Friday, October 30, 2015

National Novel Writing Month and More


The most frightening thing about October is how fast time flies. It's almost November again, and time for another National Novel Writing Month. Here's an even scarier thought: I've participated for ten years and haven't finished one book I've started over there. How about you?

But it really doesn't matter, because that ten years represents a portion of the 10,000 hours of writing practice I've put in for the past decade. More than that really, when you consider all my various jobs in the publishing industry, off and on over the decades.

There are many people and tools I'm thankful for. I still remember the generosity of authors I met in person and over the phone so many years ago. Like the woman who told me to get a copy of The Writers Market. That changed my writing life for all time. 


Then there's the hour I spent on the phone with Kathleen Burdick-Hague, while her husband, Michael Hague, signed at a Tattered Cover book event so many years ago. I'm forever grateful to her for the advice and encouragement when I was a fledgling writer.

My list of Internet gratitude is endless:

  • Facebook and all the friend connections especially Colorado Writers and Publishers
  • Twitter and even more connections and marketing opportunities
  • All my blogging partners, past and present, here at the Blood-Red Pencil
  • My critique pals at the Nag Sisters group online
  • Wikipedia and all the research opportunities it provides
  • Man Flow Yoga because it helps keep my writing bones in pain-free mode without a lot of babble
And thank heavens for cheap wi-fi that gives me all those connections out here in the great rural outback. Technology really has connected us far and wide. 

What about the online world are you most grateful for? Which writing friends or groups have helped you the most? Please leave us a comment!

Dani Greer is founding member of the Blood-Red Pencil. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Personal Ghosts as Conflict

The inspiration for my young adult series was, "What if real people inspired the Greek Gods? What would their world look like? Who were they?"

I created a world in which fair-haired Titans invaded the Greek Island of Helios (based on Rhodes) and built a stronghold called Mt. Olympus. In order to earn a seat on the ruling council of Mt. Olympus, the younger generation must undergo a survival exercise on a remote, unpopulated island. I decided the test would last four weeks and each week would follow a different character's point of view, a sort of POV relay race.

When I finished the first draft of the first book in the Mythikas Island series, I knew something was missing. It had life threatening danger on a self-destructing island, a ticking clock, plenty of antagonism, and deepset interpersonal conflict. But the story didn't really come alive until I introduced the internal conflict layer.

The Greek myths are full of rich material. I developed a backstory by twisting a tale from each goddess's mythology into a personal growth arc. Each girl has a personal "ghost" they must lay to rest as the challenge progresses. The island is a place of extremes. Isolation, constant danger, and distrust boil and seethe along with the island, blurring the line between reality and insanity. Are they dealing with actual ghosts or just being "haunted" in the mind?

In Book I: Diana, (I chose to use Diana instead of Artemis for artistic reasons.) I chose the tale that Hera sent Python to prevent Leto from giving birth on Mt. Olympus. I decided Hera sending a snake to kill Leto would become the backstory that "haunts" Diana.

In Book II: Persephone, I played with the story of her abduction by Hades. In my story world, Persephone is abducted by Hades as a child and sent away to be raised by her grandmother, Gaia (the deposed wisewoman of Helios). Persephone has been taught to hate the Titans but must go as a healer to keep them alive in exchange for Gaia's life.

In Book III: Aphrodite, I was inspired by Aphrodite's love for Adonis. Nothing is as it seems on Mythikas and her love story is no different. Is Adonis truly the love of her life or is she a means to an end? Is he really there or is she hallucinating? Aphrodite as an unreliable narrator was fun to play with.

In Book IV: Athena, I decided to use her friendship with Pallas. In my version, Athena accidentally wounds and kills her best friend Pallas while sparring. As team leader, Athena's guilt drives her. No one else can die on her watch.

By facing down the ghosts from their pasts, the girls are able to resolve their issues and move forward with hard won wisdom.

I do enjoy a good ghost story, but there are other ways to utilize the concept of haunting to motivate your characters. If you have used ghosts or haunting in a unique way, share it with us in the comments.




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



Monday, October 26, 2015

How to Put a Ghost In Your Book

Whether or not you write paranormals, you still have the opportunity to include a ghost or two in your book.
Here are some obvious and not-so-obvious ways:
  1. Physical Description - Ghostly pallor - A way to describe when a character turns pale or looks sick.
  2. Conflict Resolution -  When a character is presented with a quandary, is there a ghost of a chance to rise above it? Is there a light, however dim, at the end of the tunnel?
  3. An Unpleasant Event - Is your character dogged by a ghost from the past? Does the memory cause guilt, despair or sadness?
  4. In The Company of Loved Ones - Perhaps your character has lost a dear one, yet the warmth of that relationship continues after that person has departed. Your character may even talk to or think about that cherished one as if that person were still alive.
  5. Play Pretend - Portray a ghost as an actual character. It can be friendly or mean-spirited, depending on the tone of your book.
  6. Halloween - When all else fails, have your character dress as a ghost for Halloween!
If you have another suggestion, or wish to expand on one of the others, please share.

    Experience the diversity and versatility of Morgan Mandel. Romantic Comedies: Her Handyman, its sequel, A Perfect Angelstandalone reality show romance; Girl of My Dreams.  Thriller: Forever Young: Blessing or Curse,its sequel: the Blessing or Curse CollectionRomantic suspense: Killer CareerMystery:Two Wrongs. Short  and Sweet   Romance: Christmas   Carol
    Christian Women's Fiction: Hailey's Chance: Will Baby Make 3?   Twitter:@MorganMandel Websites: Morgan Mandel .Com    Morgan Does Chick Lit.Com.


    Friday, October 23, 2015

    How to Build a Planet

    Image by Brenda Clarke, via Flickr
    Building other worlds, and entire planets, is one of the perks of being a SFF writer. I’m often asked, incredulously, how I even start with the worldbuilding process. My response: With a little bit of magic and a little bit of science.

    First Concepts

    In Madison Lane and the Wand of Rasputin I began with the idea of a contemporary teenager (armed with an iPhone!) landing in a Renaissance-era-like world. When one of the plot twists turned out to involve quantum physics, I decided what I had here was Earth’s twin planet separated at “birth” but still quantum-entangled with Earth. I named it “Ground”.

    Time and Relative Location in Space (a.k.a. Cosmology)

    Even though Madison Lane involves time travel, I decided that the sequences taking place on Ground would be occurring in contemporary time. Except that Ground is not as technologically advanced as Earth. Why? The answers to that question led me on a rabbit trail of worldbuilding.

    Let’s start with location in space. Earth and Ground are a great many light years apart, physically. It may be that Ground exists in a solar system with a sun that differs slightly from ours – it might be bigger, smaller, colder, hotter, further away, or closer. Any one of those options will produce differences in the planet that orbits it. I didn’t need to decide exactly for the first book, and maybe I’ll never need to answer those questions definitively, but it’s a lot of fun to contemplate.

    Likewise, it’s possible there’s no moon, or two moons, three moons, little moons, bigger moons, moons closer or further away – those options will affect tides, the amount of moonlight, etc.

    As for Ground, I determined that it had been spared some of the massive meteor strikes that Earth experienced (perhaps because its sun has less gravitational pull than ours or is slightly further away from Ground). We’ll come back to the meteor issue below.

    Geomorphology and Geology

    A cooler or warmer planet could theoretically affect plate tectonics. I decided that Ground didn’t have plate-shift to the extent that Earth did – making Ground’s continental structure the equivalent of Pangaea. This means that the inhabitants had less reason to build ships and sail off in conquest once they discovered they already knew, and traded with, all their neighbours. I also wondered whether Ground’s lack of industrial advancement was due to different mineral and metal composition, but decided it was probably more due to the inhabitants’ access to magic, which made them lazy.

    Fauna and Flora

    Without the same meteor-related planet-wide resets, Ground got to keep its dinosaur and associated fauna for much longer, with the result that the evolution of some modern species was suppressed. The presence of huge carnivores at the top of the food chain meant that humans were not able to proliferate to the same extent as on Earth, giving Ground a much smaller population than Earth. Bigger land-dwelling dinosaurs were then eventually either hunted to extinction, or wiped out by a natural disaster that affected the land only. Because Ground currently boasts terrifying sea monsters (kronosaurs and plesiosaurs), and at least two species of flying monsters: the useful and docile ketzals (quetzalcoatlus) and nightmare-inducing banshees (pteradactylus).

    And I haven’t even touched on History, Social and Political Structure, and Magic(!), but this post is already rather long. If you’re worldbuilding – take whichever of the headings outlined here that apply to your story and sketch out some possibilities. Then look at your world as a whole and see which of those possibilities fit together. And have fun!

    Elsa Neal
    Elle Carter Neal is the author of the picture book I Own All the Blue and teen science-fantasy novel Madison Lane and the Wand of Rasputin. She is based in Melbourne, Australia. Find her at ElleCarterNeal.com or HearWriteNow.com

    Wednesday, October 21, 2015

    Other Worlds Might Not Be The Best Worlds

    Our theme here at the Blood-Red Pencil blog this month is “Otherworldly.” But the second I heard that word, the ideas that popped to my mind were about an entirely different kind of other world—namely, constructing worlds, as an author, that you don’t usually go to. So I have to start out with a story that makes me cringe on several levels….

    It sounded like a great idea to
    go out of my world at the time....
    Many years ago, when I first started writing for publication, I heard the piece of advice that I’m sure we’ve all heard before: Pick one genre that you love and can see yourself writing in for the rest of your career and do that…and ONLY that.

    Well, aside from the fact that people telling me what I can’t do is like nails on a chalkboard for me, I wilted at that advice because I have so many stories in me. So I glibly ignored it, and in the summer of 2014, I published the first two books in what was supposed to be a straight-out Science Fiction series. I went otherworldly, all right, straight onto the other world of a different planet. The premise of the series is that a group of colonists from Earth crash on a habitable moon, no one will ever be able to find them, and they have to start a new civilization from scratch.

    Yeah. Not Historical Romance, which is what I am primarily known for. “But it’s sort of historical-y,” I argued. “The civilization they create ends up at about a medieval level. And there are romantic elements, so it counts, right? RIGHT?”

    It turns out that the advice I was given was correct. More than a year later, I can count the number of copies of those books that I’ve sold on my fingers and toes with a few toes left over.

    So why did this happen? I’m a pretty good writer. People buy my Historical Romance by the cartload. So why didn’t it work to jump so far outside of my genre and into another writing world?

    It’s all about audience. Readers of Historical Romance are an entirely different demographic than readers of Science Fiction. I’m one of the cross-overs who likes both, but there aren’t very many of us. And of course I got frustrated and discouraged when this all went down and lamented that I should be able to reach Science Fiction readers too. I insisted that it shouldn’t matter that I used the same name, readers are readers, even if they know me in different lights.

    If I'd only used a pen name and
    written more in the series...
    Wrong. And lesson learned. Like it or not, when we begin to write in a specific subgenre, we make a name for ourselves in that genre. While a lot of readers say that they’ll read anything, categories that are as far apart as Historical Romance and Science Fiction—or Horror and Amish Romance, Spy Thrillers and Romantic Comedies, any combination you can name—simply don’t have the same audience. Writing with such diversity under the same pen name is like attempting to climb Mt. Everest with no previous climbing experience, wearing three inch heels.

    However, I think writing in vastly different genres CAN actually work…if you do it right. And by right, I would argue under different pen names. Many well-known authors have written very different genres under different pen names and been successful: J.K. Rowling/Robert Galbraith, Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb, Anne Rice/A.N. Roquelaure/Anne Rampling, and I’m sure you can think of a lot more. Writing under different pen names can give you just the sort of separation that you need to explore a different genre in depth.

    That being said, the other mistake I made was not so much a mistake, but disregarding the realities of self-publishing. I only published two books in the series. One of the things I’ve seen time and again with people newly entering publishing as indie authors is that it takes around 7-10 books before you start to see real traction. The same thing goes for a different genre. If I had had a little more time and patience and was able to put out more books in that series, I might have seen it take off at a certain point. I still might write those books (I actually have 64k words of the third book in the series…but discovered that part of my central plot action is physically impossible, so back to the drawing board).

    So go for broke and venture into another world with your writing if you feel the spirit move you. But be aware of the possible pitfalls you might face. Writing in a different genre is like starting over. If you have the mettle for it, then by all means, do it!

    Merry Farmer is a history nerd, a hopeless romantic, and an award-winning author of thirteen novels. She is passionate about blogging and knitting, and lives in suburban Philadelphia with her two cats, Butterfly and Torpedo. Connect with Merry at her Facebook Author Page and Twitter.

    Monday, October 19, 2015

    Ghoulies and ghosties...

    Photo by Andreas Dantz, via Flickr
    I wrote a “woo-woo” story long before I ever heard the term--perhaps before it existed? My Regency editor at Walker Books asked for a short story for a Halloween anthology. My tale, “Superstition,”* features a young man who sneers at ghosts and is dared to go to Stonehenge at midnight on Halloween. His friends dress up in sheets to scare him, but before they arrive on the scene, he has experienced the “real” ghosts of Druids performing a terrifying ritual.

    My only other fictional ghost was in The Actress and the Rake. I set strict rules for him. Every time he made himself visible, passed through a wall, or in some way affected the physical world, he lost energy, until in the end he faded away.

    He was able to appear to only one other character, his lawyer. His purpose in death--so to speak--was to thwart his granddaughter and his godson, not, as you might expect, by keeping them apart but by throwing them together so that they failed to observe the terms of his will. He was sure they would, and he was determined to be right.

    The book being a romance, everything has to end up happily ever after, so in the end he realises the error of his ways. He helps the hero and heroine overcome the wiles of his greedy relatives and, his substance exhausted by the effort, ceases to exist.

    I also wrote three magical stories*, retellings of fairytales, set in a Regency world. In each case I tried to make the magic consistent within the story, abiding by its own rules as well as those of the Regency. For instance, the Djinn in “Aladdin’s Lamp” acts according to a sort of Arab version of China, as in the original One Thousand and One Nights. Unless given very precise orders, he gets everything wrong, until he becomes acquainted with the customs of Regency England.

    I have never made use of the supernatural in a mystery, and I don’t read woo-woo mysteries. Introducing the inexplicable seems to me to be cheating in a form of fiction that should rely on investigation, deduction, intuition, and understanding of character.

    Even the most unreal of invented realities needs to have rules.



    *The ghost story and the three regency fairytales all appear in The Magic of Love.

    Carola Dunn is author of the Daisy Dalrymple Mysteries, Cornish Mysteries, and multitudinous Regencies.

    Friday, October 16, 2015

    Dream Chaser: Of Monsters and Me

    I was different from most kids growing up. When they ran to get inside before darkness settled, I wanted to stay out longer. I wanted to see the moon, watch the bats do their aerial dances in its beams. I wanted to walk through the woods and see the glowing eyes staring back from just beyond the shadows. I wasn’t worried about monsters. So many associate darkness with evil, hatred, and depression. For me, it’s just the opposite. For me, the reality was that the real terrors happened in daylight and the darkness was (and still is) my sanctuary. In the dark I find peace, a comforting silence. The world settles down, the hustle and bustle slows. Lights dim, the sun falls, and everything takes on a sense of calm. The air cools, becomes crisp, and I take a deep breath and relax.

    I guess it comes back to that word ‘monster’. I suppose we all have our own ideas of what a monster is and everyone is haunted by something. My path to success has been one of many celebrations, but it hasn’t been easy, especially lately. I’ve made many choices, and sacrifices, just to get this far. Those are the things that haunt me; the nightmares that wake me up in cold sweats, trembling, my heart shuddering with panic.

    Not a day passes where I don’t consider my decisions and question my sanity for making them. I gave up everything. Literally. I walked away from one life and stepped into another with barely the seed of a plan. I started from scratch. I knew that I wanted to be in Colorado, that I wanted to be a writer, and that I was ready to do whatever it took to make these things happen. But the monsters known as ‘Whatifs’ possess me constantly, trying to make me give up. What if I don’t make it and this is all wasted time? What if the sacrifices were for nothing? What if I’m being selfish, irresponsible, or just plain foolish? Many times I have turned, prepared to run before it was too late, just like those kids running to beat the streetlights home.

    We all have lives outside of writing. Our best laid plans to get words written often get interrupted with the necessities of the real world. The last couple of months have reminded me that I don’t always get a say in how my days transpire. There are things I have to do and those don’t always coincide with the things I want to do. The less time I spend writing or living in the world known as my author platform, the more the ‘Whatifs’ creep out of the closet, the shadows, and the vents. The noise of the daytime becomes a roar in my ears, often unbearable. The face of reality stares back from the mirror and sends chills through every bone in my body.  But what really keeps me up at night is the thought of failing.

    It’s a tough thing we do as writers. We dream, and we dream big. We walk through Barnes & Noble wondering if we’ll ever see our own name blaring off a dust cover. We expose our hearts and souls to the world in every word we write. While many will be donning masks for Halloween, we’ll be taking ours off as we sit at computers and face our demons. The publishing world is a dark, ever shifting forest. We see the eyes staring back from the shadows and don’t know if they want to invite us in or keep us out.

    No matter what monsters come our way we must, at all costs, keep writing. We must face our fears, weather the storms, steady our nerves, and write. There will be hard times, but they’re part of the journey. Perhaps the most important part. I almost quit. But instead of running for safety and comfort, I turned off all the lights and waited for the sun to fall. When darkness bathed my world I stepped outside, into my sanctuary, and looked for the moon. I looked toward the edge of the shadows to see if glowing eyes stared back. The air was cold, crisp, and I took a deep breath and relaxed. I went back inside and, as I looked in the mirror, I peeled off my mask. For the first time in months, I didn’t see a monster staring back. I saw a wounded soul; wounded but bleeding words. I saw… a writer.   

    When he's not working with the dedicated and passionate people of Pikes Peak Writers, Jason P. Henry is lost in a world of serial killers, psychopaths, and other unsavory folks. Ask him what he is thinking, but only at your own risk. More often than not he is plotting a murder, considering the next victim, or twisting seemingly innocent things into dark and demented ideas. A Suspense, Thriller and Horror writer with a dark, twisted sense of humor, Jason strives to make people squirm, cringe, and laugh. He loves to offer a smile, but is quick to leave you wondering what lies behind it. Jason P. Henry is best summed up by the great philosopher Eminem “I'm friends with the monsters beside of my bed, get along with the voices inside of my head.” Learn more about Jason at JasonPHenry.com


    Wednesday, October 14, 2015

    Is Your Manuscript a Monster?

    Writers! Did you know that each of your beloved manuscripts has the capability of evolving into monsters? It’s true. Here’s a list to help you identify which monster(s) are lurking near you right now. Be still. Can you hear their breathing?

    10. The Vampire. This is the manuscript which refuses to die. It has merit - one might even say it has teeth. It prefers to be written at night. Don’t eat steak while you’re working on this manuscript.

     9. The Good Witch. This manuscript allows you to ‘go home’. It deals with familiar subject matter and may contain recipes for cookies. However, it does tend to talk in riddles and can send you down roads leading to lions, tigers, and bears.

     8. The Bad Witch. This manuscript is often tied with the Good Witch manuscript. It could be the sequel or the same plot, but told from the POV of a different character. This manuscript can fly (which is good) but it also likes to be in control. Don’t drink water while you’re working on this one.

     7. The Werewolf. This is the manuscript that wakes you up in the middle of the night. Working on it may make you howl. It has a tendency to be hairy.

     6. The Zombie. Yet another manuscript which refuses to die. This one, however is all-consuming. You may feel as if it’s trying to eat your brain. Approach with caution. A little salty dialogue may control it.

     5. The Mummy. (Version One) The Egyptian mummy. This manuscript has been edited so many times that it’s held together by the ‘cut and past’ function. There are treasures in this manuscript, but it will involve digging.

     4. The Mummy (Version Two) The British mummy. This is a manuscript which insists that it knows best whilst also insisting that you keep a stiff upper lip and just keep writing. Don’t complain while working on this manuscript. Working on this manuscript may lead to you building a writing empire. This manuscript develops faster if you drink tea and listen to Elgar.

     3. Frankenstein’s Monster. This is the manuscript which is the result of you cobbling together what you were sure were the best bits of many different manuscripts. You thought it would work, but it seems somewhat out of control. All it wants is some love, but it’s difficult communicating. Don’t work on it near a fire.

     2. The Ghost. This is the manuscript that haunts you. The first inklings of the plot may have appeared to you many years ago, but you’ve never been able to get a full picture. You think you see it out of the corner of your eye, but when you look, it’s gone. Wear a sweater when tackling this manuscript.

     1. The Self-Doubt Goblin. Not a manuscript, but the scariest of all the writing monsters. It hisses all your fears into your ear and knows exactly what to say to force your hands either off the keyboard or to put your pen in a drawer. The best defense against this goblin is the support of other writers (who are equally inflicted, trust me). Chocolate also quiets the hissing.


    Elspeth Futcher is an author and playwright. Thirteen of her murder mystery games and two audience-interactive plays are published by host-party.com. Her A Fatal Fairy Tale, Deadly Ever After and Curiouser and Curiouser are among the top-selling mystery games on the Internet.  Elspeth's newest game, The Great British Bump Off is now available from her UK publisher, Red Herring Games, as is her Once Upon a Murder. Elspeth's 'writing sheep' are a continuing feature in the European writers' magazine Elias and also appear on this blog from time to time. Connect with her on Twitter at @elspethwrites or on Facebook at Elspeth Futcher, Author.

    Monday, October 12, 2015

    3 Reasons to Write What Scares You

    Fear often freezes us, keeps us from breaking free and stepping into new spaces and opportunities.

    Have a fear of heights? You avoid traveling long distances, and you definitely avoid bridges and planes.

    Have a fear of public speaking? You avoid sharing your ideas and thoughts, which means you also avoid the possibility of achieving success through bringing your ideas and thoughts to fruition.


    Have a fear of writing what scares you? You avoid writing in those spaces that might enable you to learn about yourself as a person and as a writer and growing from that new knowledge.

    What does "write what scares you" even mean?

    • It could mean writing about those things that have brought pain into your life. Perhaps you have experienced a difficult divorce, and the main character in your latest WIP is experiencing the same thing. Having to balance your creativity and writing with your emotions can be problematic.
    • It could mean writing about those things that don’t directly affect you, but that still bring you pain. For example, my novel Into the Web features a serial killer who kidnaps, rapes, and kills young girls. It’s not the easiest subject to write about, and as an empath, I often find myself taking over the emotions of others—to include characters. It was difficult to write the book, but because this is the direction the book had to go, I as writer had to go with it.
    • It could mean writing about those things—themes, genres, character types, etc.—you’ve never written about. As writers, we can get comfortable in what we write, in how we write. That comfortability can hinder our creativity and any future stories to be told.


    Although the thought of writing what scares us can keep us frozen in place, we can conquer the fear by writing through it. Here are three benefits that can come from writing what scares you:

    Benefit #1: You can conquer a fear. This seems obvious, but often, this obvious benefit isn’t enough to get us to write what scares us. If we focus on the other side of the fear, a finished story, we may have a better chance of working through the fear—and killing that fear for good.

    Benefit #2: You can grow as a person. When we write stories, we’re not just writing stories. Come again? Sometimes, we are untangling personal ideas and thoughts through our fiction, and in the act of writing, we can gain knowledge that can help us understand and fix problems in our lives.

    Benefit #3: You can grow as a writer. Most writers want to be prolific, they want to be known for having written a strong body of fiction that educates, entertains, and/or excites readers now and in the future. We can become that prolific writer when we move into uncharted territory and delve into new subject matter, new genres, new media forms, new characters that enable us to create stories that expand not just the breadth of our writing, but also the depth of our writing.


    Don’t let the dark shadows of fear hinder your writing because writing what scares you can actually be a great thing.

    Do you write about what scares you? If so, how has your writing benefited from it?



    Creative Passionista Shon Bacon is an author, editor, and educator whose biggest joys are writing and helping others develop their craft. She has published both creatively and academically and interviews women writers on her popular blog ChickLitGurrl: high on LATTES & WRITING. You can learn more about Shon's writings at her author website, and you can get information about her editorial services at CLG Entertainment.

    Friday, October 9, 2015

    Do You Believe in Psychics?

    I have no idea what made me choose a psychic for a main character―a woman who, by touch, can see into another world. It started when she was six years old and found a missing neighbor’s child by picking up the boy’s stuffed animal. At that time, no one knew she had “the gift.” Her wily, con-man father turned her into a phenomenon and then an entertainment act.

    I’m not a particular believer in the occult or in psychic phenomena, but I have a friend who has visited many psychics and swears that they could not have known what they told her during her sessions. One even insisted she had three children. She has two, but the psychic wouldn’t back down. Then my friend thought of the miscarriage she had between her two children. Another told her she’d be going to Florence in the near future. Three months later, she did.

    In a rather creepy experience, my friend sought out a medium after her daughter died. She wanted to see if she could make contact. Here’s what she wrote me—I paraphrased to keep names out and with her full permission:

    Most recently I have had sessions with a psychic/medium and was able to communicate with my daughter. The last medium that communicated with my daughter said she has a black lab with her. Her dog, a black lab, had just died 1 month before.

    Connecting with my daughter was by appointment and by phone.



    Both ladies—two different times--asked me to concentrate on who I wanted to come through. Then she would tell me by describing the person or persons she was seeing. There were always more than one. My father, my maternal grandmother, my husband’s brother, etc.

    I could not hear what the spirits were saying...only the medium. Then the medium would tell what the spirits were saying. I could ask a question and she would tell me what the answer was from whomever.

    It was always accurate as to their description and what they had to say.


    I have no desire to see a psychic who would forecast my future. In fact, I can’t imagine it. What if it’s something bad? What then? Plus, my cynical nature would probably poo-poo the whole experience, which rather defeats the purpose. One has to be predisposed to believe psychic phenomena exists.

    As for my character in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, Diana can see things when she touches someone or something belonging to a person. In the first book, Mind Games, her first psychic experience to readers is when she finds a missing murdered woman by holding an article of her clothing. Even the cop who will become her lover doesn’t accept she can do what she does, but he becomes a believer when Diana leads him to the body. In the last book, Backlash, Diana channels the body of her murdered friend and sees the last thing he saw, which was another dead body.

    Many people believe in the paranormal and hold a particular fascination for all sorts of supernatural, psychic mind-delving. Books about psychics do well in sales, even mine at times. Psychics abound on TV, some claiming they can connect you with your loved ones; others even work with the police to track either missing persons or killers, as does my character, Diana. As I researched the book, I found mention of many psychics, some famous, some charlatans, some working out of their homes. There’s no doubt that some people have “the sight.” The ability to sense when something happens to someone close runs through another friend’s family.

    When I put “Psychics” into Google, I got no less than thirty-four famous names in modern times. There's even a paranormal mention in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and of course, there was Nostradamus from the sixteenth century.


    I guess whether you believe in the paranormal or not, their stories and the stories of the people with firsthand knowledge fascinate me and others. Maybe we want to believe there’s something on the other side. Harry Houdini believed and said he’d let the mortal world know after his death. So far, he hasn't.


    Polly Iyer is the author of seven novels: standalones Hooked, InSight, Murder Déjà Vu, Threads, and three books in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, Mind Games, Goddess of the Moon, and Backlash. A Massachusetts native, she makes her home in the beautiful Piedmont region of South Carolina. You can visit her website for more on Polly and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

    Wednesday, October 7, 2015

    Time Out for a Little Fun

    I love it when other people are funnier than I am, and I can share their humor. The following one-liners are borrowed - with permission - from Kristen Lamb's blog.  Kristen posts regularly with writing and marketing advice, and her sharp sense of humor makes her blog so much fun to read. Do check it out after you've read all the posts here and commented on every one.

    Okay, maybe just read mine.



     You Might Be a Writer If…

    You’ve learned that regular people are cute, and no longer get offended with this conversation.

    Regular Person: What do you do?

    Writer: I’m a writer.

    Regular Person: No, I mean, what’s your real job?

    You’ve come to understand that writers are a lot like unicorns. Everyone knows about them, they’ve simply never seen a REAL ONE.

    You Might Be a Writer If…

    The NSA, CIA and FBI no longer bother with you. Likely, they know you by name and now outsource to the creepy ice cream truck to just make a few passes and check to make sure you’re still at your computer.

    You Might Be a Writer If…

    You know what’s the best time of year to dispose of a body to confuse TOD and that seriously creeps out your friends and family.

    And you know what TOD stands for and that creeps them out even more.

    You Might Be a Writer If…

    You’re on such a roll with the WIP that you’ve forgotten a “real” world exists (including laundry). You’re down to wearing your husband’s socks and he’s either going commando or is forced to wear that thong given to him on his 40th birthday as a joke gift. The kids? Hell, they went feral a week ago.

    You Might Be a Writer If…

    You take a break from writing to go to the store and, on the way, begin untangling a plot problem. You finally realize you’re in the next state and have no idea how you got there. But good news is, you now know which poison is best to kill off the character modeled after that cheerleader who bullied you through high school. It’s the poison that will make her fat and wrinkly before she dies slowly from terminal acne.

    You Might Be a Writer If…

    You have NO CLUE what to do in case of a flood, a fire or a natural disaster, but you are actually looking forward to the collapse of civilization because you are pretty sure you will make an AWESOME Warlord.

    You Might Be a Writer If…

    People believe you are a shy introvert, but you just can’t bring yourself to tell them that your imaginary friends are simply WAY more interesting.

    You Might Be a Writer If…

    A casket washes up in a Houston flood and while normal people are upset how tragic it is, you are wondering if there is GOLD inside. Or missing drug money.

    Or if they open open it, could they unwittingly unleash the ZOMBIE PLAGUE?

    Or what if it is the WRONG BODY? And it was all to cover up a mob leader faking his own DEATH?

    You Might Be a Writer If…

    You realize you are a horrible human being for getting so excited for that last one because NOW YOU HAVE A NEW STORY IDEA YOU SICK, SICK SOULLESS PERSON!

    Here's one of my own. You might be a writer if you are so busy people-watching at the airport you miss your flight.

    Now it's your turn. Channel your stand-up comic and share in the comments. Christopher, I'm counting on you.

    Posted by Maryann Miller - novelist, editor and sometimes actress. Her most recent mystery, Doubletake, was named the 2015 Best Mystery by the Texas Association of Authors. She has a number of other books published, including the critically-acclaimed Season Series that debuted with Open Season. Information about her books and her editing rates is available on her website. When not working, Maryann likes to take her dog for a walk and work outside on her little ranch in East Texas. 

    Friday, October 2, 2015

    Ancestral Roots

    This time of year is when many cultures celebrate holidays such as Halloween, Dia de los Muertos, or Samhain. The last harvest has been gathered. The days grow dark and the nights grow long. It is the earth’s time to rest in darkness. This is a time of trust: we believe that the light will come again. We trust that death is part of life, just another turn of the wheel. This is the time to remember the past by telling, reading, or writing the stories of our ancestors.

    I usually throw a party for family and friends around this time. The party has four main features, all of which honor the dark, the past, and the dead.

    The first thing we do is go on a mushroom walk. We ramble through a wooded place and keep our eyes on the ground. At first we see few, if any, mushrooms, because they are shy creatures. Then suddenly we’ll spot them, showing up in an amazing variety of shapes and colors, growing under fallen leaves and on rotten logs, bringing color and life to death. When we see them we squeal, jump up and down, and take pictures. Believe it or not, this is quite exciting.

    Photo by Maryann Miller
    Then we go inside and eat the dinner I have prepared. Since this is the time of year for the last harvests, we feast on roots – potatoes, onions, turnips, beets – those hearty vegetables that grow underground in the dark, and provide the food and the anchor for the greenery to come next spring. Root casserole and root soup and root chutney grace the table.

    After we are stuffed with roots, we invite our ancestors, loved ones or heroes from the past, to attend the party too. We put photographs or tokens of these honored guests in a place of honor. We give each of them a plate with a spoonful of root casserole. Then we talk about them. We tell their stories. We tell who they loved, what their passions were, what was important to them, and what they taught us. And we offer them our heartfelt gratitude. We are all indebted to those who came before.

    Finally, we write. We write about the mushrooms: where they hid this year, which new varieties showed themselves, who took the best photo, who squealed the loudest. We write about the food: which color potatoes are best, what spices go well with turnips, how to thicken the soup. And especially we write about our ancestors and our dead: how did Great-Great-Grandmother Hattie put up with that corset, why does Grandpa Joe scowl so much, the unfulfilled dreams of Aunt Margaret, the heroism of Zipper the dachshund.

    Since we’ve been doing this for quite a few years, some of us have the making of a pretty good book. Here is a haiku I wrote about this process:

    dig up the old bones
    rub them til they mirror back
    your own reflection

    Kim Pearson is an author, ghostwriter, and owner of Primary Sources, a writing service that helps others become authors of professional and compelling books and articles. She has authored 10 books of her own, and ghostwritten more than 40 non-fiction books and memoirs. To learn more about her books or services, visit kimpearson.me.

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