Richard Keller is an author, broadcaster, narrator, humorist (hopefully you can tell) and all-around swell individual. Even with his dabbling, Richard has produced millions of words for radio, television, magazines, blogs, and newspapers. His company, Wooden Pants Media, helps others bridge the gap to their creativity through publishing, podcasting, and workshops. You can listen to the shows of the Wooden Pants Network, including his programs The Daily Author and The Unfrustrated Entrepreneur at blogtalkradio.com/woodenpantsnetwork. His main book, Coffee Cup Tales, is available on Amazon, Nook, Kobo, iBooks, Overdrive, and library catalogs.
Scene: Mrs. Courtney’s third-grade classroom
Wide Shot: A gangly eight-year-old with horn-rimmed glasses, a dress shirt, and slacks (because his parents didn’t believe in jeans back then) presents a story to one of his favorite teachers.
8YO (Confident): Here it is, Mrs. Courtney.
Scene switches to the beautiful Mrs. Courtney in her Dorothy Hamill haircut. She reads said story, smiles, frowns, and turns to the student.
Courtney: Where did you get the idea for this story about a murder victim found in a frozen pond?
8YO (Less Confident): Umm, from an episode of Another World.
End scene. Begin my official writing career, And, my first official stolen idea.
From that poignant moment on I wanted to be a writer. Oh, I had been imaginative long before this pivotal moment, but I think writing the story and Mrs. Courtney’s approval woke my creative soul.
So, off I went. A few years later I had my mother type up two of my short stories to send to Cricket and Analog respectively. Both were rejected. I kept the Analog story and rejection letter and still wonder why my Magnum P.I./Knight Rider mashup didn’t sell.
In high school, I wrote dirty versions of He-Man because, well, I was in high school. I also started a fantasy tale where the characters were people in my classes. I wish I had kept that one. I also spent plenty of time doodling superhero names and characters on notebook covers at my retail job. Hey, not everyone came at once to the Young Men’s department of Macy’s to purchase Ocean Pacific shirts and skinny ties.
Scene Break: Time given to millennial readers to look up anarchistic references.
At some point toward the end of high school and right before I entered college I stopped writing fiction and turned my sights on the news world. My first professional gig was as a newspaper stringer who covered board of education and town council meetings. The only excitement was getting the article in by 11 pm in time for the next day’s paper. In college, it was copy writing for the two radio news departments I worked for (it was the late 80s, they still had those). I discarded the world of fantasy for the world of news. All right, I discarded one fantasy for another.
And then I abandoned everything as my father encouraged me to take a manager-in-training position at an office supply store. I listened, because my head was so full of junk it drowned out the screaming of my creative soul. I dabbled here and there for many years – writing comic book and television reviews, submitting an article here or there – but it was a hobby. When my soul tried to make it more, the monkeys in my head screeched at it. So, it went into hiding.
Then I relocated to the West. I moved to Colorado and felt the call of my creative spirit from the mountains, Native American spirits, woo-woo (scientific term), or chemical influences of a certain plant. Call it what you will, but it drew my creativity out and began to lessen the monkey chatter.
Once the pieces fell into place I left the corporate world and became a fiction writer once again. I finished my first book, then a second, then two more. I started a publishing company and brought on other authors. I started a few podcasts, formed a network, and brought on others. Soon enough, I owned a creative media mecca.
Not bad for someone who started his creative life borrowing ideas from a cheesy soap.
Am I going to be the next Stephen King in writing or John Lee Dumas in podcasting? I’m not sure I want to be. While I wouldn’t mind their monthly income, I would rather write and broadcast across all genres while I help others build bridges to their own creativity. I have a plethora of knowledge and am truly blessed by my gifts, so why not give some of it away so others can be successful?
That would be a happy ending for any story.
Coffee Cup Tales
Coffee Cup Tales: Stories Inspired by Overheard Conversations at the Coffee Shop, is an anthology of short stories which stem from actions and conversations from Richard’s favorite coffee shop. It’s a mix of humor, romance, spirituality. Fantasy, and hand coughing. Richard won’t tell you what coffee shop they originated from because he may want to hear your conversations for another book.
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Jennifer Soosar was born and raised in Toronto and watched too much 'America's Most Wanted' growing up. Her short fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Out of the Gutter Online, Flash Bang Mysteries, and the Toronto Star. Her debut psychological suspense novel, PARENT TEACHER ASSOCIATION, was published by Black Opal Books in 2017. She is a member of Crime Writers of Canada, International Thriller Writers, and Sisters in Crime. She has a degree in anthropology.
I started writing short stories when I was in elementary school. The teenagers who hung out at the local shopping mall food court were my first inspiration. They all had long, wild, feathered hair—even the guys—and wore skin-tight jeans. They smoked, swore, and scratched their initials into the food court tables with switch blades. They wore “Iron Maiden” t-shirts with graphics of grinning, rotting corpses across the front. I was both interested and terrified of these teens, so I started writing about them. Of course I didn’t know anything about them so, in writer fashion, I had to make it all up! The first story I ever got published (at age 13) was about a gang of delinquent teens.
The work of Stephen King was another big early influence, especially his short stories in Night Shift. He wrote about darker things and this gave me permission to write about darker things, too. I wanted to write about the things and the people who scared me. It’s an ongoing theme in my writing.
In my 20s, I wrote a bunch of feature-length screenplays, but soon discovered that selling a screenplay was near-impossible. I went back to short stories. I learned that you should never scrap any of your ideas because you can re-purpose them. I took some of my old screenplays and re-worked them into shorter form. My story published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine (‘Profane Pilgrims’, May 2016) is one example of that.
Once my kids were a little older, it seemed like a great time to get started on the novel I always wanted to write. Parent Teacher Association began with only one idea: ‘a thriller set in an elementary school’. With this in mind, I outlined a basic story with the main conflict being between two characters—a parent and a teacher. The whole thing grew as my imagination took the concept to a darker, creepier place than your typical school environment, but that’s what makes it fun.
While hammering out the first draft during the late summer of 2014, I was excited to learn about the annual ThrillerFest conference in New York. One of the best things about it was PitchFest, an opportunity to pitch your novel to literary agents. I quickly signed up for the next one because I wanted to give myself a hard deadline to finish the book. I now had nine months to produce an 80,000 word manuscript good enough to pitch face-to-face to agents.
The deadline weighed constantly on me. Between thoughts of “what have I done?” to worries that I could deliver, the deadline ended up being the best favor I could have done for myself. There was no way out of it. I had to ignore all the fear and doubts and just keep pounding the novel out. Months went by and it started to take shape. By late June 2015, I finished what was probably the fifth or sixth draft. It was finally time to head down to New York City.
ThrillerFest was an amazing experience and I learned so much. I ended up pitching Parent Teacher Association to ten different agents and nine of them asked to see more. While I didn’t end up landing an agent, I did meet a fellow author who was published at Black Opal Books. Later in the fall, I queried a few publishers, including Black Opal. Five months later, in March 2016, the acquisitions editor at Black Opal said she was delighted with Parent Teacher Association and wanted to publish it. It took another fourteen months to see it in print and I went back to ThrillerFest this past July as a Debut Author.
For me, the most motivating thing with writing is getting something published and that’s why I’ve kept up with doing short stories in-between larger projects. The turn over is faster and it’s very satisfying to get even a small, flash fiction piece published. It definitely keeps you going, and helps build your author resume faster.
It’s good to get a momentum going with your writing, where things are moving at a certain pace. You’re pushing work out the door and working on new ideas. But publishing is very slow. That’s another thing I’ve learned. You need to develop a lot of patience and start planning your projects on a schedule, thinking at least two or three years ahead of time.
One writer I’d like to spend some time with is Ernest Hemingway, to visit his house in Cuba and go deep sea fishing on his boat, Pilar. His life seemed so interesting with all the travel and adventure. He was inspired by his surroundings and life experiences. I admire his clean, straightforward writing style. He could express complex ideas with just a few basic words. That is hard to do.
Parent Teacher Association
A troubled teacher. An aggressive parent. A town's deadly secret.
Fresh out of a mental hospital, Lizanne Demeter is thrilled to get a second chance at her career when she's hired to teach third grade in the backwater town of Splinter Wood, Pennsylvania.
But hopes for a peaceful new life are ruined when Naomi Seabrook, a demanding ‘helicopter parent’, pushes Lizanne to the brink.
While struggling to maintain control of her classroom, Lizanne begins to unravel the secret behind Naomi’s hell-bent agenda. As deadly clues emerge, Lizanne suspects Naomi is guilty of more than just overindulging her child.
With her life teetering on chaos, Lizanne risks everything to expose the shocking truth. But first, she must race against her own spiraling sanity to prove herself a more dedicated teacher than anyone dared imagine—the kind of teacher who makes ALL the difference.
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Nancy L. (Nan) Reed's love of words has inspired her to write short stories, novels, memory snippets, scripts, and poetry. She calls Colorado the perfect place to live and is Musing at nancylreed.com about writing, designing a tiny house specifically for a wordsmith, and other subjects bizarre and intriguing. She encourages everyone with words to share to put pen to paper. Her books include Words Left Behind: tales from a life gladly lived, A Short Story Olio, Dog-grr-el: canine cadence, hound haiku, puppy poetry, Dog-grr-el: canine conundrums, hound hankerings, puppy puzzlers, Questions: so many questions, and Conversations Between Two Great Friends.
Trek to Contentment
My first flirtation with manipulating words was at age four. With my mother’s help, I laboriously printed, in a very small hand, an annotated menu for my fantasy café. When I was five, Mom took me to the local library, having promised when I achieved that momentous age, I could apply for my very own library card – unheard of in those days at the Dawn of Woman. The puritanical library clerk at the desk refused to issue me one on the basis of my age. When Mom pointed out that nothing in the rules prevented me having my own card, the obstructive woman said I could only have one if I could sign my name longhand, which I promptly did. I treasured my key to the Kingdom of Words that would keep me company, soothe my aching spirit, and provide so much joy and clarity on my life journey.
From the completion of that first tiny menu to present day, I have loved placing words on paper in such a way as to create a story, a picture, a mood, whatever a reader might seek in order to quench the thirst for words. To that end, I have saved every note, outline, partial and completed manuscript I’ve written since age four, hoping one day to turn one of them into something worthy of publication. Not long ago, I measured the volume of those writerly items to discover I had seventeen cubic feet of the stuff – the same volume as my upright freezer.
Through the elementary grades, I wrote philosophical and tragic poetry which I printed by hand on fancy paper and bound with soft leather to give to my mother as Christmas gifts. Years later, rereading my two small poetry collections, I wondered if my mother had thought I was a depressed child – they were Oh! so melodramatic and weepy. After her death, I learned she’d kept them with her at the nursing home. She liked my words.
During high school and college, I added to my piles of barely-begun and not-yet-finished manuscripts, but graduate school left me little time to pen stories. Then came a series of odd jobs and finally admission to the teaching profession. I began to have time to write again, although professional articles and lesson plans usurped much of it. When I moved to Colorado, teaching positions were hard to come by (a glut of teachers looking for work), so I began my thirty year tenure as a classified staff employee in a university library – books and more books! During that time, my ambitions to write fiction were once again sidelined by the need to write scholarly papers to complete a doctoral degree.
Then, finally, I could write what I chose. I found a writing class at the senior center, taught by a gentleman who combined the art of teaching, the skill of authorship, and the talent of an artist. I learned about the craft of writing and had some of my short stories and poetry published in local anthologies. I continued taking classes through a local writer’s group that provided me the opportunities to learn about writing, interact with writers of all calibers, and work with critique groups and partners. They helped me hone my technique and style.
In the past three years, thanks to my publisher, fellow writers, and encouraging family and friends, I’ve published six books with more to come. I find such support helps keep discouragement at bay. At one function, I had the good fortune to meet Avi when he appeared as a guest speaker. Although I don’t write for the same age group as he, I found his advice about writing and publishing to be informative and realistic. Like other well-known authors I’ve been fortunate to meet, he was willing to helping a newbie. I also felt a kinship with him for his love of dogs and took the opportunity to gift him one of my Dog-grr-el books. I wonder if he liked it? It was especially delightful that he liked my visor and told me so. I found him a very unpretentious person and a dedicated writer.
I’ll probably never be a famous author, nor will I build my dream tiny house from my writerly profits, but thanks to many folks along the way who encouraged and supported my efforts, I’m a very contented wordsmith.
Conversations Between Two Great Friends
Conversations Between Two Great Friends (Second Edition, 2017) presents the heart-to-hearts between two ladies of a certain age. The tenor of their discussions ranges from happy to sad, giddy to serious, philosophical to scientific. Their favorite coffee house waitperson, mysteriously mute, and a grieving ghost punctuate their conversations. Spanning from Christmas to Christmas, readers eavesdrop on the private chats of the friends who reflect both Victorian sensibilities and twenty-first century attitudes. Nancy L. (Nan) Reed relishes the conversations with friends that inspired these fictionalized chats.
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Susan Alice Bickford was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and grew up in Central New York.
After she discovered computer graphics and animation her passion for technology pulled her to Silicon Valley, where she became an executive at a leading technology company.
She now works as an independent consultant, and continues to be fascinated by all things high tech. She splits her time between Silicon Valley and Vermont.
In an interview in the August 10, 2017 New York Times Book Review, Philippa Gregory responded to a question about genres with a provocative answer that definitely caught my attention.
She starts off by going after pornography and goes on to say, "And why does anyone write lazy, sloppy genre novels? The typing alone is so exhausting — surely if you’re going to undertake 150,000 words, you might as well have something interesting to say? Why do people write crime novels with blindingly obvious murderers? Why do they write love stories with idiotic heroes?... Writing should be both individual and universal. Choosing to write a genre novel is like fencing the universe because you are afraid of space."
After I shook off a measure of indignation, I took a step back to consider why I write fiction at all, and why I choose to write dark thrillers in particular.
The desire to hear and tell stories is fundamental to the human psyche and mysteries and thrillers are genres that speak to me but in the past I have written non-fiction and flirted with other genres.
Telling stories was something I wanted to do but I was torn between words and visual media, even in elementary school. In college, I started as a comparative lit major but ended up majoring with studio art. I even went on to get my MFA. Somewhere along the way, I knew I wanted to tell a different kind of story—a narrative story. Fiction called, but I couldn't figure out how to answer. Every time I tried to write, I floundered.
Meanwhile, I fell under the spell of high tech. It started with computer graphics, then expanded to programming, and finally to participating in a full on engagement with Silicon Valley. It was a thrilling ride and I found that many aspects of my career required a great deal of creative thinking. Writing was critical as well. I had the opportunity to work directly with some of the most brilliant minds in the field but I found out that being able to communicate added value even if I was never the smartest person in the room.
When I finally had an opportunity to take a break from my lean-in career about 12 years ago, I found I was consumed by the raw need to sit down and write. Eventually, I returned to working but chose to do consulting because it left me with the mental energy to do what I loved in my spare time: write.
This time I didn't worry about genre or story. It didn't matter that I didn't have a voice or didn't know the basic rules. I simply picked up some thread that was buzzing around in my head and started writing. The only rule was that I had to love the story I was telling myself. I didn't care about publishing or sharing.
Gradually, I started to zero in on certain themes. I noticed that I had a flair for certain aspects. Easily bored, I rotated from story to story every couple of weeks. Finishing was not a critical motivation.
One night I began a story about a young woman who has to escape from someone. Two someones. In the woods like where I grew up in Central New York. It's night. They chase her. They die from their own stupidity as she outwits them. She leaves them, goes home, and.... Hmm. What next?
In the course of one evening, I found my voice, my genre, my inner writing compass.
Part of me had been waiting to write this story for decades. At the end of my freshman year in high school, two girls from my homeroom were brutally murdered. Their murderer was never identified and the world seemed to blame them for their own fates. Now I knew I had to write a tale about a teenage girl who is attacked and gets away. For a while. Her name would be Marly.
This was the easiest part of the story. I soon had to ask myself what kind of family and community Marly came from. Why couldn't she go to the police? Why couldn't she tell anyone what had happened? What were the repercussions? How could I make this plausible?
As I answered these questions, I built a world for Marly. I had to dig deeply into both my personal experiences but also dredge up my understanding of human nature, both good and bad. The more I scratched, the more I itched to go further and further.
In the course of 80,000 words or so, I found my reasons for writing my particular genre, which I call country noir thrillers. I love the moral ambiguity the conflict this creates as we struggle to find our moral guideposts. Story telling is part of my soul now.
My high school friends should have been able to live their own adult lives, make their own mistakes, experience joys and failures. Instead, they gave me a wonderful gift that opened up a window of self-discovery. I just wish they were here to share it.
And that's why I write genre! Rather than discuss this with Philippa Gregory, I would much rather sit down with Sue Grafton, Val McDermid, or Ann Cleeves. A personal conversation with any of them on this topic would put me over the moon.
A Short Time to Die
In this electrifying debut by Susan Alice Bickford, two women from opposite sides of the country find their lives inextricably bound—by blood, by fear, and by a merciless, murderous revenge…
Walking home from a high school dance on a foggy autumn night in rural New York, Marly Shaw sees a flash of approaching headlights. A pickup truck stops and two men get out. One of them is the girl’s stepfather. She runs. They follow. Minutes later, gunshots are fired, two men are dead, and one terrified girl is running—for the rest of her life…
Thirteen years later, human bones are discovered in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. DNA tests reveal they belong to a mother and son from Central New York. Both have criminal records. Assault. Involuntary manslaughter. Maybe more. Santa Clara County Sheriff Detective Vanessa Alba wants to know how these backwater felons ended up so far from home.
Vanessa and her partner, Jack Wong, head to the icy terrain of the Finger Lakes to uncover the secrets of a powerful family whose crimes are too horrifying to comprehend. Whose grip over a frightened community is too strong to break. And whose twisted ideas of blood and honor are a never-ending nightmare for the one family member who thought she got away…
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Jamie Raintree is an author and a writing business teacher. She is also a mother of two girls, a wife, a businesswoman, a nature-lover, and a wannabe yogi. Her debut novel, PERFECTLY UNDONE, will be released on October 3, 2017 by Graydon House. Subscribe to her newsletter for more writing tips, workshops, and book news. To find out more, visit her website.
I first started writing seriously in 2010, completely oblivious to the fact that a little over a year later, my life would be turned upside down. I was just beginning to feel like I finally knew what I wanted to do with my life--I had completed my first (truly messy) novel, connected with a local writers group, started a blog, and began to build a social media presence. And then I found out I was pregnant with my first daughter.
Thankfully, I was naive about what having a baby would look like or I might have stopped writing then. (In fact, my naivety has served me well in many cases during my writing a publishing journey, and in the pursuit of my goals in general--highly recommended.) Because I didn't know any better, I continued writing throughout my pregnancy and picked it back up again shortly after delivery, thinking I could simply hold the baby in one arm and type with the other. I'm sure my mom still has good laughs about this expectation.
In 2012, there were two new developments in my life: the beginning of what would become my debut novel, and my pregnancy with my second daughter. I was a little less naive by this point. In fact, the stress of balancing motherhood and my passion was really weighing on me. It felt like no matter what I did, I was always failing one or the other--my kids or my commitment to my dream.
In the eight years that have passed since my oldest was just a sparkle in my eye, the struggle has only gotten harder. The further I get into my writing career, the bigger the expectations of me grow. I'm also a passionate parent, and find great fulfillment in nurturing and guiding my daughters. Actually, I'm multi-passionate, so there's weaving in my other pursuits too. In a world where there's an endless supply of to-dos to add to our plates, it can be hard to stay dedicated to what's important.
For me, though, giving something up never felt like a choice. Maybe it's crazy--a lot of times it felt like it--but I simply never considered the option of giving up my dream. Not seriously. No matter how much my kids needed from me (and when I had two kids under two, trust me, they needed a lot), I also realized that I had needs too. It became clear to me very early on in motherhood that in order to the be the best person for not only my daughters, but also myself, I needed to continue to do the things that fulfilled me. And that has always been writing.
One thing my dad has said to me my entire life is, "Don't ask 'if,' ask 'how,'" and whether I realized it or not, that piece of wisdom has guided me in many endeavors in my life. When I had my girls, I knew it would make more sense to put my writing career on the back burner until they started school, when I would have more time. But because I knew I deserved to put myself first sometimes, I asked myself how I could do it instead. And over the years, my girls have become as invested in my writing as me. In fact, my oldest is so proud that she tells everyone she wants to be a writer when she grows up so she can help me write my books. (She melts my heart, I tell you.)
Now, as I take my youngest daughter to her first day of kindergarten, I'm also preparing to launch my debut novel, Perfectly Undone, something I have fantasized about for almost a decade. There have been so many times when I have brainstormed while changing diapers, and snuck in sentences while making dinner. There were times I cried myself to sleep, thinking this dream would never come true. And then times when I sat paralyzed at my computer, wondering what I would do if it actually did. Nothing about chasing a dream while raising young children is easy, but I can say without a doubt that it has been worth it.
"Yes" is such a little word...
Dr. Dylan Michels has worked hard for a perfect life, so when her long-time boyfriend Cooper gets down on one knee, it should be the most perfect moment of all. Then why does she say no?
For too many years, Dylan’s been living for her sister, who never got the chance to grow up. But her attempts to be the perfect daughter, perfect partner, and perfect doctor haven’t been enough to silence the haunting guilt Dylan feels over her sister’s death—and the role no one knows she played in it.
Now Dylan must face her past if she and Cooper stand a chance at a future together. But when Cooper makes a startling confession of his own, can Dylan find the courage to define her own happiness, before her life becomes perfectly undone?
Set among the breezy days of a sultry Portland summer, Perfectly Undone is a deeply moving novel of family secrets, forgiveness and finding yourself in the most surprising of places.
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Kellye Garrett spent 8 years working in Hollywood, including a stint writing for the CBS drama Cold Case. People were always surprised to learn what she did for a living—probably because she seemed way too happy to be brainstorming ways to murder people. A former magazine editor, Kellye holds a B.S. in magazine writing from Florida A&M and an MFA in screenwriting from USC’s famed film school. Having moved back to her native New Jersey, she spends her mornings commuting to Manhattan for her job at a leading media company—while still happily brainstorming ways to commit murder. Her first novel, Hollywood Homicide, was released by Midnight Ink in August 2017. It was a Library Journal Debut of the Month and described as a “winning first novel and series launch” in a starred review by Publishers Weekly.
The Third Act
by Kellye Garrett
"In screenplay speak, the end of Act Two is the main character’s lowest point. In action films, the star’s been captured. In romantic comedies, the couple has had a big fight. In horror movies, all her friends are dead and she’s been stripped down to just a bra and panties." – Dayna Anderson in "Hollywood Homicide (A Detective by Day Mystery)"
I got the idea for Hollywood Homicide while driving down the street. It was about 2010 while I was still living in Los Angeles. I drove past a billboard offering $15,000 for information on a homicide. At the time, I was dead broke and miserable so my first thought was, “I should try to solve that for the reward money.” My second thought was, “That’s the dumbest idea you’ve ever had.”
It turned out to be a great idea for a book though.
My journey to published author has been a long road. I’ve wanted to write a book since I was five-years-old so I clearly took a lot of detours, wrong turns and spent a lot of time stuck—in traffic and in life.
Like any good plotter, I view my divide that journey into three acts.
Act One: The Journalist
Fears of dating myself aside, I came out of undergrad in 2000 ready to take over the world. The economy was good and journalism was still thriving. My plan was simple: work as a magazine editor until I could figure out a good book idea. And I did for almost three years. First, as an editorial assistant at the New York Daily News. Next, as an assistant editor at Vibe magazine, where I covered movies and television. Then an unexpected thing happened. I got bored. Journalism is amazing but it’s a spectator sport. I wanted to be in the game—or should I saw on the racetrack to keep with the car analogy.
So I left my cushy job—even turning down a promotion—to go to film school.
Act Two: The TV Writer
I was lucky enough to get into USC, arguably the top film school in the country. After I graduated, I spent a year as an assistant on a television show that no one remembers then was lucky to get into NBC’s On the Verge program designed to help talented, new writers break into television. It worked. Two years after graduating, I was a staff writer on the CBS show Cold Case. I thought I’d had it made.
Then television writers went on strike and I broke up with my writing partner. The strike only last a few months but our contract wasn’t renewed once the season wrapped. I figured it’d be easy to find another job in television. It wasn’t. At all.
I did some television show developing but it wasn’t nearly enough to make those expensive student loan payments. I was 30, out of work and dead broke. Furthermore, I was completely disillusioned with Hollywood. In true screenplay form, I was at my lowest point and I was desperate to figure out my next step. I decided to finally write that book. And there was some good news that came out of all of this—I finally had that book idea.
Act Three: The Novelist
They say write what you love. I’ve mysteries since the days of Encyclopedia Brown and Nancy Drew. It was a given that I’d write a mystery novel. They also write what you know. At the time, I knew a lot about being a semi-successful, mega-broke black woman disillusioned with Hollywood. So I wrote about a semi-famous, mega-broke black actress disillusioned with Hollywood. When Hollywood Homicide came out earlier this month, many of the reviews highlighted the Hollywood aspect. Publishers Weekly (who gave me a starred review!) said I write “with humor and insight about the Hollywood scene.” And Kirkus Reviews wrote that “Veteran TV writer Garrett uses her Cold Case experience to inform her debut, which sets up more than one charming character and isn’t afraid to go cynical on all things LA.”
It’s funny how things work out. If I didn’t have the requisite end of Act 2 low point, I wouldn’t have had my Hollywood ending.
ACTRESS DAYNA ANDERSON’S DEADLY NEW ROLE: HOMICIDE DETECTIVE
Dayna Anderson doesn’t set out to solve a murder. All the semifamous, mega-broke actress wants is to help her parents keep their house. So after witnessing a deadly hit-and-run, she pursues the fifteen grand reward. But Dayna soon finds herself doing a full-on investigation, wanting more than just money—she wants justice for the victim. She chases down leads at paparazzi hot spots, celeb homes, and movie premieres, loving every second of it—until someone tries to kill her. And there are no second takes in real life.
Multi-Author Blog: https://chicksonthecase.com/
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Jesse lives in Colorado with her husband, daughter, and two fur children. Her short stories have appeared in The Saturday Evening Post and Youth Imagination Magazine, among other publications. She is currently seeking representation for a young adult fantasy novel, the first in a series. Jesse was most recently published in Strange Fictions, a science fiction/fantasy zine. Her short story Melusine will also be republished with FrostFire Worlds this month. When she's not writing or chasing her babies, Jesse enjoys hiking or stalking people with her camera. Find her at jessemaeweiner.com, or connect with her on instagram, facebook or twitter to stay updated on her latest publications.
Funny thing for a writer to say, but we all know it’s true. Self-reflection can be grueling, tiresome work. It means being brave, and being open to change.
So, I avoided it at all costs.
I’d dreamed of becoming an author since I was a child, clutching tight to my copy of A Wrinkle in Time and vowing that one day, I would create something equally magical. Yet by the time I got to college, it was deceptively easy to convince myself that my desire was a silly thing. Unattainable. Impractical.
Life’s trials piled on—the loss of my father, my mother’s first battle with cancer, the pressure of deciding what the hell to do with the rest of my life. I stumbled into teaching, and then academic advising. I dedicated myself to helping teens discover their passions, while in the back of my mind I knew I wasn’t following my own passion.
My students, God bless them, were all bright, lovely, wonderful, intelligent people—even those who were uniquely talented at driving me up the wall. Often, in the course of discussing college and career options, my students would look at me and ask, “What made you want to do this?” As if they couldn’t comprehend why anyone would want to work in a high school. And while I did enjoy working with them—their exuberance for life was infections, the question never failed to make me feel like a hypocrite. I expected these kids to sit down with me and work through all these tough, introspective questions, when I myself had neglected to do so. The irony of the situation was not lost on me.
Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t a bad student. I wasn’t unhappy with my life, and I didn’t dislike my job. Yet there is a difference between being good at what you do and finding the thing that makes you tick.
Thanks in large part to the inspiration of my students, and of course my husband’s loving, gentle encouragement, I finally started writing.
To be honest, it was rather terrifying at first. I still remember opening up a new document in word, staring at the blank page and that damn blinking cursor while the snide voice in my head said, See? You have nothing to say.
But I knew that wasn’t true. So I gave him the finger and pushed on.
As an English teacher, I walked my freshmen classes through many a creative writing exercise. I stood at the whiteboard and cited scientific studies linking writing in longhand to unleashing creativity, positive thought, and increases in neural activity.
Funny, then, that I sat there with my own pen and paper, thinking some of the same complaints that they’d often lobbed at me.
I don’t know what to write.
What’s the point?
This is so effing hard.
Why am I doing this, again?
Yet every time I shoved those voices aside, I found that my soul felt full, in a way that it hadn’t it a long, long time.
Again, it wasn’t that I didn’t feel complete or happy before. It was that in finding a thing that gave me so much freedom and joy, I was left wondering why the hell I’d laid it aside in the first place.
Self-doubt is crippling. As is fear. And that little, incessant voice who keeps whispering that you’re being selfish, for claiming time for yourself? Yeah, he should be shot.
We all have duties and responsibilities, but we shouldn’t lay aside our aspirations because of them. If becoming a mother has taught me anything, it’s that I cannot be the person my daughter needs me to be, if I am not taking the necessary steps to care for myself. Writing has become one of those steps. And the more I write, the more I realize introspection isn’t so scary, after all.
Read Melusine Here
Sheala Dawn Henke has been telling herself stories with a full cast of imaginary characters running amuck in her head since her early childhood days growing up in her mother’s home daycare. Since then, she has discovered that the laughter and whimsy of childhood make great fodder for story. The movie reels and running dialogue that played through her head since childhood never seemed to accept a final encore, so she decided to start writing them down. Today she surrounds herself with a fountain of youthful energy as a full time elementary teacher. She and her husband, both native Coloradoans, tag team to raise their two adventurous boys in the town of their alma mater, where they attended university at Colorado State in Fort Collins, Colorado. Sheala has spent the last seven years working to complete her debut YA Cli-Fi trilogy, IDEA33-A Regeneration, IDEA33-A Revolution, and the third and final installment, IDEA33-A Resolution due out on Earth Day 2018. She also loves to write poetry, Young Adult Fiction and Middle Grade Fantasy as she continues to commit to the craft each day delighting in sharing her stories with the world.
There are times when moments in our life can transform us as writers, and honestly, for me to pinpoint on the map where this journey began would do the experience little justice. Primarily because along the journey, I’ve discovered that there is no certain call to any one destination when it came to my story as a writer.
I tend to be drawn to things of a symbolic nature, and I recently spent some time in the Outer Banks of North Carolina on a family vacation. We stayed right smack-dab in the heartland of history, near where The Wright Brothers took to the air on their first flight from the site on Kill Devil Hills.
Out there the wind blows like a passive resistance to the staging calm, and it was there that the light finally shined on what kind of writer I am and what kind of writer I could be. Between early morning runs on the boardwalk, dolphin watching ala kayak, and dining on the sweet succulence of tangy barbecue, one of the greatest take-always from my trip came to me while I watched my children fly a kite on our first night on the beach.
For me, writing is like flying a kite...
What I’ve realized over the last seven years is that like kite flying, writing is something of a chance endeavor. Each time I take to the air, there's some level of anticipation for what might be possible, or how high I can go depending on the risks I’m willing to take. The best part is that no matter what happens, I know I still hold the strings.
I love the feeling of control and the slack I might need to get the story up, to send it soaring. I find myself asking, will the conditions be just right? Will the wind cooperate? But more importantly, will this kite fly?
Much in the way the kite flyer learns to read these conditions, we as writers mark our path, and in those moments the words seem to spill out directly from our souls onto the page. These are paths often charted for the very first time. It follows a trajectory we can’t always repeat.
In the same way, I see this flight of words akin to the flight of a kite, with its lofty approach, I see my words as fingerprints on a skyline flightpath that no one else can recreate, and I believe, as writers, we each have a kite of our own. The question is, when are we ready to fly it?
If so, here are a few tips to help you keep to the air:
#1 Go with the Flow:
Much like the variables in which we aim to design our writing routines, a kite bound in flight by certain principles of physics. Flight itself is controlled by three main forces: lift, gravity, and drag, and although our writing process can most certainly, and often does seem to defy gravity, it begins with a common structure that can help us understand and learn to navigate. We don’t always get to control the winds that come, but we do get to decide what goes on the page.
#2 Pick your kite with care:
A larger part of flying a kite is choosing the right one to fly. This can apply to our writing endeavors as well. The genius begins in the choosing. Is it the right voice for me? Does the genre fit my storytelling lens and level of experience? Is the work an authentic part of myself that I’m able and willing to share with the world? And just like kites, as writers, we often fall flat on our noses too!
#3 Pay mind to the Lift Off- I like to think big picture on a grand scale. We plan, we plot, we dodge, we weave. With some projects, we might be more inclined to map out entire wind-scapes, and scout out the jet stream. Other times we enjoy the sharper edges, the cuts, the unexpected twists and turns in a spectacle of flying at our own risk, being drawn to the challenge? As an early stage writer, I often started with a short lead, a line within my comfort zone. A place to set my stride. Then, as I watched more seasoned flyers, streamers out, as they fielded the air in a more instinctual dance, I began to note the difference in their flight patterns. I aimed to fly side by side with them, taking notes from these wordsmith masters.
In any case, over the course of these past seven years, any way I flew it, I’ve learned to work through the snags and pay mind to the knots that might bar my flight. I’ll stay committed to learning, evolving as a writer. And as the shape of my design changes, I can be assured that each time I take to the page, I’ll fly higher than I ever imagined was possible.
“Kites rise highest against the wind, not with it.” ~Winston Churchill
Here you can read an explanation of the Bernoulli Principle by Tal Streeter. For the “path of least resistance” taken by a kite in flight, see the excerpt from Measuring the Sky, Streeter’s work in progress.
IDEA33- A Regeneration
Heli Clame doesn't know it yet, but he stands in the wake of a critical change. Coming of age himself during a time of enhanced technology and decades lost to ecological devastation, he arrives on the grounds of IDEA33 to join two others, Terra Sial and Dous Cistern. Unaware that they all have special and undeveloped powers to offset a prophecy fortelling the end of time, they soon learn their unique origins and the purpose for why they were created. The balance of all life on earth rests on the strength of their unity. Only then will they have the power to initiate a Regeneration.
Her books are available on Amazon & on her website www.sdhenke.weebly.com & you can find Sheala Henke on; twitter (@HenkeSheala, facebook (AuthorSDHenke) & email firstname.lastname@example.org
Where to Buy IDEA33- A Regeneration
Sheena Perry was born the summer of 1986 in Bakersfield, CA, but grew up in UT. At a young age she found joy playing “make believe” in the fields behind her home, taking care of various pets, and spending time with her family out on the lake fishing. She graduated from Snow College with an Associate of Science and majored in Fine Arts. Now she spends her time being a full time mom of three, supporting her husband in his career as a full time soldier in the military, and writing. Sheena has always had a creative mind and fun loving spirit. She started her first book, Apocalypse: Usifrim, in 2009 and finished it December of 2015. She hopes that her readers enjoy it as much as she enjoyed creating it.
The first time I ever thought of truly writing a book, other than small stories for my mom for mother’s day, was when I was in the ninth grade. I wrote over 100 pages on a story. Sadly I quit the story because I was told I would never write a book. Thankfully those people didn’t have the last word.
In 2009, a year after my first son was born I had a crazy dream. When I woke I went about my day like normal. The next night I had the same exact dream. Morning came and I thought that was weird. The third night I had the same dream again. This time when I woke up I thought, “Okay, I get it now.” I wrote the dream down in all its detail. The next night the previous dream continued from where it left off. The next day I wrote the dream down, this continued for a whole week. Each night the dreams continued, and each day I would write them down. At the end of the week I had the epiphany that this is three books in a series called “Apocalypse”. I started writing the first of the three books using the notes I had taken as a map to guide me. I wish I could say I finished quickly and moved on to the second, that would be convenient, but life is hardly ever convenient. During the creation of Apocalypse: Usifrim I went through five computers, two total wipe outs/rewrites from the start, many lost chapters, and many lost corrections. It took me six years to write the first draft, since it has taken another year and a half to edit my book.
I knew the best things are plagued with setbacks, so I pressed on and am happy to announce my book is available for purchase now. Thanks to my horrid experience I am now blessed with advice for future authors. Some of which are; always save your work in various places (I now e-mail to several people, save to three flash drives, two hard drives, and two devices.), when writing the first draft- Just Write- (My favorite position is laying on my tummy with my arms out in front on the keys typing what I see in my head. Yes there are errors galore, but it gets done.), get a great editor (Someone that works with you and does magic with your words.), check your copyright licenses on any images you use- including covers, and don’t listen to the nay-sayers (They will come in swarms and have every reason in the world for you to stop. I let them get to me in the ninth grade, and that was a grave mistake.)
If you find yourself losing steam in your writing, or second guessing writing at all, think about what motivates you. My motivations are easily my family (Kids, husband, parents, siblings, cousins, ect.) and my future. When I think of my future I like to look up pictures (I am very visual). I find pictures of cars, homes, vacations, property, toys for my kids, donations I can give, and anything that I would want for my family or myself. It may sound superficial, but I like to think if I get _____ done, I can have “that” someday.
All it takes is a little inspiration. Inspiration can come from anywhere. Mine comes from dreams. Ever since that first dream that haunted me for three days in 2009, I have come into a habit of writing my dreams down. Now I have many “stories” that came from dreams to choose from in the future.
I am hoping for a great success in my near future with my book Apocalypse: Usifrim. For now I am not counting my chickens, because they haven’t hatched, but I do have high hopes for this book and those that will come after.
One thing I am extremely grateful for was the opportunity to meet one of my favorite authors in the flesh at the SLC ComiCon. Jenni James is not only an amazing author of various best sellers, but she is one of the nicest people you could ever meet. She inspired me greatly with her writing because she had many children in her care, and a husband who was no longer in the picture and she was able to produce a new book every month. Her skills as a writer and charm in person make her someone I attribute much of my success to. I highly recommend her and her books to anyone and everyone.
Claire, an orphan living at the Usifrim Academy, has spent her life preparing to bond her soul to a demon in order to fight for a safer world. She wasn’t prepared for Nero Kelldonis, a strong and sexy demon of the seventh sin, Lust. Claire’s moral foundation is shaken and her long-time crush boils over. All this, coupled with her fragile self-esteem, is wreaking havoc with her mission: save her home from utter destruction.
You can find Sheena Perry on; instragram (@perrysheena), twitter (AuthorMissPerry), facebook (AuthorSheenaPerry), wattpad ( @AuthorMissPerry), and email (email@example.com)
Where to Buy Apocalypse: Usifrim
I grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska, and after attending college in Iowa, moved to Washington, D.C. to work as an antitrust paralegal. When my husband and I got married, I moved to the Minneapolis metro area and found work as a corporate paralegal. While I enjoyed reading, writing was never anything that even crossed my mind. I enjoyed reading, but writing? That’s what authors did, and I wasn’t an author.
One day while on my lunch break, I visited the neighboring Barnes & Noble and happened upon a book by author Sharon Kay Penman. I’d never heard of her before, but the book looked interesting, so I bought it. Immediately I become a rabid fan of her work.
In 2007, when Facebook was very quickly becoming “a thing”, I discovered that Ms. Penman had fan club and that she happened to interact there frequently. As a result of a casual comment she made about how writers generally don’t get detailed feedback from readers, I wrote her an embarrassingly long review of her latest book, Lionheart. As a result of that review, she asked me what would become the most life-changing question: “Have you ever thought about writing?” And The Scribe’s Daughter was born.
When I’m not writing or taxiing my two children to school or other activities, I’m likely walking Cozmo, our dog, or reading. The rest of my time is spent trying to survive the murderous intentions of Minnesota’s weather.
Like so many other authors, I never dreamed of being one; though in all honesty, the signs were always there if only I’d been paying attention. As a child, I was a consummate daydreamer. My happy place was most often found wandering my grandparents’ farm in rural Nebraska, dreaming up intricate stories in my head. Writing in school came easily to me. When I was in college, the professor of my required creative writing class continually called attention to my work as an example of what to do. Despite all of this, it never occurred to me to actually write anything. I thought knowing how to write well was no big deal. Couldn’t everyone do it? Didn’t everyone have movies running in their heads, with the only requirement for writing that you snatch those images and commit them to paper?
Fast forward into adulthood… While working as a paralegal in downtown Minneapolis, I rode the bus to and from work, an hour each way, every day, all week. Needless to say, I inhaled books. It was during these years that I discovered historical fiction novelist Sharon Kay Penman. After several years of loving her books, social media became a “thing”, and I began to actively engage in her Facebook fan club -- and through that, with Ms. Penman herself.
In 2011, Ms. Penman published her book, Lionheart, her most recent addition to her growing list of books about the Plantagenet kings and queens of England. As the result of a Facebook conversation in which she mentioned that authors rarely get detailed comments from readers about the specifics of why they love the books they read, I decided to do just that. Consequently, I wrote her an embarrassingly long review (12 pages) of Lionheart. After she recovered from her shock, we began to communicate regularly. It was Ms. Penman herself who asked me the fated question, “Have you ever thought about writing?” My favorite author became my own inspiration for writing. And thus The Scribe’s Daughter was born.
I decided to tackle writing my first book from the first person perspective. As someone who loves to daydream, and who has an inner monologue continually running in her head at any given moment in time, it seemed a natural method of writing a story. For reasons still unknown to me, I immediately imagined that scene from the Disney movie Aladdin where Aladdin has just stolen an apple and is running away from the city guards, singing the song “One Jump”:
One jump ahead of the breadline
One swing ahead of the sword
I steal only what I can't afford
I loved the idea of a feisty female heroine, so I re-imagined that scene from Aladdin, but this time with a character who would become Kassia. She intrigued me so much that I kept writing, adding one more scene, and then another. Her sarcasm and caustic wit grew on me, and I couldn’t stop writing.
Kassia’s story attempts to explore the idea that strength and resilience, self-worth or the inherent value of a person, is not determined by outward circumstance or external labels. Kassia experiences then overcomes a great deal of trouble and trauma, but in the end, she finds out that she is stronger than she knew, that she is worthy to be loved.
I have an older sister, and more than once it has struck me how two sisters can share a childhood yet come away from it with differing perspectives on that childhood. As such, I wanted to write a second book, telling Kassia’s sister’s story. Originally I wanted to explore the idea of perception solely, but as events unfolded during the writing of Irisa’s tale, my purpose became less about perspective and more about personality.
The King’s Daughter follows Irisa, the sister whose fate is left in question early on in the first book. Her internal development followed a similar path to Kassia’s but for different reasons. Over the course of her tale, Irisa finds out that the truths alluded to in the first book are not all as they seem. So here is a hint at the question of perspective that intrigued me early on. As Irisa develops as a character, she discovers her own internal strength and self-worth like her sister, but her journey comes about in a way very different from her sister. While many of life’s problems are similar for each person the world over, how a person approaches solving those problems varies greatly depending on one’s life experiences and personality. This is definitely the case for Kassia and Irisa.
My next book will be a prequel about Irisa and Kassia’s mother, diving into the background of the sisters’ stories and how they ended up in the place they did. While children certainly live lives of their own, their journey is begun by the path their parents have chosen, at least initially. The third book will explore that fascinating topic.
The Scribe’s Daughter was released in 2015, and the sequel, The King’s Daughter, is available now for pre-order.
The King's Daughter
In this gripping sequel to The Scribe's Daughter, a young woman finds herself unwittingly caught up in a maelstrom of power, intrigue, and shifting perceptions, where the line between ally and enemy is subtle, and the fragile facade of reality is easily broken. Irisa's parents are dead and her younger sister Kassia is away on a journey when the sisters’ mysterious customer returns, urging Irisa to leave with him before disaster strikes. Can she trust him to keep her safe? How much does he know about the fate of her father? Only a voyage across the Eastmor Ocean to the land of her ancestors will reveal the truth about her family’s disturbing past. Once there, Irisa steps into a future she has unknowingly been prepared for since childhood, but what she discovers is far more sinister than she could have ever imagined. Will she have the courage to claim her inheritance for her own?
Where to Buy The King's Daughter
I'm generally pulled in a million different directions and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Here's a glimpse of my life - hope you enjoy it! And if there's a big lapse between posts, well, that's the way life goes in Amy's world.
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