Indie Spotlight on Mystery Writer C. Hope Clark

Beneath an idyllic veneer of Southern country charm, the town of Newberry hides secrets that may have led to murder.

When a local landowner’s body, with pants down, is found near Tarleton’s Tea Table Rock—a notorious rendezvous spot, federal investigator Carolina Slade senses a chance to get back into the field again. Just as she discovers what might be a nasty pattern of fraud and blackmail, her petty boss reassigns her fledgling case to her close friend and least qualified person in their office.

Forced to coach an investigation from the sidelines, Slade struggles with the twin demons of professional jealousy and unplanned pregnancy. Something is rotten in Newberry. Her personal life is spiraling out of control. She can’t protect her co-worker. And Wayne Largo complicates everything when the feds step in after it becomes clear that Slade is right.

One wrong move, and Slade may lose everything. Yet it’s practically out of her hands . . . unless she finds a way to take this case back without getting killed. Available at Amazon and other book outlets.

Finding the Balance as a Writer

I once sat on a panel with two ridiculously well-known authors – one indie and the other traditional – and the subject of commitment came around from the audience.

“What does it take?” someone asked, in other words, meaning, “How can we be like y’all?”

The literary author never really answered it other than saying read a lot, write a lot, it happens if you work hard. He taught creative writing at a university.

The six-figure indie author said she breathed her work 24/7, and from what I know of her, she does. She was incessantly hungry for achievement.

However, I never heard from either of them what made them tick outside of writing.

I have family, raise chickens and garden, adore my dachshunds, and thoroughly love a husband whom I cherish spending time with. And I told that to the room. Yeah, there was applause.

I added that any writer has to find that balance and choose how they’d love to see themselves a few years from now, on their own terms. Reality is we juggle lots of balls.

Add to that these days we’re deluged by success stories, making us feel negligent that we aren’t achieving more. What is supposed to be motivational instead plants negativity until we sense we aren’t meant to be as successful as others.

The key is to clearly define what matters most and hold up a stop-sign palm to the rest.

Live life on your terms rather than on what celebrities and experts tell us worked for them. Yet we still feel compelled to ask others how they do it. I’m often asked how I do what I do as editor of FundsforWriters, freelancer, daily social media player, blogger, speaker, and novelist. My newest release is Newberry Sin, my eighth mystery, and yes, I’m busy, but I still know how to say no….and when to say yes. The key is to focus on priorities.

Respect deadlines.

I have weekly deadlines with FundsforWriters, a newsletter that reaches 35,000 readers each and every Friday. It’s a hard commitment. In 19 years, I’ve missed two Fridays. That’s over 900 newsletter deadlines. Since FFW is a major cog in my writing machine, that deadline is key, and I make sure family and friends appreciate that. My husband knows to ask if the newsletters are out on Fridays before he makes other plans for us. Of course, if he were in an accident, he’d take priority. Otherwise, the newsletters must go out.

I usually have one or two books under contract with my publisher. Those stepping-stone dates are clearly defined on my calendar. If those deadlines are looming, I refuse all else that isn’t an emergency.

Marry your priorities.

Warren Buffett states that you must marry your priorities, and he limits those to five. He actually suggests you list your top 20 goals, then narrow them down to five . . . and avoid the other fifteen at all costs. Those five top items comprise your devoted focus. It isn’t easy and it isn’t an either/or all the time.

For instance, my five items are: my husband, my health, my family, my writing, and my nature/outdoors. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t fulfill my obligations to all five. Anything else is in my way, or I tend to them once my other obligations are met.

For instance, my house is scrubbed only when someone comes over. I go on vacation if all else is in order. And my friends and family know that my love of writing and the other four items are what make me who I am.

How to keep up with those priorities.

For me, planning takes a weekly desk calendar, a plain notebook, and, a smart phone calendar (to keep the family informed). I’ve turned down speaking engagements, conferences, parties, and weddings if they conflicted with deadlines. After all, you are married to these goals.

At the beginning of each year, and revisited often, I note benchmarks for what I hope to accomplish or items that are non-negotiable. With family, it’s birthdays. With the nature, it’s planting and harvesting time. With hubby, it’s daily dinner, our anniversary, and the hour at the gym. With my writing, it’s the deadlines. I live for deadlines, and create one if someone doesn’t create it for me, because without a date attached to a goal, it’s a vague thought that may never come to fruition.

The writing notebook is a catch-all for thoughts, brainstorming, and daily goals in greater detail than on a calendar. My calendar is a week-at-a-glance, and at the end of the year, it becomes a part of my income taxes to include travel, purchases, and yes, the deadlines.

If you miss a deadline, note it on the calendar. It’s a motivator to not miss it.

You don’t have to become a hermit.

Know what direction you are going instead of waking each day without defined purpose. Of course you have days off. Of course you build in a day of rest. But having missions and goals give more substance to your dreams. And the more organized you are, the more you accomplish, and the more efficient you become at reaching more dreams. The planning makes you seem oh so shrewd and wise.

C. Hope Clark’s latest release is Newberry Sin, the fourth in the Carolina Slade Mysteries. Hope is author of eight mysteries and founder of Funds for Writers, a website chosen by Writer’s Digest for its 101 Best Websites for Writers for 17 years. To learn more about Hope you can visit her website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Saying Yes…

saying yes
image courtesy of bossfight

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to say, no? Why is that?

Is it because once you’ve said no, the topic is closed. It’s over. No further discussion. Moving on to the next thing?

Or is it because no just feels like a safer option?

When you say no, there is no commitment. No obligation. No risk or gamble.

No chance at failure.

Probably. Definitely. At least for me.

I suppose it’s a combination of being an introvert, manifesting impostor syndrome, disappointment, and native gullibility that has led me down the path of no.

It’s just easier. Less chance of being hurt. Right?

There’s only one problem with saying no. You miss things. You let opportunities pass you by. You often get left behind. You don’t usually realize any of these things until it’s too late.

So…in the spirit of trying new things, I’ve decided to say yes. For one week. I will say yes to any opportunity, large or small. I will say yes, even when my mind is screaming, NO! RUN! DON’T! Even if it terrifies me. Even if I feel like I don’t have the proverbial snowball’s chance in hell. I WILL SAY YES.

I mean, what do I have to lose? No, hasn’t really gotten me anywhere. And frankly, I could use some new adventures and a few new friends too.

I will give it a week. If I like this new attitude of yes, I may say yes for another week.

Wish me luck. I will report back on my findings.

How about you? Is your go-to answer yes or no? Tell me what you think about yes and no in the comments.

Annie the yes-woman

Book Review – Missing by Ann Jones

An entertaining quick read which might make you burn dinner

Missing is an intriguing mystery from debut crime novelist Ann Jones. Her main character Lyn Kramer is a no-nonsense detective who has no trouble clearing cases, getting the job done, and calling it a day. And since she is so good at it, believes herself to be impervious to the crimes she investigates. Until it becomes personal.

A simple missing persons case turns into a waking nightmare for Kramer, when it turns out it’s her twin sister who is missing. Because of a terrible painful past, and a long separation between the sisters, the case stirs up memories, Kramer would prefer to repress but is helpless to do so. And a very thin veil behind which the family skeletons hide is about to be drawn aside.

With the help of her green yet surprisingly empathetic partner, Jud, and a few resistant witnesses can Lyn save her sister, and by doing so, save herself? Or will she just crack under the pressure?

I’m afraid you’ll have to read the novel to find out.

You can pick up a free copy of Ann’s book, Missing, here

The awesome news is that Ann just released Book 2, Trapping, in this series and it is available at Amazon at a steal for 99 cents.

A bittersweet reunion…

Separated by feuding families when they were children, Detective Lyn Kramer of the Elm Grove Police Department and her estranged twin sister, high school teacher Melissa Farnsworth, have finally been reunited—but under terrifying circumstances. After freeing her sister from the clutches of Lester Barton, a devious crime boss who also happens to be their sadistic uncle, Lyn vows to keep Melissa and her family safe. However, that goal is thwarted when Barton, working behind the scenes, infiltrates their sleepy town with drug traffickers and threatens to destroy the sisters and everyone they love as an act of revenge.

Can the recently reunified twins lure the ringleader out of hiding and into the cold light of justice? Or will their evil uncle succeed in terrorizing the sisters into submission?

 

 

This is Ann by the way. Ain’t she sweet? She’s one of the best people I know.

hopelessly bad on social media

image courtesy of pixabay

I am. Are you? Are you like me when you log onto Twitter – a little dizzy, confused about where to go, what to do? Does it all just move a little too fast?

Facebook at least I can kind of sort of navigate.  But then again…am I the only one who feels like they are screaming into a bowling alley on Friday night where everybody already has their buzz on and thinking about pizza toppings?

Pinterest? Fugetaboutit… I love pretty pictures and graphics, should be a perfect fit. But…to be honest, I’m just not one of those people who zooms around the Internet checking out all my thousands of interests and bookmarking pages and pictures and then organizing where all those things should go. So, yeah, hit and miss. But mostly miss.

I’ve read all the posts, I subscribe to the social media gurus. Schedule posts, tweets, twitters, make picture boards, take my webinar, I will teach you how to do it. Increase your followers, it matters. Author platform.  Still, there I am on shore, waving to all my savvy friends blissfully sailing on their social media cruises – having missed the boat.

Maybe it’s because deep down inside I am just a social misfit. Always have been. Probably always will be. I was born shy and at heart I still am. I can force myself to be outgoing and social but inside I suspect people know. They know that I am clueless. That I worry they are noticing my thunder thighs and crooked teeth, wondering about my nervous laugh – wondering ‘why doesn’t she smile more?’

So now, I’ve just accepted the truth. I am hopelessly social media inadequate. If you follow me, I will probably just wonder why.  (Thanks to Twitter’s new set up, I probably won’t even be able to tell that you followed me, but that’s on them, right?) If you subscribe to my blog I will worry I have nothing of value (you must give them value, value, value!!!!!!! that’s what the experts say, you know. but are they the only ones who actually know what they mean? I suspect they are) to offer you.

Look, I guess I’m just saying – I’m  just a writer. I write books. I think they’re pretty good. I’d be thrilled if you read one of them. I’d  be even more thrilled if you liked it after you read it.  Maybe if you are socially inept like me, you will.

But at the very least, maybe we can be socially inept together? Nerds unite. We must stick together so the cheerleaders don’t take over. Am I right?

awkwardly yours,

Annie

Indie Spotlight – Mystery Writer Sharlene Almond

Annabella Cordova quickly becomes embroiled in the conspiracy involving the university she studies at. Her life is turned into chaos when her friend disappears, seven days later a gruesome package is delivered to Andres Valero; the troubled detective, returning from forced leave, only to be faced with horrific crimes that brings his memories to the surface. 

Annabella’s past collides with her present, a traumatic childhood event leaving her deaf and without both of her parents. Her ability to read facial and body language in people leads her to discover parallels from an earlier century.

Initiated to Kill takes the reader back in time to the 19th century; creating a psychological profile of the serial killer that wanders the London streets, his paintings depicting crimes only seen by a killer’s eyes. 

Annabella  and Andres combined must stop this person at any cost, and reveal a conspiracy hidden for centuries.

Unveiling the Mystery of Body Language

I have always been intrigued by the interpretation of facial expressions and body language. The TV series “Lie to Me” increased the popularity of learning more about this interesting subject.

The incentive for me to finally decide to study Body Language came when I wrote my first novel, Initiated to Kill. My main character, Annabella Cordova is deaf, so fully understanding how body language could be read and interpreted was essential to me; as I wanted my novel to be an authentic as possible. I immersed myself into the fascinating and complicated world of Body Language.

One of the key things to remember when writing or reading a person’s body language is that it is not what they reveal in their baseline behaviour, but the change from that behaviour to something quite different.

Armed with a diploma in body language, people tend to ask me “what is my body language saying to you now?”

They might cross their arms, or do something fairly common like that, then want me to basically give them a run-down on what that body language is revealing.

However, it doesn’t work like that. A lot of people think that by crossing their arms they are being defensive or closed off, and yes, that might be true.

That doesn’t really tell me much. Instead, it’s watching people that change from one behaviour to another that exposes what is actually going on.

That is why people in law enforcement talk so much about establishing baseline behaviour. It is crucial at any point if you’re wanting to find out if someone is lying or omitting something, that their baseline behaviour is first established. That way, when you go to the line of questioning you really want to address, you can immediately see a change of behaviour; and that’s what really gives it away.

Now, some people may ask, “well, if it’s that clear cut, then why doesn’t law enforcement immediately know if someone is guilty?”

Unfortunately, body language isn’t an exact science. Although, much can be revealed, people may still not know why that change occurred. But it can give an inkling that they need to dig further into that line of questioning.

So, how important is it to know more about body language? Well, 38% comes from vocal tone, while 55% comes from body language. It is even thought that at around 90% of our communication to others is through our body language, without even consciously knowing we are doing it.

People tend to look for exaggerated displays of body language, but often, it is the subtle displays that are truly revealing.

Body language in relationships can even divulge what the other person is feeling. It may seem out of nowhere, your partner suddenly wants to end the relationship, while you didn’t even think there was a problem with the relationship.

Think about it. Was your partner withdrawing? Was your partner sleeping further away from you, or being less affectionate? Did they sit on another chair instead of being close to you? Has intimacy seem to have gone out the window?

Although very subtle signs, they are also very telling, revealing that inwardly your partner is withdrawing; thus, revealing in the increase of the distance between you. However, if this is recognised early on, you can then try to make changes to help the relationship, or at least be prepared for when the relationship is over.

In a dating situation, does the other person lean closer toward you when you speak? Are their hands on the table close to yours, or in their lap? Do their eyes dart around the room, or mainly stay focused on you? What about their feet? Are their feet pointed straight ahead towards you, or in another direction?

No matter how insignificant it may seem, never underestimate the small changes, words are only a very minor part of the overall picture.

Just by looking in one direction it can reveal someone is telling the truth, while another direction they are thinking up a story. Every little bit contributes to the overall picture.

These aspects are important to consider when including body language in your writing. The more you understand how it works, the easier it will be to write a realistic portrayal of a witness, victim, cop or perpetrator.

And what may surprise many people, is that body language experts believe that the legs and feet are considered more accurate communicators than the face.

Think about it. What is your body language saying about you?

Sharlene Almond has a diploma in Body Language and Criminology, enabling her to explicitly portray her characters. Living in Auckland, New Zealand with her two dogs and partner. Currently, she is working on an advice monthly newsletter to encompass all of my training – Body, Mind and Writing Newsletter. Her education in Cognitive Behavioural therapy, Freelance Journalism, and Editing give her the ability to better understand the human mind and to write about it in a comprehensive manner.

To learn more about Sharlene, visit her blog and follow her on Google Plus and Pinterest .

An Exercise in Self Discovery

Where I’m From is a type of self-discovery in the form of a poem that has been classroom classic and taught throughout the world for years. It easy to do and creates a truly unique perspective of your roots – where you’re from.

The ‘Where I’m From’ movement began with George Ella Lyon – a poet, writer, musician, storyteller, and teacher. Her idea was inspired by a book by Jo Carson titled ‘Stories I Ain’t Told Nobody Yet.’ Among the quotes in the book was this: “I want to know when you get to be from a place.” This quote inspired her to create a poem to help her find out just where she came from.

It’s easy to see why it became so popular because we all have our own story to tell and this poem ‘exercise’ helps you to zero in on the details of your story by exploring your background, home, childhood, upbringing and family.

If you want to give it a try, use the simple template below:

The WHERE I’M FROM Template

I am from _______ (specific ordinary item), from _______ (product name) and _______.

I am from the _______ (home description… adjective, adjective, sensory detail).

I am from the _______ (plant, flower, natural item), the _______ (plant, flower, natural detail)

I am from _______ (family tradition) and _______ (family trait), from _______ (name of family member) and _______ (another family name) and _______ (family name).

I am from the _______ (description of family tendency) and _______ (another one).

From _______ (something you were told as a child) and _______ (another).

I am from (representation of religion, or lack of it). Further description.

I’m from _______ (place of birth and family ancestry), _______ (two food items representing your family).

From the _______ (specific family story about a specific person and detail), the _______ (another detail, and the _______ (another detail about another family member).

I am from _______ (location of family pictures, mementos, archives and several more lines indicating their worth).

Personally, I loved writing my ‘Where I’m From’ poem and it gave me new insights into myself and my life.

 Where I’m From

 

I’m from fresh white sneakers, and cold Coca Cola, and JiffyPop

I’m from the small towns with perfect lawns and friendly gossips

I’m from the Royal Oak trees, pink fragrant roses, and the soft blue sky

The lazy clouds that hang low and become faces, dogs and lizards.

I’m from Irish tempers quick and hot and belly laughs that wet your pants

From Patsy and Lucky and cantankerous Lottie

I’m from blue collars and steel men with strong dirty hands with hearty appetites for food and cold beer

From an ‘answer for everything’ and ‘just like your father’

I’m from altars, incense, and holy water

From jaunty Sunday hats

From parables repeated by brides of Christ and hushed prayers that rattle beads

From the green hills and heather teeming with faeries and leprechauns

Potato salad, hot dogs, and hamburgers

From the motorcycle man who siphoned gas from tractors and the roller rink darling who lied about her age – the brother who died too young and too alone

I’m from boxes in the attic that sealed in the smiles and forced poses

The faded black and whites glued to table tops – the grainy grins that fight the years

Early bed times and late night ice cream cones

Lakeside vacations and car trips

Lazy summer days eating red ripe tomatoes that drip down our faces

From public fireworks and sweet watermelons

And images never lost but buried deep inside 

copyright anita rodgers

How about you? Want to find out where you’re from in this truly unique and special way. Give it a try and feel free to post it in the comments. Or just keep it as a little treasure all your very own. 

Book Review – the WAR of ART by Steven Pressfield

 I bought the WAR of ART out of curiosity – not because I have stumbled onto Pressfield and his website and Writing Wednesdays blog posts. In fact, I ignored it for a while. Then I started to notice that many writers I admire mentioned it or its concepts, or quoted it. Despite the fact that I am usually disappointed by books on writing and often find them to be ‘nothing burgers’ I found a used copy of War of Art and bought it.

(the book was) Definitely not what I expected.

For those who are looking for a definitive ‘you fit slot a into slot b’ type of advice, this book is not for you. You will not find methods of writing faster, or exercises to break writer’s block, or prompts to inspire your imagination.

To me, the book was about the soul of writing. What it does to your soul and what it will do to your soul if you ignore your calling. It is not practical advice, it is metaphysical advice. It is not food for the mind but food for the soul.

the WAR of ART was what I needed to read at that moment. It was serendipity. It was the shift in perspective that I needed to make.

(as a side benefit) It also answered questions that had driven me up the wall.

I am glad I bought it and read it. I am changed because I did.

If you are looking for answers to the deeper questions not just about writing but about art, about your place as an artist, about submerging into your art, this book may be for you. If you are looking for a nuts and bolts, just the facts, and tell me what to do” kind of writing book, then you probably won’t appreciate this book.

My rating is five stars but it’s subjective – I don’t know if it will help you – I do know it helped me.

Good hunting, Annie

Book Review: A Twist of Truth by Diane Dickson

I’ve become quite a fan of author Diane Dickson and read many of her other books and Twist of Truth doesn’t disappoint.

In the opening, we meet Simon Fulton, a man recently released from prison for the murder of his own sister. He is filled with resentment and bitterness because he has spent years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Returning to his home town, he is ripe for revenge and justice.

But avenging the injustice of his situation isn’t nearly as black and white as he believes. And though he encounters plenty of antagonist people from his past who are not happy to see him back home, it’s his encounter with Gloria, owner of the local B&B, who has the most impact on him. Her kindness and compassion begins to change him and his plans shift.

What begins as an instinctual desire for revenge becomes a search for the truth and the possible promise of an actual future. However, the truth has some thorns of its own and the twist at the end turns everything on its head.

If you like good, solid mysteries that don’t need spewing viscera and car chases every two seconds, you’ll like this. Highly recommend. Five stars.