Our Collaborative Process

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We were kicked out of a restaurant yesterday…politely, but kicked out none the less. We think we may have creeped out our waitress. We were there for a planning and plotting session for our newest project, a horror novel set loosely in our Riverside world. We sat down to breakfast and then jumped right into our collaborative creative process. The talk of murder and demons proved too much for our little old lady waitress and we were subsequently asked to move along to make room for other patrons (which would have worked as a reason if there were more than four other occupied tables in the large, empty restaurant). So, we left, but not without a grumble or two.

Despite our expulsion from the restaurant, we did have a very successful meeting. We have a very specific creative process, developed over the last seven years. (Wow, has it been seven years?!?) We wanted to share a bit about it as we’ve heard from others that collaborative writing can be a fraught enterprise that has broken families and ruined friendships. So far, we haven’t had that problem, mainly because we make our plans ahead of time and we try and leave our egos at the door. It’s worked so far, with eight novels and three short stories under our belt.

Step 1: We start with an idea. In fact, we have a whole slew of ideas we’ve written down over the years that we can pull from when it’s time to start a new project. We then decide who the main writer will be, who will be the main collaborator with the writer, and who will have first crack at edits, etc. It really does help to have defined roles in the writing process. We usually have two works in progress at a time, as that seems to be the max number we can successfully juggle and still get our work done.

Step 2: Once we’ve agreed on the subject, it’s time to flesh out our idea. We call it a story arc. It’s so much easier to craft a solid plot when you’ve at least got an idea of a beginning, middle, and end. Our story arc will identify our main character(s), the key premise of the story, and usually includes a precipitating event to kick things off as well as how we foresee the end of the story coming about. These are all subject to change along the way, we are not rigid in our processes and sometimes a story writes itself. That was what we were working on yesterday at the restaurant. Our story arcs usually run 1-2 pages at most.

Step 3: From the story arc, we build a chapter map. Our chapter maps are just that, a detailed description of every chapter, in order. It is a working document, also subject to much change but because we have it, we are able to pass off our projects amongst ourselves and still maintain some semblance of continuity. Yesterday, we mapped out the prologue and first ten chapters of the new horror project. We’ll continue to add to the chapter map over the next couple of weeks but because we have a very well-fleshed out story arc, this shouldn’t be too much trouble.

Step 4: Write! (Easier said than done, lately.)

We are very excited about our two current projects, one old that we’ve dusted off and the newest one we’ve just started to work on. Over the next month, we’ll also be uploading all our old works to Smashwords (they will still be available on Amazon). We hope the change of platform will breath life into them. They’ve been languishing on Amazon for a while now.  We’ll let you know when those go live.

We hope to have more news soon. As always, thanks for sticking with us!

Anne, Nancy, and Eric


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The Upsides and Downsides to Taking a Writing Break

Desk Photo

We’ve kicked off 2020 with a renewed sense of purpose and a new writing plan. Because we write collaboratively, we’ve had to develop our own specific methodology over the last six years. Keys to our past writing successes have been fairly regular business and brainstorming meetings, clearly designated roles for each work-in-progress, and of course, feedback between the three of us. The last two years we haven’t done such a good job with any of them (for a variety of reasons). This has led to a marked lack of progress on all our projects. We’ve let them sit, to our overall detriment, but there have been some upsides.

When you write twisty, turny plots with a plethora of characters and a bunch of made-up locations, it can make for an excellent story but if you stop working on it, you can easily lose the thread and the details. Once that happens, it’s easy to introduce plot holes into your story. Characters and places can be subtly changed, timelines shift, and events get mixed. It’s a frustrating endeavor to pick it all back up, dust it off, and try and catch the elusive bits that made exciting for you in the first place. You cannot stop writing! For once you do, it’s hard to pick it back up. Anne is having to re-read the entirety of our crime thriller manuscript in order to re-familiarize herself with the material. It’s been a while. It’s been slow-going. She’s taking notes, in the hopes of getting the details right and maintaining continuity.

It hasn’t been all bad. For one, it’s refreshing to open an older project and realize that your writing is actually quite good. Did we write that? Maybe we can do this. The re-read has also allowed Anne to identify a few ways to improve on the plot, as well as some fine-tuning of a few place names and descriptions and fixing a few formatting errors. For now, it will be key to keep the momentum going. Because we really don’t want to have to do this all again.

Anne will continue to work on Enoch. Nancy is working on our new paranormal thriller, Area 25. Eric is working with Nancy on the new project. He is also finishing up school, so we don’t expect much writing from him until his program is complete in March.

We appreciate you all sticking with us. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. We hope your new year is off to a good start.

Best wishes,

Anne, Nancy, and Eric

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2019 Wrap-Up

ornamentWelcome to the end of 2019! We’re so glad you could make it. We managed to publish one book in 2019, our paranormal thriller, The Oculars. Other than that, little progress was made on our other two works-in-progress. Today, we just finished up an impromptu Litzophreniacs meeting to discuss our plans for 2020. We know that changes need to be made if we are to see any progress. Here’s the plan…

Anne will take over the writing on our crime thriller, Enoch. She was the main writer from the beginning and it has not been a good fit for Nancy. Anne has also been floundering on the third New Mother Earth book, Servants of Gaia. While she did manage to add a tiny bit of new material, it was difficult to work on and it seems like a better choice to set it aside for the time being. She hopes to pick it back up after her brother Eric finishes his course of study in March.

Nancy will be focusing her efforts to a brand new project, working title, Jack. Jack will be a paranormal horror novel based in our fictional town of Riverside. It will be a standalone novel but will include cameos from some of our favorite characters. She’ll jump into the new project at the start of the new year.

We have also decided to disenroll all of our books and short stories from Kindle Unlimited. We have seen no uptick in sales nor books read, despite running numerous discounts and promotional giveaways on Amazon. The algorithm is not in our favor. We will keep our books available on Amazon but we will also be adding them to Smashwords, and maybe a few other sites that look promising. Sales have stagnated and we need to shake things up in an increasingly saturated indie book market. We’ll let you know when we go live on the other sites.

We’ll continue to update the blog, hopefully back to weekly posts. As always, we’ll focus on our literary doings. We appreciate you all sticking with us. We wish you all the best in the coming new year!

Kind regards,

Anne, Nancy, and Eric

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How’s that negative reinforcement going?


We bet you’re wondering how our plan to use negative reinforcement to overcome writer’s block is going. Well, let us tell you. It’s working splendidly. Both Nancy and Anne have managed to produce two chapters each in the last two weeks, as well as finding three more previously lost chapters.

So what did we agree to do? We knew that we needed to be held accountable in some way. A lack of a distinct deadline meant we were not answerable to anyone but ourselves and that meant we could easily skip writing. A devil’s bargain was struck between Anne and Nancy. (Eric is currently trying to finish up his schooling and working a new job. We gave him a pass.) They both agreed to produce a new chapter every Friday or be forced to pay $50 into the Litzophreniacs3 account. As Nancy said, “It has to be a large enough amount as to be painful, otherwise, we’ll buy our way out of it each week.” She was right and we now have new material.

Nancy is working on our serial killer manuscript, working title “Enoch”, and Anne is working on the third book in the New Mother Earth series, working title “Servants of Gaia.” The missing chapters were sent out last February but never made it into the manuscript. They’re in it now and we couldn’t be happier. All in all, we’re pretty happy with ourselves. And so, the agreement will remain in place for the foreseeable future. We don’t want to mess with what is working.

As always, thanks for sticking with us. It seems our writing dry spell is over. We hope your enjoying your November, wherever you are.

Kind regards,

Anne, Nancy, and Eric


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Portland Book Festival 2019

PDX Book Fair

Yesterday, we attended the annual Portland Book Festival at the Portland Museum of Art. It’s been on our list of all-things-book-related that we want to do for quite some time and we were glad to cross it off the list. (Also on the list, visiting Steven King’s house in Maine once it opens as a museum and writer’s retreat.) We did not attend any workshops or talks this time but we haven’t ruled that out for a future visit. The book tents were the main attraction and we wasted no time in getting inside. They proved to be a study in both what to do and what not to do when marketing one’s books and literary services to actual humans standing in front of your table.

Here are a few things that worked for us as readers (as you can see from our photo above, Anne’s youngest son found a couple of books that peaked his interest). Bookmarks and business cards were a great way for us to take information with us when we weren’t quite ready to commit to a sale. It was also a way for us to escape from particularly aggressive sales tactics that we encountered at a few tables. Clear, concise descriptions of the books on offer. We found the authors who led with their book’s genre and then a brief plot synopsis (and we mean very brief) to be a good hook. That allowed us to pick up books that fit our parameters and read their jacket synopsis as needed. “Do you like science fiction? This book might interest you.”

We also encountered a few things that kept us from buying and/or desperately looking for a way to escape. One that springs immediately to mind, we stopped at a table with two gentlemen seated behind a display of books. The books looked mildly interesting with local places named in the titles and the appropriate cover photos. The pitch, “You should check these books out. They’re great! I wrote them.” Friend chimes in, “I’ve read them all and I can tell you they are really good books! And I read a lot.” “I’m a local author.” This continued for a few minutes and we have to tell you, we still don’t know what those books were about. A quick, “this one is a coming of age tale…this one is a murder mystery…this one is a collection of stories about small-town life…” anything along those lines that would let us know what we were looking at would have helped immensely. The other no-no we encountered was the publishing services hard-sell. I get it, Brad, you need to get the word out about your indie-author publishing package. However, a business card and a sheet with a listing of your services and pricing would have been way more effective in getting the word out than the captive audience-car salesman pitch that we were subjected to. There aren’t too many people out there ready to commit to $1500 worth of publishing services based on your five minute pitch. Short, sweet, and to-the-point is the way to go.

We really enjoyed our visit to the Book Festival and as an added bonus, after our tent visit, we hit up a few of the galleries in the Portland Art Museum. We pretty much had the place to ourselves and it was a great way to end our day. We are definitely planning on attending next year although we do plan on saving ourselves some heartache by picking up the entrance bracelets a few days before the actual event. The line to get in was three blocks long but the event organizers and volunteers did a good job of keeping it moving.

And finally, a quick update on our new policy of negative writing reinforcement. So far, so good, with both Anne and Nancy managing to knock out a few chapters. We hope you all are having a great weekend.

Kind regards,

Anne, Nancy, and Eric

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Will Negative Reinforcement Work?


We sat down together a few days ago for a discussion of our distinct lack of progress over the last twelve months. The topic was nothing new. The same old finger-pointing took place and then we admitted our guilt and set to work concocting a new plan of action for getting our writing kickstarted coming into November. And what did we settle on this time? That’s right, a hefty weekly fine to be paid into the joint account every Sunday if a new chapter is not produced by Friday of every week. It had to be big enough to spur us to action because as our mom, Nancy, stated, “We’ll buy our way out of this if we don’t make it painful enough.”

Will it work? We’ll just have to wait and see.

As for the rest of our writing friends participating in NaNoWriMo this year. We wish you the best of luck. May your fingers fly across the keyboard. (Anne hasn’t ruled out participating yet, as it is still only the 2nd of November. She’ll let you know in an upcoming blog post.)

We hope you had a great Halloween. As always, thank you for your support.

Kind regards,

Anne, Nancy, and Eric


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Where Do The Ideas Come From?


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As anyone who has read our books knows, we write about some strange and off the wall subjects.  And where do the ideas for those subjects come from? Well, they come from right out of our heads.

Each of us had had some personal experience with the supernatural. We seem to draw that energy to us, without even trying. We’ve lived in haunted houses, had tiny lights dancing on our shoulders and played with little girls who were not there. Real phenomena or the fevered musings of over-active imaginations? Who knows, although it seemed very real at the time.

So, a combination of real life experience, stories heard from others and irrational fears have helped us create our own dark fantasy world. Ask yourself, have you ever had a brush with the unexplained, unexplainable, or simply terrifying? Our guess is that you have.

The next time you walk through a cold spot in an old house or hear words in a hoot owl’s cries, write it down. You just may have a best seller in the works.

Happy Halloween

Kind Regards,

Nancy Eric, and Anne

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Hobby vs. A Calling

photo of roadway surrounded by trees

These Fall days, with leaves turning gorgeous colors and a nip in the air, one can become reflective. Like the turning of the seasons, coupled with the physical and emotional changes in the world around us, one needs to reassess one’s own internal seasons to see what changes are coming or need to be addressed.

It’s very difficult to not allow the current atmosphere of hate and fear to affect one’s attitude and creativity.  The trees are beautiful but the world is not. Perhaps it’s just another excuse for not getting on the stick and writing, but we are struggling with a bit of creative depression. I’d like to think we will shake it off and pull ourselves up by the bootstraps because hope springs eternal, but it’s tough.

I’m not sure what catalyst we need to get going again. I like to think that the Litzo’s writing really is a calling we can’t long ignore, and not just a hobby we walk away from when it’s convenient. Nancy actually pulled up our latest work in progress and did some editing. Maybe all it takes is one of us to light the fire. Here’s hoping.

Don’t give up on us yet. Thanks for sticking with us. Best wishes for the Fall season.

Kind regards,

Nancy, Anne, and Eric

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A Blog About Our Blog

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Musings from Nancy:

As anyone who has followed our blog knows, lately we have been extremely erratic with the frequency of our posts. Why? Well, that’s a good question with a multitude of answers.

First and foremost, I believe, is the erosion of our enthusiasm for the whole business of writing and publishing. We started out all starry-eyed and ready to conquer the world. Even though we have humble aspirations, we do need some sort of feedback and atta-boys, much like the preschooler who needs a constant stream of assurances to let them know they are doing well.  Money would be nice, too.

Yes, we are grown adults and not toddlers, but we started off our self-publishing endeavor with great fanfare, lots of sales, and great reviews. Then Amazon changed the game about a year after we went live with our first books and we became lost in the crowd. We still get the occasional sale from someone who happened to chance on one of our books, but even with KDP sales and giveaways, we are buried in the search lists. (We’ve written seven and have several more in the works.)

Second and nearly as important is the insidious creep of personal commitments. It’s become just too easy to make the decision to put our writing second or third in the line of things that we need to take care of in our daily lives, usually with only a modicum of urgency. In other words, we are lacking in commitment.

But, in spite of all this, we still have not given up. Writing and collaborating with each other is still our goal. The Litzos have grit and are not easily dissuaded so, we will still attempt to regroup and carry on. Hopefully, we will soon be able to report progress with writing and editing. Thank you all for not giving up on us. We shall try to not disappoint.

Kind regards,

Nancy, Anne, and Eric



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Writing as a chore…


Anne’s contribution to the blog this morning –

“Ugh, what is wrong with me?” This question seems to be plaguing me this summer, if not the last few years and is almost solely related to my inability to sit down and finish the Gaia trilogy. Heck, I haven’t even kept up with the blog these last few months. I had one day this summer that I actually sat down and wrote for more than ten minutes and that was while attending a write-in at my local library with some like-minded individuals. It was glorious and gave me hope but had not yet been repeated. This has made me wonder, could the problem be that I have equated writing with chores (and not one very high on my to-do list)? And how do I recapture the joy and sense of accomplishment I used to feel working in my fictional world? What do I do?

I think I’m going to have to get back to the basics. When we first started writing, we promised each other that we would have 500 words down on paper by Friday of every week. I know, I know, it’s barely a blip but when you are starting from nothing, 500 words is an approachable number. And it was! Every week, we sat down with our measly offerings, sharing what we wrote and planning our next installment. Those 500 words grew to a 1,000. By the end of that first year, we’d finished Creek House and Exiles of Gaia. It felt great. I think I need to shrink my writing goals and go a little easier on myself. I will move that mountain, one shovelful at a time, and I will keep you updated on my progress.

Thanks for sticking with us. We appreciate the support of our friends and family.

Kind regards,

Anne, Nancy, and Eric


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