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#IWSG Drawing the Line

Join us HERE, the brainchild of Alex Cavanaugh.

Thank you to this month’s co-hosts: Jemima Pitt, J Lenni Dorner, Cathrina Constantine, Ronel Janse van Vuuren, and Mary Aalgaard!

Hope your October is off to a great start, writers! Warm weather has continued in Ohio, allowing me to sneak in some outdoor swims late in the season. Friends and I swam in a local quarry last week, and the 72-degree water temperature was brisk but invigorating.

Sadly, I had to cancel a swim vacation in Baja, Mexico. We planned to glamp and swim 2-4 miles a day in the Pacific, but international travel didn’t seem wise in the throes of the never-ending pandemic. But maybe I’ll fulfill my dream of swimming in Spain next year instead.

This month’s question: In your writing, where do you draw the line, with either topics or language?

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay 

I rely on my reading preferences to draw the line in my writing. I enjoy reading creative curse words and healing from horrific traumas. Therefore, my characters sometimes swear like sailors, and I embrace the challenge of delving into the aftermath of sexual trauma or criminal violence in my sport romance and romantic suspense novels.

Though romance is my favorite genre, I don’t enjoy reading plentiful, graphic sex scenes. It’s no surprise that I avoid writing erotica.

I also value free speech. While I don’t want to offend readers, I hope to stay true to myself without worrying about political correctness.

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Writing Success #IWSG

Created by Alex Cavanaugh, join us here.

Many thanks to the cream-of-the-crop co-hosts for September: Rebecca Douglass, T. Powell Coltrin @Journaling Woman, Natalie Aguirre, Karen Lynn, and C. Lee McKenzie!

This month’s question:

How do you define success as a writer? Is it holding your book in your hand? Having a short story published? Making a certain amount of income from your writing?

For me, this image speaks to the essence of writing success:

Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay 

It’s the pure joy of your words capturing an idea and connecting with a reader. When your words elicit deep emotion from readers, you’ve made it.

How do you define success?

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#IWSG Mental Blocks and Resilience

Holla, writers! Happy August to you.

Join us at IWSG or Alex Cavanaugh’s blog.

Thank you to the wonderful August co-hosts: PK Hrezo, Cathrina Constantine, PJ Colando, Kim Lajevardi, and Sandra Cox!

Have you been watching the Olympics? I’ve binged on coverage of my two favorite sports: swimming and volleyball. American swimmer Caleb Dressel was electrifying!

Credit: Los Angeles Times

I’ve also felt inspired by stories of resilience in multiple sports, especially in the midst of a pandemic. Athletes like the brave and lovely Simone Biles have strived to handle challenges such as mental blocks.

We’re all familiar with writer’s block, but what about mental blocks? Overcoming them in sports like gymnastics, diving, and equestrian is one such opportunity for resilience. Mental blocks, also known as balking or the yips, occur when athletes struggle to complete skills they’ve done hundreds of times before. They try to force themselves, but they just can’t go. Every gymnast has experienced mental blocks. But how difficult to face one on the world stage at the Olympics!

Sport psychologist Alan Goldberg frames mental blocks as a trauma response. The traumas can be a serious injury, scary fall, or even witnessing another athlete survive a near miss. If I made a mistake in swimming, I swam slower. When gymnasts make mistakes, they might sustain horrific injuries. And their bodies remember the past fear, creating the fight, flight, or freeze response. No matter how hard athletes try to throw the skill, their bodies freeze. It’s so frustrating for them.

Traumas can also be personal, like a severe car accident or sexual assault. For an athlete who has experienced multiple traumas, their bodies may lock up. It’s not a lack of effort. It’s a survival mechanism. I applaud any athlete experiencing this struggle who takes care of herself and puts her health first. These superstar athletes are human, with needs for safety and respect just like all of us.

This month’s question: What is your favorite writing craft book? Think of a book that every time you read it you learn something or you are inspired to write or try the new technique.

Speaking of trauma, The Emotional Wound Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi is enlightening.

I also enjoyed the classic On Writing by Stephen King.

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#IWSG Writing Future

Join us HERE and thanks to Alex Cavanaugh for starting the group.

Much appreciation to the co-hosts for the July 7 posting of the IWSG: Pat Garcia, Victoria Marie Lees, and Louise – Fundy Blue!

This month’s question: What would make you quit writing?

This question hits deep because I haven’t written fiction for about eight months. And I’m not feeling a current urge to write. But I won’t go so far to say I’ve quit–there’s a finality to that statement that doesn’t fit me right now. If I speculate about reasons for taking a break or even quitting writing, here’s what comes to mind:

  • Lackluster sales. There are so many books out there that it’s hard to capture reader’s attention. Still, I’m disappointed by sales of my last two novels, Rivals and Twin Sacrifice. I’m thankful for lovely reviews by readers devoting time to my books–I just wish there were more of them. Reviews, even critical ones, spark motivation in me.
  • Consuming career. I have high productivity goals and a fast pace in my psychologist position at an academic medical center. Therefore, I want to decompress on weeknights and weekends by swimming, reading, walking, socializing, playing volleyball, and watching TV. (Swimming laps outside in the summer is so relaxing!) The demands of my career have felt even more relentless this past year due to the pandemic worsening mental health for many, especially teenagers.
  • Time for a break. I started writing in 2007 and publishing in 2010, and maybe it’s just time to slow down. I like to write only when I’m inspired, and I don’t want to force it.

How are you feeling about writing? What inspires you to jump back into writing after a hiatus?

Image by AI Leino from Pixabay 
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#IWSG Letting a Manuscript Percolate

Thanks to Alex Cavanaugh, and join us for the IWSG here.

Thank you to the co-hosts for the June 2 posting of the IWSG: J Lenni Dorner, Sarah Foster, Natalie Aguirre, Lee Lowery, and Rachna Chhabria!

June 2 question – For how long do you shelve your first draft, before reading it and re-drafting? Is this dependent on your writing experience and the number of stories/books under your belt?

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay 

I’m more impatient than a toddler awaiting ice cream, so my first draft doesn’t stay on the shelf for long. In fact, I can’t even write one chapter without some serious editing as I go. I marvel at authors who shelve their stories for months or delay publication for years. As soon as I’m done with my manuscript, I’m shipping that puppy off to my editor!

Although impatience has stayed constant over the 11 years I’ve been publishing novels, I hope the clarity and tightness of my writing have improved. I’ve observed that at least my critique partner and editor suggest fewer edits with each successive novel.

On another note, how’s your writing motivation these days? Sales for my latest novel have pretty much sucked–not awesome for inspiring my muse. But I am enjoying reading engrossing books like We Are All Made of Stars and watching riveting TV shows like Mare of Easttown.

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Ten Steps to Create an Audiobook #IWSG

Happy May, writers! Time for the Insecure Writers Support Group, the brainchild of Alex Cavanaugh.

Join us here.

Thank you to this month’s co-hosts: Erika Beebe, PJ Colando, Tonja Drecker, Sadira Stone, and Cathrina Constantine.

Have you heard about the 7th annual IWSG Anthology Contest? I’m excited it’s a romance theme — specifically, first love. But I’m even more stoked to serve as one of the judges. So dust off your heartfelt, lovesick memories and submit a short story!

While you’re at the IWSG Anthology website, check out the brand new anthology, DARK MATTER. Congratulations to these contest winners:

Artificial – Stephanie Espinoza Villamor
Space Folds and Broomsticks – C.D. Gallant-King
Rift – Kim Mannix
The Utten Mission – Steph Wolmarans
Sentient – Tara Tyler
One to Another – Deniz Bevan
Resident Alien – Charles Kowalski
Nano Pursuit – Olga Godim
Resurgence – Elizabeth Mueller
Vera’s Last Voyage – Mark Alpert

~*~

Instead of answering the suggested question this month, I’ll discuss what I learned in creating my first audiobook, Rivals.

Do you like audiobooks? I’m more of a visual learner, so I didn’t think I’d have the focus required to track a story for hours. But once the pandemic hit, listening to audiobooks from the library while I walked for miles became my JAM. Now, audiobooks are the only way I read.

So when I planned to self-publish my latest sports romance, I just had to create an audio version in addition to ebook and print.

Did you know audiobooks have different-sized covers? Me, neither!

I’m so lucky that I know an audiobook narrator who guided me through the process, including these steps:

  1. Choose a publisher. Despite the problems of the monolithic juggernaut known as Amazon, I decided to go with ACX (Audible) to make things easier my first go-around.
  2. Decide on the narration. Most audiobooks use one narrator. Because I had chapters alternating first-person point of view between a female and male coach, I chose dual narration. (This differs from duet narration, where two voice actors narrate together.)
  3. Identify scenes for auditions that total five minutes or less.
  4. Select payment options. You can choose royalty share where the narrator gets 50% of the royalties, or per finished hour (PFH) rate, or both. For self-published authors, this can get pricey, but even offering $200-400 PFH may total less than $50/hour for the narrator due to all of the editing and technical aspects.
  5. Solicit auditions. I included information about the story and characters, my background as an author, and my marketing plans. I set a deadline for auditions.
  6. Review auditions. I received over 140 auditions (!), and many of them included the female and male narrators together. It’s a trip to hear so many versions of your characters. The talent was stellar! I sought narrators who sounded like the characters in my head, and I was thrilled to hire Laurie Carter Rose and Ryan Lee Dunlap.
  7. Make an offer to a narrator (ACX calls them “producers”.) With two narrators, I hired Laurie as the producer, and she subcontracted wth Ryan.
  8. Select 15 minutes of the novel for the narrator. This is the last chance to listen to the narrators’ takes on various situations and dialects before they produce the audiobook. I made sure to choose emotional scenes with young and old characters.
  9. Sign the contract between the author (“rights holder”) and narrator (“producer”).
  10. Edit and publish. Typically the producer edits as part of the per-finished-hour rate. Because my dual narrators recorded in different studios, I hired a third-party editor to help the novel sound cohesive. Eric West did a fantastic job!

The whole process took only two months or so, and now my baby is available on ACX here!

Audible gave me free download codes for readers in the US & UK, so if you’re interested, hit me up.

Also, please let me know if you have any questions about audiobooks. I still have much to learn, but I’m pleased by the outcome.

Happy writing, reading, and listening!

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#IWSG Taking Risks in Writing

Happy spring, northern hemisphere writers! Join us for a monthly venting of our hopes and fears at the IWSG, Alex Cavanaugh’s brainchild.

Thanks to our helpfulco-hosts this month: PK Hrezo, Pat Garcia, SE White, Lisa Buie Collard, and Diane Burton.

April 7th’s question: Are you a risk-taker when writing? Do you try something radically different in style/POV/etc. or add controversial topics to your work?

Sometimes anxiety prevents me from being brave in my personal life, but I have taken some risks in writing. My March release, sports romance Rivals, was the first time I wrote a novel in present tense. I like it! It’s fun! And another risk with Rivals (especially financially, eek) was the creation of my first audiobook. I’ll share more about the wonderful world of audiobooks in May.

As a psychologist, I need to broach uncomfortable topics to be effective, and another way I take risks is to incorporate squirmy themes into my stories. Twin Sacrifice dives into recovering from childhood sexual abuse, and the Blocked trilogy explores falling in love across the political aisle.

One big motivator to take risks: the support of fellow writers! Thank you to Nicki Elson, Ellen Jacobson, Shannon Lawrence, Pat Garcia, Valerie Ullmer, Sheri Hollister, Natalie Aguirre, Alex Cavanaugh, and Diane Wolf (I hope I’m not missing anyone) for your great support.

What risks have YOU taken?

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IWSG Favorite Genres

Join our group to share our insecurities and writing progress. Thank you to Ninja Captain Alex Cavanaugh for creating this wonderful community.

The clever co-hosts for the March 3 posting of the IWSG are Sarah – The Faux Fountain Pen Jacqui Murray, Chemist Ken, Victoria Marie Lees, Natalie Aguirre, and JQ Rose. Thank you for co-hosting!

March 3 question – Everyone has a favorite genre or genres to write. But what about your reading preferences? Do you read widely or only within the genre(s) you create stories for? What motivates your reading choice?

While I still have a soft spot for the genres I write (sports romance and romantic suspense), my book club and Goodreads friends have helped me branch out:

Science Fiction like Dark Matter and Ready Player One.

Historical Fiction The Nightingale and The Dutch House.

Magical realism such as The Snow Child. (I’m not a fantasy fan, mostly because I find real life so damn interesting, but a touch of the fantastical can work for me.)

Reading fascinating psychological thrillers like The Silent Patient even encouraged me to write one myself.

I’ll read anything that has compelling characters who make me laugh and cry. How about you? How closely do your favorite genres match your writing and reading preferences?

I’m gearing up for the release of my new sports romance, RIVALS! If you’d like to spread the word before the launch on 3-19-21, you can sign up HERE.

Thank you to IWSG author Ellen Jacobson for reading an ARC, and for author Darcia Helle hosting me on her blog today.

insecure writers support group, new release

IWSG Blogging Buddies and RIVALS

Happy February, writers! Join us for the Insecure Writers Support Group here.

I’m thrilled to co-host this month, along with Louise – Fundy Blue,Mary Aalgaard,Patsy Collins at Womagwriter, and Nancy Gideon!

February 3 question – Blogging is often more than just sharing stories. It’s often the start of special friendships and relationships. Have you made any friends through the blogosphere?  

Blogging has been wonderful for building relationships! The best part of IWSG, for me, is the community of writers I’ve come to know. And blogging offers more freedom and ownership than social media.

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay 

In 2010, authors from my small publisher started a blog hop– the beginning of my friendship with awesome author Nicki Elson. Since then, Nicki and I began a productive and fun critique partnership! She recently helped me select audiobook narrators.

I’ve also befriended quite a few warriors from the IWSG Ninja Army: Alex Cavanaugh, L. Diane Wolf, Natalie Aguirre, Chris Fey, Ellen Jacobson, Anna Simpson, Roland Yeomans, Pat Garcia, Stephen Tremp, and Feather Stone.

(I apologize in advance for my difficulty commenting on Blogger from my MacBook unless there’s a pop-up comment form. Clearing my cache doesn’t seem to work anymore.)

I appreciate all of your support in writing and publishing! If you’d like to spread the word about my new release, sports romance RIVALS launching 3-19-21, please sign up on this form.

In addition to Nicki Elson critiquing my baby, I’m grateful to Diane Wolf for her book design! You can find Rivals on Goodreads and pre-order on Amazon.

I’ll share my adventure creating my first audiobook for Rivals in a future post. It’s been so cool.

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#IWSG Countdown to Launch and Reading Pet Peeves

Happy 2021, writers! Join us for this supportive monthly gathering to vent our hopes and fears. You can sign up at our founder Alex Cavanaugh’s blog.

Thank you to this month’s collegial co-hosts: Ronel Janse van Vuuren , J Lenni Dorner, Gwen Gardner Sandra Cox, and Louise – Fundy Blue!

How’s your writing? I’m gearing up to publish my next sports romance, RIVALS. We’re working on the cover design, and I’m scheduling a day off work in March for the release. Since I’m self-publishing, I want to avoid the typical Tuesday of traditional publishing launches. What do you think of releasing a book on a Friday? I’m considering 3/19/21.

Question: Being a writer, when you’re reading someone else’s work, what stops you from finishing a book/throws you out of the story/frustrates you the most about other people’s books?

Ooh, I like this question. My first two pet peeves as a reader are the very errors that plagued my early writing:

  1. Adverb abuse. I hope writers won’t waste my precious reading time with She left swiftly when it’s more fun to read She skedaddled.
  2. Cliches. Don’t “beat a dead horse” by using phases like “every cloud has a silver lining” or “it’s raining cats and dogs”. My aunt told me that good writing is poetic–fresh, lyrical, and unique.
  3. But most of all, I’ll abandon a story that lacks an emotional connection to the characters. If I don’t care about the people inhabiting the story, the writing quality doesn’t matter. I love vulnerable characters who grow through facing intense conflict.