The Journey of Journey



Here is the first interview regarding my next book release Journey on October 1, through Winter Goose Publishing.

How exciting is that?

I want to thank Joseph Falank, author of The Painted Lady and Seeing for having the interest and taking the time to interview me. As an author of adult and young-adult fiction, Joseph Falank has had many of his stories featured in magazines and online publications. He has written and directed over twenty independent films and is a performing member and manager of The Puzzled Players Comedy Improv Theater.

Joseph asked some out-of-the ordinary questions regarding this second novel of mine. I think my good friend and fellow Author Eldon Thompson perhaps nailed the journey of Journey from a reader’s perspective in his review on the webpage Journey is Coming Soon…

I am grateful to have writer friends like Eldon, whom I met on the Maui Writer’s trip to Rome back in 2003. Walking around Rome for 10 days with a few other writers can certainly allow as many shared experiences and bonding time as, well, ‘your neighbors in the hood.’ Eldon and I had an instant understanding of and respect for each other’s work, which is odd if you consider how different our genres are. His fantasy trilogy The Legend of Asahiel is published through HarperCollins.

My friend Ginni Simpson doesn’t write in my genre either. She recently penned a memoir The Space Between with SheWrites Press that will be released this spring. Her memoir is a poignant account of those last years with her mother. Ginni also nailed the essence of Journey in her review, and I want to thank her for all the support she gave me as a fellow writer.

Of course those who gave me back cover blurbs for the book are also writers whose work I enjoy and respect. James Benton is an award winning author in his own right. He teaches English and Writing for Eastern Oregon University. He recently signed a publishing contract for his poetry collection.

Naima Mora (Model Behavior) and I met at the private design college, where she first showed me her book. Naima was America’s Top Model in one of the earlier seasons of the reality TV show. She writes her memoir from the heart, and doesn’t mince words about how hard it is or how much discipline it takes to become top notch at, well, anything.

Here are those thought-provoking questions Joseph sent my way. He will have his own version of this article coming out in about a month. (I am shamelessly double dipping here.) I did answer as honestly as I could, which I confess was harder than writing fiction.

Tell me about the journey of Journey – from how the idea struck you, your process of writing it, any research, struggles along the way, beta-readers, all the way to the finished book. How many drafts did it take? Did anything change drastically (avoiding spoilers) from first draft to final?

This story has evolved quite a bit from conception. When the idea first came to me it was because of all the press about runaway teens. Like all writers with runaway imaginations I wondered about different scenarios and what-ifs surrounding circumstances that would cause a teen to runaway. That gave me my basic plot. What I really write about in all my books is what makes people tick, what drives them to do what they do leading up to and well beyond one action such as running away from home. The plot is just the glue to hold all those intricate psychological and emotional fibers together.

My writing process is simply spilling out the guts of the story onto paper. Then I slowly transform and finesse that raw unfiltered thinking and emotion into something (hopefully) refined. To me refinement is when it sings and dances on the page instead of trudging along clunkily amid too many adjectives and over-thinking. There should be an easy rhythm that allows the reader to seamlessly follow one scene and thought to another without ever getting confused, bored, or bogged down by bad mechanics, inconsistencies, and repetitions. This is not to say a reader will never take pause to ponder what has affected them along the way in terms of a new perspective or overwhelming emotion.

I have been fortunate enough to spend a fair amount of time in Maui and on The Big Island, which is where Journey takes place. My locations are always somewhere I have lived or travelled, and whatever my characters thought processes or emotions are, I have also experienced. This is not to say I have experienced everything my characters have, but only to say I have experienced something similar which allows me to relate to them. This keeps research about everything in my books to a minimum. Rule number one is to write what you know, and so I do.

I don’t use Beta-readers. Once I believe that the manuscript has evolved all that it can I send it to a few trusted colleagues for reader input. These are long time author friends whom I respect for their work, intuitiveness and insight regarding all written work. I soak up their suggestions for how the story may still need to evolve or could be made tighter, clearer, better. After I rework it using their input, I send it to a couple excellent line editors that I know and respect personally for their expertise in this area. This whole process from start to finish can take a year or 10 years depending on that particular story.

I have to be honest: In the beginning I felt a little frustration with Kylie – out of nowhere she became incredibly hell-bent on finding her niece and making this child she never knew a part of her life, even though she knew nothing of Alana outside of the letter she reads from her recently-deceased sister. My question is was I supposed to feel that way? You write complex characters and they’re not black and white, which makes me think I was supposed to wonder why she acts the way she does – of course through the book we gain a much greater understanding of Kylie and her marriage and life. Give me your take on Kylie, and what was her life like before the book begins?

All of my heroines have a Scarlet O’Hara from Gone With The Wind angst about them. You love to hate my protagonist for her need to control and manipulate the ‘floor has fallen out from under me’ environment she suddenly finds herself in. But then again, underneath your frustration with her obsessive-compulsive behavior toward a seemingly contrived outcome you find yourself loving her for the motives she displays, which are always about saving someone (or several someone’s) from what she perceives to be a disastrous fate and future for that particular individual.

Most of us can also relate to the bad choices made before good decision making, but we fully understand how this is the process to success- learning from our poorly executed and impulsive, short sighted plans. Watching and wondering how this process will unfold, I believe, is what draws you in and makes you turn the page.

As for what Kylie’s life and marriage is like before the start of the book and for that matter, after the last written page is up to the reader. I would take it one step further and say that everything Kylie was and is and can ever hope to be is something each of us must determine for ourselves based on our own personal relationships, world view, aspirations, frustrations, achievements and failures.

We writers all have piles of work that no one will ever read – it’s a sad truth that we spend a lot of time (months, years even) on work that doesn’t get beyond the first draft and ends up being a “trunk novel.” Tell me about one of your “trunk novels” and would you ever consider revisiting/revising it?

My ‘trunk novel’ is my first novel on which I cut my teeth… ALL of my teeth – one painful day at a time for what seemed like forever. After being consumed by a whirlwind of passion to pen the story so vivid in my mind, I soon realized it was a muddled mess. This realization came after taking it to writing conferences filled with best-selling novel speakers, and attending retreats where I had icon authors, masters at their trade, teach me what I thought I knew and yet didn’t have a clue about. I rewrote it numerous times and finally, a compassionate editor at a conference gently informed me that my plot was as uninteresting and ordinary as my characters and scenery were fascinating and extraordinary.

It was like a light went on in my head as he spoke. He was absolutely right. I had lost the forest for the trees. I put it on a shelf and never looked back, and immediately wrote a brand new novel that had been simmering in the back of my head. The very next year I won an award for that manuscript and landed a New York agent with the JC Literary Agency. That book was Benjamin – my debut novel.

I know writers don’t like the “what’s next” question, but do you have ideas down already, saved in a journal or notebook, or do you wait and let the ideas come organically?

I have a file of plots and characters, written when they come to mind- usually after just enough wine, but not too much wine. It’s a magical place where the imagination knows no limits – and for that matter, life has no limits in that moment of not completely sober but not inebriated either. I think every creative person on earth has been to the sweet spot of which I speak. It’s fleeting, but the mind does take flight in that space, where all my novels have been birthed. My next two projects are completed books that I will perfect before publication at one a year, and then my new work will see the light of day- a dark and scary thought, because like all good fiction- the truth is in the lie. Most nonfiction I read is more fictitious than the sobering truth of courageously crafted fiction.

That knowledge alone is reason enough for a fiction writer to keep a well-stocked wine cellar. (;











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Colorado Bound


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God is a better writer than me. The best fiction plot my imagination has come up with pales in comparison to his. Some of the twists and turns in my personal story are helping me to realize that change is the only constant in life.

Fortunately God gives us tenacity and courage with which to meet each and every challenge of our journey. He also helps his heroes and heroines develop persistence and humility as they stumble repeatedly while striving to reach their goals and dreams along the way.

Unexpected plot twists are what led my amazing husband and I up to, and through the California years of our marriage. Hopefully a lot of personal growth is what we have found on the other side. No better place to put all this in perspective than sitting (almost literally) on a mountaintop.

These past six months we have been living in paradise. Other than a roaring ocean in a tropical location, no where could be more inspiring than Central Oregon. I will miss the amazing drive from our mountain house to, well, anywhere. I have to admit I have enjoyed the time to think, while passing pastures speckled with alpacas, majestic bulls, and lately… half a dozen calves among the free-range cattle.

Daylight hours find the wide variety of domestic animals grazing lazily against a backdrop of snow-covered peaks that jut up into an endless blue sky. The smell of sagebrush and juniper entices an always open window in my jeep. Hawks, eagles, and Canadian geese occasionally soar overhead, and take my breath away with the sheer size of their wing span.

Why did God put six months of paradise midstream in our plot?

I have no idea, but that doesn’t make me any less grateful. It has been a revered time of reflection. In fact, leaving the mountain house for any reason has not been a priority for this reclusive writer.

Except to buy groceries, hike in nearby Smith Rock State Park, visit brew pubs and experience local cuisine, I’ve rarely ventured from our cozy mountain house other than to get the mail, which granted, is a 10-minute walk past a meadow of horses and a mountain stream.

The cat and I have spent many a lazy day by the fireplace. She napped while I wrote, or just stared at the glorious mountain range and rugged evergreens outside our window wall. I did manage to convince the continuing Ed program through the local college that they needed a novel writing course, which I had a lot of fun teaching.

I also did some guest lecturing. That led to being a judge for the Writer’s Guild short story contest, which is a part of their Fall Festival here. I am coming back for the Awards Ceremony. I will also be a guest speaker for the Guild and host one of their writing workshops while here. If all goes well, I am hoping to add a book launch to the rest of the festivities.

We move to Ft. Collins, Colorado right after Memorial Day, where Dennis has taken a Director of Marketing position with Trans Aero Helicopters. It is a dream job he has been pursuing for some time, and a pleasing surprise twist in our plot-line. The down side is that we will miss our wonderful family, not to mention watching the moods of a mountain sky change dramatically by the hour.

Parting is such sweet sorrow!

I will miss the peaceful, quiet nights observing different phases of the moon and constellations that feel close enough to touch. Etched forever in my mind is a dazzling rainbow that formed on one of the few days it dared to rain. Jack’s beanstalk couldn’t have been more magical, shooting up from nowhere.

I think we are two quite evolved people (my husband and I) that will be taking on this next chapter in our lives. The mountain we live on has moved us in many ways. It has helped us put a whirlwind decade in California behind us, and allowed us to let go of all the ghosts that had landed us there to begin with.

I have not regretted a moment of our sometimes rocky path. If you take out one domino, then everything beyond that point is disconnected. Which domino would we pull? Altogether they have fallen into quite a nice pattern, despite a few rough patches. This last six months has been especially in sync for a pleasing rhythm to our lives, our marriage, and our resurfaced dreams for the future; dreams we’d all but given up on.

In the quiet nights filled with dashing stars, in the wind off the ridge every afternoon, in the varied songs of native birds amid the sage brush of the desert floor… the dominos have fallen one by one in a unhurried pace this past half a year. You can almost see them heading to that curve, where the direction and momentum will change once again.

We are ready for it.

We both still have a lot to accomplish and the timeline of our plot relentlessly reminds us to make haste. So, we will wind down our mountain one last time and ride out of Oregon… Colorado bound. Hopefully the resolution to our story will be retirement in about 10 years, right back here in paradise!


get-attachment.aspxKathryn’s next novel, Journey, will be released September, 2015 by Winter Goose Publishing

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12-Step Plan for Addicted Writers (last but not least…)


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In this last part of the Addicted Writer’s 12-Step plan I want to share with you what literary devices and components of novel writing we, as contest readers for a major literary contest, are asked to use when critiquing entries.

Getting high marks on the following elements is what will land you in the finalist’s circle and possible win you the first place award, beginning with Viewpoint. Did you use a consistent, identifiable, and appropriate POV for the scene, and without any author intrusion? If point of view is confusing or unclear to you, be sure to study up on it because, like tense, it is the glue that holds your book together.

Next, scrutinize those characters. Have you developed your protagonist and antagonist effectively? Are they believable? Are we sympathetic to your hero or heroine? This means regardless of the mistakes they are making we understand their motives and are rooting for them to eventually figure it out. We want them to succeed, or otherwise accomplish what they have set out to do. If we don’t care, then you haven’t endeared us to them, which means we are going to close the book somewhere before page 25.

I suspect this is why most contests have you send the first 25 pages of your manuscript. If you can’t hook a reader within those first few chapters (if not the first few pages) chances are you never will. 

This leads to pacing. No matter how clear your point of view, or how consistent your tense, and regardless of our empathy for your main character, if your plot does not have a compelling reason for us to turn the page – we won’t. Exactly why you must be certain every single scene whether action, narrative, or dialogue moves the story forward. 

Did the author use a lot of backstory? Did the sequencing of events make sense? Did the author ‘show’ and not ‘tell’ what is happening? Is the overall flow of the novel pleasing?

If the rhythmic and smooth effect of a well orchestrated storyline isn’t there, it is often because you used too much backstory, and/or did not sequence your events properly. Either issue can cause your effect to be choppy and segmented, bogging your reader down as they struggle to keep everything straight.

If there is too much narrative (which means inactive telling rather than active showing) we are going to fall asleep, or at the very least not remember a word we just read. Which leads to the importance of tension (or suspense).

Tension and suspense begins with an opening hook… something that fully invests us in whatever lies ahead. And let’s not forget setting. No matter how surreal, it must be interesting and believable. Setting includes a timeline that carefully (and cleverly) unfolds before us in a way that grounds the reader.

Are the action scenes clear and precise so the reader always knows who is doing what to whom? Is the dialogue appropriate for the person speaking it? Can we be certain who is speaking, whether a dialogue tag is used or not (he-said, she-said)? Is every use of conversation, narrative, or an action scene necessary to move the story forward?

Do the twists and turns of the plot move progressively to a climax? Do those twists and turns show growth in your main character? Does the climax give us a clear and concise view of what they ultimately stand for? Do they win the day and if not, why not? Is the resolution to the story satisfying?

This doesn’t mean you have to tie everything up with a bow, or have a happy ending. It means your reader, upon reflection, will be glad they invested the time it took to read your novel.

Finally, mechanics matter. Nothing disturbs a story more than poor sentence structuring, bad grammar (outside of character-appropriate dialogue) or typos. Improper use of punctuation disturbs the flow of your story as much as anything.

The last thought I want to leave you with is this: Who is your intended audience? The correct answer to that does not include ‘everyone’ unless your book is required high school reading (such as, To Kill A Mockingbird).

The rest of us mere mortal writers need to define our target audience.

Choose the genre that best describes your work. Your entire stage presence depends on it. This includes your author platform, what section your novel is in at the bookstore, what time of day is best to have book signings, and who will come to your speaking engagements.

Be cognisant of your ‘fans’ (readership) with everything you do and say to promote your work, and yourself. Being true to the image you are creating as a writer is key to success. 

Let’s review:

(1) SYNOPSIS OR BOOK PROPOSAL (depending on whether fiction or non)

  1. Show your plot arc.
  2. Show your main character arc.
  3. Explain the main theme of your book.
  4. Give the resolution.
  5. For a longer synopsis give twists, turns, and additional (less dominant) themes.
  6. Be straightforward with no self-promoting through glowing adjectives.

(2) AGENTS (for traditional publishing)

  1. Attend conferences and pitch to genre appropriate agents.
  2. Google genre appropriate agents online.
  3. Ask a writer friend to recommend you to their agent.
  4. Ask an author friend to recommend you to their publisher.


  1. Traditional (large)
    1. They write you a check upfront.
    2. You have little input into editing and cover design.
    3. They take a large percent of your profit.
    4. You have the most credibility with large publishers and will probably sell more books because they have a readership already in place for your genre.
    5. They promote your work (and have it reviewed), but you still are expected to be an active participant in your author platform.
  2.  Traditional (small)
    1. Small independent publishers do not write you a check upfront, but they pay for everything toward publishing.
    2. You are hands-on with editing and cover design.
    3. Small presses usually take a smaller percentage of your profit.
    4. You have credibility with small publishers although they generally rely mostly on you to build a readership, however, they are able to get your work into places where most self-published books are not accepted (like Barnes & Noble), and they generally will have your book reviewed by the traditional reviewers.
  3.  Self Publishing
    1. Hybrids expect your work to be of a certain caliber before they will accept it. You still pay them for editing, publishing, and promotional services but you are hands-on with cover design and other decisions.
    2. A self-publishing publisher has a full range of services and you make all the decisions. You also pay for everything and the expense equals the services you choose. The downside is that they won’t give an honest opinion about your work, as long as you can pay, so look elsewhere for creditability.
    3. Self-publishing on your own (for instance, through Amazon) means that you are, well… On. Your. Own. It is, however, the cheapest way to self-publish if you don’t count the therapy sessions you’ll need on the side.


  1. Every type of publisher assumes or expects that you will actively (if not aggressively) maintain an author platform.
  2. Choose your social media by your readership and personal interests.
  3. Have a publicist if possible. Choose one compatible for your goals as an author.

Necessary writing elements to master (or else none of the above matters):

(5) PLOT (Do you have a suspenseful hook, interesting twists & turns, clear climax, and satisfying resolution?)

(6) POINT OF VIEW (Is it appropriate and consistent for the scene, and throughout the work?)

(7) SETTING (Is it interesting? Does it use all the senses? Does it ground your reader?)

(8) MAIN CHARACTERS (Are they relatable and well-developed?)

(9) DIALOGUE (It is clear who is speaking? Does it fit the character speaking? Is it believable and not awkward? Does it move the story forward?)

(10) MECHANICS (Did the writer use appropriate sentence structuring, grammar, punctuation, and tense for the story? It is free of typos?)

(11) INTENDED AUDIENCE (Did you define your genre and audience correctly?)

The final step?

(12) READ You must be a passionate (and if possible) prolific reader. How can you accomplish mastering a craft you do not frequently admire, appreciate, and study in its finest form? All great artists relish and revere their competitors intimately whether it be music, painting, theater, dance, or literary works. They do it for inspiration. They do it because they are obsessed and consumed by the art form itself as seen in current achievements and throughout time.

I leave you with this quote, not to confuse the issue, but to put it all in perspective:

“Go and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make. Good. Art.” ~Neil Gaiman


Kathryn’s next novel, Journey, will be released September, 2015 by Winter Goose Publishing

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Personal blog and website: Edgy Words Unleashed

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The Addicted Writer’s 12-Step Plan (part 4)


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imagesLet’s pick up where we left off in part 3 regarding ‘Author Platform’ which, we determined, you need to have before you are an author.

For starters, choose as many of the social media options you are comfortable with and check them daily to add material and reply to comments. If you are only comfortable with one form of social media, learn a second, and once you are comfortable with two, add a third. Work your way up to as many as you can truthfully be enthusiastic about and have time to visit almost daily (daily is best).

You don’t have to spend much time on any one of them and can upload nearly the same comment to each. I suggest gearing it differently for, say, LinkedIn than you would Pinterest. Keep the type, mood, and readership of the social media site in mind when you post.

Every writer is different. What your day job is, what your personal interests are, what genre you are writing in (especially to what age group) will help determine social media sites you might thrive best on.

Be sure to create a personal website, too. This website should be your name as an author, not a book title, because hopefully you will have many books (eventually) and you can house them all on your personal website.

Blog a couple times a week (500 words is plenty) and upload the link to sites like FB, Twitter, Google, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc. Once you are published be sure to have author pages on sites like Amazon and Goodreads. Be sure that your blog is also posted there.

Participate in blog shares with other authors you meet at conferences, author organizations you belong to, or in-house authors through your publisher. What is a blog share? You interview other authors and run it on your site (upload the link on all your social media sites, of course) and visa versa.

Before and during your ongoing author platform building, you should seriously consider having a publicist. A PR person will do the things you absolutely hate doing, like securing book signings, radio shows, local TV, etc. Of course, if you’re like me, you will refuse to do half of the things your PR person books, which wastes their time and your money, so I strongly suggest that you have good communication with your publicist.

Make it very clear what your comfort zone is, as opposed to what causes paranoia in you to the point of needing to pop meds.

It is also good to know your strengths. For instance, I know I am a good speaker because I give lectures all the time when teaching college. Practice makes perfect, and then becomes a comfort zone. I am all about signings, too. I love hosting workshops and visiting book clubs… but I refrain from TV and radio.

I cringed the first time I heard myself on radio and wanted to change the channel when I appeared on TV. I didn’t query others to find out if they had this same reaction to my voice on the former and appearance on the latter. I simply refused to ever do either one again.

Let’s just say it wasn’t my comfort zone and that was all too apparent, which I believe can be more counterproductive than helpful when trying to sell books. Of course, if I had the desire to improve at radio or TV, then I could dust myself off, polish my approach to both, and make them a comfort zone.

But I don’t want to.

And that’s okay.

No one expects you to be on every social media site or participate in every type of in-person promotion. You need to be true to YOU, which means respecting your personal interests and comfort zone, as long as you can find successful and meaningful ways to communicate with your readership.

It helps to be flexible. If suddenly I became a New York Times Best Selling author, you better believe I am not turning down an opportunity to be interviewed by Matt Lauer.

Speaking of Best Sellers, in Part 5 we will discuss what literary contest judges look for to determine whether or not your manuscript might become one. Stay tuned…


Kathryn’s next novel, Journey, will be released September, 2015 by Winter Goose Publishing

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Personal blog and website: Edgy Words Unleashed

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The Addicted Writer’s 12-Step Plan (part 3)


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In parts 1 & 2 of this series we discussed writing that synopsis or book proposal once your work has been perfected and is ready for a publisher. We then looked at all the publishing options out there to choose from.

In terms of traditional publishing, we discussed how getting an agent would be your first step toward securing a traditional publisher such as one of the 5 major New York conglomerates. Who are these major publishing houses with their endless trickle down divisions?

The top 5 include Hachette, Macmillan, Penguin, Random House and Simon & Schuster. Each of those have many ‘specialized’ offshoots such as, for example, St. Martin’s Press – a division of Macmillan – and so on.

There are countless independent presses popping up across the country and generally, they are each specializing in certain genres or printing styles to distinguish themselves and to stay focused on a particular product in order to do it better than anyone else. REALLY specialized independents are also called ‘boutique’ publishers.

How do you get an agent in order to reach any of these old school or new school traditional publishers? You can write a query letter and mail it to as many agents as you can find via the Internet. However, I am not going to cover ‘how to write a query letter’ here, because it is the least likely way that you will find an agent.

Trust me on this.

The best and easiest way by far to get an agent is through writing conferences.

If you have taken the time and money to attend a writing conference, it shows the agents at that conference how you are serious about your writing and have probably done your homework toward understanding and utilizing all the information out there toward writing a publishable (could sell and make a profit) book.

You need to behave as a professional would at any career-oriented conference when attending these writing gigs. Be careful what you say and do, how you look and how you project yourself as a possible published author who would then be representing the publishing house that you are (want to be) under contract to.

ALWAYS remember that if you are going to sell books, you will need to be personable, friendly, outgoing, and put together in a pleasing way for your fans to approach and connect with. These are the things an agent is looking for in you- besides a great read.

Think of it as part 3 of your writing career. Part 1 was realizing that you did not write the great American novel the first time you went crazy with pen and paper.

Part 2 is writing what might be the great American novel after soliciting lots of oral (critique groups, etc.) and written ( ‘how to’ books and social media articles, etc.) help to improve your skills since the first time around. Part 3 is finding someone (trained to recognize this) who agrees with you.

Part 4 is how to transition into being a published author and part 5, well part 5 is maintaining authorship so that you don’t slip back down into part 3 because your books aren’t selling and your publisher has dropped you.

How do you avoid that not-selling-books part you ask? Another great question, which leads to your new buzz phrase once you have decided you wish to play this game and play it well. These are 2 words you should wake up to every morning. I strongly suggest that you tape them to your refrigerator.

Author. Platform.

Unless your name is JK Rowling, or a small handful of other best selling authors where your author platform magically appears simply by being the best at what you do and selling so many books it’s impossible to FAIL at ‘author platform’ you will need to focus on it as much as you do your writing.

Let’s just say it helps to be good at multitasking.

And don’t think you can ignore this buzzword until that beautiful first book shows up on bookshelves. Having a blog following and strong social media presence is required upfront, meaning that one of the first questions an agent will ask you after deciding that you can actually write is… tell me about your fan base as a writer.

If you don’t have a fan base already started, it could be a deal breaker.

Crazy, right?

Whatever happened to the craft standing on its own merit? The answer to that is another blog series. So, let’s focus on this blog series for now…. and on what YOU need to do in order to create that all-important readership…. UPFRONT.

Stay tuned for part 4…



Kathryn’s next novel, Journey, will be released September, 2015 by Winter Goose Publishing

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Personal blog and website: Edgy Words Unleashed

Amazon author page:

FB page:

WGP page:



The Addicted Writer’s 12-Step Plan (part 2)


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imagesIn the first post of this series we discussed writing a synopsis (fiction) or a book proposal (memoir). This is the first thing a literary contest, agent, or publisher will see. That makes it more important than you might think, which is unfortunate, because writers suck at writing this important road map.

How do I know this you ask?

Because I have seen over 300 synopses before reading, critiquing, and judging those manuscripts for the very large literary contest I have been volunteering my services to for over a decade now.

Luckily for the writers of these terrible synopses, I don’t let their lack of skills with laying out their plan affect my opinion of how well they actually write those first 30 pages of the manuscript.

Speaking of how publishers will read your road map before experiencing firsthand the journey that would be your book, they are the next step to consider in that 12-Step plan. It is not news to anyone that publishing has become quite a diversified field. Here is how it breaks down:

3-Publishing: Do your homework on your publishing options. This, obviously, is not one of the criteria on the sheet we follow to judge manuscripts, but I have inserted it as an important step in my fiction-memoir writing class for those would-be authors who need to know what to do once they have written their Great American Novel.

There is a sea of publishing options out there including large traditional publishers (mainly based in New York), and small independent and boutique publishers (still traditional).

There are also hybrids, which offer something between an independent press and self-publishing (non traditional because you pay them for their services), self-publishing – which provides all the services you could ever need or want (you pick what services by what price you’re willing to pay) and purely independent self-publishing.

In that last category (purely independent) you man your own ship from start to finish, with no one to hold your hand, support your efforts, or share much of your profit. Of course, you need to be a savvy computer program whiz to pull this last option off without needing psychiatric sessions.

Large publishers give you little to no control over anything from editing to your front cover. They do, however, write you a check up front to ease the pain of turning your baby over to them after the excruciating process of birthing and raising it to be world-ready.

Independent and boutique (which specializes in certain genres or a certain image) publishers do not write you a check up front, but they don’t charge you anything either and you share in the royalties at a better cut. You also have tons of control over your editing, front cover art, and all other factors such as in-house marketing strategies.

Hybrid and full service self-publishing companies offer you quality services for a price. The difference is that the hybrid companies might turn you away if your work is not of a standard they deem worthy, whereas straight-up self-publishing companies are not concerned with the quality of your work if your money is green and plentiful.

Pure independent self-publishing (usually through internet sites such as Amazon) only require your ability to maneuver through it, and generally do not charge you for using their self-publishing program; however they do want a portion of your profit. For clarification, ALL forms of publishing will take a portion of your profit. 

4-Agents: Speaking of publishers, traditional publishing will not (as a rule) take un-agented manuscripts, which means if you have chosen this route, you will need an agent. You do not pay agents up front, but if they sell a publisher on your manuscript they will expect a percentage of the profit from your book sales. What do you get in return for going traditional by paying an agent AND a publisher part of your profit?

That’s a good question. Truthfully, it narrows down to credibility, and knowing that you have made the grade. Your work has stood out above all the other work out there, and like fine art, is generally valued by the caliber of gallery that will accept it. This is because experts in the field (professional agents and editors) have the well-honed skills necessary for skimming the cream off the top.

If nothing else, it will certainly help establish you as a serious author sooner, and it will bring greater attention to your book when released. Traditional magazines and the top tier of social media marketers will review your book, because someone other than you and a self-publishing service have deemed it as worthy-mention.

Having said all that, obviously, there are a lot of very good quality novels out there that chose to take a more independent path because it is much less of a hassle and the more independent your publishing route, the more of your profit you keep. It is also true that anyone can pay independent book reviewers such as Kirkus for a review. Regardless of your publishing credits or lack there of, the cream will always float to the top. And that’s the beauty of it. In the end, the reader decides.

As it should be.

It is also important that your novel get noticed. No one can read or appreciate something they don’t know about, no matter how good it is. If you have decided to go the route of traditional publishing, that means the first person who needs to know about and appreciate your work is an agent.

How do you get an agent you ask? This is another good question. Stay tuned for the answer and more to come in the 12-step series…..



Kathryn’s next novel, Journey, will be released September, 2015 by Winter Goose Publishing

Author Badge 2015 2




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The Addicted Writer’s 12-Step Plan


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This past couple of weeks between speaking engagements and teaching my novel writing class at the college, I have been critiquing and judging manuscripts for an annual literary contest. I’ve been doing this for ten years now- reading these entries for this particular conference in Seattle. Every year the manuscripts get better.

Bottom line- there is some tough competition out there.

Between the continual barrage of informative articles posted on social media and the countless ‘how to’ writing books, the ambitious and inspired would-be author is obviously listening, and taking the information to task.

Good for them!

Funny, but all I heard for the last several years was how the new ease of self- publishing would suffocate and all but stamp out pen-worthy writing. Not so, apparently. The flooded market has simply made the more determined writers more deliberate in their approach, so they will stand out.

By paying attention to authors, their publishers, and book sales over the past decade I have concluded it isn’t great marketing alone that sells books, and great books will not necessarily sell well on their own. Ultimately, it takes a winning combination of good marketing for a good book to achieve great sales.

There is the occasional exception. Free enterprise is often about offering you products without any quality control whatsoever. But hey, when someone can make a million bucks writing socially acceptable porn it just shows that America will always be a land of opportunity.

Amen to that.

If you have decided to take the high road, by going in the opposite direction of pure sensationalism, then what I will be covering in my blog posts for the next several weeks are the 12-step plan you might want to invest in.

This series to success (which I teach at the college in my fiction-memoir writing class) includes the specific elements we are to use as our guide when critiquing and judging those literary contest entries, so if you want to have a winning book, I hope these sobering truths that I will share over the next few weeks will be your commandments to faithfully complete.

1-Synopsis: The first entry in this 12-step series is the dreaded synopsis, which is the first thing any agent, editor, publisher, or contest judge will see if you are writing fiction. It’s more important than you think because it sets the mood for this stop-gate reader. If they find it confusing, boring, or irrational thinking, well, then you might be done before they have begun to even read your well-penned words  

Whether being asked for a short 1 page synopsis or a more in-depth 2-3 pager, it should be a concise summary with no flattery or embellishments. Just a straight talking road map of your plot and character arcs, which means you will have a heroes journey for your main character clearly laid out, without holding back on what the resolution is.

The difference between that short synopsis and a longer one will be the inclusion of exactly what those plot twists and turns are, and a few words on any secondary scenarios percolating beneath the surface of your main plot.

Be sure to mention the growth your protagonist will experience by the time things are wrapping up. If your plot isn’t plausible and doesn’t stand out as being interesting and dynamic- don’t expect a callback from an agent.

2-Book Proposal: If you are writing nonfiction such as a memoir or a creative narrative, you will not be writing a synopsis, but a book proposal instead. Make sure that your premise and the purpose for it is clear. Unless you have endeared yourself to an agent or publisher for which you have made a substantial profit, also be sure the entire manuscript has already been written and perfectly polished before sending out that book proposal.

Why write a book proposal if you’ve already written the book? Well you wouldn’t, if you were an established author and proven money maker, but even if you’re a novice, you have to play the game according to the rules. Remember, book proposals are written for traditional publishers, including the agents and editors that represent them. Nothing defines traditional publishing better than their well-established rules and reputation for following them.

Your trump card is not having a time lapse between when interest is shown and the manuscript shows up. It will be harder to forget who you are that way, since you are virtually a nobody… for now, at least, until you play your cards right and that manuscript finally goes to press.

Speaking of going to press, next week I will blog about what press, exactly, your book might be going to when I discuss publishing options; a virtual Pandora’s Box of choices (some more accessible than others).

Stay tuned for part 2….

Kathryn’s next novel, Journey, will be released  September, 2015

by Winter Goose Publishing Author Badge 2015 2



Personal blog and website: Edgy Words Unleashed

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50 Shades of Questionable (versus Disney Fairy Dust)


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Ella And The Prince In Cinderella Wide 2015 Wallpaper

You might ask why I would attend a 50 Shades of Questionable film based on the underdeveloped characters of a far from quintessential novel series, and my only answer would be c.u.r.i.o.s.i.t.y.

I needed to see for myself whether even the best of screenwriters could create meaningful dialogue from, well, what they had to work with.

What I discovered is that helicopters and gliders make breathtaking romance when expertly and artistically filmed for the big screen. Those two scenes encompassed the only tension and titillating sensations this movie had to offer.

What the film mainly did is create disturbing questions that I have no answers for. Those dark thoughts about everything wrong with Shades of Grey have kept me awake recently more hours of the predawn than most horror flicks.

For starters, why would any woman, let alone lots of women want to stare at a 20-something naked female for nearly 20 minutes while being victim to and humiliated by an older, rich and relationally challenged male? IS THAT SEXY? IS THAT EVEN OKAY?

The mother of 50 Shades star Dakota Johnson is actress Melanie Griffith, who starred in a 1992 movie called Shining Through. One of my favorite all time films, it literally oozed romance and sexual tension between Melanie’s character and the hero, played by Michael Douglas.

There was no explicit nudity and no humiliation. These two courageous characters had an all consuming love for one another that grew out of mutual admiration and respect, beginning with their camaraderie regarding a shared WW2 mission to help their country.

Meanwhile, right now in 2015, Melanie’s daughter is starring in a film where she is exposed as a sexual object strictly for a controlling, power-hungry man’s gratification, and we are calling this a love story. WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?

‘Shining Through’ was about finding love amidst heroism and sacrifice to help others during a time when women’s rights were lagging behind what they are now, in lieu of the disturbing narcissism of our non hero, and the even more disturbing naiveté of our non heroine from 50 Shades of Wrong, over 20 years later, when equality should have moved forward rather than digressing!

This Shady flick has been made during a time when violence against women is a huge issue worldwide, and yet WOMEN are causing these books and this film to make millions of dollars surrounding a subject matter they should be running away from- not toward.

I asked a lot of different women why they read the books, and they all gave me the same answer. “The sex was boring, but I kept reading because of the love story.” Hmmm. So with thousands of great writers writing books full of tension-filled chemistry between well-developed and interesting heroes and heroines, women are choosing to read this series for a love story filled with countless annoying clichés and two very underdeveloped main characters…. why?

Apparently, it was worth forging forward to see if Ana could cure Christian of his need for total dominance over women, and to discover what abuse he encountered to cause such beastly behavior in him. Lest you see a beauty and the beast theme here, however, let me remind you that just the opposite of Christian Grey, Disney’s beast was physically gentle toward his fair maiden, despite a beastly appearance.

For me, it became increasingly harder to see Ana as anything other than a very naïve young woman who had succumbed to the wiles of a wicked (albeit abused) heart simply because she was so stricken by his ‘princely’ appearance and traditional ‘royalty’ attributes such as power, wealth, and dominance over his kingdom.

Taking all of that into account, what does the popularity of this series say about our society? Well, if you want my opinion (in case you weren’t sure yet what that is) I think it says 50 shades of the wrong thing. Now just how dismally ‘Grey’ is that?

But take heart!

I saw another film recently and it gave me hope for the right kind of romance between strong empowered heroines and good-deed driven heroes. What was this amazing film you ask? Why, Cinderella, of course. Now you might think a Disney flick such as that could not be hopeful. We all know that Prince Charming would need a Christian Grey type flogging to be transformed into what Disney would have us believe men naturally are, at least in the prince department.

True enough.

However, there were some valuable takeaways from the Cinderella story. The two main themes were courage and kindness, emphasizing that both mean forgiving others for having neither. The courage to believe in yourself, and to believe that kindness can triumph over cruelty were also important points made in the movie. Perfect themes for a four year old! (And by the way, taking a little girl to this show is simply golden for time well spent. I highly recommend it!)

Watching the fairy godmother turn a pumpkin into a carriage and mice into horses was more exciting than leather riding crops and peacock feathers being used inappropriately. The scene was positively enchanting! Cinderella and the prince dancing at the ball took my breath away, whereas seeing a young maiden unclothed in 50 Shades just made me want to cover her up and have Christian Grey locked in the attic instead of Cinderella.

Perhaps we should lock everyone who bought the novels in the attic as well, with a stack of better books to read than 50 Shades of anything that sets women back rather than moving them forward in our quest for equality.

Or, we could just have the courage to forgive them, out of kindness… and hope that they improve their reading habits. (;





Kathryn’s next novel is coming soon… September 2015.




Personal blog and website: Edgy Words Unleashed

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Valerie V

My friend, Valerie Weinberg, is not only beautiful on the outside, she is equally stunning on the inside… sensitive, smart, kind, and creative. Those four words sum up what is needed to be on my preferred people list.

People who are sensitive think before they speak or act, and if what they have to say or want to do regarding any controversial or difficult situation is not going to be helpful or encouraging to someone, they don’t say or do it. This is something I fully appreciate in a person. People with this quality are such a stand out, only a small handful come to mind, and not coincidentally, are among my good friends.

Those few times I have not been sensitive myself I have lived to regret it. Sensitivity is not an easy task, which makes it an admirable trait.

Smart is something we all define differently depending on our interests, and more importantly, on our lack of interest. We all look less than smart when we don’t know anything about something the person we are interacting with is passionate about.

Intelligence matters, I cannot deny it, but on the other hand I have met some pretty smart people who did not do well in school. School smarts and street smarts rarely align.

Granted I am a nerd. I not only excel at school, I am more comfortable in an academic setting. I could never tire of studying literature and writing essays about it, or studying anything and writing essays about it, quite frankly. Yet some people perceive me as a bit dense.

I can’t say as I disagree with them. I am not street smart, which includes deciphering exactly what it is some people are asking, or saying, or expecting from me in certain social settings. That lack of intuitiveness for how the minds of some people function can make you look rather stupid when at a loss for how to interact with them, or respond in a manner they will appreciate. People skills, obviously, fall into street smarts.

Kindness, thankfully, is less confusing. You either are or you aren’t. You don’t have to know a person very long to make that call. Some people tolerate unkind people quite well. It doesn’t bother them when someone gossips, makes fun of others, says detrimental things about a person’s character, mistreats or disrespects those who are close to them, or otherwise back stabs and claws their way around whomever they perceive to be competition.

Some people actually see this as being strong, tough, and successful rather than weak, cowardly, and well, a failure at what matters most- human kindness.

I am willing to admit that creativity is a wild card in my scenario. It is very important to me because it is more than an interest and passion of mine, it is the most important part of who I am. I lose my sense of joy when I cannot express it. I suddenly understand someone when I see theirs. It breaks down barriers instantly for me and opens a path of communication.

Does this mean I have no true and valued friends that are not creative? Of course not. It simply means if I can put those 4 little words together (sensitive, smart, kind, and creative) in one person, there’s a really good chance they will be on my ‘A’ list.

And Valerie Weinberg is on my ‘A’ list!

If you know Val, I am sure you aren’t going to miss this wonderful event the ‘Valerie V Vibe’ is holding in the Sacramento Theater Company cabaret space. Val and her amazing band will be performing Gershwin, Porter, and more — including songs by the Sacramento Business Journal’s Ed Goldman (his musical, Friday@5, had its world premier at STC in 2008).

Ed Goldman, by the way, is one of the most creative people I have ever had the privilege to meet and call a friend. One of my most vivid California memories is a Christmas party at Ed’s house, listening to him and Val play the piano and sing songs from Ed’s musical.

It was the closest I will ever come to knowing what it feels like to be in the home of real Broadway Stars performing for only a handful of guests. Simply divine is all I can say about that evening.

If you have an opportunity to attend this event, do it, and create a few memories for yourself.

Here are the details:


Wednesday, February 11, 6:30pm

Valerie V at STC – A Vocal Valentine (with full quartet)

$20 in advance | $25 at the door

916 205-4001

Sacramento Theater Company
1419 H Street
Sacramento, CA

A Room With a View



There is nowhere in the world with the same look and feel as Central Oregon. The scruffy evergreens grow straight and proud, their bark slightly red and peeled. The sharp smell of pine never leaves your memory. No matter how long you have been away the return of that dry, aromatic scent brings you full circle in life, back to every moment spent within their forests.

We recently moved into a home cradled among those signature trees, and equally watched from above by a cluster of mountains in the Cascade Range. Each window sheds light on a different peak. Every room in the house is a room with a view. If not of blue-green pines with rough red bark, then of snow-covered mountains and piercing blue sky.

It feels good to be back in Oregon, to be home at last.

The window wall upstairs is a sea of stars by night. I stare into the depth of those twinkling lights and remember a time not long ago when I looked out the window and realized I had lost the night, lost my way in the darkness of a bad economy – yes, but quite literally, I had lost the night for a whole year.

It’s called apartment living. The lights are always on in an apartment complex. People come and go every hour of the 24 afforded them. They work day shifts, night shifts, two shifts, and sometimes 6 days a week averaging over 10 hours a day like my husband, for example.

Day fades into night and night fades into exhaustion, the kind of tired that allows you tunnel vision, so you can focus on survival and not fret about your future. This is what losing the night does to one’s spirit, it erodes the possibilities for wishing on a star or finding solace in the sliver of a moon.

Regardless of a moon or no moon, stars or no stars, overworked and underpaid or not- we didn’t give up hope. We didn’t quit trying to find a solution, the right answer; the door ajar to a new life, a new job, and a new state if possible. California had not, afterall, been especially kind to us.

And then one day not long ago it felt as if God had looked us in the eye, and kissed our cheek. His presence came in the form of a job that appeared almost out of nowhere- like so many my husband had applied for, only to watch them vanish into never-never land. But this one didn’t.

We could almost see the sky open up and the sea part as ducks fell neatly into a row and marched us down the path of a preordered destiny. As if the power of nature itself was willing the march into new terrain – Central Oregon terrain. Exactly where we wanted to be but dared not dream could ever happen.

What have I learned from this whirlwind relocation after several years of one job lead drying up after another?

Never question the power of purpose.

Whoever or whatever you refer to as that greater being that created you and perhaps lives within you, or beyond you, maybe even all-consuming of you – is not to be denied.

I personally believe that much of scripture’s profound truisms will be revealed to us if given the chance. By trial and error we learn how all the lessons are, well, worth taking notes on.

For instance- patience really is a virtue. One I have never possessed, but thankfully my husband does because in the end, after I had all but given up- he had not. He forged on, continuing to apply for positions despite how they vanished into thin air.

Thanks to his patience we are now exactly where we want to be, and he has a job that he loves. I am hoping to get on at one of the two colleges here and it looks promising. Dare I say I have faith it will work out?

California seems a bit like a restless, disturbing dream of the past at this point. A place where you had to hang on to your hat for fear that a coastal wind off the Bay might blow it away, exposing your vulnerable head to the endless, scorching, sun-filled days.

When I first moved to the Golden State, I read East of Eden. Who knew by the end of my decade here the book would resonate with me in more ways than I might have ever thought possible at the time?

This land of plenty houses some of the world’s best wines and has become quite sophisticated since Steinbeck wrote his novel. Nonetheless, California has remained a delicate balance of the rich and plenty versus the grapes of wrath.

I don’t regret my time in California. Quite the contrary, it has been a decade to remember. It will be my fifth novel. (Journey, my second novel, will be released in 2015, followed by a couple more already penned.)

Now, while I fall asleep to millions of stars outside the window of my Central Oregon home, bits and pieces of people and places from that ten-year time twinkle brightly in my mind, giving me a burning desire to write about them.

I have made some amazing friends during my California adventure, and have done some daring things, even some ground breaking things- like, for instance, getting my first novel published (Benjamin) and finally getting my short story collection released (Fractured Hearts).

But it’s the people I will remember most – those I came to know well. Those I came to love. Salt of the earth, they are. Just like good people everywhere, in any state or country, they are what matter; what make our journey palatable, meaningful, rich and full regardless of the economy or any other calamity that befalls us.

It is other people that help us understand ourselves singularly and as a society. The ones that penetrate our hearts make our heavy loads lighter. They give us hope.

They shine like stars from the windows of our minds.

I can only hope to capture their souls on paper, as I write about the last ten years… from my room with a view.



Kathryn’s next literary suspense novel, Journey, will be released in 2015.





Personal blog and website: Edgy Words Unleashed

Amazon author page:

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TW: @KathrynWriter