Thursday, December 31, 2009

Johnny Ray preparing to celebrate. Just like writing, the best way to make a decision is to sample all life has to offer.

If you don't understand what the local beers taste like, then do the most sensible thing -- try them all. I want to take a minute and wish everyone a great new year and hope you make the world brighter by just being a part of it. Now it is your time to sample what the world has to offer, to live life to the fullest.

Johnny Ray
Award winning novelist

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Johnny Ray with his granddaughters
It is nice to spend some time with my granddaughters for Christmas. They are a handful.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Johnny Ray family hopes all have a great holiday season.

It is time to wrap up the year and relax for a while. It has been a great year and I've learned so much from my friends. Writing has become such a way of life with me. Yes, I'd write if no one read my work but me. Hopefully, others will like it and it will give them some enjoyment in reading it.

I have several people reading partials and fulls now and know that soon the next step in this journey will happen. It is amazing how much there is to learn in this business. I remember in my previous business how long it took to become good at it and know it will be the same here. So, for all of those in the same boat as I am, remember 2010 will be a magical year full of great things. I wish everyone a great holiday season and next year.

Please be sure to follow me on this site and visit me at

Johnny Ray

Saturday, September 26, 2009

How much does blogging increase a writers exposure?

I have been wondering about this lately and attempting to find some solid proof which does not exist. So, the next best source is to ask writers you do blogging. It would be nice to find a way to correlate the two but even with all of the fancy analytic programs I use, it is impossible.
I do use one program that tracks where someone goes when they leave my site. This seems to be the best indicator of someone purchasing something.
Some writers want a core group of dedicated readers to start the buzz on their book while others want a massive following to attract many direct readers. It would be good to hear other writers opinion on this.
I'm leaving the field wide open on this subject hoping to hear your thoughts.

Johnny Ray

Monday, September 07, 2009

The road to publication may be long, but is definitely not lonely
Of all of the professions I know of, I have to say with so many helpful people in the publishing industry the chances of becoming lonely are very slim. Yes, when you write it often means hiding out for a while to get it right. However, the interaction among writers both published and unpublished in amazing. The sheer number of groups is mind blowing. And If you want to socialize the number of conventions is astonishing. And, everyone wants each other to succeed. They all have different opinions on how to make it happen, but all want the same goal.
So, what is it that drives this group to want to help others so much? Is it the love of writing? Or is it something else? I think it is perhaps a wanting to share and the wanting to let others know they care about others. To some extent I think it is also the feeling that to sell their work they have to be known and they have to do their share of public relations. But this alright with me, it helps me to understand what I have to accomplish.
I know we do not always take the time to thank those that help us along the way, but the amount of help I have received from so many people will never be forgotten. The ones that have helped me the most know I am thankful and I just wish I had kept a full list of all the little words of encouragement I have received from other writers. Writers, agents and editors are a very special group I am so glad to call myself part of. My hope is to return the words of encouragement into a published work of art that everyone can enjoy. Because of their encouragement I keep writing and will until I get it right.

Thanks again to all,

Johnny Ray

Monday, August 17, 2009

Thoughts on obtaining an agent

After following the advice and directions of many authors and want to be authors I have gained a lot of insights, with some of it excellent and some of it bad. However, I thought it would make a good blog to highlight a few of the good points I have picked up along the way.

I have learned that agents do want books to sell and do want new authors. This is how they make their money. Most agents do their best to put forth their best foot around writers. They know they are talked about as the gatekeepers, etc. They are looking for writers that stand out from the crowd. They are looking for something unique and writing about something they have an interest in. And, I have learned that in many respects they are people just like anyone else. Sometimes they get tired of talking about only writing and would love to talk about other interest they have. This is especially true when you catch them away from their office or convention floor, like in the bar.

Many agents are bombarded with queries and proposals. I think many times it is not near as many as they would love for you to think. Remember, they have a reputation they have to promote as well. They want others, especially editors to think they are in full demand and receiving all of the top proposals in the market. The one reason they will not accept many of the clients that contact them is because they feel they have to submit work that will not be good for their own reputation.

I remember one conference where a panel of agents looked a query letters. The first item they really wanted to know is if the author had published before. Next question, how did they do? Third question, if not published, are they famous? What are they looking for? They are looking for the ability to sell books strictly on their name.

If a writer is none of the above, the agent then looks for something different to set them apart from the crowd. It could be a fantastic writing skill, superior knowledge of a certain field, a unique voice, or something that clicks with that agent. If that does not happen, the query letter is dead.

So, what is a writer to do? Number one is to get known; to make a name for yourself. The route to doing this is varied and the more creative the author is the better. And we are not talking about slightly known, but highly known. For an example, if you want to become famous for your blogging you will not need a few hundred or a few thousands going to your blog a day but 5,000 to over 10,000 per day. We are talking about national exposure and not local. Yes, a lot of work without a platform to stand on. For some this is possible and for most it is almost impossible. I did say almost.

While you are building your name, it is also important to demonstrate you can write well. Learning to write is a never ending exercise. The author has to know the market and what is selling. You have to think of the market as your competition. You can not be as good as the bestselling authors, you have to be better. Why? Remember they are well known; you are not. You have to make your work stand out. How can you be unique and different if you do not know what is out there?

Your last shot is getting to an agent that has a unique interest; one that likes a certain style or type of book. This is a niche agent. Another trick I have learned is to start a query off locked on that special interest. Agents receive a lot of mail sent to them very formally and I hate to say it very dull. It has to be refreshing to receive a letter acknowledging they are a real person with wants and desires like everyone else. They also have egos and love to hear how they made a great sale they worked hard on. They like to know people read their articles they spend so much time on. They want to know that you spent the time to know them.

I think past that the agent wants to answer two main questions. Why is this the easiest book to sell now and why is this author the best to work with now. When it all comes down to it, the agent only has so much time and has to work what he or she thinks will make the most money for the time spent.

I think what I have been getting around to is a simple point. To obtain an agent you have to think like an agent and ask yourself what you would be looking for if you were in their place.

Johnny Ray

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Introduction to Mobipocket
Mobipocket was formed in March of 2000 and has quickly become the leader in the ebook industry. The ebooks can be downloaded to almost anything including a blackberry, Palm os, pocket pc, windows including visa and I understand will soon be available on iphone. Mobipocket has a free download of their software and it is extremely easy and fast. It is one of the three main ebook formats and based on the open ebook specifications.
They are not available on a kindle. But with the kindle not available for sell outside the United States, this is a great way for many people around the world to obtain ebooks written by Americans. Mobipocket is written in html form which makes it great to add links and other extras you will not normally find on books. It is extremely easy to read a book when it is on your phone or PDA. This is quickly becoming the preferred way for most of the world to read.
Their list of books available is growing fast and I expect to see them only make it better.
Amazon purchased Mobipocket in April of 2005. Mobipocket is located in Paris France.
Johnny Ray

Wednesday, August 05, 2009


I have had this on my mind all day and thought I would see what others think. I was criticized for using this word "OHMIGOD" several times lately and wondering if I am missing something here.

I entered a contest and looked back over the comments to help me polish the work when I noticed it the first time. The reviewer had circled the word every time I used it, which was three times in two chapters. On the last time she circled she wrote, "I don't know why you use this word, no one talks like that but lamb little teen aged girls. I now think I know why she did not give me a great score.

On the next time (different novel) I was criticized for using it the reviewer wrote, "I started to stop reading right there. You need to never use ohmigod in your writing, it is a big turn off to readers."

So, I have had this on my mind today and wondering what part of the world would think like this. I know a lot of professional people who use these words all of the time. To me it is very common place and is part of the way Americans talk and the way I know many people from around the world talk.
The question I have for everyone is. . . Am I wrong? If so, enlighten me.

Johnny Ray

Monday, July 27, 2009

Thoughts on when is the best time to submit to agents
I am definitely no expert on this but willing to share what I have learned and heard on this. The month of August is the month many agents and publisher go on vacation. I have heard many say that it is not a good idea to submit during this month. To make the situation worst is that in September you have many teachers off during the summer months that decide to write a novel or finish one. Many of these are submitted in September.
That leaves October and November to be good months. The agencies know it will soon be the holiday season and the year will be gone. This is when I have heard it is best to find an agent.
Yes, I know what I am going to hear. If you have a great novel and perfectly written it does not matter. Well, if the agent never looks at it, yes, it does matter. So, if these are the best time to hit your favorite agent or editor, what different should you do to get noticed?
That can be the trick as most agent do not like off the wall, outlandish presentations. However, I suspect they welcome a good mood type query.
This is from my experience. I have found I get much better response if I spend the time to know as much as I can about the agent. What have they sold recently? What conferences have they attended? What have they posted on their blog? Anything to make it hard for them to ignore you. Yes, agents don't like being talked about as the agent that ignored you if they think they will run into you again at a conference or online.
Another point I discovered is that it is best to e-mail a query on Thursday. Many of the agent go through their stack of query letters on Friday. This will make your query be close to the top.

Of course, I'm no expert on this and would love to hear what other aspiring writers think as well as maybe an agent or two to add to this discussion.

Johnny Ray

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Finding a mentor
I have always been of the opinion that to become the best in any field you have to find the greatest person in that field and learn from them. This has been true in the past of almost all great people in any field. They all had someone to help them develop. Writing is no different. A great mentor will help you develop your voice, your style and not be concerned with the rules that hold down many emerging writers.

The great thing about writing is that there are so many writers wanting to help others along. All writers want to be better and know it helps to receive others opinions. They also know to take all advice for what it is--one person point of view. But, when that advice is repeated over and over it starts sinking in--which can be good or bad.

What is tragic is that sometimes a great writer forgets what makes him special--his own special voice. From reading much more than I want to admit I have noticed that new writers follow rules that are imposed on them in order to become published. As time passes and they can stand on their own, so to speak, they relax the rules and reestablish their style. This is when they become great writers. They write for the reader and not for the rules imposed by some writers and editors.

If I had a choice, I would prefer a writer allowed to express the feeling in a story in his own unique voice to one that is written perfectly according to grammarians and other word controlling elitist. And this is why I think finding the right mentor that has made it pass the control of such is so important.

However, this is my opinion, what is yours?

Johnny Ray

Monday, July 20, 2009

Mystery Writers of America meeting
I attended the MWA meeting and heard author Martha Powers talk about cranking up the suspense in our novels. She really is an interesting speaker and talked about how important it is to have the central theme so powerful that a level of fear arises that totally hooks the reader. The characters have to be memorable and add to the tension and suspense of the story. An element of time always builds suspense,especially if it is a very short window. The writer needs to keep the tension building, but there are times the writer needs to let the reader breath. A short pause makes the next thrill more dramatic. She said to let the reader expect events to happen and then do the unexpected.

She mentioned how the writer needs to reveal the information slowly and let the character have time to develop. Once the details are revealed, the suspense of not knowing is over. In fact, she added that the strongest scene should be at the end of the book. This is what sells the next book. This is what the reader remembers. When the final details are given, the story is over and the writer needs to quit writing. Well maybe time to start the next story.

It is easy to see why Martha Power is such a great writer. She understands what readers want and has become a master in delivering perfectly.

Johnny Ray

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Planning a novel is very involved. I found the article below which is very close to the way I approach writing so I had to share it. It would be interesting to hear how others go about the mechanical part of writing.

Johnny Ray

Planning a Heart-stopping Story

Author: Holly Lisle

Over the last six lessons, you've figured out your theme, and you've worked out at least one and possibly several subthemes. You've learned how to use blended scenes, intercuts, and cliffhangers to work both themes and subthemes into your work. You have great conflict waiting to happen. What do you do next?

All of our discussion of themes and subthemes comes down to this. It's time to figure out how your story is going to go.

After more than 17 years of writing novels as my full-time job, I've tried every method I could find for getting my stories into order without so overworking them during the outline process that I no longer wanted to write the book. This is the method I currently use, and am still refining. It's simple, it's quick, and it's flexible---all three advantages which make writing more fun, and keep your work fresher for you. This is going to seem like the strangest imaginable way to get a passionate, compelling, suspenseful story on the page...but it completely blows away waiting for your Muse to inspire you in terms of effectiveness.

I am a heavy user of plot cards---3x5 index cards or the software equivalent--upon which I write one single sentence for each scene. That sentence outlines the characters and the conflict that will occur in that scene.

(Don't understand scenes? The Scene Creation Workshop will help you get the hang of them. )

To write your novel, you'll need to know:

• How many plot cards/ scenes you'll need for your book,

• Which theme or subtheme (or blend) you'll be dealing with for each scene,

• Which characters will be in each scene,

• Who the POV (Point Of View) character---the person through whose eyes the story is told---will be.

You'll start with basic arithmetic plus your themes and subthemes to do this to figure out how many scenes you'll need.

An average first novel in the current market is around 90,000 words long (if you're writing for the adult, not children's or YA markets).

• So we'll start with 90,000 words as our target length.

For this example, we're going to assume that you have one main theme and two subthemes that you've decided will each run the complete length of the book.

• Theme: HEROINE sets out to win a writing contest and prove to her dubious husband that her dream of being a writer is not a waste of time.

• Subtheme #1: HEROINE meets man at work who encourages her writing, and her pursuit of fulfillment, leading her to consider leaving her current relationship.

• Subtheme #2: HUSBAND watches his wife's life change as she pursues her dreams, and he starts wondering what happened to his own dreams.

Let's further say that you've decided your scenes will average a thousand words each, so you'll need about ninety of them to get a full-length novel. (In real life, the math is rarely this easy--mine scenes generally average 1500 to 1750 words each, but every book and every scene is different.)

• Target Length of Book ÷ Average Length of Scene = Number Of Scenes

• 90,000 ÷ 1000 = 90 scenes for the book (PLEASE NOTE: This is an APPROXIMATION. Books are not so cut and dried that you'll end up with exactly ninety scenes, nor will they each be a thousand words long.)

You want to give a lot of the story over to your main theme. We'll figure 50% because it's a nice, easy number, but it could just as easily be 60%. Or 73.8%, if you like to make things complicated. Let's not go there, though.

• 50% for the heroine's main story.

Then we'll divvy up the other half of the book between Subtheme #1 and Subtheme #2. Say you decide that you want the heroine to dump her husband for the man at work. You'll probably want to give #1 more time and space than #2. If you want her current relationship to grow stronger because her pursuit of her own dreams has inspired her husband to pursue his, then you'll want to put more work into #2. And if you want to keep the reader in suspense about which way she's going to jump, split them down the middle.

I think the suspense angle is interesting, so I'm going to give:

• Subtheme #1 25% of the book, and

• Subtheme #2 25% of the book.

Multiply 90 (Total Number Of Scenes) by .5 (50%--the percentage your main theme gets). You'll get 45.

• 90 x .5 = 45 Main Theme Scenes

Now multiply 90 (Total Number Of Scenes) by .25% (the subtheme percentage).

• 90 x .25 = 22.5

You'll get 22.5, which basically means you round up for one subtheme, and round down for the other one. Or write two short scenes. Or don't worry about the remainder, because this is just a rough technique to give you a quick picture of how you're going to break up your story. I'll give subtheme #1 22 scenes, and subtheme #2 23 scenes, just because I've decided the husband reawakening his own dreams is a better story than the dude at work hitting on someone else's wife, and at the end of the suspense, I'm going to have the heroine stay with her husband.

• 22 Subtheme #1 Scenes

• 23 Subtheme #2 Scenes

Anyway, I now know I'll need 90 3x5 index cards on which to write out plot cards, and I'll have 45 of them for the heroine's pursuit of her dreams, 22 for her entanglement with the man from work, and 23 for her relationship with her husband.

NOTICE that nowhere in here have I addressed POV (Point Of View)---that is, which scenes are shown through which character's eyes. The theme and subthemes do not select POV for you. As you write out plot cards, you'll have to select the best POV based on what is happening in each scene. Let's do a few now, and I'll show you what I mean.

• Jenna, cleaning the attic on a rainy Saturday afternoon, discovers one of her journals from her teenage years in which she promised herself that she'd be a famous novelist by the time she was 25, and something stirs in her at the sudden, sharp memory of that dream. [POV-Jenna] (Main Theme)

• Kevin Hobart hears Jenna talking to a co-worker about her crazy desire to write a novel, and does a good job of faking casual as he invites her to a meeting of a writers' group to which he belongs. [POV-Kevin] (Subtheme #1)

• Mac watches Jenna reading through piles of books about writing, taking notes and writing things down, and tells her she's going to get her feelings hurt when she does all that work and no one wants what she's done. [POV could be either Mac or Jenna] (Subtheme #2)

• Jenna meets Kevin at her first meeting, and even though she brought something she wrote to read, is intimidated by the process and refuses to read when her turn comes around. [POV could be either Jenna or Kevin] (Blend of Main Theme and Subtheme #1)

You may not get all 90 scenes when you first start outlining. That's okay. You may not, in fact, get much beyond the first third of the book. That's fine, too. You have a plan, and you can build and change things as you go. The greatest advantage of figuring out and using plot cards is that when you discover a better direction for your story, you can toss a 3x5 index card or two, and replace them with better, rather than tossing several thousand or more already-written words.

I realize it's unnerving to look at the mechanical processes behind creating edge-of-the-seat fiction. It's more romantic to imagine typing like a wild thing, writing without a plan, tossing balled-up pages in the wastebasket from across the room...and dressing all in black, and drinking espresso in a coffee house while lamenting being blocked, too. Passion is in what you put on the page, though, not in how artsy you look while you're doing it.

In the final installment of BRING YOUR NOVEL TO LIFE, "Life, Passion...Deadline," you'll learn how to hold on to your story and its heart while working to a deadline.

About the Author:

Holly Lisle is a full-time novelist who also writes extensively about writing. You can find her website here: and sign up here to receive her free newsletter.

Article Source: - Planning a Heart-stopping Story

Monday, July 13, 2009

The importance of writing everyday

One of the most important pieces of advice I ever received is that writer write. Some days it is only a little, but some days it is a lot. I think it is the only way to get better. And to write better you have to push yourself, to write each piece of work with more emotion, more description, more clarity than you wrote earlier. For there are also saying such as,"if you keep doing what you're doing you keep getting what you have."

With this in mind, I thought I would take some time to reflect on my writing. Is it getting better or is it the same old thing? And more importantly, would I really know?

They say a writer needs to have very tough skin. After having sending my work to various contest, critique groups and agents I think I am seeing the errors of my ways. As I rework some of the works I completed several years ago I think I am very glad it did not get published. Yes, it was terrible.

One of the best pieces of advice I was given earlier is to keep a notebook of errors I made in writing. I now constantly refer to it in polishing my work. While I think my education at several universities helped, I think the University of hard knocks has moved me along much more.

I also think the harder it is to obtain a goal the more valuable the prize is when it is obtained. It also makes me appreciate the great writers out there by knowing what they also went through to be where they are. While I'm sure some writers are borne with natural ability, I think most have to work at it like everyone else.

With small victories, a contest win or a request from a top agent, the journey to becoming published is an interesting life full of doing what I really want to do--write.

Johnny Ray

Monday, July 06, 2009

Free Kindle giveaway contest

I am still running my contest for a free kindle giveaway. The rules for the kindle giveaway are very simple. On my site select the novel you think will be published first and e-mail your vote. My e-mail is I will pick a winner from those that select the correct novel that is published first. I have partials,fulls and query letters out on all of them.

I am working on my seventh novel now and when it is finished I will post info on it, If you want to switch your vote on the kindle giveaway contest at that time, just e-mail me. On my site I also have a place for you to sign up for my newsletter.

I also have a large number of blogs I post to. a complete list of them can be found here For those that want to learn how to make money on their blogs please join us at

I wish everyone the best on the free kindle giveaway contest and want to thank you for your support of me as a writer.

Johnny Ray

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Thoughts on self publishing by Johnny Ray

I'm sure I'm not the only writer to think more about this recently. While my goal remains to have my work distributed by a major house, the lure and freedom of self publishing tend to be growing. The time table is definitely faster, the rewards now maybe high enough to make it worth while, and it at least gets your work out there where people can see it and buy it. I feel like I have a large enough platform to sell many of my own books. However, a large house would definitely help with all of their resources.

I've heard that it could hurt your brand, your name later. To some extent this is like in the real estate business where real estate agents look down on for sale by owners. I've also heard this is how many authors got their start. I know many people have their own opinions on this. However, thinking about it, a pen name might work out great.

What would be great is to find a site where one could simply post their work and have people buy it that the author sends to the site. It would help to have an administrator to handle all taxes and accounting of sales, but that is it, allowing for a larger royalty payment.

I've also been exploring the kindle site which appears to be interesting. They have traffic coming to the site, which is good. They can download to people that must go to the site to buy and they are now able to download to the iphone. That can be some very positive incentives.

Of course, the downside is no editor or creative person to guide you. You have to arrange for your own copy writing and book cover designs, etc. And no publicity department to work for you.

My research is just beginning and would love to have others give me their thoughts and available information for a follow up post.

Johnny Ray
Award Winning Novelist

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Johnny Ray's comments on MWA meeting

I attended a meeting of the Florida Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America last Saturday on the east coast. The speaker was Elaine Viets. Elaine writes two different series at the same time and for the same publisher. One is the hardcover Dead-End Job series where she told us she actually worked in these jobs to learn more of how they function and to add the detail that makes they come alive. Yes, she has had some interesting jobs in this minimum wage world because of this. The other series is the Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper series.
Elaine told how important it is to keep the characters totally different. She has received many awards for her work and has found a way to stay busy writing by having the two different series. Elaine is a great speaker and a great writer. Check out her books.
The chapter meeting attract less members this time of the year as many of the members go back home up north for the summer months. The big event they host every year is Sleuthfest. Last year it was fantastic and I expect the same next year.
Johnny Ray

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Meeting with borders romance buyer Sue Grimshaw

Last Saturday, the local chapter (TARA) of the Romance Writers of America had Sue Grimshaw talk to us about how borders operated and how books sales were going. I was also very lucky to have lunch with her at the meeting. She is extremely knowledgably and a very nice person to know.
She stated that romantic book sales are climbing nicely for all romance categories with the exception of erotica which is staying flat. She talked about how important book covers were becoming. This is so much so now that several publishers will send a jpeg to her for review before the book run. She detailed how books are purchased for the store and what criteria are used to determine where they will be placed. Placement is naturally a big concern for most authors.
She mentioned that book signing were not doing that well in moving the number of books that you need. There are many other ways to promote your books. It is important to get as much money from the publisher to promote your book as possible.
Borders has an affiliate program where you can make money. Why not, it doesn’t cost anything to sign up.
She mentioned one thing I found interesting. I know publisher have a monetary interest in a writer, but didn’t think about how much a book store has an interest in you becoming successful. She mentioned that she wanted to see authors grow and they wanted to help in that process. She mentioned how good web presence is and how you need to link to the borders true romance site. She also mentioned how important it was to be on social media sites like twitter. Of course, I loved that since I’m one of the most popular writers on twitter with around 14,000 followers.
She also mentioned how important it was to write a series. An example would be where on a stand along book where she would order say 3500 copies she would order perhaps 8000 or more if it was connected to a series. This is very interesting to know and perhaps why most agents want to know if you are planning a series. Another point she made is that on the series, they readers want it fast, if not almost immediately after they read the first book. In fact, she mentioned some readers will buy the whole series at one time if available.
If you ever have a chance to hear Sue Grimshaw speak, you need to take advantage of the opportunity. She is a wealth of knowledge and extremely friendly.

Johnny Ray

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Writing tips on creating characters by Johnny Ray

After you have the basic idea of what you want to write, it is time to select your characters. There are many ways to do this and I know many authors do it differently. I think all great writers agree that however you select them, you have to know them inside and out. This means knowing not only what makes them great but what their limitations are as well. I use a system where I actually interview the characters I want to use. I develop a full file on them. Do the characters change during the novel? Yes, I learn more about them over time. But as I do, I always go back to their file and update it. I post these files at the front of my novel so that it is always in front of me. Hopefully a great name comes to me that highlights who the character is. If not, I use the best I can think of. It is easy to change the name later. I also look for a photo that gives me a visual image of my character. This also gets posted on the front of my manuscript.

There have been times, I go to a public place and find someone close to what I envision my character to be like. Then, I make notes of all of the movements and quirks that person makes. Sometimes, I use actors or actress. It is good to watch a film they made and notice certain habits they have and the unique way they talk.

To make the characters believable, it is the authors job to breathe life into them. I know it is hard to understand unless you are a writer, but some characters become more real than people living and breathing around you.

It is interesting to see how other writers create their characters and look forward to hearing from them. Also,it is interesting to hear from readers on what they think makes a great character in a book.

Johnny Ray

Monday, June 08, 2009

Writing tips on the best use of time by Johnny Ray.

There are many ways to use your time as a writer. Sometimes it is under your control and sometimes it is not. A system that was promoted at Harvard earlier is called PERT which stands for program evaluation and review techniques. Basically the system made you establish a program to manage your time. It helps to know how much time is needed to complete each step and how to make sure each part is done in order and not stall the overall project. There are several steps in writing a novel.

1)Conception is where it all starts.
You need to have an idea for your novel. You need to know what you want to say. You need to know who your characters are. Every author is different and some want to know exactly how the novel will play out in every detail. Others want the basic part of the novel and have the freedom to allow their characters to tell the story. In any case, there has to be the spark to get started.

2)Research is where the hard work starts.
Some books require very little research and some require a lot. Many times the research can be a continuous project. Many times a writer can paint himself into a corner. This is why it is I think so important to do the necessary research before you get started.

3)Finally, the actual process of writing the story.
The fun part of writing is actually being able to tell the story. With a proper concept and research completed, this part can go smooth. however, most of the time the problems pop up with new unexpected twist to the plot you would like to add or change. Then there is the problem with getting facts correct. Having to stop to complete more research can really slow down the story telling.

4)Revisions is where you switch hats, going from a storyteller to a writer.
Now, that you have the story completed and all of the proper conclusion attended to, the actual work of polishing comes into play. a few novelist are blessed with the ability to write perfectly, but most have to go back over their work many times to correct the grammar and misspellings. But, polishing is much more. If the previous steps are completed properly, this part will be easy, if not, the revisions can take a long time.

5)Okay, now you wrote it, but can you sell it?
A new novelist can spend more time trying to sell a novel than he spent writing it. This is a whole new process from writing. but, again, if the prior steps are completed properly, the final step can be much easier. thus the reason for completing the program evaluation and review techniques.

Johnny Ray

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Drawing for a Free Kindle

The details of a drawing for a free kindle to be given away can be found at To be eligible for the drawing you must e-mail your guess as to which Johnny Ray novel you think will be published first. Please e-mail to

This site also list Johnny Ray's various blogs as well. Writing the various blog post has been interesting. Your comments are always welcome, but because of various spam elements, they will be moderated. I hope everyone understands and wish everyone the best of luck on the kindle give away contest.

Johnny Ray

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Another day on the beach, another page, another character to develop.
It is amazing how work goes smooth one day and is interrupted the next day by various factors outside your control. One day the story is so clear and the next day the "what if" scenarios appear. You have to ask yourself, shall I rewrite now or wait and see how this goes. As many writers discover, the struggle comes from letting the characters tell the story or acting like "father knows best" and controlling it yourself. Can you trust your characters? I think it all depends on how strong and realistic you make them as well as how fully you have them developed before you start writing. Yes, sometimes a character develops into a whole new being and a rewrite is necessary, but that can be a good thing. After all, that is why they call it a first draft.
Keeping track of all of the different scenarios can be a daunting task, especially when many of them come to a writer late at night while everyone else is sleeping. It is important to keep track of all of the sub plots and twist that you discover. A character can be like a new friend. Some times it takes a while to fully know and understand the motives, goals and dreams of a character that does not fully understand himself as well.
My suggestion is to take the time to be a friend of your characters. You will be rewarded as well as your readers.

Johnny Ray

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Sir John Majito Espresso

Since I've had so many request for this recipe, I decided to post it here. Feel free to modify it according to your own taste and leave me a comment on how you modified it to make it better.

Start with fresh mint(six leaves) and crush it in an eight ounce glass with a muddle stick to release all of the flavor possible.
Take a lime and squeeze all of the juice possible into the glass.
add a shot or two of Rum (Spice Rum the best)
add a shot or two of espresso coffee, if not available try Kahulla
add syrup, or brown sugar to adjust sweetness to your taste preference
add ice
Stir, don't shake
top off with club soda.
add a lime as an ornament


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Staying on Track
One of the great things about being a published author is the deadline. The one incentive an unpublished writer doesn’t have. While many authors busting their behinds might not agree, the fact is, it makes you keep your butt in the chair and write. Also, I’m sure there is a different feeling when you hope you might sell a novel as compared to knowing you have it sold already.
So, how does an unpublished writer keep working and producing at a fast enough to compete with those that are published? Sometimes you just have to fake it until you make it. The advantages of not being published however mean that you don’t have revisions or publicity you have to worry about. Of course, some of that time is wasted on sending out query and other material attempting to find an agent or publisher.
Every agent is going to answer different. The best answer is to work as hard as you can everyday and have no regrets later. Progress, it is all about the progress forward.
Johnny Ray

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Developing alternate streams of writing revenues

I remember the days when I thought writing would be so easy and take so little time. Like many people I thought I would be the next overnight sensation. Well, six novels later, I’m still waiting on becoming discovered. However, I’ve learned a lot along the way.
Lately, I’ve discovered many other ways of making a living as a writer. Yes, not like being known as a famous novelist, but satisfying the needs to have your work read. I never knew the demand for article and content writers was so high. Maybe you don’t make as much per article as you would like to, but I’m sure over time, the efficiency in turning out articles will improve. It is a way to work on your own schedule which is great.
The various social media outlets like facebook, u-tube, tweeter, etc. can also add to your popularity and hopefully make your novels sell more when they do come out. A point that I think can never be underestimated. And then there is the affiliate marketing programs you can receive income from off of your web sites you develop.
If you plan on entering these additional arenas, be prepared to spend some time in learning web designing and marketing. The competition can be fierce, but friendly at the same time. You will find everyone wants your link and traffic. It can be a win-win situation.
To finalize my point, I think to attract a top agent and publisher; you may have to create your own name recognition and following. Let’s face it, the one way to make sure an agent stands up and wants to take you on, is to become famous.

Johnny Ray

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

It is amazing the amount of work that goes into a novel. It is also so amazing that an author never know if he has a salable product until he is finished. Now, it is interesting to see how some authors obtain sales before they ever start. If other authors have information on how to do this, it would be great to hear from them.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Writing contests are interesting in many ways. The feedback can be great or terrible, but in any case can give you a point of reference as long as you are true to yourself and not allow another person’s point of view ruin what you have good working for you. Again, at other times, if you hear the same criticism coming from several people, you might need to ask yourself if you are the one being bullheaded.

In deciding how to react to criticism I think it helps to really know your own style of writing. What makes it different from or similar to other writers? In order to stand out, I think we all agree it has to be original in several ways. How do you approach point of view? Is it different from others or a copy cat of many others in the marketplace? What is particularly different about your voice? Can you identify it? If you can, perhaps you can expand on it.

The one item I noticed from most people doing reviews in contest is that it appears to be coming straight out of a text book of how to judge. The problem is that most of the great authors that are best sellers never play by those rules. If you don’t think so, simple obtain a few of the top sellers and do your own review. Point of view jumps are very common. Writing in a passive voice is very common. I hope you understand what I’m saying. These authors are very aware of the rules, but don’t listen to them. Their object is to tell the story and make it interesting. They get away with breaking the rules because they can.

I’ve also heard that the main reason to enter a contest is to get in front of a certain editor. It is hard to believe that an editor is not looking for the next book that will make money for the publisher. There are other ways to get in front of them. While they say they are not taking submissions, they are still interested in looking. And when it comes to getting in front of an agent, they are almost always open for submissions without going through a contest.

And the last part in deciding if the contest route is good for you is the cost. With the money spent on entering many contest, the same money could possibly be spent with a professional coach that could help polish your novel and give you a wealth of knowledge to advance your career.

Still I know it is exciting to see your name on the list of finalist or as the actual winner. I have won before on a contest and walking up on stage is very exciting to accept your award. But when it comes to actually getting you published, I still have my doubts. And as many aspiring writers will still enter some contest hoping for the best.

With all of this said, the pathway of each author will be different. And in truth, it might take a little of all of the efforts to find the magic bullet. Still it is a business decision in how to spend your money and your time every author needs to address.

Johnny Ray

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Keyword Density Discussion Led by Johnny Ray
I know this is always a debated point and the relevance is questioned by many professionals so I thought I would collect the thoughts of many people much smarter at this than me. How important is it for the exact number of keyword or phrases to appear as a percentage of the total words in the article? Can it be too little or too much? I think we can all agree with a yes, but the question is, what is the best number?
I’ve heard the ideal keyword density for the primary words or phrases can ranges from 2% to 20%. I’ve also heard that the first paragraph and the last paragraph are the most important. And as always highlighted headings and relevant links are paid additional attentions. With the various search engines like Google, Yahoo, and MSN analyzing keyword density differently with their own unique search algorithm, the process of adjusting is a never ending process.
With many different keyword density tools available to identify the search terms that your competitors are using on their pages, and meta tags or links you can quickly correct your own plan of attack. That is if they are obtaining the optimum search value. But by using the density tool on your competitor's pages you have better information on planning the density on your own pages.
What are your current thoughts on keyword density? If you have relevant sites to share, please do.
Johnny Ray

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Making the readers love the characters of a novel is perhaps one of the most exciting parts about writing. So, why do writers make them so unlovable from the start? Yes, writers want them to grow and be fully dimensional. And some characters are meant to be unlovable. But, the questions remain on how to make the characters interesting enough for the reader to care about so that the pages will turn.
The reader has to have expectations that the characters can be redeemed. Even as bad as the worst character is, there is always some good trait. Readers want to know why someone turned out so bad. What are the motives and reasons for such actions? In short, a good writer instills a curiosity in the reader to keep reading to find out—why?
To keep those pages turning, the characters have to be unique, but conform to certain standards that everyone adheres to. The reader wants to become that character for a while and want to be known as the beautiful lady or handsome gentleman for a while. They want to know they can face adversities and overcome them. They want hope. It is when the writer gives them none, they close the book.
An interesting book to read and follow the advice in building characters is “How to make people like you in 90 seconds or less” by Nicholas Boothman. It is a great book that belongs on all writers desk.
Johnny Ray

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Sleuthfest Conference

Last week there was some discussions about Jill Marsal's new agency. I just returned home from Sleuthfest and met Jill there. She was very generous with her time and answered many questions for me after a cocktail party by the pool. Yes, it is still warm enough to swim outside in Palm Beach, Florida.

Her new office is about five miles from her old one and she will be busy this week setting up shop. I miss this area. I learned to surf close to there.

She is interested in thrillers and her partner is interested in romances. She told me she had many contacts in New york and being in
California is not a problem in placing her work with major publishers.

I have talked to many agents and she is one of the most friendly and intelligent agents out there. She took the time to hear what I wanted in a career instead of just what I had written recently. She asked to see my work and I have my fingers crossed. she wold be a pleasure to work with.

The conference was great and I also received request from four other agents. Donna Bagdasarian has a fantastic sense of humor and full of energy. She pulled into a meeting room and asked me about my work. She asked for a full on the spot. More fingers crossed.

Nicole Kenealy is with the Aaron priest Agency and very hungry for new authors. She also wants thrillers. She asked for a partial. She is a lot of fun to be around.

Josh Getzler is with Writer House. He is a super nice guy and very easy to talk to, especially if you like baseball. He also asked for me to send him something.

The two editors,Neil Nyren and Toni Plumer, were fantastic. I had lunch next to Neil. He asked what I was writing and showed interested in me. However, I know he never handles anything without an agent. Hopefully, one day that will change and I hope he remembers us meeting there. I can tell it would be fantastic to work with him. The same is true about Toni. She showed an interest that I found very refreshing. Her company, St. martin would be one of the publishers i would love to write for.

In other words, listen up everyone, next year you need to make this conference.

Johnny ( Sir John) Ray

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

I think one of the best times in a writers life is when he meets another writer that has accomplished so much--like Janet Evanovich. She had great words for the writers in the Florida Writers Association. Get the first chapter completed and move on. She said to quit rewriting it until you wear yourself out. It makes sense to me. She is also the inspiration I need to write my first romantic comedy. This will be intersting, but something I think will help me to be a better writer. This group of writers is fantastic and very suportive. I was extremely honored to win the Royal Palm Literary Award for best thriller in 2008 sponsored by the FWA.