Friday, October 17, 2014

Your Author's Photo - 7 Tips to Getting it Right

Last month I spoke a bit about writing your author's bio and mentioned the need for an author's photo as part of it. Today I thought I'd talk a bit about getting your author's picture just right.

Along with writing, I do a fair share of photography. I enjoy taking photos of the seasons as seen above, but I have taken an actor's head shots, as well as done some graduation, wedding and professional pictures for websites, etc.

However, I'm not photogenic at all! And like some of my clients, I freeze when the lens is turned on me. There are, though, some tricks to getting the best photo possible.

  • Tip 1: Your author's photo is part of your image - a big part. Make sure it is consistent with what you would like your reader to know or feel about you. Think about how you want to appear - edgy or romantic? Whimsical or serious? Natural or funny? Check out your favorite author's photos and see what they've done to create their image and then think about what you can do to make yours stand out.
  • Tip 2: What to wear. Wear a color you look good in. Black is slimming, but you may find that a bright color is great against your face. Stay away from busy patterns and bring at least one change of clothes and perhaps a scarf, tie or other accessory to try.  Keep makeup natural looking - there is no need to go heavy.
  • Tip 3: Your facial expression.  Practice your smile before your shoot. You want a smile that impacts your eyes and appears genuine - or if you are a mystery writer, practice your mysterious look. Determine which side is your best and make sure to let your photographer know.
  • Tip 4: Where to go. Once you have figured out the image part, this may be easy to determine. If you have a professional taking your photo, an indoor setting with some lighting, etc will work well. If you are asking a friend or family member to help you out, you may want to consider doing your photo shoot outside, as natural light will give you a better opportunity to get it right. 
  • Tip 5: The photo. You may want to try both close-ups and some that include your whole body. For close-ups: I recommend the chicken neck. Pull your shoulders back, stick your neck forward, tip your chin slightly down and watch as the extra neck skin and chins disappear.  Play with head tilts - in other words, after each shot move your head slightly. For photos that include more of your body: Stand with one foot in front of the other angling your good side to your photographer - this is slimming as well. Remember the chicken neck. Focus your gaze at a place just above the camera.
  • Tip 6: Take a bunch of pictures. With digital cameras there is no reason not to. The more photos taken, the better the chance of getting one you really like. Not only that, but with hearing the shutter click, click, click you might just start feeling like a movie star and relax and have fun. I've found that some of the best shots I've taken, many times, came at the end of a session when I'd shot a hundred or more photos.
  • Tip 7: Photo editing. There is plenty of photo editing software to help you refine your picture. My current favorite is PicMonkey. I use the free version and it does, generally, all that I need. I also use some of my iPhone's editing software and that works well too if I'm taking a photo on the fly. 
A number of years ago I heard an interesting fact about photographs - you can take a photo of almost anywhere and anything and if you hold up the original photo and a mirror image of that photo, most people can tell which one is the original and which the mirror image - even if they have never seen the place or item before. We apparently have an inborn idea of what images should look like - except that is when we look at ourselves. The reason, we only ever see ourselves in the mirror - so we only see the mirror image of ourselves. That's why our own photos, many times, seem a bit off. In the past I always felt that my personal photos were so awful and looked nothing like myself even when others raved over them - now that I realize I'm looking for something that no one else sees, I'm a bit more forgiving about them. 

Hope these tips will help you get the author's image that represents you, flatters you, and allows readers to easily recognize and remember you!


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

You can also follower her at or on Facebook.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

You Can Write a Romance in 5 Simple Steps

by Suzanne Lieurance, the Working Writer's Coach

Romance writing is a billion-dollar-a-year industry with hungry readers gobbling up as many as forty new romance novels every month. So why not try your hand at this fun and fascinating genre?

Just follow these 5 simple steps:

1. Become inspired.

Read, read, read romance, so you understand the many subgenres of this distinct genre. You’ll also gain inspiration from the stories you read that will help you develop characters, settings, and story lines for your own romances.

2. Research.

Each romance subgenre has distinct guidelines, so researching these genres will help you write more marketable romances within the subgenre(s) you wish to write.

3. Get organized.

Part of the fun of writing romance is collecting and organizing materials that will help you write your stories. Use a loose leaf binder to create a project notebook for each of your romance novels. This notebook can be used to keep track of any pictures you tear out of magazines (for inspiration for your setting or characters), notecards with research information, the outline for your story – just anything that pertains to the novel you’re working on.

4. Write.

Create a regular writing schedule so you get your manuscript started and finished within a reasonable amount of time. You probably won’t be able to write for hours every day. But that’s okay. The main thing is to write on a regular basis, even if it’s just for 30 minutes to an hour a few times a week.

5. Publish.

Once you’ve completed your romance novel, you’ll want to see it published. There are several different roads to publication. You can self-publish your story. You can find an agent who will sell your story to a publisher for you – or you can find a publisher yourself.

For more details about each of these 5 steps, read my book, Write a Romance in 5 Simple Steps from Enslow Publishers.

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. Let her help you launch your career as a romance author - at the beach. Find out more at

Friday, October 10, 2014

October Blogging Prompts

At a loss for blogging ideas? One way to engage your readers is with seasonal content.

Whether you write fiction or non-fiction – and if your niche is writing, marketing, or consulting – there’s always something to write about.

One of my favorite things about writing is that you can take one topic and spin it numerous ways, so it reflects your interests and expertise.

With that in mind, here are topics you can use to generate blog ideas in October ... or just use these writing prompts to jumpstart your creativity for your writing.

Autumn – How does the change of seasons impact your business? How does the change of seasons impact your writing? What are some fun fall-specific activities that interest you and how can you share them with your readers? October means football, fall fashion, hay rides, apple picking, fall crafts. There’s something seasonal that relates to your business that you can share on your blog. Do some brainstorming to discover what it is.

Fall Food – When all else fails, seek a food holiday. October is both National Dessert Month and Vegetarian Awareness Month, and there are a host of other daily, weekly and monthly food holidays. Do you write food mysteries or have a foodie blog? Do you write content for a restaurant or edible product? Perhaps you just like to eat…  Check the list and see how to spin it for your specialty.

Halloween – Didn’t see that one coming, did you? (joke) Write about anything and everything Halloween-related from food, d├ęcor and costumes (human and pet) to family adventures and activities. Also, most people associate October with the color orange. Fiction writers, interview an author. Share a funny or scary story. Or, even better, tips for how to write one.

Bonus: If you are a fiction writer, you can also use these topics to stimulate ideas for your stories. Send your characters out on an autumn adventures. You don’t even need to use the story in your final manuscript. But let your characters have a little fall fun. You never know where an adventure will take you.

In a perfect world, we have all the time in the world to write our blog content in advance. If you’ve already written all your October posts, just file this for next year. If you haven’t, hope these ideas will get your creative mind rolling, so you can create some awesome October blog posts!


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.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

How do You Know When You are 'Telling'?

Examples of Telling
  • His fingers moved down Mary's neck.
  • Petals fell from the blooming trees on a sunny day.
  • Jimmy hit the smoke alarm, opened the door, and threw the burning pan outside.
Examples of Showing
  • Mary's heart thrummed when his fingers slid down her neck.
  • Pink petals fluttered from the trees like cotton-candy snow in the spring sun.
  • Jimmy slapped the smoke alarm, flung open the door, and tossed the flaming pan out into the rain.
  • Jesse's fingertips brushed the grass. The delicate blades, hardy from recent rains, felt like eiderdown.
Telling forces a reader to stand outside a candy store window, able to see, perhaps, and hear what happens inside.  But he remains outside.  Yet when a writer shows, he invites the reader into the store to taste the bite of bitter chocolate or the tang of a lemon drop.  The reader will feel the stretch in taffy, maybe even become mired in a mess of spilled molasses.
·Telling is impersonal
Showing is intimate
·Telling is aloof
Showing is up close
·Telling is an essay about a vacation trip
 Showing is going on the trip
Telling is often a simple recitation of he did, she was, I felt.  Too much of this and the reader loses interest. If you find yourself skipping long sections of a novel, chances are those passages are all tell and no show—you've not been invited in, so you pass over the text.

In your own writing, look for clues in words and phrases:  Use of is and was and were, especially there is, there was, and there were; has, had, felt, and thought; uses of always (I always ate ice cream after a good murder); use of and then.

Such words and phrases are not always inappropriate, but their use or overuse warrants a second look.

There are times when Telling is needed.  Telling is for covering the ground, when you need to, as a narrator (whether the narrator is a character, or an implied, external narrator in a third person narrative). It's supplying information: the storyteller saying "Once upon a time", or "A volunteer army was gathered together", or "The mountains were covered in fine, volcanic ash". So it's a little more removed from the immediate experience of the moment. The more I talk about Telling, the more I call it informing.

Telling/informing: The temperature had fallen overnight and the heavy frost reflected the sun's rays brightly.
Showing/evoking: The morning air was bitter ice in her nose and mouth, and dazzling frost lay on every bud and branch. 

How do you show rather than tell?

A native Montanan, Heidi M. Thomas now lives in North-central Arizona. Her first novel, Cowgirl
Dreams, is based on her grandmother, the sequel, Follow the Dream,  won the national WILLA Award, and Dare to Dream rounds out the trilogy. In addition a non-fiction book, Cowgirl Up! A History of Rodeo Women has just been released. Heidi has a degree in journalism, a certificate in fiction writing, and is a member of the Independent Editors Guild. She teaches writing, edits, and blogs. 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Amazon Offers Preorder to Help Launch E-Books

Most questions I get asked revolve around launching a book appropriately  (and how getting reviews plays into that!). New authors seldom understand the benefits Amazon offers for getting exposure or how to utilize them. I often cover topics like these in my SharingwithWriters newsletter--often as brief tips like this one from the August letter:
E-Book Publishing Tip: Amazon just announced that they have instituted a pre-order program to help you promote the launch of your e-book on Amazon just as the big publishers do for their hardcovers and their paperbacks. Learn more about the program on Amazon's page and more about setting your launch date ahead in The Frugal Book Promoter. You'll learn how this tactic helps you take advantage of both pre-order time and also allows you to apply for reviews with big review journals like Publishers Weekly that require up to 16 weeks of pre-pub notice for your book to qualify for a review. There is still more on that process at this page in the Writers Resources section of my HowToDoItFrugally Web site: And there is a whole chapter on how to make the power of Amazon work for you in The Frugal Book Promoter, too.  
To subscribe to SharingwithWriters, send an e-mail with SUBSCRIBE in the subject window to Your welcome letter will include a few additional free benefits you can use to promote your book.  
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, 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 .

Friday, October 3, 2014

Avoiding Common Punctuation Errors Part 4: Question Marks

The Mysterious Case of the Missing (or Gratuitous) Question Mark

Missing Question Marks
Everyone knows that you should put a question mark after a question.  Sometimes, however, it simply gets forgotten.  This happens more frequently in the following situations, so keep an eye out for them, and be sure to end them with a question mark, as shown below.
-Long and convoluted questions
     What is the best time of year—and I’m talking about a normal year, not like that crazy one we had in 2012, with hurricanes in winter and snow in July—for mushroom hunting in France?
-Questions with downward intonation, making them feel more like statements.
     Do you prefer red or blue?
     We aren’t in Kansas anymore, are we?
-Questions that were statements in your first draft, and which you since reworded.  It’s easy to forget to switch the corresponding punctuation.

One way to help catch these missing marks is to read aloud.  This is especially useful in discovering overly long or complicated questions (and sentences).  Train yourself so that when you see the beginning of a question, you automatically look ahead to see if you have the required punctuation.

Gratuitous Question Marks
Perhaps even more disturbing than missing question marks are question marks where they don't belong.  Just as you've trained yourself to look for questions and make sure you have the accompanying punctuation, train yourself to stop when you see a question mark, go back, and decide whether or not you need it.  As you revise, look for the following common places to find gratuitous question marks, and make sure that you cut them out, as shown below. 
-“Wonder” statements
     I wonder if bears get hot in summer. 
     I often ask myself where my life is going. 
     I was wondering what time I could come by for a consultation.
-Statements of uncertainty.
     I don’t know where the president is. 
     I’m not sure if you’re supposed to add butter or flour first.
-Commands that feel like questions
     Tell me where you stashed the money. 
     Guess who I saw today in the supermarket.*
     Let me know if you need anything. 
-Reported and indirect questions. 
     The cop asked us what we were doing out so late at night. 
     The question is whether or not we should open a new branch office in Detroit. 
     I need to know who that man is. 

None of these are questions, grammatically, even if they have a sort of question feel.  They should thus not take question marks. 

If you really want a question mark, sometimes you can rephrase. 
I wonder:  do bears get hot in summer?
I’m not sure:  are you supposed to add butter or flour first? 
The question is:  should we open a new branch office in Detroit?

*Gray Areas: 

1)  “Guess what?”  This is debatable.  Some experts say that it’s a command, and should always be punctuated as such.  Others say that it depends on the intention.  If your character is just excited, and doesn’t really expect someone to guess, stick with the more correct period (or judiciously placed exclamation point).  If your character pauses for someone to actually guess, demanding a response like a regular question, consider breaking the rule and using a question mark.

2)  Polite requests.  “Would you shut the door?” vs “Would you shut the door.”  Again, many experts claim that this is actually a command, not a question, and thus should be punctuated with a period.  Others say that, grammatically, it’s a question, and should thus take a question mark.  Very long, complicated requests like this do well with periods.  With shorter requests, however, you’re less likely to jar your reader if you simply use a question mark.  Now if you want to jar your reader, that’s a whole other story, and a great use of a period.  See below.

Punctuation can help your subtlety

Example 1:
You have a scene where one character says, “Would you come in and shut the door.”
Now look at the same scene punctuated differently:  “Would you come in and shut the door?”

See the difference?  Without actually saying so, you’ve indicated in the first scene that your character is serious, or the situation’s serious, or he’s the type of person who never actually asks, but only demands. 

Example 2:
“John isn’t leaving, is he?”
“John isn’t leaving, is he.”

In the first scene, your character is worried because she hasn’t had the chance to say goodbye yet.  In the second, the shady punctuation hints that your character has just discovered that John isn’t leaving after all, and he’s disappointed.  You could also write this:  
“John isn’t leaving, is he?” Lionel asked dejectedly.
But which one is more subtle?

Other Question Marks
Of course, don’t forget that you can make statements into questions just by adding a question mark, and it’s completely legal.
We’re eating deer?
You stood in the rain all night?

Just don’t do it when you don’t mean to:  You deserve to have beautiful glowing skin?  Try our new product line.

You know the rules.  Now train your editing eyes to see the errors.  

For more:
Avoiding Common Punctuation Errors Pt 1:  Commas Save Lives; the Vocative Comma
Avoiding Common Punctuation Errors Pt 2:  Commas and Periods in Dialogue
Avoiding Common Punctuation Errors Pt 3:  Commas with Participial Phrases

Melinda Brasher spends her time writing, traveling, and teaching English abroad. She loves the sound of glaciers calving and the smell of old books. Her short fiction appears in Ellipsis Literature and Art, Enchanted Conversation, Intergalactic Medicine Show, and others. Visit her online at

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

5 Reasons Why You Should Use Content Curation as Part of Your Blogging Strategy

By Karen Cioffi

Content curation has been around for a while, but many bloggers don’t realize the advantages or benefits it offers. This strategy allows you to post more often with less work and less time.

This form of marketing comes in various forms throughout the internet. Of those variations there is one common thread: content curation is related to article marketing. You can think of it as one of the strategies under the content marketing umbrella, the same as content aggregation.

If you’re wondering whether content aggregation and content curation are the same, they’re not. A Forbes article by Susan Gunelius explains that the primary difference between the two is that content curation offers “the human element.”

What does this mean?

Well, content aggregation is simply finding and linking to hot topics, trends, and other news or information worthy content from your site. Some sites use all sorts of topics and others use content that is focused on their platform.

Content curation on the other hand offers more. While linking to the information source, those using this strategy add their own spin on the information, or enhance it with personal experience or additional information on the topic.

The information used for content curation is targeted and so is the audience it’s prepared for. As an example, if you have a health site on alternative medicine and alternative health options you would search for and use information/content on that topic or niche. You obviously wouldn’t use sports content on your site. It’s treated as any other niche marketing strategy – it must be focused to your platform or brand.

Content curation offers a broader view and understanding of a particular topic by providing your own input, along with that of the source content.

Now on to the five reasons you should use this blogging strategy.

5 Benefits to Content Curation that will Boost Your Blogging Efforts

1. Simply put and most importantly, it brings your readers more ‘bang’ for their stop at your site. Rather than offering a single view of a topic, or one site’s experience, you offer your reader the world and a broader information experience.

The reader will appreciate having more information to work with and this will motivate him to appreciate and trust you. That’s the beginning of a great relationship.

2. It’s a source of ideas for your blogging. Find current trends, hot topics, and new information in your niche. The content is already there, you simply add your spin on it in a paragraph or two and voila, you have new a new post.

3. It’s a time saver. Using tools like Google Alerts, you can quickly find relevant information to blog about. And, like ‘number two’ above, it’s ready made content you simply add to.

4. It can support or enhance your own blog posts, adding more value. Even if you write effective and engaging articles, the reader will find it helpful if you supplement it with additional information.

5. Linking to quality sites is an effective search engine strategy. When you link to a site that ranks high with Google, you’re noticed. It can help bring more traffic to your site and help convert visitors into subscribers. And, that’s what online marketing is all about, the ‘golden’ list.

Content curation will boost your blogging efforts. You don’t have to use it for every post, but you can switch it up a bit and offer your reader something extra.

So, why not give it a try and add it to your existing content marketing strategies.

To see this strategy in action, check out:

Email Marketing – New Canadian Anti-Spam Law May Affect You


P.S. If you like this post, please share it!


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