Author Archives: ragnell44

A Promise Kept

B. J. Myrick
aka Bonnie Eaton

My dear friend and writing buddy of more than fifteen years, B. J. Myrick aka Bonnie Eaton, passed away of COVID on January 27, 2021.

Bonnie and I started our self-publishing careers with books on Lulu and Smashwords before settling on Amazon as our publishing home. We published two anthologies of dark fiction together: Dark Side of the Rainbow and Edge of Nowhere. These were our warmup books to our novels.

Conventions, Book Covers, and Book Shows

Bonnie and I first met at a Kansas Writers Association meeting. Later, we also joined Kansas Authors Club. Both organizations helped us move from wannabe writers to published authors.

At a Kansas Authors Club Convention in Hutchinson, Kansas, we had a photo shoot for Bonnie’s novel, Angel of Mercy. Bonnie was the model for and the creator of her own book cover.

At another convention in Topeka, Kansas, we did a photo shoot for Cordelia’s Journey. Victoria Hermes-Bond was the girl walking away on the book cover. You’d never know from looking that the photo was taken in front of a hotel on a busy Topeka street. Bonnie, with her wonderful Photoshop skills, was able to take the girl out of the city and put her in a wooded country area. She made all of the book covers for my Pierce Family Saga series except the last one.

Without Bonnie, I would probably never have published a book, and now I have published ten novels. I called her my relentless friend because she would never let me give up.

In my last conversation with her, she tearfully asked, “What will happen to my book?” Bonnie had just completed a rough draft of her fourth novel, which she had been working on since the fall of 2017 and feared for its fate. I promised to edit and publish it. I finally made good on that promise in September, 2022. Summer Harvest is now available on Amazon.

Available on Amazon in eBook and paperback

I chose the category of Christian thriller because the main character and hero, Garrett Potmeyer, is a Christian, and a possible prophet shows up to help him save four billion people from being killed through a secret government program of climate manipulation.

Florida’s recent Hurricane Ian was, through one reported conspiracy account, caused by just such a deep state action. Bonnie loved conspiracies. I don’t know much about them, so I put my faith in her research.

I’m not sure what Bonnie would say about my chosen headline for the book description, but here it is:

This year’s Summer Harvest: A bumper crop of humans.

The final sentence in the book description:

With only his faith to guide him, can Garrett stop the final phase of Summer Harvest before half the Earth’s population is destroyed?

If you like reading about conspiracy theories and covert government actions, check out Bonnie’s last book.

And if you knew Bonnie and have a memory to share, please leave a comment.

Brainstorming Book Blurbs, II

Yesterday, I took a look at how writer friend Victoria Hermes-Bond (Vicki) and I brainstormed the book blurb for her upcoming novel, Long Highway Home. Today, I will continue the story with my own soon to be published book, a standalone serial killer novel I am currently calling The Hunt. I also thought of calling it He’s Back. Everything except the story itself is still in flux. Even so, I thought a possible book cover would make this page more interesting, so let me know what you think of this one.

Don’t strain your eyes to read the back cover. I’ve included the copy below.

Original rough draft

Before Vicki and I met for our brainstorming session, I wrote the following rough draft:

Every July from 1981 to 1989, someone was murdered in the small western Kansas town of Harvest. The last murder was the sheriff’s wife. Then the killings stopped. Sheriff Carter Lane lost both his job and his wife. People whispered that he was the killer.

For nineteen years there were no more murders. Then, as the twentieth anniversary of the killings neared, retired newspaper reporter Leora Keegan got a contract to write a book on the unsolved murders. Leora never believed Carter Lane was the killer, so not only does she interview him, but they decide to work together on solving the crimes. Only days into the investigation, they begin receiving threats to their lives and those of their loved ones.

Can they identify the killer before he strikes again?

Revision process

We started our discussion with the usual questions:
What’s in?
What’s out?
What order?
What’s the best word choice?
What’s the best sentence to capture a reader’s attention? (I’m still fretting about this one.)

After a lengthy discussion, we came up with the following:

Revised blurb

What happened to the 4T Killer? Did he retire, die, go to jail, or find a new hunting ground?

These are the questions on ex-newspaper reporter Leora Keegan’s mind as she researches the yearly July killings that began in 1981, in the small town of Harvest in western Kansas. Then, in 1989, the killings abruptly stopped.

Now it is 2008, and Leora has signed a contract to write a book about the unsolved murders. During her research, she interviews the ex-sheriff, Carter Lane, and they join forces to solve the cold case. Their investigation stirs the killer to action. He sends notes threatening them and their loved ones, and signs them with his signature name, 4T: Track, Trap, Torture, Terminate.

I admit

Okay, the words on the back cover of my sample are not identical to the revised version above. While I was working on this post, I thought of a phrase I thought worked better, so I made a change. Isn’t that what writing is all about: working through first thoughts and refining them until they shine?

Your thoughts

As I said at the beginning, everything, including the title, is a work in progress.
Which title do you like best: The Hunt or He’s Back or something else?
Is there something in the blurb that could be improved?
My plan is to publish the book by October 31, 2022, but If you have any suggestions before then, please leave a comment.

Brainstorming Book Blurbs

I don’t know about other writers, but one of the most challenging pieces of writing I do is the back cover book blurb or Amazon sales page book description. Friday, some of the pain was taken out of the task when writer friend, Victoria Hermes-Bond, (Vicki) visited, and we spent the morning brainstorming blurbs for our upcoming novels.

The first book in Vicki’s Women of Reflection Parkway series is Rolling the Dice, a contemporary novel about a group of friends who support each other through life’s challenges.

Book 1of the series is available on Amazon

Vicki is currently preparing the second book in the series, Long Highway Home, for publication later this year. But, of course, before a book can be published, a cover with a book blurb on the back is needed. Since I am also preparing a new novel for publication at the end of October, it made sense for us to get together and brainstorm.

When we met at my place, we each had general ideas of what we wanted to say. What both of our descriptions lacked was a headline that would grab our readers’ attention and indicate what each book was about.

We tackled Vicki’s description first. Long Highway Home centers on two of the women who lived on Reflection Parkway and became good friends at regular neighborhood Bunco games. Life has changed drastically for these women since the first book. Below is the description without the headline.

Original description minus minor tweaks

Alex Webster wrestles with empty nest syndrome after her youngest daughter heads to college. Her husband, Jim, a successful corporate lawyer, dismisses her plight, so Alex goes on sabbatical. Only she forgot to clue her husband in. What she hoped to be an opportunity for personal growth has created changes she never envisioned.  And then there’s Sam, an old-fashioned truck driver, who apparently has become her new confidant.

Also, her dear friend Lydia Parker, a recent widow, travels to Italy as a foreign exchange student and meets Lorenzo, the faculty chef. A romance blossoms until Lydia discovers he seems to be hiding something. If there’s one thing she can’t tolerate in a relationship, it’s secrets. Her now deceased husband, Cole, harbored a huge secret that almost destroyed her.

Surrounded by the love and support of the other Bunco Queens, Kara, Patti-Anne, and Sharon Kay, these women navigate the messiness of their lives. After all, friendships are the glue that hold us all together.

Searching for that single sentence that tells what the book is about

Vicki and I began batting around ideas about what common problem these two women shared. Here is what we came up with:

Can two women whose marriages have gone sideways resolve their trust issues to embrace a happier, more fulfilling future?

Still tweaking

The problem with being an editor is that I am always asking “What if?” In this case, what if the headline was a statement instead of a question? Which is more effective? Let’s see:

Two women whose marriages have gone sideways work to resolve their trust issues and embrace a happier, more fulfilling future.

What do you think?

We’d love to have you weigh in. That’s what brainstorming is all about: sifting through lots of ideas to come up with the best statement possible. Do you think the question or the statement is more effective? Do you have a totally different suggestion? Please comment.

Note: I had originally intended to include the brainstormed version of my book blurb for The Hunt, my new serial killer novel, but this post is longer than I anticipated, so I will save my blurb for the next post.

After a Long Absence

In November, I was notified that my blog had been hacked. I would need to make some changes in order to have access to post again. Because I am technologically challenged, I procrastinated making those changes for a very long time. Today, following my New Year’s resolution to do the hard thing first, I began my day by following the instructions I was given, and here I am.

Now that I can post again, I will be adding information about my fiction to these pages, as well as posts on writing to fit various occasions. Thank you for your patience

Two Tips for Finding Faulty Sentences

You’ve just completed an essay assignment, and while you know the content is excellent, you remember how the points on your previous papers took deep dives from the 90s to the 70s or lower because of run-on sentences and fragments. How can you find them this time and make your ideas shine?

Two ways to find faulty sentences:

Print two copies of your essay. Give one to a friend to read aloud to you while you follow on your copy. Whenever your friend stumbles over a section or looks puzzled about something, mark that spot on your copy. Also, make note of any sentences you hear that sound awkward. If you do not have a friend available, you might read aloud to yourself or use the free version of Natural Reader or another text-to-speech reader.

A second way to find faulty sentences is to use the enter key to put each sentence on a separate line. Then start at the bottom and read each sentence individually as you work your way to the top. As you go from bottom to top, ask yourself whether each sentence expresses a complete thought. Even if it does, is there a better way to word the idea?

Now that you have identified sentences that need work, you may be puzzling over how to fix them. For more tips on writing clear, correct sentences, see Basic Sentence Structure and Basic Sentence Structure Add-ons: Phrases, ebooks that will give you the knowledge you need to rub out sentence errors and polish your writing until it shines.

Espresso Book Machine at Ellen Plumb’s

Overview Presentations start April 24

I’m so excited. The Espresso Book Machine is in at Ellen Plumb’s City Bookstore in Emporia, Kansas, and I have the honor of giving overview presentations on preparing your manuscripts for printing and publication. I’ll be talking about the reader’s and writer’s advantages to having the ability to print books instore, as well as covering the types of files needed to prepare your book for printing and where you can get help if you don’t want to do everything yourself. If April 24 doesn’t work for you, check out the other dates on my events page and confirm your spot with Marcia at the bookstore.

Character Creation: The Importance of Why

The Reasons for Telling Why 

Human beings are naturally curious about other people—either real or imaginary—and why they do what they do. Think about recent mass murders in Las Vegas and Texas. The question most of us ask is “Why?” We want to know what made a person do what they did.

“Why?” is asked about all kinds of behavior, not just in traumatic situations. We may ask why

  • someone continues to work for a company he hates
  • some people are hoarders
  • a person who is obviously ill doesn’t go to a doctor
  • a child misbehaves
  • someone robs a bank

If you say your character robbed a bank to get money, you have given a surface reason. Many of us need money, but we don’t even think about robbing a bank to get it, so why does your character? What is in his or her background that makes illegal activity an attractive option? Surface answers explain current behavior, but you must look for deeper reasons, go beneath the skin of the situation, to the heart and guts of the matter if you want to satisfy your audience.

Getting to Your Character’s Inner Self

You may be thinking you don’t have time to fill out one of those lengthy character profile forms. The good news is that it isn’t necessary to know every detail about your character’s past. You only need to know—and feel—those past events that are driving his actions in the story. To get to them, use the shortcut of the character interview. Imagine you are your character’s best friend, psychiatrist, or some other caring person, make a list of three or four relevant questions to ask about his or her behavior, find a comfortable spot for your talk, maybe have a coffee or other beverage, and get to know what makes your character behave in questionable ways.

Sample Questions

These questions are just to get you started. Fill in the blanks with events or actions relevant to the character’s action in the story.

  • Why is ___ so important to you?
  • When did you first realize ___ was necessary to your success or wellbeing?
  • What was your first (or last) experience with ____? How old were you? Who was with you? How did you feel? What did that experience teach you about life?
  • What is your greatest fear and what happened to cause that fear?
  • Who taught you about ____?

Additional sample questions

  • What do you believe to be true about yourself and the world? How and when was that belief formed? At what age? Who was there? What happened that left an emotional mark? How does that mark show itself in the character’s current story?
  • What secret do you keep and why? What would happen if others found out your secret?
  • Is there anything you regret not doing? What is it? Why do you regret your lack of action?
  • Is success even possible for you?
  • Is love possible or something you will never have?
  • What is the worst thing that ever happened to you? Where did it happen? How old were you? Who was there? What was said? How did you feel at the time? How did you feel later? What did you learn about life from it? How does it affect your beliefs about yourself and how you should behave in your current situation?

Recording the Character Interview 

Writing out the answers is the traditional way, but you don’t have to be traditional. You can make a voice recording in which you act as both interviewer and character, or you can make a video. You might even get a friend to ask the questions so you can concentrate on being the character.

If you are both the interviewer and the character, do not answer the questions from the writer mind, but from the character mind. Once the question is asked, you are an actor playing a part, sinking into your character’s heart and mind and answering the questions from that place of being.

The Benefits of Interviewing Characters

The interview is a quick way of learning what motivates the people in your stories. It helps make them real for you and for your readers. Try it, and let me know how it works for you.





Ellen Plumb’s Children’s Section

In today’s interview with Marcia Lawrence, we take a look at children’s books from the perspective of the owner of a new bookstore. Take a tour of her shelves and be amazed at all she packs into them. Then check below the video for a list of publishers that accept children’s book manuscripts, from picture book to young adult.

Given the costs involved with publishing children’s books, particularly those for the younger set, Marcia recommends finding a traditional publisher. To help author’s begin the search for a publisher, I researched a few that accept unsolicited manuscripts or queries with sample chapters. The links will take you directly to publishers’ guidelines.

The Publishers

Lee and Low Books specializes in multicultural themes.

Albert Whitman and Company publishes picture books, middle grade, and young adult fiction

Eerdman’s Books for Young Readers publishes picture books, middle grade, and young adult fiction and nonfiction.

Workman Publishing has several imprints, and publishes books for adults as well as children.

Arthur A. Levine, an imprint of Scholastic, accepts queries with sample chapter but not complete manuscripts.

Boyds Mill Press  publishes Highlights in addition to children’s books.

Before Submitting

This post on Chronicle Books Blog is from 2014, but it contains some excellent tips on what to do when looking for a book publisher. You may end up submitting to this publisher.

Good luck with your children’s book. Leave a comment if you would like to share your experiences in finding a publisher.

To Sell Local, Buy Local

Small Business Saturday was occurring as I was editing this week’s video interview with Marcia Lawrence, owner of Ellen Plumb’s City Bookstore in Emporia, Kansas. As I listened to the local radio station advertising all the terrific, locally-owned businesses, I thought of the nutrition store where I once worked that closed its natural foods lunch counter for lack of customers. Two and three years after the closure, someone would come in and ask what had happened to that “wonderful lunch buffet.” When they expressed disappointment, I wondered how disappointed they could be. After all, they were just finding out after years had passed that the lunch in our store was no longer available.

Admiration won’t keep your favorite stores in business; only paying customers will. If you love your local bookstore, wherever it may be, show your love with your purchases and send your friends its way as well.

That leads me to today’s interview in which Marcia reveals her favorite sections at Ellen Plumb’s: new books, the classics, and travel books. Her enthusiasm is obvious as she points to new books on current issues, including White Trash and America and Its Guns.  Next, she strokes the covers of “pettable” classics, and, finally, takes us to the growing travel book section. In the final minute, she says it’s not too late to special order books for Christmas. If there is a favorite book you think a friend would enjoy, get in touch with your local bookstore, wherever it may be, and share your love of books.

If you have a favorite local bookstore in your town, please leave a comment about it.

What Bookstore Owners Want

Yesterday, I had the pleasure to interview Marcia Lawrence, owner of Ellen Plumb’s City Bookstore at 1101 Commercial in Emporia, Kansas. Ellen Plumb’s opened September 6, 2016, and I thought getting to know something about Marcia’s book stocking/purchasing processes might be useful to authors looking for space on the shelves of independent bookstores. Check out her interview to learn more about book distributors, consignment sales, and the challenges an independent bookstore owner faces. Also, check her out on Facebook.