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Showing posts from January, 2018


A page from my "daily draw" journal I have been doing various daily practices for many years and they have been instrumental in my artistic and spiritual growth. For over 20 years I’ve begun my day with “morning pages” (from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron) which is doing two to three pages of stream-of-consciousness writing in longhand each day. For almost 20 years I’ve also been writing one haiku every day, which means I have a lot of haiku by now. And for about five years I’ve been doing what I call my “daily draw” which means I draw or paint or sculpt an image from the day before, sometimes illustrating the haiku I just wrote, or something I saw on my daily walk, or something I remember from a conversation, or whatever appears from my hands. None of these writings or drawings has to be good, although sometimes they are excellent. But quality is not the issue, and despite the mounds of paper I now have filled with scribbles, poems, and drawings, neither is quantity

Book Review - Story Sparks by Denise Jaden

Story Sparks Denise Jaden New World Library ISBN: 1608685098 Paperback - $12.16 Ebook: $9.99 If you are searching for a new idea for a new book in this New Year, this resource will be of great benefit. In the introduction of Story Sparks , the author states that “idea gathering is a highly learnable skill.” Then she goes on to help writers hone that skill with her advice and exercises. The book is divided into several parts in which specific suggestions are given to help writers find their ideas for story, for character and for setting. Part one is where Jaden explains what S.P.A.R.K. stands for: Seek, Passion, Allies, Resonance, Kinetic energy. Seek: Not just new story ideas but things that will help make those stories stronger. Jaden gives many suggestions for strengthening our skills of observation, noting details of places and people that we can use to make our characters and settings “visible” to our readers. Passion:   We should always be writing about some

Why the Beginning of Your Novel Is Important

Since January is the month of “beginnings” on The Blood Red Pencil, let’s talk about the first lines and/or the first few pages of your novel. Agents claim they can tell if a book is worth representing from reading the first five pages, and they can and do accept or reject representation based on those pages. I know readers who would ditch a book if they’re not enthralled right away. I give it more time if the writing appeals to me. It helps to have an outstanding first line. I’ve had a first line in my head for years, but I’ve never been able to come up with a story to go with it. Julia Spencer-Fleming’s first sentence in  In the Bleak Midwinter  is a gem: “It was one hell of a night to throw out a baby.” Now really, doesn’t that make you want to keep reading? There are some first lines that stick in your mind even though the book fades from popularity. Here’s a link of 100 of the best first lines: You'll probably recognize many

A Whopper of a Change

New year. New beginnings. And a whole new lifestyle for me. I am moving from the place where I have lived for the past 16 years. The last home I shared with my husband. The little plot of land fondly called Grandma's Ranch where I happily played farmer for those past 16 years. Many wonderful friends. And my beloved Winnsboro Center for the Arts where I found new expressions of art on stage and with a paintbrush. Many things have prompted this drastic change in my life, the major one being chronic health issues that demand specialists that are 100 miles away. The drive for appointments is, well, always a challenge. Then there's the fact that I live alone, except for my dog and my four cats, but they are not much help in an emergency. I have amazing friends and neighbors, who have been so helpful and supportive for the past few years, but last August I realized that it was not fair to keep relying on them when an animal got sick or a tree came down on a fence. It was cl

Literary Journeys from Humble Beginnings

Writing projects often follow similar journeys. They begin with a concept and travel through studies and/or interviews, news reports, outlines, character sketches, multiple drafts, self-edits, rewrites, more self-edits, professional edits, more rewrites, intense proofreadings, corrections, interior layout, cover design, and the list goes on. After publication the work continues—it's called marketing. Even big publishing houses may require authors to do a portion of if not all their own sales work. Let's explore those "humble beginnings." How does humility play into writing a book? All sorts of people from myriad backgrounds want to become authors. They have a story to tell, whether it be fiction, non-fiction, perhaps even poetry—and all must start in the same humble place, pen and paper in hand, at the keyboard, dictating to a secretary or recording device, or employing a ghost writer. It has been said that it takes a village to raise a child. Similarly, it

Keeping a Series Fresh

For everyone on the planet, 2018 marks a new year, a new beginning. For writers, it marks another year to produce a book for publication. I haven’t published a new novel since September of 2015. I reached 35,000 words on one, decided I didn’t believe the premise, and gave up, though I think it has future possibilities with a little more thought. I did write The Last Heist , a novella for the anthology, Lowcountry Crime , but that was it. Today, January 9 th , I'm publishing The Scent of Murder, the fourth book in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, my ninth suspense novel, and my twelfth book overall, including erotic romance books written under a pseudonym.  When I published Backlash , the third book in the series, I thought it was the most difficult book I’d written, not because it was a hard book to write, but because I didn’t want the series to diminish in quality. We’ve all read reviews of books deep into a series that suggest the author should move on, t

Every Month Can be a New Beginning

Image by Andre Chinn We tend to make yearly resolutions or goals, setting our desires down in a tidy list that acts like a straight jacket, holding us to the promises of January 1st no matter what happens in February or July or November. Failure to meet one or more of those goals in a timely manner leads to discouragement and perhaps giving up on the resolution for the rest of the year. That’s the part that doesn’t make sense: for the rest of the year . If we break our lists down into monthly achievable segments which can be revisited and revised as we go, we have a better chance of success. It often takes only a month to feel overwhelmed by the number of tasks we’ve put on our To Do lists, the word count goals we didn’t achieve even in month one, or the weight we swore we’d lose but did not even come close. That’s when it’s time to begin again. If we mess up in January, we can do better in February. Rewrite the goals or resolutions. Aim for achievable and specific. Learn h

Where to begin?

I belong to multiple writing groups on Facebook. The most common statement from new writers is, "I have an idea, but I don't know where to start." Inspiration comes from many places. Keep a notebook around so you can jot down the ideas as they come to you. I have a computer file labeled "Widows and Orphans." It is full of articles, dreams, notes about stories that fascinate me. I have collected stories about gods and goddesses, the Orkney isles in Scotland, standing stones, abandoned locations across the globe, remote viewing, fascinating bits of history, oddities that can't be explained. Myths and legends intrigue me most. Even though Mystery is my favorite genre to read followed by Young Adult Fantasy and lately some science fiction, I haven't been able to choose my next project. I have a draft of a story about lucid dreaming, then I saw several books about that topic and one even stole my title. So it is gathering dust. Then I had an idea for a