Looking Back, Looking Forward

Welcome to 2019.
I know I know we’re more than a week into the new year and I’m late on getting this greeting out to you. But I did that on purpose. Personally, I ’ve been bombarded with good wishes to the forms of blogs, newsletters, and podcast. And I’ve enjoyed every one of them and would like to reciprocate to all of those I’ve listened to and read; happy new year to you too.
Like everyone else, the new year means new goals new visions and plans for a better future. Old habits will be thrown out, hopefully, and resolutions for better healthier habits are made.
I’m going to do a little bit of both. Before I could look forward, I need to look back. So I’m looking back at where it all began– that very first book.
The book began as a challenge from a group of friends. I had said I wanted to write a book and they held me to it. To be honest, I never thought I could do it, but once I started, there was no stopping me. To date, I have 15 books published and plans for so many more.

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But to get back to that first book. Everything starts with inspiration, and I’d like to share my inspiration for the first book…
The summers in my small town in South Florida can be pretty quiet. I could go for weeks on my job and not see a customer at their home. It was one of those hot blistering summer days, and I was grateful to be working along the river where, at least, a cool breeze could be found. As I looked out into the intercoastal, I couldn’t help but notice how isolated it felt. The channels that run in and out of the intercoastal take you into different communities or out into the river. As I was doing my job, I noticed a small boat motoring up one of those channels and the idea clicked you could commit a crime in such a location, getting in and out by boat, and nobody would ever know.

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And so began Murder for Neptune’s Trident. As I looked across the water, thoughts quickly came, and the story outline developed in my head. But of course, it took a couple of days before I got it down on paper. I was continually adding to it before I was ready to start writing a book. Don’t forget it was my first one and I was pretty nervous there more than one day that I just put the paperwork aside and thought “it’s a great idea, but I’m never going to pull it off; I don’t have the talent to write it.” But my friends kept after me, asking me how the writing was going, so I dug the outline back out and started writing. And that’s how it all began.

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This leads me to now and my goals for 2019. I have two different series that I want to start. One, I already have the first book completed and have half-written. The other series? Well, the idea is percolating, and I like where it’s going. I also want to continue the novella series I started in December. It was fun writing a short mystery in between books. It kept the juices flowing and kept me in the practice of writing.
Another goal for 2019 is to format my existing books into large print. The first one, Now Arriving (Sisters Station 1), was published in large print in December.
I’m curious about creating an audiobook as well. I know I enjoy listening to books, especially when I’m driving, so I think it would be a whole new avenue of readers for me.
I love all the new groups that I’ve joined on Facebook. Writers are helping writers, and I’m learning so much. I hope I’m giving back just as much as I’m getting.
Other than this, my goals are to continue to move forward with what I’m doing, exploring the publishing and promotional side of writing a little bit more. One thing I did learn in 2018 is it when I take a break from writing I don’t feel whole. Yes, my gardening business is crazy at the end of the year, and it takes up all of my time. But the writing gives me the creative energy that I need to keep the ideas fresh. And when I have new ideas, everything benefits; my business, my writing, and even my family life–because I feel more alive when I’m creative.
And I’m not the only creative writer out there. Here’s the link to the  Cozy January Book Fair, a mystery promotional going on this month. I hope you’ll check it out. Heck, there’s even get the chance to enter the drawing for $100 Amazon gift card.

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If you haven’t already, be sure to go to my website and sign up for my newsletter. I always include recommendations of new books by other authors and any promotional giveaways that I’m involved.
Until next time, happy writing and happy new year.

My Morning Date

I have a morning breakfast date almost every morning.

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It’s new to my schedule, and I have to tell you I’m really enjoying it. And no, I’m not cheating on my husband. Nope, it’s much simpler than that. I’m enjoying my morning time by not having the TV on and instead, going out and sitting on the porch. As I sit and enjoy my coffee, listening to what’s going on around me, I’ve discovered is we have a Falcon who comes every morning to our area.

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The house next door has a dead tree about 30 feet high and that’s with the falcon perches every morning around 6 o’clock.
He’ll sit there for a good half hour, not doing much of anything, just watching the neighborhood. Once in a while, he will let out a call and is a very distinctive call so I know it’s him. When he starts to hear another Falcon in the distance, he begins to get louder and the other birds take notice of him.
It’s like a signal. As soon as he starts crying out louder, the Mockingbirds and the Blue Jays go into protection mode. They’re trying to protect their nest and themselves because whether we like it or not, the Falcon is a predator. As if a signal is given, the birds will start diving down at the Falcon, not coming too close, but enough to annoy. Each pass gets closer, each time loud warning cries filling the air.
The falcon puts up with this for about 10 or 15 minutes and then you can almost see him shake his head. He opens his wings (what a wingspan!) and takes off to another tree. The smaller birds have won for the morning, but he’ll be back tomorrow.
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Watching this day in and day out, I feel compassion for the Falcon. I sometimes wish I could spread my wings and go to a safer spot. Because when it comes to writing that sometimes it seems as if everything is coming at you at once.
Your book ready for publication and you sit back, thinking you can relax a bit. But wait! There are still so many things that have to be done. It can become overwhelming. You may feel like that bird in the tall tree, having the other birds diving down at you. Sometimes you want to just shake your head spread your wings and fly away.
But if you want your book to be published you need to roll up your sleeves and get ready to take care of all those things that fly down at you, needing your attention. Editing, beta readers, proofreading, no holes in your storylines, advertisements, proper keywords, blurbs, author bio… the list goes on and on. And just as soon as you think you’ve got one task finished, you realize there’s three more to do.
And don’t think only indie writers that go through this. Gone are the days when traditional publishers took care of all this for their writer. Authors now have to be their own advertising agent, getting the word out about their books. That’s not to say that all publishers act this way, but I think the large majority of them do.
I was recently asked why I went with indie publishing, instead of trying to do traditional publishing. Probably the biggest reason for me is; if I have to do the work myself, why not do it the way I want it done, in my own time frame.
Like many other writers, I have a job outside of my writing. One that I love, and I’m not ready to give it up. Like most businesses in South Florida, there are seasons in my business. These seasons will allow me to have time for writing and creating, and then other times when I can’t even get to my work in progress. For me to have a deadline from the publisher would be catastrophic. I would be disappointing them and myself.  There’s always something during my busy season that comes up that has to be taken care of, and the writing has to be put on the back burner. If I had a writing deadline, I would be torn in two different directions. By going Indie, I can determine my own timelines, covers, and my own advertising outlets.
It’s a lot of work and sometimes it feels overwhelming.

Like my falcon.

I can spread my wings and leave all the noise behind by going to a quieter spot or time. Or I can do what I love on my own terms. It’s my choice, just like it’s his choice to attack or retreat.

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So as a writer, you need to decide when to attack, when to retreat, and went to push forward with a gentle grace.

Victoria LK Williams

The most important tool a write has.

Sitting at the outside table of the restaurant, I couldn’t help but smile as I looked out the window towards the water. It’s a beautiful day and the river is full of boats. Between the river and where I sat is a wonderful park. There are plenty of slides and swings, but also lots of open grassy area for play. Today the park was full; a group of teenagers had a game of volleyball going, a few couples were walking the pathways. There were kids on the swings and I could hear music from someone’s radio.

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But it was the gleeful laughter coming from a small group of pre-schoolers that had me smiling. They were playing in the same way my son had at their age, and so did I for that matter. It was simple entertainment with one of the oldest toys: a bottle of bubbles. The laughter was contagious and as I watched, a young puppy joined in the fun, making the children laugh harder.
I didn’t see one iPad, laptop or even phone. Even the parents were getting in on the fun. It was a game we all know, and as sophisticated as today’s toys are, it never seems to go out of style. The simple joy of chasing and popping the soapy bubbles seemed to be able to entertain all, with no problems.
I love how the simple old-fashioned toy worked. There was no need for fancy gadgets or accessories. All you needed is a device to hold the soap while you blew into it to create the bubble. The wind would take the bubble up and out of reach and you would try to pop it before it got too far away from you.
I watch for a few moments longer and then looked down at the paper I had jotted down a few ideas on. I was getting anxious to leave, I wanted to get to my laptop and start writing. Without thinking, I wrote a single item on the paper. Words.

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As simple as the bubbles were, they proved over and over that they would last for a long, long time. I didn’t really need my laptop. Nor the programs I have installed on it to help me write most effectively. There were 3 tools I needed to tell my story. They are as old as dirt, and part of my day to day life.

First I need a method to record my ideas. Any old pen will do. Then I must have the means to hold those ideas. A notebook, a piece of paper, even the napkin on my plate. It doesn’t matter, as long I have those two I can begin.
But the most important tool I need is the same, regardless of how they are being recorded.
WORDS.
Words are the glue to our life. They help us communicate with not only those around us, but ourselves (come on, admit it: you talk to yourself too!) Words are used for direction, instructions, and to express our feeling. Words are the ultimate tool of the storyteller. After all, words have been the way we communicate since the caveman.
As the storyteller, it’s our job to pick through the words and pick the ones that help us connect with our readers, create the feeling of the sharing a great story while pulling them into our tale. It’s the words that are the tool of our trade. Not the fancy computer, or the umpteen writing programs we all try.
Just the words!
Our words alone are the tool of the writer that must be constantly sharped and used. It’s up to us to sort through the millions of words and find the ones that convey not only the storyline, but also feel the story is trying to tell. Words are the mightiest tool we have and if we want to be successful, we must use them wisely. Using the right words will set the tone for your story, making it a romance or a thriller; a fantasy or a scary tale of horror. Your words can make your reader laugh out loud, or cry with sadness.

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So remember, all the fun and shiny programs, computers, fancy journals or pretty pens don’t make you a writer—your words do!

It’s all about the Cozy Mystery

Can you believe this weekend is Labor Day weekend, where did the summer go?
This is the time when most people start to plan for their fall/winter season. Down here in the South, the winter season is crucial because it is our tourist season. And the tourist will want to visit the beaches, and in their beach-bags will be books; light beach reads. This means more books will be purchased!

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I’ve thought about my fall/winter objectives as well. I decided my books are going to be more consolidated into one generic. And the genre is COZY MYSTERIES. It’s what I love to write, what I love to read; it’s even what I love to watch on TV. So, why not stick with what I love?
Because I’m consolidating and aiming more towards cozy mysteries, my blog is going to   have one post per month dedicated strictly to cozy mysteries. I’ll be talking about the genre, some authors, the type of settings, the characters and doing a few book reviews. My regular blog posts will continue the other three weeks of the month , but I thought it might be fun to change up.

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What is a Cozy Mystery?
Think of the TV series Murder She Wrote. This is one of the best examples of a cozy mystery. The series has all the elements found in a cozy; a small quaint town, amateur sleuth, and a cast of characters the reader can get to know. Sometimes the main character is a bit nosy, or sometimes they are in the right place at the right time. But the main character always is compelled to investigate a crime (usually a murder) and put the wrong to right.

One of the first writers of cozy mysteries was Dame Agatha Christie. Her cozy mysteries that started it all was the Miss Marple series. Miss Marple was a elderly lady, wise about human nature. And she sure knew how to solve a mystery. Dame Agatha was a master at leaving false clues, red herrings, and wonderful characters that you loved. She could paint a picture with her scenes, pulling you into the mystery and then leaving you with unexpected results.

Cozy mysteries today are tamer, often glossing over the evil of the crime; becoming a bit sweeter, than the mysteries of Agatha Christie. There is usually no swearing, no gore, and any sex happens behind closed doors. Good always wins, and the mysteries are always solved. Whether it’s a series, are not, you are never left hanging, wondering what really happened.

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Sounds simple right? Now try writing one!
Next month I will start going over a few details involved when writing a cozy mystery and review a couple of books I’ve really enjoyed.
Let me know what you think cozy mysteries and share some of your favorite books!

Victoria LK Williams
Writing Cozy Mysteries with a Tropical Twist.

Sharing the Toys…er…Tools

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Toys, toys, toys, oh the shiny toys.
Oops, I really mean tools! Because as writers we don’t have time to play, do we?

Summertime is my time for writing. The other times of the year I’m busy with my landscape business. So this is when I get to explore what’s up-and-coming in the industry, all those wonderful things I put aside during my busy season. Now I can finally read books on my list about the industry as well as for entertainment.
And speaking of entertainment, even though these tools  seem self-indulgent, they are meant to grow my writing experience and business, but I have to it admit they are fun. Maybe it’s learning a new skill, exploring the possibilities of what your book can do, or making fun graphics for your promotions, it feels more like play and work. This summer I’ve indulged in a few new toys

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Kindle Rocket this is a great tool for helping you understand the keywords you need to promote your book and find out what books you’re competing against in your own category.
KD Spy. Another new tool to help you with promotions. Picking the right categories and niches and positioning yourselves and your book where it needs to be.
Natural Reader. Oh my gosh, the mistakes this thing finds for me! I use this tool to read back my work in progress letting me catch mistakes of my eyes don’t see. (The only thing to keep in mind; if you want to make corrections as you read, you’ll need to get the software, not the online app.)
Covers Sell Books. I will freely admit that this is the most fun I’ve had in a long time. This program will let you take your book cover to create a 3-D picture you can use for making ads and post for all the major sites. But beware, hours can be lost using this program.

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These are just four of the many programs out there. Most of these programs will have a free trial. And I encourage you to use it. As indie authors everything about putting our books out for sale falls on our shoulders. Why not find it used the tools will help you achieve your goals?

Victoria LK Williams

*I have not received any benefits from any of the above companies-I simply wanted to share what I have used to help me in my writing. 

Go ahead-walk away!

Hey-You!

Sometimes you need to stand up, push the chair in and walk away from the desk!

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We all work hard, there is no denying this, but at some point the hard work turns in to that phase where you feel like the little mouse on the wheel, running in circles and not getting anywhere. And sometimes, it’s hard to see when you need to take a break from the writing.

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Whether it’s a ten-minute break, or a long weekend, or a real vacation; you need to take time to recharge.
“Oh, no I can’t do that! I’m on a deadline.” (or something to that effect) Runs through your head and you dig in your heels, pulling the keyboard closer, like a security blanket. But even a child has to give up the blanket so it can be washed. Letting go will be equal to washing of a blanket.
Once all the clutter and tangled thoughts are allowed to settle down, it’s much easier to look at them and decide what you need to keep and what should be let go. Walk away and let your ideas slow down. The brilliant idea you had months ago isn’t working, so put it aside until the time is right. Come back and look at it again with a fresh perspective.
I think we get trapped in our writing environment and miss out on so much. How can you write about something when you’re shut in an office for hours, only seeing the screen in front of you? Where are you getting your inspiration from? I don’t mean inspiration for the big picture, but for the details. How do you know what the sound of the wind in the trees, the feel of sunlight on your skin, the smells of cut grass are like if you don’t take a second and actually put yourself in the middle of these things? And it is the little details like this that make your story come alive for the reader.

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By freeing our mind, we are opening it up to the possibilities of new ideas and solutions. That clue you were looking for? Suddenly it’s crystal clear. The conversation you were trying to write, but it was coming off stilted? Now it feels as if your characters are in the room with you talking. The little details are easier to spot and you may not feel so overwhelmed.
I had to be reminded of this just this week. Moaning and groaning, I gave in and went on a day trip with my husband. We visited an old favorite place, enjoying the peaceful walks through the gardens, had a wonderful dinner and talked. And as we talked and laughed, teasing and joking about different things, the ideas began to form. By the time we got home that night, I had the plot for two new books.
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The added bonus; I was able to talk with my husband about the ideas, and he had some of his own. They were jokes at first, but as the ideas nestled into my brain, I was caught up in the possibilities. Now they are written down for future development.
As you can see, taking a break worked out very well for me. And most authors that I talk to agree with me.

Sometimes you need to turn off the computer and let the little grey cells do their thing.

Victoria LK Williams

Magic or Stress?

 

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There’s a certain magic in the air when you get ready to start a new project.

Ideas are popping, seemingly out of nowhere. Your thoughts are racing in all different directions and sometimes it’s hard to rein them in for sorting. This is an exciting time for anyone about to begin something new, but especially for an author. We’re taking a simple thought, expanding and creating, until we have a story to tell.
Whether it be a romance, mystery, fantasy, thriller, or anything else; it’s something we want to create and share.
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Sometimes it’s a continuation of an old idea. For example, continuing a series, writing a sequel, or finishing a trilogy. With these type of books, we’re merely continuing an old idea. or expanding on it, making it better each time we write the next. We may or may not produce a complete outline for all the books. Whether or not we have the outline; our thoughts will continue, and ideas will spring forth.
But there’s a side to the creativity which is fearful as well. This is overwhelmingly evident for me when I start a new series. I’m leaving the comfort of the characters already created, the settings I’ve already got down pat in my head, and the storyline. But there are times when you know it’s necessary to move on. And when you move on, fear begins.
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Will my readers like my idea for the series? When do they fall in love with my characters as I do? Would I want to visit the settings created on the pages? Or will the whole thing just be a flop!
But when I start a new series, I trust my ideas and I move forward, squashing down the fear in my eagerness to get my ideas onto paper.
Not every idea will work out, or make it into a story. But once I find the idea I can’t forget, that haunts me during the day, makes me wake up at night and has me talking about it to my husband, then I know I’m ready to put the idea into book form.
I think this is why I have several series going at once. Not every idea will fit a certain series, so I create another. And with each creation, there’s an elevated level of excitement that needs to be toned down, so the words come out and make sense.

 
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Being a writer is more than just putting words on a page. It’s also about juggling ideas and letting them form with questions.
And knowing which ones to pursue.

Victoria LK Williams

A Weekend Off!

It’s only a quick checkin this week, since I took time off to visit with my family. We all need to do that-stay in touch with our love ones. They are what is important, everything else can, and should, take second place.

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But before I left, I got some productive work done.

If you didn’t read my last blog post, then you missed that I have joined Instafreebie. And you will benefit from this too. Go look at the post and you will find links to all kinds of free books and previews. I’ll continue to add more each month.

I’m also pleased to say I reached my summer goal ahead of time! Now that’s a first. You can now purchase all of my books, except the box set, in print. I must tell you, I was pretty excited to hold my books in my hands. It is a different feeling than seeing them on a website catalogue.

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And last, but by no means least, I published book #7, the next in the Citrus Beach Mystery Series. I had a lot of fun writing this one, and I hope you’ll enjoy Borrowed, Blue, Dead.

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Until next time, have some fun in the sun.

And I promise the next post won’t be so me, me, me!

VictoriaLKWilliams

 

Ready, Set, Binge!

Have you noticed how we’ve become a society that loves to binge?
We think nothing of spending hours doing the same thing repeatedly. It starts with food and drink. Come on be honest- how many times have you sat in front of the TV with a bag of chips and been shocked to look down and discover the bag was empty? And you can’t even remember eating it?
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Our society has  always indulged, or binged, on drinking; some to the point of becoming addicted to the drink. And it doesn’t always have to be alcohol. Have you ever seen somebody that wakes up and grabs a soda first thing in the morning, filling up a 16 ounce cup? A cup  that never seems to empty all day?
As kids we binged too. That’s what Halloween is for- a time for eating as much candy as we could.
But it’s not just food we binge on. With the development of sites such as Netflix, Hulo, Amazon Prime (just to name a few) you can pick a TV series you haven’t seen a long time (or never) and watching entire series in one sitting. One season at a time. Do you realize that can be 8 to 12 hours just sitting there watching TV? We’re all guilty of it, even though we tell ourselves we’re not.shutterstock_1062695225
Even I do it. I may not watch eight or nine hours at a time, but I will watch more than one episode in a row. And I find that when I’m trying out a new series, I look to see if there are multiple seasons so I can watch them all at once rather than having to wait from one week to the next for each episode.
Our favorite movies are not excluded from this either. We will watch all the episodes one right after the other. Be honest how many of you done that with Harry Potter or Star Wars? Especially when the next movie is getting ready to hit the big screen. We hurry and grab all the other movies in the series, watching them so we’re ready for the new movie, that we have all the details in our minds of what happened and what might happen.
As readers I think we binge too. When we know there’s a series of books, we download all the books available and read them one right after another. Often we may not even buy the books unless we’re sure there’s more than four or five in the series so we can read each book in order, not having to wait months for the author to write the next one.
Is  this is healthy, I don’t know. Probably not. But it shows we can get caught up in the story the writer is creating; whether it is on the movie screen or pages of our book. And for the author that can be a fantastic thing.
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And even as a writer we binge. A prime example of that is the National Novel Writing Month. We force ourselves to write an entire book in 30 days. For some authors that’s normal. But for others, like me, we’d rather  write our book over three or four months. Or longer. (There is nothing wrong with publishing at your own pace.) Yet we accept the challenge and we binge; writing the words until we have over 50,000.
We’re always in a hurry to get things done and sometimes I wonder if we were to take it slower we might enjoy it more, savoring the writer’s words or the taste of those chips longer. And as a writer-enjoying the process of creating our characters and worlds.
Well July 1 is almost here, and I start binge writing again. This month is Camp NaNo. A new book, new series, new characters and settings. With the outline done, I’m ready to write!
So binge away!
What are you binging on? Is it a new movie series or a book series?
What’s your guilty secret?

https://VictoriaLKWilliams.com

A little Insight

Do you see me?
I think every author puts a bit of themselves somewhere in their story. Something as simple as a location you’ve been, to a favorite object, an irritating habit or secret longing. These things seem to find their way into the storyline.
Even fantasy worlds are based on something that the author knows or is familiar with. It could be something in your everyday life or something from your past but it’s hard not to use your personal experiences into your story.
Here, let me give you a couple examples from my writing…
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In the Citrus Beach Mysteries it’s obvious. Megan the main character is heavy into gardening, creating private landscape designs for clients. I own landscape company, also creating private gardens and planting container gardens. (visit my gardening blog! www.gossipfromthesoutherngarden.blog) What you may not know is that Megan’s dog Barney is based on our family’s beagle we had when my son was growing up. He’s in puppy heaven now, probably still stealing pizza.

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Storm voice reveals my love of nature and how mystical I think it can be. The combination of Storms and creatures from folklore along with and an ability to hear what others can’t gives my main character, Mac, a different take on a mystery. Add in an all-knowing cat, and I’m happy.

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Sister Station is written out of my childhood memories of living in upstate NY. My father was a railroad man for years, giving me the inspiration for this series.

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Finally, in my new series I am writing, the main character is a photographer. Now I am not a professional photographer, but I love to take pictures. And I live in an area where there’s more than enough scenery to keep me occupied.

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There are other things woven throughout all of my stories reflect my day-to-day life or something from my past. As you read my stories, you might find more things about me. Things I might not even realize I’m revealing.
It’s almost impossible not to have parts of your life and personality creep into your writing. It’s up to you to decide how much you let the reader see. I believe the more of yourself into your story the more real it will seem to your reader, pulling them deeper into your tale.
Now I’ve shared with you some of my secrets, probably more than you wanted to know. It’s your turn; tell me—what secrets do you share with your readers? 

 

www.VictoriaLKWilliams.com