Friday Speak Out!: Story Ingredients

Friday, February 27, 2015
by Brenda Moguez

  • 2 or more hearty characters, preferably one with a problem in need of solving (you can proceed with 1 character, but with two there is possibility)
  • Peppering of quirks
  • 1 major plot
  • ½ dozen, more or less, sub plots
  • Multiple dashes of conflict
  • Heavy sprinkling of tension
  • Senses on the pages in equal parts:
  • 1/3 touch
  • 1/3 smell
  • 1/3 sound
  • Believable dialogue
  • Just enough narrative
  • Adequate setting – too much and your readers get bored, not enough and your readers get lost
  • Imagination
    Not required, but helpful:
    • Unlimited patience
    • 1 good chair
    • Belief in self
    • Support of family and friends (note: some friends may abandon you during the writing of a novel)
    • 1 Dictionary
    • 1 Thesaurus
    • One ream of paper or 2-dozen blank moleskins (or journals of preference)
    • Time (scheduled, measured, managed, and respected)
    • Daily word limit
    • A room of your own
      On a large blank canvas combine the essential ingredients. Stir with equal parts vigor, passion, blood, sweat, and tears, in unquantifiable measurements. After mixing, place the printed pages in a shoebox and store in a dark place for days, in some cases weeks, in rare cases, hours. When ready, proceed to the next step.

      This phase will require the strength of Hercules, a heart of stone, a swift hand with the delete key. You’ll be required to cut and chop, remove the backstory, the excess, the pretty little words that have nothing whatsoever to do with moving the story forward. CAUTION: The first attempt may often reveal a new blank canvas is required, yes starting all over. DON’T CRY. Keep calm and write on.

      At the end of your journey — perhaps 100,000 words give or take — you’ll have a story only you could write. You’ll walk around in awe of yourself. You’ll be amazed. You’ll shout to the moon. Tears of joy will run down your pale cheeks. You’ll dance a jig. You’ll tell the clerk at Safeway, your hairdresser, your great aunt Tootie, even your best friend from second grade, about the book. Some will smile, some will say, “WOW,” some will wonder if you’ve lost your mind and remind you of the missed episodes of Dancing with the Stars. Some will even go so far as to ask, why.

      You might even wonder the same thing. After all, those lost hours spent in front of the computer will not bring you instant fame and fortune (that might require a few more books and a heavy sprinkling of Tinker Bell’s fairy dust). Something in you will know there is no answer that will satisfy the person asking the question. How do you explain the sublime, the surreal, and the burning passion to create from inside of yourself? Not easy to do. If pressed, I say it was the only way to quiet the voices in my head. Of course, they run for the hills when I say that, but I don’t mind. I like that they think I’m quirky, borderline strange, one of those weird writer types. Write on.

      * * *

      Brenda Moguez writes the kind of stories she loves to read, women’s fiction and contemporary romance, staring quirky, passionate women, who are challenged by the fickleness of life and the complexities of romantic relationships. She’s particularly drawn to exploring the effects of love on the heart of a woman. Her forte is stripping away the protective layers concealing doubts and insecurities, which wreak havoc on intimate relationships, and exposing the soul of her beautifully flawed characters who learn happiness isn’t one size fits all. You can find her at and

      Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!

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      Book Review: Independently Wealthy by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal

      Thursday, February 26, 2015
      Independently Wealthy by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal
      Publisher: St. Martin’s Press (Thomas Dunne Books)
      Review by Margo L. Dill

      Independently Wealthy is a sequel to Lorraine Zago Rosenthal’s first book, New Money, and continues the story of Savannah Morgan, a mid-20s editorial assistant who is the sole heir to her father’s billion-dollar fortune and instantly thrust into New York City’s “high society.” When Savannah’s story picks up in book two, things seem to be working out perfectly for her, especially since she had made up with her handsome bartender boyfriend Alex at the end of book one.

      Although there’s not much conflict at first in Independently Wealthy, readers who fell in love with Savannah in the first book or new readers catching up with the story will enjoy the relationship development between she and Alex. But as all readers know—conflict drives the story, and soon there’s plenty of that for Savannah.

      The biggest problem, and one that might also prove to be deadly, is the truth surrounding her father’s death. Was his death suspicious? Is there scandal surrounding it? Savannah’s new-found half-sister and sleuthing mate, Caroline, decide that they can’t ignore these questions any longer. Her half-brother Ned is just a bitter, pessimistic mess that both women have to tolerate, while they grow closer and attempt to figure out the real story about their father. Readers will also have a hard time liking Ned, although he does have his own character arc in the book.

      Investigating her father’s death and coming face to face with a killer, following clues to Washington, D.C., developing a relationship with a brother and sister who didn’t realize she existed until their father died, and working on her career in publishing is just part of this book. What I really enjoyed is how Lorraine wrote this character’s romantic storyline.

      Since Savannah begins this book rich, pretty, and with a great boyfriend, readers might wonder if the romance part in this new adult book will be developed much. But hold on, because there are twists and turns in the main character’s romantic life, like there should be when a woman is in her 20s and trying to figure out who she is and what she wants out of life. Why should she put up with a man who can’t control his temper? Should she settle down with an older man who can give her security? I found the “love” theme in this book to be refreshing and realistic, and a storyline young women can really relate to, even if they aren’t wealthy and living in New York.

      Lorraine was born and raised in New York City, where much of Independently Wealthy takes place. She has degrees in psychology, education, and English. On her website ( ), she claims to be a TV and film buff. She also announces that this book was chosen in December 2014 as one of People Magazine’s Best New Books.

      Independently Wealthy is great for women readers who enjoy romance, drama, family relationships, mystery, and a bit of danger, and who can appreciate that a happy ending doesn’t necessarily mean the heroine has to be walking down the aisle.

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      Does Your KidLit WIP Need Fresh Eyes?

      Wednesday, February 25, 2015
      Living in a rural area, I have limited writer resources. Two writing groups in the entire county. An annual one day writing workshop. Zero bookstores. Published authors...some. But it's difficult to make connections. That's why, when I stumbled on KidLit 411 Manuscript Swap it was like a dream come true.

      I have several children's picture books that get sporadic attention. I will send them out to a few agents or publishers, get back rejections, refine them, send them out again. What I really needed was someone objective to read them and tell me all the harsh truths. Someone who knows something about children's books.

      Because I work at a job that puts me in touch with dozens of teachers I thought of asking some to read my manuscripts or allow me to read them to their students but I wanted the manuscripts to be at their best before taking that leap. So hooray for KidLit 411 Manuscript Swap! It's a Facebook group where members post what type of children's manuscript they have and what they're asking of other members. Some requests are wide ranging like "fresh eyes", others have specific things they're looking for: "Is the ending weak?", "Which scene should I cut?", even line by line edits. Although picture book writers usually offer their entire WIP, most chapter and middle readers offer 2-3 chapters. Members do a critique for critique swap and you can choose what you critique as most members post type of book, genre, word count and often a brief outline such as "a rhyming picture book about vampires".

      Three members critiqued two of my manuscripts and they were wonderful. They asked questions I hadn't even considered, pointed out problems and made suggestions as well as telling me where they thought my writing was strongest. It wasn't only the critiques I received that helped me. Doing critiques for other writers helped me with my own work. Dissecting their work made me look at my work in a different way. KidLit 411 Manuscript Swap is an incredible tool that all children's writers should be using!

      Jodi Webb is a blog tour organizer for WOW-Women on Writing and would love to hear about your book and promotional needs at She blogs about books and writing at Words by Webb and Building Bookshelves. Like all mama writers she has a children's book manuscript (or two or four...) in the works. None about vampires, but one about a pig that thinks she's Carmen Miranda.
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      Meet Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up, Patricia Boyle

      Tuesday, February 24, 2015
      Patricia Boyle writes contemporary fiction, fantasy, science fiction and poetry. Her current project is a YA fantasy novel set in Betherion, a medieval Earth-like world where Patricia likes to hang out when she’s not teaching elementary school science. A graduate of Cornell University, and former research meteorologist, she has taught science and mathematics at every level from college to first grade. Her fascination with human nature and the natural world influence her fiction. Some of her stories and haiku appeared in the anthology “Voices of the Valley: Encore.” Her story “Preservation” won a Second Place award in the “Las Positas College Anthology 2014.” She is vice-president of the Tri-Valley branch of the California Writers Club ( She and her husband have two grown children. Patricia can always depend on her family to provide valuable insights on her writing projects.

      interview by Marcia Peterson

      WOW: Congratulations on placing in the top ten in our Summer 2014 Flash Fiction competition! What inspired you to enter the contest?

      Patricia: Being relatively new to writing, I like the ability to get feedback on my submissions, which is one of the options available in WOW Flash Fiction contests. I've been writing for about three years, while continuing my teaching career, and am always on the lookout for contests that fit into my limited writing time. Flash fiction and short stories work well with my schedule, and allow me to work through the writing process from conception to polishing in a much shorter timespan than a novel. The stories I read from past WOW contests were of high quality, and inspired me to try my hand at the contest.

      WOW: We're glad that you decided to go for it! Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, Shaken and Stirred?

      Patricia: When the earthquake hit near Napa last summer, it woke me from a sound sleep, even though I live more than sixty miles from the epicenter. We felt only shaking from the quake, but hundreds of people suffered injuries and there was a lot of destruction around Napa. That morning I thought about earthquakes, and the how the damage they cause can disrupt lives for years. The idea came to me that perhaps sometimes, an accidental death related to an earthquake can bring about a positive change in someone's life. Unlike most of my writing, the story developed quickly, without need for an outline or plan.

      WOW: Coincidentally, I felt that earthquake pretty strongly since we live less than 20 miles from the epicenter. I didn't get a flash fiction story out of it though, so good for you! What do you enjoy about flash fiction writing versus the other kinds of writing that you do?

      Patricia: I like the challenge of trying to tell a complete story in a succinct way. Flash fiction is more focused than longer stories or novels. There isn't time to develop a large cast of characters or subplots. In a short span, one has to create a bond between the reader and the characters and tell an interesting tale that satisfies. It feels like a puzzle to me, to get the right balance of dialogue, character development, action and conflict to create a quick story that can linger in the reader's mind.

      WOW: We’d love to know more about your writing routines. Could you tell us when and where you usually write? Do you have favorite tools or habits that get you going?

      Patricia: Since I'm still teaching, I fit in writing as I can, in the evenings and weekends. I need quiet to work, and generally write at a desk in the living room or study. In either place, I try to shut out the rest of the world for a while and give myself over to my current project. As I write, I listen to my characters, and try to let them tell me how they want to develop. Sometimes a character I hadn't consciously created pops into the story and takes the plot in a new direction. That's the sort of writing development that keeps me at my computer long after the time I've allotted for the day, and brings me back, to see where the story will go next. To get started, I generally read over the last page or two I've written, to get myself back into the story and reacquaint myself with the characters. I keep a pad of paper and a pencil next to my laptop, to jot down thoughts and plot ideas before they slip away. I generally think out plots on paper, even though I write the story on the computer.

      WOW: It's always interesting to learn about another writer's process. Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Patricia. Before you go, do you have any tips for our readers who may be thinking about entering writing contests?

      Patricia: Read, read, read. It can be helpful to read a variety of published work but I also recommend reading winning stories from past contests of the type you want to enter. Also, read about the judge for the current contest. Each contest may have a different focus or style. Think about what the readers of that specific contest might be looking for in a story. When you've finished your piece, take the time to read it aloud and polish it, then check the submissions guidelines carefully before you hit the 'send' button!


      Our Winter Flash Fiction Contest is OPEN until February 28, 2015.
      For information  and entry, visit our contest page

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      Book Review: This Heart of Mine (Whiskey Creek) by Brenda Novak

      Monday, February 23, 2015
      Review by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto

      This Heart of Mine (Whiskey Creek) will be coming to Amazon on March 31st!

      I am new to reading Brenda Novak’s books but can say I will definitely be reading more of them in the future! If This Heart of Mine is any indication of Novak’s talent, I may have to run to the bookstore and pick up copies of her other 50+ books. The characters are developed quickly but they are well described and memorable. Novak does a nice job when introducing characters and it helps the reader feel comfortable right from the start. As the story unfolded I continued to be drawn in. Phoenix Fuller is a likeable character despite her past mistakes. I didn’t expect to be cheering her on, but found myself wanting the best for her.

      The storyline, setting, and characters make This Heart of Mine a quick read. Putting this book down is as disappointing as a “to be continued…” right in the middle of your favorite television program. I started and finished This Heart of Mine in the same day because I absolutely needed to know how it ended. It’s easy to see why Brenda Novak has found herself on the New York Time’s best-seller list quite a few times in her career. She is a talented storyteller. I would recommend this book to others and certainly will be giving it a 5 Star rating!

      In other exciting news, Brenda will be appearing on The Daily Buzz! She is scheduled for May 1st and will also be appearing on their sister program, Emotional Mojo, and doing a cooking segment on both to promote LOVE THAT! Brenda Novak's Every Occasion Cookbook (all proceeds to diabetes research). Here's a link, if you're looking for more info on the programs:

      This Heart of Mine (Whisky Creek) Book Summary:

      First love. Second chance?

      As the daughter of a hoarder, Phoenix Fuller had a tough childhood. So when the handsome, popular Riley Stinson became her boyfriend in high school, she finally felt as though she had something to be proud of. Phoenix was desperate not to lose him—especially once she found out she was pregnant. Yes, she might have acted a bit obsessive when he broke up with her. But she did not run down the girl he started dating next.

      Unfortunately, there was no way to prove her innocence. Now, after serving her time in prison, Phoenix has been released. All she wants to do is return to Whiskey Creek and get to know her son. But Jacob's father isn't exactly welcoming.

      Riley doesn't trust Phoenix, doesn't want her in Jacob's life. He is, however, ready to find someone to love. And he wants a good mother for his son. He has no idea that he's about to find both!

      Author Bio:

      It was a shocking experience that jump-started Brenda Novak's career as a bestselling author--she caught her day-care provider drugging her children with cough syrup to get them to sleep all day. That was when Brenda decided she needed to quit her job as a loan officer and help make a living from home.

      "When I first got the idea to become a novelist, it took me five years to teach myself the craft and finish my first book," Brenda says. But she sold that book, and the rest is history. Her novels have made the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists and won many awards, including four Rita nominations, the Book Buyer's Best, the Book Seller's Best and the National Reader's Choice Award.

      Brenda and her husband, Ted, live in Sacramento and are proud parents of five children--three girls and two boys. When she's not spending time with her family or writing, Brenda is usually raising funds for diabetes research (her youngest son has this disease). So far, Brenda has raised $2.4 million. Please visit to see how you can help.

      Product Details:

      Series: Whiskey Creek
      Mass Market Paperback: 400 pages
      Publisher: Mira (March 31, 2015)
      Language: English
      ISBN-10: 0778316726
      ISBN-13: 978-0778316725


      Photo Courtesy of Oh! Photography 
      Crystal is a church musician, business owner, active journaler, writer and blogger as well as a dairy farmer. She lives in Reedsville, Wisconsin with her husband, three young children (Carmen 7, Andre 6, Breccan 16 months), two dogs, two rabbits, four little piggies, and over 200 Holsteins. The family is expecting a new addition any day now as they eagerly await the birth of another daughter, Delphine Elizabeth. You can find Crystal blogging and reviewing books and all sorts of other stuff at:

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      Topic Twists Or How To Generate A List Of Story Ideas

      Sunday, February 22, 2015
      Whether you're a journalist or a fiction writer, you may rely on a brainstorming session to generate an idea list for an article or a plot twist.

      Where should you start? Here's a technique I use every Wednesday, once the weekly where I serve as managing editor goes to print.

      First, I look at the community calendar and see what's coming up in the next two weeks. Sometimes, I jot down specific events. Other times, I write a generalized tag - like basketball - that can be used in one of the upcoming steps.

      Then, I take a look at holidays, especially those that are unique to a special time period. For instance, did you know that National Pancake Week wraps up today? If there's something relatable to my coverage area, I write it down.

      Next, I list subtopics for each item, using the following demographics to develop a specific idea:

      • woman's issue
      • man's issue
      • kid's/teen issue
      • a twist
      • outlandish idea
      • evergreen idea
      Let's use the basketball idea. My list might resemble this:

      • woman's issue: check with area schools about girls' basketball participation numbers since participation is declining nationally
      • man's issue: local town teams provide physical fitness
      • kid's/teen issue: local team raised over $1,000 for Healthy Heart Month
      • a twist: how local schools use social media to promote sports updates
      • outlandish idea: local basketball players - Who would you beat in the latest NBA video game?
      • evergreen idea: district basketball pairings released.
      Right there I have at least six possible articles. While some may seem silly and will never make it to the paper, others are worth pursuing.

      Generating a topic list allows you to think outside the box, to take a single word and twist and bend it to meet the needs of your publisher or editor.

      And most important, the ideas work.

      By LuAnn Schindler

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      Guest Blog to Grow Your Platform

      Saturday, February 21, 2015
      © Bbbar |

      In my work as a blog tour manager for WOW! Women on Writing, I spend a lot of time researching a variety of blogs to see if they could be a good fit for our authors. While doing so, I often inadvertently stumble across some really creative and high-trafficked blogs that welcome guest submissions.

      There are several benefits to guest blogging—in other words, writing a post for someone else’s blog. Most of the time these blogs don’t pay for submissions, and yes, there’s a lot of conflicting advice in the publishing industry about “writing for free,” but in this case, it’s a little different. Guest blogging is beneficial for writers who are looking to grow their online presence, drive traffic to their blogs or websites, promote books or services, or build their platforms in order to look more well-rounded when pitching to literary agents or magazine editors. It can also be great for networking purposes.

      Here are five blogs and submission guides I recommend exploring if you are interested in guest blogging to build your own platform. Each one includes the opportunity to include a bio where you can promote your book, blog, website, products, etc.

      The Change Blog
      This blog welcomes submissions from readers who have experienced a change in their lives, whether it’s related to creativity, fear, goals, happiness, life lessons, etc., and publishes three to four blog posts a week. For maximum exposure, your post will be promoted to 20,000+ readers via RSS/ email and 23,000+ Facebook friends. Examples include “How I Manifested My Sabbatical and Why it Changed My Life, and “Planning for the Life You Want.” You can check out the site’s full submission guidelines here.

      The Write Life
      The Write Life is looking for guest posts anywhere from 600-900 words with “practical, actionable advice” that helps the writers’ journey. Subject areas fall into the following categories: freelancing, marketing, blogging, self-publishing, and the writing craft. The community is lively and engaging, and as a result, most blog posts receive numerous comments and traffic. Recent popular posts include “How to Write a Novel, 15 Minutes at a Time,” and “Jobs That Leave You Time to Write.” Visit this page to get started.

      My Gutsy Story
      Author Sonia Marsh accepts submissions for the popular “My Gutsy Story” feature on the Gutsy Living site. Writers can enter up to 1,000 words about an event that changed them, the way they think about something, or made their lives take a different direction. She features one story each Monday, and readers vote for their favorite story of the month. As a bonus, the monthly winner gets to choose a prize from the featured sponsors, such as a coaching session, a book, a magazine subscription, etc. Selected contributors also have the opportunity to have their story published in the My Gutsy Story Anthology. Here's where you can learn more.

      The Muffin – Friday Speak Out!
      Yes, that’s us! WOW! Women on Writing accepts guests posts about women and/or writing and publishes one each Friday. Keep posts to less than 500 words and e-mail Marcia (at) wow-womenonwriting (dot) com for consideration.

      Tiny Buddha
      From their website: “Tiny Buddha is about reflecting on simple wisdom and learning new ways to apply it to our complex lives—complete with responsibilities, struggles, dreams, and relationships. Founded in 2009, Tiny Buddha has emerged as a leading resource for peace and happiness, with close to three million monthly readers.” Tiny Buddha is seeking specific life stories, practical advice, posts that deal with universal themes, rather than topics on writing, coaching, parenting, entrepreneurship, etc.
      Note: Tiny Buddha is currently closed to submissions but should re-open sometime in March 2015, so save this one for future blog post submission ideas!

      These are just a few of the places you can potentially visit as a guest blogger. I just might have to come up with a “Part 2” of this list. So pull out those blog post or essay ideas and get creative!

      Have tried your hand at guest blogging? If so, tell us where in the comments below and let us know how your experience was!

      Renee Roberson worked in advertising and public relations before making the leap into freelance writing after the birth of her first child. She is now an award-winning writer and magazine editor who also works as a blog tour manager for WOW! Women on Writing. When she’s not helping her two kids with their homework or chauffeuring them to their various activities, she blogs about all things writing and book-related at Renee’s Pages.
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      Friday Speak Out: Choosing a Publication Path (Part Two)

      Friday, February 20, 2015
      by Denise Jaden

      Usually when I meet new or struggling writers, their eyes light up when I mention my experiences working with Simon & Schuster, but when I mention my other publishing routes, their eyes glaze over.

      Last week, I shared about some of the benefits and challenges I have seen in working with large and small traditional publishers. This week I’ll offer some insight into Digital Imprints and Self-Publishing.

      Digital Imprints:

      These imprints (some birthed by The Big Five publishers) generally focus on digital versions of books. They may simultaneously produce print copies, but usually printed on demand, rather than in mass quantities. My latest young adult novel, Foreign Exchange, was published by the digital imprint Evernight Teen.

      Benefits: This publishing method is fluid, and often those working behind the scenes are forward thinkers. Royalty rates are often higher. You may get to know most people at the publisher, which can feel very relational. There is a sense of openness toward new ideas for marketing and promotion, and digital publishers may be willing to take a chance on an unusual story because there is less of an investment risk to do so.

      Challenges: Digital imprints may offer small to no advance payment to authors, and editing efforts will be lighter. They’re relatively unknown outside of writing/publishing circles. Review bloggers may be hesitant to review books from digital imprints, especially if it means reading via e-galley, rather than a print book. It can be more difficult to get the word out about a book with a digital imprint simply because of the lack of familiarity of the publishing name.


      This includes any avenue in which the author must pay, or use their own resources, in order to have their books produced. My first nonfiction writing book, Writing with a Heavy Heart was self-published via KDP, Smashwords, and Create Space.

      Benefits: Many of the benefits of self-publishing fall under the area of control. You as the author/publisher control how much and what quality of editing your books will receive, what the book will look like artistically, how and where it will be sold, and how you will promote it. Most of the profits, after expenses, will be yours alone.

      Challenges: With self-publishing, many of the benefits can also be viewed as challenges. Being in control of every aspect of your books also means you are responsible for every aspect. You’ll need to hire your editors, formatters, cover designers, and promotional team, or take care of these aspects yourself. The professionals you hire do not have a vested interest in your book, so it is up to you to make decisions to give your book the best chance in the marketplace.

      As you can see, publishing is no longer a one-size-publisher-fits-all landscape. Knowing the benefits and challenges ahead of time will hopefully help you navigate the changing terrain.

      From your experience, are there other benefits or challenges to the publishing options I’ve listed? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

      * * *
      Denise Jaden's novels have been shortlisted or received awards through the Romance Writers of America, Inspy, and SCBWI. The first draft of her debut novel, Losing Faith (Simon & Schuster 2010), was written in 21 days during NaNoWriMo. Her other fiction includes Never Enough (Simon & Schuster 2012) and Foreign Exchange (an Editor’s Pick with Evernight Teen). Her first non-fiction book for writers, Writing with a Heavy Heart, includes clear guidance and practical exercises to help writers get to the heart of their stories. Her second non-fiction book, Fast Fiction includes tips on constructing a story plan, as well as daily inspiration to keep writers writing, regardless of when the mood strikes. Denise spends most of her time home-schooling her young son (who is also a fast-drafter of fiction) and dancing with a professional Polynesian dance troupe.

      Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!

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      Review: 21 Days Declutter Your Life Journaling Challenge by Mari L. McCarthy

      Thursday, February 19, 2015
      by Angela Mackintosh

      I used to be the type of person that cleaned frantically when the doorbell rang. Well, maybe not that bad, but I did put in the extra effort when I knew company was coming over. God forbid people find out how messy I really am! Yet, over the years and after reading many books on the subject, I developed a cleaning routine that involved small daily tasks like doing the dishes and wiping down countertops, and a thorough weekly cleaning. On the surface, my house looks pretty tidy and organized, but don’t open the closets! A bowling ball might just roll out and land on your head. So when CreateWriteNow’s journaling guru Mari L. McCarthy wrote her latest book on decluttering, I jumped at the chance to review it.

      21 Days Declutter Your Life Journaling Challenge is a three-week program designed to help you take control of clutter and figure out the reasons behind the way you approach organization. The first half of the book is filled with journaling exercises that get to the root of what’s causing the pile-up and the second half of the book is taking that knowledge and applying it with step-by-step actions to physically clear the clutter. At the end of each journaling session there is a ten-minute burst to speed-clean one area of your home.

      This is my favorite journaling challenge yet. In the introduction, Mari says, “Your home should be a place of tranquility, comfort and relaxation . . . How you organize your personal space has a significant impact on your productivity . . .” This couldn’t be truer for the work-at-home writer. Our personal space has a tremendous influence on our writing productivity.

      The 38-page workbook is organized in a logical progression of journaling steps that work toward your ultimate goal of clearing your surroundings and your mind of clutter. Sometimes I wondered where in the heck Mari was leading me, and then Aha! The next day revealed everything we’d been working toward. For instance, Day 3 examines your Life’s Purpose—who you are and why you are here. Say what? I didn’t understand what that had to do with cleaning. But after answering a series of questions it became clear to me that my home environment wasn’t aligning with my life’s purpose and goals. I could go into the specific reasons why—lack of privacy, no space to nurture my artistic needs, etc.—but there is a genius in the way that Mari poses her questions that will help you realize what’s holding you back.

      Days 5 and 6 examine personal patterns and how they influence organization, stress and productivity. These questions were a little embarrassing to work through for me because a lot of them hit the nail on the head. They tackle Decision-Making, Time Management, Space, Focus (distractions, procrastination), Emotional Saving (shopping, collecting), and Changes to your personal life. I found the answers revealing and it made me take notice of areas I need to improve. The workbook follows up on some of these areas in later days—such as dealing with Time—but others are left to your own devices. That was okay with me because I plan on free-writing about them some more, which Mari recommends.

      Other exercises of personal interest include Day 7: Mental & Physical Clutter, where you take a pen and do a walk through of your home noting your feelings and reactions; Day 8: A New Vision, where you create a mini vision collage that gets used throughout the challenge; and Day 9: Personal History, which examines the house of your childhood and how orderly it was when you were growing up. Here you write about what your responsibilities were and your habits and how they influenced who you are today. I found all these sections extremely useful in getting through my blocks. Plus, I came up with some great story material by revisiting the past!

      By Day 14 you are creating a Plan of Action, and the rest of the days are all about doing. You have finally lightened the load of most of your mental clutter and are moving forward with physical decluttering and organization. Day 15 tackles your Daily Habits and gives you quick and easy tips on things you can do each day that take less than five minutes to complete! Days 17 through 20 focus on organizing specific areas in your home—Closets & Crevices, Kitchen, Living Room, and Bedrooms. And finally, in Day 21, Mari provides you with mindfulness tips to help you achieve Lifelong Habits.

      I feel so much lighter after working through the exercises in the 21 Days Declutter Your Life Journaling Challenge. I have targeted the mental blocks that have been holding me back from aligning my environment with my life’s purpose. I’ve created positive rituals to keep my space orderly and serene. When I walk through the front door now I feel welcomed and happy because I know everything is in its place and I can relax. On the far end of the house, I find an organized office with clear countertops and flat areas for laying out paperwork, books, and research materials. In the corner I have an easel with a nearby rolling tray that holds painting supplies. I still have a ways to go with some of my personal resolutions, but now I have an action plan to move forward with my goals. And this weekend, it’s time for a garage sale!

      Find out more about the 21 Days Declutter Your Life Journaling Challenge here. The next challenge starts March 1st. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to align their home or workspace with their life’s purpose, or simply to anyone wanting to maintain a peaceful, organized home. The 21 Days Declutter Your Life e-workbook is available through CreateWriteNow’s store (save 20% by entering the code DECLUTTER at checkout), and on Kindle, Nook, Scribd, and Kobo. Find out more about author Mari McCarthy by visiting
      Read More »

      5 Landing Page Mistakes You Absolutely Need to Avoid

      Wednesday, February 18, 2015
      By Karen Cioffi

      Just about everyone knows the importance of having a website. And, the landing page is the first thing a visitor will see on your website. So, it’s essential to have it reader and search engine optimized.

      As a website owner there are certain mistakes you need to look out for - below are five of them:

      1. Overwhelming content

      Your website landing page shouldn’t have too much information. Keep it simple and to the point. The visitor needs to very quickly ascertain what your site is about and the benefit it has for her.

      In addition, search engines don't like long landing pages.

      Read your content carefully and get rid of extraneous content.

      2. Too many call-to-actions (CTAs)

      Everything on your website should be short and sweet, especially your landing page. Give the visitor only ONE option (CTA) at a time. Too many choices creates ‘visitor anxiety’ - this is always a no-no.

      Anxiety or confusion always leads to a ‘NO’ response on the part of the visitor.

      You want to make the process as easy as possible.

      Note: A call-to-action is the action you want the visitor to take. It may be to sign up for your mailing list, to sign up for a special event, to buy your product or service, or some other desired action.

      3. Your landing page heading doesn't reflect the website's theme/niche/industry

      Suppose you came across a website titled Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained.

      Now, quickly, what do you think the site is about?

      Investment? Real Estate? Health? Sports?

      Get the idea? The title is non-specific. It's confusing.

      Your domain URL, website name, page titles, and so on, should all reflect the topic of the site.

      This matters for two major reasons: (1) lack of clarity or focus makes the search engine's job more difficult to define and categorize your website and (2) it's confusing for the visitor.

      4. Your sidebar is jam-packed

      It’s not wise to distract or confuse your visitor by having too many sidebar tidbits or ads. Again, keep it simple. Keep only essential sidebar content. Eliminate ads.

      You might also consider getting a one-column theme – it has no sidebars. Heavy-hitter marketing sites are now using this type of theme.

      5. Your color design has a dark background.

      The best color scheme for your website is a light background with dark text. It's much easier to read, which makes it more reader friendly.

      Use these five tips to make your website landing page reader and search engine optimized.

      Karen Cioffi is a former accountant who is now a multi-award-winning author, ghostwriter, freelance writer, editor, and author-writer online platform marketing instructor. She founded and manages Writers on the Move (a marketing group), and presents online writing and marketing workshops and webinars.

      Karen has published 12 writing and marketing eBooks, the most recent, Article Marketing: Increase Website Traffic with Properly Formatted and Search Engine Optimized Content.

      In addition to this, Karen’s website, Karen Cioffi Writing and Marketing, was named Writer’s Digest Website of the Week, June 25, 2012.

      Join Karen Cioffi's upcoming online class, Get Traffic to Your Website with Inbound Marketing! Visit our classroom page for details and enrollment.
      Read More »

      Interview with Summer 2014 Flash Fiction Runner Up, Rebecca Chapple

      Tuesday, February 17, 2015
      Today we are pleased to introduce Rebecca Chapple, whose entry "Scar" placed as a Runner Up in the Summer 2014 Flash Fiction Contest. Check out her entry and then come back here to learn more about Rebecca and how she balances writing with a full-time career.

      Rebecca Chapple is a transplanted Midwesterner living in Southern California. She is presently employed in the Legal field after years of working in Investment Banking, both in New York and Los Angeles. An avid sports enthusiast, Rebecca’s latest athletic foray is learning archery, which of course is not the least bit influenced by any bestselling books or movies. She is currently working on a short story based on her year studying abroad in Vienna, Austria.

      WOW: Welcome, Rebecca! I really enjoyed your entry,"Scar," a beautifully written story about loss and healing. How did you first get the idea for it?

      Rebecca: Over the last year or so, several friends of mine have had family members die, and as I tried to help them with their loss, I started thinking about how we process grief. And about how the coping mechanisms we use are often hidden from view. I thought, “What if a coping mechanism wasn’t hidden at all and what if it was physical in nature rather than just emotional?” The story basically took off from there.

      WOW: Your bio mentions you are working on a short story based on a year you spent abroad in Vienna. Can you tell us a little more about that?

      Rebecca: Sure. It is a coming of age story and is more lighthearted than “Scar.” It’s in the beginning stages, but revolves around a young woman, who is a bit bumbling, somewhat myopic and sometimes annoyingly self-effacing. We see Vienna through her Midwestern, rather provincial eyes and then, hopefully, see how Vienna transforms her into a more confident, worldly soul. I’m still in that first draft stage where I have lots of ideas going off in lots of directions. Needless to say, I have a bit of winnowing to do.

      WOW: How did you first hear about the WOW! Women on Writing flash fiction contest? Is this your first time entering or have you submitted before?

      Rebecca: At the suggestion of a friend, I’d been reading the website and saw the contest. I was intrigued by the idea of writing a complete story in so few words. Intrigued and intimidated, so it was quite a while before I took the plunge and submitted my first story. “Scar” is the second story I’ve submitted and this is the second time I’ve submitted it. I took advantage of the critiquing service offered by WOW! Women on Writing on the first submission of this story, and the feedback I received was invaluable.

      WOW: I agree that the critiques can be extremely beneficial. I'm glad you found yours so helpful! You are currently employed in the legal field. What time of day do you find most productive for your writing?

      Rebecca: I work the evening shift as a legal word processor, so my writing times a bit different than other people. I find I am most productive mid-morning. Occasionally, I write after I get home which, for me, is a good time for automatic writing.

      WOW: That sounds like a great schedule to balance writing and work. Who are some of the authors who have inspired your own writing?

      Rebecca: Actually, I have a story about my greatest literary influence. John Irving is a bit of a hero of mine. He also studied in Vienna, and while I was there, was on a book tour for The Hotel New Hampshire. He was giving a lecture at the school where he studied (not where I was studying) and four of us decided to sneak in to his talk. I was so star struck, I really didn’t remember anything he said except for one point: writers should be able to blend into the background the better to observe the world. During the book signing portion of the evening, my friend, Marian, equally in awe of John Irving and who had skipped classes that day to find an English language version of The Hotel New Hampshire, held out her book to be signed. “Weren’t you in Janele (a small café by our school) this afternoon?” he asked. Blushing, she said yes. “I recognized you by your bracelet,” he told her. Marian wore a Nantucket bracelet, a braided bracelet popular at the time. At which point she and I basically fled the book signing line, being totally freaked out by our idol speaking to us (because, as her best friend, I lumped myself in with her).

      We escaped to the stone steps outside the school with our two classmates in tow. A light rain was falling while the three of us grilled Marian on the afternoon’s events. “You mean you didn’t see John Irving? Truly? Janele is, like, five tables. How could you have not seen him?” As we continued to interrogate her, a totally unremarkable figure walked down the steps and put up his umbrella. As he walked past our group he paused, and in that brief instant I realized it was John Irving walking unnoticed into the rainy, Viennese night. My friends were still talking, and I was the only one who saw him. As the figure under the umbrella grew smaller and smaller, I tried telling my classmates what I witnessed, but just as we didn’t believe the Marian in the Café story, the others didn’t believe me. But I knew who I had seen. That experience and the fascinating lesson it taught me about observation and anonymity has remained vivid to this day.
      Read More »

      Myrna J. Smith Launches her blog tour for God and Other Men: Religion, Romance, and the Search for Self-Love

      Monday, February 16, 2015
      & giveaway contest!

      Have you ever been so focused on attaining a goal, and doing what's expected of you, that you lost sight of yourself in the process?

      On the February night her husband left, Myrna Smith felt the old demons of abandonment stir her soul. In God and Other Men, she takes us on an earnest but circuitous walk toward enlightenment, from adventures at a Japanese kendo and with Indian saints to a backwoods medium and a new lover. Eventually, she glimpses the holy grail of self-acceptance but not at all in a way she expected.

      “Never has Myrna J. Smith accepted trite or dubious solutions to her soul’s deepest yearnings. The result is a lifetime of tested and practiced wisdom, culled from all the great philosophical traditions of the world and the hard-won lessons of her own heart. This book tells the whole tale in language that never veers from the elegant.”

      —Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia

      Paperback: 240 pages
      Genre: Spiritual Memoir
      Publisher: Cape House Books (October 23, 2014)
      ISBN-13: 978-1939129048

      God and Other Men is available in paperback at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, CreateSpace, and Indie Bound. An e-book will be available soon.

      Book Giveaway Contest:
      To win a copy of God and Other Men: Religion, Romance, and the Search for Self-Love, please enter using the Rafflecopter form at the bottom of this post. The giveaway contest closes this Friday, Feb. 20 at 12:00 AM EST. We will announce the winner the same day in the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

      About the Author:

      Myrna J. Smith held a faculty position in the English Department at Raritan Valley Community College, Somerville, N.J., from 1970-2004, where she took leave for two and a half years to serve as Associate Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning housed at Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J. She received a Ed.D. from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey in New Brunswick, N.J. Smith also had two Mid-Career Fellowships to attend Princeton University, one in English and one in religion. Smith, who was 74 years old when she published her memoir, now resides in Frenchtown, N.J, a small town on the Delaware River.


      Cape House Books:

      -----Interview by Renee Roberson

      WOW: Myrna, congratulations on the publication of God and Other Men: Religion, Romance, and the Search for Self-Love. How did you first get the idea to write this book in particular? Is writing a memoir something that’s always been on your bucket list?

      Myrna:  When I was finishing my doctoral work, I wrote, “I want to be a writer,” on a piece of paper and put it in my desk drawer. Raising three children and teaching full time in a community college, where freshman composition made up most of my assignment, took up most of my time, but I wrote short pieces, sometimes for a class assignment and sometimes on current events. I was not successful in getting these published, although the New York Times accepted a piece for the Op-Ed Page, but the first Gulf War, in which my son participated, ended quickly, and the editors decided my piece was no longer relevant. That experience showed me that I could successfully use my own experience to make a point.

      For three years I had an administrative job—freeing me from the burden of reading student essays—so I wrote, publishing academic articles and chapters in books. When I retired, I wanted to keep writing. My first idea was to write about my spiritual teachers because I have had some unusual experiences with people who had extraordinary powers. The problem for me: how could I make these teachers come alive; how could I weave their stories together.

      It came to me that I could write about my experiences with these teachers in a more readable form: a narrative of my own life.

      WOW: Cape House Books published God and Other Men. Lorraine Ash, one of the founders of Cape House, recently toured with us for her own memoir, Self and Soul. How did you get connected with Ash and make the decision to work with Cape House’s collaborative publishing model?

      Myrna: After I returned from my fourth trip to India, I accepted a part-time teaching job at a Waldorf Middle School. Just before school started I received an e-mail from someone I didn’t know advertising Lorraine Ash’s weekend workshop on writing spiritual memoirs. It was a gift from the gods. In the description she described the arc of a spiritual memoir as moving psychically from a bad place to a better one.

      Even before I attended the weekend class, I had the book outlined in my head and written a chapter on Satya Sai Baba, the late, great Indian saint, which I read to the group. Often during the two years I taught, I shared my writing stories with my eighth-grade students.

      For a couple of years I attended the Lehigh Valley Writers’ Group and listened to publishing stories, including the advantages of self-publishing. I was not convinced because I had seen some poorly edited self-published books. Cape House’s model of collaborative publishing sounded the most appealing to me, both of us having skin in this highly competitive game of book publishing.

      WOW: What prompted you to begin your spiritual journey, which eventually led to four different trips to India?

      Myrna: When my former husband and I divorced, the question of the meaning of life came crashing down around me. He and I had spent our lives, since age 15, working towards material success. Through most of college and graduate school we studied together every night, being sure to begin by seven p.m. Although we went out on the weekends, we kept our eyes on our prize: success in a traditional sense. When he moved out, I had to face that our value system had not led to the happy life we had envisioned. The spiritual lives of many of my family members suddenly became more attractive. Maybe they had answers that I had rejected in my drive for success and recognition.

      But where should I look? To my Christian mother, my new age father, or to the books passed down from my great grandmother to my grandmother. Meeting Ravi Dutta, an Indian colleague at the college where I taught, led me to that first trip to India, which ignited the embers set by my family members into a full-fledged spiritual search.

      WOW: Have you always enjoyed international travel or is this something that came about later in life?

      Myrna: When I was growing up, our family only traveled to see relatives. I always wanted to see something new and had a great curiosity about different places. When my former husband was completing his doctoral work in Animal Nutrition, we talked about his getting a job in a foreign country as an USAID consultant. Although that was my dream, I don’t think it was ever his.

      The first summer our children went to stay with him in Oregon, I went to Ecuador on an archeological dig. The next year I spent a month in Mexico, studying Spanish in Cuernavaca. On both of those trips I had places to stay before I left, but the following year I went to Ireland for three weeks by myself without a plan. I asked people on the plane at Shannon whether I should go north or south. Some one said, “Go to Dingle,” so I did and had a grand time. That gave me enough nerve to go to India the following summer with only the few definite plans that my Indian colleague and spiritual friend Ravi had helped me formulate.

      I have continued to travel, but now that I am retired, I can go in the winter as well as the summer. In fact, I just returned from a five-week trip to Myanmar, Hong Kong, and Vietnam.

      WOW: You’ve talked about how your parents provided you with so many different religious paths to follow that it became difficult to choose just one. Can you share a little more about that with us?

      Myrna:  My father and grandmother spoke frequently about universal salvation, an idea that appealed to me at a young age. By age twelve I could not accept a God that would create us and then throw some into hell. Had my mother been able to take us to a church more in line with her own Christian beliefs, rather than the fundamentalist Sunday school near our house, I might not have rejected Christianity. Certainly the teachings of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount and many of the parables appealed to me.

      In college and graduate school the transcendental writers, particularly Emerson and Thoreau, engaged me, especially their idea of the Oversoul. However, the existential writers, particularly Camus and Sartre, counteracted that and turned me briefly, much to my parents’ horror, an atheist.

      What drove me, as I look back on it, was a search for a truth that made sense to me for the lives of all people of all time, not just those in the modern Caucasian world, a curiosity I shared with my father and grandmother.

      WOW: You’ve mentioned how important the text A Course in Miracles, which is described as “a self-study spiritual thought system,” is to you. How did you first come across it and how has it changed your life?

      Myrna: One summer after my divorce I went to Edgar Cayce’s home base in Virginia Beach for a seminar on Finding Your Soul’s Purpose. My father, who had talked so much about Edgar Cayce all of his adult life, wished he could go. I went partly to tell him what it was like and partly as a step in my own spiritual search. Several people there talked about A Course in Miracles (ACIM) as being important for spiritual seekers. I believe it was that fall Ravi gave me copies of all three of the initial publication, noting that it sounded too much like the Bible for him.

      I tried to read it on my own, but it was too difficult. A month after my partner Charlie died, I began taking classes at the Open Center in New York and later to Roscoe, New York, where the late Dr. Kenneth Wapnack, the most famous teacher of ACIM, had a center.

      By the time I came to ACIM I had already studied both Hinduism and Buddhism, and had come to believe the later had “the truth.” The language of ACIM is Christian, narrated by Jesus, through a channel. The thought system it presents is close to Buddhism, but is theistic, an important asset for me.

      ACIM’s process for forgiveness, different from how it is ordinarily understood, as well as its guide for relationships, have changed my life significantly.

      WOW: Do you also enjoy reading memoirs? What are a few of your favorites?

      Myrna: Memoirs that lead to a transformed state appeal the most to me, as does good writing. Who could resist Bill Bryson’s The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid or The Liars’ Club by Mary Karr, both of whom have magic in their words. But Karr’s later ones particularly Lit left me wanting: I find stories of drunk or drugged states, not just boring, but self-indulgent. The second half of Noah Levine’s Dharma Punx about his becoming a Buddhist teacher I enjoyed, but I had to skip at least 100 early pages because of stories of inebriation. Also it seems to me that some memoirs could stand a good editing. I would say that of Andre Agassi’s enjoyable Agassi as well as Levine’s book.

      WOW: I’m intrigued by the description of your next project, regarding the healing power of sound, as described in your author bio. Can you share any more details about that?

      Myrna: My next project is evolving. What I am most interested in is how religious experiences transform their practitioners into exalted states, be it in prayer, meditation, whirling, dancing, or sounds, such as chanting, music or chimes. In my own exploration I found that the bells the Zen Buddhists use send vibrations through me. In our local Zen Center one teacher uses Tibetan healing bowls that I find powerful. I still occasionally go to a protestant service just to hear those old hymns. At my Unity Spiritual Center I attended a class in the didgeridoo, which the teacher uses to enter a deep meditative states.

      However, in further studies I found that the aboriginal culture does not allow women to play the didgeridoo, something I find off putting. I am hoping to attend an aboriginal festival in 2016 to see how they move into the dream state, whether is it through the use of sound and dancing or other methods.

      As I studied, I found sound to be such a huge field that I am still searching for my own niche.

      ----------Blog Tour Dates

      Monday, Feb. 16 @ The Muffin
      Stop by for an interview and book giveaway!

      Wednesday, Feb. 18 @ Giving Voice to Your Story
      Visit author Dorit Sasson's blog to read Myrna J. Smith's guest post on the importance of pre-writing.

      Thursday, Feb. 19 @ Women's Writing Circle
      Read about how teaching literature helped author Myrna Smith's own writing in this guest post at Women's Writing Circle.

      Friday, Feb 20 @ Words from the Heart
      Myrna Smith shares the experience of being in the presence of love. Zdenko Arsenijvevic could heal and perceive unseen color, but his best aspect was the love that emanated from him to his students and clients.

      Tuesday, Feb. 24 @ Create Write Now
      Myrna J. Smith shares a post on the personal lives of great spiritual teachers at Create Write Now.

      Wednesday, Feb. 25 @ Renee's Pages
      Check out Renee's review of God and Other Men.

      Monday, March 2 @ Writing Room 101
      Melissa Barker-Simpson interviews Myrna J. Smith about the writing process and more at Writing Room 101.

      Wednesday, March 4 @ Sophia Rising Yoga
      Read Monette Chilson's review of God and Other Men.

      Thursday, March 5 @ Memoir Writer's Journey
      Author Myrna Smith guest posts on "Living the Partnered or Single Life" at Memoir Writer's Journey.

      Friday, March 6 @ Lisa Haselton's Reviews and Interviews
      Stop by to learn more about Myrna J. Smith and her memoir God and Other Men.

      Tuesday, March 10 @ All Things Audry
      Myrna J. Smith shares her experience writing from the mature point of view in this guest post at All Things Audry.

      Wednesday, March 11 @ Lisa Buske
      Myrna Smith explains how reading spiritual texts and stories has influenced her writing.

      Friday, March 13 @ Choices
      Gain insight on other memoirs that spoke to author Myrna J. Smith in this guest post at Choices.

      We have a few more dates left in Myrna’s tour, so if you'd like to join us contact Renee (

      Keep up with blog stops and giveaways in real time by following us on Twitter @WOWBlogTour.

      Get Involved! If you have a website or blog and would like to host one of our touring authors or schedule a tour of your own, please email us at

      *****BOOK GIVEAWAY*****

      Enter to win a copy of God and Other Men: Religion, Romance, and the Search for Self-Love by Myrna J. Smith! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. We will announce the winner in the Rafflecopter widget this Friday, Feb. 20!

      a Rafflecopter giveaway
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      What Should I Write?

      Sunday, February 15, 2015
      Figuring out what to write isn’t always as easy as you’d like it to be. This was especially true for me after hearing the advice "write what you know."  That simple piece of advice led to trying to write for women. After all, I am one.

      First, I ruled out chick lit. It was all the rage and selling like mad. When I tried reading what my friend touted as “the best book ever,” I got stuck on page 2. The main character was debating what to call the blue of her favorite scarf. I think someone was murdered, but the body got lost in aqua, navy, teal and robin’s egg.

      Next, I ruled out anything fashion related. I only had to recall a conversation with my sister and her sister-in-law. My sister knew better, but her sister-in-law didn’t want me to feel left out so she tried to involve me in a conversation about make up. “What mascara are you wearing?” “Black.” “No, what brand is it?” “The tube is green.” We eventually determined that the cap was also green and the mascara wasn’t waterproof, because waterproof makes my eyes itch. Beyond that, I didn't have a clue.

      DIY and decorating also went by the wayside. I don’t understand why anyone would build a fake fireplace to make a wall more interesting or box in round posts to make them square. And cute food is pointless. I live in Manland. After a swim meet, dinner is like eating with the Simpsons – get it in and get it down before you starve.

      Instead of going with what I know, I looked at what I love. Drop me in the middle of any historic site and I will find something fascinating. Science museums and technology lure me in. I love figuring out how things work. My sister, she who knows better than to discuss mascara with me, claims that I’m a walking trivia game.

      Then there’s my sense of humor. If it will make a tween or teen boy laugh, I’m most likely laughing right along with them. I also play Xbox, watch The Walking Dead, and chose the latest Marvel movie for Mother’s Day.  My father Mother's Day gift?  My very own break-down long bow and that was pre-Katniss.

      No, I couldn't write for women but my work started to sell when I settled on my current market – irreverent fact-loving kids.

      If you are struggling with your writing, take a look at what you love. Are you writing about your passions? I don’t mean the things that other people expect you to like. I’m talking about the things that you gravitate towards even when no one is looking. These may not be what you know, but they are what you love. How can you touch on them in your writing?


      Sue Bradford Edwards is the author of Ancient Maya (Abdo, 2015). She teaches our course, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next section starts on March 2nd.
      Read More »

      Love and The Commitment Phobe: Interview with Relationship Expert Emily Wilcox (and Book Giveaway!)

      Saturday, February 14, 2015
      Valentine's Day can be a romantic celebration for those in a relationship, but what if your man doesn't want to commit? If you're a single woman who can't seem to find The One, we have a special treat for you!

      Today we're chatting with relationship expert Emily Wilcox about her latest book, The Commitment Phobe: It's not you…It's him. With humor and candor, this in-depth book finally explains how to spot a Commitment Phobe, what drives him to run away or cheat and how to finally break the cycle of a push/pull relationship and create lasting love.

      Read the interview with Emily and enter to win your own copy of The Commitment Phobe in the Rafflecopter form below!

      Emily Wilcox is a Relationship Expert and Author. She has contributed her expertise to publications such as FHM, Curve Magazine, The Huffington Post, The Advocate, and was the resident advice columnist for Diva magazine. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter.

      Find out more about Emily by connecting with her online:

      Twitter: @committolove

      FaceBook: The Commitment Phobe

      -----Interview by Crystal J. Otto

      WOW: Such a catchy title and a great book, tell us Emily, what inspired you to write The Commitment Phobe?

      Emily: I had a series of unhealthy relationships throughout my life and I was determined to find out why the characteristics were the same in each one. Many years ago in desperation, I walked to my local bookstore to get some answers on why this record kept playing over and over again in my life and I was dissatisfied with what I found. Several years later after my career began as a coach and a columnist, I serendipitously ended up writing the very book I was looking for that day.

      WOW: I love that you took your experience and not only wrote down what you learned, but felt confident enough to share it with others! Maybe your experience can help us learn to spot a Commitment Phobe; What are the tell-tale signs?

      Emily: In the beginning, the Commitment Phobe usually comes on very strong and charming, making a lot of empty promises. He then pulls away only to come back. He is emotionally unattainable, mysterious, confusing and elusive. He sometimes has one or more back-ups waiting in the wings and doesn’t let go of his exes easily. He is in and out, back and forth and always knows the right thing to say in the beginning. This guy is not necessarily a jerk. He is lost and confused—mostly about who he is and why he is so unhappy. He may enjoy pornography much more than the average guy due to his intimacy issues and he withdraws from sex toward the end of the relationship. More importantly, a woman with a high degree of self-love will not attract a Commitment Phobe into her life. So, in a sense, it is a tricky question. It takes two!

      WOW: If only I had met you in the late 90's...sounds like you could have saved me from a practice marriage, but that's another story. Great tips and pointers Emily! 

      In your book you talk about Fear vs. Love. What is the difference between a Love Addict and a Commitment Phobe? And can you give us an example or two of how fear affects their relationship?

      Emily: Great question. Both the Commitment Phobe and the Love Addict have the same fears, but on the opposing spectrums. The Commitment Phobe consciously fears intimacy and subconsciously fears abandonment. The Love Addict is the opposite. In that regard, they are truly connected by their innermost fears and are drawn to each other like magnets. The Commitment Phobe abandons the Love Addict just as she fears…only to come back and repeat the cycle all over again until something drastic changes the course.

      The fears they mutually have create insecurity, jealousy, manipulation and immense passion. One of them is pushing while the other is pulling. When the two briefly meet eye to eye, it feels unbelievably good. The highs are high and the lows are low!

      WOW: Emily, you seriously described my entire first marriage in a matter of two paragraphs; you are definitely an expert!

      Can a Commitment Phobe ever become a man in a committed, monogamous relationship--a Mr. Right? And if so, what are some things ladies can do to help him create lasting change?

      Emily: This is the million-dollar question. The short answer is yes, as we are all capable of change. But like any change, acknowledging the problem is pertinent. The Commitment Phobe must first admit he has issues. The Love Addict must also see her part in it. The two can come together and help each other heal their past issues (typically both around abandonment), but they should only be responsible for cleaning up their own side of the street, not the other persons. A therapist can be very helpful in this situation. If you are in a relationship with a Commitment Phobe, the best thing you can do is practice self-love and stand up for what you deserve. Sometimes walking away will cause a Commitment Phobe to wake up and stop taking the relationship for granted. His sense of loss will be triggered. In that sense, it requires more of a cognitive approach.

      WOW: Admitting our issues can be tough for any of us; you bring up some great points!

      Your book is filled with fantastic relationship advice, as well as real life stories and experiences. How did you conduct the research and connect with the contributors in your book?

      Emily: My clients and friends are the contributors for the end-of-chapter stories in my book. They are brave and strong women whom I have an immense amount of respect. Most of my research comes from my background in psychology, studying, reading a lot and of course, my own relationships. I was always fascinated with partnership and how and why we are magnetically drawn to the people in our lives. I have spent the majority of my life in very passionate relationships. It hit me one day that I had spent a couple of decades studying closely the various men in my life and I literally thought, “I have nothing to show for anything! I have spent my whole life analyzing and studying men! What a waste of time!” And that’s when my career was born.

      When I started working with clients on topics like love addiction, codependency and commitment phobia, I noticed an underlying theme with every single relationship that I came across and heard about. That’s when I realized there was a real equation behind this. These two types of people who keep attracting each other is not accidental! It was a real awakening and that’s when I sat down to write The Commitment Phobe.

      WOW: This brings me to the next question, and brings me back to the song lyrics "i bet you think this song is about you..." but really, do these Commitment Phobes recognize they are Commitment Phobes and how can we as friends help them either recognize or get past the phobia?

      Emily: There are two main types of commitment phobes. One is very aware and conscious that he is not interested in committing and will often be very up front about it. These types have better access to transformation because they have introspection and are not living in denial. The other type is unaware, or unconscious, that he pushes intimacy and love away. He is the hardest to deal with because he is not interested in confronting his issues. This type is the one who will blame everyone else for his problems and accept little responsibility for his behaviors.

      Getting the unconscious Commitment Phobe to recognize his problems is difficult. I mean, who really wants their issues pointed out to them? Who wants to be told they are “wrong”? It takes a lot of courage to look within and admit we are flawed. By the mere fact we are alive, we are flawed. Our childhood traumas, whether large or small, real or imagined, will label us with the stamp of imperfection. Spiritually, we are always in tact. And that is what can help us master the path. We can help a Commitment Phobe by helping ourselves…by being a living, breathing example of self-love and self respect. We can only change others by changing ourselves. And when approaching the topic, we can learn to be kind and caring without being a doormat.

      WOW: I wonder how many Commitment Phobes will walk right past your book on the shelf at the store not realizing it's all about them? Very interesting.

      Speaking of getting books on shelves, what advice can you give to authors looking to promote their nonfiction books?

      Emily: Hire a great PR team! But if you can’t do that, tweet! A lot! Social media is not my strong suit, but I notice sales go up when I send out a quick tweet. There is a new generation out there who are proficient in social networking and I would seek the advice of one of them because it is a necessity for promoting. Promoting your own work and talking about how great your book is can be very difficult. That’s why a good publicist can work wonders and I am lucky to have the best. The hardest thing to do is promote your own non-fiction book because often times, people can see it as narcissistic. My book has information and answers that will help women and I have seen lives change because of it. But if I promote that, then I am being self-serving. When the truth is that I went through the deepest depths of despair and pain in order to have the information to write this book. I went there so that the reader wouldn’t have to. You don’t attain true wisdom by hanging out under rainbows.

      Writers are often introverts by nature and introverts always have a story to tell. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable to your readers. The only way we can relate to them is by sharing our own damaged past because no one escapes this planet without one!

      The Commitment Phobe: It's not you…It's him

      In this game-changing book for female readers everywhere, Relationship Expert Emily Wilcox, reveals the shocking truth behind men who can’t commit and the perils of a push/pull relationship. With a new take on old relationship drama, The Commitment Phobe takes you on a journey through love, loss, heartache and transformation.

      He was your knight in shining armor until your castle came crashing down. What ever happened to the man from the beginning? What went wrong? Did he ever love me? Is he coming back?

      Startlingly real and wickedly funny, Wilcox goes where no self-help book has gone before. Her cut-to-the chase approach takes readers on a seamless journey through real life personal stories, commitment phobic types, cheating dilemmas and getting him to finally commit!

      With humor and candor, this in-depth book finally explains how to spot a Commitment Phobe, what drives him to run away and how to finally break the cycle of a push/pull relationship and create lasting love. The Commitment Phobe is a Law of Attraction for relationships and a must-have for any woman who is recovering from heartbreak or looking for The One.

      Whether single, dating, in a relationship or unlucky in love, there is an answer in The Commitment Phobe for every woman!

      Author of International Best Seller of Creative Visualization, Shakti Gawain, says, “Emily has incredible insight. She is a true asset to the world of relationship. I have no doubt that Emily is here to help heal those whose lives she touches.”

      “Emily Wilcox offers real hope and healing for women who want to be in a relationship but keep attracting men who won’t commit. A worthy read!” adds MJ Ryan, Bestselling author of Attitudes of Gratitude and The Power of Patience.

      When it comes to relationships, The Commitment Phobe will change the relationship game once and for all.

      Paperback: 278 pages
      Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (December 23, 2014)
      ISBN-10: 1468184512
      ISBN-13: 978-1468184518

      The Commitment Phobe is available for purchase at Amazon.

      ***** BOOK GIVEAWAY CONTEST *****

      Enter to win a print copy of The Commitment Phobe by filling out the Rafflecopter form below! This giveaway contest ends February 21 at 12am EST. We will randomly select a winner the same day and follow up via email. Good luck!

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      Crystal is a church musician, business owner, active journaler, writer and blogger as well as a dairy farmer. She lives in Reedsville, Wisconsin with her husband, three young children (Carmen 7, Andre 6, Breccan 16 months), two dogs, two rabbits, four little piggies, and over 200 Holsteins. The family is expecting a new addition any day now as they eagerly await the birth of another daughter, Delphine Elizabeth. You can find Crystal blogging and reviewing books and all sorts of other stuff at:
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