Fall Conference Takeaways & Tips by Beth Carter

What a busy fall this has been! On the heels of my mid-August release of SLEEPING WITH ELVIS, I attended three writers’ conferences and book signings in September and October. Whew! I’m just now catching my breath. All three conferences were very different, yet informative and helpful in their own way whether connecting with readers, learning craft, or schmoozing with super star authors.


Following are the three conferences I attended:

  • Ozarks Romance Authors – Springfield, Missouri
  • Penned Con – St. Louis, Missouri
  • InD’Scribe Author & Reader Con – Burbank, California

Ozarks Romance Authors is basically a two-day event (with a book signing for speakers  the night before.) Workshops are held the following day covering a variety of writerly topics. Mainly authors attend this event. There were aspiring authors, published authors, and a few readers. At least one agent and editor took pitches. I always enjoy this smaller conference in my home town, but sadly, they’re discontinuing this one.

Penned Con was a MASSIVE event in St. Louis. Supposedly, over 900 attended (150 of whom were authors) so you can imagine there were many, many readers. And the readers’ support was astounding. They were eager to get photographs with authors. Many had books or totes they wanted autographed. Some even made photo books containing their favorite authors’ head shots. I was humbled to be in one of them! There were keynote speakers each day. Quinn Loftis spoke about why we write. Another author talked about her journey from humble beginnings to becoming a bestselling author. Her husband had tears of pride. book-signing-at-penned-con-w-elvis

The readers made this event a huge success and made the authors feel like rock stars. In fact, one reader had a shirt that said: AUTHORS ARE MY ROCK STARS! Talk about making up for all of those solitary writing hours! Their enthusiasm for this conference, and for reading in general, was astounding. Many bought multiple books. I think one woman must have bought 500. She filled a cart four or five times. Another great thing about Penned Con is they raise money for a charity–Autism. Between gift basket raffles, tee shirt sales, and other items, we collectively raised over $13,000 for autism. I loved that aspect of this conference.

InD’Scribe Author & Reader Con – Bigger name authors attend this conference and they are VERY welcoming. One, Marina Adair, had the premier of her book-made-to-movie, AUTUMN IN THE VINEYARD,  that weekend on the Hallmark Channel. We were all in awe of her success. Also, her BFF, Catherine Bybee, who is on every list for her Weekday Brides’ series is a hoot and a great dancer. Several Soulies attended this event and I was thrilled to meet Collette Cameron, Carol Roddy, Tami Lund, and to see Sue Berger and Alina Field again. I hope even more Soulies attend in 2017!

book-signing-table-indscribe-2016InD’Scribe seems to be more of an industry conference for authors and doesn’t yet attract many readers but we still had book signings. I’m hopeful it will grow each year. This was just their second conference. Also, they have romance cover models roaming around, and authors are able to have their photos taken with them. Below is Michael Foster and me. Swoon. ‘Nuff said.


I even volunteered to be on two panels with several other authors. Most I had never met and one came all the way from New Zealand. We winged it and I think offered some helpful tips. One panel was about creating villains and another was writing about best friends which was perfect for my award-winning novel, THURSDAYS AT COCONUTS (see how I worked that in?!) thursdaysatcoconuts-400x600

Also, InD’Scribe has the coveted RONE (pronounced RONE-y) awards each year. Last year, I was humbled to win in the women’s fiction category, and this year, at least two Soulies, Tami Lund and Carol Roddy, won in their categories. I was thrilled to cheer them on. Also, Collette Cameron was a RONE finalist. Congrats, ladies! The RONE ceremony is a dressy, red carpet affair where romance cover models escort the winners to the stage, and the winners say a few words. There’s also entertainment.

At meals, it’s fun (and sometimes scary) to seek out other authors. I became fast friends with one romantic suspense author, Maryann Jordan, who is a bestseller and churns out a book every couple of months. At conferences, you’ll become inspired and motivated by rubbing shoulders with these folks. Anne Perry came all the way from England! Of course, I attended one of her workshops. Several romance genres were represented–historical, contemporary, paranormal, chick lit, women’s fiction, YA, and romantic suspense. Also, there were fun themed parties every night including a gigantic dragon!

Here are my takeaways and tips for a successful conference and book signing:

  • Pack a variety of shoes (comfy and dressy)
  • Take sweaters (conference rooms are always cold)
  • Take part in the crazy costume parties. They’re fun.
  • Force yourself to mingle. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to big-name authors. They all started with the same blank screen.
  • Attend every workshop you can. We always need to improve our craft.
  • Volunteer to serve on workshops. No matter how far along you are in the publishing process, you’ll have something to offer.
  • Have a theme for your book signing that ties in with your novel(s). I recreated Key Lime Island, my setting for SLEEPING WITH ELVIS. I had a mini palm tree, Hibiscus flowers, shells, and gave away leis (since my hero, an Elvis impersonator, does the same during his show in my novel!)
  • Think of props to tie in with your novels. I found a standing cardboard Elvis who was a huge hit. I encouraged readers to come to my table to get leid- by Elvis!!!🙂
  • Smile and be welcoming. Make an effort to talk to readers and thank them (even if they don’t buy your book).
  • Offer tips of the trade freely to aspiring authors.
  • Take plenty of pictures with your fans and other authors. You’ll want to use these on your social media pages and your website. Of course, ask their permission to do so.
  • Offer freebies to draw readers to your table. Chocolate always works and I always give away free bookmarks and pens. I offered tote bags to those who bought two or more of my books and also had key lime and/or coconut lip balm, both of which tie in with my novels. (Yes, I get carried away with swag.)
  • Have business cards with your website, email, and novel covers.
  • Have either table posters or standing posters with your book covers.
  • Check on the tablecloths, whether they’re offered, and what color they are so you can coordinate.
  • If you can spare 20 minutes, take a nap. You’ll need it! Most conferences go from 8 a.m. until midnight.
  • Don’t forget your  phone/camera and charger.
  • Have change available for the book signings.
  • Many use a Square to take credit and debit cards. So far, I haven’t yet needed one.
  • Thank the readers. Without them, we’d only sell two books to our mom and spouse.


I hope to see you at the next conference. For now, I’m back to wearing yoga pants and am writing! Visit me on Facebook, Twitter (@bethcarter007) or my website, http://www.bethcarter.com  Find my books at http://www.amazon.com/author/bethcarter



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How to Salvage a Manuscript

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During a recent forage through an old Writer’s Encyclopedia for blog ideas, I came across an entry entitled “How to Salvage a Manuscript.” Great topic for a writer’s tip blog, I thought. Here’s what the book recommended, and I quote.

“A manuscript that has been returned to an author wrinkled or crumpled may be salvaged from the time and expense of retyping by ironing the pages.”

Not exactly what I had in mind when I thought about salvaging a manuscript. My mind was running more along the lines of fixing the story, not limp pages. I did get a good laugh, though, because eons ago, when you sent in paper submissions, I had some work come back looking worse for the wear. Funny thing is, I would have never thought about ironing the pages.

The article goes on to state that you should not use a steam iron on the pages, and you should iron the back side of the paper to keep the ink from smearing. Apparently, ironing will also take out paper clips crinkles. Who knew?

Upon further reflection, I recalled seeing an episode from Downton Abbey where one of the housemaids ironed Lord Grantham’s London Times so the pages would be crisp for the master of the house. Heaven forbid that they should give the lord of the manor limp newsprint! I thought the action odd, but my husband seemed to feel ironing the paper made perfect sense. Must be a male thing.

Anyway, I digress from the original theme of this post—salvaging a manuscript, sans the iron. When you think there’s no hope left for the story you’re working on consider trying the following.


  • Set your manuscript aside for a few weeks. Then pick it back up and read it start to finish. This uninterrupted read will help show you where you have holes, repetitiveness, and weak places.
  • Take a hard look at your characters. Are they well-rounded and three-dimensional or are the flat, stock characters? If it’s the latter, rewrite them.
  • Check to make sure your plot is strong, not clichéd, and will carry the story throughout the book.
  • Do you have a sagging middle? Writers often know the beginning, the black moment, and the ending of their stories. The middle, where we’re tempted to just say “stuff happens”, can often be a gray area, especially for pantsers. Make sure your story stays strong in the middle so readers don’t lose interest.
  • Do a Hero’s Journey outline to be sure you’ve hit all the necessary story points. If you don’t know the Hero’s Journey, you can use another plotting device like the Snowflake Method, or Save the Cat. Failing stories can often be fixed by insuring you’ve included the right plot points.
  • Is the story told from the right POV? Make sure each scene is told from the perspective of the character who has the most at risk. Doing so will give the book necessary tension to carry the reader through to the next chapter.
  • If everything above fails to help, give the book to a beta reader and let them tear it apart. Fresh eyes see things you don’t.

Do you have a favorite way to salvage your manuscripts? I’d love to hear it.


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How to Select the Right Title

booktitle1Once I have the initial spark of an idea, I let it percolate for several days, sometimes longer, until the right words come to mind. Those two to six words often come with no warning and provide the starting signal for a marathon of sixty to eighty thousand words. Even though it may undergo several incarnations, that working title motivates me to complete the manuscript.

Not everyone starts with a title. Some authors spend years writing and polishing a manuscript and then tack on a title, often as an afterthought. Others may brainstorm pages full of ideas and then ask friends and relatives for advice. Regardless of the method used, one fact is clear: The right title (and cover) will catch the reader’s eye in an overcrowded marketplace.

Here are 10 tips to consider:

  • Make a list of all keywords that come to mind when thinking about your theme, setting, and central character. Then juggle these words until you find the right combination. Or reread the entire manuscript and jot down anything that stands out. A quote or image makes an excellent title. Some examples: To Kill a Mockingbird, The Eagle Has Landed, A Room with a View.
  • Use precise nouns and active verbs. When computer programmers searched for the perfect algorithm for naming a book, they concluded that three-word titles containing verbs worked best. A bit constrictive, but titles containing precise nouns and one verb (any form) can be compelling. Some examples: Dead Man Walking, Leaving Las Vegas, Crossing Delancey.
  • Tap into the power of one-word titles. When the right word is selected, it stands out on the cover and attracts attention. Some examples: Persuasion, Beloved, Atonement, Mockingjay, Hawaii.
  • Focus on the protagonist. You can use her name, occupation, or other personal characteristics. Some examples: Emma, Lolita, The Dressmaker, The Silent Wife.
  • Select a title with a hidden meaning. While this can be more challenging, readers will appreciate a title that has multiple layers. Some examples: The Bell Jar, Rain Man, Dances with Wolves.
  • Use well-known quotations and lines from the Bible, Shakespeare, and other classics. Some examples: East of Eden, The Ides of March, For Whom the Bell Tolls.
  • Be consistent. If you plan to write a series, create titles that follow an easily recognizable pattern. Sue Grafton uses the letters of the alphabet: A is for Alibi, B is for Burglar, C is for Corpse. Janet Evanovich uses numbers: One for the Money, Two for the Dough, Three to Get Deadly. Several Soul Mate authors make effective use of repetition, among them Anne B. Cole–Souls Entwined, Souls Estranged, Souls Endure–and Linda O’Connor–Perfectly Honest, Perfectly Reasonable, Perfectly Planned.
  • Check for originality by Googling the title or entering it into Amazon. If the title produces several pages of matches, reconsider your choice. While titles are not copyrightable, you book may not fare well in competition with too many others.
  • Match the title with the story. If you select a title before writing the manuscript, double-check its effectiveness once you reach the end. Does it still fit? Has your imagination meandered down another path? Whenever possible, let the title fit the genre. Examples: Romancing the Duke, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The ABC Murders.
  • Listen to the professionals. Editors and publishers know what readers like and do not like. History has clearly proven the benefits of accepting expert advice:

They Don’t Build Statues to Businessmen  →  Valley of the Dolls

Tomorrow is Another Day →   Gone with the Wind

At This Point in Time →  All the President’s Men

Trimalchio in West Egg →  The Great Gatsby

Strangers from Within → Lord of the Flies

The Last Man in Europe   →  1984

Before this Anger  → Roots


Where to find Joanne Guidoccio…

Website | Amazon | Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Goodreads | Pinterest

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Forgive or Walk Away?

Cheating, is it a forgivable offence? Could you forgive your significant other if you caught them cheating on you? Would you expect to be forgiven if you were caught cheating? What if it was just a huge misunderstanding? 

In today’s society, cheating on your significant other is quickly becoming an epidemic. Does everyone cheat? No, of course not but it does seem to happen a lot more than in past generations. 

Could this rise in infidelity be because our generation is lacking some morals or could it have happened just as often in past generations but was simply tolerated and kept quiet. 

I’m not sure what the reasoning is but what do you think…forgivable? 

A few examples of some famous indiscretions … Brad and Angelina. Wife, at the time, Jennifer Anniston said nope that was not forgivable and walked away. Jude Law cheated on his wife Sienna Miller with their nanny (so cliche and overdone 🙄). Sienna actually forgave Jude and they reconciled … but only for a few months. Sienna then decided she needed to walk away. Tiger woods famously, repeatedly, cheated on his wife who finally had enough and attacked with a golf club. She definitely did not forgive. 

Of course not everyone walks away. Hillary Clinton stood beside her husband Bill through all the cheating scandals and still does. Josh Duhamel famously cheated on his wife Fergie (Black Eyed Peas) with a stripper (again that storyline has been overplayed gentlemen) and Fergie decided to forgive and forget. In fact, on their first wedding anniversary they renewed their wedding vows to re-commit to one another. 

I ask again. Could you forgive and forget?

In my latest novel A Journey Home that is exactly what the heroine has to decide. Stephanie Tyler has to decide if she will forgive and forget or walk away forever. 

Could you make that choice? If so, what would you choose? 

~Angela Scavone~

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Keep Your Serial Fresh


Let’s face it. It’s hard to keep things fresh.

Milk left in the fridge too long goes sour. Meat spoils, even in a freezer. You know this if you’ve ever cooked a freezer-burned steak. Bleech! If you don’t close up the cereal box your toasty oats doughnuts get stale. Our interest in a hobby can wan almost as fast as we developed said interest. The proverbial resolution to exercise grows old before we can get to the shower to wash off the sweat. Even the passion in relationships can fade with time, if we take them for granted.

So just how does a writer, or in our case—writers, keep the cereal—oops, we mean serial—fresh so readers want the next book and keep turning the pages?


Create Great Characters—For us, the biggest factor in keeping the series fresh, and our interest in writing it, is to create great characters. Face, it, if you don’t love your characters, how can you expect the reader to love them? In each of The Turning Stone Chronicles there has been at least one character we have loved and who stands out in the story. Usually, a reader will comment to us about that same character. In The Promised One Catherine loved the villain Danny Shaw. She got into his character so much that she started talking like him. Several readers wanted to know what happened to Danny before they even finished reading the book. Of course, we wouldn’t tell them. To do so would spoil the surprise. In Blood Brothers  it was bad boy Roc. Our editor loved this fellow. The complex nature and relationship between the hero Owen and heroine Kat, in Son of the Moonless Night,  had us running to the computer to see how their story played out. Even though we plot extensively, we give our characters room to tell us who they are, and they do, often surprising us. In our latest book, The Mercenary and the Shifters,  the villain shape shifter kingpin, Falhman, took center stage in our writers’ hearts. We loved getting into the core of his nastiness. We’re looking forward now to exploring several newcomers to the series and the immortal Keeper of the Stone, Scotsman Eli McCraigen, who will have their own starring roles in an upcoming books.


Create Memorable Scenes—Make sure you have scenes that grab the readers. If you aren’t feeling the tension, the emotion, and a connection with the characters and the story when you write a scene, odds are neither will your readers. The chance to write a scene that makes us cry, pant with passion, or tremble with fear motivates us to come back to the series and try to make each book a little bit better. Write something that will grab your readers’ hearts. Put pathos and pleasure and panic on the page. We have written some scenes that our editor said touched her hearts so much it made her cry. We know what she meant, because we were experiencing emotional upheaval as we wrote them.


Create Complex Plots—Donald is the star in our team when it comes to this. He loves braiding a multifaceted story. To help you learn how to do this, watch a television show or movie you love that has several story lines. Dissect it and see how they weave the multiple plots together. In our paranormal/urban fantasy romance series, there are at least two different stories lines, sometimes three. We also have two love stories in the books. Intertwining these different aspects together keeps us on our toes as we try to guide readers through the plot complexities. It’s easier in The Turning Stone Chronicles series since we usually have four to five POVs (no head-hopping though. Catherine hates head-hopping). We also try to make our two POV stories, like Kissing Santa, which is part of Sizzle in the Snow Soul Mate Christmas Collection complex as well.


Create a Plot Twist—As readers, we love it when an author puts in a plot twist that makes us say, “OMG! We didn’t see that coming. But it sooo works.” As writers, we know that to make a plot twist that blows the reader away, one must be sure and leave a clue they will overlook on the first reading, but remember when the plot twist hits them. If you don’t, the reader will feel cheated. Finding a way to create that moment keeps us hunting for fresh ideas and ingenious ways to slip clues and foreshadowing into the book.


These are a few of the things we try to do to keep our books fresh and keep us eagerly returning to the computer to create a new story and our readers eagerly awaiting the next book. As a reader, what keeps a book fresh for you? As a writer, do you have other hints you’d like to share?


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The Agony and The Ecstasy

This month I did my first Arts & Crafts Festival. Was it a success? Well, I did see people I haven’t seen since high school (I’m not saying how long ago that was, but it was decades). Back then my mom was a member of the Zonta Club and worked their Arts & Crafts Festival.  Being originally from Pascagoula, I thought it would be the perfect blend of coming home as a not-quite-famous author.

First, I gathered everything I needed. I had a card table and the cloth my grandmother had hand-embroidered to cover it. Of course, I had a chair, candy to hand out, and of my latest book Crescent Moon, a romantic suspense set in New Orleans, which is just a hop, skip and jump from Pascagoula.  I planned to give away a $15 gift card to Amazon. Copies of my book cover  encased a Kleenex box, the perfect drop box for the registration forms. I had a stand for my book. I could make change since I only accepted cash.  I had everything I needed, I thought.

The people on my left had two booths filled with painted wood pumpkins and witches. The people on my right had Alabama aprons. If you are from the South, you know Alabama has the most dedicated fans. These people eat, drink and sleep Alabama football.

And did I say they had tents? Oh yes, they had tents. Everyone had tents, so I was surrounded on all sides by pumpkins and Alabama. Did I tell you I didn’t have a tent? Well, I didn’t, so here I was at this tiny table between two overflowing, very popular tents. I img_0979looked like an ant hill between two mountains. Several of my Facebook friends who knew I was scheduled for a signing couldn’t find me.

And did I say the first week in October is like August in the South? It was probably in the 90’s and not a cloud in the sky for shade. I had a battery-operated fan, but to my dismay, the air it put out was very little and hot. I did have an LSU umbrella, which I eventually had to use to cover my sunburned feet.

That was the agony. The ecstasy made up for all the agony.

I sold my first book to a man, and one I didn’t know.

People stopped by even though I felt very pathetic with my little table. We talked about everything, including my book.

The few times I mentioned my real name, someone recognized it. I heard “Are you the Patricia who graduated from Pascagoula High?”

“Sssh. Don’t say that so loud.”

“Are you the Patricia who lived in that big white house?”

And then we would reminiscence. Several old friends and I made plans to meet in the next couple of months.

The pumpkins next to me were so cute, I had to buy the one with a pacifier in its mouth. It’s outside my house right now. I don’t cook, and they didn’t have a LSU apron, so that was a good thing.

And at the end of the day, I had sold 14 novels. Not my goal of 20, but I was very happy. And tired. And dirty. I couldn’t wait to go to Momma’s, take a shower and have a Bozo’s shrimp po’boy. All in all, it was worth every minute of it. I can’t wait until next year. I’ll have a tent by then.

Here’s the back blurb for Crescent Moon. I hope you find it “enticing and seductive.”

Crescent Moon

Sinner or saint?

When Celine St. Pierre is murdered under the canopy of oaks on St. Charles Avenue, questions arise about this New Orleans sainted woman, and Assistant District Attorney Claressa Dupré vows to find the answers. Top of her list of suspects is the sexy Texan, West Morgan, IV.

Wealthy oil baron Weston Morgan, IV arrived in New Orleans on a mission to return to Texas what Celine St. Pierre stole from him and his family. But the woman’s death throws a monkey wrench in the works and pins him as the top suspect in the murder investigation. Further complicating his life, is the beautiful but determined Clarissa Dupré, whom he can’t seem to get close enough to or far enough from.

As the investigation spirals out of control, Clarissa and Morgan find that nothing is easy in The Big Easy.

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Confessions of a Pinterest Addict

Hello, my name is Mia and I’m addicted to Pinterest. In a world of social media demands, I’ll fully admit that I loathe Twitter and find Facebook more personal. I don’t think fast enough for Instagram, and I usually have my hands too full to take pictures. An Snapchat only works if there’s someone on the other end of the conversation. I don’t really do random.

But Pinterest? Sign me up.

See, I’m a frustrated librarian. I even work in a library. Give me a way to find information and to categorize it how I think, and I’m hooked. Make it graphic and pretty, and I will spend all day looking at faraway places, investigating paint schemes for my kitchen, and looking at candy. Hey – staring doesn’t add calories to my diet. (Because I’m never actually going to make a triple layer amaretto cheesecake.)

I love it for my writing, honestly. If I find a blog post that resonates, I can pin it and find it later. Pointers, encouragement, tips and advice, story prompts. I find scene inspirations and characters’ fashion choices.

However, what tickles my friends the most, is that I find my heroes on Pinterest. I’m a huge fan of TV and movies anyway, so I’ve always kept a mental Rolodex of actors. I’m the kid who read the articles in TV Guide.

Pinterest makes it easier to find actors I’ve never seen, especially since I’m writing and supposedly not paying attention to the television. But I don’t limit it to actors – models, surfers, athletes … I’m an equal opportunity pinner.

Why does this matter to me? Because I can devise a plot and a conflict, I can even set a scene. But I can’t get into the head of my characters until I know what my hero looks like. I find his voice after I find his face. And after that, I can figure out why my heroine loves him.

So, if you see me online, staring dreamily at pretty pictures – whether it’s cheesecake or boys – don’t worry. It’s research.

If you’re so inclined, you can find my alter-ego on Pinterest.

What about you? What’s your favorite social media addiction and why? How do you find your writing inspiration?


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