Thursday, June 27, 2013


Ryan M. Shelton author of The Mentor

There’s a Calvin and Hobbes comic strip where Bill Watterson, the strip’s genius creator, gave us writers an epiphany.  In the particular strip I am thinking of, Calvin, the strip’s mischievous little boy, has a story to write, but he’s playing in the sandbox instead, “waiting for inspiration.”  When prodded further by his make-believe tiger, Hobbes, about what mood that requires, Calvin responds with, “last minute panic.” Like Calvin, I too seek inspiration, and am not so good at using it.

Long ago I read Stephen King’s On Writing, his step-by-step manual for writers.  In it, he stresses that writing novels is a job.  Keep the same hours every day, don’t stop until the goal has been set, put the headphones on and drink lots of beer.  Well, early on I kept to those very principles, keeping banking hours at the computer while listening to John Denver and substituting coffee for beer.  I pumped out a lot of paragraphs doing this.  Then I had kids.
9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. turned into 4:00 A.M. to whenever the baby woke up.  John Denver turned into any heavy metal that would keep me awake, and the coffee turned into shots of espresso lined up on my writing desk like whiskey shots at an old saloon.  It’s the same thing after the kids go to bed.

For me it’s a matter of getting “plugged in” to the story, which is not easy when I am tired.  Like Calvin, one hundred percent of the battle is just getting started. 

Once I do start writing, that’s when it gets exciting for me.  I look at creative writing the same way King does, essentially as daydreaming with a keyboard.   I try not to plot or have an ending in mind.  Instead I place a character or characters into a situation, and to use King’s words, “watch them work themselves out.”  This works well for suspense.  In my novel, The Mentor (Martin Sisters Publishing, 2013) I had no idea whether or not Vincent, the main character, was going to win the big game at the end.  If the author doesn’t know how the story is going to end, the audience probably won’t have a clue either.  

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Boys of ‘59; A great story for summer!

David J. Kirk author of Particular Stones

R.J. Burroughs does it again with the second book in his series, The Boys of ’59 by Martin Sisters Publishing.  This book picks up the next summer after The Boys of ’58.  It is about a group of young boys growing up in a small town in Oklahoma during a simpler time.  Burroughs, a masterful story-teller, is who I describe as a cross between Mark Twain and Will Rogers.  His book is a series of humorous vignettes about all the trouble 13-yer-old boys can get into.

In his second book, the author has paid attention to the developmental aspects of his characters.  Lead character, Sonny, is a year older than in the first book and is starting to show signs of introspection consistent with his cognitive and moral development.  Despite these subtle signs of maturity, there is still plenty of mischievousness to keep the characters and the stories funny and interesting.

What makes both these books great, in my opinion, is the calm and ease of presentation.  They are relaxing reads.  These are books to be read an hour or two before bed when you need to rid your head of worries caused by the intricacies of our modern lives.  Sure, the books take place in a less complicated time with wringer washing machines, outhouses, and fishing holes; it’s not just nostalgia for the times, but rather a way of looking at life.  Because what we did back then was laugh.  Something many of us have such difficulty doing today.

If you want some stories that are better than a belt of brandy after supper, I recommend you check out The Boys series.

R.J. Burroughs
Visit R.J. Burroughs

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

My Favorite Summer Reads (A.K.A. My favorite books that I have ever read. Like ever.)

By Allison Blanchard, author of the Forget Me Not Trilogy

"Old Magic" by Marianne Curley 

I think we all know about my unhealthy obsession for this author and her work, but she of course made it to the top of my list. I absolutely adore this novel. It is a young adult paranormal romance that deals with time travel and history. It is so good in every way. If you haven't read it, then you are missing out. Go buy it now. No, but really. Do it.

"Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen 

I am a hardcore Austen fan and I am not ashamed. I love everything about this book and often reread again and again. Austen does a romance justice and I aspire to be like her. Oh, Jane. If only you were alive today for me stalk.

"A Thousand Splendid Suns" by Khaled Hosseini 

Oh. My. Gosh. This novel literally punched me in the face. It was so good. No, but really. This book is insanely well written that I laughed, cried, laughed again, and cried even more. If you haven't read this beautiful book, then you haven't lived life.

"Redeeming Love" by Francine Rivers 

I think it's clear that I love Jesus and therefore would like to fall in love with a man who does too. This romance novel showed me that it is possible. Francine Rivers' words and truth of the Gospel changed my perception of true love and what it is all about. I cried throughout this novel, loving the characters and seeing myself in them. This book is a must read for any follower of Christ who is looking for a man to lead her closer to God. Although it is fiction this love story will ignite of flame to know Christ more intimately so that you will be able to perceive the right man from the wrong man. LOVE. THIS. BOOK.

 What are some of your favorite summer reads?

Monday, June 24, 2013

Summer Reading (or “How to Enjoy Your Fellow Man Without Really Trying”)

Bill Schweigart

Summer definitely ranks in the top four of my all-time favorite seasons.  A large part of that is because of reading.  The pace slows down and it’s easier to steal quiet moments with a book.  And just in time for the beach, the taste-makers rush to anoint a new book as the Next Big Thing.  In years past, I've shied away from those, but on occasion, I've joined the human race and more often than not was glad that I did.    

A few summers ago, I was at the neighborhood pool where every third person was reading a copy of Stieg Larsson’s “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.”  Ultimately, I succumbed to the novel’s omnipresence and my own curiosity and read it that very summer.  Though not a typical “beach read,” with its brutal characters and a forty-year old murder mystery locked in the dead of a Swedish winter, it surprised me by becoming one of my favorite books, and ultimately, series. 

Still, what fascinated me most at the pool that day was the idea of summer reading as a shared experience, not unlike a sporting event.  Only with a book, you can experience the action at your own pace.  And there’s no line for the bathroom.  And you don’t have to pay for parking and the snacks are reasonably priced. 

Also, you don’t have to sit through a game.  With a crowd, which, I think we can all agree, is the worst.  What I’m really trying to say is that I hate watching sports.  And my analogies need work.  But also that you can still experience a form of camaraderie with summer reading, without actually having to deal with other people.  So, find a patch of shade, stretch out, and embrace your fellow man – at a comfortable distance – with a book.  Preferably mine.  

In the meantime, what “summer read” read most surprised you?

Bill Schweigart is the author of Slipping The Cable, a Coast Guard thriller and a true beach read, composed of equal parts sun, rum, and guns.    

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Baseball and Books, a Review of The Mentor

Karen Robbins author of In a Pickle

Baseball season is upon us. The opener is March 31 this year. I cannot tell a lie. I've been waiting all winter for this! I love baseball. So when a novel called The Mentor by Ryan Shelton came to my attention, I couldn't pass it up. You see, it's all about baseball!

The Mentor tells of a teen who has just graduated high school and has lots of talent that hasn't been displayed on the field because his coach has showcased his own son and benched Vincent Preston more times than not. Having no one to believe in him--kids make fun of him, he's essentially a loner, and has absentee abusive parents, he is about to give up on ever getting to go to college with a scholarship. His English teacher has noticed something special in him though and introduces Vincent to her husband, a former scout for a professional team. Grandpa Dean coaches Vincent and mentors him. Vincent learns more than just how to pitch and it serves him well as he faces some challenging times off the field as well.

It is a good wholesome story for teens and adults and I enjoyed all the baseball talk. Learned a lot about fastballs, too. So if you want to feed your baseball fever pick up a copy!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Just When You Think It's Safe... Edit Again

Jessica Sherry
Author of Sea-Devil: a Delilah Duffy mystery
Editing isn't the creative process I love as a writer.  It can be tedious.  Boring.  But, it's absolutely necessary.  Once I had a manuscript, I thought the editing would be simple.  Check a spelling.  Fix a mistake.  Done.  
I had read somewhere (I think it was Stephen King who said it) that first drafts are never good.  Funny how I thought I was the exception to this rule.  I had a story, start to finish, that made sense and was good.  That's all you need, right?
Wrong!  A sound plot is only the beginning.  I exercised patience, and while I was checking for mistakes, I was also sparking with new ideas.  Each edit brought new ideas.  The story grew... not longer but deeper.  The characters came to life in new and exciting ways.  The plot became stronger, more suspenseful.  I would look at scenes and question... how can I raise the stakes here?
The first draft was just the bones.  The key for me was to first get the story out, and then to make it good.  As it turns out, editing the book has been more rewarding than actually writing the first draft.
Even small changes can make a world of difference... building up the scenery, adding a reference readers will understand, giving each character his/her own voice, toying with depth.  If you love your story (and you should), this tinkering is like trying on a new dress after you've lost weight or playing with a great new haircut.  Same body, same hair... just different.  Better.
There will never be a time when I am 100% satisfied with a manuscript, but as long as each edit brings something good... then, I'll have to keep editing.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Beginning the Journey

Dana Mansfield

My first novel (Sunset Park, Martin Sisters Publishing) began as an image of a woman in glum contemplation as she sat on a rooftop watching the sun go down. That’s all I really had but it was enough for me to ask the following questions and then answer them. Who is this woman? What is her story? Why is she glum? In answering those questions, Sunset Park was born.

In contemplating my writing method, I realized that what sparks each story I have written are questions. They may come from an image – such as with Sunset Park – or it might just be a question that pops into my head randomly or in reference to a news headline. Sometimes those questions come and go but when they stick, then that is the spark that starts me on a story journey. If given the opportunity, would you do your life over? That led to my “Caveat” short story. What do women see in geriatric/rude/womanizing/name-your-vice celebrities? Is it just the money and possible shot at fame? These last two questions led me to the Deceptions book trilogy I’m working on now.
With the question comes problem solving, something I love to do as a writer. The problem solving begins as I put the pieces together as I figure out the who’s, the why’s, the where’s and all that. It continues as I work myself out of a corner I’ve written myself into. The exit solution must keep the integrity of the overall story that I am trying to tell. The answer to the original question – the finished piece – may only resemble that question slightly in the end, as with Deceptions, but that is okay. The question served its purpose and I have enjoyed myself on the journey to answer that original question.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Writing Method is as Writing Method Does

By John W. Howell
As one of the newest authors to join the Martin Sisters Publishing team, I am very excited about the prospect of having my novel published under the MSP banner. The book is in the editing phase of production so the purpose of this post will be a little different than talking about the story line.
As a new author, I have frequently been asked about my writing method. Initially I took that question to mean; do I use a pen, pencil or some other method to get the words out of my head and down on paper or some other format? I think you can visualize the semi-stunned looks when I explained,“ I compose all my stuff on a computer using Word.” This response would be like a kid asking a parent where they came from and the parent giving an answer like “Philadelphia.”
I came to realize; interested people want to know how I construct a story, create the characters and then bring both to life in a written form. So let me give you a very brief overview of my writing method in six steps:
1.      I think of an idea of story line. This may be inspired by a conversation, a situation or an encounter.
2.      I write down the basic idea. I use my iPhone Notes section since I have it with me all the time.
3.      I take the idea and roughly construct an outline that is essentially a three act play; Act one introduces the characters and conflict, Act two brings intensity to the conflict and Act three is the resolution.
4.      I then outline each chapter with simple descriptions of what happens in that chapter including a timeline.
5.      I sit at the computer no less than four hours a day and fill in the details.
6.      I rewrite and edit until I think I have an acceptable draft

So that is my writing method which is not too complicated. I hope you found it helpful