Spend Some Time Brainstorming a Character or Getting to Know Yourself

When I agreed to take part in the blog tour for The Ultimate Brag Book about Yourself: A Hundred Questions about How Awesome You Are by Marla J. Albertie, I wasn’t entirely certain what to expect. As I paged through the book, I realized that it was a book of lists about you.

I’ll be honest. As soon as I popped this open, I realized that I wasn’t thinking about me. I’m getting to know a new character and it was her answers that I found myself working through. The year is 1969 so what 10 meals would she know how to prepare?

  • Pot roast
  • Meat loaf
  • Fried chicken, biscuits and gravy
  • Pan-fried hamburgers
  • Pan-fried pork chops
  • Hot dogs cooked in the oven with BBQ sauce

Hmm. That’s only six so obviously I still need to get to know her. I have to decide if she’d be into convenience foods like shake-n-bake or hamburger helper.

But even when you can’t answer a category of questions, it can be enlightening. I’m also working on a middle grade novel. What does my character like to cook? That questions is virtually irrelevant because she’s stuck on the family space cruiser. All she and her siblings have access to is a small variety of preserved foods and supplements. When she thinks about preparing food, she considers how the can create a nutritious meal that isn’t disgusting but she also longs for what they don’t have.

Even if I can’t answer the question Marla wrote, I find myself world building. Why can’t I answer this? What doesn’t my character have? What is her world/life like? Each list leads to world building.

That said, I really do need to go back into this and consider how I would fill it out as ME because Marla teaches how to vision board career moves. As you know, I’m all about saying yes to new opportunities but sometimes change requires a little emotional prep work.

Here’s a bit more about the book starting with Marla’s summary and following that with ordering information and the blog tour calendar. And don’t forget to come back tomorrow for a guest post by Marla herself.

Can you imagine all the things you like, love, and adore in one book? 

Let’s be honest. We tend to forget how amazing we really are. It is easy to see it in others, but when it comes to seeing ourselves, we tend to have bad vision.

This is why I wrote this book! All your favorites are captured at one time with space to write more. How often do we brag about ourselves, take time to think about what makes us happy, or do the things we like? If I had to guess, not as often as you would like. You deserve to brag about yourself, so why not? Not only is this a bragging book, but it is a book of ideas you can use to start your next project, business, career move, or anything your heart desires.

In this book, you will learn: 

  • How to vision board your next big career move
  • How to inspire yourself by seeing you
  • That you are worthy

This book is for everyone who wants to see themselves as the person they are. You deserve to be your own cheerleader. Grab this book today and start bragging on yourself!

ISBN-13 (paperback) 979-8887592923

ISBN-13 (e-book) 979-8887592930

Print Length: 218 Pages
Purchase a copy of The Ultimate Brag Book About Yourself on Amazon or get a signed copy on the author’s website. You can also add this to your GoodReads reading list.

You can visit additional stops on her blog tour – see the calendar below. And we hope to see you back here tomorrow for her post.


What Your Quiet Picture Book Needs

I’ve been trying to research quiet picture books, how to write them, and how to pitch them. It has been a challenge. Not that there is nothing out there.

The problem is actually that when you try to research anything to do with quiet picture books, you get books with titles like Quiet, The Quiet Boat Ride, and The Quiet Place. That’s pretty funny because when I think of quiet picture books, I think of Jane Yolen’s Owl Moon, Marie Dorleans The Night Walk, or Hayley Barrett’s Babymoon. So what makes it a quiet book?

The focus is on emotion and quiet observation. There may be more than one or two characters but the cast is not vast. It is definitely limited and contained. So what does your quiet picture book need?

Depth and Emotion

Obviously it needs depth and emotion. This doesn’t mean that it needs to be sad or emotional. The Night Walk has a sense of awe. Or it can feel cozy and maybe a little sentimental. I tend to think of quiet stories as the kinds of pieces that would, if they happened in your family, make good bedtime stories. Or good cuddle time stories.

A Hook

Quiet picture books also need to have a hook. Think about the quiet stories that readers love. The two that always come to mind for me are Owl Moon by Jane Yolen and Dream Snow by Eric Carle. Both are seasonal books about a winter night. Owl Moon is a book about owling and family. Those are the hooks. Dream Snow is a Christmas book. The Night Walk is about family. It also sets the reader up for a discussion about the difference between night and day, sunrise and sunset.

An Audience

Knowing what the hook is for your quiet story will lead you to who the audience is. In short, who is it that will buy your quiet book? Many quiet books make excellent gift books. You could give Owl Moon to either a bird lover or a new father. I would choose The Night Walk for new parents or nature enthusiasts. Babymoon is another great book for new parents.

Are you seeing a theme here?

But don’t get hung up on the idea that your quiet book has to be for just this audience. A quiet book can be a great bedtime book without being for new parents. I think that’s where Dream Snow fits in.

Depth, emotion and an audience. These three things benefit any picture book manuscript but are essential in the quiet picture book.


Marketing Plans: Should You Be Buying What They’re Selling?

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’m not sure why this trend this year, but 2023 seems to be all about marketing and self-promotion. I’ve sampled three different courses/plans.

In the first, a leading author whose indie books have been on the New York Times best sellers list showed how to boost your backlist to help make sales. Her thing is to look at your backlist and determine which books are doing great, which are doing pretty well, and which are doing badly.

Her advice it to pick one of those stinkers and first update the cover. Then update the description. Last but not least, check you price. Then she runs an ad or takes part in a promotion. Do one at a time because that way you can see if it worked and how well. The cost of her session was $0.

Next I saw webinar from someone who helps other writers market their books. He says that social media ads are pointless. They don’t work at all. Instead he advises writers to find a way to connect with “100 little Oprahs.” Find 100 social influencers with some success, and ask them to feature your book in some way. The session that I saw was $0 but he offers a detailed plan on how to do this for . . . I don’t remember. It was thousands of dollars.

Last but not least, I read a piece about success with social media ads. They offer a seven day free sample and two classes, one on Facebook ads and one on Amazon. Each class is about $175. He tells you to promote your best performing book to have even better sales.

Three different webinars or articles. Three different methods that to an extent contradict each other. So who do you believe?

There are a lot of variables when it comes to promoting your books. What works for one author may not work for another. Times change. What works in one genre may not work in another. And you have to know how to find the person who will buy your books. Note: I didn’t say where to find your reader. When you write for children, your buyer and your readers aren’t always the same person. Talk to people whose work is similar to yours in genre and audience. See what has worked for them.

Part of it will also depend on you. You may not be comfortable reaching out to 10 people let alone 100. But if you don’t have money to spend on advertising, and you have an ebook, reaching out to 100 people may cost you time but doesn’t have to cost you a dime.

There are a lot of places to go to find information on this topic. Look around and find something that makes sense to you. And don’t spend a lot of money on a class if you aren’t going to follow through.


Graphic Journaling

Yesterday I attended a fun, online workshop organized by SCBWI Israel. The workshop leader was Sandra Dumais who explained why she likes to keep a graphic journal and what she gets out of it. A big part of it was simply helping her to remember things that had gone on. But she also discussed thinking in terms of a graphic narrative. This in the morning led to this in the afternoon which led to this in the evening and I felt like this about it.

She took us through journaling our own day and encouraged each of us to fill two pages or sheets of paper. Given the fact that this workshop started at 11 am in my time zone, I focused on filling one page with events/observations about my morning.

As people held up their pages, it was fun to see the different styles and the methods people used to communicate. Some were text heavy. Others included no text at all. One drawing clearly depicted someone with a leg cramp.

I’m not sure why my entry starts in the upper left and circles down and around the page. It isn’t typical so I included little arrows for people to follow.

I had to laugh at my own drawings. It looks like I had a pizza for breakfast, but that’s oatmeal with dried cherries (large and round) and dried cranberries (neither large, nor round). My birds are rudimentary at best but that’s a male cardinal in the background and a junco in the foreground.

Dumais talked about how she likes to go back through these journals and see what she observed each day. She also talked about how these entries help her see the possibilities around her for new stories for young readers.

I can definitely see how doing this daily would help me learn to be more observant. How better to draw falling snow? Is there a simpler way to note an acceptance and payment? And, I may not have had a kid-centric morning, but looking at the events that came about before lunch I do have an idea for a story based on this.

What about you? Do you journal?


Pacemaker: How to Chart Your Word Count Goals

Yesterday I was reading the Institute for Writers newsletter and saw a listing for Pacemaker Planner. Curious, I clicked through to see what it is.

Pacemaker Planner allows you to set goals and track your daily progress. It shares your graph within the community which means that you can check your progress against other writers.

Me? When I set a goal, it is mine. I’m not super concerned about how other people are doing, but I like to see my word count add up. It is also nice to have a visual cue that lets you know if you are ahead or behind.

Since I haven’t worked with Pacemaker yet, I’m not sure how to interpret the graphs above. After checking out my NaNoWriMo graphs from my last project, I’d have to guess that this is a chart of daily word count. Why do I assume that? These are my last NaNoWriMo graphs. The top one is overall progress. The second one is daily progress. As you can see, I’m pretty good about writing every day if my daily goal is manageable (read: low).

One thing that Pacemaker offers, that NaNoWriMo does not, is a text change calculator. You drop in your original text, you drop in your revised text, you click “calculate change” and it gives you the number of words added and words removed.

I have to admit that I don’t use the same type of goal setting when I revise. I just figure out what I need to do and away I go. That makes it sound like I’m always moving along at a good clip which is not always the case.

Since I just finished a revision, I can tell you that I pay attention to what chapter I’m on and what page I’m on. Each chapter revised is noted and I definitely note when I’ve reached the halfway point.

I’ll use both of these methods to keep track of my next set of goals. I suspect I’ll prefer NaNoWriMo simply because I’m more familiar with it and know where to find things. But I’m perfectly willing to be pleasantly surprised!


Let Your Character’s Speak: Writing Dialogue

If you aren’t sure what dialogue is, I’d be willing to be that you’ve seen it in your reading.

“Dialogue,” said Sue, “is when your characters speak. It can be when they speak aloud or when they think something.

“When they think something?” asked Ricky Writer.

“Yes. That’s called inner dialogue.”

Dialogue is a great way to move your story forward once you understand how it works. That means that you have to understand . . .

The 4 Things Dialogue Can Do

Dialogue is a great way to reveal information about your character. And I don’t just mean by what your character says. A lot is revealed through how they say it. For example, your character might say:

“Look out for Keekee. She’s in a severe mood.”

Or your character might say the same thing in a different way.

“Approach Keekee with caution today. She is not checking her temper.”

Looking at two ways to say the same thing, you can make some judgements about which character is older, which character is more highly educated, and the relationship between the speaker and the person they are speaking to.

Communicate Information

Dialogue is also a great way to communicate information especially about things that happened in the past.

“I know why Keekee’s mad. I’ve been ghosting her. I’m just tired of the drama.”

The danger with using dialogue to reveal information is that it is best to confine this to things your characters would actually discuss. Don’t spend line after line of dialogue relating information that is there for the reader but no one would naturally discuss.

When the sleuth gathers information, a lot of it is related in dialogue. Remember that some of this information can be incorrect.


When you write dialogue, be careful to punctuate it correctly. It should begin with a quotation mark and end with a quotation mark and terminal punctuation goes within these marks. That sounds confusing. Let me show you how it works.

“When is our assignment due?” asked Bryan.

Keekee scowled. “You never pay attention.”

“And you’re always critical!” said Bryan.

“Like that wasn’t critical,” said Keekee. “I’ve had enough of you today.”

Cut the Clutter

Dialogue is meant to sound like speech but not duplicate speech. One way that it differs is that you need to cut it to the bone. There is no clutter allowed.

This means that you don’t need to include chit chat or small talk unless it relates to the story such as the fact that your character is really bad at small talk. A page of dialogue about the weather, last night’s game, or “how ya doing” has got to go.

If you leave this kind of dialogue in your story, it weakens the whole. Why? Because it is likely to cost your readers. Use dialogue well, and it will pull readers in because they will want to know what your characters have to say.


Write Short to Support Your Book

Recently I read an article on writing articles to support a fiction book. The author recommended writing articles to increase interest in her middle grade fiction title. I get it. This piece published in Funds for Writers was one of those pieces so naturally she used it to promote her book. But you can also use a similar technique to support sales of your nonfiction titles.

Take these two books. They are two of my 2023 titles. What articles would help promote these titles?

Articles for My Fellow Writers

These are so many things that I could write about for my fellow writers. I could write about how to get into writing work-for-hire for the educational market. I could write about the difficulty of presenting a balanced treatment of a sensitive issue. I could even write about how to write hi-lo titles for readers who don’t read as well as they might.

Articles about Voting and Elections

There are so many possibilities here especially when you realized that I could write separate pieces up for elementary aged readers, teens, and adults on many topics. Possible topics include:

  • When the voting age was dropped to 18 years-old and why this happened when it did.
  • Literacy and religious tests used to hamper voting.
  • How the electoral college works vs how people think it works. I’ll admit that I’ve always wanted to play around with the numbers on the Presidential Election. We seem to think that the popular vote would be vastly different than the Electoral College results and that the college favors the Republican party. But does it? I’d love to look at totals and find out if this is true.
  • Election fraud and how rare this actually is.
  • Why many people do not register to vote or, if registered, do not vote during elections.

Articles about Roe v Wade

Personally, it is harder to come up with ideas based on this topic simply because it is such an emotional issue. But still there are things I would be interested in writing.

  • I would really like to take a look at abortion worldwide. That said, I think it would be hard to research. Especially in areas where abortion is illegal, it would be hard to come up with accurate information.
  • Another idea is a biography about Roe, aka Norma McCorvey. The more I learn about her, the more complex she becomes. But isn’t that the case with most people.

How do you come up with ideas to compliment your nonfiction title? Look at information that didn’t fit into the actual book. Anything that you had to cover in just a paragraph or two, which meant condensing so much information, is a possibility.

Articles, how-tos, and other short pieces are a great way to promote your other work. Just don’t get so busy writing the short pieces that you forget to start working on your next major project.


Can a Cozy Be Historic?

Recently I’ve been trying to convince myself to get back into my cozy mystery. Do you sense a lack of enthusiasm? Yeah, me too.

Part of the problem, and if I’m honest it is a really big part, is that I’ve got enough distance to see the many problems. My main character bores me. My setting is based on my neighborhood so I am all too familiar with the problems the community is facing, and, if you’ve ever read a cozy, there are always problems in the community.

Some of the problems exist because of local economics. Sources of income have dried up and if we are going to save the town we have to get innovative.

Some of the problems are character based. A difficult person comes along and wants to change the lay of the land. Sometimes they literally want to change the land, developing a previously pristine wilderness. Sometimes they want to take something over, altering the status quo.

But nothing about my current story fascinates me as much as the stories I read. As I shuffle through the changes I could make, I realize how many have been done. Yarn shops. Sewing shops. Book stores. Libraries. Done, done and done. There are B&Bs and historic mansions and people fixing up those mansions.

What if I shift the setting, not geographically but in time. Can you set a cozy in the past? I did a quick search and found that the answer is YES. A few examples include:

  • Ashley Weaver’s Amory Ames series set in 1930s England
  • Dianne Freeman’s Countess of Harleigh series set in Victorian England
  • Kate Parker’s Victorian Bookshop Mystery series set in Victorian London
  • Deanna Raybourne’s Lady Julie Grey series set in the Victorian period
  • Maisie Dobb’s series by Jacqueline Winspear set just after World War I

Obviously, the answer is yes. You can in fact set a cozy mystery in the past. Although I admit that I did laugh at the fact that there are still bookshops as central locations.

Now the question remains – does your character have to live in or be from England? Because I’ve got an idea and it has me pretty excited. It may mean scrapping my current project but it doesn’t have to. The setting could be the same (this city) but different (in the distant past). My character could be returning home as she does in the present draft, but for an entirely different reason.

Was the first draft simply my bike with training wheels? Or am I doing what is easy and exciting, starting something fresh vs facing a difficult revision? I have to admit that I do not have the answers.


What Is a Cozy Mystery?

I laughed so hard at this meme. Cozy mysteries are quirky in a lot of ways and that’s something to keep in mind if you are going to write one.

Quirky Characters

Since many writers start with their characters, that’s where I’ll start with this post. The main character in a cozy mystery is often not the quirkiest character but this person will often have a quirk of some kind.

In some cozy mysteries, this quirk is a talent or skill. I’ve read books where a character casts spells, at first accidentally, by cooking for people. Another character sees ghosts that no one else, but her cat, can see. Yet another character reads the emotions of others by touch. Flavia de Luce may live in the early modern period but she knows all about poisons.

Many cozy characters have quirky professions. I’ve read books with book binders, spinners, and more. What your character will not be is a crime-fighting professional. Cozy characters are not private eyes or police officers.

Quirky Settings

Cozy mysteries often have quirky settings. A character may live in a decaying manor house. My friend lent me a book set in a town where every business is pet friendly, welcoming residents, tourists, and their dogs and cats. Vivien Chien’s Noodle Shop Mysteries all feature to some extent a mall with Asian American themed businesses from restaurants, to bookstores, and a video shop.

The cozy setting isn’t going to be as quirky as its characters, but the setting will be specific and details. Small business owners abound in the world of the cozy mystery. Big box stores are suspiciously absent.

Additional Quirks

To be a true cozy, there are other quirks your book will have to have. The murder, or other crime, takes place off-screen. Characters may find a body but they do not see a murder take place. That is just too dark for a cozy.

Crime isn’t the only thing that takes place off-screen. There is no sex and no swearing. A cozy is straight up PG.

And that’s okay with me.


Publishing As a Team Sport

Are you ready to be part of a publishing team?
Photo by Jopwell on Pexels.com

Yesterday I got comments back from my editor at Red Line and found myself nodding as I read through everything. Then the post that I wrote for Tuesday popped into my head.

Scattered comments from a group of people are frustrating. But publishing is definitely a team sport. As anyone knows who watches sports, being part of a team can sometimes seem like a bad thing. Where is she going with the ball? Did he just pass it to the other team on purpose? How did it end up out of bounds?

Who do you blame? The number of people isn’t always the problem. I know this because I never work with only one person at Red Line.

When I write a book for Red Line, I am generally working with my immediate editor and the managing editor. Sometimes the series editor gets involved. So there are at least two editors. Just to make things interesting, they often pull in a content consultant. This person has expertise in the topic area and reviews the manuscript to double check factual accuracy. They don’t just look at the simple, picky facts. They also look at the big picture. At the late stage that this person gets involved, it can be irritating to have to add information, but content consultants often have access to material that has not yet been published.

Personally, I don’t think that the number of people is the problem. It is whether or not there is a clear vision for the project. With a clear vision, one editor is as easy to work with as three. Without a clear vision, one person can contradict themself from one chapter to the next.

Publishing is most definitely a team sport. Everyone wants to produce the best possible book for readers. With a clear vision, everyone is working toward that aim.

Without a clear vision, it is just as likely that every single person on the team will be frustrated. Try to clarify what is going on before beginning that revision. It will make your job that much easier.

With a clear vision, I find myself nodding along as I read the comments even if there are six or eight comments on one page. Why? Because I see that I am being asked to clarify wording, strengthen a point, or anchor the chapter in the larger experience. It all makes sense because I can see where we are going.