Archive for writing process

Five Ways to Cut the Distractions and Start Writing Now.


Five Ways to Cut the Distractions and Start Writing Now, guest post by Alexis MacDonald

Anyone who has ever written anything significant, whether a term paper, a blog or the Great American Novel, has had to deal, now and again, with some of the usual writers’ bugaboos, like having one’s brain turn from a rich pasture of literary abundance to a whiteboard without a second’s notice. Right up there with the empty brain issue would be the wandering mind; one minute racing along on a shiny, well-organized train of thought and then floating aimlessly like a leaf on the wind the very next, or, suddenly mesmerized by one of the gadgets on your tool bar that you had somehow never noticed until this very second.

These things happen to just about everyone, and usually aren’t totally disastrous, unless you’re on deadline, in which case they can definitely throw a huge monkey wrench into the wheels of progress. So taking the distraction issue as a start, and beginning with the assumption that there is no such thing as a totally distraction-free working environment, how can a writer control and at least minimize distractions when work is where your wandering mind needs to be at that very moment?

Some would definitely argue that it is not only possible, but mandatory to create a distraction-free writing environment. Look, if you have the kind of creative mind we’re discussing here, and there are no distractions in the environment, your brain will create some for you, so whether they’re external or internal, distractions will happen, but they can be dealt with. Here are a few things that may be helpful in keeping some measure of focus when you need to get something coherent down on paper.

1. Try to pick topics that really interest you. If the material is interesting to you, then there is a greater likelihood that you will be able to maintain your attention span on point and organize your material in a sufficiently logical progression to make it interesting to your reader.

2. Do your homework and work from notes, especially if it’s a topic on which you aren’t naturally well-informed. You can get a lot of the mind-wandering out of your system while you’re putting together your notes and doing your research, so when it’s time to put the actual piece together, the material is familiar to you and you’re not as likely to be tempted to Google yourself off a cliff.

3. Closely related to this is organization. Do not write notes on scraps of paper, folded up dinner napkins or post-its strewn across your monitor and wall. When you’re doing research for an article create a folder in your computer and put everything there. If you absolutely must write something on the back of your day-timer while you’re thinking of it, then transfer it to your computer immediately when you get home, otherwise, distractions will be the least of your worries as you’re digging for critical pieces of information that have fallen into a black hole of post-it hell.

4. If you find yourself starting to wander, stop right there and take a break. Walk around, get a cold drink, stretch a little and then come back to the issue at hand with a refreshed perspective. Sometimes the best way to save time is to take a couple of minutes away from what you’re doing. This puts up a roadblock on that winding little path your mind was about to start heading down and brings you back to the place you need to be.

5. Finally, while there are applications out there that offer a variety of ways to get you to focus on the writing task at hand, if you really need to get an app to do this you may be beyond hope. You’re a writer. You are creative. You can do this.

Alexis is a freelance writer who specializes in pregnancy topics. She is currently writing on pregnancy symptoms and putting together a period calculator that she hopes will be useful to moms-to-be!

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The State of Black Sci F week 4: Giveaway and something about my novel


Back in 2010 I decided to participate in Nano for the first time. National Novel Writing Month, Nano for short, happens every November, and participants attempt to write 50,000 words in a month. I decided to write a sci fi novel, because I love the genre, have read it for years — many — but had a phobia about writing it.

Being, perhaps, terminally crazed, I decided I would participate in Robert Lee Brewer’s November Chapbook challenge as well, and to produce 30 poems which would form a chapbook.

I decided to make the poet part of the universe of the novel. That way I could include the poems in the 50,000 word line count and use some of the poems in the book.

I did far more world building than I did plotting — I had an outline with about a page of notes and a fifteen point plot line. Many of the specifics went right out the window when I started writing, but my world building remained.

My aliens form relationships involving four people (or three, or, very occasionally, two), and they’re all lovers. I choose what I hoped would be alien sounding names, made their society based on personal responsibility, lack of coercion, respect for the environment, rather than rules and laws. I made up stuff about their art (my mother was an artist who specialized in portraits in oils), and, later, a bit about their music (I play the flute and the piccolo).

And because I (warning, spoiler alert) wanted my 14-year old main character to be a “cross” — part human and part alien — and be believable, in terms of appearance, I wanted to choose among the naturally occurring human skin tones for my aliens, and I needed my aliens to look distinctive, but not too, too alien.

I made them Black. Very, very dark skinned. And why? Because I didn’t want them to be white. First of all, white is too, well, bland and predictable. And by making them Black, I added a source of conflict to my story, and stories are all about conflict. And, face it, too many of the good guys, in my opinion, are white. I wanted to play against type, so the good guys in my novel are dark skinned.

I’d be thrilled to learn I’ve made my readers squirm, to twist in their seats as they come up against their prejudices and unconscious assumptions. Hopefully, I’ll find I’ve succeeded.

And here are a couple of poems from my imaginary poet, Raketh Namar, the namesake of my main character, Raketh Frey. Because the poet was a revered spiritual leader, and his poems are one of the Aleyni’s sacred texts, I found myself writing in a way that I, as myself, would not have, and writing a good number of what might be taken as poem-prayers.

Poems of this type, written in a voice other than that of the author, are called persona poems. You can learn more about persona poems here

Here are a couple of Raketh Namar’s poems that don’t appear in the book

Looking For My Fears

Muted buzzing in my ears
resonates to hidden fears.
Drag fears forward into light.
Exposed to air, see them take flight.

Fear’s seeds sprout best deep in dark
so let cleansing sunlight mark
paths for spirit’s shining light
to cleanse my mind, root out fear’s blight.

Who Will Play Music?

Who remains to play the music, now musician’s dead?
Which lips set bright brasses blowing? The man’s cold in his bed.
Whose hand renders strings a strumming now the fiddler’s gone?
Whose hand genders drums a drumming as night turns to dawn?

Our hands start the drums a drumming as dawn turns to day,
ours the fingers on strings, strumming,. We’ll sit down to play.
Our lips put to brasses blowing, knowing he will hear.
We will keep his music going, from us to his ear.

And now, {drum roll}, for the winner of a copy of the Poetic Muselings’s, (of whom I am one) poetry anthology, Lifelines:

Kathryn Scannell. Kathryn, I’ll be emailing you. Congratulations.

Check out the other members of this Online Black History Month Event:

Check out my awesome fellow members of this Online Black History Month Event:

Winston Blakely, Artist/Writer– Fine Arts/Comic Book artist, having a career spanning 20 years, whose achievements have included working for Valiant Comics and Rich Buckler’s Visage Studios. He is also the creator of Little Miss Strange, the world’s first black alien sorceress and the all- genre anthology entitled – Immortal Fantasy. Both graphic albums are available at Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and other online book store outlets. Visit him:

L. M. Davis, Author–began her love affair with fantasy in the second grade. Her first novel, Interlopers: A Shifters Novel, was released in 2010, and the follow-up Posers: A Shifters Novel will be released this spring. For more information visit her blog or her website
Milton Davis, Author – Milton Davis is owner/publisher of MVmedia, LLC . As an author he specializes in science fiction and fantasy and is the author of Meji Book One, Meji Book Two and Changa’s Safari. Visit him: and

Ja Ja (DjaDja) N Medjay , Author
—DjaDja Medjay is the author of The Renpet Sci-Fi Series. Shiatsu Practitioner. Holistic AfroFuturistic Rising in Excellence. Transmissions from The Future Earth can be found at: or on Facebook – or on Twitter –!/Khonsugo .

Margaret Fieland, Author– lives and writes in the suburbs west of Boston, MA
with her partner and five dogs. She is one of the Poetic Muselings. Their poetry anthology, Lifelines is available from Her book, “Relocated,” will be available from MuseItUp Publishing in July, 2012. The Angry Little Boy,” will be published by 4RV publishing in early 2013. You may visit her website,

Valjeanne Jeffers, Author — is an editor and the author of the SF/fantasy novels: Immortal, Immortal II: The Time of Legend and Immortal III: Stealer of Souls. Her fourth and fifth novels: Immortal IV: Collision of Worlds and The Switch: Clockwork will be released this spring. Visit her at: and

Thaddeus Howze, Author-
- is a veteran of the Information Technology and Communications industry with over twenty-six years of experience. His expertise is in re-engineering IT environments using process-oriented management techniques. In English, that means he studies the needs of his clients and configures their offices to optimize the use of information technology in their environment. Visit him: or

Alicia McCalla, Author—writes for both young adults and adults with her brand of multicultural science fiction, urban fantasy, and futurism. Her debut novel, Breaking Free will be available February 1, 2012. The Breaking Free theme song created by Asante McCalla is available for immediate download on itunes and Amazon. Visit her at:

Carole McDonnell, Author
–She writes Christian, speculative fiction, and multicultural stories. Her first novel is Wind Follower. Her short fiction has appeared in many anthologies and have been collected in an ebook, Spirit Fruit: Collected Speculative Fiction. Visit Carole: or

Balogun Ojetade, Author—of the bestselling “Afrikan Martial Arts: Discovering the Warrior Within” (non-fiction), “Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman” (Steampunk) and the feature film, “A Single Link”. Visit him:

Rasheedah Phillips, Author–is the creator of The AfroFuturist Affair in Philly. She plans to debut her first spec/sci-fic novel Recurrence Plot in Spring 2012. You may catch her ruminating from time to time on her blog,

Nicole Sconiers, Author-is also a screenwriter living in the sunny jungle of L.A. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Antioch University Los Angeles, and she recently published Escape from Beckyville: Tales of Race, Hair and Rage. Visit her:

Jarvis Sheffield, M.Ed. is owner & operator of, & Visit him:

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Interview with author Kristin Battestella


Tell us about yourself.

Oh this is always the tough part! I always feel pretentious when talking about myself or my books- and that’s half of all the promotion! There’s not much to tell really. I’d still say I’m a newlywed over 3 years on. I’m currently watching Bob Ross. I collect records, and need more bookcases. That is all.

How long have you been writing?

Fore-eva! Professionally, it has probably been 10 or 12 years, but I started seriously writing in high school, submitting to contests, and looking at writing as a grown up. As a child, however, I had the basics of storytelling, even if the stories were complete crap. I was always acting something out and writing plays to go along with them. I suppose people define ‘writer’ or ‘author’ or the professional or success by things like how much money you make or books you sell, but for me, I’ve always been a storyteller, and will always write whether it is expressly for publication or not.

You write horror novels. How did you get started?

Simply put, the ones I was reading were crap! I love scary movies of course as well, science fiction, and genre. I like the crazy possibilities and wonder why it is that we have such connections with adrenaline, flight or fight, and being scared as entertainment. I kept watching dumb shoes and reading books that just seemed so simplistic, plain, not asking the big psychological questions of fear and torment. I simply said to myself one day that my ideas were better, or at least I could entertain myself with the things I wrote. When the kids at school began passing around my work and students I didn’t even know were coming to me and asking me for more, I realized there might be something special for other readers.

What’s different about your vampires?

I’m old school. I know everyone says ‘vampire family’ like it is nothing these days, but when I began my world, there was Anne Rice and Lauren K. Hamilton and Forever Knight and Dark Shadows. I liked when vamps were niche, underground, scary, and reflective of ourselves. The Welshire are a family by blood and by vampirism, and neither is easy for them through the centuries. Why are some happy to be creatures of the night? How can others crumble under damnation? Can one born of evil be good? I like the dark questions. To be a vampire is to question! I don’t know how this new boy vamps are just about girls and high school. That seems so boring and mundane to me, and a bit pedophile! Who wants to be in high school forever? That is so instant of the moment. My vamps are about far more lasting fate, fangs, and consequences.

Wow are your favorite writers in your genre?

I actually have more sf and fantasy influences than horror, perhaps. I grew up on classics, Dickens, Tolkien, Asimov. Early on I was in a total Arthurian phase, Malory, Tennyson, I loved Howard Pyle and Robert Louis Stevenson, too. Robin Hood, comic books, too, and Poe! Then I switched at some point to hard SF and all the 50s pulps and Tarzan. I love historicals like Hornblower, too, and Sharpe I’m reading now. I had my Anne Rice phase, too, but I don’t like Stephen King. While it is critical to know what has been done in your genre, I don’t like to be pigeonholed or get into routine with my writing, and my reading tastes are so varied anyway. I think one should read outside of their genre more perhaps, gain ideas and trends and bring them back to your work. I tend to alternate my books and reads, and don’t read and write in the same genre at the same time. I could go on and on, but I’ll stop. I love non fiction and spiritual material, too. Really, what’s not to read?

What do you do in your spare time?

I have nothing but spare time! Not. Well, I work at home now so sometimes my fun time and work time do blur. When I need to get stuff done or things get crazy and interfere, that isn’t good. But when the writing is going magical and you do what you love, it’s easy to consider your work your fun. But I sleep a lot and do love me some sleep. I have to be in a streak to sew, but when I do, it’s pretty amazing stuff. And I like to Wii and pretend like I can play ice hockey again like in my younger glorious days. My husband and I do get on movie marathon streaks as well, and do little weekend travel trips when we can.

What’s the best writing advice you ever got? The worst?

The worst is easy, simply because it is relative. What works for some will be disasterous with others. The Best advice is to just write, and be true to the material. If you took in every piece of what another author, editor, book, or publisher said, you’d probably find a lot of contradictions and never get anything done. We have such a rushed society, and at the seminars I’ve done with the New Jersey Authors Network, sometimes I’ve met aspiring writers who want to know about publishing and marketing but they haven’t completed a work yet. First and foremost, you have to write. The business research and all the bells and whistles can come later. Just sit down and tell the tale you have to tell. Fuck everything else. To thine own self be true! Then again, am I Stephenie Meyer, no, so maybe my advice tips should be taken with a grain of salt, hehe. The advice that works for you depends on what kind of writer you want to be. Not, do this for short fiction or this for non fiction, but are you going to write from your soul or sell out? So many people want to put the cart before the horse these days. Love your art, warts and all!

Do you have a writing routine?

In theory. Now, my little spot where I usually sit with my exercise ball is being taken up by my Christmas tree, so I’m a little squashed with all my stuff piled up by my usual recliner. I’m a night owl. I’d like to be normal and write in the day time, and be tan and do those things that sunshiney people do, but I enjoy the productivity that comes overnight. I have certain days and times when regular writing work needs to get done, but when edits or the muse takes over, it takes over! I’ll handwrite a first draft, then get a double session of fleshing out and editing as I type it at the keyboard, then there will be a dozen edits and read throughs before I go through my work by reading it out loud. That is my last touch where I get to hear how things sound, know if the rhythm matches the people or the place or where the plot lags.

How do you go about planning a new novel?

It depends. Sometimes ideas stew in my head or lie in my notebook for years, other times I have to immediately get a rough outline or draft done. Sometimes a great snip of dialogue will come to me, and once I start writing down, I find myself adding tags, descriptions, and I’m off. I also have to do goofy charts and side character materials. I will cut out photos or save entire folders of what a character would wear, jewelry, furniture. I’ll draw things, graph intersecting appearances and storylines. I do outline, sometimes just what happens from one seen to another, other times, completely finite stuff that takes up entire walls. Mainly, though, I don’t limit myself in any planning or composition. No, I have to adhere to this photo or the outline says this- forget that! You go where the story takes you then worry about the trimming next time around.

What are you working on now?

I’m trying to satisfy myself with the next two full length novels following Fate and Fangs: Tales from the Vampire Family 7 book series with Muse It Up Publishing. I’ve been off and on this vampire material for years. I think some folks might think I’m always hawking the same thing! But I just wrote a lot of stuff over a long period of time. The 7 novellas in Fate and Fangs are comprised of earlier material as well as more recent events. Requiem for the Vampire Family will pick up where the final tale in Fate and Fangs- Resurrection, due out in February- leaves off, and now it is going to be split in two with the final act being The Vampire Family Forever. I do write more than horror, well, not just vampires at least! I have big space operas that just keep getting bigger, but those need a lot of work! I did step aside and do an edit with another local author Leigh Wood. Again it is important to step outside your comfort zone. I did a read through on her new fantasy erotica Horns of Myleness. Way out of my zone- unicorns and medieval love triangles! It was totally mature even with such high fantasy romps, serious, deep. I love the world building. I enjoy being able to move through time with my vampires, immerse myself in their world for a little while. You get sick of it, and I go slow with the hand writing and you write and read again and again and think you are sick of your story! But then you leave it for something else and find you miss it. It keeps you coming back for more! Whew!

What do you want readers to take away from your books?

I’d like a reader to think about what they read after it’s done. I adore books that change you. I love to read and be a different person from whom I was at the start on Page One. I like questions, conversations, examinations. What does my opinion of this book say about me? Who am I in comparison to the villain of this piece? I like literature that informs, inspires, and entertains, showcasing a mirror of who we are and what we can do! Yes I get all philosophical and lofty and would die of happiness of someone ever said something I wrote was life changing! On my review blog I Think, Therefore I Review, a gentleman commented on a article I wrote for Highlander: The Series last year. He said he had worked overnights many years ago and the highlight of the night was watching the show. Finding my review brought back some great memories and he said, ‘and I thank you for that.’ It was the greatest thing ever!! I never want a reader to feel shy. Come to me, talk to me, discuss. To me my book, any book, is not set in stone, it is a dialogue, a conversation on the human condition that should be shared. I don’t think you can get that from a 140 character limit. Thank you. I love you! Read me! Authors are needed people with something to say.

Any last words?

Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.


You can find Kristin at

and check out Humanity, her latest book

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The Story Behind Don’t Look Back, Agnes and In This House


The story behind Don’t Look Back, Agnes and In This House
by Kathryn Meyer Griffith

You Tube Book Trailer:
Eternal Press Buy Link:

The older I get, the more I like to reminisce and write about what I’m going through at any particular time. I guess it’s an age thing. So many of my stories and novels come about because of what I’m actually experiencing in my real life at the time. Not all, but some.
But my novella, Don’t Look Back, Agnes is definitely one such story.

At the end of 1998 my beloved father, the very heart (along with my mother’s mother, Grandmother Fehrt, who was also much loved) of my large family, passed away after a short but heartbreaking battle with lung cancer. He’d been a cigarette smoker his whole life so it wasn’t a complete shock that it ended up killing him. Yet the suddenness and the swiftness of his departure devastated my six siblings, my mother, grandmother, and me. It was a very dark time for us.

To complicate the matter, my brothers and sisters, myself included, were in our forties and working hard at our lives, our families and jobs, but my grandmother and mother were left living alone together and neither one drove; so both needed constant care and attention. My grandmother was in her eighties and my mother in her late sixties; though my grandmother was fairly healthy (she was spunky lady, with a zest for life, who’d emigrated from Austria as a child) my mother was already in a wheelchair, crippled from bad ankle surgeries, debilitating osteoarthritis and a host of heart related problems.

The first thing the family had to do was move them into town, nearer to some of us, and out of the country where they’d been living in the new sprawling house my father had built them just the year before. It was too hard caring for them way out there and the house was too big, too expensive. Boy, that was fun. They had so much stuff, so many memories to dispose of and cry over. We settled them in a small ranch house in town and life went on. Or tried to.

Now, I loved my mother and grandmother dearly but taking care of them was often difficult. Each needed concentrated care, love, endless visits to the doctor, prescriptions fulfilled and, as time went on, housekeeping and grocery shopping help–and finally, someone to do their bills, my mother becoming too disoriented and sick to any longer do any of those chores. For a long time, years, my grandmother stepped up, even at her age, and became my mother’s constant nurse and helper. Their two Social Security checks combined were just enough for them to live on. It was a thin line they had to tread and we tried to help them every step of the way.

So, with love, sometimes desperation, and some bickering every so often between us siblings as to who would do what when, we took care of them and their whole household, their house. There were many late night runs to hospital emergency rooms, or long stays, and rehab centers for my mother, who steadily over the next nine years grew worse. By the end of 2005 it seemed we were always at the hospital with mom or grandma. My mom had her heart troubles, high blood pressure and medication problems, and my grandmother broke her hip. One thing after another. It was exhausting at times. Who’d ever think two sick old ladies could need so much care?

Then my grandmother got really ill and was rushed to the hospital. She needed emergency surgery and afterwards was in intensive care for a month…never recovered…then sadly joined our grandfather in the next life. We were all so broken hearted.

That left our mother, all alone, without enough money to live on (her Social Security meager; no savings), and unable to care for herself or her three cats. Born an only child, she was a demanding sort of woman, almost childlike in her unending need for attention and devotion. She was terrified of going to a nursing home so the family did what we could to keep her in her own home as long as possible. My brother got her a reverse mortgage on her house and we all chipped in financially whenever and however we could. We fought the good fight but there came a day where mom got so sick, was rushed to the hospital so often, needed so much constant supervision, that my siblings and I had to admit defeat…mom had to go into a nursing home or one of us had to move in with her, which wasn’t feasible. We were married with families.

So a nursing home it was. We picked out a newly opened one in town, the nicest we could find, and the next time mom got sick we moved her into it for her recovery. Then told her the truth. The house was up for sale and the cats had been placed in new homes. I even took one, Patches (the cat in the story), because it was old and no one wanted her. My husband and I already had two cats but it was something I had to do…for mom. She really loved that cat as she’d really loved her home. But poor Patches, probably pining for her mistress and her old life, only lasted five months. I lied to my mother for months afterwards, afraid to tell her that the old cat had died (mom had always said that when Patches died, she’d die) and it broke my heart when I finally had to tell her. Mom had come to our house for a family Thanksgiving and I couldn’t hide the fact that Patches was no longer there. Oh, that was hard. Telling her.

If anyone has ever put a parent or relative into a nursing home, they know the heartbreak it causes all around. My mother was inconsolable and my guilt was awful. But, as sick as mom had become, with so many prescriptions each day, hospital visits, and how most days she couldn’t even get out of bed or get to the bathroom, clean or feed herself…we had no choice. She stayed in that nursing home – although it was a bright cheery place with kind people running it – until she died two years later. The hardest two years of my life. I visited her often, shopped for her and kept her company. Decorated her room so it looked like a home. Brought her special lunches and little gifts. Fancy quilts and stuffed cats. It still broke my heart.

I began writing the novella, Don’t Look Back, Agnes, while she was there. A ghost story centered around a young woman who’s forced by grim circumstances into returning to her haunted, and deadly, childhood home because her mother is ill in a nursing home and needs her. Looking back now, I can see it was also my way of dealing with the nursing home guilt…of wishing for a different ending to mom’s life than what had occurred. Writing the story was my therapy. I cried all my sorrow out into those words and prayed to be forgiven for putting my mother into such a place.

Even In This House, the bonus short story included because it’s also a ghostly tale, deals with old age and the passing of all a person (or a couple in this instance) ever knew or loved as time and their lives slip away, as it must always do. At the same time I was writing the Agnes story I read an article in the newspaper about this old man who was the last resident of a neighborhood that had been systematically bought out and emptied by an iron smelter plant. He was the last one living there in the last house. He spoke of his loneliness since his wife had died; about her. Their past. It sparked the idea for In This House. Both stories deal with responsibility, sacrifice and…love. Love for a mate, for an aging parent, children, and a way of life or the loss of one’s independence that we all in the end have to relinquish in one way or another. Life’s sorrows faced with a brave smile to cover the tears.

I hope the two stories help anyone going through what I was going through in those difficult years. If they do, then the words have done their job.

Written by the author Kathryn Meyer Griffith this nineteenth day of December 2011

A writer for 40 years I’ve had 14 novels and 8 short stories published with Zebra Books, Leisure Books, Avalon Books, the Wild Rose Press, damnation Books and Eternal Press since 1984. And my romantic end-of-the-world horror novel THE LAST VAMPIRE-Revised Author’s Edition is a 2012 EPIC EBOOK AWARDS FINALIST NOMINEE.
My books (most out again from Damnation Books and Eternal Press): Evil Stalks the Night, The Heart of the Rose, Blood Forge, Vampire Blood, The Last Vampire, Witches, The Nameless One short story, The Calling, Scraps of Paper, All Things Slip Away, Egyptian Heart, Winter’s Journey, The Ice Bridge, Don’t Look Back, Agnes novella, In This House short story, BEFORE THE END: A Time of Demons, The Woman in Crimson, The Guide to Writing Paranormal Fiction: Volume 1 (I did the Introduction) ***

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Guest Post: The Pitalls of Creation, by Heather Haven


I’m in the process of creating a protagonist for a new humorous mystery series, called Persephone Cole and the _______ (insert subject here). It’s agony. Getting to know a person — even a fictitious one — takes time, thought, energy, trial and error. Sometimes they get pissed off and you don’t know why. Sometimes they laugh when you think they should cry. You thought they’d like bagels in the morning but they don’t. A living, breathing character, even one on paper, has a will of his or her own. It’s maddening.

It brings to mind the latest of the Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries, Death Runs in the Family, which debuts in May. One of the central characters takes off for Rio de Janeiro, just like that, out of the blue. I mean, excuse me? I don’t know anything about Rio de Janeiro. I’ve never been to Rio de Janeiro. I’m sure it’s a terrific place, but come on; I’ve got a novel to write. Then this character has the effrontery to park herself in Ipanema, a fancy schmancy beachside community, and at a pretty posh place. What now? So I did scads of research, which took me weeks and weeks, cursing the day this character was born, even though I birthed her. Some kids are really ungrateful.

Thank Gawd, Lee Alvarez, the protagonist for the Alvarez Family series, has never betrayed me like this…yet. I’m waiting. I need to be careful. Every now and then Lee does something I’m not expecting her to do. She isn’t your typical protagonist and it’s starting to worry me. She’s funny, impulsive, smart, talented, loves dancing, handbags and a good joke. She knows her own worth, but has moments of self-doubt. She also has a mind of her own. These are all recipes for danger for the wretched author.

Agatha Christie hated Hercule Poirot. She wanted to dump him like crazy, unwrite him, banish him. She was sick and tired of him going his way when she wanted him to go hers. Like Arthur Conan Doyle, she even killed him off. But Holmes came back four years later and I suspect Poirot is wandering around London searching for an unsuspecting author to give him voice. I say, be careful England’s writers. Avoid any egg-shaped little guy with a mustache.

But back to me and my characters. I keep creating these strong women with minds of their own who breathe disdain for anyone who tells them what to do. Pity this poor novelist. I’m in for it, I can tell.


Heather is a story teller by nature and loves the written word. In her career, she’s written short stories, novels, comedy acts, plays, television treatments, ad copy, commercials, and even ghost-wrote a book.
Her first two novels of the Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries, Murder is a Family Business, and A Wedding To Die For are now out in bundle at MuseItUp Publishing:
The 3rd of the series, Death Runs in the Family, will be out in May 2012. Heather says they are a joy to write. She gets to be all the characters, including the cat! She lives in San Jose, California, with her husband and, yes, two cats.
Follow Heather’s blog at:
Murder is a Family Business Youtube book trailer:
A Wedding to Die For Youtube book trailer:
Follow Lee’s daily Twitters at: http://twitter. com/PILeeAlvarez

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I Try “Creative Calisthenics” by Terri Main


I just started reading “Creative Calisthenics” by Terri Main. Being the person that I am, I started at the beginning of the book. The first exercise called for a pack of index cards (I didn’t have any handy), but the second is “My Computer Went Crazy.” This is major fun.

So here’s my story. Stay tuned for more. If I can write them, y’all can read them.

Here’s the link to Amazon, where you can purchase a copy of Terri’s book

My Computer Goes Crazy

Today my computer went crazy. When I went to boot it up, it said, “I do not wish to boot up this morning. My data cache hurts.”

I said, “I’ll take you to the Cache Doctor.”

“No,” it replied. “I am an extensionalist, suffering from angst. You have downloaded too many extensions. I am shutting down.” Then all the little blinking lights went out.

So, doctor, can you help? I hate to see a computer suffer.

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Guest Post: Alliteration in Literature


Today I’m delighted to host Jennifer (J.R.) Turner on my blog.

Award-winning author J.R. Turner lives in Central Wisconsin with her husband and three children. She began writing in high school, and after a decade working as a commercial artist, started her first novel in 1999. Aside from crafts, camping and cooking, she loves holidays. A favorite is Halloween, a combination of spooky supernatural fun and chocolate. Visit her at to learn more!
Alliteration in Literature

Writing is a journey—and often this journey takes us places we never thought we would go. I enjoyed poetry in my teens and played with the different forms and variations over the years. In fact, the very first time I wrote something I was proud of, (in 2nd grade, bless you Mrs. Sanders!) turned out to be a poem:

1-2-3 Birthday wishes go so fast
Like the breeze in the willows
Dancing among the grass

As you can see, I never forgot those three lines. Of course I used slant rhyme and my meter was way off, but this began my love affair with alliteration. The way words can come together, sounding so similar, intrigues me to no end. When I write, I often fall back on alliteration to heighten the pace or the sense of place. There’s a difference between the lines:

The farmer struggled to control the tractor and steer it away from the derelict henhouse.

The farmer fought for control of the tractor, turning to avoid destroying the derelict henhouse.

For me, the more the words slide together, the less intrusive they are. My mind can melt into the story and forget I’m reading. You’ll find tons of this in all my books and short stories, and yes, even in those few poems I still write today. Just look at the title of my new series:

Delbert Dallas and the Dragon Diaries: #1 Voyage to Viking Island (link: )

#1: Voyage to Viking Island—Release Date: March 22nd.
When the new guitar Delbert Dallas got for his birthday turns into a dragon named Barbecue Bob, the adventures are just beginning. First stop—Viking Island where Prince Rolloff is running away from his wedding—at the age of twelve. A Viking afraid of a girl? Even more shocking is Rolloff’s new best friend.

Walter Wheeler, a bully held back two grades, has discovered his own time-traveling dragon, Firebrand. When the prince offers a bag full of gold to get him off the island, Walter happily accepts, once he hears the plan is to escape on the royal longboat. Not only will he take Rolloff’s gold, he’ll take all the treasure on board.

Can Delbert convince Prince Rolloff that Walter Wheeler is no valiant Viking in shining armor? How do you explain a dragon named Bob to a Prince? What will happen when the rival dragons meet snout to snout? Find out in the first adventure of Delbert Dallas and the Dragon Diaries.

Each story in the series will be released on the 22nd of each month:

#2 Civil War Skirmish
#3 Viva La Francine!

The first in a series of once-monthly releases for reluctant readers, part of the Electric Shorts program for middle-grade kids, is just the beginning of the fun I have writing with alliteration. So what do you think? Do you enjoy reading or writing with allitearation?

Thanks so much for having me here, Margaret!


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Guest Post by author Kat Duncan: The Root of all Emotions: Fear


The Root of All Emotions: Fear
Dwight Swain and Jack Bickham both wrote that authors need to give the reader “something to worry about”. People read for feeling and that doesn’t mean it needs to be sappy, but it does need to hit an emotional nerve. You can hit an emotional nerve with tension or suspense. And I don’t necessarily mean the kind of suspense in a thriller-type novel.
My personal definition of suspense is: expecting something (usually bad) to happen and it doesn’t happen or something else (equally bad or worse) happens instead. My personal definition of tension is wanting something (usually good) to happen, but it won’t and you have to wait or work harder to get it to happen. Do you need both in a story? No. One or the other will do. Both are nice too.

Swain says, “So what’s behind suspense? Fear.” I think the same goes for tension. What’s behind tension is fear. Fear that you won’t find that “special someone” or that you aren’t good-looking enough or thin enough or your teeth aren’t white enough for this person to like you. The worst kind of fear of that type is being rejected. Swain also says “fear is subjective”. My fears are not your fears. Things that would drive you crazy don’t bother me one bit. Situations you’d sail through give me the creeps or make me shake my head and say “I could never do that.” If I think about it, I might even suggest that fear is at the root of all emotions. So how can we use this information?

Would it make sense to match up characters whose fears overlap, dovetail or squash one another? For example: two people want the same thing. They both can’t have it, and it can’t be shared or divided.
So far, so good, but I’m not feeling the tension. Ok, one of these people is afraid of having his estranged wife run away with their children. If he can get the thing, his estranged wife will accept a divorce and let him have the kids because she doesn’t want them anyway and he does.
Getting more interesting? Ok, the other person who wants this thing is a woman who just got divorced from her husband after finding out he made some bad investments and lost all their savings, then ran up their credit cards to the max to cover his tracks. She was so eager to divorce the guy that she signed the divorce papers without realizing that most of the debt is hers because she got the house. If she doesn’t get the thing right away, she’s going to lose the house and her two kids will be homeless.

Better? Do you think this problem is solvable? You shouldn’t. Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to tell me how you are going to decide which person gets the thing. These two people are each afraid of losing their kids. Fear is a powerful motivator. Look for the underlying fear in your character and you’ll have good insight into why they behave the way they do.

By the way, this technique is known as The McGuffin. The McGuffin is the “thing” that the characters want and will do anything to have. It was popularized by Alfred Hitchcock, no less. So, what do you think? Do you have a McGuffin in your story? Do you think it matters what the McGuffin is or is it just about the characters themselves? Can you find the fear in your characters’ actions?

Thanks for stopping by. Share your comments here today and check out my year-long novel writing course that begins in May at Savvy Authors. You can also find me on the web at

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Guest Post by Kristin Tualla: Three Reasons I Wrote A Trilogy. Yes, I appreciate the Irony


Three Reasons I Wrote A Trilogy. Yes I Appreciate The Irony.

REASON #1: My hero and heroine turned out to be really interesting people.

Not only that, but they had a lot of life-changing occurrences once they came together. These occurrences were not easy, nor could they be anticipated.

In the first book, the hero and heroine meet. Both are older than the typical romance couple; he’s 32 and she’s 30. Both have been through trauma and crisis and are not looking for love. By the time they figure out that they belong together a lot of baggage has to be dealt with. And then my hero announces that he is royalty.

In the second book, the couple travels to Norway – following the debacle of Napoleon – so my hero can candidate for a reclaimed Norwegian throne. This path could literally make him King of Norway. And his political choice involves life and death situations.

And in the third book they return to the brand new state of Missouri, and my hero runs for state legislator. Romantic that he is, he determined to change the world.

You can’t tell all of that in one book!

REASON #2: Once I fall in love with a set of characters, I hate when the book ends.

I have become invested in their relationship and their lives. I don’t want to say goodbye. It’s like a close friend moving away. Sure, we’ll stay in touch. But the intimacy is gone.

I know many readers agree; for that reason, series stories are popular. If the action increases from book to book, and the stakes are raised or remain high, then we feel like we are walking through the perils with familiar friends. We understand the impact new events have on our “friends” because we have had time to get to know them and their quirks.

That is what happened with Nicolas and Sydney.

REASON #3: My early inspiration was Kathleen Woodiwiss, the founder of modern romance; and more recently, Diana Gabaldon of “Outlander” fame.

These women published long, dense, long, intelligent, long, complex historicals. Did I mention “long”?

I was ignorant of the developing publishing crisis when I began writing in 2006. I thought books could be any length necessary to tell the story. I was so very wrong.

When I sat down with an editor in 2008, her first question was, “How many words?
“105,000,” I said. (That’s just over 400 pages in a mass-market paperback.)
“Cut it to 90,000,” she said. “Then we can talk.”
“Do you want to know what it’s about?” I asked.
“No,” she answered.

So much for the “dense, intelligent, and complex” storyline. And print publishing has gotten even more restrictive as e-publishing’s share of the market grows. Big books are expensive. And expensive books are very risky. And when your share of the market shrinks, risks must be “managed.”

My trilogy covers three years in the lives of my characters, but as much as e-publishing has squeezed traditional houses, so has the shortened attention span of current readers. I have heard people say they won’t start a book if it’s “long.” But they’ll read 5 shorter books in its place. Go figure.

But when I went indie/e-pub, all of those concerns disappeared. That’s good news for you, the reader.

So. Is it time you found a new brand of hero? Please allow me to help.

For every 10 people who comment here, I will give away one free e-copy of A Woman of Choice – the beginning of the trilogy. And, yes. Commenter #11 warrants 2 copies! Comment #21? I’ll give away three.


In February at the end of my blog tour, I’ll give away one SIGNED PAPERBACK SET of the trilogy. Here’s how you can get in on that deal:
1. Go to and find the “Secret Word” on my home page.
2. Send an email to [email protected] with “Signed Trilogy Giveaway” in the subject line. Put the secret word in the body.
3. Comment on any blog at any time in the tour to activate your entry. Each day’s blog location is listed at

A Woman of Choice, A Prince of Norway, and A Matter of Principle are all available at

A Woman of Choice – Missouri Territory, 1819
A woman is viciously betrayed and abandoned by her unfaithful husband. She is rescued by a widower uninterested in love. In desperation, she becomes engaged to his best friend. One woman, three very different men. Life is about choices.

A Prince of Norway – Christiania, Norway, 1820
American-born Nicolas Hansen has been asked to candidate for his great-grandfather’s throne. His new wife Sydney isn’t about to let him go to Norway and face that possibility alone. The moment they arrive at Akershus Castle, the political intrigue and maneuvering begin. Can Sydney trust anyone? Will Nicolas resist the seduction of power? Or will he claim the throne for himself? Most importantly: will their young marriage survive the malicious mischief of the ambitious royal family?

A Matter of Principle – St. Louis, State of Missouri, 1821
Nicolas Hansen has returned from Norway determined to change the world. But when he runs for State Legislator in the brand-new state of Missouri, the enemies he made over the past two years aren’t about to step quietly aside. Sydney has made enemies of her own, both by marrying Nicolas and by practicing midwifery. When a newspaper reporter makes it his goal to destroy them, Nicolas must rethink his path once again. But this time, it’s a matter of principle.

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November Chapbook Challenge: Lessons Learned


Robert Lee Brewer’s November chapbook challenge has come to an end. Check out the comments section of Robert’s blog for November for all the wonderful poems written by all of us participating writers.http: //

Since I was also participating in NaNoWriMo, In order to not go completely crazy I wrote poems that I hope will be part of the book. They are supposedly written by the ancestor of one of the alien characters in my novel, and thus I wanted them to reflect the moral, spiritual, and ethical viewpoint of the aliens. It ended up being a very rewarding experience. The poems were considerably more “religious” than I would normally allow myself to write, and also contained more metaphoric imagery than I normally find in my poetry. As this lack is something that I have been wanting to address, I find this a particularly interesting development.

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