Friday, February 17, 2017

#Friday Reads - One Perfect Love

To me there is something rejuvenating that happens in February. January is cold and dreary and dismal here in East Texas, and I always feel a letdown after the the Holidays that were filled with so much celebrating and excitement.

Then there is February, and my spirits are lifted.

Maybe it's because I can feel Spring hovering just around the corner. Often, we have an early warm- up the first weeks of  February, and if I look closely enough, I can see the first bits of green in my front pasture, and tiny white flower sprinkled across it.

But my spirits are also lifted because of Valentine's Day. I love all the bright displays of candy and trinkets in the stores, and the lovely bouquets of flowers. For so many people it is a time for celebrating love, and who doesn't enjoy a bit of romance? That is one reason that sales of romance novels continues to dominate the publishing marketplace.


With that in mind, I thought this was a great time to tell you about my latest book, One Perfect Love: Sequel to One Small Victory.



When I was working with the editor at Five Star Cengage/Gale before One Small Victory came out in hardback, she kept encouraging me to add more romance and spice to the story. (I wrote a little about that here in 2014 in a post To Romance or Not. ) But there were many reasons that the central characters, Jenny and Steve, could not do the wild thing within that story, even though sparks had been igniting between them. She was a civilian, working in a special capacity with a drug task force, reporting directly to Steve. Romance could not complicate their working relationship, even though they were both unattached.

There was also the matter of their emotional fragility. Jenny's oldest son had just been killed in a car accident, and Steve was still reeling from the death of his wife two years before the story of One Small Victory opened. They both realized that was not the best time to try to establish any kind of romantic relationship.

One Small Victory was published in June 2008 in hardback, and then in 2010, I released the e-book version and paperback. In 2012, Books in Motion released the audio book.

In the years since, many readers asked me if there was ever going to be a happy-ever-after for Jenny and Steve. They wanted to know what happens next for their story.

Several times, I toyed with the idea of writing a sequel, but nothing came to me until one day Jenny popped back into my head. I just love when characters do that. Since she was talking to me, I sat down at my computer and wrote the first few hundred words of the story late last summer, then finished the book in the fall.

At that time, I desperately needed to write something, as this nasty Ramsay Hunt Syndrome, with complications in my ear and right eye, as well as the postherpetic neuralgia on my face and scalp, had limited my writing time for too long. So I decided to write a novella. That was doable with only an hour or two of computer time, and it did wonders for my state of mind, which was not great last year.

When I started to write One Perfect Love, I was thrilled that Jenny and Steve came back like old friends dropping in. I didn't have to struggle at all to bring them to life. They were already living inside my head, and we had a grand time telling, "The rest of the story," as Paul Harvey was noted for saying.

Have you written a sequel to any of your books several years after the first book? Did the characters come back to you like Jenny and Steve did for me? Do you read sequels?
Maryann Miller - novelist, editor and sometimes actress. Her most recent mystery, Doubletake, was named the 2015 Best Mystery by the Texas Association of Authors. She has a number of other books published, including the critically-acclaimed Season Series that debuted with Open Season. Information about her books and her editing rates is available on her website. When not writing, Maryann likes to take her dog for a walk and work outside on her little ranch in East Texas.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

To My Valentine, the Deadline



My dearest darling Deadline,
you keep my focus clear
by pestering my conscience as
submission time draws near.

I never have to wonder what
I’m gonna do today,
for each idea that sounds like fun
must needs be thrust away.

“Oh, no you don’t!” you counsel,
“You cannot run around.
You’ve got to get that blog post done;
it’s time to buckle down.”

I took a call this morning;
my friend was free for lunch.
You stopped that plan before its start,
“No time! We’re in a crunch!”

I thrill to hear your nagging,
it leaves me overjoyed.
Although it sucks to be stuck home,
at least I’m still employed.

You’re shrill and you’re annoying;
you fill my mind with shame.
But since you keep me on my toes,
I love you just the same.

And so, beloved Deadline,
to you I’ve penned this ode.
I could be having fun right now,
but you’re my constant goad.

When she's not dealing with deadlines, Audrey Lintner loves to bake, especially if the recipe includes lots of chocolate. She runs the recently-launched ALTO Editing Services, and is on a mission to someday knit up her yarn stash.

Monday, February 13, 2017

For Love or Money?

The past three years were challenging to say the least. From a pileup of rare autoimmune diseases, to a cancer scare, then nearly dying from an emergency operation, my body was under siege. Then my husband retired and we moved from one state to another.

The demands on my time were endless. I barely had time to breathe much less write. My vacillation on whether to continue writing didn't start there, but it certainly escalated.

With the move, my writing peeps were now a two-hour plane ride away and I didn't have high hopes of finding a tribe in my new location.

The hubs and I had always dreamed about how we would travel Europe once we had the free time. Due to pharmaceutical tethers and an uncooperative carcass, that is unlikely to happen now.

However, living in the land of eternal summer, there are so many things to do and a new social whirl that eats up the time between doctor visits. Not to mention our new 24/7 togetherness. Gone are the twelve to fourteen hour days of alone time with the cats and a laptop. Two workaholics attempting "retirement" is certainly an interesting social experiment.

As a result, I find myself asking: What is the best use of my remaining time?

I have never made a lot of money off my writing. Mainly because marketing and publicity are things I just don't have the passion for. I always joked that I didn't care about fame and didn't need the money. But the truth is, I have a deep-seated dislike for being the center of attention. I have always preferred giving rather than receiving. Although passionate about the topics, I have never been comfortable talking in public and am not a natural teacher. As an INTJ personality type, I have always preferred my intellectual fortress over the messy real world.

What has remained consistent is my love of the work and the desire to help other people. When people tell me I have helped them, it is the greatest compliment.

Last month, I had pretty much decided to walk away from writing entirely. But it isn't that easy. The ideas continue to arrive. The muses bug me every time I am alone: in the shower, at the wheel of the car, sitting in medical waiting rooms. I still love the work. Perhaps it is the addiction, but I find it difficult to stop cold turkey.

I always had the plan to write a workbook for each genre covered in Story Building Blocks I: The Four Layers of Conflict. So this year, I am plunging ahead and adding fourteen genre workbooks to the series. Nonfiction is easy for me.

So I decided that even if I don't make much, it isn't costing me anything but time. I still have the love of work and if I help even one writer it is worth it.

I am not alone in the internal struggle over whether to write for love or money or whether writing is a suitable use of my time if I am not raking in J. K. Rowling's cash.

Writing can be time spent in happy occupation. You can still use your skills to help and entertain other people.

More importantly, with the world in chaos, there has never been a more urgent time for writers to use their voices to make a difference.

I can't tell anyone else what to do. I can only pose the question: Since there is no guarantee of money, is it worth your time to write for the love?



Diana Hurwitz is the author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit DianaHurwitz.com for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Lowcountry Crime - #FridayReads

I was pleased when Jim Jackson asked me to contribute to an anthology titled Lowcountry Crime. Each story involves a crime north of cozy, south of noir, and take place in the lowcountry. For those of you who don’t know what the lowcountry is, the area can best be described as that portion of the Southeastern United States characterized by low country, generally flat—whether barrier island, tidal marsh, tidal river valleys, swamps, piney forests, or great cities like Charleston and Savannah.

Lowcountry Crime is published by Wolf Echo Press and is available here. Individual novellas are available on every ebook platform. I’ve read and enjoyed all three of the other stories. Here’s a rundown:

Trouble Like A Freight Train Coming,
by Tina Whittle is a prequel to her Tai Randolph Mysteries. Tai is accustomed to murder and mayhem…of the fictional variety. As a tour guide in Savannah, Georgia, she’s learned the tips are better when she seasons her stories with a little blood here, a little depravity there. She’s less experienced in real life criminality, however, preferring to spend her days sleeping late and her nights hitting the bars. But when she gets the news that her trouble-making cousin has keeled over while running a marathon, Tai finds herself in a hot mess of treachery and dirty dealings. Worst of all, the clues lead her straight into the moonshine-soaked territory of the most infamous smuggler in Chatham County—her Uncle Boone.

The novella is set in Savannah several years prior to the inheritance of her Atlanta gun shop and her first encounter with security agent Trey Seaver, who ultimately becomes her partner in both romance and crime solving. For readers familiar with the rest of Tai’s adventures, this story is a chance to watch her develop her sleuthing chops. For those meeting Tai for the first time, welcome to her slightly reckless, somewhat hungover, not-quite-respectable world.

Polly: I’ve read a couple of the Tai/Trey books and loved them, so I thoroughly enjoyed this novella. Check out all of Tina’s books.


Blue Nude, by Jonathan M. Bryant introduces us to Brad Sharpe, who has problems. Not just the problems you would expect resulting from traumatic injury and a destructive divorce.
His ex-wife has gone missing and a priceless Picasso has been stolen. The cops have pegged Brad as a person of interest in both cases. Worse, a violent sociopath might want Brad dead. Only with the help of friends and his knowledge of the Georgia Lowcountry can Brad fight to clear his name and resolve the case of the Blue Nude.

Polly: I found the descriptions of the area fascinating. I didn’t know any of it, and now I want to go exploring. Check out all of Jonathan’s books.

In Low Tide at Tybee, James M. Jackson
brings three of his Seamus McCree series characters (Seamus, his darts-throwing mother, and his now six-year-old granddaughter, Megan) to Tybee Island, Georgia to vacation and escape winter up north. Megan spots a thief going through their beach bags, after which their vacation unravels with a series of twists and turns that will leave you guessing until the end, trying to figure out who done what.

Polly: In Jim’s series, which I’ve also read, Seamus is a financial crime investigator, and that opens the door to some interesting stories. Check out all of Jim’s books.


And finally, The Last Heist by yours truly. Coincidentally, my last published novel, Kindle Scout winner, Indiscretion, takes place partly in Charleston, so I resurrected my diamond thief character, Paul Swan, and built the story around him. It takes place pre-Indiscretion while Paul is still active in his not-chosen-but-forced-upon-him profession. You have to read the novel to find out why, but I digress.

Paul Swan travels the world buying exotic automobiles for wealthy clients, but underneath his believable cover is a first-class, never-been-caught diamond thief. When he sees a picture in the Charleston newspaper of a magnificent diamond necklace on the wife of a visiting South American strongman, he can’t resist the temptation to steal it. Paul doesn’t anticipate what he finds in the hotel room’s safe besides the jewels. Now he has to figure out how to stop a political catastrophe without exposing himself as the thief who stole the diamonds, and he has three people complicating his effort: a sexy TV reporter angling for a story, a suspicious cop eager for an arrest, and a rogue mercenary bent on ending his life.

Check out all my other books on Amazon.

I hope you will enjoy a trip to the lowcountry. Consider the area for your next vacation.


Polly Iyer is the author of eight novels: standalones Hooked, InSight, Murder Déjà Vu, Threads, and Indiscretion, and three books in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, Mind Games, Goddess of the Moon, and Backlash. A Massachusetts native, she makes her home in the beautiful Piedmont region of South Carolina. You can visit her website for more on Polly and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

No One Loves Writer's Block

Photo by Abi Skipp, via Flickr
Each of us knows the pain. We sit at our desk/dining table/log in the woods, inhale, and poise our fingers to tap-dance across our keyboards.

Nothing comes.

We exhale, crinkle our noses, and reposition our hands.

Still nothing.

Here are methods which have worked for me. Love them…use them…throw them aside.

Have a bath. Words flow. However, if you haven’t brought a pen/paper with you and have it resting on the tub’s edge/handy table, those words will disappears as quickly as the water down the drain.

Go for a drive. I learned this technique from a writer-friend. It does work. I talk to myself and talk my way out of the problem. However, use a recording app or something similar. Writing notes and driving is not recommended. I also keep a pad of paper and pen in the car to record sporadic inspirations….once I’ve reached my destination of course! Safety first.

Walk. Not an amble or a stroll... a walk. Swing those arms. Turn on that recording app. As the number of steps increase so will your words.

Revisit your first notes on your project. Touch what inspired that primary fire. It may spark up for you again.

Bake cookies. This may unjam your block, it may not, but cookies are always a good idea.

Your words may stop when you’ve written yourself into a deep plot hole. Go back and find out where you started the unconscious digging and thus avoid the hole and the stoppage.

Work on something else. It’s amazing how many times my brain will untie the knots of another plot while I’m working on something else. However, I write mysteries. This may have something to do with it.

Remember why you’re writing and what you’re writing will follow. Maybe.

Pay attention to your pet. Like the baking of cookies, this is a win-win.
Elspeth Futcher is a bestselling author of murder mystery games and playwright. She has been the top selling author at host-party.com since 2011. Her British games are published by Red Herring Games in the UK. Elspeth's 'writing sheep' are a continuing feature in the European writers' magazine Elias and also appear on this blog from time to time. Connect with her on Twitter at @elspethwrites or on Facebook at Elspeth Futcher, Author.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Love 'Em or Love to Hate 'Em — How Do You Feel About Your Characters?

When writing my first book, A Brother Betrayed, I included several lovable characters. They were imperfect as we all are but good of heart and motive—like friends and family. Then I came face to face with the antagonist, a truly despicable man who failed to display a single redeeming quality. A beta reader reminded me that no one is all bad. Really? An image of Adolph Hitler came immediately to mind—and memories of the millions in concentration camps who'd died at his command. I've never read or heard a single good thing about that man. Still, my reader had a point, and I tried to find something positive about my antagonist. It didn't happen.

Now, twenty years later, I have revisited the story and rethought my antagonist. He's still despicable. I still love to hate him. But in the updated version, the reader will get a few glimpses into what happened to the little boy that created the abusive man he grew up to be. Are they enough to make him lovable? Not in my book (pun intended).

Three antagonists populate my multi-layered second book, Tormented Tango, The first appears early in the story but isn't identified as an antagonist until near the end. Surprisingly, I never hated her, but rather sympathized with the torment that drove her to become a threat to those she loved, as well as to
others.

The second antagonist I disliked from the first moment she appeared in the story, even though at that time she wasn't openly antagonistic. Interestingly, I couldn't put my finger on why she infuriated me; but as the story progressed, my dislike grew into full-fledged loathing. By the end of the book, I loved hating her.

My third antagonist in Tango is a secondary character, an unscrupulous lawyer who's climbing the judicial ladder to bigger and better paying positions and greater notoriety. He's so enamored with himself that he doesn't need anybody else to love him. Good thing!

How do you feel about your characters? Do you love them? Love to hate them? Are they real enough to you to evoke an emotional response as they tell you their stories?

Editor Linda Lane has returned to her first love—writing—while maintaining her editing work. She also helps new and not-so-new writers improve their skills through posts on Blood Red Pencil and offers private tutoring as well as online seminars. You can contact her through her writing website, LSLaneBooks.com. Also, you can visit her editing team at DenverEditor.com to find experienced editors in a variety of genres to help you polish your book into a marketable work.

Related posts:

Reinventing the Hero
Showing Some Love
Villains Are People Too
When's the Last Time You Took Your Antagonist on a Date?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Foundation that Holds Us Together


Looking outside my window I see a lovely field, sundappled and windblown. The goats are browsing along its edge, wishing, I bet, for the fresh leaves they remember from summer. The children are working on a playhouse outside, the dogs running and barking, hoping to entice them to play. The gardens are mulched now, and I know that come Spring we will be harvesting rocks for days before we can plant a single seed. The Ozarks are beautiful, with a surface abundance that belies their rock and clay skeleton. A wild, beautiful place that reminds me of another land that I loved and called home for almost ten years.

I once saw an optical illusion, where if you looked at a drawing a certain way it looked like a young woman, but from another angle it appeared to be an elderly one. Yemen is like that, the old and the new juxtaposed, shifting, always giving a glimpse of one when you are looking at the other. I found this especially to be true in the villages, where life goes on in the same manner it has for hundreds of years, while the people are struggling to enter into the twenty-first century. Brightly colored clothing splashed against a backdrop of varied browns and tired greens, the heady fragrance of bread and spices at noontime, the call of the vegetable sellers unchanging, making time fluid, hard to hold onto.


The same things that draw me to the Ozarks drew me to Yemen, and, before that, to the Driftless Region of Southwestern Wisconsin. Place, for me, often echoes what I value in myself and others. Strength, for one, as shown in the trees that come up in spite of the bad soil and rocks that make up the land itself. Honesty, the knowledge that what you see is what you get, mixed with hope that what is there can be improved with hard work, attention, and love. Compassion tempered with fate, something everyone who raises animals understands. I have lived in many places in my life, but the ones I have truly connected to have lived for me, and taught me more about myself than I would ever have thought possible.

Yemen, right now, is a hotspot, an incredibly poor country being made even poorer by the war that is raging across it, the same war that caused me to leave it when the Arab Spring was in full bloom. I am guessing that even now, very few people could pinpoint it on a map, or list any of the major cities, yet alone speak of the rich history and culture of this ancient land. To me, having walked both it and my home in America with love, respect, and reverence, the differences between them are beautiful and soul stretching. Yet, it is the chords that run through both of them, holding them together even in their diversity, that touch me the deepest. My love of both lands will make my upcoming book, Yemeni Journey, a bridge that connects them, celebrating the richness of difference while at the same time showing that truly, the foundation that runs beneath them unites us, and keep us strong.


Khadijah Lacina lives on a small homestead in rural Missouri with her children, goats, chickens, cats, dogs, and an elusive bobcat. She is passionate about speaking up and working for change, and is writing a book about the ten years she spent in Yemen. She is a writer, teacher, translator, herbalist, and fiber artist.

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