What is Flash Memoir

Guest post by Jane Hertenstein

Many of us are looking to write memories—either in the form of literary memoir or simply to record family history, in order to pass down stories to children or grandchildren. In Freeze Frame: How To Write Flash Memoir I look at memoir in small, bite-size pieces. Not all at once, but in small bursts of flash.

Flash is a relatively new genre. Other terms for flash include: Sudden, micro, postcard, short shorts. The roots of flash lie in the vignette or scene. There is no widely accepted definition for the length. Some journals are asking for no more than 100 words. Six Minute Magazine is looking for quality fiction that can be read in under six minutes. The upper limits of flash might be 1,000 words. Much of what I love about flash is about living in the moment. Capturing and seizing a point in time. Freeze framing it—much like a Polaroid snapshot.

Memoir can be defined as autobiography that uses novelesque or literary devices. Perhaps it is better to say that memoir is autobiography that relies less on chronology and facts and more on telling a story.

I like to treat the page like a friend, like a sounding board, or what the poet Frank O’Hara has described as unmade phone calls. The Internet actually makes it easy to record one’s life: Instagram! Facebook! Twitter!

Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way instructs us to “make time,” not wait to “find time” for writing. One of the best ways to make time for writing is through journal writing. She suggests free writing where for 10 – 20 minutes you write whatever comes into your head without editing, without even lifting your pen from the page. Here is a link to how to write what she calls “Morning Pages.”

No matter what it is called or how you view it, the writer needs to be able to slow down, turn off the critical, and turn inward.

EXERCISE: Where you are at, right now, whatever you want to call it: blog, journal, prayer, an unmade phone call, twitter, tweet—send one out. Write it, the flutter on your heart. No more than 500 words.
Read the headlines: ever wonder what’s behind them. The newspaper is full of real stories that at some point might alter or connect with our own story. Think tsunami, school closing, threat of e. coli in lettuce.

Ernest Hemingway had a background in journalism where he was embedded in several wars and learned to write concisely and yet place the reader there.

EXERCISE: What’s in the news? Using a headline as a prompt, write a flash.

This can be strictly memoir or you can take any headline and place yourself there as a reporter. Write about what affects you—your flash might also be written as an opinion (op-ed) piece.

Much of memoir is about ordinary life. Despite the fact that nothing important ever happened to you (I’m assuming), if your story nudges the reader to remember, then you will connect. People are interested in ordinary stories if they have the smell and feel of authenticity. An honesty that resonates. A skillful writer will use words like blood, injecting life into a story—and visa versa a story into life.

EXERCISE: Compose a flash built around your to-do list.

Even if you think you have lived a boring life, all of us have anecdotal moments, snapshots that if freeze-framed and cropped can offer entertainment/education/refuge for fellow readers.

About the Author:
Jane Hertenstein’s current obsession is flash. She is the author of over 40 published stories, a combination of fiction, creative non-fiction, and blurred genre both micro and macro. Her latest book Freeze Frame: How to Write Flash Memoir  is available through Amazon. Jane is a 2-time recipient of a grant from the Illinois Arts Council. She can be found blogging about Flash Memoir at http://memoirouswrite.blogspot.com/


Is Thinking About Writing, Well Writing?
How to Write a Novel – Start with a Novel Outline
Letting Go of the Novel – How to Deal with Empty Pen Syndrome

P.S. To keep up with writing and marketing information, along with Free webinars, join us in The Writing World (top right top sidebar).


Deborah Heiligman's Casual Scream

Deborah Heiligman was scared. She wanted to write about Charles Darwin but she had a lot of questions. She wondered, Who am I to write about Charlies Darwin? How can I find my way? Where can I find the courage? Hasn't enough been written about Darwin, his voyage on the HMS Beagle and his book The Origin of Species?

Have Faith in your Process

These are questions Deb first asks herself before taking on any subject. First and foremost is that she needs to connect with the topic. How? She knows it's right when she becomes completely and utterly obsessed by it. The story needs to be an important one, one that needs to be told. Then she has to make sure she is the right person to write it. The story must have a beginning, middle and end. Perhaps most important is to check and make sure there are enough primary sources and that the information is available. Deb learned this the hard way. She spent many months researching a potential biographic subject before she realized that a story couldn't be put together due to a lack of information.

Tricks of the Trade

Yes, use the "tricks" of fiction, Deb says, character, plot, story arc, etc--BUT nothing is made up. You have to know he leaned against the gas lamp. You can't say it unless you know it. Regarding contemporaneous facts and descriptions--those that exist, occur, or originate during the same time period--that's a judgment call. Such as when you say he walked over the horse poop in London. That's okay because everybody had to do it. Again, bottom line is that you can't make anything up. Biographer Beware: A pitfall to keep in mind is possible bias of the person(s) who created the primary sources.

Deb's take-away: Remember, everything is slanted. The choice you make gives you your angle. Immerse yourself in everything about the time. I read Austen because Charles and Emma both loved Austen. My take-away: I found that what I learned from Deb can be applied to my work, both in fiction and nonfiction. Before beginning a project I immerse myself in studying publisher's guidelines, searching for what agents, editors and publishers are looking for, and making sure I have access to photos before beginning a nonfiction project.

Source: Deborah Heiligman is the award-winning author of the biography, Charles and Emma: Darwins' Leap of Faith. I heard her speak at a Highlights Foundation workshop in Honesdale, PA last October.

If you would like to read past posts in this series, please visit:

Part One: Two Ways to Hook and Keep Your Reader
Part Two: Nouns Need to be Concrete and Appear More than Once
Part Three: Tent Pole Structure
Part Four: Leonard Marcus: Maurice Sendak, Storyteller and Artist
Part Five: Leonard Marcus: Let the Wild Rumpus Start
Part Six: Behind the Scenes with Deborah Heiligman

Biography of Deborah Heiligman

For August, Part Eight:         On the Same Page with Betsy Bird
Grand Finale in September: Concluding Thoughts with Patti Lee Gauch
                                                 A list of the presenters' favorite books

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 40 articles for children and adults, six short stories for children, and is in the final editing stages of her first book, a mystery story for 7-9 year olds. Publishing credits include seven biosketches for the library journal, Biography Today, which include Troy Aikman, Stephen King, and William Shatner; Pockets; Hopscotch; and true stories told to her by police officers about children in distress receiving teddy bears, which she fictionalized for her column, "Teddy Bear Corner," for the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office Crime Prevention Newsletter, Dayton, Ohio. Follow Linda on Facebook.

Launching Into Success

  How to Become a Successful Freelance Writer

In a nutshell: write, submit, write, submit. 

Okay, there's more to it than that. But if you don't actually have a plan you will not be successful.

After 18 months of learning, thinking, and taking some baby steps with freelance writing, I carved out this week of July 15 – 20 to get serious. The goal is to launch a working schedule to stick with regularly. 

Sometimes, the conditions have to be just right for success. After 30 years of raising a family, homeschooling, and helping with our dairy and maple syrup business, I am now in a season of transition. And the conditions are right.

So, with my 11 year old off to camp, the always-available wife, mother, and friend had to make sure this was my week. It’s day 2 and I am thrilled at what I am accomplishing.

As I have been implementing all of the wonderful lessons which I have learned here at WOTM, and from other seasoned authors, I had to take a step back to not lose myself in the logistics. I believe in hard work. But I also believe one can get buried in crossing all the “T”s and dotting all the “I”s (pun intended) - to the point of not dreaming big and following your instincts.

One bit of advice I had printed off last January helped me find balance this week. On the topic of marketing strategies, Holly Weiss writes in Scaling the Marketing Ladder in One Fell Swoop:

“Are you trying to get your opinions, writing skills, or articles noticed? Do you spend hours a day reading advice from well-meaning experts on how to drive traffic to you blog?”

Yup! That’s me. Trying to get it all figured out before I moved off of square one. Thing is, I wasn't going anywhere. I was getting buried under a heap of "getting it right" and all I was getting was overwhelmed. 

Holly's advice was like a welcoming breeze. It filled out my sail and I started moving.

She continues to say, “Down deep, you know your own best marketing tactics. Find your talent and put it out in front of the public – consistently.” 

"Down deep, you know..."

This, coupled with the technical advice from seasoned authors, helped me find the right combination to set sail.

Only you know when the conditions are right. Learn, learn, learn. But don't be afraid to make a move when down deep you know yourself. Don't let too many opinions overwhelm you and hold you back.

Fair winds!

*Edit: week 2 and I'm sticking to my writing schedule!

Photo Credit: Jared and Corin

You can find her passion to bring encouragement and hope to people of all ages at When It Hurts -http://kathleenmoulton.com/

Understanding Profiling

To truly understand profiling you must first look at the basic definition of it. With that in mind, then take and break it down into the different areas of profiling. The basic definition of profiling, according to the World English Dictionary, is as follows:  The use of personal characteristics or behavior patterns to make generalizations about a person, such as gender, unique characteristics (such as scars), hair color, color of eyes or skin, nationality. The use of these characteristics is to determine whether or not a person may be engaged in illegal activity.
            Racial profiling is considered to be used by law enforcement in deciding whether to engage in enforcement of the law, such as making an arrest or a traffic stop. It uses an individual’s race or ethnicity to make these decisions. It is controversial and in some jurisdictions illegal.
            Criminal profiling (or offender profiling) is described as using numerous factors such as race, dress, and interactions to determine whether or not a person is involved in criminal activity. Various aspects of the criminal’s personality makeup are determined from his/her choices before, during, and after the crime.
            Predictive profiling attempts to guess who is likely to commit a crime that has not happened yet. This type of profiling occurs when a police officer, while patrolling, observes and tries to spot suspicious behavior that could mean a crime is going to take place.
            Psychological profiling is a method of suspect identification which seeks to identify a person’s mental, emotional, and personality characteristics, which are manifested in things done or left at the crime scene.
            There are four phases of profiling that profilers attempt to collect to determine the personality of the offender:
            1.  Antecedent:  What fantasy, plan, or both did the murderer have in place
                  before committing the crime? What triggered the murderer to act some 
                  days and not others?

            2.  Method and manner:  What type of victim/s did the murderer select, and
                  what method and manner of murder did he/she use? Shooting, stabbing,
                  strangulation, or something else?
             3.  Body disposal:  Did the murder and body disposal take place at one
                  location or multiple locations?

            4.  Post-offence behavior:  Is the perpetrator trying to inject himself into the
                 investigation by reacting to media reports or contacting investigators?

            In the case of serial killers a phase of criminal profiling is case linkage, which is the process of determining if there are connections between two or more unrelated cases. Involved is the establishment and comparison of physical evidence, victimology, crime scene characteristics, modus operandi, and signature behaviors between each of the cases.

            As you can see there are numerous categories of profiling. As a writer, knowledge is imperative to making our story sound convincing. Do not just write, but know what you are writing.

Faye M. Tollison
Author of:  To Tell the Truth
Upcoming books:   The Bible Murders
                                Sarah’s Secret
Member of:  Sisters in Crime
                     Writers on the Move

Honor among Writers

As an editor of commercial fiction, and a student of Kindle marketing,I have a pretty good idea now of what sells and how /why it does.

I love the noir genre with its laconic anti-heroes, the iconic Bogart movies, and Chandler's essays on writing.

But every so often I come across a book which concertinas my confidence into the equivalent of a wrecked paper plane.

This weekend I rediscovered the grandaddy of tartan noir, Scottish novelist Willliam McIlvanney, the champion of doubt. I devoured his Laidlaw Trilogy, one book after the other.

It was a revelation and will change my writing and my Kindle reviewing forever.

Five Star Reviews?

I can no longer give five star reviews to accomplished novels which keep me turning the pages, waiting to see what comes next. I need more.

I can no longer give five star reviews to many top selling thrillers or romantic novels. I need more.

The commercial Kindle creed is that the more books you push out, the more money you make. Maybe so but at what price?

Detective Inspector Laidlaw, based in Glasgow, could admittedly mean less to a non-Scot who might not recognize the impeccable truth of the characters and their landscape. But the brilliance and compassion and the novelist's skills for observation are an eye-opener.

And there I go, sounding like all the culture shams McIlvanney mocks in the passing...

But every phrase is telling, every simile as fresh as morning. Nowhere do I ever remember reading before that someone should have been "festooned with friends." One to cherish.

Is There a Moral?

Know thyself? Be true to yourself? Never settle for anything less than your best?

The first of the Laidlaw Investigations was published in 1977, the second in 1983 and the third in  1991.

Now in his seventies, William McIlvanney is considering writing a fourth in the series. I expect it too to be well worth waiting for.

And until then, it'll need a very special novelist to make me write another five star review.

Over to you--what book or books have changed your writing or your life?

 Anne Duguid is a senior content editor with MuseItUp Publishing and   her New Year's Resolution is to pass on helpful writing,editing and publishing tips at Slow and Steady Writers far more regularly than she managed in 2012.

Free Online Resources for Writers

If you are just starting out or have been writing for awhile and are on a tight budget, there are many freebies, both online and offline, for writers. This post is about free online resources. Webinars, e-books, email lists, conferences, clubs, writing challenges, classes, blogs, and articles, are examples of what you will find. Some of these I have used, subscribed to, or attended. This list does not include every freebie available to writers. It’s merely a sampling to give you an idea of what is out there. I recommend you use your own judgment before subscribing or downloading. The majority of what I have utilized has been very helpful.


I have mentioned these two conferences in past posts.Write On Con will be held August 13 and 14,  http://writeoncon.com/. The Muse Online Writers Conference is scheduled for October 7 – 1, http://themuseonlinewritersconference.com/. Instructors for both events are professionals such as authors, agents, and editors.

Writing Challenges

Earlier this summer, I signed up for the "100 Days of Summer Writing Prompt Challenge." From Memorial Day to Labor Day, participants write every day, using a prompt provided by the creator of this challenge,  http://www.shannonabercrombie.com/100-days-of-summer/.

These two events are held every November. There are also prizes. Most writers have heard of National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo, http://nanowrimo.org/. Picture Book Idea Month or PiBoIdMo, is a little different. This involves creating a picture book idea every day in November. Start checking in late October for more information, http://taralazar.com/piboidmo/.  


There are many classes, writing and otherwise, that are offered by a variety of entities. Also check out your local public library. They might offer online classes through a community college or other school, organization or business. The following resources might be worth investigating.

Goodwill Community Foundation has a website for free online classes. These cover many subjects and topics, including software programs and social media, http://www.gcflearnfree.org/topics. Additional sources for education are http://academicearth.org/, https://www.udacity.com/, http://redhoop.com/, and https://www.coursera.org/.


It’s not free to subscribe to these publications, but they do have free content, such as blogs, articles, downloads and webinars. The Writer and Writer’s Digest are two of the main magazines in this field, http://www.writermag.com/ and  http://www.writersdigest.com/

Email lists  

Subscribers of email lists will receive countless ideas and advice to help improve skills.Writers may also find e-books, webinars, and other freebies.You can sign up to get a writing tip each day from Daily Writing Tipshttp://www.dailywritingtips.com/. Do It Yourself MFA, http://diymfa.com/, has writing prompts. Karen Cioffi's, The Writing Worldhttp://thewritingworld.com/, offers webinars and e-books.


The Working Writers Club, http://www.workingwritersclub.com/ is free to join. Members have access to a variety of articles, audios and other resources.


There are many blogs about writing, including Writers on the Move of course!  Two more are Sharing With Writers, http://sharingwithwriters.blogspot.com/ and On the Write Track, http://donasdays.blogspot.com/2013/07/writerly-wisdom-wednesday-donna-l-martin.html. This particular page contains a list of additional freebies.

There are many other free resources for writers online. Ask around, do your own research, and choose which ones are best for you. And feel free to add your own finds in the comments section below. Happy hunting!

Debbie A. Byrne has a B.S. in Mass Communication with a minor in History. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and is working on her first children’s book.

How to write Satisfying Endings

Like an open bookshelf, your story needs “bookends”—a solid beginning and ending.  

We all know how important it is to hook your reader from the first page, but what happens when you’ve hooked them in, but have a less than satisfying ending.  It’s likely that the reader will not pick up your next book. 

I personally find endings much more difficult to write than beginnings.  Like many writers, by the time I get to the end, I just want to be done.  A great ending is revealed through the revision process.  When revising your manuscript, here are some ideas to consider when working on the end of your story.

  • Did you answer all your reader’s questions?  If you are writing a sequel some questions can be left for the next book, but even then, readers want answers to the major questions.
  •  Did you resolve the conflict in a satisfying way?  Having a great build-up in the climax of your story but a less than complete resolution is never satisfying to the reader.
  • If you are planning to surprise your reader with your ending, make sure it fits and doesn’t seem gimmicky.
  •  Think about the take-away of the book.  Not every story has a moral, but every story leaves the reader with an idea or feeling.

After considering the above suggestions, if you are still struggling with your ending, put your story to bed for a while.  I had a manuscript that I had revised and revised and revised.  It seemed ready, but I didn’t like the last line.  I put it away and picked it up nine months later.  With the perspective of time, I came up with what I believe is the perfect last line.  

Sometimes endings just need a little time .

Mary Jo Guglielmo is writer and intuitive life coach. For more information check out

Driving Mom Right

Last month I shared with you how my elder son added a GPS app to my cell phone.

Recently I visited the mega-city of Johannesburg in South Africa. The traffic at rush hour on the ring road around the city is so bad that the best way to change lanes is to step out of your car and climb into the one next to you.

Seriously? The solution is to get off the concrete highway (if you can) and negotiate your way through the suburbs. If you're my husband, who has an excellent sense of direction, that makes sense. If you're me—it doesn't. You’ll never see me again.

My younger son and daughter-in-law, who live in Johannesburg, seemed to see this as a very real danger, so they gave us a GPS for the car. They—and I—knew very well Dad didn’t need one, so this was clearly an attempt to drive Mom right. This was the second GPS I received from my family in a matter of weeks. Anyone would think they didn’t want to lose me.

As most of you probably know—and I didn’t—the initials G.P.S. stand for Global Positioning System. This space-based navigational system is based on signals received from satellites which orbit the earth about 12,000 miles above us. Mind-blowing. Once I got used to the spooky feeling of being watched by unseen robotic eyes, I found it amazing. Driving along the long, deserted South African roads on the way home to Port Elizabeth, I found it comforting to think of all those eyes up there keeping watch over me. I had my husband in the car with me, but I know that next time I make a long trip on my own, I will often touch the bottom right corner of the screen to hear a pleasant-sounding lady reassuring me that she knows just where I am, even if I don’t.

I soon learned how to punch in new addresses into my GPS and listen to a calm voice who clearly knew the way to my destination. If I got stuck in traffic, I could try for the nearest exit and trust my robotic companion perched on the dashboard to "recalculate" and find me an alternate route. She never got annoyed, although I’m sure at times she wondered why she hadn’t been allocated to a Ferrari or a Mercedes with a switched-on driver. She even kindly reminded me of changes in the speed limit to prevent me getting a ticket! Sweet.

As long as I follow instructions, and the GPS is correctly programmed, I can be sure of arriving where I need to be. Even if I make a mistake along the way and miss a turning, she quickly "recalculates" and gets me back on track.

Mind you, I’ve heard a few horror stories of people who followed their GPSs into unsavoury locations, perhaps because there is more than one street with the same name. I hardly think we can blame the GPS for that—but it does show the need to double-check our destination on old-fashioned paper maps or new-fashioned Google maps before we set out on a journey.

As writers, the GPS has much to teach us.

1. We need to know where we want to go. Are we writing for children? Or is this a niche-specific article? Are we looking for a general address such as a woman’s magazine? Or are we aiming at a particular house such as breast-cancer survivors? We need to program our thinking clearly before we even start out on the journey.

2. We need a general idea of the directions to our chosen location. We may not have details on the exact plan we intend to follow, but we at least need to have an idea of where we’re headed. That will save many hours of frustration when we find the book we’re almost 2/3 of the way through writing is headed in the wrong direction.

3. It is good to know more eyes than ours are watching the article’s journey. We need critique partners who will look over our writing and say, “I think you need to do some recalculation in this chapter.” It’s good to have them offer alternative wording or a possible change to our direction.

4. It’s great to have companionship along the way. As writers, we tend to enjoy working in isolation, and it’s possible for our story to veer off track while we’re looking the other way. If we chat with someone else who knows the journey and where we’re aiming to go, we may hear words like, “What’s happening here? You seem to be changing direction.”

5. We need to follow the guidelines provided by the publishers, editors, or fellow authors. They are there to steer us along the right route. We shouldn’t think that because our Christmas children’s story is cute, it will be accepted by a woman’s magazine.

6. We need to keep track of the distance. I am beginning to get better at estimating, but when I first started using the GPS I can’t tell you how often I heard her say something like “In 400 meters, turn left.” I spotted a road to the left just ahead, so obediently slowed down and turned left. There would be a slight pause then a patient voice would intone, “Recalculating. Turn right and in 300 meters, turn left.” As we gain experience, we will get better at estimating word counts. But until then, it’s a good idea to work in a program such as MS Word with the word count visible. That will prevent the need to cut a 2,500 word article down to 250 words. (And yes, I’ve done that. More than once.) When the GPS says “turn in 400 meters” it means 400 meters. Turn after 100 and you’ll have to relocate—or get lost. If a publisher requires 500 words, they want 500 words. Offer more, and your story is likely to be relocated—to the trash can.

7. We need to listen to the GPS. If we don’t, we can hardly blame it if we get lost. There’s no point in having it on the dashboard if we don’t switch it on or if our music is louder than our guide’s voice. When writing, if we don’t follow the guidelines or listen to our internal GPS, we’re likely to get lost along the way.

Over to you. Can you think of any other similarities between the GPS in your car, and your writing journey? Next time you switch on the GPS, give some thought to your current writing project and ask if you need further direction to help you arrive at the right market.

Other reading on this topic: Positioning Mom 

SHIRLEY CORDER  lives a short walk from the seaside in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, with her husband Rob. She is author of Strength Renewed: Meditations for your Journey through Breast Cancer. Shirley is also contributing author to ten other books and has published hundreds of devotions and articles internationally. 

Visit Shirley on her website to inspire and encourage writers, or on Rise and Soar, her website for encouraging those on the cancer journey. 

Follow her on Twitter or "like" her Author's page on Facebook, and now that she has a GPS, she may even follow you back.

Critique Comments versus Author's Ideas

As writers we want and need critiques of our work. But what is a writer to do when the critique and suggestions totally changes what the author has in mind for a piece? What if  the author disagrees with the critique and refuses to revise the piece in any way? My experience is certainly more limited than that of a seasoned author but here is how I see the purpose of critiques and what an author should be able to take away from any opinion of their work.

A good critique will give positive suggestions on making a written piece stronger and more marketable. That doesn't mean that there won't be negative comments and comments that an author does not agree with. However, a good critique should show the author a view of the work looking through a wide lens and from a different angle, neither right or wrong...just different.

A good critique should never be all negative nor should it be all positive because in reality the work being critiqued is not ready to publish so not perfect. Comments stating " I like it" or "it doesn't work for me" are not specific enough to improve on so become meaningless to the author. A comment like " I think the character needs more emotion" or " the climax is weak, can you increase the tension here?" gives the author a starting point to improve the work.

An author should not feel obligated to change an entire manuscript based on the results of one or two critiques unless it will improve the work. The author should consider other points of view when deciding what needs to be revised with a conscious effort to leave the personal and emotional aspect out of the revisions. Developing a tough skin and the ability to cut, revise, and reshape a manuscript without hurt feelings comes with experience but is a must if one wants to be published.

Critiques offered by agents and publishers should be considered slightly more valuable because at this point the manuscript should be almost ready to publish. An author working closely with an agent or publisher benefits from making some suggested revisions for the purpose of pleasing the one who will make the effort lucrative. Even to that end, the author still holds the key to what changes will be made and what remains in alignment with the character, plot, and purpose of the work.

Authors need to find a solid group of critique partners, one or maybe two, that can be counted on to be honest, objective, and noncompetitive when helping to improve a story or article. Relatives, spouses, adult children, and neighbors may not be the best choices because of their lack of objectivity and their feelings of loyalty to the writer. It is better to have a critique partner that is also a writer and one who understands the pieces of a story, a story arc, and character development.... one who can spot a flaw with a manuscript and give suggestions for improvement. Those critiques will help an author grow and improve, and in the end isn't that what we authors strive to achieve?

Writing - The Best Part

For many writers, writing is what you do. What you have to do. If you aren't creating storylines in your head, you'd be writing poetry on receipts. Yes, I feel that way as well. And writing is work. Finding that perfect phrase, a unique metaphor or the correct emotion does not always come easy. 
But it's fun too!
And for me, the best part . . .
is the learning something new part.

We are told often by experienced writers to write what we know. So we may start out writing about our lives, our families, and the towns where we grew up, but eventually we run out of material and that's when, in my opinion, the fun begins to happen. It's at that moment that you probably find yourself wishing you knew more about any number of things - so you learn about them first hand. 

When I wrote Rocky's Mountains I needed to learn more about gold panning and read stories about lost gold mines in Wyoming. When I wrote Fire in the Hole, I took a long backcountry trip to Yellowstone and experienced first hand the land I would write about and rock climbed with guides. With Perception, I attended spiritualist churches and meetings where spirituality took stage. 

Truly I feel blessed to be a writer, if only to have a reason to experience life more fully through characters that are formed in my head. Today I encourage you to do your research:

1. Learn a new craft - pottery, sewing, knitting, candle making or wood working.
2. Take a trip - explore the world around you with purpose.
3. Find an activity - go backpacking, rock climb, river raft, water ski or canoe.
4. Go back in time - discover clothes and jewelry, customs and habitats.

Where has your writing taken you? And better yet, where are you headed next!


D. Jean Quarles is a writer of Women's Fiction and a co-author of a Young Adult Science Fiction Series. Her latest book, Flight from the Water Planet, Book 1 of The Exodus Series was written with coauthor, Austine Etcheverry.

D. Jean loves to tell stories of personal growth – where success has nothing to do with money or fame, but of living life to the fullest. She is also the author of the novels: Rocky's Mountains, Fire in the Hole and, Perception. The Mermaid, an award winning short story was published in the anthology, Tales from a Sweltering City.  

She is a wife, mother, grandmother and business coach. In her free time . . . ha! ha! ha! Anyway, you can find more about D. Jean Quarles, her writing and her books at her website at www.djeanquarles.com

You can also follower her at www.djeanquarles.blogspot.com or on Facebook

Are You Productive or Just Very, Very Busy?

by Suzanne Lieurance, the Working Writer's Coach

There's a big difference between leading a productive and fulfilling life and having a BUSY life with no time to do the things you really want to do.

Yet so many people (especially writers) figure they HAVE to be busy, busy, busy every moment of every day or they aren't being productive.

But you want to know a secret?

Most of these people who feel so frazzled and wish they had more time, probably aren't as productive as the person who has a very narrow focus and tries to complete ONLY a few projects each and every day.

busy woman

Answer These Questions
How many projects are you working on right now?

Are most of these projects related to your overall goals, or do you constantly find new things that attract your attention, so you keep adding more and more projects to your to-do list?

Your Daily To-Do List
If your daily to-do list is too long, you probably don't have a narrow enough focus.

Go back and look at today's to-do list.

Pick one or two things to focus on that are in alignment with your overall goals.

Focus on ONLY those one or two activities and you'll probably be able to complete those activities (at least in part) by the end of the day.

And you won't have spent your time simply being BUSY.

You will have been highly PRODUCTIVE.

And isn't that what you really want?

Try it!

Suzanne Lieurance is a full time freelance writer, author, speaker, and writing coach. Get free daily emails with tips like this post when you register for The Morning Nudge!

Story Ideas

As a writer, we are expected to always have ideas to jumpstart our stories.  Sometimes the muse just isn't there and we have to look other places for those story ideas.  Last year when I was thinking of possibly writing another in the Kelly Watson mysteries, I printed out a bunch of the mysterynet.net stories from contests they held for kids to write as well as some other mystery writers advice and story starters.  One of the pages I printed out was "Mystery Story Starter Ideas - DIY Guide for Children and Adults" by Marillisa Sachteleben.  She states there are 25 story starters but apparently I only found 10 on the first page. 

Here are her starters:
THE WISHING WELL HORROR:  I hated drawing water from the dank, bug-infested well house to begin with.  When the bucket came up heavier and more slowly than usual, I sensed that something was wrong.  But I was totally unprepared for the horror that followed.

THE BOOK SELLER'S ENIGMA:  I hadn't remembered the musty old book shop on that street before, but the old peddler beckoned me.  When I returned the next day with my brother, shop and shopkeeper had gone.  We asked an old-timer passing by, "That shop?" he declared, "why it ain't been around for 50 years."

THE SMELL IN THE CELLAR:  We kept the cellar locked.  No one went down ther.  One day when I went by I smelled an odd, familiar smell, like something I hadn't smelled since I was little.  The odor got stronger, until finally I opened the door and went down the rickety steps.

THE MISSING PHOTO:  I loved to look through our old family photos.  One day, I noticed that a certain picture had been removed.  I asked the whole family and no one seemed to have taken it.  Was someone hiding something?

THE SECRET ROOM:  Tearing down a wall to build an addition to our home, I discovered a small narrow room hidden between the walls for decades and what was in it gave me the shock of my life.

THE THING IN THE POND:  For years, I've visited a pond in the woods near our house.  Recently, I saw something more than sand, rocks and a few fish and turtles.  Something much, much more.

THE PRANK CALLER:  We thought the odd phone calls were just pranks by some local kids.  Until the caller asked me something really scary.  "Did anybody ever find where you buried the body?"

THE LETTER FROM YESTERDAY:  The envelope that came in the mail looked really elegant and I was hoping that it was an invitation to a party.  It was an invitation.  For a party dated July 30, 1927.

THE SILENT BOY:  We were all playing in our fort by the creek.  A tall thin boy with dark eyes and long hair appeared silently from the woods.  He came out every day for two weeks but he never said a word.  Until one day...

THE CREATURE:  My cat likes to bring home an odd assortment of creatures.  Not that he kills them.  I think they are his friends.  One day, the cat brought home something I have never seen before in my life and I doubt that I ever will again.

I've looked at this page many times over the past 6 months but nothing really jumped off the page or screamed "new Kelly adventure/mystery"  A couple of weeks back, I looked over the sheet again and decided that the Book Seller's Enigma would work.  I started a new Kelly Watson story - but have only written a page and a half, which amounts to about an incomplete scene or could be a full scene.  I feel there is something I need to write before this particular scene, perhaps filling in what has happened in Kelly's life during  the 6 months from finding out the house she investigated was her father's to the time she finds this missing bookstore or mysterious bookshoppe.  One of my editor writer friends said forget the Prologue and just write the story.  If I had a direction to take the story, I think I would have written more than a page and a half, although there have been some niggles about the bookstore and the present given to Kelly.  Maybe ther eis a story, I just wish it would hurry up and get out so I can get a second Kelly story under my belt.

What about you, how do you jumpstart your stories?  What if the muse isn't being cooperative and you really feel the need to write a story?  What all do you do to get the muse to cooperate and how do you keep the ideas flowing?  Leave a message with your ideas and thoughts and be entered for a an ebook copy of Finally Home the first of Kelly's mysteries.  E :)

Elysabeth Eldering
Author of Finally Home, a Kelly Watson middle grade/YA mystery

How to be an instant grammar maven: a review of Grammarly

Let’s face it, none of us are perfect when it comes to spelling and grammar.  Although many word processing programs such as MS Word come with built in grammar and spell-checkers, they tend to be pretty simple and often hilariously wrong.  In an ideal world, you’d always write with a partner, checking each other’s spelling and grammar errors. Many people do just that, but it’s not a practical option for frequent postings like blogs, proposals, or even short stories if you’re writing these regularly.  Grammarly isn’t meant to substitute for a full-on edit, and certainly won’t suffice for a big piece of writing like a novel, which requires a professional proofreader, line and copy editor, but it’s perfect for blog posts, book reviews, emails and other quick pieces of writing, and is also a good first pass for anything longer and more complex.

Using it couldn’t be simpler.  You just go to the Grammarly website, drop your text into the box and click on “check your text”.  Within a few minutes (really!), the system goes through your text for a whole range of common grammatical errors including such things as sentence fragments, double negatives, mis-use of subordinate clauses, mis-matched tenses, run-on sentences (my personal issue), and lots more that you’ve probably forgotten since you studied grammar at school.  Of course, it also picks up spelling errors and does other clever things like checking your work for originality. It will even show you where the original is from if you’ve inadvertently lifted someone else’s work. I can think of a few infamous authors who should have used that feature. 

Some of the corrections are quite subtle and instead of just finding errors, Grammarly provides suggested solutions.  For example, in the first draft of this blog post, Grammarly found an instance where I’d used ‘and’ twice, and there were a number of suggestions for enhancing the work with better words and synonym suggestions, one of which was to change “it’s excellent and quite perfect” to just “quite perfect”. Some of my sentences were tagged as ‘wordy’ and suggestions were made for removing extraneous words like “really”. 

You can choose from a range of checking options including general, business, academic, Technical Creative, and Casual, each of which changes the overall heuristics, the synonyms suggested and the amount of rigour applied.   You can paste in your text online, or download a version for MS Office, which  allows you to check through a document with a single click on the “Check” box.  As someone who tends to write quickly and rather sloppily, and then mentally fix my own errors when I proofread, Grammarly is a reputation saver.  I use it now for almost everything I write, and the result is a lot less embarrassing errors, and better copy.  Best of all, Grammarly keeps track of your errors and creates a personal writing handbook that you can use to become a better writer.  Just review your handbook to see the errors you tend to keep repeating and you can make a conscious effort to eliminate them, learn about the parts of grammar usage that keep tripping you up, and improve your overall skills.  

As the premium version of Grammarly is a subscription based product, it’s not particularly cheap.  Annual subscriptions run around $140, or $30 a month, but if you use it to check everything you write, the per unit price is pretty reasonable.  Saving your reputation from embarrassing grammar mistakes (I’ve certainly made a few doozies) especially in such things as query letters, and ultimately improving your English is priceless.  You can take a free trial of the premium version at the Grammarlysite and can also get hold of Grammarly Lite, which will check anything you write on the internet (including your social media posts) for free.  

My PhotoMagdalena Ball is the author of the novels Black Cow and Sleep Before Evening, the poetry books Repulsion Thrust and Quark Soup, a nonfiction book The Art of Assessment, and, in collaboration with Carolyn Howard-Johnson, Sublime Planet, Deeper Into the Pond, Blooming Red, Cherished Pulse, She Wore Emerald Then, and Imagining the Future. She also runs a radio show, The Compulsive Reader Talks. Find out more about Magdalena at www.magdalenaball.com.

British Professor Suggests Standard Spellings

This is an article I read recently at the on-line news source, The Independent in the UK.

Gasps of shock at Hay Literary Festival as professor asks for grammar pedants to relax

A lecturer at the Hay Literary Festival shocked his audience as he called on the “grammar police” to relax over misspellings and the incorrect use of apostrophes.

Simon Horobin, a professor of English at Magdalen College, Oxford, prompted an audible gasp from the crowd as he suggested that the spellings of “they’re”, “their” and “there” could be standardised, and insisted that “spelling is not a reliable indication of intelligence”.

The academic, who wrote the book Does Spelling Matter?, said standard spellings were a comparatively recent phenomenon, with hundreds of different spellings for words such as “through” in the Middle Ages. He said: “People like to artificially constrain language change. For some reason we think spelling should be entirely fixed and never changed. I am not saying we should just spell freely. But sometimes we have to accept spellings change.”

Prof Horobin called on George Bernard Shaw for support as he asked: “Is the apostrophe so crucial to the preservation of our society?” The Irish playwright argued that the apostrophe was redundant, saying there was not “the faintest reason for persisting in the ugly and silly trick of peppering pages with these uncouth bacilli”. Prof Horobin has a high-profile ally in Stephen Fry, who called the grammar police “semi-educated losers” in 2011.

But vehemently in opposition is Lynne Truss, the author of Eats, Shoots and Leaves, who said that people who mixed up “its” and “it’s” deserved “to be struck by lightning, hacked up on the spot and buried in an unmarked grave”.

The Education Secretary, Michael Gove, recently proposed a new English curriculum which included 162 words every child should know how to spell. A group of academics attacked the move as “dumbing down” teaching. But the group was, in turn, criticised in the Idler Academy Bad Grammar awards for its poorly written letter to Mr. Gove.
What do you think of this? Should we “standardize” our American English spellings? 

A native Montanan,
Heidi M. Thomas now lives in North-central Arizona. Her first novel, Cowgirl Dreams, is based on her grandmother, and the sequel, Follow the Dream, won the national WILLA Award. Heidi has a degree in journalism, a certificate in fiction writing, and is a member of Northwest Independent Editors Guild. She teaches writing and edits, blogs, and is working on the next books in her “Dare to Dream” series.

Authors Need Discoverability More Than Findability

What is this "discoverability" and "findability" stuff?  A new language?
As ugly as some think of them, it seems essential to use these two words to show authors (and other business people) how important discoverability is. 
Most of us authors (or our publishers) use "findability" well when they put all a book's metadata on the Web and on specific sites so readers can locate exactly what they're looking for…" even [when they don't have] complete information about the book. In this instance "metadata" includes all the stuff like categories, ISBNs, titles,—the specifics about your book.

"Discoverability" is the kind of access a reader might have when she isn't looking for a specific title, author, or even a specific category but something related to her search pops up. We authors hope that will be our book!  Categories can help with this exposure but things like keywords, great pitches and loglines, benefits, etc. that appear on your Amazon page, your social networks, your online bookstore profile and buy pages work even better.


Chances are—your title isn't as well known as you'd like, so you're after "discoverability."


I'm thinking most authors would get more out of the concept if we call it "serendipity." In other words, we have to work everything we can on the Web so that even those who aren't looking for us find us and that our "brand" (the Frugal Book Promoter is full of information on great branding for books!) will be clear to him or her immediately. That includes learning to play to the search engines using the dreaded "keyword concept" in all of our content.


Of course, some use Search Engine Optimization experts to do this for them. But I think you probably know more about what your book (and your career) is about than many SEO guys or gals. And there is plenty you can do to be discovered serendipitously that SEO doesn't fit into the job description of SEO professionals. In this article, we'll concentrate on online bookstores, but you can generally apply these ideas to your Web site, your social network profiles, and anything else you do online.


1.   Get your book categorized in three different categories on Amazon and other online bookstores that offer this categorization feature to organize books. The online bookstore's search engine is a little like the library's catalog—only faster. You want to be associated with genres and categories that people search for. But you want each category to be refined down to the category with the least competition in it—as long as it applies to your book. This is what my categories for The Frugal Book Promoter look like on Amazon. I'm not too happy with the last one, but I really, really needed a subset with fewer books in it than I could get with the obvious:



       Look for Similar Items by Category

Keep in mind that the people who might be looking for your book (or not know they are looking for your book) may very well not use the same jargon you use. Example: For my book they may think of the word "advertising" before they think of the word "publicity" or even "promotion."


2.   When possible use keywords in your title, in your subtitle, on the back of your cover and in your book description. And, yes, in the endorsements and blurbs you use.

3.   Use as many of the little benefits that online bookstores offer as you can. There is lots of Amazon-specific information on doing this in The Frugal Book Promoter (http://budurl.com/FrugalBkPromo) like reader reviews, Listmanias, the add-an-image function, and the like button (which appears to be disappearing these days!). Even a few "Add to Wish List" entries can help the logarithms on Amazon.

4.   Participate in Amazon comments when it is pertinent, but not in a negative way. You'll find those at the end of each review.  Add helpful information and compliments to related books when you can. They link back to your Amazon profile page.

5.   And, about that profile page! Check it every so often to see if it needs updating. And be sure to feed your blog to it! That keeps it active.

6.   A rarely used function on each Amazon buypage is the "Start a discussion" section. Try to get someone to start one. Warn them that one must scroll down to find it.

7.   Vote on reviews that you like best on your own buypage and get others to do so. This could push that review (along with all of its keywords) to the top of the review offerings.


Now you know what to do with Amazon, apply your new skills to other things you are doing on the Web. And then here's another little tip directly from The Frugal Book Promoter. You don't have to be actively engaged in a social network to have a very nice profile on the site with lots of links back to your other networks and your Website. Make it your business to add a profile to something new every so often.

----- Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and how to books for writers including the award-winning second edition of, The Frugal Book Promoter: How to get nearly free publicity on your own or by partnering with your publisher; The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success; and Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers . The Great First Impression Book Proposal is her newest booklet for writers. She has three FRUGAL books for retailers including A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. Some of her other blogs are TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor .

What Is More Valuable Than Fame

By Terry Whalin (@terrywhalin) Many writers believe writing a book will make them famous. They believe getting their book into the market wi...