Monday, December 12, 2022

A Writers Potluck

I want to thank the authors from FIRST LOVE for their contributions to the IWSG Anthology Blog this past year--hard to believe it's been a year! And as 2022 comes to a close, we are wrapping up our 7th IWSG anthology volume of posts with a Potluck of advice, final thoughts, and future happening to share. Hope you enjoy!

The Main Course in our Writers Potluck is some advice: 

How to Break a Block

If the block is simply lack of motivation, I break it with music. A killer playlist energizes me and helps me focus. When writing “Clyde and Coalesce,” I listened to 80’s rock. Now I’m working on a trilogy of superhero novels, so my current favorite is “Superheroes” by The Script.

If the block is due to me feeling disconnected from the story, it’s often because I’m writing a boring chapter. In that case, powering through won’t help. I have to rethink why the chapter is there at all. Filler must be cut! If it’s boring but important to the plot, I let the character’s personalities shine more. They’re snarky and fun when I let them be.

There are several things I try when I feel stuck, depending what's causing it. If it's a lack of inspiration, I try doing other things that inspire, like changing scenery (even something as simple as a walk around the block or a visit to a friend's house) or reading a book or watching a movie for fun. Sometimes remembering what you like about a good story is all it takes. 

If it's burnout, I try not to make writing feel like work. I give myself permission to write what I want, just for fun, and try to turn off my inner editor. Sometimes there are deadlines so it's not always possible but remembering what you love about writing and emphasizing that is key.

If it's a story issue requiring problem solving, I try to actively think through the issue, then walk away for a bit to other duties. Over the next few days, while doing something mundane (folding laundry, washing dishes, taking a shower), something might come to me. If not, when I sit down to think about it again after the break, my mind is cleared enough to come back to it with fresh eyes, which can also help. If it doesn't, talking it over with a writer friend is super helpful! 

If it's life circumstances getting in the way, sometimes you have to give yourself space and time. I had a hard time focusing when I was exhausted during pregnancy and when I was in the middle of a big move. It's okay to take care of those things first--they can take up your whole mental energy--and then come back to writing when you're ready. 
Sammi Spizziri -- THE REAL THING

And for Dessert, some sweet

Parting Thoughts with Hopeful Aspirations

Contributing to this anthology has been a thrilling and challenging experience. I’ve learned so much, and I’m grateful for the opportunity. As we head into the new year, I’m drafting book three in my superhero trilogy while continuing to promote Heart of a Hero, which was published in November. 2023 will be a busy year, but I'll keep my eyes open for writing contests that pique my interest. You never know where they might lead! 

Reflecting back on 2022, being part of the FIRST LOVE anthology has definitely been a high point for me. So many great stories, great authors, and amazing and supportive readers! I was thinking the other day about what it means to be in a "toxic environment" -- one that promotes death and discord -- vs. an environment that supports life, health, and growth, and am so grateful to be part of a writing and reading community that genuinely lifts people up and helps them succeed. My goal for the coming year is to take time to appreciate the journey and the hard-earned growth, and to be sure to spread the love!

It has been fun working on the anthologies for the IWSG. They have brought together such a great bunch of writers over the years and hopefully helped them on their author journey. Dancing Lemur Press is proud of the seven books we produced and thanks the IWSG admins, members, and judges for all of their hard work over the years.

Dancing Lemur Press has five books slated for release next year, including several of my own! Kicking it off February 7 with In Darkness: The Vampire, it will be the first books I’ve written in years and I’m excited. 
-- L. Diane Wolfe - Dancing Lemur Press, L.L.C.

I have been honored to moderate the IWSG Anthology blog. I've loved working with and getting to know the authors and have learned so much from them about writing and the publication process. I hope you have too! -- Tara Tyler (Author of Reset from TICK TOCK A STITCH IN CRIME and Sentient from DARK MATTER)

May you Enjoy the Holiday Season and 
Write with Glee in 2023!

Monday, November 7, 2022

A Cornucopia of Marketing Advice for Writers

Part 2 of our Marketing Experiences to pass on...

Sylvia Ney has a good list...
  1. Get your book reviewed by influential writers and bloggers. Getting your book reviewed by these influential people can give you the needed exposure. ...
  2. Create an author website with your bio, book description, and other information about you ...
  3. Write a blog post about the topic of your book or what inspired you to write it and share it on social media. ...
  4. Speak at Writer's events, conferences, etc. and offer your books there.

Notes from Katie Klein
I enjoy using Twitter for marketing. The concise nature of the posts is most appealing, but I also like that I can add hashtags to expand my reach. I typically schedule my tweets in advance, so there’s always a handful of posts ready to go in case I get too busy to log on during the day. I do promote my own books, but most of my tweets are for writers. I love posting inspiring/motivational quotes and writing tips. My system over there is set, so now I’m just trying to get better at interacting with others because social media promotion is always a two-way street: you have to give to get. :)

And SE White offers some in-depth thoughts...
In this day and age, authors have to put ourselves out there to market our books, hanging weightless in cyberspace with multiple tentacles dangling into the ether. We need a platform. We’ve got to have an online presence. It’s necessary to network. All fun, exotic concepts brought to us courtesy of the internet. There are websites, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, podcasts, all asking for your online attention. There are writer’s associations, critique groups, pitch fests, twitter pitch fests, conferences, panels, and other writing related events needing your digital presence. None of it is a bad thing, per se. I'm not railing against social media. It's a very effective marketing tool. 

I'm just saying that not being a very social skills person puts me at something of an automatic disadvantage in this arena. (Comment trolls DEFINITELY do not help.) In sum: the social media beast requires multiple sacrifices from introverts like me. Here are some tips, from one introvert to any others, about how to minimize the pain while maximizing your social media interaction. 
  1. Learn to love the Internet. The internet is perfect for us! We can interact with almost limitless amounts of people while never actually having to see them face-to-face. 
  2. But! Pick the niche that works best for you and focus on it. Don't feel you have to expose yourself on every social site, ever. This is a quality over quantity situation. And 
  3. Your active participation is how you add value, and get value at the same time. It's like magic! The deeper and more authentic your relationships on the platform, the more you get out of them. It's easier to interact if it's something you feel passionate about.

Final tidbits from me, your humble moderator.
The writing journey is full of pitfalls, setbacks, and hurdles. But writers keep writing and put everything we have into a fantastic story and do what it takes to share it with hungry readers. We have to figure out what works for us and put ourselves out there. 

Personally, I have sold the most by going out to book events, but also at vendor events where I'm the only author. Every event is a risk, and I weigh the odds of how many books I might sell verses the price of the events -- free ones are obviously the best but hardest to get into. And many book events require you to have published traditionally or at least published a new book recently. And when I go, I have a fun, freebie-filled display to draw readers in, then strike up a discussion about my books. Sometimes they sell, sometimes they don't. But the greatest things I've found interacting with readers and other writers are making connections and learning about their experiences.

I wish you well in the upcoming holiday season - Happy Writing!

Brought to you by...

IWSG Anthology #7
Romance – Clean & Wholesome/Contemporary/Historical

Monday, October 10, 2022

Marketing Advice for Authors

That dreaded word - Marketing...

Advertising is a big part of life. Ads can be pushy and annoying. But they are necessary evils for people who want to sell their products. And Authors trying to sell books are no exception. The key is to promote your book and reach your target audience, to hook them without alienating them... Self-promotion is personal, uncomfortable, and tricky. And hard to figure out!

Here are some great thoughts and pieces of advice on MARKETING BOOKS from our FIRST LOVE Authors.

from Kim Elliott
I should start by saying that I’m not terribly skilled at marketing. I haven’t spent a dime on online ads, and I don’t intend to until I have a few books available. I currently maintain a website, Facebook page, Goodreads page, Amazon author page, and Wattpad account. I find that Goodreads is my favorite because it gives me insight into who my readers are and what they want. 

Aside from the anthology, I always self-publish on Amazon and enroll my books in KDP Select. That allows me to offer my books on the subscription service, Kindle Unlimited (KU). Most of my profits come from KU. Every few months, KDP Select lets me offer my ebooks for $.99 for up to a week, while still earning full royalties. During the sale, I promote on several of the free sites recommended by Dave Chesson (aka the Kindlepreneur). I’ve gained a few readers this way. Overall, my marketing strategy is to try all the free methods I can find, see what works, and try paid methods later. 

from Denise Covey
Who likes marketing? No writer, I'm sure. We'd rather be writing!
I use the FB group, 20Booksto50k as my marketing guru. Following their guidelines, I 'rapid released' my first 5 books - boom, boom, boom, and made good sales. I then used those complicated Amazon Ads to promote the first book in each series. Great exposure, not many sales, but I'm still learning. I also used the Amazon giveaway feature for 3 free days here and there which was ho-hum. My most successful marketing strategy is Bookfunnel, where I join promotions to gather newsletter subscribers (very successful) and sales promos to sell books (not so successful) but I need more books! My biggest problem is finding reviewers. Seeing so few reviews of the anthology, I'm not the only one.

One of my marketing strategies for the anthology has been to photograph '...Doughnuts' in different settings with different people. Here's one of my daughters holding it which has been well received on Facebook. It was 'doughnut day' at her cafe, so I styled a few images like this one.

from out publisher,

L. Diane Wolfe

Senior Editor at Dancing Lemur Press, L.L.C.
As a publisher, I can tell you the most important marketing strategy for selling books is book reviews. A book HAS to garner reviews before its release date. Those reviews are needed for marketing materials (such as bookmarks and sell sheets) and back of cover blurbs (print) / interior blurbs (eBook.) They are vital on bookseller sites and Goodreads. (Who buys a book with next to no reviews?) They are excellent word-of-mouth on blogs and websites. We always send out review copies 6-9 months before a book is released to get these reviews. Not sending them out several months in advance (or sending any at all) almost guarantees a book will gain no traction.

A second strategy I’d like to mention is live events. As an author myself, I always loved live events. (There were times when I’d do 40+ a year.) But in particular now are comic/sci-fi/geek cons and the success we’ve enjoyed at them. We do have a good catalogue of speculative fiction, but it would surprise you what sells at these events, so we take all titles. When we can pitch a title and the reader can hold the book, look it over, we have a far better chance of gaining a new fan for that author. (And not to mention these cons are a lot of fun!)

from Melissa Maygrove
The dreaded job of marketing... Most writers would prefer to only write, but even traditionally published authors are expected to do their share. I'm indie, so I do it all. 

I'd love to go to in-person events, but I work full-time, so fitting those in is difficult. I do occasional giveaways and run ebook ads (e.g. Digital Book Today) to promote sales and new releases, and I usually see a little spike. But, in the end, I'm lucky to break even on cost. 

My two best tools are Amazon ads and BookFunnel. I began dabbling in both this year. I offer a free subscriber-exclusive novella (a.k.a 'reader magnet') that readers can get when they sign up for my author newsletter. BookFunnel makes it easy to deliver. I can also take part in multi-author promotions there. BookFunnel has already helped me quadruple the number of subscribers I had when I signed up. 

Between the BookFunnel boost and the Amazon ads, my royalties this month are projected to be twenty times what I made all of last year. Now I just have to write more books.

I don't know about you, but I found some great new things to try! We can take the scariness out of marketing by getting advice from others who have already tested sites and avenues and know what works. We still have to figure out what we are willing to do and what will work for us, but we are not alone!

I hope you found something you can put to use. And this is only half of our authors. They had so much to say, we'll have more advice next month. Be sure to stop by again in November!

Don't be afraid to put yourself out there!

Tuesday, September 6, 2022


Time to Fall in LOVE!
It's Release Day!

IWSG Anthology #7
Romance – Clean & Wholesome/Contemporary/Historical

And to celebrate, our authors have left you snippets about their stories. Get ready to experience the sticky sweetness of first love…


A fiercely independent cop is softened by the guy who makes the doughnuts.

    I was surprised when Pete asked me to join him for dinner tonight, and even more so to hear myself accept. Though, what choice did I have when he stood there holding that perfect little pastry, soft and warm and made specially for me?
    Half of me hoped something would force me to cancel -- a massive sinkhole downtown or a bomb scare at the station. The other half kept a watchful eye on the clock, counting the minutes until my shift ended.
    Because, well, the doughnuts.

MY HEART APPROVES by Melissa Maygrove

Will a maid who used deceit to snare a mail-order husband get a dose of her own medicine?

    Addy sat in the chair nearest the head of the table with posture that would silence the harshest finishing governess, though she had lost the feeling in her backside and her legs. Her amber taffeta dress skimmed the edge of her shoulders without being too revealing, and her hair was expertly coiffed, thanks to Cara’s skill. Hopefully, her husband would find her appearance pleasing.
    She’d insisted the servants wait supper on him, even though it was a hardship.
    The candles had burned halfway down by the time his carriage pulled up.
    Addy drew a calming breath and waited. Long minutes passed while he dressed for supper, then approaching bootsteps made her palms turn damp.

MY FIRST LOVE(S) by Templeton Moss

The world’s most forgetful man tries to remember the first time he ever fell in love. We travel with him backward through his life from adulthood, to college, to high school and childhood…and then his wife sets him straight with a surprising revelation.

THE REAL THING by Sammi Spizziri

After months of chatting with "The One" online, Lola can't wait to meet her guy in real life and start a face-to-face relationship. But on the way to the airport, she gets stuck in a ride share with a stranger who breaks through her carefully-crafted persona. When the ride is over, she must decide between pretending she's someone she's not with the online friend she's worked so hard to impress or starting fresh with the unexpected, unfiltered stranger who accepts her in the real world.


When Lizzie meets Fitz, the front man of a popular band, she is not a fan. He mocks her taste in music, wastes her time, and looks down his nose at her, literally. However, she needs his help to save the local radio station where her best friend Jane is a morning show host. As Lizzie gets to know the aloof heartthrob, she sees another side he keeps hidden from the public—a side she might even like. Will the two find a way to turn the sour notes of their first meeting into a love song?


    No lights warmed any of the tiny slit windows. No one waited to welcome them inside. Indeed, only the wind soughed in her ears, as cold and empty as the castle. 
    “Why did you agree to marry me, Hippolyta?” he asked abruptly. 
    She sighed and hitched her little bundle higher. They’d been married all of six hours. She wasn’t sure she owed him the truth yet, but she also didn’t quite want to lie. “So that I could never escape, husband.”


God brought them together a lifetime ago, now they are once again joined in love, entwined in their golden years.

Damon is perplexed. Cora, his Greek grandmother, his Ya Ya, wishes to visit the Greek Islands. Why wait so long? Is it related to the painting of a little blue house she has hung in pride on her walls for decades? On the island of Aghia Anna, Damon recognizes the house from the painting up the road from the taverna where they eat. Then Cora begins a lament for lost souls. The whole restaurant joins in. Is the soul she believed lost standing before her, summoned by the song? Is he the painter who lives in the little blue house?

PAPER FACES by Sylvia Ney

Helen Barnes wants the same rights as any man. Why should the pursuit of the American Dream be available only to males? Yet, just when success is in her grasp, she must question whether she is willing to sacrifice love to achieve her goals. The discovery of a man’s secret past might be enough to help her achieve her dream, but it would also turn his son’s dreams into a nightmare. Will she sacrifice her greatest desires, or someone else’s? 


For a few weeks post-break-up, crossing paths with that handsome stranger was almost punishing. I saw him everywhere. And though he smiled politely and I smiled politely—not a word exchanged between us—I couldn’t help but think he’d witnessed me at my absolute worst as I yelled and cried and tossed all my ex-boyfriend’s belongings into the hallway...and over the railing in one very extreme case.

High school sweethearts, my foot.

OLIVER'S GIRL by Michael Di Gesu

In his youth, Oliver fell in love with his dream girl. Sixty years pass, and he has a lifetime of memories without her. With the help of his great-granddaughter, will Oliver find his lost love and start again? 

These stories will pull at your heartstrings and give you that warm, wistful feeling. Be sure to check out the FIRST LOVE IWSG Anthology. Here are all the details and the Release Tour dates:

First Love: The Art of Making Doughnuts
An Insecure Writer’s Support Group Anthology
Romance - Clean & Wholesome (FIC027270) / Contemporary (FIC027020) / Historical (FIC027050)
186 pages, Freedom Fox Press, an imprint of Dancing Lemur Press, L.L.C.

Print ISBN – 9781939844880, $14.95
EBook ISBN – 9781939844897, $4.99


“…a refreshing read! This is a gem of a book that I highly recommend.” 
- Rebecca Boerner M Ed., reviewer

 “…this collection nailed the little bites of cute romance… recommend to anyone looking for an uplifting collection of sweet romance to fill an evening.” - Hayley Reese Chow, author

“This was a sweet, warm collection of love stories.” – Angie Titus, author

9/1 - Book Blurbs - IWSG Anthologies Blog
9/5 - Interview - Kelly F Barr
9/6 - Review - Kelly F Barr
9/7 - Interview - Diane Burton
9/7 - Book Feature - Cathrina Constantine
9/9 - Book Feature - Sandra Cox
9/12 - Article, Working on an Athology - Elizabeth s. Craig
9/14 - Interview - C. Lee McKenzie
9/16 - Review - Louise M. Barbour
9/19 - Interview - Susan Gourley

Enjoy the Fall cuddled up with a cozy romance!

Monday, August 8, 2022

How do writers do it?


We asked our FIRST LOVE Anthology authors to give us a glimpse into their Writing Processes - Plotter? Pantser? or a Mix of Both? Here's what they said...

On top of the world -- Oia, Santorini
I definitely began my writing career as a Pantser which is now more kindly known as a Discovery Writer. Not to say I didn't TRY to be a Plotter, but it just didn't stick. Now, like many writers, I combine both. I roughly outline chapters I'd like to write, then find my beginning, then "discover" my story as I write. Usually, I dump my ideas under forthcoming chapter headings, calling these the "bare bones" waiting to be fleshed out. During this process, I rely heavily on my critique partners and the occasional editor friend. 

As I'm very visual, my best stories have been written after immersing myself in another country, another culture. For example, the story I wrote for the IWSG Romance Anthology was based on a gem of an idea that surfaced during a trip to Santorini in the Greek Islands which was followed by lots of research into its tragic history. I find it easy to put myself into the place of my characters and suffer along with them. 
-- Denise Covey, Marmalade Sunset

I am a plotter. At least, I am now. I went in sans plan with my first novel—a vampire romance (Thank you very much, Stephanie Meyer.) Much like a creature of the night, that book will never see the light of day. Well, I say never, but who knows. Trends are cyclical. If the vampire craze finds new life, maybe I’ll dust it off and start over…with an outline this time. 
-- Kim Elliott, Clyde and Coalesce

I am a mix of a plotter and a pantser. I like to have a good foundation for the story and its structure to make sure I have an actual story and an idea of where it's going, but if I plan too much, I have a hard time wanting to write. Part of the fun of writing is discovering the characters and their journey, and I find I don't know that well enough until I start writing in the main character's voice and putting them in sticky situations. The downside is I then often have big structural revisions because I use the first draft partially as a discovery tool but, as they say, you can't edit a blank page, so having something down leads me to the final version, even if it's not the most efficient way. 
-- Sammi Spizziri, The Real Thing

I’m an outliner. It was very necessary for my five book series where I had to keep track of the overlapping stories as they moved forward in time. It was also necessary for my two non-fiction titles. (Critical!) However, the project I am working on now is a bit more free-form. Three of the stories were plotted mostly in my head and the fourth is a re-write of a very old story. 

I used to edit as I went, but now I finish a story first before going back to edit. And 99% of my fiction pieces originated from a dream. So, sometimes it’s a challenge just to write a story that make sense. 
-- L. Diane Wolfe, Dancing Lemur Press, L.L.C.

I'm a bit of both a pantser and a plotter. I never preplan. I always start out with an idea, scene, or emotion and write until I can’t go anymore. When I run out of steam, I take a break and then write out an outline or sets of goals for the story and its characters. I never take less than four passes at a manuscript before sharing with others for feedback. 
-- Sylvia Ney, Paper Faces

My writing process looks a lot like being attacked by butterflies. If butterflies carried ten pound cannonballs, dropping them randomly and maliciously. I'll be in the middle of doing something useful, like cooking dinner, when the butterflies choose to chuck a giant idea on me. WHAM, 'What if we wrote a story based on that meme we saw? That really funny one? About beauty seeing the library and becoming an instant roommate to the beast whether he likes it or not?'. With all the ideas fluttering about, you could definitely call me a Pantser. I take an idea after it lands on my head, and run with it. Sometimes I fall flat on my face and the idea goes into the discard bin. Sometimes it works, and the idea turns into a story. I've never met such thing as an outline. They tend to avoid me. I think it's all the butterflies.
-- SE White, The Castle of Ohno

The way it generally goes is that I get an idea for a story and start writing it. Then I get bored of the idea (or I get stuck), so I come up with a new idea and start working on that until I’m bored or stuck. Now, you might think that at this point I go back to work on Idea #1, but you’d be wrong. I usually come up with a third idea. The upshot of all this is that I generally have between three and ten different stories that I’m “working on” at any given moment and it’s six-to-five and pick ‘em which one I will eventually finish. In fact, it’s genuinely surprising that I manage to finish anything at all. 
-- Templeton Moss, My First Love(s)

My writing process is painful. I cannot stop myself from editing as I go. I cannot write the next sentence until I've composed the "perfect" sentence, or the next paragraph until I have perfected the last one, or the next chapter... you get the idea. The good news is, once I've finished my first "draft," my manuscript is pretty much ready to go. Unless I think of a major plot twist, in which case I have to go back and revise all my "perfect" sentences and paragraphs and chapters. And since I'm more of a pantser than a plotter, that happens a lot. As I said, painful!
-- Linda Budzinski, The Art of Making Doughnuts

I’m a mix of a plotter and pantser. I go into the story with a baseline of who my characters are and what I want to happen, but I always leave room for the magic. I love when my characters surprise me, so if they happen to veer off course, I adjust my plans to accommodate. I suppose that makes me a plantser. :)
-- Katie Klein, How to Save a Princess

I plot the basic story, then I half-plot, half-pants the scenes. I flesh out my plot notes in paragraph form, right in the drafting document, and delete them as I go. This allows me to jump forward and write a scene out of order if I get a burst of inspiration.
-- Melissa Maygrove, My Heart Approves

And there you have it, some insightful examples of different ways to get through the writing process. What about you? Are you a plotter or a pantser or a little of both? Can you relate to some of these writing processes? Maybe you found something new to try.

Whichever way you write, keep writing!

Monday, July 11, 2022

Summer of Writing

Writers never stop writing... Here we get a glimpse at what the authors from our latest anthology FIRST LOVE are up to. I'm sure they will whet your appetite for a fantastic future read by giving you a taste of their writing personality...

I'm taking a break before starting my next novel and writing a novelette that will be free to my newsletter subscribers. I don't write insta-love romance, so it has been both a challenge and a delight, drafting a shorter, less-complicated book.
~ Melissa Maygrove, "My Heart Approves"

I’m currently working on a screenplay. Lately, I’ve been writing screenplays and then using them as a treatment/foundation for a novel. This will be the third project I’ve completed like that. It’s a romance, of course, and while I haven’t quite nailed down the logline yet, the gist of the story is: a celebrity musician suffering from a very public/humiliating break-up returns home to hide out only to fall for her best friend from high school, who’s now a single dad. 
~ Katie Klein, "How to Save a Princess"

I’ve spent six months editing book two of my YA superhero trilogy, Heart of a Hero. The more I change, the more ideas I get. It’s a totally different (and better) book now. My characters had it too easy in the first draft, so I added some PAIN. I won’t give spoilers, but readers should prepare to shed tears! My beta readers will receive the manuscript by the end of July, and I aim to publish late summer. Then it’s on to book three…
~ Kim Elliott, "Clyde and Coalesce"

I have three projects started, and I hope you will help me decide which one to focus on completing first. Please let me know in the comments which one you would like to see the most. I welcome feedback, questions, and ideas!

Story #1: “Moving On” is a contemporary romance. Zach Sanders is tired of being fixed up by his best friend Joe. He isn’t enjoying the dating scene, and in fact, can’t get over his forbidden crush: Joe’s sister Katherine. When Katherine moves back to town and sparks fly, will they be able to create a meaningful relationship, or is he doomed to remain single forever? 

Story #2: “Praying for Death” is a murder mystery. Detective Henry Spence is looking into a string of seven murders that have all happened over the course of the last year. The only connection between all seven victims is a single woman who has an alibi for five of the deaths. Is Sabrina Heigel merely unfortunate enough to know these victims, or worse yet, is she somehow becoming a serial killer? 

Story #3: “Saving Grace” is a fantasy short story, a series about empaths. While excavating an ancient cave, archeologist Grace Marten uncovers a hidden treasure. Now the brotherhood, a centuries old enemy of the empaths, will stop at nothing to retrieve one item in particular and silence her forever. Damon De Santis offers her aid, but does she dare trust him with her life? 
~ Sylvia Ney, "Paper Faces"

I'm super excited to say that my current work in progress is... The Art of Making Doughnuts! I fell in love with the characters in my short story for the anthology, so I'm working on turning it into a novel! I am expanding the story (obviously) and also writing it in dual point of view, so we can learn more about Pete and his backstory and experience his emotional arc as well as Gina's. My day job is particularly busy these days, so the writing is going very slowly, but I'm taking my time
and enjoying the writing.
~ Linda Budzinski, "The Art of Making Doughnuts"

I have published 6 books, and this is the book that has excited me from the get go. I’ve been playing with taglines to encapsulate the story, working title, Le Petit Paris Kitchen Cookery School. Let me share what I have so far…

“Drama, romance, and passion are layered, flavoured, tasted, left to simmer, not unlike the traditional French recipes scattered throughout the book.”

“Food, love, passion for Paris, combined with characters layered with shades of darkness combined with a good measure of charisma.”

“More than cooking goes on in this kitchen.”

“Absolutely delicious … like a warm hug.”

“If you love reading about food, Paris, love, feisty characters, this is a book you will relish.”

~ Denise Covey, "Marmalade Sunset"

My last book release was 2013 – How to Publish and Promote Your Book Now, based on my experience as a publisher and the book publishing and promoting seminars I teach. (And I’ve since updated it, too.) However, my next book project has been in the making since 2015 since I have been so busy with Dancing Lemur Press book releases. Those come first, so time to work on my own stuff has been scarce.

After the release of Alex J. Cavanaugh’s book, CassaDark, I’ve had some time to revisit my project and work on it. I’m happy to say the novelettes that comprise In Darkness are coming together. The Vampire is with our editor. The Werewolf is next. I am on the second draft of The Shark. Then I will finish and polish The Alien. And who knows? Maybe I can solve the saggy middle issue and The Ghost will become a reality, too. Either way, it is such a joy to be writing again!
~ L. Diane Wolfe, owner of Dancing Lemur Press, L.L.C.

I hope you enjoyed this sampling of what's up and coming. May you be inspired to read and write to your heart's desire this summer!

Monday, June 13, 2022

Writing Contests - Worth the Effort

Have you ever entered a writing contest? How did you do? If not, why not?

Writing contests can be a great source of inspiration, feedback, and creative exercise. Here, the authors of the First Love IWSG Anthology expound on the pros and cons (mostly pros) of entering a writing contest.

From Kim Elliot...
I’ve entered a few brand-sponsored contests on I was thrilled to win Hilroy’s #startwriting contest and Tim Hortons’ #timscoldbrewstories contest. Each of those earned me a nice cash prize which I’m using to finance my novels. Contests are a great way to spark creativity and compare your style to other writers. I plan to enter many more!

From Linda Budzinski...
For me, contests provide a great source of inspiration. I love having a prompt, a specified word count, and a deadline. A blank page can be daunting, but the parameters inherent in contests make the creative process more manageable. "The End" is in sight before you've even set pen to paper! And while the result--potentially winning and/or having my story published for others to read--is exciting, I try to allow the joy of writing and creating to be an end in itself.

From Denise Covey...
I don't enter writing contests as a rule. The IWSG Anthology was different as I'd wanted to see a romance genre contest ever since it started. So when the romance contest was announced, I felt duty bound to write a story seeing I'm a romance author. It was great to win a place and I'm really excited to see the Anthology published. 

From S.E. White...
I enter writing contests because apparently I really enjoy pain. Sorry, bit of sarcasm sneaking in. Really, I enter writing contests for the honest editorial feedback from unbiased readers (i.e. not my friends and obligated to sugarcoat anything). I firmly believe that editors and beta readers are my best friends, catching my plot holes, boring moments, and downright embarrassing mistakes. Sometimes I don't have a trusty, brutally honest beta reader to turn to. Editors can get quite pricy, and occasionally they aren't in my budget. But a writing contest is usually pretty cost-effective (ranging from free to 20 or 30 dollars to enter) and gives me at least three different judges feedback. Well worth the occasional sting, in my recommendation.

From Michael DiGesu...
I enter writing contests mainly to sharpen my skills and to hopefully have a strong enough entry to be published. This was the first time one of my stories has been chosen, and I am thrilled. Contests force you to write, polish, and submit. They are a wonderful way to have your stories read by professionals, and that can lead to bigger and better things. I generally submit to at least five contests a year. Several have been through Writer’s Digest and others through mainstream magazines like the New Yorker or GQ. My advice on them is to be select. Submitting to smaller publications or through writing blogs may be best to way to start. Contests like the ones through Writer’s Digest can get costly and they are extremely competitive. 

None of my stories have ever made it into even the top 50. They must get thousands of entries and they take months to read through them all, and once they finally do select the winners, it can be a huge let down. Anthologies are also a great way to submit because several stories are chosen and you have a much better chance. Contests are good training for querying your works to publishers and agents. Most of us know how tedious this can be, but if you are selected, it makes it worth your time and effort.

From L. Diane Wolfe, Dancing Lemur Press, L.L.C. ...
The best advice for entering writing contests: be sure to follow the guidelines. Submit the correct genre and proper word count. If there is a theme, adhere to it. Send exactly what the contest requests and be sure to include all of your contact information. Failing to follow the guidelines just means your story will be rejected. After all that hard work, you don’t want to blow your chances.

From Katie Klein...
I think contests are a great way to gain exposure and build credibility. Anyone can host a contest, though, so my advice to writers would be to make sure to do your homework. A little research will go a long way in determining if the contest is reputable and the winners deserving. Also, entry fees can be high, so be sure to prioritize.  

From Sylvia Ney...
I only rarely enter writing contests. I refuse to pay for entry into a contest so I only enter free ones - either because I support those putting the contest together, I support what they are trying to accomplish, or they are offering FREE feedback by credible sources. I really value IWSG so I have submitted to a couple of their anthology contests. This is the second time I've had a story chosen for the group anthology. I also have a piece called "WIN" in the first anthology: Parallels. I have also had work chosen for publication in multiple other contests including; "Forgotten Memories" which appears in It's in the Gulf - a disaster relief fundraiser, "Homegrown Love" which appears in The Searcher: Spring 2014 - a publication that focuses on raising awareness of the importance of genealogoy, history, and libraries, and "An Interview of Tim O'Brien" which appears in Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors Volume 2 which is an annual anthology contest put on by Southeast Missouri State University Press and the Warriors Arts Alliance.

I've entered my share of contests and had some published, some not. Whether you're in a slump, need to take a break from your WIP, or just in the mood to try something new -- Look for a writing contest! You can always give the prompt a go and whip up a short story, then decide later if you want to submit it or not. The writing is the important part. The more you write, the better you get!

Happy Writing!

Monday, April 11, 2022

Help! I need somebody!

Not just anybody...

Writers shouldn't work alone. The IWSG Anthology #7 Authors share their thoughts on how they don't suffer through the process alone.

Writing is a collaborative process. Few of us do it alone. A bit like it takes a village to raise a child, often it takes a team to write a book. Sure, the author comes up with the premise, the beats, the first draft, but depending on the author's process, then the collaboration begins. Some authors may call for help/input earlier, but I usually discuss my story idea with my critique partners, then don't show them any more until I'm happy with my draft. Then the fun begins. We meet face to face, sometimes we Skype, and often I just share chapters via email (especially those all-important opening chapters) to gauge reactions. Yes, I use beta readers and editors, but my critique partners are the most crucial element for me in writing a book.
-- Denise Covey, "Marmalade Sunset"

A handful of trusted author friends serve as my critique partners. We exchange manuscripts with each other and provide the first layer of critique. I also have a group I call on for beta reading, which is the next step in the process. This group is a mixture of authors, avid readers, and members of my street team. They have the advantage of reading my books for free in exchange for giving me their opinions about the story and--though it's not a requirement--hopefully leaving a review. 

After that, the book goes to my mom. She has her own editing business, and I hire her to do a proofread. I freelance as an editor, but I still get a professional copy edit. It's impossible for authors to edit their own work. Our eyes gloss right over the mistakes, because we know what the story is supposed to say. The final layer after those corrections are made is having the book files formatted (Kindle, Nook, Paperback). Once that's done, I read through them on their respective devices, to make sure the formatting looks as it should and to make one last pass to catch any missed errors. (I'm sick of my book by now. LOL) Lastly, the files get uploaded to the retailers, and I click publish. -- Melissa Maygrove, "My Heart Approves"

While I have been a member of some great critique groups in the past, I have not had that pleasure for quite some time. However, I recently returned to school to work on a Master's degree. A few fellow classmates as well as my professors have been providing some great feedback and inspiration. I highly recommend all writers attempt to connect with at least a few others that you can share and learn alongside. Writing can be such a solitary and frustrating experience. The craft can be much more enjoyable if you have someone to share your pains, losses, and accomplishments with you. -- Sylvia Ney, "Paper Faces"

After I finish a draft of a story, I print it up, then take it to the woods. There I perform an arcane ritual involving burning sage, twenty-two candles and a half-dead goat to summon Kilogard, the Proof-Reading Demon. It’s complicated, dangerous and every time I do it, it costs me one year of my life. But it’s still easier than getting my friends and relatives to give me feedback. -- Templeton Moss, "My First Love(s)"

A friend from college and a former coworker read my work and offer suggestions. The two of them have very different literary tastes, and their input gives me a lot to think about! My writing has improved so much thanks to them. After several rounds of edits based on their feedback, my mom proofreads my final draft. Sometimes my husband agrees to look over my manuscript, but romance isn’t really his genre. His contribution is keeping the kids out of my hair. -- Kim Elliott, "Clyde and Coalesce"

I had to redo the whole thing, but I think we have it fixed!

I hope these bits of wit and wisdom were helpful and/or entertaining!

Keep writing.

Monday, March 14, 2022

Feeling Lucky?

Where do writers get their inspiration?

That's what we asked our IWSG #7 FIRST LOVE authors this month, and here's what they said...

"I find inspiration and ideas in so many places: while dreaming, exercising, reading a great book, watching a good movie, listening to music, traveling – anything that gets me away from work and relaxed. I try to read and write every day. I read a variety of fiction genres, books on the craft, and blogs of other authors. I have a variety of interests and hobbies. I love learning about the history of other cultures, and studying people. There is so much inspiration in the world. The human race is an astounding species and we've been capable of some of the most amazing and horrific acts. Those universal traits can inspire so many tales - both fiction and nonfiction." -- Sylvia Ney, Paper Faces

"Inspiration for stories can come from anywhere. All it takes is something to make me imagine a scene, and my writer's brain runs with it. If I feel it's worthy enough to turn into a book, I jot the idea in a folder of story ideas and save it.

The inspiration for my debut novel, Come Back, came from a nonfiction book I was reading with my daughter. It was about a teen girl traveling on the Oregon Trail. It mentioned the many possessions -even furniture- that westward travelers threw out along the side of the trail to lighten the weight of the wagons. I thought, "Hm... If I can find a way to get the heroine left behind, she could use that stuff to survive until the hero found her." I felt so clever, until I remembered I had to come up with the rest of the plot." -- Melissa Maygrove, My Heart Approves

"Once a year, I mount an expedition to the Caves of Samalando, wherein is located the Lake of Krambastallah, home to the Great Spirit Fish, Ted. I speak to Ted the ancient, sacred words (“Murfreesboro, Tennessee”) and in return, he gifts me with a Stone of Inspiration, providing me with all the creative ideas I need for the next twelve months. It’s a dangerous and complex process, but the upside is I can claim the whole thing as a business expense and write it off my taxes. Ted is a dependent." -- Templeton Moss, My First Love(s)

"I’m inspired by books, movies, TV, real life…pretty much everything. Usually it starts with finding a character or scene that I can’t get out of my mind. If I’m still thinking about it days later, I start asking “What if?” What if that character were evil instead of good? What if the story happened in a different time period? Before long, I’ve gone down so many rabbit holes that I’m left with something brand new and exciting!" -- Kim Elliot, Clyde and Coalesce

"Old Europe has always been my favorite destination and became the inspiration for my stories, from flash fiction to full-length novels. From my six months of living in France, and countless visits to Paris, I have so many story ideas filling my head and my notebooks. I've published my first Paris novel, a womens' fiction/romance, Paris Dreams, which combines my love of fashion and art. I am working on the next which highlights traditional French cooking. My vampire romance series is set in Renaissance Italy, which combines my love of history with my deep love for Italy. Writing stories inspired by my travels means I can vicariously visit any time I wish." -- Denise Covey, Marmalade Sunset

"I’m not entirely sure, but I’ve come to believe that writers co-create with the universe—that it offers us bits and pieces of information/inspiration because it wants us to do something with them. It’s happened when listening to music, while watching movies, when a character’s name fell right into my lap…. It’s never just 'thinking' about something; it always feels like more, somehow. So I take these bits and pieces and ruminate on them, adding and subtracting in the best interest of the story, and draw on whatever additional insights the universe is willing to toss my way with gratitude as I work toward 'The End.'" -- Katie Klein, How to Save a Princess

Inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere. Writers have a special ability to find a story from the smallest whisper to the most powerful bang, from past reality to future fantasy. Let your imagination run wild!