Monday, October 24, 2016

Beta Readers

Have you heard of Beta Readers?

According to Wikpedia, a beta reader is a non-professional reader who reads a written work, generally fiction, with the intent of looking over the material to find and improve elements such as grammar and spelling, as well as suggestions to improve the story, its characters, or its setting. Beta reading is typically done before the story is released for public consumption. Beta readers are not explicitly proofreaders or editors, but can serve in that context.

I’m one. I’ve done it several times for several authors, but my one and only long-term beta reading is with author Joanna Campbell Slan.

A couple of years ago, she decided she wanted to meet us and arranged a gathering in St. Louis. Why St. Louis? It where her Kiki Lowenstein series takes place. So 15 women known as the Beta Babes and some husbands and children arrived in St. Louis where we visited the places mentioned in the Kiki Lowenstein books. Also scheduled is an author signing event with local authors where they talk about their books and we make purchases. I’ve discovered several new-to-me authors. That was in 2014 and we have formed a bond where the group want to get together every year.

The next year, we traveled to Florida where Joanna’s Cara Mia Delgatto mystery series takes place. This time 12 Beta Babes arrived in Florida and we enjoyed traipsing around Florida even passing the home that was owned by Burt Reynolds. Once again, local authors were invited to talk about their book and purchases were made.

This past weekend, the Beta Babes headed to Washington DC where we enjoyed a tour of the Kennedy Center, a stop by the Capitol, an uber ride to the Washington Monument and a trek to the Lincoln Memorial (my favorite monument in D.C.). As always, local authors were invited to talk about their books and yes, purchases were made.
Photo courtesy of M. Husovsky

A good time was had that included an outburst of songs, especially singing in a parking lot, visits to wineries and a visit to DinosaurLand. This is always my last author-related event of the year and I treasure all these gatherings.

Have you ever Beta Read for an author?

Dru Ann

Friday, October 21, 2016

Something Different in a New Book

by Linda Rodriguez

I don't do many promotional posts, so I hope you'll bear with this one. I have a new book coming November 30th, something different from my poetry or novels. For many years, I've taught writing workshops and classes in person and online. A number of people across the nation have asked that I write books on the topics of my classes because they don't live close enough to take one and are not in the national organization for which I teach my online classes (to members only). Next month, my first writing book, Plotting the Character-Driven Novel, will be published by Scapegoat Press, and it's available for pre-orders now (though I notice only the trade paperback is up right now—it will be available in ebook, as well).

I'm excited by this new type of book baby. We are planning a whole series of these writing books—next year one on revising the novel. It's been a very different process from writing either poetry or fiction. Here's the lovely write-up the publisher has done for the book.

In Plotting the Character-Driven Novel, Linda Rodriguez turns her sought-after writing course on using depth of character as a springboard to a strong plot into a book designed to help the aspiring writer who wants to tell a story made compelling by the truth and complexity of its characters. She provides examples of actual documents she has used in creating her own award-winning books to demonstrate the methods she teaches.

Great plot springs from character and the motivations each character has for taking or not taking action.
How do you use character as the springboard to a strong plot that draws its complexity from the motivations of its characters?

What are the hidden fears and desires of each major character, what happens when these are frustrated, and how do they intersect and confl ict with one another?

What are the secrets this character is hiding even from him/herself? What will this character tell you about her/himself if given the chance?

Through asking these kinds of questions of your characters, you will learn to create an exciting and
complex plot, building from the integrity of the characters you create.

Praise for Linda Rodriguez’s novels

“Cherokee heritage and the often very painful legacy of secrets have long been hallmarks of this excellent series. They are present in great detail here in this complex and multilayered novel.” —Kevin R. Tipple

“This suspenseful and sensitive tale of small town secrets is captivating from page one. An absolute page-turner!” —Hank Phillippi Ryan, Agatha, Anthony and Mary Higgins Clark award-winning author

“Engrossing” —Library Journal “Her latest not only fulfi lls its predecessor’s promise but also furthers Skeet’s story in ways that will have readers eager for her next case.” —Richmond Times-Dispatch

“Rodriguez’s energetic storytelling and attention to character prove she is an author who should have a bright future.” —Oline H. Cogdill, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

“Fans of Nevada Barr and Sara Paretsky will relish Linda Rodriguez’s stellar debut. Her sleuth, Skeet Bannion, is a keeper.” —Julia Spencer-Fleming, New York Times bestselling author of One Was a Soldier

Praise for Linda’s “Plotting the Character-Driven Novel” Workshop

“Thank you for a wonderful class that was perfect. The lessons were invaluable.” –Nancy R.

“I learned so much and have some great new tools for plotting.” –Holly T.

“I now have an arsenal of tools to tackle that MS.” –Susan B.

“The exercises you gave us provided me with lots of tools to help with plot and character.” –Nancy E.

“Your exercises really helped! I had thought I knew my main character pretty well before, but now I know her so much better. It’s no longer so daunting a task to work on the book!” –Betty P.

“You have given me so much to help me write this first book.” – Mary B.

“Your workshop was very inspirational and helpful. Now, if you could just show up at my house every morning and make me sit down to write, that would be great!” –Cheryl J.

LINDA RODRIGUEZ’s first novel, Every Last Secret, won the St. Martin’s/ Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition. Her novel, Every Broken Trust, was a Las Comadres National Latino Book Club selection, took 2nd place in the International Latino Book Awards, and was a finalist for the Premio Aztlán Literary Award. Her third novel, Every Hidden Fear, was a Latina Book Club Best Book of 2014, a selection of Las Comadres National Latino Book Club, and received a 2014 ArtsKC Fund Inspiration Award. Her fourth Skeet Bannion novel, Every Family Doubt, will be published in June 2017. Visit her Web site at

Thursday, October 20, 2016

“Use Your Imagination”

Like many authors, I have a day job that keeps me far too busy. Right now, I’m scrambling to handle everything that was deferred due to a giant deadline. (Said deadline meant 12+ hour days for weeks and weeks – ack!)

One of those deferred items is making sure all the slides for my teaching assignments (next week's adventure) were appropriately timed, logged, approved, and all the jazz that goes with having your class qualify for Continuing Professional Education.

And because clearly I don’t have enough to do, I was assigned a presentation about another service line (to present, fortunately, to just our group rather than all partners and managers). I say ‘fortunately’ because the partner who assigned this task made the mistake of saying, “Be creative! Think outside the box! Use your imagination!”

Those clichés should give you a clue – tossing out phrases like that is throwing down the gauntlet for an author.

So instead of developing a wonderful blog post for you, I spent the afternoon on The Extremely Unlikely [Service Line Redacted] Case – a Murder Mystery. 

There’s a dead accountant.

And cops.

Lots of cops. 


Several suspects. 

And the boring stuff about the Service Line.

Tune in next month to see if I still have a job. 

Have you ever done anything completely silly or off-the-wall for your day job? Please share!!

Cathy Perkins started writing when recurring characters and dialogue populated her day job commuting daydreams. Fortunately, that first novel lives under the bed, but she was hooked on the joy of creating stories. When not writing, she can be found doing battle with the beavers over the pond height or setting off on another travel adventure. Born and raised in South Carolina, she now lives in Washington with her husband, children, several dogs and the resident deer herd. 
Currently she's employed in a financial day job. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


Amateur sleuth Austin talks to her creator Kay Kendall
Freaking out. That’s exactly what I’m doing. Freaking out.
RAINY DAY WOMEN-An Austin Starr Mystery
               Remember how desperate I was when my husband was jailed for a murder he didn’t commit? If it hadn’t been for all the moral support Larissa gave me, I’d never have been able to track down the real killer. I owe her so much.
               Now it’s Larissa herself who’s in big trouble. She just called long distance with the terrible news. She’s a prime suspect in a murder. Good grief, it’s only been a year since David was an accused killer. This is too much. I’ll have to wear a trench coat and fedora—pretend I am a private eye—if I keep getting pulled into these cases on a routine basis.
               Larissa wants me to fly across the continent—all the way to the Pacific coast—to back her up while the police grill her. I'm desperate to help her out, but I don’t see how I can. Believe me, I’d leave tomorrow if I could.
               But what would I do with baby Wyatt? He’s only three months old. Last time I chased a killer—back before I was a mom—I almost died. That kind of scene is no place for an infant.
               But I can’t go by myself and leave Wy at home. David’s facing a big deadline in grad school, and he’ d have a hissy fit if I asked him to babysit. Of course I juggle Wyatt’s child care with my own studies, but that’s expected. After all, I’m the mom. Dads don’t do things like that—not much anyway.
               Here’s another thing—kind of selfish of me, I know. I planned to drive down to Woodstock, New York, this weekend. The big outdoor rock ‘n’ roll concert is happening pretty close by. I figured I'd put Wy in his little carrying sling, and he could enjoy the music with me.
               Still, I cannot leave Larissa in the lurch. She’s the only real friend I’ve made since I pulled up stakes and left my home and family in Texas to join my new husband up here in Ontario, in the Great White North.
Since Larissa left for her summer job, I’ve really missed her. Long distance is too expensive to talk much. When I heard her voice on the phone, I knew something was wrong. We tell each other everything. See, she’s the only one who knows I was trained as a spy by the CIA. That was back before I married David. I could never tell him that. He would not approve, that’s for sure. But Larissa knows and keeps all my secrets.
               Oh gosh, the more I consider this situation, the more I realize I must fly out and back her up during her time of trouble. She’ll call me back in an hour to ask if I’m coming. Guess I’ll have to put a plan in place. I must think of something.  
Author Kay Kendall
Want to read the first 20 pages of Kay Kendall’s second mystery, RANY DAY WOMEN? Go to her website That book won two awards at the Killer Nashville conference in August 2016—for best mystery/crime and also for best book. Her first novel about Austin Starr‘s sleuthing, DESOLATION ROW, was a finalist for best mystery at Killer Nashville in 2014. Visit Kay on Facebook