Beta-readers – they have the power

BWelcome to day two and the letter B of the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Today’s guest, talking about the power of beta-readers is Kelsey D. Garmendia.

Here’s Kelsey!

Beta-reading—if you had brought that mere phrase up to me about a year ago, I would’ve given a shocked expression and said no way. I’ve always had this deep dark fear that my work would be stolen, and I would never get credit for the hard work and commitment I put into my stories. But over the past 365 days, I’ve learned that beta-readers are a gold mine.

There’s a plethora of knowledge and guidance I was offered during my undergraduate years. While I went to SUNY New Paltz, the creative workshop and craft courses were by far my favorite. But I lost all the insight from peers and fellow aspiring writers when they handed me that fancy new degree.

While swimming in the indie world, I met my friend Heaven Lyanne Flores through her blog. I was featured on her page during a takeover and decided to keep in contact with her. Let me tell you, keeping in touch with her was one of the best decisions I made in my life. Not only are we friends now, but we are also writing motivations for each other. If not for her, beta-reading would’ve never entered my life.

I was finishing up on my third novel, Disenchanted, when I hit a wall in my editing stage. Heaven suggested I use beta-reading to get through my block. I was a little nervous—ok, maybe more than a little, but I took the plunge and sent out my book to some close friends who I knew wouldn’t hold back on criticism to spare my feelings.

When the responses started rolling in, my wall that previously kept me from editing came crashing and tumbling down. The comments I received were not only helpful, but encouraging all the same. I was able to fix the issues in the storyline and flesh out the ideas and plot points that people loved.

Disenchanted has been published now for six months. Not only have I’ve gotten amazing, tear-jerking reviews on it, but I also feel even more proud of my work. All of that stemmed from the great beta-readers I worked with along the way.

In a nutshell, here’s what my opinion of beta-reading has changed to:

There’s really no downside to this so long as you get dependable, trustworthy readers who will not hold back what they think and respect your wishes to not share the work.

Keeping your group manageable is key. Having your fingers extremely wide may delay your writing process. I definitely get distracted easily. So keeping my beta group small was a great way to stay on top of things.

And last but not least, don’t be afraid to try it. Beta-reading changed the way I look at writing. As writers, we’ll never be in this alone. So why should the actual writing process be any different?


Kelsey D. Garmendia, 24, is an alumnus of the State University of New York at New Paltz. She obtained a Bachelors Degree in English with a concentration in Creative Writing. Garmendia is featured in Confettifall, Embodied Effigies, Penduline Press, The Stonesthrow Review, My Unfinished Novel, Poydras Review, and Midnight Screaming.
She also has three self-published novels: Burn Our Houses Down and If I Lose are both part of a book series with the next installment to be published early in 2015 and her newest novel, Disenchanted, is a stand-alone.




Cindy here again!

Thanks for stopping by the blog today. I’d always thought I would have beta-readers for my novels and now I know for sure.

Keep writing!

Adult Attention Deficit Disorder

AIt’s April and that means it’s the A to Z Blogging Challenge! I’ve enlisted the help of some friends and group members to help me with the challenge. Today’s letter A is brought to you by Melanie Atkins.

Here’s Melanie:

I don’t know if I actually have Adult Onset ADD or not, because I’ve never been diagnosed or even seen a professional to determine if I do have it. I have filled out an online questionnaire, however, and I answered yes to many of the questions.

Has anyone else in my family been diagnosed with this disorder? No.

Do I have trouble staying organized? Yes. I didn’t in years past, but now… yikes.

Am I forgetful and do I misplace things fairly often? Yes to both.

Do I complete daily tasks and chores? Usually, with effort. On time? Sometimes.

Am I easily distracted? Um, yes. What was the question again?

Do I have trouble sitting still? Sometimes, but not always.

How often do I get fidgety and restless? Quite often.

Am I able to follow directions? Yes, usually. I have to focus.

Am I impatient? Always. Sigh. This is not a new problem.

Am I a good driver? I think so, but I do have a heavy foot. See question above.

Do events and even TV shows over stimulate me? Sometimes.

How long have I been having these issues? Just in the past five years or so.

Did I have trouble focusing while answering these questions? Not really.

image1Do I have Adult ADD? I don’t know. What I do know is that I’ve been having a heck of a lot of trouble concentrating on my writing over the last few years, and it’s getting worse. I’ll write a sentence, then check my email. Write another sentence, and edit three paragraphs. Check Facebook. Get up and put my clothes in the dryer. See that one of the cats wants out, and stop to let him out. Since I have the door open, I decide to go ahead and check the mail, even though it’s not quite time for the mailman to arrive. You never know. He might be early.

I sit back down at the computer and pick up my phone. Maybe catching up on my Words with Friends games will help me settle down. I play, then put the phone away and write another few sentences. I’m like a bouncing ball, careening from one task or chore or game to another, unable to focus on any one thing for very long.

Maybe all the gadgets we use are part of the problem. I got to an appointment early the other day and had to sit in the waiting room for about twenty minutes. I’d brought my Kindle so I could read. I also had my phone that notified me every time someone played Words with Friends. I soon had my iPhone balanced on my Kindle. I’d read a little bit, then play a game. And not just play… I had to open a second app to help me find the right word. Once I played it, I went back to reading… until I realized I hadn’t checked my email in the past five minutes. We’re so busy, so connected, that we can’t seem to stop doing any of it for very long.

Maybe what I need to do tomorrow morning when I sit down to write is to put my phone on silent and either leave it across the room or hide it so I won’t pay any attention to it. Back in the day, before I had a smart phone and a Kindle, I had no trouble sitting down to write. So I blame the gadgets and my addiction to them for my fractured attention span. I must fix this by unplugging, even if it’s just for thirty minutes at a time, and focusing on my manuscript. Thirty minute sprints, without allowing myself to interrupt my chain of thought, just might do the trick. I’m going to set a timer tomorrow and see what happens.

Even with my disorder, I managed to finish a new book last fall. Sealing His Fate, the second book in my Bayou Bounty Hunter series, is out this month at Desert Breeze Publishing:

Melanie_AtkinsMelanie Atkins a multi-published author of romantic suspense, a fan of crime dramas, and an avid reader. Writing is more than an escape for her — it’s a way of life. She grew up in the Deep South listening to tall tales and penning stories about her cats. Now she writes gripping stories of love, suspense, and mystery with the help of her furry little feline muses.

You can read more about her here:


Cindy here again!

Thanks for stopping by the blog. I hope you check in every day this month to check out the guest topics. They will be varied and interesting reading.

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!


21 Ways to Embellish Your Scenes

Welcome back to the blog. Our second Monday of the month guest post is late because I was sick last week. By the time I felt well enough to do anything online it made more sense to post it for today. Today we have Cyndi Faria on the blog talking about scenes!

Here’s Cyndi!

As always, I’m excited to guest blog for Guelph Write Now. I’d like to thank Cindy Carroll for having me. Last month, I participated in a writing challenge called National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The object of the challenge was to write a 50k novel. With that complete, the month of December is titled National Novel Editing Month (NaNoEdMo), and I’m editing my heart out.

Sometimes, however, I need help making sure my scenes have certain elements. By creating a check list, I can embellish each scene until it sparkles!

Lucky for you, I love to share my writing craft tips. Next time you’re editing, make sure you include in each scene a good sampling of the bullet point items below. Then watch your scene shine!

  1. Touch
  2. Taste
  3. Sight
  4. Smell
  5. Hearing
  6. Temperature
  7. Pain
  8. Balance
  9. Motion
  10. Acceleration
  11. Time
  12. Direction
  13. Breathing
  14. Heart Rate
  15. Vasodilatation (flushing and blushing)
  16. Intestinal Distress
  17. Swallowing
  18. Ethics
  19. Humor (funny or sarcastic)
  20. Style
  21. Mannerisms.

To download a PDF of the Scene Embellishment List (shown below), click here.

Scene Embellishment

Cindy here again!

Great tips, Cyndi. I love that checklist. It’s great to have handy when you’re doing revisions.

Happy writing!


4 Ways to Brand Your Hero

Welcome to the GWN blog! Today we have Cyndi Faria talking about branding your hero!

Here’s Cyndi!

Author Photo B-W



Cindy, thank you for having me guest post for Guelph Write Now. As always, I’m excited to be here!

Over the past month, I’ve been paying special attention to how writers, whether in books or movies, brand their heroes. This marking happens around the halfway point and can be presented in the following ways:

1. Secondary Character Dialogue

2. Physical Wound

3. Clothing/Uniform Change

4. Identity Realized

The above methods are used to remind the reader, and main character, of the theme, inner conflict, and the fear/path the main character must overcome before they can move into essence and defeat the villain.

To highlight by example, I’ve chosen several movies below:

After Earth:

Kitai Raige wants to be a fearless Ranger, like his father Commander Cypher, but Kitai’s emotions keep getting in the way of his advancement. He joins his father on his father’s final mission, but the ship is struck by asteroids, leaving the two stranded on the uninhabited planet Earth. However, Cypher is badly wounded and must convince his son he has the power to overcome his fears and save them both.

About the 50% mark, Kitai arrives at the falls overlooking a great expanse. Because of his emotional reaction to the treacherous environment, he’s used up valuable resources, and his father tells him to return to the ship. Kitai is not willing to give up. He blames himself for his sister’s death and for his father’s estrangement from the family. After an emotional breakdown, he questions his father, saying “You wouldn’t treat your Rangers this way.” His father shoots back: “You’re not a Ranger.”

Only by accepting who and what he is—a kid who doesn’t really want to be a Ranger—will Katai forgive his father, overcome his fear, and save both from death.


Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade:

Indiana is searching for his father. They’ve had an estranged relationship. His father still sees Indiana as a careless kid and Indiana wants to be seen as a man.

Around the 50% mark in the movie, Indiana, using his whip, swings out one window and crashes into another only to be hit over the head with a vase. His father is holding the broken vase when he realizes he’s hurt his own child. He exclaims, “Junior!”

In this way, both physically injured and verbally named (Junior), we begin to understand the relationship between father and son and what must change. The father will show he’s more childlike and Indiana will prove he’s no longer a child.


Cowboys and Aliens:

Waking as an amnesiac, a man is searching for his identity. He’s short tempered and emotionless and learns he resembles a wanted man, Jake Lonergan, which he denies.

Around the 50% mark, Jake is inside an upside down paddle boat in the middle of the desert. And aliens exist. Under a stream of rain, he removes his shirt to reveal a wound he has no memory of receiving. He believes the wound was inflicted by one of the aliens. A beautiful and mysterious woman, Ella Swenson, has been following him. She tells him the answer to finding peace lies within. By reinstating the theme of the movie, Jake begins to move into essence and we start to see the softer side of Jake. However in the next scene, Jake and his group are ambushed by outlaws. The outlaws call him boss and confirm Jake is a wanted man.


Man on a Ledge:

The movie opens with a man on a ledge of a New York skyscraper. Through the first half of the movie, the police are trying to identify him and we know something is up. Lydia Mercer is the detective in charge of talking him down. They share a cigarette and she hands off the butt to her ally for DNA identification.


About the 50% mark, she sticks her head out the window and says his name—Nick Cassidy. She marks him as a fugitive for all of New York to target. Now we know the reason he has escaped from prison—to absolve his family name and bring the men who put him in jail to justice.


Next time you’re watching a movie or reading a book, look for similar ways the writer has branded their hero.

Happy Writing,


Cyndi Faria


Cindy here again!

Thanks for being here today, Cyndi. This is some great information. I will pay more attention when watching movies and see if I can spot how the writer branded the hero.


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 back to the GWN blog! Today we have Jim Cort talking about pronouns.

Here’s Jim!

Personal pronouns let you know who’s being referred to: Walter told Judy he would give the giraffe to her.  No question here about who gets the giraffe, because “her” refers to someone of the female gender, and Judy is the only such person mentioned.  That’s the thing about personal pronouns—they’re specific. Gender is one of the details that personal pronouns specify.

Gender is a tricky concept.  Anyone who’s ever studied Spanish or French or German knows that gender in those languages has very little to do with whether your baby blanket was blue or pink.  It’s a way of creating clarity of expression, linking nouns to modifiers with a sort of team colors technique.  In English, gender is about…well, gender.  And that’s where the problem comes in.

Just as there are personal (and therefore specific) pronouns like him and her, he and she, there are also impersonal (that is, general) pronouns.  Not only should he mind his p’s and q’s, she should mind her p’s and q’s as well.  In fact everybody who’s got any p’s or q’s should mind them.  That’s a general statement. When I was a lad in school, Sister Mary Paragraph taught me to say, ”Everyone should mind his p’s and q’s.”  “His” was a stand-in for the singular impersonal pronoun.  That’s what she had been taught when she was a lass in school.

But times change.  Feminist thinkers said using “his” excludes all the females.  It’s sexist; it’s discriminatory. It betrays a male cultural bias that should not be perpetuated.

OK, so what do we do?

This is not a problem in other tongues.  Lots of other languages have a singular impersonal pronoun that’s neither pink nor blue.  In fact, English has one too.  It’s the word one: “Everyone should mind one’s p’s and q’s.”  They use it all the time in England.  Nobody gets offended and everybody knows what’s being talked about.  But on this side of the Atlantic, “one” just never caught on.  It sounds pretentious and highfalutin’ to American ears.

I repeat: OK, so what do we do? We’ve got to come up with something else.  Here are some possible plans:

  • Ignore the whole thing.  Go on using “he” and “his” like nothing ever happened. This will win the approval of traditionalists, but it may get you in trouble with others who are not quite so grammatically-minded.
  • Mix it up.  Use “his” and “him” sometimes, and “hers” and “her” sometimes.  Or do something like this: him/her. This seems cluttered and confusing to me, but some people like it.
  • Use “their” and “them”—that is, use these words as singular impersonal pronouns. Sister Mary Paragraph, God bless her, would tell you this is wrong.  The fact of the matter is, it’s a usage of long standing going all the way back to Shakespeare.  A short list of English authors who have used it would include Jane Austen, Walt Whitman, Oscar Wilde. The Oxford English Dictionary, Doris Lessing, and the King James Bible.  Somewhere along the way, some nit-picking grammarian said, “You can’t do that—‘them’ and ‘their’ are plural.”  We’ve been living under that rule ever since.

This is a hard sell.  If you go this route, you’ll meet resistance from grammar purists who will insist that “their” and “them” can’t be used in this way.  However, because of the way language works, if enough people adopt this usage, it will become acceptable in time.  It’s your call if you want to join the fight.

The problem with all of these approaches is that they’re likely to attract attention to your method rather than your message.  These approaches can all become distractions.  The careful writer wishes to avoid distractions, so readers will concentrate on the message.  That leaves us with the last possibility.

  • Compromise. If you don’t want to join the fight, and you don’t want to create distractions, you can sidestep this whole mess by recasting your sentence.  Remove the need for a singular impersonal pronoun, like this: “People should mind their p’s and q’s.”  Whenever you need to make a general statement, try to make it in the plural.  Then the problem goes away, and you can devote your attention to more important aspects of your writing.

Jim Cort has been writing since someone invented the pencil. His novel The Lonely Impulse is available from Smashwords:

Cindy here again!

Great post, Jim. I usually try to rewrite my sentences to avoid stuff like this. 🙂



A Man’s Advice on Giving Birth

Welcome to the GWN blog! Today we have Bill Hopkins talking about creating characters.

Here’s Bill!

Unlike real life, giving birth in fiction to characters can be as hard and complicated or as simple and easy as you make it. Follow along and do as much or little as you want. I’ll give you examples using my amateur sleuth, Judge Rosswell Carew.


  1. Make a biography for your character. We don’t need a multi-volume work. Just choose age, sex, work, height, weight, color of hair, color of eyes, physical characteristics, etc. JRC is medium height, bad eyes, supersensitive hearing and sense of smell, scrawny mustache, and average weight for a guy who’s almost forty.


  1. Next, what does your character want? Make it short, clear, and concise. JRC wants to be a detective because he’s tired of all the repetitious stories he’s hearing on the bench. And his theme in life is that being just is more important than being legal.


  1. What’s the background of your character? I don’t go into JRC’s schooling much because being “in the military” (no branch designated) made a bigger impact on him.


  1. What are your character’s quirks? JRC doesn’t like his sidekick to touch him, he’s touchy about the way people try to give him the nickname of Ross, he’s a perfectionist, and kind of a general PITA.


  1. What would it take to make your character suffer a gut wrenching moment? For JRC, it would be running out of espresso, missing a meal, or watching a friend die. He does, after all, care about people.


  1. How does your character talk? JRC has his own way of saying things, as do all the characters in my books. I try to make the dialog unique. If you heard it aloud, you’d immediately know which of my characters was talking.


  1. What’s your character’s name? Rosswell Carew is a name hard to forget. John Smith is easy to forget. But how about John Wayne Smith? Don’t give your babies dull names. (Frank Jones or Bill Hopkins). Don’t duplicate names (Annie and Annabelle). Don’t use the same letter(s) to start two or more names. (Max, Mike, and Mark shouldn’t exist in the same book).


  1. Have you interviewed your character? I’ve never interviewed JRC in writing, but I love that kind of blog. That sounds like something I need to do next!

Cover Courting MurderCourting Murder: When Judge Rosswell Carew makes the gruesome discovery of two corpses on a riverbank in the Missouri Ozarks, he’s plunged into a storm of deadly secrets that threaten both him and his fiancée, Tina Parkmore. Unsatisfied with the way the authorities are conducting the investigation, Rosswell, who’s always nurtured a secret desire to be a detective, teams up with an ex-con, Ollie Groton, to solve the case before the killer can murder again. Rosswell uncovers a maze of crimes so tangled that he must fight his way to a solution or die trying.




River Mourn front cover


River Mourn: Judge Rosswell Carew travels to Sainte Geneveive, Missouri, searching for Tina Parkmore, his kidnapped fiancée. When he witnesses someone tossed from a riverboat ferry, he’s plunged into a nightmare world he never knew existed. Rosswell is astounded when he discovers what he saw and the fate of Tina are intertwined. Unable to interest the local authorities in the case, Rosswell teams up with his faithful research assistant Ollie Groton to discover the truth. The excitement never lets up until the last page.

Available September 2013 from Deadly Writes Press



About Bill:

Photo of Bill HopkinsBill Hopkins is retired after beginning his legal career in 1971 and serving as a private attorney, prosecuting attorney, an administrative law judge, and a trial court judge, all in Missouri. His poems, short stories, and non-fiction have appeared in many different publications. He’s had several short plays produced. A book of collected poetry, Moving Into Forever, is available on Amazon. Bill is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Dramatists Guild, Horror Writers Association, Missouri Writers Guild, and Sisters In Crime. Bill is also a photographer who has sold work in the United States, Canada, and Europe. He and his wife, Sharon (a mortgage banker who is also a published writer), live in Marble Hill, Missouri, with their dog and cats. Besides writing, Bill and Sharon are involved in collecting and restoring Camaros. Courting Murder is his first mystery novel.


Courting Murder by Bill Hopkins


A Judge Rosswell Carew Mystery

ISBN 978-0-9830504-38

Southeast Missouri University Press

Publisher’s page:

Author’s website:

Author’s FaceBook page:

Author’s Page on Amazon:

Amazon order page:

LinkedIn: Bill Hopkins

Twitter: @JudgeHopkins


Cindy here again!

Great advice, Bill! I read a book once that had five characters with names starting with M. So confusing.

Happy writing!



Part 3: Unleashing Your Muse – Free Writing Act II, Part 2

Welcome back to the GWN blog. We have Cyndi Faria back for Part 3 of Unleashing your muse!

Here’s Cyndi!

I’m back today talking about what goes into Act II, Part II. I hope you’ve been following along because after next month’s post, I’m going to offer private feedback to one lucky commenter.

The second half of a novel, beginning with Act II, Part 2, is my favorite section. Often times, I’ll have the fleeting thought that the H/h will never work things out. In this section, I experience frustration and tears right along with the H/h. After all, in a romance, I want to see the couple reunite, defeat the villain, rekindle their love and find their HEA while obtaining their original goals.

But how can this possibly happen when both the H/h are up against so much adversity?

Below is what you’ll want to incorporate into your free-write. This section begins around the 50% mark of you novel (midpoint) and ends around the 75% mark.

For reference, I’m going to use the movie Pretty Woman, staring our hero Richard Gere (Edward), heroine Julia Roberts (Vivian), and villain Jason Alexander (Phillip). Recall the following just prior to the midpoint:

Define Character Trait (Strength-Weakness):

  • Edward is a controlling workaholic. (Fear of being betrayed)
  • Vivian is a free-spirit prostitute. (Fear of being deprived)
  • Without Edward, Phillip is powerless and has an entitlement attitude.

Please note: If you end on a high at the midpoint (like sex), the All is Lost moment must end in the opposite. In our case a low.

Enter Act II, Part 2: Villains Close In (People, Past, Insecurities, etc.)

The Reveal:

  • Hero reveals he hadn’t spoke to his father in 14 years and now he’s dead.
  • Heroine reveals she dropped out of high school and came to Hollywood, but couldn’t find a job and turned to prostitution.

This reveal brings them closer and makes each more vulnerable. They have sex as a couple (false win).

Villain(s) Close In:

  • Edward takes Vivian to a company polo match. Both the company he wants to overtake (teardown) and Edward’s business partner, Phillip, are there. Vivian mingles beautifully and Edward notices, but the owner of the company Edward is trying to buy interacts with her.
  • Phillip doesn’t trust Vivian and makes his distrust of Vivian known to Edward. Edward tells Phillip not to worry, she’s a prostitute.
  • Vivian is hurt that Edward shared her profession with Phillip and that Phillip approached her for sexual services.


Allies Walk Away:

Vivian turns her back on Edward and realizes she no longer wants to be a prostitute or a free-spirit but a lady. Edward has taught her to be more goal-orientated. However, at this point she’s worse off than she started neither a prostitute or a lady. What to do?


  • Angry Phillip propositioned Vivian, Edward cautions Phillip and walks away from his business responsibilities to spend a day away from work to try to patch the damage that’s been done between Edward and Vivian. For once, living a more free-spirit way of life (taking shoes off in the park and flying to New York to see the opera), Edward experiences another side of life besides work and destroying companies, but how does he balance both worlds? What to do?

Heading toward disaster (All is Lost Moment):

With both of their support systems out of the picture (Edward’s partner and Vivian’s prostitute girlfriend), they are worse than when they started. In fact, both are so bad off that all aspects of the H/h’s life are heading toward danger if they don’t change.

At this point, however, change is illusive.

Situation Worsens by Death:

Make the situation even worse. Maybe someone dies, or an ally turns their back or attacks them, or there’s an important project that comes to an end.

H/h push back one last time using their old character traits. But, because of their backstory fears, they fail miserably:

Vivian has fallen in love with Edward, kisses him on the mouth (a forbidden act for a prostitute), and professes her love, thinking he’s sleeping and can’t hear her. (Death of her prostitution lifestyle and free-spirit way of living)

After hearing Vivian profess her love for him, in the morning, Edward offers Vivian an apartment. (Death of Edward’s fear of betrayal and his all-business lifestyle.)

Ending on a Down Note:

Vivian angrily objects Edward’s apartment proposal. That’s not the fairytale she’s looking for and packs up to leave.

Falling back on his businessman ways, however, Edward hands her the money he’s promised for her week of services.

Couple Split:

Both are completely broken and miserable without one another. And there is no going back to the old way of life having tasted the other’s world. New plan, but what?

To summarize, the point of Act II, Part 2 is for the author to prove to the character that their go-to trait isn’t working and never will again. That together they are complete, if only they’d stand up to their fears and enter the new world—Act III.

Next month I’ll wrap up how to free-write Act III.

Until then, when you’ve grasped the above information, it’s time to unleash your muse on Act II, Part 2 and free-write the next quarter of you novel (3-6 pages, single spaced. Remember anything goes). Have fun!

Happy Writing, Cyndi Faria

Visit Cyndi’s Website:

Visit Cyndi on Amazon: Cyndi’s Amazon Author Page

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

—Virna DePaul, Bestselling Author


Author Photo B-W

Cyndi 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.







Cindy here again!

Thanks for being here, Cyndi. Can’t wait for part four!

Take a book from good to sold in 10 steps – with Shirley Jump

It’s finally Friday! Today we have a great post from New York Times Bestselling author Shirley Jump on taking your book from “good” to sold!

Here’s Shirley!

The Sweetheart Bargain coverThank you for having me on the blog! I wrote ten books in 8 years before I finally sold. I had a long, frustrating journey, because it was like I was missing something small—turns out it was a few small things 😉 What takes a book from just “good” to sold? Ah, that’s the magic answer everyone wants! In my opinion, it’s all those things that new writers see as intangible — tight, strong writing, a well-developed plot and strong, living characters. If you’re like me, you saw many of those words in your rejection letters and puzzled over them, trying to figure out exactly how you were supposed to make your writing stronger or how to make those characters come alive.

It can be done. My January 2003 release, THE VIRGIN’S PROPOSAL, was a contest winner and finalist (I won the TARA contest in 2000) but I just couldn’t sell it. I revised it a couple of times, sent it off to Silhouette, and was lucky enough to get a detailed revision letter from Mary Theresa Hussey. She had a lot of issues with the plot and wanted me to dump and rewrite about 2/3s of the book.

I knew this was my golden opportunity; the kind of chance all writers dream of. I had an interested editor, it was up to me to either rise to the challenge or choke at the starting gate. Besides looking at the plot issues, I took a serious look at the book itself, comparing it to the books I admired. On every page, I asked myself “How can I make this better?” And once I improved that page, I’d go back and improve it again. It’s possible to take a book from Good Enough to Win a Contest to Wonderful Enough to Sell – here’s how I did it.

That book sold, went on to win the Booksellers Best contest, and is the first of 50 books for me. My latest, THE SWEETHEART BARGAIN, came out September 3 with Berkley, part of a brand new series that I sold last year by using these same techniques.




By Shirley Jump


What makes a book SOLD instead of simply good enough to win contests? Several factors, I discovered when I took two previous manuscripts that had done well in contests and later revamped them to make them sell. It’s about taking the book one step further and making them not just winning, but salable:


  1. Make sure every Scene has a Goal and a Sequel. Does your main character in each scene have something he/she wants to accomplish during the course of the scene? If you have a scene that just seems to be sitting there, with no real purpose, then nine times out of ten, the lack of a goal is the problem. Each of the scene goals should feed into the main book goal, and should raise the stakes and the tension. The minute you lose your tension, you’re at the end of your book, because the characters have achieved their goals.


  1. Make sure your plot hangs together. This usually requires one read through to look for any potential holes in your plot, any questions left unanswered, etc. Be sure to make notes as you go along, rather than trusting your memory. Often, it’s a dangling plot that keeps a book from being unique enough.


  1. Did you make the most of your voice? Voice is that indefinable thing that really sets you apart from another writer. Structurally, you might have a fabulous book but if you haven’t given it your own unique flavor — the stamp that makes that book YOURS and yours alone — it won’t stand out among the others on the editor’s desk.


  1. Conflict, Conflict, Conflict: Don’t be afraid to throw more and more roadblocks into your characters’ paths. As authors, we’re often too nice to our characters and don’t give them enough hardships. Hardship fosters change which in turn creates character growth. Also, characters who solve their internal and external obstacles too early end the book too soon. Be sure there is some “but” still getting in the character’s way, forcing them to continue on their emotional (and physical, if you have one) journey before you get to the final concluding scene.


  1. Motivation, Motivation, Motivation: Do your characters have reasons for everything they do? And do those motivations come from the character’s character — i.e., what makes him/her uniquely themselves — rather than some contrivance on your part? Character actions should grow out of character experience, self concept and wants or needs.


  1. Look at your balance of narrative and dialogue. Do you have too much of one or the other? Too little in one area? Do you have long passages between spurts of conversation, which make for unnatural pauses? It really helps to read aloud at this point to make sure the dialogue holds together naturally. If necessary, act it out to really see the places where your narrative is too long.


  1. Speaking of dialogue — make sure every bit is necessary. Dialogue is a plot tool. It’s used to further the plot and show character, rather than just sitting there, filling up space.


  1. Check the obvious. Did you look at all the spelling and grammar errors? Fix the dangling participles and split infinitives? Remove all the extra “thats” and “justs”? Take out as much passive writing as possible? Try to show instead of tell?


  1. Tighten. And tighten again. Once you’ve gone through the manuscript for all of the above reasons, go through it again for tightening. Can you use one word instead of five and get the same impact? Can you reword passages with stronger verbs and adjectives, delivering more punch in every sentence?


  1. Can you use more unique phrases to express the same thing? Too often, writers relay on clichés for their descriptions instead of striving for something more unique. This is that indefinable aspect that editors are looking for — a strong book written by an author with his/her own distinctive style. To achieve that, you have to write better than those who have gone before you. Be stronger, be more precise. Try harder. That means coming up with several versions of a turn of phrase or striving to go beyond the stereotype. Don’t settle for what’s easy and predictable. Take it to the next level and you’ll soon be hearing your career go to the next level of…



ShirleyJumpNew York Times and USA Today bestselling author Shirley Jump has written more than 50 novels for Berkley, Harlequin, Entangled and Kensington books. She has won numerous awards, including the HOLT Medallion, the Booksellers Best Award and Colorado Romance Writers Award of Excellence. She’s been nominated multiple times for the Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice award, most recently for THE RETURN OF BRODY MCKENNA, the last book in her McKenna Brothers series for Harlequin. The first book in her upcoming series with Berkley, THE SWEETHEART BARGAIN, has received a multitude of pre-publication praise from authors such as Jayne Ann Krentz, who called the book “real romance,” Virginia Kantra, who said, “Shirley Jump packs lots of sweet and plenty of heat in this heartwarming first book of her promising new series,” and Jill Shalvis, who called it “a fun, heartwarming small town romance that you’ll fall in love with.”

Visit her website at

Cindy here again!

Wow, great information Shirley. Thanks so much for being here! I need to keep this list handy when I do revisions.

Happy writing.



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