Guest Post

HAVE A BOOK TO PROMOTE? Lyrical Pens welcomes guest posts. Answer a questionnaire or create your own post. FYI, up front: This site is a definite PG-13. For details, contact cj

Friday, April 29, 2016

Fond Farewell

When Marilyn Johnston, Tracy Hurley, and I created Lyrical Pens almost ten years ago, we were all novice bloggers and all working on our new fiction stories. It was an exciting time for us. Mobile Writers Guild - Tracy and I started it - was in its infancy, our critique groups were thriving, and hauling refreshments to each of the meetings seemed like a small price to pay for the growth process and exchanges of new ideas.
Through Tracy’s innovative ideas, she secured top talent to speak to our meetings and led the parade that created Home for the Holidays for Mobile Writers Guild - great food, crafts, readings, and book sales. Tracy was the first writer who told me I had a gift for writing and should not ignore it; it would change my life. Her organizational skills dreamed and made the MWG annual Christmas party a hit, securing Carolyn Haines as our first speaker.

Marilyn (cj) was the first treasurer for MWG. She got the ball rolling by organizing our accounts, managing our funds, opening the first checking account, paying bills, etc. She was the business head behind what is still an active organization in Mobile. Marilyn gave me the first truly valuable critique that went beyond “I liked it.” My writing has grown tremendously under her editing and advice. It was a joy to create annual calendars and new ideas for Lyrical Pens. Together, we sought out well-known writers and local talent on their way up the writing ladder to pen unique blogs for you.

As you all know, Tracy left us much too soon, only a few short months after moving from Mobile to Maryland. It was a shock that left Marilyn and I reeling. Tracy was the computer “geek” who had secured the URL, set up the blog site, and she maintained it. She was our sense of humor, a major creative think tank on her own. When she was gone, I was thankful that I am a good note taker, or Marilyn and I would have been lost on more fronts.

To create the blog initially, the three of us drank gallons of tea and coffee and worked over Tracy’s laptop at Panera’s for hours. Marilyn and I were full of advice but not so full of computerese. The name Lyrical Pens was Marilyn’s idea, and we loved it from the start!

Over the past year, Marilyn has grown the followers and weekly bloggers who check into Lyrical

Pens, while I was off growing my editing and writing business, creating my new website, newsletter, and Barefoot Writing Academy. She has two great books on sale, has won numerous contests, has appeared in many printed anthologies, and secured a name for herself in the world of mystery writers. I am proud of her work and especially happy to be her friend. Oh, and ever so grateful that she still makes time to review my work.

This is my last post on Lyrical Pens. I thank all of you who followed and commented on my blog posts, entered my crazy writing contests, and support Barefoot Writing Academy. I hope all of you will join me at My site lists my editorial and writing services, updates on new classes, and you can sign-up to receive my newsletter, Tea & Empathy. It is designed especially for writers and contains current industry information, marketing tips to Celebrate Your Book!, tea recipes, and more.

I leave Lyrical Pens with a definite sense of loss, but if my growing years have taught me anything, it is that sometimes we have to let go to get where we need to go. I leave this wonderful site in the capable hands of the excellent mystery/thriller writer, c j petterson.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Write On

A Letter to Agnes DeMille
There is a vitality,
a life force,
a quickening
that is translated through you into action,
and because there is only one of you in all time,
this expression is unique.

And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost.
The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine
how good it is
nor how valuable it is
nor how it compares with other expressions.

It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly
to keep the channel open.
You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work.
You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate YOU.

Keep the channel open...
No artist is pleased...

There is no satisfaction whatever at anytime
There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction
a blessed unrest that keeps us marching
and makes "us" MORE alive than the others.

Martha Graham
(As quoted in The Life and Work of Martha Graham by Agnes de Mille)

cj Sez: Martha Graham is considered one of the greatest artists of the 20th century. She was an American dancer and choreographer, one of the foremost pioneers of modern dance.

Yes, Ms. Graham was writing to another dancer, but her thoughts apply to artists in every genre—dance, music, photography, fine arts, literary composition. She is also quoted as saying “I believe we learn by practice,” and added that “Practice is a means of inviting the perfection desired.”

Inviting perfection, indeed—yet never, in our own minds, achieving that goal but perhaps some level of satisfaction with the effort. So, I will add to Ms. Graham's sage advice: Write On ! 

This post appealed to me because I've just finished a round of judging this year's Daphne du Maurier contest entries for the Romance Writers of America. I wanted to pass along a little encouragement.

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

(PS: The toons are from Facebook pages.) 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Procrastination and tearing up a story

cj Sez: It's official. I’m a chronic procrastinator. My two-acre yard is about a month beyond needing mowing. So, I either have to get the tires on the lawn tractor replaced or hire a herd of goats or borrow my neighbor’s pony. (The tires are ordered but not yet delivered.)

Indigo Bunting
 I do take comfort in knowing that the honey bees are absolutely in love with the huge patch of clover in the middle of the back forty. And the indigo buntings are among the migrating birds that stop by for snacks. (The photo at right was taken in my backyard on Friday.)

Speaking of procrastination . . . I wish I could have begged, borrowed, or stolen some of Elmore Leonard’s discipline for writing.

It used to be that I worked better when I had a short-term deadline. I thought if I gave myself a deadline, I’d have the incentive to keep going. Found out that’s not true. I have managed to bury that deadline under weeks of procrastination that I called “research.” It seems that the more I research, the less creativity I have. I’m getting bogged down in facts, and the story is suffering.

My current work-in-progress is in a state of disrepair. Because I misread the instructions of a contest, I started hacking up my first chapter to make it fit into the required 1,500 words. I hacked off more than 3,000 words. The result is I like this version much, much better. Much clearer. A
quicker start into the plot line. Backstory has been relegated to its appropriate place. BUT...

That creates another, larger problem, because once I’ve written a story, it’s nigh unto impossible for me to go back and change it. I don’t mean edit it, I mean really modify it. And that’s what my current manuscript needs, now. I have to really modify the story, and the task ahead is intimidating me.

I am not, however, giving up. Last night I even made a note or two when I went to bed . . . I get a lot of good ideas just before or just after I fall asleep. Sundays are for family and etc., so I won’t be sitting in front of the computer for very long but tomorrow . . . that’s when I’ll start working hard. I suppose some of you might call that procrastination.

Nope, I’m calling it delayed discipline.

That’s all for now, but how about you? When do you get your best ideas? How do you conquer the blank page or worse, the re-do of the manuscript in front of you?

You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I'll try to do the same.

PS:  The photo is by Jeff D. Johnston, and the toons are Facebook fodder.
Choosing Carter  -- Kindle  /  Nook  /  Kobo   /  iTunes/iBook
Deadly Star --  Kindle  / Nook  / Kobo

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Stephen King's writing strategies

cj Sez:  The following eight writing strategies (quoted from the source cited below) are some that I’ve pretty much adopted. I say “pretty much” because I don’t read “a lot.” Not because I don’t want to, but because it is not a habit I ever acquired. 
Plus, about twenty minutes after I start a book, I usually go to sleep. Is that the book’s fault? Only some of the time. If the book is really interesting, I'll read through the night. And I am working to change that faulty habit and apply his #5 strategy by reading in small sips at a time. 

Some of these strategies are basically universal among successful writers. So here’s King’s eight writing strategies that have helped him sell 350 million books:

1. Tell the truth.
“Now comes the big question: What are you going to write about? And the equally big answer: Anything you damn well want. Anything at all... as long as you tell the truth... Write what you like, then imbue it with life and make it unique by blending in your own personal knowledge of life, friendship, relationships, sex, and work... What you know makes you unique in some other way. Be brave.”

2. Don’t use big words when small ones work.
“One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking
for long words because you’re maybe a little bit ashamed of your short ones. This is like dressing up your household pet in evening clothes.”

3. Use single-sentence paragraphs.
“The object of fiction isn’t grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story... to make him/her forget, whenever possible, that he/she is reading a story at all.

The single-sentence paragraph more closely resembles talk than writing, and that’s good. Writing is seduction. Good talk is part of seduction. If not so, why do so many couples who start the evening at dinner wind up in bed?”

4. Write for your Ideal Reader.
“Someone—I can’t remember who, for the life of me— once wrote that all novels are really letters aimed at one person. As it happens, I believe this.

I think that every novelist has a single ideal reader; that at various points during the composition of a story, the writer is thinking, ‘I wonder what he/she will think when he/she reads this part?’ For me that first reader is my wife, Tabitha... Call that one person you write for Ideal Reader.”

5. Read a lot.
“Reading is the creative center of a writer’s life. I take a book with me everywhere I go, and find there are all sorts of opportunities to dip in. The trick is to teach yourself to read in small sips as well as in long swallows. Waiting rooms were made for books—of course! But so are theater lobbies before the show, long and boring checkout lines, and everyone’s favorite, the john.”

6. Write one word at a time.
“In an early interview (this was to promote Carrie, I think), a radio talk-show host asked me how I wrote. My reply—‘one word at a time’—seemingly left him without a reply. I think he was trying to decide whether or not I was joking. I wasn’t. In the end, it’s always that simple.”

7. Write every day.
“The truth is that when I’m writing, I write every day, workaholic dweeb or not. That includes Christmas, the Fourth, and my birthday (at my age you try to ignore your goddam birthday anyway)... When I’m writing, it’s all the playground, and the worst three hours I ever spent there were still pretty damned good.”

8. Write for the joy of it.
“Yes, I’ve made a great deal of dough from my fiction, but I never set a single word down on paper with the thought of being paid for it... Maybe it paid off the mortgage on the house and got the kids through college, but those things were on the side -- I did it for the buzz. I did it for the pure joy of the thing. And if you can do it for joy, you can do it forever.”

Quoted from:

Okay, now you have Stephen King’s basics. What are you going to do about it?

I’d wish you a Happy Tax Day, but that’s an oxymoron, so I’ll wish you a hopefully Not-Too-Painful Tax Day. You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.

(PS:  The toons are from Facebook pages.)
Choosing Carter  -- Kindle  /  Nook  /  Kobo   /  iTunes/iBook
Deadly Star --  Kindle  / Nook  / Kobo

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Tracy Hurley Memorial Writing Contest winners

cj Sez: Lyrical Pens sends HUGE congratulations to the young author winners of this year’s Annual Tracy Hurley Memorial Writing Contest, sponsored by the Mobile Writers’ Guild:

First Place:  Heather Jajeh, “Phoenix Turns the Double Stouthearted”
Second Place:  Julie Jajeh, “The Mystery of the Bank Robbery”
Third Place:  Mallory Edwards, “The Life of Elanea”

Tracy would have been so excited and happy to read your wonderful pieces. She
was all about mentoring young authors. In her memory, Lyrical Pens sends our very best wishes for future success to you and to all the young authors who entered the contest.

The awards were given out during the 2016 Young Authors’ Conference held at Mobile’s West Regional Library. The conference is an annual event sponsored by the Metro Mobile Reading Council. The keynote speaker was nonfiction, science, and nature writer Heather L. Montgomery, author of “Wild Discoveries: Wacky New Animals.” Her bio on Goodreads says Ms. Montgomery “writes about science and nature for kids. Her subject matter ranges from snake tongues to spider silk to snail poop.” 

As you can imagine from that Goodreads description, she is a dynamic speaker, and she involves her young audiences by having them do hands-on examinations of things that inspired her books. She said that all of her well-researched books were inspired by a question about something she’s seen…including a dead venomous snake! (Do not try that at home, folks. Dead snakes still have venom in their fangs.) Her number one rule for writing: “Don't do boring,” and she wasn’t. I do believe I learned a lot…no exaggeration.

I was thrilled to assist with a small breakout group of third through fifth graders. These talented kids awed me with glimpses into their amazing imaginations as they created several versions of an opening—that all-important hook that invites readers into the rest of the book.

During the afternoon, the library hosted the 2016 Teen Writing Fair, co-sponsored by the Metro Mobile Reading Council and the Mobile Writers’ Guild. Ms. Montgomery gave an abbreviated presentation and again passed around unique items. (I hoped the thing that passed through my hands was a large, brown mushroom and not a "cow pie.") Afterwards, a few aspiring authors read their short pieces at open mic, and then the teen writers strolled around tables, meeting and interviewing a room full of local authors.

I was thoroughly impressed by each writer I heard and spoke with and know I met a bunch of young authors headed for the New York Times best-selling list.  

How about you? Have you been able to mentor a young author? If you want to write about your experience, drop me a note. I’d love to schedule you a blog date.

That’s it for today. 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