Where Dreams Meet the Business of Writing

Archive for February, 2014

Fat and Sassy: Glendora Library

It’s TUESDAY TALES! This week we’re writing to a picture prompt. Snippets are short – 300 words only!
Read Glendora Library, then return to TUESDAY TALES  here for more snippets written to this photo.

(Just a note. The story snippet is fictional. But the part about the flu epidemic, the library closed for two months, and the books wrapped and stored for a year without being touched is truth. I’ve been wanting to include this into Fat and Sassy somehow and this picture prompt gave me the scene. Thank you Glendora Public Library for the fascinating and informative history page you’ve included on your web page!!)

TT_library“Behave on the field trip,” Bea called to Mae, who was leaving for school.

“I will Mama!”

In class the teacher droned on and on … verbs … adverbs … pronouns … the least favorite subject of most of them.

Finally, to the children it seemed like hours later, Mrs. Standish called for attention. “Everyone line up please. Boys in one line, girls in another.”

The girl’s line formed with only a few giggles and little shuffling. The boys pushed. They shoved. They jockeyed for position as if the front of the line was the best place.

The walk to the library a few blocks away was uneventful. Mrs. Standish led the way, two trailing lines of baby chicks behind her.

Mrs. Domer, the City Librarian, greeted the class. “Right this way. Everyone have a seat on the floor. I’ll tell you a little about the library, then read you a story.”

She recounted the past, as if each line were engraved in her memory.

Eyelids began to droop. Yawns spread though the group.

“ … Athena Club in 1903 … free reading room … rented Frank Odell’s house … became part of the Glendora Woman’s Club … “

The children heard bits and pieces. Their minds wandered. Little legs began to fidget. Boys began to poke each other.

“ … flu epidemic …”

Mae’s ears honed in on this little piece of the monologue.

“ … and the library closed its doors in November and December of 1918 because of the flu epidemic. Schools were closed …”

The children giggled. Lucky!

“ … churches were closed. All public gatherings were prohibited. During this time all library books returned from flu infected homes were wrapped and sealed in heavy paper, not to be touched for a year.”

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Fat and Sassy: Casey’s Birthday Dinner

Tuesday TalesIt’s TUESDAY TALES! Thank goodness for Tuesday Tales. Sometimes this is the only writing I get done during the week. This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘meat’. I’m continuing with my current WIP, Fat and Sassy, the tale of Bea & Casey Jones raising six children, often without the proverbial ‘pot to pee in’.

Return to TUESDAY TALES for more story snippets (I’ve heard there’s a few that’s pretty steamy coming up this week!)

 

roastFebruary 1947

What to do? What to do? What on earth possessed me? Bea silently fretted. O, Lordy. Why in heavens name did I invite Annie and Johnnie over for supper?

There was barely enough food to feed the growing family – let alone to serve guests. It was Casey’s birthday though, and she knew that he’d enjoy a nice meal with his sister and favorite brother-in-law. After all, that’s about all the celebration there would be. She did have a nice dress shirt and tie tucked away. A few months back, Sister Nelson, from the church, brought over some of Brother Nelson’s shirts that were too small. One shirt looked brand new. You couldn’t even tell it had been worn. There was a nice striped tie nestled in amongst the much welcomed dress shirts. Bea tucked the best shirt and lone tie back in a drawer, saving it for a special occasion. They weren’t brand new, but they were new for Casey. He’d look so handsome at church Sunday with his new shirt and tie on.

Bea shifted sleeping Alvin on her lap, tucking the thin, well-worn receiving blanket around his legs. “Ona Mae, c’mere,” she called towards the back of the small house.

Mae appeared next to the rocker as if by magic. “What mama? Do you need a diaper?”

“No. Go git my coin purse. I need you to run over to the little green store for me.”

In a flash, Mae was back, holding Bea’s small clasp coin purse towards her. “What do you need, Mama?”

Bea unsnapped the clasp and counted two crumpled dollar bills. She shoved them back inside, amidst a bulging collection of pennies and nickels. “I need a roast for yore Daddy’s birthday supper. There should be enough here. Ask Mr. Bolton for a nice cut of meat.” She handed the meager collection of money towards Mae. “Here, take this with you. Be careful. Don’t lose it on the way. That’s all we have.”

Mae bounced towards the door, the little leather satchel clutched tight in her fingers.

“Take Bill and Helen with you,” Bea added as an afterthought. “And wear your sweaters. The wind is blowing today. Winter’s not over yet. The groundhog saw his shadow a few weeks ago.”

The Voice & Palmetto Poison

C. Hope Clark, author of The Carolina Slade Mystery Series and editor of the award-winning site FundsforWriters.com, joins Writer’s Zen today as a guest blogger. Hope has tips and suggestions for writers on finding and strengthening their voice. She shares the process of finding her voice through Lowcountry Bribe, the first book in her Carolina Slade Series. The process of finding her voice didn’t happen overnight. It took time, rewriting, and many edits. With each edit her voice got stronger and clearer. C. Hope Clark’s new release, Palmetto Poison, is the ‘proof in the pudding’, proving that this author speaks with knowledge and experience.

Thanks for stopping by. Hope and I both hope that you’ve found something useful here. Leave a comment for Hope. And check out Palmetto Poison!

The Voice
By C. Hope Clark

          In my early years of fiction, my writing wandered all over the place. Chapter three might not read like chapter six, and my characters came across two-dimensional. Being a logic-ridden person, I searched for A-B-C ways to correct my style, but nowhere could I find a hard-and-fast lesson on nailing voice.

palmetto poisonLowcountry Bribe was the first in my Carolina Slade Series.  Palmetto Poison, my newest release, is now available on Amazon, and on Kindle. It will be available soon on all other book venues. Lowcountry Bribe will always hold that special place in my heart as does any first born. Through that story, I found my voice. After throwing away that story twice to start over from scratch, and after two critique groups and twenty five edits later, my voice rose to the surface in its infancy. I’ve been raising it ever since. Palmetto Poison should hopefully appear stronger, not just in the character’s growth, but in the turn of phrase and the ark carrying the reader through the story.

Voice is an obscure, ambiguous term. Those who have it understand it. Those who seek it are frustrated since they can’t quite put their finger on what they’re looking for. To me, voice didn’t make sense until I started hearing it when I read my work aloud.

USING VISUAL

When my characters appear on a page, I visualize the scene. Every house, office, road or restaurant in my books has a tangible quality for me, meaning I’ve seen some semblance of them in real life. Same goes for many of the players of my stories.

When they speak, I stop and see them in my mind’s eye, anchoring them such that I can free-write about them. I hear the words, see the body language, and get in the head of my point-of-view character to include the snark and the silliness, fear and love. Like an actress prepping for her role, I insert myself into a character’s mind and body to sense the pang of hurt feelings, or the heart-thumping anxiety of what’s next to come.  Make myself cry at loss, smile at joy, and heat up as the love interest approaches ever so close. Being up close and personal with them, getting into their heads, loosens the writing. It becomes more about getting the feelings on paper than what words are used.

Voice is quality, style, attitude, speech patterns and phrasing. It’s knowing which character is speaking without needing the tags. It’s reaction to movement, to senses, to a message.

All of us have experienced letdown when reading a sixth, or eighth or twelfth book of a well-known author who seemed to regress in his abilities. In those books, the author fell back and rode the laurels of the voice he became known for. He forgot that voice has to be constantly honed, made smarter as each new story is birthed. He has to try harder with each story, no matter how many stories he’s written. One of the many difficulties in writing a series.

SUGGESTION TO FIND YOUR VOICE:

  • Relax and write. Turn off the editor and free-write with permission to forget about grammar and commas. What rises to the surface when you have no rules hindering your style?

  • Do not try to copy other writers. Be well read, but don’t try to copy. When you read a wonderfully written paragraph, slow down and reread it, then say it aloud. Let it sink in. Maybe even write it down and keep it in a list of others you’ve found. Reread them periodically, reminding yourself of your aspirations.

  • Read quality writing. Noted Southern novelist Pat Conroy entrenched himself in the classics as a young man. Readers can see the results in the ornate quality of his descriptions.

  • Write in a variety of styles. Literary versus genre fiction. Light versus dark. Humorous versus noir. Positive, negative, quick, slow. You won’t know your voice’s sweet spot until you’ve missed it enough times to tell the difference.
  • Write as if speaking to a person in the room. Make it personal, as if telling the story to a friend. If you need to, speak it and record it, then paraphrase it into your writing, taking note of what makes your choice of words unique.
  • Write about something meaningful. Find an emotional moment in your past and recreate it on paper. Do writing exercises like: The sexiest moment of my life. The scariest day. My biggest phobia. My worst nightmare. The most wonderful meal I’ve ever had. What I fear most. These exercises loosen you up.
  • Write on a taboo subject. Go where you never wanted to go before, or write about an embarrassing subject, or an off-color dream you’d never share. If it doesn’t make you cringe, it isn’t quirky enough.
  • Read it aloud to others for feedback. If you stick with a critique group long enough, they’ll help guide you to what sounds most authentic for you.
  • Repeat. Voice comes from doing all the above repeatedly, because voice is partially habit. It comes after writing thousands of words that sound generic—words anyone could’ve written. Writing until you’re tired of writing often lets the real you come out. Then one day, you reread an old piece versus one you are proud of, and you see the difference.

BOTTOM LINE ABOUT VOICE

Because voice has so much to do with the reader’s experience, it’s critical to our recognition. A writer’s voice requires every part of a writer’s toolbox: syntax, diction, punctuation, character depth, dialogue, flow. Voice must be so natural that the reader falls into the story without seeing the words. He reads the words and knows who wrote them, or realizes he’s never read this author before.

Bottom line is voice is when the author’s thoughts flow more easily than the vocabulary. It’s your fingerprint, your soul, your personality. However you define it, voice is your most promising tool in leading you to success as an author. A good voice can tell any story.

c hope clark

  • BIO – C. Hope Clark is author of The Carolina Slade Mystery Series, published by Bell Bridge Books out of Memphis, TN. She is also editor of the award-winning site FundsforWriters.com, with a newsletter service that reaches 45,000 readers and writers. She lives on the banks of Lake Murray in central South Carolina, when she’s  not running off to Edisto Beach on the Carolina coast.  www.chopeclark.com / www.fundsforwriters.com

     

Fat and Sassy: Forever and Ever

It’s time for TUESDAY TALES! This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘heart’. Now, you’d think with Valentine’s Day being this week, I’d be headed there with this prompt. I almost went the Valentine’s direction. But I changed direction and went here instead. In Fat and Sassy, I needed to start getting Casey’s health history into the story, and this seemed the perfect time. Join us for a scene with ‘heart’, but no Valentines here.

Return to TUESDAY TALES for more story snippets. With all the romance writers in the group, you’ll find plenty of stories with a romantic bent I’m sure.

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coffee in mugBea poured herself another cup of coffee and turned back to the table where Casey sat, nursing his hot, steamy brew. “You’d better git on outta here. Yore a gonna be late.”

Casey emitted a long low sigh as he ran his fingers through his thinning hair. “I just don’t have any giddy-up in my step this morning. I’m just plumb wore out.”

“You sleep well last night?”

“Slept like the dead. I don’t remember a thing until the alarm started ringing. I shouldn’t be this tired.”

Bea reached for the percolator, sitting on the stove singing its bubbly tune. She topped of Casey’s mug and returned the silver flask to the warmth of the flickering flames. Moving behind Casey, she laid a hand on his forehead. “You feel a little clammy. Think yore coming down with a bug?”

“Could be. I feel a little peaked. And my left arms a little weak and tingly. Maybe I just slept on it wrong.”

A worried look flashed across Bea’s face. “Ya wanna stay home and call the Doc?”

“No. We need the money. I’d a better git along,” Casey said, standing up. “I’ll feel better onct I get to work and start moving.”

Casey finally headed out the door, battered lunch pail and thermos in hand. Bea didn’t know where the rest of the morning went. Once the older children got themselves ready and off to school, she had the little ones underfoot. She ran a load of laundry through the wringer washer, hanging it on the line out back while trying to keep Alvin and Ida out of trouble. Back inside a laundry basket sat, its dampened clothes beckoning to her, begging to be ironed before they dried out and wrinkled up worse than before. She stood looking at the basket, contemplating her next move; work on the laundry, go start a mess of beans, or go pour another cup of coffee. The jangling phone interrupted her thoughts.

“Ayep?” she answered, halfway expecting it to be Aunt Annie.

“Bea,” Casey’s foreman spoke up, “we’re taking Casey to the hospital. We think he’s having a heart attack.”

The receiver slipped from Bea’s hand, her hand catching the curled cord just before it hit the floor.

“Bea? Bea?” the foreman’s voice echoed from the ear piece as she placed it up to her ear again.

“Is he all right?”

“He’s fine right now. We just need to get him checked out. He’s already on the way to Glendora Hospital with Johnny. I’ll keep you posted if I hear anything.”

A sharp clunk sounded as Bea dropped the receiver onto its rest. She stood rigid, tears forming and streaming down her face. Alvin and Ida gathered at her ankles, chattering and tugging on her skirt, their voices blending into a background orchestra of noise that she didn’t hear. Fear welled up from her midsection, growing and expanding until her body was suffused with anxiety and worry. She’d never felt more helpless. Here she was at home with two little ones, the older children were due home from school soon, and she couldn’t drive. There wasn’t another car even if she could drive. If need be, she thought, I can call the pastor. Maybe Cecil can take me to the hospital – if Mildred’s willing to watch the chillin’s.

foreverThe litany of frantic thoughts kept running through her mind. He has to be all right. Lord, please keep your arms around my Casey. Please, please, please let him be all right. I love that man. I need that man. He is my world.

Bea was worried then. And yes, it was Casey’s heart. Though she didn’t know it on this fearful day, they still had many more years together. While she would end up losing her husband many years before she wanted to, they would be together to see their children grow and marry and give them a passel of grandchildren. But, she didn’t know that on the day of the phone call. She’d already learned several years ago when she lost little Evan Lee that life is fragile and there are no guarantees. Her world felt out of kilter at that moment and she was scared.

Please God, don’t take Casey from me. I’ll do anything to make his life easier, to help keep him here with me longer. It was a day for bargaining with God. It was a promise she didn’t intend to ever break. She loved her children. Later in life she loved her grandchildren with every fiber of her being. But Casey was first in her life, that day and every day.

The Wrong Target, by Sherry Gloag

Today we feature a guest – Sherry Gloag – with an excerpt from her book, The Wrong Target. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, check and see what havoc Cupid creates with the wrong target.

cupidWhen you look into the origins of Cupid it is something of a wonder that he ever came to represent the path of true love. It doesn’t matter whose folklore you follow – there is lust, love betrayal, jealousy and revenge all entwined.

Wow. Who knew those delightful and mischievous cherubs carry such a heavy legacy on their shoulders.

No wonder then that occasionally when they aim one of their arrows it misfires! As it did in my first Valentine novella, The Wrong Target, things begin to unravel.

The path of love certainly didn’t run smoothly for head teacher of an elite girls’ school, Tina Blackberry in The Wrong Target.

First the cherub in question misses his target and then one of the school girls shows off a priceless golden heirloom arrow, belonging to her father, which embeds itself in Tina’s desk …

And that’s just the start of her problems.

As far as Tina Blackberry is concerned those Cupid cherubs are full of revenge and still taking it out on their human counterparts. What she wouldn’t do to get her hands on one of those little guys.

The Wrong Target _Sherry GloagExcerpt from The Wrong Target:

“Goddamit,” he exploded, “Can’t you stand still for one second? I have something to say, but I can’t while you’re jogging round the room.”

She halted toe to toe in front of him. “You have me dismissed from a job I loved, because I upheld the safety of my pupils, and still have the audacity to stalk me to my holiday destination and demand I listen to you because you have something to say?” Flapping her hands at her sides, she spun away and back again, planting her hands on the chair arms, she pinned him in his place and snarled, “Let me tell you something. I’ve come here to enjoy myself and your presence isn’t part of my plan.”

“What is your plan?” he demanded.

“To get laid!”  Astonishment pushed her away from the chair, her eyes wide, her lips curved up in a defiant sneer. “I intend to find myself a man and screw the living daylights out of him. And,” she paused deliberately, “I don’t need you for that.”

 

Where can I get The Wrong Target?

eTreasures

Amazon.co.uk 

Amazon.com

Kobo

Amazon.com

Best-selling author, Sherry Gloag, is a transplanted Scot now living in the beautiful coastal countryside of Norfolk, England.  She considers the surrounding countryside as extension of her own garden, to which she escapes when she needs “thinking time” and solitude to work out the plots for her next novel.  While out walking she enjoys talking to her characters, as long as there are no other walkers close by.

Apart from writing, Sherry enjoys gardening, walking and reading. She cheerfully admits her books tend to take over most of the shelf and floor space in her workroom-cum-office.  She also finds crystal craft work therapeutic.

Sherry loves to hear from her readers.  sherrygloag@gmail.com

My Website: http://authorsherrygloagtheheartofroman.weebly.com/
My Blog: http://sherrygloagtheheartofromance.blogspot.com/
FB: https://www.facebook.com/SherryGloagAuthor
Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/SherryGloag

Fat and Sassy: Are Dreams Life?

Tuesday TalesWelcome to TUESDAY TALES. This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘field’.

I’m continuing with my WIP, Fat and Sassy, the tale of Bea Jones raising her family during the 1940’s.

Return to Tuesday Tales for more stories to brighten your week.

Are Dreams Life?

weedy fieldBea’s leg twitched in agitation, flexing as if in motion. She looked out across the horizon. A hazy figure of a man next to a large tree stood out in relief against the bright sunshine behind him. A tremor of unease passed through her. A breeze blew through the oak tree, shifting the dappled sunlight. His hazy silhouette cleared, showing his face clearly. Ah, it’s Casey, she thought in relief. He beckoned to her and she stepped out on the well-trodden path crossing the neglected, overgrown field.

The path was clear for several feet, then abruptly ended in a mass of tangled briars. Bea looked up to navigate her way around the briar patch. Tipping her head up higher she noticed that Casey was gone. A gray haze had drifted into the far side of the field. Squinting, she thought she saw a darker mass hidden in the mist. It moved closer, towards Bea, revealing that the figure was still Casey. Except, he had a hat on now. When did he put a hat on? He must have been holding it in his hands.

Bea moved around the briars, lifting her skirt in her hands and stepping high in the tall grass. Ouch! A thorny vine caught her ankle. She kept moving, trying to ignore the sting on her ankle.  A step at a time she kept on, moving across the field. A large patch ahead was clear of weeds and she moved towards it. Glancing up, the mist was gone … and so was Casey. The sunlight intensified, warming the top of her head and blinding her. Raising her hand to her brow to shade the bright light, a small girl with pigtails stepped out from behind the oak sentry. It’s not Mae, she thought. Mae doesn’t wear pigtails. That’s odd, it could almost be me as a young girl.

She kept trudging on. The girl was gone. Step by step. Stepping over rocks, crossing through weeds. The path sometime clear. The path oftentimes blocked. Around brushy patches. On and on, step after step. She kept going, never making it to the other end. The field was ever ending. The horizon changed, shifting with each peering look. Follow the path, keep going, she repeated to herself. Keep moving.

“Mama.”

She looked up. No one there. Where did the voice come from? She shook her head and kept walking.

“Mama!” the voice called out again. “Mama, wake up, Alvin needs you.”

Bea’s eyes opened. She felt confused and disoriented. Where was the field? Where did the difficult path go? Now, she was in a dark room, laying on a soft mattress. Her eyes slowly focused to where Mae stood beside her. She heard Casey softly snoring next to her. The clock on the nightstand glowed softly in the dark bedroom. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

Mae shifted from foot to foot, reaching out to touch her mother’s shoulder.  “Mama, Alvin’s crying. He needs you.”

Bea’s eyes flew open in a flash. Oh Dear Lord, her first thought flew to the heavens, let him be okay. Don’t take another one from me. Sat up in a flash and dashed towards the boy’s bedroom. Rushing over to the cot where Alvin sat crying, she pressed a hand to his forehead. No fever.

“A monster was chasing me,” he sobbed, leaning into Bea’s arms.

Thank you Lord, she silently prayed. Only a nightmare.

 

 

Prose from the Pros: The Winter of Writing

The Winter of Writing

We sit in front of keyboards, oftentimes mired in the dead, cold, frosty depths of winter. Our inspiration, our words, our productivity matches the dreary winter time season outside. There is no growth. Nothing emerges from the ground. Nothing sprouts from our careers.

The earth rotates in the cyclical seasons we’ve learned to expect. Sometimes our writing also flows in the ebbs and tides of seasons. Our bills, the car repairs, the food for our tables … that remains a constant. Our children need feed, clothed and sheltered; even during the depths of winter – even during the career cycles where we see no growth.

Following is some advice from some of the ‘Pros’. Three books on my bookshelves have become my ‘go-to’ books when I need to give myself a jolt of inspiration. All three are marked with post-its and their pages are littered with dog-eared corners. I recommend them for any writer’s library.

Getting Started as a Freelance Writer, by Robert W. Bly
How to Write What You Want & Sell What You Write, by Skip Press
How to Publish Your Articles, by Shirley Kawa-Jump

three books

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In Getting Started as a Freeland Writer, Robert W. Bly recommends these seven words for getting out of a business slump. He states:

“I have developed a three-part strategy for overcoming a slump that works for both business and personal setbacks … it contains a total of seven words.

Here is the formula for getting out of a slump:

  1. Do something.
  2. Do more
  3. Keep doing it.”

He follows with some tips from writer Susan Miles.

  • Increase your market research time.
  • Prepare for the slow periods during your highs.
  • Give yourself a writing break.
  • Pull out back copies of writing magazines.
  • Change your writing habits.
  • Forget the epics and work on list articles.
  • Repackage and resell.
  • Remove distractions.
  • Revisit your ideas notebook.
  • Don’t aim for perfection.

See Robert W. Bly’s books here: http://www.bly.com/newsite/Pages/books.php

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Skip Press, in How to Write What You Want & Sell What You Write, shares a ten step process to achieve success. To get out of your slump and continue on through the year towards a successful finish at the end of 2014, implement ‘Skips Process’. (I’ve only included the highlights of each step to include on this post. To see the expanded version, see his book, pages 22-24) Some of these steps apply more to beginning writers in the midst of gaining momentum in their career. If you’re further along the career path, there still may be useful kernels of information here for you.

  1. Survey local publications, particularly community newspapers. Read them and see what they buy. Contact the editor.
  2. Try to determine what you most want to write. Narrow down the field.
  3. Figure out what you will have to write to get 100,000 words done. Draw up a step-by-step plan of what you’ll have to do to have the time to write 100,000 words, and do your best to follow it religiously.
  4. Join a writing group.
  5. Unless you have a very big problem with low self-esteem, stay away from ‘touchy-feely’ classes and groups. You’ll be amazed how much your confidence will rise through accomplishment alone. “Thank you for sharing that with us” doesn’t go very far in getting you published. Completing a major project does.
  6. Buy a current Writer’s Market … even better, subscribe to Publishers Marketplace. (www.publishersmarketplace.com).
  7. Write something every single day, even if only a page.
  8. In social situations, don’t call yourself a writer unless you pretty much make a living at it The exception is when you are with a group of your peers, as in a writing group or class.
  9. Sell, sell, sell! Set a few hours aside each week (or as much time as you can), in locating and contacting markets. Even if you make a big sale, keep promoting.
  10. Be true to your personal goals.

Check out his web page here: http://www.skippress.com/

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Shirley Kawa-Jump also has ten steps she recommends for all freelancers. In How to Publish Your Articles, she includes ‘Ten Freelancing Do’s’ for those desiring a successful full-time freelance career. As with Skip Press’s ten steps, these also only include the highlights of each step. See her book for the full version of her guidelines.

  1. Be sure you have the proper office equipment.
  2. Build up your resource library.
  3. Subscribe to writer’s magazines.
  4. Treat writing as a full time job. Work regular hours every day. Create a To Do list and prioritize your activities.
  5. Never forget that this is a business. Maintain good mileage records and keep receipts from business expenses.
  6. Every week try to send out at least three queries. I keep between thirty and forty queries in circulation at any given point. Maintain these submission numbers to ensure a constant flow of work.
  7. Turn rejections into new queries – Immediately. A query that sits on your desk isn’t making any money.
  8. Make use of reprints. Keep an eye on reprint markets so you’ll be ready to resell as soon as the article’s copyright reverts to you.
  9. Turn in pristine work on time. Nothing beats a good reputation.
  10. Join professional organizations.

Check out Shirley’s site, Jump Start Writing Institute, at: http://jumpstartwritinginstitute.com/

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As with all seasons, this winter too shall end. Use this slower period to generate future growth and success. Here’s to a growing 2014 for all of us!

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