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Guest Blog – ‘Tis the Season – By Sharon E. Cathcart

We all seem to be rushing around doing our holiday shopping, making lists and checking them twice. Naturally, as an author, I would love for you to buy my books — or work by another indie author. I highly recommend books by Jaimey Grant for the Regency romance lover in your life, and T. E. MacArthur for the steampunk lover.

Sharon E. Cathcart

However, there are a lot of people out there in desperate need. Your local food bank could use a donation, for example. Ditto your local animal shelter.

I am still running my charity drive via Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, an organization that helps people living with this illness in all 50 states.

I am also donating ducks again via World Vision. So many people in developing nations have lost their livestock and livelihoods due to flooding. Ducks help solve that problem. They provide eggs for food (and sales) and ducklings can also be sold for extra income.

Perhaps instead of rushing around to big box stores and standing in insane lines for the latest electronic gizmo or game, a smaller sum can be used to provide help to those in need. Just a little food for thought during this season of giving.

About this author

Books by internationally published author Sharon E. Cathcart provide discerning readers of essays, fiction and non-fiction with a powerful, truthful literary experience.

A former journalist and newspaper editor, Sharon has been writing for as long as she can remember and generally has at least one work in progress.

Sharon lives with her husband and an assortment of pets in the Silicon Valley,California.

What’s Your Why? A Guest Blog by Darlene Foster

 I found this fabulous article on Lynne Klippel’s Business Building Bookssite and just had to share it.

Written on October 13, 2011 by admin in Author Inspiration, Writing

Kathleen Ragan, a stay-at-home mother, loved reading stories to her young daughters. She took them to the local library every week to pick out fresh books and made story time an important part of every day.

Kathleen began to notice a disturbing trend. All the books she was reading featured male heroes. As she began to study childhood classics by Dr. Seuss, she noticed the only female characters were negative ones – lazy mothers, gossipy women, or colorless sisters who had no dialog. She then started to study fairy tales and other popular children’s books. There were few featuring girls who were brave, intelligent, or leaders. Instead, the books featured princesses who required rescuing, were evil step mothers, and were wicked witches.

These were not the role models Kathleen wanted for her daughters. She began an exhaustive search for folktales from around the world featuring female heroines. It took several years of exhaustive research including reviewing more than 30,000 stories.

This research led to her book Fearless Girls, Wise Women, and Beloved Sisters, published in 1998. The book features 100 stories from around the world with female heroines and are ideal for reading aloud to children.

Why is this story important to you?

Writing a book is a big job. It requires an investment of time, energy, and effort. In order to finish a book, you must have a passionate reason WHY you are writing that book. That passionate Why will pull you forward and give you the energy you need to complete your book.

Kathleen was passionate about providing inspiring stories for her daughters. Her passion propelled her to do whatever it took to create her book and share it with the world.

What about you?

Use these questions to measure your passion for your current writing project:
1.Do you enjoy learning about the topic of your book?
2.When you have extra time, does it feel like a treat to work on your book?
3.When you share your book idea with others, do you feel excited and exhilarated?
4.Have you clearly identified WHY you are writing this book?

If you notice that you are not feeling passionate about your book, don’t give up right away. You have two options. You can decide to select another topic which feels more exciting. Or, you can make your current topic more enjoyable to write by adding stories, fresh research, or taking a bolder stand.

One of the quickest ways to increase your passion for your book is to have some conversations with your ideal readers. Discover their needs and determine how your book can serve them. Reconnect with your passionate heart for helping others and you’ll find you’ve

Darlene Foster is a Self-employed writer from Delta BritishColumbia. In her words:

“I am a writer, traveler, and dreamer. I am lucky to have a great family and wonderful friends. I believe “a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet.”

Writer’s Block – Myth or a Real Condition?

Writer’s Block – Myth or a Real Condition?

Writer’s block is generally recognized as a serious condition among professional writers. Not just novelists, but journalists, performers, songwriters, copy writers and others who write creatively  all fall victim from time to time.

First recognized in 1947 by psychoanalyst Edmund Bergler, the term refers to a “condition” that can range from a complete lack of ability to write for years on end to a temporary inability to be creative to one’s satisfaction.

Writer’s block has been described in screenplays, novels, the news and in blogs.

Novelist Stephen King used it as a lynchpin in “The Shining.” Main character Jack Torrance was paralyzed by writer’s block, which eventually led to madness. Or did it?

Was it the lack of ability to write or was the sheer isolation of the Overlook Hotel that led Mr. Torrance to kill? Or, was writer’s block just another bit of fiction employed by King?

I feel that writers too often use writer’s block as an excuse for not doing what, at that moment, does not come easily. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of putting down one word at a time and allowing yourself the freedom to write badly until your muse comes to the rescue. At least this way, you have some material to build upon.

Yes it’s true, finances, family and spousal relationships, the wrong environment and other factors can affect your ability to stay focused on your work as a writer. But if every writer waited for  inspiration before putting pen to paper – or fingers to keyboard –  there would be little in the world to read. (And a lot of us would be very hungry!)

When I posted my opinion about writer’s block on Facebook and LinkedIn, I received a lot of feedback. Here’s some of what other  writers had to say about it.

“If inspiration doesn’t come to me, I chase it with a stick”

 “I think writer’s block is a genuine experience. Although given such a label makes it sound like some kind of affliction. I have it myself from time to time … usually when I am stuck on the direction my plot should take. It doesn’t last long. I never stress about it. I write around the problem and return to it later.

 “I write full time, everyday, but there was period where I would go to my studio and literally just couldn’t find the words, or a plot to put down. The more I tried the harder it got. I didn’t believe in the existence of writer’s block until then. It ended the same way it began. I went to my studio and just started writing and completed my usual two-thousand words per day.”

“Neurology has proven that when an individual is stressed or threatened, a part of the brain stem called the Reticular Activating System will shift control from the cerebral cortex to the limbic system. Without significant input from the cerebral cortex, the individual is temporarily deprived of the ability to perform nuanced analyses and creative thought.  Moreover, the individual is rarely aware of this shift and often attributes the resulting inability to perform her or his usual creative thinking as lack of willpower, character or ability.”

There is definitely a thing called writers block, but I believe that something in your life causes it. I have writers block, and mine is caused from someone close to me, offering his opinion on my grammar, and English – Over and Over again.”

“I was full of creative ideas and was writing so good. I slowly began to think about my grammar, and correcting it, and finally, all I could think about was my English and Grammar so much, that I had no room in my mind to create a new novel. I now have writers block. “

“Discipline makes me write – sans the mood. Pen to paper and everything turns out alright.”

 While I do not claim to have all the answers, I believe that those who stop writing because of  “writer’s block” are left with only blank pages, rather than material to improve upon. Some of my best wok has occurred when I have forced myself to pluck out one word at a time. When I find my writing not up to my standards, I rewrite and rewrite until I am satisfied. Giving in to any temptation or excuse not to continue will only leave me with nowhere to go when I return.

For those who suffer from writer’s block, I sincerely wish you all the best. I encourage you to persevere and not give in. Imagine all those who go through life each and every day with physical and mental disabilities. They often overcome their handicaps, and I wish you Godspeed in overcoming yours.


I received many comments on the last post regarding prequels and back-story. Many authors express the belief that prequels tend to be an author’s saved up back-story. If that is the case, it is unlikely that a compelling prequel will follow. There is a quite a bit to consider as we discuss prequels.


As the authors, we know what happened before our published work; where our characters came from, what makes them do the things they do, why this one is afraid of the dark or that one has an aversion to apples…we created these personality quirks and the reasons behind them. A prequel does not have to be the “why” of the already published work. Honestly, just because one reader wants to know why John Doe flinches every time the doorbell rings, does not meant that EVERY reader wants to know the story behind that quirk. We need to ask ourselves, is our story idea compelling enough to interest a reader in spending his or her hard earned cash on a book? A prequel should be a standalone story that just happens to be inhabited by one or two (or maybe all) of the characters from our current novel. It’s not there to explain the entire back story; it can, however, support character traits or give deeper insight into certain characters. So what’s all the fuss about prequels?


Problem number one, as I see it, is the story map. We have a perfectly good published novel with a sequence of events that is set in stone. Now, here we are later, writing a novel that leads up to that sequence of events – we have to make sure we don’t contradict ourselves or send our characters so way off the beaten path that it’s just not a plausible story to bring them back. The sequence of events in the prequel must logically lead up to the sequence of events in the published work, even if the prequel takes place many years earlier when the main character is just a child (or in the case of Star Wars, before the main characters are born). For example, if in the already published story, our main character mentions that she lost her parents in a fire when she was 20, we can’t possibly have her ask her mother for advice in a prequel that takes place when she is 25. The story map must be consistent and lead the main characters to the path of the already published novel, or at least to a path that the readers can believe will put them upon the path they will travel in the published novel.


Facts must be checked and double checked; even the most seemingly innocuous comment made by a minor character in the first book must coordinate with the storyline in the prequel. If there is an inconsistency in even the minutest detail, we can be sure that a reader will notice it and it will become a thorn in that reader’s side. Every character counts; we need to make sure a minor character doesn’t push a main character off track. If the story line of the prequel is gleaned from an event the main character mentions in the published work, we need to make sure that any character mentioned in the existing work now exists in the prequel. For example, if our MC mentioned in passing that she had a college roommate named Donna at the time her parents perished in that fire and our story takes place during that time frame, we need to make sure Donna exists. No Donna – no continuity. Worse yet, we need to make sure we don’t call the MC’s roommate Rachel. Check the facts, check the facts, check the facts! Did I mention we need to check the facts?


As authors we must make sure that nothing in our prequel negates the novels that are already published—character traits and motivation must be consistent. However, in my opinion, in order to be a successful prequel, the story should be about our characters at an earlier time– a separate stand alone story that will captivate readers not just a pre-shadow of our other novels. When we are writing a prequel, we need to travel back and forth between the published work and the work in progress; making sure that the events occurring in the prequel do not deter the events of the already published work. Some may liken this to time travel stories where the characters are warned to not alter anything in the past because one little stone out of place can set a chain of events that changes the already established present and future. There is a lot of backtracking and double checking to be done when attempting a prequel; the webs must be woven carefully and delicately in order to create a consistent and believable storyline.

What other issues stand out when you think about prequels?



Prequels have been dealt a bad hand. For many writers, they are considered taboo – bad luck, the death of your series; other writers calmly advise avoiding them when possible. So what’s the “plague of the prequel” all about? For one thing, they can be boring filler if we are not careful; who wants to read something that is just background fluff about our characters? Prequels can throw our entire published series off track; if the actions of the characters don’t lead them to the path they are on at the beginning of our already published novel, then the already existing novel won’t make any sense. Prequels can render our already established characters unbelievable. Now that I have completely discouraged the writing of prequels, here’s a good reason to write one: the readers want one; they want to know what happened before our novel took place. Our readers are curious as to WHY our main character behaves the way s/he does; they want to know more about her/him; where s/he came from; who s/he is; what her/his life was like before the book they just read. If our characters are compelling enough and we are very, very careful, we can create a prequel that will knock our readers’ socks off.  So how careful should we be and what should we be so careful of?


Since hearing from my readers that they want to know more about my characters lives before my first novel, Webs of Power, I felt compelled to write a prequel; but I was also determined to avoid dumping a boatload of back-story on them. I wanted to know all the pros and cons of writing a prequel so I did a little research online.  I have never read so much about Star Wars in my life! It seems the inconsistencies in the back-story are a huge disappointment to the fans; apparently Star Wars fans are extremely knowledgeable about the characters in the series and the inconsistencies they found in the characters and in the stories of the three prequels are a huge source of distress and complaint. Now granted, I am talking about a movie here, but the issues movie prequels face are closely related to the issues book prequels face:

  1. The sequence of events must logically lead from the prequel to the established story and must be consistent with the already established story
  2. The characters must stay true to who they are to become
  3. The audience already knows where the character is going to end up, so the prequel not only needs to lead to this path, it has to make the journey interesting in itself

I want to address each of these issues separately, so the next several blogs will deal with the issues of writing a prequel as I see them.


What do you see as the problem with prequels?


Life Gets in the Way – How committed are you to your writing?

Commitment unlocks the doors of imagination, allows vision, and gives us the “right stuff” to turn our dreams into reality.” ~ James Womack


Are you committed to your writing? I saw a post recently that asked what the difference was between a writer and someone who writes. It got me thinking about my commitment to my craft and how things may have been different for me if I had not had the ability to commit to my writing. Not everyone has the luxury of retirement and grown children, but making time to write is the only way to actually become a writer. It may not get us published, but nobody said that writing was the end of the story, either. The point is, if we want to be writers, then we must write; sitting at home thinking about writing, driving the kids to school thinking about writing; wishing we were home writing instead of sweating at our child’s soccer game – none of that will  make us writers.  The only way to be a writer – is to write.

Carving out time for writing is one of the most difficult parts of being a writer. If we wait for the muse to visit us, it becomes even harder to find time to write. That brings up another point: “finding time”; if we have to find it, we never will. We need to make the time to write. I’ve blogged about this before; it’s not something that can be put off for when we find the time. We have to be committed to it and schedule it like any other appointment we have. Do we find time to go to the doctor? Yes, we do. Do we find time to go to the dentist? Yes. Our writing time needs to be placed in a position of extreme importance and there are so many of us who don’t place it there. Life gets in the way – it does; but if we are committed to our writing, once life calms down, we go back to it.

There are so many of us out there who dream of writing; who want it so badly it’s all they think about. There’s the problem right there. We dream, we think, we contemplate…we should be writing. Writers write – there’s no two ways about it. If we are dreaming…we are dreamers. If we are writing…we are writers. It’s really that simple. Take this quote from Mario Andretti:

Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal – a commitment to excellence – that will enable you to attain the success you seek.

We can WANT to write, but unless we are determined to write, committed to writing, we will not find the success we are reaching for. I had a conversation with a friend the other day about an article on a group of Harvard students who wrote down their long term goals and reread them every day vs. a group of Harvard students who just thought of their goals, but didn’t record them or revisit them. Amazingly, a vast majority of the students who reread their goal list reached their goals, while the majority of the students who didn’t revisit their list daily, were still wandering around wondering what to do with their lives. Interesting, isn’t it? Just rereading what they wanted helped them commit to the path they needed to follow in order to pursue their dreams. They were committed to their dreams; they followed the path towards their goals and they committed to that path. What does that say about commitment? If we commit to our writing, to being writers, will that make the goal more attainable? Well, I can say that if we don’t commit to it, we will most likely be wandering around years from now saying: what if? What if I had taken the time to follow my dream?  Yes, life does get in the way sometimes; it can’t be helped. But a life without reaching for our dreams is not much of a life at all – it’s an existence. Why just exist when we can reach for the stars?

How do you commit to your writing?