What Phrases Stopped You in Your Tracks…In a Good Way?

What stops your reading?

What stops your reading?

As a critique partner, one of our jobs is to mark the sentences or phrases that stop us in our tracks and pull us out of the story. In most cases, those are big No-No’s that should be stricken from the manuscript.

As a reader and aspiring author, I strongly believe it’s still important to highlight sentences that stop you in your tracks, but they should be the ones that you appreciate for their wit, humor, how they intrigued you to read more, or how they described something perfectly. Be sure to log them into a journal, a note pad, or scratch paper that you can look at after you’ve gathered 10 or so. My suggestion would be to gather them from different sources, at least 3 or 4 different books.


Simply because once you look at that list again, you’ll start to see a pattern. You should be able to pick out what precisely attracted your attention. It could be the cadence of the sentence, the use of metaphor or simile; whatever it was that gave you pause.

And then…?

Create writing exercises based on those phrases. Describe a character in a similar manner, but with your own voice to it. Start a chapter using the same type of sentence cadence. To be clear, I’m not suggesting that you copy anyone. I’m saying that by recognizing what you like about other author’s voice, you can refine your own.

Here are examples of a few that I grabbed:

  • Now that… was a cure for constipation
  • She has Little Sister Radar. She knows exactly when I’m busy, and that’s when she pounces.
  • Poor Reeves. She looked as comfortable as if she was standing naked in front of her history class giving a report on the Salem Witch Trials using her own body as a visual aid to all of the tortures.
  • …understanding took root and grew limbs…
  • The sharpness of my sympathy almost cut my heart into shreds
  • He said that we needed to get to know each other better, so he started to throw out details as if they were bullets…and I was the target.
  • The virus was a knife to my face, carving away at my cheeks, sharpening my chin, thinning my nose.
  • I didn’t need him to buy my lies. I just needed him to rent them for a while.

Can you see a pattern to what I’ve picked out? Even if you don’t, that’s ok, I do. ; ) Now start your own list!

Stacked Books


5 Time Management Tips For Creative People

Writing (if that’s where your creativity lies) every day is KEY! I remember attending a writers craft meeting where they used the acronym BICHOK… Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard.

From one published author friend, I received a kitchen timer with the inspirational words, “Just 30 Minutes a Day!” It is definitely a helpful concept, but I personally couldn’t stand the constant ticking sound, and then when the bell finally went off, it caused mini heart attacks of surprise.

Another awesome author friend of mine, Anna Randol, gave me a beautiful Hour Glass, which they actually make in 30 minute increments. The best part….no more heart attacks. ; )

My Top Ten Heroines

I love learning about new heroines. I only knew 3 of the ones mentioned, so I will definitely be checking these new ones out.

The Scrawler

So, I spent the morning writing up my first China recap…including photos and videos…AND I LOST THE WHOLE THING. I’m having a bit of a tantrum about it, so I’ve decided to recycle something old that I never posted directly to this blog. My top ten heroines were originally featured in my book tour over at Breezy Reads.

But I want them here too. Because I think this list says a lot about the sort of heroines that I like to read and write. Do you share any favourites? Let me know and we can FANGIRL.


Alanna – (Tortall Series)

Alanna was my first heroine.

Well, technically she might not have been…but she is the first name that comes to mind when I cast my mind back. I was a tom boy when I was a kid, and I was a tom boy that liked to READ BOOKS that were typically…

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Happy Leap Day!

Hi All –

I’ll get back to my Blog Series shortly, but since today is a special day on the calendar, I thought you might want to know why it’s special.

And I want to give a big birthday shout out to my mother-in-law whose birthday is actually on the 29th and so technically she’s only 15 years old!

Astronomy Lesson

Despite what our elementary teachers told us, a year isn’t really 365 days. Our planet actually takes 365 1/4 days to revolve around the sun. These six additional hours each year add up to an extra 24 hours over four years, at which point we add a day to our calendar in order to keep us in sync with the sun. Without leap day, annual events would slowly shift seasons—eventually, we’d be celebrating Christmas in July.

One Glitch in the System

Caesar is credited for incorporating leap year into the Julian calendar in 46 B.C. However, scientists noticed that annual events were still shifting over extended periods of time. While the calculation of 365 1/4 days for the Earth to lap the sun was close, the true figure is actually about 11 minutes short of that, and this tiny miscalculation caused a day of discrepancy every 128 years. Pope Gregory XIII came to the rescue in 1582, ruling that leap year would be skipped three times every four centuries to fix the snag.

Most of us won’t ever see a Leap Day skipped in our lifetimes. The last time a Leap Day was skipped was in February of 1900. The next time will be in February of 210

Folk Lore

Since it’s an unusual occurrence, folk stories suggest that leap day babies were unruly and tough to raise. I think my MIL would disagree. =)

Driving privileges

Because Leaplings technically only have real birthdays every 4 years, they had to make special provisions in the law that allow them to take the test on February 28 or March 1. Some states are mean and make them wait until March 1.

A Modest Proposal

Four hundred years ago, women weren’t allowed to propose marriage to men… except on leap day. While the source of this switcheroo isn’t 100 percent clear, folklore traces the tradition to fifth-century Ireland, when St. Bridget supposedly complained to St. Patrick that gals were sick of waiting around for their procrastinating men to pop the question. Patrick consented to a leap day role reversal and, by some accounts, also declared that men who declined the proposal would be fined! Supposedly the fines, set to law in 1288 by Queen Margaret of Scotland (then age five and living in Norway), required that fines be levied if a marriage proposal was refused by the man; compensation ranged from a kiss to £1 to a silk gown, in order to soften the blow

And so, it being a leap year and St. Brigid being single, she got down on one knee and proposed to St. Patrick on the spot. He refused and bestowed on her a kiss and a beautiful silk gown in consolation…nice double-standard there, St. Patty!

More Randomness

– People born on February 29 are all invited to join The Honor society of Leap Year Day Babies. I have to ask my MIL if she belongs to this society!

– According to the Guinness Book of Records, the only verified example of a family producing three consecutive generations born on February 29 is that of the Keogh family. Peter Anthony was born in Ireland on February 29, 1940, while his son Peter Eric was born on the Leap Day in the United Kingdom (UK) in 1964. His daughter, Bethany Wealth, was, in turn, born in the UK on February 29, 1996.





BLOG SERIES: Lesson 2 – Engaging Key Influencers

Blog Series – Lesson 2: Engaging the Influencers

Now that you have your list of Influencers, whether they are Book Reviewers, Publishers, or Agents, the key is not to have a tremendously long list – top 10 max to start. You want to spend time on the most influential entities rather than spread yourself thin on too many influencers.

That being said, it’s not a bad idea to have tiered Influencers, because chances are, once you get to know your key influencers well, and a relationship is formed, you can move on to Tier 2 Influencers to create even more brand awareness. Just something to keep in mind.

Keep my example of influential book reviewers in mind, answer the following question.

TRUE or FALSE or MAYBE – Moving down your list of Key Influencers, as an author, I should immediately introduce myself and request them to review one of my books.

I know you probably hate pop quizzes, even as an adult, but it’s important to stop and think before you act with regards to Influencers.

Answer = MAYBE

If you already have a “relationship” with the Influencer, where you communicate regularly via Twitter, Facebook or another social network, then by all means, go ahead (if you haven’t already) ask them to review your book.

If you already know, i.e. have a social relationship with, all the influencers on your list, then you are more than ½ way to your Big Brand Marketing Goal of Brand Awareness.

But more than likely you know of them, but you aren’t exactly best buds.


OBJECTIVE: The goal isn’t to get the one pop book review (at least not in my opinion). What you’re trying to do is create a brand relationship. You as the author are the brand. You want them just as excited about your next book as your most avid fan. You also want these Influencers to become your brand street team and to advocate you to their followers.

Step 1: Research and create your list of influencers. – COMPLETE

Step 2: Check the patterns. Find out if the Book Reviewer that’s on your list actually reviews your kind of book. Visit their website to see how they accept submissions. See how often they come out with new reviews, once a week, once a month? If it’s not the right fit, doesn’t matter how influential they are, they won’t be reviewing your book. As an example, I think that once-a-month book reviews is a bit slow and might not be the best nor the most influential group for your Author Brand. Might want to reconsider who’s on your key influencers list.

Step 3: Get on their radar. You want to start a conversation with them. Comment on something they tweeted about or a book they reviewed. This can be via Twitter, Facebook, or commenting on their website. Participate in any contests they might run. Don’t be obnoxious about it, but let them know you admire their work.

You could also post suggestions to them; but you might want to consider emailing those rather than posting them because you never know how people will react to advice. Keep in mind that the information offered should be complimentary, such as: I really like the book contest you ran on the XYZ Paranormal that you just reviewed. I was thinking that it might be fun to do it again as best vampire photo contest. Thanks again for offering such fun and interactive contests.

NOTE: Step 3 is especially important for unpublished writers, because you want to have a relationship with the key influencers so that once you become published; you have sites waiting in line to review your book.

Step 4: Ask for the review & maintain the relationship. Once you have gained rapport with the key influencer, go ahead and ask for the review. What can they do but say no, right? But what you have to make sure is that once they agree to do the review, and it posts, don’t make it a love-em-and-leave-em type of thing. They gave you a review, and most likely a glowing one, so return the favor. And I don’t mean by retweeting their review of your book over again. I mean #FF their site, share their links, etc. so that it’s a two-way street.

Another option is to offer them prizes for any contest they might run on their site. Can run from a bunch of your books, a Starbucks Gift Card, a nice writers page, whatever. Remember, you’re trying to create a relationship, not a one-time book review.


For an example of HOW to ask for a review, check this out: http://www.worldliterarycafe.com/content/wlc-author-pr-101-how-request-book-review


SERIES: Big Brand Marketing Tips for Authors -Step 1

Big Budgets

Ever wonder if the strategies that work for big brands like Coca Cola or Nike could work for you as you strive to brand yourself in the world of publishing? With deep pockets like the big boys, it would be easy to brand yourself to the world! I can imagine you just rubbing your hands together in glee thinking of how you’re going to market yourself with a $23 million budget at your fingertips.

*Slap Slap*

Wake up! Enough fantasizing already.

Even if you’re on all the best-seller lists, I doubt that any publishing company would toss around $23 million as a publicity campaign, but if they did, power-to-ya! Now scram. This blog series is for the rest of us working on a shoe-string or no string budget marketing/advertising/PR campaign.

First of all, the reason why I am qualified to give this little “chat” is because at my blessed dayjob (really, I like my job) I am a senior manager in the marketing department for the #2 brand in our category. I’m not going to reveal what that brand is, BUT, let’s just say that it’s sold at all the major and minor retailers across the nation, like Walmart, Target, Walgreens, CVS, etc. So, I kinda know what I’m talking about. And I say “kinda” because it’s an ever growing and changing spectrum of success and until we’re #1, I say “kinda.” =)


Influencers = Noun. The capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others.

How the Brands Do it: One of the important first steps in any social media and public relations campaign is to determine your category’s (or genre’s) key influencers. People that you already (or should) depend on for new information and who influence large crowds of people…preferably to buy your book.

Typically, Brands would pay an agency to do the work for us, someone like Traackr (No – that’s not a typo). They are a company that specializes in the algorithyms that not only find key players in the field, but determine the relevance to your brand (YOU).

It is a great service, but it’s extremely expensive and not something the typical aspiring writer or newbie published author can afford (i.e. our program started off at $10,000).

So why did I torture you by telling you about something you can’t afford?

I’m just explaining how Big Brands do it…we cheat a bit. If you have the time, energy, and a good network, you can do it yourself. I have put together a short list of key influencers in the Romance Genre – namely Book Reviewers. Other categories to look for would be Key Agents, Key Publishers, etc. But for the sake of this blog, we’re talking about Book Reviewers.

Below is a chart of some key influencers in the Book Reviewers Romance Genre. PLEASE NOTE: This is by no means a complete list of all the book reviewers. To make life easier, I simply went by their Google Ranking and stopped at a certain point. So don’t get mad at me if I left someone off, it was unintentional, as I do not have time to list every single book reviewer.

After I chart their Google information – I check out their web address and type it into Alexa.com to see how it ranks in US traffic. Since it’s comparing all the websites published in America – which is an obscene number of websites, the rankings that these book reviewers show is phenomenal. The rest is easy to fill out. PLEASE NOTE: The number of fans or followers an entity has is NOT the most important factor in determining the influence level of a book reviewer.

Why? Because many people want to keep their interests private. So they may visit a Facebook Page often but NOTE click “like” to be a fan because they don’t want their mother/brother/kids/coworkers to know that they like a particular brand/musician/service.

That’s why it’s important that you create a chart (like mine below) and then add more information. Most of these can be found right off of Alexa.com when you get the details for the website that you are researching.

– Relevance (they define it on Alexa)

– Number of Sites linking in

– Demographic of visitors, etc.

Once you have this information – add it to the chart. NEXT TIME, I’ll tell you what to DO with your list of key influencers. STAY TUNED!

Key Influencers Example

Great Victorian Era Map I Found…

Hi Folks,

While out researching where my heroine was going to live in London, I came across this Poverty Map that showed a few streets on the East End of town. My heroine isn’t going to live in this area, but I thought the map was marvelously interesting to see the areas of blue and black and the comparable red. Couldn’t find yellow or pink easily… or what I see as white might have meant to be yellow. Who knows.

Poverty map of Old Nichol slum, East End of London, showing Bethnal Green Road, from Charles Booth’s Labour and Life of the People. Volume 1: East London (London: Macmillan, 1889). The streets are colored to represent the economic class of the residents: Yellow (“Upper-middle and Upper classes, Wealthy”), red (“Lower middle class – Well-to-do middle class”), pink (“Fairly comfortable good ordinary earnings”), blue (“Intermittent or casual earnings”), and black (“lowest class…occasional labourers, street sellers, loafers, criminals and semi-criminals”)

February and March Writing Contest Deadlines







Compiled by Jason Locke

EA = Electronic Format Available
EA/Non US = Electronic for Foreign Entries
EO = Electronic Only
MO = Members Only
U = Unpublished
P = Published
P/3 = Not published in three years
Pnr = Published, but not by RWA standards
PC = Not published in category selected


Fire and Ice Contest Chicago-North RWA Entry cost: $25/$30 (non-RWA members) E-Entry Deadline: Midnight of February 1, 2012 Prologue/first chapter (25 pages max) http://www.chicagonorthrwa.org/

Willa Award (P) Women Writing the West Entry cost: $50 Entry Deadline is February 1, 2012 Copyright of 2011 http://www.womenwritingthewest.org/pdffiles/WILLA%20Guidelines%20and%20Application.pdf

Merritt Contest (EO – U – P/4) San Antonio Romance Authors Entry cost: #30/$35 (non-RWA members) Deadline: Midnight, February 14, 2012 First twenty pages, plus up to five page synopsis. http://sararwa.net/contest.html

The Sandy Crested Butte Writers Entry cost: $30/$35 (non-Crested Butte members) Deadline: Midnight February 12, 2012 First 20 pages plus two page synopsis. http://thesandy.org/sandy.php

PNWA Literary Contest Received by February 17, 2012 Entry cost: $35/$50 (non-PNWA members) Beginning and Synopsis (not to exceed 5 pages) total 28 page max. http://www.pnwa.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=6


Fab 5 (EO – U – P/5) WisRWA Entry Cost: $18/$20 (non-WRWA members) Received by March 1, 2012 Up to first 2,500 words. http://www.wisrwa.org/

Great Beginnings Utah Chapter RWA Entry Cost: $10 Deadline: March 1, 2012 First five pages. http://www.utahrwa.com/gbcontest.html

Inspirational Readers Choice (P) Faith, Hope & Love Entry Cost: $20/$25 (Non-FHL members) Received by March 1, 2012 Copyright of 2011 http://www.faithhopelove-rwa.org/tbl.html

More Than Magic (P) Romance Writers Ink Entry Cost: $25 check, $27 Paypal Entry Deadline: March 2, 2012 Copyright of 2011 http://rwimagiccontests.wordpress.com/

Genesis Award (EO – U – P/7) ACFW – American Christian Fiction Writers Entry Cost: $35/$95 (Non-NCFW members Received by 3:00 PM CST March 2, 2012 First 15 pages plus optional one page synopsis http://www.acfw.com/genesis/index.shtml

ACFW Book of the Year (P) ACFW – American Christian Fiction Writers Entry Cost: $40/$115 (Non ACFW members) Postmark by March 10, 2012 Copyright of 2011 http://www.acfw.com/boty.shtml

CNW Contest Postmarked by March 15, 2012 Entry Cost: $5/$10 First five thousand words. http://www.writers-editors.com/Writers/Contests/Contest_Guidelines/contest_guidelines.htm

Daphne du Maurier Award for Published Authors RWA Mystery/Suspense Chapter Received by March 15, 2012 Entry Cost: $25 Copyright of 2009 http://www.rwamysterysuspense.org/d_published.php

Daphne du Maurier Award for Unpublished Authors (U) RWA Mystery/Suspense Chapter Entry Cost: $25 Received by March 15, 2012 First five thousand words, plus synopsis of no more than 675 words. http://www.rwamysterysuspense.org/d_unpublished.php

Touch of Magic (EO – U – P/5) Central Florida Romance Writers Deadline: March 20, 2012 Entry Cost: $25/$30 (Non CFRWA members) First twenty-five pages plus up to three page synopsis (unjudged). http://www.cfrwa.com/?page_id=28

L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Contest (U) Received by March 31, 2012 Entry Cost: $0 Up to 17,000 words http://www.writersofthefuture.com/rules.htm#writers

On the Subject of Penises? O_o

Read a funny blog passed to me about a guy trying to write sex scenes that appeal to both men and women. That has to be the most challenging thing EVER – for me at least.


His take on a scene where his hero walks struts moonwalks across the room with his naked manhood penis is hilarious! I totally empathsize with his dilemma.