Thursday, May 31, 2012

Blogging About Blogging

I just signed up to participate in the 28 day Author Blog Challenge that is going to run the month of June. It made me laugh when I decided to blog about the challenge today because I'm blogging about blogging. Just struck me as funny.

Anyway, for all you published, unpublished, crazy, or aspiring writers out there, you should join the group. Find the details here and WRITE ON!!

A blog is a terrible thing to waste. Keeping up with it poses more challenges than I'm willing to admit (wait, did I just admit it...?) but I love doing it. I have knowledge and techniques that I can share with others who are trying to do the same thing I am and, who knows, it might make it easier on all of them if I just take the time to share.

I am excited that Yassa will release on the 4th and you should be too! It's a WONDERFUL read that will make you laugh, cry, get angry, and fall in love.

Good news: It releases just 2 days into the challenge so I should have plenty of time on my hands to blog it on out. I am looking forward to it!

The Abigale Chronicles - Book Two releases end of July and I am hoping to either have Mystic - The Artist or Player ready for release sometime in September. Lots of exciting things happening around here in Jo Michaels Land so stay tuned!

A note to everyone who plans to purchase Yassa, there will be a coupon code good for three months for a FREE copy of Abigale Book One in the back.

That's all for today, folks!

Until next time, WRITE ON!!


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Writing Prompts FUN

Today I shall throw out a few writing prompts for all of you.

I would love to read what you come up with from these.

Rules of MY game:

Keep it to 500 words or less.
You must use ALL five (or six) senses AND be descriptive.
No full paragraphs with backstory. Work it into the tale.
No text speak, please. Be a writer.
Choose only ONE.
You must play nice and if you comment on what someone else writes and it's rude, I will remove your comment AND your post.

Let's get started!!


Phoebe is a married student going for her PhD. Her husband is Braxton. Braxton has a deep, dark secret that Phoebe discovers. How she finds it, what she does with the information, and what that secret is will be up to you to decide. What she's getting her PhD in is something else you decide.


Selina is a fairy who has no wings. She is made fun of on a daily basis by her peers who can fly. Her best friend is a snail (you may name him/her) who wants to take over fairyland. Selina must find out why and stop the snail. You decide if she gets her wings and how she accomplishes the task.


Roger is a spy for a multimillion dollar corporation who is about to turn into the bad guy. He kills people that get in the way of the corporate plan and he fidgets with electronics. Why he turns on his company or what he is going to steal or do to them is up to you to decide. Is he married and does his wife know what he does?

Let's have some fun with this. I can't wait to read what you all write.

Don't forget, Yassa releases next week!! *excited* So, keep your eyes open for that one!

Getting out of here for now, until next time, WRITE ON!!


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Yippie Ki Yay!

After a weekend of laying on the beach in Florida with the love of my life, I have SO much more in my stash of wonderful things to use in my writings.

Smells, experiences, and tastes are all slamming around inside my head. I am eager to work on my journal of experiences so I'll have something to pull from later with no need to rely on memory alone. While my memory is great now, I don't know if it'll be so great in 20 years.

I posted a while back on reasons for keeping a journal like that when I wrote Write What You Know. I had never been to lay on a beach in Florida or ridden on/driven a Waverunner before this past weekend and the experience left me with a lot of impressions.

1. Waverunners slam into the water when you hit bumps and it feels like your bones are being smashed together.
2. Seafood tastes very different when you eat it near the water it came out of. There's more of a taste of the ocean and not so much a metallic taste or a blandness that comes from being in a can or being frozen and shipped inland.
3. Jumping into a swimming pool after swimming in salt water makes you feel heavier, like you strapped rocks on your feet.
4. There is no sight quite like sand dunes projecting from the ocean while a breeze teases your face to put you totally at ease.
5. Mother nature ROCKS.

I have also discovered that I love the smell of the sea. I don't know if that stems from growing up in Louisiana or from something that is lodged deeper within myself but I know I'm gonna try to figure it out.

My new series titled Mystic has a character from Florida in it. I am very grateful for the experience this weekend brought to my writing.

Remember to get your copy of The Abigale Chronicles - Book One by following either of the links at the top of this blog. Yassa is due out in just ONE week!! BE EXCITED! You've never heard a story like this one!!

That's all for today. Tomorrow, we will discuss something deeper.

Until next time, WRITE ON!!!


Friday, May 25, 2012

Design Lesson Number 4 - Fonts

I see so many people make the basic mistake of combining more than two fonts for a book cover or using two different serif or sans-serif fonts on the cover of their book.

There's a reason you shouldn't do that: it looks like a mistake.

Even if it was intentional, it still looks like a mistake. If you use more than one font or hand-lettering plus a font, stick to ONE serif and ONE sans-serif.

What's a serif? Well, that's why I give you nice folks examples :)


These are serifs

Well, now you know. Serif fonts can look eerily similar. There are other fonts too: Script and Specialty fonts that should also not be used in combination with more than one of the same.

Please, choose a MAXIMUM of TWO fonts for any project and stick with them. Avoid, at all costs, FREE fonts. The quality SUCKS on most of them and in the rights, you will usually find that they are not licensed to be used in projects for distribution. You could be sued. Same with photographs. Be very very careful and read the rights to the image you're buying.

Remember, we don't want our covers to look DIY.

I hope this helps in some small way. That was the four lessons of the week. Next week, back to writing!!

If any of you would like to have this information made available in a book, leave a comment and I will see what I can do. Of course it would be free, Silly!! :)

Until next time, WRITE ON!!


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Design Lesson Number 3 - Color Spaces

RGB and CMYK - What's the difference?

A lot, actually. When you send something to a printer, it needs to be designed in CMYK because that's a 4 color process standard. If you design in RGB and send it away, they will convert it to CMYK before they print it. You can get some UGLY and unwanted results.

You can change the mode in Photoshop by going to Image>Mode>CMYK Do this BEFORE you start designing. I am going to give examples below of what the change can do to specific colors.

Above, you see on the left the colors chosen in RGB color mode. On the right, you will see those SAME colors in CMYK. Beware the change!! If you always design in CMYK, you will never be disappointed with your results.

Colors that are most heavily affected by the change are: greens, blues, yellows, and oranges. Reds get dulled down as well but not quite as badly as the others unless it's a BRIGHT red.

So, start your design in CMYK and let your imagination carry you from there. If you never EVER intend to print your book, RGB it up :)

That's all for today. Time to write!!

Follow me on twitter! @writejomichaels

Until next time, WRITE ON!!


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Design Lesson Number 2 - Printing

Today, I talk about printing. For you indie authors, you need to listen up just in case you decide to print on CreateSpace or another site and wish to DIY. Remember, our goal is to not make it look DIY.

Bleeds, safeties, and folds, here we come!

What is a bleed? Bleed refers to the area around your artwork that is intended to be cut off. You want to make sure to extend any background color or other elements that you don't mind losing some of all the way to the edge of the template. MACHINES cut the book cover and they aren't as accurate as we'd like them to be sometimes. You will LOSE 1/4" of your artwork so your canvas needs to be 1/4" bigger (1/8" on all sides) than your final size. In other words, a 5.25x8 book needs to be designed at 5.50x8.25. Got it? Avoid bars (frames) that can be lost completely or cut wrong and be odd sizes.

Okay, you have that down. Now, what's a safety? Safety refers to the area that will not be touched by the machine even if it is 1/8" off. Your safety margins should go 1/8" INSIDE the CUT line (NOT the BLEED line). This gives you peace of mind that your words will still be intact when your book rolls off the presses. Be safe, not sorry.

Folds are self-explanatory. Remember that where the fold is, the safety should be 1/8" on EITHER side of that line. There is no guarantee that the paper will be cut just right and you need the flexibility of a schoochable fold. I love making up words...

On to the example!!!

This is what a standard template looks like. Take a minute and take it all in.

Tomorrow, we will discuss color space and WHY it MATTERS!

I hope you are all finding this informative.

Pop on over to:


and sign up for your chance at one of two free signed copies of The Abigale Chronicles! Giveaway ends May 29th! For those of you that prefer e-books, hop over to Smashwords and get a copy for just $1.99.

9am and time to write!!

Until next time, WRITE ON!!


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Design Lesson Number 1 - KERNING

I have decided to give four design lessons this week for all you indie authors. I know, I know, I am too kind...

Seriously, if you don't know the rules of design, your book covers will look like they were designed by you. We don't want that. We want them to look like they were done professionally even though they were done by you.

Today's lesson is on kerning. What the hell is kerning, Jo? Well, I'll explain... Of course I'm going to use examples, silly monkey!!

The sample text below shows kerned type and type that has yet to be kerned. The top one is set at 0 all the way across.

The bottom example is set at -25 throughout then adjusted a LOT in the places marked with red and a LITTLE in the places unmarked. Some are at -50, some are at -75, and some are at -100. I went with visually pleasing.
Now, you can see that the bottom text is prettier. I used Arial to make it easier to play with for you.

  In the example below, you see panels that are in Photoshop. If you can't see this, go to Window>Character and it will show. Click it!!!! Quick!!!

 When you click it, you get this panel. Pretty freakin' cool, right?
This panel shows you the font (Arial) the style (Regular)
Font size (18) Leading (18) Super or subscript position (0) and KERNING (-50)
All that other stuff, we will address on another day. Right now, look at the KERNING panel ONLY.

In order to kern, you must select the character preceding the letter you want to move closer, then click the kerning drop down and select a number. Sometimes you want to space letters out more, sometimes you want to move them closer. No matter what you desire to accomplish, it can be done with the kerning panel.

I see so many great book covers that would be SO much better with a little bit of kerning. Your art director will spend HOURS adjusting and re-adjusting so your book cover looks just right. Do a little kerning and you'll reach a whole new level with your work.

Tomorrow, I will discuss BLEED and SAFETY and how to use a template.

I hope this was informative.

Don't forget to pick up your copy of The Abigale Chronicles - Book One on Smashwords or iBooks for just $1.99! If you're a tangible book person, you can also pick up a copy on Create Space for just $5.99!

Until next time, WRITE ON!!


Monday, May 21, 2012

All About Query Letters

Today, I post my query letter for a roundtable discussion that will take place via Rachel Horwitz@rachelhwrites on twitter. Scurry on over there if you would like to participate!!

This is my pitch for Yassa:


Dear Ms. XXX,

When Temujin is ten, he murders one of his half-brothers in self-defense. That one act of brutality shows him the animal that lives inside his heart, sets into motion a string of events that bring a boy named Jamuka into his life, and gives Temujin the idea to write the law he calls Yassa. He marries his betrothed, Börte, only to have her kidnapped a week later by a rival tribe and sold at auction.

Yassa law states that, above all else, you are to be loyal to those you pledge yourself to. There is only one punishment for breaking Yassa law: death. Deep conflict arises between Temujin and Jamuka when they go to rescue the beautiful and fair Börte from the kidnappers because Jamuka sees her, falls in love, and decides to take her for his own. In a fit of fever, Jamuka attacks Börte and tries to force himself on her. Setting aside the law for the love of a friend, Temujin casts the man out instead of killing him.

Jamuka is bent on revenge for being cast out and is driven to win Börte at any cost. As a result, the two men are plunged into battle over power and a woman. Love drives the conquering of the greatest continuous empire in History in the hopes that the victor will win the affections of Börte, who is being driven mad with her own choice while the men are crossing swords. Only one man can succeed and become Genghis Khan.

Yassa is a completed 90,000 word historical fiction novel set in 18th Century Mongolia.

Thank you for taking the time to read my query.


Jo Michaels

I appreciate all feedback.

That's all for today, folks!!

Until next time, WRITE ON!!


Friday, May 18, 2012

Author Interviews are Fun!

I did an author interview with Jane Hanbury over at Booketta's Book Blog this week and I have to say, it was a lot of fun! I am rarely one to toot my own horn (a crux being an indie author) so talking about myself was difficult in a challenging type of way.

Jane asked me some difficult questions.

When in person, I can talk for hours about the story behind my historical fiction novel, Yassa. When asked to write out how I came up with the idea, I struggle. Not because I don't know, just because that question is hard to answer on paper. I know where the idea came from, but tooting my own horn about it is not something I am accustomed to doing.

I think I'm too humble. I love the story but I know it's not for everyone and I know there are people out there who will hate Temujin's wishy-washy personality. I just tried to make him human; because he is. We all make mistakes in life or do things we aren't proud of, so he is brought down a notch or two from almighty conqueror by having doubts about his relationship and reacting to situations in a way that's not acceptable.

There are people who will give me crap over Kutula and people who will argue that the story isn't quite true to History. I know that. It's fiction. I used my imagination.

There are people who will give me crap over Abigale and say that's not the way a 12 year old behaves. I know that, she's not an ordinary 12 year old. If she were, what a dull story it would be!

We write to spin tales for readers. If we didn't write, how dull would life be? Remember the movie, The Invention of Lying? It brings out a good point: without writers with imagination and the ability to tell a tale with some fiction in it, we would all be walking around dull, lifeless, BORING.

That's all for today. I am going to write the hell out of some books today!

If you haven't gotten your copy of The Abigale Chronicles - Book One, go get one now! It's great for young readers and has an element that will force them to stop and wonder what the heck is really going on.

Until next time, WRITE ON!!


Thursday, May 17, 2012

He Said, She Said, Who Said What?

As you can probably tell, today I am talking about that thing we all shy away from - Dialogue.

What makes excellent dialogue? Well, many things do. First and foremost is the genuine accents and use of words. Let's explore that first, mkay?

Teenagers speak very differently from most adults. Unless your character is a grown woman who is trying very hard to fit in with a group of youngsters, she probably won't be using the words 'dude' or 'awesome' very often. Vernacular is also region specific. If a teen is from California, they will speak very differently than a teen from Louisiana.

Time for examples:

Heather is a teen from California having a conversation with a surfer on the beach.

"Catch a wave, Babe!" said Heather from the comfort of her towel on the sand.
When the surfer walked by, Heather's heart skipped a beat. He was gorgeous and she didn't know how else to break the ice.
"Tubular!" he said, waving.
Heather couldn't help herself and blurted out, "Is that like, pineapple sex wax I smell?"
"Hell yeah it is! Nothin' less than the best for my baby. That's like, pure ZOGS right there! You gonna ride the water today?"
"No. Not today. I'm like, feelin' bummy, you know?" Heather hated the ocean and was terrified of sharks but she didn't want him to know that.

June is a teen from Louisiana having a conversation with a surfer on the beach.

"Hey, nice surfboard!" said June from the comfort of her towel on the sand.
When the surfer walked by, June's heart skipped a beat. He was gorgeous and she didn't know how else to break the ice.
"Tubular!" he said, waving.
 June couldn't help herself and blurted out, "Come see! I wanna look at that board! What's 'tubular' mean?"
"Tubular. You know, like, in the tube? The water, Lady. The wave, you know? You gonna ride the water today?"
"Oh. No. Not today. I wanna lay here and get some sun, che." June hated the ocean and was terrified of sharks but she didn't want him to know that.

Now, from the first set of dialogue, you garner that the two understand one another and believe Heather is from California because of her easy way of speaking to the surfer. June is a little more awkward and doesn't seem to fit in. We know she's from somewhere else.

Let's do it again without the slang and see the results.

"Hey, nice surfboard!" said Marsha from the comfort of her towel on the sand.
When the surfer walked by, Marsha's heart skipped a beat. He was gorgeous and she didn't know how else to break the ice.
"Thanks!" he said, waving.
Marsha couldn't help herself and blurted out, "Can I see it?"
"Sure. I'm hoping to have a good time in the water today. Are you planning to surf at all?"
"No. Not today. I'm just laying in the sun today." Marsha hated the ocean and was terrified of sharks but she didn't want him to know that.

Not nearly as interesting, right?

Something else you can learn from the dialogue above is that it's not necessary to follow every line with he said, she said, or they said. You can communicate exactly who is speaking without dragging your reader down with unnecessary words. So you want your word count to be higher? Add chapters or paragraphs.

Remember that he, she, and they, refer to the last person named in the text. Mention the name often enough so your reader doesn't get confused (psssst, readers actually don't mind this).

That's all for today, folks. Remember to keep your eyes open for the release of Yassa on June 4, 2012!

If you haven't picked up your copy of The Abigale Chronicles - Book One, you should!! Free sampling at Smashwords and purchase for just $1.99!

Until next time, WRITE ON!!


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Monkey Wrenches

Bring out the unexpected when you write. If you read your passage and have a good idea of what will happen next, flip it and make something else happen instead.

Readers don't like predictable. Predictable is boring.

If you have two people who are kissing and passionate, it may seem that they are about to make love. Why not have the police burst in instead? How about having one of them spontaneously burst into flames? I bet your reader won't be expecting that.

Why throw in a monkey wrench? It's what keeps your story moving and interesting. I use the technique in Yassa a number of times and my beta readers tell me it's a welcome surprise when the unexpected happens. They read about Jelme sitting with Kutula and some other friends and commenting on the harshness of color around the camp. How does Kutula teach Jelme to hold his tongue and be more polite?

What happens is the monkey wrench. You expect Kutula to grow angry and perhaps scold Jelme for being rude or maybe say something rude in return. But he doesn't do either of those things. What he does leaves a lasting impression on the youth about courtesy and proper manners and helps add an unexpected twist in the story.

This happens in life so why not in your story? You have a situation that you think will be perfect and something happens that you weren't expecting and messes it up. USE it in your fiction. We cannot expect the unexpected because then, by very definition, it would no longer BE unexpected.

Can we plan for emergencies? Yes. Is it the same thing? No. We look at what could happen and plan for that.


You have an emergency fund and/or insurance in case your car breaks down or a tree falls on your house, right? That's planning for something you would expect. What if an alien spacecraft comes to Earth and beams your house off the planet? Does your insurance cover that? I don't know. But it would certainly be unexpected.

You have an emergency fund and/or insurance in case your car breaks down or a tree falls on your house and a tree falls on your house. That was expected and planned for.

HUGE difference between the two. The first is the proverbial monkey wrench. Use your imagination. You're a writer because you can.

That's all for today!!

Don't forget to keep your eyes open for the release of Yassa on June 4, 2012!! If you read it for no other reason than to find out what Kutula did to Jelme, it'll be worth it!!

Go sample The Abigale Chronicles - Book One today from Smashwords! You won't be sorry that you did!

Until next time, WRITE ON!!!


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

When, How, Who, and What?

Those are the four questions we ask ourselves every day as writers.

When does our tale take place?
How is the feat accomplished?
Who are our characters?
What are those characters doing?

Those four questions are the basis for everything we write. If you aren't constantly asking yourself those questions, you're likely not really writing a compelling story. There must be action in every chapter. You have to keep your reader engaged and feeling something throughout the whole story. If you don't, they will lose interest and toss your book aside.

Are you having trouble with tension? Change a scene. Throw some obstacle in the path of your protagonist. That obstacle can be a rift in a relationship, an unexpected change, or the antagonist but it must be something. Characters that don't DO anything are boring. Ask yourself, "HOW can I create some tension? WHAT will my character to in response to the obstacle?"

Then, write about it.

Don't let your characters float through your story. Give them a goal and see what they can accomplish.

Is there a question you ask your characters or yourself to keep the tension? Share it!

That's all for today. Just some food for thought.

Until next time, WRITE ON!!


Monday, May 14, 2012

Write What You Know

In my post on Bringing Truth to Fiction, I talk about writing what you know. You know how people react in specific situations based on personal experience or by talking to those who have experienced it themselves.

I implore you to also use places you have been in your writing. You know those places, have firsthand experience with them, and are familiar with the sights, sounds, and smells. Use it. It's very difficult to write about a place you have never experienced yourself. Sure, you can read about them and learn everything there is to know before you sit down to write, but it's just not the same.

Yassa was hard to write because I have never been to Mongolia. I don't know what it smells or feels like. I used my experiences with similar landscapes to draw on the feelings the characters had while in their environments. While not a perfect approach, it worked. I still wish I'd had on-site experience.

When I write about Louisiana in The Abigale Chronicles, I am able to describe her surroundings perfectly. As I write Player, I am able to describe the surroundings without a second thought. I have been to the places in my books and I have the knowledge to draw on. I believe some of the best writers are well traveled and draw upon their experiences in various places in order to craft compelling stories. Fantasy is the same way because it's all based in some kind of fact.

Things we learn by visiting a place rather that just studying or reading about it:
1. Plant life
2. How people look
3. The feeling of the place
4. Temperature
5. Animals
6. History
7. Smells
8. Sounds
Those are just the tip of the iceberg. We have feelings when we are in an environment that we may not have anywhere else. Think of it like this: You're in a Starbucks and you smell the coffee, feel the coziness, and are waited on by friendly staff. You're in a cafe and you smell the food, feel the era, and may or may not be waited on by a friendly server. Those are very different experiences. If you are writing about a Starbucks and have never been in one, you will likely miss the mark of how a Starbucks feels. People could tell you, sure, but they may leave something out that's important.

We can use our imaginations but they are limited by our experiences. So, get out there and experience things to use in your stories! Your writing will thank you later.

What kind of experiences do you use in your writing?

I know I'm late but I hit inspiration this morning and had to get it out. More news on that one later!

Remember! Yassa is due out June 5, 2012! Keep your eyes open because you do NOT want to miss that story!

Until next time, WRITE ON!!


Friday, May 11, 2012

The Best Feeling!

When one of your beta readers comes up and asks you if you finished your book yet because they really want to know what happens next is the best feeling in the world next to being head-over-heels in love (which I am lucky enough to be! I love you, Babydoll!).

It's even more thrilling when that person says they didn't want to be pushy but considered e-mailing and asking you for the rest because they were getting antsy.

That happened to me today. I gave someone the first 21 chapters of Yassa and they said they were dying to know what was going to happen to Temujin, Borte, and Jamuka.


Look for the release on June 5th on my Smashwords page. Don't forget to get your copy of The Abigale Chronicles - Book One on Smashwords today. Just $1.99!! It's a great young reader's book!!

Have you ever had that happen to you? How did it make you feel? What were the circumstances?

Sorry this is short today but I had to give my book some props, ya know?

Until next time, WRITE ON!!!


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Night Writer

How many of you write into the wee hours of the morning? Why do you think you do that?

Is it the lack of distractions, the perfect alignment of all that day's events, or is it something else?

I have a theory!! Hear me out!

I think that people who are nocturnal have a different brain function from those who aren't. We think, feel, and see things in a different way. Besides being a little crazy because we are creatives, most of us are "normal" people.

Hey, if we're all crazy, at least we're together in that, too, right?

Your brain goes into maximum overdrive at night because you have been awake and alert all day. You have felt, experienced, and talked with people. You have quiet where you can think. Other people in the World are sound asleep and your phone isn't ringing with texts, e-mails, or calls.

It's that perfect moment of clarity that comes with darkness that we all crave.

I know writers that get up at 4am because their brain has had a chance to process the day before and their ideas flow from their dreams. I don't know many that can force it at a certain time of day though.

When the idea hits you, it feels like your brain will explode into a million pieces if you don't get the words out and it's SO difficult to just stop and say, "Okay, that's enough for today. I have other stuff to do."

It sometimes hits our relationships hard. Especially if that person is not a creative or if you have kids that get up at 7am to catch a bus.

When the muse is upon us, we MUST write. Most people get that visit at night (unfortunately). For you lucky folks who can write anytime, I envy you. Mine is a process. I must FEEL in order to write. This blog usually helps because it makes my brain begin to THINK about writing.

Now you know why I broach the topics I do. Welcome to my brain - watch out, it's a mess in here!!

What time do YOU write? Why?

Time to get moving. Coffee is calling my name. :)

Don't forget to pick up your copy of The Abigale Chronicles - Book One today for $1.99!! Watch for a promotion on Abigale when Yassa is released in June!!

Heads up: I will be doing an interview with the lovely Crystal Lee next month! We will be discussing her new series, Canopy. It's one killer set of stories!!

Until next time, WRITE ON!!


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Descriptions - How Much is Too Much?

I was going to write on inspiration today but changed my mind at the last minute. This is following a conversation I had with the author Crystal Lee. We are working on designing the covers for her Canopy series and I thought about putting a likeness of the main character from each book on the cover. Some folks like this, some don't.

Here's why I think some people like it:

It gives them an instant visual of the character and they can get an idea if it's someone they can identify with right away. There's no need for long, dragging descriptions in the text because you're showing them the person; look, here they are, and this is exactly how the writer pictured them when he/she wrote about them.

And here's why I think some people don't like it:

It limits their imaginations. If the author does a good job of describing the character, most people will have an idea of what that character looks like but want to be free to form the face in their own mind.

I still don't know what we're going to do but both of those scenarios must be considered.

This passes right back to how you write. I want you to stop and consider this for a moment:

If you describe a character down to the last toenail, where does the reader get to interject their imagination? That's right, they can't. Examples:

If we allow the reader to use their imagination:

I looked at Gretchen and admired her full hips and almost flawless complexion. When combined with her raven black hair and green eyes, she was a knockout. I knew she took care of herself because of the perfect manicures I saw on her fingers and toes. She had on gold jewelry that went well with her white capris, blue top, and blue peep-toe heels that made her appear much taller than she was.

If we give a full description:

I looked at Gretchen and admired her full hips, slender legs, generous bust, and alabaster skin. When combined with her long, raven black hair, almond shaped green eyes, full lips, pert nose, and perfect ears, she was a knockout. I could tell she took care of herself when I saw the french manicures on her long, slender fingers and her elegant toes. She had gold jewelry on every part of her body that she could adorn and was wearing white capris with black stitching down the sides and on the pockets, an ocean blue top that had a handkerchief hem and ruffles around the cap sleeves, and blue peep-toe heels that made her 5'9" stature look like 5'11.

Bet you can picture Gretchen pretty well now, eh?

WOW. What a difference, eh? I'd be willing to bet every reader that reads the second passage would be able to draw Gretchen and the drawings would be similar. How about the first? I'd be willing to bet you got short hair, long hair, shoulder length hair, etc... hell, maybe even a mohawk!! Okay, not really.

I see this all too often. Writers that leave little to the imagination. So what if when they make the movie the lead doesn't look like what I pictured? I bet they look like what someone pictured.

Think on it.

I'm off to finish my edit of Yassa today. 9am and time to get busy!!

Until next time, WRITE ON!!


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Best Practice

A blog is good writing practice. If you do it every day, it can also serve as a warmup before you begin writing in earnest. If you are a fan of short stories or not, write them.

Your writing will be at its best when you are feeling. It doesn't matter what you're writing about, just write it. Describe the way you feel, what you smell, what you see. Use all your senses. A good example is this post. Feeling and writing about it are parts of inviting your reader into your character's soul. It's part of drawing them in and making them care and identify with the person in the story.

It goes back to my post about Writers that Cannot Feel, Cannot Write. If you are a snail, you probably shouldn't be writing in the first place, right? Plus, that slimy trail you leave on the paper isn't very attractive...

So write your blog when you feel strongly about something. If it's something you read in the news and you're angry, write about it. You have a voice, use it. After all, that's why we write, right?

If you haven't gotten The Abigale Chronicles - Book One yet, go get it now. At $1.99, it's one heck of a deal! Abigale is about to embark on a new and exciting adventure! Book Two will be out in July, 2012!!

Remember to look for Yassa in June, 2012!! Editing away, I am.

Until next time, WRITE ON!!!


Monday, May 7, 2012

Readers and Reviewers Running Rampant

Readers. Are they really as picky and fickle as we believe them to be? You betcha.

There's more to it than that though. If you tell a reader a great story they will come back. Most readers will forgive errors in syntax if they aren't detrimental to the story itself. It doesn't matter if it's mystery, suspense, romance, erotica, or a twenty word picture book. If the story is good, people will keep reading.

Reviewers are a different breed in and of themselves. They will ding you for the syntax errors.

But, reviewers are also readers and if your story is good, you will gain points as long as the errors in your writing don't screw with their flow. People will review your book and post their thoughts. Guess what? There's not a single thing you can do about it except sit back and pray they like it.

Before you release your book, find someone who is a reader that will read it for you. Find someone who is good at dialogue and have them read it for you. Then, look for someone who is conscious of tenses and POV and let THEM read it. When all three of these people agree, you have something that will fly with 99% of readers. If you have the money, hire an editor and skip the above. As indie authors, most of us don't have that kind of cash hanging out in a drawer so we have to work together.

Build your network. If you take, you need to give. Don't expect someone to read all your stuff and get nothing in return. Other indie authors are not your competition and they want to see you succeed just as badly as you do. I got into a discussion with another indie author on a blog's comment section and made a friend. Her name is Crystal Lee and her blog is a most excellent read. She is a writer of sci-fi romance and historical fiction and her books have a flavor all their own.

I hold a degree in Graphic Design. Crystal is most excellent at editing. What do you think we're trading?

So get out there and talk to other indie authors!!! Many of them have skills you wouldn't believe and most are willing to help you out - for a return favor.

How did you meet the people in your network?

That's all for today, folks. I hope this post gets you out there, talking to other indie authors and discovering their talents beyond writing - psssst, they ALL have them.

Don't forget, Yassa is due out in JUNE! If you missed your chance to get a free copy of The Abigale Chronicles - Book One, don't worry! It's available on Smashwords for just $1.99!! Go get one!!

Until next time, WRITE ON!!


Saturday, May 5, 2012

These Boots Were Made for Walking!

And that's what every character must do. In every story - every good story - a character must walk through the proverbial doorway of change. When the story begins, they must be one way, and when the story ends, they must be another. After all, the story is the telling of their journey from point A to point B. Without the journey, you have no tale to tell.

Your character also has a point of decision making. If they choose the left path, they end up one way and if they choose the right path, they end up another.

I will again use one of my characters to illustrate this point.

Temujin, from Yassa (due out in June) -

When the tale begins, Temujin is just nine years old. He is an innocent young man who is about to be betrothed to an innocent young girl. When his father is murdered and he is left in charge of his family, he experiences change. "But," you say, "That wasn't a choice!" Quite right. That is not his proverbial door, he was just a victim of circumstance in that situation. His doorway presents itself when he is ten years old and is forced to make a decision on whether or not to kill his half brother, Bekhter. If Temujin kills the young man, he will be an outlaw. If he doesn't, there's a good chance Bekhter will murder Temujin in his sleep. What to do?

Once a character passes through the door, their life must change forever. There must be no way to return to what they knew before. If you murder someone, you are a murderer and will go to prison - appealing? - and that will irrevocably change your life forever. It's not something you can take back or undo and it will change you when it changes your life. A good story has this moment; usually within the first third of the book.

Yassa's prologue is written from a different point of view than the rest of the book and provides a moment of change for the antagonist, Jamuka. Temujin's moment of change doesn't happen until the end of chapter 3 on page 50. Yassa is around 400 pages long so you can see that the moment of change happens well within the first third of the story.

A journey for a character from the moment of change until some sort of resolution is reached is the rest of your book. Resolution is almost always found in the last fourth of the book. I have found a few books where resolution is on the very last page. It depends on your writing style.

Just remember, one thing is universally true no matter what kind of story you are writing. Your character must change and walk through a door.

What characters do you remember most and what was their moment of change? Discuss!

Time to head out! I will be back Monday!

If you missed it, don't forget to grab your copy of The Abigale Chronicles - Book One today!

Until next time, WRITE ON!!


Friday, May 4, 2012

Characters, You Say?

Characters are an integral part of every writer's arsenal. They are the life of the story; literally. Today is about creation of those characters.

Here is how I dream up my characters: I meet people and I read books about people. That seems too simple, huh? Well, it is a little more complicated than that. Surely you didn't think you were going to get off that easily! Come on, this is a learning experience! Dive in and have some fun with it!

A character is made up of TWO parts: 1. Physical appearance 2. Personality

I will go through some characters I have used in stories and tell you where they came from.

Yassa - Temujin (Genghis Khan), Borte, and Kutula

Temujin comes from history. I read everything I could get my hands on about this kid and the man he became. History told me a lot but to fill in what it was lacking, I had to pull characteristics from people I know and myself. Because there aren't photographs of young Temujin or old Genghis floating around (they didn't exactly have cameras in the twelfth century) I had to make up what they looked like based on rough paintings. Because I didn't meet the man, I have no idea what his character was like. I can only guess based on how he behaved and what he accomplished.

Ditto for Borte and Kutula.

Now, Kutula didn't actually exist, as far as I know, but he was a minor character in the beginning who demanded that he be put into the story. Because he provided a break from monotony and a little comic relief, I left him in there and let him run wild.

Temujin is quirky and does things sometimes that no one can see the worth in until later; these traits come from me. He is proud, brave, protective, vengeful, honorable, and loyal as well; these come from my boyfriend. His physical appearance was based on text I read about the people of Mongolia as a whole, though I did make some allotments to suit myself. After all, he is supposed to be a bit of a dream guy.

Borte is demure, wise, beautiful, and fiercely loyal; these come from characters I have known in books. She's kind of a mishmash of what I would want in a partner if I were a mighty conqueror of continents. Ha! She has her flaws and those I have pulled from myself. She tries to fix everything and has a harsh tongue at times. She can be bitchy and her mind is very fragile. You'll see that during the course of the story and you'll see what fixes her insanity as well. I made the decision to make her look as different as possible from other women in Mongolia because she is supposed to be a rare treasure that is coveted. She had to stand out from the crowd and inspire men to do great things in her name.

Kutula is a male concubine who has aspirations of grandeur and is very very clever. He is a very beautiful man who is willing to help another if they are kind to him or if he sees something in them that is good. I imagined him as the quiet type who is very deadly. His fun side comes from me and how I really enjoy tumbling through fields of flowers and bright colors. Okay, that was a joke. His fun side I got from my daughter. She is disarming, gentle, enjoys life, and is in love with everything colorful. His looks I based on gay men I have known and are kind of a mishmash of all of them in one glowingly lovable character.

I don't keep a journal of interesting traits or interesting people I meet because if I find them interesting enough I will remember them.

Little Abigale, of The Abigale Chronicles, is fully based on me as a child. She is unassuming, honest, and loves adventure.

If you missed the giveaway of the book, stay tuned! I will be giving a deep promotional discount when Yassa releases in June!

I hope this post got you thinking about making your characters round. A flat character, while they will get you through the story, will not make a reader want to turn the page. Your protagonist must have flaws, they must go through change (post on that tomorrow), and they absolutely must have some trait that people will fall head over heels in love with. Otherwise, they are boring and people will fall asleep when they try to read your book.

I'd love to hear about some of your characters and where you got the idea for them. Pop a little comment in below!

9am and time to get to work!!

Until next time, WRITE ON!!


Thursday, May 3, 2012

"Indescribable" and Why it Cannot Work for a Writer

Ever hear someone say, "I don't know how to describe it!"? As writers, we are duty bound to describe everything. It comes with the territory. So I discuss feelings today and how we might describe them with our words.

Angry - Having a strong feeling of or showing annoyance, displeasure, or hostility; full of anger.

Okay, there's the definition. What about the feeling itself? How does it affect your body, mind, and thought process? That is what a writer must describe. Forget the damned definition for a minute and think of something that makes you angry. Dwell on it and let it consume you for a few minutes. Now, close your eyes, put your fingers on your keyboard, and describe that feeling.

My attempt (I will use a time I was betrayed by someone I considered a friend in school):

I want to rip her head off her shoulders. If I thought I could physically do that, I swear I would. My heart is racing, my stomach feels like it's on fire, everything in my vision is blurry. I am shaking from head to toe and I am scared I will not be able to control this beast if I let it out of its cage. My hands want to connect with something while balled into fists. My throat is tight and I want to scream horrible things at her. I want to ruin her life so she can feel the same way that I do right now. I would tear her hair, punch her face, and call her every name I think she deserves (which is many).

Now, you can tell someone exactly what betrayal of a friend feels like to Jo. In every book, we read feelings based on those that the writer has experienced. In every character, the writer suffers. If the writer does not suffer, the characters are flat and boring. Let's try another one.

Love - An intense feeling of deep affection

hahaha!! Now that definition is so basic, it makes me want to gag!!

Repeat steps above and write it down.

My attempt (I am thinking of my boyfriend and love of my life, Mike):

My heart is pounding in my chest and my whole body feels like every nerve ending is on overdrive. His face fills my mind and tears spring to my eyes because I am overwhelmed by the intensity of it and there's no other way to release the feeling. If I don't let it out or express it somehow, I am afraid it will keep growing and cause me to shut down completely until I feel his hand on mine or his arms around me. I feel like there is a steel cable that runs from my heart to his and that the further apart we are, the thicker and stronger it becomes. I have a pulling sensation in my stomach and chest that tells me I need to be near him. When I am near him, it stops pulling and lies at rest. I feel an all encompassing fear along with everything else because I worry that it's too good; too much. I see his face and smile because he is beautiful, he makes me unbelievably happy, and my feet and head feel light as a feather.

If you want to, feel free to draw on those descriptions. If you notice, they intertwine with other feelings.

I set this challenge for you today: BEGIN YOUR BIBLE OF FEELINGS

Open up your word processor and list every feeling you can think of. Spend a few minutes every day filling it out. I beg you not to try each and every one of them in a single day because you will end up totally spent and with such a tumult of emotions in you, you might not be able to think. In addition, drawing on all of those memories may leave you with the lingering feelings. You have memories! USE THEM!

Leave a comment today with your attempt. I would love to read them! List your feeling, the definition, and your description! Let's make it fun!

I am running late today. Time to write!!

Until next time, WRITE ON!!


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Writers that Cannot Feel... Cannot Write

Today I am discussing feelings (or lack thereof) and what happens to a writer that cannot feel.

We all have those days when we are upset and the words flow. We all have those days where we are sublimely happy and the words flow. But what happens when we are numb? When the brain empties itself of all ability to do more than stare at a blank wall?

We read. At least, I do. I find solace in the words of others and they provide me with an escape from my numbness. When I read that Mr. Darcy insulted Ms. Eliza, I feel his insult just as she would have. It provides a way for me to connect to another human being (even if they are fictional).

Readers - and all writers MUST be readers - are a hypersensitive bunch. A true reader will pick up a book and become lost in the story flowing from the pages. If the story is well written, the reader carries a little piece of that book with them for the rest of their lives; especially if the characters have qualities we admire.

Example: When I read about the totally unassuming way that Ms. Jane Bennet looks at every person on the Earth and makes allotments for their shortcomings and flaws and never speaks ill of anyone, I find that quality endearing and my drive to be more like Jane increases. Ms. Eliza Bennet has a sharp tongue and a quick wit that keeps me engaged with her and those are qualities I find most people lacking. I instantly want to be more like Elizabeth.

If you ever find yourself lost in a book or character, ask yourself why. What is it about them that you love? Maybe they are so evil that you are stunned and that's why they stick with you. You begin to watch other people for signs that the character displayed so you will know to avoid them.

Books have a deep impact on our psyche, whether we want to admit it or not. Writers need books to read in order to fuel their passion and introduce them to unique qualities in people that we may never have met in real life.

When we cannot feel, we cannot write because we cannot bring passion to the pages of our stories.

But we can always read.

Remember, today is the last day to get your copy of The Abigale Chronicles - Book One!! Follow me on twitter (@writejomichaels) or follow my blog to get your code for the free download.

I am early today so I am going to poke around and comment on other blogs that I follow.

A question for all you writers out there: What do you do when you can't write? What causes your block?

Until next time, WRITE ON!!


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Working on a Novel is Like...?

What can compare to working on a novel? Digging your way out of sand when you are buried up to your neck and the only way out is grain by grain? How about swimming in a sea of spaghetti that pushes you backward one stroke for every two you make?

Some days, that is EXACTLY what working on a  novel feels like.

Then why do we write? Well...

We write because on other days, we are allowed to fly and the freedom our writing gives us on those days is worth one hundred days in the muck. It feels like nothing else in the world to know you have written a compelling story. Most of us just want to share that story with others and allow them a peek inside something they never thought possible. Writers always think of the possible and the impossible and figure out a way to turn it into prose.

When you read someone's book, you get a look inside a whole other realm of possibility. Books can change the way people think. Books can inform. Hell, books can even inspire other books. There is a very good reason that they say the pen is mightier than the sword. Sure the sword WON the battle, but the pen is what made it necessary in the first place. People who went to war or revolted because of words on a page were opened up to injustice that they might never have seen if not for a writer taking the time to put them on paper.

Writing is like breathing to an author. We walk around with our head in the clouds sometimes - okay, OFTEN - but we are usually very charismatic people who LOVE life and see it just a little bit differently than other people. If we couldn't write, we would suffocate and be miserable - even if we had everything else one could want. It is a part of who we are.

But those days when writing a novel is like digging yourself out of that damned sand are the days we doubt ourselves.

A call to action:

Go leave a review on your FAVORITE book by your FAVORITE LIVING author today. Give them their wings so they can give you that next great story.

What do you writers say working on a novel is like? Good days and bad days?

Time to go and get to work myself!!

Don't forget, the offer for a free copy of The Abigale Chronicles - Book One ends TODAY!!

Follow my blog (hint: look on the right side), follow me on Twitter or come like my Facebook page and shoot me a message to get the code for the download.

Until next time, WRITE ON!!