Now Available-Writers' Tricks of the Trade (the book)

This book of writing tips, writing tricks and writing techniques should be on every fiction writer's bookshelf! NOW AVAILABLE at Amazon, B&N, Books a Million, and most online booksellers or order from your favorite local bookstore.

Monday, July 24, 2017


Whether you aspire to publication, or want to preserve memories for yourself or family members and friends, memoirs are priceless. Without them, the wonderful times and recollections of people along the way, fade into obscurity.
You don’t have to be a famous author or a movie star, politician or captain of industry to have a story that will be of interest. Many people feel there was nothing interesting in their lives, and often ask, “What can I write?”  Well, there are many possibilities including favorite childhood toys, crushes, adult embarrassments, achievements and even forbidden exploits.

Write about something that had a meaning for you. Maybe your purpose is to let future generations know what it was like when you were young, as my mother did in her memoir. Maybe you just have some special experiences to share. Time passes so quickly. Does today’s generation relate to what it was like not to have a cell phone with multiple applications at their beck and call? Do they have any idea of what a 45 record was? Where would Superman have been in today’s world. Most likely arrested for indecent exposure!
What about TV’s with tiny screens that only broadcast in black and white with an image that was pretty fuzzy? Or, worse yet, no TV?
Depending upon your age, your memoir can cover anything from days when cars were a rarity and had to be cranked up to the era when every movie theater showed two features, a cartoon and a newsreel, or maybe the funky clothes, beehive hairdos and big Afros from the 60’s.
I remember my ex-husband had a thick head of auburn hair that he wore in a big “fro” back then. Was an Afro ever meant to grace auburn hair?  My hair was all teased up, and we wore bellbottoms, vests that looked like recycled tablecloths, and that was just for starters. We considered ourselves hip. My adult kids say we dressed like the Mod Squad. One of the true stories of that era became the title story for “The MAFIA FUNERAL and Other Short Stories.”
Then there was the time in England, when I—  Sorry. You’ll have to read the book to find out what happened during three carefree weeks with hunky young men. However, let’s just say the term “cougar,” newly coined at the time, fits quite well.
See what I mean? Save that memory so it won’t be lost—sit down at your computer, or pull out pencil and paper. Whatever method you use, the time is now!

Here Are A Few Tools To Get You Started

Remember, without your story on paper, most of it could be gone forever. No more procrastinating, because we never know what tomorrow holds.
Things that mean something to you. List every possible thing that might be of interest to present and future generations, whether you aspire to publication or just want to share some special things in your life with friends or family. It could be something as simple as the time you were stung by a bee. Did that result in something funny, tragic, frustrating…?
Get past the fear that your life is just normal and boring. Use “triggers” to jumpstart your memoir. Here are a few good ones that might help:
·       My Uncle Archie was peculiar. He used to __________________
·       My mother never really liked my cousin, Susie. She often said __________________
·       My family says I look and act like my Grandmother Anna. She came to America from________in the year____and went to work as a ____________in (city).
·       Holidays in my house were a lot of drama. One time when we were all gathered, my aunt announced that she______________which led  to _______________________

It’s easy once you get the knack of it. Just writing this handout triggered many memories for me. 

Saturday, January 14, 2017


The new year is here and we have pretty much a clean slate once again. There will be many changes in the coming year with the new administration and we must remain positive and hope for the best for America.

On the writing front a lot is going on. The magazine will now be published on a quarterly basis beginning with the January release of the Winter 2017 issue. We look forward to many helpful and informative articles, industry news, and new books, stories and accomplishments. 

Remember two things: You should never stop learning, even if you are an "old horse," and the magazine is filled with articles and information by writers for writers. So don't hesitate. If you have something you feel will be beneficial to fellow writers, by all means submit an article or information.

Do you have a brag? We would like to start a brag page for our readers. The original magazine had one, but then people stopped submitting their info and the page was deleted. It is okay to "blow your own horn." You earned it.

Monday, May 16, 2016


This Masters Workshop will help every writer learn how to raise your skills several levels by putting your characters to work - let them create the plots for novels that publishers want!
When you know how to work with characterization, you can put your characters to work developing complete plots, creating plot twists, and who knows what else will happen—they just might take you places you didn’t intend to go with your story. Learn to use characterization to create real, believable players in the plot. Stuck for an idea? Use your characters as plot starters by calling upon their strengths and/or weaknesses.
We will discuss the twelve basic Archetypes—their characteristics, strengths, weaknesses and what drives them, plus the importance of actions and dialogue to define them. Sometimes even locations also act as characters. After exploring what “makes them tick,” we will go into an interactive “what if” scenario for each one. 
Now for the fun part. Every participant will draw a slip with an archetype on it. Use your archetype to create the premise for a story that will be presented for group discussion. 
Wait -- this workshop will cover much more!
We will also cover the pitfalls that can turn into pratfalls and how to get around them including dealing with unscrupulous agents, paying too much attention to the wrong type of critique and not jumping the gun by submitting prematurely. 
The last part will be about selling yourself by showing your personality, speaking and reading skills, networking at events, and conferences.
Don't miss this very special opportunity to improve your skills and master your manuscript!
As a bonus registered attendees will receive a FREE copy of her book, "Writers Tricks of the Trade" in the workshop. 
This interactive Master Class is limited in size, so you receive a maximum amount of individual attention in a workshop environment. 

Toni Lopopolo at West Coast Writers ConferencesMorgan St. James is the author of fourteen published books encompassing fiction and non-fiction with two more publishing soon. Following publication of Writers Tricks of the Trade, she also launched a bi-monthly eZine of the same name. Morgan is a popular workshop presenter and now offers this hands-on exploration of working with characterization
Here is what some of Morgan’s students say:
“I will definitely try to go. Morgan's a GREAT speaker. One previous meet-up she participated in was extremely beneficial, taught me a lot about editing and probably played a part in me getting my first book published through a boutique press.”  – Rob Silverman
“After her presentation Morgan told me to go home and get writing. I did. One short story in our latest anthology, a few blog posts, and now well into the first book of a planned nonfiction series, I am writing a lot more Morgan! Sometimes it just takes a good kick in the......well, you know..” – Hyrum Huskey 
“As president of Anthem Authors,, I watched the concentration on the faces of our club members as Morgan wove a fabric from the threads of the personalities of the characters we create, explaining and defining them.. Her message was clear, to the point, and memorable. We enjoyed every minute of her fascinating presentation.” –R A. Meadows 

query letterThis workshop will be held at 
Los Angeles Valley College

5800 Fulton Ave,
Van Nuys CA 9140
between Burbank and Oxnard Ave.
Building and classroom TBA
[ map »

Register Now and Save.
Class size is limited. 

Friday June 17, 2014
3:00 pm - 7:00 ± pm

Class FEE $149 / Early Bird* only $99
* Early Bird registration closes on
June 10, 11:59pm PST, 2014 
Register Now!

Sunday, May 15, 2016



This is the 3rd issue in Volume 6. It seems like just yesterday that Morgan St. James was missing publishing a newsletter for the now disbanded Southern Nevada Chapter of Sisters in Crime, and decided to launch a writers' newsletter. 
That little newsletter kept growing and growing and morphed into a full blown writers' magazine with fantastic articles from guest writers in the industry. 
When you open this latest issue, you will also find links to many of the past issues along the right side of the screen. Click on any one of them to open a past issue.

They are all crammed with great information and interesting stories in the Life Story feature. This month we heard from Pete Klismet, one of the very first FBI profilers.

Happy reading, and remember, we are open for article submissions or suggestions. All the information is in the front of the magazine.

Thursday, November 19, 2015


Recently I gave two memoir workshops at the Memories Are Made of This Genre-LA conference. One of them was writing your memoir as fiction.

I was speaking with my friend and frequent guest on our WTT radio show, author Jon D'Amore, and he said he has gone the opposite way. Originally published as fiction, his best-selling book is now being marketed as what it is--a memoir.

Jon wrote a great article about it that was to be in the November-December issue of the Writers Tricks of the Trade online magazine, but unfortunately we had to go to publication before it was received.

No worries. The full article will be in the January-February 2016 issue. But then I thought, why not give you a bit of it here? You can read the rest in the upcoming magazine, but even this taste of how it all began is interesting. You can buy his book at Amazon and other outlets, listen to the podcast, and visit his website.

Switching To A Memoir
Jon D’Amore

I started writing my true mob story, THE BOSS ALWAYS SITS IN THE BACK, in
1998 when my oldest cousin and Godfather Jerry was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I needed to know some of the details I was unaware of in order to tell my story fully and honestly.
From conception to completion it took (a) about 14 months to get it all into my laptop, (b) dozens of printed pages to paper-edit what I had written the day before, (c) sending more than a dozen drafts to trusted literary industry and hardcore book-reading friends, (d) and last…but certainly not least…I made the required edits, fixed the typos and presented a copy to my literary/entertainment attorney…whose opinion I trust above all.
When those copies came back with each person’s ecstatic reviews and comments (especially those from my attorney) I decided to get the book published, which meant entering a world I had no idea of.
The bigger publishing companies refused to deal with me. I didn’t have an agent to send them the manuscript. The major literary agencies didn’t want to know about me because I was an unknown writer in my fifties offering a true story about the events in my life while living, playing and scamming with members of my mob-connected family. They weren’t interested in reading it and saw it as nothing more than a vanity project.
I was actually told by one agent that she didn’t see the logic of signing a writer “with only one book in your catalog, because I don’t know if you’ll ever write anything else…and my time and my future are valuable to me.”
The biggest laugh I ever got was when a literary manager in California and an agent from one of the top New York agencies told me they’d handle me after I sold 25,000 copies of THE BOSS in 6 months on my own.
What made it even funnier was when I ask them (in my New Jersey accent and attitude), “If I can sell 25,000 copies…why would I need you? What publishing company would want me after I just took away twenty-five thousand customers?” At that point, neither one of them wanted to deal with me and said I was “already too difficult to work with.”
That’s where they made their first mistake. There’s a reason they make 15% and we make the difference. It’s because they work for us…not with us.
So I put the manuscript aside and successfully worked as a script doctor for a few years (until the dreaded Writers Strike) with several studios and production companies in L.A.

In 2011, and after a multitude of those friends I mentioned earlier pushed me to do so, I started to think about the ever-expanding world of self-publishing.

Monday, August 17, 2015


As promised, here is an update on the Writers Tricks of the Trade You Tube Channel. Several episodes of the Blog Talk Radio show have now been uploaded. Each show is filled with so many helpful hints, some fun stories and more. So, tune in and pick the ones you want to listen to.

More and more of the episodes will be uploaded until all 19 of the current ones are also on You Tube.

Plus there will be more. We are kicking off an interview format in October, and the interviews will also be on this channel as well as other videos.

Here is the link to the channel:

For starters, how about listening to the most recent one - REVIEWS, THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY.

Thursday, August 13, 2015


 We are in the process of setting up a

 Writers Tricks of the Trade 

 YOU TUBE channel -  - for all of the radio broadcasts, upcoming new interview feature, and news and tips in general. 

Details as they happen.
Here is one that is live now


Sunday, July 19, 2015


Writers Tricks of the Trade and Writers of Southern Nevada continue to bring you valuable shows dealing with all aspects of writing.
Episode 18 broadcasts Wednesday, July 22 at 4:00pm PDT/7:00EDT, or you can listen to the archived podcast at your convenience at a later date.


Here's what you'll hear in this episode:
Join us when hosts Morgan St. James, author of 14 books, and Eric James Miller, author and President of Writers of Southern Nevada, discuss one of the key elements in writing fiction---the art of drawing pictures with words using artful, rhythmic prose. "The trick is to also make it simple and direct. This technique of using words to trigger a mental image is a variation of show, don’t tell."
Language that is too sophisticated, complex or gimmicky, or long blocks of flat narrative sometimes called a laundry list, often trigger inattention instead of creating a visual experience.
You might protest that extensive description draws the reader deeper into the story. Unfortunately, it generally works the other way. Why? Because long, occasionally dull passages break the action. They literally freeze the characters in place during a boring dissertation.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015



June 24 6:00pdt/9:00edt

Every episode is archived as a podcast that you can listen to at your convenience. Just go to the SHOW DIRECTORY page.

For full descriptions of all 16 episodes, just click HERE

Saturday, June 13, 2015

So You Want to Write For, or Publish (or both) An Anthology?

Writers Tricks of the Trade is beginning to post some guest blogs. Don't be surprised if you also see some of these appear in the bi-monthly Writers Tricks of the Trade eZine so they can reach the most people. Today we are happy to share C. L. Swinney's post. Many of us have written short stories and he takes a good look at getting involved with anthologies.

C. L. Swinney

I splashed into the writing world like a chubby kid flopping off a high dive board. My first crime fiction novel landed on several Amazon best seller lists, as did the following two in the series. But I wanted more. I crossed lines into the true crime genre and my first novella became an Amazon number one best seller in five countries. During this time (it just happened), a passion for writing short-stories developed. With the modest success I’d had, I felt my work would be accepted with ease. Nope. I racked up tons of rejection letters. However, during this time, I learned quite a bit about anthologies. My recent first go at an anthology, Justice Shall Be Served, immediately landed on amazon best seller lists, and below you’ll see how I did it.
Small (think micro) presses and folks dabbling in the self-publishing world tend to publish anthologies.  Large houses will put an anthology out, but getting 10-15 large press authors to agree on things requires too many meetings and the stroking of too many egos to make sense.  There’s one other type of person who gets involved with anthologies, which includes myself--those who grow tired of getting rejected and decide to learn self-pub to get their work (and possibly others) published. Let’s start with the author who wants to publish an anthology.
The first step: Write well. I honestly believe good writing sells itself. However, if you want to take yourself seriously, and want others to do the same, you must use an editor. Your best friend’s aunt who used to be an English teacher is probably a very nice lady, but I’m talking about a professional editor. They see things you completely miss. Those errors literally determine whether or not your work gets published. The cost for most short stories (2000-6000) is about $35-75 dollars for editing.
The second step: Decide the flavor or theme of your anthology. My recently published anthology’s flavor involved a positive vibe and behind the scenes look into law enforcement. Recent media reports, all the anger, and the loss of life inspired me to do something positive. I collected stories (I emailed short story writers and advertised on social media for stories/writers) from around the United States from cops, military personnel, and correctional officers hoping to demonstrate we’re human and want to help people.
Other things to decide here are non-fiction or fiction? Size of stories (Generally 2000-6000 word stories)? How many stories will be included? Will the anthology be my stories only, or will others be included? If others are included, what is their “payment?” *The standard payment is a paperback copy of the finished product. Figure these out, and then move forward.
The third step: If you’re including your stories solely, your next step is to select stories for the project. You may consider sending a few to friends or critics and see what they think. You may not have many stories in your cache, so you’ll need to get writing if you’re going to fill an anthology.
When outlining the anthology, a certain flow should be attempted. That is, don’t start with a feel-good story, follow it up with death and destruction, and then go back to fluffy. Think about a story or novel in general. There’s an intro, things build up, there’s a climax, and a conclusion. The anthology should follow the same suit. Instead of outlining chapters, you’re outlining short stories that make sense.
If you’re including stories from others, it can be quite maddening. Folks say they want to participate, but it takes them months to finally send the story. Then you read it and it doesn’t fit or it’s rife with errors. Do you accept it and “fix” it? Or do you have to reject it? It’s a strange feeling when you’ve received rejection letters- a difficult feeling to handle- and now you have to issue one. However, if the story stinks or doesn’t work, you must pass on it. When you write the rejection letter, remember the feeling you get when you read the ones you get. I call mine, “No thank you letters.”
One tip here. Although I use an editor and I’m an established author with a decent following, I still made decisions to hedge the bet that my anthology would be successful. I included work from Sunny Frazier, a well-known award winning short story author, and tied in Jim and Jay Padar who’d published a similar successful anthology. In addition, I decided to donate all proceeds to the families of fallen heroes.
The fourth step: You have all your stories, they’re edited and in the order you’d like to see, and now it’s time to format. Formatting will drive you crazy. If you go into it knowing it’s difficult, you’ll have more patience. I used Amazon’s Createspace for the anthology publishing platform. If you’re computer savvy or you’ve self-published before, you’re likely familiar with formatting standards for Createspace. If you have some time on your hands, you can learn the nuts-and-bolts of Createspace in about a week. Each step of the process has help buttons and hundreds of “how to” articles for assistance. My suggestion is to use and download the Createspace template. Once downloaded, you can cut and paste your stories into their template.
When you’ve done that, you will upload your anthology into Createspace, the software will format it, and you will be able to see your product online through their viewer. You can scroll through each page to make sure it’s exactly what you want. In addition, the software will point out any and all issues, allow you to fix them, and then you can re-upload the corrected document. It sounds daunting, but it’s not. Really. It’s not. Time consuming, yes, but you can do this. Once you’re satisfied with the layout, and all the errors are worked out, you’re almost ready for print.
The fifth step: A cover is needed. Createspace has a cover generator, and if you have no

other options, you’ll need to use it to create a cover. It’s a user friendly bit of software and many books come out with covers created with this tool. However, I firmly believe you need to consult and hire a cover designer. Ten million books are available on Amazon right now. One thing readers consistently mention about why they purchase books is solid cover design. I use Katherine McCarthy at Aeternum Designs. She re-tooled all my covers and sales instantly increased. Her costs are competitive, and she’s professional and well respected.
Once you have your cover, you upload it into Createspace just like you did with your manuscript.
The sixth step: Once the cover and manuscript are done, you’ll have to consider many options available for your project. They are self-explanatory. The most crucial one is pricing. If you choose to go with paperback or Kindle (or both), you need to examine the market to set a price that makes sense. I know you’ve spent months on the project, and a lot of your stories are included, but setting a much higher price for your work versus what’s in the market will be counter-productive. And, if you happen to have errors in your work, and you “over charge,” reviews will pour in attacking this fact. My advice is to price your work right in the middle.
*A note here. We’ve been discussing publishing a paperback anthology. To complete the same process for a Kindle version, it’s exactly the same as above. The platform is called Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), also owned and operated by Amazon. If you use this platform first, and finish the process, you can easily print a paperback of the same project, meaning you won’t have to duplicate the bulk of the work. KDP has a button that directs you to “Print on Createspace.”

Best-selling crime fiction (Detective Bill Dix Series) and true crime (Robert Pickton: The Pig Farmer Killer) author C. L. Swinney has been a cop for almost fourteen years. Working in narcotics, homicide, and patrol has afforded him great insight into the profession. Recent highly publicized events around the country caused numerous emotions to swirl within Mr. Swinney, forcing him to act. Earlier this year, he struck out to gather a collection of short stories, non-fiction and fiction, from men and women currently (or retired) working in law enforcement, corrections, and the military to share with the general public. His goal was to educate, enlighten, and provide a behind-the-scenes look at these proud professions. No profession is perfect, and mistakes certainly have been made, but the majority of those serving this country or the public strive to do right and risk their lives daily to keep this country and complete strangers safe. C. L. Swinney donates the overwhelming majority of the proceeds from his novels to the families of fallen officers and military members. The remaining proceeds go toward his insatiable coffee urges.