Friday, January 31, 2014

#Excerpt: STEAL ME, COWBOY by Kim Boykin


Unbeknownst to her boyfriend, Sassy South Carolina hairstylist, Rainey Brown, is headed to Missoula, dead set on giving her minor league baseball player boyfriend of four years an ultimatum. Either put a ring on it or let her go, preferably not the latter.

When Rainey's piece of crap car dies in the middle of Nowhere, Montana, she's sure she's a gonner, until gorgeous restaurateur Beck Hartnett stops to help. Beck falls hard for Rainey, and knows she would admit she's fallen for him too, if she wasn't too stubborn to admit it. Beck has five days before the car is repaired to steal Rainey away from a boyfriend who doesn't deserve her. Five days before she's gone for good.

AUTHOR Bio and Contact Links:

Kim Boykin is a women's fiction author with a sassy Southern streak. She is the author of The Wisdom of Hair, Steal Me, Cowboy, and Palmetto Moon (Summer 2014.) While her heart is always in South Carolina, she lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband, 3 dogs, and 126 rose bushes.

Kim Boykin website:


“Car trouble?” He tipped his hat back and raised his aviators. Wicked green eyes raked over me, and my breath caught a little.

Granted I was on my way to see my boyfriend, but I wasn’t dead. The cowboy’s face was rugged and stubbled, and the air conditioner on full blast blew his long dark hair about, the kind of hair that’s so luscious, it makes a stylist’s fingers twitch.

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Book and Author Details:
Jon Foyt recently released his new contemporary romance novel Marcel Proust in Taos: In Search of Times Past.

Marcel Proust in Taos tells the story of Christopher and Marlene, two recent immigrants to Taos, New Mexico, who fall in love with their adopted city and eventually each other. Christopher, a retired nuclear physicist, works on his first novel, while Marlene, newly arrived from Germany, spends her days painting the landscape and people around her. The two team up to open a microbrewery, and their relationship is tested by the hurdles they deal with along the way: Christopher hits a rough patch in his book, and a powerful enemy of Marlene’s threatens to destroy everything.

Christopher and Marlene find themselves confronting terrorism of a new sort with the matriarch of the Taos community, Agnes Havelock Powers, who strongly opposes having a brewery in town. Agnes is rich, powerful, and influential. She has the city authorities tucked in her purse next to her checkbook. Follow the exciting and charming love story of Marlene and Christopher in historical Taos, as they experience the challenges of confronting abusive power.

Marcel Proust In Taos is available for sale on Amazon:

Striving for new heights on the literary landscape, along with his late wife Lois, Jon Foyt began writing novels 20 years ago, following careers in radio, commercial banking, and real estate. He holds a degree in journalism and an MBA from Stanford and a second masters degree in historic preservation from the University of Georgia. An octogenarian prostate cancer survivor, Jon, 81, is a marathon runner (60 completed), hiker, and political columnist in a large active adult retirement community near San Francisco. Jon Foyt is the successful author of 10 fiction books. He currently resides in Walnut Creek, CA

For more information, visit


        While standing in the checkout line at the art supply store, Marlene reproached herself for her curt and inelegant response to Christopher’s invitation. For sure, she felt, he hadn’t been particularly suave in his outreach to her, either. In the two weeks of waiting for his call, she had gone over every nuance of their conversation in the Taos Inn, regretting that she hadn’t teased him into a more serious, or at least a fun relationship. She’d been too focused on her art, and she knew men were attracted to women who flirt, even if the man was married—Christopher wore no ring, but so what did that mean?       
            That afternoon in the tavern she should have invited him to her studio, changed into alluring attire and produced a romantic air for scintillating conversation by uncorking a bottle of Moselle wine, preparing a tasty tray of vorspeisen, turning on enchanting Bavarian music and lighting her scented candles—all against a backdrop of her prized art. As she paid the cashier, she brought herself back to the moment. Enough of this playful fantasizing! She was nervous about showing her art to this wealthy patron. Christopher would have to wait.       
            She reminded herself to concentrate on how she would present herself and her art to this woman with the name of “Mrs. Powers.” She vowed she would never abdicate her own ideals to a person who might be a domineering fuhrer in a skirt. Blumy and the other Taos artists had benefited from sponsorship those years ago and still did. Because of the railroad’s beneficence, their Taos School was indelibly imprinted upon the annals of world art, mentioned in every art history book and probably taught in every MFA program. Other individual artists, not so fortunate, had been readily co-opted. Marlene didn’t want such a destructive fate to befall her. She could think for herself, and she vowed to continue to paint, but solely for her own satisfaction.
            Hurrying back to her studio, Marlene climbed the stairs only to see a note pinned to her door—Joe’s delinquent rent notice—and she panicked. She needed money and she desperately hoped this prospective patron would be generous, yet allow her to express her talent in the hallowed tradition of the Taos School, where her Blumy and his diverse group had pledged themselves to always remain faithful to their own individual artistic styles.        
            Marlene remembered that the gallery owner told her that the patron woman was heiress to a molybdenum fortune, and that her philanthropic nature was well known throughout the Southwest. “But, whatever you do, don’t say anything about the mountain top up by Questa that her mining company is scarring in the worst way—she’s very sensitive about the environmental issues about her company having stripped the mountain of its natural beauty.”
            Having been both briefed and warned about her potential benefactor, Marlene waited for the knock on her door. Fresh flowers graced her rustic pine table. In her oven baked an apple strudel, its flavors wafting through her studio. Twice she repositioned her canvases, which she had purposely enriched with gilded frames, each time twisting her track lighting to best capture the aura and ambiance of each painting.
            “What smells so yummy?” the amply proportioned Mrs. Powers inquired immediately upon entering Marlene’s aromatic stage.
            “It’s my mother’s recipe for apple strudel from the old country. You will have a taste in just a minute or two—that is, when it cools.” Marlene rushed on, “There’s no sugar. I use pure honey from a little town outside Nuremberg—my father sends me a jar a month. He says the honey will counteract the pollen from our juniper trees, and I will never have an allergy.
            “Oh, please sit down. May I pour you a cup of coffee?” Marlene knew she must put an end to her unrehearsed rapid speech, but she couldn’t stop. “Hasn’t our weather been glorious for this time of year? Makes me want to hike to the top of the unspoiled mountains around here instead of painting them. I’m a very disciplined artist and I know I could complete your assignment quickly and faithfully.”
            “Could I have that strudel now?”
            “Yes, of course. Do you take cream in your coffee?”
            “I prefer tea with two sugars.”
            “Would honey do?”
            “Oh, forget it, dear. I’m here because Mr. Peters at the gallery recommended your work. My decorator is redoing my living room for this season’s Opera Guild socials. Mr. Peters insisted I select the art because he so values my opinion. Money’s no object, for me color is what’s important.” She looked at the painting on Marlene’s easel. “Not this one, but I do like the shading in that one over there. Don’t you have any landscapes without all these mountains?”
            “I can paint a fresh subject for you,” Marlene assured her visitor.
        “Yes, I think we shall have to do that.”
             “Do you have a particular setting in mind? Perhaps I could do an interpretive rendering of your house?”
            “Maybe—no, I don’t want to appear overly pretentious, you know. Some people react….” Mrs. Powers produced small decorator color swatches. “Here, these will guide you. Your painting must not clash with my new draperies. I plan to give your painting the prominent space above my grand kiva fireplace, so make sure it blends in with everything in the room. Mine is, of course, quite a large room.”
            Hesitatingly Marlene showed Ms. Powers another canvas. “This is my current work in progress. I’m painting my impressions of the Tu-o-ta Pueblo.”
            Mrs. Powers pointed to the reddish-brown branches of the red willow trees lining the small stream. “Yes, this color here…a teeny bit softer, I should think. Put in a sweet little deer or two—you artists know what to do—but none of those rickety ladders. I want my friends to feel at home…you know, comfortable…so they’ll come back and donate more money to the Guild. That’s why I hold these socials, you know, to raise money for a good cause. One must support the community, as well as art and artists, don’t you think?”
            Marlene nodded.
            “How much do you require to get started?”
            Marlene didn’t know how to respond.
            “Five hundred, then, is that all right?” Mrs. Powers asked, then inquired, “How will you sign my painting? Can you make Marlene look a little like Remington? I don’t want you to actually forge his signature, of course, but I want my guests to be impressed—I mean, they all know that name. Now, could I have that strudel now?”
            Marlene cut a slice of her pastry, covered it with gobs of whipped cream and deliberately shoved the culinary concoction into the face of Mrs. Powers.
            “Ernest Leonard Blumenschein made me do this, and he hopes you get the message.”

Thursday, January 30, 2014

#Review: THE AGENT'S DAUGHTER by Ron Corriveau

3 of 5 stars

Teenager Melina Robert's perfect world is shattered when her Mom is involved in a car accident that leaves her in a coma. Her father Evan retreats into his work, leaving Melina and her brother Travis alone to deal with their own issues about the accident. Evan has more problems - he's an elite spy and he's been lying to his kids about it. Things get more complicated when Evan is nearly killed on a mission and Melina meets a new boy at school.

My favorite part of the book was definitely all the "tools" that the spies used. They were inventive and added much to the storyline. However,  I didn't particularly like that everyone in the Robert's family is perfect - Evan is the consummate spy--top of his game, Melina has an unusual aptitude for martial arts and her younger brother Travis is a physics genius. That was unrealistic that everyone was outstanding at something. I did find it refreshing when Melina reverted back to typical teenager behavior when she meets Alex, a boy she likes at school. Overall, the story moves along at a good pace and there are a few surprises along the way, but I did find it too easy to put the book aside. I think YA fans of thrillers will enjoy this, but I don't think it is engaging enough for an adult audience.

I received this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Author bio:
Ron Corriveau is an electrical engineer and works designing custom integrated circuits. He started writing to prove to himself that he actually does have a right side to his brain. Originally from Southern California, he currently lives outside of Dallas with his lovely wife and two awesome kids. He has only recently come to terms with the fact that he is a geek, although he would like to stress that he doesn’t hold any kind of leadership role in the organization.

Tour wide giveaway Prize: 
3x paperback copies of The Agent's Daughter (open INTL) 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

MICHAEL JACKSON Impersonators: A Rare Insight by Lorena Turner

Santana Jackson, Tribute Artist
Q1: When did you begin this series, and what gave you the idea to start?
I began this series the night before the Los Angeles memorial for Michael Jackson, which was on 7 July 2009. That night there were three Michael Jackson performers on Hollywood Boulevard, each emphasized something different in their performance or representation - one was a kind of physical acrobatic dancer in the style of Michael Jackson, one didn’t dance but was dressed like Michael and accompanied a Madonna impersonator as if they were on a date in the 1980s, and yet another walked about shaking hands and receiving condolences and talking as himself though dressed like Michael. 

It became clear to me that these people weren’t so much honoring Michael Jackson as much as they were creating a hybrid identity through their representation of him, in other words they were performing a convergence of their own identity with Michael Jackson’s, and in doing that they were stand ins for the affection that people/their audience had for the real performer. At the time this seemed significant and important, so the next logical step was to find and photograph as many performers as possible. 

As I met and photographed performers where I live in Los Angeles and New York City, then in smaller cities around the US, my focus shifted slightly to the idea of Michael Jackson being an African American performer. I started paying more attention - through observation and interviews with the people I photographed - to whether or not race was a significant factor in the performers’ interpretation and representation of him. This means, Michael Jackson’s career was founded in the Black Power Movement (the of The Jackson 5 cartoon show as Black Power Movement-lite), I was curious how his connection to being Black and what that means in North American culture may have impacted the performers.

The book, “The Michael Jacksons”, talks a lot about this connection between Michael Jackson and the impersonators who are currently representing him. 

Q2: Michael Jackson had such an extreme look at one point--do you know how exactly some of the impersonators achieve their hair and makeup?
I think of Michael Jackson's appearance - his make up and costumes - as existing on a spectrum from the early/mid 1970s until his last public appearance in 2009 to announce his “This Is It” series of performances in the UK. The representers (or impersonators) choose within that range how they will look. Most of them make their aesthetic choices based on what album they like best, be it Thriller, Dangerous, or Bad.  These are the three albums most performers work with, choose from the most, and find to be the most inspiring. They may mix and match parts of their Michael Jackson character - the hair from the Thriller album era (mid-1980s), with an outfit from Dangerous (1991), or the smooth straight hair Michael Jackson had in the last decade of his life with the white suit he wore on the HIStory tour, which was in 1997. Many performers wear wigs, and then there are others whose natural hair style and color is kept at about shoulder length - long enough to wear in a simple slightly messy pony tail as Michael Jackson did sometimes.

Every performer has their own way they do their make up, again, it’s what the performer sees as important in their representation as what helps them determine what they will emphasize with their make up. Some use basic drug store make up, some have multiple bottles of foundation and blending tools, spending a upwards of two hours modifying the color and shape of their face, and some don’t even wear make up. When this happens, the de-emphasizing of appearance in this way, it forces audiences to believe in the illusion they want to create through the quality of their dancing. 

Charles "Scooby" James, Impersonator
Q3: I'd love to hear a bit more about the "written ethnography which focuses on the interpretation of 'blackness' by the performers.”
I talked about it a little in the first answer. My goal in the project became to try to understand how the performers saw Michael Jackson’s blackness - is this important in what they highlight or emphasize or even eliminate in their performance of him? Are the performers aware of, or are they thinking about, his history as it relates to Civil Rights? Are they aware of how significant it was for him to be one of the first black performers played on heavy rotation on MTV? What is the connection between Michael Jackson and the history of minstrelsy in the US? 

The book explores these questions, it seeks to trace Michael Jackson’s history as a performer as a way of linking to the representers. Where was he in his career when they first saw him? How much or how little of his history did they know when they first saw his explosive performances? The Michael Jackson that I know as someone who listened to and watched him in the 1970s and 80s, is much different than someone who came to him for the first time in the 1990s, or even 2000s. This is part of what is explored in the written part of the book. 

I also look at how the performers construct their MJ character, what they use, where they get it, why they blend eras together, and then how the impersonator culture ‘works’ - what, say, is the difference in the representation that happens on Hollywood Boulevard vs. a show in Las Vegas. AND there are long pieces dedicated to telling the story of three different performers who have vastly different experiences as their Michael Jackson - Scooby (who goes by the name MJ.5 now) at a back yard birthday party in New York City, another Jovan Rameau, a Haitian immigrant who came to the US in the late 80s and gravitated to performing as Michael because, a) he naturally looks like him, and b) because he saw Michael Jackson as a black man who had a lot of respect. He works primarily on Hollywood Boulevard, where he gets a lot of notice. There is also a section about Jennifer Amerson, a Caucasian mother of two who lives in Florence, South Carolina, who performs for, primarily, African American audiences at birthday parties, reunions and small celebrations around where she lives. 

Q4: In what way/s were you surprised by the impersonator's motivations?
The impersonators do their work as Michael Jackson for a variety of reasons – some because they have a talent dancing in a style that is similar to his, some because bare a natural resemblance to him, and some because they see that portraying Michael Jackson in a professional way (meaning one that involved the receipt of money for their performance) as an opportunity to build their own brand as a singer/dancer/performer. But surprised me the most about looking at the people who represent Michael Jackson professionally is how invested the audience is in them - how much genuine love and affection the representers’ audiences have for them, and, in turn, how that affection keeps the representers dedicated to what they do.

Jovan Rameau, Impersonator
Q5: What is one unifying theme among this community?
Looking again at the performances of the impersonators, or representers – when they are performing, either in public or in private paid events, there are these incredible moments of exchange between them and their audiences. It’s a very pure experience for both. All of that story that became Michael Jackson’s story, everything that came to surround him in the last 15 or so years of his life, well, it’s just gone. No one talks about the molestation charges, the trials, the changes in his appearance, his marriages, his children, his extended family, his financial troubles, etc. etc. There’s just the expression of a genuine appreciation for Michael Jackson. I didn’t meet one performer who didn’t genuinely respect him. 

Q6: Is money one of the great motivators for the impersonators, or is it the love of Michael Jackson?
It’s a little bit of both in most cases. I think the impersonators see their affection for Michael Jackson as an avenue to unite those feelings with a way to make a living. From the outside, from our perspective, it probably seems unfathomable that that can be a way to make a living, or a name for oneself, but it’s real for them, they do it, and with success. Varying degrees of success – sometimes it’s financial, Jovan Rameau who is a look alike on Hollywood Boulevard can make between $400 – 500 a day posing for pictures with tourists at about $5 a pop, and sometimes it’s to gain experience in the entertainment world as a manager (I’m thinking of MJ.5 (Scooby) who books and manages his career as a Michael Jackson tribute artist, and sometimes, and this is just my own observation, no impersonator told me this directly, it’s to stay suspended in that kind of affection for Michael Jackson. In other words, it allows certain performers to stay connected to Michael Jackson in a way that is validated by the people in front of who they perform. 

Q7: Do the various impersonators try to also embody Michael Jackson’s worldview as a part of their lifestyle? 
Many of them see Michael Jackson as a great humanitarian, someone who was concerned about human’s impact on the environment, about race relations, and about children. I can think of a few impersonators who have built their local reputation, which I guess you could call their career since they are performing locally, on this kind of thoughtfulness. Jen Amerson, who performs in eastern South Carolina, returns the dance floor after her performances to pose with every person (and usually this means children) who wants to have a photo with her. Mjx Jackson, a performer in New Jersey holds classes where he teaches kids how to dance in the Michael Jackson style. He does this while dressed as Michael Jackson, which adds to his mystique. Even the way they communicate on social media, by ending a post with “Much MJ LOVE”, or something similar, signals an encompassing of what they perceive to be the values he projected to the public.

Q8: In your research, did you witness any episodes where race was an issue between one of the tribute artists and their audience?
It’s funny, when I surveyed the impersonators and tribute artists most of them said there was no issue with them being of a certain race – that may or may not have been Michael Jackson’s, but when I observed a couple of them interacting with audiences, or spent time asking questions in an extended interview context, it was clear that there were some issues there. I never saw incidents where an audience or audience member made a comment about a performer’s race, but one performer, Jovan Rameau said that he frequently hears comments when he’s on Hollywood Boulevard, things directed at him about his skin color being too dark to stand in for Michael Jackson.

Hollywood MJ Christof, Impersonator
Q9: What do you hope this book adds to the already massive #MJ culture?
Michael Jackson has been gone for almost five years. The last few years of his life weren’t his best in terms of maintaining a positive public reputation and creative output. There was so much conjecture and rumor that swirled around him, in fact one of the impersonators told me that in the last few years of Michael Jackson’s life he was not hired often for private parties, and when it was it was as a joke. But with his death, as we’ve seen when other artists and performers die, the value of his artistic contribution has been, and is being reevaluated. Glee, American Idol and America’s Next Top Model have all air episodes centered around Michael Jackson’s songs and look; Phillip Tracey, and Irish designer recently used him as the inspiration for a line of head wear. It’s very exciting to see his work being appraised at different cultural levels.

“The Michael Jacksons” isn’t really a celebration of fandom, though there are aspects of that in the story, it’s instead it offers a possibility for understanding yet another aspect of the impact of Michael Jackson – his ability to remove race from performance in popular music. I’m not saying he did this completely in his own work, nor, perhaps, was that his intention, but when talking with the impersonators and tribute artists that are currently working in his image, it’s clear that Michael Jackson was a figure who transcended contemporary notions of racial categorization and, in most cases, has allowed for the performers to do the same.

Q10: Anything else important to know?
 “The Michael Jacksons” consists of about 100 pages of analysis and story telling, and 35 portraits of performers working at all levels around the US. It is being pre-sold on our website,, this means that we are working within a publishing model where we need to sell a number of copies of the book in order to print it. We will sell this way through 15 February 2014, then, when we reach our goal, we’ll release the book in May 2014, just in time for the fifth anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death this June. 

Lorena Turner is a kind of social scientist with a camera. In her work she creates indexes of contemporary social experience and searches for secret histories in objects and places. Her projects are primarily photographic, but can contain interviews and video, as well as emphasize graphic design. Her work is shown both nationally and internationally. Lorena received an MFA from the University of Oregon, studied sociology at The New School for Social Research in New York City, and teaches photojournalism and documentary studies in the Communication department at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona, California. She resides in both Los Angeles and New York City.

#Excerpt: THE HARDEST PART by Heather London

Book & Author Details:
The Hardest Part by Heather London
Publication date: January 5th 2014
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Emily Anderson and Reed Alexander are living with pasts they cannot escape.

Emily moved to New York City seeking a fresh start, intending to focus on her career and to keep a low profile.

Reed returns home to New York City after two years, haunted by the same things that pushed him away years ago.

When Reed and Emily meet, their connection is undeniable, but Emily keeps her feelings hidden. Falling in love is the last thing on her mind and she knows the danger it may bring not only to her, but to Reed as well. Reed isn’t as reluctant, but he knows that the demons he’s fighting could destroy Emily.

The harder they try to resist one another, the deeper they fall in love, and the more complicated their lives become.

In the end, they realize that truly loving someone may mean letting them go… and that’s the hardest part.



Heather London is a young adult author who loves to write stories full of fantasy, romance, and science fiction. She is a lover of only the finest of coffee and premium craft beer, but will settle for anything chocolate, regardless of its quality. Heather lives with her husband in Dallas, TX where she is currently working hard on her next project.

Author Links:

"Here, take this. We don't have much time." Mike's frantic voice was loud in my ear. Still dazed, I glanced up at him and saw he was holding an envelope out for me to take. My eyes stared at the envelope, but I couldn't make myself reach out for it.

"Emily." Mike's voice was soft but firm. "I know this is a lot to take in, but I need you to concentrate. Take the envelope." He enunciated the last few words slowly, carefully.
My hands shook as I reached out for it. "I'm not sure I can do this, Mike." I finally found my voice. "This is crazy. I—I don't know where to go." Once I had the envelope in my grasp, it felt like it weighed a hundred pounds.

"You can do this. This life you've been living, this isn't a life for you. Anywhere is better than here."

I felt the darkness closing in around me. I could feel my throat getting tighter. My breaths were short and quick. If I didn't calm myself down, I was going to have a full-fledged panic attack. My mind was still trying to process what was happening.

The person I trusted most in the world had woken me up in the middle of the night, just thirty minutes ago, telling me to get dressed and be quiet. I didn't question Mike then. I didn't question him when he led me out of the penthouse suite, or when we he led me down the hall to the back stairwell and came out at the back of the casino. I still didn't question him when I saw his car parked at the end of the dark alley, or when we pulled away from the building without an explanation of any kind. It wasn't until we pulled onto the highway and the bright lights of the Vegas strip were behind us that I finally asked what was going on.

"You're getting out of here, Emily. You're going to get as far away from here as possible," he’d told me.

It was only then that it hit me. He was helping me escape. He was helping me get away from Jake. I was too stunned to say anything then, and I was too afraid to say anything now.
"Emily, are you listening to me? We don't have much time." Mike’s voice was louder now, more demanding. I blinked away my thoughts and looked up at him. He stood a good foot and a half taller than me, his gray hair receding almost to the point of baldness. He was old enough to be my father, and truth be told, he was the closest thing I’d ever had to one.
As I stood here now, I felt like a scared little girl—not sure what to do, looking up at him for the answers.

"The bus should take you to the main station downtown. From there, you choose where to go. You choose how to live your life." He frowned and then his face twisted into something else entirely—tortured and sad. He and I both knew this was probably the last time we’d ever see each other.

"There's a passport, social security card, and twenty thousand dollars in the envelope. It should be enough for you to get on your feet and start a new life, one far away from here." His voice cracked on the last couple words. He cleared his throat, trying to cover up his weakness.
"I don't want his money, Mike." I shoved the envelope back out to him to take. I didn't want any part of him near me.

"It's my money, Emily. Money that I've earned and saved. It's mine and I want you to have it."
"It's still a part of him." I shook my head. "And I can't take your money."
"All those years I looked away. Let him treat you like nothing. All those times I should have helped you. I'll never forgive myself for letting him hurt you for so long." He closed his eyes and paused for a moment, his lips forming into a hard, tight line. "Take it. I need you to take it."

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The ONLY Three Rules You MUST NOT BREAK by Michaelbrent Collings

Writers are fond of finding exceptions. It’s part of who we are, I guess. I mean, if we were people who liked following rules we’d already be in a more “normal” profession. We’d be doctors. Or lawyers. Or terrorists. Anything but these free-wheeling weirdos for whom “Pants Optional” is a huge job perk.

So good luck finding a “writing rule” that really IS a rule.

Imaginary Teacher: In writing we never use run-on sentences.
Imaginary Student Writer: Unless you’re Shakespeare. He did it. Like, all the time.
IT: Yes, well. Of course. So I guess you can use them. Just don’t use sentence fragments.
ISW: Everyone speaks in sentence fragments. And poets pretty much only use them.
IT:  Of course. But one rule is that we never start sentences with a conjunction. And the reason for that is –
ISW: Uhhh… you just did that.
IT: Get out of my class before I kill you.

And the student leaves, usually makes a comment in his mind about how the teacher is teaching because he couldn’t make it as a writer, and goes off and, you know, writes. Usually breaking as many “rules” as possible for spite.

Upshot: no rules.

Except. There are. There really are. Just a few.

Just three. And you can’t break them. Not ever. Not and hope to keep an audience.1

Before we get into those three, let me give you a quick rundown of who I am. Not to brag, but so you know that, unlike the Imaginary Teacher, I’m not a bitter crab of a human who is preaching from a pulpit built of broken dreams and angry might’ve-beens.

I am a bestselling author, a produced screenwriter, and one of Amazon’s Most Popular Horror Writers (for well over a year now). I belong to the Writers Guild of America, which requires you to have sold numerous professional works and is statistically harder to get into than Major League Baseball (no joke). On the Amazon bestseller lists (the big ones, like Horror, Thriller, Sci-Fi, etc.; not the ones like “Bestselling Novels About Cats Named Eugene Who Are Transgender Spies For Unknowing Government Agencies) my books have spent a cumulative total of years (not bad for lists that update hourly). 

As of this writing my twenty-fourth (or is it –fifth?) book,>Crime Seen just came out, and two of my books were just put on the preliminary ballot for this year’s Bram Stoker Awards. Again, not bragging, but so you’ll know when I’m talking about rules I live by, I’m talking about rules I use to actually DO this stuff.

And here they are. There are three. Only three, no more, no less. And every other skill I know, every other technique I use, hangs on the framework provided by one or more of these rules.

1) Bore Me And Die
2) Confuse Me And Lose Me
3) Make Me Better Or Leave Me Alone

Let’s talk about each.

1)  Bore Me And Die

This is first because it MUST be the first consideration of any storyteller. It may not be the most “important” from a cosmic “will I be remembered when I die” sense, but it is first from a “will I even sell a book to anyone in the first place” sense. People come to fiction for many reasons, but the thread that runs through all them is this: they want entertainment. They want to experience new things, to go to places and see new things and be new people they have never been.

How many of you have ever looked for a new and exciting book?  Whoa, don’t crowd me!

How many of you have ever gone on a quest for a boring book about things you do on a daily basis – something titled, perhaps, My Day Eating, Then Making Breakfast, Then Going to the Bathroom, Then Working a Lot at a Job I’m So-So About, Then Eating Some More, Maybe Another Bathroom Break (or Two Depending on if my Fiber Bagel Kicks in), Then Home, Then….

Yeah, you get the point. You probably phased out around the third “then” in the title. That was intentional.

You gotta excite your audience. Not just once, but over and over. Every page, and more than that (since pages for a lot of people are largely a function of how big or small they set their text function on their Nooks or Kindles), every sentence.

Bore me and I’ll put the book down.

Bore me and I’ll look for entertainment elsewhere.

Bore me and you’ve lost my interest as a reader.

Bore me… and die.

2) Confuse Me and Lose Me

This one is a natural extension of the first. You have a riveting story. There’s action, suspense, intrigue, a quirky secondary character with a funny name who collects artisanal bongs and believes the government is secretly stealing his skin. It’s all there.

And the first page starts out:

Dell couldn’t believe it. He was sure it was him that had followed him. Because she was on it when it happened, and she wasn’t there with her. The thing she believed most of all – that God had transported from space and was now there with her – was troubling, but not enough to keep Dell from defending herself from the robot ninja dinosaurs.

Okay, so if you’re like me, you instantly zeroed in on the fact that God came down from space – a highly bizarro and (possibly) fascinating concept. Also, there were robot ninja dinosaurs. Which, as everyone knows, make everything Instantly Awesome.2

But I had NO FROIKIN’ CLUE where these character/set pieces/flaming hot piles of radicalness belonged in the story. I THINK Dell is the main character. But I’m not sure if Dell is following or being followed. I don’t know what “it” she was on, or what “it” happened. Heck, I don’t even really know if Dell is a boy or a girl.


Now a sad reality of life is that books are becoming viewed more and more as consumables, less and less as treasures. A few hundred years ago if you could read and you bought a book and it was difficult, you muscled through it. Because it was something that educated people did and because you wanted to be able to impress yon maeiden faire with your impressive myte and knowledge, true. But also because it was likely the only book you could afford, or even the only one you were going to see for a while. It was a treasure.

Now, books are less and less treasures and more and more consumables. That is great for authors in that people like to read and are plowing through tons of books. It means, though, that a lot of people are going to take any confusion as an excuse (if only subconscious) to put the book down. They’ll watch a show, or feed the kids, or even get another book. Because it’s easy to do all those things, and why try to figure out Dell’s relationship to the robot ninja dinosaurs if there’s probably a TV show on that will explain the legend of RNDs for her, no thinking required?

Books don’t have to be dumbed down. They can be challenging. But I firmly believe that they should say something clearly. If you want to build in layers so that the reader discovers more under the surface on a second (and third and fourth and fifth) read-through, then by all means, do that!

But the first read-through should be understandable. Not just on a macro-level, but a micro-level. Chapters should contribute clearly to the work as a whole. Paragraphs should contain coherent thoughts. Sentences should be phrased so there is no question as to what pronoun refers to what antecedent. Words should be chosen with absolute care.

A few “writers” get all testy about this. “But… but… that’s so much work.”

Yeah. Being a writer is a LOT of work. I used to be a big-city lawyer. Now I’m a laid-back writer. Guess which “me” works longer hours. If you’re afraid of spending time getting it right, go do something easier. Brain surgery, or quantum physics.

You’re a writer. Suck it up.

3) Make Me Better Or Leave Me Alone

A few of you might have noticed that these rules are NOT written from the point of view of the writer. No, they’re written from the point of view of the READER. From the perspective of our AUDIENCE.

This is intentional.

Because the reader is the person on whom I am going to inflict my work. The person who will enjoy my triumphs, but who will have to suffer through my mistakes. And I’m not talking about typos here. I’m not worried about whether I used a semi-colon correctly or if I misspelled “pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanokoniosis.”3

No, I mean that every work that goes out into the world should go out with the intention of improving the world. Of making the world we live in, this lone and dreary place, a little bit better. A little bit closer to Paradise. A little bit closer to God. Even if you don’t believe in God as a reality, just as an abstract – an all-powerful, all-knowing being who wants nothing but the best for us.

Who does that sound like?  An author, perhaps?  You, if you wrote your story correctly?

That’s intentional as well.

You are the god of your story. You craft and create a world, organizing all the ones and zeroes of your computer program into something amazing. Out of the quantum nothing of computerized chaos emerges character, setting, plot.

And what then?

What is the purpose, the point?

Some of you may be turning up your noses at this point, saying, “This is none of his business. I write what I write, and I don’t worry about whether it improves the world. It’s art, dammit!”

But I hope not, because I’ve heard that line of reasoning before, and it always makes me sad. Here’s why: because I have a psychiatrist.

Wait, I’ll explain.

Mental health issues don’t run in my family. They gallop. And then periodic wind-sprints with the song “99 Luftballoons” playing in the background. I don’t know why.

So a lot of us have to see a mental health care person. A therapist, a psychiatrist, or a combination of the two. And they all have one thing in common: they expect US (the patients) to pay THEM (the person listening). Which I think is weird, being as how we’re doing all the talking, but whatever, it’s the way things work I guess.

What does this have to do with writing?  Everything.

I think "artists" – meaning people who do creative stuff and expect others to look at it – have a responsibility to leave their audience better than they were before reading it. This doesn't mean "shiny happy feel-good" necessarily, but BETTER. Sometimes this means challenging them to look at the world in a different way, sometimes it means giving them hope in the darkness, sometimes it means just allowing them some time to escape and enjoy something for a few hours of pure fun.4

But I am disheartened when I hear "artists" talk about how they create without regard to what their art will do or what effect it will have. I have to admit that I always have the same thought when that happens: "You're not an artist, you're an a**hole."

And here’s where the part about my crazy family comes in: if someone is creating without regard for their creation's effect on the outside world, then what they're doing isn't art, it's therapy.  They’re working out their issues, figuring out their damage, opening up their baggage.  They just happen to be doing it for all the world to see.  Unfurling their dirty underwear and waving it around in the front yard like… well, like a crazy person.  And then holding out a hand and saying: “This show is $4.99!”

And remember what I said about therapy?  Remember who has to pay?  That’s right: the person getting treated.  So airing your dirty laundry and then expecting an audience to pay for it isn’t just wrong, it’s bass-ackwards.

No, if you are going to create art and send it into the world, it isn’t for you anymore, it’s for everyone.  Don’t say otherwise – if you do you’re either selfish or a liar.  And if it’s for everyone it should make everyone better.  It should improve the universe that it has become a part of.

It should represent you, and in so doing, should be your agent for positive change.


There really aren’t many rules that you CAN’T break as a writer.  But there are a few.

Three, to be exact.

Break any of them and you’re still writing.  But a WRITER?


1. I’m assuming you are interested in being a professional writer here. And by “professional writer” I mean “gal or guy who writes creative fiction that people will pay for.”  And by that I mean you tell stories, people buy ‘em. Technical writing and the like is slightly different, though it often adheres to some of these rules as well.
2. If you do not believe this, you have no soul and I pity you.
3. I didn’t.  I rock at that word.
4. Just relaxing is important sometimes. Try clenching a muscle and keeping it tense as long as you can, then see how it feels the next day. Ouch! Brains are like that, too. Only it’s messier when we try to bench press something with our minds.

Michaelbrent Collings is a #1 bestselling novelist and produced screenwriter. His most recent novel,, is a paranormal thriller.

He hopes someday to develop superpowers, and maybe get a cool robot arm.

Michaelbrent has a wife and several kids, all of whom are much better looking than he is (though he admits that's a low bar to set), and much MUCH cooler than he is (also a low bar).

Michaelbrent has more writing advice at his website, also has a Facebook page at and can be followed on Twitter through his username @mbcollings. Follow him for awesome news, updates, and advance notice of sales. You will also be kept safe when the Glorious Revolution begins!