Thursday, October 8, 2015

For Writers: So, your heart is broken…

copyright 2015, Aaron Paul Lazar

Have you lost someone recently? Is your heart broken? Are you falling apart?

It isn’t easy. Hell, no. It’s outrageously difficult. Life isn’t supposed to be this way, is it?

I have dear friends who’ve lost their husband and undergone terrible surgeries all in the same year, whose husbands have the dreaded C word and are fighting day to day to survive, whose children are dying and at home in hospice as we speak, whose children were unfairly targeted by a mass of politically correct school administrators who ruined the boy’s chance of fulfilling his dreams… so many losses, so many hardships. How can they cope? How can these things be happening?

And of course, for those of you who know me, I lost my mother unexpectedly this summer. She was healthy, supremely healthy. But complications arose after a routine surgery and now she’s gone. Gone forever. Way before her time, I might add. It simply killed me.

People suffer every day with challenges, but for writers, as tough as it is to manage our way through these waves of grief or fear, it is an aspect of life that deepens our understanding of the human condition. It may even bring us closer than ever before to the edge of insanity or to the worst kinds of pain.

And yet, as awful as these experiences can be, I’m here to say these experiences can move you along the path to great writing.

How can our characters hurt if we have never cried or felt the horrible, gnawing black hole in our own chests upon loss of a loved one? How can they seem authentic? How can our words ring true with our readers?

Sure, we can imagine these things. We all do that. We have to in many cases. Especially if we’re writing about being a murderer or flying through space, assuming we haven’t ever killed anyone and aren’t aliens, that is.  

But the scenes you write for characters who are deeply hurting will seem even more genuine to your readers after you’ve gone through it yourself. Can you see that?

So, dear writers, use your pain. Tap into those emotions that threaten to destroy you. Analyze your own reactions, your body’s responses. Study your words, your physical motions, your internal dialog. And wrap them up in a package to use when you decide to put your characters through hell.

I guarantee this: your readers will empathize with your characters and may even soak their shirtfronts with tears. They will believe your words. They will believe in your characters and ache for their pain. And, aside from being a number one bestseller, what can be more satisfying than that?

Remember, if you love to write… write like the wind!

Aaron Paul Lazar

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Back from Africa


Dora Machado 

Sunset over the Wami River.

My trip to Africa was AMAZING. True, it’s a long trek halfway across the world, and air travel is not getting any easier, but once we hit the ground, the sacrifices to get there were worth it. We landed in Arusha and, over the course of several days, travelled overland to Arusha National Park, the fabled Ngorongoro Crater and the legendary Serengeti. From the Serengeti, we flew east across Tanzania to the island of Zanzibar, where we stayed for a couple of days before we returned to the continent, to Saadani National Park. From Saadani we drove to Dar es Salaam right before we flew back to the United States. I could write a novel about our trip, and maybe someday, I will. But today, I’ll just share the highlights and some of my favorite photos.

Tanzania is an incredible destination, and our itinerary ensured that we were exposed to the best wildlife viewing a safari can offer, along with an excellent snapshot of the culture and history of this beautiful country. We usually prefer to travel on our own but, for this trip, we chose to travel with Smithsonian Journeys. It was the best choice we could’ve made and it provided us with comfortable transportation that took away the logistical headaches involved with complex travelling and freed us to enjoy our trip. 

All of the lodges and hotels we stayed in were full of character and especially well located to our activities. The food during the entire trip was excellent. The Serena lodges at Ngorongoro and Serengeti offered breathtaking views of the crater and the plains respectively.  The African Tulip in Arusha and the Serena at Zanzibar were particularly responsive to our needs, with very personable staff. The Saadani River Lodge offered stunning accommodations right on the Wami River and exquisitely trained and friendly staff.

Special thanks and kudos to the drivers that navigated us through the bumpy roads on the Ngonogoro Crater and the Serengeti, especially to Mr. Godson, who drove the Land Rover I rode in. A loud shout out to our tour director, Malley Simon for anticipating all of our needs and taking the work out of traveling. It was a total pleasure to travel under his tenure. Our study leader, Grant Nels enriched our traveling experience, sharing a wealth of knowledge and a gift for story-telling that infused us with his passion for Africa and left us wanting for more. I can’t imagine what it’s like to travel with someone as curious as I am, firing questions all the time—annoying, right?—but Grant was generous, sharing his extensive, impressive knowledge with us and answering my millions of questions with patience, grace and enthusiasm.

Here are some of my favorite pictures of this amazing trip:

Baby elephant nursing at the Ngorongoro Crater.

A majestic Baobab at Saadani National Park.

This Cape Buffalo came to drink water from the hotel's swimming pool at the Serengeti.

Can you spot the cheetah prowling the Serengeti in this picture?

Colobus monkeys at Arusha National Park.

A candelabra tree at dawn on the Ngorongoro Crater.

Dawn on the Serengeti.

Flamingos take flight at Arusha National Park.

Elephant at the Ngorongoro Crater

Can you spot the elephants at the bottom of the crater?

Full moon over the Wami River, Saadani National Park.

Hippo pool, zebras & wildebeests at the crater.


Can you spot the curious giraffe baby checking us out on the way to the Serengeti?

A mirage of giraffes on the way to the Serengeti.

Tommies and Grants, the gazelles that populate Tanzania and the Serengeti.

This big hippo was trekking along and didn't want to be disturbed by us or the lions lounging nearby.

We watched this gorgeous leopard as he got up from his nap here and in the two shots below.

Can you see the hyena prospecting for dinner?

This Serengeti big fellow was watching a herd of water buffalo as it approached.

Yep, this is what lions do most of the day at the crater and elsewhere.

Zanzibar from our hotel's balcony.

Mmm. Awesome African all you can eat buffet.  

Sunset in the Serengeti. I hope one day I get to go back.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Five Potholes to Avoid as a Writer

WAAAY back in October of 2008 I wrote this - and honestly? It's still true today so I am reposting it.

Potholes are commonplace in the south in winter and spring. They occur due to inclement weather conditions, mostly rain. No matter what they are, they signal worrisome woes on any highway, byway, or road.

Literary potholes are no different and when we are on the “Road to Writing a Novel” show up at the worst time, when you cannot swerve around them, and they can hamper your efforts to get somewhere with your writing.

But you can avoid them if you are wise and watchful. Here is a short list of things that will detour your journey:

1. Answering too many emails.

The novel or short story can face power outages if you have more than one email to answer over the course of an hour. Some of the emailers want to chat, some want answers to writing questions, and some want an interview. Taking the time to answer all of these emails and commit to the various requests will make your muse plop down and take a nap.

2. What time did you put down to write?

Your writing was scheduled to begin as soon as you got the kids off to school on Monday, but on Monday your son needed cleats for his ball gear. Then, your husband had a dinner guest coming unexpectedly for Tuesday night, and it was Wednesday before you revisited the calendar. So why hasn’t it gotten underway? Because by now you are mentally anguished and out of resources and cannot write. No wonder! You haven’t put any time aside for you.

3. Let's try this one!

Sometimes "new" ideas come to you and take your mind off the current WIP. It’s okay to do the stop and start thing if you KEEP GOING on the current WIP. Don’t let the idea monster gobble up the idea you are already working on. Put the new ideas on paper and file them for the week after you finished this first draft.

4. Another writer gets a contract and you are eating their dust!

Sometimes when a writer friend of ours hits the jackpot and gets a contract for an agent or publisher, it means the death of our time. We spend an enormous amount of energy either being jealous and not talking to them anymore, or acting like a burr in their sock and wanting to be as close to them as possible to learn as much as we can about the experience. Either way, it is a muse killer and soon our own writing is left behind.

5. Why don't we talk anymore?

When the writing pace decreases, the first place to look is a sagging middle. Most published authors will tell you, it is the middles that will kill writing efforts. My advice to fix a sagging middle or a basic beginning that is going nowhere is to kill someone. Killing off a character will definitely shake things up and get the ball rolling again.

What other things can you think of that will keep your writing on track? Many of you are planning on trying out the NanoWriMo method next month. If you will keep these things in mind, you may find you are more successful than you have ever dreamed of being.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Top news for what's hot in marketing your book

Kim Smith is the author of The Dread Room, now available on Amazon. You can find more about Kim at her website at including news and info on her podcast,


Hey there Murderers, welcome to OCTOBER! wow...where did the year go?

So...over on my blog I am running a survey (CLICK HERE) to get input on my site. If you are interested, be sure to check it out and leave your email address to be in the running for a free copy of my latest, The Dread Room. Very Halloween-ish.

I also have a really cool podcast interview (and video) with Jeanne Gassman, historical THRILLER author. You should check it out here.

And more info about The Dread Room can be found here

Recently, over on my blog, I discussed popular marketing tips. Here it is :
What is working so far as marketing your book is concerned? I can recall a great number of things that used to work and work well. But in reality, book blog tour and Goodreads giveaways for promoting your new release is SO 2011.

They have joined the ranks of things that used to work. Along with a slew of other things, like a constant stream of "my book is free" and "my book is 99 cents" on every site that would allow it.

Now? Not so much. Book buyers are smarter, more savvy, and way way more into mobile apps.

So what DOES work? Well, I am glad you asked.

Here are a few things I have found from Internet searching.

My top 5 things to sell more books.

1. Own your own content. That means buy the domain name and you own it. And that includes every blog post, etc. You can invite readers to read your site info and that's considered pretty harmless promo.

2. Use social media to draw attention to yourself. Your readers want to know YOU. They won't follow a book, but they will follow a person. IF that person happens to be a writer, well cool.

3. BookBub ads. The ad life is hard to break into. Facebook ads work on some levels, for some people, but BB ads seem to be more concentrated in the right niche.

4. Write more books! For crying out loud, you can promote until tomorrow never comes or you can just dig in and WRITE another book. If customers aren't interested in the first one, then it could happen to number two. Haha. I just said number two.

5. Remember this is a marathon not a sprint. So many people say that, but few remember it. Now you have been reminded. Getting a book noticed takes a good cover, great editing, and a long while for people to figure out it exists.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Kim's Mystery Book List

Welcome to my book list. Here are some books I love by authors I enjoy reading.

Jan Burke-- Irene Kelly Mysteries including Goodnight Irene and Dear Irene

Patricia Cornwell--Kay Scarpetta Mysteries including Postmortem and Cause of Death

Cleo Coyle -- Coffeehouse Mysteries including On What Grounds? and A Brew to a Kill

Janet Evanovich--Stephanie Plum Mysteries including One for the Money and Two for the Dough

Anne George--Southern Sisters Mysteries including Murder on a Girls Night Out and Murder on a Bad Hair Day

Sue Grafton--Kinsey Milhorne Mysteries (also known as The Alphabet Mysteries) including A is for Alibi and B is for Burgler

J.D. Robb-- In Death Series including Naked in Death

and this is just a sampling of what I have been reading...I hope you will look up your favorite mystery author and their latest book! Happy Reading!