Guest Post- 7 Tips to Write, Make Deadlines, and Not Get Lost in the Process

Hi everyone! Today I am very excited to bring you a guest post by Max E. Stone, an author who knows the struggle of writing, hitting all the deadlines, and staying focused on the task at hand. He has agreed to share some of his tips and tricks to help you be able to manage the crazy  writing life!


If your life tends to be stressful and hectic like mine, keeping deadlines is tough to say the least. Maintaining a cool head in the face of that turmoil is harder still. Add “Writing” into your “already-crazy” schedule and you could downright lose your mind.

Speaking from personal experience, there were times I’ve worked myself into so much of a ball of stress that I swore up and down it was Tuesday morning on a Friday afternoon. Since that time, exactly a year and a half ago, I’ve learned a few things about keeping cool and managing my time.

  1. Set workable deadlines

You know you better than anyone else knows you. You know what you can do in a given timeline and you know what is important to you. So dig deep. Ask yourself specific questions. One of the things I ask myself whenever I put together my work for the day, week, or month to come is this: “Of everything on my to-do list, what are the most important things?” From there, set deadlines you can work with and make provisions for changes that may come along the way. Which leads to the next tip…

  1. Start early

Life gets in the way. I’ve been there. You’re into the hour you’ve schedule for writing when suddenly you get a phone call that’s going to send you out the door for what you know will be at least another hour or two.  I’ve found that, if I have a task due in two weeks, I’ll begin for a half hour two weeks early. Then, I will do a little bit of it each day until it is completed early or on time. This way, I’ve made room for the changes that might come in the day, I can complete my other tasks, and I haven’t driven myself completely nuts in rushing to the end of that one thing to do.

  1. Don’t freak if/when you don’t make those deadlines

As hard as you or I will try, there are going to be times when you don’t make the deadline set. When that happens, don’t freak out. Don’t worry. It happens.  Just keep going and keep pushing.  You do that and everything will get done.

  1. Exercise/Get some fresh air

Straight from my mother’s mouth.

Both fresh air and exercise have numerous mental and physical health benefits. Sometimes, you have to step away from the computer, desk, etc. in the middle of the day because, frankly, you’re sick of looking at it or in my case, your eyes are burning and your bottom’s sore from sitting. At that point, I strongly encourage you to go outside, get active, go for a walk, or do some yoga. During the mornings, I run, and during the middle of the day, if I feel the need, I’ll go for a walk. So do what you can. Your body and mind will not only thank you but the quality of your day and work will immensely improve.

  1. Read

Books are awesome. No doubt about that. However, the mental advantages are similar to that of exercise and fresh air. I read for about an hour a day, whether its fiction, non-fiction, or education. I just read and let my mind take me away for just that hour. When I come back to my tasks, I’m fresh and all set to finish up what’s needed.

  1. Ask others

I spend a good portion of my day asking questions. No one person has all the answers to every question. Researching and asking questions is so essential. If you know someone who has mastered the art of managing their day, talk with them. Pick their brain and find what works for you.

  1. Rest

I learned this one the hard way and ended up not only losing a day but driving myself crazy in the process. So do yourself a favor. If you’re tired, go to sleep. Get a nap. If it’s late at night, go to sleep. It’s not only refreshing to do so, but medically necessary. Not getting enough sleep can’t hurt you and, among other things, impair your sense. Your body does a lot for you. Take care of it. Let it relax and reload.


Max doesn’t remember ever not creating a story, pen or no pen.
A writer and lover of books since the age of nine, Max first set pen to page as a hobby, constructing stories that were anything but fit for children. Entertaining classmates 13692597_1057472987641139_8414948098222036885_nwhile simultaneously concerning surrounding adults with blood-ridden tales of gory mysteries and heavy suspense that “just came to mind”, Max, with the help of family and the encouraging words of an inspiring fifth grade teacher, continue to develop this gift.
Little was it known at the time, but said gift would become a lifeline.
From horrific trauma in max’s teen years, writing played an instrumental part in the difficult recovery and the Warrens, Bennetts, and Johnsons, three interconnected families all with issues, mysteries, and secrets that threaten their livelihood and lives, were born.
Max reads everything and everyone and relishes the journey, learning something new each day.
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Guest Post- How a Broke Ankle Made a Dream Come True

Hi everyone! Today I have a guest post from author Douglas Geller. He is going to share with you how his dream come true from something as unlikely as a broken ankle.


This night felt different, I was tired from waking up at 4:30 in the morning to go to work and it was the night before Thanksgiving. I really didn’t want to go to karate, instead I wanted to be lazy and play video games. But I went as I always did, I’d done it more times than I could remember because its what I always did.

The warm up was light sparring, just tap, tap among the few of us in attendance. We finished the drill before I reminded my dad (the lead teacher) that we forgot someone. So I lined up opposite tiny. Tiny is the nickname we have for the student that is 6’6 and 230 pounds. I duck under his punch and took his back. All 5’5.5, 140 pounds of me holding on to him. He starts dragging me around the mat and I hold on. I decide to hold on for an extra moment to see if he could figure out what to do, a teaching moment. He jerks back and my feet crossed which they aren’t supposed to do. I tell myself I should fix this but move slowly. Tiny starts to fall back and I feel a small crack in my left ankle. I say in my head that it felt weird but don’t make anything of it. I feel myself falling and think here we go. I land and as if I woke up from a bad dream I start screaming. A few hours later in the hospital I find out I broke my ankle.

I laid in my bed tired and in pain for several nights, restless I started reading anything that seemed slightly intriguing. I read an article about Aging Out, a book that tells stories of kids who aged out of the foster care system and their struggles and overcoming obstacles to achieve their dreams. I’m fascinated and can’t stop thinking about it, I think about the fighters I watch and all of their stories and decide that someone should write a story intertwining the two. That night I look at my computer and laughed that I could write the story. For a moment I think I could and I started typing and I found I really enjoyed doing it. So every night I continued to write without telling anyone, it was always the highlight of my day.

I dreamed I could share the story I wrote with the world and for a while I resisted. Who would take me seriously? How many people write books and are laughed at? But then I thought of the poem my dad read at my Bar Mitzvah, The Man In The Glass by Peter “Dale” Wimbrow Sr. and not to cheat the man in the glass. Nine months later I look at the man in the glass and he is smiling at me, because I overcame, pain and insecurity to make my dream come true.


headshotDouglas Geller is 23-years-old and works in public relations. He is a graduate of Ithaca College and grew up and currently resides in White Plains, New York. He has trained in martial arts since he was five-years old and has earned a fourth degree black belt and the title of Sensei.

He has written non-fiction for newspapers including: The Ithacan, The Examiner and Patch. This is his first fiction piece.

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Guest Post- Birth of a Collection

Hi guys! Today I have a guest post by Charles Salzberg, one of the three authors behind Triple Shot. His post illustrates how his collaborative writing journey began and evolved to where it is today.


A couple years ago my friend and fellow crime writer, Tim O’Mara, approached me with a proposition. He had just returned from Bouchercon and was excited about a planned website which would offer a download of a different crime novella to subscribers each month.

“I’m going to do it and if you have an idea you might consider doing it, too,” he said.

I’d never written a novella before but it was tempting in large part because they’re usually at least half as long as a novel and, I figured, half as hard to write. So I said, “I’ll give it a shot.”

Years earlier I’d collaborated a screenplay from an idea I’d had about an ambitious female journalist who’s contacted by a woman in prison who’s there for killing her husband and two children. She claims she was framed for the crime and asks the journalist to help prove her innocent. I can’t speak for other writers but I’m always looking for the easy way out and so I figured I’d just rewrite the screenplay as a novella.

The screenplay was optioned several times but, like most scripts in Hollywood, was never made. Every production company that optioned it wanted changes, all of which were either pretty silly or downright insulting. They wanted to soften both characters, and one producer actually went so far as to suggest that the main character, Trish, should be changed to a man. My co-writer and I laughed. First of all, it was essential the character be a woman, because we were playing against stereotypes in that we wanted her to be tough, ambitious, and not above cutting corners to achieve an end when necessary. Besides, did they think changing a woman to a man was merely a function of doing a universal search and changing Trish to Joe and she to he? The answer is, they probably did. We passed on the idea and they passed on the script.

Waste not, want not, so now Twist of Fate the screenplay was about to become Twist of Fate the novella.

The truth is, I was never comfortable writing screenplays. I need more than just dialogue and description. Besides, I initially see the world in words not images. So now, writing a novella, I could get deeper into the motivations of all the characters and, if possible, make the story even darker because I didn’t have to satisfy a whole bunch of cooks who had not idea what the broth is and what makes it tasty.

Twist of Fate was a bit of a departure for me. The two main characters were women, and the story would be narrated by a woman, something I’d never done before. Not only would the two protagonists be women but they wouldn’t be particularly nice women. So much for that old saw about having to like the characters in a book in order to like the book. I’ve never believed that. As far as I’m concerned you have to be interested in the characters, not like them.

I submitted Twist of Fate and soon after I did I told my friend, Ross Klavan, at our weekly lunch about the project and urged him to write something, too. He accepted the challenge unspecifiedmmand all three novellas, mine, Ross’s and Tim’s, were quickly accepted.

Unfortunately, as good an idea as it might have been the website never materialized and, after a year or so, we started getting restless/ If our novellas were never going to see the light of day, we wanted them back. But what would we do with them? There’s really no market for stand-alone novellas, so Tim and I came up with an idea. Why not get the rights back and, along with Ross, package the three novellas in one collection?

That’s what we did and the result is Triple Shot, a collection of noir crime stories, which is going to be released this month (August).


unspecifiedCHARLES SALZBERG is the author of the Shamus Award-nominated Swann’s Last Song, Swann Dives In, Swann’s Lake of Despair (re-release Nov. 2016), Devil in the Hole (re-release Nov. 2016), Triple Shot (Aug. 2016), and Swann’s Way Out (Feb. 2017). His novels have been recognized by Suspense Magazine, the Silver Falchion Awards, the Beverly Hills Book Award and the Indie Excellence Award. He has written over 25 nonfiction books, including From Set Shot to Slam Dunk, an oral history of the NBA, and Soupy Sez: My Life and Zany Times, with Soupy Sales. He has been a visiting professor of magazine at the S.I. Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse University, and he teaches writing at the Writer’s Voice and the New York Writers Workshop where he is a founding member.

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Author Q&A- Baylea Hart

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Baylea Hart, an upcoming horror author. She is currently Crowdfunding her book through Unbound, and has shared a little about that and how the process works. To check out her Crowdfunding page click here! Read the interview below!

Author Photo

Q: How long have you been writing?
A: I’ve been writing since I was really young. I can remember making my first horror book when I was about seven years old – I folded the paper and did all the illustrations myself. The “novel” was called The Birthday Man and was about a monster that killed children on their birthdays. I put it on the class bookshelf but I don’t think anyone read it. I can’t imagine why!
Q: What inspires your writing? Do you have a muse?
A: People are my inspiration. I spend a lot of time on public transport and I love to people watch. It’s fun to imagine stories to go with the people I see. Why is that man running? Why is that woman hesitating to post a letter? I’m also a fan of the “What If”method. The most basic of scenarios can become a story if you add a “What If”! What if that letter, the one the lady doesn’t want to post, contains a curse? Everything can be an inspiration if you work it the right way!
Q: Tell me about the book you are working on. What was the original idea behind it?
A: I’m currently working on The Log House, a dystopian horror set in a deadly forest. It originally started life as a fantasy novel. I thought it would be interesting to follow a group of people surviving in an old house, closed off from the world. What would happen if a person was exiled from that house and left to fend for themselves? That gradually became darker as my weird personality became involved, and eventually I was left with a morally ambiguous women, surviving in a forest filled with monsters and desperate for revenge. It’s been fun to write a character you know you shouldn’t be rooting for, but you kind of do anyway.
Q: You are crowdfunding your book through Unbound. Tell me about that process. What are the benefits?
A: Unbound is a fantastic way of publishing your book because it puts the readers in control. Though Unbound read through and select the manuscripts, only the books people actually want to read will end up funded. As an author, it’s also a great way of connecting with and building up your readership. Each author is allocated a “shed”, a place to post updates and speak with the people supporting your novel. It’s a scary process, but it’s exciting. And, it’s a fantastic way of publishing novels that may have struggled via the normal publishing process!
Q: If you could drop any character from a chick flick movie in the deadly forest of your book, who would you chose and why?
A: There are plenty of boring characters that I could drop into the forest, but I’d love to see someone tough have a go. It would be fun to see Thelma and Louise take charge and battle through the evil things that lurk in the woods. Though maybe if Romeo and Juliet got caught by a monster, I wouldn’t feel too bad.
Q: What is something you want the world to know?
A: I want the world to know that there are so many great books out there that need support. Many people might not give an author a chance if they haven’t heard of them, but they are missing out on so much. Take a chance on someone and you may just stumble upon something great!

Author Q&A- James W. Ziskin

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing James W. Ziskin, the mystery author of the Ellie Stone novels. He has been nominated for the and Lefty award and has won the coveted Anthony award for the Best Original Paperback in 2015. Read the interview below!AuthorPhoto1_CreditWilliamZiskin.jpeg

Q: How long have you been writing?

A: I began writing at the age of twelve. After several bad novels and forty years of starting and stopping, I finally succeeded in writing a book good enough to sell to a publisher. Now four books later, I’ve learned the most important lesson: Never give up.

Q: What inspires your writing? Do you have a muse?

A: A deadline. The best inspiration there is. That and a deep-rooted love of stories and language. Never be boring. And you’ve got to care about words.

Q: Tell me about your latest book, Heart of Stone. What was the original idea behind it?

A: Heart of Stone is the fourth book in the Ellie Stone series. It’s set in August 1961 on a beautiful Adirondack lake. I felt it was time to give Ellie some support and love in the form of her aunt Lena and elderly cousin, Max. I also wanted to explore music, art, culture, Cold War politics, and the fiery passions of old grudges. The story revolves around the diving deaths of two men in the waning days of an idyllic August vacation. One of the victims is a teenager from a nearby music camp, while the other is an unknown man. A stranger to the lake. Ellie wonders how they happened to be diving from a dangerous cliff together. Surely they didn’t know each other. Add to that a reunion with some old friends, a torrid summer romance, and a healthy dose of nude bathing and you’ve got Heart of Stone.

Q: What is your writing process like? How much ‘grunt work’ goes in to the finished product?

A: Writing a novel is a marathon. Of course I’m not the first to say that. Some days it’s a slog, while others it’s a breeze. But you’ve got to put in the time. I typically take a couple of months to outline my books. There’s a lot of time staring off into space, thinking about the plot, the setting, mood, and characters. Then there’s the research and the solution to the murder. Once I’ve done all that, I clear the decks as best I can for three or four months to write the first draft. A thousand words per day should get it done in three or three and a half months. Then comes the revision. I revise many, many times before submitting the finished manuscript to my publisher. And then I revise some more as they edit it. No, writing isn’t as glamorous as people think. It’s a lot of time alone staring at a screen, searching for the right word, followed by months, even years, of waiting to see if anyone liked it.

Q: If Ellie Stone met Nancy Drew, what do you think would happen? Would they work together or get in each others way?

A: Ellie Stone would love Nancy Drew. Surely she read all the books growing up. But Nancy Drew might be scandalized by Ellie. Nancy Drew was a “nice girl,” while Ellie most decidedly is not. She’s a nice person, just not a nice girl.

Q: What is something you want the world to know?

A: That we can do better as a civilization. Much better.

Find James Online:

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Author Q&A- Roger Billings

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Roger Billings; and up and coming historical author. Read all about him in the interview below!

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Q: How long have you been writing? Why did you start?

A: I have been working on my current novel for over five years, and I hope to finish in 2016. Yea!

I am a lawyer in my real life and it is often a struggle to find time to write.

I have been an avid reader all of my life. I thought of writing as something I should do, but never did, until a few years ago I was reading the biography of Bernard Cornwell. He moved with his wife to the United States and he did not have a work visa. Since he was not allowed to work at a traditional job, he started writing instead. From that came his first historical novel, Sharpe’s Eagle. I thought if he could do it when he had to, maybe I can do it because I want to.

Q: What inspires your writing? Do you have a muse?

A: I am often inspired by a sense of place. I love to find out-of-the way places that people might not have heard of before but that have a rich history. Then it seems natural to write about what might have happened there back then. One example is the floating islands (hortillonnages in French) in Amiens, France. They are a series of tiny islands that have been cultivated out of marsh land in the Somme River. It is a labyrinth of gardens and water, the history of which extends back to Roman times. I love to write about the kinds of mysteries that might have happened in places like that.

A: On the other hand, I have noticed that I am not “full of ideas” to write about, as some say they are. I feel like my ideas are buried in the subconscious and most of the time I am not aware that they are there, until I start writing. When I write, those buried ideas come to the surface. So I suppose I write to find out what is in my subconscious.

Q: You are a historical novelist. How much research goes into your projects?

A: There is more research than I expected, but I probably do more than I need to. No, I definitely do more than I need to. My idea for my current novel came from general reading in the time period of the French Revolution until several historical facts started to cluster together and I realized I had a book to write. Then the real work began of reading histories, biographies, and letters, and studying maps, lists and court cases, and anything else I could get my hands on. It has been countless hours. How much? I have not keep track, but I enjoy the research, so it has not felt like work.

Q: Why historical novels? Have you always been fascinated by history?

A: I do love history and historical research. In particular, I love literary history. The first thing I think about with respect to a particular time period is who the writers were then. My novel takes place in France and England in 1792, so I think a lot about the writers from that time and immediately prior to that time, such as Rousseau, Dr. Johnson, Fanny Burney, Cowper (I love Cowper!), and of course William Blake, Wordsworth and Coleridge, to name only a few. Both Wordsworth and Burney were in France during the Revolution, and Rousseau made an infamous visit to England some years before, all of which is great food for the imagination.

Q: What is the favorite place you have visited? Why?

A: If you take the time to get to know a place, anywhere is magical.

One example is the ancient walled city of York, in Northern England, that I visited many years ago. Any time there is still a massive wall around a city, going there is like a trip back in time.

CJ Sansom wrote a novel, Sovereign, set in York at the time that Henry VIII and his huge entourage visited the city. When royalty travelled, it was called the Progress, and nobles who hosted royalty on a Progress were sometimes (often?) bankrupted by the expense. I would have liked to have written that book. It is great fun.

In addition, some of my ancestors are from Yorkshire and my great grandfather sang in a choir for boys at the Minster Cathedral in York. I have a drawing of the Cathedral hanging on my wall. So York is special, for sure.

Q: When you travel does your family go with you?

A: Generally I travel with my family, and I enjoy traveling much more when I am with my family. Otherwise, traveling seems much more like just work.

Q: Tell me about your kids. Do they (or do you hope they will) love history as much as you?

A: It is easy for parents to expect their children to be projections of themselves, instead of individuals. My wife and I both love literature and culture. My children have their own unique interests and pursuits. I don’t think any of them are as fanatical about literature as I am, but they know what they are interested in and we encourage them to follow their interests.

Q: You are working on your first novel! What can you tell me about it so far?

A: I am in the middle of my second draft. But the second draft feels like a first draft, because as I wrote the first draft, I learned a huge amount about writing fiction. Now I can see much more clearly what I did wrong or what can be improved. The first draft was an apprenticeship, a great learning experience. Now I just need to finish and then celebrate!

The story goes as follows: a British spy dies while rescuing a young seventeen year old aristocrat from the French Revolution. The aristocrat, ungrateful and mortally offended to owe his life to a commoner, determines to discredit the spy’s reputation. Searching for hidden scandals, the aristocrat inadvertently uncovers a plot to overthrow the British Monarchy, pulling himself into a perilous underworld of treason and crime. Journeying from the jostling streets of London to the lonely mountains of Wales, the young aristocrat can only survive by finding the man within himself, and by finishing the work the detested spy had started.

Q: What challenges have you faced in your writing?

A: Finding the time to write is hard. I have been doing some dictating, which helps to use the time better.

Learning not to edit myself while I am writing and letting the words flow has been difficult. When I am being too critical and I want to write faster instead, I sometimes challenge myself to purposefully write as badly as I can. That gets me started, which is great.

I have also been challenged in finding the historical sources and information I need. For example, I had a scene in which my characters visited the office of the Foreign Secretary in London in 1792. I wanted the location to be authentic, but I wasn’t sure where it was back then. I knew it was somewhere in Whitehall and that the office had been recently created but I didn’t want to be vague and I didn’t want to guess. Then I found a Twitter address for an official historian for the Office of the Foreign Secretary, and they responded that the office was in Downing Street at that time, next to the Office of the First Lord of the Treasury (now Prime Minister) at 10 Downing Street. It was much easier writing the scene knowing I had the location right, and the actual location turned out to be a very significant part of the scene.

Q: If you could go back and meet any historical figure, who would it be and why?

A: There are so many I would like to meet. Perhaps the 18th century poet Samuel Johnson. He was known as one of the greatest conversationalists of all time. If you are going to go to all of the trouble of meeting someone from the past, it had better be an interesting conversation! I was also thinking of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. She was also a great conversationalist, but there is a bonus that she was almost always surrounded by many other luminaries: Richard Sheridan, Charles James Fox, the Prince of Wales, the Duchess de Polignac, many others.

Q: What is something you think the world should know about you?

A: I think people should know that I like to look for the good in people. There is much more good out there than can be easily seen, and so looking for it is necessary.

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Author Q&A- Ian Jackson

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing I. D. Jackson, the author of Deadly Determination and Dead Charming. He is currently working on his next novel, so if you haven’t read his books yet, now is the time to catch up!

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Q: When did you start writing?

A: I began writing as a child. Whenever we had people around my parents would wheel me out as the ‘party trick’ and ask their friends to come up with a character and a situation and I would be expected to create a fascinating story on the spot…I was about 6 they tell me! My first books were adventure stories written when I was about 10 and passed among my friends and family – unfortunately none survive, but I can still see and ‘feel’ them in my mind…. yes, I’m strange!

Q: What inspires you to write? Do you have a muse?

A: You know what I don’t, but probably should. Psychology and human nature fires my imagination to write.

Q: Tell me about your books Deadly Determination and Dead Charming. What were the original ideas behind them?

A: My interests lie in psychology and I’ve always been fascinated how seemingly normal people can be affected by an event or perhaps another person in their lives which then drives them on to commit heinous crimes. A germ of a story began emerging in my mind that eventually went on to become my first novel, Dead Charming which was greeted with critical acclaim. Deadly Determination is the second book (not a sequel) and carries through these themes. Both novels are crime thrillers with a twist that will take the readers breath away.

Q: How much ‘grunt work’ went on behind the scenes of writing your novel?

A: Many hours of research as well as interviews with detectives, coroners and some criminals – fascinating stuff.

Q: You have written articles for magazines such as Concept and Style Guide. How is this process different than that of writing a book?

A: When I wrote for magazines and newspapers it was a job to be completed, whereas now I get to write about things I’m interested in – thrilling crime!

Q: Did your days as a local magazine and sports program publisher help you in your quest to publish your novels?

A: Surprisingly not – the contacts I have through publishing magazines are completely different to novel writing and literary agents – like chalk and cheese really.

Q: What is some advice that you wish you had received when you began writing?

A: Start pitching your book as soon as you’ve written the first three chapters and have a tight synopsis ready for the rest – literary agents and publishers only want to see the first three chapters anyway and will base their decision on your writing style and the synopsis of the book.

Q: How has becoming a published author changed your life? Has it always been your goal?

A: My life hasn’t particularly changed as such. I love the fact that I have two books in print, but it wasn’t one of my ambitions as a young man.

Q: You got married to your wife, Susie, not to long ago. Has she read your books? Does she like them?

A: Yes, she has. She helps me as I go through reading chapters and commenting on characters and plot-lines. I think she enjoys the creative process and she says she likes the books…but then she has to really!

Q: What is something you want the world to know?

A: Labels are dangerous and anyone can work to improve their psychological imbalances, however severe they are. I believe in redemption for everyone when they are ready and I hope that readers identify with, and even feel sympathy for, some of my darker characters.

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