Monthly Archives: April 2011

What Inspires You?

This past week, I’ve hiked the Blue Ridge Parkway, played car games and most importantly listened to my daughter recount stories from the kindergarten classroom and her perspective on life. She is an amazing storyteller, inspired by envy of the boy with 64 crayons to her modest 16 and complaining that her pen is not “participating” as she tried to write in her new diary. (She considers writing a personal relationship between herself and her writing implements. I am so proud.)

It caused me to reflect on what inspires my writing. Not the ideas that turn into stories, but the need to put the ideas on paper.

First, it’s cheaper than therapy.

Kidding aside, it lets me explore life through a focused lens. I can take an experience and examine it through a character and learn something about myself or express an emotion that I’m inhibited to share in reality.

We are the sum of our experiences: childhood, friends, schools, teachers, parents and family, co-workers, pain, joy and extreme sorrow. There will always be the question, “what if…” in our lives, challenging the choices we’ve made and the paths taken. What if you could travel those roads to where they go? Which roads would you chose?

Writing in any form is cathartic and even the tiniest bits of ourselves laid to paper heals our wounds or takes weight from our shoulders. My need to write comes from an OCD necessity to create stories. A fair amount of emotion from my own roller coaster life lands in the mix. One of my greatest sorrows landed in “Perfect Copy”, my need for adventure in “Wired”.

As writers, do we sully our emotions by using them in our fiction? No. It’s a means to safely share the deepest part of ourselves and connect with others. Our characters are real because they are a little bit of us and a little bit of everyone we’ve ever known.

The most important inspirations for my writing and life are my daughter and husband, both who keep me grounded. Without them, I would never have experienced my greatest happiness.

What inspires you?

Thea Atkinson is Flashing Us

For the month of April, fellow author, Thea Atkinson is streaking through 30 blogs and flashing us a piece of fiction. I generously offered her a space today so she could expose a piece. My blog will be back to normal tomorrow. In the meantime, enjoy and follow the links at the end to see who she flashed yesterday and who she will flash tomorrow. Feel free to leave a comment to let me know if you enjoyed the streak, and you are welcome to tweet it or share it on Facebook. You can also follow the chain through twitter with the hashtag #blogstreak



A Fairy Tale Once Removed

By Thea Atkinson

Well, doggoneit all, if she hadn’t gone and put too many onions in the roaster again. Their smell was already mixing with the scent of those over-sweet begonias growing around everywhere, and that was most definitely not a pleasant stink. She really should think twice before she peeled a bushel of vegetables when the man she planned to cook obviously only needed about half that.

Ah. Roast ribs and shanks. Always that much better when marinated in their own juices. Hint of bay leaf, zest of lemon, bushel of onions. Or half a bushel, if she’d caught the meat’s weight in time.

Luckily this time the rack of ribs saw fit to see things her way and move himself along to the pot without her help. Bursitis made carrying the meat difficult, but this one had volunteered to go. Volunteered. Strange thing for supper to do, to walk on his own steam to the instrument of his roasting.

She imagined the feast she’d have for the week and prodded dinner-man-walking with a stick of lemon branch. “Halfway there, old gent,” she told him. “Get your wiggle on. I hain’t got all day.”

He was a broiler if she ever did see one. Had to be at least seventy. She’d have to roast this one a couple extra hours just to be able to chew him up decent. But, well, she couldn’t be too choosy lately now could she. Not since those two brats had rattled by back in the old country and that little spitfire had given her a hard shove. Damn kids. Gal couldn’t even practice in her own hometown anymore. Too many eyes and those brats too much tongue. Got run outta town as quick as the kids started to disappear again. She should have waited. But it was so damn tight in that stove. She just couldn’t stay in it.

But then Barbados hadn’t been too hard on her. Not really. Constant supply of aging poor. Sometimes a few runaways. Now and then an old gent tired of living. An old gent like this one.

She poked him again. “OK. Climb in,” she said. “The pan’ll hold you, don’t ye worry.”

He stumbled on a rock and steadied himself slowly. The oven door beneath the trees held a gargantuan roasting pan, nearly leveled with onions. She watched him ginger his way in…ginger.

Ah, the pungency of spice. No one in the village had looked twice at her gingerbread walls when she first got here and spelled them up– no idea what they were and never bothered to pull a piece of wall off for a good snack, so she’d had to come up with a new enchantment: rum. Yes, sir. Plant a great big wide pool of rum in the middle of the jungle, and the men came scurrying faster than she could cook them. Made for a tasty marinade too. But she missed the sweetness of children made spicy by a good dash of ginger. Ginger had a touch of heat with the sweet.

She thought about spices as she closed the oven door. Maybe tomorrow she’d drain the pool. Pop on her broom and speed to Mexico. She had a real hankering for hot spices now she thought it, and those kids over there were probably in dire need of some decent sweets.


april 12 Victoria Smith

april 14 Gayle Carline

Hot Flashes with Words

The exact word limit for flash fiction is undetermined, but most agree the shorter the better…and infinitely harder to write. If you’re looking to hone your storytelling skills, I suggest giving it a try.

I recently came across an extreme flash fiction contest where the limit was a mere 25 words. (Hint: there was no word limit on the title.) I didn’t win, but it was fun and really forced me to pick my verbiage for action and impact.

Here’s a bit of flash featuring Morrell from “Wired”.

The Heist Undoing

He flattened himself to the wall, inserted the master key separating the Van Gogh from the security hook.  $2.5 mil felt weightless and fragile in the yellow dim light. Morrell eased it into a brown padded bag. Payment would arrive by Noon, after the drop.

Air tickled cilia as a door opened from the outside. He pulled the strap over his head, slipping to the service hall. Footsteps, soft, barely audible waxed and waned as sound distorted in the concrete passageway.

He dropped from the transom to the pavement. Jade waited with Connor, signaling the Gendarme.


If you like getting flashed, I recommend “Long Story Short: Flash Fiction by Sixty-five of North Carolina’s Finest Writers”. This is a great read even if you’re not from NC. It includes notable authors such as Orson Scott Card, Sarah Dessen, Lee Smith and Daniel Wallace covering every genre and twist imaginable.

Post your flash fiction in the comments below by April 25th and the story I like best wins a $10 Amazon gift card. Don’t forget it needs a beginning, middle and end. To make it challenging, I’m giving you a maximum word count of 100, including the title.  Good luck, I can’t wait to read what you write!


Be sure to click back tomorrow, Wednesday April 13 to meet Thea Atkinson as she goes streaking through the blogosphere on her 30 day quest to flash as many readers as possible:)

Stepping Out…And In

Now that I’m over 40, not saying how far over, I’m sporting new progressive bifocal glasses for reading and driving. I think they make me look taller. Anyhow, it reminded me of writing. Pretty much everything reminds me of writing.

This creative process is a stepping in to handle the details and a stepping out to see how it fits as a whole. I edit with a bifocal approach:

  • Wave 1 – Typos, passive language & obvious mistakes
  • Wave 2 – I read it through at least once from each character’s perspective
  • Wave 3 – I use info from wave 2 to address overall plot issues

I won’t go into an explanation of Wave 1. It should be your number 1 mission to get a clean manuscript.

Wave 2 is helpful on several levels. First, I’m making sure the character’s thoughts, words and actions in the beginning are building to where they are in the end. Are there subtle clues to what they’re hiding? Have I built their personal story enough for the reader to see a person and not a caricature? Second, every character has a plot that pushes and pulls them in relation to the main plot and theme. Real characters, like real people are a sum of their experiences, relationships and we all have baggage. This wave strengthens the characters and in turn strengthens the overall novel and plot.

After Wave 2, the challenges in Wave 3 should be easy to fix. Wave 3 is the stepping back. You’ll see from your characters that they either have too much information or not enough. You’ll see if they need more angst, urgency or perhaps another plot line woven in. You’ll know in your gut what to do and you’ll have the fortitude to follow it through.

Now, hand your book to strangers (family and friends will lie to you) and be prepared for honest feedback. Take it like an adult; they want to make you better. This is the ultimate stepping back as you let go of your emotional attachment and consider how to best engage readers.

At last you can relax. Be proud of what you’ve accomplished. It took guts, hours of labor, early mornings, late nights and heartache, but you are now a novelist for the rest of your life.

My bifocal approach works for me, it helps organize my thoughts and keeps the small details of my writing supporting the bigger picture.

Ever notice how jigsaw puzzle pieces look alike? I think of most things in life as a puzzle. I like to really look at the pieces and see if I can make them fit together in new and better ways.

Best Seller for a Day

This is an innovative program founded by the Indie Book Collective, @IndieBookIBC for those of you on Twitter. The idea is to spread the word about a single author and title and drive significant 1 day sales. It started with 2 women, added in a few volunteers and through Twitter’s word of mouth power, has worked.

Coming up on April 6th it is Rachel Thompson’s turn with “A Walk in the Snark”. This hilarious non-fiction look at life and the quirks of relationships and parenting is amazing. If you want a peak at Rachel’s flavor visit

On April 6th, the ebook price will drop to just  99 cents on Amazon. In addition, you can take your purchase confirmation code to and enter to win up to $50 in Amazon Gift Cards.

Why does this work? Because there are thousands of reading options available, but unless the world knows where to find you you’ll sit in the 500,000+ ranks listening to crickets. Best Seller for a Day simply spreads the word with one huge shout to create awareness. It’s so effective that IBC co-founder, Carolyn McCray is now an ongoing contributor to Digital Book World’s newsletter and New York agents and publishers are taking a second look at their marketing model.

Contrary to the popular misconception, you do not need a Kindle to read an ebook from Amazon. Trust me, whatever you have, there’s an app for that.

I am a big supporter of BSFAD. When Amber Scott’s “Irish Moon” went on sale, I purchased a copy for myself and gifted a copy. It’s 1-click Whishpernet technology, what can be easier than that?

Looking for more? Use the links above and follow the stream here:







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