Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Honing My Craft While Having One Hell of a Time

by Marjorie Brody

I don’t know about you, but I’m always on the alert for opportunities to sharpen my skills. I enjoy attending organized workshops and seminars, and although I share my new knowledge with colleagues when I return home,  it’s not the same as if we all attend a workshop together—which can be pricey when you consider transportation, hotels and meals, as well as workshop fees. So, this year I hosted three private workshops at my home. I arranged for well established authors and writing instructors to fly into town and do a two-and-a-half day seminar for twenty of my colleagues. We had a blast. We learned, ate, laughed, ate, worked hard, and ate. We talk about our learnings and remind each other to implement our new-found insights long after the seminar ends. We even created a spin-off from the seminar Eric M. Witchey conducted which allowed us to extend our workshop experience.

If you ever get a chance to attend a workshop with Eric, I encourage you to do so. Eric has sold well over 100 short stories, a slew of non-fiction articles, and four novels. He consults with authors often and is a popular workshop presenter at the Willamette Writers Conference, Wordcrafters Conference, and the Short Story America Festival and Conference. Eric has a unique way of understanding story development and boosting productivity. You might want to read his article in Writers Digest, July 2005 on EDACE.

After several days with Eric, a group of us decided we wanted to use his strategies for developing stories. So, we started a group called the Story Starters. We’d pick a genre, a writing technique (e.g., amplifying setting through pov, person vs environment, indirect dialogue) and two emotions from bowls containing dozens. Occasionally, we pick the name of an item from another bowl (e.g., a  crushed soda can, a smelly pillowcase, a squeezed lemon slice). Then in a twenty minute period, we’d write a story using Eric’s EDACE and all the elements we’ve randomly picked from the bowls. When the timer rings, we’d each read our story aloud. The only rule: It doesn’t matter if our work is less than stellar. We are practicing. Merely practicing—although what great practice it is. The more we utilize the process and implement our skills the more integrated they become.

The system the Story Starters use allows us to experiment with genres outside our comfort zones, move characters from one emotional state to another, and have one hell of a time. Amazing ourselves with our creativity—and our consumption of popcorn, sweets and coffee—we laugh and inspire and impact each other other with our stories. We’ve built a strong sense of collegiality and a built-in cheering section for our published endeavors. The Story Starters meet every other week and embark on this process twice in an evening.

At the rate of two story-starts (although many times we finish a completed story in 20 minutes), that’s 52 short story ideas a year. Some will be tossed away, some will be refined and submitted to journals, and others become the ideas for longer works.

We're having an awesome time practicing our craft. 

What about you? What practice techniques do you use?

P.S. When I told Eric I was going to mention him in this blog, he offered to send my readers a longer .pdf version of his Writers Digest article on EDACE. (He's written several articles for Writers Digest and The Writer magazines). He also said if you had a specific question about some aspect of your writing, he could send you an article that may be helpful. He’s willing to do this if you contact him before November 13 and mention the Stiletto Gang.  His email address is: eric@ericwitchey.com.

Marjorie Brody is an award-winning author and Pushcart Prize Nominee. Her short stories appear in literary magazines and the Short Stories by Texas Authors Anthology and four volumes of the Short Story America Anthology. Her debut psychological suspense novel, TWISTED, was awarded an Honorable Mention at the Great Midwest Book Festival and won the Texas Association of Authors Best Young Adult Fiction Book Award. TWISTED is available in digital and print at http://tinyurl.com/cv15why or http://tinyurl.com/bqcgywl. Marjorie invites you to visit her at www.marjoriespages.com.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Tomorrow - Lookin' for fun and feelin' queasy

Tomorrow is my third book release this year. You’d think by now I’d be used to that queasy, what-if-everyone-hates-it feeling in my stomach. That feeling alternates with spikes of what-if-everyone-loves it euphoria.

Every so often, a tiny rational part of my brain says, “Deadlines.” Please note the “s” at the end of that word.

The emotional part of said brain ignores this dire reminder.

Truly, my ability to string words into coherent, interesting sentences is seriously impaired. So rather than torturing you with inanities, I’m sharing an excerpt from Guaranteed to Bleed.

If you like what you read but prefer to read books in order and haven’t read The Deep End, this is your lucky day! Book one of the Country Club Murders is on sale for $.99.

Without further ado from Guaranteed to Bleed...

Silhouetted by the lights in the street, Anarchy Jones was still identifiable. He reminded me of a sheriff in a western who’s just pushed through the swinging doors to the saloon. One who doesn’t much care for what he sees.
My hands—even the bleeding one—shook. How could I explain away a comatose date, a crossdressing brawl and a bloody wrist?
            Anarchy crossed the room in a few strides. He stared at me for a moment, his eyes scrunched as if he was trying to find answers without actually speaking to me. His gaze shifted to Upson. “Is he dead?”
            “Are you sure? Usually when I see you, someone’s been murdered.” The man had a point.

            “I’m sure.” I folded my hands in my lap. “He’s not dead.”


Julie Mulhern is a Kansas City native who grew up on a steady diet of Agatha Christie. She spends her spare time whipping up gourmet meals for her family, working out at the gym and finding new ways to keep her house spotlessly clean--and she's got an active imagination. Truth is--she's an expert at calling for take-out, she grumbles about walking the dog and the dust bunnies under the bed have grown into dust lions. 

Her first romance was a finalist in the 2014 Golden Heart® contest. That book, A Haunting Desire, released July 28, 2015.

Julie also writes mysteries. The Deep End (available now) is her first mystery and is the winner of The Sheila Award. Look for book two, Guaranteed to Bleed, October 13, 2015.

Friday, October 9, 2015

The Devil and The Devil's Pawn

The Devil and The Devil's Pawn by Debra H. Goldstein

What happens when you’re excitedly preparing for the launch of your Young Adult horror book, The Devil’s Pawn, and your doctor calls to tell you your test results were bad?  You’ve been so tired that you’ve occasionally wondered how you were going to cram in the public appearances, blogs, interviews, and emails necessary to promote your new book, but this crazy schedule is part of being a writer so forget the fatigue and keep on moving. Or, at least you tell yourself that until your doctor adds the words “lymphoma” and “heavy chemo protocol” and your world, as Marilyn Levinson’s did, stops.

Stops except for the drip, drip, drip…..and knowing that the doctor added “treatable” and “curable.”

But wait, what about The Devil’s Pawn?  Fifteen year old Simon Porte is depending upon you to publicize his story and you want to.  You worked hard on this book and you need people to know: after fifteen-year-old Simon Porte's family is killed in an automobile crash, his father's brother, whom he's never met, brings Simon to live with him and his wife in upstate New York. Simon doesn't trust Uncle Raymond, and for good reason. Raymond is dying and using his powers to take over Simon's body. Simon and his allies—his dotty great-aunt Lucinda, his sister whom he finds living with another relative, and a pair of odd twins—wage war against the evil Raymond and his cronies.

Drip, drip, drip …. So many days in the hospital, so many days at home.  Try to minimize public contact during the treatments.

The book is getting great reviews, but you’re fretting because your plans to promote it are in disarray. Frustrated, you tell a few of your friends (Guppies – members of The Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime) who you’ve met at conferences and online and a wonderful thing happens.  Your friends tell
you to work on getting better and let them help out with telling people about The Devil's Pawn.  Not a problem they say, it's a good book so it is easy to talk about.

Drip, drip, drip … will this stuff make you need to buy a wig? Blonde, brunette, or maybe red?  That and getting well should be your biggest worries because your fellow mystery writers have closed ranks around Simon and you.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Marilyn Levinson
Marilyn Levinson is doing well with her treatments.  The Devil's Pawn, a young adult horror novel,is available for purchase from:

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

I’d Rather Be Writing

By Kay Kendall

When USA Today bestselling author  Lois Winston invited me to participate in her new cookbook adventure, I jumped at the chance. After all, the title captured my feelings exactly—WE’D RATHER BE WRITING, subtitled 88 Authors Share Timesaving Dinner Recipes and Other Tips. You can pre-order the eBook for 99 cents and receive it on October 30. A portion of proceeds will be donated to No Kid Hungry. Most of us authors juggle day jobs and family responsibilities along with our writing. Because we need to find time to write, we search for ways to save time. And cooking takes up such a huge chunk.

However, you don’t need to be a multi-tasking author to need time-saving recipes and tips, so in our new cookbook you’ll find easy, nutritious recipes for meat, poultry, pasta, soup, stew, chili, and vegetarian meals. The recipes require a minimum of preparation, freeing time to do other things—to read, exercise, garden, craft, write, spend more time with family, or whatever.

The 88 participating authors make up a varied group, writing a wide range of fiction—everything from mystery to romance to speculative fiction to books for children, young adults, and new adults—and some who write nonfiction. Some write sweet; others write steamy. Some write cozy; others write tense thrillers. Some are debut authors with only one published book; others are multi-published and have had long publishing careers. And, while some are even New York Times and USA Today bestselling authors, even they still need to perform feats of juggling daily.

We like to think of ourselves as a rather creative and resourceful bunch when it comes to carving out time from our busy lives. So in addition to timesaving recipes, we have added timesaving organizational tips too.

Check this list of contributing authors to see whose names your recognize: Lisa Alber, Reggi Allder, Judy Alter, Krista Ames, Rose Anderson, Cori Lynn Arnold, Judy Baker, Beverley Bateman, Donnell Ann Bell, Paula Gail Benson, Kris Bock, Maureen Bonatch, Ava Bradley, Susan Breen, Lida Bushloper, Michelle Markey Butler, Ashlyn Chase, Judy Copek, Maya Corrigan, Mariposa Cruz, Melinda Curtis, Lesley A. Diehl, Conda V. Douglas, Nancy Eady, Helena Fairfax, Jennifer Faye, Flo Fitzpatrick, Kit Frazier, Shelley Freydont, Mariana Gabrielle, Rosie Genova, Marni Graff, Joanne Guidoccio, Margaret S. Hamilton, L.C. Hayden, Linda Gordon Hengerer, Heather Hiestand, R.Franklin James, Kathryn Jane, M.M. Jaye, Elizabeth John, Stacy Juba, Gemma Juliana, Carol Goodman Kaufman, Melissa Keir, Kay Kendall, A.R. Kennedy, Lynn Kinnaman, Marie Laval, B.V. Lawson, Claudia Lefeve, Alice Loweecey, Cynthia Luhrs, Sandra Masters, Lisa Q. Mathews, J.M. Maurer, Sandra McGregor, Kathy McIntosh, Claire A. Murray, Ann Myers, Tara Neale, Stacey Joy Netzel, Jayne Ormerod, Alice Orr, Laurel Peterson, Irene Peterson, Pepper Phillips, Caridad Pineiro, Kathryn Quick, Renée Reynolds, Josie Riviera, Elizabeth Rose, C.A. Rowland, Cindy Sample, Sharleen Scott, Terry Shames, Susan C. Shea, Judy Penz Sheluk, Joanna Campbell Slan, Karen Rose Smith, Lynette Sofras, Kaye Spencer, Skye Taylor, Lourdes Venard, Lea Wait, Regan Walker, Lois Winston, and Aubrey Wynne.

We’d Rather Be Writing is available on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Wed-Rather-Be-Writing-Timesaving-ebook/dp/B01638N5PO
Part of proceeds will be donated to No Kid Hungry < http://www.nokidhungry.org/>

Kay Kendall is a long-time fan of historical novels and writes atmospheric mysteries that capture the spirit and turbulence of the sixties. She is a reformed PR executive who lives in Texas with her husband, three house rabbits, and spaniel Wills.
Terribly allergic to her bunnies, she loves them anyway! Her book titles show she's a Bob Dylan buff too. RAINY DAY WOMEN published on July 7. It is the second in her Austin Starr Mystery series.