Archive for August, 2015

When the Magic Happens

By Amy Dunne


With my upcoming September release, The Renegade, soon due for release I was privileged to be invited to write this blog. For weeks I pondered what topic I should write about. Last year, I wrote about a huge personal revelation that I discovered on reflection of my two previous novels, Secret Lies and Season’s Meetings. Both dealt subconsciously with the passing of my incredible grandmother, Mama Bridie. Both stories voiced my grief and helped me come to terms with losing her. Still at a loss as to what topic I should broach, my wonderful wife suggested I should write about my writing process, as I’ve been asked a lot of questions recently about how I go about writing by readers. Knowing that my wife is almost always right, I’ve decided to stick with that topic.The Renegade Cover

What is the first thing that happens? There’s a spark. And this spark can happen at anytime and in any place. It’s happened on a bus journey, in the shower, when I’m on the verge of falling to sleep, and when I’m in the middle of a conversation. I have a thought, perhaps ask myself a question, or see a mental image of a setting or scene, or sometimes even think from a brand new character’s point of view. From that inital spark comes a snowball affect. The story, characters, and settings quickly all fall into place. It becomes a new obsession. My head is filled with the story and characters and they are all I think about. Sometimes I even dream about them. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing in body, because my mind is constantly working out any plot holes and how to fix them. I live, eat, sleep, and breathe the story, setting, and characters. And I think this is why all three of my books are different genres; Young Adult, Traditional Contemporary Romance, and Speculative Fiction. I don’t choose one specific story or genre to write. I have to go with whatever characters or story is making the most noise at that time.

seasons-meetingsMost writers tend to fit into one of two categories of writer: the plotter or the pantser. The plotter likes to plot everything out and know exactly how each chapter and character is going to develop. The panster just goes with the flow and flies by the seat of their pants. Both types have positives and negatives. I consider myself to be somewhere in the middle, perhaps I’m a planster. I plot the general outline and story arc by initially writing a proposal and in-depth character and story arc outlines before I even start writing the manuscript. There are always parts that I don’t know and they tend to be the parts that occur between the main plot points.

Scenes play in my head like a movie clip. While I’m typing away on the keyboard and words appear on the screen, I’m actually writing what I’m seeing in my mind’s eye. Almost like I’m experiencing everything with the characters. I’ve always had an overactive imagination and I enjoy daydreaming these scenes. I can vividly imagine seeing, smelling, hearing, and touching things in each scene. The smell of rain or smoke from a camp fire. The sound of paws and boots on cold marble floor. The sound of crickets and birds and the eerie silence of a deserted street or block. The cold numbness that accompanies snow, the irritation of damp socks, the aggravation of a trickle of sweat on a blisteringly hot day. Taste is probably the only thing I can’t do accurately, but in all three book there are plenty of descriptions of various food / meals. The inspiration usually comes from something I’ve eaten recently or something that I’m really craving at the time.

It’s during the writing process when the characters take on a life of their own. This is for me, where the magic happens. The character’s ambitions, likes, dislikes, history, psychology, physiology, and dreams all contribute to a feeling of authenticity. The characters become real in their own right. It’s during these unknown parts of the story that little quirky gems occur and everything seems to fall into place. Humour is something that happens naturally during these stages and can come from out of nowhere. For me, this is the exciting and most enjoyable part of the process. Like the reader, I get to know the characters as they want to be known. I appreciate that this probably sounds a little absurd, but this is how my writing process works. It’s almost like the characters are in charge and call most of the shots. For instance, in Season’s Meetings I’d planned on only one intimate romantic scene, however Catherine and Holly both had other ideas. Begrudgingly, I ended up having to write the scene because they wouldn’t let the Book coversubject drop. With Nicola and Jenny in Secret Lies, I felt incredibly maternal towards them. When it came to poor decisions and big mistakes I wanted to protect them and intervene, but they wouldn’t let me. It’s their story and I have to go along with it. I become as emotionally invested as the readers do if not more. I feel frustrated, upset, and happy as I embark on their journey with them. The characters also insist on changing things such as a certain phrase or an item of clothing. If something I write doesn’t ring true, they don’t hesitate in hounding me until I fix it.

I read somewhere that writing a story and publishing it, is like putting a little bit of your soul out into the world. BiRpwXpIYAAzuv1It can make you feel vulnerable. For me, it’s not just the time, effort, and sacrifices that went into the book, that make me nervous and perhaps sometimes overly-sensitive about the release. I truly do appreciate constructive criticism as it helps me develop my writing skills. It comes down to the fact I don’t want to let the characters down. They feel like family and friends. I’ve spent months, sometimes even years getting to know them and I feel protective of them. I want to do their stories justice. I want readers to like them and enjoy reading the books, as much as I enjoyed writing them.

“Home in the Clouds”

By Tina Michele


Oh, North Carolina, how I love thee.
I can still remember the sights and sounds of the first time I visited this beautiful and magical place. I was eight years old and my big sister had moved away to go to college in Asheville. I had no idea how far away it was from the warm beaches of Florida, but I just knew it she was too far away.
The distance confirmed by the memory of the long, hot, family roadtrip to bring her a compact washing machine for her dorm room. It was the strangest little thing that connected to the tap on the sink, or maybe it was the tub. Like I said, I was eight. I just knew it was me-sized, and I wanted one.  I also recall my incessant begging to stay with her at least one night like a cool grown-up college kid.
T_J_NC_CabinsAshevilleIt’s all a little fuzzy now except for the few vivid memories I have of the rustic cabins at the Log Cabin Motor Court. I had the pleasure of recollecting and describing this wonderful place in my novel, In Every Cloud. There was the rickety swingset under the crabapple tree where I learned not to eat fruit from random bushes unless your parents tell you it’s okay. Gah! To this day apples and I have a very apprehensive relationship. I love them, but I don’t trust them. 🙂 Oh, and of course the visit to the Cherokee Reserve where I picked up a beaded tie, bought a mini-loom, and got my first pair of leather moccasin loafers (in an eye-complementing shade of gray-blue might I add). They looked GREAT with socks… right? I mean come on now, what else could possibly complete such a fashion forward ensemble?
I’ll never forget my first experience with the crisp cool air, enormous trees like I had never seen, and mountains! Not Florida mountains- which to us is anything higher than 10 feet above sea level, and includes landfills. It burned a love for North Carolina deep inside me, fueled my wanderlust, and filled my dreams. I knew I’d be back one day even if it would be seventeen years later. NC2_CopyrightCPEInc.
My in-laws had sold their dairy in Florida and decided to relocate to North Carolina to raise llamas.  The farm, the family, and the surrounding beauty quickly became my refuge. For many years, it’s where I ran for both solace and adventure more times than I can count. The eight hour drive was easy because I knew the joy of what awaited me when I would arrive. To this day I could do it with my eyes closed.
Waterfalls and mountains, hidden ruins and history, and the pure pleasure of being there with the one I loved and her family. So many of the experiences I write about in In Every Cloud are not simply moments for my characters but actual memories from my own life. They are based on real personal events that I had the fortunate opportunity to live. This book is not only a fictional story but a glimpse into some of my most precious days. NC1_CopyrightCPEInc.
One of the many moments that rings with truth and humor is the one which leads to Bree Whitely’s first unfortunate encounter with Carson Harper. It’s a slightly exaggerated, but mostly true, tale of my sister’s experience at the Biltmore Estate. It’s a story I’ve heard a hundred times and it never gets old in real life or in fiction.  I knew if I ever wrote a book about Biltmore and North Carolina this would have to play a part.
I have so many wonderful memories of this place that it was difficult to decide which to include or exclude from In Every Cloud. It’s always a question of how much to give and what to hold back when you write from the heart. How much do I share with you, my beloved readers, and how much do I keep for myself? In the end I decided that these things were worth sharing.
Many things have changed since these happy and carefree days of horseback riding, hiking, and standing in the clouds. In Every Cloud is my way of remembering parts of my life that I hold dear, but it’s also a way to let them go. To offer myself and my memories up to the clouds and release them, but not without the reverence they deserve.
In Every Cloud is a story of starting over and letting go of everything you once held on to. It’s about realizing that there is something better ahead of you than where you’ve been if you can only take that one scary step forward. Hearts get broken, but we can’t allow the memories of what was good, or even bad, keep us from healing. As Joseph Campbell says, “We must be willing to let go of the life we had planned to live the life that is waiting for us.”
Change is downright terrifying, but at some point we have to decide what is best for us and how much the struggles are worth in order to get what we deserve. Take a chance, it may be the best thing you ever do.
NC3_CopyrightCPEInc.I love Asheville. It will always be that place where I want to run away to. It’s been too long since I’ve been back, but I don’t plan on letting another seventeen years pass before I return. There are too many things I love there, and this book is dedicated to them.

Much love XOXO,
Tina Michele

The Amazon Trail

Teased To Death

By Lee Lynch




I never put this in words until recently: I’m afraid of children. Crazy, right? Unnatural. Just plain dumb.

About a month ago, while still digesting that news flash from my brain, I had a related revelation which was brought on by all the recent talk about bullying. Here goes: I’m afraid of children because of the incessant bullying I got as a kid. So obvious. I kinda understood it, but kinda didn’t want to look at it.

Growing up in my neighborhood, kids got teased, not bullied. Bullying happened, it was just called teasing. Often, it was called harmless teasing. I don’t know if the adults were being polite or they believed themselves and thought I was over sensitive. They sure didn’t stop it. My mother basically told me to stand up for myself, something I never figured out how to do. Instead, I cried.

I cried in classrooms, I cried in the backyard of my apartment building, I cried on the street. Children, from toddlers to teens, mocked me for looking like a boy, for being smart, for building roads in the mud, for wanting to be the father when we played house, for wearing hand-me-down boys’ clothes and homemade girls’ clothes, for my name, for not having a religion, for my skinny body. For being different.

Walking with my mother, well into adulthood, I cringed when children came toward us, terrified they’d call me names or ask if I was a boy or a girl. I even feared my niece and nephew, especially during their teen years when I knew I’d be the weird aunt. They weren’t mean kids, though, and now that they’re grown, I couldn’t ask for stronger supporters.

But kids are unpredictable and bullying takes its toll. Especially when it’s not called by its right name. That’s a negation of a child’s experience: “Oh, they’re just teasing you.” I don’t know what the right way would be for a parent to help a child who is bullied. I do know that ignoring the issue isn’t. My sweetheart tells me she stood up for her little sister. I’m in awe of her for that. Protecting another child is a heroic act for any little peewee.

I’m not alone in this experience. A lot has been written about the cycle of bullying and how adults who have been bullied perpetuate the behavior. I haven’t read anything about adults who’ve learned compassion from the experience, or about adults who go into the helping professions or otherwise devote their lives to lessening the pain of others, human or four-legged. That’s what I took from my little ordeal.

I know I got off easy: no one disowned me, beat me up, or tried to kill me. I didn’t have to live on the streets, go hungry, or be violated. The damage was more subtle. Before age five or six I was an outgoing friendly kid, never a bit of trouble, according to my mother. She claimed that I would talk to every stranger on the street. Then I changed. I became shy, withdrawn, silent. I was reluctant to eat. The crying started. My affect​ ​became flat. Kids and adults and my mother teased me for never smiling. And that’s how I stayed most of the time for many years.

No therapist picked up on this. I would have been embarrassed to bring up teasing. After all, I was taught to ignore it, a mere childhood discomfort.  I never dealt with the bullying issue, never thought it was an issue, even as it went on right into college.

By high school, though, I’d come out. All of a sudden I knew who I was, understood my difference. Shaming me was not as effective as it had been, partly because I had a group identity. I didn’t know many gays, but those I knew accepted me as I was. Being bullied was an unspoken bond. We played at being tough dykes on the city streets and seldom were hassled.

Yet the damage had been done. ​I wasn’t going to let anyone see the little girl I’d been ever again.

I live in an adult community now. Little by little I’ve found myself relaxing, becoming more outgoing, talking to strangers in the ‘hood. It’s a small miracle for me, though I don’t know that I’ll ever trust the neighbors not to turn against me. Holidays, demon grandchildren visit, and I find myself getting all gimlet-eyed with suspicion, hyper-vigilant like in the old days.

I never learned how to protect myself from them. Now that I know the truth, that I was badly bullied, my fears don’t seem so crazy or unnatural and certainly not dumb. Raising awareness about bullying is a real smart move.

Somehow my natural resilience prevailed and formed who I am today.  Unlike others who were teased to death.

Copyright 2015 Lee Lynch

Gays in Science

By Joel Gomez-Dossi



When did math and science become cool? It certainly wasn’t when I was going to school. Back then the only role models for kids who enjoyed science were nerds like the two high school protagonists in the movie, “Weird Science”. They couldn’t get dates, so they conjured up the perfect woman to satisfy their perfectly straight libidos. At least they had a goal. Other movies portrayed scientists as half-crazed eccentrics, like the character of Doc Brown, played by Christopher Lloyd in “Back to the Future”.

The modern image of mathematicians and scientists has changed and it’s now cool to be a science geek. Last year’s Oscar race even included two nods to actors playing scientists. Eddie Redmayne, who portrayed physicist Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything” and Benedict Cumberbatch, who played the gay mathematician, Alan Turing, in “The Imitation Game”.

As a teenager, I was labeled a queer. And while I enjoyed the sciences, I wasn’t about to risk being labeled a nerd and un-cool, too. So I decided to be one of the artistic kids, someone who discovered the world through the arts.

I willingly stayed away from the sciences, playing into the prejudice that science and math was for the privileged, white, and straight male population.

Then, in the late eighties (seemingly by popular demand) it was decided that society’s prejudice was a problem. That it hurt society to deny some of the world’s brightest and most productive minds from doing what they did best, simply because they weren’t the right race, creed, or sex.

The National Science Foundation picked up this cause by funding children’s educational television shows that emphasized multiculturalism, and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights even produced a hundred-page study on how to encourage minorities to pursue scientific careers. Unfortunately, sexual orientation or gender expression didn’t enter into the progressive’s thinking back then.

But slowly science and math shows on television, particularly PBS, became multicultural and even included women and girls. Miraculously, the list of minority scientists started to grow.

Today, the person who is perhaps making science most accessible to minority Americans is a black man, Neil deGrasse Tyson. He’s the Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space at the American Museum of Natural History. He’s quoted as saying, that as a child he’d never seen an interview with a black person whose expertise was anything other than being black. “And at that point,” he said, “I realized that one of the last stereotypes that prevailed among people who carry stereotypes is that…black people are somehow dumb.” In order to counter these stereotypes, he decided he had to be visible.

LEcoverIn “Lethal Elements”, I wanted to portray a strong, intelligent gay male who was also a scientist. The story centers on geologist Tom Burrell’s relationship with his husband, Roman. It’s on rocky ground, so when a mysterious company asks Tom to perform mineral studies in the Adirondack Mountains, he jumps at the chance. But before he can finish his tests, he finds himself lost in the wilderness and chased by a hired gun. Now it’s up to his husband, Roman, to rescue him.

But in order to succeed, Roman must first piece together the missing elements of Tom’s disappearance and discover the secret goals of the company that hired him. If Roman fails, Tom will die and one of the nation’s most unique ecosystems, the Adirondack Mountains, will be in danger.

I hope the characters of Tom and Roman defy stereotypes. Not because they’re gay and heroes, but because they both rely on their natural talents to make a difference in the world.

If you’re interested, you can peruse a growing list of real-life gay and lesbian scientists at


Joel Gomez-Dossi started his career as a theatrical stage manager, but he spent most of his working on the Emmy-award winning PBS series, “Newton’s Apple”. In the late nineties, he turned to freelance writing, working for regional publications across the country. He is the author of three novels published by Bold Strokes Books, Pursued, Deadly Cult, and Lethal Elements. You can reach Joel on Facebook at or on the web at

The Parameters of Experience


Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment

-Rita Mae Brown


We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience.

-Teilhard de Chardin


Warm November 300 DPIIn my latest novel, Warm November, “experience” is a central theme. The two protagonists, Hayley and Merle are ‘women of a certain age’, i.e. they’re both fifty somethings so each can lay claim to a having a learned a certain number of life lessons but that’s where their similarity ends.


As a newly out lesbian, Hayley finds her lack of experience with women problematical in several ways. She doesn’t think she knows how to be a lesbian. She thinks lesbians tend to shun her because she used to be heterosexual. Even her avowal of ‘been there, done that’ in regards to heterosexual marriage doesn’t help much.

Merle’s long-time partner has just left her and she’s predictably devastated and not eager to start up with someone new especially, someone like Hayley who was married to a man for over twenty years and just newly out, i.e. inexperienced. She is however drawn to helping Hayley because that’s her nature.


Like me, Merle’s been clean and sober and in AA for a long time. In fiction, AA usually takes the form of the protagonist’s journey from active alcoholism to becoming sober. I wanted to do something different and look at sobriety from the point of view of someone who’s been living the sober life for a relatively long time. As Merle discovers, she may think life has become stable and predictable but it hasn’t. No way.


In AA, the idea of experience plays a very large role.

Merle’s AA friend Clea says, “Everyone has opinions. Tell me your experience and I might listen.” This speaks to our all too human inclination to mouth off about our opinions instead of sticking to what we know, i.e., our experience. AAs share their ‘experience, strength, and hope’ with other alcoholics. The experience of AA members with longer sobriety is helpful for the nervous and newly sober. The accumulation of ‘sober’ experiences of life grounds and strengthens a person’s sobriety. The oft-related experience in AA meetings of the transition between alcoholic drinking to sobriety ,called sharing one’s story, serves to remind everyone of ‘what it was like’. Hearing it again and again reinforces our commitment to staying sober.


So experience in AA or in life is generally considered to be a good thing. The common wisdom has it that experience is the great teacher. It’s true that it’s enormously helpful   and tends to keeps us from repeating past mistakes. It can take the anxious edge off things like public speaking or flying where the more you do something, the less scary it seems.

But what’s the downside of experience if there is one?


How about the human tendency to assume all our all future experiences of a specific nature will be the same as a previous experience? One of the big examples of this is, of course, falling in love and being hurt and then being reluctant to fall in love again. This trope is the basis of much of romance fiction. Why are we convinced that falling in love with a new woman is going to end up the same way as falling in love with the previous ten or twenty or however many women there were? What do we learn from those experiences? Only that we’re the common denominator. Hello? What’s that tell us?


Then there’s the creeping know- it-all- ism that affects those who’ve been on the planet longer than others. I think another term for it is ‘jaded’. Or we become cynical and dismissive.

Approaching new things in life with a certain amount of caution is probably a good idea. Doing research is an excellent place to start before undertaking something new. Hayley’s good at this. She’s methodical about her search for love. Nothing is going to substitute for actual experience though, no matter how much you think you know. She still has to go through what she goes through. We all still have to do that.

I think it’s harder to be open minded as we get older.   You think you’ve seen it all, but likely you haven’t. You think you can predict with accuracy how you’re going to feel, how you’re going to think. I don’t want to be that way, I want to be surprised and I want to be teachable. Maybe I do know a little something about a lot of stuff. Maybe I’ve seen and done and thing or two. Good for me. But I think there’s a lot more out there waiting for me and a whole lot more to learn. That’s one of the big reason’s I’m a writer.Warm November 300 DPI













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