Cyndi! Great post. I loved This Means War! I knew her work as a product tester would come into play at some point. 🙂


Just One More Time

We’ve got an important post here on the GWN blog. Author Terry Shames talks about a great way to edit your novels.

Here’s Terry!

The last time I went through my most recent manuscript, I reported to my editor that I had found 25 last, tiny errors. There was a moment of silence on the other end of the phone, and then, “You mean before you sent it to the copyeditor?” No, after.

“But…” He wanted to know how the copyeditor had missed 25 errors that included missing quotation marks, misspellings, missing words and one quotation mark at the end of a sentence that wasn’t a quote. I hadn’t meant to get the copyeditor in trouble. What I meant was to tell him about a technique I discovered for ferreting out those last, pesky errors.

An experienced writer with many novels under his belt once told me that when my first novel came out, I’d open it and the first page I looked at would contain an error. I couldn’t argue with him because too often these days within a few pages of beginning a novel I run across errors, usually small ones; but sometimes glaring, impossibly bumbling errors that make me want to have a stern talk with whomever was given the task of ridding the manuscript of those glitches.

That’s the problem, though. Even the biggest publishers, and the most meticulous small ones have systematically ditched their editing staffs out of economic necessity. Content editors barely have time to help an author shape the manuscript, and it’s up to a harried copy editor and/ or proofreader to file off the rough edges and make the final product look professional.

Pulling hair out

That’s why an author is well advised to turn in the most pristine copy she can manage. Easier said than done. By the time you’ve read your 300-page manuscript what seems like 100 times for action or dialogue that doesn’t make sense, timeline errors, name switches; and then gone through it to correct what seems like endless typos, dropped or added punctuation, to have one more go at that paragraph that has never rung true, one more attempt to tweak that imperfect description, you’re sick to death of it. You’ve even read it aloud, and hated the sound of your voice by the time you reach the last chapter.

The mere thought of having to read through it one more time makes you have fantasies of calling the whole publication thing off and running off to join the circus. At that point you are ready to clean out your bank account to pay any amount of money for a professional to hunt down those last errors rather than having to do it yourself.


That’s when you need to read it backwards. Yep. Backwards. I thought I had heard of every trick and then somewhere (I wish I knew where, so I could thank this unsung hero), I read that reading the manuscript backward is like a miracle. You read the last page, and then the page before that, etc., through the whole shebang. Oh, yeah, and you do it out loud.

The first time I did it, I felt like an idiot. I was sure I had caught Every Single Error the last time I went through the manuscript. There couldn’t be anymore. But the article about reading backwards said that I’d be surprised how many errors I caught. So I decided I had nothing to lose. At least I wouldn’t have to read it forwards again. And who knew? I might even catch a couple of things. 100 errors later I was a convert. Not only did I catch a lot of errors, but I caught a couple of places where I used a word too many times in one paragraph, and could take care of that before the public had to see it, too!

Happy editing, everyone!

Book Description:

Killing at Cotton Hill-3In A KILLING AT COTTON HILL the chief of police of Jarrett Creek, Texas, doubles as the town drunk. So when Dora Lee Parjeter is murdered, her old friend and former police chief Samuel Craddock steps in to investigate. He discovers that a lot of people may have wanted Dora Lee dead—the conniving rascals on a neighboring farm, her estranged daughter and her surly live-in grandson. And then there’s the stranger Dora Lee claimed was spying on her. During the course of the investigation the human foibles of the small-town residents—their pettiness and generosity, their secret vices and true virtues—are revealed.




Larger readingTerry Shames grew up in Texas. She has abiding affection for the small town where here grandparents lived, the model for the fictional town of Jarrett Creek. A resident of Berkeley, California, Terry lives with her husband, two rowdy terriers and a semi-tolerant cat. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. Her second Samuel Craddock novel, THE LAST DEATH OF JACK HARBIN will be out in January 2014. Find out more about Terry and her books at

Cindy here again!

Great post, Terry! It’s a great idea to read it backwards! I’ll try that next time I’m revising my story.

Happy writing!



The Happy Hooker

It’s not what you think! Today on the GWN blog we’ve got agent and author Lois Winston talking about the importance of the first page of your manuscript.

Here’s Lois!

lois-winston-low-res-fileNo, this is not about the world’s oldest profession. It’s about the first page of your manuscript. Do you know how few seconds an author has to hook an agent, an editor, or a reader? Precious few. Attention spans just aren’t what they used to be. If you don’t hook a reader (and by readers, I mean agents, editors, and the reading public) with the first page of your book, chances are, she won’t read the second page.

Too many writers make the mistake of opening their books with long passages of description and back-story. So not a good idea! Especially when you open with a description of the weather. There’s a reason Snoopy kept getting all those rejection letters whenever he submitted his novel that opened with, “It was a dark and stormy night…”

It’s also the reason that a well known annual writing contest for the worst opening lines is named for Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, the actual author of that famous line. It appeared in his 1830 novel Paul Clifford. Ever read the complete opening sentence? Most people haven’t. Here it is:

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents–except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.

Pretty bad, right? The sad truth is that too many authors open their books in a similar manner. That’s why I’m a firm believer in hooking a reader with the very first line of my books. I want my readers to be intrigued enough by that first line to continue reading.

A book’s hook doesn’t have to be defined by the first sentence, but that first sentence should make the reader want to read the next. And the next. Those first sentences should form a paragraph that makes the reader want to read the next paragraph. And the next. And the next—until the reader has read a complete page that makes her want to turn the page and read the next page. And finally, those first pages should create a first scene that has sufficiently hooked the reader so she can’t put down the book. She has to keep reading to find out what happens next.

The opening of a book should suck the reader into the world the author has created. Back-story can come later, trickling in to tease the reader to continue reading more, not as information dumps that pull the reader from the story. A good opening will include only the barest minimum of back-story that is essential for that moment.


As for description, it should be woven into the narrative and dialogue. Nothing bores more than long paragraphs describing everything from the length of the protagonist’s hair to the color of her toenail polish. It, too, pulls the reader from the story. And pulling the reader from the story is a bad idea. It adversely affects the pacing of the book, and good pacing is something that is important to a well-written novel.


“If that damn woman doesn’t shut up, I’m going to strangle her.”

rejected_v002_x1000That’s the first line of Revenge of the Crafty Corpse, the third book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series. Reading that sentence, the reader knows something is about to happen. Hopefully, she’ll keep reading to find out just what that something is, why it happens, what sort of impact it has on my protagonist, and how it drives the plot of the book.


Do you open your books with dialogue and/or active narrative that hooks the reader right from that first sentence and makes her want to keep reading? If you don’t, you’re most likely committing one of the top ten reasons your novel will be rejected by agents and editors. If you’d like to find out what the other nine reasons are and how you can avoid committing them, check out Top Ten Reasons Your Novel is Rejected, available as an ebook from all the usual sources.

I wrote this book after too many years of having to write rejection letters to authors. I hate writing rejection letters. All agents do. Many authors think agents and editors take perverse pleasure in rejecting them. Nothing could be further from the truth. We don’t make money rejecting novels; we make money by discovering and selling them. Every time we begin reading a manuscript, we’re hoping to find something fabulous. Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen often enough.

: Lois Winston is both an agent with the Ashley Grayson Literary Agency and the author of the critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series. Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in the series, received starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and Booklist. Other books in the series include Death By Killer Mop Doll, Revenge of the Crafty Corpse, and the ebook novelette Crewel Intentions. Lois is also published in romance, romantic suspense, women’s fiction, and non-fiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Visit Lois at, visit Emma at, and visit Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog: You can also follow Lois on Twitter @anasleuth.

Cindy here again!

Excellent post, Lois. I also try to make that first sentence a great hook.

Happy writing!



The importance of critique partners

Welcome back! Today we have Alexa Bourne talking about how important it is for improving your craft to have good critique partners.

Here’s Alexa!

I signed my first writing contract back in December 2011 and I can honestly say I NEVER would have gotten there without my critique partner. Yes, having people tell you how great your story is and how awesome you are is very important, but a true writer needs the person (or people) who will tell her what’s wrong with a story.

My road to my perfect critique partner (CP, for short) wasn’t always easy. In fact, more often than not I had a BAD experience. I had a woman who told me what was wrong and how she would fix it (basically rewriting my story). I had good critiquers who stayed with me through one book but then realized they didn’t want to be writers anymore. I had another critique partner who worked with me during one book and then she and her family moved away and she didn’t want to keep critiquing by email. I had critique partners who didn’t really know how to write (and we didn’t stay partners for long). But I knew I needed someone to help me so I kept looking until I found my perfect critique partner.

Now some people could say they don’t need a critique partner. I’m here to tell you a CP can be crucial to success. Is it possible to get published without a critique partner? Of course, but I honestly believe a good CP is worth her weight in gold. A writer might not be able to step back far enough to view her work professionally or objectively. She could be submitting manuscript pages to friends to read and, while the friends may be willing to help, they may not understand the details included in becoming a professional writer. A good critique partner can be those eyes and that professional guidance.

Silent Surrender CoverWhat is a perfect critique partner? A perfect critique partner is the writer who is right for you at that specific time. It is a person who can give you guidance, who can point out what does and doesn’t work. It is someone you trust to be honest with you and someone you know who wants what is best for you and your work. It may seem simple, but we’re asking people to tell us what is wrong with our babies. We’re asking them to rip apart something we feel great pride and joy in. Hearing your baby is ugly isn’t easy, right? So we need to totally believe in the person giving us that difficult news.

It’s also important that you and your critique partner talk about what you both want in the relationship. The key, as is with most relationships, is communication. If you can’t ask for what you need then you won’t grow as a writer. Some partners only brainstorm with each other and read sections of manuscripts that aren’t making sense. Other partners want to meet or exchange work each week. It’s good to find a partner whose strengths as a writer are different than yours that way you can help each other even more. For example, pace is a main issue for me in my drafts. My CP is excellent at pinpointing where the story begins to drag and when I repeat myself too much. At the same time, I’m really great at catching grammar issues for her, and when the story just doesn’t gel I can usually help her figure out why.

Sometimes a CP can be helpful in another way. When I’ve had a rough writing day, a rejection or a bad review, I’ve sent her some work and asked her to just tell me everything that’s awesome about it. J Do I really believe there’s nothing wrong with that piece? Of course not, but sometimes we just need an ego boost. My relationship with my critique partner is solid enough that she’ll tell me all that’s right on that day and then save all that’s wrong for another round of critiquing.

The right critique partner is invaluable. You can help each other, grow together, and back each other up. It may take quite a while before you find the perfect critique partner for you, but keep looking. Remember how many toads I had to dance with before I found my perfect partner? I guarantee when you do find that perfect partner (or partners), your writing and your future readers will thank you for taking a chance on the partnership!

Be sure to visit Alexa:


Cindy here again!

Thanks for being here, Alexa. So true about finding a critique partner. I don’t know what I would do without mine.

Happy writing!



Lunch break treat: Writing Short Ficiton

Welcome to a new week! Glad you could join us here at GWN. Today we have Vicki Batman talking about why she likes short reads.

Here’s Vicki!

Ick! I’ve heard people say. Short Fiction? I’d rather read a book.

Well, I would too if the pieces I’m talking about were like the ones I read in high school. My brain still shudders over memories about the one with the killer ants in South America. I don’t mean those kinds of stories.

I confess, I write short romantic comedy. I like to write funny. I like witty banter between the hero and heroine. I like to entertain and give readers something to laugh about. It just comes out of me. And I find it to be just as satisfying as a long book.

I don’t leave out the setting, I describe the characters. The hero and heroine have a problem and 5,000 to 13,000 words later, overcome it.

Frankly, some books should be this short.  🙂

Recently, short fiction has become popular with smart phones. People are reading on the bus, at lunch break, wherever. It’s nice and sweet and gratifying, all in one quick read.

I’ve written as short as 800 words for Woman’s World magazine. Those stories usually are called sweet meets. I’ve sold fourteen stories to the Trues–Love, Romance, and Confession–which are sometimes labeled the sin and repent stories. Only mine aren’t. And I’ve sold to other e-publishers.

So what about you? Are you thinking short fiction isn’t for me? Or maybe you might want to delve a little. Coffeetime Romance has a small piece of mine entitled “Bug Stuff.” Check it out here:


SANDIEGOorBUST200x300And if you like “Bug Stuff,” maybe you’ll like “San Diego or Bust,” available at:

Let’s hear what you think: Short? Long? Anything?

Find Vicki at:

Plotting Princesses:

Find San Diego or Bust at:

MuseItUp Publishing:
And B&N and Smashwords

Cindy here again!

I love writing shorts but I haven’t read many shorts. I will remedy that!

Happy writing.



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