MJ is a writer and writing consultant devoted to her muse and to helping other writers gain confidence, overcome obstacles, and unleash the story within. She offers multiple services on her platform, mjpankey.com, and creates helpful content for writers on her youtube channel.
The person in front of you is red-faced, jaw-clenched, fists balled at their sides, they look ready to punch something, or someone, and mad enough to do it. You stare, fumbling for words that won’t form. How can this situation get any worse? More importantly, how could it possibly get better?
Is the person mad at the POV or someone else?
What relationship does this person have to the POV?
You wish you knew how this would turn out. As you hesitate, everything that could go wrong swirls together in your head. You feel dizzy, shaky; the stakes suddenly appear much larger than they were just a moment ago. But then, what if it all goes according to plan?
What is the POV hesitant to do?
What are some things that could go wrong?
What are the stakes?
What will happen if it all goes according to plan?
My name is MJ and I’ve been in love with storytelling since I was a child.
I never had trouble coming up with a rough plot or concepts for my stories, but once I started the actual writing part, I would always come to a place in the story where I would realize I hadn’t worked out an important detail. So, I would backtrack and try to weave it in. More often than not, this caused a snowball of issues that would quickly become overwhelming, and I would end up starting over completely from scratch or abandoning the story altogether.
Does this sound familiar?
To help me figure out where I was going wrong, I started the Augusta Writer’s Critique Group on Meetup in August 2018 to collaborate with other writers, learn from them, share my experiences, and support a community that loves words and assembling them into sentences as much as I do. Now boasting over 550 members, the Augusta Writer’s Critique Group has given me the opportunity to work with many writers who have become successfully published authors.
And it’s also given me the chance to work alongside writers who get stuck just like me.
My experience as a critique host has helped me to pinpoint the key questions that successful writers answer during their planning stage and unsuccessful writers do not.
The Writer’s Muse Focus Deck was born!
I had 3 basic principles in mind when I was forming my vision for this project.
1) I wanted to make a product that was straightforward and simple to usefor any genre of fiction.
I’ve acquired a lot of writing tools over the years, but a common problem in all of them was they were overcomplicated and hard to keep organized, not applicable to the genre I was writing, and most were too jargony. I found myself looking up more terms to understand those tools than doing actual research for my novel.
Another problem, and perhaps the most impactful, was that none of these tools took my unique writing style into account, and I found the rigidness of their application very stunting for my Muse, which only added to my frustration.
The Writer’s Muse Focus Deck is simple and easy to use.
There are 54 cards, comprised of eight categories shared across all genres of fiction:
The cards are color-coded by category and numbered 1-54 so you can tailor them to YOURunique writing style:
1) Go one by one from start to finish for a more structured approach
2) Select the exact color-coded category for a targeted approach
3) Or shuffle the deck for a spontaneous or randomized approach
Whether you’re writing a children’s picture book, a gruesome horror, a complex high fantasy world, or whichever section of the bookstore you imagine your novel displayed, the Writer’s Muse Focus Deck’s questions are applicable to all genres.
2) I wanted to make a product that would be useful for bothexperienced authors and new writers alike
The biggest obstacle for new writers is not having a clue what questions to ask to create cohesive narrative and compelling characters, or to introduce page-turning tension into the story to hook readers and keep them engaged until the very last word.
Even as an experienced writer, I still need a focus; a one-stop shop to invoke my Muse and pour my inspiration out into a cohesive, complete, and clear path to novel writing success.
When it boils down to it, writers just want to write, to complete novels and get them out into the world for reader consumption. Spending weeks or months eeking out the details of a plot or characters, then finding out halfway through a draft that something important was overlooked and major rewrites are needed to resolve them is a nonstarter.
The Writer’s Muse Focus Deck is a smooth, fast, repeatable processthat all writers can use to iron out the important details and get writing with confidence.
The deck’s eight color-coded categories address critical elements of storytelling shared across all genres of fiction. No matter how complex your story, this deck is specific enough to uncover the finer details, and high level enough to reuse multiple times in your planning stage to address more complexities if needed.
Four separate planets? Run through the Macro-level worldbuilding questions for each one.
Eight main characters? The Main Character cards will enable you to give each one their own unique voice.
Six antagonists? The Antagonist cards will help you sort out all of their devious intentions.
3) I wanted to make a product that could be valuable for every stage of the writing process
As an experienced writer, I fully understand that a first draft is not a perfect specimen, no matter how meticulous your planning stage or process is. Once you start writing, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the story and move your fingers faster than your brain can keep up. A few things are bound to need a bit more fleshing out after that first draft is done.
That’s why I also wanted a product that would help writers revise their first draft, and pinpoint exactly what needs more development to polish their efforts into something that’s ready to send to an editor, a beta reader, or an agent.
The Writer’s Muse Focus Deck lets you easily identify areas in your narrative that need more development so you can get to work on your next revision with a clear focus.
So where am I in the production process?
The Kickstarter has officially launched!!!!! And you can see it for yourself by clicking here: Kickstarter Campaign
Watch the video!
The questions are written, and the vendor who will be printing them selected.
The decks pictured in the photographs above are prototypes.
I’m still narrowing down the cardstock I want the cards printed on. I have experimented with two different cardstock options so far: smooth and linen.
The linen cardstock is by far the more durable and pleasant to touch than the smooth, but it’s slightly more expensive.
I’m waiting on a third prototype made of eco-herbage cardstock to arrive to determine if the durability is up to the standards required for novelists who will be using this product again and again.
Follow the Kickstarter to be updated when I receive the eco-herbage prototype and compare all the options.
Pledge your support for this product on Kickstarter and reserve your Writer’s Muse Focus Deck to experience how this game-changing card deck can help you focus your muse and get writing!!!
Ex-military Patton Harcourt lives a quiet life as a librarian in small town North Carolina. When a sniper upsets her morning pastry making, she’s forced to team up with professional assassin Nemo to foil an elaborate neo-Nazi plot to discover Heinrich Himmler’s lost recipe for Alchemy. If Patton and Nemo do not get to it first, the Third Reich have all it needs to return to power and perpetuate their horror on the world once again.
I’m a bit of WWII History nerd, so this one piqued my interest immediately, especially when the title says Enigma and Bletchley Park was mentioned on the back cover. I went on the 75th Anniversary of D-Day tour with EF Tours in 2019 and visited many of the places these characters go in Enigma Affair. Bletchley Park was one of them and was absolutely incredible.
While on that tour, we also visited several Holocaust memorials and learned in depth history and details about some of atrocities that took place, which are also deeply threaded into this book. I was engrossed in Lovett’s characters and in tune to their purpose throughout the book.
Lovett did a phenomenal job with his research in regard to Bletchley Park and its contribution to the Allied victory, WWII artifacts and timelines, Nazis, the Holocaust, and neo-Nazis too. His blend of factual Nazi propaganda strategies and modern-day outreach methods enhanced by technological advances was brilliant and thorough. I can totally see people (literally and figuratively) with sinister motives preying on the good graces of everyday people to further their evil intentions without a second thought.
Charlie Lovett’s character voices were distinct, and their personalities intriguingly flawed, which I enjoyed. Each main character had something from their past that haunted them and directly influenced their interactions and beliefs about the world and wove nicely into the plot of the story. Even the villain was well developed, and her plans to return Nazism to global prominence were closer to possible than I was comfortable with, so the stakes were extremely high for me.
That said, I felt the beginning was a bit slow. When Patton and Nemo teamed up, I didn’t get a good sense of the anxiety of the situation that I feel two strangers being shot at would have, but after a few chapters this smoothed out really nicely.
There were also a couple things that I felt were edging on Deus ex Machina. It seemed like the one person in the world with the expertise they needed to solve a clue either showed up at the right time or they knew them personally. Despite feeling a bit convenient at times, I still enjoyed the story immensely.
The Enigma Affair is filled with suspense, betrayal, intrigue, and haunting facts from humanity’s darkest years that, if forgotten, have the potential to be repeated again. The Enigma Affair is not only a thrilling work of fiction, but it’s a reminder that the evils of yesteryear could easily creep into our future if we are not vigilant.
Wind whistles outside. Damp creeps in. With a silent groan, you brace yourself to face whatever madness awaits. You always knew this day would come, you just hadn’t anticipated it would be quite so…wet.
Where is your character?
What madness awaits?
Why is it so wet?
How does your character feel about what awaits them?
A journey of healing and its grief, frustration, anger, sadness, and acceptance, and all of the emotions and trauma in between. From Heartbreak to Hopeful is a powerful collection of poems that reaches into the soul of humanity’s most difficult challenge: overcoming heartbreak.
I was given a copy of this book as an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
From Heartbreak to Hopeful‘s 51 poems explore Shelby’s climb out of the depths of heartbreak, delving into the lingering trauma of her experiences and the painful process of healing.
As someone who has experienced heartbreak and trauma from a manipulative relationship like Shelby’s, I connected with her story, identified with her self-doubt, her anger, at times desperation, oppressive hopelessness, and loss of confidence in herself and life in general.
Shelby’s journey continues through to hope: recovery, acceptance, closure, and the freedom that comes from learning to love oneself again.
For anyone who is going through heartbreak now, this is a beautiful collection to inspire hope for the future and share the collective energy of healing and self-love between survivors. For those of us who have gone through it before, it’s a gentle reminder of what we overcame and how we are better and stronger for our experiences.
What is so unique about From Heartbreak to Hopeful is that the poems are arranged in such a way that they can be read in order from back to front as well, showcasing just how feelings of love can spiral into heartbreak. Reading it this way was surprisingly insightful in pinpointing the behaviors and warning signs of a relationship turning sour; a vivid reminder of how subtle toxicity can be in a relationship and how it can worm its way into the seemingly happiest of places. It was creative and eye-opening, and I give major props to Shelby for arranging her poems so carefully to be read both ways.
In addition to the poems and arrangement, she has also included several of her own illustrations throughout which are absolutely beautiful and enhance the emotional connection to the poems.
This is an awesome and powerful poetry collection to add to your library; a beautiful reminder that while heartbreak reaches deep, it isn’t permanent.
You can purchase From Heartbreak to Hopeful on Amazon through this link.
Excitement stirs inside your chest. It’s today! You’ve been looking forward to this for what feels like forever! As you get ready, something gives you pause. It doesn’t feel right, as though something, or someone, is pulling you back.
What is supposed to happen today? Where is the POV? Who, or what, is pulling them back and why? How does your character feel about this sudden change? What happens next?