Saturday, December 10, 2011

Poetry Corner ~ Calling all POETS!

Poetry ROCKS --- What a great way to express yourself! Take a turn...take a chance...come with me...lets have a dance :-)

My submission this week is a very old poem that I wrote many years ago (see date) about a year after I left my husband who had physically abused me for five years....

Final Words and Truth

I feel I have to find a way to vent these bitter feelings and pain,
So, I picked up my pen and hoped I could do it through writing,
I'm sure for some people this will be hard to take and even harder to understand,
Why someone with an attitude and personality like mine would be at the mercy of any man,
I could never figure out why his soul was filled with such hate and anger,
And then to my fearful realization on many nights when I was visited by the dark side of this, my husband, the stranger,
As his attacks upon my flesh became more and more brutal,
I became filled with such frustration,
And yet I still had no idea on how to deal with an d put an end to this bitter devastation,
My body, mind and soul being so betrayed by his iron fists,
And my heart breaking more and more each time he tightened his grip,
I had to get over being so recklessly deceived,
to learn how to stand and walk again so I could fight for me,
So as scared as I was and although I was weak,
I knew I would have to eventually crawl on my knees and then stand on my own two feet,
So, one cold day many years ago,
I decided to have a new devotion,
My heart and body had suffered long enough and became my own healing potion,
I didn't need and didn't want sympathy from my friends,
All I needed was them to be strong for me when my belief started to sway again,
Now I'm stuck to live here with all the guilt and shame,
Only because I refused to share this mans house and name,
He was cruel and bitter and a very lost soul and the harder I tried to make things right, the worse he would get,
What most don't realize is that if I didn't leave when I did,
Instead of facing that I'm divorced, you'd be facing my death,
So sit up there on your high throne and judge me all you want you see,
but this sould had to be once and for strings attached -- just FREE.

Written by Becky Illson-Skinner 
November 4, 1991

Friday, December 9, 2011

Time Management Tips for Writers

Hi everyone,

Doesn’t it seem like EVERYONE is pressed for time? 

I know I am! Between getting up and going into my full time day job (I can’t afford to write full time), getting the kids up, getting us to where we need to be, working all day, picking the kids up, making supper, packing lunches, keeping the house clean, getting the laundry done, taking care of the pets, preparing the blog post for Mystery Writers Unite and still trying to find time to write and relax…let’s just say that some days I feel like I need a few more of me!

I know I’m not the only one feeling the time management pressure and from what I understand most writers face the same type of time-management dilemmas such as:

  • Trying to meet their current deadlines while marking to existing and new reader base.
  • Trying to switch from one task to another and even sometimes one project to another without getting distracted.
  • Trying to avoid setting unrealistic expectations but then not setting the bar high enough all in the name of avoiding that terrible feeling one gets when they don’t meet a goal.
  • Trying to be flexible enough to be able to deal with unforeseen events that inevitably croup up in our day-to-day lives while still having enough structure to reach their goals.
  • Trying to perfect the ability to be able to be able to multitask and work on multiple projects.

Now, I’m not saying I have all the answers, but I do have some strategies that I’ve come across in researching this subject and some others that I practice myself that I thought I would share with all of you.

Time Management Tips:

1.    It’s helpful to have a designated workspace — ideally, an office or studio space outside of your home. If this isn’t possible, a home office with a door you can close is your next best option. Don’t have a room to set aside for an office? Go to your local Pier 1, buy a Chinese screen and section off a corner of a room. Voilà: instant office. Another popular choice is to go and write at a coffee shop or your public library.

2.    No, I’m not saying you should work naked, but dress like you’re going to the office. Because, guess what? You are. Even if your “office” is your kitchen table, putting on regular work clothes gets you into the right mind-set. It also makes it less embarrassing when the UPS man shows up in the middle of the afternoon.

3.    Prepare documents ahead of time for quick turnover if you get an inquiry (e.g. writer bio, an introduction letter with a snippet of your book, etc.).

4.    Use your email folders, filters, rules to manage your email. This will save you a TON of time when you need a particular email and don’t have a spare half hour to scan hundreds of messages.

5.    Make sure you remain rested and take a break if you begin to feel fatigued. 

6.    Create an outline for the day.

7.    Outsource tasks that eat into your time and take you away from reaching your writing goals (e.g. research, editing, cover art, etc.)

8.    Schedule what you can and use networking tools such as Tweet Adder, Hootsuite and Social Omph to automate tasks (see: Guest Blogger ~ R.S. Guthrie on Social Media Marketing post for more information).

9.    Many writers think they’re inefficient when the real problem is their need for perfectionism. Instead of waiting for the “perfect” line or idea to come to you just right what comes to mind and then you can refine and hone it until it's what you want.

10.  If you’ve managed to cut your commute by having a home office, don’t waste that extra time by deciding that you now have time to have an extra cup of coffee or some other irrelevant task that will make you arrive at your home office the same time your would have arrived at an outside office.

11. Don’t waste time by watching TV, going to the movies, doing household chores or laundry during your WORK day. It is fine to take a break now to ensure that you feel rested and alert but do your best to stick with the schedule you decided upon.

12.  Limit the number of distractions around you (e.g. turn off the phone, don’t check mail, cut off access to Internet, don’t answer the door, etc.).

13.  If a challenge is what motivates you, set a timer for a set period of time and see how many words you can't add to your story before the timer dings. Take a rest, set the timer and do it again with an aim to improve upon the number of words you managed the first time around.

14. If your easily motivated by others, having a writing buddy that you can check in with on a regular basis (daily, weekly, monthly or even quarterly) to keep you accountable may be useful (just don’t waste all your time

15. Set weekly goals and then schedule them in.

16. Reward yourself when you meet your writing goals – this doesn’t have to be something “big” it could be a simple as taking the time to go for a walk, visit a friend, have a nap or a glass of wine and pat yourself on the back! These little rewards will keep you motivated and give you something to look forward to.

17.  If you are like me, you may get satisfaction from crossing things off a “to-do” list – make one stating your daily goals in small manageable parts (e.g. write 500 words in the next 2 hours) and start crossing them off!

18.  Schedule your work to be at a time when nobody else is working or in the office (e.g., really early in the morning or really late at night).

19. Tackle the stuff you don’t like or enjoy doing first. Often times if these things are left until the end of the day, you may put them off until the next day.

Have a great day everyone!


Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Luuuuuve Scene: AKA, Secks

Ok, so... consider the following scene:

Steam crept out from under the bathroom door. It was unlocked, though, and she let herself in. 
Matt’s head popped up over the rickety shower door.
“Well? How was the gallery? Blow them away with your skills and talents?”
“Meh. It’s populated with fine artists. They don’t exactly impress easily. My talents would be considered very mundane, I think.” She put her wine glass on the counter.
The shower thunked off and Matt slid open the door. “Maybe you should tell them your ‘mundane talents’ solved a crime.” He winked and motioned for the towel on the rack beside her. “That should impress any ponytailed pretty boys you might get to stare at downtown.”
She slid the towel off the rack as she sized up her middle aged, muscular husband. Her pupils dilated as she watched the water run down his chest. Right now she wouldn’t notice a ponytailed pretty boy if he was nine feet tall. Matt reached for the towel, but Julia held it just out of reach.
“Come here. I’ll dry your feet.” 
He stepped onto the bathmat, and Julia reached for his wet shoulders and chest with the towel.
His voice was husky in her ear. “I thought you were going to dry my feet.”
“I am,” she whispered. “I’m just starting at the top.” 
She raised her lips to his as she reached behind her to lock the bathroom door.

...aaand, fade to black.

Actually, Fade to Black. The above scene, an excerpt from my upcoming mystery, is actually known in the book and movie biz as a Fade to Black sex scene.

I like to write semi-cozy (is that a thing, do you think?) mysteries. As such, there are a few rules that I follow. One of them is, leave the sex scenes suggestive rather than explicit. It's not that they are not there, it's just that I leave to the reader imagination the rest of that post-shower moment. 

Now, other authors, I'm not naming names (*cough!* Elizabeth Beck!), like to write mystery and suspense that is a little, shall we say, hotter.

It is important to consider the level of temperature in your scenes when you place your mystery into categories. You want your writing to appeal to your readers, and you certainly do not want to dupe them. That's grounds for a bad review, and goodness knows, even one is cause for a sleepless night. Or three. What is this, Tuesday? I'll be fine by Friday.

So, light up those comment buttons. Tell me where your scenes fall on the Heat-o'-Meter! And: why?


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Author Interview ~ R.J. Grand

Mystery Writers Unite has done it again! That’s right…another FANTASTIC author interview to support the work of R.J. Grand, author of THE PAINTING OF DECEIT and ON THE INSIDE, books one and two of the Fortier Series (see below).
Author, R.J. Grand has a background in real estate, has met people of many personalities and traveled across the United States. The Fortier Series is a result of being intrigued by observing behavior and psychology combined with a passion for writing.
"R.J. Grand wrote an astonishing report on TV Producer, Barbara Gordon's, I'm Dancing As Fast As I Can, with psychological diagnoses outstandingly perceptive and insightful." Dr. Tom Hicks, Professor of Psychology, Sacred Heart University
--- Interview
First, thanks for agreeing to let Mystery Writers Unite interview you! I’m always thrilled when an author will take some time to share with the rest of us. Now, on to the fun stuff. I hope you don’t mind that I’m going in a bit of a different direction with some of my questions for this interview…trying to “shake it up a bit for the readers”.
MWU: If you were a character in one of your books, what type of character would you be and why?
R.J. Grand: I would be a multi-faceted character, because it tends to put readers on their toes and I like to intrigue them.
MWU: If Ellie Fortier could step out of the pages of THE PAINTING OF DECEIT; what: a) would she be thankful for in terms of what you’ve done her character? b)  is the one thing she wishes you wouldn’t have done with her character? and c) is something she would still like you to do with her character?
R.J. Grand: If Ellie was real: a) Ellie would be relieved to be able to eat a lot, whether it was a gourmet meal or junk food baked from scratch, but would hide her feelings about it. b) She would beg me not to expose her flaws to readers, and c) She would insist I write her character to portray her as a perfect person, who everyone wants to be like.
MWU: When you started writing THE PAINTING OF DECEIT did you know that it would become part of a series or did the need to create a series come to light as the story you were writing started to unfold?
R.J. Grand: I did not know The Painting of Deceit would become a five book series when I started writing it. Being close with my brother Mike, we converse frequently. After discussing the creation of The Painting of Deceit with him on numerous occasions, Mike said, “You have to write a trilogy because of the magnitude of your imagination.” So, I have to give credit to Mike for that. It was then, that I mapped out the five book Fortier Series.
MWU: Who is your favorite character in THE PAINTING OF DECEIT and why?
R.J. Grand: I don’t have one favorite character, but enjoy many of the different characters because of the various roles they play and what they bring to the series. However, I will name two and hint at what they bring. Great Aunt Ida because she plays a huge part giving two dolls with a hidden meaning to her newborn niece and Auntie Weeze because she resists having to figure out their secret message.
MWU: If you had less than a minute to tell a perspective reader what they could expect from THE PAINTING OF DECEIT (you are at a trade show and someone has stopped by your booth) what would you tell them? Go….
R.J. Grand: Ellie, the good example-setting sister to creatively mischievous Jeff Fortier helps to raise him. He is so creatively mischievous that when he is an adult, he gets arrested. Ellie goes to repeatedly visit him in jail and is not granted access. Upon being continuously denied, she becomes psychotically undone in the police department lobby. This gets the attention of Detective Wolfgang Haus, who becomes intrigued because of it and decides to investigate her. Ellie’s brother is the only one who truly knows who she really is.
MWU: If Ellie Fortier from THE PAINTING OF DECEIT was stranded on a desert island and wasn’t going to be rescued for at least one year, what would she need to have with her to make sure she remains sane?
R.J. Grand: If stranded, Ellie would need a psychiatrist, continuous medication and therapy.
MWU: How do you develop and differentiate your characters and how do you “stay in character” when you’re writing? Has this process changed over time from writing one book to the next?
R.J. Grand: I create characters around the plot. They are differentiated by the positions I need them to take to show the plot developing and unfolding. I have studied behavior intently to get inside people’s minds. Feeling emotionally what they have experienced, seeing what they are viewing and drawing upon their mindset, absorbs me into the character’s mind. For example, when writing the scene where a loved one dies and what the viewing character experiences, you would have seen tears in my eyes, if you were watching me write. The process has stayed the same from writing the first book to the next.
MWU: How does the main character of THE PAINTING OF DECEIT differ from the main character of ON THE INSIDE?
R.J. Grand: The main character in The Painting of Deceit is creatively mischievous and the main character in On The Inside is naïve and gullible.
MWU: Who do you see as your “ideal” reader?
R.J. Grand: Women and men who enjoy mystery/thrillers.
MWU: What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
R.J. Grand: The best advice was to write The Painting of Deceit into The Fortier Series.
MWU: Is there anything you would like to say to new writers, new readers or current fans of your work?
R.J. Grand: “It thrills me to thrill you!”
Additionally Becky, I’d like to thank you for approaching me to give an interview. I certainly enjoy talking about my work, and I wish you the best with your first novel.
The synopsis for THE PAINTING OF DECEIT (Book One – Fortier Series):
In this psychological thriller, events that have spanned the course of eighteen years in a sleepy, Connecticut neighborhood slowly unfold, revealed by residents, from a ten year old ballet dancer who can't stop tapping her feet, to a sweet widow whose love for bird watching is only matched by her love for playing scrabble with the neighborhood boys. It moves back and forth in time with Ellie Fortier as she is interviewed by Officer Pat Russell about her brother Jeffrey and the rest of her family. What happens behind the closed doors of a wealthy family, doesn't stay behind those doors. This story exposes the vulnerabilities of everyone's lives, the broken and the whole. Detective Wolfgang Haus will recognize the psychological truth that childhood shapes us all long before he discovers who did it.
The synopsis for ON THE INSIDE (Book Two – Fortier Series):
The second book, On The Inside,  tells of the abuse Izzy Fortier suffers as her mother's drinking problem gets out of control. When Izzy returns home from a party she finds the mouth piece removed from the wall phone. She asks her mother where it is. Her mother calmly tells her she doesn't know, which Izzy knows is a lie. Her older sister Ellie Fortier consoles her when not being able to handle her mother Alisha's strange behavior.

Izzy seeks solice and spends more time with her outspoken, friend Libby, telling her of her mother's bizarre behavior and how she's glad her older sister is good to her. Libby becomes suspicious and takes it upon herself to call Jeffrey Fortier, the so-called creatively mischievous brother knowing she could lose Izzy's friendship forever.

Meanwhile, Izzy asks her Auntie Weeze about the "special meaning" dolls her now deceased, intuitive Great Aunt Ida gave her when she was born. As the words hit Weeze's ears, she loses control of her car in the second book of the series, On The Inside.

For more information, you can visit the official R.J. Grand Fortier Series Home Page at  

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Quest for Fire: Finding and Nourishing Your Creative Spark

Anybody remember the movie Quest for Fire?

Quest for Fire was a low-budget Canadian movie. Ron Perlman and Rae Dawn Chong headed an ensemble cast of cavemen -- er, people -- who, in the dawn of (our) creation, do not know how to actually create fire. They use fire, but instead of baking it from scratch, they use what they find in nature: lightning strikes, forest fires, and other naturally occurring phenomena to 'capture' the spark they need to supply their cooking, heating and safety needs. Their tribe had one rule: never let the fire go out. And if by some disaster it did go out, a team was sent to 'gather' more.

A fire tender was appointed to guard the tiny flame they could coax out of nature. This fire tender had to endure sleeplessness, cold, rain and mortal danger to keep this little-understood thing alive.

When that flame returned to the home caves, its keepers were treated as heroes.

How does that translate to the world of writing? Or painting, or drawing, for that matter?

Creative sparks occur all around us. A scene in a movie, a piece of wisdom from a friend. The way your husband tripped over the kids' shoes in the front hall. A turn of phrase, a glint of light in amber-coloured eyes. That peculiar thing your best friend does with her head when she's in the middle of telling you a story. The fabulously gory method of murder that blasted you in the brain, hot on the heels of a traffic near-miss.

It is these small idea fires that can ignite true creative energy. Those sparks, with hard work and a lot of time and attention, become bonfires of brilliance, forming the heart and soul of a written work.

Tell me: how do you find these bits? Where do you find them? What are your favourite places to open yourself to ideas? To sparks?

Now tell me: how do you hold onto them? Is it a notepad? A tape recorder? Do you simply thwap your spouse on the arm and exhort them to remind you of your own brilliance?

How do you go further than that? How can you, the most enlightened and least caveman-like of modern humans, call forth creative fire... from nothing at all?

Can it even be done?

Kate Burns
The Ophelia Trap

Monday, December 5, 2011

Myths About Writers

Hi everyone,
I thought it would be fun to look online and see what kind of myths where out there in cyber space about writing and writers. For some reason, I’m still always amazed at just how much I can find on any given subject. I really should know by now that you can find anything and everything on the web.

Listed below are 11 myths and my thoughts on the myth…


Anyone that has self-published a book knows that it can take years to make lots of money and in the beginning you basically put your work out there for almost no return especially when you consider the amount of time and energy a writer puts in to see their work come to fruition. I guess it’s a good thing that for most writers it really isn’t all about the money but more about getting their story out to masses.


Yeah right! Perhaps some are but most of the authors I know are very happy, positive people that have their share of good days and bad days just like everyone else. I also know that many of them will take a “bad” or painful feeling and they will pour it into their writing; creating wonderful books for their readers.


Don’t we all wish sometimes? I know I’d love to have a little office where I could hide sometimes (if the kids are being a bit rambunctious) but other times to be honest I think, for me, that I would feel isolated and it wouldn’t make me productive. I’ve also found that I can write just about anywhere (on the bus, waiting for an appointment, standing in a long line-up, etc.) using my iPhone. Perhaps working around all the noise at home has made me immune to hustle and bustle around me so I can block out those noises and distractions. Thanks kids!!


I have found that writers come from all walks of life and at varying ages (there is one writer I know that has been published, is 17 and donates much of her book sales to charity). To be a writer you don’t need to have a university degree or a writing diploma – you simply need to have the desire within you to write. The only caution I would say you would need to have is that if you are not good with grammar, that you have someone edit your work aside from you.


NOT!! This can’t be further from the truth with the numerous self-publishing software programs and platforms available nowadays. If you’ve decided not to self-publish and you’re looking for a publisher just remember that this is a very subjective business and what doesn’t appeal to one may appeal to another so keep trying.


This is insanity whether you are a published author and well known or a self-published author and still making your mark! First, when you are first starting out, you will most likely still have to work if your family is dependent on you for your income. In addition, some writers have families they need to care for and hobbies that they enjoy. These writers not only find time to write but they also manage to juggle all their other priorities. Honestly, I would think if all you ever had to focus on was writing then life could become pretty dull and boring after awhile. I think its all the other parts of our lives that make our writing interesting and compelling.


Many people think that the only way you could be considered a real writer is if you have been trying to get published for years and you’ve endured many rejections and hardship. I disagree, real writers are people who write and it doesn’t matter how long they’ve been writing or how many times they’ve been rejected.


I agree that anyone can write but not everyone can write well. I’m sure most writers out there would agree when I say that the first draft of your book is usually full of imperfections and holes. Some books are great while others are not. The ones that are not were written by someone.


This myth may have some factual basis for some writers, as I’m sure some writing does get rejected because it is poor. But the myth, as repeated by many experienced writers, is that all good writing GUARANTEES acceptance and, conversely, non-acceptance surely means that the writing is poor. I strongly DISAGREE! I’ve read some wonderful, fantastic, awesome stories as of late that have been self-published. I think any publisher that passed on “Before Her Eyes” by Rebecca Forster should be fired! Instead, I think many (if not all) publishing houses have become narrow minded and they are less interested in the quality of the book and more drawn to the possible commercial potential of the book (e.g., Paris Hilton’s published work…REALLY?).


I know this isn’t true! One writer I interviewed shared that they had several works published and then the publisher wouldn’t take a chance on one of their books because they thought it was too risky. I’ve also heard of writers that had five novels published then for three years she couldn’t find anyone to publish two additional books she had written. Publishers are fickle!! Can you tell I’m in favor of self-publishing??


I don’t believe in the “what worked for you will work for me” because there are too many variables to consider to be able to compare one book / writer to another book / writer. All books are original works and written by unique individuals. I truly believe you can do all the right things: write a great book, study your market, constantly work towards perfecting your craft, etc. and you may still have a problem getting published. 

What are your opinions about these myths? Do you know of other myths about writers or writing that are not listed here?

Have a great day,


Sunday, December 4, 2011

What can YOU Write in 6 Sentences?

Hi everyone,

Here are my six sentences for this week :-)

I had to go to the dentist recently to have a wisdom tooth removed. I will let you in on a little secret - I hate going to the dentist and need to take at least three Ativan just to let them clean my teeth. I didn't take anything for this particular appointment because I figured why bother since I'm going to be put to sleep anyway. How was I to know that my waiting time to get into the appointment was going to be double the wait because they happen to be short staffed? By the time I got into the chair not only was I nervous but I was also a little annoyed. The good news is that once they got started I was put out and it was over before I knew what happened.

What can YOU write in 6 sentences? Give it a try :-)