The Key Tool for Writing Success by Rochelle Melander

1 September 2015

Note From Rochelle

Dear Writers,

When I go back-to-school shopping with the kids, it’s tempting to fill the cart with products to help me be a more organized writer! But over the years, I’ve discovered that the perfect notebook, calendar, or pen doesn’t really add to my writing success. As a business owner and freelance writer, one of the best back-to-school gifts I’ve given myself is time away from my desk to dream and plan. Today’s tip talks about that key tool for writing success—balcony space. Enjoy!

Happy Writing!

Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach


Vantage Points

Business leaders have to be able to view patterns as if they were on a balcony. It does them no good to be swept into the field of action. —Ron Heifetz and Donald Laurie, The Work of Leadership in Harvard Business Review (December 2001)

Balcony space happens when we set aside the large and tiny tasks of our day, let go of the emotional dramas that threaten to overwhelm us, and climb up to the metaphoric balcony, where we can get a better view of the whole. From the balcony, we can see the patterns of both our writing and our life. From that view, we can decide what works, what doesn’t work, and how we might make positive changes.

For me, balcony space creates the space and energy I need to ask questions, dream up possibilities, and discover solutions.

As a writer and writing coach, I try to make time for balcony space every quarter. Often, I can only manage to get a way for an afternoon—but spending just two hours on higher ground can teach me something valuable. This time of year is perfect for balcony time because it’s filled with both the energy of new beginnings (School!) and the urgency of endings (Eek! The year’s almost over!).

If you’re a professional writer or wannabe, you will be more successful if you regularly examine your writing career from the balcony. Here’s how:

Step One: Get out of the space where you regularly work. Find a place where you are away from your day-to-day life (and won’t be interrupted)—a coffee shop, library, park, restaurant, art museum, or spa.

Step Two: Get a big-picture view of your work.

+Review goals. Write down or review all of the goals you set for this year and the plans that you made to accomplish them. These questions might help:

*What were your goals for your writing career?

*What writing projects did you hope to finish by the end of the year?

*How much money did you expect to make from your writing this year?

*What other writing related tasks did you plan to take on (e.g., writing workshops, reading, research, and so forth)?

*What sort of a plan did you set up to help you meet your goal?

+Compare your goals with your daily schedule and writing products. Use these questions to reflect:

*How have you been spending your time?

*Do your daily actions match up with your goals?

*What work have you produced so far this year?

*Are you making satisfactory progress on meeting your income and writing project goals?

*If not, what other projects have emerged as priorities for your work?

*Are there any energy drains or unexpected commitments that have taken up your time?

+Reevaluate. For some of you, your actions will match the goals you set at the beginning of the year. Congrats! For many of us, though, we will need to reevaluate our goals and how we spend our time so that we can get back on track. Ask yourself:

*What goals do I want to accomplish before the year ends?

*What am I doing that is working?

*What am I doing that is not working?

*What do I need to do differently in order to meet my goals?

*How will I put this plan into action?

*How will I know if I am achieving my goals?

Step Three: Implement the new practices you created while on the balcony.

In order to benefit from balcony space, we need to let go of our old habits and invest in new practices. That can be tough. Most of us are pretty attached to our daily routine, and it often takes courage and a big kick in the pants to change. Now that you have been to the balcony, you know what you need to do. So do it!

A Final Note I hope your time on the balcony is fruitful for you. If it is, leave a comment below and let us know:

*Where you went for balcony space.

*What helped you get a new view.

*What changes you made or will make because of it.

IMG_0091About the author. Write Now! Coach Rochelle Melander is an author, a certified professional coach, and a popular speaker. Melander has written ten books including Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (And Live to Tell About It). As the Write Now! Coach, she teaches professionals how to write books fast, get published, and connect with readers through social media. Get your free subscription to her Write Now! Tips Ezine at

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Writers@Work: Make Money with your Life Story By Emma V. Webb

25 August 2015

Dear Writers,

I’d like to welcome Emma Webb to the blog. Today and tomorrow, you can get a copy of her new book at no charge at Amazon: Coming To America: How To Use The Three Golden Keys Of The Relationship Formula To Fit In, Get Along, And Get Ahead

Read on to hear how she decided to make money by telling her story!

Happy Writing,

Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach


“Everything that has happened in my life is worth money. Now, say it loud. Three times. Done? Do you believe it? Well, you soon will.” —Dr. Mani, author, “Think, Write, And Retire” and “Passion, Profit & Purpose”

Dr. Mani is one of my favorite mentors. But when I read that, my thoughts were, Oh yeah? Show me the money. A lot of things has happened in my life but my bank account is near zero.

After reading, “Everything that has happened in my life is worth money” a dozen times, I finally realized money will not come unless I got off my couch. I decided to let my fingers do the walking.

I sat down in front of my computer and with my two index fingers stepping over each other, wrote three books. Well, I did not write all three books in a weekend. It took longer.

How it began

When I was seventeen, I dreamed of being a writer. I studied to be a doctor instead.

When I was eighteen, my dream of being a writer was still alive. I got married instead.

At age twenty four, with two young children and a Pharmacy degree, my dream of being a writer was just a flicker, barely alive.

Before I turned twenty five, I moved to the United States of America from the Philippines. Life happened in my medical and business world for the next five decades. My dream of being a writer? What is that? What are you talking about?

Igniting a dream

Year 2014. That’s me on the couch. Older. The body moves in slow motion. The brain still works. I decided to revisit “Everything that has happened in my life is worth money”.

Igniting my dream to be a writer, I sat down in front of my computer and with two nervous fingers set the keyboard and the screen on fire.

If your goal is to write and publish books, here’s a list of suggested steps.

1. Find a quiet place, close your eyes, and breathe (inhale, hold to a count of 4, exhale). With continued practice, you’ll experience clarity of mind.

2. Write down everything you remember about your life. Here are some memory teasers:

+Anecdotes about your family, friends, enemies, jobs, career (s), etc

+Think of all the people who inspired you.

Some of my mentors I personally met and drew inspiration from are:

  • Tony Robbins. If you see Tony coming, watch out! His drive, energy, and strong desire to empower others is highly contagious.
  • Deepak Chopra. From him, I learned that life is an inside job.
  • Robert Cialdini. In his book, ” Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion”, he wrote about proven, effective, peaceful, and fun uses of what he refers to as the six weapons of influence.
  • Dr. Tony Alessandra. I follow his Platinum Rule which in essence says, “You                                   can please all the people all the time. Allow them to tell you how.”

3. Categorize the information. Place each category in separate folders.

4. Research.

+Who is looking for the information?

+What kind of information are they looking for?

+Where can you find those that need and want the information?

+How can you reach them?

+Are they willing and able to pay for the information?

+How are you going to sell to them?

5. Crack the marketing door wide open. Tempt their curiosity so they’ll want to see, hear, and feel your virtual product (s).

6. Set a deadline. Organize the information. Stroke the details. How much time do you need to get your book done?

7. Write

+Keep writing. Do not read and reread. Do not edit until your first draft is finished.

+Polish, polish, polish, and polish.

+Do a final check of the manuscript.

+Wow! Deadline!

8. Stop writing. Time to hand your baby to the editors. Let the editors have a go at it. Get out of their way.

9. Publish.

I self-published. It’s cheaper, faster, and rejections didn’t even get a chance. I was in control of every aspect of the publication process. And, kept most of the money made in sales.

10. Start on your next book.

A final word

It took me almost two years to write and publish the three books. The first two were written for readers searching for a way out of their emotional and physical bondage. The books were based on this belief: Meditate. Look within yourself to find the magnificent center of your personal power. We all look outside ourselves for peace and happiness but the real source is locked inside our inner psyche waiting to be discovered and released.

The third book is intended for the people coming from other countries who caved in to the pull of the mighty, magnetic force of the American lifestyle. It is filled with stories, as well as content on communication and relationships, designed to help readers make their way around the maze of challenges, changes, and opportunities.


Copy of EmmaAbout the author.  Emma V. Webb is a writer and an author with enlightening experiences drawn from a life span of more than seven decades. She was a Philippine board certified registered pharmacist when she arrived in America, worked in the medical field as a registered medical technologist and later transitioned to the business world as an owner/partner of a multimillion dollar real estate company, and as a vice president of a results-oriented marketing corporation.

Her funny and entertaining anecdotes about the “behind the scenes” of her life in the medical and business world delight many readers. Her books, Heal Your Pain: How I Use 3 Easy Meditation Steps in 2 Minutes to Reduce Anxiety, Depression, and Other Side Effects of Stress; 3 Easy Meditations Steps in 2 Minutes for the Busy Executive: How You Can Reclaim Your Personal Life and Emotional Power From The Tight Grip Of Your Joband Coming To America: How To Use The Three Golden Keys Of The Relationship Formula To Fit In, Get Along, And Get Ahead, are sold worldwideOn August 25 and 26, you can receive her newest book at no charge from Amazon.


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Writers@Work: An Interview with Lauren Fox

18 August 2015

Note From Rochelle

Dear Writers,

I’m delighted to be back in the office! But, as you may guess, when I opened my email—there were hundreds of messages waiting for my attention. If you sent one of them, don’t fret—I’ll be in touch with you soon!

Today I have a special treat for you—an interview with Lauren Fox, author of Days of Awe, a gripping story and an emotional roller coaster ride through the landscape of loss, love, and loyalty. Read the interview and then enter to win one of five copies of the book!

Happy Writing!

Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach




+I’m delighted to welcome Lauren Fox to the blog to talk about her new novel, Days of Awe. Welcome! Tell us about your new book, Days of Awe.

LaurenFox_DaysofAwe_New2Thanks so much for asking me to do this. These questions were fun to answer, and gave me lots to think about. Days of Awe is the story of a woman whose best friend dies, and then, over the course of the following year, her marriage falls apart, her relationship with her grieving daughter becomes fraught and difficult, and her relationship with her aging mother changes and frays. It’s just a little upbeat beach read! I think this book is about grief, about the inevitable losses we all face as we get older – and about to you put yourself back together in the face of it.



+What books inspired you before and during the writing process?

5941033As I was thinking about the book and the story I wanted to tell, I read Let the Great World Spin, by Colum McCann, which I found absolutely beautiful and mesmerizing. On the surface, it’s quite dissimilar in scope and tone to Days of Awe, but I admired it so much in part of McCann’s ambition, the way he took on disparate timelines and intersecting stories and how delicately they all came together in the end. Reading it, I felt like a world of possibility opened up for me in terms of how to tell a story. It felt serendipitous, reading that novel when I did.

I was also inspired by Falling to Earth, by Kate Southwood, a novel about a devastating 15812219tornado that strikes a small town in Illinois in 1925, and the one family it seems to spare. It’s a complicated and beautiful novel about sorrow and resentment and betrayal.

+One of the reviews praises Isabel’s wonderful voice—especially her use of surprising metaphors. Can you talk a bit about how you developed her voice?

I find so many things challenging about writing novels – plot, pace, setting, character development, to name a few! But voice is the one thing that tends to come fairly easily to me. I find I just get immersed in a character, and she sort of moves into my head. It’s definitely the most fun and magical part of the writing process for me – when a set of ideas and quirks and psychological traits and back stories alchemize into a character. Isabel’s voice fell into place for me when I recognized that the core of her struggle was about how to move through the changes and sadness in her life with the dark sense of humor that was already in place because of how she grew up.

+I write a lot about productivity and writing. One of my biggest challenges is juggling writing and parenting. What are some of your secrets to staying productive while parenting?

Oh, yes, that’s a good… wait, sorry, I had to unwrap a string cheese. What? Yes, juggling writing and parenting. I… oh, sorry, it’s three days later now. Where were we? Yep. It’s a tough one. I recommend having a partner with a flexible schedule, and absolutely devoted parents who live ten minutes away and are willing and eager to take your kids for as long as possible, whenever you want them to. Also, school. Truly, this is a constant juggling act, and I remind myself daily that it’s a good problem to have – a family I love and a job I love. But it’s not easy.

17847097+What books are you reading and/or recommending to others right now?

Some of the books I’ve read and loved over the past few months are Jenny Offil’s Department of Speculation; Time Present and Time Past, by Deirdre Madden; Thunderstruck, by Elizabeth McCracken; and Euphoria, by Lily King. I adored each of these books, and each is really different in tone and style, from an experimental novel to a collection of short stories. I highly recommend them all!



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UnknownAbout the author. Lauren Fox, who earned her MFA from the University of Minnesota, is the author of the novels Still Life with Husband, Friends Like Us, and Days of Awe. Her work has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, Marie Claire, Parenting, Psychology Today, The Rumpus, and Salon. She lives in Milwaukee with her family. Visit her online at:


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WritersRead: Books that have Spoken to Me by Gayle Rosengren

11 August 2015

Note From Rochelle

Dear Writers,

I’m enjoying my time away from work, finally reading some of the books I’ve been collecting all year!

I have a confession to make about the books in the stack. Some of them were written for children. I’m not alone. Adults purchase 55 percent of young adult books. At book groups, in articles, and on Facebook, I’ve heard many adults criticize this practice as part of the decline of adult intellectualism.

Seriously? Remember what Madeleine L’Engle said: “You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”

ColdWarMaplewoodStreet_Rev2Far from being childish, children’s literature tackles challenging topics. In these books, I’ve found well-developed characters and brilliant writing. But don’t take my word for it—read these books yourself! Today’s post is filled with delicious reads, hand picked by Gayle Rosengren, author of What the Moon Said and Cold War on Maplewood Street. After you’re done reading the post, enter to win both of her books!

Happy Writing!

Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach



With so many amazing books for children and teens being published every year–not to mention all the titles I’ve read in my lifetime–the prospect of shining a light on a few of my favorites at first seemed almost ridiculously easy. Covers and characters and storylines come rushing to mind. The problem was, they kept on coming. Six became a dozen and a dozen became 24 with more still trickling in. Each one was special, each one had something meaningful to say, a few long-time favorites were particularly dear to my heart (think Little Women). How could I possibly choose just a few out of what seemed to be a growing mountain of titles?

But like diamonds sprinkled among bits of gold and silver, some sparkled just a little brighter than others. One by one I set those to one side. A couple of them I first had to hug. They were that special. My favorites are not all recent publications. For me, the true test of a book’s success is whether or not it stays with me afterward, haunting me (in the nicest possible way), lingering and prompting further thoughts, realizations and admiration in the days, weeks, and months that follow.

11594337One such book is Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan. If you haven’t already read it, you are missing out on a remarkable experience. Ivan is a gorilla who lives in a cage at a failing shopping mall. He is also the narrator of the story. But instead of this making it more of a simplistic “animal story” his voice and observations elevate the novel to a level of thoughtful awareness and compassion that is lacking in many a human. Through his friendships with the animals around him, and his interactions with humans–especially Julia, a young girl who inspires the artist within him–Ivan’s life changes; and as you read, you will be forever changed too. Published in 2012, this book earned the Newbery medal. The jacket says it’s for ages 8-12, but don’t believe it. There’s no limit on the love this book will find with an audience of all ages.

15942671“Unique” hits a whole new level in Nancy Cavanaugh’s This Journal Belongs to Ratchet. One-of-a-kind main character Ratchet (real name Rachel) captures your imagination and your heart in this wonderfully fresh take on a young girl’s experience growing up with a dad who loves but doesn’t understand her. Ratchet’s quest for a friend and to find her own “style” without the help of a mom is a roller coaster ride of ups, downs and twists that she captures in her home-school journal. Smiles and heartaches abound when you join Ratchet on her unforgettable journey of self-discovery. This is an entertaining and thought-provoking middle grade book. The character of Ratchet and her voice (in this book in diary form) was the best part of this novel.

439288When Laurie Halse Anderson’s YA novel Speak was published in 1999, I was working in the young adult services department of my local library. I read it and immediately wanted to make it required reading for every girl and boy entering high school. Of course, I couldn’t do that, but I did the next best thing and put it at the top of every recommended reading list I created for teens and I told every parent and teacher I knew about it.

The book conveys such a simple message; so obvious. Heck, it’s right there in the title. Nothing subtle about it. But sometimes it is the simplest messages that are most difficult to act on. Caught between fear and anger, high school freshman Melinda is effectively paralyzed and does what many a girl before her has done in her circumstances–absolutely nothing. Instead, she buries a shocking and painful experience deep inside herself and tries to go on. But it is such an enormous and emotionally charged event, by keeping it stuffed inside she prevents herself from doing the very thing she most needs to do in order to heal–speak. This is another highly recommended read for writers because it demonstrates how a painful topic can be made more readable by the judicious use of humor.

64481My final recommendation is A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly. This is a YA novel set in the early 1900’s about a girl who dreams of leaving behind life on her family’s hard scrabble farm, going to New York to attend college on a scholarship, and becoming a writer. But it’s not as simple as that, of course. Mattie has big dreams, but she’s also a big sister to her brother and sisters, and that’s taken on enormous weight since her mother’s recent death. Her father doesn’t understand her longing for an education. He expects her to stay on the farm, mother her siblings and keep house for him. She could accept Royal’s offer of marriage and have some measure of independence while being near enough to watch over the children. After all, how will the little ones get on if she selfishly flees to New York? Still grieving for her mother, she wrestles with these question all through a summer that begins ordinarily enough but is upended by a drowning that will have a surprising impact on Mattie’s decision. The story is compelling, the characters are distinctive and real, and above all, the writing is beautiful. Not to be missed.

Each of these four novels–whether contemporary or historical, middle grade or YA, first person or third–possess the “something extra” that distinguishes these books from their peers. That special something is voice. All of them resonate in a way that pulls the reader into the story immediately, easily, naturally.

Most writers understand that voice is an elusive quality, nearly impossible to pin down with words. We just recognize it when we read it. The books I’ve recommended here are some truly excellent examples, definitely worth a read.


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Gayle Rosengren 100x100About the author. Gayle grew up in Chicago, attended Knox College, and worked first as an advertising copywriter and later as a Young Adult Assistant at Fountaindale Library in Bolingbrook, Illinois, enthusiastically sharing her love of books with young patrons. Eventually, she moved to Wisconsin and worked in children’s publishing. Now she lives just outside of Madison and is thrilled to write full time.

WhatTheMoonSaid_presalesHer debut book, What the Moon Said, historical fiction for ages 8-12, was a Junior Library Guild Selection, a CCBC recommended title; and an Illinois Reads selection. Her second book, Cold War on Maplewood Street, will launch on August 4, 2015. Both are published by GP Putnam’s Sons/Penguin-Random House and both are or will be soon, available as audiobooks. You can follow Gayle on Twitter at @GayleRosengren  and visit her online at




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#Writers Read: Is God Funny? Humorous Spiritual Writing by Elise Seyfried

4 August 2015

Note From Rochelle

Dear Writers,

I’ve taken off the next few weeks to read and spend time with my family. I’ll be back in the office on Monday, August 17!

LaurenFox_DaysofAwe_New2If you happen to live in Milwaukee, don’t miss tonight’s event with Lauren Fox at Boswell Book Company.  Fox will be my guest at the blog on August 18 to talk about her brand new book, Days of Awe. In the novel, Fox brilliantly portrays a woman who must somehow find a way through her grief. But Isabel Moore faces more the death of her best friend. Her marriage has fallen apart, her daughter is becoming a teenager, her relationship with her mother is changing—and she discovers that she didn’t know or love everything about her dead best friend. Days of Awe is both a gripping story and an emotional roller coaster ride through the landscape of loss, love, and loyalty.

Today’s tip comes from my friend and colleague Elise Seyfried, who is the author of several books on spirituality. She’s here to share with you her favorite funny spiritual authors. When you’re done reading, hop on over to the blog for a chance to win a copy of her book, Everyday Matters. Enjoy!

Happy Writing! Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach



Can God-talk be funny-talk?

I have wrestled with this for much of my life. Certainly, my understanding of the Bible has been that it’s not a real knee-slapper. As a young Catholic, I found the Baltimore Catechism to be 100% chuckle-free. It seemed to me that the Almighty was not a subject for levity, not at all. Candles, incense, communion? Yes! Pratfalls, puns and punchlines? Not so much! And life pretty well bore me out, with its terrible tragedies and everyday disappointments and general crosses to bear.

So when did I decide to write humorously about my faith? And who are my literary partners-in-crime?

Everyday Matters front coverAs a newly-minted Director of Spiritual Formation at a Philadelphia area Lutheran church in 2002, I made the decision to use my own, sometimes a bit irreverent, voice when talking about my relationship with the Divine. I have come to feel that my very existence proves that He/She must have a sense of humor. So I began writing stories about my crazy mixed up life, and God’s presence in the midst of it all, and found that people actually related. Three books and many articles and blog posts later, I still regularly reference the Lord in a light-hearted vein, and I haven’t been struck by lightning yet.

I soon discovered, I was not alone in the spiritual humor writer category.


Anne Lamott

10890“I thought such awful thoughts that I cannot even say them out loud because they would make Jesus want to drink gin straight out of the cat dish.” –Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott has been an inspiration to me for years. Anne is brutally, refreshingly honest about herself and her world. She is a recovering addict and a single mom and an incredibly gifted writer whose books include Traveling Mercies, Plan B, and Grace (Eventually). She talks to, and about, God, in very witty, very personal terms, and I, and many many others, can definitely relate.



Nadia Bolz-Weber

17333440 “He said that there would be more information available in the narthex. I leaned over to Matthew and whispered, “The Narthex? Isn’t that a Dr. Seuss character that speaks for the trees?”—Nadia Bolz-Weber

Another terrific humorist, a pastor and former standup comedian (and fellow Lutheran) is Nadia Bolz-Weber. I saw Nadia in person at a speaking gig in suburban Philadelphia. The event included raffling off a ham, just because. Nadia is the minister at the House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, and I am betting her sermons are a riot. Nadia is the author of Pastrix, and the upcoming book Accidental Saints.


Jana Reiss


“Psalm 20: May G grant your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans. Except that scheme about meeting Angelina Jolie. Give it up, man.” –Jana Reiss

Jana Reiss is one funny lady. She is the author of Flunking Sainthood and The Twible (which is the Bible in tweets, believe it or not). In Flunking Sainthood she fights her way through twelve spiritual practices in a year (the practices win). In The Twible Jana illustrates the point that God’s message adapts well to the language of the digital age–and hilariously, too.


David Wilkie

17861701WWJS? What would Jesus say if you met him over coffee? That is the premise of a wonderful series of comic strips by David Wilkie. The online comics have been collected into two books, Coffee with Jesus and A Second Shot of Coffee with Jesus. A recurring cast of flawed but very recognizable characters bring their questions and concerns to Christ, who answers them bluntly but lovingly, no matter how ridiculous some of their comments may be.




Father James Martin

12073134“Preparation for heaven forms the basis of a great deal of Christian theology. Life, in this understanding, is not so much a test as it is a rehearsal….in that case, why couldn’t earthly joy, humor and laughter be a way of preparing for a lifetime of happiness? …Engaging in those virtues, then, is not simply to live a fuller spiritual life now, but to orient yourself to your future.”—Fr. James Martin

And finally, James Martin, S.J. The Jesuit priest (and prolific author and speaker who has often appeared on The Colbert Report) has written a book, Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor and Laughter are at the Heart of Spiritual Life. From the ancient saints to modern popes, to writers of every faith tradition (including the Bible), Martin makes the case that God not only has a sense of humor, but delights in us laughing and making others laugh.

So those are some of a chorus of literary voices reminding us not to always take faith matters so deadly seriously. As much as life can be heartbreaking, life can be side-splitting too. It is wonderful that many spiritual writers are tapping in to their funny bones these days, giving us glimpses of the Divine that are very down-to-earth indeed, and very entertaining.


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Elise SeyfriedAbout the author. Elise Seyfried is Spiritual Formation Director at Christ’s Lutheran Church in Oreland, PA. She is an author, actress, and mom of five. She writes a regular column for The Chestnut Hill Local. Her work has also appeared in such diverse places as The Philadelphia Inquirer, Metropolis, The Lutheran Digest, Guideposts Magazine, Simul: Lutheran Voices in Poetry, and the Wittenburg Door. Elise is the author of the books Unhaling: On God, Grace and a Perfectly Imperfect Life, Underway: Reflections on Everyday Grace and Everyday Matters. Elise was lyricist for the Stanley Drama award-winning musical Flight and has co-written (with her husband Steve) 15 plays for children. Elise’s website is She blogs at


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Writers@Work: Getting Started with Graphic Novels by Lisa Walker England

July 28, 2015

Note From Rochelle

Dear Writers,

I’m getting ready for my annual August Internet sabbatical. I’ll be offline starting Sunday or Monday and (hopefully) won’t be tempted to tune back in until August 17th. During that time, you’re free to send me a note via email or social media—just know that it will take some time for me to answer you! While I’m offline, you’ll still receive my weekly Write Now! Tip.

Alethia-Grey-Vol-1-Cover-FINALToday’s tip comes from my friend and colleague Lisa Walker England. She’s a fantastic businesswoman and artist—and has stopped by to talk about one of her recent projects, a graphic novel that she’s releasing on her blog: The (Re)Invention of Alethia Grey. If you’ve ever thought you might be more suited to visual storytelling, read on! (And if you just want more tips about what graphic novels to read, you’ll find that below, too.)

Happy Writing!

Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach



We’ve all heard the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” If that’s true, then a graphic novel must be priceless. Many writers consider visual storytelling intimidating, but transitioning from prose to pictures can be easier than you might think. I made the leap. You can, too. Here’s what you need to know to get started.

Graphic novels have been called “the poor man’s movie.” To me, this is their biggest appeal. As visual media becomes ever more prevalent in our culture, the graphic novel format enables individual writers to capture new audiences without a huge production budget.

So what is a graphic novel exactly? At its simplest, it’s a novel-length story told primarily in visual format. Often the final product is a compilation of smaller comics (28 – 32 pages each) that each unfolded a piece of the running storyline.

Many, if not most, graphic novels are told in comic panel format, but increasingly, new releases borrow techniques from picture books, fine art, collage and even multimedia. Graphic novels can be in any medium, any genre and any subject matter. They can be written for any age group.

As you’re planning your graphic novel, keep one rule in mind. I call it The 80/20 Rule: tell your story 80% visually and 20% (or less) verbally. Never tell your audience what you can show them through pictures or symbols. While prose often focuses on a character’s thoughts and emotional arc, a graphic novel expresses these internal elements through action and facial expression, or sometimes through voiceover. The camera angle of each image and arrangement of images on the page also speak volumes.

Every graphic writer’s process is different; I can only speak for mine. Currently I’m releasing a steampunk mystery graphic novel called The (Re)Invention of Alethia Grey on my blog. I have no formal art background other than some lessons as a child, but I write and draw the story myself.


Most graphic novels start out with a written script that looks similar to a screenplay. The writer’s artist partner then uses the script to plan all the necessary images or panels to tell the story. S/he also must decide how many panels fit onto each page. My case is a bit different, however. Because I’m both writer and artist, I skip the script step. The original story was captured in a notebook; I revise it during the drawing process.


In most cases I have a strong idea about how each page should look. Most of my pages have no more than 6 panels, sometimes as few as 2 or 3. Each two-page spread is a scene or a complete scene segment with conflict and a twist of its own. In a longer graphic novel, a scene might last for multiple page spreads.


Personally I enjoy adding filigree designs, animals or other decorative elements onto the pages to communicate subtle meanings related to the story. All this sifts into the reader’s subconscious much more organically than the written word, which must be processed in the logical portion of the mind.

As I draw, each page comes together bit by bit with light sketches. Then I add the dark tones, midtones and light tones, “sculpting” each image as I draw and adding details where needed. Sometimes I have to start over—but very rarely. I work with the page as it unfolds.


IMG_9016One page per week might not sound like much, but every little bit adds up fast. I draw all the images by hand in charcoal and pencil on 11”x17” Bristol board. Then I import the image into Photoshop for cleanup and formatting. I add talk bubbles and narrative text (in rectangular boxes) right before releasing the page to my readers.


If you’re interested in trying a graphic novel, go for it! You don’t have to be a fantastic artist to communicate well. At the very least, you’ll learn to lean on visual cues rather than having your characters or narrator tell everything. If you don’t feel up to the drawing, barter services with an artist and tackle the project together!

If you’re looking for great graphic novels to inspire your work, try these:

Maus by Art Spiegelman

Watchmen by Alan Moore

Mouseguard (series) by David Petersen

Kabuki (series) by David Mack

Dark Tower (series) by Stephen King

Sandman (series) by Neil Gaiman

The Leaning Girl by Benoît Peeters


Also check out the many free web comics that run each week. I enjoy:

Boston Metaphysical Society by Holly Rosing

Girl Genius by Phil & Kaja Foglio

I hope you’ll stop by my site, too, and read The (Re)Invention of Alethia Grey.  I’d love to hear from you about your story and how your first graphic novel project goes!


Cameo_BlogAbout the author: Lisa Walker England is equal parts brand strategist and serial storyteller. She lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with her husband Nathan and two cats. The (Re)Invention of Alethia Grey is her first graphic novel. Visit her online at her business site or her blog.



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Writers@Work: There’s Food in My Fiction by Amy E. Reichert




FrontCover21 July 2015

Note From Rochelle

Dear Writers,

This past spring, I attended the Wisconsin Romance Writers of America conference. I loved it, and I learned a lot. Wisconsin author Amy Reichert presented a helpful talk on revision. Her debut novel—The Coincidence of Coconut Cake—was released today! She’s here to talk about how using food in fiction can engage readers’ senses. If you’re interested in winning a copy of her book, you can enter to win at the bottom of this blog post.

Happy Writing!

Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach




When I write, I like to create boundaries. There are so many word choices available in the English language, it can be daunting to choose the perfect one, then do it again, then do it again—until a book is finished. By creating some self-imposed rules, I can limit these choices to a toolbox.

When I started writing a book about a chef and a restaurant critic I knew food would be a central part of my book. In fact, it’s what drew me to the subject matter—I love to cook and eat delicious food. So choosing words related to food, even when actual food was absent in a scene, seemed a natural fit.

Even if your writing doesn’t feature food-related subjects, don’t dismiss it – it’s a powerful toolbox you should use. Books are full of details meant to engage the senses. Authors describe the color of rooms, the texture of clothes, the smell of an alley. Appealing to the reader’s senses brings a book to life, making it both relatable and tangible. The beauty of using food in your writing is it’s universal. We all have to eat and drink, so writers can use that commonality to pull the reader into the moment.

So, when writing about food, what are some things to keep in mind? Let’s look at each of the senses.

SmellScent creates strong memories, some of the strongest if the research is to be believed. It might trigger a character’s childhood memory providing a natural touch point for a flashback, or be the first sense engaged right before meeting a love interest – something you can play with throughout your story. When reading, scent isn’t often described, but it’s essential to tasting food, so make sure you include it when describe the smoky scent of bacon on a cheeseburger or the aroma of fresh strawberries bubbling on the stove.

TasteYour characters need to eat sometime, so why not have them do it with an audience. Use taste to echo the emotions of the scene. Maybe your two main characters are arguing over dinner, and their meatloaf tastes like the charred, crumbling cinders of their marriage.

SightAs writers, I think this is the first sense we explore. Challenge yourself when describing scenes. If you’re writing about food, find different non-food ways to describe it. For example, I could describe a hamburger as a hockey puck or broccoli as mini trees (you can do better, but you get the idea). You may ultimately not use these new descriptors, but it’s a good exercise for your brain. If you aren’t writing about food, try using food descriptions to liven up your prose, such as a sunset over a forest resembling a slice of watermelon. You get the idea.

Sound. You might not think food has a sound, but you’re wrong. Next time you’re cooking or eating, listen up. Your food sizzles in a hot pan, the knife snicks against the cutting board, celery crunches when you bite into it. How a character is chopping lettuce can add delightful layers to a scene. Is the knife making even, measured clicks on the cutting board? Or does it sound like a toddler just dropped marbles down the stairs?

TouchAim for something unexpected. Maybe your hero’s three-day scruff feels like a kiwi and your wizened cowboy has wrinkled skin like the apple you discovered in the back of the fruit drawer from last winter. Or a creepy character leaves your main character’s skin feeling like the slime on rotting lettuce.

So, dear reader, explore your grocery store for unexpected descriptions and useful tools to add layers to your writing.


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IllustrationsReichert0212-13About the author. Amy E. Reichert is a life-long Wisconsin resident with an M.A. in English Literature, a husband, and two kids. When time allows, she loves to read and collect more cookbooks than she could possibly use. Find her online:


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#WritersRead: Books to Enchant You This Summer by Rochelle Melander

IMG_0106July 14, 2015

Note From Rochelle

Dear Writers,

First, the news. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m in the middle of a website redesign. Later this week, my website designer will update her server, and my website will likely “break.” If you visit me at my online home, no doubt you’ll find many error pages. Fear not! I’ll be back online soon. Until then, feel free to email me with anything you might need.

Now onto today’s tip—my annual summer reads issue. Enjoy!

Happy Writing!
Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach



She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain. —Louisa May Alcott

Books are a uniquely portable magic. —Stephen King

I spent this past weekend in Spring Green with two dear friends from summer theatre camp at Michigan Tech University. We talked from early in the day to late into the night, watching first the Franklin squirrels and baby birds and later a spread of stars over our heads. On Saturday night, we saw a magnificent production of A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams at American Players Theatre.

Through it all, we told stories from our own lives. I’m not sure I can put into words how nourishing it was to hear the stories of their lives and share my own and then to watch the stories of very different lives unfold on stage. Still, with all that, I crave more conversations, more stories.

In the past year, I’ve read that reading reduces stress, may prevent Alzheimer’s, and can improve our ability to empathize with others. In addition, some people claim that bibliotherapy—encouraging reading for a therapeutic effect—can make us happier.

I don’t need a study to verify what I already know—books have a powerful therapeutic effect. Whenever I’ve needed to learn something—whether it’s technical information (how to cook), emotional (how to overcome fear), or prescriptive (how to build a life)—I’ve found the answer in books. And not just instructional, psychological, or self-help books. Judith Ryan Hendricks’s novel Bread Alone taught me more about baking than any of my expensive bread making books. My favorite manual on courage is A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L’Engle), where Meg faces her fears to save someone she loves. And whenever I’ve need to figure out what to do with my life, I’ve picked up novels like Catherine, Called Birdy (Karen Cushman) to remind myself: “. . . I cannot escape my life but can only use my determination and courage to make it the best I can.”

This list holds a few of the books I’ve loved in the last few months. Enjoy!

Mysteries and Thrillers

9264577-2Come and Find Me by Hallie Ephron. In this suspense novel, computer security expert Diana Highsmith hasn’t left her home since her lover fell to his death on a mountain-climbing trip. Instead, she does all of her work via a Sims-like virtual world. When her sister disappears, Diana must leave her safe cocoon to save her. What follows will shock you—and may leave you wondering who you can believe. Once you’ve finished this, go out and read Ephron’s other novels, including the latest suspense story, Night Night, Sleep Tight, set in the glamorous world of Hollywood during the 60s and 80s.


22240071A Murder of Magpies by Judith Flanders. Middle-aged London editor Samantha (Sam) Clair, is plunged into a puzzle when her star author goes missing along with the manuscript of his tell-all fashion book. Though the plot feels a bit clunky, I adored Sam and enjoyed the rest of the cast. And, of course, A Murder of Magpies is peppered with hilarious book wisdom like this: In the real world, no one kidnaps academics or journalists because no one wants them. It’s hard enough to get rid of them after dinner. Having them around all the time, drinking you out of house and home? Please. (p. 114, A Murder of Magpies, Judith Flanders

8804052The Bone House (Cab Bolton #1) and Season of Fear (Cab Bolton #2) by Brian Freeman (series). My dad got me hooked on Freeman, who also writes a series featuring Lieutenant Jonathan Stride (Start with Immoral). In The Bone House, Florida detective Cab Bolton is assigned to the case of a murdered teenaged girl Glory, found on the beach in Naples, Florida. The accused is Mark Bradley—who’d been fired from his teaching job because of a suspected affair with Glory’s sister, Tessa. When Mark and his wife Hilary return home to Door County, they receive a chilly reception. While Hilary fights to prove his innocence, the couple puts their faith in the quirky detective Cab Bolton—who believes in Mark’s innocence and seeks the truth. You can read both books in a weekend—but that may leave you wishing that Freeman would hurry up and write the next book in the Bolton series!

18465541The Water Rat of Wanchai (Ava Lee #1) by Ian Hamilton (series). I’m always looking for mysteries that feature female characters I can live vicariously through—and Ian Hamilton has created a winner in Ava Lee. This smart, resourceful Chinese-Canadian forensic accountant travels the world recovering lost funds for powerful people. Her partner, Uncle, is a formidable Hong Kong businessman. Together they right wrongs—often with Ava using her special Martial arts skills. Through it all, Ava remains stylish.



8686068The Devotion of Suspect X (Detective Galileo #3) and Salvation of a Saint (Detective Galileo #5) by Keigo Higashiro (series). In The Devotion of Suspect X, divorced single mother Yasuko Hanaoka has started a new life after escaping from her abusive ex-husband Togashi. When he appears at her apartment to extort money, they fight, and he ends up dead. Yasuko’s neighbor, Ishigami—a mathematics genius who works as a high school math teacher—aids her in covering up the murder. Detective Kusanagi and his friend, physics professor Dr.Yukama (or Detective Galileo), participate in a battle of wits to discover who did it, how it was covered up, and why. I’ve also read Salvation of a Saint—and both books provide a satisfying puzzle.

Books for Young People

7889899Tales of the Madman Underground by John Barnes. The story takes place over a weekend in the fall of 1973, when Karl Shoemaker is just beginning his senior year. Ever since his dad died of cancer, Karl’s been a part of “the madman underground,” an in-school therapy group. But this year, Karl vows to be normal—and that means not attending therapy group. Never mind that his mother is a chronic alcoholic and cat-hoarder who steals his hard-earned and artfully hidden money. Or that his best friend and every other friend he has is also a member of the madman underground. The book is long and winding, but hang in there—these are broken, imperfect characters who you will love and cheer for throughout the book and beyond.

19156898The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm. One day, 11-year-old Ellie Cruz’s mother receives a phone call from the police, asking her to pick up her father, Melvin Sagarsky. Ellie’s scientist grandfather has discovered how to reverse aging—and turned himself into a grumpy 13-year-old boy with acne and long hair. He moves in with Ellie and her mother, attends middle school with Ellie, and enlists her help to access his research, now locked in a corporate lab. Delicious and quirky, this book is perfect for tweens who love science and anyone who wonders what it would be like to be young again. Favorite quote, “To the possible!”


10481268The Apothecary (The Apothecary #1) by Maile Meloy. It’s 1952 and 14-year-old Janie moves to London with her parents when they’re accused of being communist sympathizers. There she meets a boy her own age, Benjamin, who is the son of the apothecary in the shop around the corner from her house. When the apothecary disappears, Benjamin and Janie join forces to rescue him and—oh my!—save the world from a nuclear bomb. I found this combination historical fiction fantasy novel to be both sweet and enchanting. (Also perfect for tweens and young teens.)


Sweet Reads!
12392479Joy for Beginners Erica Bauermeister. When six friends gather to celebrate Kate’s recovery from cancer, Kate issues a challenge. She’ll conquer her fears and go white water rafting with her daughter if her friends will each accept a personally chosen challenge from her. They agree, and the adventures begin. Each chapter tells the story of one friend working on her challenge. This touching book will leave you wondering what challenge Kate would have given you—or what challenge you can give your own friends!


23129712The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain. On some days, the world feels violent and unkind. It’s hard for me to see the kindness that I know is there. If you’re having that kind of day, pick up Laurain’s delightful tale about a bookseller who happens to find an abandoned handbag—and uses the clues in the bag to search for the owner. While searching, the single divorced dad falls in love with the woman he imagines carrying the purse. Kindness, adventure, and love—what more could you ask for?



15811526The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna Van Praag. When Alba’s promising academic career stalls, she takes a walk and finds herself in front of a house she’s never seen before: 11 Hope Street. The home’s caretaker greets her and offers her a room—with the challenge that she has 99 nights to restart her life. Alba receives wisdom from the other residents of the house as well as the former residents—who are now talking portraits on the wall. This novel provides the reader with a magical journey as Alba connects with famous women of history to find her life’s purpose.
“This house may not give you what you want, but it will give you what you need.”

Because I need someone to talk with about the book:
22545480The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen. In this mystery by a popular Finnish writer, Ella, a young teacher at the local school, is invited to join the Rabbit Back Literature Society. The society is made up of 9 writers chosen and mentored by children’s author Laura White. On the evening of Ella’s induction into the society, White disappears into a surprise snowstorm. It’s up to Ella to figure out what happened to White, what really goes on in the society, and—what’s with the crazy book virus that changes events in her favorite books? This isn’t a traditional mystery but it will keep you wondering what’s happening and why.

Reading right now!

21558902Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper. When I read the premise of this book, I had to read it: 82-year-oold Etta has always wished to see the sea, and so she sets out on a 2,000-mile walk to the ocean, carrying with her some chocolate, extra underwear and socks, and a rifle. The idea reminded me of the novel, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce, which I loved. In Etta and Otto and Russell and James, Otto is Etta’s husband, Russell is her deer-watching friend and neighbor, and James is a talking coyote (why, of course!) who accompanies Etta on her journey. Hooper tells the story through both narrative and letters, artfully weaving together events from past and present. Yes, the premise is tough to believe (Really? She’s walking more than 2000 miles?)—but beyond that, there’s so much to love: eccentric older people who face difficulties with grace, a war-time love story, an animal companion, and a cross-country journey on foot.

IMG_1552I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time by Laura Vanderkam. I was delighted to win this book from 800ceoread. As you know, I’m writing a book on productivity, and I’m curious to see what Vanderkam learned from her data—the time logs of about 1000 women who earn six figures. (I’ll keep you posted on my findings!)




Now it’s your turn. If you’re a reader or a writer, you no doubt have your own very long list. What stories have inspired or enchanted you this year? Please take time to share your favorite books in the comments below.

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When You Walk Through A Storm, Write A Book by Kathy Haueisen


7 July 2015

Note From Rochelle

Dear Writers,

Welcome to July!

As you know, I’m in the midst of a website redesign. If you stop by the site and find it offline—that’s why! If you need to connect with me, you can reach me by email.

14949394Today’s guest post comes from author Kathy Haueisen—and reminds us that for writers, our challenging experiences bring a special gift: material for blogs, books, and more! Haueisen’s book, A Ready Hope, is available in both paper back and e-book formats. You can enter below to win a copy!

Happy Writing! Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach



When You Walk Through A Storm, Write A Book by Kathy Haueisen


I know authors who are organized, goal-oriented, and disciplined. They commit to writing a predetermined amount of words, pages, or hours each day. I admire these traits and have aspired to have them. I’ve only been at this a little over forty years, so I might yet acquire that sort of writing discipline, but I have not yet.

My writing life is more like a river with constantly changing levels of water flowing along. At times the words flow so fast and furious I can’t type fast enough to record them all. Other times, wow—look at that—a cardinal. I sure do like the view out my window. Now what was I writing about?

My writing tends to be response focused. Typically, I experience some situation—either wonderful or devastating—and eventually write about it. Sometimes the writing is limited to my journal. Other times the experience leads to a magazine article, a devotional reflection, and on a few occasions even a book.

A Ready Hope about disaster response was like that. I got involved in some disaster response work following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita because they both wrecked havoc near where I live. I learned quickly how much I did not know about how a community recovers from a disaster. I soon also learned many of my church colleagues didn’t know either.

My bishop at the time, Paul Blom, asked me to help his office respond to the high volume of e-mails and phone calls coming in daily. People from all over the country wanted to come down to help clean up or send things to distribute to people flooded out of their homes and churches. The volume of such offers can overwhelm disaster responders.

Bishop Blom wanted to write about the storms and the power of the faith community’s response to them as a retirement project when he finished his term in office. Our church publishing house, Augsburg Fortress, wanted something released in time for the one-year anniversary date of Hurricane Katrina. He wrote. I edited. We collaborated and got God in the Raging Waters completed in time to meet the publisher’s deadline. (Thanks to my German father, I have a fear of missing deadlines that borders on obsessive compulsive disorder.)

In the course of preparing that manuscript and doing more disaster response work, I learned about the amazing faith-based organizations that come together quickly, calmly, efficiently, and compassionately following a disaster. Some individuals do this for a living; most gather as trained volunteer responders.

After about six months I returned to more typical pastoral work. I pitched the idea of a book about disaster response to Editor Beth Gaede, who was at Alban Institute at the time. The idea was that those who experience a disaster need to know what to expect for the first year. Those who want to help after a disaster need to know what they’re doing before they go. Spontaneous untrained volunteers can unintentionally add stress to an already distressed community. Since people frequently turn to faith communities for help following a disaster, I thought it a good idea for congregations to know how to prepare for and respond to a disaster when one impacts their community.

It wasn’t long before the project added plenty of stress to my life. Each person I spoke with gave me another amazing story or detail I wanted to include. Most also referred me to yet another person to interview.

Yikes! I was drowning in too much information. I didn’t want to abandon the project, as I truly believed this book needed to get printed. However, I soon realized I was in over my head. By now my daughter was working full time in the disaster response field. I asked her to help me write the book—mostly to help organize the overflow of information and to do the fact checking. Editor Gaede gave us permission mid-project to add Carol Flores as co-author.

I did most of the writing and all of the final edits. Carol helped sift through data I collected and organize the book in what we thought would be the most helpful format to learn about responding to disasters. I hit the “send” button on the e-mail containing the final manuscript at about 3 a.m. the day it was due. We did miss the original deadline though. I had to negotiate a new deadline when we stopped writing to deal with the threats and damages resulting from Hurricane Ike. The book is a fictional account of the recovery process following a Midwest disaster. Factual data we deemed crucial to know appears in sidebars and a detailed appendix.

The whole process was both the most challenging and most rewarding writing project I’ve ever undertaken. The things I learned often reduced me to tears—both because of the tragedies people had to endure and the creative ways total strangers responded to those tragedies. Through Carol’s contacts I met many dedicated, largely unknown heroes who make sacrifices large and small to help individuals and communities recover.

A Ready Hope: Effective Disaster Ministry for Congregations was released by Alban Institute in 2009. I’ve moved onto other projects now, but the lessons learned from writing this book have stayed with me.

Never in my wildest imagination could I have conceived of writing a book based on a series of natural disasters. Until I lived through three of them and lived to write about it. And that’s the way my writing life goes.

A friend once told me, “The great thing about being a writer is that no experience is ever wasted. It can always show up in a book some day.”

How true that was for A Ready Hope.


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Photo credit: Amada Faucett

Photo credit: Amada Faucett

About the author. Kathy (Kathryn) Haueisen sold her first story to the Cleveland Plain Dealer while a senior journalism major in college back in 1968. She’s been hooked on writing a publishing ever since. She is now retired after thirty years serving the Lutheran church as a pastor. She and her husband live in Houston but travel often to explore the world and visit with family and friends living all over the country. When not writing, she enjoys catching up with grandkids, gardening, cooking, reading, and staring out the window daydreaming. Visit her online at



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#WritersRead: Addicted to Romance by Elizabeth Cole

30 June 2015

Note From Rochelle

Dear Writers,

Can you believe it’s almost the 4th of July? My usual celebration includes my porch, a stack of books, and a glass of wine. But this year, I promised my daughter I’d celebrate by taking her to an Ed Sheeran concert followed by fireworks at the lake. Here’s to new experiences!

I’m in the midst of a website redesign, so if you stop by and find it offline—that’s why! If you need to connect with me, you can reach me by email. Speaking of the redesign, I’m happy to announce the winners of the Write Now! Coach Survey Drawing:

Better World Books $50 Gift Certificate: Stephen Ndubuisi

Starbucks Gift Cards: Dr. Kenneth R. (Ken) Cooper, Candle Drippings; Scott Uecker; Elizabeth Jaeger

Today’s tip from author Elizabeth Cole brings you plenty of material for an afternoon or a weekend of reading romance on the porch. Start with reading the first book in her Secrets of the Zodiac series, A Heartless Design. You can download it at no charge from all ebook retailers.

Happy Writing! Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach


What lead me down the garden path to historical romance?

I’m here today to talk about the books I read as a younger person, specifically the ones that got me enthused about writing romance, the genre that I write today.

I read voraciously as a young child and as a tween. Anything was fair game, but I had a particular interest in history. And as long as book had an “educational” element, my parents let me read it. One of the series I remember fondly is Sunfire Romances. Each book told the story of a heroine forced to choose between two handsome suitors, and there was always a significant historical event that occurred in the plot. The revolutionary war, wagons west, the sinking of the Titanic…that’s how I soaked up my history!

RachelOnce, as a twelve year old, I wowed some adult because I knew all about the tragedy of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire (the sad impetus for some of America’s first labor protections). And I was like “Dude! I read Rachel!”

My parents read a lot of mysteries—and encouraged me to read the most challenging books I wanted—so whenever there was a historical mystery in the house, I scooped it up and read it before we had to send it back to the library. Agatha Christie? Of course. Arthur Conan Doyle? You bet.

But…Ellis Peters? Oh, my. Talk about a gateway Cadfael1drug. The Brother Cadfael mysteries blew my mind and introduced me to this medieval world that real incredibly real, not like the fairy tale fantasy version of medieval life that Disney and others offered. (It’s helped that in nearly every book, Cadfael helped a young couple in love!). Cadfael is absolutely one of the reasons I studied medieval history in college rather than something practical.

But while my parents were totally fine with me reading about murder, crime, blood and gore, they didn’t think much of sexy romance. So I had to get those books on my own. I’d bike to the library and go through the “free” rack by the door, which contained ratty copies of Kathleen Woodweiss, Johanna Lindsey, and Virginia Henley, along with those ubiquitous Harlequins (the ones with virtually interchangeable covers and authors. All I had to do was scan for the right look (flowy dress and tresses? Handsome man in the background? Sold!). I devoured those historicals, not caring how accurate they were in describing the time. I only wanted to immerse myself in balls, dinners, dress fittings, and passionate arguments about why the heroine simply hated the hero (right before they kiss, of course). My more mature, feminist self would cringe at those books today. But as a teenager to young adult, they were perfect and exciting…just like a first love.

SotZ banner

When I decided to sit down and actually write a novel, all these influences swirled around in my brain to inspire the setting and the mood. That one novel (A Heartless Design) became many! The Secrets of the Zodiac series is a historical romance set in the early 1800s, and — surprise! — includes a mystery subplot in each one. I’m also starting a new series later this year. You’ll be shocked to hear that it’s a medieval romance…set right around the time Cadfael was solving medieval murders.

I’m sure there are authors who now write in genres that hooked them as adults, ones that they never glanced at when they were younger. But I’m so grateful that I have years and years of “research” to help me dream up my stories. I feel like the characters I read about as a kid are still with me, good friends that I can consult when I run into a plot problem. So think carefully when you hand a book to a child. You never know what you might be getting them into.

ECAbout the author. Elizabeth Cole is an author of historical romance. She can be found hanging around museums, coffeeshops, and graveyards…but not after dark. She is a full-time writer now, but before that she worked in bookshops, libraries, archives, or anywhere there were books to be read and cared for. Learn more at Elizabeth Cole’s new book is Beneath Sleepless Stars (Secrets of the Zodiac #5). Or start reading the first book in the series, A Heartless Design, at no charge on all ebook retailers.





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