Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Taking Care of Business in this Writer's World

I generally take the last Wednesday of the month to reflect—on life, writing, or whatever strikes my fancy. Today, however,  I want to address a few business items regarding the blog. Hint: Exciting stuff happening these next two months.

Starting next week, we will engage in a four-week session aimed at setting up a mystery or suspense novel. If you have ever wanted to draft this type of book or if you’re curious to peek behind the scenes to see how writers accomplish weaving those complicated plots—those twists and turns that keep us turning the pages and checking to make sure the front door is locked—then join us on this adventure.

I call it Whodunnit University. The structure of this crash course may look a bit familiar to a few of you. I originally set up Whodunnit U for November 2014.  I loaded the posts into the blog site and hit the button to schedule them. I did this because I intended to participate in NaNoWriMo that year. As many of you know, my husband died on October 29th. I did not participate in—well, much of anything for a long time. Only a few people checked in with the “course” in writing mystery and suspense.

It is time to bring Whodunnit U back to the forefront. If you are thinking about writing for NaNoWriMo in November, these next four posts will help you outline your draft.

Last November I featured an Ohio author each week. You can check those posts out here:

This blog is, and has always been aimed at helping people new to the writing game. In keeping with that mission, this November I am thankful to have four followers preparing a post for A Novel Creation during the month. I can’t wait. I don’t know exactly how these up and coming authors will address the challenge, but I do know some of the ideas they’re kicking around.

First up will be Joshua Curran of Ohio. Joshua has identified three theme songs of his life. After reading his post, you will be challenged to seek the theme songs representing your own life. 
The following Wednesday will feature the writing of artist/author Robin Mason. Robin, a resident of South Carolina, will talk about art. The first two posts, as you can see will challenge us to stretch ourselves creatively.

The remaining writers include Nancy Hallo of Florida and Laura Wood of Nebraska. Nancy will be talking about overcoming obstacles to pursue your dream. Laura will take us along on her writing journey.

Of course, I’ve left the topic and style of presentation up to each contributor. It will be fun to see what they write. In the interim, be sure to check in next week for our first session of Whodunnit U! this is going to be fun! 

Oh and the school colors are black and white and red all over! (In case you want to dress to show your team spirit!) that red or read? 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Game On: an Interview with Author Lillian Duncan

GAME ON: An Interview with Author Lillian Duncan
I am excited today to introduce you to Lillian Duncan. Lillian writes wonderful suspense novels and some mysteries as well.  Also, I’m happy about this interview because next month, Lillian is going to be a guest lecturer for Whodunnit University. More about that in the coming weeks.

Me: Lillian, thank you so much for giving me this opportunity to interview you. I love that we have so many wonderful writers right here in Ohio.

Lillian: Thanks for having me. My husband and I live in a small town in Ohio. Nothing like where you live. I mean it is small! We only have 1 traffic light.

Me: [laughing] I’ve lived in towns like that! Tell us a bit about your writing.

Lillian: I like both is Christian mystery and suspense with a little horror thrown in from time to time. I guess writing is sort of like eating. You are what you read, and for me that means I’m a suspense/mystery writer.

Me: I’m fascinated. Tell us about your newest release: GAME ON.

Lillian: Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean that someone’s not out to get you!
That’s the premise behind GAME ON. Politician Lucas McMann believes he’s the victim of an elaborate stalking game. Since he has no proof, his friends and colleagues believe he’s being paranoid.

Me:  I love it. Where did you get the idea?

Lillian: Actually I was watching a TV talk show. This particular guest believed that many of his “friends” were actually stalking him. My writer’s mind took over from there and I created Lucas McMann, a politician who believes he’s being stalked but nobody else does. And it went from there.

Me: Could you share the book blurb?

Lillian: Love to. Here’s what’s on the back cover:
“Politics is no game when a stalker nears and there’s nowhere to hide.

A run for the senate is just a step on the road to the White House for Congressman Lucas McMann. But his public profile has put him in the middle of a crazed gunman’s twisted game of stalking. If he wants to win the election and reclaim his life, he’ll need the help of the one person who’d rather leave their past behind them.

Private Investigator Nikki Kent knows how to dig up secrets and discover those who exist in the shadows. She should. She’s good at hiding secrets of her own. Can she risk her own discovery for someone so desperate for her help? For the first man who broke her heart?

With new-found faith, she’ll help Lucas search for the answers. But with the truth comes a danger they must face together.”

Me: It sounds intriguing and I saw the book trailer. That was spectacular. It was also really scary but it made me want to know more.

Lillian: My publisher outdid herself when she created the book trailer for GAME ON. Your readers can check it out at: 

Me: What do you want readers to take away from GAME ON?

Lillian: I think there are several lessons to be learned. One of the most important is that forgiving others isn’t letting them off the hook. It’s letting go of your own anger and bitterness so you can have the life God wants for you.

Me: Most people don’t think of murder mysteries and suspense novels as Christian Fiction. What do you say to them?

Lillian: I can certainly understand their point of view. And for some readers my stories might be a bit too graphic or edgy and that’s okay, I would say my readers are those who like traditional suspense and mystery novels but are tired of all the explicit language and sex scenes that aren’t necessary to a good story.
I don’t promote or glorify violence in my stories. I show characters experiencing the natural consequences of their bad choices and bad actions. My characters are usually on a spiritual journey as well—but some are further along than others.

Me: A lot of my readers are just starting to dip their toes in the writing water. I sometime get questions from them about obstacles they face. I know you’ve had your share of obstacles. Care to share? And maybe offer a little advice?

Lillian: Sure. Well, I worked for many years as a Speech and Language Pathologist. I loved my job and miss it. Mostly I miss the children, not the paper work. If it weren’t for serious health issues, I would still be working. In 2012 I was diagnosed with bilateral brain tumors and subsequently a genetic disorder called Neurofibromatosis Type 2. A long name that basically means I can develop tumors at any time on my nerves but especially in the brain.
It’s been a long, long journey but God is good. There’s a lot I can’t do these days, but I can still write!
I hold onto the promise in Romans 8:28.  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” The treatments I’ve had and the side effects wreaked havoc on my health! I was very sick but I kept repeating this verse over and over. It kept me trusting God and it kept me in peace and joy in spite of how bad I felt at the time.

Me: I love that verse as well. Since I’ve known you these past couple of years, I see that resilience surface over and over again. You are an inspiration. Any other words of encouragement you might offer aspiring authors out there?

Lillian: DON’T GIVE UP! It took me 15 years to get a traditional contract, and now I have almost 20 books published! If I can do it, so can you. But not if you give up. KEEP WRITING!

Me: Great advice. Anything else? 

Lillian: To celebrate the release of GAME ON, I’m giving away a virtual basket of goodies at  including Amazon gift cards. For all the details go to my blog, Tiaras & Tennis Shoes. Simply leave a comment on the blog post GAME ON at and you’ll be entered.

Me: Again, thank you for sharing today. I love your books and I am so happy you are going to be part of Whodunnit University next month.

Lillian: I look forward to it.

Readers, if you want to connect with Lillian Duncan, checkout these links:
Devotional blog:
Lillian’s social media addresses are @LillianDuncan for Twitter and for Facebook

Lillian Duncan…Stories of faith mingled… with murder & mayhem.
Lillian is a multi-published author who lives in Ohio Amish country with her husband. After more than 30 years working as a speech pathologist for children, she believes in the power of words to transform lives, especially God’s Word.
Lillian writes the types of books she loves to read—fast-paced suspense and mystery with a touch of romance that demonstrates God’s love for all of us.

Be sure to leave your comments below. I know Lillian would love to connect with you!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Craft of the Draft: Strategies for Writers

I’ve had the privilege to speak with many seasoned, productive authors. Some tell me they write first thing in the morning, a cup of coffee in hand. Some tell me they write at night. A few authors have offices while others clear the corner to the kitchen table. The one area in which they all agree seems to be in crafting the first draft.
I’m not talking about those who carefully outline each chapter of their novels—nor  am I speaking of those who take an idea and fly by the seat of their pants –the planners and the pantsters we say in writing circles.

I’m talking about the writing. The rhythm and flow of getting the first draft down on paper. I’m talking about resisting the urge to edit or revise as you go. It is the equivalent of slapping paint on the entire canvas and then going back to bring clarity to the picture.

Every successful author I’ve interviewed or chatted with online agrees on this singular point: Pour out your story in the first draft. Save the editing and revising for later.

Ernest Hemingway once said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

Yep, that first draft is a messy process. It is pouring everything in you out onto a piece of paper… or into a Word file. Many would-be authors freeze. They worry their words aren’t good enough. They cringe at the idea someone might read their first attempt and scoff. They want perfection in an imperfect world.

Guess what…
·      Your words probably aren’t good enough in that first draft.
·      You will be the one reading that first attempt and cringing…later.
·      Your first draft won’t be perfect.
Get over it.

Last year I posted a piece about lessons I discovered about writing from learning to mow the lawn. (If you want to read that post, CLICK HERE) The big take-away for me was the advice my daughter gave me when I worried I wouldn’t do a good job cutting the grass. She said, “There are a few things in life where done is better than perfect, Mom. Cutting the grass is one of them.” Getting that first draft of your novel down on paper is another one.

Getting it down. Getting it done. Done is better than perfect.
Maybe you put “write a book” on your list of goals or resolutions for 2016. Maybe you did it. Maybe not. That particular resolution may be off your radar at this point…right there with the “lose ten pounds and run a marathon.”

I have good news for you. The year is not over. You can still pour out your heart and soul into a book of your own making before the year’s end.  There is still time for you to write that first draft. Still an opportunity for you to talk about the book you wrote this year at the Christmas party instead of the book you’d like to write…someday.

Here are three strategies to make your dream come true:
1.    Five hundred words a day for the next 99 days will allow you to type “the end” just before you head out to carol your neighbors. Just get it down. It doesn’t have to be pretty.
2.    A thousand words a day and you can take the weekends off.
3.    Sign up for NaNoWriMo and hammer that manuscript out in 30 days…the month of November. (For more info on NaNoWriMo, go to and explore the site. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. )

We’re talking about a 50,000 word manuscript here, a sense of accomplishment, and the start to a new life adventure. In the coming weeks I’m going to give you more tools to craft a draft. So are you “in”?

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Business of Writing: Engaging with the Writing Community

I’ve been exploring the business side of writing the first Wednesday of each month. Today, I decided to address the topic of engaging with others in the writing community. Engaging with others has been an extremely powerful piece of my writing experience. The community includes but is not limited to other writers, editors, publishers, and agents.

Thank you Google Images!
Let’s consider this in the light of other lines of work. If I were planning to open a restaurant, I could learn a great deal about the process from the internet. But I will learn what it takes to be successful by studying under someone who has already navigated the waters. I can seek a mentor or business partner. I can assemble a team to help me launch the business. The same is true for authors. We need those connections with other writers, editors, publishers, and agents to learn the ins and outs of the business side of writing. We also need those relationships to help us hone our craft.

I’ve had editors of periodicals give me tips on submitting articles for freelance publication. I’ve learned more about writing by working with an honest critique group than I ever could have by taking a creative writing course. And the woman who edited Breathing on Her Own? Working with Bethany Kaczmarek was like having my own personal trainer. She pushed me to produce my best work and build my writing muscle.

One of the most powerful ways to engage with other writers is to participate in a writing group. When I first took on the challenge to become a published author, I looked for a writing group in my area. There are a few. Two fit in with my work schedule. The first one I visited was…uh..different. I didn’t feel I fit in with the “candle glow” activity and the “sharing rock.” The beaded curtain between the entrance and the “gathering room of creativity” should have been my first clue. I next contacted a group meeting on the university campus. The folks there were nice enough and they were all about writing. Writing fantasy. It isn’t that I have anything against fantasy. It simply isn’t a genre I read or know much about.

The answer? I started a group in my home. I gathered a few other people who liked to write and wanted to improve. We met and though the group was relatively small—we eventually maxed out at six—it was a powerful team of writers. We worked hard and a few of us published work emerging from that group setting.

When I moved to another state, I discovered online critique groups and Facebook based writing groups. I still participate in some of those groups. I’m part of 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook as well as groups formed through ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers). Through them I have met editors and writers from a variety of genres. I’ve found support, forums where I can pose questions, and online chats covering a wide variety of subjects. In one of the groups, I’ve been able to connect with beta readers and have reviewed works of others in the group.

How are you connecting with other writers? What benefits have you found through those relationships?

And if you’re new to the business of writing, what plan will you make to engage with others in the writing business?
Thanks Google Images! I get a kick out of you!

NOTE: Portions of this post were taken from The Writing Handbook series (working title).