Wednesday, March 20, 2019

#AuthorToolBoxBlogHop March 2019

I'm thrilled to be participating once again in the Author Toolbox Blog Hop, the brainchild of Raimey Gallant. Join fellow writers as we share some insights and advice on this writing life.

Two months from now, I'll be packing for my trip to Pittsburgh, PA where I'll be attending the 32nd annual Pennwriters Conference for three days. I've been a member of Pennwriters for fifteen years. It's a writing group covering the entire state and all writing careers. There are 40+ hours of workshop sessions and appointments to be had for pitches to attending agents and editors. Keynote speakers will share insights and expertise. I'm not pitching the conference because I'm on the board, though it is an excellent conference if you're in the area. I'm pitching workshops and conferences in general.

The board of on Pennwriters recently debated the question of whether or not younger writers are as keen to attend and join writing groups and conferences that meet in the flesh. One side believes that younger writers find their network and tribe online. Unlike those of us who have been in the business to a long time when the only support was found in local writing group, the first place writers look today is online.

The Insecure Writers Support Group is one example of an excellent online group. RWA, despite recent updates that don't seem like updates, has forums and their online classes. Blog hops like this one can lead to networking opportunities. Critique partners are found through Facebook groups. Why spend the money to travel and attend a workshop or conference?

I've been published by a small press for over twelve years, but I know there are zillions of ways to improve my writing and at least that many things I don't know that I don't know. Every time I attend a conference or workshop, I learn something I didn't know. And not always from the presenter. Sometimes, I pick up things from the person I sit with at lunch or at the bar in the evening. Sometime, it's the person who sits beside me in a workshop. Or the free literature sitting around in the hospitality suite or included in the welcome folder. There are always craft and marketing books for sale, too. I found my first critique partner at my first writing conference. It might be a cliche, but we met on the elevator.

My local chapter of RWA held a one day workshop last November. It was a terrific, well-spent day that included lunch and only cost $50 for many pointers on marketing and platform.

Our Pennwriters board didn't come to a conclusion or ways we can draw more young writers to our organization. I thought this was the perfect spot to pick the brains of writers. Where do you make your networking and support connections as a writer? Do you enjoy in person meetings and workshops? What do you look for if attending a conference? What might entice you to attend a workshop?

Please visit the other participants of this bloghop.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

IWSG: March 2019

Welcome to the monthly bloghop created by Alex J. Cavanaugh. Join us as we share advice, insecurities and all things writing. Find the complete list of participants on the IWSG site.

Each month an optional question is thrown out there. This month's question:
Whose perspective do you like to write from best, the hero (protagonist) or the villain (antagonist)? And why?

I enjoy both perspectives but find the antagonist easier to write for. I like to get in the villain's mind so the reader can see why the bad guy thinks he's the good guy. That's more fun than pure evil.

If you're in the northeast like me, you were swatted with three snowstorms in four and a half days that wound up Monday morning. I'm tired of snow, but my granddaughter loves it. Shoveling and sled riding. Grammy has been walking a lot of hills this winter. I'm ready to plant some flowers.

"Gardeners, I think, dream bigger dreams than emperors." Mary Cantwell

This cold, snowy winter is really difficult for the homeless. I hope you remember the shelters and churches, and food banks that help those people.

"What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others remains immortal." Albert Pike

Participating in IWSG always reminds me how fast time is flying by. My granddaughter turned two years old this past weekend. Where does the time go?

The excitement is really building for the last season of Game of Thrones. I can't imagine the pressure the writers must feel with the weight of viewers expectations upon them. We all have our theories and want our favorites to survive. We all have anticipations about the upcoming reunions and hope they're as emotionally fulfilling as we expect. We all have a few characters we hope get their due. There will so much judgement when it's finally over.

"There has never been a statue set up in honor of a critic." Jean Sibelius

I recently binged The Umbrella Academy on Netflix. It was entertaining but not great. I do hope for a second season. Any suggestions on what to binge while I'm visiting blogs today?

A lot of things are going on this week. Ash Wednesday is today. Friday is International Women's Day and Captain Marvel comes out appropriately that day. It's also my youngest son's birthday. His closest friends always text him on his birthday and wish him Happy International Women's Day instead of happy birthday.

"It is the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them." Ralph Waldo Emerson

Next weekend, Daylight Savings Time begins. A lot of people don't like the time change and I hate losing the hour of sleep, but I like having dark in the morning and sunlight later in the day.

Do you like reading the antagonist's POV? Do you have some expectations for season 8 of Thrones that will influence your enjoyment of the series' end? Are you a Daylight Savings Time fan or do you hate it?

Monday, February 25, 2019

Dead of Winter: Sherry Knowlton

I'd like to welcome Sherry Knowlton today. She writes in one of my favorites genres, mystery and suspense with a bit of romance. 

Thanks, Susan, for inviting me onto your blog today. 

My Alexa Williams series is mystery/suspense with a nice dollop of romance.  My stories are set in the present day but are somewhat unique in that they contain a parallel historical story that intersects with the contemporary mystery at some point in the book.  So, it’s particularly important that each story contains a few key elements that help ground it in the correct era.

In the newest book, Dead of Winter, I looked to drone technology to provide that sense of early 21st century setting.  The heroine, Alexa, and her friends discover a disturbing image on the video footage they’ve just filmed with their drone.  That discovery leads Alexa into big trouble. In contrast, the parallel story is set in pre-Civil war days and follows a young slave in his escape from a Virginia plantation. The most cutting edge technology in that story is a horse and wagon.

Of course, there are many things an author can use to ground a story in an era or a region. For example, I used style of dress, slang and music to help bring the hippie era to life in Dead of Summer. Speech patterns and entirely different set of slang helped me set the stage for the Depression era subplot in my first book, Dead of Autumn.

In some ways, I find it easier to capture bygone eras by emphasizing a few of that time’s most distinctive characteristics than I do to depict the current day. Perhaps it’s because we are so immersed in our everyday environments that we must be especially keen observers to predict the items that will make future readers think, “Oh, this book is set in the early 21st century.”

But, my books also use issues that are ripped from today’s headlines as the background or key components of the plot.  So, those issues provide much of the contemporary flavor.  I guess you’ll need to read of one the books to discover whether I’ve been successful in nailing the proper sense of time and place. Dead of Winter is the newest with a release date of February 19th.

Dead of Winter
“With riveting suspense and vivid details, Dead of Winter by Sherry Knowlton brings the towns and forests of Southcentral Pennsylvania to vivid life as cultures and beliefs clash in a searing tale of murder, love, and communal fear.  From flying drones to police investigations and legal wrangling, Dead of Winter will keep you guessing and glued raptly to your reading chair.” 

-          Gayle Lynds, New York Times best-selling author of The Assassins

A lighthearted trip to test a new drone turns deadly for attorney Alexa Williams
and two close friends when they find a stranger’s bullet-riddled body in a remote field in
rural Pennsylvania. Next to the dead man is a note that declares: Allahu Akbar.
When a second man is executed near Harpers Ferry, Alexa’s old flame, Reese, becomes a suspect, leading her to question just how much he changed while working in Africa. Fear of Islamic terrorism spreads like wildfire through Alexa’s small town after a third murder. After police arrest the oldest son of her Syrian refugee clients, the family becomes the focus of mounting anti-Muslim rage, and a dangerous militia group turns its sights on Alexa.
One dark night in the dead of winter, Alexa discovers who is behind the murders and must race to stop an attack that could kill hundreds. If she fails, she could lose everyone she loves.

Buy links:
·         Available at most online retailers and bookstores.
About Sherry: Sherry Knowlton is the author of the Alexa Williams series of suspense novels: Dead of Autumn, Dead of Summer, Dead of Spring and the most recent release, Dead of Winter.  Passionate
about books at an early age, she was that kid who would sneak a flashlight to bed at night so she could read beneath the covers. All the local librarians knew her by name. When not writing the next Alexa Williams thriller, Knowlton works on her health care consulting business or travels around the world. She and her husband live in the mountains of South Central Pennsylvania. 

Connect with Sherry at:

Do you think drones can help solve crimes or perhaps discover crimes? Is that title hitting right in the cold spot for this time of year? 

Thanks, Sherry, for visiting today.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

#AuthorToolboxBlogHop: Feb. 2019

Much thanks to Raimey Gallant for creating and organizing this blog hop where writers can share information and learn something new. Find the rules and a list of all participants here.

I learned a lot of things in January which was my first month participating in this blog hop. I'm sure this month will be the same.

As is probably the case with you, since I've become a writer, I've become a more discerning reader. Life is too short to read books or stories we're not enjoying. With a terrific library only a few minutes driving time from my house, I have access to a lot of books. I often pick up a book because I heard about it or saw it on some kind of list.

Sometimes, I find a new author that I've never read before this way and immediately gobble up everything that they've written. But then there are the ones that I can't finish. I try, usually for a few chapters or at least fifty pages. I don't have more time than that for a book I can't get into. But finding those books has helped me be a better writer. Or, I hope so.

Every time I don't finish a book, I analyze why it didn't work for me. At the very top of that list is unlikable characters. Then I have to figure out why I can't bring myself to care about those characters. Are they whiny, immature, selfish, or TSTL (too stupid to live)? They have fifty pages for me to believe they're going to grow or change.

The second thing that might turn me off is an unbelievable relationship. Did a couple fall in love for no reason other than the other person being pretty? Did one of them do something so mean or unforgivable yet they are forgiven because they're sexy?

Third are the flawless or totally dark characters. No one should be perfectly angelic and no would should be completely evil, at least not if they're human. Characters who are too good can be boring. Their ethics and morally need to challenged.

A fourth element that makes me put a book down is the setting. For whatever personal quirk, I can't read books about the entertainment industry or politics. I usually won't even start a book set in one of those arenas.

Coming in at number five is when nothing happens. No action, no drama, no tension, maybe not even a change in the weather. The story needs to move forward. Maybe the last one hundred pages are great, but the author is going to lose me before I get there.

There are many smaller things that turn me off to a book, but those above are things that guide me in my own writing. It gives me pause when a reviewer remarks that they didn't think the central relationship was realistic. I listen because that is one of my pet peeves. I like snarky characters with flaws, but I don't want my protagonist to be cruel or vicious. Each time I read a book, I try to figure how why it didn't work. Most writers will agree that reading is very important to being a writer.

"If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all else: read a lot and write a lot." Stephen King

I read at least two books per week of varying genres. Currently, I'm catching up with Jane Harper. I read her first book, The Dry and am into Force of Nature right now. I'll get her third book, The Lost Man from my local library. I love her setting and she surrounds her main protagonist with interesting characters. I also like reading about a law enforcement officer who isn't drunk and lacking in discipline and common sense but is still bringing personal issues to the table.
Another favorite author I read and re-read is John Hart. I never skim over a word in his books even when I'm reading them for the second time. If you haven't read him before, start with The Last Child.

Do you read a lot? Any good recommendations? What turns you off from a book? Does your reading help your writing?

We're bracing for another snowstorm today in PA, so I'll visit other blogs when I can.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Corruption by Nick Wilford

Hi Susan! Thanks for hosting me as part of my tour. Today, we're going to go live to one of Harmonia's top investigative TV shows for an interview with the youngest member of the science team.
I’m Mark Tangleford from Harmonia Happenings, and today we’ve got something exciting for you – an insight into the hitherto secretive world of the Whitopolis science labs through the eyes of its youngest member, Dr Daniel Carrickson.
Let’s introduce you to our viewers. Can you tell our viewers a bit about yourself and how you got started in the exciting world of science?
(Clears throat nervously) Well, sure, Mark. Um, let me see. I guess I was always fascinated by science, all the wonderful things around us that make our lives better. Most people take them for granted, like the food transmission units – they just produce a delicious plate of food out of nothing, and it wasn’t always like that. When I was eight I tried to take ours apart at home to see how it worked. My parents had to spend five hundred dollars on repairs, so they weren’t too happy, but when I was leaving school my dad – who works as a government adviser – heard about an opening for a trainee scientist and put my name forward.
Yes, under the old system it seemed to be very much about having connections if you wanted to get anywhere in government. Now it seems they’re trying to make things a lot more open. Can you tell me about how things have changed?
Yeah, well, I’d only been in about my job for about a year you see when Wellesbury Noon overthrew the Reformers. So I wasn’t too set in my ways, unlike some of my older team members who, um, weren’t particularly happy about it! I don’t want to say anything bad, so I’ll leave it there. But yeah, it does seem more open, transparent you could say. We get groups of visitors who come round to see how everything’s done. It doesn’t seem like we keep secrets any more, whereas before people didn’t even know where the labs were. It was like a fortress.
Now tell me what’s coming up in the world of science. I hear you’re going to be part of a very special mission to Loretania.
That’s right, we’re preparing mass quantities of the disease antidote to help all the people over there who are suffering so much. That’s another thing I’m glad is out in the open. Of course, all of us who were behind the scenes, you could say, knew about what things were like there, but it was kept hidden from the population. It was the biggest secret of all. So yes, I’m really excited about that. It’s going to make a real difference and I hope it leads to some sort of interaction between the two countries.
Thank you for talking with us today, Daniel. I’ll let you get back to your important work now.
Thank you. It was a pleasure!
Title: Corruption
Author: Nick Wilford
Genre: YA dystopian Series: Black & White Series #: 2 of 3
Release date: 11th February 2019
Publisher: Superstar Peanut Publishing
Wellesbury Noon and Ezmerelda Dontible have found themselves in a position where they can make their native land somewhere that lives up to its name: Harmonia. However, they’re setting their sights further afield for their number one task: eradicating the disease that has plagued the neighbouring country of Loretania for generations and allowed the privileged Harmonians to live in a sterile environment.

After dispatching a team of scientists to Loretania, armed with cratefuls of an antidote and vaccine and headed up by their friend, Dr George Tindleson, Welles, Ez, and Welles’s brother Mal – who grew up in that benighted nation – start to worry when they hear nothing back, despite what they had agreed. Commandeering a fishing boat to follow the science team over the sea, they soon find that, while the disease may be on the way out, a new kind of infection has set in – the corruption they thought they had stamped out in Harmonia.

Can they get to the root of the problem and eliminate it before even more damage is done to an innocent people?

*** Warning – this book contains themes that some sensitive readers may find upsetting. ***
Purchase Links:
Meet the author:
Nick Wilford is a writer and stay-at-home dad. Once a journalist, he now makes use of those early morning times when the house is quiet to explore the realms of fiction, with a little freelance editing and formatting thrown in. When not working he can usually be found spending time with his family or cleaning something. He has four short stories published in Writer’s Muse magazine. Nick is also the editor of Overcoming Adversity: An Anthology for Andrew. Visit him at his blog or connect with him on Twitter, GoodreadsFacebook, or Amazon.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

IWSG: February 2019

The year is already zipping along. The first Wednesday of the month mean IWSG, the monthly bloghop and brainchild of Alex J. Cavanaugh. Please share your questions, failures, victories, and inspirations with the group. Find the entire list here.

The optional question for hop participants this month: Besides writing, what other creative outlets do you have?

Not as many as I used to. LOL. Time being a factor. I love cross-stitch and have done some pretty nice projects with it, if I do say so myself. I also love to crochet and I love to bake and try new recipes. I don't do much of the latter anymore. With my kids all grown up, baking is a very bad idea for my husband and me. It's only us to eat those goodies. I have no one to crochet a blanket for either though my granddaughter is getting one as soon as she's old enough to pick her colors.

Hope you all didn't suffer too much in the recent deep freeze. It was really miserable. I'm dreading the electric bill which will probably be posted today or tomorrow. Could be a record for us. It's warmer than average now, but who knows what is on the horizon.

"A fair day in winter is the mother of a storm." English proverb

I've been reading a lot of statistics about publishing and how writers are faring in this ever more competitive field. Lots of numbers show that authors are making a lot less in the past year than they made a few years ago. Over-saturation of the market is one of factors most often cited. At a recent one-day workshop I attended, the presenter shared that 730 new romance novels are published every day. Wow! Romance readers are voracious, but those numbers are still unnerving. How does one get found by new readers?

Working on a new book and trying to keep my 1,000 words per day going like I have for the last four books I wrote. It took me a lot of years to figure out a process that works for me.

I'm enjoying the new FOX show, The Passage. It's a lot like the books, and the differences are working. It's getting the creep factor right. Another show I'm looking forward to in 2019 is the return to The 100, a CW show that gets better every year. Also, I heard this season of SYFY's Killjoys will be its last. This is a fun show if you haven't tried it before. In case you believe I only watch science fiction and fantasy show, I am really enjoying the new CBS show, FBI.

Saw on the news today that Pennsylvania's new budget is once again not increasing the funding to public libraries. What are they thinking. It's one of those things I'm glad to pay taxes to support. Hope your home states or countries do better than mine. On the other hand, my local county has found more monies for libraries. I can't express how important libraries are and how much I love my local one.

Stay warm, friends, and keep on reading and writing. Do you have many creative outlets? Do you love your local library? Did the polar vortex get you? Any TV keeping your warm this winter?

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

#Author Toolbox Bloghop Jan2019

I'm so excited to read a lot of great posts this week. This is my first time joining the Author Toolbox Bloghop. Much thanks to Raimey Gallant for hosting and organizing it.

I've been published by a small press for almost twelve years now. Much has changed since I first started writing. Back at the beginning, I was lucky enough to find a local chapter of RWA who holds monthly meetings. I learned tons about formatting, query letters, synopsis, and all those other things we have to learn that aren't writing the current WIP but that we need to do.

Eager for information that would help me get published, every year I would buy the latest version of Writer's Digest thick book of agents and publishers. It was also at that time that everything had to submitted by snail mail in hard copy to any of the Big Publishers. I wasn't published and had no budget. I look back at the records I kept then and am horrified at how much I spent on postage. I also remember the hours I spent perusing that Writer's Digest guide. I spent money every month buying writing magazines. Looking for the secret to breaking into the business. I had two shelves in my office filled with writing books.

I'm not sure I'm wiser now, and the industry has really changed. Submissions are digital. The savings in postage, paper, ink as well as avoiding the very slow local post office make me very happy. No reason to buy that thick Writers Digest Guide to Editors and Agents. All that information is online. The information I read all those magazines for is now free online. The Write Life website recently posted their annual list of 100 Best Writing Websites: 2019.

The Writer's Digest magazine still tempts me with special offers and I take them up on it now and then. One of the best issues they put out is their version of 100 best websites for writers. Again, everything we writers need is online and most of it is free.

Looking back, I know I was using reading those writing books and magazines was a form of procrastination for me. I still have a lot to learn and hopefully will continue learning throughout my writing career, but I know the most important thing I can do with my time is write. I've also learned that there is no secret hidden in those books. It's all about hard work and persistence.

"Luck is not chance, it's toil; fortune's expensive smile is earned." Emily Dickinson

Do you remember the days of snail mail submissions? Do you still purchase writing magazines or writing books? Thanks, everyone, for welcoming me to your group.