Category Archives: Guest Blogger


by Maris Soule

momzuriI’ve seen several discussions regarding writers losing the initial excitement they had when they started writing. Some of that loss, I believe, is due to reality replacing the anticipated results of being published; i.e., our book hitting best seller charts, awards, TV and radio interviews, instant recognition.

On December 8, 2016,I will be interviewed on LA Talk Radio “The Writer’s Block.”

Over the years I’ve been on TV and radio; yet, rarely do people (other than family and friends) know I’m a writer.

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Publishing and its Vagaries

by Susan Oleksiw

susan-oAbout a year ago those of us who publish with Five Star learned that things were changing. I thought this meant the end of the Anita Ray series, and wasn’t sure if I could continue it with another publisher. To my surprise, I sold the two books in the series to Harlequin, for their worldwide mystery club. The Wrath of Shiva came out in mass market paperback on November 1.

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Filed under Events, Guest Blogger, My Blog, The Publishing Process

You’ve Finished Your Manuscript-Now What? (Part 2)

victoria-howard-5For my second post about whether your manuscript is ready for publication and the value of a three-chapter evaluation, I would like to discuss the opening chapter more commonly referred to as ‘how to hook the reader.’

When I am not writing I am an avid reader. If you fail to grab my attention in the first few pages, I am not going to read any further. Here are a few things I find annoying in the opening of a story:

Irrelevant information. Most novice writers feel they have to tell the reader everything about a character – known in the industry as backstory. The first few paragraphs are crucial. Introduce your protagonist, but only impart important information.

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You’ve Finished Your Manuscript-Now What?

victoria-howard-5by Victoria Howard

You’ve written a novel. Congratulations. Finishing a novel of 80,000-100,000 words is a major accomplishment. So give yourself a pat on the back, or if you prefer, pour yourself a large glass of wine.

Before you start what could be a very long process of querying a literary agent or publisher ask yourself these questions; is my novel really finished and is it of publishable quality?

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The Importance of Social Media

by Libby Grandy

LibbyToday’s writers are very savvy. They understand the importance of social media. Most realize that without a “platform” the wonderful book they worked on will not reach a lot of readers. For many that is all right, especially memoir authors. They are writing for family and friends. If you want others to read your work, however, they need to know about your novels, articles, website and blogs. Continue reading


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Dialogue versus Talking Heads – Part 2

by Karen McCullough

For Part 1, click HERE:

Karen_McCullough_2015_200Here are five questions to ask yourself when you’re editing your own dialogue:

1. Is it boring?

What’s boring? How about this:

“Hi, Helen,” Joe said. “How are you doing today?”
“I’m just fine,” Helen replied. “How are you?”
“Great. How’s your daughter?” Joe continued.
“She’s fine, too. How’s your sister?”

Are you snoozing yet?

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Filed under Craft of Writing, Guest Blogger, My Blog, Observations

Dialogue versus Talking Heads – Part 1

by Karen McCullough

Karen_McCullough_2015_200How your characters communicate can make or break a story. Even if the plot is strong enough to carry it, good dialogue can increase your reader’s enjoyment of a story, while bad dialogue can bounce her out of it.

Thought experiment: Consider the interactions between Han Solo and Princess Leia in the original Star Wars movie trilogy, then compare those with the interactions between Anakin and Padme in the prequel series. Which pair is more memorable?

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Practice, Practice, Practice

MarisSoule 600by Maris Soule

I’ve been watching the Olympics, and I realized there are a lot of similarities between a successful athlete and a successful writer. Athletes who want to compete at the highest level practice. Most do this daily or almost daily. They don’t let illness stop them or family events. Because they want to improve, they find and hire coaches they know will take them to the next level. They watch videos of past performances to learn from their mistakes and find ways to improve. When they compete, they present themselves in the best way possible, either through their grooming or their uniforms or their attitudes. They do everything they can to look like and be winners.

Writers who want to succeed must do the same things. Simply wanting to write a book and have it published is not enough.

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Filed under Craft of Writing, Events, Guest Blogger, My Blog, The Publishing Process

Paranormal Novel

HouseSerpentLake300bestMy paranormal, The House on Serpent Lake, is nearly complete – only two more chapters to go – and I’m getting excited.

This novel represents quite a departure from my normal genre, mystery/suspense, but the story has nagged me for quite a while. So against advice, I’m going for it. I just hope readers like the change.


May 24, 2013 · 8:42 pm

Let’s Welcome Author Victoria Howard

Victoria Howard is the author of three romantic suspense novels, The House on the Shore, which was a contender for the 2009 Joan Hessayon Award, Three Weeks Last Spring, a Pushcart Prize nominee, and Ring of Lies, as well as a number of short stories.

Born in Liverpool, Victoria is a member of Romantic Novelists’ Association and currently resides in South Yorkshire, UK.

Manuscript Makeover – The inner critic

You’ve finally reached the end of your 120,000 word novel and typed the words ‘The End.’  What’s next?  Do you print it out, parcel it up and send it off to the first agent on your list, then immediately start researching another book?  Well, you could, but the fact is the manuscript you’ve slogged hard over and written to the best of your ability, still needs work.

Before you all start screaming at me, take a deep breath and relax. Ask any agent or publisher and they will tell you that first, second or even third drafts are rarely ready for publication let alone submission.  There’s always that little something that could be added or a sentence improved upon and that’s were careful revision or editing comes in.

So where do you begin and how do you make those improvements?

Different authors have different techniques.  Because your manuscript is your baby, it’s all too easy to be lulled by familiar words and phrases into thinking it is error free and perfect.  I suggest you put your manuscript aside for a week or two.  Focus on something else, and then return with a clear mind and fresh eyes.

Print a copy of your manuscript, as it’s easier to make notes in the margin and mark sections which require revising.  My first revision is always for content and here are a few points to consider:

  • Does the story open with the main protagonist in conflict with the antagonist or someone else in the story?
  • Can the reader easily identify who the main protagonist is?
  • Have you described the initial conflict/event in such a way that it draws the reader in and makes them want to continue reading?
  • Are your main characters realistic/strong/well-motivated?
  • And the villan.  Is he or she a real person or just a device to push the plot along?
  • Is your plot realistic or too far-fetched?
  • Does the setting come alive for the reader?
  • Do you write the stimulus before the response? Remember, for every action, there is a reaction, so don’t allow your characters to react before the reader knows what they are reacting to.
  • Is there too much back story, resulting in poor pacing and long, boring narration?
  • Does the middle of the story sag or does the conflict between the protagonist and antagonist escalate to the point where both are willing to sacrifice almost everything to achieve their goals?
  • Has your protagonist grown emotionally during the story?
  • Have you closed all the sub-plots before the climax?
  • Is there sufficient suspense/mystery in your story?
  • Is the ending emotionally satisfying for the reader?
  • Is the dialogue realistic?  People rarely say, ‘I do not…’ but rather, ‘I don’t…’
  • Do you remain in the correct point of view and is it clear to the reader who is speaking?
  • Do you ‘head hop’ – switch POV from paragraph to paragraph?
  • Have you fully explored your characters emotions and tactile sensations?
  • Is your story written in the right tense?
  • Have you withheld or repeated information which will annoy or bore your reader?

This list isn’t exhaustive, but it does give you a basis from which to work from.  The secret is to revise slowly, scene by scene, chapter by chapter.  Make notes in the margins or in a notebook.  When you’ve finished reading the whole manuscript, go back and revise any sections as necessary.  It’s never easy to discard your work and rewrite a scene or chapter, but more often than not, your manuscript will be better for doing so.

My second revision is always for grammar and typos. Read slowly and carefully, you’ll be surprised how many typos, missing periods or commas you’ll pick up.  Also read aloud – this will enable you to find jarring transitions, discordant dialogue and clunky sentences.   This is also the time when you revise for style.

  • Are your sentences of equal length?
  • Are they simple or compound?  Too many simple sentences and your work can sound amateurish.  Too many long sentences and the reader may become bored or lose track of what you are attempting to tell them.
  • How times on a page do you start a sentence with the same word?
  • Does your sentence have impact? Short, punchy sentences create pace. One-word sentences have power and act as a brake, making the reader it up and take notice.
  • Does your manuscript include clichés? If so, remove them, and rephrase the sentence using one of your own making.
  • Create and employ metaphors to increase imagery.
  • Do you use strong nouns and verbs as opposed to adverbs (-ly words), which are weak? If so, re-write the sentence.

And don’t forget.  The same principles should be applied to your synopsis and query letter.

Victoria Howard

Be sure to check her website for book excerpts and ordering information:

Victoria Howard


Filed under Guest Blogger, My Blog