Journey To Writing

By Laurean Brooks (Photo by Martin Winkler)

I had wanted to become a published writer since my teacher announced to our 5th grade class, “One day, Laurie will become an author.”

I married too young, and paying bills got in the way. When I graduated high school, I got a job in the textile industry. I hated the daily push and grind of trying to make production. I developed many lasting friendships with co-workers. It was the work I hated. I felt as if my brain was becoming petrified by doing the same thing over and over. I added it up once, and estimated that I’d attached over 3 million back pockets to 1.5 million pairs of Chic jeans, during the years I worked at that plant.

By the time NAFTA closed our plant, I had a job as a quality control technician (inspecting garments.) NAFTA gave us the option to go to college. I took it, drove 100 miles per day-round trip-to WKTC in Paducah, Kentucky. The entrance test showed I would do well in the creative arena. But, as the lady in the office said, “I’m sorry, but we offer no creative classes here.”

I decided to take Legal Assistant classes, because it seemed more interesting than anything else offered. I had an instructor who piled on homework. I was up until 2. a.m some nights completing it. Before I entered college, I did not know one end of a computer from the other. The first 6 weeks were grueling as I attempted to believe what one instructor said.”Your computer is your best friend.” It was hard to swallow since I crashed mine at least once in every class. I struggled to keep up with 19 and 20 year olds, who made everything look so simple. It took me longer to do my work, but I strove to make the finished product error-free.

By taking a heavy load of summer classes, I graduated in 16 months, and on the honor roll. Can you believe it? But, there were few job openings for Legal Assistants. I worked for four attorneys in the first two years. Each law office downsized, and I was the first to go.

After those attempts, I decided to try for my childhood dream of writing. What did I have to lose? Most of my classes had required Microsoft Word. I submitted an essay to our local Hometown magazine. It was accepted. And they paid me $25. I was on cloud nine. I immediately wrote more essays, some they published. But my dream was to write a book. Not any book, but my mother’s story–her life during the Great Depression. She’d repeated it so often that it had become part of me.

That book, Journey To Forgiveness, was published in January 2009, and I’ve never looked back. If you come out with anything from this post, the important thing I want to convey is, “Never give up on your dream.” There will be obstacles. Kick them out of the way and forge ahead. Writing is an emotionally satisfying career well worth fighting for.

Sometimes, I feel like I failed myself and others because I earned the diploma, but didn’t pursue the career of a legal office assistant. But honestly, my heart was never in it. And maybe—just maybe—it was in God’s plan that I take college courses to learn computer programs and skills I would need to become a writer.

Connect with the author: Laurean Brooks

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/laurean.brooks
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Laurean2
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Laurean-Brooks/e/B00SBXMVL4

Almost Made the Blurb

Featured photo by Scott R. Rezer (Saguaro National Monument, February 2019)

In the book blurb, those words an author uses to tell you why you should read this book, authors often struggle with exactly what to reveal and how much of it. The perfect blurb is sometimes the last or near the last hurdle between a work-in-progress and a published work. Authors might be slow to admit it, but we’re pretty sure the inclusion of an idea, a sentence, or an entire paragraph is sometimes decided by a coin toss. Sometimes though, the decision is a little more complicated. Scott R. Rezer conveys a great example of one such time.

With the publication of my first Civil War novel, Love Abideth Still, I originally left out of the blurb the part that the book was based on the lives of my 3rd great parents. I had planned to make it obvious at first what the book was about, but as I got into the actual writing, I decided that I wanted to surprise the reader toward the end of the story when one of the characters is finally referred to by her last name which is the same as mine. At the last moment, I changed the blurb as well. (I do explain it later in my author’s note.) Once reviews started mentioning that the book was based on my family it sort of let the cat out of the bag and so now the blurb mentions it! Writing plans sometimes take surprising twists and turns!

Connect with the author: Scott R. Rezer

Website/Blog: https://scottrezer.weebly.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Scott-R-Rezer-83136191431
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/scottrezer
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Scott-R-Rezer/e/B002BRESGM

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!!

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 Facebook 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).

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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.”

One Small Scrap

By Earl Chinnici

Some stories are sure painful to tell. Millions of people in this world need to hear this though. Quitting cigarettes doesn’t have to be a nightmare.

Cathy and I had known each other approximately seven years, yet never met in person. Now this was the week of her birthday and since I had little money, I decided to give my dear friend a glimpse into my world through the lens of a built-in camera on a miniature laptop computer. I was clueless at the time, but my world was about to drastically change.

I phoned her mid-morning and wished her a happy birthday. She seemed genuinely delighted, as I told her of my intended gift and shared the information that she’d need to connect. When she started receiving video, her voice echoed her excitement even more. I began a thorough tour of my home and yard.

We were having so much fun. In fact, we enjoyed nearly an hour together before our schedules demanded we hang up the phone and get busy. Before we said goodbye, I told her I’d carry the laptop with me everywhere throughout the day so she could occasionally glance over at her computer and watch me. I knew she’d likely see me work at the computer, play with my cats, cook and eat lunch, wash dishes, fold clothes, and check the mail. It was not easy to discern who was more excited, actually.

That evening, as we once again talked on the phone, I continued to move the laptop around with me and that’s when it happened. There I was, standing in front of a mirror that rested on a large hardwood dresser in my bedroom, when Cathy said, “Baby… maybe you should move those things away from you.” Although her tone was gentle, she clearly warned me of a danger I did not immediately recognize.

Since I didn’t see anything unusual on the dresser, I turned and scanned the remainder of the room for any sign of a threat. This might seem a bit melodramatic, but several hairs on both of my arms tingled as I searched for these mysterious things. It soon became obvious that I didn’t understand so I inquired, “Move what things away from me?”

Her reply was also soft-spoken. In hindsight, I realize she chose her words carefully so her suggestion would have the greatest impact possible without causing me to feel pressured. She gently said, “Please don’t think that I’m trying to tell you what to do. It’s your life and you can of course, do what you want to with it. This is just a suggestion. You might want to consider moving those cigarettes away from you.”

I was speechless many moments as I considered her words. I was thirteen years old when I started smoking on a regular basis. I’d smoked for nearly thirty years! How could moving my cigarettes change anything? There was no way I could hide them from myself.

I think she must have sensed my confusion. Cathy continued, “You spend a lot of your time each day in your office. Perhaps you could keep your cigarettes in your bedroom and when you feel as if you want one, you could get up and go get one or two. You might find that by doing so, you might just wait a few more minutes after you finish a cigarette before you light up another one. You might even smoke one or two fewer cigarettes over the course of a day by doing this.”

I sighed. Strange it took years for me to recall the sigh, because it is so vivid now—as though it just happened. I knew she was right and there were numerous reasons I should at least try this. I saw a pen and a used envelope on the dresser and decided to start immediately. Asking Cathy to hold for a moment, I tore a scrap of paper from the envelope, wrote those first ten words of her suggestion upon it, and echoed them aloud as I wrote. “Baby… maybe you should move those things away from you.” I then tucked it away in a drawer for safekeeping. This marked the dawn of my career as an author and the sunset of my cigarette addiction.

This seemingly minor change caused me to look more closely at my habit and addiction than ever before. I quickly instituted some great changes in my life and three months later, I again took to the pen and paper after my mom suggested I write the time of day each time I smoke.

Though slowly at first, more words began to flow from my highly poisoned mind as I gradually opened my smoke-filled eyes and took a long, hard, look at my addiction. The first paragraph I would eventually publish came to me on the fourth day of writing time entries. Other than my enthusiasm about removing some ashtrays from my home, I don’t know why I deviated from the time entries and wrote it. Laugh if you want to, but I wrote it with passion on another scrap of paper.

I have been smoking mostly outside for a while now. Sometime during the day today, I removed all but three ashtrays from my home. I washed eight ashtrays outside under a water hose and left them in the shed for my next yard sale!

When I showed my scribbled time entries and this paragraph to another friend, she presented me with a blank composition book and a package of pens. My canvas expanded exponentially and I began to write.

After I stared into its hideous face, I overcame this awful addiction in just twenty-four days and then continued to write and design my first book, “Maybe You Should Move Those Away From You,” for more than two and a half years. I self-published it as an ebook in January of 2014 and I’m now attempting my first fictitious masterpiece as well as several nonfiction books, including a memoir titled 50 Close Calls.

If you are one of the millions of people currently addicted to tobacco cigarettes, I hope you will also consider Cathy’s suggestion. Please don’t feel as if I’m trying to tell you what to do. It is your life and you can pretty much do whatever you want to with it, but maybe now is the best time to move those deadly poisons away from you.

Many of you are likely wondering about the chaotic nature of the photo attached to this article, but that’s another story entirely that will be included in 50 Close Calls. That was my bedroom and the composition book in the drawer is my first manuscript. I was elated to find it intact. So many other aspects of this story have since turned tragic. It’s still a great day to not smoke a cigarette.

Dry Spells

Whether you call the phenomenon writer’s block or a dry spell, it seems most writers sometimes experience times when the creative juices are not flowing. We asked authors who write on the clean end of the spectrum “How do you overcome a dry spell and get inspired to write again?”

Charmain Zimmerman Brackett – I don’t know what a dry spell is. My path is different. I’ve worked for a newspaper for 32 years. I write something nearly every day. So if I don’t, I don’t have a job; I don’t eat and I don’t pay my bills.
I also have about five WIP. Some will never see publication. It’s easier to write when you are always writing. If I take a couple of days off, I feel rusty. It’s hard to get things churning again. Write, write, write.

Lea Carter –  I went through an autobiography reading phase in high school and picked up this bit of wisdom: when you reach a problem you can’t solve, find something that will make you laugh. It may take a few tries, but that’s worked for me for a long time.

Ruth O’Neil – I think all writers have dry spells from time to time. I do. Whenever I get away from writing, I can’t stay away for long. If I’m in a dry spell, I purposely do other things. Maybe catch up on house work, tackle those big projects I’ve been wanting to, among other things. During dry spells, I try to keep busy, but not think about writing. It’s usually when I’m not thinking about it that a new idea pops into my head and from there, inspiration.

Arthur Daigle – When I can’t write, I go for a walk around the neighborhood. I go alone and bring nothing distracting like a cell phone. It’s just me and a plastic bag to pick up recyclables. Weather permitting, I take these walks daily and go for 40-60 minutes. I find this time alone helps my mind wander and come up with new ideas for my books.

Laurean Brooks – I When I’m stuck, someone will ask me what I’m working on. When I start telling them the story, it revs me up again. And sometimes that person offers a suggestion that gives me a different perspective, and I’m off again.

Debbie Brown – I go back and read some part before I got stuck… but I read it as a reader, allowing myself to climb into the story, and that has a way of creating momentum. If I look at it in a critical way, it makes it even harder to move on with it.
If it’s a new story that I haven’t really started, I’ll play out which ever scene I’ve got from the POV of each person in the scene hoping it sparks movement.

Frank Luke – I’m just coming out of a dry spell myself. It’s been a month of writing nonfiction, and the times I had to write fiction just moved like molasses. What I am doing to get out of it is looking over the WIP and seeing why I’m dry. Usually, it means there is a flaw that I can’t see or won’t see. For example, I had a scene in HIGH FRONTIER where a certain event happened. It’s how it was planned from the very first. However, once I wrote it, I couldn’t go further. The urge to write the story was gone. Oh, I could work on scenes set before it. I could work on later scenes that never referenced the events, but anything that depended on this crucial event would not come (and it would change the main character’s life). Finally, I started reworking the scenes related to the event and changed the event to the opposite outcome. Words coming.
Another thing I do when dry is look over the characters. If I need to write a scene with a certain character and it won’t come, it’s usually because I don’t have a good mental hold on the character.

Jessica Marie Holt – I don’t know that I have dry spells creatively. But I do come across plot problems I can’t seem to solve, and I write in order, so I tend to become paralyzed until I solve them. If I have the time, I back off the work for a while and hand the problem over to my subconscious mind. It works on it in the background, and then hits me with an answer like a lightning bolt when I’m driving, or in the shower, or vacuuming the carpet.
If I don’t have the time to wait, I find a trusted sounding board (someone who has good ideas and is good at troubleshooting and spitballing) and talk through the issue. Usually that person is my husband, but I also have go-to writer friends who are kind enough to listen and help. It really works wonders just to talk out the plot with someone. And, I always return the favor.
I would also add that it’s important to not panic, and not freeze up, because you aren’t going to be open to inspiration that way, and that’s what you need most. So, relax, hand it over to your subconscious, and do inspiring things. Walk in nature, listen to music, go to a play, read about history. Keep your hands busy with repetitive tasks, because that frees up your mind. Then, as you’re going about your day, the tap will suddenly turn back on again.

Jessica L. Elliott – It depends on the dry spell. If it’s with my particular focus project, I stop writing and read everything I’ve written to get an idea of why I’m blocked. Usually in doing so, I find a plot hole or just a section I’m not thrilled with. So I’ll mull over it until I figure out that problem and then I’m usually able to get a good flow going again. And if I can’t figure it out, I switch to a different project for a while.
If I’m unmotivated to write anything at all, I choose one of my other creative hobbies for a few days. I draw, paint, and do a variety of crafts. Sometimes stretching different creative muscles really helps me get back into writing easier. I like to create character sketches or landscape drawings that relate to the writing I want to do. Sometimes just having that visual helps me get back on track.

Joanna A. McKethan
1.Stop Straining.
2.Stretch.
3.Walk to the window or door. Observe.
4.Work on a re-edit. Yes, again. Allow new thoughts to break through.
5.Switch to a more visual art for an hour.
7.Rabbit Trail. Turn loose the rabbit. In a few minutes, turn the dog loose to chase him.
8.Indulge your fantasies.
9.Re-engage in a conversation you didn’t feel was finished.
10.Get rid of obvious research by working it into character viewpoint better, like making it less clear, perhaps.
11.Make up a thoroughly annoying character.

Clean Works-in-Progress

Part One of Many

We asked fifty authors who write on the clean end of the spectrum to tell us about one of their current works-in-progress. Since we realize authors are often extremely busy people, we’re especially appreciative of those who were able to—and did—respond. We hope you’ll keep us informed as these manuscripts become new releases.

(Click an author’s name for more.)

Arthur Daigle – I’m working on Goblin Stories 2, a collection of interlocking shortchanged stories. My goblins face off against a cabal of wizards and scholars that seeks to reveal all secrets, and the unending damage caused by their quest.

Lea Doué – Geese and Gold (Fairytale Dragon Riders) features a young woman on a quest to rescue her brother from trolls, with help from a golden goose and a mushroom-loving dragon.

Irene Onorato – My WIP is titled The Preacher and the Shopkeeper and will kick off a clean romance series which I’m calling Unlikely Love.
My hero accepts a pastorship at a church only to find there is no congregation whatsoever. A chance meeting with a homeless man leads him to take up a challenge – to live “tent city” for two weeks, and see if he can make a difference there.
The heroine, a local thrift shop owner, thinks he’s crazy. She knows he’s throwing himself into a dangerous situation, and can only hope he survives to tell the tale.

Joanna A. McKethan – I am working on the next in my series featuring the heroine Kenna Alford or as she is in this book Kenna Campbell. She along with her husband Lane to whom she is a distant cousin are in search of their personal legacy, connected to and caught up in an international secret society’s agenda, hounded by stalkers who mean them harm. Their epic struggle spans two continents, giving the lie for all time to the adage, ‘what you don’t know can’t hurt you.’
This WIP is The Tarbert Legacy.

Ruth O’Neil – I just finished final edits on my WIP at 10:30 last night! Yay! (Now on to betas) Still working on the title. I have a couple swimming around in my head, but none are screaming, “Me! Me! Me!”
It is about a group of friends who stick together through thick and thin. They meet for lunch once a month, but are always there for each other, especially when prayer is needed.

Charmain Zimmerman Brackett – I’m finishing up the fifth in my cozy mystery series set in my hometown of Augusta, Ga. it’s part of the Grace’s Augusta Mystery Series. My protagonist is a florist who finds herself in the middle of another murder—or two?

Debbie Brown – Working on wrapping up the last installment in my Amethyst Eyes trilogy… looking at final edits in the coming weeks.

Jessica Marie Holt – I have several works in progress, including a Christmas short story, but right now, I am working on my second Granny Pact novel. June and Ellie–grannies, neighbors, and best friends– have taken their meddling to the next level. They have their sights set on Ace and Maddie, two do-gooders who are perfect for one another. Unfortunately, Maddie’s meddling mom has other ideas. . .

Jessica L. Elliott – My current WIP is Of Bows and Cinnamon, the third book in my Christmas romance series, Fairy Matched. Uptight theater director Landon Brown has to find a girlfriend before his mother comes, or else. Time is limited, and he manages to convince Elena Mendoza to take on the role just long enough to get his mother off his back. If only he can keep his heart out of the equation.

Richard Houston – My current WIP is about a guy, Jake Martin, and his dog who seem to get involved in solving murders. He is drawn into yet another mystery when he finds a diary written by a teller who witnessed a bank robbery and murder 35 years ago. Her false testimony had sent an innocent man to the gas chamber. Jake gets involved when his seventy-year-old friend and neighbor, Bonnie Jones, asks for his help because the person who was executed was the husband of a friend. His current investigation gets complicated when his eighteen-year-old daughter from his first marriage shows up because she isn’t sure what she wants to do with her life and doesn’t like Jake’s current girlfriend, Kelly Brown, a sheriff deputy.
Bad things start to happen after Jake starts looking into the old bank robbery. First, Fred, his golden retriever, and best friend is dognapped; then a string of arsons and dead bodies begin to pile up all while he tries to deal with the conflict between his daughter and Kelly.
Just when Jake thinks he’s solved the crimes, Kelly gets news from her forensics team that Jake’s suspect couldn’t have done it because he was dead at the time of the latest murders. Kelly is now in trouble with her boss, the sheriff, and begs Jake to butt out.
Will Jake break his promise to Bonnie and quit investigating? Of course not, but you will have to read the book to see how he manages to solve the crimes and deal with his daughter’s problems, without losing his girlfriend.
This is the seventh book in my bestselling Books to Die For series. The working title is A Diary to Die For. Every one of the books in this series has been at the top of one or more Amazon list. The fourth book was on the USA Today Bestseller list twice and number one overall on Barnes and Noble’s Nook. Girl on the Train was number two.

Frank Luke – Just finishing up JOSHUA’S PAWN SHOP. It tells seven tales of people who need a change and find it at a run-down pawn shop with a peculiar owner. Each customer is given the chance to change his future by embracing either a cardinal virtue or heavenly grace. From Fort Worth, Dallas, Cambridge, to Arkham, the shop shows up in the strangest places.
The tales run from superhero (“To He Who Overcomes”), to surreal (“The Art of Living”), to time travel (“Blood Ties”), to supernatural horror (“Fun and Games”), the heroes and heroines find out what they are made of and how to be more than they thought possible.

Lea Carter – I’m just starting books 8.5 and 9 of my fairy series, Silver Sagas.
In Fission (book 8.5) poor young Rolf struggles to shape the history he’s sworn to record, while enduring yet another burgeoning romance between the main “adults” in his life.
In Fusion (book 9), Prince Isaac and Lady Cassidy face the grave challenge of preparing for a massive influx of released political prisoners after the spring thaw. Finding time to finish falling in love may prove impossible!

Laura Hile – My current WIP is SO THIS IS LOVE, a joyride of a Regency that brings whirlwind romance and happily-ever-after to Jane Austen’s staid-and-practical Charlotte Lucas.
Because generations of readers have never quite believed Charlotte’s famous statement: “I am not a romantic.”
Of course she is.
No one could be so desperate as to marry that arrogant bounder, Mr. Collins. Not even undemanding, unromantic Charlotte.
Ah, but what if?
What if, before the wedding, Collins crosses the line and gets handsy
What if something in Charlotte snaps? What if she suddenly breaks the engagement and is sent to live with an aunt and uncle?
What if this sets into motion an unexpected future, one that includes danger, taking risks, and falling desperately in love?
Because after a girl kicks a creep like Collins to the curb, doesn’t she deserve to encounter a swashbuckling hero?

‘We’ even asked the editor.

Earl Chinnici – One of my works-in-progress is Skin Cancer, Black Salve, and Me, a disgusting and informative mini-memoir about how I removed three skin cancers from my arm using the herbaceous perennial Sanguinaria canadensis (bloodroot). I was nearing completion of the manuscript when a tornado spun up by Hurricane Irma destroyed my home—around me. I… I have no excuse. I need to get back to work.

“So, what do you do for a living?”

By Irene Onorato

Photo: Author Irene Onoroto before retiring from her position as radiation protection technician at Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station

“So, what do you do for a living?”

The question seems to be a kick-starter for dialogue when meeting someone for the first time. The awkwardness of the moment melts when you have something, anything, to talk about.

Recently, at a social gathering, I was intrigued by a man who said he was a retired US Air Force fighter pilot. His Viet Nam era Top Gun stories (yes, really) had me and a small gathering of others riveted to his every word. By far, he’d had the most interesting career of anyone in the room. None of us had ever flown at supersonic speeds, and not a single person in the room had ever had a missile fired at them.

“So, what do you do for a living?” someone asked me later that evening.

I told them I was retired, left out the details of my career, and said, “And now I’m pursuing a career as a writer of romance novels.”

Amazingly enough, the person didn’t squeeze a social yawn out of her eyeballs and walk away. Instead, her eyes widened and she said, “Really? I’ve always wanted to write a book.”

I’m meeting more and more people with the same dream. We want to leave an indelible mark on the fabric of time. Something to say, I was here. Here are my thoughts. My hopes, my dreams, the things I think about.

If you’re one of those people who would tell me you’ve always wanted to write a book, here’s my advice: Write. That. Book. Get your thoughts down on paper or into the computer and save every jot and tittle. Worry about what you’re going to do with your masterpiece later.

Never give up on your dreams. Ever.

Connect with the author: Irene Onorato

Website/Blog: https://ireneonorato.com/blog
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorIreneOnorato
Twitter: https://twitter.com/IreneOnorato
Amazon: https://amazon.com/author/ireneonorato

CleanWIP Magazine has obtained from the author non-exclusive right to publish or republish this content. The author retains copyright.

A Book’s Success is Like Surfing

By Laura Hile

Years of practice (and failure) built this surfer’s graceful skill.
Photo by Miguel Navaza (CC / Flickr)

I’ve released a new book, and the process kind of reminds me of surfing. Okay, body surfing. I was never brave enough–or coordinated enough!–to try it with a board. Tanning on the beach? Forget that. Why lie in the sun when you can spend the afternoon catching waves? Many summer days at Santa Monica and Malibu taught me a thing or two.

Surfing is about position, skill, and timing. This means hours in the water, being ready, watching wave after wave. Learning how to know a promising wave from a dud. Being willing to swim like crazy to catch the awesome one. You can’t be lazy as a surfer.

Position would be the intriguing story premise and the cover. These are what put me in the water, and each one represents a risk. I wasn’t sure how the ‘magical reality’ element of the body swap would fly. And that sweet cover was spendy–but worth every cent.

Skill? I’ve been writing for 17 years. If Darcy By Any Other Name is an instant success, know that I’ve been rolled under by plenty of waves. (Yeah, the wipeout thing.) I’ve learned to escape the worst by diving under, but multiple thousands of clunky words lie at my back. Then too, I teach fiction writing to high school students. What I’ve learned in helping them improve is a lot.

And timing is about being in the right place at the right moment. There are more Austen readers now than ever before. No readers, no wave!

Photo by Swell Surf Camp (CC / Flickr)

Surfing, like writing, only appears solitary. The photo at the top of this page shows a lone surfer, but I’m betting he wasn’t the only one in the water that day. Bobbing heads beyond the line of surf are not attractive, so they’re cropped out. Deal is, no one surfs alone. No one writes a book alone–or should.

The fellowship of like minds is crucial. As with surfing, skills are developed alone but there is safety in companionship. In the water and out, surfers hang together and talk. If writing greats C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien needed a support group, so do I.

Sales numbers continue to roll in, and not because of me. News about Darcy is being spread by people like you, my social media friends. A hectic school schedule has allowed me little time to compose ads or tweet or anything. I’ve put up a few posts on Facebook, and you have been sharing them. I am beyond grateful.

Connect with the author: Laura Hile

Website/Blog: https://laurahile.wordpress.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/LauraHile
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LauraHileAuthor
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Laura-Hile/e/B003UT6VDS

CleanWIP Magazine has obtained from the author non-exclusive right to publish or republish this content. The author retains copyright.