March 15, 2017

What Surprises You About Writing?

Recently I was asked by an interview,

He included the creative process, publishing or editing. Admittedly nothing in the publishing or editing process particularly surprised me. I realized going into this field that getting published would be a challenge and would require all my powers of persistence. I also recognized that without support from well-known writers or publishing houses, I wouldn’t attract the attention of the big houses or an agent. No surprises there. That was simply realism.bigstock-euphoric-and-surprised-winner-113833298

As for the editing process, there were no surprises there as well. I understand that editing is the hallmark of good writing. Once I writer said her first draft was always perfect and she rarely made any changes, I recognized that statement as unrealistic.

Editing does that. Perhaps I didn’t realize in the early days that editing and creating were so different. That may have surprised me a bit. Editing requires a different kind of thinking–ruthlessness. Creating is softer, more forgiving.

So, what did really surprise me about writing? The answer lies in the creative process. I’ve always been a very organized person, with to-do lists and clear paths. I set those paths and I maintain a high level of discipline to meet the goals on those paths. Creative writing lapses in a different world. When I set out to write my first novel (a practice novel–one that will never be published), I began with an idea. The outline in my head had a fuzzy path, nothing concrete. Before long, my mind took me to places I’d never been or seen. Characters emerged with ideas of their own.

The surprise is that if I fought to bring the story back on the path I had original planned, it fell apart. If, however, I allowed the story to unfold as it wanted to, it grew and developed. This was not just a surprise but scary. When you don’t know where the story is going from day to day, it’s frighting. Negative thoughts take over. Things like: “This story is a bunch of crap or Who’d every want to read this?”

Persistence kept me going in those early days and I had to trust that everything would work in the end. The surprise was that it did!

Not organized or neat. But, if I will allow the messiness to happen, something special, something I never dreamed would happen emerges. Twists and turns I never predicted come into focus. My story unfolds and even I have no idea how.

Or maybe your other creative endeavors? Share with us. We’d love to hear from you.

Wanna preview the winner of the GOLD in mystery? Check out e-Murderer.

My Interview with David Alan Binder–Full of Writing Tips

DSC_0003_4x6Joan Curtis interview with David Alan Binder

Joan’s Bio from her website (shortened):  Joan is an award-winning writer who has published 7 books and numerous stories. In her mystery/suspense novel, The Clock Strikes Midnight, we meet Janie Knox, a tormented young woman who escaped her home and family after a jury convicted her stepfather of killing her mother. Her second mystery e-Murderer is the first in a series, starring Jenna Scali, a fairly normal young woman who happens to run into dead bodies. Again, this book captures the imagination of readers with all its twists and turns. The second in the Jenna Scali mystery series, Murder on Moonshine Hill, features Jenna and her friends at a quiet wedding in the mountains of North Carolina. All goes well until everything turns deadly with the discovery of a corpse.

Joan’s books have won awards. The Clock Strikes Midnight won FIRST PLACE in Royal Palm Literary awards for Mainstream/Literary fiction and the Silver Medal in the Global eBooks Awards for 2015. The e-Murderer won FIRST PLACE in the Malice Domestic Grants Competition for new writers and the GOLD for mystery in the Global eBook Awards for 2016. (website) (blog)

Goodreads Author’s page

Amazon Author’s page

Twitter page

Facebook Author page

MuseItUp Publishing Author page

1.  Where are you currently living (at least the state or if outside US then Country)?

I live in Athens Georgia—A university town.

2.     What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience, so far?

There is little that’s predictable. My stories unfold as I write them. The    publishing process changes daily. Writers must be flexible and persistent.

 3.     What would you say is your most interesting writing, publishing, editing or illustrating quirk? 

My mind goes faster than my fingers on the keyboard. So, when I re-read what I’ve written, I’ve often left out words or written something that totally doesn’t make sense.

4.     Tell us your insights on self-publish or use a publisher?

[Tweet “I appreciate the support of a publisher #authorinterview” David Alan Binder] In my view if you’ve written a book     that is worth publishing, you can find a publisher. It’s not easy and the big name publishers are very hard to break into as a new writer, but the small   publishers offer a good alternative. I would only suggest self-publishing if the purpose of your book is marketing a business. Who is the name of your publisher and in what city are they? My fiction publisher is MuseItUp Publishing, Pierrefonds, Que. Canada. My nonfiction publisher is Praeger Press, Santa Barbara, California

5.     Any insights eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing? 

All my fiction books came out first as e-books and were later published in print. My publisher holds the rights to do that. The problem with having just e-books is that they cannot be signed. Often I want to do giveaways of signed copies or book signings. Clearly print books are necessary. The problem with just having a print book and no e-book is the cost. Most people do not want to pay print book prices for an unknown author. Some people only read on print and others only by e-book. It’s best to have both!

6.     Do you have any secret tips for writers on getting a book published?   

The first bit of advice is something you’ll hear from many writers. [Tweet “Keep sending the book out even in the face of multiple rejections #authorinterview” David Alan Binder] That doesn’t mean writers do not pay attention to rejections and the comments made. Revising all the time is critical. But, we must continue to persevere in the face of rejection.

I also suggest going to the small publishers. Researching them and finding         one that fits your genre. Skip going to an agent. Agents are as difficult to     snare as the large publishing houses. And, in this day with the internet giving   writers access to so much information, agents are becoming less and less important.

7.     How did you or would you suggest acquire an agent?  Any tips for new writers on getting one?

I don’t have an agent, and I really do not see the need for one. My publisher is very generous with her authors. I read the contract myself and understand the terms. Most intelligent writers can do that. If you happen to write a blockbuster, the agents will come looking for you.

8.     Do you have any suggestions or helps for new writers (please be specific and informational as possible)?  

. I give it away on my website for signing up. (

Generally, though, my first suggestion to new fiction writers is to finish the book. There is no use looking for publishers or agents until the book is finished. If you are writing a nonfiction book, you must write a very  complete book proposal before you explore publishers or agents. (Agents are really unnecessary for nonfiction writers).

My second suggestion is to spend a lot of time re-writing your book. Put together a group of Beta readers who can give you honest feedback (not your spouse or your kids). You may have to pay some of these readers. It’s worth it. Once you get the feedback, go back and re-write. The manuscript must be polished and honed as best you can get it before you send it out.

My third suggestion is once you get your book published, you must take responsibility for getting the word out. You cannot count on your agent or publisher to do that for you. If you can afford to hire a publicist, great, but most of us cannot. You must build a platform through blogging and tweeting   and then tell that platform about your books. I didn’t do that with my first          nonfiction book. I expected the publisher to market it for me. I needn’t tell you, it didn’t sell too many copies!

9.     What was one of the most surprising things you learned your creative process with your books, editing, publishing or illustrating?

For nonfiction, I found the writing less inspiring. I wrote facts and conveyed information almost as if I were teaching a class. There was little opportunity for creativity—nonetheless I did create examples to spice up my books.

I’m what is called a pantser fiction writer. That means, I do not rely     heavily on an outline. I learned early on that if I let my mind go, almost in a trance-like state, characters will emerge, take on personalities and sometimes take over the story. This is quite surprising when it happens, but it’s also    wonderful. Writers cannot force this and some writers never experience this process. I am fortunate that I experienced it early in my writing.

10.  How many books have you written?

I have written and published 4 nonfiction books, all published by Praeger Press out of California. I have also written and published 3 mysteries. I have a new one that will go      to the publisher in January 2017. Each of these have been published by   MuseItUp Publishing.  I spend my time now writing fiction.

11.   Do you have any tricks or tips to help others become a better writer (please be as specific and information as you possibly can)? 

Notice what you like to read and what works for you. The more you read the better writer you’ll become. But beyond this, writers must learn the craft of writing. Learn how to write dialogue. How to create scenes. How to develop a worldview. I have a number of tips and suggestions for writing suspense and mystery on my blog, But, I also suggest that writers find blogs that help them improve their skills. There is much more to writing than simply putting a pen to paper.

12.    Do you have any suggestions for providing twists in a good story? 

This is a very tough question. All my books have unique twists and turns. My best response to this question is to let your imagination go. Because I don’t write from an outline (in fiction writing), my characters will come up with interesting twists that even I hadn’t thought about. But, I do know that for me, the best thing is to put the book aside and to do something else. For example, with The Clock Strikes Midnight, I had reached a place that felt like a wall. Something had to happen but I didn’t know what. I put the book aside and went for a swim. While swimming, the answer came to me. Many times the answer comes at night while sleeping or on a walk. Getting away from the work is the best way to allow your subconscious to play with ideas and come up with amazing twists.

Let me add one caution. Don’t write twists just to write twists. Your twists must feel natural to the reader. Otherwise the reader feels betrayed. I recently read a book where it became clear to me the author simply        wanted to surprise the reader. As a reader, it felt contrived.

13. What makes your or any book stand out from the crowd? 

In The Clock Strikes Midnight (a stand alone mystery/suspense), the main characters are two sisters. Their interaction as well as their bond is what make the story different. Furthermore, there is a southern charm to the book that many readers have enjoyed.

The mystery series (e-Murderer and Murder on Moonshine Hill) debut two characters—Jenna, the main amateur sleuth, and her sidekick, Quentin. The two play off each other in a unique and fun way. Readers not only enjoy the suspense and the inherent mystery, but they also enjoy the humor and the realistic portrayal of these characters.

All my books are set in the south with southern speaking characters. This isn’t necessarily unique, but it adds a certain charm to the pages.

14.  What are some ways in which you promote your work? 

I have promoted my work through the social media in the following ways: 1) Blog tours where reviews and excerpts appear on blogs for a period of time 2) Tweeting daily about my books and about other books of a similar genre 3) Facebook groups and a Facebook author’s page.

I’ve entered contests and gone to conferences to receive rewards for my books. The Clock Strikes Midnight has won three major awards    including First place Royal Palm Literary Award and e-Murderer won the GOLD for the global e-book awards.

In more traditional ways, I’ve appeared at book festivals for book signings. The Decatur Book Festival is one of the largest in the country. I appeared there last year. I’ve also appeared in small bookstores for book signings.

15.  What is the one thing you would do differently now (concerning writing or editing or publishing or illustrating) and why? 

I spent a lot of money on promoting my first fiction release. I regret two things I did: Join NetGalley and hire a publicist. Both of these things cost a lot of money and were not worth the expense. NetGalley produced some reviews, but not enough to justify the cost. The publicist did a lot for my book, but not enough to make up for the cost.

Another place where I spent too much on the first book was the creation of a book trailer. I made the mistake to contract with real actors. The cost was extremely high even though I produced a very professional book trailer. For the second book I created a book trailer more cheaply, using standard images off the Web. Overall, I’m not sure readers look at book trailers, nor if     they have any impact on sales. For my third book, I decided not to create a  trailer.

Be careful to pick and chose how you spend money on promoting your   book. You will have to spend some (blog tours), but I learned that the less    spent the better.

16. What saying or mantra do you live by? 

If you set your mind to something, give it all you’ve got, concentrate on it and you will succeed!

17. Anything else you would like to say? 

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to these questions. I hope my answers help some writers, and I hope some of your readers will join me on my blog and become part of my community.

Books on Amazon:


Clock Strikes Midnight

e-Murderer: Jenna Scali Mystery Book 1

Murder on Moonshine Hill: Jenna Scali Mystery Book 2


Hire Smart and Keep ‘em

The New Handshake: Sales Meets Social Media

Managing Sticky Situations at Work

Strategic Interviewing: Skills and Tactics for Savvy Interviewers

Share here.

Q&A with Thriller Writer O. N. Stefan

Olga is an accomplished writer of suspense thrillers. That’s a genre I particularly enjoy. Let’s find out more about Olga and how she comes up with her stories.

olga for web site3

Author O.N. Stefan

JC: First, Your website tells us little about you. What do you do when you’re not writing?

Olga: When I’m not writing, I could be gardening, or cooking or catching the latest movie.

JC: Your life sounds wonderful, either writing, or gardening or cooking… nice. So, let’s move onto to your writing and your books.  What made you decide to write thrillers rather than other kinds of mystery genre, like police procedural or detective stories?

Olga: I love reading something that propels me into a world where every turn can mean danger or death.

JC: Speaking of danger and death, here’s a peak at one of Olga’s books, The Death Caress. This book trailer says a lot!

That really makes me want to read this book! Now, back to our interview. Olga, It sounds as if you begin your writing with a germ of an idea and you take off from there. How would you describe your writing style—an outliner or one who lets things flow.

Olga: I like to do a chapter by chapter breakdown with a sentence of two to describe what happens in that chapter. Although, I don’t always stick to this. It just depends where my characters want to go and as long as it fits the story, I let them have their own way.

JC: Yes, I absolutely agree with you. It’s best to let the characters tell the story. Fighting them is a losing battle! Speaking of the characters, Tell us about the main characters in your books. What are some of their unique characteristics?

 Olga: Amanda Blake, my main character in The Deadly Caress is scared of feathers and the dark. She has to fight her fear of 4these things to escape her captor.

JC: In reading your reviews, it seems readers like the suspense you created in your books—How do you maintain suspense throughout the story?

Olga: This is a matter of conducting the symphony (book) orchestra with a light or heavy touch to set the speed and intensity of the reading experience. Learning to control this pace is a key tool and one I’ll be forever perfecting.

JC: So nicely put! Indeed, creating that wonderful tension is something we all struggle with. You seem to have an intuitive feel for it. Let’s digress again for just a moment and look at the great book trailer for Sleep Then My Princess. The trailer gives a good sense of the suspense we’ve been talking about

JC: I’m always interested in the journey other writers take from the completed manuscript to the published work. I noticed you decided to self-publish your two books. What led you to this decision?

Olga: Originally, I only wanted to traditional publish and tried to find an agent. I was successful in securing an agent but she closed her agency before she was able to place my thriller due to ill health.

After this, I tried sending my first thriller to publishers but it would mostly come back unopened or never to be seen again. Follow-ups didn’t get me anywhere either.

Therefore, I decided to follow the indie publishing route and published with Amazon Kindle and a few other retailers.

JC: Your path sounds similar to the frustrating journey many of today’s authors face. How sad to get an agent and have the agency close before she could sell your book! So many disappointments on the road to publishing. But, you got the books to readers. Thank goodness! Tell us in your own words what readers can expect when they read your books.

Olga: I write what I enjoy reading, emotions laid bare, action in dispersed with lighter moments and gripping threatening situations that have me on the edge of my seat. And wrapped in all that, a mystery that I want to solve.

new wild fonts imageIn Sleep then my Princess, I take the reader inside a depraved serial killer’s head and lay bare the emotions of an innocent woman whose life has been ripped from her and whose present season of recovery is being trespassed. The love of a niece for her mourning auntie connects the reader to the prologue and adds another level of emotion to this complex plot.


JC: Olga, thank you so much for stopping by. Here’s where readers can connect with O.N. Stefan. She writes an active blog and she’s available on Facebook and Twitter.





Amazon Author Page:








How Much Are You Willing to Change to Publish Your Book?


During the talk he shared an example of something that happened to him early in his career. A big publisher offered to pick up his book but asked him to rewrite the story from the point of view of one narrator. He had written it from the viewpoints for four different people. Rash felt he couldn’t do what the publisher asked and still maintain the integrity of the story. He turned them down. Later, a much smaller publisher picked up the book.

Now, would I have made the same decision? I remember when Reader’s Digest offered to publish my first story. It was an original story that I’d worked on for almost one year. The re-write they sent me didn’t sound anything like the story I had written. It was much more in the flavor of Reader’s Digest. My story had a very different voice. The question was, do I want to publish the story or not? I caved. Unlike Rash, I decided to allow them to publish the story as they had re-written it. But, to this day, I do not see that version as my story. Whenever people ask to see the story, I send them my original.

The second time this happened to me was at the point of publishing my first business book. I wrote a very clear proposal that the publisher bought. When it came time to write the book, they asked me to write something else. Instead of a practical hands-on book as I had proposed, they asked for a more academic book. Again, my decision hinged on whether I wanted the book published or not. My agent advised me to write what the publisher wanted. Once more, I caved.

I have a lot of respect for Ron Rash. He’s what authors need to be.

I suppose we must be the Van Gogh’s of the writing world. Van Gogh never caved to the pressure to paint for the masses. He painted what he had to paint. He died not knowing how well-received his work would finally be.

The flip-side of this question is that often publishers know what is best. They may suggest something the writer needs to do to improve the work. Case in point: To Kill a Mockingbird vs. Go Set a Watchman. Anyone who read both will know that the publisher was right in asking Harper Lee to make changes. To Kill a Mockingbird is hands down better than it’s predecessor. So where is the dividing line?

What are your thoughts?


Recently I’ve been tweeting with the hashtag #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen. It’s been fun thinking about how do we know we’re writers. Or, the better question: when does it hit us we are writers? Is it when we’ve published something? Is it when we spend most of our time writing?


For me, I began thinking I might be a writer the first time I published. I had sent in my story to a national competition sponsored by Reader’s Digest and McCalls. It won second place and the editor of Reader’s Digest asked me to call him. I did, and we worked on the story for the next year before Reader’s Digest bought it. That’s when it hit me I could write. Or, at least, my writing had some credibility. But was I a “writer”? I’m not sure I would have thought so then.

With a new feeling of confidence, I continued to write, but it was not my real job. When I introduced myself to others, I didn’t call myself a writer. I called myself an educator or trainer. That’s what I did when I wasn’t writing. Clearly I didn’t consider myself a writer yet.

Later, a publisher bought my first business book. I had been writing fiction in my spare time, but when that happened, I began my journey of writing nonfiction–business books. All the books I published in this genre were related to my “work.” I wrote a book on interviewing skills, on communication skills, on social media and sales. Again, I didn’t call myself a writer. I called myself an educator, teacher, coach. The books complemented my other career. I still didn’t know I was a writer.

Then, four years ago, I put everything else aside. I closed my coaching business. I stopped doing workshops and seminars except for one or two. I focused my attention on writing fiction. By then my computer housed at least three completed manuscripts, but in a different stage of completion. My focus changed from writing part-time to writing full-time.

During a recent trip abroad, when I met new people, for the first time in my career, I introduced myself as a writer.

Perhaps you knew you were a writer sooner. When did that magic moment happen for you?

Tips for Publishing without an Agent

In the past writers had to have an agent to get a foot in the door at most the publishing houses. Agents selected writers that had previously published and sold well or showed excellent potential to do so. Why?

The agent’s main job is to broker a profitable contract between the writer and the publisher. The writer earns royalties and the agent makes a percentage usually 15 percent of that amount. This is still how it works for the big publishing houses which do not accept unsolicited manuscripts. In other words, those larger publishing houses only take manuscripts from agents or those they’ve specifically requested from an author.

Fortunately for many new writers this system has weakened in recent years.

Because publishers can now publish books at so little cost to themselves, they can charge much less per book. Furthermore publishers take less risk. Therefore, they do not need the middlemen (agents) to help them find writers. The reduced price of e-books also means there is less to go around. Writers can hardly survive if they give 15 percent of a $.99 or $2.99 book to agents. (And writers do not get the full face value of the book. So many writers get a portion of $.99 or $2.99)

Another important job of the agent is to negotiate a contract for the writer. In today’s world of instant information, writers can find sample contracts to help them understand what they are signing. They can talk to other writers in online chat rooms like Facebook writer’s groups, LinkedIn writers groups and many of the specific genre groups. All these resources enable writers to evaluate their own contracts without the help of agents.

High angle full length portrait of a loquacious long-winded busi

Here are some tips for getting your work sold without the help of an agent:

Read all the fine print before you sign anything. Talk to other writers either in person or online.

 Several things to look for: 1) What input will you have on the cover design? 2) How much will the publisher help you with getting the word out about your book? 3) Who has the rights to the print version or audio version of your book? 4) When will the book be released? 5) What happens if that release date is not met? 6) How are your royalties determined and distributed 7) What editorial support will you have? 8) Who will own the international rights?

One value of the agent is they know what publishers are out there. They stay up-to-date on mergers and new developments in the publishing industry. It’s hard for a writer to do all that. Find resources that can help you. The Literary Market Guide from Writer’s Digest is a good tool, but it is vast. I used an online database called Another is Even though the title of AgentQuery is for finding an agent, they now have a large database of publishers as well. These resources will help you narrow your search.

If you write “women’s fiction” or “literary fiction,” you will have a lot more trouble than if you write “young adult fantasy” or “cozy mystery.”

Learn what they accept and what they are looking for at the moment. Look at their list of authors to find out if your book fits.

Everyone wants to believe you selected them because they are a perfect fit for your work. If you send out simultaneous submissions, you negate that assumption. You must disclose if you are sending out a simultaneous submission. It’s best not to do it.

Because you do not send simultaneous submissions, you can limit the time you wait for a response. Most reputable publishers will respond within three months.

Indeed, the writer has to do a little more work without the help of agents, but in this day and age, and with the difficulty many of us have with securing an agent, it’s worth it.

What are your thoughts? Are agents going the way of manual typewriters?

Spotlight on Eclectic Author, Janet Lane Walters

I’ve been enjoying the wonderful blog posts by author, Janet Lane Walters. So, it’s with great pleasure that I welcome her to my site today. She’s going to share her secrets for writing in so many genres as well as her unique take on what she calls her “obsession”–fiction writing.janetlanewalters

JC: First, Janet, thank you so much for joining us today. Why don’t we start by learning more about your journey in publishing. I noticed that you moved from traditional publishing to the e-publishing very early. What prompted this move?


As the short story market dried up with fewer places for these stories, I began writing novels. Actually a rejection from a magazine set me off. “Sounds more like a synopsis for a novel.” I set off to learn how. In those days editors had time to write comments on manuscripts. There was no sending off a synopsis and three chapters. The whole mss was required. I learned a lot while writing my first novel from submitting it and receiving critiques that gave me writing lessons. Three of those novels sold. Then came a change.

When my children came closer and closer to college age, I returned to nursing to help put them through school and I did very little writing. Nursing is a demanding job, at least for me, both mentally and physically. Then along came a change in the late 1980s. I heard about a writer’s one day conference across the river. A romance writer’s conference. I went and met some women who were to become friends and colleagues.

One of them, Jane Toombs, sold my first book when I returned to writing full-time. She’s also the one who dragged me into electronic  publishing.  Actually that was in 1997. The first book sold and came out in 1998. What provoked that move. I would say once again the markets were drying up with publishers folding into each other and there being fewer markets. But another thing to drive the change for me was

Somewhere during this time, I did some ghost writing for doctors and learned I don’t enjoy writing non-fiction.

JC: Congratulations on all your writing successes. Tell us more about what you like about writing fiction versus nonfiction.

JLW: Non-fiction uses a part of my brain I don’t use that often. When I was a nurse, I used to get into trouble with my care studies because I made the patients under study too human. Even in college, I got into trouble on papers. Once wrote a paper on Milton in Miltonian blank verse with even the footnotes following the pattern. I guess it’s mainly me. I do like to take two or more people and fit them into a situation and see how they can achieve a happy ending. Don’t always succeed but I do try.

JC:  Let’s talk a moment about your social media presence. As I said earlier, I really enjoy your blog. And, I’d encourage others to visit you there  Describe for us your social media strategy.

JLW: I have no real strategy for the social media. I enjoy blogging and do a daily post, but I don’t have to do all of them. Keeping the posts for the most part short keeps the time spent to a minimum. Most of the posts have something to do with writing. Monday, it’s Meandering on what ever comes to mind. Sometimes gripes, sometimes funny, always a remark or two on my writing progress. Tuesday is Inspirations using quotes from other authors that have triggered my thoughts. Wednesday is Writer’s Tips, gleaned from my vast collection of books on writing. Thursday, lately it’s the Heroes in my books but usually something from my own stories. Friday and Saturday is for other authors with a short interview. Sunday varies but lately I’m talking about my own series.Since I belong to a number of Tribes on Triberr, this gets my posts out to many places. Belonging to a lot of groups for writers and readers gives me a look at what other people are writing and reading. I can also post my news on these places.I do Tweet but not as much as other people and that’s mainly how I keep up with friends. I retweet for my friends and occasionally share something.I’ve begun working on my Facebook skills but I use this for my own promotion and for sharing things with other groups I belong to.

Don’t stay on long, be short and sweet and get back to writing.

 JC: I absolutely agree that the blitz approach is the way to go. I’ve never heard it described that way. As writers, we struggle with balancing the creating time with the social media. Of course, blogging is writing.  As you mentioned, you include a lot of information on your blog pertaining to writing tips. Tell us how you learned so much about the craft of writing.

JLW: By bits and pieces. Actually as I’ve said before I began writing in the dark ages when editors had time to read the entire mss and to make corrections. My first published book was re-written sixteen times due to suggestions from various editors. I also spent a lot of time reading books on writing. Writing is the only way to learn how to write. The more you practice you do, the better you hone your skills. Persistence is another great quality. But that goes along with practice.

Finding a good critique group is another way I’ve found that helps me learn how to write. I’m still learning and practicing

JC:  Yes, reading is a great way to learn how to write. But, you write in such a wide array of genres. In a moment we will talk about what you read, but first I want you to share with us which genre do you find yourself going back to the most. I’ve already read that you don’t favor one over the other, but my guess is you have one that you tend toward.


Most of my stories are really romances though they come in many sub-genres. There are the strictly contemporary romances, many that have medicine in some form or other. There are the paranormal stories but they’re also romances. Even my YA stories have a hint of romance in them. I guess I don’t think of categories when I write. Usually there is a mix in each book. I do love fantasy and often use some paranormal experiences. Maybe this is where I fall. Who knows.  I guess I could say I write romance in a variety of forms. After five books in my cozy mystery series, Katherine marries her old friend. So I’d say romance, sometings sweet, sometimes only a hint and sometimes very sensual.

JC:  Given your penchant toward romance, tell us what you look for as a reader.

JLW: As a reader, what do I look for in a story? I read mostly genre fiction but a lot of different kind of stories. What I really like is interesting characters in a tight plot, a plot that makes sense.

I don’t like to be bored. When asked who are my favorite authors, I have so many I can’t begin to name them.

JC: One reason I don’t ask authors to cite their favorite author is just the reason you gave. Most of us read so much there are too many to name. Let’s talk about The Amber ChroniclesHere’s an excerpt to whet our reader’s appetite:Walters-AmberChronicles

Emme, a witch and the heir to the throne of the world called Amber is banished from her home to find love. She believes she can command a man to love her but this does not work. 

Angry at being told no by the crown prince of Rivand she casts a spell on the Riva family. Every hundred years when the moon is full at the summer solstice she will call the crown prince. If he refuses to cede his love to her he will enter the amber orb and vanish. Four times she fails and the princes find adventure on other worlds. One turns an enchanted amber dragon into a princess. The second is imprisoned in an amber tower and must select a bride. The third must free the heroine from an amber cage. 

Emme slowly learns her lesson and returns to spend her childhood with the fourth prince. Hoping knowing each other will help. She has fallen in love with the crown prince and enters the amber orb in his place. Can Emme who is Cast in Amber be freed and gain the love she has sought for all those year?

 This sounds intriguing. Readers can find this book on Amazon or by clicking the links above. Tell us, what do you hope readers will take away from reading your books?
JLW: Mainly I think escape from what’s happening in life. I don’t write with heavy themes other than good vs evil but this is on a broad scale. I like villains but I want them to be people who make the wrong choices for the wrong reasons. Some are truly evil, but most of all, I want people to curl up with one of my books and escape for a time from the world. Literary fiction, I’m not into trying to write that.
JC:  Thank you so much for joining me today. We will look forward to your work in progress. Here’s Janet talking about what she is working on now. Don’t miss her updates on her website and follow her on Twitter.


 This is an alternate world since during the time period I’d selected for the books, there were no camels in Egypt. I wanted camels so I changed the world a bit. There are no pyramids or the Sphinx but much of the rest is changed a little but not much. Also in this Egypt, there is a trilogy two gods and a goddess. Toth, Bast and Horu. Each of the books focuses on characters who follow one of the triad. Bast’s Warrior is the first, Horu’s Chosen, the second and Toth’s Priest the third. There are also three of the main characters who are sent from out continuum to the one where the story takes place. The third heroine, Amara, is an orphan who is lusted after by the nephew of a drug lord who was responsible for the heroine and hero of the first two books choosing to find an escape.

There is a lot of action and unarmed fighting in these Egypt books since all those who come from this world have experience with this type of fighting. There is also romance that develops in different ways among the characters.

I’ve also planned the fourth of the Dream series, a contemporary romance series. This one will be called Divided Dreams and here the heroine, born under the sign of Cancer meets the Gemini hero.


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Eight Tips to Publication–My Road

file4661306949432My road to publication was slow and messy but the good news is I made it! You can too. I have some tips for writers who want to avoid self-publishing and want to find a home in a publishing company.

1. Go to conferences. For many writers it is hard to get away from their desks. They prefer to stay behind the computer and work away. But, you’ll never meet other writers, agents, editors and readers unless you go to conferences. Which conferences to go to? I suggest finding those that do not require a lot of travel. Also, depending on where you are in the creation of your work, select a best conference that suits your needs. For example, if you are looking for an agent, go to conferences where you can have a one-on-one with an agent. If, on the other hand, you need some help with writing dialogue or creating suspense, go to conferences that have particular workshops that will help you.

2. Enter contests. You don’t necessarily enter to win, but you enter to learn and to give yourself a deadline. If you must have your work finished and polished to send off to a contest by a certain date, you will have something to work toward. I was lucky. The first story I wrote won second place in a national contest sponsored by Reader’s Digest. It was later published as an original piece.

3. Meet with other writers. You do not have to share your work with other writers, but you can share ideas. Often other writers have resources for you.

Check out the Critique Circle if you don’t have a writer’s group.

4. Keep writing. Often it’s hard to keep writing when the prospects for publication seem so dim. In reality it is hard for everyone. When you finally get a Congratulations letter, you want to have several things ready to go. Trust me. You will be inundated with requests from the publisher as well as requirements for creating a social media platform once you get that yes letter. You will find less and less time open for writing. So, 

5. Learn the industry. By this I mean learn how to submit your work and whom to submit to. Keep a close eye on what is being published. How does your work fit in? Sign-up for webinars or go to conferences where you can learn the correct way to submit a query letter or cover letter.

6. Look for small presses. My experience is that with the changes in the publishing industry,

 As a new writer without an agent, you don’t have a chance with a large press. You must get an agent to even get your foot in the door. But, the catch is many agents will not accept new writers. They have a full stable of writers, and they do not want to take a risk with you. I had one agent tell me she loved my query letter (used it as a model for writing query letters), but she did not ask for more of my work because she already represented a very similar writer. Duh! You will learn that you must submit to agents who represent writers like you. Essentially you’ll get mixed messages as you pursue agents. My recommendation, go directly to the small presses. Many respond within 3 to 6 months.


. You will not make a lot of money writing fiction. Okay, maybe John Grisham was reading this twenty years ago and he proved me wrong. But, how many John Grisham’s are there out there? Don’t count on it. Write because you love it, but keep your day job!

8. Learn to accept rejection. In fact some rejections are not rejections. Several years ago I received a rejection for my amateur sleuth mystery submission. I had received so many rejections, I simply put this new one in a file. Years later I went through that file. I re-read that letter. The agent had not out and out rejected my novel. In fact, she said she liked it, but had some suggestions. She did not ask for more but it was clear I needed to follow-up. Be careful to understand when you are rejected and when you may have a crack in the door. Most of your letters of rejection will be auto responders. “This is not for us.” Many agents today do not even respond. They tell you if you have not heard in three months, consider it a rejection. Rejection is hard, but everyone, even the best writers, have experienced it. We pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and keep on writing!

Tips for Getting Your Fiction Published

books_7935675If you aspire to be a fiction writer and think all you have to do is sit down to your computer and create, you will be very disappointed. Most writers eventually want to publish their work. They want family, friends and others to read what they’ve created.

Here are some tips for gaining attention in the fiction world:

1) Enter contests. The first contest I entered was for a nonfiction piece. It was a national contest sponsored by Reader’s Digest and McCalls Magazine. I won second place and I received a note from the editor of Reader’s Digest. We talked and one year later I published my first written words as an original piece for Reader’s Digest, receiving more money than any advance on my later books.

This experience taught me not to be shy in entering contests. My cozy mystery won first place in the Malice Domestic Grants award for new writers. That boost motivated to keep writing fiction. My nonfiction proposal won first place in the Harriet Austin contest for nonfiction and was later to become my first published business book.

Don’t worry about winning the contest, just get your name out there. Even the smaller contests are worth entering. Imagine a query letter that begins with, “The Clock Strikes Midnight won honorable mention in the Regional mystery writer’s competition.” That sentence alone separates you from all the other query letters coming across a publisher’s desk.

2) Take classes and re-write. I’ve leaned so much over the years. I thought I could write before I began composing my novels. Unfortunately I knew little about fiction writing. If you are like me and didn’t major in creative writing in college, you might need to invest some time and energy in studying the craft. I’ve taken classes on everything from dialogue to plot development.  I participated in classes at writer’s conferences and online. For me Writer’s Digest offers the widest array of classes. Don’t be too proud to learn!

3) If an agent doesn’t snap up your creation, skip the agent and go to a small publishing house. With the current publishing industry in such flux,  it is becoming harder and harder for new writers to break into publishing. Agents want a sure bet. They want someone whose works they know they can sell (and make money). After all, they earn a percentage on your royalties. The large publishing houses still rely on agented manuscripts. So, where does that leave the new writer? Forget the agent and go to smaller houses willing to take a risk with your new work. I used a search driven website to help me sort through the small houses: There are others out there. Find the best one and go from there. But, most of all do not give up. Write and re-write.

I will continue to share tips for breaking into the publishing industry. Please add a few of yours!

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Why I Love Lee Smith

If you haven’t read Fair and Tender Ladies by Lee Smith, you are in for a real treat. It is one of my all-time favorite books. Lee Smith is an incredible storyteller. She writes with the beauty of a poet. But, she creates memorable characters and a complete sense of place. In Fair and Tender Ladies (my favorite of her books), the character is a young Appalachia girl who wants nothing more than to go to school. The book is of the epistolary style, all letters.

Recently I read an interview with Lee Smith (who, by the way, lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina). Barbara Chai of the Wall Street Journal, who took the beautiful picture shown here, talked to Smith about the changes facing new writers. The award-winning author lamented over the “dumbing” down of our culture. She talked about how hard or impossible it is for a young person to sit and read for a four hour stretch.

Do you remember long summer afternoons, sitting on your back porch or outside on your lawn with a thick novel in your lap, enjoying the world it was creating around you? I do. I’m sad that young people are not having that incredible experience. I hope a few are.

Smith also talked about how hard it is for new writers to get published. Naturally with fewer people reading, publishers are publishing less. Indeed, literary fiction and poetry are harder and harder to market. If your book can’t be transformed into a blockbuster movie, you may be out of luck.

As a writer of commercial fiction and a reader of both literary and commercial fiction, I don’t want to see either go away. I like the beautiful voice of the literary writer and I like the fun and adventure of the plot driven commercial read.

I hope that in these fast changing times we don’t throw away the old as we herald in the new. Let’s embrace the new technology and the kind of publishing that exists there, but let’s please keep our books.

What are your thoughts?