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Excerpt from Shades of Gray by Andy Holloman

He reserved his Sunday nights for the most important person in his life—his six-year-old daughter Lucy. These nights were referred to as the Sabbath and he always observed. On more than one occasion, he had mentioned his Sunday night dinners with Lucy were the source of good luck for the upcoming week. Tonight, however, would end any further mention of the delight he took in these evenings.

Lucy had always chosen the location for their dates, and, the familiar ching-ching-ching-ching rattle of dollar bills being exchanged for golden tokens falling from the change dispensers rang in John’s ears. The clanging of bells from the game machines and the flashing lights reminded him of Las Vegas. They were, however, quite far from Sin City as they slipped into a booth at the Chuckie Cheese in Raleigh, North Carolina. Parents hurried past them, chasing small children. Older children stuffed chains of small white tickets into the counting machine so they could collect a prize worth ten cents after spending ten dollars to collect the tickets from games of skill like pinball, skeeball, whack-a-mole, and pop-a-shot. No doubt casino owners the world over would sell their soul for similar odds.

She reached across the table and pulled on his sleeve.

“Daddy? Are you thinking about what kind of pizza to get?”

He sighed. “I’m not thinking about anything except how perfect a little girl you are. You pick the pizza tonight.”

“Well I want a pizza with double cheese and nothing else on it like that gross stuff that you like.” She smiled and studied the menu. As if she would order anything else.

He removed his glasses and pushed his thinning blonde hair back from his eyes. He wiped the lens clean with his tie.

“Daddy, Nana told me that I should help you watch what you eat so you don’t get any fatter.”

“Hmmm, so my mom told you that?”

“Yes, but she said it was for your own good and that when I told you this, you would understand. She told me that you used to be a skinnier and that wherever you went, pretty ladies would always smile at you.”
“I will tell her Daddy. You don’t have to worry. But she did say that now you look more like you are sixty instead of forty-four.”“Seems like I better have a little chat with your Nana. She needs to understand that I’ve been working hard to be a good dad and take care of my business and that maybe it is OK to let other things slip a little.”

“Wow! Now I know that I need to talk to my mom.”

“Daddy, you don’t …’

“It’s OK sweetie, your nana is just looking out for me. I know she just wants me to take care of myself so I can take care of you.”

She looked up at him from the menu, dark eyes twinkling. “Daddy, when are we going on another big boat trip? You remember how you said that we could go again and Wanda and Tonya could go with us? When can we go again?”

He shook his head, leaned forward and took her small hand in his.

“Sweetie, you’ve been asking me the same question three times a day since Wanda and I got back from the last one a few weeks ago. I’m not sure if we are going to go again right away.”

“I just have to wait and see if it’s necessary to go again, sweetie. Wanda and I got a lot of work done on the last trip, so we probably won’t go

again.” She pulled her hand away and sat back against the seat, turned her head to the side and crossed her arms.

“You said I could go again, Daddy! Remember, you did! It’s not fair.”

“What’s not fair, Lucy?”

“You and Wanda didn’t even take me and Tonya last time.”

“Look, I know how much you like Tonya but you don’t have to be on a cruise ship to have fun playing with her. We can meet her at a park, or McDonald’s or some other place to play.” He watched her uncross her arms and put her hands back on the table. She didn’t reach for his hand.

She spoke without looking up. “Daddy, umm, do you think that you could marry Wanda?” He closed his eyes and tilted his head to the ceiling,  smiling. “If you and Wanda got married then I could have a mommy and Tonya would be my sister.” She gave him a pleading smile. John was used to the question. He called it the “mommy test.” It was not a difficult test to pass. Lucy’s only requirements were: She had to like the potential mommy and the candidate had to be female.

Buy Shades of Gray now on Amazon

Today’s guest post is by Andrea Buginsky, author of The Chosen and My Open Heart.

~*~

Writing While Ill

When you’re not feeling well, there’s really nothing you want to do. You certainly don’t want to work. So what do you do when you have a writing assignment deadline fast approaching while you’re not feeling well? Simple: You take care of yourself, and work when you can. It may mean asking for an extension, or using some much-needed time management skills, but if you take things step-by-step, you can get the work done.

  1. For starters, make a list of all the work you have to get done and include the deadline. Then, start with the projects due the earliest. Can you request an extension on them? If so, then problem solved! If not, then you need to take them one-by-one and slowly work on them when you’re feeling up to it.
  2. If you have a laptop or tablet, you can take your work to bed with you. Work for a little while, and then take a break. Keep your work on your nightstand so you can pick it up and work on it at any time, such as between naps.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Whether it’s your editor, a fellow writer friend, or your spouse, ask for some assistance. You need to do the writing, of course, but a trusted friend or companion can edit for you, send and track emails, answer phone calls, and send out mail.
  4. Use the time wisely. While you’re sick, it’s a great time to catch up on your reading, even new or old writing books you’ve been wanting to take a look at. Use your downtime to hone your skills and review.

Most importantly, take care of yourself. This is the most important thing you can do. If you simply are too ill to do the work, explain that to your editor. They’re human, after all. They should understand that sometimes life just gets in the way. Then, lie back, relax, and take care of yourself.

You can work through your health issues and take care of yourself even with your busy writing career. The most important thing is that you take care of yourself so you get better and feel better soon. Then, you can focus on getting back to work.

Andrea Buginsky is the author of “The Chosen,” a YA fantasy, and the newly released “My Open Heart,” an autobiography of growing up with heart disease. Both books are available from Solstice Publishing and on Amazon.

You can find Andrea on Facebook, Twitter (@andreabuginsky), the World Literary Café, and Google+

 

 

Today’s guest post is from International Best Selling Author Stacy S. Eaton. If you love police, vamps, and romance she’s got the books for you!

~*~

Once Upon a Time – There was Time…

By Stacy S. Eaton

In my kitchen hangs a sign, “Once Upon a Time, There was Time” and underneath of that is a clock. The clock always says 2:06. It never changes because the battery died. I find this rather suitable for now, and have no desire to add a fresh one to make the hands start moving. In my world it is perpetually 2:06, but is that am or pm? Who knows? All I know is that every time I look at it, I feel like my deadline is 2:10 and I’m racing to make it.

In my office hangs another clock, once again the battery is dead, but this one makes even more sense to not tick. The numbers are all jumbled in a lump and the clock face reads “Whatever”. Which is also rather true, because does it really matter what time it is in the world of a writer? I don’t think so.

For Christmas I got a new clock, not sure why I like clocks so much, maybe it is because I am trying to find one that will actually stop time as the battery dies so I can get more done without losing another minute or hour or day. Anyway, this new clock, it’s a writer’s clock! Forever and ever it goes around touching on words like Write, Toss, Retrieve, Start Over, Adult Beverage, Write, Submit and Revise ending at Publish. Wouldn’t that be nice if that is where it actually ended?

Alas, that is not the end, and time still ticks by. Nowhere on that clock does it say marketing. If it did, I think the clock would begin to speed forward and we would see just how much time we actually spend on just that, Marketing.

In the world of a writer, we spend countless hours lost in the voices of our mind and the marks on the papers in front of us. I know that I can easily get lost in a scene and glance at my clock one thousand words later and see two hours has past. It seemed like I had just sat down and started writing, and the scene I just wrote only lasted fifteen minutes in paper time, yet two hours have gone by. Amazing…

When it comes to editing, I find that time speeds up even faster. As I sift through red mark after red mark from my copy editor, and fix and click and approve and remove, the seconds fly by and the hands spin around and around at a speed that amazes me.

Come the time to publish that book, it always seems that we do our best to try and push back time. To stop it or slow it down just a little bit, because we have set a date and we want to meet that deadline, but it’s just not perfect yet, so we push back time and have to adjust our clocks.

Once our book hits the market, it’s a mad dash to get it out there; to tell everyone about it, to shout it from the rafters of the Facebook pages and to tweet our fingers to the bone. We blog it, we post it, we share it, we pimp it and we glance back at the clock to see days have now flown by and we still feel like we aren’t doing enough. So we share it more, blog it more, tweet it into cyberspace and start to pimp ourselves to get the word out. The clock, well…. It just keeps moving forward.

Through all of this, the writing, the editing, the publishing and the marketing, it is obvious that my sign in my kitchen is true, “Once Upon a Time, There was Time”. Because when all of this is said and done, who has time to do anything else, like work on that next story?

 ~*~

The busy life of Stacy Eaton

Currently she works full time as a Police Officer for a small township is Southeastern Pennsylvania. While her current position is that of a patrol officer, she spend a lot of time doing investigations and crime scene processing. Forensics is something she loves and she takes her job seriously. It is not just about proving who is guilty, it is also about proving people are innocent.

She is also a wife to a Police Officer and with their constant schedules life can get very hectic at home. She has been blessed with two children, a son who is currently in the United States Navy and is very proud of him for what he is doing and for serving his Country. Her daughter is a priceless princess who loves to help market her books to teachers and other parents while she is at school and church. She is also working on a book too.

When she is not working the job that currently pays all the bills she works on her business. Yes, she has her own business too.

In her spare time… she writes.

Find Stacy online at: Her WebsiteBlog ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Goodreads

My Blood Runs Blue and the sequel Blue Blood for Life are both available on Amazon Kindle!

 

 

 

 

 

Today’s guest blog comes from international bestselling author Russell Blake.

~*~

The Power of Polish

Writing a novel can be a tremendous rush. When things work at their best, the words seem to flow magically onto the page and the story writes itself.

Now you’ve finished your magnum opus and typed the last few words. You’ve given birth. Months or years of struggle have paid off. You’re a writer. The excitement is almost as palpable as the fatigue.

What’s next?

Stick the manuscript in a drawer and forget about it for a while. How long depends upon how good your memory is. I tend to let mine sit for a few weeks. Then I drag the beast out, and begin the process that turns a rough draft into something ready to send to the editor.

I polish. I rewrite. I skeptically eye each sentence, and ask myself whether I can eliminate superfluous words, backstory, dialog or characters. I buff each paragraph, mindful of echoes, gratuitous description, unnecessary exposition, overly self-congratulatory cleverness, or anything that doesn’t move the story forward or create a specific effect I’m after. I do so with patience and care, and don’t rush, because in my experience, the difference between something passable and something great is the rewrite and polish process.

I’m not talking editing. Editing comes after you’ve polished and cut, cajoling miracles out of 26 letters. Editing, be it story/content editing or copy/line editing, happens after you’ve done your level best to get the story into the finest shape it can be. Sometimes it takes two or three drafts to get it right. I tend to know pretty quickly on rewrite whether it’s going to be one round, or ten. Some stories just require more time. Some need more attention.

My counsel, such as it is, would be to allow yourself adequate time to polish your work to the point where you’re confident that your editor is going to be spinning his wheels in frustration trying to find something to change. If you can get to that point, you probably have a book that’s got a running chance. If you can’t, and if you skim over those niggling middle parts in a race to get it out the door, you’re doing yourself and your readers a huge disservice. Because they won’t skim. They’ll just give up. Or write a nasty review. Or worst yet, just not buy your next one.

I have somewhat of a reputation for cranking out novels pretty quickly, and its true, I’m more prolific than most. But while my process is to pull very long contiguous days while writing, I don’t rush the rewrite. Because that’s where books are made, or broken. My approach is to write like the devil’s chasing me, and then slow down to a crawl on rewrite. Others may do it differently. But that’s the system that works for me.

Parting words of advice are simple. If you can’t sit back and say, upon re-read, that you’ve done the very best job you can, you’re selling yourself and your readers short. You both deserve better, so slow down, have a little patience, and get out the thesaurus and Strunk and White. Don’t cut yourself any slack. Everyone you know probably will, but your readers ultimately won’t, and if you want to run with the big dogs, be prepared to have to put in the hours, with a lot of discipline and distance from your work. Otherwise, you’re just adding to the clutter. And you don’t want clutter or half-baked work to be your legacy. Every book should be your best, every time, and rewrite is a big part of ensuring that what you set forth as your product not only passes muster, but wows.

~*~

“Captain” Russell, 52, lives on the Pacific coast of Mexico, where he spends his time writing, fishing, collecting & drinking tequila, and playing with his dogs. He is currently hard at work on a magnum opus of indeterminate plot, topic or genre, tentatively titled The Voynich Cypher; a satire/parody about the battle of the sexes; and a panoramic, epic screenplay about…cartoon ninja beavers for whom this time it’s personal, tentatively titled Beaver Team Bravo.

Often referred to as “The Writer’s Writer’s Writer’s Writer,” Russell is also a self-declared guru on everything related to writing, self-publishing and self-promotion.

Russell is the international bestselling author of Fatal Exchange, a groundbreaking genre-blending thriller set against the counter-culture backdrop of New York’s gritty underground, The Geronimo Breach, an action/intrigue/thriller set in Panama, the bestselling Zero Sum trilogy of Wall Street thrillers – Kotov Syndrome, Focal Point and Checkmate (which hit #15 on Amazon’s top 100 free books), The Delphi Chronicle trilogy (The ManuscriptThe Tortoise & The Hareand Phoenix Rising), the epic assassination thriller King of Swords, and its prequel,Night of the Assassin, and The Voynich Cypher.

Russell is a proud member of RABMAD – Read A Book, Make A difference.

Find out more about Russell at his website: www.russellblake.com.

Today is a special TeaserTrain Thursday – the WLC is hosting a SUPERSONIC TeaserTrain where you can check out all the books at once. Be sure to also search the #teasertrain tag on Twitter to see all the books and links to their excerpts, including my excerpt from COME THE SHADOWS and the one I hosted here – Sheila R. Lamb’s ONCE UPON A GODDESS.

Enjoy the reads! If you decide to purchase some of the books there are special offers to receive some free books too!

Today’s guest post comes from Emerald Barnes, author of Piercing Through the Darkness.

~*~

There are days when it feels like the world is against you, when you can’t find any inspiration for your writing.  It feels like every word you type is garbage and you even doubt edits will fix the garbage you’ve written.  But is it really garbage or is it you thinking it’s garbage?
Inspiration at times is the hardest thing to find.  You have these ideas running around your brain, but they aren’t coming out right.  You know how the story is supposed to go, but on paper, it’s turning out completely different.  You resist the urge to toss your laptop across the room and never write again.
When this happens, take a break!    Distance yourself from your writing.  Take a brisk walk outside and clear your head.  Put on a movie or some music and focus on it.  Take that break and gather your thoughts.

Focus on the good of the novel.  Once you’ve taken a break, focus on the good parts of the novel you’re working on it.  It doesn’t even have to be what you have written.  It can be something you plan on writing, but focus on the good.  Nothing good ever comes from dwelling on the bad.

Find the love for your work again.  We all fall in and out of love with our work.  If you’re frustrated, you’re probably falling out of love with your novel, but you had some good times with it.  Don’t lie.  Think about those.  Think about the characters you have written.  You created them.  You know their ins and outs; their loves and hates.  You know them.  Surely you haven’t fallen out of love with them.  Rekindle that love.

Move on with the work.  Try again.  Start over if you have to, but don’t abandon it yet.  Don’t give up so easily.
If you can’t move on with your work just yet, try starting another project.  Write a short story, poem, essay, anything.  Then try working with that frustrating piece again.  Maybe you’ve had some time to reevaluate the work after you’ve focused on something else.

Find your muse.  Find the very thing that motivates you to keep writing.  What is it?  Is it the thought of success?  Knowing you’ve finished your work?  It is the glory you feel when you’ve met your word count goal of the day?  The feel of writing a scene brilliantly? Whatever it is, just keep writing.  Focus on what keeps you going when all else fails.

Talk it out.  Seek out a trusted friend.  They can be a fellow writer or your best friend.  Virtual friends or real life friends.  You’ll be surprised how well you’ll feel when you’ve had a conversation about the characters, the plot and the overall story once you talk it out with someone.
Most importantly, don’t give up!  Whenever it feels like your writing is letting you down, face it head on and keep writing!  After all, you can’t call yourself a writer if you don’t write.

How do you find inspiration?

~*~

Emerald Barnes resides in a small town in Mississippi, where she writes novels and short stories as well as blogs about writing when she isn’t spending time with her nieces and nephew.  She has self-published an e-book, Piercing Through the Darkness, and has been published by Phyllis Scott Publishing in their book Blue Legs and Other Coming of Age Stories.  She works diligently to finish more works for publication.  Read Me Dead, a YA suspense/thriller/romance will be available soon.  You can follow her blog at http://ebarnes23.wordpress.com.  Follow her on Twitter @emeraldbarnes and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/fanpageforemeraldbarnes

Today’s guest post comes from Lisa M. Lilly, author of The Awakening.

~*~

I’m going to knock on wood as I say this. I’ve never had writer’s block. Because a lot of writers struggle with feeling like they simply can’t get many pages written even when they carve out time to write, I’ve given a lot of thought to this topic. I’m hoping these thoughts will be helpful to other writers when facing the blank screen.

My first serious career ambition was to make a living as a singer/songwriter. I started getting up on stage, first at open mikes, then at coffeehouses and festivals, when I was 16, within just two years of learning to play guitar. One thing I found right off about performing — if I hadn’t practiced recently and repeatedly, I’d forget words and chords even to songs I’d known for years. Including songs I’d written myself. Lack of practice also significantly increased my pre-performance sweaty hands, nausea and dry mouth.

Because I’m not a fan of feeling nauseous, or of stumbling in front of an audience, I practiced an hour a day, usually from six to seven a.m. before school or work. (My parents were amazingly tolerant of this and probably should get a medal for not complaining, especially when I also decided to learn the banjo.) When I started to write seriously, I thought of writing the same way I’d thought of practice. I set a schedule of when I would write, and when the time came, I wrote whether I felt like it or not. If I didn’t have a story or novel on-going, I wrote journal entries, or I wrote about what I might like to write about. Some days when I felt inspired and thought I’d written something fabulous, I read it later and found it clunky, wordy, and boring. Other times I trudged through each line and was sure I’d have to toss out the pages, only to find it was some of the best writing I’d ever done. And vice versa.

The second reason I’ve been fortunate enough to keep writing regardless what else is happening in my life is the courses I took in college. Ironically, the fiction program at Columbia College disappointed me in many ways. I’d hoped to learn plot, theme, and characterization, and I found the fiction courses and teachers rarely touched on those. Instead, what seemed like forever was spent on exercises. Sometimes the teacher went in a circle and had us each say a word, any word. Without saying why, the teacher might then reject the word and make a student try another. I’m guessing now the rejected words were too closely related to the last person’s word or didn’t evoke much emotion or imagery, such as “the”. Another exercise was person-action-person. The first student chose a person, meaning a man, woman, boy or girl, an action verb, and another person. An example is “man holds girl.” The next student chose another combination, and so on. Yet another was to sit in complete silence and listen to the sounds from the room, the building, or the street below. Sometimes I suspected just making us sit still in silence for endless periods (the class lasted 4 hours) was what generated the ideas, as you’ve got to entertain yourself somehow.

After whichever exercise, a few people were asked to describe the scene they’d imagined. Then we were told to “write as much as you can as fast as you can.” We could write about anything triggered by the exercise, even a scene someone else described. We later turned the pages in to meet our 4-page-a- week requirement. Grades were based on total pages for the semester and also on improvement over time. We rarely got feedback from the teacher, but our work was occasionally read in class.

At the time, I thought this process related only to first drafting. But I realized later that it really helped with two other steps in writing. First, it helped generate ideas and, perhaps more important, pay attention to what we saw, heard, and felt so that we were open to story ideas wherever they arose. Second, the process, with its emphasis on writing fast and not getting much feedback, helped disengage the editing/reviewing part of our minds. That matters because it’s the editor that stops the writing process dead. It’s that voice, which might sound like your mother or your fifth-grade English teacher, that chimes in before you type or write a word. (Mine definitely sounds like my mother. When I started my second novel after having collected a hundred rejections on the first, my mother asked why I’d bother to write another book since no one bought the first one. Did I mention there are some people you shouldn’t discuss your writing with?) The editor says that your idea is boring, no one will like it. It says that the first sentence you’re considering is all wrong – which could mean dull, clunky, too many syllables, too few syllables, too wordy, too sparse, not the way real mystery authors/literary authors/horror writers/real writers actually write.

The editor is important, in fact crucial, when it comes to revising. The editor spots sentences that are unintentionally rambling; it catches typos and makes your work polished and professional. But letting the editor out during a first draft may ensure no first draft is ever finished, because nothing you consider writing will ever be good enough for the editor. If you do manage to get a first page or even a first chapter written, the editor will make you rewrite it a hundred times before you go forward. Three years later, you’ll have a fantastic first chapter. And nothing else.

To this day, I have moments where I sit down to write and feel my throat and stomach constrict and my breathing get shallow. But I have ideas bouncing around in my head, so I have somewhere to start. I also typically outline (which is a topic for another post), so I have a map of where I’m going. And when the editor starts talking, and it always does, I ignore it and write as much as I can, as fast as I can.

_______________

Lisa M. Lilly is the author of THE AWAKENING, a mystery/thriller about a young woman whose mysterious pregnancy may bring the world its first female messiah — or trigger the Apocalypse. She is also an attorney and the author of THE TOWER FORMERLY KNOWN AS SEARS AND TWO OTHER TALES OF URBAN HORROR.

THE AWAKENING is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Check out THE TOWER as well, at both Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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