Saturday, December 9, 2023

Lifelong Learning Is Fun! by Dari LaRoche

 Okay. I confess. I am a lifelong learner. I am fascinated when I learn new things and when I polish old skills or not-so-old skills. I am constantly working to improve myself and my world, throughout every season of the year. Each season brings joy, more writing, and more learning into my life.

Both reading and creative writing exercise all the different parts of the brain. Most anything creative helps us preserve the cognitive functions we have. And I know we all want that. I certainly do. Besides, it is probably the most consistent exercise I do, as opposed to physical activity, which I most certainly should be doing but many days miss.

Not only that, but both reading for enjoyment and for learning, plus putting words through the hands, either at a keyboard or a pen on paper, helps grow new neural pathways and connections that keep us sharp and help us maintain our mental faculties far into the future. I am neither a psychologist nor a scientist, but I have read enough articles and books to know that “the science” supports this. 

Crafting stories stimulates the brain

One of the classes that I have taken each year for the last four years is the twelve-month-long Fiction Fluency seminars taught by Eric Witchey and offered online via Zoom in coordination with Wordcrafters in Eugene. Fiction Fluency is high-level craft instruction without the time requirement and financial commitment of a degree program. The expert who teaches it, Eric Witchey, has written tales under several names and in thirteen genres. He has had over 170 stories and five novels accepted, a number of which have been translated into multiple languages. He has taught at close to 300 conferences, won awards in the United States and abroad, and had his How-to articles published by Writer’s Digest Magazine, The Writing Magazine, and others. He has presented variants of his Fiction Fluency material for organizations from the island of Crete to San Francisco and from Seattle to Lake Chapala, Mexico.

In short, he truly is an expert who teaches the craft of writing fiction so that it becomes intuitive, much like speaking a second language. Our subconscious learning enables us to become fluent in words, allowing them to flow through our hands at speed. His classes provide us with the tools we need to proof and polish our writing into a finished work as well. Here is the master instructor explaining Fiction Fluency in his own words on You Tube. You can also find this video on Eric Witchey’s home page of his website.

It is challenging, exhilarating, and fun. In the You Tube, you can get a taste of Eric’s goals, beliefs, and way of speaking. It is easy to relate to his style. Each year the subject matter, while based on the same concepts, is presented in a little different manner with additional examples and exercises we work through and brainstorm together. 

The Fiction Fluency program breakdown of sessions

His Fiction Fluency offering through Wordcrafters is currently broken into two segments: the first three months of fundamentals and the last nine months mastery session. The second mastery session full schedule and curriculum starts this year on December 2, 2023. It happens once a month, for four hours on Saturday afternoon and four hours on Sunday morning via Zoom.

If you are interested, even if you would be late starting, I would encourage you to contact the Executive Director of Wordcrafters, Daryll Lynne Evans. If you do take the class, please sign up and join Wordcrafters first, as your membership will net you a ten percent discount on the course.

 Eric provides us with three texts totaling over 1500 pages of 8 ½ by 11 inches of single-spaced, 11pt Times New Roman writerly goodness, so that you can go back and read and study topics long after classes are over. We have daily speed practices to help internalize the techniques into our subconscious in order to move closer to the fluency of writing we are all searching for.

Eric’s one rule, above all, is: “Affect the reader’s emotions.”

I enjoy the learning, improving my skills, and the comradery of the group each time I take it. It never gets old, and I learn and understand more each time. Don’t get me wrong. One doesn’t have to take Fiction Fluency more than once to get the benefit. I just really want the increased nuances and building of skills I get each time I take it. For me, it is well worth it. Check it out and see what you think.


My website and my stories

I am a member of Windtree Press and you can find me there under the page Our Authors. I have stories now and one poem in two of the Windtree Press annual anthologies. I am also available at your favorite ebook retailer. To learn more about me and sign up for my occasional newsletter look for my website,

Let’s all begin the New Year with a goal of, as Eric Witchey says, “writing stories that change the world.”


Friday, December 8, 2023

Happy Holidays

 by Diana McCollum

I have found some charming pictures of the holidays and winter. I hope you enjoy them.

Our Christmas tree 2023

Antique ornament the middle spends around. Passed down from my mom.

Free from Deposit photos

Deposit photos

Author Vitalk Redco

Author Alla Serebrina

Author Igor Velushko

AuthorOleksin Alebtosha

Author Alla Serebrina

Author Hay Dmitriy

I hope you've enjoyed these holiday and winter pictures!
All the best to you and your family this holiday season.

What do you like best about this time of year?

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Greetings from Lunenburg

 Luanna Stewart has been creating adventures for her imaginary friends since childhood. She spends her days writing many flavours of romance. When not torturing her characters, she’s in her kitchen baking something delicious. She lives in Nova Scotia with her patient husband and two hens. 

Website  Bookbub  Instagram

Monday, December 4, 2023

Christmas Letter by Paty Jager

This month snuck up on me! I was so busy through the month of November, I didn't realize until today we were into December! 

Well, I knew because I sold books at a Holiday Bazaar on Dec. 1st and 2nd, but it didn't click that it was a new month until I was nudged to get this month's post written. I decided to share the Christmas letter my dog, Nia wrote.

Happy December!

Do you know what this means? More toys! Yes!! I love the little ones that squeak when I bite them. They are so much fun to run around the house squeaking and annoying the people and making Mikey want to take the toy away from me.

But then I also like the big ones. They have lots and lots and lots of stuffing! Big white billowy piles of stuffing. Once they are gutted, my favorite thing is to turn the toy inside out and chew on the seams. That is a real good tooth cleaning.

In case you haven’t figured it out, this is Nia, Paty’s Chiweenie. I’m now a year and a half old and am trying to be good. But it is so much fun to ignore someone calling to me when I’m zooming through the tall grass or eating wildlife poop. Even the tasty treats Paty carries with her can’t tempt me when I’m bounding around the side of the hill chasing rabbits. I really want to catch one of those furry things and see if I can pull out their stuffing.

I went on several trips this year. And they took a few without me. Which was okay. I got to go to the neighbors and play with their weenie dogs and puppy. We ran and ran and burst through their doggy door and around the living room. It’s more fun chasing dogs my own size than the big lugs, Harlie and Mikey.

In the spring Paty's hubby was busy getting fields ready for summer. I like it when I stay home with him. He doesn’t put me on a leash, and I get to zoom around the fields like a crazy little pup. 

May, when the whole family went to Alaska for a high school graduation and wedding, I stayed with the neighbors. I was glad I didn’t have to ride in a plane, but I zoomed around the neighbor's yard like a low-flying fighter jet!

At the end of the month, Paty tried out the new book trailer that they'd built. They made lots of noise in the shop while they tore it apart and then made it better. While she was at the Sumpter Flea Market, I stayed home. But in September, we both went to the Flea Market. It was fun to stand at the entrance to the trailer and wag my tail, drawing everyone over to pet me. Then Paty and Mary would ask them what kind of books they liked to read. I’d get pets and sometimes they would sell a book. Win-win for all of us!

Paty and I took a trip to Wallowa County to research for a book and to attend the Tamkaliks powwow in Wallowa. I stayed at her brother's house playing with Chubs while they drove out to Starvation Ridge where the Jeep had a flat tire. Luckily, her brother was kind enough to change the tire and they returned to Enterprise in time to get it fixed before the tire store closed. The powwow was as colorful and entrancing as Paty remembered from prior visits.
August brought a trip Paty had been waiting for. It was ten days on the Big Island of Hawaii with a friend. Her hubby was busy haying and told her to go. I stayed home with him, hanging out in the yard watching him drive hay equipment and occasionally getting a good zoom through the wet alfalfa and grass. I love the swish of the plants along my sides!

When Paty was home, we had fun walks, some around the fields and some up on the hills. I like the hills the best. There are so many different and interesting smells. I have my nose to the ground when I’m not trying to find Harlie who gets to run wherever she wants. I have to stay on my leash. Paty is afraid if I follow Harlie she’ll take off after a coyote or deer and, of course, I’d follow because who doesn’t love a good chase!

The first week of November, Paty went to Las Vegas for a book marketing conference. She came back tired and full of things she wants to incorporate into her writing career. We barely got back into a routine and Paty's granddaughter and her two fluffballs (Pomeranians) came over to house-sit while  Paty and her hubby went to Portland for a long weekend. Paty was selling books at the Portland Holiday Market and hubby was visiting friends. While they were away, Kevin (the male fluffball) and I learned how to squeeze under the gate. It was fun! Until her granddaughter saw us.

Now it’s December and I’m so excited! There are pretty lights all over the front and back porch and around my yard. I’m pretty sure it was this time last year that Mikey and I received several fun toys. Most of them have been gutted, torn apart, and thrown away by now, so we are ready for some new playthings.

I’m waiting for Santa to show up with all those new toys. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas with lots of stuffed toys, ropes, and treats under the tree. And you have a fun and spunky new year. I know I plan on it!


Paty Jager is an award-winning author of 56 novels, 8 novellas, and short stories of murder mystery, western romance, and action-adventure. All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. This is what Books a Plenty Book Reviews has to say about the Gabriel Hawke series: "The blend of nature tracking, clues, and the animals makes for a fascinating mystery that is hard to put down."

Saturday, December 2, 2023

The Quiet Year Behind, but What's Ahead, By M.L. Buchman

Note: I’ve been doing this here at Romancing the Genres for several years now. If you’re in a retro mode or want to peek at my last year’s prognostication (or want to see how right/wrong I’ve been in the past), visit:

Looking forward, I see a couple of very clear trends. None of these are shocking news. I’ve pegged them before because the indie industry has largely stabilized. Not completely, but the Wild West of its first ten years now lies solidly in the past.

Success in the near future, as I see it, is a little about tools and a lot about strategy. So, think of this more as a wandering set of random observations and suggestions than predictions.


In 2021, I said we were 2-3 years from universal—on the fly—translations: choose a title, choose a language, start reading.

I know people who are now doing AI translations without a professional bilingual proofreader, but I can’t imagine how annoying those are to read. Clean-up is still needed.

So, auto-translate isn’t here yet…maybe by 2025?

But affordable AI translation backed by a professional bilingual proofreader? Oh yeah, so doable now. I’ve already started that with the first one live by the New Year if all goes well.


The pandemic effect continues. All of those programmers stuck at home were able to deeply focus on advancing AI tools and WOW did the landscape shift fast.

I also said that it would an exciting time for IP lawyers—and is it ever! Look for legal wranglings to continue for the foreseeable future.

Do you use AI for idea generation? Fine.

Do you use it to create cover art or actual words? Wow, are you ever walking into a world of potential hurt. LLM (Large Language Models, the way AIs work) are trained by, you guessed it, feeding them lots of language (or images or whatever).

Developers have two choices:

One, only feed it works legitimately in the Public Domain? The LLM will sound / look beyond archaic (because it was filtered from works created seventy years past the death of the author or from low-grade fan fiction [if it was high-grade they would need to copy other’s worlds]).

I even try not to read any books over a few decades old to avoid sticking my writing voice hideously in the past.

Train your LLM on modern materials? You’re stealing copyright according to the initial bits of case law and a little thing called the Berne Convention of 1887 ratified by 181 of the 195 countries of the world. (Hot tip: You can avoid all that mess by limiting your LLM sources to Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, and a few choice others.)

Just yesterday as I write this, Sports Illustrated was shamed into taking down a whole series of magazine articles written / generated by AI, complete with AI-generated profile pictures and bylines. Yep, the times are going to be interesting. (Shamed before the lawyers had a chance to come after them.)


These and translations appear to be the only AI elements steering clear of the whole legal wrangle over how they were trained. It’s an economic way to create additional IP from your deep backlist.

Again, like a translation, it can be posted simply as it’s generated, but a proof-listen and edit is still highly recommended. Is “lead” pronounced “leed” or “led”? Does “read” come out “red” or “reed”? That alien race name in your SF masterpiece…Cthulhu anyone?

But these translations are still cheap / free and a great place to start.


I’d previously noted the collapse of the “advertising churn” model. The number of people living on the churn (spending $250,000/year to make $75,000/year because the rest gets pumped back to the ad company) has collapsed. I’m sure there are people who are still managing that, but far fewer than ever before. Readers are ad saturated.

My take on it is that ads can still be effective, but rarely anymore in a saturation mode. Targeted ads, intended to build audience and new fans, seems to be the way to go—as maybe it always was.

Remember, a fan isn’t someone who you managed to churn or discount a book into their hands. A fan is someone who finds you and thinks, “Oh, I like this kind of stuff.” Then, with proper handling (which I’ll get to in a minute), they buy a second and a third book. By the end of the third book, you are well on the way to turning them into a true fan who will now go and plow through your backlist and join your newsletter to see anything new coming.

If you’re still living in the ad churn, ask yourself this, “Been sleeping well lately?” I wouldn’t be.


As I write this, we’ve just survived 2023, the Year of the Post-Pandemic Craze.

Writers who were smart about business loved the Pandemic. Not only did we have an excuse to stay home and write, but after people burned out on the Netflix catalog, they bought books. Lots of books.

Then because of a minor miracle of science (called building a major vaccine in under a year instead of the more typical decade), the populace finally declared the pandemic to be over (well before the experts were ready). I read an article yesterday that the US population alone was estimated to have banked about $20 trillion (that’s $20,000,000,000,000) in savings during the Pandemic. They drove less, they ate out less, and they sure didn’t fly anywhere.

In 2023, it’s estimated that they’ve burned through $19 trillion of those savings. They played, they partied, they traveled far and wide, they had a great time.

There was one thing they were not doing—reading books.

Many, many authors saw their income halve overnight, and remain that way throughout 2023. (Mine dropped, but thankfully not like that.)

I expect 2024 to find some modicum of balance as the US and others are forced back to work, as college loan payments return, and budgets are once more a matter calling for some attention.

That’s good for writers, so I’m hoping for a better 2024 as are many others.


I harped on this at length last year (see the link at the top to revisit the discussion, if you want to see what I did). The only thought I’ll add to that is Do it! Do it now!

Yes, it’s a total pain in the ass. Sure it makes you a higher percentage of the cover price for each sale, which is offset by the time it costs you.

BUT it gives you direct connection to your fans.

Re-read that sentence. Here, I’ll force you to: It gives you direct connection to your fans.

You get their e-mail and that’s your ticket for the long term. You get to coax them into the second and third purchase that turns them from reader to fan. The importance of the chance to market them directly can not be overstated.


See the next topic.


For the last five years or so, a friend and I have had a two-hour cross-country brainstorming session every month (And in September we met up for five days and really shorted our brains out.) In the past, we started every conversation with, “How do we break publishing?”

This was the relevant question over the last five years as we sought ways to leverage new tools in creative ways. I even built a mini-conference designed to give the software vendors more ideas and clearer feedback (several of the ideas have since appeared on their platforms).

But those platforms have stabilized. Sure, they’ll continue to improve, but they’re now about how to create or distribute a book better, faster, cheaper—rather than how to do it at all.

So, we’ve started asking a new question, “How do we break discoverability?”

Because that’s the current challenge. If you aren’t asking yourself that question daily, or at least weekly, you’re failing as the manager of your small business of being an author. Constantly ask yourself, “Other than writing high-quality stories, what can I do to improve my discoverability?” (Hot tip: If you aren’t asking the question, you’ll never find an answer.)

Personal Example 1:

I’ve started new fan outreach initiatives: bonus scenes, recipes from the books, cast lists, and readers club videos. To see what I did, visit: Feel free to join!

Personal Example 2:

For eight years I wrote a short story a month and gave it away for free for a week. People read them in droves, and then bought them in droves until they were a third of my income. But after over a hundred stories (there were some years with Christmas bonus stories), I wasn’t feeling as inspired as I had been.

I planned to stop the monthly Ides of Matt short stories, but first I asked the magic discoverability question.

In answer, I came up with Thrill Ride – the Magazine. It’s an opportunity to expose my stories to the fans of the authors I bought stories from. It’s a win-win discoverability tool. (By the way, submissions are open through 12/31/2023 at midnight.)

My second best advice?

Think, think hard, about creative ways that you can “Break Discoverability” and reach your fans in your own new and creative ways.

AND MY BEST ADVICE (my same final paragraph as last year and the one before that and…)

Ask: How much time am I spending writing?

It better be over 25 hrs/wk if you’re a full-time author. Over 10 hrs/wk if you’re still in the aspiring mode.

Nothing! Nothing! Nothing! is more effective than the next book for ensuring that your backlist grows, your future expands, and you’ll be in the best position to take advantage of 2024, 2025…

Note: my webstore is live at


USA Today and Amazon #1 Bestseller M. L. "Matt" Buchman has over 75 novels, 200 short stories, and 50 read-by-author audiobooks.
From the very beginning, his powerful female heroines insisted on putting character first, then a great adventure.

PW declares of his Miranda Chase action-adventure thrillers that: “Tom Clancy fans open to a strong female lead will clamor for more.” About his military romantic thrillers: “Like Robert Ludlum and Nora Roberts had a book baby.” He is also the founder and editor of Thrill Ride – the Magazine.

A project manager with a geophysics degree, he’s designed and built houses, flown and jumped out of planes, solo-sailed a 50’ sailboat, and bicycled solo around the world…and designs quilts. He and his wife presently live on the North Shore of Massachusetts. More at:

Friday, December 1, 2023

Do We Ever Fail?

Hi, I’m Judith Ashley, author of The Sacred Women’s Circle series, soul nourishing romantic women’s fiction with light paranormal elements. My stories show you what life could be like if you had a place like The Circle where you are unconditionally accepted, supported and loved. And where, with this support, you make choices to overcome the darkest nights of your life to choose love and light.

This month Genre-istas can repost an old blog post from Romancing The Genres or from another blog. Or they can write something original on whatever PG or PG-13 topic they choose. I’ve chosen to do the latter.

While I was going through, yet again, piles of papers and notes, I found scribbled on the back of a grocery list the following:

To be successful, you must learn how to handle failure.

My challenge with this quote is I’m not sure where I saw it or heard it. When I Googled it, a quote from Michael Jackson has the message but stated a bit differently in that he said one must learn to fail.

I prefer the learn how to handle failure.

Why? I’ve never met anyone who has always done things perfectly. In other words, sat up, crawled, stood up, walked, talked in full sentences, spelled all words correctly, etc. We all move forward in our lives by striving to learn that which we see as beneficial to us.

Children who are always carried or pushed in a stroller do not walk as early or as easily as a child who learns to turn over, crawl, stand and then walk.

When I read that quote I’d scribbled on the grocery list, I thought of my journey as an author.

First: What is success? I’ve written eight fiction and one non-fiction books. They are all available through the major vendors (think Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, etc.) in both e-book and print. I had a goal to have my non-fiction available in audio book this year and that isn’t going to happen for a variety of reason I won’t bore you with. (and yes, that’s a dangling preposition).

Second: My definition of success has changed in the 20+ years I’ve been writing.

Third: What is failure? I like the premise that no one fails. What they’ve done is ruled out what doesn’t work. Knowing that allows them to be more focused on finding what does work.

Fourth: While I may not succeed in the exact way I’d planned, that doesn’t mean I’ve totally failed. My writing goals for this year centered on getting that audio book recorded and released and writing 10K new words.

While, as you know, I didn’t get the audio book recorded and released, I did write 10K new words. Perhaps not a new short story, etc., and yet I did write over 10K new words in blog posts for Romancing The Genres, Windtree Press and The Glasser Institute for Choice Theory-US.

So I reached 50% of my goal. We often discount what we do achieve because we didn’t reach 100%.

I also believe that we are always doing our best giving what else is happening in our lives, where we are at the time (health, other commitments, etc.) and how we perceive what is going on in our lives.

For the past several years I’ve been battling with chronic fatigue. I’m sure that some of you can relate to the “I’m tired of being tired” message I reported to my doctor more than once.

We tried various things that did not work.

And then labs showed my blood iron levels were below 20 (normal range is 20 – 150). Low blood iron levels were the culprit. After looking at an iron rich diet (thankfully I like spinach, almonds and dark chocolate) my numbers did not go up and actually dropped. At one point my levels were 9.

Drastic measures?

Not really drastic but definitely annoying. A few more tests showed I had a bacteria that interfered with my body’s ability to absorb the nutrients in my diet. Two courses of antibiotics finally killed the culprit.

With it being gone, I knew I’d be bouncing with energy in no time at all.

“Not so fast” said my body.

In August of this year through the efforts of a friend who has no qualms about searching for things on the internet, I found Nature’s Bounty Gentle Iron. Those blood iron level numbers began to rise!

How does all this connect to “To Be Successful You Must Learn How To Handle Failure”?

Like most things in life, it takes more than one try or effort to be successful

For me the critical piece is to continue to search for answers, to continue to fight for the level of success I want and have the right to experience and to continue to believe that, in the end, I will succeed while acknowledging the end may not look exactly like I initially envisioned.

And how does this all fit into my writing?

The characters in The Sacred Women’s Circle series face the every-day kinds of challenges most women face. They each keep searching and in that process make the decisions and changes so that they do manifest their dreams. Perhaps not exactly as they’d originally seen it, but certainly exactly as it needed to be for their happiness.

You can find my books at your favorite e-book vendor as well as through my website and Windtree Press. Print books are available at Jan’s Paperbacks in Beaverton, OR and Arte Soleil in Portland, OR. Get the addresses from my website. And be sure to ask your library if you’d prefer to read my books through that resource.

Learn more about Judith's The Sacred Women’s Circle series at

Check out Judith’s Windtree Press author page.

You can also find Judith on FB! 

© 2023 Judith Ashley