Saturday, November 30, 2019

On Being in a Writers’ Group ~ by Jacquolyn McMurray

I’ve been a storyteller for as long as I can remember. As the third born in a gaggle of seven children, car rides were the perfect time to entertain my younger siblings with tales of witches, magic, and happy endings. For years I dreamed of being a published author, but like many others, I made excuses about why I didn’t have time to write.

And then in 2001, we teachers in Hawaiʽi went on strike. We gathered daily to “walk the line” and took advantage of the opportunity to get to know one another more personally. One teacher suggested we bring notebooks and do some timed writing exercises together. A few of us joined in the exercises and even fewer of us were brave enough to share what we’d written.
By the end of the strike, three of us had formed a writers’ group and committed ourselves to writing together one day a month, typically on a Sunday afternoon.  A fourth teacher joined us later after deciding to send our trio a writing sample and a request to join. Based on our frequent snack of ice cream sundaes, we dubbed ourselves the Sundae Writers’ Group. Two of us remain active to this day.

One of our earliest lessons was that supporting one another was superior to going it alone.  And along the way, over almost two decades, we learned other valuable lessons on our paths to publishing.

How to give and receive constructive criticism.

In the early years when we were all raising children and teaching full time, we used our monthly writing sessions to motivate ourselves. We did a lot of Natalie Goldberg timed writings and made up some of our own. We looked at our school vacations and started to arrange weekends of writing—two nights and three days in a rented house with no other distractions. Stories and poems emerged. We added reading our work aloud to the group and critiquing one another. 

How to deal with rejection. Lots of rejection.

The poet in the group had already published a few poems and had her eye on publishing a chap book of her collected work. The rest of us wanted to be published, so we explored those options and started submitting some stories and poems to magazines. 
The success of one was a celebration for all.

One of our writers had a good idea for a non-fiction book to help students better understand the writing prompts in high stakes tests. We rallied around her and helped to revise and edit her chapters. She published that book with Corwin Press. 

With structure, we are more productive.

Over time, members of the group moved and took on more challenging positions in the workplace. Determined not to dismantle the group, we arranged to meet in the summer for a week-long retreat.

Eventually, two of our writers were no longer able to attend writers’ group, but Kristin Noelle Wolfgang and I soldiered on even when she left the state for five years. Every summer we rented a quiet place to write for a week and continued to follow the organization we had developed for our retreats—set goals and celebrate our progress, make simple meals, minimize contact with the outside world, honor quiet writing time, and stay in the sanctuary except to take walks. 

Over those years, I too became a published author. I learned to value scheduled, structured, writing time, but most of all I value the support of Kristin and all the other writers who make up my tribe.

Jacquolyn McMurray writes both contemporary and historical romance. She and her husband live on a macadamia nut farm on Hawaiʻi Island where they feed a clowder of cats and a flock of hodgepodge chickens. Jacquolyn is a member of the Romance Writers of America, the Greater Seattle Romance Writers, and the American Christian Fiction Writers. When she's not writing, Jacquolyn enjoys time with her family, reading, sewing and solving crossword puzzles. In her past life, she was an elementary school teacher.

Follow her on Facebook or Amazon

Listen to Jacquolyn McMurray's podcast episode here.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Episode 116 - Guest Grace Augustine

Grace Augustine – author of the Acorn Hills series, The Secrets of Dalgaard Castle, and So, You Have MS.  Now What?!5b32f

Episode 115 - Guest Scarlett Braden

Scarlett Braden – author of the Providence in Ecuador series, Psst! Your Wisdom’s Showing, and Lyrics of a Transcendental Love.!5b32f

Sunday, November 24, 2019


These are the most-listened-to episodes of the week. Did your favorite make the list?

1)   Leanna Sain
2)   Eric Malikyte
Spencer Dane
4)   Lew Bayer
5)   Miranda Oh
6)   LL Collins
7)   Kathrin Hutson
8)   Freya Barker
9)   Jacquolyn McMurray
10) Teresa McRae

*stats compiled from Podbean - these do not include numbers from ArtistFirst Radio Network

Saturday, November 23, 2019

To Research or Not to Research? ~ by C.J. Baty

Every author struggles with that question. Even the sweetest romance needs a setting, background, or stability to move the story along. Those like me, who write within a specific time frame, dig much deeper. Whether it’s a specific landmark, a restaurant, hotel, or mode of transportation, you must have the right information to make your story real to your readers.

Guess what? I love research. I know, who of us liked remembering all those dates and names when we were in school. But today, it’s one of the best parts of starting a new story. Originally, with the Pinkerton Man series, I spent a lot of time researching where and how the Pinkerton Agency began. Finding where their offices were located during the early 1900s offered me a wide array of directions to where my characters' stories would take them. This research included which trains traveled to the west and how long did it take to get from one city to another. Did you know that in 1902, a train traveling from St. Louis to Kansas City to Cheyenne took two weeks?

Research for another book allowed me to discover that Delmonico’s, a famous steak restaurant, actually existed in 1906 in New York City. I also learned that the streets in New York were a mess of horse-drawn vehicles and mobile vehicles. The street was unpaved, and the horses had to be cleaned up after.

In another series, research and some help from a retired fire chief helped me discover that the cause of a fire that I had planned, would actually work. It would definitely bring down the building!

A story for me is in those types of details. Finding them and making them true in the stories I write is important to me. When the details are right, a reader feels immersed in the story. He or she can see the character walking down that street in New York. Hear the sounds of the vehicles, horses, and crowds walking by.

That doesn’t mean that historically correct reads are lacking in romance or erotic instances. In fact, the detail of a bedroom or a dark alley can make the romance even better. It brings a realness to the intimate things happening between two characters.

I remember the times I spent hours in the library doing research for some school report. I hated it. Today we have Google©. Thought a trip to the library happens once in a while. Sometimes, I find an overload of information when looking online. It makes for a lot of extra time to sort through it all. Did you know that the Lusitania could cross the Atlantic from New York to Liverpool in less than eight days? I had no idea.

The next time you pick up a book, watch for those little details. The things that make the characters' situations come to life for you. Was it the mention of a street name, a city’s location, the wallpaper in the bedroom, or china cup someone used that sucked you into the story and made it real for you? That’s probably because the author did his or her research.

C.J. Baty writes gay romance/historical/mysteries as well as gay contemporary romance.

Listen to C.J. Baty's podcast episode here.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Episode 114 - Guest Leanna Sain

Leanna Sain – author of the Gate trilogy, the Half-Moon Lake series, and Hush.!5b32f

Episode 113 - Guest Eric Malikyte

Eric Malikyte - author of Echoes of Olympus Mon, Into the Astral Lands, and Minds Horizon.!5b32f