Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Annslee Urban: It's All Part of the Journey


The desire to write is a passion. A spark deep inside writers that can’t be squelched. No matter the turmoil, negative critiques, rewrites, rejections…a writer keeps on, trudging down the path to publication.

But, that doesn’t mean it’s an easy road for most. While we dream of publishing contracts, best selling novels, the word author as part of our bio; criticism, redirection and rejection often become the norm as we hone our craft. So, how do we handle the growing pains along the road from writer to author?

Well here are some thoughts:

  • Don’t take criticism or rejection personally. Consider the rejection or critique as constructive feedback. Check your manuscripts over, dig in and try to understand what others are seeing or not seeing. If something is missing, fix it!
  • Consider the source for any negative feedback. Did the comment come from someone familiar with your genre? Not everyone likes the same type of storyline, so find like writers and readers for effective critiques.
  • Editors and agents have preferences and opinions that may not jive with your own. Don’t discount their feedback, but also don’t accept changes that don’t feel right.
  • Keep writing! Stay determined. Stay true to your dream. The more you write the stronger your writing will become. And always be open to new ideas and incorporate workable suggestions.
  • Remember that you are not alone. Most authors, even best selling, have received negative critiques and/or rejections. You are in good company!
  • Remain prayerful. God has a plan and His timing is perfect.
Writing takes hard work and diligence, but the payoff is fabulous. People always appreciate what they’ve worked for!

After many critiques and some noteworthy rejections of my own the call finally came. A personal accomplishment for me and the Lord!


…and someone wants to make sure Amber Talbot never reveals it. When she becomes the target of a car bomb and a home invasion, she gets the message loud and clear. If she tells anyone her secret, she will die. The person charged with protecting her is police detective Patrick Wiley—the fiancĂ© she walked away from but never forgot. The same man she never wanted to tell about the attack that left her for dead. Back then Patrick couldn't save her. Now he must. Because the attacker has returned to finish what he started. Except this time he's got them both in his sights.

Annslee Urban grew up watching old-time romance movies, which she attributes to her passion for sweet romance, true love and happy endings. A daydreamer at heart, Annslee began her writing journey when the youngest of her five children started school. For several years she worked as a freelance writer for newspapers in her community and has written for magazines and online publications.

Raised in the foothills of Arizona, she survived temperature shock when she moved to Western Pennsylvania, before setting in North Carolina with her husband and children. Aside from writing, Annslee works part-time as a Registered Nurse in the Behavioral Health field. She is a member of ACFW, and has served as on the board of Carolina Christian Writers. She currently has 4 published novels. Her current book, Broken Silence, Harlequin Love Inspired Suspense, came out in March 2015.

When she isn’t writing, Annslee enjoys cooking, traveling to faraway places, playing with grandbabies and all things chocolate!

Contact Annslee:

Amazon Author Page

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Nicola Furlong: How to Write a Killer Query

The bad news is that writing a killer query is hard. The good news is that writing a killer query is both art and craft. This means there’s a technique or strategy that you can learn.

And learn you must because it doesn’t matter how beautifully written, how heart-poundingly suspenseful, how knee-buckling funny your manuscript is, no editor or agent is going to see it until they’ve been blown away by your initial query pitch.

I know, I know, you’ve spent months beavering away at your great novel and now you just want someone to read it, love it, publish it. But first, you’ve got to hook ’em with a couple of paragraphs.

It may seem crazy, but no more bizarre than trying to flog a screenplay. Those scriptwriters have to verbally pitch their written words!

So, suck it up. It can be done without too much hair pulling.

A killer query is:

• An advertisement for your book
• Brief
• Punchy
• Personalized for a specific editor or agent
• Crafted to hook the reader’s interest
• Delivered in a writing style that suits the book, and
• Designed to leave the reader wanting more.


(Note: examples below are from the pitch I used for my paranormal sci-fi novel, UnnaturalStates. The pitch triggered a number of requests for the full manuscript.)

First paragraph:
• Opening line pitch: two sentences or so that hooks reader’s interest, written in the style of the book.
Example: What astounding secret legacy, resurrected from a controversial divine relic, is being shrouded by the stigmatic, pop-evangelist John the Apostle?

Second paragraph:
• Three to five sentences providing more information about the main character and his/her character arc, the central plot and the length and style of the book.

Example: Already revered and reviled for his powers of song and healing, the charismatic superstar’s mythic life tragically unravels after three strangers infiltrate his west-coast Passion Ministry during its intensely anticipated Easter concert week. Their combined inquiries trigger revelation, ruin and murder.

Merging religious and paranormal phenomena with bio-technology and the ethics of cloning, Thy Will Be Done–a 100,000-word suspense novel–explores the devastating consequences fused from the collision between today’s spiritual emptiness and scientific abundance.

Third paragraph:
• Two to three sentences about you, such as your qualifications, the reason for writing the book, the possible audience and markets for the book, and why you are the one to write and promote it.

Example: My publishing credits include eight mysteries, an inspirational fiction series called the Sisterhood of Shepherds, two optioned screenplays, and one optioned television series. A shameless self-promoter, I attend signings and conferences and maintain a lively online presence via my web site, Facebook and Pinterest. I am also a member of the Crime Writers of Canada (Vice-President) and of Sisters in Crime.

Fourth paragraph:
• Two sentences to ask if they wish to receive sample chapters or the entire manuscript and to thank them for their kind consideration.

Now, sign it. Send it off. Go on to the next one!

About the Author

  Nicola pens mystery and inspirational novels, produces interactive books for the iPad, creates funky, high-relief paintings, podcasts about genre writing (The Novel Experience), and teaches electronic publishing, when she's not playing Old-Timer’s hockey, growing blossoms and bamboo or eating chocolate fudge. She has also written a gardening guide for the West Coast and has adapted two of her novels to screenplays; both were optioned for television.
 The co-creator of Quillr®, a multimedia storytelling platform, Nicola gardens in a small town on southern Vancouver Island, BC. For more information, please visit: http://www.nicolafurlong.com and http://www.pinterest.com/novelnicola.

Heartsong, Book 1, Sisterhood of Shepherds

 In HEARTSONG, thirty-something single parent Charly Shepherd is satisfied with her life raising two children and thousands of plants in her family-owned Sweet Shepherd Nursery. Then, tragedy strikes. As she and her siblings, Faith and Hope, struggle to keep the nursery going, Charly begins to believe her family’s destiny is greater than raising flowers. When the three sisters reluctantly delve into family secrets to help their ailing father fulfill a promise, their lives change forever as they pursue a new inspirational path of discovery, heartache, humor and redemption.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Ane Mulligan: Unforgettable - That's What You Are

What makes a character unforgettable? Why is it some live on in our hearts long after we finish the book? The answer is depth; characters that are concrete, vivid, with easily identifiable character traits.

That's all well and good, but how do we make them that way? I'm glad you asked.

Psychology 101 – Lies
From the study of psychology, we learn that most people have a Lie they believe about themselves. These Lies are embedded before the age of 5. A child that young doesn't reason the lie away, they simply believe it. It could come about from a careless remark by a frustrated mother who asks, "Can't you do anything right?" to outright abandonment or abuse. Whatever the cause, the Lie colors the child's view of self and their motivation rises out of the Lie.

So how does that translate to fiction?
The Lie the characters believe is the key to their motivation. Motivation is the key to great characters and plots. Yes, you read that right - because you can plot via character motivation.

Motivation engages us; we can relate to the character's motivation. Readers will follow characters through anything they do or any way they act if the motivation is strong enough. Based on a Lie, the motivation will be strong and believable.

There are the 8 basic Lies:
To each of the basic lies, there are shades and symptoms.
1.   I'm a disappointment.
2.   Not good enough (this is a very strong lie, often used
      for men and strong female leads)
3.   I'm not enough – or defective
4.   I'm too much to handle and will get rejected
5.   It's all my fault
6.   Helpless – powerless to fix (this leads to a fear of 
      being controlled)
7.   Unwanted/unloved
8.   I'm bad (which could possibly be used as a symptom
      or excuse for another lie)

Your characters will either fall victim to their lie or they will try to combat the lie, proving it wrong. While a person could have more than one Lie, for fictional characters, it's best to stick with one. Otherwise you dilute the power and focus of their motivation.

Playing Journalist
The first thing to do is interview your character. Play journalist, asking tough questions. You might discover their Lie during the interview. Next, write a free flowing backstory. Pantsters rock at this. Go as far back as you have to, even to prior generations, until you discover what happened to cause your character to believe a Lie and which one. Remember, we're all the product of our ancestors' worldview. We either adopt it, reject it, or tweak it to be our own.

For one manuscript I'm working on, I had to go back 4 generations to discover where my character's ancestors' worldview began. Through that great-great-great-grandmother, I found the foundation for her mother's worldview and thus, my character's Lie.

Word of caution: 95 percent or more of the backstory will never make the pages of your novel. It's what helps you to fully understand your character and what makes him or her tick.

Once you know the Lie, you can see how it would color his or her motivation, determine their reaction to events, and how they would make decisions.

In my debut novel, Chapel Springs Revival, Claire charges into situations without thinking, because deep within her, she wants to be a hero—superwoman come to save the day. And gain respect. Her lie is it’s all her fault. Yet, with all the crazy things that happen, I never have her consciously think it’s her fault. But she believes her antagonist thinks that. She believes her husband thinks it, too. That's how I get her Lie across without ever mentioning Lies.

Chapel Springs Revival

With a friend like Claire, you need a gurney, a mop, and a guardian angel.

Everybody in the small town of Chapel Springs, Georgia, knows best friends Claire and Patsy. It's impossible not to, what with Claire's zany antics and Patsy's self-appointed mission to keep her friend out of trouble. And trouble abounds. Chapel Springs has grown dilapidated and the tourist trade has slackened. With their livelihoods threatened, they join forces to revitalize the town. No one could have guessed the real issue needing restoration is their marriages.

With their personal lives in as much disarray as the town, Claire and Patsy embark on a mission of mishaps and miscommunication, determined to restore warmth to Chapel Springs —and their lives. That is if they can convince their husbands and the town council, led by two curmudgeons who would prefer to see Chapel Springs left in the fifties and closed to traffic.

While a large, floppy straw hat is her favorite, bestselling novelist ANE MULLIGAN has worn many: hairdresser, legislative affairs director (that's a fancy name for a lobbyist), drama director, playwright, humor columnist, and novelist. Her lifetime experience provides a plethora of fodder for her Southern-fried fiction. She firmly believes coffee and chocolate are two of the four major food groups. President of the award-winning literary site, Novel Rocket, Ane resides in Suwanee, GA, with her artist husband, her chef son, and two dogs of Biblical proportion. You can find Ane on her Southern-fried Fiction website, Google+, Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Carole Brown: No Stencil-Cut Characters for Me!

Can you see them?
  •    Stiff arms; stiff legs
  •    Robot-like movements
  •    Machine-generated voice
  •     Emotionless expressions

I believe one of the best things I’ve learned (am learning) has been to place myself into the novel. I want EVERY ONE of the novels I write to resonate with REALNESS. I don’t want to write just to write. God’s given me the talent and the love to do so. If one of my readers can’t “be” there and feel the passion in the writing, then I’ve failed.

When I write I imagine:

  •    How would I react to that obnoxious person? Is my personality such I would be a doormat? Walk away? Strike back with sarcasm? Soft words?
  •    What would I do if someone kidnapped me? Or murdered my child? Would I forgive? Get even? Understand? Hate?
  •     How would I respond to hurtful words? To a slap in the face? To betrayal? To the handsome new minister who loved to tease? To a rebellious sister who refused to grow up and be responsible?
  •    When faced with temptation or fear or evil, would I run away? Be brave and resort to what I could use to conquer the evil? Pray? Give up? Cry? Yield?
  •     When love is presented, do I accept it with happiness? Sadness? With laughter? Tears? Shyness? Horror? Aloofness?

From my own novels:
1.      In The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman, Caralynne wasn’t fighting for herself. She was brave in the midst of fear, to save her girls and her friends. She wouldn’t let herself consider running or hiding even when it was offered to her. Foolish? Yes, in many ways, but she knew if she didn’t stand and fight, many others would have no future chance.
2.      In Hog Insane, Denton chose humbleness and bravery because he was afraid—afraid he’d lose his wife. His carelessness and obnoxious self-centered thinking had caused him to forget that the love of his life had thoughts and wishes and feelings. Only by a direct turn-about in his attitude could he hope to rekindle the fire of love between them.
3.      In With Music in Their Hearts, Emma Jaine repented of her selfishness and realized she wasn’t always right. That others had rights to their opinions and desires. Having the responsibility and care of two younger sisters and even her father thrust upon her at an age when she should have been giggling and enjoying her teenage years caused her to forget what it was like. The over protectiveness slid into undesirable demands even when given out of a caring heart. Only when faced with the nowhere else to turn or help, did she finally understand that she wasn’t always right.


It takes practice and work, but don’t give up. The day you feel yourself tearing up or swooning over your own book, is the day you’ll know you did it. You’ve created a novel that seems to breathe and live on its own. Congratulations!

With Music in Their Hearts Blurb:

 Angry at being rejected for military service, Minister Tyrell Walker accepts the call to serve as a civilian spy within his own country. Across the river from Cincinnati, Ohio, a spy working for a foreign country is stealing secret plans for newly developed ammunition to be used in the war. According to his FBI cousin, this spy favors pink stationery giving strong indications that a woman is involved.

He’s instructed to obtain a room in the Rayner Boarding House run by the lovely, spunky red-haired Emma Jaine Rayner. Sparks of jealousy and love fly between them immediately even as they battle suspicions that one or the other is not on the up and up.

While Tyrell searches for the murdering spy who reaches even into the boarding home, Emma Jaine struggles with an annoying renter, a worried father (who could be involved in this spy thing), and two younger sisters who are very different but just as strong willed as she is.

As Tyrell works to keep his double life a secret and locate the traitor, he refuses to believe that Emma Jaine could be involved even when he sees a red-haired woman in the arms of another man. Could the handsome and svelte banker who’s also determined to win Emma Jaine’s hand for marriage, be the dangerous man he’s looking for? Is the trouble-making renter who hassles Emma Jaine serving as a flunky? Worse, is Papa Rayner so worried about his finances and keeping his girls in the style they’re used to, that he’ll stoop to espionage?

Will their love survive the danger and personal issues that arise to hinder the path of true love?

With Music in Their Heart

About Carole:

Brown not only has her award winning (Nominated for an Epic Award, RWA International Digital Awards finalist in Inspiration, Laurel Award finalist, Selah finalist; Genesis semi-finalist) debut novel, The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman, available for purchase now, but a companion book called West Virginia Scrapbook: From the Life of Caralynne Hayman, filled with tidbits of information about West Virginia, quotes, recipes from West Virginia and from Caralynne’s life, pictures and discussion questions for the novel.

November, 2013, the first book in her mystery series, Hog Insane, released. It’s a fun, lighthearted novel introducing the characters, Denton and Alex Davies. Look for the second book, Bat Crazy, late 2014 winter.

Released November 1, 2014, is the first book in a new WWII romantic suspense series: With Music In Their Hearts. Three red-headed sisters. Three spies. Three stories.

Besides being a member and active participant of many writing groups, Carole Brown enjoys mentoring beginning writers. She loves to weave suspense and tough topics into her books, along with a touch of romance and whimsy, and is always on the lookout for outstanding titles and catchy ideas. She and her husband reside in SE Ohio but have ministered and counseled nationally and internationally. Together, they enjoy their grandsons, traveling, gardening, good food, the simple life, and did she mention their grandsons?

Connect with her here:

Carole is also a contributor to several other blogs:

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Donn Taylor: Misplaced Modifiers

 On of the basic errors in writing is the misplaced modifier. And in spite of all the copy editing and proofreading that goes into printing most novels, no small number of misplaced modifiers still slip through. The result can be anything from misleading to ridiculous, but always a distraction from the writer's actual meaning. So I am visiting the problem once again, providing a few bits of good advice as well as a few laughs—some from published novels, some from journalism and other sources.

  Because I collect professional writers’ lapses into misplaced modifiers, I’ve been asked to answer these questions: “What is a misplaced modifier and how do writers guard against them? Can you give some examples of your favorites?”

  In normal English usage, a modifying phrase refers to the noun or pronoun (or sometimes verb) closest to it. A misplaced modifier occurs when the modifying phrase is placed away from the noun or pronoun the writer intends it to modify. The results are always confusing, but often ridiculous:

     Looking in through the window, the new sofa could be

  This construction places the sofa simultaneously outside the window looking in and inside the building being seen. Physicists tell us this is probably possible with subatomic particles, but they not yet extended that theory to sofas.

 This kind of misplaced modifier usually occurs when the writer begins the sentence thinking active voice and, after the comma, changes to passive voice. The most common cures are to give the modifier something logical to modify or to change the modifying phrase to a dependent clause:

           Looking in through the window, I saw the new sofa.

           or, When I looked in through the window, I saw the new sofa.

  Writers should find their misplaced modifiers during proofing or revision. The cure is always to rewrite the sentence so that the modifier is placed as close as possible to the word (noun, pronoun, verb) it modifies. With that lesson learned, let’s enjoy some prime examples that somehow crept through the editing process in novels from first-line CBA publishers. (I leave to my readers the process of moving the modifier to a logical place or rewriting the sentence to establish logic. I will content myself with a few sardonic comments.)

         “[A] man in grey slacks and a blue blazer holding a
waved at them.”

Comment: Those sports jackets get more versatile every day!

          “Taking his first step, the slippery surface caused
          him to fall flat on his back.”

Comment: Surfaces that walk? Must be Sci-fi.

         “Standing up slowly, a wave of vertigo swept through

Comment: Would things have been worse if the wave had stood up quickly?

         “Having come straight from the airport in the clothes
         they’d worn to travel
, his query made sense.”

Comment: Remarkable! Casually dressed queries rarely make sense.

         “Adorned in mostly homemade ornaments, its pine
         scent mingled with the kitchen aromas.”

Comment: Adorned or unadorned, the scent still smelled. But at least it was sociable.

         “Hidden away in the cabin, my mind continued to

Comment: Confined to the cabin, it couldn’t wander far.

But some of the most ridiculous examples come from local newspapers:

         The governor shot the coyote that he said was
         threatening his daughter’s puppy with a Ruger .380-
         caliber pistol.

Comment: The coyote had his teeth on the trigger.

             The principle to remember: Keep the modifiers close to the words they modify. In revising and proofing, look for misplaced modifiers and move them to their proper places.

Donn Taylor led an Infantry rifle platoon in the Korean War, served with Army aviation in Vietnam, and worked with air reconnaissance in Europe and Asia. Afterward, he completed a PhD degree at The University of Texas and taught English literature at two liberal arts colleges.

He lives near Houston, Texas, where he writes fiction, poetry, and articles on current topics.

In the years following World War II,
a town too proud of its virtues has to
deal with its first murder.