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

Photo by Jill Wellington

~ Jessica Marie Holt ~
I’m sentimental, I’m a homebody, I’m a follower of Christ, and I love my family. That sums up where my heart is, and my writing comes from my heart. My work is character-driven, and a most of it is about the internal emotional struggles we all face. I like to get right down into the nitty gritty–into the raw, real places where we find our biggest challenges–but I always balance everything with hope; the hope of redemption, of change, of better possibilities, of new beginnings.
I love anything unconventional, quirky, offbeat, unexpected. I love characters who are realistic, layered, and a little unpredictable. I love approaching old stories and topics from new angles and new perspectives, and challenging myself to find the most interesting way to telling any given story. And I think, most of all, I like to inject a sense of humor into everything, no matter how dramatic or serious. Life is so full of fun absurdities, and people are so amazingly peculiar. Someone has to document it all for posterity!
I often say that I live in a sitcom family. I have five quirky kids, weirdo cats, an oddball husband, and a huge extended family that gives me enough inspiration for a lifetime. Writing fiction is my way to document my life–not the exact details, but the spirit, the truths, the emotion, and the heart behind everything I’ve uncovered and experienced, and all the many unanswered questions I still have. Hopefully, my work will inspire people, give them hope, and make them think. But if all they’re looking for is a good story, they’ll find that, too.
Feel free to follow me on my FB page at to get the latest on what I’m up to next!

Scott R. Rezer ~ 
From my WIP…
“So are you drawn more to the characters or the plot?”
“Oh, definitely the characters. They are so richly drawn. Without them, the plot would suffer most terribly.”
Caroline laughed and leaned toward her. “Such bold words to speak to an author.” She held up her hand to Josefa when she realized her criticism. “But perhaps, true. I’m a firm believer that characters help drive a plot.” She touched Josefa’s arm again. “What character, might I ask, do you find yourself drawn toward more?”
My name is Scott and I am an historical fiction writer. Admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery—not that I’ll recover from my love of writing, no matter how much I admit it. The best way to describe my writing is… character-driven stories that bring history to life. I write stories ranging from ancient Biblical history to the Civil War, as well as an historical fantasy series about the Crusades. My Civil War series is actually based on my ancestors who fought in died in the war on both sides. My current WIP, THE HABERDASHER’S WIFE, is also about an ancestress in Germany. Part of the passion I have rediscovered the past several years for my craft is writing about people whose lives impacted my own. I believe we are products of our past—not that I won’t write about other things. I have more ideas for stories than I’ll probably ever be able to write! After all, I have a problem and the best way to recover is to push through the treatment—commit to write just one more book each time I finish the last. Next up in my treatment, the final book in my Crusades fantasy series.

~ Laurean Brooks ~
When Earl asked us to post an author bio, the first thought I had was, BOR-ING. But, as I continued to dwell on it, maybe it isn’t so boring to those who have lived similar lives, or who would have loved to have lived on a farm.
I was the fourth-born child to a family of seven kids. Our dad worked on a riverboat out of Memphis, four weeks on and three weeks off. Mama ran the show like a drill sergeant while he was away. She had to be tough, especially to keep my brothers in line.
We planted, hoed, picked and canned vegetables from three gardens, chopped grass in 4 acres of corn, fed the farm animals, cut firewood, but still found time to have fun. How many of you have crawled inside a 50-gallon metal barrel at the top of a hill, braced your arms and legs, then let your brother shove the barrel down the hill? Who needed a roller coaster when you could get the same effect from a trundling, rocky, barrel ride?
My imagination caught the attention of a fifth-grade teacher. I believed I had been given poetic license (Not so), when she announced to the class, “Laurie will someday become and author.”
The next essay Miss Mary assigned was an essay on Columbus’s discovery of the West Indies islands. When I finished reading it, the entire class was in hysterics. Everyone except my the teacher, who cleared her throat and said, “Laurie, I want you to rewrite this essay to make it more realistic.”
My 10-year-old imagination had Columbus captured by the natives, almost burned at the stake, but at the last minute, stuffed in a cannon and shot back across the ocean. What’s wrong with that picture?
Everything. Miss Mary didn’t want extreme creativity—she wanted facts. Well…as close to factual incidents as possible. Anyway, I rewrote it, and re-read it. Not one person laughed. Bummer! The teacher who encouraged me to write had squashed my imagination—temporarily.
Four years later, during my freshman year, it burst fort again in a story titled, “The Escape of an Oscar Mayer Weiner.” The English/lit teacher loved it. She laughed as hard as my classmates did.
It would be decades later before I realized my dream of becoming a writer. After years in a factory that was closed by NAFTA in the mid-90s, I enrolled in college. Two years after graduation, I decided the legal assistant career was not working for me. Since I had taken classes that utilized Microsoft Word, nothing prevented me from pursuing my dream of writing.
My first book “Journey To Forgiveness” was published in 2009. I write sweet romance—both contemporary and historical, with twisting plots. The stories are loaded with humor and quirky characters including, perky (sometimes sassy) heroines, and chivalrous (ofttimes aggravating) heroes.
Mrs. James wiped her mouth. “Thank you. That hit the spot.”
She picked up a copy of Wuthering Heights from her bedside table. “Em’ly, will you read to me? I started this book and got halfway through before I got sick. I marked the place.”
Emily accepted the book and slid her chair closer to the bed. She opened to the book mark and started to read. Engrossed in the intense plot by author Emily Bronte, she didn’t notice Mrs. James had fallen asleep until soft snores alerted her.
Replacing the marker, Emily rose. She would love to continue reading, but it was time to relieve Alissia. The girl had too much responsibility for a fifteen-year-old.
Find me on Facebook at

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.

Successful Authors

A sign posted on the door of a library conveys they’re looking for successful authors to take part in an event.

“The pay is rotten, but the readers aren’t so bad.”

Authors in our CleanWIP group for authors and other artists who prefer the clean end of the spectrum were quick to respond when we asked their thoughts on this. “How do you measure success as an author?”

Arthur Daigle – If you want to be rich, become a banker. If you want to be popular, be an athlete. I seek neither. My goal when I first published was to help people at their lowest and make them laugh, make the world look a little better and brighter. I knew the competition was fierce in the publishing industry and many people just don’t read (I blame the books English teachers assign in school), so getting rich was a long shot.
But I’ve heard back from readers who have not only enjoyed my books but found them greatly helpful. I heard from a sick man recovering from surgery who laughed when he read my books. I heard of a young boy whose parents were divorcing, and he calmed down reading my books. A woman I know read a chapter a night to her two young sons, and every night they begged for another chapter.
To me this is success. If I can make the world just a little happier then I did my job.

Scott R. Rezer – It’s not dollars or fame. Success for me is whether I am happy writing. It’s the freedom as an indie author to write and do as I please, without deadlines and hassles or the constant stress of trying to please someone, whether reader or editor or publisher or my bank account. I only have to please me. That, for me, is success. To enjoy doing something I love whether a million people read my work or no one does.

Laurean Brooks – My greatest joy comes from learning that readers enjoyed my book–whether by telling me personally, email, Messenger, or through good reviews. My goal is to entertain and inspire readers, and let them know whatever they are going through is not hopeless. That they can laugh, in spite of it. I want my readers to chuckle, rejoice, become a little upset at times, and also cry. If I can keep them on a roller coaster ride that makes them want to hang with it, I’ve done my job. And as a last note: If I was well-fixed financially, I’d gladly give my books away to those who would appreciate them.

Debbie Brown – Define successful…
You wrote a book, that’s a success in itself.
You published it! Kudos.
People you haven’t begged, bribed or guilted into it have actually read your work. SCORE!
Wait… most of them said they truly enjoyed it?!
I’m out… too much to handle on an emotional level… so don’t you dare tell me you’ve written more than one.

Jessica L. Elliott – I measure my success by the reactions of my readers. Their messages of encouragement and appreciation are worth more than any salary. That said, I do like to make sure I’m staying in the black.

Charmain Zimmerman Brackett – I measure my success in the emails I receive or reviews such as this one.

“You start reading the Grace Mystery Series for the mystery and you continue reading them for the personal touch, real life issues being brought to light, and the sense of healing it brings to the reader. Loved it!” ~ Amazon reviewer on Murder Takes a Bow

Other reviews for different books I’ve written have said similar things. To me? It’s about touching people. Did I impact them? Did I make a difference? My words touch people’s lives. That’s what matters to me.

M. L. Farb – Success as an author is bringing light and joy into someone else life. I love it when a reader says they couldn’t put the book down. But I love it even more when a reader says “It’s a book that has lingered after reading” or “Surprisingly relevant to troubles of today.”

Katy Huth Jones – I used to measure success by how much money I made (when I made it writing nonfiction) but nothing can compare with touching lives and sharing encouragement with others going through dire struggles. This is “fan art” a former student with a traumatic brain injury sent me after reading my book as part of his therapy to relearn how to read. He wrote in calligraphy the first page of Mercy’s Prince with medieval illuminations even, and before his injury he was not artistic at all!

Lea Carter – It’s difficult to measure success when there are so few metrics: sales; works completed; reviews. I try to incorporate all of them because I’d starve emotionally if I had to wait for sales or reviews by themselves.

Joanna McKethan – I remember at camp telling scary stories at night to my cabin mates, and the feeling of power I had when they shuddered and pulled up the covers and looked really scared. “I’m on the first step, I want my toe!” And my editor told me I had her looking over her shoulder. And in my latest book, reviewers were saying you’ll pull for this unlikely pair to get married. That’s success to me. Success to multiply and repeat. It’s addictive.

Keith D Guernsey – I judge by critical acclaim (reviews and ratings).


Successful author Frank Luke shares the following related anecdote.

Robert Bloch was the guest of honor at a roast. When given the opportunity to roast himself, he said, “I grew up in the great depression. Upon graduation, my father told me I had to either get a job or starve. I decided to combine the two by becoming a writer.”