Friday, November 30, 2012


The approaching climax of 2012 brings a curious mixture of closures and beginnings. It’s hard to believe the year that just started is reaching its end. It’s even harder to fathom that the fears surrounding the beginning of the new millennium and potential ramifications for the world’s computers (which never happened) occurred thirteen years ago.

Now we see 2013 on the horizon. Some believe the world will end prior to its arrival. Others struggle with financial woes that have plagued the economy and seem destined to continue into the coming year. Still others are making plans to forge ahead with new ideas and new hope. As this year closes and we reflect on its gifts and ponder the tenuous peace in Gaza and lack thereof on the terrorist front, we find ourselves looking ahead even as we peer over our shoulders at what we are leaving behind.

Personally, I love working with writers, and I want to continue with Blood Red Pencil because of the wealth of information it brings to the writing community and the treasured quality and camaraderie of my fellow contributors. I’d also like to conduct some writing workshops to nurture fledgling authors in learning the skills that will help them create great books. However, I am retiring from full-time editing to pursue writing again. Several books in various stages of completion reside on my hard drive, patiently awaiting my return. Next year I’ll be seventy-five—I want to finish what I’ve started and, hopefully, leave behind a legacy of stories that offer a glimpse into the past, a hope for the future, and an example of good writing.

I’m also opening an online bookstore, a cozy writing community that welcomes writers to stop by and visit. You can ask questions, participate in discussions, follow the serialized books from which a new chapter will appear each week (and submit your own unpublished stories to be considered for future serialization), enter writing contests to win prizes, and, of course, buy books. Both hard copies and e-books will be available in most cases.
As the new year waxes and the old one wanes, reflections on the past segue into plans and hopes for the future. What are your goals for next year? Will you continue with your writing? Do you have a work in progress? What new projects are looming on your horizon?


Retiring editor Linda Lane is opening a cozy, online bookstore that welcomes writers and readers from all over the world. Currently under construction, it is accessible and should be completed by the end of January 2013. Visit her at Or check out her professional editing team at for top-notch editors to help you realize your dream of writing a great book.

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Books Make Wonderful Gifts

Over the years Slim Randles, a writer who has quite a way with words, has shared his wit and wisdom with the readers here at The Blood Red Pencil. As a way to thank him (see how I tied this to our Thanksgiving theme?) I thought I would pimp his books. Every one of them would make a terrific gift for readers on your holiday shopping list.

I am especially fond of Home Country, as that is also the title of the column that he so generously shares with me to use here and on my own blog. This is a collection of humor and philosophy that speaks to the important things in life like love and friendship and fly fishing. The column is currently featured in several hundred newspapers across the United States, with a readership of over 2 million.

Slim has won numerous awards for his work, the latest the 2012 Rounders Award, which is presented each year by the New Mexico Department of Agriculture to “individuals who have lived, promoted or articulated the Western way of life.” 

A Cowboy's Guide to Growing up Right is a delightful collection of essays that do just what the title suggests, offering tips on how to walk the right paths and keep focused on what means the most in life. Slim has been a hunting guide in New Mexico and Alaska, made the first solo dogsled trip across Alaska's Arctic Slope, paddled a canoe down the Yukon River, built a log cabin 12 miles from the nearest road,  drove a dog team in the first Iditarod Race, packed mules in the eastern High Sierra and roped calves in rodeos.

All of those experiences taught him a lot about what we can learn from nature and animals, and he shares that with his wry touch of humor in this book. The book has won the 2012- National Federation of Press Women Book Award for Inspirational Books.

Sweetgrass Mornings   Sweetgrass Mornings is a memoir that has equal doses of humor, tenderness, and drama as Slim recounts his many adventures. His writing is as easy-going as an afternoon ride across a meadow and is sure to please readers of any tastes. One does not have to love horses and cowboys to enjoy his work, although there is a special appeal for those of us who love the smell of leather.

These first three are his latest releases, but he has several other books: Sun Dog Days, Raven's Prey, The Long Dark, and Ol' Max Evans ( The First Thousand Years)
  Maryann Miller is a novelist, editor and sometimes actress. Her latest release is Stalking Season, the second book in the Seasons Series, which would also make a wonderful holiday gift. The first book, Open Season, is available as an e-book for all devices. To check out her editing rates visit her website. When not working, Maryann likes to take her dog for a walk and work outside on her little ranch in East Texas, and sometimes she plays on stage.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Be Thankful for Mentors

Here at the Blood-Red Pencil we often mention those who pass on the craft of writing through their wonderful books on writing. Today I’d like to talk about a different class of mentors—authors of wonderful books who also generously give of their time and wisdom to up-and-coming writers. So many such writers have influenced my writing life, through their teaching, their professionalism, and their literary legacy.

So many have influenced me in so many ways, but today I’ve chosen one nugget that exemplifies the way a few have created an impact that lingers. Their genres are diverse and I’ve learned as much through their great writing as I have through workshops and personal interaction. Check them out!

Juilene Osborne McKnight (historical fiction) “He had only one book in him and he kept rewriting it.” Have you ever heard that oft-repeated phrase? Juilene thinks it’s too cynical—instead, she believes a writer’s soul tends to be drawn to one kind of archetypal story (mine is transformation; yours might be The Wanderer). Once you recognize this you can forgive yourself the similarities and continue to explore the kinds of powerful stories that speak to you.

Ruth Knafo Setton (literary fiction, poetry) From Ruth I learned that sixteen years of effort, refocusing, and distillation is worth it if it results in a concise, powerful story. Some of her beautifully crafted sentences contain within them an entire world. Ruth exemplifies what it means to say that writing is a calling, and that heeding the call may exact a price beyond what you originally expected.

Katherine Ramsland (nonfiction) I will never wonder if I have enough ideas because of my interactions with Katherine Ramsland. This fascinating, determined woman always leaves in her wake the same breathless curiosity about life and people that inspired her to write 46 published books—and pick up three master’s degrees and a Ph.D. along the way.

Jonathan Maberry (thriller, YA, comics) “Writing is an art, publishing is a business—learn this or get out of the way.” If that sounds full of bluster, the man’s got plenty of it. He attacks word count, juggles projects, and social media with the precision and grace of a martial artist, but in his teaching, his stories, and the many ways he helps other writers, he reveals his big heart.

Mindy Starns Clark (Christian commercial fiction) I had a terrible time writing romance until Mindy taught me how. It’s about need fulfillment—what deep need from the her past can only be addressed by someone like him, and vice versa. She makes love sound easy (then again, her first title was The House That Cleans Itself). Probably should have consulted Mindy before entering my first marriage.

A.S. King (YA) Amy exemplifies how to let your fierceness shine through your work. Unwilling to let conservative parents, schools, or publishers dictate what her characters did or said, she found an agent and publisher who supported her edgy young adult characters and their dilemmas. As a result she’s racked up scads of awards and honors—many of them from librarians.

This is just a smattering. To all my teachers and mentors: From the bottom of my heart, thank you for all you passed on to me. I was paying attention, and my life and writing are the richer for it.

In the comments, please share the name of one of your writing mentors, and what they taught you that you’ll never forget. 

Kathryn Craft is a developmental editor at, an independent manuscript evaluation and line editing service. Her women's fiction and memoir are represented by Katie Shea at the Donald Maass Literary Agency. Her article, "The 7 Deadly Sins of Self-Editing," co-written with Janice Gable Bashman, appeared in the Nov/Dec issue of Writer's Digest. Her debut novel, The Art of Falling, is due out from Sourcebooks in January 2014. Her essay Memoir of a Book Deal tells the larger story while also serving as a primer on story structures. To follow her writing please "Like" her Facebook Author Page. She follows back most writers on Twitter.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Holiday Reading

I’m a nut for Christmas books. Every year, I get my hands on at least a half dozen from authors like Ann Perry who writes a special holiday novella. This year, I quite accidentally ended up with about a dozen Christmas books on my Kindle, from authors I never would have discovered without their free promotions through online newsletters like Pixel of Ink. Here are a few I can’t wait to dig into starting December 1st when my holiday cheer begins in earnest:

I’ll probably also buy this Nora Roberts holiday book coming out on December 11th. It's a bit pricey for a Kindle book at $6.99, and more than I might ordinarily pay, but this author writes a fine tale.

How about you, readers? Do you do any kind of special theme reading for the holidays? Cookbooks? Religious? Holiday fiction? What are some of your favorite books? Please leave us a comment in the messages!
Dani Greer is founding member of the Blood-Red Pencil and getting ready to unplug for the holidays! She wishes you all safe and warm season's greetings!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Let it Snow! Season's Readings for a Super-Cool Yule

Are you feeling a chill in the air lately? For the first time in a long time, I'm actually looking forward to snow. See, I've been looking at this festive cover for months, and it's finally time to share it with the world. Friends, I want to introduce you to the latest from Red Tash Books, Let It Snow! Season's Readings for a Super-Cool Yule.

I'd love to tell you more about how this collection came about, too.  See, it's kind of Dani Greer's fault.  Over the summer I threw in a story with several of the BRP bloggers and a few other regulars of the BBT Cafe.  The result, The Corner Cafe, continues to garner great reviews and was a really fun experiment for me as a writer, as I decided to set my contribution in the world of my first novel, the best-selling dark fantasy, This Brilliant Darkness.  The Corner Cafe was the first of what would become seven anthologies I would contribute to in 2012. 

I quickly realized the value of these diverse collections in my fiction-writing resume, and realizing I had no holiday release lined up to boost my brand visibility during what I hoped would be a very busy time of year for book buyers, I inquired as to whether Dani and the BBT Cafe crew wanted to do a holiday collection.  When schedules didn't jibe, I dusted off my editor's cap and started hitting up friends with what I hoped was a unique pitch: rather than just writing a holiday story, how about if each of us wrote some sort of holiday story that tied in with one of our own novels?  Everyone has a favorite character or setting or fictional world of his/her own creation.  I mean, isn't that why we're writers?  So we can create and revisit these places we love?  I enjoyed it so much when writing my story for The Corner Cafe, I wanted to do it again!

Well, nine of my writer friends jumped at the chance to write holiday stories centered on Christmas, Yule, Chanukah, Solstice, and the Mayan Apocalypse of all things.  Remember?  The world is ending on 12/20/12, right?  Regardless, in the case of writers with fictional worlds that don't have end-of-year religious/cultural holidays, I simply threw out the request “Let your story in some way mention snow, how about that?”

I am so proud of the work that my friends produced in response to this challenge.  Jack Wallen, Axel Howerton, Jessica McHugh, Marian Allen, T. Lee Harris, Tim Tash (my husband), Connie Roberts-Huth, Claudia Lefeve, and Mercedes Yardley each sent me stories that drew me into the worlds of their characters.  In a few instances, I was familiar with the characters, and reading their holiday stories was a joy.  Don't you feel like favorite characters are in a way, old friends?  What a privilege to have a first peek at the doings of these characters.  In other cases, the characters and settings were totally new to me, and reading the stories really gave me a taste of the worlds these writers were becoming known for.  In all cases, the stories were eclectic, unusual, captivating, and entertaining.  This was just the holiday magic I was looking for!  Santa visited this editor early, for sure!

While I might have been pleased with what was in my stocking, I was nervous about how I would be seen by my writer friends. Would I be “Krampus”ing their style?  For some of these professionals, it was their first exposure to me in an editor-in-chief role.  I might be a pleasant proofreader and a helpful beta-reader, but having me in charge of deadlines can be... well... to be honest, I've never been super-proud of my control freak, overbearing “task-mistress” reputation, no matter how well-earned!  My writers were patient with me, and that was truly another gift in my stocking.  It was never my intention to take on a hardcore editorial role with the creation of Let It Snow!, so I still consider myself the “aggregator” of the book, instead of an official editor.  We had beta-readers and proofreaders, and the book has been checked for formatting issues—at this point, in our combined century-plus of publishing experience, I'm not sure a Big Six publishing team could have done any better.  It might not be perfect, but we are well-pleased with it.  I thank the e-book revolution that the process of correcting any mistakes that might have still slipped through the 15+ sets of eyes that proofed the book will be a speedy enough task.  (Crossing my fingers that we got them all, anyway.)

Despite my aversion to flying my control freak flag, I did take veto power over the title and the cover.  I had no idea what I wanted for the first and a definite vision for the second.  Everyone suggested names for the anthology, some ridiculously funny (Fifty Sleighs of Grey, anyone?) and others very creative, just not encompassing enough to justify the inclusion of each story. It was tough, this book naming job!  I think I had an easier time naming each of my children!  One morning I awoke and “Let It Snow!” declared itself the winner, and I'm so glad it did—frankly I was tearing my hair out waiting for a clear favorite to be born unto us.

As far as the cover went, I knew from the very beginning of this project that it would be red and white.  I pictured a white tree—very stylized—against a red background.  That was it.  I saw it in my mind in thumbnail format.  Of course I didn't think there would be room for the author's names on such an image, but then cover designer and contributor Jack Wallen sent me his idea for the tree, and suddenly it clicked.  The end result is a sweet, funky, high-contrast, stylized cover that screams “holiday” and “snow” no matter what size you view the cover in.  I love it.  It fits.

If only all books were this easy to put together!  Ironically, now that we're creeping up on Christmas (or Kindlemas, as I've been calling it on the sly) and I know how much time it takes to promote a book of any size and any price point, I'm not sure if I will take on editing an anthology again. Not because it wasn't fun—it was.  Not because I didn't love the stories—I sure do.  I'm even happy to say all nine of those contributor relationships are firmly intact, and new friendships were formed between them.  Whew!  That was quite an achievement in itself, for this bossy broad!  No, the only reason I might not do it again is because although all the anthos in 2012 were rewarding, I am ready to move on to a new series in my writing life.  Another experiment, another story line.  I've got more than a full slate of work on my calendar for 2013 and I simply don't know if I have the time.  I mean, I have sequels to write, too.  Sequels, man.  They're not gonna write themselves!

We'll see, though.  Ask me around the summer of 2013 if I'm doing a holiday thing next year.  You never know. I might be feeling a little Christmasy in July, after all.  In the meantime, whether you're a fan of the holidays or not, may I recommend my latest production? Don't worry if you're not a big fan of the holidays.  This book will have something for you in it, regardless.  That's the great thing about anthologies—like a well-stuffed stocking, Let It Snow! has a little something for everyone.
Thanks to Red for visiting us today. Now what are you waiting for? Download the book by clicking here! Visit Red Tash here and on Twitter for news about upcoming books and specials.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thankfulness - Let me Count the Ways

There are a lot of things I am especially thankful for this year. This great community of friends here at BRP is high on the list, as is my publisher, Five Star Cengage Gale and the staff there.

My latest book with them, Stalking Season, came out the middle of this month, while I was out of town with limited Internet access. The acquisitions editor, Tiffany, had a special presentation featuring my book and four others that had received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, and I was not going to be able to promote that day, October 30th, as that was the day my sister was having surgery for breast cancer. Even though I try to keep personal information about my family and myself out of business correspondence, I did let Tiffany know why I would not be online to promote her event.

She immediately sent me the nicest message, "Please don’t worry for a second about having to do anything on October 30th.  I’ll do all the promoting for you that day (and on the FS Facebook page after that) – so rest easy about that – and put every ounce of your strength towards your sister…"

In all of my years of working for different publications and editors, I don't recall ever having such a quick and meaningful response.

So today I am most thankful that my sister came through the surgery and has a good chance to beat this monster cancer, and I am also so thankful for Tiffany and people like her who are so quick to support others.

My thankfulness also extends to the many visitors who have made this blog popular. It always helps to have a responsive audience to what we write, and we have learned as much from you as we have learned from each other.

Finally, I want to thank all the people who have read my books, especially those who have taken the time to write a review. Not only does it feel good to read kind words about our books, reviews on Amazon really do make an impact on sales.

To write down all that I am thankful for would take pages and pages, so I have tried to spread it out. I've written a different Thanksgiving piece for the Venture Galleries blog that might be of interest.

I hope everyone who celebrates this holiday has a wonderful time with family and friends.
  Maryann Miller is a novelist, editor and sometimes actress. Her latest release is Stalking Season, the second book in the Seasons Series. The first book, Open Season, is available as an e-book for all devices. To check out her editing rates visit her website. When not working, Maryann likes to take her dog for a walk and work outside on her little ranch in East Texas, and sometimes she plays on stage.

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Gratitude and Attitude

Photo credit:
Thankfulness steps to the fore every year at this time. Busy people stop to reflect on reasons to be grateful. Formerly gobbling turkeys are gobbled up from tables laden with goodies and surrounded with family and friends. Thoughts of sharing come out of hiding to brighten short winter days. Shop-till-you-drop becomes the motto of gift buyers who seek extraordinary bargains in fiscally lean years.

Ironically, a day dubbed “Black Friday” separates the time of thankfulness from the celebration of a birth that many believe will one day bring longed-for peace on earth. Stores beckon customers with midnight specials and wee-morning hours to move inventory from overloaded shelves to places under decorated trees. On this dark 24-hour period jammed between gratitude and peace, both qualities run short in the wake of get-there-first and get-yours-before-supplies-run-out attitudes. If someone suffers injury in the frenzied process, so be it.

But wait! Let’s stop before we jump in the car to go shopping and take another look at gratitude — and attitude — that can extend a once-a-year celebration into a year-round gift. We’ll explore it from the perspective of writers, but in practice it can extend to any occupation and walk of life.

Successful writers most often are part of a team that takes a book from concept to creation. Most commercial books are populated by characters and experiences drawn from real life. Even fantasies rely on familiarity to form a connection with readers. To those whose lives inspire us . . . thank you.

We writers may not say it, but we are grateful to all who lend their experience and their expertise to our stories. Writing groups, family members, editors, proofreaders, layout experts, cover artists, mentors, book shepherds, agents, publishers, printers, marketers, distributors, book stores, Amazon, Kindle, Nook . . . the list goes on. Then we have our readers. Without them, we wouldn’t sell books.

Readers make or break a book’s success. Thanks seem inadequate when it comes to their impact on our writing lives; and although we seldom see them face-to-face, we know their existence and appreciate their support. We show our gratitude by keeping their needs and their enjoyment in mind when we write our next book. Their presence in our lives is a gift for which we are grateful every day of the year.

Black days — Friday or otherwise — mellow into soft grays when we allow an attitude of gratitude to override the frustrations of writer’s block and other occupational hazards. While we cannot send thank-you cards to all our readers, we can acknowledge their value in our book dedications and on our websites. And we can take a moment to drop a note of appreciation to those who help us through the concept-to-creation process. Without them, we could be tucking unread, unpublished manuscripts into dark dresser drawers.

Do you have a special way in which you express your gratitude? If so, please share it with us.

Retiring editor Linda Lane will soon open a special online bookstore, Linda's Book Nook, where writers can congregate in an atmosphere of nurturing and support and bask in the connection with like minds and empathetic understanding. Visit her at, where she will continue to direct a team of powerful editors dedicated to raising the bar on the quality of all books, whether traditionally or independently published.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thank You, Internet Friends

Thanks, Internet Friends!
If I'm at home alone, I don't have to feel lonely. That's because with a few clicks of the keyboard, I can connect with friends I know and those yet to be discovered.

Because this is a month for giving thanks, I thought I'd offer a huge thank you to my many friends on the Internet. Whether they be in e-groups, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, or other social media, I can't begin to count how many wonderful people I've met and bonded with.

Some are writers who not only share their journeys to and after publication, but also bits and pieces of what's happening in their personal lives. From connecting with my writing friends I've learned so much more about the publishing world than I ever would have figured out on my own.

I've also gained friendships with those who appreciate writers and books, and are all too happy to offer encouragement and praise, often when it's badly needed.

On the Internet, I can read a hodgepodge of my friends' lives, including pictures of children, grandchildren and other family members, and share in the personal events of their lives. I fawn over photos of the cutest pets alive, and appreciate marvelous depictions of nature at its finest.

Intermingled with such personal events, are the professional milestones of my writing friends, such as new projects, book covers, contracts, book signings and appearances.

On a sad note, I also commiserate when tragedy befalls any of my friends. All too often I shed tears when I hear of the trials and deaths of their loved ones, not only human, but sometimes pets.

My life is richer because of all of you. Thank you, my Internet Friends, far and wide, from so many corners of the globe, for allowing me into your worlds!
It Goes Without Saying, but I Will Anyway
I'm Also Thankful For Friends and Family Outside
the Internet And Opportunities, such as Thanksgiving, When I
Can Share Life's Blessings!
Morgan Mandel
Morgan Mandel is a past president of Chicago-North RWA,
and prior Library Liaison for Midwest Mystery Writers of America.

Her recent release is the humorous romance, Her Handyman
Coming Soon: Blessing or Curse, a romantic compilation

Morgan's Mandel's Amazon Central Author Page:


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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Giving Thanks

Everyone should be just about ready for Thanksgiving by now. This month's themes at the Blood-Red Pencil are "Thanks" or "Promote a Favorite Author." I'm staring at them, wondering how to narrow either of them down to a 500-word blog post. Should I be thankful for books by favorite authors? Of course I am—I can't imagine a life without reading. Should I be thankful for the emails I get from readers telling me they love my books and want more? Of course I am, but that's a personal thing.

I can't choose a favorite author, just as I can't choose my favorite child. So, I'll leave that part of the month's theme up to you. Any authors you want to introduce readers to? (Or, since this is a blog where the editing police might show up, maybe it should be, "Any authors to whom you want to introduce readers?") With Black Friday right around the corner, let others know what books you think they should be looking for.

As for the "Thanks" part—there are so many things, big and little that I'm thankful for. I'm thankful for our new home, for the wildlife that provides so much enjoyment. For Feebie, our new dog, that we rescued from a shelter. Is she thankful for us, I wonder?

Then there are the big things. Up here, we were impacted, but not endangered, by two major wild fires. I'm thankful we were spared. Likewise, I managed to get out of New York on one of the last planes before they shut things down for Hurricane Sandy. I'm thankful for that.

But being thankful for being spared makes one think about those who weren't so lucky. My cousin, who lives in Westchester County, had branches from a huge oak tree land on her husband's car. (Side note—the insurance covers the damage to the car, but not the expense of having the tree removed). She was without power for 10 days. She and neighbors kept saying, "at least it's not snowing." And then the nor'easter blew through, and then they were without power in frigid temperatures. Yet their home is intact, where others lost theirs. The same for the fires. In the grand scheme of things, very few homes were lost, but that doesn't mean we can't feel for those who lost theirs. What are those people thankful for? For being alive, I'm sure. Things can be replaced.

We're thankful for our loved ones. But what about those who have lost theirs?
Should I be thankful that all these life experiences offer fodder for my writing? That seems terribly selfish.

So, enjoy your holiday, give thanks for whatever you think is important. And if you'll share what you're thankful for, I'll give thanks by giving one commenter a download of any one of my e-books. I'll choose a winner on Friday.

Terry Odell is the author of numerous romantic suspense novels, as well as contemporary romance short stories. Most of her books are available in both print and digital formats. She’s the author of the Blackthorne, Inc. series, steamy romantic suspense novels featuring a team of covert ops specialists. To see all her books, visit her Web site. You can also find her at her blog, Terry's Place, as well as follow her on Twitter, or visit her Facebook page.

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Monday, November 19, 2012

The Grateful Ghost

I love my job. I know how lucky this makes me, and in this season of thanksgiving I give thanks to my clients who let me into their hearts and minds, innermost dreams and desires, and tell me wonderful stories that entertain me and better still, always teach me something. I am so grateful to be a ghostwriter.

I’ve been a ghost for almost fifteen years and in that time I’ve ghostwritten more than forty non-fiction books and memoirs – some of them short, some long, some for women, some for men, some for people in their 80s, some for folks as young as 25. My clients are from all over the US; from widely disparate occupations; from many ethnicities and cultures. I’m a middle-aged white American woman from Seattle, but because when you ghostwrite you move into someone else’s head, my heart and mind have grown and I am no longer just what I appear to be on the outside. I have walked that proverbial mile in my clients’ moccasins, and I have been stretched to fit their shoes.

I have heard all sorts of stories and vicariously lived all sorts of adventures that I could never have had in “real life.” As a ghostwriter, I have many “real lives.” How wonderful is that?

I’ve ghostwritten business books on how to succeed, how to be a great leader, how to motivate employees, how to start a business from scratch, and learned from the adventures my clients went through while learning all these “hows.” I ghostwrote a financial book about how to plan for retirement, and another about how to invest responsibly. My own financial health has improved because of it. I’ve ghostwritten books with medical themes, some inspirational that showed how my clients beat cancer, recovered from a brain injury, or learned how to live with blindness. I ghostwrote a book about diarrhea and constipation and other intestinal challenges and how to live with them. (One of the most fun books I ever wrote – yes, really.) I even ghostwrote about male enhancement products and why not to use them. I am thankful that I did not have to suffer these conditions in order to understand them, and if I am confronted with these challenges in the future, I already know some techniques to help me heal.

I’ve ghostwritten a spiritual book on deepening your faith, a book on shamanism, another on dream interpretation, another on psychic hunches, another on astrological projections. Has my mind been stretched? You bet.

 I’ve ghostwritten books on relationships of all sorts – like how to get your teenager to talk to you; the triumph and pain of coming out of the closet; how to love without judgment; the ingredients of a happy marriage; and stories from an Alzheimer’s care facility that gave me strength and comfort when my own mother developed that dread disease.

Some of my favorites have been the books I ghostwrote about animals, including one about psychic horses and dogs, written for an animal communicator. This led me to look at my own dog differently, and the result was Dog Park Diary, a book that I “ghostwrote” for my dog, Goody Beagle.

And oh, the memoirs I have helped birth into the world! Inspirational, funny, thought-provoking. One of my favorites centered around how to make killer raspberry jam – you can write a memoir about anything.

I’ve ghostwritten a few memoirs about the horror of child sexual abuse – and the triumph of recovery and remembrance. These have inspired me to keep on talking and writing about this subject, to get these stories out there, because abuse flourishes in the dark. I have been a small part of pouring light on this problem, which makes me proud. It has increased my compassion – and my fury – and my desire to protect the vulnerable. In short, these books made me a better woman.

I’ve ghostwritten about living with the racism in American society, from the viewpoint of a Korean-American man, a Japanese-American woman, an African-American man, and a Latina woman. As a white person, how else but ghostwriting could have given me a better understanding of what America looks like from a minority perspective?

As an amateur historian as well as a ghostwriter, I’ve been privileged to ghostwrite books set in the past, and this led directly to teaching classes on how to see your own life as part of “big” history, which in turn led me to writing my book Making History: how to remember, record, interpret and share the events of your life.

I’ve ghostwritten war memoirs that tell the truth about its cost, from Vietnam vets and a Korean War vet, even a World War II vet. This is helpful for me because I am currently writing my own parents’ love story set during World War II when he was a soldier fighting in the South Pacific jungles, and she was a Woman Marine stationed in the War Dept in Philadelphia. It is based on their letters written between 1941 and 1945, which my brothers and I found in a box in their closet after they died.

Finally, I’ve ghostwritten some books that center around the theme of identity – adoption stories. All writing is an attempt to answer that age-old question “Who am I?”, but adoptees have a special interest in this topic. Ghostwriting these books has helped me immeasurably in writing my own memoir which is about my own identity story. Is it a coincidence that I attract clients with these kinds of stories? Probably not.

As a child I knew I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. Actually I didn’t wait until I grew up; I’ve been writing as long as I can remember. But it wasn’t until about fifteen years ago that I started writing for others – because my then 94-year-old grandmother asked me to write down some of her stories. Thank you, Grandma, for pointing me in this direction. I didn’t know that being a ghost could reward me with such an interesting life. Can I say it again? I love my job!

If you’re interested in learning how to be a ghost, I offer an online course teaching just that.
Kim Pearson is an author, ghostwriter, and owner of Primary Sources, a writing service that helps others become authors of professional and compelling books and articles. She has authored 6 books of her own, and ghostwritten more than 30 non-fiction books and memoirs. To learn more about her books or services, visit
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Friday, November 16, 2012

The Wayside Writers’ Circle

Jane Yolen, acclaimed author of over 300 works across a wide spectrum of genres  - everything from board books to Nebula Award-winning Science Fiction - spends several months of the year working at Wayside, her home in Scotland.  Here she heads up a group of Scottish-based Young Adult and/or Fantasy writers.  Earlier this month, Jane became the first woman in the history of St. Andrews University to deliver the prestigious Andrew Lang Memorial Lecture.  This being the case, it seems only appropriate to do a feature on Jane and the members of her “Wayside Circle”.

Who are the Wayside Writers?  First and foremost, of course, there is Jane Yolen herself, who is perhaps best described as sui generis.  Jane has  written a number of books on Scottish themes.  Several years ago she invited my husband Robert Harris1 to be her writing partner for The Queen’s Own Fool (click on the title to read an excerpt), told from the point of view of Nicola, a young girl who becomes the personal jester and loyal companion of Mary Queen of Scots.  Following the success of this novel, they were commissioned to write three more Scottish historical novels (The Girl in a Cage; The Prince Among the Heather, and The Rogues) which now make up the Stuart Quartet.

Next on the roster is adult fantasy author Lisa Tuttle, another American ex-pat who has taken inspiration from her Scottish surroundings in a number of her novels.  Two favorites of mine are The Silver Bough, which revives an ancient fertility rite in the remote Scottish village of Appleton, and The Mysteries, in which a private detective follows the trail of a missing girl into the Scottish highlands and discovers she may have discovered a portal to a perilous faerie realm.

 Another adult fantasy writer is Elizabeth Kerner, author of the best-selling novel Song in the Silence and its two companion novels, The Lesser Kindred, and Redeeming the Lost.2  Elizabeth K. shares with Jane a love of dragons and the distinction of being able to write wonderful books on the subject.  Better still, they do it from two completely distinctive perspectives.

Next on the list are two YA novelists, Annemarie Allen and Caroline Clough, both winners of the Scottish Kelpies Book Prize. Annemarie’s prize-winner, Hox, features a sinister research institute in a remote area of the Scottish highlands where unscrupulous scientists conducting genetic experiments on animals have accidentally produced a telepathic super-cat. Caroline’s prize-winner, Red Fever, chronicles a family’s struggle for survival in a post-apocalyptic Scotland where most of the human population has been wiped out by a killer virus.  Both novels are complete spell-binders.
Last, but not least, there is YA author Elizabeth Wein, whose WWII historical novel, Code Name Verity, was released earlier this year.   The novel features parallel narratives by two close friends, Maddy and Julie, the former a pilot, the latter an intelligence operative for the RAF. When Julie is captured and interrogated by the Gestapo, she must tell the truth in order to survive long enough for Maddy to try and rescue her. A heart-breakingly beautiful juggernaut of a novel.

And I get to come along, too.  What a great life!


1Bob is the only male member of the Wayside Circle thus far.  He says, "It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it.”  We let him stay, anyway.

2Fans of the trilogy will be pleased to learn that Elizabeth’s signed up to do a further trio of novels set in the world of Kolmar.  As her friend and beta reader, I can testify that they promise to be corkers.

Debby Harris is an independent editor living in Scotland. Please visit her website for more information about her editing services and fees.

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