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Showing posts from November, 2015

Art Appreciation

King Parrot Acrylic on canvas by Elle Carter Neal Click to enlarge I enjoy drawing and painting as a hobby – which means I don’t take it seriously, I don’t bother with practicing to improve my skills, I don’t find time for it when I’m just too busy (like the past six years!). Making pictures is a nice way to relax after a long day dealing with words. Artworks by Elle Carter Neal (including Pelican incomplete since 2009) Click to enlarge I know enough about art to know that I’m not good enough at it to illustrate my own covers. So, I’ve now set out twice to commission artwork from professional artists. The first was very easy to find. Sandra Salsbury illustrated What Does It Mean to be Safe by Rana DiOrio and I followed the blog book tour via Dani’s involvement in Little Pickle Press. I fell in love with the artwork on Sandra’s website, and knew she would be my first enquiry when I was ready to design the cover for my first book, Madison Lane and the Wand of Rasputin .


This is the time of year when we are “supposed” to be thankful. And I am. I’m thankful all year for the many, many blessings I’ve had throughout my entire life. But having gone through a major loss within the past year and a half, I see a glimpse of why some may feel this season is an additional emotional burden. We are “supposed” to be happy. We are “supposed” to be grateful. Bah, humbug, right? Well, maybe it’s attitude that either overrides or expresses gratitude. (And maybe this human emotional roller coaster can be good fodder for our writing, our character development!) So, here’s what I’m grateful for:         I’m healthy         I live where the sun shines most days        I can go hiking in 60-degree weather in November and even some days in December and January         I have great friends         My family         My ability to write         My editing clients who keep me as busy as I want to be         Four published books—I’m living my dre

I'm An Author, But Almost Wasn't

Christmas hype often overshadows Thanksgiving, but it shouldn't. Around Thanksgiving, I can't help but be grateful for my many blessings, chief of which are the gift of life, the gift of love, and the gift of country. I've also received another gift, one that sees me through hard times and give me joy. That is the gift of writing. My earliest recollections are of my father driving me and my brothers to the library, where we'd take out stacks of books to bring home and devour.  As I grew older, I dreamed of being a writer, but that's all it was, just a dream. I had no idea how to follow through, or even if I could. That all changed one evening when I attended a presentation at my local library, There, various members of the Chicago-North Romance Writers of America chapter shared how and why they wrote. Though they came from various walks of life, and seemed like normal, everyday people, they'd managed to write books,and many of these women had actually g

Adventures in Audio - Part 1: The Back Story

Image by Alan Levine , via Flickr My husband is nothing if not diversified in the range of his creative enterprises. Board game enthusiasts, for example, will recognize the name Bob Harris as the creator of the classic fantasy board game Talisman . 1 Following the world-wide success of Talisman , Bob a made the lateral move into writing Y/A fiction when our friend Jane Yolen invited him to be her co-author for Queen’s Own Fool , a tale of Mary Queen of Scots (Philomel Books, 2000), the first of eight successful collaborations. And thereby hangs the tale of how he made yet another lateral into script-writing. Bob has always been a fan of vintage American radio comedies like the Jack Benny Show , Amos and Andy , and Duffy’s Tavern . In the wake of writing Queen’s Own Fool , it occurred to him that the life of Mary Queen of Scots, which affords so much serious dramatic material, might on a lighter note provide the basis for a uniquely Scottish sitcom. In 2003 he mentioned t

Giving Thanks in a Messy World

Being November, the possible blog themes this month were Gratitude, along with Autumn, National Novel Writing Month, and Thanksgiving Day. When I chose Gratitude, I realized what a paradox it was at this time in history. Yes, I’m grateful for a lot of things. I have a wonderful family, a nice house, work I love to do. I write books, which means I can live part of my life in a fantasy world, creating stories, mostly crime fiction and suspense. I thought more deeply about the subject, and I knew this blog post would be serious and sad and a reminder of how blessed I really am and how blessed many who will read this are. There’s a whole messy world outside my little office in my warm house, where plenty of food fills the refrigerator. I grew up in a different time. An innocent time. My parents worked in the shoe factories in a city in Massachusetts famous for making shoes. The public commons were shaped like the toe and heel of a shoe, factories were everywhere, and there was plenty

Thanks to Lady Luck...

Image by Bill Selak , via Flickr Lady Luck has waved her magic wand for me times without number. Without her aid, I would not have become a multi-(61 books and counting)-published author. It was sheer chance that my first manuscript landed on the desk of an editor who not only liked it but had a space on her list for it. If it hadn’t sold, I would not have persevered, never having had a burning desire to be a writer. I wrote it to postpone having to go out and look for a “proper” job. With my second publisher (after the first quit doing Regencies before buying my second effort), I had several different editors over the years. All were great to work with except one—and luckily she was only there long enough to drive me nuts over one book. When, years later, it became an e-book, I reversed many of the changes she had made, with the unfortunate result (okay, Lady Luck’s not always on my side) that a monkey never previously mentioned appeared on the stairs of a London mansion halfw

Dream Chaser: Defining Yourself

Friday the 13 th ? (It hurts to avoid the obvious and the easy, but I shall resist.) The last few months have seen me writing a little less, and working on who I want to be as a writer a lot more. I know, writers write, or so they say. But writers are also CEOs of a business. My company is called Jason P. Henry and, for a period of time, my company seemed as though it lost its direction. So, it was time to develop a new business plan. A business built on a writer… how could that lose direction? All a writer has to do is sit down, put fingers on the keyboard, take a breath, and spew out a best-seller. Then find an agent (most likely the first one we query will fall in love with our work), the agent finds a publisher within a couple of days, and a few weeks later we’re signing for thousands of people at a bookstore reading. That about sums up the path to success, correct? Anyone who has considered taking this road knows it’s is not an easy one to travel. It’s definitely not a qu

Remember These 10 Writers

Take your fingers off the keyboard and put down your pens. Let’s have a moment of silence for these 10 brave writers...lost, but never forgotten. Aldo Itmaselph - the writer who insisted on working alone. No editor. No beta-readers. Just him. Althea Thoone - the writer who spent more time having coffee with writers’ groups than actually writing. Candice P. Love - the writer so in love with her own work that she found it impossible to part with it. Collette A Day - the writer who gave up. Haile Improbable - the writer whose plots overflowed with timely coincidences. Horace Cope - the writer who would only write if the ‘signs were right’. Maura Applause - the writer who wrote only to get praise. Barry D’Alive - a writer who took personal research that one step too far… Bess Sellars - the writer crippled by the fear of Book Number Two. Myra Gret - a writer who wanted to write, but never found the time. Elspeth Futcher is an author and playwright. T hi

Gratitude for the Creativity That Doesn't Die

Write every day . The above statement is often given as advice to writers. It’s good advice—for the right writer. I say this because every writer has his or her own way of getting the words on the page. Some of us are daily writers. Some of us set specific days to write, and some of us write when the urge strikes. The problem with writing when the urge strikes, however, is that sometimes—for long moments of time—the urge is dead. At least the writer affected thinks so. Whether you call it writer’s block or a drought (or whatever name you come up with), most writers have moments when the urge to write just leaves. You wake up, and there’s a Dear John (or Johnetta ) letter from writing ... to you. It’s not you; it’s me , writing states. You feel like a failure, you wonder if you will ever write again, you hear or read advice like “write every day,” and you think you can’t possibly be a writer if you can’t write every other day, let alone every day. I’m sure you kno

Five Easy Pieces

I teach various kinds of writing classes – how to write memoir, how to use historical detail in your writing, how to journal without self-judgment, and how to ghostwrite. I always start off any class with a five-step writing process, which works with any subject and any kind of project, from blog posts to books, memoir to self-help. I call it the Five Easy Pieces Process, partially because I love that movie. If Jack Nicholson were a writer, maybe he would follow these rules. Here are the bare essentials: Step One: Write everything you know, or think you know; everything you feel, or think you feel; everything you've done, or wish you'd done (or wish you hadn't done), everything you imagine, everything that pops into your head —in short, write everything. Basically this means: do not censor as you write. Editing comes later. Step Two: Read what you wrote, and look for the recurring themes or threads. I promise they are there. Look until you find them. Step Thre