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Why my children inspire my writing by Greg Ballan #amwriting #scifi #author

God gave me three gifts of inspiration in life and literature.

Image: www.newsweek.com
Image: www.newsweek.com

I was 24 years old Nov 6th 1988, standing in an operating room as doctors performed an emergency c-section on my wife. My son was dying in her womb. My son was dying. I stood there in shock and dismay, how could this be happening? I watched the surgeon cut into my bride, move organs and then reach into her abdomen and delicately pull out a small struggling life strangled by an umbilical cord. My son’s body was blue, he wasn’t crying. They freed him and his body soon took on a healthy pink color. My son, Thomas Michael, my boy had arrived, earlier than expected and seemingly no worse for the dramatic entrance. Things seemed normal for at first but Tom soon had developed breathing issues, his lungs weren’t developed properly and he was sick.

I listened in shock as the doctor explained Highland Membrane Disease, fluid buildup and under-developed lungs and a series of other issues afflicting my son. My wife had given birth with pneumonia and was having her own health issues. I remember her tears as other moms were able to hold their babies, and  she couldn’t. We waited for several hours while the doctors were tending to Tom. My father stayed by our side offering his support and encouragement, he was the rock we both leaned on. A doctor finally came and told us they couldn’t help and Tom had to be sent to Children’s Hospital and placed on a respirator. Twenty minutes later I watched my son, attached to machines, being loaded into an ambulance and transferred into Boston from the small suburban hospital. The doctors would call me tomorrow. I stood there in shock, as the ambulance drove away carrying my son, my father literally holding me up as my whole world just imploded.

I looked at my dad, lost and hopeless, “Dad, what do I do? I can’t fight this battle. Why? Why my boy?”

My father hugged me, his face wet with his own tears, “God is watching over him now, Greg. You need to take all your strength and stand tall, for that woman up there and your boy. You need to grow up fast, son. You need to keep it together for your family. You told me once how strong you are, call upon it now and be strong for all of them.”

I awoke the next morning to the ringing phone at 5:30AM, I felt ill as I picked it up. It was Children’s Hospital, Tom had had a rough night but was holding his own for now but they couldn’t make any promises and I should prepare my wife for the worst. I hung up the phone, took a breath and looked at the cross hanging on our bedroom wall, “Don’t you take my boy, you can’t have him!” I’ d never sworn or threatened God before, but I let loose a string of blasphemies I’d only used on people facing me in a street brawl. He wasn’t going to die and I wasn’t going to tell my wife about the phone call from the hospital.

I got in my truck and I drove to Boston. I was escorted to a small incubator-like unit, inside was my son, hooked up to machines to do his breathing and to help cleanse his blood. His face was swollen and yellow, nothing like the child I saw the night before. THE nurses left me alone; I couldn’t touch my son I could only stare through the glass.

“Thomas, it’s your dad. I know you can hear me, son. Fight, do you hear me! You fight and you live. Don’t go with the Angels, you stay here, with me. I don’t want to lose you, do you understand? Mom and Dad love you so please don’t leave, you just got here. You just got here.” I felt my tears, “Don’t leave me son.” I sat in silence for three hours, my hand touching the glass, watching my boy, willing him to live. Imagining my strength flowing from me, through the glass barrier and into his frail, tiny body. I repeated the mental image every time I saw him, it didn’t matter who I was with or who was around and I didn’t care what anyone thought, each day he lived was a gift and a victory. And if he needed my life to survive he could have it.

Thomas made a miraculous recovery and is part of a Children’s Hospital medical journal, he shouldn’t have lived, but he did, he beat the odds and fought the ultimate fight, the first month of his existence; the battle for his life. Tom is 27 years old now, a remarkable young man with tenacity and a will to do things his way. That tenacity has caused some friction but no matter what his trial, he always finds a way to make things work out in the end, he never seems to give up on anything or anyone. In the end he finds a way to fight through.

When I find myself going through a rough patch, I remember a frightened young father staring through a glass barrier at a new life and urging that life to fight on and beat the odds. Within those memories I find the strength to rise up and keep pushing forward. My battles and issues have never been as severe as the one he fought and won over 27 years ago. Whether I’m struggling with a chapter in a novel, writing a blog or facing a financial or life hardship I look over at my son and see that twinkle in his eye or that crooked smile he inherited from his dad and I know I can get through. Tom was the one who pushed me to submit my first book and write the follow up. He inspired and motivated me to keep working on my novels when nobody seemed interested in a half-alien private detective. He gave me the confidence and the gift of his insight on the second and third book in the  Hybrid series serving as critic and creative collaborator. Tom just didn’t influence my writing he is the spark that fanned the creative flame. A flame that would never have existed if he’d lost his fight so many years ago. He is the best son a father could ever hope to have.

Image: chsaanow.com
Image: chsaanow.com

Three years ago my youngest daughter, Christie, at the age of eleven, decided she wanted to try out for an out of town swim team. I’d coached her in basketball and softball in open town leagues but this was something different.  I watched her first competitive meet from the upper balcony at Milford High School, as my baby girl stood waiting for her event with sport swim wear, a racing cap and tinted goggles.  The feeling of dread weighed in my gut like I’d just eaten a cinder block as she stepped upon the diving block against other swimmers. For the first time, I wasn’t there coaching her, I couldn’t walk up to her and give her advice or encouragement, she was on her own.

The starting horn sounded and the race was on . . . everyone around me screamed and cheered, I watched in muted silence willing her on in my mind, hands balled into tight fists. It was the longest 25 yards in my life. But she finished and won her heat. It was a long year of ups and downs for her and a great deal of frustration but she grew into the sport and more importantly developed new friendships. At the awards banquet she was awarded the most improved swimmer, a trophy she has in her bedroom to this day. She’s still a competitive swimmer and will be on the High School league this fall. I’ve watched her develop into a strong competitor and have seen her conquer her insecurity and lack of self-confidence. She now believes in herself and the difference in her personality is a wonderful thing to behold. Gone is the need to be just like her big sister rather she yearns to be “Christie.”

My youngest has reminded me that the road isn’t always easy in life but those who stay true to themselves and don’t go with the crowd will prosper in the long run. She found a place for herself; it was different from herr friend’s passions in dancing and boys, it was in the pool training and competing, working to shave off that fraction of a second and master a smooth flip turn. I’ve taken that lesson and applied it in my own writing. I’m not going to write like everyone else, I’m going to write about what I want and express how I feel. My political blogs have earned me a great deal of hate mail because I call a spade a spade. I won’t ever apologize for my morals or ethics or my freedom to express them and I won’t bow to political correctness. I did for a while and took the easier choice, it gave me less headaches but I let myself  be silenced. Life isn’t about taking the easy road it’s about making the hard choices, following your passions and not following the herd blindly. As I watch my daughter in the pool working and training through each practice, I’m reminded of that lesson.

Image: summerization.wordpress.com
Image: summerization.wordpress.com

 

January 24th 2015. It’s three in the morning, the snowfall is near white out condition and I’m looking at the weather in Connecticut and New York. My destination is the Javitz Convention Center in Manhattan. Only an experienced driver or a madman would head out in this weather. But my older daughter was auditioning for “The Voice” and needed me to drive her. “It’ll be an adventure,” she said flashing me that patented angelic smile reserved for when she really wanted something. So a week later here we are, headed off in the storm, Rachel looking out into the darkness and me gripping the steering wheel as we sloshed through the snow. We saw several spinouts and accidents but we had to keep going. Half the time my car was barely holding the road and any turn of the wheel would make us an accident statistic. A four hour ride took seven terrifying hours. But we made it.

The lines and crowds were spectacular. I waited in line with her for another ninety minutes and the group she was with was called in. Because of her age, she didn’t require a parent escort, I got to sit around and fret and hope and pray that she’d come out with a pink ticket. I had my Visa card and would gladly charge the $500.00 it would cost to stay in a hotel if she made the cut to tomorrow. Another hour later she texted me, “I didn’t get picked.” My heart sank. There must have been something wrong, my daughter sings like the most beautiful songbird. I dreaded the long ride home. Another snowstorm would be welcome over the black cloud that would be hanging over my car all the way back to Massachusetts.

I saw Rachel and she smiled, she wasn’t upset and simply said, “They loved my voice, but I didn’t have the right look, whatever that means, oh and I saw Blake Shelton, he was here for Saturday Night Live.’ I was blown away, she handled the disappointment like a trooper, we laughed on the way back to the car and I enjoyed the time with her. The ride back was light and fun despite the snow falling again. That ride home was one of those memories I will treasure forever, I gained a new insight and admiration for Rachel. She took what most would have taken as a debilitating setback and saw it as a positive experience. She wasn’t daunted or discouraged.

Life doesn’t always deal a natural strait flush or four of a kind, sometimes you’re dealt a crappy hand and just have to wait for that hand play out and start with a fresh set of cards. I was never more proud of my daughter than at that moment, she’d had solos before and large parts in plays etc, but this was an indication of her inner strength character. She understood and accepted disappointment without anger or frustration. It was a lesson in how to handle rejection and disappointment.

I’ve been on the receiving end of some letters of rejection from Penguin, DAW and a few hunting magazines and I’ve learned that handling and coping with rejection is more important than celebrating success. Failure builds character and determination. It makes me a better writer and will no doubt make Rachel a better singer. It also defines how we handle life’s larger setbacks; we can accept them and move forward, learning from the experience or be debilitated by failure and never try again. My daughter learned the lesson and discovered the right attitude. When I get down on myself or when things seem to be falling apart I like to flash back to that drive home and the precious hours we spent bonding over an unsuccessful Voice audition. I brush off the setback and try again, pushing myself harder.

 

As parents we spend our lives teaching our children, hoping the lessons sink in, I look at my children and realize how much I’ve relearned from them, my lessons being re-taught through their lives. There’s no bigger reward for me as a father than to spend individual time with my children, to reignite the bond and simply catch up with their hectic lives and let them know even though I’m not always around, I’ll always be there and they’ll always be with me, no matter how far away life’s journey takes them.

hybrid-2-500x724hybrid-500x724Greg Ballan is the author of the science fiction thrillers Hybrid and Hybrid Forced Vegeance. You can purchase them both at Lachesis Publishingamazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and kobo.

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Get your motor running . . . by Teri Barnett romance author #amreading #amliving #amwriting #inspiration

Yamaha 50cc - Just like Dad used to ride.
Yamaha 50cc – Just like Dad used to ride.

When I was about eight years old, my dad put me on the back of his white Yamaha 50cc motorcycle for a ride. We ended up in a field by the shopping center and he asked if I wanted to ride by myself.

Are you kidding me?

He helped me get a leg up and balanced the bike for me. A quick tutorial on the controls, and I was off. Well, off for about fifty feet when I hit a rut in the dirt and promptly fell over, spraining my arm. When we got home, mom wasn’t too happy and that was the end of my motorcycle training.

Later, my older brother by eight years came home with a big, blue bike. It was so shiny and I loved how the paint sparkled in the sun. He’d take me for rides and I’d laugh the entire time; it felt so good to go fast. Then he wrecked it on a busy street and broke his leg. Determined to keep us alive, my mom declared no more motorcycles or riding while we lived with her. She even said no to flying lessons, which seemed a whole lot safer (to me, anyway). That was the seventies, if you’re counting.

Teri and Ivan
Teri and Ivan

In the eighties, I got married, had a couple of great sons, divorced, and forgot about going fast. Until I met Ivan.

By now it was 2011 and here was a guy with a couple of motorcycles who’d been riding most of his life. That’s when I remembered the feeling of going fast. The little girl inside me was excited by the prospect of learning to ride. The fifty-something-year-old woman was feeling iffy about the whole thing, but game to give it a go. I am nothing, if not willing to try most anything at least once.

So, in 2012, I learned to ride.

Get your motor runnin' . . .
Get your motor runnin’ . . .

Four years later, I’ve discovered a lot about myself while motorcycling. For starters, I know everyone in a car wants to kill me. Now, I’m not pessimistic by nature, but people in cars just don’t see motorcycles, so YOU have to always be aware of THEM. Second, I worry too much (see previous point). And, riding is a lot like yoga. I’m always practicing to do something better or with more awareness than the last time I was out.

One of the unexpected perks of riding is how it’s changed the way I see the world. The colors around me are much more vibrant when I’m on a bike. I can’t escape the ‘scents’ of the road, be it a flat skunk, trailer of pigs, or someone cooking on a grill. Everything is more immediate, in the moment. It’s these things, and others, which I believe have made me a better writer, particularly with sensory detail.

Confidence can come in many ways.
Confidence can come in many ways.

I’ve also learned to take risks and I’ve watched that translate over into my stories as well. I’ve never written contemporary mystery, but when tempted with the opportunity, immediately jumped on it. Stepping out of comfort zones is how we grow. I believe strong women are the most interesting ones, so those are who I write about, be it a ninth century healer, a Victorian time traveler, or an ex-Detroit detective returning to her small home town to take over as police captain. My goal is always to inspire others to take chances and live their dreams.

SHADOW-DREAMS-COVER-300x484Teri Barnett writes historical, paranormal, and time travel romance. You can purchase her books  Through the Mists of Time, Shadow Dreams, and Pagan Fire at Lachesis Publishing. or you can purchase Teri’s books on amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

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Ray Bradbury: The Coolest Writer I Ever Met – by David Lee Summers (science fiction author)

Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury

In May 1983, I was 16 years old and a junior at San Bernardino High School in California. One of my best friends, Rodney King, was a senior at Pacific High School across town. Rod told me that Ray Bradbury was scheduled to give a presentation at his school. I was on San Bernardino High’s newspaper and persuaded my teachers to give me permission to report on the presentation.

On the morning of Ray Bradbury’s talk, Rod picked me up and we drove to Pacific High School. We were walking across campus, when the principal stopped us. She saw I was carrying a tape recorder and asked if we were reporters from other schools. I confirmed I was. She then said, “Mr. Bradbury is having lunch in the library, would you care to join him?” Of course, we leapt at the opportunity. There he was, the man himself! Ray Bradbury in the library talking to teachers and administrators. He seemed pleased to see some students there as well and we joined in the conversation.

David Lee Summers' signed copy of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
David Lee Summers’ signed copy of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Once we finished lunch, we adjourned to the auditorium where Bradbury spoke and answered questions about his work. Afterwards Rod and I went up to him to say goodbye and thank him for talking to us. He pulled us aside and said, “I’m going out for cocktails with some of the teachers after this. Would you care to join us?” Of course we agreed and spent another hour with him. It was truly a magical day. I remember he told the story of how he came up with the story “The Veldt” from The Illustrated Man. He read some of his poetry. He encouraged us to read and write every day. All of that has remained with me over the years. Sadly, these were the days before everyone carried a cell phone much less invented he word “Selfie,” so I don’t have a picture with him, but he signed my copies of Fahrenheit 451 and Something Wicked This Way Comes, which I treasure to this day.

Moby_dick434I next had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Bradbury about two years later when he spoke at California State University at San Bernardino. That was a brief visit and he signed a copy of Dinosaur Tales for me. What I most remember is that when I stepped up to him in the autograph line, he immediately recognized me, stepped around the desk where he was signing, and gave me a hug.

I didn’t see Mr. Bradbury again until early 1995. At that point, I was living in Tucson. He came out to speak at a writer’s workshop held at the University of Arizona. I attended with my wife, Kumie, and my friend, William Grother. He gave a wonderful presentation over lunch where he told us a person should read a short story, a poem and an essay every day. “Imagine how much you will learn,” he said. He also told us about his experiences in Ireland, writing the Moby Dick screenplay for John Huston. Again, I had an opportunity to visit with Mr. Bradbury. He gave me and Kumie hugs and we left him to speak to other fans.

whitewhaleA couple of years later, I saw a copy of Green Shadows, White Whale, book of collected Ray Bradbury’s stories about working for John Huston in Ireland. I remembered his stories from the workshop so fondly that I immediately bought the book and read it right away.

About that time, I was also reading submissions for a magazine I was editing called Hadrosaur Tales. Three stories in a row that described a knight climbing a mountain to slay some hapless dragon. I found myself asking, “Isn’t there a fresh way to tell this story?” I thought of Ray Bradbury in Ireland, writing Moby Dick. The question occurred to me, what if teams of people flew out in airships and hunted dragons? I wrote the story of a young man named Rado who joined such a crew. Rado was named for Ray Douglas Bradbury. When the story was published in Realms of Fantasy magazine, I sent Mr. Bradbury a copy and told him the story of how I came up with the idea. He wrote back a few days later and said how much he enjoyed that day in 1983 at Pacific High School, how proud he was of me, and that “The Slayers” was a “fine story.”

Ray Bradbury in 1978 (The Paris Review)
Ray Bradbury in 1978 (The Paris Review)

If you’d like to hear Ray Bradbury speak, my friend Gloria McMillian recently pointed me to a YouTube video recorded in 2001, the year my story was published in Realms of Fantasy. In it, he gives terrific advice and tells many great stories from his years as a writer. You can watch it at: here.

Back in 1983, Ray Bradbury told the story of visiting a carnival when he was a child. A man called Mr. Electrico strapped himself into an electric chair. With lightning arcing all around, Mr. Electrico pointed a lightning rod at the young Bradbury and said, “live forever!” That’s the moment Ray Bradbury decided to be a writer, so he could live forever.

That day, Ray Bradbury pointed
at me and said, “Live forever, submit your stories now!” I have lived by that ever since and now it’s my turn to point to you. “Live forever!” 20160324_164510

You can purchase David Lee Summers’s books at Lachesis Publishing, on amazon, Barnes and Noble, kobo, and iBooks.

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The Write Benefits of the Day Job by Alison Bruce (romantic suspense author) #amwriting #amreading

Grammar Rules Image: www.loc.gov
Grammar Rules
Image: www.loc.gov

When most people talk about how their job influences their writing, you discover that the astronomer writes science fiction, the court reporter crafts legal procedurals or, at the very least, the teacher knows his or her grammar inside and out.

I could tell you a similar story about being a copy writer and editor. I can write pretty much anything on demand as long as it’s in English and it isn’t fiction. Fiction I have to do according to my own muse. Yet, there’s no doubt that my fiction is better crafted because I have had to write on pretty much anything, to a deadline that might have been yesterday when I was given the job.

Image: Crime Writers of Canada
Image: Crime Writers of Canada

Writing for clients did something even more profound for me. It made it easier for me to accept criticism, without it destroying my ego, and make to use of it. I would never have submitted my novels to publishers if I hadn’t hardened my shell on the stony shore of corporate newsletters and ghostwriting.

Likewise, I owe a lot to my job with Crime Writers of Canada. No, that’s not quite right. I owe a lot to being a member of Crime Writers of Canada . . . including my job and one of my publishers. It was all about networking and timing. Never underestimate the importance of timing.

Alison Bruce aka Crossing Guard Extraordinaire
Alison Bruce aka Crossing Guard Extraordinaire

However, that’s not what I’m going to write about. There are writers and editors and networkers aplenty for that. I want to tell you how handy it is to be a crossing guard when you’re a writer.

You can’t make a living at being a crossing guard. After all, you’re only working three hours a day and only on school days. On the other hand, it’s a great job for money you can count on. When you work freelance or speculatively, which is a good description for a novelist, it’s nice to know you have a certain amount of money coming your way regardless of sales or commissions. Unlike my work for CWC, it’s also completely predictable. Being a crossing guard is relatively stress-free if you don’t count the motorists who forget they’re driving in a school zone.

Neither wind, nor snow, nor sleet  . . . you get the picture. Image: www.mlive.com
Neither wind, nor snow, nor sleet . . . you get the picture.
Image: www.mlive.com

The weather can be a pain. Barring snow days, and we don’t get many of those, we’re out in rain, snow, sleet and hail, skin-searing sunshine and bone-chilling cold. It’s all grist for the mill. I can imagine I’m a soldier on guard in the pouring rain or a hiker feeling like they’ll be blown off the trail by the wind.

Then there’s the random story generation game.

At the beginning and end of each shift, there’s a dead time when almost no one comes by. During that time, I tell myself stories with the help of passing cars. The letters or numbers from the license plates act like the roll of a die in making choices or quantifying damage or risk.

A-BODYGUARD-TO-REMEMBER-by-ALISON-BRUCE-500x724A Bodyguard to Remember started with a corner story. I wanted new flooring. Seriously, that was the seed idea. I decided a dead body in the living room would get me a floor.

How did he die? A for being shot. B for being stabbed. If it was an older plate that didn’t start with A or B, I’d have to come up with other options.

Who would investigate? I came up with three choices: City Police, OPP or RCMP. Using the numbers in the plate I got RCMP. They wouldn’t investigate common murder, so I had to come up with something that would bring them onto the case. As a result, my murder mystery involved espionage.

A hero to remember?
A hero to remember?

What would the detective look like? I didn’t stick with the one I came up with at the corner but I did stick with the initials I pulled from a car. I still remember the plate was BDMZ ###. I don’t remember the numbers. They weren’t important. I remember the letters. They generated Detective Sergeant David Merrick.

I’ve never got as much out of my musing at the corner as I did for A Bodyguard to Remember. Usually I come up with a solution to a problem by using the random number system to suggest possibilities. It’s a way to brainstorm with myself. Many times the stories I come up with are absolutely useless except for making that dead five minutes seem to pass more quickly.

Alison Bruce has had many careers and writing has always been one of them. She is the author of mystery, romantic suspense and historical western romance novels. She is also the Publication Manager of Crime Writers of Canada, Arthur Ellis Awards Administrator, a freelance writer/editor/designer and an Adult School Crossing Guard for the City of Guelph.

You can connect with Alison Bruce on her website and on facebook and twitter.

You can get your copy of  A Bodyguard to Remember at Lachesis Publishing. You can also purchase your copy at amazon, Barnes and Noble, kobo, and iBooks.

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Fiction, fitness and fun by Lindy S. Hudis (mystery author and erotica author)

Image: shuspectrum.wordpress.com
Image: shuspectrum.wordpress.com

Like most creative people, I happen to have a ‘day” job. One of those regular things your have to pay the bills, the grind! Of course I would love to make money with my art, but until then, I have to slave away, and I do mean, slave away

The secret to having a regular job while you are waiting for the New York Times to come calling is to find one you love, and I have done just that. I am lucky to have found work, at the ripe old age of forty-eight, as a person trainer at my local gym. I specialize in weight management and weight loss. I help people do what I love: exercising.

Lindy hamming it up with Cameron
Lindy hamming it up with Cameron

I fell into this job quite by accident. Eight years ago, I gave birth to my son, Cameron. To put it bluntly, I “porked out”. I put on lots of weight and just shrugged it off to middle age. When my birthday rolled around my husband, dropping a not-s-subtle-hint, gave me a gym membership. I thought to myself, “nice, honey”, but I decided to give it a try. I started working with an amazing personal trainer who helped me lose the weight, gain muscle mass, boost my metabolism and straighten out my nutrition habits, which were not that spectacular (I still love a nice slice of pizza every once in a while).

Pretty soon, I had people coming up to me asking how I did it! They were just as amazed as I was at my dedication, determination, and how I managed to shed the pounds.

One fateful day, about a year ago, I noticed that my gym happened to be hiring personal trainers. The gym provided the education and certifications needed. I thought I would give it a shot, not imagining in a million years they would hire me! So, in my late-forties, I handed in my application. Lo and behold, they called me in for an interview, than another, then I met the owner of the gym. He told me he liked the fact that I was an “older woman” (!) who was in great shape and I could inspire others. I took it as a compliment.

Lindy clearly knows what she's doing.
Lindy clearly knows what she’s doing.

So, I started my trainer training. My co-workers were, and are, hot sexy young college students. Whenever I play ’80s music they call it the “oldies”! We have a great time working together, and I feel my job is very rewarding.

How do I incorporate my writing into my work-out? Just yesterday I was telling a client about City of Toys, she loves to read on the treadmill. And she said she would check it out.

I  would love to perhaps write a fitness book one day. A very positive and encouraging message that it can be done! You can fit back into your skinny jeans again and you don’t have to give them away to the Salvation Army. It would be non-fiction of course, but I would use my own life experience, and hopefully give inspiration and motivation to others that yes, you can do it! At any age!

Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 2.08.16 PMYou can get Lindy’s books at Lachesis Publishing or on amazon, and kobo and iBooks

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How my day job inspires my writing by Alexis D. Craig (romance author and police dispatcher)

csi-miamiWhen I first started at police dispatch, ER was still on. As was Third Watch, NCIS, & CSI. I am a procedural junkie.

er2I love everything about them. Their formats, their crisis of the week, all of it, but what I love most are the ongoing, longterm character arcs. Seeing the life beyond the craziness of their daily grind.

ncis-tony-ziva-reunionPeople are fascinating creatures to me. I like to see & understand all the parts that go into the facade we show the world. What makes an elementary school teacher become a cop, what a hard-charging cop does to unwind. I like seeing who the characters are when they’re most vulnerable. The chinks in armor are what makes them more real to me.

And I approach my work this way, too. I’m all about the action, I love a good chase or fight scene. A countdown to an apocalypse that only the protagonist  can solve. But at the same time, I want to know what they read, what they drink, what makes their world a little more sane. Then my job comes in translating this understanding of them as whole people onto paper.

swatThe technical aspects of the job are the tricky part for me. It’s one thing to have a grand idea of a kidnapping and hostage rescue with all the bells and whistles. It’s something else when you try to write it and not sound like a goof with no idea of how any of that actually works. There are a ton of moving parts to any large operation and conveying them to the reader can be difficult if you’re not clear on it yourself. This where I’m truly lucky.

images-1The unmitigated bonus of 13 years in law enforcement is connections. All kinds of them, and for the type of writing I do, they’re priceless. You want to plan a siege of fortified building with SWAT? One phone call, and it cost me lunch one summer afternoon. Want to learn the finer points of homicide investigation? I have folks who’ve done nothing but hunt killers for over a decade. It doesn’t matter how outlandish the idea, there’s someone available to help you build the framework to make it happen.

820_dwayne-johnson-samuel-jackson-are-hot-rod-cops-in-the-other-guys-wife-289322900I wanted to plan a hostage situation/SWAT rescue for a story, so I called a friend, we’ll call him Anton. Anton is smoking hot eye candy in addition to being a great tactician & SWAT operator. We came out on the job at the same time, same district, but opposite sides of the radio. He let me pick his brain for 90 minutes at lunch, walking me through every scenario I could think of, even walking me through the finer points of shaped charges and explosive entry (he really didn’t need to be any hotter). Then after all that, he hooked me up with a hostage negotiator. I spent about two hours grilling him for info.

All that research and all it cost me was lunch. I love my jobs.

Give Me Shelter COVERLachesis Publishing author Alexis D. Craig writes sultry and funny romantic suspense (Give Me Shelter and Imminent Danger) featuring the brave men and women in law enforcement.  She also writes super hot erotica featuring sexy cops (Undercover Seduction). By day Alexis is a police dispatcher so she knows her cops!

You can get Alexis’s romantic suspense Give Me Shelter at Lachesis Publishing and on amazon.com, at Barnes and Noble and Kobo.

Connect with Alexis D. Craig on her website, and on facebook,  twitter and goodreads.

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What Inspired Me To Become A Writer? by Patricia Barletta (historical romance author)

Image: ovenbakedtradition.com
Image: ovenbakedtradition.com

I haven’t always been a writer. There was a period of time in my early years when being a writer wasn’t even a thought in my head. I aspired to be a fairy princess or a ballerina. But I loved to read, and stories transported me to other places where I could be anything I wanted.

The first piece of fiction I wrote was in fifth grade, when we had to write an essay about how we had named our pet. My family had a dog, Skippy, and he was named that just because we all liked the name. Pretty boring story. But I made up a tale of Skippy running up and down the hallway in my house, looking like he skipped. I got an A on that essay, and felt a little guilty because, well, it wasn’t a true story. Deep down, I was surprised that my teacher hadn’t seen through my deception, and maybe a little bit pleased, too.

Image: disney.wikia.com
Image: disney.wikia.com

When I reached junior

Image: www.dailymail.co.uk
Image: www.dailymail.co.uk

high, I started writing fan fiction. The TV show,The Wonderful World of Color, produced by Walt Disney, ran a series about the American Revolutionary War hero, Francis Marion, nicknamed the Swamp Fox. My imagination took off, and I wrote a story about my own fictional hero, a teen-aged Revolutionary spy and the young lady he recruits to help him. Then when I was in high school, The Beatles were the hottest thing since humans discovered fire, so I wrote a story about an American girl who meets them on their first U.S. tour and becomes Paul McCartney‘s girlfriend. It was all cheesy, but my friends loved it and clamored for more. I was shocked. I could actually write something that people wanted to read!

15084-180x3002435000-1After high school, college and marriage and kids made me put down my pen for a while. Then I read Rosemary Rogers’s Sweet Savage Love and Kathleen Woodiwiss’s The Flame and the Flower. Rogers’s and Woodiwiss’s heroes were hot and dangerous, and I loved the way their heroines stood up to them. I was hooked on historical romances, but more than that, I knew I could write one. I was inspired to write my own. Nine years later, my first historical romance, Ecstasy’s Gamble, was published under my pen name, Amy Christopher.

Moon Dark
Moon Dark

I’m writing under my own name now, and writing about magic, and dark heroes and feisty heroines who live in the past. It’s been a long road between that first fifth-grade essay and my newest release, Moon Dark, Book 1 Auriano Curse Series. The hero, Alessandro, Prince of Auriano, is much more complex than my dog, Skippy, and quite a bit sexier, too. And the heroine, Sabrina, knows just how to push his buttons. So there are sparks and fireworks and some magical stuff. I hope you visit Moon Dark and get to meet them.

Find out more about Patricia Barletta and her books on her website: www.patriciabarletta.com.

Connect with Patricia Barletta on facebook: Patricia Barletta on facebook

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The Light and Dark Side of Writing by Morgan Chalfant (urban fantasy and paranormal/horror author)

Image: www.teenink.com
Image: www.teenink.com

Poetry was my first love and I think it was poetry that first drew me to storytelling. I wrote a poem in my junior high English class called, The Darkest Knight, and it’s the earliest thing I remember penning.

I was always a reader (but I must say I abhorred the Accelerated Reader Program in junior high). I liked to read at my own pace and see the story in my head. Pretty soon, I wanted to be telling the story FROM my head, the way I wanted it told. This is where my fascination with telling stories was cultivated.

Ghosts-of-Glory-453x680Now, my inspiration is much different than when I was a young boy. Naturally, having grown up (for the lighter or darker), I have been influenced by my worldly experiences: the painful, the happy, the shadowed, the tragic and certainly the adventurous. My stories are colored by the incidents that colored me, as are the tales of many writers. I believe those stories are not just black and white anymore (something I discovered writing my first published novel, Focused Insanity, not like the kind of black and white stories you craft when you are a kid. My stories have become more grave even though I enjoy weaving humor in every story I write. But they tend to walk the jagged line between light and dark, which is, in my opinion, where the writer truly lives. That is certainly where my character, Jersey “The Brawler” Romero, lives in my second published novel Ghosts of Glory.

Clive Barker Image: from girlboxer1970.com
Clive Barker
Image: from girlboxer1970.com

I know I have grown as a writer because my purpose isn’t just to tell an entertaining story, it is to convey something—a deeper meaning. A message. Now, whether that story is inspired by my life is another matter, but some grain of truth, some tiny piece of me, always makes it into one of my books.

I think Clive Barker said it best: “My fiction is my confession . . . ”

Morgan Chalfant is a native of Hill City, Kansas. He received his Bachelor’s degree in writing and his Master’s degree in literature from Fort Hays State University, where he now teaches writing.

You can purchase Ghosts of Glory by Morgan Chalfant at  Lachesis Publishing, Amazon, Kobo, and Barnes and Noble.

Connect with Morgan Chalfant on facebook, tumblr, and twitter.

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8 Ways to Inspire Your Writing Ideas by Joanna D’Angelo #amwriting

News stories about babies being accidentally switched at birth can inspire a book idea. :)
News stories can inspire compelling books

Some writers can seemingly pluck inspiration from thin air, while others must work a little harder to get the ideas flowing. The following is a list of suggestions to help you get your thoughts percolating for your future bestsellers.

1. Stop the presses! I am always coming across very cool stories on social media or on the news or various blogs or on satellite radio. Heck, even the community bulletin board at your local grocery store. Craig’s List. Angie’s List. Classifieds. Dear Abby or other advice columns.  I recently heard a national news story on CBC Radio that sparked a fun idea that I hope to pursue.

Image: musicis4lovers.com
Image: musicis4lovers.com

2. Doh! a deer/a female deer…Music. Music. Music.

Image: weightlosstipsinurdupic.blogspot.com
Image: weightlosstipsinurdupic.blogspot.com

3. Take a hike buddy (or a walk). I love to take really long walks and I will often ruminate while I am walking (with some great tunes playing on my Ipod). Great way to work out your body as well as your mind – maybe even a sticky issue in your WIP. (Work in Progress).

4. Brainstorm. I work with creative people all day online and via email. But physically being in the same room with a bunch of creative types will always inspire me.  If you have friends that you can trust not to steal your ideas (LOL)  – then try doing some brainstorming sessions over a cup of tea or glass of vino. I expect many of you already have writing groups where you do that – but sometimes pitching an idea raw and seeing what someone thinks of it – might be fun too. I used to do that all the time when I was working in TV and film. The idea is to distill your idea to 25 words or less. Just throw it out there and see where it lands.

image: www.besthometownnews.com
image: www.besthometownnews.com

5. If you’re struggling with writing in a particular genre or switching genres think about the genre that you most love to read. Who are some of the most successful authors in that genre? Check out their books and see how they’ve done in their chosen path. Try contacting an author you admire and asking him/her a few questions. Who knows, you might get some great advice. We have an archive of terrific interviews with bestselling authors right here at the Lachesis Publishing Daily Blog – which are certainly inspiring.

6. y648While we all know that writers need to connect to what they are writing about in some way – we still have to keep in mind what the market is and wants. Check out amazon reviews for some popular bestselling authors in a particular genre. Or peruse some popular reader blogs. It will give you a sense of what readers like. The idea is to get your own thoughts whirring, not to tie yourself in knots trying to make every reader happy. At the end of the day you still need to be true to yourself. For example many readers HATE books where the hero starts out as a big jerk. Personally, I love them.  One of my fave books is Lisa Kleypas’ The Devil in Winter, book 3 in her Wallflower series. I love that book. The hero is the villain from the second book in the series. He actually kidnaps the heroine in book 2 to force a marriage on her. Now you may ask, how the heck was Kleypas able to turn a villain into a hero? By putting him through hell! And by creating a heroine that challenged his “bad guy” persona at every turn. And by using lots of humour. And by making him fall completely and utterly in love. Now, what has this to do with giving the reader what she/he wants? Well, readers might be turned off by a hero who starts out being a “jerk”. But that’s what good writing is all about. And that’s what life is all about too. We all have dark and light inside us. And sometimes the antagonist can become the protagonist and even more so – a hero we can root for.

Image: moviewallpaperpics.com
Image: moviewallpaperpics.com

7. TV or not TV (or movies). Seriously. Writers sometimes look to what’s a hit on TV or at the movie theatre for their own book series. Audiences who follow a hit TV show might also be interested in books that tell similar stories. Even if the show was based on a book series. I’m sure after Sons of Anarchy became a hit we saw a spike in “biker romances” or any genre with “bikers” in it. And you can bet that after the Harry Potter movies came out there was a rise in books about kids or young people with magical powers. After The Hunger Games made Jennifer Lawrence a household name, it also made a name for dystopian YA fiction.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

8. Er . . . could you speak up please? I’m having trouble overhearing  your conversation. Yup! We all do it. So why not turn it into an artform? Hang out at your local coffee shop, diner, or chichi bistro, set up your laptop, and work it baby! People watch. Listen to to snatches of conversations and write everything down! Imagine who you might “overhear”.

Cheers and Happy Writing!

Joanna

Joanna D’Angelo is Editor in Chief at Lachesis Publishing. She loves chai tea, social media, and good writing. 

Connect with Joanna on twitter@JoannaDangelo, on facebook and on pinterest.

Her facebook page is: Love Romance Novels (on facebook)

Her other blogs are: thepopculturedivas and therevolvingbook

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Thankful for the Muse: by Jeanine Duval Spikes (YA paranormal author)

 

Image: anyrosesbestdeal26.tk
Image: anyrosesbestdeal26.tk

Here in the Unites States we will be celebrating Thanksgiving at the end of the week and that has me thinking about blessings. Religious or not, we all have them. A person, a place, a moment in time – a gift – that when we recognize it we realize how lucky we are to own it.

My family is such a blessing, both the one I was born into and the one I have created. Blood or spirit, I realize I am surrounded by loving, caring, authentic individuals who make my life, both a free-flying joy and a grounded haven, – sanctuary and a touchstone from which I will never be disconnected no matter how far out I reach to find my dream. We toss each other skyward with hope and joy, and catch each other should the need arise. Always with love.

Image: jeanfischer.wordpress.com
Image: jeanfischer.wordpress.com

Then there is The Muse. Artists of all types know her. They have praised her, cursed her, sought her out when she abandoned them and embraced her on her return. Vigorously. With much song and dance.

And she deserves the attention because “a muse” is also a gift. A talent bestowed. A shining expression of you exploring the world, that speaks to that world with what seems divine intervention. Deny it vehemently if you must, but think of this: not every singer is Andrea Bocelli or Freddy Mercury or Donna Summer, not every musician Eric Clapton or Jimi Hendrix or Bonnie Raitt, not every author Stephen King or Nora Roberts or Tony Hillerman.

Image: www.wattpad.com
Image: www.wattpad.com

There are people who tell stories, and then there are storytellers. Through music or movement or word, they hit the right note, find the right phrase, or put forth the right visual. As an author, I embrace the word but count on the note and the visual to flesh out the story and reach the most people. I embrace The Muse in all her carnations, and thank the Universe and God and Creator for not only putting her in my path, but keeping her there because she’s my companion in crime. My shove when I need it, my path back to the stories when I lose my way in the busy-ness of life. She is the slap to the head that says, “Get back to it!”

So I give thanks for family and friends and life. But I also give thanks for the shove by The Muse. And the fact that The Muse is often tied to family and friends; their cheers push The Muse forward too. They all keep me moving forward and for that I am ever grateful.

 

another great read!
another great read!

J.D. Spikes is the author of the YA paranormal The Possession. You can get your copy at Lachesis Publishing FOR ONLY .99 CENTS DURING OUR BLACK FRIDAY SALE! or on Amazon, Barnes and Noble or ARe

Connect with J.D. on her web site and on facebook

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