Wednesday, April 17, 2019

#AuthorToolboxBlogHop: April 2019

The Author Toolbox Bloghop is a monthly blogging community led by Raimey Gallant. Join us and share our expertise on the challenging career of being a writer. Find the entire list and sign up here.

So many people are thinking about Game of Thrones this week. Well, for months perhaps. I'm sure social media will be awash in recaps, theories, celebrations, and complaints about what happens in this final season.

I thought it would be appropriate to share some George R.R. Martin writing wisdom for this month's post. Here is one of many articles that delve into the mind behind the mega-hit series.

I'm a big fan of large, sprawling fantasy worlds as created by Martin and Brandon Sanderson. Unlike older fantasy novels such as Tolkien's Lord of the Rings where the bad guys were bad and the good guys were good, Martin's characters are much more complex. Sometimes they do bad things for selfish reasons but sometimes they do bad things when they're trying to do the right thing. Except for the Night King and the walking dead, all the characters believe they're acting within their rights and that their side is the right side. Martin's characters suffer and act out because of that suffering. Complexity keeps the fans reading and watching.

The other big advice I agree with from George is write what you know. He's not talking about facts, though he's a big fan of research, he's talking about emotions. When you're writing about something sad, find those sad memories in your own heart. We all have them. Is one of your characters joyful or thrilled about something? Can you remember such a moment in your own life? The birth of a child or perhaps when you won an award. Emotion isn't always easy to get on the page. Delve inside yourself to find the right words to convey the feelings your characters are experiencing.

Some things that George RR Martin can't teach us? How to write fast! LOL How many fans will finish reading the book series if they're not satisfied with how the TV series ends?

Do you feel like your characters are complex enough? Do you make yourself cry when you're writing an emotional scene?  What is the longest it has taken you to complete a writing project?

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

IWSG: April 2019

The first Wednesday of the month means time for the monthly bloghop of IWSG members. Thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh and all the wonderful administrators of the group, we have this safe place to share concerns, victories, and ask questions. Find the entire list of participants here.

This month's optional question:

If you could use a wish to help you write just one scene/chapter of your book, which one would it be?

I thought I didn't have an answer to this question, but then I realized I would like that magic wish for the first chapter in the new epic fantasy series. I'm only in the world-building/plotting stage so far, but we all know how important that first chapter is when we start to query. I'm going to try all the big traditional publishing houses again.

In place of wishes, I'm still working hard on the next book in my Generation Ship series. I'm nearly at the end.

"You can't wait for inspiration. Sometimes you have to go after it with a club." Jack London

How exciting is this month in entertainment? End Game from the Avengers, the final season of Game of Thrones, and the return of my favorite TV show, The 100. It seems like there is a new trailer from Thrones or Marvel every few days. It is so exciting.

I finally watched Aquaman last weekend. It was really entertaining and more fun than any of the previous DC movies. I'm looking forward to Shazam coming up this month, too.

The announcement that Supernatural will end after next season was bittersweet. I feel like the show has been at its best the last two years, but I'm glad they're going out before they lose their mojo. I have to wonder about the ending. Can it make sense for the main characters to get out of it alive?

I caught up to The Expanse on Amazon recently and really enjoyed it. Has anyone read the books? Are they good? Though my TBR shelf is sagging under the weight of all the books awaiting my attention.

Factoid from The Old Farmer's Almanac:
On this day in 1860, the Pony Express began postal service.

Do you have a special writing wish? Is 2019 a great year for entertainment or what? Have any predictions on who will survive End Game of GoT season 8? Do you think mail delivery has improved since the Pony Express?

Monday, April 1, 2019

It's A Person Thing, Sandra M. Bush

Please welcome, my good friend, author Sandy Bush. Sandy is as much fun in person as she is in her writing. 

It’s A Person Thing
By Sandy Bush

For Christmas, I bought myself a new computer. My old one, an Apple Mac Book, circa 2008 ran slower with each passing day. decided to make the switch to the dark side and buy something using Windows 10. Best Buy helped me with my purchase, talked my husband and I into the extra year of unlimited support from the Geek Squad, and transferred the stuff from my Mac to my new Lenovo Yoga.

When I picked up my computer, during the busy Christmas season, the store was crowded, and the line to speak with the Geek Squad twisted all the way to the greeter desk at the front of the store. The young man (i.e. kid) who completed our transaction, rapidly ran through the basics of operating my new computer. Confident I could manage and figure it out, we left after a few minutes, relieved to know the Geek Squad could rescue me whenever I needed help.

Christmas chaos left little time for learning to operate my new computer. I loved it, but it was a different operating system than I was used to. Even simple tasks required me to rethink everything. Frustrated and challenged, I wanted to figure things out on my own.

Fast forward to March, and I continued to putz and putter on my new machine. I grew more anxious, having made little progress. A few times I called the Geek Squad 800 number for help, and they did. They remoted into my machine and helped me access my photos—oddly in a billion small folders—and explained how to navigate through a few problems. But they’re busy people. They’ve got tons of other baby boomers to talk off the ledge.

After three months, I admitted I needed professional help and booked an appointment at the store with the Geek Squad. I arrived armed with my list of questions for the man- child who assisted me. He barely looked old enough to drive or shave and radiated an aura of boredom and disgust. For about twenty minutes, Geek Squad Boy begrudgingly helped me, anxious to be rid of me and my middle-aged questions. He lectured and shamed me to overcome my fears.

 “You can’t be afraid to use it. There isn’t anything you can do that we can’t help you fix, unless you drop it…” During his rant, I made eye contact with an elderly woman who waited in line for help. She smiled at me, understanding my embarrassment.

“Honestly, I think it’s a generational thing,” I said.

“No,” said the boy computer guru, “It’s a person thing.”

I felt my face grow red. I glanced over at my new friend in line. “I agree with her,” she said.

I zipped up my computer case and walked away, smiling and giving a silent thumbs up to the lady who’d come to my rescue. Maybe it is a person thing.

A graduate of The Pennsylvania State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications, Arts and Sciences and a Minor in English, Sandy has a background in Federal, State and County Government.
Her first novel, Money Man was published January 2018 (Year of the Book Press). She has published articles in the Pennsylvania School Board Association’s magazine The Bulletin, online magazine Keystone Edge, and has worked in advertising, and museum script writing (Oil Heritage Museum, Titusville, PA).

Sandy, a freelance writer, is completing her second novel. She is serving her second term on the Pennwriters Board of Directors as the Area 5 Representative. She and her husband Todd are the parents of two daughters and one grumpy cat.  
Can you empathize with Sandy's visit to the Geek squad? Do you think we approach tech in certain ways because of who we are or what generation we are?

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.