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D. A. Ratliff: A Clue

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms. Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support!

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( Please note: the images used as prompts are free-use images and do not require attribution.)

A Clue

By D. A. Ratliff

Shiny gold bars.

Clay Jenkins caught his reflection in his darkened computer monitor. His eyes falling onto the newly pinned captain’s bars adorning his uniform collar. Detective Captain Clay Jenkins. He laughed. There were fellow cops from his early days with the department who would have laughed if they knew the rookie beat cop who seemed to have two left feet ended up as the commander of the homicide division.

He would have given his chances a big fat zero back then, but he had persevered. His goal to be a homicide detective pushed him forward. But one day during his second year in the homicide division, he had been called to a crime scene that changed him forever. One that haunted him still.

His eyes trailed this time to the bottom left drawer of his desk hidden by the partially filled boxes that he bought in to clear out his desk. The file was there. Every so often, late at night, or when the squad room was deserted, he would take out the folder and pore over it. But nothing ever changed. No one knew what happened to her. He didn’t know what happened to her. He needed to know.

Lost in thought, he was startled when Chief of Police Watson spoke from the doorway to his office. “Jenkins, what are you doing here? Didn’t I tell you to take the weekend off? Chandler is going be closing out things with his detectives over the weekend. Technically he doesn’t retire until Sunday at midnight, and your transfer doesn’t go into effect until Monday morning. Biggs has already replaced you as assistant commander of vice. So, go, take a three-day weekend, relax, fish, get some fresh air.”

“I should stay and get my files in order.”

“Don’t give me that. I know you have already done that. Get some R and R … you’re going to need it.” 

Knowing that he was going to lose the debate, Clay nodded. “Yes, sir. I’ll take some R and R.”

“Good.” The chief turned to leave but stopped. “Congrats, Jenkins. I have complete faith in you. This is your job.”

Clay sat at his desk for a bit, deep in thought. Was this his job? He wanted it, but he wondered now that he had it if he was up to the task. He had failed once, and that drove him from the detective division nearly ten years before.

Vice detectives, some working leads or covering the night shift, were straggling in and he decided if he was supposed to leave, he should leave. He rose, picked up his keys, then stopped. On impulse, he pushed the boxes under his desk and unlocked the drawer. Taking a deep breath, he took the thick file from its hiding place and walked out of the station. No rest and recreation for him. Time to revisit the past.

~oOo~

As he left the outskirts of the city about mid-day Friday, Clay powered down the driver’s window, allowing the fresh air of the foothills to flow into the car. He breathed in the fragrant aroma of pine and Linden trees and had to admit that he missed being outside of the city as much as he used to be. City and county services were combined under a merged government, and as a patrol officer, he had spent four years assigned to the lake region about twenty miles from the urban center. It was why he was assigned to the case when the call came that morning. He knew the area better than any of the other detectives.

As a vice detective and later assistant commander of vice, his work had rarely taken him out of the city. Maybe the chief was correct, perhaps a couple of days at a slower pace would be good for him. He had called an old friend who ran a hotel at the lake and booked a room. Dug out his fishing gear from storage in his apartment building, threw some clothes in a satchel and headed for Lake Spencer.

He glanced at the accordion file, resting on the passenger seat. He had brought along not only the file from his office but newspaper clippings and follow-up research he had done on the case. Foolish. Nothing would change, but he had never lost hope.

The hotel, a three-story white clapboard building, was located on the lake’s edge next to the marina. There was a wide veranda wrapping around three sides and a restaurant on the first floor. As he climbed the steps, memories from the day they were called to the crime scene flooded his thoughts. He had come here after the investigation to grab a bite to eat. Dave Newsome, the hotel’s owner, had known the victims. Shocked, Dave sought him out that night and provided a lot of insight into the family. But nothing that helped him discover what happened to Hannah or her father. They simply vanished.

After checking in and finding that Dave was out on an errand, he decided to get a sandwich to go. Might as well get on with what he came for — to visit the scene.

~oOo~

The house was about five miles from the marina. As he turned off the main road, he followed the dirt lane to the edge of the lake. Each click of the mileage gauge increased his tension. Get a grip, Clay. A homicide detective needs to stay focused. He scoffed. Not happening with this case.

Tall pines and flowering shrubs surrounded the two-story house. The yard sloped toward a small sandy beach and a small dock. He pulled onto the gravel drive and parked. He couldn’t move. He sat staring at the house, reliving that day.

The call had come into the detective division at 9:30 am on a Wednesday morning. Uniformed officers had been called to do a welfare check on a family because the father had not reported for work. What the officers found prompted the call to homicide. He remembered Captain Bridge’s ashen face when he sent them to the scene. A family brutally murdered.

Clay reached for the file and withdrew a photo. It was worn, not from age, but from the multitude of times he had held it, hoping to understand what he thought was a clue left behind, a child’s sand pail, pink with yellow polka dots. Yet it meant nothing. Or nothing that he could understand.

Forcing himself to exit the car, he walked along the pebbled stone path to the front door. The adult female victim’s sister had vowed to maintain the house and had done so. A caretaker saw that the grounds were mowed and trimmed, flowers thriving in containers, the inside immaculate, but no one had lived in the house since the family died. The sister had given him a key. A key he kept on his keyring as a reminder. He unlocked the door and stepped inside.

Cool air from the air conditioner flowed across him, and he stopped for a moment. While the air was clean, he could smell death. That coppery smell of congealing blood so vivid in his memory that he could taste its metallic tang. He walked to the kitchen, where the first victim was found. The wife, Holly Mason, thirty-six, was lying on her back, her throat slashed. The theory from the blood spatter was that the killer approached from behind, cut her across the neck, and spun her to the floor. 

He stepped carefully as he left the kitchen, shaking his head at his stupidity. There was no blood to step in, but he couldn’t find the courage to step where he knew it had been. Continuing toward the small family room, he paused in the doorway. Three children had been found in the room, single knife cuts across their throats. The scene still made him sick to his stomach. One of his fellow detectives had thrown up on the spot. He knew none of them would forget the sight of a two-year-old boy and two girls aged four and five lying in pools of their own blood.

While they were dealing with the scene inside, uniformed officers searching the grounds had found another body, the father, in the boat shed which sat next to the dock. The adult male victim, Brad Mason, had been brutally murdered. The coroner’s report had listed twelve stab wounds to his chest and back as well as his throat cut. Whoever killed him wanted him good and dead.

Only hours later, when they located the next of kin, did the detectives learn there was another child, an eight-year-old girl. The mother’s sister, Jane Bertram, begged them to find her. They had tried. Ten years later, she was still missing, and he was still trying.

He walked across the sloping back yard toward the boathouse. Conscious of the photo in his shirt pocket, he stopped in mid-reach for the lever door handle. The door was as it had been that day. Pale gray paint, peeling on the edges, the slatted upper door, and rusting hardware, now a bit more worn than ten years ago. What was missing was the pink pail. In the photo, it hung from the door handle. Now, it rested in a box in the evidence room.

The eight-year-old’s name was Hannah, and her aunt informed them that her biological father gave her the pail when she was two, only weeks before he and her mother divorced. The man who died was her stepfather, and from all that he had been told, Hannah was devoted to him and him to her. He pulled the photo from his pocket. What had always concerned him was why the pail was hanging on the handle? It was out of place.

He wandered out of the boat shed and sat on a wrought-iron bench on the dock. The crystal blue water sparkled in the early summer sun. He missed coming here but hadn’t returned since the case was suspended for lack of evidence. His instinct convinced him that Hannah’s biological father had committed the murders and kidnapped her, but the trail had gone cold.

Why had he come here? He had to admit he didn’t know. But for some reason, he felt anxious as if something was going to happen. Probably just anxiety about the new job. Not convinced he could lead a team of homicide detectives. After all, he couldn’t find a young girl.

Walking back to the house, he thought of what Hannah’s aunt Jane had said to him the last time they spoke.

Clay, I cannot bring myself to change a thing in this house. My sister was finally happy with a man who adored her and all their children. I need to believe I will have Hannah back someday. So, until then, and she decides what to do with her house, nothing will change.

He locked the back door, and as he turned to leave by the front door, he spotted the dog food dishes. There had been a new puppy in the household, who also disappeared. He smiled. Jane didn’t give up on Hannah or the dog. He wasn’t going to either.

Back at the marina, he took the fishing pole and tackle from the car, rented a boat and headed out onto the lake, hoping to clear his thoughts of Hannah. Three hours on the lake and he caught four bass, but Hannah was always on his mind.

He returned to the dock and took the fish to the hotel kitchen where they would clean and prepare them for his dinner. After a quick shower, he headed downstairs to find his friend. Dave Newsome was at the front desk.

“Dave, good to see you.”

“Clay, how are you?”

“Okay, caught some fish, want to have dinner with me?”

Dave agreed, and an hour later, they were finishing a fish dinner and a few beers. Dave sighed. 

“I know this place holds bad memories. You know Brad ran the boat repair shop here. Everyone liked him, loved Holly and the kids. Even after all these years, they are still missed by the regulars. Lots of times, people will ask if Hannah was ever found.”

“Not that I didn’t try. When Hannah’s biological father simply disappeared, and the case was suspended for lack of evidence, I hired a private detective to try and find him. He tried for years. Nothing.”

Dave shook his head. “Maybe it will just never be. Let’s hope she’s happy somewhere.”

After dinner, Clay sat alone on the lake’s edge, restless. Deciding that relaxing was not for him, he decided to return to the city. Time to get back to work.

~oOo~

Saturday morning, he had breakfast with Dave before loading the car and heading out. As he reached the main road, he started to turn right toward the city. But a need to return to the house kept gnawing at him. He turned left.

Nothing had changed since yesterday. The house stood silent, keeping the secret that only it knew. He walked back to the small dock and sat on the bench. He needed to face that he would never find her. He needed to let Hannah go.

A crunch of tires on gravel drifted toward him, then stopped. Seconds later, a dog barked. He stood and turned toward the house, just in time to see a black Labrador Retriever racing around the corner.

He was rooted to the spot as a young woman followed the dog. His heart thumped in his chest. She had strawberry blond hair like Hannah. As he tried to find his voice, she spoke.

“Hello. I … I … who are you?”

“I’m Clay Jenkins. May I ask your name?

 “I’m Hannah Clark … uh… Mason. Did you know my family?”

He walked toward her, desperate to gather her in his arms but didn’t for fear of scaring her.

“Hannah, do you know what happened here?”

She nodded, her shoulders trembling. “I do now. I thought they gave me to him. That they didn’t want me. That’s what he said.”

“I was one of the police officers who investigated what happened to your family. I’ve been looking for you all this time.”

Hannah ran to him and began sobbing. “I didn’t — I didn’t know what he had done. He told me that my mother didn’t want me anymore. Then a year ago, he got sick, and he died two weeks ago. I found a letter he wrote to me. In it, he confessed what he did. That he killed them all to get me. He showed up in the boathouse when I was with my dad, the man I loved as my dad. Daddy ordered me to leave, and I went outside with Buster, who was a puppy then. I heard noise from inside like they were fighting, but then my real dad came out, blood all over him and told me that we were leaving and that I couldn’t take anything with me.”

Buster, the dog, snuggled up against her. “I ran to get my pink bucket, I carried it everywhere. I wanted to take it and Buster, but he said I couldn’t have both. I couldn’t leave without Buster, so I hung the bucket on the door for my dad to find, so he’d know what happened.” Her voice cracked. “I didn’t know they were dead.”

“Where have you been living?”

“A little town in Northern California. After I found the letter, I loaded the car with what I could and came here. I needed to know what happened to them.” She gazed at the house. “I didn’t expect to find the house, but I stopped at a gas station to ask, and the clerk knew exactly where it was.”

Clay wrapped his arms around her. “You are safe now. Do you remember your aunt, Jane?” She nodded. “You aren’t alone. She has never given up hope and kept the house here for you. Would you like me to call her?”

“Yes … would you?”

He placed the call and broke the news to Hannah’s aunt. They agreed to meet at the hotel that evening. As he listened to Hannah’s excited voice as she spoke to her aunt, he realized he needed to get her pink polka-dotted pail out of evidence. 

Hannah was back.

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Please visit D. A. Ratliff’s blog, https://thecoastalquill.wordpress.com/ and her Facebook author page, https://www.facebook.com/D-A-Ratliff-594776510682937/

D. A. RAtliff: Going Home

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms. Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support!

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Please note: the images used as prompts are free-use images and do not require attribution.)

Going Home

By D. A. Ratliff

I hadn’t planned on going. Fate brought me to speak at a seminar out of state, and the fact that I was only an hour’s drive from my old homestead kept gnawing at me. I tried to push it away, but the itch was there and needed attention.

Foolish to do it. That chapter of my life had been closed for over thirty years. I had made my escape from the doldrums of country life and had never looked back. Didn’t want to look back. Memories suppressed were the best kind as far as I was concerned. But I did it anyway. I decided to go home.

A flurry of activity by my assistant secured a change in my travel plans, an extra night in the hotel, and a rental car. After a leisurely breakfast with colleagues before they caught their flights home, I set out down the state highway to the town where I once existed.

I say existed because I hated every moment there. I was born for more than the 4H Club. I hated cows and chickens and plows. And my family—they were the worst.

As I neared the small town, I was a bit surprised at the pressure building in my chest. The day I left and never looked back, I was seething with anger. That burn of hate was building again. I fought it back, no need for that anger now. I was free.

The town had changed little. A rail line cut through the center of Main Street, several shops shuttered and dilapidated. The diner I was dragged to by my father on Saturday mornings was still open. I had to chuckle, probably still serving those awful, doughy pancakes and rancid coffee. A few old codgers sat outside the courthouse, moving nothing but their eyes as they watched my luxury rental pass through. I laughed out loud. I could hear them now, Who’s that city slicker?  If they knew, they would bust a vein. If they knew.

The cotton mill on the edge of town was in ruins. My mother and grandmother had worked there. Both got brown lung from the cotton dust, and I got so tired of them hacking and spitting up mucus. Not how people should have to live. Certainly not how I had to live.

Two miles on the other side of town, I slowed down to look for the gate. I almost passed it by, but the old mailbox was still standing. Bent, broken and rusted, but it was there. I turned onto the overgrown gravel drive and drove in as far as I dared until the car was past the tree line and, hopefully, couldn’t be seen from the highway.

I got out of the car and looked down at my expensive loafers. I hadn’t planned on hiking, so I really wasn’t prepared. I’d have to be careful. This place wasn’t worth scuffing my shoes.

As I walked deeper into the now overgrown land, I had to admit that it was beautiful. The grove of trees where my parents built the house was now thick with underbrush, lush and green. Beyond the tree line were the family cotton fields. I leased those out, not stupid enough to lose money on the place. Just wanted no part of life here.

When I spotted the path, I stopped. A chill passed through me despite the building heat of a summer day in Louisiana. My mother had painstakingly dug out the path, laying steel rails across it so she could terrace the slope, something she had seen in a magazine. She had made me help her. Hour after hour, leveling each slightly raised terrace and filling it with finely ground granite. Made her feel like a queen to have such a grand path to the house. Made her look like a fool to me.

As I continued along the walkway my mother created, it was apparent that all that fine granite that had sparkled with bits of quartz in the sunlight was now nothing but dirt, the metal rails exposed, limbs fallen across her grand path. The carefully manicured edges now ragged with weeds. It was grand alright.

It was at the end of the path that I felt my first pang of regret. I shouldn’t have come here. Every cell in my body was irritated. The old hatred for how they tried to ruin my life came flaring back. They had tried, but I had won.

Where the large, white, French-style farmhouse had stood was only worn cinder blocks that were once the house’s foundation. I cracked a slight smile from a bit of morbid satisfaction. There were still marks on the blocks from the fire that raged that night. Now only a partial outline of the house remained. Vegetation filled in where rooms once existed.

If they had only listened to me, this wouldn’t have happened. But my dream to be an attorney since I was young was met with disdain and outright amusement. I had to follow in my father’s and grandfather’s footsteps, grow cotton and be happy about it. It was my fate in life.

No. It was not my fate. I was a brilliant student, and the local schools couldn’t keep up with my need for knowledge. Only one of my teachers recognized that and he arranged for me to get lessons through the mail from a college. I lived for those lessons. I had to rush home to get the mail before my mother got home from the mill and my father came out of the fields. He’d laughed at my crazy ideas and thrown the envelopes in my face if he got to the mailbox first. His words cut through me still. You ain’t going to college, boy. You are gonna stay right here and raise cotton.

I was nearing seventeen when I began to formulate my plan. I agreed to work for my father during the summer before my senior year in high school. He was so happy, certain that he had beaten me down. He had no idea. I saved my money and right before I started my senior year, I applied for life insurance policies on my parents from one of those companies that didn’t do medical exams. Or rather my grandmother did. She was getting sicker from the brown lung and the lack of breathing well made her lethargic and confused. She signed the applications without question. I paid the premiums in her name via money order, five-hundred-thousand-dollar policies on each of my parents, and I was the beneficiary. My parents may have been fools but I was not. I also got the key to my grandmother’s safety deposit box at the bank. Small town—who would ever doubt a loving grandson wouldn’t go to the bank for his grandmother to put something in it for her. Fools they were, but the insurance documents were safe.

During my senior year, I applied to the colleges that I wanted to attend, and with my grades, they were clamoring for me. I was offered several scholarships without my parents knowing as I had rented a post office box and kept everything secret. As the end of the school year approached, I hatched my plan.

The house was heated by an old oil furnace and cooking heat was provided by gas. I began to sabotage the furnace in February so that there would be a trail of repairs. Then the night I made my escape, I waited until my parents and grandmother were sound asleep and I blew up the furnace, which in turn caused the gas line to explode. The house was engulfed in minutes. By the time the fire department arrived, called by me seconds before I lit the oil furnace on fire, I was covered in soot, hands burned from trying to rescue my family. They believed me.

The town was in mourning for my tragic loss. I played the shocked son and allowed all the good folks to take care of me. I graduated from high school, and a month later I turned eighteen and received the settlement from the insurance company. I was out of this town as fast as I could flee and never said goodbye.

With one last look around, I decided it was time to leave. I had enough nostalgia for a lifetime. As I walked along the path toward the car, I took in the dappled sunlight streaming through the thick copse of trees. I knew I should feel remorse, but I didn’t. If I hadn’t escaped, I wouldn’t be a federal judge and wield the power I now possessed.

Better than growing cotton.

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Visit Deborah at her blog.
https://thecoastalquill.wordpress.com/

Write the Story: March 2019 Collection







Stephanie Angelea: To Stand With Trees

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms. Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support!

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Please note: the images used as prompts are free-use images and do not require attribution.)

To Stand With Trees

By Stephanie Angelea



Her name was GiAia.

She was Vietnamese and beautiful. Blind at birth, she learned to work hard at a young age, pulling her weight with the help of her devoted, twin brother, Bao, who was mischievous but a highly intelligent young man.

She was also a survivor of the underground cities. Cities built beneath the tallest forest trees, plush landscapes of beautiful Lotus flowers, the deepest and most secluded marble mountains in Ba Na.


Today marked the second anniversary since her people carefully laid by hand the first of many marble steps to build the walkways to each city. Steps that allowed them to escape the spray of bullets killing their families from a war they did not understand and knew nothing about.


In the beginning, the villages joined together constructing three interconnecting cities with sweat and blood, soon to boom with life. Self-sustaining and rich in power plus great wealth, but not of your typical paper money from before it was destroyed by Napalm. The currency of choice became seashells blown from the salt water beaches below the mountains littering the sand dunes in abundance, each contributing its own amount of worth. Daily she picked up shells in a burlap sack dropped by a friend of her people next to the forbidden step.

As the war escalated, their cities trembled but the marble walls held strong. Protection she felt only God could provide. While blood spilled into the rivers above, their rivers flowed of fresh water from springs traveling from unknown tunnels. A gift they knew only Mother Nature would provide.

The numbers of soldiers carrying guns quickly multiplied, setting up camps near the base of the mountains where she would sneak up to sit on the steps. She would stand beside the tall trees reaching as far as she could feel, hoping to reach the Heavens and kiss the Sun whose warmth she felt on her ivory cheeks.


Her ears heard the chatter of the mountain critters screaming in anger at the sounds of grenade explosions and diesel loaders digging the mass graves while the jumping spiders spun their silky webs without a care in the world. They were cities without a name, and it was forbidden for any villager to open the entrance step much less exit it into a country of war.

She and her brother knew the rules, but he was the rebel and she was the follower. While he gathered “much-needed contraband” and stole new technologies from the growing naval base of the foreigners, she sat quietly, waiting and listening to life in the woods. Their parents would be furious with them both if they knew, but her need for peace from the controlled chaos below gave her a chance to be alone and was worth any light punishment she would receive. Bao, on the other hand, would not get off so lightly.

One particular Spring day dawned and the weather was unusually cooler than normal. She sat contemplating the world, daydreaming of her longtime boyfriend, Xang, and sighed, thinking what a sweetheart he was — everything she could have wished for in a fellow — understanding and sensitive. Bao often teased her, whistling wedding bell tunes, yet something felt distant in their relationship she couldn’t quite put her finger on. Only she did know exactly the reason why. It was because of another who was not of their people and had already captured her attention and her heart long ago. A relationship more scandalous than the war itself.


Still, she daydreamed and brushed off a cobweb that had fallen to her nose. Plundering through the camouflage burlap full of seashells, she soon became annoyed at the cobweb tickling her nose and tiny spider legs running across her face.

“OK, little spider, enough! Time to leave me alone,” she desperately pleaded. Assuming it had jumped, she went about her business only to stop short with silent screams when Mr. Spider sunk its teeth into her eye. A bite that felt like huge fangs of a venomous snake.

“Never scream!” she remembered her father saying over and over. “The enemy will hear.”

“Who are our enemies, father?” GiAia replayed the question in her mind.

“Everyone, darling!” he replied.

Reminiscing helped her to cope with the excruciating pain only to repeat the scene while enduring a second bite to the other eye. GiAia’s eyes throbbed, and rubbing them only made it worse.

“Where are you brother? Hurry!” she whispered, sobbing to herself.

“GiAia! RUN!” Bao screamed running toward his sister. “Open it!”

She immediately sprang to open the first step, forgetting her pain and tears, still slapping the spider with its tiny legs crawling over her face. She had it open. The first step to their wonderful city. She could hear her brother running, one stomping foot after another, knowing then that trouble had followed.

Bao’s breath was quick and heavy but he made it to her, sadly convulsing to the ground with three bullets to the back. For a brief moment, she turned to him and they held each other tight, hugging under the step. Her tears and pain returned.

“RUN!” Bao’s pained scream rang in her ears.

“I won’t leave you!” yelled GiAia.

Without fear, she bolted, dragging her brother down the corridor. Her legs felt weak but she had to reach the foyer, set the charges, and close the boulder. It was their only hope and nothing was going to stop her. They knew this place better than anyone and she was fast.
Though the faster they ran, the sooner the enemy caught up to them and infiltrated the corridor to their city.


It confused her and she couldn’t help seeing the worst had finally come to their doorstep.
The corridor seemed to grow longer the more she ran, and she turned to see the Americans chasing them. Just a small glance for them to know she saw their faces! Their faces drew nearer yelling after them and firing machine guns, but it was not the Americans they were fleeing from but the newest enemy of their people from across the border.

People of their own nationality who decided that killing their own would bring them more power. She didn’t understand and it angered her, especially seeing how they had hurt her brother. The entrance was near and a great sense of relief overwhelmed her because they were closer to safety, but it was short lived. The enemy was upon them. GiAia gasped as Bao pushed her through the entrance where she hit the floor rolling.

“Bao!” she screamed, begging, reaching for him to get up.

“STAY! Blow them all, NOW!” he ordered.

“NO! Get up! Please!” she pleaded in tears, running to him.

The enemy continued to shoot and the bullets ricocheted off the marble walls.

“NOW, G! BLOW IT!” he screamed, his last breath, tossing a backpack to her feet.

GiAia stopped, frozen in place as the boulder closed. The corridor on the other side where her brother lay screaming was gone and he with it.

“GiAia, we have to go! He is dead!” her father yelled to her.

She fell to her knees and held the backpack close.

What was so important you would waste energy throwing a backpack instead of saving yourself? You can’t leave me! she thought, drowning out the screams of her father, then her mother.

Her eyes burned less and her surroundings were no longer pitch black. The dirt of the earth become less blurry and now she saw her father’s neatly kept hair lined with gray. The dark fog in her eyes disappeared and her mother stood before her, beautiful with red ribbons in her hair.

“GiAia, your eyes! They are clear,” GiAia’s mother said quietly, holding her tear-drenched cheeks.

She unbuckled Bao’s backpack and it was as always — “much needed contraband” for the cities. She giggled to herself plundering through it one item at a time. Deep inside in a hidden compartment was the newest information and blueprints for building machines specifically for laser surgery — eyes included.

“I can see, brother. I saw you for the first time but you will never know it,” she whispered, rubbing her eyes over the bumpy presence still clinging to her skin as she clung to the backpack and rocked with tears.

“You gave me sight, didn’t you little fella?” GiAia whispered.

Another year passed and the corridor still lay in shambles. The steps laid by hand to their secret city was destroyed. Only holes small enough for her to fit through led to an uprooted tree and was the only access to the boulder she managed to reopen. Bao was smart and he taught her a thing or two about a great many things.

Standing beside the toppled tree, she admired its hollow form — their efforts of turning it into a sight tower.

“False trees,” Bao called them. We could see out over the valleys and cities below but all anyone would see was a tree. The tallest trees in the forest.

The explosions of gunfire still rang in the distance but she was not startled for the seashells collected in the burlap sack was still left every day. The burlap sack Angel dropped off to get the latest Viet Cong intel and where they were in the forest. Thanks to her jumping friend with tiny legs, she could see for miles and had excellent vision.

The web of messages she and Mr. Spider left for the American soldiers today read fifteen southeast. That was fifteen spun knots down the center of the web and a straight line pointing southeast.

The Viet Cong enemy would never know the web held a message and they were all scared of spiders so they steered clear. Messages graciously left in the cobwebs by Mr. Spider before crawling into GiAia’s ear where he would get comfortable draping over it to watch the army creeping along the wooded jungles.

“Angel!” an American soldier hollered out.

“Yeah!” Angel responded.

“Your friend is here!” He smiled, walking away.

Angel approached with his rifle shouldered, pointing to the sack of seashells in her hand and pointing his thumb to the air.

GiAia smiled to him as she had for years holding the burlap sack he left for her daily on the pile of rubble that was once the walkway to the underground cities and the place they first met. His sack of gathered seashells strewn from the explosions of the salt water beaches below.


She smiled, waving proudly to him, grateful he spared her life and that of her brother one Spring day years ago when they first went into hiding, fleeing to their underground cities. In that moment, he ordered his men to help them reach the steps safely after they commuted their first rebellious act of defiance against their parents’ wishes and the strict rules of the newly-appointed leaders.


From that day on, he made their cities wealthy with beautiful seashells blown from the salt water beaches below, unbeknown to everyone.

“No matter. We are a people with no name and on that foundation we grew strong because of him and his American friends.” She spoke proudly. “One day, Mr. Spider, mark my words, I will lead my people and Angel will stand beside me! My name is GiAia and we will be Angels of the Lotus. We will shout louder than all the trumpets in the world to our mutual enemy — WELCOME TO OUR HELL!”

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Stephanie does not currently have an author page but you can find her on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/tjdsam

Write the Story: March 2019 Collection






Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2019 at Writers Unite!

2018 was a great year for Writers Unite!  We achieved our goal of publishing not one but two anthologies, Realm of Magic and Realm of Romance. Both books did quite well in a market saturated with anthologies and that is a testament to the level of talent among the members.

Our WU! blog on Wordpress continues to grow and we were fortunate to have many guess articles as well as admin contributions to the blog.  The Twitter following is growing daily. In addition, many of our authors have appeared on “Dr. Paul’s Family Talk” as admin and radio host Paul Reeves continues to support the writing community.

This new year will continue to bring you the content we hope you enjoy, Grammar Thursday, writing prompts, articles about writing from members and admins, and more new members, as our growth has remained quite steady. We will continue our association with “Dr. Paul’s Family Talk” on Impact Radio USA bringing you interviews discussing writing and with authors. Our third anthology Realm of Mystery will be published in the first quarter of the year and another anthology will be announced in mid-February or March.

WU! would like to help you get exposure for your writing and build your platforms in 2019. We are beginning two new activities to start that effort… one of which begins today.

Our first activity is called Write the Story.

We know one of the hardest things to do is drive traffic to your blogs, webpages, FB author pages, and other platforms. I won’t go into detail here but one the first of each month we will offer a photo/word prompt for you to write a short story, which you may post on you blog, webpage, etc. We will post the story and the link to your blog, webpage, etc. on the WU! blog and share the story and link across all our platforms. The idea is to drive traffic to you as we cross post the links. You can re-blog, and re-Tweet our posts while we post your links. More content and a wider reach bring followers.  Please look for the post with complete instructions shortly.

Also, as Instagram is becoming a strong player in building a following, we would like to offer you the opportunity to send us quotes from your novels or work in progress and links to your point of sale or blog/website/FB author page and we will post them on Instagram and other platforms as well. The image create will be yours to use on your own platforms as well. More on this in the coming days.

There will be other new activities as we go along, but our focus will always be on mentoring the novice and experienced writer. We are always learning!

Join us for a very fun-filled 2019!!!

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Words of Hunter S. Thompson

 

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Hunter S. Thompson was born in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1937. He showed a knack for writing at a young age, and after high school began his career in journalism while serving in the United States Air Force. Following his military service, Thompson traveled the country to cover a wide array of topics for numerous magazines and developed an immersive, highly personal style of reporting that would become known as “Gonzo journalism.” He would employ the style in the 1972 book for which he is best known, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which was an instant and lasting success. For the remainder of his life, Thompson’s hard-driving lifestyle—which included the steady use of illicit drugs and an ongoing love affair with firearms—and his relentlessly antiauthoritarian work made him a perpetual counterculture icon. However, his fondness for substances also contributed to several bouts of poor health, and in 2005 Thompson committed suicide at the age of 67.

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https://www.biography.com/people/hunter-s-thompson-9506260

Me? Market My Book? Part One:  The First Steps

Part One:  The First Steps

You know the moment. That second when the realization hits you—the book you have sweated over, lost sleep over, and spent hours on—is published. Euphoria is likely your first reaction. Then another thought creeps into your mind. Oh no, now I must market this book.

Yes, you must.

Unless you are a bestselling author, the burden of marketing your book will fall on you. Traditional publishers, who once supported an author in their stable, rarely do more than obligatory publicity for any author other than those with a proven revenue stream. Vanity presses charge for any marketing they do, which is usually very little.

A word of caution—any publisher that charges you for their services to publish your book is not a writer’s friend. As writers become aware of the pitfalls of using them, some vanity presses are spinning their services as “partnerships.” They are not. A traditional publisher will take a calculated and measured risk to do the work and share in the profits. Do not pay a “publisher” for the honor of publishing your book.

This brings us to the subject of self-publishing your book. There are pros and cons to this publishing option, but those issues are not the focus of this discussion—marketing your book is. Self-publishing will tax the limits of your marketing knowledge and probably your patience.

Let’s first explore the two services a self-published author should invest in before publishing. I say “should” because these two items are imperative to the success of your novel. Alone they might not make you a bestselling author, but without them, your chances significantly reduce.

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Editing

An essential but considerable expense you can incur is hiring an editor. Yes, you can publish without one, but you are doing yourself a disservice. If you are lucky enough to have a close friend who is an excellent editor and they take pity on you, they might edit for free. Not everyone is that lucky.

I know what you are saying to yourself. But—but—I’m great at grammar, I don’t need an editor.  Yes, you do. Everyone misses a comma or in my case, adds too many, but grammar is not the only reason you need an unbiased editor. You have written words. As you read what you have written, your mind knows what you meant. The question is whether your mind filled in the blanks and you did not convey the intended message to your readers. While we can edit and edit and edit our work, we will miss incomplete thoughts, leave out words, have inconsistencies in the continuity, and perhaps, plot holes. You need an editor who knows to look beyond the words.

That said, if you have someone you trust to be unbiased, then use them. Trust is our most valuable attribute, and you need to trust the editor you choose. If you don’t have a close resource, then you need to search for the best editor that you can afford. Editing is a skill set, and not everyone who claims to be an editor is one. An experienced editor can be costly, and you should expect to pay for their level of expertise. Before you commit, do your research, ask for recommendations, and make sure the editor you choose has a website with testimonials. Contact the editors you are interested in and ask detailed questions about their process. It’s your money—choose as wisely as you can. Your book is at stake.

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Book Cover Design

The other vital component to consider before the publication of your book is the cover design. It must catch your reader’s eye and draw them into your story. It can be stark or elegant, bold or subtle, but the cover must attract your reader to the content within.

Unless you are a graphic artist or even a Photoshop amateur enthusiast, designing your cover is risky. If you consider creating a DIY cover, Photoshop and YouTube offer tutorials. Do your due diligence and learn as much as you can about the process before you begin. Also, review the cover dimensions and guidelines on the publishing platform you decide to use. If you choose not to start from scratch, numerous websites offer stock book cover formats for you to use to create your own.

Just a few issues to consider if you design the cover:

  • Your cover needs to reflect the content of your book. Use images that correspond to a scene or theme of the story.
  • Stand out—make your cover unique and easily visible.
  • Study covers from novels within your genre, especially those by successful authors. Determine what drew your eye to their covers.
  • Use only free-use images and fonts on your covers. Yes, fonts. Some common book fonts are under copyright, and you need permission to use them. There are many sites to find free-use images—among them are pixabay.com and morguefile.com.
  • Reference your publishing platform for exact dimensions for the cover. Many components go into a cover—book size, number of pages, the font, paper weight, soft or hardcover, etc., and affect the design.
  • It is essential that the thumbnail of your cover is easily read. That thumbnail is the first thing that your reader will see on the internet—make it clear and highly visible. Only a front cover is usually required when e-publishing.

If you choose a cover artist to create your book cover, all the above are important considerations, in addition to these:

  • Selection of a designer should mimic the choice of an editor. Find covers you like and, if possible, contact the author and ask who the designer was. Ask for recommendations, check out the artist’s work, and then contact them. Question how they work, if they accept suggestions and if not, can you step back and allow the artist to create their image of your work.
  • Have an idea in mind. It might or might not work, but it gives the designer a starting point.

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When using an editor or book cover artist, don’t be afraid to ask questions or to challenge decisions politely. Be smart. However, you should always be considerate. They are professionals and so are you—behave like one. This is your book, and the quality of the job your editor and cover designer do will reflect on you, long after they have spent your money.

Remember that the title of your book and the blurb that you write to entice readers need as much care and attention as your narrative. We will discuss the blurb and how to write one in another article.

In this first article in our series, we have discussed two aspects of marketing that create a foundation for promoting your book. A well-written, coherent story and an eye-catching cover are the beginning of giving yourself a marketable commodity to sell. Yes, you have an item to sell, just like a piece of clothing or phone. In subsequent articles, we will be discussing marketing in more depth. We will look at the myriad ways available to reach the consumer, hopefully resulting in higher sales.

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Adam J. Johnson: Channeling your Muse

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Writer’s block is a topic we like to frequently touch on because it’s something that plagues us all! No matter what type of writer you may be, whether it’s technical writing, blogging, journalism, or you’re purely an author, you have done battle with this daunting foe. It rears its head at the most inconvenient times and makes you feel powerless. It’s seemingly a random occurrence that shows up and leaves as it pleases. This however, is not the case. There are several reasons that we suffer from writer’s block and several reasons why some are less plagued by it than others. Our muse or personal source of inspiration is one of the tools in our arsenal against writer’s block. Sadly, we often view our muse in the same way that we do writer’s block. We think it’s random. How many times have you felt the rush of inspiration striking and urging you to take action? How many times have you thought, “I just don’t feel inspired,” or “I wish my muse would speak to me?” Let me tell you, your muse is like that old friend you haven’t spoken to in awhile. You really miss them and want to talk to them, but you aren’t sure how to approach it. The answer is always as simple as reaching out and connecting with them.

The first step is identifying your muse. Now, I know this may seem pretty basic, but there are several of us who go completely by feel and haven’t put much thought into where their inspiration comes from. Your muse is, at its simplest, what motivates you. Let’s dive into that, shall we? Naturally, this will be different for everyone, but the core ideas are the same. Your muse speaks to you. You just have to stop, cut out the noise and distraction of everyday life, and listen. For authors, I find that your muse is often tied to the genre you are writing in. When you search for her using that filter, it will be much easier to identify your muse. For example, I love Fantasy. I love reading it, and I love writing it! So, I look at what inspires me most about Fantasy and I surround myself with those things while I’m writing. Which brings me to the second step of channeling your muse. Keeping your inspiration consistent throughout your day!

I am a visual person, so Fantasy imagery strikes me hard and inspires me without fail! Since I primarily write Fantasy, I will keep posters with Fantasy themes in my writing space, and I will change the lock screens of my phone and laptop to mirror the ideas of my current project. This is me channeling my muse, keeping in contact with my old friend inspiration. I also love music, as most of us do, so let your muse speak through the music you listen to as well. I personally love metal music, but not all of it is really inspiring for Fantasy, but I find some that is. When in the middle of a project, I listen to a lot of symphonic metal bands like Epica and Nightwish. The orchestral elements submerge me in a feel of the old world and put me in the Fantasy writing mood. If i’m feeling something a little lighter, I will listen to bands like Flogging Molly. The old Irish culture flows through the lyrics while the fiddles transport me to that medieval state of mind. A few common enemies to inspiration are distractions like TV and the internet, so I try to find creative ways to turn distractions into inspiration. Don’t get me wrong, even if you execute this part well, they are still distractions and too much of it will lead to excuses to not get your work done.

So, what do I mean by turning distractions into inspiration? I’m going to continue with writing Fantasy as an example. If I feel like binge watching TV, I try to keep the themes of what I’m watching within the realm of Fantasy. I will watch shows like The Magicians or movies like Lord of the Rings. The internet, particularly Facebook and social media, seems to be a huge source of distraction for us these days. In order to combat that, I try to follow a lot of pages that are Fantasy themed or engage in Fantasy discussions within the writers’ groups. Also, if I find myself staring at my phone or the computer, I will search through Pinterest boards. Just shuffling through Fantasy images usually helps send a shockwave of inspiration through my brain.

Obviously, you won’t be able to spend your whole day totally immersed in themes and elements from your genre. That could even be counterproductive. However, these are just some ways that you can channel your muse throughout your day to keep your inspiration flowing strong. Don’t Look at inspiration as some random phenomenon that strikes as it feels. Remember that your muse is as much a part of you as your willpower or your sense of humor. She is always there waiting to inspire you. It just depends on how much you feed her and nurture the relationship. When you combine steps 1 and 2, you are not only channeling your muse, but you are feeding her. Making her grow stronger and giving her a more prominent voice in your mind. So, instead of it being a step-by-step process, it’s more of an equation to bolster your personal investment.

As always, the team at WU! wishes you happy writing, urges you to stay inspired, and insists that you live limitless!!

Adam J Johnson

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(Illustration: Apollo and the Muses)

Quote from Terry Prachett

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We Write. Are We Professional?

Writers lead exciting lives. We can sit in the safety of our homes or cafes or wherever we choose to write and have amazing adventures through our words. As George R. R. Martin wrote in one of his novels,

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies…. The man who never reads lives only one.”

A writer lives those thousand lives as well.

Who are we who call ourselves writers?

We are ethnically diverse, from all socioeconomic backgrounds, but share a passion for writing. We publish, some of us are highly successful, some not. Many published authors would refer to themselves as professional writers. The question is, are we?

 

What is a Professional?

 Merriam-Webster defines professionalism as the conduct, aims, or qualities that characterize or mark a profession or a professional person.

The attributes of a professional:

  • Appearance
  • Demeanor
  • Reliability
  • Competence
  • Ethics
  • Maintaining Poise
  • Phone Etiquette
  • Written correspondence
  • Organizational Skills
  • Accountability

These attributes should be self-explanatory. We should in all circumstances be neat in appearance, calm and respectful, reliable in completing tasks or arriving for meetings, and all the other skills listed. All are important, but competence requires considerable study and experience in our chosen profession. Whether accountant, nurse, musician, or writer, this behavior should be our norm.

 

The Pathway to Writing.

Words are an author’s musical notes, brush strokes, or accounting formulas, surgical techniques, grammar rules, or any other skill required to become successful in a profession. If, as writers, we consider ourselves artists, then we need to gain competency in our art and develop the attributes that represent professionalism.

Perhaps as a child, you exhibited a talent for playing an instrument, for singing, or for drawing. While not all children with demonstrated talent will become professional musicians, singers, or artists, the training for those who do invariably begins at an early age.

The path for artists is an arduous one. Countless hours of instruction and practice, learning not only the instrument, steps, or shapes but how to perform with others. Years of preparation, mentoring, and often formal study at a university is required for a career in music or art. Higher education is not required for either a career in music or the arts, but the additional training only increases expertise. Also, artists often have another hurdle before they can perform. They may be required to audition to join an orchestra or dance company.

But what about writers? In truth, writers also begin training at an early age. Primary and secondary education provides the basics of grammar, vocabulary, and creative writing. Some may continue on to college where they can major in creative writing or journalism.

Those who choose not to pursue an academic path to writing can find a myriad of articles and lessons on the Internet. Enter ‘how to write dialogue’ into a search engine, and the number of articles offered is staggering. The issue becomes which of those articles are credible and which ones are not. With the voluminous amount of material available, sorting through it to find what works for you can be daunting and confusing but necessary.

 

The Impact of Self-Publishing on Professionalism

With the advent of self-publishing, the number of authors choosing that route has reached an all-time high. An article by Dan Balow, from The Steve Laube Agency website, states, “Traditional and self-publishing generate over one million new books every year in the U.S. alone, according to RR Bowker. Two-thirds are self-published.”

That’s a lot of authors, and the question is how many of them have taken the time and effort to hone their craft and learn how to write. Unfortunately, not as many as should have. The areas of greatest impact on the level of quality for published books according to Barlow are:

  • Collegial control. A give and take relationship between publisher and author where negotiation is required to produce a satisfactory agreement for both.
  • Traditional publishing can take as long as eighteen months. Self-publishing can happen soon after “The End” is typed onto the manuscript.
  • Quality of the manuscript. Editing a manuscript is never completed, but all efforts should be made to create a flawless Often, self-published authors do little editing.
  • Length of manuscript. There are industry standards based on what readers expect that the self-publishing world often ignores. This alone can create dissatisfied readers.
  • Book cover. One of the most important components of a novel, the cover attracts the reader to pick up the book, read the blurb, and be interested enough to purchase. Too many self-published authors do not take proper care with the creation of their cover and shortchange themselves.

These are all important issues that all authors need to be cognizant of even with the assistance of a traditional publishing house. To be a professional as a writer, these are all issues that you must address as part of the competency attribute.

There is one aspect of publishing that many authors, traditionally published or not, have to deal with and it can be the most important task they undertake. Marketing their book.

We welcome others buying our novels for enjoyment. To accomplish that goal, marketing is a requirement. If we are fortunate enough to have an agent or a traditional publishing house represent us, we might have help in offering our product to our readers.

The cold facts are that total marketing support is rare for today’s authors unless they are already proven revenue generators. Many writers turn to self-publishing or small independent publishers where marketing more than likely falls to the author, and few are qualified to promote their books. How we accomplish that task can define us a professional and establish how we are perceived in the marketplace.

 

The Interview

 There are numerous avenues open to marketing books, but the most personal is the interview. From local papers and magazines to a written interview on the internet, podcasts, radio and television appearances, and book signings, the interview reveals the author behind the book. Being able to make the connection with the journalist or host is imperative.

The hosts of these media platforms offer their services, their expertise, and the most important commodity, their time. While some media organizations charge, the services are usually free for authors.

This provides tremendous opportunity to communicate with potential readers and one that can lead to repeat interviews, not only keeping the author in front of the public but also keeping their book and future books in the spotlight. An important tool for any author to utilize.

A common lament among these hosts is that authors do not respond to emails or messages, are not available at the time of the interview, or cancel at the last moment without a valid reason. Some answer the written interviews, returning the questions without bothering to edit. Some do not follow through on promoting the interview across social media. Not only a must for the author but also for the host who has provided the service.

However, the behavior that was the most disturbing to these hosts was how many authors they interviewed who never said thank you.

We discussed the attributes of professionals. Here are how those attributes relate to writers.

  • Appearance – Dress appropriately for a face to face interview or a book signing/reading.
  • Demeanor – Be respectful, considerate, pleasant, and have a good sense of humor.
  • Reliability – Be on time, provide materials requested
  • Competence – Learn your craft.
  • Ethics – Your reputation is at stake, always maintain integrity.
  • Maintaining Poise – Be prepared for uncomfortable questions by hosts or readers, stay calm.
  • Phone Etiquette – Interviewing by phone requires you to answer clearly and concisely, then pause, and wait for the host to speak so that you do not talk over them.
  • Written correspondence – Bios should be as short as possible and written in third Interview questions should be answered thoroughly and edited for good sentence structure and grammar.
  • Organizational Skills – Be prepared, have whatever notes you need with you and practice answers to questions that could arise about your book, your writing style, etc.
  • Accountability – You have agreed to submit answers to written questions or be available at a specified time for an interview or book signing and should honor those commitments.

And one last thing: A simple thank you to your host is respectful and will build a bond between you and a person who can be valuable to your future as a writer.

 

Are Writers Professional? We Can Be.

In this era of self-publishing, anyone can publish a book. Have a laptop and you, too, can be a published author. You don’t need a college degree, or an editor, or a book cover designer. You can do it all. But if you want to approach your writing as a professional, study your craft through an educational facility or study information available on the internet. Use an editor so your manuscript will be as error-free as possible, focus on a quality book cover, and be prepared to market your work. Most of all, be kind and say thank you to those who are helping to make you a success.

 

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Article written by Deborah Ratliff

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Please listen to my interview about this article with host Paul Reeves on Dr. Paul’s Family Talk, now on Impact Radio USA.

Podcast: May 21/23, 2018 WU! We Write. Are We Professional?

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IMPACT RADIO USA provides the best in news, talk, sports, and music 24 hours a day, 52 weeks per year.

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Head straight to the audio by going to the following:
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Resources:

www.goodreads.com/quotes/georgerrmartin

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/professionalism

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/10-characteristics-professionalism-greg

https://stevelaube.com/self-publishing-changed-authors/

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.

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Hiring an Illustrator

By: Joshua Mitchell-Taylor

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(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?

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My contact details

Email: GigglemaniaStudios1@aol.co.uk

My portfolio: https://jmitchelltaylor.wixsite.com/mitchelltaylor

 

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