From the Cupboard by Susan Crawford

This guest post is written by Susan Crawford, author of The Pocket Wife and The Other Widow by Morrow-Harper Collins. She and nine critically acclaimed authors will be featured at the Women’s National Book Association Charlotte’s 7th Annual “BIBLIOFEAST” Book & Author Dinner on Mon., Oct. 17.

susan-crawford-9780062362889_1_a0496Readers occasionally ask me where I get the ideas for my books. “Well,” I say, “there was this article in the newspaper equating homicides with mental illness,” or, “There’s so much more to PTSD than soldiers coming back from war,” or, “I thought it would be challenging to write a sympathetic ‘other woman.’” And these are reasons for writing what I write. They are, at least, the origins, the seeds. What sprouts from them though, the stories, the characters that populate the living rooms, the subways, the streets, and ultimately the pages of my books, are not as easy to explain. In a way, they’re far less rational.

They live inside my head. Like dreams or words I’ve overheard, they dance onto the page. I unlock a cupboard and the characters spill out. With a little nudge they grow and blossom. They invent themselves, become the people that will talk and love and die and kill for the next year of my life, the next three hundred pages. The voices of dead fathers whisper in their ears or turn their hearts to stone. A pinkish sky, a certain smell, a sound, can snatch them from their lives and set them down beside a beach decades before or underneath a blanket from the Andes in a winter room with dirty glass, a broken wall.

For me, the characters make the plot work. They should grab readers by the hand and spirit them away – to a party, down an icy street at midnight, to a lover’s rented room – toward a happy ending, toward redemption, hope, or straight into a wall. Whether they are sunny or demonic, honest or deceptive, they must entice the reader to be right there with them – missing phone calls, burning dinners, losing sleep – following with loyalty and expectation, waiting for motives to come to light, for actions to jar, to change events, to make a difference, to enlighten and inspire. The characters can be right or wrong, good or not so good, as long as they’re believable, as long as they can touch the reader in some way.

book-jacket-the-other-widowMaybe they’re composites, bits and pieces of people I’ve known, or seen or heard or been.  Or maybe they’re forgotten words or incidents I’ve tucked away to look at later, to sort through and analyze, to try to make sense of the world. Maybe that’s what we all are underneath, behind our flesh and tears and smiles – composites of our pasts, of those we loved, or touched, or couldn’t quite, of those we lost. Maybe we’re like antennae shifting through space, picking up frequencies, picking up stories, other places, other times, other rooms. Maybe I am really just a scribe.

I don’t write about real people. I write fiction. But I wonder sometimes if the two are all that different – if their fragments and details fall together in a certain way to make a character in fiction rather than my next-door neighbor or my friend from high school. I’ve read that there are only seven basic stories told in countless ways – the human condition, thrown down like cards to land in myriad configurations – Dorrie from The Other Widow, different from the woman in the book I’m writing now because she grew up in a different place, a different situation. Just as we are molded by circumstance and chance, by where we landed and began and where we go from there, the characters fall from their cupboards, brush themselves off, and march onto the page.

Susan grew up in Miami, Florida. She later moved to New York City and then to Boston before settling in Atlanta to raise three amazing daughters and to teach in various adult education settings. A member of The Atlanta Writers Club and The Village Writers, Susan works for the Department of Technical and Adult Education and is a member of her local planning commission. She now lives in Atlanta with her husband and a trio of rescue cats, where she enjoys reading books, writing books, rainy days, and spending time with the people she loves.

More about Susan:, Twitter: crawfordsusanh, Facebook: Susan Crawford Author

Want to write a guest post for All About the Authors? We welcome guest posts from authors and those who are experts in the book industry. What is your writing process? Where are you in your publishing journey and what advice do you have? Have you successfully marketed your book and do you have tips to share? All About the Authors wants to hear from you! If you’re interested in submitting a guest post to All About the Authors, please send your information and topic idea to with the subject line “Guest Post”. 


The Perils of Too Much Self by Ashley Mace Havird

This guest post is written by Ashley Mace Havird, author of debut novel, Lightningstruck, by Mercer University Press. She and nine critically acclaimed authors will be featured at the Women’s National Book Association Charlotte’s 7th Annual “BIBLIOFEAST” Book & Author Dinner on Oct. 17.

head-shot-ashley-havirdI grew up on a South Carolina tobacco farm from the mid-1950s until the early 1970s. As the main character, eleven-year-old Etta, says in Lightningstruck: “The entire year seemed like a patchwork quilt whose pattern told the story of tobacco.” Growing tobacco was like a ballet, a symphony whose final movement reached a crescendo in the end-of-season market with its “toasty smells of cured tobacco, the taste of boiled peanuts, the singsong speed-talk of the auctioneer.” The economy of the area depended on farming, and tobacco was the cash crop. During the market days, in fact, people would joke that the entire town of Mullins, with its enormous warehouses, “smelled like money.” I took for granted, as all children do, that this world would last forever.

I left home for college and never returned for good, but I visited my family often—still do. With the demise of the domestic tobacco industry accelerating in the late 1970s and early ’80s, my father and brother, like so many other lifelong farmers, gradually gave it up. The landscape of the area, its wooden stick barns already having given way to aluminum “bulk” barns, and sophisticated machines having replaced much of the manual labor—this landscape changed even more dramatically. The vast fields of green leaf vanished, and the economies of rural communities collapsed. The landscape of my memory vanished and took its people with it.

Around fifteen years ago, I was a fiction-writer-turned-poet. But I wanted to recreate this lost world in a longer form than poems afforded. So, I jumped in with what I believed was a memoir. But in the end, my life was interesting only to me. The interest, I discovered after much fumbling, lay not so much in my personal story but in the fabric of the times, the radical changes occurring on so many levels. There was the good, the bad, and the ugly of the tobacco industry, with its hierarchy of wealthy and health-problem-denying industry leaders down to laborers who worked from “can’t see to can’t see.” There were the tensions of the Civil Rights Movement, which was finding its way even into our closed-in part of the South. The Vietnam War was ramping up. All of this occurring during a girl’s coming of age, which included painful discoveries about herself and family and society—troubles that, when purely my own, were not particularly interesting, although they could be if I could only exaggerate …These things drew me towards the novel, towards inventing. I began to see that this was the only way I could explore the larger truth I was after. Besides, my precious memoir was flat-out boring.

I had major problems to solve. What to do about self-indulgent scenes and a plot that was loose at best? The horse, which became the main source of tension in Lightningstruck, was a minor character. The story’s all-important “trouble” was vague, ill-defined.

Nothing to do, of course, but to begin the slaughter: I had to kill many darlings, nearly all of them, and create brand new ones. Without new characters, such as the eccentric civil rights activist, Miss Cass, and the young archaeologist, Dr. Raintree, the book would have been stuck like an insect in amber. I shifted the story into third person to further detach my Self from Etta, and I allowed Etta’s problems to become far more exciting than mine ever were. I was able to keep my central characters, unlocking them from their chains to actual people, and I “grew” the horse, Troy, until he haunted me and became for Etta the major antagonist he had to be.

The tearing down, rethinking, and rebuilding, added years to the novel’s progress. It was only the curiosity and passion I had for the world I was bringing back, the love for my characters, and my own stubbornness that made the final draft—once again in first person—possible. Would I have been able to complete the book if I hadn’t put myself through all these contortions? I have no idea. I’d certainly have saved myself grief and time if I’d identified the genre to begin with.

Still, there is no question but that the autobiographical elements enrich Lightningstruck. Beyond the story of Etta’s coming of age by way of a treasure-hunt with a lightning-scarred horse, the book is an elegy to a past world, an homage to people I knew and loved. It is a sort of archaeological exploration of what it means to dig for truth, beneath tobacco fields and down through layers into the past—a truth that, when found, is as much mine, and I hope the reader’s truth, as it is Etta’s.

Ashley Mace Havird grew up on a tobacco farm in South Carolina. She has published three collections of poems, including THE GARDEN OF THE FUGITIVES (2014), which won the 2013 X. J. Kennedy Prize. Her poems and stories have appeared in many journals, including Shenandoah, The Southern Review, and The Virginia Quarterly Review. Lightningstruck, winner of the 2015 Ferrol Sams Award for Fiction, is her first novel.

Want to write a guest post for All About the Authors? We welcome guest posts from authors and those who are experts in the book industry. What is your writing process? Where are you in your publishing journey and what advice do you have? Have you successfully marketed your book and do you have tips to share? All About the Authors wants to hear from you! If you’re interested in submitting a guest post to All About the Authors, please send your information and topic idea to with the subject line “Guest Post”. 


In Her Own Words by Angela Pisel

Meet author Angela Pisel: This guest post is written by Angela Pisel author of debut novel, With Love from the Inside, by G.P. Putnam’s Sons. She and nine critically acclaimed authors will be featured at the Women’s National Book Association Charlotte’s 7th Annual “BIBLIOFEAST” Book & Author Dinner on Oct. 17.angie-pisel-21-c-robin-parish-photography

We hear about them more often than we should. After fifteen, twenty, and sometimes even thirty years, a horrific mistake is made right. Camera crews now capturing the wrongly convicted ones, with their overgrown, more-gray-than-not hair and hesitant feet, stepping out into the sunshine. Their heavy eyes, once again meeting freedom, while being introduced to babies they’d never met, from children they didn’t see grow up.

In late 2011, I watched the news coverage of a man who’d spent twenty-five years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. I stared at him while he wrapped his frail, spindly arms around those he’d thought he’d never be able to touch again. I could almost hear his erratically pumping heart struggling to balance all that had been taken from him with the promise of what was to come.

I dared to ask myself the question I imagine most of us would ask: What if that were me?

Could I have endured?

Could I have forgiven?

Could I move on after so much was taken away from me?

cover-photo-with-love-from-the-insideIn 2012, I began to study women on death row. I read everything I could find about them online and in the library. I wrote 57 of them letters, asking questions about how they passed the time and what their first thoughts were when they woke up in the morning. One woman sent me her picture. She was average-enough looking that she could have worked beside me at the seventh-grade bake sale, carrying on conversations about fundraisers and the high price of school calculators. Would these women, if given the right circumstances— a sober mother to tuck them in at night, a father who kept his hands to himself—now be working in a cubicle someplace, instead of living in a cage with all the freedom afforded to a rabid animal? Or would they have made the same decisions, even with two appropriately affectionate parents—their personalities and their fates predetermined, so to speak? How did these women end up with an expiration date?

I couldn’t help but wonder about their children. What it’s like spending birthdays, holidays, and first days of school separated from their incarcerated mom or dad? Who do they turn to when they have no one to sit with at lunch, or when a stranger knocks on their front door?

Could they endure?

Could they forgive?

Could they move on after so much was taken away from them?

These questions birthed my debut novel, With Love From the Inside. It’s the story of a mother on death row and a daughter left to navigate growing up without her. Both women desperately struggle to figure out how they ended up where they did, and if they will ever find truth and forgiveness.

While writing this story, I interviewed a woman from North Carolina whose father had been in and out of prison for her entire childhood. Most of her weekends, she told me, were spent driving up to three hours with her mom to sit in a dirty visitation room, hoping to hear her daddy say he was proud of her. At the age of forty-one, she finally heard him say “I love you” for the first time. He said those words, handcuffed in a courtroom, right after the judge sentenced him to live his final days in prison. He died of a heart attack shortly afterward.

She promised herself she’d never set foot in another prison, but that wasn’t what happened. God had other plans, she told me. This year alone, she will spend 36 weekends behind locked doors with an organization she founded called Forgiven Ministry (, whose mission is to reconnect incarcerated parents with their children. She will teach moms how to tell their kids “This is not your fault” and help dads learn how to say “I’m sorry.” She’s hoping to break the cycle of recidivism, and sometimes she will let me tag along.

A quick Google search will tell you that my new friend’s childhood was not that uncommon: 2.7 million American children are growing up with a mom or dad behind bars. That’s a lot of kids, one in twenty-eight to be more exact, trying to endure, trying to forgive, trying to move on after so much was taken from them….

Angela Pisel was born in the Midwest but has set up homes across the United States since marrying an Army physician. As a therapist and life coach, she has taken a special interest in mentoring women throughout various transitions in their lives. She decided to write her first novel after her obsession with TV trials led her to research women on death row. She didn’t find what she thought she’d find—how people end up where they end up continues to mesmerize her. Angela volunteers with an organization in North Carolina ( that seeks to break the cycle of recidivism by promoting healthy relationships between children and their incarcerated parent.

Want to write a guest post for All About the Authors? We welcome guest posts from authors and those who are experts in the book industry. What is your writing process? Where are you in your publishing journey and what advice do you have? Have you successfully marketed your book and do you have tips to share? All About the Authors wants to hear from you! If you’re interested in submitting a guest post to All About the Authors, please send your information and topic idea to or with the subject line “Guest Post”. 








Meet novelist Julia Franks author of Over the Plain Houses

This guest post is written by Julia Franks whose debut novel, Over the Plain Houses, Hub City Press, is a finalist for the 2016 Crook’s Corner Prize for Debut Fiction, the winner to be announced in January. You can meet Julia in person at the Women’s National Book Association – Charlotte’s 7th Annual “BIBLIOFEAST” Book & Author Dinner on Oct. 17.

For me, novels come from questions. You have some question or questions that you can’t stop thinking about, can’t stop worrying over. So you start writing, and you don’t know where the questions are going to take you. I live in the Bible Belt sfranksauthorphoto_credit_holly_sasnetto one of those questions has always been, “How does a person who believes the Bible is literal truth construct a world view around that?”

But the novel really started percolating in my head in 2008. That summer a man walked into my parents’ church in Tennessee and started shooting, killing two people immediately and injuring several others. Like a lot of people, I became fixated on the “Why?” In this case, the church was Unitarian/ Universalist, and the shooter had written a kind of manifesto about his own ideology. But then it came out later that his wife had left him, and that she’d become a member of the UU church. I thought a lot about that. People are so complicated, really, and so fragile.

That same year my (then) husband and I bought an abandoned farm in the mountains north of Asheville. There was a house on the property, an old cabin built in 1865, with a springhouse and a privy nearby, but no one had lived there in four decades. The strange thing about it was that it was still full of the residents’ possessions: clothes in the dresser, boots in the closet, hundreds of jars of canned food. And the people who had lived there had clearly been hoarders of a sort. Some of it was boxes of old toys and documents and letters and diaries, hundreds of jars of canned food. But they’d also saved a lot from the natural world: hornet nests, animal skins, mammal skulls and skeletons, calcified eggs. The little boy’s room had a collection of snakeskins pinned to the wall.over-the-plain-houses-9781938235214_583fe

Some of it clearly needed to go back to the family, so we contacted the son of the previous owners—I’ll call him Mr. M.—who was in his late eighties by then. He had been the little boy who’d collected the snakeskins. We brought him all the diaries and letters, and he seemed delighted to have them. We spent the rest of the day with him and his wife, listening to stories. (Unfortunately the way it’s done in this part of the world is that, in a group of two couples, the man will talk to the other man, while the hostess tries to engage the woman. So here’s this lovely lady taking me to the kitchen to show me her method for canning pears, and the whole time I’m straining to hear the stories the old man is telling my husband in the other room about his childhood.)

Meanwhile, back in town, the locals had heard that we’d bought the old homestead, and they started telling us stories too. Mr. M’s parents were a fire and brimstone preacher and his nature-loving wife. He loved God, and she loved the woods, but they were sort of famous for their eccentricities and their attempt to live an older lifestyle right into the 20th century. (Like other mountain women, Mrs. M. wore a splint bonnet right into the 1970s). And one guy was still mad about the sermons. Forty years later he still resented the fact that Mr. M. called out his wife and then came over to eat her fried chicken dinner afterward. But everyone said the same thing about Mrs. M.: “That woman was a saint.”

Anyway, that was my other big question. How does a woman construct her own identity when she’s married to such a charismatic and outspoken community leader? Mrs. M. saved things and labelled them, as in, “This is the hat I wore to Celia’s graduation,” Or “Calvin’s baby blanket.” And we found hundreds of jelly jars with salvaged objects in them. She constructed her own world of saved objects. Whether that was enough or not, I guess we won’t ever know.

Mr. M. did die well in advance of her, and she lived a long time on that farm by herself, until her grandsons took her to live in a facility. I’ve always wondered if she hated leaving her woods behind, and all the things she’d saved over the years, her world.

Over the Plain Houses is a story of a couple much like this one, living in Western North Carolina in the 1930s, when they were young, and they didn’t know yet that the modern world was about to crash in upon them.

With roots in the Appalachian Mountains, Julia has spent years kayaking the rivers and creeks of Tennessee, North Carolina and West Virginia. She lives in Atlanta where she teaches literature and runs, a web service that fosters free-choice reading in the classroom.

Want to write a guest post for All About the Authors? We welcome guest posts from authors and those who are experts in the book industry. What is your writing process? Where are you in your publishing journey and what advice do you have? Have you successfully marketed your book and do you have tips to share? All About the Authors wants to hear from you! If you’re interested in submitting a guest post to All About the Authors, please send your information and topic idea to with the subject line “Guest Post”. 

7 Essential Tech Tools That All Writers Need To Have

Laptop on deskIt’s now easier than ever for writers to take their work from an idea to a published manuscript. The advances in technology and rise of the Internet offer a platform for authors that’s creating a self-publishing revolution. Additionally, websites like help guide you through the process.

There is also a vast array of wonderful apps and tech tools that support writers during all stages of their writing. These seven are essential for modern authors and will help you make your book into something that will take the world by storm.


By far the most comprehensive tool on the market, Scrivener is a word processing app on steroids. It allows you to set up a personalized writing studio that includes a virtual cork board and summary tags. You can easily organize research, write documents, and edit them individually or as a group. 

The outliner tool allows you to create synopses and metadata for each piece of work so they can be easily navigated. This is perfect for those writing books because you can divide the manuscript into smaller sections while keeping a detailed overview of the whole project. It’s also great for freelancers who are working with multiple clients at once.


Wunderlist is a fantastically useful online to-do list. Each point opens up an individual card where you can add additional comments, files, due dates and reminders. It also allows you to network with teams for collaborative projects and easily assign different tasks to members. 

Any author knows that the actual writing of your book is only a miniscule part of the process, so having a tool that can help you organize all of your marketing, liaising, planning and formatting as well is infinitely useful.


 For writers, your computer is the most precious piece of equipment you own. Due to this, keeping it safe and secure is an essential pursuit. One of the greatest dangers to a writer’s online security comes from the necessary evil of relying on public WiFi. Whether it’s having an intensive writing session in your local coffee shop or checking emails on the train, these notoriously insecure networks are hard to avoid.

Using a VPN such as ExpressVPN is a great way to secure yourself when out-and-about because it encrypts all of your data and allows you to browse without any risk. It also lets you bypass geo-blocking restrictions, which can be an added bonus when performing research.


 For authors, a large amount of the day is spent staring at a computer screen.  While this is when the magic happens, it also takes a nasty toll on your eyes. F.lux is a truly handy tool that, once installed, adjusts the tones and brightness of your screen based on time of day to help reduce the damaging affect.

It’s also great for those of us who find ourselves writing into the early hours of the morning. It does so by naturally dimming the lights. It encourages you to adhere to your circadian rhythms and sleep better. 


The Hemingway readability software is a wonderful tool that helps you clean up your manuscript after the first draft. Providing a user-friendly system that highlights words and phrases in different colors, you can get an objective view of how well your work reads.

Yellow highlights overly complex sentences. Red means it’s too long and meandering to understand. Other colors represent other areas of your writing that demand your attention. I’d never recommend you rely on this completely but it does provide a useful alternative perspective.

Cold Turkey

One of the greatest pitfalls for authors is distraction. We live in a world of constant connection to our friends, colleagues, and unlimited entertainment. This is why Cold Turkey is perhaps ones of the most useful tools in a writer’s arsenal.

Its bulletproof format allows you to schedule blocks on specific websites or even your work email. It is very difficult to stop, edit or uninstall the program once the timer has begun. This means you can easily get into an intensive writing session without anything drawing your attention away.

Writer’s App

 Creativity is something that can’t be scheduled; often you can find yourself in the most inconvenient situations when a moment of brilliance comes to you. Writer’s App is an easy-to-use planning software for novelists, which lets you jot down ideas for books in an organized and easily-navigable manner.

The user interface was presented as a work desk. Books are organized by title and, once opened, have sub-sections for plot, characters and others, or can be viewed by chapters. As simple as this app is, it truly is one of the most useful tools available for brainstorming ideas.

Do you know of any other tools that deserve a place on this list? Have you used any of the tools listed above and want to share your thoughts? Be sure to leave a comment below, as I’d love to hear your ideas!

About the Author: Caroline is an entertainment blogger for Culture Coverage. She’s written all throughout her life and is probably working on some project right now. She loves how technology has revolutionized the way we write!

Want to write a guest post for All About the Authors? We welcome guest posts from authors and those who are experts in the book industry. What is your writing process? Where are you in your publishing journey and what advice do you have? Have you successfully marketed your book and do you have tips to share? All About the Authors wants to hear from you! If you’re interested in submitting a guest post to All About the Authors, please send your information and topic idea to with the subject line “Guest Post” or comment here.


Take a Break, It’s Good for You

A lot of times the advice writers get is to write, write, write. Write in journals, write blogs, and if you’re writing a novel, stick with it and write some every day. While it is important to keep to a schedule, and set aside a time every day to write, I’m here to say that once in a while it’s a good thing to take a break.

Celebrating the Fourth of July, a holiday weekend that I took as a true holiday, without doing any writing, I was inspired to write about that break for this blog.

I’m not saying put your computer away and forget about writing, or give in to the writer’s block that’s kept you from starting the next chapter of your book. I’m just saying that once in a while, a mental break can be a good thing.

Here are a few things you’ll find after a break:

  • You can look at what you’re written in a new light. That chapter or paragraph you were struggling with all of a sudden find its way.
  • You might find you’re inspired to write with a fresh outlook, and the words come rushing out.
  • It’s easier to edit what you’ve already written when you take a few days to step away from it. The material isn’t as close to you and you can look at it with fresh eyes.

The amount of time you stay away is totally up to you. It might be you just need a day to get away from the computer and give yourself some time for something else. Maybe a three-day weekend to spend a holiday with your family will give you the energy you need. Or maybe you need to put away your novel and let it sit for a few months, coming back to it when you’re energized and refreshed.

Once you’re had that break, get back to the other piece of advice writers get: write, write, write. The way to get better is practice!

One Author’s journey from manuscript to publishing

This guest post is written by James T. Crouse who has just published his debut novel, Broken Eagle, a hard-hitting story with a military-legal-aviation theme.

The journey of publishing my first novel has reached the stage which allows for reflection, which I hope will be interesting but more importantly useful to others.EXTRA PIC COVER jpeg

As long as I can remember, I have written. Letters to the editor in my teens, an editor’s sports column in my high school newspaper, and poetry in my 20’s.  Then law school and my litigating career, briefs and memoranda of law, then a highly acclaimed aviation law casebook.

But I still had an itch.  Hearing something on the radio, I would mentally compose a full op-ed piece in five minutes. I concluded that I could do this forever but if I really wanted to send a message, I had to go deeper. Novels were the answer.

For two years I played with what would become Broken Eagle, then I joined the North Carolina Writers Network. At my second conference, fate smiled on me and I met the terrific Betsy Thorpe who became my trusted editor and friend.  Betsy and I worked for over a year and she gave me tough, fair and helpful criticism. We “finished” (I thought) Broken Eagle. I quickly got a great, experienced agent  who pitched the manuscript as a best seller.  Then followed over a year of rejections with no uniform theme.  According to the editors at the big publishing houses, Broken Eagle was deficient in many ways.

I was not going to quit—didn’t get that gene. I learned all about self-publishing, engaged in more editing, copy editing, book and cover design, submitted to publishers, submitted eBook formats, formed my own publishing company, developed a website, and now it’s marketing—a 24-hour a day effort.  An audio book is coming. In all of this, Betsy guided me and assembled the necessary people, including the terrific Lisa Kline, another editor who has become my friend.

I am now beginning to reap the rewards.  My beta readers wrote glowing blurbs.  The people to whom I have gifted the book have repeatedly commented, “I can’t put it down.” Press releases are out and reviewers are reading.  I sent marketing copies to bookstores, retail chains, military exchanges, media personalities, law schools, aviation museums, professional organizations and others.  Several interviews have been given, articles have been written in professional newsletters with more planned.  Book readings and signings are scheduled with more to come. Friends are talking to friends, recommending the book.

So let me reflect for a moment about what I have learned in the process.

  1. Write from the heart. You know the adage that you will only be successful at something you care about.  That is especially true in writing.  The whole process takes so much effort you better REALLY want what you have to say to get to the public.

That’s why I wrote Broken Eagle, and in the future will write about the wild horses of Corolla, the flawed aircraft certification process, pollution in the Gulf of Mexico, and the selling of government. Since I can remember, injustice has inspired me to take action. My decision to become a lawyer was fueled by this same motivation.  Representing the families of people killed or individuals injured in aviation disasters and other accidents has only reaffirmed the goal of telling the stories of people harmed by the negligence and intentional acts of people, corporations and governments that often act with impunity.

No group is more unfairly affected than our military men and women.  When the products they have no choice but to use injure or kill them, they find out that they have far fewer rights to recover for their injuries than their civilian neighbors.  Trying to get redress, they face a phalanx of laws, rules and court decisions that greatly narrow their paths to recovery.

So, it was time to tell this story. And others.

  1. Gird Yourself for a Struggle. It’s not life or death, but it seems that way. Editors’ comments sting, publishers tell you that you’re not good enough, copy editors cut the soul out of your manuscript, and the technical requirements of publishing and marketing are like learning a whole new language. Listen to all and work with them to get better—but fight for what you want. Talk to them.
  2. Beware of the Charlatans. I can’t tell you how many books I bought about writing, editing, dialogue, character, setting, marketing, etc. Only a few were instructive and helpful. It reminds me of infomercials preaching how to make a million dollars in real estate. By convincing you to buy their program, they make a million dollars–but it isn’t in real estate.  If I get another opportunity to write a guest post for this site, I’ll give you my thoughts on the best writing guides I found.
  3. Be Creative. Think outside the box in all you do—writing, editing, finding an agent, publishing, and marketing.

Good luck!

For more information about James T. Crouse and his book, visit his website at ; on Facebook at; on YouTube at; on Twitter at, on LinkedIn at; and on Goodreads at

Want to write a guest post for All About the Authors? We welcome guest posts from authors and those who are experts in the book industry. What is your writing process? Where are you in your publishing journey and what advice do you have? Have you successfully marketed your book and do you have tips to share? All About the Authors wants to hear from you! If you’re interested in submitting a guest post to All About the Authors, please send your information and topic idea to with the subject line “Guest Post”. 

Middle Grade, Young Adult, New Adult, Adult?

Recently, I had a client come to me with the first draft of his novel. He’d told me it was a Middle Grade novel, meaning one written for readers from 8-12 years old, in grades running form 3rd– 7th or 8th grade.

As soon as I read past the second chapter, though, I knew this book couldn’t be a middle grade book. The book had multiple narrators, many of them adult, although two main ones were in their early to mid teens. There were violent war scenes. There was a threat of rape. There was swearing.

I had to write a very tough editorial letter, outlining the reasons why the book could not be a middle grade book, and giving direction in how to make significant content changes in order to make the book middle grade, or how to expand the word count and turn the book into an adult book. He took my advice very graciously, and is now lengthening the book so that it meets the requirements for an adult novel.

The author had thought he was very close to being able to submit to publishers, and now has a lot of work ahead of him. It would have been easier if he’d done a little research about what the parameters are for different age groups. Here’s a little help to those who are looking for guidance:

Middle 41ZC4ElC6wL._AC_US160_Grade Novels, written for those 8-12, word count from 30,000 – 50,000 words. Usually one to two protagonists in that age range, although can be a year or two older, usually in third person but can be first. No sex, no graphic violence, no swear words. Usually a coming of age book, focused on friends and family. Examples: Percy Jackson books (author Rick Riordan), Wonder by R.J. Palacio, Harry Potter books (J.K. Rowling), When You Reach 51VlKD1aucL._AC_US160_Me (Rebecca Stead)

Young Adult (aka YA) novels, written for those 13-99 (these books have many adult readers), word count from 50,000 – 80,000. Usually one to two protagonists, aged from 13-18. Voice third or first, but usually first. Limited profanity, there can be sexual content but not graphic details, no horrific violence. Usually YA books are about finding your place in the world – where do I fit in? The Fault is in Our Stars by John Green, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbowsky, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.

New Adult (NA) – written for those 18-99, this is a new genre, not entirely fully endorsed by the reading and publishing world, wherein the protagonist is in college or just graduating and in the new world of work, with her first apartment and job. Length – 60,000 – 80,000 words. First or third person, usually single narrator. I don’t yet have a stand-out, easily identifiable New Adult book to reference for you, but would welcome any suggestions from NA readers, as judging by the books on Goodreads for this genre, there’s a lot of romance overlap.

The bottom line is to do your research, read a lot of books in the age range that you are writing for, and hire a professional editor to assist you. Just as you would not attempt to play baseball without a coach, you should not attempt to write without an experienced coach as well. Find an editor who can be honest, encouraging, and insightful.




The Wonder of a Workshop

groupIt’s been 10 years since I attended my first writer’s workshop, but I still remember it like it was yesterday. It was a pretty small workshop, with the three basic genres you find at most workshops: fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction. The real draw for me was the faculty. One of the three was Sherri Reynolds. I had heard her speak while I was a college student, and read some of her books. I was in love with her passion and excitement for writing, and knew that I would be inspired just being around her.

I was probably an anomaly at the workshop. I wasn’t really “working” on anything, so to speak. I haven’t written a novel, I don’t write poetry, and at the time I wasn’t even trying to write short stories. But I was making a living as a freelancer doing editing and writing jobs, and I figured the workshop would be a great way to improve my writing skills, as well as serve as inspiration and also some practice for when I did find time to start writing the fiction I’d always dreamed about.

It was a short three-day conference, but the experiences I took away from it were priceless. I’ve attended a few other one-day conferences here and there, and every time I come away armed with inspiration and great feedback and advice. Here are a few reasons why I think writer’s conferences and workshops are a good investment.

  1. You get a chance to be around other writers. For most of us, writing is pretty much a solitary endeavor. And it can sometimes get lonely. Attending a conference gives you a chance to be around other writers, where you can share your ideas and frustrations with a group of peers who understand, because they’re going through the same thing.
  1. The feedback. Need I say more? Whether you get feedback from the faculty or other attendees, or both, it’s always good in helping improve your writing.
  1. Networking. If you’re working on something that you hope to one day get published, attending a conference is a great way to meet other writers and make connections that can help you out down the road. You might meet someone who knows an editor or an agent that would be helpful, or other writers who could serve as reviewers for your book once it’s published.
  1. Fresh ideas. As I said at the beginning of this list, writing is often something we do alone, and because of that it might be harder to find ways of doing what some professions call continuing education. Writers workshops and conferences are a good way to get out and find out what’s new in the publishing industry, new trends in the writing world, and even fresh ideas when it comes to style and tone.
  1. A chance to try something new. This might not be true for everyone, but it was for me. In my work I mostly write non-fiction. But I attended a workshop in the fiction genre, to experiment and go outside my comfort zone. It was exhilarating. Some people might not want to do that, if you’re a poet and need to focus on your poetry, it’s fine to stick to one thing. But the opportunity to try something new exists.

It’s pretty easy to find a conference that’s affordable enough and close enough to make it worthwhile to attend. Poets & Writers has a great database that you can use to find something near you. And if you can’t make it to a conference, you can join a local writer’s group. You get a lot of the same benefits there, free, local and on a regular basis!