Texas-Style Roundup 2.0 – My Top 10 Most Viewed Posts on Writing for the Last Year

Yee Doggie!

It’s roundup time again! My writer’s blog went live on January 15, 2016. In March 2017, I posted my first Texas-style Top 10 Roundup of most viewed posts on writing. Because I’ve written a plethora of other posts since then, I decided to do a second roundup just in case you missed some of my most popular posts.

Texas-style Roundup 2.0 in the order of most viewed posts:

1. Jealousy – How to Deal with the Green-Eyed Monster

2. Fierce Women Who Happen to Be Authors – A Conversation with Author Arianne “Tex” Thompson

3. Fierce Women Who Happen to Be Authors — A Conversation with Sue Latham

4. 5 Success Strategies to Implement While You Wait for the Fifth Season

5. What’s in Your Writer’s Toolbox?

6. Fierce Women Who Happen to be Authors – A Conversation with Deondriea Cantrice

7. My Curious Start to Writing Fiction — What’s Your Story?

8. Fierce Women Who Happen to be Authors — A Conversation with Dr. Kat Smith

9. If You Could Write an Open Letter to Your 13-year Old Self, What Would You Say?

10. Mysteries – Why We Love to Reading Them and Write Them

My sincere desire is to inform, inspire, and/or encourage others on their writing journey. I hope I’ve succeeded in some small way with these posts and others.

As always, thanks for stopping and happy writing!


Traditional Publishing – Great Challenges and Great Rewards


If you’re like me, pursuing traditional publishing of your novel, then you know the process is challenging — almost as difficult as a camel going through the eye of a needle.

After finishing your novel and having it edited to the point of near-perfection, you must find a literary agent to represent you because neither of the big five publishing houses in New York will accept a manuscript directly from a writer.

Unfortunately the gate for acquiring a literary agent is a very narrow one. There are only two viable options — querying and pitching.

First, but not necessarily in order of importance is querying. To query you must craft a one-page letter, addressing it to a specific literary agent, describing your story succinctly but in a manner which entices the agent to want to see additional pages or chapters of your manuscript — or the crown jewel of requests — the entire manuscript! Though I doubt this has ever happened.

Today, the method for querying is through e-mail. It would be great if one could do an e-mail blast to 100 literary agents with a single push of the button. It could be done, but the results would be counter-productive.

Almost every literary agent’s request is different from the next. For example, one agent may request only a query letter; another a query letter and synopsis; while another may request a query letter and the first three chapters of your manuscript; still another may request a query letter and the first 10 pages of your manuscript. The reason? They want to know that you’ve taken the time to research them.

Deviating from an agent’s requirements will cause your query letter to go into file 13 quicker than you can say, “book deal”.

It generally takes literary agents a couple of weeks to as many as four to six months to respond to a query letter. Some state on their websites they will only respond to you if they are interested in seeing more of your work.

Querying is frustrating to say the least because writers receive far more rejection letters than requests to see additional work.

So what’s the other option?

The other option for acquiring a literary agent is pitching. Pitching is generally done at writers conferences. You sign up during registration to have a 10 minute session (or so) to sit in front of a literary agent and tell him or her your story in a way that entices him/her to want to see actual pages.

But before you sign up for a pitch session, make sure you practice, practice, practice to get you delivery as near perfect as possible without sounding rehearsed. Easier said than done, I know!

Most writers acquire their literary agents through pitching.

These face-to-face sessions, akin to speed dating, offer the agent a glimpse of the person behind the story and allows for an instant connection — or not.

An agent can determine whether s/he can conceivable partner with a person they meet face-to-face far better than viewing a sterile piece of paper on the computer screen in the form of a query letter. As with dating, chemistry is an important factor, and so it is in a writer/agent relationship.

So what are some rewards of traditional publishing?

1. Partnership. With a traditional publishing deal comes a built-in team. To what extent they’ll go to bat to you is largely dependent on two factors — how important your book is to the list and how much they like you.

2. Quality. Publishers stand behind the books they publish, and since that’s the case, you can bet your book will be well-edited and thoroughly proofread, and that they’ll put a best effort toward making sure you have a great cover and interior design.

3. Legitimacy. This is still big. No matter how many successfully self-published or otherwise-published books are hitting the best-seller lists, traditional publishing has a legacy. This matters to the media. It matters where contests are concerned, and where some reviews are concerned.

4. Distribution. Another biggie. Traditional distribution, a big pro for traditional publishing, continues to be, hands-down, the biggest con of DIY self-publishing. Having traditional distribution means you benefit from preorders, management of your metadata on a big scale, and having a sales force that’s getting your book out to retailers on your behalf — among other benefits.

5. Advances.
If you can still get an advance, this is a clear pro. And if you can earn it out. The truth of the advance is that it’s a mixed bag. If you get a largish advance and your book doesn’t perform well, then you could become a pariah in the industry and find it very difficult to sell future books. The best advance is a mid-range advance, and if you get one, you want to consider allocating some or all of it to fund your publicity.


So, is traditional publishing for you, or are you self-publishing your work? Why did you choose your particular method?

Hey, as always thanks for stopping.

Happy writing!


writing round_up

Texas-Style Roundup – My Top 10 Most Viewed Posts on Writing

Yee Doggie! It’s roundup time!
My writer’s blog went live on January 15, 2016. At the time I had two maybe three ideas for blog posts. I was petrified that I wouldn’t be able to come up with interesting content to keep my blog going past six months. But here I am one year, two months, and 42 published posts later. Woo-hoo!

Over the course of the year, some of my posts have gotten more views than others. So I decided to do a Texas-style roundup and share my top ten posts of all time just in case you missed them. Here goes in the order of most viewed:

1. Pay Attention to the Burning Bush!

2. For Writing Better Stories: 12 Great Tips You’ve Probably Never Heard

3. Transform Your Novel With 3 Simple Writing Hacks

4. 6 Tips for Writing Dialogue that Snaps, Crackles, and Pops!

5. 5 Ways Fiction Writers Sabotage their Stories

What’s in Your Writer’s Toolbox

7. To Self-Publish or Not to Self Publish –That is the Question

8. How to Write a Good Bad Guy

9. Have You Dreamed the Next Best-Selling Novel?

10. On Writing – 7 Things I Know for Sure

I hope in some way I have accomplished my goal of informing, inspiring, and/or encouraging you on your writing journey with this blog – for that is my sincere desire.

As always, thanks for stopping and happy writing!



Writing is Never Just About Writing – It’s So Much More!


For fiction writers, writing is never just about writing. It’s so much more! For us, writing is about telling a story in a way that captivates a reader and transports him/her to another place or time.

It’s about changing the reader’s state of being, allowing an escape from the everyday and immersing him/her into a fictional world to experience the journey of the characters in the story.

For this reason, writers must perform some fundamental tasks well in order that we achieve these very lofty goals. If we fail to accomplish these tasks, our purpose for writing is not truly realized, and more importantly, the reader will be left feeling let down, or worse — cheated.

Here are three fundamental assignments we must carry out to assure our stories will not leave the reader with a feeling of dissatisfaction:

1. Have a good story idea.

If a writer doesn’t have a good story idea, one that is compelling, or different or interesting on some level, it doesn’t matter how well s/he can write. No reader will be interested. In our highly competitive market today, we should challenge ourselves to take a good story idea and turn it into a great story idea.

For examples, see my post: Pull Back the Curtain…See What Successful Writers Do that Other Writers Don’t Do

2. Use some form of plotting or outlining technique.

Most of the hard work of writing is done before we put words on a page.
Writers have to think about and formulate in our minds what’s going to happen in the story; then what’s going to happen next. That’s where structure comes in. Structure is key to telling a story well.

The reader has to be able to follow the plot in our stories to stay engaged.

If you plot is too confusing or is not structured in a way the reader can follow, s/he will become frustrated or disinterested and most likely will stop reading.

There are primarily two techniques which most writers use for developing the structure of their stories. Plotting and pantsing (writing by the seat of one’s pants) are the two techniques. Neither is right or wrong. It’s a personal preference for a writer.

A plotter will generally have very detailed, sometimes complex outlines for developing the structure of their stories.

If you’re a pantser, you should use some outlining technique to ensure your story follows a structure that the reader can follow and doesn’t get lost or confused. It can be very high-level.

The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers , a New York Times Best-seller, is one of the most highly recommended books dealing with structure in storytelling.

3. Do the research.

One of the great things about being a fiction writer is we don’t have to have an intimate knowledge of the subjects we’re writing about. But it’s imperative that we do the research necessary to give our stories authenticity. Research is key to making any fictional story believable.

If your protagonist is a medical doctor or some other professional you’re not, it will be necessary for you to do some research to make your character believable.

If your story is historical fiction, involves time-travel, is futuristic, etc., you’re going to have to do your due diligence.

Fortunately for writers today, most of the information we need is right at our fingertips — the Internet.

But we may have to go a step further and research books on a given subject or interview professionals who have the same skill set as the character we’re developing.

Research is time-consuming. And I have to admit it’s not my favorite aspect of writing. But I understand the importance it has so I do it.

I also have to admit that I’ve learned some fascinating things conducting research that I probably would not have learned otherwise. So there is some good that comes out of it!

There are other facets of writing that make it more than just writing.

Drop me a line and give me your thoughts on what writers need to do to meet these challenges.




Pull Back the Curtain…See What Successful Writers Do that Other Writers Don’t Do

Do you ever wonder why some writers rise to popularity and fame, become well-published, well-paid, award-winning authors while so many other writers languish in virtual obscurity?

Is it skill? Luck? Smarts? What is it?

Pull Back the Curtain!

This is what I believe…

I believe that if all writers started out on an even playing field, with the same opportunities to learn and grow, and have access to the same resources, some would become masterful writers while others fall by the wayside.

I believe there are things successful writers do that other writers don’t do. And not only do they do these things – they do them well.

Below are seven key things I believe successful writers do that set them apart from other writers:

1. Successful writers start. This is a no brainer. In order to be a writer of any caliber, you have to start. I’ve met people who’ve said, “I’ve always wanted to write a novel.” But they haven’t gotten out of the starting block. Successful writers start.

“The journey of a thousand miles begin with a single step.” – Lao Tzu

2. Successful writers take a good story and make it a great story!

Example #1: They give the reader something totally unexpected. A story may start out as one thing, then it’s flip, turned on its head, and becomes something totally different.

Take A Time to Kill. We thought it was going to be a story about the trial of three White boys who raped a little Black girl. But John Grisham flipped it, and it became the trial of a Black man accused of murdering the three White boys who raped his little girl.

Example #2: They take something old and make it new.

In Twilight Stephanie Meyer took an old story idea and made it new. Vampires of yesteryear were old and scary – often from Transylvania. They had to be in their coffins by dawn or they’d melt in the sunlight.

Stephanie Meyer brilliantly made her vampires young and sexy. And they walked around in the sunlight – glistening. And it was a love story! New is good!

Example #3: They take Bible stories and make it their own.

The Matrix (Trinity, the One, the Nebuchadnezzar, two worlds, good versus evil)

The good thing about the Bible, is there are no copyright laws, so go forth and pilfer!

3. Successful writers learn the craft of writing.

They learn grammar and how to write creatively. Below are some of the things they do:

• Read books on writing (Bird by Bird, The Elements of Style, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.
• Read books in their genre
• Read for pleasure and technique
• Attend conferences and workshops
• Utilize beta readers
• Have their work critiqued and edited by experts

4. Successful writers get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Motivational speaker Les Brown said, “You have to do the things others won’t do, to have the things that others won’t have.”

In order to be successful, writers have to:

• Send out query letters – LOTS of them
• Pitch their manuscripts at conferences
• Grow a tough hide; learn to deal with rejection, knowing it’s par for the course in traditional publishing

Before and after their book is published, successful writers:

• Do self-promotion, build their brand – They build a social media platform (Website, Twitter, Facebook, Blog, Pinterest; YouTube; Press Release; Launch Party)
• Attend book fairs, book signings, present at writer’s groups, workshops and conferences
• Do interviews

5. Successful writers silence their inner critic.

They silence the shaming voice inside in the following ways:

• Remind themselves why they write.

• Remind themselves who controls their destiny.

• Remind themselves that others have walked the same path and have gone on to greatness:

– After 5 years of continual rejection, Agatha Christie finally landed a publishing deal. Her book sales are now in excess of $2 billion. Only William Shakespeare has sold more.

– John Grisham’s A Time to Kill was rejected by 16 agencies and then 12 publishers.

Carrie by Stephen King was rejected 30 times before it was published.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was rejected 12 times and J. K. Rowling was told “not to quit her day job.”

6. Successful writers are disciplined.

Successful writers have goals. They identify a certain number of words they will write each day or a certain number of hours they will write each day. And they write every day!

7. Successful writers never quit!

They never,ever,ever give up until they have accomplished their goals!

So, what do you think successful writers do that set them apart from the rest of the pack? Drop me a line and let me know what you think.



Traditional Publishing: Staying Strong in the Face of Rejection

traditional-publishing-staying-strongDealing with rejection when pursuing traditional publishing is one of the biggest challenges a new writer can face. I know this to be true because I’ve experienced my fair share of rejection as I’ve traversed this daunting path. So how do you stay strong in the face of rejection?

As I was writing my first manuscript, I never could have imaged that getting it published would be such a challenge. The truth of the matter is, I’m glad I didn’t know because had I known, I might not have had the courage to even try.

But of course I would have given up on a dream even before it had a chance to take flight. My dream of becoming a published author hasn’t been realized yet, but I’ve learned some very valuable lessons along the way that I think may be helpful to writers and serve as encouragement to those who are also pursuing the path of traditional publishing.

There’s an old adage that says misery loves company. And you know, as terrible as it sounds, there’s probably a lot of truth to it. I say this to share with you that if you have received rejections for your query letters or manuscript, you are not alone.

A number of great, well-published authors received rejections for their work before they were eventually published. Here are a few examples:

• After 5 years of continual rejection, Agatha Christie finally landed a publishing deal. Her book sales are now in excess of $2 billion. Only William Shakespeare has sold more.

• John Grisham’s A Time to Kill was rejected by 16 agencies and then 12 publishers.

Carrie by Stephen King was rejected 30 times before it was published.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was rejected 12 times and J. K. Rowling was told “not to quit her day job.”

So there is hope for us battered and bruised souls! Below are 6 valuable lessons that I’ve learned regarding how to deal with rejection while pursuing traditional publishing. I hope they are helpful to you.

1) Keep a positive attitude.

Nothing can sap your energy and drive like having a negative attitude. When you receive a rejection, feel the disappointment. Throw a pity party if you want to. But don’t wallow in self-pity. Remember that rejection is a part of the process. Pick yourself up, and get back into the fight. You can’t win it if you’re not in it!

2) Remain focused on the end game.

The end game is being a published author; having your work published so that others can read it and enjoy it. That is the goal. Keep that goal in mind and continue to take the steps necessary to get you there. Don’t become too discouraged by the rejections to continue moving forward.

3) Take feedback as an opportunity to improve.

Getting specific feedback from a literary agent or editor regarding the reason your work was rejected is invaluable. Try not to take the feedback as a negative, but a positive to improve your manuscript.

4) Celebrate small successes.

When positive things happen in your writing journey, celebrate those successes. When a literary agent requests sample chapters. That’s great. Celebrate! When your full manuscript is requested by a literary agent — score! Celebrate! You’re one step closer to becoming published.

5) Be persistent! Keep moving forward.

Don’t let rejections derail your forward movement. Look at them as a set-up for a comeback. In a great book I read, entitled, How to Write a Damn Good Mystery, the author, James N. Frey said, “You might be astonished to hear this, but most writers who finish a damn good mystery send out a few queries to agents and, when their work is turned down, put the manuscript in a drawer and never look at it again. I have seen this happen hundreds of times. A talented writer has a damn good story written with damn good prose, but after one or two rejections, there it goes into the damn drawer. Makes me crazy.”

This revelation gave me the determination not to be one of those writers.

6) Keep the faith!

Have faith in yourself as a writer. And have faith that the Creator is BIG enough to make BIG things happen in your life!

So, what about you? What has been your experience regarding rejection while pursing traditional publishing? How do you stay positive? Drop me a line or two. I’d love to hear from you.




Writing Secret Revealed – Mentors Matter

This is probably one of the best kept secrets in the world of writing fiction. Mentors matter in a writer’s life just as much as they do in the business world. And I’ll tell you why. During my 33 years of working for the federal government, I never had a mentor until the last three or four years of my career. During the earlier years, I watched in dismay as the careers of a few of my colleagues with mentors sky-rocketed past me as though they had boosters strapped on.

In my writing career, however, I was blessed to find a mentor relatively early, which was fortunate for me because I started writing so late in life. In November 2012, I finished the first draft of my first manuscript,Elysian Escape, and I needed an editor.

LaRee Bryant was referred to me by a gentleman by the name of Win Shields, a successful television writer/producer, whom I’d met at the writers group I attended. He said that LaRee was an excellent editor. And he was right!

laree-bryant-author-writerLaRee is also an accomplished author, having published several novels in the historical romance genre. Last year she published a fantastically fun cozy mystery series — The Poppy Green Mystery Series.

Interestingly enough, there was no discussion that LaRee would be my mentor. It just happened organically over the last three years…or maybe I just claimed her. I can’t remember which.

I do remember when I shared with LaRee during our second or third conversation that I’d planned to start writing full-time the following year. She was quick to tell me, “Hold on, not so fast!” You see, she knew a heck of a lot more than I did about the challenges of writing and getting paid for it.

And what’s more, she saw the condition of my manuscript — as purple as an eggplant and in dire need of major editing. She knew that I couldn’t quit my day job — and survive. What she didn’t know was that I had planned to retire the following year anyway, but I had no grand illusion of becoming the next John Grisham.

Over the past three years, LaRee has coached and guided me and shared freely from her vast reservoir of knowledge as a writer and a former college writing instructor. One thing that surprised me was how generous she was with sharing her knowledge. In the business world this didn’t happen very often because most people believe that knowledge is power, and to an extent it is. So they prefer to keep their power neatly tucked away and stamped “for personal use only.”

What I appreciate most about LaRee is that she didn’t sugar coat her feedback. She was direct and honest. And when she complimented me for something did well, I appreciated it that much more because I knew she wasn’t saying it just to make me feel good. Writing is serious business with her.

LaRee and Me
LaRee meticulously guide me through developing a clean well-written manuscript. Her technique was really to “teach me how to fish.” She didn’t just hand my manuscript back to me bleeding profusely from the assault of the Red Pen Assassin saying, “Here ya go. Good luck with that!” She sat down with me each time and explained, for example, why a character of mine couldn’t think anything anymore because he just dropped dead from a bullet to his skull. Ha-ha! I got a pretty good belly laugh from that one and a good lesson to boot.

LaRee taught me so much about the craft of writing. She taught me about world-building and keeping that world consistent though out the manuscript. She taught me about such things as Point-of-View (POV) and what head hopping was — and not to do it!

She taught me about giving my characters the right emotions to make them more believable and to have movement. In the original draft of my manuscript, ALL of my characters were just talking heads. They had no movement, no emotion, only dialogue and a back story. And I actually thought I’d done a pretty good job. Ha-ha! That’s because I knew absolutely nothing about writing creatively. And as the English writer Alexander Pope said, “A little learning is a dangerous thing.”

NETWO Writers Conference 2015 – (From left to right) The usual suspects, me with authors Sandy Steen, James Gaskin, Penny Richards and LaRee Bryant

LaRee recommended great books in my genre, conferences to attend, and excellent books on writing, such as On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King, Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain, How to Write a Damn Good Mystery by James N. Frey, to name a few.

I know that I still have a lot of learning to do where writing is concerned, but I’m leaps and bounds ahead of where I would be if it had not been for LaRee’s guidance. And I might not be riding the great writers’ wave of success yet, but when I am, I will own a huge debt of thanks and gratitude to LaRee.

LaRee is a great example to follow too. She is currently working on a steamy historical western entitled, Forever. mentors-matter_6

Drop me a comment and let me know if you’ve had a similar or different mentoring experience. Thanks!