Superb Ways to Show Without Telling

nanoIn the story of the Tortoise and the Hare, I know exactly which creature I am: the hare. This was evident when I was younger: studying a bit all semester and sleeping while my college roommate crammed all night, her Dr. Pepper’s lined up on her desk. When the exams were handed back we each had an A; hers was .5 higher than mine.

The memory of the lesson I learned that day stays with me: do a little bit at a time and you’ll be done by the deadline. This was my secret to NaNoWriMo 2014. I began the month on an overnight flight to Prague for a conference, with my laptop out, typing away. There was a week or so where I thought the story I was telling was utter rubbish; then the detective found his sidekick and sparks flew.

You’ve got a great story, I told myself, in the lead up to Thanksgiving when it was unlikely I would be able write one word, while hosting 7 adults and 7 children. 30,000 words that didn’t exist before November 1.

Then an interesting thing happened: I went through my chapter list on Saturday and Sunday, adding words to those under 1666 (the daily NaNo average).

11:30 p.m. on November 30th (the last day you can get in your 50,000 words) I uploaded my manuscript.

Yesterday I wrote another 1200 words. That hare won the race. This hare has more story to tell.

Here’s the final excerpt I’ll share in my NaNo journey.


Amita, Manu’s sister, is looking for her brother who was reported to have entered the country a few weeks ago. Her dismay is representative of the many families who do not hear from their relatives once they enter their host countries.

Stay tuned for more updates about this work in progress (and the title is still missing…).

PS this scene employs the infamous writing adage “Show, don’t tell” the reader what’s going on with your characters. We try to experience Amita’s confusion with her, rather than learning about it second hand.




Amita took another step forward, grateful he hadn’t pushed past her like so many other Europeans did when given half the chance. “I look for my brother,” she said. She pushed the passport copy of Manu and his approved work visa under the opening.


“You housemaid?” The man asked, his hands unmoving.


“I’m looking for Laxmi Pande,” Amita switched to Hindi.


The man’s narrowed gaze is why she had hoped Madam Cindy would take her to the embassy; her whiteness would have shamed him into being helpful.


“She not here.”


“My brother missing,” Amita said. “He here for three weeks. I no see him.” She managed in the English he was forcing her to speak. “Miss Laxmi she arrange contract for him.”


“That’s terrible,” the woman murmured behind her.


The man picked up the sheet of paper. There was no nametag for her to record a name, like Sir Paul had asked her to get before he left on his trip. He would have come with her but he had to go to a conference in Paris. Busy. Everyone was busy.


“Contracts,” he said, tossing the paper back at her.


“This not contract?” Amita asked in confusion. This was the document the woman had supplied the last time she visited the embassy, looking for a job for Manu. She had promised an office job, as a kitchen service man, boy as they were called here, where he would bring water, tea, coffee, or juice to those having meetings.


The man turned in his chair and tapped the window in the direction of one of the stations in the main room. “Contracts, there. Go see contracts.”


Amita picked up the copies of the visa and passport, the only tangible proof she had that her brother had made plans to join her in the Arabian Gulf. She moved through the rows of chairs to the counter the receptionist had indicated. There were two men here, one seated, the other standing and pointing out something in a stack of papers. Similar stacks rose like little towers on every surface of the room, some in chairs as well. The men in this room stopped talking when she approached. “My brother,” she said. She pressed the papers forward again. “I no hear from my brother.”

Wordless Wednesday: The Four Month MakeOver

Or my new book covers that is. You wouldn’t believe how long a rebranding process takes.

Four months in the making, you’re among the first to see the new look for my eBooks. Since this post is supposed to be “wordless” I’ll save you the back story on process.

In the meantime, here’s two out of the four of the new look. Will share the other two as part of a regular post for those interested in publishing in multiple genres.


Here’s the new cover for Saving Peace. And to the right, the original cover. SavingPeaceBadge




The new Mommy But Still Me. And to the right, the original cover. Mommy but Still Me Cover

What do you think? Love? Hate? Have your own tips for rebranding?


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Wordless Wednesday: The Consistency of Parchment

Today I’m featuring the cover of the novel, The Consistency of Parchment, a story about our links to the past, and our often frustrated attempts to break away from the constraints that this history imposes upon us.

The cover image conveys the interconnected nature of our lives. James Tenedero, the author, explains that physical artefacts – and the ways in which these symbols provide an ongoing link to the past – is a recurring motif in the book. In the book, Cal Wendell and Kendra Velasquez see their fates joined by a random encounter, and then face the need to come to terms with their respective histories as they seek to uncover the secret hidden in a safe deposit box.

Keep in touch with James through his blog or on Twitter @jamestenedero.





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Inside the Writer’s Studio with Lori Culwell

The internet is a big, sprawling playground.  The changes of bumping into someone you know seem to be miniscule. Imagine my surprise when I opened my inbox a few weeks ago and found an email from author and PR maven, Lori Culwell. I had read one of Lori’s books years ago because a friend had passed it along to me as encourage to get off our duffs and get to writing.

Lori  is the founder and president of Get Creative, an internet consulting firm whose clients include Johnson & Johnson and Apple among others. She has contributed to and the San Francisco Bay Guardian and divides her time between New York and Los Angeles.

After I gushed about how much I loved her work, Lori kindly offered to do a Writer’s Studio feature with us (and also two of her books for me to review). Learn more about the secrets behind this indie’s publishing success.


1.   What is your one piece of must know advice for aspiring writers
My one piece of advice for aspiring writers is:  write every day.   You’re only going to get better if you practice.   Aim for 2,000 words a day, that way when you get your book deal and have to deliver a 50,000 word novel, you won’t freak out and get writer’s block.  Writing is like running –if you do it all the time, it’s no big deal, but if you put it off, it hurts!
2.  Is there an unforgettable lesson you learned from writing this book you wouldn’t know otherwise about fiction?
During the writing of this book, I learned the value of the peer group.   My first novel (Hollywood Car Wash) was written pretty much all in one shot (it was a NaNoWriMo book, actually), but “The Dirt” evolved over several years and was the result of the input of some awesome people who are my friends and readers.   I think writers (or really, all creative types) should have a group of friends/ trusted readers who can say things like “This plot point makes no sense” without hurting your feelings.   Trust me, it is way better to hear stuff like that from supportive people who you know like your work rather than later on in your Amazon reviews.  :)
3.  Any challenges for you as you wrote and published this book?
This book stopped and started several times, actually.  It was written several years ago, then the deal it was supposed to be part of fell through, so I put it aside for awhile so I could get over my angry feelings about it.   Then I got together with my fabulous friend and publishing partner (and now co-author on another book) Katherine Sears at Booktrope, she liked my novel, and she brought “The Dirt” back to life.  I was glad to get it out and start working on it again and get it out there.   I think that’s another good lesson– remember, there’s always a home for a story, sometimes it’s just a matter of timing.  So, keep writing and be patient!
4.  How would you start your next project? 
I write all the time (on my blog Funny, on, and on, and the writing I do now is mostly non-fiction, just computer stuff and helping people with their social media and their websites, which I think is really awesome and fun.  For fiction projects, I don’t have one going at the moment, though people have been requesting the sequel to “The Dirt” so I might have to take that one up soon.
5. Anything else you want to readers to know?
 I want readers who are also writers to know that there has never been a better time to be a writer!   Even five years ago, there was so much stigma around self-publishing, and now it’s like, the norm to do.   I’m so happy about that!  I work with agents, authors, and publishers every day, and it’s amazing how many self-published authors there are out there who are making real money.  Believe me, publishers are jealous, and they know you don’t need them anymore!   So, write, publish, get yourself out there with a website and some social media.  Take yourself seriously!!
Oh, and if readers have questions about their websites/ social media, feel free to ask me.  I’m always around! or @loriculwell on Twitter.
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Inside the Writer’s Studio with John Jaramillo

John P. Jaramillo


We have a real treat today in the writer’s studio to hear from author and creative writing instructor, John Paul Jaramillo.

John Paul grew up in Southern Colorado but now lives, writes and teaches in Springfield, Illinois. He earned his MFA in creative writing (fiction) from Oregon State University and, currently, holds the position of Associate Professor of English in the Arts and Humanities Department of Lincoln Land Community College.

Connect with John Paul on his websiteFacebookTwitter or GoodReads.

I took advantage of his expertise as both a writer and someone who works with beginning writers as students to ask an array of questions related to his work, advice, and future plans. Learn more about his collection of short stories, The House of Order and enter for a chance to win a range of prizes!


What is your one piece of must know advice for aspiring writers?

I tell my creative writing students to think of form more than meaning. To think about how they tell stories almost more than the stories they want to tell. To think about form more than what stories are selling or popular. I also tell them to read as much as possible but also I tell them to put those influences away and write as much as possible. At some level a writer has to spend hours a day drafting rather than hours a day reading. I value reading and investigation of narrative but once those models inspire and assist our process I think it is important to labor with the drafts more than any other text. I think writers have to devote so much of their time to their desks and chairs to conduct the work of writing. I know many students that wait to be inspired rather than commit and re-commit to re-envisioning work. Folks perhaps don’t understand how difficult it can be.

Is there an unforgettable lesson you learned from writing this book you wouldn’t have known otherwise?

The book is intimate and is filled with imaginings and retelling and re-crafting of old family stories. Most of the stories come from my writing in graduate school at Oregon State. They represent quite a bit of revision and reworking. I was exploring what kind of stories I wanted to tell and what kind of stories I could tell. Over the past five years I’ve tweaked and developed these stories into a greater story arc and trajectory. I think I learned, more so than anything else, how story telling or fiction writing is about the finding of the story as opposed to the capturing of the story.

Any challenges for you as you wrote and published this book?

The biggest challenge had to be incorporating ‘slanguage’ and so much of the Spanish idioms I grew up using. Capturing the language of the old folks of my family. Being honest to that but also keeping the story with a certain amount of clarity. There are fewer and fewer venues and publications that embrace the odd kind of stories and the odd kind of mix of languages and slang I wanted to tell.

Have you started your next project?

I have so much material based around Southern Colorado. I have stories about my father’s side of the family and stories about my mother’s side. But I’m constantly developing the form or the structure of those stories. I have more stories about my father and my uncle. In the writing they are Relles and Neto. I’m hoping the material will shape up into a novel or another collection of composite stories. I feel that the form will dictate the stories. Many of the characters that feature in this book feature in many of my stories and as I tweak and re-draft material I won’t be content until I capture the most effective form or structure for the stories.

Anything else you want to readers to know?

I have a writing and teaching weblog at where I discuss the differences of writing and teaching. I tell my students I feel that I am a better writer than I am a teacher. I post quite a bit about the differences between teachers who majored in and study literature rather than those teachers who majored in creative writing. Dare I say those who create literature or art? I think fiction writers look at writing in a little different way than lit majors. Looking at literature and how it is constructed instead of what it means or what literary trend it represents. Thanks again for the interview.



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Novel Publicity Blog Tour Notes:

Wanna win a $50 gift card or an autographed copy of The House of Order? Well, there are two ways to enter…

  1. Leave a comment on my blog. One random commenter during this tour will win a $50 gift card. For the full list of participating blogs, visit the official House of Order tour page.
  2. Enter the Rafflecopter contest! I’ve posted the contest form below, or you can enter on the official House of Order tour page–either way works just as well.

About the author: John Paul Jaramillo grew up in Southern Colorado but now lives, writes and teaches in Springfield, Illinois. He earned his MFA in creative writing (fiction) from Oregon State University and, currently, holds the position of Associate Professor of English in the Arts and Humanities Department of Lincoln Land Community College. Connect with John Paul on his website, Facebook, Twitter or GoodReads.

Get The House of Order on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.



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Idiotic, Disgusting, and Other Things Said to Freelance Writers

Traditional freelance writer work system.

Traditional freelance writer work system. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Freelance writing alternates between the glamorous (invites to the latest openings) and the torturous (waiting for interviewees to show). Last week I added abusive to the list of adjectives that apply to being a free agent as a writer.

In November another publication in the region wrote me to see if I was interested in contributing for two forth coming issue with tight deadlines. After I indicated yes, I ‘d write for them, I was sent interview dates and times for the next time, without a brief. The brief tells the writer why the publication is interested in a particular person or story, suggests a few angles, mentions the payment as well as the word count.

The fact that many of these details were missing were my first indication that all was not well at this particular publication. But I chalked it up to the youth and inexperience of the staff, (the editor of the publication commissioning me had even attended an editorial meeting of Vox, a magazine I worked on; she was wide eyed and impressed by our organization in planning at least three issues at a time) reminding myself this was a magazine located in the Middle East. Not that I’m bashing locals: if you’ve been overseas for any length of time, you know that expats often sink lower than the standard of their home countries and this seemed to be the case in this particular situation.

But I wrote the pieces as best I could with the information I had and sent it in. I heard nothing for several days and moved on with my life. Then, over a long weekend during a national holiday, was surprised by an irate email from the editor (who I had no interaction with until this point). The tone and superiority of her message flagged up the issues I had been overlooking. In India at the time, I again let it go. After all, I knew I didn’t want to write for them again.

Hearing nothing else from them, I wrote on the 23rd of December requesting payment information. My email went unanswered. Cue the holidays. End December.

In January, when the world went back to the normal, if dull, pace of business, I wrote again to inquire where my payment for these pieces was. No answer. I called the offices. “We pay 45 days from printing,” the person I had been corresponding with said. Wouldn’t that have been nice to know the first four times I asked?

These kinds of terms give one pause, but again, I let it slide. Until March, when I saw the printed issues of the magazine (with my ‘sub-par’ work) in a library. I wrote again. I kept writing, every week; most of the time with no replies. I even texted the editor asking what was happening. By now, of course, it was a matter of principle.

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

On April 16th everything came to a head when I took the issue on to Twitter. Here’s what I said:  “Freelancers: don’t recommend writing for xxxxx unless you can wait 90 days or more for payment. Still waiting-will keep you posted.”

Social media creates a direct line to replace static channels: I’ve seen four star hotels like the W Doha and the Four Seasons respond to a Tweet with an efficiency and effectiveness I may not have gotten from speaking to the onsite manager.

But in this case, instead of replying with an apology or a vow to make it better, the email from the Special Projects Manger (whose automatic away message first said he was out of the office) ripped off any veneer of civility:


The payment has been made and should be in your bank account soon. 

Although we cannot excuse the delay in your payment your idiotic remark on Twitter was disgusting. 

We're disappointed by your constant lack of manners and poor attitude that you have shown towards xxxx.
Good day Mohanna!

Nothing like misspelling the name of the person you are insulting to make sure they know how professional you are.

If you are an aspiring writer, beware that you’ll need thick skin. Not only to receive feedback on your writing but also deal with the intrapersonal dynamics.

If you are a freelancer, what strategies do you have to do deal with delayed payments or snide staff?

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Stop asking and Start Learning


books (Photo credit: brody4)

Happened again today: I opened my email to find a note from someone who heard I worked at well reputed publisher. She wanted to take me to coffee so she could tell me about her literary aspirations. She has a book idea; she wants to get published.

Before I tell you how I replied, let me get off my chest what I wanted to say to her (and the dozens of other people who write to me on a monthly basis in this vein): the Internet is your friend.

In most cases, the aspiring author is not a sweaty, tempted plagiarizing undergraduate. The average I-have-a-book adult has a well paying job and the germ of a story he/she wants to tell to someone. Anyone. They just can’t figure out how to get pen to paper. This is the first problem. The non-writer, we’ll call this type, because the person who professes to want to publish a book HASN’T WRITTEN ONE. Ever. To this person I say forget the debut novelist bestsellers. This is the same as dropping out of college and saying you’re going to be Jobs-like genius.

Keep it simple, non-writer. Start writing. By yourself. At home. In the cafe. In groups. As Nike says, Just Do It. And when you’ve finished a story, a chapter, a manuscript, then we’ll talk. Writing is about commitment. Show your great idea some.

The second most common problem is the what-do-I-do-with-my-book. If you are reading this from a laptop in the comfort of your home (or on a desk top at work) then you are amongst the more fortunate 10% of the world who have access to education and technology. Do some research with your best friend for dinner party debates, Google. There are literally hundreds of thousands of articles out there for first time writers. The indie boom has meant that everyone who has self published talks about, blogs, about, tweets their publishing stories. There are even some related links in this post below. Read them. Apply. Repeat.

If you’re too lazy, clueless or busy to do either of the above, then check out my book So You Want to Sell a Million Copies which is the result of two years of my guest blogging publishing advice at Writers and Artists Yearbook.

I got my own job in publishing; I published my own books. You can too. If you still want more details, join me and the media master mind Rachel in the OC this Tuesday 9:00 p.m. (Doha time) on Spreecast. It’s free to setup an account and we’ll share our wisdom at no extra charge. And this is when I’ll tell you what I said to my latest I-have-a-book inquirer.

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Reading Outside Your Genre

I’ve been telling you about the differences between indie writers and those who are commercially published. Here’s one area where we are the same: every writer needs readers. One way to get readers interested in Active authors at English Wikibooks.your work, regardless of which camp you’re in, is to give away copies. After all who doesn’t love free stuff? And this is a great way to get to readers outside your genre who might not normally read you. Check out one such giveway where authors have banded together to give you not just one title but 8.

The adventure for the Masquerade Crew started a little more than six months ago. Since they posted their first author-requested review on October 1st, they’re going to officially celebrate their six month blogaversary between now and April 1st, which is the first day of the A to Z challenge. They encourage you to come back to their website often this month because for 26 days in April they’re going to post writing tips from some of their followers.

In the meantime, they’re kicking off this party with a mega giveaway. Roughly half of the authors listed here (each with 5 star reviews) have agreed to give away copies of their books. This is your chance to win up to 8 free books! Click on the book covers to go  check out more details about each title.

There are lots of chances to win, so be sure to check out their page!

A Soul to Steal
by Rob Blackwell


Force of Habit
by Marian Allen

The Punished
by Peter Meredith

by Zach Fortier

by Zach Fortier

Spirits Rising
by Krista D. Ball

Everything I Tell You Is A Lie
by Fingers Murphy

Blood Passage
by Michael J. McCann

Enter Below for your Chance to Win

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The Strong Female (aka Why You Need a Brand)

Last week I hosted my first ever live video chat to talk about self publishing with those who are considering it as an alternative to commercial publishing. I was wracked by nerves, extroverted me who presents at international conferences and have been speaking in public since my high school graduation. The live chat stretched me out of my comfort zone as I keep developing this thing called a writer’s platform. What if nobody shows, I worried. Is the lighting in this room too dim? The live chat came and went (people did show and ask some really good questions) and I realized both how much I had learned about publishing ebooks in the last 8 months as well as how risky it felt to try something new.

Being an author is taking a series of risks; putting your words on paper means that others will read them when you’re not around and draw their own conclusions without the benefit of your expansive comments. For women, the type of self promotion required by indie publishing can often feel uncomfortable, if like me, you were taught that talent shines on its own without having to push oneself forward.

That may be true for some, but for the indie author, male or female, hanging on the fringes of social media waiting to be noticed will have about the same results as sleeping on your manuscript and hoping you wake up to a completed book. You have to put yourself out there. There is no way around it. Even commercially published authors have to go on book tours, meeting with book clubs, talk to media outlets. People can’t read your book if they don’t know about you. And if you’re a writer, not just an author (someone with more than one title in you) then people have to identify with your brand.

Check out my branding trailer (which was another step outside my comfort zone last week). A branding trailer lets you know what an author is about: what kinds of book(s) she writes, what people think about her work. In this one I also have quotes from my reviewers (some people have review trailers as a separate genre). Feel free to leave a comment letting me know what you thought or if you have questions.


You can also read this guest post by Sheryl Steines, author of the urban fantasy novel, The Day of First Sun where she talks about the challenges facing not just women writers in promoting themselves but also promoting strong female characters.

The Strong Female

I am always amazed to hear that, in the year 2012, women are still talking about strong female characters. It’s funny that we’re always surprised when one comes along. Even in Hollywood, actresses still can’t find roles to sink their teeth into. As a reader, I look for characters that I can relate to in some way; a character who is more than a damsel in distress but less than an unfeeling, mean, witch. I’m putting it gently, but I’m looking for someone, who when facing a problem, doesn’t necessarily need a man to bail her out–a woman who can take care of herself in spite of her vulnerabilities. Because in reality, women are multi-layered and complex. We don’t fall to one end of an extreme or the other.

When I was younger, I started reading Danielle Steele, but I couldn’t read her for long. Her female characters were far too needy and always put themselves in a position of requiring a savior. Even as a child, I couldn’t help but wonder why these characters always needed a man to improve their lives. Why couldn’t they simply take care of themselves? It seemed as though female characters fell into two camps, and only two. They were either villains, witches, someone to be hated and despised, or they were weak, pathetic, your classic damsels in distress. Why is fiction lacking real women, women who can simply be human and celebrate all that they are?

As I got older, I found myself drawn to shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I saw in Buffy a strong character. Yes, she could kick ass, kill the vampires and fight the demons. She also had a brain, could plan, and could save the world each week. But she wasn’t uni-dimensional. She also has a side that liked clothes, shoes and boys, a side that was feminine, a little vulnerable; a side that, okay, sometimes needed to be saved. She was a complex female character, real and human, a character with whom I could definitely relate.

The strong female character isn’t a caricature or stereotype. She’s not a total wimp like Snow White, and she’s not a total monster like the evil queen. She falls somewhere in the middle. She’s reactive, emotional, human, sexual, confident and sometimes unsure of herself.

When I originally wrote my character Annie Pearce in The Day of First Sun, I wrote her as a no-nonsense person, strong and smart, the girl who could survive on her own. But she didn’t feel genuine. As the story unfolded and changed, I rewrote her, gave her friends and family with whom she could interact. I gave her feelings, gave her stress. I let the other characters take charge once in awhile and offer some support. I melded two halves into one woman–a strong woman, who can take care of herself and ask for help when necessary. We’re not perfect, so why should our characters be? Instead, why can’t we make them simply authentic?

Charlize Theron made a really compelling comment regarding her character in the movie Young Adult. She said, “Women are usually either really good prostitutes or really good mothers. Maybe women are finally getting the chance to play more honest characters,” Theron said. “We usually don’t get to play bad hookers or bad mothers — or anything in between.”

Maybe it’s time to be a little more real and a little more honest.


As part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, the price of the Day of First Sun eBook edition is just 99 cents this week. What’s more, by purchasing this fantastic book at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes. The prizes include $450 in Amazon gift cards, a Kindle Fire, and 5 autographed copies of the book.

All the info you need to win one of these amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment–easy to enter; easy to win!

To win the prizes:

  1. Purchase your copy of The Day of First Sun for just 99 cents
  2. Fill-out the simple form on Novel Publicity
  3. Visit today’s featured social media event

Help my blog win:

The tour blogger who receives the most votes in the traffic-breaker poll will win a $100 gift card. When you visit Novel Publicity’s site to fill-out the contest entry form, don’t forget to VOTE FOR ME.

About the book: A vampire, a rogue wizard and an army of soulless zombies are par for the course for Annie Pearce and Bobby “Cham” Chamsky of the Wizard’s Guard. But when the non-magical princess, Amelie of Amborix, is murdered by magical means, a deeper plot unfolds. Get it on Amazon.

About the author: Behind the wheel of her ’66 Mustang Convertible, Sheryl is a constant surprise, using her sense of humor and relatable style make her books something everyone can enjoy. Visit Sheryl on her website, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.




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