Sunday, September 24, 2023

I binge read a book about writing! Seriously, I did. Who does that? What could be more unexciting than the verbiage in a writing book, especially when a stack of highly recommended novels sit on my bedside table waiting to be read? 

The book arrived on my doorstep after agreeing to write a review for an author I had not previously known. The title and sub-title intriqued me; TIME TO WRITE: Inspiring Lessons and Practical Skills for Writing The Novel You've Always Wanted, by Emily Winslow. My husband retrieved it when the mail came, opened the package and left it on the counter. Later that evening, I picked it up, just to get a feel for what I was up against and thumbed through it. My eyes lit on the first page of chapter one, and I was hooked. 

Unlike most "how to" books that concentrate on the discipline of writing everyday and completeing X number of words per day, this author emphasized the importance of rest and daydreaming.  

            "This is because there are lots of steps to writing a book and writing is only one of them. Daydreaming, brainstorming, and what-iffing are parts of an essential foundation that count as a form of progress."                                                                                 A Time To Write, Chapter 1, Page 1.

The book is divided into eight parts: Getting Started, Writing Skills, Storytelling Skills, Technical Skills, Facing The Middle, Being Understood By Others, The Professional Life, and Your Future, with multiple chapters in each part. Intriqing chapter titles like Day Dreaming and Discipline, Grocery Bags and Maypoles, Wonder and Worry, and Tasting The Ginger, give you a flavor of her sense of humor and creative ways of sharing the information. Writing skills are masterfully separated from storytelling skills as are all skills, in short chapters using clear-cut examples and analogies. This is just a small part of what drew me into binging this book. Oh, and I might add, I highlighted something on almost every page! 

You don't have to be writing a novel to learn from this book. There is something, many things, inside for every writer no matter where they/you are in their/your writing, publishing journey. 

           If you can only buy one book on writing, make it "TIME TO WRITE: Inspiring Lessons and Practical Skills for Writing the Novel You've Always Wanted, by Emily Winslow. Here is the link to Emily Winslow's website and books:  bit.ly/48t8uqP

I'd love to hear from you if you find this book as useful as I did. Well, not just if you read the book. I'd love to hear from you anyway. 

Happy Writing! 

Sandra Warren is the author of books in several genres.                                      https://www/sandrawarren.com                                                                                      https://www.arliebooks.com

Contact:                                                                                                                                                      Email: sandra@arliebooks.com  



Prejudice Begins In The Home

Thursday, January 20, 2022

 Note: Can it really be a year since I blogged? My goodness! As the world shut-down for COVID in 2020, many writer's were inspired to write with their new found time at home. I, on the other hand, was among those who shut-down mentally. Now, as we begin our third year of concern and semi-isolation with this horrible virus, I'm happy to say my creative juices are finally getting back on track. And although I'm not a prolific blogger, I vow to be better in 2022. 

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This week, as we celebrate the legacy and historical contribution of Martin Luther King Jr., I'm reminded of my youth growing up and attending an integrated school in Michigan. That remarkable school, South High School, functioned, for the most part, like society should function; accepting and respecting the differences of others no matter their ethnic background, religion or color. It was a school in a factory neighborhood that was a melting pot of multiple nationalities including Dutch, Latvian, African American, Irish and German, to name a few. There were athletes and scholars and artists and musicians of all colors and creeds. It wasn't a perfect place by any means. There was prejudice, but it wasn't rampant. There was no them and us. Most grew up going to school with each other so attitudes were formed while very young. I was one of them. 

My earliest recollection of racial differences that I can remember came about in first grade surrounding a birthday party for my friend, Edna Mae. She had a birthday party and I was the only one who showed up.

I was thrilled to have the story selected for inclusion in the first Chicken Soup For The Kid's Soul book. You can read all about it in the book, on page 46. "Edna Mae, First Lesson In Prejudice" has provoked interesting discussions among groups where children and adults gather; in classrooms, churches and recreational programs, to name a few.

Like most things, our attitudes are shaped by our environment and our earliest environment is the home. As parents, the first teachers our children know, we need to be mindful of the thoughts and ideas they 
are picking up from our behaviors. Like the old saying, "manners are caught, not taught," so too is prejudice.  

Do you remember your first encounter with prejudice?  


Contact Sandra Warren at  www.sandrawarren.com 

Hit and Run: An Interview with Australian author Dr. Bob Rich

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Congratulations to Joan Edwards. She won a copy of Spivey's Christmas Web for commenting on my last blog. 


But the greatest of these is LOVE! 

That's all I could think of as I neared the end of reading Hit and Run by Dr. Bob Rich. 

 In Hit and Run, the underlying themes of compassion, forgiveness and especially love propel the characters forward following a tragic murder where multiple children lose their lives. Led by 84-year old, Sylvia Kryz, a near victim herself, parents of the children who perished are challenged to set aside their grief and anger against the young perpetrator and help him become a reformed member of society.

The emotional side of this story will stay with you and force you to contemplate how you would react given the same set of circumstances.

Dr. Bob Rich has masterfully woven believable characters into a tale that models for us all the power of love and that's why I was compelled to know more about the author. His responses to my questions do not disappoint.   

 1. Where did the idea for Hit and Run come from? Your comment at the end made me think you might have a personal connection to the story.

I read an inspirational story in the newspaper. A man’s daughter was raped and killed. After the criminal was convicted to 30 years imprisonment with a non-parole period of 15 years, he was so outraged he started a petition to have the death penalty reintroduced in Australia. His campaign was effective enough to get tens of thousands of signatures, although this was before the internet had taken off.

One day, he visited the criminal in jail, basically to gloat and rub it in. To his surprise, the person he met wasn’t a monster, but a damaged, hurting man whose only wish was to die. At first curiosity, then compassion, then even friendship replaced the bitterness and hate. He publicly retracted his campaign, trained as a social worker, and the newspaper article reported his first job in that jail, working to rehabilitate criminals.

There is no such thing as coincidence. A few days later, a blind old man was referred to me under a victims of crime scheme. A bunch of teenagers had bashed him up, and even hurt his old seeing-eye dog.

You can’t guide someone out of his hole by jumping in and joining him. In order to work with this poor man, I needed to get rid of my outrage. A standard psychological technique for that is “displacement.” I invented a far worse crime by a teenager: 14-year-old Chuck driving over 6 little kids and the crossing guard. I thought this would be a short story of just retribution, so I could focus my emotion there and maintain “professional distance” with my client.

I needed a witness within the story, so added an old lady he’d barely missed. That was Sylvia. Only,

once she came alive in my computer, she dictated the contents, and I was merely her scribe. The entire book is her record of the remarkable 9 months of contact between her and the young killer.

2. What was the most difficult part of the story to write?

Sandra, one of my personal clichés is, writing is the chocolate icing on the cake of life. When I write, I can get stuck, then simply allow the story to cook in some 7th dimension and come to me when it is ready. There were periods like that, but such things are just normal writing.  

S: I love your cliché! 


2.  Con't: 

Hit and Run reports on several court hearings, and I needed to research these. Advice from three lawyers was very helpful. Having to correct the details could perhaps be called a difficulty. (Isn’t English a fun language? Do difficulties come when you call them?)

I also needed to change the names of a few important secondary characters. There is a 12-year-old girl who is in a foster home because her mother is dying of cancer. When she came to me, her name was Petra. But later, Sylvia told me that her abusive father was actively searching for her, and a relatively unusual name would be easier to trace. So, she became Jenny. It took me quite a while to get used to the new name. My characters didn’t mind, because electronic people are fortunate to have a delete button. Don’t you wish us humans did too?

S: I know what you mean about changing a character's name. Midway through my last novel I did that and it was extremely difficult to picture that same character in the same way with the new name. I never would have believed it had I not been a writer. 

3. You could not have written such a story without exhibiting some of Sylvia Kryz’s characteristics yourself. Did life experiences shape compassion and forgiveness on your part or were you born with it?

Oh no. As a young fellow, I was a passionate bully-basher. All my fights as a teenager were when protecting someone from victimization, but my reaction was violence rather than compassion. In my final year in high school, one of the other kids punched a teacher — an overweight man in his 60s, waiting to retire. I converted the boy’s face to hamburger and broke a few of his bones before others restrained me, and this taught me the lesson that two-way violence is twice as bad as violence one way.

This is one of the stories in my novel, Ascending Spiral, which is my fictionalized autobiography. I’ve

changed details for two reasons: first, it protects the guilty so I am less likely to be sued; second, my hero, Pip, faces the same life events I did, but handles them in the way I wish I had. That’s a standard therapeutic technique I describe in From Depression to Contentment: A self-therapy guide.

In the early days of my counseling practice, I could only work with a repentant bully. But then, as you suggested, I grew, and like that man who became a mentor for his daughter’s murderer, I realized that evil is what people do, not what people are. My task is to point to the path to a good life, and invite the other person to walk along it. Then it’s their choice whether they do or not. The outcome is not in my hands, but I can and should do the best I can.

Here is another of my personal clichés: all sentient beings are apprentice Buddhas, apprentice Jesuses. We are here to grow spiritually. Every human and other animal on this planet, perhaps even every complex plant, is on a rung along a very long ladder to enlightenment. We are all caterpillars feeding on the green leaves of experience, until we graduate into butterflies. A graduate is someone who intuitively, automatically, without effort, reacts to every other living being with the unconditional Love St. Paul describes in Corinthians 13. However, this is not a specifically Christian message. Have a look at http://bobswriting.com/bill/metta.html to see what I mean.

 4.  If it was innate, did it cause you problems growing up among children who tend to be egocentric?

Hmm. You just have to read Ascending Spiral.

I have two answers to that.

First, I was the shoulder to cry on. When a kid’s parents fought, he came to me for consolation. I didn’t tell him he was lucky to have parents — mine were on the other side of the planet, and I lived isolated in a migrant hostel. When a kid had girlfriend trouble, he unburdened himself to me. I didn’t tell him I’d never had a girlfriend, and was sure I never would. My problem was too much empathy. Often, I worried more about other people’s problems than they did themselves. That’s why I couldn’t be a therapist until training as a nurse toughened me up. (“It’s not your pain. You are not there to share it but to relieve it.”)

Second, perhaps paradoxically, I was (and am) a loner. I don’t know how to chat, prefer solitude and quiet to crowds, noise and parties, and am much less fun in real life than with my writing. Oh, I have the skills to get up on a stage and inspire an audience, or make them laugh, or teach them, but that’s a learned skill; a sort of a second skin I put on. For some lucky people, conversation is lubrication. They can amusingly talk with anyone about anything (or nothing). For people like me, conversation is information. When I have something to say, I can say it well, but... But tell me to “Go and sit there next to Sandra, and have a chat with her,” I’ll sit there like a dummy, unless you ask me questions to unplug my information reservoir.

5.  You tend to wear many hats which reflect your desire to impact the world with positivity and love. If you could only wear one of those hats, which would it be?

I am trying to visualize this. Are those hats each on a separate head? In that case, I can eat LOTS of chocolate, with all those mouths! Or are the hats on top of each other? I’d better be careful, walking through a door.

Actually, I only have one role in life. Everything else I do is subsidiary to it. This is being a Professional Grandfather. Anyone born after 1992 qualifies as my grandchild; anyone after 1967 as my child. They merely need to apply. Trivia like nationality, skin color or religion don’t matter. Many hundreds have applied, and been adopted with love.

The job specification is that everything I do is working for a survivable future, and one worth surviving in. Both are equally important.

A survivable future means environmental action. We are in the 6th extinction event of earth, and when we unravel the web of life, we also fall through the hole. One worth surviving in means a society of decency, cooperation, compassion instead of the global culture we now have, which is ruled by greed and conflict.

 6.  When all is said and done, what do you want folks to remember about you? 

 I am not that fussed about what other people think of me. It’s more like, “I am going this way. It’s a good path, come with me. If you do, welcome, if not, have a good life.”

The only place to live in is THIS MOMENT. There is nothing else. If this moment I am in nirvana, then I am in nirvana. If this moment I am of benefit, then I am of benefit. So, I need to remember this, and shape this moment to be that of an apprentice Buddha.

If you go to my blog, Bobbing Around https://bobrich18.wordpress.com you will find a lot more along lines that will enable you to improve your life, regardless of your circumstances. The most important thing is to read my essay, “How to Change the World,” but there are many other goodies as well.

Among my stories, you’ll find two relevant to your questions: “Forgiveness,” and “Jarro.”

And there is a list of my published books too.

I’d like to mention Sleeper, Awake. I wrote this last century, and it won an international award in 2001.

It’s just been reissued by a new publisher, and the passage of 20 years has not reduced its value to entertain, to surprise, and when you’re not looking, to educate.  Currently I am offering a free PDF copy to every follower of Bobbing Around, and every subscriber to my monthly newsletter. So, your visitors need only do one of those two things, and they have earned a free copy of a page-turner. Well, there is a payment requested: please write review.

S: Let me repeat in case you missed what you just read.

Dr. Bob is offering a FREE PDF download of his award winning novel Sleeper,Awake for the price of a REVIEW! 

No contest! No random.org! Just sign up for his blog, https://bobrich18.wordpress.com, request the PDF and share your thoughts in a review. It couldn't be easier than that. 

Thank you! Thank you Dr. Bob Rich for your candid and insightful responses to my questions. Learning the backstory to Hit and Run enhances its message and meaning and has increased my respect for you as a human being, a writer, a teacher and friend. I look forward to reading Sleeper, Awake and The Ascending Spiral.  

Good stories move you. Great stories stay with you and won't let you alone. Hit and Run will remain with you long after you close the back cover. 

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YOU WIN whether you leave a comment or not! I'd still love a comment or two. 

Contact Sandra Warren                                                                                                                arliebooks@gmail.com or sandra@arliebooks.com                                                                                      https://www.arliebooks.com or http://www.sandrawarren.com 


There really is nothing new under the sun!

Monday, January 25, 2021

Congratulations to Carol Baldwin and Joan Edwards. They both won a copy of Obsessed By A Promise! by leaving a comment on my last blogpost! 

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I have often heard the quote from Ecclesiastes 1:9, "There is nothing new under the sun," but never thought much about it until recently when one of my critique partners sent me a link to an article about a spider. Let me explain.  

Years ago, I had an idea for a children's story about a very creative spider who is tired of spinning ho hum barn spider webs and wants to create her own more intricate designs. Mocked for her new designs, the spider would retreat to a window high in the barn loft where others couldn't see. It would take a family moving into the barn and one bright star shining through the new web, to make the others see that having different ideas can have surprising results. 

I had never read a children's story about a spider besides E.B. White's, Charlotte's Web and thought there might be room for another spider book. When I shared my idea with other writers I received very mixed comments. Many folks liked the idea but a fare amount did not. One person even said, "Eww! Spiders are scary. Nobody likes spiders!" But my spider, Spivey, I called her, would have an important job to perform. She would spin a creative web that would calm a very special baby lying in a manger. Spivey's story would have a surprise Christmas story ending.  

Spivey's Web, arrived on the market in 2017 and was retitled in 2020 as Spivey's Christmas Web. Just before Christmas, 2020, I received an article about author Raymond Arroyo and his new book, based on an ancient Eastern European legend, titled, The Spider Who Saved Christmas. Arroyo came across the legend while doing research for a middle-grade series. In his beautiful book, illustrated by Randy Gallegos, it's Nephila, a cave spider whose web saves the Christ child and his parents from Herod's men. 

Another version of the legend tells the story of a pinecone that falls to the floor in a hut occupied by a poor widow and her children. The pinecone takes root and grows into a tree but at Christmas time, the widow couldn't afford to decorate it. While the family slept, spiders in the tree spun webs that sparkled in the morning sun, a gift for the widow and her brood.  Since that time, throughout Eastern Europe, it has been the tradition to decorate Christmas trees with spiders. It is also believed that those spider webs are the reasons we decorate with tinsel to this day.

Who knew? I certainly did not. I thought my idea about a spider helping the Christ child was original, a figment of my creative mind. But you see, it wasn't.  

There really is nothing new under the sun! 

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Leave a comment by February 5th and I'll put your name in to win a copy of Spivey's Christmas Web

Check out the Spivey's Christmas Web book trailer here:  


Contact Sandra Warren 





Firebird Book Award

Friday, January 15, 2021

 I've never been big on contests but when one of my books comes up a winner, it's easy to change my tune. 

Yesterday, I was notified that my historical fiction novel was awarded a FIRST PLACE in the HISTORICAL FICTION category for the SPEAK UP TALK RADIO FIREBIRD BOOK AWARDS. I entered the contest because the sponsors were sending all the proceeds to a worthy cause, a group that makes pillow cases for wounded veterans and their families. I always hoped my book, Obsessed By A Promise would be recognized but I never expected a First Place Award. I am thrilled, of course! 

Obsessed By A Promise is different than the other Orphan Train stories in that it is told from the point of view of a family member not from the child taken; a big brother charged with taking care of his little brother and the life long fifty-year search that ensues when the older brother loses him to the Orphan Train movement. The story is about family and how it transforms when a child is lost. 

If you enjoyed other Orphan Train stories, you need to check this one out and hopefully, like many other readers, you won't be able to put it down.  

Here's how to win a copy of the awarding winning Obsessed By A Promise: Leave a comment by January 20th and I will award Two Lucky Readers  an UNEDITED copy of Obsessed By A Promise, autographed if you like. A review on Amazon and/or Goodreads is always appreciated. 

Obsessed By A Promise   https://www.amazon.com/Obsessed-Promise-Sandra-Warren-ebook/dp/B07VV16ZC2/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Obsessed+By+A+Promise&qid=1610726107&sr=8-1


Contact Sandra Warren:  www.sandrawarren.com and/or  www.arliebooks.com 

Unexpected Writer Gifts From The Heart!

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

 As I reflect on this past year, as well as other years gone by, I'm reminded of 
the many people, known and unknown, who have stood by me and cheered with each new book and supported me in so many ways. Unexpected were the many gifts related to particular books I'd written, that came my way; many from complete strangers. 

After writing Arlie the Alligator, my story-song picture book, alligators started to invade my house. Today, I have too many to count, from stuffed animals, necklaces, earrings, ceramic alligators, coffee mugs, alligator puzzles, a cement alligator for outside, two custom made alligator cookie cutters and even an alligator cookie jar, to name a few! 

Christmas 2020 brought me a most unusual gift: an infinity scarf imprinted with the complete text, including song lyrics from the Arlie the Alligator mini-musical. Here is a photo of the infinity scarf and a close up of the story text with lyrics. A most wonderful gift. 

After writing Spivey's Web, which became Spivey's Christmas Web, the story of a barn spider tired of spinning barn spider webs, who spins a web of her own design that creates stars that calm a tiny baby lying in a manger, I received a wonderful wire web to hang in my window as well as a spider mug that says, "Welcome to our web!" 

Then there was the gentleman from Virginia, the husband of a caterer
catering a reception for the dedication of a historical marker that resulted from the book, We Bought A WWII Bomber, who hand hammered a WWII B-17 Bomber out of metal to make bomber cookies for the reception. Following the reception, he gifted me with the cookie cutter.            

Several cherished gifts came from my wonderful critique group. In addition to helping me become a better writer, they've stood by me through thick and thin and were always there to offer honest and sometimes brutal advice that made each manuscript shine.

I'll never forget receiving the coffee mugs that make me laugh every time I use them. I particularly like the one that says, "My critique group understands me!" and "Writer: powered by chocolate!" Oh how well they know me. I'd be remiss to not mention the SCBWIC (Society of Children's Writers & Illustrators) hoodie or my latest writer gift that makes it all official..."I'm the Writer Elf!" 

As wonderful as all these gifts are, nothing beats a letter, a drawing or a story from a child who really enjoyed Spivey's Christmas Web or Arlie the Alligator and were inspired to pen something of their own. 

Hearing from a stranger, who took the time to write a review and said things                                            about your adult historical fiction novel like, "It's one of the best novels I've ever 
read!" or "I couldn't put it down," is perhaps the best gift of all and makes the long hours of frustration and enlightenment, creative inspiration and writer's block, emotional lows and highs that make up the writer's journey, worth every minute.  

None of the above mentioned gifts were expected. Some arrived on gift giving days like a birthday or holiday but most arrived out-of-the-blue. 

There's something funny, almost mystical about giving gifts to writers, at least in my experience, most arrived at the precise moment when I needed them most, when writer's block was at it's worst or when I couldn't figure out what to write next and the thought of giving up crept into my head. Writer gifts from the heart to the heart. 

Thank you dear friends, critique partners, family and most of all readers for giving me the the kind words that keep me writing.  

What kind of gifts have you been given to keep you going? 

Books referred to in this blog:
Arlie the Alligator - PB/Kindle/ DVD & Audio Cassette
Spivey's Christmas Web
We Bought A WWII Bomber: The Untold Story of A Michigan High School, a B-17 Bomber & The  
       Blue Ridge Parkway
Obsessed By A Promise

Sandra Warren can be contacted through her website.

With A Little Help From My Writer Friends

Sunday, August 16, 2020

 Ask any writer how they developed their writing skills and you'll get a wide range of answers from degree programs to writer's conferences, workshops, webinars and books written on that very subject. Everyone's path is different and no one path is better than the next. 

It's also safe to say that every writer develops their own circle of writer friends, those they admire and study and trust to give them the feedback they need to improve their skills. I have been extremely fortunate in the forty years since my first book came out, to have many writer friends along the way who have encouraged, inspired, taught and even critiqued my work, sometimes brutally, to make me a better writer. Because of my writer friends, my writing and story telling skills have significantly improved. 

One of my favorite ways of learning has been to attend writing conferences; conferences that today have all been either shut down or forced to go digital. And although the quality of information being given won't suffer, I as a conference goer will miss the camaraderie of meeting and interacting with other writers more skilled than I. 

But adapt we must and adapt we will. 

Many opportunities are opening up that will allow us to learn from home in front of our own computers. One great opportunity is being offered by "Write 2 Ignite, a Christian writers group dedicated to helping writers provide excellent books for children and adults," as per Carol Baldwin's blog. Here is the information: 

MASTER FICTION WRITING                                                                                                                    Taught by award winning author, Joyce Hostettler 

Includes 3 talks by Joyce:
Creating Memorable Characters
On Writing Plot: What's The Problem
View Point and Dialogue

September 19th 
9:00 am to 5:30 pm (recorded and password protected for 2 months) 
Register: www.Write2Ignite.com  REGISTER NOW


If you are unable to attend a workshop, webinar or conference, remember to tap into the knowledge of your writer friends. They will not only inspire and challenge you, they'll be there to pump you up when you need it most. Having said that, I need to give a shout out to my critique partners, Debbie, Teresa and Gretchen who have been the writing friends I've needed during the last decade of writing journey. 

What part have your writing friends played in your writing journey? 


Contact Sandra Warren 



About Me

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Hi! I’m Sandra Warren, a writer with very eclectic writing tastes. I’ve been fortunate to have publications in multiple genres including children’s, gifted education, parenting, how to, poetry, journal, educational activity guides and biography as well as audio and video production. I'm a city gal recently transplanted to the mountains of NC where glorious mountain vistas inspire latest renderings.

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