Visual Shortcuts that Cut – Elle Hill

As both a writer and a reader, I’m always trying to figure out why authors do some of the things we do: End scenes in particular ways, juxtapose dialogue and description, harness the rhythm of words to craft verbal songs…

Use visual shortcuts as symbols for the characters’, well, character.shortcut

Maybe it’s due to my rather colorful political sensibilities, or maybe because my dissertation focused on, in part, lookism, but I’m especially sensitive to the symbolism contained in the physical descriptions of literary characters. As I’ve written about before, I’m pretty devoted to making sure I represent under-represented physicalities, and I particularly delight in subverting traditional physical tropes. Given all this, I find it so disappointing when I read books that reinforce all the old, tired symbolism surrounding characters’ physical presentations.

You know what’s super fun and reflects a lot more creativity than relying on the usual physical symbols? Messin’ with ‘em! So, for example, in Hunted, my very first publication, I decided to make my villain a young, Japanese American woman. She’s pretty beautiful – far more so than Gray, the shero – but not in a seductive, Dragon Lady way (yawn). Instead, she’s kind of a sociopathic Valley Girl: cute, perky, deadly, and not exceptionally bright.

I pepper my stories with characters with hooked noses, mental and physical disabilities, and larger body frames. My sheroes are not beautiful. Wrinkles don’t automatically mean either wisdom or senility. Lustrous hair and white, even teeth don’t always equal fine moral characters. Fat characters aren’t representatives of greed and gluttony – nor are they necessarily jolly.

I mean, we writers create our characters from tops to toes. We decide whether they’re short, tall, thin, fat, wrinkled, smooth, dark-skinned or light-, and so on. I understand the appeal of using a visual shortcut, a cultural cliche, to do some of the explanatory work for us. Here’s the fun part: Using these cliches in order to redeploy them in more mindful and subversive ways. For example, imagine a short, White, balding man whose belly overhangs his waistband and whose toupee could use some sprucing. He’s gotta be a used car salesperson, right? Someone greasy, uneducated, underhanded. Heck, he’s probably three seconds away from leering at the shero or saying he likes a spirited filly.

Take two. Now picture the man above and imagine your readers’ surprise when they discover he’s an angel in human skin (literally or not, depending on your genre). This guy with the bad rug is the embodiment of kindness, generosity, and creativity. Maybe he’s a professor of anthropology who focuses his research on the rights of indigenous populations or the leader of a nonprofit organization that collects coats and shoes for homeless children.

"Hi! Glad to meet you. I'm off to my job as a social worker after volunteering at the women's shelter."

“Hi! Glad to meet you. I’m off to my job as a social worker after volunteering at the women’s shelter.”

See, there’s a freshness, a downright coolness, in intentionally wielding common visual shortcuts — and then inserting something unexpected. I suppose my heroes could all be tall and muscular with a crop of eyelashes that weigh more than the average dust mop and their ex-girlfriends could be the icily beautiful, blonde bitch whose appeal is never quite explained. But, you know, why?

Visual shortcuts have their place, but when we start using them in place of thinking, as visual clichés, we’re doing our characters and our readers a major disservice. After all, there are a lot of plump, crooked-teethed sheroes out there waiting for their Prince Charming and a number of rakish, black-haired, cleft-chinned gents plotting their next round of check fraud.

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The Writer’s Police Academy


Good morning. This is going to be a rather short blog, as I’m am currently on vacation. Luckily, I have access to the internet this morning.

Before my husband and I left for vacation, I had the pleasure of participating in The Writer’s Police Academy held on August 10-13th in Green Bay, Wisconsin. It was one of the best conferences/workshops I’ve ever been to. Craig Johnson, author of the Longmire series was our keynote speak.

If you write mystery or suspense or anything that may have police/forensics in it, and don’t want your writing to be like the inaccurate television shows, then this is the event for you. From one o’clock on the tenth to noon on the thirteenth, writers in attendance learned about forensics, blood spatter, arson, long and short guns, history of guns, Tasers, canine cops, and so much more. There were so many workshops available, it was hard to decide what to take. They were taught by active police officers and instructors from an actual police academy. I will definitely go next year.


Learning what it’s like to wear the heavy gear.

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With Lee Lofland, the person who started The Writer’s Police Academy.




With Craig Johnson, author of Longmire. Great speaker.


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Learning about blood spatter evidence.



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Shooting an AR15


sharp 14_retouch_#1Tina Susedik has been writing for Soul Mate Publishing for several years. She has several books and short stories published with them. She is also a radio show host for Authors on the Air Global network. Her show is called Your Book Garden.

Tina can be found at:

Twitter: @tinasusedik


Facebook: Tina Susedik, Author





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Graphic Design for Authors by Rebecca Heflin

Corresponding Creations (3)Who knew that when I published my first novel, I’d have to learn graphic design along with the business side of writing, as well as improving my craft? And what’s more, who knew I would enjoy it!

While we can hire professionals to design our ad creatives, social media posts, etc., it can get pricey, and since most authors today are expected to promote their books, it behooves us to learn some do-it-yourself graphic design tools and tips.

Now, I don’t profess to be an expert, and I’m sure there are those among us who are, but never having taken any kind of art or graphic design course, these are the top five things I’ve learned about amateur graphic design.

  1. Graphic Design Tools. Find a graphic design tool or software program (or two) that you like. There are lots of programs out there including Adobe Photoshop, CorelDraw, and Corel PaintShop Pro, but some of these programs cost a pretty penny. If you can’t afford one of this desktop programs, check out some of the web-based tools available for free or for a nominal annual fee.

My two favorite web-based tools are PicMonkey and Canva. One downside of PicMonkey is that you have to download your designs and save them to your computer, which means, you can’t make tweaks to the design after the fact. With Canva, all your designs are saved in your online Canva account, so you can go back and make tweaks to a creative, or, you can copy it so that the original design is saved and make tweaks to create a whole new graphic.

  1. Colors and branding. In designing and building my website, I learned about colors and branding. After hiring a designer to create my website header (along with my Facebook and Twitter banner), when I redesigned my website, I built it based on the header colors. Another nice thing about Canva, is I can create and save a color palette of my brand colors. This makes designing graphics with my brand so easy. I created the graphic here using Canva and my brand palette.
  1. Fonts. Limit the different typefaces used in a graphic. One or two different fonts usually does the trick. Or, stick with a font family and mix it up with bold, italics, and light. Fonts also convey a feeling or message. If you write contemporary romance, rely on bold, crisp modern fonts. If you write historical, use an elegant traditional font. But be careful of script fonts. They can be difficult to read. And what good is an ad if the target audience can’t read it?
  1. Order and symmetry. I love symmetry. No, I crave My home’s architecture is symmetrical, my office space is symmetrical, my landscaping is symmetrical, my, well . . . you get my point. I love order and balance. Be sure your graphics have order and balance, or at the very least, make sure the imbalance is intentional.
  1. Images.  Vibrant images really capture attention – just think of your books covers! And there are oodles of sites where you can purchase royalty-free images relatively inexpensively. Some graphic design sites like PicMonkey offer free photos. Canva offers thousands of free photos, but they also offer thousands of royalty-free images you can purchase. Cheap! Additionally, many website design platforms also offer photos for use on your website, either for free or for a nominal fee. I used Wix to build my website, and they offer loads of free images. Finally, if you use an image of your own, make sure it’s large enough. Nothing looks less professional than a pixelated photo.

I’m sure the pros out there can offer even more tips, but these are the basics. How about you? Do you have any graphic design tools or tips you want to share with the class?

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Writing A Series As An Unorganized Pantser

There I said it. I’m unorganized. I wasn’t always like this. In fact, in the late eighties and nineties, I was administrative assistant to a college president. Before that, I was an executive secretary to a hospital administrator. After I got my business degree in evening college (while working full time), I became a hospital PR director, and then, a bank vice president in charge of marketing. I was extremely (well mostly) organized for all of these jobs. I had to be accountable. I had to chair 8 o’clock meetings. I prepared and presented reports to a board of directors. What’s the difference now, you ask? I had a boss. Now, I’m my own boss. I’m not nearly as dedicated to myself as I was to others and I manage my time miserably.

That’s not right. But it’s the truth.

As a full-time author now, I’ve endeavored to get organized. I created and printed out Character Description Forms for my debut novel. I even filled them out. But I don’t know where they are! The forms included names, physical descriptions, boyfriends/girlfriends/spouses, pets, characters’ cars and houses, their quirks, hobbies, and so on. It was a grethursdaysatcoconuts 400x600at idea. I could really use those forms right now–if only I could find them! You see, I’m writing a sequel to THURSDAYS AT COCONUTS and I can’t remember if the cop’s son is 8 or 10. I also can’t remember if I mentioned his ex by name. I believe Alex drove a white Mustang but I’m not positive and I cannot remember what Hope drove. Maybe I should just reread my novel!

I write notes on anything within reach. When I’m inspired, I’ll write on a bank receipt, a Post-it, an envelope, a cocktail napkin or even my hand. Since I get a lot of ideas in the shower, several of my notes are smeared with runny ink and many tiny notes fall to the bottom of my purse never to be seen or written about. The horror! What if it’s The. Best. Scene. Ever?! I actually  forgot to include one of my favorite scenes in THURSDAYS AT COCONUTS, so…I had to create a new character and do something else heroic in order to include the scene but I did it. I conquered and I won.

In order to avoid such conundrums, pantser or not, I’ve decided I have to at least make bullet points for ensuing novels in my series.  Reading through my bulleted information, I’ve discovered I have enough ideas for at least three more books in my Coconuts series. I’m excited and even have my titles figured out with ideas for cover art. At least, I’ve got that going for me. Additionally, I plan to use the word “Coconuts” in each title of the series for branding purposes.

I desperately wanted to give each character their own book but it isn’t working out that way. I wish it had. I think it would lead to a lower word count, less possibility of talking heads with multiple POVs, and far fewer characters; but Suzy, Alex, and Hope want to continue meeting at Coconuts in between dealing with their inevitable, ongoing crises. Who am I to deny them? I’m just the author. They’re telling me what to do. In fact, I suppose my characters are sort of my boss. Hmm. That puts an entirely different spin on this.

In addition to being unorganized, I’m not very disciplined. Are you also sucked into the vortex of Facebook? Yep. It gets me every morning, much to my chagrin.

SIZZLE IN THE SNOW_500x750 (2) NEWSleeping With Elvis 10_Final_505 x 825

In my defense (cough), I wrote the novelette, SANTA BABY, and the novel, SLEEPING WITH ELVIS, before I decided to begin the second and third books of my series. Don’t do that! I should have written the books closer together and I wouldn’t have such memorization agony and anxiety.

Somehow, though, it all works out. I’ve even won several major writing awards to prove I’m not the giant mess I appear to be. So, at least there’s that.  Who is with me? Are you organized or unorganized? A pantser or a plotter? My name is Beth Carter and I’m an unorganized pantser. 🙂

Headshot 2016 straight onFollow me on social media but feel free to boot me off of Facebook if I’m on there for over an hour. Please and thank you. Let’s write!




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Adulting Writer Awards – Elle Hill

About a week ago, I received some grump-inducing news. As is my recent habit, come afternoon, I plunked down before my desktop and slapped my fingers on the keyboard. Writing time! That day, though, I glared accusingly at my computer, which, just hours ago, had delivered some pretty obnoxious information.

But slowly, peck by peck, all the while sighing and muttering angrily, I penned a little over 1000 words. After limping across the finish line, I’ll admit I felt pretty smug. I hated the world that day, and still I managed to write something.

I deserved a medal, or at least a merit badge. An author merit badge.

You know those adulting awards that show up from time to time on social media? I propose we authors have our own adulting award but for, you know, literary stuff. Given this, I have designed some awards. Please feel free to print out, distribute, or tattoo as needed.

writing badges1

writing badges2

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Soul Mate Publishing August Newsletter

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Do Writers Ever Take a Vacation?

I just wrapped up the in person events on my annual Novel Fun in the Summer Sun book tour, and am looking forward to enjoying time on Cape Cod with my family. But I haven’t had a real vacation for over ten years. Can a writer ever really take time off?

Writing every day siphons off a tremendous amount of focus and energy from other activities–and losing the momentum slows down the creative process and makes it harder to re start. Besides the ideas and story opportunities that  pop into my head, everyday intrusions open up in my inbox. Then there are family events and obligations and everyday tasks. I have a mega re-credentialing to complete for work–meaning hundreds of pages of reading and on-line testing to document continuing clinical competency.

I love my flexible and attenuated summer work schedule, but that will come to an end in about three weeks. I’d hoped to have so much more done-or at least started by now.

Storm Watch was released on July 19, and even though the flurry of events has died down, there is still plenty to do. Promoting the Unfinished Business Series has been non stop, and I’m now gearing up to have all the books put on Audible. I love this series and, as I predicted, being a few steps from where Bethea and Elisabeth first met,  the opening of a fourth book featuring Sandra Kensington elbowed ahead of everything else. Right here, at then scene of the crime, after morning beach yoga.


There are plenty  of other submissions languishing,  and a new urban fantasy project that needs to get going again. Right now, as I’m working on this post, the rest of the family is out shopping for dinner, and I’m hoping they’ll cook it and clean up so I can tick a few things off my to-do list. Will I write, or go bowling, or to play mini-golf? When am I going to finish reading that article set and take my second of three post tests?

But, as every writer knows, when an idea pops into your head you must pursue it. That spark of creativity makes for the most inspired, and generally easiest writing because you brain is already wired to keep going. It might short out and turn into nothing–or it could turn out to be the “next big thing.’ Maybe my Unfinished Business isn’t done.

I don’t think I’m the only one facing these dilemmas, and would love to hear your thoughts.

Storm Watch 3 Final_338x507

Book Three


Book One


Book Two


Book Four?

“I’ve been waiting all my life for this moment, but the mere glimpse of the woman who’d once been my best friend ripped apart my soul. Her death destroyed me, and then I took down a lot of others on the way to Purgatory. Should I take seize this chance to right those wrongs, or should I just leave the slumbering ghosts at rest?”




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