Productivity Boost at Home: Tips for Writers

Juggling 4 jobs and family life means that some things have to be set aside, so I haven’t been blogging this whole year. But when Emily emailed me to ask about doing a guest post on my blog based on the wonderful infographic she created, I couldn’t resist. Emily, thanks so much for being here and take it away!

Being a good writer is not a profession; it’s a talent. However, all people who are keen on writing want to hone their skills. Reading books, improving techniques, and practicing are high on their list. Thus, there are ways to become a better writer. There is one more thing that can help you write better.

Here’s the deal:

The more productive you are, the better your writing is.

While the writing process is time-consuming, you may find ways to boost your productivity at home.

Here come 4 tips for writers:

1. Create a comfortable workplace. Your writing place should be not only cozy but comfortable. Be picky about your office chair, as it might help you prevent health diseases. Provide a good illumination, and set up a proper brightness level and color temperature of the computer screen. If you want to get inspiration here, use paintings or quotes.

2. Organize your writing desk. A well-organized writing desk impacts your productivity, creativity, and cleverness. Try to keep it always clean, and don’t forget to use lockers to hide all stuff you use daily.

3. Use online tools. Living in the digital era gives us a lot. For example, it’s easy to find some useful tools and apps online (Hemingway, Grammarly, IA Writer, etc.) As a writer, you might want to edit or proofread your texts.

4. Take a break. Don’t try to work efficiently all the time. People need to take a pause to boost inspiration: read a book you like, meet friends, go out, or do sports. As soon as you’re rested, you’ll start writing faster and better.

If you are interested to increase your productivity at home, you are welcome to explore more at OmniPapers, as here you can find an infographic about workplace organization.
Although it takes some time to learn how to organize it, it’s pretty simple once you understand it.

**Check out the original post here.




Emily JohnsonEmily Johnson is a content strategist at OmniPapers blog and a writing coach who shares tips and tricks to help others improve their writing skills.

You can always find more works of hers on G+.

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Every Wednesday, I feature a writer and his/her workspace.  My aim is to get to know fellow writers better through their workspace and writing habits, and have them  share some of their writing wisdom here.

Today, I am most eager to welcome Barbara Techel, author of Through Frankie’s Eyes: One woman’s journey to her authentic self and the dog on wheels who led the way.


Welcome, Barbara!


Tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you do for a living? What genre do you love to write? What are some of your hobbies or interests? Do you have a hidden talent?


Author Barbara Techel

As I’ve moved into my early 50s I’m enjoying life so much more than I did when I was in my 20’s and 30’s. The almost daily worries of what others thought of me, being very shy, and making choices based on what society thought best for me, are but a distant memory.

Having worked in the corporate world for over 20 years, I found the courage to listen to my inner voice and pursue writing – and writing what I adore best – which is dogs and animals. The genre I write in is nonfiction.

For the past twelve years I’ve been deeply interested in self-exploration and spirituality, learning many of my lessons about life from my dogs – most profound and life-altering lessons especially came from my first Dachshund, Frankie, who became paralyzed and needed a dog wheelchair due to disc disease.

Besides spending a lot of time with my two dogs, Kylie and Gidget, I love to read, practice yoga every day, walk, date night once a week with my husband, John and time with family and friends. And my new, recent interest is making SoulCollage cards and I love the process so much I took the training to become a facilitator. I love how art can enhance the writing process.


On Workspace

1. Where do you do most of your writing?

Most of my writing is done at my writing desk in my 10 x 12 writing cottage which my husband dubbed MySpace.calm after he completed building it over five years ago.

techel writing cottage outside 5

It is such a wonderful gift to have had my talented carpenter husband build this quiet and beautiful space for me. But more than that, it was that he truly understood how important it was for me and my work.

techel writing cottage outside 4


techel writing cottage outside 3



techel writing cottage outside 2



techel writing cottage outside 1 - Copy

2. Where did you get your desk?  How did you go about arranging your work area?

You know, I don’t remember!  But I’m sure I picked it up from a 2nd hand shop because I do remember painting it my favorite colors, periwinkle and chartreuse, though you can’t see the chartreuse legs as I now have a skirt around my desk to hide my files and printer underneath. But at one time, I used my desk as a craft table.

techel writing cottage inside 5

I arrange my work area at least twice a year.

techel writing cottage inside 2

In the warmer months I love to have my desk facing the deck and my open door.

techel writing cottage inside 7

When the door is open I have a bird bath and hummingbird feeder right outside it. I love to see and hear the birds splashing when taking a bath, and hear the hummingbirds when they flutter to the feeder.For such tiny birds they sometimes sound like small jets coming in for a landing!

Stained Glass piece

3. What are some important things on your desk?  Are there specific things you need to have around you as you work?

Important on my desk are the following:

*Photos of my past and current dogs.

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*Stones and crystals that have meaning to me or that I’ve written special words on.

techel writing cottage inside 8

*Journals that hold quotes I collect.

*The books, Still Writing by Dani Shapiro and Animal Spirit Guides by Dr. Steven Farmer.

*My weekly schedule.

*A mock-up cover of a book I’m working on if I have one that I’m writing.

*Always a glass of water and/or cup of tea.


4. What do you love most about your workspace? Do you have any favorite objects on your desk, or things you use often?

I love that my workspace is separate from our home. I actually take 12 steps each morning from my bedroom patio doors to my writing cottage just about every day, always Miss Gidget (my current Dachshund) leading the way.

I love that I have seven windows in my workspace. I love having a lot of light filter into my space and it feels as though I’m outside. I have to feel like I’m part of the world, but yet feel secluded and have quiet.

I love being surrounded by photos of my dogs, plus my hanging fairies and wind chimes. One very favorite item of mine that I see each time I look up from my desk is a stained glass piece my mom gave me that was custom-made. It is of my second Dachshund, Joie, who was also in a dog wheelchair like my first dog, Frankie.

techel writing cottage inside 3

5. What’s your writing beverage?  What do you love to drink while you’re writing?

My favorite beverage is wine. Ha!  But seriously, I don’t drink wine while I write – but I love to have water or tea beside me when I’m writing. Though drinking wine could put an interesting twist on things!

 young barb

On Writing

1. Who is your favorite author?  Who inspired you to write?

My all-time favorite author is Jon Katz. He writes about life on Bedlam Farm with his donkeys, dogs, chickens, cats, sheep and artist wife, Maria. I’ve read all his books and read his blog every day.

I remember my eighth grade English teacher, Miss Phieffer. I wasn’t very good at English and was often frustrated trying to understand it. But one thing she told me that always stuck with me is that I was good at writing from the heart.

I’ve had many others tell me this over the years, which inspires me. I consider it such a gift if you can touch a chord in someone and connect with them, or write something that resonates with them that helps them to lead a more meaningful life.


2. What’s your typical day as a writer like?  Do you have any writing related rituals or quirks?

If I’m working on a book, which I just came back to doing so after abandoning a book I started a year ago, I make it a point to sit at my desk and write for at least one hour 5-6 times per week.

I also keep an online journal (a.k.a. blog) that I post to 5-6 times per week and I also write a weekly newsletter. I typically do my writing first thing in the morning. Tuesday mornings are reserved for working on my newsletter.


3. Do you write every day?  How many hours a day do you spend writing?  What are some of your worst writing distractions?

I do write just about every day, though I usually take one day off and that is typically a Saturday or Sunday. If I’m working on a book, plus keeping up with my online journal and newsletter I write anywhere from 2-4 hours a day.  I’ll write more per day when I’m deep into a book I’m working on.

Summer is my worst distraction.  :)  Seriously, I get more work done in the months when it is cold or not as nice out. I’m easily distracted during summer.

4. Why do you write?

I began writing as a way to share my deep love of animals and the profound wisdom I’ve gained from them. But I also write to share my voice. It is actually easier for me express myself through my writing than trying to talk something out.

As I’ve been doing this on a consistent basis for the past nine years, I’ve found that I also write to connect with other like-minded people. It is such a joy to hear from my readers when something I wrote made a difference for them.

Speaking of which, a key reason I wrote my children’s books and my memoir was, to in fact, make a difference. Frankie being in a dog wheelchair was a beautiful example for children to see their challenges in a positive way. Writing my memoir and sharing my fears and vulnerability was a way in which others could connect with me and not feel alone in their own fears. Making a difference in this way has truly been a gift in my life.

 Miss Gidget

6. Any writing tips or techniques or words of wisdom you want to share with us?  How about a favorite writing quote?

I don’t have any techniques, really. But one thing I’ve often told other aspiring writers is to write what you are passionate about. I’ve found this to be a great motivator during those times when it feels like nothing is happening in regards to your writing. For me, it has to be more than about writing, it has to be how I can add value to another person’s life. That drives me. To make a difference makes my heart feel good.

As for a favorite quote, I love and have this quote by Dani Shapiro from her book Still Writing tacked to my bulletin board next to my desk:

I have seen again and again that when I am most emotionally specific and truthful, most fearful that I am saying too much, that is when my words find their true home. –Dani Shapiro




Thanks for giving us a glimpse into your writing life, Barbara!

Wednesday Writer’s Workspace is an ongoing series, and if you’re interested in being featured here, simply leave me a message in the comment box, and I’ll be sure to email you.

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In 2011, I featured a young adult contemporary novel called Undiscovered Gyrl by author Allison Burnett on my blog’s Spotlight Week. I did a review of the book and even interviewed the author. Little did I know that the characters I’d read (and worried) about would come to life on the silver screen three years later.

undiscovered gyrl


Author/screenwriter Allison Burnett remembered the review I wrote of UNDISCOVERED GYRL and offered me a chance to view the movie two weeks before it was set to air in theaters. Naturally, I jumped at the chance.

To get the taste of what the movie is all about, watch the film trailer below:


ASK ME ANYTHING was adapted from the book UNDISCOVERED GYRL by Allison Burnett. When I heard there was going to be a movie version, I was a bit worried that the voice and language which I loved about the book would not translate to the big screen.

Thankfully, I was wrong. The movie stays true to the book—from the complex characters, right down to the spelling errors made by Katie while she was blogging drunk. It helped that the film’s screenwriter and director also happens to be the book’s author, Allison Burnett.

18 year-old Katie Kampenfelt blogs about her life just after graduating from high school. Using an online persona, she shares her personal experiences with anonymous readers. She describes encounters with her alcoholic father, oblivious mother, needy boyfriend, and the older men whom she just can’t seem to stay away from –in particular, a college film professor (Justin Long), and married father (Christian Slater), who happens to be her boss (she’s the nanny for his baby).


In the novel, the main character’s voice—her unique way of viewing the world and responding to it—dominated every scene, and I was worried that this wouldn’t be portrayed accurately in the film. Katie Kampenfelt is a perceptive and intelligent  soul trapped inside a frustrating cycle of self-abuse and it would take an amazing actress to pull off the role. The film delivers on this end, thanks to the incredible performance of Britt Robertson.

Britt ‘s portrayal of Katie was at once captivating and heart-breaking. I found myself simultaneously loving and hating her, just as I did when I read the book. And it is this honest, realistic performance that made me hate the way the story ended (all over again—since I felt the same way when I read the book).

Just as with the book, the film ends with a complete twist–something most viewers won’t see coming. The reason I hated the ending was because I’d gotten so attached to, and invested in the main character, that a future without her felt heavy and bleak. Though I wish the film had ended with a more hopeful tone, I understand that the story is meant to be a cautionary tale. As a story, ASK ME ANYTHING is an excellent trauma narrative, offering viewers a glimpse into the life and psyche of a young, deeply troubled woman, who is lost, lonely and utterly alone in her struggles to find her place in the scheme of things.

Other outstanding cast members include Robert Patrick, who plays Katie’s alcoholic, washed-out sports-writer father, and Martin Sheen, a bookstore owner with a dark past, and Katie’s first employer.

martin sheen britt robertson

Another notable thing about the film is its stellar soundtrack. Running with the book’s theme, it features many “undiscovered” female singer-songwriters, who are all around the same age as main character Katie Kampenfelt. The soundtrack won “Best Music” at the 2014 Nashville Film Festival and you can hear some of the songs here.  By featuring these talented, undiscovered girls, the soundtrack offers a more hopeful alternative to the film’s rather sad ending.

The movie opens TOMORROW  (FRIDAY, DECEMBER 19th, 2014) in selected theaters. You may also stream it on Amazon Instant, ITunes, Xbox and other Video On Demand platforms.



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Every Wednesday, I feature a writer and his/her workspace.  My aim is to get to know fellow writers better through their workspace and writing habits, and have them  share some of their writing wisdom here.

Today, I am most eager to welcome G. Lloyd Helm, author of the fantasy novels Other Doors & World Without End.

Welcome, Lloyd!



Author G. Lloyd Helm


Tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you do for a living?

Depends what you mean by “living” I write and take care of the family, but I don’t make a living. I leave that to my wife and Patron for the last forty four years. She is a Retired Air Force Master Sgt. We traveled all over the world because of that. I raised two sons, took care of the regular family affairs and I wrote. Still works that way except that the family is considerably smaller now.


What genre do you love to write?

That’s another one that is hard to answer. I have written three books that fall into the SF&F genre, but I have also written two in the straight ahead literary genre. Writing Slap-dasher adventure in SF&F is more fun kind of, but straight ahead literature is more satisfying.


What are some of your hobbies or interests?

Of course Reading, but that goes without saying. Any writer worth the powder to blow him up is a voracious reader, but I like to travel, see new places. I like to suddenly find myself in places where I am the only one who speaks English. I bicycle, though not as much as I used to. I’ve had some health problems that has shortened my biking. Music and Theater. I’ve played clubs and done concerts. Did a huge choir concert at Lincoln Center a couple of years ago.


Do you have a hidden talent?

Not really. My talents are mostly right there on the surface, lol.  I’m a pretty good dish washer.



On Workspace


1. Where do you do most of your writing? 

I have and “Office” / library where I work.


2. Where did you get your desk? 

Wish I could say it is some wonderfully exotic place, but it ain’t. I bought it at Staples


3. How did you go about arranging your work area?

It is arranged mostly by “dump” I am very organized but my office looks like an explosion most of the time. Still I can set my hand on anything I want within seconds because I know how deep down in the stack it is. LOL


4. What are some important things on your desk? Are there specific things you need to have around you as you work?

The only really importat things on the desk are the computer and the calendar. I’ve got the usual office stuff—stapler and rolodex and phone, but that’s about it. The things I need around me are my calendar, my bulletin board and my pocket Buddha.


 5. What do you love most about your workspace?

Do you have any favorite objects on your desk, or things you use often? I like my office because it feels safe and cozy and enclosed. I have a window but it mostly stays covered with a shade. My prayer bell. It’s not on my desk but it is here handy in the office. Gets used most every day.


6. What’s your writing beverage? What do you love to drink while you’re writing?

I’m a coffee drinker, but it is easy to tell how my latest work is progressing by how much cold coffee is left in the cup. If it is empty, that’s bad, I’m having to bear down, but if it is full I’m rolling so well that I forget it is there.


On Writing


1. Who is your favorite author? Who inspired you to write?

My favorite author changes depending on what I am reading. Currently my favorite is Paulo Coelho. I just read “The Alchemist” and was very impressed. Who inspired me to write is hard to say I have been a reader for a long time, but ultimately I think John Steinbeck was who kicked me off. I loved his characters and I knew the people from “Grapes of wrath.” My family is from the hills of Arkansas.


2. What’s your typical day as a writer like? Do you have any writing-related rituals or quirks?

Get up, breakfast, coffee, a little TV news just to see that the world is still as screwed up as when I went to bed, then to the office. Rituals are simple. Ring my prayer bell three times with pleas to the universe to conspire with me between each toll.


3. Do you write every day?

I wish I could say I did but I don’t. If I am working on a particular project—finishing a book or a story—I usually am pretty faithful, but if I am between specific projects I mess around rather than write. I have kept a journal for a long time but it isn’t daily by any means.


4. How many hours a day do you spend writing?

I usually don’t measure in hours. I measure in words. When I am working good I get a thousand words a day. If that takes ten minutes (Seldom) I work ten minutes and go on with other business, but if it take’s hours –and sometimes it does—I stay with it until I get my thousand. I may throw them out tomorrow if they were that hard to get. That usually means that they aren’t very good. I would guess I average maybe two hours a day when I am really working.


5. What are some of your worst writing distractions? 

I don’t really have anything specific, just everything. I am ADOS – That means “Attention Deficit OOO Shiny” When I focus nothing distracts me, but when I am not focused everything distracts me.


6. Why do you write?

Because I am compelled to. I tell people it is a sickness I’d like to get well from, but I can’t seem to stop though I have tried several times. It isn’t quite grapho–filia but not far from it.


7. Any writing tips or techniques or words of wisdom you want to share with us? How about a favorite writing quote?

Nothing really. Don’t talk about, just sit down and do it.  And my favorite quote is from Hemingway I believe. He said something like, “Writing is easy, just sit down and open a vein.”



Thanks for giving us a glimpse into your writing life, Lloyd!

Wednesday Writer’s Workspace is an ongoing series, and if you’re interested in being featured here, simply leave me a message in the comment box, and I’ll be sure to email you.

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Chronos Files Giveaway Winners

Last October, the spotlight was on Author Rysa Walker and her awesome time travel novels  TIMEBOUND, TIME’S ECHO  &  TIME’S EDGE (BOOKS FROM THE CHRONOS FILES SERIES). Now it’s my pleasure to announce the winner of last October’s Spotlight Week Giveaway.

Congrats to the following folks!


Mandy P. , for winning One signed copy of Timebound (The Chronos Files Book 1)



Bri Wignal for winning one signed copy of Time’s Edge (The Chronos Files Book 2)

 time's edge


Shelby for winning e-book copies of Timebound (The Chronos Files Book 1)
& Time’s Edge (The Chronos Files Book 2)

 times edge timebound kindle

Preston Leigh for winning an ebook copy of the Time’s Echo: A CHRONOS Files Novella (The Chronos Files)

Brian Curtis, for winning an ebook copy of the Time’s Echo: A CHRONOS Files Novella (The Chronos Files)


time's echo









I’ll email you in a few minutes to give you instructions on how to claim your prize.

In the meantime, I’d like to wish everyone a happy, fun weekend!

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Spotlight Week Giveaway: FAMINE

This week the Spotlight was on Monica Enderle Pierce and her cool historical novel, FAMINE: BOOK ONE OF THE APOCALYPTICS.


If you want to know more about FAMINE, you can read my BOOK REVIEW HERE.



As usual, I’m ending our Spotlight Week with a giveaway.

 Generous as always, Monica has agreed to give away the following awesome prizes:

Famine Prize Pack

To enter the contest, tell me  why you’d like to win the book

I’ll put all your names in my magical drawing box and pick the winner.

I love encouraging people to unleash their imaginative and creative sides, so the more creative your answers are, the more chances you have of winning. If your comment/answer tickles my fancy, I’ll add another slip of paper (or two) with your name on it to my drawing box.

Also, if you tweet about this giveaway, or share it on Facebook, I’ll add more 2 slips of papers with your name on it.

AND if you FOLLOW ME on Linky OR on Facebook’s networked blogs, I’ll add 6 more entries with your name into the drawing bowl.

The contest is international and will run until December 19, 2014.

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I’m always on the hunt a good read and always up for supporting indie authors. So when I heard that a fellow SCBWI board member’s daughter had independently published her adult historical fantasy novel, I asked for an email introduction right away.

Monica was gracious and happy to connect. She very kindly sent me a copy of her book for review, along with a postcard from the time period of her book’s setting. She also set up a very generous giveaway for the Friday portion of our Spotlight Week, which I’m sure all readers will be excited about.

Without further delay, I present the author of THE APOCALYPTICS series, Monica Enderle Pierce.




The Generous Monica Enderle Pierce

1. Tell us three random, unique, or weird facts about yourself.

a. I know how to juggle, though not very well.

b. I have one less vertebra than most people.

c. I laughed for 30 minutes straight after my wisdom teeth were removed. (My brother, who’d had his teeth removed that day too, did not find the experience as amusing.)


2. When did you know you were going to be a writer? What prompted you to take your writing seriously?


As you know, my mother is a published children’s author, so writing was always a part of my life. However it was a struggle for me until my daughter was born. Then something just clicked. The fact that I’m pretty good at writing and have produced something that my child can inherit prompted me to pursue this as a career rather than a hobby.


3. THE APOCALYPTICS SERIES is essentially about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and the important characters who stand in their way. What inspired you to write this story? Did you always know it would be a series?


Originally conceived as vampire fiction, I switched gears after two full rewrites still left me feeling dissatisfied with the book. I wanted something different, unusual. So I started looking at alternate mythologies. The Four Horsemen was an “ah-ha!” moment. Yes, it was always meant to be a series, even in its earliest versions.


4. FAMINE: BOOK ONE OF THE APOCALYPTICS, is set in the late 1800’s, when the Victorian was giving way to the Edwardian era. How did you go about researching this historical period?


Many, many sources. Wikipedia, the local library, historical resource books, online historical map collections, historical groups. (You wouldn’t believe how many types of horse carriages existed.) Pinterest is a great resource for visual material and can lead to subject matter experts. The one resource I didn’t use (surprisingly) was the Bible; I didn’t want to become locked into someone else’s interpretation of the Horsemen.


5. Your main character Bartholomew Pelletier is a fifteen-century old Roman centurion, and his nemesis is Famine, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. How did you come up with your very intriguing cast of characters?


Bartholomew has been in my head for a long time, but I can’t really say where he came from. Placing his age was tricky, but he’s always seemed timeless to me. Once I’d settled on the Four Horsemen, the idea of making Famine raised too many opportunities for conflict with Bartholomew to be passed up. I love including unexpected elements in my books, and she certainly fits that bill.


6. Some of your chapters begin with old Western Union Telegraphs, which are supposed to be messages from Bartholomew’s allies. What was the inspiration behind these old time telegraphs and why did you decide to use them for your book?


The telegraphs were a last-minute addition and serve as a framework both for the passage of time and the movement of Famine and her cronies. I opted for telegraphs because they’re emblematic of the turn of the century. They harken to a time when communication was slow and imprecise. (And that helps build tension.)


7. Did you employ any particular techniques or methods in order to make the action sequences and training scenes in your book more realistic and visual?


Absolutely. (I love writing action/fight scenes!) I watched krav maga training videos for hand-to-hand combat reference, video demonstrations of Balearic slingers to understand how that weapon is handled, consulted a group of gun owners and enthusiasts for information on early Colt pistols, and studied reports of Roman warfare, weapons, and tactics to get a feel for how Bartholomew thinks and moves in combat. (Thanks to Youtube I can watch footage repeatedly to get moves and pacing right.)


8. If your series was optioned for film, which scene from FAMINE would you be most interested in seeing live on the big screen?


Oh, that’s impossible! Bartholomew catching the Overland Express? No, wait. The earthquake. Or crashing through the Sutro Baths glass roof? Maybe meeting Famine in the woods for the first time? Ack! Can’t decide!


9. Tell us about your path to publication. What would you say are the pros and cons of being an indie author?


I chose to self-publish my first novel, Girl Under Glass, because I knew a majority of the marketing would fall on my shoulders whether I went traditional or indie. And because I’m a control freak. The pro of self-publishing is total control of your product from start to finish. That’s also a con because you’re not just writing, you’re producing the book — procuring vendors (editors, designers, etc.), choosing distribution, setting price, choosing formats (and often doing the formatting, too), and then marketing and handling PR. All the production and marketing steps are necessary evils and take away from your writing/creating time. On the other hand, self-published authors keep a much higher percentage of their earnings that their traditionally published counterparts. I know many authors making a good living from sales of their self-published books. (I’m not there yet, but I plan to be.)


10. What’s your typical day as a writer like? Do you have any writing-related rituals or quirks?


I’m not very ritualistic when it comes to writing time; the only thing I require is relative quiet. Typically, I write in the day while my daughter is at school then take the afternoon and evening off to spend time with family, run errands, and do housework then I’ll return to work on my writing at night after she and my husband have gone to bed. (I’m trying to break out of the 1am bedtime habit. Five hours of sleep per night just isn’t sustainable.) On the weekends, I’ll often do ten to twelve-hour marathons on Saturday while my daughter and husband have “Daddy Day”. Sundays are reserved for family time and I only work if I’m on a deadline.


11. What do you like to do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies, sports, or crafts you like to spend time on?


Spending time with my family is the priority when I’m not writing. We love movies, reading, and going out for walks with our dog.


12. Are you a plotter or pantser? Are there any specific writing tools (books, software, a specific pen ) you use to work on your novels?


Both! I’m a plotster. I have a general idea of the beginning, middle, and end of a book and major plot points when I begin. Then I start writing and let it all flow. (I usually deviate from the original points, but I get where I need to go and, often, following a much more interesting route!)


13. Are you currently working on any other projects?


Several. I’ve been struggling with the sequel to my first novel (Girl Under Glass) and finally feel that I’ve broken through the roadblocks with that book. I’m about to release a new short story as part of that series (the Glass and Iron Series). I’m working on a fantasy/adventure short story to be included in an anthology which I was invited to contribute (very exciting!). I’m in the early stages on Death, the second book in the Apocalyptics Series. And I’m developing a short story (or two or three) to support that series, as well.


14. What tips or techniques can you give writers who wish to write in the Historical Fantasy Genre? How about writers who wish to write a series?


Like all historical fiction, accuracy is important, unless you enjoy being called out by readers. Take the time to research and do so deeply; all aspects of society will impact your setting and your characters’ interactions. However, the wonderful thing about historical fantasy is that the fantasy aspect permits you to take liberties. Knowing your historical period will allow you to bend and break the rules in ways that can further both plot and characterization. And that’s where the fun really begins.


15. What advice would you like to give to writers on the road to publication? What advice would you give to writers who wish to follow the indie path?


Don’t compare your path to other authors’. This is your journey and you cannot get to your destination by following in someone else’s footsteps. Nor should you compare your successes and failures to others’.


Pay for an editor and don’t be cheap. Same with a cover designer. (Poor quality in either aspect will kill your sales.)


Remember that writing is a long-tail process. The more good work you have on the market, the more chances readers have of finding you.






Thank you, Monica for sharing your wisdom with us!

Tune in this Friday, as we end our Spotlight Week with a FAMINE GIVEAWAY!

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This month’s Spotlight Week features FAMINE: BOOK ONE OF THE APOCALYPTICS by author Monica Enderle Pierce.




Famine: Book One of The Apocalyptics (Volume 1)

410 Pages, Paperback

Genre: Adult Historical Fantasy

Published on March 11, 2014 by Stalking Fiction

ISBN-10: 0985976128

ISBN-13: 978-0985976125


First Line

Caught in maelstrom of black feathers and beady eyes, Bartholomew tugged down his top hat and turned up his coat collar to a murder of crows’ sharp talons and beaks. 



The fate of every soul rests upon his shoulders. His fate rests in the hands of a troubled, young girl

It’s 1895 — the cusp of the Victorian and Edwardian eras — and Bartholomew Pelletier is a gentleman and a warrior. For fifteen centuries he’s endured the depraved appetite of Famine — one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse — as she’s consumed his strength and sought to unite with her fellow Horsemen. But now Bartholomew’s chance to imprison her has appeared…in the form of his young ward Matilde.

Chosen to wield the immeasurable power of the Catcher — the one entity that can capture the escaped Horsemen — Matilde is a distrustful child from an abusive and impoverished home. She must be hidden from Famine as she grows strong, learns to fight, and reaches adulthood. But Bartholomew faces a terrible act: For Matilde to become the immortal Catcher, he must gain her trust, and then he must end her life.

By any means necessary, Bartholomew intends to conquer this enemy, but is he willing to sacrifice the one person he loves in order to save mankind?

FAMINE is the first novel in a four-book, historical fantasy series. It contains graphic violence, strong language, and sexual content and is intended for mature readers.


My Review

One of the things I look for when reading a historical fantasy novel is the author’s ability to describe the historical period accurately and organically. Author Monica Enderle Pierce does this artfully in FAMINE: BOOK ONE OF THE APOCALYPTICS. She does a great job of weaving in details about late Victorian/early culture into the story’s plotline. Descriptions of the era’s architecture, clothing and technology never overpower the narrative, but instead serve to enhance the reader’s experience of the scenes.

More than the setting however, what really drew me into the story were the characters. The main character, Bartholomew Pelletier, is 15 centuries old. Originally a Roman Centurion, Bartholomew was unwittingly drawn into an age-old battle between the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, who are meant to destroy the world, and the Catcher, the one being who can stop them. As a boy, he was bound to serve Famine, one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Years later, he was recruited by the Catcher to help in her cause. Famine is a cruel mistress, and after enduring centuries of suffering under her hands, Bartholomew has finally found his salvation in the hands of an eight-year old girl. Matilde is destined to become the next Catcher, and it is Bartholomew’s task to prepare her for the enormous task of taking down the four horsemen. Bartholomew could easily end his centuries of suffering by releasing the Catcher into Matilde. But he would never sacrifice a child, “no matter how many souls hung in the balance.” This is what makes him an intriguing and sympathetic protagonist.

One of the things I enjoyed about the book was witnessing Bartholomew and Matilde’s relationship develop and change through the years. The author does a good job of staying true to Matilde’s voice even as she grows from a mistrustful eight-year old child into a capable, yet sometimes petulant teenager. It was satisfying to see how the burdensome task of training Matilde and protecting her from Famine’s forces, transformed Bartholomew. His broken, exhausted heart had finally begun to feel again thanks to Matilde.

Since the story is meant for mature readers, the book does contain sex and violence. There were some scenes that I found cringe-worthy, like when Famine would flay pieces of Bartholomew’s arm and eat it (which is only possible because Bartholomew is immortal and heals rapidly). Aside from a taste for flesh, Famine can also create cadavers, which are more terrifying than zombies because they are not only dead (and therefore almost invincible), they are also capable of independent thought and action.

Despite the more graphic elements of the story however, I enjoyed reading FAMINE. I really love how the author has created this bold concept of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, and built a cast of intriguing characters around it. The book is a wild-ride and readers of historical fantasy books will surely enjoy it.



Tune in this Wednesday as we train the spotlight on FAMINE’s author – Monica Enderle Pierce.

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Every Wednesday, I feature a writer and his/her workspace.  My aim is to get to know fellow writers better through their workspace and writing habits, and have them  share some of their writing wisdom here.

Today, I am most eager to welcome Linda Leon, author of ROCK STAR MARKETING AND PUBLISHING and PUBLICITY FOR SMART PEOPLE.

Welcome, Linda!


Tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you do for a living? What genre do you love to write? What are some of your hobbies or interests? Do you have a hidden talent?

Linda new pic copy

Author Linda Leon

 I have an extremely interesting life. I never wanted to be mediocre so I never set out to have mediocre goals.  As a result I have done lots wonderful things. I had a career in the media for over 12 years. I produced programs and hosted my own television shows. I have been an avid radio/podcast producer. I broadcast on international short wave radio for 7 years and hosted an author’s podcast for 4 years. I started my own book marketing and author support company  8 years ago and have watched it grow (  I have been a columnist for United Press International and a professional ghostwriter.  I am also an author. My latest books, Rock Star Marketing and Publishing and Publicity for Smart People made the Amazon Best Sellers List. Every time I think about the things I have accomplished I praise God for the work the work ethic that he has given me. My entire life is wrapped up into communications in print and in broadcast.

The other aspect of my life that is more important than anything is my family. I have a wonderful, god-fearing husband, two spectacular children, and a beloved dog. The greatest thing in my life is my family. The reason that I wanted to become self-employed was so that I could spend more time with my children and navigate them through their teen years. They are now grown and it paid off.

My hobbies are writing, bike riding and cooking.  I started writing professionally in the second grade. I am serious about that.   My mother and second grade school teacher got me writing and nurtured my talent.  They got me involved in writing competitions at an early age and I just never stopped writing.

In the area of writing I have done a spectrum of work – I have been a blogger which lead to me becoming a ghostwriter.   My columns at UPI were very popular. I was loved by their editorial staff. I have written books that are religious and inspirational, I have written books on marketing, I wrote a cookbook to accompany my nutrition work and I am currently expanding into fiction writing.

Bike riding and cooking are ways that I relax.  I am also a certified nutritionist and have taught cooking seminars and hosted cooking shows nationally and internationally.



On Workspace

1. Where do you do most of your writing?

I do most of my writing on my office desk and only at my office desk.  The reason that I do it that way is because I work in my home office and it is easy to bring work into my family space.   That is a draw back with working from home.  When I first started working from home I worked on my office computer during the day and my lap top any time of day.  I learned very quickly that is a mix for burn out.  So I had to learn to separate work from family time.  Now I do all the writing on my office computer that is a Mac.  If I need to use a PC I use my laptop but no longer bring it out of the office.


photo 2


2. Where did you get your desk? 

I could not find a desk suitable for everything that I do so my husband and I built the desk.  My work is part writing, marketing, communications, video and editing.  I had to have a desk large enough to handle multitasking.  So we built a full size work station that covers one wall.  It is enough to house multiple computers, multiple hard drives, and video camera’s. It also houses a large assortment of office related items.


 photo 1

3. How did you go about arranging your work area?

I have a section for my organizers, scanning, video files because we create book trailers and other commercial work. I have a section for multiple computers and hard drives.  Video work requires a lot of hard drive space so I have to have several storage locations. It takes a lot of work keeping up with everything on the various hard drives.  You have to be very organized to manage that. Over the years I have come up with a system of organization that works.


4. What are some important things on your desk? 

My hard drives and computers are the most important things on my desk.  I would be lost without them.  I have so much work on them. They are critical as air is to breathing. The next important area is my “Wall of Fame.”  Every time a client says something nice about my work or provides a letter of recommendation I post it to my wall.  It’s a very nice habit because it keeps me uplifted all year round.  Whenever I have a tough day, all I need to do is look at the wall and know that people appreciate my dedication and hard work.

5. Are there specific things you need to have around you as you work?

I cannot work in clutter. There are some days when the desk does get overwhelming and I have to stop and clean it up.  I work better in an organized manner. I have been that way my entire life.  I also love to work with the window open – no drapes or closed blinds.  I love the sunlight and the view.  When my kids were young I could sit in my office and work and at the same time while seeing them play in the neighborhood. I have always counted that as one of my biggest blessings – to work and be able to be a watchful mom. Occasionally I will listen to soft jazz music while I work.



6. What do you love most about your workspace?

It’s organized and its cozy. Also I love the fact that I added a lock to my office door to keep me out of the office after the end of my day.  Before I added a lock to the door I would sneak back into the office and work “after hours.”  That is a no-no that you must learn when you work at home. You must understand when the end of your day is and keep it that way.


7. Do you have any favorite objects on your desk, or things you use often?

My organizers because I can keep a tight reign on everything I do and know where to find information when I need it.



8. What’s your writing beverage?  What do you love to drink while you’re writing? 

I never drink while writing because I don’t want to risk spilling anything on the computer. I normally take a mid day break and drink water or juice. I know lots of people have coffee or tea while writing but the thought of damaging my computer overrides that.



On Writing

1. Who is your favorite author? 

My favorite author is God.  When I was a child my mother and grandmother used to read me Bible stories and they absolutely fascinated me.  When I got to be an adolescent I found a modern version of the Bible written in storybook form and it got me hooked on reading the Bible. I spent hours and hours reading the stories.  I found it fascinating, inspiring, and filled with adventure. Haven’t stopped reading the Bible since that time.  No matter how many times you read it, you find something new.  My other favorite author is Nicholas Sparks – loved The Notebook and got hooked on his style.


2. Who inspired you to write?

My mother and second grade teacher, Katherine Glass Kelly inspired me to write.  I am so grateful for the input they gave me.  I was in the second grade and they took my childlike skill and made such a big thing out of it that I knew I was a successful writer at that time.  They made sure to keep me challenged.  They put me in poetry contests and writing competitions and I excelled at them all.  The power of positive affirmations for children is invaluable.  You never know what they have the potential to become so speak wisely to children and encourage them. All the success I have had in life is directly related to their influence.


3. What’s your typical day as a writer like? 

Extremely busy. My day is split between writing, getting business leads, working on projects, developing new writing projects and managing the video side of the business.  I have very little slow periods. I am very organized.  I set goals for each day.  My work day is over when all the goals have been met.  If it takes two hours or ten hours, it does not matter.  The goal is to get everything you planned finished.  I try to work on no more than 3-5 projects a day.

If it is a writing day my goal is 2000 to 4000 words.  If it is a production I try to make sure that the production is completed or nearly completed.  I also avoid time wasters like constantly checking email.  Twice a day is normally sufficient.

I love multi- tasking.  If I did not multi-task I would be lost.


4. Do you have any writing related rituals or quirks?

Yes, when I start typing I don’t stop until my goal has been met. That’s the best way to be productive.

Yes. Writers should always be writing.  If you constantly write you will never have writers block.  You writing time should include any written correspondence.  All of that keeps the mind brimming with good information.  Take writers prompts from everywhere including nature.  Writing about the leaves turning colors in autumn can provide great inspiration.  Look around, there is always something to write about.


5. How many hours a day do you spend writing?

I will spend whatever time is needed to work on writing projects.  I can write a book per week if need be.  If I am doing a writing project for a book the minimum will be 10,000-12,000 words.


6. What are some of your worst writing distractions?

I am very disciplined so don’t get distracted. I do have a dog, but I think she believes she is a writer too. Sometimes she sits on my lap while I am typing. She is disciplined too.  She never barks while I am working and she runs into my office every morning before I get there.  When I say it’s time to go to work she leaps into action.  She looks forward to our workday.



7. Why do you write?

I have a gift that has been with me since I was a child. Writing is in me. I could not live without writing.  It is in everything that I do.  My dear friend said to me once – hand Linda a problem and she is going to write a book. That is so true.  I am constantly writing.


8. Any writing tips or techniques or words of wisdom you want to share with us?

If you want to write great books be a great reader and understand genre’s. I learned that by studying history.  Ben Franklin was a prolific writer and they asked how did he get that skill, he said from reading.  I never forgot that and began to incorporate that into my daily activities.  I am constantly reading. The more I read the better writer I become.


9.  How about a favorite writing quote?

Here is a favorite quote – once a task has begun, do not finish until it’s done.

That’s what my mother always said and it has served me well in life. I have instilled that in my children. If you want to be a good writer read a lot, work hard and be dedicated to learning the skills.  It will pay off financially and be emotionally rewarding.





Thanks for giving us a glimpse into your writing life, Linda!

Wednesday Writer’s Workspace is an ongoing series, and if you’re interested in being featured here, simply leave me a message in the comment box, and I’ll be sure to email you.

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Every Wednesday, I feature a writer and his/her workspace.  My aim is to get to know fellow writers better through their workspace and writing habits, and have them  share some of their writing wisdom here.

Today, I am most eager to welcome Cindy Vallar, author of THE SCOTTISH THISTLE, a historical novel.



Welcome, Cindy!


Tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you do for a living? What genre do you love to write? What are some of your hobbies or interests? Do you have a hidden talent?


Author Cindy Vallar


Thank you for having me visit The Writing Nut. It’s great to be here.

I’m a novelist, columnist, reviewer, and freelance editor. I also teach online workshops and speak at conferences, meetings, and festivals.

I write historical novels intertwined with love stories, such as The Scottish Thistle. I’ve also written two short stories. “Odin’s Stone” is historical romance, while “Rumble the Dragon” is historical fantasy. I also write two non-fiction columns. “The Red Pencil” appears in Historical Novels Review and shows how authors turn an early draft of their novels into the finished version that you read. My second column, which can be found at, is for Pirates and Privateers, a monthly publication that explores the history of maritime piracy from ancient times through the present.

Reading and doing jigsaw puzzles are my hobbies. I also collect Teddy bears and kachinas. My interests include the Spondylitis Association of America and going on driving vacations.


On Workspace


1. Where do you do most of your writing? 

When I write, I usually do so in my office, which is a quiet place where I’m surrounded by artwork and souvenirs pertaining to my writing. They help inspire me.

I also spend time in my personal library, where I have a large collection of books and a place to read or do research and sketch out scenes for whatever novel I’m working on. When my husband and I moved to Texas, a room to house my library was essential. We both like to read, but I’m also a retired librarian so I needed a place for both my reference books and the books I read for pleasure.


2. Where did you get your desk? How did you go about arranging your work area?



My office desk is from the Ethan Allen British Classic collection, which allows me to spread out resources when I write.

Available space played a major role in how I laid out my office. I sit facing the wall because it helps me block out distractions, and my desk is situated near a window to provide extra light without causing a glare on the computer screen. I also have a side table for one of my printers and two file sorters where I keep the many different items that I regularly work on or consult. On the opposite wall from my desk are my filing cabinets, where I keep reference articles (kind of like an old-fashioned vertical file you might find in a library of yore) and other papers concerning the craft of writing.



Inspirational quotes, pirate-themed artwork, and writing cartoons decorate the walls. I also have a bulletin board where I pin keepsakes, such as the third-place ribbon I won for a dried flower arrangement at the state farm show in ninth grade or a small cross-stitch my mother did for me of a Highland cow, and a scene chart that outlines plot points for the current chapters I’m writing. This chart also includes historical events that need to be woven into the story. I also have a dryboard where I list books to be reviewed, writing and editing assignments, and article ideas.

Photographs of artifacts, people, and places that concern whatever story I’m currently working on decorate the doors.



3. What are some important things on your desk? Are there specific things you need to have around you as you work?

Aside from my computers, the two most important references I consult on a regular basis are kept on my desk: Roget’s International Thesaurus (which I’ve had since high school) and The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi.

No, there aren’t specific things I need around me as I work, although the inspirational quotations that are most important to me are tacked above my computer so I can refer to them. One quote asks, “Since I don’t know the end of God’s story for me, how can I know if the things that are happening are good or bad?” This question helped me cope with the crippling pain I suffered for over a year before the doctors diagnosed that I had Ankylosing Spondylitis. It was a bleak period that tested my faith, my endurance, and my ability to write and walk. Medication helped me regain my life. My AS is remission, but it’s a chronic condition that my husband and I live with and deal with on a daily basis. I don’t know where the quotation comes from, but it always helps me look at problems in a more positive light and provides encouragement.



4. What do you love most about your workspace? Do you have any favorite objects on your desk, or things you use often?

What I love most about my workspace is the quiet and the fact that they are my areas where I can work undisturbed. When I write, the space allows me to stay focused and to transport myself back to whatever time period I’m working on.

I keep some of my favorite objects either on my filing cabinets and miniature furniture in my office, or on the table and bookcases in the library. In my office, these include Dumbo – my favorite Disney character – some Teddy bears I received from students and family over the years, and pirate memorabilia, such as Mr. Potato Head as a pirate. In the library you’ll find a wooden sailing ship and more stuffed animals.



My office also includes a family heirloom: the rifle my great-great-great-great-grandfather carried during the Civil War.



5. What’s your writing beverage? What do you love to drink while you’re writing?

My favorite writing beverage is tea, either hot or iced.




This is a picture of my husband and me on our 17th wedding anniversary. We’ve been married now for 35 years.

On Writing


 1. Who is your favorite author? Who inspired you to write?

I have a number of favorite authors, but the one at the top of the list would be Leon Uris. Many of his books can be found in my library among the books I consider keepers, and they’ve held that exalted status since I was in high school when I first discovered his books. One of my favorites is A Terrible Beauty, which tells the story of Ireland and is filled with photographs that his wife took.

I don’t recall if one specific person inspired me to write, although I recall writing creatively as far back as fourth grade. I wrote a lot of poetry and some descriptive scenes, but never really focused on writing a full-length novel until college. I was watching an episode of Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color, and in the introduction, Walt Disney talked about a gentleman pirate who helped General Andrew Jackson defend the United States against the British during the War of 1812. The pirate’s name was Jean Laffite, and he was a man cloaked in mystery. I’ve always enjoyed unsolved mysteries, so he intrigued me enough to spark a story idea that I worked on for awhile, then set aside when I began my career as a librarian and got married. Now, I’m working to complete that novel, which is entitled The Rebel and the Spy. I’ve got two more chapters to finish before I work on revisions prior to submitting it to my publisher.


2. What’s your typical day as a writer like? Do you have any writing-related rituals or quirks?

My average work day is from seven to eight hours, but can be as long as fourteen. Most mornings, I rise early and read several chapters in the books in my to-be-reviewed pile. After breakfast, I like to work on my current novel-in-progress. If I’m teaching an online workshop, I also post lessons and respond to queries and assignments in the morning as well. In the afternoons, I check e-mails and work with editing clients or write my piracy article for the next month. If it’s close to when I update my website each month, this is also when I do that. Sometimes in the evenings, I’ll do research in my library.

I don’t really have any rituals or quirks, aside from drinking my tea. I like to work when it’s quiet, although there are times when I will play instrumental music. I may also change my desktop wallpaper to match whatever subject I’m currently working on or to make me smile. If I need to resolve a writing problem, I will often walk through my neighborhood and think about the characters, scene, or story idea that’s troubling me. Doing this really helped when I was creating Rumble, the young misfit in my short story “Rumble the Dragon” that appears in the pirate anthology A Tall Ship, a Star, and Plunder.



3. Do you write everyday? How many hours a day do you spend writing? What are some of your worst writing distractions? (You can provide a picture of this if you want—like if you have cats or games that distract you)

Yes, I try to write every day that I’m working. I often work on my novel four three or four hours. I learned long ago that it’s important to have down time, so I rarely work seven days a week unless I have a deadline looming.

My worst distractions are online jigsaw puzzles and computer games and, on occasion, interruptions from my husband who recently retired.


4. Why do you write?

Writing began as my way of doodling whenever I was bored in class or in meetings. (In fact, that was how the opening scene in The Scottish Thistle came about.) While working at a private school for severely challenged teens, I found writing a great way to relieve the stress inherent in such an environment. When my husband was transferred to the Midwest, I no longer had to work outside the home, so I decided to pursue writing as a full-time career. I love historical fiction and writing allows me to share that passion with others. So often our introduction to history is in boring classes, and whether I’m writing a novel or an article or teaching others about a particular topic, such as piracy, I want to show that history isn’t as dull as we thought.


5. Any writing tips or techniques or words of wisdom you want to share with us? How about a favorite writing quote?

Writing is a solitary occupation, but it can be fun and energizing – so if your dream is to be a writer, go after that dream. Learn all you can about the craft of writing, as well as the business side of writing. Find another writer or group of writers who will provide positive feedback about your stories to enable you to mature as a writer. Develop a hard shell or backbone, because not everyone will like what you write and you have to be able to shrug off that negativity and move forward. A good writer never stops learning or improving; you want to always strive to be the best writer possible.

My favorite writing quotation comes from Anton Chekov, because it’s a great reminder of the show-don’t-tell rule writers strive to follow.

Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of the light on the broken glass.




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