My Writing Joy

Once a week I meet with a special group of writers known as the Writers Inspiration Group. Each person takes a turn at leading for the week and comes prepared with two or three prompts to share with the group.

Prompts can be a sentence story-starter, pictures from magazines, a newspaper article, an artifact of some kind or anything.

Once all the writers have the prompt they start writing as quickly as possible. We don’t think about where the writing is going, or grammar, or spelling. We just let the story or memory unfold, writing quickly for about ten minutes. Then we share what we wrote or pass. We don’t critique or judge. We just share. Then move on to the next prompt.

This week the leader brought in some old writers magazines: Poets and Writers, Writer’s Digest and The Writer. We were to open one up and find something that caught our eye and start writing.


I found the following sentence:

“Many surprises come with writing.”

Here’s what I came up with:

Creating characters and worlds and moments in time. I often hear “I don’t know where that came from” which is one of the joys of writing. Having a basic idea grow on the page and become something more than you ever imagined, or thought you could imagine.

Characters that develop from a basic vision or someone you saw at the lunch counter to somebody with a back ground, loves and hates, fears and dreams.

Finding a way to voice your inner most thoughts by letting words flow freely – writing stream-of-conscious and having your head and heart flow down your arm and onto the page.

Seeing a story in a newspaper or on the Internet that has you asking “What if?” and finding answers in your imagination.


That is where I find my joy as a writer and why I will never stop putting pen to paper.



Desert Rose Chapter, Romance Writers of America Workshops

Last Saturday the Desert Rose Chapter of Romance Writers of America and the Scottsdale Civic Center Library teamed up to present an all day series of workshops for writers of all genres. This was the Ninth Annual Free Fiction Writers’ Workshop. I’ve attended a few of these over the years and am never disappointed. The workshops are professional and informative. The day always runs smoothly and everybody is friendly and helpful.

The only problem I saw was that there are three workshops held at the same time and as most of my readers know I don’t like to make decisions. I tried to get a variety of information and will share a few tidbits here along with introducing you to more fantastic Phoenix (and Arizona) writers.

Laurie Schnebly Campbell used her long career in counseling as a basis for her talk on “Challenging Your Characters.” Laurie is sweet and friendly but she told us right off to make those characters suffer. From the very beginning our stories must provide conflict, between the characters, internal and external. That is what keeps the story moving. Conflicts can include gender roles, loyalties, privacy, money, power and sex. What the hero/heroine learns, how they grow and change is what creates a satisfying ending.

Vijaya Schartz’s topic “The Fun Thing About Plotting” was informative and energizing. She started out with a discussion about “pantsers” and “planners” or “outliners.” Pantsers are those people who sit down and write by the seat of their pants with no plan or outline. On the other end of the spectrum are those who practically write a book in the form of some kind of outline. Vijaya believes we are always plotting, in the shower, while driving and while writing. Those who write their ideas down in some kind of format are ahead of the game when it comes to meeting publisher submission guidelines which often include the first three chapters and a thirty-page outline to sign a contract for a series. She also believes that if you have some kind of outline or plan you won’t have writer’s block. She stresses the need for research. Research your characters, the time and place. Watch for plot clues as you go. What are their strengths and weaknesses, what do they want. Be specific. Develop strong villain with motivation, another clue for the plot. Decide what the absolute WORST thing that could happen to the character and then make it happen. The main thing I noted was that Vijaya said to picture your story as a movie and then imagine what the trailer is going to look like. What will it show? That will help define your story.

Following book signings and lunch Tina Gerow spoke on “Living The Life of a Writer.” She pointed out that through all the fads in writing and publishing romance stays solid as a big selling genre. She explained that a “line editor” looks for pacing, plot and inconsistencies in the manuscript. The “copy editor” looks for grammar, misspellings, wrong word usage and inconsistencies in the small stuff. Writers today have to develop branding. They must have their name and a following before they even start looking for an agent and publisher. Then book signings are more about name recognition than selling books.  She explained terms that pop up regularly in the publishing business, such as: advance, royalties, print runs, sell through and advertising and promo. With the basics covered Tina went in to the everyday life of writers and how each writer has their own system and time of day that works for them. Building a presence requires social networking, speaking at workshops and conferences, publishing a newsletter and numerous other ways to get your name out there.

Sandra Leesmith introduced us to “Motivation & Focus For Writing as a Business.” She started out by having us write a list of reasons why we write with the most important at the top. Then she shared ideas on how to use this list to develop positive thinking and the road to success. Take time to meditate and internalize affirmations for a successful writing career. She emphasized how important it is to set up a schedule for writing, reading, promotion, and to study writing. Take workshops on writing and social media and apply what you learn. Join groups such as Romance Writers of America, America Christian Fiction Writers and their local chapters.

The day closed with a panel discussion on “Traditional Publishing, Self-Publishing & Hybrid: What’s the Difference?” The panel consisted of Jennifer Ashley, Virginia Nelson, Erin Quinn, Vijaya Schartz and Shelley Coriell; authors who have been published in all formats.

Virginia Nelson has only self-published. Self-Publishing puts everything on the author. She has to either do it all; editing, formatting, cover art and promotion or hire people to do some of the jobs.

Vijaya Schartz said small presses are more open to cross genres and have editors and illustrators. She also self publishes.

Shelley Coriell is traditionally published and received five figure advances, editing, book tours and promotion. She doesn’t get to choose her covers or even the titles of her books.

Erin Quinn writes dark paranormal set in Arizona. She has written for Simon & Schuster for twenty years but has now started self-publishing novellas between the books so she can keep her name out there between the book releases.

Jennifer Ashley has run the gamut. She was traditionally published by Berkeley and is now doing self-publishing. She stressed that working with small publishers can be dangerous. If they go under the print rights stays with the bankruptcy and it is near to impossible for the author to get them back. She suggests using a broad range of publishing houses and possibilities. She is also doing novellas and adds an excerpt from her book as an e-book for 99 cents and considers it “promo I’m getting paid for.”

Here are all the authors who were at the event:

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Jennifer Ashley is a New York Times bestselling author and has more than 80 published novels and novellas. She also writes as Ashley Gardner and Allyson James. You can find her books and access her blog on her Web site. 




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Laurie Schnebly Campbell’s Web site contains information about her books and workshops. She also has a link to the journal about her current work-in-progress so you can follow along in her writing process.





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Shelley Coriell writes romantic suspense and teen novels. Her books include award winning The Broken and Goodbye, Rebel Blue. Find more about her books here.

Shelley (left) teamed up with Virginia Nelson (right) for this photo. Virginia writes paranormal romance “where ancient legends and new worlds are forged together.” Learn more here.



Connie Fldesert rose 004ynn writes under a number of genres and formats. They  include a romantic suspense novel, Know When to Run and First We Kill All the Zombies. You can find more about Connie’s books through Connie’s blog is full of fun and inspiration.






desert rose 002 Tina Gerow is an award winning author who  also writes under Cassie Ryan. You can learn  more about her books and follow her blog at




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Sandra Leesmith writes “sweet” romance with a Christian slant. She travels the country in her motorhome gathering ideas and seeing the sites with her husband. Her books include Current of Love and Love’s Refuge. You can find her books at Sandra is also part of Seekerville a blog of Christian authors sharing experiences and advice on writing, contests and the road to publication and beyond.


Cheyenne McCray is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. She has over 1.5 million books in print and eBook formats. Her books and contacts are listed on her vibrant site. She is an Arizona native. (No photo.)

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Erin Quinn writes dark paranormal romance and is a New York Times bestselling author. You can learn more about her books, blog, newsletter and even book trailers here.








Deena Remiel writes urban fantasy, paranormal romance and suspense. Her site links to her blog, book trailers, short stories, book desert rose 008

lists, awards and upcoming events.






desert rose 001 Vijaya Schartz was born in France and likes to include action and exotic settings in her books. She has received many five star awards and literary awards. She has numerous books listed on her site including romance, science fiction, medieval and contemporary titles.

Pamela Tracy writes contemporary, historical and suspense inspirational romance. Broken Lullaby won the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Book of the Year award. She has numerous books listed on her Web site along with links to her blog and upcoming events. (No photo.)

Kris Tualla is active all around the Valley of the Sun. She is the author of historical romance and suspense. Her stories are set in Norway which she says is the “new Scotland.” Information about her Hansen series and the family genealogy can be found here.

It’s hard to summarize so much information. The main things that stand out are:

*The only way to become an author is to write, submit, write and submit again. Keep going. Most of these ladies had numerous rejection letters before the doors opened up.

*Social media is essential. As you visit the Web sites and blogs take note that these ladies also have Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and numerous other types of social media. They stay on top of their sites and keep their names out there for the world to see.

*Writers should be a part of whatever communities they can. National organizations such as Romance Writers of America and local chapters such as Desert Rose. It is important to network and share with other writers. We all learn from each other and there is a wealth of information right here in our own Valley of the Sun.

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Authorpalooza at Dog-Eared Pages

Energy was high at the Authorpalooza sponsored by the Dog-Eared Pages Bookstore in North Phoenix last Saturday.

Not only was this a great opportunity for local authors; it brought new and fun people to the bookstore. Stop by Dog-Eared Pages to find any of these books and a wealth of other treasures.

012 A friendly pirate greeted customers and directed them to author027

J. J. M Czep who’s latest book Blackstrap’s Ecstacy  is about . . . you guessed it, a pirate. Interestingly Czep also

teaches belly dancing and reads Tarot cards. I won the drawing for a free Tarot reading and can’t wait to go meet

with her next week.



 V. S. Nelson writes paranormal romance and her series Sekhmet’s Guardians was named the best new PNR series in 2013.

She also has a blog and is active in the local romance writer’s group.



Mona K. Oshana has two books. Look Beyond The Fire: Daily Struggles Under Saddam’s Regime

based on her own life experiences with a look at the heart of the people of Iraq. Her latest book Dear Man is

directed to people who want to work with others to tackle the problems in human relationships.

Her books are published by Tate Publishing. 




Eduardo C. Brierfield and his wife Les are both writers with many books and short stories to their credit.  Eduardo brings images from his world travels to each of his books.

They write science fiction, paranormal mystery, historical fiction and whatever else their imaginations may suggest.



You can tell by her smile that C. L. Gilmore is a friendly and sharing author. She writes novels and poetry.

An educator for many years she now writes full-time. Except when playing with her French bulldog “Pitty Pat.”


011     Ann Narcisian Videan  wears many hats. She is a

writer/editor, self-publishing consultant and helps with word-of-mouth marketing strategies. Her book Song of the Ocarina

combines music, New Zealand, mythical animals, romance and burned-out-rock-star spell casters. Her blog contains a wealth of information and inspiration.



Mary J. Wagner is the author of We Walk Among Angels, a compilation of thirty

short stories to inspire the reader to see the gifts of God and learn to call on

His Angels for help in time of need.  On Fire For God relates Mary’s death

death experiences and the help of Angels to rise above all odds.












When not teaching, tutoring, riding her horses in the desert

north of Phoenix, teaching yoga or writing poetry,

Michele Venne is writing and editing her books. Scenes roll in front of her like a movie screen and

she is well-practiced at putting them on the page. Her books include Of Gifts and Goddesses set in historical Ireland,

Of Dolphins and Desires set in Mexicao and California and Of Stars and Secrets and the sequel Of Prophecies and

Promises set on imaginary planets in outer space. She is working on a trilogy set in Montana. She also has two blogs:

one on writing and the other on yoga.



026   Alan Black is another multi genre writer. I am

currently reading his Friendship Stones trilogy about a spunky young lady in the Ozarks in the 1920s. Most of his books are

science fiction and have been noted as #1 bestsellers on Amazon.

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Kris Tualla‘s romance series set in Norway (“the new Scotland”) are full of history and romance. Kris is member of Romance

Writers of America, Sisters in Crime and the Historical Novel Society. She created Arizona Dreamin’ the first romance-reader

event in Arizona. It will occur May 29 – 31, 2015. Visit the Web Site for more information. Kris is an energetic speaker.


She will be the featured speaker at the Phoenix Writers Club on November 15th, 2014. (You must preregister to

attend the meeting. Guests are always welcome. Cost for lunch is $20.00 per guest.)







008  Bill Lamperes is a former Arizona resident who now lives in Colorado.

Arizona still claims him as one of our own. Bill writes a number of genres with his latest a thoroughly researched novel of the gun Adolf Hitler

used to commit suicide at the end of WWII titled The Artifact. Bill is an amazing story teller and caught my attention quickly with a story that

came out of a news story in Central Arizona. Voices involves the paranormal and describes some of the great old hotels of the state.

How he comes up with the stories is a story in itself. He also writes ans talks about being a writer and what it takes to get the job done.



Dr. Fran Orenstein writes chapter books, ‘tween  and teen novels, adult novels and poetry. Her books are set in

various countries and cover an array of issues for each age group. She grew up in New York and has a long list of

degrees in education and counseling. She published her first poem at age 8 and her first short story in a magazine

at age 12. Her books include Death in D Minor an historical murder/romance novel, One Amber Too Many for kids,

The Calling of the Flute and others.





016 Ethan Russell Erway is the author of the Adventures of Michael

Belmont fantasy series which he describes as a cross between Harry Potter and Indiana Jones. He also writes adult

novellas as The Bleeding Star Chronicles. Ethan and his wife have two sons and live north of Phoenix.


022 Melanie who writes as Anna Questerly is the co-owner of Dog-Eared Pages Used Books in north east Phoenix. Besides promoting local authors, teaching classes, leading book groups she works with children to promote reading and writing. Her books include The Minstrel’s Tales a series of adventures about a wandering minstrel in Fourteenth Century France and England. She also authored Strategic Rewriting in which she shares her tips and tricks to make rewriting and editing fun. It includes a guide for critique groups.


As I make the effort to get involved in the Arizona writing community I am constantly amazed at how many talented people there are. I am thankful for each one who shares their talents, insights and imagination with the rest of the world. This blog is part of my thank you to this amazing community. Please keep your eyes open for local authors, events and bookstores to help promote these poets, writers, authors, artists and all the creatives who live in this wonderful state.








Author: Toby Heathcotte

As a local author and current president of the Arizona Authors Association I have often heard Toby Fesler Heathcotte’s name but it wasn’t until recently that I heard her speak. What a treat.

She was the October speaker at the Desert Foothills Library Writers’ Connection group. Toby was once a drama and speech teacher at the high school level and then taught creative writing at a local community college. She now writes full-time and has quite a list of books including books for drama teachers.


Toby introduced us to her books and used a series based (The Alma Chronicles) on reincarnation as examples to show us how to create suspense in fiction and narrative nonfiction. She stressed the need to develop the stakes for characters, decide on point-of-view, and using pacing and description to keep readers on the edge of their seats. She also suggested reading and studying Dan Brown’s books for how he writes suspense.

Her suggestions included having at least one item of tension on every page and to leave questions unanswered for the characters and the reader; at least for awhile.

If a character or scene seems to get stuck try writing it from a different point-of-view to open up your mind.

Toby’s books include Out of the Psychic Closet: The Quest to Trust My True Nature which I am currently reading. It is her memoir and self-help book for those interested in or tested by their own psychic abilities.

You can find Toby’s books, biography and blog connection here.

National Novel Writer’s Month

Spend time with any group of writers this time of year and you are sure to hear “NaNoWriMo” mentioned at least once. Some of the speakers will be cursing the very thought and others will be filled with excitement about this phenomenon.

NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writer’s Month. Every year about this time thousands of writers around the world join an Internet frenzy to write a 50,000 word novel in just 30 days.

Think that’s too short or too fast? A number of Wrimo’s have gone on to publishing success. Two of my favorites are Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

NaNoWriMo started in 1999 when a group of San Francisco Bay area writers decided to challenge themselves to write as freely and quickly as possible.

Since then they have developed a Web site where Wrimos sign up to be a part of the frenzy. There they can find pep talks, forums on all genres and writing questions imaginable. There are municipal liaisons who plan pre-NaNo parties and write-ins throughout the month. There is also “Thank God it’s over party.”

Chris Baty, the head founder has written books on how to prepare and endure the 50,000 word goal. No Plot? No Problem? is a fun and helpful book for all writers who want to get the job done.


I’ve done NaNoWriMo off-and-on over the years. I haven’t gone back and edited or tried to get any of the novels published. I may participate this year.

I’m sure you are asking “Why bother?”

I have many reasons for doing this:

It frees up my writing and quiets that inner critic.

It gets me excited about writing every single day.

I enjoy the write-ins. Making new friends and the energy is amazing. I learn a lot from fellow WriMos.

Although I don’t consider myself a novelist (I write historical non-fiction) it is fun to try, and maybe one day I will decide to go on with a story. In the meantime, I enjoy the free and open-minded spirit that NaNo ignites.

Here’s where to sign up. I suggest every writer try it at least once. What do you have to lose?



Writing Together

I can’t believe it has been almost two months since I wrote on this blog. Traveling took up part of that time. a touch of laziness some more, and just not being “in touch” the rest.

I attended some writer’s talks, and took notes, but I haven’t felt like putting them on here. So we shall see if I have my “writerly” self back.

Friday Night Writes at Dog-Eared Pages Used Bookstore continues to inspire. This past Friday the speakers were author Tia Dani. Now, before you get all up in the air about that sentence; Tia Dani is actually a team of writers. They say they write everything; no sticking to one genre for them. They have been working together for about ten years but had many years of friendship before they put their common pen to paper. Their given names are Chris and Bev.

I am partially through their paranormal book Death Unseen. It is set in Arizona and a great read.

The energy between these two writers was evident the moment I walked in the room. Where one left off the other one quickly stepped in. Which is how they write. Back and forth with the latest file on both of their screens and Skype forming the link.

A few of the suggestions they made for writing as a team were:

*Treat it like a business

*Their friendship is always the priority. If problems arise and become to hard to handle the business can fold. The friendship won’t.

*They keep a chapter-by-chapter log of things that are going on and things that need to be remembered. It’s a timeline, hints, plot, and character descriptions all in one.

Even though I don’t plan on getting a partner the energy from these two was inspiring. (If you want to write hang out with writers.) There was an added bonus: Chris and I quickly realized we are from the some part of Kansas. Matter-of-fact we could be related. I was, of course, anxious to get home and check on this but I haven’t had time to do much digging.


15430058The family home in Fowler, Kansas. My great grandmother on the left. My mother on the right with four of her siblings in between.


I did find my mother’s 1941 yearbook from Fowler, Kansas. And there on the same page is Chris’ father. You can find this on my other blog here.

Is “It’s A Small World” nagging at the back of your mind yet?

When my ancestors came to Kansas they came from Illinois. Her’s came from Indiana. About the time the families settled in those areas some of my family married people with her surname. Some work needs to be done but I won’t be at all surprised if we are cousins.


Here’s an old paper I found from the town of Fowler, Kansas.

Speaker: Michele Venne

Dog-Eared Pages Used Bookstore put on another helpful Friday Night Writes program.

This week the speaker was Michele Venne: school teacher, tutor, yoga teacher, horse trainer and the author of seven books ranging from poetry to yoga tips to romantic thrillers which are contemporary and futuristic. She is currently editing the second in a trilogy of books set in Montana.

Michele stressed that writers don’t have to write with the goal of publication. We all have reasons we write and it pays to take time to figure our your own reasons for writing. She had us write a few paragraphs from a prompt she gave us and then asked us to think about how we felt and to come up with a couple of sentences on our own reasons for writing. For her, writing is a way to understand herself and humanity and to share that understanding with others.

Understanding why you write will help to bring you focus in your writing and help you get past the slow times often called brick walls.  She suggests writing by hand to make the connection between fine and gross motor skills and creativity.

Keep writing. You have to have something to edit and then to submit. if that is your goal. Use beta readers and editors. She had six readers for one book and they all made different changes.

Things to help you keep writing: someplace different to write, keep a journal, jot ideas on note cards, good nutrition and plenty of sleep and exercise, a full well of ideas and inspiration, daily writing, knowledge, patience and self-care. Networking and spending time with positive people whether they are writers or not is important.

006 Celebrate every step you reach in your goal of becoming a writer. Celebrate a first rough draft, a second draft, a final edit. You can also celebrate a finished poem or just a good day writing.

Michele’s website is You can learn more about her and her books there. The books are also available through Amazon and now at Dog-Eared Pages Bookstore. You can also find her blogs at: and




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