Friday, December 2, 2016

Five Ways to Spring Clean Your Amazon Author Page

This Top Post of 2016 first published on March 29.

So, you have a book or multiple books on Amazon, eh? Great! You’ve probably taken time to head over to the Author Central page on Amazon to give readers some information about yourself.

And after you did that…

…you might have worried more about checking your book rankings on Amazon than providing a little feng shui to your author space.


If so, worry not, for below, you’ll find five ways to help you spruce up your author page!

#1 - An image can be worth a thousand words. The first thing readers see when they land on your author page is your face. Think about the personality you want to convey to your reader and change your image periodically to reflect that personality.

#2 - Well, hello, my name is… Just as your life changes, your bio should change. It’s your HELLO, your WELCOME, your INTRODUCTION to your reader, so it should pop. It doesn’t hurt to do a quarterly check on your bio, cutting descriptions that might detract a reader, adding information that reveals your awesome personality, changing the tone of the bio depending on where your writing career is currently, etc.

#3 - When in doubt, blog it out. If you keep an active blog, link it to your author page. This is a great way to make your author page a catch-all: a place not only to purchase your books but also to keep up on what’s going on in your personal and writing lives.

#4 - Give ’em something to talk about. Do you have trailers for your books? Do you have video of book signings, events, interviews? Do you have great pictures of you with your readers? Add those images and videos to your author page to add layers of cool information for readers to dig into and learn more about you and your product(s).

#5 - Sharing is caring. When you update your author page, share the link with your readers: add it to your e-mail signature and newsletter, and let your friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter know about the page, too.

Every home should be a space people feel comfortable in, want to return to. Your Amazon Author page is no exception. Spring clean your space and invite your readers to the goodies you leave for them!


How often do your update your author page on Amazon? How important do you find updating your author page?


Creative Passionista Shon Bacon is an author, editor, and educator whose biggest joys are writing and helping others develop their craft. You can learn more about Shon's writings at her author website.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Happy Holy Days and More

Words are so powerful. Last year, with all the debate around Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays... I came up with a series of these memes. I'm fairly certain we can all find the sacred in the season, and within the context of our own story.

Photo credit: Dani Greer 

As we do every December, we'll share some of our previous posts, and this year, you'll get another chance to read the Best of 2016. It was a good year for us, and we hope you'll join us here in 2017. Happy holy days!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Writing as Therapy

One of our themes this of this month’s blog is gratitude. It’s been a tough month for some of us, maybe all of us. The contentious election of 2016 put friends against friends, and family members against each other. It has been one of my biggest distractions for the last year, and now that it’s over, I’ve decided to stop watching TV news. I haven’t since November 8th. The vacancy it left got me back to reading, binge watching TV series like Poldark, which I’m loving, and writing. It also made me think of why I started to write in the first place.

It was during a difficult time in my life. I was stressed and upset, over what doesn’t matter. We’ve all had those times; they keep popping up like a summer cold. I read a suspense novel that I thought was rather poorly written, both in execution and plot. I’m no great writing critic, but I know what I like, what keeps me riveted. This book left me thinking, for some ungodly reason, that I could do better. I’d never written anything other than silly poems or fashion copy for ads I used to draw for stores in Boston when that was my profession a lifetime ago.

I had a plot idea and started writing, having no plan, no outline. When I finished, I thought it was a pretty good story, but I knew I needed an editor. I didn’t know what I didn’t know, but at least I knew it. I found a man online, we chatted. I thought he was quite the character, and it turned out he was. I got his prices and sent him the manuscript. He emailed me after reading forty-nine pages and said the plot was great; the writing needed work.

Well, yeah, that’s why I sent it to you, I wanted to say but didn’t.

His edit was great, a primer on how to write a sentence, eliminating all the extraneous garbage. I felt like I had taken a college class.

Not to go further with the book or the editor but to the reason I started writing in the first place. Entering into a fantasy world took me out of my own world, which, as I said, was not a happy place to be at that time. My story became my other life, and I’ll always be grateful for that. I loved being someone else for those writing hours, because that’s how I did it. I became my heroine and my hero, my villain and the supporting players. I enjoyed the process so much, that I kept writing my stories after I finished that book, creating other stories, each different from the one before.

As situations always change, I got past my dark period and found a new love: writing. The book I started at that time was Threads.
Not surprisingly, it’s a dark story, but it has a moral: no matter how dark life gets, no matter if everyone else is in the sun and the rain follows every step you take, life situations do change. Though I wrote that book first, it was one of the last I published. I always felt it was unfinished, but I didn’t know why. It turned out it was the structure, because the story goes back and forth, alternating the time frame, and I couldn’t write it in a way that made sense. Finally, I thought I got it right.

Finding a passion, an outlet, is an important factor in taking charge and making whatever that passion is work for you. It could be writing, as it was for me, or music or art or acting or reading. It could be activism or volunteering or even politics. The point is to keep your mind occupied, seek out a different interest―something that challenges you. Even if you’re not in a dark period, it’s exciting to take a different path to keep you energized. Whatever you choose, do it for yourself. Learning something new is the best reward for a lazy brain.


Polly Iyer is the author of seven novels: standalones Hooked, InSight, Murder Déjà Vu, Threads, and three books in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, Mind Games, Goddess of the Moon, and Backlash. A Massachusetts native, she makes her home in the beautiful Piedmont region of South Carolina. You can visit her website for more on Polly and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Friday, November 25, 2016

#FridayReads The ComPanion by S.K. Randolph

My introduction to “otherworldly” entertainment came in the form of a western science fiction serial in the mid-1940s. The Phantom Empire, filmed in the 30s and starring Gene Autry, played Saturday afternoons at our local theater. Then Star Trek premiered in the fall of 1966. During the 20-year lapse between Autry and Captain Kirk and for decades thereafter, however, I never stepped over the line into the exciting world of fantasy.

That changed a few years ago when I began reading S.K. Randolph’s novel, The DiMensioner’s Revenge. This first book of The Unfolding Trilogy gripped my attention by the end of the prologue and held it all the way to the last page. Volumes 2 and 3—The ConDra’s Fire and The MasTer’s Reach—continued the adventure, and tension mounted as good and evil battled across the galaxy. The ending of the third volume—stunning as it was—left me hoping that, somehow and in some form, the series would continue. Then I received an advance copy of The ComPanion. My hope had not been in vain.

The Unfolding Trilogy details the battle to save Myrrh, the last remnant of old Earth, and protect the balance of power in the Inner Universe. No longer concealed from interplanetary forces that seek its demise and their rise to galactic rule, Myrrh’s continued existence—as well as that of Thera—lies in the outcome of that life-and-death struggle. A compilation of 10 novelettes (12,000 – 17,000 words each) and 1 novella (an epilogue of 24,684 words), The ComPanion allows readers a revealing peek into the pasts of the trilogy’s primary players and shares details of events that brought them face-to-face with The Unfolding. In addition, it includes an appendix that expounds on the planets, solar system, and family trees, as well as a glossary that defines numerous words specific to the incredible world created by S.K. Randolph.

Let me share three examples from The ComPanion's shorts.



  The door opened with a whisper. The Galactic Guardian responsible for overseeing her training walked into the room. “Hello, Almiralyn.”
  “Good turning, Chealim.”
  His expression grew somber. “I have some disturbing news.”
  Her brows arched. “News?”
  “The Mocendi League has begun a search for you. You hold the keys to The Unfolding, to the maturing of the entire Inner Universe. You must remain attentive at all times.”
  A kiss brushed her forehead. Light flared. The Galactic Guardian vanished.


  “What the . . .” Wolloh stared at his surroundings—dirt and cobwebs, musty old hay, the tumble of boards that made up the remains of an ancient shed had replaced the cottage... the cottage he had fallen asleep in.
  Rain dripped from overhead. Wind found its way through every crack and cranny. “Velar?”
  The lack of answer sent a shiver up his spine. Was last night a dream? He glanced at his pack . . . A small book with a tattered, scarlet cover rested next to it. The title, The Art of DiMensionery and The Order of Esprow, was etched in gold. Wolloh glanced around the interior of the shack. Last night . . . Velar was here. He looked back at the book. He left this for me.


  Clawed talons clicked a rhythmic cadence on the ice-black floor, then ceased. Abarax studied him, its cherubic features inscrutable. Seeming satisfied with what it saw, it passed him a document with The MasTer’s seal imprinted on the folded edge.
  Relevart flipped the document over and read the words scripted there. For Rethdun’s Eyes Only. He glanced at the Astican. “Thank you, Abarax.”
  It bowed and left.
  He pressed his thumb to the seal and whispered, “Dubinn Stersec.”
  The document fell open . . . A careful study of the contents left his brow furrowed and his thoughts in a whirlwind. Laying the document on the table, he steepled his fingers and tapped his chin. “My, my, dear Rayn, what a conundrum you have created.”

In the beginning, I imagined the trilogy would reach out mostly to young adult fantasy fans. To the contrary, it is proving ageless in its appeal. Whether readers are 9, 90, or anywhere in between, it pulls them into its stories. Then I received The ComPanion and pored over its revelations. Curiosities that had arisen while reading the three novels were satisfied. Unique words coined to fit the story took on new power as I learned their full meanings and derivations. Characters, already robust and well-rounded in the trilogy, stepped off the pages to share the triumphs and tragedies that made them who they were. Ideally, readers should use The ComPanion as a tool, an accompaniment to each volume of the trilogy, a reference for both main characters and the original vocabulary describing inhabitants and locales of the Inner Universe.

I highly recommend The ComPanion, as well as the trilogy, to all who love great stories with strong, diverse characters and compelling plots. You will not be disappointed. All the books, including The ComPanion, are available on Amazon.

~ Edited and Reviewed by Linda Lane. This series of books introduced me to the fascinating world of fantasy, a place I had never before visited. I was enthralled.

Author S.K. Randolph grew up in Bermuda, where from an early age she channeled her creative talents into ballet. Her career in dance spanned forty years and took her from performing to teaching, choreographing, and directing, including as Director of Dance at Interlochen Center for the Arts.

She now lives with her partner on a boat home ported in Sitka, Alaska, and spends her time writing and creating digital art. Together, they explore the waters of southeast Alaska and in the words of Thoreau, strive “to live deliberately.”

For information regarding The UnFolding Series, visit SKRandolph.com and S.K. Randolph on FaceBook

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Grateful for Great Courses

In a month of gratitude, I want to put a shout out to all those who help other writers become better at their craft so they can continue to feed my book addiction.

My motto has always been: Life is Too Short for Bad Fiction.

You can see my own contributions (the Story Building Blocks series) to this effort on my website.

I love looking through the Great Courses Catalog that comes through the mail. A long string of classes on DVDs and books line our shelves. You can learn everything from history, mathematics, and science to the humanities all in the comfort of your living room, office, or car, via DVD player or downloads onto your PC.

Years ago I found the course Building Great Sentences by Brooks Landon . It changed my writing forever. I vaguely remembered diagramming sentences in high school, but this course turned language into building blocks that are as colorful and versatile as LEGO®s.

As if reading my mind that writers needed more master classes in writing, a course was added by one of my favorite conference attendees, Jane Friedman. If you have been hiding in a cave and don't know who she is, I suggest a visit to her website. She is a great friend to writers everywhere.

I was thrilled to find she was asked to create a Great Course for writers on How to Publish Your Book.

To my delight, I found additional writing courses in my November issue:

1Writing Great Fiction: Story Telling Tips and Techniques by James Hynes, Novelist and Writing Instructor.

2Analysis and Critique: How to Engage and Write about Anything by Professor Dorsey Armstrong, Ph.D. Purdue University.

3The Secrets of Great Mystery and Suspense Fiction by David Schmid, Ph.D.
University at Buffalo, The State University of New York.

4How Great Science Fiction Works by Professor Gary K. Wolfe, Ph.D.

5. Redefining Reality: The Intellectual Implications of Modern Science by Professor Steven Gimbel, Ph.D. Gettysburg College

6. Masterpieces of Short Fiction by Professor Michael Krasny, Ph.D., San Francisco State University.

The list prices for the courses are rather high for struggling authors. But there are frequent sales with up to 70% off. Some are also sold in sets. Share them with your writing pals or critique group if you have one. Perhaps you could all chip in together.

You can order via the catalog order form, by phone, or online.

Also check your local library, it is possible a course has been donated.

I cannot recommend these courses highly enough, especially for those going it alone that can't find local resources for master classes. There are too few! Most conferences cater to beginning writers. The more you learn about your craft, the better your writing will be.





Diana Hurwitz is the author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit DianaHurwitz.com for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Friday, November 18, 2016

#FridayReads Author In Progress

It was quite a delight to win one of the ARCs for Author In Progress by Therese Walsh, Editor & the Writer Unboxed Community. If you are not familiar with the Writer Unboxed Blog, you might want to hop over there, when you are finished here, and spend some time reading the wonderful posts. I found that community a number of years ago when one of my writing friends had written a guest post there. While I was at the site,  I read a few of the other posts, and immediately subscribed to the blog. Every day there is a new bit of writing advice and wisdom and inspiration, and the writers who share so freely on the blog have contributed to the book.

The book is organized in such a way as to take a writer from the very beginning of a journey of words through to the end. Part One is Prepare, with an opening essay by Barbara O'Neal, Why We Write. She says, "Story is why writers exist, and story is why you are driven to the page. In a world so overwhelmed with everyday trivialities, we need writers more than ever to sift substance from the noise, to make sense of a chaotic world."

That certainly is why I first started writing, and in many ways why I continue. Whenever I have to process the things that are happening in the world and how they affect my life, I  have always done that by putting pen to paper or finger to keyboard.

Part Two is Write, with practical advice on elements of craft from creating characters, establishing setting, and a great piece from Jo Eberhardt on empowering ourselves by owning the badge "writer."

The rest of the book is divided into the following sections:
  • Part Three- Invite
  • Part Four - Improve
  • Part Five - Rewrite
  • Part Six - Persevere
  • Part Seven- Release
As I read the book I marked so many passages I wanted to quote that I soon realized I could compile a whole new book of quotes. There is not room here on a blog to include them all. However, there were a few that particularly resonated with me.

In several places throughout the book is a section called Community Conversations, where the online Writer Unboxed community weighs in on a topic. Readers are able to connect with that community online using a password provided in the book, and I thought that was a terrific idea. The comments left at the blog are often full of little nuggets of wisdom, and the Community Conversations offer such nuggets. Commenting about "voice" Robin LaFevers shares, "Your unique story becomes your novel's secret ingredient. Voice embodies an author's core emotional truths and personal wisdom. Take time to learn your core truths."

And, in a Conversation about why we write, Robin shares, "The act of creating changes us and makes us stronger, draws us closer to wholeness."

What a nice way of voicing that something deep inside all of us who write that we often find so hard to describe. It is indeed why we keep writing despite all the downsides of this wacky business.

The design and layout of the book make it easy to read a few pages while taking a break from writing, or while waiting in a doctor's office for an appointment. There are Pro Tips, short quotable tips that pertain to the topic of the current article, as well as Caution Signs by Bill  Ferris.

There is actually a little caution sign graphic with a short bit of advice under the headline How to Get in Your Own Way. This one followed the essay about research and how much is too much. "Research is like author time travel. You pause writing for just a sec while you look up the average weight of an American black bear. Suddenly it's an hour later and you're reading the Wikipedia page on PT Barnum."

Oh my gosh. How many times have you done that?

There are so many more things to love about this book, and I will keep it handy, right next to Bird by Bird: Some Instruction on Writing and Life  by Anne Lamott, to pick up and re-read sections until the pages almost wear thin. I found the articles on craft so helpful, and was inspired throughout by the encouraging tone of each essay. Even a beginning writer will feel welcomed into a community of supportive professionals who treat newcomers as kindly as old friends.

Ever since I started reading the Writer Unboxed Blog, I wondered exactly what it means to be Unboxed. The simple answer might be that we can be a writer who  stretches the bounds of genre and stretches the bounds of expectations. However, I found this explanation by agent, Donald Maassa more complete answer: "Readers aren't moved by what has moved them before, only by how you can move them in new ways now. They want familiar ideas put together in fresh ways. They want to feel like they're in on the joke even though they haven't heard the joke before. That high-wire balance is possible when it is a balance you hold within yourself. To be unboxed is to dwell in an in-between place and be happy there."

I think, "happy" is the key. If we are happy with what we are doing, that will show in our stories.

ABOUT THE EDITOR

Therese Walsh is the co-founder and Editorial Director of Writer Unboxed. Her debut novel, The Last Will of Moira Leahy, was nominated for a RITA award for Best First Book, and was a TARGET Breakout Book. Her second novel, The Moon Sisters, was named one of the Best Books of the year by Library Journal, and received starred reviews from Booklist and Library Journal.

One of the contributors to the blog and to  Author in Progress is Kathryn Craft, a former contributor here at The Blood-Red Pencil and the author of The Art of Falling and The Far End of Happy. 

Author in Progress is published by Writers' Digest and is available in paperback and Kindle versions.
Posted by Maryann Miller - novelist, editor and sometimes actress. Her most recent mystery, Doubletake, was named the 2015 Best Mystery by the Texas Association of Authors. She has a number of other books published, including the critically-acclaimed Season Series that debuted with Open Season. Information about her books and her editing rates is available on her website. When not writing, Maryann likes to take her dog for a walk and work outside on her little ranch in East Texas.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Taking Sides


Good morning, duckies! As we know, one of the important aspects of style is movement; the drape, line, and flow of a particular piece. The term also has more serious connotations. It conjures up visions of heated debates, yard signs, and letters to officials.

There is such a movement underway now. It has staunch supporters and ardent opposition, and has inspired many people to duck their heads and wait for it to blow over.

I am speaking, of course, about the Oxford comma.

In the writing and editing world, the Oxford, or serial, comma is a polarizing agent. Clever memes and profanity-laced dismissals abound on both sides of the argument. As with the topic of mixing polka dots with plaid, one must tread lightly. Adherents for or against are rarely swayed by shouting and insults. Indeed, even logic fails to prevail at times.

The CMOS states plainly that, “When a conjunction joins the last two elements in a series of three or more, a comma … should appear before the conjunction.”

While your Maven agrees with this directive, others are calling not only for the retirement of the Oxford comma, but for the possible scrapping of the CMOS itself. Horrors!

On the other hand, as our society evolves and grows, so must our language. I delight in my little black cocktail dress, but I would surely shudder at the thought of being strapped into a corset and crinolines on a daily basis. A touch of nostalgia is fine, but a backward movement advances no one. 


The Style Maven has been in a state of knitter's stasis, watching roses bloom in November and wondering if it will be necessary to cast on for all things warm. She spends her spare time drinking coffee and dismantling the trees that insist on falling on her roof.

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