Monday, January 27, 2014

Be That Lucky Bastard

by John Klawitter

Copyright © 2013 John Klawitter
Originally published by 1st Turning Point, 2011

John Klawitter
Envious writers like me sometimes mutter Why that lucky son-of-a-bitch, getting a half-million dollar advance! Why couldn’t that be me?

Could be, I’m actually not the brilliant dude I think I am. Or maybe that son-of-a-bitch just was in the right place at the right time. Either way, how can you and I best position ourselves for the next big break that comes along?

What if, the next time we begin to write, we purposefully set out to raise our odds? I mean, suppose we actually thought publishability first and idea second?! All authors claim they do this, but that’s not true, if only because ego gets in the way.

Okay, we’re not totally egotistic, and we want to be the lucky ones. Where do we start? We could burnish our image, but everybody does that. We could learn the tricks used by the other writers who hang out at 1st Turning Point, but we already do many of these things because we are in the scribble biz.

What else? I believe there is something, but it is so hazy and nebulous that you may think it is nothing, a waste of time, a silly bit of business. Nobody really teaches it. Many believe they already do it. Most are sure other writers don’t.

You know, finding yourself is not the same for any person, much less a writer. Meditation isn’t a bad habit, but authors particularly walk individual paths; writing is a
journey of discovery, and self-awareness strikes in vastly different ways. That’s why the alert writer has to force her or himself uneasily into that place where one mutters hard truths and asks difficult questions. Writers who think this way spend less time chasing other people’s butterflies—a good thing—and this can also be a clue as to your own progress into healthy centricity.

Some decades ago, my NY agent, knowing I had written Crazyhead, the cult classic novel of the Vietnam mess, called to suggest I could write something knocking the Japanese, who were about to take over the world. It didn’t take genius to recognize Crichton’s Rising Sun was about to be released and some big publisher was trying to ride the gathering tsunami. So could I knock something out? Spec, of course? As you may remember, Rising Sun turned out to be a loser, and I rescued six months of my life with a simple No, thanks. But I haven’t always been that smart. Being a Hollywood Hyphenate, I’ve written dozens of spec scripts, pitches and new show developments with too much attention to the personalities involved and too little to the worth of the idea.

I’m not only warning about the devil appearing at your shoulder in the form of some agent, producer friend, or friendly publisher. It’s just as easy to start yourself down the wrong trail. Who among us has never begun a novel or a screenplay with no more than a hunch, a feeling, a vague notion? I’m going to do something like Louis L’Amour’s Sackett novels, only with Scottish descendants living in the Florida panhandle. Scribes, this is not how to begin a fetching tale. Not to say ideas like this are automatically doomed, but rather they are launched in the middle of the process rather than at the beginning.

So be thunderstruck, but then get over it. Have your moment
of creative madness, but then hone your idea, work the process, sharpen your concept. After that, regroup, reconsider and go forward, or can it and start over.

Let’s walk through the process, the right way: Here you are in the heart of your meditational moment, perhaps sipping cheap Algerian red and eating a dark chocolate Toblerone bar, the one with the little bits of honey in it. You think to yourself about old McGirty, that interesting old Scot lived downaround Jacksonville with his three daughters and a big herd of cattle. And then you look at the marketplace: It’s currently not so good for Historical Southern Westerns. So you fantasize, but I think they are horny daughters, tough as nails but real beauties. Now you’ve shifted to (maybe) a Romantic Western. But you don’t like to write straight Romantic Westerns. And you don’t see the three lusty ladies as lesbians or harpies. You see, what you’re doing is evaluating yourself and the current market–before you commit to the idea. It’s the right way. You go on, arguing with yourself and, maybe if you’re lucky, some voice comes from the ether and says What if McGirty was a CIA spy, farmed out
to live on his newly dead best friend’s cattle ranch? He hates ranching, but can’t leave or he will be offed by the very agency he worked for. And he knows for sure that all three of his best friend’s daughters are deadly trained assassins, though only two openly blame him for their father’s death. And the skeptical voice doesn’t know what to say. That’s a good sign, but don’t fall off your turnip truck just yet. If you know as much about the spy game as I do, you know you could have the first threads of a serious idea. But is it saleable? That’s the other half of your process. Your responsibility to your career, your talent and yourself has to be to include a healthy cynicism about just how well spy stories are doing these days in the marketplace. A great idea that isn’t attractive to current publishers is like a great bolt of lightning striking nothing in the desert.

So here you have it, The Klaw’s sure-fire formula for improving your odds in a game of chance that is frighteningly stacked against you: First, be enormously skeptical of your own and other people’s ideas. Ideas are a dime a dozen, and they can’t all be winners. Then research the hell out of the market. Work hard to find a story idea that you like, understand and that you believe many readers will enjoy. And then mull, ponder, question, torture, take no prisoners, kill all the weak ideas. And then, my writerly child, if you can’t talk yourself out of your great new story idea, go forth and get thee lucky.


John Klawitter is a Hollywood writer, producer and director who writes fiction and non-fiction books. He often adapts his novels to screenplays that he then peddles around town. (So far, a few fat options, but no brass ring.) His novels are based on his years surviving as a creative person in the ad biz and in show biz. It is an interesting life.

He has worked as the Creative Director of Disney Studios in Burbank, and as an independent creative resource for Warner Bros, Universal Studios, Paramount and the Disney Channel, as well as for many indy production companies including Hanna Barbera, Franke Films, Pink Planet Productions, Eyeline Films and Zoiyu Productions. His films and television specials have appeared on NBC, the BBC, and the Disney Channel, and he has written many memorable song lyrics, advertising jingles and television show openings, including “Disney’s Wonderful World”, “Now & Then”, and “The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show”.

The Castelane blog will feature guest authors, artists and publishers, writing about marketing, publishing and the joys and angsts of the writing life. If you’d like to contribute to either the Castelane blog or the Knowledge Base, please contact us at

We’d also love to hear your experiences about your favorite books or interesting teachers. Feel free to post them here.


Monday, January 20, 2014

A Baker’s Dozen Tips for Writers Using Pinterest

By Donna J. Shepherd
Last Updated: 01/15/2014

Have you become addicted to Pinterest yet? I have to admit that I have – and I’m certainly not alone. The social network Pinterest grows increasingly as users post images and links to virtual pinboards.

Donna J. Shepherd
The official definition from Pinterest:

"Pinterest lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. People use pinboards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes, and organize their favorite recipes. Best of all, you can browse pinboards created by other people. Browsing pinboards is a fun way to discover new things and get inspiration from people who share your interests."

Here are my top tips for writers in particular, although many will apply to anyone learning to use Pinterest.

1. Pin images of your favorite books. Personally, I like to see what other writers are reading. I’ve found useful recommendations of books in the genre I write, along with teaching helps, tips, and books that help me develop as a writer.

2. You will want to devote one board to your own books. For instance, I have one board devoted to my children’s book, “Ava’s Secret Tea Party.” I’ve pinned images of the book and examples of the interior artwork, but I’ve also gone a step further and pinned images of unique teapots, beautiful tea party settings, and pretty much anything related to tea parties.

3. Be sure to have other boards devoted to books and authors you like. Avoid giving the impression that your Pinterest profile is being used solely to promote yourself. Be sure to follow the site's rule: "Pinterest is designed to curate and share things you love. If there is a photo or project you're proud of, pin away! However, try not to use Pinterest purely as a tool for self-promotion."

4. Find other writers on Pinterest and follow their examples. I’ve found that many writers will use boards for characters, clothing, research, and scenes.

5. Someone said a Pinterest board is like your high school locker (remember those?) as it is a way to show your readers what interests and inspires you as well as what you're working on right now.

6. Look for book recommendations or comment on other boards in the Film, Music & Books section.

7. Share writing tools, stationery, journals, books and writing-related items in the Gifts section of the site.

8. Use #hashtags and keywords. Much like using Twitter, tagging your pins with trending hashtags and/or keywords will help you find new followers. Searching for other pins and boards using hashtags will also help you find similar interests on Pinterest to follow.

9. Add the Pinterest bookmarklet to your browser's bookmarks bar. This is a time-saver, because it allows you to easily pin things you find while browsing without going to the Pinterest website first. To get it, visit the Pinterest "Goodies" page and drag the "Pin It" button to your browser toolbar. Now, when you see something you want to pin, click the bookmarklet and you'll be prompted to create a new pin. Be sure to scroll to the correct board for each pin.

Another vital tip from Pinterest - "If you notice that a pin is not sourced correctly, leave a comment so the original pinner can update the source. Finding the original source is always preferable to a secondary source such as Google Image Search or a blog entry."

10. This tip has saved me a lot of time. If you're pinning an image from a website using the Pinterest bookmarklet, you can highlight the applicable text on that page before you hit "Pin It" and the text will automatically show up in the description box. Still edit and add hashtags.

11. You can also tag other Pinterest users by using the @ symbol with their Pinterest user name. You have to be following at least one of their boards. That user will see the pin, and it will link to their Pinterest profile. Use this tip to help promote each other on Pinterest.

12. Cross-post to your Twitter and Facebook accounts. When you pin something to one of your boards, you are given the option of posting to your Twitter account as well. Under your ‘settings,’ click ‘on’ under “Publish Activity to Facebook Timeline.” In this way when you pin, you’re actually posting to three different places at once. Now that’s multi-tasking!

13. And finally, follow me! I'm at My boards are a hodgepodge of recipes, crafts, interesting and funny pictures (Bonus tip - funny pins gets re-pinned more often!), and of course, a few are dedicated to my books. I hope you'll check them out.


Donna Shepherd has been a columnist for The Dabbling Mum, National Association
of Baby Boomer Women, and Christian Work at Home Moms. She has hundreds of articles and devotions to her credit with stories and devotions in Daily Grace for Women (David C. Cook), Anytime Prayers for Everyday Moms (FaithWords), and The Best Grandma in the World (Howard Books) to name a few. Donna’s books for children - Topsy Turvy Land, No More Gunk! & OUCH! Sunburn!, Chizzy's Topsy Tale, Dotty's Topsy Tale, Poodle and Doodle, Sully's Topsy Tale, Bradybug, Where is Salami? and Ava's Secret Tea Party feature short, playful rhymes and humorous illustrations. Donna is founder of Greater Harvest Workshops and Middletown Area Christian Writers, and in demand as a Bible teacher, conference speaker, and singer with over thirty years of experience.

Donna J. Shepherd has hundreds of articles and devotionals to her credit. Her children’s books feature short, playful rhymes and humorous illustrations. Her newest book for children is “Ava’s Secret Tea Party” – available in both paperback and hardcover.

Donna’s devotionals and stories appear in Daily Grace for Women, Anytime Prayers for Everyday Moms, and The Best Grandma in the World to name a few. Her newest release is a ‘hen-lit’ called “Love Under the Bubble Wrap – a novelette.”

For more writing tips, useful links, and updates about Donna’s books, visit her Fan Page at or

The Castelane blog will feature guest authors, artists and publishers, writing about marketing, publishing and the joys and angsts of the writing life. If you’d like to contribute to either the Castelane blog or the Knowledge Base, please contact us at

We’d also love to hear your experiences about your favorite books or interesting teachers. Feel free to post them here.

Monday, January 13, 2014

25 Free Ways to Buzz an Author

by Rowena Cherry
Copyright © 2013 Rowena Cherry
Originally published by 1st Turning Point, 2009

Rowena Cherry
I’d like to share a short list of things that authors and their friends, and especially their readers can do to help each other buzz a book, and keep Romance strong. All authors for the purpose of this article will be considered female. (No sexism intended).

#1. Help the search engines find her. Why? Even if you know where to find your friend, her blog, and her books, “hits” help. The more visitors the search engine spiders find, the more priority the author’s website gets. So: Google her. Ask Jeeves about her. Dogpile her. A9 search her. Use Alexa. Try a Yahoo search. Blog search. Search on Technorati. Even better, set up a Google Alert for her name, also common misspellings of her name, and for her book titles.

#2. Having “Searched” or been “Alerted”, Visit… her website; blogs; author pages. If you may comment, do so. Everyone who takes the time to blog or post content is grateful when visitors comment. Human nature leads more people to read a post that has received a lot of comments.

#3 Follow. Favorite. Share. Google’s Blogger, Twitter, Facebook “Pages”, Squidoo lenses,
You Tube videos and more allow you to become a follower or a fan. Do so. Connect wherever you can. It’s good for both of you, because follower/fan photos show up.

#4 Click to read (and rate) any reviews she has written, or Lists she has set up. These days, anyone can make an EssentiaList on Barnes and, a Listmania on, a Top Ten list on, also Listopia on If you like her reviews or lists, click Helpful.

#5. If you see a good review of a book you’ve enjoyed-on any bookselling site that allows customers and visitors to comment on reviews– click Helpful if it truly is a helpful review. Votes help both the reviewer and the author.

#6. Tag her books wherever you can. Amazon isn’t the only place (Amazon isn’t even one site… there’s,, etc etc) Many book selling sites encourage readers to tag.
What is a tag? It’s a search term that a reader might be using to find a type of book she likes, when she is looking for a new author. Some tags might be “Romance”, “Fantasy”, “Mystery”, “Shapeshifter”, “Georgian Romance”, “Humor” or “Space Opera”.

#7. When you are on an admired author’s Amazon book page, click on links to:
Put it on your wish list, it’s extra, free advertising for the book. Tell a friend. Scroll down the book page to Tag this product. Or make a search suggestion).

#8. Join in the Customer/Reader discussions on her book page, on forums. Ask a question. Start a discussion. Hundreds of eyeballs scan the discussions on Barnes and Noble bookclubs. The search engines pick up on the discussions. The longer a discussion keeps going, the better the PR buzz for your friend. This does not just apply to Amazon and B&N. Discussion anywhere is “buzz”.

#9. Review her book… Most people know that a customer can write a review on There’s a purchase requirement with Amazon (and I think with Barnes and Noble, too). However, many sites don’t require a reader to have bought a book from them in order to post a review:,,, E-Bay, Powells, FlipKart, We-Read (on Facebook), NexTag etc.

#10. Smak her. Have you ever noticed the “Add This” or “Share” or “Recommend” widgets on online pages and on You Tube? If you think your author friend’s blog, or news about her is interesting, syndicate the news to Digg It, Reddit, Technorati, Stumble Upon, Furl and as many of the other 40 or so sites as you have time and energy for. It’s self promo when she does it. It’s news when someone else does it.
Smak is News for women, posted by women.

#11. If the author has a reminder on a public calendar (Amazon has one, other sites have the function, too) for a booksigning near you, click on Remind Me Too. Booksignings are nerve-racking. Support is always appreciated, even if you don’t buy a book.

#12. If she lists an “Event”, which one can on Facebook, GoodReads, and too many other places to mention, be sure to RSVP with a kind comment about the book.

#13. Make her a top friend on MySpace, Bebo etc, Give her book cover image as a “gift” on Facebook, with her permission, make her cover into a widget or tile it as a background, or keep it on the top page of your Shelfari/GoodReads/MyB&N display of what you are reading.

#14. If you have a MySpace page or, or Twitters, or, or, or (and if you don’t, but really want to help, get one… it’s free) invite your author friends to be your friends there. Write a bulletin about your friend or her book. Add a comment on their profile page’s comments section.
Your comment is their opportunity to say something about their book without the appearance of soliciting. Review their book on your MySpace blog. Or on You Tube!

#15. If her publisher has a forum, join it and ask her questions. For instance, Dorchester Publishing (home of Leisure and LoveSpell authors) has
Again, your comment will be seen by hundreds, if not thousands, and it will give your friend a reason to post something interesting and quotable about her book without seeming to be self-promoting.

#16. If you have a blog or website, (and you should always secure your own domain name before you become famous yourself) publicize your friend’s upcoming signings/author talks/workshops on your blog. Mention her website URL. Link to your author friend’s website or blog on yours. Put her book as a ‘must read’ on your own site, or in your own newsletter. Have a list of links to authors you like, and blogs you enjoy.

#17. If you belong to readers’ group sites, or book chat sites, or special interest sites, post what you are reading. Plugs never hurt. These are also picked up on RSS feeds and the search engines.

#18. Join your favorite author’s yahoo group, let her know where you’ve seen her book in stores, or where you’ve seen discussions of her book, or reviews of her book.

#19. Drop in on her online chats to say how you enjoyed her book. Supportive friends at chats are cool because chats can be chaotic, and typing answers takes time.

#20. Tweet on Twitter about how much you are enjoying the book. Retweet or reply to any comments you see that promote the book.

#21. Offer to take a bunch of her bookmarks to conventions, or conferences, and make sure they are put in goodie bags, or on promo tables. Or simply visit her table at a convention, and sign up for her newsletter, or pick up her bookmark and tell someone else how good the book is. Offer to slip her bookmarks into your own correspondence when you pay bills, taxes, etc.

#22. Instead of quoting Goethe in your sig file, try quoting a line from your friend’s blurb in the week of her launch.

#23. Ask for her book in your local library. If they don’t have it, maybe they will order a copy. If the library won’t do that, ask if they would enter the book in their system if the author were to donate a copy to them. Once a book is in one library’s system, it gets into the database for other libraries.

#24. If you see your favorite author’s books in a supermarket or bookstore: face her books (if there is room), turn one so the cover shows. Tell store personnel how much you like that book, or that the author is local. If you don’t see her books, especially when they ought to be there, ask about them.

#25. If you are connected on and your author friend is listed as “Author” or
“Freelance Writer” or similar, consider “recommending her” on the strength of her writing. Recommendations on LinkedIn are intended to be for professional purposes.

Bonus Tip:
Although I said “Free”, if you are an author buy colleagues’ autographed books from them at booksignings to use in your own giveaways instead of always giving away your own books.

Award winning author and talk show host, and outspoken copyrights advocate, Rowena Cherry has played chess with a Grand Master and former President of the World Chess Federation (hence the chess-pun titles of her alien romances).

She has spent folly filled summers in a Spanish castle; dined on a sheikh's yacht with royalty; been serenaded (on a birthday) by a rockstar and an English nobleman; ridden in a pace car at the 1993 Indy 500; received the gold level of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award; and generally lived on the edge of the sort of life that inspires her romances about high-living alien gods. Find out more about Rowena at the following:
The Castelane blog will feature guest authors, artists and publishers, writing about marketing, publishing and the joys and angsts of the writing life. If you’d like to contribute to either the Castelane blog or the Knowledge Base, please contact us at

We’d also love to hear your experiences about your favorite books or interesting teachers. Feel free to post them here.

Check out Castelane trailers at: If you would like a trailer for your book please visit our site at

Monday, January 6, 2014

Battling the Writer’s Block Monster

by Charlotte Boyett~Compo

Copyright © 2013 Charlotte Boyett~Compo 
Originally published by 1st Turning Point, 2009
Last Updated: 10/24/2013

Charlotte Boyett~Compo

Writer’s block is defined as a condition professional fiction and non-fiction writers develop when they have an inability to create work.  Sometimes the blockage is a few hours, but it can become a juggernaut that rolls into many years of frustration-the end result causing the writer to abandon his or her craft altogether.
Listed as causes of this blockage of creativity are running out of ideas, writing oneself into a corner, or the work attempted being beyond the writer’s scope to actually write it. In other words: biting off more than you can deliver.  A good example of that last reason is a romance writer trying to write outside his or her comfort zone in order to take advantage of the latest market trend.  
I have always maintained that there is no such thing as writer’s block.  To me, the inability to write comes from outside forces over which I have very little control.
The telephone rings.  The doorbell chimes.  The dog wants in and the cat wants out.  Your significant other has a hankering to eat supper now instead of the usual time.  Your MIL is on a rant about something and finds it necessary to drag you into her arena to battle the problem.  You have a cold, a toothache, a headache, your period, or the hot flashes are particularly heated.  It’s raining.  It’s snowing.  Your significant other is snoring.
All those are distractions and-let’s face it-distractions come with life.  Annoying, disruptive situations pop up when we are least prepared for them.  Such things push the writing aside in order for you to get a handle on the interruption.  The writing isn’t the main thrust of what you need to do so you sideline it while you solve the problem at hand.
Some writers have a different kind of writers’ block that is tied in with their mental processes and that’s the hardest obstacle to overcome.  You can put a sign on the doorbell.  You can unplug the phone.  You can take your laptop to a parking lot to get away from pets, significant others and interfering in-laws. Physical conditions are harder to control, but once the flu has run its course or your tooth has been filled, and/or your period passes, so too should those disruptions.  But what about the problem that is within your brain?
Writer and neurologist Alice W. Flaherty in New Yorker Magazine hypothesizes that a writer’s ability to produce work comes from specific areas of the brain, and when that area is disrupted, there is a blockage in the creative flow.
Nothing causes blockage in your thought processes like something that overwhelms you emotionally.
I have never had writer’s block until this year.  I’ve written over 70 novels and not once in all the time I’ve been writing professionally have I allowed the doorbell, the phone, my mother or my pets to sidetrack me from doing what I lived to do: write.  The death of my beloved husband of 43 years effectively did what years of disruptions, nuisances, and distractions had failed to do.
The major depression that has me locked tightly in its embrace is proving to be stronger than I would have imagined, but I am getting help from a therapist who-ironically enough-is also suffering writer’s block while doing the NaNoWriMo competition.  Misery, as they say, loves company.
Don’t try forcing the work to come.  It will arrive on your doorstep when the time is right.  Lashing out at others or turning the frustration inward will only cause the blockage to tighten, drive deeper in your subconscious.  Step back.  Put the work aside and out of mind.  Get a handle on the distractions or the problems that are causing them.
Another option is to take this time while your creative brain is locked up tight to focus your energy on promotion and marketing.  These are often more left-brained tasks, or they take short bursts of creative energy instead of long runs of storytelling.  Spend time building or improving your website, expanding your social networking web, writing non-fiction articles for newsletters or other author’s blogs or websites.  Don’t let this writer’s block shut you down entirely.
Once the distractions or problems blocking your creativity are settled, hopefully your Muse will be satisfied and will once again lead you through the story writing process.
Charlotte "Charlee" Boyett-Compo is the author of eighty books, the first ten of which are the WindLegend Saga. She was married 43 years to her high school sweetheart, Tom, until his untimely death in April 2009. She is the mother of two grown sons, Pete and Mike, and the proud grandmother of Preston Alexander and Victoria Ashley and great-grandmother to Amber Dawn.
A native of Sarasota, Florida, Charlee was adopted at birth and grew up in Colquitt and Albany, Georgia. She says of her heritage: "I was born in Florida and raised in Georgia so that makes me an official Sunshine Cracker!" She has also lived in Alabama, South Carolina, New York, Illinois, Nebraska and now lives in Iowa where she enjoys the changing of the seasons.
Her signature Reaper novels have a huge loyal following and currently she is at work on new erotica novels for Ellora's Cave and New Concepts Publishing. For synopses, excerpts and over 900 reviews of her novels, visit her website at You can write to Charlotte at

The Castelane blog will feature guest authors, artists and publishers, writing about marketing, publishing and the joys and angsts of the writing life. If you’d like to contribute to either the Castelane blog or the Knowledge Base, please contact us at

We’d also love to hear your experiences about your favorite books or interesting teachers. Feel free to post them here.

Check out Castelane trailers at: If you would like a trailer for your book please visit our site at