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

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Learning the craft

cj Sez:  I’ve attended sooo many conferences in my writing lifetime and have learned that there is always more to learn about the craft. The weekend of July 15 I joined a diverse group of authors and poets in Birmingham, AL, for the 2016 Alabama Writers Conclave conference.

From Facebook

The AWC is a small conference in comparison to a Killer Nashville or Bouchercon, but it is chock full of information in workshops conducted by a really knowledgeable faculty. I attended presentations on building a website, the important beginnings and endings, and demystifying mystery (the demystifying presenter was the fabulous and multi-award winning fellow SinC /Guppy Kaye George, who writes three best-selling mystery series).

They offered poetry workshops with titles such as:  “Writing Historical Persona Poetry,” “Exploring imagery and Language in Poetry” (also useful for prose authors), and “Poets Without Borders.”

Barbara Kyle, who had a twenty-year acting career in television, film, and stage, AND is the author of seven internationally published historical novels, led a master’s class on “Secrets to Creating Powerful Scenes,” and spoke of “The Actor Inside the Writer” in her keynote address.

The AWC is a conference, run by a small group of dedicated volunteers (Thank you T.K. Thorne, Debra Goldstein, and all the others). I attend often, not only because of its proximity to my home, but also because of the variety and quality of the information it shares. . . . and I can afford it.

A few years ago, I decided to limit my conferences to those that I can drive to in less than a day, and the 2016 Alabama Writers Conclave is one of those. This year’s Bouchercon in New Orleans is the other that I will attend. That’s not to say I’m not continuing my writerly education. I invest time in critique partners, writers’ organizations, workshops, and online classes…especially those that are endorsed by Sisters-in-Crime and Guppies.

Practice makes perfect is an adage that definitely applies to writers. The nature of the craft requires that writers work alone, but we can’t work in a vacuum. We need the input and critique of others in order to improve our skills. I’ve told you what I do to improve…what is that you do?

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

I’m traveling again this weekend and may not get back in time to put up a guest post on Wednesday, but please stop by anyway . . . just in case.

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

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Busting Copyright Myths

cj Sez:  Copyright law is a thorny subject for anyone working in a creative field. When I recently read an article by lawyer and author Susan Spann that answered a lot of my questions, I thought my Lyrical Pens readers would also find the information valuable. Ms. Spann has graciously permitted me to re-post her July 8 th “Writers in the Storm” blog in its entirety.
Scot sea thistle

“Busting” Some Popular Copyright Myths
By Guest Blogger
Susan Spann
Copyright law can be confusing for authors, especially when it comes to issues like when (and whether) to register copyright in a manuscript, and what to do if you use a pseudonym. While authors need to understand the basics of copyright, myths and disinformation abound (especially on the Internet).
Today, let’s take a look at some popular myths (and truths) about copyright in novels and other creative works:
Myth #1: You have to register copyright as soon as you finish your manuscript.
False. Registration with the U.S. Copyright Office is not a legal requirement for copyright ownership. Copyright attaches to “qualifying works*” automatically at the time of their creation.
Copyright registration is intended to protect “published works” – so authors shouldmake sure that their works are registered with the copyright office within 3 months after initial publication.
(*Short stories, novellas, novels, anthologies, poetry, and similar fiction and non-fiction works all generally qualify for copyright protection.)
Myth #2: A book is not “published” for copyright purposes if you give it away for free, or if you self-publish.
False. Under the Copyright Act, “publication” means “the distribution of copies . . . of a work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending.”
The Copyright Act does not require that a work be “sold” and does not require any exchange of money (or profits) before the work can be considered “published.” Also, the law does not distinguish between self-published works and those published by a third-party publishing house. Published is published.
Myth #3: Copyright registration offers authors some very real benefits.
True! Copyright registration gives copyright holders some significant benefits under U.S. law. Among them:
  • The right to sue infringers to stop infringement.
  • The right to collect statutory damages (money, in amounts set by law) from infringers.
  • The right to recover attorney fees against an infringer in a successful lawsuit.
Myth #4: If you don’t register the copyright before publication, you can never register at all.
False. To maximize your legal rights in your work, the copyright should be registered within 3 months after the initial publication date. However, authors (or publishers) can register the copyright in a qualifying work at any time.
You may lose some legal rights by filing more than three months after the initial publication date, but others (like the right to sue infringers) can be secured at any time by filing a proper copyright registration
Myth #5: Authors should protect themselves by registering copyright before querying agents or submitting their work to publishers.
False. (Unless the work is already published – which creates a different set of potential problems.) The registration trigger is publication, not queries.
Sometimes authors think they need to register copyright to protect the work from being stolen by unscrupulous agents or publishers. To this, I have one answer: Don’t query unscrupulous agents and publishers. Do your homework and approach only reputable industry professionals. Reputable agents (and publishers) don’t steal authors’ projects. It costs far less (and requires much less risk) to offer a contract.
Myth #6: Traditional publishers always register copyright on the author’s behalf.
False. Many do, but some do not. If you publish traditionally, your contract state, specifically, who will register the copyright. If the language isn’t there, ask for the publisher to add it—and if you don’t know what language to ask for, consult a publishing lawyer.
Myth #7: Registering copyright is difficult, expensive, and requires a lawyer.
False, False, and False. Most copyrights can be registered online at the U.S. Copyright Office website (, and registration normally costs less than $50. The website even has a step-by-step registration tutorial that walks authors through the process.

And there you have it…a whirlwind tour of common copyright registration myths and the truths behind them.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled summer fun.
About Susan
Susan Spann writes the Hiro Hattori Novels, featuring ninja detective Hiro Hattori and his Portuguese Jesuit sidekick, Father Mateo. The fourth book in the series, THE NINJA’S DAUGHTER, will release from Seventh Street Books in August 2016. Susan is the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ 2015 Writer of the Year, and a transactional attorney whose practice focuses on publishing and business law. When not writing or practicing law, she raises seahorses and rare corals in her marine aquarium. Find her online at, on Twitter (@SusanSpann), and on Facebook (SusanSpannAuthor).

cj Sez:  There was one more question that appeared in the comments following Susan's post, and I've included it here:

Myth: You cannot register copyright if you write under a pseudonym.

False:  Authors can register copyrights in works written under a pseudonym, using the author's real name OR in the pseudonym itself. However, pseudonymous works that are not registered in the author's real, legal name receive less copyright protection (in the form of a shorter copyright term) than that given to works where the author discloses his or her real name at the time of copyright registration. (Note: copyright registrations are public record, so disclosing your real name when you register does mean people can find it, simply by searching the copyright registry.) 

Thanks so much, Susan.  I hope my readers find as many nuggets in this informative post as I did.    (Note:  I am a subscriber to WITS, and have bookmarked Susan’s blog for future reference:

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

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

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Yes, Virginia. Romance stories have a format.

cj Sez:  The following format for a romance novel is a composite of information I’ve gleaned from various sources over the years. It’s a format I keep in front of me when I’m writing romantic suspense. By the way, there is no “magic formula” for writing in any genre, but you can usually find a format to follow.

('Toons are from Facebook)

A likable heroine
This character can’t be weak or dumb and must be actively involved in the plot. There will be some moments of angst in the story, but they should be fleeting. You want your reader to root for the lady rather than think she deserves what she gets because she’s too stupid to win.

A likable hero
This guy should be strong (might only be emotionally), irresistible, smart, and actively involved. He does not necessarily have to be stereotypically handsome to be appealing. His personality will carry him into your readers’ hearts.

Emotional tension
What’s keeping your heroine/hero apart? What threatens her/him? Making these decisions at the outset of your writing will help keep the plot on track.

A believable plot
Your twist on an oldie will work. According to some studies, there are only six (or maybe eight) possible plots in all of literature. One example: Cinderella can be construed as a variation of the Biblical story of Esther, who was an orphan being raised by her uncle and who so charmed a king that he crowned her his queen. Your unique “voice” is important in relating your interesting take on the familiar story.

A happily ever after ending
An absolute necessity for a romance novel. Love stories might not have to end happily, but romances MUST have a happily ever after or at least the promise of one.  

Three of those points are romance writing-specific, but at least two of them—emotional tension and believable plot—can be broadly applied to most genres. Even a memoir needs a bit of tension and a plot to make it an appealing read. But you can help me out here. Please let me know if you can think of a genre that wouldn't use those two points.   


I’m attending the 2016 Alabama Writers Conclave this weekend, so be sure to stop by next week for my review.

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 13, 2016

A Sense of Place

cj Sez: Today’s guest blogger is mystery author Martha Crites, who gives us some great insights into how she created that all-important sense of place in a first draft. Take it away, Martha.

The 'toon is from Facebook.

Two Exercises to Entice Your Muse and Your Reader

My desk faces a bank of windows on the second story of my home. The view reaches over trees and rooftops to a bank of clouds where a small triangle of Lake Washington echoes the gray sky. July in Seattle still doesn’t look like summer.

When I first began writing, Julia Cameron’s The Right to Write was one of the most helpful books on my shelf. She begins each chapter with a lusciously over-written description of her setting. And I believe she does this purposely. I often use this as an exercise at the beginning of my writing sessions, as I did in the first paragraph of this blog. Observing my surroundings lets me drop into the story. What better invitation to pay attention to the details I might otherwise fail to note. When I pay greater attention to writing about the physical world, I open myself to magic and metaphor. So I give myself permission to write everything surrounding my story. Editing is for later.

But edit I must. I write mystery novels and take the commitment of telling a good, page-turning story very seriously. So I set out to season my writing with place and use it to reflect my character’s emotions and experiences.

Place should provide more than a backdrop for plot. Place not only sets the mood, it can deepen the psychology of the story. Donald Maas, literary agent and author of Writing the Breakout Novel, gives writers this exercise to encourage more compelling work: Return to a previously established setting and show how your character’s perception has changed. With some trepidation, I looked back at my novel through the lens of his method to deepen the psychology of place. Would my book measure up to the bar he had set?

In my novel, Grave Disturbance, protagonist Grace Vaccaro, evaluates people with serious mental illness in Seattle, a stressful job that brings her to dark corners of the city, but her home is thirty miles away in the bucolic countryside.

“The wind carried a briny scent from the Puget Sound half a mile downhill. The muscles in my shoulders had hardened into painful knots, and I couldn’t get away fast enough. I accelerated past the brick fa├žade of the old art deco style hospital and flew down James Street hill onto the freeway. With no traffic to impede me at that late hour, I sped across Lake Washington on the 520 floating bridge. Most nights, the tension of the job fell away with each mile when I left the city for the rainy foothills. My home life provided calm and balance to the tragedy of broken lives I saw at work each day. Now I’d lost that balance.”

Whew! Perception changed. So writing through my senses helps me to get out of my head and into the story. Then later I return and make it work even harder for the story. So if you would like to help the setting rise above mere background, try these two exercises.

Martha Crites has worked in the community and inpatient mental health field for twenty years and taught at the Quileute Tribal School on the Washington coast. She lives with her husband in Seattle. When she isn’t working and writing, you will find her walking . . . or volunteering on the Camino de Santiago in Spain. 

Grave Disturbance is a current finalist for the 2016 Nancy Pearl Award. Please visit her at

Adam Woog of the Seattle Times writes: Martha Crites’ debut, “Grave Disturbance” is a dark and compelling story set mainly in the Cascade foothills.

Grace Vaccaro is a mental-health evaluator (as is the author) caught up in bad business after a filmmaker, working on a documentary about native land rights, is murdered. Not surprisingly, one of the book’s strongest elements is its protagonist’s skill as a mental-health professional in teasing clues out of other people’s heads.

cj Sez:  Because a well-developed sense of place arouses memories and personal feelings, it is a powerful tool to draw your reader deeply into the story. Thanks so much for this wonderful post, Martha. I really appreciate the exercises, and I love the title to your latest mystery. Congratulations on Grave Disturbance being named a finalist for the 2016 Nancy Pearl Award! All best wishes for super sales and rocking reviews.

Okay, you-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same. Thanks for stopping by. By the way, how do you handle those delicious details and sense of place? 

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

Sunday, July 10, 2016

When the marketing begins

cj Sez:   Other than the deep, time-constrained editing that happens, one of the hardest parts of the writing process comes when you’ve typed THE END on the last page of your manuscript and sent it off for publishing: the task of marketing your beautiful baby. Going “on the stump”* for sales will almost certainly include some public speaking.
(The 'toons are from Facebook.)

  For me, and a lot of other authors I know, the prospect of public speaking can be a bit scary. Our normal milieu as we create our stories is solitude in front of a computer or with pen pressed to paper. We’re watchers . . . we observe the behaviors of other people and take copious notes for future story/character ideas. Being the watch-ee takes us completely out of our comfort zones.

  Whether traditionally, indie-, or self-published, the task of marketing accrues to all authors. In today’s literary world, big-name publishing houses are requiring their equally big-name author-clients to help market their own brand and creations. (Anyone remember seeing James Patterson on TV in the last few months?) The ultimate goal of marketing is, of course, to garner attention for your work and increase sales.

  Like James Patterson, authors need to connect with their readers. Actually, they must connect with their readers. That means authors do readings at book clubs and libraries. They do book signings and media (TV/press/radio) interviews. All of those tasks require (gasp) public speaking.

 That’s where a formulaic “stump speech” can offer a degree of confidence.

   The first thing I did when my first novel, DEADLY STAR, was handed off to the publisher was to outline a flexible stump speech. I start with an anecdote. Then I give a brief bio, including why I use a pen name and how I chose it. I follow up with something about where the idea for the story came from, the research involved, the characters, and I read a couple of short excerpts. I flesh out my speech outline with a few comments below the bullet points then print it out in large, bold, double-spaced type and practice it. That helps me with timing the length of my presentation and makes me familiar enough with the flow that I don’t have keep my head down to read it word-by-word and line-by-line. I can wing most of it, ad lib a bit, and actually make occasional eye contact with someone. The more often I speak, the easier it becomes, so I’m looking forward to an upcoming presentation.

   Caveat for public speaking: It’s important to really know your work, because the Q&A will bring some surprising questions—always. 

  Other than participating in panels at conferences, I’ve never had to speak at an out-of-town gathering. But if that happened, I’d try to stop by the venue and get familiar with the layout. Another trick for newbie speakers is to attend someone else’s presentation if possible…that takes a lot of the mystery out of the event.

   A fellow Sisters-in-Crime/Guppy member came up with seven quick points for dealing with the scary thought of having to speak in public (and she’s so good at it, public speaking seems second nature to her):

1.      Research your audience
2.      Plan
3.      Practice
4.      Know your stuff!
5.      DON’T worry.
6.      Get big.
7.      Love it and embrace it.

  I’ll be including parts of my stump speech in my presentation on opening lines in the next few weeks. How are you doing with yours?

That’s all for now. 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

P.S.: Be sure to stop by Wednesday when mystery author Martha Crites discusses creating that all-important sense of place.   (* “Stump” is another word for “campaign” —like politicians do when they’re trolling for votes. Authors are trolling for sales.)

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Setting the mood . . .

cj Sez:  Author Carrie Dalby craves music when she writes, and today on Lyrical Pens, she explains how it gets her in the mood to tell her stories.

  I enjoy any excuse to talk about books and music—the two biggest things I geek-out over. Some people need silence to write: I’m not one of those. Granted I’ll take silence over certain background sounds—like TV shows when the family is watching something—I’d rather have mood music. And thanks to my earbuds, I can cancel out those backgrounds noises with what I need to hear. Yes, need. I crave music.
  When starting a new story, I begin with characters. Usually just one, and the others blossom from the central person. Those characters tell me where they live (setting) and I get an inkling of a plot idea, but to go any further I need music. Before I write a word of the story, I start a “Mood Music” playlist in my iTunes account. It might only have half a dozen songs when I start writing, but as I get to know the characters and plot, that file grows. As I get further along in the story, I might drop songs that don’t quite fit the mood like I expected them to, but I’m always adding to it—which is easy to do from the more than 5,550 songs (and growing) in my eclectic collection.
  Right now, I’m working on a Gothic read (a little bit Southern, a little bit horror) for mature readers. My Mood Music playlist has almost a day and a half of songs to it. Yes, that means I could write for over twenty-four hours straight and never hear the same song twice. It has a mix of genres, but is predominately metal and classical.

  Using certain musical themes to fit the mood I want to portray in a story—or even a certain scene—helps me get into the proper mind-set and opens me to emotions that the characters are going through. It could be seen as a way to method acting, because music is one of the easiest ways to stir feelings in the right direction.
  While I can write to any type of music—singing along helps keep momentum going when my words slow down (and it’s a great way to ward off writer’s block)—I can only edit to instrumentals. Hearing other people’s words gets in the way of seeing where my words stand. When I’m finished with edits, I take my mood music list and narrow it down into a soundtrack for each novel, which is a chronological expression of the story through music. Check out my listings for Corroded ( ) and Fortitude ( ).
  How do you use music to fuel your writing time? Even if you can’t work with music, try listening to something that sets the mood for fifteen minutes or more before you start writing. I’d love to hear your results. Thanks for letting me stop and gush about music (and writing), cj!

  Born and raised in California, Carrie Dalby has lived in Alabama for two decades but still has trouble with the humidity of summer. When she’s not writing, Carrie homeschools her three kids and splits her time between family, reading, knitting, concert going, and volunteering. Sharing her love of literature for young adults and children is one of her favorite things to do, and her volunteer hours reflect that. Her local church congregation, the Mobile Writers Guild, SCBWI, and the Metro Mobile Reading Council are where she loves to spend her “free time.”
FORTITUDE...Growing up with a Creole best friend, sixteen-year-old Claire O’Farrell held little regard for the Jim Crow laws and the consequences of befriending those of a different color. But once she leaves the haven of her home on Dauphin Island, the reality of racial intolerance can no longer be ignored. Though she’s underage, Claire makes the bold decision to serve alongside Loretta, her best friend, in the “colored camp” hospital tents during the Spanish-American War, but her idealistic attitude and choice of working location immediately puts her in danger. Claire gives her heart to a soldier in the camp, only to find herself caught in the racial violence besieging the area. When the intolerant attitudes and stigma follow her home, she clings to her faith to navigate through her social isolation and find the path she was meant to travel.
cj Sez: Thanks, Carrie, for sharing this unique way of getting inspiration for your stories and writing your way through the dreaded writer’s block. I usually write in silence, but I'm going to try listening to music before I start writing. All best for great sales and marvelous reviews on your novels.
Choosing Carter  -- Kindle  /  Nook  /  Kobo   /  iTunes/iBook
Deadly Star --  Kindle  / Nook  / Kobo

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Fourth of July is more than fireworks

cj Sez:   The United States celebrates July 4 with a passion. Family gatherings, fireworks (which terrify animals of all kinds), vacations, picnics, and beach parties headline the day…the whole weekend, in fact.

Amidst all the partying going on, it’s sad to read that a lot of Americans don't know why we celebrate Independence Day, what country we declared independence from, what year the Declaration of Independence was signed, and other basic knowledge that every U.S. citizen should know.

Have they forgotten? Were they never taught? When did it become politically incorrect to be proud to be an American, to celebrate our Independence Day? Isn’t that why the United States is inundated with refugees—people desperately seeking the freedoms that Americans have fought and died to create and preserve? 

In his twenties, my father studied hard to become a citizen. How many native-born, young Americans could reel off the answers necessary to pass the naturalization test? If I am to believe what I see on TV, embarrassingly few.

“So what did happen on July 4, 1776?

The Continental Congress approved the final wording of the Declaration of Independence (from Great Britain and its king) on July 4, 1776. They'd been working on it for a couple of days after the draft was submitted on July 2nd and finally agreed on all of the edits and changes.”*

(I’m in awe of the sacrifices people made to reach that point; the proud-to-be-an-American in me loves the history of why we celebrate the Fourth of July; and the writer in me loves that last line.)

Independence Day this year marks the nation's 240th birthday. Why not take a few moments to remember and share with your children why we are celebrating?

 Happy Birthday, America!

Okay, you-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same. I wish you a safe and happy Fourth of July celebration.

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

PS:  Please stop by on Wednesday for a guest post by young adult author Carrie Dalby, who blogs about how music helps set the mood for her writing.