It’s Never Too Late to Write a Novel

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My guest today, Joanie Walker, gives hope to those who have always wanted to capture their life adventures into a novel. Joanie’s writing journey is a good representation of what writing hopefuls need to do to be successful. Read more about her novel, Drafted to Deceive, at the end of her post.

A late-blooming writer confesses all …


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Fifty years ago, I was almost a Spy… I had flirted with D.C. area intelligence work during college, then refused a clandestine assignment with the National Security Agency after graduation, besides having dated a few spooks during my two years serving Uncle Sam as a civilian in Cold War West Germany. All that should qualify me to write a spy novel, right?

So why did I delay a half century to create my first fiction? Well, my marriage to an inveterate adventurer/business man kept my suitcases packed and adrenalin racing. Our saga includes sailing our 38.8-foot Bristol sloop throughout the Chesapeake Bay and bareboating in the Virgin Islands—until the vast blue of the sky beckoned. Our sailboat morphed into a succession of single and multi-engine fixed wings. For twenty years I sat in the right seat while my pilot husband flew us around the country for business and as an Angel Flight volunteer, moving patients to hospitals for treatments or transplants.

I detailed our thirty-two-day odyssey from Virginia to California in our A-36 Bonanza for the American Bonanza Society’s monthly magazine. “From Sea to Shining Sea – Bonanza-Style” was a three-page spread with photos. Nonfiction I could handle (journalism-trained at The College of William and Mary), but fiction I had never attempted.

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In early 2016, with my pilot retired and suitcases stored in the closet, I decided to weave real-life adventures into story form. But, how to begin?  

When I sent an SOS to my editor friend, she rescued me with writers’ lifesavers like excellent how-to books for novelists, directions to a novel writers’ conference, and links to articles and blogs focusing on successful fiction writing. She also invited me to join her critique group which evolved into a Word Weavers chapter with great fellowship and support each month.

With my detail-type personality, I latched onto the “Plotter” method in formulating my story with timeline charts, stock photos for main characters, index cards noting each chapter’s action, and a binder filled with characters’ backstories and idiosyncrasies. It worked for me.

However, I failed to tabulate my total word count. I emerged at The End to discover I’d written the equivalent of two books, word-wise. Determined to pare down and polish at the same time, I spent months editing the manuscript at least twice, which improved it immensely.

Meanwhile, I learned the value of entering my first chapters in contests for feedback from judges. Before conferences I also paid a nominal fee for critiques by faculty members to gather more helpful suggestions.

By the time I wrote The End again, I had two agents plus a publisher interested in the novel. I signed with the agent who has encouraged me ever since he heard me say at my first conference, “fifty years ago I was almost a Spy.”

See how a woman who was almost a Cold War spy wrote a novel later in life. Click to tweet.

What’s holding you back from writing a novel?

Drafted to Deceive

Still stinging from a ruined romance, twenty-four-year-old Christina Hayword opts to leave heartache behind by traveling the world and serving her country. Poised to depart the U.S. for a two-year contract in Cold War Europe as a Department of Army civilian, she is snared by Military Intelligence for some mysterious undercover work halfway across the globe as well.

After initial reluctance, Christina agrees to assist the special task force searching for East German counterfeiters who plot to undermine the West German economy with bogus currency as well as destroy U.S./West German relations. Her mandate:  detect suspicious behavior among the civilians, military, and local nationals she meets through her Special Services position in Nuremberg, West Germany.

Despite her resistance to any new emotional entanglements, Christina is enchanted by two valiant team members vying for her romantic attention, besides her ex-fiancé’s appearance in uniform at a nearby installation. While juggling both her regular and undercover work, she finds threads of the Soviet-motivated scheme intertwining both. Remnants of former Nazi operations figure into her ultimate identification of the counterfeit masterminds. When a gunshot heralds a harrowing climax, Christina alone must thwart the counterfeit masterminds to save West Germany and her own life.

Visit for more information about Drafted to Deceive, Joanie’s first novel in her Cold War Conquests series.

Diary of a Book Marketing Plan-Final Entry-Reviews & More

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This is the final series post in which I share tasks and progress on my book-marketing plan for my second book. Gift of the Magpie came out August 15, but all my diary posts share my activities from two weeks in the past.

Among other activities, my prior posts covered my setup, recruiting influencers, guest posting, a book launch party, a newsletter, blog interviews, Facebook parties, Ask David Tweets and a Goodreads Ad.

Today, I share all my promotion activities and my evaluation of each thus far.


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Two thirds of my fifteen influencers posted reviews so far. I’m told I need 100 influencers to “gain any traction.” Wow. I’m still asking my faithful few to promote events, such as the multi-author Facebook party. About 25% of my influencers have been super active.


Newsletter: A better than average rate of subscribers opened my email (52.5% mine vs. 23.6% industry average). Clicks for the industry average is 2.6% clicks; mine were 4.9%. Hard to track sales.

Email list: I’m working on growing my 280 with people I know are readers. 

Authors Cross Promotion/Reviews

I’ve received requests from 17 readers/reviewers for my book through this service. I sent preliminary emails to make sure the people wanted the Kindle e-book version, and 53% responded. So far, 5 wrote reviews. I’m confident I’ll receive a few more reviews. I like this service; I’m building my email list and relationships with these readers.

Vessel Project

I purchased this service, which keeps my book in front of readers in my genre for a year. Hard to track sales.


Facebook, Goodreads, and Amazon ads are exposing my book to many people. I don’t know how effective they are for sales, though. My ten-day-old Goodreads ad has had 36 views but 0 clicks. Not so good. But I only pay for clicks, and readers are viewing my book. My publisher has placed an Amazon ad, but results aren’t in.

Ask David Tweets

I’ve published half my 60 tweets. On my evening tweets, I’ve received 0 – 7 retweets and 0 – 2 likes. Ask David suggests I retweet and like my tweets after they post them. Using good hashtags for my audience is important. Hard to track sales.

Guest Blogs/Interviews

Five blogs have hosted me, and two more are scheduled. I enjoyed interaction with commenters. Hard to track, but one sale was verified. My influencers promoting these posts helped me reach more people. Choose blogs that have high traffic. I prefer to do interviews because they better expose the book.


I signed up for the October giveaway for Sweet Romances with Authors Cross Promotion. This will significantly grow my email list with more readers. I’ll give away three e-books. 

Facebook Party

I’ll host a half-hour slot on a multiple-author Facebook party. So far, 48 people are going and 39 are interested. Although its hard to track sales, this gives me an opportunity to build relationships with readers.

Book Signing

After concentrating on online promotions, I’ve now scheduled a book signing at the local bookstore. I sold 11 copies of my first book there, which is around average. My basket giveaway signup grew my email list. I’ve also scheduled a spot at a retirement center’s craft fair.

Book Launch Party

I mailed 120 invitations to my book launch party this week. I’m looking forward to sharing my talks and visiting with my friends and acquaintances.


I’ll lead a workshop at the Virginia chapter’s American Christian Fiction Writers Annual Conference – another opportunity to pay forward the help I’ve received, meet people, and expose my book.


I plan to schedule talks with women’s groups. I’ve scheduled a library workshop for 2018 to promote my non-fiction book on writing, but I’ll also offer this book.

Book Marketing Diary–Final Entry: Reviews & other actual promotion activities. Click to tweet.

Authors, how do you encourage reviews?

Amazon Link

Amanda Larrowe’s lack of trust sabotages her relationships. The English teacher and award-winning author of middle-grade adventure books for boys has shut off communication with friends and family to meet her January 2 book deadline. Now, in the deepest snow accumulation Richmond, Virginia has experienced in years, Camden Lancaster moves in across the street. After ten years, her heart still smarts from the humiliating aftermath of their perfect high school Valentine’s Day date. He may have transformed into a handsome, amiable man, but his likeability doesn’t instill trust in Amanda’s heart. When Cam doesn’t recognize her on their first two encounters, she thinks it’s safe to be his fair-weather neighbor. Boy is she wrong.

7 Tips to Generate Blog Post Ideas

image by geralt
image by geralt

When we start a blog, we’re told we need to write about something we can sustain over time. Have you written so many blog posts it seems like you’ve covered everything in your field of interest?

I’m on my 206th how-to blog post, but I’m still able to find ideas for posts. Coming up with ideas may be less difficult for you who write journal-type blog posts, but these tips may help you too.

I write posts on writing, blogging, and speaking. You may write blogs on everything about horses, quilting, photography, or gardening. Whatever your field is, these tips should work for you.

Tips to Try


image by geralt
image by geralt

Tip 1: In the process of writing or building my platform, I schedule various tasks. When I’m looking for a post idea, I ask myself, “What am I working on now?” My answer is what is most beneficial for me to research and write a blog post on. Try asking yourself that question.

Here are examples of blog posts I’ve written from projects on which I was currently working.

How to:

  • have a successful book signing
  • fix an unlikeable character
  • write discussion questions for a novel
  • enlist endorsers/write an endorsement for another author
  • write a book based on blog posts
  • plot a story using the Hero’s Journey
  • give an editor a pitch for your story
  • present an engaging speech
  • add humor to your story
image by geralt
image by geralt

Tip 2: When I’m invited to teach writing workshops, I create posts on the content I’ve prepared for those events. If you teach, speak, or lead workshops in your field, your preparation work may provide enough content for multiple posts.


Tip 3: Sometimes I review past posts I’ve written. Often a different angle on a subject comes to mind. Rewrites incorporating something new are perfect for posts.

Tip 4: When I’m not working on something new, I peruse my issues of Writer’s Digest and my writing-craft books for blog ideas. Once I find a fresh idea, I research the subject further from articles online.

A benefit: you can apply the fresh idea to your work in your field. An example of how a post helped me improve my manuscript was: how to add suspense to any genre.

Tip 5: When I attend writers’ conferences, workshops usually inspire several ideas. Be alert to ideas at your next conference or interest-group meeting.

image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images
image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images

Tip 6: When I give back to others in my field, I receive ideas. For example, I judged 9 stories for a contest. I observed common areas of weak writing. I wrote a post on those. Also, my blog readers have asked me to cover certain subjects.

Tip 7: For me, I ask God to guide me. Then as I follow the above tips, I come across writing topics I want to know more about. After I research the ideas, I have fodder for posts.

Are you running out of blog post ideas? Try these 7 tips. Click to tweet.

How do you come up with blog post ideas?