#IWSG : Favorite Personal Experience In Your Writing

Time for the Insecure Writers Support Group, started by Alex Cavanaugh.


How’s it going, writers? I’m happy with the new job I started in August, and looking forward to the holidays. Since I work for a university now, I actually get Veteran’s Day off work, yahoo!

Do you enjoy using personal experiences in your writing? I do. For example, I like to write therapy scenes incorporating my experiences as a psychologist.

I’m blessed with some hilarious friends and I like to “borrow” their dialogue now and then. When my swimming buddy Joe met my plus-sized cat, he said “That’s not a cat…that’s a cow.” Guess what one of my characters will say about his brother’s fat cat?

I’m currently writing my fifth novel, a New Adult volleyball romance titled Blocked. Although swimming was my main sport in college, I also played volleyball, and it’s a blast writing about this fun sport. My teammates and I engaged in fierce euchre tournaments, and not surprisingly this card game is making its way into the story.

What is one of your favorite personal experiences that you’ve incorporated into your writing?


If you’re feeling insecure, here’s a funny scene from the movie Young Adult to make you feel better about yourself as a writer:

Eight Benefits of Reading a Book…and Book Giveaway!

Welcome to guest author Zhuang Ping, who will share the benefits of reading books.

Want to reap those benefits instantly? Enter author Justine Dell’s loaded Kindle Fire giveaway.

Take it away, Zhuang:

Eight Benefits of Reading a Book

Being able to read is one of the most wonderful feelings. In the 21st century, the ability to read is not only a privilege but a right. Literacy and intelligence go hand in hand.

There are countless benefits of reading; here are my top eight:

1. Improved Knowledge

The more you read,the more knowledge you gain. Want to know what life was like for a young Geisha in WWII Japan? Read the fantastic book Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden.

2. Improved writing and speaking skills

Do you know that the more you read, the better you write? And that big readers express themselves better? Therefore, it’s wise to encourage your child to read from an early age. Children who start to read earlier become more proficient at writing and speaking. 

3. Mental stimulation

Reading is exercise for your brain! Reading forces you to focus while challenging your brain to process information. Several parts of the brain activate when we read, stimulating brain cells and forming new neuronal connections.

Photo courtesy of Sheknows.com 

4. Improved Memory

Both your short term and long term memory improve with reading. Your brain processes the information you read and stores it for reference when you turn the page. You will remember people, places, scenes and events, forming a visual of what you’re reading. You later access this stored information. 

5. Improved Analytical skills

Do you ever wonder “What the heck just happened?” when reading? In addition to all the above benefits, reading forces you to analyze and comprehend material. People who read become adept at drumming up ideas, sifting through chaos, and solving problems. 

6. Improved focus

Most of us can’t focus for long. SQUIRREL! We may fail to complete a task because we get bored or restless. Reading helps both adult and children to focus for more than just a few minutes. The more we read, the more our ability to focus improves. We may become so disciplined that we can focus for hours at a time. 

7. Relaxation

Have you heard of blue light? It’s what TV emits. It also suppresses melatonin, a hormone our body produces to help us fall asleep. For this reason, experts recommend avoiding TV before bedtime. What should you do instead? READ. Many people can’t fall asleep without a book. Reading can relax you, from Mom or Dad reading bedtime stories when you were young, to devouring your favorite book before bed as an adult. 

Reading can also provide stress relief. When you read, the brain repairs itself from the day’s stresses. 

8. Entertainment

No one can argue that in addition to knowledge and all the other benefits, a good book brings us entertainment. We may read to study or catch up on current affairs, but most of all we read for entertainment, evidenced by the fact that fiction sells more than non-fiction. A good novel makes us laugh and/or cry with the characters.

My favorite places to buy books are Amazon.com, Bookbyte or Bookbaby. There are many more reputable stores to choose from which offer great deals on purchases and shipping. To find the best stores and deals, go to promocode4share.com.

Thank you, Zhuang! Because of all these benefits of reading, I feel sad for friends who don’t read much.

But for those of you who LOVE reading like I do, my pub sister Justine Dell is giving away a Kindle Fire loaded with books! I’ve read her debut novel, Recaptured Dreams (review HERE) and can’t wait to check out her additional books: All-American Girl and soon-to-be-released Until Next Time.

To enter the Kindle Fire giveaway, complete the Rafflecopter form:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Writing Addicted Characters: Guest Post by Lisa Daniels

Today I welcome Lisa Daniels to the blog. Her guest post shares tips for writing characters who are addicted to drugs. What fun! Take it away, Lisa:

Writing Addicted Characters

One of the first pieces of advice you hear when starting to craft stories is ‘write what you know’. The obvious way to interpret this is to focus on things you’re already familiar with such as your local neighborhood, jobs you’ve held and people you’ve known. There is nothing wrong with this approach and it can lead to some inspired writing. However, if you want to include elements in your story that seem a million miles from anything you’ve ever experienced, such as a character who is an addict, you will need to adopt a broader interpretation of that advice in order to achieve authenticity.

Effective research

When it comes to writing fiction, research can mean a number of things. It can be from a textbook in a college library, a session typing things into an internet search engine, or going out into the world and walking in your character’s shoes. Researching addiction is no different. While you wouldn’t want to indulge in your character’s drug of choice, there is plenty of information out there that can help you craft an authentic character. Remember that in order to avoid clichÈ, be sure to go beyond the obvious and research all aspects of your character’s addiction: physical, psychological, social and emotional.

Online research should be able to provide general information on addictions, associated behaviors and the route your character would take if seeking help. For example, if you were writing a ‘rags to riches and back again’ story about a small town actor who makes it big in Hollywood and becomes addicted to painkillers, try finding information on some west coast treatment centers your character could potentially attend. Other options include finding social media chat rooms and blogs where people to share their stories, or searching out some psychology journals and books to get an idea of the thought processes often underlying addiction. If you want to carry out some first-hand research, be warned that approaching treatment centers directly is a delicate matter. If you’re confident in your approach, maybe you could find a doctor or nurse willing to discuss their work, but be extremely mindful of the confidentiality issues concerned and tread lightly. A better option may be to find some autobiographies of people who have overcome their addictions and adapt their experiences

One key piece of advice when researching fiction is ‘know when to stop’. You need to do sufficient research to be sure you can write with authority and authenticity, but only enough to fulfill the demands of your story. Unless you are utilizing the research for another purpose, such as a self-help book on addiction, you do not need to be an expert in all aspects; but you do need to be an expert on the world you create. When youíre done with the research, clear it all away and face that blank page or computer screen. By this stage you should have all you need to know embedded in your mind.

Write from experience

Look at a list of symptoms addicts often manifest. According to Psychology Today, these can include shame and guilt, a sense of hopelessness, and feelings of failure, as well as anxiety and depression. While you may not be an addict yourself, have you ever experienced any of these in your life? Maybe you’ve had a bout of depression; or lost money gambling one night because you just couldn’t walk away from the table; or turned to the bottle to escape a stressful period in your life? While you may not be able to truly empathize with someone whose life is blighted by addiction, maybe there is something you can recall from your own experience that can offer a little insight into the signs of addiction and an addictís mindset. A key word that often comes up when discussing addiction is ‘control’: losing it and getting it back. Think about times in your life that you’ve either felt a loss of control, or a time when you’ve taken control of something and apply it to your character’s life.

Power of imagination

Ultimately, stories are a work of fiction. They are the product of a writer creating and inhabiting the mind of their characters and fitting them into a believable world; whether that’s outer-space one thousand years from now, Victorian England or modern day inner-city Los Angeles. The key is authenticity. Before you start your story, shape a full character biography that fills in as much detail of your character’s life as possible. Include a timeline and think about their interactions with other characters (either within or outside the story). If you’re clear about the choices your character has made in their life so far, you can understand what fuels their behavior now. Addiction does not exist in a vacuum. Imposing the term ‘addict’ on a character (or person) is not the end of the story. Something drove them to their extreme behavior and maybe something can bring them back from the brink. If you know what motivates your character then you will know how to guide them through their story.

One final reminder is to avoid cliches. Countless stories have utilized ‘the addict’ in all too familiar ways. Think outside the box and create a character who no one would believe would be an alcoholic, gambler or drug abuser, or afflict your character with an unusual addiction. If youíve done your research, reached into your deepest emotions and compiled a detailed biography then you might not have lived your character’s life, but you will still be going a long way towards writing what you know.

The Mother of All Blog Bounces

Happy Mother’s Day! Please join Omnific Publishing authors as we celebrate our mothers on our weekly Thursday Blog Bounce.

Today we discuss how our mothers have influenced our writing.

With her encouragement and kooky sense of humor, my mother had an early influence on my imagination. She enrolled me in art classes before the age of five (too bad the lessons didn’t stick!) My mom valued education and the power of the written word, especially for firing off letters to politicians who weren’t doing their job! And, my mother is a lot of fun. I remember her driving me and my neighborhood teammates home from swim practice one night . . . for some reason she started making animal noises. We had a blast imitating chickens, rabbits, and wookies.

Here’s an example of a movie that cracks us up (Every Which Way But Loose):

Finishing a novel takes bountiful hard work and perseverance–qualities my mother instilled in me. The fact that she’s still working four days a week in her seventies is testament to her work ethic. And she definitely had to be persevere to overcome dysfunction in her family of origin.

I can be an anxious perfectionist, but my mom has helped me take myself less seriously. When I was grumpy after a long day of school and two swim practices, she asked me if I wanted to quit the sport. That question freed me up to make sure I was swimming for the right reasons. When I beat myself up after disqualifying a relay at the NCAA championships, she asked me if I would remember that race in one year, which helped me chill out. My mom is great at putting things in perspective.

Currently, my mom probably knows more about my psychologist career than my writing career. She used to enjoy reading fiction but she’s a little too hopped up on thyroid medication to sit down and finish a novel these days, ha ha. I know she’s in the background supporting me, though.

Now bounce over to these participating authors to check out their awesome moms!

BLURBS!

Why do authors complain about writing summaries of their novels for the book jacket?
Because it’s TOUGH. Waaaah!

A good blurb captures the voice of the novel. It entices the reader without giving too much away.

We’re starting to edit my fourth novel On Best Behavior (The Conduct Series #3), and we need the book blurb for a press release.

Here was my first effort at writing the blurb:

On Best Behavior is the third and final book in The Conduct Series—romantic suspense with a psychological twist. Following a pardon by the Governor of Illinois, ex-cons Sophie Taylor and Grant Madsen are free to pursue their love. But planning a wedding is never easy, especially when the Russian Mafia want you dead.
Grant fights the forces that have hurt his loved ones by working undercover for the FBI to infiltrate the Russian Mafia in Chicago. Sophie dives into swimming with Grant’s nephew Ben, and into a career as a psychology professor. This time it’s Ben’s turn to heal through therapy sessions with Dr. Hunter Hayes.
Too bad the Russians aren’t their only threat. Grant’s father Enzo Barberi discovers it was Grant who thwarted his plan to break out of prison. Enzo possesses an overdeveloped sense of vengeance and ****. It’s unclear who will kill Grant first—the Russians or his Italian family—until Sophie scrambles to save her fiancé. Can love win over evil?


The good news is that blurb writing does get easier with practice. The bad news is that this blurb felt disjointed. So I turned to my trusty editor Jessica Royer Ocken for help. Her first suggestion was to eliminate the clause represented by **** because it gave too much away. Whoops!

Here is what Jessica came up with, which I like much better:

Following a pardon by the Governor of Illinois, ex-cons Sophie Taylor and Grant Madsen are finally free to pursue their love and the life that lies ahead for them. But planning a wedding is never easy—especially when the Russian Mafia wants you dead.
Nevertheless, On Best Behavior—the third and final book in The Conduct Series—finds our favorite couple moving forward, despite the odds. Grant now fights the forces that have hurt his loved ones by working undercover for the FBI, and he has infiltrated the Russian Mafia in Chicago. Sophie dives into swimming with Grant’s nephew, Ben, and into her career as a psychology professor. Thankfully, now it’s Ben’s turn to heal through therapy sessions with Dr. Hunter Hayes.
With so many things going right for Grant and Sophie, it’s too bad the Russians aren’t their only threat. When Grant’s father, Enzo Barberi, discovers his own son thwarted his plan to break out of prison, his overdeveloped sense of vengeance flares to life. As Sophie scrambles to save her fiancé, it’s impossible to say who will kill Grant first—the Russians or his Italian family. Can love triumph over evil? Are hard work and a pledge to be on best behavior ever enough? 
Once again, author Jennifer Lane brings a harrowing tale of romantic suspense with a psychological twist, and it’s sure to leave readers breathless. 

Authors, how difficult do YOU find the blurb writing process? Readers, what types of blurbs are your favorite?
Nocover-blank-133x176   And soon we’ll work on a book cover, too. 🙂
On Best Behavior

by
Jennifer Lane

Insecure Writers Support Group: Politics

I HOPE the Presidential election has been decided by the time this post goes live. The last thing we need in America is more hanging chads!

Today I want to talk about political beliefs and the extent to which you share them.

I live in Ohio, the state that COULD DECIDE THE ELECTION dun dun dun. I’d much rather frolic on the beach than listen to the endless political commercials.

But I am passionate about politics. I have strong opinions about who I want to win this election. Yet I stifle myself from sharing my political views in both careers as a psychologist and author (psycho author). Why?

1. Therapy is about the client, not the therapist. My political views don’t really matter. The only times I self-disclose are when those disclosures could benefit the client, and my opinion about politics probably isn’t central to our therapy goals. So I listen, nod with understanding, and sometimes *grr* inside.

2. Marketing my books is not about me spouting political beliefs, mostly because I don’t want to alienate half of my readership or author buddies. I believe our personal philosophies shine through in our work, but I don’t want to be too overt about it. Frankly, I’ve hidden quite a few Facebook friends who post their political agenda non-stop.

Thank goodness my swimming buddy Eric and I vent about politics all the time, or I’d explode!

Authors: How passionate are YOU about politics? To what extent do you share your views? Why?

And now to continue with “The Next Best Thing”. Author Darcia Helle challenged me to answer questions about my work in progress On Best Behavior (The Conduct Series #3).

* How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I started writing On Best Behavior about a year ago and I’m still not done (though at 84,000 words I’m getting closer to the finish!) However, in the past year I completed a HUGE edit on my YA novel Streamline, which launched in March, 2012. I also tend to edit as I go, extending the first draft time-frame.

* What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

The genre is romantic suspense. I’ve received reader comments about how unique this series is, so it’s hard to compare it to other stories. Maybe the Black Ops, Inc. series by Cindy Gerard? But her heroes are more alpha than Grant Madsen. I don’t know many books featuring a psychologist heroine either. If you do, please tell me.

To those of you doing NaNo, best of luck to you! And to the rest of us, keep trucking.