Writing, promotion, tips, and opinion. Pour a cuppa your favorite poison and join in.

Monday, March 30, 2015

When Life Gets in the Way

Hi all! Misha here. It's been a loooooooooooooooooong while since I've posted here. Mostly, I've had a long bout of about three months where I had a very unreliable Internet connection, but there's a bit more to this story.

The bit more is where for the whole of 2014 and a part of 2015, my life, to put it nicely, sucked.

I did, however, keep writing through most of it. This was mostly done by force of will. I couldn't do much else, so I was determined to write a much as possible so that I could at least have something positive to show for my time.

But no matter how good the intention, those creative gears do eventually lock. One can only write in the midst of suckiness for so long.

Does that mean I beat myself up about it? Heck no. Quite the opposite. My life wasn't nice, so writing was my escape. If I had beaten myself up for not writing enough, or not well enough or whatever... it would have turned my escape into a jail cell.

That's not to say that I don't set myself some steep goals. I do. You only need to check out my other blogs for proof. Those goals aren't the be-all and end-all, though.

They're more of a guide to what I want to achieve.

And every step I make toward those goals takes me that much further along. And every single step is worth celebrating.

What do you do when life gets in the way of writing?

Friday, March 27, 2015

Beginning Some Marketing

Blogging, Social Media, Facebook, Chalk Blackboard

This week's posts have all been for that new member of my writers' group. He had so many questions about things that I thought we all knew. But of course we don't all know it all. We can all learn so much from each other.

In the discussion we did touch on marketing. And while there is no completed novel yet, it's never too early to start networking with the writing community.

As you're starting out on your journey to publication, you do want to connect--to the writing community, to readers, to the publishing community...

Think of it as research. Learn the industry. And if you make some helpful friends along the way...

Where should you focus your efforts? The more important question is: where do you most enjoy spending your time? A writers' group in your community? Blogging? Goodreads? Twitter? Start there.

If you're not sure, try any and all avenues that open up to you. Go to a writers' conference. Start a blog. Get on Twitter. Find the one you like and stick with it. Get involved in that community. Learn what you can from them. Give back when you can. Then when you're ready to launch your book, you already have a presence to build on.

But most importantly, do what feels right to you.

Any other advice? What marketing efforts have worked for you? Is it ever too early to start?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Where to Go


One thing I promised to do (a while ago...) was to provide links to help that new writer figure out this crazy thing we do--writing things with the hope of someday publishing them. You all have been so helpful in this. That's what's great about the writing community. You are there to help us newbies out.

For writing your novel, there are so many books out there. Just go to Amazon and search "writing" and you'll get a huge list. This is not an exhaustive list, but only some of the ones that more people seem to rave about (thanks, Carol, for your recommendations):
While you're writing, you may have some grammar questions. And of course, we all swear by the Grammar Girl.  

When I started out, one of the first blogs I followed was Nathan Bransford's. He used to be a literary agent, and his blog had all sorts of great tips for those of us starting out. He's since gone from agent to author, and I haven't been back to his blog in a while, but it looks like he still might be a good resource for those just learning about all of this. 

If you're planning on submitting your novel to publishers, you're going to need a query (whether you plan on getting an agent or querying smaller publishing houses yourself). A couple good places to start: 
As for marketing your novel, I've found a couple good successful self-published writers who offer their advice about how they got where they are and how one can follow in their footsteps:
And, of course, if you want to wade into the blogging community (which is a great place to network as well as learn from other writers on this journey of ours), you need to start with Alex J. Cavanaugh and/or join in (or just visit) the blogs doing the A to Z starting next week.  

I haven't even scratched the surface. But this is a start. What are some other good sites? Any other books to recommend to a newbie? 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Some Publishing Basics

This week I'm giving advice to the new member of my writers' group. Feel free to chime in with anything I miss.

Most of the discussion we had on his first meeting had to do with publication. Sure, he knew the novel wasn't quite finished, but he's anxious to get it out into the world. He found a "publisher" that would put together his book... for a fee. And now he's been getting emails from them urging him to submit his novel.

We directed him to step away from the vanity publisher...

The first thing to do is to finish the novel. And by finish, I mean it should have been read by critique partners and/or beta readers. It would be a good idea to have an editor take a look at it (this is one thing to definitely pay for).

Then, once you're sure you're ready... (Are we ever truly ready? There's always more tinkering to do. But at some point we must dive in.)

You must decide what route you want to take. You can submit to traditional publishers or do it yourself. (Last week we had a great post on the differences in publishers. Thanks, Carol. Perfect timing.)

Which is the right way to go? Well, that's a very individual decision. There are pros and cons on both sides, so I'm going to open this question up to you.

Did you (are are you planning to) publish with a publishing house (large or small), or did you go it on your own? Why? If you could go back and do it differently, would you?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Writing It

Writing Hand by IggyOblomov

The new member of my writing group had completed a first draft. He's in the process of editing it. Rewriting.

He gave the manuscript to his wife who's offering her feedback. But they're kind of flying blind.

He contacted local universities to find classes on how to write a novel, but the people he talked to were no help. They offered basic English classes. He knew he needed more, and that's how he ended up joining our group.

How does one write a novel? Are there classes? Or do we all go into this and just see where it takes us?

There is no one way to write a novel. We all do it differently. We must find what works for us and go with that. We'll figure out how to tell our story. There will be road bumps along the way.

He has done the two most important things. Things that many writers starting out have not done:
  1. He wrote a draft.
    • This is huge! How many times do we hear people moaning that they have a novel idea, but don't have the time to write it? He sat down and pounded out the pages. 
  2. He joined a writing group.
    • He's found us now, and we're a resource to help him on his journey. As we are there to help each other.
So, while he might not think that he knows what he's doing, he's made a very good start. But as he's not sure where to go from here, it's time to point him in the right direction. He doesn't feel his novel is finished, but mostly because he needs the feedback of other writers.

Other things he could do: 
  • Read books on writing
  • Join online writing groups 
  • Find beta readers and critique partners
  • Follow good writers' blogs
What else can you think of? What have I missed? Do you have any good books to recommend? Any other tips?

Monday, March 23, 2015

Where to Start?

A new member joined the local writing group I'm a member of. We hadn't quite started, so he was asking us all sorts of questions about writing, editing, and publishing. He joined the group because he has been working on a novel that has turned into a trilogy, and he wasn't sure what to do next.

As I listened to his questions, I realized that I haven't been spinning my wheels all this time. I've actually been learning something. From you all. From around the Internet. From books. From writing.

I guess if you plug away at it long enough, you do get better at it.

We all had different advice for our new member, and I commented that there's a lot out there on the Internet if you go looking. He had been searching, but he wasn't finding anything that was helping him. I offered to point him to some good writing sites...um...two months ago...  

When I sat down to do it, I realized there was so much. I didn't know where to start. I kind of got overwhelmed by it. And I wanted to formulate it into something that made some sort of sense.

So, this week all my posts are for him. It's novel writing and publishing for novices. And since the rest of you are experts, I'm counting on your help as well. Because he had a lot of questions, and I think we all know how it feels to wade into this thing called writing.

What do you wish you had known after finishing your very first (and/or second) draft? What's a good site for someone who is new to all this to visit?

Friday, March 20, 2015

One Good Catch...and book

A familiar name around the blogosphere, Heather M. Gardner's newest book is out. *doing the Snoopy Dance*

One Good Catch, A Maguire’s Corner novel

Title: One Good Catch
Author: Heather M. Gardner
Genre: Contemporary Romantic Suspense
Cover Design: Najla Qamber Designs
Release Date: March 13, 2015

Buy Links
All Romance Ebooks, Kobo, Amazon and B&N

Ignoring a recent trauma that is affecting her everyday life, ER Doctor Kate Maguire engages in some high risk activities, but putting herself in these dangerous situations isn’t enough to feed her edginess. She needs something more. When her brother’s high school best friend comes back to town, it’s her chance for a ‘no strings attached’ fling with the man who still headlines in all her best dreams.

Rhys MacGrath’s days of one-night-stands are long over. The pro-football player might be side-lined at rehab for a shoulder injury, but that doesn’t mean he can’t admire and desire the all-grown-up, so-damn-hot, version of the tomboy he once knew. His sudden interest in Kate might be aggravating his best friend, who doesn’t approve, but it’s her indifference that’s driving Rhys crazy.

Everything heats up when Kate’s nosy nature sets her in the line of fire of an arsonist forcing them to deal with more than just the sparks igniting between them.


Heather M. Gardner's love of books began on the hand-woven rugs of her small town library where her mother worked. There she had a never-ending supply of stories to read at her fingertips. As a teen, her favorite genres to curl up with were romance and mysteries. When she started to create her own stories, they were the perfect fit.

Heather resides in New York with her best friend who is also her husband, plus her talented and handsome son. She is currently owned by four stray cats. Heather's a full-time mom, works part-time from home, a chocolate enthusiast, coffee junkie, cat addict, book hoarder and fluent in sarcasm.

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

Twitter: @hmgardner

Goodreads: HMGardner 

Facebook: HeatherWritesRomance Bottom of Form

“Hi,” Rhys said.
Kate continued to stare at him, and her mouth may have been hanging open a little. She actually wished for the ability to teleport out of the room. Grey eyes, the color of a winter sky before a storm, scrutinized her. More than powerful in color, sharp and penetrating, like an X-ray.
Rhys was big, bigger than she remembered, taking up all the space behind the half-round table. His mid-length, layered dirty-blond hair and tanned face and neck made her think of sun and sand at the beach.
Rhys frowned. “Can I help you?”
His face had gone from friendly to wary as she gawked at him. No man should be this good looking, which should be irrelevant because he’d always been good looking. After all, he had been voted biggest flirt and most likely to meet you under the bleachers back in high school.
All the forgotten feelings she’d had for him slammed into her at once. Puppy love, like, lust, frustration, admiration, desire—all emotions she’d experienced at one time or another and, some, really not so long ago.
Finally, Kate took a shaky breath and decided she’d better leave to keep from embarrassing herself any further. “No. No, thanks, I’m good.”
Turning, she slammed straight into her mother, who held a full pot of coffee. The hot liquid splashed onto Kate’s chest and soaked into her shirt, steaming her skin underneath.

“Son of a—”

Thursday, March 19, 2015

YowZa! Disciple...Published

One of my all-time favorite author and genre.

War is coming. Kate Carpenter is only a peasant girl, but she’s determined to help defend the kingdom and its bound saints against the invading empire. Her healing magic earned her a coveted apprenticeship with the master healer; now she must prove herself ready to stand in the front lines and save lives.

She’s not ready for the attentions of a ne’er-do-well knight and the kingdom’s only prince, though. This is no time to be distracted by romance — the empire’s monstrous army will tear through anyone standing between them and the kingdom’s magical founts. All disciples must put aside their tangled feelings and stand in the homeland’s defense.

the six-part gritty fantasy romance series is now complete!
Disciple, Part VI on sale at AmazonB&NMore retailers


Download Disciple, Part I for free!
Email me if you can’t get it for free: blankenship.louise at gmail

Excerpt from Part I
“You couldn’t sleep either?”

At the whisper, I looked up from struggling to lace my boots with trembling hands. My master stepped into my dormitory room, adding his lamp’s light to my candle.

“Why must I dress as a boy?” I whispered back. Perhaps I was not so buxom, but I doubted I’d fool anyone. “This makes little sense.”

“Patience.” Master Parselev placed his lamp on my writing-table and checked my packed bags. “They’re gathering at the chapel already. None of us got much sleep, it seems.”

The straw mattress creaked when I stood, boots laced and the woolen hose sagging between my thighs. I ran my fingers around my waist, under my layered cotes, to check the drawstring. “Are these right, Master?” I’d strung the hose and braies together as best I could guess and as memory was my Blessing I had no excuse for failing. Men’s underthings weren’t much concern to me — if I saw such, or more, it was while the man lay bleeding on the surgery table.

“If they stay up, it’s right. Good. This too.” He slung a heavy felt cloak across my shoulders and pinned it on. The hood buried my face in shadows; my blonde braid, even wrapped around my head, would give me away.

I asked, “Master, this journey will be long, won’t it?” Parselev had given me more clothes than I’d ever owned to pack in those bags. All heavy winter woolens, too. “Shouldn’t you go, then?”

He looked down at me, mouth quirking to one side. Master was a greybeard, said to be over a hundred years old, but his kir kept his eyes bright and his face lightly creased. I had only been his apprentice two years. Surely I could not be ready for this.

“It must be you, Kate,” was all he said.

Disciple Omnibus
collects all six books • save big!
Doorstop paperbacks at Createspace • Amazon to come

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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Publishing Your Book. Details and Definitions

What is traditionally published? Small Press? Vanity? 

Begin with the basics. Your manuscript is beta-read, polished to the nth degree, and ready to go out into the world.

Traditional has two venues:
1. Submit to literary agent who submits to publisher. Generally, the author has no say-so in edits or cover. An advance payment is made to the author in anticipation of royalties.

Author pays nothing to agent or publisher. Marketing is mostly up to the author.

2. Small press. The author submits directly to the publisher who may or may not give a hang about the author’s thoughts about editing or cover. (Here is where my former publisher, Musa, diverted from the pack. They took my opinion in account on every detail)

Royalties are paid to the author. I was paid every month but not every small publisher does this.

Author pays nothing to agent or publisher. Marketing is mostly up to the author.

Vanity press. The author submits a manuscript. The publisher prints it no matter how bad it is.

Author pays the vanity press for everything. Marketing is up to the author.

Self-Publishing. Author hires an excellent editor and buys a professionally created cover. I don’t advise skipping those steps but many do. Hence, the crummy books going to nothing.

The author decides every step. After Amazon take their cut, all royalties go to author.

After formatting, the author pays nothing to publish via outlets such as KDP and Createspace. Marketing is up to the author.

In the end, it comes down to what you desire.

Do you want the status of having a publisher who holds your rights to the book and treats you bad? Yes, even the Big Five do this. 

Or...do you want to showcase your talent every step of way by self-publishing?

No matter what you chose, note the constant in all the above. Marketing is mostly up to you.

I’ll never regret going with Musa Publishing. They showed me the ropes and treated me with dignity. Even when they called it quits, the rights to our books reverted within ten days and their after care is outstanding. They always paid on time and took great care to keep their authors happy.

But the biggest gift was in expertise and giving my books a venue.

To self-publish wasn’t that big a stretch. I bought the cover photos and my artist from Musa re-created them perfectly. Possibly, I could have formatted the interior on my own, but I chose to go with KMD Webdesigns.

I had an account with KDP and Createspace. After submitting the updated editions sans the Musa logo, I named my publishing company Shamira Publishing and moved through the various decisions on size and marketing. I bought my own ISBN for the print versions but let KDP do the Kindle versions. For now, I’ll go with Amazon only as my only format. I sold a dozen or so at B & N etc and wasn’t really impressed. Besides, Amazon has all formats available for Nook and Apple so why bother.

Mage Revealed went live on Sunday. I hope Wilder Mage is approved soon because,

“I hat-a waiting.” – Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Reasons, Excuses, and Decisions...

...or, How Can Things Go So Wrong So Quickly.

In January, I scheduled a sale on Feb 20th for my first book Wilder Mage. Along with a freebie deal for the prequel to the series, Out of Magic, it was supposed to boost sales for my second book, Mage Revealed.

Little did I know the universe was about to implode. It started with my computer gasping its last virtual breaths.

Along with my publisher, Musa.

Decisions, beginning with the computer. Since I’d spent some major bucks on my ‘puter last year, I was reluctant to spend extra dollars on it without a more definite fix. Luckily (?!) Dell took care of that problem and I received a new setup.

Now, if you’ve ever transferred info from one hard drive to another, you know it’s easier than walking down the stairs. Oh wait. I mean falling down the stairs. Gravity kind of takes over and simplifies your journey. The landing is the bugger in the mix. Most of the files transfer easily enough but the programs? Eh, not so much. In other words, the manuscripts that I labored over for months/years were on the desktop but I had no way to open them until I installed the Word program. And email, not so simple. They require the Export/Import feature. Grrr.

With all the work and hair pulling, I’m so glad I bought the new computer and got the stuff transferred cuz, Brother, the old one was going fast. Lots of “He’s dead, Jim”, Windows Explorer has stopped, blue screens, and the chilling FATAL ERROR appeared repeatedly.

Combine that headache with my publisher shutting down and I was busier than a dog chasing twenty squirrels. 

Musa Publishing informed its authors on February 20th that it was closing its doors. On March 1, all publishing rights reverted to us. So now, what to do with my books?

Submit to another small publisher? I never even considered this venue. Small presses are great. Loved mine for example. But, since bad ones plague our business, research is paramount and I didn’t want to take the time to do this. I was already half-way to self-publishing so why blindly go down the road and stumble into a small press like a desperate petitioner.

Self-Publishing. I’d tested these waters with Out of Magic so I wasn’t totally naive. Only 95%. Luckily, I had help in the form of KMD Webdesigns. Kelly Shorten and Michael Mand were a part of the Musa team and we are very familiar with each other and our relative quirks. I highly, highly recommend their services.

Editor. My next project needs an editor and thankfully, I have that covered as well. Angela Kelly was my editor at Musa and is continuing in that function. Again, very familiar and an outright friend. She is hanging her shingle at KMD too, a definite winner.

Good news. My books are ready for release this Friday, March 20th and my new computer is "fast, fast", as my grandson would say. One month ago, all this hit. Now, I am back to Doin' the Snoopy Dance.

So, nothing is permanent in this life. Especially computers and business ventures.

But good friends are forever.                                                                

Friday, March 13, 2015

Ask Chrys

Dear Unicorn Bell Readers,

My posts Dear Uninspired Writer and Dear Time-Strapped Writer gave me an idea that I hope you all will enjoy, support, and find useful.

I’ve always liked to help writers in whatever way I can. That’s why I started blogging in the first place. And after I got an email from a writer looking for advice, I knew I wanted to help even more than I already am. Therefore, I am extending an invitation to Unicorn Bell readers (and all writers, really) to email me their questions and concerns if they are seeking advice about writing. I’ll reply back to every single email I get and will select 3-5 to showcase on Unicorn Bell when it’s my turn to co-host.

Think of it as an advice column for writers in the blogosphere.

Do you have a writing insecurity?

Do you want advice on something writing-related?

Please email me at ChrysFey(at)yahoo(dot)com and put “Dear Chrys” in the subject line. I don’t claim to know everything, but I’ll help you as much as I possibly can.

If you do email me, and I think other writers could benefit from the advice I give you, you could see your question designed as a post right here like my previous two posts.

I look forward to your emails!


P.S. I'm revealing the covers for my two short stories over at my blog, Write with Fey. Come check them out! :D 

All Ask Chrys posts so far:

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

Find Me:

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Dear Time-Strapped Writer

I got the idea for this post after a writer sent me an email asking for advice on a few different concerns and one of them was about finding the time to write. I know countless writers have the same problem, so this one is for you!

Dear Time-Strapped Writer,

I know it can be difficult to find time to write with a full/part-time job, kids, and all the daily responsibilities life brings. When you find yourself strapped for time, the best thing you can do is dedicate at least one hour a day to writing. One hour out of twenty-four, minus an average of eight hours for sleep, should be easy, right? If your answer is no, test out one or all of these ways to get more writing time into your day:

1. If you’re a morning person, set your alarm for one hour before you need to wake up to get ready for work. Pull yourself out of bed and turn on your computer while the coffee brews. You may be tired, but I often get the best pieces of insight for my stories when I’m tired, so sit down at your desk with your coffee and write. Don’t worry if it sounds bad or doesn’t make sense. Just write! By the end of the hour you could have 5-10 pages written. What a great way to start the day!

Image from Wikimedia

2. If you’re NOT a morning person (like me), do the opposite of the above tip. An hour before your bedtime, sit down to write. You can even do it in your pajamas in bed! Include writing into your nightly ritual and before you know it, you’ll be able to crank out several pages before you go to sleep.

3. When you’re at work, utilize your lunch break. It may only be 15-20 minutes long, but while you’re eating your sandwich, you can bust out your notebook and write a scene or conversation. The trick is to not edit while you’re writing but to let your thoughts and hand flow freely. If you can get something down during your lunch break, you may be excited to get home to continue writing.

Image from Wikipedia

4. Are you a big TV person? I am! And whenever I’m lounging on the couch watching my shows, I always have my notebook with me. The moment a commercial comes on, I pick up my pen to write. Some people would say this is counter-productive and that watching TV kills creativity, but writing is writing. There’s been times when I’ve only written a paragraph and other times when I’ve written a whole chapter.

The goal is to find those moments throughout your day when life calms down for a bit and taking that opportunity to write. Look at your daily life and pinpoint when those times are and then grab them with both hands.

QUESTIONS: Do you struggle to find writing time? When do you write?

Have a writing-related question? Leave a comment and I may turn it into a post right here!

See Also:

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

Find Me:

Monday, March 9, 2015

Dear Uninspired Writer

Writers often complain about a lack of inspiration, and many ask their fellow writers what inspires their stories. That brought about this post. :)

Dear Uninspired Writer,

Don’t wait for your muse to lay shining inspiration at your feet, or for inspiration to strike. If you do, you may be waiting a long time while your unwritten stories spoil. Go out and seek that inspiration instead.

Throughout my writing journey I’ve been inspired for stories in many ways. Reading good books similar to the one I’m writing often puts a fire under me. Watching movies with scenes like ones I need to conquer greatly aids me with the details. Music also helps me to get in the mood for certain events. Actually, I listen to music every time I write at my desk.

Dreams are a huge source of inspiration as well. I have developed countless story ideas thanks to my odd, often suspenseful, and definitely romantic nightly dreams. 30 Seconds, my e-novella, came to me from a dream. Art and people are also great inspirational tools.

But writers don’t have to only rely on these common sources. Inanimate objects are everywhere and they offer endless realms of inspiration. To prove it, I will share with you three instances when inanimate objects inspired me:

1. Hurricanes

Hurricane Crimes was inspired by the hurricanes Charley, Frances, and Ivan that wrecked havoc on Florida, one right after the other, in the span of four weeks in 2004. If I had never experienced these hurricanes, I wouldn’t have been able to write about Hurricane Sabrina—the fictional hurricane in my book—as intimately as I did.

2. A Screw

A screw? Yes, really. A screw gave birth to the idea for my unpublished series.

One day, when I was twelve years old, I sat down on a small grassy hill next to my house after a lone game of basketball. I was playing with the sharp blades of grass when my fingers brushed something stuck deep in the roots. I thought it could’ve been a lucky penny or a key to a secret place.

Curious, I dug it out and looked at my find. Unfortunately, it was not a penny or a key but a screw. The tip was crooked and it was crusted with orange rust. For the strangest reason, while holding that pathetic screw, a story came to me about an extraordinary girl in an alternate world.

I rushed inside my house, grabbed an old notebook and a black pen, and then ran back to that little mound of grass to write the beginning of that story.

I wrote fiercely, trying to catch all the words stumbling around in my head, and I've written every day since.

3. A Safety Pin

Don’t ask me why tools inspire me, but they do. One night, when I was going to bed, my gaze landed on a lone safety pin sitting on my nightstand. My mind instantly thought of how the protagonist in one on my WIPs could use a safety pin. And let’s just say it’s not what a normal person would do with one. ;)

So if you’re feeling uninspired, dear writer, read a book, watch a movie, listen to music, people watch, look at art, and even examine the inanimate objects around you. There’s inspiration all around just waiting for you to take notice.

QUESTIONS: What inspires you? Has something strange ever inspired your writing?
I’d love to hear your stories!

Have a writing-related question? Leave a comment and I may turn it into a post right here!

See Also:

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