When Less is More

flashfiction3I reread the blurb for the flash fiction writing contest several times. It was the perfect antidote for the lingering writers’ block that was preventing me from moving forward with the next book. The entry fee was a bargain—three flash fiction stories for only $15—and the $500 prize added to the contest’s appeal.

I resurrected two unpublished stories from my files. Only one problem—both were close to 1500 words and the rules for the contest specifically called for flash fiction of less than 500 words. While some writers may balk at the idea of trimming almost 1000 words from a short story, I welcomed the challenge of revamping both manuscripts. But before starting the whittling down process, I decided to research this style of fictional literature.

Continue reading on the Sisterhood of Suspense blog.

Dealing with Dialogue Tags

saidbookismGlancing back at some of my earlier work, I cringe at my use of “said bookisms” such as roared, admonished, exclaimed, queried, and hissed. I was trying to avoid overusing the word “said” and searched for suitable alternatives. I realize now that substituting those words made it sound like I enjoyed using my thesaurus. Instead, I was annoying the reader and drawing attention away from the dialogue.

From different workshop facilitators, I’ve learned that I don’t have to interpret the dialogue, or worse, tell the reader how the words are said. If the dialogue is strong enough, “he said” and “she said” will do. Like other parts of speech—the, is, and, but—that are used several times on each page, “said” is invisible and allows the reader to concentrate on the action and dialogue.

Continue reading on Carly Jordynn’s blog.

A Writer’s Ah-Ha Moment

I’m happy to welcome The Wild Rose Press author Brenda Moguez. Today, Brenda shares her passion for writing and her latest release, Nothing is Lost in Loving.

Here’s Brenda!

brendamoguezahahWhat I know about writing is elusive.

It’s as fleeting as the sunrise over the Rockies but can linger as long as some Ah-Haenchanted evening sort of love, which is sometimes a lifetime or the length of a night. I didn’t know this when I took up this hobby come all-consuming passion. I was arrogant enough to believe I welded the power and could control the ebb and flow of my creativity on the blank page. As easy, as it is for me to flutter my eyelashes towards a lanky Gemini so would be filing three-hundred double-spaced pages. In retrospect, I envy this innocence because it was, and to some extent, is true. Back then, I didn’t understand enough about anything to take it as it came when it came. I had expectations.

In my passionate ignorance, I believed all that was required of me was to turn up each day and for an extended period of time—that can be as magical as an enchanted evening—and write. What I hadn’t anticipated were the nights I turned up at the appointed hour, flipped the switch, waited and waited, and sometimes waiting until blaze of the morning sunrise burned off the bitter loneliness of an unproductive night. It seemed silly almost laughable at first because I had lived several decades without writing so how could the random night without words affect me so profoundly. It wasn’t just that sleep that I lost, but my perspective. My mind convinced me there were answers in books, a cure for the lonely ache growing deep in my belly, which felt strangely similar to the absence of a lover who comes in and out of your life on his schedule.

Since red wine and songs of love were not the cure, I convinced myself writing was scientific. It can’t be magical. It’s not chance or random. Writing creatively is manageable. It’s a mechanical process thereby controllable by a force. All I had to do was learn. I started searching the aisles of bookstores, the periodicals, the vast and overwhelming virtual world, for content on writing. Sometimes a writer writing about writing made sense, and I connected, but the meaning of the words fizzled when I closed the book or browser. I’d see the meaning clearly as I read the words but then the edges blurred, and everything evaporated as it does when you’re walking through a cloud of déjà vu after I finished reading. I sought other writers thinking they would know what I didn’t. I enrolled classes and workshops for the same reason. Knowledge is never wasted but sometimes, as in the case of writing, too much of something isn’t always a good thing.

A writing lesson I learned rather painfully is that I am sometimes at the wheels of control, while other times writing controls me. I somewhat arrogantly assumed with some knowledge I would master my productivity and know everything there was to know about writing. What I ended up learning without a book, or a class, or another writer, was that I knew more when I didn’t know anything. When I wrote without the details, without listening to others more seasoned on the craft, when I didn’t lose sleep over tense, or being something other than what I was meant to be, which as it turns out, is raw and authentic. Now I know more than I ever needed to know, which is not always helpful at 3 AM or when the story is stuck.

Writing is such a personal experience, unique to the consciousness on the other side of the page. How can the reader possibly understand what the writer went through to put words on the page? Or the years it took to find the courage to take a stand, to declare to the void, I am a writer! Hear me! Listen to me, read my words for they are from me, part of me, all of me. And if it sounds like I am saying I am celestial it’s because a writer sometimes feels that they are ethereal, part of a secret society they never thought of joining.

What I know about writing isn’t for me to share with you because I’m not like you or you like me. Each of us hears different notes in the keys on our respective keyboards.

What was your ah-ha moment on your writing journey?



There is a saying in Spanish that goes something like this, “No hay mal que por bien no venga.” (Roughly translated) “There is no bad thing that is not followed by a good thing.”

When Stella Delray unexpectedly loses her job a week before Christmas, which happens to be the anniversary of her husband’s death, she is forced to come to terms with her loss, stop talking to his ashes, which she carries around in a sports bottle, and get her life back on track for her son’s sake as well as her own. She never expected posting an ad on Craigslist would send her into the arms of not one but two men, one of which is her former boss, Jack Francis. It’s because of him she’s working as an admin for a retired Broadway star, bookkeeping for an erotic video production company, and writing love letters for the mysterious Oaklander. Adding to the craziness of her new life, her monster-in-law resurfaces and the father-in-law Stella’s never met shows up on her doorstep.

With her best friend, Bono, to guide her, Stella will learn to redefine the rules she’s always lived by. Her new extended family comes with plenty of drama, and the ghosts of her dead husband’s past are knocking down her door. Will Stella be able to find her footing in her eccentric life, discover nothing is lost in loving, and have the family she’s always dreamed of? One thing is certain: Stella will learn that happily ever after doesn’t come in one size fits all.

Find out how Stella manages her monster-in-law and takes on romance again. You can find her story on Amazon.


Where to find Brenda…

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Google+

10 Things I Learned by Attending a Writer’s Retreat

I’m thrilled to welcome Soul Mate author Julie Doherty to the Power of 10 series. Today, Julie shares her retreat experience and her latest release, Scattered Seeds.

Here’s Julie!


1. There may be something wrong with me.

Not everyone would call sitting at a desk for five days straight a “vacation,” but when you’re a writer with responsibilities, it can be tough to carve writing time out of your day. Booking a retreat means giving yourself the gift of time—large blocks of it!—and shutting out the world.

The non-writers in my life would cock a brow if they knew how I spent valuable vacation days last week. I think it’s fairly obvious by my pasty skin that I didn’t go to the beach. I didn’t bring back postcards or foreign foods, and I’m not emailing a new European pen pal. If anyone asks where I was, I might blush to admit I shut myself away in a Christian retreat center to type 9,000 words. Maybe I’ll just say I helped a German widow recover her loved ones from Indian captivity and leave it at that. Technically, that’s no lie.

2. There really is something wrong with me.

Eh-yeah, the glazed eyes in many rooms taught me I’m not a brilliant conversationalist and not everyone enjoys research. I’m afraid I’m going to have to accept that as a writer of historical fiction, I shall always be the most boring gal at the dinner party. I can’t tell you what movies just released (or released last year, or the year before), and if you paid me twenty bucks to name more than three candidates in this year’s presidential election, I couldn’t do it. But, darlin’ I can tell you which plants are edible and how to make “pocket soup” from the 18th century. Trust me, when zombies attack, you’re going to want to know me. Then, I’ll bore you. A lot.

3. Sunrise is beautiful.

I don’t see it often. ever. I personally believe waking before 8:00 a.m. is some kind of sick torture. I’m required to rise early, of course, because I have a day job and a one-hour commute. You can imagine my surprise, then, when I awoke at 6:00 a.m. (without an alarm!) every day at my retreat. Yes, I was that excited to get back to my story.

4. I excel! (at wasting time)

Like many writers, I spend a fair amount of time blaming everything—and everyone—for my lack of writing time. So, what’s the first thing I did after check-in? I connected to Wi-Fi. Yep, there I was, scanning social media and checking my Amazon rank on the hour. (NEWSFLASH: doing so does not improve your book’s rank.)

5. Drones sound like giant bumblebees.hg

Not going to lie to you. Some weird stuff happened at this retreat, including having a drone hover outside my bedroom window. Creepy. Of course, because I was at a writing retreat, I began to imagine how I could use it in a plot. I’m pretty sure I could have hit it with my longbow. Too bad I left that at home.

6. I write more words when held accountable.

The theme of our writing retreat was “It’s All About Me.” The coordinator advised ahead of time that if I wanted to just chill out all week, that was fine. There was no pressure to produce at this retreat. But, of course, we’re writers. We thrive on pressure, and most of us are pretty competitive. I certainly didn’t want to show up for dinner with zero words under my belt.

When I became tempted to nap, the thought of everyone else working hard kept me on task. It paid off. I managed to write over 9,000 words at that retreat, bringing my work-in-progress up to 30,000 words.

7. Hotel patrons can be really inconsiderate.

We shared our venue with a Greek wedding, a men’s retreat, and a very large “couples retreat.” The latter group was super loud, and for some reason, they liked to do laps in our hallway and gather in the stairwells closest to us—to maximize the echo, I believe. They were aware of our reason for being there, because one of them shouted (just outside my door), “There are writers in this hallway. They are writing!”

Um, check that, fella. They were writing until you showed up on Wednesday with the rest of The Louds.

It worked out well for me, because I was writing some fairly violent stuff this week. When you get to the part where people die, blame the folks in the hallway.

8. Left to my own devices, I am a swarm of locusts.

I took a giant box of my favorite snacks, and not the healthy kind. By the third day, I had devoured a full-size bag of Middleswarth BBQ chips, a pack of Nutter Butters, half a big bag of M&Ms, some fruit roll-ups, and almost an entire giant box of Pepperidge Farm Goldfish.

Holy. Smokes.

9. Drunk people will swim in anything.

We’re having a very cold spring here in Pennsylvania. In fact, I witnessed snow flurries outside my hotel window. Did that stop two drunken wedding guests from stripping to their underpants and diving into the swan pond? Nope!

Probably being treated for giardia and pneumonia this week.

10. I love where I live.

The drive from my home in Juniata County to the retreat center in Ligonier, Pennsylvania always makes my jaw drop. The roads cut through the ridges and valleys of the beautiful northern Appalachians here. I took the time to savor the views and stopped at the historical markers, like this one, which had me scratching my head:

Shadow of Death (2)

The ridges are steep here with rock outcrops jutting out over a natural ravine. It would have been the perfect place for Shawnee warriors to ambush white settlers and traders. I suspect the name Shadow of Death has its roots in Psalm 23: Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me.

I loved the idea so much that when I got to the retreat, I included something about it in my current work-in-progress:

The journey back to Carlisle had been uneventful except for small bands of Indians encountered past Fort Shirley in a ravine called Shadow of Death by the locals. He went several miles out of his way to avoid a group of them gathered around a campfire only to meet five warriors hauling home a freshly killed bear. Luckily, they took no pains to remain silent, and he was able to hide with his horse in the thick laurel along Aughwick Creek until they passed.

ScatteredSeeds2_505x825 (2)

Log Line

A father/son duo trades poverty in Ireland for the harsh Pennsylvania frontier in an all-or-nothing attempt to recover fortune and lost love.


In 18th century Ireland, drought forces destitute Ulstermen Edward and Henry McConnell to assume false names and escape to the New World with the one valuable thing they still own–their ancestor’s gold torc.

Edward must leave love behind. Henry finds it in the foul belly of The Charming Hannah, only to lose it when an elusive trader purchases his sweetheart’s indenture.

With nothing but their broken hearts, a lame ox, and the torc they cannot sell without invoking a centuries-old curse, they head for the backcountry, where all hope rests upon getting their seed in the ground. Under constant threat of Indian attack, they endure crushing toil and hardship. By summer, they have wheat for their reward, and unexpected news of Henry’s lost love. They emerge from the wilderness and follow her trail to Philadelphia, unaware her cruel new master awaits them there, his heart set on obtaining the priceless torc they protect.


Book Trailer



Julie is a member of Romance Writers of America and Central PA Romance Writers. When not writing, she enjoys antiquing, shooting longbow, traveling, and cooking over an open fire at her cabin. She lives in Pennsylvania with her Glasgow-born Irish husband, who sounds a lot like her characters.

Where to find Julie…

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon Author Page

Local Author Interview

interviewpixGuelph author Joanne Guidoccio’s newest novel, A Season for Killing Blondes, has everything a mystery lover could want: a heroine in distress, an old flame from her past, vexing villains and, of course, a series of gristly murders.

Read the rest of the review and interview on the Guelph Public Library blog.

From My Bookshelves

For over two decades, I have been collecting books that inspire and motivate my creativity. While many of my early choices were craft books, I have also gravitated toward self-help literature dealing with writing blocks.

Here are ten of my Go-To books.


Continue reading on the Soul Mate Authors blog.

Guelph Partners in Crime

At podium: Deb Quaile L-R: Donna Warner, Gloria Ferris, Joanne Guidoccio, Alison Bruce

At podium: Deb Quaile
L-R: Donna Warner, Gloria Ferris, Joanne Guidoccio, Alison Bruce

Yesterday evening, I participated in a lively panel discussion with three other mystery writers at the main branch of the Guelph Public Library. We are all published authors and members of Crime Writers of Canada.

We read excerpts from our recent novels and shared our experiences in researching, writing, editing, and marketing our books. We delved into a variety of topics, among them mystery genres, humour in writing, query letters, dealing with rejection, self publishing vs traditional publishing, and social media.

Thanks to librarians Andrea Curtis and Deb Quaile for organizing and facilitating this event.

To learn more about Guelph Partners in Crime, visit our websites:

Alison Bruce

Gloria Ferris

Joanne Guidoccio

Donna Warner