Click, Snap, Flash: A Love of Photos

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Tiger Lily in my front flower bed

by Bonita Y. McCoy

Writers write, but they also do other interesting things.

Most writers have several hobbies, talents, or skills other than writing that they use in their daily life. One of my hobbies is photography. I love taking pictures.

The smile on a small child, wildflowers whipping in the wind, or bees buzzing around an open bud make my heart sing and drives me to snap a quick shot. But I must confess, though I own a very expensive Cannon with a large zoom lens, I tend to use my iPhone seven.

Why?

Plain and simple, convenience.

It’s always with me, and unlike the larger equipment, it fits into my pocket.

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Taking a walk together

One of my favorite apps that feeds my love of photos is Instagram.

Up until my fiftieth birthday, I didn’t know Instagram existed, but four years ago on that fated birthday, my friend introduced me to the app. She helped me set up an account and taught me how to use it.

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So, I decided to take fifty pictures of fifty blessings to celebrate turning half a century old. I invited others to join me in the adventure and to post their blessings as well.

By the end of the year, I had counted fifty plus, and the experience reminded me how much I loved taking and sharing pictures.

Since then, I’ve been looking for odd or unusual landscapes to capture, and I’ve been quick to take pictures of life as it is happening—all around me.

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Making tracks to nowhere in particular

Nothing is safe. Railroad tracks, the dog’s weird haircut, my great nephew making faces, I get them all and love them all.  Writing maybe my journey, but photos are my dollops of joy along the way.

What are your favorite scenes or occasions to capture and share?

 

 

 

Six Musts Before You Press Publish

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photo by Pixabay

Everyone knows the gold standard for publishing. You need a great story, good editing, a cover that fits your genre and will capture the reader’s eye, along with a blurb that piques the reader’s curiosity. It is true all these elements do need to be in place before you push publish.

However today, let’s talk about some of the not so glamorous aspects of the writing world that are essential to a smooth publishing experience.

Before you push that big button, there are six tasks that you as the writer need to do. These steps will save you time and keep you on track for your publishing date.

  • Get business cards

This sounds simple enough, but the reasons are tremendous. You will use your business card for everything from networking with other writers, to handing them out at events, to opening a bank account. So, get these first.

  • Set up a bank account

If you are like me, getting paid for your writing is important. A business bank account goes along way in making that a reality. Amazon pays its authors through direct deposit, so if you don’t want to give the massive big guy your personal account information, you will need a business bank account.

  • Set up your author website

Your website acts as your business shingle. It lets others know you are open for business. Even if you haven’t published yet, you can still draw readers to your site by offering excerpts of your work in progress or by posting a weekly blog. Don’t wait until after you’ve published to start. Then you’ll be playing catch-up.

  • Set up your author team

No one creates a book alone. It takes a whole team of people to get the job done well. So, start now brain storming who would be a good fit for your team. You will need:

  • Editor
  • Cover Designer
  • Critique Partner
  • Beta Readers
  • Launch Team

These individuals and teams help you to put out the best book possible. A few you will need to pay, but they are worth every penny. Others will be glad to help for a free copy of the book and a few special gifts just to say thank you. Always remember to show your gratitude for their time and energy.

  • Get an ISBN number

For those who are independently publishing, you will need to get an ISBN number. It allows you to publish your book through several distributors instead of one. Without it, you are limited to the distributor who assigns your book their number.

These numbers can be obtained through R.R. Bowker on line. You will need one for the paperback version and one for the eBook version. You register the book with Bowker’s identifier service, and they keep the records of the numbers for you. I advise you keep your own records as well.

If you are traditionally published, your publisher will supply your ISBN number for you.

  • Set up an account with a mail server

If you’ve been in the writing community for very long, you’ve heard about the allusive email list. The one everybody is talking about, but no one seems to know how to capture.

In order to start feeding your email list, you will need an account with one of the professional mail servers like GoDaddy, Mailchimp, or Mailerlite.

Even if your list starts out small, don’t be discouraged. Remember, don’t despise meager beginnings. The first step to growing your email list is having somewhere to put it. The second step is to offer a monthly newsletter or an update on your progress or a blog post, something to engage those who are interested in your writing. They want to hear from you and about your journey as an author. Think of the people on your email list as more members of your author team.

As you can see, there is a lot of behind the scenes, mundane tasks that must happen to make your publication day a success. The good news is that all of these can be done well in advance. By taking these steps, it shows the world that you are serious about your writing career and can’t wait to get started making your dream into a reality.

Click to Tweet: Before you push that big button, there are six tasks that you as the writer need to do. These steps will save you time and keep you on track for your publishing date. #HowTo #AmWriting

Prompt: Susie cringed at the thought of setting up a website. Her teenage son knew more about it then she did and the thought of it made her shoulders tense. But if she wanted to be an author, this was one of the hurtles she’d have to jump.

Cupid and The Fairy Godmother

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photo by PIxabay

 

This month, here on Inspired Prompt, we are sharing pieces of our writing. The scene below was deleted from my novel Truth Be Told. Though I loved the scene, it didn’t fit with the pacing of the story, so out it went. But I kept this wonderful exchange between these two older women in my file.

One item I learned from a more seasoned writer was to save all your words.

Now, years ago for me that would have looked like hoarding, but thanks to technology, we can keep most of our written words without any storage issues.  Since hearing that tip, I started saving deleted scenes and tidbits of paragraphs and sentences that I thought might bloom into something new.

So, with that in mind, enjoy this little extra from Truth Be Told.

Adele closed and locked the door as the headlights from Kyle’s vehicle washed into the room. Betty’s house felt quiet now that everyone was gone. 

Kyle and Daisey had been the last to leave, taking the remnants of lunch with them. Adele worried Kyle didn’t see how much Daisey cared for him. She didn’t want him to lead her on, but they were grown. Well, almost.

She figured Betty would be in the small office. She spent more and more time there the closer it got to her surgery.

“Hey, do you want me to fix you something for dinner? I think there’s still some Chinese from the other night.” Adele asked. She waited in the doorway for an answer.

Betty pulled her feet up beside her on the love seat. “No, I’m not hungry but help yourself if you are.”

“I think I’ll wait a while. I’m still stuffed from lunch … and pie.” Adele moved to the chair and lowered herself into it. She drummed her fingers against its arm, trying to decide if she should say anything or not.

Betty set aside the magazine she had been thumbing through and leaned her head back, closing her eyes.

Adele had held her curiosity in check all day since Sarah’s appearance, but she couldn’t go home without knowing.  

“Didn’t you think it strange that Sarah showed up today to ask Haden to take her to the ball.”

Betty opened one eye, then closed it. “Yes, very.”

“I mean since we just talked about that very thing the other day. The day we were planning our strategy on how to get Claire to go with Haden.”

“I remember.” Betty, alert now, reached for the blanket that laid along the back of the love seat.  She spread it over her lap.

“You had said I was the Fairy Godmother and you were Cupid.”

Betty smiled. “I like playing Cupid. You usually get that part as the resident matchmaker. I’m rather enjoying it.”

“Uh huh, maybe a little too much. How did Sarah know Haden didn’t have a date?”

Betty’s eyes widened. “Are you accusing me of telling her?”

Adele didn’t answer.

Betty squirmed under her gaze. “Let’s just say Cupid might have let it slip, to the right people.”

“Out with it. Who did you tell?” Adele leaned forward in the chair with her elbows on her knees.

“I might have inadvertently sent an email to Carol White, saying Haden may or may not need a date to the ball.” Betty moved the magazine and stretched her legs out on the love seat and fussed with the blanket. “I don’t appreciate the third degree. It all worked out didn’t it?”

“Yes, but I thought we had agreed not to involve Sarah. That it’d be too awkward for Haden.”

“I know.” Betty frowned. “But I didn’t see any other way. And since I’m Cupid, I made a judgement call. I thought it was better for him to feel a bit awkward then to miss out on one of the best things that’s come into his life.”

 Adele leaned back with a thud. “I don’t want him finding out we’re meddling and blow his top. Or think Claire had anything to do with this.”

“Oh, I hadn’t thought about that. Surely, he wouldn’t think Claire was part of this.” Betty’s brow furrowed into a tight knot, and her gentle brown eyes filled with concern. Eyes that Adele thought looked a lot like Haden’s.

“If he finds out we’re helping, I don’t know what he’ll think.” Adele signed. “But I’m sure he won’t find out, and even if he does, I think he might be grateful. He’s so smitten with Claire.”

“And Henry.” Betty added.

“Yes, and Henry.” Adele chuckled. “but promise me from here on out you’ll let me know what you’re up to. I don’t want any more surprises.”

“You’re right. We’re in this together, and maybe if I had talked with you first, we could’ve found a way without Sarah.”

Adele detected a gleam of mischief in Betty’s eyes.

“However, it did work beautifully. Didn’t it?”

I hope you enjoyed getting to know Betty and Adele a little better. They are two of my favorite characters. I’m so glad they are around in book two of the series Seeds of Love coming out this spring.

If you’d like a chance to win a free copy of Truth Be Told, leave the name of one of your favorite characters, from a favorite book in the comments.

 

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Haden Sawyer, owner of Sawyer Construction, didn’t mean to lie to the whole town of Miller Creek, but what was he supposed to do when his fiancé left him two week before the wedding.

Now, Claire Reed and her son Henry have entered his life, and with another lie, he’s placed them both in the center of his world.  Add to the mix his matchmaking Aunt Adele, and a mom who’s desperate to be a grandmother, and Haden’s not sure which way is up. All he knows is what started out as a lie of convenience has transformed into something worth fighting for.

Can Haden win Claire’s trust and heart, or will she see him only as the man who took the easy way out?

If you like a little zing sprinkled with humor, you’ll love Truth Be Told. A sweet contemporary romance with family at its heart.

Available on Amazon, Kindle eBooks, and free on Kindle Unlimited.

Description: How Much Is Too Much?

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By Bonita Y. McCoy

Description in a story has two jobs. It helps the reader to understand the scene and allows them to use their imagination to picture the action in their minds.

But have you ever picked up a book and found that it went on and on and on about how a character looked or how the room was decorated?

Reading a novel that contains too much description is like listening to a monotone teacher on a warm afternoon, guaranteed to bore. The reader will flip pages trying to locate the action.

However, a novel that doesn’t contain enough description can leave the reader wandering around the story, lost and confused. It also leaves the reader feeling cheated, thinking he only got half of the novel and that the other half is still stuck somewhere in the writer’s brain.

So, how do we measure how much is enough?

Since there are no hard and fast rules, I put together a few questions that can be used to determine if your description is hitting the mark or if it needs some TLC.

Does the description slow down the pace of the story?

If the description acts like a speed bump in a scene, it is either too long or put in the wrong place. There is a reason why most of the description of a setting is done at the beginning of the scene. One, it puts your reader right in the heart of what’s going on, and two, its out of the way once the dialogue and action starts.

You never want your description to slow down the car chase or interrupt an argument between characters. Action beats are one thing; a long drawn out description of the forest is another.

Does the description add to the plot?

If you tend to tell every movement of a character in minute detail, you are doing what I call housekeeping. You are giving your reader a laundry list of everyday activities that they can fill in for themselves. These don’t add to the plot. They instead lessen the readers involvement in the story.

However, description can be used to add flavor to the plot. In Call of the Wild, one of the characters has no name; he is only known by the description, the man in the red sweater. The description shows the reader that the man is a stranger to the point of view character, and being a scoundrel, he isn’t worth getting to know.

Good choices in what to describe and how to describe it, not only draw your reader into the story but can add spice to your plot.

 Are you over using adjectives and adverbs?

The first lesson I learned in novel writing was to use adverbs and adjectives sparingly. The irony that they use an adverb to explain to us about not using adverbs is not lost on me. However, the advice still applies.

If you use adverbs and adjectives to prop up your word choices, you are cluttering your story. It shows that your nouns and verbs do not convey your meaning, and you are feeling unsure that the reader will understand.

Most of the time, your word choice works fine without the adverb or adjective, but if you aren’t sure, try using a thesaurus to find a word that better shows your meaning. An example of that would be Carol was very angry compared to Carol seethed. One word was able to take the place of three, and the reader got a clearer understanding of Carol’s emotions.

When in doubt about a word choice, check your thesaurus.

Are you trying to use the research you love?

As writers, we all do research, and sometimes, we fall in love with it. We become enamored and want to share all that we have learned with our readers, even at the expense of too much description.

Be honest, does your reader need to know all there is to know about llama care? Even if it’s interesting and you adopted a llama, if it’s not moving the plot forward, it needs to be cut.

Click to tweet: Use only the research that adds depth to your characters or enhances the plot. Everything else is llama liability. #llama #amwriting

These questions are only a start, but they should give you a clearer picture of how you are doing with your use of description. Knowing how much is too much is tricky, even those who have been writing for years find it hard to tell, but with practice, it will get easier to spot its over use. At least, that’s what I hear.

 

Prompt: The editor wanted half the description gone. Martha wanted to throw the piece of work out the window, but she knew that wouldn’t do any good. She had spent months researching the Appalachian Mountains and hated to leave out any of the imagery and colors she had seen on her trips. Frustration filled her. How was she supposed to decide what to keep and what to cut?

Myths and Merits of the Romance Genre

by Bonita Y. McCoy

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So, you think you want to write romance. I don’t blame you. The romance genre holds many wonderful opportunities for writers. Within romance, you can do serious, funny, suspenseful, or quirky stories, and the real plus, the readers always want a happily-ever-after ending. My favorite.

However, there are some myths about the genre that are floating around like bubbles on a sunny day, and they need to be popped before you settle on this genre as the one for you.

Myths

  • The Romance Genre is the easiest genre in which to write.

Wrong. All the same grammar rules and industry standards apply to the romance genre. It is no easier or harder than any other genre being written in the market today.

What should determine your genre of choice is what type of stories you love to read? If you love romance and stories that have a romantic subplot then you are a great candidate for becoming a romance writer, but if you lean more to adventure or science fiction and skip over the romantic sections, you won’t enjoy writing it any more than you do reading it.

  • With Romance, you only need to develop two characters.

Again, wrong. You may only write from the two main characters points of view, but just like any other genre, all the major characters need to be fully developed and well thought out.

Another aspect of romance writing that we forget is world building. If you write small town romances, you as the writer will have to build the small town. If you write about a character’s apartment or place of work, you will need to map out these places, so you can easily describe them in your novel.

  • The plot is not as important in a romance as the characters.

Do I need to say it? This too is a myth. No matter what type of story you write both the characters and the plot need to be believable. Though some genres are more character driven while others are more plot driven, both must run like a well-oiled machine. No holes, no clogged parts, no missing pieces.

  • The love will carry the story.

Emotional tension is the essence of good story telling, but the love in a romance can not be the only conflict or tension in the story. Your characters need baggage. Emotional, physical, mental, and any other type in order to make them real to the reader.

The love story should be powerful, but there must be more depth to the characters for the reader to be willing to go on the journey with the hero and heroine. Be creative in this area. Bring in something new and different for your characters to deal with in their daily lives. A handicapped relative, a retired parent, a critical diagnosis from the doctor, a crisis of faith, something that your reader may be dealing with in their own lives.

Now, that we have looked at the myths in the genre, let’s look at the merits. There are several advantages to writing romance.

Merits

  • It is the largest genre in the industry.

According to a Bookstr article in January 2017, romance was the number one best-selling genre clearing somewhere around 1.44 billion dollars. It is a large pond and plenty of room for newcomers to join in the fun.

  • Sub genres and tropes make the difference.

Another positive about writing in the best-selling genre is that there is a small sub genre for almost any trope you would like to write. If you want to write matchmaker romances, there is a sub genre for that. If you want to write billionaire romances, there is a place for that one too.  How about cowboy, boy next door, or fake relationships? They all fit as well.

  • Hope can be found in romance novels.

One of the best aspects of writing romance revolves around the encouragement romance writers give to their readers. Romance novels give hope. They uplift, encourage, rally, and entertain the reader through hard places in real life. They transport the reader to a place where even when its tough love conquers all. And for some, that is a place they need to visit to find a seed of hope for their own lives.

  • A Bond develops between the reader and the writer.

The romance genre weaves the threads of lives together to create a lasting bond, not between hero and heroine, but rather between reader and writer. Romance writers have a sacred trust with their readers. We will write a story that meets readers expectations of hope, love, and a happily-ever-after, and our readers will be loyal to return again and again to go on the journey with us. Romance readers are a loyal band.

Writing romances can be demanding just like any other genre of fiction, but the rewards far outweigh the frustrations. Once you’ve identified the myths that surround this genre and embraced the truth that any writing is work, you can better decide which genre is the right fit for you and your goals as a writer.

Remember, there are myths and merits in any genre. However, if you adore a sweet romance and you can’t wait to see how the hero and heroine end up together, then you might just be a romance writer who has found her home in the fiction world.

Click to tweet: The romance genre weaves the threads of lives together to create a lasting bond, not between hero and heroine, but rather between reader and writer.  #romance #amwriting

 

Writing Prompt: Maggie felt a little blue. She knew the next two weeks during Christmas would be hectic, but she consoled herself with the thought of the books she would take with her. Her own private world tucked in her suitcase.

Heart of Christmas bookAnnouncing five new stories filled with faith, hope, forgiveness, and of course happily-ever-afters. Each story focuses on an element of the Nativity, from the angels to the wise men. Be swept up in the love of the season and the promise of forever that the Christ child, the true Heart of Christmas, brings.  Available on Kindle and in Kindle Unlimited.