Questions Lead To Quests

QWelcome back to the blog! Today for the A to Z Blogging Challenge I have Caroline Gill with a piece posing a lot of questions.

Here’s Caroline.

There are always ways to improve writing. A new idea can transform whole genres.

What drives those transformative ideas, those break-the-world-open novels?

Questions. Life-changing, perspective-altering questions.

That’s why we write.

We are all in search of answers to rejection and hardship in our personal lives. Sometimes, most times, those visceral wounds can overpower us. In real life, in real minutes, days and hours are spent with staggering pain so deep we forget to breathe.

Many of us who love books cling to them like the shipwrecked survivors of the “Raft of the Medusa.” In the Louvre Museum, Paris, there is a vibrant red wall taken up entirely by this epic painting. It was a transformative artwork memorializing a horrific shipwreck that really happened two hundred years ago.

One hundred and forty seven people initially survived. Thirteen days of misery passed while they were stranded on the open ocean. The survivors floated on bits of debris for days while sharks circled, feasting. In the lightless dark of nightfall, companions vanished, swallowed by the sea.

The moment Gericault depicted was ten long days into the drift – ten days into hell.

In the distance, in the background of the painting, the remaining few survivors see the white of a sail. Lunging for anything to attract the attention of the vessel, the painted men lift each other up, waving fragments of clothing, anything they could use to attract attention. The painting by Gericault captures that moment of hope, that intense belief we have that rescue will come. Unfortunately, in reality, that tiny spot of white in the distance did not see them, sailing on across the vast horizon, unaware of their tragedy. The rescue that could have saved precious lives never happened on the tenth day, not even when the survivors hoped so fervently for relief.

Thirteen days after the ship ran aground, fifteen people were finally rescued by a different passing ship. Their horrific stories of cannibals, sharks, pitch black nights, death, rotting corpses, and vanished loved ones haunted all of France. That painting is a pure reflection of the struggles of authors and readers.

We are on that raft.

We live in that moment, holding our breath, waiting for the rescue. Again and again, we create our work, trying to save ourselves, trying to catch the attention of distant travelers. Often we fail. Sharks get some of us, pulled down by natural circumstances. Still, we hope.

After thirteen desperate days, the shipwrecked people ate anything or anyone they could find.

When there was no nourishment, people turned on themselves to feed the emptiness, destroying their values, traditions and minds. That is true of the hunger of imagination, too. In that moment of fear, when survival is all that matters, we are indeed capable of anything. Acting in a moral manner has huge costs, when there is no law, no rule, only anarchy.

Cannibals live amongst us. Creative cannibals that eat us from within: doubt, uncertainty, low self-confidence. Crazy and selfish people live in the internet world as well, stabbing at the light they desperately crave.

We learn that same truth every day: we get up, get dressed and live amongst the monsters. Sometimes just using that much effort is the whole battlefield. Still, we get up and we try again. Because of the possibility that perhaps tomorrow will be better. Rescue might happen.

Inside of all of us, there is this unquenchable fire. Poets have tried to describe it, but it remains elusive. Hope and determination cannot ever be adequately depicted or contained in words. That limitless fire burns us all the same.

The struggle we face daily is real. Life is unfair. Hope is often unanswered.

But every day we write, we read, we try again.

Because we know this simple thing: We are on the raft, desperate and wild, lawless and terrified. But we are also the captain of the distant sailboat, just near the vast horizon, waiting to find the brilliant light of a survivor’s torch, the mad wave of a shipwrecked man’s handkerchief.

And when that call comes, will you rise above your own pain? Can you travel out of your own journey long enough to help another?

We are the raft. We are the rescuers.

You want to write a breakthrough novel? Find a new way to get us home.

Cindy here again.

Loved this Caroline. It got me asking questions that led to a story idea.

Keep writing.


Proofreading is a msut

PWelcome back to the blog today. For the A to Z Challenge I’ve got Joanne Guidoccio talking about proofreading.

Here’s Joanne.

Mark Twain said it best: “You think you are reading proof, whereas you are merely reading your own mind; your statement of the thing is full of holes and vacancies but you don’t know it, because you are filling them from your mind as you go along.”

It is so tempting to skim that manuscript and send it off to agents and editors. Especially if you have devoted months—maybe even years—to its completion. Instead, pause and consider the following tips:

• Set the manuscript aside for several days. If possible, wait until you fall out of love with your work. Only then can you be objective and approach it with fresh eyes.

• Perform a spelling and grammar check using the appropriate feature on your word processing program. Be aware that your spell checker can tell you only if a word exists, not if it’s the right word. If you are uncertain, refer to a dictionary.

• Use the Search and Replace function to find and eliminate repetitive words and extra spaces. To cut back on the number of adverbs, search for “ly” and replace with “LY.” As you approach each highlighted section, decide whether to keep the adverb, eliminate it, or replace it with an appropriate action tag.

• Double-check all facts, figures and proper names. This is important if you write nonfiction or historical fiction.

• Print out your text and review it line by line. Use a ruler or a blank sheet of paper to keep your focus on one line at a time.

• Read your text aloud. This will help catch missing prepositions, repetition, run on sentences, and awkward phrasing.

• Read your text backward, from right to left, starting with the last word. While I have never used this particular tip, several English teachers recommend this method for anyone struggling with spelling.

• Ask a friend or fellow author to proofread your text. And offer to return the favor.

Any other tips to share…

About Joanne

Guidoccio 001In high school, Joanne dabbled in poetry, but it would be over three decades before she entertained the idea of writing as a career. She listened to her practical Italian side and earned degrees in mathematics and education. She experienced many fulfilling moments as she watched her students develop an appreciation (and sometimes, love) of mathematics. Later, she obtained a post-graduate diploma as a career development practitioner and put that skill set to use in the co-operative education classroom. She welcomed this opportunity to help her students experience personal growth and acquire career direction through their placements.

In 2008, she took advantage of early retirement and decided to launch a second career that would tap into her creative side and utilize her well-honed organizational skills. Slowly, a writing practice emerged. Her articles and book reviews were published in newspapers, magazines, and online. When she tried her hand at fiction, she made reinvention a recurring theme in her novels and short stories. A member of Sisters in Crime, Crime Writers of Canada, and Romance Writers of America, Joanne writes paranormal romance, cozy mysteries, and inspirational literature from her home base of Guelph, Ontario.









Cindy here again.

Thanks for the great post, Joanne. Loved the tips. Proofreading is very important and I get as many people to read my stuff as possible. I always miss stuff.

Keep writing.

O for the love of writing

OWelcome back to the blog! Today we’ve got Ella Reece talking about the outline.

Here’s Ella.

Writing for me is full of “O”s.  Through the span of time I’ve been writing I have taken every OPPORTUNITY to learn and grow as a writer.  I’ve had some times when the outlook was not bright but with the indie revolution I am full of OPTIMISM, and continue to write my prose to feel OPPULENT – princes and billionaires – the joys of genre fiction.  Today however, I bring you ORGANIZATION with my favourite tool, the OUTLINE.

For everything I write I have to have an outline, no matter how brief or rough, so I make sure I hit all the key points.  For my fiction I have started to refer to this outline as beats, as it is the pulse of the work.  I have never been a plotter, when I pants it is only a scene or two, to find a story.  When I try and pants the whole thing, I invariably get lost.   This costs me in wasted time as I meander through a rosy world with nothing going on; more importantly it costs me words.  I abhor cutting words, but I like rabbit holes even less, having the signposts along the way stops most of that.  When I have an outline I know what I am doing at that writing session and where the work is heading, this optimizes my writing time allowing me to maximize my word count and get to a finished product more efficiently.

I also have a habit of telling my stories out of sequence if I am missing details or a particular character is begging for attention, I can move through my outline to that segment and work on that without having to go back and retrofit a whole new story line after the work is complete.  That is not to say I don’t learn things along the way, but the things I discover as I go through the actual writing, I simply jot it into my outline.   This allows me to carry the forward momentum that you need to actually finish a manuscript.   Further benefits to working with an outline include ensuring my scenes and chapters hit all the requirements to satisfy a reader and the story with hooks and red herrings, depending on the story.

I use an outline as part of my revision as well, so I know where the holes and gaps are.  Ideally my edits start with the most problematic and down to the smallest issues instead of trying to go from start to finish.  This way I am not going through and fixing the fixes repeatedly and getting bogged down.  Fixing the big stuff first will cause ripples through the entire manuscript and you can then go through the outline noting where those ripples are in concentric and lessening degrees.  You still need to do the edit, re-read and re-evaluate to make sure the story has the continuity and crispness required before going to your editor, but using the trusty outline certainly makes that process easier.

This is a recurring theme in many blog posts and podcasts relating to the craft and business of writing over the last few years.  You can read titles like from 2K to 10K by Rachel Aaron, or Write. Publish. Repeat. and Fiction Unboxed by Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant and David Wright, and those guys write between 1.5 and 2 million words each year.  Let’s face it, to earn a living with writing it is a numbers game, you must produce a large volume of quality work.  That isn’t going to happen if you sit down each day not being sure where you are going and how you are going to get there.

I leave you there my friend as I go and discover the new map of my next world.

Blessed be,



Ella Reece is the author of historical and paranormal romance stories. She lives in a small haunted town almost a half an hour past nowhere, where her imagination allows her to roam history and other planes. A strong belief in happily ever after, she shares her life with Darling her hero and their 2 pixies. During the week she handles corporate escalations for a computer manufacturer allowing her to explore the psyche of a wide range of individuals which help to give depth to the people in he landscape of her mind.

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Blurb for Masquerade:

MasqueradeV4finalMysteries abound at the Vatican. Marcello Di Amante has been summoned to uncover who has been stealing relics from the Vatican. His reputation as a sleuth is put to the test when two murders are discovered on the day of his meeting with Pope Pius III. Marcello vows to bring the culprits to justice. His investigation brings him to England where he meets Sandrina.

Death haunts Sandrina MacPhearson, who believes her relationships are built on a foundation of fear and dishonesty. Duncan Langstaff, her betrothed, disappeared on the day of her wedding. Every night her dreams are haunted by images of a dead woman, in a pool of blood, with Duncan towering over her. Sandrina becomes entangled with Marcello’s investigation and finds herself in danger in Italy.

Intrigue is afoot at the masquerade at the Doge’s Palace in Venice, a city of secrets. What should lead to the unmasking of a murderer, instead sees the headstrong Sandrina kidnapped and Marcello must find her before any harm befalls her.

Buy on Amazon:

Cindy here again.

Good points on using an outline. I’ve started doing that more and find the writing goes much faster.

Keep writing.


Lakota, Logistics, and Learning

LWelcome back to the blog! Today for the A to Z Blogging Challenge I’ve got E. Ayers talking about what she learned while writing her book.

Here’s E. Ayers!

Waving hello to everyone. Thank you so much for allowing me to be blogging about the letter L.

I’ve been working on the Diary of Clare Coleman, one of the first settlers in Wyoming. Except Clare isn’t real nor is Creed’s Crossing. This fictional character is really a culmination of people and events. In my story, Clare and Jessie Coleman settled in Wyoming in the 1840’s. They are homesteaders. Seems simple enough but it’s not.

The truth is I’m busting myths of our Wild West. Women weren’t running around in fancy dresses and swooning over hunky cowboys. Let’s start with cowboys. As the name implies, they were boys! From what I can tell most of these boys were barely ten and some weren’t as old as eighteen.

Take a quick look at the Pony Express. Again, they were young boys. Pony should have been a big clue! They weren’t big enough to ride a horse!

Right now, I’m dealing with the Battle of Little Big Horn (aka Custer’s Last Stand) as I write Clare’s diary. I can’t regurgitate history or everyone would be bored, so I absorb the history and see how it might apply to the Coleman ranch and write it. As I plow into this battle information, I’m learning about the Lakota Indians, and the logistics of troop movements. And why am I doing this?

The Coleman land would have been near or rather in the path of the troops moving into the area. And the Crow Indians supported our U.S. military. Okay, I’ll be honest. This sort of thing bored the heck out of me in school. We learned history based on battles and not on people. So here I am digging to discover facts about a battle because I’m writing a fictional story? It doesn’t seem to make sense, but I do it because I need to accurately portray their lives.

Did the troops bring their own food? Did they hunt along the way? Would they have removed sections of fence as they crossed property lines? Would they have put those sections back together once they passed through? Where might I find the answers to my questions?

And how do I know what is right and what is wrong? Well the alliance with the Sioux and Lakota tribe is well documented, as is the battle itself. It’s been the most studied battle because we lost! We don’t like losing! Actually no one does. But this is one time in history when we didn’t win.

How do I know what is fact and what is fiction when I’m writing something historical? Of course Wikipedia is my friend, but I don’t count on it as being the perfect source, because it’s not. People, average people, not historians, have built Wikipedia. I need to look beyond to other sources.

So how do I know when we first started using fountain pens? I like going to several resources. I might look up the history of fountain pens. That will yield almost two million search results. Fountain pens are actually a collectors dream and there are all sorts of people who are well versed on them. There are also plenty of brand name pen companies who have their history on the web. So I browse the collectors, check out Wikipedia, and hit a few pen companies with their historical pages. I like to check at least three different sites to make certain they agree.

And just because something was invented doesn’t mean everyone had one. Go visit your local library and you’ll get an idea of how many people don’t have Internet in their home. Most of us do, but not everyone. I have Internet but not a fancy TV. If there is something important in the news, I do have my computer. It’s been that way throughout history. The washing machine was invented and then they had to create a need for women to want one and make it affordable!

My cell phone isn’t very smart. I’m not even certain what makes it smart. I’ve never bothered to even try to get my email on my phone, but I’m sure I could. So obviously it takes time for things to filter through the population and in places like Wyoming, which were not, and still aren’t highly populated, things took longer.

So shipping something in the late 1890’s in corrugated cardboard, instead of a wooden box, might be a novelty to the recipient. Yet cardboard boxes had been around for a few years and many companies embraced them because it was cheaper than shipping in wooden boxes. It also weighed less.

By using various sources for information and looking at each thing from different angles, allows us, as authors, to accurately portray history. This makes our stories believable and adds depth.

It’s a learning process. I’m not a historian or even a real history buff. But I’m discovering bits about history that I didn’t know, and it’s all very interesting.

The constant warring between American Indian tribes often wasn’t much more than a sporting event. A chance to prove bravery or a way of saying this is our hunting ground. One week they might have had one of these events and the next week they had joined forces for something else.

For me, the Lakota Alliance and the Battle of Little Big Horn really isn’t about military history, but how it might have affected the Coleman ranch and the Crow Indians who were helping our military. Because aren’t people and their lives more exciting than the actual military battle?

When writing, it’s important to get the facts straight and then figure out how to utilize the information. It doesn’t matter if you write about ladybugs, Lakota, Latinos, lemurs, laws, Liberia, loons, or lynxes. It’s essential to understand facts. How the information is applied is up to each author.

I’ve enjoyed showing life as it really was for the men and women who settled our western territories. And the romantic notions that are perpetuated in novels need to be replaced with the stories of men and women, who fought the elements and worked hard to survive. From the beginning of time, people have always wanted to have someone to love, to be loved, and to live a better life.

ARW E AYERS e version 800x500E. Ayers writes both contemporary and historical novels. Visit her blog for more information on her books.

A Rancher’s Woman set in 1896 is available now

A Rancher’s Dream set at the end of the 1800’s will be available by May 1, 2015 in ebook and paperback.

A Rancher’s Woman

Coddled and protected from the harsh realities of life, Malene runs away from a bad marriage by posing as a chaperone to her younger sister. A series of events soon prove she’s capable of standing on her own two feet. However, she’s not prepared to follow her heart and accept marriage from the one man who truly loves her.
Many Feathers chance encounter with a blue-eyed blonde woman sets him on a path that lands him between the white man’s ways and the traditions of his people. Determined to protect his people and prove his worthiness as a suitable husband to a white woman, he stakes claim to land and establishes a ranch. But there’s one outlaw focused on destroying Many Feathers and everything he’s trying to accomplish.

Amazon International Buy Links.

Available as a Kindle Unlimited

Soon to be available at a local bookstore near you in paperback.

Cindy here again.

Thanks for stopping by the blog. I love learning new things and I have been known to let the research bog me down. I need to find a good balance.

Keep writing.


Kindle Direct Publishing

KWelcome to the blog! I struggled with what to write about for K for the A to Z Blogging Challenge. I didn’t think I could write a long enough post about what a kill fee is. Then my husband suggested Kindle. Which led me to Kindle Direct Publishing or KDP for short.

KDP is actually a big topic that could take up a lot more than 500 words so I’m just going to give an overview. Running a writing group I get a lot of questions from new writers when I tell them I’m self published and one of the most common is how much does it cost to self publish your book. A lot of writers are under the impression that it costs a lot of money to self publish. And it can cost a lot if you go through a “service” that charges you for a bunch of things you don’t need. Or you can do it for free, or almost free by publishing directly to Amazon with Kindle Direct Publishing. They don’t charge a fee to upload your books. They get paid when you sell your books. Royalties are based on price. They get a cut and you get a cut. Costs come into play when you hire an editor, hire a cover artist. You can also hire a formatter. For my short stories I do the covers myself and I get a friend to do the edits.

First things first – if you have an Amazon account you already have a KDP account. You just need to log into it to start uploading books. If you go to https:/// it will prompt you to log in.


From there you can easily add titles. Once you click on add new title the process of adding your title, uploading your content and cover is pretty easy. You’ll select keywords and add a description. On the next screen after you’ve saved and previewed your book you’ll select the rights you have. In the case of my books, since I self published I had world rights so I left that clicked. Then I set the price, royalty level and clicked publish.


Then you can obsess every day and check your sales every five minutes. 🙂 I’ve tried to limit my time checking my sales but it’s nice to see those numbers go up.


All that in mind, self publishing isn’t for everyone. While a lot of authors like the control they have when they self publish, a lot of other authors would rather give that control to someone else so they can focus on what they love the most. The writing. Self publishing is easy to do but it isn’t easy. It’s a business and you the author must wear a lot of hats. While it’s true that no matter which way you go – self publishing or traditional publishing – you still have to market your book on your own, a traditional publisher will do a lot of other jobs (cover, editing) that let you focus on writing the next book.

So, if you’re so inclined, jump into the self publishing world and let me know how it goes.

Keep writing!

High concept – not just a marketing gimmick

HToday we’ve got me on the blog! I’m talking about high concept, taken from lesson three of the loglines class I teach.

Ever heard an agent or editor say they want something fresh?  Have you heard them say they want something unique?  How about they want the same but different?  Any of these ringing a bell?  What I think they mean, but aren’t saying, is they want high concept.  A lot of movies have been based on high concept books.  I Am Legend for example.  Great high concept.  Lousy movie.  Jaws.  High concept book, high concept movie.  The Silence of the Lambs.  Jurassic Park.

What is high concept?  Is it just a marketing gimmick?  People tend to think if they can boil their concept down to that twenty-five word logline they have high concept.  That’s not what makes it high concept.  I can do that with a lot of my stories but only a handful are actually high concept.  So then what is it?  And how do you get it if you don’t have it?

I’ve seen “rules” that say there are three components to a high concept.  Others that say there are five. And one even that says there are six.  No matter which one you listen to they have three in common:

The concept must be unique

The concept must appeal to a wide audience

The concept can be told in a single sentence and you see the whole movie (or book).

High concept is not Star Wars meets The African Queen. This is a framing technique mostly used in Hollywood. It should be used sparingly and only if asked. It’s also not the blurb or the synopsis. It’s not big budget, blockbuster movies either. You can have high concept without the big budget.

Star Wars was high concept. Star Wars fits all the criteria for being high concept in spades.  The Blair Witch Project, by no means a big budget film, was high concept. I didn’t care for the movie myself but millions of people did. It had a unique twist. The protagonists were likeable.  The stakes were high enough for them. Even Peggy Sue Got Married was high concept.

Not high concept – Little Miss Sunshine.  She’s All That.  Head Over Heels.  Twilight.  Brokeback Mountain.  American Beauty.

High concept is a powerful tool to have as a writer.  High concept pitches can make it easier to communicate up through the chain of command.  If your idea is too complicated, by the time it reaches the top, it may sound like a totally different idea.  Anyone ever play telephone as a child?  It also forces you to determine what the story is really about.  What the core of the story is.

Now some of you may be thinking, but my story is too complex for this logline business.  Or this high concept business.  But the God Father was high concept.  Boil that complex plot, with complex characters and great subplots and what is the core?

When a powerful gangster is gunned down, his reluctant son must seek revenge and take over the family business.

Everything in the movie relies on that core.

How do you improve a concept to make it higher concept?

First, I suggest you find the essence of the concept or logline.  Figure out what it’s about and then what it’s REALLY about.

Here’s where we have fun.  Take your concept or logline and change it.  Make it better.  How?  Is it unique?  No?  Can you make it more unique?  Change the setting to be unique?  How about the characters?  Change the gender, race, species of your characters.  Change their traits.  Throw some opposites in there.  You’ve all heard the make the heroine an arsonist and the hero a fire fighter suggestion.  Raise the stakes.  Play what if?  Give it a twist.  Have something unique about it.

So go ahead and try it on one of your concepts. But only ones you haven’t done a lot of work on. Authors tend to get married to their ideas and find it hard to make changes to the concept even though a change could make the concept stronger. Feel free to share your loglines if you like.


CindyCarrollECindy is a member of Sisters in Crime and a graduate of Hal Croasmun’s screenwriting ProSeries. Her interviews with writers of CSI and Flashpoint appeared in The Rewrit, the Scriptscene newsletter, the screenwriting Chapter of RWA. She writes screenplays, thrillers, and paranormals, occasionally exploring an erotic twist. A background in banking and IT doesn’t allow much in the way of excitement so she turns to writing stories that are a little dark and usually have a dead body. She lives in Ontario, Canada with her husband and two cats. When she’s not writing you can usually find her painting landscapes in oil or trying space paintings with spray paint.

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Thanks for stopping by the blog today!

Keep writing.

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