Following My Own Writing Advice – a guest blog post by C. Hope Clark

I am pleased to have this opportunity to post an original article written by C. Hope Clark as part of her “Guest Author” blog tour to promote her latest novel, Murder on Edisto that has just been released by Bell Bridge Books. I have been a long-time subscriber to Hope’s very informative and useful Funds for Writers newsletter, and have enjoyed reading her previous mysteries. Here’s Hope!

As a writer who wears two hats, mystery author and commercial freelance entrepreneur, I’m often asked for advice when I speak, guest blog, and appear on radio shows. With 15 years in the business, I’m loaded with suggestions. However, I’m also quick to tell people to listen to their own gut, and not allow someone else’s journey to dictate their own. But every once in a while, someone comes out of the blue and asks me, “Do you follow your own advice?”

Picture the author at a book signing, behind five stacks of books, the room stuffed with eager readers. All everyone can think of is how that guy signing books has his act together or he wouldn’t be where he is. He has to be wise, as well as disciplined. We want to be him. We yearn to know his secrets. To reach his pinnacle, he has to have developed mantras along the way that cut through the noise and crap that deter the rest of us. If you spoke to him one-on-one, maybe you’d learn that he’s loaded with foibles and flaws and has stumbled along the way like everyone else, but he’s risen above it all like some miraculous phoenix and turned ashes into gold.


Murder on Edisto is my fourth mystery and newest release. It’s my most solid book, in my opinion. I wrote it differently than the other mysteries, and in writing its sequel, I’m on an entirely different path there, too. The lessons I learned and advice I preached when I toured with my first, second and third novels aren’t necessarily applicable today. So what advice is there to follow with such an erratic set of standards?

What are the tools and guidelines a novelist uses to reach this stage in my career? I’m not a millionaire author, but I’m maintaining one contract after the other with a traditional press. I remember when I looked up to those authors who stood where I am now. And when I was at that stage, I recall being hungry for their advice. Lay it out for me and I’ll do it, I thought. Just show me the way and I promise I’ll do whatever you say.

However, the rules I followed for Lowcountry Bribe weren’t applicable to Palmetto Poison. The thoughts I had creating and marketing the Carolina Slade Series don’t necessarily match the needs of my new Edisto Island Mysteries. No two books evolved the same way, frankly.

We grow with each new word we put on a page, with each good book we absorb, with each blog post we read, with each setback we have to overcome. So what rules can we follow that empower us to continue the writing journey when nothing is stable?

1) Be kind to yourself.
2) Believe in your potential.
3) Don’t measure yourself by others.
4) Strive to write each page better than the one before.
5) Write daily.

Set out with your tools and know you will falter. But only the diligent survive this trek. Along the way, you learn you are your best ally, your loudest cheerleader, your kindest shoulder. You will cheer some days and cry others. And what you tried last year won’t work today.

But the advice I’ve adhered to from day one as a writer is this: I will write through it all. That’s the best prescription I can hand to anyone, because it’s worked for me.

2014-06-13 16.56.56 C. Hope Clark feels her latest mystery release, Murder on Edisto, is her strongest. It’s the first in her debut Edisto Island Mysteries from Bell Bridge Books. Her award-winning Carolina Slade Mystery Series is also known for its suspense and rural South Carolina locale. Hope’s other persona is editor of, chosen by Writer’s Digest for its 101 Best Websites for Writers for the past 14 years. She lives on the bank of Lake Murray in central SC, with frequent trips to her beloved Edisto Beach.
Hope’s Website
Funds for Writers

C. Hope Clark will be featured on Reading Recommendations later this week.

The Sunday Show – Chris, The Story Reading Ape – Payback time.


Now we finally hear from The Story Reading Ape himself, that great promoter and supporter of Indie Authors on his own blog, who is being interviewed on the blog, Smorgasbord – Variety is the Spice of Life: The Sunday Show!

Originally posted on Smorgasbord - Variety is the spice of life:

Chris the Story Reading Ape is a friend to Indie Authors across all genres and abilities. Apart from opening up his blog up to writers to promote themselves and their books, he also provides some excellent posts in the form of tutorials that are very valuable for both experienced and novice writers.

When I broached the subject of an interview I was delighted when Chris very kindly said he would be happy to guest on the Sunday show. This presents quite a challenge as The Story Reading Ape is an enigma to say the least and you will find very little information as to his background online so I was excited about the prospect of finding out a little more. And, I am also pleased to be able to repay some of the hospitality that Chris has shown to writers like me who welcome any chance to showcase our own…

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The ten most valuable writing tips I’ve received


The best thing any writer can do for themselves is get out of their own way … Realize that what you have written is not perfect, that it needs work (always needs work, I might add, because … well, #6), and that you should definitely follow the advice of #7 to get it to perfect.

Originally posted on Suffolk Scribblings:


image source:

The internet is full of advice on how to write and it can be confusing and contradictory at times, especially when you are starting out. This isn’t because people like to give false advice but because each writer – and their writing process – is different. However, out of all the good advice I’ve received, these are the ones that have worked best for me. I hope by sharing them they will be of some help to you too.

1. Allow yourself to write poorly

Some days I find writing easy, some days it’s as if the language centre of my brain has decided to go on vacation, leaving my fingers to fend for themselves. However, even if I’m having one of the latter days I still write. It may be painful at the times, even more horrific when I read it back, but at least I have something on the page to…

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Isn’t it time?


WE – US – ME … the individual people in this world need to take back OUR responsibility to look after ourselves and our world. It’s become too easy for people to sit back and say, “The government will take care of that,” or “Some big star’s foundation will organize people and pay for that to happen.” No, they won’t. It’s up to individual people to look around and see what THEY can do (and without having to be paid for their efforts – this is called volunteerism, folks!) and get doing it! As the Ape says in this blog post, “YOU – YES – little YOU – CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE.” We can, we really can.

Originally posted on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog..... An Author Promotions Enterprise!:

As anyone who follows my blog knows, I indulge in the occasional RANT after something has rammed my tree and disturbed my usual peace loving nature.

The atrocities and disturbing events we hear on the news nowadays are not new.

They’ve been around for as long as Apes (especially Hominids) have existed.

What IS new is the ease with which these events are spread around the world for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.

In fact, even the deaf and blind are also aware of them through the ‘miracles’ of technology.

This is why I thought I’d share the quote below.

Not to upset or disturb anyone, but to remind everyone that YOU – YES – little YOU – CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

Look around you at what Humanity has achieved.

Look around you and see what some ‘Human’ deviants are doing to destroy these…

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Stop hiding the problem of Chikungunya!

A fellow-sufferer of the Chikungunya virus posted a comment on this blog yesterday on one of the three posts I had written previously. She’s an American who had picked up the virus while on vacation in Puerto Rico and she has been really suffering with it since, for 7 weeks now. (We corresponded further through email and she told me more about her frustrations with the virus.) She came across my blog, was relieved in reading she was not alone, and that the virus would eventually go away. Her doctor back home had not been able to help her at all, because he didn’t know what it was he was dealing with.

I’ve heard of many other tourists who have gone back home with this virus and cannot get any information about it, let alone relief from the symptoms, and are frustrated by the lack of warning they received from the countries in which they were vacationing. Canada did post a travel advisory warning Canadian visitors to the Caribbean that the virus was prevalent, but does anyone ever read those government-issued travel advisories and take heed when they’ve already paid for and are expecting to enjoy a relaxing holiday? Besides, being Canadian, how bothered can we be by mosquitoes? (That was my thinking the first night I ever stayed on Bequia, oh so long ago, and decided I didn’t need to sleep under a mosquito net. I’d spent much of my life at an Ontario cottage where we never used nets. The next morning on Bequia, though, after lathering on the Calamine lotion, I vowed I would never be so haughty about mosquitoes again!)

Those tourists I’ve mentioned above have said they’ll likely return to the Caribbean at some time, but not until they know the virus has been completely eradicated, because even though they cannot catch it again, they do not want their family members to suffer from it. I have also spoken with potential tourists who say they will change their travel plans due to the virus scare. But I have spoken with more peoople who plan to return to the region, regardless, knowing that they must be ever-more-vigilent about avoiding mosquito bites.

I believe the worst part of having this virus, though, is in not knowing what’s happening. One man told me he thought he was going to die from this – until he read my blog posts and realized he had been suffering from all the same symptoms I had, and since I was getting better, he knew he would eventually recover, as well. While he was on Bequia, NO ONE was talking about the virus – because they didn’t want to scare away the tourists. But I say that EVERYONE, tourists and Bequia people alike, were done a great disservice, because we did not receive necessary information, had no idea what to expect from this virus as it ran its course, and were not told of any possible relief available (even in the form of “bush medicine” or papaya leaf juice), because these weren’t medicinal. I think I might have been a lot less scared and angry had I known exactly what I could expect once I contracted the virus.

Isn’t it time for the Caribbean governments to stop worrying about what this virus will do to their tourism and begin warning and educating EVERYONE – tourists and citizens, about what it happening to them? There is so much misinformation among the populace that needs to be set straight. And since Dengue Fever is now about to become the next problem virus in the region, as it is every year at this time, we need to talk about it, as well. These viruses are a fact of life in the tropics, folks, and if you plan to travel to places like the Caribbean you should be fully aware of the risks. How frustrating, though, for those tourists, like my commenter, who come down with these viruses and have absolutely no idea whatsoever what is wrong with them or whether they will recover. A warning won’t necessarily stop them from contracting these viruses, but at least they will know what is happening and that it was caused by mosquitoes.

Maybe what all the health departments and governments in the affected areas should do is print up warnings and hand them out to every tourist as they arrive in each country – much the same as Banff National Park in Canada does with their warnings about Ursus horriblis or Grizzly Bears when you drive through the park gates. They can’t (and shouldn’t!) eradicate the Grizzlies from their natural habitat, but they can at least warn tourists as to how to avoid bears. And until the Caribbean can eradicate these virus-bearing mosquitoes, the least they can do is “inform” tourists as to how to avoid being bitten, as well as what the symptoms of these viruses are, and what to do if they notice those symptoms beginning to appear. Seems to me they’d be doing a greater service to everyone by informing rather than continually hiding the facts and hoping no one notices the truth.

Editors – God’s Gift to Every Writer.


A very good assessment of the author/editor relationship, to which I will add that this is truly a “relationship” and should never be a battle between the two parties. A relationship that should ultimately produce the best book possible. Period!

Originally posted on Chéri Vausé, Author:

Hello and Welcome Friends and New Visitors,



     Recently, I heard of an author who put their editor through a word mill with a flurry of emails and argumentative assaults, grinding them into tiny pieces, nearly to the point that the editor began to wonder why they took on this particular author in the first place. It made me think through the delicate relationship between an editor and writer, and the unheralded art of editing. The colossal ego that communicates in such a controlling fashion may put so much pressure on their words they dull the fine point of their pen. What does that mean? I believe they fail to create that thin line of clarity, of defining well-written words from a sharp tip that makes each word they write so clear they each stand out and sing.

Few authors can write something so perfect that there are…

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Alice Major recommends Ella Zeltserman


There’s a new feature over on my Reading Recommendations blog … Authors Recommending Authors. Here’s the first in that series of promotions!

Originally posted on Reading Recommendations:

Welcome to a new feature on the Reading Recommendations blog, in which I ask established authors to recommend an author whose work has impressed them recently and who they would like to promote to my readers.

Book title and author:
small things left behind by Ella Zeltserman

What genre is it? Poetry – published as part of the University of Alberta Press Robert Kroetsch Series


Quick description:
These poems tell a story of displacement, immigration, longing. They shape the family history of a woman who manages to get out of Russia in 1979 with her husband and small daughter, to make a life in Canada. They capture the ‘youth in a ruthless country’: the scents and sounds of her mother’s kitchen framed by the privations and politics of the USSR, along with the yearning of an immigrant who had to leave but misses home.

Why I recommend this book:

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Arjun Basu


We’ve just received the great news that Arjun Basu has been nominated for this year’s Scotiabank Giller Prize – the richest fiction prize in Canada! I’m reblogging his promotion from Reading Recommendations so that everyone may join me in sending all best wishes to Arjun! (And here’s a link to the prize announcement.)

Originally posted on Reading Recommendations:

I first met Arjun Basu when we both had much longer hair. He was working for a Canadian publisher and I was one of the sales reps. I remember when he first showed me the advance copy of A Prairie Alphabet , that I swooned over this beautiful children’s picture book by a then-unknown Saskatchewan author/illustrator team. My territory was the Prairies – so, this was the perfect book written and published for me to sell! The book went on to sell tens of thousands of copies across Canada and in the US (but mainly in my territory!), and the publisher has since published another couple of books by this same author/illustrator team. What great memories, to have been part of such a successful book! So I’m pleased to present Arjun Basu who is now writing and publishing his own fiction. smt

Arjun_lo resArjun Basu

What is your latest release and…

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Interview with Author/Blogger/Publisher Susan Toy


Thanks so much to Janice Spina for hosting me in this interview on her blog!

Originally posted on jemsbooks:

 Susan Toy

Please welcome, Susan Toy, who has many titles – multi-talented author, blogger, and publisher to my Guest Blog Segment. Thank you, Susan, for coming today.

Can you please tell my readers and me a little about yourself and how you started in the publishing business?

I first worked as a bookseller, fresh out of university. I became a publishers’ sales rep about twelve years later. My partner and I moved out of Canada in 1996 and I was essentially “retired” until I decided to write a novel. Realizing then that, while I knew a great deal about how books were sold, I knew very little about how they were written, I enrolled in an online writing program. After that I moved on to an online publishing program and took editing classes as part of it. I loved learning online, especially as I was able to work from the…

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Reviews of Island in the Clouds!

Wow!! There is no better way to begin a Saturday morning (or any morning!) than by opening not one but two emails in which the senders have notified you of reviews they’ve written of your book!

Many thanks to roughseainthemed for writing and posting to her blog this very thorough review:

Bequia? Where on earth is Bequia?

Thank you as well to A., a UK reader who wishes to remain anonymous. He contacted me after reading Island in the Clouds to tell me he had bought and read the book while on Bequia for a holiday this past spring. He has given me permission to post the full review from his email on my blog:

Island in the clouds is a gripping murder mystery story set on the small Caribbean island of Bequia.

The story isn’t what you expect and is all the better for it!

I loved how Toy doesn’t just portray life on the island as some blissful paradise but goes for life as it is which makes the novel feel very authentic. The characters are drawn from across the full spectrum of island life and Toy expertly develops and blends them as the plot progresses. The twist and turns throughout are managed perfectly and this is a book that you won’t want to put down.

I was on holiday with my family in Bequia whilst I was reading Island in the Clouds. This meant the places quickly resonated and we were able to track most of the locations down during our stay. The book really enhanced our visit to Bequia providing context and a backdrop to our holiday and a narrative from which to explore. Without it we would never have discovered Nando’s restaurant, known about Moonhole or the history behind Frangi’s.

I had this on Kindle and whilst in Bequia purchased a print copy from the bookshop in Port Elizabeth. Not surprisingly this has been top of my friends wish lists since we’ve been back!

In summary a great story in its own right but an absolute must for anyone visiting Bequia to really unlock everything on the island to you.

This review in particular really pleases me because, unlike the concerns voiced by some early readers that my story of murder and incompetent police would scare away potential tourists from the island, A. is telling us that he used my novel as a kind of guidebook and discovered aspects of Bequia he might not otherwise have learned about during his holiday. And he’s recommending the book to his friends!

For me, it doesn’t get any better than that!

So, thank you again to roughseainthemed and A.intheUK for reading and recommending Island in the Clouds, and for making many points in both their reviews that will now assist me while writing the next novel in the Bequia Perspectives Series. I take all comments seriously and know that reviewers help me become a better writer.

While I have your attention, allow me to post links to two interviews that bloggers conducted with me recently:
Allan Hudson on South Branch Scribbler – 4Q Interview with award-winnning author Susan Toy
Tricia Drammeh on Authors to Watch – Interview with Susan M. Toy

the Opening Sentence

A blog for writing

S.K. Nicholls



Writing - Loving What I Do and Doing What I Love!


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