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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Indie Spotlight on Fantasy Author Patricia Bossano

Patricia Bossano’s Faerie Legacy Series blends fantasy with realism, inviting young adult and adult readers to explore the powerful magic within. Wander into Faerie and meet the heroines in the 200-year saga of a hybrid faery-human family. The ties that bind them, despite the conflict between two realms, will touch your heart. 
 

 

Candid Confession of an Indie Author

“Bet on yourself” and “Go after your dreams” are inspiring mantras one hears hundreds of times—I’ve certainly echoed them enough over the years, although I didn’t truly live by them, until 2016.

My name is Patricia Bossano and I’m an independent author of Fantasy novels. I recently completed the 3rd installment in my Faerie Legacy series, which has been 22 years in the making. You’ll probably think, boy, what a slow writer she is! but in my defense, between 1996, when I wrote the first draft of Book I, and 2017 when I launched Book III, I raised my two children, worked as a Spanish instructor, translator & interpreter, carved a career in International Sales Operations, got divorced, lost my father to cancer, relocated my mother from South America to California, and then . . . more distress.

I had just turned 50, I was on my way to financial recovery after my 23-year marriage ended, and I’d even started glimpsing a retirement plan when, in 2016, I lost my corporate job along with the stability it afforded me.

Feeling metaphysically cornered, I paused and took a panicked look at myself.

What first came to mind was my love of the written language, which began in the 4th grade, and had grown from scribbling journals to writing letters, short stories, and eventually two full length novels.

I saw my heart’s desire had been in a back burner while I focused on family and worked real jobs.

No regrets though, only the shiver of anticipation—Do I hurry up and find my next corporate job? Or, Do I dare bet on myself and go after my dreams?

Right on cue, the words of a seer came back to me from months before: Holding Book II of my series in his hands, without having read it, he said, “The Faery Realm is destroyed in this book!” which is true, and then he proceeded to explain; “The women in your family, on your mother’s side, were guardians of a forest (faeries) in ages past. The stories in your books are not fiction, they’re subconscious recollections from long ago.”

That was the nudge I needed. I became convinced that the time was ripe for elemental, female magic to make an entrance. I told myself it is never too late to believe!

I’m a hybrid faery, and I BELIEVE in faeries! There—I said it!

I took the proverbial leap of faith. I sold the only house I ever bought on my own, transplanted myself back to California, and went after my dream of becoming a full time starving artist—I mean, writer!

I persevere daily, even when it feels like I’m the only one who believes in me. I’m doing anything and everything to get my faeries in the universe’s radar.

My dream of sharing the magic of my stories with worldwide audiences is foremost on my mind, and it is buoyed by any triumph, however small, along the way.

Patricia Bossano is the award-winning author of the Faerie Legacy Series: Faery Sight, Cradle Gift and Nahia, and other tales. Patricia lives in Southern California with her family.  If you’d like to know more about Patricia you can visit her website and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Indie Spotlight on Non-Fiction Author, David Kadavy

indie spotlight

You can feel it. You know you have something to offer the world. Something nobody else has. But how do you find the courage to make it real? You’ve heard the advice “just get started.” But it’s easier said than done. You don’t have the time, or you don’t feel like you’re ready. The Heart to Start will help you systematically break down resistance to start writing your book, and to find the momentum finish it. Buy it on Amazon, on Kindle, paperback, or Audible audiobook.

 

 

 

Your Book Launch Doesn’t Have to Kill You

As I reviewed my launch plan for my book, I could feel every muscle in my body tense up. It seemed there was no way I could pull this off. It didn’t help that Christmas was coming.

It would take several weeks for a Createspace proof to arrive at my home in Colombia. It would take two weeks for ACX to approve my audiobook to be sold on Audible and iBooks. It would take many hours to record and master the audio for the audiobook.

Then there was the marketing. As a podcast host myself, I knew that if I wanted to appear on podcasts during a given time-frame, I’d better be pitching up to six months in advance. And guest posts like this one also take time to coordinate and write.

It started to make sense why traditional publishers take a year just to prepare for a launch. There’s a lot of work to be done, and much of it still moves slowly.

How could I possibly do this all at once? It had been two years since I decided I was going to write another book. I pictured being at a family gathering for Christmas – now only a few months away – and sheepishly explaining once again that my new book still wasn’t finished.

I needed a book launch that wouldn’t kill me.

I got lucky with my first book. I wrote the right blog post on the right subject at the right time, and a book deal fell in my lap. My publisher took care of layout and cover design, and getting books into stores all over the world.

So, I was free to concentrate on my launch. It worked. My first book, Design for Hackers, debuted in the top twenty on Amazon.

But this time was different. I had spent almost two years trying to get a book deal. Sometimes I felt like a failure, but I eventually learned that self-publishing was more my style.

Many things are different about self-publishing, so maybe the launch is different, too. Maybe your self-published book launch doesn’t have to kill you.

There are reasons book launches are so do-or-die in traditional publishing:

  • Best-seller lists. They’re all about sales velocity. How many books can you sell in a small amount of time?
  • Human resources. It’s more efficient for publishing professionals to work on one launch at a time, rather than diluting efforts among all of their books.
  • Print runs. If a publisher has invested thousands of dollars on a first print run, they want to recoup that expense as quickly as possible.

My incentives as a self-publisher were different:

  • No best-seller lists. I wasn’t trying to publish a NYT best-seller (nor WSJ nor USA Today).
  • One-person human resources. I’m only one person. While I have all of the skills needed for self-publishing, I can only do one thing at a time.
  • No print run. I didn’t have to invest on a print run up-front. Kindle costs nothing, and Createspace is print-on-demand.

Plus, my morale was waning. I needed some motivation.

Then, I remembered my own advice from the very book I was publishing. In The Heart to Start, I talk about “the whip.” The idea that one piece of a project should build motivation for the next.

Instead of killing myself with my launch, I decided to do one piece at a time. Each piece would build momentum for the next piece.

  • First, I launched on Kindle.
  • Then, I recorded the audiobook.
  • Then, I launched Createspace. Reading the audiobook helped me catch any last-minute mistakes. I could easily fix them on Kindle before putting the content on Createspace.
  • Then, I launched the audiobook. It took several weeks for my audio editors to master the audio, and for ACX to approve it.

Each piece of the launch built momentum. Each piece of the launch allowed me to learn new things. As a nice side-bonus, each launch step gave me a new reason to email my readers and ask for reviews.

Two months after my book debuted, I’m still “launching it.” I’m learning new things every step of the way. I’m running AMS (Amazon) and Bookbub ads, I’m doing podcast interviews and guest posts.

  • Once my Kindle Unlimited term is up, I’ll go wide and publish on iBooks, Google Play, and Kobo.
  • The paperback is now available on Ingram, and I may see if I can try to get it on shelves at Barnes & Noble.
  • When everything is in place, I’ll start trying for a Bookbub promotion.

As self-publishers, we have so much to learn – and it is truly a never-ending learning experience. But we don’t have to let the vision of the “perfect” launch get in the way of getting our work out there. One step at a time does get you there.

I hope that sharing my approach to launching a book has given you ideas for your own book launch. And has helped to show you that your book launch doesn’t have to kill you.

 

David Kadavy is best-selling author of The Heart to Start, and Design for Hackers – which debuted on the top twenty on all of Amazon. He hosts the podcast Love Your Work , where he explores finding your unique path to success, and optimizing your creative output. You can follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

 

Indie Spotlight on Fantasy Author Jack Massa

True Magic is never an easy road.

For sixteen-year old Abigail Renshaw, the terrifying nightmares are not the worst part. When apparitions start leaking out of the nightmares into her waking life—Well, that’s a problem.

But Abby’s dealt with hallucinations before, and she’s nothing if not resilient. Following clues from the nightmares, she convinces her mother to let her visit Harmony Springs, the small town in Florida where Abby was born, and where her grandmother still lives.

There, Abby finds unexpected help from new friends: a compulsive teenage blogger named Molly Quick, and Molly’s older brother Ray-Ray (a guy Abby really starts to like). 

The not-so-good news? Abby’s apparitions might be real after all. And one of them wants to kill her. Ghosts of Bliss Bayou is available at Amazon

Story Craft: Presenting Backstory in Scenes

As fiction writers, we often hear the advice “Show, Don’t Tell.” But what exactly does that mean?

To me, it means to present your story with immediacy. Write it mainly in dramatic scenes, and focus each scene in a single character’s point of view.

But a rich story embodies a lot of information. If you try to convey all of it in scenes, you can easily find yourself writing lots of extraneous scenes, as well as using obviously contrived dialogue (“As we all know, Tom, the Druna are an ancient elvish race who live in Dampwood.”) This is a great way to ruin a story.

For this post, let’s define backstory as all the information from outside a scene that the reader needs to understand that scene. Skilled story-tellers use a number of techniques to present backstory within the structure of their scenes. Here are few that I’ve observed.

Tip 1: Create a scene in which the character can reflect

In real life, we all spend time thinking about our problems. Your characters can do the same: when out for a walk, waiting in line, riding a bus, whatever.

For example, in Chapter 1 of Ghosts of Bliss Bayou, our heroine Abby has woken up from a recurring nightmare. Worse, figures from the nightmare are now appearing in her waking life. To get a grip, Abby goes out for a run. During the run, she has a chance to reflect on her past:

With the route set, my brain flips into autopilot, and I can think about other stuff.

Like my hallucinations.

I’ve always been the sensitive, imaginative type. Hyperaware of other people’s feelings. Sometimes I can tell what they’re going to say before they say it. And I’ve always been prone to anxiety. But when I started to go through puberty, things got really bad. I was afraid all the time, and then I started to hear voices in my head. Scary voices, telling me I might as well just die, that I had no future, that I was cursed.

Just like my dad.

This goes on for several more paragraphs and gives the reader a chunk of backstory while keeping the immediacy of our protagonist confronting her very scary problem.

Tip 2: Let characters catch each other up

We’re all familiar with scenes where a character learns some backstory by hearing it from another character. You have to handle this carefully or it will seem contrived or ‘stagy.’

First, make sure your viewpoint character would realistically learn this information from the other character. (Tom really doesn’t know that the Druna live in Dampwood.) Secondly, present the dialogue in short chunks, not long speeches. Finally, make the disclosure part of an emotionally-engaging scene.

In this example, Abby has travelled to Florida to visit her grandmother and try to figure out where her nightmares are coming from. She’s just met Molly, and they’re talking over coffee about some recent weird happenings in the town.

Molly nods. “It’s not as far-fetched as it might sound. The history of Harmony Springs is full of paranormal stories.”

A wriggle of fear starts in my stomach. “You mean like apparitions and ghosts?”

“Sure. The families who founded the town were spiritualists. The Greenes, the Hollingsworths, the Aldens”—she gestures at me with an open hand—“the Renshaws.”

The wriggle turns into a cringe. “I didn’t know that.”

The scene goes on to reveal more of the town’s history and a supposed curse on Abby’s family. Notice that this exposition is rooted in the protagonist’s immediate and deep emotional concerns.

Tip 3: Add blocks of backstory near the start of the scene.

In this technique, you start a scene in the present, ideally with an emotional hook to engage the reader. Then after a few lines, you skip back to reveal the backstory. This is not really a flashback, just a bit of exposition that explains how we got here.

Midway through Ghosts of Bliss Bayou, Abby is scheduled to leave Harmony Springs. She has tried to convince her Mom to let her stay longer, but the reader doesn’t yet know the outcome. In the next scene, Abby meets Molly and tells her that, after a week up north, she’ll be coming back.

Molly grins. “Yippee! You must really like us.”

I grin back. “Yes!”

Mom took a lot of convincing. Granma and I both talked to her three times before she gave in. She finally had to admit how little time she’d actually have to spend with me in London, and I think she began to see how lonely I would have been. She did insist that I fly home this week so we could see each other, but that was something I wanted too.

Here, the tension of whether or not Abby will get to stay is resolved as part of a scene that emphasizes her growing friendship with Molly. A single paragraph of backstory does the trick.

What do you think?

Think about your favorite authors. How do they handle the presentation of backstory? Are there tips and tricks you can add to my list?

Jack Massa has studied writing and other forms of magic for many years. He has published fantasy, science fiction, poetry, and oodles of technical nonfiction.

In addition to the Abby Renshaw adventures, Jack’s current projects include The Glimnodd Cycle (epic fantasy featuring witches and ice-pirates; two novels published to date) and the Conjurer of Rhodes series (historical fantasy set in the ancient world; forthcoming).

Jack lives in Florida with his magical wife, wonderful son, and a pet orange tree named Grover. If you’d like to know more about Jack, you can visit his website, follow him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter.

 

Indie Spotlight on Sci-Fi Military Suspense Author, William Alan Webb

Nick Angriff’s ultimate enemy finally takes the stage and the 7th Cavalry will never be the same.

Operation Overtime has come through its first winter in post-Collapse America in better shape than expected. Food is plentiful, the city of Prescott is healing, and there’s even a battalion of new recruits for the Marines. Everything seems to be going Angriff’s way, until people start trying to kill him again.

When the aggressive Chinese send an armored force to capture old America’s largest tank farm, Angriff can rally only desperate measures to stop them. But first he must crush the traitors both inside and outside of Operation Overtime.

Angriff must rely on others to do what he has always done for himself. As the body count mounts, he has to determine who he can trust and who wants him dead.

In the tradition of Standing The Final Watch and Standing In The Storm, traitors, assassins, and secrets explode in a rocket-powered roller coaster called Standing At The Edge.  You’ve been warned. (Standing At The Edge, The Last Brigade Book 3, continues the saga of Lt. General Nick Angriff and the 7th Cavalry, which began in Standing The Final Watch and continued in Standing In The Storm. Standing at the Edge is available for pre-order and officially releases on January 18, 2018)

The writing’s done, now what?

I majored in Creative Writing in college. You’d think that would give me insight into writing, right? I forked over all of that tuition money, sweated blood churning out stories for my classes to read, critiqued tons of bad fiction, much of it by my professors, then smiled and told them how awesome it was, even when it sucked.

That last part was mandatory if you wanted to pass.

I did everything I was supposed to do, graduated, and then got slapped in the face with the reality that everything I’d just learned was useless.

There are some great writing programs out there, but not the one I took. Instead of learning things like don’t edit until you finish or don’t think you can edit your own manuscript, I learned RULES. Not examples, mind you, just the rules.

For example, I was told show, don’t tell. Sounds pretty fundamental, doesn’t it? But what does it mean? I wasn’t taught that part. Or don’t use adverbs. What? Wait, aren’t they part of the language? Such questions earned me contemptuous glares. So I followed the rules and produced nothing significant, which led me to quit writing fiction for twenty five years. When I forgot the rules and just wrote, I produced a beast. I had written the first draft of a 164,000 word book! Yay, me!

Now what?

Every writer who has ever finished a manuscript faces the question of what comes next

Many authors suggest you now put the first draft away for a while, with the idea this will allow you distance to be more objective when you read it. And there’s merit in this approach for many, maybe most, but not for me. I dive right in.

I start with beta readers. A beta reader gives you objective and sometimes painful feedback on your work. They are almost never your mom, siblings, friends or cousins. You need the brutal truth, not “I really liked it.”

Beta readers are your single most valuable asset as a writer. Cultivate them, pamper them, worship them (not really). But most of all, listen to them. I send my beta readers the first draft, others wait until later. Whatever works.

After the beta reader feedback I’m ready to start polishing the manuscript. The first things are the author edits, starting with content. This is where you make sure everything is consistent, all of the storylines match up, names are the same, etc. Nothing will kill a reader’s willing suspension of disbelief faster than overlooked storyline errors. This is also where I do most of my rewrites. Once that’s done, the author does a timeline edit. (Some books don’t require this, but my military SF relies heavily on synchronicity so for me it’s mandatory.)

Next up is the line by line edit. Maybe some authors enjoy this. I don’t. I hate it. I hate it more than I hate liver. But it must be done and the worst part is that you don’t do it just once. You do it as many times as you can stand doing it. For me that’s usually twice. Now comes the first point where most authors make a huge mistake. They send the manuscript out or, worse, publish it.

And then they get to read review after review about the bad editing. So here’s what I wasn’t taught in college: a professional editor is a must, be it a freelance editor or one at a publisher. What’s more, not all of them are good at their jobs, so sometimes a writer has to search until they find one that fits their work. I know one writer whose first novel desperately needs a good edit from a pro, but he says that he can’t afford it. Truth is he can’t afford not to find the money.

Then comes the cover, which is probably the least understood part of the process. If you have a publisher like mine to design it for you, and they’re good at it, it can sell a lot of books for you. The cover of my first book did just that.

On the other hand, if you wing it you might not sell any books at all. The writer who told me he couldn’t afford an editor also made a huge mistake in his cover. It is a beautifully rendered pastel drawing that does not have the name of the book or the author’s name on it.

Yes, you read that right. What’s more, the thumbnail looks jumbled. There’s nothing to indicate to the reader what the book is about, or even who wrote it. This is something else they didn’t teach me in college…covers matter.

And not just the artwork itself, either. The layout matters, the fonts matter, the colors of the artwork matter. Everything matters, and it takes a pro to recognize when it’s right.

The biggest takeaway for the cover is that when you find an artist whose work sells your books, never let them out of your sight. Marry them if you have to.

If you’ve done all of this well, your book is ready for the most important people in the world, namely, your readers.

 

William Alan Webb (Bill) lives on four acres in West Tennessee with his wife of 40 years, Kathy, 8 dogs, 3 horses and a cat. To say they’re failed foster pet parents would be an understatement. When not writing fiction Bill writes military history, does the housekeeping (he considers dust bunnies more pets, but his wife doesn’t), burns a lot of food attempting to cook and mows the grass whenever it gets too high to see the house. Fortunately for him she thinks he’s cute.  If you’d  like to learn more about Bill you can visit his website, follow him on Facebook,  and follow him on Twitter.

 

Indie Spotlight on Fantasy Author Chris Pavesic

Escape from a world of darkness into a virtual realm filled with magic and limitless adventure.

When hydrologists inscribe the consciousness of a human mind onto a single drop of water, a Revelation sweeps the land. The wealthy race to upload their minds into self-contained virtual realities nicknamed Aquariums. In these containers people achieve every hope, dream, and desire. But governments wage war for control of the technology. Terrorist attacks cause massive destruction. The Aquariums fail. Inscribed human minds leech into the water cycle, wreaking havoc.

Street gangs rule the cities in the three years since the fall of civilization. Sixteen-year-old Cami and her younger sister Alby struggle to survive. Every drop of untreated water puts their lives in peril. Caught and imprisoned by soldiers who plan to sell them into slavery, Cami will do anything to escape and rescue her sister. Even if it means leaving the real word for a life in the realms, a new game-like reality created by the hydrologists for the chosen few.

But life in the realms isn’t as simple as it seems. Magic, combat, gear scores, quests, and dungeons are all puzzles to be solved as the sisters navigate their new surroundings. And they encounter more dangerous enemies than any they faced in the real world. Time to play the game. Starter Zone is available in print, e-book, and audio.

4 Tips to Start Your Writing Day

Sometimes getting started is the hardest part of writing. Here are a few tips that may make it easier for you to achieve your writing goals.

  1. Start the writing day with a treat. When I sit down to write, I try to have a full cup of coffee, tea, or sparkling water ready to go.  Generally I will drink the coffee black. I will add a splash of Key Lime juice to the tea or water.  (If you are only familiar with the taste of regular limes, try Key Lime. It’s a game changer in terms of flavor.)

Not only is it important to stay hydrated, but this is also a low calorie treat. Since writing is basically a sedentary activity, you won’t be burning a lot of calories at your desk. But it’s still important to choose a beverage that you enjoy.

I don’t like eating when I’m at my keyboard. (Too many crumbs!) I also find that the physical act of eating takes my attention away from my project. However, I can sip some of my favorite beverage and jump right back on track.

  1. Create a specific playlist for each project.For me, music is a way to slip into “writing mode.” I don’t always listen to music when I’m working, but when I’m writing fiction it helps my productivity. Music helps to evoke a mood. The type of music really depends upon the listener. Whatever music helps you feel sad, happy, frightened, tense, or euphoric can help you translate those feelings onto the page.

As a bonus tip—if you are writing a series, save a playlist starting with book one. When you begin writing the second book, listen to that playlist to help you get into the mood of the series. Then add or delete tracts as you progress with the new novel.

  1. Power down before you begin writing.Writing takes concentration. Modern devices—as helpful as they are—work at drawing our concentration away from our tasks. Those little “pings” from our smart phones or “message alerts” on our screens pull our attention away from the task at hand.

Set your phone to the “do not disturb” mode to filter out these distractions. You can program in important numbers (parents, spouse, children, etc.) into the “always alert” setting so that you have peace of mind. In addition, include the “alert if call twice” setting. The call might not be from a number that you have listed on your VIP list, but generally people will call more than once in an emergency.

  1. Read before you write.In order to distance yourself from your day-to-day activities, try reading for a few minutes before you begin writing. Immerse yourself in a fictional world. Stimulate your imagination with the written word.

When I do this, I make sure to that I am re-reading a book I enjoy. I never want to start a new book and get so wrapped up in the story that I spend the entire time reading! I also read a book from a different genre and point of view than my work-in-progress. I don’t want my own authorial voice to mix up with the author I’m reading.

So if I’m writing first person, present tense, YA dystopian fiction, like my novel Starter Zone, I will read a third person, past tense, Regency romance.  The styles are very different and there is little chance that the other author’s narrative voice will creep into my own writing. But the simple act of reading helps my creativity start to flow.

I hope these 4 tips help you along your own writing journey.

If you’d like to learn more about Chris, visit her blog A Writer’s Life where she talks about her writing and publications,  reading, cooking, gaming, gardening, health/beauty tips, and, of course, her obsession with coffee. Or follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

 

 

Indie Spotlight on Paranormal Mystery Writer Casi McLean

Piper Taylor concedes she’ll never fall in love, until a treacherous storm spirals her into the arms of the handsome Nick Cramer. Unrelenting remorse over a past relationship haunts Nick, but he can’t deny the mysterious connection and hot desire Piper evokes.

The allure of a secret portal hidden beneath Atlanta’s Lake Lanier tempts him into seizing the opportunity to change his mistakes. But his time slip triggers consequences beyond his wildest dreams.

Can Piper avoid the international espionage and terrorism of 2001 New York, find Nick, and bring him home before he alters the fabric of time, or will the lovers drift forever Beyond The Mist 

 

How a ‘Wrinkle in Time’ Inspired my Writing Career

For as long as I remember, I’ve loved the idea of supernatural. Not blatant horror stories, vampires, sci-fi aliens, or other worldly fantasy, but the notion of “what if” that entices imagination into believing there’s more than what meets the eye.

My fourth grade teacher nudged the author within me when she read aloud Madeleine L’Engles, A Wrinkle In Time. The enchanting story opened the door to my future. I read every time travel story I could get my hands on and watched every time slip movie. The question niggled at me. If time travel was “a thing” how would the concept likely occur?

Years later, when I heard about the eerie lore attached to Atlanta’s Lake Sidney Lanier, a man-made lake located in the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains, the tales fascinated me. Plagued with mysterious disappearances, freak accidents, strange phenomenon, and ghostly occurrences, the lake became the perfect setting for my passion to bloom.

What if the construction created more than a lake? What if the excavation triggered a seismic shift, which when given enough energy, opened a portal to a different dimension…a rip in time connecting past to future? I loved the possibilities. I envisioned a town that time forgot and the history and creepy tales attached to the rural area that sleeps beneath Atlanta’s famous lake, became book one of my Lake Lanier Mysteries, Beneath The Lake.

Homes, churches and buildings still linger beneath the surface, abandoned by displaced families and businesses. The moonshiners of the 1940’s added built-in suspense and sparked the birth of NASCAR. Looper Speedway, a half-mile dirt track where bootleggers competed with their souped-up cars, bared its cement stands in a recent draught. And there’s a Lady of the Lake who haunts the ghost town. Some say she lures victims to her watery grave. The truth is, swimmers get trapped among the deadfall of sheered-off trees and town remains. Even expert divers get tangled beneath the murky surface, hence the lake’s unnerving label: Lanier never gives up its dead.

I moved to Lake Lanier last year and my home overlooks a beautiful cove. The glimmering lake is a solace for me. Taking walks on trails around lake, and talking to neighbors who have lived in the area for generations feeds my muse. There’s no telling how many tales Lake Lanier Mysteries will yield, but if this inspiration should ever dry up, my passion for a touch of supernatural will keep me submerged in fodder. For now, Between The Shadows, book three, flourishes as my current work in progress. This story slips back to 1865 Georgia at the end of the Civil War, where two more Reynolds Cove characters promise to lure you into their own romantic suspense. I hope you all will join us as Lake Lanier Mysteries continues.

I love venues where I can talk about the inspiration behind writing. Thank you so much for hosting me, Anita. And thanks for reading everyone.

BIO: Award winning author, Casi McLean, pens novels to stir the soul with romance, suspense, and a sprinkle of magic. Her writing crosses genres from ethereal, captivating shorts with eerie twist endings to believable time slips, mystical plots, and sensual romantic suspense. Her novel Beneath The Lake, is the 2016 winner of the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence for BEST Romantic Suspense.  If you’d like to learn more about Cassi you can visit her website, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Indie Spotlight on Horror & YA Author, Ron Chapman

For anyone who’s lost a parent or a loved one, Never Forget is an emotional roller coaster that will grab you by your heart and hit home. As a father of three, Chapman struggles to recall his forgotten childhood memories with his father that he locked away so long ago, while at the same time, creating memories with his own sons.

Never Forget is a true story with a twist. Stay to the end to find out the twist. A box of tissue is recommended.

Stepping Outside the Horror & YA Box to Write About Family

My is Ron Chapman and I’m an Amazon bestseller of horror and YA. A while ago, I decided to step outside of the box and write about a different subject matter than I usually write about—a subject that’s been bothering me since I was a kid. It’s also a subject that is dear to my heart.

Some people fear heights, spiders, snakes or even intimacy. Me though, I fear being forgotten by my kids and to me, that is the worse kind of fear anyone could experience.

My fear of being forgotten didn’t happen overnight. This fear of being forgotten happened in two stages of my life.

The first stage was when my father died. I think I was 15 or 16 at the time.  It was hard for me to handle and understand. I always looked up to my father. He was my hero and then when he was taken from me, it was as if someone had ripped my heart out. My hero, my protector was gone. The passing of my father hit me so hard that I took all the memories we had as a father and son and shut them away hoping that maybe it would make the loss of my father a little easier.

I was wrong.

Not a day has gone by since I was a kid that I don’t think about my father. The memories of my father and me are still locked away and lost. I remember fragments of a father and son but that’s it.

The second stage was when I became a father. I don’t want my sons to ever forget the memories of their father like I did mine. Over the years, I’ve tried to build lasting memories so that my sons will be able to look back on life when they have their own kids and say, “I remember when my dad did this with me.” Or “I remember doing this with my dad.”

There will come a time in my kid’s lives when I will no longer be there for them and all they will have will be their memories of the times we had as father and son. I want my kids to remember the times with their father as if it were just minutes ago.

My kids are my life. They are what makes my heart beat. It pains me to think that one day my kids will be out on their own with their own family. Oh sure, I’ll have my loving wife by my side, but it just won’t be the same.

Never Forget is a story I felt had to be written and shared with everyone. If there’s a lesson to be learned from the story, it’s that life can be short in so many ways. People come and people go, especially the ones you love—so build those lasting memories and hold on to them. Never forget them.

BIO: Ron Chapman is a man of many hats, depending on the day. Some days he’s a construction worker, a pirate, or a swimming coach. He’s even tried his hand at being a doll and toy maker. He can even be found walking with the dead.Being a part time god isn’t bad either, creating worlds one moment then turning around and destroying, the next.

He also has a license to kill and will not hesitate to do so. You see… he’s a writer that loves to write horror stories and not just any run of the mill horror stories. He walks a thin line with his stories between being dark and twisted madness. He will take your nightmares and turn them into fantasies and dreams. There is no happily ever after in his stories but there are however, happy endings. Not the ones you would expect though. Beware, if you get on his wrong side he may just write you into a story and deal with you that way.

If you want to know more about this wild man, follow him on Twitter @RonMtDew and/or Instagram @Ronchapman69.

 

 

 

 

Indie Spotlight on Indie Author of Spiritual and Supernatural Fiction P.S. Winn

Journeys is the story of a young man who, because of a car wreck, has a near death experience. While Josh walked through that valley of the shadow of death, doorways opened. Arriving on the other side, Josh is told he has to return because an evil presence stepped through and made its’ way to earth and Josh’s hometown. Josh’s obligation is to find and destroy the evil. Josh returns and finds he was given some very unique gifts and two special friends to help him on his journey.

Writing – an Incredible Journey

When I began writing, trying to somehow preserve the words and ideas in my heart and floating in my head, I had no idea where it would lead. Now I have published fifty books in five years. One of the questions I am asked most is which book was my favorite to write. To me, that is like asking which of my seven children is my favorite. I love them all, but each has their own reason for being special. The same goes for the stories I write. The book I think took me on the most interesting journey is “Obligations.”

For me, there is a distinct link between the spiritual and the supernatural. That connection twists and weaves itself through many of the books I write.

I also think the books I write for preschoolers are important. Children who read do better in life. I have four books I hope instill the love of reading in young ones and also teach lessons that are essential.

The most important book I believe I have written is based on a true story. The man the story is about is an inventor who patented an invention that could burn garbage with no pollution and was creating an electrical charge in the process. The man, whose name had to be changed, wanted to clean our air while giving people cheap or free energy. Government bureaucrats with their big oil backers suppressed the idea and the man.

I wonder how many other great ideas have been silenced and how many important inventions suffered “Suppression” in the same way.

Although I love all my books, I give credit for the success I’ve had to the readers. Their vivid imaginations take the stories to new levels. A person who loves that journey of grabbing a book and sinking into the depths adds a different dimension. I think each reader sees the story a bit differently in their own minds. The story becomes personal to them and even better than I can imagine. The same reason the books are always better than the movies. The reader makes their own movie in their mind as they read and no two step away with the same pictures.

I believe, as a writer, I blend my own experiences into the stories I create. Along with that, I leave a piece of my heart, soul and life in each book. I think the reader does the same.

With each book, written and then read, that connection is what makes each book unique.

My health problems are making it harder for me to write. I write all the stories longhand before I struggle to type the words. That is beginning to be a bigger challenge to continue than I would like.

I hope with some innovative technologies and personal ingenuity I will produce more books. Maybe not another fifty in five years, but it is the sharing of the stories that float through my mind with readers that makes writing an incredible journey.

I have to thank my husband for his support, my children and grandchildren for input and believing in me. I have amazing friends, on-line and off who keep me going when I struggle. They are my life line and I am blessed to have them. Not only is writing an  incredible journey, but so is life.

P.S. Winn started writing when her husband had several heart attacks. He was told to move to a lower elevation. He wanted to go home to Montana and be by family. So, that is where they are now after spending thirty years in Utah.

P.S. is also an avid top ten reader on GoodReads and you can find the books she’s read and written there. If you would like to learn more about P.S. you can follow her on Facebook, join her Journeys Facebook group, and visit her GoodReads author page.

 

Indie Spotlight on Fantasy Author Mandy Jackson-Beverly

An ancient curse

A forgotten love

A painting with secrets only one woman can reveal

Coco Rhodes is surprised by a horrific vision beneath her most recent painting: the violent attack upon a fragile young girl. When a link is discovered between an education-finance fraud and several girls disappearing from Washington, D.C. schools, Coco’s lover and leader of the Allegiance, the vampire-warlock Gabriel, vows to rescue the girls, and topple a corrupt congressman. Concurrently, the dark and twisted past of Kenan, the Allegiance’s sworn enemy, is revealed. With Kenan’s whereabouts unknown, members of the Allegiance begin to unravel his sadistic plan.

From New York and D.C., to Tuscany and the Dolomite Mountains of Northern Italy, the supernatural guardians of the Allegiance are guided by both the lessons of history and the shocks of present-day life. Through magical twists and otherworldly subplots, this supernatural thriller weaves a web of intrigue, love, and conflict. In The Devil and the Muse, Coco’s sense of duty to the Allegiance is tested. But will protecting her loved ones cause her to sacrifice her humanity?

A Gift From David Bowie

During my earlier life as a costume designer and stylist, I was lucky enough to work with David Bowie, first as the costume designer for the music video for his song “Day In, Day Out,” and subsequently asked to join the crew as head of wardrobe for the Glass Spider tour in 1987. After turning down the opportunity of touring more than once, I finally accepted.

In retrospect, touring was not exactly the ideal situation for me to be in as I had recently become sober, and the lifestyle of being on the road 24/7 was not exactly harmonious with the emotional and physical turmoil one experiences during the first year of sobriety. It would not be until many years later that I would understand the relevance of this part of my life’s journey.

After a few months on the road in Europe, I decided that for my own health and well-being I needed to resign and head back to the familiarity of the city of angels. But the tour marked a turning point in my life; a seed was planted in my soul when we stayed just outside of Florence in a sanctuary called Villa La Massa.

Skip ahead thirty years…

While researching locations for The Creatives Series and searching for a lost stapler, I happened to open a drawer and pick up a bunch of old papers. As I went to stuff them all back where they belonged, something fell to the ground. I picked up the fallen paper and a flutter of recognition sparked my curiosity. It had been nearly twenty-six years since the Bowie tour, but time did not quell the host of images that flooded my mind. The paper in my hand was a brochure for a small luxury boutique hotel just outside of Florence: Villa La Massa.

As I stared at the photo on the front of the brochure, I remembered the sense of nostalgia I had experienced the moment I stepped off the tour bus and onto the path that led to the entrance of the sixteenth-century Italian villa, way back in June of ‘87. Standing in the foyer while waiting for my room allocation, protected by a border of arches, I had felt safe and happy. Making my way to my room along the third-floor open hallway, I looked down at the foyer. From this vantage point, the arches brought to mind a flower opening her petals to the Tuscan sun – a welcoming of sorts. I recalled the vivid baby blue tones of my room and the view from the attic window – the gardens that bordered the terrace, and the reflections mirrored upon the surface of the Arno River.

There are pieces of Villa La Massa woven into The Creatives Series, in particular, Antonia’s home in Florence, and Gabriel’s Tuscan villa outside of San Gimignano. Through a strange series of events I was drawn to another property in Tuscany called, Spannocchia, and this became the model for Gabriel’s villa. One look at the turret and I knew I needed to visit this place. My wish came true earlier this year and Spannocchia did not disappoint – complete with the snuffling sounds of wild boar lurking behind overgrown hiking trails!

Not a day goes by where I’m not grateful for the short time I spent working with David Bowie. He was the ultimate Creative – a sweet and sensitive man who loved to read and engage in philosophical conversations during long flights and family-style Italian dinners.

The purpose of a stapler is to bind things together. Although I never did find my missing stapler, I believe it more than adequately fulfilled its mission.

Mandy Jackson-Beverly is the author of A Secret Muse, and The Devil And The Muse; the first two books in The Creatives Series. Mandy is a contributor to The Huffington Post and a book reviewer for The New York Journal of Books. Her first novel, A Secret Muse, won first place in the fantasy section of the 2016 Beverly Hills Book Awards. Mandy has taught Advanced Placement Art, and previously worked as a costume designer and stylist for photographer Herb Ritts, and directors Joel and Ethan Coen, David Fincher, and Julien Temple, and music icons David Bowie, Madonna, and Tina Turner, to name a few. If you’d like to learn more about Mandy you can visit her website, follow her on Facebook, and Instagram.