by Shayla McBride

Want to write a book of your own? A is for Author can jump-start you on the path to success. Friendly and candid, and a touch curmudgeonly, Shayla gives you the basics on 333-plus must-know subjects that many how-to-write books overlook. Industry jargon is clarified, technique explained, branding and promotion examined, and sex (sort of) illuminated. Easy to read, A is for Author is not only an essential for the new writer, but the perfect holiday gift.


# Amelia desperately, agonizingly wanted to leave the untidy, moldy, cluttered, gloomy cellar. But the heavy, solid, thick trap door had slammed shut with a horrifying, terrible, surprising, ear-splitting crash. #

Almost universally, early writers rely on adjectives and adverbs to convey meaning. A work that’s one-third adjectives is unreadable to most people. How to see your adjectives in “real time”? Highlight every modifying word; they’re italicized here. You should have, on a page, only a few spots. If you have a rash, or blocks of the dread highlight, you’re relying too heavily on these words to make the reader understand and to make your writing colorful.

The example above was a tell, not a show. It\’s an overview instead of an inside glimpse. Here\’s one fix:

# Amelia screamed as the trap door slammed down, plunging the cellar into darkness. Fingers trembling, she fumbled in her pocket, brought out her cell phone, and switched on the light. It was worse than she\’d feared. The place was a filthy trap. Who even knew she was down here? She blinked back tears. #

One adjective: filthy. Active verbs: screamed, slammed, plunging, trembling, fumbled, trapped. Point of view: close. This isn\’t reporting, this is genre fiction narration(!). See what you can do with the first example. Just take a piece of paper and work out your own solution.

How to fix the adjective blight? Just be aware you’re doing it. Use more active, carefully-chosen verbs and nouns. If it still seems tame, put back in maybe one modifier (see above). Quickly, you\’ll become aware of how often you\’re depending on adjectives and adverbs. This is good. It’s a step toward more direct, vibrant writing.

♥ Readers are smart and savvy. You don’t need to inundate them with detail or beat them over the head with what you meant for them to get it.

~Buy A IS FOR AUTHOR on Amazon

~Follow the rest of the tour

-What inspired you to become a writer?

Artist Chuck Close is quoted as saying, roughly, “Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and do the work.”. Upon reflection, the idea that many new writers have that inspiration will drive them to success is one of their major stumbling blocks. Writing genre fiction is a hard gig. It’s work, and it’s a craft, and there are processes and techniques to be mastered. There’s jargon to decipher, nuances to learn, and beliefs to abandon. First belief? I can write reports and holiday family letters, so I can write genre fiction. At first, I too thought inspiration would suffice. Took me quite a while to give up that idea. In the end, it doesn’t boil down to your inspiration as much as the reader’s satisfied journey with your carefully-created characters. Which is a craft to be learned. A is for Author covers 333-plus topics that writers will want to know, that’ll speed their development into competent, successful writers.

-If you could visit your book’s world for a day, what one thing would you do?

Research some more. This is such a fast-paced world, with so much information streaming at us, it’s difficult to stay current. A is for Author is designed to help newer writers understand techniques of writing, from plotting and world-building to publishing. It gives them basic knowledge they otherwise have to scrounge up one bit at a time.

-Give us a fun or interesting fact you learned researching this book.

I think this is really cool. The country of origin for books is shown by the first three digits of the bar code. In all cases, regardless of physical origin of book, the code is 978, which is for the country of Bookland. So, as writers, we are all citizens of Bookland. Too bad we don’t have a passport. I wonder what color the cover would be? I’m thinking a lush raspberry, in velvet. Maybe a little gold trim. Sparkles, even. I love sparkles. Forget the practical, plasticized covers, in this fantasy the velvet never wears and the sparkles always shine!

-Which of your characters would you go out for drinks with?

Any of them, even the bad ones (provided they’re chained to the floor). The one thing writers should consider is how approachable their characters ought to be. I cover a lot of aspects of creating solid, believable characters in A is for Author.

-You’re in a tavern, and a dwarf challenges you to a duel. What do you do?

We’ll assume bystanders will not come to my rescue. We’ll assume reason will not work. We speak different languages, maybe, or he’s higher than a weather satellite on some weird drug. Direct action appears the sole thing that can resolve the situation. Either kick him in the balls (I’m short, too) or tell my alpha hero, standing next to me, to tear off his head.

-Is there a genre you could never write? Which and why?

Horror. Maybe I’m too easily bored. Maybe I hate to be scared (giggles…I giggle a lot with horror, its just so far-fetched). Maybe I’m just too susceptible to suggestion. I’m not big on King-style horror. I can suspend reality for just so long, then I need a semblance of normal. On the other hand, a little appropriate gore or some psychological tension has never turned me off . Stephen King? No. Lee Child? Nicci French? Yes!


Think of the worst photo you’ve ever had taken. End-of-binge candid, strawpile hair, baggy eyes even Photoshop couldn’t erase, an Autumn shirt and you’re absolutely a Spring. Multiply that by ten. That’s how much the camera likes Shayla. So…no photo.

I’m a native of New York. Now I live in Florida, on the edge of Irma’s path. We’re fine, thanks, although Princess CooCoo refused to come inside while canines were in emergency residence. Before Florida, I lived in Maryland and Morocco. Two years in southern Morocco, in a small town near the Atlantic coast where I was a Peace Corps volunteer, convinced me we can all get along, but we have to try a lot harder than we are now. The previous twenty years in Annapolis, MD convinced me that “Crabtown” is the best, prettiest, funnest state capitol in the US.

At the end of Peace Corps, the idea was I’d move to Paris and become an expat. It was all about the food, of course. And the wine. But my kids are in Florida…so here I am drinking French wine while hurricanes roar instead of drinking it while sitting in a café on the Champs Elysées.

But I wouldn’t be a writer if I’d gone to France, and A is for Author would never have been written. Think of all the new writers who would’ve suffered without that book! And don’t forget the ever-enduring hero Carl Tanner, Key West’s Jake Baron and Margo Hollander, and hilltown Italy’s Marco McCabe and Laura Walter (and all the others) who would never have seen the light of day. Or the black and white of your e-reader or paperback. So it’s all to the good. But…I sure do miss a decent baguette…

I write, on average, seven hours a weekday. Obviously I have no time for housework; fine by me. I do have time for gardening, cooking, painting (house and fabric), my kids and friends, the Florida Symphony, and my fave, travel. I love exploring third world countries, especially their food and music. Street food: yum! Any ancient ruin is on my to-do list, as is any colonial town regardless of age. One of my favorites? Trinidad, Cuba (founded 1514). I do have a photo of Trinidad, and of a delicious garbanzo-ham-chorizo dish I had there. Find it on my website.

Thanks for visiting…Shayla

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Shayla McBride will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

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8 thoughts on “A IS FOR AUTHOR by Shayla McBride

  1. Hi everyone. Thanks for the opportunity to acquaint you with my how-to book. If you're new to the fiction-writing world, this book could be a life-saver. Let me know if you have any questions.

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