Monday, May 30, 2016

Writing Your Own Style Sheet - Mar Preston

Not knowing any better when I began writing my series set in Santa Monica, I called this document a Character Roster. I’ve always loved theater programs listing the characters and the actor playing the role. Fiction writers struggle with many aspects of plot and story, one of them keeping track of our characters and settings.

The Character Roster is a simple idea, but it will save you a lot of agony, searching back and forward through your manuscript, scratching your head and trying to remember what you called the pharmacist your detective visited to nail down the victim’s timeline. Now he needs to go back to the pharmacist. What did you call him?  Look it up in the Character Roster.

A Style Sheet is more advanced.  A style sheet is documents the style standards and practices of a publisher of newspapers, books, or magazines. If you were to write for them, you’d know to ask for one before you submitted your piece. I wouldn’t have, so here’s a tip.

A traditional publisher to may adhere more or less strictly to the Chicago Manual of Style and your local weekly follow the Associated Press’s guide. Suffice to say there are many other style manuals for specialty publications.

Style sheets offer the publication's guide to spelling, punctuation, and capitalization practices so you can turn in a manuscript consistent within itself as well as match the style of the publication.

A style sheet can help you as the writer, as well as potential beta readers, and any editor you may hire to develop consistency and reduce errors in story details.

Make your own style sheet

You can make this reference document as simple or complicated as you like. Working simply, you’d list in alphabetical order on a sheet of lined paper (or spreadsheet or word processing document)  any odd spellings or words that you make up as you go along. Stick in place names for example, if you’re writing a mystery set in Wales.  

Use this also to keep track of odd spellings or words that you make up, especially if you're writing fantasy or paranormal. If your beta readers or editor pauses to make a decision over a word or grammatical construction, their attention has been jarred loose from the smooth flow of the story.

Make decisions.

Serial comma or not? Em dash or parentheses? Numerals for all numbers greater than nine or will your cut-off be ninety-nine?

Decide on the use of quotation marks and/or italics, especially for unusual words, or words used for emphasis. If you don’t know common usage for quotation marks and italics, this is the time to look it up and professionalize yourself. Writing down the differences will embed it in your brain.

Time to learn the basic rules of capitalization as well. For example, “seeing the sergeant” and seeing Sgt. Fields.”

List words in foreign languages that you’re using and how to spell them.

What belongs in your style sheet is anything unusual that the beta reader, editor, or copy editor should know as they are reading. Anything that would make them stop and say "What?"

If you’re a plotter you may enjoy this task. A seat-of-pantser may not want to slow down until the first draft is complete. Working on one before that point might get in the way of the pantser’s feverish creativity.

I do urge you, nonetheless, to set up the Character Roster. You may find you’ve referred to an incidental character as Billy, Bobby, and Bob. Get it right and your initial readers will thank you.

And your story will flow like honey when you send off your final manuscript wherever it’s going.

I'm curious if other mystery writers use this tool. Please let me know.


Sunday, May 29, 2016


Having completed three major book events and signings on the last three weekends I am now feeling like an expert on this sort of thing.  Hence, comments about Bestest and Worstest!

At least best and worst for me--Author Radine Trees Nehring.

Best is meeting and interacting with the public. Being in the book promotion business turned me from a total introvert (I used to hide in my bedroom closet with a flashlight and a book during my own birthday parties) into someone who welcomes interaction with other people in almost any setting.  But I welcome it most of all when I am in the game as an author. I'm not good at what a former boss used to call "playing lady." (That was going "shopping" or out to lunch with other women, gossiping, looking at clothing, household items, and so on, running clerks--in this case me--ragged, but buying nothing. Playing bridge--awful at that--quilting, or other artistic sewing action--crooked stitches and knotted thread--or just having refreshments and chatting--to me, most of it sounded like fictitious information with a yen to share thrilling gossip! So, as an adult, my introverted life consisted of my job as a sales person in a high end shop, eating out, hiking, camping, traveling with my husband, going to stage events (opera, concerts, plays) and occasional movies.  Just we two. Suited us both.

Then, as mature adults my husband and I bought forested land in the Arkansas Ozarks and--impelled by my love for everything about this new experience and interaction with nature, my interest in writing was born full-grown and I quickly began to write and sell essays and articles revealing what I was learning about nature and life in the Ozarks in general. Voila! I was a writer. Still an introvert. I enjoyed my writing, felt I was pretty good at it (it did sell) and there was little need to interact with other people since my writing was going around the English speaking world, not necessarily my neighborhood.

Until--until, my Ozarks essays were collected into my first book ("Dear Earth: A Love Letter from Spring Hollow") and sold to a New York publisher. This was in the days before the explosion of the Internet, so I began slowly to experience book events, traveling quite a bit around states nearest my home area. This was a happy experience.  People who came to events were there mainly because pre-event promotion by my publisher and various bookstores, libraries, etc. attracted their attention. They were interested. They bought books.

I wanted to continue writing. What next? Why not begin a series of cozy mystery stories set in the Ozarks? Why mysteries? Because that's what I loved reading.

Jump forward to today and the recent release of the eighth novel in my mystery series. A short period of frustration while finding publishers aside, the transition to fiction writer has been smooth. The transition to doing the largest percentage of promotion on line still is not smooth. I am in my office, typing words on a screen, clicking on sites, puzzling how to add my information to this location or that, being frustrated when the actions of my computer system don't follow my probably flawed instructions and balk. Where are the people? I'm back inside the introverted Radine, not hiding in a closet but hiding in my office--typing.  Worstest!

So, the hours spent (mostly outside in lovely spring weather) during the past three weekends were a beautiful return to the Bestest. People, people people. Nope, certainly not all of them bought books. Some chatted with me about many things, then walked off without a book. But gee, they wanted to know about me and my work, and to tell me about themselves, what they read, and much more. Some actually marched up to me, intent on their purpose to buy the new novel written by Radine Trees Nehring, get it autographed, and march off to pay and leave. No matter, I was out of my office and away from that w-a-a-y too demanding screen and keyboard.

In a couple of weeks I'll begin weekend work (all day Fridays and Saturdays) at my table in the front of many stores in a large grocery chain in my area. Back to long chats, hearing people's problems, and, some of the time, selling them a book.  Yea--the BESTEST! 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Oh, dear, I goofed again!

Here I am in Murietta--in the South end of California, thinking all is well. I thought I did all the blog posts I was supposed to, but I sure can't find the one I wrote for today. If I wrote one, who knows.

Because I am on a week long vacation--or adventure as I like to call it--I only have my iPad with me to write on. I did bring notes for the book I'm writing now, so if I get time I can do some plot building. However, since I'm staying with my eldest daughter and next daughter down drove us, I suspect I'll be pretty much occupied. We have grandkids and greats who all live by to visit this week.

From here we'll drive north a bit (but still considered Southern California) to Camarillo to visit youngest daughter and a couple of grands.

We'll then travel to Central California to go to the Central Coast SinC meeting and the next day, a big author event at a winery. Looking forward to everything. A nice break from the regular grind--and writing.

See you in June.


Monday, May 23, 2016

It Will Be Done!

I'm at least two-thirds through with my work in progress, called Awake, but life intrusions keep getting in my way.

Hopefully, my good twin, bad twin thriller will be available some time this summer. I'll need to squeeze in my writing time in between visits to Wisconsin, where the hubby fishes and I go on long walks with Buster, our energetic Miniature Pinscher.

Anyway, above is the proposed cover for the book which I'm determined to get finished!

Find excerpts and buy links to all of Morgan's
books at 

Amazon Page:


Twitter: @MorganMandel

Thursday, May 19, 2016

When To Start Your Book Promotion

by Linda Thorne

My debut novel, Just Another Termination, was released August 29, 2015. I’d signed the publishing contract fourteen months prior, giving me advance notice to work furiously on promotion.
Telling a new author to start promoting as soon as you start writing your book may be a stretch, but I encourage anyone taking on the challenge to study the subject from the beginning—even start doing a little promoting early on. Sure, your priority should be getting the book written and in shape, followed by a search to find an agent or publisher (unless you are self-publishing). If your book is released, the process will likely take years. Trust me, once you know you are being published and have a general time frame, you’ll be grateful for anything you’ve started, learned, or accomplished because your promotion now ramps up significantly and remains in continuous fast-paced mode.
Some things you can do early on.

·       Get your website name locked up. I had “” secured with GoDaddy eleven years ago. If someone is looking for my website, they’ll find it simply by typing in my name without having to guess or remember if there’s another initial in front, an extra word, such as author, or my middle initial.

·       The writing community urges new writers to have a website before they have a book. I chose not to. Instead, I learned everything I could about what was available out there until I knew which package would suit me and at what cost. I even chose a web designer. If you don't have a website set up, make sure you're prepared to move quickly the moment you know your book is coming out. 

·       Join an author’s critique group. You’ll not only get advice on your writing, you’ll have a group of people to commiserate with on your writing hurdles. Critique groups serve as both advisory and support groups.

·        Join writing organizations, online and/or in person.

·        Visit public meetings advertised for writers.

·       Look at author blogs. Make comments on them. You’re getting your name out there even if you don’t have your book ready and you’re finding out what is going on in the writing community.

Some things you can do once you’ve found a publisher or know when you’ll self-publish:

·       Do you want a book trailer? I personally think they’re great, but expensive if you pay for someone else to do the work. I was lucky when my husband figured out how to create one for me.

·       Start getting your swag (book marks, business cards, little gadgets with your name and/or book name and website) together. Again, my husband handled this for me, even studying “branding” so that he could design swag to eventually fit into a brand.

·        Put up that website you’ve already planned for if you haven’t already.

Some things to do in the months just prior to your book release and the months just following that release:

·       Find strong blogs that lend themselves to your genre and ask for help with your book release. I submitted to Lelia Taylor, of cncbooksbooksblog's Buried Under Books, and was lucky to have her advertise my book approaching release in what she called a “book cover reveal.” This was a teaser that splashed my book cover on the post with a little information. She then offered to do a follow-up at the release date with another post she called, Spotlight on Just Another Termination, and a whole ton of people were notified my book had been released. I do recommend that you support these blogs before and after they help you. I started commenting on cncbooksblog's Buried Under Books at least a year prior to requesting this. I even bought and read a couple of the books advertised there.

·       Ten days prior to book release date, the personal post I’d submitted to the Killer Nashville Blog, My Writing Curse . . . Ten Years and Counting, came out. The day after the book was published, Lelia Taylor of Buried Under Books, posted an article I wrote about me and my book called, Favorites . . . The Little Bookstore. Two days later I appeared in the September 2015 edition of two online magazines. The International Thriller Writers’, The Big Thrill posted an interview with me in the Debut Author’s column of the magazine. In Kings River Life magazine, a little blurb was published along with a giveaway contest to win a copy of my book in Sunny Frazier’s “Coming Attractions” column.

·        Most publishers recommend a blog tour, something that you’ll need to begin planning months before publication. Some authors have an extensive blog tour, being hosted on a different blog daily. It’s a great deal of work and, in the months just prior to publication, things got extremely busy at my day job, and stayed that way. In addition to the personal posts published in the Killer Nashville and cncbookblog's Buried Under Books. I began appearing on other authors’ personal blogs. I wasn’t prepared to do more than a few, so I also hosted some authors to appear on mine. My tour was more hit and misses than a true blog tour.

·       There’s also the in-person events. I went to my first book signing at my local author’s Sisters in Crime showcase meeting September of 2015 in Belleview, Tennessee. I worked like crazy to get on an author’s panel at the Southern Festival of Books and succeeded, appearing on a panel in early October, and then made it onto a panel for Killer Nashville’s Writers Conference the following month.

Book promotion is hard and mostly falls on the author. One thing I wish I’d done as soon as I signed the publication contract was to write numerous blog posts in advance to have available for blog visits. If I’d done that, I probably would’ve had a true blog tour and been hosted by many more of my author friends.
Twitter: @lindamthorne

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Baptism of Fire

by Janis Patterson

It’s part of a writer’s life. Sooner or later you’re going to get a one-star review. Expect it, people say. Don’t let it get you down, people say. It’s part of the business, people say. You’re not a real writer until you get a one-star review, people say. All of which are very true.

But it still hurts, and it hurts worse when it’s on one of my very favorite books, one that has more five-star reviews than any other ranking.

It’s not even what I would call an honest review. The writer says she (assuming it is a she) gave it a chance, stuck it out through the first quarter of the book, then threw it down without giving any cogent reason. I know that she (?) is not expected to give a reason and probably should not be, but it does seem rather mean-spirited just to say ‘its’s bad’ and nothing more.

One thing she did say was that the heroine’s name changed once to a very similar name. Well…. to my shock that is true, and I have no idea how it happened. I went to the typescript I sent to my formatter – thinking to prove her wrong – and by gum, there it was. In that instance she was absolutely right, and I would like to know how that particular little bomb got by my many readings, two editors, half-a-dozen beta readers and a respectable number of buyers. Gremlins…. it has to be gremlins.

So – first thing tomorrow I must send all the electronic files and the print file to my formatter and hope he can squeeze in a quick correction so I can get the files reloaded. For that bit of information I thank her, as I like my files to be as pristine as possible. Or maybe I should say as pristine as the gremlins will allow.

At least having passed the one-star baptism of fire I can call myself a real writer now. But it still hurts.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Time to Write

Finding the time I need to write hasn't been easy. I should be working on my next Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery. Yes, I have ideas for it, notes written down, but I've been busy promoting the last one.

My big mistake was I made my blog tour far too long. I vowed not to do that, but people kept volunteering and I didn't want to turn anyone down. Next blog tour, if I do another, I swear will be much shorter. It takes far too much time despite being fun and hopefully a different bunch of people seeing what I've written.

If writing was the only thing I did, maybe I'd get caught up--but like most of my fellow mystery authors, I have a life chocked full of family, other commitments and events. (Lately, my husband has been plagued with health issues and dealing with the VA over his disability being cut.)

We also had a big change as our granddaughter and family have moved in with us. (Loving every minute of it.)

Planning ahead is needed for even tasks for writing for my regular appearances on blogs like this because of traveling plans too. I prefer to work on my home computer to my iPad, though I always take it with me.

This month, hubby, and middle daughter and I are taking off on a weeklong, jam packed trip. First we'll visit our eldest daughter and two grandkids and their families, then up the coast to see youngest daughter and family, from there to a Central Coast Sister in Crime meeting, and a book signing at a winery. Looking forward to it, but know I won't be doing much writing.

Hopefully, I'll at least get a good start on the book before I leave.

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith