Friday, November 29, 2013

The New Girl In Town


 I have a love hate relationship with social media but this was one of those times that it came in handy. I saw on FB that Brandi had moved to Texas! Better yet she lives only forty-five minutes away from me. So we set up a time to meet at Starbucks and talked for hours about her move to the area and of course writing! It's great to have another Charisma writer in the area to talk to about the industry, our books, and the ups and downs as an author. We took a last minute picture before we left.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Writer's Platform and Promotion

Something I've heard ever since I became a published author is, "What is your platform?" At first I had no idea what people were talking about, and I'm still not sure, but I have a somewhat vague idea. I think it has something to do with the author's visibility and interaction with readers. I would appreciate any other authors who know better than I do to chime in here with some comments.

Anyway, the concept of platform seems to have changed over the years. When I first started seriously thinking about it, I considered my website, blog, speaking engagements, and book signings to be my platform, and publishing professionals accepted that. However, now I think much more is expected. With so many people electronically connected through the Internet and mobile devices, we have even more opportunities to be in front of readers. The key is to stand out in the very large, very loud crowd.

Social media has entered the scene, demanding almost as much time as actually writing the book. Most of us have Facebook accounts, Twitter handles, LinkedIn pages, and whatever else we stumble upon that has an audience. When I first started out on Facebook, I wasn't sure what I was doing, but over the years, I realized that most other authors were as clueless as I was. So I decided to relax and pretend I was at a party and just have a good time communicating whatever is on my mind. That's something I know a little bit about, plus it's a whole lot more fun than fretting over my "platform."

Now I think that a writer's platform is most effective when we give readers a peek into our lives, enabling them to relate to us as individuals rather than the elusive author. For example, many of my readers know that I have two granddaughters who have totally captured my heart. One reader has emailed me photos of her grandchildren because she knows I'll understand.
My precious little granddaughters Sophia and Emma

People who have read some of my Florida-set books know that they're authentic because that's where I live. One of my books, Sweet Baklava, has a bunch of Greek recipes in the back, and I hear from people who have tried them. Love Finds You in Treasure Island, Florida features a hero whose parents have age-related conditions, something my husband and I went through with his parents. I got a ton of email from readers who had gone through the same thing.

My Class Reunion series (Pretty Is as Pretty Does, Bless HerHeart, and Tickled Pink) is set in Mississippi where both of my parents were born and raised. The fictional town of Piney Point is next to the real city of Hattiesburg where I went to school at the University of Southern Mississippi. I've actually connected with some of my former college friends through those books.

Since no one can be everywhere all the time, I've narrowed down my focused promotion to what I can do in one to two hours per day – usually first thing in the morning. I do this to promote my books as well as some of my other writing, including my Etiquette page. When I'm feeling extra social, I go back to Facebook and Twitter to share my life with "friends" and followers.

My fan bases for all of my writing overlap. I've received emails from my fiction fans, stating that they've learned a lot from reading what I write about etiquette, and I've heard from readers letting me know that they've discovered my books. One reader even asked me to write a book about an etiquette expert. I just might do that in the future!

I think that the most important element of any author's platform is authenticity. Be yourself. If you try to do anything else, you'll wind up frustrated and exhausted.

Now I'd love to hear from other authors about their platforms. What do you consider most effective?

I hope everyone has a very happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 25, 2013


As I begin editing my fourth book, “The 10th Demon: Children of the Bloodstone” it is painfully obvious I will not get a chance to catch my breath from just completing the third book, “The 11th Demon: The Ark of Chaos” available within the next two weeks. After completing the edit on the third book I am now very much aware of the difficulty of maintaining consistency and continuity in a book series. I am far enough into the fourth book (and planning the fifth book) that I now cannot remember exactly what I have already revealed in the first three!

My daughter and I as Doctors from Doctor Who
In fact, my book series is much, much BIGGER ON THE INSIDE! I am a Whovian and if you have been paying attention at all to events going on in the world, then you may have been aware of a certain 50th anniversary of a certain science fiction television show that debuted the day after President Kennedy was assassinated. What? No, who?

Doctor Who, for the uninformed is about a space alien with two hearts who travels through time and space in his TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension In Space) camouflaged as a 1950’s British police call box. The box may seem small on the outside, about the size of a porta-potty (and, it is sad that the porta-potty is the only American object to compare with a blue police box!) but due to extra dimensions, it is BIGGER ON THE INSIDE. Sort of like those stretchy pants I buy that has an extra bit of elastic hidden in the belt line!

I was thinking about the bigger on the inside line, always uttered by the Doctor’s newest companion today as I watched the 50th anniversary special, The Day of the Doctor. (Yes, I am writing this on Nov. 23rd and I am dressed as the War Doctor, sonic screw driver and all!) The metaphor is apt to also describe the storytelling that goes into a television show that has lasted 50 years. Imagine trying to keep all of those story lines straight!

World building is an important part of every story. Sometimes, the building is made easier by the setting. I placed my books in a familiar city, at least familiar to me. But, there are other “dimensions” to my story that play very much outside the lines of ordinary reality. And, this is the challenge to every novelist. How do you keep your characters consistent? How do you maintain their “voice”, their actions, their personality? How do you keep their history and their plot lines straight? Here is what I do to keep my books from drifting too far out of their dimensions:

1 — Character sketches. I outline each major character before I begin writing. This is an exhaustive sketch if they are major characters. I usually identify an individual whose physical appearance is the model for my main character, whether ordinary friends and relatives or an actor. For instance, my original concept for my main character was a very strong, physically imposing and aggressive person. I have a good friend named John Steele. At one time, John and I worked out at the gym together before the demands of my second child ended my workout career but maintained the sanity of my wife! I decided to name my character closely after John Steele and each time I wrote about him, I would visualize my friend pumping iron or smashing a racquet ball. Thus, Jonathan Steel was born. And, I stayed with the name.

More than just this physical aspect, I outline each character’s history, personal experiences, flaws, strengths, etc. For my third book, “The 11th Demon: The Ark of Chaos”, I chose to write each scene from the first person point of view of each one of my six main characters. This forced me to develop their “voice” and to describe their physical movements and actions.

2 — Storylines. I choose a simple piece of legal paper turned in the portrait orientation and I begin to sketch out plot lines. Each line is a single plot development. Sometimes these plot lines do not extend to the end of the story. At other times, they intersect, merge, or diverge. By plotting these lines against a timeline, I can make sure that multiple story lines are occurring in the right pace, the right order, and I can make sure that bits and pieces of parallel story lines are foreshadowed in the others. There is nothing worse than putting a character in a dangerous situation and leaving him or her there for days and not giving the reader some hint as to what is going on behind the scenes. I know there are software programs that give you the tools to accomplish both #1 and #2, but I like to sketch it all out by hand.

3 — Physical mapping. I like to draw and I sketch out the layout of buildings, rooms, outdoor locations, and cities. My fifth book in my series, tentatively titled, “The 9th Demon: A Wicked Numinosity” is set in London, England. While on vacation there in 2009, I specifically sought out locations for the scenes in my story. I took exhaustive pictures of them and marked locations on physical maps. I made copious notes of the sights, sounds, smells, and other references for future writing. Some sights inspired entire passages in the story.

4 — Write About What You Know. I make sure I do my research on my subject matter. You can’t write a story set in a city if you know nothing about that city! Fortunately, the Internet has revolutionized our ability to research information and location. For instance, in my second book, “The Twelfth Demon” I wanted to set a scene on a lake in Romania at the foot of a mountain that looked like a fang. Did such a thing exist? I found video footage set on a lake near Transylvania. While watching the video of a boat cruising along the shore of that lake, what should show up in the background but the perfect mountain setting for my finale! I was able to pull up topographical maps from that region and satellite images from Google maps. Using the video footage I was able to describe the appearance of the mountain from the lake accurately and realistically!

These are just four suggestions on world building. By paying attention to these details and maintaining continuity and consistency through the narrative, a writer is able to create a book, AND a book series that is truly, BIGGER ON THE INSIDE!

What secrets can you share about building the worlds in which your stories are set?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Living a Life of Thankfulness

Let me introduce you to my newest great grandson, Holden Allen Andrews.

So often, we live in such a hurry that we don't have time for thankfulness. When that's true, we begin the have expectations of what others in our lives should do ... with us, for us, about us.

Expectation is the opposite of thankfulness.

It has taken me a number of years to move from living a life of expectations to living a life of thankfulness.

When a person walks with the Lord daily and understands that God has plans for his or her life, plans that make a difference in the world around them, thankfulness is a natural outgrowth. It didn't come quickly or easily to my life, but my life is better for it.

I'm thankful that God created me with specific talents and abilities He planned to use at different seasons in my life. I'm thankful that He loved me enough to send His Son to the cross to make a way for His Father and me to have a deep connection that brings great delight into my life.

I'm thankful for the family He placed me in, both as a child and then as an adult. For the precious children He blessed James and I with. For the amazing grandchildren who are now living for Him. For the two great grandsons who bring abundant joy into our lives. Just think about the Christian legacy that will touch generations just because the Lord created and loved me.

Today, I'm thankful for central heat on this cold, damp day in Texas. For a snug house and vehicles to keep us out of the weather.

I'm thankful for writing industry professionals who recognized the talent God placed in me and chose to publish my books. For my amazing agent. And for my readers who encourage me and love me, not just my books.

I could spend the whole day enumerating things I'm thankful for. I don't have to search for them. Their presence gives special meaning to my life.

In this season of Thanksgiving, I pray that you take the time to actually give thanks in the midst of the fabulous food, family gatherings, parades, and football games.

So tell me what you're most thankful for this year.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

What I've Learned Since Publication

Now that would fill a book. With the help of a good editor, my writing is improving, and that is a great feeling, but I never realized the work that went on behind the scenes of a book on the part of the author. Proposals were written, contracts offered, contract signed, deadline set and manuscript finished. That was it.

Then it actually happened, and all the things I’d heard others talk about with no idea what they meant came to pass. All the steps previously mentioned took place and I breathed a sigh of relief. Then my manuscript went to the first editor who read for content, continuity, and clarity. The manuscript came back with comments that lead to revisions and rewriting portions of a manuscript I loved just as it was. Then I see how much better it can be, so rewriting and revision passes back and forth.

Finally the manuscript is submitted to the copy editor who now checks for GUM. Not the kind you chew, but the grammar, usage, and mechanics of the story. This can go either way with a long list of questions and corrections or with a few brief comments and questions about certain areas.

Whew. I’m finished. Not so fast. Now the galley proof comes, and it must be read word by word. No skimming here because I know the story. Yikes, where did all those corrections and changes I have to make come from?

When that feat is accomplished, I breathe another sigh of relief and sit back to wait for the books to arrive. Then I hear about marketing and promotion. What! I have to get out and promote that book so people will buy it so I can earn back the advance? Well, they know me, so they’ll buy it. Hmm, I don’t have that many friends in the world.

So now it’s the task of seeking out blogs for guest spots, setting up tweets and spots on Facebook, and all that other social media. I pass out bookmarks and mail postcards, visit bookstores to ask about book signings, write guest blogs as well as my own and offer free books, and seek out speaking opportunities where I can pitch my books and sell them.

Egads! I have another deadline to meet. How do I find time to promote and write? I’m still trying to find the answers to that little question. I have to get organized and get all my ducks in a row. It’s finally beginning to sink in, so maybe I’m going to make it in this world of writing and publishing after all.

How do you balance your time and take care of all the business that comes with writing? 

I'm giving away a copy of Love Stays True, my latest release, to some lucky reader who comments and answers the question. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Unique Book Club Experience

Beth’s article reminded me of a unique book club experience I had recently. It wasn’t a group signing, just one of my own. I was invited to be the guest author at a book club that consisted of a group of women who lived on local farms and ranches. The women had been meeting for many years faithfully—one of the members even kept minutes of each meeting and recorded every book they had studied.

The drive to the meeting was interesting. It took my wife and I far out into the country, along winding roads and down into a deep river valley. Cattle roamed the pastureland freely and posed a hazard, especially as the sun began to set and we realized the cattle were Black Angus!

During the drive, I thought to myself: What kind of book club experience will this be, way out in the middle of nowhere? How many will attend? Well, it turned out to be a wonderful experience, with all but one member in attendance. They were exceptionally cordial and complimentary, and even asked me to pose for pictures with them afterward. But the biggest surprise of all was as my wife and I were preparing to leave, the book club members handed me an envelope. It contained a $50 gift card.

I’ve attended several book clubs in the past, but I’ve never been given a gift before. Just the opportunity to speak to book clubs about my books was gift enough. But this kind, isolated group went the extra mile. They even invited me to come back again so they can discuss my second book. I’m going to take them up on it!

Have any of you had an unexpected experience at a book signing?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Book Signings

      I had a great time at the Author Fair this weekend. A group of us were asked to participate and I was honored to be a part of this great event. A part of the proceeds were donated to the Library and many if us donated one of our books to the library. There was a wide variety of genres which made it all the more interesting. My husband, daughter and son stopped by as well as friends and author friends. I like being part of a group at signings so you can meet other authors as well as readers. This group was one of the best I've been to and I hope to be a part of it again next year.

Question: Do you like your own book signings or do you like a group signing?

Friday, November 8, 2013

Some of My Favorite Blogs

As most writers do, I love information about a wide variety of things. In addition to faith, my interests range from fitness and healthy eating to fashion and writing, so I read blogs everyday while I enjoy my morning coffee. Remember that blogs come and go, so always be on the lookout for a new one to replace any that disappear.

Here are some of my favorite blogs:
  • Steve Laube – All of the agents with the Steve Laube Literary Agency take turns writing blog posts that can benefit all writers. My agent, Tamela Hancock Murray, is with this agency.
  • Women of Faith – Various bloggers share their faith, lives, and experiences with truth and a touch of humor.
  • A Christian Writer's World - One of my fellow Charisma House authors Lena Nelson Dooley interviews authors. This is a great way to discover authors you don't already know.
  • Fit Mom's Blog – Although I'm a grandmother who can't do half the things this blogger writes about, I enjoy reading it and being inspired to stay fit.
  • My Revolution Bootcamp – Here you'll get some quick and doable tips to stay fit.
  • Living Better 50 – Read blog posts by and for "mature" women of faith.
  • Friendship – friendship expert Cherie Burbach offers interesting insight and tips for friends.
  • Seekerville – A group of Christian authors and guests share their experiences in the writing world.
  • YumYucky – Get some great recipes from this healthy food blog.
  • Gluten-Free Goddess – You'll find more recipes, only these are all gluten free and absolutely delicious.
  • Fashionable Over 50 – This blog shows that fashion isn't just about what you wear; it's how you wear it and how you feel when you're wearing it.
  • No-Nonsense Beauty Blog – Get some great tips on how to look your best.
  • Rachelle Gardner – Another agent who blogs is willing to offer frequent tips and inside information about the publishing world.
  • Novel Rocket – Enjoy this blog by, about, and for Christian writers.
  • About Words – Be the first to learn about new words that have been added to the dictionary. Some people might not understand the value of this blog, but wordies will get a kick out of it.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

To Be or To Have Been -- POV and Tense

I recently received an email asking about the upcoming release of my next book “The 11th Demon: The Ark of Chaos” (Hopefully Nov. 20!) and in the email this fellow author was devastated that his agent had not been able to get his book picked up because of two reasons. He had written the book from three different points of view (POV) and in the present tense. Let’s review those two staples of narration: POV and Tense.


1 — First Person POV

The story is relayed by the narrator, usually the main character in the story. This person is always within the story itself and presents the story from a very personal POV. The advantage is the intimacy with the character’s thoughts and feelings conveyed to the reader. The disadvantage is events take place away from this person’s presence and cannot be experienced in real time.

2 — Second Person POV

This is the rarest mode of narrative. The narrator refers to the reader as “you”. The advantage is the reader feels as if they are in the story.

3 — Third Person POV

This is the most flexible form of narrative. It is the most commonly used form of POV. Each character is referred to by pronouns. The narrator is an uninvolved person conveying the story and is not a character in the story. Third person singular is the most common form of this POV. 
Within this POV there are two “axes”.

The first is the subjective/objective narrative. The subjective mode describes one character’s feelings and thoughts. The objective mode does not describe feelings and thoughts and it less “personal” for the reader.

The second is the omniscient/limited axis. The omniscient narrator has knowledge of all times, people, places, and things. All thoughts and feelings are known. However, the limited axis confines the POV to a focal character who cannot know the thoughts of other characters.

4 — Alternating POV

This form of POV is very challenging. It is an alternating narration between two POVs. It takes a very deft hand at writing to make this work.


Past tense
The author writes as if reviewing events that have just occurred.

Present tense
The author writes events in “real time” as they are actively occurring.
Here is my personal bias. I love reading first person POV when the character is interesting and engaging. This is the method most used in mystery and detective novels. The main character is often the detective who is conflicted, flawed, and emotionally distant. His/her angst drives the narrative forward. But, as noted above, it is confining to write in this voice. In my previous two Jonathan Steel Chronicles novels, I chose to write in third person limited POV. However, as an exercise in discovery, I wrote my upcoming novel in first person POV from six different POVs.

Now, that was a challenge! How do you know whose head you are in? How do you keep the reader from being confused? I chose to start each section with the name of the person’s POV in the following scenes. It worked very well and test readers of this book loved the intimacy involved.

I chose this exercise in order to familiarize myself with my characters. By writing in first person POV, I was forced to find a voice for each character. This voice was not only the external sound of the person’s literal voice, but it was an exploration of the person’s thoughts; their inner monologue. I chose to write this book years ago as an exercise for National Novel Writing Month (and, for those who read this blog who are yet to be published, Nanwrimo is a must!). When I was approached by Charisma for my initial book contract, I was asked to make this short and basically fun book part of the “mythos” of the story arc. It took some time but “The 11th Demon: The Ark of Chaos” is an interesting use of multiple first person POVs.

My first two books and the next book, the fourth in the series, will return to the third person POV. Now, however, by living inside the heads of my six main characters, I can better understand their thoughts and feelings. I can better speak for them in the dialogue.

As to TENSE, I write all of my books in past tense. One of my favorite book series was ruined for me when the author, out of boredom she admitted, chose to write all subsequent books in present tense. I just can’t read them! I can’t read an entire book in present tense. But, having said this, in my upcoming book at the suggestion of my editor, I wrote all of the flashback scenes of my demon character in present tense! I violated my own standard.

So, my upcoming book has first person POV from multiple character’s POVs and is a mixture of past and present tense! Wow! I hope it works. The advice I gave to my friend in the email is to stick to what is the most common form of narrative until you get a contract. Stay with third person or first person POV and past tense. These are the easiest narratives to read and as we all know, writing becomes a business when you move into publishing. And, as a business it becomes all about the number of books you can sell to your readers. If readers are turned off by your style, they won’t buy your books. I never bought another book in that series I mentioned above. I check every new book written in that series when it comes out and if it is still in present tense, I won’t buy it and read it. So far, the author hasn’t changed writing style.

How about the authors in this blog? How do you feel about POV and Tense for your works? How daring will you be with your style?

Monday, November 4, 2013


November is a very busy month in the Dooley family. I love the Thanksgiving holiday, and that's coming up in two and half weeks.

Four members of our immediate family have birthday this month. One son-in-law, one granddaughter, one grandson, and me.

And Thursday will be James' and my 49th anniversary.

The most exciting thing that probably will happen this week is the birth of our second great grandchild. Our oldest granddaughter and her husband are a very sweet couple. We're really proud of them. Although they're in their very early 20s, they've already had a house built and now await their first child, who's actually due on our anniversary. I don't think she'll make it that long. Every member of the family is excited awaiting the arrival.

Because of all the excitement, I'm in a giving mood. So I will give away a free book on the blog this week.

Here are my Christmas ebooks. The winner can choose one of them:

Christmas Confusion is a contemporary story set in Montana.

No Thank You is a contemporary story set at Lake Tahoe, Nevada.

24 Christmases is a collection of short stories and one play that I've written over the years since God told me to become a professional writer.

The Best Medicine is set in the early 1900s in Colorado.

Charlsey's Accountant is set in the 1892 in Texas.

I love reading Christmas stories. Do you? What are some of your favorite Christmas books?

Friday, November 1, 2013


I love the sound of wind chimes. As soon as I'm relatively certain that it won't snow again (usually about mid-May here in Wisconsin), I hang up my wind chimes outside. I love hearing them catch the breezes all summer long. But I especially enjoy hearing wind chimes in the fall. 

Perhaps it's because the trees have lost their leaves that the wind chimes sound louder, clearer, and, at nighttime, even haunting, but they do.

In my story Broken Things (Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas), I have one of my four main characters, Jack Callahan, hearing someone's wind chimes off in the distance as he walks to his car. Wind chimes, to me, are so indicative of the season -- perhaps as much as the turning leaves -- and Broken Things begins in the fall of 1999. 

Book Origins

The story was first published in 2003 by Barbour Publishing. Years later, it went out of print and, with the rights mine again, I decided to update, revise, and correct any editorial oversights in the original copy before reprinting it.

However, I realized through trial and error that I couldn't self-publish and still get the professional copy I desired. The problem was solved when publisher Eddie Jones at Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas took care of the reprint side of things. The updated version of Broken Things is now available in ebook and traditional  print formats

I'm pleased with the finished product. Here's a blurb...

An old photograph prompts Allison Drake Littenberg to return to Chicago to mend fences with family members and friends, particularly Jack Callahan, the handsome cop she left back in 1969. Now, 30 years later, Jack is bitter from bad decisions and a nasty divorce. Even so, Allie prays that God will use her own broken past to touch his life – and the life of a dying, abused, and disheartened woman who, Allie realizes, is the key to unlocking answers to decades of questions.

Can she reach them both? Will God use her to successfully open Jack’s deadbolted heart? 
*      *     *

Broken Things can be purchased online via Click here for details.