Monday, June 17, 2019

Becoming Dee - A Writer's Journey ~ by Dee Stewart

I started writing at age thirteen. It’s a tough age for a girl. In Florida at the time, it was the first year you had to dress out during PE, and it was traumatic. At least it was for me. You begin to notice that you’re not as thin or pretty as other girls. No way was I going to undress and take a shower in front of my classmates! I stuck my arm in the water, and that was it. It was also the age I realized that not everyone liked me. Was it because I was fifteen pounds heavier than I should have been? Was it because I wore glasses? Or was it because I was smart? I never knew; no one ever told me why.
The truth is, the boys made better friends back then. Far less judgmental. Reading was my escape from the horrors of being a teenage girl, but I needed something else. So, I started to create my own stories. As a huge fan of Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden (does anyone remember her and the Bobwhites?), I wrote what I knew – how to be a teenage detective with a wonderful family and a group of loyal friends. But then when I was fifteen, I was introduced to my first historical romance – Kathleen Woodiwiss’ incomparable The Flame and the Flower – by one of my best friends, Hollie. After that, I was hooked on the genre.

I read all the popular authors back in the day – Woodwiss, McBain, Busbee, Rogers, Small, Sherwood, Vandergriff, and McNaught, among others. I used to save my lunch money in order to buy a novel at the end of the week. The cost of a four-hundred-page novel? $1.95 at B. Dalton bookstore! I absorbed the formula for a great romance and finished my first romantic suspense novel my junior year of high school called A Ray of Golden Sunshine which I wrote in the first person point of view and abandoned after that. I discovered I preferred the third person point of view instead. Beloved Forever, set at a ski resort, followed the romance between Nicole and Chris, and I completed it my senior year. Writing was my secret; no one knew what I was doing in my room for hours at a time. My parents thought I was studying. The best present they gave me for my sixteenth birthday was an electric typewriter.

Finding time to write became more difficult as I attended the University of South Florida and majored in English Education. I taught five-year-olds in Sunday School, too, which also demanded my time. But I managed to write A Masquerade of Love during those four years. And then came my own romance and marriage as I started my teaching career. Other writers claim that music is their inspiration, and it is also true for me. Back in 1983, Barry Manilow released a song called “Read ‘Em and Weep,” and one line in it struck my imagination: Oh it's there in my eyes/And coming straight from my heart/It's running silent and angry and deep. I thought about what would cause those feelings – betrayal. Thus, the most complex heroine I created at that time was born – Sabrina Williams. An heiress to a fortune caught between two men – Jeff, the wholesome boy-next-door whose close-knit relationship with his family she envies, and Nicholas, the rich, arrogant, coldhearted man who scorns everything and everyone (sound familiar? Yeah, he’s based on those heroes in historical romances!). She loves both men for different reasons. Jeff makes her feel safe and secure while Nicholas taps into her wild, passionate nature. In the end, her love changes Nicholas into a better, though not flawless, man. It took seven years to write that novel I titled Emerald Fury while I focused on my career and gave birth to my son.

Time passed, and I continued to write. Some manuscripts took several years to write while others took a matter of a few months. And then I met someone whose friendship changed my life – fellow indie author and teacher MJ Nightingale. We met at the high school where we both taught in the English department. She was the first person with whom I felt comfortable sharing my writing. After she published several novels independently, she encouraged me to give it a try. So I did. She taught me how to use Facebook (ugh), introduced me to my formatter, and showed me how to upload my manuscript to KDP. MJ also took time out of her busy schedule and family life to design teasers for all of my books. I learned how to use Depositphotos and Picmonkey, but she’s far better at graphics than I am! It’s been nearly a year since I published my first contemporary romance – Logan’s Choice. Six books later, I have learned a great deal about writing - (I have to stop thinking like an English teacher for one); I actually pitched a book to an agent and it was accepted, though I realized later it would have been rejected because it’s a spinoff of my Choice series, so I didn’t follow through; I have done several author takeovers in groups (MJ was with me during the first one which was more nerve-wracking than facing my first class as a new teacher); I’ve joined promotional groups, navigating the murky waters of marketing which is far more frustrating than writer’s block; I joined a local writers’ circle through the wife of someone my husband works with (it’s amazing how that worked out); I’ve done two author events at local libraries; and along the way I have met amazing, supportive friends through Facebook.

The first time I held the print version of Logan’s Choice in my hands, I cried. I couldn’t help it. Seeing my work in a published form overwhelmed me with emotion. Even if I never become a household name, I have that moment. It’s mine. Forever. And if my books brighten someone’s day, that’s good enough for me. I love what Henry David Thoreau said in Walden. “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours…”

That is my message and my hope for others. Follow your dreams. You never know where they may take you.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Episode 34 - Guest Aleatha Romig

Aleatha Romig – author of the Infidelity series, the Consequences series, the Web of Sin series, and the Tangled Web series.


Saturday, June 15, 2019

Episode 33 - Guest Debra Parmley

Debra Parmley – author of the Special Forces: Operation Alpha series, the Brotherhood Protectors World series, The Hunger Roads Trilogy, and the Butterflies are Free series.


Friday, June 14, 2019

Episode 32 - Guest Julie Lence

Julie Lence – author of the Weston Family series, the Revolving Point, Texas series, and the Jackson Creek series.


Thursday, June 13, 2019

Episode 31 - Guest Kristine Raymond

Kristine Raymond - author of the Hidden Springs series, the Celebration series, Seasons of Love, and Tempted.


Wednesday, June 12, 2019

When Inspiration Strikes ~ by MJ Nightingale

People often ask me where I get my ideas for the stories I write.  They find it amazing that, as an author, I come up with crazy ideas and invent these complicated stories with lots of twists and turns.   The easy answer, but not completely accurate, is to say that the ideas just come to me.  Sometimes they do, but most often they don’t. I often task myself with the job of thinking of what to write next.  I have notebooks filled with ideas and always used to keep a small one in my purse to jot those ideas down Luckily, today, with modern technology, I have an app for that on my phone.

Sometimes inspiration does not just come to me, though, when I am looking to tackle a new, fresh project. What do I do then? Well, the world around me becomes my proverbial oyster.  When I want to get the juices flowing and come up with something fresh, I rely on three trusted tricks – I watch people, I go somewhere I have never been before, or I read a book, article, or watch the news.

One of my biggest sources of inspiration comes from people watching. Being a writer, I am an observer of people by nature.  I see couples and just random people on the street and try to imagine what may have brought them to this place and time.  I love the romantic suspense genre, and in my musings, I can imagine all sorts of crazy scenarios that took this couple walking past me in the mall to the where they are today.  But also, sometimes, stories in the news or shows or on television inspire me to come up with those scenarios. I saw a series on Netflix about serial killers, and it inspired me to invent my own monsters in two of my books.

Places inspire me, too.  I love to travel, and I am huge history buff.  A visit to Amsterdam inspired a scene in a story I wrote.  I was sitting in a park waiting for a tour of a museum with a group of other tourists when a very ill looking young man began to vomit. I wondered why. The story that took hold in my mind was of him possibly being poisoned. The truth that he had probably been out partying all night wasn’t enough for my overactive imagination.  Death by poison while walking through a park just seemed like such an incredible way to die. Why was he poisoned and by whom? 

After I started asking those questions, the story idea was born. A vacation I took to Tennessee with my sons became the setting for a novel I wrote about a young girl hiding in the mountains while trying to escape from the mob. A tour of the Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York, an incredibly small and isolated town in the middle of nowhere, became the setting for a pack of shape shifting dire wolves. I mean, they are shape shifters and dire wolves, so of course they would want to be in rural New York high up in the mountains. My home of Tampa, Florida, and the nearby military base became the setting for my Bounty Hunter series. A series I am currently writing was inspired by a stay in a casino.  I imagined what it must be like for the people who work and run the place, and then from there I just let my imagination soar to weave the tail of a Native American family who run the fictional Mystic Nights Casino in Connecticut.

Lastly, classic books have inspired me as well and the themes in them. My entire first series was inspired by the theme of miscommunication between people and how it can destroy relationships.  This theme was present in many of my favorite romances growing up such as The Great Gatsby, Wuthering Heights, and Pride & Prejudice. Once I knew what I wanted to write about for that series, I then planned and plotted the conflicts and created characters based on strangers I met or came across. These characters would have scars from the past that they wished to keep secret from their new love interests. and using my imagination I created complicated backstories for them.  I had a guiding question that I kept in mind while planning: How would two different people each with their own scars and secrets meet and then eventually learn to trust another person enough to reveal those secrets? How and when would that happen in their growing relationship? And recently I have become more concerned and interested in dangers to our environment. So, my next series will focus on environmental concerns here in Florida while weaving in a conflict between my hero and heroine and tidying it all up with a happily ever after at the end. 

So, for me, from where does my inspiration come, I guess I could sum it up in three words – people, places and Ideas.  And, as I have said, I have tons of ideas. For aspiring writers, my biggest suggestion would be to watch people, travel and write about the ideas you love and want to share. Keep a notebook handy or use the notes feature on your phone to start stockpiling those creative ideas for when you are ready to start plotting and writing your own story.
MJ Nightingale is a USA Today Best-Selling author, and the author of The Bounty Hunters: The Marino Brothers. She has also written the Secrets & Seduction series, and the Mystic Nights series. She lives in Florida with her husband, two sons, and a sweet dog named Champ. Writing is her passion and escape, but she is also a teacher of 27 years. Her books are set in the places she has lived and traveled. Her heroes are men who will sweep you off your feet and save the day. You can always expect a wild ride, tons of action, an HEA, suspense, intrigue and super steamy scenes in an MJ Nightingale book. 

You can contact her on
Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, or visit her website.  While you're there, you can sign up for her newsletter.  And look for her books on Amazon.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Episode 30 - Guest Sandra Brown

Sandra Brown – author of 70 NYT bestselling novels including Friction, Seeing Red, and TAILSPIN.