Monday, November 4, 2019

Painting, Books, and Personal Storms

Recently I have had to deal with some painful health issues that make it truly difficult to write. I don't know it its the frustration or the fact that I can't seem to focus on writing that is the culprit. Doesn't really seem to matter. The end result is the same. I can't write at the speed and quantity that I am used to and that really puts a damper on the whole 'love of writing' thing.

I have been enjoying some really motivational and encouraging blogs as of late. Most of them have to do with writing or reading because that is my bread and butter. But there are some that are of my other loves like gardening and watercoloring.

I find often that having a creative outlet other than writing can sometimes remedy writer's block even if I end up painting stormy clouds or lonely asteroids floating in dark space.

As I concentrate on healing and on giving myself grace for not writing like a madwoman All. The. Time. I have also promised to better manage the other aspects of my writing life that I do have control of right now. Like time and stress and social interaction.

For one, I have chosen not to participate in #NaNoWriMo this year because if I add any additional pressure to myself I fear I will blow a gasket. However, I do encourage you to try it if you haven't as the community is outstanding. Encouraging, engaging, and tons of fun! Plus there's t-shirts!

Secondly, I did sign up for a giveaway earlier in the year and yesterday my daughter and I had a lot of fun doing the "photo shoot" for the book I'm giving away. I think it turned out pretty nice...

If you're interested, its a HUGE multi-author event with tons of books and a $100 Amazon gift card!

Heading into the holiday season, I hope to get back into the groove of writing. Despite all the social engagements and shopping, I am determined to stay on task...most of the time. And give myself permission to procrastinate if I have to.

Hopefully, the words will start flowing again.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Revisiting Old Haunts

When I was younger, maybe high school, I discovered detective novels. Not modern ones. The old-school, hardboiled detective thrillers like Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Agatha Christie -- crime fiction fraught with drama. I was immediately addicted.

My book heroes moved from the curious teens of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew storylines to the grizzled detectives, the private eyes with snappy wit, the keenly observant yet horribly vain inspectors. My love for a good chase led me deeper down the suspense rabbit hole to Gothic mysteries where I discovered the deliciously brooding Victoria Holt and Du Maurier.

My husband and I recently started on another reading aloud kick. We previously went through a few of Connelly's books. But this time I was in the mood for something nostalgic. Something that elicited the forlorn notes of a lone jazz trumpet or visions of hot steam rising off a dark street. So, we're reading The Maltese Falcon. My husband has never read it or seen the movie and I'm excited to see how he reacts to the twists and turns.

As a suspense writer myself, I love to see genuine surprise or worry at a turn of events in any story, not just my own books. We're having a blast!  I wonder what other books are worth another read through...and another. What are your favorites that you return to again and again?

Or better yet, what books do everyone love that you just couldn't get into? I'd love to know.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

The Secrets Beneath the Streets

Photo by Yohei Shimomae on Unsplash
As an author, research is the icing on the book-writing cake for me. On top of feeding my thirst for newer and newer hobbies, it helps me to feel like I am writing in the most authentic way possible. For instance, I took gun and skip trace lessons to write my private investigator heroine in Purple Knot. I learned shorthand and found the courage to woman-up and eat alligator for my journalist character in the southern suspense, Bayou Blue. Its one of the best parts of writing because it forces you to stretch into the story. To learn something you might never have wanted or needed to study. That's why I love it.
This is even more true when it comes to the setting and location of my books. To better understand the local lore for Gothic mystery, Secrets at Crescent Point, I took underground walking tours of Seattle's "haunted" spots, learned about the mystifying lights seen off the shore of Orca's island, and of course, visited the famous Pike Place Market. Those fish mongers throwing massive fish over your head is a must see!
So when I began my current WIP, a Sci-Fi thriller set in near future Silicon Valley, I was super excited to use every part of my beloved state. From the aromatic and bustling China Town to the gleaming bastions of high tech innovation in southern San Francisco Bay, Veridian truly revels in the sights and sounds of California.
Photo by Randy Jacob on Unsplash
Something that truly piqued my interest were the stories and images by urban explorers of the abandoned tunnels and ghost stations that spiderweb undetected throughout the area. 

Apparently, there is a vast unknown commotion just beneath our feet. Closely guarded are the entrances and location to keep them from being sealed off by the cities, these places are fascinating to me. And in fact, are featured prominently in my upcoming novel. My heroine, Elara Savoya, tracks stolen tech wherever it goes no matter what. It takes her to some dangerous and breathtaking places.
If you are ever in California, I encourage you to slip in some exploration between Disneyland and the beach. All along the state but particularly from San Francisco to LA there are places to see that will definitely make an impression.
For instance, Los Angeles has underground sublevels that drill down as much as three stories beneath the street and once housed creepy veteran's hospital overflow rooms, dank storage space, and even fallout shelters. Needless to say, I was hooked on the legends and ghost stories surrounding these abandoned places, especially after seeing some of the elaborate d├ęcor of some of the abandoned stations. I wondered who would choose to live there as I've heard some do. I wonder why and what they were like.
What about where you live? Are there any places off the beaten track that just spark your imagination? I'd love to hear about them.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Bullet Journaling for Authors

I love to bullet journal. I find it relaxing and it gets my creative juices flowing when I'm having trouble with my writing. Sometimes just doodling or water coloring can redirect my mind and I can get back on track on my chapters.

Often, I find myself creating cluster brainstorm maps of my books or character interaction. I sketch the cityscapes in my novel or work out the details of weapons with pencil and paper. There's something soothing about the soft scrape of a fountain pen that settles the mind. So the creative aspect of writing has always been tied to my journaling habits.

Recently, however,  I have discovered some really neat ideas for using organization spreads to help keep tabs on tasks common to the writing life.
So, once or twice a week I sit down and write out some things I want to accomplish in say, social media. I brainstorm ideas for graphics to post on Instagram or Facebook and jot down deadlines for newsletters, blog hops, etc. I've incorporated a Writing Expenses page that really helps me see at a glance some of the business aspects of being an author. The possibilities are fun to consider. I'm working on a Word Count Goals page right now and its very motivating.
Bullet journaling has a great community and there are so many ideas on Pinterest, Instagram, and especially Youtube where you can follow amazing tutorials for organization spreads and themes. I really recommend taking a gander at the Bullet Journaling or #BuJo community for yourself. 

To celebrate my birthday with all of you, two of my suspense novels are on sale all month on Amazon!

Purple Knot is a romantic suspense set in Seattle where private investigator, Reyna Cruz, must work with the man who broke her heart to find her best friend's killer.

Whispers on Shadow Bay is a Gothic mystery set on spooky Noble Island where young caregiver, Rosetta, must seek out the cause of strange happenings and ghostly visions plaguing Shadow Bay Hall.

And as always, you can read all of my books for free on Kindle Unlimited!

Thursday, February 14, 2019

More Than a Box of Chocolates

Today I am so excited to host author, Kathleen Neely where she talks about the history and meaning behind Valentines Day...

It’s Valentine’s Day, and romance is in the air. We set aside a special day to celebrate love. It’s a day for flowers, candy, dinner, and gifts. An evening for a Hallmark flick in front of a cozy fire. A month to read a heartwarming romance.

But why? Where did this celebratory day begin? The origin actually had little to do with romance. It dates back to the 3rd century AD. A Catholic priest, Valentine of Terni, was executed for aiding Christians who were being persecuted. Here’s the link to romance. 

Marriage among Christians was banned by Emperor Claudius II because he felt men were reluctant to leave their wives and families to fight for Rome. Valentine defied that order and married Christian couples. His execution occurred on February 14. Upon his death, the church honored him with Sainthood, and Valentine’s Day was born.

Don’t place all of your focus on romance. There are greater needs than a floral bouquet and a heart-shaped box of chocolates. St. Valentine was martyred because of his love for God and for other Christians.

This is what we should remember.
  • See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are. 1 John 3:1
  • Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. 1 John 4:7
  • We love because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19
  • Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures forever. Psalm 136:26
I could fill pages with beautiful passages about God’s love. The word love appears 551 times in the NIV Bible. (This varies among versions).

‘Show, don’t tell’ is a common catchphrase for writers as they pen their stories. But we can take that beyond the written page. St. Valentine showed his love for Christians in tangible ways. How can we show love to both Christians and those who don’t yet know Christ? How can we meet their physical, emotional, and relational needs? We don’t need a romantic special someone in our lives to celebrate Valentine’s Day. We have the Author of love in our hearts urging us to go into the world, spreading His love. Let’s answer with the words from Isaiah. “Here am I. Send me.” Isaiah 6:8.
About the Author
Kathleen Neely resides in Greenville, SC with her husband, two cats, and one dog. She is a retired elementary principal, and enjoys time with family, visiting her two grandsons, traveling, and reading.
She is the author of The Street Singer, to be released in February, 2019. Beauty for Ashes and The Least of These will be released in 2019. Kathleen won second place in a short story contest through ACFW-VA for her short story “The Missing Piece” and an honorable mention for her story “The Dance”. Both were published in a Christmas anthology. Her novel, The Least of These, was awarded first place in the 2015 Fresh Voices contest through Almost an Author. She has numerous devotions published through Christian Devotions.

Kathleen continues to speak to students about writing and publication processes. She is a member of Association of Christian Fiction Writers. 
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Check out her new release:
The Street Singer will be available February 22. Learn more about it from her website at .

Excerpt from The Street Singer
“I done figured you knew. You wore them questions all over your face. She opened her water bottle and took a long, slow drink. Here’s what you gotta know. There ain’t no more Adaline. I’m Adda, my given name. That’s all I am.”

Trisha nodded but remained unsatisfied. “Can I ask what happened?”

Adda laughed. “Honey, age happened. You too young to understand. The body goes. The voice goes. The energy goes.

“I know, but your records, they sold…maybe millions.”

Adda chuckled at that. “Well, you be givin’ me too much credit, but yeah, they did sell back in the day.” Adda looked at her watch and took a bite of her sandwich. “So, I guess you’re wondering where all my money went.”

Trisha backpedaled. The bluntness made it sound so callous. “That’s none of my business, but...”

“You right there. It ain’t none of your business. But I’ll tell you anyways. My daddy, he was a sharecropper in Mississippi. We young’uns had to help when we got big enough to hold a shovel. I never got me past primary schooling. Them record people knowed it and all them fancy papers I signed didn’t give me much left over.”

Trisha gasped. “That’s terrible.”

Adda looked up from her lunch. “Oh, they treated me good. Real good. Set me up in a fancy place to live, bought me clothes and food. Dressed me for pictures and took me to the studio. But they never let me go places where I’d get to talk and never let me talk in microphones where I went to sing. Didn’t want me having no friends. I knew they feared my poor schooling would show. Them fancy papers I signed didn’t leave me much left over.”

Monday, February 11, 2019

Desolate Paths - Romantic Suspense

When rehab is Brooke Hollen’s only chance at redemption, she runs straight to it. But can she survive the serial killer who hides amongst the damaged and healing? And can she trust Kyle Reston, another rehab resident, who wants to take her under his wing? Or is he responsible for the residents who keep disappearing?

Today I am so happy to introduce author, Erin Unger. She has written a romantic suspense called Desolate Paths and I'm super excited!

Romantic suspense is one of my personal favorite things to read so you know I jumped at the chance to interview her.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

If I could go back—and boy do I wish I could—I’d tell myself to start writing!! Like right now. I wish I’d figured out God’s plan fifteen years sooner because it’s a long and arduous process becoming an author.

What is your writing Kryptonite?

Funny you should ask. My Kryptonite is way more persistent than Superman’s. It’s my mostly grown kids. As soon as the ‘Do not disturb’ sign goes up on my office door, suddenly they have a million questions and emergencies. And I have to help them right then. Nothing can wait. It’s so hard to send them away without dealing with their crises.

What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

Ooh, this is an easy one. Erynn Newman’s book Out of Darkness is absolutely one of the best books I’ve read in a long time, yet few people know about it. It should be on the NYT bestseller’s list for sure.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find? I love hiding a secret mulligan in every book I write. It’s a single name. I dare my readers to search for it. It can be a place or a person. And it means a lot to me because it stands for the beginning of a lot of things for me. Like where I first started writing and where I matured the most.

Do you believe in writer’s block?

Writer’s block is worse and more real than the biggest monster in your closet. I’ve suffered from it several times in my writing career. And I have friends who’ve struggled with it too. I even almost considered quitting because I had it so bad at one point. But thankfully God has kept me going and equipped me with better writing techniques to get past it.

Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?

I write because I feel God called me to be a writer. I even tried to give up and tell Him he was wrong about me becoming a writer. I’m sure you can imagine it didn’t work. It’s the way I minister to others in this world, and it’s very spiritual watching my characters grow in Christ. I even find myself growing with my characters as they are learning spiritual truths sometimes.

A big thanks to Erin for her thoughtful answers.

See Below for Information on Erin Unger

Social Media Links:

Short Bio:

Erin Unger was raised in the hills of Virginia, exploring abandoned houses and reading the scariest books she could find. After marrying so young it would make a great romance novel, she has enjoyed an exciting life with her hubby. But her fast-paced life sometimes rivals the suspense in her books thanks to all her mostly grown children and a couple grandkids. Her novel, Desolate Paths, released January 11, 2019.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Finally Taking a Breath

Best 9 of 2018
Last year was a doozy! For me, 2018 was a 'hit the ground running' kind of year. For one, my steampunk series, The Blackburn Chronicles was released by my publisher in an unusual way. The volumes dropped  in January, February, and March with four novellas releasing between the individual books. They did that because of the cliff hangers and it worked out extremely well, but it was crazy for a while. Like going a little batty kind of busy, but I loved it.
I got to take part in a few really fun author events from a massive campaign for Science Fiction and Fantasy authors via the SFF Roundtable to some more intimate #WIPjoy and #MeetAWriter events on Twitter. It was super fun connecting with fellow #Booknerds or book DRAGONS as we prefer to be called. Meeting other authors and lovers of science fiction and fantasy books is always so encouraging for me. I also got plugged into a great group on Twitter at #WritingCommunity which is the most interactive group of users I've ever encountered. Lots of fun and support there.
As you all know a week after my birthday in the spring, I fell and separated my collarbone from my shoulder. It was not fun and involved a lot of doctors visits and physical therapy. I'm almost completely mended by now, but the whole ordeal did take some conferences I had planned to attend off the table. It was such a bummer as I really was looking forward to hanging out with some lovely authors and readers I'd met last year.  I do hope to attend in 2019.
Though the injury grounded me for a bit, I did do some fun interviews over at Radio Retrofuture, Steampunk Radio, Speculative Fiction Cantina, and Lore Haven. One of the highlights of the year was when  my article for Speculative Faith about fantasy and grace got a narration treatment from Christian Geek Central on Youtube! That was such a thrill to hear. So grateful. 
Subscription box for Christian YA books, Anchor Chest, chose to feature the first book in my series, the Tremblers, in one of their first  boxes. A Youtuber named KellysBookSpill did an unboxing and it was awesome. I loved the super cute steampunk swag too!
Heading into fall I was raring to get into the next series tumbling around in my head. So I did a lot of planning towards the end of summer and into early fall. Working out the logistics of space elevators and researching 40's glamor for the aesthetic I was trying to create. I'd been honing the ideas and found that #WIPjoy and all of the prompts really helped me think about what I was needing to fine tune before I started writing at full speed. So there was a lot of false starts with this book.
Finally, in an effort to kick off my new romantic suspense series, I did #NaNoWriMo and got my behind handed to me in like week 2. It was brutal. I started off so promising, but plot problems and that pesky shoulder injury prevented me from being a NaNo Winner this year. However, all was not lost. Taking part in the word sprints over at Realm Makers was fun and I met a lot of other speculative fiction authors and book lovers. If you don't know about Realm Makers you should check it out. Its an amazing organization for Christian speculative authors. They have a yearly conference that is awesome.
So, heading into this new year I am all about the new series. I've done a ton of research and had a blast doing it. I can't wait to share Veridian with all of you!
I'm taking a breath from the massive push that was all of last year and making sure I read...a lot. I need the release and also the fun of diving into a world that I get to watch unfold without a clue as to what will happen. I'm open to suggestions for reads. I plan on tackling my to be read pile with gusto.
Until next time...RB

Follow Charlotte, a young Victorian debutante who must brave a world of air ships and dangerous rouges to stop a deadly plague in YA steampunk thrillers, The Blackburn Chronicles
The Blackburn Chronicles