Tips for Podcast Easy Listening

Hey all! Sorry I didn't get around to posting this in the second half of last week as planned. See, there was a holiday thing, and then another, and then there was this woman. Don't get the wrong idea, she and my wife are very close. (Okay, REALLY don't get the wrong idea now. :)

She's a great woman, let me tell you. I'd drop anything for her, and that hasn't changed in 10 (plus now) years. All this writing/blogging/stuff I do? She's totally into it. In fact, she encourages it. (Probably so I'll leave her alone.) There really isn't much I do that she doesn't support.

No, we aren't a perfect match or anything. We're a little competitive with one another. Don't ever ask one of us who loves the other more. She'll say I'm better at showing and saying it, and I'll say she's better at simply doing it.

Also, she's a dessert person and I favor a second helping. Plus there's the civil war we had over oaked wine. She loves a heavy oaking, while I tend to like to drink my wine, not chew on it.

Still, I'd say we do a fine job of living and loving together. And we keep the knife fights to a minimum.

Anyway, wedding anniversaries are always special, but I had to make the big 10 something we'd remember. That devoured my blogging (and anything, really) time. Mia culpas all around.

As for what I promised, last week I recommended a couple of writing podcasts for your listening pleasure. I also promised some quick tips for listening, as I found out it can be somewhat cumbersome if you simply want to listen to several in a sitting (or working). Useful for the short casts (which I favor). So here goes:

1) Download iTunes

A lot of folks responded to my last post lamenting their less-than-awesome Internet speeds. Pocasts are typically very minimal in terms of size--a one hour cast is somewhere around 25 mb. For the sake of comparison, the song Rolling in the Deep by Adele is 7.7 mb. Still, if your Information Superhighway is congested there are some ways to avoid the inevitable forehead bruises induced by buffering-face-desk episodes.

The first thing to do is download iTunes. Virtually every significant podcast is available through the iTunes store. Better still, they're all F.R.E.E. Better, better still you can search for what you're looking for.

Once you click on the 'PODCAST' tab in the store it'll take you to the podcast storefront. There's a little empty box in the upper righthand corner. Type "writing" (for instance) in that little box and watch every writing related podcast pop up. Easy peasy.

Once you find your cast, click the subscribe option and iTunes will keep it in a list of your favorite podcasts. Here's the 411 on listening to podcasts in iTunes.

How is all of this going to help with your slow Internet connections? You see, iTunes doesn't just download all eleven billion Cat Tips podcasts at once. It let's you pick and choose when and what you want to listen to. 

So here's the solution: Before you go to bed, select the podcasts you want to listen to on the morrow, click "GET" and let the Web fairies do their magic while you slumber. Now you can play Farmville and listen at the same time.

2) Create a Playlist

So you've gotten iTunes installed on your death machine (AKA computer of choice), now what? Start listening of course! Problem: iTunes doesn't jump to the next podcast in the list once one has finished. Meaning you have to get back to your machine and click play again. 

Yes, you have to actually click stuff to keep 'em coming. Not a big deal if you're listening to hour-long podcasts, but many of my faves are less than 20 minutes. And if I'm cleaning, exercising or whatnot I don't want to stop and go find the next one.

Seriously, did George Orwell design this thing for future people who can replicate themselves or are the living supposed to use it? And yes, future me would totally create a replica just to sit in front of the computer and click play. It's maddening! Anyway, there's a workaround. Create a playlist.

Here's a detailed walkthrough. Basically, you make it like you would any music playlists. You give it a clever name, like "EJ's Anti-Roadrage Mix" or "Podcasts" then start dragging and dropping podcasts into the list. Simple. 

If you're listening on an iPod, etc. make sure your podcast playlist is set to sync or you're going to be running to Billy Joel again and not Car Talk. 

3) You Want to Listen on Shuffle 
(i.e. You Aren't a Boring Fun-Eating Troll)

Trolls!!! Told you.
You've loaded down your podcast playlist with enough podcasts to get you through the impending apocalypse. Good job! What, you don't want to listen to 400 consecutive episodes of green energy tips? 

George Orwell rears his ugly head again! Podcasts in iTunes are automatically set to 'skip' in shuffle mode. Speaking of Orwellian, can we reanimate Steve Jobs already? He'd get this worked out ...

Thankfully, we won't need to wait on science--or zombies--to get around this. In your created podcast playlist:

  • Highlight the podcasts you'd like to be included in the shuffling. 
  • Right click on your mouse-pointer-thingy.
  • You'll see the options list pop out. Now click "Get Info". 
  • Another pop out box! *confetti* Click the "Options" tab. 
  • Under "Options" make sure the box next to "Skip when shuffling" is checked and that the drop down list next to that says "NO"

Now you're golden! Click play and the voices in your head will have some company.

What say you? Have any great tips for podcast listening? Do you use something other than the direct site or iTunes? If you checked out any of my previous recs, did you enjoy them? Why/Why not? 

Also, a warning: My next post is going to be a serious discussion. (I know, dad's got another lecture, right?) Been reading a lot about Internet thievery and plagiarism, and I think it's a growing concern for authors. Both as would-be criminals and victims. 

Until then, via con a story on your mind and a song in your heart.


Are You Listening?

Howdy gang! Trust you've all survived the life sledgehammer we call Monday? I'm still counting toes, but I think I made it through mostly intact. 

I'm smiling at the title of this post, because it was my long-dead deaf grandmother's catchphrase. She lost her hearing early in life, and I never knew her any other way. So I was an unusually patient kid when it came to people explaining things. 

Why? Because a conversation with grandma would take twice as long as any normal conversation. I'd often have to write things down (learned a lot about reading and writing in that way) for her to understand what I was trying to say. Or I'd have to find what I was talking about to show her. As I got older, I learned to speak slowly so she could read my lips, which she was aces at. 

As for the catchphrase, you'd be surprised at how adept we are at making conversation without actually looking at who we're talking and listening to. The reason is simple: We can hear. 

It's why telephones work. We can say, 'mmm hmmm' and 'uh huh' and 'sure' and the person on the other end of the conversation knows we're listening.

Granny didn't have that luxury. So if she were telling you something important, she'd often qualify it with, "Are ye listening?" That was your cue to turnaround and give her your face-front full attention. 

I'm a pretty good listener. I owe part of that to my counseling background, but I owe a lot to granny too. I learned good listening skills long before I knew what they were: Eye contact. Use lots of non-verbal affirmations (nod, more pronounced facial expressions, etc.). Frequently check for understanding, and so on.

But enough of the memory lane. Let's play a game! 

Here's how it works: I'm going to ask you a question. Then, because I'm a lonely writer who doesn't ask questions to people who can actually hear and talk to him, I'm going to answer for you as well.

Wait, that doesn't sound like a fun game? (Asks the bossy five year old me.) Well we're going to play it anyway! (Says the bossy five year old me.) Here goes:

Me Question: Do you listen to podcasts?

You Answer: I should.

Wasn't that fantastic fun? I won by the way...

I know, you're busy. You've got 8 kids, 14 dogs, a lion cub, a flooding basement, 6 jobs, a 9th child you call your spouse and dinner won't fix itself. Who has the time to listen to podcasts, especially when it cuts into your LMFAO time? (You know you sing along when it comes on the radio. It's OK, this is a judgment free zone when it comes to music ... well, except for the Bieber.) 

That's exactly why you need to listen to podcasts. You can put them on in the background while cleaning, driving and cooking. The best part is there are some truly awesome writing related ones out there. And unlike reading a book on craft, you can listen to them while you're pulling your child out of the trash compactor. 

As I mentioned, there are lots of them out there, and they cover every imaginable writing subject. Some focus on genre, some talk about the industry, some give tips on publishing independently, some talk marketing and some are craft related.

Most are run by authors, but there are plenty done by editors and other book people. The two I'm going to pass on to you are some of the best I've found. They're short and exceedingly useful to your writing endeavors. 

The first is the Writing Excuses podcast. It's run by four authors whose backgrounds range from science fiction and fantasy to young adult horror. Each episode is (to quote their tagline), "15 minutes long, because you're in a hurry, we're not that smart." They cram a ton of useful information into each cast, have lots of great guests and cover everything from plotting to movie formulas. THEIR WEBSITE.  

The second is the Grammar Girl podcast. This is seriously like listening to a style guide, and a must for those who struggle with the finer details of writing and language (read - me). Even if you don't struggle, there's still plenty to learn. Grammar Girl covers things like how/when to use a dash, colon or comma and if using sentence fragments is an OK tactic in fiction. The best part is that she rarely strays over six or seven minutes for each topic--her tagline is, "Quick and Dirty Tips"--and you'll know tons more by the end. HER WEBSITE. 


There are lots of ways to listen to podcasts. If you own a smart phone, there are numerous apps you can download that will manage your podcasts, allow you to add new ones, etc. If you're an iTune user, just go to the iTunes store and click on the "Podcasts" drop down list. You can search by whatever subject, download and listen. I think most if not all of them are free. 

You can also go to the specific website. If you click the links above, each podcast episode has a link to listen right there on the page.

I'm going to do a followup post this week with a couple of tips for listening via your iTunes, iPhone, etc.

Do you listen to any writing related podcasts?


Bi-Annual Me Post & Awesome People

Hey gang! Longtime followers know I don't do many of the blog award type things. Not that I don't appreciate them a ton, I just don't like talking about me all that much. (You're grateful, trust me.) Plus, they're incredibly time consuming.

I'm a derelict when it comes to getting around to all of my favorite blogger friends. I'm doing good to get a couple of meaningful posts up each week. The last thing I need to do is distract myself with myself. Then there's the idea of passing the awards on.

I've visited with so many bloggers who look at these awards akin to a prison sentence. They cringe instead of smile when someone says, "Hey, I gave you an award!" It's like someone handed them a card that reads:


I don't look at them quite that way. As I said, it truly is an honor. One I don't understand, as I know I'm by far not the most deserving of the attention. I'm just doing my Web 'thang' like all of you.

In fact, it's you I look up to. You are the reason I blog. It gives me an excuse to hang with YOU. So when one of you takes the time to think of me, I'm genuinely amazed and proud.

As a result, I typically do one or two of these award posts a year, just as a thank you to any and all who've given me an award. 

Plus, it gives you a little more dirt on me should we ever cross paths in the real world.

This year's award of choice? It's called the Kreativ Blogger Award and the rules are simple: Jump through four hoops.

HOOP # 1 - Thank the person who nominated you.

My award comes courtesy of Guilie at the Quiet Laughter blog. Guilie is an absolute sweetheart of a person, and a superstar blogger in the making. (Seriously, her blog posts are exceedingly creative and beautiful to boot.)

HOOP # 2 - Answer Questions

What is your favorite song?

This is like picking a favorite child! I love all kinds of music, so this can change literally on the second. I'll pick a song that embodies everything I love about music. The song is On the Radio by Regina Spektor. The second and third verses pretty much some up my life view:

"This is how it works
You're young until you're not
You love until you don't
You try until you can't
You laugh until you cry
You cry until you laugh
And everyone must breathe
Until their dying breath

No, this is how it works
You peer inside yourself
You take the things you like
And try to love the things you took
And then you take that love you made
And stick it into some
Someone else's heart
Pumping someone else's blood
And walking arm in arm
You hope it don't get harmed
But even if it does
You'll just do it all again"

What's your favorite dessert?

More of a second helping kind of guy, so dessert isn't high on my list of food desires. I do love pumpkin pie (probably more for the season it reminds me of).  And anything with peanut butter in it is aces.

What ticks you off?

Besides those stupid 'Easy Open' packages? (THEY NEVER WORK! I end up taking twice the time trying to find scissors, etc. to open a mutilated Easy Open package as I would just tearing the dang thing open like a normal package.)

I'd say assumptions really raise my hackles. Seriously, if you don't assume anything in life, you're probably better off.

What do you do when you're upset?

Exercise is great. Also like to play my guitar. Those are the healthy things. :)

Your favorite pet?

This really is picking a favorite child for me. Absolutely cannot choose. I have two dogs: a 12 year old chihuahua mix, and a five year old beagle mix. Both are rescues, and both are awesome. They keep me sane when the world is crazy. I love them.

Do you prefer black or white?

I like a clean look, so both are pretty awesome from an aesthetics perspective. I'm also practical, and white is hard to keep clean. I guess I view them as sides to the same coin: Do you like a blank canvas (white) or void (black)? Both can be filled with whatever you choose.

Biggest fear?

Losing. Losing the people I love. Losing hope. Losing my desire to fight. Just losing.

What's your attitude, mostly?

Definitely 'can do'. I'm a positive person. I like to always be moving forward. I don't believe in regrets, I believe in choices. I see the potential in everything and everyone.

What is perfection?

Unattainable. Ask the best there's ever been at anything and they'll tell you it never happens. Michael Jordan, Mozart, da Vinci, Hemingway, Einstein--none of them ever believed they couldn't do better, that they couldn't BE better.

Guilty pleasure?

Let's see: There's my love of 80s hair bands. There's pepperoni pizza. There's comic books. There's a second glass of wine. There's a third cup of coffee. There's taking a walk or throwing the Frisbee to my beagle instead of writing. There's watching historical documentaries. There's playing Rock Band with my friends. There's...

HOOP # 3 - Share 10 random facts about yourself.

1. I have a Master's degree in counseling.

2. I can't swim but love the water.

3. Favorite color is red.

4. I'm the youngest of four children.

5. I paint (mostly oils) and draw for fun.

6. My childhood aspiration was to be a comic book illustrator. Or an 
astronaut. :)

7. I'm a total sports junkie and am still convinced I'd be playing in the NBA if I were a foot taller. And could jump.

8. I play several musical instruments by ear. Only formally trained on the trombone.

9. My grandfather (mom's side) was a preacher.

10. Although no one else in my immediate family cared for it, I somehow fell in love with classical music. I listen to it at least an hour everyday. Not on purpose, it just happens in the background while driving, writing, making dinner, etc. Been doing it since high school. I go to our local symphony every chance I get.

HOOP # 4 - Pass It On

Ooh boy, this is where it gets sticky! Rather than pass this award on, I'm going to issue my own very special award. I came up with it a year or two ago as a way of thanking people without asking them to do anything in return. If you snoop around, you might've noticed it on other blogs. It's called the 'No Strings Attached - Real Trooper' award.

If you get it, you do nothing. I give it to my most dedicated followers, and the bloggers that impress me with their heart and determination. I'm going to try to come up with some folks who haven't gotten it before. 

If you haven't met them, please stop by their blogs or say hello. You won't be disappointed. Here goes:

Julie Musil
Donna Yates
Tanya Reimer
Alyson Burdette
Cassie Mae
Morgan Shamy
Christine Rains

Last and certainly not least ...



Help Me Help You?


I've got 4 victims! ;) I'm going to close this down for now. It's a project I plan to keep hammering away at, so if you might be interested in future reading/crit opportunities for something like this, let me know in the comments. 

Doesn't need to be said, I'm sure, but: YOU ALL ROCK THE SOCKS FROM MY FEET! That is all.

Howdy all! Hope all the mammas out there had a great weekend. Wouldn't be a world without y'all. 

Seriously, scientifically speaking it just doesn't work that way easily. (I'm here all week!) 

Anyway, today's post is short and sweet. Short for me anyhow. Yes, I realize brevity and blog posts from me go together like toothpaste and coffee. Cut me some slack! ;)

I need help. Not the clinical kind. Well maybe, but I'm specifically asking for the writerly kind. I'm working on a short-ish story and would like to recruit a couple more readers. 

The dirty: It's just over 12,000 words. It's a complete re-write from a previous version that had been fiddled with 'til oblivion. Taking it in a somewhat new direction and would love some fresh eyes/perspectives.

THIS IS A NOT A YA PROJECT. Want to make that clear, as there is some language and adult situations. (Actually, having written mostly for teens in the past, that's something I'd like thoughts on as well.) It's also paranormal-ish in nature.

No, it's not vampire porn, but it is intended to be New Adult. (I hear that's what peeps in the know are calling post-teen, early adult fiction. So that's what I'm going with for now.) If you're a fan of Sookie Stackhouse, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, etc. I'd particularly love to hear your thoughts.

I'm mostly looking for general feedback on voice, concept (it's an idea for a series of stories), etc. but am always willing to listen to deeper crits. Basically, I'll take as little or as much as you'd care to offer. 

If you just want to say, "It was really fun." or "I strained so hard trying to get through it a clot broke loose." I'll take it. 

I'm turning to you all, because no one in my normal reader group really specializes in these kinds of stories. I'm betting at least a few of the 300 someodd of you will. Note: You don't have to be an expert or anything to help, I'm just interested if you are. 

THE HELP YOU PORTION OF THIS BROADCAST: I'm more than happy to return the favor for chapter, pages or an entire novel critique. Now or in the future. For a novel, you'd need to give me some time. I'm a slow reader, but I'd definitely do it for you (probably in chunks, as is my fashion). 

If you're interested, hit me up on Twitter or e-mail 
jezzell19 (at) gmail (dot) com (That's jezzell followed by the number nineteen, btw.) 

I know your time is precious, so I can give more detail if you need it before signing off. 


Book Pricing - How Do You Feel?

Hey gang! Thank you to everyone who offered up comments on Wednesday's author interview with Alyson Burdette

(MASSIVE APOLOGY TO ALYSON - Just realized I'd misspelled her name in the title of the post. Copy/paste cut off the last two letters of her name, and I seriously can't apologize enough!) 

I know it means a ton to her, and frankly I think it's (supporting authors) one of the most important things we can do. 

In the digital age, it's far too easy for authors to get swept away in the tsunami of content that hits the Web every second. Word of mouth has always been, and will continue to be, the best way to sell books. 

So the next time a friend on Facebook asks for a book recommendation (I see at least three a week on my personal Facebook feed), I hope you'll consider offering up a new author/name instead of (or along with) James Patterson, Steve King, Steph Meyer, etc.

Speaking of the digital age, I kept thinking the kerfuffle over e-book price fixing would die down. I was wrong. 

It's only building steam as publishers, agents, authors--well, everyone really--are beginning to take sides.

Seriously, this is shaping up to be a veritable Holy War within the world of publishing. We've had skirmishes before. Border disputes, if you will. But this could be the BIG ONE.

Why? Reading between the lines, I'm guessing this is one last big stab at keeping the book industry at least partially anchored in the traditional system. A system in which a few large publishers are responsible for the majority of the content and profit generated by the book industry.

Look, I'm not saying it's bad--I leave that kind of opinion to folks who've had direct dealings with all of it. I'm saying it's the way it is. 6 major publishers are responsible for most of the books you see at Barnes & Noble, and virtually all of the books that pop up on traditional bestseller lists. 

Former literary agent, current author and eternal blogger, Nathan Bransford, had this to say on his blog this week: "In the old era, only major publishers had the infrastructure to get books to readers. You had to go through them to reach readers in large numbers." 

He spoke in the past tense for a reason. 

Like an invasive species, Amazon and e-books are taking over the ecosystem. Like with any invasive species, the existing species  must eventually make the decision to fight or assimilate. 

Big publishers and the folks who work for them (authors, agents, etc.) are lacing up their boxing gloves as I type.

Earlier this week, the Association of Authors Representatives (AAR) sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice voicing their support of the agency pricing model which lead to the collusion charges levied against the big publishers (among others) linked to above.

Essentially, that means the AAR, its supporting members and the "tens of thousands of authors they represent" are in favor of allowing the major publishing entities the right to force retailers into a uniform pricing model. (To be clear, that doesn't mean the price a retailer has to pay for the rights to distribute--or wholesale price. It means the sticker price the customer pays.) 

Not all of the authors represented by the group are terribly excited about the letter. Seems some of these authors are perfectly happy with Amazon, the company the agency model was aimed at attacking, and the company with the most to gain by a successful DOJ anti-trust suit. CLICK THE PRECEDING LINK TO READ SOME OF THE REASONS. 

Furthermore, it seems not even everyone within the traditional publishing system can agree that anit-Amazon is best for books and readers. Today, traditional-gone-independent author J.A. Konrath shared an anonymous response to the mess courtesy of someone within one of the big publishing houses. YOU CAN READ IT HERE, but to suffice to say their Christmas bonus might be on hold if their name ever gets out.

Sadly, we might have to make a decision between two potential evils: an Amazon monopoly or the exclusivity and high e-book prices of big publishing. 

Which brings me to the question: Do you care? 

As a reader, does it matter to you that the newest Sookie Stackhouse (True Blood) book by Charlaine Harris will cost you $15.15 for a hardcover/paper copy or $14.99 for the e-book?

As an author/writer, would you be okay with getting the same revenue share (or cut) from either purchase, knowing the cost to produce the two on the publishing side aren't remotely similar? (Don't listen to anyone who says otherwise; Amazon doesn't charge XYZ publisher any more than they do you or me to upload a digital book.) As unusual as it sounds, I am afraid they're connected. 

As an author/writer, are you more comfortable with the fate of our industry in the hands of a giant retailer (what Amazon is), or a publishing business that has done nothing but books forever and ever? A publishing industry FULL of people who love books, readers and the folks who write them. 

These questions are not posed lightly, and I've got no answers. Just opinions, which I'll gladly share if you supply the beverages and a comfy chair.


Author Interview - Alyson Burdette

Hey gang! I'd like to introduce you to Alyson Burdette. She's a super (sorry, still on the Avengers kick) debut author. Her novel, NIGHTFIRE is available now. Details on where to pick it up follow the interview. Please give her a warm OV welcome!

ME - Book first! Tell us about Nightfire.

ALYSON - Nightfire is my first published novel. It’s a paranormal romance about a girl named Olivia. She ends up falling for a guy named William, who manages to unknowingly complicate her life. (ME - Don't they always?)

ME - Your main character, Olivia, is a vampire. There are lots of vampire stories out there, what makes Olivia's tale unique? 

ALYSON - I spent a lot of time reading vampire stories before writing Nightfire, because I wanted it to be different from all the other stories out there. What really makes the book unique is Olivia’s perspective. There aren’t a lot of books told from a female vampire point of view (very, very true), and Olivia’s reactions to the world and life aren’t quite like the other stories out there.

ME - Doing a little web sleuthing, I've discovered you're passionate about all things paranormal. What can you tell us about your interests, and was that the primary inspiration/influence for Nightfire?

ALYSON - I’ve done ghost hunting as a hobby for a few years now (you won't find this level of street cred with many paranormal writers ... takes 'write what you know' to a spooky new level!), but have loved anything paranormal since I was a kid. I loved reading ghost stories and watching scary movies. It definitely influenced my writing and Nightfire. I knew I wanted the story to have a paranormal twist to it from the moment I started writing it.

ME - Speaking to writerly inspiration, who are some of your favorite authors and/or favorite books?

ALYSON - I love J.K Rowling (I swear I don't advertise for fellow JK fans, they just find me!) and Anne Rice. It’s hard to pick just a few favorite books because there are so many great ones out there! My favorite is usually whatever book I’m reading at the moment. J I love The Hunger Games but my all time favorite book is probably Pride and Prejudice.

ME - I've known some folks to confuse paranormal and horror fiction; probably due to the history of vampires, werewolves, etc. in movies. If there is a difference, how would you explain it, and how close to the line (if there is one) does Nightfire fall?

ALYSON - I think there is a difference. Horror novels are written with the intention of frightening the reader, while paranormal books just use unnatural elements in their storylines. There are also books that do a little of both. There are a few tense moments in Nightfire, but it’s primarily a romantic story so I think it’s more strictly paranormal. I’d love to write a horror story someday, though.

ME - Paranormal fiction is a pretty big deal these days (like 3 full stacks in my local Barnes & Noble big). Much of it is being snapped up by adolescent readers, but it seems to be everywhere. Have any thoughts on why it's gotten so huge? Opinions on if it's here to stay?

ALYSON - I think it is here to stay. I think it’s popular because people use it as a way to escape the difficulties of life. It’s a way to leave the real world behind for awhile and visit a new, exciting place.

ME - Is Nightfire a YA novel?

ALYSON - When I first started writing it, I wanted it to be YA, but I had trouble making Olivia (who is over 100 years old) sound like a teenager. (I think you made a very wise decision to not go the direction of a certain sparkly vampire teen. Just sayin.) It just didn't sound believable. So I let her be an old soul trapped in an 18 year old body. If anything, I’d classify the book as New Adult because the main characters are 18-21.

ME - Random question time! You can have lunch with any person living or dead, who and why?

ALYSON - That’s a hard question! Maybe Abraham Lincoln because I know he would have a lot of interesting things to share. (Then the real question is: Would Old Abe try to kill Olivia? His well documented disdain for vampires and all...)

ME - This is a writing blog, so we're always interested in knowing what your writing process is like.

ALYSON - Ideas just sort of come to me. They pop into my head out of nowhere. I don’t write every day (but I should.) My goal is to start writing six days a week this year. Right now I write about 4 nights a week. I like to say I’m a pantser, because I never write down an outline, but the truth is I do all the outlining in my head. I know where every story is going. It just isn’t down on paper.

ME - Any tips or thoughts on writing and/or publishing you care to impart on those of us fighting the good fight?

ALYSON - Whatever you do, don’t give up. Keep writing and moving forward. It’s easy to let the publishing world knock you backwards, because it’s difficult. Don’t let it. (Simple and true. I love it!)

ME - Lastly, and certainly of most importance, give us 3 reasons why Nightfire should be our next read and tell us how to find it!


1. You just have to meet Olivia. She’s a lot of fun (at least when she isn’t trying to eat you.) (Girls!)

2. There are plenty of good-looking guys in Nightfire (okay, this reason is more for the girls.) (I'm thinking a LOT of guys are going to be OK with a smoking hot vampire chic who is eternally 18. Could be wrong ...)

3. You should give a new writer a chance. You never know what you might discover! (AMEN!)

Author Bio:

Alyson Burdette currently lives in the small town of Wadsworth, Ohio. She graduated from The University of Akron, where she majored in Anthropology. She currently works at a pharmacy and loves animals and anything paranormal. When she’s not writing, she spends her time on reading, hiking, dancing and ghost hunting.

NIGHTFIRE: When a murder shakes the small town of Peninsula, all eyes are on Olivia Townsend. She may look eighteen, but the townspeople can sense there’s something darker hiding behind her pretty eyes. Olivia knows the smart thing to do is to get out of town. Suspicious neighbors can only mean trouble for a vampire. But leaving becomes much more difficult when William, a mysterious man from her past, arrives. Finding out what brought him back is a temptation Olivia just can’t resist. William’s kindness and interest in Olivia only makes leaving harder. As she starts to fall for him, she’s forced to decide if sticking around is really worth the risk of being discovered. Of course, her mystery man has a secret of his own-and he’s not talking.

Nightfire is available in E-format at Amazon, and other major e-book retailers.

You can find Alyson Burdette at:

@AlysonBurdette on Twitter

Alyson_Burdette (at) yahoo (dot) com

Avengers Movie Offers Super Powered Writing Lesson

What I expect from a summer blockbuster film:
(I'll rate the Avengers success in each category.)

1. Stars - It isn't a true blockbuster without a recognizable name on the poster. Dep, Pitt or Downey Jr. and/or Johanson, Portman or Jolie + movie = entertainment gold. They're like pretty Hollywood street cred or something.

Avengers - Literally not a full minute of the film passes without being able to say, "I've seen that guy or gal in a dozen movies!" Seriously, I'm thinking about naming my first child Robert-Sam-Scarlet-Chris-Hemsworth-Jeremy-Gwen-Ruffalo Wesley.

2. "I didn't just see that..." Scenes - Call them special effects if you will, but if my jaw and the floor don't get acquainted at least a couple of times throughout the film, it isn't a blockbuster. Required: Last summer's explosion count must be surpassed at all cost!

Avengers - Oh boy, if you love you some 'splosions then this is THE movie for you. Earth's mightiest heroes do a damned fine job of breaking everything in sight, including each other. Ever wondered what the Hulk would do to a building if he decided to scrape down it a like an angry kitty on the drapes? Wonder no more. Ever wanted to see what Thor and Iron Man could do to a forest if they got a little rambunctious? (Boys!) Let's just say Mother Nature is still pissed.

3. A Reality Reboot - The success of the summer blockbuster hinges on being able to make us forget we're normal. Most of us are under or over weight, too short to ride rides or too tall to have ceiling fans, afraid of heights, and kind of freaked out by live chickens. The blockbuster must take that away with the thrill of the improbable victory, the rush of fake situations so death defying someone probably really died trying to pull them off, and the scorching envy brought on by watching people too pretty to exist hooking up like it's their hobby.

Avengers - Simply put, if you don't walk out of the Avengers without at least thinking about trying to tip over a car or parkoring up the wall of the cinema like a Red Bull infused spider monkey, there's no spark of imagination left in your little black soul. For two hours you're so overwhelmed by the impawesome (impossible + awesome), there's just no way to accept our reality could be so sucky and boring. 

So that's the movie review: STOP READING THIS AND GO WATCH IT ALREADY!

As for what I don't expect from my summer blockbusters:

1. A proper schooling on the craft I've been chasing the last few years like some kind of obsessed Labrador.

If you're not familiar with Joss Whedon it probably just means you haven't watched TV in a couple of decades. Not calling you lame, just ... sheltered. 

His writing credits date back to the Rosanne show and include Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Toy Story, Speed, Angel, Firefly and most recently the horror movie hit, Cabin in the Woods. Suffice to say he's developed quite a lot of geek credit (like street credit, but with glasses and acne) over the years.

In fact, my use of the non-word 'sucky' above is a Whedonism. He likes to turn nouns into adjectives by adding a 'y'. Now you know why three generations of teens talk the way they do! 

Back to the Avengers. I mentioned all the explosions and cool visual stuff, right? Here's what's really going to blow you away if you're looking for it: The best scenes in the movie are dialogue heavy interactions between the various super folks.

When the characters speak, stuff happens. I'm not talking about visual stuff up on the screen kinds of stuff. I'm talking about the rusty old gears in my noggin turning kinds of stuff.

That's right, the true vehicle for the story isn't the action, it's the motivations of each character. What keeps your mind racing toward the next scene isn't what makes them super, but what makes them normal. 

Through razor sharp dialogue and not an ounce of wasted exposition, Whedon and his co-writers have crafted a master's course in how to keep a story moving and meaningful in spite of all the visual distractions. It truly is what makes the Avengers special.

I know I sometimes focus so much on what goes on in my stories from an action/doing standpoint that I often fail to utilize dialogue and exposition to its utmost. In fact, I'm going to go see the movie again and take some notes this time. 

I was having too much fun the first time to catch everything. :)

TOMORROW: I'll be interviewing the wonderful debut author, Alyson Burdet. Her novel, NIGHTFIRE, is full of vampire goodness! You know we'll have some fun, so I hope you'll stop back by to wish Alyson luck and check out her thoughts on writing and the beautiful madness it induces in us all. :)

Also, my primary computer is in the shop so I'm getting around to my blogs a little slower this week. I should have it back by tomorrow, and I'm looking forward to reading what you all have been up to. Until then: 



Words With Wings

Checking in to say I've been out of town for a few days, hence the crickets from my neck of the Interwebs. Also wanted to impart a little inspiration ...

I believe, as all writers probably do, that words are kinetic. They have energy in them because they are moving. A word isn't stagnant. It doesn't wait on a page to do something, but is set in motion by a writer.

Here are some moving words, and I hope they lift you up and set you free this weekend.


Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. ~ Ben Franklin 

Write only if you cannot live without writing. Write only what you alone can write. ~ Elie Wiesel

To be the kind of writer you want to be, you must first be the kind of thinker you want to be. ~ Ayn Rand

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. ~ Scott Adams

Drama, instead of telling us the whole of a man's life, must place him in such a situation, tie such a knot, that when it is untied, the whole man is visible. ~ Tolstoy

One must be drenched in words, literally soaked in them, to have the right ones form themselves into the proper pattern at the right moment. ~ Hart Crane