Cyndi Carter: Follow their Example

The following is a guest post by Cyndi Carter, author of the teen/young adult fantasy ‘The Road Home.’

Follow their Example

I hope you have a favorite author (or two) that you enjoy reading. I enjoy the characters in the stories, and it’s like visiting with old friends. I feel like I’m getting to know the author, too, and it’s like spending time with him or her.

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and I believe that. Reading and rereading my favorite stories has enriched my thinking and my speaking. I hold these writers as dear friends. When we moved into our house six years ago, one of the first things my husband and I did was to unpack the books and put “our friends” on the bookshelves.

Learn from your favorite authors. What do they do that you like? Do you like their sense of humor? How do they make a character or a scene come alive? How do they weave the story – chronologically, parallel plot lines, or flashbacks?

If you want to be a writer, be a reader.

Cyndi Carter lives in Clearwater, Florida with her husband John and dog Max.  She enjoys reading, history, language, cooking, and almost all kinds of music.  Celtic and traditional music are special loves.  They make her heart sing.

Cyndi’s website:

Cyndi’s Facebook author page:

Cyndi’s book: The Road Home


Gun Defenselessness Laws: Feeling more safe, being less safe

The other day a bunch of indoctrinated school children marched out of class, probably with adult encouragement, to demand more Gun Defenselessness laws. They claim only more Gun Defenselessness laws will keep them safe.

Since people willing to break the law in a mass shooting are also willing to steal guns or buy them illegally if they have to, the Gun Defenselessness laws only affect the kind of people who would defend people from a mass shooter. One early school shooting was stopped by a teacher who went out to his locked car to retrieve his hunting gun. That action would now be illegal because of gun-free school laws.

Some people think that schools can be safe if armed police officers are forced to run into shooting scenes without knowing if they are running in to the line of fire. There is not enough money in the world to force police officers to do that. Nor will they be willing to search all American homes to search for guns— the only way Gun Defenselessness laws will affect the gun supply. You can’t pay people enough to sacrifice their lives uselessly.

Several mass shootings have taken place in buildings that proclaim themselves gun-free zones. Of course. Shooters don’t care to be shot back at.

Another proposal is to demonize people who have ever sought therapy of any sort, since they might be ‘mentally ill.’ Most mentally ill people are not dangerous, and a military veteran who went to marriage counselling should not lose his right to hunt and to protect himself with guns.

Statistics show there is actually more ‘gun crime’ in locations with a lot of gun defenselessness laws. Places where a lot of law-abiding people own guns have less ‘gun crime’ and violent crime. Because criminals are afraid of getting shot.

Gun Defenselessness laws make people less safe, even though they may feel safer because they have been indoctrinated. Let us hope that the indoctrinated children will somehow learn how to think logically and check their facts before they get to voting age.

‘Unprofessional’ for a writer to use a free blog or website?

Here is where I have to disagree with the ‘experts’, specifically Joanna Penn. She says that using free blogging services— and Blogger in my case, is ‘unprofessional’ and that discerning viewers can tell a free website and, evidently, look down on you for it.

Even people who have plenty of money might choose to not spend more of it on paid blog services and domain names and such. And also, it might be a sign of solidarity with poor, disabled, and other disadvantaged writers and aspiring writers who haven’t made it big yet.

If you are a writer or aspiring writer with Asperger Syndrome [autism spectrum disorder], you have according to some statistics an 80% chance of being unemployed— even though the Asperger Syndrome diagnosis (when they still had it) rules out retardation and extreme low-functioning. It’s hard to get even the most menial job when employers take one look at you and see you as ‘odd’ and ‘shifty’ because you can’t make eye contact correctly!

Writing was one of the recommended careers for Aspies according to one book I read, and the prospect gives a lot of us hope. But being told you have to spend money on just starting a blog….. There are better things to save our limited funds for.

There is also the case of homeless aspiring writers who are bloggers. I’ve read of a case where a homeless girl wrote a popular blog about her homeless life and eventually got a book deal. She wrote her blog, I assume, with a free blogging service, and used the computers in public libraries.

I reject the notion that you need to pay for your blog and for a domain name to be serious about being a ‘professional’ writer. I have seen writers who have tried to save money on a domain name and turned their free blog into something less functional. If your words are good, people won’t notice your blog isn’t a paid one. If your words are not yet good because you are still learning, people won’t notice your blog’s free status either because they will either criticize you (a good thing) or just look down on you.

What is an author brand, anyway?

“If you are an author, you need a brand!” they keep saying but they rarely explain what they mean by brand. It’s not cowboys on horses rounding up a herd of authors and applying hot metal brands to tender author-flesh.

According to Jeff Goin’s book, ‘You are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One)’, an author brand has three elements.

  • Author name. Ideally, your real name. But if you have the family name of Dickens and the first name of Charles, you need a pen name. Same if you could lose your day job by the politically incorrect things you write, or if it would cause problems to your family members.
  • Image. Your author photo. It’s like when you are on Facebook and someone you know ONLY on Facebook has a photo of himself as his FB profile picture and it kind of feels like you know him in real life. Or it could be a logo. That’s less personal, you need a reason to use a logo, and you need a professional to design one unless you are a professional graphic designer.
  • Your Voice. That’s the hardest one. A writer needs to develop a unique voice and no one really tells you how to do that. But it’s really just when you are being YOU and you say the you-things you might say in real life with your friends. OK, when you are writing online or in books you may develop you-things to say that you wouldn’t say in real life. Maybe it’s just the a few unique turns of phrase you have that you use in certain situations, or some issues you can’t shut up about. If you are still unsure, ask some of your best social media friends— ‘Is there something you recognize about the things I say when I post? So if I posted on someone else’s account by mistake, you would guess it’s really me?’

Warning: Although your voice will develop and change over time, you shouldn’t be switching names or images/logos much. Once you start putting yourself out there as a writer/aspiring writer, you can’t expect people to follow you to your new identity.
If your image is your author photo, it’s better to keep the same one for a long period of time than to switch each week. If you need to update because your old photo was taken when you were twenty and you are now 108, try to have similarities in your background, clothing and overall look so people can pretend to recognize you. Remember, Coca-Cola is a success because it’s kept the same name and logo for a lot of years! You need to do the same.

How New Author Bloggers can get Readers, Part 1

Imagine you just started your author-blog yesterday. You wrote a blog post that is really fine-and-dandy. But it will probably be a while before you start getting discovered by readers. What can you do, right now, to get your posts read?

One thing that has worked for me is the Insecure Writer’s Support Group or IWSG. It is a monthly blog hop for writers which has really blossomed in to something big. It takes place the first Wednesday of every month. Here is where you sign up.

It’s a very LONG list of participants. And they weed out the people who forget to participate regularly. Now, just this list of subscribers is gold, because it is a list of active author bloggers.

Best Practices for IWSG Participants

     Your Post

The group is about sharing your insecurities as a writer. DON’T write a post that sounds like a blurb from your book. Write something that shares a little of yourself, and how you are not quite 100% confident about your writing. But— here’s an important hint— don’t sound TOO insecure. You want other people to have some confidence in your writing. So don’t write an ‘everything I write is utter dreck’ post because that encourages people to believe it! Write something about one little thing that is giving you trouble. Or that you worry about. As in my own case: I’m working on a zombie apocalypse story, and I finally have a good name for my Hero: Eirik, a Viking form of Erik. But in this case his birth name was Frederick. It’s great, and Frederick has resonance with me because I had a grandfather Frederick. And my other grandfather had the middle name of Friedrich, German for Frederick. But then I realized— the name Eric is close to Rick, the hero of the zombie TV show The Walking Dead. What is my subconscious mind trying to do to me?

Visiting blogs

The number one thing that the IWSG does for you is gets you to visit other people’s blogs. And the one thing you have to do is to write comments on blogs. Any blogs. All blogs. Except porn/erotic-romance writer’s blogs, of course. (Their writing world is not our world.)

Comments can and should be short, but they should show that you have actually read the blog post in question. ‘Nice post’ does not cut it. ‘Nice post about your cat’s flea infestation’ does.

There are four kinds of blogs on the IWSG that it pays to comment on:

  • The ones at the very bottom, who have just signed up and who may not be used to getting comments on their blog
  • The ones at the very top, who are regular participants and who get lots of comments on their IWSG posts (make yours memorable.)
  • The ones in the middle, who don’t get the attention that the bottom and top do
  • Your regulars. These are the people who, after a few months of participation, you think are good matches for you and your blog. Perhaps they are writing in your genre, or they share your worldview, or maybe they are just funny or have great content or share cute pictures of their cat. Make a list of these blogs you like and be sure to visit them each time.

Being visited

Remember to visit back on the blogs of your commenters. I’m really insecure about doing that because visiting back feels too much like social interaction and as a person with Asperger Syndrome (autism spectrum disorder) that’s difficult and scary.

Mark the Date

It’s easy to forget about the date of the IWSG, which is the first Wednesday of the month, so mark it on your calendar and put a note on the wall of your writing room. It’s a very worthwhile effort for those with new or rarely visited blogs.


When platform building just doesn’t work

I know the advice for writers is to build a platform, build an audience. But the problem is that as soon as a learn how to do something that builds my platform, something changes and my strategy no longer works.

For a while I thought that blogging was dead and I should post everything on Facebook or other social media. But then they made changes to Facebook and all the strategies failed.

This makes me feel like a failure in general. Like nobody is interested in what I have to say. Which is probably true because I’m weird. But really, it is just that all the social media change their rules to make more money, and we lose all our effective platform building strategies with each change.

And so I fall back on my blog. It’s always been at the core of my platform building. I started blogging when blogging was new. And it is still a good place to express my ideas and get them out to people who might like it. Or like to bully me because of it.

The one thing I think of is that I need to figure out how to attract the right sort of people to my blog. It does no good to ME to have people read all or part of a blog post if they hate Christians/Catholics and only read books by atheists. Or people who don’t really read books at all, when there are so many movies and video games to entertain them.

And another aspect of ‘platform building’ – I need to do more to promote the books of my author friends. I don’t know whether to do more review posts dedicated to one book, or maybe a ‘book roundup’ that introduces 5 or so books. Because I don’t really like blogs that are just book review after book review.


The Protagonist as Hero: Dexter Morgan

It used to be that writing theory called the central character of the novel the hero. Today terms like ‘protagonist’ or ‘main character’ are more popular, and even ‘antihero.’ What is the difference? I propose it is that the hero practices one or more virtues— habits of choosing the good rather than the bad.

Perhaps it is the secularist writing experts who make it impossible to say ‘hero’ about everyone that is not morally perfect. Christians know that they only perfect Man was Jesus Christ, and His very perfection makes it difficult to use Him as the main character in a work of fiction.

The reason that the Hero was popular is because the reader would rather identify with a somewhat good character than with a nasty sort. The Hero can have flaws just like the Villain can have virtues, but we really don’t like to root for the guy who beats up his three-year-old or who rapes prostitutes for fun.

An example of this is Dexter Morgan. He actually is a somewhat Heroic character, in spite of his bad habit of being a serial killer. The author of the book series has negated the bad effect of this bad habit through several means:

  • Dexter is a ‘good’ serial killer who doesn’t prey on victims who excite him, or victims whose deaths will bring him personal profit, like real serial killers. He preys only on other serial killers, and he uses his forensic skills and police connections to make sure his victims are guilt. In other words, he acts as an unofficial supporter of the law, although he is breaking the law. Serial murder is one crime that cries out for the death penalty, both as a matter of justice and because it’s never safe to risk letting a habitual murder out of prison.
  • Dexter’s sister and her ‘vicious arm punches.’ Dexter has a very bossy sister, Deb, who often punches Dexter in the arm just to get his attention. Dexter doesn’t respond by pulling out his flensing knife, but he usually does what his sister wants. He even loves his sister, to the extend that he can love people.
  • Dexter as a henpecked husband. Dexter’s wife Rita is also bosses Dexter around, though in a gentler way. He appreciates her good cooking. He may claim he can’t love anyone, but he certainly acts like he loves Rita. She is also useful to him, as she expects him to act like a ‘normal’ husband and tells him the things she expects him to do to fit that role.
  • Dexter as a protector and friend of children. Dexter particularly loves to kill serial killers who prey on children. And he is good with kids, especially his stepchildren. It’s perhaps because Dexter was traumatized as a child himself.

So you see, Dexter Morgan has enough heroic qualities that we feel good about rooting for him in his hunt for the serial killing villains who take innocent victims. As a serial killer, Dexter may seem to be a villain, not a hero. But in the context of Dexter-world, he is so much more virtuous than the more wicked killers he is chasing, that he IS enough of a hero that readers can identify.

As writers who want our fiction to win over readers, we should make it easy for them. Make our main characters heroes— both by giving them virtues, and by giving the villains vices. If your hero has major moral flaws like Dexter does, give him some virtues, and a villain who has much worse moral flaws. No matter how much a reader might claim he has rejected traditional moral rules, he will still prefer to root for a character that has some good in him.