Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Take a Short Quiz

Hello, my name is Sherry Gammon. I write YA, NA, and Contemporary clean romance. (Find me here!). I also run a publishing company title Creative Prose Publishing. As we’ve reviewed numerous submissions over the past year, we’ve noticed that many novice authors struggle with using correct punctuation when writing dialog. Here is a short quiz to test your knowledge! Have fun and let me know how you did!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Emotion and Merry Christmas

by Donna K. Weaver

Anyone who knows me, knows I'm a huge fan of The Piano Guys. I love them for the beauty of their music but also the delight of watching their videos.

How many times can you spot the Elf on the Shelf doll throughout?

It makes me appreciate, as I watch all of their videos, how much the impact of the music is strengthened by adding the visual experience. I wonder how we can do that in our writing. I realize we must make some kind of emotional connection with the reader.

The following is a commercial, but it packs a powerful punch for a number of reasons. One is that for most of us, we can relate to some kind of Christmas celebration. Even if we're not religious, Christmas is a huge cultural holiday, filled with family traditions. So the company that made the following commercial already had a connection for viewers, but then they based the story upon a real event in 1914. Those two things give it power to twist our hearts. 

It's that connection that will keep our readers reading.

Merry Christmas
Happy Holidays

Saturday, December 13, 2014


Check the date and time for this post.

Go ahead. I'll wait.
...   ...   ...   ...

Right--12/13/14  15:16 (that's military for 3:16 PM)

Such a cool date. We'll never see it again with month, day, year, hour and minute lined up that way! Well, at least for a hundred years. There's a little math geek in me that is very happy right now.

Quirky: Finding something just strange enough to be interesting, but not so far out there to be off-putting.

Quirky characteristics make books memorable, pull us into the story, and make the characters more relatable--iconic. Here are a few quirky characters that come to mind:

Harry Potter--lightning bolt scar

Jace in The Mortal Instruments--so, so, soooooo conceited but we love him for it

Becky Bloomwood in Shopaholic--she can't help it--she shops, and spends, and buys some more

Mrs. Bennet in Pride & Prejudice--perpetually immature

Quirky details pull us into stories. 
Go write some quirks today!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Commas and Introductory Phrases

To continue my little tutorial on punctuation ...

Let's talk about introductory phrases. Those are phrases that come at the start of your sentence that introduce the rest of the sentence. (Hence their name, right?)

Here are some examples:

As I was saying ...

Furthermore ...

However ...

As part of today's blog post ....

Whenever your sentence starts with an introductory phrase, you need a comma to separate the phrase from the rest of the sentence. Like so:

As I was saying, you need a comma.

Furthermore, you should put the comma in the right place.

However, don't go overboard and start putting commas in just any old place.

As part of today's blog post, I'll show you examples of where to place your comma.

See you next time when we discuss ... the Oxford comma.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Setting the Mood

As we head full-steam ahead into this holiday season,
here's a gift from your iWN Board:

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Research--Get Your Facts Straight

Jenny Moore
You’re writing a contemporary, so you don’t need to research, right?


While your characters live in basically the same world you do, there’s still plenty to learn—unless you are actually writing about a person who lives in your town, has your same job, and enjoys the same hobbies as you do. In that case, just x-out of this right now and get back to your MS.

But, for those of us who are not writing about people just like us living in our town, there’s plenty we need to know.

First of all, setting. I love maps and travel guides. Most states will send you a packet with all sorts of information. Those are super cool, lots of pictures. Of course Google maps, and an almanac—you want to know what the weather is like. And does it get dark early in the winter? Things like that add depth to your story and make the reader feel like they are one step deeper inside. That’s what we want, right?

And find movies shot in the location you’re writing about. That gives you a whole lot of setting ideas and helps you picture it, especially if it’s somewhere you’ve never been. Coffee table books, post cards, and of course Google images.

Next up: culture

This is tricky. You can’t just learn a culture. But you can find out bits and pieces of what people there are like, and that will not only make you look like an expert on the region, it will help with your character development.

I like history books for this. Both fiction and non-fiction.  History of a place tells why the people there act the way they do now.

And what better way to learn about a culture than its stories?

And now for:  Language

It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, every region has its own distinct way of speaking. Even twenty miles away from your house, you can find something unique about how people talk. So, learn about it. I’m not saying you have to be fluent in a new language, but an accent, a unique speech pattern, even a few words from your character’s native tongue makes them more interesting. And who doesn’t like reading slang from somewhere new? It’s fun and can help make your story richer.

Keep your eyes open, you’ll find facts and interesting tidbits that can add to your story in the funniest places. I found this article in an airplane magazine about Irish surfers. Did you know they surf in Ireland?

I didn’t. But a character in my Irish book would definitely know.

Any time I go to a museum or some sort of historical place, I get the souvenir guides. They don’t cost much, and there are tons of things to remember. Plus, again pictures.

And last of all: Don’t be afraid to ask.

 Something I’ve learned is people love talking about themselves, their job, their family, their hometown. Just get up the nerve to ask.

I wrote a book about a girl that grew up on a cattle ranch and so I asked someone I knew about it, and he took me to his ranch when they were branding—it was an entirely new world to me, one that I can write into my story with details of smell, (bad) sounds, sights that I wouldn’t have ever known without experiencing it for myself.

So, get out into the trenches, writers!  Don’t be afraid to get dirty, and of course take lots of notes, you never know when you’ll need them.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Day

by Donna K. Weaver

If our country is worth dying for in time of war
let us resolve that it is truly worth living for in time of peace. 
~Hamilton Fish

On this Veterans Day, I invite you to visit my personal blog to see my thoughts on this holiday and to check out some suggestions I have for honoring and supporting our troops. 

We can all do something.

Click here

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Ready. . . Set. . . Retreat!

The spring retreat will be held
 March 26-29th in Heber, Utah

How to sign up for this retreat: 
FYI: there are only 20 spots. All meals are included AND there will be mini-workshops on Building Your Presence as an Author and Marketing during the retreat so that if you choose to go to all the workshops, you will have all the tools you need to Brand yourself, and your books for your target audience.  See pics of the awesome accommodations for the retreat here. Sign ups open on Saturday, November 8th at 8am MST. NO EARLIER.

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

2. Send an email to with your first and second (if you have one) preference.

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 on third on Jan. 15th and the last third on Feb. 15th. You must pay in full by Feb. 15th.)  We must have your 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 to someone else if you discover you are unable to attend)

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

**Anything not highlighted is available
***Anything highlighted in red is reserved/paid for

Bedroom 7: 1 King with bathroom                    2 spots for $275 each

Bedroom 6: 3 bunk beds            3 lower bunks @ $175 each
                                                       One, Two, Three
                                                    3 upper bunks @ $150 each
                                                       One, Two, Th

Bedroom 5: Queen and a Bunk   2 spots in the queen @  $200
                                                 One, Two,
                                                       1 upper bunk @ $150
                                                       1 lower bunk @ $175

Bedroom 4: 2 Queens          4 spots @ $225

                                                       One, Two, Three, Four

Bedroom 3: 1 Queen           2 spots @ $225 each
                                                          One, Two

Bedroom 2: 1 Queen                           2 spots at $225 each
                                                         One, Two,

Bedroom 1: 1 Queen                          2 spots at $225 each
                                                                One, Two  

We are So excited to have you join us!!!
Have question? 

Email us-

Monday, October 27, 2014

Bump in the Night

Giants? No problem.
Zombies? No problemo.
Warewolves, vampires, witches? Puleez—not a problem either.
Psychopath? Hands on face, shut off the sound, think of going to the kitchen for something I need right now!

Scary scenes make great entertainment, but everyone scares in a little different way. Here are a few tools for kicking up the fright.
•Speed up the reader with short sentences.
•Include details that make the reader feel the tension in the situation.
•Being scared is an emotion. Use the character’s emotions to manipulate the readers’.
•Twist the surprise moment—different time, place, person.
•Need ideas? Start with your own fears and exaggerate.
•The reader has enough information to know that something bad is going to happen SOON! But the character doesn’t know, and the reader doesn’t know when.

Happy Halloween—Celebrate by writing something scary.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Punctuation in Dialogue

As promised, here's another blog post about punctuation. We don't have room here for me to go into every single rule, but here are a few to get you started.

First off, let's talk about direct address in dialogue. That's when your character is talking to another character and he calls her by name.

"Hey, Sally!" Bill called.

Notice that because he's talking directly to her, we put a comma before her name.

If he's talking about Sally, there's no comma.

"I wonder where Sally went," Bill said.

Now let's talk about punctuation to attach a speech tag to a speech. A speech tag, dialogue tag, or just plain tag is what tells the reader who is speaking. For instance:

Bill said

Bill whispered

Bill yelled

Bill called

You attach a speech tag to the speech with a comma. Like so.

"I'm sure glad you came over tonight," Bill said.

I've seen some authors use a period after "tonight," and that's incorrect.

You use a period when you're using a beat. What's a beat? An action that shows who's talking.  Like so.

"I'm sure glad you came over tonight." Bill uncorked the sparkling cider and poured her a glass.

Notice the period in there. Don't get confused and use a comma.

Here's a little trick to remember the difference.

A comma is shaped like a tag. So you use a comma with a tag.  

Have fun, and happy writing!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Point of View 301: Narrative Distance

Rebecca Rode, Guest Blogger
“I can’t relate to this character. Can you get me into his head more?”

“It feels like you’re telling me the story rather than showing it.”

“Your protagonist seems so bland—she needs a unique voice.”

Ouch. We've all heard feedback like this at one time or another. I would guess, though I can’t say from experience, that even New York Times Bestselling Authors don’t get it perfect on the first try. All three of these comments reveal glaring issues, aspects that will require hours of rewriting and polishing at the very least. Get into his head. Show, don’t tell. Don’t forget voice.

May I suggest something that may sound strange? I bet that these three problems can be solved—or at least minimized—by taking a second look at your point of view.

Point of view? Wait a second. Every high school graduate knows the difference between first and third person. Why on earth does POV matter? You just choose one and run with it. Right?

Yes, but here’s the thing. POV is basically the lens through which we watch the story. Some stories are easy to follow, while others seem so distant they require binoculars. Sometimes, the most glaring problems can be solved by reducing the distance between the reader and our story. I call it narrative distance, although I've heard it referred to as other things.

Here’s an example. Let’s say that Susie tiptoes down the stairs to meet her prom date, who is talking to her father in the kitchen. Susie hears her dad make a joke at her expense, and her date gives a nervous courtesy laugh. Then we read:

“Susie decided to talk to her dad about that later.”

Technically, there’s nothing wrong with this. Many books are written this way, and for a good percentage, it’s necessary for the genre. (But it’s important for a writer to do it on purpose, knowing the benefits and the risks first.)

Now take a look at my lovely scale-o-fun:

1                     2                      3                        4                      5                       6                    7

Where would you place “Susie decided to talk to her dad about that later” on the line?

Personally, I would put it around 2-3. It feels like a narrator telling us what she is thinking rather than us hearing her thoughts. One reason for this is the word “decided.” Her decision is a point reached after a train of thought that we didn't get to see. Second, we read the phrase, “her dad.” It’s not Dad, it’s her dad. Susie would have never called him my dad, at least not to herself. To her, he’s just Dad. Sometimes it’s the little things that add distance.

Now, like I said before, distance isn't necessarily a bad thing. Thrillers, for example, often use distance with their characters, even protagonists. Distance has many purposes. It can make a villain seem cold and calculating, a main character seem aloof or above others, and it’s a great way to keep secrets in a mystery novel.

If that’s not what you’re going for, though, you may want to slide a bit higher on the scale.

How do you do that? Back to Susie’s story. Something like, “She sighed, suddenly determined to discuss it with Dad,” puts us closer to the middle. It involves an action we can follow. It calls her father “Dad” just as she would, and we feel much more in her head. Many novels live in the middle range. The authors who place their stories here often use what some call “third person close” POV, which allows distance when needed and yet closeness during emotional scenes. 

If you’re writing a Young Adult novel and your narrator needs more voice, you may want to consider getting as close to the narrator’s head as possible. Slide the narration closer to the high end of the scale with something like, “Ugh. Not again! She’d have to chat with him about that.” Notice that it’s possible to show thoughts without italics. Yes, we’re being told what she thinks, but since it’s in her voice, we’re not just watching her think something—we actually think it with her. We are her. This is one reason first person POV is so often used in YA lit.

Remember, there is no right or wrong in an author’s decision to add or subtract distance from a work. Think of this scale as a tool. Moving a manuscript from one end to the other can result in a completely different tone and feel to a book. But if you’re having issues like the ones described above, this method may help.

Here are a few examples from the book list on my Kindle. Do you agree with where I placed these selections? Can you think of other examples you've read recently?

Check out my website for more writerly fun at


“The road has some patches of snow, but mostly it’s just wet. But this is Oregon. The roads are always wet. Mom used to joke that it was when the road was dry that people ran into trouble.” (If I Stay by Gayle Forman)

“I’m a reporter for the Deseret Morning News, Utah’s second largest paper. Sound glamorous? Try writing six hundred words on the umpteenth charity fund-raiser you've attended that month while Chad Nettle, my editor, breathes fire down your neck at one in the morning.” (House of Secrets by Jeff Savage)

“The engine was getting close. And I thought I heard a second—or were there three?” (Variant by Robison Wells)

“My theory was, as I turned the handle of the sharp stick, it would turn the potato, and as it rubbed against the knife, the knife would cut the potato skin off. The thing about theories, though, is that real life doesn't always follow them. Sometimes you lose your perfect potato on the way to school.” (Sky Jumpers by Peggy Eddleman)


“Raven felt stunned. Not from losing the game, of course. No one could beat Maddie at a Wonderland game. But Raven had never allowed that question to enter her before: If I didn't have to be the Evil Queen . . . (Ever After High by Shannon Hale)

“The pounding took up again, louder. It echoed to the marrow of her bones. Her younger brother, asleep in the next bed, stirred. ‘Police! Open up!’ What time was it? She peered through the curtains. It was still dark outside.” (Sarah’s Key by Tatiana De Rosnay)

“It surprised me that he would ask such a personal question after our morning of impersonal conversation. I sighed. My feelings were too complex to delve into, so I picked the simplest one as an answer. ‘I missed my home.’” (Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson)

“For some reason, I had to suppress a shiver. I didn't like Iker. He was a narrow man—everything about him was angular and sharp: his beaked nose, his chin, the point of his head, which was ill concealed by his greasy black hair. I did not wish to go into his room, yet we had no choice but to try and find him.” (Defy by Sara Larsen)


“The next day opened a new scene at Longbourn. Mr. Collins made his declaration in form. Having resolved to do it without loss of time, as his leave of absence extended only to the following Saturday, and having no feelings of diffidence to make it distressing to himself even at the moment, he set about it in a very orderly manner.” (Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen)

“It appears incredible to me that any kind of trick, however subtly conceived and however adroitly done, could have been played upon us under these conditions.” (The Time Machine by H.G. Wells)

“The old lady whirled round, and snatched her skirts out of danger. The lad fled on the instant, scrambled up the high board-fence, and disappeared over it.” (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain)

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Perks of Being an Author

There are a thousand-million perks to being an author. 

Some of the things I really love:

1. I get to meet the most amazing people

2. I get to set my own schedule

3. I determine my success for the most part

4. I get to help others achieve their goals

5. I get to teach at conferences and workshops

6. I get to do workshops and assemblies in     schools

7. I get to see my words compiled into books

And many other things-but this video exemplifies the perks I love!

What are your favorite perks of being an author...and would you consider being on TV a PERK? Why or why not?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Literary Couples

by Donna K. Weaver

I don't always write romances, but I always have a romantic element in my books. Probably why it's never appealed to me to write Middle Grade.
But sometimes, literary couples don't work. It might be the intent of the author that they're a bad couple, but other times it's just that it doesn't work for me.

Couples I hate:

Andrew "Ender" Wiggins and Novinha
This is the one I hate the most. I absolutely loath this toxic relationship. Ender deserved so much better (from Speaker for the DeadXenocide, and Children of the Mind)
Catherine and Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights
Enough said.
Perrin and Faile in The Wheel of Time series. 
What can I say? This woman was so not good enough for him. I will concede that in the last book, she finally started improving but, seriously, I would not have grieved if she'd died (as so many beloved characters did).
Couples I like:

Jane and Rochester in Jane Eyre
Anne and Gilbert in Anne of Green Gables
Lucy and Nicholas in Moonrakers Bride

These are a few of mine. What are yours?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Banned Books Week and Other News

photo from
It's Banned Books Week
If you don't know what this is, here's the wicki answer:

  1. Banned books are books to which free access is not permitted. The practice of banning books is a form of book censorship, and often has political, religious or moral motivations.
We read/love them anyway. 
There are many books that have been challenged, Harry Potter,The Giver, Anne Frank: The Diary of a Girl, James and the Giant Peach, A Light in the Attic, even Charlotte's Web. Here's a list of banned books, pulled from the American Library Association's website.
 How many of them have you read? Tell us in the comments below.

1. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
2. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
3. The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
4. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
5. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
6. Ulysses, by James Joyce
7. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
8. The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
9. 1984, by George Orwell
11. Lolita, by Vladmir Nabokov
12. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
15. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
16. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
17. Animal Farm, by George Orwell
18. The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
19. As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner
20. A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway
23. Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
24. Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
25. Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
26. Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
27. Native Son, by Richard Wright
28. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, by Ken Kesey
29. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
30. For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway
33. The Call of the Wild, by Jack London
36. Go Tell it on the Mountain, by James Baldwin
38. All the King's Men, by Robert Penn Warren
40. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
45. The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair
48. Lady Chatterley's Lover, by D.H. Lawrence
49. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
50. The Awakening, by Kate Chopin
53. In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote
55. The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie
57. Sophie's Choice, by William Styron
64. Sons and Lovers, by D.H. Lawrence
66. Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
67. A Separate Peace, by John Knowles
73. Naked Lunch, by William S. Burroughs
74. Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh
75. Women in Love, by D.H. Lawrence
80. The Naked and the Dead, by Norman Mailer
84. Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller
88. An American Tragedy, by Theodore Dreiser
97. Rabbit, Run, by John Updike 

In the Other News section, Save the Date! 
Our next writing Retreat in Heber, Utah will be on March 26-29th Classes focusing on Marketing you and your book. Come join us for classes, friends, writing and great atmosphere!