Barrett answers 4 questions on working process

Posted by: Barrett on Aug 4 2014, 6:38 pm in , , , , ,

I’m delighted and honored that the irrepressible Jody—one of the bright new stars in the Bedazzled TOTS Brigade—chose me. (Look for her new book, Empath soon)


On with the questions.


At the moment, I am working on revisions to book 3 of the Damaged series, Dispatched With Cause. After books 1 and 2, Damaged in Service and Defying Gravity, I needed a mental-health break and worked on a brand-new romance, Balefire.

The Damaged series was started in 2009. At the time, the story manifested so quickly, I could hardly keep up let alone worry about grammar or punctuation. That was a painful mistake that I am still correcting.

After some wonderful editorial coaching on my earlier works, I needed to make some signification changes to the third book in the series. In addition to cosmetic changes, I wanted to amp up the tension since this is the third book of four, it needs to produce a major turning point.

Now that I have pushed Zeke and Anne to another new challenge, I will begin work on revising book four.



I guess I would say that the major difference is the story arc, which is deliberately written over a span of four books.  I envisioned the story like a television drama. It would be an end to season with a cliffhanger, then resume with the next season. Evidently, that’s not how commercial fiction is written. Who knew?

If you read the series, you’ll know that cliff-hanger was not a popular option for many of the lesfic community. They wanted HEA – happily ever after, as well as all the loose ends tied neatly.

I radically changed the story in book 2, but needed to keep the storyline intact. (Note: writing “by committee” is not the wisest direction.)

I consider this series romantic intrigue. However, that wouldn’t describe each individual book. Yet there are strong elements of both romance/love and intrigue in all.




Like many others, I write the kinds of books I want to read. And in fact, it’s one of the things that make it difficult for me to read them critically. Almost every time I start to don my editing cap, I get caught up in my characters lives and don’t see the minutia. It makes me lousy editor. But…a good reader!

Recently I had this discussion with a friend and told her that I enjoy writing romance because I want to learn to be a better writer. I want to learn the craft by reading and writing stories that resonate with so many people.

When I’m ready, I have at least three books in my head that will be much closer to literary fiction. In the meantime, there are at least three or four manuscripts already written that I want to revise and submit.

And besides, I can’t NOT write.



Glad they saved this one until last.

I would best be described as an imaginative, unrepentant, undisciplined, procrastinating Panster (someone who writes from the proverbial Seat of her pants). This is the polar opposite of a plotter (someone who lays out a foundation with a plan, notes, and or an outline.) I attended a conference with a very successful plotter who brought her outline in the form of an excel spread sheet 12 feet long!

At that moment I feared that I just didn’t have the fortitude to become a writer. But, at some point, I realized my strong suit was story-telling. I come from a long line of Gaelic story tellers.

Most of the stories I’ve created initially character driven, so I begin by creating the individuals around whom the story will grow. For the purpose of this blog I’ll use Balefire is an example.

I scoured several name lists to find Kirin Foster and Silke Dyson. I made up birthdays and did horoscopes on each woman, including their compatibility.  I threw them into an actual situation based on a true story to see what would happen. I knew I wanted a Romance that was fairly uncomplicated. (Insert snickering)

I transported each woman to the airport. Coincidently, both left from the Milwaukee airport, where their paths did not cross. During this process, I found out who the secondary characters were. I also learned some of the back story.

Each scene unfolded moment-by-moment depending on whose point of view I was writing from. If it was Silke’s point of view, everything was painted with a level of anxiety, resignation, and her visual disability.

When I was with Kirin, I became a type A impatient, irritated, and disconnected frequent traveler.

Voila! The scene is set and I just need to navigate my two characters through it. The rest comes from my own history of traveling the same route, from the same airports, with the same conditions. The only thing I needed to change was the point of view. Then add to the mix a circus-trunk full of imagination.

One scene begets the next scene. For me, it’s linear and organic. I don’t create scenes independently and try to fit them into the story. On rare occasions, when I have been asked to move the scene or event to another part of the story, it’s been incredibly difficult, because each piece of the story is built on the information provided by previous blocks.

I have tried outlining a new story first, and I’m stopped at the gate. My brain just doesn’t work that way. I can use the structure to evaluate AFTER the story-line is written.

The downside of the linear approach is breaking the scenes and chapters into manageable pieces, while still keeping the reader turning the pages. I like to take breaks 😉

The upside? I love to makeup stories and then “Spackle” them with ambiance and emotion. It’s been fifteen years since I started writing the Epic Medical Mystery with 22 characters and 6 subplots, all from a singular omniscient narrator.

Thanks for stopping by!   I’d be interested if anyone has questions, please share.




A Day in the Life

Posted by: Emily Shaw on Sep 15 2012, 7:42 pm in , , , ,




6:00 Stagger out of bed. Getting an early start. Only 243 words yesterday. Need to WRITE 1000 today.

 6:30 Turn on computer. While computer boots up, eat breakfast, insert caffeine drip, read paper and listen to news. Newspaper headline: “Ponzi Schemer Indicted.” Morning show anchor interviews philanthropist. Story idea: What if Ponzi hero funneled ill-gotten gains to food banks? Hmm. What if the daughter of one of his clients is out to get him but then learns of his philanthropy? Note to self, RESEARCH further.

 7:30 Do breakfast dishes. Start load of laundry. Consider vacuuming but must to WRITE.

  8:00 NETWORK Check email, Facebook, Twitter. Deliver some pithy remarks. Retweet interesting articles with #amwriting. Tweak website. Check Klout score. NETWORK more to raise score.

  10:00 WRITE . . . one sentence. Oh God, this is sooo hard. Maybe if I took it outside. Sunshine = vitamin D = energy = creativity. Plus fewer distractions, e.g. vacuum cleaner. Yeah. Definitely need to move it outside. Borrow kiddo’s laptop. Battery is dead. Search for plug. While laptop boots up, pull weeds and scoop poop.

  11:00 Fingers poised over keyboard ready to WRITE. Oh, wow, look at that woodpecker. I wonder what kind of woodpecker that is. Hurry inside to get bird book from shelf stuffed with RESEARCH books. Flip through it. Hmm, did it have stripes? I really need binoculars to do this right. Ignore vacuum sitting in corner because I am going to WRITE as soon as I identify this bird. Take book and binoculars outside. Woodpecker gone.

  11:30 WRITE half sentence. Lunch time. I’m starving. This will go much better on a full stomach. Prepare healthy salad for lunch. While eating delicious, healthy salad, watch last night’s TV. This is an efficient use of time because I can skip the commercials. It’s also considered RESEARCH because I can analyze dialogue.

  12:30 Hmm, it’s too hot to WRITE outside. Move it all inside. Ignore vacuum.

  1:00 Back in office, ready to WRITE.

  1:01 Email alert. Time to donate blood. Make appointment online. Hmm. Ponzi book black moment. Hero and heroine are donating blood. Bloodmobile blows up. They are the only survivors. RESEARCH phlebotomy.

  2:00 WRI—Oh, wait. RESEARCH Ponzi schemes. Food banks. Lawyers.

  4:00 Already?! Panic. READ and REVISE last chapter of manuscript. This will make that blank page easier to WRITE.

  5:10 Wow, that last chapter sucked. I’m the world’s worst writer. I need to go exercise. That will clear my mind, release endorphins, make it easier to WRITE.

  5:15 Go to gym. While working out on elliptical, read new book to RESEARCH market. Hero is Ponzi schemer who steals from the rich and gives to the poor. Heroine is lawyer out to nail him. My idea!!! She stole my idea!!! Skip to end of book. No bloodmobile bomb, but the hero dies. Throw eReader across gym. Ooops.

  6:15 Back home. Order new eReader.

  6:20 Too tired and sweaty to WRITE. Fix dinner. Eat with family. NETWORK on Facebook. Figure today’s word count—62. (At lease I didn’t allow vacuum to seduce me away from writing.) Tweet about how hard it is to WRITE.

  9:00 Go to bed early so I will get up earlier tomorrow and WRITE more.

  Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Characters, birds, salads, books, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual salads, birds, or events is purely coincidental.

Samantha Ann King was born and raised in Houston,Texas. After receiving her BBA in Finance from Texas A&M University and marrying her high school crush (notice she didn’t say sweetheart), Samantha relinquished her “native Texan” status and moved to Baton Rouge where she taught aerobics and weightlifting. She has called Albuquerque, New Mexico home since 1985. The mother of three has volunteered in the community as an advocate for children’s issues ranging from education to healthcare. In 2010, as her nest started to empty, she began writing erotic romance. Thanks to her win in Passionate Ink’s Stroke of Midnight Contest, Samantha signed her first publishing contract in 2011. Sharing Hailey was released by Carina Press in July 2012.

  Learn more about Samantha at




Sundays at Barrett’s Retreat

Posted by: Barrett on Aug 5 2012, 12:35 pm in , ,

  Sunny, breezy, and bouffant clouds dot the New Mexico sky. The first Sunday morning in August. The first week of August doesn’t hold any particular significance for me and yet the fact that it’s August already stuns me. What happened to June and July? I honestly try not to miss things, especially changes that go on around me. (That’s important, as one gets older, I’m told.)     

Since I live in the middle of the desert with virtually no obstructed views, small movements and subtle changes in the landscape usually catch my attention. Sometimes they’re a cause for celebration—like a new wildflower growing in the rutted dirt of the access road; sometimes a cause for concern—a junior rattlesnake stretching out in the sun. Mostly I enjoy the way the light and shadow change the mountains.

In honor of time slipping away from me, I decided to offer a little allegory I wrote a while back.




I was surprised to see the wounded bird on the edge of my deck. She hadn’t struck the window; at least I didn’t think so. I watched for few minutes and although she didn’t move, her eyes never left me.
Her raggedy feathers mauled as though a larger predator had carelessly dropped her. One wing hung at an awkward angle.

I approached tentatively speaking softly. Better judgment told me to leave her alone. Another voice urge to me to try   to provide comfort. Very gently, I lifted her up in my hand—she accepted my help. 

A prepared small box filled with a towel and shredded paper became her safe house.  Over time, she trusted me to bring food and water. She even allowed me to feed her tiny amounts. But her open mouth was silent.

Several times a day and even through the night I got up to care for the wounded bird.
My routine changed to include my new charge.
Then one day she was standing on both legs. She hopped about her enclosure and began to eat in her own. The feathers gradually smoothed and shimmered. The wing straightened.

Eventually she found her voice and sang sweetly in the morning. She allowed me to carry her around perched on my finger. Her song was magical and her recovery heartening.
She would fly around the house but always return to her safe place.
One day, I opened the patio door and showed her the world. She chirped and cocked her head and then was gone.
She struggled at first and then I nodded solemnly as she took off and soared.

Happy Sunday!








Posted by: Emily Shaw on Jul 8 2012, 1:00 am in , , ,

Two years ago, a friend of mine gave me this purple coneflower for my **th birthday. I kept it in its original pot for a couple of months, but it didn’t seem to like it there. It wasn’t growing. Still, it was so small–only two leaves–I worried it wouldn’t survive if I planted it in my garden. Obviously, it hasn’t just grown but has thrived. It loves its new digs.

I was in a hole on that particular birthday – a really deep, dark hole. I’d spent twenty-odd years as a stay-at-home-mom. My son was in college, my daughter in high school, and I desperately needed to figure out what to do with the rest of my life. There was other stuff going on, but at the crux of it all,  I’d stopped growing. Worse, I was afraid of the changes I needed to make to restart that growth.

No, not just afraid. Terrified!

At the half century mark, I was contemplating what I wanted to be when I grew up. I kept coming back to writing. But even as I kept coming back to it, I kept rejecting it—as editors and agents had rejected me when my children were young and I’d taken pen to paper . . . or fingertips to keyboard. I knew how difficult the writing life was. I knew better writers than I who’d been working at it for twenty years and still hadn’t published. I knew the odds of selling were about as good as winning the lottery, and unfortunately, not nearly as lucrative.

Yes, I’m exaggerating the odds part, but that’s what writers do. Because as it turns out, I am a writer. I can’t not write. Letters, emails, opinion pieces, and stories. Every little thing I write, I pour my soul into. So one day two years ago, I made a deal with myself. If I sat down at the computer every day for five days a week and wrote, and if I did this for a whole year, I would acknowledge that I’m a writer. And maybe in a couple of years, I’d start submitting.

Things went fairly smoothly. In six months I had a novel. I entered it in a contest and started the next novel. That’s when the plan went off course and the changes got really scary. Because the editor who judged the contest wanted to publish my novel. Okay, back to terrifying. I didn’t know anything about the business. I’d been writing, not learning about publishers and contracts and marketing. And could I make the revisions the editor wanted? Could I complete another book? The second wasn’t going as smoothly as the first. I even considered not signing the contract. In my braver moments, I told myself that life was supposed to be like this. You challenge yourself. Deep breath. You meet that challenge. Deep breath. You move on to the next one.

Thanks to those deep breaths and some fabulous LERA members, I met those challenges and moved on to the next one. It’s still scary. Some days are great. Others, not so much. But like my coneflower, I’m not just growing. I’m thriving.

 Samantha Ann King’s debut novel, Sharing Hailey, will be released on July 9 by Carina Press. You can connect with Samantha on Facebook and Twitter.


Getting Back To It

Posted by: Sarah Baker on Jul 1 2012, 11:56 am in , , ,

Facing mortality has interesting results. I’ve faced it before years ago—when setting sail from Magadan, Siberia in a tugboat, and when getting lost in a snowy Alaskan wilderness—but most of my encounters have been relatively quick ones. (When you’re in a Russian tugboat bouncing through 40-foot waves on the open ocean, however, 12 hours feels like a lifetime. Trust me.) This past October, I heard the news many of us dread: that I had breast cancer.

 Nothing was as I expected. “Simple surgeries” are tougher to recover from when you’re over 50 than they probably are at a younger age. And chemo isn’t nearly as horrible as I thought it would be. The process reminds me a lot of The Matrix—everyone sitting around plugged in. Weird. I’m one of the lucky ones: I have one chemo treatment left, will be cancer free, and have insurance. Lucky on all counts! I still have 5 years of taking a pill every day, but that’s a breeze. (And it means plenty of chances to visit with my cute, Syrian, newlywed doctor who is anxious to be included in a book.)

 The biggest thing is that while traveling this road, I haven’t been as frightened as I expected to be. I recall reading The Way of the Peaceful Warrior when I was a teenager. I understand it more now than I did then. And I’m able to enjoy life more now that I no longer worry as much about the end of it. It will end for all of us; it’s truly important to enjoy every moment we can.

 So why am I writing all this? Because one of the things I’ve appreciated the most through this whole process had been reading. (I know, no big surprise. Writers read.) I’ve read everything from David Copperfield to short stories, with a variety of books in between (including some by my amazing LERA buddies – you gals rock!). The thing it reinforced in me is the belief that it doesn’t matter what you write as long as you tell the best story you can. The words you write today may very well be the words that help a stranger make it through a really crappy day in the future. And that’s a big deal! We sometimes forget that while working alone in our writing rooms, we’re really touching people’s lives.

 Another thing I’ve learned is that when someone is stuck at home sick, it really helps to email them, call them, message them on Facebook, and all the wonderful things my friends have done. Thank you!

 For me, I look forward to getting back to it. I wrote the first words in months not long ago, and it felt grrrreat! I just hope those words turn into a really good story.


Return to Marshall's Bayou

Sarah Baker writes romance as Sarah Storme, mystery as S.H. Baker, and erotica as Lydia Parks. Her latest audio mystery, Return to Marshall’s Bayou, was an Audie 2012 finalist!


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