The Outdoors: My Writing Inspiration

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Guest Post
By Gayle M. Irwin

I whipped the vehicle to the side of the road, put it into “park” and jammed on the emergency brake. I jumped out and joined about 50 other people along the bank of the Madison River inside Yellowstone National Park. We watched a pair of trumpeter swans gliding gracefully through the ripples of water with six cygnets. Although I had seen swans before, rarely had I encountered so many babies with their parents. I’ve not experienced such a sight since.

I relish open spaces, like those found in Yellowstone. Public lands, from parks and forests to wildlife refuges and national monuments, provide sacred spaces to still one’s soul, open one’s heart, and inspire creativity in one’s mind. I am fortunate to live near such special places, and each visit produces a piece of writing or two from the experience.

Other landscapes can stir the imagination, too, such as community parks, botanical gardens, and picturesque farms. Nature’s sights, sounds, and smells open the book of our senses and provide opportunities for creativity to flow.

Two other special outdoor spaces spark creativity for me. One is a ranch located 75 miles from my home, owned by some friends. About three times a year I travel and stay there for an extended period of time. The sage and grass-covered hills, rolling Powder River, and the distant Bighorn Mountains provide solace, and livestock and wildlife encounters bring smiles. Crimson sunrises greet me, and golden sunsets beckon sleep. The quiet relaxes me, and my friends’ generosity brings me joy. The modular guesthouse at which I stay possesses large windows from which one gazes upon the nearby fields and woods. White-tailed deer, fanned-out turkeys, and dancing sandhill cranes abound. I’ve composed many articles, short stories, and book chapters at this scenic and tranquil place. Continue reading “The Outdoors: My Writing Inspiration”

Story Length- Does Size Matter?

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Have you ever written a piece that became a form, or even a genre, you hadn't planned on writing in? Or do you choose a form/genre in advance?

“Make the story as long as it needs to be.” The words from my writing coach echoed in my mind when I began my journey writing romance and continues to help me with each story as it evolves.

Storytelling is an art form that requires writers to let the tale unfold the way it needs to. Resisting can influence the quality of the final execution. I have been in situations where I tried to pound a story to fit into specific word counts, mainly based on my own capricious standards or a publisher’s guidelines. The story almost always pushed back, leaving me to streamline and coax it into the required length. Sometimes it worked–but not always.

Continue reading “Story Length- Does Size Matter?”

How Author Dee S. Knight Finds Inspiration

Book Blog Promos (2)Guest Post
By Dee S. Knight

Every writer gets inspiration from somewhere, a muse that shouts (or whispers) in their ear, asking for a book. Often, I find mine in songs or from a phrase in a conversation.

I wrote the paranormal, erotic romance, The Man of Her Dreams (soon-to-be republished), based on a song I heard while out driving. The song was Wish You Were Here. It was about a man who had gone away for business and sent his wife a postcard talking about how beautiful the place was. He ended with “Wish you were here!” He died on the way home, and she received the card after his death. In The Man of Her Dreams, the heroine receives a strange card from her husband and then he dies on the way home. Her card ends in mystery and intrigue. I am enjoying re-reading this book as I update it for a publication this summer! Continue reading “How Author Dee S. Knight Finds Inspiration”

Writing Characters in Real Places and Spaces

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#openbook

Talk about the setting of your book. Is it entirely imaginary or is it based on a real-life place?

I love writing stories that allow readers to tap into the fantasy and escapism that fiction provides. At the same time, I like to include points of reference from my environment. Similar to integrating real-life characters experience, my story plots also contain geographical references to position readers in characters’ environments, potentially essential to reinforce arches and allow them to relate.

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Settings in the romance genre tend to be at economic and geographic extremes. At a Popular Cultural Association conference, romance scholar Jodi McAllister pointed out that romance plots frequently unfold between female protagonists and rich men in cities or small-town bearded hunks.  She posed a question asking why people didn’t seem to fall in love in the suburbs. She made a great point. I spent my teens and early adult life reading about ridiculously wealthy men taking their love interests to bed. Not necessarily a bad thing, I enjoyed the escapism, but not everyone lives like that way, nor do they exist in tiny towns with one traffic light. I want my readers to see themselves in my stories. Continue reading “Writing Characters in Real Places and Spaces”

Black Muslim Authors 2020

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Join me and authors as we connect with readers and discuss the importance of building narratives.

  • 2/22/20
  • 11 am to 4 pm EST
  • Hartford Public Library
  • 1250 Albany Ave, Hartford CT 06112

The Non-negotiable Writing Exchange

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What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?

For people dedicated to the craft, writing is an impactful part of their lives and identities. I mentioned in another post, “I acquired and honed skills to interpret and craft words, using a range of prose (and a tiny bit of poetry) to harness the resilient power of language for liberation and resistance.”

Endeavors to generate words can be powerful and empowering, making writing a tool and art form requiring commitment. 

Dedicated writers pick up their pens [or fire up their keyboards] to share their perspectives and stories. The better ones know that wordsmithing involves layers of composition, drafting, editing and revising—all of which require development. Only deluded writers think that their skillsets are fine and they don’t need to hone them. 

Two mistakes many new writers make are thinking that all writing is the same and it will not take that much work.  Continue reading “The Non-negotiable Writing Exchange”

Book Writing, A Numbers Game

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#openbook

How many hours a day do you write? How long on average does it take you to write a book?

When I saw this week’s Open Book Blog Hop prompt, I laughed because it coincides with some realities I have had to face while participating in NaNoWriMo this month. The month-long writing challenge is meant to get writers to sit themselves down and finish a set goal during November.

Although I signed up for NaNoWriMo years ago, I had not participated. Why? That’s for another blog post. This year, someone encouraged to consider using NaNoWriMo as a tool to complete book four in the Brothers in Law romance series. Brandon and Hawwah want their story out there,  so I agreed.  I am half-way through the challenge and only have a little over 4k of my 50k goal achieved. I have been writing but not just the manuscript.

nanowrimo

Continue reading “Book Writing, A Numbers Game”

Weaving Stories Readers Want

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Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

Authors frequently discuss notions of originality and fulfilling reader expectations. I have read posts all over social media and on blogs, all with writers seeking to draft texts that pristine from anything else written under the sun and that will satisfy a mass of readers worthy of their artistry. Both are exercises in futility.

Defeatist? No. A powerful storyteller resolves to the realities that neither is their story completely untold nor will it enchant every pair of eyes (ears hearing, fingertips touching) gracing it.  At the crux of any good story is the distinctive style and voice of the weaver of the tale, which is the primary way an author can create something that is theirs to share for people to connect with and respond.

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Continue reading “Weaving Stories Readers Want”

LWL Podcast: Naming Characters

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Naming characters can be an involved and frustrating part of the novel-writing process, but it is critical to provide ones that will pique readers’ interest and give them a chance to connect with the personalities making up a story’s plot. In this LWL episode, I talk about the undertaking of finding the most suitable names for my stories’ characters and a little bit of reader drama with one character’s name.

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Continue reading “LWL Podcast: Naming Characters”

Character Building: I Made This

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What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?

I may (or may not—I admit to nothing) base a character on someone I respect or despise, so I will have to be salty and sweet with the response to this week’s OpenBook blog hop post. Let’s start with the people I like.

Sweet

I’ve explained in a Black Glue Podcast interview how the Prophet Muhammad served as inspiration for the male characters featured in the Brothers in Law series.

I reflected on the Prophet (Muhammad’s) life and how he was as a husband … lover … someone out in the community and how he transitioned between those things. What he did when his women were mad at him, and what he did when his women were acting out. [The brothers in law] don’t act exactly like the Prophet, but there are characteristics each one of them has.

Simon is the one who keeps things at a level where it doesn’t get too bad. He doesn’t allow things to get to him as much.  Marcus is the alpha, alpha. He’s the leader. He expects things to happen the way he needs for them to happen because he’s progressing the nation. Adam is that inner reflection.

Continue reading “Character Building: I Made This”

LWL Interview: Aubree Pynn Keeps Her Keyboard Lit

LWL Author Interview (1)Aubreé  Pynn is a writing demon. She pumps out books that capture readers with dynamic characters and plots that make one flip page after page. She already has readers loving main characters Indigo and Taj in her latest book, Indigo Haze. Check out the blurb.

Indigo Haze: Thug Love is the Best Love by [Pynn, Aubreé]Indigo Haze: Thug Love is the Best Love

Available at

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Blurb:

Indigo Sims is fighting to break the curse of his environment and not be a product of the streets. Every time he pulls away, something goes array and sucks him back in. A natural-born leader and peacemaker, he gives himself two months to be free from the streets while saving every dollar he can to fulfill the promise he made to himself.

Taj Ali Adams has a bright future ahead of her and an undeniable light that everyone around her wants to protect, especially her older brother. With tragedy lingering around her, the light that shined so bright goes dim. Continue reading “LWL Interview: Aubree Pynn Keeps Her Keyboard Lit”

My Author Ego: It’s Big; Who’s Asking?

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Does a big ego help or hurt writers?

Ego is an often vilified human characteristic.  Regarding one’s self-image, confidence, and esteem, we all need some ego.  Without a healthy ego, a person can become easily manipulated and hesitant to take the risks needed to put herself out there and achieve life’s goals. Self-published authors especially need that last one in spades. 

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Authors take big risks by releasing their work into a world that may be unkind. Writing something that readers may arbitrarily skewer for a plethora of substantial and tedious reasons is damn scary.  I once had someone give my book a lower review because they thought I didn’t show how the main character was Muslim (the character wasn’t) and another because they didn’t like “all of the racism” in an interracial romance.

Yeah, exactly. It takes a humongous ego to read helplessly while people slice and dice away at something that took blood, sweat, and tears—I am not exaggerating—to create.  Continue reading “My Author Ego: It’s Big; Who’s Asking?”

Problems when Working a Scene

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#openbook

What was your hardest scene to write?

The challenges that present when writing a scene vary from one writing project to another. A manuscript can have multiple difficult scenes taxing authors, making time drag as the cursor flashes or notebook page sits untouched, leaving them all kinds of frustrated.

Scene troubles may involve persistent issues with the plot’s structure, or they may be thematic and restricted to one manuscript. Continue reading “Problems when Working a Scene”

Why Seasons Matter in Fiction

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#openbook

Do your stories and worlds reference seasons and do they play into the plots of your books?

Seasons provide important time elements to a story’s plot. The environment in which characters interact is significant in setting the tone and helping readers keep track of how much time has passed between plot points.

Time passage within a novel can be large (days, months, and years) or small (a few moments or minutes), and all of it can affect the story’s pacing, grabbing readers’ attention or losing it. A lot of my novels involve events requiring longs periods of time to pass from the book’s beginning to the end.

Anchoring Time

Continue reading “Why Seasons Matter in Fiction”

3 Writing Traps for Newbies

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What are common traps for aspiring writers?

Writing is a process rich with possibilities for errors. Anyone taking to the pen and pad or keyboard to share their stories and experiences with the world will inevitably trip, fall, get crushed, or end up a blubbering puddle of frustrations and regrets.

Count on all the above because our humanness makes it inevitable. Things will get messy just like us.

I spent years as a writing coach at a four-year college, where I saw students making the same mistakes and helped them hone their skills. When I ventured into professional writing as a freelancer, the easy transition from academic writing surprised me. I became popular with some online Muslim publications (I only write for them for personal reasons) and launched a cultural platform. Save for a few shifts in tone, I had it easy.

I didn’t encounter many bumps in the road of my journey as a writer until I wrote a novel. My strong writing background did not secure me from making some newbie mistakes, and I found many other authors who expressed that they made them. 

Continue reading “3 Writing Traps for Newbies”

In Vitro: Short Story Audio Clip

WELCOME NEW MEMBERS! (1)Alhamdulillah, I am blessed to have Sabina Khan, a great writer, for a critique partner. One of the biggest challenges we have when it comes to working together is our often conflicting schedules. However, this being the digital age, we managed to come up with a method—at least on my end—to share.

I often leave audio clips of my work for Sabina to listen to at a convenient time. She expressed to me how much she enjoyed listening to me read my work and constantly encouraged me to upload audio clips for my readers.  I was initially hesitant, but I decided to give it a try by reading the first part of the newest Layla Writes Love short story, In Vitro.

Continue reading “In Vitro: Short Story Audio Clip”

#MFRW- Character-Driven Plot Building

blacksmith-3141724_1920#MFRW Plotter or panzer, and why?

I tend to be a character-driven writer. I have a bunch of people stomping around my head demanding that their stories be told.

Yeah, kinda like that. Because they are at the base of my writing, I usually have to structure a plot based upon what the main protagonists in a story want, the obstacles that get in the way with that, and how they change from the beginning to end of the plot. So, an organic plot structure is at the crux of my writing.

I also have a drill-sergeant for a writing coach, who doesn’t believe in just writing and letting a story evolve, at least not at the fundamental level, which plotting a story mainly involves. I think that is what confused me at first, and I also see it when I mentor writers. I had the tendency to think of details as essential to structuring a plot. They aren’t, and once I got used to sifting through them to the core components of a story, I have become better at having a solid plot on which to build it. Continue reading “#MFRW- Character-Driven Plot Building”

LWL Interview: Talia Hibbert An Author Who Makes Quirky Sexy AF

Mis Quince Años (13)I first started reading Talia Hibbert a year ago. As soon as I read her book Damaged Goods, book 1.5 in her Ravenswood series, I was hooked and had to backtrack to catch up on the series. I was quickly caught up in all of the steam and drama. Really, she has some serious don’t miss reading.

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Talia writes smart and relatable characters who are wonderfully imperfect, which I love. I am looking forward to the release of That Kind of Guy [Ravenswood book three] tomorrow, May 2! Check out the blurb:

That Kind of Guy (Ravenswood Book 3) by [Hibbert, Talia]She wants a fake relationship. He needs something real.
Continue reading “LWL Interview: Talia Hibbert An Author Who Makes Quirky Sexy AF”

#MFRWAuthor – A Bookish Life

MFRW 52-Week Blog – How books can influence daily life.

I have books e’rywhere. I think each room in my entire house (basement included) has a book. Yeah, I checked.

Fortunately for me, I married a bibliophile. When we married and I moved into his apartment, he sat my boxes of books in front of his wall-high shelf filled with books. Our collections have been growing for over 27 years.  Our kids caught the book bug as well.

We all appreciate the impact that books have on our lives. Whether for learning, entertainment, or a combination of both, reading is essential. Continue reading “#MFRWAuthor – A Bookish Life”

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