Category Archives: Writing community

Author Interview – Mary Kathleen Mehuron

Today I have the pleasure of bringing you my interview with Mary Kathleen Mehuron, author of The Opposite of Never released by Spark Press, April 24, 2018

Mary Kathleen Mehuron is a career educator who made a splash with her first book, Fading Past, an autobiographical novel whose protagonist, like Mary Kathleen, grew up Irish-Catholic in New Jersey. The Opposite of Never is Mary Kathleen’s second book, and to finish it, she traveled alone to Havana in January 2015 in order to experience the city before it became Americanized. Mary Kathleen lives and teaches in a ski town in Vermont where they call her Kathy. This is where she and her husband raised three sons,  and she is an occasional columnist and writes curriculum daily for private math and science students. She takes extended time to work on her novels on Grand Turk Island and in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.

Mary Kathleen, tell us about your latest book.

At the end of April, SparkPress released my new novel The Opposite of Never. It’s about four Vermont families, three close women friends, two love stories (millennial and baby boomer), a devastating mistake on the part of the young couple who become involved in the opioid epidemic, and a truly grand, grand finale.

I never really know how a reader will interpret the words I’m writing, because, his or her own experiences become mixed in with my intentions. But, I know for sure, that I wrote this particular story about hope, which I firmly believe, is contagious. The novel has been included in the Most Anticipated Books of 2018,Brit+Co; Breakout Novels of 2018,Indie Picks; Six Books About Family to Cherish This Spring, Buzzfeed; Ten Heartwarming Tales About Family, Culturalist; 12 Inspiring Me-Time Reads Perfect for Mother’s Day, Working Mother; and10 Books to Keep You Woke in 2018, Bookstr.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a third novel with the working title The Belonger. A “belonger” is someone with historical ties to the island of Grand Turk in Turks and Caicos, where my family and I spend a great deal of time. At one time salt was more valuable than gold but producing it was grueling work. White business owners brought African slaves to the Grand Turk to do it. My novel begins in the 90s and is about a young man descended from such slaves, who is offered a chance to come up to largely white State of Vermont. As always I am interested in love stories and how life throws curve balls at us, but, in this case, also the subject of skin color.

What advice would you give to your younger writing self?

I’d say, “You are not going to believe this. When you enter into the third act of your life, you are going to turn it into a grand finale. You are going to publish a book. Seriously, you are! And then a publishing company is going to take an interest in you and you will publish a second. Yes, I know you are a math and science teacher and it seems unlikely, but it’s true. Oh, yeah, and I left out the part when you are middle-aged and you become a professional singer. All I’m saying is hold on; it’s going to be a wild ride.”

Who is your favorite character in your book(s)?

Spencer Paquette. Like many young men, he makes some terrible decisions and it affects not only him but his family and friends as well. I’m a sucker for a comeback story. Who hasn’t made mistakes? But, we can always make restitution and grow as human beings. We can. I think that’s an absolute. Obviously, not everyone cares to put in the hard work to do so or wants to be felled by the amount of humility it takes to admit the need for a big change. Yet, it is a road that is always possible.

Where do you do most of your writing?

I can write anywhere. It’s probably because I grew up in a melting pot neighborhood filled with swarms of children. We had five kids in our family, not nearly as many as our neighbors, but it was enough to ensure our household was in a constant state of pandemonium. You either learned to do your homework surrounded by noise or you didn’t get it done. I am probably the only person in the world who looks forward to long airport layovers— they are generally very productive times for me with my laptop. But, if I really think about it, I wrote most of my two novels on Grand Turk island and in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont.

What inspires you?

I am a person who remembers the vivid details of life’s extreme up and downs. One day I’m singing before a seven-piece country swing band and the next, I’m diagnosed with two different breast cancers. My prognosis was grim, yet I went on to travel the world, see my sons grow up and become very successful, and to write my books. I feel better today than I did twenty years ago. Savoring a beautiful moment is an art form; living beyond tragedy is too. So I would say it is hope that inspires me. Sometimes that’s all you have. Hang on to it.

Tell us a little about your process. Pantser? Plotter? Mixture of both?

In every other area of my life I am an obsessive planner, but not when writing a novel. That is more like channeling a story that I’m being told as I sit at my desk. It just kicks in and starts flowing. No note cards. No outline. I literally don’t know the ending until the day I write it.

What are you reading right now?

On Writing by Stephen King, The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah, and A Dangerous Woman From Nowhere by Kris Radish.

What do you like to spend time doing when you aren’t writing?

I go shopping for beautiful food to cook that night. I meet some friends for a five-mile hike in the fresh Vermont air, where we finish at a vista, that every time, takes my breath away. When I’m well exercised and the groceries are all put away, it’s “go” time. I sit down and write.

Thank you so much, Mary Kathleen! I enjoyed reading your responses and I look forward to reading your book.

You can buy Mary Kathleen’s book here :https://amzn.to/2MjRdGb

Connect with her here:

Website: https://www.marykathleenmehuron.com/mary-kathleen/

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

Here is a little bit more about The Opposite of Never:

Devastated when they lose their spouses, both Kenny Simmons and Georgia Best carry on for the sake of their children, although they are certain that the best part of their lives is long over. Then Georgia and her lifelong companions, Linda and Yvonne, meet Kenny while walking down a dusty Vermont country road, and the four of them hit it off. Soon, Kenny becomes a regular part of their hiking group, and he and Georgia grow more than fond of each other.

Kenny’s stepdaughter, Zelda, and Yvonne’s teenage son, Spencer, also fall in love—at first sight. Through surprisingly relatable circumstances, they are drawn into opiate use, shocking everyone, and the two of them struggle through the torment of addiction together.

In an impulsive and daring attempt to create a grand finale out of difficult times, Kenny takes Georgia off to vacation in Cuba just as it is opening up to Americans—and what they discover in the golden light of Old Havana is another startling surprise.

Author Interview – Jacqueline Friedland

Jacqueline I am so pleased to share with you my interview with attorney turned author, Jacqueline Friedland! Today, she is telling us about her novel, Troubled The Water, which was released May 8, 2018, by Spark Press. She also gives us insight into a little bit about her process.

What was/is your latest book release? Tell us about it!

My latest book release is a historical fiction novel, TROUBLE THE WATER.  The story takes place twenty years before the Civil War in Charleston, South Carolina. I was inspired to write this story after learning that the international trafficking of slaves was outlawed in 1808, but the practice continued nearly unfettered for decades afterwards.  The governments of countries like the United States and England did not do nearly enough to enforce the anti-trafficking laws nor otherwise stop the atrocities.  I began to wonder what if there had been a person, a vigilante, who stepped in to make a difference?  Maybe there could have been someone with sufficient resources and sufficient manpower to get a group together and make the kidnapping of Africans more difficult for the criminals of the high seas.  I asked myself what kind of person would be brave enough, bold enough, to do such a thing?  What would his life be like, and what would his actions cost him?  I created my main character, Douglas Elling, based on these thoughts, and the rest of my story grew around him.  Interestingly, when I introduced a female protagonist to challenge Douglas, I found that her story fascinated me as much as his, and I created a young woman who I envisioned as an early feminist and an independent thinker. As this character, Abigail Milton, and Douglas Elling get to know each other, they each learn a great deal about themselves, as well.

What are you working on now?

I am working on another novel.  Unlike the first one, the next story is contemporary fiction.  I so greatly enjoyed writing a historical novel and will most likely write others, but just as I love reading across different genres, I also appreciate that interesting stories can materialize out of so many diverse situations and time periods.  The next book is about a young woman in Manhattan who finds herself in a surprisingly complex love triangle.

What advice would you give to your younger writing self?

I would advise my younger writing self to commit sooner. I wasn’t sure if I had the talent or the dedication to work as a writer.  I was afraid to fail, and so I moved very slowly at first.  I dabbled in the research, I wrote scenes in my head but stalled before putting them down on paper.  I wish I could have been braver, that I could have brought myself to sit down at the computer a little sooner.  The first rule to being a successful writer is that you actually have to WRITE.  I would have pushed myself a little harder at the beginning.

Have you always wanted to be a writer? What made you decide to become one?

I have wanted to be a writer my entire life.  I have always loved words and crafting sentences, but I worried as a young adult that I wouldn’t find success.  So instead I went to law school and became a lawyer. I was actually pretty good at my job as a lawyer, but I never felt passionate about my work.  I also never got accustomed to office culture.  After my first child was born, I decided to use a portion of maternity leave to begin working on my first book.  It was an attempt to see if this whole “writing thing” could really pan out for me.  Unfortunately, in my naïvete as a new mother, I didn’t realize that I would have precious little time to do work with an infant in the apartment.  Even so, something about the transition to motherhood helped me realize that I was truly an adult, and I’d better get busy doing something I loved because life is short.  I tried to transition to teaching Legal Writing as a compromise between the two disciplines, but I still wasn’t satisfied because I wasn’t creating fiction. I finally left the law and went back to school for an MFA in Creative Writing.  I am glad to have my background in law, and I still find several aspects of the legal system genuinely interesting, but I am thrilled to finally be living my dream as a writer.

Where do you do most of your writing?

I do almost all of my writing at home. I know many people are easily distracted at home and feel they have to set up shop at a café or a library in order to be productive.  I am the opposite.  I find people enormously fascinating, so if I am in public, it’s very difficult for me to draw my eyes away from all the other people around me and focus on my screen instead.

Tell us a little about your process. Pantser? Plotter? Mixture of both?

I am a hardcore Type A kind of a person, which puts me squarely into the category of Plotter.  That said, it never works out like I’ve planned.  Before I start writing, I make a detailed outline.  Then I fix it and re-do it several times.  Then I highlight and color code.  Then I make various changes and fix everything all over again.  I don’t begin writing the story until I really feel that I have a step-by-step guide about where the piece is going.  Then when I actually begin writing, everything changes.  Nothing turns out as I expected, the characters keep doing things that surprise me, and the story ends up going in a completely different direction. At this point, I am comfortable with the spontaneity, and I even expect it, but I am still committed to completing those outlines in advance. Imagining all the different scenarios and laying out a framework for myself helps me to get to know my characters and my setting. It puts me inside their heads deeply enough that when they start going off-script, I can understand why, and I can work with it.

Do you have any rituals that you practice before sitting down to write?

Before I write, I have to get my kids out of the house to school or camp.  Then I drink a big cup of coffee and respond to any outstanding emails.  Once my inbox is organized, and my desk is clean, I can get to work.

What do you like to spend time doing when you aren’t writing?

When I’m not writing, I love watching movies with my family, reading fast-paced novels, exercising, sitting outside on warm days, and laughing with friends.

Here is more about the book!

Book coverAbigail Milton was born into the British middle class, but her family has landed in unthinkable debt. To ease their burdens, Abby’s parents send her to America to live off the charity of their old friend, Douglas Elling. When she arrives in Charleston at the age of seventeen, Abigail discovers that the man her parents raved about is a disagreeable widower who wants little to do with her. To her relief, he relegates her care to a governess, leaving her to settle into his enormous estate with little interference. But just as she begins to grow comfortable in her new life, she overhears her benefactor planning the escape of a local slave—and suddenly, everything she thought she knew about Douglas Elling is turned on its head.

Abby’s attempts to learn more about Douglas and his involvement in abolition initiate a circuitous dance of secrets and trust. As Abby and Douglas each attempt to manage their complicated interior lives, readers can’t help but hope that their meandering will lead them straight to each other. Set against the vivid backdrop of Charleston twenty years before the Civil War, Trouble the Water is a captivating tale replete with authentic details about Charleston’s aristocratic planter class, American slavery, and the Underground Railroad.

Read more about Jacqueline!

Author Bio:

Jacqueline Friedland holds a BA from the University of Pennsylvania and a JD from NYU Law School. She practiced as an attorney in New York before returning to school to receive her MFA in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. She lives in New York with her husband, four children, and two energetic dogs.

To connect with Jacqueline:

For more on Jacqueline or her writing, go to www.jacquelinefriedland.com or follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/JacquelineFriedlandAuthor

https://twitter.com/jbfriedland

https://www.instagram.com/jackiefriedland/

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Author Interview – Dana Killion

Today, it is my pleasure to post an interview with fellow mystery writer (and good friend), Dana Killion. She is the author of Lies in High Places and The Last Lie, published by Obscura Press.

 

What was/is your latest book release? Tell us about it!

The Last Lie was released March 26thof 2018. It’s the second book in my Andrea Kellner mystery series. This time Andrea must uncover the source of a poison contaminating an energy drink before her sister becomes one of the victims.

Here is a little more about the book:

 

Investigative journalist Andrea Kellner never lets anything get between her and her next scoop. So when a grief-stricken man crashes a charity gala and demands answers for his daughter’s death, Andrea knows it’s her duty to investigate. But she never expected him to point the blame—and his gun—at her date and his energy drink empire.

When Andrea’s sister falls ill after ingesting the same exact beverage, her case gets even more personal. To uncover the truth behind the contamination, the journalist must confront the man she thought she knew and corporate execs with hush money to spare. With her sister’s life in peril, Andrea will stop at nothing to break the story before the death toll rises.

What are you working on now?

Book three in the series is on my plate now. Still early stages as I move from plot development to first draft. Titles are something I wait until the end to decide on, but for the moment the working title is Retaliation. I like to use real events as the starting point and in this book, readers will certainly recognize some parallels to news stories we’ve read about.

What advice would you give to your younger writing self?

Just do it! Stop overthinking everything.

Have you always wanted to be a writer? What made you decide to become one?

No, my writing aspirations started just a few years back, but I’ve always been a reader of mystery and thriller. A lifestyle change is really what pushed me into a higher gear on the writing. My husband retired, which gave us a shot at the snowbird lifestyle earlier than we planned so my career needed adjustment too. My previous business as a clothing designer wasn’t portable so I traded in my industrial sewing machines and cutting tables for a laptop and notecards.

Who is your favorite character in your book(s)?

Well, Andrea of course!

Where do you do most of your writing?

I have a home office in both of my condos. I’m in Chicago in the summer and the west coast of Florida in the winter. I’m also starting to dictate my first drafts which really opens up the possibilities. I can pop on my headset, go for a walk along the water, and have a thousand words or more recorded before I get home.

What inspires you?

It’s the puzzle of it all. When I decided I wanted to try my hand at fiction, it was an easy decision as my reading is tight. Mystery, thrillers, preferably female protagonists. I just love the process of unfolding the story, digging through the layers of who-done-it.

Tell us a little about your process. Pantser? Plotter? Mixture of both?

I’ve discovered that I’m a plotter. Each book I’ve written has resulted in a more complex outline than the one before. I start with digital 3×5 cards and build from there, developing each scene, building character sketches, and developing a timeline of events. That doesn’t mean I don’t leave myself open to better ideas as I draft, but that first draft is the toughest one for me. Having an outline kicks my brain into gear faster.

More about Dana

Dana Killion grew up in a small town in northern Wisconsin, reading Nancy Drew and dreaming of living surrounded by tall buildings. A career in the apparel industry satisfied her city living urge and Nancy Drew evolved into Cornwell, Fairstein, and Evanovich.

One day, frustrated that her favorite authors weren’t writing fast enough, an insane thought crossed her mind. “Maybe I could write a novel?”

Silly, naïve, downright ludicrous. But she did it. She plotted and planned and got 80,000 words on the page. That manuscript lives permanently in the back of a closet. But the writing bug had bitten.

Dana lives in Chicago and Florida with her husband and her kitty, Isabel, happily avoiding temperatures below fifty.

Website – http://danakillion.com

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/DanaKillionAuthor/

You can purchase her book here:

Amazon –  https://www.amazon.com/Dana-Killion/e/B076YL6VSB/

 

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Author Interview with Mystery Author Chris Asbrey

Today I am interviewing mystery author Chris Asbrey whose novel, The Innocents,  will be released April 19! The book is available on Amazon. Get it here. 

About The Author

Chris Asbrey has lived and worked all over the world in the Police Service, Civil Service, and private industry, working for the safety, legal rights, and security of the public. A life-changing injury meant a change of course into contract law and consumer protection for a department attached to the Home Office. She has produced magazine and newspaper articles based on consumer law and written guides for the Consumer Direct Website. She acted as a consultant to the BBC’s One Show and Watchdog and been interviewed on BBC radio answering questions on consumer law to the public.

She lives with her husband and two daft cats in Northamptonshire, England—for now. She’s moving to the beautiful medieval city of York.

Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

I kinda do. I write under my married name and feature on social media under my maiden name for social interactions. I also write under initials. I don’t hide my gender, but it’s not immediately obvious when you look at the book cover.

Do you want each book to stand alone, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

‘The Innocents’ is most definitely part of a larger body of work. It’s the first of a trilogy, but if people like them there’ plenty of scope to keep them going. I would still continue with each book being a self-contained mystery with the larger universe of the characters providing an over-arching connection between the books. The third book is written and at editing stage, but there are plenty of trials I can still put the characters through yet.

What is your writing Kryptonite?

Emotional upset for sure. My last book took me a year to write as I was distracted by my husband being injured in an accident and my mother-in-law passing away from a long illness. I was very lucky to have a lovely mother-in-law. She is sorely missed.

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

I’ve met many wonderful people on this journey and I’ve found them to be an incredibly generous and open community. I’d really encourage new writers to reach out and make contact. Not only will you find that they share resources, but you’ll probably make all kinds of new friends too. There are too many to mention but Kit Prate and Joanie Chevalier deserve a special mention. Both have been so supportive and inspiring to a brand new writer and have gone the extra mile in helping me cross over so many barriers. Kit introduced me to her publisher after reading my work and helped me out of the slush pile. Joanie helped to point me towards the various groups which help a new writer with marketing and publicity. Not only that but she actually made up some advertising material and told me to ‘get my swag on.’ I was being far too Scottish—reticent and unwilling to look like I was bragging by saying my book was good. Both ladies have been incredible and I can’t thank them enough. Read their books and you’ll soon see how lucky I was to be assisted by them.

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

That would be in my work as a young police officer. I learned that talking people down from spiraling emotions is a powerful tool in keeping people safe, and more potent than violence. I also learned that listening to detail is vital too. Noting the small things helped to push cases along in gathering evidence. I also learned the complex and intricate ways people use language to put you down and grab power in a situation. Understanding that really helps you stay in control of a situation.

What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

That would have to be ‘The Moonstone’ by Wilkie Collins. Not only is it considered the first proper detective novel in the English language, it also shows working class females as rounded characters instead of foils for male attention. It also is the first to introduce many of the elements we take for granted in mysteries such as red herrings, false suspects, the skilled investigator, and a final twist. Collins was actually vastly more popular than Dickens in his day, but is now largely forgotten in comparison.

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal? 

Lol, maybe a giant sloth? Or one of those dogs or cats which go viral for bumping into glass doors or falling off things?

How do you select the names of your characters?

As I write 19th-century characters I try to keep them in period and maintain a sense of place. I’ll research popular or unusual names as well as using names of people I know if they’re appropriate. I’ve also been known to add really unusual names to my note as I come across them. Some are too good not to use.

Who is the most famous person you have ever met?

That would be either the Pope or the Queen – on a protection duty. When the Pope visited Scotland I was the police officer at the bottom of the aircraft steps. We then moved with him into the city. As a fun aside, the glass-covered vehicle he used was nicknamed the Pope Mobile by the press. The crowds were all still there when we returned to the airport in the Pope mobile without him. We stood in full uniform waving flowers out the top to cheering crowds as we drove the full length of Prince’s Street in Edinburgh (the big main street in Scotland’s capital city). The crowd cheered us and waved flags as we passed. Only a Scottish crowd could hail a car full of police officers like that. Great fun.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book? 

Copious amounts. ‘The Innocents’ has taken years of research into the work of the early Pinkertons, especially the female agents and the kind of work they did, including their methodologies. I research everything, even the stationary which was in use and the correct codes for the telegraph stations mentioned in the books. The theatrical make up, used as disguises in the book, began to flourish right around the period the books are set in. Lighting had improved and people could see the flaws in the rudimentary stuff previously only lit by candles. The forensics are fascinating to dig into too. You name it I researched it.

What was your hardest scene to write?

The interrogation scene. I had to inject a sense of menace into it to make it work. I know it’s not usual to make your hero do bad things, but he’s a professional criminal and he has to find out who this mysterious woman is and how much danger the heroine poses to him.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been playing with the characters for about ten years, but work and life got in the way. I started writing seriously about two years ago and spent about a year being turned down by everyone. I acted on every bit of feedback and continually got my work reviewed and improved until it was polished enough to be accepted.

What inspires you?

Often fact is stranger than fiction, so I’ll start with real crime or criminals. I‘ll then change it to ensure that even people familiar with that particular crime can’t guess whodunit. The stories are inspired by real crimes and people but they are not a memoir. They are stories where everything is historically possible. It either happened or could have happened.

How did you come to write The Innocents?

My grasp on the methodologies used by law enforcement, when applied the law in day to day enquiries in the days before technology was available, as well as historic weaknesses and blind spots in the both the legal and court systems, make for an authentic backdrop to the characters.

I was always a voracious reader, my mother teaching me with flashcards at the age of two, and graduating to the adult section of the library about the age of ten. I easily finished three books a week for years and was lost without one. Mysteries were a real love and I consumed the works of writers old and new constantly. The one thing I always wanted to do was to write but never had the confidence or time to do more than dream about it.

As a child I loved to run lines with my actor father when he rehearsed, and peeked in on the parties full of creative people singing, dancing, telling jokes, performing and discussing the issues of the day. Childhood taught me that creativity was something you do, not something you passively watch. That carried over to a love of singing, professionally and with choirs, as well as playing some dodgy fiddle music, alongside far better musicians who either made me sound okay or drowned me out entirely. Either way I managed to carry it off for a bit and even bagged a musician husband.

I first became interested in the female pioneers in law enforcement when I joined the police in Scotland. History has always held a draw and the colorful stories of the older officers piqued my interest, making her look even further back.

The very first women in law enforcement had been in France, working for the Sûreté in the early 19th century. They were, however, no more than a network of spies and prostitutes, the most infamous being the notorious ‘Violette’. Now there’s another story which needs to be told!

The first truly professional women in law enforcement worked for the Pinkerton Agency, and they were trained by the first female agent Kate Warne, an ex-actress and an expert in working undercover. Kate Warne was an expert at disguise, adopting roles, and accents. She was said to be daring and able to pass her characters off, even in close quarters. In the only known photograph of her she is dressed as a man. This was a skill set my childhood had prepared her to understand.

These women were fully-fledged agents, with their skills being held in high regard by Alan Pinkerton who once said, “In my service you will serve your country better than on the field. I have several female operatives. If you agree to come aboard you will go in training with the head of my female detectives, Kate Warne. She has never let me down.”

I started to wonder why one of the female agents couldn’t be a Scottish Immigrant. After all, Alan Pinkerton was one. He came from Glasgow. Being a Scot in another land is something I know well. They do say you should write what you know.

My work has taken me all over the world, but working in the USA and visiting the places where these women worked deepened my passion for finding out more about how they lived. I also researched the tools and equipment available to them at the time. Connections to police and Home Office experts allowed me to research the birth of forensics with people who knew their subject intimately.

The topic for ‘The Innocents Mystery Series’ simmered in the background for years, and all the time I was researching more and more deeply into the period. I love the rapid pace of innovation and invention in the 19th century. Nothing pleases me more than finding spy gadgets available at the time which were invented far earlier than most people would think possible.

Work and life got in the way of the books being anything more than an idea until I was suddenly grounded by a serious accident. The enforced leisure time of recuperation focused my mind and the old dream of writing resurfaced. It started as a short story which took on a life of its own when it grew and grew—then grew some more.

Eventually, ‘The Innocents Mysteries’ evolved and I found the perfect home for it at Prairie Rose. This is my first foray into fiction. I have produced magazine and newspaper articles based on consumer law and written guides for the Consumer Direct Website. I was Media Trained by The Rank Organization, and acted as a consultant to the BBC’s One Show and Watchdog. I have also been interviewed on BBC radio answering questions on consumer law to the public.

I run a blog which explores all things strange, mysterious, and unexpected about the 19th century. It was a huge compliment to be told that another writer finds it a great resource. The link can be found below.

I live with my husband and two daft cats in Northamptonshire, England—for now. Another move is on the cards in 2108 to the beautiful city of York.

Link to book (Click here)

Blog which includes things obscure and strange in the Victorian period     http://caasbrey.com/

Twitter  https://twitter.com/CAASBREY

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

Facebook group for The Innocents Mystery Series 

https://www.facebook.com/groups/937572179738970/?ref=br_rs

Setting Intentions and Affirmations for Writing

Do you have writing and publishing goals? I certainly do. I have a list of them that I try to revisit as often as possible.

In the last two years, I’ve been working hard at fostering my personal development. I want to become more productive, more engaged with my work, more sensitive to others, more present in my everyday life. I want to be more in touch with who I am and what I have to offer. I want to have deeper and more meaningful relationships with family, friends, and my animals. I want to live more in the moment. I want to be the best person and the best writer I can be. Does this sound familiar to you?

But how do we attain the goals we have set for ourselves, with our writing and our life?

For me, setting intentions and affirmations have been life-changing. I was first introduced to the concept by Dr. Benjamin Perkus with his Aroma Freedom Technique about three years ago. This technique uses a special combination of essential oils and a guided step-by-step exercise that helps to free us from the emotional blocks that prevent us from living to our potential. At the start of each session, we are to set an intention, work through the process with the essential oils and at the end of the session, we create an affirmation, breath in a transformative type of oil, like Young Living’s Transformation or Highest Potential and set our affirmation.

You might wonder, what is the difference between a goal, an intention, and an affirmation?

A goal is something we want to achieve. Finishing our novel, becoming a famous blogger, becoming a best-selling novelist, losing 10 pounds.

An intention is an “I am” statement or an “I have” statement that we create that feels, shows, and tastes like once we’ve achieved our goal. The intention is the overarching statement that reveals what our life is like when the goal is achieved. “I have a million followers on Twitter.” “I am a best-selling novelist.” “I travel the world and am paid to write my experiences.” “I am fit and healthy.”

Affirmations are reminders that support our intention. “I make time for my writing every day.” “I engage with people on social media twice a day.”

Once you have set your intention and your affirmations, it is important to read these out loud to yourself every day. If you make it part of your ritual, as I discussed in my previous post, “The Importance of Ritual for Productive Writing,” after a week or so, it will become part of your daily repertoire. It will constantly remind you of the awesome person you are and the incredible life you will have when you meet your goal.

Natalie Ledwell, in her Activate the Law of Attraction course on Udemy, asserts that if you put this type of energy out into the world, set your intentions and live by your affirmations, God or the Universe will answer you. By using the power of your mind, you can create your own reality and achieve any goals that you set for yourself. Like attracts like. If you put out into the world your positive energy, you will receive that positivity back.

So if you’ve set a goal to be a best-selling author, or a popular blogger, or any kind of successful artist – define what that looks like to you. Set your intentions around what you want your world to look like, and write down your affirmations. Read them aloud to yourself on a regular basis. Achieve what you want to achieve.

You can do what you set out to do. Only you are holding you back.

Guest Blog Post – Rachel Dacus

I am so honored a pleased to bring you a  guest post from author Rachel Dacus, whose time travel romance novel, The Renaissance Club, was released in January!

In this post, Rachel shares with us what got her interested in writing and how reading led her to her dream of becoming an author.

How I Began to Want to Write

Writing is nothing but wanting to tell a story so much you actually learn how to. I had that desire at age ten. I blame my mother, who took me to Acre of Books in downtown Long Beach, California and encouraged me to pick out books. I found my books by color: a row of colorful, clothbound books written by a man named L. Frank Baum. I remember the word “Oz” was stamped in gold on their spines. It was a short hop down the Yellow Brick Road to the Writing Wishing Well, my source of all inspiration and aspiration to tell a good story.

Next came the colored fairytale books, notably the story of the Twelve Dancing Princesses. The idea of a kingdom under my bed was so appealing that I began to imagine alternate kingdoms everywhere—in my back yard, down the block, in the ravine, over the hill.

Then came Nancy Drew. Mysteries! After all, everything in my world, and every kingdom I could imagine, was mysterious. At the age of ten, eleven, and twelve, there’s so much you notice and don’t understand. And the adults in your life are always telling you they’ll explain it all when you’re older.

My first novel was called The Prisoner of the Locked Room. It was 100 pages long! I can’t imagine what I wrote because I still didn’t understand that a mystery revolved around a murder. I don’t believe at that age I had yet heard of murders. I led a sheltered childhood. So, I wrote all around this mysterious locked room, with its nameless prisoner—why imprisoned? Who? I decided to figure that out later. But I also decided to better Nancy Drew, and devised twin girl sleuths! Double the fun, double the fancy clothes, double the mystery-solving! Now all I needed was an actual mystery.

I trace my love of literature to the lavish amounts of bedtime reading aloud my mother did. I learned to love words and stories so young. Hopefully, every child in the world can be read to. And I not only learned to love words, but to make them. I was the kid who brought a typewriter to fourth grade, so I could write a play for the class to enact. The Westward Expansion may never be the same, but the thrill of hearing my words and story spoken aloud is unforgettable. Thanks, Mom, for reading to me and teaching me touch typing—giving me a love of language and an important tool to write!

The Renaissance Club Media Kit

By Rachel Dacus

Fiery Seas Publishing

January 23, 2018

Time Travel Romance

May Gold, college adjunct, often dreams about the subject of her master’s thesis – Gianlorenzo Bernini. In her fantasies, she’s in his arms, the wildly adored partner of the man who invented the Baroque.

But in reality, May has just landed in Rome with her teaching colleagues and older boyfriend who is paying her way. She yearns to unleash her passion and creative spirit, and when the floor under the gilded dome of St Peter’s basilica rocks under her feet, she gets her chance. Walking through the veil that appears, she finds herself in the year 1624, staring straight into Bernini’s eyes. Their immediate and powerful attraction grows throughout May’s tour of Italy. And as she continues to meet her ethereal partner, even for brief snatches of time, her creativity and confidence blossom. All the doorways to happiness seem blocked for May-all except the shimmering doorway to Bernini’s world.

May has to choose: stay in her safe but stagnant existence or take a risk. Will May’s adventure in time ruin her life or lead to a magical new one?

Buy Links

ISBN: 978-1-946143-41-9  ~  eBook  ~  $6.99

ISBN: 978-1-946143-42-6  ~  Paperback  ~  $16.99

Amazon  ~  Barnes & Noble  ~  Kobo  ~  iBooks 

~  Praise for The Renaissance Club  ~

Enchanting, rich and romantic…a poetic journey through the folds of time. In THE RENAISSANCE CLUB, passion, art, and history come together in this captivating tale of one woman’s quest to discover her true self and the life she’s meant to lead. Rachel Dacus deftly crafts a unique and spellbinding twist to the time-traveling adventure that’s perfect for fans of Susanna Kearsley and Diana Gabaldon. — Kerry Lonsdale, Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author

The Renaissance Club is a beautifully written story about a woman torn between two worlds—the present and the distant past. This time-travel adventure kept me guessing until the end about which world May would choose, and if that choice would be the right one. Highly recommended for lovers of time travel fiction or anyone looking for a compelling story about a woman trying to find happiness. — Annabelle Costa, Author of The Time Traveler’s Boyfriend.

The Renaissance Club shimmers with beauty, poetry, and art. Author Rachel Dacus sweeps her readers away to Italy with her, lifting the senses with the sights, sounds, and tastes of that stunning country; imparting her deep knowledge of Renaissance and Baroque art while immersing the reader in a gorgeously romantic story. This book is time travel at its best! — Georgina Young-Ellis, author of The Time Mistress Series

About the Author:

Rachel Dacus is the daughter of a bipolar rocket engineer who blew up a number of missiles during the race-to-space 1950’s. He was also an accomplished painter. Rachel studied at UC Berkeley and has remained in the San Francisco area. Her most recent book, Gods of Water and Air, combines poetry, prose, and a short play on the afterlife of dogs. Other poetry books are Earth Lessons and Femme au Chapeau.

Her interest in Italy was ignited by a course and tour on the Italian Renaissance. She’s been hooked on Italy ever since. Her essay “Venice and the Passion to Nurture” was anthologized in Italy, A Love Story: Women Write About the Italian Experience. When not writing, she raises funds for nonprofit causes and takes walks with her Silky Terrier. She blogs at Rocket Kid Writing.

Social Media:

Website

Facebook

Twitter

 

 

Fear Series #4: Fear of Failure

Woman holding hands over face in failureFear of Failure. We’ve all faced it at one time or another. But, does it stop you from doing what you feel you are meant to do, or called to do, or simply want to do? Like writing that book you’ve always wanted to write. Or perhaps, sharing your experiences and stories in a blog. Maybe it prevents you from querying an agent, or editor, or diving into self-publishing.

The fear of failure can be immobilizing. It can prevent us from reaching our goals, and sometimes prevents us from setting goals. It can stop us from living our dreams and doing the things we want to do or need to do in life. It can also prevent writers and would-be writers from expressing their thoughts and feelings through their words, or sharing their message and stories with others.

What does failure mean to you? Maybe it means that others won’t accept you, or believe you, or like you. Maybe it means you will be laughed at or ridiculed. Maybe whatever it is you want to do won’t be perfect. (Is anything in life?) Maybe it means you might not get that agent or book deal that you want. Well, you might be right.

So then what?

You can either choose to give up in the hopes you will never fail again, (not possible) or you can accept your failure, learn from it, and see the opportunities that might arise from it.

Here are some tips I hope will help you confront and manage your fear of failure. The tips come from my experiences with AFT, (The Aroma Freedom Technique) some practical advice I’ve received from others, and from my experiences in dealing with my own fear of failure.

#1) As with the first step in AFT, we must set an intention.

This intention should be something you intend to do if you knew—beyond doubt—you wouldn’t fail. Write a book. Publish a book. Start a blog. Write a newsletter. Query your dream agent. Get the picture? Write down your intention.

#2) Write down what failure means to you, as mentioned above.

woman writing in journal

#3) Identify where that fear of failure came from.

Unsupportive or critical parents? A bad teacher? Perhaps you had a bad experience in the past where you failed and had difficulty recovering. Maybe you lost a job over your “failure.” In AFT we try to capture what the negative voice in our heads is telling us. Or, pick a moment in time when we had the same emotions of unworthiness or despair. Write down what you came up with.

#4) Next, write down the absolute worst thing that can happen if you “fail” at whatever it is you want to accomplish with your writing.

What will you lose? Did you really need it anyway? How long will this affect you? Forever? A couple of weeks, days? Be honest with yourself.

#5) Establish what you have control over.

You have control over what you do with your writing. You have control over what you wish to share. But, can you control what others think, say, or do? If you could, how would that be satisfying? Maybe if you are a narcissist it would be satisfying, but I know you aren’t!

#6) Understand that others have this same fear. Even extremely successful writers. The difference is, they’ve made the choice to not let their fear of failure hold them back. One of my favorite Ted Talks of all time is Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Success, Failure and the Drive to Keep Creating.” You can find it here. I hope you are as inspired by it as I am.

#7) Write down what positive things you’ve learned from failing – no negativity here.

Did it help you to change direction or try something different? Maybe it caused a falling out with someone who only brought you down or made you feel bad about yourself. Failing is an opportunity to better yourself, learn, reflect and plan. Don’t beat yourself up. Everyone fails. It is what you do with that failure that counts.

 

 

Fear Series: #3 Fear of Revealing the Human Within

naked woman hiding in dark - fearing exposureFear of self-exposure and fear of rejection go hand in hand. In exposing our innermost thoughts and feelings through our writing, we are risking criticism, ridicule, and rejection.

Is fear of exposing your true self holding you back from writing your message or your story? It’s not an uncommon problem. When we write, we pour ourselves into the work. We leave some, or a lot, of ourselves on the page for all the world to see. This can be intimidating and overwhelming. When we think about who might read our work–our parents, our children, our colleagues etc., and what they might think of the work, or us, after reading it can sometimes prevent us from writing what we are called to write. Here are some things to keep in mind when you fear self-exposure.

1. You have control over what you reveal.

If you are writing a memoir or any other piece of non-fiction that is personal, it is important to know you have complete control over what you reveal. That said, be aware that what you are afraid to write about may resonate with someone else. If it is your aim to help others through your work, in exposing your experiences, good and bad, you may reach someone who is going through or may have experienced the same thing. You can be of service to that person. You can connect with that person in a profound way. Isn’t that what sharing your work is all about?

In fiction, we can “hide behind the curtain” so to speak. We can put ourselves, our thoughts, feelings, emotions, and experiences into the development of a character. We can also recreate experiences we’ve had, and unless we divulge it, the reader will never know if it was our experience or not. Still, if the emotions or experiences are particularly painful, it can often feel as if we are exposing a part of ourselves we don’t want people to see.

In writing my historical mysteries I often use people from my life to portray a character. Many of my antagonists have been crafted from people whom I didn’t like, who have done me or my loved ones harm, or who are just negative, not very nice people. I used to fear that if my work got published that person would recognize themselves and get their feelings hurt. I expressed this fear to a critique group once, and someone said, “they don’t see themselves the way you see them. They would never recognize themselves in the character.” That statement made complete sense to me. It also made me realize the people I used to create my antagonists were not “bad” people, they just exhibit bad behavior because of past wounds or their own negative experiences.

2. You are human and others will relate to what you expose.

We are often not alone in our embarrassments, our bad behavior, our negative thoughts and feelings. When we expose ourselves, either outright or through our characters, we are sharing our human nature. That is how our readers will connect with us. Also, it is important to remember, it’s not about you. When a reader picks up a book, they are looking for an experience for themselves, one they can relate to—the good, the bad and the ugly. You are simply providing the mirror of their own human experiences.

3. You won’t please everyone.

Will someone hate your work? Probably. Will someone love your work? Probably. This is the area where you have NO control. Just like you cannot control what people think of you, you cannot control what they think of your work. Writers and many other creative people often share the trait of wanting to be liked by everyone. Writers and artists are driven to do what they do, and they want people to like and accept what they do. This is something we cannot control, so we shouldn’t try. Do your best, put your words on the page, be proud of what you do. Don’t let the one or two naysayers crush your dream. Sometimes people love to find fault. Remember, this isn’t about you, it’s about them.

4. Look at the negative things people say about your work with objectivity.

Try to view the criticism, and your work, as an observer. Take yourself out of the equation for a few minutes. Ask yourself, is this constructive or destructive criticism? If it is constructive, and you feel your work will improve by listening to the criticism, brush yourself off and learn from the experience. You have control of what you do with this information. If the criticism is destructive and makes you feel ashamed, put down, or threatens to make you quit writing, put it out of your mind. Forget about it and move on. If you can’t do this, distance yourself from the work and the criticism for two weeks. Go back to it and see if you feel any different.

Discerning between harsh, constructive criticism and destructive criticism can be difficult, because neither one feels very good. We all get destructive criticism from time to time. This goes back to tip number 3. Some people live to find fault. Consider the source and then move on.

woman smelling flower - no fear of exposure5. Celebrate the positive things people say about your work.

Take in the positive. Pick the positive flowers of what people say about your work, bundle it all up in a bouquet and water it often! Write those positive affirmations down in a journal, or better yet, write them on a sticky note and place it on your computer, or your bathroom mirror. Keep your rejection letters and highlight the positive remarks. Sometimes when we hear three wonderful comments about our work, and one terrible comment, we focus on the terrible one. Don’t let this play into your fear of self-exposure.

One of the best pieces of advice I have received about fear of self-exposure is to write your book, your essay, your blog post, etc. as if no one will read it. That is called writing your first draft. Then go back and decide what you feel most comfortable revealing, and what you feel the least comfortable revealing, and go from there. Good writing is re-writing. You have the power and control to share what you want.

Fear Series: #2 Overcoming Fear of Rejection

 

Pearl and Oyster - Rejection is the sand in the oyster, the irritant that ultimately produces a pearl. Burke WilkinsonRejection is something all writers hate and fear. When we put our hearts and souls onto the page, we want people to like what we’ve written, and better yet, accept it. Writing is an intimate form of self-expression, and when we are criticized or rejected for something we wrote, it’s painful. Many other writers might say, “it’s not about you as a person, it’s about something you’ve done, or something you do.” While that may be sound advice for some, it never gave me much comfort. Writing is a part of who I am, so yes, when someone rejects or criticizes something I have written, for me, it’s personal. Believe me, I’ve had my share of rejection, and one thing I know to be true; it will happen again, and again.

Writing is a tough business. So how do we overcome this fear that can paralyze us and often debilitate us from expressing ourselves with our words?

#1 Ask yourself the question: Is writing something I must do in order to be happy and fulfilled?

Be honest with yourself. Is writing your passion? If it is, you will find a way to deal with your fear of rejection. If writing is something you are called to, and I think you know if it is, the desire to express yourself in this way will rise above the fear. That doesn’t mean the fear of rejection is diminished, it just means that you are willing to endure the pain of rejection, and find a way to work around it. You will keep getting up after being knocked down, and prepare yourself for the next punch until you are victorious—whatever that means to you.

#2 Understand that rejection can be helpful.

If you’ve submitted to agents and editors, and you find their comments are similar, you might take note of what they say.  At first, you might be hurt, and maybe even angry, but try to look at it the criticism as constructive. Take the emotion out of it and hear what they have said.

One of the best things you can do is to educate yourself. Take online courses, go to writer’s conferences and workshops, join a critique group. Get outside feedback from people other than your mother, best friend, or spouse.

I find that one of the easiest and least painful ways to get feedback is to enter contests. You most likely won’t know the judges, so you can take their criticisms and compliments in a more objective way. Contests provide a nice distance from the criticism. You will also get feedback from three or more judges. This way, you can determine if they are all see the same thing. If they do, you need to do more work. If not, you can decide whose input is more valuable, and what you are going to do with it. You will have a sense of who is on the mark, and who just didn’t get what you wrote.

#3 Know that it may not mean your work is terrible.

Agents and editors are in the business to SELL. If they don’t feel they can sell your work, they won’t accept it. Just like you, they are trying to make money at what they do. For most, it is their livelihood, and if the work doesn’t speak to them, they probably won’t take a chance on it. Do your homework and find out just want kind of work they are looking for. The Manuscript Wish List is a great resource for this. http://www.manuscriptwishlist.com

Still, it is important to note that even if an editor or agent is “in love” with what you have written, they might be answering to powers that be, and cannot take on the project even though they want to.

#4 Find something positive in the rejection.

I know this sounds like an oxymoron, but it is something we all should do more often. You might get a rejection stating that your characters are compelling, your writing is strong, and you have a gift for humor, but the work wasn’t fast paced enough. What do you focus on? Like most of us, the one negative criticism or comment. If you get a rejection like the one I’ve just laid out, you are on the right track. Go you! Take stock of the negative comment, but rejoice in the positive ones. They have value as well.

#5 DON’T GIVE UP.

The writers who truly fail are the writers who don’t get their work out there. Today there are so many options for writers to publish. If you work at your craft, look at your rejections and criticisms as objectively as possible, and keep finding the courage to put yourself out there, you will find success. If you have a story to tell, or a message to impart through writing, share it. Learn from the positive and the negative comments. Rejection will happen. In your writing and in your life. It is never pleasant, but it can help mold who we are and who we will become.

To read last weeks article, “Fear of Writing Emotion” click here.

Fear Series: #1 Fear of Writing Emotion

photo of girl at computer. Fear of writing emotion.Fear. That overwhelming emotion that can save us from danger, but also holds us back from doing what we desire, or in many cases, what we must do. Many writers and would-be writers, suffer from all kinds of fear. Fear of self-expression, fear of criticism, ridicule, rejection, and sometimes, fear of facing and writing down their own emotions. Fear stops writers from finishing the book they’ve always wanted to write, or prevents them from sharing their message with the world through their words.

In this series on fear, we will delve into the different kinds of fear that hold us back from writing and sharing our stories and messages with the world.

One of the most painful and debilitating fears that writers face is the fear of their own emotions. Sometimes writing takes us back to a memory that is too difficult to face. Or, in telling a story, we have to tap into darkness or depression to make our story believable and relatable. In fiction, we must live the pain and suffering that we create for our characters. In non-fiction, we have to face a painful subject matter, or reach back into our own painful experiences to share our message.

The more we get comfortable with the discomfort of the intensity of our emotions, the more we can tame them. When you face your emotions, you control them instead of your emotions controlling you.

Here are some suggestions to help you break free from the fear of facing your own emotions to do your best writing. If you have access to them, essential oils are terrific for support in facing and confronting, and breaking free from emotions that hold you back. The oils I will suggest are singles and blends from Young Living Essential Oils, but you might be able to create your own blends but you can use other brands of essential oils. I also use the Aroma Freedom Technique (AFT) that utilizes essential oils to help me confront difficult emotions that I need to use in my fiction. See here for more information on AFT.

[It is not necessary to use essential oils in this process. If you do not have access to essential oils, make sure you are in a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. Listen to soothing music, grab a nice cup of tea, and sit in a comfortable chair, or on a soft cushion.]

Have a notebook handy to write down your experiences and feelings while going through this process.

Identify the emotion. Is it sadness, fear, loneliness, depression? Essential oil to use: Clarity. Ingredients: Basil, Cardamom, Peppermint, Coriander, geranium, bergamot, lemon, ylang-ylang, jasmine, roman chamomile, palmarosa.

Identify where the emotion comes from? Why are you afraid to express yourself? Did it come from a painful memory or experience? Are you afraid to express yourself because of how you perceive others will react? Essential oil to use: Inner Child. Ingredients: Orange, tangerine, ylang-ylang, royal Hawaiian sandalwood, jasmine, lemongrass, spruce, bitter orange, neroli

Give the emotion, the memory, or the perceived situation, your full attention. Lean into it. Breathe into it. Essential oil to use: Ingredients: Acceptance. Ingredients: Orange, frankincense, ginger, clove, myrrh, cinnamon, spruce.

Write down how the experience makes you feel.

Let the tears and/or fears come. Welcome them. Essential oil to use: Release. Ingredients: Ylang ylang, olive, lavender, geranium, royal Hawaiian sandalwood, grapefruit, tangerine, spearmint, lemon, blue cypress, ocotea, jasmine, blue tansy, rose.

Observe the emotions, but don’t get caught up in them. Imagine you are on the banks of a stream watching those memories, experiences or perceived experiences float on the current. Essential oil to use: Present Time. Ingredients: Sweet almond, bitter orange, black spruce, ylang ylang.

Write down what you are feeling.

Now that you have faced that emotion and are in the state of that emotion, it’s time to free yourself from it. I don’t’ want you to stay in a dark or scary place!

Think of something good or positive that can come from your writing. Is your message something that can help others? Is your story entertaining, or innovative in some way? Will people get enjoyment from it? Essential oil to use: Abundance. Ingredients: Orange, patchouli, clove, ginger, myrrh, cinnamon, spruce.

Jot down why do you feel the need to write your story or message? Then write down why you are the only person to write this. Do you have a special talent or special knowledge about your subject matter? Do you have information to provide? Do you have skills to share? Essential oil to use: Envision. Ingredients: Black spruce, geranium, orange, lavender, sage, rose.

Relay your story or message as if no one will ever read it. Pour yourself into it. Share all of your gifts, talents, and knowledge. Let your imagination take off. You have a gift, or knowledge, or experiences, that make you qualified to share your writing with others. Remember, you won’t be able to please or impress everyone, but if you can reach a handful of people, or even one person with your story or message, you’ve succeeded! Believe in yourself. Believe in your writing! Essential oil to use: Believe. Ingredients: Idaho balsam fir, coriander, bergamot, frankincense, Idaho blue spruce, ylang ylang, geranium.

See my last post on “The Five Elements to Unlock the Mystery of Writing a Book.”