Guest Post

If you have a book to promote, Lyrical Pens welcomes guest posts on Wednesdays. I can furnish a questionnaire or you can create your own post. FYI, up front: The site is a definite PG-13. Contact for details. cj

Sunday, July 24, 2016

How to defeat summer writing doldrums

"Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go."
E. L. Doctorow in The New York Times (20 October 1985)

Dauphin Island Sunset (photo by Jeff D. Johnston)

cj Sez:  Are you suffering from the same hellacious heat and humidity as I am? As much as I don’t like cold weather, this long string of 90-plus temperatures and rainy days is making me a slug. And to say I’ve been neglecting my writing life would be an understatement. My writing life has been almost non-existent, so I’m having a go at trading perspiration for inspiration. How am I doing that, you ask? Read on.

From Facebook
The first thing was an attempt to restart the critique group. For most of this year, each of us has been busy with our civilian lives (as opposed to the writerly life). One of us became a first-time mother, another entertained beau coup family and traveled, a third faced medical issues, and I loitered around the house, yard, and computer games. One of our members dropped out, but the rest of us were able to meet again a couple of weeks ago, and boy, did that feel good. I immediately felt inspiration massaging away at the brain cramp.

I’ve started re-reading mystery books—some good, some bad…the bad ones are great because as H. G. Wells said, “No compulsion in the world is stronger than the urge to edit someone else’s document.” (Amen.) Plus, I recognize what I don’t like to read and pray that knowledge will improve my writing.

I attended the Alabama Writers Conclave conference in Birmingham, AL, took in several workshops (I'll comment more on those next week), and had ten pages of my languishing work-in-progress professionally critiqued. When the last word on the last page was “good,” I knew I was on the right track. Great feeling.

2016 Writers Police Academy
200-word contest prompt

On Friday, I had a relaxing lunch with two other writer friends. We had all attended the conference, and the lunch was a nice way to reinforce our learning experiences and enthuse about what we’re going to write next. Me? I think I’ll seek out some prompts and write a few flash fiction pieces, maybe 200 or 400 words.

Yesterday, I spent an hour describing in detail my protagonist’s office space. (Not to be used in active scene, but in my backup document.) Since she will be in the office several times during the story, I needed to get a visual of the layout firmly fixed in my mind.

I’ve also started editing an old short story. The word count needs to be doubled to make it eligible to submit for an anthology. THAT will be a task, because I naturally write very tight. I’m looking forward to it, though. 

The next thing I’m going to do is head for a change of scenery. It’s been several years since I visited family, friends, and old stomping grounds in Michigan, so I’m headed north, 1100 miles from the Alabama Gulf Coast for a whirlwind one-week (gasp) visit. I’m hoping that when I get home again, I’ll be able to set and meet some new writing deadlines.

That’s my plan. How about you? What do you do to escape the summer writing doldrums?

On Wednesday, lawyer and author Susan Spann has given me permission to reprint her post on the myths of copyrights for novels and other creative work. Super interesting and informative piece. Please stop by and let us know if you’ve found some helpful nuggets.

Okay, you-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.

Choosing Carter  -- Kindle  /  Nook  /  Kobo   /  iTunes/iBook

Deadly Star --  Kindle  / Nook  / Kobo

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Getting in the Zone

cj Sez: Very happy today to have as my guest blogger, a fellow Sister in Crime, Gin Mackey. Gin’s tips on getting into that elusive creative writing zone are spot on. Welcome, Gin.


Thanks for the chance to spend time over here at Lyrical Pens, cj.

Has this ever happened to you? You’ve been hard at work, immersed in your writing for hours. Finally you put your head up, find yourself coming out of a lovely daze, your characters more real to you than what’s-his-name—oh yes, your husband—out in the kitchen, making dinner.

As you come to, you’re wondering: What. Just. Happened?

On those days, hard at work feels more like hard at play. You’re not attempting to orchestrate your characters into doing anything, you’re simply running alongside them, tapping away as fast as your fingers can fly, trying to keep up.

You’re in the zone. The creative zone.

When I have days like that.… Ooh. I get shivers just thinking about it. It’s better than…. Well, fill in the blank for yourselves, folks. It’s better than a whole lot of pretty great things in life. It’s like a magic portal opened up, and you entered into another world, a world that’s the result of your own imagination in a dance with the universe.  

Are there times when a bout of creativity makes you believe there is something greater than your puny powers at work? That there is a wondrous choreographer in the sky, a force for good, a God? Creativity at its best feels a bit blessed.

Have you ever scaled a mountain, exerted yourself for hours until you finally stood at the tippity top? That first look around—of boundless beauty and breadth—is breathtaking. I say that’s majesty. Save yourself all that exertion! You can get that feeling without leaving your desk, brought to you by your friend creativity.

But creativity can be mercurial. A few tips on beguiling it in:

Start writing as close to the dream state as possible. Get out of bed and write. I’ve heard of writers who make their coffee the night before and have it in a thermos ready to go by their desk. Think of times you’ve been awakened mid-dream, those big-as-a-house, velvet-winged black birds so real you expect to see them outside your window.

There’s not a lot to recommend housework if you ask me. But that endless drudgery you know you’ll only have to do again next month allows creativity to flourish. Paper and pencil are never far away so you can note your great ideas. The resulting random 2,483 scraps of paper dotting your office? That’s a different blog.

Bum glue. Sit in your chair until creativity makes an appearance, no matter how long it takes. Lots of writers espouse this. Personally I find the term “bum glue” distasteful so I don’t adhere to it. All right, that’s a cheap laugh. Hey, I wrote Suddenly Spying, a madcap caper. Of course I like cheap laughs! 

But sometimes I will sit down at my desk, whistle a happy tune and just write—about my to-do list, the weather, the garden—until creativity thinks I’m not paying attention. Almost as if I ignore it, now it wants to play. Suddenly a character appears, a scene unfolds and…. Whee!

When I’m feeling creativity has gone on vacation, I look at this TEDTalk by Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat, Pray, Love fame). You’ll see why it’s been watched more than eleven million times. Your Elusive Creative Genius  
What’s it like for you when creativity hits? Any tips you’d like to share about beckoning creativity your way? Please chime in!

Til we meet again, may the force—the creative force—be with you.

Gin Mackey is the author of SUDDENLY SPYING, a madcap caper. Her short stories have appeared in the anthologies Best New England Crime Stories 2016: Red Dawn and Fish or Cut Bait. Gin is a past president of the New England chapter of Sisters in Crime. She lives on the coast of Maine, where she’s hard at work on her novel Disappear Our Dead, featuring Abby Tiernan, a grieving widow turned home funeral guide. Visit Gin at

A madcap caper! Nora Gallagher’s super successful secret agent sister Giselle dangles a big bucks spy assignment and promises to help Nora learn the spy biz. Nora forgets about the time Giselle gave her a bouillon cube and told her it was a caramel. Just short of shanghaied to tropical Barlanadana Island, Nora gets her assignment: Stop a coup financed by dangerous drug dealer Tommy the Twitch. But Giselle is weirdly jumpy, and spending lots more time limboing with the locals than helping Nora learn the ropes. As a Bermuda-triangle of troubles threatens to suck Nora under, she’ll have to morph from low-achiever to agent extraordinaire, using skills she never knew she had in ways she never imagined possible if she’s to stop a coup, save her sister, and revive her own dying dreams.

cj Sez: Wow, thanks, Gin. I really enjoyed that post. Sending all best wishes for great sales of Suddenly Spying. The description reminds me of a madcap “I Love Lucy” episode, and I’m looking forward to some grins when I read it. 

Okay, you-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same. Be sure to drop us a note and tell us how you get into your creative zone.
Choosing Carter  -- Kindle  /  Nook  /  Kobo   /  iTunes/iBook
Deadly Star --  Kindle  / Nook  / Kobo