Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Writing A Zombie Novel

by Jeanette Raleigh


When I first decided to write The Zombie Cowboy Two-Step, I picked out a couple of Stephen King’s books and studied the way that he builds intensity into a story. It amazes me how many pages King can write while still holding a reader’s attention. For example, he wrote 300 pages of build up while character after character suffered various effects of the plague in The Stand, while the average author would have made it 80 pages long, if that. That is some serious tension!

Horror requires a dark setting. The best scenes paint a dark and yet specific picture of what the characters experience. They use words that describe the events with clarity, whether it’s snapping bones or the gleam of light on a withered hand, the bang of a window shutter or the sickening smell of rot. Vivid descriptions draw the reader close and allow them to experience fear. Word usage can be fun with zombies. Splatters and splats. Oozing. Crunch. And then there's the sloppy body parts.

The best horror stories dangle the safety of characters before the reader, bringing them into ever more dangerous and deadly circumstances until they defeat the evil or die in the attempt. The favorites are put in dire life-or-death circumstances, lose loved ones, or watch a disaster unfold that they are helpless to stop. Just when the reader thinks it’s safe, something worse happens.

Tension can be built in other ways as well. By hinting at danger or leaving clues, the story becomes a slower boil, allowing the reader to become familiar with the characters before sending them into true danger. Psychological horror stories use this kind of build-up.

The slow boil is vital to a good horror story. Suspense, created word by word, draws the reader in for a page-turner, anxious for a happy ending in an ever downward spiral into the terrifying darkness that is waiting at the end.

And on that cheery note, I currently have a horror out. The Zombie Cowboy Two-step

Although if your interest leans more toward paranormal romance, there is also Moon Struck

Don't stop there, folks. Jeanette has several books out on Amazon, many with 5-star reviews.

I had a lot of fun reading The Zombie Cowboy Two-step, so I’m really glad Jeanette stopped by and shared some of her wonderful tips on how to write about zombies with us today. It’s a perfect book to read during this spooky season of Halloween. Thanks again, Jeanette. I really appreciate the time you took to share these fun and interesting writing tips with our audience.


Writing and publishing isn’t easy, but it’s always a little better when you’re working with a few friends. Here’s to all the authors out there! Thanks for stopping by,

M. J. 

©2014 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: Zombies Night of the Living Dead, George A. Romero, PD-US

Monday, October 27, 2014

10 Reasons to Write Book Reviews for Your Blog

by M. J. Joachim


1. You meet some amazing new authors.

2. Your library will expand for free.

3. You’re going to tell everyone about what you read recently anyway.

4. You get exposed to new genres, many you’ll discover you really like.

5. You have so much material to write about now.

6. Reading is fun!

7. You get more exposure for your blog.

8. Reviews are great conversation starters.

9. You get to new and old authors get more exposure for their books.

10. The new ideas you get every time you read a new book cannot be contained.

Thanks so much for stopping by today. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this.

M. J.

©2014 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: Lernender, Nick-zug, GNU Free Documentation License

For His Very First Blog Post, This Isn’t Bad at All!

by Justin Sewall

You published your first book…now what?

When M.J. agreed to review my sci-fi novella, I was thrilled. After publishing my first book last November, I was happy to get it in front of as many reviewers as possible. 

Having someone else critique something that you’ve toiled over for weeks and months can be an intimidating experience, but it’s worth it. The insights, opinions, compliments and criticisms of others are immensely helpful to any author whether it’s your first book or 37th. Now here I am, invited to be a guest blogger on M.J.’s site, another opportunity for which I am immensely thankful. So in the interest of full disclosure I must tell you that this is my first blog ever. Yes, it’s true.

“Great,” you think to yourself. What can this neophyte author possibly tell me that I don’t already know? That’s a fair question. To be sure, there are many, many others with much more literary experience than I. But I hope you’ll stick with me, especially those who are still wrestling with that first unpublished manuscript. Because once you’ve finished that first effort and you finally do get it out into the big, wide world, you’ll sit back at your writing desk and think to yourself, “Now what?”

This is not a blog about a ten-step marketing plan that will bring you fame and fortune. I don’t have the magic elixir or silver bullet for that (although I have worked in advertising and public relations and know a little about how that game is played). What I do want you to think about are those next steps you’ll take once you’ve birthed your first book. Most of us don’t have unlimited resources to begin a multi-media campaign to promote ourselves, and that is when frustration can set in.

Book reviewers can certainly help in this respect, and there are hordes of them out there. Just like authors, some are better known than others and whose opinions carry more weight. Well and good. I sent M.J. a copy of my novella because she was willing to review it, and I appreciated her feedback. By searching online, you can find a vast network of people who might review your book, or not. It’s a bit like sales, knocking on as many doors as possible, getting through the 39 no’s to hear a yes on the 40th try (I sold textbooks door-to-door one summer to help pay for college…I still have nightmares…)

So I’ll come to the crux of the matter as I wrap up my inaugural blog posting. Here’s my question to you: Are you content to write for an audience of one? If you knew that only one other person in the world would ever read your collection of poetry, recipes, short stories, whatever it is you have a passion to write about, are you content enough to keep at it for that one person? I would certainly never wish that limited market on anyone. There is more than enough room in the world for anyone who wants to be an author to be one. Ultimately the question is one of motivation.

Cerulean Rising: Beginnings, is the sci-fi novella I published last November. You can read M.J’s review for it here and see other reviews on Amazon. It’s the back story for a video game that some friends of mine are developing and I’ve done a little promoting for it. Not as much as I would like and certainly not as much as necessary to get it front of a larger audience. But after doing that, I got to work on part two, which should release sometime during the first half of next year. I’ve found that I’m really enjoying writing as my creative outlet and I’m happy to keep doing it, even for an audience of one.

Justin Sewall is a sci-fi and aviation enthusiast. He works at the Boeing Everett Delivery Center and enjoys watching airplanes fly every day. He enjoys distance running, HALO, VW GTI's, military history, his kids and wife, though not necessarily in that order. The works of Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, Herbert and Tolkien have all made their influence in one way, shape or form on Sewall's writing. Cerulean Rising: Beginnings is his first self-published novella.

Thanks so much for guest posting on my blog today, Justin! It’s been a true pleasure working with you and getting to know you better. Here’s to your next book!

Now to all of my faithful blogger friends out there, please give Justin all the support you can. He’s a true gem in the world of self publishing!

Thanks to everyone for stopping by,

M. J. 

©2014 All Rights Reserved, Justin Sewall Photo credit: Justin Sewall ©2014 All Rights Reserved

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Reviewer is Writing Some Too…

by M. J. Joachim


For the past few months, I’ve been working on writing and publishing a couple of book ideas I’ve thought about for a few years. Then yesterday, I woke up at 4 am and started writing another book I happened to be dreaming about. So much of yesterday was devoted to cranking out ideas, before they vanished into thin air. By the afternoon, I felt like I short-changed the other book I’ve been working on, so I put in a couple of hours on it too. This morning has been all about yesterday’s new book though. It seems to want to be written, and as much as I’m enjoying working on the other one, this one won’t leave me alone.

As a reviewer of people’s books, I feel a little more nervous than usual about publishing my new books, hopefully before the end of the year. It’s not that my work isn’t solid or anything. And believe me, I’m being completely anal to make sure it is solid before I put it out there. It’s just that…well, yea, it’s just that…

Along with writing, I’m also reading. More reviews coming soon.

Thanks for stopping by,
M. J. 

©2014 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: Baroness Hyde de Neuville, Economical School, PD-US

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Book Review: On Mother’s Lap by Ann Herbert Scott

by M. J. Joachim

As I was cleaning and moving book shelves around the other day, I came across a few old stories I used to always read to my kids when they were little. Now that I’m a grandma, I guess I’ll have to read them to my grandchildren too. These are books to be cherished and passed down for generations; one of them is On Mother’s Lap.

Affirming a mother’s open arms and unending love, Scott introduces us to a Native American family doing what all families seem to do. Young ones sleep, while older siblings need to be quietly entertained. But the older siblings are full of energy, and they need affirmation from mother as much as the little ones do.

As an adult reads this story, children will be focused on the detailed and delightful pictures illustrated by Glo Coalson. Beautiful care was taken to make this book a pleasure for everyone. One of the reasons I bought this book so many years ago is because it clearly shows that families are families, and even though we may look a little different, or decorate our homes differently, or eat different foods, we all have a lot in common too.

On Mother’s Lap truly is a wonderful book, with a subtle and very valuable message too.

Thanks for stopping by and visiting Writing Tips today. I really appreciate it when you visit here.

M. J.

©2014 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: The Mother, Anchise Picchi (1911 - 2007), Public Domain

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Book Review: Incredible Home Canning Solutions by Martha Millhouse

by M. J. Joachim


Never mind the typos and some formatting issues, let’s get into the heart of what this book claims to do - offer canning solutions to newbie canners. As a newbie canner, one who has thoroughly done my research, I might add, this book was a total disappointment for me. 

Hot water baths preserve both high and low acid foods, but you wouldn’t know that by reading this book. I put this book down thinking, “I’m sure glad I did so much research before I read that one!” Otherwise I might think I need two types of canners, and I’d constantly be trying to figure out the ph value in any foods I wanted to can.” It’s enough to make any newbie, wannabe canner, forget the whole thing! Intimidating readily comes to mind. And no, you don’t need to have a pressure canner to can low ph foods.

You simply need to add the extra acid - a bit of lemon juice or vinegar to the recipe, as required according to the recipe. You also need to know how long to process your jars in the hot water bath, something completely omitted in the recipes provided in the book. However, pressure canning times were provided with those recipes. It helps to know what size jars too, because different sizes of jars are processed for different amounts of time.

Don’t even get me started on how to check to see if jars are sealed correctly. Suffice to say, this chapter wasn’t included in the book. All we were told was to check to see if jars are sealed and if not, reprocess within 24 hours. Considering this is a book written to help newbie canners, don’t you think knowing how to tell if jars are sealed correctly would be valuable information?

I could go on, but I’m sure you get the gist. I won’t be recommending this book for numerous reasons. If you want to learn to can, visit youtube and watch their canning videos. There are also some very thorough blogs out there - tons of recipes included, and the classic Better Homes Cookbook has a wonderful section on canning in it. Plus there are some great university sites with all sorts of information on canning, complete with pdf’s you can print to keep copies of necessary processing times for all sorts of foods.

Canning isn’t rocket science, and truth be told, it’s very easy to do too.

I’m so happy you stopped by today. Thanks, and I’ll see you again soon!

M. J.

©2014 All Rights Reserved
Photo credit:  M. J. Joachim ©2014 All Rights Reserved

Monday, October 20, 2014

Book Review: What to Eat in Restaurants Gluten Free Phoenix/Scottsdale Arizona Edition

by M. J. Joachim

Limited though this book was, I found there were some wonderful new restaurants I’d like to visit for eating gluten free, if I feel like driving across the valley. Author T. K. Kenyon compiled a nice selection of choices, and her organization is easy enough to follow. However, I wish she had included restaurants in the broader Phoenix area, instead of only those in Phoenix, Scottsdale and near ASU. 

It seems she missed the east valley entirely, which has some of the best gluten free pizza I’ve ever eaten. I’m referring to Red, White and Brew, which can make any of their pizzas gluten free. Their salads are also gluten free, complete with dressings of choice. They also have a few gluten free desserts to try.

Barros locations throughout the valley also have gluten free pizza, wings and salad including dressing choices. Yes, you can have wings with ranch and blue cheese dressing here. Their wings are so good too!

I’ve heard Vito’s also has an extensive gluten free menu full of pasta and pizza dishes too, though I haven’t stopped in yet. It’s on my list, because I have to see if their gluten free pizza is better than Red, White and Brew’s. Not to mention, they've won awards for some of their gluten free dishes.

Do you feel like having Mexican food? Try Macayos. They have an extensive gluten free menu and the food is delicious. And don’t forget Chili’s for some southwestern food.

Okay, so I’m getting carried away because it’s not always easy eating out when you’re gluten free, which is why I wish this book was more comprehensive and all inclusive. Would I recommend it for people who need to eat gluten free? Yes, because we need all the resources we can get. Would I recommend it if the market had lots of these types of books and resources readily available? hmmm, I’d have to give that one a bit more thought, depending on what was out there.

I hope this review was helpful to you, especially if you’re gluten free. What to Eat in Restaurants Gluten Free Phoenix/Scottsdale…is a portion of a larger book, What to Eat in Restaurants Gluten Free. I won’t be getting that one, because as much as this one gave me a few new restaurants to try, I’d rather do my research, make my calls and discover new restaurants as I need to. Part of the reason for this is because I don’t want to be limited to only the restaurants listed in the book. As you can see, I’ve discovered a few more on my own, before I ever started reading it.

Thanks for visiting Writing Tips today. It’s always good to see you here.

M. J.

©2014 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: Gluten Free Beer, Parcher, Creative Commons Attribution - Share Alike 3.0 (I don’t know if it tastes good or not, but it looks like something for beer drinkers to try.)