Clarice James

Smart, Fun, Relatable Fiction


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.


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.


Interview with Author Sharon Srock


The Women of Valley View: Pam by Sharon Srock will be released in early spring. If you haven’t read the first two books in her series, you have time! The Women of Valley View: Callie and The Women of Valley View: Terri.

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. ~ Ps 34:17-18 (NIV)

Clarice You’re a wife and mother with grown children and a couple of dependent dogs. You’ve worked at the local Air Force Base for over 25 years.  You’ve been an Avon representative for 20 years. And  now you’re a published author. How do you do it all? Besides wife and mother, which career do you most identify with and why?

Sharon:  The answer to how I do it is short and sweet. God. He keeps me focused on the task at hand. I have to make the best use of my time, regardless of which career is demanding my attention at any given time. As for my identity, I’d have to say the writing. It’s what I feel God called me to do and where I feel I can touch lives in a positive way. It’s what I’d like to be remembered for when I’m no longer here.

Clarice:  How long have you been writing? When did you write your first novel?

Sharon:  I wrote my first novel 25 years ago. It was a Star Trek novel that still sits in my closet. Science Fiction wasn’t the path God had for me. It took me a long time to accept that. I wrote the first words of Callie’s story five years ago.

Clarice Who was the first person to encourage you, really encourage, you to keep on writing?

Sharon: Jo Smith, a co-worker. She gave me the right nudge at the right time to get back to writing.

Clarice As in your The Women of Valley View series—Callie, Terri and Pam— do you have a tight-knit group of female friends you turn to? And why do you think women get so involved in each other’s lives?

Sharon: I’ve attended the same Pentecostal church since I was 14. I have a great group of supportive women. They read, they pray, they let me vent. They cheer my successes and give me a shoulder when I fall on my face. I think we’re taught to nurture from the moment we pick up a baby doll. It just grows from there.

Clarice You say you live “in the-middle-of-no-where Oklahoma.” Tell me a little about your state and what makes its people so resilient.

Sharon: The exact town I live in is a small dot on the map called Little Axe. We have a school system, but not our own post office. I don’t know that Oklahoman’s are more resilient than any other place in America. We had back to back tornadoes this last spring. The damage ½ mile for my house is still under repair, but we pull together. We provide for each other. But, isn’t that the same in New York or California?

02 Srock - Women of Valley View- Callie - TerriClarice In Callie, your protagonist is a middle-aged woman drawn to help others. But when her efforts backfire, fear of getting involved takes over. Has that ever happened to you?

Sharon: Honestly, no.  When I was writing Callie’s story, I was struggling so hard with writing issues that I hadn’t focused on since high school. I rewrote the story six times before I hit on a combination that worked.

Clarice:  In Terri, you write about two struggling families and two scheming daughters. How would you counsel someone who is bent on scheming to get their way?

Sharon: Scheming is never a good thing, but it worked out well for Terri and Steve.

Clarice In Pam, “Pam’s divorce broke her heart. The cruelty of her ex-husband broke her spirit. A bottle of sleeping pills almost took her life.”  Forgiveness is the theme running through this story. What made you want to tackle this theme?

Sharon: I’ve been in Pam’s shoes. Not abused and suicidal, but divorced and hurt. I’ve had to learn to forgive some hurts that have never been apologized for. But you can’t carry that stuff around with you and survive. Writing Pam’s story made me examine myself.

Sharon Srock

Sharon Srock

Author Sharon Srock went from science fiction to Christian fiction at slightly less than warp speed. Twenty-five years ago, she cut her writer’s teeth on Star Trek fiction. Today, she writes inspirational stories that focus on ordinary women using their faith to accomplish extraordinary things. Sharon lives in the middle of nowhere Oklahoma with her husband and three very large dogs. Her books include: The Women of Valley View: Callie and The Women of Valley View: Terri both of which are currently available. The Women of Valley View: Pam will release in May 2014. She also working on The Women of Valley View: Samantha. Connect with her at


Hold On To Those Lightning Bolts of Creativity!

lightninig boltWriters are familiar with the creative ideas that come at us like lightning bolts. They strike without warning, often at the most mundane or inconvenient times, like when we’re trying to fall asleep, pay bills, or grasp the deeper meaning in Chapter 15 of Leviticus. (Go on, look, I can wait.)

But, before we have the opportunity to use these flashes of brilliance (everything from plot twists to character names to dialogue), how do we keep them from fading like a dream upon wakening or from getting lost in our memory mazes?

Here’s what I do. Technophobes need not panic; this is something anyone can master.

I carry a small spiral notepad with me wherever I go. Yes, I could use my smart phone or tablet if I owned either, but I prefer to keep it simple. These inexpensive 3” x 5” pads can fit on my nightstand, in a kitchen drawer, or in my pocket or purse. Whenever I hear a witty phrase or dumb comment, or whenever a perfect pun or play-on-words pops into my head unbidden, I scribble it down.

I’ve noticed another thing about using these notepads:  The people I’m with don’t seem threatened or insulted when I pull one out in the middle of a conversation or a sermon. For some reason, writing on a pad appears less impolite than taking out a piece of technology. Maybe because it takes less time, effort and concentration. (Note: Sometimes it does unnerve those who know I’m a writer, but most of the time they’re  flattered that I think something they’ve said is novel-worthy.)

You ask, “Then what do you do with all those little notes?”

Glad you asked. First, I enjoy them. There’s nothing that will make me feel more like a writer than to open my pad and read a list like I did this morning:

  • Toad Johnson beer-bellied up to the buffet with his stone mason hands.
  • miasma (love this word! must use it soon)
  • inconsistent eye contact, shifty
  • Whirligigs and weeds filled covered their sparse (or scrappy or mangy?) lawn.
  • book, line, and stinker?
  • (golfer) dog-legged to another topic
  • Lovina Avalon

Next, I tear off these pages of mini lightning bolts and put them under my paperweight near my laptop. At least once a week, I go through them, adding them to the appropriate file in a folder called “Slush.” The document files in the Slush folder are:

  • Action Verbs and Words
  • Author Quotes
  • Character Development
  • Character Names
  • Interjections
  • Phrases and Description

Having them in one Slush folder gives me easy access.

Once I’ve incorporated one of these literary scraps in an article or book, I code it so I don’t repeat it. For instance, for my novels Party of One and Double Header, I add Po1 or DH to the beginning of the filename. Helps me find them when I sort the list, too.

In addition to my scribbled odds and ends, I save articles and pictures that pertain to each project. I store hard copies in the Current Project files in my desk drawer. Inside each of these files is an individual folder for Character, Setting, and Story & Plot. The contents looks like what you might find in a scrapbook. Here are a few of the things that add dimension to my stories and characters:

  • Pictures of actors or models that resemble my fictional characters
  • Recipes one of my characters might use
  • Home décor photographs
  • History of the town where they live
  • Common activities in the part of the country where they live
  • Wardrobe, hairstyle, make-up
  • Political issues that may define them
  • Work place environment
  • Church and church leaders

The more I get to know my characters, the better I’ll know how they will behave and interact with one another.

A few months back I was conversing with my granddaughter, Jess and her friend, Tiffnee.

Jess said, “Tiffnee! You’ve got to see what my grandmother has in her purse.” She looked at me and said, “Show her, show her!  I know it’s in there.”

“Show her what?” I asked.

Jess said. “You know, your notepad.”

I reached into my purse and pulled one out. “This?” I asked, surprised they were so interested.

“Told you!” Jess said. “And it’s always a different color!”

“Really? Like wow,” Tiffnee said, fingering the glossy red cover. “Ooh, it has lines, too. Like wow! What, like, do you do with it?”

“Anything she wants!” said Jess.Mini-spiral-notebook

“Like, write lists and stuff?” Tiffnee asked. “And play tic-tac-toe or hangman?”

“Mostly, I record people, places and things I want to remember,” I said.

“Like cool,” said Tiffnee, handing it back to me.

“I know,” said Jess, all puffed up and smiling like I made her proud.

(And there I was wishing I owned an iPad.)

I flipped open my bright shiny notepad and grabbed my pen. Filled with new confidence, I jotted down words faster than I could, like, spell, like, Tiffnee, like wow, like cool.