Clarice James

Smart, Fun, Relatable Fiction


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Welcome Author Leanna Sain!

Leanna-Sain-NC-Author-SquareHelp me welcome award-winning and accomplished  author Leanna Sain to my blog today. Leanna was kind enough to answer a few of my questions. Feel free to add your comments below.

Leanna, which authors have influenced your writing and how?

I love the quirky humor of Mary Kay Andrews, the magical realism of Sarah Addison Allen, Nicholas Sparks’ sappy love stories (although I really think he needs to work on some happily-ever-after endings), and the queen of mysteries, Sue Grafton. I try to incorporate all the things I love in my writing.

What do you want readers to experience while reading your books?

I want to evoke every emotion from my readers, from laughing until their stomachs ache, to boiling with fury, to crying-their-eyes out.

HushTell us a little bit about your latest book, the title in two to three sentences. Is it part of a series?

My latest book’s title is Hush.

Someone is killing young women and using the lullaby “Hush, Little Baby” as a blueprint. Lacey Campbell dreams the murders in bits and pieces before they happen, but there aren’t enough clues to stop the killer. When she realizes all the victims look remarkably like her, she’s afraid to go to sleep … afraid the next face she sees in her dreams will be her own.

Are any of your characters based on people you know?

In all of my books, I often include bits of characteristics of people I know, but with Hush, the main character’s mother—who has Alzheimer’s—is patterned directly after my own mother. I wrote this book while watching Mama struggle through the final phases of that terrible disease. It was actually a sort of therapy for me; a way to release the sadness, anger, and frustration that came with it.

Which part of the writing process do you find most enjoyable? Most challenging? Most rewarding?

I love it when the characters take over and I’m just hanging on for the ride, when it’s all I can do to keep my fingers typing fast enough to keep up with the story my brain is telling. When I get to the end of the scene, I lean back in my chair and say, “Whew! Didn’t see that coming!”

The most challenging is when I paint myself into a corner. The answer generally comes when I’m in the shower. Something about that hot water beating on my head seems to jar things loose.

The most rewarding is when I surprise my husband with the ending. He knows me so well, how my mind works, I feel like I’ve “arrived” if I can keep him hanging in suspense until the very end.

Do you have a critique partner or belong to a critique group? If so, how has that helped you?

It is SO important to get other eyes on your work. As a writer, I tend to get too close to the story and can’t see the mistakes when they’re staring me in the face. I’m in two writing groups, and I get input on everything I write. And my husband is my number one book critic. He always brings out things I never even thought about. He has a good eye, and I rely on that.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m hard at work on the second book of the Amelia Island series. It’s title will be, Hoax. And I’m enjoying it even more than I did Hush. The third book is shaping up in my mind already. I really love this series.   

Leanna’s Bio:

Award-winning author, Leanna Sain, earned her BA from the University of South Carolina, before heading back to the mountains of western NC. Her Southern suspense or “GRIT-lit,” showcases her plot-driven writing that successfully rolls the styles of Mary Kay Andrews, Nicholas Sparks, and Jan Karon into her own delightfully hybrid technique. She loves leading discussion groups and book clubs. For more information or to contact her, visit: www.LeannaSain.com.

Connect with Leanna and her books:

Awards

  • Book of the Year Award from Foreword Magazine
  • Clark Cox Historical Fiction Award from the NC Society of Historians
  • Nominated for the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award
  • Nominated for the Global Ebook Award


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Hey, Wanna Trade?

Many of the people in the lives of us fiction writers would make excellent characters in our stories. The thing is, inserting real people into our novels can be tricky.

First, they might recognize themselves and not like how we see them. Second, there’s the whole invasion of privacy issue. Third, alienating our whole families and all our friends isn’t too good for book sales.

DON’T WORRY, I HAVE A SOLUTION — CHARACTER TRADING CARDS!

Character Trading Cards would work like Baseball Trading Cards. Each card would include the character’s photo, a carefully chosen alias, physical and personality traits, and accomplishments or lack thereof. If one author had a character another author needed, they’d make a trade. My readers wouldn’t know your characters and your readers wouldn’t know mine. Pretty smart, huh?

baseball card DRUSILLAFor example, I may need a bombastic, Bible Belt-preacher, one who throws amens and halleluiahs around as much as he does drops of sweat. However, what I have is a PhD pastor, cautious and well-read (never fiction), a shepherd who doesn’t yell but watches over his flock with an eagle eye. I trade you my conservative Evangelical FOR your wild Pentecostal, and no one suspects a thing.

And for group trading, authors can hold meet-ups or conference calls. The negotiating might go something like this …

CLARICE: “I’m lookin’ to trade a loud-talker with a bone to pick for a close-talker, bad breath optional.”

JEREMIAH: “I don’t have a close-talker, but I have a soft-talker who gossips.”

DAVID: “Hey, I’ll take your soft-talker in exchange for my non-stop talker/traffic  cone enthusiast.”

JEREMIAH: “I can do that.”

CLARICE: “Anyone have a fast-talker with hammer toes?”

DAVID: “No, but I’ve got one who mumbles and has bloodshot eyes.”

CLARICE: “I’ve been looking for a mumbler. I can always put sunglasses on him. “baseball card NORBERT (1)

DAVID: “Changing the subject, I’ve got an accountant on special this week.”

CLARICE: “What’s so special about an accountant?”

JEREMIAH: “I’ll trade you one apprentice carpenter for that accountant.”

DAVID: “Not this accountant, you won’t. My guy has social skills and a sense of humor.”

JEREMIAH: “A bean counter with a sense of humor? If you tell me he has a tan, I’ll know you’re lyin’. Tell you what, I’ll throw in a proctologist and a hockey player.”

CLARICE: “I can beat that. I’ll up you one church elder and make that hockey player Canadian.”

DAVID:  “Deal!”

MORE POSSIBLE TRADES

Would you take one spoiled brat with delusions of entitlement FOR one former military man with his WWII uniform festooned with medals? … Maybe I could swap you one retired teacher, still re-gifting a closet full of cheap, apple-themed gifts from her former students, FOR one thoughtful person with a creative mind and a generous heart.

I’ll give you my lovers of people FOR all your haters (who, by the way, would come to an early demise in my stories). … I could trade you three women who’ve never had children but know everything about raising them FOR one mother who puts reading to her kids ahead of folding laundry. … And, how about I take one of your family felons FOR one of my ancestral heroes?

baseball card GLADYSWanna trade one naïve woman who finds the good in everyone FOR a big fat judgmental complainer? (Yeah, I know I could probably use myself here, but God’s working on me, and I don’t want to interrupt him.)

Finally, I’d be glad to shed three believers looking for biblical loopholes and cheap grace FOR one humble follower of Jesus.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—  not by works, so that no one can boast. ~ Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)

 


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Twelve Words for An Irish Slangphile #10

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While developing my character Ian Quinn for two of my novels, Party of One and Manhattan Grace, part of the fun was in researching Irish culture. When readers first meet Ian in Party of One, he’s a waiter with a servant’s heart. In Manhattan Grace, Ian returns as a business owner, trying to land a big contract in New York City. Can you guess what these Irish slang words mean? 

 

  1. BANJAXED – a) lifted up; b) broken; c) cheated or hoodwinked; d) excited
  2. CRAIC – a) crazy; b) a creek; c) fun; d) a brawl
  3. DOSSER – a) a small village; b) person not working or messing about; c) a sleeping dog; d) a legal document
  4. GAMMY – a) grandmother; b) small garden ; c) crooked or odd-looking; d) fuel for pellet stoves
  5. HAYMES – a) complete mess; b) church hymns c) outdoor markets; d) smoked lamb shanks
  6. JACKS – a) a step dance move; b) a renovated building; c) auto mechanic; d) toilets
  7. KNACKERED – a) drunk; b) pregnant; c) type of wood finish; d) tuckered out
  8. MANKY – a) dirty and disgusting; b) a small monkey; c) misshapen; d) a man’s swimsuit
  9. PISHMIRES – a) condescending remarks; b) marshes and bogs; c) ants or flying ants; d) traffic jams
  10. SNOG – a) homemade ale; b) a nap; c) a style of knitting; d) a kiss
  11. THROW SHAPES – a) to teach, especially geometry; b) to bake; c) play darts; d) to show-off aggressively
  12. ZONK – a) a punch; b) a one-pound coinc) an overpriced pub; d) to disturb or annoy

Have you chosen the correct definition? Can you use the words in a sentence? Scroll down to see how you did.

Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body. ~ Proverbs 16:24 (NLT)

Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift. ~ Ephesians 4:29 (MSG)

 

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Here are the correct answers.

  1. b) BANJAXED – broken
  2. c) CRAIC – fun
  3. b) DOSSER – not working or messing about
  4. c) GAMMY – crooked or odd-looking
  5. a) HAYMES – complete mess
  6. d) JACKS – toilets
  7. d) KNACKERED – tuckered out
  8. a) MANKY – dirty and disgusting
  9. c) PISHMIRES – ants or flying ants
  10. d) SNOG – a kiss
  11. a) THROW SHAPES – to show-off aggressively
  12. b) ZONK a one-pound coin

Jumping for joy over your score?

10-12 Did I catch you throwing shapes?

07-09 When you speak, do people mistake you for Bono?

04-08 Is that all you got right? Where’s the craic in that?

00-03 You made a complete haymes of this, didn’t you?

 


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Writers: Have You Annoyed Anyone Lately?

A writer’s characters cannot all be perfect, because if they were it would be quite annoying.

We need to create conflict to keep our stories and our characters real and interesting. Conflict doesn’t happen when everyone is nice to each other all the time. Boredom happens. Conflict creates drama and tension. Boredom creates naps. And then you get nightmares starring Mike Lindell from My Pillow.

When I first began to look more closely at my stories, I saw that many of my main characters were nice, maybe a little too nice. Perhaps, because I find a lot of annoying people in my real life, I subconsciously didn’t want them to show up in my books. Powerless to change them in real life, maybe “editing” their  personalities made me feel powerful in fiction.

Upon further study of my work, I realized I did indeed have one very annoying person in my novels. It was the protagonist. This discovery excited me. I felt vindicated.

Annoying FloHowever, I noticed something else. Since my novels are written from a first person point-of-view, often my protagonists are a lot, well, like me.

Ergo, I am annoying. Often, I want to slap my protagonist (ergo, me) for being so stubborn, so angry, so impatient,  so prideful, so petty, so slow to get it (ergo, me).

Like right now. How annoying is it to use the word “ergo” three times in one paragraph?  Sheesh.

I’m asking my readers, “What do you find annoying in an author or a story?” Let me know . . . please . . . so I will stop doing it.


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The Not So Glamorous Writer’s Life

Please welcome my guest blogger, Jennifer Slattery, a  writer and speaker who has addressed church and women’s groups, Bible studies, and writers’ groups  across the nation. Jennifer admits to living a not so glamorous writer’s life …

Remember when you went to your first formal? Finding the perfect dress–the one with lots of sparkles and a waistband that nearly cut you in two. Then there was the zipper–as long as you exhaled while sucking in your gut, it fit perfectly. And besides, it was on sale.

But try sitting down in the thing.

And the shoes. For me, that first formal dance was the first time I wore heels, and it showed. Walking across the parking lot, with all its potholes, bumps, and depressions was interesting to say the least. Of course, it didn’t help that the shoes were half a size too small, or two wide, or whatever, and either strangled all circulation from your toes or fell off your feet every time you took a step.

Then you get older, wiser, and invest in a comfy yet stylish pair of flats. At least, that’s been my MO. Except sometime this summer, I threw away my favorite black pair, fully intending to replace. But then August hit, and with it conferences I needed to prepare for, and I forgot all about my shopping plans.

Some of you understand this completely. Others of you, the shoppers among us, consider me insane. For the latter of you, you’ll be shaking your head momentarily, thinking, “I told you so. Well, I would’ve told you so had you asked.”

Mid-August rolls around, and I begin packing for what I knew would be a whirlwind trip–a conference where I’d be speaking and teaching three classes, followed by a book signing, with a day and a half home before heading to an author event followed by another conference.

Whew! I’m tired just remembering it!

So there I was, planning what to wear and … no black flats, and no time for shopping. Luckily (ha!) our daughter owns a really cute pair of pumps, so I tossed them in my suitcase, closed it up, and was good to go.

Eh …

Saturday rolled around, the last day of the conference and the day of my book signing. By this point, I was also down to one outfit–the one needing those black pumps. So on they went.

And I quickly remembered how long it’d been since I’d worn heels. And that my daughter’s feet are wider then mine. So here I am, trying to look all professional while wobbling around, about ready to topple over, in my daughter’s much too high heels. To make things worse, every third step one of my shoes actually slipped off, nearly sending me flat on my face.

All the while I was trying to act all bookishly professional–and everyone I encounter, including the bookstore owner hosting me, is doing their best not to laugh out loud.

Grown woman, acting like a teenager in her first pair of heels. Oy.

I wish I could say wardrobe malfunctions during book signings are rare events, but …

I was on another trip, this time in Des Moines. Once again, it was a whirlwind weekend with back-to-back speaking engagements followed by a signing. By my last event, I was down to my last outfit–the one I was wearing. The others were not so neatly packed in my suitcase in the trunk. Add to this the fact that it was freezing out–not sure capris and strappy sandals were a great idea.

With goosebumps exploding across my arms and my lips turning a deep shade of blue despite heavily applied lipgloss, I decided to buy some coffee.

Did I mention I was wearing white capris? You know where this is going, don’t you? I experienced a momentary rush of warmth, followed by a rush of panic.

A writer’s life. Isn’t it glamorous?

Do you have any wardrobe fails to share? It would make me feel better. Seriously. 😉

More About Jennifer Slattery: Jennifer is the author of six contemporary novels and maintains a devotional blog found at http://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com. She has a passion for helping women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, (http://whollyloved.com) she and her team partner with churches to facilitate events designed to help women rest in their true worth and live with maximum impact. When not writing, reading, or editing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her adult daughter and coffee dates with her hilariously fun husband. Connect with her on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte) or Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/).

Jennifer’s Latest Release: Dancing in the Rain

On the verge of college graduation, Loni Parker seeks employment as a music teacher, but no one will hire her since she’s blind. Or so she thinks. To take her mind off her troubles, her roommate invites her to spring retreat at Camp Hope in the gorgeous North Carolina mountains.

Unbeknownst to Loni, Michael Ackerman, the director, is an ex-con responsible for the accident that caused her blindness. When Loni warms up to camp and wants to return as a summer counselor, Michael opposes the idea, which only makes Loni want to prove herself all the more. Still, her need for independence and dream of teaching win out, taking her far away from her beloved Camp Hope … and a certain director.

Camp director Michael Ackerman recognizes Lonie instantly and wants to avoid her at all costs. Yet, despite the guilt pushing him from her, a growing attraction draws him to the determined woman. She sees more with her heart than the average person does with his eyes. But her presence also dredges up a long-buried anger toward his alcoholic father that he’d just as soon keep hidden. When circumstances spin out of control, Michael is forced to face a past that may destroy his present.

Buy it here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CSH8F97

 


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Without Small Beginnings, There Would Be No Big Ends

Like most writers, whether pre-published, newly published, or multi-published, we often wish we were further along our career path —no matter how far down that path we are. “After all, growth is natural,” we say.

Let’s admit it. We don’t really want growth to be natural; we wanted it to be rapid and explosive.

We begin a story and can’t wait to type “The End.” When the end arrives, we agonize over our book proposal and one-sheet. (Whether anyone actually reads them, we don’t know.)

We can’t be happy until we find an agent. When we do, we can’t be happy until we find a publisher. Then, “Hooray! We have a publisher!” We sign a two-book contract then spend weeks, sometimes months, editing our manuscript according to our publisher’s preferences, all the while scrambling for a new storyline for the second book.

When our debut novel arrives, we enter contests, hoping to add “award-winning” and “best selling” in front of our names. Then we’re off to book signings, conferences, and speaking events to sell, sell, sell! And I haven’t even touched on social media. [Sigh.]

While I’m not saying any of this is bad, I am wondering if the “one day at a time” axiom has morphed into “I can’t wait until tomorrow?” In our mad race to cross an imaginary finish line, do we appreciate the strides we’ve made to date? Have we forgotten to enjoy the present? Do we have any guarantees the future will be better?

In Zechariah 4:10, we are encouraged: “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line [pen?] in Zerubbabel’s hand.” (NLT)

Without small beginnings, there would be no big ends. Small beginnings are more personal; they usually involve working closely with others. During these formative years, we hone our craft and develop good habits. We also have more time to read, learning much from those who’ve gone on before us.

I remember when angst grabbed hold of me as soon as I decided I wanted to write for publication. I fretted over query letters, elevator statements, and pitches to agents and editors—as if I were in charge of the outcome.

I thought back on the small beginnings I had so enjoyed: 1) Creating and presenting humorous “roasts” for my friends and family. 2) Writing and editing a monthly church newsletter. 3) Creating website copy for my employers. In all these cases, the feedback was immediate and more intimate, and the experiences encouraged me to keep writing.

What are your small beginnings? Are you rejoicing with the Lord over them?

Do you finally have the time to write after raising your children? Has an article you wrote been accepted for publication? Does someone other than your mother love your writing? Have you employed the plot twist that came to you in the middle of a sleepless night? Have you created an outline for your non-fiction book? Have you figured out how to apply the three-act structure to the first draft of your novel? (If so, write to me privately and tell me how.)

God’s word says, “And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I [Jesus] say to you, he shall not lose his reward” (Matthew 10:42 NASB). So, whenever I find myself absorbed in self and steeped in my projects alone, I break the pattern by focusing on someone else. Encouraging other writers excites me, humbles me, and brings me joy.

Getting rid of negative internal dialogue helps, too:  I wish I was as prolific as he is … If only I had a different agent … What if my publishing house closes? … I wish I had her sales … If only I had his platform …What if I get a bad review?

Listen up, Clarice! Whining is selfish, comparison is ungrateful, and fear is doubt.  

Eventually, I learned to listen more closely for God when I wrote, mainly because I had no idea what to write. When my novel Double Header debuted in 2015, a reader told me, “I feel like you wrote that story just to help me and my family.” When Party of One came out last year, others wrote basically the same thing. Just this past week, someone said, “I love your blogs. They’re so funny and uplifting.” I knew God was using me. Whether my books minister to one or thousands is in his hands. He is the ultimate marketing genius.

Zechariah 4:6 (NASB) declares, “Not by might, not by power, but by my spirit.” God has a personal and perfect plan for each of us. If you’re using your writing gift to the best of your ability for God’s glory, he’ll get you where you’re supposed to be on time. You can’t rush the Holy Spirit.

Let’s all enjoy the moment we have right now. It’s all good ’cause it’s all God.


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My Sources of Good Material

Not resting–people watching.

Collecting good material is all part of the writing process. Here are a few of the ways I gather mine.

First, I’m always on the lookout for new words (new to me, that is) to use in my writing someday. Yesterday I added “flumped” and “clots” to my list just because they made me smile.

I also collect phrases–mostly from listening to my quick-witted husband. I keep a small spiral pad with me at all times. When he speaks, I take notes. (It’s not really stealing if it’s common property; we are ONE after all.)

Unfortunately, he does not provide this service on demand. He  says, “I have no idea when something useful will float to the surface of the muck and mire. You have to take what you get.”  Watching his mind work is pure genius . . .  and a little bit scary.

I also eavesdrop on conversations–in restaurants, at church, while shopping, at meetings. Some might accuse me of being nosy; without hesitation, I admit I’m guilty.

People-watching is kin to eavesdropping, but you can do that from afar.  My husband calls it “rubbernecking;” I call it research. Many of my characters have been dressed in the get-ups I’ve seen while walking through a public place.

Then there are my co-workers, friends and family. In my latest book, Party of One,  some of my friends and family may recognize a few of their own quirks and characteristics. (I do hope they will forgive me.)

And I’m certain they will recognize mine.