Friday, October 20, 2017

A Lesson in Writing: Part One

A few weeks ago, I started a Meet-up group. It was kind-of a random thing and kind-of not. I used to host a monthly writing night through SCBWI, but stopped a year or so back when time and life got in the way. It was too bad, really. Writing can be so solitary; it was refreshing to have that time to share with like-minded people. The kick in the pants came when my daughter transferred to a local college. She went to every group she could, trying to find “her people”. I was inspired. Who are my people? My thoughts went to that quiet group. Those were my people. I needed to find them again.

As I said in the beginning, I went to Meet-up and registered my group: Writing in Black and White and waited as the numbers slowly began to climb. My people! They needed me as much as I needed them!

I started planning our first gathering. My last writing night was held at the local Panera, but I’ve changed a bit since then, become a bit quirkier, I guess. I decided to have the new location be at a steampunk coffee shop down by the canal: Steamworks. It’s perfect. We met for the first time last night.

I was surrounded by great coffee and new/old friends. My people. We talked, we wrote, and while I was doing that, I thought of this blog. A lot of times I don’t write anything because I truly don’t think I have anything to say. You’re busy. You don’t want to read my rambling thoughts. But then last night as I sat next to an illustrator who wants to turn writer, and I taught her the very beginnings: how to get inspired, I realized I do have something to say, something worth reading. So, that’s what I’m going to do here on the Fridays after those meetings: I’m going to review the lessons taught and the lessons learned from the night before. So grab a cup of coffee and join me. I could always use more of “my people”.

First, this lovely woman had a blank notebook and a pencil that she was staring at while the rest of us plunked away at a fast pace on our computers. You could see the anxiety on her face, growing by the second. I pulled out my phone.

“My inspiration comes from lots of places,” I said, “But I’m a visual person. I’m guessing, as an artist, so are you.”

She nodded, relief on her face. She wasn’t looking at the blank paper anymore.

I scrolled through my pictures, showing her the *one that inspired Rachel, one of the main characters from my series. “See,” I said. “See how that woman looks scared, how she’s pulling her shirt in, how she’s trying to cover herself as best she can?”

The woman nodded. She saw.

“And look how she’s in a hurry, almost running to get away. What do you think she’s thinking? What do you think she’s feeling?”

“She’s scared.”

 I nodded. “Now show me some pictures that inspire you.”

She got out her phone and scrolled down. Within five minutes she was looking at a picture of an old building, wondering who worked there, what they did, and how life would have been like in those days. Within five minutes her paper wasn’t blank anymore. She was scribbling, writing as fast as she could.

What inspires you?

Let’s look at some pictures, and as you do, ask yourself questions.  

Who lives here? Who owns that car? What are they like? Are they poor/rich? What are their dreams? Have they lived there their whole life? Are they just waiting to move out? Is that why they bought that old Bug--and tried to fix it up with spare parts they found? What is their story? I want to hear it, don't you?
How about him? Is he running away--or is he just out for a walk? How old is he? Is he an only child? Who are his friends? Why is he alone? Does he want to be? Is he lonely? Is he lost? Tell me about him. Help me to know him. Help me to love him.
One last one:

Who are they? Did they just meet, or have they known each other forever? Did they grow up next-door and only recently realize that what they've been looking for all along is right there? Are they afraid to reach out again, to let themselves try, just one last time?
See how protective he looks? She how he's looking at her--and how she's looking at him? To them, in that moment, there's no one else in the world. She in him and him in her. Do you feel that? Because that's what this exercise has been about: feelings. Drawing them out, writing them down. People, all of us, are feeling creatures. We want people to make us want to give a damn. We want something to love, to fight for. As a writer, it is up to you to give that to them and you can't until you feel it first in yourself. Try it. Your future readers will thank you for it.
Until next time--
All pictures on this post have been obtained from Canva. Try them--highly recommended.
*An American Girl in Italy by Ruth Orkin


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Sisters Grimm Announcement

Hello everyone! I'd like to make an announcement:

We are taking submissions for a fairy tale anthology, Sisters Grimm, beginning on Halloween 2017 until New Year's Eve 2017. Accepted submissions are requested to be between 250-1000 words. We are looking for dark fairy tales. Think Brothers Grimm. To be true to the title, we are accepting submissions from females only for this anthology. Each accepted piece will feature original artwork by Jessica Gadra and an original musical score by Nathan Moran. Due to the unique nature of Ubooks, each story, while part of the anthology, will stand on their own. Have a breakaway hit? You alone will reap the reward. Send completed tales to:  
I can't wait to read your tales!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

IWSG: September 2017

First Wednesday of the Month

It’s the first Wednesday of the month, making it IWSG time. Thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh and co-hosts for putting this on. It’s a great spot to shout your insecurities to the world. To realize you’re not alone. I’ve been part of this group for years now, so it feels like I’ve pretty much laid it all out there. But some insecurities just don’t seem to go away. Like the fear of rejection. I haven’t submitted anything to an agent/press for a long time, so I thought I was over this one, or removed from it, anyway. But then I got a stinger. A few weeks ago I submitted an application to participate in a conference as a publisher. It’s the first time I’ve done it from the other side of the table. After some time I received a rejection. The same dull pounding came back. A rejection? Why? Because our publishing company is too small, too new, and frankly too out there. And then I remembered why I left the traditional publishing world in the first place. Too cookie-cutterish. Now I know that sounds like sour grapes, and maybe part of it is. But part of it’s not. I kinda like being too out there. How about you?

Friday, August 25, 2017

Five Year Goal Review: August 2017

Last Friday of the Month

It’s here again: The last Friday of the month. Which makes it time to review some goals. For those of you who are new to this site or don’t know, I particiapate in Misha Gerrick blog challenge: Five Year Goals. I tend to need accountability when I commit to something, and this offers me that. Thanks to Misha for putting this on each month. If you’d like to join us you can. Here’s the link.

My goal is to run a world-class publishing company. I’m a little over two years into this thing and so far it’s going good. We’ve just added another illustrator to the mix: Jessica Gadra. You can check out her work at: . She is amazing. She specializes in pen and ink with watercolor fairytales and that’s what she’ll be doing for us. Her first project will be The Gift by Liz Daniels. Look for it in January. And while I’m excited about that, I’m even more excited about another opportunity that having her on the team has created. A long time now I’ve wanted to do a fairytale book. I’m not talking the happy, sweet kind, no think Brother’s Grimm. Dark. I’ve written a few myself but it never felt like enough. And I didn’t have any cool illustrations…  

Drum roll please…

Beginning October 31, 2017—Halloween—Black and White will begin accepting submissions for a Ubook fairytale anthology to be released the following Halloween: Sister’s Grimm. We’d like the stories to be true to those roots: gritty, dark fairytales—but like all good fairytales there has to be a moral at the end. The tales should be between 250 and 1,000 words. And the authors need to be women. Sorry guys, have to stay true to the title. Each selected story will have an original musical score by Nathan Moran and original illustrations by Jessica Gadra. This is going to be awesome! For those selected, a contract will be offered, which includes payment of 25% gross of all revenue received. (And the cool thing about Ubooks is that each story is a separate video, so if yours is popular, you get all that revenue. It’s not divided among all the authors of the anthology.) Submissions will close on 12/31/18-New Year’s Eve. Email your tales to:

I can’t wait to read what you’ve written!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Goal Review: July 2017

Last Friday of the Month

It’s Five Year Goal review time. Thanks to Misha Gericke for putting this on each month. If you don’t know, this is a group of motivated people who have gone out on a limb and spoken a dream to the world. And review it each month, again, for all to see. My dream is to have a world-class publishing company.  I feel very ridiculous saying that. Who makes their dream that big? I guess I do.

   How it’s going: Good. Right now I’m waist deep in a project that I’m super excited about. I’m turning my first novel, The Newstead Project, into a Ubook. Now, for those of you unfamiliar with the process, that doesn’t sound like anything special. Ubooks are incredibly labor intensive, so this project of mine is going on a year in the making. There are 12,544 frames in this book, each one hand made. 120 chapters, each one timed and spaced and set to music by yours truly. The goal is to have it completed on September 3, exactly seven years from the day I started writing it; which leaves me a little over a month to pull this thing off.  Do you think I can do it? Here’s hoping.

   See you in August with an update,

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

IWSG: June 2017

First Wednesday of the Month

Welcome. It’s IWSG time again. Thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh and co-hosts for putting this on each month. If you’d like to join us, you can sign up here.

The insecurity I’m focusing on this month isn’t so much about good things or bad things, it’s more about yes vs. no. I used to be so good at only saying yes to things I really wanted to do. That mentality freed up so much time. But now I’m in a strange place. There are so many good things to say yes to. Yes to kid's summer soccer camp, because of course they’ll want to do that, right? And yes to swimming lessons--heaven forbid they drown—and yes to another animal (or two)—they’re so cute—who could say no? And yes, yes, yes.

And now my life is too full to breathe.

This happens every once in a while to me and I have to sit down and wipe the slate clean and start over, which is hard. It would’ve been easier to say “No” in the first place. How do you tell someone you changed your mind about that adorable lamb they’re holding onto for you? Okay, maybe I’ll get the lamb. But then something else has to go. Do you see my dilemma? How do you choose between so many “good” things?


Friday, May 26, 2017

May 2017: FIve Year Goal Review

Last Friday of the Month

Today is the last Friday of the month, making it time to review some goals. A little over a year and a half ago, I joined this wonderful online community (waves hi to Misha and others) which not only allows me to visit this goal monthly, but also provides such wonderful encouragement. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, or if you’d like to join in, you can find out more/sign up here.

My goal, initially, was to write the next great American novel. About six months into this five your project, I changed that goal: to running a world-class publishing company. I’m not arrogant, I promise; not delusional. I know the impossibility of what I just wrote, both things, actually. But I also know I serve a God who somehow makes the impossible happen. And that’s what I’m counting on.

With that in mind…
Today, just now, I found out that both of my goals have been blessed. The Newstead Project, my first novel, just won the Author’s Circle Novel of Excellence for paranormal novels. I’m blown away! When I submitted it for consideration, I did so out of personal love for this story. I am beyond thrilled that others have some book-love for it, too. With that in mind, I’m pleased to announce here, for the first time, that I’ve been working a little over a year on making The Newstead Project the first full length Ubook novel. It will be released this September. This will bring the story to a much deeper level, with a streamline voice and mood-stirring music. I can’t wait for you to experience it.

I said doubly blessed, didn’t I? Jellyfish Jones, Black and White Publishing Co.’s first ever Ubook won as well. I am pleased to announce that Jellyfish Jones just won the Author’s Circle Children’s Book of the Year. This one wasn’t such a surprise. The story is superb, the illustrations charming, and the original musical score by Nathan Moran was perfectly done. Not to mention the narration (nudges daughter Hannah, who did a wonderful job). It has always been my goal to publish only that which is excellent, and I am thrilled to see that that excellence was awarded today.

So, how is it going? Well, we’re not World-class yet, but I’d say we’re on our way.