Trolling Away

Every now and then I find an article that just says it all for me. As if the writer just knew so much better how to word something.  The following is written by Nick Thompson of CNN.  Below is the link to his awesome article on Internet Trolls.



Raising Books




SWindswept Hearts Book Covero we all know, as authors, the euphoric feeling you get the first time you hold the actual printed copy of the first book you have ever written. It’s a high like no other. That awesome, overwhelming feeling that you did it and you hold in your hands proof of that.


It is a precious memory, but it wears off. Then the test of whether you truly are a writer occurs. You must write again because more stories beg for your attention.


Having children is a similar experience. You are ecstatic when you hold your first born child. You know you are going to be the best parent ever. As the daily care sets in with diaper changes and the first sleepless night, the excitement departs leaving behind exhaustion. But for some reason a few years later nostalgia sets in and you want another one. In the meantime you continue with the business of raising your darling.


How does one raise a book? After its birth what is the process to build and grow it into something that people want to read? Well first, like a pregnancy, it should have had good prenatal care. Without the building blocks of a fine editor, research and solid story, it will not go far. So let’s just say you’ve already done your prenatal care.


After the long labor of editing,  you hold in your hands your precious child. How do you introduce it to the world? Just like you prepared for a new baby, you must think ahead and get ready. You will need to spend time on social networking, promoting and advertising. You work at developing a good author website. Create and keep a current blog. Through the exhaustion you will have to find the time to Tweet, Facebook, Pinterest, Goodreads, Author  Guest Blog, do book signings and find any other outlet you can push your darling to the fulfillment of its potential.


Of course in the meantime you need to be working on bringing its sibling into the world. You must learn to multi-task and find time to write while graciously answering blog comments and promote its older brother or sister.


Yes, raising a book, in my humble opinion, is like raising children. You may have to wait for years to see its full potential. Some will look back on the process with tenderness and longing, while others may be glad it’s over. Either way, in the end, you have something you will be proud of and forever love.


So I wonder where your book raising is taking you?


WordPress Family Award


I was blessed to be nominated into this wonderful ongoing Award by Ionia Martin @ http://readfulthingsblog.com/. It amazes me how quickly you form  friendships here with other bloggers. Their support and encouragement have given me confidence to be a writer and blogger.

Award Description:
“This is an award for everyone who is part of the “Word Press Family” I start this award on the basis that the WordPress family has taken me in, and showed me love and a caring side only WordPress can. The way people take a second to be nice, to answer a question and not make things a competition amazes me here. I know I have been given many awards, but I wanted to leave my own legacy on here by creating my own award, as many have done before. This represents “Family” we never meet, but are there for us as family. It is my honour to start this award.” from Shaun @http://prayingforoneday.wordpress.com/

1. Display the award logo on your blog.
2. Link back to the person who nominated you.
3. Nominate 10 others you see as having an impact on your wordpress experience and family
4. Let your 10 Family members know you have awarded them
5. That is it. Just please pick 10 people that have taken you as a friend, and spread the love.

Here are my Nominees. To friends and bloggers who have helped me in my quest to become a better author. Thank you!












To Review or Not to Review

Cat watchingSo how do you review? I’ve always thought a critique was giving an opinion on both the good and bad of a book, where as a review concentrated more on how the story made you feel. After reading many reviews I’ve seen it can be all of the above.

That brings up the question, what if you don’t like it? How do you handle that? What if the Point of View is all over the place, the story is disjointed and doesn’t flow, or the grammar is so poor you struggle to read it? What do you say then? Do you publicly humiliate the author?

I can understand the frustration of readers of Indie Authors. Being an avid reader I’ve tried to be supportive of Indie’s, but I’ve been irritated a few times. So Amazon won’t kick out my reviews, I purchase all my reads. I’ve found that the book cover will look awesome as well as having an interesting synopsis, but after the purchase, I find myself  struggling with a hard-to-read product.

What I’m finding most of the time is there is a good story in there, but it’s hidden by lack of Point of View, or sentence structure that makes no sense. Then there is poor formatting, miss-spelled words or wandering story line. I always wonder, ‘how did the editor let that slide?’  So I will ask the author if they had it edited. I’ve received some interesting replies that I won’t repeat, but 99.9 percent of the time, there was no editor. Why am I not surprised? My favorite reply was “It’s my story and you either like it or you don’t.” Sigh…..

As an Author, I really get frustrated. If readers can’t trust they are getting a good product, this tarnishes all of our reputations as writers and drives them away from Indie’s. There is a reason publishers have editors. It’s because all authors need them. Just as we need beta readers, and re-writes. What makes sense to us, what we love about our little creations, may look totally different to others. We need unbiased opinions to help us create the best story we can.

But back to my original question. What do you do? Do you go ahead and do a review?

If it is that poor, I will do two things. I will contact the author and ask a few questions. Their tone of response will then temper what I do next. If they are interested in my inquires, if  they ask questions back and I can politely share my opinion, I will then go on and give a nice, but honest review. I have the author read it first and they can either approve or disapprove my posting of  it. This is important. As an author I have to remember how it would feel if someone reviewed me harshly.  But if they state it is what it is, I do not review.

I have a responsibility as a reader and author to create an honest review for the next interested reader. If I inflate it and don’t represent it honestly, the next reader is no longer going to trust my review or my own writing. It is a double-edged sword. I want to support my fellow Indie, but they have to want to produce the best product they can.

So what do you do? To review or not to review? What are your guidelines?


Plot, Plot, Plot! It’s All About Plot.


I don’t know about you, but I am a visual learner. Show me once, I got it. For me traditional learning, reading and comprehending, are a challenge.  So I decided to read a popular Indie book to see what it had that mine did not. Trust me, this was not my usual reading material. In fact, first speed-read through, I found I could still blush — frequently.

In that first read I also noted some of the mistakes I had been so solemnly warned about in all my writing classes. Adjectives galore, long drawn out ending, telling instead of showing and big words that I had to look up. So what made this a best seller, outside of the obvious titillating factor of sex?

There was just something that caught my interest, and held it because I had to go on to the sequels to find out just how it was going to end, blushing the entire time of course. I spent a few days working it over in my mind. Finally I saw it. Plot of course. It had those elements we all strive for. It had two people with a huge problem to work through that seemed insurmountable. You wanted them to be together, but could they overcome the huge chasm of differences between them.

It was a plot woven artfully. Forget the vehicle of big words, adjectives or long drawn out ending. It was a good story. Plain and simple. An unusual problem with a dark character who had hidden goodness. A flawed heroine with an innocent heart who worked to pull her hero from the dark. That is what attracted me and prompted a second read through.

I’ve always liked character driven plots. This was character plus. Just as there have been other popular books that have been criticized for poor writing but have been so popular they became movies.  I have found the same formula again and again. No matter how “poorly” written by my instructors standards, they had the most important element, PLOT.

I’m not advocating  pushing aside good grammar and sentence structure, or all the other trappings of a finely written piece.  I still fiercely believe in editing to the max.  But in my journey to understand what makes a good book, this was an eye opener. A given. Without plot, no matter how finely written, you have nothing.  A fancy cart without the horse isn’t going anywhere.


Birthing a Book


After having two children, I thought I would never have to suffer the birthing process again, then I wrote a book. Just like producing offspring, the actual conception was fun, interesting and entertaining. During the “pregnancy” I did rewrites, added chapters, rearranged and dreamed of what my offspring would accomplish. Then began the actual birth.

A labor is thought of in three stages. The body readying the muscles, softening tissue for the baby to come down. Then there’s the engagement in the birth canal, and the final stage of pushing. An edit is similar. There is the restructuring of plot and story line. Then the grammar checks and at last, the line edit.

With each editor’s comment, correction, and suggestion, the pains intensify. My poor husband sits by my side patiently listing to each rewrite as I read them aloud. I do this in order to ‘hear’ my mistakes. When he tires of it I call family and friends, until, mysteriously they no longer answer when I call.

Oh the pain! Cutting my favorite tidbits. Rewriting, rewording, reworking chapters. Tightening the theme. Balking then relenting to my editors careful direction. My weary husband holds on, trying to ease my discomfort with food, chocolate and copious amounts of coffee. I hear him whisper on the phone, “No, she’s not there yet,” when people call.

Finally, it’s time to push. At this point I want to give up, quit and never write again. Then in a growl of pain, it’s delivered, much to my exhausted family, friends and husband’s relief.

In the after glow of a job well done, I look with wonder upon the new arrival. In gratefulness I can recognize my editors skill, my family’s support and my husband’s love. And just like that dewy-eyed new mother, who swears she will never do it again, a few years later, I find myself facing another child on the way.

Oh when will I ever learn!


How Do You Critique Nicely?

ImageThis is one of my favorite Facebook posters, because it is me in so many ways. For years I’ve battled a ferocious temper, instant impatience and lack of empathy. I could be Queen of Road Rage or Superman of Sarcasm. Yet, I try hard to control it so that I can be a beneficial member of society. So when an acquaintance asked if I would read their book and review it on Amazon, I eagerly jumped in to help. I regretted this within the first four paragraphs of their book.

All the beginner’s mistakes times twenty. I profess not to be an editor of any sort. I know my grammar mistakes and plot holes drive my ever-patient Editor to drink, so who am I to rate someone else’s book? Easy, I’m also an avid reader. I instantly know if it’s readable material. 

What captures my interest? Smooth, easy to read writing. Unusual writer’s voice. Different descriptions.  Solid characters. Interesting plot. But most of all, proper sentence structure and grammar. If I have to stop and go back to read something, or ponder over what the author means, you’ve lost me. I don’t care how good the story plot is, I have to be able to read uninterrupted to actually be in the story and escape there. I want no bumps to cast me back out into the real world, thinking, “Huh? What was that?”

I actually get mad. It’s like going to the movies and having someone kick the back of your seat while you are trying to get into the show. I also feel, as an indie author myself, I have to be better than best, so I can compete and look competent  If I’m going to go up against the big boys, I had better have my best game forward. This also helps my fellow indie partners to build a platform of trust with our readers. Instead, a book poorly written, reflects on all of us..

So what should I do? Tell this person off? Point out all of their flagrant, erroneous problems like adjectives in every dialog tag, or POV shifts, or mixing past and present tenses, or the many, many typos? Do I berate them for wasting the money to self-publish and making indies look bad for shoddy work? No, that would only hurt and discourage. I’ve been in this writer’s shoes. How do I gently direct them towards hiring an editor before printing?

I turned to my trusty Editor and she gave the most wonderful advice: “You tell them that there are two aspects to being a writer: craft and talent. You think they have great talent, but they need to work on their craft. Highlight the strong points. Give them good resources that don’t take too much of your time to explain. I think James Scott Bell has a good book on POV, if I remember right, and refer them to a simple grammar book like Grammatically Correct or any of the Grammar Girl books. Someone like that probably won’t hire an editor, but they might invest the time to learn.”  (quote by Chryse Wymer)

Now you know why I think she is the best in the world! An excellent and wise approach and that’s exactly what I decided to do. I don’t know if this author will take the gentle suggestion, but I’m hoping they will. For the sake of their book sales, their readers and all of us indies who are struggling to get a foot in world of publishing. .


Instant Edit

Windswept Hearts Book Cover
Hindsight is always 20/20 and quite amusing. Though at the time going through it wasn’t so funny!

Gosh I was naive when I wrote my first book! I did all the right things. Made note cards to keep track of characters. Outlined feverishly. Checked plot, made sure it was correct and authentic in all aspects. Interviewed a lawyer, a cattle rancher, a doctor, etc., to get every detail right. Then I took a six month break, came back and edited. I had neighbors, family and friends read it. Took all feedback in a polite, mature fashion. Then I was ready for the editor.

I hired a freelance editor, Chryse Wymer, who I had worked with briefly on another project. I liked her style and knowledge. If she made a correction she pointed out why and gave references to back it. I learned a lot from her and especially liked her respect and patience towards my work.

Just knew she would be amazed at my book. I could hardly wait for her glowing praises, and most importantly, I knew we’d have it done in a month. (I can hear some of you laughing, be nice!) Five months later I was much wiser. Short version – I cried, pouted, re-wrote every chapter, and lost any shred of pride I had left.

In traditional publishing your book goes through several editors. One will check for plot problems, one will do a line edit, another may handle the grammar. Poor Chryse did it all. I swear she is working towards sainthood. Our first run through was just about plot. The story I thought was the best I’d ever written, was simply the caterpillar. Her comments were funny and to the point. When I opened her first page of edits I about fainted. The entire first chapter had to be re-written.

After the plot edit, we started the grammar edit. Won’t even talk about that. All through it she urged, suggested, held my hand, and was spot on. Then came the final edit, the line edit. If I had thought I had seen a lot of red before it was nothing to what I saw now. One morning I remember getting up and ranting at my poor husband that here I was arguing over what imaginary people did or did not do! One chapter beginning I re-wrote in a snit, and it came out to be one of my best! Patiently my editor helped me mold the final product into a wondrous butterfly of a book.

So in humble retrospection, I would like to warn any new author. There is no instant edit. If you want the best work ever, be prepared for a bone-breaking, pride-stomping, difficult and long journey. Take heart, in the end if you do the work, you will have a product comparable to a publishing house production. And an editor who is thankful it will take you another year before you write another book!


Susan Engle – Horsewoman and Author

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and knowing Susan Engle from the Missouri Fox Trotters Horse Breed Association. A very out-going, gentle, fun loving person, she leaves an instant impression that leaves you smiling. Recently I read her new book and couldn’t wait to share this with everyone.

From her childhood “pony” days, to her eventful re-connection with horses in retirement, Susan Engle has kept her humor and love of fine equines. Fate brought her to become a companion to two young Missouri Fox Trotters. She discovered you are never to old to learn, or ride in her on-going adventures. Meet the author of Susan Fox Trotter – A Seasoned Curvy Cowgirl’s Journey from Ker-Splat! to Riding Bridleless – at any of the links listed below. Enjoy!

Susan FoxTrotter links
Author Page -Read the reviews!

Kindle page- read the reviews!

http://www.facebook.com/SusanFoxTrotter Susan FoxTrotter book page
Susan’s Viewpoint – Blog of Current Stories of Life with Susan FoxTrotter

http://mofoxtrot.com/viewpoint/ Susan is riding and dealing with book four right now, Lucky Star. Book two, The Just Right Horse is currently in progress.. Book two is about JR. Read about all Susan’s experiences with her horses from the late 90’s up to the present! The books come from these blogs.

Susan Engle Facebook page – http://www.facebook.com/susanfxtrt
For the Horse Facebook page where an active list of horse events with Tony and Jenny Vaught are listed. Susan FoxTrotter is the administrator. Ask to join!

Rick Lamb interview with Susan FoxTrotter on 9/22/12- http://www.thehorseshow.com/listen.aspx
Join the SusanFoxtrotter Life!

Amazon.com: Susan Engle: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle
Visit Amazon.com’s Susan Engle Page and shop for all Susan Engle books and other Susan Engle related products (DVD, CDs, Apparel).


End of the Journey

November 2012 is not a month I will be forgetting anytime soon.

I attempted my first blog tour, Blog Blizzard, with twelve very brave authors. It was a whirlwind of learning. Three weeks into it, my computer decided to crash. This put my tight schedule in quite a turmoil, but we all bounced back and the blog tour continued. As I would arrange, paste and promote each author, I would read about their work and lives. Some were quite entertaining, and yet through it all, I saw a common thread for all of us. We love to write.

A big thank you to the following intrepid experimenters for allowing me to learn while promoting them.
Ann Swann – http://www.annswann.com
Rebekah Roberts – http://www.RebekaRoberts.net
Sara Barnard – http://www.sarabarnadbooks.com
M.J. Kane – http://thiswriterslife-mjkan.blogspot.com
Mylnda Price – http://www.melyndaprice.com
M.O. Kenyan – http://www.mokauthor.wordpress.com
Hillary Seidl – http://www.hillaryseidl.com/
Erika M Szabo – http://www.doktorszaboerika.com
Christina Ow – christinaow.wordpress.com
Carmen DeSousa – http://www.carmendesousa.com/
Doug Simpson – http://dousimp.masi.net
Bernadette Marie – http://www.bernadettemarie.com

Of course, while doing this I also took on the National Novel Writers Month challenge of writing 50,000 words in thirty days. I must say, I thought it would be a peice of cake. Oh, what a fool I was! Yet, again, it turned out to be a tremendous learning experience. I humbly thank my family who put up with all of my craziness during the month of November. Without them I would have never attained what seemed at times the impossible goal of 50,000 words in an understandable format.

So as I get ready to Deck the Halls, and celebrate Christmas, this month seems tame and peaceful after last months whirlwind of endeavor. Thank you to all of you that have stopped in and visited my blog and guests this last month. You are appreciated as well.