10 Attributes of Good Beta Readers

In my last blog post I talked about why beta readers are an important part of the writing process. But beta readers come in all varieties and and a bad beta read can hurt your writing and emotional well being. So what is it that makes a good beta reader? I’ve created a list of 10 attributes a good beta reader has, so you can find (and be) the good ones. Continue reading

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10 Reasons Why You Need Beta Readers

I recently had a discussion with another writer about whether getting feedback on your writing is valuable. The answer is, yes, it is. The discussion led to this post. A few follow-up posts on beta reading are coming soon. Enjoy! 

So you’ve written your story, edited your story, spit shinned your story. It is the absolute best you can make it. But before you send it off for querying or publishing, there is one more step. And if you are an introvert like me, it may be the step that keeps you up at night. Here it is:

Give your story to beta readers.

Beta readers read, comment, and critique your story so that you can make it even more sparkly, shiny, and perfect. Sounds great, in theory, but you are telling someone to point out everything that is wrong with your book. (Don’t mind me while I go hide under a rock.)

Here are 10 reasons why it’s worth the terror to use beta readers Continue reading

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Traveling through Time

Zion and grand canyon 112     I was a clueless California city girl when the professor leading our field trip pulled our van to a stop along the highway that leads through Zion National Park in southern Utah. We spilled out of the vehicles and followed our fearless leader to the base of a sandstone mesa. Doc pointed. “Go up there,” he said and scrambled up the slope.

I didn’t know cross beds from conjugate joints, but I climbed after him and the other enthusiastic students. The slope went from comfortable to “I might fall and die” by the time I’d taken a couple dozen steps. I looked up. The mesa was vertical above me. My heart beat quicker, not from exertion but from the unfamiliar feeling of danger. I didn’t know if I could make it. Our professor had come to a stop not far above. Other students clustered near him. Continue reading

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Character Interview: Rai from Child of the Kaites

Beth Wangler, my writer friend and critique partner, is publishing her first full length novel. I am so excited! The Child of the Kaites is a fantasy novel inspired by the story of Moses. I’ve had the opportunity to read it, and it is amazing.

In honor of the big release day on July 28th, I’ve interviewed the main character in Child of the Kaites, Rai, so that we can get to know her better.

(Yes, we writers sometimes consider our characters so real, we feel the need to interview them.)


Me: Rai, I’m so glad you have taken the time to chat with me today. I’ve gotten a chance to know you but for the sake of everyone else, can you tell us a little bit about yourself? For example, I know Rai is a nickname. What is your full name?

Rai: Hi Ashley, it’s great to get to talk with you! My name is a…complicated topic. My birth parents named me “Mailoua,” which means “Cursed” or “Nameless.” My people have been suffering, you see, and my parents felt that suffering very strongly. When I was ten, the kaites gave me a new name, “Raiballeon.” My new name means “Leader of a Revolt.” I like this name more, even if I don’t feel like a leader of anything most of the time. Of course, “Raiballeon” is quite a mouthful, so I go by “Rai” or “Raiba,” depending on who you’re talking to. Continue reading

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First Run

img_20180531_1355241Recently, during a conversation about running, I mentioned that I had cut back my workouts because I was suffering from shin splints. A well-intentioned person proceeded to give me all kinds of advice on how to overcome this challenge.

I listened politely, interjecting weak comments, like, “I know,” and “yes, I’ve done that before,” until the conversation drifted to other topics. While I appreciated the desire of this person to help, what I really wanted to say is, “Buddy, I’ve been running for twenty years. These aren’t my first shin splints and they won’t be my last. I don’t need you to tell me what to do.”

(I have a lot more sass in my head than I do in person.)

But the thing that stuck with me most wasn’t my inability to speak my true feelings, or any of the advice this person gave. It is, that I have been running for twenty years. Twenty years ago this summer, I started high school cross-country and became a runner. (I am suddenly feeling pretty old.) But I never would have made it past my very first run, if it wasn’t for a stranger who offered a lot more than advice. Continue reading

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Six Chapter Books You’ll Love Reading to Your Kids

As a mother, I spend a lot of time reading out loud to my kids. We have so many picture books, that occasionally one will fall off the shelf (or out from under the couch) that I swear I’ve never seen before. My kids (5 year old twins, and a 2 year old) all love reading books, but as they are too young to read themselves, I do the reading for them. Even the best books can only be read so many times before you want to pull your hair out, and if you have kids you understand that they want to read the same book over and over and over.

And over.

And over and over.

And over.

(Annoyed yet? Because that is just a small taste of what it’s like to read the same book 453,499 times.)

My twins gained the attention span for longer books about a year ago, and since then I’ve been on a quest to find great chapter books to read to them. We have tried recommended books, as well as random ones pulled off the shelf. Some have been painful experiences, but in our adventures in reading I’ve come across some real winners too. I’m going to share them with you.

What makes a good read aloud chapter book? Continue reading

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I’m in the middle of editing The Darkest Hour which is a good thing to do but sometimes I need a little “fun” writing time to break it up. Whenever this happens I turn back to my favorite character, Liz. If you’ve read this blog before, you will also recognize the narrator, Ethan, and his partner James. You can read more about these characters on the Elizabeth DiMaggio page of this blog. I hope you enjoy. 

Ethan had known James’s identity for some time. Actually, “known” isn’t the right word. Suspected would be better. It was wrong, but he’d used his clearance and looked up her profile and memorized everything in it. But it hadn’t listed her real identity, so he’d…gone above his clearance.

The fact that her identity had been missing even in the most secret places in the agency was its own clue. He, for example, had no reason to hide his true identity. He was in the habit of using a fake name, simply because that’s what one did in the industry. James always called him Ethan, so that’s the one he preferred, but he could just as easily have gone by Jeremy, which was his given name. No one would have care and he had no one from “real life” that would be hurt. Most agents had a little more to protect than he did, so it wasn’t surprising when James’s identity was hidden under a few clearance levels. What was surprising was that her identity didn’t seem to exist anywhere. No one in the agency knew who she was.

She was good with computers, but erasing that kind of information from the agency database was the kind of thing only the top hackers in the world could do. So why did James need that level of protection? Continue reading

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