Into the Catskills

Writing for a Y.A. Audience

I’m a huge history lover, so anything old has always sparked my interest.  I imagine that an old building can tell me the secrets of the past.  If I walk through its ancient doors, I’ll be transported back in time.  I’ll be able to experience everything that came before.

It hasn’t yet, but I’m still hoping.

One day I was bored, probably tired from work, and decided to look at abandoned buildings online.  I was scrolling through Pinterest and voila, there was a beautiful, crumbling resort.  The image showed an old pool.  Vines crept up broken windows and ferns fought their way through cracked cement.  It was beautiful and haunting.  I clicked to learn more, and discovered it was a resort from the Catskills.

daylight environment forest idyllic

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In their heyday (1920s through the 1960s), the Catskill Mountains were home to numerous fancy resorts.  People came from all over to experience the thrill of the mountains.  Many New Yorkers left the city to experience the calm of the country.  The popular movie, Dirty Dancing, takes place at a resort in the Catskills.

Overtime, interest waned.  From articles I read online, it seems that the readily people could travel on airplanes to distant wonderlands, the less they wanted to travel upstate.  There are still some resorts left and I hope to vacation there someday.  I must admit, though, the abandoned resorts fascinate me more than the ones still standing.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

While looking at more pictures of those abandoned resorts, a story idea came to me.  The world ends and the remains of civilization are holed up inside a crumbling hotel.  Thus was born my post-apocalyptic novella, BUNKER BOY.  If you decide to read it, let me know what you think!  I’d love to know if it has inspired you, too, to check out the old memories of the Catskills.beautiful blond young woman in black hood looking at camera

Jordan Elizabeth is a young adult fantasy author.  She is most likely gazing at something in awe, something she will soon include in one of her novels. You can connect with Jordan via her website, JordanElizabethBooks.com.


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Poetry For Yourself

The Many Faces of Poetry 2

 

Poetry For Yourself

Poetry has an odd position in the hierarchy of creative media. It’s too personal and intense to be an instrument of mass exposure. How many famous poets are there? Five? Ten? Who comes to mind? Mary Oliver. Of course.

So why do you write poetry? Asking that question is like asking “Why do you fall in love?” You just do…because the love is in you, wanting to get out. It’s a way of falling in love with yourself. Having created something beautiful, you sit back and think…”Oh..did I do that? Where did it come from? Did I channel it from some ethereal spirit?” Sometimes the poems we write seem to belong to independent spirits. They are alien and strange.

face in space with stars

Ghost voices grow

like weaving spires in the corridor of the night.

Stalactites of moonlight,

they hum and fade

through the wake of other minds.

A sheet of star rain glinting light,

a mist of moon- heat lost from sight

these spectral hints emerge

from the night floor in the dark.

Silver waving plants recede forever

in a song of twinkling echoes.

Ghost voices, shadow worlds

arise and converse

while my sleep waits beyond the hills,

listening.

 

If I wrote that it would be evidence that I am certifiably nuts. It must be read carefully, like drinking a fabulous milkshake one mouthful at a time.  Poetry can be a vessel for deadly serious topics, or it can offer room for comedy.

Shit

There’s shit on my shoes;

cat shit, dog shit, I hope that’s all shit.

Every step I take I risk stepping in shit:

Is this not life? There’s nothing wrong with shit.

We need it, like we need bugs

to nourish with its noxious stink the most natural growth.

This poo is for you, it says, as I wipe it off my shoe

with futile hope of avoiding my hands, then washing

again and again. How often in a day do I inwardly exclaim,

“Shit!”?

More than I would admit.

My mind is full of bricks, pies and purges.

Cats, dogs, owls, horses, all shit. People shit,

the cosmos excretes Dark Matter on these very shoes

which I try so hard to keep clean. Many are obsessed

with the minuscule taint of e.coli. Why should I bother to say

“Relax, we are exposed to e.coli and far worse

every day. We are sturdy,

knocking off shits and bugs heroic, undaunted

by the invisible stools of imagination?”. Instead I spread this blessing:

“You must be crazy in whatever way you want.”

Not every disease is preventable, nor is every affliction brought on board

by the shit on our shoes. When you stroke the cat, the dog, the horse

your hands investigate bacteria, resist infection.

After all, shit is the most common thing in the world.

 

 

I’ll be honest. “Shit” is one of the best poems I’ve ever written.  I think. I always feel that way about my latest poem.  It’s got rhythm and it makes people laugh.  What’s better than that?

I know, I’m taking up a lot of space, and I think I’ve posed enough questions. No matter how personal a matter is poetry, its importance is immense. It is filled with our most private introspection. If others read it, so much the better. I didn’t write these things to live in the dark. Some day they may find an audience. Meanwhile, I offer them for the pleasure of a small number of readers who may enjoy them.


A Midwesterner by birth, Arthur Rosch migrated to the West Coast just in time to be a hippie but discovered that he was more connected to the Beatnik generation. He harkened back to an Old School world of jazz, poetry, painting and photography. In the Eighties he received Playboy Magazine’s Best Short Story Award for a comic view of a planet where there are six genders. The timing was not good.  His life was falling apart as he struggled with addiction and depression. He experienced the reality of the streets for more than a decade. Putting himself back together was the defining experience of his life. It wasn’t easy. It did, however, nurture his literary soul. He has a passion for astronomy, photography, history, psychology and the weird puzzle of human experience. He is currently a certified Seniors Peer Counselor in Sonoma County, California. Come visit his blogs and photo sites. www.artrosch.com and http://bit.ly/2uyxZbv


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Jeff’s Pep Talk: Who Influences the Influencers?

Jeff's Pep Talk2

Who Influences the Influencers?

By Jeff Bowles

The first Wednesday of every month, science fiction and horror writer Jeff Bowles offers advice to new and aspiring authors. Nobody ever said this writing thing would be easy. This is your pep talk.

Are you an influencer? You might want to think about it a moment before you answer. In our culture, to influence is to make a big splash, to inform what individuals and groups value, how they think and interact. I’m an influencer because I’ve got a Mom and Dad, a wife, a brother, friends. I’ve had a huge impact on them, and it goes without saying, they’ve impacted me. We all influence each other, right? We can’t help it. If I know you and you know me long enough, we’ll start to get under each other’s skin. Science even suggests we’ll start to look alike, as terrifying as that sounds.

Human beings are the influential type. We’re social creatures, and usually, when one of us has trouble, there’s a whole baying wolf pack of supporters and naysayers coming up behind. One of the things I dislike most about our modern storytelling ecosystem is the fact writers today tend to favor death, tragedy, betrayal, all the nasty things in life. Whereas love, respect, loyalty, they seem to get left in the dust. So you’re a writer. You like to tell stories and communicate complex ideas that might otherwise mystify people. You’re an agent of truth, an avatar of righteous disclosure, and you need a clear mind and a firmly rooted foundation.

Enter the influencers. They come in all shapes and sizes. They can be that grade school teacher who first read you your favorite book. Or the acclaimed author who, after forty years of alcoholism, workoholism, and abject failure, produced that one brilliant novel that sets your soul singing every time you read it. You can be your own influencer, too. Who is it that forces you to sit down at the computer and write? Is it your work ethic? Where’d you pick that up? I’m an all-or-nothing guy, much more comfortable working in bursts and spurts. Also more likely to face periods of intermittent burnout because of it. But even I get uncomfortable when I’ve allowed myself to rest on my laurels too long. Knock me down, I get back up (eventually). Who influenced me to perform this way?

It may sound sappy, but I don’t believe people come into our lives by accident. I learned to work hard from my family. They taught me to laugh as well, which means my stories are par-boiled and strange as hell. I didn’t know I had talent until people close to me told me in no uncertain terms. Even as an adult, there have been those moments a special person has come out of nowhere and made me feel suddenly and delightfully valuable. A little encouragement goes a long way, right? And thank god for that.

But let’s not forget the negative influencers in our lives. The people who tell us we can’t, shouldn’t, mustn’t, that we’d never. Sometimes, especially when we’re just starting out, our naysayers seem more numerous than our supporters. I was an indie singer/songwriter until I turned twenty-three and decided I was a writer. Just about everyone in my life, my family, friends, even my fiancé, were puzzled by the sudden turnaround.

“Don’t you still want to do music on the side?” they asked, oblivious to the fact I might interpret their concern as doubt in my abilities.

I wasn’t born to write, not really, and neither were you. We worked at it, honed our abilities to finely pointed instruments of literary destruction. Sure, people like us have a natural aptitude for this sort of thing. But for crying out loud, my first completed short story was such a godawful mess I haven’t had the strength to look at it in all the years since. No, my family wasn’t super supportive of my choice. I think they wanted to be, but perhaps they didn’t know how. To say they were unequivocally negative about my chances wouldn’t be fair, but I was their golden boy when I had a guitar in my hands, something substantially less than that when I started cranking out sub-par stories. Like you do. Because we all have to crawl before we can crawl just a tiny bit faster.

Here’s the thing. I’m grateful for their doubt. I recognize now that if not for a little healthy adversity, there’s no way I’d be the writer I am today. Do you feel the same? Who influenced you? Who told you you could or couldn’t? You may be surprised to realize you needed both groups in equal measure. We never really know how bad we want something until it’s denied us. Ask any hard-case of unrequited love out there, it’s always so much more romantic when the answer is a resounding “no.”

I’ve got a brief writing exercise for you, a small motivational tool to unearth where you’ve been and help you ponder where you’d like to go. Write down the top ten people who have influenced you on your writing journey. Could be anybody, teachers, authors, loved ones. Now for each one, assign a numerical value from one to ten. Your high school language arts teacher, what was her name? She gets a seven because she’s the first person to compliment your out-of-the-box ideas. Tally up the final score for all ten influencers and answer one very simple question: did you do this alone?

No! Of course you didn’t. There were people ushering your progress the whole time, laughing at you, cheering you, doubting you, praising you. There were ghosts of old writers in all the books you collected, urging you to follow in their footsteps, to find truth in their work, such that it could be found. The sheer joy of the struggle, the artistic and cerebral strains, buoyed by hearts buoying hearts, the ability to sit down and craft a narrative that takes everything you are, were, believe, love, hate, condense it into chalky baby formula, slap it in the food processor, and then ka-blam! Gourmet word smoothies (literally speaking, of course).

It’s no small thing to think about these people from time to time. For so many of us, real support doesn’t manifest until we’ve been working for years and years. Imagine you were raised to go into business. Mom, Dad, I want to be a writer instead. Professors, Dean, sorry I’m leaving your wonderful but boring academic program. I’ve got the bug, you see, and there really is only one cure.

The older I get, the clearer it seems to me our desires don’t come to us by chance. Plenty of people try their hands at penning their first novel and never make it further than a chapter or two. So take for granted the fact that if the urge to create is so strong in you you’ve never been able to lay it down, obviously, much gratitude and respect, you are MEANT (that’s all caps, MEANT) to keep working. Saying nothing about MEANT to be super rich or super successful, MEANT to win awards, MEANT to change the world. No, simply MEANT to write, which is no small MEANT at all, thank you very much.

Do yourself a favor today and give some gratitude to all your many influencers. Without their love, support, disinterest, and bad advice, you wouldn’t be able to influence others in kind. Oh no, you didn’t think you were getting out of it that easy, did you? Of course you’re the biggest influencer of all. We don’t live in bubbled slip-space isolation, present state of geopolitical affairs notwithstanding. You never know who’ll come knocking on your door. That special individual may become the most important author of the millennium. Then again, they might just be a friendly guy or gal who needs a friendly pep talk and a kind word or two.

Don’t make your job harder, and don’t make them feel they should abandon theirs. Writers who make a point of discouraging others give me indigestion. Probably for the best, in the long and short of things. I never really listened to their sort anyway. Until next time, folks. Dream large. After all, if you don’t, who will?


Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The best of his outrageous and imaginative short stories are collected in Godling and Other Paint Stories, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, and Dark Moon Digest. Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars.

Check out Jeff Bowles Central on YouTube – Movies – Video Games – Music – So Much More!


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Writing for a YA Audience: Romance Darkly

Writing for a Y.A. Audience

My mom and uncle are obsessed with Westerns. They grew up watching Westerns and still make time for them every weekend. While watching a Western with my mom, I had the idea of writing a young adult Western…with a steampunk twist. I brainstormed a ranch with a family secret. Along came TREASURE DARKLY.

After the first draft, it was recommended I add in a romantic theme. Thus, Clark and Amethyst fell in love. It worked. I didn’t have to force them together. They were already best friends, and it flowed that they should develop romantic feelings for each other.

treasure darkly

Then came the challenging part. My first editor for the story wanted more romance.  I wasn’t a romance writer.  Sure, my main characters each had a love interest, but I wouldn’t call my early works romances.

I set out to read romance novels to get a feel for the genre. I read some young adult romances, some Harlequins, and then I discovered a love of paranormal romance. I devoured those and wanted more. Eventually, I felt ready to write my own romance.

Young adult romances are tricky. Some people don’t want any sex in YA novels; some people say its okay. I struggled with that fine line before firmly stepping onto the “no sex” side. Yes, the book does get a bit steamy, but there is never explicit sex.

“But teens already know everything about sex,” I’ve been told.

Okay, that might be the case, but it doesn’t mean every young adult book has to contain graphic sex scenes. I want my books to be more about the adventure and setting than erotica.

man and woman embracing each other

Photo by Anderson Weiss on Pexels.com

Jordan Elizabeth is a young adult fantasy author who dapples in the steampunk realm.  You can connect with Jordan via her website, JordanElizabethBooks.com.


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Jeff’s Pep Talk: Back in the Saddle

Jeff's Pep Talk2

Back in the Saddle

By Jeff Bowles

The first Wednesday of every month, science fiction and horror writer Jeff Bowles offers advice to new and aspiring authors. Nobody ever said this writing thing would be easy. This is your pep talk.

If you’ve been following the Pep Talk, you know I’m big on writers cutting themselves some slack. Burnout kills creativity and breeds writer’s block. So while I’ve always been a fan of the idea that we need to keep working in order to evolve, grow, and succeed, I’m incredibly cognizant of the ever-present reality most writers hit a wall every now and then, and that it’s okay to admit and even embrace that.

Now, a bit of an admission. The past two years or so, I’ve been struggling to rebound from my own slowdown. This decade has been intense for me, particularly on the creative front. I went from earning my MFA in a very hard and fast environment, to publishing short stories at a fairly decent rate, to suffering some unfortunate circumstances in my personal life, to not writing a single word for several years.

Really, this has been the worst burnout phase of my life. I’m in my mid-thirties now, so it stands to reason that ten years of working, practicing, and publishing finally caught up with me. Furthermore, we can’t stop living very human lives under very human circumstances. If I hadn’t experienced such a shake-up on a personal level, I might have been able to keep working. But things being what they were…

So this Pep Talk is not about showing yourself some love when you’re slowing down. It’s about being eager and ready when you’re speeding back up. I recently started a new writing project, a novel, and I’m pleased to report I’m about 9,000 words in. If that doesn’t sound like much of an achievement to you, it’s probably because you’re a hard-nosed writer who puts in your time, come rain or shine. And before my productivity started to drop off, I was right there with you. But the truth is we all need a break sometimes. All of us. Actually, very often life forces us to take breaks, and we can bemoan, resist, and condemn them, but it doesn’t change the fact that a career in the publishing industry is—in its most ideal form—a long-term project. As such, detours are something of an obligation.

For several years on end, my average yearly wordcount was around 120,000. And that was after a few years of maybe 75,000 to 100,000 words. Really, I was ramping up to something big. I’m a short story guy with some long-form publications in the indie realm. Not precisely a best-seller, but not a newbie either. And as I said, grad school was intense. I think a lot of people who go after an MFA have a similar experience, right on down to needing time off after graduation. The sad and torrid fact of the matter is I haven’t attempted a book-length project since I completed my thesis novel four years ago. That’s a huge dry spell for me, so I’ll take that nice 9,000-word head start, thank you very much.

If being kind to yourself in the face of writer’s block is about realizing you’re not a story machine (no matter how much you want to be), booting up your systems after some downtime requires acknowledging any fears or insecurities that might come up. It’s scary getting back in the saddle, or at least it can be. It’s also pretty exciting, isn’t it? Maybe, like me, you started wondering if you’d ever be productive again. Am I finally done with this whole writing thing? Where are my abilities?! Why don’t I feel like telling stories!? WHY, GOD, WHY!?

Got a flair for the dramatic? Well step right up, ‘cause this next one could be a doozy: in almost any case, we need to be able to accept the fact we might be rusty. Now I took a break of a few years, but I’ve known authors who went ten, fifteen, or twenty, and who were startled to encounter really crummy writing on their part. I know, it’s disappointing. Turns out none of us is a miracle worker. So a little piece of advice, maybe start slow, a short story or two. Heck, start writing blog posts or flash fiction or maybe even try your hand at a new genre, like creative nonfiction or poetry. That’s actually a good place to start. Writing truth is, in my experience, almost always easier than writing fiction. The point is you need a jumping on point, something you can sink your teeth into that doesn’t require you to … well, break your damn teeth.

And respect yourself enough to know when it’s time to work and when it’s not. Again, I really do appreciate the workhorse model of writing. That’s how the beast feeds itself. It’s the lifeblood of what we do. I just think it’s a bit self-deluded and unkind to think you can go on like that forever. Maybe some of us can, but for the majority, it does no good to crash and burn. Don’t knock yourself for it, man. And don’t let colleagues or friends and family make you feel bad or lazy or lost.

When it’s time to get back to work, it’s time. You’ll know you’re ready because—hey, here’s a nice big no-brainer for you—you’ll actually feel like it. Don’t push yourself too hard too soon. It’s a pretty organic process when it comes down to it. You can’t get blood from a stone, though I’m sure if you hit yourself in the head enough times with said stone blood would ensue. Never imagine yourself to be something you aren’t, a literary god, born of good fortune and the primal mud from which warriors emerge, Achilles of the word processor, Odysseus of plot structure and acute character psychology. Nah, you’re just a humble guy or gal who likes to crank out some good writing every now and then. Maybe you thought this day would never come. How do you feel now that it has?

I believe that life is almost always a matter of two steps forward, one step back. It’s how we progress as human beings. So two steps forward, one step back, two steps forward: hey look, the math checks out. You’re one step ahead of where you were last time. It’s like a Jacob’s ladder, right? You zig left, zag right, but you’re always climbing higher. Don’t feel like writing today? Consider, if you will, investing in some fun. Watch a few old movies that always manage to inspire you. Read a good book. Listen to some music, or try your hand at painting, sculpting, songwriting, video production, anything that engages your creativity and that doesn’t have all that unbearable weight built up behind it.

This is a fun job. Remember that. It’s fun. We get to tell stories and entertain people with our words. If you’ve been at this a while, and you’ve done silly things before, like attempting to quit but finding it quite impossible, then consider the possibility you’re meant for this life. You shouldn’t shirk being meant for something. Any way you slice a lifelong love affair, it’s fate, my friends. It’s kismet. Maybe you aren’t a literary god, but rest assured, the real gods up on Mount Word-lympus have plans for you that go back eons. One last time, do however much you actually feel you can do, and get excited about the prospects. If, lord forbid, you someday end up in a terrible driving, skying, skydiving, or rogue spelunking accident, you’re going to want a surgeon who can put you back together with slow and steady hands. Do yourself a favor and be that surgeon for your writing.

Until next time, everybody. The straightest line between two points is … wait, you guys are using straight lines?!  So that’s why my writing is so crooked.


Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The best of his outrageous and imaginative short stories are collected in Godling and Other Paint Stories, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, and Dark Moon Digest. Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars.

Check out Jeff Bowles Central on YouTube – Movies – Video Games – Music – So Much More!


Writing for a YA Audience: Hyde Hall

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My mother and I are obsessed with visiting historical destinations.  On our way to the heart of Cooperstown, NY, we passed a sign for Hyde Hall.  Our curiosity got the best of us and we investigated this Hyde Hall.  It turned out to be a British-American country house first constructed in 1817 that you could tour.  Just what we wanted!

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Winding, back country roads took us to a beautiful gatekeeper’s cottage like something from a Regency Romance.  Luscious green yards stretched out to overlook a glimmering lake.  1002476_10201474543922911_1529264417_n

We parked, paid our fees, and a tour guide walked us to the stone house.  Columns supported a balcony and chimneys reached for the cloudless sky.  Stepping inside revealed partly furnished rooms left over from a different time and a differed lifestyle.

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One room led into another into another… I could have stayed all day in the library.  Actually, I could have moved in!

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The deeper into the house you go, you encounter rooms lost to decay.  They have yet to be repaired, giving the house an air of being lost.  It was at this point in the tour that we learned the house is supposedly haunted and was featured on Ghosthunters in 2013.  That was such an added bonus for me, the ghost fanatic.  Unfortunately – or fortunately – we didn’t see any ghosts, but some rooms, the nursery in particular, gave off the feeling of being wanted, as if little hands reached for you to play with them.

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Touring Hyde Hall reminded me of the Gothic novels I loved to read.  Combined with the want of living in a stone mansion this grand inspired me to write SECRETS OF BENNETT HALL.  The characters are all inventions of mine, but I pictured Hyde Hall as I wrote about Bennett Hall.  The lake of Bennett Hall is much further away – a bit of forest serrates it from the fictional mansion – whereas Glimmerglass Lake is close enough to Bennett Hall that you can see it from the massive windows.

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If only I could be like Adelaide and move into Hyde Hall to be a governess…but without the secrets and lies!

Secrets of Bennett Hall - cover

Jordan Elizabeth is a young adult fantasy author.  If you’re looking for her in the evenings, most likely you will find her with a Gothic novel in hand.  You can connect with Jordan via her website, JordanElizabethBooks.com.

Want to be sure not to miss any of Jordan’s Writing for a YA Audience segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress.


The Writing Process: You’ve Got a Story Idea, Now What?

Ask the Authors (Round 2)

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This is the first segment of Ask the Authors (Round 2), and the topic of discussion is, as if you couldn’t guess from the title, the writing process. You can meet each of our panel members in my introductory post from last week. For those of you who didn’t catch the first round of Ask the Authors, here’s how this series works. Our panel members are published authors and they offer their answers to my questions on the topic each week. If one of their answers piques other questions for you, please leave your questions in the comments, and we will respond to them in the final segment, or sometimes indivual panel members may respond to you directly on the blog. (It has happened.) The point being that comments are welcomed and even encouraged.

The writing process. Hmmm. Let’s see. That could encompass a lot of different things, from inspiration and developing an idea into a story, to pre-writing activities, to plotting, to everything that comes right up to setting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard. It can include rituals to get into the writing zone, or how we set atmosphere before we begin.

There is no right or wrong to this, and every author does things differently. There is no secret recipe or magic potion that garuntees a good book will result from your efforts. What works for some may not work for others. With that said, we have fourteen authors who have taken the time to answer some of our questions regarding the writing process and what works for them. Lets find out what they have to share.

Why do you write?

DeAnna Knippling
deannak I’ve always had a calling for reading and telling stories.  I briefly considered going into computer programming or psychology, but I really don’t have the patience for either.
As my daughter approaches college age, I watch her taking on different ideas about what she wants to do with her life.  I’m starting to think that people should find a job that uses the skills they spend a ton of time on when they’re bored.  My boredom skills are daydreaming, what-if-ing, people watching, and exploring.
Mark Shaw 
MarkAtSFTS (1)  To make readers stop and think about important issues.
Mark & Kym Todd
Todds - Copy Depends on who we’re writing to. We both write for love but also for money. For love, it’s when we have an idea in our heads that won’t shut up until we write it down. If we’re lucky that might fit something we decide to submit on spec. For money, it’s often service journalism and then the deadline determines when we write and when we’re done.
Ashley Fontainne
Ashley Fontainne Like a lot of girls, I kept a journal/diary when younger, detailing my hopes, dreams, pain, and fears. I found writing poetry came naturally and helped me release pent-up emotions. The same is true today in my writing, which allows me the opportunity to share with an audience things I hold near and dear to my heart.
Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil Mainly because I enjoy it. There are so many stories running through my head that writing gives me an outlet to share them.

Art Rosch

Art 2001 I have no choice. My mind is analogous to a cow’s udder.  It fills every day with words and I have to milk it or I go insane. This insanity takes the form of depression, anxiety and the delusion that I am a nuclear submarine commander. So…as  you may perceive, writing is imperative.  I am forced to write or my brain will burst like an udder that has not been milked for weeks. I assure you, it’s very painful.
The preceding paragraph is a joke, I confess. I was born an artist who uses music, photography, words and dance to produce material that, if fortune smiles, will confer fame upon me, albeit most likely after I’m dead. I’ve examined this drive all my life and I’ve come to a few conclusions. One is that I have a strong desire for attention. I want to be noticed by other people. When I was young I thought that attention was the same thing as love. It’s not. Love brings a much higher form of emotional pleasure than mere attention.
Still, it’s essential to get attention if you want to attract readers to your work. In a world populated by seven billion people it’s difficult to get people’s attention without committing a heinous crime or running naked through the Guggenheim Museum shouting “All Whores Are In Heaven!” I don’t want to do either of these things.
That leaves me with social media as my vehicle for gaining attention. I’m a complete flop at using social media. For more than a decade I’ve been spending huge swathes of time haunting the pages of Twitter, Facebook, Zifflenook, Instagrab and Crapchat. No matter how much time I spend posting interesting content, my numbers remain anemic. I have never broken a thousand Twitter followers. I’m serious! I’ve noticed that buffoons and cretins of every stripe are capable of attracting hundreds of thousand of followers. My highest Twitter following was nine hundred sixty two. My platform is made of popsicle sticks. One of my favorite tweets is this: “If you aren’t crazy there must be something wrong with you.” Still, no retweets, no Favorites, nada. I admit that I’m crazy. Therefore I must be okay.
Cynthia Vespia
colorheadshot - Copy I write for the joy of telling stories. I’ve been creative my entire life and without using that creativity in some manner life just seems dull. Building worlds and developing characters that I bring to life on the page, that resonate with readers, that’s why I write.
Jordan Elizabeth
Jordan I write because I have to. The stories keep pummeling me all day until I can finally sit down to get them all out.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture I blame that on my mother. She read fascinating fairy tales to me as a child, and they must have tickled a writing bone somewhere. If I’m not writing, I’m reading.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre Gratification.

For a long time, I wrote posts on Facebook that were like very short little vignettes, and they were pretty well received. People kept telling me I should write a book. Eventually I did, and without getting into too much detail, I learned this is something I can do – and do well. Not everyone can. Something like 80% of Americans want to write a book and never do. The ones who start, most of them don’t finish. The ones who finish, most of them don’t get it published. So I realized I was in a unique position to do something that most people would like to do and probably would never do, but also the people who read what I wrote found it really entertaining and they wrote me letters to tell me that – and that was very satisfying.

Once I did that for a while, I wanted to try different things to see if I was any good at them. So I wrote a time travel adventure story (The Navigators) and I wrote a romance (Poggibonsi) and a paranormal mystery (An Angel On Her Shoulder) and children’s books (The Zombunny series, Stinky Toe, Laguna the Lonely Mermaid)… I recently was invited to be part of a 20 book anthology with a bunch of New York Times and USA Today bestselling authors, so I had to write a murder mystery (Double Blind) for that. My critique partners say it’s my best work to date! So in the ensuing years from my first book to now, I learned a lot and my writing has improved, but it’s still about reaching out to one person and trying to entertain them. Connecting. And so I write because I feel like I have stories to tell and they’re worth telling, but it’s just a way to entertain and I like it.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman I write for mainly for the pure enjoyment that I get from putting together a story that my readers enjoy. I also write for my own pleasure and the stress release that I get from writing. As a fiction writer, I can escape from the reality of every day life and relax in the world and characters that I create.


My Muse

By Kaye Lynne Booth

 

My muse is always trying to inspire in every way.

She dances and sticks out her tongue, enticing me to play.

She knows just what inspires me

And she tries to make me see

A world that’s filled with beauty, everywhere I go.

Inspiration is all around, my muse does surely know.

 

On days when I am feeling down or am busy as can be

I don’t always take the time to see what she wants me to see.

By the time I’m ready to be inspired,

Of this game, she has grown tired.

She may be sulking in the corner, or in the other room

Seeking inspiration, she might be staring at the moon.

 

Listening to my muse is the wisest choice, I’ve learned.

She knows how to stir the inspiration, which within me burns.

The miracles of nature; a flower or a bird

Are brought to my attention, but she never says a word.

She shows me how the morning dew, on the grass does glisten

She fills my head with great ideas, if I will only listen.

 

Where does your inspiration come from? What can you tell us about your muse?

DeAnna Knippling
deannak I was unsure of my muse for a long time. I’ve heard other writers talk about that, but in different terms.  “I don’t know what to write.” “This story isn’t working and it doesn’t really feel like me.” That kind of thing. But I’ve taken the time to really sort through what connects me to a story, and it’s simpler than I thought it was: in order for the inspiration to flow, I have to find a way to care about the things going on in the story.  I kept trying to force myself to write things that I didn’t really feel connected to, or that I didn’t have strong feelings about. I care about a lot of things, but somehow I was managing to find a million story ideas that I didn’t care about, and stories kept dying as my muse helpfully derailed my imagination in order to work on something–anything–that I did care about.
When I have feelings about a story, then it takes off, and I hardly notice the effort of writing it. Thinking won’t really get me anywhere in a story. It has to be driven my emotion.
Mark Shaw
MarkAtSFTS (1) With The Reporter Who Knew Too Much about Dorothy Kilgallen and Denial of Justice, the follow-up book to be published In November, she was my muse, my inspiration, my guiding light leading me to details about her life and time and her mysterious death.
Mark & Kym Todd 
Todds - Copy We both come from journalism backgrounds, so we learned a long time ago not to count on inspiration to carry us through. For our last project, which was a creative nonfiction book, the publisher gave us a one-year turn-around deadline for street release. (Our muse was more of a harpy in that instance, but we got it done on time.)
Ashley Fontainne
Ashley Fontainne I draw most of my inspiration for a story from real events. All it takes is one little spark and the wildfire of words follows!
Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil My husband. He is the perfect idea man. And his ideas take me outside of my comfort zone and allow me to venture into different genres.

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy I don’t use the term Muse. I get inspiration from ideas which are all around me. Snips of conversation, a quote, a name, those can all spark what we call a “plot bunny” that I either develop or it falls to the side.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan Most of my inspiration comes from dreams. I wake up in the morning, think back to the wild adventures of the night, and know what my next book is going to be about. I also draw inspiration from real life. Something will happen and I just stop to blink. Yes, that would be perfect for a novel.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture Inspiration has come from many areas. Dreams come to mind. When I’m not dreaming about the military, I have some real doozies. Aliens, UFOs, and spaceships filtering into my dreams will give me many plots. TV is another inspiration. I’m sure all of us remember The Equalizer. One episode featured a young boy with AIDS living with his grandmother, and the local rednecks wanted them out. After harassing them, the boy calls Robert McCall, thinking he is his comic book hero. That episode sparked a three-novelette story arc. I wondered why the pulp magazines never had a hero that protected children. The Masked Avenger was born after that episode.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre My inspiration comes from all kinds of places. Hmm… that’s not really helpful, is it? They say that there are 20 good story ideas around us every day and a good author will see two or three of them. I think that’s right. I think if you are looking for things to inspire you, they will. But I also think there’s a lot of hard work that forces a person to sit down and write every day whether they feel like it or not, because atrophy is real and writers block is real for some people, and the more you let things affect you, the more they will affect you. If you instead say, “I’m just gonna muscle on through,” you learn a certain discipline that really helps you find more inspiration.

So my strength has always been prolific and being able to find what’s funny or unique in the normal situations that we are all extremely familiar with, so that my reader finds themselves suddenly turned on their head over things that they that are commonplace to them.

As far as a muse… Well, it’s like this. I believe several things make a story really powerful. Being able to bare your soul and put it on the page – that will allow your pain or love or passion or whatever, to connect with the reader. I actually think we even choose different types of words and different sentence structures when we are emotionally “in” the mood the scene needs. The word choice somehow seems to carry the spirit on the page and converts to the reader. You want to write to one person, so that he or she gets it; then everything else seems to fall in place. It’s a way of being disciplined and not trying to do as Vonnegut warned: don’t open the window to make love to the whole; you’ll only catch pneumonia.

I write to one person. That’s my muse.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman I often joke that if I knew where the ideas came from I would turn off the tap. In all seriousness though, I love that my mind is so active that my imagination can be sparked from any number of things. I shake my head that my two little girls (3 and 5) enjoy watching a particular movie again and again, and then suddenly I’m hanging out the washing and a whole new story idea drops into my head based on a retelling of a Disney classic. Sometimes my muse can be my fellow authors, they approach me with a story idea that would be fun to explore for an anthology and then I find myself with the story half written in my head before I can blink. I then have to find the time to sit down and write. My readers themselves can be my muses. They ask me questions about the characters that I write about, “what would they do if…”; “What would happen….” And then I find myself exploring those ideas further and my stories evolve, and my series grows with bonus content.


Research is a part of the pre-writing activities for most authors, whether it is historical research for setting or time period, traveling to location in order to write about it, or people watching to observe behavior. It can be reading all the works of a given author in order to immulate their writing style, immersing oneself in a culture or subculture or digging deep to uncover the facts for a nonfiction work. 

What kinds of writing do you do and what types of research are required?

DeAnna Knippling
deannak I mainly write fiction. Most of my research is reading a book on some subject before I start the story, or even as I’m writing the story. I used to be really intimidated by having to do research, but I decided to make a habit of reading more nonfiction that I found interesting, just completely outside of the need to research something for a story. I used to rarely get around to nonfiction, despite having good intentions to do so. Now nonfiction books are in my regular rotation. Somehow this has made me more comfortable with research in general.
I’ve also made a habit of doing more research just because I’m curious. If someone makes a comment like, “And that’s why Benjamin Franklin had a different lover in every zip code,” then I have permission to go, “When did ZIP codes get invented anyway?” and I’ll go find out. (ZIP codes were first used in 1963, although there were postal zones for large cities in the U.S. starting in 1943. So, Ben Franklin didn’t have a different lover in every zip code. I’m not sure why the person made that comment in the first place, because the comment thread was about something else entirely.)
I’ve given into my inner nerd in general; specific research seems to be categorically easier when you practice your research skills in general. Or something.
If I’m writing nonfiction about writing advice (which I often do on my blog), then I’ll often test the theories involved on other writers. “Does this even make sense? How would you do it?” Sometimes that stirs up trouble with people strongly disagree with me, though!
Mark & Kym Todd
Todds - Copy Even for fiction, we generally situate our stories in realistic locations and try to maintain enough verisimilitude in our world-building so reader’s don’t shatter their willing suspension of disbelief. That means we spend time researching and fact-checking the plausibility of our scenarios. Our novel All Plucked Up quickly developed into a story that needed a protagonist who was an antiquities black market con artist, which we knew nothing about. But we soon became knowledgeable about this (appalling yet fascinating) racket.
Ashley Fontainne
Ashley Fontainne How much, if any, research I conduct depends upon the story. For example, I did extensive research for my post-apocalyptic series yet nary a search for other books.
Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil The genres that I mainly write in are historical, contemporary and erotic romance. I’ve dabbled in fantasy and want to do more of it. Depending on the story, my research is extensive. I read a lot about the topic, watch movies and documentaries that pertain to that particular subject matter.

Art Rosch 

Art 2001 Every writer should be…no..MUST be…a psychologist. I don’t mean a shrink or doctor, I mean a keen observer of human nature. When sci fi writer Philip K. Dick was asked what he wrote about he had a concise response. “I write about two subjects,” he said.  “I write about what is real, and I write about what is human.” That pithy reply has guided me since I first read it many years ago. Whatever the genre, whether I’m writing fantasy, science fiction or literary fiction, I’m always writing about people. I write about their behavior and their motivations. I write about the secrets they keep and the fears that dominate their lives.

My research begins with myself. My own behavior has been like a laboratory experiment. The genres of fantasy and science fiction draw me repeatedly to the creation of new worlds and the testing of new concepts. I’ve been using myself as a research subject since I began to behave in ways that I perceived as abnormal. I didn’t think that taking LSD at age sixteen was abnormal. I thought it was a reasonable response to a world gone mad. I grew up in the aftershocks of World War Two. I grew up viewing images of concentration camps, charnel houses and smudges that were once people before they were vaporized by atomic bombs. I didn’t think I was crazy to take risks with my fragile mind using powerful drugs.

I only began to think I was crazy when I started to eat vast quantities of food when I wasn’t hungry. I was suffering from bulimia. In the late sixties this wasn’t in the vocabulary of psychiatric afflictions.  There was no awareness of eating disorders. I had a monstrous eating disorder that lasted several years and still hangs on with vestigial persistence. I knew that something was wrong with me. I looked for help, but couldn’t find help that didn’t resemble control and imprisonment. I read Freud, Jung, James Hillman, Alice Miller and Heinz Kohut. I read obscure occultists and classic Buddhist literature. I read everything on the subject of Consciousness. It seemed like the most important subject to study.

I also did more conventional research. When I was creating the world of my fantasy novel, The Shadow Storm, I read about The Balkans, Albania, Russian history and the civil wars in Yugoslavia. By this time I had the Internet, a vast magic trove of information. Got a question? Ask the internet, the ultimate research tool.

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy I write mostly urban and high fantasy, but I have different genres cross through the threads of each novel…it just happens that way, I don’t plan it. Any research I do would be based on a specific story. For instance, alot of the work I’ve been doing lately revolves around advanced weaponry so I’ve been researching alot of sci-fi and fantasy movies, books, and TV shows to see what others have come up with for example. Also, you’d be surprised what’s already in R&D in the real world!

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan Most of my writing involves a fantasy setting, so I don’t tend to do research when working on one of those manuscripts. I do write some historical fiction, and I’m obsessed with research then.  I don’t want anything to be inaccurate (if I can help it).  When I’m done with a piece of historical fiction, I try to find people who are into that time period to read it for anything that seems off.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture As a pulp magazine collector I have read all the hero pulps. While writing for ALTUS PRESS, the publisher asked me to collect all my research into half a dozen books. They became some of my best selling books. I also wrote Intros and Forwards for ALTUS PRESS books, plus I wrote fiction stories for the publisher while doing my research into the pulp magazines. Remember, my wife and I had published a pulp hobby magazine for the 22 years, so I had plenty of data on hand.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre I write everything, and I research as much as is required for the book I’m writing, but a lot of that research has kind of been going on my whole life. For example, figuring out how to tell a joke to a group of friends, they’re your friends, so they kind of know your sense of humor – and you know what makes them laugh. Writing a scene so that a joke turns out funny to a reader who has never met you and doesn’t know your sense of humor, and you don’t know theirs – that requires a lot more in the product development phase of the writing!

When you write a detective story, you have to research what kind of guns detectives carry, and how they check their clip to see how many bullets they have before they kick in a drug dealer’s door, that kind of thing. But, while that is important, that’s not as important as caring about the characters. And that’s what I say is the lifelong study thing. Why did you care what happened to Harry Potter? Why did people care that Oliver’s heart was breaking at the end of Love Story? Why was it tragic that Leonardo DiCaprio drowned at the end of Titanic? You had to care about those characters or nothing else mattered. So part of that is your lifelong experience, what you care about and how you convey that to someone you’ve never met. How do you do that? Practice. You bare your soul, and you put it on the page, and you put it out there with the full expectation that everyone in the world might laugh at you – but you summon the courage to do it anyway. Some of the best stories in the world never make it out of the desk drawer. Writers swallow hard and show that intensely personal piece of themselves again and again and again, until the next thing you know, people are telling you that something you wrote changed their life. Which is freaking awesome.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman I write paranormal romance and historical romance. I’ve also touched on other genres by working with others in anthologies. My Unexpected series involves vampires, wolves and faeries. My research for this series included looking into the history of Rome and setting the “birth” of my wolf nation within the whole myth of Romulus and Remus, the twins suckled by the she-wolf Lupa, who later went on to be the founders of Rome. My vampires are set within ancient Egypt and their many gods. I like to bring in an element of ‘this could totally be true!’

My research also falls into the mundane of simply seeing what trees and other fauna are indigenous to the area my story is set.


Which writing groups do you belong to? What are their benefits to you?

DeAnna Knippling
deannak I belong to Pikes Peak Writers, which is the writing group that I “came up” in. They took me out of being a baby writer into a writer, if that makes sense. I got to meet my first ‘Real Writers’ and listen to them talk about what they did and how, and just to grasp that they were people and not mythological figures. I gained a lot of basic knowledge there and always end up meeting new people at their events.
I also have a group that I started on my own, called Colorado Tesla Writers, which is a networking group for science fiction, fantasy, and horror writers. I got jealous of romance writers and mystery/crime writers having their own groups, and SF/F/H writers kind of just meeting each other only by chance. It turns out to be a great way to force myself to get out of the house and hang out with people, which, if you’re a freelancer, gets to be an issue after a while. People still keep going, so I still keep doing it.
I’m also in a few other writer groups that are mainly on Facebook or Yahoo groups, that are just general information sharing groups on various topics. I’m not sure how writers get by without staying involved with a variety of other groups. The gossip network is pretty vital in this business.
Jordan Elizabeth
Jordan I belong to groups on Facebook and in the past (as in before my current day job), I was into CritiqueCircle.com. I enjoy connecting with other authors and sharing experiences. I’ve learned marketing methods I never would have considered.
RA Winter
RA Winter I joined Scribophile.com a few years ago while looking for feedback on a novel. I browsed other sites but Scrib blew me away. Over time, I’ve gained friends, colleagues, and collaborators. Scrib has a sense of community where authors connect with like-minded individuals with one goal in mind- the best product an author can produce. The forums provide a vast amount of knowledge, resources, and experienced authors’ input.
The amount of support I’ve received from the community, and especially the Uber group, continues to amaze me. Uber focuses on the craft in small contained groups. Different readers point out aspects of my writing and search for those pesky little flaws that derails a good novel. My stories are read from start to finish by the same people, whether it is at the Alpha or Beta stage. The plot, setting, characters, arcs, and prose are broken down and taken apart, providing me with the opportunity to build the best story for my skill level, knowledge, and research.
I recommend every author or aspiring writer join a writing group. I’m partial to the Scribophile family because that’s what it is to me. And gasp! I’ve met a few of the authors. They are just as wonderful in person as they are on the internet.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture My wife and I started a writer’s group in town, most of the members were retired teachers, and the majority wanted to write poetry. I could handle that, no problem. What I didn’t like was the attitude of the members. The writing group was something they came to if there was nothing else going on. We tried to make them understand that writers needed to be dedicated to the craft, but so many meetings consisted of just my wife and me. We finally quit and turned the group over to another member, but it didn’t last long. Unfortunately, where I live doesn’t have good pickings. Let’s face it a turtle crossing the yard is more interesting than the writer’s club.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre This is gonna sound bad, but I don’t belong to any writing groups. I used to belong to an online critique group, and I learned a lot there and met some good writers there, so I asked those people to work with me and left the group. I kind of outgrew the group, and I really felt like I was doing a lot of teaching and not a lot of learning after a while. But that may just be arrogance on my part.

Since then, some very impressive bestselling authors have come to me to critique their stories, and they critique mine, and we kind of have our own little group. I would say there are three or four people who, if they read and like my story, everybody in the world is going to read and like my story. If you can belong to a writing group and draw some benefit from that, terrific. That works for you. That didn’t really work for me after a brief period (although you could say in a sense I just created my own writing group) and the biggest difference is, we in my group know all the basic stuff, so we don’t waste time teaching each other the rookie stuff to avoid or fix. We are pushing each other to keep going to the next level. We’re not worried about hurting feelings or anything, we are worried about trying to write great stories.

There are benefits to being in a writing group, though, and the biggest one is this: by pointing out how other people need to improve their stories, you will develop a sharp eye to help you make yours to be better. For that reason alone, it’s worth it to join a writing group. Online or in person, you’ll figure out what the garbagey comments are, and you’ll learn to dismiss those, and you learn to seek out the people who aren’t just giving you undue praise but who are actually trying to help you become a better writer.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman I am a follower of Booksgosocial and try to remain an active participant within their regular blog tours and newsletter content sharing programs. I am also actively involved with a newly established Hybrid Publishing company and enjoy the interaction that comes from discussing not only our craft, but elements of our every day life. I’ve found myself with a support network of people happy to share my posts and retweet me on social media. They also share in my celebrations and support me in my endeavours.


Do you belong to any writing forums? Tell us what their value is.

DeAnna Knippling
deannak I don’t use ’em. I just lurk in FB groups. Writing forums seem like an invitation for “experts” to harass other writers in order to feel good about not getting any actual writing done. I may just be bitter after a couple of bad experiences with online writing forums. But that was a long time ago, and people may have learned from mistakes in order to build something better by now.
Ashley Fontainne
Ashley Fontainne At one time I was a member of a few online groups yet found the entire “online” community too impersonal.

A professor of mine once said, “You should read at least 100 books a year to get a good idea for your genre.” Author and Freelance Writer De Anna Knippling claims to like to read at least 100 books in any genre before trying to emulate it in her own writing.


How much do you read? What do you like to read?

DeAnna Knippling
deannak Hey, that’s me! I’m shooting for 200 books this year. I’m already pretty close, but some of those are graphic novels and manga. I’m strongly of the opinion that if you don’t like to read, you’re going to have disadvantages as a writer. You won’t know how stuff gets done with the written word, you won’t know what expectations you’re meeting or missing in a genre, and you won’t know what kind of writing you really, truly love.  That doesn’t leave you with a big toolbox for writing different types of stories. You can really end up writing yourself in a rut, especially in series, if you’re not packing in a variety of stories.
I’ve been reading a lot of books to catch up on areas where my reading is thin or inconsistent. A lot of what I’ve really been enjoying lately are more literary reads with a dark sense of humor. The Round House by Louise Erdrich, After the Apocalypse by Maureen F. McHugh, The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemison, Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edogawa Rampo, and Double Indemnity by James M. Cain have been recent favorites.
Something to think about:  I have friends on Goodreads who read a book a day or more. You probably wouldn’t believe me if I told you how many books they read. Some of them are disabled and reach out to the world through books. Books are their lifeline.
Mark Shaw 
MarkAtSFTS (1) During the past year or so, my reading has been restricted due to completing three books. When I am able to read, mysteries are a favorite genre.
Mark & Kym Todd
Todds - Copy We’re both avid readers, and always have a couple books going on the side at the same time. Fortunately, our pleasure reading usually coincide with our genre-writing habits, so we treat that as market research and a way to keep a handle on what’s trending. A hundred books? No way, but we do each read about a book a week. Mark likes hard(-science) SF, and Kym likes adventures, and we both love mysteries and noir (which we don’t write).
Ashley Fontainne
Ashley Fontainne As a wife, mother, employee, and writer, my free time is nonexistent, yet when I snatch a few minutes here and there, I read from many genres except erotica.
Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil Oh, I easily read 100+ books a year. But I can’t read when I am in writing mode. It just doesn’t work for me.

Art Rosch

Art 2001 I would write a hundred books a year if I could, but it seems more like it takes a hundred years to write a book. My revisions are so extensive that some passages are written a  hundred times. I’m serious! Read the first chapter of my Confessions Of An Honest Man. That passage was revised so many times that I couldn’t possibly speculate on a number of iterations. Yet…and here I become utterly shorn of modesty…I got where I needed to go. It’s beautiful! It does what must be done for the first chapter of a novel. It evokes a sense of danger, reveals characters, excites curiosity, elicits a bit of laughter and swings open a gate on the narrative that is to come.

Lately, I’ve been fascinated by crime novels. I think that Patricia Cornwell is one of the most brilliant writers I’ve yet encountered. I’m in the unfortunate situation of having read all of her novels in a short period of time. I’ve run out of Cornwell! So, now I read Robert Crais. He’s very good. I love James Lee Burke. I’ve read all of his books, too, and he’s so old that I’m not sure how many books he has left in his gorgeous literary soul.  The element that all three writers have in common is their emotional honesty. Their soulful-ness. They write with passionate intensity and their prose contains bits of profound wisdom. They are writing about the human condition by utilizing themselves as models, probing their own condition. They are, after all, human beings. I think….

The writer who has had the most influence on my work is fantasy writer Jack Vance. No other writer captivates me in quite the same way. Every five years I re-read the work of Jack Vance. I never grow tired of it. I remember reading his classic “The Dying Earth” when I was ten years old. I was reading in the family car as we drove from St. Louis to Mexico. It was an ambitious family vacation. I spent most of it reading science fiction and fantasy. Mexico, itself, proved sufficiently weird that I looked up from my books from time to time, absorbed the ambience, then returned to Vance, Heinlein, Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov. In more recent years I’ve read and re-read David Foster Wallace. There is so much pain in his dense, highly intelligent fiction that it may as well be an extended suicide note. Losing DFW was tragic. As was losing Robin Williams and Anthony Bourdain. Depression has no respect for success, wealth, fame or achievement.  It strikes wherever it wants to strike.

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy I don’t read as often as I should but I’m trying to rectify that. When I do read I stick with fantasy, self-help, or biography.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan I used to read a book a day, but with my current day job, its more like a book a week. I’m obsessed with young adult novels, any genre, and I’ll gobble up historical fiction in any form. Recently I’ve been into religious historical fiction. There’s something about the sweet, romantic plots that make the books the perfect end to a busy day.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture I usually read a couple books a week, although books are constantly getting longer every year. The 120-page novels I grew up with are now four-and-five hundred page monsters. Every time I get one of those monsters I pray that the author writes so smooth the book will read like a two hundred page novel. Age has one advantage, and it’s this: I’ve been reading for 65 years or more, and I’ve always read genres I wanted to write.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre Pfft. That’s crap. Stories are about connecting with characters and going on a journey. If I had to read 100 books a year – two a week – I’d never have time to write anything.

I read a lot only because I do a ton of critique work for other authors, but I’d be happy not reading at all. I pick up on insights very quickly, and TV shows and movies are just as good at giving us the keys to amazing storytelling. The answers aren’t only in books. I don’t need to see something dozens of times to get it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t study the heck out of something when it connects with me, regardless of the method in which I received it. People say reading a 5000 word chapter of mine is like reading 3000 from someone else. That’s pace. That comes from seeing Steven Spielberg cram 400 pages into 2 hours. I can’t often get that in books.

But!

I work with people who read a ton, so it’s a little like cheating off the smart kid at school. They gain those insights and hold my work to that standard. I bring other stuff to the table. The collaboration works.

What do I like to read?

My critique partner says I read stuff to learn how to be a better writer. Not “How To” books, but other writers: King, George R R Martin, Rowling, Portergirl. I study the masters in storytelling, on Tv and books and movies.

But what do I LIKE to read? Hmm. I’ll go with Green Eggs and Ham. Everything you need to know about storytelling is there. Pace. Lack of back story. No rambling prologue, just jumps into the story. It has great conflict and plot… and it shows how to wrap it up as fast as possible after the climax. If you can’t say it in 32 pages, you need to rethink your story (said the guy who writes 90k consistently).

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman I’m not sure how many books I read, honestly. I do read as much as I write though. And I enjoy immersing myself in someone else’s craft, especially well constructed craft.


What goals do you set for yourself in your writing?

DeAnna Knippling
deannak Ugh, I used to set myself daily personal wordcounts, which was lovely. But I’ve gotten so far behind in getting stories submitted or published on the indie side that I’ve had to cut back on that a lot. I’m at 500 words a day now for my own writing, which feels like a snail’s pace. I write a lot more than that for my ghostwriting clients, but I don’t track that right now.
Mark Shaw
MarkAtSFTS (1)
To tell a good story about important subjects whose lives are important in an historical sense.
Mark & Kym Todd
Todds - Copy
Logical and organic plots, quirky but believable characters, and the hope that readers have as much fun reading as we did writing our stories.
Ashley Fontainne
Ashley Fontainne
I don’t. The story needs to unfold naturally without any outside influences.
Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil My #1 goal is write 60k words in a month and I track it daily.  I know how many words to write in a day and make sure that I keep myself on track.  If I don’t discipline myself in this way, I’d never get anything written.

Cynthia Vespia
colorheadshot - Copy At the moment I have a specific time frame in mind for when I want to finish the sequel to my superhero novel Karma. My other goals probably reflect any other author. I want to be able to write full time, land a publisher, and agent, a simple dream of mine is to get published in the traditional paperback that you see on most bookshelves. But I guess my main goal is to just finish writing all the ideas I currently have waiting for me in my notebook.
Jordan Elizabeth
Jordan My goal is to finish the book and have people enjoy reading it. I get a bit twitchy if a book takes longer than usual to finish just because of things going on in my life. I don’t want to set the book aside and suddenly lose my place in that world.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture To write a thousand words a day. I usually end up writing two thousand words a setting.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre Keep the reader from falling asleep!

Really, I just want to connect with my reader. I want them to realize that all of a sudden they are completely immersed in a world that I created and they care about these characters so much that when the character laughs, the reader laughs. When the character cries, the reader cries. And I have a goal of getting you really involved and then BOOM it turns out that what you thought all along was wrong. I give you a plot twist, and all of a sudden you’ve been pulling for the bad guy. I have a goal of always giving you and ending that has you sitting there saying, “Holy cow!” in complete satisfaction. That’s my goal. That, and a yacht in the Caribbean.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman To write something that is entertaining as well as thought provoking. I also try and improve my writing each time I write. I take note of faults that reoccur in my manuscripts from my editors, and then do my best to avoid them when I write again, or at least to take note of them and be able to self-edit as I write.

Ultimately though, my main goal is to provide a story that the read can sink into, feel like they are a part of the story and can relate with each and every one of my characters, whether that be to love them or hate them. I want to evoke the reader’s sense of smell, sight and touch as they read.

 


What is your favorite setting to write in?

DeAnna Knippling
deannak At first I thought you meant what historical era!!!
It doesn’t really matter where I write, because I’m not really there–I’m in the story.
Mark Shaw
MarkAtSFTS (1)  A corner of our dining room.
Mark & Kym Todd
Todds - Copy The world falls away when we become immersed in the writing zone, so ambience is irrelevant. Long ago, we started writing on our bed (in a small, cramped house) away from the kids when they were smaller. That’s pretty much stuck even now the house is larger and the kids gone.
Ashley Fontainne
Ashley Fontainne My computer room is downstairs which offers a lot of privacy. At night when everyone is asleep and my kitty is curled up purring next to my keyboard is the
best!
Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil That’s a tough one.  I really don’t have a favorite setting.  But I fully immerse myself into whatever setting I am writing in.

Cynthia Vespia
colorheadshot - Copy Anywhere quiet.
Jordan Elizabeth
Jordan I used to need to be alone in my room, with the door shut, and everything silent.  Now my house is filled with my husband watching TV, my toddler running amok, and my cat begging for food.  I’m satisfied with whatever time I get to write.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture My bedroom, with the door closed, and no sounds from outside sources.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre I have the most awesome writing office. I have rich mahogany furniture and dark green walls and a chandelier; book cases lined with the classics and a window that looks out onto a lush green yard filled with massive oak trees. One door opens into my daughter’s play area. It’s the best.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman I actually do the majority of my writing at my local library. The library manager jokes that she is lucky to have a writer in residence. There is something inspirational about being surrounded by so many literary works, and it certainly makes research easier, I just jump up and grab the required book from the shelf.


Atmosphere is important. What do you do to get into the writing zone?

DeAnna Knippling
deannak I disagree; atmosphere stopped being important to me after a certain number of deadlines forced me to write (and EDIT) when I didn’t want to. (Trying to get into the editing zone on my own writing is harder than writing, in my opinion.) But because I don’t always write in the same place or I have to write when I’m in a bad mood, I’ll have specific music to remind me of what world I’m writing in and what I like about it. It’s funny, because sometimes my brain will play that music for me when I’m supposed to be writing and I’m putting it off, or when I’m brainstorming.
Mark Shaw
MarkAtSFTS (1) Focus on the task at hand blocking out all the noise of the world.
Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil I make sure I have coffee, my computer and either music playing or the TV on.  I can’t write without some type of noise in the background.  And most importantly I stay away from social media.

 

Margareth Stewart

Margareth Stewart This is as important as the writing process in itself. I have to get my coffee or tea ready, make sure I also have my mobile next to me and a bottle of water. Besides all that, I usually need the living room to be clear either with sunshine or artificial light, plus a comfortable pillow at my back. I sometimes have some background classical music – only classical music with no words or lyrics as for me they interfere with the voices within the narrative. Under the table, I keep a kid´s chair that I use to elevate my legs, otherwise they go dormant. The word font must be 12 and never enlarged, or I lose track of the text. Then, I write two or three pages and I stand up for coffee or toilet every fifteen or twenty minutes. And, that may go on for two or three hours, and even more if possible. There are weekends that I take a whole Saturday or Sunday to write, and that rhythm is kept for eight hours at least. Once when I was talking to a friend who is painter, she summarized it all: “It takes more time in the get-in-the-mood-get-ready process than it takes to actually paint or write”. I felt that was so true for me-and once we are there into a scene, into the book: nothing else matters. For instance, I am usually late to pick up my kids, and the fault is all due to my characters; they love to start acting when I really must go (lol).

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture I’m usually in the mood to write. I don’t watch TV any more, and I only listen to music at night before going to bed. So if the mood hits me I close myself off from everything else and write.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre Treadmill. Nothing gives me ideas to write faster than when I have to run a mile on my treadmill. It’s magic.

Other than that, I get up early, like 4:30, and write when it’s quiet. I’m always in the writing zone. I can dash off insightful pieces on a whim, and I’ve done so. But like training for a marathon, that came from practicing and building up to it – and from having the confidence to know when a piece is finished and ready to be seen.


Some authors outline, others use a screenwriting tool called a whiteboard, where you place all your plot points on the board and then maneuver them until you have them in an order that works for the story. Some authors use the same concept with notecards, and others use a graph to plot out their story.

What planning tools do you use to prepare before actual writing begins?

DeAnna Knippling
deannak Depends on whether I’m writing for a client or for myself. If a client’s involved, I’ll usually have an outline I’m supposed to be following, although it doesn’t always work out that way. (I try to deliver the same emotional content, but mysteries often balance on such delicate clues that the order stuff gets put into the book can vary greatly, especially in the last third or so.) For myself, it depends. I’ll often test an idea by plugging it into a short outline, then ditch the outline before I start writing. On short stories, sometimes I’ll have a certain short story in mind before I start writing, so I can explore a certain plot technique, but I haven’t been able to do that with novels yet.
Here’s my short outline (mostly based on Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder):
1.  Set up the situation.
2.  The fun side of the situation (Fun & Games).
3.  WTF!!! (Crisis or Reversal).
4.  The not-fun side of the situation (Bad Guys Close In).
5.  The last big push (Storming the Castle).
5a.  Wrap up.
Where a lot of people get stuck is going, “I have an idea!!!!” and not having a plan to turn that into a sequence of events that can be experience by a character. A plot outline or a beat sheet is just a way to check that the idea is good. The exact plot may not be important, as long as the idea can be transformed into a plot. An example.  “There was an enchanted toilet!!!” is an idea that goes nowhere. You can’t plug it into any plot outline.  “The enchanted toilet only works for people without the imagination to use it.”  Now, you can start building a plot with that. Just plug it into the outline…
Other times, I can tell that the idea is plot-able, so I just run with it. Logic will carry me to a complete story sooner or later.
Mark Shaw
MarkAtSFTS (1)
Chapter headings are my guide once I have settled on the story I want to tell.
Mark & Kym Todd 
Todds - Copy
We’ve had luck with notecards to arrange the beats, but we generally outline anyway.
Ashley Fontainne
Ashley Fontainne I don’t use any sort of tools. I let the story flow organically. This works for me yet does have a few pitfalls. Sometimes I have to re-read through sections to recall the eye/hair color of a character, or the sex of an animal. In one of my older books, I inadvertently changed the sex from male to female in the main character’s cat, and hawk-eyed readers caught my mistake!
Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil  I use a storyboard.  Similar to the whiteboard, but it’s just handwritten on a form that I created with boxes that signify each chapter in the story. My story doesn’t always stay on target as sometimes it has a mind of its own, but it definitely gives me a starting point.

Art Rosch

Art 2001 I’m lazy. I don’t use outlines, story boards, notes, prompts, post-its, diminutive butlers or portable tape players. I just write. I have a goal, a broad concept of what I hope to achieve and I simply begin to write. I start off rusty, clumsy, impaired. I write at my desk, where my computer sits and a stack of USB drives snake their cables under my feet. Some day my mummified cadaver may be found, strangled by USB cables, swathed in black and gray wires running out the window and across the carpet. My fictional detective, Dizzy Tilton, will solve the mystery of my demise with his sidekick, Haakon Wyre. “His fiction killed him”, they will declare. “We must arrest his fiction and put it on trial. No doubt a clever lawyer will find a loophole and get his fiction off the hook for murder, or cop a plea for the lesser crime of Authorcide. We can’t bring him back. Let his genius speak from beyond the grave!”

I write from scene to scene. So long as I know what the next scene is to be, I can move the plot forward, I can develop my characters. My books take decades to write. I’m now seventy and my most recent book has already taken ninety years to write. I hope to finish it before my next incarnation.

Cynthia Vespia
colorheadshot - Copy I don’t like over planning because it kills the spontaneity for me and then I don’t enjoy writing the story. I want to be surprised like the reader will be. So the most I plan will be major plot points and then a heap of descriptive elements for the character including backstory. These things I’ve laid out on note cards or even just a sheet of paper. For characters I’ll often find a picture of an actor I could see playing them in the film/TV version and I save it for inspiration.
Jordan Elizabeth
Jordan I’m horrible at planning. I start off with a general idea of the plot and just go for it. Characters evolve as I write. The setting takes shape before me. The only time I write down notes is if I want to remember an obscure character.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture I don’t outline. Once I have my plot I create my characters, and I know what the beginning and ending is before I start writing. I am in control, and my characters become chess pieces that I move about the board. They move on my command, not theirs. I always have the end in sight and move the pieces accordingly. When writing continuing characters, however, I have file cards with descriptions. I’ve seen too many blondes become redheads by mistake, or men five foot nine become six foot two from one book to the next.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre Wow, all that stuff sounds like a lot of work. I’m don’t use any special tools; they aren’t necessary. What I do to come up with a story is I definitely, definitely, definitely create an outline. Too many writers think an outline stifles their creativity. It’s just the opposite. An outline channels your energy so you stay on track and don’t wander all over the place and you end up where you’re supposed to end up.

Now, just because you say we’re going to go from here to there, that doesn’t mean that’s the only places you go, and it doesn’t mean that’s where you have to end up. But having AN ending doesn’t mean it has to be THE ending. It’s just when you start, that’s the direction. Halfway through, if you decide you have a better ending in mind, change it and use the better ending! But if you don’t have that moment of brilliance, you’re at least going to end up in a good place. Too much “writers block” – a condition that doesn’t usually exist – comes from not having a destination you were writing towards. By having an outline, every day you have a series of writing prompts.

My process is, I’ll get a story idea and I’ll dash off a few lines about it. Three or four things that give you the essence of what the story is about. Then I throw it in a file, and as I am doing things throughout the day/days, I’ll keep getting good ideas about the story. Like maybe in a murder mystery, the guy who’s running for mayor, his opponent committed the murder. Or it’s his campaign manager, and the campaign manager wants it to look like the opponent did it. Something like that. So I’ll just list all these ideas down, one after the other, and I just kind of collect them for a while. They don’t come in any particular order; I’ll get a great idea for an ending, and then I’ll get a great idea for a beginning.

Right now I have the great idea for a political murder mystery called Primary Target. It starts out with an assassination attempt. So that’s how that’s chapter 1, but that’s all I know about chapter 1. Chapter 2 will probably be with the detectives who get called to check out the assassination attempt. But I know I’ll want three or four other things to happen in the story (subplots) so I’ll think about those and eventually write them down, but for now that’s my outline, those handful of bullet points.

Here’s what people don’t understand about outlines. Here’s the outline for Romeo and Juliet:

  1. Boy and girl want to get together
  2. their parents don’t want them to get together
  3. the boy and girl get together anyway
  4. everybody dies

That’s it. Those four points are an outline. Nothing stifling there. You know what’s going to happen and you know how it’s going to end. Go ahead and start writing.

My process starts out with about four points, and then I’ll realize I have 10 good ideas that can go on in that first major point. So I’ll flesh those out, and as I do, my outline evolves. Sometimes I look at one of minor points and say, “No, that doesn’t work anymore” and it comes out. My outline gives me total creative freedom, but I’m guiding and funneling my energy. That’s why everybody should outline.

I read lots of stories every year from lots of new authors. Usually, he ones where they didn’t outline end up wandering around and getting BORING because they lose their way. You don’t want that.

Use an outline, keep your chapters short, keep your characters interesting, and keep the dialogue witty. But using an outline is probably one of the most important things you can do for yourself.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman I’m a bit of a pantser – I write from the seat of my pants – I don’t always plot, unless I have a tight word count and need to plot how my story runs. Sometimes I simply write a short synopsis of my story plot, something I can refer back to, especially when I have several different works in progress at once. Surprisingly though, I haven’t found any of them overlapping.


Some writers can take an idea and run with it, while others need to have a good portion of the story worked out before writing can begin.

How much of the story do you know before the actual writing begins?

Mark Shaw
MarkAtSFTS (1) Nearly all of it, the beginning, middle and end and how I want to touch the emotions of readers, the single, most important aspect of any writing.
Mark & Kym Todd
Todds - Copy We verbally explore for a week or two if we think we have enough story to make a novel. Then we write a five-page outline to see if the idea leads where we think it’s going. After that, we outline no more than a chapter or two before we start fleshing it out. Doing any more is, for us, a waste of time since the actual writing often changes where we thought we were going.
Jordan Elizabeth
Jordan I know the general idea. For example, with GOAT CHILDREN, I knew that I wanted to write about a girl taking care of her grandmother with dementia. The first chapter would be about the girl discovering her grandmother’s diagnosis. I started writing and suddenly, I was on the last page.

Ashley Fontainne

Ashley Fontainne Once the idea hits me, the story unfolds so fast inside my head it is like watching a movie, so I just close my eyes and type what I see inside my mind.

Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil As long as I know how it’s gonna begin and how I want it to end, I usually can run with it.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture I take the idea and run with it.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre Uh… both. I take an idea and run with it, yes, but I usually also bring in some ideas I’ve been kicking around.

For Double Blind, my new murder mystery, I knew it was going to be a murder mystery – which is new ground for me – but I wanted some nice twists. So the murder mystery idea was new. Then I said okay, I’m gonna have readers think THIS – and then pull the rug out from under them later, so I had to plan how to give certain pieces of information without tipping my hand. I’m pretty good at that, but since I’d done it before, I kind knew how to do that, so that was an existing thing for me. Then I also had the idea of having a man and woman working together who had lots of rapport like two good friends, but who were not romantically involved. I’ve been kicking that around for a while, so when the murder mystery came up I had the detectors be a man and a woman who were good friends.

So on one hand, the murder mystery was a short idea that I ran with; on the other hand, I brought in these characters that I have been working on for a while. The whole first draft of 92,000 words took about six weeks to write. I spent probably another three or four weeks refining it with input from critique partners. It’s an amazing story, and it’s available as part of that 20+ book anthology called Death and Damages, with all the New York Times bestselling authors.

For The Navigators, another simple premise: some people discover a time machine. From there, I wanted to have as much conflict as possible and not do a conventional time travel story. So there’s lots of intrigue and action, because the fun part of the time travel story is actually going back in time. But the other fun part of storytelling is having lots of conflicts happen that get in the way of the characters’ goals, and each of the characters in The Navigators had different goals, and a different story arc, so it was really nice combination.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman I need a character and the idea and then I simply run with it. I’ll mull the idea over in my mind throughout the day, either whilst washing dishes, or milking the cow, and then I find the words dropping into my mind. I then can’t wait to find the time to sit down at the computer and get those words out. On the rare occasions that I take a couple of days until I can stop and write, then those scenes simmer away in the back of my mind until they are so well developed that my fingers fly over the keys as soon as I have my manuscript open.

 


How many drafts do you make before considering a manuscript ready for publication? What are the differences as you write each one?

DeAnna Knippling
deannak One draft and one cleanup pass to address issues and infelicitous wording, unless there’s something off about my assumptions about the story. Then it can become a real train wreck. With ghostwritten books, you generally have to write pretty cleanly the first time or the client will lose patience.
Mark Shaw 
MarkAtSFTS (1) With most of my books, there have been at least 200 drafts or more. Each time the story is enriched in some manner.
Mark & Kym Todd
Todds - Copy Usually three or four drafts: We write a scene in one sitting, and then revise it before we go on to the next scene (on the next day). A read-through when we put it all together, fixing typos. A revision after beta readers have at it. And then another draft if a publisher wants something added or changed. By then, we can’t see typos or missing words anymore, so we feel useless with galleys, and let the publisher’s copyediting eyes give it the final go.
Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil Just one.  Once I am done writing, I send it to my BETA readers.  I make their suggested changes to the storyline and plot.  They also help with continuity and then it goes off to my editor.

Cynthia Vespia
colorheadshot - Copy So, here’s how I do it and it might seem a little weird. But, I write the first draft long hand on a legal pad…it’s just easier that way, it always has been because to me it doesn’t feel as permanent. I’m not distracted by Word telling me something is misspelled, etc. Once I have a first draft, then I’ll go in and put it in the computer. At the same time I’ll be doing edits on what is essentially a second draft. But I couldn’t give you a definitive answer on when it will be ready for publication…its ready when its ready.
Jordan Elizabeth
Jordan I write it all, then I read back through, editing as I go.  I show it to my critique partners, edit based on their comments, and then off it goes to my agent or publisher.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture Hmm. I write the first draft, then I go over it line by line. Then I turn it over to my wife who runs a grammar check and looks for words I may have wrong. I might go over it again after my wife is through. We try to make all necessary corrections before we submit the manuscript to a publisher. But I’m not using publishers any more. We are doing our own publishing, and we are the editors. I can use verbs, if I want. We do make mistakes. On one of my recent short novels we did all the above, and I ordered 25 paperback copies for book signings. By mistake I uploaded a first draft for the paperback printing! Money wasted. We heard from a reader that there were several typos. I checked and found the first draft was used instead of the final edited version. It was a costly mistake. I’ve been trying to give the paperbacks away, with a note about the typos. I can’t sell the darn things!

Dan Alaltorre

Alatorre Ha! None. I usually think my manuscript is ready for publication after the first draft – even with the typos and things in there. I always think what I’ve written is awesome. The differences I make between the drafts? I try to find the typos.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman I’m a perfectionist as I write to begin with, so even my first raw draft tends to be fairly free from errors. I see those red or blue squiggly lines and I fix them up. That said, I still like to at least have three read throughs of my work, saving each one as a separate draft at the start. The first read through might catch wrong words, and maybe tweak synonyms to get the best feel for the scene. I might remove sections or add more. I then like to do a typo and grammar check. Then a final proof read before it goes off for editing.


What’s the hardest part of the story for you to write: beginning, middle or end?

DeAnna Knippling
deannak The wrap-up after the climax. UGH. Suddenly I have to remember the entire story and every plot point I ever mentioned and wrap that all up in some kind of interesting fashion. I sometimes wish I could just write a checklist:
–The thing that ate the bad guy got indigestion, but is feeling better now.
–That one guy you hated got killed by a cement truck but it was just a coincidence.
–The main character decided to move but took the haunted urn with her because she kind of likes the ghost now.
–The cat likes the new house, but keeps trying to tip the urn over anyway, because he’s a cat.
–They got it all wrong on the news, but in a funny way, and at least the phrase “sewer gas explosion” wasn’t used.
–Too bad about the noodle restaurant.  The main character hopes they’ll reopen.
–Maybe next time, she’ll just ask the ghost for help from the start and the whole thing with the ear infection can be avoided, hahaha.
–The main character, the cat, and the ghost decide to watch Stranger Things on TV.  They all jump at the scary parts.
–The end.
Usually it’s write one sentence, wander around the house moaning about how hard this all is for ten minutes, write another sentence. A list would be much easier. I’ve actually started to jot down notes as I write the climax. “Oh, make sure you wrap up the thing with the gun.” Maybe I should write the ending first, then figure out what the rest of the plot was and write that. I wonder if that would be easier.
Ashley Fontainne
Ashley Fontainne The first sentence is the hardest.
Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil Luckily, I have not encountered a hard part yet.  I’m sure I will some day, but for now, once I have the beginning and end worked out, I usually have no problem getting from point A to point B.

Art Rosch

Art 2001 The hardest part for me is just to begin. To sit, put my hands on the keyboard, and write a few pages. Once the cobwebs clear I can write quickly and the story develops as if I am a psychic medium, a channel. I get dictation from an entity called WaldWen. He writes most of my fantasy material. The number of drafts is endless.  A manuscript is never finished. I merely succumb to exhaustion. “Good enough,” I think.  “It will do. Or…..maybe another revision…no…leave it alone….the manuscript has peaked….but…but Chapter Two Thirty has a clunky feel to it….no..forget it. No one reads your stuff anyway.”

Let me be honest.  Sometimes it seems as if someone is dictating chapters to me. Seems.  It’s actually just me and my compulsion to write. It feels as if I’m channeling something mysterious and when I read back my material I wonder, “How the hell did I do that?  Where did it come from?”

The answer is quite ordinary. It came from years of reading, researching, experiencing, filtering, transforming, warping, skewing, observing and participating in the activities of human beings. I find these activities sometimes incomprehensible. I view myself as if I am an alien from another world and this life is a fiction, a script that was crafted as a method of instruction. My life is a work of fiction designed to teach me about consciousness and the intelligent control of matter. Who fashioned this script? A guide, a spirit, a Being, a WaldWen? An Arthur Rosch. A man who writes with a modicum of coherence and has thus far been able to avoid imprisonment for my strange behavior. I sure as hell haven’t sold many books, but some day I will. Some day.

Cynthia Vespia
colorheadshot - Copy Seems like I always get stuck in the middle. I lose momentum, start to doubt myself, or I have written myself into a corner. In that instance its good to do some rereading and figure out how to jump back in.
Jordan Elizabeth
Jordan The end is always the hardest for me.  There’s so much more I want to write, but I know I need to cut myself off before it evolves into 900 pages.
Margareth Stewart
Margareth Stewart I guess it is the beginning, I think, or at least for me! The beginning is the starting point, when everything is set and must interest the reader. The book should capture the reader´s attention at once. It is the “do or die” kind of thing, just like “love at first sight”. The opening sentence of a book is that element that we should pay lots of attention to – to make the reader willing to turn and read the next pages.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture I have to say the beginning. I want to capture the reader’s attention, and sometimes you really have to work those beginning words to enter the adventure.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre The beginning the story is the hardest for me to write, but not for the reason you probably think. For most writers, the middle gets mushy. They have lots of good ideas that get everything set up, and maybe have an idea of how it’s going to end, but tying all that together in a cohesive manner without getting boring is the mushy middle that you’re always trying to avoid.

For me, how I avoid that is I just try to get through it as quickly as possible, and make something interesting happened in the middle of the mushy middle. Maybe a plot twist, maybe somebody dies, but that keeps the mushy middle from getting mushy

But the reason the beginning of the story is hardest to write is because it’s also the easiest to write. Like I said, in my next murder mystery, the opening chapter – the opening sentences – are going to be something like “The assassin watched his prey through the rifle scope” – something like that. So right away, your first sentence is gonna be somebody’s about to get killed and we’re watching it happen!

But the reason the beginning is hard is because most the time you are starting a new story with new characters, and you don’t really know those characters until you are a few chapters into the story. And by the time you end the story they’re gonna be different (because the story arc). For that reason, you have to go back and look at the first three chapters and have the characters be fully formed on page 1. That’s a little harder to do, to give them their personalities on the first page, and most writers don’t do that, so that’s why I say that’s the hardest – for me and for everybody else. But once you realize that, you know you need to do that. Then it’s like proofreading. Is the character fully developed on page one? No? What do I need to make him or her be there? Write that.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman Depends on the story. I like to continue writing in sync – in other words, from beginning to end. I know some people like to write a scene as it comes to them, but for me I find that can cause too many plot holes as the story is stitched together. If I have a specific scene in mind and it’s stewing away in my mind, I sometimes find the hardest part is not rushing through my story to get there, to make sure my story is of a consistent strength the whole way through.

Mark & Kym Todd 
Todds - Copy It’s all fun, right? 🙂

As a writer, what is the biggest challenge for you? What’s the biggest reward?

DeAnna Knippling
deannak
Biggest challenge: Marketing.
Biggest reward: I play make-believe all day 🙂
Mark Shaw 
MarkAtSFTS (1)
Biggest challenge: To tell the story I want to tell, to write the book I want to write.
Biggest reward: The reward is hearing from readers and their reaction to my book. With The Reporter Who Knew Too Much, I have heard from nearly a thousand readers and have been humbled by their kind words about Dorothy’s story.
Mark & Kym Todd 
Todds - Copy The biggest challenge is knowing when to stop. We don’t want to wear out our welcome, so we try to trust the reader to get where we’re going without beating the ending over their head. Our first book in the Silverville Saga, Little Greed Men, saves the most important clue until the very last sentence. But once we published the book, our publisher wanted to know if we were going to take the next logical step in the sequel. But we held firm and said no – that’s up to the reader to see where they wanted to take that final, surprising information, not us.
Ashley Fontainne

Ashley Fontainne

Biggest challenge: Marketing. Marketing. Marketing! (Spoken in the Marsha Marsha Marsha tone from The Brady Bunch!). I detest that side of writing so much I really don’t delve too much into it.

Biggest reward: The biggest reward is knowing something born inside my head connects to the heart of a reader!

Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil
Biggest challenge: My biggest challenge would be marketing.  Right now, I mainly rely on social media, but I believe there are so many other advertising and marketing avenues out there.  I’ve recently started looking into them and plan to have an advertising budget next year to explore my options.

Biggest reward: The biggest reward would have to be the fans.  When I see the reviews start to cumulate on a release or when a fan messages me saying they loved a book that I have written totally makes my day.

Art Rosch

Art 2001 My fantasy epic, The Gods Of The Gift revealed its ending to me as I was driving home to my North Bay mansion. I knew the ending, and then WaldWen began speaking in my head, so I drove and took notes simultaneously.

Biggest Challenge: The biggest challenge was writing the book.

Biggest Reward: The biggest reward was writing the book.

Cynthia Vespia
colorheadshot - Copy
Biggest Challenge: The biggest challenge at the moment is balancing everything. My writing has taken a back seat for too long. Once I get going again its usually a challenge to market a new book in a sea of other authors all clamoring for the spotlight.
Biggest Reward: The biggest reward is when I get a reader tell me how they enjoyed the book
Jordan Elizabeth
Jordan
Biggest Challenge: The biggest challenge is negative criticism that doesn’t come from a good place. Some people just want to tear you down, and its hard to disassociate from that.
Biggest Reward: The biggest reward is hearing from a reader who has genuine criticism or praise. I love that someone took the time to become immersed in my story.
Tom Johnson
Tom's Back Cover Picture

Biggest Challenge: The biggest challenge is to write something that will attract readers.

Biggest Reward: The biggest reward is to see a nice review, or have someone say they were entertained by my story. My main goal is to entertain.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre

Biggest Challenge: The biggest challenge? The biggest challenge is marketing. Sorry. If I can get somebody to read two pages of my story, they will read the whole story – and love it. Getting more people to figure out how to find me to read those first two pages? That’s the hardest part for almost every writer. All the hard stuff about writing the story is actually the easy stuff. The marketing is the hard part.

Biggest Reward: The biggest reward is definitely writing something funny and having people email you or see you and tell you how funny it was. Writing a scene that made you cry while you were writing it and having tears dropping on your keyboard, and having people come up to you later or email you and say how emotional they got during that scene. Putting a little Easter egg type of thing in there and having a reader “get it.” You’re like, “Yeah!” and you’re fist pumping, because they got it. Those rewards are huge. Just making that connection and putting something out there and having it having work.

Another big reward is, and I love this, is having a plot twist. Like, in chapter 10 there’s a big twist, and your critique partner is going along, and they read chapter 8, and they read chapter 9, and then all of a sudden you get this email that says OH MY GOD. That’s awesome. That’s so much fun – for the writer and the reader. That’s the rollercoaster they want, and that’s what I give them.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman

Biggest Challenge: The biggest challenge for me? That would be find enough time in the day to actually sit down and write. I have to balance my home life as a wife and mother with my life as a writer. And that can be a challenge when my mind is brimming full of story ideas and scenes begging to be written.

Biggest Reward: The biggest reward? To hear that a reader couldn’t get enough and wants more. I love those 4 and 5 star reviews, where the reviewer is practically begging for more. But most especially, I love it when they have picked up on the subtly of a plot line and pulled it out from the story.


It seems we all write for different reasons, draw inspiration from different places or experiences, and our writing processes are varied. We differ not only in where we like to write, how we get into the zone, and the prewriting activities we partake in. There are all types of authors, as there are all types of people, because after all authors are just people from all walks of life who have chosen to embark upon a writer’s journey. But, we all choose different paths to get to our ultimate destinations.
I particularly liked the idea DeAnna Knippling mentions for getting into the writing zone, the one about selecting specific music for each of her different works, so she can easily slip into the proper story and get busy. As an author who always seems to have multiple WIPs in progress, I found this to be a great idea. I already associate certain songs with certain people, memories or life events, so this seems like a technique which might work well for me, and I am definitely going to give it a try. 
I also found Dan Alatorre’s accumulative process for building a story idea into a workable storyline to be very interesting. Sometimes if you just let an idea simmer, you’ll be surprised what results from it with very little effort. At times it can be as if the storyline develops all on it’s own, and Dan’s process seems like an organized method of gathering your characters and plot events to shape up a basic outline.
One thing that’s obvious though, is that one of the biggest rewards of writing is knowing people are reading your work, through reader feedback or reviews, it seems there’s nothing like learning that what you were trying to do worked and your readers ‘get it’.
I think this was a great first segment for Round 2 of Ask the Authors. Your comments are welcomed, so feel free to let us know what you found useful or interesting. I hope you all will drop in next week  to catch  the segment on Plot/Storyline.

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