Fear: Is is Keeping You From Fullfilling Your Dreams?

Be Fearless!

It would be fabulous if everyone could embrace this statement and apply it to their daily lives. Some individuals do this without thinking about it, for them, it comes naturally without angst, shortness of breath, or bruising of ego.

Then, there’s me—the epitome of an introvert. I’m the one who has to bolster myself before approaching the drive up window at the fast food joint, hyperventilates at the mere thought of speaking publicly, and loses my sh** when I have to mingle in a room full of strangers. And yet, I’ve managed to find a career in personal service, become a published writer, and learned to embrace social media (meh, it’s a work in progress).

Fearlessness quote

Fearlessness is the thing that makes you brave. If you can face your fears, you can accomplish great things, and even those who have already reached that pinnacle can suffer from self-doubt. For example, I know of one author who tattooed a reminder on her arm that she is a writer so that in those moments of uncertainty when neck deep in plot problems, she knows she can get the job done. Despite having more than thirty bestselling novels, this author still needs to remind herself to be fearless and keep writing. By sharing her anxieties, it has given me hope. She is my hero.

As we’re well into the start of the new year, one of my goals is to blog more, both on my writing site and on my professional esthetics site. Not just to garner success but to interact with people who share the same interests as me. I need to face fear head on and conquer it. Even if I misstep and make a fool of myself, I am determined to slay this immortal demon!

Meet author Ian Wingrove

18199380_106489323255752_2720189054157647793_n

Ian began writing a few years ago and self-published his debut novel, Dead Pool in 2015. The mystery, thriller series is set in a dystopian England in the near future and features private detective Tom Barlow.

The second in the series, Feel.it, came out in March and Ian is looking forward to the prospect of editing and publishing the next two novels in the series.

Born in London, he currently resides in Norwich and enjoys life with an extensive family.

Let’s get to know Ian. 

What’s the first book that made you cry?

 I didn’t learn to read until I was nine, but by age eleven, I was onto Lord of the Rings. It was the moment I realised I was a sucker for tragic romance; when the immortal, Elrond, tells his daughter Arwen about the terrible fate that awaits her if she marries the heroic, but mortal, Aragon. She will have glorious days of love, children and great grand children, but ultimately she will outlast them all and they will become a distant memory as she fades into the shadows. His bleak description of her long years of loneliness and despair is incredibly powerful. She knows he is right and it will be a horrible eternity, but she goes ahead regardless because the love and the joy of children are worth it – however brief it seems to her father.

My favourite film is Cyrano de Bergerac (with Depardieu), which is the greatest tragic romance I’ve come across.

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

I’ve been around writers my entire adult life because of my brother, David Wingrove, who is a science fiction author. A lot of my early reading material was influenced by him. When I hit fifty and decided to start writing, he gave me invaluable feedback on the early drafts of my first two books.

I have my own local writers group in Norwich and we are always reading out chapters of our work and giving each other feedback. I think that kind of direct communication with a group of writers is essential, but you have to work at building the trust and being prepared to engage in a positive way. What I haven’t yet established is a large network of beta readers who will look at the whole book and whether it works. I think my books could have benefited a lot from that kind of feedback.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

There is a huge back story that I have planned for my main character, Tom Barlow, and the first two books are littered with clues, but no one has picked up on it yet. The third book will start to open up Tom’s story a lot more and in the fourth book, his personal history emerges, which is expansive and strange. That is what worries me. I have written a couple of thrillers which are set in the near future, but the people are relatively straightforward. Do I want to take the reader into a very different world, which has been going on silently behind the scenes in the first two books? It’s a risk.

What was your hardest scene to write?

All the sex scenes. Thankfully, there are none in Dead Poor, but Feel.it is a ‘will they, won’t they’ love story.

I could have skipped over the sex, but one of the main characters, Roxanne, is on a journey of discovery. She can’t feel pain because of a teenage trauma involving her mother’s suicide. That makes her the mega star ‘Queen of Pain’ in the futuristic game show called The Tournament. However, she wants to leave both the game and the stardom behind her, so that she can be herself again – so she can feel again. It is the central theme of her story. A big part of that emotional and physical reconnection is with her own body and for a young woman, sex is inevitably wrapped up with that kind of journey.

I won’t be writing sex scenes again if I can help it. Everyone assures me that they turned out okay and they won’t be winning any bad sex awards, but they took weeks of editing to make them raunchy and intimate, without them being pornographic. I suspect that some readers will find them too much, others will simply enjoy.

What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?

Nothing, because the characters are more than imitations by the time they find their place in the story. Some of the characters are based on people I haven’t seen for thirty years and I doubt that anyone would recognise themselves in the story. Except one I used to play football with, postie Paul from Donnie (Doncaster), but I told him.

Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

It is a detective series and I have drafted four of them. The first two actually cover the same 18 day period, with both books including several of the same main characters. Tom Barlow will walk out of a door in one book and walk into a room in the other book. As with the sex scenes, I won’t write anything like that again.

There are even a couple more thrillers that I have sketched out, ready to be written. What worries me is that I can’t think of anything different to write at the moment. I did a short story for an anthology my writers group are pulling together and it ended up being about the crazy 13th birthday party of the sociopathic Alexandria, one of the other main character in my books. I’ve realised that for me the characters come first and then the story happens. I would have to ‘invent’ a new central character, in order to write a different kind of book.

What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

This is going to sound silly because this book has a Goodreads rating from over 53,500 people and nearly 3,000 actual reviews, but it deserves more. Ursula LeGuin’s “The Dispossessed” is one of the greatest books of the 20th Century. The reason it isn’t rated as highly as some mainstream literature is simply because it is labeled science fiction. People pre-judge and turn away. The Dispossessed has many layers, it’s a great love story and the pages are packed with humanity. I read it eight times before I was thirty. Even the structure of the book reflects the theme of the book, which is about the nature of time and space. It is brilliant. Please give it a go.

How long to write a book?

My problem is finding the time to write (and to promote the finished product) while earning a living, looking after the kids and sharing good times with family and friends. The first two books were mostly written between 5am and 6am, over a three year period. I would think about plot, sections of dialogue and settings, while I cycled to and from work. I would then spend five minutes writing notes on my phone when I arrived and those hastily mis-typed lines would be my starting point (along with coffee) the following morning at 5am.

If you read Feel.it, you will notice that Roxanne, the heroine of the book, also cycles a lot, as it represents freedom and her own head space. This is not a coincidence.

 Catch up with Ian on social media:

Ian Wingrove’s blog

Get the books: Amazon

FeelIt (Medium)

Dead Poor 110915 (Medium)

Meet suspense author, Sherry Knowlton

 

Today, I welcome author Sherry Knowlton for a visit. This Pennsylvania native has been writing in one form or another since elementary school. Along the way, her creative and technical work has run the gamut from poetry, essays, and short stories to environmental newsletters, policy papers, regulations, and grant proposals. Her debut novel published in 2014 and her third book in the Alexa Williams series launched in April of this year.

Let’s get to know Sherry.

  • Tell us, what literary pilgrimages have you gone on?

I’ve only gone on one deliberate literary pilgrimage. In college, I did a semester-long Independent Studies project on D.H. Lawrence’s novels.  Many years ago, I attended a work conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  Since it was my first visit to the area, I arrived a few days early and drove to nearby Taos to visit the Lawrence Memorial at his Kiowa Ranch. The author’s ashes are interred there, so I wanted to pay him homage.

It was a pretty weird experience.  The Memorial was back a remote, dirt lane, high on a windswept hill.  The place was completely deserted.  Just me, the cold wind, and Lawrence’s ashes somewhere in the small shrine.  Although Lawrence had lived at Kiowa Ranch for several years, most of the books I’d studied – Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Sons and Lovers, Women in Love – were set in the British Isles.  So, his final resting place seemed out of step with much of his work – except for The Plumed Serpent, which is based in Mexico and incorporates Aztec themes.  But, Lawrence’s writing was ahead of his time, much of it vilified in the early 1900’s (and later) as pornography.  He only gained a reputation as an important author after his death. So, maybe it’s fitting that his ashes rest in peace and quiet above the noise and rancor that he experienced during his life.

A myriad of other authors have inspired my love of travel although I wouldn’t call the trips pilgrimages.  Mary Stewart’s novels, like The Moonspinners, sent me sailing in the Cyclades Islands of Greece.  Reading Robert Ruark and Ernest Hemingway whetted my appetite for Africa.  Robert Ludlum’s books made me want to careen through the capitals of Europe. I could go on, but you get the idea.

  • What is the first book that made you cry?

This isn’t a very fair question for someone who cries regularly when reading.  I cry if a beloved character dies.  I cry if the dog dies.  I cry at the perfect romantic moment.  And, don’t get me started on movies.  I’ve seen the old Streisand/Redford movie The Way We Were umpteen times.  Every time it gets to the part where Redford and his friend are sailing and reminiscing about their best year and the Redford character says, “1944, no, 1945” then whispers “1946” – I start sobbing.  Every time.  Heck, I even cry at those heartwarming commercials with the Budweiser Clydesdales and dogs.

With so many fiction-induced tears in my life, I can’t really remember the first book that made me cry.  I know that The Diary of Anne Frank and To Kill a Mockingbird were two early books that affected me deeply.  In my junior high or high school years, I remember my devastation at the end of For Whom the Bell Tolls.  (Spoiler alert.) Robert Jordan’s self-sacrifice made me sob aloud.

In all seriousness, these days I generally avoid novels that scream tearjerker.  There are a glut of novels, often characterized as women’s fiction or literary fiction, which seem engineered to be emotionally manipulative.  I’m not saying that all women’s or literary fiction falls into this bucket.  But, there’s a certain strain of fiction that seems written purely to tug at the heartstrings.  I’d rather read a book that tells a compelling story and develops absorbing characters, so the emotion invoked is more honest.

  • Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

I have three books to date in my Alexa Williams suspense series, Dead of Autumn, Dead of Summer and the latest April release Dead of Spring.  Each book is written as a stand-alone, so a reader can pick it up and enjoy the story even though they might not have read the other books in the series.  However, many of the characters continue in one or more books:  my protagonist, Alexa’s, friends, family, colleagues, and her English mastiff, Scout.  Of course, these are suspense novels with an element of murder mystery, so in each book, a handful of characters don’t make it out alive.

One of the other key connections between my books is that social and environmental issues that are fundamental to the plots.  The latest, Dead of Spring, involves Alexa in the controversial areas of fracking and political corruption.  The themes of my earlier novels include reproductive rights for women and religious fundamentalism (Dead of Autumn) and sex trafficking (Dead of Summer). I believe that plots dealing with real-life current topics speak to readers and engage them in the suspense.

  • How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

Publication of my first book changed my process in two key aspects.  First, it gave me more confidence about my writing.   Second, it gave me a greater understanding of the editing and publishing process. I knew better what to expect when the manuscript left my hands and went to my publisher, Sunbury Press.   So, that meant that I produced my next two manuscripts in a shorter timeframe, primarily because I didn’t do as many draft versions.

Now, that doesn’t mean that I still don’t edit and revise and re-edit.  Plus, I have a group of beta-readers who review and comment on a late draft – and I incorporate much of their feedback.  But, on my first novel, I got caught up in multiple revisions and probably wasted months before I submitted the manuscript to a publisher.  I’ve learned that you have to do your best to revise and refine your work, but at some point, you also have to let it go.  I’m lucky in that I have a wonderful editor who works with me on several rounds of edits prior to publication and always helps me make the final book better.

  • I can relate. It’s so hard to let go of that first one.      What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

As a reporter and, then, editor of my high school newspaper, I began to understand the power that things like word choice, what to include or exclude in a story, etc. could have in shaping student knowledge and opinion.  Back then, journalism was very much Who/What/When/Where/Why and How, but even without any overt opinion or spin, the writer could have enormous impact.  

That lesson was really reinforced for me when a nationally-syndicated war correspondent spoke at our journalism awards banquet.  This was in the mid-point of the Vietnam War.  As this real-life reporter who wrote stories about life and death matters spoke, I realized the influence that his written words could have on the public perception of the war.  What he chose to write about or not write about could end up shaping opinions in a contentious national conversation. I’ve never forgotten that lesson about the power of words – a power that extends into many areas of our lives, well beyond politics and public policy.

  • I love research.   What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

I do a good bit of research before I begin each book, but I usually find that I need to augment the initial research as I write.  To illustrate my process, let me talk about the process for my latest book. Like my other novels, Dead of Spring is primarily a contemporary suspense story, but there’s a parallel historical plot.  The contemporary story deals with fracking and government corruption.  The historical story takes place during the Three Mile Island nuclear crisis in 1979.  I found a lot of written material on the internet, reviewed State regulations, viewed news clips, and more. I talked to experts in law enforcement and in hydraulic fracturing. One of my most useful bits of research came when I visited a landowner in northern Pennsylvania who had leased his land to an energy company for fracking.  He leased in the early days of fracking in Pennsylvania and was unaware of the problems he might encounter.  He shared his experience by showing me his photographs of the process that transformed his property. A beautiful woodland that step by step by step turned into an acre of gravel and machinery.  Pristine drinking water that now requires constant filtering just for showers and bathing. Battles with the energy company about compensation for various problems. I also visited sites where I could view the various steps of the fracking process.   

The preliminary research often takes a month or longer.  If I find I’m missing key information as I write, I’ll often just mark the spot and return to it later after I’ve done the research.  However, if it’s a critical plot point, I need to step away from the writing and research the item immediately.

  • How do you select the names of your characters?

Character names are one of the hardest parts about writing.  Who knew a novel had so many characters?  Often, you even have to name random characters who may only “walk on” for a scene.  I use some favorite names and variations on family names for some of my main characters.  The rest I pull from news articles, people I know or meet, and baby name books for the year of the character’s birth.  Sometimes, I hear a name that strikes me as perfect and I’ll jot it down to use in a future book. Here are just a few of the lessons I’ve learned.

You don’t want to repeat names or use names that sound too similar.  I made this mistake in my first book by naming Alexa’s best friend Melissa and her executive assistant Melinda.  Since these are continuing characters, I’m stuck with the confusion forever – unless I fire Melinda and she’s such a nice woman, I’d hesitate to do that.  Heck, even I find myself confusing the two names when I write.

Don’t give a bad guy the same name as one of your friends or colleagues.  In Dead of Autumn, I gave one of the bad guys the same name as a work colleague.  I was just looking for a biblical name, and used it without thinking of my colleague. But he’ll never let me hear the end of it.

Think about readings.  In Dead of Summer, I asked a Thai friend to help me name a Thai victim of sex trafficking.  Together we picked a name that has real meaning to the arc of the character. But, now, I can never choose a passage containing her name for a public reading, because I can never remember how to pronounce the multisyllabic Thai name without stumbling over it.

  • I think readers are sometimes surprised to learn how immersed authors are with their writing.   What was your hardest scene to write?

In my first novel, Dead of Autumn, the historical subplot is a fictionalized treatment of a historical incident, the Babes in the Woods murders.  Three young sisters were found dead in a Pennsylvania forest during the Depression after traveling from California with their father and an older female cousin.  The last chapter of this Babes in the Woods saga was very difficult for me to write. I was surprised at the amount of emotion I felt as I wrote that final scene with ten-year-old Dewilla Noakes and her father. By the time I got there, I had become so connected to my vision of this young girl, that writing that last scene was a gut-wrenching experience.

  • What is your favorite childhood book? 

The Nancy Drew series.  Sometimes I think I’m writing a grown up version of Nancy Drew although Alexa is stronger and steelier.  And, she doesn’t worry about matching sweater sets.  Plus, she’s not ready to settle for Ned.

 

  • What’s the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Starting the next book.  I’m don’t adhere to the advice that you must write something every day, even if it’s just a few pages.  After a book is finished, I usually need a break. Then, I pull together the thoughts I’ve had about my next book and organize them.  I do research and prepare an outline, although parts of the outline usually evolve as I begin to write.  Then, I’m ready to begin the next book.

But, sometimes the rest of my life intervenes in the writing process.  My husband and I do a lot of extended traveling.  We just came back from six weeks on safari in Africa and India.  Also, I do consulting projects from time to time that are usually time-limited with a hard deadline.  

All of these factors can contribute to delays in getting my next book underway.  I’m struggling with that now.  One good thing.  Once I begin, I usually get caught up in the writing and just plow ahead until I’ve finished the first draft.

  • Do you Google yourself?

You caught me.  Yes, I do.  And, it can be an enlightening process.  Sometimes, I’m checking to see if a promised article or blog post has been published.  Sometimes, I’ve found that I’ve been mentioned in an article or on a blog – and I wasn’t aware of it. Twice, I’ve found that someone pirated my book and was peddling it online; so, I let my publisher know.  

One of the interesting results of searching my name online are the trails to my past life that pop up from time to time.  In the 1990’s I worked for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in a job where, in my official capacity, I issued a lot of communications about the Medicaid program in the state.  A lot of those bulletins and related work from those days are hanging around out there on the internet.  Some of them, I don’t even remember signing.

But, my primary purpose in Googling these days, is to keep current for author-related marketing purposes.

I must confess, I have not read Sherry’s books yet because she’s a new author to me. But, they are definitely on my TBR list now!  

Read about her latest novel: Dead of Spring 

When a beloved state senator plunges to his death at Alexa Williams’ feet in the Capitol Rotunda, the authorities suspect suicide. Although the powerful chair of the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee was at the center of a controversial new bill to expand hydraulic fracturing, he was also rumored to be ill. Shaken, Alexa tries to move past the disturbing incident by concentrating on work. She’s leading a senate commission on sex trafficking. Plus, she’s helping an old college roommate sue a natural gas company for their role in causing her daughter’s rare cancer.

In researching the lawsuit, Alexa becomes embroiled in the high-stakes politics of fracking. As the relationship with her state trooper boyfriend drifts onto the rocks, Alexa is drawn to a charismatic state legislator who’s leading an anti-fracking crusade. Then, the police shock Alexa with the news that she could be in danger; she’s a witness to the senator’s murder, not his suicide.

When Alexa narrowly escapes a sniper’s bullet, she must discover why she’s a target―and who she can trust—before the next shot hits its mark.

With Sherry Knowlton’s trademark mix of feminism, history, romance, and fast-paced thrills, Dead of Springskyrockets from the fracking fields of the Marcellus Shale to the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster of 1979 to the rolling hills of Tuscany to the halls of Pennsylvania state government. In this suspenseful tale of corruption and runaway greed, Alexa Williams proves, once again, that she’s a formidable heroine. The twists and turns keep will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Here’s where you can get the scoop on the Alexa Williams series: 

Amazon     Sunbury     Barnes & Noble     Indie Bound

Forward Motion is Everything

Well, it’s done. My publisher has officially closed their doors. In the ever-changing world of book selling, Samhain and its owner, Crissy Brashear, went out with dignity—doing their best by their authors and employees under difficult circumstances.

But where does this leave me, you ask? With the announcement last year of a slowdown and eventual closure, I’ve had time to prepare. I’ve already begun to re-release STILL LIFE–book 1 in the Randi Lassiter series as an ebook on retail sites with print to follow. Final line edits were recently completed on THE DARK SIDE (book 2) and I’m prepping it now for launch. The hang up is, without a publisher, it’s all on me. And boy, this Indie publishing thing is a heck of a lot of work!

Fans will also be happy to know that I’m also working on the first book in a new suspense series featuring special agent, Becca Howell, with the department of justice (from Still Life) and outlining book 3 in the Randi Lassiter Series. See, forward motion is everything.

For your entertainment, here are the cover and blurb for THE DARK SIDE.

  Enjoy!

dbkennison-thedarksidedraft1-1

Coming Soon!

 

With the woman who tried to murder her finally behind bars, Randi Lassiter is wondering how much longer she must suffer the effects of the post-traumatic stress disorder that have plagued her for nearly a year. Just as she and her cop boyfriend, Jon Bricksen, settle into the routine of a happy couple, someone in town is murdered and the news threatens to send her down the rabbit hole again.

What Randi needs now is a P. I. case to focus on. When the only distraction available comes waltzing into her office, Randi embraces the opportunity like the lone life preserver on the Titanic. Too bad the client is her ex-husband, Stuart, who is looking for his missing new wife.

Randi’s decision to help the man she has sworn to loathe for all eternity is so out of character that Jon questions not only her judgment, but her mental health as well. When he worries that she has lost her last marble, Randi begins to keep secrets from him. The kind of secrets that could break a relationship.

When Stuart is suddenly arrested for murder, Randi stubbornly stands by her ex-man. As she attempts the impossible by proving him innocent, Jon is doing his best to find him guilty.

Pitted against one another, the couple’s love is tested. Can their relationship survive as a conspiracy of secrets place them in danger?

Click to read an excerpt

Can hanging out with cops improve your writing?

This past August, writers from around the globe descended on Green Bay Wisconsin like cops diving for an open box of donuts. In fact, they came in droves from as far away as Thailand and Germany to meet with law enforcement specialists at The Writers’ Police Academy. Their collective goal? To get the writing right. After all, when it comes to the technical stuff, the goal is to gain a level of authenticity that the reader doesn’t ever have to question. Readers expect a bit realism and accuracy when it comes to the details. They want the story to be believable. And, writers want to deliver it. For instance, the earlier cliche about cops and donuts is far from the truth. These days, law enforcement officials strive to stay in top-notch condition, not only to do their job well but to carry around an addition twenty pounds of gear (vest and duty belt).

The Writers’ Police Academy provided an experience like no other. Where 14054949_10207526999108692_295445966679904031_nelse can a wordsmith learn how to evaluate blood spatter or explore the use of explosives and IED’s. Or field strip and shoot a long gun, study a death scene, and learn the proper time to Mirandize a suspect?

As a debut author who is all about improving my writing, I’ve found the fine points of police procedure, legalese, forensics, and psychopathy are sometimes hard to get right. Research from behind the laptop only goes so far and it’s those little tidbits that make the story dynamic.

Based on what I learned at the academy I’ll admit mistakes were made in my first book. Hopefully, none that the average citizen would note. And yet, my goal will always be to get the minutiae right. Not only is it out of respect for those who do the job but I want fans to experience an adventure that reflects real life. This writer thing I’ve got a passion for is going to last awhile and I owe it to readers to improve where I can.

This event was law enforcement 101 on steroids.

The WPA’s wicked intense schedule is a one-stop shop that provides interactive, hands-on, professional instruction. And, much like Disneyworld, the offerings are so vast that it’s impossible to do everything in a single visit. I’m talking 42 classes offered over a 2-day period-Yikes! With all the group presentations, classes, guest speakers, and networking, my head was spinning by the end (good thing I took notes). The jam-packed days continued into the night with drone demos, traffic stops, and arrest protocol. I was particularly impressed with how patient and determined instructors were to ensure we left with a clear understanding of each subject. No question went unanswered.

Police procedure and crime scene investigation expert, author and consultant, Lee Lofland (of the Graveyard Shift Blog), is the driving force behind the academy. He and his team put together one heck of a training adventure. Here’s a look at just a few things I experienced that weekend.

Special Ops show and tell of equipment, gear, and vehicles:  S.W.A.T.,  bomb squad, emergency response and rescue, K-9 cops.

14054273_10207527056990139_2151073560183728042_o  14066399_10207527056950138_3987943591778574354_o 20160811_152317 20160811_152700

And, a few of the classes I participated in:

-Oneida Tribal Police and Native Gangs: This class was a gold mine of information on various gangs not only in Wisconsin but across the U.S.

-Examination of stereotypical motives for mass/serial murders and the psychological nuances behind specific cases. This was taught by renown author, instructor of forensic psychology, and lover of all things dark–Dr. Katherine Ramsland.

-Police basics – learning the walk and talk – a crash course in cop lingo. Taught by Robin Burcell,  a former cop, hostage negotiator, and an FBI-trained forensic artist turned author.

-Private Investigation: Or, how to be a dick for fun and profit. Great for my amateur sleuth protagonist.

20160813_121656-Force on Force clearing of a building: When is deadly force necessary?  This class was a real eye-opener for me. I learned how officers are trained using reality-based tactical scenarios to evaluate and determine if deadly force is necessary. Gone are the days when trainees shoot at pop-up targets during training and then hesitate when confronted with the same shoot/don’t shoot scenario with a live person. An instant is all it takes to be right or wrong. I learned how this cutting-edge training better prepares officers for dangerous situations.

(Here I am with instructor Randy Clifton. Former Special Agent for the DEA and FBI Academy Instructor.)


As if the classes weren’t enough, one exciting part of the weekend were the surprise events that were planned for us.

When we arrived on campus Friday morning we witnessed a fatal head-on collision involving a drunk driver (simulated). This incident felt very real. Officials wore microphones so that we writers could hear the exchange as emergency personnel arrived and dealt with the events in real time. Responding officers evaluated the intoxicated driver, issuing a field sobriety test and subsequent arrest. Emergency medical personnel triaged the injured and extricated (using the jaws of life) a victim for medical transport on the Flight for Life helicopter.

14039920_10207526994908587_3368170097671268097_n

20160812_080434

(Impressive acting by the guy in the orange shorts! He played dead as the entire scenario unfolded.)


We were in class early Saturday morning drinking coffee and covering terrorist statistics. For instance, Worldwide terrorist attacks in 2015 numbered 391. That number jumped dramatically to 759 in the first six months of 2016!  All of a sudden, we were under attack (simulated). Terrorists had come onto campus and staff was dealing with multiple stabbings while performing a lock-down in the lecture hall to keep us all safe. We all knew this was one of the WPA surprise simulations, but still. Not only did we get to hear staff in the room but critical responders as they made their way to us.

A lot was happening at once and it was tough to take notes with our hands on our heads. (I did manage to sneak a few photos with my cell). We were required to keep our hands on our heads until our non-involvement was established by officers. Afterward, instructors covered protocol for the response.

20160813_08293120160813_082044



Lee Goldberg shared insights into his writer’s journey and words of wisdom on how to use or not use what we learned at the WPA.

14053918_10207527041349748_3436097544304255929_o

Lee Goldberg and Tami Hoag receive recognition at the Saturday night banquet.

To top off the weekend (I know, you’re wondering how it could possibly get any better), Tami Hoag spoke about her panster writing process and how, often, she doesn’t know the ending until she’s there. She sports a tattoo that keeps her centered and has a love of mixed martial arts (and yes, she can lay you flat with one punch). She also shares a passion to the details right and attended classes that weekend. See, a writer never stops working on the craft.

resized_20160813_221421

resized_20160813_221346-1

The Writers’ Police Academy was an all around adventure I look forward to attending again and again. Thanks WPA for keeping it real!

The Writers’ Police Academy sign up is February 19th. Don’t miss out!

Writing: Not for the faint of heart

Some followers have probably been wondering where in the heck I’ve been lately. Well, life sometimes gets in the way. I’ve had some personal things come up at home this summer, I’ve been busy at my day job, and between hubby and I, we were gone/committed to events every weekend for nearly 3 months. That’s a lot of traveling. Packing and unpacking, laundry, and scheduling of dog sitters. It was fun but exhausting.

writing-a-book-is-a-horrible-exhausting-struggle-like-a-long-bout-of-some-painful-illness-one-would-never-undertake-such-a-thing-if-one-were-not-driven-on-by-some-demon-whom-one-can-neithe

I’ve also been in re-write limbo. That mysterious place where an author takes a finished novel, something that took months if not years to complete, and then must reconstruct it to make it better, stronger. And yes, much of this was done in a car. Thankfully, I’m one of those lucky people who can read in a moving vehicle and not puke.

frustrated-writer

 

Writing a novel is hard enough, but systematically dismantling your baby, scrambling it about, and then assembling the bits and pieces into a decent product is rough. And, not for the faint of heart.

 

THE DARK SIDE, book two in the Randi Lassiter Series, is now finished and waiting for a second pass of editing. I just got the first draft of the cover art and I love it. With any luck at all, I can feed the two or three fans I have a preview of the book next month.

It’s been just over a year since the release of my debut novel and boy howdy, have I learned a lot. It has been an adventure of highs and lows. Some scream worthy, others no more than a moments distraction. From learning how to write a series (didn’t see that coming) to putting together an author platform that I actually (okay, sometimes) use, to educating myself on Indie publishing, it has been a thrilling rollercoaster ride.

Don’t get me wrong, tough as it is, I’m living the dream. I have one book published and a second on the verge of release. What have I got to complain about?

Well, perhaps it’s that I can sit and write for five hours straight and it feels like it has only been five minutes. That I go to bed frustrated, swearing I’ll never write another word again and then race to my laptop the next morning with ideas that just can’t wait to get out.

Or, that I’m obsessed with fixing _________________ (pick one: plot problems, insubordinate timelines, a random comma usage disorder (okay…that’s not a real thing), rogue red-herrings, exposition diarrhea, and dialog that digs in it’s heels, insisting on appearing stilted instead of casual), and poor daily word counts.

And, don’t even get me started on writer’s block!

Writing a book is difficult.

Considering how hard it is to string just two words together some days, its miraculous that I’ve managed to group 90,000 into an order that makes some quirky sense.

Soon I will begin a new novel. This is the first in the Becca Howell series. Becca is a special agent with the DCI (Division of Criminal Investigation) with the Department of Justice (a branch of the FBI) in the Madison office. She’s a grittier character than the protagonist in the first series and I’m looking forward to fleshing her out on the page.

I’ve also updated this blog site to  include some fun/random tidbits. There’s a section called Dead Darlings where I’ll post reader worthy snippets that dropped to the cutting room floor. Also, a section on Research where I hope to share some fascinating stuff I run across when working background on my writing. Research is one of my favorite things and so much of what I learn never makes it in the story, darn it. I hope you find it interesting.

Tell me, what kind of things do you enjoy reading about on other blogs/web pages?

 

How does she do it?

I’m excited to welcome the talented and multi-published author Lauren Smith to my blog today. A prolific writer, Lauren has 15 romance novels/novellas in several sub-genres including Regency era historical, paranormal, gothic, and contemporary adult.

Lauren Smith

I love a good mystery. But,  when I look at Lauren’s bio, book list, accolades and awards, then factor in that she is a lawyer by day, I can’t figure out how she does it all.

Let’s get to know her better and find out.

 

 

What do you think people would be the most surprised to learn about you?

Probably that I’m a virgin, given that I write really steamy romance novels.

That is a shocker! I’ve read some of your novels and I blush just thinking about certain parts of them. (fans face)   It takes talent and practice (writing, I mean) to pen a well done sex scene. Some authors won’t even go there. You’re young and beautiful. So no one is going to believe you’ve never participated on some level of (ahem) extracurricular activity. That said, it’s all the more impressive that you write those intimate scenes so well without the…um…er…full Monty experience.  Kudos, girlfriend!

We know you are a lady lawyer and committed writer. But, what do you enjoy most in your free time?

I love to do photography, walk my dogs, run, draw and watch movies and hang with my friends.

Here is some of Lauren’s art and photography. She’s got an eye for detail.

Lauren’s fur babies.     DSC_0006

Any other passions?

cavalry_2_by_novemberstar88

I adore Audie Murphy and have nearly all his movies and his official biography signed by the author that was a limited print run. *grins. He’s the coolest. Here’s a photo of two riders from the Audie Murphy Days celebration in Texas. 

 

 

Lauren's men

 

Here’s a photo I found of Lauren with what looks to be a group of Audie wannabes.  Looks like great research to me!

 

Other than a computer, what modern convenience could you never live without?

My smart phone. The Audible Audiobook app is essential to my existence!

I’ll have to try that one. Every author has a process—what works for them when they write. What does your writing process look like from first scribbles to finished manuscript?

Lauren page2

 

I write chronologically from start to finish on a book in a Five Star brand five-subject Notebook.  

 

What is your all-time favorite book.

Via Amazon

Via Amazon

Gone with the wind

Via Amazon

 

Man, I can’t believe I have to pick….it’s a tie. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell and The Host by Stephanie Meyer.

 

How about project research, love it or hate it?

Love to buy books for topics, but not so good at following up on reading them! Hahah.

Is there a specific author who inspires you?

Probably Christina Dodd and Marie Force are a tie. They really are amazing writers who have been successful over years of hard work. They’ve taught me to be true to the craft but that it’s okay to want to be successful about it.

You write in various genres, which is your favorite to write?

That’s a tough question. I’d probably say Gothic, even though I only had one book so far written in that genre. It’s just my natural writing voice to make things a little spooky and haunted.

Which is your favorite to read?

Definitely gothic, or classic styled but sexy vampire romances.

Is there a genre you haven’t written but are thinking about trying?

I’d love to write highland romances but the accuracy and accents scare me right now and I would only want to write a good book so I haven’t worked up the courage yet to try.

How long did it take you to write your first book?    Your latest book?

My first book took about 4 months while I was in college. My latest book took about 4 months as well.

And, all in longhand. I’m still impressed!  As a multi-published author, do you have any words of advice for aspiring writers?

Keep writing and view your writing like a business. I see a lot of newer authors who don’t study the market and see what sells. You want to have an original voice but you don’t want to write a book that’s too complicated or fails to register with readers. It’s always important to know what readers like because half the joy of writing is giving readers something they would share.

What projects are you working on?

I’m currently working on a Regency historical and a contemporary new adult!

Tell us a little about a recent release, Climax: Her British Stepbrother.

It’s the 3rd part in my 3 part Serial. All 3  books (Forbidden, Seduction, and Climax) are 99 cents. The story is about Kat, an American college Freshman who moves to England and falls for a handsome, seductive graduate student named Tristan Kingsley. To her shock, she discovers that he’s going to the Earl of Pembroke someday and what’s more, his mother and her father, both who have been divorced from their spouses for years had suddenly met and started dating. Kat and Tristan will soon become step-siblings. I wanted to write a stepbrother story but have them meet and fall in love before their parents start dating.

Forbidden: Book 1 in Her British Stepbrother Series

He’s her first. He’s her everything. He’s her . . . stepbrother.

Kat has always been a good girl. She studies hard and never stays out too late. But when sitting in a pub on her birthday, she realizes she’s a nineteen-year-old virgin who’s never really lived. And she wants tonight to be the night that changes.

Then she sees him walk in. He’s tall, dark, handsome, and straight out of her deepest fantasies. His voice makes her knees feel weak, and when he smiles, she imagines him doing wicked things to her in bed. From the look in his eyes, she knows he’s imagining it too. So when he asks if he can walk her home, she hears herself whisper yes . . .

Catch up with Lauren:

Amazon Bestselling Author Lauren Smith is an attorney by day, author by night, who pens adventurous and edgy romance stories by the light of her smart phone flashlight app. She’s a native Oklahoman who lives with her three pets, a feisty chinchilla, sophisticated cat and dapper little schnauzer. She’s won multiple awards in several romance subgenres including: Amazon.com Breakthrough Novel Award Quarter-Finalist and Semi-Finalist Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Award.

To get alerts for her latest releases sign up for Lauren’s newsletter visit her at www.laurensmithbooks.com                 or          The League of Rogues