Harper Lee's Rich Legacy for Writers

Masterpieces are masterpieces not because they are flawless
but because they've tapped into something essential to us all--
at the heart of who we are and how we live. Mark Childress
Photo by Linda Wilson, Copyright 2015.

Few authors have captured the imagination of so many as Harper Lee. Especially an author who has touched so many hearts--some 40 million--with one work: Lee's Pulitzer Prize and just-about-every-other-award-winning novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. Just last year 400,000 copies were purchased, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times.

My personal foray into the fascinating story not only of the novel itself, but of Lee's life and circumstances surrounding the writing of the novel, began with a spellbinding account on the PBS show, American Masters, "Harper Lee," transcribed here in order to paraphrase or quote the views of some of the most noteworthy authors and celebrities of our times. And media coverage of the much anticipated publication this month by Harper, a division of HarperCollins, of Lee's first novel, Go Set a Watchman; a must-read, according to Michele Miller, Correspondent on CBS, This Morning; which was written about a year before the first draft of Mockingbird and reportedly discovered recently among Harper Lee's archives.

What are some of the reasons for the enduring success of Lee's masterpiece, To Kill a Mockingbird, and what can writers glean for their own work?

Great Freedom from One Major Work
Born in 1926 in the small town of Monroeville, Alabama, Nelle Harper Lee met with rejection after rejection in 1957 when, at the age of 31, she searched for a home for her novel, then titled Atticus. Though at first blush the manuscript was said to have many things wrong with it, that it needed a lot of work and was really a series of short stories with dangling threads of a plot; acceptance came when editors at Lippincott Company recognized not only the work's promise, but this author's great potential. Up until then Lee's publishing credits consisted of several short stories that she wrote while supporting herself for eight years as an airline reservation agent.

Lee settled down to write revisions of Mockingbird with the help of her editor and financial support from good friends who were impressed by how perceptive the character sketches were of the people in her hometown of Monroeville. This revision process, which seemed long and hopeless at the time, went on with few distractions for two years.

How can our work be informed by this great author and her masterpiece? The PBS American Masters show turned to renowned celebrities and authors for what Mockingbird meant to them.
  • Oprah Winfrey (Producer: The Oprah Winfrey Show, 23 actress credits, magazine publisher): I wanted to be Scout. I was Scout. Mockingbird is one of the first books I wanted to encourage people to read.
  • Wally Lamb (I Know this Much is True): Mockingbird is the first book that captured me. It was exciting. I didn't realize literature could do that. I taught the book almost every year for 25 years while teaching high school: the students read the book because they wanted to, not because they had to. It cast the same spell for them as it did for me.
  • Adriana Trigiani (Big Stone Gap: A Novel): When I was 12 years old I found the book on the library's book mobile. As different as any Italian can be growing up in the small town of Big Stone Gap, Virginia, feeling like my family came from Pluto, it was the perfect time to read Mockingbird.
  • James McBride (Crazy in Alabama): I read a tattered copy in my home in Queens. Mockingbird is the first time a white writer discussed issues of racism that were complicated and sophisticated.
A Rich Legacy for Writers
  • Allan Gurganus (Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All): The narrator is a grown-up Scout, simultaneously adult looking back and child living in a small town. A difficult feat. Ask any writer: very tough.
  • James McBride: Part of why Lee is a great American writer: this child sees the world as an adult, through a child's eyes with an adult understanding.
  • Gregory Peck (played the defining role of his career and earned an Oscar as Atticus Finch in the film): Good and evil would never seem as fresh and terrifying as it does when seen through the eyes of a child. It is remarkable for a writer to capture the feelings of a child. Perhaps that's why one book in the last few years has been so warmly embraced by tens of millions of people.
  • Mark Childress (Crazy in Alabama): I lived two doors down from Lee's house. That is the reason I'm a writer.
  • Rosanne Cash (Singer-songwriter and author): What I got out of the book: The way you behave, whether people see you or not is central to becoming yourself. I remember that [intense] feeling of integrity and sense of conscience.
  • Lee Smith (The Lost Girls): Mockingbird still has a galvanizing effect on a young reader. It never ages; is as important today as it was then and remains as relevant today as it did the very day it was written. The characters are indelible for generations of readers.
  • Anna Quindlen (author, journalist and opinion columnist): I collected books about insurrectionary, outspoken, non-girly girls: Anne of Green Gables, Joan March in Little Women, and Scout. Scout is a scamp, irresistible, hysterically funny, smart, always has a comeback; always poking at boundaries of good taste and what's proper; doesn't have a mother, childhood in many ways is lonely; struggles how to be in the world.
  • Wally Lamb: The language and especially the voice and story take students on a smooth ride.
  • Student comments: Helps people see what it was really like. People talk and act differently but they are the same. Inspired me because it showed how one person can change the whole world.
  • Alice Lee (Harper Lee's sister): Nell was a gifted storyteller even as a child, with a vivid imagination. She would compose stories and type them up on a beat-up old Underwood typewriter.
  • Lee's Own Words: Lee said in her last interview in March, 1964, that she liked writing maybe too much. "I'm a slow worker, a steady worker. So many writers don't like to write. If they must do it, it's under the compulsion that makes any artist what he is. But, they don't really enjoy trying to turn a thought into a reasonable sentence. But I do. I like to write. Sometimes I'm afraid I like it too much because when I get into the work I don't want to leave it."
A final word
A terrific quote by Wally Lamb: [To write a novel] you start with who and what you know. You take a survey of the lay of the land that shaped you. You tell one lie that turns into a different lie and after a while those models become their own people rather than people you originally thought of. By telling lies you're trying to arrive at a deeper meaning.
Reinforced for me: Write what you know; make characters true to life; choose compelling subject matter; craft a great story; keep current societal trends in mind; love the process; be patient, writing as many revisions as it takes.

Now on to the joy of listening to the audio version of Go Set a Watchman, ready and waiting on my desk. Like Lee's story in Mockingbird, my interest is everlasting.

Sources: Most of the information in this post was transcribed and paraphrased from The American Masters profile, "Harper Lee." Other sources include: "http://www.latimes.com/books/jacketcopy/la-et-jc-harper-lee-go-set-a-watchman-mockingbird-20150204-story.htmlhttp://www.newrepublic.com/article/122290/suspicious-story-behind-publication-go-set-watchman.

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.

Encouragement for Writers

We are mothers, sisters, and daughters.

We are wives, friends, and co-workers.

And we are writers. Writers with personal lives. All the roles we have in life can keep us busy, distracted, disappointed, or discouraged. It can even pull us away from writing if we are overwhelmed.

Here are some inspirational quotes I hope will encourage you!

Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground. - Theodore Roosevelt

Problems are not stop signs. They are guidelines. - Robert Schuller

If you have other things in your life-family, friends, good productive day work-these can interact with your writing and the sum will be all the richer. - David Brin

A wounded deer leaps the highest. - Emily Dickinson

One may walk over the highest mountain one step at a time. - John Wanamaker

Photo credit: s-a-m / Foter / CC BY
Feel a bit better? I hope so.

Next month: ways to balance your personal life with the business of writing. 


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

Writing Bonuses

image by jesadaphorn.at www.freedigitalphotos.net
We all have months when our energy is at a low ebb. Mine is traditionally July--the end of the school year and that means paperwork and more paperwork rather than holiday.

But this year, getting away from students and from the computer for the full week of my publishing house summer shut down helped me realize how many networking bonuses we benefit from as writers.

All round us we have experts generous in sharing their expertise and always willing to lend a helping hand.

Writing for Wealth

Freelance writing is an exhausting way to make a living. Yes, we set our own deadlines, choose our own work--how hard can it be? Very.

Juggling submissions, thinking up new ideas, finding oneself "interviewing" rather than talking to friends--it all becomes stressful.

Consider taking advantage of PLR material. Search engines are full of sites offering pre-written content free or at low prices. Never use it as is but it can give you a skeleton framework on which to build your own writing and it is another way of researching the niche markets that are popular in which to make sales.

If nothing else, it may inspire you to say, "I can do better than that. " :-)

Study what is on the market. See what works. One plr report costed at $2.50 sold 100 times means $250. Think about it. 

It is all too easy to stick to the tried and true formula of what works: querying a favorite editor, writing for the same magazine, sticking to lower paid markets rather than trying something new.

 Writing for Health

Health is one of the most popular and profitable markets for writers though ironically most writers suffer from some health problem through their sedentary lifestyle.

My week off gave me the chance to research the reason for an almost crippling sciatic pain that baffled my doctors. If you ever find yourself too sore to sit and almost as sore to stand, look into piriformis syndrome.

I have been doing the exercises for almost three weeks now and they work for me. And of course, when I get round to producing my own mini report, then that will also work for me--either as an opt-in bonus for my newsletter or as a PLR pack.

Writing for Happiness

Australian writer Ruth Barringham has discontinued sales of her Online Complete Course and is offering it free. It is a huge course which covers everything from getting the initial idea through learning html code to web design and putting your site online.

Best of all, she is relinquishing her copyright so it seems you could update it where necessary and do whatever you want with it. A tempting offer.

The Complete Online Course is only one of the marvellous resources Ruth has on her site. Try the free stuff link on her blog and look at her free resources page too. 

As a beta reader for Beth Barany's new  mini course on novel writing, I can happily recommend it. Written for first time authors, it still holds lots of useful tips for those of us on the second time around. And it's another irresistible no cost offer for those of us whose income is limited.

Her older site has several interesting creativity articles available for download and I shall post the link to her new novel writing course as soon as it goes live.

Until then, take a look at her resources page at BethBarany.com

Let me know what you find useful in any of these ideas and please add your own thoughts on writing bonuses in the comments below

Anne Duguid
Anne Duguid Knol

A local and national journalist in the U.K., Anne is now a fiction editor for award-winning American and Canadian publishers. As a new author, she shares writing tips and insights at her very new Author Support blog: http://www.authorsupport.net
Her novella, ShriekWeek is published by The Wild Rose Press.

26 Reasons a Writer Should Blog - Part 4

We often here people speak of a "learning curve". 

By that we usually mean we take on a challenge which teaches us new things. 

So do writers learn anything from blogging? Once again, the answer is


Today we're going to take a look at some of the things we can learn when we blog and how they benefit us in other ways.

12.    L is for Learning.
  • You learn about your topic. During the month of April, I wrote almost every day on the topic of Africa. I have lived on this continent since the age of four, and yet I learned so much about the countries of Africa, their cultures, flora and fauna. I compiled a “Blogging Bucket List” of places I want to visit, or revisit, over the next year or two. Many people who read my blog during the April, mentioned how much they too learned about this amazing land.
  • You learn by doing research. I had to do quite a bit of research into Africa. For example, my brother and sister-in-law are currently on an epic overland adventure from Johannesburg in South Africa, up to the magical Serengeti Plains in distant Tanzania. I realized I knew nothing about Serengeti, so guess what? S is for Serengeti! And I now just wish I could have tagged along with them. 
  • You learn from what you don't know. I am currently doing this series of why writers should blog. I can think of reasons why I blog, but why do other writers blog? As I ask the question and read other writers' blogs, I learn more about the technique of blogging. 
  • You learn from other writers and make cyber friends. As you write about subjects that intrigue them, so they start visiting your blog, and if they leave comments this encourages you to pay them a return visit. In the process I learn about their passions, their home-towns, their hobbies, and many other fascinating information.

13.     M is for Multitasking. 
  • Most blog posts lend themselves to multitasking. I make a point of thinking through any post or series of posts I want to write. Does it have any purpose apart from filling a space for the day? I've already discussed how often my blog posts end up as devotional articles either on another site, or in my weekly devotional messages, Closer Walk. (Sign up via the link at the bottom of the page if you are interested.) 
  • You can share your experiences in a series format, then use it on another blog with modifications, or use them to form the skeleton of an e-book in the future. 
  • Blog posts can form a good basis for teaching topics. I intend to teach my online group for South African Christian Writers about blogging. We work on a Topic of the Week, and what more relevant than to tackle blogging for writers over a period of weeks?

14.    N is for Newsletters. 
  • Blogging opens an opportunity to start a newsletter. I had been blogging intermittently for years before I signed up for the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Within the first few days, I realized I needed a way for people to sign up to follow my blog. Oh, they could follow my website through RSS, and a few did. They could sign up for my Closer Walk weekly devotions, and some did. But to actually follow my blog every time I posted? 
    • I started a simple newsletter geared only to update readers who want to know when I update the blog, and I created a sign-up form. The list started with just three names; me and two writing friends who were also doing the challenge, but it’s slowly growing. This means I have more contacts with whom to share my news in the future.
  • Newsletters are fun to produce, but they can become cumbersome and difficult to keep up with. If you are simply doing one to notify your readers of a new post, it doesn't need to be long, in fact you must honour your commitment to let them know about the latest post, and not write a full-on newsletter. You soon learn the technique of producing an attractive but simple newsletter that relates to your readers.

15.   O is for Opportunity.

  • Blogging gives you the opportunity to find out how much material you have on a topic. Periodically, I have an Ah-Hah! moment. “I could write a book about that!” But could I? Blogging gives me the opportunity to find out. How much do I actually know about the topic? How much information is available on Google or in books that I own? Will I need personal illustrations and anecdotes? Do I have enough?
  • Blogging offers the opportunity to gather information for a forthcoming project. By asking questions of my readers, I can gain further insight into the subject. So a good way to end a blog post is to ask a question. See if you can encourage interaction. I once wrote a series of articles on International English. In my final post, I asked my readers if any of them had funny stories to share. The result was another post.
  • Blogging can attract attention to your work. I have heard of writers gaining the attention of an agent or a publisher who has read their blog material and offered them the opportunity to write it up as a book or as an article.

 Do you have a topic you feel would make a book? Is there a way you could explore it through some blog articles? Does the idea excite you? Or does it make you nervous? Why? Share with us in a comment below.  


26 Reasons to blog - part 1: A - C
26 Reasons to blog - part 2: D - G
26 Reasons to blog - part 3: H - K

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 brought encouragement and inspiration to a multitude of friends and contacts across the world.

Visit Shirley at her writing home, 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 (bottom right) from Shirley in your inbox once a week. 

Midsummer's Nightmare

Yes, you heard me right - write! As I'm putting together this post I'm realizing that the summer is at a midpoint, and my writing goals for the year are not.

While under the best of circumstances summer is a distraction - vacations, visitors and all, this summer has undermined me in an unexpected way. I rise each morning, eager to begin the day, only to find the minutes and hours creeping by without me sitting my behind in the chair - which we all know is the secret to getting the job done. So what to do when this occurs?

1. Join an accountability or critique group: Becoming accountable to others can help with keeping you on track with your goals. In the past I've belonged to critique groups who have encouraged me to submit pages weekly, bi-monthly or monthly. An accountability group may be more diverse in its makeup - some will be attending hoping to improve their home business, while others may be looking to just improve their marketing skills. Either type of group can be beneficial depending upon where you are finding the challenge currently.

2. Set strick limits with family & friends: Writing time may need to be scheduled and committed to by not only you, but by those you love as well. Schedule yourself "out" as you would if you had an important commitment, because it is important.

3. Turn off the phone, don't check Facebook or your email: Internet distractions can undermine your ability to be creative and productive. Telephone calls are really only an excuse to not do the job needing to be done.

Midsummer, mid year 2015 - now is the time to review your yearly goals and gain control over your writing.

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 Serieswas 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.

A few Fast & Easy Ways to Get the Publication Credits & Clips You Need to Move Ahead with Your Writing Career

by Suzanne Lieurance, the Working Writer's Coach

One of the challenges many beginning freelance writers face is getting some publication credits so they'll have clips to include with their resume when applying for writing assignments. It seems to be a Catch-22 situation. They need clips to get new assignments, yet they need assignments to get clips.

Actually, it isn't that difficult to get publication credits and clips rather quickly. Here are a few fast and easy ways to do it:

1. Try Article Directories.

Write a couple of articles aimed at your target market and post these articles in online article directories. Make sure these are high quality articles with great information for your target market. The articles should also be based on keyword research, so they contain the exact words and phrases people are using to search online for the kind of information contained in your articles.

Once you've posted your articles at online article directories, set up a google alert to track your articles. A google alert will let you know when and where your articles appear online. To set up a google alert, just go to www.google.com/alerts and follow the directions. You can type in the title of each of your articles in separate alerts if the titles are unique. Then, each time one of your article titles appears somewhere online, you will be alerted about it by google in an email.

When you receive google alerts for your articles, visit the websites and blogs where your articles have been posted. If any of these sites is impressive, make a screenshot of your article there and use that screenshot as a clip. If you don't know how to make a screenshot, go to google and type in "how to make a screenshot" and you'll find directions for making screenshots on a MAC or a PC.

2. Guest blog.

Instead of waiting and hoping your articles will be picked up at article directories and posted on some impressive sites, find great sites you can offer to guest blog for. You'll find sites that want guest bloggers at www.bloggerlinkup.com or myblogguest.com.

When you find sites to guest blog for, again be sure you create quality articles/posts for these sites. Choose sites to guest blog for that have the same (or at least a similar) target market as you do to make the most of your guest blog posts.

3. Write for small, local print publications.

These publications will usually pay little, if anything, but they are generally easier to break into. Check your library and local bookstores for racks of free, local publications. Follow the submissions guidelines for each publication you wish to write for.

4. Start with fillers.

Create and submit a dozen or so fillers to a dozen or so of the larger print publications. Fillers are shorter pieces that are usually found at the front of a magazine. For that reason they are often called FOB pieces. They range from just a few sentences to a few hundred words and pay anywhere from nothing to $75.00. Fillers are a great way to break in at these markets and get clips from impressive publications.

Don't let a lack of clips and credits keep you from moving forward in your writing career or writing business. Follow these steps today to start building your clips files and your resume.

Try it!

Suzanne Lieurance is a fulltime freelance writer, writing coach, certified life coach, and the author of over 30 published books. For more tips, resources, and other helpful information about writing and the business of writing, get your free subscription to The Morning Nudge at www.morningnudge.com.

July Blogging Prompts

The 4th holiday may have come and gone, but there's still a lot to blog about during the month of July.

Here are some topics to write about in July.

Summer Fun: It's summertime. Share with your audience unique ways to have some summer fun, that reflect your specialty or relate to your business.

Summer Productivity: On the other end of the spectrum, share productivity tips to will help your audience get more done (expand their audience, build their expertise, or do more networking in the summer months) when they really just want to chill out or get out and enjoy the beautiful weather. 


July Holidays: July is National Anti-Boredom Month! July 13 is Barbershop Music Appreciation Day, Embrace Your Geekness Day, and Fool's Paradise Day. Plus, July 26 All or Nothing Day (go for the extremes), July 27 is Take Your Pants for a Walk Day (promote exercise), and July 30 is the International Day of Friendship (show support - promote the website, blog, or business of your friends).

July Food Holidays: There are lots of food holidays in July. It's National Grilling Month, National Hot Dog Month, National Ice Cream Month, National Culinary Arts Month, and more. Sundae Sunday on the third Sunday. Also, July 13 National French Fries Day, July 21 is National Junk Food Day, and July 31 is Cotton Candy Day and Jump for Jelly Beans Day.

Bonus: Fiction writers, in June your characters headed to the beach. This month, invite them to a barbecue. Have a main character, love interest or supporting character host a barbecue for their fictional family, friends and/or coworkers. 

What is the host making? Who is coming? Which guest is bringing what side dishes and desserts? How does what they prepare reflect their interests and personality? For example, one character buys something at the store and transfers it to his or her own cookware, while another spends hours perfecting a scrumptious dessert.

There's lots of fun to be had when you put characters in a social situation and see what comes out of their dynamic. This kind of exercise can lead to all sorts of awesome material.

Double Bonus: Extra gold stars to anyone who hosts a barbecue for inspiration


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.

So Why Shouldn't Authors Profit from Advertising When It Benefits Their Audience!

Memories, Marketing and Sponsorships and Sales

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning
books fir writers, The Frugal Book Promoter and The Frugal Editor,
both in their second editions

About a year ago I was answering questions for an online interview to promote the Southern Utah Book Expo I would soon be presenting at.  Because I am from Utah, my high school newspaper and yearbook became a topic of discussion and mentioned that getting sponsorship ads for those things was as vital to their being as the photos, writing, and layout of those parts of high school life we all value.

Authors  do the same kind thing with their Web sites. Carefully vetted ads can add value to their contents. I am a sometime actor and occasionally I notice how carefully a director places a picture on a wall or a can of Coke on the table in the shot he's taking. That's placement advertising and we—as consumers of both the Coke and the ad itself—hardly notice. It's subliminal. It's natural to see them there. And besides, this country lauds capitalism and monetary independence. In fact, many metaphorically wave the flags of commerce in our politics (though some suddenly become shy about doing so for their own books! But more on that later!)

Just as I'm thinking about that, I ran across a related article in the business section of the LA Times. Of course! It's about product placement in videos and how it's growing. And how it's making some smart video companies and producers some really big dollars. Why am I not surprised? Here's why. The Love Boat, the TV series from several decades ago, was one giant product placement sitcom! This kind of marketing is not new—nor is it unacceptable. And I’m used to sponsorships (a soft word for advertisements) appearing in the front- and backmatter of fine literary journals.

Now, back to the idea of authors using the same techniques to upping the value of their content and for fattening their pocketbooks. I hope I’ve convinced you that if it’s OK for everyone else, it’s OK for those who write books.

For any author to sell product placement or advertising and make large quantities of money requires an audience (we authors call it a platform). But it can be done on a small scale—perhaps out of the goodness of your heart or perhaps in trade with other authors who are out there making videos and otherwise promoting and building their platforms like crazy.
The video entrepreneurs in that article remind others that audience is "more important than any brand deal." They say that if they love a product, it feels good to do something with it commercially. But it’s even more than “love.” The bigger question is, “Does this product benefit (elucidate) the work itself?” Another is, “Is the product something that might benefit the author’s intended audience?”

If you’ve decided something like this is worth exploring, here are a few guidelines for you to consider:

  1. Don't interrupt the story (the arc or thread) with an "unrelated product message." I'd extend that and say at its best it should never feel like an interruption at all.
  2. A product or its logo might work best if it doesn't appear until half way through the video. If you should decide to use an actual ad, put it at the end of the video or book because if a person has hung in long enough to see that final frame--read that final page—they probably will be more receptive to a product than if it's flashed up front where it might discourage a person from watching at all.
  3. Try a title card. Entrepreneurs McLaughlin and Link Neal use product placement well into their cat video and then a brand name "title card" at the end. I'm thinking even the title card could add something more than just an ad. Perhaps it could look like a cross-stitched "Kitty Snoozing" sign hanging from a doorknob. It could be designed with Friskies colors, a logo, and little kitty-food-can tassels hanging from the corners. The question now is, what would the title card on your video look like—beyond just your bookcover image and a Web site address. In The Frugal Book Promoter, a couple of my ads offer a discount on products that writers can use by means of promo codes.

So what are the guidelines for success—whether it is a paid-for project, a bartered one, or the goodness of your heart?
  1. Passion
  2. Appropriateness
  3. Perceived Benefit
  4. A Promotion Partner so you can share both real expenses and the time it takes to promote it.

On that latter point, one of my subscribers, Reno Lovison, once made a slide-show video for me without even asking. He sent it to me as a gift with suggestions of how I might promote it. It was an interesting turn around because his own promotional materials and video business were the product placements within the ad he made for me. Talk about partnerships! His Web site is http://authorsbroadcast.com/ and if you look at the books on his Web site, you'll also see the cover of one of my retail books for which he made a more traditional sales video several years ago (and which I still use in multiple spots on my Web site).

If you'd like to read more check the LA Times story by Madeline O'Leary, Tuesday, July 29, Business Section (B3).

Carolyn Howard-Johnson brings her experience as a publicist, journalist, marketer, and retailer to the advice she gives in her HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers and the many classes she taught for nearly a decade as instructor for UCLA Extension’s world-renown Writers’ Program. All her books for writers are multi award winners including the first edition of The Frugal Book Promoter published in 2003. Her The Frugal Editor, now in its second edition, won awards from USA Book News, Readers’ Views Literary Award, the marketing award from Next Generation Indie Books and others including the coveted Irwin award.
Howard-Johnson is the recipient of the California Legislature’s Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment Award, and her community’s Character and Ethics award for her work promoting tolerance with her writing. She was also named to Pasadena Weekly’s list of “Fourteen San Gabriel Valley women who make life happen” and was given her community’s Diamond Award for Achievement in the Arts. 

Multiple Points of View: Good or Bad?

POV (Point of View), is an topic that could fill whole blogs.  My question today is this:  What do you think of multiple POVs in a novel?  I'm not talking about head-hopping (seeing into multiple characters' heads in the same scene, jumping from one to the other as convenient).  I'm talking about telling one chapter or scene from one character's POV and then using a different character's POV for the next chapter/scene.

In my YA fantasy novel, Far-Knowing, I divide each chapter into 2-4 clearly marked sections which alternate between two characters' POVs (with a third making a few appearances).  The two main POV characters are two young apprentice mages, both young women, but with different backgrounds, skills, aims, and opinions about the world.  And they don't particularly like each other.  I loved writing the story from both points of view because it showed how the world is more gray than black and white, and that two people can interpret the same event completely differently. 

I've read quite a few books told from multiple points of view, including one of my favorite YA fantasy trilogies, Hilari Bell's Farsala, and a little one you may have heard of:  Game of Thrones.  

It's interesting to me, however, how divisive the style is.  Look at a couple of reviews of Far-Knowing:

"I normally don’t like stories that switch a lot from one point of view to another, and back again. There have been rare cases where I did end up liking them, in spite of multiple POVs --- but this book is the first time I remember finishing a book and thinking that the multiple points-of-view not only failed to detract from the story, but also made the story better. From the perspective of someone like me who is biased against that practice, this is quite a testament to Melinda Brasher’s skill as a writer. It’s terrific."
-from a 5-star Amazon review

"But for me this book had a major problem, and this was the manner in which it jumped from one character's point of view to another character's point of view. Many times, just as I was getting into the story, the point of view changed, and I had to reestablish the context. Some readers don't mind this kind of style, so I think many readers will enjoy this book more than I did."
-from an otherwise positive 3-star Amazon review

And these:

"The characters were well developed and you really got to see into Kalli and Ista's minds. I do however think that the POV switches came too frequently. I would've preferred the format to be different, but it wasn't too distracting."
-from a 3.5-star review

"I absolutely loved the changing perspective of different points of view of individual characters. Things aren’t exactly as they seem to be. Very true."
-from a 5-star Amazon review

Out of curiosity, I just looked at reviews of Game of Thrones that mention point of view (8 POV characters, by the way), and most say that it adds so much depth, that we really get to know all the POV characters, that it brings the story to life, that it shows how even the bad guys can justify their actions and aren't all bad.  Several mention that they thought it would be confusing or unnecessary with so many POVs, but that it worked.  Several say it WAS confusing at bits but it was worth it.  A few have warnings that the multiple POVs may put off readers looking for a simple tidy read.  

So, what do you think?  Have you ever written anything in this style?  Do you have any examples of books you love (or don't love) told like this?  When you read one, do you find yourself hurrying through one or more POVs to get to your favorite character?  I'd love to hear in the comments.

And to see for yourself what you think of the POVs in Far-Knowing, Farsala (Fall of a Kingdom), or Game of Thrones, click the links below.

Far-Knowing, by Melinda Brasher
Fall of a Kingdom (Farsala #1) by Hilari Bell
Game of Thrones by Geroge R.R. Martin

Melinda Brasher loves casual hiking, taking photos of nature, playing in the shallow little river that runs through her Czech town, and hanging out at home writing.  Her short fantasy story, "Chaos Rises" is now FREE on Amazon (and everywhere else).  Her microfiction (38 words) recently won honorable mention in On the Premises' Mini Contest #25.  Read "Dusk" for free here.  Or visit her online at www.melindabrasher.com

Creating Images – Simple and Quick

Creating images on your own is easier than you might think.

Normally, for any of my image needs I would go to BigStock.com and choose the image I wanted.

The problem?

This could take quite a bit of time. For most topics there are lots and lots of images to go over. But, hey, the saying goes, "a picture is worth a thousand words," so spending the time to find the 'right' one was necessary.

While this is a good strategy, again, it takes time.

Suppose you just wrote an excellent blog post and want an 'on target' image to go with it. If you're like me, you'd have to search through the images you already bought. Or, you'd have to go into your image resource site to find and buy the image you want.

You could also check out MS Office ClipArt, which has some pretty good images. But, if you're looking for something 'on target' and you just can't find, you settle.

This goes with the blog posting territory.

Well, at one point, I wrote an article and just couldn't find an image that 'hit home.' And, I didn't want to waste too much time finding one, so I decided to throw something together myself. And, I did it with Microsoft Office 2010. It took around five minutes.

My article was on video marketing, Using Video for Marketing, and I wanted an image that would quickly reflect the topic.

So, this is what I did:

1. Opened a Word doc and typed "Play Video."
2. Used Text Effects in Home: Font.
3. Highlighted the text and chose an orange color from Home: Paragraph: Shading - there's actually I reason I chose that color, but that's another post. :)
4. I highlighted, copied, and pasted the pre-image into MS Paint, cropped it, and saved it as a jpg.
5. I inserted that jpg into the Word doc I had open.
6. I click on the jpg and went into Picture Tools Format.
7. I choose Picture Effects - Preset #11.
8. Then, I highlighted the image and chose the orange 'shading' again.
9. For this step I couldn't simply highlight and copy/paste into Paint because of the special effects, so I clicked on Print Screen (Prt Sc). Be careful when you use Prt Sc, because any thing on on your screen or in the image will appear.
10. I copied the newly revised image into Paint, cropped it, and saved it as a jpg.

That's it. I had a quick and easy 'on target' image for my post.

It may be simple, but it's on target. And, if I want, I can upload that image to image sites and sell it.

You can also, use an image you already have (one you bought) and tweak it. Just remember you can't sell that revised image, or claim it as your own design.

Here's one I simply tweaked:

I had the SUCCESS image and just added the text "GUEST BLOGGING" to it, using MS Word 2010. Then used the same process as above to create a new jpg.

I used this image for a post on guest blogging.

To Use Wrap Text (to input text on an image):
1. Insert the image into a Word Doc
2. Click on the image to bring up the Picture Tools feature
3. Type the text you want to appear in the image. You can type it below the image.
3. Go to Wrap Text in the Picture Tools dashboard
4. Click on Behind Text.
5. Position the text in the image.
6. Copy the new image using a screen capture tool and save to your Picture files.

Again, quick and easy.

Moving on Up

Since then, I’ve graduated to Logo Creator. It’s just as simple and quick, but it offers lots and lots more options and features.

Below is an example of the difference with this tool:

The image is much more sophisticated, attractive, and engaging. Yet, it's still simple and quick to create. This is the type of graphic you want in your blog post.

And, the image at the top of this post was created with Logo Creator.

You really should check it out! I'm an affiliate for them and that's my link just above. If you're going to try them out, please use my link. It'd sure be appreciate!

Karen Cioffi is a ghostwriter, content writer, and inbound marketing instructor with WOW! Women on Writing.


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