Do You Doubt Yourself…your writing?

  famous authors, writers,    I ran across a description of one of my enemies….DOUBT!  And it got me to thinking. Author, Jacqueline Winspear wrote: “Doubt. Was it an emotion? A sense? Or was it just a short stubby word to describe a response that could diminish a person in a finger snap?”

I wrote earlier about my being in good company.  Regardless if we writers are obscure or famous, we all doubt ourselves and our work.  What if Henry Charles Bukowski, or Ernest Hemingway, or John Steinbeck had let DOUBT win?  Put away their pen, dumped their scribbles into a shoe box and made a trip to the attic, got a day job and never wrote another word?   It doesn’t bear thinking about.

famous authors, writers, famous quotesJ. Michael Straczynski:  “When in ‘doubt’, blow something up.”



F.Scott Fitzgerald:   “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.”

Image result for f. scott fitzgerald




famous authors, famous quotesE.M. Forster:  “How do I know what I think until I see what I say?”



Tapani Bagge:  “Everything that doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  auithors, famous quotes, writersAnd later on you can use it in some story.”


Maya Angelou:  “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

authors, famous quotes, writersElinor Lipman:  “Critics have been described as people who go into the street after battle and shoot the wounded.”


writers, authors, famous quotes


Leo Rosten:  “The only reason for being a professional writer is that  you just can’t help it.”


Let’s see …..when were my worst moments?  DOUBT clawing at me, whispering in my ear, crawling up my spine.  Telling me that I’ll never make it, I’ll never finish a whole novel, that I don’t know the first thing about writing poetry.  Writing play scripts was relatively easy for me. After all I had been in theatre reading scripts for over thirty years.  And the stories simply fell out of the sky and into my brain when writing a script.

But other genre? 

When I could no longer resist the urgency of writing about the women who wait outside prison walls, I researched the length of the average novel; number of pages and words.  Yikes!  Over 300 pages and 70,000 words.  DOUBT was screaming in my ear: ‘you’ll never be able to write that many pages.’  ‘you’re a playwright; not a novelist’, ‘who do you think you’re kidding?’  But I had a true story (several of them, in fact) and all I needed to do was flesh those stories out.  Write one page at a time…or even one word.

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News Flash! Writer Goes to Prison

From stage play to novel was an incredible journey for me as a playwright turned novelist. In playwriting, you must tell your story in 100 pages or less, definitely in less than two hours and everything you want to relate to the audience must be conveyed through the dialogue.  In the theatre world, there’s a term: “method acting” which means you get as close to your character as you can.  If the character you are going to portray is a prostitute, you follow and talk to whores. (been there, done that. Honolulu, 1992 ) If your character is a woman who’s husband has been in prison for the past 13 years, you get inside her head or better yet visit him in prison.

I’m a ‘method’ writer, (every chance I get.)

In 1999 I had reason to visit a men’s DOC facility. (prison).  I was visiting a confessed murderer as research for one of my earlier scripts.  My writing has taken me to some unexpected places to say the least.  On a Sunday morning I found myself sitting in the reception area with three dozen other women.  Wives, sisters, mothers, daughters of convicted felons.  As I waited, I wondered how long they had been coming to visit; how long would a woman wait for her man behind bars; and what a terrible impact this must have on the children, visiting their fathers in this place.  Sitting there I was suddenly compelled to write their stories.  I tried to interview as many women as I could and this was no easy task.

Their closed society is cloaked in guilt and shame. But they finally let me in and I discovered, for the most part, incredibly brave and strong women.  They would tell their friends and neighbors, “my husband travels with his work” to explain the man’s absence.  Always appearing cheerful and strong while visiting their men, the women I spoke with, had a pull off down the highway where they would congregate (after leaving the prison) where they could cry, scream, and moan and be comforted.  Where they could share, with other women who understood, what their lives were really like outside the walls.  Away from the eyes of their men and the prison officials.

For someone who was so comfortable writing in the genre of ‘scripts’ this was a scary prospect. Yikes! I thought, a novel was at the very least 70,000 words and over 300 pages long. What could I possibly have to say?  One year and four months later I had a 335 page novel in my hands. Evidently my characters had plenty to say!  At times I was surprised and delighted with my women and their stories. At other times appalled. As many writers will tell you, at some point, the characters sort’a….no…they definitely take over and you become simply the typist.

I am hoping that my readers enjoy this journey and find some empathy for those women doing hard time outside the walls.

Monday Motivations for the Writer! #17

TS. My friend and best-selling author, Jodi Thomas, did me the honor of contributing to Monday Motivations.

‘The hardest thing a writer does each day is sitting down to work.  In 28 years as a working writer, I’ve published 45 books and 13 novellas.  The hardest thing wasn’t learning to write but learning to manage time. I picked up a few tricks but it is still the dragon I fight every day. (Small)
Jodi Thomas

Build your nest.  I find this makes it easy for me to step into fiction.  It doesn’t matter if your nest is in a secret room in the attic or a small desk in a hotel room. It needs to be your nest. I usually start with a notebook. 

My facts book, my bible for the series.  It includes all characters’ names and basic facts.  Maps of the area—if you’re making up a town, make up the map.’ ~~Jodi Thomas

‘Peace and rest at length have come, All the day’s long toil is past; And each heart is whispering “Home, Home at last!‘- Thomas Hood

Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.’- Robert Frost
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Monday Motivation for the Writer! #13

I just finished reading a good story with interesting characters.  The story plot was strong.  Unfortunately, the author “furrowed” the brow of many, if not all, the characters.  This word, used repeatedly, finally became an inevitable distraction.  It’s okay for a writer to furrow a brow occasionally but mix it up. There are many synonyms: wrinkled, creased, crumpled, lined, wrinkly, rutted, crinkly, puckered, crinkled, rumpled, crushed. 

Another word used repeatedly in this same book (at least a dozen+ times) was “broken” to describe relationships or a character’s psychological health. Synonyms: wrecked, fragmented, shattered, cracked, smashed, damaged, ruined, destroyed, faulty, malfunctioning, defective could have replaced ‘broken’ to mix it up and keep the writing fresh and inventive. 

Don’t feel bad, Anne-Marie, we all do it.  A good friend, beta reader/s, or editor saves us from ourselves. Saved from certain words slipping into the descriptions and dialogue over and over.  But what if we don’t have any team and have to rely on our own editing?  Here’s what you do: Highlight your entire book, right-click on ‘find’, a,’ and type in any word you suspect you’ve been redundant with.  A good editing program will highlight the repeated word throughout your manuscript so you can go to each word and make your correction.  Now you can change that repeated word with a synonym listed in your writing, Thesaurus program. 

“The last thing one knows in constructing a work is what to put first.” Blaise Pascal

“Writing is not a calling; it’s a doing.”  T. Sugarek

Strong Writing vs Sloppy, Weak Writing

Dear fellow writers,

The one thing that gives me hives faster than nettles, hives, or food allergies is SLOPPY TENSE by a writer!

I am currently reading a book (Spinning Jenny) that could have been an excellent story, could have been pretty good writing for a debut book, and could have some well-thought-out and developed characters except for the writer (Sylvia Ann McLain)  who wrote the entire thing using the present tense. Then slipping into past tense and frequently mixing the two.  (Grrrrr….teeth gnashing.)

Here’s a sample, quoting from the book:  “Children race about, babies are wailing, and clusters of women talk among themselves. Some sit by themselves with Bibles in their laps.  Farther off in the woods, blacks (did they use this term in 1833?)  have set up their own camps; their tents are made of quilts thrown over ropes between the trees.”

Edited:  Children raced around, babies wailed, and clusters of women gathered to talk amongst themselves. A few sat by themselves with their Bibles in their laps.  Further off into the woods Negroes set up their camps.  Their tents were made by throwing quilts over ropes tied between the tree trunks.

and:  “But back at Carefree, there’s a body waiting for her to view it. She dreads it as she drives up the hill to her home.  A body! Has she ever seen a dead person before? Not that she remembers. Why can’t Sophronia get up out of her bed and do something for once? But it’s getting on to twelve o’clock. She has to hurry.” 

Edited:  A body waited for her to view back at Carefree. Stephanie dreaded it as she drove up the hill to her home. A body! Has she ever seen a dead person before? Not that she remembered. Why couldn’t Sophronia get up out of her bed and do something for once? But it was close to noon. She had to hurry.

I like to use italics for internal dialogue but it’s not a rule.   What is a grammatical rule is “i.n.g.’ ing” every other word is poor writing no matter how you look at it.  

There is no rule set in stone somewhere that fiction must be written in the past tense. But it is the accepted and expected tense that 98% of writers use.  More importantly, readers expect it even if they are unaware. 
99% of the time, if a book is written in anything other than past tense, it has not been written that way on purpose; the writer is new, and the book is their first one, and they are ignorant of what is expected and what the industry standard is.  It makes them look like the amateur that they are. 

PS. Finally. Finished it. This book was a real slog. And then to find out the ending was a setup for a sequel. The storyline didn’t support that. Ugh!!!!!!


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Watch for more interviews with authors.  September: Culley Holderfield. October: Simon Gervais for ROBERT LUDLUM, November: Kevin J. Kennedy, December: Marc Cameron, writing for TOM CLANCY



Book Review ~~ The Boardwalk Bookshop

4 out 0f five stars  ~~ Book Review


No surprise here. Susan Mallery dishes up another excellent contemporary fiction for women. A great story with lots of plot twists and romance. A real page-turner. 

This time three women who don’t know each other share a lease on a retail space none of them can afford by themselves. They set up shop, books, muffins, and gifts, right off the sand, on the boardwalk in Santa Monica, California. Each has been wounded by love in the past, romantic or familial; it all hurts the same. 

All three main characters are equally balanced with in-depth storylines, so the reader has the opportunity to care about each one of them. Will their particular shop succeed? Will true love win out?  How many nasty turns will life serve up before the women find happiness?

I highly recommend this as your next book. But it’s no secret (by now) that I’m a huge fan of Susan Mallery myself.

Did you miss my Interview with author, Susan Mallery?

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Interview with author, Jay Hartlove (conclusion)

Jay Hartlove, no whiskers

Q. How have your life experiences influenced your writing?

JH. I tend to turn victims into heroes in my stories. My abusive upbringing influenced this. Having friendships implode and watching people die has given me the perspective to talk about loss. Being lucky enough to fall deeply in love more than once in my life has taught me how to talk about love and heartbreak. Having raised two children has refreshed my memories of childhood. Having both of them turn out gay has opened my eyes to prejudice.

Q. What’s your downtime look like?

JH. I’m something of an accomplishment junkie. I don’t really have downtime. I travel on my vacations. Evenings out mean movies or theater. When I’m not writing or running my household, my day job is consulting on compliance for banks. Troubleshooting and problem solving for The Man turns at night into troubleshooting and problem-solving in my stories. I love what I do. I don’t need time away from it.

Q. Have you or do you want to write in another genre?

Costume design. Conference of Sentient Beings that won Best in Show at Worldcon 2002

JH. When I was working on the third and final installment of the supernatural thriller Goddess Rising trilogy, I was so worried I would fail to wrap up all the threads I had started in the series, and I would fail to deliver a truly satisfying ending to it all, I worked myself into a panic. I had to take a break. I had to get out of my head. So I built a writing exercise for myself. I was going to try a seat-of-the-pants, no outline story, and it would be in a completely different genre, fantasy romance. I was also going to force myself not to outline by publishing it online a chapter at a time, so I could not go back and change anything. The story I wrote was the first draft of Mermaid Steel. I got to the end, and to my surprise, the story worked! My readers loved it. So I went back and added in all the things I had thought of during the writing, and it went from 60,000 to 72,000 words. I cleaned it up and sold it to my publisher. I then went back and looked at what I had to do to finish Goddess Rising. With fresh eyes, my path was clear. Critics have said the book completes the series better than they expected. One said it ends not with a bang but a boom. I also learned a lot about how to tell a romance. The next book I am working on, The Dove and the Crow, has a big romantic thread.

Q. Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)

JH. Trust that you will never run out of ideas and will never paint yourself into a corner where you cannot find a solution (even if it is a start-over). A blank page is the most formidable adversary. Just write. Fixing it later is so much easier. Write what you know, but only research as far as you need to tell your story. Write about what you want to write about. Chasing a market trend will a) date your work into obsolescence and b) force you to write about something without your heart, which will show. Writing what you care about will show, and your readers will see this and love your work for it.

Did you miss the beginning of this beautiful interview with Jay?

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Interview with UK author, Donna Ashcroft (part 2)

My walking pal, Jules

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

DA. I need to know my characters before I start writing. I start by working out who they are and what their internal issues are, i.e. what is their wound? What needs to happen in the novel for that wound to be overcome or healed. I then spend time finding pictures of my characters on Google and adding in details like eye colour, hair colour, age, upbringing. While I discover my characters as I write, I need a fair amount of detail before I get started so they can become real in my mind. Sometimes news stories, novels or movies will help to inspire a character, especially if I admire or identify with particular personality traits.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

DA. I was a huge reader when I was younger and started writing books when I was around twelve. I don’t know what originally inspired me, but I was good at writing and enjoyed escaping into stories and creating my own worlds.

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

DA. For me characters usually come first.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

DA. When things are going well, I get completely lost. I often feel like the words are coming out of my fingers rather than my brain – that’s when my subconscious takes over and almost writes for me. I love those moments but it’s not always like that!

New books are born here. “Book Planning Books”.

Q. Are you working on something now or have a new release coming up? If so tell us about it.

DA. I’m working on my summer book for 2023 at the moment and I’m about 30K words in so I’ve a way to go yet. Recently my 2022 summer novel The
Little Cornish House was published and my first novel Summer at the Castle Café was published by Sphere into paperback. My pitch for The Little Cornish House is it’s The Great Pottery Thrown Down meets The Murder Club (only without any murders).

Thirty-year-old Ruby’s life is safe and predictable: no dramas, no complications, no men. And that’s just the way she likes it – there’s no way she wants to get her heart broken again. But her whole life is turned upside down when her grandmother calls to say she’s in danger of losing her beloved little Cornish House by the sea. She needs Ruby to come back to Cornwall and save the day…You’ll find everything in this summer romance – from a gorgeous hero and heroine, to a whole host of quirky characters, pottery, cake and real ale-

One of my favs

not to mention a mystery, twists, turns and romances crossing the generations.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

DA. In 2017 I was awarded the Katie Fforde Bursary. This was a huge honour, not only to be selected as one of Katie’s promising writers, but also because all of the authors up until that point had gained a publishing deal within a couple of years. I’d been writing on top of my day job for a few years by then, but having Katie’s endorsement, and knowing I didn’t want to let her down, I went down to four days a week at work and decided to treat my writing more like a proper day job. In 2018 I was offered my first publishing contract. I think I had to make the ‘decision’ to take

getting published seriously before this would happen.
Join us next week for the conclusion of our Interview with Donna Ashcroft 

Did you miss part 1 of our chat with Donna?

Coming soon!  August: Jay Hartlove

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To Write or Not to Write….more Dialogue…more Description?

(Some posts deserve another airing. Thought I’d share this again from July, 2013)
Most of the authors that I have interviewed are avid readers like myself.  We seem to all agree that is what makes us better writers.   I was reading Caroline Leavitt’s,  ‘Is This Tomorrow’  and it struck me how very different our writing styles are.  Caroline writes pages of beautiful, meaningful description with a few lines of dialogue.  Much like Edna Ferber did.

My fiction has tons of dialogue (probably as a result of my being a playwright) and just enough description to set the time, location and who my characters are.  I have to repeatedly check myself to make certain that I am giving my readers enough description.

Why am I telling you about this?  I need to be sure that you realize that there is no WRONG way.  If you tend to write in story telling form, a narrative, that’s great!  If, like me, you write a lot of dialogue and let that method tell the reader what your characters are doing, what the weather is like, who just showed up at the house, who she/he is in love with, who died, (well, you get the idea).  That’s okay too.

Aspire to write better every day….but don’t worry about your ‘style’, if it turns out that an author you really respect writes differently than you do.  It’s a DIFFERENT style but that doesn’t mean that your writing style is wrong.  Or that their writing is right.  It’s just about style, and what we feel comfortable writing.

If you are more a descriptive writer be certain that you keep your paragraphs short.  Don’t ramble on and on in one paragraph.  The eye of the reader needs a rest.  


 And double, triple check your grammar!   

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Want To Publish Your Book?

NEWLY RELEASED!      I’ve just finished some final editing on my latest “How To…” book and it is now available on and all other book outlets.

I’ve tried to create a handbook that will lead the writer, step-by-step through the self-publishing world.  Topics such as picking the right size for your book to advice on choosing a title. Manuscript formatting tips to  recommending self-publishing programs. From royalties to creating a dynamic cover for your book. And much, much more.  

This book is available at your favorite book store and on-line. 








My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   October: Life Coach, shaman, author, Jennifer Monahan, November: Susanne O’Leary, December: Mimi Mathews, February: Jennie Gautet
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