HSW Contest Deadline Extended


With a promotional opportunity set for October 12, the Contest Committee voted to extend the deadline for the contest entries to October 31st at midnight. This provides the opportunity to anyone who hasn’t heard about the contest or who is running late on their entry to submit it. 

So, if you are running a little behind on getting your entry polished, you have an additional two weeks to get it done. Entries should be sent via email no later than midnight on October 31st. If you are mailing the entry, please contact Rene at RPAverett@gmail.com for instructions on mailing either your entry or your entry fee. We have an issue with the post office box, and it is currently suspended. 

Troy Becker announced our three judges at the last HSW meeting. They are writers Ellen Hopkins, Jenny MacKay, and Suzanne Morgan Williams. None of our judges are HSW members.

Please refer to the Contest Information on the HSW website for any other details regarding submissions. 

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September 2020 Newsletter


Saturday September 12 at 10 am via Zoom. 

Our next HSW meeting will be another Zoom meeting due to the restrictions on meeting in large groups. The code for the meeting will be sent to all members in a news blast a few days before the meeting and will be posted on the HSW web site and our Facebook page. 

If you have not used Zoom before, it is easy. Just click on the link that we will send and post, and it will take you to the web site where you can download the application. You do not need to be on video. We hope to see more of you this next meeting.

We will be voting on the revised By-Laws for our organization at the September meeting. You may read these on the HSW web site at:  http://highsierrawriters.org/about-us/high-sierra-writers-by-laws/

Our program for the meeting will be on How to Upload a Book to Amazon. We’ve done this one before, but we have quite a few people who either don’t know how to do it or would like to run through it again.  We didn’t get to the presentation on ISBNs at the last meeting, so Rene will cover it at this meeting.

We will also be doing First Pages so if you have a first page you would like feedback on, please send it to Matt by Friday September 11 at MattBayan@aol.com  For easy reading, please use 12 point Times New Roman and double space.  Do not include your name on the page, but indicate the genre.

Hope to see you there!



Last month in part 1, the focus was on the inciting incident that kicks off a novel or movie and how not to clutter it with a prologue or some other “telling.” In part 2, we look at another potentially dangerous form of telling: the Flashback.

I know some agents and editors who are death on flashbacks. But I think their reason is that flashbacks are generally handled poorly. Used sparingly, a flashback can be an effective tool for illuminating a character’s motivation, weakness, strength, etc.

But how to do that? Unless it’s a very small piece of information, avoid having one character “telling” about something that happened off-stage. The simplest way is to start a new chapter and stay in immediate scene. Show the information as it happens, make your plot point, then jet back to the present.

Always ask if the information in the flashback is SO important that it can’t be avoided, or presented some other way.

Movies tend to be a bit more flashbacky than books, largely because, as a visual medium, all parts of a movie involve “showing.”

Photo from GladiatorA good example of a flashback is in the movie Gladiator. The Russell Crowe character, Maximus, thinks back to memories of his family, now dead. We get the sense that he’s done all he can in his life and wants to join them. In this case, the short visual clips of an idyllic time offer the audience a sense of the loss he has suffered, while also explaining his state of mind near the end of the film.

So, make a flashback relevant, keep it short, and keep it in immediate scene and you can avoid running afoul of antsy readers and even antsier agents.

Need a Critique Group?

Linda Enos is the Critique Group Wrangler, and she would be happy to help you find or start a group. For any writer, the feedback you can get from a group of your peers is valuable. They help you find problems in your story, plot holes, bad phrasing, and much more. So, if you want to bring up the level of your writing, contact Linda at linda.r.enos@gmail.com

Do You Know Your Adjective Word Order?

Have you ever read a line with three or more adjectives describing a noun and thought that it just didn’t sound right? For instance, if you read, “the yellow, limping, big dog”, would it bother you? Our internal logic expects this to read “the big, limping, yellow dog.” You may wonder why that should be. 

Somewhere along the lines of developing language, a word order for adjectives evolved, possibly based on the way the brain processes words. No one knows exactly how it came about, but generally all linguists agree a specific order for adjectives exist. The cool thing is that instinctively, we use these rules and normally, recognize an anomaly when these words are in the wrong order.

That doesn’t mean we don’t write them wrong every now and then, but most times you will catch them when you read your work back, or someone in your critique group might notice them. Or, if you have Grammarly, it will note them and suggest a change.

The order for using adjectives is a determiner, such as thea, or an is first, followed by opinion (unusual, lovely, ugly), size (giant, enormous, tiny), physical quality (thick, heavy, rough), shape (oblong, triangular, square), age (young, ancient, old), color (blue, reddish, gray), origin (French, Turkish, Danish), material (metal, wood, plastic), type (general-purpose, needle-nose, U-shaped), purpose (cleaning, hammering, cooking), and finally the noun all these words describe. 

For the long list of these alone, a writer would be wise to not string more than three adjectives to describe a noun. 

Note also, that all the adjectives are separated by commas. If the word is describing the noun, you separate the  words from each other. If the word is acting on the word next to it and the two together describe the noun, you don’t separate it with a comma. Usually, words acting together are hyphenated, such as reddish-brown or bread-like. 

To help you check the adjective word order, here’s a handy chart you can save to your computer for reference. You can learn more about this subject from this article.

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August 2020 Newsletter

Next HSW Meeting 

Saturday August 8 at 10 am via Zoom. 

Our next HSW meeting will be a Zoom meeting due to the restrictions on meeting in large groups. The code for the meeting will be sent to all members in a news blast by the Thursday before the meeting.

If you have not used Zoom before, it is easy. Just click on the link that we will send and post and it will take you to the web site where you can download the application. You do not need to be on video. Our meetings are going well. We hope to see more of you this next meeting.

Guest Alexanne Stone

Photo: Alexanne Stone
Our guest speaker this month will be Alexanne Stone, whom we affectionately call The Body Language Lady. She visited us last year and gave us the basics on the clues and codes that reveal people’s intentions. In the August meeting, she’ll do a quick review of the previous session and then build on that.

Why is this important? It opens a lot of territory for character development. What characters say may not be as important as how they say it. As writers, if we have a better understanding of the tics and signals, vocal intonations, nervous movements, etc. of our characters, we can add dimension to characters and the scenes they move through.

A simple example: You’ve probably heard of a “tell.” This is some action or lack of action by which a poker player unknowingly reveals whether he’s bluffing or has a strong hand. John tugs at his left earlobe when he has a strong hand, but under-bets to keep more players in the hand. Bob’s face becomes immobile as stone when he is bluffing.

We can all add to character depth and the intensity of scenes by using body language to reveal and hide character thoughts and intentions. 

For more about Ms. Stone, see her website at https://alexannestone.com/

What is an ISBN and Why Do We Need Them?

If you’ve ever wondered what exactly the numbers of an ISBN provide and why each new edition of the book needs a separate one, then check this out. In a short presentation, Rene Averett will cover this essential number added to the front matter of your book. She’ll also talk about how to get an ISBN, how much they cost, and why Amazon doesn’t use the standard one for eBooks. 

First Pages

Matt will be doing First Pages at this meeting.  If you have a first page you would like feedback on, please send it to Matt by Friday August 7 at MattBayan@aol.com  For easy reading, please use 12 point Times New Roman and double space.  Do not include your name on the page, but indicate the genre. 




“Act first, explain later.” – James Scott Bell

I saw this on a blog and immediately thought, “Simple and brilliant.” James Scott Bell is a bestselling author of help-me books for writers. He brings up the classic issue of Showing vs. Telling, as well as the ongoing argument between writers and agents/editors about Prologues.

As an editor, I usually have this argument (sorry, debate) with first-time writers. “The reader needs to understand the context,” they say.

Let’s be clear. World-building is important. But you don’t need to build the world first and then populate it. The only book where that makes sense is the Bible. Whether you’re writing a spy novel in Berlin or a futuristic sci-fi opus, the rules are the same.


Prologues are telling. ‘Nuff said?

If you still cling to your prologue, consider this:

A classic example which most people can relate to is Star Wars. I happen to be of an age that I saw the first Star Wars movie (now dubbed A New Hope as the 4th in the series). This movie starts by telling us it happens long ago in a galaxy far, far away. We see a view of space then a huge star ship firing on a smaller ship. Cut to interior of the smaller ship and we see chaos and some woman named Princess Leia and two robots. Some big guy in black with a cape enters the ship, and the princess is captured and the robots eject from the ship in some sort of lifeboat.

Do we know who the princess is or how important she is? No. Do we know how the big guy fits into the overarching story? No. Are the robots important? We don’t know. In fact, we don’t know anything other than the princess is being pursued by the big guy in a high-tech universe.

Over the course of the next half-hour, the background begins to fill in. The world-building slowly unfolds as we begin to understand who the main characters are, how they relate to each other, and what conflicts they’re involved in. But note that the movie starts with people, not their world. We see action before we know context.

This is a perfect example of act first, explain later.

The main characters and their conflicts are what’s important. Not the scenery.

In Part 2 of this article, I’ll discuss the related issue of flashbacks and how to use them.

HSW Writing Contest Logo

2020 Contest Is Underway

On July 1st, we announced the 2020 writing contest. This features three different categories of writing with prizes for Flash Fiction (up to 500 words), Short Story (2,000 to 3,000 words), and First Novel Chapter (maximum of 3,000 words.) The contest is open to anyone. You do not have to be a member of HSW to enter. 

PayPal buttons to pay the entry fees online are now available along with an email address to send your WORD formatted entry.

Flash Fiction – $50 first prize, $25 second
Short Story – $100 first prize, $50 second
First Chapter – $100 first prize, $50 second

Winners will also receive certificates and professional feedback!

For full information, entry fees, rules, and guidelines, go to the contest information page. If you have any questions about the contest or rules, please send them to board@highsierrawriters.org


If you’re looking for critique partners, contact Linda Enos at linda.r.enos@gmail.com

Thinking of entering the HSW Writing Contest? Your critique group can give you essential support in reading, analyzing, and providing feedback on your entries. 

New Book Releases by High Sierra Writers

In support of our own writers, we encourage you to read and review our members’ novels. Honest reviews provide feedback to the author and also help other readers to find them. Reviews are critically important to each of us. 

To this end, we are featuring new releases each month. A full list of HSW authors’ books are on the HSW website. If you are a member and have books published that are not listed, please contact Rene at:  RPAverett@gmail.com.

The Marijuana Murders by Mark S. Bacon

Book Cover

Nostalgia City executive Kate Sorensen finds the body of a mechanic crushed under an automobile hoist in the theme park’s garage. Accident or murder? Will it impact Kate’s decision to join one of two competing statewide campaigns to legalize marijuana in Arizona?

When the death is ruled a homicide and the DEA stages a surprise raid, park cab driver Lyle Deming is recruited to help solve the murder and find out if the park’s garage is being used to smuggle drugs. The anxiety-ridden ex-cop is soon poking around a Mexican border town looking for a park contractor who might be a drug mule. Or he might be dead.

Book 3 of Bacon’s Nostalgia City series.

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July 2020 Newsletter

Next HSW Meeting Saturday July 11 at 10 am via Zoom

Enjoy the comfort of your own home and lounging clothes while you attend the next HSW meeting on Zoom! It sure cuts down on commute time although we don’t have as much interaction as we do at meetings! But Scheels meeting room is still in closed status and will not be available yet. 

How would you feel about an outdoor meeting? Would you be likely to attend if we met in a park? Let us know via email (board@highsierrawriters.org) or at the July Zoom meeting.

Meanwhile, the July HSW meeting will be another Zoom meeting. The code for the meeting will be sent to all members in a news blast a few days before the meeting and will be posted on the HSW web site and our Facebook page. 

If you have not used Zoom before, it is easy. Just click on the link that we will provide and it will take you to the web site where you can download the application. You do not need to be on video. We had over 20 members at the last meeting and we hope to see more on July 11th. 

The program is still being planned for the meeting, but it will include First Pages so if you have a first page you would like feedback on, please send it to Matt by Friday July 10 at MattBayan@aol.com  For easy reading, please use 12 point Times New Roman and double space.  Do not include your name on the page, but indicate the genre.

We will also be providing more details on the High Sierra Writers’ Contest for 2020 at this meeting. See below for the official announcement.

Full details and guidelines are being finalized and will be available in a few days. We will send a news blast with the updated information and it will be posted on the High Sierra web site along with entry forms, judging criteria, and examples or links to examples. The contest will run from July 1st to October 15th, 2020. Judging will take place between October 15 and November 30th. The winners will be announced at the December 12th meeting. 

So, if you’ve wanted to see how you stack up against other writers or want to try an entry in a category you haven’t tried before, here’s your chance. If you have the first chapter of a novel or two tucked away in a file folder, pull one out and rework it, then enter to see if it makes an impression. All entries reviewed by the judges will receive their rating forms back. 

Thank you to everyone who replied to the survey. We went with the top 3 categories, but hope to get the other options in another contest later. The more interest and participation we have in the contests, the easier it will be to continue to do them.

Have you finished your book, but don’t quite feel it’s ready to send to an agent or editor? How about participating in a “finished manuscript” group?

The way it works is 3-6 writers, who’ve completed their projects, get together and take a month to read each manuscript. At the end of the 30 days, comments/suggestions are given to the author. The advantage to such a group is the entire flow of the story can be seen by the readers versus the start/stop approach of a regular critique group. So, if you’re interested in a “finished manuscript” group, email  Linda Enos at linda.r.enos@gmail.com.

Seeking new members for established group: Rene Averett is sad to say we need to replace two members of our critique group. The lovely Nicole is moving in July, so we need more people. We prefer writers in fantasy, paranormal, urban fantasy, and light science fiction. If you write in those genres and want to join a group, then call (775-852-1756) or email Rene at RPAverett@gmail.com

What is Flash Fiction?

If you’ve never written a short piece of fiction, you may not be familiar with the concept of flash fiction. It is brief and contained stories. The average word count varies depending on the style of flash fiction you are writing. For our contest, it is micro-fiction, using 100 to 500 words to tell a brief story. The emphasis isn’t on plot or characters, although it should have both. But the focus is on movement as each sentence needs to peel back a new layer of the tale. If a line or word doesn’t move the story forward or reveal more about a character, then it isn’t needed in the story. 

This means that every line and word in the story must be considered and chosen to move the story to its conclusion. In short, if it doesn’t bring something to the party, get rid of it. This doesn’t imply that it can’t be descriptive, but it must have a purpose, whether to clarify or to set a tone.

Rephrased from an article on the Reedsy blog; Read the full article to learn more about flash fiction and how to write it;
Click here

For other helpful articles on writing flash fiction, check out:

To read examples of flash fiction, check out this web site that lists over 20 examples.

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June 2020 Newsletter

Next HSW Meeting 

Saturday June 13 at 10 am via Zoom

Our next HSW meeting will be another Zoom meeting due to the restrictions on meeting in large groups. The code for the meeting will be sent to all members in a news blast a few days before the meeting and will be posted on the HSW web site and our Facebook page. 

If you have not used Zoom before, it is easy. Just click on the link that we will send and post. It will take you to the Zoom web site where you can quickly download the application. You do not need to be on video. The meeting last month went well. We hope to see more of you this next meeting.


Michael will join us on June 13 via Zoom to discuss the changing landscape of Amazon marketing: what has worked, what no longer works, and what may be strategies for the future. We’ll also have Q&A with him, so bring your questions about book launching and ongoing marketing. Michael is one of the top 20 bestselling authors on Amazon and has self-published all of his books.


We’re pushing back the dates of the short story contest. We’re having a planning meeting for the contest on June 2 to nail down the timing and rules and we’ll announce the results at the June 13 meeting.


When we write in first person, we’re limited to the character’s voice, but in third person how much of the author’s voice should creep through? When does the author’s editorializing break the reader’s flow? How do we navigate POV and what effect does POV have on narration? Join the discussion as we navigate the wide spectrum of ideas on the topic.


We’ll have the usual session. Please send the Word version of your first page to mattbayan@aol.com no later than June 12. We’ll display the pages on the Zoom screen. Please include title and genre. Your submission can be from either a novel or short story. For easy reading, use 12 point Times New Roman and double space.  Do not include your name on the page.

From the President

The gym of which I’m a member just went under. One of my favorite restaurants won’t be re-opening.

I just realized that High Sierra Writers is also a small business. We’re incorporated. We have a tax ID number. We file a tax return.

Will High Sierra Writers make it through this pandemic? Or will it wither away?

The businesses that are failing right now are doing so because they don’t have the financial resources to weather the storm. Are we in that situation? No. We have financial resources. For us, the challenge is more about will. Can we hold together as an organization or will members get distracted after months of not meeting?

The HSW board of directors is just as motivated as before. We hope our members will hang in through the next few months as we figure out how to navigate the changing health landscape.

Encouraging signs: critique groups are meeting with Zoom; our request for a volunteer to become the corporate secretary has been successful; our May meeting – the first on Zoom – had twenty members participating.

We’ll hold our June meeting via Zoom. July may be different, but we’ll have to play it by ear. If you know of a large venue – a very large venue – where we can socially distance up to 40 people, please send us an email to board@highsierrawriters.org with info. For the near future, Scheels may be too small to allow us to spread out.

If you have suggestions for meeting topics, or know of guest speakers you’d like to see in our monthly meetings, please send your ideas to board@highsierrawriters.org as soon as possible.

Please keep checking the HSW web site for updates of the June 13 agenda. www.highsierrawriters.org 

See you June 13th.


New Secretary on Board

With our elected secretary, Nicole Frens, leaving the area soon, Troy Becker has agreed to fill the position, and the Board is pleased to approve the change. We welcome Troy to the HSW Board. Thank you to Nicole for her contributions as both secretary and critique wrangler to our group. We wish her the best of luck.



Linda Enos (who writes as Lynda Bailey) here. I’m the Critique Group Wrangler for HSW and also the leader of the after-the-regular-meeting (ATRM) critique group.
I wanted to share something one of the ATRM members said to me. (Please note, to spare this individual any possible embarrassment, I won’t reveal his/her gender or the genre he/she writes.)
This person wrote in an email, “I feel like I have a professional editor when I read your comments.”
While the sentiment is terribly sweet, nothing could be further from the truth. I’m not a professional editor – nor would I ever claim to be. I simply have fresh eyes.
As authors, we fight and struggle to do revision after revision in the hopes of perfecting our manuscripts. As a result, it’s easy for us to have tunnel vision when it comes to our stories. We know everything about the plot and characters. And since we know everything, we sometimes fail to actually put pertinent information on the page. We leapfrog over important motivations for a character or miss a crucial plot point altogether. This is why critique groups/partners are a vital component for any author, whether newbie or an old hat. We all need fresh eyes on our manuscripts.
So, if you’ve been kicking around the idea of joining a group, why wait? Contact me today … linda.r.enos@gmail.com … with your name, the genre you write and your writing experience. If I can’t match up with a group (which, with the pandemic, is kinda tough right now) you can always join the ATRM group to get your feet wet. Obviously with the pandemic ATRM hasn’t had a face-to-face meeting, but we do exchange pages via email. The general guidelines for critique groups as well as the guidelines for ATRM are listed on our website. www.highsierrawriters.org.
Don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any questions or concerns.
Stay safe and stay well!

Has your creativity flourished or floundered under the quarantine?

By Rene Averett

I’ve seen that many writers have had trouble getting their thoughts focused on any story line while being confined at home, while for others, it was business as usual. Have the worries of the situation stifled your creativity? Or is privacy to write harder to find than it was? Conversely, are you someone who likes to sit in a coffee shop surrounded by chatter and other people? 

Either way, it’s time to stimulate your creative juices.  Here’s one way to do it.

If you need some encouragement to get back into the swing of things, you might consider the summer session of Camp NaNoWriMo. It begins on July 1st and runs the entire month. Like the spring version, the goal is up to you. If you want to write 30,000 or 50,000 words over the month or choose to edit an already completed piece, hat’s your choice.

The main objective is to get people working on a project with others doing likewise. With the limitations of the quarantine, we might be relying more on Zoom meetings and online writing sprints more than physical get-togethers, but it’s still a great way to bounce ideas off fellow writers and get the competitive spirit that encourages you to keep going.

If you are interested, join Rene and the NaNoWriMo Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/NaNoReno
To learn more about Camp NaNoWriMo go to: https://nanowrimo.org/what-is-camp-nanowrimo

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April 2020 Newsletter

April Meeting Information


No meeting in April due to stay-at-home order. 

With the COVID-19 threat still alive and very real, everyone who isn’t essential is staying home and trying to avoid any contact with the virus. At this time, Scheels’ meeting room is closed indefinitely, so we are not meeting until it is safe for people to get together again. This is a challenging time, but we hope everyone comes through it okay. 

In the meantime, use this time to start a new project, read, or learn more about your craft. In this issue of our newsletter, we have a few suggestions. Stay well, fellow writers.

From the HSW President

Now that we all have time to write and edit, here’s an article I did a year and a half ago. If you check my blog, you can read more articles I’ve written about editing and the writing process.

Here’s the direct link: https://mattbayan.wixsite.com/mysite-1

Wash your hands and stay untouchable!

How To Describe Without Describing

As an editor, one of my pet peeves is the writer who thinks he needs to put every last detail on paper. It might be a place or a person. It might be a room. Whatever it is, the description becomes exhausting. “I want them to see it,” the writer usually says.

I’ve red-penned entire pages written to describe a room; two or three pages to describe how a character looks and what she is wearing.

You’ve heard the expression, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” That doesn’t mean that when you describe a picture – some visual element – that you need to use a thousand words. Hemingway said, “We’re not interior decorators.” Good advice. Now, how do we use it?

Let’s look at this from the point of view of the reader. With a description, you have the choice of involving the reader in building an image in the mind or of spoon-feeding that image. Which do you think is more effective in holding the reader’s attention?

For example, have you ever listened to a radio drama? Or listened to a talk-show? Don’t you imagine what the people in the show look like? Does it matter that you “see” a person as middle-aged and heavy while someone else builds a mental image of a thirty-something who is tall and thin?

The point here is that the radio show involves the listener in building a mental image. That exercise gets the listener invested in the show. Without realizing it, the listener is filling in the blanks regarding what characters look like, where they are, and what they are doing.

Conversely, if the show spent minutes describing what each of the show’s participants looked like or their setting, the listener would get bored. Spoon-feeding details does not create a participative experience.

Same with readers.

The simple solution is to focus on a very specific aspect of a setting, a thing, or a character and let the reader build the rest in his or her mind.

Example of over-describing: The knife had a stout wooden handle of what looked like oak or maybe maple and was about five inches long. From one end a short, curved blade protruded about three inches. It looked sharp. The blade was rusted, but the edge shone like it had just been drawn across a whetstone. The whole blade was sharply curved like an eagle’s talon. It was the kind of knife you could slip into a pocket.

Example of specific focusing: The knife had a wicked little blade, curved like an eagle’s talon; not a stabbing weapon, but rather designed to open you up.

In the shortened example, the reader is presented more with the function of the knife, rather than its physical attributes. Maybe the reader views it as a linoleum knife, or the kind of knife used to shuck oysters. Whatever the reader visualizes is fine. The reader is building an image, participating in the process.

When faced with the task of describing, less information is better than a data-dump. Be specific and let the reader help with the lifting rather than turning the reader into a mental couch-potato.

Matt Bayan

Camp NaNo is starting on April 1st. 

By Rene Averett

For those who don’t know, this is another writing initiative of NaNoWriMo. Two Camp NaNos happen each year; one in April and one in July. While the November main write-in encourages 50,000 words in the month, the April and July ones allow the writers to set their own goals for the month. You can choose to write a 10,000-word short story, a 30,000-word novella, a script, or to edit a novel. 

To join in, you can go to Nanowrimo.org and sign up, create your project, then select a camp if you’d like to be part of a group working on projects. In Reno, our Reno Nano Facebook group is already geared up and ready to go. We have a Camp Reno group on NaNoWriMo and will be doing regular sprints on Facebook. I am one of the co-municipal liaisons for our area. To join the Facebook group, go to:

Why join the group? Mainly for incentive and company, albeit distant, while writing. The sprints encourage you to write two or three times a day for an hour each time with others. It gives you a burst of adrenaline when you know you’re trying to get as many words as possible in an hour against other writers. No matter how many you get during the month, you’re a winner. It’s also a boost if you’re in edit mode. That’s what I plan to be doing for the month. My November NaNo novel has loitered long enough, and it’s time for it to be whipped into shape. Virus be damned, this novel needs to get done.

So, if you need incentive, inspiration, and others to spur you along, join us for the April Camp Nano.

(This a reprint of a previously published article. A reminder now and then is good, plus we have several new members. – Editor)

The Golden Ticket

By Linda Enos

As authors, we know writing is hard. Real hard. Brutal even. It’s beyond tough to get the story points right, create compelling characters and avoid the dreaded “mushy middle.” But as the saying goes, if writing was easy, everybody would do it.

Still, it’s in our nature as humans to try to find ways to turn what’s difficult into something less so. In short, we’re looking for a Golden Ticket – a way to make the arduous task of writing easy. That’s why we buy books on characterizations and attend workshops on plotting. But news flash…such a golden ticket doesn’t exist. Why? Because, as with so many things in writing, an author’s process is subjective.

That’s right. Subjective. The concept we all love to hate. A writing method which works for Author A, probably won’t work for Author B. Or for you. Does this mean you should stop trying to better your craft? Absolutely not!! It just means you can’t take everything that anyone says as gospel. You need to glean the tidbits which work for you because – and here’s the kicker –you have a writing process too. One unique to you, and you alone. So read those books and attend those workshops on writing, but remember…there’s no golden ticket. Just a lot of hard work.

HSW Short Story Writing Competition 

HSW is sponsoring another short story writing competition this year. We are delayed in getting this going and hope to have the details for the next newsletter.

At the moment, we are seeking any of you who would like to be on the contest committee. This does not bar you from entering the contest. So, if you would like to be part of the planning, please send an email to RPAverett@gmail.com 

The committee will be determining the rules, goals, fees, and seeking judges for it. None of them will be part of the actual judging. We hope to have qualified folks outside our group doing the honors.

For now, our meetings will be online via email or possibly a chat program.

Your Mailing List

by Rene Averett

For any writer, a mailing list is considered an essential part of your marketing tools. If you’re self-published, it can be the most important part of it. But how do you set up and grow your list?

The main things you need to create a successful list are:
1) A way to gather and store the email addresses of potential readers. 
2) A way to be able to safely send emails to everyone on your list.
3) A way to attract readers to sign up or opt-in to your emails.

1) Beginning with a way to gather and store the information, you need a mailing list marketing provider, such as MailChimp, MailerLite, and Hubspot, to name a few. You can find more with a brief description at:

Consider this: If you are using a Word Press site for your author website, you can include a sign-up form that will store your subscribers on the site. When you want to send a notification of a new book or a press release, you can do it through Word Press. No need for a separate mailing program.

The advantage of a mailing program versus Word Press’s mailing list? You can target your email. If you write in more than one genre or with pen names, you can set up your opt-in to include a tick box indicating genre or pen name preferences. When you send out a new release for that particular genre, you can select only those people on your list who are interested. 

2) Safely sending emails. When you ask people to subscribe, you’re also taking responsibility for their email addresses. If you don’t have a mailer program that sends to individual addresses rather than a group of emails, then you aren’t keeping that email secure.

So, you could store your addresses in Excel or another database, but unless you want to send an individual email to each person, you would be sending group emails that display the address to everyone on the list. This is time-consuming when it can be automated. Both MailChimp and MailerLite are free to use up to 1,000 subscribers, then the cost is reasonably low. 

3) A way to attract readers is called a magnet. The most frequently used attractions are free stories, books, or information pieces of writing offered to readers when they come to your web site. You’ll have a short teaser with a flashy image, then an opt-in box to your mailing list. To get the free item, the reader signs up, and an auto-responder sends the reader the link to the free item. This may require a paid subscription at some mailing services to set up a free response page. 

You can direct readers to your site for a free download by including the information in a blog post or by adding it at the end of your book. This is particularly effective if you have a short story that expands on your novel or a character with more information that isn’t in the book. 

A good way to handle the free downloads is to use Prolific Works or Book Funnel to direct your readers to get the download of your magnet in the correct format for their e-readers. Prolific Works costs $20 a month for a single user while Book Funnel has a $10 a month plan for new users for an individual user. If you use more than one pen name, the cost goes up. Both of these services cater to the readers with Prolific Works and offer free books or partial books in promotions. That can be another whole article, so if you want to know more, I’ll cover that another time.
Words of warning: If you use the free options other than as a download for a magnet, advance reader copies, or reviews, and you have the book enrolled in Kindle Unlimited, it violates Amazon’s terms of service. So don’t make the book publicly available on either PW of BF if you’re in KU. 

The HSW Newsletter is seeking craft or marketing articles from anyone in the group who has knowledge to share. If you would like to write an article for us, please contact Rene at RPAverett@gmail.com with a short description of the subject. Articles should not be more than 800 words.


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March 2020 Newsletter

Next HSW Meeting

Saturday March 14 at 10 a.m.
Location: Scheels at Legends in Sparks
     Meeting room is on the second floor to the left of the restrooms. 

Alexanne Stone, who is an expert in body language, will be our guest at this meeting. See Matt’s article below for more details. The morning meeting is free to attend. The workshop will extend to the afternoon, which is a paid workshop for two hours. The cost is $10. You may pay online via PayPal at: 

Or you may pay by check or cash at the meeting. See Rene, the treasurer, to pay. 

The meeting will include First Pages. If you wish to participate, please bring only the first page of your work printed in 12 point, double-spaced type. Do not include your name, but the title is okay and the genre is helpful.


 Think of an actor who impresses you. Now think of some characteristic gesture or dramatic moment for that actor. Examples: (Leonard Nimoy) Mr. Spock’s lifted eyebrow; (Marlon Brando) Don Corleone’s dismissive hand gesture; Kate Hepburn’s smile in Philadelphia Story; Humphrey Bogart flicking away a cigarette; (Anthony Hopkins) Hannibal Lecter’s chilling stare.
juliet o'hara eye roll GIF

Not one of these gestures involves talking. These actions are what actors call “business.” With the greats, pieces of business become iconic moments. Certain roles become classics.

The one underlying idea that holds all of these different acting moments together is that they differentiate the characters. Add dialogue and the distinctions between characters become even more pronounced.

What kinds of business are you giving your characters? What kind of dialogue? Subtle gestures worked into your scenes can reinforce the reader’s sense of a character or undercut it. Body language can inform the reader of things unsaid. It can also make characters instantly recognizable. How many times in a review have your read someone lauding that “the characters jumped off the page?” Assuming a reviewer was not on an acid trip and this didn’t really happen, isn’t that the kind of response you want readers to feel about your characters?

Our Body Language Workshop will explore ways to differentiate characters, to make them deeper and more interesting, to give hints and foreshadowing through expressions and gestures.

Alexanne Stone, an expert consultant on body language, will conduct our workshop after the regular meeting on March 14. She held a shorter session with us a few months ago and the response was so positive, we’ve invited her back for an entire workshop.

The session will run all afternoon, so we suggest bringing lunch for the break between the meeting and the workshop. The price is $10 which can be paid directly on our web site before 3/14. Alexanne will conduct a teaser session during our regular meeting from 11 AM to noon, so if you then decide to stay for the workshop, you can pay the fee on-site. Help us out by bringing a check or cash unless you’ll have the ability to go online and pay with your phone or computer.

Critique Group Meeting

Since the regular HSW meeting is extended to the afternoon on Saturday, March 14, Linda Enos’s critique group meeting has been moved to Sunday, March 15 at 11 a.m. at Scheels. This will be in the upstairs meeting rooms.

If you are looking to join or start a critique group, please email Linda at: linda.r.enos@gmail.com She will try to connect you with others in your genre. Also if you are looking for a finish group, one that will read and critique on the finished novel, also let Linda know. These tend to form when we have four or five writers ready to do it.

Membership Renewal

If you were an HSW member in 2019 and have not yet renewed, it’s time to do it. After this newsletter, the HSW newsletter will no longer be emailed to you until you renew. In order to enjoy all the privileges of being a member, please renew now. If you have already renewed, thank you.
If you are uncertain if your membership is current, this is the record for your current status showing expiration date:
<< Test Display Name >> << Test Expiration >>

If you believe this is incorrect, please contact Rene at ruamor@sbcglobal.net so she can check on it.

Volunteers Needed!

We are currently looking for members to step up to be on the Contest Committee. These members will set up the rules for the next HSW writing contest, administer the contest to include deadlines, judges, prizes, and any other related items. The next planned contest is for a short story. So far, the details have not been set, so that will be the first task. If you are interested, please contact Rene at ruamor@sbcglobal.net


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February 2020 Newsletter



Next HSW Meeting is Saturday, February 8, 2020, at Scheels at Legends in Sparks.

The meeting begins at 10 am, followed by the Group Critique Session with Linda Enos. 

We will discuss the plans for the coming year, including upcoming workshops, presentations, and the 2020 writing contest. 


Matt will be doing first pages at the meeting. To submit the first page of your writing project, print it out double spaced in at least 12-point type. Do not put your name on it, but please include the name and genre of the project.

From the HSW President 

At last month’s meeting, the members in attendance showed a great deal of enthusiasm for an idea offered by Linda Enos. So, starting with the February meeting we will have two critique groups meeting after the official meeting.

The group led by Linda will require prior submission of materials to Linda and discussion will be limited to those who submit. For details on how this will work and submission guidelines, contact Linda directly at linda.r.enos@gmail.com.

 The second group will be a drop-in group for which no prior submission will be required. Just bring 5-7 pages. Any genre. Either you or another member will read the materials out loud and then the group will provide feedback. This will be similar to the format for First Pages.

 Both groups are open to members only, so if you haven’t paid your 2020 dues, hop to it.

See you there,

Looking for a Critique Group?

At the last meeting, several critique group leaders spoke about each group’s approach to giving and receiving critiques. A few provide their emails if they were open to accepting additional members in the group. 

If you are seeking a group, contact Linda Enos at  linda.r.enos@gmail.com

Writing Contest 2020

The Board discussed options at the last Board meeting and is planning a competition for this year. We will be looking at forming a committee to come up with rules and judging plan.

We’ll be talking more about this at the next meeting. If you are interested in being on the committee and can’t come to the meeting, please advise Rene at RPAverett@gmail.com

Time to Renew Your Membership

As previously announced, if you are a member and wish to continue as a member, please show your commitment and renew your membership now.

With workshops, craft speakers, and more coming up this year, your membership is worth more than the $25 renewal fee. If you wish to participate in critique groups, the writing contests, or have your published book listed on the HSW web site, you must be a member. After March, the newsletter will be emailed only to current members, although it will still be available on the website a few days after it is emailed. 

Thank you to everyone who has already renewed. This has been a member-services message from the Treasurer.

Seeking Short Story Writers

Rene Averett is working to assemble a group that is interested in improving short story writing skills. The group would meet once a month with the aim of learning more about crafting the short story and critiquing each other’s work. If you are interested, please contact Rene at RPAverett@gmail.com.

Writing Fight Scenes

A physical fight scene is used frequently in many novels, but it’s something most writers don’t have any real experience with unless they’ve actually gotten into physical fights. Then it can be tricky to describe the scene, add in the emotions, and sometimes dialog to make that scene sound real.

For me, I’ve learned some of the mechanics of the fighting from watching YouTube videos of the various art forms and noted body placement. But I can’t actually go inside the fighters’ heads, yet as a writer, I need to know the physical feel of the scene and what emotions might be going through their mind. Any professional fight is probably focused on the business of fighting – what your opponent is doing and is likely to do next while the emotion in it is more contained. For a character that is not as focused and thrown into a fight, emotions should come into play. 

Points in an article from the Writer’s Edit website hit on these five tips:

  1. Ensure your fight advances plot and character development. You don’t want a fight just to add some excitement to the book, but it needs to contribute to moving your story forward, building tension, and showing more about the characters.
  2. Don’t over-describe.  Your scene is about the physical fight and the emotions, so don’t worry about detailed descriptions of the setting or how the characters look. Your writing should be action-based.
  3. Infuse the fight scene with emotion. The key to your audience’s connection to the character is through the emotions of the scene, what they are thinking and feeling.
  4. Keep things realistic. If it’s too much out of the character’s training or background, then the fight is too hard for the reader to believe. Ask yourself if your character could really do this.
  5. Use writing style to enhance the fight. How the sentences break down on the page can lend to how the reader reacts to the scene. Short pointed sentences with action verbs provide the feel of the encounter. Look for places where a paragraph break impacts the tension of the scene and use them to heighten the effect.

If you would like to read the full article with more good information on these points, you can find it at:


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January 2020 Newletter

Next Meeting

Our first meeting of 2020 will be

January 11 at Scheels at Legends. Meeting will start at 10 a.m. and last until around noon.

Program: Linda Enos will be presenting her new plans for  the Critique Groups. Read her article below for more of what she has in mind.

FIRST PAGES: Matt is back from his holiday vacation and will be doing First Pages at this meeting. Please bring in your first page, double spaced in 12 point type. It helps to identify genre, but do not put your name on the page. 

From the President

 The holidays are over. Let’s get back to work.Fingers flying over the keyboard will soon burn enough calories to get rid of that extra five pounds that Santa delivered. (OK, I have nothing to back that up, but it sounds good, doesn’t it? One can dream.)

Over several years, January has become our month for planning what guests we’ll have in the coming year and the month in which we evaluate our critique groups.

This year we’re going to shake things up. We’re revamping our critique groups and introducing something which I think you’ll really like. Every time we’ve surveyed the members, the number one area you’ve asked for help has been in craft. If you want more hands-on help with your writing, we’ve figured out a way to deliver. See Linda Enos’ article on a new group and come to the January meeting to find out more.

We’ll also have First Pages, so bring in that all-important start to your manuscript and get detailed feedback.

Happy New Year,


And the Big Reveal is …
A New Critique Group

 By Linda Enos

 Yes, a new critique group, led by me, is the BIG REVEAL. (Hope y’all aren’t too disappointed…J)

 Some specifics about the group are listed below. If you’re interested in participating, please take a moment to read. There will be an extensive discussion of this group at the January meeting, as well as a signup sheet. Also, at the Jan meeting, we’ll go over the proper etiquette for giving/receiving critiques. Additionally, leaders from current groups will be there to answer any questions you may have.

 Before getting to information about the new group, here’s a bit of background for the reasoning behind establishing it:

When speaking to current (and past) group leaders, their concerns for bringing in “new” people could usually be put into two buckets:

Bucket #1 – they (new people) don’t have strong writing skills.

Bucket #2 – they (new people) don’t know how to give/receive critiques.  

With luck, these concerns will be addressed with this new group.

 Other issues newly formed groups have encountered include, but aren’t limited to:

  1. People not knowing each other and thus have a harder time communicating.
  2. People not understanding how to give/receive critiques.

Again, hopefully this group will alleviate these problems.

 Basics of How It Will Work

 This group will be led by moi, Linda Enos. You can email me at linda.r.enos@gmail.com with any questions or concerns.

  1. You must be an HSW member to participate in this group.
  2. This group will meet monthly after the regular HSW meeting on the second Saturday of the month, starting in February. If there is an all-day presentation set for the regular meeting day, an alternate weekend day will be designated for the group. The meeting(s) will still be held at Scheels.
  3. This will be a “homework” group so pages must be submitted in advance. Only the first five submissions sent to me will be accepted. The next five will be addressed the next month.
  4. Details about submissions and where to send them will be discussed at the HSW meeting in January. Information covering critiquing will also be discussed.

After the meeting, full details about the process will be published on the HSW web site, www.highsierrawriters.org

It’s a New Year – Time to Renew!

That’s right. As we move into a new year and a new decade, it’s time to recommit to your goals as a writer. If HSW is helping you and you feel it’s valuable, then become a member by renewing your membership or joining the group. We believe that if you’ve come to three meetings and you think it’s giving your value, inspiration, insight, and help, then $25 is a small price to pay to be a part of the group and enjoy the benefits.

To everyone who has already renewed, thank you! To everyone else, it’s time to get on board.

We have several speakers and workshops lined up for 2020. Your membership gives you first access to these, Some are free, while others have a fee attached and the member fee is always lower than the one for people who are not members. 

Other events,  writing competitions, and our critique groups are member benefits. Renew or join now to get the full benefit of membership. Go to http://highsierrawriters.org/dues_payments/ to pay with PayPal or you can mail a check, payable to High Sierra Writers, to the HSW mailbox at:

High Sierra Writers
PO Box 12241
Reno, NV 89510

You can also give a check or cash to Rene at the next HSW meeting. 


Some might say it’s as long as it needs to be. But that might not always be true. Is it one scene? Two scenes? More than that.  

The reality is that chapters vary quite a bit depending on genre, content, and writer’s preference. Some writers make every chapter around 2500 words, some go for 3700 to 4500, while I’ve seen some as short as 1250 or less. Sometimes, you have a good instinct at where to end your chapter, even if it is in the middle of a scene. Other times, the defining point may not be as clear, and your chapter continues when it should have stopped. 

The key part is to make sure your chapter has one or more beginnings, middles, and ends, just like the scene does. And a hook… You want something at the end of every chapter to pull the reader to the next one. 

I just happened to run across this article from Book Baby, talking about chapters. If you want a little more insight about them, go to this link. http://preview.alturl.com/hgyd3

Plotting Group Resumes on January 31st

After taking the holiday off, we will fire up the plot assistance think tank again on January 31st at the IHOP on South Virginia in the Win-Co shopping center. We’ll start at 6:30 pm and go to about 9 pm. If you have some writing problem of any sort that you want to talk through with other HSW writers, then bring your problem and join us. If you just want to offer suggestions, then come along also. Even if we don’t have any troubleshooting to do, we can usually find something to discuss. If nothing else, have a piece of pie and coffee. Look for Rene, who is usually in the back room on the right hand side as you come in.


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December 2019 Newsletter

High Sierra Writers will meet Saturday
December 14, 2019 at 10 am
at Scheels at Legends Meeting Rooms.

Program: Panel on Editing Your Manuscript – Tips on things you can do to edit your work before anyone else reads it.

  * * * * *

Looking Ahead…

January 11th Meeting is All About Critique Groups

In January, the new critique group wrangler, Linda Enos, will be talking about her plan for the critique groups – what they are, how they work, and how you can get into one.

From the President Matt Bayan

So, you finished NANO. Now what? Bask in your sense of accomplishment if you wrote 50K words. Even if you only wrote 10K. Bask anyway.

Then get your ass back in front of your keyboard. That first draft was the easy part. You now have two large tasks. First, go through the manuscript. and pay attention only to your plot and character development. Don’t stop for spelling corrections. You need to see if your story works. Rewrite. Revise. Rethink. Then crank out a second draft. And a third. As many as it takes for you to feel comfortable that the story and characters make sense.

The second big task is to go through and look at detail. Root out passive verbs. Correct spelling. Shake mediocre sentences by the neck and make them more effective. Convert telling to showing.

If you feel fairly comfortable about the state of your manuscript, now you need to run it through a critique group. This is free and provides feedback from actual readers. The group members will usually find the plot holes that you didn’t notice. They’ll identify the vague parts where you need better writing.

After they slice and dice you, go back to your keyboard and do a re-write.

Rinse and repeat.

Go through another critique group? Yes, or trusted beta readers.

When you’ve done all you think you can do, then look for an editor to give it the finishing touches.

Short-cut this process at your peril.

And Happy belated Thanksgiving to all.


The Next Step is Editing

Don’t send your manuscript off to an editor or an agent as soon as it’s done. You need to take a few editing steps of your own before passing it on to anyone else. 

Anytime you finish a first draft of your manuscript, whether it is a NaNoWriMo novel or otherwise, you need to do some editing on it before it’s ready for anyone else to read, let alone be sent to an editor or an agent. Your work is judged by the first read when someone else sees it, so you want it to be as clean and well-crafted as you can get it before it goes out. But how do you do that?

At our next meeting, we’re doing a panel discussion of what steps you can take to get your novel ready for other readers. What tools can you use? How can you build more tension? Linda Enos and Rene Averett will be directing the panel, giving tips and suggestions to help you do the best job you can.

But they need some help from each of you. Bring in your method for editing that first draft, what things you look for, and how you approach it. Also bring in any paragraphs or lines in your own work that you think need to be rewritten or punched up to make them more effective. We’re going to rewrite a few of them.

Keeping Up Your Membership in HSW

At the November meeting, Matt laid down the law when it comes to joining HSW. His view is that if you’ve attended three meetings, which are free and open to the public, and haven’t joined, then why haven’t you joined to help support the organization and the programs we can bring to you each year? We figure if you keep coming back, you must be getting something you can use from attending, so go ahead and put out that $25 to be an official member.

So what does membership do for you? First, as a member of HSW, you are eligible to be in one of the critique groups we have running, which is a member-only benefit. You also get a member rate on any workshops that we charge for, usually at least $10 less than the general public. We bring in speakers throughout the year and sometimes they are a free to members, but a fee to the general public. You also can add High Sierra Writers Member to your resume and bios when submitting a manuscript to an agent or publisher. While it may not sound like a lot, membership in a writing organization shows a commitment to your craft

Sometimes, as happened recently at the Reno Pop Culture Convention, your membership can mean a bonus admission to an event. In this case, HSW members got in free for the meeting and the whole day on Saturday.

In short, membership gives you many benefits as well as supporting a creative organization that will support your efforts to write. Isn’t it a value at $25 a year? So start 2020 off as a member. You can join from our website at http://highsierrawriters.org/dues_payments/

Great Programs Coming Up in 2020!

As we’re looking ahead to 2020, we have some great programs planned to bring in guests to help you with your writing, plotting, and editing. Among them are:
  • Alexanne Stone, who will delve into more details about using body language to give more life to your characters;
  • Anne Hawley and Rochelle Ramirez, certified Story Grid editors, will return with more information on making your plots stronger and your stories tighter,
  • In the fall, New York Times Bestseller Cherry Adair with her popular Plot By Color Workshop, a two-day event that will not only help you with plotting but with all other aspects of writing.

 We will be filling in the calendar with more programs as we can plan them. Nicole made a list of the topics suggested at the November HSW meeting, so we will be looking at those in our planning.

Some of the workshops will have a fee attached as HSW will need to pay the presenters, but HSW members will get a discounted rate. So, there are three good reasons above to be a High Sierra Writers member.


You can renew online at the HSW website. We use PayPal and you can pay by credit card without having a PayPal account. The link from HSW’s site, at the bottom of the previous column, will take you directly to the payment page. Or bring a check or money order to the meeting and give it to Rene.

Recap of the Reno Pop Culture Convention

For three days, the RPCC took over the convention center to bring the Reno area a comic con experience that’s a little different from the last one that came here. Among other things, the RPCC really wanted to feature local writers and set a whole programming track on writing. Some of the panels even gave attendees college credits for attending.

            A writers’ booth from two Denver writers, who came to Reno to show
           the locals how to set up a successful booth. It helps that they are both
           best-selling romance authors.

Several HSW members were on various panels. Matt Bayan did about three a day over the three days. Linda Enos (Lynda Bailey), Teri Green (Elise Manion), Rene Averett (Lillian I. Wolfe), and Jacci Turner also participated on several panels. Some were attended better than others, but all of them were interesting and talked about the real issues we face as writers.

With so many writers with tables in the dealers’ room, located in Artists’ Valley, it was a great opportunity to talk to potential readers and to also network with other writers in the area. Reno has a lot of writers. These panels and the attention to writers is a part of the concept of the RPCC to encourage young people to the arts and particularly to writing.

At the same time, many other panels covered comics, movies, television, and several actors and other creatives also made appearances. If you are a fan of science fiction and fantasy, this was the place to be.

If the RPCC decides to return to Reno next year, High Sierra Writers will looking at ways to get more involved and get interested people to our meetings. Among other things, we will be considering a dealer room table or two to hand out information and provide a base for any of our members to take turns selling books. We’ll talk about it more when we have more information in the next few months.

Building an Author Website

One of the suggestions during last month’s meeting was more information on how to build an author web site. For many people, it’s easier to have someone build the web site for you, but for those who want or need to do it themselves, several helpful articles and videos on YouTube will talk you through the process. Almost all of them use WordPress to power their sites as it’s the easiest one to work with and customize.

Donna Stegman suggested https://www.studiopress.com/ as one that the industry recommends to their authors. You can go directly to WordPress.com to get themes and to pay a small fee for the server to run your web site. If you need to rent space on a server, it will cost some money for it and for your domain name, if you don’t already have one. On the plus side, they will help you if you have problems with your site.  Check around for web server services or …

Go here to see the top 10 server sites and links to them.

For how-to videos, check out these:
The Creative Penn – How to Build You Own Author Website in 30 Minutes
Derek Murphy – How to Make an Author Website for Yourself
Vivian Reis – How to Create an Author Website


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