Thursday, January 27, 2022

TV Scripts Offer Great Writing

I know the Blood Red Pencil blog is about writing, but TV scripts are written, so give me a little latitude here. Nowadays, some of the best suspense/thriller/mystery writing is coming out of TV scripts. My husband and I never streamed series TV until late last year, but because of the coronavirus, contentious political TV, and movies we’ve seen a dozen times, we decided to settle in for some serious watching. Here are a few of the great shows that hooked us.

After I found out Blacklist (Netflix) wasn’t about the 1950s House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), something that always fascinated me, I didn’t particularly want to watch it, but I like James Spader, so I thought it was worth a try. We loved it. Eight seasons, with 22 shows per season later, we can’t wait for season 9. If you like crime fiction and can overlook the stories’ impossibilities and suspend your disbelief, you’ll love this show. The skinny: Raymond (Red) Reddington, Spader, is #1 on the FBI’s wanted list, but he goes about his life, traveling on his private jet, outwardly getting involved in people’s lives, and turning on all his enemies (the so-called Blacklist), as if no one will ever recognize him. (I guess when I think of Whitey Bulger, living in California for decades, that isn’t so far-fetched.) Spader is amazing, even though sometimes I think his head is going to fall off his neck as he cocks it to the side constantly. Throughout his gallivanting the world, he’s secretly working for the FBI while they're supposed to be hunting him. (I told you there was some overlooking to do.) He knows everyone in the underworld, and the honest world too, some as friends with whom he calls on for help, others as competitors and enemies. Though every week is a different story, the common thread running through the series has to do with the only person in the FBI that he will work with in order to divulge his insider info to catch bad guys the FBI doesn't know about: a woman from his past who might or might not be his daughter. Like most crime series, books, movies, or TV, there’s a steady cast of characters with their own problems that infringe on the lead character. This one is fun and exciting and addictive. As a suspense writer, it’s also a primer on how to write cliffhangers, as is the next series, Ozark

Ozark (Netflix) starts out in Chicago with Marty Byrde (played by light comedy actor Jason Bateman in a serious dramatic role) as an accountant who finds himself laundering money for a Mexican drug cartel. When his partners get bumped off, one by one, Marty is saved because of his brilliance at juggling numbers. Who saves him? One of the leaders of the drug cartel. Marty comes up with a “brilliant” scheme to launder money by moving to an Ozark resort area with his wife and two kids and opening a casino. Besides having to please his Mexican drug lords and his uprooted, unhappy family, he has to deal with a couple of redneck crime families in order to survive. One family grows poppies―you know what they make out of the fields of flowers, right?―and they don’t take kindly to the Mexicans getting in the way of their drug distribution. Every time Marty tries to get out of one situation, he digs deeper into another, each one more dangerous than the one before it. To complicate matters, his wife, Wendy (Laura Linney), is almost as conniving and ambitious as he is. It’s hard to root for anyone in Ozark because they’re all so morally bankrupt, but the stories are so compelling, it’s hard not to tune in to each episode. Did I mention cliffhangers. Ozark has some of the best, which keeps us up another hour and another after that.

We also watched Joe Pickett, a Spectrum Original drawn from the book series by C.J. Box. For those of you who haven’t read the book series―I’ve read a couple and now want to read more―Joe is a Wyoming game warden. The ten-episode first season flew by, and since the second season doesn’t come out until September of 2022, we’ll have to wait until then to see what happens. There’s Joe, played by Australian actor Michael Dorman, his wife, two daughters, the sheriff, a corrupt family and a bunch of bad guys. That’s the basic premise for a lot of shows and books, but the crimes that affect a game warden and the Wyoming setting (really Calgary) takes it out of the ordinary. Maybe producers thought it was a good counterpart to TV’s number one show, Yellowstone, which I love, that sold the idea. What I liked about the character is he’s not a shoot-em-up macho cowboy. He’s a soft-spoken family man whose wife and kids mean more to him than his job, but his job pays the bills. He has an old-timey moral code that’s appealing, but there’s plenty of action to keep the thrill junkies interested.

We started Breaking Bad (Netflix) some time ago but couldn’t get into it. The other night, we picked up where we left off, and now we’re hooked. Breaking Bad has been around for a long time, and Bryan Cranston as Walter White has won numerous awards for his acting. I can see why. It’s the story of a high school chemistry teacher who cooks meth with one of his slacker students and realizes this isn’t what he wants to do with his life when things go sideways, causing the death of a druggie. His cancer diagnosis changes that because of his staggering medical costs. We’re only halfway through season one, but we’re in for the long ride on this one. Of course, it points out the absurdity of people going bankrupt in this country because of the high cost of dying from an extended illness. There are five seasons of BB, so I can’t wait to find out how it ends. Oh, by the way, he’s in with a Mexican drug dealer too. Maybe I should write that storyline into my work in progress. Seems like a winner.

And don't forget Michael Connelly's Bosch (Amazon Prime). I've seen all seven seasons and love it, plus there will be a spinoff called Bosch: Legacy coming out sometime in 2022. Another book to TV series is Craig Johnson's Longmire, which you can watch on Netflix. I know I've missed some, but I don't watch Hallmark or Britbox. Can't help but think that my Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series (All on Amazon, starting with Mind Games: would make good TV, but I digress. And fantasize. 


Polly Iyer is the author of ten suspense novels: standalones Hooked, InSight, Murder Déjà Vu, Threads, Indiscretion, and we are but WARRIORS, and four books in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, Mind Games, Goddess of the Moon, Backlash and The Scent of Murder. She’s also the author of four erotic romances under the pseudonym, Maryn Sinclair. A Massachusetts native, she makes her home in the beautiful Piedmont region of South Carolina. You can connect with her on Facebook and visit her website for more information and to read the first chapters of her books.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

3 Tips For Creating More Creativity

 “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” Maya Angelou

That quote from the talented poet, performer, and activist who passed from this life in 2014 really resonates with me, as I’ve long believed that we have to keep the creative juices flowing. It's definitely not good for any kind of productivity with our work if we stagnate. What we do to prime the pump, so to speak, can take many forms.

If you’re a writer, write

That seems like a non-starter for writers. That's what we do, right? But too often we get distracted by social media, things life throws at us, or an impulse to play a game instead of getting into the groove. What we need to be doing is writing first. 

As the wonderful writer Anne Lamott says, “How to write: Butt in chair. Start each day anywhere. Let yourself do it badly. … Get butt back in chair.”

Back when I was a lot more prolific as a writer, before Ramsay Hunt Syndrome decided to cozy up to me and bring along the gift of optic nerve inflammation and daily head pain, I did go to my office and write every day. Sometimes my optimum writing time was first thing in the morning, other times in the late afternoon, and when I recognized the changing patterns, I tried to be disciplined about working, not playing. 

Any time we have to take long breaks away from putting words together to tell stories, our wells can dry up, and getting back into the rhythm of work can be challenging. That has been true for me in the past eight years I've dealt with the health issues of atypical trigeminal neuralgia, also a gift from Mr. Hunt. I've struggled to keep working, to varying degrees of success in those efforts, having brief periods of time when I could write juxtapositioned next to times when I could not.

This past year, I’ve challenged myself to write something, even just a blog post, every day, and that has helped to keep the creativity free-flowing. The alternative is to let that well run dry. Stop writing and just…. what?

I can’t imagine something else.

As a good friend once told me, “Writing isn’t just something we do. It’s part of who we are.” And when I think about not writing ever again, I get this great clutch in my heart that says, "No! No! No!"

So, write on writer friends, and I will do the same. 🙂

If you’re a writer, read

It shocks me to the soles of my feet when I hear a writer say they don’t read. What!?!? Do you not understand how the beautiful and perfect writing from another author can fill your soul with the urge to write words so wonderful?

When I finish reading books like River Sing Out by James Wade or The Girls in the Stilt House by Kelly Mustian, I’m so taken with the rich language – the perfect descriptions – the flowing narrative – that I vow to bring my own writing out of the ordinary.

Reading and paying attention to the craft involved, helps us to hone our own craft. Learning the best use of dialogue tags – if it jars me in a story I’m reading, maybe the same one will jar a reader if I use it. How does the author balance narrative and dialogue? What makes it work? How are characters introduced? Is a detailed description right for the genre in which you are writing, or can a character be presented in quick brushstrokes? 

In a book I'm reading right now, a minor character is introduced as "a hairy tree stump." That brief description tell the reader so much, and I could immediately picture the man. 

If you’re a writer, feed your creative spirit

In the The Artist’s Way, a book I was introduced to many years ago, Julia Cameron encourages artists of all mediums, not just writers, to take time away from “the work to play.”

Not that she means weeks and weeks away, but perhaps one day a week – a play date with yourself or maybe with a friend. It doesn’t matter. Go to a movie, a stage play, a concert, or spend a few hours at the library just being surrounded by books and other people who love stories.

At the time that I first read Cameron’s book, I was already frequently going to the movies by myself. I love films – have since I was a kid and saved up nickels until I had a quarter to buy a ticket. But in all those years, I never knew how my passion for film was feeding my passion for story, and then my passion for writing.

Many people can get lost in the magic of a story unfolding on screen, and forget about the real world for the two hours of sitting in the theater. I'm one of those people, and I always come out feeling energized in a way that I never could define, until I read The Artist's Way

Other writers I know paint, some professionally enough to exhibit and sell some of their work, but one doesn't have to be a pro with the brush to get a benefit from playing with acrylics and oils.

Whatever you decide to do to feed your creativity, my wish is that it does the job, and you have a productive year ahead. If you have ideas of fun things to do, please share in the comments. 

Posted by Maryann Miller,  who has numerous credits as a columnist, novelist, screenwriter, and playwright. She also has an extensive background in editing. You can find out more about Maryann, her books, and her editing services on her Website and her Amazon Author Page read her Blog, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter. Her most recent book is a short-story collection, Beyond the Crack in the Sidewalk, released by Next Chapter Publishing and available as an ebook or paperback or audio in English and Spanish.


Thursday, January 20, 2022

2022 Writers Conferences and Workshops To Be Determined

 Whether a one day session, one week conference, or a month-long writing workshop, writing related events are a good way to commune with other writers. They are opportunities to network and get your name out there. In some instances, you can meet and mingle with editors and agents. Some offer critiques or pitching sessions. Nowhere will you find a higher concentration of introverts enjoying each other's company. Local conferences are a good place to meet potential critique groups or recruit members. Note that information for this list is accurate as to what was available in December 2021. Dates and formats may change. Some events may be postponed or cancelled.

Some are free. Some require a fee. Some are more social than others. Many are for new writers, but a few dig deep into craft. You should choose an event that speaks to your needs and desires.

Unfortunately, with the pandemic, many in person events have been cancelled. Some have been replaced with virtual events, podcasts, or online classes and lectures. Virtual events allow for a wider audience and lower costs since attendance does not require travel and lodging. Many plans remain up in the air as the situation shifts.


Alaska Writers Guild Conference. Check site for updated information on the 2022 event.

American Society of Journalists and Authors Conference (ASJA), New York Marriott Downtown, New York City, New York,was virtual in 2021. To be determined in 2022.

Annual Digital Author and Indie Publishing Writers Conference in Van Nuys, CA check site for plans for 2022.

Bay To Ocean Writers Conference in Maryland to be announced.

Boldface Conference for Emerging Writers, University of Houston, Texas to be announced.

BookCon in Midtown Manhattan, check their site for updates regarding the 2022 event.

Book Lovers Convention, Nashville, Tennessee visit their site for updates and the status.

Annual Broadleaf Writers Conference visit site for updates on future conferences. The 2021 conference was virtual. No news as of this writing on 2022.

California Crime Writers Conference Culver City, California to be announced.

Cape Cod Writers Center Conference in Hyannis, Massachusetts dates to be announced.

Castle Rock Writers' Conference, Castle Rock, Colorado.  The 2021 two-day event was in September on Zoom. Visit site for updates about 2022.

Chuckanut Writers Conference in Bellingham, WA after two years of shifting gears from an in-person event to a virtual format due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chuckanut Writers organizing team has decided to put a pause on the Chuckanut Writers Conference in 2022 to take an opportunity to catch our breath and reevaluate our programming moving forward.

Clarksville Writers Conference in Clarksville, Tennessee. Visit site for updates.

Coastal Magic Convention, Urban Paranormal, Fantasy, & Romance in Daytona Beach, Florida is in the planning stages for a live event. Dates and times to be confirmed soon.

Deadly Ink in Woodbridge Township, New Jersey was cancelled for 2020 and 2021. Visit the site for updates about 2022.

Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writers Conference at Arizona State University is to be announced. Also, the Piper Center regularly offers creative writing classes and workshops through the Piper Writers Studio throughout the year.

DFW Writers Conference (DFWCon), Dallas- Fort Worth Texas. Check site for status of the workshop in 2022.

Emerald City's Writers Conference in Bellevue, Washington planning is still in progress for 2022.

GayRomLit Retreat to be announced.

Green Mountain Writers Conference Mountain Top Inn Chittenden, Vermont.

Gold Rush Writer Conference in Mokelumne Hill, CA. Check site for updates as things progress.

Hampton Roads Writers holds events throughout the year. Check their site for schedule and details.

Highlights Foundation holds classes and virtual workshops throughout the year, live and virtual events. Visit their site for details.

Historical Novel Society Conference will be back for 2023.

History Writers of America Conference in Colonial Williamsburg, VA has not yet announced plans for a 2022 event.

Jackson Hole Writer’s Conference offers monthly workshops.

Juniper Institute for Young Writers, Amherst, Massachusetts. Event is for high school students finishing grades 9, 10, or 11. 2021 was a virtual conference. No dates announced for 2022.

Kauai Writers Conference Kauai to be announced. 

Kentucky Women Writers Conference in Lexington, Kentucky.

Liberty States Fiction Writers Conference at the Holiday Inn in Clark, NJ to be announced.

Maranatha Christian Writers' Conference in Norton Shores, MI. Check site for updates.

Men of Mystery Conference to be announced.

Mississippi Writers Conference was cancelled for 2020. Check site for updates for 2022.

North Carolina Writers Conference holds multiple events each year. Check site for dates and status for 2022. Some will be live, others virtual.

Northern Woodlands Conference in Corinth, Vermont. Check the site for status and updates for 2022.

Odyssey Fantasy Writing Workshop, Saint Anselm College, Manchester, New Hampshire. At this time, there is no information regarding 2022. Odyssey offers other ongoing online resources such as classes, webinars, critiques, podcasts, etc.

Pittsburgh Writing Workshop, in Pittsburgh, PA. Check site for updates and status for 2022.

Rhode Island Romance Writers Retreat, in Middletown-Newport, Rhode Island has not yet posted an event for 2022.

 Rochester Writers Conference was virtual in 2020. Check their site for updates and status for 2022.

Romance Writers of America, San Francisco, California. The 2021 event was virtual. Check site for plans for the summer 2022 event.

San Miguel Writers' Conference & Literary Festival, San Miguel, Mexico is scheduled for February 14 – 18, 2023

Sanibel Writers Conference was held virtually for 2021. Check site for plans for 2022.

Santa Barbara Writers Conference, Santa Barbara, California was cancelled in 2020. Check site for updates for the status of 2022.

Sewanee Writers’ Conference, University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee. The 2021 conference was closed to the public. Check site for plans for 2022.

Southampton Writers Conference, Southampton, New York to be announced.

Squaw Valley Writer's Conference, Squaw Valley, California. To be announced.

Storymakers Conference is TBA. Check their site for updates.

Summer Writing Program at The Capitalocene Naropa University, Boulder, Colorado has not finalized plans for 2022. Check their site for updates.

Tennessee Mountain Writers annual conference in Oakridge, Tennessee to be determined for 2022.

The Writer’s Digest Annual Conference, New York, NY. The 2021 conference was virtual. Check site for plans for the 2022 conference.

Writers' League of Texas Agents & Editors Conference, Austin, Texas  ]

Posted by Diana Hurwitz, author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

BRP's favorite reads of 2021

 Before we turn our backs on 2021, it only makes sense that we reflect back on those books that lingered with us as we hunkered down and rode the waves of "Pandemic Year #2" (ugh! whatta year!). 

In no particular order (well, okay, in the order in which they were received), here are the BRP bloggers and their stated favorites from the-year-that-will-not-be-named-again (at least in this post):

Diana Hurwitz
Brynette Turner
Polly Iyer
Maryann Miller
What about you? If there's a book or series you read last year that stuck with you (in a good way!), please share in the comments below.

Wishing you all a good year ahead, with many good books to read and the time to read them!

Ann Parker authors the award-winning Silver Rush historical mystery series published by Poisoned Pen Press, an imprint of Sourcebooks. During the day, she wrangles words for a living as a science editor/writer and marketing communications specialist (which is basically a fancy term for "editor/writer"). Her midnight hours are devoted to scribbling fiction. Visit for more information.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

My Venture into Kindle Vella

Hello everyone! I’m excited to share my thoughts on Kindle Vella as an author who has primarily written novels and novellas. I’m admittedly new to both the serial format and the platform, but it wasn’t hard to jump right in, get positive feedback from other Vella authors, and start making money before my first episode was released. Let me share a few experiences, tips, and perspectives.

Let’s talk first about the structure of the Kindle Vella platform. Stories can be easily uploaded as a Word document or the text copied and pasted into the content box. Each episode must be between 600 and 5000 words and even can be scheduled for release. The first three episodes are available to read for free but authors are still compensated for them using a bonus program that Amazon assures will be ongoing.

When crafting the story, it’s important to make readers want to unlock episodes. I try to create unresolved conflicts, unexplored possibilities, personal or professional challenges, and hints at character growth so that readers will wonder what will happen next. Once I understood that the serial format is more like watching a soap opera than a movie, it wasn’t difficult to imagine ways to transition the plot into a successful serial. None of my episodes exceeded 3000 words.

There are several ways to get paid. Through March 2022, Amazon is giving new readers 200 free tokens. Additional tokens can be purchased and royalties are based on how much was paid to read the episode. The bonuses can be much more rewarding, though. Amazon is paying bonuses for uploading, opening, liking, following, faving (assigning the weekly crown), and reviewing.

My first episode didn’t release until November 1st, so the October bonus was based solely on scheduling 5 episodes. In November, I scheduled 3 episodes and had 106 read (94 were free). I earned royalties of 20 cents based on paid token used and will receive over $150.00 in bonuses. For me, that exceeds any one-month royalty for a comparable 20,000-word novella in Kindle Unlimited.

Joining Vella groups on Facebook for authors and promoting is how I learned that authors who upload multiple times per week, get episodes read (using free or paid tokens), and have a decent percentage of readers giving “thumbs up” can get paid well. Some are earning over $1000 per month for stories that are still being written.

Kindle Vella provides opportunities for authors to introduce their writing to new readers, test interest in a story that may eventually get released as an e-book or paperback, and earn money based on reader curiosity. I’m definitely glad to have access to this format.

Posted by Brynette L Turner, author of romance novels that are contemporary, African-American, or suspenseful in theme. She loves crafting strong characters and plots that celebrate diverse personalities and interesting perspectives.  Duty to Love, her first serial on Kindle Vella is a spinoff of the award-winning and USA Today-recommend Dream Catcher Series. Her novels and novellas can be found on Amazon, and many are enrolled in the Kindle Unlimited program. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter, or send an email to

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Something New: Exploring Kindle Vella

A New Year is like hitting the reset key. Full of hope and new possibilities. ~ Deb Komiter

This is how every new year should begin, though I’ll be honest with you - the last two have been difficult with all the world’s pandemic challenges. 

I almost gave up writing, even skipping out on NaNoWriMo 2021, which has been a writing habit and creative springboard for the past 14 years. I’m not the only writer with this issue. Several authors I know gave up on NaNoWriMo, too. They also mentioned trying something called Kindle Vella, which caught my attention. 

What is Kindle Vella you might wonder? I did a quick Google search, and found some information, though the platform is still in the early days. This was the best overview and is worth a read.  There is also limited information on Amazon’s site, and I like that they address the platform from both writer and reader perspectives. You can read more here

Still, it all seems a bit vague to me.

First, let me admit I don’t usually like serialization of novels, and that’s the foundation of the Kindle Vella platform. I hate waiting to read the next portion of a story, being one of those readers who can stay up all night to finish a good book. 

The Vella buy-in method also seems a little convoluted. What are these tokens one purchases to pay for books to read online, and who actually makes money? It’s a bit confusing at first glance. But...

... sampling some books is easy enough since the first three chapters of every book are always free to read. Plus a bonus offer of 200 tokens available for a short time makes it theoretically possible to read and experience one entire novel. I had nothing to lose giving it a try, right?

At precisely this juncture in my exploration, a Facebook pal, Brynette L. Turner, with whom I have common garden and cooking interests, shared her early publishing experiences on Kindle Vella. Because she writes in a genre I read, I gave her new Vella book a try. The entire experience was much easier than I anticipated.  

Read Duty to Love

As an editor, I can see immediately the kind of writing style required for a good KV book - something akin to a TV program episode as opposed to a long movie. Each chapter has to be tightly written with an ending that hooks the reader for the next episode. 

Brynette has that tactic figured out. I also notice she does a great job of promoting her new chapter releases, with clever graphics and social media promotions like this:

Then she mentioned getting paid. What, already? No waiting for a year for royalties? This really caught my attention. I admit that much of the reason I have never been focused on publishing is because the payment for the efforts seemed so iffy. I can think of better ways to make money. Like edit books for other people.

But long story short, I am now so intrigued with the concept that I asked Brynette to join the Blood-Red Pencil blog to share her ongoing experiences as she develops her Kindle Vella skills and book collection. I plan to tag along and learn as much as possible from her and everyone else jumping on the Vella bandwagon early! Welcome to the blog, Brynette!

My imagination is starting to flow again, and I think of all my manuscripts that might be revised to fit this tighter reading format. I can absolutely envision young readers enjoying age-appropriate chapters on their cell phones and other gadgets. How many young-reader stories do I have languishing in boxes, waiting to be sent out to publishers? More than a dozen. When I read a few with fresh eyes, I realize some of these stories have definite potential for Vella.

I can do this, can't I, if the actual formatting learning curve isn’t too difficult? As I poke around my KDP account, I see I am already geared up to go with Vella, and I just need to revise some unpublished manuscripts and upload individual chapters from a completed novel. This is looking more hopeful by the minute.

No matter what the motivation, it feels good to be writing again. My goal is to have a Kindle Vella children’s book available for readers by the end of January. Poor Princess Willy Be has been in the time-out corner for five years because pitching her to a publisher just seemed too tiresome. Now the very idea of Kindle Vella has changed all that. I really do feel like I’ve hit the reset key. 

What writing possibilities do you see in 2022, fellow writers? Do you plan to give Kindle Vella a try, either as a reader or as a writer? Please join us in our next blog post when Brynette Turner shares her thoughts and experiences with Kindle Vella so far. You can connect with Brynette on Amazon, Facebook, and Twitter

Do leave us a comment and let us know your thoughts!

Dani Greer is founding member of the Blood-Red Pencil. She spends her days drinking coffee, writing, and herding trolls. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.