Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Finishing... and Then What?

While normally on this blog I feature writers and their new projects, this week I am focusing on books in a new way—as an author who has witnessed first-hand some of what goes into all those books that are featured. 

I am talking about finishing and starting – that’s a prospect all writers face in their writing  careers. The wording may sound odd, but to me, putting finishing before starting makes sense. I’m referring to the prospect of finishing your current project and then starting a new one. Too often writers get bogged down after they finish their current project. They just want to take a rest before starting on the next one. 

Yes, you can do that, but don’t want to wait too long to get going with a new book. One of the problems I’ve seen writers face over the years has been they work so hard on getting their current book done, they just want to take a rest for a time. The problem is some let too much time pass between that current book and their next project and pretty soon they either lose interest in starting a new book or they end up with a rushed product once they do get started.

As a fiction writer and former television journalist, I know there are many days we don’t feel like writing. But when I worked as a TV news writer and producer, I knew every day I went to work, I was going to have to do it. The same is true of fiction writing. If you want to be a full-time writer, well, writing is your job. I’ve heard more than one best-selling writer say that. That means you can take a couple of days off each week—just as you do 9 to 5 or five-days a week work. but don’t let those two days start to multiply until they add up into weeks of not writing. Eventually that will add up into months, and before long your editor is asking for the next book or you’re seeing all your friends finish projects and you’re still only in the plotting stage or looking for an idea. 

So how do we get started with fresh material and fresh ideas to start out on a new project? Here are some easy ideas that I developed over the years when I was teaching writing classes regularly. They can help with keeping you focused on new projects and your writing. 

Let’s examine some tips for getting a fresh start on a new story and keeping your focus on the writing process: 

  1. Look for something new to do. This can mean everything from changing your writing routine to trying different places to write. Do you normally write in the morning? Try writing in the afternoon instead. Perhaps you can use the morning for research or to edit what you wrote the previous day. That way when you sit down to write you might find you will be more focused on your writing in the afternoon if you know you can edit it the next morning.  Or if you normally already write in the afternoon, try editing in the afternoon and writing in the morning. The point is to shake up your routine a little so that you don’t become bored with the same old schedule day after day. 

  1.  Try a new genre. Look at the genre you are writing. Is it growing a little stale? Have you been considering attempting to write in another one? Why just think about it? Try writing in a genre you’ve always wanted to write. If you don’t think you can write a novel in that genre, play with a short story. Or if you haven’t written a short story in a while, do that instead of a longer tale in your present genre. 

  1. Take a class.  I always recommend classes when people are stuck with their writing. A different perspective on your work and a different way to look at an old topic can get the creative juices flowing again. Even though I’ve taught numerous classes over the years, I am always looking for new classes or new approaches to writing. The writing world is constantly evolving so it pays to keep up with trends (not that we always have to follow them)  to stay current in the writing world. 


  1. Try a new method of researching. Research is always critical when writing about something that is not totally familiar to you, especially if you are writing historical novels. Historical readers know their time periods and are familiar with the clothes and manners of various time periods. One note about research—don’t fall prey to its allure! I began working last year on a book that required historical research and I found myself so involved in researching it that I wasn’t getting around to writing the book itself! I’ve heard other writers say the same thing. Do your research, but never lose sight of why you are doing it—to make your book better and more real. 

  1. Write a short story. It’s a good way to complete something quickly and give you a sense of accomplishment. While writing a short story can sometimes be every bit as challenging as writing a full novel, I recommend it as a good way to either jump start your writing or to get a fresh perspective on your writing. While short stories require the basics of novel writing: because you still need to come up with a plot, characters and setting, you also have to keep in mind the brevity of your tale. You can’t take pages upon pages to develop characters, setting or the plot. You must be brief in your descriptions but you still want the reader to feel the tone and location of your story. Writing a short story can be a challenging undertaking but it's also a good way to sharpen your senses for your next novel. The best part of writing a short story is that you can finish it much quicker than a book and that can give you a sense of accomplishment that you can use to move back into your work in progress. It might even make you appreciate your writing more.

  1. Try a new approach. This can make you think and it can also make you appreciative of the good elements of your writing while perhaps showing you some of your weaknesses. The best thing about trying a new approach is that you keep learning. Who knows, it might also introduce you to new methods you can use in the future. And that is the point, isn’t it with our writing? We have stories inside us just waiting to be told so let’s get busy telling them. And isn’t it fun to finally hold that book in your hand or see it on sale online? 

 Currently I am finishing up the third and final part of my Dead Man triology, Both Dead Man’s Rules and Dead Man’s Treasure are currently available. Watch for Dead Man’s Secrets coming soon!

Any questions or comments?

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Beginning a New Book Series

As a long-time, avid reader,  I have always enjoyed reading many different book series and I often specifically seek out authors who offer multiple-books set either in a certain place, time or offer character I enjoy getting to know. While a series can captivate readers though characters, they can also draw in new fans through either occupations or the setting or time period. Today's guest in My Writing Corner brings us a series that sounds like it will soon be attracting readers waiting for the next installment. 

My guest today is Dr. Randy Overbeck. He is an award-winning educator, author and speaker. As an educator, he served children for more than three decades and has turned that experience into captivating fiction, authoring the bestselling series, the Haunted Shores Mysteries, winner of nine national awards. This fall, the Wild Rose Press will release his newest work, an atmospheric amateur sleuth mystery, Cruel Lessons, the first installment in a new series set in schools, called “Lessons in Peril.” He is the host of the popular podcast, “Great Stories about Great Storytellers,” which reveals the unusual and sometimes strange backstories of famous authors, directors and poets. 

He is also a speaker in much demand, sharing his multi-media presentations, “Things Still Go Bump in the Night,” “A Few Favorite Haunts,” and “Everything You Wanted to Know About Publishing” with audiences all over the USA. As a member of the Mystery Writers of America, Dr. Overbeck is an active member of the literary community, contributing to a writers’ critique group, serving as a mentor to emerging writers and participating in writing conferences such as Sleuthfest, Killer Nashville and the Midwest Writers Workshop.

What is your book that you will feature today and how did you come up with the idea to

write it?

Cruel Lessons is an atmospheric, amateur sleuth mystery about a rogue hallucinogenic

drug being pushed in a middle school and, after it results in the death of four students, the rush to

stop the drug pusher before more children die. This novel is very dear to my heart. As a long-

time educator, I saw the ravages of student drug abuse and addition up close. Over more than

three decades as a teacher and school leader, I witnessed lives shattered and kids dying from their

abuse of drugs, both legal and illegal. I crafted this story—while completely fictional and about

an imaginary drug—as an homage to those educators who battle this very real problem everyday

in our schools, doing everything they can to save children from this plague. Though set in the

recent past (1994), the scourge of student drug abuse today is frighteningly similar to my tale,

only with a new generation and new drugs. This book is hardly didactic. According to an early

review, Cruel Lessons is “Brilliant from start to finish…Impressive storytelling left me with a

racing heart and shivers. One of the best thrillers I’ve ever read.” ★★★★★+++—N.N. Light’s

Bookheaven. Still, I hope the message about saving children will come through loud and clear.

Let's get a blurb:

On a school camping trip, fifth graders experiment with a dangerous new hallucinogen and die in a horrific accident, their deaths shattering the quiet town. Assistant Superintendent Ken Parks, hoping to redeem a fatal mistake from his past, grasps the opportunity to conduct the district investigation of how students are getting the drugs. Almost before he begins, the cops make a stunning arrest. But Parks battles on, convinced the real pusher is still out there, poisoning more kids until he receives an anonymous threat: if he continues, those close to him will pay. Is Parks willing to risk those he loves for a chance at redemption?

How about an excerpt:

    From the bend, the road descended quickly and Amanda felt the car picking up speed as gravity and its powerful engine propelled it downhill. As she approached the next turn, she realized she was coming in a little too fast. She slid her foot to the brake. Her concentration on steering the twisting road ahead, at first it didn’t register. She dared to take her gaze off the road and look down at her feet before she understood. When her right foot depressed the brake, the pedal glided all the way to the floor. No friction. She pulled her foot back and slammed on the brake again. The pedal slid all the way down. Unbelieving, she pumped it, again and again.  

    There was nothing there.

    She jerked her eyes back. The hairpin turn hurtled at her. On instinct, she kept jamming on the pedal. It was supposed to work. She turned the wheel wildly. The big car shuddered as it tried to negotiate the turn. The two rear wheels slipped off the pavement, spinning in space. With the front wheel drive, the front two tires managed enough traction to catch. The car veered around the curve and headed down the next straight incline. The heavy vehicle rolled faster again as gravity pulled it down the hill. 

    Amanda’s mind reeled. What was she supposed to do? 

    Struggling desperately to force her mind to think, Amanda tried to consider her options. It was all happening too quickly. The next treacherous turn came at her fast. She had no way to slow down. White knuckles gripped the steering wheel.

    The bend ahead showed a hard curve to the right, not quite as tight as the last one, but steeper. And she felt the car accelerating, though she hadn’t touched the gas pedal. Right before the car hit the curve, Amanda spun the steering wheel. The car lurched around the bend. The driver side of the car lifted up. Halfway through the long bend, Amanda watched the hood tilt in the turn until it was almost vertical. No seat belt on, she was catapulted down the leather seat, crashing into the passenger door.  

    “Hell!” she cried, reaching to grab her bruised shoulder. 

    She froze as the two wheels still on the ground shuddered in the gravel, sliding off the small road. Slammed against the side door, she heard the tall weeds and low branches whip against the body. But the car didn’t slow. Blood streamed from a gash on her forehead. For an instant she lay there stretched across the passenger door, holding her breath.

    Then she sensed the car teetering. The front tire bumped something hard. Amanda stared, unbelieving, as the car began to flip. As the Regal made the first revolution, she screamed.

Want to read more? You'll have to get the book! Here are the Buy Links



If you would like to know more about Dr. Overbeck, here is his Social Media Contact information:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorrandyoverbeck

Twitter: https://twitter.com/OverbeckRandy/media

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/authorrandyoverbeck/

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/randy-overbeck

Web site:  www.authorrandyoverbeck.com .

Podcast: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1924616/10983135

Email:  randyoverbeck@authorrandyoverbeck.com

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Randy-Overbeck/e/B07QQHW7DM?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1658371317&sr=8-1

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4825632.Randy_Overbeck

Thank you, Dr. Overbeck, for being my guest today on My Writing Corner.  Any questions or comments for our guest?

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Making a Connection

Having spent most of my working career as a television journalist, I was immediately fascinated by the biography of today's guest in My Writing Corner,   ML Barrs.  She  grew up one of thirteen children—the first girl, with three older brothers—a birth order she says shaped her essence by the time she was eight.

 "A girl’s gotta be a bit pugnacious to get along in that environment," ML says.  Amid the chaos of fourteen people living in a mobile home (not a double-wide),  she tells us when she turned fifteen, she dropped out of school and ran away from home. Being homeless, then working minimum wage jobs quickly grew old. ML earned her GED and went to college, where she met and married the father of their two grown children and became a television journalist. She ran TV newsrooms for years, guiding and managing the content and production of more than eight hours of live newscasts a day.

"I started as a reporter, then moved into management," ML says. " I ran television newsrooms in markets large and small, leading teams covering everything from terrorist attacks and devastating storms like Katrina, to major elections and sports. I later moved on to become a General Manager, before deciding what I really want to do is write mysteries."

Her debut book, Parallel Secrets, will be published later this month, and she has a sequel in the works in  her Parallel Mysteries Series. In her book, her protagonist, Vicky Robeson, shares the author’s passion for justice, especially when it comes to the safety and well-being of children and other vulnerable people.  She has a sequel in the works.  Let's learn more about ML's writing career.

What do you enjoy about being an author?

I enjoy disappearing into the world I’m creating as I write. Writing fiction is fun, though writing a book is harder than I expected. I love putting thoughts and words into other people’s minds and mouths.

How do you develop characters? 

In some ways, they develop themselves as I write. For example, I was determined that my protagonist, Vicky, would be everywoman—not a remarkably fit former FBI agent with an eidetic memory and flawed personality, not a surly detective with remarkable intuition and a drinking problem, etc. Initially, Vicky was to be ‘normal’—emotionally healthy, average physique, etc.—just someone who was good at getting people to talk and at seeing connections others did not. As Vicky’s character evolved, however, it became increasingly obvious that her troubled past shaped her persona. She and her inner thoughts became more interesting. 

Tell us about your road to publication.

It’s been a steep and sometimes rocky road. Writing a book was not easy, at least in part because I assumed that since I’d written and edited TV news stories for decades, writing fiction would be easy. Just make stuff up! My first experience with a professional editor was truly humbling. I’d resisted certain tenets of writing fiction, including the necessity of maintaining clear POV. I assumed readers would surely follow along as I hopped from head to head. Not so.

I began querying long before I had a good book. When I pitched agents in person and via letter, several requested more material, including the full manuscript. Some replied with rejection letters that were encouraging, others sent terse form letters, and many simply did not reply. My publisher, The Wild Rose Press, initially rejected my full manuscript but invited me to resubmit after I made a few (major) changes. I hired an editor, who pointed out not just flaws in my story but also opportunities to develop the plot and characters. She helped me clarify what I wanted to accomplish.

What is your book that you will feature today and how did you come up with the idea to write it?

Parallel Secrets, a contemporary mystery. My protagonist, television journalist Vicky Robeson, lived in my mind for years as I worked in TV news. The idea for this particular story was sparked by a woman who served us breakfast while on a road trip through Arizona. Her striking beauty, gracefulness, and clear don’t-mess-with-me demeanor captured my attention. As we drove away, I said to my husband that she would make a great character in a book. For the next hundred miles or so I talked about the story I could build around her. She was the genesis of Sam, the secretive owner of the diner in Parallel Secrets.

Let's get a blurb:

After a young girl goes missing, former TV crime reporter Vicky Robeson joins the search with the help of her attractive new love interest. They take his RV to a tiny town in rural Missouri that's filled with odd characters and darker secrets. But Vicky has secrets of her own. She believes this kidnapped girl may be linked to a case she reported on nine years ago, when a mystery child was found walking on levee, bloody and unable to speak. Back then, Vicky failed to follow up clues only she knew. Now, she has a chance to redeem herself. 

As she uncovers secrets, it becomes clear someone will kill to keep them hidden. 

How About an excerpt?

    Her eyes burned and the campfire smoke now smelled dangerous. She lifted her camp chair and moved away from the fire, away from the heat and light, closer to the RV to have something solid behind her. She read and reread the short article about the missing girl. Ten years old, disappeared from in front of her house while playing with a friend. No witnesses.

    Fear and terrible images of a child taken, tortured, possibly killed—especially in Walkers Corner—swept away all thoughts except for what she needed to do next. She might not be able to undo the past, but this time she would do everything she could to help save the child.

    It would definitely blow a hole in the camping trip, though, her first with the delectable Pete Harris in his eight-year-old RV. Damn. She liked the way he traveled, the way he thought, the way he looked, the way she felt with him. His jeans and plaid shirt hugged him nicely, and he moved smoothly while making sure everything was just so. And now, he wanted to get a place together. Too bad things were more complicated than that.

    When he came over and kissed her, the fire reflected in his smiling eyes, color melting somewhere between chocolate and caramel.

    Her return kiss was quick. “Sorry, something urgent’s come up. Would you mind driving me back to town?” Her voice felt tight and strained. “I need to go to Missouri for a few days.”

    “What? Now?” He stepped back, looking concerned. “Is everything okay?”

    “Yes, fine. I hate to disrupt our trip, but I need to look into something. A girl’s gone missing there, outside St. Louis.” 

    Pete tilted his head. A lock of light brown hair threaded with gray fell onto his forehead.

    A bit more explanation might be called for. “There’s an Amber Alert. Her name’s Rose Willwood. I want to help find her. And I might write about it, and something else that happened there.” 

    Pete’s brow cleared. “Want me to go with you? I have free time. We can take the RV. If we start early and both drive we can make St. Louis by late tomorrow night.”

    “Really?” Just like that, no more questions? What an amazing guy. “That’d be great. It’s about an hour or two this side of St. Louis.” Six months now, and he just gets better and better. Would he be like that if they lived together?

    “No problem.” Pete started folding the tarp he used as a tablecloth. “I’d like to see more of Missouri.” He put the tarp and a lantern in one of his crates, already packing for an early departure. “How long do you think we’ll be there?

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

I’m working on the second book in the Parallel Mystery series.

Wonderful!  We look forward to it and for now here are the Pre-Order Buy Links for Parallel Secrets and ML's contact information:

Amazon (ebook):    a.co/d/4aSGkOO
Amazon (print book):       a.co/d/5Wubt07
Barnes & Noble:    https://tinyurl.com/BNParallelSecrets
Goodreads (print book): tinyurl.com/yne66wuh
Goodreads (ebook):    tinyurl.com/4j6jajzr

Social contacts:

My website:    MLBARRS.COM 

Thank you, ML,  for being my guest today.  Any questions or comments for her?

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

The Power of Healing

It is always fun to feature an author who has appeared on my blog in the past because that means there is a new book available to enjoy! My guest today in My Writing Corner is Alana Lorens, who has appeared in the past and now has a new book out. Alana has been a published writer for more than forty years, while working as a pizza maker, a floral designer, a journalist and a family law attorney. Currently a resident of Asheville, North Carolina, Alana, who calls herself an "aging hippie" says she loves her time in the smoky blue mountains.

She writes romance and suspense as Alana Lorens, and sci-fi, fantasy and paranormal mystery as Lyndi Alexander. One of her novellas, That Girl's The One I Love, is set in the city of Asheville during the old Bele Chere festival. She is the author of the Pittsburgh Lady Lawyers series, which draws on her 25 years as a family law attorney in the state of Pennsylvania. One of the causes close to her heart came from those years as well–the fight against domestic violence.

She volunteered for many years at women’s shelters and provided free legal services to women and children in need.  She lives with her daughter on the autism spectrum, who is the youngest of her seven children, and she is ruled by three crotchety old cats, and six kittens of various ages.

Today we are featuring her new book, Remnants of Fire and interviewing the book's heroine, Sara Woods. Let's start with a blurb:

Looking for a fresh start, Sara Woods takes a job as a news reporter in a small town. Her first assignment for the Ralston Courier is to investigate a string of deaths, all young women, all her age. To deal with chronic back pain, she goes to the Goldstone Clinic, a local healing center with a strange reputation. As local doctor Rick Paulsen teaches Sara how to access hidden energy skills and reveal secrets from her past, police officer Brendon watches Sara’s every move. The deeper she digs into the Goldstone, the harder it is to deny links to the paranormal. Can she figure out what is going on and who to trust before it’s too late?

Let's talk directly to Sara and find out more about this story:

What happened to make you want a fresh start and what do you hope for in your new life.

Divorce. You know, it sucks. I didn’t really want it, but Jesse had an affair, and I was never convinced he’d be mine again. He always accused me of being out on the prowl for someone new, but it wasn’t true. A reporter’s life is really stressful and busy and wonderful and exciting, especially in a city like Pittsburgh. I mean, the center of everything! I guess I was so hurt that I just let him file the papers and I ran.

But now that I’m here, it’s not so bad. It was the first job that said yes to my application. I probably should have held out for something in Chicago or Miami, but …you know. Maybe I’ll learn something new about small towns.

Tell us about your assignment to investigate the deaths of several young women.

Well, the first one happened because the regular crime reporter, O’Neal, was out of town. I got sent out at the crack of dawn to cover a found body. She was a girl about my age, in the snow without even shoes. Could have been drugs, I suppose. But then my editor, Gloria, asked me to look onto it a little further. She pointed out a string of deaths, all young women in their prime, and at least some of them were patients at this healing clinic in town. So I looked up the stories in the newspaper morgue, and got sent to interview Dr. Rick Paulsen, who was the treating physician for this last girl. She didn’t tell me he’d be tall, blond and handsome. Wow. Talk about fringe benefits.

What is your initial opinion of the Goldstone Clinic?

It’s super-fancy. Like, you’d expect to find this place in a big city catering to rich people, Rockefellers and Carnegies. The living pages editor insisted we go there. Said it really helped her, and she’s pretty old, so that seemed right. The office had real plants, maintained by a service from the look of them, as well as tall silk flower arrangements in red and black, and deep pile salt-and-pepper carpet. Much more Manhattan than mid-America. Weird. And the paintings? Abstract oil paintings line the walls, bearing angry, thick strokes of paint, jagged thrusts in vertical lines of red, gray and black. Spooky as hell. But they were strangely compelling. I had to tear my eyes away.

What are your concerns about it or the people you have met there?

Believe me, after a back injury in a car crash, you get exposed to all kinds of medical techniques, surgery, physical therapy, hot treatments, cold treatments, exercise, massage, you name it. But the first time I was treated there, I went home feeling like I’d given blood, even though no needles were involved. My friend, Dedra, did, too. That was odd.

My editor, Gloria, says that treatments at the Goldstone have killed women for several years. That’s a bit outlandish. Just because they go beyond run of the mill modalities, it doesn’t mean murder, right? That’s a little crazy.

Tell us about your relationship with Brendon? 

Relationship? Ha. The man’s a stalker. I mean, every time I turn around, I see him spying on me. Even after my date with Dr. Rick, there’s Brendon flagging me down with his police lights, giving me crap, asking questions. I just know he’s working for the clinic, somehow, staking me out, reporting back to them. Just like half the people in this town—it’s hard to know who might be aligned with the clinic people! I feel much safer with Dr. Rick. At least I know he’s willing to speak out against them when his patients are dying.

Want more? Let's get an excerpt:


    The waiter brought the souvlaki and more bread. After he left, I leaned forward and put my

elbows on the table. “So what’s going on here? Why did you call me?”

    Rick’s blue eyes dissected me. “Because there’s something unusual about you.”

    Oh, please. That was as bad as ‘What’s your sign, baby?’ “Do I seem naive enough to fall for

that line?”

    “Not really.” He speared a chunk of lamb and dipped it in the creamy cucumber sauce. “That

doesn’t make it any less true. And I think you really care about Lily Kimball, and what happened

to her.”

    “Then you believe something ‘happened.’” Remembering his outburst at the hospital, I added,

“You think she was killed by someone. You even know who.” I watched his face for reaction.

    “I suspect. I don’t know.” He took a long drink of water, as if he were trying to swallow

something unpalatable.

    “But you haven’t gone to the police.” He shook his head. “Why not?”

    He started to answer and then Athena swept over, wanting to make sure everything was to her dear doctor’s satisfaction. She effused with grand passion about how wonderful Rick Paulsen was, as a medical professional and as a man, her praise transparently designed to convince me, as his dinner partner and potential life mate, of his worth. He squirmed as she continued, but seemed loath to interrupt her. Once we had assured her that everything was delightful, she withdrew at last, to observe from behind the cash register.

    When he didn’t answer my last question, I asked again. “Why haven’t you gone to the police?”

    “You don’t understand. The police won’t be any help in this matter.”

    They’re investigating her death—”

    “They’re not investigating her death! They’re just going through the motions until everyone

forgets about her and they can toss her file in a cabinet, never to be seen again!” He slapped his

fork onto the table, a flush of anger suffusing his face, all the way to the tips of his ears. “Just

like the others.”

Still want more?  You'll have to buy the book! Here are the links to it and Alana's social media contacts.

Buy Links

Ebooks -   Amazon ebook 

Paperback - B&N ebook


Book Trailer   https://youtu.be/pWjJT2upVlo

Author Links

Website http://Alana-lorens.com

Facebook    https://www.facebook.com/AlanaLorens/

Goodreads   https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4829967.Alana_Lorens

Amazon Author Page  https://www.amazon.com/Alana-Lorens/e/B005GE0WBC/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/alana-lorens

Twitter:  @AlexanderLyndi

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/alexander_lyndi/


Thank you, Alana, for being my guest today. Any questions or comments for Alana?

A Writing Quest

With the cold days of winter in the rearview mirror and spring taking a firm hold, it's time to look forward to all the reading we want ...