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Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Guest Post: The Heretic in Me by Kathleen Maher

In Guest Blogger, writing on May 19, 2013 at 11:01 pm

To quote the very eloquent Kathleen Maher, “Readers’ taste in fiction is so subjective, and the writing of it so difficult, that it still takes all my nerve to continue. Yet I can’t imagine stopping”. This will probably strike a chord with most writers, it certainly does with me, so I am thrilled to be able introduce Kathleen with this great guest post. Welcome Kathleen, and thank you.

Kathleen Maher - AuthorMany thanks to Amelia for giving me this platform to write about my passion, which is writing fiction.

I wanted to write fiction, it seems, as soon as I knew what is was. As a child I could see that fiction presented life as art. It distilled and validated my impressions. In contrast, non-fiction was interesting but rarely affected me to the core.

When I first attempted creative writing in elementary school, I earned praise without knowing why. This encouraged me, but, without guidance, it took years to find my way. I didn’t stop because the challenge of writing fiction filled me with such adrenaline that hours passed like minutes. Readers’ taste in fiction is so subjective, and the writing of it so difficult, that it still takes all my nerve to continue. Yet I can’t imagine stopping.

In the late 1990s, I woke up one morning with the character of Malcolm Tully, the diarist of Diary of a Heretic, at large in my mind. His comical sincerity, self-scrutiny, and hypersensitivity would not let me rest.

Malcolm is a reluctant cult leader, so I researched cults, and as the plot grew palpable (albeit vague as usual) I wrote the first draft. As thoroughly as Malcolm had claimed me, putting his story in words took me five years.

Rewriting has always been especially difficult for me, because sheer passion is not enough to carry it off. So in 2006, I created a blog, named after Malcolm’s diary (Diary of a Heretic), and began rewriting his entries as posts.

Serial online fiction is not especially popular, but serves me well. The form forces me to construct every line toward the conclusion. Online episodes cannot carry a superfluous word, let alone a tangent; few atmospheric descriptions or overwrought introspection. Diary of a Heretic, being a diary, depends on both. But the blog forced me to pick up the pace. Malcolm’s voice remains florid, but the final version, imperfect as it is, improved because of the blog’s forced discipline.

I rewrote Diary of a Heretic many times and put it away, I thought, indefinitely. My husband, who’s a wonderful writer and editor, revived it, because after reading it countless times, he still finds it entertaining. He formatted it for Amazon’s Kindle. Now I am reading it with fresh eyes, and although I see much to improve, I am happy to see my character Malcolm alive on the page.

Much of Malcolm’s diary is unsuitable for a family blog, but here is a short passage that conveys a bit of Malcolm’s (and my) passion:

We both stared at our feet until I couldn’t stand it, and blushing horribly, tried this: “Is it just me or what? Remember when people would say that?”

She smiled, answering, “When I was fourteen, I said, ‘Is it just me or what?’ And, ‘Whatever.’ And, ‘As if.’ ”

“‘As if’ came later, I think.”

We hugged. I pressed my cheek into her hair, which wasn’t as blonde as I remembered it, but much softer and straighter, smooth and reassuring. A veil of pure silk dried in balmy air after a fresh rain. I rubbed my cheek there and my hand played with the feminine waves. A sigh escaped and she pulled away. “I missed you, too, Malkie.”

…I never know what’s going to bring on a crying jag. “Is it just me or what?” was never, before or after its currency, said in earnest. People never said it unless they were referring to something indisputable, guaranteed to draw consensus.

So which do you think? Is it just me or does the irreversibility of time never let up? Is it just me or are there days when you, too, can’t get past every moment lost? I want every moment back: The good because they passed too fast, and the bad because perhaps with another chance, I could make them right.

Kathleen Maher is the author of Diary of a Heretic, a novel available on Amazon Kindle, and Underground Nest, a novella available in most e-book formats. She is a lifelong writer, with a number of short stories published in literary journals, print and online. Her fiction has won finalist and semi-finalist status in numerous literary contests, including the Iowa School of Letters Award for Short Fiction, and the Drue Heinz Literature Prize. Her blog, Diary of a Heretic (, features serialized short stories and novellas.

Amazon’s Author Page
Diary of a Heretic on Kindle
Underground Nest on Kindle
Facebook Author’s Page
Twitter: @kathleenmaher

Underground Nest Book CoverDiary of a Heretic Book Cover

Guest Post: Read, Reflect, Review by Cathy Speight

In Guest Blogger, Reviewing on December 9, 2012 at 12:01 am

I am absolutely thrilled to introduce my latest Guest Blogger, book reviewer Cathy Speight. In this wonderfully informative post, Cathy shares some very constructive tips, and much of her own wisdom, on the criteria which make for a good review and a good reviewer. A very big welcome to you, Cathy!  And thank you so much for accepting my invitation to be my guest here.

Hello everyone!

Well, I won’t bore you with a long and dreary bio, but just so that you know a little about me, my name is Cathy Speight, I live in Bristol, UK, am married, have twin daughters, and three (nearly four) grandchildren.  I opted for retirement four Cathy Speight Reviewer Guest Blogging on aecurzon.wordpress.comyears ago when the company I worked for relocated to London and then last year, I did two things:  I signed up to Facebook (I’m a late developer), and I bought myself a Kindle.  Those two things are actually how I find myself here.  Thank you, Amelia, very much indeed for inviting me along.

The Kindle revolutionised my reading.  After only one eBook  I was well and truly hooked, and I joined a number of Facebook book groups where I met a hitherto unknown (to me) group of people:  indie authors.  I discovered an Aladdin’s Cave of indie books, got chatting to lots of authors and—long story short—I found myself creating my own review blog.  For me, clicking the last page of the book wasn’t quite The End. Complete closure was writing about what I thought of the book.  And lo, Cath ‘n’ Kindle Book Reviews was born—an album or an anthology of all my Kindle books.

Having reviewed for a couple of book-reviewing sites, I picked up some very useful hints about writing reviews, and together with what I personally like to see, I’d like to share those elements I believe make a good review and offer some ‘tips and wrinkles’ (where did that expression come from?) about becoming a reviewer:

  • Read the book from beginning to end (not as obvious as it sounds!) and carefully. (I have been known to read a page three times if I thought I hadn’t read every word).
  • Were the characters well-conceived, varied enough, did you like the heroes/heroines?
  • The plot—was it well-structured? Were there any loose threads?
  • Did you like the author’s style—was it suited to the genre?
  • The pace of the story—too fast, too slow?
  • Did it evoke any emotions? Did you cry or laugh?
  • Was the dialogue natural?
  • Was it well edited?
  • Would you recommend the book?
  • Would you read another book by the author?
  • A detailed synopsis of the story isn’t too important as there is always one at the point of purchase—but of course, it’s difficult to talk about the book without reference to the story, so keep it short with no spoilers—please, no  spoilers.
  • Try and be sensible about the length of your review—too short, and there are too many unanswered questions for the potential reader: ‘this was a good book, couldn’t put it down, I could relate to the heroine, and loved the ending’ isn’t going to influence a reader very much.  By the same token, if your review is too long—you will lose a reader’s interest—not just in the review, but maybe even in the book.
  • Most importantly, if you expect a well-edited, well-presented book from an author, I feel the very least you can do is give the same in return, so there should be no typos, spelling mistakes, etc.


  • What didn’t you like and why?  This is the most ‘delicate’ part of reviewing. Don’t be afraid to say if you didn’t like a book—but be constructive, try to be helpful, and above all, don’t be nasty or abusive.  Not liking the book because you didn’t like the subject matter is, well, a bit of a non-starter.  Don’t read a book in a genre you know you don’t like or deals with a subject in which you have no interest or would prefer not to read about;  you just won’t be able to give an objective review

Try to take a bigger-picture view.  Not long ago, I posted a review on Amazon of what I thought was an excellent book. I discovered nearly 60 reviews, most of them good. I don’t often read reviews after I’ve read a book, but I was intrigued (and surprised) by the one- and two-star reviews. I thought it was a very good book, how could it possibly be worth only one or two stars? Had these readers put their reviews on the wrong page? Of course, we all have different tastes, and one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, but when I looked at these reviews more closely I thought they were a tad harsh.

The review was for a detective thriller. Amongst others, there were comments about certain issues that would never have happened in real life. Well, no, quite possibly that was true, but this is fiction. Isn’t that part of why we read? To escape from an ordinary real life? Isn’t that true of all entertainment, films, and drama shows? How many times have you said to yourself, yeah, like that really happens. But it’s drama, so we cut a little slack. Because it’s all good fun. Poetic licence is allowed.

Every book that lands in my lap for review is to me an extraordinary achievement by another human being and one I could never accomplish.

So before slapping one star on a book you didn’t like, it’s worth taking a moment to step back and reflect how that book got to be on your Kindle/eReader. It didn’t just happen. It may have taken years of hard work and dedication, first by the author and then a team of people doing their best, both parties keen to continue to improve in their respective crafts.  A little encouragement is one of the things that helps this process along.

A very handy tip for authors when they self-edit, is to step back from their potential bestselling masterpiece for a few weeks, even months, before rereading it.  A little break before writing a review is something I also advise.  Not weeks, though:  if you’re anything like me, I’ve forgotten characters’ names almost as soon as I’ve dived into the next book.  But after a few days, it’s surprising how differently you feel about a book.  I have sometimes upgraded from a two-star rating to a four-star rating after having had a few days to ‘digest’.

Judging by the number of books I have waiting to be read and reviewed, it would appear that there can never be enough reviewers!  Your to-be-reviewed list will grow rapidly to almost daunting proportions. Authors—especially indie authors—surf the ‘net searching for book reviewers and their blogs, and if their searches find you, you’ll be overwhelmed by requests.  Keeping to the genres you like (but don’t be afraid to try one you think you might) will keep your review list to a manageable level (says she whose TBR is quite off the radar).

Finally and most importantly, enjoy yourself: have fun writing your reviews, start a review blog, and share them!

Cath ‘n’ Kindle Book Reviews

Book Junkies’ Journal

Book Junkies Group on Facebook      

Find Cathy on Facebook

Follow Cathy on Twitter

Indies Unlimited

Guest Post: Take Aim and Target Your Children’s Writing by Valerie Allen

In Guest Blogger, writing on November 25, 2012 at 12:01 am

As a children’s author myself, I am particularly pleased to welcome this week’s Guest Blogger, Valerie Allen. Valerie, who also presents workshops on the same subject, shares her philosophies on targeting specific audiences, and what to take into account when doing so. Welcome, Valerie, and thank you for being my guest.

To successfully reach their target audience, children’s writers must keep in mind four basic considerations: the child’s age, grade, reading level, and interests.

Age Level                                                                                                                             Most children enjoy reading about characters who are a few years older than they are. Children want to reach beyond their peers and experience possible future events in the here and now as they read. Most children’s books are written within an age range, for example, 6 to 9 years or 10 to 12 years.

Grade Level                                                                                                                       Grade level is usually an indication of a child’s reading skills, such as phonics, sight words, and comprehension. Books do not have to be written at an exact grade level, but within a grade range, such as preschool through Kindergarten, or sixth through eighth grade. Most computers can easily provide the reading level by grade. This is often written as 3.2 meaning third grade second month or 7.9, which means seventh grade ninth month. Keep in mind grade levels are based on the school year with September as the first month. A reading level of 4.5 would indicate the youngster is in January of the fourth grade.

Reading Level
A child’s reading level is not always the same as his or her grade level. Reading is based on comprehension as well as word attack skills.

There are 250 basic sight words, which make up approximately 70% of all reading. Most children have mastered these words by the end of third grade. Basic sight words are typically one, two, or three-letter words. An informal way to check your sight words is to highlight all of the little words on a given page of writing.
Books based on hobbies and interests are varied and must be written within the youngster’s age, grade, and reading level. Vocabulary is critical in these books and the author often includes an index of terms and definitions, with or without diagrams. Both fiction and nonfiction can be used to engage youngsters in reading about their hobby or interest. Using the solar system as an example, you can write a book that:

1.  Describes the solar system and encourages learning and understanding
2. Provides facts, greatest moments, or important figures in space exploration
3.  Tells a story involving a child who wants to walk on the moon.

As adults we can make an instant connection with others when we mention Dick and Jane, Nancy Drew, or The Hardy Boys. Today’s young readers will connect with Hop on Pop, Harry Potter, and Pippy Longstocking. Helping children read for pleasure and information is the primary goal for an author of a children’s book. Creating those enjoyable memories that last a life time is the reward of writing for children.

Valerie Allen, psychologist, author, and speaker writes fiction, nonfiction, and children’s books. Her two books for children in grades three to five are, Summer School for Smarties and Bad Hair, Good Hat, New Friends. She presents writing workshops for authors based on her book,Write, Publish, Sell! Quick, Easy, Inexpensive Ideas for the Marketing Challenged.

Buy on          Website           Facebook

Write, Publish, Sell! by Valerie Allen - Book cover

Guest Post: Cat Trades Up – Leaves Life of Pizza Boxes Behind

In Guest Blogger, Pets on November 11, 2012 at 12:01 am

I always love it when my guests blog about their pets and share their views on animal welfare. This week’s post, by the lovely Magdalena Vandenberg, is no exception.  A very big welcome to you, Magdalena! Thank you for being my guest and sharing Minnie Moo’s story with us.

I can often be heard jokingly telling others that I’m a cat lady in training.Magdalena Vandenberg on Amelia Curzon's blog - Carte Blanche

Without a shadow of any doubt, I’m showing early signs of becoming a stylish spinster sitting alone in her over-stuffed comfy chair watching re-runs of Homeland and The Mentalist while surrounded by the love, or perceived love, of lazy fluff-balls.

Cats are my weakness.

There’s just something about them that resonates with me. Aloof, needy yet detached, loving yet fiercely independent. Always hungry and addicted to napping, these are all admirable traits, and say a lot about me.

I should add here, I love dogs too. I just love cats a little more. They’re infinitely easier to sneak past the landlord’s “no cats allowed” policy.

From pint size pets to the might of the larger beasts, the animal world fascinates me.  And I can’t for the life of me think why anyone would want to purposefully inflict harm, or treat them with malice and ill intent.

This riles me. It goes against my DNA. Maybe I’m too idealistic, but at the very least everyone, person, animal, inanimate object deserves respect. Right?

I’m a firm believer if you own a pet, or any animal it’s your responsibility to give the critter love, food, shelter, attention and a safe place to call home.

I simple don’t get it when people abuse this privilege.

Years ago, I was in Sydney, Australia, driving home from work down a busy commuter road.  While crawling along at a snail’s pace, I remember looking out the window at the most adorable scene. This young boy, he was about twelve years old, was walking while carrying a cute-as-a-button white fluffy small dog.

In the blink of an eye, to my horror, and out of nowhere, the boy started to hit the little dog with his angry fists. I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing.

Incensed and without any hesitation, I plied on the brakes, stopped the car in the middle of the road, left my keys in the ignition, and marched over to the boy.

“Stop that!” I shouted. “Stop that, right this minute. Stop being cruel to the dog.”

I remember my ranting went something like… “You can’t do that to the dog. What’s this poor little dog ever done to you? Stop being a bully.”

All I heard was, “but, but but…”

I continued on in my sterner by the minute voice… “If you don’t stop being mean to the dog, I’m going to report you.”

It was then I could see tears prick in his eyes as he said, sorry.

“Thank you for apologizing, but don’t say sorry to me, say sorry to your dog.”

Walking back to my car, I was oblivious to the honking horns of the irate drivers and the traffic jam I had caused. Driving off, all I cared about was that little white dog. I had to trust and hope he would be ok.

Fifteen years later, I clearly recall the incident, and hand on heart, I would do exactly the same thing.

Mention cats, animals and my heart melts. Particularly the underdogs (sorry cats, it’s just a figure of speech) who’ve had a rough start, but given half a chance have a whole lot of love to give.

Minnie MooThat’s why I fell in love with Minnie Moo.

One day, I left the back door open. The next day, I had a cat. It was as simple as that.

Naturally, I went around the neighborhood asking everyone and anyone if they were missing a boy cat. No one claimed him, and to this day I think he was abandoned. Just left behind like an unwanted piece of furniture.

At that time I lived opposite a Pizza Restaurant, and my theory is he just got tired of sleeping in pizza boxes and eating left over salami. Once Minnie Moo walked through my open door, there was no turning back. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

A little bit about Magdalena Annegie VandenBerg

Born to Dutch parents, Magdalena was born in New Zealand. But unlike the flightless kiwi bird, as soon as she could she spread her wings to live and work in Sydney for twelve years.

The career opportunity of a lifetime beckoned as Magdalena travelled the world working in marketing and PR for the creative genius of Cirque du Soleil.

Now back in the land of sixty-four million sheep, Magdalena is pursuing her life long dream of writing.

Her first children’s e-book, Minnie Moo, The Extraordinary Adventures of an Ordinary Cat is out now and available on most e-book formats. This story is ideal for children reading chapter books.

The book is in part, a tribute to the little white dog. An inspirational tail with a big message; it’s always ok to do the right thing. It’s never ok to be a bully.

Magdalena’s second e-book is her first foray into contemporary romance. Love in the Vines, tells the story of food, wine, love and betrayal. Like wine, loves begins in the vines. Betrayal begins in the heart of a marriage.

The Extraordinary Adventures of an Ordinary Cat - Book Cover

Love in the Vines - Book Cover

My Blog – Magdalena VandenBerg

Minnie Moo’s Blog




Love in the Vines on Amazon

Minnie Moo on Amazon

Find Your Passion, Find Happiness!

In Guest Blogger, writing on October 14, 2012 at 12:01 am

This week I am delighted to introduce my guest, author Marianne Spitzer, with her heart-felt post telling us about her various passions. One of which, of course, is writing. Welcome Marianne and thank you so much for being my guest.

There are many issues I feel passionate about. The first is my faith. I believe a relationship with God is the most Marianne Spitzer - Profile image on http://www.acblogger.wordpress.comimportant relationship I can have. If I trust in Him things will turn out the way they should.

I am also passionate about health issues. Cancer is the biggest of these. It has taken too many people from me including my grandmother, father and my son-in-law when he was only 37.

I am an emotional writer and when something happens in my life I write about it. It is usually the length of a short story, but after the words are on paper, I feel better. I write out feelings I can’t say out loud. It is very therapeutic, at least for me.

I have been writing since the sixth grade when my teacher told my mom that she should make sure I write something every day because someday I would write a book. I thought about it for years, but life has a way of detouring our plans. A husband, children, grandchildren, and all the joy and pain that come from life kept me from starting that novel. I had an idea and maybe thinking about it for years made it easier to write.

I divorced, my children grew up and left home and now my grandchildren do quite well without grandma around all the time. It was then that I decided it was time to tackle a novel. I also have rheumatoid arthritis which keeps me from doing a lot of outdoor physical activities. My lap top became a good friend. I am a night owl and I find the night a wonderful time to write mysteries and dream up plots and scenarios.

I wasn’t sure if I was ready to publish a novel and not sure how to go about it. I decided to first write short stories that I had told my granddaughter, Brittney, when she was young. I self-published Princess Brittney Stories to minimal success. It got my feet wet as they say and I tried a book of essays and I had a bit more success. I was ready to self-publish my first novel, Gypsy Spirits. When it began to sell, I was excited. I had already begun a second novel, The Letter, and also self-published it. It has been my best seller to date. I have finished writing the sequel to Gypsy Spirits entitled Annamarie and Magdalena. I am in the midst of editing it and will begin a sequel to The Letter during this November’s NaNoWriMo.

Since writing is my passion, I find it has helped me deal with the difficulties in my life caused by my Rheumatoid Arthritis. While others may be able to run and jump and go to fairs and carnivals walking from place to place, I can get lost in a world of my own making. A world no one except me understands. It’s a wonderful world where I can decide how my characters come to life or leave it. It’s a fun thing to do and I enjoy it immensely.

I feel passionately about the fact that everyone needs something to take them to a place that calms them and makes them happy. Our world is stressful and frightening at times. I find my calm place writing. I suggest you find yours whether it is knitting, woodworking, hiking, photography, or any of a number of things. Enjoy the happy things in your life and be blessed.


Hi, I am a grandma of two wonderful grandkids and writing is my passion. I began writing when I was in grade school and never stopped. Everything about writing excites me. I love summer and star light, but snow and ice make my dislikes list. I love to read of course and some of my favorite writers are Wendy Corsi Staub, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie. When I want something a bit scarier, I read Stephen King or H.P. Lovecraft. Of course you can’t beat classics such as Dracula and Frankenstein. I prefer books over movies and have always loved mysteries since I picked up my first Nancy Drew book a long time ago.

My blog


Marianne Spitzer, Writer on FB

Marianne Spitzer, Author

Books by Marianne Spitzer

Gypsy Spirits on Amazon - Book cover Princess Brittney Stories on AmazonThe Letter on Amazon - Book cover The Hair Comb and The Crystal Ball on Amazon - Book cover

Annamarie and Magdalena - Coming soon - Book cover

Breaking the Rules

In Guest Blogger, writing on August 19, 2012 at 4:32 pm

I am always so pleased when my guests come back again with another piece, and one such guest is the delightful Anne Chaconas.  Anne, as always beating the drum for her fellow writers, reinforces what we all suspected and longed for endorsement of – the never-ending list of rules of writing are made to be broken.
Guest Blogger Anne Chaconas on Amelia Curzon's Blog - Carte Blanche

Back in July, I wrote a post on my blog asking writers to please stop treating their readers like idiots. I encourage you amble on over and take a gander at it, if nothing else because it really seemed to resonate with just about anyone who read it. If you don’t feel like it, though, here’s the upshot: Don’t dumb down your prose just because you’re afraid people won’t get it. Give your readers a little more credit. Quit worrying about how many people will read your book, and instead focus putting the best story out there for the people who will read your book. 

I got to thinking about that post the other day, thinking that I really needed to do another post in my STOP TREATING YOUR READERS LIKE IDIOTS movement (because, yes, in my mind, it needs to be a movement). Then I realized that there was something even more important that we writers need to think about before we even start worrying about whether we’re treating our readers like grunting, monosyllabic, pseudo-humans. We need to worry about telling out story without constraints.

It’s an interesting predicament we find ourselves in, as writers. We’re creative beings at the core, but we also want to make money out of our craft. Because the idea of the starving artist is only appealing when it doesn’t actually materialize (after all, cheap ramen noodles only taste good for the first five days you eat them for every meal), we constantly obsess about selling books, increasing our sales rank, and making our work more appealing, widely known, universally praised. The ideal of the free-spirited artist is constantly at odds with the fear of dishearteningly low balances our royalty reports (or, even worse, our bank accounts). Therefore, before we even put pen to paper—or fingers to keyboard—we start obsessing about all the “rules for writing a good novel” that we’ve heard being spouted in books, blogs, and articles:

  • Never start a story with the weather.
  • Never start a story with a character waking up.
  • Show, don’t tell.
  • Keep your dialogue tags simple.
  • Keep your language simple.
  • Don’t write in the first person.
  • Don’t write in the present tense.
  • Don’t have a prologue.
  • Don’t change points of view.
  • Make your main character likable.
  • Don’t leave your plot unresolved.

And on. And on. And on. Just Google “rules for writers.” It seems that there’s a rule for every single potential beginning, middle, or end of any kind of work, whether in verse or prose. There are rules for dialogue, rules for exposition, rules for sentence construction, rules for starting (or ending) a story, rules for character development. Rules, rules, rules.

Too bad I can cite at least one exceptionally successful novel that broke at least one of each rule I could find—and, often, many, many more.

Sure, there are plenty of unsuccessful novels that broke the rules, too. I’m familiar with that counterargument. The ones that broke the rules are the exception. Yes, I’ve heard that, too. And I’m not saying that by breaking the rules you’ll be successful.

What I’m saying is that by following the rules, you’re not guaranteeing yourself success, either.

Success in the writing world is a tricky, tricky thing. It is 10% perspiration, 10% hard work, and 80% pure unadulterated luck. You never know what’s going to make a successful novel. No one knows. If we knew, this industry wouldn’t be quite so damn hard to break into.

What I do know is this: If you’re more worried about following the rules than you are about writing your story, then you’re not being true to yourself. Or your story. In fact, you’re being downright rude to yourself and your story.

If there is one thing every writer should do is write the story they want to write, rules be damned. You want to write a prologue? Write a prologue! You want to change points of view? Do it! Want to write in the first person? Knock yourself out! Want to have a description-driven novel? Go ahead!


If everyone followed the rules, we’d be reading the same dull, trite story over and over. No one would have a unique Screw the Rules on Amelia Curzon's Blog - Carte Blanchevoice. All our characters would “say” things, never “spout” them. They would “yell,” but never “exclaim.” We’d be drowning in dialogue, yet know precious little about the immediate surroundings where the dialogue is taking place. And we would never, ever know about the weather.

Instead of worrying about the rules, worry about writing your story the way you want to write it. Instead of wringing your hands over whether the critics will call you out for your use of lengthy descriptions, worry about making sure your readers can picture with clarity where your action is taking place. Instead of worrying about your dialogue tags, worry about making sure your characters say things the way you want to say them.

Just like you don’t want to treat your readers like idiots, don’t treat your story, and yourself, like a second-class citizen. Tell your story how you want to tell it—how it deserves to be told. Throw caution to the wind. Let the chips fall where they may.

And when you become massively successful, smile a secret smile—because, like Frank Sinatra, you did it your way.

Bio: Anne Chaconas was born in Central America, educated in the U.S. Northeast, moved to the Deep South for love, and is currently living on the East Coast (and spends most of her time missing winter). Her awesome husband, adorable daughter, three rambunctious cats, and two very adoring dogs keep her busy. Her debut novel, Salve Regina, will be available this fall. In addition to being a writer of things serious (and, sometimes, not-to-serious), she is also a snarky mommy blogger and a book reviewer extraordinaire. You can find her on her websiteFacebookTwitter, and entirely too many other social networking sites

Before you self-publish, count the cost!

In Guest Blogger, Self-publishing on July 29, 2012 at 12:01 am

When I decided to go the self-publishing route, I made a list of every possible expense item. I researched my options, concentrating on the cost of each item. Ask my wife, I’m a cheapskate. Should I pay for a line-by-line edit? Do I try to format and publish without help or use an AuthorHouse or iUniverse? What marketing tools will I need? Will there be extras required such as business cards and bookmarks? What about the expense of purchasing my books for book signings?

Guest Blogger Author Bill Wetterman on Amelia Curzon's Blog - 'Carte Blanche'

I found so many program offerings. I can’t possibly discuss them all. Suffice to say, the cost ranged from literally zero to over ten thousand dollars. I’m not technically savvy. So, zero was out. Ten thousand dollars isn’t in the realm of possibility. No, I decided on seeing if I could do wide-distribution, both eBook and paperback, for a thousand dollars or under.

The more I can do myself, the less I’ll spend. I chose a package from Book Country, a division of Penguin. New York publishers are buying or creating printing companies to grab a share of the Self-Publishing market. The cost with Book Country to-date is worth the return.

A huge decision was line-by-line editing. On a thousand dollar budget for an 81,000-word novel, a line-by-line edit is far too expensive. I had some resources to my advantage. A dear friend, who is a grammar specialist and avid reader, helped me. A text-to-speech program that read my novel to me identified errors, and my patience, editing repeatedly, factored in. The book is as solid grammatically as I could make it.

Research Permissions and Obtain Them

Not all that says free is free. I couldn’t see a neat photo online and decide to use it. I had to get permission. There was heavy research involved to find out what I could use free and what I couldn’t. My book cover and my book trailer were excellent examples. A free photo has limited use. So even using a free photo website, I had to be prepared to spend money.

If a photo was just going in a YouTube trailer, I paid the contract price for limited use. There are standard contracts, extended use contracts, and multi-user contracts. The globe and gold bars photo I use in the trailer costs more than the other photos, because I use it on the book cover, my business cards, and bookmarks, as well.

I used Mahler’s 1st Symphony in my trailer. Mahler’s been dead for a century, surely he won’t mind. Ah, not the case, production companies have copyrights. Performing artists have copyrights. You have to submit your intent to use their work and receive permission. All totaled, I paid right at one-hundred dollars to clear all of the copyright agreements. I have peace of mind. I did the right thing.

When I self-publish, I have the responsibility for everything. I can’t point the finger and say, “The publisher missed the word ‘form.’ The word should have been ‘from.'” Sorry, not the publisher’s fault. The buck starts and stops with me.

Read the contracts and know your rights.

I created everything I could myself. Then I picked a package that provided the rest. I needed to know my rights. What do I own the rights to do? What rights does the publisher own? Like, can I set my own prices?

I have a friend who went with a recognizable POD publisher. That publisher set the price of the paperback and the hardcover books. My friend had no say. She was priced out of the market range and had difficulty selling her books, except for the meager few free copies she was sent. Who is paying $22.00 for a paperback and $33.00 for a hard copy today? She has changed publishers now, but that’s a hard lesson to learn.

In my case, the calculated the publisher’s cost, plus shipping, as a zero profit figure. I was then able to price both my eBook and paperback with a reasonable margin. However, pricey extras will kill you. I compared one (they shall remain nameless) publisher’s low-cost option to their first step-up program. The difference was $800. What did the author get for $800? The author’s book was made available in an overpriced hardcopy book, one-hundred copies of promotional materials, and the Look Inside the Book feature on Nook and Kindle. You can design and have all the promotional materials printed for around $160. Many publishers offer the Look Inside the Book feature at no charge. Remember, overpriced hard copies don’t sell.

I shopped around. Read the whole contract and all the instructions before I signed up. How many books do I have to sell to earn the extra $800.00 in profit? The add-ons can go as high as $10,000. It’s only money. Right?

Here is a book trailer I designed myself through Windows Movie Maker. Here’s the trailer if you haven’t seen it. Room 1515 – YouTube

The pluses of self-publishing:

Advantage 1: Your book will be available in a matter of weeks, not a couple of years. Unless you are a celebrity, you will search for months, maybe years, for an agent. The agent is not a magic genie. He or she may never sell your book to a publisher. Once the book is sold, you will get in line with the publisher’s schedule, an average time of another year to publication.

Advantage 2. Timeliness: If you’re writing about a hot topic or in a hot genre today, will that genre or topic be so hot two to three years from now? One month, I think you’re safe. Three years, you’ve missed the bus. Fact: eBooks have changed the ballgame. Today, to publish in one month is a reality.

Advantage 3: Control and Rights: A well-researched, self-published author retains the rights to the product and its uses–foreign sales, movies, and television. Note: The percentage of self-published books made into a movie is minuscule. The author controls the content and the cover design. There is no editor demanding you rewrite whole sections of your book.

Note: This could be a real negative if you’re a lousy editor. lol

Self-publishing has vastly improved over the past decade. The quality of the printed books, the formatting, book cover design, and feel, give self-published books the look and the pricing of royalty publishing. Depending upon how much you can do for yourself, you should reap a greater profit.

Niche books sell the best. Non-fiction religious books have a nice built-in appeal. Books on self-improvement do well. How-to books can be winners. In fact, books on self-publishing are among the biggest self-publishing sellers. Fiction writers have to be able to find and reach their audience. Unfortunately, this is a huge problem, since genre writers can find each other far easier than they can find readers. Hence, we receive and delete thousands of emails a month trying to sell each other our stuff.

If you are a serious author, you must have patience. Don’t expect to sell a thousand copies the first month. In 2006, Publisher’s Weekly estimated the average book sold 500 copies in the first year. With today’s economy, the average has dropped to closer to 250, and less than 3000 in its lifetime. Put your book out on the market and market consistently and persistently.

Okay, if you are consistent and persistent, self-published authors have an advantage. The publisher can’t Backlist your book for poor sales. Typical houses pull novels off the shelves after eighteen months. A new author needs more than eighteen months to build a following, a platform, and generate a readership. The lifespan of a self-published book is unlimited. Score a point for self-publishing. Don’t give up.

The minuses:

#1: Market everywhere and in every medium you know how to use. Self-Publishing is not for the shy. I call this shameless marketing. Authors tend to hold back, fearful to promote themselves. If you are uncomfortable marketing, don’t self-publish. Having said this, marketing to other authors is a useless endeavor. Don’t you cringe when some author you don’t know asks, “Follow this link and like my author page.” Reach out to readers—not authors.

#2: The rising cost of printing hurts the pocketbook. After publisher and distributor costs, the author typically receives 30 percent of the net. The more pages in the book the higher the printing cost. I priced my paperback at $14.95 to hit a reasonable percentage after everybody took his or her cut. Any higher would have priced me out of the market.

#3: Don’t believe the myth that being on the bookshelf at your major bookstores means you’ll make more money. First, self-published authors rarely have their books in bookstores. The industry requires certain standards be upheld. The ability to return unsold books looms large. Your publisher won’t print a book until it’s sold. The bookstore won’t stock books unless they can return them. A few POD companies offer a Book Buy Back program. You pay for the cost in your contract with the publisher–$600 to $800 dollars. What if distributors and bookstores ignore your book anyway? You are out the money. Your best avenue for both eBooks and paperbacks are Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, Kindle, Nook, Sony, and like venues, not bookstores.

#4: I’m sorry folks. Readers still believe self-published books are inferior in quality. With the exceptional training and coaching available today, the quality has improved I believe honest reviews by our peers is necessary. Example: A friend of my published a book. Three months later the book had twenty-plus five star reviews.

Does this happen in the real world? 

James Patterson never got twenty-plus five-star reviews. My friend admitted having friends and family review the book. So there you go. I’ve rated twenty-three books on Goodreads. I gave five stars to four books. Self-published authors need to give honest reviews for each other and the industry. If we don’t improve our quality, the perception will continue and rightly so.

#5: Let’s end on an upbeat. A nice author advance from a traditional publisher used to be a major reason not to self-publish. Not today, this perk has grown smaller and smaller. When offered, the advance is likely to be a $1,000 against future sales.

Again, Amelia, thanks for letting me contribute to you blog.

Now for shameless marketing. To buy my international thriller, Room 1515, click on one of the links below.

Buy at Amazon

Buy at Barnes and Noble

Blog: The Heart of a Novelist


Guest Blogger Bill Wetterman – First posted July 29th,2012 

Art and the Writing Life

In Ancient Egypt, Guest Blogger, writing on July 22, 2012 at 12:01 am

“When something moves you, FOLLOW. Don’t look back”  That’s the philosophy of my Guest Blogger this week, the lovely Rochelle Campbell.  Rochelle tells us of the outlying origins which helped her to start writing again after suffering from the dreaded ‘writers block’ for a sustained period of time. Thank you Rochelle for sharing this great post with us.

The creative gene is an elusive one. You never know when that gene will kick in and begin producing at its highestGuest Blogger Rochelle Campbell on Amelia Curzon's Blog - "Carte Blanche" capacity. The gene can lay completely dormant, or it can produce minor pulses that tease. Or, it can turn on slowly building and increasing its output.

Sometimes external situations can jumpstart the creative gene. However, like an old car, one may need a sustained boost from the external source in order to produce a spark and get the creative gene going.

This last scenario happened with me. The external source, in my case, was Egyptian history.

Finding out that Ramesses II had red hair was fascinating! I thought all Egyptians had swarthy complexions along with dark hair. Not so. Why? Because of the numerous invasions Egypt suffered through. The Asians (Hyksos), Greeks, Romans, and others have intermingled their genes with the hearty Egyptian stock creating the world’s first mulattos and multicultural Peoples.

Ancient Egyptian shower on Amelia Curzon's Blog - "Carte Blanche"Researching and discovering that Ancient Egyptians had running water in their bathrooms and sturdy ships for warring and exploring amazed me. Replica of an ancient Egyptian ship on Amelia Curzon's Blog - "Carte Blanche" The ships utilized an elaborate rope-pulley system and did not require metal bolts to keep them together — and they were very sea-worthy vessels!

We all know about the amazing pyramids and how modern scientists and engineers still cannot construct a pyramid like those that still stand at Giza.The Pyramids at Giza on Amelia Curzon's Blog - "Carte Blanche" There are thousands of web pages and television programs that speculate that aliens built these colossal structures. One of these programs can be found on the History Channel’s Ancient Aliens (Season 3, Episode: Aliens and Ancient Engineers –

All I know is the intelligence of Ancient Egyptians is unparalleled. They were the epitome of creativity.

Some years ago, (okay, like 17 years ago…), I began writing a story about a few of the Egyptian kings and in it speculated about how they achieved their accomplishments. I felt at many points in the research and writing that I was having lucid dreams about Ancient Egypt! The world I was creating seemed more real to me than the nuts-and-bolts world that truly surrounded me. I became frightened and began wishing that my creative gene would stop churning out this Egyptian output and feed me instead safe, non-confrontational, pablum to feed myself and any who chose to read my work.

Around that time, I noticed that my creativity began slowly to shut down. Things stopped flowing for me and stories stopped wanting to be written leaving me with a very long dry “writer’s block” spell. There were fits and starts across these dry years of creative leanings. By actively shutting down that story that greatly inspired me, I did irreparable damage to my creative gene and my writer’s soul.

Akhenaten on Amelia Curzon's Blog - "Carte Blanche"

Nefertiti, the Amarna period on Amelia Curzon's Blog - "Carte Blanche"Tutankhamen - The Boy King on Amelia Curzon's Blog - "Carte Blanche"It took another cathartic experience to revive and resuscitate my creative gene — after 20-odd years, I graduated college and received my degree in Written Communications. That was a little over 18 months ago. In this short time, I completed a novel started over 4 years ago and compiled four short stories into a collection and made both of these works available online via and Barnes and Noble’s Pubit! E-book publishing feature. The blog came next and shortly thereafter, my author’s website. And most importantly? I’m writing real work again — that is, new short stories and work on two novels.

The moral of this story? When art and antiquity — or anything else for that matter — moves you, FOLLOW. Don’t look back, or stop for anyone or anything because your creative life may very well depend upon your complete and utter devotion.

Leaping Out on Faith by Rochelle Campbell, book cover image


Opening Up by Rochelle Campbell, book cover image

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The Role of Strong LGBTQPA Characters in Urban Fantasy

In Guest Blogger, LGBTQPA on July 15, 2012 at 12:01 am

I am pleased to welcome this week’s Guest Blogger, Hannah Clark, aka author A.G.Bellamy. Hannah offers up a very different sort of piece discussing the lack of exploration of gender identities in teen fictional characters.

I was sixteen when I realised that, for half of the film, Mulan had managed to convince General Li Shang that he was gay. “Mulan” is one of my favourite Disney films, one of a collection now known as “old Disney.” The title character must dress in drag in order to fight in the army, and by the end of the film comes to win the respect of the entire army based on her ability to combine both femininity and masculinity in order to defeat the Huns.

The role of LGBT characters has been an important factor for me in most of my reading and writing endeavours. Hannah Clark - Guest Blogger on Amelia Curzon's Blog - "Carte Blanche"I always wondered why most teen romances were about “boy meets girl” rather than “boy meets boy” or “girl meets girl.” It then occurred that in most storylines, the gay characters are just there to be the sassy gay guy-friend or the tough lesbian gal-pal. In Michael Grant’s Gone series, the character Dekka outs herself as a lesbian and is shown to develop around this part of her identity, although it is not often mentioned. Dekka is a strong character who keeps to herself, much like most of the non-lesbians I know in real life. Then again, I hang around with fairly nerdy/sporty crowd. Being panromantic myself, I break my back trying to find stories which include strong LGBTQPA characters like Dekka which aren’t classed as ‘gaylit’ or ‘homoromance.’ I find it shameful that the Western world concentrates so much on the idea of “the hero/heroine must find love with the opposite sex to be happy!” when it comes to literature. This ignores the many other gender identities in the many different cultures that inhabit this planet, and as such I believe that it is an author’s duty to explore as many identities as possible. There is a name for this duty: character development.

Runes Shalt Thou Dream” is told from the perspective of an LGBTQPA youth named Matthew. His love interest, Ryan, has had no previous experience in relationships with either gender and does not have any interest in pursuing a relationship. In the few books I have read which introduce LGBTQPA characters (only five or so, I’m counting the Gone series as one), the LGBTQPA characters have had the most interesting personalities but are left unexplored and often ignored. In fact, the only LGBTQPA character who has been explored is Dekka. In “Runes Shalt Thou Dream” Matthew is explored in a psychological sense – his dreams slowly become reality and he struggles to find the line between them. The fact that he is gay is rarely if ever mentioned. Being a child born into the Norse faith, Ásatrú, Matthew has no religious obligation to feel ashamed about his homosexuality – the Vikings, in fact, celebrated homosexual sex as it was a display of dominance over the weaker men. Ásatrú has no literature condemning particular identities to an eternal doom, so all Matthew has to worry about is his father’s personal reaction to the news.

The continuing debate on marriage equality would be greatly helped by the inclusion and exploration of LGBTQPA characters in modern teen fiction; exploration is the best friend of the author, and if the author can help such a worthy cause it would be a great boon to Western philosophy.

Runes Shalt Thou Dream is now available on Amazon

Runes Shalt Thou Dream - an eBook by A.G.Bellamy

Between Covers and In the Fridge

In Guest Blogger, writing on June 24, 2012 at 12:01 am

  This week I am delighted to welcome my Guest Blogger, Tori L. Ridgewood.   Tori shares the life issues which surge forth when she is writing!

Where do I begin?

When I am writing fiction, three issues from my life always seem to bubble to the surface, in no particular order:  poverty, the strength of women, and food.Author Tori L. Ridgewood - Guest Blogger on Amelia Curzon's Blog - "Carte Blanche"

Let’s talk first about food.

I have a love affair with pastries.  Chocolate truffles make me swoon.  I am married to a chef, and he spoils me terribly with delicious plates of stir fry, home-made meatballs, spring rolls, salads, pieces of cake made from scratch, scrambled eggs so light and fluffy they practically float on the fork, waffles loaded with his patented stewed apple mix (the recipe is a secret, but involves cinnamon, orange juice, and vanilla)…  The only thing he’s yet to make for me from scratch is spaghetti, fettuccine, or any similar dish with the pasta maker I bought for him.

There is a reason for my passion for food.

I was never without while growing up.  My parents always had food in the house, I learned at an early age to help my mother with supper, and I took it for granted that if my stomach growled, all I needed to do was go to the fridge or the cupboard and snack away.  Grocery shopping with my mother was torturous as an adolescent.  I didn’t care how the food got into my house, as long as it was there.

And then I moved out in my final year of high school, to share a bachelor apartment with my soon-to-be husband, and learned just how valuable food really is.

I learned that you can survive on a diet of high protein, high-msg processed foods, like peanut butter sandwiches, balogna fried or plain, ground beef mixed with whatever pasta was handy.  I also learned to hate most of those things.

I learned how good a fresh apple can taste after a week of stale cereal and breads.

I learned how painful walking through a grocery aisle could be, when every penny counts and your stomach is so empty it feels sick.

I learned that you can live on love, but it’s hungry.

We got through the lean years as students, and had our babies.  I had the inexplicable cravings and aversions for the foods we were just beginning to afford again.  I nursed our babies, always making sure to buy food before paying bills so that none of us would go hungry.  I felt a great deal of empathy for Scarlett O’Hara, standing in her barren field, searching for at least one more veggie that would keep her family fed just a little longer.

It’s better now, but having been through times of need awakened me to the privilege it is to be able to go into a store and fill your cart with nutritious foods.  It’s something I don’t want my own children to experience, nor take for granted.  And being hungry goes hand in hand with poverty.

Our poverty was deliberate at first:  two adults barely out of high school, choosing to live together because we couldn’t stand being apart; it was no wonder we were flat broke.  Being penniless also seems to be part and parcel of the college experience.  At times, we were so broke that we did our laundry in the bathtub.  I hoarded sandwich cards like gold, coveting the free submarine that I’d earn every few weeks.  We lived without cable for a while, courted disaster with overdue utilities, even faced being evicted twice.  We endured it and came out with many of our goals fulfilled, though we’re still more in debt than we had expected to be at this point.

So, in my writing, I find my characters struggling through the same uphill battles that I experienced over the last decade and a half.  My heroines — Charlotte in “Mist and Midnight” (Midnight Thirsts), Kate in “Telltale Signs” (Spellbound 2011), Trisha in “A Living Specimen” (Midnight Thirsts 2) — all are students, recent graduates, or struggling professionals aiming to move past their time of hunger and poverty to be self-sufficient and comfortable.  My protagonists are familiar with the sick feeling of a stomach left too long without food, have experienced the backache of scrubbing dirty jeans in a bathtub, have scrimped to buy the basic necessities, and have their sights set on a better life.  They’re not wealthy by virtue of inheritance, lottery, or employment.  My characters are real to me because they struggle, like me.  Through writing them, I understand my own progress and inner self in new ways.

Including my strength as a woman.

I don’t like labels, as a rule, because I believe there are so many facets to your personality that it seems unfair to partition a human or constraint him or her to a single impression.  We are glittering gems of life.  I am a woman, but I also have strongly masculine qualities.  I am Wiccan, and I am a witch, but I was raised Anglican and I have strong affinities for Hinduism, Buddhism, Egyptian mythologies, and Celtic traditions.  I am a feminist, but that doesn’t mean I won’t let a man open a door for me — I’m just as likely to open the door for him as well.  I believe in a woman’s right to her own body and its functions.  Yes, that’s contentious.  I believe in the right of others to disagree with me.

I believe that we are only given as much as we can handle by The Universe.  What if each of us has chosen the path we are on, to learn about life through the choices we make and take our knowledge back to the Cosmos?  Therefore, whatever we undertake, endure, survive, has the capacity to make us stronger.  It’s how we choose to interpret and move forward that determines the worth or impact of the things that happen to or by us, positive or negative.

For example, I have two children, but I have also lost two pregnancies.  The experiences of loss, the invasive, painful, and at times lengthy procedures involved to make sure I would remain healthy, the subsequent battles with deep and chronic depression — all have built me as a person and helped me realize how strong I am.  How strong women can be, and need to be in order to survive everything life can throw at them.  So in my writing, I challenge my heroines not only with the supernatural, but with life’s more mundane journeys as well.  They face the daily risks of driving in poor weather, inadequate housing, stalkers, loss of family, sexism, and their own fears of both failure and success.  Charlotte, Kate, Trisha, and those to come — Rayvin, and Tabitha — are not confident women.  They question their own strength and their decisions, being human enough to feel the impact of society’s judgement of their individuality.  They have to learn to believe in themselves and their potential, before they can grow.  And yet they remain vulnerable and sensitive enough to appreciate the support of a mate.  In my life, I have learned enough to understand that solitude has its place and its benefits, but so does partnership.  It’s achieving the balance that can be the real problem.

So when you have an opportunity to read my work — and I dearly hope you do — my wish is that you will see something of me in those strong women, and something of yourself.  That you will recognize the power inherent in a cup of welcoming tea, a plate of food, the handful of coins that will help you to wash your clothes.  Life isn’t easy for my characters, as it’s not easy for most of us.  But the challenges make the achievements that much more beautiful and meaningful.


Tori L. Ridgewood is a full-time secondary school teacher, a mother, a partner, and a writer and reader of all things fiction and non-fiction.  Tori enjoys writing vampire / paranormal romances, sweet and humourous looks at pregnancy and childbirth, and horror fiction.  Tori enjoys writing plays for her students, watching thunderstorms, walking her dog, needlework (quilting, cross-stitching, and embroidery), collecting miniature furniture, traveling, and watching movies.  Currently working on a trilogy of adult vampire novels to follow “Mist and Midnight”, Tori also plans to write young adult fiction in the near future.

Ridgewood’s published works include:

“Mist and Midnight” (Midnight Thirsts, Melange Books, 2011)

“Telltale Signs” (Spellbound 2011, Melange Books, 2011)

“A Living Specimen” (Midnight Thirsts 2, Melange Books, 2012)

“Tabitha’s Solution” (Having My Baby, Melange Books, coming fall of 2012),

“Brain Games” and “Bio Zombie” (A Quick Bite of Flesh, Hazardous Press, coming in 2012).

“Thy Will Be Done” (Dark Moon Books, date tbd)


Blog:  Tori L. Ridgewood – Romance and Other Dangers

Facebook: Tori L. Ridgewood

Twitter: @ToriLRidgewood

Goodreads: Tori Ridgewood

Midnight Thirsts - A novelMidnight Thirsts (also available in paperback)

Spellbound 2011 - A novelSpellbound 2011 (also available in paperback)

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