Season 2 -- Episode 4 -- Beverly Jenkins about historic fiction, race, and storytelling

USA Today bestselling author, Beverly Jenkins, writes historic fiction including romance fiction and romantic suspense. Her work brings life and voice to an often forgotten time in US history -- the 1900s when small African American communities thrived. Her work is rooted in American history. She has traditionally published 38 books through a traditional publisher. In this interview, we begin talking about publishing and writing before diving deep into issues of race and storytelling.

Beverly Jenkin's book Deadly Sexy is being made into a film by an independent filmmaker. You can help by donating to the GoFund Me. Her book, Second Time Sweeter, Book 9 of the Blessings Series, will be released in August. You can connect with Beverly Jenkins at Twitter, Facebook, or on her website.


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Season 2 -- Episode 3 -- Aliette de Bodards about writing award winning speculative fiction in a time of tension and change.


Aliette de Bodard writes award winning speculative fiction while raising two children and working full time as a systems engineer. She joined us from her home in Paris, France. We had a wide ranging conversation about life, writing, and gender norms. We picked up a slight echo in our recording of this interview which you may notice in places.

Aliette de Bodard is the author of the BSFA award winning novel, The House of Shattered Wings and it's sequel, The House of Binding Thorns. She has also written the Obsidian and Blood series -- Servant of the Underworld, Harbinger of the Storm, and Master of House of Darts. Her short stories have won two Nebula Awards, another BSFA award, and a Locus award.


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Season 2 -- Episode 2 -- MD Martin - Triple Threat - Southern, Female, Horror author


Season 2 of Women and Fiction continues with MD Martin, the pseudonym of Misty Martin. Misty writes something she calls "Southern Gothic Horror." She joins us to discuss her life as a female, Southern, horror author.

Misty is currently working on a new series called Mariner's Cove. Her horror series, Williams Point, originally published in 1995 was republished in 2016. She has written an anthology of the Legends of Williams Point. Her quirky, fun series, Lola Avocado, including XTC and An Avocado in Vegas, are available at Amazon. Her writing series called "Writers High Tea" is available on YouTube. She can be found at Twitter, Facebook, and her Amazon page.

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Season 2 -- Episode 1 -- Melissa Westemeier - a new kind of author unhindered by publisher or genre or a busy life

Women and Fiction returns!

Women and Fiction returns with Season 2 of our podcast.

We begin the season with Melissa Westemeire. Melissa's first book, Whipped, Not Beaten, is what she calls "chick lit" and was published by Cornerstone Press.  By the time the book came out, Melissa had finished her second book. After lunch with a friend, she decided to publish her second book, Kick like a Girl, also "chick lit", herself. Her third book, Across the River, is a more serious look at change in a small town. It is published by Bridle Path Press.  

Melissa represents a new kind of author. One who is unhindered by her publisher or strict rules about staying in her genre. 

Melissa is a mother, a wife, a full-time high school teacher, who fits writing in to her life.

Melissa Westemeier joins Women and Fiction for the first Episode of Season 2.



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New Episode of Women and Fiction -- Deborah Smith


Author Deborah Smith
Deborah Smith discusses her personal experiences -- good and bad -- with publishing and why she ended up opening her own publishing company, Bell Bridge Books. Deborah is a best selling author of over 35 romance and women's fiction. Her latest book, Kitchen Charmer, was released in September. Her next book Tomato Moon will be out by the end of the year.

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Wednesday Writing Skill -- 3 ways to manage stress for greater creativity

Stressed out? Too anxious to write?

Listen, uncertainty is coming at us from all sides. From the "what the f*** is it now" sideshow in Washington DC or the simple economic realities of your home town, we are dealing with more and more stressful and uncertain times. If your a writer, you're managing all of the societal stress as well as the never-ending struggle of making a living, selling books, dealing with reviews, and communicating like a human being with your readers. That's stress on steroids!

Stress will kill your creativity.

In, How Stress Assassinates your Creativity, Robbie Blair gives an overview of the reasons stress might give you writer's block,  and will certainly zap your creative energy.  

"Whenever we're stressed, the brain reallocates resources to the primitive parts of the brain, prioritizing primal emotions over abstract thinking and motor control over creativity. When we get behind the barrier of stress, we're locked out of the creative part of the brain at a basic neurological level."

In the article, he goes through the theoretical construct of "evolutionary" brains -- reptilian, neo-mammalian, mammalian -- as well as the research science behind the reduction of creativity due to stress.

Basically, our modern life stress convinces our brains that we are in a life and death struggle. We loose access to the higher levels of our brain (neo-mammalian, mammalian) and thus lose our creativity. If we have early life stressors (basically the shitty early life of most writers), we're more likely to fall through to the reptilian brain in no time flat.

What's a writer to do?

Let's face it, historically, most writers eased their stress through the use of substances such as alcohol or drugs. Hemmingway was a well know alcoholic. James Joyce was, as well. We know that Jack Kerouac took off across the country on a benzedrine fuel trip. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and William Burroughs were opium addicts. Jack London was a pothead. Of course, we all know about Stephen King's struggle with alcohol and cocaine.

And the women? -- what women used drugs and/or alcohol for their stress? Sylvia Plath had terrible, blinding migraines which she took a variety of medications for including the antidepressants credited for her suicidal ideation. Elizabeth Barrett Brown was an opium addiction, specifically Laudanum. Ayn Rand was addicted to meth amphetamines. Carson Mc Cullers and Dorothy Parker's alcohol dependence cut short their lives short.

The truth is that we don't know a lot about the substance use of women authors because, like everything female and writerly, the media focuses on men.

The bottom line is that substance abuse is not the answer. Drugs and alcohol steal creativity and cut short your life. They are no answer to dealing with your stress.

3 ways to manage stress for greater creativity

  1. Start each writing session with a few minutes of meditation: The best way to keep stress from invading your creativity is to create a practice in which you take a few minutes to meditate before each writing session. The easiest way to do that is by using a free meditation app such as (not an affiliate link)When I was first writing, I would get very anxious just writing. I wrote entire books with the ocean beach playing in the background. It helped keep me calm and creative. I often leave my journal out when I'm meditating to capture any stray thoughts that may be running around in my head. 

    I think of meditating before writing as simply "good writing hygiene." It helps you make the transition from the world to your writing life. It can set you up to be ready to get the work done when you have time.

    Would I still meditate if I had only an hour to write? Yes. It's worth it.

  2. Set a timer for 90 minutes. We now know that more than sitting more than 90 minutes at a time is as deadly as smoking cigarettes. Set a timer on your watch, phone, or computer for 90 minutes. When the timer goes off, get up and move around. Do a few jumping jacks. Press out five squats. The 7 minute workout is awesome. Pull up bar, push ups, run the stairs -- just get moving.

    You're thinking: "90 minutes? I'm just getting started! This will make me more stressed out." It does take some getting used to.

    What we know is that by sitting around, the stress builds up in our bodies. A five minute break every hour and a half helps siphon off some of that stress. Practice this for a week. You may just find that your overall stress level reduces. You might even drop a size in your favorite jeans

  3. Stay in your lane. I get it. We're called to show up in so many areas of life now. As authors, we have a broader perspective on the world. For those of us who write international intrigue, the newspapers and social media are literally our research materials. We cannot shut down the world so that we can get some work done.

    You did not come to writing by accident. Most authors feel as if they were born to write. This is particularly true for women because there are so many barriers to our writing careers. 

    If we scatter our energy toward every email we receive asking for help, we will spend all of our time and energy doing everything else but writing.

    We are writers because we were born to do this work. Your greatest impact will always be where from your writing. If you feel called to make a difference, do it through your writing. Try being more honest. Include characters who represent different ethnicities or abilities. Write about situations only you know about. Get real with yourself and your story. 

    Here are three easy ways to cut down on distractions:
    a. Write on a computer that is not connected to the Internet. Yes, it sounds extreme, but you can do research on  your phone. This is also a great way to keep those who hack out of your unpublished work and personal information. 
    b. Use a browser extension that blocks websites. My favorites are the one from (this ones brand new) and Block Site. The apps are free tools which block websites where you tend to waste time. You set it up so that you can block out what you need, while keeping the sites you don't need. 
    c. Headphones, baby. Life is noisy. Get yourself a pair of noise-blocking headphones. You can listen to music for focus (search "focus" on your favorite music streaming site) or simply listen to the quiet. People are less likely to interrupt you if you have on headphones. They assume you're on a call or can't hear them. 

With a little bit of prevention and stress release, you will continue a high level of creative work! Good luck!

--Claudia Hall Christian 10/11/2017



New Episode of Women and Fiction -- Melissa Blue talks to Claudia about writing romantic fiction for geeks.

Melissa Blue

Melissa Blue is a prolific author who writes romantic fiction for geeks. In this episode, she talks about writing, being published by a publisher vs. self publishing, as well as the challenges of being a person of color in the all white world of romance fiction publishing. 

Melissa Blue’s writing career started on a typewriter one month after her son was born. This would have been an idyllic situation for a writer if it had been 1985, not 2004. She penned that first contemporary romance, upgraded to a computer and hasn’t looked back since. Outside of writing, Blue works as a mail clerk for the federal government, has a paralegal certificate (that she has more use for as a dust pan) and is a mother of two rambunctious children. She lives in California where the wine is good and, despite popular belief, is not always sunny.

You can find her on her at her website, but Claudia usually finds her at Facebook or Twitter.

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Wednesday Writing Skill -- 5 ways to make your fiction more readable for your distracted audience

5 ways to make your fiction more readable

The world has changed. Your readers have ten things they could be doing besides reading your story. Moreover, you're competing for attention from social media, streaming movies, music on multiple channels, 24-hour news stations, and that's not to mention texts, phone calls, or, oh yeah, actual work. To make matters worse, your readers are exhausted from all the reading they do!

It's amazing that anyone ever reads anything for fun.

Whether you like it or not, your readers are tired, distracted, and bombarded by a lot of stories. If we want people to read our stories, we must be willing to write in a manner which engages them.

What does this mean? To better understand readability, let's take a step back to look at the four types of reading:

  1. Elementary reading is quite literally reading that a student in elementary school can understand.
  2. Inspectional reading is skimming or superficially reading.
  3. Analytical reading is thorough reading.
  4. Syntopical reading is thoughtful, comparative reading.

(Don't panic. Shane Parrish does a great job explaining all of this on his blog, Farnam Street. While you're there, sign up for his free newsletter. You won't be sorry.)

Your readers currently read at a fourth grade reading level. In fact, you're probably reading this at a fourth grade reading level.

If you publish your fiction in an electronic format -- online or even eBook -- most of your readers are reading at less than a fourth grade reading level.

Your readers aren't idiots; they are distracted!

You're probably wondering how your adult, well educated readers could possibly read at such a low level. The reason is very simple: being distracted lowers your IQ.

What's a writer to do?

Here are five ways to make your serial fiction readable.

1. Reintroduce your characters: Trust me. There are days when some of your readers will not remember who any of your characters are or how they fit into your story. Don't leave your readers guessing. Give your readers simple reminders. 

For example:

Janice found her boyfriend, Bryce, standing on the other side of her front door.
Rather than - Janice found Bryce standing on the other side of her front door.

"Jeremiah's going to be here for dinner?" she asked. "I didn't realize he was out of prison."
Rather than - "Jeremiah's going to be here for dinner?" she asked.

Regardless of how central you believe your character is to your story, practice reminding your readers who they are. The longer your story, serial fiction, series, or novel is the more necessary this becomes. It's not hard or intrusive to the story to simply add in a few word identifier for characters when they pop up. Your readers will thank you.

It's a good practice to help cement your characters in your readers' minds.

2. Limit your use of pronouns: This feels clunky when you're writing and editing. However, your reader will quickly loose track of the "she" in "she said." Use your character's name.

When we read in electronic form, the last chapter or paragraph is gone from our line of sight. This means that we only bring to each new paragraph that which we remember or have right in front us. In most cases, that's very little information.

Go through your story and replace at least half of the pronouns with the character's name. Your story will read a lot better.

3. Short sentences rule! 14 words.  That's the number of words in a sentence that's understood by 90% of people. 8 word sentences are understood by 100% of people. That's right. You have between 8 and 14 words to get your point across

Short sentence feel weird to write and edit, especially in fiction. Your reader will never notice.

There is a limitation with short sentences if you publishing with Smashwords. There is a bug in the Smashwords "meat grinder" program. The program trips on too many short paragraphs (i.e., short sentence dialogue.) At this writing, they have not found a way to fix this error. You can still publish your work there by post your story in ePub format instead of Microsoft doc format. So if you get a weirdo error, just bump your story up in ePub.

4. Keep it simple. I'm not saying you should dumb down your story. Please do make your story have as many complications, twists, and turns as possible. You simply can't get there all at once.

Keep your individual scenes simple and to the point. You want to get from here to there? Write a scene about right here. The next few scenes should be about somewhere between here and there. And sometime later you'll be there.

Your distracted reader will have a better comprehension of four short scenes than one long, complicated scene.

5. Put the sentence you want your readers to read at the start of a paragraph. Because people read up and down in electronic format, their eyes catch the first sentence of every paragraph. This means that their brains overemphasize the importance of this sentence. This is particularly true for single sentence paragraphs.

This means that single sentence paragraph, like this one, are more likely to be read.

Make sure you use them for what you want your reader to know.

Writing for distracted people takes a lot of intelligence, patience, and practice. If you want to be a successful author in 2015, you need to create readable work for distracted people. Because let's face it -- everyone is distracted now.

-- Claudia Hall Christian for Women and Fiction