Monday, October 20, 2014

The Chicken Story

When she was around four, my granddaughter Ellie once stayed with me for a weekend while her parents were off gallivanting. What a great time we had! Ellie is into making up stories, so my grandmotherly ambitions went soaring – another writer in the family! She told me her stories while I scribbled them down. We wrote quite a few about Rapunzel, Tinkerbell, MuLan, and other heroines. (My favorite was the one in which Rapunzel went to San Francisco to buy a pretty dress and finally have her hair cut, leaving the Prince behind.)

We also wrote a “round robin” story in which Ellie told a piece of a story, then I told a piece, then Ellie, then me, and so on. We called it “The Chicken Story” and here it is:

Ellie: The chicken went to the park and he slid on a bumpy slide.

Grandma: Then he fell off the slide and hit his head on the ground at the end of the slide.

Ellie: Then he goes on a tire swing, and he fell off and he bumped his head again.

Grandma: The chicken said, “This park is too dangerous, maybe I should go home.”

Ellie: No, he said “I’m going to find another park.” But then he was hungry, so he said, “I’ll go home and have lunch.”

Grandma: But when he got home, there was no food to eat. He said to his mom, “Where is all my food?”

Ellie: His mom said, “We ate it all up. So the chicken said, “Okay I’ll wait while you go to the grocery store.” But then he remembered he was a big chicken and could go to the grocery store himself. So he did.

Grandma: At the grocery store, the chicken looked at all the food. He couldn’t decide what to buy, there was so much.

Ellie: He waited too long in the aisle and then everybody else bought up all the food, and then there was none left.

Grandma: So the chicken thought, “Maybe I can go outside and see if there’s any chicken food I can peck up. He went to the parking lot to find food.

Ellie: Some kid spilled his McDonalds french fries in the parking lot so the chicken ate them. They were good. Now the story is all done.

Kim Pearson is an author, ghostwriter, and owner of Primary Sources, a writing service that helps others become authors of professional and compelling books and articles. She has authored 8 books of her own, and ghostwritten more than 40 non-fiction books and memoirs. To learn more about her books or services, visit

Friday, October 17, 2014

A Place At the Table

There has been a lot of talk on one of my writers’ loops about the disrespect given to self-published and small-press authors. Are they good enough to be included in one of the big writers’ organizations? That organization just sent out a questionnaire to its members to ask for their opinions. I gave up my membership in that group a while back because, as a self-published author, they didn’t support me, so why should I support them with my hard-earned money?

If self-published authors are to be included in these organizations as “active” members, then by what criteria? Should we be accepted on the basis of how much money we’ve earned? And if that doesn’t guarantee acceptance, what does? How about the quality or quantity of our work? Who is to judge which writers are acceptable and which are not? What about rankings or reviews on sales outlets? Should that be a method of evaluation? By what calculus should we be judged?

I have two friends, one self-published and one published by a small press, who were bluntly rejected to guest on a writers’ blog because my friends weren’t “traditionally” published, which by the bloggers’ standards meant published by a major publisher. Both friends are avid readers, supporters, and blogging hosts, and both were embarrassed and hurt by the put-down. I understand bloggers want to draw in readers by hosting big name authors, but we all know the big guys. We want to learn about good writers we haven’t heard about. Not too long ago the same writers making these judgments were searching for publication acceptance themselves.

That’s not the only example of the caste system snobbery within the writing community. Self-published authors want an even playing field. A seat at the table, so to speak. The possibility of representation on the panels of major conferences. How that’s decided is up to the organizations who host these conferences, but how long can they pretend that so many good self-published and small-press authors don’t exist?

I recently attended a conference where I was barred to be on a panel. I witnessed first-time authors participate while I, who at the time had six well-received and highly ranked books, could not. I knew this before I went, so I accepted it.

But it’s wrong.

The insult is that “traditionally published” authors aren’t held to the same standards we are. I understand that bestselling authors bring more money to the publishers’ coffers. They’ve worked hard and earned their places. Many self-pubbed authors are also writing terrific books and making tons of money. They’ve been great advocates for the rest of us. We appreciate them and hope more of us join their ranks. But when will we have a seat on a panel at a big writers’ convention? When will we be considered “real” authors?

If I wrote the same books for a big publisher, would my books be any better? Some would argue that they would. They’d say I’d have first rate editing and outstanding covers. I admit that at the beginning of my writing career, I made mistakes, but I and others learned quickly what we needed to do. We hired editors and cover designers. Even books edited and published by The Big Five have glaring mistakes and typos. I’ve seen them, and so have you. As for covers, the books represented in the collage on this page are all self-published books. I think they look pretty darn good.

A friend went to a romance conference this past weekend in Atlanta, Moonlight and Magnolias, and told me that three of the eight category winners were self-published. Romance seems to be ahead of the curve. Three cheers to RWA. I may even renew my membership.

Are there some bad indie books? Yes, but we’re working harder and getting better collectively all the time. In all fairness, there are some less than great books in the traditionally published market too. I forecast that a self-published author will win a prestigious award in the near future, and more will follow. There have already been a few indie writers nominated. I hope I’m there to cheer their win.

Stay tuned.

Polly Iyer is the author of six novels: standalones Hooked, InSight, Murder Déjà Vu, Threads, and two books in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, Mind Games and Goddess of the Moon. 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.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Alright Already?

First, a  quick followup to my last post about pre-orders, and Windswept Danger.
Since someone near and dear to me was recently diagnosed with MS, I'm donating ALL royalties from pre-orders of the book to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Pre-order price of 99 cents, a $3 savings, is good through Oct 26th. You can find buy links here.

And now, on to your regularly scheduled posting.

Language, as everything else, is constantly changing. But what constitutes a legitimate change? When does something that was previously "wrong" become acceptable?

Back in the Dark Ages, when I was in school, we were taught that already was an adverb that had to do with time. "When I got to the mall (although there were no malls back in those Dark Ages of my school years), Mary was already there."

This was not to be confused with all ready, which means that everyone was prepared, or someone was completely prepared.

Likewise, there's altogether and all together, which have different meanings as well. Altogether means wholly, or entirely, whereas all together means everyone was in a group. (This omits the idiomatic use of altogether, meaning nude, and I'm not going there with this group.)

And, perhaps because already is a word, it was easy to get confused and carry that over to words like "alot" instead of the correct a lot. Another major No No, resulting in Miss Cook leaving big red marks on one's paper, was to use the word alright. Again, our teachers insisted, there was no such word.

But recently, I've been running across "alright" in published books. And, although I hate to have to qualify this, because publishing is changing, too, I'm talking "traditionally" published, not indie published. For some reason, people assume that what they read in traditionally published books is "right" and indie books are full of mistakes. But since reading alright makes my teeth crawl, I had to go look it up.

What I found in my online dictionary:
alright - adverb
1. all right.
Can be confused (see usage note)
Usage note
The form alright as a one-word spelling of the phrase all right in all of its senses probably arose by analogy with such words as already and altogether. Although alright is a common spelling in written dialogue and in other types of informal writing, all right is used in more formal, edited writing.

So, it would appear that alright is slowly gaining acceptance. In fact, as I write this post, there are no red squiggles under the word alright. At what point do we take what used to be wrong and consider it correct? After all, new words are cropping up all the time. Google is a verb now, isn't it? And will readers understand what we mean if a character "MacGyvers" something together to get out of a tight spot? The word might not be in standard dictionaries yet, but it's out there in some of the slang ones. However, I'll say this. I'll use MacGyver long before you'll catch me using alright in my writing. I do not want Miss Cook turning over in her grave.

What about you? How receptive are you to change when it's not something new, but something that contradicts what you were taught? Do you have any hangups about the language? Any words you confuse?

Terry Odell is the author of numerous romantic suspense novels, mystery novels, as well as contemporary romance short stories. Most of her books are available in both print and digital formats. She's the author of the Blackthorne, Inc. series, steamy romantic suspense novels featuring a team of covert ops specialists, the Pine Hills Police series, set in a small Oregon town, and the Mapleton Mystery series, featuring a reluctant police chief in a small Colorado town. To see all her books, visit her website. You can also find her at her blog, Terry's Place, as well as follow her on Twitter, or visit her Facebook page.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Halloween Tale: I Am Alone

I am in bed, alone. Sleep doesn't come easy. There are creaks and groans in this old house and I am fourteen weeks pregnant. I lie awake, listening to the voices in my head and whispers from the past. I was in my crib when I first heard the ghosts whispering. Over the years, I've given the ghosts names: Saliva, Tick, Catie, and Drool. There are others, but they rarely speak to me.

Once they are all gathered around my bed, the temperature drops. Even with two blankets, I am cold, shivering. "Go away," I plead.

They move closer, bending low. Their faces waver only inches from my nose. "We have come for you."

My teeth chattering, I manage to whisper, "It's not my time."

Tick's face floats forward. Sharp metal teeth drip saliva onto my cheek. "When I say it's time, it is time."

"You don’t control me."

"Ah, but we do. We have been with you since you were born."

I turn my head and look into her eyes. "Since I turned eight, I have researched the Ghosts of Death. You cannot take me. If you so much as touch me, you will be returned to hell. You will be forever gone."

The four ghosts laugh.

Catie pushed Tick aside. "We took your mother. We will take you."

"Go ahead. Try."

Both Saliva and Drool reach for me. The moment they touch me, they are thrown backward, their heads crashing against the wall.

"I have had twenty-four years to plan for this moment. I knew you would come for me. I am ready. That was just a warning." I push the covers off and stand up.

I didn't know ghosts could growl, but that's what Tick did.

I stepped forward until I was only inches away from the ghosts. "As you now know, you can't touch me. And I can't kill you." With one sweep of my hand, I throw Tick and Cat once more against the wall. "But the child inside of me can."

I walk across the room to look at the four ghosts as their images melt away. Once they disappear, I sit back down and rub my mid-section where my daughter grows.

I am not alone.

Helen Ginger is an authorblogger, and writing coach. She teaches public speaking as well as writing and marketing workshops. You can follow Helen on Twitter or connect with her on Facebook and LinkedIn. Helen is the author of 3 books in TSTC Publishing’s TechCareers series, Angel SometimesDismembering the Past and two of her short stories can be found in the anthology, The Corner Cafe. Her next book,Deadpoint, is due out in 2015.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Using PR and Advertising to Grow Your Writing Career, Part 2

In yesterday's post here at the Blood-Red Pencil, I talked about how writers can use PR to grow their writing career.

Today, we're moving on to advertising, a totally different beast.

As mentioned yesterday, PR tends to have a long-term goal in mind, that of building a relationship with its public so that the public grows to trust the company, to have loyalty with that company. In the end of all that relationship building, the company hopes that the relationship is strong enough that the public will buy their wares, support their causes, etc.

Buy Now image by Stuart Miles at

Buy me now!
Advertising typically has a short-term goal in mind. You are attempting to lure your audience into buying your products/services or support your causes NOW, not later.

Being able to communicate in a concise way the availability and benefits of your products is vital in advertising. What is your product? Why does your audience need this product? What can this product deliver that no one else can? How will your audience feel after partaking in your product?

In advertising and marketing, the acronym AIDA is often used.

AIDA means
  • Attention (or Attract) – Using powerful, engaging words and/or pictures to quickly grab audience’s attention
  • Interest – After grabbing the attention of your audience, here, you need to keep their attention and make them interested in your full message. How do you focus on your audience’s needs to keep them interested?
  • Desire – Desire may sound like Interest, but here, you want to focus on FEATURES & BENEFITS. What does your product/service feature and how do these features connect with benefits to the audience?
  • Action – What do you want your audience to do? Don’t leave this vague. Let them remember your product/service, the slogan, and what they should do: BUY… GIVE… DONATE… etc.

Because a major goal of advertising is to get your audience to buy your product or service, you want to make sure you think about AIDA as you develop your advertising activities.

Some of those activities include
  • developing flyers for your products;
  • buying radio, TV, print, and online ads and/or commercials;
  • creating and/or buying Web banners;
  • designing a shopping cart for easy purchase;
  • creating infomercials on your products;
  • encouraging current fans to create customer-generated advertising; and
  • using email and mobile devices to advertise products.

Again, the purpose of activities such as these is to seduce your audience with the awesome benefits of your product(s) so that they will run, not walk, to buy your product NOW.

What PR and advertising activities have been successful in your writing career? Share them below!

Shon Bacon is an author, editor, and educator, whose biggest joys are writing and helping others develop their craft. She has published both creatively and academically and interviews women writers on her popular blog ChickLitGurrl: high on LATTES & WRITING. You can learn more about Shon's writings at her author website, and you can get information about her editorial services at CLG Entertainment.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Using PR and Advertising to Grow Your Writing Career, Part 1

If you’re looking to develop or redevelop your public relations (PR) and advertising activities for your writing career, it’s good to first differentiate between the two sets of activities and then take time to consider how each will benefit your career.

Before doing so, however, you do want to think about two things: 1) how you will brand yourself and 2) who you are trying to reach because without knowing these two things, developing PR and advertising activities won’t connect with your career goals and with those (your audience) who will help your career grow.

PR image by Stuart Miles at

Let’s build a relationship for the long haul.
PR often has a long-term goal in mind. You are attempting to build a relationship with your public so that they become loyal to you, so that they begin to trust you. In building that long-term relationship and the loyalty and trust, your public ultimately comes on board to buy your product, support your causes, etc.

Once you know how you’re trying to pitch yourself as a writer and you know who you’re trying to pitch to (your audience), there are several activities you can pursue to build your audience and strengthen your relationship with that audience.

Some of those activities include
  • building and developing a Website, a blog, and a social media presence;
  • creating a strong media kit with information that caters to both your fans and the media (contact info, full bio, headshots, upcoming appearances, product info, endorsements [for you and for your product], and goodies for your fans);
  • writing strong press releases detailing news related to your writing career (news and feature releases);
  • seeking reviews and press for your work;
  • finding causes and topics and trends in your work that can be repackaged into articles that build awareness of your work to your audience;
  • having giveaways;
  • building relationships with other authors and pursuing guest blogging experiences; and
  • developing book tours both online and offline.

Activities such as these will define who you are and give both the media and potential fans the ability to learn about you, your work, and decide whether they want to hop on your train and build a long-lasting relationship with you.

Tomorrow, I'll be back to talk about advertising!

What PR activities have been successful in your writing career? Share them below!

Shon Bacon is an author, editor, and educator, whose biggest joys are writing and helping others develop their craft. She has published both creatively and academically and interviews women writers on her popular blog ChickLitGurrl: high on LATTES & WRITING. You can learn more about Shon's writings at her author website, and you can get information about her editorial services at CLG Entertainment.

Friday, October 10, 2014

About Those Trolls…

Merry Farmer’s piece on Monday struck such a chord with me that I felt compelled to further ponder the role fear plays as we writers embark on and pursue our careers.

Like Merry, I dreaded public criticism of my work. Even the idea of private trashing made me cringe. Why? I harbored a deep-seated fear that my dream would be crushed. That dream of becoming an author, nurtured since childhood, was still quite fragile. Also, the book’s secondary theme, domestic violence, contained scenes of abuse based on real incidents—mine and others.

Because the cost of an editor at that time was well beyond my means, I joined a writers’ group to get an evaluation of my manuscript from objective strangers who would likely be more open and honest than family or friends. However, I was emotionally connected to the story in ways that worked against my ability to handle harsh criticism and was too inexperienced to appreciate the difference between constructive critique and personal attack.

The lady who had formed the group was young and unpublished and had recently embarked on her adult life with a husband and babies; at that time, I was probably older than her mother. She was also very opinionated—or so I perceived—and quite vocal about those opinions. Long story short: her blunt comments and insistence that I had not written the story I really wanted to write blindsided me and almost ended my career along with my dream.
kamuelaboy via morguefile

Now, nearly two decades later, my take on her painful words comes from a different place. Did she share her review with others? I don’t know. Was I overly sensitive in my reaction to her criticism? Probably. The critique—3 or 4 pages long, single spaced, and very thorough—was extremely well written and definitely deserving of more consideration than I gave it at the time.

Was she a troll, out to shred my five-years-long effort to produce novel number one? Did she intend to end my writing career before it even started? Then I might have said yes, but now I know otherwise. Was the book published despite her exposure of its significant shortcomings? Yes. Self-pubbing allows that to happen. Did it get rave reviews to offset her critique? Family and friends posted some nice—although somewhat biased—comments. How do I feel about my story now? The basic story remains good, but it needs major work. I’ve pulled it out of circulation and plan to rewrite several parts of it this winter. Will I make my subplot the main theme as she suggested? No. However, I may write the sequel that was part of the original plan, and in it the secondary character she insisted should be my protagonist will finally fill that role.

Lessons learned:

Most critiques are not missiles aimed ruthlessly at the hearts of writers and should not be feared.

We are often emotionally tied to our works. The keynote speaker at a writing conference several years ago stated that our works are not our babies. He was a guy. We women are often more sensitive about our stories and our characters—our books are our babies.

Serious critiques deserve consideration. Will they always be right? Not necessarily, but that doesn’t make them wrong either. On the other hand, reviews on Amazon or similar sites should often be taken with that proverbial grain of salt—or ignored altogether.

The road to full-fledged author status from fledgling writer is a journey. Journeys have bumps and detours, but a good map and an unwavering belief in dreams can keep us on the road. While reaching our destination doesn’t guarantee huge success, it does offer the satisfaction of a job completed and the promise of another trip should we opt to take it. Hopefully, lessons taught by the chuckholes in the first journey will result in a smoother ride the next time.

Are you emotionally tied to your work? Are you devastated if anyone suggests your baby is less than perfect? Has negative criticism increased your determination to create a better work, or has it undermined your belief in yourself as a writer?

Linda Lane and her editing team mentor and encourage writers at all phases of the writing process. To learn more about what they do, please visit them at


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