Trudging Through the Garbage

Stephen King was the first to call it as he saw it. In his amazing book, On Writing, he refers, unabashedly, to first drafts as “shitty” (I’m quoting King here). Is this true? Maybe, maybe not.

As a writer, I can’t say I always agree with him. Sometimes the muse takes hold of my brain, hijacks my fingers, and before I know it—voila! I’ve created a rough draft that’s actually, well, pretty darn good.

But not often. Not nearly often enough. Lately, hardly ever.


I think my muse has taken a leave of absence and forgotten to submit the proper paperwork. And let me tell you, it’s frustrating, perplexing, and frightening! After churning out three books a year for the past two years, we are now smack dab in the middle of September, and I’ve only written one novel in 2017. True, I’ve also written an author’s resource book, but that doesn’t count. I’d hoped to have my next novel out by now, and be preparing the release of my third.

It ain’t gonna happen. Not this year.

Okay, so I’ve had some distractions. Cancer is a pretty big one, but you’d think, with all that time off while I was undergoing treatment, I’d have gotten a boatload of writing done. Didn’t work out that way. It went more like this: go for a treatment, come home. Sleep half the day, get up and try to eat something. Stumble into my office, stare at the computer screen (bleary-eyed) for an hour, then go back to bed.

That excuse no longer holds. I’m past that now. I completed my treatments this spring and got a clean PET scan in June. I should have written 150,000 words since then! I have not. I have begun to feel desperation at “losing the muse,” so I force myself to sit down and get in my 1000 words a day (anything past 500 is a gift!). But every word, every paragraph, every scene I write seems, to me, like total garbage.


What’s a writer to do? This isn’t writer’s block, exactly. The words are coming. I’ve even written a complete synopsis of the story which, for me, is unusual. I’m usually a pantser. It’s just that when I go back to read what I’ve written, instead of feeling the exhilaration of “Wow, did I just write that?” I think, “Crap. I can’t believe I just wrote that. It’s crap.”

Singers get laryngitis. It feels like that’s what’s happened to my writing ability. Instead of making beautiful song, I’m croaking like a bullfrog.

This happened to me once before. I “lost my voice” during the creation of another book—one it took me almost two years to write. How did I get through it? I just donned my rubber boots and plowed through the garbage. I stubbornly kept writing and writing figuring, eventually, I would make it through the field of crappy stuff, and the good stuff would lie beyond.

I did. And ironically, as it turned out, a lot of the stuff I considered garbage ended up, in reality, being pretty good.

So, fellow authors, when you get authorial laryngitis, don’t give up writing. Just keep doing it, even if your prose sounds more like a bullfrog’s croak. Because eventually, your voice will return, and it will be even stronger than ever before. Know you are not alone in this garbage desert. And accept the fact that all writers go through these seasons of self-doubt again and again.


Even Stephen King.


Claire_2522 copyClaire Gem is a multiple award winning author of contemporary romance, women’s fiction, and supernatural suspense. Visit her at her Website or on her Amazon Author Page.





Posted in Creativity, Inspiration, Motivation, Perserverance, Soul Mate Publishing, Writing, Writing career | Tagged | 4 Comments

On Hurricanes and Routines by Rebecca Heflin

Untitled design (4)Are you a creature of habit? Does routine give your life welcome structure? I’ve always been a creature of habit, but I must admit, I do like getting out of my routine, and shaking things up a bit. After all, that’s what vacations and stay-cations are for.

Even so, I’ve never been so happy to get back into a routine! After the last two weeks, first preparing for Hurricane Irma, and then cleaning up after Hurricane Irma, I’m thrilled to be back at my day-job, thinking about mundane things like, what I should take for lunch, whether I need to schedule a hair appointment, or if the hero in my WIP should have a military background.

For two weeks, my husband and I monitored Irma with laser focus: where was she? where she was headed next? and how strong would she be when she hit? We made lists of hurricane supplies, then tried to find said supplies at grocery stores that were rapidly depleted of items like water, bread, and toilet paper. Then there were the hour-long lines at the pumps waiting to get gas. Or driving around in search of stations that still had gas. The level of preparation was unprecedented for what turned out to be an unprecedented storm. With visions of Houston still dancing in our heads, Floridians heeded the call.

There was ensuring family and friends were either evacuated or prepared, offering refuge in our home for those who couldn’t find a place to stay. Charging batteries, buying and programming a weather radio, discussing the ‘duck and cover’ plan should we get a tornado alert on the shiny new weather radio.

Two days before the storm, moving every movable object inside the garage or our house, and tying down those immovable objects that could still become missiles in a tornado. The day before the storm, making one last grocery store run, keeping the cell phones charged, and preparing ready-to-eat meals. And all this while the Weather Channel played in the background, tracking Irma’s every wobble and turn.

The governor ordered all state government offices and schools closed two days before the storm, so I was home and able to prepare, and that extra time was much-appreciated.

Then there was the hunkering down for the actual storm. Twenty-four hours plus spent listening to the news, along with the gale-force winds and torrential rain, texting family and friends. I had created a group text for our neighborhood so we could keep in touch during the storm. Turned out, it came in handy.

In the end, we weathered the storm remarkably well. Never lost power thanks to our


Our post-Irma debris pile

underground power lines. We didn’t have any flooding. We lost a couple of trees, lots of giant branches, and a lovely little dogwood that broke the fall of one of those downed trees. It took two days to clean up the mess and set everything to rights. We discovered a roof leak that has since been fixed, and will be repairing the damaged ceiling soon. All-in-all, we were extremely lucky. I was able to get back to my routine within a few days of the storm, and breathe a deep sigh of relief.

But, thanks to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, there are many areas of Texas, Florida and the Caribbean that won’t get anywhere close to routine for weeks, months, even years. And when they do recover, the routine won’t be the same as it was before the storm, because life will never be the same as it was before Harvey and Irma. And now Maria.

Hurricane Irma will teach lots of lessons, like don’t take hurricane warnings for granted, stock up on water and non-perishables as soon as possible, and when your governor tells you to evacuate, do it. But the one lesson Irma taught me, is to appreciate the routine.

How about you? Do you prefer routine, or do you like things a little unpredictable?

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Fifteen Fall Loves By: Rose Lange

d5ee6a608035141727034340502d29eb--autumn-leaves-autumn-fallIt doesn’t feel like it outside in my neck of the woods as the temperatures hover right around the 70s and 80s in Southeastern Wisconsin, but (yeah!) my favorite time of year is right around the corner.

I don’t know why, but since I was a kid, I have always loved this time of year. I enjoy all the seasons for various things each has to offer, but Autumn wins. Hands down.

Below are just some of things I enjoy doing this time of year, and I’m sure there are many more that I haven’t listed.

What are your favorite things about Fall?

  1. I’m biased, and my number one reason. October 28th is my birthday.
  2. Cozy sweaters.
  3. S’mores and bonfires.
  4. Leaves changing colors.
  5. Taking our son Trick or Treating.
  6. Cooler weather.
  7. Jackets, jeans, and cute boots.
  8. Decorating for Halloween.
  9. Carving pumpkins.
  10. Visiting a pumpkin patch with my family.
  11. A hearty pot of chili or soup on the stovetop.
  12. Hay rides.
  13. Caramel apples.
  14.  Scenic drives through small towns.
  15. Baking seasonal treats.


Rose Lange

Facebook: Rose Lange, Author

Twitter: writingdiva82

Posted in Rose In The Garden!, Soul Mate Publishing | 2 Comments

What’s In a Name? – Elle Hill

The perfect literary germ plunks into your brain, infecting you with a new novel idea. Name tagYou flesh it out: put a little meat on your main characters’ bones, add some conflict, maybe decide where all the action takes place. And then. Then comes the moment of truth.

What shall you name your characters?

I imagine some, like me, have experienced that initial creative spark as the actual name of our main characters. For my last novel, The Tithe, the novel stork helpfully deposited the following into my fertile brain: A young woman who lives in the Mojave Desert and is named Josh after the Joshua Trees. I built everything else around that flash of insight.

Most of the time, though, names don’t appear fully formed like Josh’s. Occasionally I rely on old-fashioned intuition, or maybe introspection, or whatever you would call sitting around with pen clacking against teeth while waiting for names to float to the top of  my brain murk. Kinda, you know, like a Magic 8 Ball. This highly scientific method is how I named all my former sheroes: waiting for inspiration, tasting the texture of the proposed names, and finally adopting one.

When it comes to my heroes and many of my minor characters, however, I practice something I learned in college and that makes my intimidating student debt almost seem worthwhile: I research. In a feat of logic that would make Mr. Spock (may he rest in peace) slap me a high-five, I often snag names by the following method, provided, of course, my characters exist in a contemporary, U.S. setting:

  1. I decide on the person’s sex. For our purposes, we’re going with female right now.
  2. Next, I determine the person’s age. I mean the actual year they were born. Let’s say 1978.
  3. I arbitrarily choose a number, usually between one and fifty but occasionally on up to one hundred or even above. Let’s go with thirty-nine.
  4. I visit the Social Security Administration’s database of baby names from years past (e.g., names from the 70s) and snag the thirty-ninth female name.

name buttonCongrats, my friends! We now have Erin, a literary newborn with a historically accurate moniker.

I know what you’re thinking: Great, Elle, but unlike Gilligan in Gilligan’s Island, our newborn is going to need at least two whole names. For last names, I try my mental character quest first. If that doesn’t work, I’ll happily retread the research route.

  1. First, we must determine the person’s racial, national, and/or ethnic background. Is s/he Mexican American? Pakistani? Welsh American? I just discovered “Erin” is Irish, so let’s go with that.
  2. Once again, I’m going to choose a random number. I choose twenty-four.
  3. Turn to the harbinger of all knowledge – I refer to Google, of course – and type in “Somalian [or whatever] surnames.” Of course, for our purposes, we’re going to type in “Irish last names.” Entire, juicy, numbered lists should fill our screens. Let’s click on a page and snag the two dozenth name.
  4. Of course, if you’re me, you like having a list of unusual surnames, so you might want to bookmark such pages as this, or maybe this.

If I stick with my formula above, I now have a character named Erin Daly. Not too shabby.

From rumination to research, my process for deciding my characters’ names is nothing if not an adventure. What’s in a name? Sometimes, lots of exciting, nerdarific hard work!

Posted in Excerpts from Elle!, Soul Mate Publishing | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

A Newer, Improved Newsletter from Soul Mate! by Char Chaffin and Cheryl Yeko

Hi All:

In case you haven’t already figured it out, Soul Mate’s September Newsletter is pretty bad-ass. Newsletter Coordinator Cheryl Yeko has been working hard, finding ways to improve not only the process of gathering the information needed to fill the newsletter each month, but also presenting our newsletter subscribers with an end product that makes it so easy for everyone to get what they need.

Thanks to her efforts and talent, we have an interactive Soul Mate Monthly Newsletter that’s just the ult. Now, when you click on the Amazon link provided under each book cover, the link takes you right to the Cloud Reader and all it has to offer: cover art, chapter index, sample of the first few chapters, and three button choices: ‘Read in Kindle,’ ‘Share,’ and ‘Buy.’

How cool is that?

Here’s the direct link to the September Newsletter. Click on some of the book links to see how the Cloud Reader Sample works:


And here is the .jpg copy of the newsletter so you all can see how pretty it is:

Posted in Char's Thoughts, Cheryl's Corner, Networking | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

Summer Daze

smoky sky 2

Summer has nearly passed, leaving relaxing memories for most of us such as outings to the beach, family get-togethers or even, perhaps, a trip somewhere new.

My summer evaporated much like the clear blue sky as my city remained enveloped in thick, ashy smoke for the months of June, July, August and September. Forest fires are apparently the ‘new normal’ in this densely forested region of British Columbia. To add to this mix, my other job (aside from writing) is planning and designing wedding decor for the many clients seeking a picturesque spot to exchange vows in the (normally) postcard-beautiful surroundings we call the Okanagan.

But at times like this our perspective either renders a glass half full — or half empty. I chose the former point of view hoping the skies would clear and my clients would have remarkable photographs. As it turns out, somewhat murky skies are preferable for photographs. Still, as the hot, ashen air burned my throat and stung my eyes, I wondered if the fires would ever end. Those same obscure skies beckoned me inside more than I care to admit, but in doing so, provided me opportunities to write with a frequency I typically abandon during this time of year. As I diligently began work on a new novel, I received surprising and thrilling news with regards to my last release.

Upon learning my time travel romance, A Time for Love in Paris, made it as a finalist in the 2017 RONE Awards, I giddily booked flights and conference tickets and looked ahead to October. I wrapped up my final edits for a submission and my dreams materialized when I received confirmation for publication for my next novel, Concealed Love. I raised my head, and while staring into the charcoal horizon, allowed a small smile to escape. Murky skies may not be ideal but this summer blew more than just smoke into my life. As September slips by, the surrounding fires still burn, though with far less intensity and number, and I look forward to the crisp air of October and, I remind myself, I’ll be rewarded with a nice getaway and the chance to promote my work, and meet new authors and readers in person.  With professional make-up (a novelty for me), photographs, and the chance to wear something other than shorts, I’ll be submerged in a new daze.

Posted in A Bit of Catch-Up With Kim | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Romancing the Reader

I absolutely love reader events. I especially like the smaller conferences of 200 or less, with a great reader-to-author ratio.

I look forward to the opportunity to put my promotional materials and budget to good use. I’ve given up on doing promotion at conferences like RWA’s annual event. To me, spending my hard-earned promotional dollars on author-only events is like preaching to the choir. I’d much rather *spoil* those readers who might just buy my book!

-2017 filwneIn mid-October I’ll be joining 49 other authors, including Soul Mate’s own Cerian Hebert, at the Fall in Love with New England reader/author event. And, I admit, I overspent my budget … a lot. Let’s just hope I can make some of it up in book sales at the Saturday book signing.

Shout out to anyone in the Manchester, New Hampshire area … that’s where we’ll be so stop on by. Information is in the link above. I’d love to meet some more readers and other SMP authors.

So just how do you spoil readers … short of giving away the books you want to sell?

Suggestion #1 – No paper for paper’s sake. It’s amazing the amount of post cards, unadorned bookmarks, and business cards that get thrown out.

SMP MemeSuggestion #2 – If you’re itching to do a bookmark, get creative. A long, paper stick (even with your cover and blurb on it) doesn’t hold the attention that you think it does. I did create bookmarks, but then I also “added” a tassel and a story-related charm.

Suggestion #3 – Do something unusual for your big promo splash. Since I’m signing four different books this year, I needed to find a way to showcase each one. So … like any author on a budget … I went to Costco. I bought boxes of gum in assorted flavors. I created labels with my book cover and blurb for all four books. Then, I matched the level of heat in the book to the flavor of the gum. The hotter the book, the spicier the gum. The 2×4 labels fit perfectly on the back of the packets.

Suggestion #4 – Participate in promo ops with the other authors. One of the authors is buying inexpensive charm bracelets. The other authors were able to sign up and provide charms for the bracelets. So, since I was ordering charms for my bookmarks, I thought … why not? BTW … I found a great (and cheap) source for charms: 8 Seasons (from China). I was pleasantly surprised (okay, really, really pleased) with the quality of the product.

Laura SecordSuggestion #5 – Take chocolate. The organizers are tying the conference to Halloween and planning a trick or treat route for the readers. All authors who wish to participate hang a decoration or a sign on their door and then hand out goodies. Apparently, last year there was wine.

I’m also doing a workshop (geared to readers) about how a reader can influence an author’s creativity. There will be prizes for participation. And, I’m hosting a table at the costume dinner party on Friday night. (Psst … don’t tell but my costume also ties into one of my books!)

I know it sounds like a spent a fortune (a small one) but cultivating great relationships with readers who are eager to meet you and hear about your books is far more important, at least in my opinion, than providing swag to other authors.

I’d love to hear from both readers and authors about the types of swag you enjoy receiving. There’s always room for a new idea.


Posted in Nanobytes From Nancy!, Soul Mate Publishing | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments