It Ain’t Just Talk: 3 Crucial Elements of Great Dialog

Dialogue. It can really help your story, or… it can hurt.

Kristen Lamb's Blog

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She’s baaaaack. Well, sort of. Today I have an extra special treat. This is going to sound super conceited but whatever, it is MY blog😛 . But first lemme caveat with this.

I feel I DO have a knack for predicting the next big thing. Case in point, in 1993 I was at an air show and there was an unknown all-female band I chatted with because no one was really over there. I loved their unique sound and gushed over how one member employed the banjo (an instrument forgotten at that time).

I told them I was sure they were going to be the next biggest thing in country music, and even bought some of the cheap merchandise they sold to support their music and prove I meant what I said.

That little band was The Dixie Chicks.

I’ve done this time and time again with authors and…

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The Typewriter

In this era of wifi and amazing take-it-for-granted technology, some may not remember typewriters. Many of them were clumsy things. Okay all of them were. If you hit two letters too closely together, the keys would “stack up” and you had to push them back down and try again. And I won’t even get started on manual typewriters. Yes, we had electricity, but at one time all typewriters were manual. How barbaric!

And correcting errors, well, it was just best not to make any mistakes. Of course IBM came out with a typewriter that used a little ball instead of individual keys. No more stacking up of keys. Those were faster.

I wanted a typewriter when I was in the seventh grade. I’ve always liked machines and I thought being able to type would be grand.

So being the spoiled little girl that I was, I announced to my parents that I wanted a typewriter.

You have to realize, that was a radical idea at the time. Several people told my parents I was too young to learn how to type. Just too young, they said. I wouldn’t be able to learn the “correct” way to type and that would be worse than not typing at all, they said. There were many and varied reasons why they discouraged my parents from getting me a typewriter and I admit I was a little worried.

I’m not sure when I first heard the story of my mother not being allowed to take typing class because she was a “farm girl”, but it stuck with me. You see, my mother was raised on a farm. Her daddy farmed for a living. He actually did a lot of things for a living back in the red clay hills of depression-era Louisiana. He began as a sharecropper and eventually had some land of his own. They had six children and all of them had to help with the farm work. They milked cows, fed pigs and chickens and gathered eggs.

And when the crops came in… they helped with that too. Oh, and cotton, yes cotton was king back then and a cash crop for my grandparents. My mother says that to this day if she drives past a cotton field, her back hurts. We’re surrounded by cotton fields here.

Education was always very important to my family. Neither of my grandparents finished high school. They had to work in order to eat. They were very proud when their children graduated high school. Granddaddy sold a cow to buy my mother a graduation ring. In fact, I think he sold a cow to buy every one of his children a graduation ring when they graduated. My mother’s ring didn’t even have a stone in it, but it was very pretty. I wish I had it now.

This brings us to the typewriter story. In high school my mother wanted to take typing, but there was a problem. There were six girls and only 5 typewriters. The school told her she could not take typing because she was a “farm girl”. The precious typewriters were reserved for “town girls”. I can see their logic. “Town girls” had a better chance of getting a job where they might have to use a typewriter. “Farm girls”, not so much.

I cannot know how she felt when the “town girls” went to their typing class, but I imagine she felt like a second class citizen.

I don’t think my mother ever truly got over that. When she graduated, she went to work as a waitress. She rented a room from a lady in town and worked at the one and only local café. It worked out okay, because that’s where she met my daddy and that was a very good thing.

She was a housewife until I got to high school. Then she worked at a cash and carry store and later a bank. She answered the switchboard and enjoyed it. She had opportunities to move up at the bank, but she turned all of them down. She worked many years on the switchboard. All those years and she was only held up once. But in all those years, she never had a typing job.

Only a handful of times did she mention the typewriter. She could never move into a position that required her to type. I offered to teach her, the bank offered to send her to a typing class. She always refused.

I wonder if she ever wonders what her life might have been like had she learned to type. “Water under the bridge” as they say.

Oh, I got my typewriter. My daddy also bought me a record and a book so I could learn to type properly on my manual typewriter. Yes, it was pretty radical back then. Not as radical as a “farm girl” learning to type, but pretty radical.

I have made my living using a keyboard. Yes, typing.

Symbolism & Setting—The Perfect Marriage

These are the nuances that make so much difference in a story you experience or one that you read.

Kristen Lamb's Blog

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Today I have two very special guests. Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi are here to talk about a more advanced concept in fiction—symbol. Take it way, ladies!


We all want our writing to be layered. Like a gourmet meal, we want there to be more to them than just what is seen on the surface. In stories, this depth can be added a number of ways—through subplots, character arc, subtext, theme, and symbolism. Of them all, I think symbolism is one of the simplest methods to employ, and it packs a serious wallop.

Symbolism is important because it turns an ordinary object, place, color, person, etc. into something that goes beyond the literal. Babies represent innocence and unlimited potential, spring is synonymous with rebirth, shackles symbolize slavery, the color white brings to mind purity.

Symbols like these are universal in nature because they mean the same thing to many…

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I was a single parent for many years. Even after I remarried, I kept some of the same policies in place. I had a set limit I would pay for jeans, shoes, etc. If my children wanted the designer stuff, they had to earn the money to pay the difference.

My daughter and one of her friends had a discussion that she shared with me. She and her friend were reminiscing about the books they bought as children/teenagers. There was a little sheet of paper that they passed around in school. Really, it was two pages, front and back advertising the paperback books they could buy. She shared how she carefully considered each book and read the information about it.

After much consideration, she chose the books she wanted because while there was a set limit for clothing and shoes, there was no limit on books. She giggled when she recalled how she could have all the books she wanted. Still, she was very cautious with her single parent’s limited income.

My daughter told me how she and her friend enjoyed sharing their similar stories about clothes allowances that were limited and book allowances that never were. Then she confided there weren’t many people she could share that with and how great it was to find someone else who understood what she went through as a child.

While she was growing up, the “hard times” seem to have morphed into a badge of honor. Funny how that happens. And now here she is, years later sharing that experience with her close friend who understood what she was talking about.

I can still see her, bent over that sheet of books and reading about each one before finally deciding on the best ones to order and using her pencil to mark that sheet.

I did the same thing in school. There was never a limit on how many books I could get.

My oldest granddaughter is a big reader too. My daughter told me recently that she needed to have all the books she wanted and she would help pay for the books. Of course, these days, most of the books come from Amazon, but some still come from bookstores.

My son recently said that while most parents worried about keeping their growing children in shoes and clothes, he had to be concerned with keeping his oldest daughter in books.

I guess the time for the old two sheets, front and back that the school handed out for children to order books has gone.

We’re all still reading and now some of us are writing books as well. Nothing compares to the adventures we can have when reading. And isn’t that great?

3 Mistakes that Will Make Readers Want to Punch a Book in the Face

I have a special category on my Kindle… TSTL. Too stupid to live. I don’t buy anything by those authors again. It may not be fair as they may get better, but there are so many books to read and so little time…

Kristen Lamb's Blog

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To do my job well, I do a tremendous amount of reading. Additionally, I make it a point to make sure I read different genres so I get a sense of what writers do well (or not so well) regardless of the type of story.

I’ve been inhaling Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch series as of late and I got ahead of my credits so I decided instead to take advantage of Audible’s Daily Deal. It was a suspense from a legacy published author. The book had almost a thousand reviews and almost all of them four and five stars. So I figured, why not?

Take a chance.

Shoot. Me. Now.

That was me. That was me.

The book was absolutely awful. I won’t say which book because I won’t do that to another author. I have a personal rule. If I can’t give a book 4 stars or more I just shut up…

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Margaret Harlowe – Author Interview


Today we’ll be hearing from Margaret Harlowe, a writer of steamy romance.  My comments will be in Italics. 

  1. Where are you currently living?

I live in the glorious Rocky Mountains, which inspire some of my writing. My erotic romance novel is set in Wyoming and throughout the Western United States.

Margaret Harlowe is a pen name, and HANDS ON THE WHEEL is my first erotic romance novel. I don’t think it will be my last. Because I live in a very small town, I don’t want to reveal my name. I have written three other published books under my real name: two historical novels and one non-fiction title.

Way to go! The Rockies are beautiful.

  1. What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

I use a very loose outline method, listing scenes in the order in which I think they should appear, shifting them around and changing them as I go. This listing technique helps me imagine my scenes and create a fast-paced narrative.

That is cool. I should do that as well.

  1. Why self-publish?

For me, it boiled down to either moving forward into Amazon’s self-publishing platforms or allowing my fiction to sit around collecting dust. While being an indie author is an awful lot of work (it truly is!), I could no longer tolerate waiting and waiting and waiting for responses, or non-responses, from traditional publishers and literary agents. I decided to take charge of my own publishing. I’m very glad I did, although I wish my books earned more money for me.

That’s pretty much the same reason I self-published. It is hard work, but in the end, it’s faster. The big publishers aren’t sure how to handle the change in their market.

  1. Any insights about eBooks vs. print books?

I like to think that eBooks are inspiring a literary renaissance. I have been amazed by how many Kindle eBooks I sell, compared to paperbacks. Probably ten times more. When I self-published my first novel, I went to the trouble of formatting it for eBook outlets such as Nook and Smashwords. For subsequent novels, though, I have stayed with Kindle only – partly from laziness, since formatting is a lot of work, and partly from the fact that Kindle is by far my bestselling eBook outlet. This might be a mistake, but I’m not sure. Also, this may differ from genre to genre.

Romance is supposed to sell better in e-book formats.

  1. Do you have any suggestions for new writers?

Writing is the hardest work in the world – if you want to write WELL. Aim for the best writing you can produce, whether you are self-publishing or trying for an agent and publisher. NEVER settle for having mistakes in your books. Hire a professional editor and follow his/her advice. Invest in a good style manual, such as the Chicago Manual of Style, so that you can find answers to the inevitable grammar, punctuation, and usage questions that come up. Then, having done this important homework, enjoy the end result of your wonderful discipline.

Great advice and you’re right, it is hard work.

  1. What’s a surprising thing you learned during your creative process with your books?

I have been delighted at times (though not often enough) when writing seems to flow through me, making me feel as if the words and/or scenes are coming from somewhere else. I love it when that happens!

I see… magic. Sounds good to me.

  1. What makes your or any book stand out from the crowd?

I think a book stands out when the cover, the title, and the story concept are carefully, skillfully conceived. Next, the writing has to be clean, concise, and entertaining. For me, a stand-out story must be character-driven with plenty of human interest. I like books I can escape into, from erotic romance to sweet romance to historical fiction and women’s fiction.

As for my book, HANDS ON THE WHEEL: A Sinfully Erotic Trucker Romance, one element that makes it stand out is that my main characters are mature adults who bring realistic baggage to their very steamy relationship. Also, my book is well-written, with no mistakes. This should not be a stand-out quality. However, in the Erotic Romance genre it is, unfortunately. I’ve been told that my book’s quick pacing is extraordinary, too. It’s a quick, hot, entertaining read – sweet and erotic at the same time.

I agree. The pacing is great and the book is well written and very well edited and the story is sweet.

  1. What are some ways in which you promote your work?

Twitter. I spend an awful lot of time on there, building my following and retweeting others. Also, I have been submitting my erotic romance for reviews on romance sites that accept erotic romance.

Sounds good. Twitter is great!

  1. What is the one thing you would do differently now and why?

Book launches. It’s difficult for me to patiently prepare for a book launch. Once I’m finally finished writing and editing and revising a novel, I itch to get it out there. With HANDS ON THE WHEEL, I didn’t do enough preparing for its launch. As a result, it is difficult to get it noticed in the extremely crowded, huge Erotic Romance category.

It’s difficult to be great at every aspect of publishing, especially after you write the story. 

  1. What would you like carved onto your tombstone? Or what saying or mantra do you live by?

Maybe my tombstone could include my favorite saying. So, here’s what I would like carved on my tombstone:

‘Our lives are frittered away by detail. Simplify. Simplify.’ – Thoreau

She tried.

That’s beautiful. Margaret Harlowe, thank you for sharing with us.

And the link to Margaret Harlowe’s latest book…

And you can find Margaret Harlowe on twitter at:


13 Ways Writers are Mistaken for Serial Killers

This is too fun. And too true.

Kristen Lamb's Blog

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I love being a writer. It’s a world like no other and it’s interesting how non-writers are simultaneously fascinated and terrified of us. While on the surface, people seem to think that what we do is easy, deep down? There is a part that knows they’re wrong. That being a writer, a good writer, is a very dark place most fear to tread.

In fact, I think somewhere at the BAU, there’s a caveat somewhere. If you think you profiled a serial killer, double check to make sure you didn’t just find an author.

Hint: Check for empty Starbuck’s cups.

Writers, if you are NOT on a government watch list? You’re doing it wrong.

Seriously. I took out my knee last week (ergo the sudden dropping off the face of the blogosphere) which just left me a lot of free time to…

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Why I am self-published

Re-blogged from VIVIENNE TUFFNELL. I also decided to self-publish, but I never even tried traditional publishing. I just didn’t have time. I love this post.

Zen and the Art of Tightrope Walking

Why I am self-published

(content note for VERY strong language)

Recently the whole self-published versus traditionally published wrestling match has reignited, following a post by Ros Barber in the Guardian online. I’m not going to address the article because that would be juvenile, petty and a waste of time. More than that, it would only be my opinion and that is of little real worth. I am no one of note, or of influence. I’m an author who self-published, which makes me mud on the shoes of many.

In the 90’s I spent a couple of years going through the rigmarole of jumping through the hoops set by publishers and agents. Combined with an absurdly low income at the time that meant affording printer paper and postage was a big deal, the whole time was intensely stressful. I got asked for full manuscripts many times, and some went through several…

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