Sunday, July 31, 2011

Spending time with my lover

His name is HP.

And no, it's not short for Harry Potter. Although I love Harry Potter too.

HP is short for Hewlett-Packard. In other words, my computer. And whenever my husband asks me, "are you going to spend time with your lover tonight?" I know I've spent more time then I should cooped up in my office AKA the walk-in closet, making love to HP, and it's time to shut down and take on reality for a change.

The thing is, my whole life is wrapped up in HP. My work is here. Writing is my career, and I do it in front of HP, my fingers caressing the keyboard (to paraphrase my husband).

Everything else I do is also here. Twitter. Facebook. Email. Research. Netflix (yes, that's research too). I read. I pay bills. I balance the bank statement. I blog.

And I can certainly understand why hubby thinks that I like the computer better than I like him. It always gives me what I want, it never argues, and it doesn't feel betrayed when I get up to do something else.

In all seriousness, I have a time management problem. I spend too much time in front of the computer. And it's a problem many of us share. We're sedentary creatures, we writers. Everything we could possibly want is in the box in front of us. With the advent of the internet, we don't even have to leave the desk to do research anymore. With Google Maps, who needs to visit a place to get the feel for it? I've written six books in a series of mysteries set on the coast of Maine, bestselling books... and I've never been to New England.

I'm pretty sure I'll die here, sitting in this chair staring at the screen. They'll have to pry my cold, dead hands from the keyboard. And bury me sitting, since I'll be frozen in this position. Working on my next blog.

# # #

Bente Gallagher AKA Jennie Bentley & Jenna Bennett writes the Do It Yourself home renovation mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime and the Cutthroat Business mysteries for her own gratification. She lives in Nashville with a husband and two boys, a hyperactive dog, a killer parakeet, two African dwarf frogs, two common goldfish, and the love of her life, HP. You can learn more about her doings and undoing on her website.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Little Thisa and a Little Thata

I didn’t start out planning to be a critic, and I didn’t start out planning to be a writer. They both just kind of evolved. Many years ago I submitted a story to my local newspaper, “The Houston Home Journal.” I hadn’t been asked to write a story; I just did it – and sent it in. I was amazed when it ran in the next week’s paper. I was even more amazed when the Editor called and asked if I would like to start writing for the newspaper.

Now I already had a full time job so I wasn’t looking for full time employment. So I declined. Then he countered with asking me to write a weekly personal column. When I asked on what subject he wished for me to opine, he said whatever I would like to write about was okay with him. This began “That’s Entertainment,” a weekly column about the movies and other forms of entertainment.

The reading audience seemed to like the column and soon the Editor asked me to do a column on books. He knew I liked to read and it seemed to be a natural fit. So “Novel Ideas” was born. It too proved to be popular and soon both columns were running in several newspapers in Georgia. I also began doing personality profiles for various magazines. I also began to get quoted in the front sections of paperback versions of the hardback novels I had reviewed. Honestly, I think publishers thought I was with “The Houston Home Journal” of Houston, Texas; except there is no “Houston Home Journal” of Houston, Texas.

For many years I had also been keeping a journal, and the stories in my journal formed the basis for my first book JOURNEY OF A GENTLE SOUTHERN MAN. It was published by a small press in Dallas, Texas. I was one of the truly lucky ones. Eventually I entered into a contract with Mercer University Press and I am working on my seventh book for them.

Thus the dichotomy began. I was a critic by day and an author by night. I didn’t feel like a critic until a few years ago when I was contacted by “The Huffington Post” and asked to review movies, books, etc for them. That is when I became a critic, even though I was still just giving my opinion as I always had. I didn’t feel like my opinion was any better than anyone else’s; it was just mine. Still I did begin to learn that if you had a platform like “The Huffington Post” you could wield some influence. I have people who e-mail me and tell me they read everything I like, but I also get e-mails from people who say they read everything I don’t like. Hey, whatever floats their boat.

It is an awkward position to be in. I have many, many good friends who are writers. Jeffery Deaver and I communicate by e-mail most of the time but when I go to see my son in Raleigh and Jeffery is at home we try to grab a cup of coffee. Still when I reviewed CARTE BLANCHE, his new James Bond novel I did not give it a rave review. And this has happened with other friends’ stories as well.

Basically I guess I am a book critic who is also an author. Reviewing is my main job and writing books is my second career. I do a little thisa and a little thata. It makes for a strange career but it is one I could never have dreamed up in my wildest dreams.

Not everyone likes my books. I understand that. I don’t like everyone else’s books. Some I do and some I don’t. I hope you understand that.

Jackie K Cooper is working on MEMORY’S MIST, the seventh book in the JOURNEY series.

Friday, July 29, 2011

15 Minutes

Julie Cannon was scheduled to post a blog today, but couldn’t do it because just now she’s on deadline to turn in her new book to her publisher, so I said I could fill in. I figured it’d take me about fifteen minutes.

15 minutes a day.

Isn’t that what everything seems to take?

On the exercise commercials the pretty blond spokeswoman says you can have flat abs, tight butt, strong arms, etc if you workout just fifteen minutes a day.

You can retire wealthy beyond the dreams of avarice if you devote just fifteen minutes a day to managing your investments.

Your house will be immaculate. Fifteen minutes a day, every day, cleaning and straightening.

Spend fifteen minutes a day talking to your spouse. Meditating. Reading the Bible. Practicing the banjo. Cooking low-fat, low-sodium, low-carb meals that yet are tasty and delicious. Crocheting. Memorizing Shakespeare. Teaching the dog tricks. Oil painting. Doing yoga.

Every goal you could ever wish to achieve, it seems, can be within your grasp if you spend just fifteen minutes a day, every day, doing it.

Of course, if we spent fifteen minutes a day doing all the things the experts tell us can be done in fifteen minutes, we’d need a 72-hour day. 72 hours and fifteen minutes – don’t forget to take time out to plan your day.

Time is limited, and of what there is of it, we have to devote some of to certain activities. A good nights’ sleep, for example, takes at least ten to twelve hours. You cannot possibly take a respectable shower in under forty-five minutes. Nor can a civilized human be expected to go twenty-four hours without watching three hours of “My Name is Earl” reruns. Time must  be spent mixing martinis.  More time, drinking martinis.  It all adds up.  So given the fact that the supply of fifteen-minute increments of time are not infinite, what will you do with the one fifteen-minute slice you may reasonably be able to set aside for something?

In my case it’s writing.

This is no more desirable, and in some respects it’s a lot less so, than many activities I could think of. I wake up each morning and spend fifteen minutes writing. Sometimes a little more, but rarely much more.

And that’s what I do. My room is not spotless. I do not have buns of steel. I cannot play the banjo, and my dog will not play dead. My garden needs weeding. But I’ve written and published two novels and I’m working on a third.

It really is amazing what you can accomplish in fifteen minutes a day.

The New York Post calls Man Martin’s second novel, Paradise Dogs, “required reading.” Man Martin publicly retracts any harsh thing he ever said about Yankees and about New Yorkers in particular. He is writing his third novel, fifteen minutes at a time. He blogs at

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Where Did the Time Go

By: Mary Alice Monroe

“Where did the time go” is a phrase I utter so frequently I feel as if I own it.  I wish I could tell you that the reason for the feeling of time flying is because I am so engrossed in writing my next novel on a daily basis.  Some days I am, thankfully.  But there are also many days in which the hours are consumed by laundry, kids, emails, Facebook—and sea turtles.

My goal is 10-20 pages on a good day. I like to start early in the morning, when my mind is fresh and the creativity at its best.  I love those special moments when I wake with words in my head and dialogue so fresh on my lips I mutter them aloud.  Typically though, my day begins with a good cup of coffee and a read of my local newspaper. Then it’s pet duty-- feeding and cleaning up after my three dogs and two cats. 

Now however, it’s summer and the peak of the very busy sea turtle nesting season.  Turtles rule my schedule.  When I get the call at 6:30 in the morning that tracks are found, I fly out the door to the beach to join my teammates to search for eggs, move them if needed, and set up the protection signs.  At night I’m usually at the beach by 9 pm to monitor the nests and guide the hatchlings to the sea.

As distracting as these duties are from writing, the adventures I experience with my Island Turtle Team are the perfect muse for my current book. I’m working on the prequel to THE BEACH HOUSE, so searching for turtle tracks, probing for eggs and supervising nest boils fit perfectly into my fictional world.  The conversations shared, getting my hands in the sand, playing a small role in the risky game of life for these sea turtles help fuel the storytelling process.  Even though I find myself away from my computer more than I’d like to be on some days, it doesn’t mean that I am not working.  It is these moments that create the words that I store to get to next paragraph, the next chapter, the next scene. 

Still, the pages need to get written.  Deadlines loom.  There is no substitute for putting my hands to the keyboard and producing pages of story.  Knowing when to turn off the research and turn on the creativity is critical to the process.  I know this.  I do.  I tell myself this every day, multiple times a day.

Ah, but on those balmy nights when the moon is high and creates that ribbon of moonlight along the ocean, when the breeze is just strong enough to keep the gnats and mosquitoes at bay, when I’m sitting with my friends, my legs stretched out over the sand and we’re just talking about everything and nothing….  

Where did the time go?

Mary Alice Monroe is an award-winning, bestselling author of thirteen novels, plus one on the way.  Look for TIDES OF MEMORY to be released in the spring 2012.  For more information, visit   

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Great Schedule: Niles Reddick

If you ask anyone who knows me well, he or she will know with certainty what my schedule is like. I'm a creature of habit, after all, a little bit OCD, as relatives and co-workers might add.  The point is, however, that I am quite happy in my dysfunctionality.  My writing schedule, except right now, begins about 4:00 am any day of the week, any time of year. I'm an early riser, always have been, and when Santa was coming Christmas mornings through my childhood, my parents and even my siblings hated me because I would wake them all up between 2-3:00 in the morning to let them know he'd arrived and what we all got. Even after I was older, I still couldn't hide my excitement and woke up early.  Most mornings, too, I wake up in a good mood.

I drink half and half coffee now and still have energy enough for two.  It used to drive my college room mates crazy that I would wake up so early and read or clean while having coffee, and even now, I type away on the computer while a few feet away, my wife continues to sleep and has become conditioned to the noises I make, clicking the keys and the creaking my desk chair, a hand-me-down from the poet laureate of Tennessee, Maggie Vaughan, an eccentric soul and former country music song writer for greats such as Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, and Ernest Tubb. Maggie is the only writer I've ever been with anywhere, but then in a Rotary Club in Tennessee, who charmed the Mayor out of his Barbour blazer (very expensive) through humor and at the same time brought the house to tears reading a poem about her mama.

I tend to get a lot done. Recently, I've taken on some interesting little projects: writing reviews for new books by Janice Daugharty, John Michael Cummings, and Clyde Edgerton, all great writers; writing short stories and submitting a few of them to journals and magazines; writing a formal literary criticism paper; writing a proposal for Criminal Minds, a television drama; writing a film script proposal for an agency.  All these are mostly done in the early morning hours before the sun comes up. Of course, I get to work and put in a full day. At night, around 9pm, if I can't find something interesting on Discovery, National Geographic, or the History channel, I'll watch some reruns of Sanford and Son, Everybody Loves Raymond, or All in the Family. I love the older television shows, but I must admit that I'm much more interested in Big Foot and UFOs, but rest assured, as soon as I can, I fall asleep.

Despite my early writing schedule, many days pass by when I don't write at all, sadly (other than personal correspondence at work, via my home email, or on facebook, which I've really come to love lately). Sometimes, the ideas just aren't there, and I'd rather not write just to write than write something not worth writing. I've done a lot of that through the years, no doubt about it.
Currently, I am blogging from a cafe in Panama City Beach, Florida, where I've come for a brief vacation, and the heat, the lack of connectivity, the crowds and noise are all getting on my nerves. The sea is beautiful and makes my getting up early worth it even more, looking out at the emerald water and feeling the salty sea breeze. It's inspirational--that and watching my kids enjoy their grandparents, their great Aunt Naomi, their Uncle Coleman and his new bride Misty. It's also rather comforting that what is colloquially referred to as the "redneck riviera" seems to be an accepting place. No one pointed and laughed as I made my way to the pool today and plopped in a vinyl chair, revealing more than an inch of Special K pinch and my lily white skin, so white now that veins are visible. Of course, most of the people looked worse than me.  I haven't been here in over twenty five years and can't seem to locate where I stayed with my high school buddies when we spent a weekend drinking T.J. Swan wine, playing dinosaur putt-putt, getting sun-burned so bad blisters formed and acting silly like teenagers do, but even then, I was on schedule and thought about life and writing. 

Niles Reddick is author of a collection of Road Kill Art and Other Oddities, which was a finalist for an Eppie award, and a novel Lead Me Home, which was a finalist for a ForeWord Award and was a finalist for first novel in the Georgia Author of the Year Awards.
He is author of numerous short stories in journals and anthologies. He lives in Tifton, Georgia, where he works for Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College. His website is

Saturday, July 23, 2011

PUBLISHING TODAY: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly by Maryann McFadden

It’s no secret the publishing world is in chaos. According to the Association of American Publishers (AAP) sales figures for the first half of 2011 “adult paperback is the most popular trade category. However, paperback sales dipped nearly 18 percent and hardcover sales fell 23 percent compared to the same period previous year. At the same time, eBooks sales have continued to grow at a rapid pace.”
I know this isn’t exactly new news, but is anyone else alarmed?

And then there are the closing independent bookstores, falling like dominoes every week. Even Borders, hanging on by a thread for months, made the big announcement yesterday that they are finally done and… nearly 11,000 people who have been hopefully trying to sell our books will be out of work soon. 
As for the writers…a few months ago the back page of the New York Times featured an essay by a respected mid-list author who says he’s CHOOSING TO SELF-PUBLISH! That’s right, forgoing his traditional publisher and striking out on his own.  And that he’s far from alone. Why? Because he can make more money on the ever growing e-book market. More so than if his traditional publisher put his book out there.

That one had me more shocked than alarmed.  Because for me the traditional publisher has always meant one thing—validation. That my work was good enough to pass muster and be selected for that inner sanctum
In 2006, I self-published my first novel, THE RICHEST SEASON out of desperation! It had been rejected off and on for 5 years! I’d shelved it 3 times. My goal wasn’t to make money, but to simply get it out there and read—what any writer wants for their work. My secret dream was to get it taken. And it was, by Hyperion Books. I got the validation I was seeking, and the cachet of having a big publisher.

Now, in 2011, it seems the publishing model is being turned on its head and fellow writers—the ones I personally know, whose work I respect, who also have dreamed of being “the real deal” are now telling me that they, too, are CHOOSING to self-publish, only now it’s called Indie Publishing, according to one of my favorite booksellers. They are going to keep total control—of the cover, the rights, the money.
What’s a writer to do in these tumultuous time?

I for one choose to watch and see what happens, and continue to write. Despite the seismic shifts, and the occasional tsunamis as one editor after another hits the chopping block, I have to keep reminding myself why I am a writer. Is it for money? Fame? Glory? 

Hardly. It’s because there’s this need in me to create, to play with words, to feel the thrill of something falling into place like a perfect jigsaw puzzle. 

Ever since I was 11 years old, I have wanted to be a writer. And I am. I write. So whatever happens, whatever shifts affect me and my stories, my characters, my words, in the near or far future, I know something for sure: I will always write. Because I love it.

Maryann McFadden is a Jersey Girl who is still longing to live in the South. Her novels, THE RICHEST SEASON and SO HAPPY TOGETHER are both Indie Next Picks. Her new novel, THE BOOK LOVER is coming soon.

Friday, July 22, 2011

My Train of Thought has Jumped the Tracks

by Nicole Seitz

It's been a while since I've written. As life necessitates, I needed to finish teaching and move into a new house before I wrote again, but I'm happy to say, I'm beginning to see the light as things are winding down. We're in the new house and it's starting to feel livable. So the other day I was sitting in my home office. Just...sitting there. There are pictures propped up against the wall, cords going everywhere, and a new adorable writing desk I bought--just to get me in the mood of writing in a new house. Since my last book was turned in in February, I have edited a book, reworked it, but not yet written a new story. I have not really "created" story in about 5 months. That's a long time. It's not easy to be a writer who is not writing. It's frustrating. It feels as if you are a dangling balloon that some child let go. You are floating, floating...

Okay, I'm being dramatic, but I am a novelist. We're supposed to be. So after this move in June, with my office still a mess, I found myself sitting there behind the computer the other day, literally praying for the words. Usually this works. Usually I can pray for the words and boom, they rush out of my fingertips, but on this day, there was nothing but quiet. No clickety clack of the keyboard. Now, in my house in the summertime with two children and a husband, my name gets called about every 17.5 seconds. And this is not really an exaggeration. Sometimes I sit there and pretend not to hear. On this day, I could hear my husband calling AND hear his footsteps, which meant he was coming closer, closer. But I was having a thought. At least I think I was close to a thought. When he came to the door to tell me or ask me whatever it was he had on his mind, I looked at him intently, arms waving and said, "I'm thinking!"

I'm sorry, but seriously, how lame could that have sounded? I'm thinking? THIS is what's so important that you can't turn around and talk to your husband?

I reacted to my husband a bit like my chihuahua when
she left the yard one morning only to came back home with a
quesadilla in her mouth. No lie. She was quite protective of it,
as I'm sure you can understand.

Sadly, I never did begin writing a new novel that day. My train of thought was interrupted. In fact, I just remained frustrated that I wasn't writing. BUT I had begun thinking, and for you writer types who know about thinking, you know it's the most important part of writing. I LOVE the thinking part. I love trying to decide who did what and what happened way back when and what secrets everyone carries, and how this is all going to end up. The thinking part is part of the magic of writing and every bit as important as the clickety-clack part. So even though I snipped a little at my husband, and even though he must think I'm nuts or an egomaniac or both, I don't apologize for requesting a little time to just sit quietly and THINK. In fact, that thinking has led to more thinking, pondering, even. And along with the thinking and pondering comes praying for the words, praying for the story, and I'm pleased to say that although I'm not writing yet per se,  I am researching and pondering the story that has grabbed my soul as of late, and now I find myself thinking about it every moment I'm able to THINK. And this, folks, makes this writer very happy. Surely the written word is not too far off.

I'm writing this from my hotel room at a conference in NC called SheSpeaks. I'm here speaking because my latest novel, The Inheritance of Beauty, was a SheReads book club pick earlier this year. I'm thinking of grabbing someone's ear and suggesting a very quiet new tract for next year called SheTHINKS. Now there's an idea. Just peace and quiet. No one calling your name. Women having time to sit and think. Who knows what might come out of a conference like that?

This is an illustration of "The Thinking Tree" in Shellie
Rushing Tomlinson's wonderful yet unpubbed children's
book series about the foibles and wisdom of her inner
child. She's writing and I'm illustrating.
What a fun collaboration!

PS. Enjoy this illustration of "The Thinking Tree" I did for friend and collaborator, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson's unpubbed book. We're working on a children's book series based on the wisdom and foibles of her hilariously Southern inner child. Who couldn't use a good thinking tree?

Blessings on your writing and life!
Nicole Seitz is the author of five critically acclaimed novels and another on the way (BEYOND MOLASSES CREEK coming January 2012). She is married and the mother or two and lives in Charleston, SC area. She teaches art at a local school and writes whenever she has a spare moment. One of these days she will get her office in order, but in the meantime she's thinking about it, which is almost just as good. Visit her website at or find her on facebook and twitter.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

What Makes Characters Memorable by Peggy Webb

Last night I watched an old Clint Eastwood movie with my family -  Every Which Way But Loose.   Eastwood is such a gifted artist that watching his movies is always a pleasure.  He was good as the complex Philo, a guy who hangs out with a baboon.

But it was Ruth Gordon who stole the show. Feisty, salty, and funny, she commanded the screen.  She called herself a “helpless old lady” and proved herself to be anything but.  During the scene where Gordon uses her shotgun to deliver some comeuppance to a rowdy group of bikers, my son said, “She’s just like Mama Hussey.” 

Mama Hussey was my mother. And though she has been dead for more than five years, everybody in the family still tells “Mama Hussey” stories. And, yes, she kept a shotgun under her bed. She knew how to use it, too.  Mama was the picture of a perfect Southern lady, always dressed to the nines, the more jewelry the better.  She loved good books, good movies and a good laugh. But let a stranger show up on her front porch after dark, and he’d find himself looking down the barrel of Mama’s shotgun.

Mama was larger than life. And so was Ruth Gordon’s character in Every Which Way But Loose.  But they had something else in common, too: they both reminded you of someone you know.  They were ordinary, approachable, and likeable, somebody to root for.  Full of spirit and big of heart.  Much like my Pony Jones (The Tender Mercy of Roses by Anna Michaels, 2011).   Pony is the most memorable in a long list of characters I’ve created over a career that spans twenty-six years.

What about memorable bad guys, you ask? Of course, we remember Hannibal as the personification of evil. But it’s not the evil that makes him memorable: it’s his complexity - his relationship with Clarice, his longing for a window, his uncanny ability to get into the minds of the other characters and plant seeds of doubt and discontent.

There is much more to say about memorable characters, but I’ll leave that for another day. Meanwhile, I invite you to tell me about characters you remember, the ones you love to love and the ones you love to hate.

I also invite you to check out the revised e-book edition of Where Dolphins Go,  one of my classic women’s fiction novels. (Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords.)  Changes I made in the e-book  reflect changes I made to the screenplay after this book was optioned for film.  Enjoy!

Peggy Webb writes mysteries under her own name and literary fiction under her pen name, Anna Michaels. Currently, she is working on her next Southern Cousins Mystery, plotting another book as Anna,  and  bringing back her early romance classics as ebooks. Visit her at and and on Facebook under both names. She’s fond of saying she’s eating for two. Send chocolates.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


When I first started writing my creative energy announced itself at midnight. I woke each evening at the stroke of twelve like Cinderella, only she was on her way home and I was on my way to the keyboard. I wrote from twelve to five a.m. and tiptoed back to bed, so as not to disturb my husband, when I finished for the night. That schedule worked well. I finished my first two novels, “Roseflower Creek” and “Cold Rock River”.

Gradually, writing in the middle of the night didn’t sit too well with me. Mostly, I slept, slumped in the chair in front of my computer. I got over writing at that ungodly hour and graduated to writing from six a.m. to ten in the morning. Happily, I found I could be very productive during those hours, too. I finished my third book, “Divorcing Dwayne”.

But as time rolled on, I discovered I was no longer an early riser. I would wake at eight a.m. if left on my own without an alarm clock and realized I’d missed two hours on my writing schedule. I adjusted the schedule to eight a.m. to noon, several cups of coffee at the ready. This worked out okay. I finished “All That’s True”, that debuted this past January.

I stayed on that schedule and completed my next novel “Summer Ridge” which is now in the consideration stage with my agent shopping it. “Summer Ridge” follows twelve-year-old Mary Alice Munford, who is struggling with the knowledge that her mother plans to marry her father, a man who abandoned them before she was born. It’s set in the seventies and is reminiscent of “Paper Moon”, for those of you who remember that movie. The movie was based on the book “Addie Prey”.

The opening to “Summer Ridge” begins with Mary Alice explaining her situation in life. She says:

When I was very little my mother would tell me stories about why my father wasn’t with us. First she said he was away in the war in Asia—Vietnam. Then she said he was healing from the wounds in his head that made him forget us. Now she says he’s in the Secret Service.

“Hogwash,” Granny Ruth says. “She’s filled your head with garbage.”

Back and forth, back and forth. They still can’t agree on anything. They can’t decide what bread to buy. They can’t decide on which church to go to. One thing’s for sure--they don’t agree on my father. My mother insists he’s perfect. Granny Ruth says, “And pigs can fly.”

Ours is not a happy household. There’s me, my mother, Granny Ruth and Aunt Josie, whose husband, my Uncle Earnest, fell under a combine when I was four, so I never got to know him good. The day he died, I climbed up on Aunt Josie’s lap and wouldn’t leave, even when it was time to go to bed. Mama tried to pick me up.

“You been sitting there all day, sweet thing.”

“Leave me lone, Mommie,” I said. “I’m helping Aunt Josie cry.”

Now that “Summer Ridge” is finished and in my agent’s hands, I find I’m in a writing dilemma. It’s hard for me to concentrate on a new work of fiction when I’m waiting to hear on how the most recent one is doing. I have to drag myself to the keyboard at the designated time in the morning, but mostly find that I am unproductive. I can’t seem to leave the last work behind and concentrate on a new one. It’s irritating, so mostly I force myself to sit and write no matter what falls onto the page.

Lately, I’m not too enamored with what I see and am trying to encourage myself to keep going. I often wonder if other writers have ever felt the way I do. Is my most recent book the last bit of creative writing that will fall onto the page? Do I have anything else left to say? Will the creative juices once again flow freely?

Let me know if any of you dear authors struggle with this. In the meantime I’m anxiously waiting to hear from my agent. I’m convinced the sale of “Summer Ridge” will once again get me going. I’m counting on it, so wish me luck!

Jackie Lee Miles is the author of Roseflower Creek, Cold Rock River, Divorcing Dwayne, and All That’s True. Visit her website at Write to the author at

Friday, July 15, 2011

Life as I Know It
Just Another Sleepless Night and Pressing Deadline

I’m writing this at 3:30 am. I gave up on sleep at 12:30. Between the hot flashes, and the endless “To-Do” list, I can’t settle down.

Working at Billy’s farm in the sweltering Hotlanta sun doesn’t help. Yesterday, my day began in his garden at 8:30 am. In theory I’d get everything done before it got hot. In reality, it’s sweltering at 8:30 and the work is never done. By 10:30 another obligation called me home to pick up my children. One I’d take to camp, the other I’d drop off at Billy’s to cut the grass.

Have I promised my editor that I’ll have the completed manuscript in her hand by Friday, Monday at the latest?

That would be a resounding “Yes!”

Am I going to make that deadline?

That would be an emphatic, “NO!”

At 1 pm I met a bookseller who had traveled all the way from Indiana to meet Billy. This happens often. People who loved In The Garden With Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes so much that they want to meet the man behind the title. For those who are counting that’s three trips to Billy’s in one day (and two showers, but that might fall under the Too-Much-Information category).

After picking up my daughter at 4:30 pm, I returned home with 10 pounds of cucumbers Billy couldn’t sell. My job: convert them into pickles. I wiped away the sunscreen that was caked to my neck, and suppressed the sneaking suspicion that I am going to disappoint my editor.

I hate disappointing people.

A homemade dinner was lovingly prepared…by me, of course. Next it’s time to clean-up the kitchen and make a quick trip outside to hang clothes on the line. Yes, a clothesline in Atlanta. Perish the thought! Which reminds me it’s 3:40 am, it’s rained and they’re still on the line. Oh well, they’re clean now for certain.

Yes,  this writing life wasn’t exactly as River Jordan so eloquently describes it.

Pressing on, I continue.

At 6:30 pm I began slicing cucumbers and mixing the ingredients for the pickle brine. After a day of harvesting, watering tomatoes, shelling peas, making dinner and now slicing cucumbers my hands are beginning to ache. A dozen jars and two hours later, I am down to five pounds of cucumbers and am seriously questioning my sanity. And yes, I do need a vacation. I’m taking one soon.

I had planned on writing during the entire time until my husband said, “I’m not going if that thing (insert pointy fiinger directed at my laptop) is coming with you.”

At 9 pm when I finally sat down to write, my screen made a clicking sound and went dark. I put my head in my hands and prayed. Eventually, I got the machine to work.

So this morning, as the house slumbers peacefully, I’ll work on the last three chapters of my next book, Stress Free Marketing Practical Advice For Newly Published Authors. I must get it finished. My third book awaits, as does five pounds of cucumbers.

Renea Winchester lives in Atlanta. Her book In The Garden With Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes was nominated for a SIBA and Georgia Author of the Year Award. Look for her newest title soon, if she gets the pickles canned.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

In the Real World

Back When I was dreaming of being a writer (all my  life) I imagined. And My imagination can really roll out a good one, it could have looked different. As a little girl my favorite book that I asked Mom to read over and over and over was Four Little Kittens. In the book the Mother cat who 'half-closed her green eyes' sat up and told the kittens exactly what kind of cats there were. A Ship Cat, An Alley Cat, A Farm Cat - and much later in the story after many hijinks we found out that the forth little kitten was really a House Cat. Well, I really, really am a Writer Cat  Since I spent a lot of time in my room writing stories and daydreaming, time at the beach on a blanket getting sun and further daydreaming, time hunched over the typewriter keys (oh, yes, I SAID typewriter) and daydreaming. I had plenty of time to imagine what the sexy, sassy, lifestyle of a real writer would look like.

The way it Could Have Been . . . 

8:00 -9:00 Wake up in Milan, Paris, Cairo - stretch and open to the door to room service which has delivered strong, fresh, pressed coffee and crepes. 
Evening - Have a lovely dinner out with locals and writer friends also living and traveling on foreign shores and lands and experiencing the good life

And later that Night - Walk casually back to great old, hotel in the heart of the city.
True Nightynite - Order a nap cap and massage from room service
In the wee hours - read until the book hits me in the head

The Way It Really Is .  .
6:00 Wake up with cat meowing in my face
6:30 - Stumble to coffee maker with strong, cheap coffee
7:00 - Let out the Big Dog
7:03 - Let in the Big Dog
7:30 - Clean Up Hair Balls
7:40 - Try to settle into a little Prayer Time. Prayer is good. I like prayer.
7:45 - Walk Big Dog
8:30ish - Answer emails
9:00 - Stare at list of unfinished projects
10:00 - still staring - think about working on Novel
11:00 - Stare at pile of dirty laundry - think about doing laundry
11:05 - Read Facebook posts from friends - post 3 comments
12:00 - realize it's lunch and I should take a break
12:05 - find can of Tuna from the road
1:00 - Think about novel while having press meetings on phone
2:00 - Look schedule for the year
2:15 - Feel like I am forgetting something - IMPORTANT (LIke, should I be out of town?)
2:30 - Talk to Shellie about strange and wonderous ways to increase Book Sales
3:00 - Think about writing novel while returning emails
4:00 - Finally put on a load of laundry and clear dishes
5:00 - Wonder why room service hasn't delivered dinner
5:05 - Oh yeah, realize room service isn't coming
5:15 - Take something out to thaw
5:30 - Realize food is frozen solid - which reminds me of novel
5:35 - Order take out from Mexican Restaurant
5:40 - Let out Big Dog
6:00 - Drive to pick up food with Big Dog
6:30 - Answer emails
7:00 - Talk to sister on the phone
8:00 - Get out laptop to work on novel
8:05 - Let out Big Dog
8:08 - Let in Big Dog
8:15 - Watch PBS Special on National Parks (and then turn channel to watch 4 episodes of Malcolm in the Middle reruns
10:00 - Let out Big Dog for Last Bark
10:10 - Let in Big Dog
10:15 - Clean cat pan
10:30 - Read until the book hits me in the head

Obviously, at some point I have written a few words down. I've completed four novels, a small collection of essays and this wonderful collection of what I actually consider other peoples stories in Praying for Strangers: An Adventure of the Human Spirit. The fact is that my real writer's life is so different than I would have imagined back in elementary, middle, or high school that I don't know how I've managed to write a single word down. Ever. (Except for the blessed friends who have tossed me keys to remote rooms, houses, and cabins over the years and said - stay - Write!)

The glamour of my life is missing. No matter what the smoke screen of the website may look like on any given day. I'm trying to remember if I Paid the 'light bill' as we are hit by a power outage and I immediately think it's my fault. At some point I juggle producing and hosting Clearstory Radio and getting to talk to so many of my author friends on the air. Somehow, they are managing to write, eat, walk, talk and chew gum all at the same time. Me - not so much.

I'm still staring off into space. (Is that the middle distance I see?) and thinking about that novel in the works and how many words behind I am.  The City of Truth it is called. And someday in spite of the odds, the business, the money (or the lack thereof), and in spite of mostly myself - I will write every, blessed word of that story. In the real world.

River Jordan is a real writer in the real world whose imagination can take her to far away places where room service never ends and the hotel bookstore is always open.