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Dear Extra Squeeze Team, Writing about Family, Good Idea or Not?

August 31, 2020 by in category The Extra Squeeze by The Extra Squeeze Team, Writing tagged as , , ,

Dear Extra Squeeze Team, I have a story I want to tell that is loosely based on family and friends. How do I tell my story without hurting anyone?

Robin Blakely | The Extra Squeeze Team | A Slice of Orange

Robin Blakely

PR/Business Development coach for writers and artists; CEO, Creative Center of America; member, Forbes Coaches Council.

Begin by writing the complete story—beginning to end—the way you truly imagine it. Write with precision honesty without the fear of hurting anyone.

When done writing, evaluate what you have created. It is in the editing stage where you will objectively be able to decide how to share the story publicly without hurting anyone. If the finished story is meant to be fiction, you can go back and make sure physical identifiers that link to nonfiction people (like a skull tattoo on the left arm above a knife scar) are changed to protect the innocent or the not-so-innocent.

If someone has inspired you to recreate their character in a fictional world, rest assured your depiction of their internal thoughts, feelings, and motivations won’t be the tipoff that the character is loosely based on this real person; it will be the physical attributes that you choose.

Most people don’t recognize themselves in someone else’s writing unless they are told the character is modeled after them or the physical facts are eerily the same: age, body build, hair color, scars, name, physical location, profession, relationships with others, or facts from exact encounters are replayed in the work.

If the story you are telling is meant to be nonfiction, you have a different issue. In a biography or a memoir, you need to tell the truth as you know it, but you must also share your truth in a way that can be formally substantiated by the research of others. If you are afraid you might hurt someone by telling the truth in your work and you are naming names across your work, you need to consult an attorney before publication because hurting feelings may result in a lawsuit.

Jenny Jensen | A Slice of Orange

Jenny Jensen

Developmental editor who has worked for twenty plus years with new and established authors of both fiction and non-fiction, traditional and indie.


Cue dramatic music:

Deep Voice Over: The names in this story have been changed to protect the innocent.

That’s a start. Every writer works from what they know — even if they’re writing about elves and spaceships and unicorns. Our own experiences are what we draw on to launch our imagination. And it’s the real-life situations that often give a writer the rich soil for a gripping tale.

Just write the story. When you’ve laid it all out, step away for some distance then read it with fresh eyes to spot what might be so obvious as to be hurtful. If you find the narrative is obvious, even though it is based loosely on family and friends, then consider what the compelling idea is in this tale. What was the single most gripping element that made you want to write about it in the first place? Take that compelling idea and re-write from that prospective.

Or just start with that single compelling idea rather than with the cast of friends and family. Stories have a way of charting their own course and it’s very likely, that with that shift in perspective your story will be unique enough to withstand the scrutiny of sensitive family and friends.

Rebecca Forster | Extra Squeeze

Rebecca Forster 

USA Today Bestselling author of 35 books, including the Witness series and the new Finn O’Brien series.


I have used family and friends for inspiration in many of our books. For the most part if I didn’t tell the individual who inspired me, they did not recognize themselves. If I did tell them I was going to do it, most of them were thrilled.

Then there came a time when I happily told my sister I had used our age differences as the foundational inspiration for my story. (she is fourteen years younger than I am and we were born on the same day). She was thrilled­–until she read the book. She asked, “Is this really what you think of me?” To be fair she was the bitchy, beautiful sister accused of murder, and I was the smart but downtrodden attorney who saves her.

It had nothing to do with real life other than the span in our ages. Still, when she asked that question, I understood that there was a difference between inspiration and hitting close to home including the perception of hitting close to home.

The answer was, no, the character in no way was my sister. Their physical characteristics were the same, not their character.

What you’re talking about is even more delicate. You are going to be exploring actual things that happened to you and your family. If this is an honest memoir you need to be ready for the fallout. If this is fiction, you’ll need to be very skillful when you write to navigate the hurt feelings—or worse— that might arise. Ask yourself a) is this book is necessary to your well-being and b) if you are strong enough to face any and all consequences that will come with writing it. You are the only one who knows the answers.

H. O. Charles | A Slice of Orange

H.O. Charles

Cover designer and author of the fantasy series, The Fireblade Array

Ooooh *eyes widen* “awaits gossip*
I think the only way to do that is to write under a pseudonym and don’t tell them about it. People aren’t always as stupid as we hope they are. They’ll figure out it’s them in no time!

The Extra Squeeze | A Slice of Orange

Ever wonder what industry professionals think about the issues that can really impact our careers? Each month The Extra Squeeze features a fresh topic related to books and publishing.

Amazon mover and shaker Rebecca Forster and her handpicked team of book professionals offer frank responses from the POV of each of their specialties — Writing, Editing, PR/Biz Development, and Cover Design.

Send us your questions! 

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January 15, 2020 by in category The Write Life by Rebecca Forster, Writing tagged as , , , , ,

So my brother called the other day (actually 2 days into the new year) and said: I have a friend and she wants to write a book. Can you just talk to her and tell her everything you know? I already gave her your phone number.

I have five brothers and sisters, a mom and any number of cousins, in-laws and friends who have each made this request on various occasions.  I am always happy to help new writers, but I’m not crazy about my phone number passed around. First, I was probably the only teenage girl in the world who hated talking on the phone and that hasn’t changed in the last 50 years. More importantly it is impossible to distill 30 plus years of writing and publishing experience into a quick conversation and have it benefit a new writer.

The good news is that there is email. Email allows me to put information into a manageable format, provide links to appropriate sites that will help the writer, and allow that person to save the conversation for future reference.  Here are some thoughts for the author willing to pay it forward, the writer looking for help, and the brothers and sisters who love to share the author in the  family.

THE REFERER: Ask (preferably not with the new writer standing in front of you) if the author has time to help and how they would like to be contacted. Always allow the author to beg off even though most won’t. Writing is a time consuming business and multiple requests can feel overwhelming especially when an author is in the middle of a big project.

THE REFEREE: Be prepared. This tells the author that you are willing to work hard. Preparation should include a basic understanding of what you want to write (genre, form, etc.) and your goal (traditional or indie publishing, to create a career, expand a hobby). Have a short list of specific questions. Don’t try to cover the entire industry in one conversation.

Be respectful. An established author has built her business through trial and error, hard work, rejection and acceptance. Often she has paid for classes and conferences. Respect her hard work, commitment, and risk.

THE AUTHOR IN THE MIDDLE: Be gracious and as effective as you can be. A new writer will be nervous speaking to an established author, so put her at her ease. Then remember that there is a fine line between useful information and too much information. Usually it is possible to tell how much the Referee can absorb from their first contact.  If a new writer can’t articulate whether they want to be an indie or a traditionally published author start with the basics, direct this writer to blogs on publishing and offer recommendations for coaches and writing classes. The nuances of the industry would be lost on a true newbie.

Set parameters. I am always grateful when a new author asks if it’s okay to check back in. I love the request as much as I love to hear the progress. As new writers become grounded, their questions often help me rethink my work as much as it helps them move forward.

Don’t miss Lost Witness, Rebecca’s newest addition to The Witness Series, a Josie Bates Thriller.

Join over 2 million readers of The Witness Series!

Amazon: AppleBooks Nook

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The Perfect (writing) Gift

December 15, 2019 by in category The Write Life by Rebecca Forster tagged as , ,

I was speaking to a new writer the other day, and I was impressed by her clarity. She knew enough to understand the life of a writer is tough, but she was willing to work hard. What really impressed me, though, was when she asked if she could share what I told her with her husband because he was her biggest fan.

I told her that put her ten steps ahead of most people since family support is critical for an artist.  No message board, chat room or critique group can truly duplicate a family’s faith, their unflagging support, and, if a writer is very lucky, loving honesty. I know because I was showered with that kind of support from day one.

While I may have started writing because of a crazy dare, my first stab at writing was pretty traditional. By that I mean it was awful.  I threw away the pages (there were no computers then). One day when I was cleaning I found that sad little manuscript under the sofa. The story I considered idiotic, my husband believed was incredible merely because I had created it. That gesture – pulling the pages out of the trash and hiding them to preserve my ‘brilliance’ – was enough to make me sit down and try again. 

When that book sold, I dared to dream that I had actually started on a career path. It wasn’t an easy one. There were challenges and frustrations, joys and excruciating anticipation. For every two steps forward there was one step back, and all of it was shared with family. In return, family gave back encouragement, sympathetic ears and selfless celebration when it was called for. Often my husband did the household chores after his own long day at work so I could write in the evening. When I wrote during the day I kept my two toddlers quiet for a while by putting an old typewriter on the floor, threading it with paper, and telling them to write their book while I wrote mine.

Books were sold, books were rejected, books were started and never finished. My family endured my tears and meltdowns when things looked bleak.  But when something good happened the celebration was a family affair even if it was just a trip to McDonalds for McNuggets in those early days. It was my husband who found the Kindle opportunity before I even heard of it. One of my children is a writer now and we spend long hours in the kitchen talking craft. My other son works in Hollywood and brings a whole knew point of view to my storytelling.

Over the years, over the course of penning 39 books, nothing has changed in our household. My family are my biggest fans (even if my husband can’t remember the titles of my books). I am so grateful for every word they’ve ever spoken, every hug I’ve received, and every chore they’ve undertaken in service to my work.

Throughout my thirty-year career I also learned a very important lesson: to return the favor. Whether a person writes books, don judge’s robes, manages an office, waits tables, pilots an airplane, or is a cop on the beat; no matter what we are in the ‘real world ‘the best gift we can give and receive is the utter, undying, unshakeable faith in those we love.

No matter who you are, what you do, or what you dream give the gift of goodwill to someone you love because it will come back to you ten fold.

Merry Xmas.

Don’t miss Rebecca’s new release, Lost Witness.

Join over 2 million readers of The Witness Series and never miss a Josie Bates Thriller.

Amazon AppleBooks Nook

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Chatting with Nikki Prince by Jann Ryan

September 2, 2019 by in category Jann says . . . tagged as , , , , ,

Today, I’m happy to be chatting with author, Nikki Prince. Nikki is a mother of two, who always had a dream to be a published author. Her passion lies in raising her children, gaming, reading and writing.  She has two Masters, one in English and the other in Creative Writing concentration in fiction.

Nikki’s a multi-published author with several publishing houses. She loves to write Interracial romances in all genres but wants to let everyone know to not box her in because there is always room for growth.  Nikki believes that love should truly be color blind and for all.

Nikki’s a member of Romance Writers of America National, DARA, and several online chapters.

Author Links

Facebook Page 
Facebook Group

Bakersfield Romance Writers Links

Facebook Group
Facebook Page
Website: coming soon

Jann Ryan: Since 2012, you have published seventeen books, earned a BA and MA in English and Creative Writing, active in several Romance Writers of America chapters, moved twice all while raising two wonderful children. Wow—how did you do it all?

Nikki Prince: It’s actually about 25 books and I earned another Masters in Literature during this time frame.  My two teens have been a great help as well as inspiration for me because I want them to know that anything is possible in their life as long as they go for it. 

I went back to school in 2014 and garnered the BA, and two MA’s in a 3-year span and have maintained a 3.9 GPA.  I’ve been wanting to write since I was 11 years old.  I finally made that dream a reality when I turned 43 and realized it is never too late to do what you’ve always wanted to do.  Writing and reading has been a passion for since I first found romance books at age 11.  Before finding my grandmother’s romances, and Johanna Lindsey on my father’s dresser I hated to read. 

Reading helped me in so many ways, you see I had a learning disability.  However, once I found romance books and started reading that all changed for me and the only inkling of a disability that I still have is in math which is another part of the brain.  Reading and writing saved my life in so many ways and knowing that I can bring joy to someone else from reading the worlds and characters that I build is so satisfyingly wonderful.  Another shining part in my writing and real life is belonging to RWA it is a wonderful community where writers of like minds can be together to nurture one another.

Jann Ryan: It’s Complicated debut in April of 2018. A reviewer declared it was a “steamy, intriguing romance.” Another said it was “friends with benefits until it goes sideways.” You have two great characters, Ashton Locke and Keiko Jarrett. For our readers who may not have found this incredible book tell us about it.

Nikki Prince: I’ve had this thought of creating a bunch of friends for who all intents and purposes are the best of girlfriends with great guy friends.  Three sets of friends and the desire to be together and yet there is something holding them back.  Ashton and Keiko’s love story has a few twists along the way to get to the HEA, because everyone deserves a happy ever after.

Jann Ryan: When can we read the next Nikki Prince novel?

Nikki Prince: The last story that I had come out is a short called Blurred Lines, and it came out June 2019.  I am working on edits for the second book in the Undeniable Series with  Áine Reid and Darian Tisdale in a story called “It’s Work” and following that the next story which is Emmerson Collins and Royce Hanson’s story called, “It’s Real.”  Beyond that I have a lot of stories still left in me to write.  Stories that may be paranormal, contemporary and love between the same gender, opposite gender, interracial mix or same racial mix as I believe everyone’s story should be told.

Jann Ryan: Have you ever suffered writer’s block? If so, how did/do you get past it?

Nikki Prince: Indeed, I have.  I know there are some that say that writer’s block is imaginary.  In some ways I think that is true because there is inspiration to write everywhere.  However, there are times when the brain doesn’t want to function and let you put out the stories as you have before.  Because let’s face it, life can be messy it is one of the reasons most of us read romance is because it lets us get out of our own heads, our own lives and for a moment in time live a life of beauty. 

How I get past it is I game (I play World of Warcraft have since 2006), I spend time with my children, Travel somewhere different , read something else and sometimes a nap will rejuvenate the mind and spirit.   When I moved to Dallas last year in 2018 it was hard to get a chance to write and for me that was a block, however if it is in you to write and to create it never goes away so here I am.

Jann Ryan: What are you doing now between writing and life?

Right now I am working on putting together a writing community here in Bakersfield, California.  I knew when I moved here that RWA wasn’t represented here and I want to change that.  So far I have about 7 other people within the group.  I hope to gain more so that I can apply for Bakersfield Romance Writers to be a full chapter of the Romance Writers of America.  I am also in grad school for a third Masters.  This is a Masters in Marketing and Social Media.  I’m taking my time with this MA as I already have two and there is no rush, besides I have plenty of stories within me that I want to share with the world.

Jann Ryan: What’s your writing day like?

My writing day really depends.  Between having two teens in High School, being in grad school and looking for a full-time job here in Bakersfield (I’ve only been here since June), I write wherever and whenever I can.  That has always been the way of it since 2012.  I love writing and creating so I will write at night, in the afternoon, and in the morning.  Whatever it takes to get the stories done, I’ll do it.  One of the ways to do that is I love to do National Novel Writing Month (NanoWriMo) every November so that I can just immerse myself in my stories for a whole month.

A Few Books by Nikki Prince

#Me Too

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#Me Too


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New Chapter By Denise M. Colby

June 12, 2019 by in category The Writing Journey by Denise Colby tagged as , , ,

Two graduation caps one blue one black with 2019 tassel new chapter blog post by Denise M. Colby

Books are written with chapters. Some books organize thoughts and points by chapter. Others are just continuing the story either from a different POV or a new plot twist, which makes us want to continue reading, wondering what will happen next.

Our lives are a little like this as well.

Some can be really long chapters and some can be short. A lot depends on what we are doing in the middle of the chapter and our control over whether we are starting fresh or not. Sometimes a new school year can be a new chapter, sometimes a new semester, or sometimes it’s changing schools or graduating. All these stages in life can be a new chapter.

All three of my boys have new chapters this year – they are graduating something.

The oldest had his a few weeks ago from the Community College he has been attending. And today we celebrate the other two – my youngest graduates 8th grade, while my middle son graduates high school. Both on the same day. It’s been a bit nuts the past few weeks. Lots of lasts, lots of goodbyes, lots of getting things ready for the next year, whether it was math placement tests, or turning in paperwork for college. It has been so fun to be on this journey with them, but I’m also very excited to turn the page and see what happens next.

At my age it’s a lot easier to reflect back and know what an exciting time this is for all three of them. They can do anything they put their minds to. Many doors will open and some will close. It will be up to them to make it all happen. And it’s interesting to see how quickly something can change or an opportunity presents itself.

Kind of like our characters do in the books we write.

It makes me think about my writing and somehow trying to put that same expectancy on the page. So that when we read we can’t put a book down because we are excited for what’s around the corner and we don’t want to miss it.

I sort of forget how flexible we all were when we were younger. Not so set in routine and order. Maybe that’s something I should keep in mind when I’m working on my book.

Happy Graduation boys. Mom is super proud of you!

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