Category Archives: guest blogger

Reflections (Guest Article by Mark Mackey)

To start this off, in 2009, I had no intention of writing books. I was more interested in trying to forge a career in screenwriting.

I made a short, silent film—a task in itself. I had to search down actors/actresses for it and started off with other students—most of whom said not a chance. This led to using the school’s, I think, casting manager—I don’t really remember her exact title anymore—to get local professional actresses/actor (two women, one male) for it.

By far the easiest aspect of this, the rehearsals, which always took place in the front lobby of the school. Hardest, filming—silent film cameras were used.

The reason behind this, the school had this thing in which they wanted the students to start off creating films the old-fashioned way before moving on to more high-tech digital cameras and sound.

After its completion, time was spent in a darkened classroom slicing the video apart, editing out the unusable parts, and using a specialized tape to put it all together in order to make it comprehensible (it was filmed the old-fashioned way on film strips). Often times, more than not, I had to ask the other students in there for assistance, which they had no difficulty providing.

One last problem with this—aside from getting it put onto DVD’s to provide copies to the actresses/actor—was Walgreens and the use of their camera department. Frustrating it was, they had this policy in which they refused to do it over copyright issues, and it took a while to get this resolved.

I don’t want to spend a lot of time rambling on about this specific experience, only to say I finished the film to personal satisfaction.

In 2010, after writing a screenplay based on a vampire character I came up with a couple of years earlier for a class, Genres in Screenwriting (Vampires), I came up with the idea of changing it into a novel, which is now Maureen: A Vampire Tale (Special Edition). Back then (in 2010), vampires didn’t seem as tired as they are now, but I could be wrong about this.

During this time, I became aware of the whole concept of self-publishing and decided on exploring this route, since querying screenplay agents/companies didn’t seem to be going anywhere. Neither were the few screenplay contests I entered—even though I won a couple.

This was rough going in the beginning, as the paperbacks of Maureen continuously kept being rejected by Createspace due to incorrect format.

Another difficulty I saw with this, the print kept being way too small to read.

Yet a second problem, which popped up during and still does, covers. Often times, I’d get a message which stated, “the cover is unacceptable and needs to be corrected,” and caused nothing but a frustrated headache for me and probably the independent cover artist who had to waste their time in making the corrections to work.

After a long while of suffering horrible frustration over this, there was a light at the end of the tunnel, as Createspace finally pointed out the solution to this problem. The way they said to handle it, use one of their pre-made templates. Problem solved, and I published Maureen twice now, since both the old, first version, and the newer, final version are both available on Amazon, and I think maybe other places.

Up until a few years ago, I used to think writing really long books was such a smart idea.  Not so anymore. The specific reason I discovered this, reading it word by word isn’t such an easy task. The truth of the matter is, it’s downright frustrating and time-consuming.

Let’s talk about another problem I see with writing, the whole concept of NANO month/camp NANO. When I first tried this out, I came out on top, but then the wins kept piling up. Eventually, this sort of got out of control and I kept asking myself: should I do the next one? Yet I continued to do it—each time since ending up with the same results. I keep telling myself this will be the last one yet I continue on to do other monthly word writing challenges as well. I don’t know, maybe I’ll sit the next NANO out.

As a final thought to this, I suppose one of the reasons I’ve been so hesitant to publish any of the NANO projects has to do with something which has come to my attention over the past couple years. Book piracy. I discovered I’m not immune to this while searching out my name for some information.



Balancing Life and Writing (Guest Article by Clara C. Johnson)

Balancing the time to write, attending five classes a week, homework, studying for exams, working a full-time job, and spending time with loved ones seems to be for the talented juggler, but I am here to tell you that anyone can do it if you can learn to manage your time well. Unfortunately, many (including myself) heard the famous writing advice that in order to finish your work in progress (WIP) and to become a better writer, you have to write literally every single day. Fact of the matter is, we all have responsibilities outside our writing such as jobs, family, and school that must take priority. In addition, suffering from health complications can also affect your ability to achieve this goal. Frankly, it can be quite impossible for anyone to write every day!

First, I must offer an adjustment to the advice. I think if you plan to become a writer, you should THINK about your WIP every day. This is a much simpler way to help you stay focused on your goals. A simple drive to the grocery store or sitting in the doctor’s office can be a wonderful time where you can think on what you want to do with your WIP. Whether you consider the plot, characters, or a scene you want to add/change doesn’t matter. The overall goal is to get your brain fired up!

As a college student, much of my thinking throughout the day is on all the school work I want to get done by a certain time or studying for an exam I have to take soon. A great tool I learned in my Creative Writing class was to keep a small notebook with me at all times. This notebook is something you should take with you everywhere. Write down your thoughts or describe something you see that interests you. What you write down doesn’t have to necessarily relate to what you are working on right now. An example could be this: you are driving to work, and you notice an old house that burnt down. It may be something you have seen a hundred times before, but you are filled with questions as to what happened to the house that caused the fire. You start to think; what if it was a faulty appliance? Some kids who thought it would be fun to play with fire? You could write this observation down in your notebook for later consideration. An entire story could be written based on this burnt down house.

While this may have nothing to do with your current WIP, you have given yourself a writing prompt. Writing prompts can be a great way to help get your creative gears rolling. You never know, maybe that burned down house could be a vital resource for a story you will work on in the future or your current one. Now, I know not everyone can carry a hefty notebook with them everywhere they go. For you, this “notebook” could be an app on your phone or tablet. There are many different apps you can use for storing your notes. Notecards can work too! Test which method works best for you. As long as you are comfortable with your format, it will benefit you.

My notebooks vary now. I have everything from full-sized notebooks, a small journal, and now a binder to separate my WIP. I spend most of my “plotting” time for my stories in between classes if I get all my homework done early. Sometimes, all I am able to write down is the description of my character’s appearance or personality. The goal is to be able to jot down your ideas onto something for later consideration. Regardless of the format you use, this is the best way I’ve discovered to keep my writing going.

Even then, I have days to a week where I can’t get the time to do it. It’s frustrating and annoying, but I want to say that it’s okay to take small breaks. Things come up, and you may have a couple rough days. Life happens to all of us, and there is little we can do about it. I believe as long as you eventually find the time, you will do it if you truly are passionate about it. Writing is not for the faint of heart and it can seem impossible to do it as regularly as you want. My best advice is to organize your schedule. Set aside time to write and take advantage of the down time you have in between classes, work, or whatever else you need to get done that day. If all you get done is just jotting down an idea for your WIP, that’s okay! As long as you keep up with it and forgive yourself when you can’t do your writing, I’m positive that you will be able to reach your goals! Focus on what you need to do and what works best for you. Each and everyone one of us are different. No two writers are the same.

Clara C. Johnson is a small-town girl who dreamed of magic, swords, and dragons. For the past decade, she has written poetry, short stories, and a novel. She is currently studying English at Penn State University in between drinking too much coffee and writing her next project.

Guest Blog: The Work by Kenneth Lawson

One sits in front of a blank computer screen and wishes the words would just magically appear on it. If one could only twitch a “Bestselling American Novel.”  But alas, the only person who could twitch a novel into existence was Samantha from the TV show Bewitched.

In September 1964, a new show arrived on ABC television. Bewitched followed the misadventures of a female witch married to a mortal man. A half-hour comedy that put a variety of interesting spins on normal family and business life with a witch involved.

What piqued my interest in this show concerning writing is one specific visual trick that they often used on the show. Samantha twitching her nose and making miraculous things happen. House cleaned, animals and people appear or vanish, and that’s just the small stuff the writers had her doing. While the effects worked perfectly in the overall story of the characters and their made-up world, in the long term, this introduced the audience to a concept of “Instant Gratification.” All they had to do was want something, and it would appear out of nowhere.

While anyone in their right minds knows we can’t just twitch our nose and get our work done, or clean our house, or any of the other things they did on the show, there is a broader concept or idea if you will. The idea that a vast majority of the things one wants or needs can almost magically appear.

A key example of this is Amazon. As anyone who belongs to their Prime service knows barring weekends, and holidays or the like that if they order something on Monday morning, chances are very good the UPS truck will be at their door by Wednesday afternoon. This, in fact, a form of “Nose Twitching”  One wants it, a couple of mouse clicks and the package on its way.  Not much more energy expended than twitching one’s “Nose.”

Another great example of the “Bewitched Syndrome” is Pandora, or any online music or movie service. One wants to listen to some classic Sinatra,  a couple of clicks on their mobile device of choice and it plays. One wants to watch a movie or series, a couple of clicks on the remote, and it’s playing on their preferred screen.
There was a day not that long ago when if one wanted to listen to Sinatra croon one had to do “The Work.”

Go to the record store, find and buy a Sinatra record, go home, remove the record from its jacket, place the vinyl record gently on the turntable to keep from scratching it and turn on the record player. The record spun, and mechanically, the arm with the needle moved over to the record and dropped, and the sounds of music came from the speakers. But wait, you weren’t done.

Once that side was over, in about 10 -15 minutes, you had to remove yourself from your favorite listening place and return to the turntable, turn the record over and repeat the process. These are but two of the many examples of the way people have unconsciously​bought into the “Bewitched Syndrome.”

Years ago there was only ONE phone in a house. It usually hung on the kitchen wall, with a LONG cord to the receiver. If one wanted to call someone, they had to know the actual phone number. In years gone by, they didn’t have 7 digit numbers like we do today, you had an exchange, such as the famous BR-549 from Hee Haw fame. You called the operator and told her who you needed to call, and she’d connect you manually to her switchboard. See. More work.

And if you missed a call, You were out of luck, and probably never know it, unless they told you later they tried to call. Today? Instant access, the “Bewitched Syndrome.”

There are so many examples of  “The Bewitched Syndrome” and how it is incredibly easy today to “Twitch” our way through life. To have a wide variety of things done or gotten for us almost magically.

But there are a lot of things there is NO shortcut for. Writing is one of them.

To create, one must sit down and actually do the work. Write the words, build the paragraphs and the chapters, and eventually one word at a time, build a book.
And you can be proud of it. Because you didn’t make it appear out of thin air, you did the work, put in the time, and energy it takes to create.

Bewitched has inspired a generation to create new worlds and tell new tales in different ways. The Bewitched writers did the work to create a television program. Now you must do the work to make your stories come alive, as actress Elizabeth Montgomery did the work to make Samatha come alive on the screen.

Yes, I’ve wished many times over the years I could twitch my nose and have my stuff done.

But alas, I’m mortal like the rest of us.

And I have to do is“The Work.”



Author Bio:

Kenneth Lawson 1

Kenneth Lawson was born in 1961, in Western NY. He was born with a heart disease, called Transition of the Arteries. He is believed to be the first in the US to survive the procedure called the Mustard procedure.

He started writing as a teenager He enjoys classic movies and television, and a variety of music. When not enjoying movies. He can be found writing his eclectic mix of science fiction, mystery, and time travel.

Today he lives in Central Virginia, with his wife of 30 years, and the youngest of their four children.


You’re Stupid and Your Writing Sucks (Guest Article by David Noe)

Ha-ha! What a funny title! Of course, this can’t possibly be a blog telling someone they’re stupid and that their writing sucks. That’s insensitive, and possibly wrong, right? Yeah, no. This is really an essay on making yourself better. Stated plainly, you can’t get better if you don’t know you need help. Sure, plenty of writers have a hard time, thinking their writing is below average, but there’s a very good reason for that. It’s called math, and writers aren’t generally very good at math. By definition, half of everything ever written is below average. That’s what makes it the average!

Okay, so how do you get on the right side of the coin? You can take all kinds of courses and classes and read all the books that claim they will make you great and you could still be lousy. Feeling better yet? You want to know how to get better? This isn’t the essay for that. You might as well stop reading. The truth is, I don’t care if you’re a good writer or not. I don’t care, and most other writers don’t care, and your neighbor doesn’t care, and neither does their cat. Some self-help books are written for a very specific reason . . . to sell self-help books. If you become a great writer, you may not buy any more of their self-help books. Where would they be then?

I’ll tell you what I want when I read a book. I want to enjoy the book. I don’t give a hang about where the author lives or what the author eats or who the author votes for. I just want a good story. You write a good story and you’ll be a good writer. Too simple? It comes so easy for some people. Yep. That’s the way life is. So, is this one of those tough love type columns? No. I really don’t care about you.

Here, then, is the value of this essay. Only you can prevent forest fires. There is so much value put in buying your way into being a good writer. There is so much coddling of sub-par writers. Nobody wants to hurt anybody’s feelings. Hey, I get it. Who wants to be barraged with a thousand hate-filled posts about what a butt you are for saying something mean (not that I would know)? You’ve got to do you. When I was learning to write comic book scripts, I was fortunate enough to have a professional school me on just how rough my drafts were. I must have rewritten that stupid script a dozen times. Each time, he would absolutely tear it into little bitty pieces. I had read the books. I had even had stories accepted, and I thought I knew what I was doing. It was very ‘Dunning-Kruger’ of me. I was stupid and my writing sucked, and I was extremely fortunate to have somebody tell me that (over and over).

Be smart enough to find somebody better than you (at least half the population) who you feel you can trust. Let yourself be torn apart, BUT only about your writing. Prepare yourself, expect bad news, accept bad news. Write and rewrite and write again. Listen to how stories and conversations actually work. Pay attention to life to develop an ear. If you really want to be better, know that you are one of the ones who has to put the work in. Other people are born with it, not you. You must work at it because you are stupid and your writing sucks and nobody cares . . . until you do. Be a better writer because you want to actually write better, not because you want accolades. Be smarter about your talent because you are paying attention, not because you want people to be in awe of you.

Okay, the secret of this essay is that most of the time, it’s narrated by you. One of the truths is that we can always better ourselves, but there will always be critics. Another truth is that nobody will care about your stories or your abilities unless you do. If you think you are a bad writer, you will be. If you think you are a great writer, you’re probably wrong. Never think you’re a great writer. That’s one sure way to not be a great writer. Always tell the best story you can. Care about your work. Then, the next time you tell a story, tell a better one.

David Noe has several books published by Amazing Things Press (novels, short story and novella collections, poetry, even some humorous, etcetera). He is co-founder and editor at InDELLible Comics. yadayadayadabuymybooksonamazon

His author page on facebook is

Joshua Mitchell-Taylor: Hiring an Illustrator


Our guest columnist today is children’s book illustrator and animator Joshua Mitchell-Taylor who is offering a guide for writers to understand the process of hiring an artist. His suggestions on what you need to know as a writer and how the creative process unfolds are invaluable for writers of any when searching for an illustrator.


Hiring an Illustrator

By: Joshua Mitchell-Taylor

Joshuamitchelltaylor sm

(Illustration by Joshua Mitchell-Taylor)

I am a freelance children’s book illustrator and animator. During this past year collaborating with clients in various specialties of illustration, I have noticed that many potential clients struggle with finding the right illustrator for the job. Is it the amount of experience someone has, or their portfolio that speaks for them during the hiring process?

I have promoted my services as a children’s book illustrator for over a year now, and there are many questions that I receive from potential clients. Can you illustrate this style for me? How much do you charge for your services? Do you have a portfolio I can look at? How do I get in touch with you? Any illustrator would be able to answer all these questions. However, all these must be asked before a project can begin. That is where the negotiations take place and laying down the foundation to a successful working relationship.

The fields of specialty I can cover are character designs, graphics design, children’s picture books, comic books and many others.  Every project is unique in content and style. I remember my illustration tutor telling the class about developing your own style, and to an extent, I agree with this. What I also believe is that as an illustrator, you have to be ready to adapt to any style that comes to you. Allow an illustrator the chance to draw a character in the style you aim towards your project, as it will help you know if they are the right fit.

There can be arrangements made for how to tackle each task as the writer and illustrator. Communication is essential to any successful project. I talk with my clients via email about the projects we work on. Social media is another place that has grown more popular over the years to talk through, and I have recently discovered the potential of promoting my services there as well.

My recommendation to writers is thorough research into these aspects for your children’s books. Do you want an existing style of an artist that is already published? Do you prefer the artists’ personal style to tell your story? Is there a deadline needed for the book to be finished by the illustrator?  How is payment going to be sent to the various specialists to bring your book to life?  You won’t just have to think about hiring an illustrator, but also a publisher.

Once you have answered those questions, find out the process that the illustrator creates his/her work. Do they draw on paper and then use watercolours to give a more natural feel to the page? Is there a specific piece of software the illustrator works on? During my years studying Digital Animation with Illustration at Futureworks, Manchester, I began to piece together that the digital world was impacting more every day into the illustration and animation industries. Artists are exploring software such as Adobe Photoshop or Autodesk’s Maya for animation.

I utilise Adobe Photoshop to illustrate my ideas. However, before that I hand- draw my thoughts onto paper and scan the sketches in. It is very important to maintain regular communication between the illustrator/writer, during the developmental process. We collaborate and generate the best possible way to illustrate their idea, with a little constructive feedback. This will ensure achieving a successful outcome within the writer’s deadline.

There is something I read recently about the life of an artist “Who Pays Illustrators (And How Much), by Marianne Litman (25.10.2017)  It opened my eyes to what art should be valued at for producing children’s books. I understand that for a writer, the fees can get expensive. As an illustrator, calculating the man-hours for completing the client’s work, and settling on a final price, is done during the negotiations. The illustrator has to be able to change their prices but values their work to what they feel it is worth as well. On average I can achieve two pages of a children’s book, from sketch to digital, in one week.  The fees will also depend on the style the illustrator needs to work in. I can spend around 15 to 20 hours illustrating, sketching and any changes made on one page. Depending on the number of pages needed, it can take around 1 to 3 months per book to complete. It is always best to be realistic and work with the illustrator, in terms of the amount of work needed, to complete your project.

Personal Note:

I love to illustrate and bring ideas to life. There is a feeling an artist gets when they see their work go from a simple idea on paper to the finished project. Teamwork is important, to make a successful story come to life. Without the writers, children’s books wouldn’t be possible, so the duties are equally as challenging as an illustrator.

Here are a few quick things to consider before you hire the illustrator:

Can they work with the style you want?

  • How long will it take to complete each page?
  • How can I reach you if I need to get in touch?
  • Have a price in mind for your project, but be ready to negotiate a price as well.
  • Let the illustrator know if they will be credited in your book.
  • After looking through their portfolio, give them a chance to illustrate something for you. The artist could adapt to your chosen style.
  • Do you charge per project, or per page?

Here are a few things the illustrator needs to know:

  • How many pages are needed?
  • What style do you want to have the book illustrated in?
  • Are there any deadlines?
  • Do you have any contact details to get in touch?
  • How will payment be sent to the illustrator?


My contact details


My portfolio:



What The Bandit can Teach Us About Writing

by Kenneth Lawson

This last Sunday I went with my son back in time.

40 Years ago, this week.

May 27, 1977.

I was still in high school. The movie was “Smokey and the Bandit.”

Burt Reynolds, Sally Fields, Jerry Reed, and Jackie Gleason as Buford T Justice.

The epic car chase across three states that ended in a big beer party. But that’s not the real story.

The real story is the fact that I saw this movie when it first came out in 1977 while I was in High School. Since then, I have seen it probably more times than I can count. My son has grown up watching this film we have seen it numerous times together over the years. It’s the first time we’ve seen it the way it was originally presented on the big screen.

The movie is just as silly and in some ways as stupid as it was 40 years ago. The now “Classic” scene where Burt Reynolds and Sally Field jumped the bridge that was out is just as good as ever, even better on the big screen.

But why does anyone care about a chase movie made 40 years ago?


Afterward, in the car, my son and I discussed the film for about 10 minutes. We picked a picked apart the plot or the “sort of plot” and the silliness of the whole thing. The likelihood Sally Field’s character did not recognize Jackie Gleason’s character on the CB radio it’s pretty slim if she knew the family well enough to almost married the stupid son. Then she would have recognized his voice over the CB; having probably heard it there many times before. All that aside, the movie still works pretty good.

But that’s the reason the movie works is not the story; the story sucks. What works is the characters. The characters are memorable. Burt Reynolds character the Bandit is likable he’s Every Man’s anti-hero he just doing the best he can and along the way he manages to do things that other people have not been able to do and mostly have fun doing it.
Jerry Reed is also excellent as the Snowman. Snowman is dragged into this crazy bet, he asked Bandit why we want to this silly thing; Bandit explains;

“‘For the good old American life: For the money, for the glory, and for the fun… mostly for the money. ”  — Burt Reynolds as Bandit in Smokey & the Bandit, 1977

You may wonder what this has to do with writing?

Theses characters resonate they speak to us, we can relate to them. They’re doing something that we would like to do. Granted, the story needs work, but that’s okay. In this case, it’s not so much about the story.

Face it, the actual story of “Smokey and The Bandit” is pretty thin. There are holes in the plot we could drive both Bandit’s Trans Am and Snowman’s tractor through. But that’s OK.

This story is “character” driven. We like Bandit, and “Frog” and Snowman, in spite of ourselves we like Sheriff Buford T. Justice. That’s why it works. It’s not so much the grand adventure, or the danger. It’s watching them do stupid stuff and getting away with it. As a teenager, in 1977, I probably wanted to be Bandit so bad I couldn’t stand it. To drive a Bad-Ass car, get the girl, and generally, do whatever the hell I wanted. That’s what these characters embody.

So must you write clones of Bandit, and Snowman, and Justice?

No. But your characters should be something either your readers can relate to directly, or in the case of Bandit, someone they can wish they were.

Bigger than real life. Characters that take over the story. They should ideally be relatable on some level, either age, sex, or occupation, or situation.

But above all, they must be memorable. Granted the movie has the added advantage of “Star Power” The actors bringing the characters to life. While we can’t have a young Burt Reynolds playing our hero, or probably not even the old Burt Reynolds, we must build our characters in ways that make them memorable, and for our readers to care what happens to them.

If we build good enough characters, then the audience will go along for the ride, silly as it may be.


Kenneth Lawson was born in 1961 in Western NY.  He was born with a heart disease, called Transition of the Arteries, and is believed to be the first in the US to survive the procedure called the Mustard procedure.

He started writing as a teenager. Today he lives in Central Virginia with his wife of 30 years and the youngest of their four children.

Kenneth enjoys classic movies and television, and a variety of music. When not enjoying movies, he can be found writing his eclectic mix of science fiction, mystery, and time travel.

Find Kenneth at his blog

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Can Acting Help You Create Memorable Characters


Whether I’m writing a comic, a blog post or a screenplay, the cornerstone of my writing remains the character.

From the very first moment you welcome your reader, and he reads your first paragraph, you want to make sure he knows:

  1. Whose story is it?
  2. What’s happening around the character?
  3. What’s at stake for the character?

This is because, from Shakespeare to Ibsen, the whole idea of dramatic writing revolves around the character: The one we root for, and the one who moves the story along with its actions.

But building character for fiction requires a deep understanding of human motives. A knowledge I had no access to until I shifted my perspective to a more experiential approach: That of embodying characters myself.

That of Acting.

And it changed me, it made me more aware of human dynamics. From the very first moment I started reading Lee Strasberg, Stanislavski and Grotowski, I noticed the similarities between my career as a psychologist, dramatic writing and those stories I wanted to create. 

But the real question is: Can acting work for you and your fictional characters as it worked for me?

Even without knowing you, and whether you suffer from stage fright or no. I do believe a short acting workshop can help you breathe life into your characters.

Here’s why.

Acting is a space for practice and creativity

Think of acting as a playground for discovery. Your own.

Acting will help you find your voice and it will give you a thorough understanding of your body language. All of this, on a playful and safe environment.

In this controlled space, you’ll have the opportunity to test, propose and create with others. It’s human interaction at its best.  

When you get back to your writing space, you will find how the relationships and interactions between your fictional characters become more natural and innovative.

Acting can teach you how to show, don’t tell

Regular conversations might sound like this:

“I’m sad;” “I don’t want to be here;” “I’m about to cry.”

I know, it sounds dramatic, but it has nothing to with dramatic writing. These are real life examples, yet you’re writing fiction. And since there’s no emotional value behind those phrases, we’re taught as writers to show and never tell.

Acting is no different. That means dialogue remains an extension of action. For example, a good actor on a good play wouldn’t tell the audience he’s about to commit suicide; no, we would see the signs: the gloomy tone of his voice, his gaunt appearance, his vacant stare and saggy posture. The way he thinks of life and the places he visits on a regular basis.

He’s hinting us. He’s suggesting and planting an idea. And we follow him along because we want to know if he’s going to survive or not. He’s in control.

That’s the power of character.

Acting teaches you to put yourself out there

Ok, all of this whole acting thing might sound promising. But what if you have stage fright? Or, you are self-conscious about your body, or your voice, or the way others look at you…

Just… don’t freak out. I feel you.

See, I’m an introvert. I like to read, spend time on my own, and sometimes too much social interaction can leave me heavily drained. Yet I’m so comfortable with myself that I can give a speech, act or sing in front of an audience –without fainting.

I had to learn that from scratch though. And acting helped me a lot.

Before acting I was afraid of looking at people in the eye. I was insecure. I didn’t know what to do with my body, how to move or whether to smile or not. I felt people would just laugh or criticize everything I did. But even when I forgot my lines, or made a mistake, I would just try again.

I didn’t die.

And that’s a huge lesson for us writers and aspiring authors. Acting teaches you to put yourself out there. It will help you with your pitching and that arrogant publisher. You will become more in control of yourself. And that confidence will translate into your writing. You will suddenly become less self-conscious about what you produce and you won’t feel afraid of being vulnerable.

Should you take acting classes?

I don’t think acting is for everyone, and I’m not encouraging you to pursue an acting career. But I do believe that it can critically improve your writing.

It worked for me, and my screenwriting feels more natural ever since.

Even if it doesn’t improve your writing you will have some fun, you will find an alternative way to express yourself creatively, and you will exercise too. Besides you can meet some interesting people in your classes –they could even end up as potential characters for your fiction book.

If you liked the article feel free to share it. Or, if you have any questions about acting and writing you can leave a comment below and I’ll be happy to help.

Happy writing –and acting.


Find me on my blog Fourth Walled


Dan de Abreu is dedicated to helping  others aspiring authors while studying the relationship between psychology and writing.
He holds a BA in psychology and  works as a copywriter, screenwriter, and comics writer.
His longtime goal is writing scripts for his own animated short films.

Jessica V. Fisette: How to Write a Review So Good That Authors Will Thank You

Reviews are important, and every serious author knows that. We beg and pester—and would even bribe readers if it were allowed—to leave reviews describing their experience reading our book.

When that review finally does go up, a moment of panic hits us as we start reading. When we’re finished, we are usually either left with a sense of gratitude or disappointment, a stroked ego or a bruised one. The reader simply either did or did not like our work.

Most times, the one thing we don’t take away from the review is why the reader felt a certain way. Sure, we hear them. They hated it—in all caps, I might add. Or, they absolutely loved it and it was the best book ever written. (Who doesn’t like reading those kinds of reviews?)

To grow as an author, we need more. More importantly, potential readers need more. When you post a review, people read it in hopes that they can learn something from it. Sure, you thought the book was great or that it was terrible. But, why?

Did you think Detective Sanchez falling in love with his arch-rival was clichéd or the perfect plot twist? Give a vague, spoiler-free explanation about how the main plot twist felt like a cliché. Did a specific character annoy you because they were unlikable? Or, did they make choices that seemed out of character? There’s nothing wrong with saying so.

What did you like about the book? Were you drawn in by the setting, the mystery? Was the narration funny or insightful? Did the characters feel authentic and the situations they encountered keep you engaged in the story?

This is the kind of feedback authors and potential readers need to know. Authors need constructive criticism to grow and write better books in the future, while readers need to choose a book that is right for them. They’ll look over the review section to learn about the quality of the book and if it’s something they would like to invest their time in. So when you go to write your review, consider what you did or didn’t like about it and why. Remember, you’re helping an author whose works you’ve already invested time in to write better books, and to help readers find books they would actually enjoy, so be encouraging as well as honest.

Overall, any review is better than no review at all (except in the case of outright trolls) so if you don’t want to include this sort of information, I’m certain your review is still greatly appreciated. However, if reviewing books has become a habit of yours—maybe you’re starting a blog and want to make a reputation for yourself—this would be the best way to leave professional, thoughtful reviews from which authors and readers alike will benefit.


Have a book or WIP in need of peer feedback? Join our sister group

Writers Unite! Critiques and Review to learn more about the review process and connect with other writers willing to critique swap WIP’s or read/review your published works!


Jessica Fisette is the author of The Vanquished, the first book in The Soul Reaper series, and Fragments, a short story. Her hobbies include discovering the benefits of natural medicine, wine tasting, and trying new recipes in the kitchen. She likes to unwind by typing out a scene or two in her latest obsession or indulging in a good book. Having been passionate about writing since she was a little girl, she is constantly coming up with new ideas for future stories and creating unique, strong willed- albeit flawed- characters to overcome the difficult obstacles she places before them.

Follow my blog at: Link to The Vanquished: Link to Fragments:

Rylee Black: So, Here I Am, a Writer



So here I am, a writer, and soon (hopefully) to be a published author. The thoughts I want to share with you here are two-fold. But first I’ll share a bit of my journey so far as a writer.

Growing up in a generation before electronics, we spent a lot of time playing outside. I tell you this to give you insight into what led, in part, to my love of writing. (Though I thoroughly believe that I was born a writer – but that’s a post for another day). When we gathered outside to play my friends usually turned to me. Why you might ask? Because it was my job much of the time to come up with what we would do. I took that job joyously and we would plunge into tales of cowboys and Indians, cops and robbers, or dragons, knights, and damsels in distress. Our Schwinn bicycles, complete with banana seats and tall sissy bars, became trusty steeds. Sticks morphed into six-shooters, bows-and-arrows, or swords. Thus armed we acted out the stories in my head.

Time passed and playing outside gave way to hours squirreled away in my room (ah the years of teenaged angst). It was during those hours alone (when my nose wasn’t buried in a book) that the stories we’d once acted out made their way to paper. I never shared them, I was much too shy for that, but I lived for the times when I could lose myself in either a world created by my hand or the hand of another author.

Sadly, I let life take me away from writing for years. It took a tragedy I will never recover from to lead me back into my calling. You see, one day in late January/early February 2009, two thing happened. The first was bad, but not terrible – I lost my job of five years. I firmly believe that the universe let that happen so that I would have the time to come to some kind of terms with what happened a little over a week later – my three-year-old grandson Bret died in a tragic automobile accident. That was one of those defining occurrences that give a distinct split to who I was before and who I became after.

It took a couple months to pull myself out of my haze of grief. But then with a job search during one of the worst economic downturns in history yielding no employment, I found myself with too much time on my hands. It was then my old love resurfaced. Within seconds of my idea to take up writing again, my mind was flooded with characters clambering to be included and a little fictitious town laid out before me. So in I plunged. In the almost ten months it took me to find another job, I wrote three novels.

Now I’ll get to what I originally began this post to say.

First point: Writing and the Rules

When I hit the keyboard all those years ago to begin what would become The Candice McGregor Mysteries series, I had a basic (though somewhat well-defined) understanding of the rules of writing based on a good education and hundreds, if not thousands, of books read (another topic for another post). It was only about five years later – after a couple relatives asked to read my books, and after prying the book from my terrified fingers, asked why the heck I wasn’t published – that I joined several writing groups and learned that there are A LOT of rules about writing I was completely oblivious to.

Here you might expect me to get on my soap box and preach the gospel of proper writing. But that is NOT what’s going to happen. You see, I found that the more I learned, the less I loved what I was doing. I spent hours agonizing about whether or not I was showing and not telling. If I should use said or something else in dialogue. If my characters had depth or my story arced in the right place.

I’m not going to say you don’t need to know the rules of writing, because you do, if for no other reason than to understand how you can break them well. But after you learn them, put them away on a shelf in the farthest back alcove of your mind you can, slam the door shut, and put a heavy lock on the door and then write. Let it flow. Love your character, immerse yourself in your settings, and tell your story. Don’t worry if it should be a comma, a semicolon, or a period. Don’t fret about ‘oh my gosh – is that telling or showing???’ – just write. Then when you type those two amazing words – The End (disclaimer >>> Don’t really put them at the end because like, nobody really does that) – THEN you go back to that alcove, take off that darn heavy lock, pull out all those pesky rules, and polish up your amazing story.

All that leads me to my second point.

Do NOT publish your book right away. (I hear your collective gasps and beg you to consider what I say next)

With the advent of self-publishing, you can polish your story (or think you have), create, or have someone else create, a cover that will draw people in – because yes, some people do judge a book by its cover – and press a few buttons, and bless the world with the amazing piece of art you’ve created. But I have a caution. Because I didn’t start writing to publish, it was several years before I revisited my original three books armed with my newfound understanding of the rules and regulations for fiction writing. And while I will stress here that I DO NOT believe in following all the rules religiously, there are some that simply cannot be pooh-poohed. Those three novels are proof of that. When I compare the now polished – and edited by an outside editor – books, the differences blow me away. And even if you go into a book full of knowledge, please, please, let your book sit for a few months before you push that button to launch your baby out into the world. So much perspective can be gained by simply stowing it away long enough to be able to revisit it without the rose colored glasses of new love.

So there you have it, a glimpse into my journey so far as well as a glimpse into my crazy mind. Light and love and well wishes to all you wonderful writers who have heeded the call of your heart to embark on a task that few will ever understand.


About Rylee Black:

I’m a wife, mother of four – two (a girl and a boy) I gave birth to two (amazing girls) I was blessed with through marriage- and sixteen grandkids – I think…at last count anyway. By day I’m a staff accountant at a major aggregate/asphalt paving/ cement company. By night and weekend, I live my dream of writing. When I’m not writing, reading, or working, I enjoy spending time with family or playing outdoors (this part doesn’t happen as often as it should sadly enough), and pursuing a newfound dedication to fitness and eating well.

I’m originally an Air Force brat whose dad’s final stop in his military journey was Lompoc, CA – the place I call ‘home’. Lompoc is neighbor to Vandenberg Air Force Base, and a federal prison, and has the distinction of once being billed as a flower capital. Marriage took me from sunny CA to Grand Junction, CO in 1991. Divorce and remarriage kept me there. Grand Junction. is a beautiful high desert town at the junction of the Colorado and Gunnison Rivers surrounded by the Colorado National Monument, the Grand Mesa, and the Bookcliff mountains. Both these states I call home provide unlimited inspiration to my writing.

Guest Post: John Yeoman

How to Bond With Your Readers: The Pain and Glory of Writing

Note from the Editor-in-Chief

We’ve decided republish this beautiful post by our treasured contributor John Yeoman as he unfortunately passed away unexpectedly this year.


Have you ever shied away from writing a scene in your story because it was too painful?

Because it triggered memories you’d rather forget?

You were thrust back into trauma: a marital breakup, bereavement, personal humiliation or some other horrific event.

Yet, if you dumb down that scene you’ll wreck the storyEven if your experience is totally fictitious, it still hurts.

All great writing is a learning experience for the author.

We force ourselves into new places, dramas we may never have encountered, the minds of strange people whom we might never want to meet but must—somehow—portray.

It hurts.

And so it should.

Unless we force ourselves to feel our characters’ pain, the reader won’t feel it either. They’ll toss our story aside.

“It’s not real,” they’ll say. And they’ll be right.

I discovered this for myself when I depicted a funeral in an historical mystery novel set in the 16th century.

Imagine the scene. A church cemetery at midnight. No moon. Just three mourners holding lanterns. The narrator is burying his beloved wife in secret. She’d committed suicide so could not legally be interred in sacred ground.

Will her soul be saved? He doesn’t know. He prays beside the coffin—and is answered by a mocking owl.

I cried as I wrote that scene. Why? Too many funerals in my recent past perhaps, although their circumstances had been quite different. But had I skipped that episode and dismissed it in a single line—”And so the lass was buried. God rest her soul.”—it would have been a cop out.

I had to depict every graphic moment, even its fragments of noir humour when—in the darkness—the narrator falls into the grave, apologizes to the coffin then bursts into tears. Otherwise, his subsequent nightmares—vital to the story—would not have made sense.

 Face the pain and work through it.

Not only will your story gain strength but you’ll also grow as a person.

Aristotle put his finger on it 2400 years ago. When we live through an experience of fictional tragedy—on the stage or in our minds—we are ‘purged by pity and terror.’

Catharsis. It’s a cleansing experience. An inner confessional by which we are reconciled to ourselves and human nature.

Any author who is not a total hack does not write to change their reader—the attempt would be impertinent—but to change themselves.

Every story we write with feeling is a personal catharsis, a release of tension.

Do it competently and your reader will be changed as well.

Dare we bare our souls? And let it all hang out? And enrich our stories with revelations that will expose our most private feelings to the world?

Yes! Here are three ways to do it without (too much) pain:

1. Accept that people have felt almost all emotions. 

There’s very little you can tell people that they haven’t felt themselves.

The days of readers being ‘shocked’ by revelations in literature ended with the 19thcentury.

Even then, their shock was mostly sham. Privately, Victorian readers lapped up the indiscretions of Madame Bovary, Moll Flanders and Tom Jones.

Write those scenes of pain, scandal or revelation well, and your readers will relate to them. Because chances are they’ve experienced something like it themselves.

Or they know someone who has.

Those scenes are true.

2. Don’t think that scenes of intimate confession will reflect badly upon you.

Readers fall in love with authors who, through their characters and events, disclose their own fallibilities.

UK novelist Sharon Bolton has publicly admitted that she writes her gruesome crime scenes to exorcize the demons in her own soul.

Do we think the worst of her? No. Readers rush to clasp her hand at literary events and her novels are bestsellers.

US crime queen Patricia Cornwell portrays herself in her bitter, tormented heroine Kay Scarpetta.

Few readers would like to meet Scarpetta in the flesh but Cornwell has so many adoring fans, she has to hire bodyguards when she appears in public.

3. Use the painful scenes as opportunities for personal growth.

Creative writing has often been prescribed as therapy for people who are stressed.


By writing out difficult experiences, we gain control. We structure them. We impose order on random pain.

So we own it.

The secret here is not to wallow in reminiscence—at least, not beyond the first draft.

Go back. Edit it ruthlessly. Crisp up those long tortured descriptions.

Anguish piled upon anguish will bore the reader. Read it again in a few weeks’ time and it will bore you too.

Pack all that trauma into just one eloquent line. Then pain becomes metaphor. (We can handle metaphor.)

And move on.

That’s what our own lives should do, after periods of stress. Creative writing helps us do it.

But ruthless editing is the key. Be your own best friend. Spill it all out. Rein it all in.Then move on.

How to go beyond the pain and glory of writing to bond with your readers

Bare your soul.

Expose your most private feelings to the world.

You’ll not only create a story that will live because it’s ‘true,’ you’ll write one that will help you to live.

To get over past traumas.

And move on.

Have you ever read—or written—a story that helped you get over a painful event? Please leave a comment below! Every comment gets a fast, thoughtful response.

About the author: 

Dr John Yeoman, PhD Creative Writing, taught creative writing at a UK university. He was a successful commercial author for 42 years and was a regular, much-loved contributor to WTD. He died unexpectedly in 2016.