GENRE:   Non-Fiction, Writing Craft


Author Insight – Directly from Shayla

I never thought I was destined to be a non-fiction writer. I much prefer telling lies and killing off characters. But I am very active in a large critique group, about 75 members, that meets every Saturday to critique. I’ve critiqued hundreds of writers, I’ve arranged the group’s classes for over five years (and taught many of them), and I’ve also judged a lot of contests through various RWA chapters. So I feel I have the chops to write this book.

The new writer faces enormous challenges simply because the craft is so complicated, the industry so opaque, and the available literature either designed for a writer with some competence, or presented in a completely unrealistic fashion. Any how-to book that suggests a first novel could be a best-seller is promoting utter hogwash. I wanted to give the would-be writer a jump-start.

I’ve critiqued and counseled countless new writers. They’re desperate to know what they’re doing wrong. They think they’re stupid or slow when they really are just uninformed. Many think because they can read they can write. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Writing genre fiction is hard work and has a very long learning curve.

I found myself giving the same assurances over and over.

There’s a limit on how many people I can speak directly to. With A is for Author  I can reach many more hopeful writers. Maybe save them time, kick-start their growth in everything from industry jargon, technique, genre requirements, heat level, branding, promotion, publishing, to how to build a really good villain.

Speed Round (just to get to know Shayla better):
a. Coffee, tea, or other? Tea, Diet Cherry Dr. Pepper, red wine
b. Music preference? Classical, schmaltzy Italian love songs, 70s-80s rock
c. Dog, cat, or other? Cats rule.
d. Favorite author? Too many to list. Really. One author can’t be all things to a reader.
e. Favorite actor/actress? Vigo Mortensen. Even though he’s gone on to other things.
f. Favorite television show (past or present)? Don’t watch TV except for Charlie Rose and the World Series

 About the Book

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.

Read an Excerpt


# 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.

My Review

There are a number of good tips in this book, not just for the beginner but for the intermediate author as well. The beginner will learn, first hand, the pitfalls of show vs tell and receive good advice on how to make subtle changes to enhance their writing.

The intermediate writer may look at the book as a refresher course to keep them from slipping back into past incorrect behaviors and possibly help them avoid an unnecessary round of editing.

I found a few of the examples a bit over-emphasized but appreciated what the author was trying to get across. All-in-all, a good teaching tool for those just starting out or wanting to up their game with a bit of self-editing prior to submission.

About the Author

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.

Website | Facebook

A Giveaway

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Follow the Tour

This is a four-week review tour. You are welcome to visit as many of the stops as you’d like for even more chances to win.

November 14: Rogue’s Angels
November 21: This and That Book Blog
November 28: The Reading Addict
December 5: Lisa Haselton’s Reviews and Interviews
December 5: Archaeolibrarian – I Dig Good Books! – review
December 12: Notes From a Romantic’s Heart – review
December 19Sorchia’s Universe
January 2The Avid Reader
January 9Kit ‘N Kabookle

~ ~ ~

It’s been my pleasure hosting Shayla today and look forward to having her back again sometime soon.


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6 Responses to REVIEW: A IS FOR AUTHOR by Shayla McBride

  1. Thank you Nancy for hosting and for the review.

  2. Lisa Brown says:

    congrats on the tour and thanks for the chance to win 🙂

  3. Victoria says:

    Thanks for sharing your review!

  4. Melissa says:

    Bound to be an insightful book.

Comments are closed.