Unravel the Mystery of Suspense, Part 1

"We all enjoy, shall we say, putting our toe in cold water." Alfred Hitchcock
The genre, Suspense, as popular as it is and most likely always will be, is at least as large as the topic, Water, which I so winsomely thought up when asked what I was going to write about by one of my first writing instructors. Blank page begged the question: Where to start? No clue; thankfully, resolved in time with a sheer outpouring of effort and will, called, Focus.

Suspense is like that. Your character has a lot going on in her head. And a lot going on in her situation. How, then, do you narrow down your genre?

Start with the Masters
What better way to begin then to go to the top. Alfred Hitchcock earned the title, "Master of Suspense," said Marc Eliot, Film Historian, on Biography.com, after his film Psycho hit the big screen. Born in London, England, on August 13, 1899, Hitchcock's penchant for suspense emerged in the first stories he wrote and published for the in-house publication at a job he took out of college. Biography.com: "From [Hitchcock's] very first piece, he employed themes of false accusations, conflicted emotions and twist endings with impressive skill."

During the 1930's, Hitchcock's early films, including an "exciting treatment" of the Jack the Ripper story, were "responsible for the revival in British movie making." (Notablebiographies.com) In 1939, Hitchcock left England and settled in Hollywood, California, with his wife and daughter. His first American feature film, Rebecca, starring Laurence Olivia and Joan Fontaine, is "considered a great movie," said Jan-Christopher Horak, Director, UCLA, Film and Television Archive, on Biography.com, "because it's a psychological melodrama about the torture that goes on sometimes within families. Hitchcock explores that with a depth that he had not shown before in his films."

The MacGuffin
The MacGuffin is defined as a plot device that motivates the characters, advances the story and increases suspense. Alfred Hitchcock popularized the concept that is said to have originated in 20th century filmmaking. Borgus.com: "The . . . MacGuffin can be boiled down to one thing--nothing. Hitchcock . . . described the MacGuffin as a plot device, or gimmick, on which to hang the tension in a film, 'the key element of any suspense story' (Gottlieb). Because Hitchcock lured the audience to such a high degree of sympathy for the characters through cinematic means, the reason behind their plight became irrelevant . . . Something bad is happening to them and it doesn't matter what. The only reason for the MacGuffin is to serve as a pivotal reason for the suspense to occur."
n can be boiled down to one thing -- nothing. Hitchcock over the
Examples of MacGuffins in other films include, Star Wars' R2D2, described by writer and director George Lucas as "the main driving force of the movie . . . the object of everybody's search"; the meaning of rosebud in Citizen Kane (1941) and the mineral unobtainium in Avatar (2009). (Wikipedia)

John Levesque of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer called Stephen King a "master of the psychological thriller." The Shining has been ranked as one of the best psychological thrillers of all time. When asked at a Highlights Foundation workshop in October, 2012, what author will be remembered for all time, the presenters and participants alike agreed, Stephen King. Born in Portland, Maine, on September 21, 1947, King published his first novel, Carrie, in 1973, after his wife found it in the trash and encouraged him to continue. Indeed, King is "recognized as one of the most famous and successful horror writers of all time. His books have sold more than 350 million copies worldwide and have been adapted into numerous successful films." (Biography.com)

What's the Diff?
  • Suspense: You're sitting on the edge of your seat. You're holding your breath. You can't put the book down. You're asking, "What's going to happen next?" In writing, there has to be a series of events that leads to a climax that captivates the audience and makes them tense and anxious to know what is going to happen. Suspense is a powerful literary tool because, if done correctly, you know your audience will be back for more and more. (http://literary-devices.com/content/suspense)
  • Mystery: You've been presented with a puzzle. Often a crime has been committed and you must find out "who dunnit." There are many tantalizing clues to solve it, but you are perplexed. You want to figure it out. You are challenged. You want to be fooled, the more the better. Who do you suspect and why? You even enjoy following red herrings, those pesky little clues that turn out to be innocent. The game is up at the end; when you find out who did it and why.
  • Thriller: The clock is ticking. There is an immenent danger explained in the beginning that must be dealt with by the protagonist. Generally, the antagonist and the threat are known. Suspense occurs not in who did it, but in how can it be stopped?
  • Mystery Thriller: You want to know who is committing these acts, why is he doing them; and what is the threat to the protagonist and those close to him/her.
  • Psychological Thriller: You're in the protagonist's head. As in the television show, Dexter, a more likely antihero than protagonist, you know what thrilling or frightening acts Dexter has committed. What you want to find out is WHY, and whether more frightening acts will follow.  There can be events that drive the protagonist to question everything about his/her ability to succeed. It could involve questioning his/her sanity or moral compass; questioning what is real or not about the situation; are the supposed 'good guys' friends or foes? The writer's goal is to raise the tension and suspense to a level where the reader feels the inner pain of the protagonist more than the external pain of bombs, bullets, etc. (Mystery-Psychological Thriller definitions from the Psychological Thrillers discussion on goodreads with Charles A. Cornell, author of Tiger Paw)
  • Additional examples of psychological thriller television shows and films: Jack Bauer, played by Kiefer Sutherland in 24; The Game, with Michael Douglas; Black Swan, with Natalie Portman and Gone Girl, book, by Gillian Flynn, and film. Books include, Before I go to Sleep, S.J. Watson, and The Talented Mr. Ripley, by Patricia Highsmith. (ranker.com)
Much as I needed to decide what aspect of Water to write about, I needed to narrow down the genre of my two current WIP's. In addition to being family stories with lots of humor, I needed to explore what elements of Suspense each of them contain. My conclusions are tackled in next month's post.
Next month: Part 2, Tips on Writing Suspense Stories for Children

Sources: http://www.biography.com/people/alfred-hitchcock-9340006Alfred Hitchcock, courtesy of the Library of Congress, 
http://www.notablebiographies.com/He-Ho/Hitchcock-Alfred.html; http://borgus.com/hitch/macguffins.htm; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_thriller; http://www.ranker.com/crowdranked-list/the-best-psychological-thrillers-of-all-time; http://www.biography.com/people/stephen-king-9365136; http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1884270-what-s-the-difference-between-a-psychological-thriller-and-a-mystery-thr.


Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 40 articles for adults and children and six short stories for children. Recently she completed Joyce Sweeney's online fiction and picture book courses. She is currently working on several projects for children. Follow Linda on Facebook.

Why a Writing Schedule is Important - Help for New Writers

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today.  
Chinese Proverb 

One of the first hurdles for new writers who want to begin a writing career is creating a schedule. It can be daunting to figure out how you can find the time if you are in the midst of raising a family or working full time. Even if you are retired, life can still be busy. Some of my retired friends say they're busier!

Writing is creative and I write when I'm inspired. When an idea hits, I love to let the words flow. It's incredibly fulfilling. 

But if I wanted to be serious about my writing career, I had to tap into the logical function of my brain and make a schedule. Otherwise, I would have many unfinished projects laying around.

You may have a book burning inside of you. Keep that long term goal but consider one or two short term goals to gain practice, improve your skills, and make money. Magazine fillers, articles, and resumes are some ideas.

Once your writing goals are in place for the year, create a plan to meet those goals. Your writing schedule will make those objectives happen.
  • Are you a night owl? Morning person? Once you've figured out the best time to write, make the time. An hour every morning? Two hours each night? If you cannot write every day, choose specific days of the week and stick to it. 
       There will be times you don't feel like writing. This is normal.  But 
       keep in mind this great tip: never miss twice. If you skip your scheduled
       time of writing, don't skip the next one.

       Don't be afraid to adjust your schedule if it isn't working. Better to start            small and gradually build than to over extend yourself and give up.
  • Your writing time should have no interruptions. Turn off your phone, log out of your email, and write. Treat it as business because that's exactly what it is.
       When you begin producing, you will feel good about yourself and keep
  • Build an online presence. What are your interests? Write about it in a blog. Network with others in your niche. Visit blogs and leave thoughtful comments. Soon you will build your own audience.
  • Check online job boards for freelance work. Make it a point to schedule this time in so you will always have a project you are working on.
  • Don't forget to schedule time to learn new skills. There are writers' groups and many free and affordable courses available available online. 
Try it and this time next year you will be encouraged with your success!

Photo credit: gtall1 / Foter / CC BY


   After raising and homeschooling her 8 children and teaching art classes for 10 years, Kathy has found time to pursue freelance writing. She enjoys writing magazine articles and more recently had her story, "One of a Kind", published in The Kids' ArkYou can find her passion to bring encouragement and hope to people of all ages at When It Hurts http://kathleenmoulton.com

Five Ways to Unlock those Creativity Muscles

"Why is the moon in the sky?" "Why don't the stars crash into each other?" "Why did God make me your first child?" (You've wondered that too, right?) "Why do I have to bath every day? The dog doesn't."


Why does he keep asking questions? Because he's born to be creative. And what do we do as adults? Stifle his creativity! "Just because!"

To be honest, often it's because we don't know the answers. And why don't we? Because someone stopped us from finding the answers in the first place.

A good comedian trains his mind to look for the "different angle" on everyday things. In the same way, as writers, we can train our minds to look for different angles to everyday situations. Truly creative minds not only come up with the answers. They also come up with the questions.

This is why a young child can drive an adult crazy.

So how can we, as writers, re-kindle our creativity? Here are five suggestions:

1. Change your perspective. Look at your life from a child's point of view. Or through your dog's eyes. You may gain ideas on a new way to tackle a problem. Look at your writing from your reader's point of view. Are you satisfying his or her needs? Does this meet the requirements of the publication?
  • Don't stop at one idea. Look at your way of life from many different perspectives. I once listened to an LP record (which gives away my age) in which an intelligent man is trying to explain a game of golf to a totally uneducated bushman from Central Africa. Hilarious! But also thought-provoking.
2. Challenge your assumptions. You go out to dinner in a posh restaurant. You just assume they will have staff to wait on you. But what if they don't? How would that work? Imagine the scenario. Play it over in your mind. 
  • I once read a signboard sticking out of the lawn of a bowling green. "Keep off the grass," it instructed. Is that possible? Could you play bowls without stepping on the grass? How would you get the bowling balls to run on the grass if you kept on the path? Think it through.
3. Let your ideas run wild. One of my favourite story series as a little girl was Enid Blyton's Wishing Chair. For those deprived readers who have never read these stories, two children, Peter and Mollie, find an armchair that grows wings when they rub the legs. Together with their pixie friend, Chinky, they take off on many wonderful adventures. Be honest. How would you react if you were polishing a chair one day and it grew wings? Would you sit on it and wish yourself to an exotic destination? Or would you run out the room and scream for someone to come and help, because "chairs don't fly"? 
  • Look at your favourite armchair and visualise yourself sitting on it as you soar out of the window and across the fields. Imagine the expression on your neighbours' faces as you wave to them. Think of all the advantages. No parking problems. No emission of toxic fumes. Don't stifle your creativity. Relax, and let ideas come. You may never use them in your writing (although who knows? Enid Blyton did!) But you'll have fun.And you'll be building those creativity muscles.
4. Rethink your needs: For example, instead of thinking, "How can I attract more people to my blog, ask yourself, "Do I really need more readers on my blog?" The question suggests other creative solutions, like finding ways to make your blog more interesting to your present visitors. This may in turn help you come up with more profitable ideas.
  • Instead of, "What should my character do to solve this problem?" try "Do I really need this character?" Instead of, "How can I think of six suggestions on how to strengthen my creativity muscles?" ask, "Do I really need to have six?"
5. Connect the dots: Look around and choose objects near you, then ask how they may be connected. Connect the sight of a police car speeding down the road with the spate of robberies you read of in the newspaper. Will the criminals get caught? Possibly not. So does crime pay? Maybe it doesfor the guy who gets away. Notice an elderly lady crossing the road, her purse hanging over her arm. Connect the dots. Could a criminal snatch that bag and get away with it? What chance would the old lady have of stopping him? 
  • Can you write an article for a senior's magazine on security measures? How about "Safe ways to go shopping"?
If you train your brain to habitually use these and other training ideas, you really can strengthen those creativity muscles. It won't happen in one day, and you won't get a best-seller idea the first exercise you try. Remember that it takes time to develop new muscles, and that includes creative muscles. However, if you follow these exercises regularly, you will become more creative. 

OVER TO YOU: When you hit a blank screen, what do you do to spark those creativity muscles back to life? Please leave a comment below.

SHIRLEY CORDER lives on the coast in South Africa with her husband, Rob. Her book, Strength Renewed: Meditations for your Journey through Breast Cancer has created a multitude of friends and contacts across the world.

Please visit Shirley through ShirleyCorder.com where she encourages writers, or at RiseAndSoar.com where she encourages those in the cancer valley. You can also meet with her on Twitter or Facebook.

Sign up to receive a short devotional message from Shirley in your inbox once a week.

What to Do When Life Gets in the Way of Writing....


What can you do when life gets in the way of your writing? Let's face it, life happens. Things you cannot even imagine can and will happen. In a split second the plans you had for the day, the week, or the month will be altered.  Your writing may be the first thing that gets ignored unless you have a plan. I know first hand, it happened to me. Soon after Christmas I had a fall and broke three ribs and injured my leg. Guess what I forgot to get done? Yep, the post to this blog.

So what could I have done to prevent missing my deadline? Here are some tips I have put into place so I won't miss another post or any other important writing deadline.

  • Keep a calendar at all times. It doesn't work well for me to have things on my phone but I now have a smaller paper datebook in my purse and a larger one on my desk to keep dates organized. for others the phone thing might be all that is needed to keep organized. Whatever you do planning your writing week well ahead can keep you from missing an important due date.
  • Blog posts and sometimes other writing can be pre-scheduled. Writing posts when time permits helps to keep ahead of the game, something I should have done rather than procrastinating. Writing several blog posts and pre-scheduling is a great tool to help you work ahead. . 
  • Try not to over schedule yourself or take on more assignments than you can do in a healthy perfect state of mind and body. Allow some wiggle room for writing assignments so when that unexpected "life happens" comes along,  you can still keep your writing commitments.
  • Many writers have portable notepads and other electronics that allow writing wherever you are, but a good old notepad and pencil are always a good thing to keep handy for jotting down things when you can't be in your writing space.
Finally, the most important thing I learned about what you can do when life happens is to forgive yourself. Illness and injury, family emergencies, and even your "day job" obligations can all take time away from writing and writing commitments. Apologize to those who need it and move on. Life happens but it doesn't have to be the end to your writing dream.

6 Tips for Creating Healthy Writing Habits

Getting on track with your writing can be a daunting task, creating healthy habits can make this a bit easier.

1.  Anything that we do for 21 days becomes a habit, so step number one is to make a commitment to yourself and your writing -  give yourself this amount of time to develop your habit without feeling bad if you find you skip a day or forget, just get back on track and keep going as soon as you remember.

2. Schedule writing time. Yep, put it on your calendar and honor it like you would any other important appointment. Choosing the same time each day may make this easier for you - get up earlier in the morning, commit to working each evening, or during the kids' nap time.

3. Write no matter what. Sometimes all of us arrive at our desk without something to write - otherwise known as writer's block - pushing through this stagnation is the only way out. That means write something about anything. If you are unable to write the article, the chapter, or the poem - write in your journal about your inability to write and soon you may find the words flowing.

4. Remember to stay fed and hydrated. Water is your body's friend. So is food. Make sure to have some easy and healthy snacks handy and water beside you so that you can take a break and then quickly get back to your work.

5. Exercise. For some, sitting at the computer all day is normal. To keep from getting stiff, take periodic breaks to stand, stretch and walk.

6. Be distraction free. Make sure that you are clear about when and how long you will spend on the internet doing things unrelated to your writing - social networking, answering e-mails, etc. You may find it easier to keep your focus if you put in your time writing first and then get on-line. Also, writing time is not to be used to catch up on telephone calls.

Establish healthy writing habits and see you work propelled to the next level.


D. Jean Quarles is a writer of Women's Fiction and a co-author of a Young Adult Science Fiction Series. Her latest book, House of Glass, Book 2 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.

Stop Congress from Interfering with the Internet

On Feb 26 the FCC will vote to save net neutrality or let Comcast and other ISPs create Internet slow lanes. Some members of Congress, on behalf of their Cable donors, are trying to stop the FCC from protecting the Internet we love. There isn't much time to stop them, contact them now.

This is every internet user’s problem and fight.

Go here to be heard: https://www.battleforthenet.com

According to Battle for the Net:

Last year, more than 40,000 websites participated in the Internet Slowdown to demand real net neutrality. It worked! But monopolistic Cable companies are pouring millions into a last ditch effort to derail the FCC's historic vote. Help us flood Washington, DC with calls and emails to show lawmakers that the whole Internet is watching, and we're literally counting down the seconds until we get real net neutrality.

Telling everyone about the vote is a key part of winning real net neutrality. Your help is needed.

There’s a bunch of different ways for sites to participate. The best way is to blog about it and share it with your social networks. Place the TIMER widget on your site by using just one line of code. Then, link to battleforthenet.com to drive emails and calls for net neutrality. NOTE: none of the tools will slow down your site; they just show a symbolic loading symbol.

Be heard, sign up now:

And, please be sure to share this post!


Happy Valentine’s Day - 14 Ways to Love Writing and the Writer’s Life

by Suzanne Lieurance, the Working Writer's Coach

This is the day we celebrate romantic love. But you know what they say – ”Before you can love someone else you must love yourself.”

With that in mind, instead of constantly beating yourself up because you aren’t yet a best-selling author or a 6-figure freelance writer, love writing and the writer’s life right now. Here are 14 ways to do that:

1. Write what you love.

If you earn a living as a freelance writer, you may get assignments for all sorts of writing projects. Many of these projects might not be that exciting for you. That’s okay. Just be sure you make time to also write about things you love.

2. Make writing a priority.

Most writers, particularly those who don’t write fulltime for a living, find it difficult to write on a regular basis. That’s because writing is the last thing on their to-do list, so it often gets overlooked. But if you make writing a priority, you won't constantly feel guilty because your writing always seems to get pushed to the sidelines.

3. Set obtainable goals for yourself.

If you don’t write regularly now, don’t suddenly set a goal to write for 1 hour 7 days a week for the next year. This is an impossible goal for most anyone. You won’t be able to reach this goal, and the first time you miss a writing session you’ll feel like a failure.

4. Hang out with other writers.

Join or start a local writer's group on meetup.com or simply join online groups for writers. Other writers know what you're going through. They'll be able to offer you advice and support that other people can't.

5. Spend time reading the type of work you wish to write.

Make regular reading time part of your writing schedule. Consider it part of your training. You’ll learn a lot from reading the work of other writers. Plus, you’ll enjoy it!

6. Learn your craft.

Do all you can to learn more about the type of writing you wish to do. Attend workshops. Take writing courses. Go to a writer’s conference at least once a year.

7. Set up a designated writing space.

Having your own “office” for writing automatically helps you and your family take your work more seriously. Plus, when you sit down at your desk, it signals your brain that it's time to get to work.

8. Set no more than 3 major writing/career goals at a time.

Writers tend to have dozens of ideas and projects they wish to complete. But it’s too hard to focus on this many projects at once. Set 3 or fewer goals at a time. Once you reach one goal, add another to your list.

9. Keep track of your writing and publication efforts. Get a spiral notebook and write down what you do each week to move your writing and your writing career forward. This will help you stay focused. Plus, once you see – on paper – the actions you've been taking consistently, you'll be motivated to continue taking action to reach your writing goals.

10. Stop comparing yourself to other writers. Every writer is unique, and while some writers experience immediate success, most writers slowly reach their goals. It might take you longer to reach your goals than it does some other writers, but so what?

11. Make sure your goals are things you have some control over. If you set goals like, "Get an article published in Smithsonian Magazine this year", you may be disappointed because you really have no control over something like that. It's better to set a goal like, "Get 3 query ideas ready to submit to Smithsonian Magazine this year" because you do have some control over that.

12. Learn to love the writing process. Many people who think they want to become writers don't really love to write. They just want to be published. Publication is great. But learn to enjoy the writing process itself, even if it can be agonizing at times. If you stick with it, your writing will get better and better. As it does, your confidence and self-esteem will grow, too.

13. Be Brave.

If you learn to love the writing process, publication will naturally follow. But you have to be brave enough to submit your work to publishers and editors. Don't wait to do this. Start with small local and regional publications. Enter contests that include publication as part of the prizes for winning entries. If you're serious about writing, it shouldn't take you long to get something published somewhere.

14. Celebrate both your small and large successes.

If you track your progress each week, celebrate both the small and large successes you'll experience. Simply sticking to your writing schedule for the week is something to celebrate. Getting an acceptance letter from a publisher is, of course, reason to celebrate, too.

These are just a few ways to start loving yourself as a writer and the writer's life right now.

Do you have other suggestions? Please share them with us as a comment.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Suzanne Lieurance is an author, freelance writer, certified professional life coach and writing coach, speaker and workshop presenter. She has written over two dozen published books and hundreds of articles for newspapers, magazines, and other publications. She offers The Morning Nudge, for writers every weekday morning. Get your free subscription at www.morningnudge.com.

February Blogging Prompts

Hearts abound for the month of February. In addition to Valentine's Day, February is American Heart Month. 

There's a lot to write about hearts, the literal and physical kinds.

Let's try something different for this month's blogging prompt article. Write a list of everything related to "heart," and see what ideas for posts come out of it.

For example: 
  • Heart Health (food and exercise)
  • Heartfelt (what do you truly believe in)
  • Heart-to-Heart (advice to share)
  • Heart Shaped (what comes in that shape: candy hearts, cakes, jewelry; what )
  • Heart Break (lessons from loss)
  • Songs with heart (favorite "heart" song")
  • What you Heart (Love) about What you Do
  • Sweethearts (love)
  • The Color Red
February Holidays: February is Black History Month, Canned Food Month and Creative Romance Month. The third week in February is 3rd Week International Flirting Week. Plus, Random Acts of Kindness Day is February 17, International World Thinking Day is the 22nd, and Tell a Fairy Tale Day is the 26th. 

February Food Holidays: February is Celebration of Chocolate Month, National Fondue Month, National Heart Healthy Month, National Hot Breakfast Month, and National Snack Food Month. Don't Cry Over Spilled Milk Day is February 11, Drink Wine Day is the 18th, and Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day is the 23rd. Who knew? 

Bonus: February is also the height of awards season, wrapping up with the Oscars on February 22. Whether you are a movie-lover, screenwriter, or a writer of film-related content, take any and all opportunities to write about your award-season movie favs.

Put some heart into your blog and blog with heart!


Debra Eckerling is the author of Purple Pencil Adventures: Writing Prompts for Kids of All Ages. She's a writer, editor and project manager/goal coach, as well as founder of Guided Goals and Write On Online, a live and online writers’ support group. She is an editor at Social Media Examiner. Debra is also a speaker/moderator on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting and social media.

Righting Misconstrued Ideas of What a Great Review Consists Of

I usually post only reviews on this blog (see the submission guidelines in the left column!). It is open for authors, publishers, reviews, and readers who want to spread the word about the books they read. Today, I'm republishing a note I wrote to the subscribers of my SharingwithWriters newsletter because it deals with reviews--and, I believe, can be helpful to all those who contribute and visit these pages. Here it is:

Dear Subscribers:

Perhaps the hardest job I have is to convince my clients that a critical review can actually be beneficial to the sales of their book. (The other is convincing them that marketing a book is not selling a book but an act of consideration—that is identifying their readers so they can be helped or entertained in the way they like best!)

Back to reviews. I was reading a review for The Small Big: Small Changes That Spark Big Influence by Steve J. Martin and Noah Goldstein with Robert Cialdini in Time magazine. And there! Right there! Was the clincher. It leads with, "At first glance, little differentiates Berkshire Hathaway stockholder reports from those of any other major corporation. But look closer. Even in years when Berkshire has been unimaginably successful, [the Berkshire Chairman draws attention] to a snag or strain in the company."

"What," you may ask, "does that have to do with my book, or reviews for my book?"

The review amplifies a bit: "Researchers who study persuasion know that messages can be amplified when people present a small weakness in them, which in turn garners a higher level of trust."

As those of you who have read my The Frugal Book Promoter know, I don't advocate slash and burn review tactics—for authors who review books or authors who take the lowest road and denigrate their competitors' books. But a review that is honest, one that tempers praise with a little helpful critique, can be of far more value than one that looks as if it were written by the author's mother.

Apparently this book also suggests that those with something to sell might "arrange for someone to toot your horn on your behalf." It gives an example of the old switch tactic that I've had car salespeople use on me when they turn me over to someone who is "more experienced," or "in a better position to cut me a deal."

Another lesson: Use potential. Facebook users introduced to "someone who could become the next big thing" were more convinced than they were from a mere list of his or her credentials, however stellar.

And while we're at it, one of the first "lessons" I learned about endorsements (they're sort of like mini reviews, right?) is that you can write them and present them to someone in a position to influence your particular readers in the query letter you write to them. You tell them that if they prefer they can chose one one of your prepackaged endorsements--edit it or not--or write one of their own. It's a way of keeping control over the aspects of your book you'd most like to have at the forefront of readers' awareness and—at the same time—being of service to the person you are querying. You will also up your success rate for getting an endorsement because many movers-and-shakers aren't necessarily writers and the idea of writing an endorsement from scratch scares the beejeebees out of them!

You can do the same thing with a review. Write one the way you would like to see it (using some of the techniques outlined in this note to you), and let someone else—someone with tons of credibility--sign off on it. If no one does, you can use the review in your media kit with a note that it is a "sample review." That's honest and sometimes needed when you're finding it hard to get that first review! By the way, that's another tip you'll find in The Frugal Book Promoter along with ways to avoid paying for a review and why you should avoid paying for one.

Happy writing, editing, and promoting,

PS I’d love to see those of you who live in the LA area at the coming Digital Conference (http://www.wcwriters.com/dasp/program.html) for sure, though hotel accommodations are available for out-of-towners. I’ll be speaking on “Using Createspace as a One-Stop Shop for Digital and Paper” and “Digital Marketing Made Simple.” Get more details by scrolling to the bottom of this newsletter for my coming presentations. 

WritersontheMove blogger Carolyn Howard-Johnson is author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers. She offers a free review service  to those who want to encourage the reading of books they love at  http://TheNewBookReview.Blogspot.com  .If you would like to contribute a review, please follow the submission guidelines in the left column of the review blog. Reviews and essays are indexed by genre, reviewer names, and review sites. Writers will find the search engine handy for gleaning the names of small publishers.  

Taglines and Loglines

My Kindle advertises to me, temptingly placing book covers on my standby screen.  After a while I noticed that they all had something in common:  a tagline or logline right on the cover.  Then I noticed something else.  When I looked up the books on Amazon, most of them didn’t actually have these pithy teasers on the cover.  It was something Amazon added, to help sell books.  Which tells me that a tagline may accomplish what a book cover alone can’t.

Since my greatest talent does not lie in writing taglines…or loglines…or synopses…or pitches…I started writing them down, to see if I could learn anything.  I thought my fellow writers might find the examples interesting.

Can a troubled young man and a desperate mother save each other?
Through the Fog by Michael C. Grumley
(asks a rhetorical question, uses classic adjective-noun descriptions of characters)

After she loses everyone that she loves, Mikayla struggles to find a new forever
More than This by Jay McLean
(names a character, hints at backstory, genre, conflict)

A gripping tale of seduction and survival in the court of King Henry VIII
A Love Most Dangerous by Martin Lake
(establishes setting and main premise, uses no verbs, praises itself)

In postapocalyptic Boston, supernatural factions battle for human souls
Marked by Sarah Fine
(plays on the popularity of a trendy genre, gives setting, hints at what’s at stake)

You may know their faces—but you don’t know their dangerous, deadly secrets
Ourselves by S.G. Redling
(second person, fairly generic—may apply to about 40% of novels—but still intriguing)

Her secret admirer:  a world traveler with a sense of humor—and a job to kill for
Ice Man Cometh by C.T. Wente
(specific, clever description of one character, a hint of intrigue)

A murdered angel, an elusive hero—just another day for Gideon and Sirius
(humor, quick character descriptions, hints of genre, no verbs)

Glassblowing was a man’s art—until three enchanting sisters elevated the craft with a woman’s touch
The Glassblower by Petra Durst-Benning
(past tense, unusual topic)

When hard evidence points to you, how do you clear your name?
(second person rhetorical question with high stakes)

He must choose between love and loyalty, paying with either his heart…or his life.
(The hard choice.  Generic but intriguing)

A girl with a clockwork heart must make every second count
Ticker by Lisa Mantchev
(clever wordplay, hints of sci-fi, hints of urgency)

A medieval killer and his current-day copycat terrorize the walled city of Zons
Fatal Puzzle by Catherine Shepherd
(intriguing premise, setting)


Benjamin thought he couldn’t feel anymore…until Charlie came along

Beneath a picturesque New Orleans mansion lurks a deadly force
The Vines by Christopher Rice

In search of a missing boy, a DEA agent ends up on the run.

One man fights to regain his family’s land—and win the woman he loves
Deepest Roots of the Heart by Chautona Havig

How well do you really know those closest to you? 
Never Smile at Strangers by Jennifer Jaynes

Years after her sister’s murder, Detective Crosswhite fights to find the truth.
My Sister’s Grave by Robert Dugoni

All the rules I’ve read about writing taglines and loglines are both exemplified and contradicted here—which seems to be the case with rules about writing queries and blurbs too.  But the main advice still holds true:  make your readers want to read the book.

And perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned from this came from the examples I jotted down without noting the book title, and then later couldn’t find.  Once you have a tagline you like, make sure people can find it online.  Use it everywhere you can:  your website, blog, Facebook, guest posts, Amazon/Goodreads/B&N descriptions…whatever and whenever you can.  Then, prospective readers who may not remember your name or title but who remember part of your hopefully memorable tagline can Google it to find your book.  Make your tagline work for you.

Melinda Brasher writes short stories, travel articles, and YA novels.  She loves the crunch of snow and the smell of old books.  She's currently living in the Czech Republic teaching English.  To see a little of this beautiful country, visit her online:  http://www.melindabrasher.com/

Even Tiny Action Steps can Produce Huge Results

"Someone is sitting in the shade today because
someone planted a tree a long time ago."

This Warren Buffet quote inspires me. It's simple, yet so amazingly powerful.

1. A tiny seed can create something as massive as a tree, even a sequoia tree.

Think of the giant sequoia tree in California, USA. It averages around 26 feet in diameter, weighs around 4,189,000 lbs. and reaches heights of 275 feet. According to Wikepedia, "Record trees have been measured to be 311 feet in height and over 56 feet in diameter. The oldest known giant sequoia based on ring count is 3,500 years old."

The seed of the sequoia tree is 0.16–0.20 inches long, 0.039 inches broad, and 0.039 inches wide.

Hard to imagine, isn't it.

Well, this can easily relate to writing, to content marketing, to business . . . to just about everything in your work and life.

Small positive actionable steps, no matter how tiny, can create massive results. You may think your writing and marketing efforts aren't moving you forward, but think of how long it takes that tiny seed to grow into that tree that gives shade.

2. What you sow today can have benefits for many tomorrows.

Time will pass whether you take action or not. If you have an idea, take action now. Don't wait for tomorrow or until you have more time or until you have more money. Take action now. The benefits may turn out to be bigger than you could possibly imagine.

You may reap the benefits of your writing or content marketing or business efforts far into your future, so take that initial step. Or, maybe it's expansion that you're thinking about, or a new strategy.

Keep in mind though that every living thing needs sun, water, and food to grow. So, when you take that step (plant that seed), be sure to give it the nurturing it needs to become what you believe it can be.

Plant that seed today!

Karen Cioffi is a writer and online platform instructor. She's offering two e-classes through WOW! Women on Writing;

Become an SEO Writer in Just 4 Weeks
Get Traffic to Your Website with Inbound Marketing

(Both classes are in-depth and interactive and will help get you where you need to be.)


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