The Single Most Useful Editing Tool I’ve Used – #NaturalReader

Let me preface this post by saying that in my opinion, there is no app anywhere that will ever replace a good editor. Not everyone agrees with me, but I think the writers out there who can get away with skipping a professional editing are few and far between. If you are one of them, I apologize, as I don’t mean to imply there are none. But generally, I believe in a final edit by a qualified human being, the two operative words being “qualified” and “human.” 🙂 Now, having gotten that out of the way, on to what I wanted to share with you today.

I use beta readers (9, actually on a private blog) and they read my draft, chapter by chapter, as I write. This lets me know when a chapter is doing what I need it to do, so I can make immediate tweaks or changes, if I’ve failed to get my points across. After my draft is complete, I submit my work to my editor, also chapter by chapter, because that’s how I like to work, and she accommodates me, thankfully. But between the completion of my draft, and any submissions to my editor, I revise each chapter myself, making any obvious corrections I spot, rephrasing here and there,  and running the chapter through editing software. I use SmartEdit most of the time, but there are quite a few out there.

The last thing I do before sending the chapter to my editor is listen to it on NaturalReader. A fellow local writer, Gerald Darnell, told me about this program, and I was astounded at how helpful it was to listen to someone else read the chapter aloud. Doing it myself just isn’t the same. Following along on my monitor as the chapter is read by NaturalReader has cut my typos, especially missed words like to, and, and the, down to next to nothing. And before I started using it, those would often get by all 11 sets of eyes checking the drafts!

I can also pick up on sentences that are too long, or simply don’t sound quite right, and words that have been used too often. Hearing the chapters aloud makes a HUGE difference.

I can’t say enough about how helpful NaturalReader has been to me, and I thought some of you might enjoy checking it out. I had the fully paid version (with assorted voices and other options) on my old computer, but lost it. I’m now using the free version, and frankly, I find it every bit as helpful. It does stop once or twice during a long chapter, to ask if I want to upgrade, but I just click the button to continue, and it’s not a big deal for me.

You can try NaturalReader out for free here. What have you got to lose? OR you can go to the main page, paste your text into the field, and listen to it there. If you like that option, go here.  And once you are anywhere on the site, you can compare the free version to the paid one and decide which is best for you. Or, while you are using the downloaded free version, you can click “OKAY” when prompted to upgrade.

I say, check it out. You might be surprised at what a handy tool it is. (BTW, it will also read web pages aloud for you, should that be of interest.) It is available for both Windows and Mac.


My Favorite Twitter Tools by Mae Clair

Twitter LogoHi, everyone….Mae here again. I hope you don’t mind me popping in to share.

When it comes to social media, I’m a big fan of Twitter. It’s quick, allows me to connect with other Tweeps, catch up on events, follow trending topics, and experience news as it happens. All in one neat little social media platform.

As good as Twitter is, it’s even better paired with other applications. Today, I’d like to share a few I’ve found particularly helpful. I know many of these are commonly used, but hopefully, I’ll hit on something of use to someone out there 🙂

One of the things I like best about Twitter is the ability to create lists. As an example, I have a Twitter list for my writer friends, one for cryptozoology  (a favorite topic of mine), another for family (not too many of them on Twitter) and another for celebrities and best-selling authors (i.e, Lana Parrilla, Jennifer McMahon, Jackson Galaxy, Australia Zoo). These are just a few my lists. I have a dozen of them and with all of those lists, things can get a little cumbersome.

That’s where Hootsuite comes in. Continue reading

Daunted by Self-Publishing Platforms?


Here is a great post from C. S. Lakin’s remarkable blog, Live, Write, Thrive. If you are as daunted as I by all the venues out there for self-publishing, guest blogger Jessica Bell has some great information to share with you. Check it out. It’s a keeper, but then I think almost everything on this blog is. I’ve learned so much there, from grammar, to novel construction, to proper usage of similar words. Just everything. I highly recommend following!

The Only Self-Publishing Platforms You’ll Ever Need

Promo Ideas for Signings: Attention Tea Lovers!

Adagio 2
adagio 1

I have to thank Jennifer Melzer for turning me on to the Adagio Teas website. Not only do they have absolutely delicious teas of their own, but they have a set up where you can combine teas, flavorings, and inclusions to produced your own custom blends, and your own labels! It’s so much fun.

Being the hard-core tea drinker that I am, I’m partial to writing a bit of it into my books. In the case of Willow Greene in Swamp Ghosts and Finding Hunter, it’s a bit more than “a little.” She’s a little New Age in appearance and dress, and loves her herbs and teas. (Not to let that fool you, though. She’s a clever business woman and a very strong character, in spite of it.) And Willow loves tea as much as I do. She has one for every mood or ailment, I think.

It was on my first visit to Adagio Teas that I decided my characters would be great inspiration for some custom blends I wanted to try for myself. For you folks who enjoy a good cuppa as much as I do, I hope you’ll stop by and check them out. I now give away sample tins of these teas at signings and presentations, and they’ve gone over very well. Plus the little tins serve as a nice bit of promotion for my books, since the labels include portions of the title graphic, and my name. 🙂

I now have ten custom blends, including: Sarah’s Favorite Earl Grey, Ruth’s Berry Apple Blend, Gunnar’s Assam Blend, Maggie’s Tropical Green, Willow’s Raspberry Cooler, Willow’s Soothing Chamomile, Lester’s White Cranberry, Maggie’s DECAF Mango Surprise, and DECAF Orange Mango Blend, and Christmas on Wake-Robin Ridge.

Hope you’ll check some of them out. You can order them in various sizes, including a small sample package to see what you think. I don’t get paid for this, per se, but any orders at all will earn me points I can use on my next purchase, including my own. So far, just my own orders keep me from ever paying shipping, and usually give me a few dollars off on my purchase as well. (This is a big help when you have over 32 different teas in little cannisters on your counter! 😯 )

If you stop by the site, be sure to look at all the wonderful teas they offer, AND you might consider making your own custom blends, as well. It’s so much fun. You can create them for you own use, or try using them as promotional giveaways at events. The cute little sample tins run about $2 each if you order 10 or more, so you don’t want to give away thousands of them, but a bowl full of freebies on your display table is a nice touch, and not totally prohibitive for most events I’ve been to, so far.

My Custom Adagio Tea Blends

Adagio Home Page

Why use #hashtags in your blog post titles?

If you’ve seen any of my blog posts, you may have noticed that I use hashtags in the titles.

You may be wondering why, as it doesn’t always look that attractive.

But wait! Not so long ago Marcia was exhorting us to ‘share, share, share’ – and rightly so.


Having those neat little share buttons at the end of the post makes it so simple – but how effective are your shares?

If you’re sharing to Facebook, then its likely to be to your closer group of friends; to Google, your like-minded associates.

But to Twitter?

Have you looked at the tweets generated by the share buttons, before you click on ‘tweet’?

They include the title of your piece – but unless the sharer takes the time to add hashtags, they go out with, often, a title that strangers might not find interesting.

If, on the other hand, you put appropriate hashtags into your title, hey presto! There they are in the ready generated tweet, so anybody looking at the hashtagged subjects you’ve chosen will see the tweet, and hopefully come to take a look at your blog post.

And that, dear friends, is why there are Twitter hashtags in my blog post titles.


And if you’re not sure what hashtag to use, here is a post with an exhaustive list of tags just for authors:

Questions anyone?

Resource Menu


Finally getting back to setting up our Resources Menu at the top of the page. I’ve listed several links to sites that will promote your books for you, some free, and some for a nominal fee. It varies from site to site, as do the requirements for acceptance. Be sure to read carefully so that what you submit will be accepted.  I’ve gleaned these from various posts, and hope I haven’t missed any. Would  like to have a great selection for us to choose from. And if you have links to more sites like these, please let me know. I’ll be happy to list them, as well.

Resource Link


Some of you may have noticed a new link at the top of this page: Resources. I plan to use this Menu spot as a place to compile lists of all the great resources you guys share here. It’s an ongoing project, and may take some time. And of course, it will never be complete, because you’ll all keep sharing new links, right? Right? (Say YES, everyone!) But I have at least gotten started, and will try to add more links as often as I can. So, remember to check often to see what’s new. Hopefully this will be a quick and easy way to find the resources you need.

Have a great day, and remember, in the words of some friends from back in my misspent youth: Write On! 🙂

12 Days of Review Requests from Jo Michaels

I wanted to take a moment to share this opportunity I discovered yesterday because heaven knows we could all use unique opportunities like this one. Gaining reviews is essential to helping us all gain credibility as storytellers. As much as I tend to wish it wasn’t so, word of mouth from readers does help us sell our books.

Author Jo Michaels is currently running a 12 Days promotion, each day she will post a new rafflecopter for entries, and in the comments section of that blog, you can pitch one of your books for her to read and review. She will check out your sample, and announce the winner on the next day’s blog post. She will also link to all the previous day’s winners so interested readers can check out the sample and see if they might be interested in the books offered.

All of the rules for this unique and exciting 12 Days can be found right here on this post. Please read through them carefully before pitching, take time to formulate a one minute elevator pitch and present it.

I pitched my book yesterday, and it got a few people interested. Hope you’ll check it out!

Good luck to all who decide to take a chance on this. It’s a really fun way to meet new people and get your book in front of some potential new readers. Great ideas like this must be shared!


Weekend Recap


Some great posts this week you really shouldn’t miss. Here’s a recap of a few that were very helpful to me.

What Are Your Writing Rewards by Aimee Easterling
BookBub Explained – Reblogged from Nancy’s Notes from Florida, by Nancy Cohen
Keeping Your Story Focused is a Lot Like Taking an Eye Exam by Ned Hickson
Things I Learned About Keywords by Jen Rasmussen
What I Learned From Erotica Writers by Aimee Easterling

There were also some posts about new releases, including:

My New Release, A Sweet Billionaire Romance by Aimee Easterling
Release Day for Amy’s Choice by Marcia Strykowski

If you missed any of these posts, this is your chance to check them out now. PLEASE remember to share them with your peeps, via Facebook, Twitter, or reblogging. They’ll be ever so grateful, and will do the same for you.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

What I learned from erotica writers

Amazon keywords

I know, I know — that subject line is totally unfair. Except that I did learn everything in this post from reading the thoughts of erotica writers on kboards..then I decided to try out their techniques in my far-from-erotic works.

The hot topic among erotica authors at the moment is keywords. Remember typing in those seven words or phrases on Amazon when you were publishing your ebook? I’ve added a screenshot at the top of this post to jog your memory.

If you’re like me, you probably went for the obvious and perhaps also added in keywords that Amazon uses to put your book into categories you can’t choose out of the dropdown menu. This latter technique is especially useful for new authors like me, who can only dream of selling enough books to make it into Amazon’s Paranormal Fantasy category…but who can find some new readers in New Adult Fantasy in the meantime.

But, beyond getting me into book categories, I have a feeling the rest of my keywords were a total waste of my time. Why? When you search on Amazon for “werewolf,” 32,920 results pop up. Who’s going to page through those endless covers and stumble upon my book? Nobody!

Amazon search resultsWhich brings me back to those wily erotica authors. I’m not going to mention some of the keywords they suggest because I think I need to wash my brain out after reading them and don’t want to share the joy. But here’s the G-rated version. Rather than using the keyword “werewolf” for my book, why don’t I try out something like “werewolf kindle unlimited”? That phrase only turns up 504 results, or 20 pages of books. Someone who has enrolled in kindle unlimited and is looking for a werewolf novel to read just might pick up Shiftless if I was listed under that keyword phrase, so I decided to give it a whirl.

Adding “kindle unlimited” to one of your keywords is a no-brainer if you’re enrolled in KDP Select, but should you go all-out and add the term to all of your phrases? Probably not. Amazon will mix and match words from different keyword phrases when indexing your book, so you’d probably be better off choosing other terms entirely so you get more bang for your keyword buck. After all, you do only get to choose seven phrases for your book, so it’s best to make each one count!

Now, let’s talk numbers. What’s the sweet spot in terms of keyword search results — are you looking for a phrase that turns up as few results as possible or as many as possible? The answer is: neither. As I mentioned above, if your keyword phrase is too vague, you’ll get lost in the shuffle. But, at the other extreme, a keyword so specific that only five other books turn up is totally useless if no one searches for “basket weaving with werewolves.” This is where keyword choice becomes an art, but as a rule of thumb, I generally aim for phrases with 50 to 500 results, hoping specifically to find those that clock in around 100 to 300 books.

One erotica author swears that you can make $100 in your first week with an unpublicized 5,000-word erotica short if you get the keywords right, and while I suspect less-sensational fiction won’t get you that far, it can’t hurt to play with those keywords and see how far they’ll help your book rise in the rankings. I’ve just updated Shiftless‘s keywords and will keep you posted about the results, and I’d also love to hear from other authors who have gotten more scientific with Amazon’s keyword options. Have you found keyword phrases that helped your undiscovered book see the light of day?