Thursday, July 27, 2017

Dump Your Info Dump: Info Dumps Part 2

by Rebecca Charlton

My children are blessed to have a gigantic toy room that’s far enough away from the main areas of the house that I rarely notice it. I don’t care what happens in there as long as the mess remains contained. However, once a year, we rent our house when there’s a large conference in town. On that blessed occasion, I enter the toy room for its annual cleaning.

I sent my children down first with the strict admonishment to make sure I could see the floor when I came in to clean. My youngest came up after fifteen minutes and declared the task complete. His brother wandered up a bit later and complained there “was nowhere left to put anything.”

I suspected this was an excuse for why the toy room would still be a disaster at my arrival. But I was wrong. My children had accumulated enough toys to overwhelm the many, many storage bins in the room. Every space overflowed with remnants of Happy Meals past and ancient, broken toys shoved aside rather than thrown out. We had duplicates of some toys. That’s right—our kids have so many toys that we’ve started re-purchasing things we’ve forgotten we bought earlier. 

There was no way anyone could sleep in that room. And no way was I letting strangers see what entitled monsters I must be raising amidst all that excess.

So mom went berserk. I pulled out all the broken toys, threw away the ones with missing pieces, and eliminated the McDonald’s graveyard (for collectors, our local DI is about to be a dream come true). I forced my children to prove that every abandoned piece belonged to a working toy set. They could keep only one bin of “treasures” without explanation. We even threw out stuffed animals and balls. Truly, my children may never recover. They’re currently taking applications for a new mother on the strict requirement that you also accept their “cool dad” who never makes them clean up the toy room.

For too many of us, our manuscripts are a bit like my children’s playroom. We amass this mound of treasure, built from every detail we hoarded as we carved out character and hewn the plot from the stone of imagination. Every scrap is carefully scraped into what we want to be the novel that sits next to Harry Potter in the book Hall of Fame.

Unfortunately, for most of us, we end up with this instead:

A trash pile. Full of details that drag the plot and leave our readers both confused and exhausted by the lengthy (and often irrelevant) prose.

There’s only one solution for messy rooms or messy manuscripts: Clean them up.

Here are a few tips for cleaning up your info dumps:

1. Evaluate your MS for info dumps. 

Where do you have large blocks of text that don’t describe the current action? Does your narrator describe everything in detail? Do you have a tendency to get lost in scenery and sensory detail? Find these spots and highlight them. Here’s an unfortunate one from a recent MS of mine:

She was so nervous she could die. Church culture felt foreign after two years of barely having time for sacrament meeting. Kat loved to film on Sunday. The world is so quiet, she said of Sunday mornings. Bea had dashed into a nearby ward on her tea break to grab the sacrament before rushing back to set in vain hope that nothing had broken. She hadn’t been to the temple except for weddings in way too long. The expiration date declared this trip was her last chance to attend before her recommend expired. Good timing there, at least. 

My CP noted, “Will this ever end?” Seemingly, it wouldn’t. The backstory drug on for two more paragraphs. So highlight these chunks and then figure out how to break up the info or parse it throughout the MS to stop your MS from turning into a garbage heap of irrelevant info.

2. Cut, cut, cut.

Accept the reality that most of your readers don’t really care about all that detail. Slice out anything that doesn’t inform the reader of plot or character—and then cut anything that does but will be shown through scenes and dialogue as the story progresses.

3. Keep it simple.

Do you need a touch of backstory? That’s okay. But keep it short and relevant. One sentence can say more than a 3-paragraph flashback. Here’s an example from my current MS where I needed to explain a relationship that has ended for my MC. It’s important to know who her ex-roommate was, but you don’t need to know their entire history.

Nic handed over the list of items Kat was convinced Bea had pilfered during their years as semi-roommates. Some of them were in a pile by the TV—the Doors vinyl, a few DVDs from their last girls’ movie night, and the wool pink pussy hat that Kat had left after the women’s march. But a few items required Bea to open marked boxes and see if she’d accidentally packed items she’d long-forgotten originally belonged to Kat.

4. Look for ways to show the info.

Is your character smart? Then show us that by letting the character be smart, not by telling us about past successes. Most of the time, info dumps become irrelevant through a well-told story. For character description, a well-structured scene that demonstrates character traits has more impact than a lengthy block of narrative.

5. Start your story earlier.

If you’re finding that every scene requires you to step back in time to explain something, maybe you started the story too late. You want to start your story where the present action has the most movement and interest. If that’s 3 months ago, start your story 3 months earlier.

So open up that MS with all the enthusiasm I showed for my boys’ disaster of a playroom. Do you need to do some spring cleaning? Then dig on in. Nothing feels as nice as a freshly renovated MS that thrills your readers and keeps your pace spic-and-span.

For more on information dumps see, Thinning Out the Backstory: Info Dumps Part 1.
Becca McCulloch is a wife, mother, professor, and writer but rarely in that order (if in any order at all). At night, she transitions from mild-mannered educator into mild-mannered artist, writing about LDS (Mormon) issues in a modern and complex world. In 2016, she won the Storymakers' First Chapter Contest/General Fiction category. Becca resides in Utah with her husband, 2 children, Great Dane, two cats, and a pesky, yet friendly raccoon that won't leave the outdoor shed. Her short story, A Fae One, was published in the 2017 LDS Beta Readers anthology: Mind Games.

Twitter: @WriterMcCulloch
Instagram: @WriterMcCulloch

Thursday, July 20, 2017

How to Turn Out a Good Book by the Seat of Your Pants

by Betsy Love

If you’re like me, then plotting is as frustrating as doing the backstroke in the middle of a mud puddle.

Everybody keeps telling me to plot my novels before I even sit down to write. I even read one book that claimed that she could convince me how to plot, even though I’m a pantser. I got excited. I could be converted. But by the time I got to the middle of her book, I got so overwhelmed that I almost froze, trying to wrap my head around her system.

In my quest to become a better writer, I had to embrace that some part of my personality just HATES the plotting process. I’ve taken some pointers from plotters and some from pantsers, and, I came up with these six steps for “plotting”—pantser style! 
  1. Decide on a story to tell. Is it an idea you dreamed about last night? A snippet from a story starter? An intriguing picture? Sometimes I’ll have a vague idea about a scenario and wonder what the outcome will be.
  2. Write down everything you know about the story—loosely plotting. You can change it as you go if you need to. Most importantly, you need to know how it’s going to end. If you know the ending of the story, it will drive everything thing you write to that point.
  3. Decide on a theme. Come up with that theme in one sentence. For Soulfire I had two—Stand for truth and righteousness at all times, and how would the Lord prepare the wife of a prophet? In The Penny Project, the theme is you love whom you serve.
  4. Write down your cast of characters, starting with your protagonist. Describe him/her including important details. Give your MC a huge character flaw which he/she will have to overcome by the end of the story. In my current WIP, my female character, Havala runs when confronted with difficult situations. Her love interest, Mehlo, is highly superstitious. In the end, she will have to stand up and fight. He will have to face his cultural values.
  5. Create your setting. Write down as much as you know about the environment, the political, spiritual, societal situation. Put your characters in situations where they will have to confront their flaws within the setting. This is called “world-building.” Even if you are writing real-world, contemporary fiction, you still need to decide where to place your characters and what the world looks like to them.
  6. Sit down and start writing. Enjoy the discovery while understanding your characters’ flaws, the theme, the setting, and the prospective ending.
A lot of writers will say you have to follow a precise formula. I’m here to tell you it’s okay not to. You can be organic in your writing. I happen to love where my characters take me. I love those aha moments when my characters take me to surprise places or events.

If you’re a pantser, what works for you?

Betsy Love loves hanging out with her husband and grandchildren. When not writing, she enjoys creating art in her prayer journal, gardening, and cooking, but mostly as a necessary evil because her family seems to think they need to eat. You can visit her blog at and jump into her brain. Some days she’s brilliant and other days she can barely dress herself. You can even sign up for her newsletter… she promises not to spam you. You can also follow her on Facebook—Betsy Love Author and Twitter @BetsyLoveAuthor.

StarBride Chronicles
Book One

With an impending murder charge, Giada must escape Earth before the Amahrian enforcers find her. Desperate, she accepts an offer to be a StarBride to a wealthy governor on another planet. What she didn’t account for was the handsome and irksome pilot whose only thoughts are about profits.
Captain Skyler Rohn can’t go back to Earth; he’s a wanted man, and needs money to prove his innocence. When a job offer comes in that pays handsomely to transport a StarBride, Skyler can’t resist. His ship damaged, Skyler’s only choice is to land on a habitable moon before their oxygen runs out.

If only Giada and Skyler had met before she had agreed to be another man’s wife.

“A sweet romantic tale with adorable characters for people who enjoy reading light space opera.” Katie Teller, author of the Amazon best-selling Kiya Trilogy

Thursday, July 13, 2017

How to Keep Your WIP Safe So You'll Never WannaCry

by Greg Scott

Your manuscript is done. Which is good, because your computer says the time is 4 o’clock. You squint, and it really does say AM. Did you really just spend the past twenty hours editing?

That explains the headache. And why you feel dizzy and your mind is mush. But it was all worth it. Your story is ready to publish.

You have at least twenty versions of your manuscript, along with story notes, scene pictures, sample descriptions, character back stories, and feedback from a boatload of beta readers.

Your friend who works in a corporate IT department taught you about backups the last time your hard drive died. You’re still not sure how he recovered your 20,000 vacation pictures, taxes from the past five years, and your electronic checkbook register, but he drilled into your head to keep good backups.

So now, you back up everything. In your last action before losing consciousness, you copy your finished work to that external hard drive and shut your computer down.

You’re earned some rest. But don’t get too comfortable.

By the time this post goes live in mid-July, 2017, hardly anyone will remember the WannaCry scare from mid-May, and its cousin, NotPetya, from late June. But a few of us IT pros will remember, because we know the world dodged a bullet. Most people call us geeks, but the truth is, we’re more like J.R.R. Tolkien’s Rangers of the North, guarding the Shire against malicious software invaders. And, just like Tolkien’s world, there aren’t enough of us. Which means everyone needs to take on a few tasks to help themselves.

In today’s internet, everyone is connected to everyone else and what seems like an isolated event on one side of the planet can cause havoc on the other side. WannaCry and NotPetya are great examples.

WannaCry started when the United States National Security Agency found a Microsoft Windows software vulnerability and stockpiled it. We call those zero days in the IT industry, meaning a bug that hasn’t seen day one of public disclosure and hasn’t been fixed yet. Sometimes, smart criminals find these and sell them. Sometimes, researchers find them and inform the product developers. In this case, the United States Federal Government found it—and didn’t tell anyone. Our tax dollars at work.

In early 2017, somebody stole all a bunch of secrets from the super-secret NSA, including the Microsoft vulnerability. A group calling itself the Shadow Brokers published it all. Microsoft—to its credit—made a patch available for the vulnerability in March, 2017. It’s a shame so many people never applied it.

On Thursday, May 11, somebody used that vulnerability to invade thousands of unpatched personal computers and launch a global ransomware attack. Ransomware—malicious software that scrambles every document to which your computer has access and offers to unscramble it all in return for an extortion payment. See my mini-seminar on ransomware at

By Friday, the attack shut down telephone service across Spain and hospital chains across England. If not for a quick-thinking security researcher who found and exploited a vulnerability with the malicious software, it would have hit millions of people, likely including members of this group.

NotPetya picked up where WannaCry left off and added a few more exploits. Most notable, the NotPetya authors compromised software updates from a popular Ukrainian tax and accounting software package named M.E.Doc. When M.E.Doc customers updated their software, they also unwittingly installed the NotPetya, payload, which scrambled their documents and shut down systems across Ukraine.

That should set off alarm bells. Pick your favorite software package—what would happen if somebody inserted a malicious payload in an update? Hint: it’s not good. If somebody can pollute a Ukrainian software update, they can do it anywhere. We’re all vulnerable.

What do we do about it?

To defend against ransomware, we need two things: Vigilance and good backups.

Vigilance includes everything we’ve heard over the years; don’t open email attachments, be careful about browsing websites, don’t fall for scams, keep antivirus signatures up to date. All that advice still applies. But we can do everything right and still get hammered when a trusted software vendor violates our trust. Check out my mini-seminar about trust on the Internet at

That’s where good backups come in. Most people think backing up to an external hard drive or maybe a cloud service is good enough. It’s not. Just ask the Tewksbury, MA. Police Department how well that worked out when a ransomware attack scrambled their computers and backups, forcing them to pay extortion money to criminals. Read the article at Always remember—if your computer can access it, so can malicious software inside your computer. Plan your backups accordingly.

At minimum, keep a rotation of external disks and change them once or twice per week. If one is scrambled, you’ll have another one still good. Clean malicious software off your computer before reconnecting it.

Even better, buy another computer. It has one job, to run backups. Set it up to reach across your home/small business network to your work computers and copy everything to an external hard drive or the cloud. Your work computers won’t have any access to your backups, so malicious software inside those computers won’t be able to find them. Protect your backup computer with a personal firewall in case somebody compromises any of your work computers and they start hunting for victims.

Keep good backups, out of any ransomware’s reach, and when somebody attacks you, instead of extending a credit card to pay for extortion, extend a middle finger and poke it in your attacker’s eye.

Finally, to learn more, see the resources I put together on my author website, at and my novel, “Bullseye Breach,” where the good guys find a way to fight back.

I think I’ll check my backups before I go back to editing my next WIP.

Greg Scott is a veteran of the tumultuous IT industry. After working as a consultant at Digital Equipment Corporation, a large computer company in its day, Scott branched out on his own in 1994 and started Scott Consulting. A larger firm bought Scott Consulting in 1999, just as the dot com bust devastated the IT Service industry. Scott went out on his own again in late 1999 and started Infrasupport Corporation, this time with a laser focus on infrastructure and security. In late summer, 2015, after “Bullseye Breach” was published, he accepted a job offer with an enterprise software company.

He currently lives in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area with wife, daughter, and two grandchildren. He holds several IT industry certifications, including CISSP number 358671.

Scott graduated from Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana, in 1979 with a double major of math and speech. He earned an MBA from the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis in 1996.

In the 1990s, he wrote a popular column on the back page of IT industry publication ENT Magazine titled, “NT Heartland,” and another column in Enterprise Linux Magazine titled, “Converts Corner.”

Inspired by The Goal, by Eliyahu Goldratt, a business textbook disguised as a fiction story about the resurgence of a rundown factory, Scott decided to write what would become Bullseye Breach after becoming frustrated from too many sensational headlines about preventable data breaches.

Bullseye Breach

When Minneapolis area IT consultant, Jerry Barkley, buys a box of cereal at a local Bullseye store and pays for it with a credit card, he becomes one of forty million credit card fraud victims. But, unlike most other victims, Jerry finds himself in a position to do something about it. The Russian crooks who stole all those credit card numbers will regret tangling with the wrong victim by the time Jerry and his team get done.

Bullseye Breach is a cyber-security educational book, disguised as fiction. Enjoy the fiction and learn how security breaches unfold at your business and what you can do about them.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Starting On The Road To Publication

By Jessica Guernsey

So you’re ready to start submitting to agents and publishers? Fantastic! It is an amazing accomplishment, having a completed manuscript, all bright and shiny. Stuff of dreams, my friend.

But before you hit send on that heart-felt query letter, let’s have a discussion. See, I read those manuscripts you submit. You could say I’m a threshold guardian, if you follow the hero’s journey. Or if you’re a gamer, I’m one of your first boss fights on the way to publication. I work for the publisher. But these same guidelines apply to most agents. They have assistants and slush pile readers just like me that filter the submissions. So let me help you with a few guide signs on your road to publication.

1.    Keep the path smooth and do not submit a rough draft. You may not get a second chance to get their eyes on this, so make sure it’s the best possible story. Get another set of eyes on it to check for grammar, spelling, punctuation (the boring stuff, I know, but can be a deal breaker). Read it outloud to make sure the flow is right. Edit. Then edit again. I’ve heard plenty of would-be writers say “That’s the editor’s job!” Wrong. You are an untried, unproven debut novelist. Companies are not going to spend extra cash editing simple spelling errors. Fix the little mistakes like you’d clean off your windshield.

2.    Know your agents like you know your destination on any trip. Use their full name (always a good policy unless directed otherwise) and double check the spelling. Do not address a query “To Whom It May Concern” or something cleverly ambiguous. I’ve talked to a dozen agents at conferences and such. This is a universal request. If you’re submitting to a publisher, find out the name of the Submission Editor and address the query to them. Along with their name, know what they’re looking for. If you wrote an amazing werewolf and vampire love triangle, but your dream agent says no paranormal romances, then don’t submit to them. Maybe the perfect publisher’s website asks that all submissions are rated no higher than a PG, kid-friendly level, then your manuscript should be clean, too. If they’re looking to expand, they’ll ask for it.

3.   Just like earning your learner’s permit, you need to follow the rules. If their websites lists specific guidelines for font, spacing, margins, etc., they are there for a reason.  If you really love that super awesome font you found and it totally fits your story, great. Bring that up after your manuscript gets approval. You may be a special little ray of sunshine, just like mommy always said, but the agents and publishers don’t know you or your mother. If you choose not to follow their guidelines, you are sending a very clear message to the prospective agent/publisher: You are difficult to work with. And most of the time, agents and publishers will reject the book without looking at it if you don’t follow directions. Plain and simple.

4.    Don’t speed; have patience along the road. There’s an awful lot of waiting involved. Nudging an agent about your manuscript can be a tricky thing. If it’s past the length of time as stated on their website (which be be anywhere from three weeks to six months) then you can send a brief email asking about your manuscript. Do not resubmit the entire thing. It may be stated on their website that no response means no, then follow-up is not necessary. If you have another offer and you’d really like to see what this person has to say before accepting, you can also contact them. Never, ever lie or mislead them about those other offers, though. But patience is essential here. I once got a manuscript request two minutes after sending a query, but mostly I heard crickets. My agent friend gets a dozen submissions a day and only has a few hours each week to read through them.

5.    Keep on driving. Don’t give up. Rejection letters are worse than flat tires in a snowstorm, but they aren’t the end of the road. So when one of those arrives, take a minute and throw yourself your own special pity party. But only for a minute. Get back to work. Look up different agents and publishing houses. Redraw your map. You might be tempted to respond to the rejection. Please don’t. Even if you intend to be polite. Do not ask for a reason why your book was rejected. If the agent/publisher felt it warranted such, they would have provided feedback. Not all have the time or inclination. The publishing world is a small place. Don’t make the road rougher for yourself.

If I’m sticking with the road metaphor, there are plenty of other instruction manuals out there that will tell you all about how to make your manuscript into the best possible vehicle to get you to publication. The hardest part for most people is getting on the path, starting the querying process, but you can’t finish if you never begin. To totally appropriate a popular saying for my theme: The journey of a thousand published books starts with that first query letter. Be brave. Put on a coat of wax, fill up the tank, and take that baby on the road.
Jessica Guernsey writes Urban Fantasy novels and short stories. A BYU alumna with a degree in Journalism, her work is published in magazines and anthologies. She is a manuscript evaluator for Covenant Communications and slush pile reader for Shadow Mountain, along with providing freelance feedback. Frequently, she can be found at writing conferences and isn’t difficult to spot. Just look for the extrovert with purple hair.

While she spent her teenage angst in Texas, she currently lives on a mountain in Utah with her husband, three kids, and a codependent mini schnauzer. Connect with her on Twitter @JessGuernsey

Thursday, June 29, 2017

In the Face of Rejection

by Ramon Ballard

Happiness can exist only in acceptance.
                              -George Orwell

We must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope.
                                                               -Martin Luther King, Jr.

As I write this, another in a long line of form rejections gracefully falls into my printer’s tray, with a soul-shattering thud. Once again, an agent that showed so much promise, in the beginning, has proven that she does not share my dream. This agent seduced me with her website as she beckoned me to her with, “this agent is actively building her clients.” How many times have I fallen for that come-hither, mesmerizing, “this agent represents middle-grade,” hypnotizing stare?

It would seem that lessons would have been learned by now. How do we as writers accept getting knocked on our butts and keep coming back for more? Is it easy for us to see our dreams be dismissed subjectively? How many of us would stop associating with friends that told us that we just didn’t fit in or were just not right. It is something we, as wannabe authors, face on a daily basis, or in some cases, we face rejection three or four times a day.

Every one of us goes to our email countless times each day, searching for that solitary positive response to our query, coming back empty handed more times than not. We click our inbox closed with our “new no news is good news attitude.” We read, with interest, what other writers say about their queries, and how agent X rejected them, a partial nano-second after they hit send. We wonder why a particular agent has responded to a particular writer when the same agent has had your query for months without a response.

Well, guess what? Rejection is the cold, hard fact of the ruthless publishing business. The sooner we accept that 9 out of 10, and sometimes 99 out of 100 queries will be rejected or ignored is all a part of the game and never personal, the sooner we can move on. It’s hard to accept rejection after rejection, after rejection, but we must accept. Literary Agents do not sit in their offices and choose whose dream to crumble today. Accept that, before a flower can grow, there needs to be rain, or in my case monsoons.

Each one of us is a dreamer. We all chase our own individual rainbow. We all love what we do; writing is a passion for most of us. There is a price we all must pay for our dreams. Rainbows are never free. Hope is the price we pay; it’s what gets us through to the next query. There is no doubt we hope our next query is our last query. Without hope, there would be no literature.

I have always been a dreamer; I have never given up hope that my dreams will someday be the dreams of the perfect agent. Or perfect book deal.

Give me the patience to accept that which I cannot change, and the courage to hope for my place in the stars.

Never give up. Accept failure with the determination to get it better the next time. Dream the impossible dream, and wish on the evening star.

One day soon, you’ll walk past a reader with their nose in a book and smile and say, “That’s me they’re reading.”

I was invisible throughout my schooldays (due to my shyness). I had the lonely child’s habit of making up stories and holding conversations with imaginary persons. Invisibility has definite advantages, especially when combined with a vivid imagination. I created magical, fantasy worlds with magical inhabitants, which I told to my imaginary friends.

Time does not stand still. Fantasy worlds evolve into mundane, everyday life. As I grew older, my whimsical travels to far off places diminished, and my invisibility slowly faded into visibility. Once I had children, I would tell them the stories that only my imaginary friends knew.

Years passed. One failed marriage became two. I found and married my one true love and began my happily ever after. Happiness has certain side effects my creativity yearned to shine. The imaginary world refused to be silenced; they demanded to be heard.

108-year-old Horace Chance has lived through tragedy. His first wife is murdered over a loaf of bread during the Depression to his son’s selfless sacrifice at Pearl Harbor. The loss of his grandson in Viet Nam followed by the death of his granddaughter to an overdose only worsened the pain. After he loses his great-granddaughter to an act of terrorism on 9-11 makes him the last Chance. He decides to give an exclusive interview to Bill Jones, a reporter for The Jeffersonian Magazine, who is doing a human-interest story about survivor’s families. To start the interview Horace claims to learn about Emily. He needs to start at the beginning. 

Born in South Carolina, the son of a racial bigot his heritage taught Horace value of his white skin, because a black-skinned person was not equal to him, and could never amount to anything. Never, that is, until he heard a black piano named Scott Joplin to play the piano at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. The Last Chance shows all the true opportunities that are the future heritage of America. 

Horace Chance’s life reflects the influences of lost friends that have brightened his journey. Whether it be a couple of bicycle shop owners from Ohio that teach him all about flight, his short career playing the National Pastime, friends that changed our musical theater, or a chance meeting with a champion of civil rights. But what is his legacy?

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Never Trust Your Spell Checker

by John M Olsen 

My interest in writing about homophones started when someone complained about mistaking grizzly for grisly on Facebook. It soon escalated as people chimed in with their own favorite homophone errors. (Words that sound alike, but with different meanings and spellings.) It’s a sad truth that a typical manuscript will contain an unknown number of words that aren’t the one you meant to use. The tough part is when your favorite spell checker or grammar checker looks at it, sees real words, and runs happily on its way leaving you in a minefield of errors.

Never blindly trust your tools. They will betray you at the drop of a hat. Take for instance my parenthetical statement above. I wrote “a like” first before correcting it to “alike.” Some tools will catch that. Others won't. That leaves us needing to know the difference on our own if we want your writing to be clear and correct. I once sent out a resume with the word "internet" replaced with "interment." The  spell checker thought it looked just fine. The funny part is that I got that job anyway.

Writing English can be a big challenge for some, native speaker or not, and these beasties are a big reason it's sometimes hard to write the right word.

In the interest of enlightenment (and giving me a chance to vent), I've gathered a few homophone errors for your perusal. There are two categories.

Not a Word

·       "alot": Not a word. You probably mean "a lot": Many things, or a grouping of things, or a piece of ground to build a house on. You might in rare cases mean "allot": To distribute or assign. You
wouldn't write "alittle" (I hope), so don't write "alot". You can allot a lot of little lots lots of times.
·       Walla”: Unless you’re talking about half the name of a town in Washington State, you
probably mean the French word “voila.” It’s a synonym of “lookiewhat I just did.”

Wrong Word (in random-ish order)

·       "grisly": Gory. "grizzly": a kind of bear. I included this one because it was what started the whole discussion on facebook. That headless fish is a grisly  prize in the grizzly's maw.
·       "awhile": An adverb. "a while": A noun phrase. If it doesn't work replacing it with "for a short time", then use "a while." In a while, stand there awhile. Sometimes they're interchangeable, but it may change what the sentence means in subtle ways. This one is tricky. I hope you have a good editor.
·       "aloud": The process of not being done quietly. "a loud": An adjective describing the state of something. A loudspeaker reproduced a noise that a loud speaker at the microphone didn't intend to make aloud.
·       "board": A piece of wood, or to climb onto something. Usually. "bored": Nothing to do. I'm so bored I'll board this door up. Yeah, I cheated and verbed the noun because it's allowed in this case.
·       "brake": Something used to stop movement. "break": to come apart, or a time to rest for a spell. If the brakes fail during your break, the car will roll away and break that wall.
·       "led": To be taken somewhere. "lead": Present tense of "led," or to be in charge, or a metal on the periodic table, or the first of something, or a clue. Maybe this is not the word you want if it’s not obvious from context. He led me to the lead paint as the lead item on his leads list.
·       "lose": To not win, or to misplace. "loose": not held in place. Don't lose loose buttons.
·       "than": A comparison. "then": used to order in time. He was taller than her, then he grew.
·       "write": To put words on paper. "right": To be correct. "rite": A ceremony. Write the right rite. (Put the correct ceremony on paper.) -or- Write the rite right. (Put the ceremony on paper without errors.) Write wrong and your editor will have to rewrite it right.
·       "baited": To have bait on it, like a fish hook. "bated": stopped or reduced. I waited with bated breath as he baited the hook with a worm. Baited breath happens when you eat worms.
·       "peek": To look surreptitiously. "peak": a high point. "pique": To irritate, or stimulate curiosity. I peeked at the peak of his head to pique his interest.
·       "stationary": Not moving. "stationery": Writing paper. The stationery was stationary until I moved it, but it was still stationery as it moved.
·       "there": A place. "their": Denotes ownership. "they're": a contraction of "they are." Their friends are over there where they're arguing over homophones.
·       "stanch": Stop the flow of blood from a wound. :"staunch": Loyal or committed. The staunch fist fighter stanched the flow of blood from his nose.

In Summary

One fun thing about homophones is that they can work merry mischief when a book goes to audio. Something that's perfectly clear in print may be a jumbled mass of similar-sounding words, as you can see by some of my contrived examples. Be extra careful out there if you think your writing might ever be read aloud. Hint: Read your writing aloud.

I found some of my favorite homophone errors on other lists on the internet. Here are two my sources:

There are more troublesome words that tickle the back of my mind from time to time. I have a post on my blog covering homophones as well, so I may add others when they rear their ugly heads. Send your worst to me at and I’ll add them to my blog entry.

Mad scientist and gentleman, John M Olsen wanders through fantasy, science-fiction, steampunk, and horror as the mood strikes. He also loves to work in his woodshop/laboratory and once built a ukulele from scratch. He is still working on a death ray and has prepared extensively for anyone foolish enough to interfere.
His interest in writing is due to his father’s extensive fantasy and science fiction collection, which he devoured during his teen years—the books, not his father. He has since inherited that formidable collection and merged it with his own growing library.

He has published fiction in multiple genres and has contributed chapters to several books on computer graphics and computer game design.

He lives in a secret lair deep in the Rocky Mountains—or maybe the suburbs of Salt Lake City—with his lovely wife and a variable number of mostly grown children, and a constantly changing subset of extended family.

Bring your goggles and see all his mad scientist ramblings on his blog.

His novel “Crystal King” will be released this summer through Immortal Works. He also has several short stories out in anthologies.

Apocalypse Utah, an anthology of the Utah Horror Writers Association, contains his story “Time to Think,” with the feel of a Twilight Zone episode.

While experimenting to increase the speed of thought, Dr. Nagana’s experiment goes wrong. His effort to understand what failed is overshadowed by consequences as he races to stop the experiment.

Steel & Bone, Nine Steampunk Adventures, contains John’s story  “Revolutionary.”

Captain Phineas Grovesley, an airship captain saves his crew in a terrible storm, but crashes on an island floating in the sky. The advanced people there rescue him and repair his broken body, but they expect a lot more than he is willing to give.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

How to Use a Series Bible to Organize Your Writing

By C. Michelle Jefferies

I write parallel novels.

Which means that I have books with the same characters in different POV positions throughout the stories. Which means in the long run, things got messy fast. Which book(s) did this character appear in, and were they a POV or secondary, and when did they show up? I could probably add to this list of questions, but you get the gist.

In the early days, it was easy. I only had two books and knew or remembered pretty much every detail. Then as time passed, the number of books grew and my memory wasn’t keeping up with the details. And writing and double checking became frustrating and a chore.

Enter some writer’s conference somewhere in my early writing career, where someone mentioned the words book bible. I want to think that it was J Scott Savage who was mentioned, or that he mentioned it himself. But the word pinged something in me. A book dedicated to a book? Fascinating. Within days I had bought a little spiral bound lined journal and started to shove stuff in it.

Did it work? Yes. Was it effective? Not really.

The spiral bound pages would tear out, and it quickly became too small for what I needed it for. A series.

So, enter the pink monster. A thread bound, bigger book in pink.

This time I actually thought about what I needed out of it instead of just slapping things in it. I sat down with printed pictures and notes, supplied myself with paper cutters, glue sticks and pens. And finally in an effort to organize, I took just regular tape and folded a piece over the edge of the paper at the beginning of each new section and wrote what each section was on the tape.

As for what is inside, here is what’s in mine.

I have lots of characters in my speculative fiction, (lots) so the character section of the book is fairly large. Most of the story setting is isolated around one spot so I only needed a few pages for maps, but added a few pages for off-site notes and floor plans for houses that were commonly used. (did he turn left and go downstairs to the family room, or upstairs?) 

I added a section of about 10 pages for each of the five books that I could keep separate from the general notes. This was where I put book specific things like structure notes as well as my chapter outlines.

With the basics done, I left the rest of the pages open for just basic notes. Before I had notes on my iPad, I used to email notes to myself and my critique partner and then print them off and glue them in the end of the bible. This is also where I put quotes I like, and story ideas for future stories that go with the characters.

None of this is set in stone for me either. For example, my YA coming of age story is about two characters who travel their world. (Granted they do meet other people but it is in passing.) This series bible has a very small character section in contrast to the pink monster. But, a huge setting section. The series is only three books instead of five so the individual book sections is smaller with the book specific notes and structure outlines.

Another book which is urban fantasy has only a handful of characters we see again but meet several other species as they go. So the main character section is small but the secondary character section is rather large. The setting is small again because most things happen in one city. A YA idea in the same world is in a school and the character section in that one is bigger.

I probably have about seven bibles now for different universes but I have also added a few bibles that are unique and necessary for me. One is my name bible. Every name from every story is in this book. If in doubt, I can go to this book and look it up. (rather than search seven different series bibles.) That way there’s no overlapping of names, misspellings or forgetting of names, especially when I have Polynesian and Japanese names. Another one is everything I know about the elemental magic in one of the series. This book I want to eventually publish as an addendum because the info is cool and I mention an elemental guide in the series. Another is a small pocket monster and place guide for that YA coming of age. It will also be eventually published as a field guide/companion book. I have toyed with an idea for a secret agent/rules of engagement book as well and that would also become a notebook as well. The last one is a food and recipe guide book. I am a foodie, I love food and use it on my books often. I will publish a recipe book from my characters world as well once the series is finished.

Yes, I know that seems like a lot, but when I usually only draft in one series at a time and maybe edit in another it only requires me to travel with one or maybe two bibles. And yes pen on paper seems old school. And it is. But, I’ve lost enough digital information on accident that the hard copy version feels more secure. Keep in mind that every version of series bible I own and use, can be done digitally. Scrivener, Pinterest, any note program on your phone or tablet. Even using hashtags in Facebook can give you some sort of traceable idea deposit source. Not only is hard copy more secure to me, but, I think differently when I put pen to paper. It’s a different process for me, deeper and more thorough. I get more out of it when I go old school. 

Hope you enjoy this, and go out there, and start making bibles to keep you organized. 

C. Michelle Jefferies is a writer who believes that the way to examine our souls is to explore the deep and dark as well as the shallow. To manipulate words in a way that makes a person think and maybe even second guess. Her worlds include suspense, urban fantasy, and an occasional twist of steampunk. When she is not writing, she can be found on the yoga mat, hand binding journals, dyeing cloth, and serving ginger tea. The author and creator divides her time between stories, projects, and mothering four of her seven children on the wild and windy plains of Wyoming.


Living an unassuming life as a teacher for the Academy, the former assassin, Antony Danic, turned Speaker for the Devoted, would love to let the past stay there. However, as hard as he tries, his new identity, Noble Standing, can’t escape who Antony was. The widower, turned self-avowed bachelor doesn’t mean to fall for the red-headed sword instructor, Lyris Jaimes. Noble insists he’s better off single, but he is drawn to her in spite of his memories of Elite. Noble finds that courting her, however, isn’t easy. His interest in Lyris sets into motion a rivalry between him and a dangerous sociopath who wants her for himself. 

Regardless of the vow he made to never shed human blood again, Noble must reconcile his past with his present, and use his assassin skills and knowledge to keep himself and those he loves alive.

This book is, Emergence, revisited. Same story, different approach. 

From the moment an unknown operative delivers a death threat directed at hit man Antony Danic’s wife, the game changes. For years he has operated under the assumption that as long as he toes the line and completes his assignments, everything will be fine. However, it’s not just his life at risk now, it’s hers as well. And that is not okay with him. 

As he works, it becomes evident the corporation that employs him is maneuvering in a much more dangerous arena than he ever imagined, and he is a pawn. Bound by a lifelong contract that might as well be signed in his own blood, the atheist assassin scrambles to keep his wife safe. 

When his handler tells him to kill a man Antony knows is innocent, he has a decision to make. Do what is expected of him—or go rogue and risk it all. Even if it drags him through a hell he doesn’t believe in.

With the wedding just weeks away, new complications plague Noble as Head Elder. Some of the parishes are asking for his resignation and excommunication. And, somebody still wants him dead. His assassin skills help him evade an attempt on his life, but his escape leads him to a face-to-face with a person from his past. Someone who forces Noble to question his loyalty, and vows he’s made. As tensions continue to rise between Noble and the Ruling Council, the Head Elder is desperate for some middle ground. He is willing to compromise some freedom in exchange for safety. But, will it be enough? 
Amidst all of the chaos, Noble must learn to rely on his friends and council as well as his instincts to survive his calling, work, and family life.