Tell it to the Marines (or clichés, counterwords and commonplace phrases) by C.D. Hersh

We’re busier than a one-armed paper hanger at our house. The Son of the Moonless Night (book 3 of our Turning Stone series) about to come out of the shadows. Donald is preparing the plot scenes for The Mercenary and the Shifters (book number 4 in the series), and  he’s researching Cleveland suburbs for a mansion—not for us, but for one of the villains in our series. Catherine is up to her neck in gardening, spring cleaning, blogging, and the remainder of the Christmas decorations. Yes, she still has her nativity collection up—again. So, we thought we’d pull an oldie, but what we consider a goodie, from our early personal blog posts and share it with our SMP friends.

We love the wonderful world of clichés. From the time we are babes in the bosom of our family to a ripe old age to the final days when we are six feet under, we are inundated with clichés. They conjure up vivid images, some that make sense and others that don’t. We all can identify with someone being in the same boat (we’re in it together) or flog a dead horse (it’s useless). But what about she eats like a bird? It’s meant to say a person doesn’t eat much, but have you ever watched birds? They eat all the time.

A lot of the phrases can make a long story short when you’re trying to explain yourself to a sea of faces, especially if you don’t have a leg to stand on regarding whatever you’re explaining. A shrug and the excuse the best laid plans of mice and men or accidents will happen can often get us off the hook. Clichés can help us roll with the punches, make short work of our writing or pass the time of day. We can put a bee in our heroine’s bonnet and give her butterflies in her stomach or bury that hatchet in the victim’s back and keep the perp who did a number on him cool as a cucumber. You can politely excuse yourself by going to see a man about a horse (or a dog). As long as you don’t come back with the aforementioned animals everyone will know you went for a potty break.

Let’s face it, clichés have a vise-like grip on most of us. We sprinkle them in our speech and in our writing when we want to make a quick point that doesn’t need explaining. After all, who doesn’t know what tired as a dog or apple pie order or wreathed in smiles means? We have a hard time turning over a new leaf and finding new idioms because we’re so in touch with those old as the hill phrases. How many times have you set your heart on an expression to only have your critique partners hack it to bits like it was a snake in the grass? That just adds insult to injury, especially when all those clichés are a labor of love.

As strange as it seems, our love of clichés isn’t going to win us our spurs with editors and agents. They may use clichés when they speak, like the rest of us, but they don’t think they’re worth the paper they’re written on. Using clichéd writing won’t help us pay the piper, keep the wolf from the door, make us rich as Croesus or get us the red carpet treatment. What it will do is rub editors the wrong way and make them beat a hasty retreat, which will cause our manuscripts to bite the dust and plunge us to the depths of despair when we are rejected, and that will put us between a rock and a hard place…if you know what I mean.

So here’s a word to the wise … avoid those cans of worms like the plague before they get a chance to take the wind out of your sails. Gird up your loins, put on your thinking cap and wash your hand of those clichés. Rid your writing of ugly ducklings in favor of a few, fresh as a daisy, well-chosen words that will rock the editors’ world, and you’ll be a roaring success. Would we lie to you?

 

If you think this post is too funny for words, leave us a few—words, that is—fresh or old. After all, we do love clichés…believe you me.

 

 

Posted in From the Desk of CD - | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

An Author Media Kit – What Is It and Do I Need One? by Rebecca Heflin

527555_10636681When it comes to doing promo for your book, certain to be on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists, you want to be prepared when hordes of reporters come calling. That’s where your author media or press kit comes in handy. Back in the day, before we did just about everything on the internet, a press kit was a paper file of documents you mailed to interested reporters. And you can still do that. But an online media kit puts all your important info at the fingertips of those clamoring for it, making their lives, and yours, much easier. A media kit even comes in handy for bloggers, event planners, retailers, etc. It’s all about streamlining the research process, and helping the media promote you.

So, now that you’re convinced, what goes in it, you ask. Well, I’ll tell you what’s in mine.

  1. Biography. Include a short (think Tweet) bio. But also include a mid-length (think Amazon) bio, and then a long bio with lots of detail. Don’t forget to make the bio interesting, and share something that might surprise your audience and make you stand out
  2. Awards, reviews, or bestseller status. This is not the place to be modest. Brag about your accomplishments for all they’re worth. List your awards, your reviews, books that have hit the bestsellers lists, etc.
  3. Press releases. Include links to recent press releases. The media can pull more information from your press releases, which also provide a story angle for their article, like a recent new release, again making their jobs easier.
  4. Downloadable photos. Have your author headshots or other photos and your cover art easily accessible, so that with a click, the media can download them for their article or blog post.
  5. Interview questions. Not a must, but definitely helpful. Include the standard questions and answers, like “what inspires you to write?” and “what’s your writing routine?” But take it up a notch or two and include questions that reveal more about who you are as a person, and answer in your voice, to give folks a taste of what your writing style is like.
  6. Social Media. Include links to all your social media sites.
  7. Media Coverage. Provide links to any previous media coverage that you’ve received. Be sure to include links to any video or audio interviews you’ve done.

You likely have much of this information other places on your website, but pulling it all together in one place keeps things simple for the media. For some of the information already available on your site, you can provide a link, instead of repeating it. For instance, I have a frequently asked questions page on my website, so I linked to that from the media page.

Other things you can include: Upcoming speaking engagements or events, speaking topics, and if you have a publicist or agent, their contact information. Finally, make it easy to find your media page. I have mine under “About,” but you could put it under “Books” or give it a button all its own on your menu.

Once you’ve created your online media kit, don’t forget to keep it updated. We all want as much exposure for our work as we can get. Making it easy on the media goes a long way in gaining that exposure.

So, what about it? Do you have a media page or kit? What’s in yours?

 

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The Many Faces of The Muse

13401475_s - MUSEOften, as writers, we think of the muse as “other” or something apart from ourselves. I’d argue that she’s always present. There to be coaxed out to play. Join me today as I ponder the muse.

The creative muse is rather like me. She’s moody, unpredictable, driven, bitchy, sweet, funny, critical, some days a slacker and other days a slave-driver. She’s loyal to a fault, compassionate and understanding, yet cold and cryptic at times. She’s sometimes harsh and abrasive, while other times she’s loving and kind. She’s the best of me and she’s the worst of me. She’s my best angels and my worst demons. But she’s me. All of me. Deep in my subconscious, skating the surface, or picking at the details.PATHWAY - MUSE

So I’ve learned to go wherever she leads and to surrender to her guidance. She hasn’t steered me wrong yet. I’ve learned I can trust her to help me tell a good story. She’s earned my respect from the stories she’s helped me write over the years. Our relationship is tried and true.

Some people think of the muse as only being the creative part of our brain. The fun, carefree part that let’s us play and let’s our imaginations run free. I think the muse is both the creative and the analytical. She’s both sides of our brain working together. Some days one side reigns supreme over the other. And I never know which side is in control when I start writing each morning.

17948401_s - Creative Analytical BrainBut there’s one certainty I have learned. To coax the muse out to play–whether it’s the right side of the brain or the left side of the brain–what I need to do is keep my butt in a chair. I need to surrender to whatever part of my brain is leading. If it’s the creative side, then I’m writing fresh, new pages full of interesting plot and moving my story forward. If the left side of the brain is weighing in heavy on the writing conversation that day, then I surrender to it and I go back and I read through the pages I’ve written so far and I edit, I polish, and I make the story better until I’m ready to move on to the new part of the story beyond the blank page. Or maybe I plot the next section, if the left brain wants to play.

All I know is the muse is part of me and I’m part of her. Without us both, the story would never hit the page and no one would ever read a single word of it. So I’m thankful she’s mercurial. She has ups and downs. It makes the writing life interesting and it keeps me going, day after day, because I’m never really sure where she’ll lead me next. I just know that it will be a good place.

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The mad rush for THE END.

Writers, you know what I’m talking about.

You hit the 75% mark on the WIP and suddenly the entire book opens up. Whether you’re a pantser or a plotter, everything is startlingly clear and every scene is officially mapped out in your gray matter.

And the story devours your soul.

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It’s ALL you think about. You start talking to yourself, whispering and cackling maniacally. You wave your hands around erratically as you half-act out the scene raging through your mind. You hiss at the slightest disturbance when you start hitting those keys, growling and gnashing your teeth when your mother calls, or when your neighbor comes to the door, or when your puppy (husband?) whimpers ‘cause you’ve been totally ignoring them for the past three days.

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Dishes, laundry and bills pile up, but you don’t even notice—hell, the only thing you care about is how you’re going to maim your villain ‘cause they [CENSORED] deserve it, that [CENSORED]! Revelations hit you while you’re sitting in traffic and you bellow, “I’m a goddamn genius!” and the person in the car beside you looks at you with terror as they roll up their window. Your mental consumption will only get worse until you finish the goddamn book.

And you will. Or your brain will EXPLODE.

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This is exactly what I went through this past week as I finished the second book in my Order of The Senary series (shameless plug: the first, RELEASING THE DEMONS, is tentatively slated for release in July! *throws confetti*).

Lucky for me, I was on vacation, and since being a doctor requires that I, you know, pay attention, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. In six days, I pretty much vomited 12K words (which is a feat for me, as I’m not a speedy writer to say the least) and I exorcised one of the darkest romances I’ve written from my being. Typing “THE END” on that [CENSORED] was the sweetest thing I’ve done in quite some time.

Of course, there will be many edits and revisions to be had, but I conquered the biggest hurdle—finishing the book.

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Readers, you probably go through the same thing as you approach the end of a novel (I know I do). You can’t put the book down and you are seized with irrational anger if you’re interrupted. And whether you’re reading or writing it, when you hit “THE END”, it’s magical.

So tell me, am I the only one who turns into Ms. Hyde when I hit the 3/4 mark? Whether you do or you don’t, love every minute of that accomplishment and celebrate it for all its worth.

Oh yeah, and don’t forget to shower. ;)

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L.D. Rose is a neurotic physician by day, crazed writer by night, and all around wannabe superhero. She writes paranormal romance and urban fantasy, but she’s been known to delve into horror, sci-fi, and medical suspense on occasion. Her debut novel, RELEASING THE DEMONS, is due out in the summer of 2015 with Soul Mate Publishing. L.D. Rose is a member of the RWA, FF&P and the Romance Writers of Connecticut and Lower New York (CoLoNY). She currently lives in Rhode Island with her studly hubby, her hyperactive boxer, and her two devious cats.

Where to find her:

Website * Facebook * FB Author Page * Twitter * Goodreads * Pinterest * Tumblr

Posted in Life-Snippets from L.D., Soul Mate Publishing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Paying It Forward by Rebecca E. Neely

If you follow my personal blog, or I’ve hosted you, you know I’m always interested in finding ways to save time, and boost productivity during the writing process. Recently, however, I was inspired by an article I read about paying it forward. Often, the minutes and hours we don’t measure are the most important, and the most valuable.tree download

The woman who wrote the article wanted to thank an acquaintance who’d met with her, early on in her career, over coffee for an hour or so. Clearly, the meeting had a profound effect on her, and the paths she took forward. Alas, she could not remember the man’s name.

There is someone who paid it forward for me, who I remember quite well, and who helped me to grow my freelancing business in a new direction and increase my marketability and overall skill set. His name is Chuck, and he was a client of mine when I was just starting out. He wanted a monthly newsletter written, and I didn’t have Microsoft Publisher on my computer at the time.

Rather than go elsewhere, to a more established freelancer, he chose to stick with me, and sent me the software to install on my computer–at his own expense. At the time, I thanked him profusely–it was a very generous thing to do. But I’d like to thank him again, years later. Since then, I’ve become well versed in Publisher, creating all kinds of marketing communications for clients, and for myself. If he hadn’t taken a chance on me, and gotten me ‘up and running’, I know I wouldn’t have the skill set I do today.

Thank you Chuck, for paying it forward!

I always try to take the opportunities presented to me, to talk to students and family members and complete strangers about writing, and their ideas. I help my daughter with assignments. For at least the last six years, I’ve been a judge for different writing contests. I hope, in this small way, my feedback inspires and educates.

Speaking of writing contests, there’s another special someone I’d like to thank for paying it forward–the late Judi McCoy. I still have her handwritten notes, encouraging me to finish one of my first manuscripts that I’d entered into a contest, and it wasn’t very good. I’ve kept it for years, and when I signed my first contract, I pulled it out and thanked her.

I know I can always do more to pay it forward. I believe in karma, and the good I do comes back to me tenfold. I hope, soon, to talk to the students at my daughter’s school about writing, and the writing life. Who knows? Maybe there’s an aspiring romance novelist among them, waiting for a little encouragement.

Do you have a story to share about paying it forward?

AMightyGoodManA MIGHTY GOOD MAN, by Rebecca E. Neely, available now on Amazon

Romance with a punch of suspense…

‘Hank’ Jerry, a down and out writer, and Jack Darcy, a former gang leader, team up to write his story for mutual gain and end up falling for each other.

Only problem is, they’ve both got something to hide that could blow up in their faces, and with time running out and gang enforcers closing in, will the trust they’ve forged survive the ultimate test?

Connect with me – Website | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon | Goodreads

Posted in Blogstopping For Beckie!, Soul Mate Publishing | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Taking a Chance on Peas by Catherine Castle

IMG-20150427-00535Recently, I’ve begun a new blog series on my webpage called A Writer’s Garden where I highlight authors who are also gardeners—or is it gardeners who are also authors? At any rate, we are talking about our gardens. I’ve got gardens on the mind right now, so guess what I’m going to talk about today—my garden.

Ever the one to make a writing or life analogy from a story—any story or any topic, I’m going to talk about planting peas today, which I did yesterday. It finally stopped raining, and I don’t have to dig in the mud.

Yes, I know it’s late. Peas are supposed to be planted on St. Patrick’s day in temperate zones, or about a month prior to your frost-free date in other zones. I live in zone 6, which means my frost-free date is about April 15th. So that means I’m more than a month behind schedule.

But it’s been really wet (deluges and severe-weather-warning wet) and cold (frost-in-the-morning, electric-blanket-on-the-bed kind of cold). Last Friday morning we even had a freeze warning. I also hadn’t cleared the creeping Charley out of the beds, because of aforementioned reasons. So, the peas are going in late. They may grow. They may not grow. But the important thing is that they will be planted. Because if they’re not planted there is no chance they will ever grow, mature, and be harvested.

Planting my peas could be an analogy for life, or writing, or any other goal you might have. We can talk about how we are going to do something, sometime in the future. We can put it on our to-do list, keep transferring it from day-to-day, week to week, month to month (which I have been guilty of). We can even start, but not finish. I’ve done that before, too—a lot. I’ll bet you’re guilty as well.

A few years back, my husband’s uncle gave my husband and me a great piece of advice when we told him that after retirement the two of us planned to co-author fiction. I was already writing as a solo, unpublished author and as a published journalist. Uncle, who was ninety-one at the time, looked at the two of us and said, “Why wait? Do it now.”

We took Uncle’s advice, and I try to remember what he said every day, especially the latter part.

Life is short and planting season is even shorter. So, I’m planting my peas this week, even if they are going in late. Who knows? This might be the one year we have a cool summer. Those peas might thrive in May or even July. And if I don’t plant them, in spite of the late date, I might lose the joy of picking and eating fresh peas from my garden. If you’ve never eaten a fresh pea right off the vine, you don’t know what you’re missing. Yumm.

What about you? Are you planting your peas, even if it’s late in your season? If not, there’s no time like the present to begin. Don’t let your opportunities pass you by.

Catherine Castle Catherine Castle’s book, The Nun and the Narc,  is a two-time award-winning novel. She’s also and award-winning gardener.

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What’s In a Name?, by Elle Hill

The perfect literary germ plunks into your brain, infecting you with a new novel idea. Name tagYou flesh it out: put a little meat on your main characters’ bones, add some conflict, maybe decide where all the action takes place. And then. Then comes the moment of truth.

What shall you name your characters?

I imagine some, like me, have experienced that initial creative spark as the actual name of our main characters. For my last novel, The Tithe, the novel stork helpfully deposited the following into my fertile brain: A young woman who lives in the Mojave Desert and is named Josh after the Joshua Trees. I built everything else around that flash of insight.

Most of the time, though, names don’t appear fully formed like Josh’s. Occasionally I rely on old-fashioned intuition, or maybe introspection, or whatever you would call sitting around with pen clacking against teeth while waiting for names to float to the top of  my brain murk. Kinda, you know, like a Magic 8 Ball. This highly scientific method is how I named all my former sheroes: waiting for inspiration, tasting the texture of the proposed names, and finally adopting one.

When it comes to my heroes and many of my minor characters, however, I practice something I learned in college and that makes my intimidating student debt almost seem worthwhile: I research. In a feat of logic that would make Mr. Spock (may he rest in peace) slap me a high-five, I often snag names by the following method, provided, of course, my characters exist in a contemporary, U.S. setting:

  1. I decide on the person’s sex. For our purposes, we’re going with female right now.
  2. Next, I determine the person’s age. I mean the actual year they were born. Let’s say 1978.
  3. I arbitrarily choose a number, usually between one and fifty but occasionally on up to one hundred or even above. Let’s go with thirty-nine.
  4. I visit the Social Security Administration’s database of baby names from years past (e.g., names from the 70s) and snag the thirty-ninth female name.

name buttonCongrats, my friends! We now have Erin, a literary newborn with a historically accurate moniker.

I know what you’re thinking: Great, Elle, but unlike Penny in The Big Bang Theory, our newborn is going to need at least two whole names. For last names, I try my mental character quest first. If that doesn’t work, I’ll happily retread the research route.

  1. First, we must determine the person’s racial, national, and/or ethnic background. Is s/he Mexican American? Pakistani? Welsh American? I just discovered “Erin” is Irish, so let’s go with that.
  2. Once again, I’m going to choose a random number. I choose twenty-four.
  3. Turn to the harbinger of all knowledge – I refer to Google, of course – and type in “Somalian [or whatever] surnames.” Of course, for our purposes, we’re going to type in “Irish last names.” Entire, juicy, numbered lists should fill our screens. Let’s click on a page and snag the two dozenth name.
  4. Of course, if you’re me, you like having a list of unusual surnames, so you might want to bookmark such pages as this, or maybe this.

If I stick with my formula above, I now have a character named Erin Daly. Not too shabby.

From rumination to research, my process for deciding my characters’ names is nothing if not an adventure. What’s in a name? Sometimes, lots of exciting, nerdarific hard work!

Posted in Soul Mate Publishing | 10 Comments