Monday, October 19, 2020

Getting Out While Staying Home

    One sad result from these days of isolation has been the inability to attend writing conferences.  personally I have always loved writing conventions from the first RWA convention I attended in 1983 aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach. To me they have always offered a great opportunity to connect with writers of all kinds -- from those who are best selling authors to those who are just starting out. They are the perfect place to socialize with others who are in the same creative and searching boat. 

    I have always suggested writing conventions to other writers as well. To me they are appealing because they’re the place where  normally quiet and more introverted groups gather to study craft. Writing can be a lonely profession and most writers prefer it that way.  We are often more used to sitting in a room alone and doing our writing. When you’re dealing with a whole convention of  people who are more comfortable sitting in a room alone, it can be easier to connect because so many of us are sitting in a corner watching everyone else…

    That’s why I enjoy writing conventions—even for an introvert, it’s easier to approach someone else or even a group of people who might be or are probably feeling just as uncomfortable. We don’t mind sitting alone at the bar at these conventions because there’s a person alone next to you who is probably feeling just as uncomfortable. The bottom line is if you do strike up a conversation with the person next to you, you’ll probably discover that you have a lot in common – the need to write. Not only that, whatever you decide to do -- just keep sitting there or talk, well, those around you  understand. Actually, most respect your silence unless you choose to talk. I often find that if you start talking to that other alone person, before long you find you have a lot in common… the need to write.

    This year we’re all sitting alone in our rooms writing, but our forced isolation has also opened up a whole new world. Technically, we’re all sitting alone at that bar as we join the various rooms as conventions are held virtually. While I was unable to attend one of my favorite conferences, Left Coast Crime in San Diego, which got cancelled at the last minute, I have been able to enjoy other, virtual meetings and now a virtual convention.

    This weekend I attended Women Writing the West which was conducted as a virtual convention and it was a new and fun experience. I presented my Plotting Wheel session from the cozy confines of my home office, sitting at my desk. My companions were Molly and Chewpie, the cats who normally hang out around my area. Molly insisted on making a guest appearance, which seemed a common theme among other writers attending.  A number of cats and dogs made virtual appearances.

 I have to admit I am enjoying these virtual meetings. In some ways it’s easier to chat as we sit and wait for the next session to start. So many of us are isolated that we’re excited when we get some of that outside interaction we’re no longer getting on a regular basis. Our local writing groups aren’t meeting or are meeting virtually too. If you haven’t tried meeting virtually it’s a good way to keep from a totally forced isolation. Virtual meetings are a way to connect and the best thing is we get to see all of us who are at the meeting. We get to connect with others we might not have gotten a chance to talk to at the last writers’ meeting.

These days of virtual meetings and conventions also present an opportunity to attend sessions we might have missed due to time constraints. They give us a chance to  connect in person with others and to get to hear challenges and issues we are all facing during these months when we are more isolated than ever.

The isolation is also having an effect on the ability and opportunity to write. I suggest looking to find ways to make that work for you as a writer, rather than lamenting lost opportunities. Not being able to go out has meant the chance to pick up on old work that needs editing or polishing that has been ignored or the opportunity to finish a story.

 It also can present time to take a refresher class on an element of writing or to work on research for a story you might want to write. Those openings are out there now because many groups are having to go to virtual meetings so traveling across town or the inconvenience of a time period can be solved by recording a meeting and playing back later is solved.

My entire point here is that this is a time  we can find new opportunities to get more writing done, but don’t let that mean you can’t still socialize with other writers. Look for those virtual opportunities and still connect with other writers. Use the time we are inside to find new writing subjects or to still connect with new and different types of writers.

While I just attended and spoke at my first virtual convention, I know it won’t be the last. I’ll be looking for other, new opportunities to connect with other members of the writing community. This week I'll be conducting a class at Savvy Authors on Pitching, and please watch for the new book on pitching that will soon be available on For more information on plotting, please watch my website and for more details. 

Monday, October 12, 2020

Bright Ideas for Dark Days

 Let’s face it. Sometimes we need a new way to look at life—whether it’s looking in or looking out. These days it’s  a fun way to brighten up living quarters or brighten up the day. We’re getting ready for those darker days of winter, but we’ve already spent a good amount of time inside and unable to do the things we normally do in the fall.  Whether it’s because not being able to drive through the mountains to see the fall colors because of fires or restrictions due to Co-Vid, these are unique times for all of us and we still need those things that bring us joy.

How can we find some of that joy when we’re limited on so many levels? For a writer that can mean a lot of different things:

  1. Try a new genre. I think I’ve issued that challenge in the past, but there is always something fun about trying a different genre, whether it’s writing science fiction when you normally write romance or trying  romance when you normally write mystery.
  2. Look for new ways to research. I have to admit I miss those days of being able to spend endless hours at the library, but you can find so much information online or simply by getting out and driving in your neighborhood. Are there places you’ve driven past that you never took the time to fully watch or learn about? Call around to various places and look for information you’ve wanted to know or haven’t had time to learn in the past.
  3. Call a friend and get new information about how they are coping with these dark days or just chat and catch up. You’ll never believe how many new ideas you might come up with. Ask them for ideas, or even indulge in some fun gossip. 
  4. Do what my brother is doing and re-decorate! He is having a good time not only rearranging the house but looking for new material to make by constructing a home shop. He figures that will give him plenty to do in the winter months when he can’t get out and do his normal bike riding or hiking.
  5. Look for new interests. This is the slow time to indulge in those things you always wanted to complete it try, but never had time to do. That can even mean going through old pictures or organizing them.  I have to admit I had a great time going through my old pictures of visits to the Denver Art Museum which included a wonderful gem and jewelry show, which included a diamond snake and and gold lizard., a Dior retrospective and the works of Monet. 

 But these are not all  tough days. I have had some fun events Going on too. Some of my books are getting a new look at Amazon and the covers are great. I will have an update on that next week. I also have my first virtual conference coming up.

So yes, we are all going through some quiet days and the unlikely end is still not in sight, but we can use the time to either get new story ideas or work on old stories.  I’ll look at doing that next week.  


Sunday, October 4, 2020

Writing through Tough Times

 These are tough days for all of us, but having  a deadline can make life even more tense. Try having two or three. Yikes! Deadlines were a part of my life for years. Working in a television newsroom with a daily deadline that didn’t allow for a delay was both a curse and a blessing. It taught me to have to think fast, and it taught me to get my writing done or it probably would never see the light of day. Today’s news stories are not useful tomorrow afternoon. 

Having and using that mentality has gotten me through the past few weeks as I worked on a new fiction book, finishing up editing it for submission, having two non-fiction books that needed  editing and working on a class that needed editing to remain timely.

As I set out to write on this week’s blog,  I thought about those days of daily deadlines and how knowing I had to get things done kept me going despite the daily stress.  The work had to be done and I had to summon the words to write my stories.  These days we are all under a lot of stress and it occurred to me perhaps it might help other writers to go through how we can all get through this by using our creative juices. 

Yes, we all feel the frustration of the times, which can lead to fear and anger. Many of us are feeling lonely as we try to get through days without our normal visits with friends or going out to eat or socialize with friends. 

Many people might feel anger over how things are being handled or things we can’t do. 

It’s a good time to look for other outlets for our frustration and anger. What better time to look for either new writing outlets or look for new genres to try. Put that frustration into your writing by making a new beginning. For many years that Creative writing during low times kept me going to face my daily news output.

Here are some ideas for you to try to keep your writing going:

1. Re-read old favorite authors or if you are writing yourself, pull out old manuscripts and see if they can be changed or salvaged. Sometimes a good editing job can be all that is needed.

2. Try a new genre—either by  reading something new or writing in a new genre. Sometimes that can open you up to a whole new style. Study up on the genre and get to know it and if it might work for you. Then, simply sit down and try writing in it. Not only might you find a new love, but you might also sharpen some of your old writing skills that you haven’t been using.

3. Dig out your own old writing. Was there a story you once loved but didn’t finish? Is th/ere some new way you can work the storyline that wasn’t working when you first set out to write the story?

4. Try creating a new character —either for a story you’re writing now or one you may ant to write in the future. Look for a different way to create that character and then go for it.

5. Take a writing class. Yes, if you’ve been writing you should know what you’re doing, but why not try a review of writing techniques. There might be something you’ve been wanting to learn but haven’t had the time. Why not take it now. It might not only get you through the current tough times but it might refresh your knowledge or give you new ideas for  a story.

6. Do research for a story you’ve been wanting to write. Though you might not be able to visit a library or a location this is a wonderful time to get online and look up all those details you were going to get back to later. 

Don’t let the current tense times get you down. You might even write up a scene with one of your characters utilizing all the frustrations you are currently feeling. Let them suffer and perhaps solve a problem. Then you can rejoice with them. It might make your day a bit brighter and give you a scene for a story.

Good luck and let’s keep on writing

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Warm Reading for Chilly Days


 It's never too early to start planning for the holidays, and now we've made the official turn to Fall so that draws us closer to not only those gift decisions, but what you want to be reading once the snow starts to fall. (weather people say it could be as early as next week in Colorado) And that brings to mind what we want to be reading as those days start to get longer and we are inside more.

Today's guest in My Writing Corner has a new book out soon and it could be just perfect for either those days as you sit inside and look for your next great read, or as a gift idea for a friend.

 My guest today is award-winning author Debby Grahl. She lives on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina with her husband, David. Besides writing, she says she enjoys hiking, walking on the the beach and relaxing with a glass of wine at sunset. She says she loves visit places like New York and New Orleans, but she also loves to visit the Cotswolds of England.  

She is a history buff who also enjoys reading murder mysteries, time travel and romance. Being visually impaired since childhood by Retinitis Pigmentosa she uses screen-reading software to research and write her books. Her newest book, Mountain Blaze,  will be released  by The Wild Rose Press in November, but it's available for presale right now! 

Welcome, Deb, what are the challenges of being a writer?

My biggest challenge is my loss of vision. I have a disease of the retina called Retinitis Pigmentosa. I lost the ability to see print in my early twenties, but even when I had sight, seeing the printed word was always difficult for me. Reading a book would take me twice as long as a person with normal sight. I became frustrated with this and began to make up my own stories. I recall as a teenager entertaining my girlfriends on our way to school with stories I’d made up. They were kind enough to listen, and today they’re some of my biggest fans. It wasn’t until the invention of screen-reading software that I was able to put my stories into print.

Tell us about your road to publication.

My first mistake in writing was thinking that you just write the book, send it to a publisher or agent, and away you go. Not! I sent the first twenty-five pages to a publisher who was offering a free critique. She wrote back and said I had a good idea for a story if I could write it. She said she marked all my writing mistakes in red. Well, most of the page was in red. 

I finally received a contract with a small press. I was thrilled, until a short time into editing the ms, I received an email informing me due to lack of funds, they were closing their doors. I was crushed, but I sent the ms to another small publisher and received a contract. This time I made it all the way to the book going to print before they also closed. By this time, I was crushed. I moped around for a couple of days then tried one more time. I was fortunate the next publisher actually published two of my books before closing. Now, I’m happy to say, I’ve found a home with The Wild Rose Press.


How do you come up with plots?

First, I choose the location, then draft a short outline of the story itself, last are my characters. I like to have some kind of mystery in my plots, so I decide what this will be, and which of my characters will be involved.


What advice do you have for beginning writers?

Do your research. Readers will catch the smallest mistake, such as if you have a specific building or street, make sure they’re in the right location.

In writing historical, check to make sure you’re using the correct devices in the correct time period.

Take online writing classes. I found these to be extremely helpful with beginner writing mistakes. Writers need to learn about tag lines, POV changes, correct punctuation, and grammar. There’s also what is known as info dump and character development.

When you submit your manuscript, make sure it’s as perfect as it can be. Editors will reject your work in seconds if there’re too many mistakes.

What’s your next project? (or What are you working on now?)

Island Heat is the next book in my Carolina series. The story takes place on Hilton Head Island and is a combination romance and mystery.

Let's learn more about Mountain Blaze, available right now for pre-order:


Disillusioned by his wife’s betrayal, rodeo star Dillon McCoy comes home to the mountains of North Carolina to lick his wounds. When he agrees to take over the family ranch, the Lazy M, he’s unaware danger waits.

Diana Thompson is having doubts about her engagement to Trent Sawyer. She agrees to leave Chapel Hill and spend Thanksgiving with her friend Jenn at the Lazy M. When Diana and Dillon meet, neither can deny their attraction, but both must resolve past relationships while fighting their growing desire.

After Dillon turns down an anonymous offer to purchase the ranch, attempts are made on his life. When a body is found, Dillon sets out to discover who wants the McCoy land enough to commit murder.

Thank you Deb for  being my guest. If you'd like to pre-order Moutani Blaze or get in touch with Deb, here are the links:

Available from Amazon, Kindle, Barnes & Noble

Website --
Facebook --
Amazon Author Page --

Monday, September 21, 2020

A Haunting Delight!

Gothic romances have long been among my most favorite books to read and write, and I always enjoy finding a new author with works I can enjoy. That's why I enjoyed meeting author Anna M. Taylor who writes women's fiction and gothic romances under the penname of Anna Taylor Sweringen. 

She is a retired United Church of Christ and Presbyterian Church USA minister who now writes fiction. A native New Yorker, she says she currently enjoys the heat of the Southwest. She has been writing seriously since joining Romance Writers of America in 2003 and also writes inspirational romance as Anna Taylor and erotic romance as Michal Scott.

Welcome, Anna. What are some of the challenges of being a writer?

Being aware of the negative impact of imposter syndrome and internal editor critique. The weight of feeling not good enough is a burden every good writer carries. What gets me through these days is remembering E.L. Doctorow said in an interview that it’s the good writer whose wracked with thoughts of “not good enough.”


Tell us about your road to publication.

Hmmm…how to make a long story short. My road to publication started with a challenge from my mother-in-law. When she learned I wrote X-Files fan fiction she asked me why I didn’t write about my own characters? Her question revived memories of how I used to write mystery fiction and had loved writing just for the fun of it. I also recalled how after reading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Last Tycoon I had written a note to myself stating I wanted to be as thoughtful a writer as he was. Fast forward to 2003 and I’m listening to an episode of This American Life called What’s Love Got To Do With It that featured Romance Writers of America, one of the few writing organizations that accepted unpublished authors. I joined that same year, never thinking I’d write romance. I joined the romantic suspense and mystery writers chapter figuring what I learned there I could apply to mystery writing in general. This turned out to be true but I also fell in love with romance. I joined two other chapters as well, Gothic Romance Writers and Faith Hope Love, the chapter for inspirational romance. FHL sponsored an activity called Finish the Book. If you finished a book in a year one of their published authors would give you a critique on its first 25 pages. I finished my first work, Through A Glass Darkly and got a wonderful critique. FHL's Touched By Love contest for unpublished authors opened two months later so I entered and won second place in the short contemporary category. At the same time RWA was pushing general members to move toward PRO status (i.e. submitting finished work not yet accepted). One of the members of FHL had just signed on to be the editor for The Wild Rose Press’ inspirational line and put out a call for submissions. I figured I could submit Through A Glass Darkly, get my rejection and apply to RWA for PRO status. Wild Rose Press accepted my book. The rest as they say is history.


How do you come up with your characters?

I start with my plot, so to come up with my characters I ask what kind of person would react in what kind of way in this particular situation. I also use books like The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes and Heroines to help me with archetypes.


How do you come up with your plots?

Usually a line of dialogue or scene I’ve read or watched plants a “What if…” seed that germinates into a story. For instance, there’s a scene in the Bourne Ultimatum where Jason Bourne steps among a group of people at a bus stop and appears to be talking to someone before he moves on. The government agency following Bourne incapacitates that innocent bystander taking him for an accomplice. I posited what if the drug they used on this person causes cardiac arrest and the person dies. What if my heroine is a peripheral part of the team responsible for this person’s death. Now what if the dead person has an uncle who is a trained assassin now bent on exacting revenge by killing everyone connected to that team no matter how slightly. That’s how my novel A Hell For The Good was born.


Tell us about your latest book. What made you write it?

My latest book is a newly revised and expanded version of a novella I wrote it back in 2009 as part of

an anthology with a few of my gothic romance writer colleagues. Haunted Serenade was inspired by a line from Billie Holiday’s rendition of Solitude. It goes “In my solitude you haunt me.” I played my “What If” writing exercise: what if a family member wasted away in solitude pining for a lost love? What if the spirit of that family member invaded a family reunion? What if that weren’t the only spirit invading the reunion? What if my heroine and her ex-lover were present? Would they be brought together or torn further apart? Haunted Serenade is now the first of a set of novellas I’m self-publishing as my Haunted Harlem series.


What advice do you have for beginning writers?

Find things outside of writing that inspire and energize you. Writing can be enervating and lonely, and as I shared in my answer to the challenges-to-writing question, demoralizing at times. Outside interests invigorate the soul and the writing muse. Remind you writing is not all you are or all you can do.


What’s your next project (or What are you working on now?)

I’m working on the second novella in my Haunted Harlem series, A Little In Love With Death, a second chance romance. My heroine returns home because her brother claims to have been brutalized by a spirit haunting their childhood home, a spirit she insisted attacked her several years earlier but no one believed her, including her now former lover. I’m trying my hand at writing this as a time slip story. I think having the reader experience the background story of the haunting in real time will make the present time haunting story more scary. I’ve set Halloween as my release date. Wish me luck.

Thank you, Anna.  Let's get a blurb on Haunted Serenade:


All the women in Anora Madison's family have lived haunted by the curse of Poor Butterfly: women still longing for but deserted by the men they loved. Determined to be the first to escape a life of abandonment, she fled Harlem for Brooklyn, not only severing her ties with her mother Angela, but also ending her relationship with Winston Emerson, her lover and the father of her child. Six years later, she comes home to make peace. When an unseen evil manifests itself during the homecoming, Anora must turn to her ex-lover for help. But if she allows Winston back in her life, how will she protect her heart?

Want to find out more?  Here are the buy links and social media links for Anna:  


Buy link: 



Social media links:

Anna M. Taylor Amazon Author Page:


Anna M. Taylor FB Author Page


Anna M. Taylor website: /

Thank you, Anna, for being my guest and introducing us to your new book1 Any comments or questions for Anna?


Sunday, September 13, 2020

Pulling Back the Curtain

These days escaping into another world with a great book can be very relaxing.  It's why I am always looking for another book to read.  Today's guest in My Writing Corner is Gabbi Grey Black. She tells us that even though she is a firm believer in happy endings, she makes her characters work for it in every romance she writes, no matter what the genre. From contemporary to BDSM, she tells us that they are created late at night in her home on a beautiful British Columbia mountain surrounded by magnificent trees and every conceivable woodland creature—including bears. She also writes gay romances as Gabbi Grey.

 As someone who has been traveling to beautiful BC every few years for the past 35 years,  I am totally envious of where she lives and enjoyed hearing about her work. 

What are some of the challenges of being a writer?

Although I’m an introvert, I like being out and interacting with people. I’ve haunted restaurants and caf├ęs for years with my laptop. I sit and watch the world go by. As of late, of course, that hasn’t been possible. I used to go to Starbucks three days a week with my therapy dog and my computer, sitting down and writing for hours. As those days are gone, I’ve learned to adapt. Now I sit at home and knuckle down. I try to ignore distractions, and only take a break when the dog needs a run outside. I’ve written two novellas since the beginning of the pandemic so I think I’m doing okay.

Tell us about your road to publication.

I wrote Amber Eyes in 2014. I entered it in contests and received plenty of feedback. Once I felt it was ready, I sent it off to publishers. One editor who had expressed interest left her job soon after receiving my manuscript – I’m quite sure the one has nothing to do with the other - but I didn’t have any other contacts at the publisher. I tried another publisher who had expressed interest, but that editor was no longer reading in the genre. Although she passed my manuscript to someone else, I lost the personal connection. Finally, I submitted the book to an editor at The Wild Rose Press who passed it on to someone else. I almost pulled the manuscript from consideration because I had begun to lose faith. I didn’t, though, and that was the best decision of my career. The editor read the book, loved it, and offered me a contact. We spent a long time getting the book ready for publication, but I’m happy with the way it turned out. I’m even happier it is now in readers’ hands.

How do you come up with your characters?

I had a vision of a woman in a BDSM club. She was alone. I started asking questions. Why was she alone? Was she a voyeur or did she want to participate? Had she done things in the past? And, most importantly, who would be her hero? I started writing with just that in my mind, and within three months I had a completed trilogy and over a quarter of a million words.

How do you come up with plots?

I start with characters and they direct me. I’m what is termed a pantser – someone who writes by the seat of her pants. I don’t know any other way to do it. Anytime I try to write to a plotted book, the final product looks nothing like the plan and I wind up feeling I wasted time preparing the plan. I am a romantic at heart so my stories start out with two main characters. I know for sure they’re going to get their happy ending. How that happens is often a surprise to me.

Tell us about your latest book. What made you write it?

Amber Eyes is the story of a newly-released slave and the man who falls in love with her. I use ‘slave’ in the BDSM context. Master/slave is an intense power exchange where one partner surrenders completely, while the other controls completely. These relationships should develop over time, with months of negotiation and with the consent of both parties. The intensity can be rewarding, to be sure. I have several friends living this lifestyle and they are some of the happiest most well-adjusted people I know. I also have personal experience with BDSM and can say some of my experiences are in the book. Shh. My parents don’t know.

What advice do you have for beginning writers?

Keep writing. While waiting to hear back about the first book I sent out on submission, I wrote the next book. And the next. That rejection was a long time in coming, but by then I was getting a handle on this writing thing. I have never looked back. The route to publication has taken much longer, but the rewards have been worth the perseverance.

What’s your next project? 

I have two subsequent books that make up part of my In Their Eyes trilogy of which Amber Eyes is the first. I’m hopeful the publisher will contract the books. Beyond that I have several projects vying for my attention including some short stories in that world about secondary characters. I love the city of Vancouver, and will continue to write about life there. And, to be blunt, I can’t not write. So, pandemic or not, I will keep going.

Let's take a closer look at that new book, Amber Eyes

 School principal Gage Clayton is still grieving the death of his wife and submissive, yet he can't ignore his Dominant needs. As he enters Club Kink, he's inexplicably drawn to a newly released sub with an intriguing proposition and the most captivating amber eyes. But she has disturbing baggage and her expectations prove quite a challenge, one that would necessitate a commitment he's not ready for.

Rielle Reid needs a Dom while she waits for her former Master to return. When she invites a handsome stranger to her home dungeon for a night of play, she's surprised at his gentle dominance—and her response to it. But in the light of day, his demand for equal footing confounds her. After living four years as a twenty-four/seven slave, she has no concept of how to be anything other than property.

Gage must find a way to master Rielle to free them both from the shackles of the past.

She needs a firm hand.

He needs a challenge.

Sounds like a fun read.  

If you would like to read more, here are the links to get in touch with Gabbi and for the book. 

Buy links:

 Amazon US:

Amazon CA:

Barnes and Noble:

Google Play:




Add it to GoodReads:

 And if you would like to get in touch with Gabbi, here are her personal links:




Facebook (page):



 Thank you, Gabbi, for being my guest this week. Any comments or questions for Gabbi?

The Writing Corner is On the Move!

 My Writing Corner is moving to Mondays!  Please join me and my writing guests every week to get the latest on new books, authors and their work, lessons on the writing process and other observations on the writing world.  

And for writing questions and writing classes, also visit my NEW, updated author website www.WriteThatNovel.Net

Getting Out While Staying Home

     One sad result from these days of isolation has been the inability to attend writing conferences.   personally I have always loved writ...