Novel Writer’s Playlists

I cannot write in silence!

A quiet work environment causes my brain to send out little stimuli-seeking tentacles that grasp at any, and every, other noise in the world. Once I’m distracted by the guy with the leaf blower, the birds, the plane flying overhead, the lady walking the corgi and my own dogs shifting their position (noisily, I might add!) on the hardwood floor I’m far too distracted to write.

I’ve found that a well planned playlist keeps me in the “zone”. I set up a playlist for each of my projects and listen to them while writing. Each of the songs I add to my playlist helps me set a tone, be absorbed by my character’s world, or dwell on an emotion that’s crucial for the story I’m trying to write. Sometimes my novels, or some aspect of them, are actually inspired by a song.

For my novel A SHINE THAT DEFIES THE DARK my musical inspiration & playlist go back several years to a trip my husband and I took to New Orleans. After dinner one night we asked the waitress for a recommendation on one thing we should do while in the French Quarter. She told us about Preservation Hall, a small venue on a cross street. “You probably won’t even see the sign. You’ll just see people standing against a building. Get in line behind them.” And so we did. And it was one of the most amazing live shows I’ve ever seen. It was a small place, standing room only, hot and humid and amazing! After the show (we stayed for all three sets) I bought a CD and set it aside, knowing I’d want that someday.  I used several of the songs on that disc for my playlist.

I also discovered a band called The Civil Wars. Several of their songs are very raw and gritty and had the perfect emotion for a character I was creating: one who was making very wrong decisions, but for the right reasons. Here is the link to Devil’s Backbone by The Civil Wars, which ended up being my “theme song” as I wrote.

A SHINE THAT DEFIES THE DARK is set in 1930 in southern Louisiana. If you’d like to listen to the playlist I shared it to spotify:” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>My playlist for A SHINE THAT DEFIES THE DARK (releasing Winter 2017 from Changing Tides Publishing).



When Life Interrupts the Creative Process

The thing about writing is that there’s a delicate, gossamer thread that’s ever so lightly attached between your creative mind and the ear-shattering, turbulent chaos of your everyday life. And sometimes it snaps.

Too dramatic? Maybe. 

I’ve spent the last few weeks being consumed by the demands of my “real” life (aka- my nonwriting world). My job typically requires 50-60 hours per week. I enjoy spending some time with my husband & kids. We’ve had two wonderful weddings in our families this month. I had a four day business trip out of state. Each day I thought I was just about caught up and I earmarked specific days (or even hours) to work on my revisions. And each day the “needs” prevented me from doing the “wants” (aka- the “yearnings” or “desires”). None of these interruptions in my plans were things that could be rescheduled or reallocated. They were great big, mind-blowing things where you stand back, scratching your head and wondering, “how the hell did that happen?” Or, more accurately, “What the hell just happened?”

For example: 27 hours before I was due to board a plane for Albuquerque, I was alerted that there was an accident on the interstate that the rear of my property overlooks. The accident sparked a fire, which was moving up the hill to our neighborhood. We were lucky in that we lost nothing more than a fence, several trees and some sprinklers, but once again, my entire schedule was thrown out to deal with this new issue. When I finally carved out time (two days later) to work on my revisions I found that I’d lost every bit of momentum I’d gained. I stared at the screen and couldn’t make a single word of progress.

So, what do you do when those real life stressors impact your ability to put words to paper–or even move words about on the paper? Sometimes, no matter what you try you just can’t force it. It could be that you need to step back and give yourself permission to deal with the things that are causing you stress–and causing the block in your creative flow. Do things that will help you relax–not those that cause additional stress. Reading, warm baths, going for walks, long drives are all activities that can help you expel some of the tension that’s invaded your body and mind. I actually find it completely relaxing to binge on mindless television viewing when I get severely overwhelmed. After several hours of not having to think, I find I’m completely recharged and my mind has shifted to another–more productive–gear. 

No matter what is happening in your personal life, don’t let your writing become another stressor. It isn’t something you have to do every day. Give yourself a few days–or weeks–to sort out the things that are impeding your creative flow. But you do have to make the vow to get back to your writing at some point. Set a limit for yourself. Revisit your writing every few days, maybe the words won’t come, but by reading it you’ll stay involved with your project. Even if you can’t write, allow yourself to think about your characters and storyline. Listen to the conversations they have with each other while you’re gone, imagine what they’ve been up to. You might just find yourself more deeply aware of the subtleties of your novel even though you’re not writing it.

As a matter of full disclosure: I started this post 2 weeks ago and then…well, life. Again! 

Reveal: The Witchbreed Series by R.L. Martinez

In the Blood & Beneath the Skin
R.L. Martinez
(The Witchbreed Series #1 & 2)
Published by: Lakewater Press
Genres: Adult, Fantasy

The WITCHBREED series is a rich fantasy set in a time when magic is feared by most but harnessed by the ruthless. It follows the story of twin sisters, one witch one warrior, separated by war, but whom have a bond so powerful they will do whatever it takes to keep one another alive.

Goodreads / Amazon

Author Bio:

Being a stay-at-home mom is probably the hardest job Robin’s ever had (and that’s after working at places like Goodwill, MCL Cafeteria, and Captain D’s). Her house is never clean! No matter how many dishes she does or toys she picks up, her two little ones come right behind her and make a whole new mess. Anyway, this is the first time she hasn’t had some sort of job outside the home since she was fifteen. Kinda scary!
Now that her kids have both started all-day school, she can fling herself into the stories that constantly swirl inside her head. One of the main reasons she writes is to read books that she wishes other people were writing. She lives in Oklahoma with her husband, two small sons, two naughty canines, and a mouse-killing cat.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter


Book Release: Organic by Jadah McCoy


Jadah McCoy’s ORGANIC, pitched as Bladerunner meets Pitch Black, in which 18-year-old Syl has barely survived the genetic splicing that plagued her human body. After discovering the androids’ plot to wipe out human and Cull alike, Syl must return to Elite to warn the other survivors. However, with the realization that her group of survivors isn’t the only one, also comes the realization that some humans are just as bad as androids. Bastion and Syl grow closer, however, their relationship suffers under the weight of her past ghosts and a growing threat that endangers human and android alike.






Breathing is a habit. The oxygen filters into my system, fizzles through my circuits then dissipates to nothingness. This new body is alien; it feels like my own, but I know it’s not. My eyes fall on the hole in front of me―the giant chunk of concrete ripped from the ground where the entrance to the Sanctuary used to be.

The music in my ear stutters to a stop, and the gun in my hand hangs limp.

We’re too late.

Bastion kneels beside me, leaning against his weapon as he studies the torn roots and claw marks that score the earth. His coattails catch in the dry dirt beneath him. He looks up, blue eyes lit with mechanical brightness. “I take it this isn’t the work of the Cull you’re used to?”

I step closer, peering into the hole. It’s probably fifteen feet in diameter. Gashes scar the walls all the way down until the tunnel opens up at the sewers. No sound comes from within―no sign that anyone inside might still be alive.

A frown pulls my lips down. “No.”

“Syl.” Bastion stands, prepared to stop me.

Ignoring him, I step off the uneven ledge. My body falls through the air, landing with a small splash in the sewers below. A fall at that height would have broken my human body’s legs, but the metal frame absorbs the impact and then some. I take off, running full speed in the direction of the Sanctuary. These muscles, they never grow weak, or tired, or burn with exhaustion. Bastion catches up quickly, his footsteps shadowing mine. Darkness isn’t an obstacle for us; we can see through it as if it were daylight.

The metal bars, the same ones I slipped through so long ago to escape this place, are bent open. I step over one that now lies placidly in the mildewed water. The others look like an old man’s teeth―jagged, uneven, broken.

But beyond the destroyed entrance…

I freeze, my body refusing to move any farther. Chicken feathers litter the area, dingy and bloodstained. Beneath them lie the bodies of people I grew up with. People I know. People I care about. Static fills my ears like a thick layer of cotton.

Symbols hover over a corpse, simulated by my brain―cortex―whatever it is. They shimmer and flicker before translating into letters: deceased. The word populates again and again, a dozen times, once for each body, and I choke.


For more information on Organic, or to buy your copy visit Goodreads & Amazon

You can visit Jadah McCoy’s Facebook page and follow her on Twitter. You can also join the FB release party


Jadah McCoy currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee where she works as a paralegal. In her spare time she can be found traveling the world, reading, or (surprise, surprise) writing. The last book in the Kepler Chronicles trilogy is due for publication in 2018.

Book Review: The Canary Club by Sherry D. Ficklin



Expected publication: October 16th 2017 by Clean Teen Publishing
1634222504 (ISBN13: 9781634222501)
Edition Language






*I received a copy of The Canary Club in exchange for an honest review.*

I’ve had the pleasure of reading each of The Canary Club novellas while waiting for the release of this novel. I loved each of them and really felt like I got to know the characters, but each novella was leading up to something bigger…this novel!

Masie is the golden girl daughter of a mobster. Benny is just trying to get by and do whatever it takes to help his family. Each of them are pawns in the fight for power that has gripped the city, and tossed Masie’s family into chaos.

With rival gangsters, Prohibition agents, and even a murderer in the mix, Masie and Benny may be pulled apart just as they’ve found each other.

I can’t tell you how much I love this novel. Sherry Ficklin has done an amazing job of fully immersing readers in the time period. The music, the clothes, & the dialogue: everything seems so authentic to the period. The excitement of the jazz age just jumps from the pages. The Canary Club is equal part sweet romance and gritty gangster-era drama.

The characters are unique and interesting and I found myself rooting for (almost) every one of them. I finished the book wanting more and I hope there are sequels in the works, because I need to know what happens to them all.


You can preorder The Canary Club from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Google Play & other book vendors

Book Review: Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts







Hardcover, 352 pages

Expected publication: May 30th 2017 by Disney-Hyperion

1484767659 (ISBN13: 9781484767658)
Edition Language






I requested a copy of ROYAL BASTARDS from NetGalley after the cover caught my eye.
I’m a fan of light fantasy and heavy battles, so I hoped this would be the kind of book I usually enjoy, but I was cautiously optimistic because it’s so hard to find the kind of fantasy novels that I really enjoy. And then…

I freaking loved this book! This is the kind of fantasy novel I’ve been craving lately.  I was hooked from the beginning.

First, I love the title. It’s edgy, spot on and clearly defines the primary characters. Tilla, Jax, Miles and Zell are all the bastard children of powerful rulers. As bastards they exist on the periphery of their parent’s powerful circles: neither fully included, nor fully removed from the Lords and their “legitimate” families.

Then, during a dinner to honor the visiting Princess Lyriana, the princess does the unimaginable: she opts to be seated at the Bastard’s table in the back of the hall with Tilla and her fellow bastards. In the dark of the night they find themselves leading the Princess through the underground tunnels so that she can dip her toes in the sea. Instead they witness a heinous crime, perpetuated by Tilla’s father and Miles’s mother, that is certain to lead to civil war. Worse still, they’ve all been seen, and now they are on the run for their lives.

ROYAL BASTARDS is a fun adventure story. It has intrigue, excitement and humor. I loved the modern humor and voice set against a very antiquated type of society. This book was a fast and exciting read and I’m hoping there is a sequel (it’s definitely set up for one). My only complaint is that I haven’t been able to get my book club to read it yet, as it isn’t available until 5/30/17!


You can order ROYAL BASTARDS from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, Google Play & other book sellers.

I’m sharing the following only because I truly loved this book:

ROYAL BASTARDS Advanced Coverage:

Entertainment Weekly’s “35 Most Anticipated YA Novels of 2017”

 Goodreads “Most Popular Books Published In May 2017”

Bustle’s “The Most Anticipated Young Adult Debuts of 2017—From February to June”

Brightly’s “17 of the Most Exciting YA Books to Read in 2017”

Culturess’s “12 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books We Can’t Wait to Read in 2017”

B&N Teen Blog’s “Your 2017 2017 YA Pre-Order Guide”

 “This is one of those rare books that had me laughing and crying within a paragraph.”

—Cinda Williams Chima, New York Times bestselling author of the Seven Realms series

 “We cannot wait for this high-stakes, edge of your seat fantasy.”


“Adventure-loving fantasy readers will eat it up.”

Kirkus Reviews

First in a planned series, Shvarts’s action-packed debut champions diversity, counsels perseverance,

and highlights the human cost of war.”

Publishers Weekly


Mother’s Day 2017

Happy-Mothers-Day  Happy Mother’s Day to all the ladies out there who answer to the name “Mom” (also “Mommy”, “Momma”, “Ma”, and sometimes, “Worst Mom EVER!!!!”).

For all of you who have stumbled from the warm cocoon of your blankets at all hours of the night to chase away bad dreams, feed hungry babies, change the wet, clean vomit and to administer a cuddle because a small voice called out in the middle of the night to request it, Happy Mother’s Day.

For all of you who’ve ever spent hours pureeing fresh vegetables (even those of use who gave up that dream rather quickly!), baking birthday cakes, making halloween costumes, experimenting (and, maybe, failing) with Pinterest projects, and slaving over school b6fa1b1bf93319761fb4b557c7e88993projects with a day’s notice, Happy Mother’s Day.

For all of you who have handed over your soda on a hot day because your child spilled theirs, who eat cold food because you make sure everyone else has been served first, who’s “tv time” involves folding laundry, and who haven’t had an uninterrupted trip to the bathroom in years (maybe even a decade!), Happy Mother’s Day.

For all of you who are rocking this motherhood thing, and those who struggle, but keep at it because you know how important it is in the long run–for your kids and yourself–, Happy Mother’s Day.

And for those who have lost, and those who have craved or dream of motherhood, and those who care for others in mothering ways, Happy Mother’s Day.


Cover Reveal: The Canary Club by Sherry D. Ficklin

The Canary Club
Sherry D. Ficklin
Published by: Clean Teen Publishing
Publication date: October 16th 2017
Genres: Historical, Young Adult

“Bad Luck” Benny is a boy from the wrong side of the tracks. Recently released from jail, he has vowed to keep his head down and stay out of trouble. But he also needs to care for his ailing sister and the rest of his struggling family, and he’ll do anything to make that happen—even if it means taking a position with a notorious crime boss. He soon finds himself in over his head—and worse still—falling for the one dame on earth he should be staying away from.

Masie is the daughter of a wealthy gangster with the voice of an angel and gun smoke in her veins. Strong-willed but trapped in a life she never wanted, she dreams of flying free from the politics and manipulation of her father. A pawn in her family’s fight for control of the city, and with a killer hot on her heels, she turns to the one person who just might be able to spring her from her gilded cage. But Masie is no angel, and her own dark secrets may come back to burn them both.

Two worlds collide in this compelling story of star-crossed lovers in gritty prohibition-era New York.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble


Author Bio:

Sherry D. Ficklin is a full time writer from Colorado where she lives with her husband, four kids, two dogs, and a fluctuating number of chickens and house guests. A former military brat, she loves to travel and meet new people. She can often be found browsing her local bookstore with a large white hot chocolate in one hand and a towering stack of books in the other. That is, unless she’s on deadline at which time she, like the Loch Ness monster, is only seen in blurry photographs.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter



When It’s Okay to Not Write

Every writer has hit some sort of a writing slump. Maybe you’ve lost your momentum, your excitement for a project, or maybe you just don’t know how to progress or where your story is going.

There is no limit to the number of tips and articles to help you get past a period of writer’s block. While many of them are very helpful there is also something to be said for putting your project aside for a while.

On each of my novels (including my current WIP) I’ve gone through a period when I’ve put the project aside for several weeks to several months. Sometimes I began another project or worked on editing another. Most of the time though, I used those breaks to really think about my novel. I reviewed my character’s background stories, motivations, I imagine interactions they might have with each other and with strangers. Sometimes I let dialogues be carried out in my head. I even planned a birthday party for a character during one of my writing breaks.

But as “unproductive” as each of those breaks has been something miraculous happened during each one: I discovered a mind-blowing plot twist or element that I hadn’t considered before. And each one of those revelations led me to a renewed and productive writing period.

For my YA medieval I discovered that an integral character would die (okay…there were two beloved characters who died and both came from a similar non-writing period). I also realized that a minor character, one who seemed to have pulled along by the devious plot of another, is actually quite strong and manipulative in her own right. She’s actually been the driving force of a major plot and is about to become the main character’s most formidable opponent. Until I set aside my writing I’d only ever recognized her as a mousy, subservient pawn in the game that was being played.

For my YA bootleggers story I solved two problems through a writing sabbatical: how to bring my character’s best friend back into the story line and whether a main character was going to die (yes, I do spend a lot of my non-writing time determining the death toll of my books).

My current WIP (a YA martial arts fantasy) is still very much in the early stages, but I’ve already taken a break from it to discover that someone I least expected is going to become the new Oracle. There is one potential death pending, but I haven’t gotten a divine answer on that one yet.

I’m not suggesting it’s ideal to stop writing entirely. Sometimes working on another project can push your current one from your mind, making it more difficult to resolve that which was preventing your progress. Taking a break and using the down time to ruminate on your project (or obsess without writing) can open up answers that you’d never imagine when sitting at the keyboard forcing the story onto the page.

Book Review: ARES ROAD by James L. Weaver

It is rare that I read (and review!) a book so soon after it’s released. However…I had just finished book 1 in the series and I was on a mob/crime book roll. Also, this is a pretty catchy series, I am definitely a fan of Jake Caldwell books now. So here it is…








Publisher:Lakewater Press

Publication date:03/02/2017

Series:Jake Caldwell, #2




“A teenaged girl screaming down a dead man’s cell…it’s Monday for Jake Caldwell.”

I mentioned when I reviewed POOR BOY ROAD (book 1 in this series) that I have a life-long obsession with all things mob related & am frequently disappointed in crime related books. That is even more often the case where sequels are involved. ARES ROAD, however did NOT let me down.
Jake Caldwell (former mob enforcer) is now trying to make his way on the right side of the law. He’s learning the PI business with the help of ex-cop Logan and they are hunting down a stolen briefcase. But that search has turned up a dead man and a girl screaming on the end of his cell phone. Jake is pulled into a deadly ring of bad dudes (Russian & Middle Eastern mob-types), crooked politicians, an FBI agent with her own secrets and crooked cops. And behind it all, his former mob boss still lingers.


ARES ROAD is another fast-paced thriller that was just as exciting as its predecessor. And now I can’t wait for the next book in the series.

You can purchase ARES ROAD at the following places: Barnes & Noble


Book Blitz: ARES ROAD by James L.

Ares Road
James L. Weaver
(Jake Caldwell, #2)
Published by: Lakewater Press
Publication date: March 2nd 2017
Genres: Adult, Thriller

With his days as a mob enforcer behind him, Jake Caldwell’s trying to go straight.

But it seems his past won’t let him go.

His first job working as a private investigator turns up a teenage girl screaming down a dead man’s cell phone, and Logan, his mentor and the only man with answers, beaten into a coma.

Now Jake’s taking it personally.

The only clues Jake has to unravel the mystery are a Russian with a stolen, silver briefcase and three names: Snell, Parley and Ares. Teaming up with his best friend Bear, the Sheriff of his home town, and an attractive FBI agent, Jake quickly discovers they’re not the only ones looking for the briefcase and its deadly contents.

It’s no longer about seeking revenge.

The thrilling second book in the Jake Caldwell series is a heart-stopping ride that won’t disappoint fans.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble


“How do you know, Mr. Logan?” a uniformed cop named Murphy asked Jake while a couple of young paramedics tended to Logan. Murphy had a low forehead and wide-set eyes, and spoke like he’d been dropped on his head multiple times as a child.

“We work together.”

“You a PI, too?”

“Sort of. I was learning the ropes from Jack. Don’t have a license yet.”

Murphy jotted in a notebook. Paramedics wheeled Logan out of the office on a stretcher, and Jake wondered how they would get him down those three flights of narrow stairs. A rail-thin, black detective with a shaved head and a cheap, tan suit slipped into the room. His polar opposite partner squeezed through the door, red faced with beads of sweat rolling down his jowls from the three-flight climb. The fat one was as tall as he was wide and waddled into Logan’s office. The bald one talked to Murphy, took some notes, and turned to Jake.

“I’m Detective Ogio. You know Jack Logan long, Mr. Caldwell?”

“Three years,” Jake answered. “We were supposed to meet tonight.”

“To do what?”

The detective waited with raised eyebrows for an answer. Ogio’s acorn eyes were hooded, giving him a sleepy look, but there was light there. The guy wasn’t stupid. He was suspicious of Jake, which pissed him off because he’d given them no reason to be suspicious. Plus, Jake couldn’t tell the cop the truth because it would start a whole line of questions he didn’t want to answer. He had to stonewall them.

“We were going out to dinner,” Jake lied.


“Does it matter?”

“It does if I’m asking the question.”

“I didn’t do this,” Jake said.

“I didn’t say you did. You’re a big guy, though. Six two and what…two hundred twenty pounds?”

“Six three, two thirty. Like that matters. Why would I beat the shit out of him and then call you guys?”

“Like I said, I didn’t say you did. Why are you getting defensive?”

“You think I’m being defensive?” Jake asked.

Ogio’s head ticked to the side. “A little.”

“I’m worried, that’s all. My buddy just got his ass kicked.”

“What were you guys working on?”

Jake shifted, tired of answering these banal questions.

“We were between jobs.”

“Must make it tough to learn the ropes.”

“What ropes?”

Ogio’s thin lips pressed together. “The ones Officer Murphy said you were learning from Mr. Logan.”

“A bit. We done here? I want to go to the hospital.”

“Why do you think Mr. Logan’s office was trashed?”

“Somebody was looking for something.” Jake hoped the detective caught his sarcasm. He laid it on pretty thick.

“You think? Maybe you should be a detective.”

“Maybe you should too.”

Ogio grinned. He clearly had a good nature. “He say anything to you about anyone being after him?”

“He said he did a lot of divorce cases. Maybe someone looked for photos of their cheating wife.”

“Always possible,” the detective said. He handed Jake his card—Thomas Ogio.

“Where are they taking Logan?”

“Truman Medical Center,” Ogio answered, flipping his notebook shut. “You got my number. Call me if you think of anything else. Stay reachable.”

Ogio headed toward Logan’s office to join his partner. Jake strode out the door, down the steps, and out into the early March evening. He stood on the sidewalk wondering what to do. Did Logan meet with his contact that would lead them to Voleski? Did the contact do this to him? Was this about another case? Somebody wanted something up there and it wasn’t divorce photos. What did Logan say? The less you know on this one, the better.

Jake rubbed his hand over the day’s growth on his face. The one person who could answer his questions and give him a direction to go was Logan. Jake jumped in his truck and headed toward Truman Medical Center.


Author Bio:

James L Weaver is the Kansas City author of the Jake Caldwell series featuring IAN Thriller of the Year finalist Poor Boy Road and soon to be released Ares Road from Lakewater Press. He makes his home in Olathe, Kansas with his wife of 19 years and two children. His previous publishing credits include a six part story called “The Nuts” and his 5-star rated debut novel Jack & Diane which is available on Author note: a handful of the raters are actually not related to him.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter



a Rafflecopter giveaway


Book Review: POOR BOY ROAD (Jake Caldwell Book 1)


I have a life-long obsession with all things mob related and am often disappointed with the books that purport to have mob-related characters or story lines. POOR BOY ROAD was not a disappointment. I was hooked from the first paragraph.

Jake Caldwell is an enforcer for the mob. Now he’s heading home where the abusive father he escaped from years ago is dying. He is also on deadline, his boss has given him a way out of the “business” only it involves taking his bone-breaking work to the next level: murder.

Jake’s new life and the old collide as he faces family obligations, old friends, a rekindled love, and the ticking clock of a murderous and unforgiving boss.

POOR BOY ROAD is a fast-paced thriller that was hard to put down. It is well written with realistic characters and dialogue. My interest never waned and I really cared about the characters. This is a story that could be happening in any town right now, which makes it even more realistic. I can’t wait for the next book in the series.

Available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Kindle Edition, 272 pages
Published March 21st 2016 by Lakewater Press
Edition Language

Online Writing Contests: To Join or Not to Join?

There are no limits to the number and types of writing competitions you can join online. You can submit a 35-word pitch or submit a longer manuscript for a more in-depth contest. The goal of the contests is the same: to get your manuscript before an agent/publisher who will (fingers crossed!) love it.

In the past several years I’ve taken part in my fair share of writing contests. My contest experiences have been varied as my results. While I’ve heard of a number of authors finding their agent/publisher through contests I haven’t been so lucky (…yet!). I have entered pitch contests and more involved ones with varying results. I’ve had my manuscripts selected to go on to the agent round, I’ve been selected as a team member, an alternate and I’ve also been completely left out of the running. I’ve had several partial requests, some full requests and (*gulp*) zero responses during the agent/editor/publisher rounds.

While the constant highs and lows of entering contests can sometimes make you doubt yourself and your work it’s important to realize what you are winning with every entry.

First–and most important in my humble opinion–is the support structure that you’re establishing each time you enter an online writing contest. You aren’t alone in your endeavors and dreams. A simple Twitter search for any contest will show you the number of people who are in the same position as you. The conversations that take place, messages of hope, support, guidance and empathy go on all day long. The writers who enter will often follow each other and end up with enduring online support systems. There are a  number of people who I’m still in contact with that I met because we’d all entered the same contest (or contests!) and struck up conversations. We continue to beta-read for each other, offer query critiques, pitch critiques, and even opening critiques. Most important we are there for each other when one is feeling frustrated or when someone has exciting news to share. I’ve also made some lasting connections with people who have mentored me and my novel during contests.

Second, the feedback and help that you get is amazing. There are a number of “pop-up” pitch workshops in which contestants–and writers who just want to help–review each others pitches to make them stronger. There’s no shortage in the number of people who will put out an offer to help by reviewing your pitch, opening lines, query letter, etc. The online writing community is such a supportive one and those who have been helped often give back by helping others.As an alternate for one contest I was given a ridiculous amount of editing feedback/guidance. There is no way my manuscript would be as strong as it is now without that help.

Finally, you get an idea of your own determination and how much you can endure in order to meet your goal. Can you accept rejection, and use it to better your craft or fuel you further, so that you can continue this journey?

I’m not saying you should enter every contest. There are times when you’re not in a good emotional or creative place because of the number of disappointments we face as writers. Those are the times when you should sit out and tend to your creative/emotional self. But do keep in mind all the ways that you can “win” even if you don’t win a contest.

Book Review: ALL THAT GLITTERS by Sherry Ficklin

“A dame with brains, moxie, and killer curves, June West isn’t your average flapper.”

ALL THAT GLITTERS is the second novelette in the Canary Club series. This time we are introduced to June, JDs gal and Maisie’s friend. 

I’ve been dying to know more about June since I first read about her in Maisie’s story (GILDED CAGE). She’s confident, sassy, and everything I’ve imagined the best flappers to be. But June has secret’s too. And one of those secrets may just cause her to lose the love–and the life–she was on the verge of finally realizing. 

ALL THAT GLITTERS is just as fun and flashy as the previous book. I just loved June’s story, I had never even imagined the depth of this character. She is well-developed and her back story is beautiful. I love her even more than I thought I did. The details are rich, vibrant and Sherry Ficklin has once again brought the 20’s to life. I am biting my nails & anxiously waiting for the next book in this series.

Dealing With Rejection

Writer’s are dreamers. Not only do we dream the stories that are bursting from our souls, demanding to be told, but we have more personal dreams. We want to share those stories with the world. In order to achieve that goal there are two things that we search for: an agent and a publisher (admittedly you can also self-publish, but for today I am imagining the traditional route to publishing).

Every writer knows that rejection is part of the dream. You can’t reach your goal if you don’t first write the books. You infuse every word and sentence structure with the very essence of your being. Then you meticulously research agents and publishers, sending your craft out to only those who have passed the most detailed research and with whom you feel you can trust to assume care of your blessed manuscript. And then you get the response: “…not right for my list.” The first rejection is fine. You expected it, right? You knew this was part of the journey, which is why you sent out several queries at once. But the next day you get another rejection. Followed–maybe only hours later–by another. And then another.

So, yes, we know that rejection is part of the journey. But some days those rejections start to sting. Some days “I just didn’t connect with it the way I’d hoped” begins to sound like, “I read it and…meh!” You’ll get frustrated. You might doubt yourself. You might doubt your novel. You may even cry (or just get something in your eyes/have allergies). It is important to remember that rejections really aren’t personal. Take some time out. Step away from the email for a few days. Refocus your energies until the sting dissipates and you are ready to get back to it. When your thoughts are clear consider a few things:

  • How many rejections have you really had? Enough to consider that there might be something that needs more work in your manuscript? Or are you still quite early in your submission process?
  • Is your manuscript really in good enough shape to be submitted?
  • Are you properly targeting your submissions? Have you researched the agents/publishers that you’ve submitted to and assured they are the best recipient of your query?

Sometimes you just have to swallow the bitter taste of rejection and keep at it. So far this year (28 days into January!) I have seven rejections (three came in one really horrible afternoon!) and have closed out three queries for no response. So, I do feel your pain. But I stepped away for a week, ate some ice cream, and now I’m moving on. Three more queries sent out. Push on, my writing friends…always push on.


Dear 2016, I Hate You. 

Dear 2016,   I was saddened, but not terribly surprised when you took Muhammad Ali, John Glenn, David Bowie, Antonin Scalia and Harper Lee. 

   If you’ll recall we had words when you took Abe Vigoda (not Tessio!!!!), Prince, Glen Frey and Anton Yelchin (who was just far, far too young). 

   I had stronger words when you took Alan Rickman. 

   But what you’ve done with Carrie Fisher is unforgivable. You dangled her right on the edge, taunted us and gave us hope before you ripped her away. And for that you will always be remembered as a cold, heartless bastard and I want you to know: your days are numbered, buddy!!!! And I will not recall you fondly. 

Aspiring Writers: Throwing in the Towel…Or Not

You’re having a great day, and then ding, your email alerts you to a new message. Another rejection!

You’re enthusiastic about a new contest. You’ve gotten a partial request followed by a full and have had some delightful email exchanges with one or more mentors. You can feel in your soul that you’ll be chosen; this was meant to be. You scan the list and…your name isn’t there.

The life of an aspiring writer is one that runs deep with disappointment and rejection. We go into it knowing this to be true. At some point we’ve decided that the risk of rejection is worth the joy of being able to pursue our passion. But some days the disappointment starts to sting. Some days the rejection hurts so deep that you might actually consider giving up writing all together.

It isn’t easy to get through the disappointing days–the truly painful days. But don’t be so quick to throw in the towel. Take a few days to deal with the emotions that you’re experiencing. You’re sad, or mad, and those feelings are completely valid. Let yourself feel them. Refocus your energies for a few days: read, binge on Netflix, eat unbearable amounts of ice cream.

Once the initial feelings have dulled take some time to really think about what your next step will be. After an honest evaluation of your manuscript, does it need more work? It’s important that you are sending out the best manuscript possible. If you haven’t already, send your manuscript out to some beta readers–not just friends and family, but other writers who will give you an honest assessment.

In some cases–especially with your first or second novel–a manuscript just isn’t ready, or right, for publication. Consider putting that novel away and starting a new project. With each novel you become more skilled and can incorporate new things that you’ve learned about the art of writing, story structure, plot and dialogue. Each successive novel will be stronger than your previous. Starting a new project can also kickstart your creative juices and reignite your passion for the craft.

Once the disappointment and doubt have faded you may find that you’re eager to get back into the trenches and start submitting again–maybe after another round of revisions. You may decide that submitting isn’t for you. Some people write simply for the joy that it brings them and never submit their work for publication. Whatever you decide remember that there is a passion inside you that drives you to write. Don’t let that passion be extinguished.

NaNoWriMo Day 30: Survival Tip of the Day

Like many of my friends and acquaintances, you might be in the midst of the sheer madness that is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  The goal: to write a book (yes, sir, that’s right a whole book) in (gasp) 30 days!

This is it! Day 30. You may have noticed that I disappeared for several days. Between work, Thanksgiving, a business trip and having some fun with my husband for his birthday I missed several NaNoWriMo days. So now I find myself in the same position as a lot of my fellow NaNo’ers: trying desperately to hit 5oK before the end of the day.

So, my tip of the day is: WE CAN DO THIS!!!!! Keep at it. We have the rest of the day, don’t give up. Push yourself and get as far as you can. You’ve already written more than did last month, right? This is not the time to give up. Write away, my friends, we can do this.

NaNoWriMo Day 21: Survival Tip of the Day

Like many of my friends and acquaintances, you might be in the midst of the sheer madness that is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  The goal: to write a book (yes, sir, that’s right a whole book) in (gasp) 30 days!

We’ve reached day 21. Congratulation. Whether you’re right on track, way ahead, or struggling to catch up the fact is that you’ve been doing an amazing thing. You’ve been writing your ass off for 21 days!

If it hasn’t happened already you might find that your story is veering off course from where you thought it was heading. Maybe your characters are proving to have different personalities than you thought. Todays tip is: follow your character’s lead.

You may have reached that point where your unconscious–and very creative–mind has kicked in and recognizes things that you had never anticipated about your project. As you’ve been writing you’ve also become more familiar with your characters and setting. As a result of your increased awareness and familiarity more options have opened up and there might be something better for your novel. Feel free to let go of your outline–or veer slightly off course for a short period–and see where you end up. You might just be surprised at the result.

NaNoWriMo Day 20: Survival Tip of the Day

Like many of my friends and acquaintances, you might be in the midst of the sheer madness that is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  The goal: to write a book (yes, sir, that’s right a whole book) in (gasp) 30 days!

You’ve done it! Day 20! There are only ten days to go. I have to admit it, my brain is tired! I’ve just passed 40k words and I’m exhausted. My tip for the day is simple. No matter how many words you have right now: keep going! It’s hard, it’s exhausting, but it’s such an awesome accomplishment. Don’t give up now.