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#IWSG Audiobooks!

Thanks to Alex Cavanaugh for starting this group! Check out his new release, CassaDark.

Thank you to our wonderful co-hosts this month: Joylene Nowell Butler, Jemima Pett, Patricia Josephine, Louise – Fundy Blue, and Kim Lajevardi!

April 6 question – Have any of your books been made into audio books? If so, what is the main challenge in producing an audiobook?

I wrote an earlier IWSG post on this very topic: Ten Steps to Create an Audiobook.

I LOVE audiobooks! It’s the only way I read these days. I just finished reviewing the audiobook for Alice Feeney’s Rock, Paper, Scissors.

The biggest challenge in creating my own audiobook for my 2021 release, sports romance Rivals, was the expense. I paid two narrators and an editor to pull both parts together. But the fun experience made it all worth it.

If I write another novel one day, I hope to create an audiobook version.

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Insecure Writers Support Group: Battling Fatigue

Created by Alex Cavanaugh, join us here.

Thanks to this month’s co-hosts Janet Alcorn, Pat Garcia, Natalie Aguirre, and Shannon Lawrence!

Is the COVID-19 crisis over yet? I’m feeling drained from pandemic fatigue and long work hours. I haven’t written in some time, but I still plan on resuming when the mood strikes.

I hope your writing mojo and energy levels are feeling strong these days!

If not, how do you energize when you’re feeling low?

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#IWSG Thanks to My Aunt

Happy February, writers! Join us for the Insecure Writers Support Group, founded by science fiction author Alex Cavanaugh.

Thank you to the wonderful co-hosts Joylene Nowell Butler, Jacqui Murray, Sandra Cox, and Lee Lowery!

February’s Question: Is there someone who supported or influenced you that perhaps isn’t around anymore? Anyone you miss?

I’m fortunate my 88-year-old aunt Nancy is still very much part of my family. I do miss her, though, because she lives in Los Angeles, and it’s been too long since I flew out from Ohio to visit her. (Too many states between us.)

Image from Pixabay

Nancy is a a trendsetter and her own woman, wearing birkenstocks long before they were en vogue! She’s also a big reader, and she gave me some helpful feedback about my writing before the publication of my first novel, including:

  • Improve the realism of characterization. My first draft gushed about the beauty of my two romantic leads, and with Nancy’s help, I made them more lifelike by giving my hero a crooked nose and my heroine a flat chest. They still thought each other was hot. 😉
  • Cut out the cliches. As a newbie writer, I didn’t realize how cringe-worthy it was to write phrases like, “She shot out of there like a bat out of hell” or “Better safe than sorry”. Now I try to use metaphors that relate to the content of my story. In Rivals, a sports romance between coaches from rival universities, the Michigan coach thinks, “While the wolverine’s away, the rabbits will play,” and “She probably thinks I’m angry at her for spilling the Buckeye beans.”

The happy ending to my story is that my sister and I plan to visit Nancy soon!

insecure writers support group, writing

#IWSG Writing in the New Year

Happy 2022, insecure writers!! I love our founder Alex Cavanaugh’s inspiring message about the new year:

“We all know it’s been creatively challenging the past two years. Some managed to write like maniacs, but a good portion of us were sidelined by events wrought with turmoil and uncertainty.

But 2022 can be different. We can take control of our own creative future. We need to maintain hope. Without it, we won’t make it. We need to feed that spark of hope. That creative spark! That’s our wheelhouse.

So, we need to believe in ourselves. Believe in the words we write. And believe 2022 is our year!”

Join us here.

Thank you to our competent co-hosts: Erika Beebe, Olga Godim, Sandra Cox, Sarah Foster, and Chemist Ken!

January 5 question – What’s the one thing about your writing career you regret the most? Were you able to overcome it?

I regret not knowing more about the craft of writing before my first novel was published. Though I still feel a fondness for the characters of my first novel, adverb abuse, head-hopping, and bloated prose hurt the writing quality.

I have tried to overcome this regret by learning more about the craft through reading, studying writing, and working with my critique partner and editor. It felt great to edit my debut novel to reduce my cringe reactions.

Cheers to a healthy, happy 2022!

insecure writers support group, writing

IWSG Stresses and Delights

Hello, you COVID-weary writers. Join us for the Insecure Writers Support Group, created by Alex Cavanaugh. It’s a beacon of encouragement for writers everywhere.

Thank you to this month’s wonderful co-hosts: PJ Colando, Diane Burton, Louise – Fundy Blue, Natalie Aguirre, and Jacqui Murray!

This month’s question: In your writing, what stresses you the most? What delights you?

What stresses me the most is the extended path toward finishing a novel. I’m rather impatient, and I wish writing didn’t take so long. I’ve never been one to whip through a crappy first draft without editing as I write. I guess the hundreds of hours that go into a novel make it all the more satisfying when it’s done.

Image by  Jan Vašek from Pixabay

What delights me? Readers identifying aspects of the story I hadn’t planned or considered. The first story I wrote, Bad Blood, was about one man betraying another. At the end, the hero fought for his life after being poisoned in his prison cell. It wasn’t till a reader commented about his poisoned blood representing the title that I saw the unintentional connection.

Image by Harmony Lawrence from Pixabay

What stresses or delights you as a writer?

~*~

I need to make an appetizer for our upcoming holiday book club. Do you have a favorite Christmas recipe? Here’s a delightful one from my friend, Chelsi:

Brussel Sprout Salad

1 pound Brussel sprouts (thinly sliced – “shredded” – I find them at Trader Joe’s)

Dried cranberries – a few handfuls

Chopped pecans (pan toasted) – a few handfuls

Diced, cooked bacon – about 5 slices

Shaved parmesan – almost a whole tub. Mix most in and then sprinkle the bigger, prettier shavings on top

Dressing –

1/3 cup olive oil

Thinly sliced shallots – 2 small

Fry the shallots in the oil until they’re crisped, then stir in the rest of the ingredients (2 TBSP apple butter or fig preserves, 2 TBSP apple cider vinegar, salt, pepper) and let marinate for a bit

Toss everything in a bowl

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#IWSG Blurbs, Titles, and Covers Oh My!

Happy November to all insecure writers everywhere. Join us here, and thanks to Alex Cavanaugh for creating and sustaining this writer community.

Kudos to the co-hosts for November: Kim Lajevardi, Victoria Marie Lees, Joylene Nowell Butler, Erika Beebe, and Lee Lowery!

This month’s question:
What’s harder to do, coming up with your book title or writing the blurb?

Eek, I’m getting the shakes from this question. I thought Halloween was over? Both tasks can bring a writer to her knees, but I have to choose creating titles as more difficult.

Blurbs kick my butt at first, but after scuffling with the sentences, my critique partner and editor always help turn the blurbs into something coherent and catchy. (Whether or not the blurbs are appealing enough to make readers want to buy my books is another matter.)

Titles, though? I’ve ridden the struggle bus drumming up titles for at least four of my nine novels.

The toughest title was for my swimming military murder mystery romance published in 2012. (Maybe covering 11 genres in one novel was the start of the problem?) The initial title was Swimming Against the Tide, then Against the Tide. However, when it came time to publish, both titles seemed cheesy.

My hero faced countless obstacles, including an abusive father, and he had a talent for exploding off the walls on his flip turns. I suggested the swimming term, Streamline, to signify a tight body position allowing him to slice through even the roughest waters.

My publisher thought “streamline” evoked a corporate takeover more than a new adult sports romance. She was probably right. But, I couldn’t think of another damn title! So we went with it.

In addition to blurbs and titles, I want to add another TOUGH task of publishing: creating a book cover. I’ve had countless back-and-forth convos with book designers over the years. My publisher grappled with the cover concept for Streamline, but I love the design they landed on, representing an underwater kiss scene from the book. Still, I wanted the image of the characters to be bigger.

Streamline by Jennifer Lane

How about you? Which writing task gives you the willies the most?

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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.

insecure writers support group, writing

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?

insecure writers support group, writing

#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