Keep Calm And Query On WINNER!

Hi everyone! Wow, we had a huge response to Luke Reynold's awesome and inspiring post about courage, both here and on twitter. I think so many of us can relate to his analogy, not only for querying, but for so many parts of the writing and publishing process. It requires a lot of courage to say the words, I am a writer. It takes a lot of courage to ask someone to critique our work. And it especially requires a lot of courage to take that final step into publication by actively sending our stories out the door.

So here's to courage! I am so proud of every one of you, and the determination you show each day as you create, strive and improve. No matter where you are on the path, courage will keep you moving toward your goals.

Okay, I know everyone wants me to shut up an announce a winner! The Random.org Gods have conferred, and the person winning author Luke Reynold's generous prize of a Query critique, phone chat to discuss writing/querying & a copy of his inspiring book, Keep Calm And Query On is...*drumroll*

Sheila Good

Congrats to Sheila--I know this will help you so much! And a big squishy thank you to Luke Reynolds for hanging out with us here at The Bookshelf Muse, and for his stellar RAOK Blitz inspired giveaway!

Keep Calm And Query On + Giveaway!

We all know how tough it is to write a query. Condensing thousands upon thousands of words into a teeny-tiny pitch that will evoke such a powerful response that the recipient will request the entire thing? Talk about pressure. But even more so, I think querying is difficult because we understand that once the query is perfected, we must take the next step and actually hit SEND.

Today Luke Reynolds, author of Keep Calm and Query On, is with us, and why? Because he gets it. Luke understands the pressure writers are under, and the strength they must muster in order to become their book's advocate, so keep reading!

Good Old Fashioned Middle School Courage

In the seventh grade, I had a massive crush on a girl and so I did the noble, sensible, courageous thing: I wrote her a note, folded it into an origami masterpiece, and passed it off to a friend, who passed it off to a friend, who passed it off to a friend who happened to know THE girl.

What did the note say? It was a query, of course. And the substance of the query was nothing less than putting my gooey, vulnerable, passion-filled heart on the line with essentially one solitary question: Will you go out with me?

Now, as a post-thirty-year old writer, I realize that I never stopped asking that question. Now I ask it in different ways, and I ask it to different people. (Thank goodness one young woman finally had the patience to say that amazing word, yes, to me, and I’ve not let her go ever since.) And as a writer, you’re still asking it, too, folding your middle school note in various ways and packing it off to someone who knows someone. Now that someone is an agent or editor, who you hope will write back and to share that miraculous YES that lets you know they’re interested in a long-term, committed relationship.

But the dilemma for us writers hasn’t changed. The essential question is still the same: How do we work up the courage to write the note, send it off, and if we’re rejected, ask someone else?

The answer lies, I think, in two steps:

1) Take yourself more seriously

I remember reading that critically acclaimed author John Gardner once got so fed up by the lack of response and rejection to his queries and partials that he eventually walked into Knopf’s New York office with two of his novels in brown paper bags, demanding that someone read the darn things. Gardner took himself and his work seriously: he knew that what he was writing had worth. An act of such confidence bespeaks incredible courage for a writer—the middle school equivalent of asking out the interested party on stage, with a microphone, during a full-school assembly.

Do we take ourselves this seriously? Do we believe in our work, in our words, this deeply? I would hesitate to recommend you show up at an agent’s home with your manuscript in hand—publishing times have certainly changed!—but you and I need to learn to see ourselves as writers who have something to offer the world. We need to say the following refrain: I have stories to share. Without my telling them, the world will be worse off for it; my stories matter. This helps us make that decision to write the dang query note—and get something sent off into the world of possibility.

2) Take yourself less seriously

The flip side of # 1, however, is that we also need to take ourselves less seriously. In middle school, if you were the kind of person who asked out that ONE girl or guy, got a rejection, then went back home and vowed you would NEVER DO IT AGAIN, then now (as an adult writer) is the time to change. Take yourself less seriously. You send off a query note to an agent and get a form rejection? See this as a small thing: not a world-shaking event that now puts you in the class of Never Will It Ever Happen.

Instead, we can tell ourselves, I’ve got to get it out there again. Writing isn’t all about the outcome; writing is about the writing, too, the fun and freedom of creation. Taking ourselves less seriously is akin to throwing that middle-school crush note out there, but realizing that you’re probably not going to marry the recipient of the note. No! Be gone wedding ceremonies for seventh-graders! Now, as adult writers, we take a step back and loosen our own standards—imposing the serious requirement that we constantly prove ourselves. When faced with rejections for our words, we even learn to be (dare I say it) a little bit silly.

My three-year old son Tyler, one night after dinner, said, “I am going to do something really, really good.” He then proceeded to take off his pants, pull two kitchen chairs together, and climb on top of them. Once in that lofty position, he exclaimed, “I don’t know what I am going to do yet, but it’s going to be REALLY SUPER GOOD.” Sometimes, taking ourselves less seriously requires that we, too, take off all the formalities of our writerly clothing, climb atop our desk chairs, and shout to the world of our workspaces something akin to what my son shouted.

When we affirm both the seriousness of our vocation as writers, yet at the same time allow ourselves to be gloriously human and fallible, I think we unlock a certain kind of magic. And I believe with all my heart that this magic is called courage

Luke Reynolds is also the author of A Call to Creativity and co-editor of Burned In and Dedicated to the People of Darfur. He is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. You can find him blogging at Intersections, or at his website.

In Keep Calm And Query On, Luke discusses not only his journey as a writer, but shares his interviews with powerful and prolific authors, including Jane Smiley, Daniel Handler (a.k.a. Lemony Snicket), Kathryn Erskine, George Saunders, Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, and David Wroblewski. They discuss their worst rejections, their first publications, what keeps them motivated, and why they believe in the power of words.

Are you querying now? Gathering up the courage to query? Inspired by our recent Random Acts of Kindness Blitz, Luke is offering up an amazing giveaway: a query critique, a phone chat to talk about your book query and putting yourself out there, & a copy of Keep Calm And Query On!

Want to win? Just click on this SUPER SIMPLE FORM! We'll announce the winner on Thursday, May 31st!

Tell me, what has kept you on the writing path? If you're querying, what has helped you find the courage to hit SEND?

Contest is now closed--thank you all for entering, and good luck!

Spies, Murder, and Mystery

Happy Wednesday, Musers! I just got back from a little jaunt to Disney to celebrate my daughter's birthday. I'd share all the happy-go-lucky pictures, but there are none, as is evidenced by her refusal to smile in just about all of them. At least I don't have to worry about her entering the high-stress fields of acting or modeling.





Speaking of happy-go-lucky, I skipped over to Laura Pauling's blog today to celebrate her book launch and share my thoughts on Taking the Mystery out of Editing Those Pesky Subplots. Or, if you prefer: Biscuits and Subplots and Cake, Oh My! Every good spy needs an alias, so I figured my post should have one, too. Even though it has nothing to do with spies. And very little to do with cake.

Regardless, if you've got a sec, please stop by and congratulate Laura on her new release!

Random Acts of Kindness Wrap-Up

Wow.

And WOW, again.

Ange and I are completely blown away by the response to the #RAOKBlitz. When Angela started contacting sponsors about participating, we never dreamed they'd offer up so many awesome prizes. So thank you, Scrivener, Query Tracker, Critique Circle, AutoCrit, Writers Digest, Kristen Lamb, and Tracy Hickman, for making this a blitz to remember!


But we also want to thank all of YOU. It was nothing short of amazing, the way you all got behind this initiative and generated kindness across the web. We loved seeing so many of your friends--strangers to The Bookshelf Muse who knew nothing about our launch--post their own RAOK pages and prizes on their blogs. Seeing everyone so willing to honor others was truly beautiful to behold.

We're not gonna lie. We're kind of glad it's over, lol. But we're so incredibly glad to have done it and are thankful to everyone involved for making the blitz and our launch such a success! So THANK YOU!

Just a quick reminder, if you haven't gotten your copy, that the Emotion Amplifiers PDF is available for free download. This companion to The Emotion Thesaurus looks at 15 specific conditions (Pain, Hunger, Thirst, Attraction, Exhaustion, etc.) that can alter a character's physical and mental state. Just click the Free Download button in the sidebar for your complimentary copy!

And now...let's get back to normal. Well, somewhat normal. Ange and I are posting over at Rachael Harrie's blog today, talking about our somewhat bumpy self-publishing journey. Please pop over and say hi!

Random Acts of Kindness: Final Day!


What a fantastic week of Random Acts of Kindness for Writers. I have seen hundreds of RAOK this week, ranging from Twitter and FB  shout-outs to blog posts detailing how much someone has contributed and supported during the walk down the writer's road. Gifts of time and thoughtfulness have been exchanged, but for me the best part is seeing the reaction of  the person blitzed by a RAOK and how special it made them feel. (I was a recipient of some kindness and it really helped pick me up after some bad news, so my heartfelt thanks to everyone who send a few smiles my way!)

So way to go, each and every person who contributed to the success of Random Acts Of Kindness for Writers, with a very big thank you going out to the industry sponsors who so kindly offered gifts to be won each day this week. It was wonderful to have you involved.

Speaking of wonderful, Scrivener is hanging out with us again, making sure writers know how much they are valued by the industry. Their generosity at donating software for each day of the RAOK event says a lot about who they are. Also joining us is Scribe's Forge, a cornucopia of learning run by fantasy authors Tracy and Laura Hickman.

As we've seen all week, a kind word or small gesture can mean so much. If you would like to steal our badge and surprise someone with an official RAOK, please add your blog to our link list at the bottom of this post!

Today, you have 3 chances to win, so read on!


RAOK Gift #1: TWO Scrivener Software packages (1 PC, 1 Mac)

Scrivener is billed as 'your complete writing studio' and it really is. This software, developed by a writer for writers, is the complete package. How many notebooks do you fill up as you research, brainstorm, outline, create character sketches and finally draft and revise your novel? Well, flipping through that stack of paper or set of binders is a thing of the past with Scrivener. Organize, storyboard, make notes and research all in the same place, and best of all, access it all as you write. The index card and cork board system is nothing short of brilliant.

Simply put, Scrivener is a writer's best friend. I love how they evolve to serve writers in this new world of publishing, like using the compile feature to export manuscripts to Kindle or epub formats! You can even download a free trial to see if this tool fits your working style!



RAOK Gift # 2: Ultimate Writer's Course with Best-selling Fantasy Author Tracy Hickman


Okay, I have to do the gushy thing for a minute here, because this is TRACY HICKMAN, people! I fell in love with his Dragonlance series in high school, and my boyfriend then (husband now!) bought me the entire series for a graduation gift. I later devoured the Death Gate Cycle, one of my all time favorite fantasy series. Tracy has gone on to create many more fantasy series as well as the Ravenloft Adventure game with wife and author Laura Hickman.

Now Tracy and Laura are passing on their knowledge through Scribe's Forge, teaching online courses, workshops and webinars. The Ultimate Writer's Course is the jewel of their offerings--this is not one webinar, or even a set of webinars. No, one lucky writer today is going to strike gold and win a YEAR'S WORTH of Webinars, participate in monthly live chats, and workshop their writing with Tracy & other course participants.

I'll just wait for you to pick your jaw off the floor. 

This is an ULTIMATE Random Act of Kindness gift. Whoever wins this will have a unique opportunity to learn from two seasoned pros and dramatically reshape their writing. You can read the full details of this amazing RAOK gift here. Also, Tracy and Laura have an offer available right now for all writers--a FREE Webinar! Aren't these two amazing? Head on over and sign up now!

So...want to win these wonderful RAOK Gifts? Of course you do! Enter this FORM and consider spreading a bit of kindness in the Writing Community. A small gesture can mean so much. Please note this drawing will be closed at 5 PM Eastern time so get your entries in asap.

While you're here, don't forget to grab The Bookshelf Muse RAOK gift--a FREE PDF in the sidebar on Emotion Amplifiers (sidebar). Listed are 15 entries that will help you describe the body language, thoughts and visceral reactions of  conditions like Pain, Attraction, Illness, Stress, Exhaustion, Boredom and more!

Giveaways are now closed--thank you so much for supporting Random Acts of Kindness for Writers! 

Random Acts of Kindness Day 6: More Love For Writers

Random Acts of Kindness for Writers s still going strong, and today Social Media Expert and Author, Kristen Lamb joins Scrivener in celebrating the writing community.

It seems like every time I check blogs and twitter or read industry news from Porter Anderson's amazing Writing On The Ether, I see unrest. In an industry like ours, pressure to produce more while worrying about contract terms, sales and what's going to happen next in publishing...it can kill a writer's  creativity and cause a mudslide of worry and doubt.

Random Acts Of Kindness For Writers is about taking that one DEEP BREATH. It's about stepping back from the fray and re-connecting with the human side of this industry. There are thousands of writers out there who offer unconditional support and encouragement to others each day. They see success as a group effort and help everyone's' feet on the path. These are the people we're celebrating with shout outs on twitter, blog posts, and through gifts of kindness. If you would like to steal our badge and surprise a special writer you know with a RAOK, please add your blog to our link list at the bottom of this post!

Writers celebrating writers is only half of the equation, and so all this week, Industry partners are showing their appreciation for writers, too. Read on to see what gifts they are offering today, and maybe win something that will make your writing path a bit easier!

Today, you have 3 chances to win, so read on!

RAOK Gift #1: TWO Scrivener Software packages (1 PC, 1 Mac)

Scrivener is billed as 'your complete writing studio' and it really is. This software, developed by a writer for writers, is the complete package. How many notebooks do you fill up as you research, brainstorm, outline, create character sketches and finally draft and revise your novel? Well, flipping through that stack of paper or set of binders is a thing of the past with Scrivener. Organize, storyboard, make notes and research all in the same place, and best of all, access it all as you write. The index card and cork board system is nothing short of brilliant.

Simply put, Scrivener is a writer's best friend. I love how they evolve to serve writers in this new world of publishing, like using the compile feature to export manuscripts to Kindle or epub formats! You can even download a free trial to see if this tool fits your working style!


More good news: David and the crew at Scrivener loved the idea of RAOK for writers so much they are giving out software packages every day this week!

RAOK Gift # 2: a slot in Kristen Lamb's Blogging Class!

Kristen Lamb is a powerful force in Social Media, and a strong advocate of not only writers, but all Creatives. I have never met anyone with such vision or passion for what can be, if we pull together and make it happen. Case in point is her #MyWANA following. She turned a simple hashtag into a community for writers bent on supporting and encouraging each other. I mean can you think of anyone MORE suited to the idea of RAOK Week?

Author of two best-selling books, We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer Kristen is a freelance editor and mentor, and guides writers through every aspect of the business of writing including platform building in today's ever-changing publishing landscape. I've known Kristen for awhile now, and the word I would use to describe her is Visionary. And let me tell you, she's set her peepers on something BIG, but *whispers* it's still top secret. You'll have to wait and watch. :)

I recommend tuning into her blog and following the #MyWANA hashtag as Kristen shows hundreds of writers how to blog efficiently so there's always time for writing. Her techniques will put you in touch with your direct market, and help you build a lasting relationship with them. A spot in her virtual classroom is going to change someone's blog for the better, or help a new blogger jump into the blog-o-sphere in one smooth leap.  


Want to win these wonderful RAOK Gifts? Of course you do! Enter this FORM and consider spreading a bit of kindness in the Writing Community. A small gesture can mean so much--let's show the world that Kindness is contagious!

Random Acts of Kindness Day 5: Giving Back To Writers

WOW! The time has flown past and here we stand at the weekend's doorway! Have no fear, RAOK Week is still underway, and will continue through Sunday. Every day we see more and more Random Acts of Kindness, and writers everywhere are realizing just how much they are appreciated by others.

As the industry helps to show their admiration for writers, Scrivener has led the charge and offered up their amazing software each day. We are so grateful for their support, and their excitement to partner with us to celebrate the community.

I think we can all agree by now that kindness is contagious so today I'd like to put the focus on the word RANDOM. Maybe you'll see a tweet later from a writer who seems overwhelmed. Or in a forum, you notice a post from a person struggling with frustration or self confidence. These are things we all understand and have worked through ourselves, so why not send a bit of sunshine their way? A kind word or small gesture can mean so much. If you would like to steal our badge and surprise someone with an official RAOK, please add your blog to our link list at the bottom of this post!

Meet our Industry partners who want to show their appreciation for all you do. They are a part of our crazy, word-crammed world, and see the way writers strive and persevere. Read on to see what gifts they are offering today to celebrate you, and maybe win something that will make your writing path a bit easier.

Today, you have 3 chances to win, so read on!



RAOK Gift #1: TWO Scrivener Software packages (1 PC, 1 Mac)

Scrivener is billed as 'your complete writing studio' and it really is. This software, developed by a writer for writers, is the complete package. How many notebooks do you fill up as you research, brainstorm, outline, create character sketches and finally draft and revise your novel? Well, flipping through that stack of paper or set of binders is a thing of the past with Scrivener. Organize, storyboard, make notes and research all in the same place, and best of all, access it all as you write. The index card and cork board system is nothing short of brilliant.

Simply put, Scrivener is a writer's best friend. I love how they evolve to serve writers in this new world of publishing, like using the compile feature to export manuscripts to Kindle or epub formats! You can even download a free trial to see if this tool fits your working style!

More good news: David and the crew at Scrivener loved the idea of RAOK for writers so much they are giving out software packages every day this week!

RAOK Gift # 2: Lecture by Agent Irene Goodman on How an Agent Picks a Client: From Query to Career.

Writer's Digest is one of the most familiar names in the publishing industry. Their books on writing technique are best sellers and they run Writer's Digest University, offering a legion of webinars, lectures, courses and critique opportunities. The lecture featured today will help writers to get a better idea of how an agent thinks, and understand what they need both from a manuscript and a potential client to take them on.

WD also produces the highly reputable Writer's Digest Magazine and the yearly Writer's Market. Their newsletter is full of great articles, insider information and bits of Industry news. Each year, they put on Writer's Digest Conferences, which brings the biggest Agents, Editors and Authors in publishing together. (And what I love is that if you miss the conference, you can still buy the keynotes and workshop sessions, honing in on the topics that pertain to your own writing!)

Writer's Digest has an entire Community where writers can share information and collaborate as they work toward publication. I'm cutting to the bone here as I describe in order to keep this short-ish, but snoop around the site to really see the full value. Make sure to stop in at Chuck Sambuchino's excellent blog, Guide to Literary Agents,  and The Writer's Dig, run by Brian Klems (who I hope is having a great birthday today!)

So...want to win these wonderful RAOK Gifts? Of course you do! Enter this FORM and consider spreading a bit of kindness in the Writing Community.

Random Acts of Kindness Day 4: More Great Gifts!

More Random Acts of Kindness are in store here at The Bookshelf Muse! Once again, Scrivener gives the Writing Community a virtual hug with their software giveaways, and AutoCrit Editing Software is stopping in also, helping to celebrate writers.

Today let's forget about the hitches and bumps on the writer's road and instead enjoy the great relationships we've built. A bit of kindness goes a long way, so we encourage you to use this as a reason to give the nod to your blog followers for visiting, your betas for reading, and thank any published authors who have offered you encouragement and counsel when you need it. If you would like to steal our badge and surprise someone with a RAOK yourself, please add your blog to our link list at the bottom of this post!

Today and the rest of the week, Industry partners are showing their appreciation for writers. They know how hard you work and appreciate your dedication to the written word. Read on to see what gifts they are offering today, and maybe win something that will make your writing path a bit easier!

Today, you have 3 chances to win, so read on!

RAOK Gift #1: TWO Scrivener Software packages (1 PC, 1 Mac)

Scrivener is billed as 'your complete writing studio' and it really is. This software, developed by a writer for writers, is the complete package. How many notebooks do you fill up as you research, brainstorm, outline, create character sketches and finally draft and revise your novel? Well, flipping through that stack of paper or set of binders is a thing of the past with Scrivener. Organize, storyboard, make notes and research all in the same place, and best of all, access it all as you write. The index card and cork board system is nothing short of brilliant.

Simply put, Scrivener is a writer's best friend. I love how they evolve to serve writers in this new world of publishing, like using the compile feature to export manuscripts to Kindle or epub formats! You can even download a free trial to see if this tool fits your working style!


More good news: David and the crew at Scrivener loved the idea of RAOK for writers so much they are giving out software packages every day this week!


RAOK Gift # 2: a Professional AutoCrit Editing Wizard Membership (1 year)


AutoCrit Editing Wizard is an apt name, because in my mind, the scope it covers as a editing tool is nothing short of pure wizardry. The creator of AutoCrit, Nina Davies, is a writer herself (we knew one another at Critique Circle!) who also happens to be a Computer Whisperer. Marrying her two passions, she created AutoCrit, a program that flags potential wording problems in your manuscript. The free version of this is amazing. Not only will it catch those pesky passives, weak or overused words and clichés that gremlins sneak into your writing (because it isn't you, right?), it also highlights them so there's nowhere they can hide. Her program also examines sentence length and flags any potential run-ons. 

With a Professional Membership, your analysis is ever deeper! Autocrit will tell you that you have 80 'said', 30 'exclaimed' and 12 'declared' in your manuscript, and it will look at pacing, repeated phrasing, and more, like 'two word phrasing'. This one will be handy if you overuse gestures like 'he smiled' or 'she nodded'.

Autocrit can't take the place of a flesh and blood critique partner, but it does catch what eyes miss! This Professional Membership will definitely improve your manuscript no matter how much you've worked it. They have a great resource page, too.

Want to win these wonderful RAOK Gifts? Of course you do! Enter this FORM and consider spreading a bit of kindness in the Writing Community. A small gesture can mean so much.

Random Acts of Kindness Day 3: Win even MORE!


WOOT! Day three of celebrating Random Acts of Kindness in the writing community! As I mentioned yesterday, the Industry is showing their own RAOK spirit and appreciation for writers by offering some amazing RAOK gifts for you to win. Yesterday, some lucky writers scored Scrivener Software and a Query Tracker Premium Membership!

Here's the deal: with all the turmoil in our industry right now, Becca and I felt a bit of kindness could go a long way. And with the help of a ton of bloggers, we blitzed the community with Acts of Kindness! If seeing so much generous spirit has moved you to surprise someone with a RAOK yourself, please add your blog to our link list at the bottom of this post!

Now it's our Industry Partners' turn. Check out these amazing RAOK offerings, just for writers.

Today, you have 5 chances to win, so read on!


RAOK Gift #1: Two Scrivener Software packages (1 PC, 1 Mac)

Scrivener is billed as 'your complete writing studio' and it really is. This software, developed by a writer for writers, is the complete package. How many notebooks do you fill up as you research, brainstorm, outline, create character sketches and finally draft and revise your novel? Well, flipping through that stack of paper or set of binders is a thing of the past with Scrivener. Organize, storyboard, make notes and research all in the same place, and best of all, access it all as you write.

The index card and cork board system is nothing short of brilliant. Simply put, Scrivener is a writer's best friend. I love how they evolve to serve writers in this new world of publishing, like using the compile feature to export manuscripts to Kindle or epub formats!

More good news: David and the crew at Scrivener loved the idea of RAOK for writers so much they are giving out software packages every day this week!


RAOK Gift # 2: THREE Critique Circle Memberships (1 year)

The Critique Circle has a special place in my heart, not only because it's where I realized I knew only a fraction of what I thought I did 'cut my teeth' as a writer, but because this is where Becca and I met. One chance critique has led to many years of friendship and support, and this is one of the great aspects of an online community like Critique Circle.

CC is a password-protected critiquing site based on the tit-for-tat principle. You critique other member's  work, and another will critique yours. Each piece you put up will earn an average of 6-8 critiques. This is a lot of feedback to help you get your manuscript ready for publication.   With thousands of members, you WILL find people to critique your work. Membership is free, but as a premium member, you can create private forums & story queues, and form smaller, more intimate critique groups. This site consistently earns Writer's Digest top 101 sites for a reason! If you are looking for a solid & safe site for your work and want to find a critique group that is all about working together to improve, this is the place.

Want to win one of these Amazing RAOK Gifts? Of course you do! Just fill out this FORM, and one more thing...consider spreading a bit of Kindness.  Visit some blogs and comment. Tell someone you appreciate their help. Maybe even offer up a RAOK salute of your own!

Random Acts of Kindness Day 2: Win, Win, WIN!

How great was yesterday? I loved seeing all the Random Acts of Kindness throughout the writing community. A big thank you to all the great Bloggers & Tweeters & FBers who made this secret blitz happen--just another example of why writers are so amazing!

And now, I get to spring another surprise! Today, The Bookshelf Muse is turning the Random Acts of Kindness Blitz over to the INDUSTRY! All this week, our writing and publishing partners will be offering some amazing RAOK gifts for you to WIN.

When I explained the idea of celebrating writers to Industry Leaders, everyone wanted to get involved. Our RAOK sponsors loved the idea because they see first hand the hard work and commitment within the community. Not only is there a strong supportive spirit of writers helping writers, but there's the incredible dedication to the craft itself. So tune in each day as they show their RAOK generosity and celebrate the contribution of writers. Who knows, maybe you'll win something that will make your writing path a lot easier!

Today, you have 5 chances to win, so read on!

RAOK Gift #1: FOUR Scrivener Software packages (2 PC, 2 Mac)

Scrivener is billed as 'your complete writing studio' and it really is. This software, developed by a writer for writers, is the complete package. How many notebooks do you fill up as you research, brainstorm, outline, create character sketches and finally draft and revise your novel? Well, flipping through that stack of paper or set of binders is a thing of the past with Scrivener! Organize, storyboard, make notes and research all in the same place, and best of all, access it all as you write. The index card and cork board system is nothing short of brilliant. Simply put, Scrivener is a writer's best friend. I love how they evolve to serve writers in this new world of publishing, like using the compile feature to export manuscripts to Kindle or epub formats!


MORE good news: David and the crew at Scrivener loved the idea of RAOK for writers so much they are giving out software packages every day this week!

RAOK #2: ONE Premium Membership to Query Tracker (1 year)

Many of you are looking for an agent or publisher, and I hope, hope, hope you visit Query Tracker after reading this. Finding the right fit for your book can be a long road, but QT makes it heaps easier. I found my agent through QT, and its searchable database on agents, query acceptance statistics and easy query letter organization were my saving grace. If you prefer to go straight to the source, you can search for and stay organized as your query your way into a publishing home for your novel or NF project.

At QT you can find great info on agents and publishers, read 'real time' feedback from other writers on the query trail and gain a host of supportive friends on the QT forums. And, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention their blog, which features excellent advice on writing and tips for querying. You can join for free (all this, FREE!) but their premium membership is even more amazing, like detailed reports on Agents and Publishers. If you are on the hunt for an agent or publisher, this is a resource to take advantage of.

Want a chance to win these fabulous prizes? Of course you do! All you need to do is two simple things--fill out this FORM, and consider spreading some kindness. Offer a smile. Tell someone you appreciate them. Or maybe you know a special writer you'd like to surprise with a RAOK. Big or small, the best part of kindness is that it is contagious.

Random Acts Of Kindness BLITZ...For Writers!

WOOO-HOOO, release day! 

I know we've been teasing you with something epic, and so here it is: we are opting not to do a traditional launch day book splash. Instead, we've gathered a ton of people to help us celebrate something much bigger and better: WRITERS!

WHY?  Well, perhaps we're biased, but we believe that the writing community is the best of the best. Filled with people who support and educate, we all learn and grow together.

How many of these people do YOU rely on? 
  • Critique Partners, who spend hours showing us how to make our work gleam
  • Writing Groups, who cheers us on 
  • Writing Friends, who listen, support & and be our rock when we have doubts
  • Authors and Illustrators, who inspire us through their books and art
  • Book bloggers & Librarians, who open our minds to incredible books we might not have otherwise read
  • Blog Visitors & Readers, who spend time with us, sharing their thoughts, ideas and opinions
  • Industry Professionals (Agents, Editors, Copy editors, etc.)  who help us to improve our writing and succeed

Many people are involved with the Writing Community, but at its heart are WRITERS. We love you guys, and wanted to celebrate YOU! And what better way to do that than through a Random Act of Kindness Blitz?


Kindness is POWERFUL. Even the smallest gesture can fuel a person and keep them going.

All over the blogosphere today, you'll see Random Acts of Kindness toward Writers. These are by people who want to share their appreciation for those who have helped or supported them at some point along the Writing Path.

We've seen a lot of changes in the Industry lately. Change can lead to great things, but there's always growing pains that go along with it.  Today is a day to forget what divides us and instead remember what unites us. We all share a passion for the written word. Today, let's celebrate those who write!

OUR RAOK GIFT TO WRITERS

Each and every person who visits this blog is special to us, and because we are hosting this event, we wanted to offer a gift that everyone could enjoy. Our RAOK offering is a free PDF of Emotion Amplifiers, which looks at 15 specific conditions (Pain, Hunger, Thirst, Attraction, Exhaustion, etc) that can alter a character's physical and mental state.

A companion to The Emotion Thesaurus, this guide shows writers how to stress out their characters so their reaction to emotion is HEIGHTENED. Each entry lists body language, thoughts and visceral response choices associated with an Amplifier. You can find the "Free Download" Button for Emotion Amplifiers in the sidebar under the Heifer International Badge.  

We hope this will help you bring about bigger emotional moments when you write. Thank you for helping to make our community a wonderful place to be!

Is there someone special you would like to acknowledge this week? Click on the links below to see how others are celebrating, and if you like, JOIN US!  Use any platform--blog, Facebook, Twitter or email--and offer a kind word or gesture. The very best part of kindness is that it is contagious. :)

If you join in, link your blog up below and then Email Me so I can add you to the PINTEREST RAOK Participants list!

Ask a Formatting Expert: Answers!

Becca and I are happy to host the amazing Heather Adkins, Formatting Guru from Cyber Witch Press on the blog today, answering your Q's about formatting. Heather was crazy kind enough to take on our enormous Emotion Thesaurus project, and she made it sparkle and shine and become something amazing.

I'll warn you...Heather gets technical in her answers. 

*whispers*  She uses terms that I don't understand. In fact, it sounds like an alien language. Maybe she's really an alien herself, bent on world domination, one ebook at a time!

OR...she's just really freaking good at what she does. :)

Well, seeing as she doesn't look alien-esque in the slightest, and when I say to her, Heather, can you make the ebook do THIS? and then POOF! the ebook magically DOES IT, I'm going with the fact that she's savvy and knows her format-fu. 

All kidding aside, Getting the formatting right is CRITICAL, and to do that, you need someone who knows the ins and outs of code. So, I'm going to turn this over to Heather to answer all the great questions you asked a few weeks ago!

 LM Preston asked: Is there any software out there that will format your books for you - when the books have pictures?

HEATHER: I know some people use Sigil, and I’ve tinkered with it a bit and found it to be easy to use and quite self-explanatory. You basically copy in your document chapter by chapter, or insert picture by picture, and then use their handy-dandy conversion feature to output an epub. A friend’s daughter has recently done some children’s picture books by using Sigil. Sigil only does epub books, not Kindle, but you could technically use Calibre to convert the epub to Kindle, though I don’t guarantee the quality of the output. This is a MUCH better program to use than Microsoft Word, so if you’re out to format your books yourself, I highly recommend Sigil over Word.

I also recently heard that Apple has come out with a product specifically for formatting Apple books, and that this product does it all – including images. However, I’m not familiar with it, as I don’t own or use an Apple computer. It’s only available for formatting FOR Apple upload. You can’t use the resulting book anywhere else. When it comes to programs that do it for you, you have to remember that you are your own quality assurance. Just like supposed grammar programs, a machine is never 100% correct.

Laura Pauling asked: Is it impossibly hard to insert small graphics along with each chapter title? And what is the process in transferring a hand drawn picture to be an illustration? Would I just scan and turn into a jpg?

HEATHER: Excellent question, as I am obsessed with what I call “pretties” :) I can only answer for my methods, unfortunately. I use CSS html which is basic web design. I don’t have to “insert” an image, such as you do in a word processor. All I need to do is make sure the image in the exact shape and size it needs to be exists in the same folder as my html file. Then, anywhere I want the image to appear within the ebook (such as beneath every chapter heading), I insert the html “tag” that tells the ebook converter where to put the image. This html file then becomes the Kindle and epub books. In this way, I’ve done chapter headings AS images (like a fancy font) or images under the chap headings, and I’ve also done a journalist’s book with pictures within his articles.

You can see pictures of some of the books I’ve formatted with images at my Facebook page in my cover pic. I also do Smashwords files with chapter glyphs. It’s just a matter of going through chapter by chapter and inserting the image into the doc in the proper place using Insert-->Picture-->From File. You want to make sure the picture you insert is at a web dpi of 72 (larger images cause larger files, and Smashwords has a 5MB upload limit). While I don’t format for other platforms using Word, I do know people who have managed to get images at the chapter headings using Word for Kindle. The quality isn’t as nice as tagging images in via html, but it works. How you do it for Kindle, however, I don’t know :) See below for second question about image scanning.

Angela Orlowski-Peart asked: I wonder what would be the process of uploading my watercolor painting as the book cover?

HEATHER: I am by no means a graphic artist, and I couldn’t design a cover to save my life…so I’m not great with image questions. I did format for a client who had a children’s chapter book that included her own hand-drawn images that she simply scanned into the computer using a typical home printer/scanner and emailed to me. I would imagine that for any image you want to get on the computer, it’d be best to scan it. You probably do want to make sure it’s a quality scanner, and if necessary, make a run to Kinko’s! Like any book cover, you would need to tweak the painting to look like a book cover or the average reader will wrinkle their nose (readers are a tough, tough crowd!) For that, I highly recommend consulting a trained cover artist. Who is definitely not me ;)

Angela asked: If a person paid a formatter, what should they do if their readers tell them about a glitch/typo/reading problem in one of the ebook formats down the road--try to fix it themselves, or go back to the formatter?

HEATHER: This depends on how the formatter formatted the book! If you had a formatter who used Microsoft Word, and sent you a formatted Word doc for upload at Kindle, then you can definitely attempt changes yourself.

You would ALWAYS want to find a way to download the book and double check that nothing went wrong after you make changes and reupload, however. I’m not sure how sensitive the Kindle upload program is to all the background nonsense that embeds itself in Word. Smashwords – NADA. Don’t touch it. If your formatter knows what the heck she/he’s doing, then they’re using Styles they created in their own Word program. Styles are like a “mask” that tell the doc how to display the text via font face, heading style, font size, font color, indent, spacing, etc. etc. Word comes with a few styles already built in, but I don’t use them and I wouldn’t expect others to either if they’ve read the Smashwords Style Guide. What this means is your Smashwords doc that they formatted uses styles that do not exist on your computer – because your formatter created them on HER computer, and they don’t translate. If you open that document and make changes, then resave, you lose those styles – namely the italics (proven several times over with my clients) and often the headings, which SW uses to make your TOC/NCX, which you HAVE to have for premium distribution…in short, I recommend paying ten bucks for your formatter to make that list of changes rather than you dealing with a big ole headache if something goes wrong!

For someone like me who uses html in ebook formatting, unless you have a basic understanding of html, you probably won’t know how to make changes yourself in the root file or how to convert the file to epub/mobi. My clients tend to save up typos over a period of time, and then send it to me at once for a flat $10 fix on all files. My opinion is it’s probably worth the small charge your formatter charges so you don’t have to deal with any cataclysmic fall-out if something goes wrong :)

Angel asked: My next book has footnotes. The kind you need to read, as you are reading it, not stacked in the back of the ebook. Is there a way to place these at the bottom of the page like a print book?

HEATHER: Unfortunately, no. Ebooks aren’t stationary like print pages. One person may read your book on their tiny Android Kindle app while Great-Grandma Morris reads it on her huge Kindle DX. Ebooks are meant to be fluid—they go with the flow of whatever device the book is being read on. Phones display a single paragraph at a time, the larger ereaders can display two pages. You do have an alternative that is special to the technological and digital world we’re living in—hyperlinks. No matter the kind of formatting—html or word processor—you have the ability to format with hyperlinks. You’ve got a footnote for the phrase “raining cats and dogs”? Turn that baby into a hyperlink that leads to an index in the back of the book that holds that specific footnote. Then put in an easy “return to phrase” link, and voila, they come full circle right back to where they were reading.

Riv Re asked: I've seen a lot of different formats for the header and footer. What's the standard and/or what do you recommend when it comes to placing the page number, and what to put on the top of the page (ie: the title, the author, the chapter name)?

HEATHER: I’m assuming we’re talking about print formatting here, as you should never never never have a header/footer/page number on an ebook for the same reason you can’t have footnotes (see above). When I format a Createspace book, I always insert a header that is different odd/even, and then I place the book’s title on the right hand page and the author’s name on the left hand page, centered. I usually place page numbers in the footer, outside alignment. Is this standard? Nah. Is there a standard? Not really. A recent client had his page numbers and book title in the footer with no header. Another client chose outside aligned headers but centered page numbers. Open any five trad pub books and you’ll see they’re ALL different. These things are stylistic preferences, so really, it’s up to you.

I find myself studying the formatting of print books as if they hold the meaning of life. My most recent release has print formatting based on the most recent release in Susan Wittig Albert’s China Bayles series, “Cat’s Claw.” I read the book, ADORED the formatting, and made the same thing happen in my book. You can do pretty much anything if you set your mind to it :)

The Golden Eagle asked: Can XHTML and CSS be used to format novels, and/or the developing HTML5 (or XHTML 2.0, if indeed XHTML is acceptable)?

HEATHER: My methods of formatting are by using XHTML and CSS. XHTML is actually considered the proper use of html these days. It is supported by all major browsers (re: ereaders) and is cleaner than HTML (which can often be misinterpreted on ereaders due to improperly closed tags and other issues.) I have heard hear-say that many ereaders are moving into support for HTML5, however it’s still early days and I’ve yet to find out much about it. Basically, ebooks should become more and more interactive, like with embedded videos or sound files, thanks to improvements in html. My guru—the man from whom I learned ebook formatting—is Guido Henkel. I’ve been stalking his blog, waiting for his thoughts on the new stuff.

Linda Austin asked: I stripped my Word manu and formatted using the Smashwords guide since the Kindle guide is pathetic. Then adapted to any Kindle specs. I know Word pretty well so it didn't seem hard, and only 128 print pages anyway. Waiting for the cover designer before I upload. Some say you can't just fix a Word doc and must use Calibre or something else. Advise?

HEATHER: You should never use Word to format an ebook. I couldn’t put it any better than that man there. I don’t recommend Word for anything but Smashwords and Createspace formatting, both of which are necessary evils. I am an advocate for html formatting, as ebook readers are intended to be nothing more than little web browsers, and should be treated as such! ;) I’ve had many friends in the self-publishing world who compared their Word-formatted books to my html-formatted books and made hands-down decisions to switch to html. There is an obvious better quality to html formatted ebooks.

Becca asked: Some distributors accept many different kinds of files. Amazon, for instance, accepts Word, epub, mobi, plain text, html, pdf, or rich text files. For us, you chose to go with the mobi file at Amazon. I'm just curious: for the major distributors (say, Amazon and B&N), which file type do you recommend using?

HEATHER: I recommend a .mobi file for upload at Amazon, and .epub file for upload at Barnes and Noble and Apple, and the Smashwords formatted doc for Smashwords. The file you upload should be the same file the ereader outputs – so while Sony, Kobo, and Diesel don’t (yet) offer self-publishing platforms like KDP and PubIt!, if there were to open up, they would be epub platforms, as well. Think of it this way – if you upload a Word doc to Amazon, how much more has to be jiggled, converted, and changed as opposed to uploading an already-formatted Kindle mobi? A lot. Quality in means quality out.



HOLY ZOMBIE BANANAS. After rereading this, I am so glad I did not try to attempt formatting myself. My brain is not up to the task, lol. Good thing I know someone with mad skillz in this department: Heather! (H, thank you so much for taking the time to help everyone with their questions and offer your experience!)

Seriously, Becca and I cannot thank Heather enough for all her work on both the ebook & print versions of the Emotion Thesaurus. If you are looking for a formatter, she's your gal!

A Spy Like Me and Heifers for Free

Angela and I are back from our respective vacations, both of which ended up being in roughly the same place, funnily enough. We each had a great time with our families and are ready to get back to work. Which is good, ‘cause we’ve got a lot going on, what with The Emotion Thesaurus launching just ONE WEEK FROM TODAY. Whew! But first, and more imminently...Laura Pauling's book release!

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In celebration of the official release of A Spy Like Me, Laura Pauling is hosting a three-week blog series: A Spies, Murder and Mystery Marathon. Woot! Woot!


Authors galore, guest posts and book giveaways almost every day! Gemma Halliday, Cindy M. Hogan, Elizabeth Spann Craig,
Nova Ren Suma, Elisa Ludwig, and Anne R. Allen....Just to name a few!

And here's why she's celebrating...

Stripping your date down to his underwear has never been so dangerous. After dodging bullets on a first date, Savvy must sneak, deceive and spy to save her family and friends and figure out if Malcolm is one of the bad guys before she completely falls for him.

Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Smashwords

Head on over to Laura’s blog for the start of the Spies, Murder and Mystery Marathon. You won’t want to miss this sizzling series as we head into summer. Stock up on some great thrilling reads! If you dare…

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Yeehaw! We are so excited for Laura. I read a preview copy of A Spy Like Me and absolutely loved it (check out my review here). Seeing Laura kick off her book launch has gotten us all jazzed for ours, so I thought I’d share a little more info.

Ange and I have been blessed in so many ways along our writing paths that we’ve decided to return the favor by donating to charity a portion of the proceeds from each of our books that we sell. After a happy little shopping trip perusing the different organizations out there, we’ve decided that The Emotion Thesaurus will be supporting...



We love this organization because it addresses world hunger in a sensible and practical fashion. When you donate, you’re actually giving a gift of livestock--pigs, chickens, goats, sheep, cows--to a family in need, along with the proper training required to utilize and care for these animals. Instead of bestowing a one-time gift of food, this organization teaches families how to care for their animals and themselves, with the understanding that each family will one day pass on the gift of offspring to another family in need. So if you choose to purchase a copy of The Emotion Thesaurus, not only will be you be receiving a gift for you; you’ll also be giving a gift to someone else.

#warmfuzziesallaround

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