Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Kaye Lynne Booth: Who Almost Wasn't

Kaye Lynne Booth is a freelance writer, editor, and multi-genre author. She holds dual MFA in Creative Writing – Genre Fiction and Screenwriting, and is finishing up an M.A. in Publishing. To earn her publishing degree, she is working under the mentoring of Kevin J. Anderson on the Gilded Glass: Twisted Myths & Shattered Fairy Tales editorial team from Western State Colorado University and WordFire Press and compiling and editing Weird Tales: The Best of the Early Years 1926-27, under Jonathan Maberry.

Tell us a bit about your latest work. 

The Rock Star & The Outlaw is a time-travel adventure about a hard-rocking singer and a time-traveling cowboy, who end up running from the law no matter what “when” they land in. He’s from 1887, she’s from 2025 and they are in for the time-traveling ride of their lives. The story was inspired by the music of The Pretty Reckless and the book includes a full chapter-by-chapter playlist of their music, which heads off each of Amaryllis’ chapters, and the songs by other artists, which head off LeRoy’s chapters.

What are the themes and subjects you tend to revisit in your work? 

Most of my works feature strong female protagonists, so that’s a common thread, but I write in multiple genres, so all of my works are very different. The books in my Women in the West series each have strong female protagonists and feature fictionalized versions of true historic old West characters. The Rock Star & The Outlaw has a strong female protagonist, but it has a strong male protagonist to balance it out.

What happened in your life that prompted you to become a writer? 

I almost wasn’t. In undergraduate school, I was undecided about what I wanted to do with my life. I did well in my English classes, but then I had a bad experience with a student teacher that soured me on pursuing my writing abilities for almost a decade. Then, I found myself writing novel-length letters of correspondence, so I began writing and sending stuff out via snail mail, and I sold my first poem for $5. When the Internet came into existence it changed everything for me, as it gave me a way to get my writing out there, so that was probably the event that gave me my first big boost into the writing world.

What inspires you to write?

Inspiration comes from everywhere around me. I’ve written poems about rocks, birds, flowers, and other elements of the natural world. I might be inspired by a conversation overheard in line at the grocery store, or an interaction between my dog and cat, a television episode or a movie scene. Really, it could be anything. 

The Rock Star & The Outlaw story idea came to me while listening to the songs by The Pretty Reckless and each chapter title for Amaryllis comes from one of their songs. LeRoy’s chapter titles are song titles by various other artists and music genres.

The idea for Book 1 of The Women in the West series, Delilah, came from a graduate school assignment meant to get me to write outside of my comfort zone, in the Western genre, and turned into my first full-length novel. As it turns out, I am quite comfortable writing westerns and I’m preparing for the launch of my second western novel, Book 2 of the Women in the West adventure series, Sarah. In addition, I have written several short stories in the Western genre, and The Rock Star & The Outlaw has Western elements combined with a science fiction, time-travel storyline.

What would be your dream project? 

I lost my son to teen suicide at the age of 19. My dream project would be to write his true story through my eyes, without the worry of legalities, which is what has stopped me from writing it so far. It would be a memorial to him, but I hope it would be a book other parents could benefit from and lives might be saved just by knowing some of the warning signs that I didn’t catch. Maybe someday.

If you have any former project to do over to make it better, which one would it be, and what would you do? 

I did this already with Delilah, which I originally found a publisher for as a stand-alone novel. When the five-year contract was up and the book hadn’t done as well as I had hoped, I chose not to renew the contract, revised the book to better reflect my original vision for it, and republished it through my own small, independent publishing house, WordCrafter Press, as Book 1 in the Women in the West adventure series, and I have to say sales are much improved.

What inspires you to write? 

Writing is my passion, so I guess maybe you’d say I have an unquenchable need to express myself and be understood.

What writers have influenced your style and technique? 

I don’t know about that. I have my own style and technique. It’s harder to imitate a style than it is to write like I write.

I can tell you my favorite authors are Stephen King and Anne Rice. Their knack for vivid description is amazing, and if I was going to emulate any writer, it would be those two. Also, for writing Western, I read a lot of Louis L’Amore.

Where would you rank writing on the "Is it an art or it is a science continuum?" 

Why? Writing is a creative endeavor, so it is an art form, with infinite possibilities. There is no set formula, no right or wrong way to test out, so it can’t possibly be a science. 

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process? 


Since I do the whole process myself, from conceptualizing, to writing, to designing book covers, writing back cover copy and promotional materials, to publishing the book and getting it out there. There are a lot of different tasks to juggle, especially when you are working on two and three different projects in various stages at a time.

Up until recently, the only part I outsourced was having another set of editorial eyes to go over the first draft. But lately, I’ve come to the realization that I cannot do everything. There is not enough time in a day, so I’ve begun outsourcing my book covers and trailers, because although I enjoy creating with images, it takes time away from what I really love, and that is writing.

How do your writer friends help you become a better writer? Or do they not? 

The thing I love most about author communities is the collaborative opportunities that can be found. I work with other authors and publish at least one anthology a year, sometimes more. And when I wanted to create a virtual writing conference after COVID hit, I found plenty of authors willing to donate their time to the effort, resulting in a fabulous lineup of panels and workshops. 

And I learn from every author that I work with. I grab ideas of ways to run my author business, or a new crafting method from books that I review. I was fortunate to be able to study under the International Bestselling author, Kevin J. Anderson, and I can’t tell you how much I learned from him about just putting yourself out there with your words, and about the publishing industry in general.

What does literary success look like to you? 

Many authors have this idea that success comes with the label of bestselling author. While that label is appealing to most of us, there’s more to this author thing, and writing a bestseller isn’t the only possible goal. 

For me, I get tickled every time I come across someone who has read one of my books and liked it. Positive reviews are good for the soul and wonderful motivators. And that’s what makes me feel successful.

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug?

Right now, I’m excited about Sarah, Book 2 of the Women in the West adventure series. Each book in the series features strong female protagonists and true historical characters. The 21-day Kickstarter campaign started January 22, with early digital copies and signed print copies available, as well as special illustrated editions of books 1 & 2, all of which are available nowhere else. Then, in March I’ll be doing a separate launch and the books will become available through distributors in March. 

For more information, visit:

Saturday, January 27, 2024

[Link] The 5 Essential Rules of Film Noir

Editor's Note: This applies also to you folks writing Noir-inspired fiction, not just to the films themselves.

by Jonathan Crow

“That’s life. Whichever way you turn, Fate sticks out a foot to trip you.”

– Al Robert (Tom Neal), Detour

Film Noir. When you think that phrase, the mind is immediately drawn to images of leggy ice queens, rumbled losers in fedoras, guns, neon and certain deadpan cynicism. Film Noir wasn’t a self conscious movement in the way the French New Wave was. It wasn’t a brand name like a Marvel superhero epic. But it did tap into something dark in the American postwar zeitgeist and became for a spell hugely popular. It also created some of the most unforgettable images in film history.

Film Noir hit its zenith in the late ‘40s, a time when veterans were returning home in droves after having witnessed unimaginable horrors. Under the weight of war trauma, men felt the brittle veneer of traditional masculinity – strong, stoic and dominant — crack and crumble. Film Noir tapped into this anxiety. It’s no accident that film scholars have called Film Noir the male weepy.

Read the full article: https://www.openculture.com/2014/06/the-5-rules-of-film-noir.html

Friday, January 26, 2024

Airship 27 Productions Presents The Domino Lady Volume 5

Airship 27 Production is delighted to announce the fifth volume of their best selling series, The Domino Lady.  Born and raised as a wealthy Los Angeles debutant, Elle Patrick assumed the role of the mysterious Domino Lady when her father, an honest district attorney, was assassinated and his killer never found. Devoting her secret persona to battling crime and corruption, the Domino Lady quickly became the beautiful scourge of the underworld.

She returns now in four brand new adventures. From battling crooked politicians to searching for a stolen museum artifact, the masked lovely is relentless in her quest for justice. In this volume she’ll also encounter a mirror-image double and solve the murder of a beloved friend. Writers Gene Moyers, George Tackes, Gene Popa and Fred Adams Jr. deliver an action packed quartet of pulp goodness.

Artist Warren Montgomery provides all the black and white interior illustrations and the beautiful full color cover. With Art Director Rob Davis designing the finished package.


Available now from Amazon in paperback and soon on Kindle!

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Movie Reviews for Writers: The Black Press -- Soldiers Without Swords

Writing and reading have always been important, and not just for entertainment. Words have long been a powerful tool for achieving social and cultural goals, and the history of the black press is just one story that highlights that legacy.

But, as crucial as that history is, this wonderful documentary isn't just a dry presentation of information but also offers something to say to contemporary writers.  

The Importance of Public Words

The early black press took away the invisibility of African-American citizens, both slaves in the South and freemen in the North. Says Vernon Jarrett: 

"We didn't exist in the other papers. We were neither born, we didn't get married, we didn't die, we didn't fight in any wars, we never participated in anything of a scientific achievement. We were truly invisible unless we committed a crime. And in the BLACK PRESS, the negro press, we did get married. They showed us our babies when born. They showed us graduating. They showed our PhDs."

In the same way, your words, no matter how small or large your readership, destroy your invisibility. It shows that you have opinions, thoughts, and ideas that matter. 

And those ideas are targeted, not just the typical who, what, where, when associated with the notion of an unbiased press we often hear about today. According to Phyl Garland: 

"The black press was never intended to be objective because it didn't see the -- the white press being objective. It often took a position. It had an attitude. This was a press of advocacy. There was news, but the news had an admitted and a deliberate slant."

Jane Rhodes echoes that idea: 

"Their whole idea behind Freedom's Journal was to have a voice, an independent voice, an autonomous voice for African Americans. The opening editorial on the front page of Freedom's Journal says, "We mean to plead our own cause ..."

Or, put in other words, "No longer shall others speak for us" (Vernon Jarrett). 

Not only was it important to hear their own voices and see their own faces in the news, it was equally important to train a new generation of writers of color to continue that representation into the next generation. Frederick Douglas probably said it best in his speech on December 3, 1847:

"In the grand struggle for liberty and equality now waging, it is (Unintell.), right, and essential that there should arrive in our ranks authors and editors as well as orators, for it is in these capacities that the most permanent good can be rendered to our cause."

All those new writers, editors, and orators created an interconnected sense of national community that had been limited to disconnected local communities prior. 

Christopher Reed: I would rank the 19th-century African American press as one of the major forces in producing one of the major miracles of that century, pulling African Americans together after slavery into cohesive communities. Whether you're talking about Kansas or Mississippi, ah, New York, it doesn't make any difference -- Washington, these newspapers informed people, elevated morale, built a sense of racial consciousness. You can't, ah, overstate the importance of newspapers.

The Importance of Reading

The rise of the black press highlighted not only the importance of representation in writing but also the crucialness of reading. With the arrival of the black press, reading became a new sort of national pastime for black citizens.

Narrator: As slaves, African Americans were forbidden to read, but after the Civil War, reading became one of the sweetest fruits of freedom. For many, black newspapers were an introduction the power and the magic of the written word.

It surprises me how often people take the gift and miracle of reading so lightly, more as a chore than a privilege. That goes for writers too. I can't tell you how many writers I've talked with who tell them they're too busy writing and don't have time to read. To mean, that's like saying you're too busy driving to fill up the tank with gas. 

I know that as a reader I'm biased -- I get that -- but we have such a wealth of knowledge, wisdom, and yes, entertainment available to us that so many simply disregard. 

So, clearly, even today, the importance of the act of reading hasn't changed. 

The Guts to Keep Writing

Perhaps the biggest takeaway we can get from this excellent documentary is that community gives us the courage to keep writing. A living, vibrant group of other creators as the balm the author's soul needs to keep going. 

Just like the Douglases influenced and encouraged the Ida B. Wellses and the Robert Abbotts. 

Christopher Reed: America had to change and the vehicle to express this would be the newspaper.

And, today, while the issues may be different, America still needs to hear new voices and change and grow with each new generation of writers. Maybe, just maybe, something you write, may have a bearing on that and influence someone in the next generation. 

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

HC Playa: Every Project Is a Dream Project

HC Playa is all 19 shades of awesome. She's also a  writer, a mad scientist, a mother, and an animal wrangler.

Tell us a bit about your latest work.

My newest release is a science fantasy story that sends the heroine on a journey across the galaxy, running for her life because she chose to save a mysterious imprisoned man rather than take the easy and safe route and turn a blind eye. Along the way, as she tries to find safety for herself and Xabiere, entities older than the universe itself wage a timeless war. Erielle must let go of fear and embrace her power to save those she loves and possibly all of creation.

What are the themes and subjects you tend to revisit in your work?

Some common underlying themes that my characters wrestle with:

  • Setting aside prejudices and accepting people for who they are rather than whatever groups they belong to
  • Learning to accept yourself for who you are rather than pretending to be something else in order to “fit in”
  • Various family trauma is often represented b/c in life blood connections do not automatically equate to love. Some of my characters have found family, some have families that loved them, and some have to overcome the pain of rejection. I try to include all sorts of variations to reflect reality. 

What happened in your life that prompted you to become a writer? 

I became a stay-at-home mom. Now, granted, that was a mere 2.5 years, but it was enough time for me to require something to engage my brain and a chance to rediscover the part of me that lived for my epic make-believe dramas as a kid. I started writing in a way as a challenge to myself. I was in an unhappy and abusive marriage and doing something solely for me, something others had made me think I could not do, it was a step toward reconnecting with who I was at my core and the power I held. My characters have epic fantastical powers, but all of us have the power of self-determination. We simply have to embrace it. 

What inspires you to write? 

Life. No, really. Writing is cathartic and a passion of mine. I can take the everyday struggles we all face and plop them into epic adventures with grandiose stakes, and have a good win, or at the very least, come out on top. Also, I like writing steamy weird alien sex :p

What would be your dream project?

It might sound trite, but every project of mine is a dream project. They are works of passion. I know some authors want to work in certain franchises/fandoms and while that could be amazing, bring my own characters to life, and building their worlds….that’s my dream. I don’t write to get rich and famous, although is someone wants to make me rich and famous I won’t argue. 😜

If you have any former project to do over to make it better, which one would it be, and what would you do?

In a way, I already got to do that. I did an edit of a previously released urban fantasy story that was re-released last year as the beginning of a new series. I modernized some of the details and tightened up the writing. I also gave it a much cooler series title, which I have to credit my publisher for. She’s really good at titles. I tend to be a bit too wordy or a bit too literal. I find titles to be a challenge.

What writers have influenced your style and technique?

Even though I do not write romance, I credit a number of romance writers for my style. Sherrilyn McQueen, JR Ward, JD Robb/Nora Roberts, Karen Marie Moning and Patricia Potter to name a few. I read a LOT of their work. I love Kenyon’s intensive world-building that utilizes mythology. Patricia Potter is known for her historical romances, but romance aside she drops you into a world and makes you feel like you are in whatever time period she has picked. I don’t write much historical or even contemporary, but I always keep her details in mind as to what to aim for, as that was the weakest part of my writing when I began.  Something all those have in common, at least in their best works, is that the plot isn’t focused on sex, and while the romance is front and center, there’s a complex plot with excellent world-building. Jim Butcher, Kevin Herne, and JF Lewis would be good examples of non-romances with similar world complexity, often romance appears as a subplot, and sometimes there’s sex, and there’s at least one snarky or smartass character. The plot is generally linear and action-packed, but even with explosions and death-defying exploits you see character growth.

Where would you rank writing on the “Is it an art or it is a science continuum?” Why?

Both. I am probably in the murky middle. You have to have that spark of artistry, that thread of imagination that weaves familiar tropes into new tales, but the science part is making sure your grammar is correct, the pacing feels right for the genre, the threads all come together etc. Knowing the key pieces of what makes a good story and how to write characters so they are not flat, that takes practice. 

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process? 

Carving out time to do it. I passionately enjoy writing, but I also am passionate about science (my day job). The one that pays more bills tends to suck up a lot of my energy and time.

How do your writer friends help you become a better writer? Or do they not? 

When I first started, I went to writers' meetings. There were lectures and workshops on all manner of things connected to the writing process. I have learned A LOT from fellow writers at all levels. Even though I don’t go to writers’ meetings anymore, I am still inspired every time I pick up a story a fellow writer has written. I might take note of how they describe scenery, or clever foreshadowing, or particularly good dialogue. I don’t copy it, but rather try to see how they did it in order to tweak my own process.

What does literary success look like to you? 

For me that will happen when there are people beyond my friend circle that love my characters as much as I do. 

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug?  

I’m not sure when either will be out, but I have two short stories that will appear in anthologies from Pro Se Productions possibly (hopefully) this year. One is a space fantasy adventure for a character I was given named “Homesick Thornton”. He got snatched from his home and is adventuring across the galaxy trying to get home. In my story, he helps hijack a slaver ship and free the captives. The other story is a fantasy where a mage apprentice tasked with delivering a very important object is set upon by thieves. She hires a local sheriff, who happens to be a dryad. Together they track down the object she was directed to deliver, uncover a plot against the king, and have to prevent war and mayhem. That anthology is titled “The Dragon Wore a Badge” and all the stories feature mystical creatures of various sorts in a law enforcement role.

For more information, visit: 


Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Ef Deal: It Began with a Library Card

Ef Deal was the first 4-year-old to get a library card in Audubon, NJ, and that should tell you exactly why you need to know her and her work.

Tell us a bit about your latest work.

Esprit de Corpse released in 2023, a steampunk adventure set in 1843 France, featuring a pair of genius twins, Jacqueline Duval and Angélique Laforge, who discover a plot to animate automatons with the spirits of the skulls found in the Paris Catacombs. Since then, Jacqueline and Angélique have appeared in a few short stories found in A Cast of Crows, Other Aether, and A Cry of Hounds, as well as in Noir at the Bar.

What are the themes and subjects you tend to revisit in your work?

All of my works feature strong female protagonists, some who have been victims of harsh assaults, others just facing the world’s slings and arrows. Religion, as opposed to faith, is another undercurrent in my novels. A recurring theme in all my works is bifurcation; my fantasy works feature a half-human MC, and the twins are divided by their callings: science vs art.

What happened in your life that prompted you to become a writer? 

I grew up on the same street as the town library, which I discovered when I was 4 and visited daily. I was the first person under 6 years of age to get a library card, and I read like a fiend. When I got older, and school took up more of my time, I began writing my own stories because I couldn’t get to the library.

What inspires you to write?

I don’t have any external inspiration. Stories come to me, characters come to me, settings come to me, and I just go with them.

What would be your dream project?

I’m living the dream! I have four books completed in the Steampunk series, with a fifth on the way. Meanwhile, the twins’ teen years make for some wild short stories that I hope to have in a collection one day. They keep me busy!

If you have any former project to do over to make it better, which one would it be, and what would you do?

My fantasy heroine has a whopping great story, and I wish I could get that published.

What writers have influenced your style and technique?

I’m not sure I’d say “influenced.” I was fortunate to be in a workshop for several years with some of the top writers in the genre; every session was a master class in writing. Their critiques helped me learn how to better frame and present my stories, but I don’t think they influenced my style or my voice. Rather, they helped me find it.

Where would you rank writing on the "Is it an art or it is a science continuum?" Why?

Composing sentences for the best method of communication is a science; it can be learned with handbooks on grammar, syntax, and punctuation. Creating “clean copy” is a science. Creating and presenting stories is an art; I’ve taught enough creative writing courses to know that artistic presentation is an innate talent. 

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process? 

Finding the purpose of the story and keeping it in the forefront of the writing. A lot of writers talk about getting halfway through writing a piece before they discover the real story within all the words and deeds. Sometimes I don’t find mine until the very end. But once I do, I can edit to make the whole piece work.

How do your writer friends help you become a better writer? Or do they not? 

I have a circle of writers for whom I am grateful because they are willing to read and critique my work. They are able to help me refine my characters and deepen the plot. Sometimes they see things I just don’t.  I also love to sit down with them and talk about writing in general, or to “talk out” plots or other issues I’m having. And I have an editor/publisher who is just the best in sharpening up my laziness.

What does literary success look like to you? 

Success is when some random influential actor reads my books, enjoys them, and decides these would make a great TV series or movies.

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug?  

Yes! Book Two of the Twins of Bellesfées series is due out in 2024: Aéros et Héroes. A Cry of Hounds comes out at the Tell-Tale Steampunk Festival in April, and I think Other Aether is also going to be released there too, two anthologies featuring the Twins.

For more information, visit: 

Saturday, January 13, 2024

[Link] Growing Bookworms – The importance of character names in children’s fiction

by robbiesinspiration 

The name of a child is important to him/her as well as to their community.

From an individual point of view, a child’s name plays an important role in the advertisement and maintenance his/her self identity. The first word most children learn to write is their name. Some children and adults chose to be known by a nickname and others prefer to use their full name.

From a parental perspective, the name they chose is often symbolic of their hopes and dreams for that child. Some families practice namesaking or the naming of a child after the father or grandfather. The practice of namesaking is much more common in male children than in female children. Namesaking can be positive for a child, but it can also result in high expectations being placed on the child if the person after whom they are named is a high performer. Namesaking often happens in wealthy families and royalty and comes with an expectation for the child to live up to the accomplishments of the previous generation/s. John Jacob Astor IV and his son, John Jacob Astor VI, come to mind when I think of failures to live up to an inherited moniker.  

From a community point of view, names often have religious or cultural significance. In these circumstances, the name of a child can impact the way in which they are accepted by, and integrate into, a community. Names also have meanings which can be important. I remember smiling when meeting a heavily pregnant lady with the name of Chastity.

Read the full article: https://writingtoberead.com/2024/01/10/growing-bookworms-the-importance-of-character-names-in-childrens-fiction-growingbookworms-chiildrensfiction/

Friday, January 12, 2024

Airship 27 Presents Jezebel Johnston - Captain Johnston

Airship 27 Production is proud to announce the release of Vol 9 in the fantastic Pirate Queen sage by Pulp Grandmaster Nancy Hansen, “Jezebel Johnson- Captain Johnson.”

Jezebel Johnston returns to the island of Tortuga where she was born and raised. Now a pirate captain of her own ship, Revelation, she has an audacious plan to help her mother Monifa, a bordello madam, and the Lady Antonia Alvarez, the widow of a well respected businessman. Jezebel hopes to form an alliance between the two women and thereby create a shop where she unloads whatever booty her pirating than can win for her and her crew. That stolen booty to be sold to rich plantation owners.

The plan seems sound enough until she learns to make it a reality she will have to join forces with her former mentor and lover, Walter Armitage, captain of the sloop Sea Witch. She must bury old feelings of both love and anger if they are to become an effective pirating unit on the high seas.

Once again writer Nancy Hansen sets sails with a cast of colorful, exciting characters in one of the most applauded New Pulp series on the market today. Ted Hammond provides the colorful cover and Award-Winning Art Director the interior illustrations and book design. In the end, there is one else like Captain Jezebel Johnston.


Available now at Amazon.

Thursday, January 11, 2024

For What It's Worth: Random Thoughts on Comics

Saw a sarcastic post this morning (not calling anyone out by name though, so don't ask) saying that since a major pop culture staple was on the way out (Funko Pops, though I don't agree, still see them all over the place), maybe the next comic book store trend to save the LCS should be... comic books. 

It's a great thought, but let's be honest. Comic books, particularly monthlies, will never save the LCS until there's a major overhaul in several things:

  1. Distribution 
  2. Cultural perception (IP mines, either for kids or for "mature" as in dirty, not as in regular adult-focused literature)
  3. Format to make them more evergreen (which manga and big primarily non-comic YA and tween pubs are doing well)
  4. Getting over the reliance on the serial model of monthlies
  5. Cost-to-value ratio (see comment about evergreen above)
  6. Getting over the "sell for a college education one day" collectible mentality
Appreciating and building devices for digital comics as an equally valid way of enjoying the books.

Now, I know a lot of folks who still see comics the same way they did in the Silver Age and early Modern Age will disagree, but sorry, the world has changed. The landline is dead, replaced by pocket communication computers. Let the old way of doing comics die and be reborn as something better too. Don't let nostalgia get in the way of the medium being able to grow from Homo Sapien to Homo Superior (to borrow the X-Men metaphor).

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Bono and Flannery: Harder to Believe Than Go Crazy Tonight

"It's not a hill, it's a mountain as you start out the climb..." 
― U2, "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight"

“I think there is no suffering greater than what is caused by the doubts of those
who want to believe. ... It is much harder to believe than not to believe." 
― Flannery O'Connor, The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O'Connor

At first glance, these quotes don't really seem to have anything to do with each other. One is pop psychology from "the world's most popular band" (or used to be anyway). The other is a quote about religion (particularly her own Catholicism) by perhaps the greatest Southern fiction writer to have ever lived.

But, with a little spackle and some good ol' fashioned chiseling around the edges, I think I can force-fit them easily into a discussion about writing and writers and imposter syndrome and feeling like a failure. 

As You Start Out the Climb

Everybody starts somewhere. No. Wait. Let's personalize that a bit. All writers start somewhere. Maybe it's a little bit of raw talent. Maybe it's enough interest to learn a little bit of technique. Or maybe it's blind, unfocused determination spent with a blank screen and a blinking cursor or an empty, yellow, lined sheet of paper on a legal pad. But it is indeed somewhere. It's a place, a starting block, a line that indicates go. 

There are quite a few of these places common to beginning (and established writers).

  • I will write 300 words every day. 
  • I will read at least one chapter of a book every day. 
  • I will write one short story each month/week/etc.
  • I will write a novel for NaNoWriMo this year. 

The first few days are exciting, but then somehow all that magic you expected to keep feeling turns into real work. Wouldn't it be more healthy to go for a run instead of wasting this afternoon at the computer? Wouldn't it be more inspiring to watch that new Marvel movie instead of churning out my 300 words today? It's okay. You can miss one. 

And you can. There are no rules in this game after all -- except the ones you set for yourself. 

But, rules or not, guilt rears its glaring face and it stares at you. It shouts all those words you already know too well. Failure. Hack. Imposter. Not a real writer. Not good enough. Not dedicated enough. 

All that progress uphill gets sidetracked. 

It's a new year and as usual, lots of folks resolve to get healthy, so let's look there for our comparison. You decide to start running four times a week. Good for you. Well done. Let's go. 

Only, you're not in the kind of shape yet to run as far as you want to yet maybe. Perhaps you're already wheezing after the first half mile and your calves are burning. 

It's not a hill. It's a mountain. 

One day you'll be able to run that mountain, but you've got to learn to get comfortable on it first. The more practiced you become, the more that mountain becomes a hill instead. But it always starts the same -- a massive, freakin' mountain! There's just no getting around that, no matter what you might be promised by a writing course in a Facebook ad. 

Sadly, this doesn't just apply to new writers. It also hits home for seasoned writers getting back in after a break from regular writing. Maybe a new full-time job sidelined your regular hours for spinning words into stories. Maybe you've been sick for a few weeks. Maybe you're dealing with family drama. Maybe you just didn't feel the urge to write like you used to and needed to take a break. Whatever the reason, it is all okay. Totally hunky dory. Muy bien. Mucho bueno. Molta bella.  

Because you may have been writing for years, you figure it should be easy to jump back on that horse (I love a good horsey cliche) and be back at full efficiency and writing prowess. 

But, the page stays blank. The cursor blinks at you like an empty promise. 

Where the hell did the damn words go?

Your hill turned back into a mountain. Put simply, you got out of practice. Yes, that quickly. 

But that is easily remedied. Simply start over. Build back up the stamina. Turn that mountain back into a hill. 

As long as it takes. 

Harder to Believe (In Yourself) Than Not To

What's the biggest killer for your drive to write?

No. Don't buy into the lie that it's this imaginary monster called Writer's Block. It doesn't exist. There's always something real lying beneath the surface of that fairy tale villain. Could be family troubles. Could be health issues. Could be stress. Could be work conflicts.

The trick is to know the root cause and not just call it Writers Block and try to fight something that isn't real. Fight the real issue. 

But enough of that rabbit trail. Back to the question. 

What's the biggest killer for your drive to write?

It's doubt. Yes. Doubt. 

It can come with several targets. You doubt your ability to get anything done in the time allotted or available. You doubt your readers will still be there from your last story. You doubt your very abilities since you haven't exercised them for so long. Or as a new writer you may doubt that you have any talent at all and have just been fooling yourself. 

Stop. Ask yourself a few questions.

  • Have you written before? Then you can do it again. 
  • Have you studied and practiced the skills needed to write? Then it's time to do the legwork to go along with that study. 
  • Do you only have a limited amount of time to work on your writing? Then use it. Limited doesn't give you an excuse to just skip it entirely. 
  • Did folks enjoy your work before? Chances are they still will. It just might take a little work to let them know you're back. 

For me, at least, all it takes to remind myself that I've done this before, and even if I have to start over a little further back on the mountain than I was when I left, I've done this all before and I can do it again. 

I can't speak for you. But I'm willing to bet you probably have reminders you hand on to for getting back up on that proverbial horse too. 

For new writers without a reference point of publishing or seeing a story finished, getting over that initial doubt can be a bit tougher, but with great practice comes great respons-- wait, wrong movie.

With continued practice comes a mighty piece of the Tonka trunk fleet to whittle that mountain down to a hill. All you have to do is keep at it. 

Flannery was right. It can be harder to believe it's possible than to doubt, but Flannery also knew that continued pressing on conquers doubts. 

So, get to writing. You got this.

Thursday, January 4, 2024

Lynn Hesse: A Southern Spin on Crime and Murder

Lynn Hesse is an award-winning author of the novels: Well of Rage, Murder in Mobile, Another Kind of Hero, A Matter of Respect, Murder in Mobile, Book 2, and The Forty Knots Burn. Recently, her last two novels won the 2023 Georgia Independent Authors Association Awards for Best Police Procedural, Best Cover Adult Fiction, Best Suspense/Thriller, and the Spotlight on Georgia Fiction.

Malice, Matrimony, & Murder, A Collection of 25 Wedding Cozy Mystery & Crime Fiction Stories contains “Sabotage and A Murder Mystery” by Lynn, published November of 2023 by Marla Bradeen. “Shrewd Women” was reprinted in Crimeucopia, Boomshalalaking, Modern Crimes in Modern Times, UK in June 2023, and published by Onyx Publications and Discovery Podcast in 2022. Bitter Love,” appeared in Crimeucopia, The I’s Have It by Murderous Ink Press, 2021, UK. “Jewel’s Hell” was in the Me Too Short Stories: An Anthology edited by Elizabeth Zelvin, published in 2019 by Level Best Books. Lynn left law enforcement to write and lives with her husband and his six rescue cats near Atlanta, Georgia, where she performs in several dance troupes.

Tell us a bit about your latest work.

An adult/ young adult sci-fi “Grams and Teddy Private Detective Agency “sprouted from a conversation with my grandson before COVID. I’m looking for a publisher.

In 2045 Atlanta, Georgia, a grandmother, and her grandson run a private detective agency in a world with flying cars, holograms, drone surveillance, mandatory senior medications, and an authoritarian government without a Bill of Rights. Widower Dorothy Saunders or Grams and Teddy, her illegal android grandson, are members of the Underground and work against the State to abolish annual home inspections and establish democratic elections. They appear to their neighbors as a fiction writer and human college student, but Jack Saunders created Teddy before he died. Now, Teddy hugs Grams at least three times a day, and they work together solving P.I. cases for extra cash. Two Underground operatives are assassinated. The case of a missing pharmaceutical rep, Jonathan Farnsworth, leads them to the dangerous conspirators that murdered the operatives, a black-market organ harvesting ring in Hawaii, and robotic gestation of human fetuses. 

What are the themes and subjects you tend to revisit in your work?

Subgroups and outsiders, domestic violence, and mental illness are frequent issues I dealt with on-duty as a police officer; they reoccur in my novels and short stories. Thematically, the gray areas of life interest me more than dogma and rules. I revisit the issues of actions, consequences, and the possibility of redemption or forgiveness. What is justice?

What happened in your life that prompted you to become a writer? 

Reading piles of books from the public library every summer as a child and the need to be heard and leave a legacy. Roadblocks.

What inspires you to write? 

Others’ humorous stories, dialogue overheard in a restaurant, the unexplainable and undefinable, the depths of evil and goodness humankind can reach, the magic when a character speaks to you.

What would be your dream project? 

Working on a screenplay to develop one of my books into a movie.

If you have any former project to do over to make it better, which one would it be, and what would you do? 

“Murder Is Food For Thought” was my first published short story about domestic violence based on the aftermath of a true crime involving my mother. I made the manuscript into a short play and produced it through FIELD at the Schwartz Center, Emory University, but I wish I’d known more about formatting, producing, and directing. The desire to learn more led me to InterPlay.

What writers have influenced your style and technique? 

  • Elmore Leonard, his writing style and unforgettable flawed good and redeemable bad guys, 
  • Jacqueline Winspear, Maise Dobbs’ psychological mastery of understanding the criminal mind 
  • Mark Twain, humor and personal debt made by bad investment in inventors, 
  • Anne Cleeves, practical, unsentimental Vera Stanhope character, 
  • Margaret Atwood, chilling stories of suppressing women, The Handmaidens Tale
  • Robert Mosley, bravery and honesty, the whole package, The Wave
  • Anne Perry, her murderous history-convicted of killing her mother,
  • Eudora Welty, the southern humor in “Why I Live at the P.O.”

Where would you rank writing on the "Is it an art or it is a science continuum?" Why?

If a book isn’t art, honesty on some level, why bother. On the other hand, If the writer hasn’t honed his/her craft or makes me work to figure out the pretentious point, I stop reading. I think a writer must be both a mad scientist, an artist, and an entertainer.

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process? 

I’m a pantser and try on the back end to dot every i and cross every t. After a book is accepted by a publisher, the never-ending edits take discipline on my part. It’s boring.

How do your writer friends help you become a better writer? Or do they not?

We commiserate and celebrate together. It helps to have another author at a book signing event for the slow times. I promote my sister and fellow authors for their unique styles and voices. 

Critique groups helped and hindered me in the beginning. Because crime fiction is a genre not everybody enjoys, many find peeking into the dark side disturbing. I learn from reading other genres, but I do find some cozies unrelatable. 

What does literary success look like to you? 

Probably influencing or inspiring another author to keep writing. I’m not a joiner but I joined The National League of American Pen Women to help women artist of all types make a living and gain respect for their work. Making a profit would be gratifying too.

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug? 

I’m working on a historical fiction slash fantasy. A midwife in the winter of 1878 checks on a new mother in the Boston Mountains in Arkansas and wakes up in a cave with white furry creatures that emit their own light and are fed fresh vegs by the gatherers or blue-robed ones that work for the purple-robed royals. Meanwhile, the midwife’s husband is above ground searching for his missing wife, believed kidnapped by bushwhackers or Indians. The husband, an unreliable brother-in-law, and the midwife’s aunt travel to Fort Smith, then into Indian Territory. Cave myth, trains, stagecoaches, midwifery, herbal remedies, old military trials, Marshal Bass Reeves are a few of the subjects I’ve researched for this novel.

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Tuesday, January 2, 2024

Umberto Eco: Anything but a commodity

"It is foolish to think that you have to read all the books you buy, as it is foolish to criticize those who buy more books than they will ever be able to read. It would be like saying that you should use all the cutlery or glasses or screwdrivers or drill bits you bought before buying new ones.

"There are things in life that we need to always have plenty of supplies, even if we will only use a small portion.

"If, for example, we consider books as medicine, we understand that it is good to have many at home rather than a few: when you want to feel better, then you go to the 'medicine closet' and choose a book. Not a random one, but the right book for that moment. That's why you should always have a nutrition choice!

"Those who buy only one book, read only that one and then get rid of it. They simply apply the consumer mentality to books, that is, they consider them a consumer product, a good. Those who love books know that a book is anything but a commodity." 

            -- Umberto Eco, who owned 50,000 books