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Friday, December 2, 2016

100 Best Novels Quiz

Like Monday and Wednesday, today I'm giving you another quiz to play.

This one is a bit of a challenge. And they give you 15 minutes to do it in... 

Modern Library Board's Best 100 Novels

This quiz only shows 55 of them, but it's kind of particular. The titles are between 2 and 9 words long, and the full title (including all articles) must be entered for it to read. But, all the words in all the titles are given. alphabetical order. 

A few tips:
  1. Just type titles into the typing bar. It'll fill in the correct spot for you. 
  2. Spelling...counts. But, all the words are on screen, so you can check your spelling.
  3. The top 100 novels by the Modern Library Board is a thing. I bet you could look it up. Not that I'm advocating cheating or anything... 
Again, I'd love to know how you did in the comments. I didn't cheat, and it shows in my score... 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Guessing the First 200 Words

It's the end of NaNo. Tomorrow's December with holidays and parties and decorations and stress. Let's take a load off...

...with a random quiz. This one is going to take some time (15 minutes), but it's not as hard as you think.

First 200 Words: To Kill a Mockingbird

A few tips: 
  1. You'd be surprised how many "and" and "the" are going to show up. As well as the other usual words that we use to make sentences make sense. Start there.
  2. You don't have to go in order. Start with the obvious words. And all instances of the same word fill in at the same time.
  3. It reads down in columns, so the first word is in the first box, the second word is below the first word, etc. 
  4. Spelling counts. Capitalization doesn't matter. They fill in the punctuation. 
Good luck. Let me know how you did in the comments.
As for me...

(Full disclosure: I did cheat. A little. If I had the book, I would have cheated a lot.)

Monday, November 28, 2016

Books by Their Covers Quiz

Did everyone have a pleasant Thanksgiving? Since it's Cyber Monday and the end of November (for all you NaNoers out there), I thought I'd keep things easy. How about a little literature quiz?

(c) Scott McLeod

This quiz shows you a book cover, and you have to come up with the title. Some of them should be familiar. Some of them might not be.

Books by Their Covers Quiz

A couple tips: 
  1. You don't have to go in order. If you recognize a cover, just type the title into the typing bar. It'll fill in the correct box for you.
  2. You don't have to worry about "the" or "a". I skipped all sorts of articles, and it still found the correct box. 
  3. No one will know if you cheat... 
Please let me know how you did in the comments. If you want to know how I did, feel free to click on the "spoiler button":

(And no, I didn't cheat. If I cheat, I get 100%.)

Monday, November 21, 2016

Three Writerly Dohs!!

As a writer and blogger, I’ve stumbled down many an alleyway mostly due to naiveté. And chasing squirrels. Lots of squirrels.

I recognize how stooopid they were, those instances of Doh! and I cringe. Of the multitudes of *facepalm*, three big Don'ts stand out. And since most writers have little time to dink around with long posts, here is:

Monumental Advice Number One

Tell no one you are writing/have written a book. If you have a spouse who supports you, it’s okay to tell them (she said grudgingly) but use digression. If he's a talker, well...

By keeping your writing career mum, you will avoid these Questions.
“So where is your book? I keep checking the NYT bestseller list but *insert the snark here* haven’t seen your name." 
“I saw this ad about publishing your own book. They call it a vanity press. Why don’t you use them?” 
“It’s been three months since you finished the book and still not published? Wow. “*insert pitying expression*

Advice Number Two:

Do not disparage agents, agencies, or your fellow authors on your blog. Self-inflicted wounds, i.e. shooting yourself in the foot, lose their charm after the first direct hit. No good can come of offending your potential clients and backers.

Last of the Three For-Heaven’s-Sake-Don’t-Do-This Rules

Posting rejections, the number of queries sent, the extra pages requested might seem like a good idea. But do you really want your followers to see this? Anytime I consider posting my stats, I refer to the Number One and the inclination dies.

Do you have any deep regrets since starting this business? I’d love to hear more from writers who committed the First Mistake, their friends and family’s responses, and how they dealt with them.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Dear “I Hate Grammar!” Writer

Dear “I Hate Grammar!” Writer,

Many writers hate grammar. I used to be one of them. But to write well you have to understand grammar to some extent. In this post, I am providing quick rules, examples, and tips to help you understand some areas of grammar.

Image from Pixabay

1. You and I or You and me?

The quickest way to figure this out is to cut out “You and” from the sentence. Does “I” sound better or does “me?” Whichever one makes more sense is the correct pronoun.

Ex: Where would you like Mary and me to stand?

Sounds good. "Me” is correct.

Now let's look at it this way:

Ex: Where would you like Mary and I to stand?

Sounds bad. “I” is incorrect.

TIP: The POV we are in is always mentioned last. Ex: Mom and I went to the mall.

2. Italic letters or quotations for the names of songs/books/movies/TV shows?

The names of songs and other short works part of a bigger work (chapter titles, names of TV show episodes) are always in quotation marks.

EX: I listened to “Baby One More Time” on repeat.

The names of whole works such as books, movies, and TV shows are italic.

EX: I watched Gone with the Wind last night.

3. Who or whom?

Who – he/she/they

Whom – him/her/them

Ex: The woman who hit my car.

She hit me car. (Who is correct.)

Ex: To whom do I address this letter?

Do I address this letter to him/her/them? (Whom is correct.)

4. When to capitalize titles with names.

Always capitalize titles when they appear with a name.

Ex: President Obama, Queen Elizabeth, Dr. Cristina Yang, Chef Ramsey.

Capitalize titles used as a substitute for a name. When it’s like this, it’s like a nickname.

Ex: I looked at the Chief and knew the criminal got away.
("Chief" is referring to one person and is in place of a name.)

Lowercase the title when the term is used in a general way, not for a specific person.

Ex: The duties of a president are daunting. 

7 Fast Tips:

-       Seasons (summer, autumn, winter, spring) are lowercase.

-       Directions (north, east, south, west) are also lowercase.

-       Use em dashes at the end of dialogue when there’s an abrupt stop, such as when one character cuts off another character’s speech.

-       Use single quotation marks inside double quotations when a character is quoting someone.

-       No question mark for an indirect question.

-       There’s no such word as “alright.” Correct: All right

-       “Already” means it happened in the past. “All ready” means prepared. 

Author of Hurricane Crimes, Seismic Crimes, 30 Seconds Before, and 30 Seconds. Blogger. Reader. Auntie. Vegetarian. Cat Lover.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Dear “Editing is Crap!” Writer

Dear “Editing is Crap!” Writer,

Editing your book can be difficult, especially if you don’t know how to edit. I know writers who hate the task, and others who enjoy it. I actually enjoy it, so I’m going to share some tips and techniques to help you get the job done.

First, download my pdf The Ultimate Editing List. I’ll share a little of what you can find in it, but the full list will really help you make your writing stronger and tighter.

Whenever I edit, I start by using the Find tool in Microsoft to hunt down unnecessary, cluttering, filter words. I input them one at a time, take a look at every sentence with the no-no word, and cut as many of them as I can.

Some of these are: that, just, like, really, very, only.

Once I eliminate these “naughty” words, I do my first of several rounds of editing. I typically do three rounds before I give it to 2-3 beta readers. Then I implement changes based on my beta readers’ notes and go over it once more for good measure.

Image from Flickr

4 Editing Techniques:

1. Print out your manuscript.

Having a tangible form of your book that you can hold and edit by hand is always useful. Buy some red pens and highlighters, punch holes into your manuscript pages, and put them in a binder for accessibility. Read each page, each line. Cut out words, sentences, and whatever else needs to go. Add words and paragraphs of descriptions. Make notes on the side to fix scenes or add more emotion. When you’re done, transport the changes to your Word DOC.

TIP: Reading through the full story after these changes are made is wise.

2. Read backwards.

Start with the final paragraph, read it in its entirety, and work your way up, paragraph by
paragraph. This technique helps you to focus on the sentences rather than the plot. It’s
also a great way for you to focus on the flow of the sentences.

3. Change the font size and color.

Changing the way something looks gives your brain a rest and a way to spot new things. I like to make the font size 16 or 18 and change the color to dark blue, green, or purple.

4. Download your document to your Kindle device.

This can be easily done by emailing the document to yourself, accessing your email on your Kindle, and opening the document to be viewed in your library. This is usually my final form of editing when I feel I’ve edited as much as I could but still want to make sure it’s ready for someone else to view it. I like this technique because I get to see and read my story as a reader would. I can spot inconsistencies, typos, and where I may need to add more emotion.

2 Steps After You Edit Your Book:

1. Get at least two beta readers to take a look and point out any errors and plot holes. 

2. If you are self-publishing, the final and most important step is to hire an editor. Yes, really. Yes, even after you edited it yourself. Look around, research, and get recommendations from other writers. 

You don’t have to do all of these techniques, but picking at least two will really make a difference.

QUESTION: How do you edit your books?

Author of Hurricane Crimes, 30 Seconds, Ghost of Death, and Witch of Death. Blogger. Reader. Auntie. Vegetarian. Cat Lover.

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P.S. Today's post on my blog is 100 Marketing Tips.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Starting Over

I just put away the novel that I've been working on for over a year. I had to do it. I'm going to have to restart it from the beginning to fix some issues that were making the ending unwieldy. So, while that novel is "resting", I'm going to start a brand new novel.

This time, I'm going to keep my story bible current.

You know what a story bible is, right? It's a collection of relevant info that you need easy access to. For example, there should be a list of character names, especially minor characters, so you're not calling the best friend's husband Bob in chapter two and then Henry in chapter fifteen.

Story bibles are vital for multi-book stories and speculative fiction. These are the keepers of timelines as well as rules of the land. I keep world maps and alternative calendars, too.

My problem is I only think of my story bible when I need the information. So, that info is rarely in the bible. I have to hunt it down in the text, and only then do I add it to the bible. Let's just say that can be a bit time consuming.

So, this time I'm going to keep a file on the world, and I'm going to add things like place descriptions as they come up. Of course I say I'm going to do this every time, so perhaps I need some sort of plan. Like one day a week I spend just updating the story bible. Yeah, that sounds like a plan.

Do you keep a story bible for all your works? How do you update it?

Friday, September 30, 2016

Dear “My Writing Sucks!” Writer

Dear “My Writing Sucks!” Writer,

“My writing sucks!” This is a statement many writers say at every stage of writing (first draft, last draft, every editing round, before and after critiques). We say this because we expect perfection. We want our stories to be golden right from the start, but that never happens, and that’s fine. Actually, that’s great! You want to be able to make your story better as you go.

The fact is, every writer thinks their writing is crap. It’s normal. We read amazing published books by best-sellers and compare their skill to ours. We can’t help it, can we? These authors are the ones we admire, so it’s easy to feel that our writing is inadequate next to theirs.

But these authors go through this same thing. They can think their writing sucks, too! And they have! The only difference is they have professional, top-of-the-line editors to help them. Once they’re done, their book is the gem that we later buy, read, and praise.

The same is true of your book. Once you’re done perfecting it, it is the gem that readers and other writers praise.

So remember, you may hate your work-in-progress now. You may think your writing is crap, but it won’t stay that way for long, will it? Not if you’re determined.

Grab your determination and turn your crappy writing to gold!

Author of Hurricane Crimes, Seismic Crimes, 30 Seconds, Ghost of Death, and Witch of Death. Blogger. Reader. Auntie. Vegetarian. Cat Lover.

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Monday, September 26, 2016

Dear “I’m the Worst Writer Ever!” Writer

Dear “I’m the Worst Writer Ever!” Writer,

I can guarantee you that every writer has said they're the worst writer ever at least once. More likely, several times. Even New York Times Best-Sellers have said this at one time or another. I’m sure some of them still do. When best-sellers can think their writing is crap, aren’t we in good company?

I used to have these thoughts whenever I read a really good, vividly written book. I’d sit there with the book in my hands, my jaw unhinged, and I’d be thinking, I don’t write like this. Over time, as I grew as a writer, I stopped having these thoughts. I came to realize I don’t need to write like the authors I admired, because I write like myself, and that is good enough.

You don’t need to be like anyone else or write like anyone else. You are enough. Your writing is enough.

There are some things you can do to help your confidence, though:

1. Take a writing improvement course or a writing class at your local college. Universal Class offers online courses. You can take as many as you want with a one-year subscription that costs $189. They have writing and grammar courses.

2. Go to writing workshops or seminars. Many can be found online.

3. Read books on the writing craft.

4. Join writing groups. This could be critique groups or organizations like Romance Writers of America.

Daily mantras for you to say to yourself:

- I am a good writer. 
- I may not write like [name of your favorite author], but I write like [your name].
- My words mean something. 
- My books will get published because God gave me this passion and these story ideas for a reason.

Believe these mantras with every fiber of your being, send it out to the universe, and they will happen.

Author of Hurricane Crimes, Seismic Crimes, 30 Seconds, Ghost of Death, and Witch of Death. Blogger. Reader. Auntie. Vegetarian. Cat Lover.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Death Chant, New Release

Ho Boy, This is definitely worth notice.

When her mentor disappears, Winter follows his trail to the Pacific Northwest, where the untamed wilderness is beautiful…and hides deadly secrets.
Anthropologist Winter Barstow knows nothing of her past or ethnic heritage and tells herself it doesn’t matter. Everything changes when Doc, her mentor, sends her an authentic ceremonial wolf mask from Olympic National Forest. The mask calls to her in ways she can’t understand or explain.
Then Doc disappears. Determined to find him and discover the mask’s origin, she travels to the mysterious, awe-inspiring forest where she’s confronted by Native American ranger Jay Raven, who has no love for Doc.
The deeper Winter digs into her mentor’s disappearance, the more alarming things become. She begins to hear a mysterious wolf’s howl…even when no one else does.
Jay warns Winter to leave, but she owes Doc and herself the truth.

And even though it goes against everything he has promised his tribe’s elders, Jay can’t walk away from Winter. Not only has a spirit wolf reached out to her, but he also suspects she’s in terrible danger…and his growing feelings for her are too strong to ignore.


Vella Munn writes because the voices in her head demand it. She has had at least 60 titles published both under her own name and several pen names. A dedicated hermit and shopping loather, she's married with two sons and four grandchildren. She's owned by two rescue dogs. 

Death Chant was one of her absolute favorite books to write in large part because she was able to mentally transport herself to the amazing and mystical Olympic National Forest in Washington state. 

Also, her heroine Winter Barstow had long been demanding that her story be told.

Facebook Author:
No, he wasn’t Christmas morning excited. More like overwhelmed. Scared. Out of his element.
Scared? Damn it, she didn’t want that for him.
Doc was right. She owed him a great deal. Alone in the world, yearning to belong, to understand, she’d snuck into his lecture hall. Instead of kicking her out, he’d seen through her emotional shields to the hungry-for-knowledge teen she’d been. Once he’d won her trust—no easy task—he’d helped her get several scholarships, a part-time job on campus, a roof over her head. A reason for existing.
She called him, but the phone went right to voice mail. Swayed by his cautions, she didn’t leave a message. 
When Doc had been preparing to leave, he’d made sure she had several ways of getting in touch with him, including the number for Potlatch, the employee-only park camp where he had his field office. She punched in the Potlatch number. As she waited for someone to answer, she debated how to best frame her reason for calling. Doc and she worked for the same California university system, albeit far from the same place in the pecking order. She could—
“Potlatch. Ranger Jay Raven speaking.”
She couldn’t remember Doc mentioning anyone named Raven. “I’m trying to reach Dr. Anthony Gilsdorf.”
Silence. That was odd. Had they been disconnected? “Can you hear me?” she asked. “I’m trying—”
“I heard you.”
Thrown off balance by what might be the man’s hostility, she struggled to concentrate. Jay Raven hadn’t said whether or not he knew Doc, but what if he did and the relationship wasn’t friendly? Doc had been disappointed by the local Native Americans’ refusal to help him. Much as she wanted to tell the man about everything Doc had done for her, now wasn’t the time. It never would be.
“Is he there? I tried his cell phone but—“
“I haven’t seen him for several days, maybe a week. Maybe try back later.”
“Wait,” she blurted. “Don’t hang up. When did you last see him? Where was it?”
The man hesitated, as if finally hearing the desperation in her tone. “Here. It might have been when he was talking to our budget officer, Michael Simpson. That was three or four days ago.”
“How do I get in touch with him? He’s not answering his cell.”
“His cell is the only thing I can think of. Who are you?”
Doc might not have told anyone there about their close relationship. As long as she remained an unknown female caller, Jay Raven would have no way of connecting her to the wolf mask—if he even knew it was missing. He couldn’t track her.
Track her? Where had that thought come from? Damn it, she needed to get a handle on herself. Between the compelling artifact commanding her living room and her concern for Doc, she wasn’t at her best. She needed to think.
“We’re concerned about him. He was supposed to check in this afternoon,” she lied.
“Was he? Look, I don’t have any more contact with him than necessary.”
“Why not?” she demanded.
“Maybe you aren’t aware of this, but Dr. Gilsdorf’s relationship with my people is somewhat strained.”
“Your people?”
“The Hoh. We leave him pretty much alone. If he’s gone missing—“
“He has gone missing.” So she’d been right about the ranger’s heritage. 
“I’m afraid he has.” His voice softened. “My understanding is Dr. Gilsdorf had several meetings with the budget officer and park historian. They might be able to help.”
“I’d appreciate the suggestion. Doc is staying at Potlatch, isn’t he?”
“When he isn’t camping in the forest.”
Which was a lot of the time. “Would you mind leaving a note at his place for him to call me?”
“Not at all. Who should I tell him this is?”
“I’m Winter. Winter Barstow.”
He paused. “Interesting name. I imagine you’ve been told that before.”
“Yes, I have.”
“My compliments to your parents.”
Unfortunately, my parents had nothing to do with it. “I could say the same about yours. It’s unique.”
He chuckled. “Not many people are named after two different birds.”
Listening to him, she realized she’d actually relaxed for a moment. She wanted to thank him but didn’t know how to begin. “You will tell him I’m trying to reach him, won’t you?”
“Of course.” After giving her the numbers for the budget officer and historian, he told her he’d been impressed by Doc’s hiking gear and hung up. Losing the connection left her feeling cut off from not just Doc, but so much of what mattered to him. 
Jay Raven was Native American. That meant they had everything and yet nothing in common. 

Death Chant is out today!! Check it out.

Friday, September 2, 2016

How to Submit Your Writing Like a Boss

In Wednesday’s post I talk a little bit about not keeping your writing hidden. But how should a writer go about sharing their work with the world. Easy. By submitting them.
Whether it's poetry, flash fiction, short story or a novella. There’s a publisher/editor waiting to add it to their publication. But how to find them?
Well, there’s several ways to do that. Writer’s Digest has a listing of publishers, editors, agents, contests, etc to submit your writing. It’s called the Writer’s Market and has many editions based on genre and subject. It’s printed annually. And updated with information on editors. It also sample query letters, indexes showing if a market pays or not. And whether they accept new and emerging writers.
Can’t afford to buy the book every year? Here are a few free resources found online:
  • Aerogamme Writer’s Studio publishes news and resources of upcoming open submissions.
  • Poets & Writers has a literary and magazine database. All you have to do is sign up and search by genre and subgenre.
  • NewPages Classified is a recent find. They have a call for submissions list for writing, art, and photography from magazines, publishers, writing conferences, and more. You can delve deeper by searching by genre and type.
  • Published to Death is another recent find. They’re a great resource in finding publications that pay. As well as accept reprints, free contests, accept unagented manuscripts, etc.
  • Blogger Rachel Poli blogs monthly updates of publications accepting submissions on her blog.
  • Another resource is joining a social media group.  Members post and share information on upcoming submissions with each other. I've joined Calls for Submissions and Creative and Professional Writing Information Exchange on Facebook. And I'm a member of the Writing Resources community on Google+.
Now that you have at your fingertips a plethora of places to submit to what comes next is keeping track of them all. Most publications only accept digital submissions and use Submittable. Another submission manager is Duotrope but I use the former. Others have their own online submission manager like Agni.  Duotrope is a subscription-based submission manager. Like Submittable they track your submissions and it has a searchable market database too.
I take another step further and track my submissions in an Excel spreadsheet. The spreadsheet shows me the name of the press/journal/magazine I’ve submitted to. The number of times I’ve submitted to them, the submission period and deadline. The pieces I submitted to them. And the genre and the date I sent it. It’s normal to wait 2-4 months before you hear back from a publication. If the allotted time has passed, then I'd contact them to inquire about the status of my piece(s).
Lastly I note whether it was declined and if any feedback was given about the piece. Which also determines if I’ll submit to them again in the future. Especially, if they used words like:
  • although we enjoyed it, the poems weren't quite right for the us/issue/magazine
  • made to last round of consideration
  • received careful consideration
  • welcome to submit again
And if the piece(s) were accepted I review the spreadsheet to find other submissions. Then contact the editors with a short and cordial explanation to why I'm withdrawing it. It's a rule of submission etiquette to do so just like following the submission guidelines.
The submission process is both a long road and a two way street. Just as you're looking for places to send your work. Publishers and editors are searching for writers to feature in their publications.  So do not take it to heart when your work was not accepted. It doesn't mean your writing sucked. But that it wasn't the right fit for them or that particular issue.  Yet, what wasn't right for them might be a better fit somewhere else. So don’t give up hope and keep submitting.
What resources do you use to find contests, anthologies, magazines, etc. to submit? Do you use Submittable, Duotrope or another submission tracker?