An Update on #TheWriteStuff

Wanted to start the week off with an update for you guys, especially for new followers who don’t know that I used to run regular weekly or monthly features here on The Write Stuff. Most of you do know that I’ve been generally whining, and grumbling, and otherwise making a nuisance of myself about being so far behind on everything I’m trying to do. Well, it’s time for that to STOP!

No, I haven’t magically caught up with everything overnight, but the good news is, I’m making slow, steady progress, knock wood! And I am ready to start reintroducing the features we used to enjoy around here. It might take me a few weeks to get all of them “up and running,” but you can expect to see the following things coming back on board–and some of them will probably start this week, alongside a few that never totally went away.

  • #MondayMeme – Memes with a writing/reading/books theme
  • #Thorsday Smile – Things I think are funny & hope you’ll enjoy
  • #WhyWriteWrong? – Words I see misused fairly often
  • #ShareAReviewDay – Recent/favorite reviews submitted by you guys
  • #ExcerptWeek – A week of sharing excerpts from your book of choice
  • #FabulousFridayGuestBlogger – Self-explanatory
  • #LifeLessonsFromOz – Vids I share for a smile (and perhaps a lesson?)
  • #MidWeekPOV – Just some things/ideas I share now and then
  • #InspirationBoardSunday – Images/Ideas/CoverArt I find inspiring

Some of these are meant to be weekly features, though it might take me a couple weeks to get them up and running. Some are posted randomly as the mood or subject matter strikes my fancy. But ALL are coming back over the next couple of months. And many of them involve you wonderful bloggers and authors “out there.” You’ll be invited when these come up, and I’ll explain how to participate in them at that time.

Hope you’ll enjoy having these features back again, and will want to take part in some of them. I know many of you would probably love to share your reviews and excerpts with us, and your latest promo news, releases, cover reveals, etc, as well. And I’m really looking forward to helping you do just that.

To begin, I’ll be posting some archived samples of these features over the next week or two, so you see what they’re all about, and will feel comfortable joining in.

Stay tuned, my wonderful friends! I can hardly wait to get the ball rolling!

#InspirationBoardSunday on Monday!


One of My Favorite Fantasy Covers
(And don’t get me started on how much I love the Farseer Trilogy!)

Those of you who have followed The Write Stuff for some time know that I have a cork wall surrounding my computer area, and that I keep it filled with photos of people, places, animals, and other things I find inspiring. Generally, the photos change with the book I’m working on, but some things stay on the board pretty much all the time. Or at least, somewhere close by, so I can enjoy them, and be inspired by them.

It’s also no secret that I adore good cover art. I’ve often bought books because I couldn’t pass up the covers, and wanted to see them on my shelves. Happily, most books with covers that intriguing or beautiful turn out to be intriguing or beautiful stories, as well. But as a bonus, I have to say I find great covers extremely inspirational as art, in and of themselves.

Oh, sure, sometimes, they give me an idea for a story I’d like to tell, but often, it’s just the sheer beauty, the shivery touch of horror, or the intriguing glimpses of mystery that inspires me. I don’t get ideas for an actual book from all of the great covers I’ve found, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t inspirational. They are very much so, in a big way, and often inspire me to aim higher with each book I write.

Today, I’m going to share a few fantasy covers that have caught my eye in the last year or so. I’ve come very late to the fantasy genre, but find the covers to be some of the most beautiful, dynamic, and, often, positively shivery cover art out there. Let’s look at some of my favorites. Maybe some of them will inspire you, too.


This cover pulled me from two shelves away at my local bookstore, and I knew I wasn’t leaving the place without it. I mean, look at it. This is obviously a very young man, almost a boy, standing with his hands on the hilt of his sword, surrounded by bodies. Right away you have to wonder if he’s, indeed, responsible for all those lives lost. But truthfully, what caught my eye was the wonderful graphic element of his cape, whirling through the air like the wings of a some deadly bird of prey. I love everything about the cover, and I loved the book, too, though it is dark and disturbing. (This was my introduction to the “grimdark” sub-genre of fantasy. It was grim. And dark.) It is still one of my all time favorite covers.

When I first saw this clever and beautiful cover for Leigh Bardugo’s fantastic Six of Crows, I thought it might be the most  brilliantly conceived cover design I’d ever seen.


Then the sequel came out, and really blew me away. I would love to have prints of the original art for both of these books, hanging on my library walls. I look at the cities hidden within, and my imagination takes flight with the crows. Both of these books are favorite reads of mine, as well, especially Crooked Kingdom.


Moving into the realm  Urban Fantasy, no one writes it better than Jim Butcher, and Harry Dresden is probably my all-time favorite character, across all genres. Chris McGrath is, hands down, my favorite cover artist, and every single one of his Dresden Files book covers is a work of art. This is one of the best. How can your mind not marvel at the image of the world’s greatest (grown-up) wizard kneeling beside his own grave? (The tombstone is completely legible on the book, honest.) The pale, neutral tones are very different from the dark color schemes of the other books in the series, and they set this one apart as the work of genius that it is.


While I’m thinking of Urban Fantasy, here’s another Chris McGrath cover, from the Leandros brothers series, which I was once a huge fan of. The cover depicts the two brothers, braced for trouble which tends to find them at every turn. But you wouldn’t have to know that to see it in the stance of Niko, sword ready for whatever’s coming, and in the wary expression on Cal’s face, gun at his side. Every line of their bodies indicates tension, and you wonder immediately what it is they’re watching for.

20643052  papersmaller

If the covers of the first two books in Rachel Caine’s Great Library series don’t inspire you, I can’t imagine what would. The rich detail and vibrant colors are so striking, I put mine on easels on my library shelves, so I’d see them every day. Just looking at them makes me happy. (And I love this YA series, too. The premise that the Great Library of Alexandria was never destroyed is done up in a surprising way, and the characters are wonderfully well drawn. But it’s when I study the covers that my imagination really soars.


I’ve just realized that sharing my favorite and most inspirational fantasy covers is an impossible task. For every one I upload, 100 more are crying out to be displayed as well. So I’m going to have to rein in my enthusiasm for fantasy covers, and I think I’ll stop on this one. I’m not going to say it’s my one of my very favorites, though it was dramatic enough to convince me to give this series a try, while awaiting Butcher’s next Dresden Files book. I’m just going to say it was the very first real fantasy I ever read, and I enjoyed it enough to read the entire Codex Alera series. I was hooked, and all because I wanted to know why these lightning creatures were after this young man. So, while it might not appeal to my artistic side as much as some of the ones above, it did the job it was meant to do, and I bought the book. The rest is history.

Hope this post will encourage you to take a look around your library with new eyes. Maybe a cover will give you an idea for something you’d never considered before. Or maybe, like me, you’ll find yourself realizing what great works of art they can be. Go forth, now, and BE INSPIRED!! 😀 And let me know what fantasy covers you love. I’m always adding to my collection.

#InspirationBoardSunday – Books and Christmas

santa_claus_wallpaper_5fc04HO, HO, HO!

At my house, Christmas is a big deal. No, I mean a really big deal. I am, shall we say, a bit over the top about the whole  Christmas season. I love the Christmas story and all the traditions, from the Star and the Wise Men, to the tinsel and holly–including, but not necessarily limited to, the music, the colors, the lights, the trees, and Santa Claus. (More on him, shortly). I don’t even mind the commercial aspect much, because I believe at the heart of it, there is a real generosity of spirit and love. This might be naïve, but don’t try to talk me out of it. I believe it anyway–people looking for just the right gift to light up the faces of children on Christmas morning, or to bring a sparkle to the eye of a husband, wife, or friend. And underneath it all lies a desire to make others happy.

Books for Christmas Would Make ME Happy!
(Note: This is NOT my tree. Just an idea I love.)

Christmas inspires me, not only during the season of giving, but all year long, and I try to keep the spirit alive in my heart long after I’ve put the ornaments and wrapping paper away. Oh, and the Santas. Did I mention them? A lifetime of collecting them has added up to more than 300, in every costume, from every era and country. From my six foot all Coca-Cola display Santa to a tiny 1/2″ tall miniature, I love them all!  And at my house, a Santa hat makes you an official Santa’s helper, even if it looks a wee bit odd to folks who stop by.


Take Bob the Skull. Bob resides on my Dresden Files bookshelf all year long, keeping an eye on things, and reminding me why writers like Jim Butcher inspire me to jump in the Author’s Pond and swim with the big fish. (Okay, so I’m paddling around in the adjacent wading pool. I can still SEE the big fish, and aspire to be like them.) At Christmas time, Bob dons his jaunty Santa hat, and makes eyes at his girlfriend, Boberta, who lives on a bookshelf across the room. She makes eyes back.

Boberta, Who Thinks Bob is ALL That!

*Ahem* In summation, I just want to say that if you look past the ANG (Annoying New Gadget) commercials and the 3,000 times you’ve had to listen to The Little Drummer Boy, Christmas is still Christmas. A time for love and giving, family and friends, and if we’re very, very, very lucky–someday–Peace on Earth, Good Will to All.  And THAT inspires me every day of the year.

img_1429Even my Computer and Desk Get in on the Act!

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

#InspirationBoardSunday #SundayBlogShare #Poetry – Grackles


Boat-Tailed Grackle

Getting caught up, here and back into the swing of my  normal weekly events. Sunday is a good day for inspiration on The Write Stuff, often about things I have pinned to the  Inspiration Boards that surround my work area. And nothing inspires me more than nature.

This week, I discovered the grackles are back! Fall migration has officially begun, and they are busily congregating everywhere they can, including local parking lots where they might find a few dropped bits of food items. There are several kinds of grackles, but the ones who make the biggest impression on me are the boat-tailed variety, and I recognize them as a harbinger of autumn, the same way folks up north recognize the robin as the first sign of spring.

Boat-tailed Grackle Quiscalus major male - singing on territory Sabine Pass, Jefferson Co., Texas 20 May 2013

Hey! It’s Fall, Y’all!!

Grackles are among my favorite of birds. I even mentioned them in a somewhat poignant scene in Finding Hunter. (See? Inspiration.) They are handsome birds, with a lovely iridescent sheen to their glossy black feathers, except for the female. She’s a plainer, mostly brown bird, but the males seem quite intent in impressing her, anyway.


You’ll Always Be Beautiful, To Me!

They are bold. Even fierce, if need be. 

See? Bold! As this snail kite is learning.

And did I say fierce? Possibly foolishly so.

And best of all, they are full of attitude, strutting around convinced of their own importance, and announcing it to the world with every step they take.

Life is good, when you’re a grackle!

REALLY good!

My favorite autumn poem is one by Amy Lowell, called Purple Grackles. I hope some of you will take the time to read it HERE.  It’s  truly lovely, as all her poetry is.

Let me sing you the songs of autumn! 

In the  meantime, enjoy the pics! FALL has arrived in Florida, at last. Temps dropped twenty degrees last night, and the grackles are here! Hope you’ve been inspired by them! I have. But then, grackles always inspire me.

Shoveler Pond



#InspirationBoardSunday #SundayBlogShare

A Narrow, Black Water Stream, Chock Full of Mystery

Those of you who have been following The Write Stuff for very long, know that I believe in inspiration boards. The walls around my computer area are covered in cork, where I pin photos and illustrations to inspire me as I write. Actors or models who look the way I picture my characters, animals that might factor into my books, and lots and lots of scenery. Whether it’s an awe-inspiring shot taken from a mountaintop in North Carolina, where my Wake-Robin Ridge series is set, or a dramatic image of an alligator, basking on the banks  of the  St. Johns River, where my Riverbend series is set, you’ll find it within sight of my work space. Whole scenes have been written, based on ideas that come to me from photos.

If you’ve never collected images for inspiration, I highly recommend you give it a try. In the meantime, here are some of the images I surround myself with when I’m working on my Riverbend series, set here in central Florida. Enjoy! And be inspired! 🙂

03Jul2013_011-149-800-750-80-wm-right_bottom-20-DougLittle-255-255-255-20Baby Gators on a Log Continue reading

#InspirationBoardSunday #SundayBlogShare #AbandonedHouses

If Walls Could Talk

Time to fire up everyone’s imagination! Don’t know about you, but I can hardly drive by an abandoned house without creating a story in my mind.  My first book, #WakeRobinRidge, came about due to driving by a long deserted log cabin between Asheville and Chimney Rock, North Carolina. I saw it every year on my mountain pilgrimage, and it never failed to make me wonder what stories it could tell. With that in mind, here are some fantastic photos of abandoned houses, sure to make you ponder–and maybe even write a book about. Enjoy!







#InspirationBoardSunday #SundayBlogShare – And Now for Something Completely Different!


Instead of a set of inspirational photos today, what do you say we find our inspiration in each other? I know seeing a bit of what each of you have done, or checking out your latest WIP, is always inspirational to me, so . . . given the power vested in me by, ahem, myself . . . I hereby declare today the start of a new #ExcerptWeek!  Yippee!!

Starting today, you are invited to share an excerpt from one of your books or stories, published, unpublished, or a work in progress, and we, in turn, will send it out into the world to be shared among our various social media groups. Here’s how you do it:

  1. If you are already set up to post on TWS, go right ahead and post your excerpt(s) throughout the week, whenever you like.
  2. If you aren’t set up to do so, email me at: mmeara@cfl., and I’ll tell you how to proceed, or will post your excerpt for you.
  3. Be sure to include your Buy Links, Cover Photos, Author Photo, and  Author Bio at the end of your excerpt.
  4. Please, no politics, religion, or blatant erotica. (And yes, I’ll be the judge of what constitutes blatant. Sexy is fine. Very sexy is probably fine, too. Graphic descriptions should be saved for those who decide to read your book.)  *wink-wink, nudge-nudge*

And that’s pretty much it. I can help you post, if you need it. Again, just email me with questions. But most of all, SHARE! This is a great way for you to let others see a sample of your work, and learn how and where to buy your books.  (Even if you’ve never posted here before. We’d love to meet you, and help you share your work.)

So, come on! Show us what ya got!




#InspirationBoardSunday – #SundayBlogShare – Real Men DO Read Romantic Suspense!


Something a bit different this Sunday. A bit late, too, but who’s counting, right? Any of you who follow this feature regularly know that I find inspiration in a lot of different places, and today is no different. My good friend and cover designer, Nicki Forde, sent me a picture of her fiancé taken on their recent vacation to Rhode Island. Tired from a wonderful day of exploring New England sights and sounds, she caught Mark reading a book she’d brought along on the trip. MY book, to be precise. My Romantic Suspense book, Finding Hunter, which is Book 2 of my Riverbend series.

I was delighted to see the  photo. I must say, Mark looks pretty involved, and it made me stop and think. I tend to consider my target audience women, and mostly over 30. Maybe even over 40. Which is fine by me, because they are a wonderful audience to write for. However, I have noticed more men showing up at local events, and asking questions about my books. Seeing this photo brought it home that there are men out there who read a broader spectrum of books than I might have expected.

Obviously, there are books that draw more male readers than others will, but I’m now much more aware that my writing should also appeal to those guys who enjoy some romance with their action books. I don’t intend to forget that going forward. Write as if the whole world is reading your words. They just might be!

Color me INSPIRED!


#InspirationBoardSunday #SundayBlogShare A Dark and Stormy Night

It was a dark and stormy night . . .


. . . at sea . . .


. . . on another planet .


There’s a reason “a dark and stormy night” is such a cliché, you know–there’s hardly a more dramatic setting imaginable–so I thought it would be fun to share some storm images with you today. I suspect there’s inspiration to be found amid these pictures, and I hope you enjoy looking through them. (But you might want to use a different opening line when you start your own dark and stormy tale . . . if you want to be taken seriously, that is.)  Check ’em out and let your imagination soar.


MG_6526  unnamed