Sunday, December 2, 2012

PLATFORM by Michael Hyatt

If you're wondering about the how-to of marketing an existing or upcoming book or just yourself as an author, the expert to check out is Michael Hyatt.
He was the keynote speaker for the American Christian Fiction Writers conference in September and shared many of his ideas from his latest book. Eager to market my first book, I purchased one immediately and dug into it as soon as I got home.

Wow, was it worth the money. I love his sub-title "Get Noticed in a Noisy World." None of us doubt, social media has taken over our computers. Many sites vie for our time and attention. My friend, Sue Watson, recently told me that mine was the only blog she looked at because she just didn't have time for them. Another friend, Mary Beth Lee, indicated that if she wasn't careful, reading all the blogs kept her from her writing. Others, like two of my comrades on this group blog, Debra Calloway and Stephanie Gallentine find themselves pressured by job and family obligations with no time to keep up online. Michael Hyatt called it correctly, a "noisy world."
How do we stand out? Hyatt answered many of my questions. I will be referring back to the book for further advice from time to time which makes it imperative to possess our own copies to keep on hand.

As a brand new tweeter, my first question was how often should I post on Twitter. Hyatt answers me on page. 174 of Platform. He explains not with just a number, but with personal examples and experiences. Second, how can I increase my blog traffic? Chapter 35 of Platform gives specifics.

Dreaming/goal setting? Platform begins with that.
Inspiration? Platform overflows with that.
Practical advice? Micahel Hyatt knows what he knows by doing it himself.
Means to stay legal? It's in there.
Suggestions? Well, suffice to say, I just discovered something I marked that I'd forgotten about when I read the book the first time. On page 225-227, Hyatt lists super blog ideas. Okay, Michael, I'm starting my who-to-e-mail-to-get-for-a-guest-blog list, thanks to rereading your book.

I recommend all BookstoWriteby viewers, if you haven't purchased this book, rush out and get it now, or go over to Amazon. Hey, you might even want to order it overnight.

Anyone else out there that's used this book?

Will you allow a busy writer to include my own books to this post? I'm trying to build my platorm. Okay?

This is my latest and my only non-fiction. Pen-L Publishing released it 12/1, in time for Christmas presents. It starts with a devotion on January 1.

To purchase, go to

This is my inspirational, paranormal young adult released by 4RV Publishing in July, 2012. This would make a great Christmas present for a 12-17 year old girl.

To purchase it, go to

Thanks, Moonine Sue, Debra, and Stephanie, my co-authors of this BookstoWriteby blog for allowing me some shameless self promotion. God bless you.

Sunday, September 30, 2012


Subplots and extra layers can be dropped and forgotten as writers rush to bring all threads together, especially the main story plot. A dress mentioned in chapter two and brought up again in chapter six must have signficance in chapter twenty-one, or thereabouts. A reader requires satisfaction in bringing together two secondary characters drawn to each other in chapter eight. We want to discover there's a new romance in the works before we close the book.
The picture shows the rough beginnings of my work-in-progress. I purchased an inexpensive poster board and a bunch of different color post-it notes. That's it. I am now going back over it with pastel colors to mark four distinct subplots. Surprise, surprise, I had left two teens hanging with no romantic conclusion, but thanks be to storyboarding, I discovered the error in time to change things.

I remember lessons best by writing acrostics. Here's what I came up with to show the benefits or steps for storyboarding.

S Satisfaction in all subplots

T Threads that we mustn't drop

O Outlines whole manuscript in one swoop

R Rectifys errors in plotting

Y Yardstick to measure how many times something is mentioned.

B Boosts your ability to write an enjoyable read.

O Organizes your millions of notes

A Affixes small forgotten items that should be mentioned again

R Rambling is something we writers don't want to do

D Design blossoms on a big board.

I I love it!

N Novel tracking a new way

G Gallery of story pictures

This can be used when you begin a novel to keep you on target, or when you near
the end, the big board can point out errors or problems in plotting that you can correct.

I first learned about storyboarding when I took an online course from Shayla Black (aka Shelley Bradley). Find an earlier post about the course.

My simple mind couldn't take in everything she taught, but one thing I concluded from her instruction. I'm a visual person. A board with different colors offers me a visual image of what I've included and what's left out of my plot.

HAPPY STORYBOARDING and HAPPY WRITING from the books to write by gang.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

"Victoria's Ghost" by Janet K. Brown, Sharing the Journey

I just finished reading Victoria's Ghost written by my friend and fellow blogger, Janet K. Brown. I was privileged, along with other members of this blog, to observe the growth of this book from the germ of an idea to a completed project. Sharing the journey with Janet began with her detailing her ideas for the story. I was excited because some older members of my Bible Study had lived in that community growing up when it was a booming oil-producing town. Debra and Stephanie were excited because it was going to be a Youth Adult, which both of their teenagers like to read. We read each chapter she either posted online or brought to our monthly critique meetings where we share our current works. I was fortunate enough to attend the Oklahoma Federation of Writers Conference in Oklahoma City with her when she was asked to submit her finished manuscript. She has shared her adventures of getting the call, marketing, polishing the final copy after editor suggestions, and the arrival of the actual book in the mail. We've celebrated each step of the way. We are thrilled to share this experience with Janet. It was such a pleasure to read the published copy of the book we had all grown to love as we cheered for Janet on her road to publication. Congratulations seems a hollow word to express my own excitement at Janet's success. Her hard work and perseverance in seeking and securing publication of her first book is a well-earned reward. Way to go, Janet. I'm proud of you. Not one to rest on her laurels, she is hard at work on the story of another teen-ager who lives in the Clara Community. I can't wait to read it. Purchase her book and enjoy Victoria's adventures at Clara Cemetery. You'll be glad you did.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Author Interview with Janet K. Brown

Today, I'd like to welcome our own local "Books To Write By" Blogger, Janet K. Brown. Her young adult novel, Victoria and the Ghost, debuts this month on Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, and

When her mother leaves the family to become a Dallas trophy wife, Victoria's dad moves her and her sister to a North Texas farm to herd cattle and raise chickens. Refusing to believe this is more than a temporary set-back, Victoria tries to make new friends which isn't an easy task. The first one stabs her in the back with gossip and a sharp tongue. Meanwhile, her new stepsister takes Victoria's place in her mother's heart. Rejection and anger stalk Victoria like a rattlesnake in the cemetery. Good thing she makes friends with a ghost and through him, a good-looking teenaged cowboy.

Wow! Sounds like an interesting book. I can't wait to read it!

So, can you tell a little about yourself?

My husband and I live in Wichita Falls, Texas. We love to travel with our RV. He is my sweetheart and my best friend. I have three beautiful grown daughters, two great sons-in-law and three perfect grandchildren. I sing God's praises for the emotional healing He gave me nineteen years ago. I enjoy reading, traveling, line dancing, Bible studies, and lunch with my friends.

Can you share with us a little bit about your writing journey?

Writing has always been a big part of my life, but when I retired from my medical secretary's job six years ago, God led me to see it as a ministry. I first sold short stories for both teens and adults. Though I've completed seven books to date, Victoria and the Ghost is the first to be published. I praise Him for allowing me to do something I love that also, I hope, brings glory to Him.

Seven completed novels? Wow! Sounds like you really persevered as you grew in your writing. Did you ever feel like giving up?

Three years ago, I was obsessed with being published. Since I'm older, I saw my time running out for the opportunity. Rejections came faster than I could file them away. I fell into a pity party with only one guest.

Well, I think we can all relate to that feeling. How did you press through?

God set me down and told me, "I don't want you to write anymore, at all." I obeyed, though my heart broke. I spent three months with no writing, no editing, nothing. During this time, God walked with me. He became more dear—far greater than any by-line that I envisioned on a book.

God spoke to my heart one day of a story He wanted me to write. I started writing again, but the obsession had lifted. God showed me when I put Him first, He gives me the desires of my heart.

Ahh… words we could all live by… So, is that where the idea for this story came, or did God bring to mind an earlier idea?

I moved to Wichita Falls from Dallas where I was born and raised. A few years after we moved, my husband and I came upon the ghost town of Clara, Texas, just northwest of town. We walked among the tombstones. The area captured my interest. I read a lot about it, including the legend of Colonel Specht's ghost.

When my granddaughter, Victoria, (her real name), reached the rebellious teen stage, and her single mom couldn't seem to do anything right, God brought the story to my mind of a girl that really faces rejection and isolation in her teens. What would happen if this poor unhappy teen met a ghost who lived on with a sad heart?

The story floated in and out of my mind for years, but my demanding job gave me little time to get it on paper. I finally did now years later, and it became the first one to sell.

How do you feel this book will encourage young adults /adults, or did you have something in mind like this when you wrote it?

I don't know that I had it in mind when I started the story, but somewhere along the way, I saw the struggles of teenagers around me to make sense of things that happen in their lives. Divorce is a normal factor for many of them. Often, they process that as rejection. Especially in big cities like Dallas, teens fight the superficial aspects of name brand tennis shoes and the latest fad. I wanted to tell them there are more important things.

Thanks so much, Janet, for being with us today. We wish you great success with your book. If anyone would like to connect with Janet Brown below you will find links to her online.

Contact: website
Here is the link where the book can be preordered right now:
By July 25, you can find Victoria and the Ghost on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and through book stores.


Monday, May 7, 2012

Conferences/ Why should you go?

This past weekend I attended the Oklahoma Writers Federation conference in Oklahoma City with fellow "Books to Write" contributor, Janet Brown. We attended last year and found it beneficial.

Conferences are a good way in several ways. Going to a conference enables you to meet and network with other people who love the written word. Attending workshops and sharing meals with new people gives you an opportunity to ask questions and hear about their writing experiences. Business cards with important information are exchanged. Email allows you to keep in touch with your new friends.

The workshops provided at each conference are planned so that attendees can find topics that will help them further their knowledge of the writing world. Authors, editors, and agents willingly give pointers that help writers become more proficient in their careers. Handouts along with your notes can be studied later at home.

Contests are often a part of the conference. You can read the guidelines and decide if your work is ready to be viewed by others. Check to see that your will receive feedback from the contest. Many contests feature editors and agents as your final judges, which could result in a contract.

Appointments with editors and agents are offered by most conferences. These appointments provide an opportunity to pitch your work for possible publication.

Check our available conferences with other writers. Ones sponsored by the writers' organizations you belong to are especially aimed at your interests. Pick one that meets your needs and start saving money. Believe me you will be glad you did. Last year my friend secured a contract for a book, and I had an article published in a magazine. Maybe I'll see you at the next conference.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Shaken to the Core by Marjorie Parker

I (Debra) have had the pleasure of meeting a North Texas author who is known for her children’s books, but has recently published a devotional book for adults which I found unique, helpful, and beautiful. It’s kinda amusing the way we became acquainted with each other. For years now, the lady who does our taxes has been trying to get me to call this author because our tax lady felt the author could help get me published. Unfortunately, that’s not the way the industry works, so I never did call. However, this year as I sat down to do my taxes, I saw this beautiful devotional book on our tax lady’s desk.

As I flipped through the pages, I was in awe. This beautiful book targets an audience needing hope and comfort for troubled times. The devotional also has segments which draw upon a physical therapist’s insights. There are powerful personal stories and timeless truths from the Bible, these devotions for troubled times offer hope and comfort. Tying body and soul together in a unique way, each devotion contains spiritual workouts as well as gentle exercises and stretches for those able to perform them.

So, I decided to call this author and had a delightful conversation with her. This led to me requesting an interview with her. She readily agreed.

Interview with Marjorie Parker

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

            I grew up in Fort Worth, Texas, and loved writing from the time I was very young.  My neighborhood friends and I created a newspaper we called “The Crestwood Poop,” and we gathered news from neighbors, typed it (longest story was probably 5 lines) and then sold it door to door for 10 cents.  We had a blast.

             I come from a long line of writers, starting with my great-grandmother.  My mom said that as a very young child I told her, “I like it when I hear the clack-ity-clack of your typewriter, because then I know you’re happy.” Mom was often in her home office typing a story or writing on a book about her adventures as a Women’s Airforce Service Pilot (WASP) in WWII. (She finally got that book published when she was 70!)  Mom taught me all I know about writing, along with the teachers in high school that took an interest in me and my Texas Tech journalism professors. To graduate with a journalism degree, I was required to have a story published in a slick magazine, which I did, and to serve as newspaper intern, which I did at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.  (I probably learned one of the most important things for a writer at the Star-Telegram – they forced me to think at the typewriter instead of writing in longhand and transposing to type.  That was invaluable later.)  

            Then when I married Joe and moved to the country to his family’s ranch (we were on the banks of the Red River – beautiful, and remote!), I sold my first fiction about a fire we had on the ranch (in the Country Gentleman magazine).  I also became a part-time feature writer and columnist for the Wichita Falls Times/Record News.  I retired from the paper and started free-lance writing after our daughters were born, and wrote some children’s stories in my free time.  I had many, many rejections!  But my ever-encouraging Mom said, “The difference in being a writer and being an author is keeping on keeping on until you finally get published.”  Standard Publishing finally gave me my start, accepting my devotional book “Fun Devotions for Kids,” then another, “Jellyfish Can’t Swim,” then two stories for an anthology, “God is On Your Side.”  I was really on a roll until my editor got promoted to another area, and the new editor never took another thing from me!

What do you find most challenging about writing?

            The most challenging thing to me is marketing. It’s so much fun to write it (and even re-write and edit) and it’s so hard to sell it!  Right now some really major marketing changes are happening, too. I’ve lived through many changes, though.  In my 40 years of writing, I’ve morphed from using a typewriter and correction ribbon to a computer, from queries to e-queries and hardbacks to e-books.  Thankfully, my technologically challenged self can use a computer, although I curse the thing a bit more often than I bless it!

You are a native Texan. In your children's books, do you use Texas as your settings?

My first success with non-devotional children’s books was with a publisher that I met at a Cattle Raiser’s convention through a friend of mine. This small publisher, Bright Sky Press, loved anything with a Texas flavor and liked to encourage new writers.  Luckily, Texas was the setting in “Assault, the Crippled Champion” which was based on the true story of a King Ranch horse named Assault, who was crippled as a colt and limped so much that no one thought he’d amount to anything.  He went on to become Texas’ only born and bred Triple Crown Champion. I heard that story while visiting King Ranch and was given permission to write it for kids. (And, coincidentally, the publisher happened to be very good friends with a member of the King Ranch family.)  

 In “David and the Mighty Eighth,” the setting is WWII England, where our 8th Air Force was stationed.  One of the heroes in it is a pilot named “Tex” since I knew that would appease my “Texas niche” publisher.  This story, too, is based on a true story.  It’s about a boy growing up in war-torn England who had a wonderful relationship with an American flight crew.  Joe and I have become close friends with that man and his wife, and they’ve visited us and vice-versa.  THAT book promotion was fun – we spoke at the 600-year-old British school where David attended, and I was interviewed on the BBC!

Tell us about your new devotional book. The idea of combining physical, emotional, and spiritual healing is such a clever idea. How did you come about the idea?

          My writing for adults has mostly been with Daily Guideposts (writing devotionals) and Guideposts.  My first adult book has recently come out – entitled “Shaken to the Core (And Finding God’s Strength)”.  You asked how I came about the idea – it was God’s idea!  Really!  I was walking into a hotel room – not even praying or reading the Bible – when a very distinct voice inside my head said, “I want you to write a devotional book about the human body.”  It’s funny that I wasn’t what my kids would call “weirded out” by receiving a message like that. I was surprised, but mainly I was excited.
           When I got home, I started researching body trivia to write a children’s devotional book, since my experience was in that genre.  However, when I sent a few chapters to my editor (one that I paid for writing advice), she told me it was too much like a science lesson and wouldn’t interest kids.  So I filed it away, thinking I’d misunderstood what God meant. I awaited further instruction.

Have you had an experience where you have found your devotional useful?

            It was probably 8-10 years later that I developed a “mystery illness” that left me so exhausted, achy and shaky, that I couldn’t do much of anything.  And in prayer I asked God to show me His purpose in that suffering, since I certainly wasn’t able to do anything for Him in the shape I was in. Right as I prayed that prayer a-knowledge (not a voice this time) came into my head that I would have to suffer a little before I could write about it. And I immediately knew – I’d just received the final instruction for that body devotional book!  It was to be directed toward suffering people – adults!  I started right away on the book, and it was the most joyful period of my life as I researched scripture, interviewed people going through hard times, and used my own family stories to give others hope.   

            Many ideas of body trivia came from the physical therapy I was taking, so I asked my Physical Therapist if she would design exercises to go with each devotional.  I researched a lot for body facts, too.  My very kind stomach doctor checked my information to be sure the facts were right, and Ken Gire, a wonderful author and high school friend of mine, gave me great suggestions when he edited it.  And of course, my dear Mom was my #1 editor and helper.  I couldn’t have done it without her suggestions and help. (I finally discovered what was wrong with me while writing the book, and I tell about that in it. It turned out to be a “perfect storm” of inflammation, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), and disc degeneration.)

            When I was diagnosed with breast cancer last spring, I was in the final edits of the book (which I had thought was “late” since it had been scheduled to come out in the spring).  When I got the cancer phone call, I had just re-read the whole manuscript and been freshly reminded of God’s promises, His power, grace, help and hope. I felt an incredible peace that lasted through the mastectomy and recovery.  I had thought I was writing the book for others, but it wound up comforting ME!  God has a wonderful sense of humor.

What plans do you have for your next writing project?

            I have two ideas for new writing projects, but can’t quite figure out how to carve out the time to do them just yet – we’ve got a daughter marrying this summer, and I’m trying to promote my new book, plus travel with my husband’s volunteer job as President of Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raiser’s Assoc. But both ideas are for young readers, and I suppose it’s because now that I’m a very delighted grandmother, kids are at the center of my heart once again.  

To learn more about Marjorie Parker visit this web address:

To purchase a copy of Shaken to the Core visit this web address:

Sunday, March 4, 2012


If you haven't looked through our index of subject material below, take a look. In our writing, we find ourselves from time to time in need of information on how to edit, or the best way to plot. You'll find help in storyboarding, writing scenes or creating trailers. What you need awaits you even if it's a word of encouragement.

Books to Write by blog supports online courses by Margie Lawson. I checked our topics below and found two such posts. One discusses Margie's DEEP EDITING course and the other is entitled DEFEATING SELF-DEFEATING BEHAVIORS. Courses offered online give you a great writing workshop in the privacy of your home and at your preferred time.

During the month of February, 2012, this humble writer took an in depth study with Margie Lawson on EMPOWERING CHARACTER EMOTIONS. My critique partners constantly mark my manuscript with "ramp up the emotions." I write character-driven stories, but even if one tends more toward plot-driven, you must grab the reader by the emotion, be it fear or anger or excitement.

The benefit of her unique deep editing procedure is invaluable. I learned again that I don't add enough description. Without using her method, I could read my same chapter over and over and not realize my problem. The reader did not "see" my hero and heroine. I gave no insight into how they looked. Margie states that every time we introduce a new character, we should have at least a line or a phrase of description.

Remember the biggest percent of our communication is non-verbal. To write great dialogue, we must master body language. Margie looks at characters through a psychologist viewpoint. How the character stands or where they put their hands gives a different slant to their words. Sometimes, characters don't speak at all, but they show a lot.

A Margie Lawson course stuffs my brain and overworks my imagination, but I learn volumes, I strengthen my writing with power words, or empowered phrases, and I finish a better writer than when I began.

Three years have passed since I took my last Margie course. It was time for me. If you haven't taken one before, or if it has been awhile, I recommend you enroll. Is it time for you to take a Margie course?

Friday, February 17, 2012

LONE STAR JUSTICE by Robert M. Utley

 The novel I'm (Debra) working on now includes a Texas Ranger as one of the leads. For Christmas, I received from my husband, two books on the evolution of the Texas Rangers. The book I will review today is, LONE STAR JUSTICE, The First Century of the Texas Rangers, by Robert M. Utley.

Author: Robert M. Utley

Pros: What I love about this book is the detailed historical accuracy of the rise and fall and rise again of the Texas Rangers. While reading the book, the author captures a mental picture of history and makes the reader imagine it as if history was unfolding like a movie. the author incorporates a blend of narrative and dialogue taken straight from 19th century journals. I also appreciate the thoroughness of the author's research which is quite evident from the beginning.

The book includes early pictures and images of early artist renderings of battles scenes. I particulary enjoyed the images of real life heroes of the past, such as Sam Houston, Sam Walker, and Leander H. McNelly. You hear of such Texas heroes and it is a pleasure to put a face with a name.

Cons: This book is an awesome book filled with historical facts, perfect for my research. The only complaint I have is that the book is heavy on battle scenes and I grew weary of reading one skirmish after another. I would've enjoyed more information on historical characters and their relationships. However, that is only an opinion. My son who adores reading of battle scenes would enjoy this book, but I'm more of a romance writer. I love getting to know characters better.

Monday, January 2, 2012

One Way to Write a Novel. by Vicki Hinze

One Way to Write A Novel by Vicki Hinze is one of my downloads on my Kindle which I received a an early Christmas gift. I downloaded her book at the suggestion of another writer on a Loop I am a member of. I'm glad I followed that writer's advice.

I am definitely not going to delete her book from my Kindle because I know I'll want to refer to different sections frequently.

Some things that I found helpful on my first read were : "Common Errors to Avoid", "Should You Write the Book?", "How to Make a Story Binder", and "Making a Story Board".

Her advice is practical and easy to understand. She makes sure you understand her terminology by giving a definition and examples as needed.

I was especially impressed with the list of questions she provided at the beginning of her book that helps the reader decide if the idea the writer is considering is worth pursuing. This alone can save the author the disappointment of spending months on writing a book that will never be finished or poorly finished.

I have "sort of" worked on a binder for my story as well as a story board. After reading her book, I'm going to finish those two projects and get on with my book.

Ms. Hinze is a successful author of books and articles. I have not read her books before, but I'm going to select one to download to my Kindle. Check out One Way to Write A Novel. You'll be glad you did.

Writing Tip of the Day