Posted in inspiration, my books, writing inspiration, Writing tips

What Inspires Me?

What inspires me? The short answer is everything. If we’re having a conversation and I suddenly get a weird expression on my face either you’ve said something to piss me off or inspire me. Inspiration is everywhere. Chrome Pink, my first published novel started with the motorcycle. My husband helped restore the bike for his boss that belonged to his niece’s husband who’d died of cancer. That coupled with my friend’s mother battling breast cancer started the idea. The character of Rae Lynne was my husband who I described during a writing class on characters when after the first day she said to change their sex or ethnicity but keep certain parts. I kept his attitude and mechanical ability. The story then evolved from news articles about sex trafficking and a song on the radio. Inspiration was everywhere and I just had to filter it out.

Getting inspired or feeding the muse is more about showing up ready to listen or opening yourself up to be inspired. Steven King says he doesn’t wait for inspiration he teaches it to show up every morning. Those who wait for inspiration before they write aren’t writers, King calls them waiters. No offense to Mr. King but training your muse to show up each morning takes time and dedication. It is also a luxury some of us don’t have with a 9 to 5 job or worse, a job where we work shifts and have to reinvent our muse every few weeks. NaNoWriMo is a great way for new and like me, slightly used authors to find a few minutes to dedicate to writing. The idea is to teach our muse to show up whenever we sit down to write.

NaNoWriMo is a great commitment because there are prizes at the end that make reaching the goal more appealing. It gives us an added incentive to write daily. For me, my first NaNoWriMo was to prove I could write to a deadline. Each subsequent NaNos I’ve done more for fun but also to remind myself to show up. To be a serious writer with plans of being published means you have to make it a priority and you have to make sacrifices. NaNoWriMo helps teach us how to do that. Inspiration plus perspiration creates success.

And we return to inspiration. How do we find inspiration for the next chapter, the blank page, a new character? For those of us who are pantsers it might be a lot of staring at the screen wondering what to write next but there are tricks of the trade you can develop with a little experience and experimentation. While I don’t like to outline, a list of ideas or sticky notes with scene suggestions can help with your inspiration is flagging. Skipping to the part you do know or for me, if I’m having trouble with a character’s point of view or understanding them, I’ll write a short story about their backstory. This is something you can later use on your blog or newsletter. Nothing has to be wasted.

NaNo is about showing up and writing, that is the main objective. NaNo and other writing challenges like Book in a Week teach us to make writing a priority. Maybe we can’t juggle everything between work, family and other obligations but you can choose to write instead of playing games on your phone or scrolling through cat photos on social media. Fatigue, sickness, a troubled mind, other obligations, all of these things can dampen our inspiration so developing a plan for when you have a few minutes you can dedicate to writing will allow you to bring the inspiration with you. As King and others have said, we have to train our muse to show up when we want to write. Here are some cool things I’ve heard about or tried:

Writing on my phone (Michael LaRonn). There are apps you can download but I just write in my pages. This is great when you’re at the doctor’s office or even in line at Walmart. Write a few lines of your story, an idea for a character or a snippet of dialogue so it’s not forgotten and time isn’t wasted.  

Sticky notes (Kate Parker and Sarah Cannon) color coded for characters and scenes you can even have plot twists or turning points and even setting each in a different color, write them in one-liners just to give you an idea of where to go next.

Index cards (Sarra Cannon) color coded for characters and scenes this is a great way to keep track of what you want to happen in the book without a firm outline.

Journaling: keep a writing journal for inspiration, ideas, characters, etc. You can do this for each story or as a general idea book.

I take ideas from other authors and writing coaches I’ve taken classes from or spoken to and found ways to make them work for me. As a pantser I don’t want to do a lot of prewriting, but one technique Marni Graff taught me was stop in the middle of a chapter or scene and make notes about what comes next before closing the computer, so you know how to start without having to go back and read what you wrote previously. This will help you save time.

Another suggestion especially for mystery writers and this could also work for romance authors and suspense writers, write your ending first and work your way back to the beginning. I admit, this isn’t something that works for me though I fast draft to the end and often know the ending I’m planning as I start the book but as I write it may change or alter slightly.

So, what inspires me? Everything inspires me: other writers, talking about writing and books, watching something on television, having a conversation, going places, doing things, the news, research, the list goes on. If you are open to inspiration, it will be there, waiting for you. It’s up to you to invite it in. What inspires you? The Americans are Coming on sale now for 99 cents!

Posted in event, inspiration, Thoughts, writing inspiration, Writing tips

Combating Writer’s Block

Writer’s Block

I hosted a Writer’s Block Meet Up on RWA’s virtual conference. It was a great, small meet up group that allowed us to discuss different subjects. Although the main focus was writer’s block, the discussion made me realize that there are a lot of things that can cause writer’s block.

How has Covid effected your writing? Are you in quarantine writing more or are you like me, working and feeling exhausted? My writing has suffered during the virus. I’m considered an essential worker. I manage a liquor store. People are working from home or are staying at home. But it wasn’t just the increase in sales but the worry and concern over what this virus could do to me or to my family. Working with the public, having extra responsibilities to keep us safe, fear of bringing it home, all of this made it difficult for me to write. I finished Janie’s Secrets during Covid, it was nearly a month later than I’d planned but I did finish it. Unfortunately, that put me behind on other things I wanted to write like the novella for the Heart of Carolina and The New Romance Café. Covid has just zapped me.   

What do you think is the biggest cause of writer’s block? I rarely have trouble thinking of things to write. I have trouble finding time to write. This year has been difficult with the extra stress, work and grief. I have a large family, a home, a mother who depends on me, a husband who’d like a little attention occasionally, and then there is the marketing and promoting that also takes time.

The worst time I had with writer’s block was after we lost our home to fire followed by losing my dad the next year, then Hurricane Irene destroying my mother’s home, and she falling and breaking her hip. I had a difficult time getting back into the swing of writing. Chrome Pink took several years to get written, but writing it was what helped me out of my writer’s block. One of the first things I did to help with my own writer’s block was take online classes. I also attended a local writer’s conference. I began my own writer’s group. I pushed through the block and just started writing. I wrote less than 500 words a day at that time and not every day then. Making it a habit, as often as I can a daily habit, pushing myself to write more, competing in Book in a Week and NaNoWriMo has also helped fight through the writer’s block.

Do you have any hacks to help you combat writer’s block? Normal writer’s block, i.e. fatigue, stress, lack of time, I fight in a variety of ways.


I love to dance. Sometimes a little music and movement can shake something loose in the muse.

A walk. My town is the inspiration for my series, a walk around town puts me in touch with my muse. I often take photos which I use on social media, so my walk is a two-for, or three-for as it’s also good for me.

Playing with my grandchildren, two of my grands live next door and whenever they call for grandma, I can’t say no. I mean, who could say no to two adorable little boys?


Write something different.

Try poetry. Write a poem or song, try writing it from your character’s POV.

Write an interview with your characters. Ask them the hard questions.

Write an article, blog post, advertisement, or synopsis.

Write until you have a breakthrough.


Maybe you need to read over what you’ve written and see where you’ve gone off the rails.

Rethink, replot, or rewrite until you see your way out of your schlump.

Read a craft book to help you write better.

Read and relax.

Listen: this was suggested in our discussion this morning and I cannot believe I didn’t think of it because I do this.

Audio-dramas or books: listen to your favorite performances or authors and pay attention to how they write or put words together; or listening to craft books on writing.

YouTube videos or podcasts: there are several tutorials on the craft and business of writing. They can inspire you to write better or give you new ideas.

I’d love to hear how you combat writer’s block. Share your tricks and hacks.

Posted in contest, Story

The Wreck

I have been so busy I haven’t had time to do a rewrite on my idea of a horror story. I finally took the time to try again. I hope you like the rewrite. Don’t forget The Pamlico Writers Group and The Haunted Pamlico are having a writing competition. I can’t compete but I can have fun writing. Let’s see what you’ve got.

“Lady, ma’am, can you hear me?”        

Of course, she could hear him, he was shouting in her ear. She tried to move away from the noise, but she couldn’t move. She was restrained. Why am I restrained?

“Ma’am, don’t move.”

Why couldn’t she move? Blinking, she tried to force her eyes open. Bright light shocked her eyes increasing the pain in her head. She groaned closing her eyes against the intense burn.

“It’s okay lady, I got you. We’ll get you out of there, just don’t move.”

“What-why?” She didn’t recognize her own voice.

“You’ve had an accident,” the man said.

Struggling to open her eyes, she blinked the blurriness away and concentrated on her surroundings. The pain was less shocking this time. The light and the heat were refracted by the cracked windshield. The rear view mirror lay propped on the dash reflecting the brightness into her eyes.

Her breath caught in her chest as she saw just her face mirrored on the face of the man beside her. A whimper escaped her cracked and trembling lips. “What are you?”

“Ma’am, it’s okay, I’m a firefighter. I’m here to help you.”

Squinting her eyes, she forced her brain to focus. The faceless man was wearing a shield. Her own face had been reflected in his face-guard. It’s okay, he’ll protect you.

“Calm down, it’s going to be okay. My buddies are working on releasing the vehicle. You’re going to be just fine.” The car shifted and tilted.

She screamed.

“I got you.”

“Where am I? What’s going on?”

No one replied.

The car rolled to the side. She widened her eyes, as the car’s nose pointed down giving her a view of the ravine where they perched. Crying out, she clutched at the firefighter.

“I got you.”

The backdoor swung open and closed with an ominous creak. Shifting her head, she stared into the abyss. From her peripheral she saw a child’s safety seat sitting askew in the backseat. She could picture a child, a little tow-haired boy. Tears streamed down her face. “My baby?”

The firefighter shifted. “He’s not here.”

A dream of him being pulled from the seat by some unknown force flitted through her thoughts. She stared at the door as it swung back and forth with the movement of the rescue workers. “Where my child?” She whispered, her voice hoarse from the smoke and the heat. “My baby.”

“Ma’am, there wasn’t a child with you,” he reassured.

But she knew, she knew he’d been in the car. “The light, the light took him.” The bright light had come out of the darkened sky, blinding her. The backdoor had been ripped open and the baby pulled from his car seat. “They took him!” Her voice rose as the memory returned. “They took my baby!”

“Ma’am, I need you to stay calm.” He spoke into his radio pinned to his coat. “I think she’s intoxicated.”

“I’m not drunk,” she said. Tears burned her eyes and she fought to remain calm. “Please, help me. Where is my son?” She shouted.

“Ma’am, there is no sign of a child…” but he’d seen the car seat. He had to notice the back door was open. “Could he be with your husband?” She heard the doubt in his voice.

She tried to think. Husband? Could her son…what was his name? Slowing her breath, she tried to stay calm. What was her husband’s name? She couldn’t remember. What was her son’s name? Oh God! How could she forget her son’s name? Tears streamed down her cheeks.

“Ma’am, do you know your name?”

Her brain felt scrambled, confused she shook her head and winced at the pain. “What’s happening to me?”

“Head injury.” He patted her hand. “It’s okay, ma’am, we’ll have you out in no time.”

The light came out of the darkness brightening the sky like daylight. She slowed her vehicle as the light hovered. The back door suddenly opened. Her son screamed. She turned to see something pull him from his car seat. “No! You can’t take my son!” She shouted. She tried to slow the vehicle but they’d done something, her brakes didn’t work. “No, give me my baby back!” The tree slowed the car before it careened over the ravine.

“Lady, ma’am, can you hear me?”

Of course, she could hear him, he was shouting in her ear.  Opening her eyes, she turned to see the back door swinging open, the child’s safety seat shifted as if a child had been pulled from it in a hurry. “Oh God, what’s happening?”

The light came out of the darkness as she sped down the highway. The backdoor was ripped open.

“Lady, ma’am, can you hear me?”

Of course, she could hear him, he was shouting in her ear.

Posted in inspiration, Thoughts, writing inspiration, Writing tips

Fluctuating Word Count

some days are awesome

Do you get discouraged by your word count? Do you have one week that is really fantastic and another that is just not something to be proud of? Yeah, well that’s me. Some days, some weeks I have so much going on at work, with my life, in my head that I don’t get the word count I’d hope for.

Doing NaNoWriMo this month, we feel a certain need to get at least 1667 words per day in order to make our 50,000 word goal by the end of November but some days I’m lucky to have five minutes to sit down and write. So what do you do? How do you keep up your word count? How do you keep from getting discouraged and just saying forget it?

some days I just can’t push any more

Several years ago I started participating in a monthly word count challenge, Book in a Week, with my local RWA, the Heart of Carolina. At first I would get embarrassed adding my 200-300 words per day to their two to three thousand words per day word counts. When I expressed this embarrassment, one of my fellow writers told me to celebrate each new word. That has stayed with me. Sarra Cannon in her Heart Breathing YouTube videos talks often about our joy of writing and how important it is not to lose that. It is the love of writing, of telling a story that first brought us to this place, or at least it was for me.

Doing what we love is fun but it is still work. Some days, if you are busy with your other job, your family, other obligations, squeezing in time to write, especially before you’re published or making money with your writing, feels like a luxury you don’t always have time for. Our time is valuable and we only have 24 hours in a day. How much time can you devote to writing? How many minutes can you actually sit your butt in the chair and write? Do you have an hour, thirty minutes? I’ve been training myself over the past few years to write in 5 to 10 minute increments. It’s not always easy to get back in the swing of the story when you have to stop every few minutes and do something else, but carving out time throughout the day has helped me build my word count.

Whether you add five new words or five thousand, it is still progress. If you have five minutes two or three times a day to write a few words, you can accomplish more than you realize. I recently timed my writing and I did 361 words in 10 minutes, now I have not yet tested it to see if that is my average but I do know three hundred plus is possible. While that’s not a lot on it’s own, I remember when I could only do that many in a day. If I can write 300 words in ten minutes and I can do that three times a day for three days, that’s 900 words per day and 2700 for three.

Build up your writing skills by writing daily or as often as you can during a week. I truly believe you need at least three sessions a week to build up your word count. Like a baby just learning to walk, we shouldn’t expect ourselves to be finishing a novel in one month the first time we try, but even if you do not win NaNoWriMo, how much will you have accomplished because you tried? What other benefits will you receive as a result of participating in NaNo?

My first NaNo taught me I could write on a schedule. It made me more accountable for my daily word count. It taught me what I could do if I made the effort to write daily. Now, like anything we try to do on a daily basis, sometimes I just cannot squeeze another minute out of the day, or I’m so tired I can’t think straight and need to take a break. But because I have tried to make writing a priority, I make a point to write at least three days a week for a couple of hours per day. Now, sometimes those hours are broken up into smaller increments but I’ve learned I can write 30 minutes in the morning before work and some mornings I can get an hour. Breaks and lunches allow another 10 minutes to an hour. After work I can usually squeeze in another thirty minutes to an hour. No matter how you have to do it, if you want to write, you can do it but it takes effort and dedication on your part.

Word count, like weight and age, it’s just a number. Yes, we want to finish our books quickly and move onto the next. We want to win NaNoWriMo and see that winner’s sticker on our stuff but the true prize isn’t the number of words per day or winning NaNo. The true prize is doing what we love, finishing the book we dreamed of writing, and knowing with each day we can be better writers, faster writers and accomplish so much more because we tried.

Happy NaNoWriMo if you are doing it. Happy Writing!

Posted in Thoughts, Writing tips

What Happens When a Pantser Plots?

Calendar in my NaNo Book

For years I have suffered a debilitating disease of UNABLE to Plot. I’ve taken classes and courses, bought books and listened to other authors, but when it comes down to plotting and outlining, I freeze up. This year for NaNoWriMo, after listening to several YouTube videos and webinars, I decided to give it another try.

In the past when I thought of outlining my story I’d break out in hives. I might get as far a A.2.b.3. before completely freaking out because nothing was adding up or equaling out. It was inevitable. I couldn’t stand that it wasn’t the way I’d always been taught it had to be. English teachers y’all have destroyed my mojo. It is impossible to get the exact same number of bullet points per letter for each topic, plot point, story beat. I CAN’T do it! It makes me nuts. I know, some of you know I’m already nuts but this just adds to it.

I’d start to feel like I didn’t know what to do and wanted to scream!

I did it! I outlined my story for NaNoWriMo!

Oh-my-gosh, really? But I’m a pantser.

What am I doing plotting? Why am I even trying? What is this madness? It’s called NaNoWriMo, shhh.

Because I’m doing NaNo (National Novel Writing Month Challenge) and I know in order to write faster, fifty thousand words in one month, am I crazy, yes, I need to pull out all the tricks. I’ve worked on character sheets, sticky note ideas and reminders, and I just finished outlining my story.

Am I really outlining and planning my story? Huh, that’s not how I write, is it?

Well, in truth, as a pantser, I usually just sit down at the computer and write. The ideas just come to me as I’m writing, well sometimes, and other times, I have to put in a place holder like “Something needs to happen here,” or “make the character do X or Y.”

I’ve wrote scenes with complete details and felt I had them just right and then the next scene might be “why would he do this?” While outlining my story I’ve used a few of my “placeholder” tricks. It’s not a real outline. It’s a barebones rough draft with a list of a few things I want included in the story. I also have a few questions and challenges. My outline looks nothing like what my English teacher told me an outline should be, but I think it gives me an idea of where I want to go in the story without fencing me in.

One of the biggest differences between pansters and plotters is y’all know where you want to go with the story and all the steps for how to get there. Pantsers might know where we’re hoping to end up, but we have no idea how we’re going to get there, and we may change our minds halfway through the story. For us, writing the story is the journey, if we know too much it ruins the fun.

With writing a series I’ve come to know my characters, the storyline and how I want the overall series to end but I still come up with new characters and new ideas that I want to incorporate into it. Some of the ideas make it into the story, or I save for future books, others get edited out or don’t even get written. I think of writing like a puzzle, I know one of my main characters really well but one of them is still a mystery. I have a few facts but I’m still getting to know him or her. I know my antagonists and my antihero but am I going to allow him a point of view? While some of you may know your character’s birth sign, color of underwear and if they like jazz, rock or country. I’m lucky to remember their hair and eye color and if they have any physical tells.

NaNo is about writing a rough draft and writing it quickly. While I’ll write my outline and try to follow it as closely as I can, I also know that as a panster I have to allow myself the freedom to spread my wings and fly. Just as long as I fly in the right direction, it’s all good.  

So those of you who are pantsers and want to try writing an outline, why not just write what you want to happen in each chapter. A one- or two-line synopsis of what happens or a question you need to answer. It doesn’t have to be difficult. Use what works for you. Good luck and I’ll see you later.

If you’re NaNoing, I’m Pamlico Writer, I could use a buddy to help me through and I’d be happy to do the same for you.

My working cover
Posted in inspiration, Thoughts, writing inspiration

Electric Guitars and The Blues

The Pamlico Writers’ Group hosts a monthly, one-thousand word challenge. The month of April, the picture was donated by photographer, Tammy Cooper, a night over the water, drenched in blue. I enjoy attempting to write a story to match the pictures. For me, the challenge offers an opportunity to experiment with my writing. This story is a play on words, using poetry to help me create emotion and tell a story. I’d appreciate your feedback. What do you think? What do you feel? If you’d like to try your hand at the 1K challenge, check out

The sky aglow with azure light. Millions of stars shining in a velvet night, sparkle in the reflection of the river below. His face blurs in the ripples of the water, a truer portrait than the image in his mirror.

Sounds of waves and cicadas fill the night with song. People lost in their own stories, pass him on the boardwalk, oblivious to the pain, the shame, the blues pouring out of his soul as he strums his guitar. Fingers pluck the truth from the strings, giving sound to the words he cannot speak. The apologies he cannot make. The song, deep, and dark and blue, shimmers on the tip of starlight, a fragile bubble against the wind.

His eyes, dry, the tears long past, he strums his guitar as the stars wink out. One by one they fade into the darkening sky as he sings the words that mock his pain. Lost in the music that fills the night, a troubadour on the crowded streets. Couples stop to listen, arms entwined they allow the music to bathe their senses. A coin, a dollar, dropped in his guitar case, the price of a bottle, the price of a dream. He collects their pity and packs away his pain, tomorrow is another day, but for tonight the demons rest.

Alone, he turns his collar up against the cold, the wind off the river chills his soul, and portents a future dark and bleak. Shuffling down city streets, dingy and gray in the fading light, his eyes roam neither left nor right. Head down, he counts the foot falls to the faded door. He’s not been here since before. With hands trembling, he fumbles the brass from his pocket. The key jambs in the lock, he jiggles it until the door opens. The hinges creak as he shoves it past the debris and memories gathered behind.

Air blows through the broken glass, swirling leaves and dirt about him in a cyclone of emotions. Faded memories dance in the moonlight, picking their way in the teasing nimbus. Oppressive darkness descends, suffocating, as clouds cover the moon. His feet move of their own volition, familiar with the path, filled with contrition. Stumbling over years of detritus, he visits each room, haunted by his former life.

The laughter and warmth filter through dust covered walls. Long forgotten songs mingle with scenes from the past. In the distance a dog howls, a saxophone lifts its mournful tune, a truck passes loose panes rattle, each sound a reminder this is his reality, now. A present bereft of their song.

Closing eyes, itchy and dry, his tears have all been shed. He leans against the door jamb, his portal to the past. Their room, the master, their haven from children and strife, the place they loved, and where they dreamed their arms and thoughts entwined. He yearns once more to step into time, a time before, when dreams could still come true. An old familiar love song tickles his memories, the sound so sweet he can almost taste the salt upon her skin. Her laughter and Bulgari Rose, teases and beckons to him. He hungers to go, aches to know, the touch and taste and feel of loving her again. With eyes wide open, he thrusts, futilely against the wooden barrier, swollen by time and damp. Aching shoulders sag, once more defeated he turns to go. A rush of wind, powerful and true chills him in his place. A pop of sound, a whoosh of air, like the releasing of a break, the door swings open, on hinges heavy with rust.

The room is a temple. The altar, her dresser shrouded in dust. The vessels and urns, powders and perfumes lay scattered upon the surface. A photo, faded and stained with time, of the two of them, arms entangled, a vacation somewhere, he cannot recall. A time before it all, lay derelict and lost.

His memories all gather, crowded into one. Too many to name, they jumble, like people on a bus. He cannot divine their story from the others in his mind. Only their last night together, plays clear and strong. Her anger, his teasing, her pleas, his promise. They’d stayed too long, the party too wild. It was past the time to retrieve their youngest child. They battled over who would drive. He was high–on life, on booze, on her. “It’ll be okay,” he promised. His last words a lie. How he wishes he could retrieve them, shove them back into his mouth. How he wishes he’d not betrayed her with his music and his lies.

Vanity, man’s vanity, his masculinity and desire. Shoving away the people who give his world measure, for meaningless money and fame. A terrible husband, and negligent father, convinced and conceited, he toiled in strife, to give his family a better life. Life, better or worse is all they wanted. One more moment to treasure, one more laugh, one more song.

“Daddy? Why are you here?”

The child, so like her mother, had forgiven him all. A boon he did not deserve or desire. Her love and kindness, salt to a wound.

“What are you doing here? Come home.”

“I am home,” he whispers, holding onto the memories, holding fast to the pain.

Blinking back tears, she nods. “She’s gone pops.”

He sighs and shakes his head. “Not when I’m here.”

Patting his arm, she leads him from the house, the mausoleum. From their old life, to the new. There is nothing left but ghosts here. Specters and regrets, they follow him, a constant reminder of the promise he failed to keep.

The moon pushes through the clouds, electric and blue, as a guitar strums a final tune. The old man whispers, “I’ll be joining you soon.”