What’s the Point?



Out for a hike on a mid-summer’s day, you fall into an old abandoned mine shaft. A deadly viper rattles a warning only a few inches from your feet. Which of us would not yell for help?

Not “help.” But, instead, a top-of-your-lungs-blood-curdling-cry-so-that-someone-will-rescue-you kind of “HELP!”

On occasion, I want to use an exclamation point in my writing. But, I hesitate to do so because of current advice I hear in the writing community.

As my finger is poised over the ! key, the little writing dictator on my shoulder reminds me that using that particular character is a big “no-no.”

Now, I agree that the overuse of an exclamation point can be a crutch. (“Oh, how pretty! He’s so nice! I love your dress!) If one relies on it too heavily, excellent descriptive writing can go by the wayside and our writing can become one meaningless ! after another.

But, using it once in awhile—in special circumstances—seems right. In fact, not using it, would be downright “wrong.”

So, my suggestion is that we consider each circumstance on its own merits. If we can do a great job of writing by using other descriptive words in order to paint a vivid/emotional picture for our readers, then that is what we should do. Leave the exclamation point for more dramatic occasions.

But, if there are instances in which our character would most assuredly be screaming or very emotional, then we should use our best discretion, and use the exclamation point in certain—and very limited—instances.

And, that’s my point!


Follow That Turtle!


When I was in college, there was much talk about multi-tasking. I started small. I did my homework while the washer and dryer took care of the laundry.

Throughout the years, the tasks got more complicated, but I prided myself in being able to do quite a few at one time.

Success depended on three elements: planning, timing, and execution.

I became proficient at all three–until many years later, when I began writing. And, even then, I could accomplish quite a lot this way.

However, this past month, years of hard work in the area of multitasking were put to the test.

I have spent the last thirty days working on the editing and revising two books, as well as working with a producer on an audio version of another one.

I have been burning the proverbial candle at both ends—a situation that does not make for a happy camper.

I’ve found that multi-tasking, while it often saves time, is best done when the tasks are completely unrelated (such as homework and laundry). By using different parts of our brain, the emotional drainage—as I refer to it—is easier to handle.

When tasks are related—such as completing one’s Income Taxes, writing a novel, and preparing for a large group presentation—things become overwhelming. It’s best to space projects out, so one can complete them with some degree of competency, rather than trying to muddle through the frustration.

The fast-approaching deadline of April 15 dictated that I complete that task, first. I have now prioritized the other writing tasks so that I am addressing them consecutively.

Things are improving for me, emotionally. I even have time for a little blogging left over at the end of the day.

Even though my books will be published roughly a month later than my marketing plan had predicted, I will be able to do a better job by focusing on one task at a time. 

So, my advice?

Take it easy. Take your time. Follow the turtle who said, “Slow and steady wins the race.”

How Much Do Dreams Cost?




I spent almost every day last week gathering information for my accountant. I needed receipts and various other kinds of documentation for both our personal tax returns and those for my business.

I DO keep receipts in separate folders. However, according to my accountant, those of us in the business of writing, need to keep a monthly ledger of expenses (publishing costs, marketing, office supplies, and so on) and deposits (sales would make up the bulk of this income).

This habit makes tax time so much easier than tackling it all at once—as I did.

It’s also much easier if you have a credit and/or debit card for personal  AND a completely different one for your business (which, thankfully, I did). We also need separate checking accounts.

Not only are these habits essential for taxes, they also are eye-opening when it comes to seeing in black and white—and maybe red—just how well our businesses performed over the past year.

Just as I claimed when I was a classroom teacher that  “no one goes into the educational profession to make money,” I have realized the same holds true for writing.

Teachers teach largely because of their love for children and writers write out of a passion for communicating the written word.

I have learned to embrace this truth so that I am not so discouraged when I look at the bottom line, realizing the hourly rate for which I have been willing to work in order to achieve my dream.

After all, one cannot put a price on dreams…

An Interesting Profile


When I was a youngster, we used the words, “cool, neat, and swell” to describe good things.

Now, the popular words are, “awesome” and “epic.”

Remember the days when the word profile referred to how you looked from the side view?

Now, it means your bio.

Although word usage may change, an interesting bio/profile is even more important in our current world than in the past.

So, just what should one contain?

Begin with your name.   End with your contact information.

Between those two “bookends” include the following based on the purpose for writing your profile (is it for a college or job application? a dating site? your own website? to find contacts?)

A little research on my part has uncovered these necessary items:

Your profession/training/educational background (Simply state this. You don’t want to come off sounding “smart or cocky.”) **This is NOT A RESUME, so don’t fill in too much detail. However, realize that you’re going to be going into more depth in this area, if the bio is for a job application and less if it is for a personal website.

Special accomplishments/recent works/expertise. If you share examples, direct them toward your target audience.

Personal, humanizing details. Are you married? Do you have children? Pets?

Your age and a recent—tasteful—photo.

Include hobbies and interests (but, again, think of your audience. These might not be good to include in a job application, unless specifically asked for…)


Be sure to write in the third person.

Keep it up-to-date, making changes whenever necessary.

It’s a word picture, so write with a smile!


Oh, Where Will You Go?



In elementary school I was taught to separate various words/phrases from the rest of the sentence with commas. Now, my editor tells me that the world of computers—and especially texting, Twitter, and Facebook—have changed the rules. The less use of the comma, the better.

Authors need to stay up on all of the latest information in writing, publishing, and marketing.

One way to do that is by going to meetings of local writing chapters and to conferences. It’s time to plan which ones you would like attend (you can sandwich them between your family vacations and yearly physical exams).

If you are a Christian author, you may want to attend the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Conference. I try to go at least every three years, myself. Others I would recommend are: Glorietta Writers Conference, Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, Colorado Christian Writers Conference, Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference, and Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference.

Since these conferences can be expensive and require travel and hotel costs, you may want to begin your conference “experience” at local conferences. Here in Arizona, our local CWOW (Christian Writers of the West) conference, held each January, is always excellent and very affordable.

Other conferences, geared toward mainstream writers are: The Muse and the Market Place (Boston), ASJA (American Society of Journalists and Authors) Conference held in New York City, San Francisco’s Writer’s Conference, and Literary Writer’s Conference (New York City).

Expensive? Perhaps. But well worth it because of the added bonus of networking, opportunities for pitching, etc.

Now that you know, where will you go?

Two Sides of the Same Coin


When you teach someone else how to do something, you learn a lot yourself.

Teaching has a way of cementing ideas, facts, procedures—all kinds of information—in our brains through the visual and auditory senses, as well as the writing (of the lesson plan, main points on charts or power point and so on).

So, I am going to suggest something you might think is crazy: I’d like you to consider mentoring a beginning writer. 

You may consider yourself a beginner and question just how much help you could be to someone else. But, even if you only stay a step ahead of them, the experience will be invaluable—as you learn TOGETHER.

I remember, as a first year teacher. being assigned to teach two periods of sewing in Home Economics. I had no experience. I didn’t know any of the terms, parts of the machine, not even how to read a pattern.

Each night, I would go home and teach myself what I needed to know in order to get through class the following day. This went on for the entire semester. I stayed, literally, one step ahead of my students. But, by the last day of class, I found myself actually looking forward to the next group of students. I felt increased competence and confidence 

So, the point is: whether you know a lot about the craft of writing, or you consider yourself a beginner, the experience you will gain by mentoring someone else will be invaluable.

It will be time well spent…because learning and teaching are two sides of the same coin.

Creative Networking



At a recent book sale, my table was sandwiched in between two watercolor artists.

Next to one of them was a young lady selling delicious homemade cookies.

Beyond her was a married couple designing one-of-a-kind T-shirts.

On and on, down the line, there was a nice mix of artists, crafters, and authors.

All brought unique opportunities to network.

Here’s what I learned on that chilly Saturday morning.

We shouldn’t limit ourselves to only making connections with others in our same profession or field of interest. Authors can also make use of opportunities to network creatively with many other individuals.

Just because they may not be authors, doesn’t mean they are non-readers, you know. You need to meet, great, and exchange cards with everyone.

Ask yourself, “What is the connection I can make with a painter?” Well, do you ever need an illustrator? When your book is written, will you need a cover?

T-shirts? How about one displaying the cover of your most recent book…main character…catchy quotation?

But, a baker?  Hum…are you writing a cookbook?

I’m not, but I have a partially-written—and long-forgotten—novel in the bottom drawer of my desk. It has the word “Cookie” in the title. That’s enough for me to start a conversation with the gal selling Snickerdoodles.

You never know who you’ll meet.

So, wherever you go, look for ways to connect.

You just might end up with a free sample.

Chocolate chip…pumpkin spice…oatmeal raisin…