Category Archives: on writing

June Kramin: Pantsing

Thanks for having me, Lisa!

I’m seeing a trend on blogs lately. There’s a term being thrown out lately. I fell under its name long before it had one. LOL *stands up* Hello, my name is Bug & I’m a “Panster”.

I always tease in interviews that my characters bully me and take over the story. I’ve always laughed it off, but it has been far from funny the past couple books. My last release with Musa was Amanda’s Return. It was a sequel to my thriller, Hunter’s Find. With Hunt and Mandy in New York being forced to help the mob, the last thing I expected was for them to have sex all over the city. Even though I try to keep my novels at a “sweet” rating and really wanted this one to be more serious on the thriller side, they would have nothing to do with it. There was plenty of serious business going on, but they still took time for the “important” things. 😉 A character from the first book also decided to show up. I had no idea the part she’d play and how critical she’d be to the plot; I just had to go with the flow.

I can feel a lot of writers shuddering right now. “How can you not outline?” “What about plot development??” Sorry. I tried a few times to figure out where it was going in advance, but it always took a different course. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the writers that outline and totally plot out a book before they start but I have never worked that way. Is there a right or wrong? I don’t think so. As long as it works out in the end!

Happy Reading!

You can find Hunter’s Find, Amanda’s Return, & Double Mocha, Heavy on Your Phone Number at Musa Publishing.



Middle Grade website:


Elaine Cantrell: On Characterization

Welcome Elaine Cantrell to the blog! I’ve read her A New Dream, and it was a great read. Take it away, Elaine…


If you’re an author, you hope to create memorable characters who will help your story come alive and captivate your readers. Most authors, get to know their characters inside and out before they even begin a book, but how do they reveal their characters to the reader so that the reader understands the character too?

First, we learn about characters through their speech. What do you learn about Fred Emerson in this excerpt from A New Dream?

“Who brought you home?” demanded her father, Fred Emerson. “Where’s your car?”


“Alternator failure. It’s in the parking lot at work. The new manager, Matt McCallum, brought me home.” Violet hugged her mother Beth and her sister Jessie who both had a big pile of beans in front of them.


“You could have called me,” her father insisted.

Violet hung her purse on the coat rack near the door. “I knew you were busy with the garden stuff, Daddy. He offered, and I didn’t see any reason to turn him down.”


Fred snapped a bean with more vigor than necessary. “McCallum acted like a gentleman, I hope. Some of those pro-ball players don’t behave too well.”


Violet frowned. “He was a perfect gentleman, Daddy.”


“Good.” Fred tossed a handful of beans into a dishpan. “He’d better continue to be. I won’t tolerate anybody messing with my daughters. I don’t know what the world’s coming to these


Right off the bat we know that Fred is an old-fashioned, maybe overly protective father.

We also learn about characters from their appearance. What do you learn about my bad girl Stacey? She’s also from A New Dream.

Her style hadn’t changed much since she ran out on him. She still dressed to attract attention, and judging from the expression on several nearby male faces, she hadn’t lost her touch. She was wearing a short skirt, knee boots, and a sweater that was probably half a size too small. She looked as chic, expensive, and sexy as she ever had, but the sultry, come-hither look he’d always loved didn’t do much for him now.


So, Stacey’s an extrovert, sexy, likes men, and probably uses her looks to get what she wants.


A character’s private thoughts also tell us what he/she is like. What do you find out about my New Dream hero Matt McCallum? Matt was a pro-football player who lost his career when he lost a leg in an accident.





He had worked like a dog on that leg, but he still limped, and it felt like knives stabbed him with every step he took. His career was over, and he had lost almost everything he had loved and valued. Yeah, he felt drained.


Nevertheless, he always kept such dark thought to himself. God forbid he should invite anyone’s pity! He’d rather be dead first.


We see that Matt is depressed over the changes in his life. We also see that he’s a proud man who doesn’t want anyone’s pity.


We also learn about characters from the way others see him and react to him. In this excerpt, my New Dream hero told my heroine that he won’t leave her porch until she talks to him even though the weather is icy.


Dinnertime came and went, and Matt still sat on the porch. “I’m going to take him something to eat,” Beth declared. “He has to be starving.”


Violet guessed her mother was right. Matt had once told her that the effort of walking with a prosthesis burned additional calories, but the picture of Stacey etched in her brain hardened her heart. “He isn’t your problem, Mother. Leave him alone.”


Nerves on edge, Violet started to cry, and when she did Beth tackled Fred. “Fred Emerson, you do something right now! I’m not having it on my conscience if that young man freezes to death on my front porch, especially since I believe he’s telling the truth.”


“Mother! I thought you were on my side!”


Fred pounced on her statement like a cat on a catnip mouse. “I knew it! You’ve always liked him.”


“Well, you do something, and I mean now!”


Don’t you think it says a lot about Matt’s character that Violet’s mother believes he’s innocent of betraying Violet with another woman?


A character’s actions will reveal a lot about them too. What do you think this excerpt says about Matt?


Matt patted old Mrs. Watson on the arm. “I’m sorry for the confusion, ma’am.”


Bristling with indignation, the woman nodded her head. “See to it that it doesn’t happen again.”


As she stalked away, the red-faced cashier blurted out. “I wasn’t wrong.”


“I know it, but she’s old. Make a note of the amount, and I’ll put it in the register.” He winked at the cashier who no longer looked upset.


He smiled when he turned around and saw Sam Dickson watching him. “Coffee in my office?”


“Well, we aren’t going to drink it in the produce section are we?” Sam quipped.


He’s kind to old ladies? This is a nice guy!


And now, if you’re interested after reading so much about A New Dream, here’s the first part of the prologue. The book is available at


Or, if you want a print version go to


The red convertible cut a path through the moonlight, its headlights dancing along the arched limbs of the trees above the road.


“Oh, Matt, it’s such a beautiful night,” Stacey declared with a sigh. “I’m going to miss you when you leave tomorrow.”


Matt reached for her hand and brought it to his lips. “I’ll miss you too, but if I don’t report on time, I’m in trouble with the coach.”


“That’s what I get for falling in love with a pro football player,” Stacey teased, her blonde hair turned to frosted silver by the light of the full moon above them.


Matt squeezed her hand that wore his engagement ring. “It’s too late to back out now,” he teased. “You’re mine.”


“Mmm, do I like the sound of that!”


The car rounded a curve, and without warning a deer bounded across the road.

“Look out!” Stacey screamed.


Matt braked sharply to avoid the animal. The tires slid on a patch of loose gravel in the road, and he lost control of the convertible. It fishtailed and started to spin in the road.

Matt hauled the steering wheel to correct the slide, but it was useless. The car turned around once more and skidded backwards for a short distance before it charged off the road. It jumped a steep ditch and went airborne. All Matt could see was a blur of trees and darkness as the car careened into the woods. It made a lazy turn in the air and came to rest bottom side up.


The last thing he remembered was the sound of Stacey’s screams.


Thanks for reading!

Elaine Cantrell

Hope. Dreams. Life… Love

In Praise of Musa Publishing

I wanted to share my experience with one of my publishers—Musa Publishing. Many of the authors there are turning the spotlight on our publisher this weekend to give Musa some much deserved attention. It’s a small press that was formed last year and that opened its doors in October of 2011. I was one of the early authors to get in, and I’m so glad I did. What do I love about Musa? Let me count the ways. If you read many of my blog posts, you know I love a list (it’s the ISTJ in me), so I’ll do a little one here. I’m sure I’ll leave something out, but I want to hit the high points for authors who may be looking for a great small press (who publishes a lot of good e-books primarily at this point) and for readers who are looking for high quality books.

1. The Staff and how they do business— Celina, Kelly, Kerry, Elspeth, Coreen, Matt, Jeanne, and so many others are just fabulous to work with. Any time I have a problem, I can email, and I’ll get a quick response—less than 24 hours. That’s amazing in itself. Also, authors get a chance to take workshops with masters in writing and publishing (bestselling and established authors, agents, formatters and more)—free via Skype. If we can’t make the meeting, we can read the transcripts. These seminars are worth gold for writers who want to better their craft.

Also, Musa began with a bunch of books and authors they acquired from another publisher that went under. Many of these books are still rolling out. This backlist of books in queue bolstered the business model and the new publishing company from day one.

2. My cover art— I really like my covers, and I get a large say in them. If something doesn’t work, I can accept or reject a mockup and work with Kelly and her staff until I’m happy and they are, too. I can honestly say that I’ve had a couple covers that they pegged the first time just right! Secrets of Summerspelle was one of those. I also love what they’re doing for my Montmoors serials.

3. Delphi— Musa has a great system that tracks sales on their website in real-time. That is pretty helpful, and it’s great to know how a book is selling. Statements and royalties from other retailers are also online and are updated weekly. I usually know about what to expect when royalties are paid out. Another cool thing about Delphi is that I can see how the company is growing, and I can easily track that I’m making more money on my books from last year to this year. The transparency is amazing! Another awesome thing Delphi does is house all our manuscripts as we edit and upload them. In addition, we can make changes to cover art forms and genre information, blurbs, and excerpts via Delphi. It’s really cool and a lot easier than nagging someone to do it for us all the time. The updates get sent to the writer, his or her editor, and other Musa staff.

4. My editors— I have a really smart editor at Musa. She has helped me grow so much in the past months. She is tough but kind, and my work is the better for it. Thanks, Ang!

And I have to mention Celina Summers, the head editor. She personally helped whip several of my manuscripts into shape, and she has enabled me to see where my serial set needs to go. This sort of feedback is priceless to a writer.

If your publisher doesn’t offer editors who have more acclaim than you do or who are better published or have more books out than you do (or who have other great accolades), may I suggest taking a look at Musa? I firmly believe that good editors will have a track record of their own in writing and publishing.

5.  Book formatting— Coreen Montagna is responsible for doing the formatting for our books, and they are gorgeous. When a character writes a letter, you see letter script. Different fonts abound to make the reading experience fun. Each manuscript has clip art that is unique to the story. Musa makes the prettiest e-books I’ve ever seen in terms of what’s inside! And Coreen makes it easy on us as authors. We get a template document for Musa manuscripts, and it makes the formatting process so much better for a person like me who is not spatially inclined.

6. Print special edition— Since I was lucky and got one of my novels published in March with Musa, I got to get in on a special limited edition print run for that novel—Secrets of Summerspelle. The heads of Musa are wise: rather than run into print publishing (and have to pull back later, go under, or change the rules for how to get your books in print as many, many publishers do), they decided to be cautious and not rush into anything. Now that the company has some stability, a first print run is in progress for a couple dozen books (I think that’s about right as far as the number goes). As the company grows, if all goes well, more print is likely in the future. I think that’s smart business.

I’m really excited to see my novel in print in the next few weeks!

7. The writers at Musa— The writers’ group at Musa is great one. I’ve worked with many, and Musalings are professional and stay focused on writing. They share tons of articles and tips on marketing, craft, and more. We like and tag each other’s work. We promote our fellow authors’ books. In short, Musa is like a family but without a lot of the immaturity and backbiting that often goes with that. The support has been awesome.

8. The innovation at Musa— The head editor and staff have a vision to make Musa a high quality publishing house and to push the envelope. That’s obvious when I consider that they have a speculative fiction e-zine, Penumbra, in addition to all the books they are putting out. Also, Musa is publishing never before seen works by Homer Eon Flint, and classic works by other authors.

In my case, Musa’s head editor approached me a few months back about writing historical gothic romance serials. She knows what trends are going on in publishing now (there is a huge resurgence of serials in Japan, for example) and what the history of the serial format is. I was excited to say the least, and I still am. In fact, the Montmoors set is my primary project these days. And those serials are rolling out right now. The second one is coming out tomorrow, and I have six under contract (so far). Other authors in different genres are doing serials, too. I love the freedom to spread my wings as a writer and innovator, and the support of a publisher in doing so is priceless.

9. The distribution at Musa— Our books are everywhere. That’s what I like most about being with a small press. I have self published some books, and I don’t enjoy doing the formatting and distribution side of things. Musa handles this all beautifully for me so I can spend more time doing what I really love—writing. Recently, they’ve also started putting our e-books into Overdrive which services libraries around the nation and in Canada.

I’m sure I’m forgetting many things I’d like to say, but I hope you’ll check Musa out if you’re an author looking to submit your work. Musa takes works 5000 words and up (another plus!) in tons of genres.

10. And reviews!— I knew I’d forget something, and I did! Musa has gotten me tons of great reviews for my books. Getting reviews in the past has been tough because many publishers don’t have a dedicated promotions person/review coordinator. I really appreciate that, and I’ve seen a noticeable jump in sales each time I get these reviews. Thanks to Elspeth who makes that happen.

More about the Musa team

Joanne Troppello: Be Persistent and Don’t Give Up!

Joanne Troppello is an author of romantic suspense novels. She has published three books: Shadowed Remembrances, Mr. Shipley’s Governess and Bella Lucia. Currently, she is working on her new writing project, The Paradise Redeemed Series.

Joanne is married and loves spending time with her husband and family. She enjoys interacting with readers at The Mustard Seed Blog.

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Be Persistent and Don’t Give Up!

Last summer, my husband and I had a pesky little groundhog invading our vegetable garden. Actually, he was not such a little critter; he was pretty fat and I don’t think he needed to eat our tomatoes. Now, I love animals, don’t get me wrong, but I love my tomatoes and other veggies more. But, I did have to give our furry friend some credit because he had been persistent and didn’t seem to want to give up. We have two 8 x 8 raised garden beds and my husband did a great job of setting this garden up and putting wire fencing on the ground underneath the garden beds; he also put 3’ high rabbit fencing all around the garden.

We’ve had this garden for three years now and haven’t had much trouble with animals until last summer. The year before last, the groundhog was around, but he wasn’t so brazen.

During the last two weeks of summer, the groundhog had been coming around and nibbling on some tomatoes that had overgrown the fencing. Yes, we did have to do some reorganizing and plant the Juliet and Grape tomatoes further from the fencing. So, I do understand how our friend came along to eat some tomatoes growing through the fence. One memory of our furry friend sticks out in my mind. One day while I was finishing up on work, my husband called me into the kitchen as he looked out the window and we saw the groundhog literally sitting like a king on top of the wooden gate posts, leaning on the tomato cages eating as if he owned the place. Of course, I charged out on to our deck, with my husband chuckling in the kitchen, as I tried to scare the groundhog away. As he’d done before, he made his way around the other side of the garden and hid there in front of his hole under the fence of the property line, as if he thought I didn’t see him. Yes, I yelled at him again to get away. By the way, we live in a townhouse community and by then after these escapades with me coming out to scare our friendly critter away, the neighbors probably think I’m crazy. Maybe that’s why my husband wasn’t coming out; either that or I was providing entertainment for him.

Anyway, the groundhog dutifully scampered into his hole under the fence until the next day when he brazenly came back to our garden to feast. Thinking about this groundhog has made me realize that as authors, we need to be just as tenacious and consistent in our search to reach our goals in writing great stories and marketing our work. Even if we have editors getting back to us saying our work is not good enough, we need to take the good with the bad and keep going. Of course, if their criticisms are legitimate, we should heed them and make corrections. We need to be tenacious like the groundhog and never give up until we reach our goals and find the publishers we are looking for.

When it comes to marketing, we must keep working at it even when it seems like we are the only author, drowning in a sea of other authors and don’t feel like our efforts are making a difference. If we give up, then we won’t be making a difference in our success. However, every step we take in the right direction, even if it’s only baby steps in writing and marketing, is going to make a difference. Whenever we feel like giving up, let’s remember my furry friend, Mr. Groundhog, and keep hanging on. Success is just around the corner.

Mary Ann Bernal: The story behind “The Briton and the Dane” trilogy

Lisa Greer has graciously invited me to provide a guest blog post for her site and I wish to thank her for this wonderful opportunity before we get down to business. Many thanks, Lisa.

First, a little background about myself and my novels. In addition to being an avid history buff whose area of interest focuses on Ninth Century Anglo-Saxon Britain during the Viking Age, I am also a passionate supporter of the United States military, having been involved with letter writing campaigns and other military support programs since Operation Desert Storm. On the home front, you will find me cheering for my grandchildren at dance competitions and sporting events, receiving “extra credit” when braving the elements.

Since we are now acquainted, I shall get right to the heart of:

The Story behind The Briton and the Dane Trilogy

I fell in love with medieval England after reading Sir Walter Scott’s “Ivanhoe” in my sophomore year of high school, but my interests soon turned towards the Dark Ages when the formidable Vikings harassed the civilized world once Hollywood released such blockbusters as “The Vikings,” “The Longships,” and “Erik the Viking.” Add to the mix “Alfred the Great,” “Prince Valiant,” and “King Arthur,” and an incurable romantic anglophile was born.

As time went on Hollywood changed its venue of period movies, but I found solace with the many British programs being aired on our local PBS station. With the advent of BBC America and History International, I was able to find great documentaries such as “The Dark Ages,” “Life in Anglo-Saxon Times,” “Dark Age England,” and “Viking Exploration,” to name but a few.

During this time, Erik the Viking was hovering in the cobwebs of my creative mind, waiting to escape oblivion, waiting to tell his story, waiting and waiting and waiting, but it was not until 2008 that I was able to find the time to devote to fulfilling my lifelong dream of writing my Erik the Viking novel.

Why did I focus on Alfred the Great and King Guthrum? I chose these two formidable characters because I find them fascinating. This was a time of conflict and change, when Christianity was replacing the pagan religion, and the feared Vikings no longer plundered the fertile country of Britannia but remained and settled the land.

When King Alfred defeated King Guthrum in 878, one of the terms for peace was the Christian baptism of the Danish King. I wondered how this heathen King might have felt about denying the gods of his ancestors as he willingly accepted the Roman Christ God, and also wondered how willing his subjects had been to submit to the rules of the new religion.

In addition to the religious conflict, there were also petty Kings who coveted the throne, not only King Alfred’s crown, but King Guthrum’s as well. Throw into the mix, illegitimate offspring and you have all the makings for a great story.

While Erik started out as my main character, the supporting characters quickly sought to usurp the protagonist role. I had often heard the phrase, “but then my characters took over,” and suddenly discovered that the statement is very true. Erik had to share the limelight with the many prominent figures, and these characters refused to play a minor role in an ongoing saga.

The same holds true for the antagonist; there are many opponents as the story unravels, each with their own agenda, but each seeking power and wealth.

I delve into the minds of the characters as they deal with conflicts that are quite common today: father/son relationships and acknowledgement of paternity, religious confrontation, and warfare. The people who lived in the Ninth Century were flesh and blood as we are flesh and blood. They faced the same problems, made similar choices, and perhaps regretted their decisions, just like us.

I also wanted to reach out to the families of our modern day warriors, and to remind everyone that the only thing that has changed in warfare over time has been its weaponry. What has not changed is the anxiety as one awaits the fate of loved ones; waiting is difficult no matter which century a person lives in.

Since “The Briton and the Dane: Legacy” is the third and final installment of the trilogy, I should be willing to say goodbye…the key word here is should…but there are many stories still to tell, and many characters to meet, and enough passion, intrigue, treachery and betrayal to enthrall an audience…so fear not my faithful fans, the series will continue.

“The Briton and the Dane” trilogy has been a joy to write, and I trust a joy to read. Enjoy the adventure, it only gets better.

Coming Soon:

“The Briton and the Dane: Concordia” – available 2013

For more information, please visit:!/BritonandDane



Sample The Briton and the Dane


Purchase links:


Amazon US


Amazon UK


The Literary Underground

Book Trailer



Mary Ann has graciously offered to give away one copy of “The Briton and the Dane: Legacy.” Just leave a blog comment for her, and I’ll draw a winner by 5pm, June 14th.