Monday, July 29, 2019

Juanita Kees & Levels of Competence

Please welcome Juanita Kees to the blog today!


I’ve been teaching my youngest to drive. We’ve had fifty hours of driving together without a single drop of blood shed. It’s a miracle. Luckily, he’s a calm driver who remains unfazed on the road.
Driving with a newbie got me thinking about a lot of things, especially in the face of impatience from road users who’d forgotten they too were learners once. What it got me thinking about most though, was writing.
I spent a good portion of my working life as a retail standards coordinator in Quality Assurance, although it seems like a lifetime ago now. In the business world, our work is measured by the four levels of competence – unconscious incompetence (wrong intuition, L-plates), conscious incompetence (wrong analysis – red P’s), conscious competence (right analysis – green P’s) and unconscious competence (right intuition – licensed driver).
Like any job, there are varying levels of progress in the writing world too and this is how I’ve come to think of them: aspiring (learner), emerging (red P’s) and established (green P’s).
So why only green P’s when I should be at the top of the pyramid? After all the books I’ve written and had published, haven’t I earned my pretty blue pen licence? The answer is that even an established writer should never give up learning, never take unconscious competence for granted.  We still need that scheduled PDA (Practical Driving Assessment) test we call edits, beta reading and critiquing, no matter how good we think we are.
An editor, proofreader and critique partner are valuable in the writing world. Like a driving instructor or test inspector, they find the mistakes a writer can’t always see because we’re too close to our plot and characters. They stop us from falling back on bad driving habits that may creep in as we head down the road to publication. We might not always appreciate or agree with their instruction or feedback, but it’s important we remove the emotion and reaction to analyze and learn from their advice. Be proactive not reactive, a skill in itself.
There is a lesser known fifth stage to competency it would do us all good to remember as we climb that ladder to success, no matter what the job is we’re doing. The stage licenced drivers often forget out on the road – empathy.
The Fifth Stage of Competency
If you cultivate an attitude of empathy around competency, you can unlock a fifth stage of competency: empathetic competence. Empathetic competency means understanding that competency isn’t a checkbox or goal marker that we achieve and leave behind. It’s about assessing yourself and your abilities against your potential, rather than the abilities and potential of another person. Ultimately, it’s about being mindful of the skills and abilities of others, meeting them where they are, and supporting them along their journey to growth and success. ~ 
Zac Ryland (Tier 1 Performance Solutions)
That’s why I’m putting myself on probation, stepping back down to my red P’s, assessing where I’ve been and where I’m going, how I can do things differently to stay fresh, motivated and inspired.

The takeaway message – be kind, be patient, be empathetic, be supportive. No matter how good we get, we were all learner drivers once.

Juanita escapes the real world by reading and writing Australian Rural Romance novels with elements of suspense, Australian Fantasy Paranormal and Small-Town USA stories. Her romance novels star spirited heroines who give the hero a run for his money before giving in. She creates emotionally engaging worlds steeped in romance, suspense, mystery and intrigue, set in dusty, rural outback Australia and on the NASCAR racetracks of America. When she’s not writing, Juanita is mother to three boys and has a passion for fast cars and country living.

Juanita Kees on the web:

Fast Lane (Calhoun Customs Garage Book 2)
Trinity Calhoun is a name everyone knows on the race circuit, but her days in the hot seat are numbered. She’s tired of the limelight, meaningless relationships and long hours behind the wheel. When her father calls her and her sister home, she’s ready. She slips right back into the family business, finishing off the custom car projects her father has lined up. But racing is in her blood and she’s lured back to risking her life on the hot rod drag strips outside of town. It’s there she meets paramedic and volunteer firefighter, Reece Balmain, who has her re-thinking the road her life is taking.

Reece Balmain arrives in Big Fork a broken man. He’s lived and breathed through horror accidents, haunted by the faces of the people he’s cut from vehicles. He knows one thing–speed kills. He’s hoping not to see too much of it in small town Montana, until he hears about the drag races taking place outside of town. He knows Trinity Calhoun. He’s watched her race, seen her win, held his breath when her car somersaulted into barriers in Daytona Beach. He doesn’t like what she does, but he can’t stay away from the woman who’s claiming his heart.

Buy on:

Amazon US Kindle          
Amazon Aust         Amazon UK

OVERDRIVE (Calhoun Customs Garage Book 1)
Chase Calhoun has worked hard at making Calhoun Customs a world-wide sensation and keeping his father’s dream alive. He hasn’t had time to think about settling down, so he’s not expecting to find love or new life hiding in the attic of their garage among the ghosts of his family’s past.
Charlotte Jackson is on the run from a rebellious past, determined to prove she can be a good mom to three-month-old baby, Zoe. Tired of being delegated to the back office of the racing team her famous NASCAR family owns, she sets out to establish herself as a custom design artist. But she’s out of money, luck and time, and she can’t hide in the attic at Calhoun Customs forever.
While Chase slowly loses his heart to his refrigerator thief and the baby bundle asleep in his laundry basket, Charlotte learns that sometimes family is more than just blood and DNA.
Buy on:
 Thanks so much, Juanita!

I love the analogy you've used. It makes so much sense. That 5th competency level is definitely something to strive for!

How about you? Have you taught a teen to drive? And survived? (Check!)
How competent are you feeling right now? I think I'm at the emerging stage and working my way up.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Suzanne Gilchrist & Group Writing Ventures

Please welcome Suzanne Gilchrist to the blog today!!

Why I love group writing ventures & how it can help writers on their journey. 

To date, I’ve organised three successful group writing ventures. Not only have I found new friends, but I’ve expanded my reader base and had a lot of fun along the way. 

The first venture I organised was set in the fictional small town of Bindarra Creek and currently there are three series / ventures situated in this world. The first had 13 members including myself, the second nine (this was an anthology of short stories) and the current series, A Town Reborn, has nine members. My latest romance, Take Me Home, is the first book in this series released on 21st July with further releases by the other members occurring every month until March next year. Our website is here:

Another writing venture I organised, again set in a small, remote, country town, is the Mindalby Outback Romances, which was traditionally published by Harper Collins both in paperback and also ebooks and has seven members (including myself). Our facebook page is here:

I also organised a duo writing venture which was a romantic suspense series, titled Deadly Forces with Erin Moira O’Hara where we both wrote a full-length novel about two sisters who were stranded in the Amazon after a plane crash. 

One of the reasons I love group writing ventures is the support each member gives to the others – this is both emotional support by way of motivation and also support on the writing aspect. There is an energy associated with group writing which I think is enthused into our work. Tasks can be divided, and the brainstorming is enormous fun. 

Since I organised these ventures by coming up with the initial ideas, I also draw up agreements and guidelines for each series. Having official agreements not only gives each member a clear understanding of deadlines and expectations and a list of rules we all must abide by, but also direction in relation to the underlying theme of the series, the genre, and our target audience.

When it comes to release days and promotion, each member shares and promotes within their own readership base and also on various social medias. This can result in a far-wider reach than I would normally achieve when writing alone.

In the ventures, I’ve had experienced writers and also emerging writers and I feel being part of group writing has given the ‘newbies’ an additional boost both to their writing skills and also their confidence.

Would I do it again? Well, the final release for the Bindarra Creek – A Town Reborn series isn’t until March 2020 and until that time I need to be available to answer any questions and continually update our character database and map. My answer is yes, I’d love to run another venture. But not for a while as I also wish to concentrate on my own series. 

So if you have an idea you’d like to share with other writers, search out those your writing is compatible with and who you respect. Work out your guidelines and rules. Enjoy the process and have fun.  And good luck ๐Ÿ˜Š.

Suzanne Gilchrist lives in the Hunter Valley, Australia with her family and pets and is the author of over twenty books, several of which have finalled in writing contests. As S. E. Gilchrist, she writes science fiction, ancient historical, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic romances and romantic suspense. As Suzanne Gilchrist, she writes women’s fiction and contemporary small-town romances, often with a splash of suspense.
Suzanne takes a keen interest in the environment and animal welfare and loves bushwalking and kayaking, spending time with family and friends and walking her dogs. She co-runs Hunter Romance Writers and is the organiser of several group writing ventures.

Suzanne Gilchrist is published with Escape Publishing / Harlequin Australia and is an indie author.
Suzanne Gilchrist on the web:
Website            Facebook         Bookbub
Twitter             Goodreads       Instagram

Take Me Home (Bindarra Creek A Town Reborn)

Forgiving the past was too painful until now.

Almost forty, Abby Taylor has built a new life for herself in the small country town of Bindarra Creek. When an old friend convinces her to give two adolescent boys a temporary home, she is torn between a growing love for these orphans and the grief in her past.

After his marriage fell apart, Roman Taylor has focused on his career. An unexpected phone call sends him rushing to Abby’s side where he is drawn into his estranged wife’s new life – a life that could offer a future he thought he’d lost forever.
Will they seize this second chance to have a family of their own? Or will fate once again destroy their dreams?

Welcome to Bindarra Creek – A Town Reborn, a fictional town set on the western slopes of the New England tablelands. Take me Home is the first book in this new group writing venture series. With a community full of quirky characters, the books feature compelling romance, heart-warming family life, drama, and even suspense.

Buy on:

Amazon US Kindle     
Amazon UK     Amazon Aust     iBooks       Nook      Kobo   

Thanks Suzanne!
What a fabulous idea - love the thought of working with other writers in ventures like these!

How about you? Have you been involved with a venture with other writers? Have you read any series where each book is by a different author?

Monday, July 8, 2019

Ellen Jacobson & Poisoned By The Pier

My bloggy friend Ellen Jacobson has a new release out today!!!

This is a fun cozy mystery filled with quirky characters - both human and animal. I really enjoyed it!!!


Poisoned by the Pier Now Available!

Poisoned by the Pier, the third book in the Mollie McGhie Cozy Sailing Mystery series, is now available in ebook, paperback, and large print.

Amazon | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books | Google Play

When Mollie's husband signs the two of them up for an extreme diet, she's not amused. When someone ends up poisoned by a cake, things get even worse.

While she tries to identify the killer, Coconut Cove’s annual boating festival is in full swing. In between getting ready for her first sailing race and cheating on her diet, Mollie and her cat, Mrs. Moto, uncover clues, interview suspects, and do their best to avoid rutabagas.

Can Mollie nab the killer before someone else is poisoned?

If you like quirky characters, adorable cats, and plenty of chocolate, you'll love this cozy mystery. Pick up a copy of Poisoned by the Pier and laugh out loud from the first page to the last.

New to the Series?

If you're new to the series, you might want to start with Murder at the Marina. Now's the perfect opportunity as the ebook is on sale for 99c/99p for a limited time.

Amazon | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books | Google Play

About the Author

Ellen Jacobson lives on a sailboat with her husband and an imaginary cat named Simon. When she isn't working on boat projects or seeking out deserted islands, she writes cozy mysteries and sci-fi/fantasy stories.

Connect with Ellen on her Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | BookBub | Blog

You can also sign up for her newsletter for updates about new releases, current projects, sales and promotions, and other fun stuff.

If you enjoy cozy mysteries, you'll love this one. Cats, dogs, quirky characters, intriguing setting and plot - it's got it all!

How about you? Do you enjoy cozy mysteries? Ever sailed on a boat? Ever tried a wacky diet?

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

IWSG & Waffles ... sort of

The Insecure Writer's Support Group is the brainchild of Alex J. Cavanaugh. He, his clones, minions, friends, and fellow authors make it an amazing event every month.

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

And we’re revving up IWSG Day to make it more fun and interactive! Every month, we'll announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

The awesome co-hosts for the July 3 posting of the IWSG are Erika Beebe, Natalie Aguirre,Jennifer Lane, MJ Fifield, Lisa Buie-Collard, and Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor!

July 3 question: What personal traits have you written into your character(s)?

Good question!!

For the most part, my characters are not a whole lot like me, but there are some similarities.

Many of my characters overthink things and second-guess themselves. This is definitely like me! It makes for fun reading in a story, but can sure make for some uncomfortable situations in the real world. I have to make sure characters aren't too waffly in the story as that can be annoying to the reader! Wish I could stop the waffling in real life though... ๐Ÿ˜€

How about you? Do you tend to write characters who have at least one similarity with you? Do you like reading about characters who have something in common with you? Any other second-guessers out there? Anyone else in the mood for waffles?