Four Things to Include in Your Reviews

As writers, we are well aware of how necessary reviews are to our success. That’s why it’s important that we don’t just ask for them, but we write them every time we get to THE END.

There are four main things to know about writing reviews: 

  1. Make them short and to the point. Too long or wordy and people won’t read them.
  2. Be honest, but not hurtful. Some people only write reviews for books they like. This doesn’t help the writer to improve and it isn’t helpful to the potential reader when they are looking for an enjoyable book to purchase.
  3. People read fiction, first and foremost, to hear the stories of characters, so be sure to say if you felt the characters were engaging, intriguing, real, etc.
  4. Make your comments genre-specific. If the book you are reviewing is a Romance Novel, give some indication as to whether it actually was romantic, or perhaps erotic. (Yikes!) If it is a Mystery, share whether it had you on the edge of your seat and so on.

Don’t forget to use your own good writing skills. You never know when someone will read your review and “GOOGLE” you!!!

An Encouraging Word

For those of you who are writing your very first book, it may seem like it is taking forever to get it ready for publication. However, remember that you are spending a lot of time learning all kinds of things this first go around—all of which you ‘ll be able to apply in the future without having to start over at square one with each new book.

My first book took me eighteen months to write.

My second took me a lot less than that.

With every book, the writing, editing, cover design, and so on is accomplished much quicker as you get more skilled at all that is involved.

When we first start to write there is much to learn. Writing “rules.” Editing. Setting up one or more websites, establishing checking accounts. Navigating the internet. Publishing. Conferences. Marketing.

The list is endless. 

But, take heart. 

Each time a book is published, there is a smaller percentage of time devoted to those things, leaving you more time for actual writing. And, that’s when things start to get exciting.

You will be able to find the answers to all of the questions you have. Use Google or a host of websites and/or blogs by authors, publishers, writing organizations, and so on.

Writing is a lot of work. No doubt about it.

When that first book comes out, I hope you will find that it has all been worth the effort.

Submit Your Writing Online

There are quite a few websites that take online submissions AND pay you for your efforts. Here is a sampling by category:

I. Short Stories

A. Story– Fiction and Non-fiction. Pay you $10. Per printed page.

B. Flash Fiction Online– Submit up to 1,000 words. Pay is $60. Per story.

C. Ideomancer– Looking for “out-of-the-box” writing. Pay is three cents per word, with a max of $40. Per story.

D. Shimmer– Speculative fiction (if you don’t know what this is, see one of my archived blogs on this subject) of 7500 words. Pay is 5 cents per word, with a $50 max.

E. One Story- They pay $500 BUT they choose only one short story to publish each month.

F. Crazyhorse– Looking for the “wacky and strange.” Pay is $20 per page, with a $200 max.

G. The Sun Magazine- They will consider ALL submissions. Pay is $300 to $2500 for Non-fiction; $300 to $1500 for Fiction.

H. Brevity- 750 words or less. Pay is $45.

II.  Personal Essays

A. The Awl- Pay is between $30-$250.

B. Good Old Days– Seeking nostalgia. Pay is between $15-75.

C. Literal Latte– Hold five contests per year. (three have $1000 prizes).

III. Articles

A. Travelicious- A Travel Guide website. Pay is $40 per 1,000 words.

B. Writer Naked– Resource for writers. Exemplary pieces can be paid as much as $200.

C. Technopedia– Anything about technology. Pays $50-$150.

D. Howlround– Dedicated to arts and the theatre. Pays $50 for 750-1000 words.

E. Gameskinny– Looking for lists, guides, etc. Pays $0.50 per 1,000 views.

Got Free Time?

You’ve got time on your hands.

The fact that many of us are not participating in many social events these days frees up several hours a week or more for our writing, doesn’t it?

So, why when I talk to other authors, do I hear that it isn’t the case? That their time is being used up with anything but?

I am told that naps, computer games, and watching television are filling up all available “free time.”

So, that means productivity is down across the board. 

Have we lost our drive… our desire to write?

Can I suggest that we review our goals … renew our purpose for writing in the first place?

It you write to encourage others, there has never been a time when your words of encouragement were needed more.

If you write to cheer people up … to give them reason to laugh… now’s the time they need your funny, uplifting stories the most.

If you write so you can transport your readers back to another time in history or forward to future times, this is your golden opportunity.

If you write so that your readers can escape the mundane or the fear of life in the present, they may be waiting for a book that only you will write.

So you know what that means, write?

Happily Ever After

When I was a kid, the vast majority of books that I ready ended with a happy ending.

But, then I read a book in junior high that had a sad and unexpected ending. I vividly remember going back and rereading the final few pages because I just knew I must have “read it wrong” or “misunderstood.”

I had read for hours, only to be “rewarded” with a tragic ending?

Later, I would learn the terminology for that type of  story was called a tragedy.

Aptly named.

A literary tragedy  consists of brave characters who confront powerful obstacles. They exemplify the resiliency of the human spirit when faced with danger…. and may even end in death. The characters are likable, making their suffering distressing for the reader. And, they often have a tragic flaw that becomes the reason for their downfall. And, finally, there is that heartbreaking ending.

Even though a character may lose everything in the end, if he takes responsibility for his actions, if he affirms human values, the reader is often filled with hope for mankind.

You may decide not to write a true tragedy. However, there are still some techniques you can use to make each scene or chapter in your book a “page turner” or “cliff hanger”:

  1. Use an ellipsis (…) so readers will be left with an unfinished thought. 
  2. Ask a question (so the reader will wonder what might happen or cause them to madly search Amazon for the next book in the series).
  3. Share negative or conflicting inner thoughts for your characters to reveal their inner turmoil.
  4. Make sure your scenes are very descriptive and I vary the sentence length to take readers from intense action to peaceful interludes and then return to a faster pace.
  5. I have written a “less than satisfying ending” which is then addressed in the Epilogue.

Time and Time Again

Last week, I had a series of negative things happen in the space of three hours: a package I was expecting was sent to someone else’s house, my massage appointment was cancelled, I forgot my grocery store coupons and had to drive all the way back home, and my husband returned from the landscape nursery with the wrong item.

All of those things reminded me of Lemony Snicket’s The Series of Unfortunate Events and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst—two books I have enjoyed over and over again with each reading.

Remembering to make lemonade out of lemons, I began writing chapter one of a new book with a main character who is faced with a series of problems, too. Within minutes, my anger turned to laughter. 

I hit SAVE AS and then gave my new book a name. 

People love humor. And if we are able to laugh at ourselves, our own real life circumstances can become the substance of books that readers can enjoy time and time again.

Writing on the Dark Side?

Writing on the Dark Side?

No. I’m not talking about horror.

I’m talking about the other side of midnight.

When the clock strikes 12 PM and you’re still at the computer.

Why aren’t you all snuggled-up and cozy in your bed?

“Nothing good is going to happen after midnight,” my mother told me decades ago. “Be in by curfew.”

So, do you have a writing curfew? A time at which you may be still physically able to write, but your brain is no longer functioning to its best creative ability?

Yes, there are those times when a brilliant idea comes our way and the creative juices wouldn’t stop flowing even if we did shut down our computer. 

Most of the time, though, our mind and body adopt a certain rhythm and we automatically know when we are the most productive. For me, it’s between the hours of 10 AM and 2 PM although I often push it to 4 PM.

Here’s what research says about ways to boost productiveness: 

  1. Keep hydrated.
  2. Take 5 minute breaks every 50 minutes.
  3. Stretch regularly.
  4. Take a break outdoors.
  5. Get in a short nap.
  6. Work standing up for short periods.
  7. Work by a window (natural light).
  8. Take a sniff of peppermint oil.
  9. Drink a cup of coffee with a few drops of coconut oil.

Remaining 2020 Online Conferences/Workshops


Covid-19 is changing the way that we have done things. One of the biggest changes is in group gatherings.

Yesterday, I attended my first online writer’s conference. Usually held in person in Arizona, the Desert Sleuth’s Conference was full of information. It was also free. I couldn’t pass up that deal.

They did a good job of everything, from their selection of presenters, topics, advertising, and making their audience feel included and valued.

For the foreseeable future, virtual meetings may be the way to go. So, I compiled this list of remaining conferences you might like to “attend”online this year. (I am sure if you research a bit on your own, you will be able to add to this list).

AGENT ONE-ON-ONE BOOTCAMP: September 22-25. How to Craft Query Letters & Other Submission Materials That Get Noticed Boot Camp.


Writing Day Workshops: 

Boston Mass. on 10/3

Philadelphia, PA  on 11/14-15

Washington, D.C. on 12/5




Oct. 7: Blogging Strategies That Work in 2020 

Oct. 25: The Foundations of Getting Published 

She has many more affordable online courses available for

  individual study.

WRITERS’ DIGEST ON DEMAND WEBINARS (Sign up and choose your date). These are offered on many topics, including How to Write Short Stories, Writing the Historical Novel, How to Attract an Agent, and many more.

GOTHAM WRITERS’ WORKSHOP: Based in New York, see their online catalog for a listing of workshops and classes.

Setting Up an AMS Account

You are an author, and already have your book(s) on Amazon.

Now, you want to set up an Amazon Marketing Account.

Here is how to go about it:

1.   Go to your author BOOKSHELF to begin.

2. Click on PROMOTE AND ADVERTISE next to your book.

  1. It may prompt you to sign in with your KDP account at this point.
  2. It will then ask you to read Amazon’s advertising agreement and click  ACCEPT AND CONTINUE.
  5. Now, hover over the 3 white horizontal lines in the upper left corner of your screen (next to New Campaign heading).
  7. Enter the name and email address of the person you want to invite.
  1. Click on RUN AN AD CAMPAIGN.

Choose either:  Editors (if someone else is using the account, like a person you have hired to do marketing) and enter their email address. OR: Administrator (for yourself or someone that you are going to give editor privileges AND the ability to change your payment settings).

10)  Click ADD/REMOVE users; then click INVITE USER.

11)  Go back up to those three horizontal white lines and click on: SET-UP YOUR BILLING AND PAYMENTS. Click on PAYMENT SETTINGS. (Right now, you can only choose credit/debit). Click CONTINUE.

12) Choose ADVERTISER/OWNER, fill in the information, and click SAVE.

*Note: You are done FOR THE MARKET PLACE YOU CHOSE ABOVE IN #5. However, you must repeat this process for each Market Place you would like to advertise in.

Sponsored Product Ads



Amazon offers four basic ways to advertise products. However, KDP account holders are limited to using just one of them: Sponsored Product Ads.

These ads appear in search results on product pages. They are cost-per-click ads .

After signing in to your KDP Bookshelf, click on Promote and Advertise next to your book’s title. 

You will be given step-by-step directions to write a short “ad” and select how much you are willing to pay each time a prospective buyer clicks on your ad. (Note: This is not per sale. It is per click.)

You will also need to set a max budget for your ad. Once your budget is used, your ad will not show. 

You can renew or rewrite your ad as often as you want.