Saturday, April 19, 2014

Sunday Musings: April 20 2014

Hi, Chris and the Muse Family here, back and wishing you well on this Sunday that many hold very dear.

It is the season of faith, spring, and rebirth. For me...and perhaps's a time of re-awakening from the long cold night of winter.

We're going to get a little personal, a touch serious as we muse upon the concept of faith. Faith in oneself...why/where/how. We've all heard before that we must toot our own horn, but what about before we can toot a horn.

No matter what anyone around us believes, if we don't believe in ourselves how else will we succeed.

I wish I could write something different; however, life decided to hammer my family this past Thursday. For all you animal lovers and furry-owned you know the heartbreak of losing a pet. Thursday I had to find the strength and faith in myself to help my daughter say goodbye to our Cody-cat. He was only two years, seven months. No warnings. Just one day of being 'off' his norm and x-rays later with blood work showed his kidneys were in failure.

No one is ready for this moment in their child's life and yet somehow we manage to (hopefully I am) rise to the need. Whatever our life has taught us. Whatever we have experienced. Whatever our families have shared by their example. We find the strength...the faith? do what is needed for those who need us.

For every writer I have met we all build each other's belief in ourselves. We shore up that individual core of faith deep inside us all.

Today my Muse Family...some who have just now heard of my family's loss...share their faith, their belief, and in turn I believe the well of their strength.

To all of you, our Muse Family Readers, keep your inner well filled. We believe in you.

LEA SCHIZAS, Publisher MuseItUp Publishing

Keeping one's faith is about the only thing a person can do if they want to move forward.

Whether it's faith in a higher being, or faith in themselves and/or family to overcome hurdles they are facing isn't as much the issue with me other than the need to motivate and always be positive. Actions to move in that direction are far more important to me where faith is concerned because I need to have the faith in me that I can do it. Otherwise the sensation of doom overcomes and that is a feeling no one should ever experience.

I am a Catholic, and my faith is important to me.  I believe my talent comes from God, particularly since it surfaced so early (preschool), and that He definitely helps me to write, that this is the method He has chosen for me to share in His creative work.  I believe that I do have purpose and know from communications from various readers that my books have helped some of them over difficult stretches in their lives.  My characters also believe.  They don't preach, but faith is part of their lives as evinced by occasional mentions in dialogue and text.

I wrote poetry for years before I began to take myself seriously as a writer. It was pretty much serendipity that led me into writing. I'd written a poem I wanted to keep, and yes, because of computer paranoia, wanted to find somewhere to stash it. Then because my poetry was accessible, I entered a contest and was a runner-up. Wow! Somehow this made me realize I had a voice and something to say. This was in 2005. I had enough good, reinforcing experiences to bolster my faith in myself as a writer. I only started writing fiction because I joined a writing forum that required us to write both poetry and fiction. I didn't know beans about fiction writing at that point, but I learned -- ICL course, classes, writers groups. I had not only faith in my writing ability, but faith in my ability to learn and grow.


Like Margaret, I found my muse in poetry for a long time.  My blog is the poet's fire, after that love.  Yet, it took me a long time to have faith in myself as a writer.  Even now, there's a nagging voice questioning my own abilities.  I think my friends, and especially my fiancĂ©e, help me believe in myself and in my own abilities as a writer.  Love has a way of inspiring even the most doubtful of minds. 

Keeping Faith is difficult. No matter how secure you are in your beliefs and confident in your person, others can say something or behave in such a way that your belief and/or confidence is shaken or destroyed.

I've read and enjoyed historical romance since I became able to sneak the books out of the library van on Fridays by not saying they weren't for my mum. I love period detail. I love the male/female sparkle a talented writer can achieve in well-crafted dialogue. I love the theatricality of long frocks and men in pink embroidered waistcoats. I love those pictures on covers of ships under full sail.

I also studied (and passed) university level history. I've worked in serious jobs. I've joined in group discussions to help run committees and dissect 'literary' fiction. It is, therefore, difficult to make my friends believe I want to write historical romance because that's what I like to read. It is difficult to stall those conversations that would go down the, "But wouldn't you be better..." road.

No! I've written serious stuff and as an English major, I've certainly read plenty. My present aim is to entertain - while not messing with the history - and I have faith.

I think it's important for all of us to allow ourselves to have faith in something. In God, in those we love, in ourselves. We need to feel as though we can depend on certain things in our lives. It keeps us balanced. It gives us a sense of security. 

DAWN KNOX, author

I am too sensitive for my own good, so writing, with all the inevitable rejections and knock backs, isn't an ideal pursuit for me. However, the drive to write is so great that I've had to put everything in perspective. If I receive a rejection, I tell myself it doesn't necessarily mean there's anything wrong with my story, it may just mean the person who rejected it doesn't share my taste. After all, there are lots of stories written by popular authors that I don't like. There's nothing wrong with the stories - they just don't appeal to me. I find looking at my rejections like that isn't quite so hurtful. I just tell myself that if I enjoyed writing it and I think I'd enjoy reading it, had it been written by another writer, then there's a good chance someone else will like it too! I can't truthfully say I don't ever feel down and lose faith in my writing but then I remind myself the only way to stop the rejections is to stop writing stories and sending them off to be published.

Dear reader, thank you again for joining us and we’d love to hear from you. Keep smiling and have a fun week. Never stop believing. See you next Sunday…nothing better than being cozy in bed with some Musings.

If you have a question or comment you’d like us to muse upon, do not hesitate to contact me Christine Steeves-Speakman  at

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Sunday Musings: April 13 2014

Chris Steeves-Speakman here again and I’m smelling – green!  No, not the colour of money, but that living scent which is fighting its way up and out of the frozen ground. The smell of life. The smell of new beginnings. The smell of Spring.

Can you guess what our Muse Family is musing about today? You got it…

We've talked about humour in our writing. Let's visit one of our senses this week...

How do important…is it to use the sense of smell in writing?


I think it's important to use as many senses as possible, and it's honestly something I'm always reminding myself as I write.  In School of Deaths, there is an ongoing theme of a strawberry smell.  Strawberries are my favorite fruit, so I tied the theme into the novel, and by the end the smell is actually crucial to the plot.  For every reader who claims to prefer movies, I remind them that a movie is purely visual and auditory, no smells, tastes, or touches- so only 40% of our senses actually engaged. 

Smell?  It doesn't really play a large part in my books.  I mention the smells of different kinds of food, the fresh, heady scent of an ocean, the less pleasant odor of a swamp.  That is about the extent of my using this particular sense.

I think smell is extremely important for the environment of the story. For me a place announces itself with it's odors. I have been spending a lot of time in hospitals and they have a distinct odor. Though this has changed over the years you always know when it is time to eat by the aromas. Also there is a medicinal smell. In my first novel, If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor, Carolyn, the main character tells us how the hallways smell of "fresh paint and floor wax. Combined with the perfume and aftershave worn by everyone, the smell almost suffocates me". By using smell here it puts the reader in that high school hallway. You can't write about anything without the sense of smell. I think it brings immediate awareness of the scene and readers can go back to their own life experiences and gain more meaning through it.

I like to include scent when setting a scene. I believe it adds a lot to the ambience. But I do have to remind myself to include it.


I totally believe in using all the senses in my writing.  When I taught first grade, I had units on using all the senses in their writing.  Now that I’m writing my own stories?  I follow my own advice!

I once, for a scene on burnt hair, actually did burn some to get the correct scent.  I’ve also used real Egyptian incense from Egypt(my sister is married to an Egyptian national and is studying to be an Egyptologist) to get the real feel of what an Egyptian goddess might smell like.  My sister also got me some of the incense that was used in actual mummification process during ancient times.

For my current project, I’ve been hitting Parisian bakeries to not only taste the pastries but to smell them too!

I’m a sucker for experiencing different scents.  I’ve been known to go out of my way to experience certain smells and hope that I can convey that to my readers. 

JAMI GRAY, author

When I worked on my third book in my Urban Fantasy series, smell played an integral part in the story, especially since my main characters were shifters. The challenge for me was to find unique combinations to evoke familiar emotions--chocolate and cinnamon for comfort, burnt plastic for simmering anger.

I'm a firm believer that the more of our senses a writer can weave into their story, the more "real" it will become to our readers, because scents help a reader submerse themselves in a scene.
 "...alkaline scent of stale urine mixed with rancid trash, seasoned with a hint of kerosene drifted from the brown bottles littering the alley."

Anyone else fighting the urge to wrinkle their nose at this point?

Even if your characters don't have an enhanced sense of smell, it will still enhance your scene and give your reader a "scent visual", For example, if you read "the rich, decadence of warm chocolate chip cookies", I bet your next stop is your kitchen or a bakery.

I've heard the "strongest" of our senses is that of smell.  One whiff of a stray arouma can transport us across time and space.  When I smell Ponds Cold Cream I am instantly back in my childhood watching  my mother take off her makeup for the day.  I associate the smell of Ponds and the smell of face powder with her and wish I could give her a hug.  Of course, my mom has been gone for years.

And who, when they smell either cotton candy or cinnamon buns does not think of a carnival, circus,  or a fair?

As powerful as the sense of smell can be, I am afraid I do not use it in my writing nearly as much as I could/should.  I will have to start being more aware of where and when the sense of smell can enrich my stories.

I always use the sense of smell because I find it very evocative myself. Any Scot of a certain age will recognise 'the smell of an SMT bus'. Walking round a transport museum, transports me to the 50s and being agonisingly sick whenever the family travelled anywhere.
The smell of kippers, however, is a happier memory. Combined with woodsmoke and sweet peas it takes me to the large dining-room of a big house my husband and I visited regularly while courting.
I try to have my characters carry their personal scent which their other half will recognise with eyes shut: lavender, lemon, horse muck, tobacco, sandalwood - I write Regency type historical romance. Also, I like to use oddities I've noticed such as the way new cotton garments smell of tobacco or the way one's breath may indicate an illness such as diabetes. Couldn't write without it.

A whiff of Chanel Number Five and I'm a child again. One night, on her way out for the evening, my mother hugged me tight. Whenever I felt lonely, I held my hands over my nose and the scent of her perfume comforted me. The smell of roses remind me of my grandmother. A whiff of tobacco makes me think of my grandfather, rolling his own cigarettes. I could go on and on, but you get the picture. The sense of smell stirs up our memories. I think it's a great tool for writers to use to evoke emotion in our readers.

DAWN KNOX, author

The description or mention of a smell can be an important way of evoking emotions and adding to the vividness of a scene. Used more subtly, smells can hint at something, without being explicit - probably the ultimate 'Show, don't tell.' With the advances in technology and Virtual Reality, I wonder how long it might be before e-books come equipped with built in smell, sound, touch and taste facilities. I can't make up my mind if that will be progress!

Dear reader, thank you again for joining us and we’d love to hear from you. Keep smiling and have a fun week. See you next Sunday…nothing better than being cozy in bed with some Musings.

If you have a question or comment you’d like us to muse upon, do not hesitate to contact me Christine Steeves-Speakman  at

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Digital Dalliances: From slush to mush

All my life, I was a writer poised on the precipice before letting go of the Zip Line and slipping from writer into author. Finally, with the encouragement of a dear friend, I “got writing.”

“Romance sells!” They told me. The journey between writer and author is a long cinder trail of mishaps and missteps. While on that uncertain path, I wrote about writing. When I learned something important, I shared it. Later I branched out to favorite and familiar subjects such as nursing home abuse, hospice, and after a search for my birth mother, adoption.

My issues of fraud, longing, humor, and more “natural” issues such as card playing and travel while observing senior citizens combined to jell my Brand.

Daughters of the Sea, (2013) is a romance based on the legends of the South Pacific. Legends make good blurbs describing visual scenes without disorienting the readers.

Daughters of the Sea's legend of the coconut as told over dinner by contemporary hero, Ian Christopher, to contemporary heroine, Laura Cates.

“Oh, you know, the old love conquers all stories.” Ian hunched closer.
            “One told of how the coconut palm came to be. Are you sure you want to hear it? It’s fantasy.”
            “I love fantasy.”
            “Well, okay. It seems long ago when the island was bare of tall trees an eel from the sea fell in love with the Goddess of Earth. They met each day on the shore, to make love. Soon they came to realize they were not suited. She couldn’t live in the sea and he couldn’t survive on land. 
            “One day, as a show of his love, he climbed all the way to the top of her mountain. He was dying and asked her to cut off his head and plant it. ‘From my head will grow a tall tree reaching toward heaven. The tree will bear fruit. Inside the fruit will be a sweet liquid to remind you of the sweet kisses we have shared. The face of the fruit will be my face. Then I will be with you always.’”

In January, Morning After Midnight (2014) family dynamics, one of a shattered white southern family contrasts with our hero’s relatively upwardly mobile black friend in the midst of social unrest. 

Usually titles fall trippingly from my pen, but my most recent work for MuseItUp was bereft of a title. Brainstorming was my only solution. I needed a way to encapsulate the story in a zippy title—something that expresses friendship and mature love. Picking a title is like picking a cover. It’s a form of poetry in imagery and emotion.

This southern story, Morning After Midnight, conjures up visions of magnolias and humidity, conflict and soft speech. Add a difficult family dynamic and you have the essence.

The dysfunction in my families is reversed. Skillet, named after a martyred saint, is from a traditional family: hard-working father and mother, only child, and a pretty good student. His friend is our hero, Aaron. It’s his story. Aaron is from a messed up, convoluted and confusing set of circumstances. The boys’ proximity, as so many were in the South, was shaken asunder once they entered school —separately. The emerging relationship overcomes social stigma during the 1960s on through 1996 when the two young men, one white, one black, emerge into the light of acceptance.

To find a title, I kept thinking of the song, “Walking After Midnight”. The two young men’s world was dangerous for either to walk in the dark, but the music has a poky kind of rhythm I liked. A new age was dawning. “There’s Got to be a Morning After” came to mind. Both young men find their place and their true loves years after many have settled down to boredom. By combining the two images, the book became Morning After Midnight.

Log line:

Unsettled times and dysfunctional families force young lovers to rethink their values and find love between the States.


Two boys, Aaron who is white and Skillet who is black are bonded in a friendship forged in secret in the deep South. Yet it is the white boy, who must adjust and readjust as his family splinters in the changing climate of Integration during the fifties and sixties.

Aaron is hard on himself, but with Skillet's vision he finds a place to rest his weary cautions and return to the happier seven year-old boy he starts out to be when the book opens. Both boys learn what it is to be responsible family men. For Aaron, it's a struggle. Unlike his friend, he has few examples of the man he wants to be.

Julie Eberhart Painter, raised in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, boyhood home of James A Michener, is the author of Mortal Coil, Tangled Web, and the 2011 Book of the Year, Kill Fee, and sequel, Medium Rare from Daughters of the Sea, e-book and print. Julie’s first paranormal romance.

Morning After Midnight is available from MuseItUp Publishing and other online e-book distributers.
Find Julie at:
Twitter: @JulieEPainter

Julie is a regular blogger on , and feature writer for!issue-14 an online slick. Her flash fiction appears under
Visit Julie’s Web site at for Bewildering Stories, my bio

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