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Recently, while offering advice to a young friend, I blathered to a halt and recalled advice offered to me when I was growing up. I didn’t ask for most of it, but that never stopped adults from handing it out. It seemed almost as if spouting words of wisdom and/or warning was a requirement for being a parent or grandparent, aunt, uncle, or friend of the family.

Some advice made sense. (Take along an umbrella if it looks like rain. Don’t dive into a stream until you know where the rocks are. Don’t play with snakes with triangular heads. Don’t pet skunks.)

Some I didn’t see the logic for until I was older. (Always keep a fund of walking-away money. Learn to drive a stick shift. Be careful who you step on as you go up the ladder, because you might meet them when you come down.)

Author Carolyn J. Rose and pet

Author Carolyn J. Rose and pet

And some seemed suspicious and unreliable—then and now. (Never go out in old or torn underwear because you might be in a car accident. Clean your plate because people in India or China or Africa are starving. Always respect your elders.) I regularly pondered questions like: Would doctors and nurses pause in their efforts to save me in order to comment on the sad state of my undies? If I ate more, how would that help a hungry person in another country? Did I have to respect criminals and disgraced politicians simply because they were older?

When I started taking writing classes in the early 90s, I got an avalanche of fresh advice. My mentors explained the logic for bits of wisdom they dished out, but I soon discovered that every writer walks a different path. What works for one, might not work for another. So, while I took advice about the importance of characterization, plot, and trimming dead language, I ignored several other snippets.

Here are some suggestions I considered and discarded.

Set a daily word-count goal and stick to it. No excuses. I like goals and I love meeting them, but I knew there would be days when I couldn’t crank out enough words to hit the mark. I also knew I’d try to make up for that “failure” and put too much pressure on myself. I decided I would write at least five days a week, but write only what I could, not what I “had to.” Sometimes that’s 3,000 words. Sometimes it’s 300.

Don’t start writing until you have a complete outline. If I adhered to this piece of advice I’d have exactly NO novels in print. Having been chastised in elementary school for getting my Roman numerals and capital letters in all the wrong places, the thought of outlining makes my stomach clench and my creativity go AWOL. Give me a pack of file cards and I recover and start plotting.

Know everything about your characters before you begin. My characters have a way of growing and changing as they come into contact with others. Emotion, conflict, and a need to take action have an impact. Characters may be altered in ways I couldn’t foresee in the plotting stage. So, I establish basic physical characteristics, a bit of back story, and a few notes about their unique outlooks and voices. Then I go for it and see what they’ll say and do.

Over-the-top characters won’t sell. Hmmm. Tell that to Carl Hiaasen or Tim Dorsey. As a reader, I don’t much care for mundane characters with blah lives, so I no longer hold my characters back—except to keep them from tossing the F-bomb.

Write what you know. What I know is that I don’t know much. Writing only what I know would be a limiting experience. So I altered that advice to: “Write what you can imagine. But do research.”

How about you?

What advice have you taken or rejected, cherished or laughed at, passed on or passed over?

No Substitute for Myth by Carolyn J. Rose

No Substitute for Myth by Carolyn J. Rose

Carolyn J. Rose is the author of the popular Subbing isn’t for Sissies series (No Substitute for Murder, No Substitute for Money, No Substitute for Maturity, and No Substitute for Myth), as well as the Catskill Mountains mysteries (Hemlock Lake, Through a Yellow Wood, and The Devil’s Tombstone). Other works include An Uncertain Refuge, Sea of Regret, A Place of Forgetting, and projects written with her husband, Mike Nettleton (The Hard Karma Shuffle, The Crushed Velvet Miasma, Drum Warrior, Death at Devil’s Harbor, Deception at Devil’s Harbor, and the short story collection Sucker Punches).

She grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. She’s now a substitute teacher in Vancouver, Washington, and her interests are reading, swimming, walking, gardening, and NOT cooking.  http://www.deadlyduomysteries.com

 

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by Betty Dravis

1. terry cowboyLike most women I know, cowboys top my list of “favorite male hunks.”

The first movie cowboy I ever saw was Gene Autry, the singing cowboy of my youth. Then in my heyday, my all-time favorite and life-long “crush” Clint Eastwood rode into my life. And now there is Scott Eastwood, star of the blockbuster movie The Longest Ride… and Terry G. Reed.

“Who,” you might ask, “is Terry G. Reed?” Well, before I tell you a little about this Los Angeles actor–born in Ohio but spent most of his adult life in Tennessee–here is a photograph that captured my eye. If you can look past the man, don’t you just love his shirt? I wish they would bring this style back.

Terry G. Reed is a SAG-AFTRA actor who will play the role of Russell Rawlings in the coming TV series Big Sky. Rawlings is a rancher who is running for mayor. Big Sky has a huge cast with many of my Florida friends playing various roles. (I just learned yesterday that another of my California actor friends, Tia Barr, has also been added to the cast.) From all I have read and seen, Big Sky should be a big hit. Here is the link to the edited reel that helped Terry land the role: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fD69BCOnA7Y&sns=em

6. Terry G. Reed for Big Sky Banner

After seeing Terry’s demo and pictures, what do you think, ladies? He sounds and looks like a force to be reckoned with, in my opinion.

In real life, Terry is not a cowboy, but that’s how I see him and most likely will always think of him that way. However, since he plays business and bad-boy roles with equal ease, I doubt if he’ll get type-cast. But being type-cast as a cowboy is not a bad thing… On the contrary, take Clint Eastwood, for example. In addition to cowboys, Eastwood played roles from detectives to radio disc jockeys, but what image pops into your head when his name is mentioned? That’s right: a handsome, rugged, sexy cowboy!

Terry’s IMDb lists many former roles, from coroner, assassin to pro baseball scout. Just to name of few of his movie roles, Terry was a security chief in Rejourer (2011); a school principal in Truly Blessed (2009); and in In Da Cut he played the role of Kelly. He has an impressive list of TV credits, also. A few examples: The role of coroner in Howard Hughes Revealed; in The World’s Astonishing News TV Series, he played Joannie’s father in The Joannie Rochette Story; the part of Ray Kitchen in Eaten Ali3. terry closeup my faveve; Killer Bears episode; and a security and pit boss in Las Vegas. The list goes on…

In addition to his cowboy role in TV’s Big Sky—which I am personally anticipating—Terry has two films in pre-production: Dolphin’s Song and Cowgirl Romance.

Terry is a songwriter and guitarist. In case you’d like to hear some of his music, following are links to a few of his videos. He wrote the songs in some of his videos, plays guitar on others.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_hHTPfnpOY

One of my favorites is Grant’s Lullaby that he wrote for his son:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gmg0w8XqLcA&sns=em

Terry has a good sense of humor, so it isn’t surprising that he can now laugh when recalling that for a TV role he once had to cry around twenty-three times in a two-day period. He said after that, he never wanted to cry on set again. He learned the hard way–on a shoot–that yellow jackets are attracted to fake blood.

5 facebook_1438038295931Coincidentally with this cowboy theme, Terry was encouraged as an actor by popular cowboy star Clint Walker and Bill McKinney who fought both Eastwood and John Wayne in the movies.

Since Terry’s coming role in Big Sky set my mind on a cowboy “tangent,” I asked my agent at Reel World Talent LLC and several popular authors to say a few words about cowboys who stood out in their memories.

Author Mary Lou Cheatham Recalls
Saturday Afternoon Matinee Cowboys

Roy-Rogers_1424127c“Back in the fifties in Taylorsville, Mississippi, my friends and I went to the Melroy Theater on Saturday afternoons to see the Westerns. I loved Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. I thought about them all week. Gene Autry was a favorite too. Back then I thought all cowboys were singers.”

Author Loretta Wheeler Chose Audie Murphy

audie murphy“I was asked to write a little something about my favorite cowboy. Being from Texas, of course, that didn’t seem a very difficult request. But, my take on it will probably make a few scratch their heads and say ‘Who?’ And then, ‘Why him?’

“The cowboy that sticks in my mind from way back is Audie Murphy. Here’s a short bio of him, followed by my reasons for choosing him:

“‘Audie Murphy was one of the most decorated American combat soldiers of World War II, receiving every military combat award for valor available from the U.S. Army, as well as French and Belgian awards for heroism. At the age of nineteen, Murphy received the Medal of Honor after single-handedly holding off an entire company of German soldiers for an hour at the Colmar Pocket in France in January 1945, then leading a successful counterattack while wounded and out of ammunition.’

“After the war, Murphy became a popular movie star, often portraying cowboys. So, dig through Netflix and find one of his old cowboy movies, fix yourself a bowl of popcorn, and sit back and watch a man portraying all the things we hold dear in cowboys, and know that he embodied those qualities in his “real” life too.”

Author Joanna Lee Doster Chose Clint Walker

clint walker“I just discovered and have begun watching Cheyenne with Clint Walker. I love the show. He is always honorable and always seeks justice. He takes off his shirt in almost every episode. He is the strong and silent type but he always saves the day. Six feet, six inches makes him the record champion. In 1969, New York Times film critic Howard Thompson, in reviewing Walker’s performance in the movie More Dead Than Alive, described the actor as ‘a big, fine-looking chap and about as live-looking as any man could be. And there is something winning about his taciturn earnestness as an actor, although real emotion seldom breaks through.’ In 1958, Thompson described the actor, then starring in Fort Dobbs, as ‘the biggest, finest-looking Western hero ever to sag a horse, with a pair of shoulders rivaling King Kong’s.’”

Michael McGregor of Reel World Talent LLC
Likes Singing Cowboys

“My favorite Cowboy…. hmmm…. I have two actually; both cowboys who sing. The first is Kenny Lee of the great state of Tennessee, and the second is Don Allen of the Gold Coast of Australia. Kenny Lee just finished producing Don Allen’s latest CD and I had the pleasure of listening to it on Kenny’s computer while he and Don cut-up and joked around. It was a great evening of friendship and witnessing amazing talent by both Kenny and Don!”

Terry G

Now, that I have, hopefully, intrigued you and gained a few more fans for Terry’s long list, why not meander on over to his Facebook page and invite him to be your friend. Also check out some of his old films to see him in action and follow him in Big Sky when it’s released. His shoulders might not be as huge as Clint Walker’s, but he’s long and lean like Clint Eastwood (or even Gary Cooper)… and he cuts a “mighty fine figure” in the role of rancher Russell Rawlings.

Facebook link:
https://www.facebook.com/terrygreed9?fref=ts:

Internet Movie Data Base (IMDb) link:
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2744358

Another film, scene from Crime Investigation role:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ZC6gwoKxzA&sns=emsoccerforme@sbcglobal.net

The Dames of Dialogue and our readers wish Terry huge success in his acting career. We love your cowboy persona. But whatever the role, as you ride off into the sunset–as Roy Rogers and Dale Evans always sang–“Happy trails to you…”

7 Terry film reels by fan Wendy J. Willett

Graphic made for Terry by fan Wendy J. Willett

I admit it. I’m a fan of TV shows and Internet articles about the bizarre, the unexplained, and the weird. I’ll happily sit for hours, munching popcorn and watching programs about UFOs, creatures lurking in lakes and rivers, beasts prowling the jungle, and, of course, Bigfoot.

Author Carolyn J. Rose and pet

Author Carolyn J. Rose and pet

Mostly I watch those programs alone. My husband—no, make that my long-suffering husband—checks out after about 25 minutes, rolling his eyes as he departs for his man cave. What I find intriguing or amusing, he finds ridiculous.

So, when I mentioned that Bigfoot would feature in the 4th Subbing isn’t for Sissies mystery, I wasn’t surprised by the expression on his face. It implied that I had yet another screw loose.

Undaunted, I plunged ahead with No Substitute for Myth. As the title suggests, the story deals with myths—not stories of gods, goddesses, flying horses, and heroic deeds from ancient times—but mundane and fairly modern stories and sayings and traditions. Often we accept them without question.

For example, when I was young I was told that if I kept popping my knuckles, I’d get painful arthritis. I stopped popping. But guess what? Recently I read about a study that indicated I could pop all I wanted. Granted, the study looked at only a small group, but it led me to conclude that the knuckle-popping warning from my grandmother was another way of telling me to “knock off that annoying habit.”

But, like I said, No Substitute for Myth also involves Bigfoot, less in a reviewing-the-evidence way than in presenting him as a symbol for the unexplained and unknown, for all we wonder about. I’m no Bigfoot expert. And I don’t intend to try to become one.

I admire people with the courage to venture deep into the forest in search of something large and perhaps dangerous. But I’m never going into the backcountry in search of proof. I believe in Bigfoot just enough not to hunt for him. I’d rather take on a crush of shoppers at clearance-sale day or tell a friend her new jeans make her look fat.

And, quite honestly, if I came across a set of giant footprints, I’d walk briskly in the opposite direction of where they were headed. And if I heard what I thought might be Bigfoot, or saw him, I’d run. If I could. I’m more likely to be paralyzed with fright, gibbering with fear, wetting my pants, or all of the above.

If Bigfoot isn’t in the forests of the Pacific Northwest where I live, other not-so-friendly creatures are—bears and wolves and cougars. To trim the odds of running across them, I’ll stay on the sofa with my popcorn and the TV remote.

What about you? Are there myths you hold near and dear? Myths you’d like to see busted? And do you believe Bigfoot exists?

Carolyn J. Rose is the author of the popular Subbing isn’t for Sissies series (No Substitute for Murder, No Substitute for Money, No Substitute for Maturity, and No Substitute for Myth), as well as the Catskill Mountains mysteries (Hemlock Lake, Through a Yellow Wood, and The Devil’s Tombstone), and other works. She grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. She’s now a substitute teacher in Vancouver, Washington, and her interests are reading, swimming, walking, gardening, and NOT cooking.

http://www.amazon.com/Substitute-Myth-Subbing-isnt-Sissies-ebook/dp/B00YI7UTN4/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1436463023&sr=1-1&keywords=no+substitute+for+myth

 

https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/no-substitute-for-myth

 

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/no-substitute-for-myth-carolyn-j-rose/1122025758?ean=2940151390163

No Substitute for Myth by Carolyn J. Rose

No Substitute for Myth by Carolyn J. Rose

 

Author Carolyn J. Rose and pet

Author Carolyn J. Rose and pet

When I wrote my first TV newsroom mystery (now out of print and going to stay that way), I called it Face Time. The title referred to the amount of time viewers would see a news anchor’s face during a newscast. Over the years, I’d worked with several anchors reeled through tapes of news programs and literally counted the seconds their faces filled the screen. If their co-anchors got more time, they’d complain to the producer and news director.

The title spoke to me. But not to others. I argued with everyone (including writing coach Elizabeth Lyon) who said they didn’t get it, didn’t think much of it after I explained it, and felt it wouldn’t sell books. Eventually they wore me down and I went with Consulted to Death because the death of a media consultant sets the plot in motion and the title signals that the story is a murder mystery.

Although I felt like I was the only writer ever to go to war over a title, I wasn’t. Here’s what Lyon says in her just-released booklet, Crafting Titles:

In my years as a book editor, I’ve seldom seen an early title make the final cut. Critique groups, family, friends, and editors may passionately insist that you change your title. . . Because every novel can have many good titles, set your sights on finding one that captures the essence of your novel, has the right “sound,” and reflects its genre.

Crafting Titles by E Lyon

Crafting Titles by E Lyon

In the first section of Crafting Titles (available from Amazon, Crafting Titles by Elizabeth Lyon, Nook, and Kobo), Lyon reviews the many benefits of using a character’s name, like Lolita, or The Great Gatsby. After that, she examines the possibility of using the name of a place:

A setting may become a major character. If place sends seismic waves throughout your story, consider . . . compelling reasons for selecting it as a title.

One of those reasons has to do with the theme of the book, so I pat myself on the back that I used Hemlock Lake as the title for the first of my Catskill Mountains Mysteries. For the protagonist, the remote lake and the small town beside it are poisoned by past events and memories, and those poisonous feelings shape the story and his future.

Elizabeth Lyon, author

Elizabeth Lyon, author

In Lyon’s words: Titles that telegraph themes may unite many levels of the novel: plot, character development, an image or concrete thing, a place and era, an emotional tone, an atmosphere.

Elsewhere in her booklet, Lyon discusses the use of important things or meaningful objects as titles, the use of quotations and literary references, and titles that fit specific genres. She also considers the ideal length of a title, and branding for sequels and series.

Reader recognition of your book is particularly important if you decide to write a sequel, a prequel, or a series. Publishers—and fans—often hope, or even expect, sequels or series. Novels destined to be sequels or part of a series typically have similar titles. A handy way to accomplish this is by repeating a pattern of words in every book title.

I probably should have done that with my Catskill Mountains Mysteries, but I got carried away with other ideas and—okay, I admit it—didn’t ask for advice. Without conscious thought, however, I set up a pattern for the Subbing isn’t for Sissies Series. The fourth in the series, No Substitute for Myth, is just out.

If you’ve struggled with a title in the past or are struggling now, share your pain with a comment. Elizabeth and I will be happy to respond.

A writing teacher and book editor since 1988, Elizabeth Lyon is the author of half a dozen books on how to write, revise, and market novels and nonfiction. In 2013, she launched a booklet series to explore one topic at a time in greater depth. Booklet #1 is Writing Subtext. Booklet #2 is Crafting Titles.

A reviewer for The Writer magazine selected Manuscript Makeover as one of “8 Great Writing Books in 2008,” and described it as “perhaps the most comprehensive book on revising fiction.” Lyon is also the author of The Sell Your Novel Tool Kit, Nonfiction Book Proposals Anybody Can Write, and others.

No Substitute for Myth by Carolyn J. Rose

No Substitute for Myth by Carolyn J. Rose

Carolyn J. Rose is the author of the popular Subbing isn’t for Sissies series (No Substitute for Murder, No Substitute for Money, No Substitute for Maturity, and No Substitute for Myth), as well as the Catskill Mountains mysteries (Hemlock Lake, Through a Yellow Wood, and The Devil’s Tombstone). Other works include An Uncertain Refuge, Sea of Regret, A Place of Forgetting, and projects written with her husband, Mike Nettleton (The Hard Karma Shuffle, The Crushed Velvet Miasma, Drum Warrior, Death at Devil’s Harbor, Deception at Devil’s Harbor, and the short story collection Sucker Punches). She lives in Vancouver, Washington, and her interests are reading, swimming, walking, gardening, and NOT cooking.  Website www.deadlyduomysteries.com

ME May, author

ME May, author

To my fellow writers: please don’t be the lone wolf in a tough world. I know that many of us are introverted artists, myself included. We would love nothing more than to have that cabin in the woods or solitary beach house where we could do nothing but write. Then, with no trouble at all, we simply send our wonderful prose to a publisher who is anxiously awaiting our newest submission. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work the way it does in the movies.

 

One of the greatest discoveries I’ve made as an author is that I do not have to bear the rough road to publishing alone. I don’t have to take the hit of a rejection letter without the support of those who understand what I am going through. There are people who not only encourage me and share their experiences, but who provide the opportunity for me to learn how to be a better writer.

 

Who are these super heroes of prose you ask? They are your genres writers’ associations. That’s correct. There are organizations that support writers in your particular genre.

 

In my case, I am a mystery author. When I finally decided to write that first novel, I had no idea where to start. I didn’t know anyone in the publishing business. I didn’t know what was required in order to contact publishers. Did I need an agent? How would I get one of those?

 

One day, I decided to do an internet search and came across an organization called Sisters in Crime. This organization was the brainchild of Sara Paretsky whom you may know as the author of a popular series which features Private Investigator, V. I. Warshawski. Sara felt women mystery writers weren’t taken seriously, so she thought there should be an organization to support them. Of course, unlike the names implies, members are male as well as female.

 

When I joined this group in 2008, my first meeting for the local chapter in the Chicago area was their annual writers’ workshop. I learned so much in that one day that it inspired me to keep moving forward and to never give up. At regular chapter meetings, we have special guests and experts in the fields of publicity, law enforcement, private investigation, crime scene clean up, and more.

 

At this time, I have the honor of being Chicagoland’s Vice President and Program Chair. I am also a member of the Speed City Chapter in Indianapolis, which is my hometown and the site where my Circle City Mystery Series takes place. With the generosity of a grant for the National organization, the combined efforts of these two chapters, and assistance from the Iowa chapter, they were able to participate at the 2015 Printers Row Lit Fest in Chicago. There they spread the word about the Sisters in Crime organization and introduce some of their Midwest authors to readers.

 

As an active member of the Mystery Writers of America, I have found another excellent organization of which to be a part. They too support members in their efforts to write the best novel possible through workshops, meetings with experts, and the occasional fun  and fabulous networking party. The Midwest Chapter was also a great presence at Printers Row Lit Fest this year providing speakers for Lit Fest panels as well as featuring authors in the Mystery Writers of America tent. They conducted fun contests with excellent Edgar Allan Poe prizes and held a flash fiction contest, which was won by a 16-year-old “future Edgar nominee.” The national organization also has writers’ workshops called MWA University, which takes place in various parts of the country. This is a great opportunity for writers—published or not—to hone their skills.

 

The camaraderie I have found in these two groups is inspiring and irreplaceable. That is the point of my blog today. It is so much easier to bear the disappointments when people who understand what you are going through surround you. It is also more joyous when you can share your successes with them.

 

I strongly suggest you find your “pack.” Don’t be the lone wolf, because often they “starve.” Being around writers from your genre is so stimulating that it is well worth being a part of it.

 

If you are a mystery writer, you can find out more about Sisters in Crime at http://www.sistersincrime.org and Mystery Writers of America at https://mysterywriters.org . If you write in another genre, you can find a list of organizations on a website called Writers Relief at http://writersrelief.com/writers-associations-organizations .

 

You contact me with any questions regarding today’s blog, or find out more about my novels and me through my website at www.memay-mysteries.com. Thank you and Happy Writing!

 

Purged by ME May

Purged by ME May

Michele (M.E.) May attended Indiana University in Kokomo, Indiana, studying Social and Behavioral Sciences. Her interest in the psychology of humans sparked the curiosity to ask why they commit such heinous acts upon one another. Other interests in such areas as criminology and forensics have moved her to put her vast imagination to work writing crime fiction that is as accurate as possible. In doing so, she depicts societal struggles that pit those who understand humanity with those who are lost in a strange and dangerous world of their own making. 

In creating the Circle City Mystery Series, she brings to life fictional characters who work diligently to bring justice to victims of crime in the city of Indianapolis. Michele also hopes her readers will witness through her eyes, the wonderful city she calls her hometown. Learn more about Michele at www.memay-mysteries.com

Facebook URL:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/M-E-May/522693281079718?ref=hl

Twitter:  @memayauthor

Author Carolyn J. Rose and pet

Author Carolyn J. Rose and pets

For some writers, the process of crafting a novel gets easier with each work.

Unfortunately, I’m not a member of that group.

Counting one that I tossed, three that are out of print and will stay that way, and five written with my husband, I just finished novel number 19 (No Substitute for Myth, to be released in June—or so I hope). Even though I knew the characters well because it’s the fourth in the series, and even though I had a clear idea of the plot, I struggled through the middle. Some of that struggle was due to elements I decided to add. Some was due to a feeling of being “held hostage” by my characters and wanting to be out of my office and living a life of my own.

In the previous substitute book, the beginning gave me fits. For number four, that was a cakewalk. Sometimes the ending is elusive, and sometimes I visualize the conclusion long before anything else.

Recently, while waiting for inspiration to deliver a perfect simile, I made a list of what I find most difficult about crafting a novel.

Getting an Idea. Because I’m afraid every idea will be the last, I treat a new one like the discovery of a rare plant. I record my “find” on a file card, post the card on a bulletin board, and then watch it, waiting for fresh shoots and leaves. Meanwhile, other ideas may be passing me by.

Plotting. The planning writers do is equivalent to that huge percentage of an iceberg beneath the surface. It supports your story. But the process of plot-building can be slow, and I’ve found that once characters interact, things can change. So, while I know how a book will start and how it will end, my plans for everything in between are often vague until I get there.

Crafting the Opening Sentences. Unless they come to me in a cheesy-snack-fueled dream, these are tough. So tough, in fact, that I often leave a blank space. When I reach the end, I have a better idea of how to plant the seeds of theme and plot on the first page.

Sitting. I don’t think I need to elaborate on the consequences of spending too much time on your ass-et.

Not Borrowing from Others. I don’t mean plagiarizing; I mean that unconscious shift toward a style or turn of phrase brought on by admiration for the skill of the author I’m reading at the time.

Making it Through the Middle. No matter how many file cards I’ve accumulated and how much plotting I’ve done, sometimes I feel like I’ve waded through a swamp only to step into quicksand. Often I have to go back to the beginning and work forward, reintroducing myself to characters I created weeks ago and have half-forgotten. The ending, like a mirage, seems to retreat before me.

Controlling the Snacking. When I’m stressed—and being stuck in figurative quicksand is stressful—I snack. (And I’m not talking about munching on baby carrots or apple slices.)

Taking Advice. Unless I’ve asked for it, I hate getting advice. And even when I’ve asked, I hate taking suggestions. So, when I’m deep enough in a quandary that I solicit ideas, I set them aside for a week while I work past a bout of I-should-have-seen-that resentment.

Ignoring Advice. I’m referring to the unsolicited and random suggestions that come from well-meaning folks who always wanted to write but never did. “You should write about my garden club and be sure to name all the members or someone will be mad.” “Don’t forget to give your protagonist a few cats.” “You should set your stories in Bermuda.”

The Ending. I think of an ending as the perfect meal—all the good stuff on the plate in portions that are just right. Not so much that servings and flavors run together. Not so little that I close the book feeling hungry. Just enough that I’m satisfied and want more from the same chef.

The title. Titles are tough because a few words have to do a lot of heavy lifting. In fact, they have to do so much lifting that I’m going to “save my strength” and save the topic for next month, when I’ll enlist writing coach Elizabeth Lyon to help me.

In the meantime, what do you think is the most difficult phase of writing a novel and why?

Maturity by Carolyn J. Rose

Maturity by Carolyn J. Rose

Carolyn J. Rose is the author of the popular Subbing isn’t for Sissies series (No Substitute for Murder, No Substitute for Money, and No Substitute for Maturity), as well as the Catskill Mountains mysteries (Hemlock Lake, Through a Yellow Wood, and The Devil’s Tombstone). Other works include An Uncertain Refuge, Sea of Regret, A Place of Forgetting, and projects written with her husband, Mike Nettleton. She lives in Vancouver, Washington, and her interests are reading, swimming, walking, gardening, and NOT cooking. www.deadlyduomysteries.com  http://www.deadlyduoduhblog.blogspot.com/

Robin Tidwell, author

Robin Tidwell, author

Back in 2012 when the idea for my book series popped into my head—thanks to some late-night salsa and chips that triggered a bizarre dream—the more I researched and thought and planned and figured, the more I began to really wonder “what if?”

That’s what started my journey into our newest big project: self-sufficiency.

In spite of several so-called projects over the years, a cleaning service, an old-time photography business, even a bookstore, this new one is big. Huge. I’m wondering if we can actually do this, you know?

We bought a farm.

It’s 35 acres, out in the middle of nowhere. With WiFi, of course. Perfect, right? I think so . . .

See, while writing my books, I really got into baking our bread, canning, increasing my gardening, and cooking almost everything from scratch. I’d been doing some of this for a long time, but I stepped up my game—this year’s garden, for example, will be a full acre between our current home and the farm. That’s enough to feed the three of us for the whole year.

We stock supplies, we tromp around in the woods, we either knew how or learned how to do things like track, construct shelters, survive, shoot, and build things. I even bought some yarn and knitting needles and printed out instructions. Sadly, that’s as far as I’ve gotten at this point.

So, yeah, you could call us preppers. Or crazy. Some people do that.

But that’s okay. I can live with “crazy.”

Why do we do this? Well, it’s kinda fun to do all that pioneer-type stuff. And too, things are nuts around here lately—I live in St. Louis. Traffic is awful, all the piddly little municipal regulations are enough to drive me to drink, and crime seems to have increased a lot. I really just want to be out in the woods, away from it all.

So, over the next year (still have one kid in high school), we’ll be renovating a fairly new small house, bulldozing an older wreck of a house, finishing out a barn, and getting the farm in generally good shape to live and work there. And spending a lot of money . . .

How did we get to this point? Well, you know how, when you read a book, you sometimes absorb or take on some of the characteristics of the protagonist? Oh, wait. Maybe that’s just me? Anyway, I do this—and it was much stronger when I was writing a book . . .

Thanks to Girl Scouts, I already had a lot of knowledge and some skills, so I started building on those. I also began to stock supplies, a few sale items here and there. I dragged out the old dehydrator and dried fruits and vegetables, and froze and canned more.

I’m not a fanatic, I even eat junk food or fast food sometimes. And no, I’m not preparing for a zombie apocalypse, but what if the power goes out? Or a water main breaks? Or a tornado rips through the area? If you can get to the store, there might not be much to choose from and besides, you’ll have to fight the crowds. Why not be ready and stay put, at home, with everything you need?

Robin’s latest book in the REDUCED SERIES, REPEAT, is due out this month (slight delay as she kept playing in the garden instead of writing), and you can read more about her and her self-sufficiency project at Prep Monday, one of her weekly blog posts.

Author Carolyn J. Rose and pet

Author Carolyn J. Rose and pet

By the time I finish the first draft of a novel, my desk is awash in file cards, stacks of books, notebook pages, scraps of paper, pencil stubs, coffee mugs, and other things that don’t bear close inspection—some of which may possibly have legs.

Because everything falls by the wayside when I’m in the home stretch of a novel, there are also smudges on the computer screen, smears on the phone, crumbs in the keyboard, and spider webs in the corners. Not to mention dust, dog hair, and general disarray.

Clearly, it’s time to clean.

It’s also time to organize.

Being a Virgo, I embrace the concept of organization. Sadly, that embrace isn’t always a close or long-lasting one.

And, being a Virgo, before I take action, I prefer to have a plan. A plan, of course, requires a list. (I love making lists. I REALLY love checking off the tasks I’ve completed.)

The best list is made on a fresh, crisp, bright white sheet of paper and written in pen, never pencil. Tasks noted in ink are more difficult to erase or write over and therefore signal genuine commitment. So, pen in hand—a pen containing black ink and featuring a medium or thick point—I make a list of the steps involved in tackling the project.

#1 Assessing the Situation. Depending on the time of day, I might do this while sipping a mug of coffee, or I might have an adult beverage in hand.

#2 Gathering Materials. This part is almost as good as making lists because it involves searching through cabinets for folders and binders and colorful plastic tabs. It may also involve—oh, joy!—a trip to an office supply store where I can roam the aisles for an hour or more gazing a plastic tubs, rolling carts, clips, tacks, and tape.

#3 Deciding Where to Begin. Should I organize first and clean later? Stuff every stray bit in a garbage sack, clean, and then file and arrange those bits? Start in one corner and clean and organize as I go? Start right now? Put it off until tomorrow morning? Should I gather a few more materials first? Change the vacuum filter? Buy a new container of spray wax?

#4 Deciding What to Toss and What to Keep. Like many writers, I’ve accumulated newspaper clippings, Internet articles, and notes jotted on napkins, file cards, and grocery lists. Some are stacked at the edge of my desk and some tacked to my four bulletin boards. My fear is that I’ll toss the one note or article that might be the seed for a book, so the stacks lean like that tower in Pisa and the bulletin boards are as shaggy as the pelt of a yak. And then there are the file cabinets and those boxes in the closet under the stairs. But let’s not go there. Let’s just admit that darn few things get tossed—at least not for a few years.

#5 Getting to work. Often this requires a return to Step #1 and the fortification of a beverage.

#6 Admiring What I’ve Accomplished. Ah, the clean window, the gleaming desk, the crumb-free keyboard. Each time I enter, I pause in the doorway, gaze around, and sigh at the perfection of it all. But because of what comes next, I never capture the clean moment with a camera.

#7 Vowing Never to Sink to Such Depths Again. Notice that I don’t vow to keep my office neat and organized. I know I’ll get tunnel vision toward the end of a project and be overcome by clutter. So I stick with a promise to remain somewhere above the previous level of grunge and grubbiness. Not having that level documented in a photograph allows me to kid myself into believing I manage to do that.

What about you? Are you also prone to let things slide until you’re overtaken by a tumble of jumble? Or do you keep up with your clutter and crud? Most important, do you have a secret system for keeping up—or a creative and believable rationalization for falling behind—that you’d like to share?

No Substitute for Money by Carolyn J. Rose

No Substitute for Money by Carolyn J. Rose

Carolyn J. Rose is the author of the popular Subbing isn’t for Sissies series (No Substitute for Murder, No Substitute for Money, and No Substitute for Maturity), as well as the Catskill Mountains mysteries (Hemlock Lake, Through a Yellow Wood, and The Devil’s Tombstone). Other works include An Uncertain Refuge, Sea of Regret, A Place of Forgetting, and projects written with her husband, Mike Nettleton (The Hard Karma Shuffle, The Crushed Velvet Miasma, Drum Warrior, Death at Devil’s Harbor, Deception at Devil’s Harbor, and the short story collection Sucker Punches).

www.deadlyduomysteries.com

http://www.deadlyduoduhblog.blogspot.com/

presented by Betty Dravis

booksigning at bn san jose

Author Betty Dravis Talks ‘Toonies’ at Barnes & Noble Book-signing

Before we share what author Ashley Fontainne has to say on the subject of fulfilling our dreams, let me tell you a little about her. I’m sure most of you already know of her works, but for those who don’t: Award-winning and International best-selling author Ashley Fontainne is an avid reader of mostly the classics. Ashley became a fan of the written word in her youth, starting with the Nancy Drew mystery series. Stories that immerse the reader deep into the human psyche and the monsters that lurk within us are her favorite reads.

Her muse for penning the popular Eviscerating the Snake series was The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. Ashley’s love for this book is what sparked her desire to write her debut novel, Accountable to None, the first book in the trilogy. With a modern setting to the tale, Ashley delves into just what lengths a person is willing to go when they seek personal justice for heinous acts perpetrated upon them. The second novel in the series, Zero Balance, focuses on the cost and reciprocal cycle that obtaining revenge has on the seeker. For once the cycle starts, where does it end? How far will the tendrils of revenge expand? Adjusting Journal Entries answered that question: far and wide.

ashleys books for DOD

Her short thriller entitled Number Seventy-Five, touches upon the sometimes dangerous world of online dating. Number Seventy-Five took home the bronze medal in fiction/suspense at the 2013 Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards contest and is currently in production for a feature film.

Her paranormal thriller entitled The Lie, won the gold medal in the 2013 Illumination Book Awards for fiction/suspense and is also in production for a feature film.

The suspenseful mystery Empty Shell, released September 29, 2014. Ashley then delves into the paranormal with a Southern Gothic horror/suspense novel, Growl, her latest release. Plus, she has teamed-up with Lillian Hansen (Ashley calls her Mom!) to pen a three-part murder mystery/suspense series entitled The Magnolia Series. The first book, Blood Ties, is due out the Summer of 2015.

ashley growl for DOD

Ashley also hosts The WriteStuff, a popular BlogTalk Radio show, each Friday night at 10 p.m. CST.

And now on to what this accomplished author has to say about overcoming fear:

ashley two books

Best-selling Author Ashley Fontainne

by best-selling author Ashley Fontainne

Do you have a dream? Something tickling the corners of your mind, wanting to be released, but you ignore it? Does fear of the unknown, how others will react, or the worry of failing keep it locked away?

Fear. No. More.

Unleash your creativity. Paint the first stroke. Mold your first piece of clay. Write your first story. Is it a scary thing to let go of your fears by showing the world what’s been crawling around inside your brain? Terrifying… Your stomach will clench in knots, your heart will pound, and your palms will exude gallons of sweat. Your brain will buzz with the annoying sounds of self-doubt.

Do. It. Anyway.

It took me reaching my forties to finally let go of my fears and publish my first novel. Since that moment in April, 2011, my life has changed in ways I never thought possible when I sat in my Creative Writing class in college, fiddling around with ideas for a book. It took the gentle urgings of a very dedicated professor to embrace my worries and then let them go. Once I did, even though I truly was petrified when I clicked “submit” on Amazon, I also felt a tremendous sense of joy.

Now, four years, seven books and two movie deals later, I still feel anxious on the eve of a new release. The entire creative process is akin to raising a child, hoping and praying you have done your best, waving goodbye with tears in your eyes as they leave the nest for the first time. After all, the world can be a cruel, harsh place. Some will love your little bundle, others will despise it. It is a gamble each and every time.

blood ties

The banner for the first book in The Magnolia Series that Fontainne is writing with her mother Lillian Hansen

But the rewards are well worth it. The sense of accomplishment is overwhelming. The biggest joy I receive with each new book is the knowledge that my words impacted the life of another human being. As a voracious reader, one who has found so much enjoyment in works of others, to even have the opportunity to try and do the same for others is amazing and humbling.

So, I challenge you today to step out of your comfort zone. Break the chains holding you back, and release your creative side, whatever it may be.

Paint. Draw. Sculpt. Design. Write. Embrace the fear and use it as a tool to hone your work… not to hold it back.

foreseen poster

Sneak Peek at the poster for the movie Foreseen, based on Fontainne’s book The Lie; directed by Jermaine Alexander, produced by Sabrina Stewart; in production

Author Carolyn J. Rose and pet

Author Carolyn J. Rose and pets

Some writers reach the final chapters of a work in progress and get a huge burst of energy and enthusiasm. As they burn the midnight oil, their fingers become as one with the keyboard. Words, sentences, paragraphs, and pages explode onto the computer screen.

Not me.

Even when I long to write THE END, have a clear idea of all facets of the conclusion, and possess the file cards to lead me there, I move like a geriatric sloth on a chilly day.

Why? Fear the project will fail? A desire to remain close to my characters and live in their fictional world longer? Poor work habits developed in childhood? All of the above?

I have no idea. But it happens every time I close in on the final 50 pages. I lounge in bed longer, read the entire paper, fill the bird feeder, let the dogs in and out and in again, add to the grocery list, etc. Once I’m in my office, I revise and rework, cut and paste, add and delete. When I hit a wall with that, I get right down to the process of wasting time. A LOT of time.

Recently—while wasting time avoiding work on the final chapters of No Substitute for Myth—I made a list of my top 10 ways to burn hours—all without leaving the room in which I write.

• Cleaning. This can range from washing the window to running the vacuum to dusting to dragging a Q-Tip between the keys to dislodge crumbs.

• Filing. Sticking receipts in their proper folders is mind-numbing, so I let them pile up for a day when I need time-wasting projects.

• Considering the merits of light bulbs. Should I try a different wattage, another brand, a new lamp? Research can stretch for hours.

• Chair adjustment. Should it be higher or lower? Do I need a cushion? A footstool? Better lumbar support? What about the armrests? More research is required.

• Rearranging. This covers the desktop, bookshelves, other furniture, contents of the drawers, items pinned to the bulletin board, and paintings on the wall. If I tackle documents and pictures saved in my computer, I can waste a day or more.

• Phone calls. Relatives? Old friends? New friends? Neighbors? Timeshare salesmen? Sure.

• Personal care. What better time to file and polish my nails than when I’m about to launch the final big scene? When I’m done applying lotion, I’ll use my reflection in the computer screen to pluck my eyebrows. Then it will be time to massage my neck, flex joints, and do a round of chair exercises before putting my head down on the desk for a restorative nap.

• Computer games. The sky’s the limit for this one, and that’s why I stick to Solitaire. Until recently I deluded myself into believing I was playing only a few games a day, but my new computer keeps track. Let’s just say that if I had a dollar for every game, I could buy a tropical island.

• Paperclip jewelry and accessories. Why stop at a necklace when I can make a belt or a tiara?

• Searching for quotes involving the wasting of time. Even Shakespeare had a few of those. And if I happen to be writing a blog about wasting time, I can call it research.

The added bonus of wasting time at or near my desk, no matter how I go about it, is that within seconds I can pop my work in progress onto the screen and appear to be doing some actual writing. This is useful if the other writer in the house passes by. “I didn’t realize you were still writing,” he’ll say. And then he’ll back out of the room and trek down the hallway to scrounge something for dinner, allowing me to play that black queen on the red king.

I’m always looking for some fresh ways to goof off, so please use the comment space to share. Remember, the time has to be wasted without leaving your workspace.

Maturity by Carolyn J. Rose

Maturity by Carolyn J. Rose

Carolyn J. Rose is the author of the popular Subbing isn’t for Sissies series (No Substitute for Murder, No Substitute for Money, No Substitute for Maturity, and, coming early this summer, No Substitute for Myth), as well as the Catskill Mountains mysteries (Hemlock Lake, Through a Yellow Wood, and The Devil’s Tombstone) and other works. She grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor. She’s now a substitute teacher in Vancouver, Washington, and her interests are reading, swimming, walking, gardening, and NOT cooking.

www.deadlyduomysteries.com, http://www.deadlyduoduhblog.blogspot.com/

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