Archive | November, 2016

Conflict in Writing

29 Nov


As I write this the day after Thanksgiving, I’m conflicted with whether to have pumpkin pie for breakfast.

It’s just one of many conflicts I battle with daily.

How about you?  Any conflicting feelings of late?

Thanks for being here.  Let’s take a little closer look at the subject of conflict.


“If you actually succeed in creating a utopia, you’ve created a world without conflict, in which everything is perfect. And if there’s no conflict, there are no stories worth telling – or reading!” Veronica Roth

Conflict!  Stories are propelled by conflict. We all know that, but one aspect of conflict many writers fail to utilize is the conflict within the main characters.  Think about this: the most compelling characters in literary history are those who are driven by conflicting desires.  Our lives are defined by competing desires….conflict….a fact that is the base of every moral system recognized by man.town_893

Conflict!  Are your characters conflicted?

Let’s move on to other business.


From Stephanie:  “Hi Billy, I’m “rebooting” after slowing down on my writing efforts. Thank goodness I’m still subscribed to your blog. Anyway, at you can sign up for a free webinar titled “How to Write a Personal Essay That Sells”. It’s on Tues Dec 6 at 2pm EST. I thought your readers might like to know.”

Well, Stephanie, I found that information useful and interesting, so thank you. Hopefully others out there will at least check it out on for more information.


“Shadows Over A Hangman’s Noose” is due to be published next week.  Yes, it will be both in hard copy and Kindle form, both available on Amazon.  This is the third in the Shadows series, following “Shadows Kill” and “Shadows Over Innocence,” and it is by far the best to date, he said shyly.  LOL  It would, in my humble opinion, make a great Christmas gift for anyone who loves thrillers/mysteries, but then I might be a bit biased.  By the way, unlike James Patterson, I write the entire book myself.town_881

I’ve got this little problem with James Patterson lately.  Can you tell?  I doubt seriously if he cares one way or another.


Are you into inspirational? If so, check out my friend Maria Jordon on her inspirational blog.  You can find it here.  Some blogs are written simply to make us feel good about life and ourselves, and this is one of those blogs, written by one of the truly nice people in this world.  Do me a personal favor and go say hello to Maria.


Crowdfunding has been around quite a few years now, and it is still a very popular way of financing a book.  For those interested, Kickstarter is still the most popular of the crowdfunding sites, but you also might want to check out Indiegogo, Publishizer, and Publaunch if this seems like something you want to try.


Someone asked me recently in an email (she didn’t want her question in the Mailbag) if there were alternatives for those who want to go the self-publishing route but not use Createspace.

Oh my goodness yes!  Check out Balboa Press, Archway Publishing, Authorhouse, Infinity Publishing, or Lulu, to name just a few options.


I don’t know why the passage of time seems so important to me lately, but it does, and I can’t believe December has arrived.

Perhaps, and I suspect this has a great deal to do with the fascination, I’m feeling my own mortality of late.  Time moves much too quickly when one realizes that time is a limited commodity for each of us.

Have a great week and thank you!


“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.” #greatestunknownauthor


Writing Scene Descriptions

22 Nov


“The battleship-gray sky smothered all conversation as our ferry made its way across Commencement Bay that December morning, the cold like icy picks stabbing our coats.”

It’s confession time: I struggle writing descriptive scenes.  The line above, from my upcoming novel “Shadows Over A Hangman’s Noose,” took me a half-hour to write, and when I finally threw up my hands and declared it good enough, I was already suffering from remorse.  Does it say, perfectly, what I want it to say? Can the reader see that oppressive scene?  Can they feel the chill in the air?

It is an education of the senses that I seek with my writing.

Let’s stop for a moment for a quote, and then we can continue this conversation.Yellowstone 2009 091


“There aren’t many great passages written about food, but I love one by George Millar, who worked for the SOE in the second world war and wrote a book called ‘Horned Pigeon.’ He had been on the run and hadn’t eaten for a week, and his description of the cheese fondue he smells in the peasant kitchen of a house in eastern France is unbelievable.” Sebastian Faulks

The really great writers make a scene come alive. They are the eyes, the nose, the ears, the fingers, and the tongues of their readers.  They find just the perfect words to bring dimension to the written scene.

Writers are observers. We observe for our readers and then share with them.

Have you tried the new 3-D goggles available on the market?  Bev’s youngest son just bought a pair, and he let us try them on.  There was some dinosaur video playing on them and I swear, the video, and the special effects, had me ducking and cringing when the dinosaur reached out towards me.

That’s what I think of when I think of the really great writers, the difference between two dimensions and 3-D goggles.

Which kind of writer are you?


A tip? I’m not sure. I’m just sharing with you what I do when writing a novel or short story.random pictures March 2012 011

I write the story first and don’t worry about describing the scene in any depth.  I don’t want my creative flow to be hampered by worrying about the specifics of a scene, so I just allow the whole story to flow on the first draft.

It’s on the second draft that my scenes come alive.  It’s on this draft that I make sure I pay close attention to the five senses of my readers.

Just something to think about.


Check out “The Writer” magazine online at and sign up for their free e-mail newsletter.  Great tips are yours for free and I think it is well-worth the thirty seconds of effort to sign up.


I don’t do much non-fiction, but I came across “The Rumpus” and thought it was worth mentioning to you.

Rumpus editors want to “foster candid conversations around the social and political issues affecting their readers,” so they are looking for submissions in nonfiction, poetry, interviews, and reviews.  They accept submissions online so check them out by following this link for more information.


I would be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to my Lil Literary Sister, Cynthia, and her new blog/website, “Intuitive and Spiritual.”  You can find it by following this link.


Thanks for stopping by. We’ll make this a short one today. I’ve got to put the finishing touches on my latest novel, “Shadows Over A Hangman’s Noose,” and time is ticking.  Have a fantastic Thanksgiving and an even better week.


‘”Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Write to the Heart of Your Reader

15 Nov

003I’m writing this on Veteran’s Day.

Naturally, my thoughts go to my dad today.

Dale Leroy Holland died three days short of this fiftieth birthday back in 1969.  I was twenty at the time, and I held him as a heart attack took him from me.

He was in the U.S. Army from 1941 to the end of the war in 1945, and he served in six campaigns in Italy during that time, including Sicily, Anzio, and Rome.

And that’s pretty much all he ever said about the war.  He simply would not speak of it, and in not speaking about it he managed to make a very loud and powerful statement about war.

Thank you, Dad!


“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
― Antoine de Saint-ExupéryThe Little Prince


I love that quote and I love the message it says to writers.bills%20pic%202%20001

Writing should be an emotional undertaking.  Writing should grab you, shake you, and never release you.  Writing should be visceral in nature, forcing the reader to feel with all of his senses, and when the reading is done, to reflect upon it, savor it, and hope for more.

I am reminded of that when I think of my dad and his military career.  The mere fact that he wouldn’t speak of the horrors of war perfectly described, in my mind, the horrors of war.  By not speaking he said volumes.  By not speaking he forced my mind, and my heart, to grasp what he had experienced.

I hope, one day, to be able to write that powerfully.


Someone asked me in a recent Mailbag if I knew of any good editing programs.  I don’t use one myself, but Consumer Reports and a couple other rating services rate WhiteSmoke the best of the best.

Just in case you were interested, and you have an extra $300 to spend.


Writer’s Digest has a fun little writing prompt/exercise every Friday on Twitter.  I’ll let them tell you about it and then you can check it out this Friday if interested:

About #StoryFriday

#StoryFriday is a fun, collaborative process that takes place every Friday on Twitter and is hosted by Writer’s Digest‘s Online Editor Brian A. Klems (@BrianKlems).

How it works:
We write the first line on Twitter, then someone adds next line on Twitter and so on. When you contribute a line to the story, place #storyfriday at the end of your tweet (i.e., He was leaving on a jet plane and never coming back. #storyfriday) so everyone can read it and follow along. To read past stories, visit the #StoryFriday Archive below.

Start time:
Around 9:30 a.m. Eastern time, Brian will post a new prompt through @WriterDigest with the #storyfridayhashtag.

And there you go!


Have I mentioned the poetry form “Tricube?” If not, let’s do it now. If I have mentioned it before, sorry about the repetition.

A Tricube is a mathematical poem made up of three syllables per line x three lines per stanza x three stanzas per poem.

Here’s an example from Tracy Davidson in a poem called “Finished.”

I put down

The gold pen

She bought me


My fingers

And eyes strained

With fatigue


At last, her


Is finished.


Try it, you just might like it!


As I’ve said before, Christmas is coming, and as I’ve also said before, wouldn’t it be nice if all writers out there bought books by indie writers for Christmas presents? Well I, for one, think it’s a lovely idea.

So there’s on such book to consider:  “Whimsical Cute Animals” coloring book by my friend Sannel Larson.  This is such a great gift for any child or an adult with a child’s heart. Seriously, please consider buying this over the holidays and, in so doing, supporting a very talented and nice human being.


Hang in there!  Your notoriety and fame is right around the corner.  Look, up ahead…can you see it?

I hope so!


“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”



An Interview with Marketing Expert Heidi Thorne

8 Nov

003You are in for a treat today.  I have an interview for you, an interview with Heidi Thorne, one of the best marketing minds I know, a self-publishing and marketing expert, author, editor, blogger, and business speaker.  She is going to share with all of you some tips on marketing your indie books and articles.

But first, a quote…


“People are in such a hurry to launch their product or business that they seldom look at marketing from a bird’s eye view and they don’t create a systematic plan.” Dave Ramsey

Here ya go!


Me:  Hi, Heidi, and welcome to Artistry With Word!  I’m so glad you agreed to this interview.  I’ve been meaning to have you on for quite some time now but, as is usually the case, I got sidetracked along the way. Well, you’re here now and I plan on taking full advantage of you.


As I know, and I want my readers to know, you are a marketing expert.  In fact, your name has a “Dr.” before it, and you have your own marketing firm. Where most writers struggle in the world of marketing, you thrive, and in fact you advise many business people on marketing, so that’s what this interview will be about. I’m going to pick your brain and we will all be the better for it.


Before I begin the questions, though, I want to let people know where they can find you.  On HubPages you’ll find Heidi Thorne by following this link, and Heidi’s website can be found here.


First, let me ask you, for my readers’ benefit, what is your background in marketing?heidi



Question 1 – Background

I have been in sales, marketing, advertising and PR for over 25 years, including a decade in the hotel and trade show industries. As well, I was the editor and regional advertising sales director for a trade newspaper for over 15 years. I also have an Masters and Doctorate in Business Administration and taught at the college level for five years.


Me:  Great, thanks!  Since this site is dedicated to writers, let me ask you what is the number one failing you see in most writers with regards to writing?


Question 2 – Number One Marketing Failing for Writers

Not building an author platform. What do I mean by “platform?” It could also be called your “fan base” or “audience.” In the old days of traditional publishing, authors could rely on their publishers to help build a base of readers and fans for them and their books. Today, both self published and traditionally published authors are responsible building a legion of fans through social media, websites and networking. In fact, it’s important to start building an audience even BEFORE a book is complete. That way, when it publishes, there’s already a group of potential buyers available. That is probably obvious for self publishing. But what surprises traditionally published authors is that there may be little marketing support from their publishers other than maybe for the initial book launch. Plus, traditional publishers are looking for authors that already have a fan following. Why? Because the publisher is buying both the author’s manuscript AND access to the author’s community of fans.


Me:  Now let’s get real for a moment.  You are well-aware, as am I, that most indie writers have very little, bordering on zero, marketing budget.  Is it really possible, with few funds, for an indie writer to effectively market a book?  And if so, how?  This seems, to most indie writers, to be akin to Mission Impossible.


Question 3 – Zero Marketing Budget

Thankfully, many of the tools to help build an author platform have low hard dollar cost, even though they might have an expense of time and effort. Take social media for example. Setting up a Facebook page for the author (free) is a great start to building a community of fans. Why the author and not just the book? Well, it’s been my observation that when an author writes one book, they want to do more. That means a new page must be set up and promoted every time there’s a new book. This also creates a mass and mess of pages in searches… and are a lot of work to maintain.


Twitter can also be used in the same way. However, I’ve observed that Twitter, due to it’s fast pace, can often be a bigger investment of time and effort than a Facebook page, even though it, too, is free to set up. But it’s worth considering. LinkedIn could also be considered in the mix, especially for those writing as an authority on their topic. It’s also free to set up on LinkedIn.


Same goes for websites. Authors can pretty cheaply set up a basic website that offers the author’s bio, book info, contact information, etc. Even a simple, quick one-page site is a good start. There are a ton of great tools and hosting available for simple sites. So a big investment and needing to know how to program a site are no longer excuses. While I’ve seen people use their Facebook page as their web presence, it’s better to have a presence on the web that YOU control. Social media is notorious for changing things without warning.


But the most important thing in building an author platform is building an email list. That way, no matter what happens on social media, the author has a way to keep connected with fans. There are a bunch of great programs out there to consider. One of the free services I like is MailChimp’s “Forever Free” program which allows an author to build an opt-in list (VERY important that it’s opt-in so that you stay compliant with CAN-SPAM laws) up to a certain number of subscribers and emails. For bigger lists and more emails sent, there’s a monthly cost. Worth checking out. NEVER, EVER use Outlook or your regular email account for marketing! That usually violates terms of service and will likely be flagged as spam. Use a service such as MailChimp, Aweber, Constant Contact, etc. to do it right!


Then you have to actually email these people! I’m always stunned at the people I meet through networking who ask me to sign up for their email list and then I never, seriously never, ever hear from them after the initial opt-in confirmation. Weekly is ideal, but even every couple weeks or once a month is a good start. More than weekly can start to get annoying and will cause people to unsubscribe.


Me:  Most writers are introverts, or so it seems to me.  How can a writer, who is introverted, who is reluctant, get over the hesitancy and get out there and market a book?  What magic pill can you suggest that will get my readers to step out of their cocoons and do what needs to be done?


Question 4 – Introverted Writers

Writers, let’s get one thing clear: There is no magic bullet. If you are not willing to be a public figure, you will struggle with a writing “career.” Notice that I didn’t say you’d struggle with “writing.” I think starting on Facebook is probably a less scary way to get started. Then you might want to join an active online writers community for encouragement and marketing. Surprised? Other writers can be great resources for marketing for three reasons: 1) They are typically readers themselves and may be interested in buying, reading and reviewing your book; 2) They have fan bases of their own and may be willing to share your book with their readers; and, 3) They may have found tips and tricks for marketing your particular book genre that they may be willing to share.


Me:  Time is money, Heidi, and I’ve taken up enough of your time.  Let’s wrap this up with one final piece of advice from you to all writers.


Final Piece of Advice

When you begin to think of marketing as “sharing,” it has less chance of “scaring” you.



A sincere thank you, my friend. I hope . . . no, I know . . . that those reading this are licking their lips, eager to get out and try working your time-tested marketing advice.

And that’s it for this week!  I strongly urge you to take Heidi’s advice to heart.  No one else is going to help you with your marketing campaign.  It’s time you do that for yourself.


“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Building Relationships

1 Nov


I don’t think it’s my imagination.  As you get older, time speeds up.  It’s a physics law of some sort, a little known scientific fact that many of you younger folks probably don’t understand.  Trust me, it’s true.  Now into my 68th year, I can say without hesitation that time is going at warp speed for this old man.

Well, this is a blog about writing, not time, so let’s get started.


“Truth is, I’ll never know all there is to know about you just as you will never know all there is to know about me. Humans are by nature too complicated to be understood fully. So, we can choose either to approach our fellow human beings with suspicion or to approach them with an open mind, a dash of optimism and a great deal of candour.” Tom Hanks

As we start out on this writing journey, I think it is vital that we build relationships with our readers.  There are many blog writers who follow this blog, and I think you understand this concept.  I have always tried to respond to every comment made on my blogs and my articles.  It’s the least I can do if someone has taken the time to write to me, but more importantly, it is building a relationship that hopefully will last a lifetime.  Now, some of you may see that as self-serving, and I suppose it is to a certain extent . . . but still, writers are in the people business, and as such our job is to connect with people.  I thoroughly enjoy meeting new people.  True, some people bug the hell out of me, but for the most part, I find people fascinating, and I love having online relationships with people around the world. It is one of the true joys of my writing journey.


Do you remember what it was like just starting out in this blogging world?  How important it was to gather new followers, and how exciting it was when someone actually committed to your blog?

Well keep that memory in place as you say hello to my friend Linda, who just started her first blog, The Creative Corner.  I invite you…I ask you as a favor…to stop by and follow her.  I guarantee you are going to learn more about cooking and other crafting endeavors than you ever knew before, and as an added bonus you are going to enjoy some quality writing.  Please follow this link.


Here’s a recent article by a friend of mine…Deb…who has an important message for all women.  Please take the time to read it and internalize it.  You are all important to me.


I’m late to this party, but for those of you just as tardy as me, I invite you to take a look at Flipboard.  I have had good returns by downloading my articles on that site, and you just might find it worthwhile as well. Follow this link to sign up at Flipboard and thank you, Linda, for the original suggestion.


I call her my Lil Sis, but her real name is Cynthia Cahoun, and she recently published her first novel, “Marina’s Broken Grave.”  I just happen to believe it would make a great Christmas present.cyndi


When I have some spare time I like to check out Fanstory.  It’s a little-known site where contests are constantly being offered to writers, kind of a laid-back site where there is little pressure and you can hang with other struggling, and successful, writers.  Check it out if you’ve got a hankerin’.


My latest novel, “Shadows Over A Hangman’s Noose,” is still on schedule for release late November.  For those of you who follow the “Shadows” series, I think you’ll be happy with the results.  Here is an excerpt from that new novel:

I’m no psychiatrist or psychologist.  I don’t know a damned thing about how the human mind works, why one abuse victim will become a counselor while another will become an abuser, why serial killers snap and feel a need to destroy innocence, or why one day a soccer dad buys an AR-15 and unloads a magazine in a crowded mall.  All I know is the aftermath stains us all forever, and the whys will visit us in our dreams until the day we draw our last breath.

The second case I had as an army investigator was a child abuse case, a little nine-year old girl in the hospital for a broken arm, doctors and nurses suspicious about bruises on her upper arms.  They made the phone call that dragged me out of bed at two a.m. on a muggy night near Fort Hood, Texas.  The girl, curly blond locks pasted to her forehead, her mother holding her good hand, told me she fell down the stairs and she was so sorry she bothered everyone, and mom nodding and saying her daughter was just clumsy like her mommy, laughing with a little too much nervous energy to appease me.

I coaxed an address out of her, drove to the off-post housing and found dad, a master sergeant, sleeping the sleep of the innocent.  He wasn’t too happy, me waking him up, and he was even less happy when I mentioned the bruises on his daughter’s arms, and he was downright pissed when I asked him if he had anything to do with those bruises.  He pulled his right arm back, fixing to turn out my lights with a massive punch, and I snap-kicked his kneecap.

That was ten years ago. The master sergeant is still in prison on three counts of child abuse, a history of beating his three kids in some confusing attempt to quiet the demons only he could see and hear.

No, I’m no psychiatrist.  All I know is the stain never goes away, and rabid dogs need to be shot.




Thanks for stopping by. See you next week.  Happy Writing to all of you!


“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”