Advice to Newbies

blog-hop-buttonAs an author, copy and content editor, former publisher, and a former board member of the Baltimore Writers’ Alliance, I have given this advice to a number of aspiring AND established writers.

Suggestion One:

Keep writing, save everything, even if you think it’s crap. Get the word count under your belt because it is the foundation upon which your published work will rest and it will help develop your writer’s voice. It’s the doing that makes you good and the good stuff gets rewritten and edited until it is publishable. Keep these four words of wisdom in mind: FIRST DRAFTS SUCK. ALWAYS.

Suggestion Two:

Know your market—your target audience. Read what they read and make sure you enjoy it. If you don’t, you’re in the wrong market. There are so many genres and subgenres out there, you shouldn’t have a problem finding your niche.

Suggestion Three:

Research the tools of writing such as structure, point of view, and tension. Follow the blogs of writers whose work you enjoy. Sign up for newsletters on writing. There are many books out there on writing and no matter your level of professional acclaim, it is always, ALWAYS good to go back to the basics and review them with a matured sensibility.

moon portal

Suggestion Four:

Start writing a blog. Write about the things that vex you, the things that make you deliriously happy, and the hobbies you have. Show people the many facets of you. Even though your followers may not be thick on the ground now, the followers that fall onto your path later are going to look at previous posts to get a better sense of you. Use this tool to build a sense of connection with your readership. I personally enjoy but I also have my posts published on Blogger because of the connectivity with all my other Google apps.

Suggestion Five:

Think about how appropriate it would be for you to adopt a pen name now before you become a public personality. I work in law enforcement and use my legal name to perform my duties. I was creeped out by how often the people I came into contact in my official capacity would Google my name and find my public profiles such as LinkedIn and Facebook. I had to change my public name to protect my livelihood and my privacy. If you do adopt a pen name, choose something unique and yet eponymous to your intended genre. Google it and if the name doesn’t have hits, run with it.

Suggestion Six:

It is never too late to start building a social media presence. Start with goodreads to participate with other authors and readers. Once you’ve established your brand and gotten an idea of which direction you’re going, set up a separate Facebook and Twitter account under that brand. Pinterest and LinkedIn are other good mediums. Learn how to use them now and you’ll be ready to promote your work and commune with your readership.


Copyright © 2014 “Advice to Newbies” by I.O. Kirkwood. All rights reserved.

First World Problems-poetry review

I’m a fan of poets and poetry, but sometimes poetry is just too dense. It’s like running a marathon all from the comfort of my armchair. It’s not something I enjoy doing at first and then it starts to feel good and then I don’t want to stop. I’m wide awake on adrenalin and before long the chapbook—c’est fini.

I picked up Adam Moursy’s book of poems, Dizzied By Chance, and wondered what to expect since these poems were touted to be of a Fringe Existence. This is what I found—poems that are raunchy, urbane, laced with First World desperation, and that require a 12-step program all their own. From one mind-twisting relationship to the next and from one drunk to another, the ennui and disarray of the narrator’s interior word are reflected in the exterior reality.

Dizzied by Change

“damnation” is a particular favorite because it succinctly describes what I call “the luck o’ the Irish.” If anyone ever wishes that kind of luck on you, punch that person in the throat. ‘Tis not a good thing.

“all I did was ask what she’s into…” struck a chord because it spoke to the deviant in me. We all have those things that we don’t tell other people unless we’re very drunk or feel very safe. I’m thinking she was drunk.

Perhaps my favorite is “spread the word.”

now I need to tweet

now I need to blog…

and the ending just blew me away because it so captured how I feel about social media as an artist (as opposed to a business woman). If anything makes me dizzy, it’s Twitter.

“bestial” was high up there too. I like books, songs, and poems that mention the Devil (must be capitalized) and God in the same paragraph. The twist at the end gave me a deep satisfaction.

I also felt that “dinner with Jesus,” which addresses the end-of-times and the futility of waiting for it to happen, was a timely rant. With Ragnarok predicted for February 22, 2014, thus having come and gone, I think it most fitting to mention. Perhaps Moursy could follow up with a poem about the crushed faith of the believers in his next volume. That would be tasty. Hail the almighty taco!

“hot damn” was the one poem that did nothing for me. I think every good work has that one flaw that proves the creator is human. As with all art, my opinion is subjective and others might rave about this particular offering, but it left me limp. Perhaps it was the incessant splishing and splashing – all those “esses” creating a cognitive dissonance that perhaps was intended.

As I write this, I think that Moursy should consider joining a melodic death metal band, perhaps with some metal core elements. This way he can scream with rage at God and the Devil in one song while moaning over his failed schizophrenic relationships in another. Add some majestic guitars, some thundering bass and drums, and I would seriously throw out my neck. I knew there was a reason I read the whole volume in one sitting. \m/

Copyright © 2014 “First World Problems—poetry review” by I.O. Kirkwood. All rights reserved.

Social Media Is My Friend

I say this to myself in the mirror every morning: “Social media is my friend.” I’ve been doing this since October of 2013 while having a seriously twisted love-hate relationship with Twitter, falling head-over-heels for Pinterest, and trying to figure out how to get stuff to post on my Facebook Page without getting my Facebook involved. Tricky, tricky, tricky.

I’m going to tell you about the tools I’ve discovered, but I also want to give you insight into some of my experiences with the various social media. I participate in a number with varying degrees of success.

creative person's mind and Blogger

I love my blogSleeping half-moon(s). I take great satisfaction in posting to them. Though they do strange things like insert crescent moons into my text, I think I thrive on the chaos of it all. Here are a couple of things I’ve learned about writing a blog:

1. Keep the posts short (300 – 500 words).

2. Post regularly.

3. If someone takes the time to comment, respond.

4. Pick a day of the week, maybe the day you post, to look through fellow bloggers’ sites and make comments. I know I feel loved when I see a comment.


I have wrestled with serious obstacles using Twitter. Its immediacy can be overwhelming to an introvert like me. I also get very upset when I experience a drop in followers. It feels like high school all over again. Here are a couple things I’ve learned about Tweeting:

1. Retweets are GOOD. To give and to receive.

2. #FF (Follow Fridays) should be observed with zeal (see IFTTT for ways to collect follower information).

3. Hash tags are your friends. Remember to use them (and I forget all the time).

4. Twitter is about groupings. It’s like creating the perfect dinner party with just the right mix of people who share similar interests but are different enough to share unique perspectives.


I don’t just like this application, I LURVE it. I pin my blog posts, fan pictures, funny memes, writing tips, books I want to read, recipes—I could go on and on and I would but this is a blog post. Here are a couple of things I’ve learned about Pinterest:

1. Group boards are fun as long as you enjoy the content. I declined a Bollywood Actress board only to have the same person ask me to post to a Funny board, which I accepted. Optimal posting is once a day on a group board.

2. Your content improves the more people you follow so having a whacky ratio of 200 followers to the 571 you follow is OK.

3. Pin what you love and make comments. Show people YOU and don’t be surprised when your stuff gets repinned.

4. I’ll follow All of someone’s boards, but will unfollow a particular board (rather than the person) if it gets on my nerves (Boards about manicures irritate me and I unfollow those right quick). This avoids hurt feelings.

Facebook Page

Most of us have a Facebook. What I’m talking about here is a Facebook Page. I have an Author page. I try to post content relative to the theme of the page. It’s a beast to manage. Here are a couple of things I’ve learned about Facebook Page:

1. FB Page is notoriously exclusive in what it will allow you to post and which applications it will interact with.—nope. Hoot Suite—nope. Twitter—nope. You get the idea.

2. The analytics are nifty but you have to reach 50 likes to even see these metrics.

3. You can’t sign up for anything if you’re logged in as your FB Page.

4. I haven’t figured out all of the things you CAN’T do, but I’m sure I will as I try to figure out what it CAN do.

Social Media Is Your Friend Tools

1. Hoot Suite: this helps you schedule tweets, Facebook posts (not Page posts), Linked In updates, and WordPress posts. There is an auto-schedule feature that I adore. While I’m working, I can look like I’m not as Hoot Suite releases my tweets and posts throughout the day.

2. IFTTT: I just found this baby. This application runs on the premise of If This Then That (they call it a Recipe). I can use a pre-made recipe to gather new follower information into a spreadsheet. I can create a recipe that posts to my FaceBook PAGE if I tweet with the #bloghop in it. I can also post simultaneously to my WordPress and Blogger sites with a pre-made recipe. Seriously exciting stuff!

And Resources

3. If you’re a writer, you’ve probably subscribed to various writing websites. If they offer you a free tutorial on social media, CHECK IT OUT! I received a free Twitter Guide from Book Baby that has cleared all the boogey men out of that particular closet. I don’t use everything in one book either. I pick and choose to create a set of tools that work for me.

4. I have a subscription to Write To Done and that has been worth it’s weight in daily digests. I hesitate to defer an email from them. Write To Done talks about the business of social media for the author (and other things), but it can also give musicians and artists insight into what works and why, especially if the idea is to cross genres to appeal to writers as a market (we like music—and art).

I had posted last month that one of my goals was to get my Social Media under control and it looks like I’ve found a few interesting keys to make it happen.

Copyright © 2014 “Social Media Is My Friend” by I.O. Kirkwood. All rights reserved.

Character Sketch: Laney Brennan

blog-hop-buttonI build characters in my head. I talk to them and sometimes I answer out loud. My kids think I’m crazy. They’re right but not for the reasons they think.

I hate doing character sketches where I sit down and write everything out. I feel overwhelmed as I try to figure out if it’s me talking or my character. Sometimes I worry that I’m limiting my character by putting everything on paper. This time though, I think my heroine is so real that even though she has similar interests and opinions as me, what shaped these interests and opinions are unique to her. She also seems flexible, as if she will grow and evolve.

I decided to knuckle down and put Laney Brennan, field correspondent for Metal Fusion Magazine, to paper using two questionnaires. The first I used can be found here:

Character Profile

from Laura Hayden’s “Left-Brain-Right Brain/Creativity Program”

This worksheet starts off with the basics: appearance, habits, philosophy, and how the character interacts with others. More importantly it addresses dominant character traits and the traits that complement or oppose that dominant trait. You should have two admirable traits and one that surprises your reader. What makes this worksheet so awesome is the personal interview with the character. My character’s voice came through loud and clear as I did this.

If you’re interested to see how I filled out this worksheet click here.

The second worksheet I used can be found here:

100 Character Development Questions for Writers

by Laura Cushing

This worksheet is all in the character’s voice. Voice is a hard thing to capture and I need all the practice I can get.

If you’re interested to see how I filled out this worksheet click here.

Final Thoughts

The worksheets took me several hours to complete. I was frustrated and had to walk away a few times. This was after multiple conversations with Laney building up to this exercise.

Laney’s a complex person and I’m trying to capture her using questions that may not always address matters of importance to her. If you’ll notice, she’s okay with sexuality, but not so much kink or revealing her sexual fantasies. I could see her blushing as she tried to answer some of the questions. I tried to go easy on her. Pao says she has an arm on her.

13.5 Things That Will Change Your Writing by Kami Garcia @kamigarcia

13.5 Things That Will Change Your Writing by Kami Garcia @kamigarcia

Feel free to change the questions. The super special feature of this questionnaire is that it includes questions about supernatural/paranormal situations the character may face. Questions about morality were also asked and that gives your character more depth.

Even though I was frustrated, completing both worksheets was a satisfying experience. As I go through my rewrite and focus on just Laney’s actions and dialogue in the first pass, I’ll have my handy character sketch to guide me. Anything that doesn’t sound like or act like Laney will be replaced with her essence.

Stay calm and keep writing!

Copyright © 2014 “Character Sketch: Laney Brennan” by I.O. Kirkwood. All rights reserved.

Idiomatic Genesis OR Shaving Bears

I’ve been looking into idioms because often times they are wrapped up in absurd imagery. “I’ll fix your little red wagon” is an example. Here we have the image of the innoccuous childhood red wagon (think Flyer) representing the messy and diabolical urge to even the score. “A hair of the dog” means to do the very thing as a cure that made you miserable in the first place (have a shot of whiskey to nix that hangover, why don’t ya?).

I was hanging out on FaceBook (when I was supposed to be writing) and I came across this:

shaved bear

Does this look like a happy bear?

 What shocked me was not that anyone had thought to shave a bear, but that the result looked like an honest-to-goodness werewolf! When I imagine a werewolf, I am actually visualizing a shaved bear. Go figure.

I’m just speculating here, but it seems a shaved bear is not a happy bear. I certainly can’t equate anything that looks like a werewolf with anything wholesome or cuddly. If you don’t see where I’m going with this, let me spell it out for you:

“Seriously, man, you don’t want to SHAVE THAT BEAR.

“Let sleeping dogs lie.”

This could apply in any situation where one might open a can of worms or rub a cat the wrong way only with more brutal consequences. A bear mauling is serious business.

Today, I want you to put this new idiom in your tool box. When your significant other, or a small child, is pestering you about doing something or other that would result in a figurative mauling (regardless of the maulee) I want you to pull this shiny, new idiom out and launch it fearlessly into the airspace. As you do so, I want you to savor the usefulness of the absurd and the cliche. I want you to remember me, the creator of such a ridiculous idiom, and I want you to laugh.

Feel free to post your favorite idioms in the comment section. I collect them. I use them. Choose wisely.