Hello writers!


Below are some websites/blogs, books, and podcasts Robin has found quite helpful.

Robin’s NOT an affiliate for anyone or anything listed here. She receives zero compensation should you decide to utilize a link. The links are for your convenience.

Everything on this page is Robin’s opinion.  She doesn’t claim to be an expert in any aspect of writing or publishing fiction.

Further down, you’ll find some of what Robin has learned on her journey to self-publication. And there’s so much more to learn.

Keep in mind, her focus is on Mystery / Suspense / Thriller genres.

If you have questions or comments, please email Robin or use the blog comments.

WEBSITES (with links)

Alliance of Independent Authors

Joanna Penn’s The Creative Penn

How to Write Fiction | Story Grid 

BOOKS (with links to Amazon page)

The Chicago Manual of Style by The University of Chicago Press

The Chicago Manual of Style is the authoritative, trusted source that writers, editors, and publishers turn to for guidance on style and process.

This is my absolute favorite book!! It has everything a writer needs to know. From manuscript preparation guidelines to how to properly use an em dash and an en dash versus an ellipses. -Robin Lyons



How to Write a Sizzling Synopsis by Bryan Cohen

A Step-by-Step System for Enticing New Readers, Selling More Fiction, and Making Your Books Sound Good




Bird by Bird – Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my  brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy.  Just take it bird by bird.'”



Line by Line – How to Edit Your Own Writing by Claire Kehrwald Cook

The essential guide for all writers. With over 700 examples of original and edited sentences, this book provides information about editing techniques, grammar, and usage for every writer from the student to the published author.



On Writing by Stephen King

Immensely helpful and illuminating to any aspiring writer, this special edition of Stephen King’s critically lauded, million-copy bestseller shares the experiences, habits, and convictions that have shaped him and his work.




The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglist

This book comes to the rescue by highlighting 75 emotions and listing the possible body language cues, thoughts, and visceral responses for each.




The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne

During his years as an editor at the Big Five publishing houses, as an independent publisher, as a literary agent both at a major Hollywood talent agency and as head of Genre Management Inc., and as a bestselling co-writer (The Ones Who Hit The Hardest with Chad Millman)and ghostwriter, Coyne created a methodology called The Story Grid to each the editing craft.



The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler

The Writer’s Journey explores the powerful relationship between mythology and storytelling in a clear, concise style that’s made it required reading for movie executives, screenwriters, playwrights, scholars, and fans of pop culture all over the world.




Writer’s Digest Write Great Fiction Series:

How do you create a main character readers won’t forget? How do you write a book in multiple-third-person point of view without confusing your readers (or yourself)? How do you plant essential information about a character’s past into a story?



How essential is setting to a story? How much description is too much? In what ways do details and setting tie into plot and character development? How can you use setting and description to add depth to your story?




When should your character talk, what should (or shouldn’t) he say, and when should he say it? How do you know when dialogue–or the lack thereof–is dragging down your scene? How do you fix a character who speaks without the laconic wit of the Terminator?



How does plot influence story structure? What’s the difference between plotting for commercial and literary fiction? How do you revise a plot or structure that’s gone off course?




Don’t let the revision process intimidate you any longer. Discover how to successfully transform your first draft into a polished final draft readers won’t be able to forget.

PODCASTS (with links) If you aren’t listening to podcasts or don’t know what one is, 

Grammar Girl with Mignon Fogarty

Joanna Penn’s The Creative Penn

SELL MORE BOOKS SHOW with Jim Kukral and Bryan Cohen

SELF PUBLISHING FORMULA PODCAST with Mark Dawson and James Blatch

Story Grid Podcast with Shawn Coyne and Tim Grahl



Buy a Domain Name

Before you write your first word, buy a domain name. They’re cheap, (under $10.00/year). Robin bought hers from GoDaddy, but there are many businesses where you can purchase them. Get your author name if available, preferably not the book title or book series. Your author name will remain the same, however you’ll write more books. Rather than have a domain name and website for each book, create an amazing website for you to include all you’ve written.


Social Media

Build your platform, in other words network through social media sites, make connections, make friends.  Stay active on social media, if you only post when you want to sell your book(s) you won’t make many friends. The links provided here are to Robin’s social media pages. Sign up for a Facebook Business Page (you must have a personal page first), Twitter, and Goodreads. When you’re ready to advertise your book on Facebook, you cannot use advertising from a personal page, you must have a business page. If you’re savvy on social media, you should also do Instagram from your mobile device. Robin also enjoys Pinterest, although she hasn’t found it to be good for networking.


You Want to Write a Book

Plot Development: Pantser vs. plotter. Pantser writes as content pops in their mind. Plotters map the story out and then write. Robin is 99% plotter.

First Lesson: Start saving money… more on where to spend it later. You’ll spend money before you make money.

Second Lesson: Every story must have 1) An inciting incident 2) A complication 3) A crisis 4) A climax and 5) A resolution. If this is news to you, spend some money and purchase The Story Grid book (link above).

Story Structure: Within the story there must be three acts. Each act must have 1) An inciting incident 2) A complication 3) A crisis 4) A climax and 5) A resolution. The end of Act One should have something that leads the reader into the next act – something that connects Act One to Act Two and Act Two to Act Three.

For example, at the end of a chapter a character might walk outside a building and into the hot afternoon sun and then the next chapter could begin with a different character sweating in the afternoon heat while they wait on a bench for the city bus.

Each chapters must also have 1) An inciting incident 2) A complication 3) A crisis 4) A climax and 5) A resolution.  And each chapter should have something that leads the reader into the next chapter – the same as the acts, something that connects Chapter One to Chapter Two and so on.


Should You Edit Your Book? Yes and No

YES: Edit your book with whatever program you are writing it in. Microsoft Word. Scrivener.

There are free editing programs available. Use them. Robin used the free version of Grammarly for a few years. When Grammarly ran a 50% off deal during the holidays she bought the paid version. Sign-up for emails and watch for deals. The paid version is annual payment.

NO: You want your finished product to be professional and polished. Once you feel you’ve edited until your eyes cross, find an editor and pay for a Content Edit. Prices range from $250-to-$$$$ depending on the word count in your manuscript. There are lots of Facebook groups for writers, join them. Groups are great for resources and collaboration. Post a question asking for referrals for a good inexpensive content editor, line editor, and proofreader. The content editor will look at your overall story to make sure all of the pieces fit and flow (chapters into acts and into overall story).

YES: After you get your edited manuscript back from the content editor and have fine-tuned your story based on the edit, you’ll need to edit it again for grammar, punctuation, etc.

NO: Send it off for a Line Edit, prices range $500-to-$$$$.

YES: After receiving manuscript back from line editor, again make corrections. Do another grammar and punctuation edit on your own.

NO: Time to send your manuscript off to a proofreader, $200-to-$$$.

NO: When you receive your manuscript back from the proofreader send it to your street team, beta readers or friends and family for honest feedback and hard truths.


Formatting for eBook and Formatting for Paperback

Most authors use Microsoft Word or Scrivener to create their manuscript. You can do eBook and paperback formatting in both Word and Scrivener. Or there are several websites offering both digital and paper book formatting. Vellum is the new rage getting high marks for easy, professional formatting at a low cost. Vellum is a Mac product only. When your document is formatted into a manuscript there is more to it than just indentations and page numbers, the fonts must be embedded or your upload will be rejected by Amazon, CreateSpace and IngramSpark. If this sounds too complicated, use a professional service – they aren’t costly. Here are a few services to check out:





If you want to try it on your own, here’s a useful guide posted on Create Space: A Step-by-Step Guide to Formatting Your Book’s Interior 


Paperback Printing

Almost everything you read indicates you should publish on both IngramSpark and Createspace for paperback printing. Libraries and bookstores will only purchase through IngramSpark. Createspace is the fasted method for readers to receive your book when purchasing it on Amazon.

When unsure where to have your book cover created, consider 99designs, it’s a fun way to create a book cover. Seeing the different designs and then narrowing the favorites down to the one you choose is exciting. Be sure you know what size you want your completed book to be and how many pages your book will be for the size you want or you may be investing in a cover design prematurely.

When you receive the proof from both IngramSpark and Createspace, you may see changes are needed. The font in Unknown Threat was too large (Times New Roman, 12pt). Changing the font size to 11pt, meant the entire novel had to be re-formatted. Because the font was smaller, the novel went from 320 pages to 242 pages. Fewer pages meant the spine was smaller, your graphic designer may need to make adjustments.

ON PRICING: It will surprise you when you see what a self-published paperback must be priced at ($14.99 for 5″ x 8″, 320 pages), or you’ll owe Ingram Spark for every novel sold. Robin was able to pare down Unknown Threat to 242 pages, and price it at $10.99. Still, the royalty isn’t great. Here’s the criteria used for Unknown Threat: Not perfect bound, black & white, cream colored pages, gloss finish on cover, 242 pages, $10.99, 55% wholesale discount (industry standard). The current royalty for Unknown Threat in paperback published through IngramSpark is $.85 per novel. The Createspace royalty for the same criteria is $2.84 per novel.

Check out what you’ll need to price your paperback novel at using IngramSpark’s FREE (No email info required) Publisher Compensation Calculator.

Price changes at Createspace at worst will take one or two days. A price change at IngramSpark is quite slow, they make changes once a month – plan accordingly.



Coming soon…


Stories full of tension, intrigue, and a military veteran on a mission.

Have you joined the Reader Club? Read the eBook MAC: A Prequel Novella for FREE

This fast-paced story steps back in time to reveal the agonizingly troubled youth of ‘Mac’ MacKenna before he joined the U.S. Air Force Special Operations and before he became the School Marshal at Blackstone Academy.




You’ll also receive weekly emails with:

  • Reader Club News, true school crime case research

  • Behind the scenes content

  • Updates

  • Be automatically included in exclusive monthly giveaways (because of sweepstakes laws, giveaways are for U.S. residents only)

  • And more

    Handley’s Coffee Shop T-Shirt: Super soft, lightweight, Handley’s Coffee Shop t-shirt. Handley’s Coffee Shop is located in the fictional town of Brookfield, California, and is featured in all School Marshal novels. Locals know Handley’s cinnamon rolls are the best in the west, the coffee’s hot and there’s always a fresh pot. 

    Handley’s Coffee Shop Tote Bag: Made from natural machine washable canvas. Multipurpose, reusable, heavy duty, and durable with a gusseted bottom. Great for crafts, shopping, groceries, books, diaper bag, beach use, and more. 15″ x 14″ x 4″



Disclaimer: If you become aware of someone you think may be a danger to someone else, NEVER try to handle the situation yourself – REPORT your suspicions to school administration or law enforcement. All data and information provided on this site is for information and research purposes only and not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, or individual. Criminal cases may have been appealed or verdicts overturned since a case was researched.  All information is provided on an as-is basis. The opinions expressed by individuals providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Robin Lyons.

Privacy Policy     Cookies Policy

Let’s connect on social media:  Facebook   Twitter   Pinterest

Copyright  © 2015-2018