Thursday, March 26, 2015

April's OCCRWA Online Class is "Behind Bars: A Look Inside a Federal Penitentiary", with Nancy Farrier and Gerry Legg, Jr.

OCCRWA's own Nancy Farrier is here today to talk about her upcoming online class:

Looking Behind the Bars into a Federal Penitentiary. 

As authors we always strive for authenticity in our work. This means doing a lot of research, even for the small details. For instance, if possible, we will visit a location where our story will be set to experience the feel of the setting. Sometimes this isn’t feasible so we have to rely on others who have been there and are willing to share their experiences with us.

This is what we hope to share with you in our class about Federal Penitentiaries. An authentic look at what happens inside. We’ll give you a chance to see how the prison system works on many levels. To research with accuracy isn’t easy, but taking a class from someone who knows what goes on behind the bars can help.

You might think this is only for writers of suspense, mystery or thriller, but that isn’t the case. Our books could contain characters in prison, or we may have a character who needs to visit someone in prison, or to speak with authority about something that might happen in a penitentiary. Maybe you’re plotting a fantasy and need to include incarceration and this class will give you some great ideas to make your world become real.

In this class you will learn some of the major mistakes many authors make – even some big name authors – errors that are glaring to anyone who knows about prisons. You will learn about the training for the Federal Correction Officers; what they can and can’t do at work. You will see what happens on Visitor day – what’s allowed and what isn’t. What jobs might those incarcerated be allowed to do? How soon can they have visitors and who is allowed to visit?

What kinds of things to inmates do that they aren’t supposed to and what happens when they get caught? Do murders occur in a Federal prison? Yes, of course. So, what happens then? How is the scene processed? Who handles the investigation?

When I first did this class with Gerry, I learned some facts that surprised and even shocked me. Facts that gave me some story ideas. I’m sure you will too as you sit in on Behind Bars: A Look Inside a Federal Penitentiary. Come prepared to learn and to ask questions.

For more information and to register go to

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

How to make the most out of your conference weekend

I can't believe it's finally here! I'm talking about this weekend's California Dreamin Writers Conference. This will be my second conference so I thought I'd share some tips to help you get the most out of this experience.

1) Keep your business cards on you at all times

You never know who will be in the elevator with you or sitting next to you at lunch. It could be a potential reader, it could be your dream agent. Or it could just be someone you liked talking to for a few minutes and want to follow them on Twitter and vice versa. So have a business card handy to pass on just in case!

2) Go to at least one workshop outside your usual genre or track

Sometimes you can't always judge a workshop or a speaker by a title or few sentence description alone. Who knows? You could learn something or meet someone important that will have an impact on your writing.

3) Have fun...but not too much fun

You wouldn't want to miss out on some morning workshops because you stayed out all night partying, would you? There are so many great speakers at this event that it would be a shame to miss out on learning something from them because you overslept.

4) Mingle!

Even if you don't know him or her, talk to the person sitting next to you during a workshop or at dinner. A conference is the best way to build your network of author friends.

5) Ask questions -- even if you think you already know the answer
This is the only way we learn. Not only that, but asking questions can open doors that you thought were locked. So don't be afraid!

Feel free to add your own conference tips in the comments below.

See you this weekend, I hope!

Sabrina Sol

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Power Corrupts...

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”   Lord Acton

Well, no, actually.

Power allows existing personality traits to manifest themselves--it may enhance, but it doesn't create the traits.

Naturally military dictators willing to kill and crush all opposition to achieve power aren't likely to be the nicest of people.  They are already "corrupt." Though they may have initially put on a mask of niceness to get support, the moment they achieve their goals, the mask falls and their basic dictatorial personality is manifest. Absolute power does not corrupt them--it is simply an enabler to allow a preexisting condition to express itself.

Unfortunately, since they themselves are quite unpleasant people--willing to do anything to achieve power--they often assume everyone else is the same, and can be quite paranoid. And to paraphrase the joke, just because they are paranoid doesn't mean they are not hated and that everyone is indeed out to get them. Again, the traits were all there to start off with, power is not the cause, though it does enable the effects.

But examine people that have not acquired power through force. Look at people who were born into power--kings and queens--to see how the opportunities that absolute power offers is always transformed by the personality in power throughout history.  Even though England's present royalty doesn't have much actual power, you just know that Prince Charles would not go around beheading people (except for a few architects perhaps) if he had absolute power. There's even variety in dictators,  Stalin, Tito, Castro all present quite different profiles in power.

Even the "power" of modern day celebrities demonstrate a great deal of variety. Some achieve power through talent and/or luck, not trampling on others (actors Vs reality tv stars).  Some actors are clearly total egocentric jerks (and worse), using and abusing their spotlight.  Others clearly are fairly normal human beings.

So don't blame power. It's just a door opener to the jerk within...

Isabel Swift

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Women in the Civil War: North and South by Jina Bacarr

My favorite things are anything vintage.

Stuffed away in my closet I have a blue parasol trimmed with white lace, a pair of old lace-up, pointy boots.

And a hoop skirt.

As flighty and unpredictable as any belle from the Civil War.

But the reality of the role of women during the War Between the States is more than flirty belles twirling a pretty parasol. Women worked as nurses, volunteered as soldiers, risked their lives as spies. They were The Women of the Civil War: North and South.

This is the 150th Anniversary of the end of the Civil War. I've always loved this era since I first saw Scarlett sitting on the front porch at Tara with the Tarleton Twins and pooh-poohing the idea of war coming. So I've just finished my own Civil War novel--a time travel...more about that coming up. I'll update as things progress.

One thing the women of the North and South had in common was their love for the men fighting. They became nurses, took wounded into their homes, sewed blankets and uniforms, baked breads and jellies, and fought beside them. They did everything they could to help their cause.

Can you imagine living in a time when wearing a corset day and night was required? Women found themselves not only hampered by stays, but petticoats and those hoop skirts.  I got my hoop skirt from the costume department in a theater where I worked years ago...they were throwing it away!! No, I couldn't have that. I was thrilled to take it off their hands. Since then, I've worn it under a Civil War era gown to commemorative events, book signings, and costume parties.

When I was writing my CW time travel, I put it on again. Just to get the feel of what it was like. how I would describe it.

It's so important to walk the walk, talk the talk of the time. I'm fascinated with the women who fought as soldiers. Imagine trying to keep your identity secret among a bunch of rowdy troops. Not easy. According to reports, many women signed up to get a regular paycheck. How about being a nurse? You had to be over thirty and plain.

And what about being a spy? Sounds glamorous...but dangerous. Imagine hiding a letter written in cipher in your pantaloons.

Thanks for stopping by...and as I mentioned, more about my Civil War time travel when I have news!


Monday, March 09, 2015

Two-Question Survey on Self-Publishing by Kitty Bucholtz

Hi friends!

I've been learning a lot of new things about growing my reading audience for my fiction, and about improving my online classes on self-publishing and time management for writers. One of those new things is landing pages. Some of you have great web sites where the first page draws you in and gives you a reason to stay. Mine isn't like that! LOL!

I'm learning how to use LeadPages and the AWeber email system to create pages to give away cool stuff (called a first impression incentive) and get people to sign up for my email list. Here is the link to my first ever landing page on my brand new site, Writer Entrepreneur Guides.

I'll be using that site to teach my classes instead of using Yahoo Groups. (Can I hear an Amen?!) And I'll be interviewing all kinds of people in our industry to give information and advice to writers who are thinking about or just beginning to self-publish. I'm really excited about this!

The other new thing I'm learning is how to find out what people really want to know about the subject you're teaching. One of the best ways is to ask them an open-ended question about it, and then use the second question to see how serious they are about learning more. Apparently, the psychology is that if someone is willing to give you a phone number to contact them to ask more - and we all know how much we don't want to be called by sales people! - that shows how serious they are, and they might be someone who would want to take your class. (You don't actually call them; it's only to find out how serious they are about getting the answer to the first question.)

Pretty neat stuff, huh? I hope some of you find it interesting if I share more of what I learn as I blog here on the 9th of every month. One hand reaching forward, one hand reaching back, right? :)

If you are interested in self-publishing or just beginning your journey, will you do me a favor and fill out my survey? (The other cool thing I learned is how to embed it directly into a blog post! If it doesn't work, you can get to the survey here.) It will help me make my classes better for future students. (I'll be teaching my self-publishing class again next month!)

And be sure to either click on the Writer Entrepreneur Guides link now or the one you'll see after you click the Submit button on the survey, to get my free gift, The 10-Step Checklist to Starting Your Self-Publishing Business. I hope you find it helpful.

Thanks again for taking my survey! I'm excited to make my next class the best one yet!

Kitty Bucholtz decided to combine her undergraduate degree in business, her years of experience in accounting and finance, and her graduate degree in creative writing to become a writer-turned-independent-publisher. Her novels, Little Miss Lovesick and Unexpected Superhero, and the free short story, "Superhero in Disguise," are now available at most online retail sites.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Upcoming Events

March is a busy month for OCC and its members!

First is our regular upcoming meeting on March 14--which I intend to attend.

And that'll be followed by the California Dreamin' Conference from March 27-29. It's the second California Dreamin' Conference, and it's hosted by all four Southern California Romance Writers of America chapters: OCC, Los Angeles Romance Authors, East Valley Authors and San Diego RWA. I'm proud to say that I'm a member of two of them: OCC and LARA. Plus, I spoke not long ago at an EVA meeting. Maybe I'll get to attend a San Diego chapter meeting too someday.

Meantime, I'll be on a panel at California Dreamin': So You Want To Write A Series. My fellow panelists are Judy Duarte and Janet Tronstad. I've spoken before about writing series, which is a real passion of mine. I'm currently writing four of them!

I hope to see you at the chapter meeting and/or California Dreamin'. Hope you'll be at both, too. And if you're at the conference, be sure to attend my panel!

Linda O Johnston

Bite the Biscuit
Midnight Ink
May 2015

Thursday, March 05, 2015


I recently self-published my first book, GENERATIONAL CURSE. However, it isn’t the first book I wrote. That honor belongs to THE ALEX CHRONICLES:WHAT MY FRIENDS DON’T KNOW. It’s the first book in a series about five best friends. The stories follow the characters as they maneuver and meander their way through a lot of secrets. The tagline asks the simple question: How well do you know your best friends?

I think I was watching Bridget Jones’ Diary or Sex And The City, when I got the idea for the book. I went into this thinking it would be a stand alone and then the characters reminded me I had left a few unanswered questions. I immediately started answering those questions in the second book. However, a new book answered those questions, but it also created a few new ones. On to book three.

Fast forward, a couple of new computers, three crashed hard drives and a healthy relationship with Dropbox and back up drives, I am 30 pages away from completing my first series. NOT.

I went to a conference and an agent requested it, didn’t like it. Another agent liked it and signed me. [I shared this story in an previous post]. While my oldest child was out making the rounds, I gave birth to a surprise baby, GENERATIONAL CURSE. In writing that book, I saw my oldest baby with fresh eyes. While working on GENERATIONAL CURSE, I read a lot [I also judged the BBB which exposed me to some different genres]. The advice that in order to learn how to write, you have to read, is so true. I liked how GENERATIONAL CURSE developed. It has just the right amount of heat and edge to keep the reader engaged. THE ALEX CHRONICLES was missing that.

I got a stack of post-its, a notebook and a few red pens and started performing surgery. When I was done, I liked the characters even better. They were mature with great personalities and better story lines.

Here’s the funny part. I had a cover based on the old manuscript. No matter how much I wanted it to work, it just didn’t now. And because I knew I had the other books complete, except for those last 30+ pages for book three, I bought the covers for them as well. Now none of them fit. Back to the beginning.

I ordered a proof with the manuscript changes, but every time I looked at that cover, it just reiterated I had to make a change. After reading the proof, something else kept gnawing at me…the first seven chapters. I had been fighting with myself about those pages longer than the cover issue. No matter how much I liked the content, I felt it didn’t really tell the story. This was a major realization for me. So, last week, I highlighted the pages and hit delete. It felt like someone had chopped off one of my arms. I stepped back, looked at the book with a revised chapter eight as my new chapter one, did a little tweaking and I like it. It immediately grabs you.

What about the first seven pages? My plan is to add a few thousand words and make a novella. So now my little three book series, will become a four book series. As for the new cover, it has a much more sophisticated feel. I’m saving the Cover Reveal for later.

I’m hoping to release this book by the end of Spring.

Tracy Reed

Fiction for Women Who Love God, Couture and Cute Guys

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