Writing Motivation by Phyllis Middleton

I stared at a blank page for quite some time trying to come up with something to write for this blog.  I wrote the last line and then stared at it for an even longer time.  What could I write that would possibly interest anyone reading this blog since I am not all that interesting in reality.

For the reader who gets totally engrossed in a book and the characters, this is how a book starts.  A blank page and for a pantser writer like me, that can be frightening.  For a plotter writer, they map out the entire book, the characters, and the circumstances in some form or fashion before starting the book.  Those writers have an idea about what the story is about.  For those of us who are pantser – AKA writing by the seat of our pants – we just start writing.

We may get a seed of an idea when we see a real-life news story.  Perhaps, the writer has just watched a real life touching scene between two people and a story flourishes from there.  I tend to write backwards.  Let me explain how my mind works.

I’m a retired cop and I worked as a detective and crime scene specialist for many years.  When I got a case, I arrived after the end result has occurred and have to work backwards from there.  So, I have a body.  First step…who is this person?  Next step, how did this person die?  Next step, what lead up to this person’s death?  You ask questions and find the answers and so on.

Therefore, I tend to write in the same fashion. I have the big black moment or climax of the story hit me…usually when I’m just about asleep…and my books start there.  I write the climatic end or the crucial moment of what I think the book will be FIRST.  Following my investigator training and experience, I start tracking down my characters movements and events backwards until I have the beginning in sight.  This generally works for me, but then, I write suspense and that is a good genre for that type of writing.

What triggers a story for me?  Dialogue.  I will have a wonderful line pop into my head that one of my characters will say and the next thing I know, the words start spilling out and I have a scene to build from.  There is nothing like doing dishes and carrying on a full conversation between two characters out loud.  Fortunately, Hubby ignores me.

What I hate…lack of motivation and desire to write.  I’m at that point in my life right now.  I know that since a teenager, writing has been an outlet for me and my sanity.  Therefore, I’ll start writing again.  I just have to find that right story and the mojo that goes along with it.  When I do, look out keyboard


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Today, I’m not going to write about writing, or books, or characters. I’m going to write about real life. About an aspect of real life that seems to touch everyone, or pretty damn close to it, and it’s something we would all love to never experience, and in fact, wish were eradicated.

That dreaded C-word. Cancer.

I can’t stop thinking about it lately, probably because it has been in my face recently. David Bowie. Alan Rickman. A dear friend who lost her husband (who happened to be my age and left behind a young son and a beautiful wife) to it. All last week. And I wrapped up the week by finding out another friend’s mother was just diagnosed with a form that is so rare and aggressive, they won’t even give her a prognosis. Plus there’s my husband’s cousin,fighting his second round now, and we’re all crossing our fingers. He isn’t even forty yet, with two young children and a wife. So not fair.

That’s all on top of my mother discovering she had breast cancer, last August.

Talk about hitting home. I’ve been fighting bouts of hives that have been reoccurring since September, and I’m certain that’s the cause. Unfortunately, they probably won’t go away until next summer, after the chemo and radiation are done. After—hopefully—Mom gets a clean bill of health, or at least told they’ve conquered the bastard for now, and she can resume a normal life again.

Cancer just sucks. It doesn’t pick and choose based on any factors whatsoever. Extremely healthy people get it, while someone who uses every vice possible for decades is never touched (not that I want anyone to be touched, I’m just making a point that it doesn’t matter how well you take care of yourself—apparently). Kids get it. Adults. Teens. Women. Men. Heterosexual, homosexual, asexual. Haters and lovers. Funny people, serious people. Prisoners and that lady who has never so much as gotten a speeding ticket.

We are constantly barraged with ways to try to avoid the asshole, but he just laughs and zaps the next person—the one who followed all the rules and did exactly what he should have done to avoid it.

Cancer is the worst villain in every book (okay, maybe I am talking about writing after all). It’s the one that is completely unredeemable. He has no remorse, no regrets, no emotion whatsoever. Even Voldemort can’t compete with this guy (but then again, Voldemort’s entire reason for being evil was based on his emotions, wasn’t it?).

The worst part is, it’s also reality. For every happy ending, there’s a terribly tragic one. It’s nothing like the books I write. My books always have a happy ending. Probably because reality doesn’t, eh?

I don’t really have a point to this post. Mostly, I needed to get these emotions down on the computer, because they’re eating me up inside. I’m angry, I’m sad, I feel helpless, and I’m not a fan of any of those feelings. I want to be happy, and I want everyone around me to be happy, too. But it’s hard when almost daily we hear of another tragedy, thanks to that jerk, Cancer. Damn, I wish we could defeat him.

cancer_sucks-112077For everyone who has lost someone, or has gone through the painful process of attempting to beat cancer, know that I am fighting along side you. And know I’m angry on your behalf. And yes, I’m still eternally hopeful we will kick cancer’s ass at some point, hopefully in my children’s lifetime, if not my own.

We deserve to win.


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The Art of Leading a Double Life

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(JB does it right!)

I’m curious…how many authors out there separate their writing careers and their day jobs entirely? And readers, are you aware authors do this?

I’m certainly one of them.

I wasn’t sure what to talk about here today at the SMP blog, but a few nights ago, I had some downtime at the hospital while working a night shift. I had my iPad with me, so I loaded up Spotify and played some music to fill the silence in the reading room.

One of the techs entered as Jay-Z’s beats thumped against the walls and she asked me to check out a study. I gladly pulled it up and she kept looking at me funny.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“You’re listening to Jay-Z.”

“Oh, sorry, I can change it if you don’t like him.” (and for those who know me, Jay-Z is one of the most benign artists I listen to)

She laughed nervously. “No, it’s okay. It just seems so…normal of you.”

Huh? Normal of me? Why?

Because I’m a doctor, that’s why. And I guess doctors shouldn’t listen to Jay-Z.

Honestly, I wasn’t the least bit offended. I get it. An M.D. tagged to the end of your name comes with expectations. You should behave a certain way. Do certain things. Listen to certain types of music. Be politically correct, socially acceptable, graceful in everything you do.

I hate to break it to you, but I’m definitely NOT graceful!

Don’t get me wrong, I consider myself very good at doctoring (okay, maybe there’s an eensy-weensy bit of ego in that statement). Granted, I’m still in training, but I work hard and do the best I can every single day. That’s all any resident could ask for.

But the above incident is one of many reasons why I choose not to share my writing with my medical cohorts. My books are not only out of the norm, they’re dark, sexy, horrifying and violent. The creative world I live in is politically incorrect, socially unacceptable and not the least bit conservative by any means. I write about monsters, death, love, hate, revenge, possession, addiction. My stories can be morbid and macabre, and even if they end happily, the journey to that final destination is brutal.

Think of your primary care physician (hopefully you have one!). Imagine if they wrote stories like this, or some other “taboo” topic like say, BDSM. How would you perceive them? Sure, some would find it interesting, even fun, maybe. Others not so much. Particularly if they’re your colleagues, your boss, the administration (THE CAPITOL!). A fellow writer friend of mine pens steamy romances and is an elementary school teacher. I can intimately relate to her fear of parents discovering her sexy author counterpart and demanding that she stop teaching or “influencing” their children. Isn’t that sad? But it’s a reality many of us have to face.

And it’s hard. My life is so consumed by medicine and I spend so much time with my medical colleagues that I wish I could share my writing achievements with them. “Guys, I published my first book!” “Guess what, I signed a three book contract for a series I’ve been dying to write for years!” “Look at this awesome cover, ahh, I’m so stoked!” But alas, I cannot, and it’s disheartening at times.

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Yes, secrets can be revealed, and if my colleagues find out about L.D. Rose, then they find out. There’s nothing I can do to stop them. But I’m going to try real hard to keep them disconnected, hence why I use a pen name and an alias to at least separate these two “entities” within me. I know many people do this for a variety of reasons, and this is mine.

What about you, dear reader? What’s your take on this and have you ever experienced a similar conundrum in certain aspects of your life? Inquiring minds want to know, so please feel free to share. Don’t worry, your secret is safe with me. ;)

Posted in Life-Snippets from L.D., Soul Mate Publishing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 39 Comments

Are You Keeping Up?

24646207_sTechnology has shaped language,  introducing new words and altering the meaning of well-known words. While many of us are aware of the differences between tablets and laptops, texting and e-mailing, websites and blogs, we may not be too familiar with more subtle linguistic changes.

To mark the occasion of its 20th birthday, Dictionary.com has compiled a list of words whose meanings have changed in the past two decades.

How many of these meanings do you recognize?


To move an online post to the top of a list by adding a new comment or post to the thread.


To prevent someone from contacting you on Twitter or other social networks.


A twitter conversation that has picked up too many user names for an actual conversation to take place.


A person who sets up a false personal profile on a social networking site for fraudulent or deceptive purposes.


Parts of the Internet that allow online processing and storage of documents and data.


A very large stream of data.


A unique set of characters or actions that leaves a trace and serves as a means of identification.


To add a person to one’s lists of contacts on a social-networking site.


To subscribe to a person’s updates on social media.


Your screen name. i.e. The name you go by on the Internet.


To indicate enjoyment, interest, or agreement with content on social media.


A cultural item in the form of an image, video or phrase that is spread via the Internet.


To contact someone by sending a brief electronic message, such as a text message.


Personal details, images, and other items associated with a username or online account.


An environment in which software developers or editors can create and test new content, separate from other content in the project.


Move the fingers across a touch screen.


A general-purpose computer contained in a touch screen panel.


To link to someone else’s profile in a social media post.


To send a message.


A collection of online posts or updates associated with a specific social-media account, in reverse chronological order.


A person who starts arguments or upsets people on the Internet.


A short message posted on the Twitter website.


Refrain from using digital or electronic devices for a period of time.


Becoming very popular by circulating from person to person, often through the Internet.

internetsymbols2My score – 21/24

New meanings (for me)  – Canoe, firehose, sandbox


Posted in What's Up With Joanne! | Tagged | 14 Comments

Partnering: Is it For You, or Against You? by Char Chaffin

char and cheryl

CiCi Cordelia, also known as Char Chaffin and Cheryl Yeko!

As a writer and editor, I’m a firm believer in trying new things, in stretching and reaching for new goals. The creative process never stops processing, and every author knows the learning curve doesn’t stop just because they have published a novel. Growth is vital.

New authors have a lot to deal with, from figuring out their writing voice to choosing their meant-to-be genre. Even for the most creative writer who is jammed with ideas just bursting from their brains, downloading them into actual words is daunting. Once the book is written, the author can relax and concentrate on the next challenge, right?

Well, sure. Because regardless of what’s going on with the manuscript you just finished writing, you need to move on to the next project, and then the next after that. If you’re serious about a writing career, you never stop whether you have yet to sell a book or whether you’ve sold several.

As I said already, I believe in stretching. For some writers that means they’ll try writing in a different genre. For me personally, it meant partnering. A writer’s voice and words are precious to them. But what happens when they share their voice and words with another writer? Ecstasy or tragedy? Or maybe a little of both?

In 2014 fellow Soul Matey and forever BFF Cheryl Yeko and I decided to give it a go. After all, we shared a love of the same genres, and our writing process as well as style seemed similar. Why not write together and see what happens? We chose Western Contemporary as a genre, plotted an outline, and began. The result, a self-published novella titled Rodeo King, taught us a heck of a lot about partnering. We learned it wasn’t for everyone, but lucky for us, it was a perfect vehicle for our combined talents, and cemented an already strong friendship.

In 2015 we decided to create a pen name and write in edgier romance genres, and CiCi Cordelia was born. Our debut under CiCi releases in late January, the sensual novella Sweet Equation, which can be found in Soul Mate’s newest anthology collection, CHERISHED SECRETS.

Partnering can be tricky. Egos have to be banished to a back room during the creative process. Fair play is paramount. Spotlight sharing must be equal, as well as marketing and promotional planning. Everything gets split right down the middle, so if the prospective writer-partners aren’t willing to start there, chances are the process is doomed before it begins. It’s all teamwork, and not everyone can play successfully on a team.

What I discovered about partnering surprised me. I am by nature a loner, an introvert, a closet hermit who can squirrel away for weeks at a time, and quite happily. But all of a sudden I had someone to ‘report’ to, and it changed my inner focus. It altered my own writing procedure, the way I edit myself, even stretching to the way I complete my job as an acquiring editor. I also found I had a talent for partnering. But as with anything else, it all depends on the partner, and the capability for compromise.

For anyone thinking about partnering, here’s a checklist for you.

First, make sure your partner and you agree on the genre you choose, whether it’s one you write in or one you both want to try for the first time. A similar writing voice helps a lot. I’m not going to say it’s the most important thing in the world for a writing partnership, but it sure can’t hurt. If all you do during the process is fight against each other’s voice, you’ll never get anywhere.

And speaking of voice, understand from the beginning that your partner will not always agree with your words, your vision, when plotting and then writing anything from the outline to actual chapters. Obviously compromise is a given, but it’s sometimes easier to think compromise than it is to actually implement it, so keep your minds wide open.

Just as the writing process must be shared equally, so must the story plotting. Creative resentment can build too easily unless both partners split everything fairly. If you can’t do this at the onset, imagine what it’ll be like later on down the line when marketing, promo, etc., comes into play. ::shudder::

When it works, a writing partnership is amazing. You feed each other both emotionally and creatively, and that common goal suddenly becomes more attainable when it’s not only you who wants it so badly.

For any author thinking about partnering, I’d certainly encourage it. Try something with a smaller word count as a start, to see if you’re compatible with another writer. Play around and have fun with it. Let those creative juices really flow. It might not be right for you, of course.

But what if it is?

Char Chaffin is multi-published and a Senior Acquiring Editor with Soul Mate Publishing. Along with fellow Soul Mate author and Senior Acquisitions Editor Cheryl Yeko, she makes up one-half of CiCi Cordelia, Writing From The Heart.

Finding CiCi:  Go Here!

CHERISHED SECRETS, Available for Pre-Order, Here: 


Posted in Char's Thoughts | 3 Comments

Back to My Roots


Photo Courtesy of Rebecca Heflin

There are as many writing processes as there are writers out there. We each have to pick the one that work’s best for us. On the other hand, we’re all striving to write faster, better, and more efficiently. Whether it’s writing software, plotting tools, character questionnaires, craft books, live courses, or webinars, we’re all searching for the Holy Grail.

I’m more of a pantster than a plotter. I have a general idea where the story is going, what the conflicts are, what background contributed to my character’s flaws, and where it’s set. But, I like to see where the story takes me. It’s part of the fun of writing. I ponder my characters for a couple weeks before I even sit down to write. By the time I sit down, I have a pretty good picture of who they are. During the course of the story, I get to know them even better, and by the end of the book, they’ve revealed even more of themselves to me. I also typically edit as I go. It helps me get back into the story at the beginning of each writing session, and I have a fairly clean first draft.

With my latest book, Dreams of Her Own, due out January 27th, I decided to try a new process. It was a mash-up of different processes I’d read about, different worksheets, etc. So, I plotted the major points, tried really hard not to edit as I wrote (and let me tell you, that was like asking me to abstain from chocolate), aimed for weekly word count goals (which I do anyway), and just put words on the screen.

Well, it was a disaster. The first draft was a disaster, which completely stressed me out. And despite painstaking editing prior to submitting the manuscript, the revisions I received from my editor were some of the most extensive I’ve received thus far, and included a major rewrite. Which, of course, stressed me out even more. The release date had to be pushed back because of the rewrite. Sigh.

This experience taught me a lesson. It’s fine to experiment with new processes, but keep in mind, they may not improve your writing, and in fact, they may make it worse. I’m going back to my roots. For me, writing faster isn’t necessarily writing more efficiently.

What’s your writing process? Have you ever tried changing it up? What was the result?

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Marisa Makes Memories

The year was 1977, a year of monumental firsts. The first Apple II computer debuted, the Concord flew its first commercial flight, and NASA tested the first space shuttle. It should be no surprise then, in a world of expanding technology, including special effects in cinema, that 1977 was also the year the first Star Wars movie opened in theaters.

Earning $775 million globally that year, Star Wars surpassed Jaws (1975) to become the highest-grossing film of all time. The movie’s colossal sales were later eclipsed by other films, but in 2013 the numbers were adjusted for inflation and the movie moved became the third-highest-grossing film in the world.

Fast forward at warp speed 38 years to a galaxy far, far away, even longer ago, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the seventh in the franchise, just this week passed Jurassic World with $1.73 billion in sales globally to win the honor of becoming the third-highest-grossing film in the world.

Deja vu?

With a cast of characters any author would envy, the  Star Wars saga has benefited from its gifted writers, film-makers and actors. But, when the newest edition opened in China recently, the film did not perform the way Walt Disney Studios had hoped, even with the mega talent of J.J. Abrams as its director, co-writer and co-producer. It appears the Star Wars franchise does not hold the same appeal in China as it does in the US. Perhaps part of the problem lies with the fact that there were few cinemas in China when the first film debuted.

Star_Wars_1977_A_New_Hope_Han_Luke_Chewie.jpg.CROP.promovar-mediumlargeYet, writers’ worldwide should be curious. I ask you, would this film, with its iconic characters representing many of our favorite archetypes, have produced such epic sales results domestically without our memories of the talismans from the original movie?

When I sat in a sold-out 3D theater (not available in 1977) over the holidays with my favorite movie snacks in hand with another 500 fans ready to be entertained, I hoped I’d be greeted by the cheesy infinity stars background and the opening words receding into the middle of the universe. Surely, cinematography had come a long way, but I wanted something familiar, pieces of the original movie sprinkled generously into the new film.star-wars-force-awakens-opening-crawl-pic

(Spoiler alert) I almost cheered out loud when my wish was granted and the movie began with the same John William’s score performed by the London Symphony orchestra that had vibrated through my bones as I sat and watched the first film.

As the opening graphics set the stage, I was drawn into the time-tested plot-line of good versus evil. Hans Solo returns as the galaxy’s rebel. Princess Leia leads the resistance as their commanding general, but her heroic brother, Luke, the last known Jedi, is missing. Once the Empire’s storm troopers threaten a new young heroine and an aging Millennium Falcon resurfaces, I am hooked.Ray and Storm Troupers

When writing, we should be inspired by great storytelling and remember insight comes from many entertainment forms. Lucas has said that his work was influenced by numerous sources like the Old English epic poem Beowulf and the folklore of King Arthur, which he used for research on the origins of myth. He’s also spoken of the impact of Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey, as well as action, sci-fi series like Flash Gordon on his character creation. And it should be no surprise that influential films for Lucas have included the iconic Laurence of Arabia, Casablanca and the Wizard of Oz.

With access to a wealth of exceptional storytelling resources like these at our fingers, as Hans Leia and Lukewriters, our unique voices should only improve with inspiration from film, stage, or novel.
Exposure to narratives of great works will help us create characters that the world will love like Hans, Leia and Luke. And equally as important, villains to hate like Darth Vader.

Winning seven Academy Awards, including best picture, the first Star Wars installment is regarded as one of the greatest films of all time. And if commercial sales are any indication, this seventh story in the series will surpass it. I highly recommend buying a ticket. Consider it a good tax write off or research money well spent.Star Wars The Force Awakens

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