Thursday, July 30, 2015

Lexie's Story -- Free for a limited time.

I am excited  -- I published Lexie's Story today. This is the preview to Virgo's Vice, the third novel in my Zodiac Series.

It seems to Lexie King that she has a target on her back--or a sign on her forehead that says 'Abuse Me.'

Lexie's parents died in a car crash when she was too young to remember, and Aunt Jess refuses to believe that her live-in lover, Phillip could be molesting Lexie. 

An ugly mutt named Candy -- a cross between a boxer and a standard poodle -- is Lexie's only friend in the world.

She sometimes thinks about ending her life, but revenge would be so much sweeter.

This short story is totally free. Get yours now.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Sheer Panic Cover Help Please

I'm thrilled that my next story, Sheer Panic is finally done. This is my first attempt at a psychological thriller, and of course there are always romantic elements and pets included.

This is a novelette, and is only about one third the length of my normal novels.

Tori Barton is staying at home and taking care of her eight-year-old niece over spring break. After several strange and terrifying incidents, she comes to the realization that someone is stalking her. But who? She can think of three men who always seem to be around whereever she goes.

Please add your choice of cover, 1, 2, 3, or 4 in the comments section. Everyone who participates will get a free download as soon as it is published.

Cover 1
                                       Cover 2
Cover 3

                                                                                                   Cover 4

FREE downloads of four short stories are still available on my website at!free-stuff/cjci

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Importance of the First Line

Good writers understand the importance of the first line in their novels. Readers these days don't have a lot of time, and they don't spend more than a few minutes evaluating  a book. If the first line is boring, they may not continue reading.

I'm currently participating in an assignment to send two alternative first lines to James Patterson. He will choose the most popular -- the ones that get the most shares and re-tweets.

Here are mine, from my upcoming novel Virgo's Vice, which is the third in my Zodiac Series:

1.) I bend down to stroke Allan Dockery's dog, wondering if I actually hit the ground too hard and died, and none of this is really happening. ‪#‎JamesPattersonCritique‬
2.) I'm shaking so bad I can hardly breathe and I think I'm gonna throw up. I glance back at the others, not really expecting any help from them—they have to all be nuts. #JamesPattersonCritique

Anyone who cares to share this post will be my BFF for ever! I don't have an Instagram account, so if you do, and you feel like sharing, please go ahead. Thanks very much.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

More About What I learned from James Patterson

I'm thrilled to have just finished writing the first complete draft of my debut psychological thriller, and novella, "Sheer Panic." Although I had already started writing this story with no outline, and not knowing how it would progress, I decided to stop and get the outline down.

Here's the start of it.

1. Tori avoids Roderick, 'the Freak' as she enters the cafeteria at college. He has been harassing her for a while and she is afraid to report him, in case he retaliates. (Here's where I know I should make a new chapter -- each chapter should be one scene.) Later, Dorky Dorian tries to flirt with her when she is putting her stuff into her locker. Her friend Janet tells her she's weird because she has opted not to go to Panama City Beach at Spring Break. Instead, she has agreed to babysit her niece so her sister can go. She never discusses the real reason she is afraid to go with her friends.

2. One afternoon when Tori is taking her neighbor's dog, Panda, for a walk in the park, Dorky Dorian tries to force himself on her and the dog attacks him. Panda's owner, Mrs. Stanley tells Tori she should get a dog of her own for protection. Tori reflects on her love life. She knows it's a total disaster, and if she had a steady boyfriend the weird men would leave her alone.

3. Tori is friended on Facebook by Lance, the boy she chased at high school to no avail. Although it seems a little odd that he has suddenly had a change of heart, and decided to pursue a relationship with her, she is still totally smitten with him, and she goes along with it. She hopes it will turn into something serious, and take her mind off the stolen kiss with her sister's boyfriend, Dan that has been plaguing her. (This scene needs something to make it more exciting.)

4. Tori takes her niece, Shari horse riding and sexy Joaquim .... etc.

Once I had completed the outline, it was easy to write the story, although it's still in the first draft rough format. I found that I deviated a little from the outline when I came up with a better idea, and as I went along, I changed the outline at times. I love the finished draft.

Here are some other things James talked about in his videos:

  • First lines -- We all know it is essential to capture your audience right away, yet so many writers start with something mundane and boring. Mine is:                                                          "I just don't get why your love life is such a total mess," Janet said.  "It's just not right. It's not that hard. You must be the only nineteen-year-old in the whole school who isn’t getting laid."
  • Be yourself. Imagine you're sitting across the table from your best friend telling them the story of a movie you watched. If you wouldn't use pompous and puffed up language and fancy words when speaking to them, you shouldn't be using them in your writing.
  • Try writing a couple of different endings. Make them as outrageous as you can. I did this and absolutely loved the new one I came up with. It was far more exciting than the original ending.
  • Try writing the same piece in the POV of more than one character. You could fall in love with a version you never thought about before.
  • Don't be afraid to break the rules. Whatever works for you is okay. We're all different, and so are our readers.
  • Do your research. Don't just wing it. You must know what you are writing about to build credibility.
  • Don't be afraid to rewrite if it doesn't feel right to you.

More in my next post.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Outlines are Essential, Says James Patterson

When I found out that James Patterson, the most prolific and successful author of our time, was holding a writing class, I was all in. 

The outline is the most creative part of writing your novel, and sometimes, James says, he writes several different outlines for the same story before he decides how it will all work out. He can be working on an outline for months before he is happy with it.

Before you start the outline, you need the raw idea. This is a one-paragraph summary of your story, and if your story is to succeed, the idea has to be something more than a little disparate, create tension and conflict, and should grab readers' attention from the start.

Here's the idea for my upcoming novel, 'Virgo's Variant':

Cinematographer Lexie King is determined to break free from the drugs, and psychoses that haunt her as a result of the sexual abuse she suffered as a child. She signs up as one of the camera operators for a new reality show set in Africa, knowing that it will be totally out of her comfort zone. It is too late for her to quit the assignment when she discovers that one of the contestants is the man who abused her, The producer has dropped her and the other camera operator, with the twelve contestants, in a remote region somewhere in Africa with no means of communication. The producer dies, and the only person who knows where they are is the pilot who dropped them there, who is away on his honeymoon. Rumor has it that all the local inhabitants have abandoned their villages because a monster roams the region. Then the murders start, and the only person Lexie trusts is the cowboy, but could she be wrong? He is certainly physically strong enough to be the murderer.

So my next task is to write an outline. This is a summary of each chapter, with one or two paragraphs per chapter. Every chapter is a new scene, and should contain something that propels the story forward and adds a new twist.

Once the outline is all written up -- and typing it out in Word works for me -- you can go back over the scenes and experiment. Add new twists, reorganize the order of events, make notes for future reference, add something to create more suspense, and make a note of how the events affect the personal lives of each character.

Here you will edit, edit and edit again before you go any further.

The one thing I did notice about the outline is that, without dialogue or the internal conflict and thoughts of the characters, it's pretty blah, but that all comes later, and James goes over the do's and don'ts of dialogue and creating conflict in some detail.

Only when you are completely happy with your outline should you start the novel, which will flow easily now that you know how the story progresses. I used to be a pantser, but now I know better.My greatest problem with this particular novel was that I had already written it before the classes with James, and it was with my publisher, Soul Mate Publishing. I received the first edit from them soon after completing the course. I found that with the outline, I was able to do a lot of editing that I probably wouldn't have done before. I cut out a lot of unnecessary explanations and changed some of the events. (Show don't tell). I also ended up with double the number of chapters I originally started with, because short one-scene chapters make the story move at a faster pace, and if your story drags, your readers will lose interest.

If you are interested in taking the class, here is a link: James Patterson Teaches Writing

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Reading and Editing

Editing is an essential part of the publication process. Whether we like it or not, it is almost impossible for a person to see all of his or her errors. Everyone needs an editor--even the world's best selling authors, and I don't mean searching for typo's and grammatical errors--I mean content and development editing.

I belong to several online organizations, where writers share their work free, either in return for a guaranteed review, or just for added exposure. I usually select romantic suspense or suspense novels, and download them to my Kindle.

Every now and then I discover a new author whose work I love, and I give them a review and I buy their other books.

More often than not, though, I only read a few pages before giving up on a story and moving on to the next book. The problem I find to be the most common, is that authors have self-published without the aid of an editor, and their work just doesn't flow. I don't feel comfortable giving these writers a review, because negative reviews can cause terrible harm and discouragement. It's easier just to move on. The most common problem I see is head-hopping and author intrusion. A lot of writers don't know that in today's publishing world, fiction is written as if the characters are telling the story, and there is no narrator/author.

When I was ready to publish my first novel, the Internet didn't exist as we know it today, and I had to go the traditional route, and submit my manuscript to several publishers, knowing that rejections were part of the process. Since then, the Internet publishing business has taken off, creating exponential opportunities to those who want to write. I will always be thankful I had to submit my work to publishers, because even now I still prefer to go that route for a very good reason.

Reputable publishing houses, run by people who know the publishing industry, will always have at least one accredited editor on staff, who will work with each author to help hone their work, and make it best it can be before publication. (The downside is that not all publishing houses are genuine, and it is difficult if not impossible for a new author to recognize a scam.)

Jude Glad, my editor and a part owner of Uncial Press, has been a wonderful mentor, and has taught me more than I could have learned in a couple of years of college classes on creative writing. I will always be grateful to her. My Zodiac Series is published by Soul Mate Publishing, and owner/editor Debby Gilbert has added to my bank of knowledge in a very positive way, and I don't know where I would be without either of them.

I was so inspired by them, that I decided to pay forward and give back to other writers what I have learned, and I started my online editing business to assist self-published authors, and give them a better chance at achieving their dreams. I have made my pricing extremely competitive because I know most writers don't have a lot spare cash lying around. I wish I could do it for free, but editing is time-consuming, and it does take away some of my writing time.

I have done very little active promotion, but have always been busy since the inception of my editing business, thanks to word of mouth recommendations from some of my wonderful customers. I am only one person so I can only handle one manuscript at a time. I've had the privilege of reading and helping to optimize some wonderful stories, and fascinating non-fiction by some very talented authors.

My services include development and content editing, formatting for, and uploading to Amazon's CreateSpace and KDP Direct, and other online self-publishing platforms, plus cover creation, I've also recently been asked to write someone's memoirs, and I've added that. I also build websites or help create and format blogs.

Here is my address:

Friday, March 27, 2015

Love and Marriage from Kid's Perspective

I got such a laugh out of this I just had to post it on my blog. These kids know all about love and marriage...

You got to find somebody who likes the same stuff. Like, if you like sports, she should like it that you like sports, and she should keep the chips and dip coming.
-- Alan, age 10

-No person really decides before they grow up who they're going to marry. God decides it all way before, and you get to find out later who you're stuck with.
-- Kristen, age 10

Twenty-three is the best age because you know the person FOREVER by then..
-- Camille, age 10

You might have to guess, based on whether they seem to be yelling at the same kids. 
-- Derrick, age 8 

Both don't want any more kids. 
-- Lori, age 8 

-Dates are for having fun, and people should use them to get to know each other. Even boys have something to say if you listen long enough.
-- Lynnette, age 8 (Isn't she a treasure?) 

-On the first date, they just tell each other lies and that usually gets them interested enough to go for a second date.
-- Martin, age 10 

-When they're rich. 
-- Pam, age 7 (Love her)

-The law says you have to be eighteen, so I wouldn't want to mess with that.
-- Curt, age 7

-The rule goes like this: If you kiss someone, then you should marry them and have kids with them. It's the right thing to do.
-- Howard, age 8

It's better for girls to be single but not for boys. Boys need someone to clean up after them.
-- Anita, age 9 (bless you child)

There sure would be a lot of kids to explain, wouldn't there?
-- Kelvin, age 8

And the #1 Favorite is....... 

Tell your wife that she looks pretty, even if she looks like a dump truck.
-- Joe, age 10