The Insecure Writer’s Support Group is Traditional

Happy Insecure Writer’s Group day! It’s a very good day to rest gently in the support of your fellow writers cause, believe me, it’s a hard landing everywhere else.

The rest of the Internet be like:

It’s March and I’m querying, so there’s two strikes against a good mood right there. Liberal application of walks in the sunshine (when the sun deigns to favor us with an appearance), rampant cussing (mostly under my breath), and the support of a good group are getting me through. My very first query letter just returned my very first standard form rejection of the query cycle, so that was cool.

Deep sigh.

I need to post a big sign over my work desk, something uplifting and motivating like; YOU WANTED TO BE AN AUTHOR, YOU IDIOT, SO SHUT THE PIEHOLE AND OPEN UP THOSE REJECTIONS. No? Too encouraging?

Anyway! On to the March 4 question: other than the obvious holiday traditions, have you ever included any personal or family traditions/customs in your stories?

The answer for this month is: No.

I don’t tend to include much of my own personality, traditions, or situations in my stories. I’m writing straight-up escapist, romantic fiction and honestly I don’t want to include reality. Reality is mean, and grumpy, and much too lacking in orgasms. Give me all the romance tropes and fluffy cheesy moments, please. Also I haven’t written any stories set around a holiday, so the chances I’ve had of including my family customs in them are pretty slim. I won’t say I’ll never include any family quirks in a holiday story, because I might. But I haven’t yet.

The awesome co-hosts for the March 4 posting of the IWSG are Jacqui Murray, Lisa Buie-Collard, Sarah Foster, Natalie Aguirre, and Shannon Lawrence! Don’t forget to go give their posts a look today.

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Leaving you with this fun image, because this is pretty much what my stories are all about.

Stranger Things Season 1-Episode 4 Review

TLDR: I’m both ecstatic and furious about Will’s body being fake. This is not a fucking BUILD-A-BEAR situation, Hawkins government people. NO. There is a family GRIEVING and you’re messing with them like that, what the actual fuck?

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The Body

First thought of the episode: well that’s ominous.

We start out with no one believing Joyce and it HURTS. Jonathan can’t listen to her without having to walk away for a cry, and I feel for him so damn hard. Everything she’s been through does sound crazy, but…please. Somebody. Hopper. Try! She’s literally stalking around her house with an axe, she could use a listening ear!

Why does Will sound so pathetic singing a Clash song? Why do I start tearing up when I hear it? I should be happy he’s alive AND YET. These are the questions you’ve made me ask, I hope you’re happy with yourselves, Stranger Things fans.

After that nice little heart-punch, the viewing of the body brings ENDLESS SADNESS FOREVER. When Jonathan has to go throw up I just wanted to reassure him and step through the screen and hug him and promise not to let anything hurt him again, my precious baby grump. Joyce, however, continued to be her badass Mama Bear self, demanding to see the birthmark her Will has on his right arm. It’s clear she’s not buying it and you go, Mama Bear.

There was a makeover montage to disguise Eleven, thank you, my heart needed that soft landing. And El does look great but…that blonde wig is WRONG. My eyes don’t like it.

And, of course, the government people continue with the unwise sciencey shit by sending a hazmat suit dude through the portal/space rip/hellflower’s home on a long extension cord. Haha, yeah, I’M SURE THERE’S NO WAY THAT COULD END BADLY oh wait, they tried that trick in The Mist by Stephen King. We all knew what was coming but the visual of his PELVIS at the end of the cord, being dragged in a bloody swipe across the floor, was super what-the-fuck, well done there writers.

Nancy gets to have the fun experience of everyone knowing she totally boned Steve, so that’s nice. Poor Nancy, this boyfriend thing isn’t turning out like she hoped at all. And now her best friend is missing and while she’s trying to get the police and her mom to care about it they’re all focused on silly asides like, ‘was that before or after you went upstairs to ‘change your clothes’ nyer, nyer, we all totally know what that means, Nancy.’

The Loser’s Club continues to be the cutest ever as they try to Mission Impossible their way into school to use the stronger radio to locate Will, and are foiled by the dastardly fact that the door is locked. Dustin going ‘Abort’ was my favorite part. And then Eleven tops it by doing that fucking little pirouette after she totally takes on the bully and it was GLORIOUS. Glorious, do you hear me?

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That pirouette is everything right in this world

When they eventually do make it to the radio, Will talking to his mom through the wall was unhealthy for my heart rate. Cortisol, adrenaline, and stress levels, oh my! The emotion and tension of that scene was palpable and had me physically leaning my body forward, as though I could get Joyce to punch through the wall to get her son just by wishing it. Another sincere round of applause for the Writers on this episode.

Hopper punches his way into the morgue, which had me all, “YEAH! You go!” and then oops, he’s actually inside and can do what he came for, and that happy feeling backfired. You can see him working through his options and deciding, ‘eh, fuck it, I came in here, I might as well go all the way and be sure.’ He pulls out a knife to open the body up and I reversed course right into EEEWW, DO NOT DO THAT, DO NOT PUT KNIVES IN DEAD BODIES….Oh. Ohhhh.

Stuffing? WHAT. WAT.

And after that bombshell we’re left on the edge of our seats as Hopper decides he’s damn well going to do something about this. Writers, I curse you and your unholy cliffhanger skills.


Stranger Things Season 1-Episode 3 Review

TLDR for those with no patience: I’m not feeling jolly after episode 3. The episode title is a lying liar. Why must you hurt me this way, Stranger Things Writers? I am STRESSED and CREEPED OUT by something as normal as CHRISTMAS LIGHTS and I need to know what that body was RIGHT NOW.

First thoughts of the episode went like: I really want to know how Barb is! Wait, shit, shit, no I don’t. I don’t want to know how Barb is. Damn it. I had to go and say that. Welp, she dead.

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Holly Jolly

There was a clear juxtaposition between Barb and Nancy’s hands as Barb desperately grips the edge of the pool trying to escape the hellflower monster and Nancy desperately grips Steve during their first sexual encounter. Well done there, Stranger Things. Playing with my emotional strings like that, how dare you.

This entire episode really brought some impeccable visuals. I’ve praised the writers and the casting already, and this time I want to commend the directing/editing and shot choices. From Nancy vs Barb, to the light trail leading the little girl down the hallway, to the terrifying angle focus on the letter N, this episode was a visual treat.

The interlude with the boys and Eleven came as such a relief after all the initial creepy, because El Continues to Have No Time For Your Bullshit, Dustin™. I burst out laughing when he dropped the Millennium Falcon in front of her not once, but twice. Then we check in on the scientists as they continue to do UNWISE sciencey shit and I have a Han Solo kind of bad feeling about this, probably prompted by the Star Wars reference. I want to go on record to say whatever thing they were bolting to the floor, it is a bad thing.

Moving on: Nancy, you might have wanted to consider Steve’s choice of friends before you decided to sleep with him. Seriously no one wants a reenactment of orgasms in the middle of the lunch room, Tommy the Taint. Any other friend in the universe would read Nancy’s clearly embarrassed body language and Steve’s stiff laughter and desist. Tommy. STAHP. (And also, shut up.)

After I had shifted to a more “meh” attitude for him last episode, Steve tries to get me to actively dislike him again in this one. Unauthorized paparazzi photos are wrong. No question. Jonathan crossed a line by taking that photo of Nancy with only a bra on, and it was inappropriate. But so is cornering Jonathan after school with a group of bullies, ripping up all of his photos, verbally abusing him, and breaking his camera. I’m conflicted as to who is the bad guy here, and starting to root for a boyfriend-less Nancy solving mysteries as a badass single lady.

All of El’s flashbacks continue to break my heart in new and interesting ways. Her “Papa” is the WORST. The actual worst. “Incredible,” is the EXACT WRONG RESPONSE to El killing the two men trying to throw her into her in the solitary confinement closet. (This is aside from the obvious fact that locking her in a closet every time you’re displeased is literal child abuse, dude!) Everything about him creeps me out, from his fluffy white hair, to his suit, to his dead fish eyes, to his soft creepy voice and I just want him to GO AWAY. None of those scientists should be allowed around children, ever.

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This is neither Holly, nor Jolly. My heart aches for Joyce

I’ve never been so happy, or so stressed out, about LIGHTS LIGHTING UP. Which is what lights DO. And then they do it and it freaks me out! But in slightly happier news, I finally understand a cultural reference! Yay, me. That’s what the alphabet Christmas lights are all about. And then things get disturbing as Will spells out RUN, the lights go nuts, and that HELLFLOWER THING comes out of the WALL oh my fuck.

AND THEN there’s a body in the quarry. What? Wait, what? Will wasn’t anywhere near the quarry. And he was literally just doing the creepy light-brite spelling with his mom. Was it…his ghost communicating with her? Trying to keep her safe? First of all, that’s heartbreaking. Second, Eleven seems to be operating under the assumption he’s alive and hiding. I’m going to go with what the writers seem to be clearly foreshadowing, that Will is somehow hiding in the place that hellflower thing comes from, trapped in the strange, spooky echo of his house. Which is definitely not safe in any way, but is still more hopeful than a soggy body in the quarry.

I need to know if that’s Will’s body and I need to know NOW.

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group Gets Artistic (While I Crash Into a Reef)

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

Welcome to another Insecure Writer’s Support Group day! To sign up for the Group yourself, join in on the fun and receive all the wonderful support, go here. The awesome co-hosts for the February 5 posting of the IWSG are Lee Lowery, Ronel Janse van Vuuren, Jennifer Hawes, Cathrina Constantine, and Tyrean Martinson! Stop by their blogs and offer a thank-you for today.

The optional question for today was: has a single photo or work of art ever inspired a story? What was it and did you finish it? I can’t say a single work of art has inspired one specific story for me, so today I’m going to REBEL and go OFF TANGENT and float OUT TO SEA.

This month my biggest insecurity is the Query Ship, as it sets sail again. In batches of three, my latest begging letter will be heading out to places unknown, trying to lure me in an agent. In honor of the maiden voyage of my completed manuscript, I have decided to start the journey with a nautical theme. Because why not?

This will be the fifth completed book I query. As of now I’m sitting at a 50-60% rejection rate (I like to think of them as ‘ships sunk while in pursuit of glory’). My voyages so far:

  • 40K word historical romance, my first effort, rejected over and over for being too boring. That one’s back in the bin waiting for me to add *excitement*.
  • 20K taboo romance novella, accepted by small eBook publisher eXtasy Books, published 2018
  • 60K new adult romance with paranormal elements, rejected without even one manuscript request. Also binned until I can get a professional editor look at it and point out what I’m doing wrong.
  • 30K taboo romance novella, accepted by eXtasy Books & published 2018.
here be monsters
Here be monsters (if you define monsters as a vicious cycle of hope and rejection, which I totally do.)

This latest effort sits at about 60K and it’s a bit of an enemies to lovers with a secret cinnamon roll supervillain (Bane) and a quietly heroic sidekick (Michaela). It’s already been through one round of professional edits, which were gently and expertly delivered by the wonderful Jen Graybeal. Seriously, she caught so many issues, saved me from so much embarrassment, and had fantastically useful ideas. Go see her if you’re looking for an editor.

The good ship That Wind is the Sound of Your Ego Deflating will be my home for the voyage.

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Yeah, querying a finished book feels a lot like this

Captain Optimism will be navigating, with First Mate Butareyou’Sure at the helm. Various crew members will come and go, I’m sure, including Self Doubt, Confidence, Fear, Hope, Stubborn, Anguish, and Bob. (Bob is there for the comic relief, and we are going to need him.) If things go according to plan, Self Doubt and Anguish will jump ship in the Bermudas and live on the beach making straw bags for tourists while I sail on to success.

I anticipate smooth sailing for about two months, after which the agents will have had time to actually read my query letter. After that six to eight weeks I will hit Rejections Reef and be stranded for a while. 

We’ll be stuck on the Reef for months but don’t worry, I don’t anticipate any desperate drinking of urine, or cannibalism. I’ve had lots of time to store up the provisions of grit just so that doesn’t happen. The onboard menu will include equal amounts baseless enthusiasm, stubbornness, profanity, revisions, and alcohol.

Although I’m hitting this with a healthy dose of sarcasm, I really am excited (and nervous) to launch. In a way, it’s exhilarating. Getting rejected makes me want to work that much harder so I don’t get rejected next time. I don’t intend to live on Rejections Reef forever.

If you’re in the process of querying, make sure to leave me a comment about how it’s going! We’re on this daunting voyage together.

the mostdeliciousand healthysnacks to eat


Stranger Things Season 1-Episode 2 Review

TLDR for those of you with limited patience; I am 100% aboard this train after episode 2. Choo Choo, let’s traumatize SE. I am here for this crazy 80s scifi running over and killing every one of my emotions.

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The Weirdo on Maple Street.

First thought of the episode: Mike is really nice. He tries his best to understand El, treats her kindly, gets her food, and listens to her when she says they’d put the adults in danger by telling them.

Eleven is still a badass, slamming doors and saying NO with a look that’s even more intense because she doesn’t overact it. Her illustration of where Will is, flipping the board over and slamming down the monster, is both creepy and visual and I loved it. All of the child actors are fantastic, I have to hand out kudos to every single one. In the first episode I admired the writers, this time I admire the casting director.

LOOK at that ACTING! So good.

Steve continues to be a douche, but it’s kinda not that bad? He’s a generic, everyday kind of oblivious teenage boy who thinks he’s cool and, you know, for high school he’s probably right. Tommy, however? Tommy is REALLY GETTING ON MY NERVES. SHUT UP, TOMMY. Every scene he’s in he manages to be either cruel, crude, dumb, or all of them at once. His girlfriend, who I now think of as ‘Discount Farrah Fawcett’, just eggs him on and makes him worse and I really dislike them both.

If you follow me on Instagram you already know I embarrassed the hell out of myself in front of people from all over the world, so that was fun. I honestly and truly had no idea what shotgunning a beer was. For real. I had heard the term, but only in passing, so when Nancy and Steve started cutting the bottom of their cans to vampire the beer out I thought they were showing off some weird 80s party trend and made sure to highlight that in my Insta Stories watch.

I got no less than seven replies to my stories, gently explaining what shotgunning is. An Instagram friend from NORWAY replied to explain what I was missing here. When I turned to him for a second opinion even my husband said, ‘oh, yeah, that’s shotgunning’. And this is amazing because he was just as much of a nerd as me in high school and neither one of us went to parties. I don’t even know, y’all.

(But seriously it’s a stupid way to drink out of a beer can. The little fuckers have a pull tab, IT’S RIGHT THERE. Peer pressure sucks.)

In the midst of the beer can fuckery, Joyce has a run-in with The Clash haunting Will’s room and the WALLS bulging out like the HEMORRHOIDS FROM HELL and her reaction is exactly right. Run, Joyce, Run! But Mamma Bear Joyce has no time for this silly thing called ‘fear’ and she runs right back in there.

Then poor Barb bleeds into the pool and the creep factor of the show goes up by about 68%. She’s gone at the end of this scary sequence but I have hope she can, like, run away and hide with Will. Didn’t Eleven say Will is hiding? Barb could hide too, don’t @ me. She could. LET ME HAVE MY HOPE, IT’S ALL I HAVE AT THIS POINT. We can’t lose Barb in the goddamn second episode. The second episode!

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That looks really bad, though. Please be okay, Barb!

Stranger Things Season 1-Episode 1 Review

Hello…um…this is kind of embarrassing. I’m not sure I should be in this group…but now that I’m here, I might as well start, right? Oh, I should be standing up? In front of everyone? Oh. Sure.

Okay. Uh…My name is SE and I’m the LAST PERSON IN THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE to watch Stranger Things.

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Yeah Joyce, I know.

I swear to you, even far distant aliens sit down with pirated Netflix streams to watch Stranger Things under the light of their three moons, sipping hydrogen drinks and squeaking at the jump scares. I may be the only sentient being left who hasn’t jumped on this train.

There is no reason for this except a) I’m a champion procrastinator with a part time online job, two small children, and a current WIP and b) all of the hype made me wary. Hype always does. It took me until book two for both the Harry Potter and the Hunger Games series to dive in (and then of course I obsessed over them, which I will probably end up doing with this show and why do I not learn from this?)

I went into my watch with several major plot points already spoiled for me because; Internet

  • There’s a girl with a shaved head and she has creepy mind powers. Her name is Eleven and she’s going to be a main character, although I don’t know what way this plays out.
  • Eggos are important. For some reason.
  • There’s a monster involved who looks like the ass-end of a Hellflower.
  • Richie, from IT, is on the show. Okay, fine, he was on this show before he was in both IT movies but I know him from the movies.
  • Bad things happen to some chick named Barb. (RIP Barb?)
  • There’s something upside down, or called The Upside Down.

I also went into it expecting to fall hard for all of my favorite TV tropes. Multiple other Instagram users with similar tastes to me have promised I will love this show, and I believe them.

TLDR; By the end of Episode 1 I am not head-over-heels in love, but I can feel the interest growing and I’m already suuuper intrigued.

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I have no idea which part of the show these gifs are from or if they fit my point, I’m just googling and putting in what looks fun to me.

After this first episode, let me say that the writers of Stranger Things are already incredibly good at building tension, releasing enough to keep us happy, and then using that release to build EVEN MORE TENSION. I curse them for this even as I lap it up.

The first thing which struck me was how very 1980s nostalgic everything was. I’m taking the tiny details on faith because I was born in 1987, four years after this show is set, but it looks like the design team did buckets and buckets of research. It’s all 80s all the time, and the 80s were AWESOME.

Maybe…not so awesome, though, because Will disappears first thing and it’s creepy. He does everything right. Runs home, locks the door, tries to call 911, looks for the adults in his life, I mean the kid even arms himself and he still gets snatched. Freaking terrifying.

The episode starts with a big bang, which I approved of, and then moves right to establishing our group of nerds as beloved, funny, and a tight crew of friends. Their chemistry is fantastic and I’m already rooting for them. I suspect this is definitely on purpose because we’ve already lost one.

All of this, which takes paragraphs to write out, happens BEFORE THE OPENING CREDITS. Narrative tension? Yeah, these writers have it down.

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RIP random science dude. That’s your narrative end when you do unwise sciencey shit.

We meet Barb, whom I was disquieted to find empathetic. She seems to be a supportive, sweet type of friend and I already know something bad happens to her. So, sad face all over that.

We meet Steve, who seems to be the most typical high school douche-canoe ever to paddle down Hormone River and I’m not sure why we’re developing his storyline. Unless girlfriend Nancy ends up being important later and we’re developing her? IDK, I’d be just as happy with more Eleven time and less Steve.

We meet Eleven, who is this tiny, shaved, intense, silent badass. I could easily see her taking down full grown adults and all she does in this episode is turn off an annoying fan and knock over a couple government gotcha guys. I really liked how Benny responded to her obvious trauma with caring, empathy, and food and as soon as I stated my hope he stuck around for episode 2 he got SHOT in the HEAD. Bad SE, caring about characters, you know better. This must be the kind of show where they immediately die once you admit you like them, i.e. Game of Thrones but with cool synth music.

By the end of the half hour Will’s poor mom has had a very strange phone call (I personally didn’t think it was Will but she’s his mom, she’d know I guess) and the Loser’s Club:Netflix Edition have found Eleven, running from Benny’s killers in the pouring rain. I am very ready to find out what happens next.



No Filter in Your Author Toolbox

Nano Blog and Social Media Hop2

This old post has been brushed up for this month’s Author Toolbox Blog Hop, hosted and moderated by author Raimey Gallant. Authors at all stages of their writing/publishing journey are welcome to hop in and bring new ideas and tools.

elven siew

Did you know there are such things as “filter words” when writing? I did not as a smol writer but now, thanks to the Tunnel of Everlasting Rejection which was 2017, I do. In the course of a) submitting my manuscripts to RWA contests for judging and b) having my bits chopped off by the Axe of Editing the awesome staff at eXtasy Books wields, I have learned the stuff they teach you in creative writing.

So take writing classes, is the lesson here.

Alternate lesson: If, like me, you don’t have the time or $$ for formal schooling you can pick this up for free by being rejected multiple times and told what’s not working in your writing, then googling the hell out of the right way to do it.

Or you can just read along as I suffer the corrections then research the fixes for my mistakes, and learn from my missteps without going through the rejections yourself. Whichever sounds best to you.

What I have learned NOT to put in my writing

  • Was + Gerund, Am + Gerund, or Is + Gerund.

A gerund is past progressive, which means (form of to be) + verb-ing, and it is also the dreaded Telling. For example, “One second later, Jenny was sprinting away from the monster as fast as she could go”. When you past progressive you are telling the reader what the character is doing, like a narrator, and removing them far, far away from the action. No bueno. The Write Practice calls this specific thing out in their post on words to cut.

no narrating

  • Filter Words

A term started by Janet Burroway in her book On Writing. If your characters are thinking, feeling, worrying, noticing, seeing, or deciding they are filtering what they are experiencing through their own point of view. Which is not the reader’s point of view. Adding an extra step between the reader, and the action. There’s that dreaded Telling again. Write it Sideways has a nice succinct post about filter words and an example of how to kill them.

A short hit-list of those filtering bastards to watch for: decided, hoped, saw, wondered, considered, regarded, worried, felt, knew, heard, smelled, thought, noticed, knew.

  • Passive Voice

When an action is performed on the passive subject of the sentence. “The bone was carried by the dog to his favorite hiding spot” is passive. Yiiikes, is it passive. Think a sentence like sex. If one part of the duo making up the sentence is just lying there, formulating a mental grocery list, while the rest of the sentence has to do all the work it’s not fun for anyone participating. “The dog slyly concealed his precious bone” sounds better. Stephen King has a bit to say about it in On Writing.

  • THAT

Almost always unnecessary. Do a word search on “that” in your manuscript. Pretty much all of them can go, and your sentences will be stronger with their absence. explains why in a good clear post about 8 words to seek and destroy in your writing.

  • Suddenly

Suddenly something happens! By definition and by virtue of the written action it is unexpected and the reader doesn’t need you to emphasize that by sticking in “suddenly” because when you do that you are (all together now, sing our author refrain) telling. Just jump straight to something happening.

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Suddenly, squirrel!
  • Adverbs

Although it kills me to write this, because I LOVE me some adverbs. Why are they so universally reviled? While I don’t belong to the “DEATH TO TEH ADVERBS” camp, I do recognize that using them too much makes your writing weaker than a newborn kitten. Try not to use them with “said” (she said, angrily). Search them out, delete them, and make that sentence stronger. Also sneak a few in, here and there, because Fuck the Adverbiarchy.

Quick caveat: I am more convinced every day that the only real writing advice should be; DON’T DO THE THING (unless you do, in which case, carry on).

  • The Terror by Dan Simmons, wherein every character is wondering and considering and thinking and worrying left and right, is a horror masterpiece with filter words galore. It’s the most action packed book I’ve ever read and I finished all 700 pages of it in two days.
  • J.K. Rowling uses “said”+ adverb ALL THE TIME. Obviously didn’t work out for her, eh?
  • Robin McKinley employs incredible amounts of adverbs, not to mention she’s addicted to “, and” in her sentences. Still my favorite fantasy author.
  • A good story, great characters, and awesome dialogue and you can pretty much get away with anything. Take this, and any other post you read on the same subject, as advice. Follow it when it works, ditch it when it doesn’t.

If you would like to see every old piece of writing advice torn apart, flayed, and reconstructed, head on over to watch Chuck Wendig Roast some chestnuts. (Be warned if you don’t like cussing, he is super NSFW.)



Featured image via & Josh Byers

Guest Post: Welcome Cheryl Headford!

Celebrating her latest release today, please welcome fellow eXtasy Books author Cheryl Headford.

author Cheryl Headford

Hi Cheryl! First, congratulations on your new book! Let’s hear about it, please.

Sure! Let’s start with the (hopefully super enticing) blurb:

Morgan Bentley is a bastard. Matthew knows this absolutely—until he doesn’t.

Matthew and his friend Cory are thrilled to attend one of the most prestigious universities in the UK. On their pre-entry visit, they met Morgan Bentley and his stuck-up friends. Matthew takes an instant dislike to the arrogant, conceited, self-obsessed, beautiful, intelligent, and charismatic boy. Throughout the next year, Matthew harbours his dislike, never missing the opportunity to complain to his best friend, Cory, what a bastard Morgan is.

Then, an unexpected turn of events catapults Matthew, Morgan, and Cory into a nightmare, and all the things Cory had said about Matthew’s true feelings about Morgan come crashing down on his head, and he realises that what he thought was hatred and anger was, in fact, growing attraction and begrudging admiration. But when the deadly nature of the elusive Project X is revealed, it seems their budding romance is doomed before it begins, as one of them is unlikely to survive.

Project X cover

Where do we find it?

Project X is available at the eXtasy Books website

Awesome. Would you like to tell us a little bit about yourself as well?

Cheryl was born into a poor mining family in the South Wales Valleys. Until she was 16, the toilet was at the bottom of the garden and the bath hung on the wall. Her refrigerator was a stone slab in the pantry and there was a black lead fireplace in the kitchen. They look lovely in a museum but aren’t so much fun to clean.

Later in life, Cheryl became the storyteller for a re enactment group who travelled widely, giving a taste of life in the Iron Age. As well as having an opportunity to run around hitting people with a sword, she had an opportunity to tell stories of all kinds, sometimes of her own making, to all kinds of people. The criticism was sometimes harsh, especially from the children, but the reward enormous.

It was here she began to appreciate the power of stories and the primal need to hear them. In ancient times, the wandering bard was the only source of news, and the storyteller was the heart of the village, keeping the lore and the magic alive. Although much of the magic has been lost, the stories still provide a link to the part of us that still wants to believe that it’s still there, somewhere.

In present times, Cheryl lives in a terraced house in the valleys with her son, dog, bearded dragon and cats. Her daughter has deserted her for the big city, but they’re still close. She’s never been happier since she was made redundant and is able to devote herself entirely to her twin loves of writing and art, with a healthy smattering of magic and mayhem

Haha, I love your bio. Magic and mayhem, indeed. I would also love the opportunity to run around hitting people with swords, if I’m honest.

Do you have anything else to leave with us?

Definitely! Here is an exclusive excerpt from Project X

Morgan Bentley was a bastard. An utter, complete, A-one, cut-glass bastard. He was arrogant, selfish, cold, standoffish, cruel, and completely heartless. His history was peppered with broken hearts and broken people attesting to the fact. There was no doubt about it—he was a bastard.

Morgan didn’t have any friends. What he had was an entourage: people who cared less for the person he was than for the prestige his company brought. At the moment he had a girlfriend, the undoubted Alpha Female of the university, a bitch called Charlotte Lethbridge, whose father owned half of Mayfair. The relationship wouldn’t last, though. They never did. And next week it could just as easily be a boyfriend.

No one ever said no to Morgan. No one outside his circle of “friends” ever said anything at all unless he invited them to, which he rarely ever did.

Cory often said Morgan was sad—he had to be. He had to be lonely and sad because he had no real friends, no lasting relationships, no one to share with. Not like us. Sometimes I had to stop myself laughing when he said that. Morgan Bentley sad? Not bloody likely. He had everything. I mean everything.

His father was a research chemist, heading a huge multinational corporation. They manufactured drugs and engaged in research projects, sometimes for the government. I think that’s why Cory was so fascinated with Morgan. He was getting a degree in biochemistry and wanted to be a researcher himself. Cory was awesome…but he had flaws, and his fascination with Morgan was one of them. Personally, I wouldn’t care if I never saw his smug face ever again. Hell, I’d have been so much happier if I hadn’t.

For a different perspective on how Morgan felt about that initial meeting you might like to read the Prequel.

This gives away spoilers if you haven’t read the book, but is a nice, currently free, introduction to the boys and how their different perspectives work. Project X – Prequel 

Thank you for being a guest on the blog today, Cheryl! This looks super fascinating, I can’t wait to check it out. Best of luck to you on your release!

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group Celebrates a Bootleg of a Year

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

To sign up for the group yourself, click on over here. The IWSG is also on Twitter @TheIWSG and Instagram, as well as under the hashtag #IWSG

It’s time for the first Insecure Writer’s Post of the new year. So happy 2020 to you!

And can we all admit right now that the complete absence of automatic glitter, tacky gilt ornaments, alcohol, and Charleston step instructions falling gently from the sky at midnight was a huge disappointment? I mean…all we got was plain old fireworks. (Well, since I live in Nevada USA, we got sporadic gunshots all night SO THAT WAS FUN.)

roaring 20s
Is this a Charleston? I think I could actually learn this.

The co-hosts for the first month of this breakaway new year are T. Powell Coltrin, Victoria Marie Lees, Stephen Tremp, Renee Scattergood, and J.H. Moncrieff! Don’t forget to go hand them a dazzling digital thank you in real 1920s style. (What does that mean? Yeah I have no idea either. I’m working this theme for all I’ve got, okay. My grandma was born in 1920, I sure wasn’t. Give the co-hosts the right to vote or make an arbitrary rule that’s as enforceable as the 18th amendment, I dunno.)

The question for this month is: What started you on your writing journey? Was it a particular book, movie, story, or series? Was it a teacher/coach/spouse/friend/partner? Did you just “know” you wanted to write?

To answer this question, let’s go all the way back to 1997 and a ten-year-old SE. Yep, I was the universal author origin story, writing what was basically adoring fanfic of Patricia C. Wrede and Tamora Pierce. We could call that the start of my writing journey.

Or we could move ahead to the remedial math class I took in college (2005) which I limped through until our professor threw us non-maths types a break by assigning a creative writing essay about the relative usefulness of what we’d learned. Which finally got me a paper back with a big A+ on it. The professor’s clear enjoyment of my nonsense gave me a big dose of hope that the story splinters I still etched into random notebooks could be…well…entertaining. For someone else, not just me.

No. Probably we should zip right along in some kind of split-scene montage. (I get to pick the music.) Imagine This Life, by Vampire Weekend jaunting around in the background as SE graduates college (2009), she gets a job, her son turns 4 with a cute Spiderman theme party, she gets another job, moves to Carson City, becomes engaged, gets married, has two more children, and leaves the job to becomes a stay-at-home mom.

There we are. There’s the real start of my author journey. Up until this point (2016), I was a devoted reader, a total nerd, an enthusiastic bookworm, a scribbler of small private bits of stories, but not a writer. Writing my own book and, even more terrifying, trying to publish it stayed a vague “someday” idea in the back of my mind for all of those years.

Then one day I was reading a novella on my Kindle, which shall remain nameless, and it was awful. Giant plot holes, badly written sentences, stiff dialogue, random scene transitions…this novella had it all.

And I can’t even describe the huge, electrifying, hopeful shot it gave me as I read. This was a real, formatted, published book. With a cover. And with buyers. As in, people like me expended actual money on it (whether they enjoyed it or not, I can’t say). If this could get published…why couldn’t I? What did I have to lose, right? Only my own time, and I wouldn’t consider it lost.

That was kind of the watershed moment, where all these tiny streams came together to lift up my foot and push it into that first step. There were plenty of other little impetus moments I haven’t described here, but these are the ones which stood out to me for the purposes of this post. And somehow, four-ish years later, here I sit. A writer.


otter gif
As a thank you for making it all the way to the bottom of this very long post here; have a cute otter snuggle.



Holiday Wishes

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Wishing you and your family all the best today, this week, and for all of the new year to come! I hope 2020 is full of good things for you and little to no disappointments.

May you enjoy the day fully, eat the treats you were wishing for, receive that book you’ve been wanting, and have a happy end of 2019.