Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

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Posts Tagged: Piper Bayard

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Piper is back to guest post once more. I’m scrambling to catch up after being flattened from travel/work. Le sigh. Also have to get my NaNo tools together. Coffee, candy, energy drinks, stun gun, duct tape. So enjoy your Halloween. It’s kind of like New Year’s Eve of the Writing World. Party hard and have your fun because tomorrow….

Anyway, if you happen to be working on an action or thriller or some book involving those of the intelligence community, this post will help tremendously. Great writers ALWAYS do their homework. No one cares about our glorious prose if we goof something that five minutes on Google would have answered. But for the stuff maybe Google CAN’T answer? We have Bayard and Holmes…

By Piper Bayard

Spy thrillers are a staple of genre fiction, and a good “Bond” never goes out of style. However, a bad “Bond” can have those in the know throwing your book out the window of an Aston Martin faster than you can shake your martini. My name is Bayard. Piper Bayard. And my best friend and writing partner, Jay Holmes, is a 40-year veteran covert operative. I’m here today to help you write books that stay inside the sports cars.

Sean Connery and his Aston Martin Image from Goldfinger Many books have been thrown from this car.
Sean Connery and his Aston Martin
Image from Goldfinger
Many books have been thrown from this car.

 1. DON’T let your covert operative announce her identity, or that she is a covert operative.

Cover operatives are . . . wait for it . . . covert. Unlike James Bond, covert operatives don’t reveal their identities, and especially not while on missions. Even decades after they are out of deep cover, they keep their work to themselves. That’s because when they are revealed, former assets and current loved ones alike can become targets.

That also means that, when a celebrity author shows up in an “I’m a Spook” T-shirt flaunting a “covert” career, it’s a dead giveaway that though she may have done some great and necessary work with an intelligence agency, she has never been a covert operative in the field. Covert operatives must forever keep a Chinese wall around their true identities.

2. DON’T call your spooks “spies.”

Yeah, I know. Then what’s with the title of this article? I hadn’t gotten to tell you that “spies” are actually “spooks” yet. I didn’t want to confuse you on that point before you got this far.

Holmes and his ilk are “spooks,” not spies. As Holmes says, “Spying is seamy. It’s what the Russians do.”

Spooks refer to each other lightheartedly as “spooks.” That’s also what military personnel call them when military and intelligence operations overlap. For example, if an intelligence team is working in a secured area of a ship, the crew refers to them as “the spooks.”

There is no official Dictionary of Spook Terminology, but the proper terms for spooks are “intelligence operatives” and “intelligence agents.” By habit, “operative” is used by CIA personnel when they are talking among themselves or reviewing an operation, and “agent” refers to someone – usually a foreigner – who is collecting information in a foreign country. Intelligence personnel are the “operatives” who are managing the foreign “agents.”

Note the spook putting on his seatbelt Not Holmes Image from CanstockPhoto
Note the spook putting on his seatbelt
Not Holmes
Image from CanstockPhoto

3. DO put on your spook’s seatbelt.

Car chases happen, but they don’t happen without seat belts. Every now and then, a spook might have to drive the wrong way up a one-way street or wheel down the Spanish Steps. *cough, cough, Holmes, cough, cough* But when he does, he wears his seatbelt. Religiously. “Because you can’t finish the mission if you’re dead.”

4. DON’T let your spook duck into a doorway to spy on her target.

That’s a good way for a real spook to get dead.

One of the first things spooks must learn about following people is to not be followed themselves. It’s common for bad guys to have their own people tailing them to pick up any newcomers, so spooks can’t only focus on who’s in front of them. They have to be acutely aware of who is behind them, too. If they duck into doorways and peek around the edges, they are making it obvious to anyone behind them that they are watching someone.

That means that if a spook wants to watch someone from a doorway, she has to take her eyes off the target, go all the way inside a building, and only turn around once she’s out of sight of the street. Then she can come back out and stop in the doorway under some other pretense than watching someone. It also gives her the chance to handle the bad guy’s trailing entourage.


Rosa Klebb -- Room service gone bad. Image from From Russia with Love
Rosa Klebb — Room service gone bad.
Image from From Russia with Love

5. DON’T let your spook order room service.

How many times has Bond ordered room service? And how has that worked out for him? You’d think he would have learned after Rosa Klebb’s stunt in From Russia with Love that this is a seriously bad idea. Even the spooks in the otherwise realistic movie Act of Valor ordered take out and paid the price.

This isn’t only because of the opportunity for an enemy to poison them, it’s also because it’s generally bad juju for spooks to invite strangers into their space when they are on missions. In fact, Holmes won’t even have a pizza delivered to his house. The only food he actually enjoys is his own, his wife’s, or mine if it includes chocolate, and only then if he is eating at home or at the home of a trusted friend.

These are only a few of the most common blunders that Holmes and I see in movies and books. If you’d like to learn more about writing spooks, keep an eye out for Truth & Fiction posts at Bayard & Holmes.

Do you have any questions? I will answer some here in the Comments section and some on posts over at Bayard & Holmes.


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Don’t miss The Spy Bride Blogger Challenge and Giveaway!

Click HERE for details.

We have some wonderful prizes for readers to celebrate the release of our debut novella, THE SPY BRIDE, in the RISKY BRIDES Bestsellers’ Collection. Sign up for the Bayard & Holmes Newsletter and be automatically entered to win a Secret Decoder Ring, a stash of Ghirardelli chocolate, or a bottle of sparkling wine from Mumm Napa vineyard.

Bayard & Holmes Newsletter Link–Click Here to Enter

The Spy Bride Risky Brides Boxed Set final Cover

RISKY BRIDES . . . 8 genres. 8 novels and novellas. 8 takes on what makes a RISKY BRIDE. Now on sale for a limited time at only $.99 and available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBookstore, and Kobo.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Bayard & Holmes Official PhotoPiper Bayard is a bestselling author and a recovering attorney. Her spy thriller writing partner, Jay Holmes, is an anonymous senior member of the intelligence community and a field veteran from the Cold War through the current Global War on Terror.

You can contact Bayard & Holmes in comments below, at their site, Bayard & Holmes, on Twitter at @piperbayard, on Facebook at Bayard & Holmes, or at their email, BH@BayardandHolmes.com.

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I’m once again letting Piper hijack my blog to talk about a subject near and dear to me—GUNS. Chances are, many of you are writing thrillers or suspense or knitting books that involve FIREARMS. Piper and I are NOT the people you take with you to an action film unless you believe—like we do—most of these movies should be classified under “Comedy.”

We count rounds. Ooooh, I want THAT GUN. The one that NEVER runs out of ammo EVER! We also cringed in the Sherlock—A Game of Shadows movie. Remember? In the Arms Factory Scene, Col. Moran whips out the c96 Mauser pistol and loads it from the bottom, perhaps because this looked “cooler.” Historical Note: Good luck loading that gun from the BOTTOM. It loaded from the top.

I also love how movies have these LOOOONG shoot-out scenes with thousands and thousands of rounds fired. Afterward? No one is yelling like my 90 year-old Aunt Peggy when her hearing aid lost battery.





Okay, I’ll stop and let Piper take it from here. The point of this blog is that, IF you are going to use firearms in your books? Please let the reader see you did your research. They will love you for it. And, if you (the author) put a safety on your revolver (actually had this happen) we will HURL your book across the room.

Take it away Piper and Holmes!

By Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

NaNoWriMo is almost here. Whether it’s your first draft or your tenth, the last thing you want to look like on the page is an amateur. Yesterday, we got rid of your backstory. (See Backstory: The More You Know, The Less I Need To.) Now we’re going to take a look at your terminology.

Whether your story is literary fiction, a romance, or a thriller, it might well have a firearm in it. Firearms should always be used properly, whether in person or on a page. So let’s make sure you have your vocabulary straight so that people like us and Kristen don’t throw your book against the wall.

Let’s start by clearing up the most common gun misnomer of all time— the “clip” vs. the “magazine.”

If your story has “clips” in it, you most likely need to be writing historical fiction. There are extremely few modern weapons being manufactured today that use clips unless they are replicas of old weapons. One rare example of a modern weapon using a clip is the Smith & Wesson 9mm revolver, which uses a moon clip. So if your character is using a weapon with an actual “clip,” you need to make it quite clear in your writing that it is either a historical weapon or one of the extremely rare exceptions.

This is one example of a “clip.”

K31 Stripper Clips for Swiss Karabiner Standard issue for Swiss Armed Forces 1933-1958 Image by GaryArgh, wikimedia commons
K31 Stripper Clips for Swiss Karabiner
Standard issue for Swiss Armed Forces 1933-1958
Image by GaryArgh, wikimedia commons


K31 Stripper Clip in Swiss Karabiner Image by GaryArgh, wikimedia commons
K31 Stripper Clip in Swiss Karabiner
Image by GaryArgh, wikimedia commons


These are “magazines” (BELOW). Magazines are widely used in both handguns and rifles.

They hold cartridges and can be quickly and easily reloaded.

Magazines for SigSauer P239 and Smith & Wesson .380 Image by Piper Bayard
Magazines for SigSauer P239 and Smith & Wesson .380
Image by Piper Bayard

These magazines fit into the handles of the pistols. Contrary to popular belief among certain circles of politicians who I shall not name, they can be reused countless times. They don’t magically get used up just because all of the cartridges are fired.

SigSauer P239 and Smith & Wesson .380 with accompanying magazines. Image by Piper Bayard.
SigSauer P239 and Smith & Wesson .380
with accompanying magazines.
Image by Piper Bayard.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s move on to the different types of firearms—automatics, semi-automatics, and revolvers.

Gunner's Mate 1st Class Montrell Dorsey with M240B automatic weapon Image by US Navy, public domain
Gunner’s Mate 1st Class Montrell Dorsey with
M240B automatic weapon
Image by US Navy, public domain


With an automatic weapon, the cartridges load into a removable magazine. The weapon is called automatic because when you pull the trigger, it automatically fires repeated bullets until you take your finger off of the trigger. When the shooter fires, the brass shells of the cartridges are ejected from the weapon. Modern automatic weapons are generally illegal for private ownership without special licenses, a ton of paperwork, and a background check so thorough that it would make your personal physician cringe. These licenses are also so expensive that you’d be better off opening a small business instead of pursuing this type of weapon license.

Smith & Wesson Bodyguard .380 semi-automatic Image by Avicennasis, wikimedia commons.
Smith & Wesson Bodyguard .380 semi-automatic
Image by Avicennasis, wikimedia commons.

A semi-automatic also has cartridges that load into a removable magazine, which, in a pistol such as this one, fits into the handle of the gun. However, one trigger pull equals one shot, and the brass shell from each cartridge is automatically ejected. The weapon does not automatically keep firing.

Semi-automatics are legal in all states, but only to varying degrees in different places. In a few Western states, they practically come as prizes in the bottom of cereal boxes, while in others, only bodyguards of celebrities and politicians who advocate gun control get to carry them. In fact, if the celebrities and politicians are vocal enough in their opposition to private firearms, their bodyguards are approved to operate drones, drive tanks, and launch thermonuclear devices and other weapons of mass destruction 😀 .

If you live in one of these latter states, such as California, check your laws before you put a pistol in your California character’s hand. California requires certain design modifications. Your readers will know this, and they likely could call you on it.

It’s extremely common for a semi-automatic to be inaccurately referred to throughout media, movies, and TV as an “automatic” weapon. No matter how hot the journalist, movie star, or soap opera star might be, don’t believe it just because they say it.

Piper in the remake of Dirty Harry
Piper in the remake of Dirty Harry

A revolver is so called because the cartridges reside in a revolving cylinder. Like the semi-automatic, one trigger pull equals one shot. However, the brass shells are not ejected automatically. A shooter must open the cylinder and eject all of the shells simultaneously. Again, the legalities of ownership vary from state to state.

Not to knock one of Piper’s favorites, The Walking Dead, but if you listen closely when Rick fires his Colt Python .357 revolver, you will sometimes hear the sound of ejected brass hitting the floor with each shot—something only semi-automatics and automatics do. Total audio fiction.

Speaking of weapons, Holmes and I are calling all bloggers for a contest in which the winner will be determined with a shot.

The Spy Bride Blogger Challenge

To celebrate our debut spy thriller release, THE SPY BRIDE in the RISKY BRIDES Bestsellers’ Collection, we are inviting all bloggers to write a post about absolutely anything espionage or wedding related. Link back to this post at out site to be entered in a contest for a $25 Amazon card and a copy of RISKY BRIDES.

Write about your favorite Bond movie, your favorite historical spook, or how you used to spy on your siblings. Tell us about your wildest bachelor party, you favorite wedding, or your worst bridesmaid’s dress. If you manage to write about both spooks and weddings in the same post, you’ll have your name entered twice.

Be sure to link back to the Spy Bride Challenge post at our site so we see your entry!

Click here to get to the post at our site.

The winner will be chosen on Thanksgiving Day. We will attach the names of all entries to a shooting target. Then we will blindfold Piper’s lovely daughter, DD, and she will shoot the target. The name that she shoots will be the winner of the coveted Amazon gift card.

DD ready to determine the winner.
DD ready to determine the winner.

And for our awesome readers . . .

We have some wonderful prizes for you, as well. Sign up for the Bayard & Holmes Newsletter and be automatically entered to win a Secret Decoder Ring, a stash of Ghirardelli chocolate, or a bottle of sparkling wine from Mumm Napa vineyard.

Bayard & Holmes Newsletter Link–Click Here to Enter

Feel free to enter both contests!

Best of luck to all of you. Can’t wait to see your entries!





RISKY BRIDES is on sale for a limited time at only $.99 and is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBookstore, and Kobo.

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Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes
Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes


Piper Bayard is an author, bellydancer, shooter, SCUBA diver, and a recovering attorney with a college degree or two. She writes spy thrillers with Jay Holmes, a forty-year veteran covert operative and a current senior member of the intelligence community. Piper is the public face of their partnership.

You can contact Bayard & Holmes in comments below, at their site, Bayard & Holmes, on Twitter at @piperbayard, on Facebook at Bayard & Holmes, or at their email, BH@BayardandHolmes.com.

Braaaaiiiiinssss….with some salsa, please. And a refill on my merlot?

Just made it in from a whirlwind week in NYC at Thrillerfest. I am so tired I want to DIE, yet my stupid biological clock still has me up at dawn despite how exhausted I am. Of all places, though, NYC seems to be the favorite place for moviemakers to destroy or infect. That and LA. Though I will mention the aliens never land in Texas.

Probably because the movie would be 15 minutes long :D.

One of my close friends, Piper Bayard, wrote a fabulous book, Firelands which deals with a post-apocalyptic world where religious fanatics now rule a world in ruin and use food to control the masses. In the spirit of her book, I wanted to discuss the apocalypse. That and I just spent a week in NYC walking through “mystery puddles”…which makes me wonder….

Why is the zombie apocalypse so fascinating to us?

Never Underestimate Zombies

One of the wonderful parts about being a writer is we are really well educated…too well educated. Any writer worth his or her salt reads…a lot. I recall (back in college) reading The Hot Zone, which is an absolutely terrifying book. Terrifying in its premise, sure. But also terrifying because it is based off real events.

For those who don’t know, Ebola actually made it to the United States in a shipment of infected monkeys back in the early 90s.

String-like Ebola virus particles are shedding from an infected cell in this electron micrograph. Credit: NIAID
String-like Ebola virus particles are shedding from an infected cell in this electron micrograph. Credit: NIAID

Ebola happens to be one of the most frightening diseases I’ve ever read about. Ebola Zaire, the most virulent of all the strains, essentially liquifies a victim within less than 12 days. The mass destruction it does to the body is the stuff of nightmares.

The virus does a number of nasty deeds to the body, but namely it attacks all the connective tissue from the inside out causing catastrophic internal hemmorhaging. This means the organs (including the brain) essentially turn to pudding because there is nothing left to hold everything together.

As a response, the body throws out all its clotting agents trying to keep the infected person alive…until it runs out of clotting agent and then the person just begins to bleed…from EVERYWHERE. Blood teeming with active virus begins to pour from the nose and mouth and eyes until the victim is rendered a puddle of infected blood, bone and tissue.

Um, cleanup on Aisle Five?

This is how the virus spreads—via blood contamination. The victim is literally dead before they die, their face sliding off the bones because nothing is left to maintain/support the facial architecture.


What makes Ebola especially horrific is that it’s only a few peptides and mutations from being something airborne. If something like Ebola spread like the flu? We’re toast. This is what The Hot Zone addresses. A version of Ebola (similar to Zaire in burn rate) really made it to the US…and it spread through the air like a cold.

I won’t say any more because this is a really fabulous book, but part of why it was so scary is IT FREAKING HAPPENED.

Ebola happens all the time in Africa and how do they deal with it? I call it the Three B’s—bleach, bury and burn. When a village has an outbreak, the authorities will cut down trees to block any roads leading to the village…and wait for everyone to die. Ebola Zaire has roughly a 99% kill rate. Almost no one ever survives. Authorities wait for everyone to be dead then torch the place.

Happy Monday! 😀

The Scary Part About Viruses

Viruses are a lot like politicians and Kardashians. They are parasitic and they will adapt as much as needed to survive. If they burn through a species, they’ll change to be able to burn through another. If contamination via blood isn’t working? A virus is fully capable of changing tactics, like marrying Kanye West and naming it’s kid something seriously stupid like North West.

Sorry, forgot we were discussing Ebola.

As populations get larger in countries like Africa, China and South America (ideal virus petri dishes because of climate and population density) we are invading areas of rain forest no human has ever set foot in. A virus might be inert or less virulent because local wildlife has developed immunity over time, and then? Virus spots the equivalent of a Twinkie on two legs (people). NEW JUNK FOOD!

Viruses have no long-term planning capabilities. They suck at having an IRA or even going to college. They just want to consume no matter the expense to the host, much like deadbeat in-laws.

Yes, this is me.
Yes, this is me.

But Isn’t This Why the Zombie Fascination is So Strong?

I love vampires, wizards, werewolves and the like, but zombies hold a unique fascination. Why? Because I think deep in our collective subconscious, we realize this is something that could happen…which is why you need a plan (but that is totally another blog).

I was one of the fortunate first people to get Swine Flu. Hey, I’m an early adopter. What can I say? I contracted Swine Flu a year before we had a pseudo-pandemic. I had 105 fever for almost 12 days, and not only did I want to die? I wanted to die, be cremated, then have someone shoot my ashes it was so bad.

We live in a scary world. Bird Flu, Swine Flu, Ebola, and the Kardashians.

Come on! The Kardashians already have a reality show and have invaded QVC. If they manage to marry and breed faster? We could be looking at a world filled with mindless people wearing too much lip gloss and trashy shoes and being permitted to name their own children *shivers*. If a Kardashian meets up with Ebola? They could spread through sneezes and unwashed hands. Next thing we know, we are filled with botox, unable to move our foreheads or articulate an intelligent thought.

Sounds like zombies to me.

What are your thoughts? Most of us aren’t afraid of a vampire invasion, but zombies? A lot of us still get that niggling, “What if?” Why do you think we do that? Is it because we think it might happen? Is it because we’ve spent too much time watching The Bachelor or Toddlers and Tiaras?

I know you guys are geeks and have thought this through, so I would LOVE to hear your thoughts!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of July, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

NOTE: My prior two books are no longer for sale, but I am updating them and will re-release. My new book, Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World is NOW AVAILABLE.

At the end of July I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

Have you ever heard of the Kubler-Ross 5 Stages of Death and Dying? Well, as an editor for many years, I’ve seen a similar phenomenon happen with first-time novelists, especially when I was called upon to stage an intervention. Not pretty. I call this process of extracting a writer from her first bad novel, The 5 stages of Edits & Crying, which looks eerily similar to what Kubler-Ross observed:

Denial–My novel is perfect. Agent ready. You just need to keep reading. You haven’t gotten to the good parts yet. Those 67 flashbacks will all make sense on page 282.

Anger–How dare you say anything is wrong with my novel? What have YOU had published??? Huh? You don’t know everything. I haven’t seen your name on the NY Times best-seller list.

Bargaining–Okay, granted, I might not need all 139 characters, but at least 111 are essential, or the ten-book series I have plotted in my head will fall apart.

Depression–Can we talk later? I kind of need to go drink some Listerine right now.

Acceptance–Do what you must *hands me the red pen*

Science has proven (okay well, not proven, but kind of suggested, and all right all of this is made up and LOOK SQUIRREL!!!).

Where was I?

Oh, yes. Science has proven that Little Darlings are highly addictive and, if left untreated, can lead to manuscript paralysis, coma or even death. This addiction is real and real books are hurting.

Little Darling addiction is a serious problem in the writing world, and is estimated to kill at least 900,000 novels a year. Most novels never make it throught the entire gestational process. Little Darlings cause horrific mutations in the manuscript. The birth defects are often so severe that the novel fails to thrive. It is always tragic having to console a writer parent during these times.

So, how does the addiction work? Glad you asked. Apparently, when a writer weaves in friends, loved ones, exes, witty pieces of banter from real life, a Little Darling often forms, much like a tumor. The Little Darling once embedded into the prose, then stimulates the Dopamine response centers in the brain, giving the writer a high not unlike chocolate, winning scratch-offs, or finding a forgotten five dollar bill in the laundry. The writer then likes this high and wants to repeat the feeling.

This is a dangerous cycle that can lead to a metastatic explosion of Little Darlings in a manuscript. The Little Darlings aggressively seek out and then take over actual healthy narrative points and, in the end, the original story is so corrupted with Little Darlings that the story develops Terminal Little Darling Syndrome and death is the most likely prognosis.

There actually are life-saving surgeries available, but it involves so much cutting, bleeding and extraction, usually most writers cannot endure the process. Also, not all surgeons editors have the skill to help the writer remove the Little Darlings without killing the underlying healthy story.

There is generally only one alternative. Writers who are unwilling or unable to obtain WIP surgery are then forced to take the WIP off life support or place their WIP in a home near the computer Recycle Bin.

WIPs then spend their days drooling and eating Jell-O in some forgotten Word folder that the writer never visits. She can’t bear to. She feels too helpless and guilty. So, the WIP with Terminal Little Darling Syndrome spends the rest of its life playing Bingo with partially drafted short-stories and bad break-up poetry.

Little Darling addiction works rapidly and can affect more than just the WIPs. The addiction hurts the writer as well. The writer keeps inserting more and more little precious pieces of prose, OR often will just keep rereading the same pages seeking that first-time high. This behavior then paralyzes the writer and keeps him from moving foreward and finishing the work in progress.

It is a terrible addiction and the only way to fight this is to educate people. TLDS is deadly, but it CAN be prevented. This is why I blog. It’s why I’m here and today, I want you to meet a friend of mine.

A year and a half ago, I met a young promising writer, Piper Bayard. She was one of the most tragic cases I’d ever seen. She was so addicted to Little Darlings that she’d pushed away close friends and family, because they cut into time playing with her imaginary friends. It was an ugly scene and we had to dose Piper regularly with caffeine and let her stroke a shiny bookmark so the DTs didn’t kill her will to write.

She is here today to share her story and how she beat her life-threatening addiction to little Darlings. She canonized the process and created Little Darlings Anonymous for those struggling to let go of this terrible addiction.

Thank you Piper for being here….

Thank you, Kristen. I would like to start today’s meeting with the 12 Steps of LDA:

12 Steps of Little Darlings Anonymous

  1. We admit we were powerless over our imaginary friends, and that our Works Progress had become unmanageable.
  2. We came to believe that an Editor greater than ourselves could restore our prose to sanity.
  3. We made the decision to turn our will and our manuscripts over to our Editors, whoever we understand them to be.
  4. We made a searching and fearless critical inventory of all of our Little Darlings that were wholly irrelevant to our stories.
  5. We admitted to our Editors, to ourselves, and to our beta readers the exact nature of our self-indulgences.
  6. We became entirely ready to have our Editors remove all the Little Darlings from our Works In Progress.
  7. We humbly asked our Editors to mercilessly slaughter all of our Little Darlings when we had not the strength.
  8. We made a list of all persons we had subjected to our original manuscripts and became willing to make amends to all of them who had not killed themselves with sporks by page fifty.
  9. We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would cause them to injure themselves or others at the mere memory of our manuscripts.
  10. We continued to undergo edits, and, when our Editors sniff out Little Darlings, promptly submitted them for termination.
  11. We sought through study and daily word count to improve our conscious contact with our plots, as we understood them, seeking only the knowledge to distinguish between Little Darlings and actual elements of our stories.
  12. Having had a literary awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to other Little Darling Addicts, and to practice these principles in all of our written endeavors.

Hello, My name is Piper Bayard, and I’m a Little Darling Addict.

Hi, Piper.


Thank you. I’d like to say I’m happy to be here today, but that wouldn’t be true, and I know that, if we aren’t honest with ourselves and others, we’ll never recover from our addictions.

The fact is, I really didn’t want to come. I made up a hundred excuses as to why I didn’t need this meeting. Why I didn’t need to share my story. Why I really didn’t need recovery at all. I was fine. Sure, I knew I had one or two Little Darlings, but I could get rid of them any time.

And then the little voice inside me. . . . You know the one. . . . That little voice that calls us on our crap and keeps us from enjoying the denial we wallowed in before we first logged on to Kristen’s blog and saw the light of Novel Structure. . . . That little voice told me that if I was fighting this meeting so hard, it was because this was where I needed to be. So I’m here.

*Polite clapping.*

Thank you. So this week, I want to share my Step 7 with you. I humbly asked my Editor, Kristen Lamb, to perform Radical Little Darling Surgery on my WIP and extract all of my Little Darlings. *shudder*

I was so proud of my manuscript when I first sent it away. I had colorful characters, exquisite action, and details about everything from trimming pottery to the nocturnal habits of pet mice. Every clever joke I had ever laughed about while partying with my friends was deftly woven in and disguised as meaningful dialogue. And the best part? All of my favorite people I had ever known were right there in one place. Of course, none of that had anything to do with a huntress who must befriend her worst enemy to overthrow a theocratic dictator before he exterminates her people. But it was all so sparkly and shiny.

I didn’t understand at first why Kristen took one look at it and broke out her surgical instruments. But when she placed her scalpel at the throat of one of my favorite-but-forced jokes right on page one, I jumped in front of her, falling to my knees and pleading, “No. Not that one.” I could see she was considering extracting me from the room along with my ill-timed humor, but instead, she mercifully lowered her blade and guided me through a process I now use to help others in Little Darlings Anonymous.

I worked the first six steps for months, fruitlessly attempting to justify inappropriate violence, psychotic character behavior, and excessive verbiage that rivaled the unedited version of The Count of Monte Cristo. But it was no good. The truth is the truth. One Little Darling is too many, and a thousand are never enough. I had to “Let Go, and Let Editor.”

It got bloody fast. . . . *sob*

A tissue box appears and arms embrace me.

It’s ok. . . . I’m ok, now. *deep breath*

Just as I had humbly asked, Kristen showed no mercy. She sliced and diced my cool “reminiscing over every book we own as we’re hurriedly packing them into hiding” scene. She obliterated my two whole stunning chapters on “finding the fugitive in the hidden cave.” She even vaporized my detailed recitation of Mexican border laws in a post-apocalyptic world, just because none of the action takes place at the Mexican border. Can you believe it?

But that wasn’t the most difficult part, and I know this is going to be hard for some of you to hear. . . . Believe me. It’s even harder for me to tell you. . . . She removed then biopsied 74 of my 87 main characters. Even after I named them all and gave each of their backgrounds and habits in depth!

At first, I was stunned. I thought I was ready for that 7th Step, but when she started cutting, I didn’t know if I was going to be strong enough to bear it. I’m ashamed to admit this, but I even thought about running home to my writing group that met every Saturday for fifteen years with no one ever getting published, so I could hear them tell me just one more time how one day, those 587 agents and publishers who turned me down were going to be sorry.

But then, as Little Darling parts flew around me and the scent of blood and burning flesh filled my nostrils, a strange transformation took place. Deep down in my gut, I realized something. . . . This felt goooooood!

Before I knew it, I was right there by Kristen’s side with a laser scalpel of my own, popping off monologues, sniping at adverbs, and hunting down three more of those 87 characters who’d hidden in some redundant metaphors. It wasn’t easy, and I had quite the mess to stitch up by the time we were finished, but now, I have a real plot with relevant characters in place of “tea time with my imaginary friends.”

After a lot of bleeding and pain, my story was saved. My WIP went through six months of WWBC rehabilitation to build strong narrative points and she’s now on the road to full recovery.

I’m living proof, folks. The program works when you work it.

Thank you for listening today.

Grant me the
serenity to accept that things have got to change.

The courage to
change the things I can.

And a good
Editor to help me know the difference.

Thank you, Piper!

What Little Darlings are hiding in your work? Are you ready to have them removed to save your WIP? All the best to all of you for letting go. Do you want to share your own struggles with Little Darling Addiction? Do you have friends or loved ones who need help? This is a safe place to share. Also, feel free to ask Piper any questions about her journey to recovery.

What are your thoughts? Opinions?  I love hearing from you! And to prove it and show my love, for the month of August, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of August I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Note: I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.

In the meantime, I hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in th biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left over to write more great books! I am here to change your approach, not your personality.

Hello. Today is Free-for-All Friday and my topic of choice. Many of you are following this blog to learn more about writing or social media. I want you to know that all my methods were rigorously tested on other writers before being offered to the general public. For instance, my colleagues and I would place a log-line at the end of a maze, and if the writer could find it, she was allowed a second cup of coffee. We generally avoided experiments involving electroshock namely because writers are masochists, and most of them liked it. Thus, we tried to focus on postive rewards. We also tested various methods of plotting. Which ones made the writers spontaneously break out in hives or lose all their hair? Did the writer curl into the fetal position when made to outline? When placed in a puzzle, could the writer pick a single genre? Of course some caffeinated beverage was always placed at the end so the writer would have a reward for staying on task.

These critters sacrificed so that future writers could benefit (No writers were permanently harmed. Okay, maybe one or two, but they were odd to start with).

Piper was one of my first guinea pigs and today she wanted to share her story. It has been an amazing experience to watch her grow as a writer and blogger over the past ten months and, if anyone deserves to share their tale, it is this gal. She has not only applied all the lessons taught about writing, but she has used all the methods I teach to build and grow her now very popular (and FUNNY!) blog; Piper Bayard—The Pale Writer of the Apocalypse. She is a belly-dancing writer (actual photo below).

Here’s her story:

My Life as a Guinea Pig

When I stepped off the plane in Dallas for the DFW Writers Conference last April, I had no idea that I would arrive an aspiring writer and leave…a guinea pig?

I met Kristen where you always meet the people experienced in life and writing—out on the dark porch where the “bad girls” go to smoke and drink. As a recovering attorney, I knew that was where I would find the real action at the conference. Sure enough, there she was, slinging her Texas drawl with New York speed while gesticulating with her wine glass and expounding to a group on why “a girl who finds out she’s a fairy, and, oh yeah, she has daddy issues,” sucked as a logline.

To be honest, I’ve spent most of my life being a character and living stories rather than learning to write them, so I had no idea what a logline was. This woman was either dazzling with brilliance or baffling with bullshit. But, either way, she was good at it, and, most importantly, she wasn’t picking on me, so I stuck around. By the time she finished emitting her Death Star blast on the unsuspecting fairy writer, I knew what a logline was. Sadly, I also knew that mine sucked, too. But more importantly, everyone listening knew why our loglines sucked, and how we could fix them. Kristen was blunt and unvarnished in her delivery, but her assessments rang true. She was all about making us better writers.

Screw my ego. I needed to learn what she was teaching.

The next day, I stuck to Kristen like a burr in her fetlock, taking her classes and listening as others asked her questions. She said scary words like “blog” and “hashtag,” and insisted that Facebook and Twitter would change my life as surely as the microwave had changed the TV dinner. (Yes, I’m that old.)

Now, just to give you the full picture, when it came to computers, I could usually get the O-N/O-F-F switch to the O-N position and send an email, but only if that email didn’t have an attachment. Blog was cousin to the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Hashtag was the corned beef on my shirt after breakfast, and Facebook was a place with people who were looking for me, and not to give me a cyber-hug. And this woman was saying I had do all of them?

I tried to inhale deeply, but my best efforts were rapid and shallow. I wondered if the tote DFWWC gave me would be as effective to breathe into as a paper bag. Then the worst happened. Kristen glanced over the heads of the people I was hiding behind and asked, “Do you blog?”

Suddenly, as I stood there quivering under her laser gaze, my legs shrunk and hair sprouted all over my body. I snatched some garnish from a passing caterer’s tray and fought an overwhelming compulsion to seek out a Nutri-log to hide in. What was happening to me? I tried to ask, “Umm. . . . What’s a blog?”  but all that came out was, “Bweep, bweep, bweep!” That’s when we both knew. I was no “aspiring writer.” I was her guinea pig.   

She said, “Type up your bio and send it to me.”

What was that she was holding out? A honey treat?

“Uhh. . . . ok.” Bio. Familiar word. And I didn’t even have to research it to write it. Oh, sure, I was daunted at being in the fairy writer’s hot seat, but what the hell? You ante up or you get out of the game. So I took my best shot and wrote a nice, safe, no-one’s-going-to-argue-with-this biography.

Kristen’s response? “Booor – iiiing. You are a fiction writer for God’s sake. I can’t understand why people who write 150k words of pure lies feel like they have to tell the truth in their biography. Use your imagination and try again.”

So I did. I sent her 350 words of pure, unadulterated BS that was swimming around in my head at 4:00 a.m. in the middle of a SCUBA trip, and she told me, “That’s more like it.” Yea! A win!

“Now you need to start a blog.”

Bweep, bweep, bweep!” There was that four-letter word again. I chewed open a pillow and pawed madly through the fluff. That’s when I knew I had a choice to make. To be, or not to be?

In 20 years of teaching belly dancing, I always told my students, “You’re a dancer when you decide you’re a dancer. No one gives you permission but you.” It’s the same with writing. There is no such thing as “aspiring.” There is only doing.

So I got a copy of Kristen’s book, We Are Not Alone–The Writers Guide to Social Media, and I took the plunge, a large pile of Timothy hay beside me to graze through while I worked. And you know what I found out? If you can talk, you can blog. Blogging is just talking to people. It’s probably the easiest writing you could ever do. Find something you like to talk about—not yourself—and talk about it. With the Internet for research, you can even talk about it knowledgeably.

You know what’s happened since this guinea pig started blogging? I now say, “I’m an author,” with confidence. I now take my own writing seriously, and so do my family and friends. And when I’m chatting with folks while I’m out and about in my day, I say, “You know, I was just writing about that. . . .” Which is a great excuse to give them my business card. In no time, I found my blog voice, and now, I’m even on Facebook and Twitter. Yes, me. The O-N/O-F-F switch girl. If I can do it, you can, too.

The ubiquitous body hair receded, and I replaced the half-chewed door on my closet. (Don’t hassle me. I couldn’t find a Nutri-log my size, ok?) I even started feeling pretty comfortable with this social media thing. Then Kristen did it again. . . . “Would you like to write a guest blog?”

Bweep, bweep, bweep!” I just need to gnaw this chair leg for a while.  

My profound thanks to Kristen Lamb and Warrior Writers for adopting me from the Writer Shelter.

What about writing has you hiding in your Nutri-log? What do you do to face your fears?

All the best to all of you for more time writing and less time nibbling furniture. . . . Oooo! Is she holding a strawberry?

Thanks Piper for sharing your story. I hope you guys go check out her blog, and feel free to send me your own story to highlight in the next Guinea Pig Diaries. I want everyone reading this blog to always feel encouraged. Knowledge is power and you do have control over your destiny.

Happy writing!

Until next time….

Check in on Monday for Novel Structure Part 8!

Give yourself the gift of success for the coming year. My best-selling book We Are Not Alone–The Writers Guide to Social Media is recommended by literary agents and endorsed by NY Times best-selling authors. My method is free, fast, simple and leaves time to write more books! Enter to win a FREE copy. Check out Author Susan Bischoff’s blog.