Zoology and writing

ZWelcome back to the blog! Can you believe this is the last day of the A to Z Blogging challenge? I can’t believe I made it! Today on the blog I’ve got Zrinka Jelic talking about zoology.

Here’s Zrinka.

Zoology, or animal biology, is the branch of biology that relates to the animal kingdom, including the structure, embryology, evolution, classification, habits, and distribution of all animals, both living and extinct, and how they interact with their ecosystems.

All veterinary students are required to write a dissertation on this topic. But, today I’ll talk about creative writing and zoology.

Those authors who write children’s stories and use animals for their character, whether they mingle with humans or all characters in the book are animals, and other authors who use animals in their writing, e.g. a paranormal shape shifters most popular werewolf.

No matter what genre we are writing in, if we use animals in our stories, whether they assume animal shape at will, or are animals from the beginning to the end of the book, we need to describe them as such. From their movements, sounds, hunting habits, fur or scales or even feathers, these characters must be authentic to their species. Of course anything goes in paranormal, the werewolves can walk on their hind legs and half human-ish  characteristics or once they shift into wolves they are wolves, who may still think as humans, but are unable to articulate their thoughts. That is why we study animal behaviour, maybe even pick up a few clues from our fur-babies.

The way the dog licks his nuzzle, staring at you while you’re eating that juicy steak. Or a cat pops its head into your plate to see if there’s anything yummy on there. Then there are sounds, like a low whine or a loud meow, alerting you “hey, have you forgotten about me?”

The way they greet you (or not) at the door: tails wagging, pink tongues lolling, loud panting and circling you, and let’s not forget sniffling to make sure you still smell like you. Or perhaps to check that you didn’t pick up smells from some other clan.

So when writing about animals or as I like to call it in general, zoology, research is of essence. Years ago, unless you grew up on the farm or were a veterinarian, you wouldn’t know much about farm animals. Similarly, unless you go on a safari, you wouldn’t see a lion in its natural habitat. Thankfully, today information is at our fingertips and we can watch shows at our leisure from our own sofas and as often as we need to, to capture an animal’s character just right and pass those characteristics onto our heroes and heroines in the books. It’s fine to say that a wolf howled, but if that wolf is your main character, it’s important to know why wolves howl. Usually, to communicate with the wolves from the neighboring territories. Their howl can carry up to 50 kilometres. So if in your story wolves are used instead of human characters, but your animals act so but think and have human’s problems, the way they communicate across the distances must be true to their species. They can’t very well text each other.

Well, that’s it from me on this topic. Hope it gave you a glimpse into much larger theme which is characterization. Only in zoology, we take an animal’s characteristics and apply them to our characters.

RoseofCrimson_MEDMy 5th novel is titled Rose of Crimson and it was released by Secret Cravings Publishing on December 23rd, 2014. This is a prequel to Bonded by Crimson which was published on January 15th, 2012. I’ve started working on the prequel the day I was offered a publishing contract for Bonded by Crimson. Then it got pushed to the back burner while I worked on other projects. Since then I’ve written and published Treasured Chest, a pirate romance, Love Remains, a time travel romance and Deck the Halls, a Christmas novella.


KATE ROKOV‘s grades are plummeting. She needs to get the voice out of her head or she will flunk her finals.

MATTHIAS ZRIN, a three centuries old immortal, born into an aristocratic family as Miles Rušinić, is enthralled with Kate. It is his voice preventing Kate from sleeping and her ignorance is testing his limits. He wants her to write down his story to settle his wife’s earthbound spirit. His tragic love story has become Kate’s obsession since fifth grade during her summer trip to Rušinić castle.

Their coming together settles the old spirit and breaks an ancient curse, and in doing so, a flame spanning over three centuries reignites and burns with wild desire. In this tale of two life times and desire versus emotional need, both know some dreams will have to wait for the right time, but the magic between them is impossible to withstand.

You can pick up a copy for your

Find Zrinka on: Amazon  Facebook   Twitter
Visit her  Blog

Cindy here again.

Interesting topic. I want to start a shifter series and will think more in depth now about how they act in human and wolf form.

Keep writing.


York has a festival

YWelcome back to the blog! We’re so close to the end. Today I have Amos Cassidy talking about the Festival of York.

Here’s Amos.

Hi, we’re Richard Amos and Debbie Cassidy and we write as Amos Cassidy, and we love being indie authors. The best thing about Indie is the control over what you write, how you package it, where you sell it and when you release it. Being Indie is great, however, last year we began to think that it would be nice to have our fingers in the traditional publishing pie, so we signed up to attend the huge Festival of Writing event in York last September.  So what happened? Well we made some fab author friends, got to ask a bunch of burning questions to people who worked in the industry and attended a load of workshops that opened our eyes to several errors we were making – not only in our writing, but in our approach to traditional publishing.

We had our one-to-one sessions with agents and received some very positive feedback. By the end of the stay we had received four requests for full manuscripts.

We have since learned that an agent requesting a full manuscript does not guarantee an offer of representation. Having done some research, we found that on average an agent could request 100 – 200 full manuscripts a year. Out of this number maybe 5-10 will be selected for representation. Smaller agencies will have smaller numbers. So, as you can imagine, any manuscript would have to not only be exceptionally written, but also excite the agent on a personal level.

We have yet to receive that call. Until then, we continue to write; both for the self publishing market and other projects aimed more at traditional publishing.  We have learned so much over the past 6 months and we would like to share a few tips that may help if you decide to poke a finger in the traditional publishing pie.


  1. Don’t just write for the market– The market is ever changing; even the publishers don’t know what will be hot next. You need to write what excites you. If you struggle to get into the story then how do you expect your readers to feel?
  2. Do not underestimate the importance of a solid covering letter – This is your first impression. If you are sloppy here then the agent will assume that your submission is sloppy. A lot of submissions are simply rejected because of a sloppy or untidy covering letter. Agents get hundreds of submissions; make sure you follow the guidelines so you don’t get added to the trash. Remember to address your letter to the agent personally and tell them why you have chosen them. Don’t go on and on about yourself unless the information is relevant to what you have written. For example, if you have written a Psychological Suspense and are a psychiatrist or have a MA in Psychology then by all means let them know. Otherwise, there is no need to go into detail. At this stage the agent simply wants to know about your novel and any writing history – publication in journals, magazines etc…
  3. Make your manuscript sparkle– Ideally you should stick your first draft in a drawer for a few weeks and come back to it. Go over it with a critical eye, self-editing it as you go. If you are unsure about grammar and punctuation there are loads of books and online tools on how to get to grips with it. Also, you can get it professionally edited. Otherwise, you can get it proof-read. Beta readers are always a good idea, they will look for plot holes and inconsistencies. A great resource of information is the ‘Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook Guide to Getting Published by Harry Bingham’
  4. Do your research– Agents are people too, they have likes and dislikes, they are not generic representation machines. What excites one agent may put another to sleep. Read their bio’s, do a little Twitter stalking and check out Writer’s Digest online. All invaluable in helping you make the decision about which agents to approach. Remember that an agent-author relationship is just that, a relationship, and it won’t work if you don’t have anything in common.
  5. Do make multiple submissions– You can submit to more than one agency at a time, but check their submission requirements as some like to be informed if you are doing this.
  6. Be patient– It can take on average up to 8 weeks to get a response to a submission, and if they request a full manuscript then there is another wait, anything from 1 month to 3. Every agency has their own guidelines as to times and acknowledgements, which is why submitting to more than one agent is a good idea.
  7. Never give up – Keep going. If you want to write then write and keep on doing it. We know what it’s like to feel down at times, but we can’t stop. Writing is in our blood. Never try and shut down that feeling of the love of telling a story as it will never go away. Embrace it and soldier on!


There are plenty of online resources with tips on how to formulate that perfect covering letter and how to format your completed manuscript. You are not alone. Having done a ton of research ourselves, we are happy to answer any questions you may have on the subject.

Writing Festivals and workshops are fantastic for making connections with like-minded people, picking up tips and expanding your mind. If you are serious about traditional publishing, and can afford to go, then we would highly recommend attending one.

Cindy here again.

This makes me want to go to a writing festival. Good thing they have one around here every year.

Keep writing.

Xenogenesis: On the art of creation

XWelcome back to the blog! For the A to Z Blogging challenge today I’ve got Amber Butler talking about Xenogenesis.

Here’s Amber.

Xenogenesis is the laboratory creation of an organism that is completely different from either of its parents.

This, I feel, is fantastically relevant to writing.

Our books and stories are organisms. We breathe life into them and birth them and let them wander our world like toddling children, and they may be the class clown or the class bully or the kid who sits under the window and eats paint and they may make friends or they may make enemies but they are alive and apart from us and once we have sent them into the world they grow without us tending them.

Our stories are sometimes created organically, from the fusion of multiple ideas. You may wake up one morning and find a character has walked through your dreams and whispered his story to you and you are merely the caretaker and must tend to the story and feed it and nurture it and kiss its knee when it falls off its bike and eventually let it go.

And these stories are good. They are necessary and cherished but are not what this blog post is about. This post is about the willful creation of things unlike other things. This post is about taking your writing down new and previously unforged paths.

It is, in short, how to intentionally design your stories to be organisms completely different from the things you’ve done before.


  1. Read outside your genre

This age-old bit of wisdom never rings truer than when you are trying to create something unique. Go to your local bookstore and wander into a corner you’ve never wandered into before. Pick up a book that looks like something that wouldn’t interest you if the apocalypse had destroyed all other books and this was your last hope for any reading material until the end of time. Reading outside your genre will stretch you as an author in ways that will lend remarkable authenticity to your story. Only write YA dystopian? Read a (good) romance novel. Even if your main character only has one scene where his/her heart pounds after the boy/girl in gym class, that wisdom you’ve stored up from extragenre reading will make your readers’ hearts pound, too. Only write romance novels? Read a good mystery. You get the idea.


  1. Write outside your genre.

I don’t mean whole novels. If you asked me to write a romance novel I’d put the characters in a spaceship fleeing a ravaged post-World War III earth and make a love triangle with an alien, a robot, and a sentient, formless being made of light. I’m a scifi/fantasy geek at heart and you can’t remove that part of me. However, short stories and flash fictions are the way to practice your writing chops in areas where you don’t have any. There are tons of places to find writing prompts (the sub-Reddits “Writing Prompts” and “Prompt of the Day” happen to be my favorites) and make yourself write in a genre you wouldn’t normally write in. For instance, I found a prompt that was an image of a storm in a sky and immediately wrote a story about a woman who collected weather patterns and kept them in mason jars in her closet. If I were practicing extragenre discourse, I would have written about wandering a well-worn path pining for a lost love, or combing the beaches to find pieces of a missing body, or fighting the battle of Gettysburg under a dark sky.

  1. Write a sentence. Erase it. Write the opposite.

Sometimes sentences and characters and plots are born from that organic merging of other sentences and characters and plots and are beautiful in their own right. But when you are trying to create something that is genuinely unique, you may have to go against the instincts of your own brain, which tends toward the familiar in almost all things.

“So, how’s the weather?”

I grimaced. I hate making small talk. Small talk and people and weather are tedious and boring and make me want to drink a cup of coffee still steaming, make me want to throw that coffee in other people’s faces.

I grinned. I love making small talk. Small talk and people and weather are fascinating and infinite and make me want to share a steaming cup of coffee with them, find out how many creamers they take, listen to every story they have to tell.

I watched her. She would never pay attention to me, the weird boy with the cartoon hair and the lisp. I watched the way her blond curls bounced when she jumped and the way her lips opened too wide on the right when she laughed and the way she wiped the mud from playing in the creek bed off on her pants.

I watched him. He would never pay attention to me, the weird boy with the cartoon hair and the lisp. I watched the way his blond curls bounced when he jumped and the way his lips opened too wide on the right when he laughed and the way he wiped the mud from playing in the creek bed off on his pants.

Notice there is nothing wrong with the crossed out version. It is simply what came to my mind first. I erased it, then wrote something else. In this way you can create characters that are different from the characters your brain is used to reading and writing. Your stories will have a surprising bit of nuance and depth and take you places you never thought you could go.


  1. Make a Random Character Chart

As you are creating your characters and deciding on their motivations and loves and hates and how they act in the plot, this idea may help if your creativity seems to be stuck. Make a character list, but don’t name your characters or define them in any way other than their emotional and mental attributes. Your list may look something like this:

Character 1                                Character 2

Abandoned at birth                  Abandoned at birth

Grew up in orphanage             Best friends with Character 1

Kind hearted and generous     Kind but selfish

Loyal                                           Wants what is best for Character 2

In love with Character 2          In love with Character 3

Then make several lists defining characteristics such as physical appearance and sexual orientation.

Tall/Short/Average Height/Etc

Chiseled Jaw/Pock-faced/Beard/Etc


White/Black/Asian/Middle Eastern/Etc




You get the idea.

Next, get the dice.

You see where this is going.

Roll dice to match each character with their traits. Obviously you are the artist and can veto whatever you want, but this will help put a large distance between you and the awkward-but-adorably-clumsy teenage girl who is different because she likes to read books, the ruggedly-handsome-but-ultimately-wild-and-dangerous boy she is in love with, and the nerdy-and-goofy-but-equally-adorable boy she is also in love with.

  1. Read the Greats

You probably have this one covered, but in case you don’t, do it. A good rule of thumb: If anyone ever says, “Your book reminded me of ____,” read that book.

If you write mystery or horror, read King. If you write fantasy, read Gaiman. If you write speculative or dystopian fiction, read Atwood. If you write sci fi satire, read Pratchett and Adams. If you write YA lit, read Green. Is this an exhaustive list? Obviously not, but you get the idea.

11167433_10106473932933384_763294257_oRead them slowly. Don’t rush. Savor the words, like a warm, juicy, red steak, let the prose dissolve on your tongue and trickle down your throat and fill up your stomach and you will find your own words and worlds enhanced. There is nothing wrong with reading authors who are not considered “great” or who are not well known–in fact, I highly recommend it as there are some breathtaking hidden gems out there. But too frequently authors don’t read the ones who others consider to be the peak of their genre, sometimes out of moral repugnancy (“I refuse to bow to the whims of publishing companies!”) sometimes out of ignorance (“Levithan who?”) but it never bodes well and almost always ends in subpar prose and rehashed plot lines and stale characters and awkward dialogue. Read much, and read often, and always, always, read the greats.

Bio: A K Butler publishes a blog where you can read her short stories and flash fictions for free. She has written a YA science fiction novel, The Burning of Cherry Hill, which is available on Amazon. She is frequently found on Twitter fangirling over books she loves, Firefly, and Doctor Who. You can also find her on Facebook.

Cindy here again.

Great tips. I do try to read outside my favourite genres and I challenge myself to write things I wouldn’t normally write.

Keep writing.

W is for writer

WWelcome back to the blog! We’re in the home stretch for the A to Z Challenge. Today I have Joanne Guidoccio talking about being a writer.

Here’s Joanne.

W is For Writer Or…

Fellow GWIN member Lisa Ivaldi asked, “Do you want me to add Writer or Author to your profile?

My heart beat faster as I considered the implications of both titles.

According to the dictionary, a writer “expresses ideas in writing” or “is engaged in literary work” while an author is an “originator or creator of written work.”

The definitions appear similar, but there is a definite difference, one clearly articulated by many English teachers: “You become an author when your books are published, but if your writings never publish, you remain a writer.”

Best-selling author  Dean Wesley Smith  has a different take on it.

He strongly believes that “a writer is a person who writes; an author is a person who has written.” According to Smith, writers focus on the process of writing and as soon as they publish one book they’re onto the next. On the other hand, authors devote their energies to promoting their book instead of writing the next one.

Having written more than 100 novels and 200 short stories, it is no surprise that Smith considers himself a writer. And his final advice is sound: “Authors are missing the best promotion tool there is for their old books. Their next book.”

While I agree with Smith’s advice, I tend to gravitate toward the more traditional definition of an author. The word has a more professional ring to it, declaring a writer is finally taking her craft seriously.

A fact that wasn’t so apparent when I first launched my second act as a writer.

For three years, I dabbled. Travel writing. Business articles. Blogging, Poetry. Cozy mysteries. Angel stories. Memoirs.  Fantasy. Depending on which online course or workshop I attended, I immediately embraced the new genre and tried my hand at it.

I met with modest success and enjoyed seeing my articles, book reviews and short stories appear in newspapers, magazines and online. Interestingly enough, most editors included the following short bio: “Joanne Guidoccio is a Guelph writer.”

But with three novels—Between Land and Sea, A Season for Killing Blondes, The Coming of Arabella— completed and contracted, I feel confident and ready to call myself an Author.

Guidoccio 001Bio:

In 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.


Website:   http://joanneguidoccio.com/
Twitter:   https://twitter.com/joanneguidoccio
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/authorjoanneguidoccio
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/joanneguidoccio
Pinterest:   http://pinterest.com/jguidoccio/
Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7277706.Joanne_Guidoccio
Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/Between-Land-Sea-Joanne-Guidoccio-ebook/dp/B00F9U5Q50

Cindy here again.

Interesting thoughts on the writer versus author question.

Keep writing.

Kris Bock on Voice

VWelcome back to the blog! Today for the A to Z Blogging Challenge I’ve got Kris Bock talking about voice. A strong voice is something writers are told they need but a lot of them have no idea what it is.

Here’s Kris.

There’s nothing like having your own “slush pile” to give insight into what editors see. I’ve judged or critiqued several writing contests and critiqued conference manuscripts. Some of the entries were fairly advanced, but only a couple were publishable. I saw many of the same problems over and over.

The better novels had an interesting character and plot (at least so far as I could judge based on the 10-20 pages I had). The weakness was typically in the voice. Voice can be one of those hard-to-define, “I’ll know it when I see it” things. It’s also often viewed as something instinctive, almost magical. Perhaps for those reasons, many people don’t try to learn voice.

But “voice” really just means style, and of course there are many techniques you can learn to improve your style. Some are simple, some more complex and harder to master. That’s a good thing, as we can keep learning, step-by-step.

Steps in Dialogue

For example, dialogue attributions must, at a minimum, be clear, so the reader is never confused about who is speaking. But even clear attributions can make the dialogue either flow smoothly or sound clunky. For strong dialogue, first you might learn to use “said” rather than fancy alternatives that call attention to themselves and look amateurish, such as demanded, inquired, responded, suggested, etc.

Next you might learn that you don’t have to identify the speaker with every line, if the speaker is clear from the conversational pattern. You can start cutting a few of those repetitive saids.

Then you might learn that you can often identify the speaker with an action or gesture, and cut the dialogue attribution altogether. (Ironically, now you’re removing nearly all of those saids that you included in the first step.) Not only does this make the dialogue smoother, but it helps keep readers grounded in the scene because they can picture the characters as they move, gesture, and change expression.

Other areas where voice comes into play are pacing, close point of view, and showing rather than telling. I don’t have time to explore all that here, but once again those are areas where you can make small steps toward ultimately strong writing.

Is a strong voice the key to writing success? Not necessarily. Some published works get by with weak voice because of a marketable hook, a dramatic plot, or the author’s fame. And voice alone won’t interest editors or readers unless you have the concept, character, and plot to support the voice. But improving your writing style bit by bit can make the difference between almost-there and success.

So how do you learn these lessons? Fortunately, you have lots of options!

Keep Learning

  • Courses through correspondence schools, or local classes, workshops and conferences with a craft focus.


  • Books on the craft of writing. My book Advanced Plotting covers pacing, with articles on how to build a scene and writing cliffhanger chapter endings. I like Scene and Sequence, by Jack Bickham, Manuscript Makeover, by Elizabeth Lyon, and my favorite for style, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, by Renni Browne and Dave King. I’ve been hearing good things about The Emotion Thesaurus


  • Blogs are a great not only because they are free, but because you can learn a little bit every week or every day. Besides this one, check out Fiction Universityby Janice Hardy, and Jodie Renner Editing. And you’ll find my blog, with lots of information on showing versus telling, pacing, and more, at Write like a Pro! Scroll down to the labels on the right to see past topics.


  • Critique groups and other beta readers are also a big help. If you don’t have experienced critique partners, cultivate some. Some regional writing groups help match up critique partners. Listserves or discussion boards are another way to connect with people.


  • Finally, unless your critique partners are all professional writers and editors, chances are eventually you will go as far as you can with their help. Then it may be time to hire a professional editor, or at least get a critique at a conference. Many well-published writers and writing teachers can be hired for private critiques (myself included; see rates and recommendations on my blog). You can even hire some well-known former editors from traditional publishing houses. In addition, some agents and editors occasionally give free critique feedback on their blogs, typically of query letters or first pages.


It’s easy to feel impatient and want publication now. It’s tempting to believe that since you took one course or read a couple of books on writing, you’re ready to submit your work. But learning to write well is a long, ongoing process. I’ve been writing for over 20 years and teaching for 10. I have about 30 traditionally published children’s books as well as self published novels for children (written as Chris Eboch) and adults (written as Kris Bock). And I keep learning. The market is harder than ever, so give yourself every advantage. Who doesn’t want a few new tools in their bag of tricks?

Besides, the journey is half the fun! We can’t control the end result, so we might as well enjoy and grow from the process.

Happy writing,


Kris Bock writes romantic adventures involving outdoor adventures and Southwestern landscapes. The Mad Monk’s Treasure and The Dead Man’s Treasure follow treasure hunts in the New Mexico desert; Whispers in the Dark involves archaeology and intrigue among ancient ruins; and in Counterfeits, stolen Rembrandt paintings bring danger to a small New Mexico town. Visit www.krisbock.com or sign up for Kris Bock newsletter. http://eepurl.com/5Dd_f

Kris writes for children under the name Chris Eboch. Her novels for ages nine and up include Bandits Peak, a survival thriller; The Genie’s Gift, a middle eastern fantasy, The Eyes of Pharaoh, a mystery in ancient Egypt; The Well of Sacrifice, a Mayan adventure; and the Haunted series, which starts with The Ghost on the Stairs. Her book Advanced Plotting helps writers fine-tune their plots. Learn more at www.chriseboch.com or her Amazon page, or check out her writing tips at her Write Like a Pro! blog.

Cindy here again.

Great tips about voice. I will have to check out some of those books.

Keep writing.

U is for Unorthodox

UHiya, there! My name is Rachael Kosinski. I’m twenty years old, tower over most girls my age, and juggle writing with going to college. I am NOT Cindy Carroll, as you may guess as you read down this post, but I WILL continue her A to Z April Challenge with the letter “U.” I didn’t have time to do a challenge of my own, and am very grateful I got the chance to jump in on someone else’s. “U” is for unorthodox. Not the opposite of a usually Greek or Russian religion—no. I mean unusual, nonconformist, or something you probably just shouldn’t do.

Which brings me to the time I cased a local art exhibit while researching my latest story.

Writers, if you think about it, are the most unorthodox people out there. They make a point of making things up for a living and frequently hold conversations in their minds with people who don’t physically exist. Research, more specifically, can take them down very strange and twisted paths. Recently I’ve been drafting a story that involves art forgeries and a girl who can hear memories on paintings. Which means I needed to know about art crime, and the inner details of certain artworks: what they’re made of, how big they are, where they’re located and when they’ve traveled. In a single afternoon I crawled through the FBI’s article collections of forgery rings and Ponzi schemes and reached pages that were password protected. Searches on Interpol, Monet ID numbers, layouts of museums and searches on certain types of dueling guns more than likely put me on a government watch list. Then, of course, I actually cased a place.

I didn’t even mean to. My museum studies class (I’m an art history major) attended an exhibition opening for one of the professors. Thirty years’ worth of artwork hung on the walls in watercolor and egg tempura. There were abstract pieces and religious reworking, but he’d gone through a multicolor phase and there was this large painting that I adored so much I almost asked him if I could buy it. About maybe three by five feet, a nude woman stood with a forest as backdrop, only none of the colors were normal. Shades hung in blue, highlights in orange or red. It was gorgeous. While he gave a speech on how and when he made the works, my mind wandered. Really, the exhibit was in our arts building, which was open late into the night. Squinting at the ceiling, I saw no security cameras. The only problem would be figuring out the punch code to the room’s door, but I was an art history student and knew the curator; maybe I could lie my way into her giving me the code…? The plan didn’t take me any farther than lifting the painting from the wall and stashing it under my bed in my dorm room, but it had taken place in my head. I had really examined a situation and hypothetically laid groundwork for an art theft. And it was kind of thrilling. Hypothetically, of course! 🙂

Disclaimer: I promise I would never really steal anything; I’d feel way too guilty. But it raised lots of questions for me: what’s the craziest thing you’ve done for research? I always get into the mindset of my characters so I can try to see things the way they do; hence theoretically attempting to steal a professor’s painting. Are you all note-taking or do you try to do the things your characters do, just to be able to describe them more realistically? It could be anything; taking a jujitsu class because your protagonist is a master at it, peeking into the kitchen of a fancy restaurant because your villain daylights as a sous chef, or going spelunking because your pirate’s treasure lies in a cave and you want to write the subterranean atmosphere like a pro.

X, Rachael


The Christmas Lights FINALBlurb:

“Where do Christmas lights come from?”
Those tiny bulbs of color that burn on a Christmas tree,
Or outside a house to shine in the night.
Does anyone really know where they originate?
What if someone told you
They weren’t intended for Christmas at all,
But really for a miracle?
That they were for love, a desperate idea, to light a boy’s way home?
In that case, you must have some questions. What boy? What love?
Have a seat. Allow me to tell you a story.


Buy Links:


Visit Rachel’s website: http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com

Cindy here!

Interesting post! The craziest thing (so far) that I’ve done is attend Citizens’ Police Academy to get a better idea of how my officers would do their job.

Keep writing.

T is for Time: Writing Time

TWelcome back to the blog! Today I’ve got Andrea Cooper talking about time. Writing time. Something writers say they never have enough of.

Here’s Andrea.

One thing I’ve heard many writers complain about (including me) is not having time to write. Between family, work, and other obligations chipping away at the day, little is left over for writing.

Here are some ideas that have helped me find more writing time:

  • TV/Movies – I record my favorite shows and watch them later while folding laundry. I’m multi-tasking and can skip the commercials or put the clothes away during them. And some shows that I used to watch, just to see the results and new products, like SharkTank, I just look online for the summary. As far as movies, I am picky about what I will watch in the theatres – usually go the DVD route so I can skip previews.
    • Potential time saved: 15 mins – 40 mins
  • Cooking – I make at least one crockpot recipe instead of cooking and every other week, we have frozen pizza. Kids and/or hubby can help too.
    • Potential time saved: 30 – 50 mins
  • Kid’s Bath time – If possible, my husband and I trade off bathing the kids, helping them brush their teeth, and putting PJ’s on. While my husband baths the kids, I write.
    • Potential time saved: 15 – 30 mins
  • Lunch – a few times a week, lunch can be eaten at your desk (or with a laptop at a park, coffee shop, or restaurant) and type during your lunchtime.
    • Potential time saved: 30 mins to 1 hour
      • If you get ‘smoke’ breaks, use the 5-15mins (however much time your company/boss allows) and write – even if it’s just 5 mins twice a week, it will add up.
    • Miscellaneous tips:
      • Take a shower instead of a bath
      • Instead of hopping on Facebook or Twitter, use that time to write. (time for these and marketing can be done at other points in the day, like when waiting in line, on the phone while on hold, in the doctor/dentist office, etc.)
      • Set a timer for 15-20 mins and write as fast as you can without stopping or thinking.
      • Have kids/hubby help with cleaning: putting away dishes, taking out trash, vacuuming, sweeping/moping, putting their clothes away, etc. My kids like to help with chores, because I don’t make it a chore or burden. It’s okay that they can’t/don’t clean as well as an adult. Being excited about helping mom and giving them praise is a great way to bond.
      • Take the bus to/from work – use the time to brainstorm, write if you can (depends on if you write long-hand or have a small enough laptop that won’t crowd the person you sit next to. Leave for work 20-30 mins early and miss traffic and use that saved time to write.
      • Try a speech-to-text software program (warning – this costs money!) and ‘talk’ your story while you cook, clean, etc.

Not all of these need to be used at the same time. They can be combined, alternated throughout the week, etc. Experiment.

Do you have any tips on saving/making time for writing?

AndreaCooperAndrea’s Bio: Andrea has always created characters and stories. But it wasn’t until she was in her late twenties that she started writing novels.

What happened that ignited the writing flame in her fingers? Divorced, and disillusioned by love songs and stories. They exaggerate. She thought. Love and Romance are not like that in the real world. Then she met her husband and realized, yes love and romance are exactly like the songs and stories say. She is now a happy wife, and a mom to three kids (two boys and a girl).

Andrea writes fantasy, paranormal, historical, and contemporary romance suspense. When not writing or reading, one may find Andrea dancing in Zumba or chasing her two youngest through the park.

She believes in the power of change and counting each moment as a blessing. But most importantly, she believes in love.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AndreaRCooper.author

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AndreaRCooper

Author Website: www.AndreaRCooper.com

Cindy here again.

Great tips. We record our shows and I use a timer!

Keep writing.

S is for Scout

SWelcome to the blog! Today I’ve got Jim Jackson talking about Scout, Kindle Scout.

Here’s Jim.

Amazon brings American Idol to the writing community with its Kindle Scout program.

Whether you like Amazon or hate it, you’ll probably agree that it has materially changed the publishing business. It has changed how we buy books (frequently online), how much we pay for books (generally less), and how we read books (often electronically). For authors, Amazon has altered who is published by allowing authors an easy mechanism for self-publishing. Furthermore, they have created their own publishing company with myriad imprints.

Starting November 2014 through the Kindle Scout program, Amazon is “outsourcing” to readers selection of which Kindle books they will publish; hence the American Idol meets the writing community line at the head of the blog.

The Basics

Authors submit their books for consideration and Amazon determines which ones enter the program. Readers (“Scouts” in Amazon-speak) have thirty days to nominate books (only once, not like “Chicago voting,” where early and often are acceptable). Based on how many nominations a book receives and other considerations Amazon chooses not to reveal, Amazon makes the final decision about which books they’ll offer publishing contracts.

Anyone who has nominated a successful book receives a free Kindle version of the book once it is published. As of mid-March, Amazon had chosen thirty-one books for publication.

What Authors and Books Qualify?

You can find the current Kindle Scout rules online. It is only open to authors over age eighteen with a U.S. bank account and either a Social Security Number or Tax Identification Number. Manuscripts with more than one author need not apply. Amazon only accepts fiction. The program started with three genres and in January expanded to loosely cover all fiction, probably excluding young kids books. Make sure to check their current rules since the program has already expanded once.

The book must not have been for sale anywhere, anytime. However, it could have been available for free, say on Wattpad or a personal website or blog. Your book must be in English and complete with at least 50,000 words. You’ll need to have an original book cover.

You do not need a synopsis, but you will need to develop a blurb (less than 500 characters) and pitch line (maximum 45 characters). You’ll need a picture of yourself along with a bio, which is also 500 characters or less.

What’s in the Contract?

The disclaimer. I am not a lawyer, and you should not consider my summary in any way to be legal advice. Furthermore, I am only discussing some of the provisions. If you are interested in the Kindle Scout program, make sure to read the contract thoroughly and seek legal counsel if you wish.

Exclusive Period: Should you submit to the program, you give Amazon a 45-day exclusive on your book. You allow them to use all the material you send them and post a portion of your book for Scouts to review. Once the period is over, Amazon will remove the material from their site if they do not select your book for publication.

But heck, you’ve written a great novel, people are going to love it. Let’s look at the terms when they sign you up.

Rights Granted: Essentially all ebook and audio rights worldwide in all languages.

Reversion: (1) After five years if you have not earned at least $25,000 in royalties, you may request your rights back; otherwise the term is extended for another five years. (2) If Kindle Press did not publish the work within six months of accepting it, all rights revert. (3) If after two years there is any consecutive twelve-month period in which you do not earn at least $500 in royalties, you may request rights reversion. (4) You may request reversion of audio rights and any foreign language rights if they have not been published/sold after two years.

Advance: US$1,500, payable within thirty days of their final acceptance of your manuscript and when you provide necessary tax and banking information.


ebook: 50% of Net Revenue;

audio: 25% of Net Revenue;

foreign: 20% of Net Revenue

Editing: Kindle Press may, but is not required to, provide editing.

Ant Farm CoverThe Process (How my submission went)

Day 1: I submitted ANT FARM, which is a prequel to the Seamus McCree mystery series, to the Kindle Scout program on Friday, January 23, 2015.

Day 4: They accepted it for the program on Monday (the next business day) and let me know Ant Farm’s nomination period would start that Wednesday.

Day 6: Ant Farm went live on Wednesday, January 28.

Day 35: Last day of nomination process, which was Thursday, February 26.

Day 40: Monday, March 2 @ 12:17 a.m. I received an email that notified me Kindle Press would publish Ant Farm (2nd business day after the nominations closed). Someone clearly made the decision the day after the nomination process closed and set up an automatic notification process.

Day 40: Monday, March 2 @ 12:18 a.m. everyone who nominated Ant Farm received an email letting them know Kindle Press will publish Ant Farm. The email congratulated Scouts on their good taste and reminded them they would receive a free Kindle version of the book when it was available.

Day 41: After I told them there were no changes I needed to make to either the cover or the manuscript, they notified me they had accepted the manuscript. The publication clock starts ticking. I received instructions for providing tax and banking information.

Day 54: Monday, March 16 I spoke with my Kindle Press contact. Estimated publication date is April 28 plus or minus a week. They plan to do copy editing and I should shortly hear from the copy editor.

Because of my travel schedule, almost four weeks will have passed between my writing this blog and its publication. I’ll provide a status update in the comments section of this blog.

~ Jim


james-m-jacksonBrief Bio:

James M. Jackson authors the Seamus McCree mystery series. ANT FARM (Spring 2015), a prequel to BAD POLICY (2013) and CABIN FEVER (2014), recently won a Kindle Scout nomination. Ebook published by Kindle Press; print from Wolf’s Echo Press. BAD POLICY won the Evan Marshall Fiction Makeover Contest whose criteria were the freshness and commerciality of the story and quality of the writing. Jim has published an acclaimed book on contract bridge, ONE TRICK AT A TIME: How to Start Winning at Bridge (Master Point Press 2012), as well as numerous short stories and essays.

His website is http://jamesmjackson.com where you can learn more about him, his books and click on convenient buttons to follow him on various social media.

Cindy here again.

Great information about the Scout program. Hopefully they will open it up to people who aren’t in the U.S.

Keep writing.

Ruthless Revision

RWelcome back to the blog! For R I’ve got Bonnie Stevens talking about revisions.

Here’s Bonnie.

“Murder your darlings”—that may be the most famous piece of advice about revision, one that’s been attributed to just about everybody but really, apparently, originated with Arthur Quiller-Couch, a British writer and critic born in 1863. I think it became famous partly because it so vividly sums up two facts almost all writers instantly recognize as true:

• Revision is mandatory.
• Revision hurts like hell.

We labor so hard to bring our words into this world—sending any of them back into the void feels wrong. It feels like murder. And according to Quiller-Couch, the words we labor over the hardest, the ones we love the best, are usually the ones we most need to obliterate. How can we force ourselves to be as ruthless as we know we need to be? Is there any way to make the process less painful?

A few years ago, I read two essays that transformed the way I revise. Both had been around for decades, but I hadn’t encountered them before. And while both contain many valuable insights about writing, these essays made a difference for me primarily because each recommends one specific technique that has helped me murder my darlings more efficiently.

The first essay is Donald M. Murray’s “The Maker’s Eye: Revising Your Own Manuscripts,” published in 1973. Murray has many perceptive things to say about the early stages of revision when most writers, he says, focus on “the larger problems of subject and form.” Then he moves on to the stage when writers move “closer and closer to the page,” working through the manuscript sentence by sentence, sweating to make every word right. At this stage, Murray finds it best to work “in short runs, no more than fifteen or twenty minutes at a stretch.” If he tries to keep going longer than that, he says, “I become too kind with myself. I begin to see what I hope is on the page, not what is actually on the page.”

At first, this approach sounded strange to me—it seemed too fragmented—but I gave it a try. It works. I set a timer for twenty minutes (or usually, to be honest, thirty) and start working. I’m alert, I’m focused on revision, and I’m determined to find ways to make improvements. When the timer goes off, I take a ten-minute break. I put in a load of laundry or do some other household chore, I respond to an e-mail or two, or I read a chapter of somebody else’s book. Sometimes, I exercise (I should do that more often) or fix a snack (I should do that less often). When the break is over, I attack the manuscript with renewed alertness, focus, and determination.

I think this approach helps me revise more thoroughly, and I know it makes me more ruthless. When I try to revise without taking breaks, it’s too easy to slip out of revising mode and into reading mode. I start enjoying the characters and admiring the plot. After all, these are my darlings—I created them, so it’s natural for me to love them. But if I want other people to love them, too, I can’t afford to go easy on them. I have to scrutinize them critically and be prepared to murder them if necessary. Revising in short runs helps.

The other essay is William Zinsser’s “The Act of Writing: One Man’s Method,” written in 1983 (if he’d written it more recently, he probably would have said “one person’s method”). Again, there’s lots of good advice about revision in general, one specific technique that stands out for me. When he was teaching writing at Yale, Zinsser says, he would read through students’ essays and “put brackets around every component . . . that I didn’t think was doing some kind of work.” The “component” might be a single word, such as “the adverb whose meaning is already in the verb (blare loudly, clench tightly),” or it might be an entire sentence that “essentially repeats what the previous sentence has said.” “Most people’s writing,” Zinsser says, “is littered with phrases that do no work whatever. Most first drafts, in fact, can be cut by fifty percent without losing anything organic.”

I don’t know exactly why the brackets work so well, but believe me—they do. When I’m reasonably satisfied with the content and organization of a manuscript, I print a hard copy and go through it again, looking for words, phrases, sentences, and—who knows?—whole paragraphs I might be able to cut. Sometimes, I can cross things out immediately, confident they aren’t “doing some kind of work” and will never be missed. Often, though, I hesitate. Okay, so maybe that phrase isn’t strictly necessary, but I like it—it’s a darling—and I hate to cut it. So I put it in brackets and move on, postponing the final, painful decision. Later, when I go back and see a page studded with half a dozen or more bracketed words, phrases, or sentences, I realize how much tighter and sharper the page could be if I find the courage to make the cuts. Usually, I grit my teeth and cross out everything in brackets, and the page snaps into shape.

Maybe it’s easier to murder our darlings if we do it in stages—we put a component on trial by bracketing it, we later weigh all the evidence about the page or the chapter as a whole before reaching a verdict, and only then do we convict and execute. And when I look back at a page and see only a few brackets, I know I’ve slipped into reading mode and haven’t been ruthless enough. It’s time to take a break, and to come back in ten minutes determined to find more suspects to put on trial.

For me, Zinsser’s method works best when I print a hard copy and bracket in pencil. You could also, I’m sure, type the brackets, or highlight possibly superfluous components, or find some other way of using this technique without printing a hard copy. For me, though, for revision, a hard copy works best. Maybe that’s because I’m a dinosaur who wrote her first manuscripts on yellow pads and typewriters. Or maybe there’s a real advantage to getting physically closer to our manuscripts during the last stages of writing, to having our hands travel over our words as we make our final decisions about their fates—which ones to keep, which ones to change, which ones to murder.

I do know these two techniques have made a difference for me, and that’s taught me another lesson. Before I read these essays, I’d been writing for decades, teaching writing for decades. I considered myself an expert on the writing process, and I thought my own process was set. These essays proved me wrong. We never know enough about writing. No matter how experienced we are, we can still learn from what other writers have to say. Some of the books and essays we read will simply repeat things we already know, and some we’ll reject as just plain wrong. Once in a while, though, if we keep reading, we’ll find new, valuable insights, ones that might even make us revise our approaches to revision.

About B.K. Stevens

B.K. (Bonnie) Stevens has published almost fifty short stories, most in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. Her stories have won a Derringer and been nominated for Agatha and Macavity awards. Her first novel, Interpretation of Murder, published by Black Opal Books in April, 2015, is a traditional whodunit that offers readers glimpses into deaf culture and sign-language interpreting. Fighting Chance, a martial arts mystery for teens, will be published by The Poisoned Pencil / Poisoned Pen Press. B.K. and her husband, Dennis, live in Virginia. They have two grown daughters and an assertive cat. www.bkstevensmysteries.com.

Front Cover (2)About Interpretation of Murder

As an American Sign Language interpreter, Jane Ciardi stands off to the side. Her life changes when she takes a job from a Cleveland private detective. Now Jane’s at the center of things, keeping tabs on a deaf African-American teenager whose odd behavior alarms her wealthy father. Jane also needs to discover the truth behind two murders—including the murder of the first interpreter the detective hired.

To get closer to the teenager, Jane joins a fitness center owned by a family that brings new meaning to the word “dysfunctional.” Jane can’t help feeling attracted to the family’s youngest son, a cheerfully amoral charmer who seems equally drawn to her. But he’s keeping secrets, and so are others at the fitness center. The more Jane learns about the center, the more she suspects some people go there to get more than a workout. The more she learns, the more she becomes the target of attacks that force her to use her martial arts skills to defend herself.

Somehow, Jane realizes, the fitness center’s connected to the two murders and to the deaf teenager’s odd behavior. Jane’s struggle to unravel all the secrets tests her resourcefulness, her loyalties, and her courage.

Cindy here again.

Great post. I like the brackets idea. I’l have to use that.

Keep writing.

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.


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