Janet Lane Walters: Author Interview and Book Spotlight for Bast’s Warrior

 

  • Hello! I’m delighted to have you here with us, Janet, sharing about your writing process. I have to say, I’m a sucker for anything that has to do with Ancient Egyptian mythology, so the book you chose to spotlight really caught my eye!

 

 

  • First, please tell us a little about yourself and the kinds of stories you like to write. Would you say there is an underlying theme behind your stories?

        I’ve been published for 50 years but my career in writing was one done by bits and starts. Raising four children, one of them an adopted biracial child took more and more time. As did returning to college for a BA in English and a BS in Nursing. There was a break from the late 1970s until 1984 when I wrote little other than papers, worked as a nurse and did some ghost writing for doctors. Then I went to a writer’s conference held by the Hudson Valley RWA and began writing in ernest while working part-time as an orthopedic nurse. Jane Toombs, my friend and critique partner sold one of my books to her publisher in 1994. Several years later I discovered electronic publishing, again encouraged by Jane. My first ebook came out in 1998 and I’ve been exclusively ebook with some of the books going to print since them.

        I’ve written a lot of books. I don’t keep track of the number and there is the one I’m working on now and several more outlined. What do I write? There are the contemporary series, many of them involved with nurses and doctors but not all. There are the fantasy and paranormal novels for both adults and YA readers. There are the mysteries. There are also non-fiction books. One of these garnered an EPIC award for Jane and myself – Words Perfect – Becoming Your Own Critique Partner.  What I do not write or read are horror stories. I also don’t write true action adventure stories or science fiction though I read them avidly. I always have a book I’m reading or re-reading on my Kindle.

        A theme in my books is probably general. Good overcomes Evil. Happy ending are possible. Also, gemstones and caves abound. Some kind of medicine, even psychic healing are seen. I guess like my writing, my themes are eclectic.

  • Holy cow, Janet! That’s an impressive resume, both in terms of writing and juggling a family and demanding professional career as well! What part of the world do you call home? Can you tell us a little about where you grew up and where you live now?

At present I live in a Hudson River village, not far from West Point and NYC. Years ago, I cane to visit a friend and fell in love with the area. Edward Hopper, the painter grew up here and once Helen Hayes was a resident. There are houses from colonial days to very modern ones.  My home is a Dutch Colonial built around 1917.

        I grew up in Western Pennsylvania, not far from Pittsburgh and lived there until after my marriage. After my marriage to my physician husband, we did a bit of moving around the country, having lived in Akron, Ohio, Pawnee, Oklahoma and Fort Worth Texas. We returned to Pittsburgy where my husband did his residency and lived in the area until we moved here.

  • How long have you been writing? Did you write as a child or is it something you developed a passion for later in life?

At this point, I’ve been writing for most of my life and published for the past 50 years. I didn’t become serious about putting stories on paper until around 1962. As a child I was a story-teller. We would sit on the porch and tell ghost stories that we made up. I also wrote plays that we performed in a friend’s garage. Then my writing turned to non-fiction things and papers that the teachers thought were more stories than the facts. As a student nurse, we had to do case studied and I couldn’t keep from adding bits of dialogue and putting in the settings.

That is so fascinating. I love hearing about how other writers found their voice. We’re often told, “Writers should write what they know.” What does this statement mean to you as an author?

When I first began writing I believed writing what I knew meant the doctor nurse stories I wrote. But then that began to bore me and I started branching out. I love mysteries and read thousands so I set out to write mysteries but even then there were things I knew. My heroine was a nurse. I also have read fantasy in huge gulps so I began dabbling in trying fantasy and I also had some experience with psychic healing and read a lot about alternate forms of medicine. These have been woven into my stories. Then one day, I discovered the real thing about writing what you know, and that is emotions. We all have and feel emotions. Each one of us reacts in different ways to the same emotional event. So what I know is my emotions and that’s how you write about what you know.

Are you a panster or a plotter?  Do you outline extensively or write your story as you go along?

I’ll admit to both. When I start a new story, I do a lot of plotting and outlining but then when I begin to right, I go with the flow. The outline is there to get me from the beginning to the end and the middle is a lot of free thinking and writing. Since I’ve been writing for a long, long time msut of my plotting is done in my head. When I begin planning a new story, as I fall asleep, I tell myself the story of the story I’m planning to write. In the morning, I jot down the multitude of ideas that I have and organize them. But when I write it’s all free thought. I write all the rough drafts by hand which allows me to think at the point of the pen and see where each thought takes me.

Of the stories you’ve written, which one would you recommend a new reader begin with?

Now this is a hard question to answer since I write mysteries, romance, paranormal and fantasy. I guess what I would recommend would depend on a reader’s likes. For mysteries. Start with Murder and Mint Tea. Fantasy if you like spicy The Temple of Fyre. If you like sweet – Affinities Escape. For Paranormal Bast’s Warrior, an alternate Egypt story. For romance if you like spice, I’d say Heart Throb, sweet, The Doctor’s Dilemma. There are a lot I believe around 50.

How often does your real life experience figure into your story telling? Do you base characters or stories on your actual experiences?

In a way many of my stories reflect things I’ve experienced in my life. They may not be the exact experience but the emotions will matter. Many of my stories deal with nurses and doctors. I was a nurse and am married to a doctor so there is much I’ve seen or experienced that finds it’s way into my stories. The incidents are always changed in some way but the emotions I’ve experienced or seen are shown in my stories. One of my books involves a nurses union. I was involved in trying to form one in a hospital where I worked. Even in my mysteries, there are bits taken from my life or my experiences. I doubt any writer deals only with things imagined, especially since emotions are part of fictional stories. Think about the times you’ve felt fear, sorrow, happiness and the list goes on.

Editing: love it or hate it?

I ENJOY EDITING. But I’m a draft writer so each time I start a new draft, I’m editing as I write. Then I come to the end of the story drafts and I do a final go through. I love finding new words to use for ones I’ve used too many of too often. I always look at the dialogue to make sure each character speaks with his or her own voice. Actually, I revise until the story makes me sick. Then I know it’s ready to send off to an editor. I’ve always been lucky even when I first began writing not to have too many edits from the editors to change. Sometimes to expand a scene or to clarify something.

I do that in my own writing as well, though I’ve never heard of it being described as draft writing. Very cool–I learned something today!

Do you miss your characters when you come to the end of their story? Do you find ways to write sequels for them or do you become entranced with a new set?

Love some of my characters and find ways to put them into other stories. I do a lot of series. Am finishing one right now called Opposites in Love. This is the final book  The Virgo Pisces Connection. Don’t have a cover yet. This ends the stories of six friends who met in college studying nursing moved away and now are back in the same town not far from the college. The heroines have one astrological sign and the heros the opposite signs.  I have other series where the characters may or may not connect but the town is the same. I do have a YA series in which the five main characters play a large role in each of the four books. This is the Affinities series. So I do series mostly where there are new characters introduced in each. Of course my Mrs. Miller’s mysteries have the same heroine in each book and appearances by other friends from other books. It has the longest developed romance, taking four books until she’s married.

Blurb for Bast’s Warrior:

Tira flees a threat to her life and encounters two elderly women who offer her the chance to be sent to an alternate ancient Egypt with no thought of return. She has had a fascination with Egypt and can even read hieroglyphics. Once there she will be given a task. Failure could mean death. Dare she take the chance and can she find the lost symbols of the rule before an enemy finds them? 

Kashe, son of the nomarch of Mero is in rebellion. His father desires him to join the priesthood of Aken Re, a foreign god. He feels he belongs to Horu, god of warriors and justice. He decides to leave home, meets Tira and joins her in the search for the symbols of the rule. Will his aid bring good fortune and will their growing love keep them from making a fatal mistake?

“This engaging voyage into an ancient Egypt that includes power-hungry priests and hazardous treasure hunts entertains from page one. Familial intrigue heightens the tension, as does a kidnapping or two. The cast of characters is dynamic and complements the well-conceived plot.” ~ 4 Stars, Susan Mobley, Romantic Times Magazine

Excerpt:

Tira opened her eyes and stifled a gasp. Where was she? The surface beneath her was softened by a thin pad. She turned her head and bumped her temple against a hard surface. Some kind of headrest prevented her from appraising her vicinity. The substitute for a pillow wasn’t very comfortable. The cover felt like linen rather than the thin cotton sheet she used. She raised herself to a sitting position and the sheet slid to her waist. Light streamed through a series of openings set high on one of the white plastered walls.

Her heart fluttered in a series of rapid beats. Think. Had she been kidnapped and sold as some kind of sex slave? She drew a deep breath. Why did nothing smell familiar? She was Tira. Tears trickled down her cheeks. Someone had died. Why couldn’t she remember who had betrayed her?

She wiped her face on a corner of the sheet. Memories prickled with the same sensation in her head as when an arm or leg woke after falling asleep. If you could go to ancient Egypt tonight even if the Two Lands is not the one you’ve studied, would you go?

She had agreed. Had she somehow been transported to another Egypt? So far she’d seen nothing to prove or disprove the theory. The bed and the headrest had been pictured in books she’d read about the ancient land of the pharaohs.

Now what? She couldn’t remain in bed and she definitely couldn’t leave this room in the nude. Clothing was her first objective. She slid from the narrow cot and nearly fell. The bed stood on a wide platform. Tira visually explored the room and noticed a stack of near-white cloth on a backless bench. She wrapped the sheet around herself and crossed the room.

On a low table she found a pottery pitcher and a bowl. She dipped a cloth taken from the rim of the bowl into the water and washed. The heated air dried her skin.

As she studied the bench she noticed the legs were shaped like the feet of a feline. She drew a deep breath. She had arrived in ancient Egypt. One by one she lifted the pieces of cloth from the bench and studied them. Get dressed and learn where you are and why you’re here.

After several attempts she managed to clothe herself. One strip formed a breast band. A second, she used as a loincloth. The third was a wraparound short skirt rather like a kilt. A leather belt held a knife and a pouch containing a black substance she decided was kohl. Since she had no idea how to apply the stuff she decided to pass.

She looked for shoes and found sandals. She sat on the bench and slipped a foot beneath the leather straps. She drew the shin guards up her leg and fastened the leather ties. Surprisingly they fit. The leather soles didn’t slip on the stone floor when she performed a series of warm-up exercises.

The beaded curtains in the doorway rattled. Tira slid into an attack position. Two elderly women entered the room. Tira stared. Were they the ones who had sheltered her for a time? They looked similar.

One of the women wore the same clothes as Tira. Her graying hair was cropped short like Tira’s but the woman’s didn’t curl.

The second woman’s hair was dark and cut shoulder length. Was it a wig? The woman’s ankle-length sheath bared her breasts. A collar necklace covered her upper chest.

When Tira tried to talk about the world she’d left the words wouldn’t form.

The only knowledge you can take with you is what will fit into the time you reach except for your fighting skills. You will be unable to speak of this world or of modern conveniences.

She glided toward the women. If they proved to be a threat she would attack.

“Welcome to the Two Lands,” the older of the two said. “I am the chief priestess of this temple of the goddess Bast, protector of women and children. A cat with a cream-colored coat wove a path around her legs.

Bast. She had read about the goddess, one of the minor ones in the ancient Egypt of her world. Was Bast a major player in this time and place? What other changes would she find? She swallowed a gasp. How odd that she understood the language. “My name is Tira.” She could speak it as well. She crouched and allowed the feline to sniff her hand.

The priestess smiled. “Come and join us for a meal. We will tell you why you are with us. You are one of the awaited ones. There is a task the goddess has set for you.” She turned to her companion. “Do you have the amulet that marks her as a warrior of Bast?”

 

Bio:

Janet Lane Walters is celebrating her 50th year as a published author. There are probably that many of her books floating on the internet available to be read electronically. She began with short stories and poetry and graduated to novels when an editor told her the short story she’d submitted sounded like the synopsis of a novel. She writes romance – contemporary, paranormal and fantasy. There are mysteries and fantasy for young adults under her JL Walters name.

She is married to a psychiatrist who has no desire to cure her obsession with writing. Mother of four and grandmother of seven, she lives in the scenic Hudson Valley area. She was once a nurse. She did a stint as a ghost-writer for doctors.

 

 MY PLACES

https://twitter.com/JanetL717

 https://www.facebook.com/janet.l.walters.3?v=wall&story_f

bid=113639528680724

 

 http://bookswelove.net/

 

 http://wwweclecticwriter.blogspot.com

 

 

BUY MARK

http://bookswelove.net/authors/walters-janet-lane-romance-fantasy-suspense-medical/

    

    

 

Jake by Suzy Shearer–New Book Release

Jake

The Silk Rope Masters – Book Two

by Suzy Shearer

Heat Rating : Level 4

Word Count: 64,579

Available on Evernight Publishing

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

 

They ooze power, control, natural dominance – and sex. They are The Silk Rope Masters.​

None have ever found love but watch out! When they fall, they’ll fall fast and hard!

Jake Nichols, 53, was so tall that Emily Miller, 49, had to crane her neck to look into his face. Muscular – he could pick her up in one hand and yet he held her as if she were a fragile bird.​

And that’s exactly what she was, a beautiful plus-sized woman with a pain so deep she’s buried her emotions rather than face the tragedy that happened just a few months ago.​

Jake was assigned to care for her by Master Ash, the head of Silk Rope and what Jake didn’t expect was to fall in love.

But she was only in his safekeeping until she could fly on her own then he would have to release her. 

Be Warned: BDSM, anal sex, sex toys, voyeurism, flogging, public exhibition

This is an erotic romance. There are explicit sexual descriptions and explicit language used throughout. It will offend some readers.

 

STORY EXCERPT:  

So here she was.

It was almost eight on Friday night, and Emily sat nervously in her car in the large car park. Would this be the same as either Threshold or The Lair? She hoped it was. If it was a lower classed place she definitely wouldn’t be coming back. Maybe she could find another club somewhere if that proved to be the case. Still she was hopeful. She couldn’t imagine the manager of The Lair, Bevan Fuller, transferring her to a lesser club.

Then she wondered for the hundredth time, “What the hell am I doing here?”

She still felt numb inside. With every emotion rammed down that hard, Emily couldn’t even cry. She actually knew how foolish she was, knew perfectly well the therapists, her family, were right. Time and again they’d told her she shouldn’t keep everything bottled up, should allow herself to grieve and move on, but she was far too frightened to face her pain.

Her weekly sessions with the therapist consisted of her sitting, staring into her lap or answering in monosyllables and refusing to utter one word about what had happened. In fact, she’d never cried, never shouted, never gotten very angry since that day. As soon as she’d woken in the hospital and given her statement to the police, every emotion, every thought of what had happened—her grief, every single thing, she pushed deep down inside her and refused to look at them. She held them down for so long that now she honestly couldn’t take the chance on remembering.

She was dead, and yet she breathed.

Sometimes in a lighter moment she thought of herself as a zombie. An animated corpse walking amid the living. But mainly Emily thought she was like a well-shaken bottle of soda pop with the lid screwed down tight. A slight twist of the cork and the whole bottle would vigorously explode, its contents scattering everywhere, never to be replaced. She couldn’t risk it, couldn’t risk her emotions, couldn’t set them free—the pain would be too great, and Emily knew she couldn’t handle it. She honestly doubted she would survive if at any time she was forced to face her past.

In the back of her mind she knew if she’d grieve, she’d be able to move on and live again, but instead she tortured herself by bottling everything up. This was her only escape now, coming to BDSM clubs—her haven. Sometimes she felt they were all that was left of her life, so at least she could vicariously live through its patrons.

It was strange, but those BDSM clubs now felt more like home than any house possibly could. Inside those doors in front of her she knew what would happen. She knew the rules, and she knew the outcomes. She knew exactly how people would react, how they would be toward her. She could sit and watch and know people would leave her alone unless she indicated she wanted company. No one would expect anything of her, and she could hide in plain sight. It was her secure place, the only one she had, and she knew it would protect her. It really was her safe house—impenetrable, sheltered. All those years she’d spent at Threshold only reinforced the idea. A club was her sanctuary, a place where, even if only for a few hours, she could pretend she was still alive. A place where she could hide among the living.

But at the same time, she wondered, would she ever be able to return to the woman she was?

The one who laughed, who enjoyed life and lived it to the fullest? Or was she destined to remain empty, afraid of showing any sort of emotion, afraid to face her heartache? Terrified of the floodgates she was sure she could never hold back if she allowed one iota of emotion, of agony, of her grief to slip through.

Finally getting out the car, she walked up the stairs that fronted the huge Georgian mansion. Clutching her coat a little tighter, she entered the warm foyer. Behind a desk a large, burly man smiled warmly at her.

“Good evening, Miss.”

“Hello. My name is Emily, Emily Miller. I believe the owner from The Lair, back east, contacted your manager about me transferring from there to here?”

 

© Suzy Shearer 2018

  

LINKS – WHERE TO FIND SUZY:                                                         

Website :  http://www.suzyshearer.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SuzyS

Blog:  http://suzyshearer.blogspot.com.au

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/SuzyShearer

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/suzshearer

Twitter : https://twitter.com/SuzyShearer

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/sooziiis

Linkedin: http://au.linkedin.com/in/suzyshearer

Publisher: http://www.evernightpublishing.com/suzy-shearer/

Publisher: http://www.bookstrand.com/suzy-shearer

 

Email her at: suzyshearer.author@gmail.com

 

A FEW LINKS WHERE TO BUY:

Amazon: https://www.amzn.com/B07FTHQB8B

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com

Angus and Robertson: https://www.angusrobertson.com.au

Smashwords:  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/882008

 

 

BIO:

Renaissance woman, best-selling and Award winning author Suzy Shearer writes contemporary and paranormal erotic romances filled with mature and interesting characters. Her books always feature older heroes and heroines; ranging from mid 40s to 60s. The heroines are usually confident plus-sized women who are proud of their curves. Suzy feels it’s important for readers to connect.

Suzy also wants her readers to understand just because people are older doesn’t mean they aren’t intriguing, desirable, open to challenges and willing to experiment. They may be older but not always wiser. Remember sexy isn’t just for the under 30s.

A Buddhist and artist, Suzy lives in the Western Suburbs of Sydney Australia with one very spoilt dog and two equally spoilt cats keeping her company. When Suzy is not writing, she is usually painting – an accomplished watercolour Artist her subjects range from portraits and animals to nudes and landscapes. She is also a quilter, toy maker, sculptor and potter. Suzy’s Art

 

E-BOOKS OUT NOW

The Club series

The Club: Bound

The Club 2: Uncollared           

The Club 3: Waxed

The Club 4: Displayed

The Club 5: Submit

The Club 6: Unmasked

 

The Hunters series

A Hunter’s Heart – Book 1

A Hunter’s Choice – Book 2

A Hunter’s Challenge – Book 3

 

Dark Desires series

(each book is a standalone)

Whipped Delights      

Craving Her Master   

Melting Her Dom’s Heart

An Artist’s Kiss

Elephants and Ever-Afters

 

 

The Silk Rope Masters series

Steven

Jake

  Single Titles

Daemons Are Forever

Build a Love

Perfect Three

Her Dom’s Secret Past

 

MOST BOOKS ARE ALSO AVAILABLE AS PAPERBACKS

 

Editor vs Writer: Adversaries or Critical Partnership?

Eight years ago, when I first got the bright idea to submit a story for publishing, I was extremely lucky. 

The Kindle was taking off, making e-books easy to produce, and small digital publishers were popping up everywhere. I submitted a story on a whim, and not only did a publisher snap it up, but they wanted everything else I wrote too.

In the beginning, my only job was to write stories as fast as possible. Everything else, including cover art, editing, and marketing was handled by the publisher. I was so thrilled to be published, I didn’t question anything either–not when the cover didn’t meet my expectations, or when the editing didn’t seem as rigorous as it should.

As time passed, I became more savvy about these aspects of publishing–and the audience demanded more as well. The successful publishers were the ones who developed house guidelines and standards, but as self-publishing became easier, more and more small presses caved under the inability to compete with Amazon. It’s no wonder many authors chose indie publishing. Some writers prefer the greater creative control over their work. For me, it’s a matter of scheduling: as a self-publisher, I’m my biggest client–and I can alter deadlines based on my work demands. For others, there wasn’t a choice in the matter. It was self-publish or stop writing.

Which means many of us have had to learn the ins and outs of what makes a good cover, and how best to promote our own stories–particularly on a tight budget. One of the hardest aspects of going indie for me, however, was finding an editor to work with.

Toward the end of my working with a small press, I was assigned a new editor. When I got back my first round of edits, barely legible for all the suggested corrections, I was stunned. Not because I thought my story so precious any suggested cuts or alterations had to be wrong. Not because I was getting a far more rigorous edit than I’d previously received.

Because it felt like someone had run my story through an editing program without even reading it.

There are a lot of great editing programs out there now: Grammarly, Hemmingway, and ProWritingAid come to mind. Depending on the program, they’re going to catch spelling and punctuation errors, but may also point out passive voice, how many times you use adverbs, and so on. But these programs should never take the place of actual eyes on the draft. Many of these programs aren’t specifically designed with fiction in mind. Over-use of these kinds of programs can strip the author voice out of the story. My beef with my new editor was that her suggested changes seemed utterly arbitrary. Across the board recommendations to exchange one type of phrasing for another doesn’t enhance the story. It merely scrubs individualism from the prose.

In the end, I wrote a three page email to my publisher giving examples of the recommended changes and why I disagreed with them. After review, the publisher decided to assign a new editor to me. She took the same story that the previous editor had shredded, and came back with recommendations I could work with–and we continued to work together on subsequent stories.

Did the press accept that I was right and my previous editor wrong? Probably not. What they did was realize we weren’t a good fit and assigned me to someone else in the hopes we’d get along better. I’m okay with that, to be honest. You shouldn’t expect every editor to mesh with you. It’s important that they see your work the way you do and be willing to help you polish it until it shines. If they don’t, then you need a new editor.

The partnership between editor and writer is a special one. A good editor is like someone who helps you set the table at an elaborate dinner. You’ve cooked the 12 course meal. You’re impatient to serve it to your guests. A good editor is going to taste the food and suggest additional seasonings, look at the table and suggest alternative china or flowers, and check the seating arrangements and suggest moving some of the guests.

But you are the one who cooked the meal. The editor shouldn’t scrap your meal and produce one more to their own liking. Remember that.

Finding the right editor has been one of my biggest challenges since going indie. There are two areas of indie publishing where it doesn’t pay to skimp: cover art and editing. Cover art is crucial to catching a reader’s eye and getting them to check out your story. But no matter how good your cover is or how intriguing your story, if your book is riddled with typos and basic mistakes, readers will notice. If you have plot holes big enough to drive a truck through–readers will notice. If your story drags, if there is too much exposition, your readers will notice. And they probably won’t pick up another one of your stories.

Editors are expensive, which is why many indie authors choose to skip professional editing. I get it, really, I do. If you have to pay anywhere between $500-1200 for editing, you have to sell a LOT of books to recoup that. (Something I like to point out to those people who argue it doesn’t cost anything to produce an e-book, so therefore, they have no problem accepting an illegal download–but I digress…)

But you really shouldn’t use that as an excuse to skip professional editing. 

I make sure I send the cleanest possible copy to an editor. That means it’s been through a critique group during the writing process and beta readers before editing. If there are big, glaring problems, I want them caught before going to editing. I also run the draft through an editing program, knowing the limitations of said programs.

I’d never assume that was sufficient to publish without professional editing. That human screening and input is invaluable, in my opinion. If you want to produce the best story possible, that is.

But finding the right editor can be difficult. When I went indie, I did all the right things: I sought the recommendations of fellow authors. I submitted test chapters to editors to audition them. Price wasn’t my only consideration, but it was a factor. I simply cannot afford to spend $1200 on a book edit with no guarantee of recouping that in sales. But even after doing all my homework, I struggled to find a good fit for me.

On the advice of a fellow author, I hired an editor that worked with my old publisher but freelanced on the side. This seemed like a win-win for many reasons, not the least of which was that we’d have a familiarity of what to expect from each other. But this proved not to be the case. Despite being on a deadline to publish by a specific date to tie in with a specific event, this editor missed the deadline by EIGHT WEEKS, and produced a shoddy edit to boot. The edit was so late I ended up accepting it with only a cursory read-through–my bad–and it wasn’t until I began the process of creating an audiobook that I realized how rife with errors the manuscript was. To this day I’m still embarrassed at releasing it in that form.

After submitting chapters to numerous editors by way of auditioning them for the next book, I found an editor I thought would be a good fit for me. I booked his services, spelling out what I was looking for in advance. As he’d done a great job on the sample chapter, I was prepared to receive a decent edit. Instead, I received an edit that I could have done myself with Grammarly.

Grammarly is going to catch some things, but only what it is programmed to catch. It won’t, for example, point out repetitive actions (like the fact that far too many of my characters shrug or raise an eyebrow), or note when the action drags. That’s what a real, live editor does.

I have to say, I was beginning to think I’d never find affordable editing that was a good match for me when a former beta reader offered her assistance. I was skeptical, I admit. I’d been burned by too many freelance editors. I was concerned that as a beta reader, she wouldn’t be firm enough, that too many things would slide.

I was wrong.

She provided exactly the kind of edit I was looking for: encouraging without being unwilling to suggest changes, ruthlessly cutting unnecessary exposition while not trampling on author voice, catching continuity errors and questioning possible plot holes without making me feel like an idiot, nailing the SPAG that is critical to a polished, finished work and yet at the same time tossing out accolades in the form of the kinds of comments that are like crack to an author.

I can’t sing her praises enough. She truly gets the author-editor relationship, and though she is new to freelance editing, she has an excellent grasp on what it entails. You’d be wise to get in on the ground floor, so to speak. She’s working on her website and creating a Facebook page, but you can email her now at CAPSediting@gmail.com

You won’t regret it.

 

 

 

 

Now Available for Pre-Order: Ghost of a Chance by McKenna Dean

 

The second in the Redclaw Security series, Ghost of a Chance, is now available for pre-order! 

Redclaw Security is an elite paranormal agency whose agents seek out and contain alien artifacts, as well as provide security and investigate matters within the shifter community. Each Redclaw Security story can be read as a standalone, though the the stories and characters are all connected with Redclaw in some manner.

Ghost of a Chance

Blurb: At sixteen, Sarah Atwell walked away from her love of horses and a promising career as a competitive rider after discovering she’d inherited the family curse. Years later, her grandmother stunned everyone by leaving Sarah her horse farm—worth millions—but with conditions Sarah might not be able to meet.

A former Redclaw agent, Casey Barnes retired when a security assignment went bad, killing his partner and leaving him as a partial amputee. His inner wolf is in hiding. He’s been living quietly as a horse trainer, but June Atwell’s death now pits him against her granddaughter for rights to the stable.

With both of them snowed in at the farm, a series of increasingly serious accidents draws Sarah and Casey closer together, but they each harbor secrets that might tear them apart.

Available August 7th, 2018!

 

Free Stories, Upcoming Releases, and More!

Because it’s a national holiday here in the US, I’ve opted to move WIP Wed to next week–so be sure to come back to participate then!

I’m considering starting a New Release Saturday as well–where people can drop in and share what they have that’s about to come out–what do you think?

In the meantime, I’m in the final edits on Ghost of a Chance, the next standalone in the Redclaw Security series.

I can’t wait to share this one with you! I see a lot of similarities between Sarah and myself: we’re both fangirls and we grew up frequently hearing how we fell short on expectations. Part of Sarah’s journey will be to recognize her self-worth, and discovering things some people see as flaws can be your biggest strengths.

As part of the run up to the next book release, first Reclaw book, The Panther’s Lost Princess is FREE until July 5th,  so grab your copy now!

The Greatest Threat to Your Creativity Isn’t What You Think It Is

All my life, I’ve been a daydreamer. So much so, my parents despaired of my ever being functional in society. There were even times when I decided that daydreaming was bad for me, and counterproductive to my goals in life, and that I should do my darnedest to quit. To stop inserting myself into my favorite books, shows, and movies, having grand adventures throughout the day as I went about my daily tasks.

I was never successful at eradicating this behavior, and eventually I embraced it for what it was: a rich fermentation vat of ideas that would bubble and simmer until they produced a story of my own, something original and unique to me. I’ve always been a writer at heart.

The good news is I managed to be a productive member of society despite the relative ease with which I could drop into another universe. I discovered online fanfiction archives, wrote over a million words of fanfic, and then began writing my own original stories. In my fandom days, I wrote the equivalent of a novella a month. The words just flowed out of me. The transition to original fiction wasn’t without its bumps in the road, and my productivity slowed down as the stakes became higher. Without a built-in audience, world-building and character development had to be stronger. It wasn’t sufficient to have beta readers–you need betas, critique partners, and a good editor if you want to turn out quality work. You can’t just throw down words and have everyone applaud because they love your pairing and they’d leave kudos on a story where your characters read from the back of a cereal box. Writing for fun is lovely, but the more you write, the greater the drive becomes to do better than the last story. You begin seeing where you failed, and how your craft doesn’t measure up to your favorite artists. You can either quit at this point, or buckle down and do the hard work. But hard work takes time.

So I just assumed my new glacial pace of story production was pretty normal. After all, I have a stressful day job and a home life that’s heavy on commitments. Some of the people turning out a book every month are actually writing teams, which makes me feel a bit better about only getting out one or two stories a year. 

But the other day, a realization struck me like a bolt of lightning out of a cloudless blue sky.

I don’t daydream any more.

Could that be why my production is way down?

I used to play scenes from potential stories in my head at every free moment–outlandish, outrageous self-insert scenes to occupy my mind as I walked the dogs, or did some sort of mindless task (like the dishes, or folding clothes), or commuting to work, or just before I fell asleep at night. I’d replay the scenes over and over, polishing the dialog, perfecting the action, trimming the worst of the excesses, eventually removing myself as the heroine and replacing the lead with one of my characters. When I sat down to write, the scene was right there before me–I only had to smooth off the rough spots and blend it into the story I wanted to tell. Even better, if I was stuck on something, entering that day-dreamy state of mind often allowed me to untangle a thorny plot problem, causing me to suddenly shout “Eureka!” and grab the nearest pen.

But I don’t do that any more.

My daily commute, which used to be over an hour, is now less than 15 minutes most days. While I’m delighted to get two hours of my life back every day, I actually made good use of that time when I was driving by plotting and daydreaming about my stories. I rarely listen to music these days, as I mostly did so when driving. Music has the power to send me to that dreamer’s state more quickly than almost anything else, and without the pleasant background noise, I find it hard to get in the zone. But I rarely have the time to just sit and listen to music the way I did when commuting.

Getting a good night’s sleep is tough for me these days as well, so I usually read until I fall asleep instead of daydreaming. To be honest, I’m almost afraid to let my mind ‘go’ when I’m trying to fall asleep because instead of exciting adventures or romantic encounters, my brain is most likely to circle at the base of the Anxiety Tree, worrying at problems out of my control for the moment. So yeah, I’d rather lose myself in reading.

Worst, now when I’m walking the dogs, I’ve got the phone in my hand, checking my social media sites. That used to be a BIG source of my plotting time–I’d enter the theta brainwave zone and happily organize plots, scenes, and time lines while getting some much-needed exercise for both me and the dogs.

But now that phone is out and I’m checking to see what fresh outrage is occurring on Twitter.

I used to be the sort of person who carried a book with them everywhere, so if I had to wait somewhere, I could happily read. Reading served as fuel for my own story ideas, creating a lovely cycle of creativity. Now I scroll through timelines. An obsessive thumbing of bite sized pieces of information that frequently has a negative impact on my mental well-being.

The other night, my husband and I were out at dinner, and after we’d placed our orders and caught up with each other’s day, somehow we both drifted into scrolling on our phones. If this is something a middle-aged person that addictive to a middle-aged person, I fear for the minds of our kids. I really do.

I’m not saying don’t be informed. We need to be informed. We need to share information: about natural disasters, government atrocities, mass shootings, lost pets, you name it. We also need to share the good things: our wins, both big and small, the things that encourage us and make us smile, that give us hope when all hope is dying. But we shouldn’t let the constant NOISE of information drown out our creative voice.

We’re told we as creative types must maintain a presence on social media, and I believe this to be true. But I think our utter dependence on our phones to keep us occupied AT ALL TIMES is extremely detrimental to the creative mindset.

Blonde girl with retro camera

I recently read an article that said taking photos of a trip makes your brain forget the memories of the trip itself, and while that appalls me (because I love taking pictures), I can understand it too. Because you’re ‘capturing the moment’ on your device, your brain doesn’t feel the need to do so in the same detail. Think about it: do you remember phone numbers anymore? I don’t. I know where to find someone’s contact information on my cell phone, but I’d be out of luck if I had to call someone if my phone was damaged or the battery was dead. (NTS: make a list of important phone numbers and keep it in your car)

So while I see the need to keep feeding content to my audience, wouldn’t the better use of my time be to write actual, real content instead of snapshots of the boring life of a middle-aged woman? I can answer that one myself: yes.

And while I’m still going to take photographs, it won’t be the first thing I do when I arrive somewhere new. I’m going to take a deep breath and appreciate the scenery. I’m going to memorize what the air smells like, and what sounds I hear, and how I feel at that moment before I pull out my camera.

I can’t leave my phone at home when I am out and about because I need to be available 24/7. But I can choose not to take it out when I’m walking the dogs, or bringing the horses in from the pasture, or waiting in line at the DMV. I’ve deleted most of my social media. I’ve gone back to carrying a book or an e-reader. I’m making a point to listen to more music–turning off commercial radio and just playing the songs I want to hear. Because it doesn’t matter how much content I feed an audience if there isn’t a book to go with it eventually.

And you know what? I’ve started daydreaming again. Without any attempt on my part to make it happen. I just had to open the window to let it in.

 

The Language of Romance Novels: Sweet and Sensual vs Hot and Steamy?

I’m in the process of making up a bunch of promotional posts in advance for a fest I’m doing in July, and one of the prompts was “Sweet and Steamy or Hot and Heavy?”

Which got me to thinking about the kinds of things I like in my romances.

I live for the slow burn romance. I want to watch the characters get to know each other, overcome obstacles (personal or otherwise) to be together, work for the reward–which is usually a sex scene but not always. Sex can take place at any point in the story, but I tend to prefer the slow burn where the characters lead up to it over time. I also enjoy it when sex doesn’t prove to be the magic solution to their relationship issues–that it frequently complicates things before the characters get it sorted out. As both a reader and a writer, it’s part of the payoff for being invested in the relationship.

But I was a bit bothered by the terms here: sweet vs hot. Or sometimes it’s ‘clean vs spicy’. These are terms the romance industry uses to help readers determine how much sex is in their stories, and most of the time, that subtle warning system works for me. Kind of like how I know what to expect when I go see a Star Trek movie in terms of violence and sex (which is why I’m a HARD PASS on a Tarantino-directed R rated Star Trek Movie. No Just. Ugh. No.)

“Clean” to denote a romance where the sex takes place behind closed doors/off-stage makes me stabby. I resent the implication sex is somehow dirty if depicted on page. “Spicy” makes me stabby too. It’s feels like a euphemism because we’re not grown up enough to say the ‘naughty’ words. Mind you, I understand why authors feel compelled to use these terms–it’s because even if the audience doesn’t explicitly know what they mean with reference to the story, the meaning is implied well enough that they can guess.

“Sweet” is marginally better. It’s clear where the industry is going with this–a one-word term to instantly identify the heat level of a story to a reader–especially since heat levels mean different things to different people. Sweet doesn’t mean there can’t be any sex at all during the story (though sometimes that’s the case). It’s just when it does occur, it takes place off-screen. There are times when that’s exactly the kind of story I’m looking for, and it’s nice to know nice to know in advance what you’re getting. Likewise when I read a blurb for a Regency romance that states the heroine is a widow, it’s pretty much a given there will be sex between the main characters. As long as there isn’t a bunch of teasing with long, complicated reasons as to why the characters never have sex at all, I’m okay with the fade-to-black scenes. If the characters are demonstrably showing passion for one another but that passion never takes place–either on screen or implied–then I tend to get a little cranky. Unfortunately, “sweet” as a term to describe stories with no on screen sex makes me think of a vapid, usually blonde heroine who hasn’t a clue–or else a story so full of saccharine it makes my teeth ache to contemplate reading it.

But recently I’ve read some wonderful stories that could have technically described as sweet, but the lead-up to the closed door was so romantic, so passionate, so sensual that I didn’t miss the actual sex at all. And yet “sweet” is hardly the term I’d use to describe these stories. The scenes were as hot as any graphic sex scene I’ve ever read–right up to the point where the door was closed and we return the following morning.

Are there better terms out there? I wonder because my own feelings toward the sex scenes I’m writing is evolving. Paranormal romance is a genre that tends to demand a lot of sex scenes, in some cases, the more raw and “hot” the better. Being a slow burn kind of gal, I include much less sex than some readers expect. I lean more toward the sensual than “hot”. But I suspect those lines blur for many readers, as do writers, too. Sometimes sensual becomes hot and vice versa. If a story is described as “sensual”, will readers know what to expect?

Which is why writers tend to fall back on industry descriptors. But if you’re wondering, I go for sensual every time. 

Prince of Granola by L.A. Sartor, Excerpt and Author Interview

Prince of Granola–don’t you just love that title? And this cover! Please welcome L.A. Sartor as she shares with us about this exciting new release!

Blurb:

Only One Will Win

Cacao – long a symbol of wealth, love, and power – now the center of a powerful rivalry.

The fabled Costa Rican Plantation of White Treasure, source of the rarest form of the cacao bean, is up for sale. Though two fierce competitors have been invited to bid on it, only one can win.

For Drew Hopkins, purchasing the plantation is the perfect solution to escape a life she never wanted.

For Robert Prince, it’s the perfect route to revenge.

Drew, the founder’s daughter and now CEO of HH Chocolate, heads a company whose sales are waning.  Robert, CEO of Prince Organics, a man driven by excellence, despises everything and everyone labeled Hopkins.

But it wasn’t always that way.

Will their forced proximity at the lush and exotic plantation rekindle old flames or will it fan the fires of antagonism?

 

 

Dear Reader Blurb

 

Dear Reader:

Cacao has always been a symbol of wealth, love, and power. From the ancient Maya and Anasazi peoples who drank the pleasantly bitter brew to the European noblemen and religious hierarchy who began to dine on it at their gilded baroque tables, to current times where you can indulge in gold-leafed truffles in boutique chocolate shops or bar-shaped candy off a grocery shelf, chocolate has been cherished, fought over and delighted in.

If you’re interested in an in-depth history of chocolate, The True History of Chocolate by Sophie D. Coe and Michael D. Coe is a must read.

Be sure to check out the exciting excerpt below!

Author Interview: 

Hello! I’m delighted to have you here with us, sharing about your writing process. First, please tell us a little about yourself and the kinds of stories you like to write. Would you say there is an underlying theme behind your stories?

Hi, McKenna, thank you for having me as a guest on your blog.  I prefer stories with a happy ending, be it a romance, adventure, suspense, or mystery.  And guess what? I currently write all four genres, though my cozy mystery won’t be out until 2019. 

You asked if there was an underlying theme.  YES, there is. Even though the characters all have differing motivations and conflicts, I think my theme is always about trust. Trusting another person with your life, your love, your heart, your child.

What part of the world do you call home? Can you tell us a little about where you grew up and where you live now?

I was adopted as an infant by an American couple in Germany, spent several years there before moving to Pacific Palisades, California.  Loved it there. Adventure, beaches, palm trees, sunshine.  Then we moved to Colorado when I about 10. I was heartbroken to leave CA.  Now a gazillion years later, I can’t imagine not living in Boulder with a view of the icon Flatirons. The ocean still calls to me and I get my fix 3-4 times a year.  I’d be happy with a beach home to visit anytime I desired, and my forever home in Boulder.

How long have you been writing? Did you write as a child or is it something you developed a passion for later in life?

Funny you asked if I wrote as a child.  Ha, I thought I was unique, but I’ve learned that many writers start very young.  I was about 4, and no I couldn’t write, but I told my stories to mom, who wrote them down and I “illustrated them”. I gave up my passion after a junior high school teacher told me and my parents that I’d never be a writer because I didn’t want to learn grammar, I just wanted to tell stories.  Much later I regained the need to write. And it is a need. Today I have seven books published. I’ve made #1 Amazon Bestseller and won awards.  I’m truly happy to be where I am.

 

“Writers should write what they know.” What does this statement mean to you as an author?

I think it’s very limiting in, or at least it seemed that way to me when I started, and as I’ve met other authors, they’ve shared the same restriction they feel creates in that phrase.

We know sorrow, suffering, love, happiness, fear–the emotional list is nearly endless. We might not know how an attorney works or the law, or a bakery, or how an AUV (Autonomous Underwater Vehicle) works, but that is all information we can find on the internet or library, as well as query people in the field.  I didn’t know anything about cacao when I started Prince Of Granola, my new release. Or how go from bean to bar, or much about Costa Rica.  I found experts who either emailed me answers or invited me to their business to watch the process.  But I did know about the pain of separation, rivalry, betrayal. 

So, don’t be limited by thinking you can only write about nursing if you’re a nurse (heck, you’re an angel) you can write about anything by tapping into the emotions you’ve experienced and then doing your diligence with research. And if your story is about a nurse, then you’re simply that much further along.

Are you a panster or a plotter?  Do you outline extensively or write your story as you go along?

I used to proudly wear the panster badge.  It’s a bit tarnished now.  While I always knew my beginning and my ending, it would take me months to create a middle.  Then I dealt with huge rewrites and editorial revisions.  Now I’m developing my own plotting worksheet from various classes that have resonated with me.  That worksheet is work in progress. 

And lil’ miss panster, aka, me, is becoming the queen of spreadsheets for various reasons, like, ugh, expenses, but also I need book bibles for my series.  I just did a blog on them here if you’d like to see what I’ve done. 

What’s your idea of a perfect vacation?

Since I live in Colorful Colorado, and I mentioned above that I have to have my beach fix, my favorite spot is by a warm ocean.

Part of our day (our, meaning my amazingly patient husband should be with me for a perfect vacay) would be in the water and on the sand, with yes, sunscreen, and no, not with a mai tai in hand, that’s for after I’m done with the sun. Then go sightseeing. I always find things to add to stories this way and I make a record of them either with a camera set on video so I can record the image and my thoughts or my iPhone doing the same thing.

Later in the evening we’re either dining out extravagantly or eating local. I get recommendations from Triple D, friends and yes, internet research.  Drink in hand, we watch the sunset. After dinner we stroll the beach, darting either into or away from the tide. And a last cup of coffee before we share a kiss and dreamland claims us.  Sound sappy? Probably, but that’s perfection for me.

Do you see your writing as a hobby or is it your goal to be a full-time writer at some point in the future?

I was able to retire from my part-time “day” job at a somewhat early age. And instead of just enjoying writing, I turned it into full-time job.  I was obsessed with writing, it took over. While my husband was patient, it became obvious to both of us that I needed to find balance in my life.  My childhood phrase was “Lessie Do It.” I’m still pretty driven, even today.

So, it’s been more of a challenge than I thought to find the balance, and six years later, I’m not sure I’ve yet achieved that goal. I know I’m better at putting aside my laptop when I reach my word count goal for the day. I don’t get angry at me and the world if I miss a day (but I do try and make it up) and I almost never write while on vacation. I may jot notes, or record them and transcribe them in Dragon Naturally Speaking. And the recorder is never in a place I can’t put my hand on it immediately. Because you know, I do my best thinking in the shower and often, wrapped in a towel, I’m running for the recorder. My husband and writing retreat buddies are used to this.

Research: love it or hate it?

Absolutely love it.  As I mentioned above, information and people with information can be found by being diligent about looking.  And people, wow, they are generally so willing to help.  For instance, in my second adventure book, Viking Gold, I made connection with a Colonel (ret.) in the Danish Air Force who’d been studying Nazi sub and airbases.  The information he gave me, completely turned my story around and made it so much better than my original concept.  The submarine base in Trondheim Norway gave me chills. Today it’s pretty benign, but its history!  And so I used it, changed it a bit, but not enough to ruin the reality. I could go on and on with stories that SES told me about WWII but I’ll spare you.  😊

*How much do you think that a good blurb and good cover art figure into the success of a story?

It’s huge. I’m redoing a few of my covers and blurbs because I am able fix them now and make them better. I didn’t have the skills before, and I often didn’t know what I wanted to change in a cover or a blurb so how could I tell my cover artist?

I think it’s important to keep both fresh and updated.  To reflect the times with the blurb and be as professional as possible with the cover.  I like to try to tell a bit about the story in the cover.  In Dare To Believe, my first book and a romantic suspense, I’m creating its third cover. While the first two were done by a wonderful graphic artist, I felt the cover needed some minor tweaks.

Hey, here’s a thought, check out the cover on my website and tell me if you think the blurb at the top says enough or should I say what I’m trying to convey on the cover, Color Won’t Return To Cate’s World Until Haley Is Found?

I’d love to hear your opinion.  After all you all are readers, exactly the people I want to reach. (And if you’re a writer, hey, same goes. We read after all.)

Do you miss your characters when you come to the end of their story? Do you find ways to write sequels for them or do you become entranced with a new set?

I do write series, because I’ve found that readers love to find a character from a prior book in the new one. They and I (yes writers should be readers) feel like we’re in remembered territory even as new characters with their own conflicts, motivations and goals come into play.  It’s like a treat. 

In fact, my WIP Dream Of Me This Christmas Eve is being written because readers asked me to write about a particular minor character. We didn’t even meet in her Forever Yours This New Year’s Night, but apparently people liked who she was.  Caroline Young will now have her own story around October of 2018. The 4th book in the Colorado set Star Light ~ Star Bright series. I’m pretty thrilled that 1) people responded to me and asked about her and 2) that I finally found the right story for her.

Excerpt from the Prince of Granola:

Robert watched as Drew, garbed in that ridiculous jumpsuit, followed Isabelle up the steps to the hacienda. Just before disappearing into the house, his nemesis hesitated, turned, and gave him a brief, provoking smile.

The furrows on his brow deepened. If this continued for four days, he’d have a permanent set of ridges.

How was it that the one person he avoided whenever possible was here now, after the same plantation?

It was ridiculous that Señor Camerillo would think of selling his rare cacao beans to HH Chocolate. They weren’t in the same league as Prince Organics. Or for that matter, any other gourmet chocolate company.

HH made mass-market chocolate bars, holiday-themed shapes, and bite-sized foil-wrapped squares, all with barely enough cacao in them to call them chocolate. And Robert knew that HH was finally in the financial straits his father had predicted when he’d walked out of HH’s headquarters the last time.

Henri Hopkins had been old-school through and through, refusing to move with the times. Robert knew that Drew had started working there right after grad school, but by the time Henri had relinquished the reins of the company to her, she had a dying business on her hands.

His thoughts returned to Drew’s brief taunting smile. How dare she?

What, taunt, provoke? Why not? We’re adversaries after the same goal. And I should have done it first, showing her that she didn’t have a chance. Let her be stewing. “Jeez, get a grip. You’re not stewing.”

“Pardon? I did not quite catch that.”

Robert glanced over at the señor, realizing he’d spoken aloud.

“It was nothing,” he assured the puzzled man.

But it wasn’t.

The last time he’d seen her was over a year ago, during a corporate panel discussion hosted by the number one business show on television. She’d been charming, articulate, and had the moderator in the palm of her hand. After the show was over, Drew answered a few questions from various business reporters, then fled the room as if she couldn’t stand to breathe the same air as him.

Yet just now he’d allowed her, however momentarily, to seize the upper hand as he focused on that taunting smile instead of simply ignoring it.

Doubled with that punch to your gut and groin when she pulled off that helmet and all that glorious chestnut hair tumbled around her shoulders.

About the Author:

I started writing as a child, really. A few things happened on the way to becoming a published author … a junior high school teacher who told me I couldn’t write because I didn’t want to study … urk … grammar. I went to college, moved a few times, came home and found the love of my life (that is another novel worthy story, but for later), and got married.

I have always been a voracious reader and one night after throwing a particularly bad book at the wall (even putting a small ding in said wall), I realized that I could do better.  I told my husband, and he said go for it. I called Mom and she revealed the junior high teacher story and she told I’d been writing all the time up to that point.

That blew me away. I didn’t remember any of it.  But I started writing again, nearly the next day, pen and paper, learning, making mistakes, winning contests, then moving away from novel writing to screenwriting, getting a contract for a script and doing really well in screenwriting contests. But I wasn’t really making a career from any of this.

My husband told me repeatedly that independent publishing was becoming a valid way to publish a novel and people were making big dollars.  I didn’t believe him even after he showed me several Wall Street Journal articles. I thought indie meant vanity press. 

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I started pursuing this direction seriously, hit the keyboard, learned a litany of new things and published my first novel. My second book became a bestseller, and while I’m not rolling in dough, I’m absolutely on the right course in my life. Prince Of Granola is my 7th book.

Please come visit me at www.lasartor.com, see my books, find my social media links, some screenplays and sign up for my mailing list. I have a gift I’ve specifically created for my new email subscribers. And remember, you can email me at Leslie@LeslieSartor.com 

website twitter facebook |  facebook author page | blog bookbub |goodreads

Amazon Kobo Nook iBooks

 

 

 

Ten Things Writers Need to Stop Telling Themselves

More than any other group of people, writers should get the power of words.

Words move people to stand behind a leader. To willingly go into battle, knowing death is likely. To fight to protect the weak and innocent.

Words make us laugh, bring us to tears, and the best, the most powerful words, are engraved on our hearts. We quote them when we need strength, or to show love, or evoke sympathy.

So why do we as writers so often neglect the power of words when it comes to our own work, our own self–esteem?

It’s not just writers. I’d hazard to say it’s a widespread problem–perhaps a little more so among women than men. It’s not that men don’t internally belittle themselves, but I believe many more women are raised to verbally–and publicly–abuse themselves than not. Call it what you like. An appealing ‘humility’ or whatever. The truth of the matter is many of us constantly run ourselves down and we are scarcely aware that we’re doing it.

Lately, I’ve been running into all kinds of conversations, blog posts, and Twitter threads about the power of words and why in particular, we as writers shouldn’t denigrate our work and abilities, lest the repetition of our negative words becomes the truth. I understand this concept, but like knowing I should eat vegetables and choosing pizza instead, positive affirmations are difficult for me.

I grew up in a religious household. Many religions drum into you your lack of worthiness as part of your need to be redeemed. Most religions are patriarchal in nature, which adds an additional layer of unworthiness if you happen to be female. My family was also full of over-achievers. Doctors, nurses, psychologists, pastors… if you weren’t giving back to society in some way, you weren’t worthy. Standards were often impossibly out of reach. If I brought home less than straight A’s from school, I was under-performing to the family standard. If I got straight A’s, well, anyone could get straight A’s at a public school.

So reading books like Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking was encouraged. But even as I read it, a burning resentment smoldered inside. Thinking positively wouldn’t get you out of a bad situation. It wasn’t going to cure chronic illness, or make you smarter, prettier, more talented. I read the book and rejected the message.

Same with the body positivity movement. No, I’m not saying the movement is wrong. I think it’s high time we rejected the fashion industry’s standard of beauty (artfully enhanced by Photoshop, which means not even their own standard-bearers live up to the hype). We should all embrace the notion that women come in all shapes, sizes, colors, ages, and physical ability–and not erase the less-than-impossibly perfect because they somehow don’t measure up.

But that concept of equality that I will grant to everyone else comes harder to me. Why? Because I don’t believe it. Not as it applies to me.

I’ve been hearing negative commentary about my looks, my intelligence, and my abilities my entire life. It’s still ongoing today: from my family, my co-workers, the man on the street, society as a whole. I have a book of ‘positive affirmations’ that is practically empty because I can’t think of anything to put in it that won’t make me roll my eyes and snort.

I get up in the morning and note the dark circles under my eyes and how my hair is thinning. I curl a lip at the roll of fat around my waist. I point out how unattractive I am, and how I should do something about it when I’m not so flat-out exhausted. I frequently say things like “I’m too old for this crap”, meaning “I’m at a point in my life where I should be treated better than this” but all my brain hears is I’m too old.

So I join a body positivity group, but drop out because I can’t complete the exercises. I routinely say things to myself I’d never say to a friend–not even a stranger, for that matter. I know better. But like Steve Martin’s character in Roxanne, I’ve perfected the art of running myself down so well, I take the wind out of anyone else’s ability to do so.

When Katie Masters (are you following Katie? If not, you should) posted on Twitter about not belittling your own work because doing so would make it true, I tried very hard to internalize her advice. I’m really struggling with that right now–on top of the never-ending loop of negativity that tells me I’m too old, too fat, unattractive, not sexy enough, not smart enough–I also bemoan the fact my writing is Not Good Enough. It’s not terrible. But it’s no where near where I’d like it to be. When I read stories by people who are hitting it out of the park, even as I clutch them to my chest because of the magic they evoke, I’m crushed because I’m not in the same league. Hell, I’m not even in the same country.

See, I’m doing it again.

And likewise, Neil Gaiman has said some wonderful things about writing, impostor syndrome, and comparing yourself to others. But when I went looking for a specific quote to share here, I fell down a rabbit hole of impossibly excellent quotes, which might just turn out to be a blog post all of its own. But suffice to say, enough people out there that I like and respect have been telling me to stop undermining my work. There’s a difference between self-deprecation and self-denigration and I think too many of us choose the latter thinking it’s the former.

Ironically, what finally made me see what I was doing was harmful was the far right. Um, yes. You heard me correctly.

See, they get the power of words. Make them illegal aliens, not people seeking asylum through legitimate channels. Call them rapists, drug dealers, terrorists, animals. Make them less than human, something you don’t want in your neighborhood, and you will turn a blind eye when they are rounded up and placed in concentration camps. 

It works because on some level, the people who believe these things want to believe them. It fits their internal narrative.

But one thing I’ve learned as a writer is we have the power to change our own stories.

So here are some things I’m going to stop telling myself. I hope you’ll stop saying them to yourself as well.

  1. I’m Not Good Enough. Here’s the thing, everyone has someone they look up to as better than them. Better parents, better writer, better friend, lover, person. There are people who are prettier, smarter, and more talented. All you can do is be the best you there is. That’s all that’s required of you. And it is a heckuva lot easier to do that if you stop beating yourself up at the same time. You may not be as good as “them”, but everyone is at a different point on the same path and no one else walked it the same way you’ve done. Cut yourself some slack–and keep walking.
  2. I’m not productive enough. What the hell does that even mean? Productive enough for what? To build a following? To make a killing on KU? Are you a writer? Do you put words down in the format of your choice? Then you’re productive enough.
  3. I’m not successful enough. Frankly, this is garbage thinking. If you go into writing because you want to be rich and famous, honey, there are easier ways of doing that. What are your criteria for success? A bestseller ribbon? Winning awards? Being featured in Oprah’s book club? Making a gazillion dollars? Your definition of success should be dependent on the stage where you are right now. Sometimes that means simply putting words–any words–to paper. Sometimes that means self-publishing a story that got rejected. Sometimes it means putting the rejected story in a drawer and coming back to it in a year or so to see what it needs to fix it. Sure, you’re going to keep moving the bar higher. Just don’t place it at unrealistic heights that discourage you from even trying.
  4. My writing sucks. Does it really? No, seriously, is it the worst thing you’ve ever read or are you just being hard on yourself? Have you eaten today? Taken a shower? Walked the dog? STEP AWAY FROM THE KEYBOARD. Take a break and do something else. Because you know this isn’t really true. You may not be as good as you’d like to be, but there are people out there who like your work, who (oddly enough) think you’re a good writer and they wish they could write like you do. I know, there’s no accounting for taste, but if you truly sucked, no one would like your stories. So just don’t even go there.
  5. I’ll never _____________. It doesn’t matter what you put here. Top the bestseller list? Win a prestigious award? Make enough money writing to quit the Evil Day Job? It’s both easy and true to say, “Not with that attitude you won’t” but the question you should be asking yourself is “Does it matter if I don’t?” If you have none of those things now, how will your life materially change if you never achieve those goals? Spoiler alert: it won’t. So are you going to let that stop you from writing?
  6. That one bad review is somehow more accurate than the fifty glowing ones I received. Ouch. Bad reviews hurt. But if the comments in a snarky review are outliers, then let it go. If you’re hearing the same things over and over again from beta readers, critique groups, editors (all of which should have assessed your work before you publish it), and readers, then that should be a heads up that you’ve done something wrong and you need to change it. But when you get that nasty gif-laden review that seems to come out of nowhere, keep this in mind: there are only two reasons why someone leaves that kind of review. Either they have a following because they are the Simon Cowell of reviewers–and therefore their fans hang on every gif with glee to see someone else be destroyed–or they want to make you feel so bad you quit writing. Are you going to let some soul-sucking vampire make you give up on your dream of telling stories? No? Then ignore this kind of review. Don’t read it. Don’t acknowledge it. Don’t let it have any power over you.
  7. My stories will never change the world. Oh cupcake, you don’t know that. Sure, on the whole, I would hazard to say most stories don’t change the world–at least, not in ways that we can see. Maybe there will never be theme-parks where kids of all ages dress up as characters from your stories and buy story-themed items, but I wouldn’t let that get you down. The vast majority of stories written won’t be read thirty, forty, fifty years or more down the line either. But your story can change the life of the one person reading it today. Maybe you gave them hope or laughter on a day they needed it most. Maybe you snuck in a little enlightenment and made them see things in a different manner than they had before. Maybe you represented ‘self’ to the reader who’d never before recognized themselves in a story. Don’t discount that. Most world changing events–for good or bad–happen in incremental steps over time.
  8. Everyone on social media seems to be doing so much better than me. Ugh. If you’re going to sit around comparing yourself to others on SM, just turn it off for a while. Keep in mind, SM is where people either tend to post about the best, the worst, or the most mundane in their lives. I don’t know about you, but I seldom feel envy at seeing pictures of what someone had for dinner–so let’s cross those out. That leaves the I won the lottery-went to the Bahamas-became a bestseller-lost thirty pounds without trying crowd vs the my life is SO bad you’ll never be able to top it crowd. Remember, those people going through stuff both good and bad are merely at different points on the path as you. You’re seeing a snapshot into their lives that doesn’t reflect anything else that might be going on. And the person with the new cover art/new release/award-winning story might be YOU next week, month, or year. Celebrate wins with your friends. Comfort if there are losses. But if you can’t stop comparing yourself, then walk away from SM for a while–put that time into writing the next story.
  9. My stories don’t matter. This is another version of ‘won’t change the world’ but on a smaller level. So I ask you, is it necessary for them to matter? There is nothing wrong with telling a story for the sheer entertainment value of telling a story. Don’t sell that short. It’s worth more than you think it is. 
  10. I’ll never be as good as so-and-so. This may well be true. On the other hand, I bet that author has someone they feel the same way about as well. Recently someone listed one of my couples among their top favorite pairing–along with my ALL TIME FAVORITE pairing in the same genre. No joke. I’d never been as flattered in my entire life. Never in a million years would I have put my characters on the same page–but someone else did. So maybe we aren’t the best judge of our work.

What it boils down to is this: words matter. The words we tell ourselves on a regular basis matter a lot. If we’ve spent a lifetime running ourselves down, we’re not going to change that soundtrack easily–the grooves have worn deep. But in order to change we MUST stop playing the old soundtrack. We must challenge lies whenever we hear them–be it from ourselves, our families, or people in positions of power over us. We must stop accepting negative feedback as being the only right message simply because it’s the message we believe.

I really struggle even saying things like, “that’s not so bad.” Believe me, I know how hard it is to reprogram your thinking. But I’m going to give myself a month of NOT running myself down. Of stopping the negative feedback loop whenever I hear it playing and countering the conditioning by telling myself positive things about myself that I believe every day. I think if I start with things that won’t make me snort coffee out of my nose, then I can progress to things I want to believe.

I challenge everyone reading this to do the same–and come back here in a month and let me know what changes you are seeing in your life. Let’s do this together.

 

Destiny of a Gargoyle: New Release and Interview with Chris Redding

Hello! I’m delighted to have you here with us, Chris, sharing about your writing process. I have to say right off the bat, there aren’t enough books with gargoyles as the protagonists, so I’m delighted to see your story features a gargoyle as the hero! Please tell us a little about yourself and the kinds of stories you like to write. Would you say there is an underlying theme behind your stories?

Hi, I prefer paranormal romance, but I also write some sweet romance. If there is an underlying theme then it would be fish out of water. I’ve found very few places where I truly fit in so the theme is close to my heart.

What part of the world do you call home? Can you tell us a little about where you grew up and where you live now?

I live in New Jersey and have for close to thirty years. I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia on the Pennsylvania side and attended Penn State. I still root for Philly teams. Where I live is actually more rural than where I grew up and I wouldn’t trade country for city.

How long have you been writing? Did you write as a child or is it something you developed a passion for later in life?

I’ve been writing since I was ten, but for publication for twenty years. I’ve always had a passion for writing. When I was ten I was allowed to read a story in front of my class. I was the nerd. Awkward, glasses, big front teeth. When I finished reading the whole class was paying attention to me. I thought that was the coolest thing ever.

What is the draw for you in your chosen genre? Why THIS kind of story?

I didn’t always write paranormal romance, but I think for me it is returning to my roots. Being who I really am. I grew up on a steady diet of Night Gallery, Twilight Zone, and Outer Limits. I’ve always liked the freaky stuff. I think I am at a point in my life where I am comfortable enough to admit that. I think there is so much freedom in writing paranormal. Anything can happen.

I agree with you 100%. I’m a big sci-fi fan from way back, and I feel that paranormal romance allows me to have fun with world-building and kooky events happening without in a story. 🙂

City Boy/Girl or Country Mouse—and why?

Country Mouse for sure. I like green. Trees, grass. Wide open spaces. I cannot imagine living with people that close to me. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a super extrovert, but I don’t need to hear people all of the time. I love that animals routinely traipse through my yard.

Are you a panster or a plotter?  Do you outline extensively or write your story as you go along?

I used to be a pantser. I can no longer hold the story in my head. I plot. I do the character arcs then a chapter by chapter outline. I don’t stray from it though I might add to it as I write.

Do you see your writing as a hobby or is it your goal to be a full time writer at some point in the future?

I see it as a job. I ghostwrite so I always have deadlines and it has helped me with my discipline. I also am a writing coach so if I could do some combination of my own writing and coaching I’d be pretty happy. Of course I’d have to make money at it.

Research: love it or hate it?

I love it, but I don’t do as much as I used to. When I wrote romantic suspense I had to learn more. Now I can make things up as I go along. It’s more fun. What I do research is the market. That’s a little harder and thankfully my sister helps me. She has a much more analytical mind than I do. She can distill it down so I can understand things.

Editing: love it or hate it?

Love it. I love to make my story better. I have a new editor and I’ve known her a long time so I know how good she is at story. She is one of those rare editors that can to big picture and small picture editing. She can see the types and the plot holes.

Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, do you find what you listen to influences the story at all?

I’ve started listening to video game soundtracks. They are designed to help you focus. Having a gamer son, he recommended a few to me and most of them have worked. I sometimes type faster if the music gets faster.  I also listen to meditation music.

How interesting! I might have to give that a try!

Destiny of a Gargoyle

Blurb:

He was born in a time when magic ruled the Earth.

Gargoyles protected fairies from goblins. His family was a group of elite gargoyles who were assigned to protect a specific fairy. His father’s dereliction of that duty cursed his sons to become stone and wait.

Now reawakened in the twenty first century where no one believes in magic how is he going to convince his fairy that she is one and that she is in danger from a goblin?

He must do that without falling in love with her.

Bio:

Chris Redding is a paranormal romance author who has written 9 novels and novellas that will transport you to other worlds. She lives in New Jersey with her family. When she isn’t writing, she walks and does yoga.

Buy link: http://a.co/3mwSfUl

Where to find me:

Chris Redding Author LLC

Email: chrisreddingauthor@gmail.com

Website: www.chrisreddingauthor.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/chrisreddingauthor

Twitter: www.twitter.com/chrisredding

Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/101743269602364199911/posts

Skype: Chris.Redding.Author

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/chrisredding/