Marry

Today’s #CleanWIP theme and collaborative article is Marry. [More info]

Photo by Sandy Millar

Early in Florida
We schedule #CleanWIP articles to post within a couple minutes of midnight each day, but they are usually only a skeleton of the fun articles they become. We update them many times the day they are first posted then occasionally thereafter. In this and many other ways, CleanWIP Magazine is also a work-in-progress.
We’ll have more great content here soon. Meanwhile, perhaps you’d like to revisit some previous articles.

Relaxed Friday 16

It’s Friday! Here’s the scoop on #CleanWIP Relaxed Fridays.

Featured image is a minor adaptation of a photo by Aaron Burden.

Review Highlights
Jonquils in the Snow by Laurean Brooks ~ “A beautiful, heartwarming story of grief and loneliness being overcome by love; Miranda and Brady touched my heart and the author’s wit made me smile. Definitely a thumbs up read.” ~ Rebecca J. Vickery

~~~

Shadow of the Mountain by Scott R. Rezer —Chosen… or delusional? How does one man persevere when he is given a message that will either test the strength of his faith or convince him he has lost his mind?
“… a version of the Noah story from the Old Testament that is both richly imagined and radically different from anything readers are likely to have read before… well-done political intrigue, vexing questions of faith, and a deep and challenging portrait of Noah himself. The action builds slowly and expertly as the unthinkable disaster of the Flood looms closer and closer, and Rezer’s so skilful at infusing his entirely human stories with drama that most readers will likely start to think of the forty days and forty nights of rain as something of an anti-climax. Very strongly recommended.” ~ Steve Donoghue, Historical Novel Society Reviews [Editor’s Choice Selection]

Divide

Today’s #CleanWIP theme and collaborative article is Divide. [More info]

Photo by Kate Honish

Multiply

Today’s #CleanWIP theme and collaborative article is Multiply. [More info]

Technical Difficulties
We are experiencing some te

Subtract

Today’s #CleanWIP theme and collaborative article is Subtract. [More info]

Add

Today’s #CleanWIP theme and collaborative article is Add. [More info]

Photo by Ulrike Leone

Calculate

Today’s #CleanWIP theme and collaborative article is Calculate. [More info]

Photo by Steve Buissinne

Relaxed Friday 15

It’s Friday! Here’s the scoop on #CleanWIP Relaxed Fridays.

Photo is a selected portion of a larger photo by Mohamed Ajufaan.

Laurean Brooks ~ Journey to Forgiveness is the book I wrote and dedicated to my parents. It is loosely based on their lives (romance) in 1938 Chicago. Witty and sassy characters, goofy ones–but all interesting–grace the pages of this heartwarming story of a mission trip to rebuild a small town after 5 tornadoes destroy homes. A time when the last of Chicago’s gangsters were captured. Or…were they?

Find

Today’s #CleanWIP theme and collaborative article is Find. [More info]

Photo by Tom_Crew

Book Search

What could possibly be as much good, clean fun as looking for a great book? Exactly. So we’ve collaborated with authors who prefer the clean end of the spectrum to create a word search puzzle containing twenty-six book titles. You’ll need to look in every direction forward, backward, and even diagonally to find them all.

To view the pieces of the puzzle in a different tab or window for printing, just remember to close the new tabs or windows to return here. The word search puzzle and (MAJOR SPOILER) answer key are JPG images. The list is also available as a text document.

Sunlight and Shadows
Fathers and Sons
Lunch Ladies
The King’s Shadow
Leandra’s Enchanted Flute
Journey To Forgiveness
Fixed In The Tempest
Stormy With a Chance of Love
Murder Under the Magnolias
Mercy’s Prince
New Beginnings
A Summer of Rainbows
Second Chance
A Mermaid Under the Mistletoe
Flying with the Billionaire
The Leper King
If You Believe
Little Women
Reluctantly Yours
Never Ask A Dinosaur
Abide
The King’s Trial
A Chronetic Memory
Aliens Love Astronauts
The Pawns of Sion
Severed Hearts

Search

Today’s #CleanWIP theme and collaborative article is Search. [More info]

Photo by Francesca Tirico

Decide

Today’s #CleanWIP theme and collaborative article is Decide. [More info]

Photo by Stux from Pixabay

Hope

Today’s #CleanWIP theme and collaborative article is Hope. [More info]

Photo by Myriam Zilles

Bless

Today’s #CleanWIP theme and collaborative article is Bless. [More info]

Relaxed Friday 14

It’s Friday! Here’s the scoop on #CleanWIP Relaxed Fridays.

Incidentally, we started off this Relaxed Friday article with a cute kitten in a tree photo but we’re going to move quickly forward to a thousand zombies and tortured metal. Let’s get this Friday party started with an excerpt from Time For Blood. This work-in-progress is part of The Blood Series by Michael Lynes and it’s expected to be released November of this year.

“Ow!” He let go of the handle and began rubbing his arm. “Okay, I get it. . .the air stinks like a thousand zombies and our door is all beat-up. Plus, the whole place is a wreck, and it’s pretty spooky in here.” He gestured toward the scratches and dings along the doorjamb. “But look. . .whoever wrecked this place might have tried to break in, but as far as I can tell the door hasn’t been forced. Second, besides the locks, we also have a little magical protection on the space. Even if the Undead had managed to break down the door, I don’t think they would have gotten past that.” I nodded reluctantly as my heart began to slow. “So let’s go in, grab what we came for, and get out. No muss, no fuss.”
He turned back to the door and inserted his key, unlocking the deadbolt. He reached to turn the knob. Before he could touch it, the door swung open without a sound. Pearl’s hilt jumped under my hand and her light flared sun-bright. I felt my heart stop. A howling wail filled the air and scores of dead-white arms erupted from the darkness. The door disappeared with a shriek of tortured metal as it was ripped it from its hinges. We sprang back, drawing our swords as zombies surged through the shattered doorframe.

Laurean Brooks shares with us today from Beneath A Macon Moon.
“Born with a silver spoon in her mouth” described Jaela’s life to a tee; but if her mother’s behavior was any indication, Jaela’s perfect world was about to shatter. The late afternoon sun slanted through half-closed blinds, glinting off the ballerina atop the music box. As a child, Jaela found comfort in the melody. The music box had not been wound since Dad died. The compulsion to hear it grew until it overcame Jaela’s fear of invoking bittersweet memories.
She picked up the box and wound it. Beautiful music flooded the room. Jaela hugged it close and waltzed around the room, soaking in the tinkling melody of “You’ll Be In My Heart.” 
When the music died, she dropped the lid. But it would not close. An envelope, folded to fit the interior, was wedged in the music box, preventing it from closing.
Who had put it there, and what did the message say?

Scott R. Rezer shares from a work-in-progress.
Anger had gotten the better of her, but now she tried to bring it back under control, difficult as it always was when talking to her brother. “And because of it, I almost spurned a chance for happiness simply because the man I fell in love with is a commoner. Do me the favor and don’t bother to lecture me, Anton, about marrying a man beneath my station, for in all truth, he has more nobility in his common blood, than you or I have in ours.”
He wagged a finger before her face as if scolding a defiant child. He clenched his pipe between his teeth. “If you do this, Johanna, if you marry this commoner, this haberdasher, you do so without my blessing. And in so doing, you give up everything—your title, your wealth, the security of everything you’ve ever known—and for what? Love? Life needs a few more assurances than simple love.”
“If love isn’t enough, Anton, then none of those things hold any meaning. It’s a pity you have forgotten that, or maybe, you never did.”

Chair

Today’s #CleanWIP theme and collaborative article is Chair. [More info]

Photo by Kari Shea

Unsung Heroes

Photo by Timothy Eberly

Heroes often carry on without much ado following their heroic deeds. Some, such as first responders, perform many heroic deeds daily or at least weekly and most of those heroic acts are barely mentioned. It’s sad, really. So we decided to shine a light on a couple special folks who aren’t main characters yet they are heroes nonetheless, Mr. Niff and Lucy.

Mr. Niff

Mr. Niff is a goblin warrior in the William Bradshaw King of the Goblins series. Like most goblins, he is small, weak, stupid and more than a little crazy. Unlike most goblins he isn’t cowardly. Mr. Niff runs toward every fight, eager to defend his king from any enemy (and a startling number of innocent bystanders).
This stems from an event in his youth where the goblin found a little girl lost in the woods. He led her to the nearest human settlement, and she rewarded Niff by giving him her rag doll. This convinced Niff that he is in fact a hero, brave, strong and skilled in battle. Through means no one understands he has become the hero he thinks he is, surviving against incredible odds and winning when defeat was certain.
Mr. Niff is also addicted to taking trophies from his victories, and has filled the goblin treasury with useless knickknacks like melted swords, broken masks and a hideously ugly tie that he claimed from his enemies.

Lucy

The main character in Of Bows and Cinnamon is Elena, a breast cancer survivor. Elena nonetheless fears allowing a man into her heart because there’s no guarantee she will stay cancer free. In comes sweet and fearless Lucy, a woman who has been down that road. Lucy helps give Elena the courage to live her life without worrying about tomorrow. Lucy is one of her author’s very favorite side characters, largely based on a sweet angel she knew growing up.

At times there’s a good reason a hero’s name is not well-known.

I actually love for side characters to become heroes, especially if it is unexpected. I think my book Sunlight and Shadows is a great example of this. In fact, one of the main things Betty learns is that ordinary people can be extraordinary heroes, in big and small ways. There are lots of twists and turns in this story, and I don’t want to spoil anything for you. But whether it’s a neighbor appearing in the middle of the night to rescue her father, or an unexpected source of help delivering a baby, or townspeople putting aside their petty grievances and banding together to rescue someone in need, or a long-buried great act of heroism that only reveals itself through tragedy, I really wanted to explore the idea that people are complex, and heroism, big and small, can come from really unexpected places. ~ Jessica Marie Holt

Table

Today’s #CleanWIP theme and collaborative article is Table. [More info]

Photo by Davide Cantelli

Desk

Today’s #CleanWIP theme and collaborative article is Desk. [More info]

Photo by MagicDesk from Pixabay

Bed

Today’s #CleanWIP theme and collaborative article is Bed. [More info]

Photo by Mark Champs

Wardrobe

Today’s #CleanWIP theme and collaborative article is Wardrobe. [More info]

Photo by moritz320 from Pixabay

Relaxed Friday 13

It’s Friday! Here’s the scoop on #CleanWIP Relaxed Fridays.

Photo by Earl Chinnici captured January 3, 2013. #FlashbackFriday

For today’s Relaxed Friday treat, we’re visiting Severed Hearts, a Vietnam-era novella by Laurean Brooks.

“Johnny, did you hear about the Lewis boy from Winchester?” Julie asked. He stopped chewing, his jaw clenched. 
“No…what?”
“His plane was shot down in Saigon. They don’t know if he and the other two soldiers were killed or taken hostage.”
Johnny turned his root beer up and swigged it down, setting the empty bottle on the counter. His somber gaze met Julie’s. “We need a plan to end this conflict. Half of Flyntburg has at least one family member involved.”
“I’m praying for an end to the conflict;” she said, “but above all, I’m asking God to protect our troops.”
Johnny threw down his napkin. “Yeah, I know we should pray–only it seems like God’s not doing anything.”
“Don’t say, that! Sometimes we can’t see it…but He is.”
Johnny glanced at the clock and rose from the bar stool. “Time to hit the road.” His smile didn’t reach his eyes. “Gotta go. See you, tomorrow.”

Home

Today’s #CleanWIP theme and collaborative article is Home. [More info]

Photo by Sam Beasley

New Year 2020

Happy New Year!

I wish all our readers a happy New Year! At this time when we make goals and plans for the coming year, remember that a plan requires action. Make 2020 your year! ~ Jessica L. Elliott

Photo by Jamie Street

Friend

Today’s #CleanWIP theme and collaborative article is Friend. [More info]

Photo by Frank Winkler

Plan

Today’s #CleanWIP theme and collaborative article is Plan. [More info]

Photo by Plush Design Studio

Away

Today’s #CleanWIP theme and collaborative article is Away. [More info]

Photo by Michael Held

Here’s an excerpt from Laurean Brooks via our Facebook CleanWIP group. If you’re a writer who prefers the clean end of the writing spectrum, we’d love to hear from you as well.
“My aunt invited me to move to Houston to live, but Papa would not allow it. He said the big city was no place for a decent young lady. I stayed mad at him for days.
“Papa and Mama try to smother us. I’m sure it’s why Margie ran away. We’re not children. I turned eighteen in May, and Margie turned twenty in June. Don’t think running away hasn’t crossed my mind, too.” Jessica rolled her eyes. “But, if I do,, it won’t be to marry a virtual stranger.”

Relaxed Friday 12

It’s Friday! Here’s the scoop on #CleanWIP Relaxed Fridays.

Photo Earl Chinnici December 18, 2014

Arthur Daigle shares with us a short piece from William Bradshaw and Urban Problems:
“Hello!” an echoing voice called out. It took Will a few seconds to spot a pit dug into the trail. It had been covered with a thin wood board coated with dirt, blending in perfectly until some unwitting person stepped on it and broke through. Whoever was trapped in the pit called out again, “Is anyone there?”
“We hear you,” Will replied. He thought about who could be trapped in the pit, and then covered his face with his hand. “Excuse me, but are you the puppet person who came to warn us?”
“Yes, that’s me,” the puppet person replied. He had an echoing voice, like he was speaking inside a box, but he still sounded friendly. “I don’t wish to be a bother, but I was wondering if you could lend a hand. This pit is proving a tad inconvenient.”
“See, this is why I don’t like you guys making so many traps,” Will told the goblins. “We get an ambassador—”
“President,” the puppet person corrected him from inside the pit.
“A president comes to visit and he ends up in a pit!” Will shouted. “We either need to cut back on the traps or have someone around to keep them from catching innocent bystanders.”
“It’s not like we killed the guy,” Mr. Niff protested. He leaned over the pit and asked, “You’re alive, right?”
“Yes, thank you.”
Exasperated, Will said, “Just help me get him out.”

Laurean Brooks shares from To Trust Her Heart.
Amanda Wilcox marched through the door of Tyler Law Office, fuming. She’d wanted to look her best for the interview. But when she started across the street, a dark-haired man in a sporty convertible, sped by and splattered mud across her buttercream trench coat. How she’d love to give the inconsiderate bum a piece of her mind!
The silver-haired receptionist welcomed Amanda and sent her directly to the attorney’s office. “Good afternoon, Miss…Wilcox, is it?” The attorney’s penetrating gray eyes raked her before he looked down at her resume’.
Amanda’s breath caught when she recognized him a the man who had slung mud all over her. “Yes-s.” Should she reprimand him and thereby kill her chances of obtaining a position as his secretary?
She needed this job. As a young widow, she was penniless. Her philandering dead husband–his body found in his mangled sports car along with that of his young secretary–had gambled away all their assets. She even stood to lose their home.

Song

Today’s #CleanWIP theme and collaborative article is Song. [More info]

Photo by Gerd Altmann

Christmas

Today’s #CleanWIP theme and collaborative article is Christmas. [More info]

Photo by Jill Wellington

Parade

Today’s #CleanWIP theme and collaborative article is Parade. [More info]

Photo by Brandi Day

Band

Today’s #CleanWIP theme and collaborative article is Band. [More info]

Photo by Pexels

Festival

Today’s #CleanWIP theme and collaborative article is Festival. [More info]

Photo by KT Photography

From Laurean Brooks

Emily laid a calming hand on Clint’s clenched one. “I’m just saying—you know how some kids are. The more you try to control them, the more they rebel. I sense a rebellious streak in Alissia.”
And from what Emily had seen, the girl had come by it honest. Not only from her mother, but from her brother. Her pa called it “a generous dose of stubborn.”
Clint’s shoulders visibly relaxed. His stern tone was replaced by a gentler one. “What do you suggest?”
Instinct told Emily, he would not be easily sold on any idea that threw his little sister in with a boy. But she had to try. “You could allow Alissia to go to the dance. According to her, the dance at Coopers’ barn is the main event of the year in Taylor County.”
“Yes. It started as a festival to celebrate fall harvest. People come from miles around.”
“And since it’s set for the first Saturday in October,” Emily added, “Alissia will almost be sixteen.”
“Her birthday isn’t until the following week,” he muttered. She won’t be going with that Reilly kid as long as I have any say. If she does go to the dance, she’ll go with me. With us.”
“Us?” Emily’s heart fluttered. Was he asking her for a date?
Clint yanked off his hat and pressed it to his chest. “Will you go to Cooper’s Barn Dance with me, Miss Emily. Ma shouldn’t need constant care by then.” He whirled around and pointed to the buggy in the shed. “There’s plenty of room for the three of us.”
Three of us? Emily’s joy dimmed. She’d thought it was a real date. Instead, they would be chaperones for his sister. She swallowed her disappointment. She would do it for Alissia’s sake.
“Of course I’ll go.”Emily ventured another question. “Will we swing by to pick up Landon? We could make it a double date.”
“That is not going to happen,” Clint groused. If he wants to go, he can meet us at the dance. I won’t forbid Landon to dance with my sister as long as they keep plenty of daylight between them.” He ducked his head and looked Emily in the eye. “I will be watching them. You can tell her that.”
Emily flashed him a smile. She was sure Alissia already knew it.

Relaxed Friday 11

It’s Friday! Here’s the scoop on #CleanWIP Relaxed Fridays.

To crank up this party, let’s visit a WIP of Scott R. Rezer: The Haberdasher’s Wife, expected to be released in the spring of 2020.

Josefa pulled harder on his hand. “I’m thinking there will be a much better gift waiting for me at the end of this hunt as a reward for bringing me out in this frigid cold. Am I right?”

“I guess that depends on your definition of a reward,” he said and sprinted past her as the falling snow began to thicken, laughing. Josefa squealed with delight and ran after him.

We encourage our frequent contributors to let loose on Fridays and share teases and news from both works-in-progress and published books. Here’s some fun from Journey to Forgiveness by Laurean Brooks. (A heartwarming, emotional romance.)

Jenny looked up and met the gaze of the luggage thief she’d encountered in Kankakee.

His cerulean blue eyes danced with mischief as he flashed his pearly, white teeth. “I never did get your name.”

“Get away from me!” she hissed.

He persisted. “Sorry we got off on the wrong foot. Do you think we could start over?”

“Over my dead body!” Jenny glanced toward the Ladies’ room. Where was her aunt when she needed her?

“Now, we wouldn’t want that,” he breathed. “You’re too cute to die.” His eyebrows pulled together. “You don’t really believe I wanted your vanity case, do you?”

His brows arched when she didn’t reply, but he pressed on. “How long will you be in Chicago?”

She glared at him, her heart racing. “None of your business.”

A stout middle-aged man approached the table and the unwelcome guest hovering over her. “Are you ready to go?” the man asked her obnoxious intruder.

“Be right with you,” he replied before turning back to Jenny. “Who knows, sweetie, we could meet again. I’ve heard that good things come in threes.” He winked, then swaggered out the diner door.

Gift

Today’s #CleanWIP theme and collaborative article is Gift. [More info]

Photo by Yvette Fang

Kindle Stuffers

Photo by Emma Matthews Digital Content Production

Did you know you can give most Kindle books available in the Kindle Store as a gift to anyone with an email address? Recipients can read their new Kindle book on any supported Amazon device or the Kindle reading app. A note in Amazon’s help area does state you’ll need a valid 1-Click payment method set up for your account. (Manage Your Content and Devices, select Settings, then click Edit Payment Method below Digital Payment Settings.)

Once you’re sure your 1-Click is set up, just select the book you’d like to send as a gift and on the product detail page, click the Buy for others button. Enter the email address of your gift recipient, a delivery date, and a message. When you’re sure of the other info, click Place your order.

If you’re unsure of the recipient’s email address, you can select Email the gift to me before placing your order so you can forward the gift email or print and personally deliver it. The recipient simply enters the gift claim code from the email, after logging in to their Amazon account.

With this in mind, and also because the owner of CleanWIP Magazine is an Amazon Associate who earns from qualifying purchases, we asked frequent CleanWIP Magazine contributors to suggest one of their books as a Kindle Stuffer to help our readers who might be struggling with gift ideas. (The snarky bits are our own attempts at levity.)

A Mermaid Under the Mistletoe by Jessica L. Elliott is perfect for the reader who enjoys romance with a little mystery and seems a great way to start off a Kindle stuffing spree. Loosely inspired by the fairy tale, The Little Mermaid, A Mermaid Under the Mistletoe takes a professional mermaid from Hawaii to Minneapolis where she meets a cynical insurance investigator, and a girl in need of a second chance. Heartwarming, fun, and with a beautiful message of hope and faith.

For those who like inspirational memoirs, Overcoming the Odds is Keith Guernsey’s amazing true story of triumphs over cancer, two rounds of life-threatening brain surgery and a battle with obesity! We hear it also makes a great Kindle Stuffer.

Arthur Daigle’s Goblin Stories is a collection of short stories that blend into a single cohesive story. It’s fun for all ages, with goblin related stupidity, craziness and traps big enough to catch armies. No Kindle stuffing would be complete without some goblins. You can be sure of that.

Even readers who prefer the clean end of the spectrum sometimes yearn to hear about the many scandals entangling the lives of others.
In Laurean Brooks’ To Trust Her Heart, the scandal surrounding Amanda Wilkes’ husband’s death and the debt he leaves behind, forces her to seek employment. The bad marriage strengthens her resolve to remain single. Then one at her new boss, Attorney Jake Tyler, leaves Amanda confused. Dare she trust her heart again?
Jake Tyler plans to raise his seven-year-old-son alone, following his wife’s death. But his resolve teeters at the sparks in Amanda’s green eyes. What lies behind his secretary’s cool facade, and why does she weep over sad love songs? Can he handle what he uncovers?
An enemy crouches in Tyler Law Firm determined to destroy Amanda’s reputation and get her fired. Who is it and what lies behind this ploy?
Well, that really is the million dollar question as they say. Stuff a friend’s Kindle with it and you’re sure to find out soon.

In Love Abideth Still: A Novel of the Civil War (Letters from War Book 1) by Scott R Rezer, we have a grieving widow, a country torn by civil war, and a handful of letters professing a husband’s love… Here at CleanWIP Magazine, this sounds like the recipe for a Kindle Stuffer if we’ve ever heard one.
Five months after his death, the body of Sarah’s husband, a Union soldier, finally comes home for burial in Philadelphia. Taylor’s burial, though, rather than putting her unresolved grief to rest, begins a journey that will not just test her faith, but will plumb the depths of her devotion to her dead husband. Pushed to the edge of anger and despair, Sarah turns to the few letters sent to her by Taylor from the front lines in a desperate need to understand the guilt she feels over his death. From the bloody battlefields of Winchester and Bull Run to the quiet streets of Philadelphia, comes a tale of war and forgiveness—of a love rekindled from beyond the grave.

Christmas at Dumpster Corral by Irene Onorato is 100% Kindle stuffing material. When Noel Dupree’s estranged father undermines her recently deceased mother’s will, he takes away her childhood home and the florist business her mother left to her. Fate steps in when a blinding rainstorm causes her to miss a turn on the way to a friend’s house, leading her to an unlikely place, and an uncertain destiny.

You’ll definitely want to stuff a few Kindles with Second Chance in Summit County (Summit County Series Book 1) by Katherine Karrol.
Her: “My marriage, career, and reputation just crashed around me and eliminated the little trust I had left in myself to make good decisions. I packed my bags, shook the dust off my feet, and started driving, begging God to tell me where to go. He brought me to a tiny, charming Northern Michigan town, where I’m recreating my life from scratch – without men.”
Him: “My whole world turned upside down when I lost the love of my life and had to start over as a single father. I am now both mother and father to my little girl and have built my life around taking care of her and protecting my heart from ever being hurt like that again. Love is not a part of my life anymore.”
God: “We’ll see about that.”

No Kindle stuffing is complete without at least one murder so we present Murder Under the Magnolias (Grace’s Augusta Mysteries Book 1) by Charmain Zimmerman Brackett.
A major golf tournament in town makes for a busy social calendar for floral designer Grace Ward. When she discovers a body face up in the Savannah River, she wonders if there’s more than golf in town for the week.

Like a murderer maybe. But then, Grace might not know it was murder since probably no one told her the title of the book. It’s thoughts like these that beg to be pondered that have made so many short of time and scurrying for gift ideas in the first place. Guess it’s time we get busy stuffing Kindles.

Tool

Today’s #CleanWIP theme and collaborative article is Tool. [More info]

Photo by Jason Abdilla

Toy

Today’s #CleanWIP theme and collaborative article is Toy. [More info]

Photo by Wolfgang Eckert

Card

Today’s #CleanWIP theme and collaborative article is Card. [More info]

Photo by Kate Macate

Present

Today’s #CleanWIP theme and collaborative article is Decorate. [More info]

Photo by Kari Shea

Relaxed Friday 10

It’s Friday! Here’s the scoop on #CleanWIP Relaxed Fridays.

Let’s kick off the party like it’s 1938 with this excerpt from Journey To Forgiveness by Laurean Brooks.

Where was Austin? She’d seen him leave a minute ago.
Something stirred inside the church bus. Jenny flattened her back against the metal building and inched closer for a better look. Her heart hitched when through the open bus door she spied Austin through the open door of the mission bus, kneeling before the strongbox. He reached into it, scooped up a stack of bills from the mission fund and counted them. He returned some of the money to the box, stuffing a larger roll into his shirt pocket. The metal lid slammed shut. Jenny fled back inside the the shelter, tears streaming, and her heart pounding against her ribcage.
Tears streamed down her face. The man she loved was a thief!

Let’s drop in on Will and Domo. (This time we’re visiting William Bradshaw and Fool’s Gold.)
“This is a new level of weirdness even for you, Will,” Domo said.
“I’m just gardening,” he replied. “Why does everybody act like I’m biting the heads off dolls?”
“That’s something the guys would accept, even appreciate. This just plain doesn’t make sense. Why are you growing food when you get it for free?”
Will leaned the hoe against the fence and wiped sweat off his brow. “I thought it would be a nice gesture to the innkeeper.”
“I don’t follow you.”
Will pulled his king contract out from his pocket. “My contract lets me eat free anywhere I go, but I always go to the same inn since it’s the only place nearby. The innkeeper feeds me three free meals a day, and it’s got to be costing him a bundle. It won’t be so hard on him if I grow some of my own food.”
Domo stared at him. “Is this that ‘fairness’ thing you keep going on about?”
“What’s wrong with thinking about other people?”
Domo pointed his walking stick at Will. “You were taken off your world and tricked into being our King. You don’t get paid. Three quarters of the planet’s population hates you. You’ve almost been killed dozens of times. What’s fair about that?”
“Nothing,” Will said. “But just because other people aren’t fair to me doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be fair to other people.”

Decorate

Today’s #CleanWIP theme and collaborative article is Decorate. [More info]

Wish I Had Known

So we have an idea for a great fantasy novel—a time-traveling message in a bottle. Maybe it has been done; maybe it hasn’t. Nonetheless, we know a great idea when we think of one. Anyway… we asked authors if there is something they know now they wish they had known when they first started writing.

Photo by Andrew Measham

Arthur Daigle – I wish I’d known how much work went into marketing books that I’ve written. For me writing is fun and easy, and something I studied extensively in school. Marketing is new, difficult and surprisingly expensive. It staggers the mind how much money some advertising sites charge, while other sites are outright scams.

Jessica L. Elliott – I wish I’d known about beta readers. And really any of the steps to self-publishing. I jumped in without a clue. I’m glad I made the choice, but I really wish I’d learned more about the process before diving in.

Laurean Brooks – I wish I had known I had to market my own books. I was so green, I thought this was the publisher’s duty. That my part was holding book signings, selling my books to readers in my locale. And I was shocked to discover the author’s price for my own book could be as much as 2/3 the selling price after taking shipping into account. Also, it was a bummer to learn the author’s royalties are such a small percentage. When I was told my part would be 7 1/2 %, I became depressed. I remember telling my husband, “It’s a 92-1/2% / 7-1/2% contract.” He said, (thinking I meant MY part was the 92-1/2%) “That sounds fair enough.” Then I broke it to him and he yelled, “That’s a rip-off! I wouldn’t do it.” I explained this was typical royalties for a new author. “Besides, I have to write.”. Writing fills a need within my soul. When a reader or reviewer tells me they loved my book, I soar up, up, and away.

Scott R. Rezer – I wish I had known how much time I would need to spend on everything outside the actual writing of a novel. The writing is easy because I have always done a little here, a little there, an entire evening sometimes—but everything else is time-consuming. Designing my own book covers, editing, proofing, interior designing… MARKETING! All of them are BIG time consumers… and expensive. And frankly, after so many years, often not worth it. —Until I get a random response from a reader that makes all the difference and suddenly I remember that it’s about crafting a story people will enjoy long after they finish reading. Frankly, I spent so much time and energy on everything else that involves the actual publishing of a book, I spent little or no time anymore to write. I got into writing because I couldn’t imagine myself not writing—so that is where I am at in the process. If I sell a book great—and there are a lot of GREAT undiscovered authors out there so it’s hard to get noticed and followed in a world of readers increasingly shrinking—but if I don’t sell any books, that is good too. I once had an publisher interested in me, but only of I wrote on assignment. That’s just not for me or deadlines and headaches. So… I wish I had known how much time I would have to spend so I could have just skipped ahead to where I am now and just enjoyed writing once more, and let the chips fall where they may!!

Light

Today’s #CleanWIP theme and collaborative article is Light. [More info]

Photo by Colin Behrens

“Unless we form the habit of going to the Bible in bright moments as well as in trouble, we cannot fully respond to its consolations because we lack equilibrium between light and darkness.” ~ Helen Keller

Tree

Today’s #CleanWIP theme and collaborative article is Tree. [More info]

“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.” ~ Martin Luther

Forest

Today’s #CleanWIP theme and collaborative article is Forest. [More info]

“No traveler, whether a tree lover or not, will ever forget his first walk in a sugar-pine forest. The majestic crowns approaching one another make a glorious canopy, through the feathery arches of which the sunbeams pour, silvering the needles and gilding the stately columns and the ground into a scene of enchantment.” ~ John Muir

Photo by Tobias Tullius

Tradition

Today’s #CleanWIP theme and collaborative article is Tradition. [More info]

Photo by Tim Bish

Relaxed Friday 9

It’s Friday! Here’s the scoop on #CleanWIP Relaxed Fridays.

Photo by Catalin Sandru

With permission from the author, we’re again eavesdropping on Will and Domo to start off our theme-free Friday. The author, by the way, is Chicago-born and raised Arthur Daigle and the fun exchange below is from William Bradshaw and War Unending.

“You’re up early,” Domo said to Will.
“Blame Vial. The boys said you had some mail for me?”
Domo held up the stack of letters. “I was just finishing with it. Let’s see…hate mail, hate mail, you may already be a winner, death threats. The University of Eastwich granted you an honorary expulsion. You got an anti-invitation from Kervol Ket.”
Will stopped in front of Domo. “I know I’m going to regret asking, but what’s that?”
“You know how good old Kervol got married?” Domo asked.
“He married Princess Marisa Brandywine?” Will didn’t try to hide his surprise. He’d once held the princess prisoner. He didn’t want her, and his attempts to return her to Kervol had been rebuffed. Brandywine was the most annoying person Will had ever met, which considering he was surrounded by thousands of goblins was saying something. It amazed him that someone even as stupid as Kervol would marry her.
“Shocking, I know,” Domo said. “Anyway, the lady’s expecting their first child, and Kervol sent out invitations to celebrate the birth. He sent you an anti-invitation. You’re not supposed to attend the festivities, and the only gift he’d like is to hear you died in a horrible accident involving a potato peeler. Basically he’s rubbing it in your face that you’re a social pariah.”
“Charming.”

How about a little more eavesdropping? This time from the opening scene of Scott R. Rezer‘s Shadow of the Mountain: A Novel of the Flood. Not to worry, we always get the author’s permission before spying on their characters.

The sudden cry of a woman in travail rent the stillness of the air. At the sound, Noach tensed and stood uncertainly, turning towards the tents of their small settlement. The waiting had grown agonizingly long; the birth of children often did so—especially with firstborns. His nerves frayed with the waiting, his body as taut as a drawn bowstring. Death was too often an unwelcome shadow at the miracle of birth.
Soon, he thought. It will be very soon now.
—And then what, old man, whispered the voice of his own nagging doubts. This one will be born, and then there will be others. Men will multiply upon the earth. In time, there will once more be rebellion and bloodshed and wars. Sin will have its due.
“No,” he breathed vehemently. “There will be peace and harmony at last in the earth.” It was a familiar argument he had often waged against himself in the past nine months. The outcome was always the same.
—Is that what you think? Have you learned nothing? Men are incapable of such nobility: only of evil and more evil.
“This time it will be different—it must be,” he said. His hands balled into fists at his side. “The errors of the old world cannot be repeated. They cannot; they will not.”
—Oh, but they will, his own malevolent thoughts whispered, mocking him with laughter. Open your eyes, fool, and look around you. The errors of the lost world are but beginning anew. Death hovers, eager to devour the sinful. Watch; and wait. Listen for the cry of this child for which you await so desperately. It will be the lustful cry of sin being reborn into the world. And there is none born of men who can ever change it.
“Of men… no,” Noach whispered, smiling, remembering another, far older, promise. “But of a woman…”

Air

Today’s #CleanWIP theme and collaborative article is Air. [More info]

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive [and] remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

Writers Research

Photo by Michael Brandl

There is a strong tendency among readers to want to stay in the story once they begin reading. Writers tend to want the readers to stay there as well. After all, if readers put a book down, there’s no guarantee they’ll ever return to reading it, enjoy it to the utmost, and leave a glowing five-star review.

Let’s consider for a moment things that might cause a reader to stop reading. There are things writers can’t do anything about—a hungry pet or child begging the reader’s attention comes to mind as does a spouse who urgently needs to know how to operate a computer or cell phone. Perhaps a police chase comes to an end in the reader’s yard and a shootout commences. But there are also distractions an author can easily avoid through research. Authors of historical fiction, for example, choosing to describe a library of 1869 in great detail might not want to mention Melvil Dewey’s classification system. Most readers might skim past the error without concern, but readers who know his system was first published in 1876, might head over to their favorite social network to start a boycott or petition.

Obviously, we’re trying to be funny here. Or maybe it wasn’t obvious. Either way, the point is that most authors research, even if only briefly and even if they’re writing fiction, to help make their stories enjoyable, interesting, and believable—and to avoid losing readers to glaring errors. Lying is tolerated quite well in fiction—errors not so much.

So we asked authors “What is something you needed to research because of your writing that you had never given much thought before?”

Margaret Skea – I had to research 16th century amputation techniques, the best instruments to use, how to stop the bleeding and about tying off blood vessels etc.

M. L. Farb – I researched animal senses for a shape-shifting character. This was my favorite fact: “Eagles have the ability to see colors more vividly than humans can. They can even see ultraviolet light and pick out more shades of one color. Their ability to even see the UV light allows them to see the bodily traces left by their prey. Mice’s and other small prey’s urine is visible to the eagles in the ultraviolet range, making them easy targets even a few hundred feet above the ground.”

Laurean Brooks – I had always wanted to write Westerns, but the idea of the extensive research involved held me back. I wanted the descriptions of everything from buckboards, dress, to ranch living, make the story authentic.
My first book was set in the Abilene, Texas-Buffalo Gap area. Browsing led me a library in Abilene. Calling got me connected to a man who worked in the basement. Dennis Miller was there to answer historical questions about Taylor County, Texas We corresponded for a couple of months. In that time I was given rich accounts of historical events in Taylor County Texas in 1883, plus a list of the businesses in Abilene and Buffalo Gap. Dennis Miller’s eagerness to help encouraged me. When my book was published, I wanted to thank him for the trouble he’d put into researching. But lo, and behold, Mr. Miller had retired, and the library would not give me his contact information. I’m now on my second Abilene setting, and wish I could ask Dennis Miller tons of question. Thank you, Mr. Dennis Miller, in case you happen to read this.

Scott R. Rezer – Are you kidding?! Every book I write, I end up researching the most diverse, amazing, and odd things—things I never thought I’d research! For my current WIP, The Haberdasher’s Wife (Spring 2020), in addition to learning a thing or two about womens’ fashion in 1800 Germany (I always wanted to know that!), I researched a house still standing in Überlingen, Germany once owned by the noble family of my main character who also happens to be my 6th great grandmother! I was amazed to actually find a few pictures of the house (now a clothing boutique) to recreate a realistic setting.

Irene Onorato – The main male character in More Than a Soldier was wounded in an RPG attack. As a result, he lost an eye and the hearing in one ear. I had to research all sorts of interesting things about ocular prosthesis (artificial or “glass” eyes) and single-sided hearing loss. Also, to fully understand my soldier, I had to study PTSD and survivor’s guilt. Admittedly, I did a lot of crying while researching and writing the story. I came away from the project with more understanding, pride, and gratitude for the men and women who serve in our armed forces. And here I go, getting teary-eyed all over again…

Jessica Marie Holt – I was surprised by the rabbit hole of unusual details that was the Victorian era. It started off innocently enough, with general questions like, what were the funeral and mourning customs? How did day-to-day life change after the war? What were the travel options? What was the culture like at the time? But then, because I love incorporating lots of authentic details, it quickly spiraled out of control, for four reasons: 1) The nineteenth century was an era of complex customs, formalities and social interactions, which were rigidly followed, and learning them was a challenge 2) It was a time of rapid change, and details differed from decade to decade, so I had to specifically research the 1870s 3) The Victorian culture in, say, uptight London, was very different than it was in laid-back rural North Carolina, which is where my books take place, so it was harder to find information that applied to my specific setting 4) Everything about Victorian fashion and home décor was ornate and highly detailed.
So, fast forward a little, and you have me banging my head on the computer screen as I try to figure out what year crepe myrtles were brought to North Carolina, what fabrics were in bustles, where people kept matches for their bedside lanterns so they didn’t fumble around for them in the dark (surprise! in special containers attached to the wall), whether water pumps were common in rural areas, and whether the trend of having an entire bird on one’s hat started before 1871 or after.
Fortunately, each book gets easier, as you learn enough to write comfortably about the era, and you don’t have to stop to research as much!
And don’t get me started on drafting procedures for the Civil War, or war injuries severe enough to get you sent home, but not so severe that they kill you! It’s a finer line than you think—they’d patch you up and keep you fighting if they could get any use out of you at all.

Jessica L. Elliott – A couple of things actually. In Holly and Mister Ivy, Holly is a dog who also is trained as a matchmaker. I wanted her to be red setter mix (because setters are gorgeous) with blue eyes. I then had to do some quick research to see if this was even genetically possible. Turns out with the right breeds, it could be.
Then for my most recent book, Of Bows and Cinnamon, the female lead Elena announced to me that she was a breast cancer survivor. While I’d already known that younger women can and do develop breast cancer, the research stage was heartbreaking as I learned just how high those mortality rates are. Doing that research made me cry more than once, but it also made Elena’s character richer as I understood more clearly her fears and reservations.

Arthur Daigle – I do a sort of reverse research for my books. I have bizarre reading and TV viewing habits, where I read strange history and biology books and watch lots of history and science shows. When I see something that interests me, I add it into one of my stories.

Charmain Zimmerman Brackett – I have one of those google histories that you hope no one ever reads. I spend a lot of time researching, not only for my novels, but for the newspaper articles I write in my day job. Some of my newspaper research is tons of fun. I write arts and entertainment stories. I spend a lot of time watching YouTube videos of performers who I will be interviewing. It’s great to get paid to watch comedians and singers. For my novels, the research has been grimmer at times. Some of my more gruesome searches have included – what’s involved in cleaning up the scene of a violent death; what happens when you are shot; what type of gunshot could you receive and still live—fun stuff like that. I never covered crime in my 30 years at the newspaper I write for so those subjects were things I never wanted to think about.