Friday, October 21, 2016

What is Past Perfect Tense?

The rules of grammar can be hard to understand. English grammar especially. But, believe it or not, there is a reason for most of them.

I've noticed a writing trend that bugs me. Bugs me a lot. It's when the author is writing in past tense (you know, the story is being told in the past) and fails to use the past perfect tense when referring to events that happened before the current scene in the story.

Past perfect?  What is that?

In English grammar, "perfect" means past. Don't ask me why. That's just the way it is. So, past perfect means past past. And, believe it or not, it's important for clarification. I hate when I'm reading a book and the author jumps into a scene from an earlier time but fails to inform the reader of the time change by shifting tense.

Here are some examples of past tense:
"The captain’s limp body slid to the deck." (past tense)
"He opened his eyes and saw her watching him." (past tense) 
"He pushed the muzzle against the man's throat." (past tense)
But what if you need to tell about something that happened earlier, perhaps even before the book began? If you just remain in past tense style above, the reader won't realize you've shifted.
"The captain’s limp body had slid to the deck." (past perfect)
 "He'd opened his eyes and had seen her watching him." (past perfect)
"He'd pushed the muzzle against the man's throat." (past perfect)
We do this automatically when we speak to each other. Imagine being interviewed by the police about a break in at your next door neighbor's house.
The cop leaned in. "Your fingerprints are on the frame of the window the burglar entered through. Why were you in the house?"
If you'd been there earlier in the week for a game night, you wouldn't say: "Yeah. I went over there." You'd clarify: "Yeah, I'd gone over to play cards on Tuesday."

With your desire not to be considered a suspect in the break in, you'd make darn sure the officer knew that your visit to the house had happened before the burglary.

So, why are so many writers not using past perfect tense if it's so important for clarification? I've heard this can be explained because so many unedited books are being self-published. That might be some of it, but I've recently read some traditionally published books that were almost devoid of the past perfect tense. And whenever the story jumped to a past past event, it was confusing. And distracting.

So. Word of advice. Understand the past perfect tense. There's lots online to help you. Like here.

Use the past perfect tense. It can be your friend.

Thursday, September 29, 2016


How to sign up for this retreat: 

FYI: All meals are included AND there will be mini-workshops/classes. 
Retreat Dates are: March 23-26th in Heber, Utah

See pics of the awesome accommodations for the retreat here. Sign ups open on Saturday, October 8th at 8am MDT- No Earlier

1. Pick which bed type/price you would like (see below)

2. Send an email to with:
    a) your first and second choices for bed preferences
    b) the email address of the PayPal account you would like to have billed
    c) the name your PayPal account is under, and your author name if different 
    d) if you would like to make 1 full payment or split the cost into 3 payments.
    e) add a roommate name if you have made plans to share a queen bed with someone, OR a name if you would like to be in the same room with someone. We will try to honor as many of these requests as possible.
    f) if you are reserving two spots in one queen bed, tell us

3. We will send you a confirmation email and a link to pay through Paypal- (You may choose to split your payment into three and send one-third immediately, the second third on November 15th and the last third on January 15th. You must pay in full by January 15th.) We must have your initial payment within one hour of receiving your confirmation email or your spot will be given to the next person in line.

NO REFUNDS-thank you. (You can, however transfer your bed reservation to someone else if you discover you are unable to attend.)

The bed options:  If you are planning to choose a queen bed, you might want to find someone to be your roomie (if you care who is in the bed with you.) Otherwise choose one of the single bed options.

*There are only beds. There are no air mattresses in this cabin
**Anything not highlighted is available and are listed as prices for each occupant
***Anything highlighted in red is reserved/paid for
****Queens are $175 each if you share with someone else, or $300 if you don’t want to share.    

1    2

1    2    3    4    5
   7    8    9    10
11   12   13   14   15   16

1    2    3    4    

   2    3    4    5   
6    7    8    9  

Have questions or want to register? 

Email us-

*group size is limited to 20

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A Few Thoughts on Unforgetable Romance

Based on Rachel Ann Nunes' 
6 Steps to Unforgettable Romance & 
my examples underneath

1. Both main characters have goals outside of falling in love. 

          One of them is trying to get a promotion. Someone moved to a new town and is struggling to fit in. Their business is on the verge of failure than they are working nonstop to save it. 

2. The plot is relatable to the reader
          The reader might think, "I have those fears." "Something like that happened to my friend." "I can totally see that happening." (In the world the author is creating.)

3. Emotional reactions between characters create tension

          Something is out of their control, there is oppression, freedom limited, conflicting ideas of life and love, want the same thing--competing for it, ruthless antagonist, phobia, past failure

4. Intimacy feels real and earned

          See my blogpost from September of last year about Romantic Tension

5. Reader satisfaction
          Romances all end with a happily every after (HEA) or a happily for now. If it doesn't, it's not a romance.

6. Beta-readers to give feedback on reader's response

          The more the merrier! Everyone has a different perspective. Everyone will read the sentences you wrote and inject their own life and circumstances into the story and interpret it differently. It is worth reading each comment carefully, deliberately, and seriously.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Five Steps to Selling Your Book in Person

Five steps to selling your book in person.

I sell my books at a lot of live events. I perfected my approach selling books at Costco. I just finished a three day signing event at Salt Lake Comic Con. You'll have fans like the princess in the picture below come to see you to buy all your new stuff, but you'll also need to introduce your books to people who have no idea who you are. Here's what works for me.

Before you go:

comic con 2016
1. Memorize a killer one-liner to describe your books generally.
I say, "My books are Mission Impossible meets Bourne Identity."

2. Memorize a short description for each of your books that grabs their interest and makes them want to know more.
Here's what I say for the Watched Trilogy:
"Christy doesn't fit in. She never has. She decides she wants to and so she goes on a school trip to DC. Once there, she stumbles upon a murder. Voila. She gets her change of life only in a twisted way. Now she has to change into all these different people in the witness protection program in order to survive. And of course there are hot guys in the story. You have to have hot guys in every story."

I have a short description like that for each series. I have three and a few standalones.

When you get there:

Comic con 2016
3. As people pass, say one of these things, "Do you like to read?" "What do you like to read?" or "Are you a reader?" Smile. Act like you like being there and are happy to have met them.

4. Once they say they are a reader, then pitch them. Say something like, "Great. I'll quickly tell you about my book, then." (If you are with group, you could ask them what they like to read at that point- then you can direct them to the right author who writes the genre of book they like.)
You say your one liner.
If they don't walk away, then give them your short description and as you near the end,
hand them the book you just pitched and say, "You can read the back of the book if you want."

5. Once you can see they're done, tell them the price. "It's only $10 today and if you buy the whole trilogy, you get this short story for free--or it's only $27. That's almost a twenty dollar savings from buying it anywhere else."

Then be silent and let them speak next. Answer any questions they have and then sign the book.

Comic con 2016
P.S. Don't forget to come up with something to write above your signature. A lot of times, it has to do with the concept or theme of the book.

P.S.S. Make sure you ask if they want their name in the book. Some don't.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Writer Accessories

Everyone with a passion needs toys, right? You know. Like Harry Potter fans wanting a wand, or Star Wars fans wanting a lightsaber.

What do writers want? A cool pen and notebook? A laptop? A thesaurus?

I love t-shirts with clever sayings. Like some of these:

Click here for source

Click here for source

Click here for source
I love this kind of thing. If my family wanted to get me writing "gear," the sites linked above would be great places to start.

What's your favorite writing stuff?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Not too Long. Not too Short.

Novellas are bigger than a short story, but shorter than a novel.
The length is between 17,500 and 40,000 words. Ideas to keep in mind when writing one...

You may not have enough room to invest in subplots. Make sure the plot is full and, the subplots dove-tail on it if they are included. They can be used to feed conflict into the main plot or as a way to bring your main characters together.

Scenes contain the main conflict and character development--there's no room for lengthy descriptions.

Novels can span a lifetime or centuries. They have hundreds of pages to fill. Novella's have a little more or less than a hundred pages so they typically have a compressed timeline. They answer the question: What's critical right now?

There isn't a lot of time for your readers to jump onto your character's side. Consider writing in first-person or using deep POV if in third-person.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Writing The End

After spending weeks and months and sometimes even years on a book, is there any feeling in the world more exhilarating than writing "The End" and then throwing up your hands in the time-honored cheer of victory that is recognized the world over? For an author, it's like chocolate and Christmas all in one.

In fact, I love writing the end so much that I often race toward it a whole lot faster than I should. I see the conclusion coming, I wrap everything up in a neat bow, I do the dance of the awesome . . . and then I realize that I did it again. I rushed the ending, and it's not going to be satisfying to the reader.

When you invite the reader into your world, you are creating an experience for them. You're asking them to invest emotionally in the story you're telling. You encourage them to fall in love with your characters. By the time they've been through every peak and valley and adventure with those characters, they very much want to know who succeeds and who fails, and they want that sigh of satisfaction at the end. Rushing the ending is like handing them a bowl of Jell-O when they've been anticipating chocolate cake all during the meal.

(Yeah, I'm using a lot of food metaphors ... chocolate metaphors ... but I'm on a diet and I've already lost two pounds since yesterday, so we'll just deal.)

As you reach the ending, check to make sure that you've answered all the story questions. Slow down the declaration of love or the discovery of the treasure or the solving of the crime just a little bit and let the reader savor the moment. Don't drag them out forever - that's annoying too - but give your reader enough to sink their teeth into. This is their payoff for having given you so much of their time.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have an ending to write. Of course, I can't really write an ending until the book is finished ... so if you'll excuse me, I have a book to write.