Wednesday, July 31, 2013

CRAFT OF WRITING: feeling blocked?

Today a new interview with me is up over at the Dames of Dialogue! It's really cool. Go on and click to visit and then come back here. You know you want to!

They asked me some good questions that just didn't fit into the final interview, but I didn't want these to go to waste! So I thought I'd do a few "Craft of Writing" posts over here again. I always appreciate it when they don't ask "The Same Ten Questions We Ask Everyone." (I miss "Jane" and especially "Sassy," where a celeb was always asked the same ten questions. Those magazines were fun because they employed people with great voices and who weren't corporate cookie-cutter types. "Lucky" mag was the closest thing I had there for a while, when founder Kim France (with whom I went to high school for a while--she sat behind Debby who sat next to me in French class) ran it, but now they've completely thrown it away and it's nothing but a "Teen Vogue" clone, ugh. I need to cancel the rest of that subscription I have.)

BUT I DIGRESS [as usual]. One of these days I'm going to do the old "Sassy" Ten Questions We Ask Everyone. Or maybe the ones they ask on "Inside the Actors Studio."


LAUREN: Any good suggestions for overcoming writer’s block?

ME: I don't believe in writer's block. I think it's procrastination. Or maybe you have written yourself into a corner. (Try not to do that!)

However, I have some cures. Take a large piece of posterboard and turn it "landscape" mode. Begin freewriting across the board with a crayon or marker. The idea is to turn off your internal editor and get your inner child writing. The editor will not take this seriously (what? A marker on posterboard!?) and will turn off, and the child will come out. Write whatever comes to your mind. "I hate the color gray because it is dead." Start with a grocery list or anything, and then move on to what you are thinking. You will be astounded at what comes forth.

If you have written yourself into a corner, access the HiveMind. Ask a Yahoo! group or mailing list how to resolve the problem so you can go on with the scene. I can't tell you how many times the WRITING mailing list that I am on (a relic of the old FidoNet BBS network) has led me through to an answer. Your character needs to figure out a clever way to get past that herd of buffalo? Worry not, as the HiveMind has many ideas. Weed out the truly outrageous and find one that fits. It works!

Have you been picked on by a critique group or workshop? That can make you lose all confidence in your own ability. Dump anyone who is getting his jollies by cutting you down. If you are not getting constructive criticism with at least one bit of praise (surely there is ONE line in your masterpiece that he can say something nice about), leave. Nicely. But get out. That isn't helping, anyway. Find someone else to exchange text with. You'll be much happier.

You might be stuck/procrastinating without the usual easy flow of words because of something else that's blocking your emotions or intellect. Meditation can sometimes break through these things. Occasionally you need to clear the air with, say, your spouse or best friend. Have they been taking you for granted, treating you like dirt, acting as if they have all the power and you are but a minion? And you've been "being nice" because you've been told you're "too sensitive" and "imagining things" and that "Southern ladies are nice" (insert whatever group you're supposed to be part of). But this will get bottled up inside you, and you've got to get it out and clear the air. I finally blew up at my own family a couple of days ago, when there was a BIG problem that no one thought was bad because the only person it hurt was me, and it has made things much better. They're treating me like a person, at least for a while, and it's pretty nice. To show you just how much it took to get their attention, I developed a blister on the end of my tongue from channeling the Devil as I read the riot act. (LOL!) Anyway, if there's something blocking your life's energy and creative drive, you have to move that out of the way so that you can return to being a force of nature. Here's hoping that you can get your point across without having to go to DEFCON 2. (But if you have to--it's not a sin! You are worthy! Your voice is to be heard! Let them hear your concerns, and don't let them shrug it all off this time.)

Remember, it's always better to use your own imagination than to be fed always by others. . . .

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Today we have a guest post from a debut mystery author! I love these ideas for getting rid of cell phones, Google searches, and other technological assists so that our heroines sink deeper into the quicksand. See if you don't agree!

Kill Google First

A Guest Post by Kristen Elise

My protagonist was racing through Egypt faster than I could type, her quest to find her husband’s killer preceding my own quest to put her latest predicament on paper before I could forget what I had in mind. The clock was ticking. Katrina had every reason to suspect that someone was hot on her trail, and that the best-case scenario was that it was Middle Eastern law enforcement. I was in the zone.

Then my editor read the section and totally deflated my ego. “Why doesn’t she just Google herself?” she asked.


The Internet age has created new hurdles for the author of mysteries and thrillers. What is left to investigate, when everything you need to know is right at your fingertips? Instead of action-packed, unpredictable adventures, our heroes have smart phones. Which can make for the most un-thrilling thriller ever written.

Here I offer a collection of ideas for neutralizing the digital age, or even using it to up the stakes in your story:

The smart phone:

1) Drop it in a river, an ocean, a fountain, a toilet, or any other body of water. Someone important is expecting your call when this happens.
2) Enter a dead zone (trains, planes and automobiles are particularly good for this.) Get the critical message too late.
3) The bad guy pirates your data. Now he knows the home addresses of everyone in your contacts.
4) The person you need to speak with is a heavy sleeper in a different time zone. Or, dead.
5) Dead battery. Power outage.
6) The government, your employer, or your spouse is tracking your cell phone activity. What they find could harm you, or it could kill them.
7) The phone is stepped on by a horse, dropped off of a skyscraper, or thrown out the window of a speeding car. You’re next.
8) You left it sitting on the train ticket counter. The ticket vendor happens to be in cahoots with the bad guys.
9) Garden-variety cell phone theft by a total stranger. The stranger ditches the phone in the absolute worst possible spot.
10) Your service was just shut off for lack of payment. Your payments are automatic and were current four days ago, so what gives?

The computer (some of these also apply to smart phones…):
1) Cash only at the Internet cafĂ©. You’ve been mugged.
2) Google search results screw up your whole plan.
3) What you need is on your personal desktop. Your personal desktop is in another country.
4) You’ve been dropped in the Amazon, and there’s not a Starbucks in sight.
5) Your email account has been hacked, and you are now sending messages that will certainly get you killed.
6) The email and text messages you have been receiving are actually from the killer.
7) GPS brings him right to you.
8) Can’t drive (or fly a plane, or sail…,) fight off an axe-wielding maniac and run a Google search at the same time.
9) No wi-fi on sailboats, especially those with axe-wielding maniacs as first mate.
10) The bad guy has Google too. He knows everything about you.

I suspect that as technology evolves, our methods for dealing with it in our novels will too. What are some of your favorite ways to kill Google in your stories – or better yet, to use it to up the stakes?

Kristen Elise, Ph.D., is a drug discovery biologist and the author of The Vesuvius Isotope. She lives in San Diego, California, with her husband, stepson, and three canine children. Please visit her websites at and The Vesuvius Isotope is available in both print ( and and e-book formats ( for Kindle, for Nook, for Kobo reader.)
About The Vesuvius Isotope: When her Nobel laureate husband is murdered, biologist Katrina Stone can no longer ignore the secrecy that increasingly pervaded his behavior in recent weeks. Her search for answers leads to a two-thousand-year-old medical mystery and the esoteric life of one of history’s most enigmatic women. Following the trail forged by her late husband, Katrina must separate truth from legend as she chases medicine from ancient Italy and Egypt to a clandestine modern-day war. Her quest will reveal a legacy of greed and murder and resurrect an ancient plague, introducing it into the twenty-first century.