Anatomy of A World of Gothic: Raven of Blackthorn Manor (Ireland) by Gemma Juliana

 

Introduction

My participation in the A World of Gothic series was my proudest moment as an author last year. Talented, award-wining authors penning suspenseful stories with a definite Gothic vibe, each set in a different location around the world, all taking place in a remote, awe-inspiring mansion. As a number of amazing titles have been available since the series launched last April, I felt I should bring them to your attention again, from a different angle this time. So, each week, I’ll invite one of the series’ authors here, spotlight her book and focus on the heroine, the hero, and the backbone of any good Gothic story, the house/castle/mansion that tends to hold the key to solving the mysteries piling up.

This week, I’m delighted to present Gemma Juliana who will break down one of the most spine-chilling offerings in the series, Raven of Blackthorn Manor. This time, the story is set in Ireland, a land laden with hair-raising legends and dark myths. Read on for an inspiring anatomy of the book by the author herself.

Raven of Blackthorn Manor

by Gemma Juliana

Genres: Gothic, paranormal, romantic suspense

Publication date: August 4, 2016

Purchase links:

Amazon US – Amazon UK

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Description

When Morgana Pierce accepts an invitation to Blackthorn Manor, known as Ireland’s most haunted property, she hopes to convince the gloomy owner, Sir Dermott Blackthorn, to allow her crew to film the property for her paranormal series.

Morgana has a secret of her own. She’s on a quest to find the father she never knew. Her only clue to his whereabouts led her to this bleak property on an isolated windswept Irish peninsula, where myths, legends and goddesses still seem to live and breathe.

Morgana’s ability to communicate with the dead soon puts her in danger as she learns there have been several suspicious deaths and disappearances in recent years. Threats against her own life force her to decide how to navigate an ever darker reality.

Dermott Blackthorn’s ancestral line has been cursed for nine generations, and he is the last one. His death is imminent if things unfold as they have for the previous eight Blackthorns.

Morgana is attracted to Blackthorn’s mysterious and moody house guest, Ronan McIver. He is both protective and dismissive of her, sending mixed signals. What is he doing at Blackthorn Manor?

As the danger surrounding Morgana intensifies, the setting is ripe for the perfect storm. She must rely on someone, but who can she trust?

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Q & A with Gemma Juliana

Hello, Gemma, and welcome to my blog!

Hello, Maria. It’s a pleasure to be here. Thanks for inviting me.  It would have been lovely if this interview could have been done in person in Greece.

I’d have enjoyed that as well! Let’s start. What makes writing a Gothic story appealing to you? What are the core elements such a story should incorporate?

Perhaps there is a morbid streak in me, since writing this, my first Gothic, gave me immense pleasure. The dark and brooding essence that must be sprinkled throughout a Gothic story appeals to the part of me that loves reading a good Gothic. I love setting the tone… an isolated castle or mansion, a few tortured souls—living or dead, and the element of constant peril. One of my favorite tools is the weather. Bleak weather such as mists and storms reflects the mood of the characters and even the mood of the house in a Gothic story. It also creates so many plot twist opportunities while mirroring the emotions.

I grew up on a diet of Victoria Holt, Daphne du Maurier and Phyllis Whitney, amongst other magnificent Gothic authors, and devoured their books when I was a teenager. In the A World of Gothic series, the stories are contemporary and novella length. This is a fresh new twist, and great fun to write.

Your main female character, Morgana Pierce, is a paranormal investigator—a ghost hunter—with her own television series. Can you give us more clues about her personality? Which are her strengths and weaknesses and what made her a good fit for your story?

Morgana is independent and daring, and listens to her intuition. She takes seriously her ability to see and communicate with the dead. She is not a stereotypical damsel-in-distress. Her strong sense of self propels her to search for answers about the mysterious gaps in her family tree. The mystery surrounding her father’s whereabouts drives her to take risks she might not otherwise have taken. The desire to know more about her paternal roots drops her into a dangerous world way beyond her comfort zone. Not every young woman would be willing to stay at the most haunted property in Ireland for a week, surrounded by strangers. Morgana has always believed a guardian angel watches over her, and in this instance she really needs one because she’s pushed her luck to the last degree.

Dermott Blackthorn is a brooding recluse, doomed by a curse that haunts him—a character often found in Gothic stories. What chemistry were you going for between the two main characters?

I wanted to create a three way dynamic of attraction and suspicion. Morgana had to rely on both Dermott and Ronan in different ways, due to her secret agenda of why she was really at Blackthorn Manor.  Could she trust them both, knowing someone on the property was probably a murderer? Since Dermott was married, he was unavailable for a romance with her, although such things can change by the end of a Gothic! I don’t want to give too much of the plot away… J

Yes, it’s too delicious to give it away! Which actors did you have in mind when writing those two characters or who would you like seeing portray your characters should the book ever became a film?

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I know little about movies and actors, so my dear friend Marva came to my rescue, and she did a splendid job. She chose Megan Boone from The Blacklist to play Morgana, Keanu Reeves would be Dermott, and Scott Kyle from the Outlander series would play Ronan. Viewing these actors online, I see a potential chemistry that could bring Raven of Blackthorn Manor to life with sizzling tension on the silver screen.

I love Megan Boone! She’d make the perfect Gothic heroine. And if it were a toss-up between Keeanu and Scott, I’m pretty sure who’d get the girl. 😀  The story is set in Blackthorn Manor. Could you give us a brief description of the house as seen in the book?

Blackthorn Manor is one of those rambling old estates sprinkled throughout the isle that ruling families of old tended to inhabit. Here are two excerpts showing Morgana’s impressions of the manor as she approached it for the first time.

As she approached the estate by car…

I’ll never forget my first glimpse of Blackthorn Manor. It stood bold and gaunt amidst the early winter landscape, its presence as bleakly intimidating as that of any person I’ve ever feared.

I suspected it was taking stock of me, too, and somehow it managed to make me aware that, as surely as it embedded itself in the very essence of my being, my life would change forever as a result of our encounter.

And then a short while later…

We entered and drove up the curved drive. Silhouettes of twisted trees flanked us, their boughs thrust at wild angles like old hags dancing in the dark light of the moon.

Blackthorns, no doubt.

Glittering light in what seemed like a hundred lead pane windows greeted us farther up. The house was immense, Gothic spires and arches dominating the landscape. Welcoming, it was not. I shuddered.

Me too! Last but not least, the greater setting—Ireland. Irish myths play greatly into the story. Could you clue us in a bit more?

The ancient Irish gods and goddesses still live and breathe in the air, the rocks and the streams of Ireland. I’ve traveled to many places, but no other country has yet struck me as being so interactively alive, like a living book of legends. Stories are carried on the wind. One just needs to listen…

Weaving an Irish myth into Raven of Blackthorn Manor gave me great pleasure. I’ve loved these myths all my life, so adding The Morríghan to a Gothic is a match made in heaven.

Morrígu, also known as The Morríghan, was no loving goddess. She was power-hungry, blood thirsty, and vengeful. She represented dark magic and death by war or revenge. A very ominous deity of the ancient isle, she was the perfect mythic figure to blend into this story.

My hair stands on end! Thanks for talking about Blackthorn Manor, Gemma. What are you up to writing-wise these days?

It’s been my pleasure to visit you today, Maria. Thanks for inviting me to be your guest.

As a member of the World Romance Writers group, I wrote an enchanting fantasy romance novelette called To Kiss a Prince for the winter anthology, Holiday Magic.

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I’ve just finished writing a romantic suspense novelette called Treasured Times that will be released in late April. It is set in Carthage, Tunisia and involves some time travel. It’s in an anthology called Escape to Africa by the World Romance Writers.

I enjoyed writing a Gothic novella with mythic elements so much that I have several more planned. The next one has no working title yet. It’s also set in Ireland, and will have another good dose of mythology. It’s still in the planning and outlining stage. I’ve got general plots for three more Gothics of a similar tone to Raven of Blackthorn Manor. Just waiting now for some of the main characters to introduce themselves to me…

Personal matters have kept me away from my laptop a lot these past few months, so I’m not writing as much as I’d like to be, but should be back on a normal schedule soon.

I’d like to say thank you to Alicia Dean for inviting me into the A World of Gothic series. It has been an absolute pleasure to be in the series with such a wonderful group of authors like you, Maria.  And thanks to everyone who has purchased my novella. If you enjoyed it, try out the novellas of the other authors in our series. You’ll have a treat in store.

Hear, hear about Alicia, and best of luck overcoming the obstacles that keep you from writing.

About the Author

GEMMA JULIANA is a multi-published author who lives in an enchanted cottage in north Texas with her handsome hero, teen son and a comical dog. She loves hearing from readers. Exotic coffee and chocolate fuel her creativity. You can buy Gemma’s books on Amazon.

Visit Gemma’s website http://www.gemmajuliana.com to email her, see her books and join her mailing list.

Follow @Gemma_Juliana on Twitter: https://twitter.com/gemma_juliana

Connect with Gemma

GemmaJuliana.com | Twitter | facebook

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Anatomy of A World of Gothic: The House in the Pines (East Texas) by Janis Susan May

 

Introduction

My participation in the A World of Gothic series was my proudest moment as an author last year. Talented, award-wining authors penning suspenseful stories with a definite Gothic vibe, each set in a different location around the world, all taking place in a remote, awe-inspiring mansion. As a number of amazing titles have been available since the series launched last April, I felt I should bring them to your attention again, from a different angle this time. So, each week, I’ll invite one of the series’ authors here, spotlight her book and focus on the heroine, the hero, and the backbone of any good Gothic story, the house/castle/mansion that tends to hold the key to solving the mysteries piling up.

This week, I’m pleased to welcome multi-published, multi-genre author, Janis Susan May, who will (figuratively speaking) break down The House in the Pines for us. The setting this time is a stormy East Texas and a mansion deep in the woods, hosting evil and deadly secrets. Chilling!

The House in the Pines

by Janis Susan May

Genres: Gothic, paranormal, romantic suspense

Publication date: August 4, 2016

Purchase links:

Amazon US – Amazon UK

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Description

Hired to write the biography of elderly tycoon Henry Wolfe, Dianne Grayson happily comes to Wolfe House, a Victorian mansion set deep in the piney woods of East Texas… a house she has always wanted to see. Henry Wolfe is just as autocratic and overbearing as she expected, but no matter how he acts she is determined to stay there until she gets the answers she wants. What she did not count on was his rugged grand-nephew and a startlingly handsome and attentive young cowboy, both of whom show great interest in her, nor how the mysteries of the past can affect and endanger the present day. Once she discovers the truth, is it too late for her to save her own life?

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Q & A with Janis Susan May

Hello, Janis, and welcome to my blog!

Hello, Maria! It’s such a pleasure to be here and get to chat with you.

You’re a prolific author, having delved into many different genres. What does writing Gothic mean to you? What are the core elements such a story should incorporate?

I think a Gothic is sort of a grown-up way of sitting around the fire telling ghost stories. Not that every Gothic has to have a ghost, of course, but it’s a way of giving ourselves a safe ‘sense of fear’ while feeding our romantic inclinations. Plus, Gothics are very empowering. They feature women, usually youngish, who persevere and triumph over seemingly (or sometimes actual, or sometimes both) supernatural opposition.

In a good Gothic there is a love interest, usually a man tortured by something in the past or some situation that makes him unable to declare his love, and a mystery, usually bound up with the man’s problem and in the house itself. There always has to be a big, mysterious old house or castle. To me it’s impossible to set a good gothic in a nice modern home in a good suburban neighborhood or a luxurious condo – but perhaps some superb writer could do it. Anyway, what I find empowering about a Gothic is that the girl doesn’t just sit around and whimper and wait to be rescued. She is the one who solves the mystery, puts the past to rest and saves the hero – sometimes literally, sometimes psychologically. Yes, there are examples of the hero saving the heroine, but even so she is the one who has solved the mystery and made the hero able to rescue her.

So – I feel the necessary ingredients of a Gothic are : a strong (mentally) woman, usually alone in the world or definitely alone in this situation, who relies on her own ability. A tortured hero who is strong and desirable, but somehow so tangled in circumstances from the past he is kept from loving or giving of himself – he does fall in deep and true love with the heroine, but tries to protect her from the problem and thus cannot let himself show love. A house/castle/whatever that is generally both old and creepy which so influences the story that it is almost a character in itself. A villain who exploits the hero’s problem for his/her own gain, be it money, power, revenge or some other kind of personal desire. A secondary cast who may or may not be on the side of right.

Core elements? A strong and plucky heroine who can rely only on herself, a strong hero is both tortured and misguided, an unfriendly and mysterious house/castle/whatever, a mystery, usually rooted in the past, and a villain who exploits it.

Your main female character, Diane Grayson, visits Wolfe House, a spine-tingling mansion, to write the biography of its master. Can you give us more clues about her personality? Which are her strengths and weaknesses and what made her a good fit for your story?

Diane fits all the criteria given above. She’s plucky, strong-minded and alone in the world. She’s definitely alone and without allies at Wolfe House.

Diane is pretty much a self-made woman. She has survived the tragedy of losing both her parents in a fiery car crash; she has carved out a career as a writer, but there is no one in her family who has been in a similar business. She is empathetic, but also filled with anger for reasons that are made evident in the book. She is cunning – not in a bad way, but knowledgeable and courageous and able to think on her feet. She has withstood great grief and progressed beyond it, but it has also marked her forever. She is driven about some things. In other circumstances, I think she could be charming and amusing.

Her weakness is her arrogance – not that she parades herself as being above other people, but that she truly believes she can handle anything – and in the end she pretty much can, but not in the way she thought she could. Her strengths are courage, her strength of mind and her ability to accept change.

In this story romantic angle there are two potential love interests for Diane—Ryan, a true enigma, and Charley, the veritable cowboy charmer. What chemistry were you going for with these seemingly opposite personalities?

I don’t know that I was ‘going for’ any particular chemistry… my characters are their own individual people, and I have a hard if not impossible time changing them once they make up their mind to appear. Charley is the image of a romance novel type hero – incredibly handsome and attentive – while Ryan is less attractive and his own man, who may or may not have anyone’s best interests at heart other than his own. As always in my books, though, nothing is ever really as it seems… most of the time.

Which actors did you have in mind when writing those two characters or who would you like seeing portray your characters should the book ever became a film?

I don’t do the actor thing. I think I’m an eccentric among my writer friends because I don’t create my characters, giving them this ability and that face, etc. My characters simply walk in, state their name and get on with it. It is only with the greatest of difficulty – if at all – that I can change anything about them. For example – in my Janis Patterson mystery A KILLING AT EL KAB there is a character who comes on stage in the middle of the book; his original function was to deliver some information and then vanish from the scene… except that he wouldn’t leave! He came and went several times, and actually contributed a great deal to the resolution of the story, which is strange, since in the original concept of the story he didn’t exist at all!

I doubt very seriously if THE HOUSE IN THE PINES will ever be contracted for film, but if it does I will fight for cast approval. I may not use actors to define who my character is, but I can definitely define those who are not my characters!

Well, if Hollywood knew what they were doing, you’d get a call. The story mostly takes place in Wolfe House. Could you give us a brief description of the manor as seen in the book? 

From the book : “Surrounded by a wide green lawn fringed with encroaching trees, it [Wolfe House] was at least three stories tall and much larger than I had expected. A great apron of a porch ran around it as far as I could see. There was a round turret with a round, witch’s hat roof at one corner. Gingerbread dripped from every horizontal surface, and everything was sparkly white, as if it had just been washed. On the porch was white wicker furniture and flowers in large pots. Somehow the house should have looked more sinister, more unfriendly, not as wholesome or welcoming, but perhaps that was colored by my emotions. The place looked impossibly perfect, like something right off a travel brochure or cloying greeting card.”

The funny thing is, Wolfe House actually exists – not by that name, of course, and in a town, not out in the woods. At least I think it still exists; I haven’t seen it for years. It belonged to a remote relative of a dear friend and we spent a weekend there once when we were very young. I loved that house and wanted to live there desperately; perhaps it was the stained glass ceiling in the stairwell that caught my imagination. I recreated the house as exactly as my admittedly imperfect memory would allow for THE HOUSE IN THE PINES.

That is very interesting! Last but not least, the greater setting—the woods of East Texas. What are the Texan elements that played in the story?

Texan elements. Hmmm. As a seventh-generation Texan, I’m really not aware of any particular ‘Texas elements’ – it’s all just normal for me. I deliberately chose East Texas because it is different. We have five or six distinct geographic areas in Texas, but mention Texas and most people will think of deserts filled with towering Saguaro cacti (which don’t grow anywhere in Texas), vast spaces of rock and sand, men in boots who wear hats the size of patio umbrellas (we do have plenty of those all over the state) and people loping off to work on saddle horses (which are banned under most HOA rules). East Texas is deep, dark and not always friendly pine forests, a thriving logging industry and lots of beautiful and often hidden lakes. Yes, we do have the deserts and the wide open spaces, but there are also the pine forests.

Concerning the people, I wanted to show the courage, the tenacity, the decisiveness (or as some might put it, bone-deep stubbornness) of the Texas people. We stand up for what we believe and will do what is necessary to protect what is right.

And the weather. There’s a saying – ‘if you don’t like it, wait five minutes.’ I know that’s been said about almost every state, but it was first said about Texas. I personally have seen the temperature change almost 50F in a single hour. Or go from heavy sun to frost in less than two hours. Or go from a cloudless blue sky to a raging, destructive tornado in almost a heartbeat. In one twelve month period the temperature varied over 115F where I live.

You’ve certainly crumpled my stereotypic image of Texas. Now I really want to visit! Thanks for talking about The House in the Pines, Janis. What are you up to writing-wise these days?

As I bore easily, I never have fewer than three projects going at one time. Right now I’m working on a novella called LOVE IN THE WORLD OF MAKE BELIEVE for a boxed set called LUCK OF THE DRAW – each story is about someone who wins something and how it affects their lives. Mine is about a woman who wins a role on her very favorite TV show, which stars a handsome actor on whom she has a tremendous crush.

I’m also working on a book about a romance set in the majestic and vast Palo Duro canyon of the Texas panhandle – which just happens to be one of my favorite places on earth. The lovely and talented Carolyn Brown has allowed me to play in her Kindle World of the Palo Duro, and I am so very excited to be in such august company. It’s about half finished, but I don’t know the title yet. Both of these books are done under my Janis Susan May name.

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Under my Janis Patterson name I’m doing two mysteries. A KILLING AT TARA TWO is the first book in my series about Dr. Rachel Petrie, a contract archaeologist who works all over the world on archaeological digs, where she always finds murder and mayhem. In TARA TWO she’s working in Alabama, digging up the remains of an ante-bellum plantation house. Of course, there are a couple of murders both modern and historic, so she’s kept busy.

I’m also doing the third book featuring my elderly (and how she would hate for me to call her that!) sleuth Flora Melkiot. The wealthy, proper and highly opinionated widow of a jewelry magnate, Flora sincerely believes that she can do anything she wants to – and usually does. She is often referred to as ‘the dark side of Miss Marple,’ and is more than capable of removing crime scene tape, badgering witnesses and cornering murderers. This offering is called MURDER AT FIVE TO ONE, in which Flora goes to Las Vegas about an inheritance, where not only her past comes back to affect her present but she gets mixed up in multiple murders.

Sounds like you have both your hands and your mind full!  Good luck with all your future endeavors, Janis, and thank you for the insights!

It was my pleasure, Maria.

About the Author

 

51mcfcgl3l-_ux250_Janis Susan May is a seventh-generation Texan and a third-generation wordsmith who writes mysteries as Janis Patterson, romances and other things as Janis Susan May, children’s books as Janis Susan Patterson and scholarly works as J.S.M. Patterson.

Formerly an actress and singer, a talent agent and Supervisor of Accessioning for a bio-genetic DNA testing lab, Janis has also been editor-in-chief of two multi-magazine publishing groups as well as many other things, including an enthusiastic amateur Egyptologist.

Janis married for the first time when most of her contemporaries were becoming grandmothers. Her husband, also an Egyptophile, even proposed in a moonlit garden near the Pyramids of Giza. Janis and her husband live in Texas with an assortment of rescued furbabies.

Connect with the Author

My website is www.JanisSusanMayAuthor.com or www.JanisPattersonMysteries.com – both addresses lead to the same site. It’s a two sided site and rather different; go take a look.

Facebook: Janis Susan May

Twitter: Janis Susan May

 

Super helpful beats guide: Emotional Beats by Nicholas C. Rossis

There’s no better way to introduce this super useful book than give you the author’s book description right away. In the words of Nicholas C. Rossis:

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Publication Date: September 11, 2016

Purchase Links

Ebook: Amazon US Amazon UK

Paperback: Amazon US Amazon UK

Book Description

Because of the way our brains are wired, readers empathize more strongly if you don’t name the emotion you are trying to describe. As soon as you name an emotion, readers go into thinking mode. And when they think about an emotion, they distance themselves from feeling it.

A great way to show anger, fear, indifference, and the whole range of emotions that characterize the human experience, is through beats. These action snippets that pepper dialogue can help describe a wide range of emotions, while avoiding lazy writing. The power of beats lies in their innate ability to create richer, more immediate, deeper writing.

This book includes hundreds of examples that you can use for your inspiration, so that you, too, can harness this technique to easily convert your writing into palpable feelings.

________________

I don’t know about you, author friends, but when I edit my first draft, one major roadblock I need to overcome is finding fresh ways to show not tell feelings. I write in “deep point of view”, and I can’t have my characters be “surprised”, “sad”, “angry” or “frightened”. But they tend to “look” a lot or express their feelings through their eyes, and it’s only so many times one can “narrow her eyes” or “widen her eyes” before the reader will, well, roll her eyes.

To me, this guide is a life saver. I’m definitely getting it in paperback because I want to be able to physically turn the page to the relevant emotion and see what kind of language beats best portray it. And if you need an example of the wealth of beats included in Emotional Beats, here it is:

Surprise

  • He shot up an eyebrow
  • He whipped his head around
  • She clamped her mouth shut, but her jaw went slack when she saw him. “You!”
  • His face remained a plank of wood, his amazement hidden by a slow breath.
  • His mouth slackened.
  • Her brows shot to her hairline.
  • She slapped a hand over her mouth.
  • He facepalmed.

And that’s just a selection.

Fastest one-click ever! Here are those purchase links again:

Purchase Links: Amazon US Amazon UK

MM Jaye

How to be a Productive Writer at Home: Workplace Organization

Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

While stateside today is a day to lay back and feast, for the rest of us it’s business as usual. The “as usual” part can be seriously improved, though, following simple, doable tips. And what’s a better way to digest them than an infographic?

photoToday, I’m pleased to welcome Emily Johnson from Omnipapers.com, a website about writing life of students and everyone who creates content for the Web. Emily also is a contributor to many websites about blogging, writing, and content marketing. She shares her writing experience with others, and you can always find more works of hers on G+.

In this article, she will give us insights on how to boost our writing productivity through paying more attention to the organization side of things. She’s also sharing a great infographic to illustrate her points. Emily, the floor is yours.

How to be a Productive Writer at Home: Workplace Organization

Every writer wants to be creative, innovative, and interesting. The most common way to achieve these goals is to boost productivity. There are many writers who work from home where it’s nearly impossible to stay focused. However, there are several tips that might help you become a productive writer.

In fact, a well-organized workplace impacts your attention, cleverness, and productivity.

While you are thinking about the best ways to organize your workplace, pay attention to OmniPaper’s infographic ‘Your Writing Cabinet Organization’, as here you can find an incredible piece of advice. Keep on reading to reveal more.

Clean Your Writing Desk Up

Being a writer means thinking about new ideas, insights, and creative drafts. A writing desk is an important workplace for all writers. Sometimes you can turn your desk into a messy table where you can’t find anything: drafts, utensils, gadgets, cups, etc. If you want to stay productive and don’t waste time, form a habit to clean up your table every day. Use lockers, boxes, and bookshelves to keep everything organized.

Organize Your Writing Cabinet

The writing process is not just creating drafts and texts, editing, proofreading, and publishing. It is also communicating with clients, setting up goals, learning something new, and boosting inspiration. Thus, you need to divide your workplace into two zones: computer and non-computer ones.

  • A computer zone is for work;
  • A non-computer zone is for inspiration and relax.

Add Comfort

If you want to stay healthy, you need to add some comfort. Your office chair should support the lower back to reduce a risk of health problems. Plus, you need to work standing sometimes to prove upper back and neck pain relief. Take care of your health!

Check out more interesting ideas about workplace organization below. Let’s boost productivity once and for all.
ways to organize your writing cabinet

Definitely not following most of this advice. I have to step up to the plate and become more oganized if I really want to meet my goals for 2016.

Thank you, Emily, and Happy Thanksgiving to everyone celebrating!

 

How I wrote 28K words in two days – Guest post by Ivy Sinclair

I got you there, didn’t I? I can picture those of you who know me doing a double-take. It famously took me four years to write my first book, but I’ve been hanging out with a crowd that really really pumps out words, and their attitude towards writing has rubbed off on me.

Ivy Sinclair is the author of shifter suspense and paranormal thriller novels. She published this post of how she churned out 28K words in two days in one of the author groups I follow, and I just had to ask for it. Read through and get inspired. Duplicating her feat sounds next to impossible, but her attitude and determination have inspired me into quadrupling my daily output. Ivy, take it from here:

How I Wrote 28,000 Words in Two Days

by Ivy Sinclair

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This post isn’t intended to be a braggery kind of post, but hopefully offer up some helpful tips for any writer who wants to write faster and get a ton of words down on the page. The way I do this isn’t for the faint of heart and isn’t something I just woke up one morning and said “I’m going to be a crazy ass writing fool today.” I write fast- and this just tells you how fast and how much I can write when I’m properly motivated.

Even if you have no desire to ever try any of this kind of lunacy (much like I enjoy running well enough to do a 5K, but I have no desire to run a marathon), you might find a tip or trick here in any case.

Prior to this particular 2-day writing marathon, my personal best for 2 solid days of writing was in the 20-22K word range. I had done that several times, and I honestly thought this marathon was going to be the same. Turns out, because I needed to get to “THE END” no matter what- I needed to go longer than I anticipated. Luckily, I had set myself up to do it and out popped the necessary 6,000 more words.

Let’s dig in.

deadline

The first piece of the puzzle involved the dreaded “D” word: DEADLINE

Whether self-imposed or put on you by someone else (I’m looking at you, Amazon- stupid 10-day pre-order window deadline), having a deadline creates a sensation of what I’ll call positive anxiety. Your deadline should be publically announced somehow- tell your family or friends, tell your fans. Absolutely, write it down. Put a note in your calendar. Make sure it’s visible there in front of you all the time.

In my case, I’d written half of my novel already but had slacked off a bit. When I was 10 days away from the promised publishing date that I’d given my fans, I knew I was quickly approaching the point of no return. It was disappoint my fans or get the manuscript done. That deadline set the fire under my ass.

prepareThe second piece of the puzzle is SCHEDULE.

You have your deadline. You (hopefully) know enough about yourself and your writing process to know how long you realistically need to accomplish your goal, and you know what you have going on in the rest of your life around that time. Strategically pick days/times that work best for you to focus exclusively and wholeheartedly on your story.

That means you might have to have some tough conversations with the people around you to tell them to leave you the heck alone—of course, I’d soften that by sharing with them the importance of what you’re trying to do and how they can best support you. Get their buy-in and make them your cheerleaders. Promise them updates in-person (if you live with them) or via text or social media. Having a cheering squad is kind of fun— and also serves the purpose of keeping them out of your face.

I picked a weekend where I had no commitments on Sat/Sun, and the kids were with my husband’s ex. Quiet house. I encouraged my husband to rev up his Xbox One and have at it for the weekend. Win-win.

outlineThe third piece of the puzzle is PREPARATION.

Now, this is the point in the post where I expect to lose the pantsers, so I’ve got to say something brilliant. How about, I’ll give you some thoughts on how to make a tiny, little, minimal outlining task fun? (I promise—practically painless.)

I was scarred for life by the horrible outlining requirements for school papers back in junior high/high school. If I never have to look at main bullet + 3 required sub-bullets format again in my life, it’ll be too soon. I vehemently opposed doing any kind of plotting ahead of time with my books, and I did okay with that for a long time.

Then I started interviewing other authors earlier this year, and these were people who were seriously killing it in terms of sales and building a rabid fan base. Almost without exception, every one of them plotted their books out in advance. Some of them went far more in-depth than others, and everybody’s process seemed a bit different. That’s when I realized that I could make plotting what I wanted it to be in a way that worked for ME. Suddenly, my opposition to the idea waned.

Here’s what I do. (This is the FUN part.) I put a big whiteboard up on the wall of my office. I separated it into the 3-act story structure. (That’s a whole other post, but that has completely changed the dynamic of my writing.) Then I bought a stack of brightly colored post-it notes. On each one, I wrote one sentence describing a scene in my story. (In black sharpie, so the sentences aren’t that long.) Then I stuck the post-it up on the board where it fit in the story.

When you have that done for every scene (or chapter), you have a lovely visual diagram of your story. You can move bits around if something doesn’t make sense or add something in if you see a gap. This whole process can take me anywhere from 5-15 minutes depending on the story length.

Then I open up my pre-formatted Word document and align chapter headings to my storyboard. I type in my one sentence summary for each chapter/scene. I take a break. Later, I come back and flesh out the chapter summaries a bit more- usually 200-250 words per chapter.

That’s it. That’s the extent of my outline, and I made it as painless as possible.

Now, if I’m doing a preorder, that’s what I use for my drat file upload. I know some folks will probably flip about that, but I’ve used this process over half a dozen times, and it works for me. I’ve never missed a deadline, and I don’t plan on it. I put a warning note at the top that if they’re seeing that message to contact Amazon because they got the wrong file (in case Amazon messes up the draft vs. final file for some reason.)

Now we are really for the crucial piece of the puzzle: SPRINTS.

You’ve scheduled your time and cleared your calendar. You’ve committed publically and to yourself you’re going to do this thing. You have your outline (however bony or robust it is) ready and raring to go.

It’s time to strap your butt to your chair and get the job done. I haven’t found a more effective way to do this than Pomodoro sprints. 25-minute writing sessions following by a 5-min break before starting again. After having used sprints for a couple of years, I know that I average 1250 words in a single sprint. I realize that not everyone is going to hit that, but if you know what you’re going to write (see PREPARATION above), and you keep practicing, you will get faster than you are right now.

When you know your average wordcount per sprint, you can divide that by the number of words you need to get in, and that’ll tell you how many sprints you need to do in the time you have allocated. During my massive wordcount days, I usually plan on 10K words per day. That’s 8 sprints of 1250 each.

I break it down like this: 4 sprints in the morning while I’m fresh. 2 sprints in the afternoon because that’s when my energy is low, and my attention span has a tendency to wander. 2 final sprints in the evening before I give myself the reward of having a glass of wine and watching one of my favorite TV shows or movies.

Honestly, when I do it like this I still have time to have proper sitdown meals with my husband, putter a bit on the internet, and go to the gym or run errands. Or sit my lazy butt on the couch and stare off into space. It doesn’t feel that strenuous. The thing is, you can’t let yourself get distracted so much that you don’t come back and do the work. (Very important!!)

I’d recommend changing the scenery up throughout the day too. I usually write those first 4 sprints at my local Starbucks. Then I do the afternoon/evening sprints in different places in my house. I listen to either baroque or early jazz music with headphones during my sprints (also effective for giving my husband a clue that I am busy…) and that is the only time I listen to those genres of music. That’s a productivity brain hack I read years ago to help train my brain to focus on writing. Do whatever you need to do to fight any kind of desire to be distracted.

When I had my 28,000 word weekend, I wrote 10K words on my first day and realized that if I did the same on the 2nd day, I still had too much runaway left on the story to finish it out. My whole goal was to get to the end of the story. So I did more sprints to fill-in during the afternoon and evening. I wrote “THE END” on the manuscript about 11pm that 2nd day, and I had done 15 sprints. (Some were a bit shorter because I got interrupted btw.)

My eyes were blurry. My brain was mush. But it was done.

Don’t miss the final step of the puzzle: CELEBRATE

My favorite way to celebrate completing the first draft of a manuscript is to open a bottle of champagne and have a toast with my husband. Know that if you attempt anything like this, the day after you’re done your body will probably be sore, and your brain pretty fuzzy. What tempers it is the giddy feeling of kicking ass and taking names for a job well done. 🙂

I’d recommend taking the day off work completely and being kind to yourself. Sleep in. Get a massage. Take a long walk. Go shopping. Take a nap. Veg in front of the TV. Whatever strikes your fancy but recognize that it is important to do that if you ever think you’d do it again.

So that’s it. How I wrote 28,000 words in two days and some thoughts on how you could do the same. Happy Writing!

Recommended Resources: 2K to 10K by Rachel Aaron for rapid writing, 5,000 WPH app from Chris Fox for timing sprints and tracking wordcounts

So what do you think about that, folks? Outworldly? Impossible? Doable? Whatever you think, let’s all give Ivy a round of applause because a feat it is. Bravo, Ivy!

About the Author

Ivy Sinclair is the author of the Greyelf Grizzlies bear shifter suspense series as well as the necromancer and demon paranormal thriller serial, Protect Her. She is a firm believer in true love, a happily ever after ending, and the medicinal use of chocolate to cure any ailment of the heart. Ivy’s guilty pleasures include sushi, endless Starbucks lattes, and wine. Connect with Ivy on Twitter @Author_Ivy or on Facebook.

Do you give a LOGLINE when you’re asked for a TAGLINE?

I’ve seen the issue of tagline vs logline raised in forum conversations, so I did some research on it. Apparently, if you pitch a movie script, and you claim that a logline is a tagline, it can be instantly rejected. I hope that when it comes to books this is not set in stone, but knowing what you’re talking about is always a sign of professionalism, and that’s what we’re all striving for.

TAGLINEvsLOGLINE

So what is the difference between a tagline and a logline?

Tagline

It’s a short catchphrase (or two but not more than three) that captures the essence of your story. Think about what you’d put on the cover of your book.

What to consider when creating a tagline

  • Hooking your reader (how? use puns, fresh language, incite feelings)
  • Serving your genre (how? use genre keywords)

Examples:

Tired of seeing him go through women like water, can she convince him to pull her out of the friend-zone? Blue Streak – Jules Barnard

In one sentence, the author “screams” romance and gives us a strong grasp of the premise—girl wants promiscuous boy to see her as more than just a friend. Note how the author hints at the heroine’s timid nature as she needs him to pull her out of the friend-zone.

Love will go on forever seeking another chance. The Lady of the Pier by Effrosyni Moschoudi

This is a romance with a paranormal twist. Note the key phrase that denotes the sub-genre: love will go on forever

An unshared smile is a wasted smile. Runaway Smile — Nicholas C. Rossis (Children’s book)

Tragedy awaits. The Search by C.H. Little (Thriller)

What you mustn’t do

  • Don’t make it too long which would mean applying a smaller font for your cover (not readable in thumbnail size)
  • Don’t try to describe the plot (or you’ll get into “logline” territory)
  • Don’t make it too obscure (i.e. use a gimmick that makes no sense unless you read the book)

Logline

This is the shortest description possible of your plot. It has to be one sentence only of up to 50 words. If you go over, it becomes a synopsis. Less could be a tagline.

Whereas in the tagline you want to hint at what’s there and leave an aura of mystery, here you have to establish your protagonist and antagonist and explain why the reader would want to read your book. I’ve also seen it called “the elevator pitch”. Think about meeting an agent in an elevator, needing to answer the dreaded “what’s your book about” question.

The logline is not suitable for your book cover. You will want to include it in your Media Kit, though, together with the tagline and your official blurb.

What you should consider when creating a logline

  • What drives your MCs (internal drive)
  • What makes your book exciting (the conflict)

Here’s what I plan on using for my upcoming novella Fate Captured (a romance).

A young woman will stop at nothing to make the stubborn Greek man she’s fallen for see the truth about his family even if it means losing him forever.

My heroine’s internal drive is a need to uncover lies (she’s been lied to by her family, and it’s the one thing she cannot tolerate). My hero’s main personality trait is his stubbornness (well, his Greek DNA is not a big help in that area). Showing the premise for their clash and what that entails (her losing him forever, him hanging on to a distorted view of people that matter) is–hopefully–what makes the book an interesting read.

Now, the tagline for the same book would be:

She wants him to see the truth. He wants her out of his life. Even if she gives it meaning.

Here, the romance branding takes front seat. She gives meaning to his life, ergo his life is empty. He needs her, but he’s too stubborn to see it.

See the difference?

I found an interesting article in pdf form presenting various famous film loglines with comments about their effectiveness. It’s an excellent guide to help you create effective loglines.

http://www.norman-hollyn.com/535/handouts/loglines.pdf

If you’d like to bounce tag- or logline ideas off me, just use the comments’ section.

Thanks for reading!

GIF Friday: Beat It #4 (Matt Bomer)

Last week’s winner of a free book promo: David Proser. Check out the other awesome offerings of last week’s Beat It #3 with Emma Stone. This week, it’s Matt Bomer. Okay, you may just look at him… 🙂

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Don’t you sometimes struggle to add the right body language description (beat) to amp up your dialog? One that conjures just the right image, is not cliché and sounds fresh?

Then this meme-type exercise is for you. Read on for a quick how-to.

GIF Matt
Matt Bomer @Jean_Nelson (depositphotos.com)
  • Take a good look at the GIF below.
  • Using the scene set up I give you, describe the body language you see just as you’d do if you were writing out the scene yourself.
  • Post your “beat” until Wednesday as a comment here, blog it, post on Facebook, wherever.
  • If you don’t post here, leave a comment with a link to where you posted, so I can find you.

I will then update this page to include all offerings I gather with links to participants’ sites or social media.

No judging, no winners. My aim is to gather lots of different body language beats describing a visual action/reaction for my readers (and yours) to read and maybe learn. An added perk: each week, I’ll choose a random participant who will get FREE book promo on my promo blog mmjayepresents.com.

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GIF Friday #4 starring Matt Bomer

Source: idk-lets-just-do-it.tumblr.com

“Are you properly warmed up?” My trainer’s smirk smacked of arrogance, expecting me to stumble over his suggestive words and embarrass myself like I did yesterday. His white tank top made an even stronger statement.

I focused my gaze on the framed painting on the wall. Anywhere but on him. “Five-mile workout with increasing interval runs, fifty crunches and twenty push-ups.”

(insert beat) He motioned me to enter his studio.

Better not mention the million-calory, death-by-chocolate waffle I gobbled up right after, I thought, closing the door behind me. If I had to resist an eyeful, at least I’d have my stomach full.

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I wonder why I suddenly have a strong sugar craving. Hmm… Your turn now. Remember to add a workable link in your comment so that I can credit you properly.

GIF Friday: Beat It #3 (Emma Stone)

Last week’s winner of a free book promo: C.H. Little for her newly released The SearchCheck out the other awesome offerings of last week’s Beat It #2 with Kristin Kreuk. This week’s star is Emma Stone. She has such a mobile face, I couldn’t resist.
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Don’t you sometimes struggle to add the right body language description (beat) to amp up your dialog? One that conjures just the right image, is not cliché and sounds fresh?

Then this meme-type exercise is for you. Read on for a quick how-to.

SCULPTURE & ART (1)

  • Take a good look at the GIF below.
  • Using the scene set up I give you, describe the body language you see just as you’d do if you were writing out the scene yourself.
  • Post your “beat” until Wednesday as a comment here, blog it, post on Facebook, wherever.
  • If you don’t post here, leave a comment with a link to where you posted, so I can find you.

I will then update this page to include all offerings I gather with links to participants’ sites or social media.

No judging, no winners. My aim is to gather lots of different body language beats describing a visual action/reaction for my readers (and yours) to read and maybe learn. An added perk: each week, I’ll choose a random participant who will get FREE book promo on my promo blog mmjayepresents.com.

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GIF FRIDAY: BEAT IT #3 starring Emma Stone

I led her on. I kept the stutter, blinked whenever she looked at me and let her choose from the wine list. She went for the $100 Château Clinet, her eyes twinkling, probably relishing the prospect of embarrassing me when the bill came. She kept her condescending air throughout the meal, her speech over-enunciated as if talking to a hearing-impaired toddler. Either that or my affected stutter was infectious.

“And what … are your plans after graduating? Will you … still live … at your mom’s?” Her nodding was nothing short of patronizing.

I took off my glasses and tucked them in my breast pocket.

Showtime.

“Actually, it’s my mom who lives with me. It’s temporary until she fully recovers from the accident. Jobwise, I’ll take over this restaurant, since I own it.” I held the wine bottle in my palm and shook my head. “This wine list needs serious upgrading.”

(insert beat)

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Well, turnabout is fair play, as they say. Here’s how writers described this:

Nicholas C. Rossis

Her breath exploded from her mouth. “Wow!” she mouthed, then turned away so I wouldn’t see her expression sour as if her Château Clinet had somehow turned into a bucket of vinegar. Somehow, I managed to keep my own face expressionless as I pretended to study a tiny crimson drop rolling down the inside of my glass.

David Prosser

She stood up her face reddening. “Hell” she said “”wow, I’m astounded. You do realise I’ve been teasing you all night don’t you”? She sat down again with her jaw still opening and closing from little gasps of breath like a fish out of water.Gradually she paled and her shoulders slumped knowing she’d gone too far.

Andrea Cooper

At my news, her eyes widened and “wow” popped out of her mouth like meeting a rock star for the first time. Then the realization of my words sunk in and her mouth stayed agape for a second too long. She glanced away with her face holding the appalling thought that she’d just blown it.

Vicki Jamieson

She recoiled from me as I spoke, the confidence draining from her body. She tried to hold my gaze and some measure of composure on her face, but as I finished speaking we both recognised my revelation had caught her off balance. She turned away from me, drawing breath and trying to compose herself, but she couldn’t hide the widening horror in her eyes and the way her shoulders slumped forward as her misjudgment sank in.

Anke

Her eyes grew to the size of saucers. “Wow!”, she yelped, all pretence forgotten. Then, als the impact of my revelations fully hit her, she turned away. She wasn’t as much amazed as outrightly shocked. Her mouth opened to let out a moan of incredulous surprise. She was defeated, and the vertical line that appeared between her eyes gave away the anger she felt at herself. She had chosen the wrong tack with me, and the horror at having missed her chance crept all over her face.

Rebecca McKinnon

Her eyes immediately widen in shock at the grossness of her misconception. Her shame is palpable; she can’t continue looking at me under the weight of it. She turns her head away and downward, her awkward reply making a circular O of her mouth: “Wow…”

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Thanks to all writers who came out and played this week!

GIF Friday: Beat It #2 (Kristin Kreuk)

Don’t you sometimes struggle to add the right body language description (beat) to amp up your dialog? One that conjures just the right image, is not cliché and sounds fresh?

Then this meme-type exercise is for you. Read on for a quick how-to.

  • SCULPTURE & ARTTake a good look at the GIF below.
  • Using the scene set up I give you, describe the body language you see just as you’d do if you were writing out the scene yourself.
  • Post your “beat” until Wednesday as a comment here, blog it, post on Facebook, wherever.
  • If you don’t post here, leave a comment with a link to where you posted, so I can find you.

I will then update this page to include all offerings I gather with links to participants’ sites or social media.

No judging, no winners. My aim is to gather lots of different body language beats describing a visual action/reaction for my readers (and yours) to read and maybe learn. An added perk: each week, I’ll choose a random participant who will get FREE book promo on my promo blog mmjayepresents.com.

Two science fiction writers are last week’s winners: Margaret Fieland and Nicholas C. Rossis, who will both get free book promos. Check out GIF Friday: Beat It #1 to see how they described last week’s GIF.

Would you like to join the fun? Then go ahead and “beat it”.

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GIF FRIDAY: BEAT IT #2 starring Kristin Kreuk

My temples pounding in sync with the banging, I reach the shed and swing the door open. Yup, I found the source of all the noise that woke me, and boy, is she worked up.

“Jesus. You assembled the bookcase by yourself?” I ask. The thing ate up the entire space.

(Insert beat) “What? You thought I couldn’t wield a crowfoot wrench? By the time you got around to doing it, it would have turned moldy-green.”

I scratch the back of my head. “Umm, okay, but how are we getting it out? It won’t fit through the door.”

She stands up and brushes her hands on her jeans. “Well, I’ll leave you to ponder on that. You woke up at two in the afternoon. I’m sure you’re full of productive energy.” Passing by me, she pinches my cheek. “Just make sure it’s in our living room by five, before your parents arrive,” she says oh so sweetly. “I did promise them you’ll have it on display today. They paid for it, after all.” She leaves, closing the door behind her.

I guess she found out Doug’s bachelor party wasn’t held at his basement.

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And here are the awesome offerings:

Nicholas C. Rossis

She blows off an errand strand of hair that tickles her nose. Her gaze bores two holes into my skull. Ants crawl up and down my spine.

C. H. Little

Those catlike eyes flash with fury she doesn’t bother to conceal. I’m in real trouble this time. An errant strand of the hair she never seems able to tame falls across her face and she blows it away impatiently, a challenge blazing in her eyes.

Rebecca N. McKinnon

She didn’t look up from her work so much as she could’ve broken her neck with the force of its upward trajectory. Her unblinking eyes bore into mine in silent challenge. She huffed powerfully, sending a loose strand of hair shooting above her sweaty brow.

Vicki Jamieson

She looks up at me, a determination I haven’t seen before burning behind her eyes. She fixes me with her gaze, pouts her bottom lip and blows an errant strand of hair from her face defiantly. Her eyes are hard and her gaze doesn’t shift; only a twitch of her eye gives away any emotion as speaks.

Anke

She looked at me defiantly. A loose strand of hair got in the way of her stare. Normally, she would sweetly tug it away behind her ear. Not now. She did away with it with a forceful blow of air from her mouth. The agressive, unyielding twitch of her eyes warned me not to mess with her, either.

GIF Friday: Beat It #1 (Robert Pattinson)

Don’t you sometimes struggle to add the right body language description (beat) to amp up your dialog? One that conjures just the right image, is not cliché and sounds fresh? Well, I do, and I hope this meme-type exercise proves helpful.

I’m going through a phase of introspection writing-wise, and I’ve cut down on blogging and using social media as much as I did before (which was not much to begin with). BUT, I came up with this idea for a brand new meme that I think will be both fun and provide good training to that writing muscle of yours.

Image copyright: Jean Nelson (depositphotos.com)
Image copyright: Jean Nelson (depositphotos.com)

Here’s the drill: I’ll post a GIF every Friday. It will be a close up of someone recognizable. I’ll give you a brief scene setup, and if you want to take part, you’ll have to describe the body language you see just as you’d do if you were writing the scene yourself. You can write it in the comments’ section, you can blog the meme using the same GIF, you can even post on Facebook. No weird linkies. You can post from Friday until Wednesday. I will then update this page to include all offerings I gather with links to participants’ sites or social media. The only requirement is for you to link back to my blog’s relevant post, and—if you don’t post here—leave a comment with a link to where you posted, so I can find you.

No judging, no winners. My aim is to gather lots of different body language beats describing a visual action/reaction for my readers (and yours) to read and maybe learn. An added perk: each week, I’ll choose a random participant who will get free book promo on my promo blog mmjayepresents.com.

Sounds like fun? Then go ahead and “beat it”.

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GIF FRIDAY: BEAT IT #1 starring Robert Pattinson

A glowing red charcoal rolled out of the fire pit. I used a stick to push it back. “What about your parents?” He was finally opening up. This was my window to peek in.

He instantly sobered. “My dad passed two months ago. I was trekking the Andes, I didn’t get to say…” (insert beat)

tumblr_n7kxjiDOBX1qkbr8xo4_400
Image found on http://www.robsessedpattinson.com

And here are this week’s offerings:

Nicholas C. Rossis

He pulled his sleeve around his fingers and picked up the tin mug from the fire. He blew into the bubbling liquid. Steam surrounded his face as he stared at the mug with unseeing eyes. The rich aroma of his coffee hit my nostrils, making my mouth water. I said nothing, not wanting to interrupt his thoughts.

“Doesn’t matter,” he said in the end. “It’s too late now.”

Margaret Fieland

He pressed his lips together and a muscle in his cheek twitched. He blinked, glanced down. A second or two passed, and when he spoke again his voice was barely above a whisper. “I never got to say goodbye.”

MM Jaye

His mouth quirked, but there was no humor in it. He looked away. Then he blinked. Several times.

Were his eyes misting over?