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Thanks for stopping by and taking a peek at what's on offer. I really hope you enjoy all the authors and novels I feature, plus the blog tours, cover reveals, give-aways and book blitz's etc. I like to keep things fresh and fun, so you, my fabulous readers, enjoy your visits.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Guest Author Feature: Best 7 Writing Tips for Aspiring Writers by Jo Grafford



Best 7 Writing Tips for Aspiring Writers

Happy New Year to all of my reader friends, fellow writers, bloggers, editors and publishing team! I love hearing about what works for other writers. Always seeking to improve my craft, I want to know what inspires them, what propels them through draft one, how they tackle the arduous task of revising, how many drafts of a novel they write before submitting it for publication, and all the tips and tricks for querying and pitching the Holy Grail – that final, highly polished manuscript that has taken months or even years of our lives to write.

After picking so many of your brains this past year, here are seven tips and tricks that helped propel me from the position of “aspiring” to “published” author:

(1)    The Outline: Some people hate them. Others love them. A traditional outline in a Word document really speeds up my writing. I start each chapter with a Roman Numeral. Then I hash out (A) Setting, (B) Characters, (C) Main Plot Points (in subsets of i, ii, iii, iv, etc.), and the (C) Goal of that chapter.

(2)    Character Bio Sheets: I need to know my characters, what they think, where they live, what color of socks they wear and why. So…I type up a bio sheet on each character that includes their name, age, physical description, personality traits, family members, motivations, likes, dislikes, their past, their goals, their significant other(s), etc. Any detail that helps me get to know them better.

(3)    Scrivener vs. Word: Can’t live without either. I write the entire first draft and do all of my personal revising (prior to submitting for publication) in Scrivener. LOVE how you can take a single file and break it down into chapter segments and scene sub-segments. All of my submissions, professional edits, galleys, etc. are then completed in Word.

(4)    Auto Crit Editing Wizard: Recommended to me by a fellow published writer, this program has proven well worth the investment. It highlights passive verbs, trite words and phrases, excessive use of words and phrases, grammatical and spelling issues, and so many other issues that agents and publishers would dearly love for us to correct before submitting our manuscripts to them.

(5)    http://www.etymonline.com: This is one of many websites I find useful. Etymonline gives you the origin (including date) of words and phrases. This was critical when writing BREAKING TIES, which is set in 1587. So many of the phrases we speak in modern English were not coined until after the 16th century, and a savvy reader will be quick to point out your dukes and earls should not be saying things like, “Yo” and “Dude.”

(6)    Critiques: I cannot say enough good things about readers and writers who are willing to lend their time to critique the work of fellow writers. I belong to the PRO Chapter of RWA, From the Hearth Romance Writers online chapter of RWA, a private critique group of four writers called the Scribe Sirens, and a local group of military wives who meet monthly to discuss writing. I also belong to many Yahoo, Facebook, Goodreads, and Google+ groups and conversation loops to learn more about marketing, crime scene investigating, etc. Additionally, I work with several beta readers.

(7)    Writing Conferences: I would be content to spend all of my time on my laptop, holed up in my third-story office. My husband, however, though it prudent to nudge me in the direction of a writers conference last year – the RT Booklovers Convention in Kansas City, MO to be exact. There I met representatives from my current publishing company, Astraea Press, and signed my first contract a few weeks later. Need I say more?

In 2014, I remain on the lookout for both old and new tips and tricks that will continue to increase the quality and quantity of my writing. What is one writing product or strategy you picked up in the past year that improved your craft?


Breaking Ties 

The Lost Colony Series 
Book I


Jo Grafford


Publisher & Date Published:
Astraea Press – October 17, 2013

Book Blurb:

Rose Payne's world is shattered after a secret betrothal to the duke’s son gets her dismissed from her position as clerk in his father’s household. Without a letter of recommendation from her previous employer, Rose is virtually unhireable and becomes an easy target for recruiters to the Colonies. Desperate for work, she signs up for a risky overseas venture and sails for the New World, hoping for a fresh start and vowing to never again fall for a wealthy, titled gentleman.
Returning from a diplomatic tour in London, Chief Manteo is bewitched by the fiery-haired ship’s clerk and determined to overcome her distrust. He contrives a daring plan to win her heart – one that forces her, honor bound, to serve as a slave to his tribe – a plan he prays will protect her from a chilling conspiracy involving murder, blood money, and a betrayal of their fledgling colony so terrifying it can only be revealed in Breaking Ties.

Buy Links:

Barnes and Noble: 


Author Bio:

Jo Grafford is from St. Louis, Missouri. An award-winning author at Astraea Press, Jo writes historical fiction to spotlight unsung heroes and unsolved mysteries. She published her first poem in junior high, edited her high school newspaper while typesetting for a local news journal, and has been writing ever since.  She holds an M.B.A. and has served as a banker, a junior college finance instructor, and a high school business teacher. She is a PRO member of Romance Writers of America and From the Heart Romance Writers RWA Chapter.  The mother of three children and the wife of a soldier, she serves as a literacy volunteer for elementary school students.

Author Web links:

Twitter: @jografford




     Sometimes murder isn’t as messy, up-close, and personal as many people imagine it to be. Sometimes it is distant and impersonal – as simple as crossing a line through a name on a sheet of paper. Or one hundred and fifteen names in our case.


     "You want my help." 'Twas an accusation.
     His eyes darkened. "I save your life. I give gifts. I offer marriage." He closed the remaining distance between us, his eyes burning into mine.
     I stumbled back.
     "You give nothing in return," he snarled. "You only ask for more."
     "I would had I something to offer," I whispered. "But I have nothing. I am nothing."
     "Then what use are you to me?" He wheeled away.
     I sagged against the door, eyes stinging. I blinked rapidly and pressed a hand to my stomach. Nausea rolled at the thought of informing the others of my failure.
     Manteo circled the cabin like a hawk stalking its prey. 'Twas a fine room with ornately carved shelves lining one wall. Bunks were built into the next wall. A generous desk jutted from the third, overflowing with maps and navigational devices. I recognized the compass and hourglass but could not identify the other instruments. I jerked in surprise when Manteo swooped down upon me.
     "I know our location." His arms shot out and slapped the wall on either side of me, hemming me to the door. "I could swim ashore from here."
     "Then why do ye stay if ye can leave and save yourself?"
     "Governor White gave his word to deliver me home."
     "We are going to starve, Manteo. 'Tis only a matter of days now."
     "Nay. You alone starve. The others eat."
     "I have no appetite."
     "You act as one already dead."
     I straightened my back. "I accept what I cannot change."
     "And I change what I cannot accept." He shifted his weight to the wall, one arm propped over my head. He drew his fingertips down the side of my face in a feather-light caress.
     I closed my eyes against the rush of unbearable sweetness. He made me long for things forbidden. "'Tis within your power to help us. I am begging you."
     "Very well."
     My eyes flew open. "Ye will do this for us."
     "For you." His voice was silken, his features as hard as granite.
     I smiled tremulously. "I thank thee, Manteo. Chief Manteo, that is." The new title felt strange on my lips. I beheld him with a mixture of awe and pride.
     "I have yet to name my price."
     I stared, confused.
     He grunted in disgust. "You refuse me as both husband and lover, so you are left with the hiring of my services."
     I worried my lower lip between my teeth. At least he was willing to negotiate. His eyes flashed with lust as he followed my movements.
     "I will entreat the Dares for payment."
     "Nay. You are the one in my debt."
     I raised and dropped my hands helplessly.
     "You serve this company, no? You can serve my people, too."
     "Ye would hire me as clerk?" Hope leaped in my chest at the possibilities. I would not have to part from him so soon.
     "My people have no clerks." His eyes narrowed. "We have slaves."
     My breath hitched. "Ye wish to punish me, humiliate me?"
     "Nay, I only wish to marry you."
     I briefly closed my eyes against the pain. He already knew the reason for my refusal.
     "Say no more. I will do it. 'Twill be punishment enough to see you so often and—“ I clamped my lips.
     Exultation flickered briefly across his face. "You would give up your freedom to save your friends?"
     "Without question."
     "Swear it," he said grimly.
     "I swear it."
     His eyes flared with emotion. He bent slowly 'til his breath stirred my lips. My eyelids fluttered closed. Heaven help me, for I had no will left to resist him.
     "Now you will eat," Manteo commanded hoarsely. He stepped back, surveying me from head to feet.
     "I have no slaves so thin and weak. Go. Collect your rations." He turned from me and bent to pore over a map on the table.
     I reached for the door handle, disbelieving at the curt dismissal.
     "And send for Anthony. I have need of him."
     I glared at his back. Faith, should I press my face to the floor as well? "Aye, master." I bit the words out and fled.
(To be continued…)


Author Interview:

Hi Jo and welcome to my blog.

Who is your favourite author/s of all time and if you could meet him/her, what would you say? Nora Roberts. Her writing is pure gold. A thrilling ride and a marvelous escape from the tedium of the day. I would love to meet her and say, “Thank you!”
Out of the following places to get inspiration, which one would you choose & why: (c) Magical Forest, of course! Anything can happen in a magical forest.

a.       Deserted Island
b.      Sprawling Megatroplis
c.       Magical Forest
d.      Outer Space

Are you a pre-planning plotter or a go with flow writer? I like to brainstorm and create, then plot and plan a full outline before I begin writing.

Are you working on anything new right now, if so, can you share the details with us? I’m almost finished writing Trail of Crosses book two in the Lost Colony Series.

How do you come up with titles for your novels, do you get the idea for the story first or does that come after you have the title?  Titles are tough.  I agonize over them for hours, days, weeks, months…LOL You get the idea.
Which method of writing do you prefer for your first draft? (b) Laptop. It goes everywhere with me.

a.       Handwrite the first draft
b.      Laptop
c.       Desktop
d.      The walls in your office! LOL

If writing isn’t your main profession, what is? I spend a lot of time playing chauffeur, chef, domestic engineer, chief party organizer, i.e. wife and mom J
What’s your personal take on E-Books, and do you prefer reading them over a traditional hard copy? Honestly, I’ve always preferred the magic of pouring a glass of wine and opening a traditional hard copy novel. However, it’s so much easier to read E-Books when I’m travelling as opposed to the stack of 5-10 novels I used to toss in my suitcase.

What’s the best job you’ve ever had? Writing! From developing curriculum and training materials in the past to creating novels now, writing has always been the favorite part of my job.

Are there any little secrets that you’d like to share? There is no correct way to write. You just have to find what inspires you best. Whether at night, in the rain, or to the sound of music.

Growing up, were you: (a.) A total bookworm

a)      A total bookworm devouring everything in sight
b)      More of a comic book kid
c)       Preferred pictures over words
d)      Completely disinterested in books altogether


Many thanks to Jo for sharing some fabulous writing tips and, let's not forget her really cool novel
you've got all the buy links, so grab yourself a copy.  

Also if you leave a comment below, Jo will select a lucky reader to get a copy for free.  
So get commenting and grab a freebie!

I'll be back in a couple of days with some more great posts.


  1. Super interview, JO. I've been looking at Scrivner and you've given me reasons to inch closer to using it. I create horoscopes for main characters, my way of delving into character. I outline. I need more butt in chair.

  2. LOL, Ana. We all need more butt in chair. Oh my! Moving that one to the top of the list. Horoscopes? What a fabulously cool idea - thank you for stopping by and sharing. Cheerio, Jo

  3. Thanks for sharing the writing tips, very useful! Jo's novel looks great, I'll adding that to my to read pile for sure :) great interview too.

  4. HI, Bella! Great to see you here on Cat's Bookish Blog. Would LOVE to know what you think of Breaking Ties after you get a chance to read it. Happy New Year! --Jo

    1. Hi Jo, I actually just bought it today. So if you like - how about I review your novel and you review mine? LOL :D I can do a promo for you on my blog too, if you like... let me know.

  5. Thank you, Bella! I will contact you via email about the review swap and blog promo. Best wishes for your success with the Seraphoenix Saga!

  6. Thank you so much for hosting me, Cathrine! Have enjoyed guesting on Cat's Bookish Blog this week.

    1. A pleasure and any time, just let me know if you need a book promo! :)


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