Guest posts

Friday, August 31, 2012

Guest post by Samantha Gray - Writer's Workout - How To Sharpen Your Skills


Samantha Gray is a freelance writer based in Houston, Texas, who offers college advice to those interested in furthering their studies and careers. She can be reached for questions or comments at

Writer’s Workout: How to Sharpen Your Skills
Writing is a process that never ceases to change; your imagination in constant flux as you write out what’s on your mind. In order to write well and to make sense of what it is you want to say, you have to hone your skills constantly. It’s a clich├ęd metaphor, but your mind really is like a muscle. As such, you need to flex and improve that creative muscle just as much as do Olympians train certain muscles before a big event.
But what are the exercises involved in a writer’s workout, for a craft that requires so much solitude, concentration, and serious thought? Here are three exercises that I have used in the past to strengthen my writing to great effect. My hope is that they help you as much as they helped me.
Flash Fiction Exercises
A short story is a writer’s best friend. In a single sitting, a disciplined and seasoned writer can craft an entire story with a deep character, a moving storyline, and some affecting prose. A promising short story might even bear the fruit of a future novel or longer form project.
But for writer’s who aren’t exactly adept at writing a complex and moving short story in a matter of hours, there’s the option of flash fiction. Most flash fiction stories run at a fraction of the length of the typical short story, many of them clocking in at 200 words or less. The beauty of flash fiction is that it forces a writer to strip a story down to its most essential elements. Even more so than a short story, a work of flash fiction challenges a writer to say what they want to say in the most straightforward manner possible; there’s no room for fluff and erroneous phrasing. How’s that for a writing exercise?
Create a New Character
Sometimes you spend so much time struggling to develop characters that you hit a brick wall of creativity. You’ve spent weeks trying to figure out how to make your protagonist deal with a conflict, or how a minor character can figure more prominently into your novel, and now you’re just burned out. I find that a great way to revitalize your creative spirit it to construct an entirely new character from scratch, one that doesn’t necessarily have to be in your current work.
The sheer act of fleshing out a new character can do wonders for your creativity as it forces you to take an entirely different perspective on characterization. If you’re writing a solemn and dark story, for example, then creating a humorous and quirky character might be just the breath of fresh air that you need to keep you from stagnating in your own work. The point is that creating a new character draws your eye away from the work you’ve been staring at for ages, so that you can approach it again later with renewed enthusiasm.

Reread the Work of a Favorite Author
When I’m looking to change things up and stretch my mind, I often take solace in revisiting my literary roots. The authors that inspired me to be the writer I am today are no less moving and rewarding to read now than they were years ago when I first discovered them.  A single powerful sentence from my literary idols can motivate me to write for hours.
The same could be the case for you. If you’re feeling lost in your writing, perhaps all you need is some quiet time with your favorite book. If anything, the task will put you in a better state of mind than when you struggle in front of a work in progress.
What exercises help you strengthen your writing? Let me know!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Guest post by Heather Smith - 5 Reasons Why Every Writer Should Blog

avatarAuthor Bio

Heather Smith is an ex-nanny. Passionate about thought leadership and writing, Heather regularly contributes to various career, social media, public relations, branding, and parenting blogs/websites. She also provides value to nannies by giving advice on site design as well as the features and functionality to provide more and more value to nannies and families across the U.S. and Canada. She can be available at H.smith7295 [at]

5 Reasons Every Writer Should Blog
Years ago before the internet started playing such a large role in our everyday lives, writers had to gain their notoriety by book tours, good book reviews, and hoping they had a best seller on their hands. These days, however, spreading the word about your books is as easy as having a blog. Blogging is something that every writer can and should engage in, as it can be extremely beneficial to their career. These five reasons prove that:
1.      You can get more exposure as a writer. The world is literally at your fingertips with a blog, and you can reach hundreds of thousands of new readers by writing on your blog regularly because the internet is so easily accessible to people all over the world. All you need is for someone to read your blog once and get hooked on your writing style and you’ve suddenly gained another loyal follower.

2.      Comments can give you unbiased feedback. One of the great things about blogging is that it gives you the opportunity to read unbiased feedback about your writing style. Some may be favorable, some may offer constructive criticism, and some may be negative, however they all give you an insight into what you’re doing well and what you may need to improve on.

3.      They are the perfect platform for marketing upcoming books. Once you have established a loyal blog following you have the perfect marketing platform in front of you. New books will get much more exposure when you blog about them and promote them on social media then if you were to just rely on traditional marketing tactics.

4.      Search engines love blogs. Because you update a blog much more regularly then you do a traditional website, your blog is much more likely to get indexed favorably by a search engine. This means even more traffic will be driven to your blog because it will be found more easily.

5.      Practice makes perfect. The only way to become a better writer is to write more, and having a blog means you have a place to write and practice every single day. You also are able to fine-tune proof-reading skills, try out new ways of writing and, as noted in #2, get unbiased feedback on your writing. Plus, having readers that are anticipating a post from you every day can help motivate you to write regularly.
Blogging is a great way for writers to expand and improve on their own writing skills, as well as market themselves effectively to old and new readers alike. With such a versatile writing platform at your fingertips, there’s no reason not to start your own blog.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Guest post by author C.A. Shives

phobia_high res.jpgAuthor Bio

C.A. Shives is the author of PHOBIA, a suspense novel based in a small Pennsylvania town.

When not reading, writing, editing, or publishing, C.A. enjoys watching a good action movie. The author also spends time target shooting on the range and raising backyard chickens.

C.A. loves cheesy poofs, Bruce Willis movies, and wine (often simultaneously). The author is also a fan of Professional Competitive Eating.

A second book in the Artemis Herne series is scheduled for a winter 2012 release. C.A.’s upcoming novel weaves a dark tale of horrific vigilante justice tainted by the bitter taste of revenge.

Genre: Thriller/Suspense

Ex-cop Artemis Herne thought he left the grit and crime of the city in the past when he moved to a small town in Pennsylvania. But the discovery of a woman's dead body, bound and covered with snakes, sends panic through his community and ignites his investigative instincts.

As the serial killer continues to target his prey, Herne must confront his own haunted past to uncover the pattern in the deaths. He soon discovers that every victim suffers from a phobia. And every murder transforms the victim's worst fear into reality.

Tormented by his personal demons, he is forced to face his own fears as he hunts for a murderer who uses terror for a weapon.

Book Excerpt

                They stared at each other as memories flooded Herne’s mind like a scattering of photographs faded by sunlight. On summer break their freshmen year of college, they shared a bottle of illicit whiskey in Tucker’s basement. Best buddies having a little fun on a typical Saturday night. Walking a street in Hurricane, on their way to meet Tucker’s girlfriend—who would later become his wife—they saw the unmistakable glow of flames a few blocks away. The old brick bakery was on fire. They ran to it, knowing that the building was really a shelter for battered women. Once there they found a thin, long-haired man in the parking lot, holding a lit Molotov cocktail while screaming the name of his wife. Two more unlit homemade frags sat on the asphalt.
                When the man saw them, he threw the bomb against the building and charged at Herne.
                Herne pounded at the man’s face until his fist pulverized bone into tiny shards. Through a red haze of fury, Herne only saw the face of his sister—his sweet, young sister—beaten to death in her teenage years by a jealous boyfriend.
                Tucker pulled him away into the night as sirens sounded in the distance. The man spent years in reconstructive surgery, and he never looked anything less than a monster. The brain damage he suffered made it impossible for him to identify his attackers.

Author post by C.A. Shives


Although I'm old enough to be hitting midlife crisis stage, I consider myself relatively tech savvy. I read some books through a reader app on my smartphone. I prefer text messaging over phone calls. I published my novel in e-book format. I spend so much time with my laptop that I probably could declare it as a dependent next tax season.

But perhaps part of me is old-fashioned. Although the ease and convenience of e-books cannot be denied, there's something immensely satisfying about holding a book with tangible pages. The smell, the feel, the sound of the paper is part nostalgia and part comfort, like returning home to a meal of Mom's chicken potpie and homemade slaw.

If it's a book I want to savor—a book that calls me to fall into the pages and drown in the words—only a paper version will suffice.

My personal library contains thousands of volumes, many of which I've had for decades. Children's books and comic strip collections share shelf space with suspense novels and cozy mysteries. I don't keep books because I'm a packrat. I keep them because of the pleasure they've given me and the pleasure they continue to give me. Most of my tomes have been read and re-read, and each time I find new peace between the covers.

The spines are worn. The pages are yellowed with age. Some of the bindings have disintegrated, and sheets of paper flutter from the books when I handle them. Many of the covers are faded and the dust jackets were lost long ago.

So why, if my love for traditional books is so deeply embedded in my soul, do I have an e-reading app on my phone? Well, quite simply, it's a matter of convenience. I carry my phone in my pocket, and it's with me everywhere I go. It takes just a few seconds to open the app, find a book, and begin reading. I don't have to worry about dragging a book with me to doctor's appointments, a kid's gymnastics practice, or any other situation that might involve a long wait. My phone is handy. It's small. And it's quick.

But when I'm reading an e-book, part of me always misses the feel of paper in my hands.

I'll continue to publish my books in electronic format. I'm no Luddite. But for those of you—like me—who still love to read the “old-fashioned” way, I'll keep publishing in paperback, too.

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