Monday, August 11, 2014

What is a Beta Reader? by Jami Gold at Anne R. Allen's place

Many others do a better job than I ever could when it comes to sharing their wealth of information about writing and being an author. So, I pass on their wisdom with pleasure. Feel free to click their links and pages and explore their treasure troves of information. 

~Kimberly J Fuller~

What is a Beta Reader? Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Getting and Giving Feedback on your WIP

This week we're proud to host author and editor Jami Gold, fresh from her role as a presenter at the RWA conference in San Antonio

If you missed the conference, Jami's posts on the highlights of the annual Romance Writers Association event are fascinating. You'll find them on her blog at JamiGold, Paranormal Author.

Jami's blog is a must-read for new authors. She's formed a great community there. Comments are long and informative. Not only does she know more tech than my poor aging brain will ever comprehend, but her "beat sheets" for outlining and structuring your fiction are a fantastic resource.

Check out her Writing Resources page. It's a goldmine.

I discovered her blog a couple of years ago when I was looking for information on how to find beta readers, so when readers asked me for a post on the subject, Jami was my go-to expert. 

So What are "Beta Readers"?

...and how do they differ from editors or critique groups? 

The term first came from fan fiction, and it means a person who reads your work-in-progress (or "WIP") when you, the writer or "alpha," are ready for feedbackbefore it goes into final draft to be sent to your fanfic page, editor, or agent. 

Lots of writers may have betas without knowing the term. Betas don't need professional-level editing skills and don't have to be members of a group. They only need to be willing to read your manuscript and give helpful feedback about what works and what doesn't.

They differ from editors since they usually comment as readers, not industry professionals. It's not necessary they have perfect grammar skills or knowledge of the genre (although they need to be aware of the conventions, so they don't try to turn your sweet romance into a gritty thriller, or vice versa.)

They differ from a critique group because they usually read a whole manuscript in a few sittings rather than hearing it over a period of months or years. This means a beta can offer better feedback on big-picture aspects: story arc, character development, pacing, etc.

Beta readers can be fellow writers who will exchange reads, or they can be friends or family who can read with a critical eye. They may become your moral support system and cheerleaders as well.
Like critiquers and editors, beta readers have to be able to leave their own egos out of their feedback and not try to change your story into their own.

When you've found someone who can do that, and still give honest, constructive, useful advice, you've struck gold...Anne

This is #3 in a series on GETTING FEEDBACK 

#1 Ruth Harris on EDITING 
#2 Anne R. Allen on  CRITIQUE GROUPS

Beta Reading: How to Find Readers and Become a Better Reader for Others

by Jami Gold

Ever struggle to make readers’ interpretations of your writing match your intentions? We probably all have.

Maybe readers come away with the wrong impression of a character. Maybe a plot twist is too obvious or from too far out of left field. Or maybe our subtext is too subtle or too “on the nose.”

As writers, we’re so close to our stories it’s impossible for us to know how readers will interpret our words. A good beta reader will go through our “the best we can make it by ourselves” draft and give feedback about what we can’t see. And that’s just one reason why we all need beta readers.
Sounds Great!

How Do We Get Beta Readers?

You can keep reading here: Anne R. Allen

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

"The Mirror" a Poem by Unique Bowser

©Unique Bowser
"The Mirror" 

Let he who is without sin 
Cast the first stone 
And watch that mirror tell truth when their all alone 
While they try to hide 
Their eyez full of lies 
But the innocent get exposed when that light shines 
They're busy pointin fingers 
They say their all guilty 
They're on a soapbox screamin loud playing judge and jury 
They have fists of fury 
Feel the pain 
They contradict themselves every time they changes lanes 
We are livin in the last days? 
We're walkin blind? 
Let me check my watch 
Yea it's the end times 
No peace of mind...Night sweats 
When your numbers called...No regrets 
It's all written...You can read about it 
You wanna take a stand 
Don't talk about it be about it 
When you take a stand sometimes you stand alone 
But have your own thoughts 
And keep your own mind 
Never piggyback another's thoughts just to save time 
We're in a state of crisis 
I have my own vices 
How can I tell another how to live like I'm ALL RIGHTEOUS...or the ALMIGHTY 
I'm not on the mount....talkin to everybody 
It's a damn shame 
This world's full of pain 
I see the future and there aint no change 
But if we grab a mirror 
And start there 
The change we're lookin for just might appear

by Unique

Friday, June 27, 2014

A cathartic book...The Fault In Our Stars

I read Fault In Our Stars while going through treatment for the same cancer as the main character. One would think that was ill advised... but for me, even as an adult who loves YA genre, it was very cathartic. 
John Green does cancer a service and an honor in this book and I am proud to share his work and the music of Troye Sivan, who sums it up with beautiful melody and heart. 

May cancer one day have an answer. And may all of us in the family of cancer fighters have the support and love that every beautiful human deserves. 


And John Green:

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Writing info and tips...

It seems a lot of people feel they have a book inside of them, or at the very least something they need to say to the world. However, I don't feel I have the experience or the know how to give advice to aspiring authors, or anyone that would like to embark on their writing journey. Normally I'm a very grace oriented, positive person but when it comes to being asked, "How do you write a book?" my face shrivels up as if someone just poked me in the eye. Mostly because I think, "Oh man, you really have to know how much WORK goes into writing." And as many old time and new time Authors will tell you, "You better darn LOVE it."  
What I tend to call, "lottery Authors" are not the norm, so if you think you can just make a quick career and some fast money you'll be burned out before you even have a chance to succeed. that my two, maybe three cents has been stated. If you really would like to write...if you really find it to be a passion or pressing on your dreams, I say GO FOR IT! 

Here is a recent post by some amazing ladies, Ms. Anne R Allen and Ms. Ruth Harris, they do a much better job at helping aspiring writers with their journey. The blog is a wealth of information so don't hesitate to visit there anytime you have questions

They can be found here:

Know Your Genre: Tips and Secrets from the Experts for Writing Bestselling Genre Fiction

by Ruth Harris
Romance with a side of horror? 

Happens in real life—oy!—but not such a hot idea in fiction.

Cozy mystery with a soup├žon of blood and gore? 

 Only if you want readers coming after you with shoulder-fired missiles.

Sci-fi in a gauzy, vintage-y mood? 

Not unless you want to find an IED in your driveway.

Genres come with rules that create guidelines for writers—and set up expectations in readers. Break those rules, disappoint those expectations and the reaction will be a polar vortex of one-star reviews.

You can’t build a house without a solid foundation, so before you start playing around with wildly inventive and creative genre mash-ups, you first need to learn to stick the landing. 
  • Romance can be contemporary or historical, steamy or sweet, Gothic or Regency. The characters can be pirates, soldiers, doctors, knights, noblemen or, of course, billionaires. No matter the tone or the period, though, romance requires a Happily Ever After (HEA) ending or, at the very least, a Happy For Now (HFN) ending. Period!
  • Women’s Fiction. If the heroine decides she’d rather take a job at an archaeological dig in Kyrgystan than settle down with the boy next door, you’ve left romance territory and entered the world of Women’s Fiction. 
  • Horror requires scaring the cr*p out of the reader.
  • Chick Lit/Rom-Com needs humor and a light-as-meringue style (and shoes).
  • Thrillers must have a hero-heroine and a vile villain. Thrillers can focus on the CIA, the NSA or even the NRA. The backgrounds can be military, medical, political, legal or psychological.
  • Mysteries better have a crime that needs to be solved and a detective to solve them.

Here's a list of some of the most popular genres with links to expert advice on how to write them:


Over half the books sold in the US are categorized as Romance. It’s the Big Mama of genres, competitive and potentially lucrative.

Romance University is Harvard for romance, useful to beginners and advanced students alive. Professors (successful romance writers and editors) tell all about how to write and how to market romance. (And it's FREE!...Anne)

We’ll stay in the Ivy league with Everybody Needs A Little Romance, a group blog written by romance writers who share their opinions and insights, their triumphs and—sometimes—their tribulations. Romance writers, it turns out, are just like us.

Contemporary Romance, a chapter of RWA (Romance Writers of America) is devoted to the writing and marketing of contemporary (as opposed to historical) romance. Pros who write in genres and sub-genres ranging from “spicy to inspirational to young adult to adult” keep readers and writers informed and up to date via discussion forums and workshops. (This site requires RWA membership, but if you're a Romance writer, RWA membership is well worth the price...Anne)

Have a good time and learn at Romance Divas an award winning, website and discussion forum dedicated to romance.

Romantic Suspense

The suspense must add to the romance and the romance must add to the suspense. Nora Roberts lists some of her favorite Romantic Suspense authors—Mary Stewart, Sue Grafton and Elizabeth George (among others)—and explains the necessary balance between romance and suspense. 

New York Times bestselling author, Lisa Gardner, lists 7 Tips for writing Romantic Suspense ranging from setting and research to character and plot.

Patience Bloom, senior editor of Harlequin Romantic Suspense, shares 5 Secrets for creating compelling Romantic Suspense.

There is much more to this post, so for further reading here's the link: 

*image found: 
(I am not aquatinted with the artist or seller)

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Peeking into Ezekiel's Bones...

By the end of school, Genevieve’s head throbbed for caffeine. Most of the day seemed ridiculously bizarre. Ellie having so many of the same classes with her was strange enough, but the fact that the new girl managed to sit in close proximity to her desk during every one of their classes was ruffling her psyche. All Ellie had to do was flash a smile to anyone who occupied a desk next to Genevieve, and like bees moving out of the way of their queen, they'd gladly arise and move to another space.
Determined to shake off stalker-Ellie, she sent a text to Ariel, promising to catch up with her later, then dashed across the windy parking lot to her baby, a black 1988 Ford Mustang. The car was old, with freckles of rust near the wheel wells, but it was still Motown pride. Her step-father had bought the car for her as a gift on her sixteenth birthday. It only had forty thousand miles on it the day Genevieve woke to find it sitting in the driveway with a giant red bow on the roof.
On her way out of the parking lot she spotted a waving Bishop heading to his own car. His height and caramel skin were hard to miss, even at a distance. She waved back, but doubted he saw her through her tinted windows.

Trees lining the Huron River blew fall leaves into confetti-like piles along the curb of the drive-thru lane at the Great Lakes Coffee Spot. The woman at the window smiled brightly when Genevieve pulled up. “Hi Regina. Did you check out those clouds rolling in? We’re gonna get a nasty storm tonight, maybe snow.” She handed Regina a five-dollar bill.
“Bite your tongue with that white-stuff, word,” Regina said, giving Genevieve her change, her coffee, two packets of sugar, and two napkins. “No muffin today?”
“I had one this morning. I’m trying to watch my girlish figure.” Genevieve winked at the woman and poured the contents of the sugar packs into her cup. “See ya tomorrow.”
“Take care, Sweetie. Tell your mom I said ‘hi.’”
“Will do.” But Genevieve's smile faded as she pulled away from the window. Her mom wouldn't care if the endearing coffee shop woman said “hi” or not. She put the lid back on her cup and pulled out onto the main road. Not wanting to go home  yet, she headed to her favorite place.

Pulling into the parking lot, she slipped a hooded sweatshirt over her head and re-brushed her hair, this time leaving it down so it could act like a scarf in the breeze. Pulling a notebook from her book bag, she grabbed a blanket from the back seat and headed up the long path to her favorite area, hot coffee in hand.
Different heights and shapes of headstones jutted out in greeting as she walked along, each one declaring to her the personal names and dates of the person at rest. Some said, “You'll be missed,” or “In our Lord Jesus’ Hands.” Others only had names with dates and dashes, nothing else saying the person was missed. Or not missed, she considered.
Halfway up she passed her favorite statue of an angel balanced on one knee, her hands held prayerfully together and her wings draped softly down and over the cement block, like a permanent waterfall rippling for eternity. Brittle, moss-green ivy branches, seemingly braced for the winter months, gripped parts of the angel memorial. Their tentacles a subtle reminder that it would soon be too cold for visitors.
Genevieve took the remaining steps by twos toward her favorite gravestone, its height and girth one of the largest in the cemetery. Wrapping the blanket around her, she sat down in front of it, the cold of the stone piercing through the blanket and her jeans. Shivering, she sipped her coffee and let it wash her with warmth from the inside out.
The sound of crinkling paper while she flipped through pages of her notebook seemed extra loud in the quiet graveyard. Page after page of her usual musings adorned the bright red notebook, along with a few rubbings and doodles of headstones. Drawing headstones was the only artistic thing she ever managed. If she tried anything else the image merely wound up as lines and squiggles, or funny looking stick people in wiry arrangements. But headstones fascinated her. Cemeteries fascinated her. They never seemed like evil or death as they did for most people. For her, they invoked a feeling of continuation, a sense of story. It was as if the bones lying peacefully beneath layers of earth still continued. Like a legacy, like a story. If for only a breath and a tear when the departed was spoken about, they lived on. And often, she found herself wondering about their life story.
A movement in the corner of her vision made her jump with a start.
“Come on Egor. Don't sneak up on me like that!” She let out the breath she'd sucked in. “You're like a ninja, you know that?”
“Or maybe a ghost.” The blanched-haired elderly man chuckled and made an eerie “booooo” sound.
Old, aching knees were slow to bend as he sat down beside her, dusting off bits of grass and dirt from his blue work uniform as he did.
“It's cold out here today,” Genevieve said, sipping from her cup, silently wishing she'd thought to get him one as well.
Egor rubbed his hands briskly then pulled thick, leathery work gloves from his back pocket and slipped them on. Years of wear had caused the fingers of the old gloves to slant and match his arthritic ones.
“Was a sad day today,” He said. “Buried a newborn young’un down in the garden.” The twang of his country accent trailed his words. For forty years Egor had lived in Michigan but he never seemed able to shake his Kentucky enunciations.
“What was the baby’s name?” she asked, for no other reason but because she didn’t know what else to say.
“Joshua,” he said, rubbing his gloved hands together briskly, trying to make warmth for what Genevieve was sure were painful bones, though he'd never be the kind to complain. “His mama was a broken mess, crumpled in a ball on the ground, not minding her fancy funeral clothes at all. Her kin even left her here alone for a few hours before they came back to get’er.” 
“Egor, anyone ever tell you that your name is stereotypical of a man who owns a cemetery?” Genevieve gulped from her cooling coffee.
“Ms. Genevieve, anyone ever tell ya, you deflect to sarcasm when things are hard?”
Genevieve looked down at the notebook in her lap. She'd done it again. Her mouth was like a reflexive action, one she scarcely prevented from discharging. With most people she didn't care, but Egor was a different story.
“Sorry,” she said.
“And you are the only one who reminds me that my name is typical of a graveyard owner. A few times a year, I might add.” The skin crinkled around his aged cheeks as he smiled at her. “Now, no more apologies, missy, I only wanna make sure you're self-aware. No need to live a life lying and fooling ourselves. Just ask all of these fine folks restin’ here.” He fanned out his hand as if to present the “fine folks” buried in his cemetery. “Life is too short for that kinda messed up thinkin.”
“Very few people appreciate my self-aware thinking, Mr. Egor,” she said, pushing windblown strands of hair behind her ears.
“Well,” he stood up slowly, “I appreciate ya, even though you like to hang out in my cemetery among the dead more than ya like the living.” 
“And how do you know I don't like the living as much?” 
“Cause that statue base your sittin’ on is gonna have ya butt mark worn into it from all the years you been comin’ to visit my fine folks.” 
“Hum. You have a point.” Genevieve stood up, glancing back at the stoop as if it could be true. “Mind if I walk back down with you?” 
“Only if you don't say somethin’ smarty pants.”
“Such as why do living people put flowers on the graves of dead people who won't even know it?”
Egor bobbed his head. “Just like that.”
“Sorry, I couldn't help myself. Okay. No more. I promise.” She lifted her arm from under the blanket and pretended to zip her lips, but couldn't help the giggle that escaped beforehand.
Egor grabbed a shovel and a rake from behind the monument and they descended down the hill. Picking up dead, wilted flowers off the graves as they went, he eyed Genevieve, keeping her from making a comment. It was hard but she managed, and instead asked if his children were coming for their annual Christmas visit.
“Yep, but them grandbabies of mine are gettin’ so big they gonna cost me my retirement for them gifts they askin’ for. I Pod, I Pad, I Phone…anything with an ‘I’ and that's what they want.” He shook his head gingerly. “I sure miss the toy-buyin’ years.”
Listening to Egor tell stories of when his grandkids would play hide and seek around the cemetery…they rounded the path where the trees ended and the landscape gave way to a breathtaking view. Multi levels of headstones stippled the two rolling hills that spanned the twenty or so acres of Egor's land. To the west it was full, but toward the east was dwindling summer grass waiting for the “fine folks” to make a home in the ground. The grass ran up to the wrought iron fence that spiked along the dirt road. Across the road was an old farmhouse Genevieve used to dream of moving into so she could be a quick walking distance to Egor's cemetery.
Egor finished his story of Addie's mishap in kindergarten, when she tried to explain that her grandpa's job was, “making people die.” He chuckled at the memory in his head, and of the clarification his granddaughter didn't understand until a few years later.
“I'll take your cup. No need to be litterin’ in my place,” he said when they came to the end of the path.
“I would never!” Genevieve pretended to be horrified.
“I know you wouldn't.” He smiled, his white teeth matching his snow-colored hair. He took the cup from her. She wouldn't forget to bring him coffee next time. “You get home before these clouds break open on ya.” He pointed to the ominous sky.
She nodded and turned to go.
“And, Ms. Genevieve, I think people put flowers on the graves because it reminds them of life.” With a wave, Egor headed down the path toward the storage shed.
Genevieve watched the old man walk away. Wrapping herself tighter in her blanket, she called after him. “Thank you for sharing your cemetery with me, Egor. And your stories!” 
Without turning around, he hollered amidst murmurs of grumbling thunder, “Cemeteries are for the living, not the departed, so I don't mind sharin’!”

The threatening clouds made Genevieve pick up her pace to the parking lot. She'd had far too much coffee and not enough to eat at lunch. Nausea was beginning to churn in her stomach. Next time she'd remember a coffee for Egor and a muffin for herself, regardless of calories.
The front fence paralleled the sidewalk and led right by the baby garden. As Egor had said, there was a small freshly-dug dirt mound nestled between two, winter-ready, dead, rose bushes and a flat headstone that said, “The Lord Gives and Takes Away, but He is Lord,” followed by “Joshua 2012.” 
The only baby casket Genevieve had ever seen was on the internet but the picture had seared itself into her memory. Now, when she passed a fresh infant grave, which was not often, she couldn't stop the haunting image from popping up.
Rounding the fence onto the sidewalk, she tried to keep her eyes forward, fixed on her car, but the small headstones in the baby garden drew her back over and over. All the foliage, dying for the season, flowed over engraved names with hardly any years between dashes. Some were like Joshua's, who apparently hadn't made it to his first birthday, and others had up to five years between the beginning of life and the date that marked their death.
Genevieve slowed in front of the short fence, drawn to Joshua's new resting place. Squatting, she let her blanket fall down around her feet. Reaching her arm through the fence, she touched the soft earth mound of Joshua's grave. Grabbing a handful of dirt, she lifted and let it run through her fingers like an hourglass. It fell lightly back to the ground. It was oddly cold, with a slightly damp feel, like fresh garden soil full of nutrients. She grabbed another handful, her breath quickening. Sliding her other arm between the fence bars, she reached into the dirt with two fists, again letting it fall back on the grave in a sprinkle. With each plume of falling earth a brackish aroma filled her nose, prickling her throat. A puff of misty air rolled from her mouth when she breathed out. It danced around the mound before dissipating into the humid air. It was chilly outside but nowhere near cold enough to see a person's breath, but with each handful of earth, she exhaled another cloudy mist into the air that would hover over the fresh grave like a dancing ghost before disappearing. The more it danced, the more she longed to push her hands into the earth, deeper and deeper. Her mind swirled with images of a baby cooing in a casket. The picture would shatter when another ballet of breath escaped and hovered, only to reappear seconds later. Genevieve was lost in the feel of the earth between her fingers, clawing at it with her nails, longing to dig down and come up with a cooing baby untouched by death.
“Stop that!” A severe voice broke her mental spell, freezing Genevieve's hands in place. They were flat on the grave and submerged in the loose dirt up to her wrists.
“What are you doing?” Hands grabbed her by her shoulders and pulled her arms from between the gate bars.
Genevieve stared at her hands. The tips of her fingernails were lined black with dirt. The image of a baby cooing shattered like a mirror in her mind, then cleared away like a dissipating fog. Egor's crinkly face came into focus. His eyebrows pulled together, his ashen grey eyes silently scolding her. Genevieve looked back and forth from her hands to his face, trying to understand. The longing had been so strong. The images as powerful as if it were her own baby and she was merely remembering what he sounded like happy in a crib. Tears welled up, one spilled over on to her cheek. Why was she was crying?
Egor knelt down next her. “Now, now. Don't you go cryin. I ain't mad at ya. Just don't go diggin’ up my fine folks.”
“I didn't mean to. I…I don't know what came over me,” she said, embarrassed and confused.
“Well, I been round a lot of years and cemeteries can bring on strange emotions. Though, I’d never guess you'd be the kinda person affected.” He looked into her face, his expression a tangle of confusion and empathy.
“I'm so sorry, Egor. I really don't know what happened.”
“It's okay. Maybe just the baby thing got to ya today. No one gets used to the innocent ones. They stir up all kinda questions I wanna ask the Lord Jesus ‘bout.”
Sprinkles of rain released, misting their faces. They both stood, Egor moving considerably slower, but he grabbed her blanket from the ground as he rose and handed it to her. She wiped her hands on it. “I gotta go,” she said, spinning around looking for her notebook. It was next to the gate, water dots puckering the outside.
“I'm sorry again,” she said, tucking the notebook under her arm.
“Stop that apologizin’. You go on home. Get outta this rain.” 
Without responding, she sprinted to her car.
Tossing the blanket to the passenger side, she slipped in behind the steering wheel. A moment of deep breaths cleared some of the confusion, though she truly didn’t understand. It had been so real, so strong. And what was that her breath kept doing?
She started her car as the sky opened, dropping buckets of drenching rain.

Pulling past the small office building she saw Egor dashing inside. He's gonna think I'm crazy. She sighed and pulled out onto the road.