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Dear followers and friends:

Thank you so much for following and supporting my blog.  Since my book “Just Dreams” will be coming out soon, I created an author website and moved my blog there:  www.ljtaylorbooks.com

I will no longer be updating this site.  If you want to receive my new posts, please go to the blog page on www.ljtaylorbooks.com and subscribe.

I hope that you continue to take this journey with me.


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Camp Nanowrimo

While I wait with baited breath to find out whether I made it to the third round of the 2014 Amazon.com Breakthrough Novel Award Contest, I’m participating in Camp Nanowrimo and finishing “Caged Dreams” – the third romantic suspense novel in my “Dreams” series featuring the Brooks family.

Camp Nanowrimo is an offshoot of National November Writing Month (“Nanowrimo”) – a writing event that takes place every November where writers all over the world sign up on a website (www.nanowrimo.org) and vow to write a 50,000 word novel between November 1st and November 30th. For Nanowrimo, it must be a new novel – not a continuation or a rewrite of an existing one. The idea is to furiously whip out a first draft and not have enough time for that dreaded inner editor to kick in. Writers have the opportunity to meet up with fellow writers in cafes or libraries or wherever and keep track of their word counts by updating their pages on the Nanowrimo website. When a writer hits 50,000 words, they “win.” They don’t get a medal or prize money; instead, they get the satisfaction of having completed or being well on the way to completing a first draft of their novel.

Camp Nanowrimo, which takes place in April and July, is a more relaxed version of Nanowrimo. Instead of being stuck at 50,000 words, you can set your own word count goals for Camp Nanowrimo – anywhere between 10,000 and 1,000,000. You can work on an existing project or do different types of writing projects (short story collections, autobiographies, textbooks, etc.).

In keeping with the camp theme, writers are divided into cabins and grouped with 11 other cabin mates. My cabin mates are all women, with ages ranging from 16-51, writing in several different genres. Only one of us so far is anywhere near where her word count should be at this stage. Unfortunately, it’s not me. :)

I’m going to stop procrastinating now, get back to writing and up my word count. On Saturday, there will be an eight hour writing marathon. I intend to participate and see if I can’t make up for some lost time. I’ll let you know how it goes.


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I Made It To the Second Round of the 2014 Amazon.com BreathThrough Novel Award Contest!

Hi There:

This is the third year that I’ve entered the Amazon.com Breakthrough Novel Award Contest. In 2012 and 2013, I was kicked out of the contest during the first stage (the pitch stage). This year, I made the first cut and made it to the second stage of the contest. This is how it works:

The contests accepts 10,000 entries in five categories: General Fiction, Romance, Mystery/Thriller, Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror and Young Adult. My novel is in the General Fiction category. To enter the contest, you have to submit a pitch (a 300 word description of your book like you would see on the back jacket), an excerpt from the beginning of your novel of 3000-5000 words (12-20 pages double-spaced), and the full manuscript (50,000-120,000 words).

Amazon-selected editors reviewed the pitches and cut the entries down from 10,000 to 2,000 top entries. That means my pitch survived an 80% cut off the bat! I can’t tell you how good that makes me feel. I darn near had a heart attack when I saw my name on the list of second round contestants in the general fiction category.

But the torture is far from over. Amazon-selected editors and Amazon Vine Reviewers (the top customer reviewers on Amazon) will next read our excerpts and narrow the field from 2000 second round participants to 500 Quarter-Finalists, who will be announced on http://www.amazon.com/abna on April 14, 2014 (just days before my birthday). Amazon will post each of the Quarter-Finalists’ excerpts and their associated written reviews online at http://www.amazon.com/abna. Amazon customers may download and read the excerpts and then write a review and rate the excerpt using Amazon.com’s process for submitting online reviews. I am very nervous about this stage. Some of the participants from previous years received scathing reviews of their excerpts. Oh well, it’s a tough business I’m getting into and if I want to survive I guess I’m going to have to grow a thick skin.

Publishers Weekly editors will then read the Quarter-Finalists’ full manuscripts to rate and review them based on: originality of idea, plot, prose/writing style, character development, and overall strength of the submission. On June 13, 2014, the top 25 Semi-Finalists will be announced at http://www.amazon.com/abna and the Publishers Weekly reviews of their manuscripts may be posted on http://www.publishersweekly.com. I really hope to get to this stage of the contest, because if I get a positive review from Publishers Weekly, I can use it to market my book so long as I don’t substantially alter it.

A panel of qualified judges selected by Amazon Publishing editors will then read each Semi-Finalist’s manuscript and accompanying review and, using the Judging Criteria, will select one Finalist in each of the five categories to be announced on July 8, 2014. Amazon customers will then vote and select the Grand Prize Winner who will be announced on or about July 21, 2014.

The finalists receive a publishing contract and a $10,000 advance. The Grand Prize is a $50,000 advance and a publishing contract with Amazon Publishing.

I’m sitting here wishing I had spent more time editing the book I entered. I’m not going to reveal the name of the novel I submitted yet because I don’t want to be disqualified. But if I make it to the quarter-finals, I’m going to be calling on you for your help. I know that I can count on you.


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Surviving Revision Hell – Finding the Discipline to Edit My Novels

When I started this journey, I had no idea it would be so hard to write a book. I thought I’d sit down and the novel would just flow from my fingertips onto the page in perfect order and sequence. Actually, writing a first draft is much easier for me than editing, outlining, doing character charts, re-writing and all the other more disciplined aspects of the craft.

I love attending writers conferences, attending and/or listening to tapes of seminars, reading writing books, and learning how to create suspense, write better dialogue, a page turner or a better plot. I don’t mind and even enjoy whipping out a first draft as fast as I can so that my inner editor doesn’t have a chance to kick in and give me writers block. I can find the discipline for that – especially during events like National November Writing Month when I can share the experience and commiserate with fellow writers in cafes and online.

What I can’t stand is even the very thought of taking what I wrote, breaking it down and revising it. In other words – editing. Even though, logically, I know the editing process is when the book really begins to take shape, I get completely overwhelmed by the process. You can have a four hundred page manuscript and discover during the editing process that you need to rewrite and/or rework all of it. The very thought of that makes me want to run from the room screaming which is probably why it takes me so long to do it. I can write the first draft of a book in a month and then take years to revise it. In short, I have a hard time getting and keeping my considerable behind in front of my keyboard long enough to do the work of editing.

The worst part is that, even when you think you’re done editing the book, someone with fresh eyes can read it and say that your characters need more depth, the novel is too plot-driven, or you need to pick up the pace. None of these defects are quick fixes. They take substantial work to fix – sometimes even a complete re-write.

Although many writers hate editing, there are some who love it. They like the fact that revision is when you add texture and layers to a scene, spruce up dialogue, cut out excessive backstory and scenes that don’t move the story along, fix plot issues and sequencing errors, and improve pacing, among other things. Even I have to admit that my novels benefit tremendously from editing and that I can see major improvement from one draft to the next.

What I need to remember is that editing is just as much a part of writing a book as whipping out a first draft. One might say that editing is the most quintessential part of the writing process because you never really stop doing it. You edit the draft, most likely revising it three or more times before sending it out to agents (the first time for story, the second time for texture, characterization, pace and flow, the third for prose, grammar, spelling, rhythm, etc.). Once you get an agent, he or she might ask you to revise parts of the book to get it ready for pitching to editors. Once a publisher acquires the book or you hire an editor before self-publishing, the editor might ask you to make some revisions. A copy editor will have some additional corrections.

Since the revision process is a crucial part of writing a novel and is almost never-ending, I need to change my mindset about it. If I don’t, I’ll never find the discipline to do it properly and my books will suffer or, worse yet, not sell. So, I’m going to try to look at editing as an opportunity to turn my novels into bestsellers. Maybe that will help me plant my rear-end in front of my computer and get it done on a more timely basis. Wish me luck.



My First 10K

Six months ago, if you’d have told me that I was going to train for and participate in a 10K race, I would have laughed it off. Today I walked my first 10K race ever. Overall, it was a great experience. Crossing that finish line was exhilarating. Looking back and knowing I did that gives me a huge feeling of accomplishment.

Although it was a great experience, the race was not without its difficulties. I walked my best time ever – an average of 17:00 minutes per mile – and finished the race in 1 hour 44 minutes time. Even so, I was the last person to cross the finish line. I was also the last person to make the halfway point. Several of the runners coming back the other way when I was still trying to reach the midpoint were sweet and encouraged me to keep going. It was still a little demoralizing and a bit lonely to be the last straggler in the race.

Most of the cops and volunteers I passed along the way also called out encouragement. But, in my last mile, the police started to get impatient – presumably because they wanted to release the traffic. One of them said “C’mon, you’ve got to pick up the pace! Get those arms up!” Now mind you, he had some nerve. He was a big guy who looked like he’d consumed more than his fair share of jelly donuts. Lucky for him, I was too busy trying to breathe and get to the finish line to respond. But even he couldn’t diminish the experience. Today, my goal was to finish the race within its time parameters. I did that and I’m very happy. I’ve had a goofy smile on my face most of the day.

I learned some important lessons during this race. For one, I need to get faster. I don’t want to be the last straggler during the Philadelphia Rock and Roll Half Marathon. Training and learning the proper technique for race walking is the key to that. I decreased my time by nearly three minutes per mile from the 5K I did in February by training in a half-assed sort of way. Imagine how much more I could have decreased my time if I had followed the training schedule diligently and learned how to race walk. Maybe I could get down to a twelve-minute mile. Now that would be something. There is a race walking group in Miami that meets on Tuesday and Thursdays. I think I’ll go check them out.

I also need to make sure I get a good night’s sleep and give myself more time to park, stretch, etc. before the race. I stayed up too late and got about four hours sleep last night. As a result, I was already tired when I started the race and rushed so I didn’t get a chance to hit a restroom right before the start. With all the water I drank before and during the race, it was a little uncomfortable.

I learned a lot about myself during this race too. I learned that I need to rely less on external positive encouragement and more on internal drive, focus and commitment. I learned that I need to push myself harder and more often because I can do more than I think I can. Before today, I had never consistently walked at a 17 minute per mile pace. It wasn’t comfortable and I was breathing heavier than normal, but I could do it. I rediscovered that once I set my mind on a goal and dig in, I can achieve it. I think I’ll set my mind to some other goals now, like taking off some of this weight, finishing my novels and finding an agent.


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Pre-Race Jitters

So my first 10K ever is coming up in just three days. On Saturday, May 11, 2013, I will be participating in the 12th Annual ALS Lou Gehrig’s Disease 10K in Coconut Grove, Florida.

I’m going to be walking – not running the race. But still, I need to finish within the race’s time parameters. I’m a little nervous about it, but at least I don’t think that participating in a 10K is Mission Impossible for me anymore.

To make sure that I was physically capable of completing the 10K within the time parameters, on Sunday morning I put on my shocking pink Mizuno Wave Riders and matching top and walked 6.5 miles. According to my pink Garmin Forerunner 10 watch, I completed my walk in two hours two minutes and thirty-five seconds. Since that includes the time I spent waiting to cross the street at red lights and dodging wandering tourists, and a 10K is only 6.2 miles (instead of 6.5), I should be able to complete the race by the deadline. Barely. By the skin of my teeth. Pray for me.

When I finally got home from that very long walk, I was thirsty, sweaty, sore, stiff, vaguely nauseous and very tired, but I was still happy. What made me happy is the fact that whether or not I complete the race on Saturday, I’ve already accomplished something that seemed out of reach even two weeks ago. I’ve learned so much about myself during this journey and I look forward to learning more as I finish the race, take a short break, then continue on to train for the Philadelphia Rock and Roll Half Marathon.

Watch out world! Here I come – one step at a time.


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Getting a Ph.D in Writing by Reading

As you might have noticed from reading some of my posts, I am the queen of procrastination. It’s okay. I admit it. I can allow myself a few flaws and work on fixing them.

The latest manifestation of this affliction is my lack of writing. I have a legal thriller to re-work for better characterization and a political suspense novel I need to edit so I can send it out to agents and editors. Instead of working on my writing, however, I’ve been spending my time re-reading the novels of one of my favorite novelists – J.D. Robb a/k/a Nora Roberts.

Although I already have a hard copy of most of her books, I bought J.D. Robb’s entire “In Death” series on Kindle to read on my I-Pad and I’m re-reading the entire series in order. The “In Death” series is comprised of futuristic police procedural/romantic suspense novels involving a tough New York City homicide detective, her billionaire former criminal husband, and all the friends and family they accumulate along the way while they work together to solve murder cases. It’s set in NYC in 2058-2060. Each book is a fascinating journey in relationships, the human condition, human nature, police procedure, love and overcoming adversity. Apparently, I’d much rather live in the futuristic world of Eve Dallas (the heroine) than to face the work I need to do to edit my novels and get them out the door.

Although I began re-reading the series in an effort to escape, I’m actually not wasting my time. Having read the series before, my writer’s mind is now picking up things I never noticed previously. I now see how the author always starts out with a great and intriguing sentence at the beginning of each book to draw the reader in. I see how the book is written mostly from the perspective and in the voice of Eve Dallas – her main character. I see how, in aeach chapter, she draws you in at the beginning and leaves you dangling for more at the end. I even see how the characters’ stories continue from book to book providing continuity in the series even though each book contains a new murder mystery that must be solved.

I see how she makes her characters three-dimensional. When I put the book down and ask myself what we (the readers) know about the heroine, I realize that it’s a lot. We know what she looks like, how she dresses, her complete lack of vanity, what horrors and tragedies shaped her into the cop and the person she is today and her outlook on life, why she wanted to be a cop in the first place, why she feels the way she does about children in general and having children specifically. We know that, left to her own devices, she has the eating habits of a child (favoring candy, pizza, spaghetti, soda, etc. and an intense dislike for vegetables) and that she is prone to working herself into utter exhaustion to solve a case. We know what her moral code is and why sexual homicides hit her harder than others. In other words, we get a three dimensional view of the character from the inside out. And the author not only provides a 360 view of the heroine, but also the hero, the villian and several of the supporting characters as well. I realize that it’s the characters I want to see and watch and live with when I read these books. I also note the tricks and methods the author uses to provide us with this information without affecting the pace of the story.

I’ve read several books on characterization and taken a few seminars on how to make books page turners that will keep readers up at night, but it is truly an education to see for myself how one fantastic author puts these principles to work in her books. It’s almost inspiring me to put the books down and apply these principles to my books. Almost. Maybe when I finish the book I’m reading now. :)

So, are you having a problem making your characters three-dimensional or in making your book a page turner? Or maybe you need some help with dialogue or to learn a few tricks to keep the pacing of your novel rocking along. Try reading some novels in your genre and see how the pros pull it off. It’s a fun way to see how they apply all of those principles we learn at seminars, in books or in class. Enjoy.



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