"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." - Walt Disney

Saturday, April 30, 2016


In 2011, I had the pleasure of interviewing mystery author Wayne Zurl. Retiring from police business has given him a unique voice for his Sam Jenkins mystery series. Being hired by the TV show TOUR OF DUTY in the 1980s only added to his writing talent.
He has also guest posted on this blog. Check out his great article "Perfect is Boring":
To learn more about Zurl and his work: http://www.waynezurlbooks.net/

Friday, April 29, 2016


I briefly mentioned Linda Yezak as an editor in my letter "E" post earlier this month. However, she is also a talented author.

A number of years ago, my youngest daughter was in the hospital again after numerous visits there and medications. I was extremely tired, frustrated, and feeling abandoned by God. I bought a copy of her book Give the Lady a Ride. Through the course of reading this tale my spirits were lifted. I was reminded of a beautiful Truth and Gift from God. And I thank Yezak for serving as an ambassador for Christ through her writing.

If you ever have the chance to read one of her books, hire her as an editor, or speak with her at a conference - take it! Here is a portion of an interview with her from several years ago:

When working on a manuscript do you complete an outline first or just start writing? I always just start writing, but after a few chapters, I begin sketching out a loose outline–which makes me a Hybrid in the SOTP/Outline debate. I’m not an outliner, other than what I carry in my head and jot on various slips of paper, but I do try to keep a structure template in mind. Larry Brooks’s is my favorite (found in his Story Structure Demystified). It extends James Scott Bell’s a bit, but Jim’s is great too (Plot and Structure, one of Writers Digest's “Write Great Fiction” series). I’d never survive Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake method–far too in-depth of an outline for me.

What do you do when you have writer's block? I try writing something else for a while–anything else. I have tons of “first scenes” in a computer file waiting for me to develop them into novels. Often, writer’s block strikes when something’s not quite right with the manuscript, and your inner editor won’t let you continue until you fix it. If you can’t get your muse and your editor to agree on how to fix the problem, you get stymied. Separation from the WIP usually helps, but to stop writing only makes the problem worse. The longer you put off writing, the easier it is to simply not do it. So I don’t recommend not writing, just write something different for a while.

What is your writing and editing process like and how do you balance being both an editor and an author?  I’m a morning person, but since my husband doesn’t go to work until the afternoon, I’ve learned there’s no point getting too engrossed in anything until he’s out the door. Generally, I wake up at four, answer my emails and do some networking and promoting after my Bible study, write whatever blog posts are required, then wake him up around seven or eight. Once he’s settled into his day, I edit works for my clients and save my own writing and editing for when he’s gone. I don’t set much in the line of goals, although I like to hit at least 1500 words a day. Problem with getting up so early is that I crash pretty early, too. Around six, I’m tuckered out. I usually drift to the bedroom around seven to read awhile, then fall asleep by eight or eight-thirty. No one will ever accuse me of being the life of the party!

Advice for writers? Study the craft. Always strive to improve.

To learn more about Linda Yezak, visit: http://lindayezak.com/

Thursday, April 28, 2016

X-ray Interviewing

Becoming a successful interviewer is like learning to take an X-ray. You must look beneath the surface to what lies below - to what your subject doesn't know, or want, to share. Your goal is to remain unbiased while discovering the most interesting truth to share with others.
Here are some tricks to help you create a clear picture:
  1. Sample a wide selection of current magazines and journals. You are learning what type of interviews and truths interest both you and other readers.
  2. Read online to experience a variety of new storytelling forms - you want to find the style that works for you
  3. Read on topics outside your discipline, such as architecture, astronomy, economics or photography. You are stretching your mind and your abilities.
  4. Read other articles in search of under-developed stories. This helps you decide on what topics or individuals you want to focus.
  5. Research as much as possible about your chosen topic or individual to help you find focus and form questions.
  6. Listen to the voice of the subject - what makes them unique.
  7. Write the best article you can complete - every time.
What have been some of your favorite interview subjects?

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


New York Times best-selling author Wally Lamb was such a joy to meet. Here is a small portion of that interview:

I understand you have a new book coming out. Can you tell me about it?  I’m working with a new compnay called Metabook for this one. They will produce my new story, I’ll Take You There, as an electronic book with audio, video, and some cool other features. Readers who are familiar with my Christmas novella, Wishin’ and Hopin’, will recognize many of the charactres but whereas that was a comic story, this one takes a more serious turn. No release date yet, but sometime in 2016.

Have you published anything besides books – articles, short stories, poetry, etc?  Yes, all of the above. My first book wasn’t fiction; it was a poetry text for high school students called Always Begin Where You Are. I’ve also edited two anthologies of autobiographical essays by my students at York Prison, Couldn’t Keep It To Myself (2003) and I’ll Fly Away (2007.) 

What have you done for promotion, marketing?  That’s usually handled by the marketing and publicity people at the publishing house, but when I have a new book that’s come out, I do extensive touring, press, interviews, etc. Again, that’s all set up by the publisher.

Where do you live and work - and do these places make an appearance in your writing?  Rural Northeastern Connecticut is our home base, but my wife and I also have a small apartment in New York City. Two of our sons live in New Orleans. All three of these places have been put to use as settings in my work. Several of my novels are set in a fictional town called Three Rivers, which is based loosely on my hometown, which was Norwich, Conneecticut. 

What are your thoughts on blogging, and other forms of social media?  I don’t blog (no time) but I have two Facebook pages, one personal and also a “fan” page. I also have a website (wallylamb.net) and a Twitter account. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016


Just as in any other form of writing, feature articles (written after the interview) need effective verbs.

1) Avoid passivity - It's better to make the subject of your sentence do something, rather than let something be done to it. "The owl hooted" is stronger than "An owl's hoot was heard." The first is active, the second passive.

2) Be precise - never settle for the first verb that pops into your mind if there's a better one available. Look for verbs that are closer to your meaning. Don't use "shout" if you really mean "bellow" or "roar" or "shriek". Use your thesaurus and familiarize yourself with synonyms.

3) Use the abstract - "The wind blew through the trees" tells the reader something, but not enough. Was it a soft breeze? Try imagery. "The wind whispered through the trees." Or maybe it was a heavy wind. "The wind thrashed the trees." You are giving the reader clues here.

Remember to be selective with your verb choices. Choose the ones that will create the strongest connection for the reader, without interfering with the story.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

United Press International

Anyone with a background in journalism has spent an indefinite amount of time studying a stylebook such as the United Press International Stylebook.

Stylebooks are a fact of life for writers in mass media. Newspapers, magazines, advertising agencies, and public relations firms all conform to similar guidelines for copy (text).  If you've never studied any of them, they are an agreed upon list or manual of rules to be followed by writers with the ultimate goal of consistency.

In short, it's a set of rules for writers about word usage - common spellings, abbreviations, acronyms, and more.

I mention this today because these manuals offer valuable information for all writers, not just journalists. One of my favorite quotes comes from the United Press International Stylebook. In a description of its purpose, the book defines STYLE as the "intangible ingredient that distinguishes outstanding writing from mediocrity."

Have you ever studied UPI or a similar stylebook? What do you think distinguishes outstanding writing from mediocrity?

Saturday, April 23, 2016


Best-selling author Adriana Trigiani is beloved by millions of readers around the world for her hilarious and heartwarming portrayal of families. Raised in a small coal-mining town in Virginia in a big Italian family, she chose her hometown for the setting and title of her debut novel, the critically acclaimed bestseller Big Stone Gap.

Now, thirteen years and fifteen books later, Trigiani has directed the movie based on that first book.

Many readers don’t realize she started as an award-winning playwright, television writer, and documentary filmmaker long before starting that first book. Those skills began her career writing for The Cosby Show, A Different World, and other popular comedies.

Here is a portion of that interview:

How has your life changed since you became a full-time writer? Well, I’ve been a full-time writer since 1989. First in television and film, and now in books, with a couple projects per year in film and television still. I started out writing plays for the theater, and I have a feeling that someday I will do something in that arena again. I’m very excited to be working on young adult novels. I love writing about the journey of women. I never know what subject will pique my interest. One of the reasons I love living in New York is that I’m exposed to great stories every day.

Are any of your other books being made into movies? I wrote the screenplay for LUCIA, LUCIA for producer Julie Durk. I would love to make Rococo into a movie.

Are you a member of any writing or critique groups, clubs/organizations? I'm in a mother-daughter book club.

What advice do you have for new authors? Be persistent. Be focused. Be yourself.

How many books have you published, and how did you make the transition to that from screenwriting?  As a playwright, I have found it very natural to write for film and television- novels, however, are wonderful because I write exactly what I want to write-and revel in it. 

      What lesson or tips would you share with authors trying to get published in today’s market? Write what you like- and then find like-minded people who want to get in business with you and publish your work. 

      To learn more: http://adrianatrigiani.com/