Giving the Wrong Character the Benefit of a Doubt: A Novel Writing Tip

IN REAL LIFE, IT’S GREAT TO GIVE SOMEONE THE BENEFIT OF A DOUBT. (For instance, while you know Janice might be hiding your pearl necklace somewhere in her room, because she’s your best friend, you’re willing to give her the benefit of a doubt and accept her claim that she hasn’t seen it since you wore it to Sarah’s wedding.) Giving people the benefit of a doubt allows them the chance for a do-over or to make amends. (You know, like sneak your pearl necklace back into your jewelry box while you’re not looking.) But unless they actually change their (bad) behavior, the amends are pretty much null, right?

I think we’ve all met that person. Heck, we may have all been that person! Sometimes, a habitual way of being—however detrimental to self or others—simply overrides the impulse to change. In that case, no matter how many benefits of a doubt they receive, some folks aren’t going to head down a better path anytime soon.

This is tough when it applies to someone close to us—in real life. But what if the recalcitrant person is a character in your novel? Well, then! You either have an excellent, if weasel-y, antagonist. Or you might have a deeply flawed protagonist. In either case, you’re in possession of literary trouble of the most excellent kind!

So what could that benefit of a doubt look like?

  • allowing for the possibility that she didn’t really shove that boy from the monkey bars—maybe she was just reaching out to grab the kid when he fell
  • allowing for the possibility that his hitting her was a one-time occurrence
  • allowing for the possibility that the circumstantial evidence tying her to the murder is just that: purely circumstantial
  • allowing for the possibility that he really didn’t know the gun was loaded
  • that he really, truly, honestly didn’t know that the “gift” constituted a bribe

Pick one of these—or any of the myriad other benefit-of-a-doubt-eliciting situations that would give a character one more chance to “slip out the back, Jack”—and you’ll find yourself tumbling into a veritable rat’s-nest of plot development.

You see, giving the wrong character the benefit of a doubt can ratchet up your story to such a level that your beneficent protagonist will be forced take a stand. On the other hand, if it’s your flawed protagonist who has been handed one benefit-of-a-doubt too many—received yet another several-thousand-dollar loan from her parents; gotten a pass from his boss when yet another co-worker has filed a complaint about his sexist remarks; had the accusation about yet another nasty incident at the dog park waived—then it’s clear her story is going to back her into a stakes-filled corner and keep her there until she cries “uncle!” and makes a change.

What is simply unacceptable behavior in real life can prove invaluable in turning up the heat in your fictional world. So, go ahead. Give that questionable character the benefit of a doubt and let the good (story-telling) times roll.

Writing coach

Need help with your book? I’m available for book coaching and manuscript review! And check out Should I Hire a Writing Coach” in THE WRITER magazine.

* * *

Thank you to Llewellyn Worldwide for kind permission to use the image of the Seven of Swords from the ANNA.K TAROT.

Posted in News, Notes & Quotes | Comments Off on Giving the Wrong Character the Benefit of a Doubt: A Novel Writing Tip

5 Fun Ways to Use Lists to Enhance Your Writing: A Writing Prompt

IN FICTION, LISTS CAN INFLUENCE A READER’S experience in a million ways. Here are five to get you started.

1) A list of items can lend specific flavor to a scene:

On the table, a bowl of fruit – a mango, three ripe papayas, two tiny pineapples, and the kiwis

On the table, a bowl of fruit – two fading apples, one bruised pear, one shriveled tangerine

2) A list of possessions can distinguish between characters, providing insight into habits, faults, aspirations:

In Jen’s purse: one bottle “I’m Not Really a Waitress” crimson nail polish, an eyelash curler, two Trojan Extra Pleasure condoms, eighty-six cents, a baby’s teething ring.

In Wendy’s purse: a commuter-rail ticket, an empty, wadded sandwich bag, dental floss, a half-empty pack of Virginia Slims, a matchbook with Sam 555-227-3629 scribbled on it.*

3) A list of verbs can create action in a scene:

Chasing a lizard, the cat leapt from the kitchen counter, galloped over the sofa, banged against the window, ricocheted into the antique vase, and crashed with it to the floor.

4) A list can provide motivation for a character:

Jim’s hunger prods him. It aches his bones, creaks his stomach around its empty core. Jim’s hunger gurgles at Lori, munching a Beefy King, just a foot, a quick leap, a single grab away.

5) A list can create history for a character:

High school, John boxed pumps, loafers at the shoe factory. College, he delivered clogs to the outlet malls. Senior year, he measured feet. Grad school, he sketched for Jimmy Choo.

Writing prompt

Try this: as with the examples above …

  • flavor a scene by listing items in it,
  • distinguish between two characters by listing their respective possessions,
  • liven a scene with a list of verbs,
  •  illuminate a character’s history or motivations with a list.

What do you think? What other narrative heavy-lifting could a list perform? Create an example!

*Bonus tip! Always be as specific as possible when adding items to a list.

Writing coach

Need help with your book? I’m available for book coaching and manuscript review! And check out Should I Hire a Writing Coach” in THE WRITER magazine.

* * *

Thank you to U.S. Games Systems, Inc. for kind permission to use the image of the Seven of Swords from THE DRUIDCRAFT TAROT, by Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm, art by Will Worthington.

Posted in News, Notes & Quotes | Comments Off on 5 Fun Ways to Use Lists to Enhance Your Writing: A Writing Prompt

YOU Are a Collector’s Item: A Really Excellent Writing Prompt!

POET ELLEN DORÉ WATSON starts her poem “The Body Speaks” from her collection WE LIVE IN BODIES, like this:

So? I’m a collection of oversized bones, blind in so much
casing, I’m a pair of lonely shoulders and a snip of a nose
turned up at the word cute. 

This made me wonder: What am I a collection of? Cats? Years of memos jotted on sticky notes? My father’s anger? My mother’s early orphan-hood? The fairy tales I read by the faint light let in by the narrow crack in the door when I was supposed to be asleep? College courses? Jobs? Friends? My paternal grandmother’s heavy breasts? My maternal grandmother’s shapely calves?

Writing prompt

And what are you a collection of—for better or worse? Family stories? Genes? Body parts? Or are you made up of memories? Books you’ve read? Relationships? Write about the collection that is you—or use this question to explore a fictional character.

Writing coach

Need help with your book? I’m available for book coaching and manuscript review! And check out Should I Hire a Writing Coach” in THE WRITER magazine.

* * *

Thank you to U.S. Games Systems, Inc. for kind permission to use the image of the Seven of Cups from the GOLDEN TAROT by Kat Black.

Posted in News, Notes & Quotes | Comments Off on YOU Are a Collector’s Item: A Really Excellent Writing Prompt!

Writer’s Block? A Sure Cure from a Writing Coach Who’s Been There!

IF TAROT’S FOUR OF CUPS WERE YOUR WRITING COACH, it would definitely want to have a little chit-chat with you about “writer’s block.” You see, the fellow in the Four of Cups is a faultfinder. Nothing is good enough for this guy. Hand him a golden cup of magical possibilities, and he’ll just turn away. Whatever is on offer—even if it comes from his own imagination—he’ll refuse it every time.

And this, exactly this refusal of our own thoughts and imaginative impulses, is an attitude that brings us crashing back into writer’s block. I believe that a case of writer’s block boils down to this: We’re being overly critical about the words our brain offers us. Rather than taking what comes on good faith, rather than trusting we’ll be able to work literary magic with the words and ideas that first occur to us, we cast them aside, claiming they’re not good enough. But if we do this too often, believe me, our brains will get the message and stop producing any words at all.

In his June 30th blog post titled “The simple cure for writer’s block.” Seth Godin writes, “People with writer’s block don’t have a problem typing. They have a problem living with bad writing, imperfect writing …”

But that bad, imperfect writing is exactly where we have to start! We must use whatever clumsy, terrible, boring words arise when we first attempt to pin our beautiful, still-nebulous ideas to the page. If we’re not willing to write badly, we won’t ever get the chance to rework our terrible words into the exquisite, precise language we hope will deliver our best stories to our readers. In other words, we must first fetch the pumpkin—then we can wave our wand, transforming that mundane squash into a golden carriage that will carry us all the way to the prince’s ball.

Don’t believe me? Then believe Anne Lamott! In her classic book on writing, BIRD BY BIRD: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Lamott includes a chapter titled “Shitty First Drafts.”

In it she says, For me and most of the other writers I know, writing is not rapturous. In fact, the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts…. If one of the characters wants to say, “Well, so what, Mr. Poopy Pants?” you let her. No one is going to see it. If [you] get into really sentimental, weepy, emotional territory…. just get it all
down on paper because there may be something great in those six crazy pages that
you would never have gotten to by more rational, grown-up means.

Because Anne Lamott is both funny and whip-smart about writing, I suggest you get a copy of BIRD, read the shitty-drafts chapter, then stow the book away in your writer’s emergency kit for the next time writer’s block looms. Then harness up the mice and ride that shitty-draft pumpkin all the way to whatever ball you desire.

Writing coach

Need help with your book? I’m available for book coaching and manuscript review! And check out Should I Hire a Writing Coach” in THE WRITER magazine.

***

Thank you to U.S. Games Systems, Inc. for kind permission to use the image of the Four of Cups from the RIDER-WAITE (SMITH) TAROT.

Posted in News, Notes & Quotes | Comments Off on Writer’s Block? A Sure Cure from a Writing Coach Who’s Been There!

GenXWoman Is Now Hiring Bloggers!

WHEN DENA K. MARTINES CONTACTED ME, she was stuck in a corporate job that she was determined to love. She had the tools, she told me: everything from meditation, to intentionality, to feng shui. And she was working those tools as hard as she could!

In fact, believing she knew how to turn her corporate situation around, she wanted to write a book about surviving—and thriving—in the corporate world. Which is why she reached out to me for book coaching. I was fascinated by Dena’s ideas. And she clearly had her finger on the pulse of the culture she was trying to improve.

But, long and short of it, halfway through our eighteen months together, Dena pulled the plug on her corporate life. During her corporate years, while she’d learned a variety of approaches to staying sane in that world, she’d also discovered that, despite a person’s best efforts, the corporate life is not for everyone.

During her time in corporate, however, she also discovered her purpose: helping others live their best lives—whether that means working in a corporation or working for themselves as break-out entrepreneurials. Which is exactly what Dena has become! And exactly what her book-in-progress is all about!

Along with her partner, Megan E. Fox, Dena has launched GenXWoman. And like all new businesses, they need to get the word out about their stellar services! That’s where you (might) come in. You see, Dena and Megan need blog writers. If you’re interested in creating content for an up-and-coming company, read on. You’ll get Dena’s take on our work together and learn about the company she’s started—as well as your potential role!

DENA TELLS HER STORY

First Steps: In January 2019, I reached out to Jamie to help me write a book. At the time, all I knew was I wanted to write a book—but wasn’t completely sure what that book would be about. A year-and-a-half later, I am well under way to completing my first draft. I credit Jamie’s no-nonsense advice and consistent guidance for helping me get moving in the right direction. Through it all, Jamie has witnessed my professional transformation from working a full-time corporate job that was draining my spirit to my new role as a multifaceted entrepreneur who is following her soul’s purpose.

The GenXWoman adventure: GenXWoman was born from the bond of two Generation X women: myself and Megan E. Fox. We were frustrated with the negative and often depressing narrative about Gen-X people in general, and Gen-X women in particular. We also noticed the lack of online and offline spaces that cater to our generation’s needs. So, after more than eighteen years in corporate America, we decided to join forces and create IGenxwoman.com, a digital platform for Gen-X women by Gen-X women.

Our vision: We are committed to creating a community for Generation X women, a place where they feel heard. A place that inspires them with uplifting, solution-oriented content tailored specifically for them. Our space is meant to be a place for Gen-X women to call home. A place where like-minded women can come together to share their stories and offer support to one another and to uplift and encourage one another. 

Our mission: We believe that Gen-X women have the right to claim their place and forge their legacy in the world. Therefore, we challenge the prevailing narrative of Generation X.  No longer the “sandwich generation,” we want to be known as the “bridge generation.” No longer voiceless, we want to be heard. No longer exhausted, we want to be vibrant and energized. No longer stuck and resigned, we are ready to rise up, strong and empowered, and be included in the global effort to redefine the paradigm of our world. 

Join us in the revolution: GenXWoman is looking for compelling and experienced blog writers to join our team and support us in our mission. If you are passionate about uplifting, educating, and empowering women, please reach out with samples of your writing at support@igenxwoman.com or via our website at igenxwoman.com/contact/. Please also check us out on Instagram and Facebook at @genxwoman.

Writing coach

Need help with your book? I’m available for book coaching and manuscript review! And check out Should I Hire a Writing Coach” in THE WRITER magazine.

Cut-and-Paste: A Writing Coach Confesses

WE WRITERS ARE WORDY PEOPLE. We like to think in language, explain ourselves in words, describe our world in nouns, adjectives, verbs. But we can be so immersed in the power of words we forget that, to arrive at them, we have to translate what we see, feel, and think into their hard currency.

Imagine each word is a nugget of coal that must be pick-axed out of the coalmine of your brain every time you want to express yourself. It can be exhausting, right? I confess. After dragging up wagon-loads of words all week, my brain can feel like two stones rubbing together: dry, but unlikely to produce fire!

That’s why I make collage. My style (as you can see), is very loose. Lots of smearing, tearing, and scribbling. This nonverbal form allows me to be playful and creative without using language—the coin of my daily realm.

Then, when I return to the world of words, those verbs and nouns tumble onto the page like a shower of daisies. I don’t have to excavate them like a ton of coal!

This would be reason enough to take a break from language-centric creativity. But I get more from my collage-making adventures! After messing around with scissors, paper, and glue for a bit, I find I make wider, more unexpected connections when I return to the task of putting words on the page. I notice my language is fresher and my transitions between ideas are more dynamic.

Which, of course, is exactly how collage happens—by tapping unexpected juxtapositions and committing to them.

Make your own metaphor to improve your writing*

If, like me, you value such leaps of association, you might want to experiment with collage and see if it offers your writing similar benefits. But maybe that kind of wild abandon is not what you’re after in your literary pursuits. Maybe what you really want is to develop more orderly writing. In that case, you might try the precise patterning that knitting requires. Or, if you’d like to include more sensory detail to your writing, try cooking! Exploring the tastes and textures of a wide variety of ingredients in the kitchen might well result in more delicious  writing on the page!

While any nonverbal activity gives your word-making mind a break, you can amplify the positive effects of time spent off the page by choosing a creative practice you can see as an RX to heal what ails your writing!

Non-writing inspiration

If you already work in a visual medium as well as a literary one, you’re in good company! PRINT MAG’s article The Visual Art and Design of Famous Writers showcases the visual work of writers from Sylvia Plath to Rudyard Kipling. (And if you don’t have a non-literary creative practice, you might find this article inspiring!)

*I discovered the idea of creating a concrete metaphor for a desired end in Marsha Sinetar’s book DEVELOPING A 21st CENTURY MIND.

Writing coach

Need help with your book? I’m available for book coaching and manuscript review! And check out Should I Hire a Writing Coach” in THE WRITER magazine.

Writing Contests for Summer (and Beyond!): A Writing Coach’s Picks

IF THE EIGHT OF WANDS WERE YOUR WRITING COACH, she would tell you to FLY your stories and poems and essays and novels out into the publishing ethers. While, of course, we need to develop our writing to the best of our ability, sometimes, it behooves us to send our work into the world and see what results.

A couple of years ago, in a post encouraging you to submit, submit, submit, I wrote this:

Swiftness, change, opportunity, messages on the wind. Tarot’s Eight of Wands speaks to all of these. It’s a communicative card. It can signal the sudden appearance of new connections, information, or direction.

If you got the Eight of Wands in a tarot reading, the turbaned, hoop-earringed Gypsy turning your cards might say, “Favorable circumstances are flying toward you! Avail yourself of them, and positive changes are likely to occur.”

I’m not (currently) wearing a turban—or even my hoop earrings—but accept this message as if I were. Because, with this post, the Eight of Wands is delivering a quiverful of opportunities: It’s time to send your writing soaring out on the winds of literary chance!

I still agree with that idea. And to facilitate your ability to act on this advice, I’ve put together a list of summer (and beyond!) literary contests for you. Good luck!

Summer 2020 (and beyond!): Writing contests and resources

Deadlines between now and July 15: Poets & Writers has compiled listings of 57 writing contests with upcoming deadlines. Browse P&W’s Grants & Awards database by genre, deadline, and entry fee to find the best contests for your work.

Deadline August 15: South of the South contest: Florida-based writers, Wordier Than Thou is seeking fiction, non-fiction and poetry from you about the state of Florida. There is no limit to what you can write about—from Florida’s natural beauty to the seedier side of Mickey to wacky news headlines. As long as it’s about the Sunshine State, they want to read it.

Varied deadlines: Like Poets & Writers, The Write Life keeps their list of literary contests updated on the regular. Currently, they’re showcasing 37 free writing contests, including opportunities for those who write genre fiction, short fiction, and nonfiction. Take a look now, and bookmark the site for future reference.

Varied deadlines: FORBES has an article that lists some interesting writing contests for high school-age writers. You have to maneuver past the advertisement on the site, but the offerings make it worthwhile. If you’re encouraging a  young writer, check out my recent post 10 Tip Writing Coaching Tips and Resources for Teen and Preteen Writers.

Various 2020 deadlines: Okay, novelists, here’s a list just for you! The Novel Factory created a directory of novel-writing competitions for 2020. Got a draft? Might be a great way to get your big ol’ story read!

Writing coach

Need help with your book? I’m available for book coaching and manuscript review! And check out Should I Hire a Writing Coach” in THE WRITER magazine.

* * *

The writerly image of the Eight of Wands is from the PRAIRIE TAROT, created and published by artist Robin Ator.

Posted in News, Notes & Quotes | Comments Off on Writing Contests for Summer (and Beyond!): A Writing Coach’s Picks

Support Black Writers

WE ARE WRITERS. Which means we are readers. We read, in part, to understand the lives of others—both the lives of fictional folks and those of our flesh-and-blood kin, past and present. As POETS & WRITERS so eloquently put it: [W]riters … help us understand ourselves and our times, deepen our capacity for empathy, and imagine a better future.

The current uprisings in our country have pointed out to me that I have not grasped the realities Black people in our communities live with every day. If this is true of you, too, know that there are many ways to address the gaps in our awareness and to support our fellow Americans. But for the purposes of this forum, I’m focusing on what you and I share: We read. And our reading can both deepen our understanding of the lives of Black citizens and support the livelihood of Black writers.

READ BOOKS BY BLACK AUTHORS

Want to start with the classics? PBS‘s Black Culture Connection lists 10 Black Authors Everyone Should Read, which comprises “prominent Black authors who have left a mark on the literary world forever,” starting with Maya Angelou and ending (alphabetically!) with Richard Wright.

If you’re familiar with the authors on the PBS list and want to read some contemporary Black authors, here are two more resources for you to peruse.

Penguin Random House lists 25 Books by Contemporary Black Authors: Their list includes “… some of the best fiction and nonfiction by contemporary black authors, including books in every genre from literary fiction to personal memoirs.”

HUFFPOST has compiled an even more extensive list: 50 Amazing Books by Black Authors from the Past 5 Years: “From Roxane Gay to Michelle Obama to Ta-Nehisi Coates, these writers are making an impact.”

READ BLACK POETS AND ESSAYISTS

For the rest of the summer, the Academy of American Poets will be dedicating their Poem-a-Day to Black poets and engaging a number of Black curators for that project. They will also create a new series for Poets.org that features essays by poets of color. They are also in the process of adding biographies of Black, Indigenous, and all poets of color who have contributed to shaping American poetry to Poets.org.

In addition, they offer these protest poems and this Black Lives Matter anthology.

BUY BOOKS FROM BLACK-OWNED BOOKSTORES

AfroTech has made purchasing books from Black-owned bookstores as easy as ordering from Amazon. Check out 10 Black-Owned Bookstores to Support While at Home.

Literary Hub shares their list of 60 more Black-owned bookstores, all of which are taking phone orders today! You can browse their virtual shelves, then purchase a big stack of new understanding—and great reading—while having a real, voice-to-voice conversation with another human!

Read on, dear writers. Read on.

Writing coach

Need help with your book? I’m available for book coaching and manuscript review! And check out Should I Hire a Writing Coach” in THE WRITER magazine.

Aspiring Cozy Mystery Writer Shares Her Journey

BONNIE CEHOVET IS A MUCH-PUBLISHED NONFICTION AUTHOR who is also an aspiring cozy mystery writer. I’m a cozy mystery fan myself—and a fan of Bonnie’s other work!—so I asked her to share some of her thoughts about finding her way in this genre, (You’ll find Bonnie’s bio and a list of her books and other publications below the interview.)

What do you think makes a cozy mystery a cozy?
My personal shortlist of what makes a cozy mystery a cozy, as distinct from other mysteries, is this: no foul language, no explicit sex, and no violence. The one word that describes this genre for me is “gentle.” Cozy mysteries are gentle mysteries. They have great story lines, well-developed characters, and a dash of humor. The main character of a cozy is an amateur at solving mysteries. She generally lives in a small community, or a small community within a large city.

What do you like about reading cozies?
They make me feel good. I can identify with the characters; I understand the difficulties they are facing. I laugh and cry with them. They transport me into another world for the time I am reading them. I can see the streets where they live and work in my mind’s eye as if I were there. In the series that I follow, I may be reading little tidbits about coffee, or baking, or miniature work—and, if I’m lucky, the author will include recipes! I also love trying to figure out who did what to whom before the author closes the story.

Examples of cozy mystery series that I love are The Hannah Swensen series, by Joanne Fluke; The Cat Who series, by Lilian Jackson Braun; The Tea Shop Mysteries series, by Laura Childs; and The Father Brown mystery series, by G. K. Chesterton.

What made you want to write cozies?
It was a natural selection to want to write cozies, because that is what I prefer to read (although I do like legal mysteries, along the line of Haughton Murphys work). I also prefer my life to go at a gentler pace than it has perhaps in the past, and I want my writing to reflect that. I can bring in things like the tarot, meditation, astrology and crystals to augment the story, without the story having to be about them.

What’s most challenging for you about writing in this genre?
While I do not find writing in the cozy mystery genre challenging at all, I definitely want to channel a bit of Sherlock Holmes in my writing! However, while I am looking to write a series of cozy mysteries with a female protagonist, when I started the first story, it immediately became evident that it was not going to be a cozy! It falls more into the paranormal category, with references to mind-reading and long-distance viewing. It will be a three-book mystery series. But once I’ve completed the series, I’ll let the cozies flow!

What’s most rewarding about writing in this genre?
What is rewarding to me about writing in the cozy mystery genre is that I can be kind to all of my characters. There will be tension, of course, but no one has to be mean to anyone else. I can present everyday life in, hopefully, an interesting fashion—a fashion that will keep my readers coming back for more!

What software do you use when you’re writing for publication?
Every book I have authored or co-authored has been done in Microsoft Word. No other software was used. It was what I knew, And, yes, it was time consuming.

I am now using Grammerly, and find it a great help, as it corrects as I write. Yes, there are some days that I want to strangle it! But, overall, it polishes what I write and sees mistakes that I do not see.

I have Dragon, which is speech recognition software. I’ve used it off and on, but have found it hard to get used to. I keep the program because I have arthritis, and I know there will come a day when typing may become too much for my hands.

Right now, I am working with Scrivener, and feel this is the ultimate software for any writer to keep their work in good form and change things at will.

What tips would you offer my readers who might be interested in writing cozies?
For my mysteries, I start out by defining my protagonist and gathering some idea of what the story is going to be about. I have a writer’s bible for each of my books, where I keep lists of characters, their backgrounds, and their traits, along with the plot for each story, and its timeline.

My number one tip for all writers is to just start writing! Let it flow. You can always go back and edit. Each of us has something interesting to say—we just need to let it out. Allow the story to flow and allow each character to write their own story. Believe me, they will! If you feel stuck, walk away and do something else for a day or two, then go back. Most times I can edit a story to make it work. If I can’t make it work, I start over again.

I also have a blog where I write flash fiction—little 100-word stories. For me, writing flash fiction clears my head, and allows me to get back to my WIP with a fresh perspective.

For more tips specific to the cozy genre, check out these articles:
5 Tips for How to Write a Cozy Mystery
The Mystery of Mysteries: 16 Steps to Writing the Cozy Mystery
Formula for Writing a Cozy Mystery, Part 1: A Good “Hook”

Do you have any other suggestions for writers?
Something we have to remember as writers is that we need to keep our name out there, and we need to network. I found that, for myself, writing reviews helped me to keep my name out there and helped me meet other writers in the tarot field [the field in which Bonnie is best published], as well as connect with individuals in the deck and publishing industries.

I came across the Aeclectic Tarot site early on in my review writing career and found it to be very beneficial. The site owner, Kate (Solandia), is a lovely lady with integrity and a knack for putting an excellent site together. I was blessed to meet her in person at one of the early Reader’s Studio conferences hosted by Ruth Ann and Wald Amberstone. The site is still up, although no longer accepting reviews.

My suggestion would be to read what interests you, and review that. Place your reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, on your own site or blog, or anywhere you feel they will be seen.

What writing resources would you recommend?

Blogs:
Ladies of Mystery
Nathan Bransford
The Creative Penn
Writer’s Digest

Mystery Writer’s Organizations:
Author’s Guild
Mystery Writer’s of America
Sisters In Crime

BIO
Bonnie Cehovet is a professional tarot reader, author, reviewer, and Reiki master. She segued from working for 27 years as a medical technologist to becoming a professional tarot reader, which she has been doing for over 24 years. It was a case of an avocation becoming a vocation. Over the years, she has also added writing to her repertoire, mainly focusing on tarot and self-help, in the form of articles, books, and reviews (most of which have been placed with Aeclectic Tarot, Amazon, and Goodreads).

She currently lives in the state of Nevada with her two cats, Midnight and Pumpkin. Her focus right now is on publishing in the cozy mystery genre. She writes a flash fiction blog and an author’s blog.

Authored by Bonnie Cehovet:
TAROT IN REVIEW (Lulu 2008)
THE WORLD OF TAROT: As Seen Through the Eyes of the Interview (Create Space 2010)
TAROT, BIRTH CARDS, AND YOU: Keys to Empowering Yourself (Schiffer 2011; Karyn Easton, Artist)
TAROT, RITUALS & YOU: The Power of Tarot Combined with the Power of Ritual (Schiffer 2013)
SURVIVING THE HOLIDAYS: Taking Charge Of Your Life (Kindle/Create Space 2014)

Co-authored with Brad Tesh:
SEEK JOY … TOSS CONFETTI (Kindle/Create Space 2013)
INVISIBLE ME: Journeying Through The Soul (Kindle/Create Space 2019)

Articles:
LLEWELLYN TAROT READER: 2004, 2005
THE CARTOMANCER: Spring, Summer, Fall 2015, Spring, Summer, Fall 2016, Spring, Summer 2017, Spring, Fall 2018,

Writing coach

Need help with your book? I’m available for book coaching and manuscript review! And check out Should I Hire a Writing Coach” in THE WRITER magazine.

* * *

Image “getting-published Atlanta GA” by agilemktg1 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

A Good Writing Prompt Can …

IF YOU’RE WILLING TO LEAP INTO ITS INVITATION, A GOOD WRITING PROMPT CAN catapult you out of your writing doldrums, unstick your project if it’s stuck, and fling your work in fresh and unexpected directions! And, interestingly, a prompt doesn’t need to be complicated to work its magic. Take, for instance, the writing prompt novelist Heidi Julavits used to rediscover her writing mojo—after children and other obligations had back-burnered her literary life.

Over the course of two years, most evenings Julavits started a journal entry with this prompt: “Today I …” From that simple start, she would record details of her day—her thoughts, activities, pleasures, regrets. But she didn’t stop there. Instead, she allowed herself to stray far from the day’s events. Like a dragonfly, she would flit from topic to topic, shifting freely on the winds of association, revisiting the joys and puzzlements of past experience, as well as conjecturing about the future, often with only the most tangential of connections.

The result? A NEW YORK TIMES Notable Book, her 2015 memoir, THE FOLDED CLOCK.

I absolutely recommend reading THE FOLDED CLOCK—yes, for pleasure, but especially for inspiration if you keep a journal or are writing a memoir. But even if neither applies to you, you might want to take Julavits’s approach for a test drive. Try this: Set aside ten or fifteen minutes each evening for a week or two and write, starting with “Today I …,” then leap to whatever thought attracts your attention next.

I’ll give it a try myself!

(TRIGGER WARNING: So, when I let myself free associate, a lá Julavits, I ended up writing about cats. And, of course, the hardest thing about having cats is their inevitable loss. Which is where this writing went. Just letting you know.)

Today I … was drowsy. If not for the cats needing breakfast, I would have slept late, lying in bed, half-dreaming for hours. But the cats were not to be refused. Are cats ever to be refused? Not in my experience. Which includes a lot of cats. Present cats, of course, but past cats, too. And that’s where the heartbreak lives, with the cats of the past and their various ends—which started, in my cat-life, with the disappearance of our black Persian Sukie.

My mother was beside herself with worry—truly, I think, much more worried about Sukie than she ever was about my sister or me. I was eight or nine. Old enough to want to reduce my mother’s anxiety. So I told her I thought I could see Sukie under the house—a wooden farmhouse we were renting that year, its placement up on concrete blocks creating a long, dark crawl space beneath. Dark enough that it was plausible that a black cat could be hiding there, invisible in the murk, except for his eyes glinting if you shined a flashlight towards him. Which I didn’t, not having a flashlight. Although I reported to my mom that I had seen that green glint, wanting to buy her some hope.

In fact, that hope was fleeting. A neighbor pulled up to give us the news. Sukie was (predictably, as I all too soon came to understand) dead. Hit by a car. Like Floffleas and Wobble and, as the years unfolded, several other cats—until we understood that an indoor life for cats might be better for all concerned.

However they passed—traffic, illness, age—so many of the cats I’ve lived with have left an enduring mark. There are dents in my heart where they’ve curled themselves in its various chambers, as if that red beating muscle were a pillow. The special ones—Umphrey, Bertie, Jake, Pea Mouse, Roo—left lasting hollows behind in the exact shape of themselves, their permanent selves, the selves the cars and cancers couldn’t obliterate. “Past cats,” that’s what Jill said, when Jake and Bert died too young and within months of one another. And she was right. Because now there are Jack and Winter and Milo, present cats, each one kneading at the flesh of my heart, softening it up so it will hold their image long after they, too, have passed on.

Writing coach

Need help with your book? I’m available for book coaching and manuscript review! And check out Should I Hire a Writing Coach” in THE WRITER magazine.

 

1 2 3 4 5 23

Copyright ©2021 Jamie Morris LLC, Writing Coach | Contact me | 407.644.5163 | Privacy Policies | Terms & Conditions