Having been prompted -by my voices-to write a time travel romance, I've found that it's not as easy as it sounds. While I could make all the characters, ships and places fictional, that would be too easy! So, I've had to figure out  how she travels. To which year she travels.  Who is involved? And, how, or if, she returns to her own time.  I assure you, this is as difficult as it sounds. Especially since  I want things to be intertwined and feasible. Okay, as feasible as traveling through time can be. I begin my research buy turning on the computer, pulling up the search engine and hitting enter. Some questions evoke an immediate answer, others take a fair amount of rewording. As with most things an innocent search can produce some rather unsavory results. Note to self, always remember to turn on the safe search mode when doing research. Some things cannot be unseen. Also abundantly clear is, it does not take long to get diverted when a search for something leads you off track.

This morning, as I sat here mindlessly going from page to page, pouring over each tidbit of information, hoping to gleam something of interest  to include within the pages of my manuscript,  I wondered about my predecessors. Authors, from times long before the invent of the Internet. Writers who, unless blessed with a wealth of information at their fingertips, had to dredge through the library, wondering aimlessly amid stacks of books, hoping to find the information which they were seeking. I wondered what they would think of being able to sit in the comfort of their home and have information readily available at the click of a mouse. It was at that moment that my task no-longer felt as if it were taking me away from my work in progress. No, that realization made me abundantly aware of the gift that I've been given.  The gift of writing, in a time when technology is readily available for all to use.  Just as we now look back and ask how on earth did you write a complete manuscript using a typewriter and whiteout, I am sure future authors will ask the same about the tools of the trade which is currently available to all of us. Really, if you think about it,  the answer is simple. If you've never had it you don't miss it.

Oh well, back to the internet!

 
 
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It should not come as a shock when I say that I hear voices.  However, what you may not know, is that   I also believe in signs. Random things that let me know I am on the right path.
  On more than one occasion when working on a manuscript, the voices also give me
  signs. Small things that coincide with what is going on within the pages.



Tears of Betrayal  was my first novel. I was new to the world of writing then, therefore, I did not know to watch for the signs. There have been plenty, now that I know what to look for. Once on an outing with my husband we were discussing TOB, when out of the
blue, a guy stuck his head in the door of the shop and called out for an employ
named Amber. Amber is the leading lady in the novel. Random? Perhaps. But, to me
it was a sign. 

When I was writing Somewhere in My Dreams, I would hear or see numerous
references to Dolly. Dolly Pardon, Dollywood, Dolly Madison, so much in fact,
that I ended up incorporating that very subject into the book. 

When I was working on The King of My Heart, a storyline that includes
an Elvis impersonator,  there was Elvis everything! Commercials for the long dead King, random songs on the radio, and the strangest,  a single poster of Elvis on a bathroom wall. The only décor, in an otherwise bare room. 
 
So it is that I have learned to watch for the signs and smile my acknowledgement when I see them. 

I am currently working on a time travel romance.  I started in mid August, and only now is it really beginning to "speak" to me. It keeps me up at night, follows me on my errands, talking to me while I am driving, shopping or walking the dog. And now it is also giving me its signs. Dragonflies! Dragonflies are within the pages of the manuscript, and are also now following me where I go. I saw three during my latest outing. 
Coincidence? I think not! 


 

 
 
 I am nearing the end of my manuscript, otherwise known as my WIP (Work in progress). While I have written the epilog I still don’t know how it will end. I learn what
is going on as the story unfolds, kind of like the reader doesn’t know what happens until he/she reads the book, I do not know until I put the words on the paper. The only difference is I cannot flip to the back of the book to find out! This is frustrating as my “voices” have added in a new character, as well as a dog, and I have no idea where they are going with either of these. I can only do what has worked in the past, write what they tell me and trust that they know what they are doing! 

Yes, I hear voices. Yes, I listen to them. Does that make me crazy? Maybe, but then again maybe if others listened to their voices they too could go in directions they never in their life imagined they’d go…

 My advice to you, listen to your own voices. Step out of  your comfort zone. Do what it is that makes you happy. I don’t know if we only  have one life to live, or if we get to come back and do it again and again. But  if, as some people say, we only have one life, then isn’t it best to live that  life to the fullest? Wouldn’t it be better to look back on your life and say,  “wow, I can’t believe I did that,” than to say “dang I sure wish I’d done
that.”  Live for today for tomorrow may be too late… 


  

 
 
Announcing a new way to “meet the author!” Check out my
new book club page on my authors website! http://www.sherryaburton.com/attention-book-clubs.html

 
 
I’m not sure if it is due to lack of sleep- I’ve not  slept through the night in well over a week-  or if the voices in my head are feeling  the pull of spring, but I’ve been getting so many new ideas that I’m finding it  hard to keep up. My current manuscript is speaking nonstop-not complaining  there. The follow-up book to what I’m working on is so loud that, on more than  one occasion I’ve had to stop and write a scene or chapter for that book, so  much so that I have already wrote the epilog for the second book. Now after a
meeting with a friend in the business, my mind is racing with storyline ideas  for several other manuscripts. Wouldn’t it be great if I could clone myself and dictate to each of the cloned me’s the story they need to be working on? Surely, if they were all cloned from me, they too would hear the voices. Maybe, I could make one of the cloned ones eat right and exercise. Of course-at least in my mind- that would benefit us all.

  I may have  to explain all the extra “me’s” to my hubby, but something tells me he wouldn’t  complain much. Unless by chance we are all moody at the same time, to which he’d  have to decide which one to console. Of course if he knows what is good for him
it had better be the “real” me as I am the “original” and also the one who would  control the others. 

For now, since there is only one of me, I guess I will  end my ramblings and get back to work. The voices in my head are calling and at least one of me needs to answer the call…

 
 
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Growing up I knew I was destined for greatness. I was  going to be somebody. I was determined to sing on stage at The Grand Ole Opry.  You see when I was young I thought I could sing pretty well. Of course I am sure
  half the people who audition for American Idol think the same thing. The difference between them and I is I knew when my voice left and I moved on to  other things, lots of other things, until I finally discovered that I am a  story teller. Yes I am an author but I am a story teller first and foremost. I have been told that anyone can write but not everyone can tell a story. 

As a writer it helps to have a vivid imagination. Everything is a story to me. I eavesdrop on conversations, not to be rude but to hear the stories. You see sometimes fact is better than fiction. I think my imagination is expanding as I become more and more involved in writing but looking back, even in my younger days as an aspiring singer, I would make up  songs. I guess I’ve been a writer all along and just didn’t know it. 
 
That got me to wondering is it possible that everyone’s destiny is predetermined? Is that   knowledge just laying dormant waiting for each of us to find our course? Do we really get to choose or are our paths chosen for us? 

What if you are not a person at all? Picture yourself as a tree growing in the forest aspiring to be the grandest tree of them all, then  someone comes and cuts you down to make you a Christmas tree. Does that make  you less of a tree or are you just reaching your destiny? 

One year we bought our Christmas tree early in the season. It died and we and had to get a replacement tree. Seriously, how awful to not to be good enough to be a “real” Christmas tree. That had to be hard on that poor tree. This is how my mind thinks. 

Now picture you are a pumpkin growing in a pumpkin patch and have aspirations of being a scary jack-o-lantern. You grow and grow to be the best looking pumpkin you can be and someone takes you home and makes soup out of you. Seriously, that would have to suck. It is thoughts like these that  plagued me as I was picking out my own pumpkin last week knowing that I only  wanted him for his seeds. I bought him five days ago. He is still on my kitchen  counter. I haven’t had the heart to cut him open knowing I will be ending his  dream of becoming a jack-o-lantern. 

I was in the pet store today buying dog food. I was at the counter, ready to pay, when a guy walks in, obviously a regular. One of the ladies behind the counter said “rat?” He shook his head and waited patiently for the lady to scoop up a random rat, shove him unceremoniously into a box,  and hand him to the guy. I am sure the rat was ecstatic. He was out of that  aquarium. He was going to be Stuart Little to some child, as that is what he has always dreamed of. Little does he know his dream is going to be shattered the second he discovers it is his destiny to become snake food. 

I asked the girl behind the counter. “Do you think when the rat was growing up he ever thought he was going to be snake food?” She laughed and said probably not. She tried to comfort me by having me look at all of the other rats joyfully playing on the metal wheel. I then asked her “How does it feel being the one who decides who’s the next to go?” By this time the second lady, who was trying to make a phone call, hangs up the phone, obviously deciding I am someone who needs watching. The first girl does not know how to answer my question and merely stares at me. I then decided it was time to relate my pumpkin story to her telling her how long it took me to pick out a pumpkin knowing I was dashing all hopes of it becoming a jack-o-lantern. As I left the building the younger lady was laughing and the second lady was staring at me in disbelief. I beat a hasty retreat but not before I had given them something to think about and probably debating whether or not to have me banned from the store. I hear voices. I worry about the feeling of inanimate objects. I am constantly seeing movies inside my head. I keep a tape recorder beside my bed. Some of my very best friends are fictional. I am not crazy, I am following
  my destiny! 



 
 
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If you’ve read my work then you know I write mostly romance. Quirky romance that sometimes stretches the limits of romantic norm,  but still they tend to fall into the romance category. Well this past weekend I
was fortunate enough to attend a writers conference.


Now this was no ordinary romance writers conference as I have attended in the past. This was the Writers Police Academy. A fun filled weekend of hands on training that is invaluable to writers who strive to hone  their craft in all things criminal. The weekend was crammed with exciting lectures, guest speakers and realistic props, so that each writer could fill his or her senses with realism. 

We were offered actual police training, albeit  abbreviated, on the real goings on in everyday law enforcement, forensics, specialized investigations and courtrooms proceedings. Those lucky enough to be in attendance got treated to a simulated police chase, K-9 demonstrations,  building searches, FATS (firearms training simulator) and so much more. 
 
I got handcuffed, shot (thankfully they didn’t let us use real weapons), and got to try on the jacket and helmet they use to disable  bombs. This was not as fun as it sounds as the jacket alone weighs in at nearly 100 pounds. The officer who helped me into the suit said it is said to weigh 80 lbs but he has it more around 100. After trying it on I have to agree with him, as all I could do was stand there like the little boy in A Christmas Story. I
  was not able to put my arms down. Heck who am I kidding; I couldn’t move a single muscle. I half expected to float away like a helium balloon the second I was freed from the cumbersome jacket. 

Upon leaving the exhibit I was asked by a lady in a golf cart if I’d like a ride down the hill, no thanks, I think I will just float down I thought. That feeling was short lived as I hurried to climb onboard before she changed her mind. I justified this ride by the fact that I had been taking the stairs at the hotel when time and strength allowed. 

In the handcuffing demonstration I was the guinea pig, I mean suspect. Cpl Jackson, a former Marine and now tough as nails female police officer used me to demonstrate how to arrest someone. After being in the cuffs only moments I was pleased that I had not chosen a life of crime. Being handcuffed is not all it is cracked up to be. Before any of my readers e-mail me to educate me in the pleasures of being handcuffed, let me remind you these were real police grade handcuffs, not padded leopard cuffs. :)

 After I was handcuffed, everyone was invited up to see how the cuffs should look when on properly. I was released and we all got to take turns handcuffing each other. Partnered with author Alexandra Sokoloff, I handcuffed her hands securely behind her back, or so I thought. Within seconds she was able to maneuver her legs through her arms so that her hands were now resting more comfortably in front of her body. While
this is something that most people would not be able to do, Alex was able to bring her arms to the front with little more than a tender wrist and broken fingernail. Luckily for me I was not a real cop, with a real gun. One she could have easily taken from me, had I thought her arms still securely behind her. We were told this was the reason they stopped using the chain handcuffs, instead switching to the unforgiving hinged cuff which is impossible to maneuver to the front. 

While some may think experiences such as these simply a perk of the job, I can attest that hands on scenarios help to heighten the creativity, moreover they help writers to get it right! 

While I had a blast, my voices must have enjoyed the experience as well, as they have been talking nonstop since returning home. For me this unexpected journey has opened new doors and taken me in a whole new direction. It has shown me that every now and then a person must step outside their comfort zone and see what life has to offer. I am sure glad I did as I feel this was only the beginning for me! 

Make sure to go my pictures gallery to see more pictures from the weekend.


  


 
 
I’ve decided to give a bit of background on my journey to  becoming published.


 First let  me say that my editor has told me that the reason I can write is because I am a
natural story teller. I come up with an idea and let the voices lead me along  the road to completion. She has also told me that the reason I can knock so many  storylines out so quickly is because I do not know what I’m doing. Let me  explain: unlike most in the writing field, it was not always my goal to become a  writer. Sure I dabbled in poetry, wrote letters and even wrote some newsletters  for several volunteer organizations I was involved in, but that is really as far  as it went.


One day out of the blue I told a friend, who was not in a   happy place, that I was going to write her a happy ending. What I thought would  be a short story soon took on a life of its own and Amber’s Eyes, which was the  “working” title to Tears of Betrayal was born. While I knew I needed help in the  punctuation department I felt it was a really good story. It was the first time  I thought “wow; I need to see about getting this published.” That leap from writing to being published took me twelve years!


I tried to find friends to edit it (please do not do  this) and I even hired an editor (off of Craig’s list who took my money and  never edited the novel, so please DO NOT do that either!) I also contacted a  real editor who told me I would need to edit my book before she could edit it.
She told me I was a natural story teller but I needed help with the sentence structure and mechanics. I was then really confused, wasn’t this what editors  do?


I finally decided I would self publish my book but how  could I self publish a book when I didn’t have an editor? The last thing I  wanted to do was send an unedited manuscript out into the world. It was all so  very frustrating. My prayers were finally answered when I found my publisher,   Koehler Books. Not only did they do traditional books but they also offered a
  publishing package. Some people refer to this as vanity publishing; I call it   an answer to a prayer. If I was going to spend the money to publish it anyway,   why not use that money and have someone who knew what they were doing do it for   me? Not only that, but in the process I would get to work with a “real” editor   and have a “real” book.


While few in the industry condone this, I am not the  least bit sorry that I took this route. In the process of getting published I  was able to meet and work with Michelle Johnson, a wonderful editor whom I still   work with to this very day. I hired Michelle to edit my second novel, The Scars   Between Us, and after doing so, the novel was picked up by Koehler Books as a   traditional book deal with no cost to me. 


Michelle has also edited two of my children’s books, the   first of which is due out next month and she and I are currently working on the revisions of my third novel.


I am a good story teller. I have wonderful muses. I have  six manuscripts in various stages of completion, with ideas for at least as many   more beyond that. I also know I am still learning my craft and that I need to   work with an editor to help me polish it to where my audience will enjoy   reading it without picking it apart. I am grateful to John Koehler for giving   me my start. I am also grateful for Michelle Johnson and her continued   patience. She is a wonderful editor and a great teacher and I am so lucky to   have found her and in finding the right editor for me I was able to move from  “self published” to “traditionally published”.


As a published author, I can honestly say I have never   worked so hard in my life. But, I can also say I have never been happier. I am   still learning and I am still writing, my journey has only begun! 


 
 
Original Post Feb. 17, 2012
My second book, The Scars Between Us, is now out and available to purchase. The write up on the book cover tells about Elizabeth’s Secret. It tells of her five year dedication- waiting for her late husband to keep his pledge. The one he made when he promised to come back from the grave. The cover also introduces Joseph and warns that he has a secret of his own.

But while the cover is interesting there was simply not enough room on the back to tell you about what else awaits the reader. Little things that I feel are just as important as the love story within. So please bear with me for a few moments while I have a mini Oscar moment and tell you the story would not be the same without the supporting cast of people and places within the book.

 What the cover doesn’t say is that the book is set in the charming New England town of Westerly RI. Westerly is a real town, that is nestled alongside the Pawcatuck River and is loaded with charm.

 The cover does not tell you that a great deal of the story takes place in The Ocean House Hotel, a dramatic landmark in the quaint village of Watch Hill.

It does not tell you that Elizabeth Maynes suffers with celiac disease, a connection that helps her to become fast friends with her newest client Sylvia Carmichael-Davenport, a quirky socialite with a quick wit and a very active imagination.

It does not tell you the caretaker of the cemetery Zachariah Odell Davidson, ZOD, is a retired Navy Master Chief who has an answer for everything and always has a story to tell.

While the premise of the book is serious, the storyline is anything but. The quirkiness of the supporting characters will keep you smiling and even laughing out loud on occasion.

So why not take a literally trip to the quaint town of Westerly RI, meet the supporting cast and spend some time getting to know the quirky characters within the pages… Take a relaxing walk through River Bend Cemetery. Stop to smell the honeysuckle and watch as the osprey soars overhead, I’m sure you will enjoy your stay!

 
 
Original Post Feb. 3, 2012
I currently have six manuscripts in various stages of completion and ideas for at least six beyond that. When one of my manuscripts speaks to me that is the one I work on. I will do this until one takes the lead, pushes to the forefront and demands to be next. At this point it seems as though my Kentucky book will be next as it is the one that keeps letting itself be heard. It is a quirky romantic comedy with an Elvis impersonator and a clown. The problem is the clown is not really into Elvis and my Elvis impersonator is afraid of clowns. They just met for the first time and I am looking forward to seeing what happens after the initial meeting because at this point I really don’t have a clue. I do not know what it will be that will finally make them fall in love. I only know that it will happen. It has to happen. It is a romance after all…

 I am sure there are writers out there that would balk at my not having a story board. Of not knowing what happens from start to finish and in every chapter in-between. I have tried writing like that and each time the story has deviated way off the path, not coming anywhere close to what I had outlined. I figure this is bigger than me and that whoever is guiding me knows what they are doing. It has worked thus far, so I am going to wait and see what happens. I find it exciting to learn what happens as I go. It always amazes me when I find out something about a character that I did not know. It is much like discovering a secret the character had kept hidden until that very moment.

Sure I have certain ideas that flash in my mind, and play out like a movie (yes that is cool), but I never know when I am expected to insert them into the story until it is time.  That happened in yesterday’s chapter. I thought it was going to go in one direction and was trying to figure out how to get there.  All of the sudden it took a left turn and went someplace that I was surprised to see it go. The best part is when it gets there it usually makes perfect sense, making me wonder why I did not think of that.

Did that last line confuse you? It probably did if you have not read any of my blogs in the past. You see, I firmly believe that I have help when it comes to writing. That is the only explanation I have for this gift I have been given. It explains why I do not know things until I put them on paper. It explains why sometimes my books do not sound like me. Why a word that I have never used or in some cases have never even heard will appear out of the blue to be used at that particular time. Most of the time I do not know what the word means and in some cases I have no idea how to spell it, yet I know that it is the perfect word to use that that specific time.

I have told this to my husband many times and at first he did not understand. Then after my first novel came out and he finally read it-yes he waits until after the release to read them- he then looked at me and told me he finally understood. He said “I am reading this book and all the while I think… there is no-way you wrote this. You don’t talk like this. You don’t use words like this.” I just smile, and say see, I told you so!

Have a great week, and if you get the chance, pick up a copy of my newest book, The Scars Between Us.  My guides really, hit the ball out of the park on this one. And as you can tell my editor does not edit my blog posts, because I assure you if she did, she would have totally crossed off that last cliché!

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Reader Comments (1) Hahaha! Sometimes cliches work - and in this case I would have left it in. Though I might have shifted a few commas here and there. ;)

February 3, 2012 | Michelle L. Johnson