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, October 30, 2016

One Word at a Time

cj Sez: For all you writers who are looking at the 50,000 word commitment of November’s National Novel Writing Month, I offer up Anne Lamott's words in her national best-seller how-to book Bird by Bird, Some Instructions on Writing and Life wrote:

"Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he'd had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother's shoulder, and said, 'Bird by bird, buddy.  Just take it bird by bird.'"

That’s some of the best advice ever for writers . . . take it one word at a time, one paragraph at a time, one chapter at a time, until you’ve (surprise!) reached the end.

You won’t always feel like writing, not every day, and some days, what appears on the page will look like pure crap to you. The thing to remember is, you should expect that your first effort is ALWAYS a crappy draft. The goal is to write down the nuggets of your story. On blank paper or on a blank computer screen. Doesn’t make any difference if the spelling is correct, or the grammar, or the format. You can fix all that later.

Many people I know have an idea for a story. They read a book and say, “I could do that. If I had the time.”

If you really, really (notice there are two “really’s” here) want to write, You. Will. Make. Time. Aren’t a morning person? Write at night. Too pooped at night? Write before the rest of your family gets up. The important thing is to make a habit of writing: same time every day. If you’re also working a full-time job, no problem. I always found that when I was super busy at work, I was more efficient with my time at home. (Doesn’t work now that I’m retired…sigh.)

Do your story research one day and write the next. If you try to integrate the two, you’ll surely find yourself down an interesting but time-consuming rabbit hole and having not written one word of your novel. That also means No Facebook, No eMail, No Instagram, and No Twitter. They have No Place in your writing time. They’re for personal time or marketing your book.

Writing a novel takes dedication and discipline. Think of it as a commitment, a job (or another job) that you go to every day. Set up a place and establish an hour or two or more for just for that purpose. Let your family know you’re not to be interrupted when you’re at work . . . just as it would be if you worked at a job away from the house. Set a realistic daily goal for your writing. Maybe it’s five pages or a chapter or “x” number of words a day. Whatever it is that you know you can accomplish if you stay disciplined. The result will be that you can also set a deadline for completion, that exciting ultimate goal: The End. And the novel won’t linger on for years and years (mine have been known to do).

Just to make sure your writing is not all work and no play, when you achieve one of your interim goals, reward yourself. Take a break. Take a walk in the park, a trip to a coffee shop, a visit to a library or book store. Take time to feel good about those little successes and re-energize. If you find your fingers frozen on the keyboard, DON’T even THINK the words “writer’s block.” They get imbedded in your brain—not a good thing. When you get stuck, pick up a book and read. You’ll find a cue that sends you on your way again.

After all that preaching to the choir, I have to admit I won’t be joining this year’s challenge. I committed in September to a U of Iowa online women writers’ course, and each week we are challenged to write 1000-2000 words. I’ll be busy on the short story I’m doing for this week’s assignment. But, I’ll be cheering for you.

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


PS: If you’re like me and get paid once a month, there’s only two more paydays until Christmas, so here’s a great gift idea to make your money go further: Set aside a buck (less than the cost of a cup of coffee or a glass of tea) and buy “More Than Friends,” a bundle of six novels offered by Crimson Romance on Amazon. For 99 cents, you can buy hours and hours of reading enjoyment for yourself, a BFF, or a grab-bag party gift. Check it out at…
Amazon Central Author Page:
Choosing Carter  -- Kindle  /  Nook  /  Kobo   /  iTunes/iBook
Deadly Star --  Kindle  / Nook  / Kobo

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Alabama Writers Conclave, an on-line workshop, and my difficulty with internal dialogue

cj Sez:  First, for all my Alabama readers, I’d like to pass along an announcement from the Alabama Writers Conclave:

We want to reach out to Alabama writers of every stripe, race, ethnicity, age, gender, and background. Our current President, Sue Brannan Walker, is offering an online workshop and an incredible opportunity to hone your writing skills. The deadline for application is October 31st!

Please also note that, as of press time for this blog, Dr. Brennan informed me that November is already filled, but December and January are currently open. Contact them on their Facebook page or at

As the year’s end races closer and closer, I find that keeping track of my appointments is getting harder and harder. I could alibi that I have way too many things to do, but the truth is I need to pay attention and keep a better appointment calendar, as in just one. Right now, I have at least two and occasionally three. I’ll note an appointment on the calendar on the kitchen door and forget to write it in my planner or vice versa. That wouldn’t be much of a problem if I would just check both places every morning . . . which, of course, I don’t. The third “occasional calendar” is simply the collection of all those little scraps of paper and back-of-business-card notes that I shove into the bottom of my jeans pockets or purse. Who I’m supposed to meet when and where just disappears.

Out of sight, out of mind is the term.  I’m a visual person (is that a right brain or a left brain thing?), and that shows up in my writing.

Scenes with lots of dialogue are the least complicated for me to write. I enjoy creating the details that permit my readers to visualize where the characters are and what they are seeing. But I generally keep my details sparse and incorporated into the flow of the scene’s action. I don’t tell the reader the office is small and crowded. I’ll let the character do that by having her desk chair bump against the wall when she stands up, or having her dialogue say something about having to share the space with her secretary and their joint collection of computers, printers, and file cabinets. 

Please, please, never do this.

I love writing dialogue. I especially like it when I can create almost an entire scene with dialogue and only one or two dialogue tags. Dealing with personal introspection/ emotions/ internal dialogue is more difficult for me since I “see” the action in my stories, something akin to movies in my head. Narrative doesn’t exist in movies unless there’s a voice-over, so I tend to use very little of it. I’ve been told and I do understand I need more narrative in my novel, so I’m working on expanding my use of internal dialogue.

Okay, I’ve confessed. Your turn. What's your writing strength or weakness?

By the by, I did a guest blog on MotiveMeansOpportunity yesterday, talking about NaNoWriMo. Stop by and check it out if you have a moment, and let me know what you think. You can find the mystery writers site at

That’s all for now. You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.

cj  . . . sending ghostly, ghastly Halloween vibes your way and reminding you that Christmas is only two months away. So, here’s a great gift idea: Set aside a buck (less than the cost of a cup of coffee or a glass of tea) and buy “More Than Friends,” a bundle of six novels offered by Crimson Romance on Amazon. For 99 cents, you can buy hours and hours of reading enjoyment for yourself, a BFF, or a grab-bag party gift. Find it at…
Amazon Central Author Page:
Choosing Carter  -- Kindle  /  Nook  /  Kobo   /  iTunes/iBook
Deadly Star --  Kindle  / Nook  / Kobo

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Creating believably diverse characters

cj Sez: Lyrical Pens is happy to welcome a guest post from author R.V. Reyes. Today’s post delves into the very hot topic of the need for writing diverse and unique characters.

The call for more diverse characters in fiction writing is loud. It began with the MG/YA authors, readers, and librarians. #WeNeedDiverseBooks  Science Fiction/ Fantasy with its ability to world-build is doing a good job of it. . (Here are some great tips.) The mystery genre is doing their part, too.  At SleuthFest 2016, I was a facilitator and co-creator of a panel on diversity called Writing the Other. It focused specifically on writing characters of color and/or an ethnicity other than your own. But diversity means more than just the color of skin. It includes GLBTQ, neurological differences, size variety/body positive--- anything other than the dominate institutionalized culture.

Sisters in Crime researched and published Report for Change. They also hosted a workshop at Bouchercon called Writing to our Differences. If anything this should tell you that the time has come to reflect the reality of the world we all live in—a world that is a rich tapestry of experiences. So, the question you might be asking is—How? How do I do it authentically and respectfully if I’m not of that culture/group?

   Do Your Research!
          Know the history.
          Social media - Follow someone similar to the character you want to write.
          Ask someone who lives it daily. This might mean making new friends.
   Write It!
          Make sure your character has a NAME!
          Make sure your character is not just scenery!
          Make sure your character is not a stereotype! Test your story/scene use the Bechdel test,  the DuVernay test, The Russo Test           
   Beta Readers!
          Have a wide range of readers.
          It is okay to give someone just that scene or chapter you have questions about.        
          Be open to constructive criticism.

Most importantly, don’t be afraid to try. Think about your own uniqueness and what makes you different. How does it feel when you find a character that shares that quality? Do you feel validated and not so alone?  That is something we all want. Representation matters. That is why I write mysteries with Latina characters. I wasn’t seeing the world I live in represented in the genre I read. 

R.V. Reyes lives in Miami Florida where Spanish speakers are the majority. She is an active member of the Mystery Writers of America-Florida Chapter. Her theatre degree from University of New Mexico has served her well despite not making a living at directing.

Jeweler’s Mark—A Love & Diamonds Mystery is the first in a series. The story follows Gig Santos & her wild BFF, Lourdes, as they sleuth to solve the puzzle of counterfeit rings and a murder.  Set in the diverse city of Miami, the reader gets some behind the scenes knowledge of the jewelry
trade and a sampling of the many different cultures that inhabit both those worlds. While Gigi is the epitome of a young business-minded go-getter, Lourdes hasn’t evolved since high school. Their juxtaposition makes for adventure and hilarity.

Social Links:

cj Sez:  This has been an eye-opening post on diversity for me, and I appreciate the jump links provided. I hope Lyrical Pens readers will weigh in with their comments on how they create believable diversity. Thanks so much for stopping by, and best wishes for great sales and marvelous reviews for Jeweler’s Mark (I’m fascinated by the story line). 

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:  How to be a heroine/hero: Set aside a buck (less than the cost of a cup of coffee or a glass of tea) and buy “More Than Friends,” a bundle of six novels offered by Crimson Romance on Amazon. For 99 cents, you can buy hours and hours of reading enjoyment for yourself, a BFF, or a grab-bag party gift. Check it out at…