Good News Blogfest!

I’m very excited about the We Are the World Blogfest #WATWB, and I want to thank Damyanti Biswas for inviting me to participate.

For the blogfest, in light of all the tragic, political, warring news we typically hear from around the world, Damyanti asked us to highlight a news story that “shows love, humanity, and brotherhood.”

The blogfest will take place the last day of each month now through the end of the year.

This week, I chose to highlight this article about David Young of New Orleans and the organization he founded: Capstone Community Gardens. He started the project to provide food for the low-income residents of the Ninth Ward, a predominately African-American district in New Orleans that still—after almost twelve years—hasn’t recovered from Hurricane Katrina.

Besides the gardens that are planted in 30 abandoned lots around the district, the Gardens have grown to include goats, chickens, and honeybees, which were due for extermination.

I love this ecosystem Young has created: volunteers to run the Gardens, weeds in abandoned lots “mowed” by goats, chickens laying eggs for the residents, and pollination and honey from the bees.

Please visit these other blogs for more good news, and let me know of any that you may have!

Belinda Witzenhausen Lynn Hallbrooks Simon Falk Sylvia McGrath Damyanti Biswas

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Revise Revise Revise!

opened book with ink feather tool - vector illustration

Here are some revision tips for writers, especially of fiction.

Analyze your story:

Reader should know almost immediately:

  • WHO main character is
  • WHERE story is taking place
  • WHEN it takes place
  • WHAT kind of story it is

Be able to answer:

  • What kind of person is my protagonist? Will the reader identify with
    him/her and his/her problem(s)?*
  • What is the best way to tell this character’s story? First person?
    Third person? Omnipotent observer? Is it a tragic story? A farce?*
  • Where do you START your story?*
  • What was the author saying? What was the focus of the story? Was the
    story worth reading? Why or why not?*


  • Make sure you’re in correct POV
  • Was that    had  (try to eliminate as many as possible)
  • Check for IT and THERE at the beginning of sentences
  • “As” and “ing” indicate parallel action, two actions happening at the same time.
  • Figures of speech (use them, but not too much. No cliches).
  • Varied sentence structure
  • Repetitive words and sentence structure
  • Too many italics, ellipses
  • Adverbs: try to replace with an action verb
  • “Again” or worse “once again.”
  • Toss “still” and “yet” onto the pile and use them sparingly.
  • Too many adjectives and adverbs. Delete and use better nouns and verbs.  Or replace with more unusual adjectives and adverbs.
  • Check for the word OF — it’s often an indication of a superfluous noun and is, itself, often unneeded:
    The level of the water rose as the rain continued.
    The water rose as the rain continued.
  • Redundancy (restating) (“shrugged her shoulders”   “blinked her eyes”)
  • Commas (especially missing ones in compound sentences)
  • Do not use ten words if five will do. Wordiness
  • Began to
  • Felt like
  • Started to
  • Seemed
  • Realized
  • Heard
  • Wondered
  • Decided
  • Saw
  • Too many compound sentences
  • Sentences starting with “And” “But” “Then”
  • Use all the SENSES
  1. Write every day.
  2. Observe and listen.
  3. Use strong verbs.
  4. Detail!
  5. A specific always beats an abstraction.
  6. Describe in motion.
  7. In dialogue, keep speeches short.
  8. Beware the use of habitual case (would), the passive voice and the word “there.”
  9. In the second draft, start deleting adverbs.
  10. Borrow widely, steal wisely.

  • Scenes:
  • Opening Line
  • One way: Bill walked into the diner, sat at the counter and scanned the menu for something not too greasy.
  • Better way: “Someone’s sitting there,” the man in the uniform said as Bill started to straddle the stool.
  • Moments (memorable, unexpected)
  • Feeling of ending and feeling of anticipation
  • First Aid: Focus
    Still can’t decide whether or not the scene you’ve just written belongs in your story? A scene should do two or more of these four things: 1)advance the plot, 2) develop the character(s), 3) illustrate the theme, 4) contribute to suspense (which in turn advances the plot). Read the scene again and when you’re finished complete the following sentences:
  1. The Plot Focus:
    The purpose of this scene is to ______________________________________.
    (Example: The purpose of this scene is to reveal the protagonist’s childhood abuses in order to provide motivation for her current actions.)
  2. The Character Focus:
    When the audience finishes this scene, they should feel ____________________.
    (Example: When the audience finishes this scene, they should feel sympathy for the protagonist, yet be skeptical of her reliability as a narrator.)
  3. The Theme Focus:
    When the audience finishes this scene, they should think____________________.
    (Example: When the audience finishes this scene, they should think that the protagonist has been using these abuses as an excuse for many other self-destructive actions.)
  4. The Suspense Focus:
    When the audience finishes this scene, they should wonder _________________.
    (Example: When the audience finishes this scene, they should wonder whether or not the protagonist will be able to overcome the horror of her childhood in order to reunite with her estranged mother.)

A good scene should do at least double duty, so if you can’t complete at least two of these sentences to your satisfaction, the scene either needs more work or needs to be cut.

From First to Final Draft: Five Steps of Revision
Step #1: Structure
Goal: Develop a clear and compelling plot.
What to Look For:
1) scenes that are too passive/dialogue scenes with no tension (“talking heads”)
2) scenes that don’t build-up/are anti-climactic (should have beginning, middle, end)
Step #2: Texture
Goal: Sharpen descriptive passages to make characters, setting, and action more vivid.
What to Look For:
1) too much or too little description
2) clichéd word choices
3) too many adjectives/adverbs
4) research information dump
5) background or setting information in wrong place.

Step #3: Dialogue
Goal: Elicit character personality through conversation.
What to Look For:
1) too many tag lines
2) too few tag lines
3) tag lines in the wrong place
4) tag lines that contain too much info
5) yet another info dump
6) bland or melodramatic lines

Step #4: Editing
Goal: Tighten pace and continuity.
What to Look For:
1) repetition through implication
2) slow passages
How to Fix: Cut.  Cut.  Cut.

Step #5: Blending
Goal: Search and destroy any weaknesses.
What to Look For:
Soft spots: unclear character motivations, actions that seem contrived, etc.
How to Fix: Most of the above problems can be solved by expanding a scene or adding a new scene.

Novels: Does each character play an important part? The word “said” is invisible and is the word of choice in dialogue; avoid “he whispered,” “she groaned,” etc. Look at the end of each chapter. Is there a hook?


  • Backloading
  • Fresh facial expressions
  • Basic, Complex, Empowered, Super-empowered
  • Power words
  • Theme-related words
  • Fresh paralanguage, vocal cues (tone, inflection, pitch, quality, rate of voice: His voice dropped to a coarse whisper)
  • Use subtext (underlying meaning of words shown through TIME: Thought, Inflection, Movement, Expression
  • Readers need to know exactly what your character is feeling through emotion, internalization, or dialogue
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Shower the People You Love With Love

The other night I watched the televised Kennedy Center Honors. (You can view the entire show here.) What an amazing night! The honorees were James Taylor, singer Mavis Staples, pianist Martha Argerich, actor Al Pacino, and The Eagles.

2016 Kennedy Center Honorees pose for a group photo after a gala dinner at the U.S. State Department, in Washington, U.S., December 3, 2016. From L-R: (seated) actor Al Pacino, singer Mavis Staples, pianist Martha Argerich, singer-songwriter James Taylor; (standing) members of rock band Eagles, Joe Walsh, Don Henley and Timothy B. Schmit. REUTERS/Mike Theiler - RTSUJND

2016 Kennedy Center Honorees pose for a group photo after a gala dinner at the U.S. State Department, in Washington, U.S., December 3, 2016. From L-R: (seated) actor Al Pacino, singer Mavis Staples, pianist Martha Argerich, singer-songwriter James Taylor; (standing) members of rock band Eagles, Joe Walsh, Don Henley and Timothy B. Schmit. REUTERS/Mike Theiler – RTSUJND

Along with the rest of the audience, Michele and President Obama rocked out to various artists who performed the work of the honorees. They sang along to rock classics, including Fire and Rain, Hotel California, and Life in the Fast Lane. I laughed when I saw that even Obama was singing along with that last one.

To honor Martha Argerich, pianist Yuja Wang played Piazzola Grand Tango. I wasn’t familiar with Wang or the piece she played, but what a powerful and emotion-filled performance! Then violinist Itzhak Perlman (who I am familiar with and love) and pianist Yefim Bronfman performed a Beethoven Sonata for Violin and Piano. Simply beautiful and very moving.

It was fun seeing clips of all Al Pacino’s movies, and segments from movies, comedy skits, etc., that were inspired by his acting and the roles he played. One of our greatest actors!

And then there’s Mavis Staples, her own songs and the ones she made famous with the Staple Singers. Bonnie Raitt and Andra Day, backed by a gospel choir, sang the civil rights movement anthem We Shall Not Be Moved, which, unfortunately, is still relevant today, and not only for African Americans, but for women, the LGBT community, and all non-whites.

But the song that still echoes in my head is James Taylor’s Shower the People, performed by Garth Brooks. On this New Year’s Eve, throughout 2017, and beyond, I will replay that song in my head and in my heart. Love can conquer hate.

Shower the people you love with love, show them the way you feel.

Things are gonna be much better if you only will.

Happy New Year!

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New Book Promo Sites, Blogging, Freebies… – Indies Unlimited

Thanks to Christoph Fischer for this information!


Source: New Book Promo Sites, Blogging, Freebies… – Indies Unlimited

New Book Promo Sites, Blogging, Freebies…

book-promotion-megaphone-1480342_960_720As we constantly search for ways to introduce readers to our work, a few opportunities have recently crossed my path. There are two new promotion sites that look promising, Amazon have added Prime Reading to their Prime program, giving away your product seems like it could be advantageous once again, and there’s another outlet where you can blog.

Here are my findings.

View original post 641 more words

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All We Have …

Thank you, Silvia, for this post!

Silvia Writes


In 1967, at the age of 20, Kathrine Switzer wasjust a kid who wanted to run. Ambition and had work were not enough, however, when the goal was as lofty as the Boston Marathon.

The Rules – Boston ’67

Women are not physically equipped to endure the rigors of long-distance running. The strain would cause women’s uteri to fall out; they would become musclebound and grow hair on their chests.

The Bandit

Kathrine, a field hockey player at Lynchburg College in Virginia, had just transferred to Syracuse University where she started working out with the men’s cross-country team. Arnie Briggs, a running devotee, took her under his wing, and soon Kathrine was running upwards of 10 miles per training session.

She brought up Boston during a running session.

If any woman could do it, Briggs said, you could, but you would have to prove it to me…

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Back-To-School Book Blog Party with Rave Reviews Book Club!

Blog Party 1

Welcome to my book stop on the #RRBC blog party tour here in sunny (and sometimes foggy!) Santa Cruz, CA.

I will be giving away prizes of a $20 Amazon Gift Card to two lucky winners. All you have to do to be entered in the contest is leave a comment at the end of this blog. And besides, I’d love to hear from you!

I write for kids and teens and currently have four books published, all award winners! Please take a look below at book blurbs, links to trailers, and other information.

Thanks again for stopping by! And please check out these other amazing RRBC authors’ blog party stops.

Yakimali's Gift Front Cover

In 1775 New Spain, on a journey  from Mexico to California, 15-year-old Fernanda Marquina, half Spanish and half Pima Indian, will discover not only romance, but truths that will change the way she sees her ancestry, her family, and herself.

Read REVIEWS.  View the TRAILER.  Read an EXCERPT.

Fernanda is interviewed on the History Imagined blog! 

AWARDS: Gold Medal and Seal of Approval from Literary Classics; RONE (Reward of Novel Excellence) Honorable Mention in the Young Adult category; Books and Author 2015 Book of the Year for Teens/Historical/Romance category.

Purchase from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kobo, and at Bookshop Santa Cruz,  Crossroads Books in Watsonville, CA, Books Inc. in San Francisco, and IndieBound.

Butterfly flourish

Cover with Gold Medal

What if you were 8, or 11, or 14, and you could race cars at 150 mph, bungee jump, fly, eat all the ice cream and candy you wanted, or become powerful avatars such as Robobug, Kulshedra the dragon, and Altai, the gryphon avatar?

All this and more is possible in the ultimate virtual reality game The Cryptogram Connection created by 14-year-old computer whiz Cody Reynolds and his two classmates, Nicole Nash and Kerry McCorkle. To advance to different levels in the game, players must solve cryptograms, or secret codes. (Readers also get to solve the cryptograms.)

The game becomes every kids’ virtual dream, and Cody, Nicole, and Kerry, besides becoming national celebrities, make more money than they ever imagined. But The Cryptogram Connection turns into “cryptogram chaos” when an evil presence inhabits Zazar, the laser avatar and the most powerful, and takes control of the game. It’s up to the three partners to enter the game and fight Zazar to save the gamers from virtual—and real—disaster.

Read the REVIEWS.   Watch the TRAILER.   Read an EXCERPT.

AWARDS: Gold Medal and Seal of Approval from Literary Classics.

Purchase from: Amazon , Barnes&Noble, IndieBound, Kobo, and Bookshop Santa Cruz

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Castle Blues Quake with award sticker

Book One in The Ghost Whisperer Series

A lonely girl, a desperate ghost boy, a saw-playing street musician, a psychic, and an oddball library page: friendships are formed that will change the lives of all—here and in the hereafter.

12-year-old Pepper’s new friend, Corey, is a ghost, but she doesn’t know it. After leaving her best friend behind in New York City, she and her family move to Santa Cruz, CA, into a run-down Victorian. Pepper discovers Corey hiding out in the backyard shed. He’s waiting to make contact with his grandfather, Boppie, before he crosses over. He tells Pepper he needs to find Boppie before Social Services sends him to a foster home. Pepper agrees to help.

Others help her on her quest: new classmate Ally Cressman, who dresses in an odd-ball, non-mall style; Sawtooth Sam, the mysterious saw-playing street musician; harmonica player Walker Blue; and Madame Mchumba, who performs her psychic readings at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk amusement park. Time travel, earthquakes, haunted house rides, poltergeist activity, and crystal ball readings propel her toward the shocking end of her search, and an understanding of what it means to be a true friend.

See REVIEWS hereView the TRAILER here.  Read an EXCERPT here.

AWARDS: Silver Medal and Seal of Approval from Literary Classics.

Purchase from AmazonBarnes&Noble, IndieBound, at Crossroads Books in Watsonville, CA, and Bookshop Santa Cruz.

Butterfly flourish

Cover with Gold Medal

Book Two in The Ghost Whisperer Series

In the rainy forest of the Santa Cruz Mountains, in the small town of Brookdale, in the long-uninhabited Pebble Brook Lodge…exist four ghosts who stand in the way of Pepper’s search for the truth.

In this sequel to the award-winning book The Castle Blues Quake, Pepper Connelly’s chef parents take Pepper and her little sister Sage on another restaurant venture to renovate the Pebble Brook Lodge.

One of the unique features of the lodge is a creek running through the large dining room. Pepper learns that, in 1966, a thirteen-year-old girl, Karen Hullett, drowned in the creek. Her ten-year-old brother, Willie, was accused of causing her death, and his mother and townspeople still believe he was responsible. Willie, now middle-aged, lives with his mother in a cabin in the woods. Mrs. Hullett has never forgiven Willie for her beloved daughter’s death.

As Pepper secretly becomes acquainted with Willie and sees his gentle nature and his beautiful life-like carvings, she’s convinced he was not responsible for his sister’s death.

With the help of her friend Ally Cressman, Pepper sets out to prove Willie’s innocence. With Ouija board sessions, hauntings by four different ghosts, and time travel to 1939 and 1966, Pepper discovers there’s more to Karen’s death than she—or anyone in Brookdale—would have ever guessed.

Read REVIEWS. Read an EXCERPT. View the TRAILER.

AWARDS: Gold Medal and Seal of Approval from Literary Classics.

Purchase from AmazonBarnes&Noble, IndieBound, and Bookshop Santa Cruz.

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Tips & Advice on Self-Publishing

Indie Author Ahead

My article originally appeared on author Cynthia Leitich Smith’s blog.

If you’re an indie author or thinking of going indie rather than taking the traditional route for publication, please check out the article for lots of tips and advice on self-publishing.

Some highlights from the article:

Keep self-published books a strong and respected force in the market by having your manuscripts edited professionally or by a trusted, experienced critique partner. See my list of editors from author recommendations.

*Cover Design
Read about the three cover design options: DIY, Pre-made covers, and Custom covers. See my list of recommended cover designers.

Do you need an ISBN (International Standard Book Number)?

*Formatting and Publishing
Some options to explore.


*Marketing and Promotion
Lots of tips on how to get the word out about your book, including how to get reviews.

Indies have discovered the advantages of self-publishing: control over content and cover design, higher royalties, and quicker time to market.

Do the research, put out a quality product, work on marketing, and you can find success and satisfaction as an indie author.

Do you have any tips and/or advice for indie authors?

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K.S. Jones: New Release & Cover Reveal!

I’m excited to announce the new release and cover reveal of my friend, author K.S. Jones’ new novel Black Lightning, a middle-grade sci-fi/fantasy adventure.

Black Lightningtag

About the book:

Life moves on — no matter what…

Following his father’s puzzling disappearance and his mother’s death, ten-year-old Samuel Baker goes through the motions of living in a world turned upside down. He wears an Apache talisman, a long ago gift from his father, in hopes its promise of strength and guidance is true. But what he truly wants is the power to bring back his parents.

Heartless Aunt Janis is elated at the prospect of becoming Samuel’s legal guardian. She is sure an orphan boy will elicit such an outpouring of public sympathy that her husband will win his Senate bid by a landslide. But when Grandpa Tate arrives, things don’t go as expected, especially when black lightning strikes!

K.S. Jones, whose first name is Karen, has been one of my Facebook friends for a couple of years now, and I was so happy to meet her in person recently at the Literary Classics awards ceremony.

KS Jones

Black Lightning follows her fabulous young adult book, Shadow of the Hawk, which took home the Gold in the Young Adult Historical category. The book also placed first in the esteemed Chaucer Awards.

Shadow cover

And it looks like Black Lightning will be another winner.

EARLY REVIEWS for Black Lightning:

“If you’ve forgotten the magic that lives in a child’s heart, this book will remind you. Black Lightning is a rare and beautiful mythic journey about one boy’s struggle with paralyzing grief and the powerful bonds that can carry a person through this world and beyond…”  ~Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neal Gear, USA TODAY and NEW YORK TIMES bestselling authors of People of the Thunder

Excerpt from Chapter One:

Samuel stood beside his mother’s rain-speckled casket. He had cried his tears dry, so there was no point in trying to find more.

“Chin up, young man,” Aunt Janis said as her fingers nudged Samuel’s jaw upward. “Death is just part of life, and our photographer needs a good picture of you for the newspapers.”

A camera flashed, leaving Samuel’s red and swollen eyes burning as if stung by the sun instead of grief.

So many important days had come and gone without his father, but surely he would come home today, wouldn’t he? Samuel closed his eyes. He pretended his father was beside him holding his hand. They had a right to hold hands, he told himself. Not because he was ten, but because it was his mother’s funeral. Two years had passed since his father left, never to be seen again. Vanished, was the word his mother had used. Into thin air, she’d said.

“Take that silly thing off.” Aunt Janis flicked Samuel’s wood and bead necklace.

“No,” he said and shook his head. “My dad gave it to me.” It was a pinewood tile, the size of a domino shaved nickel-thin, which hung from a leather cord around his neck. Burned onto the front side of the wood was a lightning bolt. Its flipside bore the blackened imprint of a tribal dancer. It had a turquoise nugget and a shiny black hematite bead strung together on each side. His father had given the talisman to him with a promise: It will guide you and give you strength when you need it most.

Today, dressed in a black suit and starchy white shirt, Samuel wore it in hopes the promise was true.

Black Lightning is available for pre-order in eBook and print, with audio coming soon. The actual release date is May 17th. You may purchase the book at:

Amazon link: or

Barnes & Noble:


Karen lives in the beautiful Texas Hill Country with her husband, Richard, and their three dogs, Libby Loo, Red Bleu, and Jack Black.

Connect with Karen:

Congratulations, Karen, and here’s wishing for continued success with your writing!


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Recommended Editors


Are you an indie author looking for editing help with your manuscript?

The following editors were highly recommended to me by other authors.

One Last Look (Becky Hicks)

Gay Ingram Editing Services

Crossroads Editing Service (Stacy Juba)

Acedrex Publishing Editing Service (Jessica Knauss)

There For You Editing (Melissa Ringsted)

Ellie Maas Davis at Pressque, LLC

Shannon Thompson

E Printed Books (Steve Caresser)

Melissa Robitille

Imagine That Editing (Jen Ryan)

Karenne Griffin, Proofreader

Effrosyni Moschoudi

Following are three personal recommendations:

Lawrence Editing Emily Lawrence worked for one of my publishers, edited two of my books, and did a fabulous job.

Chrissie Pollack  is one of my critique partners. She has many years experience as a professional editor, and I trust her implicitly with my manuscripts. Contact her about leadtime and pricing.

Indie Books Gone Wild has a team of seven editors and book formatters.

Keep self-published books a strong and respected force in the market by having your manuscripts professionally edited! Best of luck!

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Book Cover Designers

Yakimali's Gift Front Cover

Recently, I wanted to update my cover for Yakimali’s Gift, so I asked a Facebook group I belong to (ASMSG, Author Social Media Support Group) for cover designer suggestions. As expected, this awesome group of writers provided me with lots of choices. (I ended up choosing Tugboat Designs; see my beautiful cover above.)

I’ll continue to update the list as new designer referrals come in.

I wanted to share this list with other authors, so here you go!

First, John Chapman offered this blog about things to look for in a cover.

And now for the list! (Please copy and paste the address into your browser.)

Joseph Murphy

Angela Elliott

Erika Szabo

Veronica Zhu See her work here:



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