Thursday, February 15, 2018

Words and Images: A Partnership Between Writer and Photographer (Part Two)

When the February theme for the Blood-Red Pencil turned out to be Partnerships,
one collaborative effort popped into my brain from right here in Northern Colorado. Author, writing consultant, and publisher Kerrie Flanagan teamed up with artist and photographer Suzette McIntyre to create and publish three coffee table books.

Read Part One of this article here.

The three books created by Kerrie Flanagan and Suzette McIntyre are called Beauty Surrounds Us (March 1, 2016), The Paths We Take (November 10, 2016), and Reflection (March 29, 2017). Reflection is identified as their last words and images coffee table book, so I asked Suzette to describe the projects as far as difficulty of ideas and coordination of duties.

“The second and third books materialized from the enthusiasm of artists," Suzette told me. "They liked the themed competitions and the idea their pieces could possibly be published. The themes of the competitions/book titles for these three books came to me after a massive introspection and study.”

Kerrie did an internet search on the titles to make sure they were unique, an important step in choosing titles so a book is not buried in a long list of like-titled publications.

Suzette added, “Coordination was easy. I did the layouts and design. Kerrie put it all into the format for Ingram/Spark.”

Now that the three-book endeavor is complete, I was curious how Kerrie and Suzette felt about their books and how well they worked together.

Kerrie has worked on several joint projects, so she was an old hand at partnerships. “I have loved working with all the authors I have collaborated with; my 100 Haiku for the 80s Generation with Dean Miller, Write Away with Jenny Sundstedt, and now these three Words & Images Coffee table books with Suzette. I have enjoyed each collaboration and am proud of the resulting books. Maybe my co-authors think differently, but from my point of view, the process for all these books was smooth. Each of my co-authors brought different skills and strengths to the books. I think the best answer to this question is collaborate with writers you get along with. :-)”

From Suzette, I wanted to know if she’d ever thought of going it alone with books featuring only images and what the pros and cons were of going it alone. She responded, “I have thought about producing themed photography books many times, however I think the idea of adding additional poetry/text will always be a part of my model now. The two need each other to form the deeper dimension.”

I think it’s clear that most writers and artists would work faster on their own without the need to coordinate efforts with another person or team, but would each writer/artist pay as much attention to detail alone as they would with a partner? Kerrie noted Suzette’s “incredible eye for detail” and her knowledge of Photoshop and added she appreciated Suzette’s meticulous attention to the photos, layout and design. Suzette noted that she worked slower than usual on this project, but that she loved having Kerrie’s expertise in publishing to rely on.

From my own point of view, I’d say Kerrie and Suzette formed a great partnership for the duration of their three-book project. No two people work the same way, spend the same amount of time focusing or procrastinating, or have the identical vision when it comes to a final product. It appears the keys to a successful partnership are (1) working with writers or artists you already get along with, and (2) working with a legal contract.

Thanks so much to Kerrie and Suzette for taking time from their busy schedules to answer my questions.

More about Kerrie:

Photo by Suzette McIntyre
Kerrie Flanagan is a writing consultant, publisher, author and freelance writer with over 18 years experience. She has published eight books under her label, Hot Chocolate Press. Her book, A Guide to Magazine Article Writing, through Writer's Digest is scheduled to release in July of 2018 (and now available for preorder).

Kerrie enjoys working with writers to help them find success with their writing. To contact her about consulting or speaking at an event, contact her at You can learn more about her at her website.

More about Suzette:

Suzette McIntyre is an award-winning artist and has been recognized internationally for her signature style of photography and mixed media paintings. She works in genres from weddings and portraiture, to landscape and fine art.

Suzette views photography as a relationship as well as an art. Combining the two creates her intimate distinctive style. Her canvases and photography, inspired by her deep passion for people and her love of the western wilderness can be seen in galleries throughout Colorado and Wyoming and on her website.  Suzette is the co-founder of Words & Images.

Pat (Patricia) Stoltey is the author of four novels published by Five Star/Cengage: two amateur sleuth, one thriller that was a finalist for a Colorado Book Award in 2015, and the historical mystery Wishing Caswell Dead (December 20, 2017).

Pat lives in Northern Colorado with her husband Bill, Scottish Terrier Sassy (aka Doggity), and brown tabby Katie (aka Kitty Cat).

You can learn more about Pat at her website/blog, on Facebook, and Twitter. She was recently interviewed for a Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers podcast that you can find at the RMFW website.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Words and Images: A Partnership Between Writer and Photographer (Part One)

There are many ways a writer could collaborate with readers, other writers, illustrators, and more. Friends and fans can form a writer’s launch team for a new book. Other authors who write in the same genre can form promo teams to blog or release book sets. Those who write books for children are especially likely to team up with illustrators.

When the February theme for the Blood-Red Pencil turned out to be Partnerships, however, one collaborative effort popped into my brain from right here in Northern Colorado. Author, writing consultant, and publisher Kerrie Flanagan teamed up with artist and photographer Suzette McIntyre to create and publish three coffee table books.

The project seemed a huge undertaking to me, so I contacted Kerrie and Suzette to see if they would share a few of their experiences. I started with Kerrie, asking her how the idea for these projects originated.

“The idea for the books grew from a class Suzette and I did together on photography and poetry," Kerrie said. "It was a three-week class where she taught photography techniques and I taught poetry. We talked about how powerful these mediums are individually, but when you put them together it adds another dimension to the work. As a culminating project, each participant chose 3-5 photos and the accompanying poem to display in Suzette's gallery. We hosted a wine and cheese reception for the artists and general public. That was when we talked about making a coffee table book with photography and poetry.”

Suzette expanded on the class and workshops she and Kerrie presented, then added, “The first book was originally going to be just Kerrie and me, but I was getting ready to hold an art competition at the gallery, and after a bit of discussion we added a poetry category to the competition and decided to add the winners to the book. Doing this would create more awareness and interest."

Kerrie had “dabbled in poetry before” and taught the craft when she was an elementary school teacher. She prefers to write short “poems that have a specific pattern and framework like Haiku and Cinquain. This gives me parameters to work within and that works better for me than free verse.”

At that point, I was curious about what came first during the creative process, the words or the images. I asked Suzette that question plus one about their brainstorming process.

“I typically had the photograph first and the poetry/words emerged from the image," Suzette said. "In a few cases, I had a poem in my head and went out to capture an image to depict what I was saying.”

For Kerrie’s contributions, she sent her photographs to Suzette for book layout, then Suzette inserted Kerrie's text on the opposite blank page when she received Kerrie’s poems. Most of the work was done through email, but the two met a few times to talk about marketing.

There’s a business side to think about when collaborating with another person on a project, so I asked Kerrie what her best advice would be on the value or necessity of a written contract for these projects.

Kerrie responded, “Suzette and I have known each other for years, but I still wrote up a contract for these books. I have done this for all the books I have collaborated on with other writers. A contract spells everything out ahead of time so there is no guess work with the money, who owns the rights to the content, and all the other details. Writing and publishing a book is a business. When you collaborate on a project it becomes a two-person business. A contract ensures that both parties know the specifics of our business arrangement and lessens the chances of future disagreements. I value my relationship with Suzette, and I don't want anything to change that.”

When I think of the one collaborative writing project I worked on many years ago with my brother, I’m impressed that Kerrie and Suzette produced three of these amazing books. My brother and I vowed not to write together again after just one try.

Here is Part Two of this article, including bios for Kerrie Flanagan and Suzette McIntyre.

Pat (Patricia) Stoltey is the author of four novels published by Five Star/Cengage: two amateur sleuth, one thriller that was a finalist for a Colorado Book Award in 2015, and the historical mystery Wishing Caswell Dead (December 20, 2017).

Pat lives in Northern Colorado with her husband Bill, Scottish Terrier Sassy (aka Doggity), and brown tabby Katie (aka Kitty Cat).

You can learn more about Pat at her website/blog, on Facebook, and Twitter. She was recently interviewed for a Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers podcast that you can find at the RMFW website.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

A Mix of Romance and Murder

Our theme for February, Partnerships, brought to mind book and TV series where the main characters are a couple who solves crimes in the manner of Nick and Nora Charles from Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man series.
Though the Hammett books were more in the true mystery genre tone, most people will remember the movies, starring William Powell and Myrna Loy, which tended toward the lighter side. Smart, funny, and urbane, the movies brought more people to the books and vice versa.
So what mystery books in today’s bookstore/library shelves carry on the tradition of either a married couple or a male/female partnership in a personal relationship? TV series?

The most popular series that comes to mind is J.D. Robb’s futuristic Death series. Though not married when the first book debuted in 1995, New York police lieutenant Eve Dallas and her billionaire husband Rourke—no first name—balance their relationship with her job as a cop. These novels are far darker than The Thin Man books and movies, and the fact that the latest addition is number 45 confirms their popularity.

Catherine Coulter is another female author writing a male/female team in her Dillon Savich and Lacey Sherlock FBI Thriller series, with a mere 22 entries. Again, these two are not married when the series begins, and the relationship builds as the series progresses. In real life, I doubt the FBI would allow a married couple to work together on the same case, though they can both work for the FBI. But alas, this is fiction, and a writer can do pretty much what she wants, claiming artistic license.

Faye Kellerman, another female author writes the Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus series. He’s a cop, she’s an Orthodox Jew who helps him solve crimes. I haven’t read any of this series, but it’s an interesting premise. It also reminds me of the Harry Kemelman series about a rabbi in Marblehead, Massachusetts, who solves crimes using the Talmud. Since I grew up in the next town, I read that series and loved it. I noticed that they’ve been released as ebooks after all these decades.

But I digress.

Another series of novels made into TV shows with husband and wife team comes to mind―Mr. and Mrs. North, taken from the 26 books by Frances and Richard Lockridge and starring Richard Denning and Barbara Britton in the second reiteration. I doubt many people remember this TV show from the 50s, but I do. In reruns, of course.

In the late 70s, early 80s, Robert Wagner and Stephanie Powers starred in Hart to Hart, a husband and wife team who find themselves in the role of amateur detectives. It was a huge success and though not based on a book series, it was written by Sidney Sheldon, one of the master fiction writers of his time.

I would be remiss not to mention my series, the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, with a black cop and a psychic entertainer who join forces and mix a bit of woo-woo with some tried and true police procedures. Initially, they dislike each other, but that doesn’t last long because I find that formula cliché. So far, there are four books in a series I never expected to be a series.

Reverting to those mentioned above, the bottom line, in more ways than one, is that series sell. If you start one, you’d better like your characters enough to let them grow and evolve, because they may be around for a long time.

Jot your favorites in the comments section. (Any written by men?)

Polly Iyer is the author of nine novels: standalones Hooked, InSight, Murder Déjà Vu, Threads, and Indiscretion, and four books in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, Mind Games, Goddess of the Moon, Backlash and The Scent of Murder. A Massachusetts native, she makes her home in the beautiful Piedmont region of South Carolina. You can visit her website for more on Polly and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Silent Partnership

February is "partnership" month at BRP. Significantly broadening the topic of love, this opens up an exploration of partnerships in a number of areas we may not consider when writing our stories. We know we need a team to put out a great book. We've visited the team discussion before, so no need to rehash it here.

However, we do need to seriously consider another partnership we often overlook: our partnership with our reader. This was recently driven home to me when I read the latest novel by a well-known and prolific writer who has made a very good living for many years from the sales of her books and the movies based on them. She's published by a large house and undoubtedly has a huge fan base. I expected a powerful and compelling read and excellence in writing, and rightly so; I am, after all, contributing to her wealth. That makes me a partner—albeit a silent one—in her success because I purchased her story.

The following is what I received.

POV: The story was told in omniscient point of view. One paragraph often got into the head of two or more characters. I had to go back and reread several times throughout the book to figure out who was thinking or doing what. With few exceptions, omniscient POV drains the power from a story. When the reader knows what every character thinks and feels, that reader is deprived of not only what should have been surprises, but also of the character development that helps create a page turner. As a silent partner, I felt cheated.

Show, Don't Tell: The story abounded in lengthy descriptions and other trivia that went on page after page. Sparse dialogue read like it came from a textbook and bore little resemblance to the way people talk. Some passages bordered on soliloquy rather than two-sided conversations. I was told the story. (Don't tell me the antagonist is a bad man. Show me by his actions what he is.) I was shown almost nothing. Not one single scene created a picture in my mind that I could relate to. As a silent partner, I felt shortchanged.

Ups and Downs: Stories, like life, have peaks and valleys—or at least they should. This one flatlined from beginning to end. It offered no emotion I could tap into, no feeling that wasn't contrived, no urge to cheer for the protagonist or boo the bad guy, no connection with any of the characters or what they were going through. As a silent partner, I felt unfulfilled.

Grammar and Punctuation: Most sentences were complete, but many of them dragged on endlessly and thus lost all impact. They should have been divided into two or even three good sentences to infuse some life into this inert story. As for punctuation, comma errors abounded. They appeared where they were not needed and were absent where they were. Sometimes, I had to read a sentence two or three times to figure out what it said. As a silent partner, I felt slighted.

Likelihood of Reading Another Book from This Author: Zero.

I'm not maligning this writer, who will remain nameless. Perhaps she creates outlines, and ghost writers turn them into stories. Whatever the case, I'm sure she doesn't know or care whether I ever purchase another of her novels; she won't miss my few paltry dollars. However, the above speaks volumes to us as writers.

Our Takeaway:
Point of view needs to be both powerful and specific. One story can contain multiple POVs, but not in the same paragraph or the same scene unless the change is clearly indicated to the reader (such as a double space between paragraphs where the POV shifts).

Telling is almost always required to some extent in a story. Description gives the reader a sense of time, place, and characters. Just keep it short and sweet. The more the writer can show action, the more the reader can become part of it.

Tension waxes and wanes in a good story. Keeping it front and center on every page exhausts the reader. Omitting it bores the reader. Find the balance.

Grammar and punctuation are the bane of many writers. Use them to the best of your ability. Then hire a competent editor to fix the places where you strayed outside the grammatical box.

We want readers to enjoy our books, and they have the right to expect us to uphold our end of the partnership. In a sense, we are product producers, and they are consumers. We owe these silent partners the best we have to give.

Editor Linda Lane has returned to her first love—writing—while maintaining her editing work. Most of her novels fall into the women's fiction category, but she will be venturing into the thriller realm with a new book scheduled for release late this year. You can contact her through her websites: and

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Developing Sidekicks

~ Our theme for February is Partnerships, and today we (ahem) kick off with a look at the fictional partnerships between main characters and their sidekicks. ~

In addition to a unique main character, many stories feature unforgettable sidekicks, such as:

Sherlock Holmes's friend and biographer Dr. Watson who provides the practicality to Holmes's genius.

Batman and his protégé Robin exemplified experience versus the rashness of youth.

Captain Kirk and Spock represent the perfect balance between freewheeling emotion and cautious logic.

Here are a few tips for creating a memorable partner.

1. Avoid cardboard cutout props. Make your sidekick fully three dimensional. Give him goals and stakes as well as opinions.

2. Give him autonomy. Don't create a tin soldier sitting on a shelf, activated only when needed. Make sure he has momentum of his own. Give him a history that motivates and a present with complications.

3. Change it up. The sidekick doesn't have to be professional partner. They can be best friends, a romantic couple, brother and sister, mother and daughter, father and son, or AI versus human.

4. Don't create "yes men." Being his own person, your sidekick should have different viewpoints, education, experience, and tactics. His agenda might not always align with your protagonist's.

5. Balance the yin and yang. They don't have to be complete opposites to represent different sides of a thematic argument. The most common motifs are youth versus experience, caution versus carelessness, thinker versus doer, intuition versus facts, and analysis versus winging it. Give them complimentary strengths, but avoid differences so extreme they can't believably work together.

6. Keep the reins tight. So often our secondary characters become more interesting and attempt to take over the story. Don't let them. If your sidekick is more interesting than your protagonist, you have a serious problem.

Developing your sidekick can be just as much fun as designing your protagonist. Make them memorable.

Diana Hurwitz is the author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018


A page from my "daily draw" journal
I have been doing various daily practices for many years and they have been instrumental in my artistic and spiritual growth. For over 20 years I’ve begun my day with “morning pages” (from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron) which is doing two to three pages of stream-of-consciousness writing in longhand each day. For almost 20 years I’ve also been writing one haiku every day, which means I have a lot of haiku by now. And for about five years I’ve been doing what I call my “daily draw” which means I draw or paint or sculpt an image from the day before, sometimes illustrating the haiku I just wrote, or something I saw on my daily walk, or something I remember from a conversation, or whatever appears from my hands.

None of these writings or drawings has to be good, although sometimes they are excellent. But quality is not the issue, and despite the mounds of paper I now have filled with scribbles, poems, and drawings, neither is quantity. The issue is practice. In practice you are allowed to make mistakes, to be a novice, to admit your failings. Practice teaches you to love and appreciate yourself, in all your flawed and silly glory.

Practice makes me happy. Every day.

Kim Pearson is an author, ghostwriter, and owner of Primary Sources, a writing service that helps others become authors of professional and compelling books and articles. She has authored 12 books of her own, and ghostwritten more than 45 non-fiction books and memoirs. To learn more about her books or services, visit

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Book Review - Story Sparks by Denise Jaden

New World Library
ISBN: 1608685098
Paperback - $12.16
Ebook: $9.99

If you are searching for a new idea for a new book in this New Year, this resource will be of great benefit. In the introduction of Story Sparks, the author states that “idea gathering is a highly learnable skill.” Then she goes on to help writers hone that skill with her advice and exercises.

The book is divided into several parts in which specific suggestions are given to help writers find their ideas for story, for character and for setting. Part one is where Jaden explains what S.P.A.R.K. stands for: Seek, Passion, Allies, Resonance, Kinetic energy.

Seek: Not just new story ideas but things that will help make those stories stronger. Jaden gives many suggestions for strengthening our skills of observation, noting details of places and people that we can use to make our characters and settings “visible” to our readers.

Passion:  We should always be writing about something that we have a great deal of passion for as that will translate to the page and the reader will then be connected to our story. Jaden encourages writers to first think about what they are most passionate about and write short pieces about those things. Not necessarily to use in a story, but just to identify situations and things that generate strong feelings. Then the writer can translate those feelings to the page.

Allies: Jaden encourages writers to seek out friends that you can go to for help in brainstorming a story idea or talk over a plot point that has gotten you stuck. Or it can be an organized critique group that you meet with on a regular basis, either in a real time or online. Through the years, I have found it extremely helpful to have such resources, and the beauty of being in a community of writers, whether it is online or in real time, is how supportive and helpful everybody is.

Resonance: “What resonates with readers shifts with the culture.” Jaden explains how writers can’t simply try to ride the wave of what is popular in fiction today. Many seasoned writers know this, but beginners often think they can write the next Twilight or Harry Potter book and be successful. Jaden points out the fact that those trends have played out and it is time for something new.

Kinetic Energy:  “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if on most days you could sit down and feel like your book, at least in part, is writing itself? That’s what kinetic energy and engagement are about. Kinetic energy starts with the first bout of excitement you feel over and idea, and it continues until a reader picks up your book, and even beyond.” Jaden believes that the writer reaches this point of having kinetic energy after going through the other steps in the S.P.A.R.K program.

Finding story ideas and adding depth to the tension and drama in the story take up the major part of this book, and that material is organized in sections that are easy to navigate. There are plenty of exercises to help the writer generate ideas, and I particularly liked that she included my favorite form of brainstorming which is asking the question "What if?"

Jaden outlines five important guidelines for brainstorming:   Number one - there are no bad ideas. Write down every single thing. Number two  - your instincts are more important than you usually give them credit for. Number three - it is often not a single idea but the connection between two or more ideas that gives us our "aha" moments. Number four - use free writing or writing prompts when you are stuck. Number five - dream big and wild. Don’t limit yourself or feel like you have to be 100% realistic while brainstorming.

There are five appendices in the book that are most helpful, and I will be using them often. The first is a comprehensive list of names of people. It includes unusual male and female names so we don’t have to name every male character Bill. The second appendix does the same thing with names of places. Number three is a comprehensive list of motives and the fourth lists obstacles that we can use to complicate our story ideas. The last one is a list of story themes that can be very helpful in the early part of developing a story idea because all stories have a theme.

This is a good book for all beginning writers, but it also contains enough helpful suggestions and resources that a seasoned writer would find it well worth the price of admission.

Reviewed by Maryann Miller - novelist, editor, and sometimes actress. Maryann has written a number of mysteries, including the critically-acclaimed Season Mystery Series that debuted with Open Season. She has also written many other books, short stories, plays and screenplays. Information about all of that and her editing rates is available on her website.  


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