Writing about… panic mode

As Christmas draws near, I’ve looked at what I’ve written in the last few weeks, and I have to say, it’s not much. I recently had a knee replacement surgery, and I’ve been barely mobile so one would think I have had lots of time to write. I have, but I haven’t been writing. To tell the truth, I’ve been playing a lot of games and spending way too much time on Facebook. But now that I’m finished the heavy-duty drugs, it’s time to get back into writing. The truth of today’s writing world is that more than every, a writer needs to keep writing, and not drop off the face of the earth, or rather, not drop off the face of Amazon dot com.

Which brings me to look at what I’ve done recently. I’ve submitted applications to teach at a couple of local writer’s conferences. That means I’ve written some proposals and teaching notes, but I haven’t written any actual writing.  I’ve also caught up on a lot of email. Which also isn’t real writing. I’d like to count grocery lists, which have been necessary because I haven’t been able to shop yet, so my husband has been doing the shopping. He does a great job, but he needs a list, despite the fact that he buys way more stuff than I usually do.

I’ve been working on keeping my blog current, which is more work than I thought it would be, but it’s fun to read all my guests’ contributions.

But I really should be writing. I have a six book series I’m working on, well, allegedly working. I need to catch up and get moving on that. My plan is to give the first one away for free and then put the rest of the series on Amazon.

Okay,… onward…. after Christmas…

Writing about the human qualities we all share

Today my guest is another Gail – Gail Kittleson. Like me, the writing bug bit Gail later in life, but she’s hopelessly addicted. Hey, also just like me. But Gail Kittleson writes historical fiction. Her World War II fiction honors women who made a difference despite great odds. Her second love, teaching, leads to facilitating writing workshops and retreats where she loves cheering others on. Her latest project is Kiss Me Once Again,

Here is what Gail Kittleson would like to share on what goes on in her mind, as a writer.

This week I came across quotes from two of my favorite authors, Roald Dahl and Charles Dickens. They wrote in times different from ours, but with the same human qualities to cast into believable characters.

Roald Dahl writes, “I began to realize how important it was to be an enthusiast in life. If you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it full speed. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it and above all become passionate about it.”

He may have referenced his own life, but I see this enthusiasm in his characters, too. My granddaughter and I read Danny The Champion of the World last summer. The story enthralled her, as it did her mother thirty-odd years ago. Why? Because the main characters come across as REAL.

That’s what I aim for—believable heroines or heroes. Since I write historical women’s fiction set in World War II, I’m always seeking facts, figures, and quirks that shout REAL!

 Because the war affects my characters so much, they might be tempted to give up or become bitter. Huge obstacles often block their way. Dickens comes in at this point: “Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”

My characters experience terrifying dangers, huge doubts, and make great sacrifices. They may fall into despair or bitterness at times, but don’t we all, if we’re honest?

Historical records of men and women who gave so much for the cause instruct me. Many survivors returned wounded, yet forged ahead with tenacity, refusing to allow past misfortunes to control their futures. Readers need such role models, so my mind is always seeking…seeking.

You can also see more about Gail Kittleson at:

Christmas shopping, and Christmas watching

It’s December! That means Christmas is within a month away. Besides Christmas shopping, something that always goes on in the mind is, Christmas writing. Is there time for writing in December? But as a writer, we can’t just not write, just because life is busy.

If I were better organized, I’d take notes. I can see it now. Out shopping in the mall you look to the side, and there is a strange person, madly typing into their phone. But this person isn’t texting because they never get any replies. Or failing a phone, maybe that person actually writing down notes on paper. The person looks around, their eyes go wide, then they keep typing even faster. It kind of makes you wonder, is that person writing something about me? I check to make sure I don’t have something embarrassing on my jacket, or worse, a sock sticking out of my pants.

And that person keeps typing, looking around and typing more. That makes you look around to see what that person is looking at. Then you start to notice stuff. People who are intent on something. Others who are wandering around looking lost.

There is a story behind everyone in the mall. Now to make notes on what that could be…

This entry was posted on December 5, 2018, in Gail's BLOG.

A Writer’s Mind – Observation Mode

Julie Arduini loves to encourage readers to surrender the good, the bad, and —maybe one day—the chocolate. She’s the author of ENTRUSTED: Surrendering the Present, ENTANGLED: Surrendering the Past, and ENGAGED: Surrendering the Future. She also shares her story in the infertility devotional, A WALK IN THE VALLEY. Her latest releases, YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL, is a book for girls ages 10-100, written with her teenaged daughter, Hannah, and A CHRISTMAS TO REMEMBER is a boxed set featuring Julie and some of the authors from the Inspy Romance blog. She blogs every other Wednesday for Christians Read, as well as monthly with Inspy Romance. She resides in Ohio with her husband and two children. Learn more by visiting her at, where she invites readers to subscribe to her monthly newsletter full of resources and giveaway opportunities.

As a writer, like many of us, Julie Arduni has a different way of watching the world around her, and interacting with it. Here’s what she has to say

My husband once joked that I never see a parking lot. Always in observation mode, that normal parking lot to most people is a possible crime scene to me. Perhaps it’s a makeshift landing strip. As a romance author, that lot might be a first meet between hero and heroine. It also might be the scene for a goodbye. The bottom line is I don’t see anything “as is.” I’m always thinking about the possibilities.

A recent example was when I took a tour of Castle Noel, a Christmas-themed tourist attraction in northeast Ohio. During the guided tour we saw exhibit after exhibit of movie props from Cindy Lou Who’s bedroom in Ron Howard’s The Grinch, to Cousin Eddie’s RV from Christmas Vacation. Guests even have the opportunity to slide down the exact slide Ralphie clung to when he found the nerve to tell Santa he wanted a Red Ryder BB gun in A Christmas Story.

I tried, I really tried to focus on the Christmas magic and the movie trivia as we traveled from room to room. The battle was in my mind where ideas were forming. As several traveled through my active imagination, one question stood out that didn’t let go, even after the tour was over. What if you worked at a Christmas-themed place and hated Christmas?

The blessing is I was able to answer that question quickly as Kimberly Rose Johnson invited Inspy Romance authors that were able to participate in a Christmas boxed set. This was a dream of mine, so I jumped at the chance and started creating.

My writer’s mind was able to take that question and create twists, turns, and conflicts to place the reader on a journey. The result was Restoring Christmas, and it is included in the boxed set, A Christmas to Remember. Instead of Ohio, I used Upstate NY as a setting, basing Geneseo Valley off the real Geneseo, where I graduated from college. The Christmas Mansion is a staple in the community, but Holly Christmas left the area as soon as she could. She resented the time her parents spent at the mansion, and after her mother passed away, her father worked even harder at the mansion. When Holly has to return, a child discerns the truth about Ms. Christmas. She hates the holiday.

All that came from a simple visit to a Christmas attraction.

With a parking lot!

I have a feeling the next time I go into a parking lot, I’m going to keep my eyes open for anyone watching me, and I’m going to be wondering what they’re thinking. And for sure, I don’t hate Christmas.

There are a lot of ways to find Julie Arduini









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Do Writers Give Books For Christmas?

Is your Christmas shopping done?

Mine isn’t.

A lot of people think that writers give books for Christmas. I can say that most of us do not. That is because books given as seasonal gifts are not usually appreciated. If an author gives a book as a gift, most people appreciate it. Who doesn’t appreciate getting something for free? But the point of that is, most people think that our own books don’t cost the author anything. That’s not true. Yes, most publishers will give a certain number of books with a contract, but we’re supposed to give those books away for promotion and reviewing. Not freebies for our friends.  I know authors who buy lots of books for various purposes. They’re not free.

If I give someone a book for Christmas, I’m more likely to give away a book not written by me. Not even necessarily a friend’s book, but a book that I don’t know the author, and just think the recipient will enjoy that book.

It’s a total thrill for me as an author when someone buys a book I’ve written, then comes to me to ask me to autograph it for a friend.

I’ll never forget the first time that happened to me. I was at home, I’d gotten the kids off to school and went back to bed because I had worked the night before and hadn’t gotten to bed until approximately 2:00 am. I was only dressed in ratty sweatpants and an old t-shirt, I hadn’t combed my hair, and I certainly wasn’t wearing makeup. I don’t even remember if I was wearing socks. The doorbell rang, so I answered it. It was the mother of a friend of one of my kids. She’d bought a few of my books, and she came to my door to ask me to autograph one of them because she was giving it away as a birthday gift to her sister.

Not a moment of glory, but I did sign the book and write a nice birthday wish.

No, writers usually don’t give their own books as Christmas gifts. But we sure love it when others do.

Cute Meets, Contrariness, and Compelling Beginnings

My guest this week is Amanda Cabot. Amanda Cabot’s dream of selling a book before her thirtieth birthday came true, and she’s now the author of more than thirty-five novels. Her inspirational romances have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists, have garnered a starred review from Publishers Weekly, and have been nominated for the ACFW Carol, the HOLT Medallion, and the Booksellers Best awards. You can see more about Amanda Cabot on FacebookTwitter – and visit her blog.

There are many standard ways to make things work in books, but once started, authors’ minds go in a million different directions. Here is what Amanda Cabot says about that.

How does a writer’s mind work? If you asked my husband that, he’d probably say something about convoluted ways, and he’d be right. Here’s an example. As writers, we all know the importance of a compelling beginning. When I started writing, more years ago than I’m going to admit, conventional wisdom said an author had three pages to hook an agent, editor, or reader. Now, thanks to what I call the Twitter Phenomenon, attention spans are shorter, and we have no more than a page to convince readers to invest their time and money in a book.

How do you do that? If you’re writing romance as I do, one proven technique is the cute meet.   You know what I mean, don’t you?   Cute meets are a staple of novels and Hollywood. We’ve all seen the couple that bumps into each other – literally – or is trapped on a stalled elevator. They gaze into each other’s eyes and instantly fall in love. Oh, there will be snags along the way, times when they’re convinced that it wasn’t meant to be, but neither of them can forget the immediate connection or the sense that this is the one and only love for them.

Cute meets are a time-honored technique for one very good reason: they work. I could have started A Tender Hope, the book that’s releasing next March, that way, but here’s where contrariness comes into play.   I didn’t want to use the cute meet.   I didn’t want Thea and Jackson to know that they were meant for each other, at least not at the beginning.   And so I started asking myself what I did want for their first meeting, and my brain – moving in the convoluted ways a writer’s brain does – started asking “what if” and then giving me answers.

Here’s what I came up with. When Thea arrives at her new home and finds Jackson standing on the front porch, a baby in his arms, she’s horrified. The pain of losing her own baby is still so fresh that the absolute last thing she wants is to care for a baby. And then there’s the fact that when she climbs out of her buggy, Jackson, a Texas Ranger who’s searching for the female member of a notorious gang, looks at her with shock and disappointment. What’s that all about?

Does this not-cute meet work? I hope so.

Well, I think it works. Of course now I have to wait until March to find out.

Does weather inspire a book?

There is definitely a tie between books and weather.

As a reader, when do you want to read a Christmas story?  While I am sure that most of us rabid readers have all read a few Christmas stories in the summer, the preferred time to read a seasonal story is in the season. Valentines Day books. Christmas books. There aren’t many that I’ve seen, but Eastertime stories. Thanksgiving (slightly different if you are in the USA or Canada). Summer vacation. The list goes on.

But here’s the thing.  It takes time to write a book. Then time to get it edited and proofread, then formatted. It also takes time to get a good cover designed. Add all these things up, and chances are, a writer is not writing a book in the season in which it is written.

I don’t know if I’ve ever written and completed a book in the season in which it was published. I’ve written a number of Christmas books, the most recent for Harlequin, The Best Man’s Holiday Romance. It was written mostly in the summer. Outside, on the back deck, in bare feet and wearing shorts. My iced tea was the only thing cold.

I’ve also written summer themed books in the middle of winter, when it was snowing, and I would rather eat wieners and beans for supper than go outside and do the grocery shopping. Thinking about the summer weather was no more than wishful thinking.

So my answer to that question is, yes, weather does inspire a book. Because most of the time, it’s wishful thinking. And that’s the most inspirational of all.

A Crime Wave, In A Writer’s Head, Of Course

Today my guest is Nike Chillemi. Nike N. Chillemi writes contemporary detective and/or suspense novels with a touch of wry humor, and there’s often a national security twist to them. She likes her bad guys really bad and her good guys smarter and better. Her newest endeavor is COURTING DANGER. She is the founding board member of the Grace Awards and its Chair, a reader’s choice awards for excellence in Christian fiction. For five years she has judged the Carol Awards in four categories. Her four novel Sanctuary Point series (out of print), set in the mid-1940s has finaled, won an award, and garnered critical acclaim. The first novel in the Veronica “Ronnie” Ingels/Dawson Hughes series HARMRUL INTENT won in the Grace Awards 2014 Mystery/Romantic Suspense/Thriller/Historical Suspense category. She has written book reviews for The Christian Pulse online magazine. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and John 3:16 Marketing Network.

Check out Nike Chillemi on Facebook or Twitter.

A lot of things have to be considered when writing a detective or suspense novel, and it’s often hard to keep everything together.

Here’s what Nike thinks when she’s working on a book.

I have a picture in my head, now that I’m living in the Sunshine State, that I want to be a Florida mystery/suspense writer. I want to bring a crime wave to the state I love…in fiction, of courses.

COURTING DANGER is a detective novel set in northeast coastal Florida. I put a lot of effort into setting a semi-tropical locale for the novel. I paid attention to heat conditions in the story, making sure that characters were dressed for a beach town. And, of course, I threw in a hurricane.

My novels are a detective series, which is a cousin to a police procedural series. The tone tends to be a little more gritty than a murder mystery or a cozy. I’ve done quite a bit of research and pay attention to my police procedure so that it comes off as accurate. I like to give my readers somebody to root for. My main characters do have flaws, but they are definitely the good guys, on the side of right.

I do have plans for writing a few cozies in the near future that I hope will be as hilarious on paper as they are in my head. I think Florida is the perfect setting for cozies what with sun, the beach, water sports, and much more. I’d like to have a lot of fun with that. Of course, in a cozy, you have the sense that everything ends well, I go all out to make that happen in my detective novels as well. I like a happy ending.

COURTING DANGER in a nut shell…

Newly installed Pelican Beach, Florida detective Katerina “Kat” Andruko fears the prime suspect will get off in the murder of a teen with the help of the department’s forensics psychologist, a man she’s just started to trust.

This case has national security implications that gives former US Army Ranger, Dr. Dimitri Garmonin a chance to work with the FBI. The case could give him the chance to obtain the funds needed to expand his small Behavior Analysis Unit. He’s unmoved by the chic FBI agent sent to assist but is intrigued by Kat with whom he shares a Slavic heritage.

Kat and her partner detain two wrong suspects, giving the department negative press. The predator turns his anger on Kat, targeting her. Can Dimitri use his profiler skills to catch this killer before he hurts the woman he’s growing to love?

Now that’s a lot of details to make sure everything works out in the end! But yet, she makes them work.

This Book Is Based On A True Story

I’ve always wondered, when I read the phrase “based on a true story” how much exactly in there is true.  The answer is, maybe a little, maybe a lot, but probably somewhere in the middle.

While a writer needs to write based on reality, unless you’re writing a fantasy where you’ve completely made up the world and/or universe in which your story resides, we need to make the story sound like it could be real. Most of the time that means using real places and real people. But at the same time, if a character does something bad or stupid, we can’t be too true that someone would recognize themself and sue the author and/or publisher. Yet we can’t completely make something up and claim it’s true to get more sales, and then be nothing more than a well-paid liar.

Sometimes authors make up towns, making weather and geography similar to a real place, but everything else is made up. This can be fun, and I’ve been part of a series by a number of authors where we did this.

My latest release – The Other Neighbor – is based on a true story, as far as the underlying plot. In real life, this situation rocked my husband’s company as once the bad guy was arrested, his company went into bankrupcy and all the money he owed for services rendered had to be written off as a loss, even though wages were paid to the staff, as well as other normal business expenses such as rent, taxes, furniture, etc etc. So the plot to make a bomb and an FBI investigation is real. Aside from that, everything else is pretty much made up.

There are other stories I’ve written where I heard about something real that happened, and used the concept and made up the rest.

The best fiction is making stuff up, and making it sound real. Especially when it is real.