Christmas Giveaway Book Hop winner

Congratulations to Taffy who won a copy of Abish: Mother of Faith in the Christmas Giveaway Hop. I'm so glad to have met many new readers and wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.  Keep on reading!!!


Making characters come alive

They're the foundation on which your story will rest. Whether they're witty or charming, evil or innocent, you have to find a way to make your characters come alive. The best way to do this is to, simply put, give them a life. Here's a list of basic things you should know about each of the characters in your book so that you'll know what motivates them and how they'll react under any given circumstance.

Eye color:               
Hair color:
Distinctive features (moles, freckles, scars, lisp, stutter, etc.):
Yearly salary:
Marital status:
Short and long-term goals (this will affect motivation):
Biggest fear:
Biggest dream:
Best friends:
Worst enemies:

So fill out this list for every character before you begin your book. Things can always be added or changed but this will keep you consistent throughout.


Top Ten Horror Novels

I confess--I love a good scare. And this is the perfect time to get the hair on the back of your neck standing up and indulge your macabre without anyone thinking you're a little off. So if you're in a ghoulish mood, try one of these gruesome tales:

Anything by Stephen King could fill this list, but let's turn to some different masters of the craft:
1) Ghost Story by Peter Straub
2) Ghosts by Noel Hynd
3) Phantom by Deen Koontz
4) The House that Jack Built by Graham Masterson
5) Walkers by Graham Masterson
6) Usher's Passing by Robert R. McCammon

We shouldn't leave out some classics as well:

7) The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
8) The House of Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne
9) any compilation by Edgar Allan Poe

10) OK, I cheated. The Shining by Stephen King


What to do with down time...

There's a problem that can develop for published writers when they finish one project and have yet to move on to the next. It's called "down time." You haven't put your foot solidly into the next manuscript and have the success of the last one to distract you--after all, there are book signings and appearances, the public clamoring for your attention! OK, maybe it's not that exciting. But it can be difficult to weather the lull that occurs and find that motivation to move past yet another blank page--or computer screen--and start to be creative again. You've probably also been editing for months without really having to create anything completely new. So what do you do?

The key is to stay creative in one form or another. When a manuscript is finished and you don't have that next solid project to jump into, use that time to develop other skills. Try a new form of writing: poetry, screen plays, satirical humor. Whatever. It can relieve some pressure in that you're not being expected to perform the same "tricks" over and over and it can be like a mental vacation from the usual workload. Or maybe just keep a journal for feelings and abstract ideas. Just write. It's like exercising and when a new inspiration hits, you won't have as difficult a time warming up those muscles again.


Kindle is King!

OK, I admit it, I'm hooked. These past three weeks having my Kindle have been great. I've had to take one of my parents to the doctor a lot and so I bring my Kindle and when I finish reading one book, I've got another waiting! And I've been keeping a few on it for for my kids as well (YA and fairy tales) and so when we've gone on trips I know that I'll have something for them to read at bedtime or when they get bored. I'm already up to around 50 books--a lot of them free! So I'm going to put in my plug and say that if you haven't checked out an e-reader yet, do. There are a variety of styles and I've heard pros and cons about each. But I haven't had to recharge my Kindle yet and it was affordable and easy to use.


Into the new age of reading...

OK, I did it. For my birthday, I got a Kindle. I've resisted and protested and come up with every reason why I shouldn't want to read a book from an electronic reader. But, part of me felt like it was being left behind. Kind of like when I have to ask my children how to find saved pictures on my camera or make a Prezi presentation. So I did it and it's here. As I hold it in my hands I'm still not sure what to think. Will they words look the same as they do on tangible paper where you can turn each page or linger over each word? Maybe not. But the convenience is there and the opportunity to have access to so many more works than I ever would before--and not just because of the financial deterrant. Some authors are choosing only to publish e-books and though that does tend to put stuff out there that probably isn't worth reading, I feel it's only fair to give some of the more interesting material a chance. So here it goes . . . wish me luck. I'll let you know what I think.


Countdown to Summer

Here's a link to LDS Women's Book Review where there's a chance for you to win my latest book, "Abish: Mother of Faith."



When opportunity knocks...

I've learned something interesting as I've navigated the writing world. It's something that I've tried to share with various writers, but many still don't seem to get it.

First and foremost I want to write books and so do most of the writers I associate with. But the problem is they get inside this little box of the "novel writer" and they cringe at the thought of learning to write anything else, let alone attempting to get it published.

The problem with this is multi-faceted. First, that only limits you as a writer. To say "I'm a poet and so I only write poetry" is like enjoying a certain food and only eating that day after day. Some forms of writing may seem foreign and awkward at first, but there is something to be learned in tasting them all. All it can do is expand your experience as a writer.

The second problem is that in being so narrow-minded, many writers think that they're going to write this first book and get it published all within this safety zone they've created. They don't consider that writing is a business and a successful writer must be businesslike. No one would attempt to open a business without networking and advertising and so how can you, as a writer, expect to succeed likewise. Networking comes through expanding your horizons and taking chances when they present themselves.

Case in point. Shortly after I began writing my first book, I started writing articles for a small, though nationally syndicated, magazine. The two didn't seem to have much to do with each other until it was time to promote my book and the magazine I'd been writing for gave me a coveted spot on their product spolight page--introducing me to 60,000 potential readers. And more recently, I finally got a review of my second book in my state's largest newspaper--probably because I'd been writing for them for a few months!

Along the way my various writing experiences have introduced me to a variety of people and sources for improving my skills, marketing my books and finding the motivation that I've needed. So when I encourage writers to never pass up an opportunity to write--whether it's a product detail brochure for a local business or an article in a local newspaper--just take the chance and run with it. You never know where it will lead.


Criticism and the Writer

Here's a touchy topic: how do you, as a writer, handle criticism. The answer is: as gracefully as possible.

But the truth of the matter is, there are moments that are going to get the best of you. Such as:
1) When your editor tells you he/she hates how you've written your main character.
2) When you get an email or review from someone who says their 3-year-old could have written a better novel.
3) When someone who doesn't seem to have anything better to do harps on a tiny mistake you made regarding research in an article or other work.

The list could go on and on. And the reason why it can be hard to stay cool in these circumstances is that your writing is an extension of yourself. It's your emotions and your creativity put down on paper; hopefully your soul exposed for all the world to see.

Which leaves you open to attack because you have chosen to present yourself in a public way.

So what can you do when you begin to face the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune"? Unfortunately in today's society you don't have the luxury of being a brooding artist who can fling mud in your attacker's face. Try a few of these ideas instead:

1) Consider the source. Unless this person is a New York Times bestselling author, a stellar agent or an editor whose opinion you've come to trust, their opinion is just that...an opinion. Don't rush out and rewrite anything just because one person tells you it stinks. Instead, try and have a group of peers in the industry who can give you honest feedback.

2) Consider their motivation. A recent survey states that over 80% of Americans have a dream of writing a book. So most likely you're dealing with a disgruntled wannabe author who possibly had the same idea for a book but has been trumped by you. Go easy on them.

3) Consider their feedback. All right. Here's one that few of us want to face. Are they right? If several people have given you feedback of a similar nature, you may want to accept that something isn't adding up right. And since we're trying to be open to improving our craft, look at their advice for what it's worth. If it has some validity, use it. If you still think it's a low blow, chuck it.


Spring Writing Prompt

As the temperatures rise, I thought it might be fun to suggest a writing prompt that would tie into what has always been my favorite time of the year. Spring means rebirth and new life and yet we tend to live such hectic lifestyles that we may  not be noticing the changes around us. For a writer, this is wrong! We should never be too busy to open our eyes and use our surroundings to inspire our writing.  So spend a few minutes this week doing the following:

Choose a color, any color. Then go for at least a fifteen minute walk in your area. Use all of your senses, but be sure to notice everything that is that color. When you go home or if you choose to sit down and write wherever you are, describe what you saw in its richness and fullness. Use adjectives that are unique and draw out uncommon comparisons to what you saw. Make the reader feel and experience what you did.



There has been a lot of press lately about Barry Eisler and his "walking away" from a huge deal to publish his latest book, instead opting to self-publish it. This brings up some interesting questions when it comes to writing--do you try and "do it yourself" and hopefully maintain more of the profits, or do you let a publisher help you, but essentially leave you with pennies on the dollar.

Well, here's my take on the whole issue, for what it's worth. After all, there are pros and cons to both sides.

Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing
The obvious 'pro' to this is that you get to keep a substantial amount of the profits yourself, especially if you skip the printing and opt for e-books. Percentages can vary, but we're talking a HUGE difference.

You also have more control over creative input, such as designing the cover or deciding how to edit it (not that you shouldn't have a professional editor help you anyway, but you can 'put your foot down' if you have creative differences more easily). In a sense, you are the master and the final product will have to have your stamp of approval.

That being said, that also means that you get to foot the bill for that editing and design work and so hopefully you have some trusted connections because it can get pricey. Shop around and ask other authors for some advice. You'll want to study up a little bit on the whole process of what makes a cover successful. 

You see, that's the main drawback of self-publishing: the work. Besides determining who your printer will be or getting things set up for an ebook, you're also responsible for any marketing that will take place which includes advertising, networking with bookstores for book signings and even trying to GET your books in the bookstores. You have to make up all promotional items such as bookmarks and posters yourself. This can all take away from that bottom line.

But if creative control is most important to you--and not necessarily the number of books you sell or the hours you'll put into selling them--then this could be the way to go. And to be honest, with the way the market is changing, the chance to have a breakaway best seller is getting better and better.

I admit that I have to be careful here because this is the route I've chosen and to be honest, even though it's not a perfect system, it works best for me. By having a publisher, I may have less control over the finished product, but I know that finished product has a better chance of reaching more readers. My publisher sees that I get into all of the pertinent ads and bookstores, they send out the press releases and arrange for book signings. They make bookmarks for me and take care of all of the printing arrangements for my book. I also have an editor to help me out with the book itself, an art department to design the cover and a market department to see that it gets publicity. Not to mention the "clout" that comes from having a publisher--being "self-published" is akin to a "vanity press" where anyone can write anything and get it published. You don't have to "prove" yourself as much if you have a publisher to back you up.

But, like I said, I lose some of the creative control. If there are creative differences that you have with your editor, you may find yourself doing a lot of compromising. You may also never see the cover until it's actually on the book! That's why choosing a publisher is important and then developing a sense of trust with them. And if you don't think you're a natural salesman and struggle to talk about yourself, there may not be another solution, unless the only people you want to have read your book are family and friends.

So while not an in-depth analysis of both worlds, at least it's a hint as to what each entails. Good luck deciding!


Adjectives and Adverbs

When it comes to adjectives and adverbs, it's easy to make a lot of beginner's mistakes. The simplest rule is to avoid the overuse or misuse of adjectives and adverbs. Here are five reasons why:
1) More is less. A string of adjectives is distracting and harder to read.
2) You end up “telling” vs. “showing” the reader what is happening when you
use too many adjectives.
3) Adverbs can weaken their subjects. It’s like saying the verb isn’t strong
enough to stand on its own.
4) Beginners tend to use common adjectives and adverbs. They become cliché.
5) You end up using more commas than necessary which makes for awkward

So a good exercise to do with any of your writing is to go paragraph by paragraph and underline or highlight all of your adjectives and adverbs and then ask yourself the following questions:
1) "Is this really necessary? Can I just cut it out?"
2) "Is this word too cliche/common? Is there another adjective/adverb I could use?"
3) "What other nouns or verbs could I use in its place to strengthen the meaning?"

Try rewriting the paragraph now. You'll find that with practice you'll begin to naturally edit yourself as you write.


Advice for Young Writers

From time to time I get questions for young people who are interested in writing. When I consider my own life, I really wish I'd had someone growing up who gave me the idea and the confidence that I could be a writer. I feel like I kind of stumbled onto it on my own. So here's some of what I would have wanted to know:

First, becoming a good writer can be a product of being a good reader. And don't limit yourselves to one genre or particular writer. Learn to appreciate writing in all of its forms--from poetry to science fiction to non-fiction. It will give you a broader perspective of different writing styles and possibly open up new avenues for you to consider.

Second, keep a journal. One day when you're old and decrepit, you're going to want to write a story that includes a teenager or a 10-year-old. By writing down your thoughts now, you'll be able to tap into that authenticity for the characters you'll write later.

Next, don't let your abilities now discourage you from thinking you can be a writer later. Remember, you're young and may not have the life experiences needed to truly write a masterpiece. And when you look back and read these early attempts, you'll probably laugh but know that right now it's more the desire than the ability to write that counts.

And lastly, don't think that writing well just happens. Take creative writing courses (though don't let anything a teacher or pupil may say discourage you) and network with other writers. If you can find a mentor that's great. But there are a lot of resources out there for you to tap into that can help you achieve writing success. Take advantage of writing opportunities: for a local newspaper, your school literary magazine, the year book even. You'll gain confidence this way and gradually work your way up to where you want to be.


'Abish: Daughter of God' book giveaway

Wow, three posts in one month! I'm setting a record for myself. But, in celebration of Valentine's Day and in anticipation of Abish: Mother of Faith being released next month, I'd like to "share the love" and give  a copy of Abish: Daughter of God to one of my lucky followers. Details are on my website http:www.kcgrant.com


Making Friends Monday

Hello Aspiring Writers,

Check out my new friend and her great blog!:

Tristi Pinkston is the author of six novels for the LDS market, most recently "Dearly Departed," the second novel in The Secret Sisters Mysteries series. She loves to teach others about the craft of writing and works as a freelance editor and online writing instructor, as well as being a popular presenter at the annual LDStorymaker Writers Conference.

Her blog http://www.tristipinkston.blogspot.com is a mixture of writing tips, author interviews, thoughts about life, ramblings about homeschool, family, region ... basically anything that happens to be on her mind at any given moment.


Valentine's Day writing prompt

Ahh, love is in the air. Pretend that you are your favorite storybook villain and you're trying to win back the heart of your love interest after he/she found out about your villainous life or past. Try and justify your behavior to them, portraying it in the best light possible. (And you're not above outright lying, after all, you're a villain.) But somehow let your character's true nature show through in your letter/speech in a way that they themselves wouldn't recognize as being menacing or obsessive. And don't forget to add what your character will do if their love remains unrequited.


Getting Published

This is the number one question I get from people: "How do I get published?" And to be perfectly honest, it irks me just a little bit. Instead, they should be asking, "How can I become a better writer"! Because let's face it, you'll be more likely to get published if you've written some well-crafted novel that has its place in the current market.

But, not to belabor that point, I'm going to assume you know your craft and have written something incredible that deserves to be published. So, here's a few simple ideas (because there are entire books written about this!) to think about:

1) If you're looking to publish in the national market you'll need an agent. And the best way to find one is to ask other writers who write in the same genre as you or attend writer's conferences where they have agents/publishers come to speak.  Many offer you one-on-one time to pitch your idea for an additional fee. Otherwise, there is a resource online but you'll have to do your research. If your writing is geared to a very specific niche (like Christian romance or how to yo-yo), you may not need an agent but just have to track down an appropriate publisher and can just follow the publisher's guidelines which they have on their websites. Remember that competition in most areas is fierce and be prepared for rejection--so try and look at it as a chance to improve.
2) Contests can be a great way to get noticed as well. Different writer's groups and magazines (i.e. Romance Writers of America, Writer's Digest) will have contests that you can get some attention for entering. There are numerous online contests and blogs that allow you to showcase your work, get feedback and gain status by how many followers like what you do.
3) Network, network, network. If you have a large group of writer's that you know, then you have a large group of agents, publishers and information that THEY know. Now I'm not suggesting that you go join some group for the sole purpose of picking someone's brain. I hate it when someone finds out I'm published and instead of getting to know ME, they just want to know what I've learned through years of agony and effort. Just remember, you need to have a support system of people who understand why you write, who'll support you and then cheer you on when you do find success. So start now.
4) Consider what you're trying to publish. Is it an exciting suspense novel with universal appeal or a memoir about how you grew up on a farm. If it's the latter, then you may want to consider self-publishing. Not that a well-crafted book about your life couldn't be interesting, but unless it has a real widespread appeal (like a cancer survivor story or some other angle), a publisher won't touch it. But you can self-publish through several companies for a relatively small fee (around $600 to set up and then pay for each book). Consider groups like AuthorHouse or Morris Publishing. There are hundreds and again you'll have to do your research.
So that's it in a nut shell. Good luck and get back to writing!


Writing Success in the New Year

I've talked about setting goals before, but every time a new year rolls around, I find myself taking inventory of the year before and feeling more motivated to organize myself so I can achieve the success that I'm longing for in the year to come. So here's a quick look inside my mind at some of the thoughts I've been having.

If 2010 wasn't successful year for you, remember that the year 2011 is completely open and full of possibilities. You have to approach it with that mindset that it doesn't matter how many rejections you faced or the criticisms you had to endure--you are a writer and you have something to offer! It may be a matter of examing what you tried in 2010 that didn't work and revising it to discover what could work. Writing is an industry, not just an art form, and so as each year passes, you have to refigure how what you write fits into that. So take some time to examine the trends, to look at the current market and then look at your work in a new way so you can determine how it fits into that trend or market. If vampire-mania is waning, then figure out how your paranormal writing can set a new trend. If the market is innundated with historical fiction about cowboys, then think how you can put a different twist on something you've already written to make it fresh. Your own "slush" pile could be full of great ideas that just were started at the wrong time. If it's been awhile since you looked at old manuscripts, go back and look at them with a new eye and you may find a jewel hiding in the dust.

It's even more important to stay focused if you had success in 2010 because you have a momentum going that you worked hard to get and which will vanish if you don't use it. Think of it as a springboard to even great success! The contacts you made, the things you learned, the projects you began are all part of the tools that you'll use to build with this next year. If you left them sitting around, unnoticed and unused, they'll get rusty or lost and you'll find yourself struggling to finish projects that you'd like to do. So dust off those files from last year and update that marketing schedule, set new deadlines for submissions and decide now that you will be successful!