Emerald Musings

~ 01 Butterfly, Monarch_05Welcome to my writing blog, Emerald Musings! 

Grab a comfortable chair, a cup of your favorite beverage, and enjoy while I explore one of my great passions- storytelling.  At Emerald Musings, I focus on writing and art of storytelling.  I do reviews, rant about the business, and rave about gems of the fiction and non-fiction worlds.

If you are interested in me reviewing your book, please check out my post about reviewing books.  Also, because I want to support my fellow authors as much as I can, please note that I will review only copies I pay for from now on.  If your book isn’t published yet, that’s fine –just let me know the price you’re intending on selling it, and we can possibly make arrangements.

So, as always, please enjoy, and happy reading!

 

    The Emerald Musings "5 Things I Wish I Had Known" Series Begins in April

    Greetings, Everyone!

    Since I've managed to get some wonderful guest post contributions over the years, I decided to go to the well again and see what I could get.  And you ladies and gentlemen certainly didn't disappoint!  So, starting in April, we're featuring a new guest post on every Friday that follows the theme of "5 Things I wish I had Known Before I..."  Here are a few of the great posts that are in store for my wonderful readers!

    Dee Willson

    On April 7th, Dee Willson, author extraordinaire and a woman brave enough to return to Emerald Musings is sharing five important things she learned while working with literary agents.  If you're interested in learning more about the nuances of working with an agent, this is certainly a post to check out!

    Elka Ray

    That following Friday -- April 14th to be exact, crime author Elka Ray discusses the five things about writing crime fiction that she wished someone had told her in the beginning.  Whether you're a rookie or a vet at this game, these are five things you'll be able to relate to!

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    Review of Lust, Money and Murder Book 1 By Mike Wells

    Book:  Lust, Money, and Murder  Book 1

    Author:  Mike Wells

    Publisher:  Self Published/Mike Wells

    Availability:   Kobo   Amazon  Google Books  Barnes & Noble

    Author Website and Social Media:  Mike Wells  Twitter  Facebook

    Overall Rating  3.00

    Overall Summary:

    Growing up in the worst slums in Pittsburgh, Elaine and her father struggle to make their home a happy one and provide a future that can match the intelligence and dreams that they share for one another.  When her father is falsely accused of passing counterfeit money and eventually dies in jail, Elaine realizes her mission in life and becomes a secret service agent in the hopes of tracking down the real culprit and bringing him to justice.  But like all pursuits of a passionate nature, not everything goes according to plan.

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    A Review of The Daddy Track by Allison Leigh, Illustrated by Mayu Takayama

    Book:  The Daddy Track

    Author:  Allison Leigh,  Illustrated by Mayu Takayama

    Publisher:  Harlequin Comics

    Availability:   Kobo  Amazon  Google Books

    Author Social Media and Website:  Allison Leigh  Allison's Facebook  Allison's Goodreads

    Illustrator Social Media and Website:   None Found

    Overall Rating:  3.75 out of 5 Stars

    Overall Summary:

    When Nate's friend and colleague dies in an accident after replacing Nate on a business trip, Nate is determined to make amends with his family and gain some sort of atonement.  He offers to help out his friend's sister, Jordan, who is busy raising a pair of twins and running a cafe.  As their interaction grows through business and friendship, and Nate starts to struggle with his growing feelings, will he decide to follow his mind or his heart?

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    What I do When I Lose the Will to Write

    By Susan Vittitow Mark

    I've written for a living long enough, that I can usually manage the must-do, on-deadline stuff. Some people dig ditches, I tell myself. I push letters on a keyboard.

    Where I struggle is with personal, creative work. Sometimes I simply lose the will to write. Winter's darkness depresses me. A demanding job saps my energy. My mind goes blank. It's hard to believe in myself as a poet and storyteller when I am slogging through a mental swamp.

    I'm not always ready to take on the world. Sometimes I have to use a sliding scale of activities, based on how much motivation I have in the tank. I hesitate to tell other writers what to do, but here's what works for me:

    When I can't finish, I second draft.

    I do most first drafts with pen and paper. When editing and finishing a piece is too intimidating, I go through my notebooks with highlighters and page flags. I look for poems and essays with potential and sit down at the keyboard to get them in the file. I end up doing some good revisions as I type.

    When I can't face the keyboard, I journal.

    I wake up ludicrously early and will sit with a cup of coffee and a notebook to get words down on the page. Even if I am only grumbling about life or even making to-do lists, the act of putting pen to paper jars something loose. I often drift into an actual essay, poem, or story idea. Louis L'Amour famously said, “Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”

    When journaling is overwhelming, I write letters.

    Old-fashioned ones, handwritten, with a stamp and sent snail-mail. Why yes, I AM an anachronism. Letters are a great writing practice, because I write with one reader in mind, from my heart, in a natural voice. And who doesn't enjoy receiving a letter? I know my words will bring one person joy.

    Even a letter too much? I read.

    I don't even demand I useful read. I stupid read. I read what makes me happy. I try to read in my genres, but if the book doesn't grab me, I don't read it as “homework.” I don't care how successful the book is – if I don't want to read it, why would I want to write like it? I want examples to aspire to, not to avoid.

    When I've lost the will to read...

    … then, it's bad. At that point, I have to assess what's going on in my life. I may need better self-care. I may even need to withdraw from the world for a limited amount of time and lick my wounds. Emphasis on the word “limited.” A woman I worked with used to say, “If you're going to wallow, get in there and wallow good. Then GET OUT.” Sometimes a quick wallow is just the ticket.

    I have a self-pep-talk.

    These are the words I come back to when I'm sucked down an unproductive vortex. Feel free to try them and use them as you see fit:

    I believe in you. I have no doubts you've accomplished something in your writing, even if you've only scribbled five words you love in a journal no one else will see. Stop listing all the things you haven't done, and pat yourself on the back for the things you have done. Don't you dare beat yourself up with the word “excuses.” Maybe I'm naive, but I truly believe you are doing the best you can with what you have in the tank at that moment.

    A writing life doesn't always have to speed down the road at a breakneck pace. Find your own fallback positions. Find ways to keep words alive in your life when inertia grabs you by the ankles.

    And always have faith: your stories matter.

    Know that, and keep going.

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    Nose to the Grindstone

    By Jacey Bedford 

    Douglas Adams famously said: ‘I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.’ That may have worked for Mr. Adams and for those writers who have reached that elusive peak in their career where their publishers are grateful for their output, even if it arrives late, but for most of us deadlines are something that we should stick to.

    At the risk of pointing out a tiny fact that we all know: writing is hard. We do it in a vacuum. There’s no instant feedback for a writer. Nothing that gives us a pat on the back for producing excellent prose, or a tight-knit plot, or solving a particular character problem with a brilliant stroke of imagination. We get exactly the same feedback for three lines of hackneyed prose dragged out of our brain letter by painful letter as we do for five thousand words of sheer genius produced in one wild outpouring of fevered creativity. That is to say: none—at least not at the time.

    We stare at a screen and type. The screen stares back. It’s not even grateful for our attention.

    So why do we do it? Why do I do it?

    To be honest, half the time I don’t know. But the other half of the time I know that it’s the best thing I could possibly do. I write because I have to. I write because I simply can’t NOT write. Sure, I can take a few days off from writing every now and then, but leave it too long and I start to get twitchy. I’m sure a lot of other writers go through the same thing.

    Once you get to the stage where someone is paying you to write, however, you encounter deadlines. I love writing. I don’t necessarily love writing fast. I often have other demands on my time: a day job, family commitments, cooking dinner, entertaining guests, taking my mum to the supermarket, walking the dog. Somehow all those things take priority over writing because the words can wait. They’ll always be there when I need them. I can take the time to stack the dishwasher and then start to write… can’t I?

    The answer is yes… and then, possibly, no. No one is forcing me to pay attention to my writing. The computer screen isn’t screaming at me. The notebook isn’t jumping up and down demanding to go for a walk around the block, however… At the back of my mind, there’s that itchy-scratchy feeling that tells me my characters are at the starting gate and ready for off—anxiously waiting for whatever I’ve decided to put them through today. I need to listen to those voices.

    I need the ability to say: sure the dishwasher needs stacking, but no one is going to die because the pots sit around in the sink for a couple of hours. On the other hand, last night I left my characters in a burning building and who is going to get them out if I don’t?

    Writing is what I do. It’s a part of me and I need to give it space to breathe. (Listen to John Cleese speaking about creativity and getting into the right headspace to allow it to happen: https://youtu.be/5xPvvPTQaMI) Making time for writing is harder before publication because sometimes families/partners/spouses don’t get it. My family didn’t always get it, but they indulged me (or perhaps thought I was indulging myself, but went along with it anyway).

    Like most published writers I spent many years as an unpublished one. I learned that if you don’t finish a piece/story/book and send it out, it will never be published. So if you’re serious about publication you need to apply the seat of your pants to the chair, and your fingers to the keyboard, and write. You must not only write, but you must finish what you write, revise it, edit it, polish it and send it out. If it comes whistling back with a rejection send it out again. And again.

    One thing I've noticed is that the more stories you send out the more you sell. At the beginning of 2015, I had a spurt of submitting hitherto unsold stories to magazines and anthologies, and also some previously sold stories to reprint and foreign language markets. I've been translated into Estonian, Polish and Galician. How cool is that? Altogether I sold about seventeen or eighteen short stories in that three-month burst of activity, but after that, I got really busy with the novels and stopped sending out story subs. Surprise, surprise, my short story sales tailed off dramatically.

    I’m currently writing my fifth novel, i.e. the fifth novel I’ve sold for publication. If you count the ones I wrote before I got my publishing deal it’s my tenth. Plus around fifty short stories—thirty of which have been published. That’s a lot of words. At a rough estimate 1,500,000 words, and those are just the ones that made it to the final edit.

    People ask what motivates me. I can only say that it’s a mixture of enjoying what I do and knowing that I have signed a contract to deliver the next book and that I’ve agreed on a timescale. If I didn’t enjoy doing what I do, I could never have committed to doing the work. It is work. Enjoyable work. Work I love to do, but it’s work. I have to respect it as such.

    I did NaNoWriMo 2016, that’s National Novel Writing Month. During the month of November, you sign up to the NaNoWriMo website and commit to writing 50,000 words in a month. If that sounds a lot when you break it down to a daily rate that’s 1,666 words per day. That sounds much more manageable, doesn’t it? It’s just a tiny bit longer than this blog piece. Of course, it doesn’t always work out at a steady 1,666 words per day, but I finished my 50,000 words on 29th November. NaNoWriMo was originally for inexperienced writers, however, I know a lot of published writers who now pace themselves alongside NaNo, entering daily word counts into the meter on the web, racing their NaNo friends and other writer colleagues. You only count the words you write in November, of course, but since I started out with 19,900 words on 31st October, by the time I got to 30th November I had 70,000 words of my upcoming novel in the bag. I had a few slow days, but there were also days in the high two thousand, and one day at just over four thousand and one days at just over ten thousand. What I’m saying is that I’m not a word machine. I have poor days and brilliant days, but I keep my eye on the target and get there in the end.

    And that’s what I have to do when I have a book to write and a deadline looming. These days it’s the fashion for science fiction and fantasy books to be long. DAW, my publisher, tends towards long books. My historical fantasies, Winterwood and Silverwolf, are 133,000 and 134,000 words respectively. My two science fiction (space operas) are 171,000 and 173,000 words respectively and I’m currently writing Nimbus, the third in that Psi-Tech trilogy for publication in October 2017. I’m aiming for 170,000 words, but I’ll be happy to finish the first draft on 130,000 - 140,000 words, at which point I’ll look and see where the gaps are and add in extra on the first revision pass.

    Revision is all about getting the book’s structure and plot right, making sure the characters are well fleshed out and there are no great, gaping logic holes. I’m one of those writers who enjoys working on revisions and edits, adding in, moving round, taking out, smoothing off. Writing would be a difficult job, indeed, if you only liked one aspect of it.

    Advice? Well, the one thing I would say is to stick with it. Being a writer is not an easy option, but if it’s for you, then you already have the drive to write. Listen to your inner writer and get those words down. The one thing you should know is that all writers have slow days and fast days. They are not machines, so don’t expect miracles of yourself, but do expect that if you keep going you will get there in the end. Good luck.

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    How to Deal with a Terrible Case of the Writing Blahs!

    By Andrea Hintz (Author of The Tesoro Series and Perception and Deception)

    There comes a time in every writer’s career when they face the most disorienting and frustrating time that they could possibly imagine. You have heard the phrase before: writer’s block. This could be because you are becoming bored with your writing or you have suddenly become drained of ideas in the midst of exhaustion. Sometimes this comes on from the added stress of a deadline. As an author of seven books, going on eight, I have faced this challenge several times and have learned a few tricks on getting around it. I will be going over a few techniques that I have found helpful over the years and am hoping that you will too.

    Take a Rest!

    This may sound simple, but one of the most effective processes for me has been to take a rest. It can be anywhere from a couple of hours to several weeks. Now, taking two weeks off from writing may not help if you have a deadline. But maybe going out to the store or a park and looking for inspiration and serenity for a few hours may not be such a bad idea. You may even see a new book character walking towards you in the soup aisle!

    Write Some More!

    Ok…what???

    I am serious. Write some more. But do not work on the project that is frustrating you! Work on something completely different. Maybe write the first chapter or two of that other book idea that is dancing in the back of your head. It is absolutely ok to write multiple books at once. Or maybe write a short story about one of your characters being in a completely different setting. It never has to be seen or published, or maybe you will accidentally write a fantastic short story for Kindle! This really helps to get your creative juices flowing and may even offer some different ideas for your other book. Steal away a scene or conversation that you wrote in your random short story and place it in the book that is causing frustration. Now you have new material that you may not have stumbled across otherwise.

     

    Deleted Scenes!

    This is a technique for you to do in advance before you are hit with the writing blahs. Do you remember that scene or dialogue in your story where you read it again and it did not seem to really fit in? So, what did you do? You highlighted the entire section and hit the backspace button.

    STOP!!!

    You have valuable material in there! No matter how unfitting or boring it may seem, cut and paste it into another document and save all of your scenes that did not make the cut into a document titled, “Deleted Scenes.” Why would you do this? Because when you are writing a later section in the book or even a completely separate story a few months down the road, you might find that the conversation between two characters in one story that seemed mediocre to you at the time may fit in perfectly with your new work. The whole section is already written up. You just need to copy and paste it into the story, change a few names, adjust the structure, and presto! Your work is done. And now you can even come up with more ideas for your story because you might actually be able to elaborate on your old ideas in a completely new and jaw-dropping way!

    Talk it Out!

    My final word of advice is to talk it out! Discuss your story with someone you trust such as a parent, spouse, sibling, or close friend. Be careful who you share your ideas with. But sometimes just talking out loud lets your brain reach out for ideas farther than you ever imagined it could!

    In Conclusion…

    Remember, some of these techniques may not always help. But maybe one of these ideas will inspire a new technique for you that does work. Our amazing, individual brains all work extremely differently, and when we work together to come up with ideas, we can come up with something amazing!

    Happy writing!

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    When Writing Becomes a Bore...

    If you're a writer or an artist, I can almost promise you that you've felt the need to throw your keyboard or pad and pencil far away.  Creating anything can be at times gloriously frustrating.  For those of us who write for a living,  it can quickly turn into a situation where the desire to do anything else but what we're supposed to be doing becomes favorable.

    It's worse, in a way than the dreaded writer's block.  I call it the writing blahs.  It's those times that happen every so often where your passion for the written word, for the art of conveying a story or an idea simply fizzles out...  and you start to wonder why you even try.

    It can come with a rejection letter.  It can be triggered by the frustration of not finding the right word to convey the idea that is bounding around in your head like a caged tiger.  It can boil to the surface when someone says-- again -- "oh, you're a writer?  That sounds like great.  Not like it's a real job, you know?"

    So what can you do when deadlines are breathing down your neck when you feel unappreciated as a writer, or when writing becomes more of a bore than a passion?  The easy thing to say is to ignore everything else and just write, just create.

    But we all know that sometimes that's easier said than done.

    So for the month of February, Emerald Musings is hosting a series of guest posts by some fantastic authors on how they deal with "the writing blahs"  or the parts of being a professional author that people don't quite talk about when they are waxing poetic about the writing process.

    Andrea Hintz

    We're starting off this Friday (February 10th) with a post by Andrea Hintz, author of the Tesoro series.  She'll be sharing some of her practical tips and tricks on how to make it through those times when the last thing you want to do is put words to paper.

    Jacey Bedford

    Then the next Friday, we're traveling across the pond figuratively speaking, to learn from Jacey Bedford about how she keeps on track when deadlines are looming and her nose to the grindstone.  So be sure to stop by on February 17th for some great information and advice!

    And finally on last Friday of the month or February 24th for those keeping track, Emerald Musings will be hosting Susan Vittitow Mark as she discusses her practical ways of dealing when those times when she simply doesn't want to write anymore.

    Susan Vittitow Mark

    So be sure to stop by Emerald Musings for the next few Fridays and share your thoughts on beating the writing blahs as well.

    Looking forward to having some great conversations with you!

     

     

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    Welcome to 2017!

    Hello Everyone,

    I know, it's been a while since I posted to my blog Emerald Musings, and for that, I apologize.  The only excuse I have is that life over the months of November and December have gotten a bit more hectic between work and family, and since I am a firm believer in living and well as writing, blogging came in a distant second.  Forgive me?

    So I wanted to let you know what is hopefully in store for 2017-2018 at Emerald Musings and The Writer's Thread.  Not sure if everything will be accomplished, but hey- it pays to dream big, right?

    The Return of the Story...

    In January I'll be posting some of the fantastic submissions I've received to The Writer's Thread Showcase as well as at least one of my own short stories.  You'll be seeing some old favorites, as well as some really strong new contenders.  And as always, the submissions page is always open for business!

    When the Passion for Writing Turns into... Blah

    As writers, we've all been there.  Those moments when writing seems more like a chore and less like a passionate endeavor.  In February, a few wonderful guest authors will be providing their time-tested secrets on how to deal with deadlines, writing blahs, and getting and staying motivated when everything around you seems to say, "why bother?"  This promises to be a great series, and I'm really looking forward to your thoughts on the subject as well.

    Reviews and Rants,  Oh My!

    Of course, as time and energy permits, I will return to the practice of offering honest and snarky reviews of books of any genre.  I'm a bit backlogged at the moment but hope within the next few months to catch up and begin taking on new ones as I can.  There are so many books out there, and I take great pleasure in reading and reviewing as many as I can!

    Return to my First Love

    Now before you get all excited, no, I am not leaving my husband for my high school crush.  As impossibly impractical and romantic as that may sound to you romance aficionados out there, I have to say, I've hit the jackpot with the man I'm married to now.  No, I'm actually talking about changes to The Writer's Thread Website.  If you take a quick glance at our home page (don't worry, I'll wait), you'll notice that the Jewelry Store and the Newsletters sign up area have been removed.  While I enjoyed both of these endeavors, I simply do not have the energy or time to devote to them in the manner they deserve.  Will they return in the future?  Perhaps.  It depends on how many loveable minions I can steal away from Gru and Dr. Nefario.

    Instead, I will be focusing on what makes The Writer's Thread great- the writing and building solid relationships with my clients and the professionals that I work with on a regular basis, and reaching out to those who may find my services useful.  We're also planning on expanding our services in 2017 and 2018 to include such things as quality PLR articles, white papers, and we'll be working with some great business associates to help make the magic of the written word work for you in new and exciting ways.

    And Finally... The Fiction!

    Whew!  Looks like there is quite a bit on the table here, but there is no way I'm going to let fiction take a back seat!  In addition to submitting short stories to various outlets, I have two main projects that I'm working on this year for completion and publication during the 2017 and 2018 time frame.  The first is new for me (gulp!) - a mystery webcomic that will be shared chapter by chapter right here on The Writer's Thread.  The webcomic is written and drawn by yours truly, so be prepared to either laugh yourself silly at my drawing ability or be surprised at how much you enjoy reading it in 2018.

    The second WIP is a fantasy/mystery novel code-named "Midori" that is set in a time and place of swords, mercenaries, and noble beauty.  It's still in the writing and editing stages, so I don't want to reveal too much, but I will admit, I'm having a blast writing it- and I hope to have it available in 2018.

    So there you go-- a brief summary of my plans in 2017 and beyond.  What about you?  What's on your horizon?

     

     

     

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