Wednesday, August 31, 2016

#GuestPost - Ten Tips For Becoming A Better Writer By Yasmin Shiraz

Ten Tips For Becoming A Better Writer
By Yasmin Shiraz

1. Commit to reading at least 24 books a year. In 2014, I set a goal to read 100 books in a year. What did I discover? The more I read, the more I wanted to write. And, it immediately improved my writing because I was learning new writing styles by the types of books that I had read.

2. Find 3 writers who you really like and then critique their work identifying why you like them. When I recently completed this exercise, I found myself drawn to Richelle Meade. She wrote the Vampire Academy series. I like her ability to tell a full story while at the same time prompting you to want to find out what happens in the next book.

3. Incorporate some of the styles of your favorite writers into your work. Think of it as imitating Picasso. After reading Richelle Meade’s Vampire Academy novels, I incorporated that kind of storytelling when I wrote the Devious, and Secrets books which are part of the Tisha Ariel Nikkole Series. The style allowed me to complete one story while leaving the audience begging for the next installment.

4. Take a writing class. I’ve taken several writing classes over the years. Writing classes teach you technique but also teach you to see your blindspots. In my first screenwriting class, I learned about making strong opening scenes for my screenplays. It helped me to set a clear tone for my screenplays.

5. Join a writer’s group where you’re able to read other people’s work. Notice the strengths in other people’s writing. Reading the work from strong writers really helped me to become a better writer.

6. Find a good editor to work with who gives constructive criticism and takes some ownership in your work. I’ve worked with at least two great editors in my life.  When the editor is more of a partner than a hired gun, they truly care about the end result.

7. Use writing prompts. Many writers suffer from writers block. I have found that using writing prompts helps to clear blocks. Many free writing prompts are available all over the internet.

8.  Read books on writing like for example: How to build better characters, writing mastery, etc.
If you are struggling in a particular area like writing dialogue, or creating characters, read a book on it. You’d be surprised how much you can learn.

9. Read at least ten books from the NY Times Best Seller list every year. I do not believe that the best books written every year are automatically on the NY Times Best Seller list but a lot of them are. Seeing what is considered ‘the best’ is a great shot in the arm so you can know what to aim for.

10. Get a library card from your local library. Every serious writer needs a library card because writers need to be reading as much as writing and books can be expensive. The more you read, the better you write. 

       Yasmin Shiraz is the author of  more than ten books including the best seller, Exclusive and the American Library Association Award Winning Book, Retaliation. She is a full time screenwriter and author. She actively runs trivia contents, video chats and more on her Facebook page:

More About The Author

Yasmin Shiraz is an author, filmmaker, speaker and activist. She uses her passion for life to fuel her books, documentaries, speaking engagements and social activities. She’s spoken at over 100 colleges, universities, middle schools and high schools as well as non-profit organizations. 

She’s an award winning Writer/ Director and enjoys producing work on youth and community issues. By day, she’s the President of Still Eye Rise Media and runs the Yasmin Shiraz website.

About The Book

When a teen girl discovers her brother has been shot, she learns  firsthand about loyalty. Should her brother be more loyal to her or the gang members he's so eager to impress?

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Friday, August 26, 2016

First Circle Club - Virtual Book Tour

Supernatural Fantasy
Date Published: September 25, 2015

When Virgil is betrayed and murdered, he thinks his days of catching fugitives as a U.S. Marshal are over. He is condemned to an eternity of filing paperwork in the First Circle of Hell. Then a demon lord gives Virgil an unprecedented assignment. He will return to Earth as part of a team: two souls from Heaven and two from Hell. They must stop another damned soul who escaped and is now murdering teenagers on Earth. The serial killer has supernatural skills and is part of a larger conspiracy which is well prepared for a fight. If he is not careful, Virgil could be murdered a second time.


The angel touched down lightly on the sand. A supremely beautiful face made Sara want to cry with joy.

"I am Barachiel, chief of the guardian angels. You are Sara Bass?"

Sara nodded. "What can I do for you?"

"The Lords of Hell screwed up and allowed an evil soul to escape to Earth. Now we have to clean up their mess."

"Oh. Sounds awful. What do you want me to do?"

"Go back to Earth as part of a search team," Barachiel said. "The soul belongs to a serial killer, and he has started to kill again. It's a uniquely important assignment."

"I guess you know my background. I was a medical examiner for many years."

"We picked you because of your background."

"We?" Sara said.

"The Council of Light."

The enormous magnitude of the situation was dawning on Sara. Of all the many millions of souls in Heaven, the Council had chosen her to return to Earth.

"Does this kind of thing happen often?"

"It has never happened before," Barachiel said. "This search team concept is completely new. It might be a disaster, but we don't have any other options. Regular angels aren't suited for something like this. Hell is sending its own representatives. Try to be polite even if they smell bad."

Sara wrinkled her nose.

"And of course, you can come back to Heaven any time you want," Barachiel added. "If the job proves too much for you, we can find a replacement."

"I'm sure that won't be necessary." Sara was looking forward to doing something useful again. "But how did this happen? I didn't think it was possible to escape from Hell."

Barachiel shrugged its beautiful shoulders. "I'm sure incompetence was the cause. Demons are so consumed by sinful thoughts they can't think clearly. Regardless, it's a big mess now. With all the bickering and accusations, you would think the Apocalypse had arrived."

Sara doubted the explanation was so simple.

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Series Reading Order:
First Circle Club
Paradise Hacked
Gambling Demons
Trolling Heaven (Coming Soon)


lex Siegel has written three series, full of hellish scenarios and diabolical plot twists. The First Circle Club is the first book in his latest series. He is a computer programmer by day and a passionate, even obsessive, writer by night. He lives in Chicago with his wife and triplet teenage boys. A gray cat and two guinea pigs complete the menagerie.

Contact Information
Twitter: @AlexSiegel_

Thursday, August 25, 2016

#PoetryThursday - Imperfect


I ain't perfect
Ain't wrapped in cellophane
Ain't spit shined and glossed up
Ain't no glitter on me
Ain't no applause when I enter the room
Ain't no makeup that'll help
Ain't no diets that'll fix it
Ain't no high fashion that'll mask it
Ain't no fake smile that'll force it
I ain't perfect
And that's all right with me

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Monday, August 22, 2016

#MondayMotivation - On Writing

Photo courtesy of

When I began writing my first novel in 2009, I wasn't sure why I was writing. I just knew I liked it. I liked making up people and places and situations. No, actually I loved it. I loved it all--choosing names, creating entire families, making people fall in and out of love. 

So I wrote and wrote and wrote. I wrote book after book without even a thought in my head of sharing my stories. I liked reading them and that was good enough for me. I didn't share them with anyone, not even my family members. I was too afraid to because though I loved what I was creating, I was sure the rest of the world would hate my work or at the very least and the very worst, laugh at me. 

It took over a year for me to finally muster up the courage to share some of my work via a blog. Even then I posted the work but told no one about it. The few visitors I had must've just happened upon the blog. Then I added the blog link to my Facebook profile and a coworker read my excerpt and raved about it. I was shocked and hopeful. Another human being besides me actually liked what I wrote! That gave me the courage to share my work with other coworkers, friends, and relatives. The consensus was that the book was good and I should publish it. So, I did.  

It has been a little more than 5 years since I published my first book. This has been a wild ride of highs and lows. I am now a full-time author, supporting myself with book royalties and 
freelance editing and formatting jobs. This publishing journey has been both rewarding and disappointing at the same time. Some days, I wonder why I do this--work hard, lose sleep, and make sacrifices--and then throw my work out there in hopes it will be received well. Some days are full of so much anxiety it's unreal. Those days, I really and truly want to give up. Other times, I'm on cloud nine. I get to meet wonderful readers, some of whom I've made real connections with. I've met some wonderful authors I might never have known about had we not shared a love for writing. And then there is the fact that I get to make a living doing what I love. At the end of the day, the good outweighs the bad. That's why I continue to write through the disappointments. And if you are a writer, that's why you should keep writing, too.

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Friday, August 12, 2016

Smoke and Mirrors - Virtual #Book Tour

Young Adult / New Adult Fantasy
Date Published: May 1, 2016

A girl who uses her illusions to fool the world into thinking she's just like all the other magi.

A dragon who sees through her lies.

Together they just might survive a world that wants to control or destroy them both.

Kimberly may wield ultimate cosmic power, but even a mage has to pay the rent. No one will hire her for her magic talents until she's got the credentials, so she’s stuck in a crappy rent controlled apartment with her mother, yearning for treats she can't afford at her part time job in a cafĂ©, counting down the days until she graduates the secret Blackhollow Academy school for magi. Only then will she have the certificate she needs to land her dream job in a coven.

The problem? She needs a familiar to graduate.

As an illusionist, she doesn't have the ability to summon or create a familiar of her own. Her only option is to convince a supernatural creature to let her bind it instead. Since having a powerful Other at her beck and call would guarantee her a place in a coven after she graduates—and legendary treasure hoards are an added bonus—she thinks binding a dragon as her familiar will solve all her problems...

Because sometimes a girl needs a dragon, not a knight.


The notion that the thing she’d seen on the rooftop last night wouldn’t be found at street-level skittered through her thoughts, and she glanced up.

All she caught was a glimpse. A monster easily the size of a two-seater plane, but with an unmistakably serpentine form. Wide, sickle-like wings were limned with sunlight and lightning-like flickers of energy that traveled over the outline of the massive beast in the air above her.
Dragon, her mind gibbered.

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About the Author:

I'm a displaced New Yorker with a penchant for the silly, the obscure, and the fantastical. These days, you can find me in the Tampa area. I'm currently working on the H&W Investigations urban fantasy series and the Blackhollow Academy young adult/new adult contemporary fantasy series. Find out more about my books, drop me a line, or join my mailing list at!

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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Swirl Awards: And Our Finalist Are....

The Swirl Awards: And Our Finalist Are....: And the finalist are... Here's our finalist in the 5th annual Swirl Awards! As always we're excited and impressed by caliber of e...