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Showing posts from October, 2016

November is for Giving Thanks

November is for giving thanks and sharing time with family and friends. Freedom from Want by Norman Rockwell It's also my birthday month, which means lots of fun and surprises. My husband has gift-giving down to a fine art! But there's one other thing I look forward to more than anything in November, and that's National Novel Writing Month. I've been participating for at least ten years, and 2015 gave me my first 50,000-word success story. I finished with flying colors. November seems the perfect month for me to focus and write, and every year, I get a little better at it. This year I'm blasting through three 100-page middle grade chapter books, part of a series of seven books I've been thinking about for several years. I can't wait to get started! How about you? Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? Let's connect over there. Or are you one of those enviable people who naturally writes every day and publishes several books a y

#FridayReads - David Wellington, Duke of Horror

If you're looking for a free horror read for the Halloween weekend you can't go wrong biting into a David Wellington blog novel. All of the following are complete novels available for free online (or you can support a talented author and buy a Kindle or paperback book - see the links below). If horror is not your thing, Wellington also writes Fantasy as David Chandler , and Science Fiction as D. Nolan Clark . Monster Island Monster Island is a well-plotted horror story, with memorable characters, excellent villains, and many juicy twists. Following an epidemic that has turned most humans into zombie-like walking dead, a UN weapons inspector is forced to return to New York to steal antiretroviral drugs - to trade for citizenship for himself and his daughter into the only semi-safe country remaining in the world: Somalia. Meanwhile a medical student decides to join the undead rather than be eaten - but he first takes steps to preserve his brain while he dies. Being i

To Speak or Not To Speak

Looking ahead to Halloween, a holiday I love by the way, we're writing about fear on the Blood-Red Pencil all this month. This is a time we think about all the things that used to scare us on All-Hallows Eve - ghosts and goblins and witches and now zombies – as well as other things that grab us by the throat and hold us immobile. Jason wrote about his fear of being able to get back to writing after the birth of his child in a two-part series that began with Fear Beyond Words . An apt title for a topic to which those of us who juggled kids and words can relate. Will we ever have time to write again? However, that is not what I want to write about in this post today. A Facebook friend recently advised me to be cautious about what I post on social media that could be controversial, such as political issues, as it may not help my career to get in the middle of contentious debates. Not that I want to get in the middle of an ongoing rant, but I do like to speak my mind, and perhap

The Scariest Story - #FridayReads - The Rope Swing

We are pleased to welcome Candace Kearns Read to the Blood-Red Pencil team. Image by dryhead , via Flickr Like everyone, I have plenty of fears. At the top of the list are snakes, evil spirits, falling off cliffs, and… being honest. So, when I set out to write a memoir several years ago, I found it difficult to create a final product that was any good. Sure, I could draft chapters, but instead of conveying the intensity I wanted, many passages were stiff, clinical, awkward. I tried and tried, but I couldn’t quite relax on the page, and it showed. I didn't realize it at the time, but I was hiding my truth. I was afraid. Speaking – and writing - our truth is scary. We fear ridicule, judgment, the pure vulnerability of exposure. My memoir tells the story of my attempts to save my aging Hippie mother from drug addiction, and the journey I took towards saving myself instead. It felt risky to write this book, and risky to publish it. I was afraid that those who knew my mot

The Stages of Fear

Image by amboo who? , via Flickr I wrote my first book without fear because I had no expectations. I didn’t really think I’d finish writing a whole book, let alone sell it. When Warner Books bought it, the fear began. First, I was afraid my editor would forget me before I’d written a second. That proved an unnecessary worry: By the time I finished Angel , she still remembered me; however, Warner had stopped publishing Regencies. So the next fear was that I’d never find another editor/publisher who liked my work. I did, obviously, or I wouldn’t be here. So let’s move on to the next stage. After several books, my editors no longer expected to receive an entire manuscript. They began to give me contracts on the basis of a synopsis of 7 pages or so. At that point, the quivering question becomes what on earth made me think I could turn this bare idea, which seemed so promising at the time, into an entire novel. And how can I turn these names into real, engaging people? I’ve ne

Our Words, Our Babies, Our Fears

Some years ago, I attended a writing seminar where the keynote speaker stated that our words are not our babies. After long and thoughtful consideration, I beg to differ. Our words may, indeed, be our babies in a number of ways. We nurture them in our hearts, sometimes for nine months, sometimes longer. Giving birth—getting them down on paper or a hard drive—can be an easy delivery or a painful process. Words, scenes, and chapters may roll from our minds through our fingers with little effort, figments of our imaginations’ creative processes, or emerge from difficult experiences of family, friends, or selves. Pent-up emotions may surface unbidden, sending hot tears cascading down our cheeks as we relive painful, perhaps suppressed events and transfer them to our protagonist or another character. Bottom line: our words often come from deep within, and their birth in written form may remain attached by a literary umbilical cord that refuses to be cut. What’s the result of this ong

So You're Afraid Your Muse Has Abandoned You. Me too.

Writing novels can be a scary thing. Different elements affect our production, and that can turn into writer’s block. (Blog: How to Jumpstart Your Imagination ) There have been days in the past when I didn’t feel like writing, or maybe I was sick and wanted to watch a movie or read a book. Other days, when I’d written to a certain point in the story and didn’t know where to go, I’d take a short break. But I'd always get back to my story and finish it. I've done that eleven times for eleven books. That all changed this summer when I had knee replacement surgery. I know major surgery, and knee replacement is major, can change the chemistry of our bodies, but in my case it also changed how my mind worked. Everything revolved around my knee. Period. Not only have I been apathetic about writing, I’ve felt the same way about food, about getting dressed, and when I finally could drive, about going to the grocery store. In the past, I’ve always managed to get back on track after

A Few of My Favorite Chills

With shortened days, colder nights, falling leaves, and the approach of Halloween, it is time to crank up the horror genre. It just isn't October without a few good scares. I prefer psychological terror over grotesque or gore because it is what happens before the "Boo" that makes the "gotcha" delicious, but here are a few of my favorite classic horror reads: 1) Everything by Edgar Allen Poe. From the Tell-Tale Heart to the Cask of Amontillado , his stories have stuck with me over the decades. I still listen for the thump of a heart under the floorboards. 2) Stephen King, pick a title: Carrie, Salem’s Lot, The Shining, Cell . They’re all chill-icious. His books have caused me several sleepless nights and a few near heart attacks. 3) The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson was a fantastical, terrifying ghost story about a group of people drawn to Hill House for a psychological experiment that goes awry when it seems the house has possessed one

Fear Beyond Words (The Conclusion)

Okay, so, maybe I don’t have what it takes to be a good daddy and an author. See, fear has a lot of power. It can be blinding, crippling, even fatal. People become completely paralyzed at the sight of a tiny spider. Grown adults are reduced to tears at the sound of thunder. People who taken their own lives because of voices whispering to them in the darkness. As someone who writes thrillers and horror, I am fascinated by the lengths people will go to avoid what frightens them. The human mind’s ability to be manipulated is something I love to take advantage of in my writing. But, obviously, I am not immune. I once considered myself, for the most part, fearless. I don’t really have a phobia. I despise needles, but as long as I don’t see them, I can avoid throwing nurses out of hospital windows. Sometimes I feel like I am suffocating if in too tight of a space. Perhaps I am mildly claustrophobic, but come on, either you have it or you don’t, right? I’ve jumped out of plan

Fear Beyond Words

October. The weather cools, and the air turns crisp. Leaves change color and paint the Colorado mountainsides gold. Pumpkin patches swarm with excited children. We get out the grease paint, fake blood, faux tombstones, and laughing skeletons to celebrate all things scary and openly welcome fear into our lives. (Depending on the ticket price for our favorite haunted house, we sometimes pay big bucks to scream and pee down our legs.)   Fear, however, is all too real. We have fun with it for a few weeks but, when October ends, our true fears stay with us just like that twenty-pound sack of Trick-or-Treat candy on top of the fridge. Fear is necessary. It motivates us, strengthens us, helps us face life’s darker moments and keep moving. Fear exists in almost every aspect of our lives, whether we realize it or not. What trembles your knees? Spiders, clowns, needles, large crowds, tight spaces, in-laws, no wifi, life without Starbucks? Over the course of this month, all of us here at