Jenny Sundstedt is the author of the supernatural mystery Passing Through; the prequel short story “When the Wolf Comes;” and co-author of Write Away: A Year of Musings and Motivations for Writers. She is a member of Northern Colorado Writers and serves on the creative team for the annual NCW conference. Jenny is currently at work on a speculative fiction trilogy. When she’s not writing, she can be found sneaking chocolate, enjoying Colorado with her family and dog, and waging war on the laundry pile.
Hello everyone, and thanks for joining me on Amy’s blog today! I wish I could share with you the magical formula for writing success, but my journey is more of a cautionary tale. Not in a dramatic, I-can’t-believe-I-escaped-with-my-life way, but in a jeez-I-have-made-a-whole-lot-of-mistakes way. My lifelong blessing and curse is that I have the kind of brain that loves to make up stories. On some level, I always knew I wanted to be a writer. It just took me a hella long time to figure out how to go about it.
A peek inside the way-back machine reveals that I was a shy child with an extra helping of timidity on the side. Forget wallflower; I was more like the wallpaper. Speaking to anyone outside my immediate circle of family and friends was torture—heart-pounding, face-flushing, voice-squeaking torture. As a result, I stayed pretty quiet, which gave me ample opportunity for watching and listening. I loved to read, and as I grew older, I discovered that writing words down was a whole lot more fun than saying them out loud.
Fast forward to my late-twenties. I had a job I didn’t care much about and an anthropology degree I wasn’t using. It seemed like the perfect time to “be” a writer. I had plenty of ideas, so I did what I thought a writer should do: I sat down and (metaphorically) vomited out a novel. When my sister came home to visit at Christmas, I put it in front of her travel-weary eyes and waited for the praise. (Spoiler alert: it never came.)
Undaunted, I pressed on and began sending out my uncritiqued, unedited hot mess to whoever was accepting unsolicited submissions.
Ahem. For anyone who wonders… (raises megaphone to lips) Do. Not. Do. This.
I was thrilled when I signed with an agent. It felt so validating, I didn’t care that she required money up front. (Red flag? What red flag?) When my emails to her resulted in terse, uninformative replies, I thought it was my fault for being a needy writer. Only when I saw her name show up on a list of worst agents did I start to get the message. I wasn’t an undiscovered genius. I was a sucker with a penchant for adverbs.
Around the same time, I got pregnant with my first son. The second one came along two years later. Staying home raising two young boys was wonderful and fulfilling…and completely unproductive from a writing perspective. I occasionally had the time or the energy for it, but rarely both together.
But my dream to write never died. In fact, it became more insistent. It sat quietly in the corner and give me that plaintive look. You know the one. I knew it would wait forever if it had to, but that didn’t seem quite fair to either of us. So, I started writing again. This time, it felt different, for I had realized a great truth: just because writing was easy for me didn’t mean I was good at it.
Once it sank in—a humbling moment, to be sure—I began to understand what it really means to be a writer. I went to conferences and classes, I read books and blogs. I joined a critique group of wise women writers. I made my peace with killing my darlings, as the expression goes. I kept at learning the craft, and by the time my first novel was published, I knew I had something I could be proud of. Sure, it had the gestation period of a blue whale times ten, but it was out in the world. With my name on the front.
I’m not a fast or prolific writer, but I’m still working at it. I’m still learning. And every time I sit down at the keyboard, I try to do it a little better than the time before.
Afterlife counselor Dana Parker enjoys her job helping the newly departed unload their emotional baggage and move on. But Dominic Micelli is no typical client. As brash and angry as he is handsome, he was the only suspect in his wife’s disappearance. He insists he’s innocent. Torn between suspicion and sympathy, Dana agrees to do what Dominic cannot and return to the living world to seek his truth. And finally face her own.
Where to Buy Passing Through
Monica Yoknis writes Paranormal Thrillers based (loosely) on her own ghostly encounters, and family-friendly Cozy Mysteries. Monica is a member of Northern Colorado Writers, and serves on the Bunnyzine Development Team. Her current projects include: Ears O'Fluffin serial short stories, one novel, and the history column for The Carr Chatter newsletter. She lives in a cabin on the Colorado prairie, where she writes, crochets, reads mystery novels, and takes care of her rescue bunny.
My most recent book is the result of fan requests. Our hero, Ears O'Fluffin, made his debut as a series of short mystery stories in the monthly free eMag, Bunnyzine. The magazine's editor put a request to the Development Team for a regular monthly feature. I thought back to some of my favorite authors, and remembered that Arthur Conan Doyle published the Sherlock Holmes short stories as magazine serials. The idea was well received, I just had to figure out how to make it rabbit-related.
At the same time, I was watching old episodes of the TV show, Castle. One of my favorite episodes, The Blue Butterfly, features a typical trench coat wearing hard boiled PI. I flipped through a book of rabbit breeds, looking for the least likely tough guy detective, and found the Dwarf Hotot. Three pounds of white fluff and adorableness, I'd found my unlikely PI.
Of course he has a tiny trench coat, a fedora hat, and a bottle of carrot juice in his desk drawer. Ears O’Fluffin is a Pet Private Investigator. His office is a cardboard box in his human’s living room, complete with a desk, a chair, and a coat rack. Other pets come to him to solve the mysteries in their lives, while Ears tries to maintain his tough guy persona.
After about six months of serial shorts, I had run out of ideas for cases. I asked the Bunnyzine fans for mysteries that Ears should solve. I got several good ones, including an idea that deserved more than the short serial could provide. I put the idea of an Ears O’Fluffin novel to the fans, and got overwhelming positive feedback.
The Adventure of the Scarlet Bird is Ears’ most difficult case, to date. The boredom of a Pet Expo is broken by a plea for help from a glamorous white cat. A precious gem is stolen right under Ears’ nose dragging him into the seedy world of jewel thieves. To top it all off, Ears is subjected to the sarcasm of a British hamster tasked with finding another stolen gem. A room full of suspects, a hostile local police detective, and only two days to solve the case. Can Ears recover the gem and preserve his reputation as the country's most successful Pet PI?
Without my rescue bunny, Peaches, I would not have been pulled into the wonderful world of house rabbits. To give back to that community, and to help other rescued rabbits find their forever homes, I have set up a fundraiser for the Colorado House Rabbit Society. For every signed copy of The Adventure of the Scarlet Bird ordered from me, I will donate $1 to the CHRS. More information and purchase links can be found on my website at www.monicayoknis.com/earsofluffin.
The Adventure of the Scarlet Bird
Follow the adventure of a dwarf rabbit detective as he solves a perplexing theft. Appropriate for anyone ages 10 and up.
A boring weekend at a pet expo takes a dramatic turn for the mysterious when a bird made of rubies is stolen right out from under Ears’ nose. With his reputation as the country’s greatest Pet P.I. at stake, Ears finds himself facing his most difficult case. Is his client really a victim, or is she trying to frame Ears for the theft? Can Ears find the jewel and apprehend the real thief before the expo closes? Can he avoid being detained by the local police? And can he work with a sarcastic British hamster?
Find Monica on Facebook, Twitter and her website!
Where to Buy the Adventure of the Scarlet Bird
Tinthia lives on the Concord River with her black Lab, black cat, and assorted wildlife including a flock of Mallard ducks. When she’s not writing, she’s gardening, painting, eating ice cream, casting spells, and teaching. If asked about her favorite books, she'll tell you at the top of the list is Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury, followed by The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame.
She enjoys writing romantic women's fiction, although she would like to try her hand at a murder mystery someday. Why? Well, let's just say she has a score to settle with a certain gentleman from a certain dating website.
Would like to know more about Tinthia? Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and at www.tinthiaclemant.com. Ask her anything, she’s an open book.
Hi, I’m Tinthia Clemant, a 69-year-old earth witch with a passion for telling stories. My books fall into the women’s fiction genre and center on strong-willed (although they might not know it at the beginning of the book) female leads. As Clarissa Pinkola Estés wrote in Women Who Run with the Wolves, “Go out in the woods, go out. If you don't go out in the woods nothing will ever happen and your life will never begin.” Thanks to me, my characters spend a lot of time in the woods where they stumble and fall, wish and hope, and ultimately learn to face the hidden truths about themselves.
Woven throughout all my stories are golden strands of romance, because, after all, life’s no fun without muscular arms, warm skin, and deep kisses. My heroines deserve no less.
My writing journey started back when Marilyn Monroe took her last breath, the Cuban Missile Crisis was on every adult’s mind, and the Beatles released Love Me Do. The year was 1962 and, at the age of seven, I wrote an enchanting tale about a monkey named Harry and a beautiful peacock named Claire.
My mother was the driving force behind my writing, acting as my cheerleader, critic, editor, and sole audience. I stopped writing after her death in 1982, convinced no one would ever want to read my stories, and jumped into the rat race called adult life.
Fast forward ten years and the birth of my son. While he took naps I wrote…and wrote and wrote. As Hemingway is quoted as saying, ‘The first draft of anything is shit.’ Boy, was he ever right. By the end of the year I had a completed novel. And it sucked! I stored the pages in the attic and stopped pretending that I could write.
Somewhere around my 59th birthday I read the following quote: ‘Don’t die with your stories inside of you.’ The words worked their magic and I pulled myself up by my big girl thong and opened the dam. The words flowed. I published my first book, The Summer of Annah: A Midsummer’s Wish on June 21, 2016 and I haven’t looked back since.
I’m often asked what advice I would give wannabe authors. Here goes: Have fun. As writers, we get to craft worlds where our readers will play, laugh, cry, fight, hide, shake with fear, and fall in love. What’s better than that? So have fun and write, damn it, write!
A Labor of Love
Be careful what you ask of your goddess; you might get your wish.
Annah-Belle Henderson didn’t intend to erase her memories. All she wanted was to forget the attack on her life. That, and the painful secret left behind by her parents. But a witch should know not to interfere with the plans of the Universe.
After surviving an attack on her life, Annah-Belle Henderson wanted nothing more than to return to her family, friends, and the arms of her new love, Eric Ashworth. Instead of finding peace, a dark truth from her past shatters the foundation on which she built her life and she finds herself tossed into a world of strangers. Whom can she trust? The brash blonde? The teenager? Or the handsome man claiming to be her lover?
In the long anticipated sequel to A Midsummer's Wish, A Labor of Love continues the journey of Annah-Belle Henderson, a woman determined to reclaim herself and find a way back to the people, and life, she once loved.
Would like to know more about Tinthia? Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and at www.tinthiaclemant.com.
Where to Buy A Labor of Love
Elspeth was born in London, raised in the South East countryside, but returned to the capital to complete a bachelor's degree in Philosophy at University College London. After suffering a period of illness in her teenage years, she chose to move in to medicine, gaining a 1st Class Honours from King's College London in 2012. She's moved up the country, working in Oxford, Sheffield, and finally settling with her fiancé near Leeds. She has worked in general medicine, general surgery, General Practice, inpatient psychiatry, obstetrics, trauma and pathology.
In her spare time, Elspeth loves dog walking, saving up to buy Champagne and helping out her local Yorkshire farmer.
‘You’ll never get a book published unless you write one’
If I’ve done something wrong, I apologise. The first line of a novel is key; it should contain intrigue and introduce conflict (‘if?’ ‘something wrong?’). The first line of mine is a Bowie look-a-like singing, ‘Ground control to sexy blonde,’ but I’m not writing books about antlers bobbing like periscopes in velveteen mists, so maybe that’s okay. I don’t know yet; I’m forty-five thousand words into my women’s fiction book, my first crack of the whip. This makes me a writer, not an author, an amateur alone in my blue kitchen, tapping at a purple Hewlett Packard. A profoundly cheap, plastic-y laptop, the lowest of the low, but when my life spectacularly imploded three years ago, I lost close to everything. I almost lost my life; a miss may be as good as a mile but, some days, when the teetering edge I was pushed too crashes back like a black dog through undergrowth, it doesn’t feel that way.
Writing a book has always been something I said I would do. Likewise, a tattoo. Eighteen months ago, a friend looked me square in the eye, tired of my wittering, and said, ‘You’ll never get a book published unless you write one.’ Clarity dawned, she was right, but from that moment a mill stone was hung firmly around my neck; my dream would remain a dream unless I made it happen. A year ago, I put pen to paper, unselfconsciously hammering away. I’m a thirty-three-year-old doctor. No shadow of my past hints at creative writing, bar boxes of diaries and poems that I burned like a pyre when my troubles started, wishing my teenage memories could also char and float, feather light, into the dewy Autumn mist.
Nine months ago, after two years off, I got back to part-time work in end of life care. As a present to myself, I signed up for a six-week online writing course with ‘Curtis Brown Creative’, a London literary agent. A top one. The kind that won’t publish my shoddily written book in a million trillion years. And I learnt so much, I cried. I cried because I’d started my novel without following the rules. My first line was just a line, my first chapter didn’t hook a reader in with sinking talons, I’d used people’s names in my dialogue… Sins that would get any completed manuscript pushed from the ‘slush pile’ before anyone flicked to page two.
Some people will read this and think, ‘writing is art, it isn’t about rules?!’, and sometimes that is true. But, rules matter to me because not only do I love writing, like an addiction, but I want to earn some living from it and commercial fiction does follow rules, for most of us. Medicine is a profoundly privileged job, but my heart and mind struggle to take it. I’m not after something lavish, I’m happy with a small life, but working in my jeans and walking my dog would be balm to my healing soul. My new twitter clan of writers (and authors) confirm and compound the crippling self-doubt, the writer’s block and terrifying uncertainty, the hard work travelling and promoting books, but I still think it would be easier for my heart-strings than telling a man my age that his fiancé is dying.
Through two of these online courses and hopping on board a writing community on twitter (I’d never used it before, see #amwriting or #ShareYourRejections) I now see links for writing competitions, short stories, flash fiction, this blog. It’s been a way to find a ‘beta’ reader (someone sympathetic, who isn’t your mum, who you swap work with and critique each other’s). I’ve found a free mentoring organisation for women writers and applied (WoMentoring). Their posts keep me motivated, we all share the same doubt. Posts from authors, and following their lives, gives me a goal. My literary hero, Marian Keyes, is a joy and tweets ten times per day; having a cuppa with her would make my hair stand on end with excitement. She, like me, reached her early thirties after a time she might describe as, ‘as rough as a badger’s arse’, and started her hilarious, eccentric, wildly successful women’s fiction. I aspire to follow, which may seem overblown, presumptuous, but in a setting where you have literally no idea if anyone will remotely want your book, until you’ve written and edited the Entire thing, you have, have, have to keep the dream alive.
Looking out from here, over the second half of my book, the only plan I have to hand is a crisis around 75% (in another twenty thousand words). Before that, my main character (MC) will be questioning her life with her bully fiancé, comparing it to her feelings for her mature psychotherapist, then the crisis will unfold. The final 25% of the book will be her resolution. Previously, I thought this constituted the writing of a book. Now I understand it will be the completion of a ‘first draft’, possibly one of three or four, and when I’m finally happy with it, I’ll form a watertight synopsis, work on my ‘pitch line’ and begin the submissions process. Then I’ll let the world decide, while I carry on with book two; 1930’s rom-com? End of life based tragic love story? The word is my oyster.
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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.