Archive for the ‘Free Stuff’ Category

By now I expected to have several posts up, be well on my way to completing my contest submissions, and have the basement cleaned out. None of those things has happened yet and January is almost over. On the positive side, though, I’ve read several books, come up with some blog post topics, and worked on my novel.

For today I have a useful tidbit of information to share with those of you who like tools to keep track of your writing progress. Svenja Liv has 4 free awesome spreadsheet themes for keeping track of your word count goals. Although I’m not experienced with Excel, I was able to download the steampunk spreadsheet template and correctly enter my data with no problem. I also use her site to update my progress bar, which is located in my blog’s sidebar. I fill in my data on her site, then copy and paste it into the widget area of my blog. These tools don’t get the writing done, but they are a visual reminder to me of how far I’ve come, and how far I need to go.


EDIT FEB. 15, 2013  The link to Svenja Liv’s site is broken. Not sure when/if it will be available. If I find another source for tracking tools, I will post it here. 😦



Are you making progress toward the goals you set for yourself? Do you use word count templates or tracking tools that you would recommend?

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Romance novels consistently represent one of the most popular genres, with over a billion dollars in sales each year. There are two basic types of romance novels—category, and single-title books.


Category Romance:

Some publishers release several books in a particular line each month, with strict guidelines as to their word count and structure. This format must be followed for every book in the category, regardless of the author.

Single-Title Romance:

These books are sold individually rather than as a group. The page length is not fixed, and the author has more control over the structure of the story.


In every romance novel, the growing relationship between the heroine and the hero is the most important element of the book. There must be believable conflict causing them to change and grow closer, but subplots must not take on more importance than their romantic relationship. Conflict, both internal and external, should increase emotional tension, but readers expect things to end with the hope of the couple living happily ever after.

The setting and time period can be anywhere, anytime. There can be elements of suspense, mystery, fantasy, etc., but the couple in love must be the main focus of the book. If it isn’t, it isn’t a real romance.


 Resources for the Romance writer:








For Romance Readers:

Harlequin ebooks 16 free category romances


Reviews and News for Romance Readers



Why do you enjoy/hate romance novels? Do you prefer the category romances or single-title books? What’s your favorite romance author or book?

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I often have trouble concentrating while I’m writing or doing paperwork because I get distracted by what’s going on around me. One great resource I’ve found to keep me focused is Pandora Radio.

This free, streaming radio allows listeners to select the type of music they want to hear. It provides an assortment of music to fit any mood with only an occasional short commercial. They only allow 40 hours of free listening each month, but if you want to go beyond that it’s just 99 cents to finish out the month. For a yearly fee of $36, they’ll provide unlimited music without commercials.

When there’s a song I particularly like, I can indicate that with a click, and similar songs will be included later. If I don’t like one, I can have it deleted from my radio stream. I’ve got a personalized station that plays instrumental music for when I just want a mellow background sound to drown out the television blaring downstairs. I like that when I’m editing. Another one has Christian rock, which gets me pumped for writing new scenes.

Many writers need complete silence, but for those of us who prefer noise, Pandora Radio is an excellent choice.

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Do you need silence to write? Does music help you get in the mood to write or distract you? What’s your ideal writing routine? Do you listen to music when you’re reading?

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One of my blogging friends, Kathleen Wall, shared some info regarding free online workshops being held in May, and I’m passing it on to all of you.

Coyote Con is setting up chat rooms hosted by “authors, editors, publishers and other industry professionals” for one-hour sessions on writing and publishing. All of them are free, and most of the sessions will be on a first come, first served basis. A few special sessions require separate registration to keep the number of attendees reasonable. I have “tickets” for 4 of those, and plan to attend several others that are open to as many people as they can fit in their online chat room.  

My tickets are for Ghosts, Steampunk Romance, Writing the Mentally Ill Without Getting It Wrong, and The Speculative Christian. The Steampunk Romance session is full, but the others are open as of right now. There are still several other special sessions available, too.

I have no idea how helpful these will be as I’ve never attended anything like this, but I’m excited about the chance to get together with others interested in the same things I like. Take a look at the schedule and let me know if you will be attending. Classes start this Saturday, so if you’re interested, sign up quick!

Will you be at the Coyote Con chats? If so, which ones? Do you know of other free online workshops related to writing, publishing, or books?

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I know I’m probably decreasing my own chance of winning by pointing out the contest for a Sony Reader Pocket Edition that Agent Rachelle Gardner has going on this week, but I’m feeling the Spirit of Christmas in a big way. I’d love to have a Sony Reader, but I’m sure many of you would, too.  

The contest involves posting some of your favorite literary passages or a brief statement regarding books that “moved” you on a site called Words Move Me, and a comment on Rachelle Gardner’s blog.

Here’s the link to her blog post with the instructions for entering the contest:        http://cba-ramblings.blogspot.com/2009/12/words-move-me-sony-reader-giveaway.html

The deadline is  11:59 pm MST on Friday, December 11th.

Even if you’re not interested in entering the contest, you might want to take a look at the website called Words Move Me. There are lots of books mentioned that sound fascinating to read.


What are some of your favorite passages from books you’ve read? What books have made an impact on your life or touched your emotions?

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As I prefer to read interesting stuff, I’ve been avoiding the ballyhoo about the proposed FTC regulation affecting bloggers who review books or other products. My bad. Today I found out it will affect me and my little blog reviews as of December 1, 2009.

I don’t profess to understand it all, but in an effort to protect people from being mislead by advertisers, manufacturers, and endorsers of goods and/or services (that’s me), the FTC says we must disclose a “compensation arrangement or other material connection” with whoever sends us books (or products) to review.

Apparently the US FTC thinks us bloggers who get books for free are a threat to the public. We are automatically considered biased, and probably dishonest. They think we are going to lie and give glowing reviews just so we can continue to get free books.

They don’t mind professional reviewers who get paid since they think people are smart enough to realize the paid reviewers might be biased. But if I can’t prove I gave my honest, unbiased opinion, and I received the book for free—with or without being required to post a review—I can get in big trouble. I can be sued and fined and possibly punished in other ways that could make my life miserable if I don’t tell you all about any connections to anyone who sends me books to review.

So here it is, as clearly as I know how to say it:

I get books for free and am asked to provide an HONEST review of them.

I am asked to post the review on my blog and on one public site that accepts book reviews, such as Amazon.com.

I am allowed to keep the books or get rid of them. They don’t ask me what I do with them after I’m done with my review.

If I decide I don’t want to review any more books, they don’t make me, don’t punish me, and probably don’t care.

Thomas Nelson usually restricts me from getting another book until I post my review of the one I already have, but once in a great while they let me have a second book simultaneously in connection with a special promotion.

They let me put cool little buttons and other advertising thingamajigs on my blog, but I do not have to put them there. I freely chose to put them there because I like flashy things.

If you click on any of those images on my sidebar, I do NOT benefit in any way.

I haven’t received any books from WaterBrook Multnomah yet, but since they have cute things to put in my sidebar, for free, I put it on my blog. When I actually do a review of one of their books, I will tell you.

I don’t get any money, fame, or recognition for my reviews other than a polite thank you, which appears to be computer generated, after I notify them I would like to review a book.

My sole connection and/or arrangement with publishers, agents, authors, or other book providers is limited to giving my HONEST, UNBIASED, opinion of the book.

So far no one has expressed interest in paying me for my reviews, and nobody has paid to read them either. If someone ever pays me in money, or otherwise, I will tell my readers.

Under no circumstances will I be influenced by anyone when writing my reviews. I try to be polite, but if I don’t like something, I will tell you so.

Even the FTC recognizes that book reviews are subjective, but just in case I’m supposed to point that out—PLEASE read my reviews with the understanding that you might not like the book even if I do, or you might like it even if I don’t.

My reviews may look biased since most are favorable, but that simply reflects the fact that I get to pick the books I want to review from the list of books the publisher has available. I avoid books that look like I wouldn’t be interested in reading them. If they sent them at random, I would probably encounter some I didn’t care for, but I’m not willingly going to spend precious hours of my life reading stuff I don’t like.

In a further effort to comply with the new, and in my opinion ridiculous, FTC regulation, I’ve updated my Book Review page introduction. I’m in the process of putting a disclaimer on each review I’ve already posted, and will continue to do so in the future. Just to cover all the pages, I’ve added this post as a disclaimer, too.


If you review books, products, or services on your blog, you might want to read this easy-to-understand post by a lawyer on The Boston Bibliophile site: http://www.bostonbibliophile.com/2009/10/guest-post-ftc-faq-for-book-bloggers.html

If I run across other sites that clarify this regulation, I’ll add it later.



So, is there any doubt in your mind that I am trying to comply with the FTC rules? Have you protected yourself with a disclaimer on your blog? What do you think about this government oversight of amateur, unpaid bloggers?

Does anyone know if this applies to reviews where we bought the books or borrowed them from the library?

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Perhaps you’ve noticed the map on the side of my blog. It’s a traffic counter, from ClustrMaps.  http://www.clustrmaps.com/index.htm

I added it as part of my effort to get to know my audience better. Learning more about who is reading my blog will help me know what type of content I should be posting.

My map has only been up a few days, but it’s already my favorite widget. I love seeing the variety of countries people visiting my blog come from. Double-clicking on the thumbnail makes the map of the continents bigger, and clicking on the country totals list shows how many visitors come from each place. The totals are automatically updated on a daily basis, although there are other options if you want to change that. As long as you get less than 2,500 visits per day, you can get a map like mine for free. They have additional options if you want to pay a small fee. A year would cost $15.99.

I appreciate everyone who visits here, and hope to provide information you’ll find helpful and enjoy reading. If there’s something you’d like to see discussed, or if I’m overlooking a topic related to writing, reading, or things writers might be interested in, let me know and I’ll try to include it in upcoming posts.


Edit October 12, 2009: This morning my map shows I have dots on 6 continents! Considering 99% of the people I know live in Indiana, I’m overwhelmed and sincerely appreciative to have visitors from so many places. 


What topics would you like to see discussed in future posts? What were you hoping to find when you clicked on my blog?

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Being a word nerd, I love it when I run across a word I don’t recognize. Being slightly obsessive, I also have to look it up. I use a wonderful, free tool for that called WordWeb, which gives me a handy icon at the bottom of my screen for quick reference. I can double-click on any word, click the WordWeb icon, and immediately find its meaning, synonyms, the words appearing before and after it in the dictionary, and other useful information.

CNET has more details about WordWeb, if you’re interested, and the program is also available to download there. (There is another version of it that you can buy, but I’ve never used it.)

Go to: http://download.cnet.com/WordWeb/3000-2279_4-10003201.html

or http://wordweb.info/free/


Sometimes, though, a dictionary definition doesn’t give the whole picture of what a word or phrase means. The idea behind it may be harder to understand, or may be open to interpretation. Tomorrow I’ll go over a few of those words, and discuss how they apply to writers.


What is your favorite dictionary/ thesaurus site? Do you still use a printed dictionary/thesaurus?

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Giveaways seem to be popular on blogs but, since I don’t have any books to pass on, I’ve been struggling to come up with an alternative. This morning I came up with an idea that works for me, and I hope it will interest some of you.

I love doing critiques for people, and am offering a free critique of up to 3,000 words—short story, novel excerpt, grocery list, whatever. The only things I can think of that I won’t consider are works containing explicit erotica, graphic gore, or profuse profanity.

The critique will be confidential, via email, and I promise not to steal your idea, words, or personal information. You can decide what type of critique you want; detailed or general, grammar, or just content. I don’t guarantee you’ll agree with what I say, but it will be my honest opinion. The offer doesn’t have an expiration date, so if you don’t have something ready to be critiqued at this time, you may still enter.

So, if you want to participate in Carol’s Critique Contest, leave a comment on this post between Friday, September 25, 2009 and noon central time on Friday, October 2, 2009. The entries will be assigned a number, starting with 1 for the first entry, 2 for the second, etc. The winning entry will be picked by the generator at random.org and announced sometime the evening of October 2.

For those of you who don’t know me, I’ve had articles published in Cappers, Simple Joy (now called Girlfriend 2 Girlfriend), and a story in the Flash Fiction 40 Anthology. I also participate in the forums at Writer’s Digest and Editor Unleashed. Not a huge list of references, I know—but I’m working on it.

Good luck!


EDIT 9-26-09: The guidelines I use for a critique are explained in today’s post.


10-2-09: This contest has closed. Everyone’s a winner!

Thank you for participating, Jon and Alexander. Since only 2 of you signed up, I’m awarding you both a detailed critique. I’ll be contacting you directly through the emails you gave me.


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Jen, over on the Divinest Sense blog, is giving away the first 2 books in the Wingfeather Saga, by Andrew Peterson. From her review they sound like children’s fantasy books. The winner will be chosen on Saturday, September 26, 2009, so hurry over to her blog and leave a comment to enter the giveaway.

Do you know of any other contests or book giveaways going on? If so, leave a comment and I’ll add the information to my post.  🙂

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