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The Write Conversation

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Greg Mitchell who blogs along with me and the other Realms authors at Just The Write Charisma asked this question last week, Why Do I Bother?  Of course this question made me wonder. Hmm. Scary thought, Greg. No wonder you write speculative fiction. So in my usual style I went into research mode, but on myself this time instead of a novel.

My third book, Mystery of the Heart, releases in January 2013 and that wraps up my current and only contract. So I picked up my copy of Stein on Writing on a nearby bookshelf. Sol Stein says, “If you are a writer, you are never retired by someone else. You not only keep going, but the very act of writing helps keep you alive.”  So true. With all the talk about traditional publishing verses indie publishing the one thing I have to remember is that whether I continue to publish or not I don’t have to quit writing. There is reward in the writing itself but I do love a paycheck. And I do believe the act of writing has kept me alive by not internalizing the stress of difficult life experiences. Writing is better than an ulcer, indigestion, or high blood pressure. If you write through life difficulties you might save your health and have fodder for new novel ideas.

June 2012
Later I read through my June 2012 copy of The Writer Magazine You must, absolutely must read Pat Conroy’s article entitled, Interpreting the World Through Story. I can’t copy and paste his article here or I would if I wouldn’t get in trouble. I wanted to share every word with you so instead I’ll just share a few words and you’ll have to read the article yourself. “The idea of a novel should stir your blood. It should be instinctual, incurable, unanswerable, and a calling, not a choice.” Do I feel that way? Sometimes. Do you feel that way? 

He also talked about his childhood and the role it played in his writing. Have you ever read, The Great Santini? Conroy says, “My mother’s voice and my father’s fist’s are the two bookends of my childhood, and they form the basis of my art.” Wow! If you want to explore some deep psychological issues write down your own bookends. 

Each of us have reasons for writing. Every once in awhile we should revisit the question Greg asked, Why Do I Bother? There's a difference in the need to write, the want to write, and the have to write for a contract. I good time to think about these things if you are a published author is between contracts. I would encourage unpublished writers to explore their reasons for pursuing publication. Is it the desire to know that you were able to reach that self-imposed pinnacle? To get rich and famous? To share your thoughts with others?  To answer a calling? To give an offering? To discover a purpose?

In the same issue of The Writer Magazine, Maeve Binchy provides A Little Inspiration and discusses the issue of finishing the book. She states, "If you stop now, let's look at what you have wasted." This hit home for me. I wrote and studied the craft for twenty years before I received a contract.Are you willing to work that long and invest in yourself that heavily? Only you can make that decision. As for me, I'm going to spend a lot of time talking to my family, to my agent, and to God. For now I'm going to try and remember Psalm 46:10, Be still and know that I am God.

 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said:

“Let us labor for an inward stillness--
An inward stillness and an inward healing.
That perfect silence where the lips and heart
Are still, and we no longer entertain
Our own imperfect thoughts and vain opinions,
But God alone speaks to us and we wait
In singleness of heart that we may know
His will, and in the silence of our spirits,
That we may do His will and do that only.”

Have you had the write conversation?


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Eric McCormack is currently playing a paranoid schizophrenic in a new crime drama called, Perception. It aired for the first time on Monday, July 9th. I'm hoping that it will make a difference for the many people who suffer with any kind of mental illness. One of my concerns with Dr. Daniel Pierce is that he's not on his medication. Typically not a good thing for anyone with Schizophrenia. Schizophrenia: What You Need To Know According to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), "Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that affects 2.4 million American adults over the age of 18.) You can learn more here about Schizophrenia

However, Daniel Pierce has a buddy, Max Lewicki, that tells him when his hallucinations are legitimate. Most people won't have that luxury.  

Family members do the best they can in most situations where someone is mentally ill, but they can't always control their loved ones and suffer right along with them. Perception can have a positive impact if they handle situations appropriately. The show could make progress against the stigma of mental illness and provide education. I hope they don't blow this. I think some viewers think that it may already be too late because of the medication issue, but perhaps that's coming later. I think the story of John Nash and the book and movie, A Beautiful Mind portrayed this illness in an incredible way.

I do think Monk had an impact on making television audiences more aware of what it's like to live with obsessive compulsive disorder. Adrian Monk, played by actor Tony Shalhoub won a few Emmy's and a Golden Globe for his efforts. This type of show makes talking about mental health issues a little easier for the general public and that's important.The more we discuss these illnesses the more hope there is of finding a cure and getting those to treatment that perhaps have been afraid to go. I even found this article on WebMD when Monk aired its 100th episode.

I write historical romance with a heavy mystery/suspense component for several reasons:

1) I love it! It keeps me sane in a world gone bonkers.

2) I want to bring to life the history of mental illness.

3) I hope the novels I write make a difference to help destroy the stigma of mental illness and encourage others to do likewise. How many people living today can say they've never suffered from at least some mild depression? Sir Winston Churchhill called depression his black dog.

"I don't like standing near the edge of a platform when an express train is passing through. I like to stand right back and if possible get a pillar between me and the train. I don't like to stand by the side of a ship and look down into the water. A second's action would end everything. A few drops of desperation." - Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

If you think the treatment of mental health has changed tremendously in the last couple hundred years, it has, and it hasn't. Yes, we have more medications that work for some and don't work for others. Yes, we have hospitals but not everyone has insurance and not everyone gets the best care in these facilities. Some are excellent and some not so good. Schizophrenia Survey

So what's your perception on the new show, Perception? Why do you write what you write? Have you ever wished you could change the world? Maybe that's just delusional thinking.

Blindly Guided

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Hi Everyone,

Please welcome my very special guest blogger today, Jordyn Redwood.

Jordyn is a pediatric ER nurse by day, suspense novelist by night. She hosts Redwood’s Medical Edge, a blog devoted to helping contemporary and historical authors write medically accurate fiction. Her debut novel, Proof, garnered a starred review from Library Journal and has been endorsed by the likes of Dr. Richard Mabry, Lynette Eason, and Mike Dellosso to name a few. You can connect with Jordyn via her website at

Okay, I have a confession to make—I’m a fan of reality TV. Not the find-your-husbad-I’ve-fallen-in-love-in-30-seconds shows but those with somewhat of a purpose. Survivor, lots on Food Network—Wipeout completely cracks me up.
My most favorite show right now is Master Chef. I am a fan of Hell’s Kitchen (why do so many cooks smoke?) but honestly, Mr. Ramsey, I cannot watch all of your swearing with my 7 and 9y/o’s watching too. Master Chef provides a much softer side of Gordon Ramsey.
The show centers on home cooks trying to win a competition where they’ll get a book deal for a cookbook and a cash prize.
Amateur’s cooking for a book deal—sounds like how I started writing!
This season, there is a blind woman, Christine, in the competition. I don’t mean she has poor eyesight—she cannot see at all! She has a guide who can grab ingredients for her from the pantry and can tell her how something looks—like your pie crust is brown—if Christine asks. But, the guide is NOT allowed to assist her with the cooking in any way. No help cutting, measuring, and plating.
It’s been a fascinating adventure to watch this woman. A fellow contestant who wanted her out of the competition decided she should cook a live crab! I mean—is that cruel or just a smart competitive move? I won’t share which way I’m leaning.
Christine’s efforts on Master Chef have caused me to think about my Christian writing life. As a Christian, I feel I do need to look to God for direction—but I cannot see him or hear him, which can make decisions hard. Do I write this book? In this genre? Go with this publisher? 
So, taking some points from Christine—this is how I think our adventures parallel.
1.You do have a guide. Obviously, Christine cannot see the woman helping her, but she IS there. We physically can’t see God but there are footprints of His presence. Creation—really mind boggles me sometimes the intricacy of nature and the human body. The Bible. The historical record. 
2. Have you asked for help? This is perhaps one of the things I’m terrible at. Christine has to ask her guide for help to stay on track. What’s the color of my pie crust? How often do you flat out pray to God for help in decision making? I am horrible at it. As an ER nurse, I’m used to people looking at me to make very important decisions on a moment’s notice so I tend to rely on myself a lot more than I should. I’m imperfect and I need to be close to God to help hear him in those moments when I do ask for help. Spend time with God through Bible reading, worship and prayer.
3. Block out the noise. In a recent episode of Master Chef, Christine was in charge of her team when they had to do morning room service at a busy hotel. She cannot see what her team is doing and all she’s hearing is a lot of fighting. It was hard to make out a single voice in that instance. Jesus is noted in the Bible to pull away from the crowds into a quiet place for prayer and reflection. I believe he did this out of need but also as an example to us. In order to hear our guide, we need to block out the other noise.
How about you and your writing life? Do you want God to be a guide? How do you tune in His presence?

 Dr. Lilly Reeves is a young, accomplished ER physician with her whole life ahead of her. But that life instantly changes when she becomes the fifth victim of a serial rapist. Believing it's the only way to recover her reputation and secure peace for herself, Lilly sets out to find--and punish--her assailant. Sporting a mysterious tattoo and unusually colored eyes, the rapist should be easy to identify. He even leaves what police would consider solid evidence. But when Lilly believes she has found him, DNA testing clears him as a suspect. How can she prove he is guilty, if science says he is not? 

You can purchase Proof here.

Novel Scents

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

How would you describe the smell of coffee?
Ever tried to describe a particular scent? When I read a novel, one of the components that makes me forget that I'm reading and creates suspension of disbelief are the various scents I experience. If a writer can make me smell fresh brewed coffee so that I imagine I can really taste it then that's something I want to experience again and I'll be more likely to want to read that authors novels.

Developing our abilities to create smells that we are familiar with or perhaps have never experienced are important and we must learn to convey this very special sense into our novels. The better we get at this skill the more likely we are to draw our reader into the story.

 "The inability of our language to fully capture the nuances of scents can be very frustrating. We associate scents with something – a place, a memory, a flavor – but most people struggle to describe smell on its own terms." Here's the link where you can read more of what Victoria has to say: Speaking Perfume: A-Z of Common Fragrance Descriptions. I couldn't agree more.

If you are a writer I'd like you to delve into your current manuscript and decide if you've included enough of the aromas, smells, and odors for your novel scents.  I struggle with this and have to work extra hard to make sure I don't overlook opportunities to expand my readers enjoyment.

Here are a couple brief examples from all three of my novels.

1. Secrets of the Heart - Melton sniffed the air. “Fresh bread, beef, and roasting pheasant if I’m not mistaken. I’m ravenous.”

2. Chameleon - Mrs. Miller entered from the kitchen, carrying a tray of small bowls of bread pudding and clotted cream. The pleasing fragrance of cinnamon and nutmeg filled the air.

3. Mystery of the Heart (releasing in January 2013) - The scent of clove and sandalwood lifted with the lid of the first trunk. She gently searched through the first layer to find something to wear while she slept. Perhaps a shirt of Lord Eden’s would do.  

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.-Shakespeare
 I encourage you to visit You'll find some descriptions there that will give you more ideas. I recently visited a friends home and the hand-washing soap in the bathroom was coconut-lime. It smelled so good to me I thought it was almost edible. Ever have that experience?

If you are a connoisseur of historical romance novels you are probably very familiar with The Connection Between Vinegar and the Fainting Couch. There's a great picture here of a 19th c. Victorian silver vinaigrette and wonderful information for those of you writing during this age. And if you want to explore more on the power of attraction between men and women you can find out more at The Sense of Smell Institute where I found this article titled, Fragrant Attraction, Smell is the Key to Choosing a Romantic Partner and more articles in their archives.Go here.

We all know that some odors are not so pleasant. Pull a novel from your bookshelf and find a sentence that describes a less than lovely aroma. I just finished reading, What Remains of Heaven by C.S. Harris who writes Regency Mysteries. Here's a sentence from this novel, The air in the vestry was chill and close, the stale scent of old incense overlaid by the pungent odors of dried blood and death. I love that!

Horse Scents
I grew up with horses. I appreciate the smell of fresh hay, sweet feed, horse manure, and saddle soap. I know others may not enjoy those odors. If you're a horse lover you'll understand.

 Our sense of smell can make one person sigh with pleasure and another wrinkle their nose in disgust.

Let's share our novel scents and any special posts you've found that may help all of us. What are some of the scents you've written into your novels or read in a novel you enjoyed? Got a favorite?

Bouchercon 2012: Cleveland, Ohio

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

 cleveland bouchercon logoBlame it on the full moon, or great wisdom, or stepping out side my comfort zone, or simple curiosity. I'm thinking of attending Boucheron 2012. It's scheduled for October 4-7. What is it? I think a lot of you probably know but for those of you who don't it's the World Mystery Convention and it's going to an accessible four hour drive if I go and the registration fee is only $175! As these type of conventions go that's VERY reasonable. And wait till you find out who is going to be there. For starters, Elizabeth George who is one of my favorite authors. She writes British mystery novels and if you've read any of my books you know I love England's Regency period. She's an American who writes great contemporary British novels.  And Mary Higgens Clark is getting the Lifetime Achievement Award. John Connolly is Toastmaster and the list goes on and on. If you want to see who is signed up to attend so far look here.

If you want to see where it's been held previously and where it will be over the next three years you can check that out here. So if you love a mystery and if like me you incorporate mystery or crime fiction into your novels you just might want to consider this convention. In this regard Cleveland really does rock! I don't think I can resist the pull.

I made a trip around the internet and found some previous 2011 blog posts about this event. Here you go:

Bouchercon: The Mystery of Conventions

Bouchercon's Beautiful Madness

Lessons from Bouchercon 2011

Blogging Bouchercon, Part 1

I'm really not a fan of big crowds but I just might have to do my best to get over that for this event and pace myself. How about you? Are you going? Have you been? Was it worth it? Have a favorite blog post from this event?