Guest Post

Thoughts on Writing by R.P. Channing


Why book covers are so important

I think the importance of book covers depends on the author / genre. A great cover is fine, and does tend to push up sales if it’s designed correctly for the correct market, but ultimately what gets a book well known is its inner content. A more established author probably has less to worry about, especially if the book is part of a series and the series has a good following.

A lesser-known author has to pay particular care to the cover. He / she is known by nobody, and often the cover is the only thing that might get a potential reader interested.

Photos in the book

I used photos in this book because I was having fun. I got wrapped into the world of the story and I thought photos might make everything a little more real. Some of the characters have photos in there, some of these scenes have photos.  I’m not the first person to do this.

How to Make Your Characters Believable

Well, a character might be believable to one person, and unbelievable to another. I guess it comes down to personal experiences. If I were to write my own experiences as a teenager in a book, probably very few people would believe it. I think the trick is making the character believable to “as many people as possible.”

Finding Your Voice: Writing in First Person (or Third) etc.

I think this is determined more by the genre than the author’s style. I think an author should be able to write in any person and in any tense. Young Adult stories mostly follow first person these days (thanks, "The Hunger Games" and "Twilight".)

People expect certain things in a genre when they crack open the book. Trying to break those expectations right on the first page is not a good idea, especially when you’re new to the scene.

How to Write by the Seat of Your Pants: Outline or No?

I’ve done both. Although, no matter how much I outline, it all usually changes by the time my fingers hit the keyboard. I guess the first draft is technically “the outline” for me. I just can’t sit down and plot events and characters and everything before I’ve written the scene. It gives me a headache, and it takes the fun out of writing.

Usually I “get to know” the characters as I write about them.  Once the first draft is done, I then usually have a fair amount of fixing up to do.

How to Research Your Story Before Writing Your Book

It’s kind of like outlining for me. I start, and then I see where I end up. I will research halfway, toward the end, at the beginning, whenever I need to. The only I time I research before even starting the book is when I’m out of ideas completely. 

About the Author

R P Channing started writing three years ago, but never published anything even after churning out over a million words of fiction. "Thirst: Blood of my Blood" is the first book he dared to publish. When asked why, he said, “Because it’s the first thing I wrote that my wife actually enjoyed reading.” When not hammering away (most literally) at his keyboard, he can be found buried in a book, reading anything from romance to horror to young adult to non-fiction to comedy. If it has words in it, I’ll take it.


How to Avoid the Slush Pile

Today's guest post was brought to you by Lola Smirnova

One of the hardest things to take as a writer is that you often rarely get to find out the reasons why your work has ended up in the slush pile; frustrating though it is, what I’ll try to do in this piece is lift the lid a little on the publishing world and give you some helpful pointers to avoid the dreaded slush pile!

If you’re serious about getting published these practical tips will help you to improve your manuscript in several areas; it’s these little things that can tip the balance in your favour when you’re operating in a fiercely competitive market like writing.

Proper formatting is absolutely essential

It might seem picky, but it’s true; proper formatting is a must.  Publishers read so many manuscripts so you must ensure that yours is easy on the eye to read and not a painful, eye twitching experience for the reader.

Some publishers will state what their formatting preference is and if they do it’s essential that you stick to these rigidly; if you don’t you may get rejected on this basis.  If no preferences are stated stick to the standard format: double spaced, 12pt, 1” to 1.25” margins on all sides and page numbers.

Typos and grammar

Do you best to get these right; to be honest, they aren’t necessarily something that would pass or fail a manuscript, but this definitely falls into the category of “don’t annoy the publisher unnecessarily”.  Make it easy for them to read your work and to like you!

Avoid clichés

Clichés harm your credibility as a writer; plain and simple.  They give the publisher the impression that you have limited vocabulary and imagination so avoid trotting these tired old descriptions and metaphors out.  A really good rule of thumb is that you should only use a cliché if one of your characters is being directly quoted.  Don’t shortcut characterisation or emotion by using these; think of a better way!

Use ambiguity carefully

This can be really difficult to get right; you need to constantly remind yourself that the reader doesn’t know your characters, your story and your message as well as you (yet, hopefully!).  Something which seems obvious to you may not the reader and they don’t have your insight into the character or story.  All areas of ambiguity should be answered at some point; they should make sense by the end of the story.

Avoid grand gestures, or at least use them sparingly

It’s always tempting to use sweeping statements and elaborate metaphors under the guise of being poetic and dramatic, but in truth they can damage a passage by coming across as grandiose or pretentious.  You should avoid overly melodramatic prose as it can come across as vague and, worse, like you’re showing off your vocabulary.  You don’t want to be the “author that ate a thesaurus”.  By including unique and precise details, you can remedy the use of such sweeping, grand statements and metaphors however.


About the Author:

Lola Smirnova is an author from Ukraine. Her novels are inspired by real-life events. They are meant for the open-minded readers who are not afraid of a little blood, sweat and semen.

Lola’s debut novel "Twisted" was released in 2014. The book placed as Honorable Mention in the General Fiction Category of The 2014 London Book Festival’s Annual Competition.  Lola released "Craved", the highly anticipated sequel to "Twisted", in August 2015.

Lola has fascinating stories to share about the experiences of women in the global sex industry. Her thrilling tales will surely shock and surprise you, with both the storyline and literary value.

Lola lives in South Africa, and is currently working on the third book in her trilogy. To learn more, go to

Readers can connect with Lola Smirnova on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.


Having been to hell and back, the eager sisters from Ukraine - Natalia, Lena and Julia - decide to retire from selling sex and walk the straight and narrow path back home. But when an old friend calls them with an opportunity to make buckets of ‘easy’ money in South Africa, they find it impossible to refuse. 

Return to the nightlife of the entertainment business brings along all the old familiar temptations - alcohol, drugs, and prostitution. 

Can the girls resist their vices and stay together? Or will this industry destroy their sanity and their family? 

Inspired by real life events, "Craved" is a fascinating story of addiction, survival and the art of making a living in the sex trade.

Turning a Negative into a Positive – the Inspiration Behind Roman Mask

It was an October night, and I was returning home from a night out with a few friends in my local pub in London, when something happened that changed my life dramatically.  The nights were closing in, so it was already dark by the time I left the pub, but I was in a good mood.   I’d recently returned from a trip to Pompeii , so I’d been telling everyone of my excitement at walking through the Roman streets, marvelling at the murals and depictions on the well preserved houses, and laughing about the seedier aspects of the ancient city – the brothels and street graffiti that had also survived the great volcanic eruption of AD 79.

It was probably because I was so preoccupied with these thoughts, that I didn’t see the guy who came out of an alcove and wrapped an arm around my neck.  My first thought was, ‘Am I being mugged?  Who’s going to mug me??’ – I’m a big guy, over six feet tall and I keep myself in pretty good shape, so I’d always thought the chance of this happening in London were pretty remote.  But I was wrong.

When the second guy came out from behind a car, then the third from behind a bush I knew I was in trouble.  This was no ordinary street robbery; these guys were out for blood, and the three of them surrounded me and between them punched, kicked, and smashed me to the ground, beating me to an inch of my life.

Afterwards, as I tried to hobble home – one of them had crushed my foot, to prevent me from getting up – another passer-by saw me covered in blood and called an ambulance.  I was lucky, I got to live another day.  And within a few weeks, my bruises healed, and I began to walk without a limp, all physical signs of my encounter disappeared.  But that was just the start of my nightmare.

I was completely unprepared for the mental-trauma that such an incident inflicts on you.  That winter was torture for me.  After any night out, I was terrified to go home; I found I was scared of the dark, constantly thinking that people would jump out of the shadows at me.  I’d never previously been a heavy drinker, but over that winter I found I needed to drink a lot just to give me the courage to walk home.  I could have called a taxi, but then people would wonder why I was taking a cab for such a small journey – this became another all-encompassing fear:  that others would find out about my terror.   This might seem irrational, but at the time, that fear was almost as great as being mugged again.

Those first six months were very difficult, but then as the nights started getting lighter, an idea came to me.  After visiting Pompeii I’d been searching for a character to be a lead in a novel set in ancient Rome – someone who fully embraced the entirety of Rome, its seedier aspects as much as its magnificence.  Why not put my experiences to good use, rather than having it a weight bearing me down, let it be something that produces something positive.  At the time, the news on the television was full of stories of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress and it made me think how soldiers dealt with such issues in the ancient world.  My experiences had shown me the power that traumatic events can play on the mind, and I quite simply didn’t believe anyone who claimed that in the ancient world such a thing was not a concern because life was different back then.   The human mind was biologically exactly the same then as it is now, and just as fallible to conditions we now diagnose and understand the importance of.

So I came up with the character Cassius, a great soldier, but someone who’d been affected by a terrible battle a few years before in the forests of Germany.   I knew from my own experiences how easy it was to fall into a trap of blaming yourself for your own perceived weakness, and I knew how living a lie to hide that same weakness can become a part of life.  I then started my novel in Rome so I could show Cassius being seduced by the many vices of that ancient city – something that is all too easy under such circumstances.  I then returned Cassius to Germany where he learns to understand and come to terms with his fears, just as I did whilst writing my novel.  The novel culminates in the Teutoburg forest and one of the most dramatic and historically significant battles of the ancient world.  Cassius needs to draw on all his courage and strength in the midst of that terrible event.

I’m now pleased that I encountered those three men, that fateful night in October.  It was a terrible experience, but it gave me something so much more – I wouldn’t change it for anything.

About the Book: 

Roman Mask

It is Rome AD 9 and Augustus Caesar rules Imperial Rome at the height of its power, as the Roman Empire stretches across the known world. Cassius, son of one of her most powerful families, is the personification of Rome's imperial strength: wealthy, popular, a war hero with a decorated military career - none of Rome's fashionable parties are complete without him - except, he hides a secret. After his nerve is broken in Germany, the thought of genuine armed combat is enough to send him into a cold sweat of fear and shame. But this doesn't dissuade him from living off a false reputation so he can continue a life of casual affairs, wine, and parties, as he is seduced by the many vices of Rome. However his scandalous life is soon upset by a summons from the Emperor's wife. It ends his happy decadent life and returns him to Germany to assist the Roman legions in their greatest ever trial, and the events that will resound down in history, in the dark forests of the Teutoburg... 

You can find Thomas' book at the following vendors:

Becoming a Writer: I Write, Therefore I Am

Good Morning!  The following is a guest post from author J.C. Norman:

So I've always been a fan of one fiction or another, growing up in the 90's I grew up on the ninja turtles cartoons, video games and any 80's action films my dad allowed me to watch. Because of this action, violence in fiction was normalized for me at a young age. Even the cartoons like Tom and Jerry were horrifically violent in hindsight. Also were the old Goosebumps books (remember those?) I used to love reading and so as a mash up of all these fictions in my childhood it was no wonder I would start to dream up my own. 'The boy with his head in the clouds' my parents would often call me (although they described it a little differently) or 'Wonder boy' simply because I would always sort of drift around in my own little world, daydreaming and never paying attention unless it was on a TV screen. I am pleased to admit however that nearly 30 years on and still nothing has changed. I just had my yearly work appraisal with my boss saying her annual speech about me 'zoning out' and my work colleagues calling me 'space monkey'.

It's easy for me to understand now however that this was all just a form of escaping reality for me, and to be honest, fiction is a waaayyy better world than the real one, am I right?

I remember when I first decided I would become a writer. I had a paper round at the time and was just reading “The Hobbit” and my dad took me to watch the first Lord of the Rings movie in the cinema. It was then that I realized I wanted to write fantasy. Once a week I would walk slowly around this paper route in my little village and talk to myself and tell myself some little cliché fantasy story just to escape the fact of my own boring, tedious and mundane life. As the years went on however that story became a series of 10 when I eventually scrapped the whole world and decided I would start learning to play an instrument instead. Skip a few years again when I realized music wasn't working out for me when I came back to the first love of my life. This time though I had more experience, more inspiration from new books, films and video games and a whole lot more daydreaming and better ideas.

Strangely enough it was the game “Final Fantasy X” that inspired me the most. I started to look back at my old story and noticed how alike and generic it was to any other fantasy you can think of. With dragons, goblins and blah, blah, blah. So I started dreaming up something new. Once I was happy with the idea of the world I then started think of ways to tell the story. I wanted it exciting, fun, inspiring and most importantly, I wanted to toy with the emotions of the audience. When you read a book or watch a film that makes you cry is an amazing thing I hope to achieve for my audience. How a person can sit and stare at moving pictures or even words on a piece of paper and begin crying sounds strange when simplified like that, but it happens. To feel scared, excited or remorseful just because you're sitting down, staring at slices of dead wood, hallucinating I think is the reason we read. I believe my reasons for reading, that I just can't stand this place sometimes and read to escape are the same reasons why everybody else does. And so I want to help people with that. I've been dreaming all my life and like to think I'm quite good at it, so I want to help others who maybe can't, or to give them something new at least.

I will go ahead and say it: George RR Martin is the greatest writer I can name. I've read many others like Frank Herbert, J RR Tolkien, Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick to name a few and like to think myself very lucky to have read such masterpieces in my time but none have inspired me like Martin and Tolkien. Their writing and descriptions are like poetry and if I can make someone enjoy my story half as much as the way I feel when I read theirs, I would consider myself a success.  Also I would have to mention my love of Marvel, I know it seems everybody loves the Marvel stuff now and feel a bit of a hipster by quietly saying under my breath, “Humph, I liked them before they were cool'. (Obviously I know I am wrong about that since Marvel is older than me but still like to think it!  And I must honorably mention a love of anime and manga, like Akira, Berserk, and Ghost in the Shell etc.

There are too many names to be honest, before you realize all you are reading are a bunch of titles I like. Once thing is for certain though. I will continue to be inspired, to daydream, and with that will be more stories. After years of soul searching I know now why I am here.

I write, therefore I am.  And my name is Jamie Norman ;)

About the book: 

Sphere's Divide

When the young and uninjured man with no identity and no memory awakes on a strange world called Sphere with nothing but a metal staff at his side everything is new. Humans are not the only intelligent creatures on the planet, Leo's, Tigian's and the mysterious creatures called "Elders" who use what the ignorant humans call "magic" to run their lives. Join Val and Raiden as they travel Sphere with Acarlie and her guardian Sheeria the Tigian and Miles the mercenary on her sacred and dangerous pilgrimage to visit the Elemental schools around the world, Will Val learn about his past and true identity? Will they be able to save the planet from the most destructive force in the whole universe and will they be in time to stop the Sphere's Divide...?

Sphere’s Divide: Pilgrim of Element by J.C. Norman (published by Clink Street Publishing 6 October, 2015 RRP paperback £10.99, eBook £2.99) is available online at retailers including and can be ordered from all good bookstores.

Art Imitating Life: How Courtroom Experience Becomes Courtroom Drama

The Victim Book Cover.jpg

I began my legal career as a prosecutor, fantasizing about jail-hardened career cons crumbling under the strain of my brutal cross-examination.  There would be tears and confessions on the witness stand, lots of “You Can’t Handle The Truth!” moments.

By the time I left the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, I had handled thousands of cases though I had yet to see anything that vaguely resembled the stuff we see on TV. 

Not that it was all routine.  I once watched - and smelled - as an in-custody defendant succumbed to a particularly noisy case of diarrhea, right there in the courtroom, clad in his county-issued jumper. 

Corrections officers took him out to be hosed off while he lashed out at everyone within earshot, blaming his ailment on spoiled baloney.  While lead on an attempted carjacking trial, a defendant, representing himself, snuck a shaving razor into the courtroom and proceeded to slice his wrists open while seated at the defense table.  He passed out, court recessed for the rest of the day, and everyone returned the following morning where the defendant - whose long-sleeve dress shirt did a bang-up job of concealing his bandages - was found guilty in less than thirty minutes and sentenced to ten years his prison. 

 When I left the State Attorney’s Office in 2009 to enter private practice as a criminal defense lawyer, I had somewhat figured out that in the practice of law, art seldom imitates life.  If you were to base your knowledge of the criminal justice system on say, “Law & Order”, you would be made to believe that prosecutors, detectives, and judges are insanely good-looking and that every case, no matter how big or small, is resolved by a jury trial.  (You might also think that we always converse about cases while walking briskly down hallways in groups of three).  The reality is, attorneys, judges, and detectives (detectives in particular) are as homely as anyone else, and 99% of our cases will never see a jury. 

 The overwhelming majority of our courtroom appearances are for routine matters.  Arraignments, pleas, calendar calls.  Only the cases that cannot be resolved will be tried, and even then, trials tend to go off without much fanfare.  The thing is, the idea of what we do - bad guys doing bad things, represented by noble men and women fighting against the immeasurable forces of government - is incredibly sexy.  When put into practice, the reality overtakes the fantasy.  I mean, even astronauts consider space walks to be routine. 

 The point is, a legal thriller plays on that fantasy, crafting a story full of twists and turns and mysterious characters while following the technical accuracy of the legal process as a framework.  What you have then is a farfetched story that’s transformed into something plausible.  That’s where the entertainment value lies; in the notion that fictitious events could occur in real life. 

 When you have a technical foundation in a novel - be it a courtroom, a battlefield, an operating table - the story must be crafted along those lines.  The way courtroom experience transforms into courtroom drama is merely formulaic.  Change the input while maintaining consistency with the process.  So that run-of-the-mill murder trial turns into a thriller when the defense attorney realizes that his client is innocent and the lead detective set him up to cover up the fact that dirty cops really killed the victim.  That fact pattern is the stuff of fiction but when set against a backdrop that mirrors the real-life court process, you have a viable story.

 No plot is too imaginative if the story is grounded in fact.

Check out Eric Matheny's new book "The Victim" released August 13th.


Anton Mackey is a man with everything. At least, he seems to be on the surface. He has a rising career as a private attorney, a lovely wife, a beautiful daughter; he and his family live in an idyllic neighborhood that most people dream about. Sure, there are troubles that plague this family, the same as any other, but all in all things are looking up. Life is good, and the future is better. 

Except Anton has a past, too, and something has been looming, bearing down on him from that history, just waiting for the chance to strike. Soon, everything will change, and the life he’s struggled so hard to build will come crashing down around him. 

And the worst part of it all: Anton Mackey has no one to blame but himself.

Eric Matheny

About the Author:

Eric Matheny was born in Los Angeles, California, where he lived until he went away to college at Arizona State University. At ASU he was president of Theta Chi Fraternity. He graduated with a degree in political science and moved to Miami, Florida, to attend law school at St. Thomas University. During his third year of law school, he interned for the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office, where he worked as a prosecutor upon graduation. In 2009, he went into private practice as a criminal defense attorney. He is a solo practitioner representing clients in Miami-Dade County, Florida, and Broward County, Florida. He has handled everything from DUI to murder.

In his free time, Eric enjoys writing crime fiction, drawing from his experience working in the legal system. He published his debut novel Home in 2004, which centers around a successful drug dealer catering to the rich in Orange County. His second novel Lockdown, published in 2005, follows a law student trying to prove that an inmate serving a life sentence in one of California’s toughest prisons might actually be innocent. Eric’s latest novel The Victim, is a tense, fast-paced, legal thriller/psychological suspense novel that centers around a young defense attorney whose horrifying misdeed from his college days comes back to haunt him. It was published by Zharmae in August 2015 and is available for sale on Amazon.

Eric lives outside of Fort Lauderdale with his wife and two young sons.

Readers can connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.


In Defense of The Felix Chronicles: Freshmen


This book is far too violent and there is simply too much gore for the genre. Is it really necessary?           

Yes, every drop of blood is absolutely necessary. I’m not suggesting that the criticism is unwarranted, but there is a method behind the mayhem. “The Felix Chronicles” presents a world in the midst of an approaching darkness, where strange creatures roam the nearby forest and a serial killer murders teenagers who fail a “simple” test. The encounters with the unfortunate victims are chilling, violent and bloody. I made the decision ‘to spare no gore’ after a great deal of thought, fully aware that I was potentially subjecting myself to criticism. I understood that it would shock some (and most likely remove the book from the reading lists for those under sixteen), but I didn’t want to hint at the violence or rely on my readers’ imaginations. There are characters in my book who are truly bad people (or flesh eating monsters, in some cases) and I took the position that their actions should be described in such a way that the reader will understand that there is no limit to their cruelty. To put it another way, I want my readers to literally wince at the prospect of ‘what will happen to that poor girl when she can’t move the piece of wood with her mind’. Spoiler alert: nothing good.

What would possess a corporate attorney to write an Urban Fantasy?

I recently yielded to my creative side and the result is a 500 page book about college kids running for their lives (among other things). I don’t want to suggest that the law can’t be a rewarding career for imaginative types, but I’ll give you an example of what it’s really like and you can draw your own conclusions: Right after graduating law school I was working in the Mergers and Acquisitions department at the largest law firm in New York City when a senior partner asked me to draft a simple document. He called me up to his 40th floor office and stood there behind this massive desk with lower Manhattan spread out behind him through floor to ceiling windows. It looked like central casting had hired him to play the role of senior partner (perfectly knotted tie, dignified dusting of gray above the ears). He gave me a bored look and said wearily, as if he’d uttered the same tired lecture to generations of young blundering associates: “Why did you change the wording in the form, you ***damn ****up? This isn’t an exercise in art appreciation. Do you think you’re smarter than the people who created it? Change it back and stop wasting my ****ing time.” Then I was summarily dismissed to toil away on other documents, never forgetting the importance of precedent. But to someone with a creative streak, the lesson was a painful reminder that not everyone wants to hear something unique, and most importantly, if you have something unique to say, you better find the right forum for it. 

Synopsis: The Felix Chronicles: Freshmen

Reeling from a terrible accident that claimed the lives of his parents, Felix arrives at Portland College hoping only to survive the experience. In time, however, his reality star roommate shows him there is more to higher education than just classes, shared bathrooms and bad dorm food, and Felix gradually dares to believe he can put his past behind him.

 But a fateful storm looms on the horizon: In the nearby woods, two hikers become the latest victims in a series of gruesome murders; a disfigured giant embarks on a vicious cross-country rampage, killing teenagers who fail his ‘test’; and an ancient society of assassins tasked with eradicating the wielders of a mysterious source of power awakens after a long silence. Only one man—the school’s groundskeeper—knows that the seemingly unrelated events are connected, and that an eighteen-year-old boy stands in the center of the storm.

Randall Lowe

Author bio:

R.T. Lowe grew up in a small town in central Oregon where he frittered away his days on a cattle farm reading, writing and daydreaming about things without hooves. R.T. holds bachelors degrees in History and Psychology from Willamette University and a Law degree from Columbia University. He now lives in Newtown, Connecticut with his wife and three kids.

Action tags… You’re it!

Every printed word in your novel will fall into one of seven categories: dialogue, action, narration, internal emotion, internal thought, description, or flashback. The last five of these serve a very specific purpose; they provide the reader with information both quickly and efficiently. But the problem is they’re kind of boring. If you’re writing a scene that requires an emotional connection to the reader then you have to use the first two: action and dialogue.

Why? Because being told someone is angry will never be as exciting as hearing them scream while watching them overturn a table. In both of these examples we’re experiencing the rage first hand, thanks to dialogue and action. Of course experienced writers already know this, but here’s something they usually miss; and that is you don’t have to choose just one! In special circumstances you can combine both action and dialogue together to form the unstoppable action tag, and I’m going to show you how.

First off, for those who don’t know, a tag (or attribution) is the bit of writing that lets the reader know who spoke a line of dialogue. The most common (and nonintrusive) attributions are ‘she said’ and ‘he said’, but if a writer only uses them then the dialogue ping-pongs back and forth as boring as dry toast:

“I want the money,” Frank said.

“What money?” Diane said.

“You know what money, the money you owe me,” Frank said.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Diane said.

“Yes you do, now give it to me,” Frank said.

“You’ll have to take it,” Diane said.

“You don’t want that,” Frank said.

“No, you don’t want that,” Diane said.

Man, that’s dull. And repetitive. Most writers instinctively avoid this by varying their tags. They use things like ‘she queried’, or ‘he proclaimed’, or heaven forbid ‘he loudly exclaimed angrily’.  While it’s true, these attributions have more spice, the fact is these tags are jarring. They pull the reader out of the story by reminding them they’re reading in the first place. Also, there are adverbs, and adverbs are the most evil invention in the history of language that destroy everything they touch. See for yourself:

“I want the money,” Frank demanded fiercely.

“What money?” Diane asked, unsure.

“You know what money, the money you owe me,” said Frank angrily.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Diane retorted quizzically.

Frank countered accusatorily, “Yes you do, now give it to me.”

“You’ll have to take it,” Diane proclaimed.

“You don’t want that,” Frank warned.

“No, you don’t want that,” Diane said, ignoring Frank’s warning.

Ugh. That was actually worse than boring because by using the adverbs angrily, quizzically, and fiercely the writer’s telling you what to feel instead of showing you, and I don’t care if the topic is violent, humorous, or passionate, the fact is being told about something isn’t nearly as exciting as being shown it. That’s why when adding effective emotion to our dialogue we should turn to an action tag that shows disbelief, like cocking an eyebrow. Or maybe your character doesn’t agree, so they’ll shake their head. And my personal favorite; rolling eyes, the universal sign for contempt. 

And see, that’s the beauty of action tags, they force the reader to instinctively assign the correct emotion to your dialogue, which infuses it with feeling and makes your words visceral. Here’s a final example:

Frank pounded the table. “I want the money.”

Diane jumped in her seat, her eyes wide. “What money?”

He pointed right at her. “The money you owe me.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Yes. You do.” Frank got his feet. “Now give it to me.”

“You’ll have to take it.” Diane leapt up, and charged into the living room.

“You don’t want that.’’ Frank pushed the kitchen table out of his way sending the dishes flying. Then he lumbered after Diane. But in two steps he stopped.

“No,” Diane said, a cocked pistol in her hand, “you don’t want that.”

See? From the very beginning we don’t need to be told that Frank’s upset, we know because he pounds a table. And what’s Diane feeling? Well, the fact that she jumps in her seat with wide eyes lets us know that she’s afraid. And the best part is these emotions are more vivid because they don’t come from our words, but instead originate from within the readers themselves. They see the action as it unfolds, and they provide the corresponding emotion from their own experiences. This represents a vital investment on their part, an emotional investment, and that’s what makes action tags such an effective weapon, it subtly forces them to commit to the scene at hand.

BUT… like any double-edged sword action tags can cut both ways, so before we start swinging here are a few warnings:

  1. Action tags are like real punches; the more of them you throw the weaker they become, and that’s no good. When you toss one you want it to hit, and hit hard, so don’t overuse them (like I did, for effect, in that last example).
  2. Switch up their placement. There are four choices in action tag use for dialogue: Before, in the middle, after, or in lieu of. My suggestion is alter them depending on where they work best.
  3. Make sure that your characters aren’t sending mixed signals, otherwise they’ll convey the wrong message. Don’t roll eyes when they’re happy, or nod if they’re disagreeing.
  4. Repetitiveness. Don’t use the same action over and over and over again. Once per conversation is more than enough times for a person to smile.
  5. And finally no adverbs. Running quickly is weaker than bolting. Knocking strongly isn’t nearly as powerful as pounding. As the old saying goes, if you need an adverb then you’ve chosen the wrong verb.

And that’s it. Now you’re all action tag experts ready to go forward and do what novelists have always done; effectively manipulate a reader’s emotions to put them in a pleasant state of tension. Good Luck!

Dane Curse


If you lose a black cape, and can’t go to the cops, then you come to me because that’s what I do. I’ve been in the game for years. I know all the curves and all the angles, and if it gets rough then so be it, I got plenty strength, I’m double tough, and I never quit. And if need be I’ll pull my artillery to get you some answers, because I don’t care about the mistakes you’ve made or how you chose to live your life, sometimes even the unjust deserve a little justice. 

At least that’s how it was before a mysterious murder threatens to plunge Gold Coast City into a super powered war unless I find the killer in five days' time. But getting to the truth won’t be so easy. I’ll have to face ruthless black capes with secrets to hide, a powerful government agency bent on national expansion, and even teams of white caped heroes whose intentions are less than pure. 

No easy task for a small time PI, so I’ll need every bit of my strength and guts if I’m going to find the killer, save my city, and maybe even get some justice for the greatest hero the world has ever known. 

Genre: Soft Sci-fi Detective Novel, Published Feb 10, 2015 exclusively on Amazon

 Author Bio:

Matt Abraham currently lives in China with his criminally insane cat Durden, his beautiful one month old son Kal, and his supportive wife Jenny. His critically acclaimed debut novel Dane Curse will be free on Amazon this Thursday and Friday, August 6th and 7th. If you’d like more information on fiction structure you can contact him at

Abraham spits hot PI palaver mixing Mickey Spillane with the classic superheroes from the golden age. In his series Black Cape Case Files we follow Dane Curse, a former black cape turned PI, as he navigates the powered underbelly of Gold Coast City. 


Purchase Link:

Life Happens but You Can Find Peace in the Middle of the Storm

I know as well as anyone that life happens and that most every person has a story of struggle, fear, loss, & heartache. While these feelings are tough you can find peace in the middle of a storm.

The question for me has always been…

“How can I ride the emotional wave?”

We all know that emotions happen and that no matter how far we run or where we hide our emotions join us wherever we are.

I am sure that everyone reading this post can relate to this energy shift in one way or another, our emotions are becoming stronger and the techniques we used to use to hold them at bay are no longer working.  Our emotions are becoming louder and more unbearable.

Why is this?

The energetic vibration of the world is rising and we are rising with it.

We are all vibrational beings, and are constantly sending out signals and this is true even when we are not aware of what signal we are sending out.

You most likely heard the saying like attract like.  That is exactly what energetic vibration is, what vibration we send out we attract back into our lives.  You cannot pick up a frequency that you are not on. If you are listening to and 93.1 FM you cannot pick up 108.3FM, to do that you need to tune into that station.  Your energetic vibration works the same way, if you want to feel more joy for example you need to align to that vibration.


Take a look at this energetic vibration scale (to the left)

Your energetic vibration can be determined by your emotion.  If you are feeling shame for example you will be sending out a very small frequency and tend to attract experiences and people vibrating at that same frequency.  As you move up the vibrational scale your frequency expands and becomes much larger.  Let’s take joy for example you move up the scale from 20 to 540 that’s a lot more expanded, and you will attract experiences & people who vibrate here and that’s a great feeling.

We all at times feel the up and down of all these emotions but the goal is to reach for the next emotion from where you are on the scale and become more consistent at vibrating at that level then move up to the next one.  With that said you will always move around the scale but you can vibrate on a more consistent basis at a higher level.

This is what the emotional surf is all about.  We all want more out of our lives, no matter what we have, and that’s ok.  This is why your energetic vibration is important, it’s your personal growth.  If we are here living now let’s make life the way we dream.  That is different for every person and that is ok too.  Our journey is our own but in order to achieve more we need to align with the next higher vibrating emotion.  The higher vibrating feelings you align with the more you can achieve your goals.  The higher you vibrate, the more your life will be flooded with those things that you have felt like you just were not lucky enough to get.  The great news is that it is not about luck it’s about energetic alignment.

Don’t just take my word for it, try it out for yourself.  Everything I write about on my blog Emotional Surfer are all tools to help you move on up the energetic scale.  When you slide down the scale, these tools help you climb back up.

We all have times when we feel the whole scale of emotions believe me I have been there and one of the greatest things you can do for yourself is this work.  You don’t need to be anything but exactly who you are, start there and find your way.  No matter where you are on the scale you can move to a better feeling emotion.

When I started this work I was at shame on a consistent basis.  I like many people tried to ignore it, push it down, take tantrums, blame it on everyone else, pout, cry, and feel like life was just unfair to me.  All that did was keep me stuck and I just could not stand feeling that way anymore. My life’s work is to climb this scale, and to do this I needed to quit blaming anyone else for my life, to quit feeling like it’s only for others, instead take control of my life.

It’s up to you to decide what you want for your life and what you are ready for, but if you are ready this is an amazing place to start.

This is not complicated work it’s very simple, reach for a better feeling thought.  Surf your emotions and listen to what they are telling you.  Your emotions are your guide and are very purposeful.

This is not something that if you believe in it works and if you don’t it does not work, it’s always working.  We just create our lives by chance not by choice.  Once we understand the energetic scale and start listening to our emotional guidance we can start to create our lives by choice and that’s where the magic happens.

This is the reason I wrote both “Gentle Steps on the Journey of a Healing Heart” & “Fifty-two weeks of adventure and discovery for your soul” to provide guidance to find the best you, the happiest you, the peaceful you by climbing up the vibrational emotional scale. 

We all have these parts within us but daily life and difficult situations deprive us of the one true thing we seek; a happy life.  These books provide you the tools and support to find those parts within you once again; to find your wholeness and start living life the way you truly deserve!

I recently stepped it up a notch since the world is in the middle of an energy shift so many are needing tools to apply in their life to get a little emotional relief and that is why I created the “Find joy book club”

In this 16 week journey we use all the awesome techniques I share in my books as well as others that I have learned along the way to climb up that energetic scale and find and vibrate Joy…

Join us and see for yourself!  Get a sneak peak here.

Lots of love,

Clara Penner

About the Author:

Clara Penner

It’s me Clara Penner.  Author & Blogger.  Here is the scoop on me…

I am the wife of one, mom of two kids one boy one girl and 2 dogs) & 1 cat.  I love to explore energetic vibration, which would explain why my chosen career is to assist other lovely creators to live life by choice not chance so they can climb on up the energetic vibration scale and create an abundant life full of greatness.  

I also get to share all of the GREAT info I have learned over the past 12 years of learning how to use my emotions to propel me forward and not drag me under with all of my emotional surfing community over on my blog or on social media.

My hobbies are Mediation, writing,  hanging out in nature with my four legged friends, camping, reading, and I love watching a great movie but truth be told it’s the popcorn that lures me in every time.

That is a quick preview of me but who knows what great treasures are still to unfold in this adventure called life.


Witchy woman…

Recently I had the opportunity to virtually meet Tina Donahue!  She's an award-winning, bestselling novelist in erotic, paranormal, contemporary and historical romance and has a lot of books that I'm going to be trying to check out as soon as my schedule calms down!  I asked her to do a guest post about how she came up with her idea for the series "Taming the Beast".  Check it out below:

Freeing the Beast

When I was a kid, I loved anything supernatural. Wow, I thought, if I had those powers, no way would math give me any trouble. Hey, school wouldn't be a problem—I’d just shrug it off and vaporize anyone who tried to make me go.

Ah, being a kid.

It never occurred to me that paranormal creatures have their own problems. Take Superman for example: Poor dude is toast around kryptonite and don’t me started on the problems he’d have these days with phone booths going the way of the dinosaur. I can see it now, him getting arrested for indecent exposure while he tries to change into his tights near a 7-11 pay phone (are those even available anymore?).

Vampires don’t have a great time of it either. Imagine missing out on days at the beach and everything that happens before dark. And what’s with the living forever? Not for me. No telling how screwed up the world will be in several thousand years.

When I started to think about the trouble paranormal creatures face in a mortal world, I considered how much fun it might be if they wanted to change themselves, a makeover if you will, so they could live around mortals – in the case of guys, date them.

With that in mind, my Taming the Beast series was born. Freeing the Beast is Book One (Book Two – Surrendering to the Beast will be out in October).

In "Freeing the Beast", Becca Salt is only half-witch, her dad’s mortal. Given that and the fact that Becca never really liked to study witchcraft, any more than she liked calculus, history, or other subjects in school, she’s not a real whiz at potions or spells. That hasn't stopped her from running her business From Crud to Stud, a makeover service in New Orleans for supernatural creatures who want to suppress their beast so they can date mortal babes.

Becca may be one helluva businesswoman, but when it comes to love, she’s fallen short. Eric changes everything for her. He’s a minor god, a descendant of Cupid, who comes to her service for a makeover because he wants to free his beast—to become the bad boy that women love, rather than the polite, preppy, romantic guy he is now.

What happens next is fun, flirty, filled with magic, supernatural creatures at their worst, and yes, steaming hot sex between Becca and Eric. These star-crossed lovers can’t seem to get love right, not even with magic, but they do have their HEA.

Their romance is playful, steamy, and so much fun. I’ve always loved writing romantic comedies with an erotic twist – this baby definitely fits the bill.

Freeing the Beast is available for pre-order at a discount – ready to read March 10 (details at this link:

Author Bio:

Tina Donohue

I’m an award-winning, bestselling novelist in erotic, paranormal, contemporary and historical romance for Samhain Publishing, Ellora’s Cave, Siren Publishing, Booktrope, and Kensington. Yay! Booklist, Publisher’s Weekly, Romantic Times and numerous online sites have praised my work, and trust me, I’m forever grateful for that. I’ve had my books reach finals in the EPIC competition, one title was named Book of the Year at a review site, and others have won awards in RWA-sponsored contests. I’m actually featured in the 2012 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market. Talk about feeling like a freaking star. Before my writing career, I was the editor of an award–winning Midwestern newspaper and worked in Story Direction for a Hollywood production company. Outside of being an admitted and unrepentant chocoholic, I’ve flown a single-engine plane (scary stuff), rewired an old house using an electricity for dummies book, and have been known to moan like Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally whenever I’m eating anything Mexican or Italian. Yeah, I like to eat (burp).

You can check me out here – yes, I am everywhere!


I’m offering one winner at this site her (or his) choice of one of my backlist ebooks from this list. Nineteen choices in all – contemporary, ménage, suspense, paranormal.

All you have to do is follow/like my Amazon Author’s Page:

Let me know that you did by emailing me at: providing the number of the like.  

  1. Adored – RWA award-winning; EPIC 2011 Finalist; 4 Stars RT
  2. Deep, Dark, Delicious – EPIC 2011 Finalist; Holt Medallion Award of Merit
  3. Lush Velvet Nights – EPIC 2011 Finalist; Golden Nib Award
  4. In His Arms – SIX 5 Star Reviews; 4 Stars RT
  5. Sensual Stranger – 2010 Book of the Year (erotic); 4 Stars RT
  6. The Yearning – Top Ten Bestseller
  7. Take Me Away – #1 Pick, Miz Love Loves Books
  8. Unending Desire – Best Book Rating LASR
  9. SiNN – Nominated for Book of the Week LASR
  10. Sinfully Wicked – Magnificent – Romancing the Book
  11. Claiming Magique – Top Pick – NOR
  12. Illicit Desire – Four Stars Romantic Times
  13. Come Fill Me – Five Stars – Guilty Pleasures
  14. Losing Control - Four and a Half Stars - Sensual Reads
  15. Shameless Desire - Four and a Half Stars - The Jeep Diva
  16. Illicit Intent – Four and a Half Stars – Sensual Reads
  17. Deep Within Me – Four Stars – Romantic Times
  18. Seven Sensuous Days – Four Stars – Long & Short Reviews
  19. Stolen Desire – Five Hearts – Novel Broads

Thanks for the guest post and giveaway opportunity Tina!

Bonus: Excerpt from the Book:

Heat and humidity poured inside, along with the racket from the street party. Drunken voices mingled with throaty laughter, pounding drums and trumpets reaching then holding their highest notes. Becca’s pulse thumped in her ears, drowning out the other sounds.


The guy who’d come inside was something. At least six-three, he had the build of an athlete, lean and muscular with broad shoulders, narrow hips and powerful thighs. Without meaning to, Becca stepped closer, drinking him in. Classically handsome, he wore his hair preppy style, longer on the top, shorter on the sides. It was a warm chestnut brown streaked by the sun and slightly tousled, begging for a woman’s fingers to smooth it back.

Becca brought down her hand, suddenly realizing she’d lifted it.

His golden complexion spoke of days spent outdoors, possibly skinny-dipping in a pool, water streaming over his firm pecs and abs, being trapped in his nest of dark curls…his rock-hard cock jutting from it, inflexible as iron, sleek as a spear. Suppressing a shiver of delight, Becca took in his leather loafers, beige khakis and white shirt opened at the collar with the sleeves rolled up to mid-forearm.

Masculine yet civilized. Very nice.

Zoe, you did good. Aw, sweetie, more than good. She deserved part ownership in this place for having done such a fantastic job on him. This guy had been made over to the nth degree from…

Becca wasn’t certain what kind of demon he was, or his level in Hell, never having met him before the makeover. Maybe that’s why he’d taken so long to get here. He couldn’t pull himself away from the god he now saw in his mirror.

While Becca ogled him, he regarded the reception area’s feathery ferns and potted plants as though seeing them with different eyes. A mortal’s eyes. The room’s faux brick floor, coral walls and gas wall fixtures radiated warmth, an earthy, sensual feel in keeping with the area’s culture.

It was also decidedly romantic.

And the reason most of these guys signed up. They were having problems with babes and wanted a solution, even if it was painful.

Hissing noises came from behind a door on the right. On the left, a muffled groan sounded faintly sexual.

Could be that was why this guy was late. He’d already seduced a babe and had been reluctant to leave her.

Becca glanced at his fly, the thick ridge behind it. Some women had all the luck. She, on the other hand, had a business to run.

Reining in her desire, she joined him in the reception area. “Do you have any idea how late it is?”

He turned. His attention zipped from her flame-red hair, cut in a chin-length bob with bangs, to her dramatic makeup. Heavy black liner surrounded her blue eyes. Her maroon lipstick was just a shade lighter than black and quite a contrast to her pale skin.

He lifted his eyebrows slightly, then regarded the black silk top tied beneath her breasts, her silver navel jewelry, black harem pants, anklets, toe rings and high-heeled sandals.

Even at five-seven, and with the extra three inches the shoes gave her, Becca felt positively dainty next to him. Quite a feat considering she’d always been too tall and curvy. In school, they’d called her the f-word.

Well, fuck ’em, right? So she’d never be skinny or a beauty. Not like her mom. Unfortunately, Becca took after her dad. A great guy, but no hunk in the looks department.

“We can’t wait forever,” she said. “Let’s go.”

She headed down the hall. Hearing only her footfalls, Becca stopped and looked over.

He hadn’t taken one step in her direction. He was far too busy studying her ass. Intently. Appreciatively…if his crooked smile was any indication. How awesome was that?

Was it something Zoe had taught him?

“You coming?” Becca asked.

He actually blushed beneath his tan. What appeared to be carnal hunger blurred his expression as he regarded her. “Where?”

His voice was even deeper than the howlers that came here for treatment. Way huskier than Zoe’s when she got riled. Becca moved toward him again, drawn by his potent masculinity, until she forced herself to stop and pointed over her shoulder.

He approached with the grace of a well-behaved panther. Loose limbed and composed, not cocky or predatory. Shit. Zoe was a miracle worker.

“Sure,” he said.

Becca swallowed. His eyes were the color of honey with flecks of green. Given his laugh lines, he looked to be in his early thirties—if she was using mortal time—just a couple of years older than her.

Not that their ages mattered. Why should they? Once his photo shoot was over, he’d be gone. Back in bed with his babe.

“There.” She pointed to the side, trying not to drool over him.

He kept checking her out too and gave her another crooked grin. “There what?”

Damned if she knew. His adorable smile continued to tangle her thoughts. Becca lowered her head and took a deep breath. “Door on the right. Go in that room. Take off your clothes. I’ll get the photog—”

The rest of her words and all the spit in her mouth dried up as his fingers curled around her wrist, keeping her from moving away.

He murmured, “What?”

That voice. His touch. Her knees sagged. With great effort, Becca turned back to him.

He gave her a questioning look and waited.

Becca wanted to ruffle his long, dark lashes, kiss his silky eyebrows, then suck his lower lip into her mouth while she crawled all over him. “Briefs or boxers?”

He pulled back slightly, but didn’t let go of her wrist. “What?”

She cleared her throat. Her voice still jiggled and rasped. “What are you wearing? Briefs or boxers?”

He looked down as though to check. “Boxers.”

 “The stretchy kind or the baggy ones?”

He let go of her wrist. “They’re not that baggy.”

Hmm. She’d hurt his feelings. A nice human touch Zoe must have taught him. Like having him stare at a female’s ass, rather than simply grabbing it, to make her feel sexy and desired. “I’m sure they’re not. Still, we prefer the snug ones.”

The kind that would hug his fleshy balls and caress his rigid cock. On wobbly legs, Becca went to the hall closet and pulled out a navy pair.

“Here.” She flung them at him.

They landed on his deliciously broad shoulder.

Becca backed away. “Strip down, then put those on. We can’t screw around any longer.”

“Sure about that?”

Living After the Dead Rise

The past week or so, Enchanted Book Promotions has been running a book tour for A.J. Aalto's second book in the Marnie Baranuik Files: "Death Rejoices".  As a huge fan of the series, I wanted to participate, but have already posted a review and interview with the author.  Instead, I had the opportunity for a guest post from A.J. Aalto herself!  Check it out below:

Death Rejoices

So, I watch the Walking Dead, and as a fan of zombies and horror, I quite enjoy it. I’d lost faith in it lately, (let’s face it, 80% of the farm season was so damn boring) but finally, FINALLY, they’ve reached Stage C: Cannibalism. Really? It took them 5 seasons to start eating humans? I’d have been chowing down on people the first damn week. The military would show up at my house and be like, “Hey, lady! It’s not even the apocalypse, for fuck’s sake! Put the butcher knife down!” And I’d be all, “*mur-mumble-frgggh!*” with my mouth full of man flesh.

I recently became a vegetarian. Granted, I’m the worst vegetarian ever. I keep forgetting that meat isn’t a vegetable. At a craft festival, I ordered a hot dog meal from a chip truck by habit, and I was half way through the wiener before I remembered that I don’t eat that anymore. I literally had half a pork tube hanging out of my mouth and a stricken look on my face when my cousin pointed at me and accused, “hey, you’re eating meat!”

Being a vegetarian is going to make most post-apocalyptic scenarios difficult for me. To eat fruits, grains, and vegetables, you really have to stay in one place long enough to grow them, and you can’t have an ice age or nuclear waste getting in your way, either. My ideal apocalyptic scenarios have been whittled down now: it’s got to be a pandemic plague, or floods that recede, or aliens who eat everyone and then leave me behind, or stay but don’t mind me gardening. Let’s face it, though; a zombie apocalypse is going to put meat back on the dinner table pretty quick for me.
Why are apocalypse scenarios such rich and fertile grounds for the imagination? There’s the what-would-I-do factor? That’s very human, to prepare for disasters that one can dream up. Oh, you better believe our ancestors prepared for catastrophes, although theirs looked much different than ours do. There’s also the how-bad-could-it-get factor that’s fodder for the muse. What are people capable of when they’re desperate? What am I capable of?

In the second book of the Marnie Baranuik Files, a plague threatens to explode and Marnie has to face the possibilities of zombies. I did not get to explore a worldwide apocalyptic scenario, but I’m sure Marnie wouldn’t be chowing down on human flesh. It might be one of the few ways we’re different.

If you were faced with a doomsday scenario or post-apocalyptic world, how do you think you’d fare?

Author Bio

AJ Aalto

AJ Aalto is the author of the paranormal mystery series The Marnie Baranuik Files. Aalto is an unrepentant liar and a writer of  blathering nonsense offset by factual gore. When not working on her novels, you can find her singing Monty Python songs in the shower, eavesdropping on perfect strangers, stalking her eye doctor, or failing at one of her fruitless hobbies. Generally a fan of anyone with a passion for the ridiculous, she has a weak spot for smug pseudo-intellectuals and narcissistic jerks; readers will find her work littered with flawed monsters and oodles of snark. AJ cannot say no to a Snickers bar and has been known to swallow her gum.

Keep in touch with AJ!

Thanks for the guest post AJ!