Posts Tagged ‘stranger than fiction’

Three writing lessons from snow country.

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I live in Northern, California and this means that I am not rugged. I will admit this freely. It the temps drop below fifty I am not certain of my survival, and I am only vaguely familiar with the concept of snow. Hence, when I traveled to Lake Tahoe this weekend, I learned a thing or two! These lessons are so true of the writing life, so I thought I’d share.

Lesson #1: You’re gonna need chains. Yep, to write a book and make the summit you’re going to need some help. Yes, I know your car is nifty and has all the bells and whistles, just like your computer, but at the end of the day you’re going to need down and dirty helping tools like old obscure books (A Writer’s Guide to Poisons, anyone?). You’re going to find yourself hoarding good old fashioned notepads, and perhaps, dare I suggest it, a phone for calling various experts that do not respond to emails or texts. I know, archaic as old steel chains, but there it is.

Lesson #2:  You’re gonna need other people.  Writing is a solitary endeavor for sure. It’s a ‘buns in the chair’ get-it-done kind of slog up the mountain, but when you think you’re reached the summit, that’s where the strangers come in. You need to hand yourself over to that chain guy or that snow plow operator and trust your precious property into their hands. That is to say, you gotta let people help you. Often times, this means people you don’t know…hiring that proofreader, allowing that online critique group to read your work, or in the traditional publishing world, that editor who is going to potentially tear up your writing. It’s important. You have no objectivity about your writing, I’m sorry say. You need the chain guy and the snow plow operator to make your work the best it can be.

Lesson #3. God’s going to take you on an adventure. You will be changed by the journey. You will learn things about yourself that you didn’t know. God will show you sights more incredible that you could ever have imagined. Savor that as you head up the mountain.

Did you ever learn a lesson during your travels? Would love to hear about it! 

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http://www.amazon.com/Seaside-Secrets-Pacific-Coast-Private-ebook/dp/B015W8IXOE/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1461595987&sr=8-3&keywords=Seaside+Secrets

 

Corned beef….and Key Lime Pie? A St. Patty’s Day recipe for you.

 

Reposting this in case you need a quick St. Patty’s Day recipe!

Irish Blessing
May the roof above us never fall in.
And may the friends gathered below it never fall out.

A quick St. Patrick’s Day blessing for all. I hope today finds you enjoying the people and places that you love! Any special activities on the books for today at your house? I believe there is corned beef and cabbage on the horizon at O’Mentink Manor! Below is a recipe I’m preparing for tonight. Yes, I realize it’s not Irish in the slightest, but it is green and YUMMY!

Key Lime Pie

1 container frozen limeade

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 tub Cool Whip

3 drops green food coloring

1 graham cracker crust

Thaw limeade. Pour half into a bowl. (You can use the other half to make limeade if you adjust the water. )shamrock

Add condensed milk and combine along with the three drops of green food coloring. Fold in Cool Whip. Pour into prepared graham cracker crust and chill. Enjoy!

Does Springsteen have writing talent? Why it doesn’t really matter.

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That baby Outlaw Pete certainly gets around! He’s the hero of Bruce Springsteen’s first children’s book and the star of his song, Outlaw Pete. Springsteen was inspired by a 1950’s children’s book entitled Brave Cowboy Bill. So does a rock star have the chops to write a children’s book? The answer is…it doesn’t really matter. He’s got what matters more, an amazing platform.

A platform is basically an author’s access to readers. Springsteen has plenty of access with 64 million albums sold in the U.S. alone. Other celebs like Dennis Rodman, Madonna, Henry Winkler have nifty platforms as well. Publishers will scoop them up because their name on the cover will sell rafts of books. Does that sound cynical? Should I be peeved because I’ve worked at my craft and struggled through years of trying to establish a platform by being devoted to the writing business?

Here’s the way I look at it. Those celebrities have worked just as hard to create their individual platforms. Dennis Rodman (while I am not totally sure he’s of Planet Earth) strove to become an excellent basketball player and Bruce Springsteen labored just as diligently in building his music career. They are creative, talented people who, because of their hard work, moved easily into the writing business. Besides, these creative, original thinking celebrities may have plenty of writing talent. I remind myself that one of the children’s books that had a profound influence on me was just such a novel written by Julie Andrews, entitled The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles. Sure, she might have gotten an easy in with her publisher because of her celebrity status, but as it turns out, she is a pretty nifty creative writer. Talented people are often talented in many ways.

Would you buy Bruce Springsteen’s new book? Why or why not? Giving away a signed book, a Starbuck’s gift card and a fall surprise this month.

Top three writing obstacles.

 

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Ah the perks of the writing biz are great, to be sure, but let’s not sugarcoat it. There are some serious obstacles to making a go of it in this strange business. Here are a few I’ve faced personally.

1. You need an agent to get published… and an agent is looking for published writers.

Uh oh. Most publishing houses will not accept unagented submissions and most agents prefer a client with some publishing credits under their belt. That’s an obstacle, now isn’t it? How does one get around that? I published a three book series with Barbour before I was acquired by my agent. There are still a few houses (like Barbour and Harlequin) who will take unagented work, so you can try to build your career that way which will make you more attractive to an agent. You can also build your writing credits by contributing to magazines, ezines, blogs, etc. and even self publishing if you’re enormously committed to marketing that ebook. Every publishing credit can only make you more attractive to an agent.

2. Hours in….money out. It’s a time consuming business to write a book. The fastest I’ve ever managed is three months. As my agent says, “A good book is better than a fast book.” That said, the time investment is huge on a book that may never see the shelf. So what’s the remedy for that? There isn’t one, really, except to stagger your work and make sure there are several income producing projects afoot at one time. Also, books can be self pubbed, of course, but the quality needs to be just as amazing as it would be in a traditionally published novel.

3.  The “write what sells” vs. “what I want to write” dilemma. I know folks who absolutely love what they write and it sells like hotcakes. Me? Not so much. I tend to write “quirky” I’m afraid, and that doesn’t always translate into mainstream sales. Obviously, my publisher and I both want my books to fly off the shelves, but I can’t justify writing about topics just because they are popular. So what’s the answer? Somehow, I need to find that balance. I need to hear from my publisher what they feel is going to appeal to their readers (and they have a keen sense of this) and I must write my own story that balances both what the readers want with what I am comfortable writing. Best case is we hit upon a winner that makes us all happy.

What obstacles do you have in your work or daily life? How do you overcome them? Giving away a Starbuck’s gift card, a signed book and a fall treat this month.

 

Three best perks of being a writer

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Yep, it’ s a hard job writing fiction books for a living but really, the perks just can’t be beat! Here are the three best things about my wacky job.

1.  It fosters curiosity.  As you’ve probably heard me say before, my other job is an elementary school teacher and you’d think that would be high on the “fosters curiosity” list too, but frankly, teaching 26 kids of varying levels and needs takes every bit of mental stamina I possess. In a word, I’m too busy to indulge my curiosity much while in the thick of things, but writing is lovely because it causes me to ask questions. What if a massive earthquake hit an old opera house? How would a man react to having his childhood disease return? What would it be like to be uncertain of your own identity?

2.  It can be done anywhere. My favorite location to write is sitting opposite my wild tangle of tomato plants, banging away on the keyboard while butterflies and finches do their thing. I’ve also written in coffee shops, the back seat of cars and composed tricky sections mentally while in the bathtub. (Do yourself a favor and don’t imagine that last one!)

3. I can provide justice in an unjust world. I only read the paper on Sunday and it’s INFURIATING. I know God’s justice will prevail ultimately, but I’m maddened to see how things are going along right now. I mean this I.S.I.S group? Violent crime in the U.S.? Children betrayed by the people who were supposed to protect them? I feel powerless to set anything right on planet earth, but in my books? Oh you’d better believe bad people will be punished! SEVERELY! I know it’s only fiction, but there’s some comfort in that, right?

So what are the perks of your current job or those you’ve held in the past? It’s a big prize month here at the blog. The September prize is a signed book, Starbuck’s card and a fun fall treat! I so value all of your comments!

Three comments that kill a writer’s ego.

 

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What’s the worst thing you can say to a writer? I’m sure there’s an impressive list that can wound our fragile egos. Here are a few that stand out in my mind.

#1) I didn’t finish your book. Oh, the agony. Was it a sagging middle? The characters weren’t fully fleshed out? You hated the font? It’s like telling a chef the food wasn’t good enough to bother eating. Excuse me, while I go throw myself into a lake!

#2) There’s not enough sex in your book. Sigh. If you want lots of graphic content, you’re just not going to get that from me. Is it possible to enjoy a book that isn’t sexually explicit? If the answer is no, I’m not your author.  We will shake hands and agree to disagree.

#3) I don’t read. Acck! Really? Like, at all? This one is perhaps the most discouraging of all. I hear it a lot from folks who get their entertainment in other ways, T.V., computer games, etc. Maybe it’s the teacher in me, but when I hear folks say they haven’t read a book since high school, I am saddened.

Are there phrases that really cut you to the quick? Would love to hear your thoughts. Giving away a Starbuck’s card, signed book and a cute fall surprise this month. 

And our August winner is….

And our August winner is…..D.L! Congrats to you and thank you to all who participated on my blog this month. Great discussions!

D.L., if you hop on my website and choose a book, I’ll mail it out with your Amazon gift card. Send me a message with your address. 🙂

 

 

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Music to an author’s ears….top three compliments that thrill.

 

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The job of the professional writer takes place mostly in darkened rooms or at out-of-the-way coffee shop tables. We slave away, push the send button and through some miraculous process the manuscript turns into a book. It’s done mostly in isolation. Perhaps that’s why writers covet those hard-to-earn words of praise. Here are the top three comments guaranteed to thrill any writer any time.

#1) “I couldn’t put it down.” Oh joy! All that endless agonizing over pace, plot, character arcs and such! There is no sweeter sentiment than hearing you’ve managed to create something compelling. If an element in your book captured a reader in some small way, you have completed  a writer’s greatest mission.

#2) “When will the next book come out?” Ah ha! Not only has someone enjoyed your book, but they are eager to check out more of your work? Priceless!

#3) “I could really relate to the characters.” What a sweet sentiment. Creating characters who are different but believable, multi-faceted but not over the top, and meaningful without being maudlin is not an easy task, I can tell you. Think about how many people in the world pass by you every day with whom you have no personal connection. The writer has a scant smattering of words, the briefest of moments, to make you connect with somebody whom you’ll only meet across the pages.

We all have that particular compliment that is sweet to our ears. What compliment do you most enjoy hearing? Giving away a signed book and an Amazon card tomorrow! Would love to hear your thoughts! 

It’s back to school…and back to book writing!

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It’s time to gear up! School starts in a matter of days and for me that means diving back into a double life. Like Clark Kent, I have a mild-mannered public persona…I’m a third grade teacher. In fact, most people I encounter think that is my only profession. Because I am blessed to share a job with another teacher, I work two days a week at school and the rest as a wacky fiction writer. It’s not a perfect split. The teaching gig inevitably spills over into the rest of the week in the form of prepping, professional development, parent conferences, etc. The writing life spills over into the teaching days when I get a brainstorm that just has to be jotted down before it’s lost forever, or that blog that must be posted, or the interview that must be done.  It’s not perfect, and much of the time I am slightly disoriented. This comes to light when people ask that dreaded question, “How’s the book?” I am paralyzed. Which book? The two I am currently writing? The one I’m reading for pleasure? The professional development book? The novel I’m reading to the kids at school? I suspect my dazed countenance is why folks think I’m a bit wafty.

Do you ever feel torn between two worlds? How are you adjusting to the “back to school” switch? Would love to hear your comments. Giving away a signed book and an Amazon card this month. 

Don’t mess with my happy…or “you can’t do that in my romance novel.”

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Are you a voracious reader? Me too! And let me tell you, I invest plenty of emotion in the books that I devour. If certain things happen in the course of said novels, I can get quite PEEVED. Below is a personal list of items that I cannot tolerate in a romance novel.

1. Don’t kill the dog. I mean to say! If I’m reading a thriller or gritty mystery, fine, but in a romance novel, I want to eventually feel happy. Please do not kill any beloved pets or I’m going to put that novel down.

2. Don’t switch tones on me. If we start the book off as a frothy, fun to read romance, don’t plop some heavy bombshell in chapter six, along the lines of a brutal attack or sudden death. That’s changing the rules of our relationship. Not to say I don’t want intensity and surprises, but keep the tone of the novel consistent throughout.

3. Watch the dialect, please. You can tell me that Wanda Sue speaks with a southern drawl and I’ll insert that into my inner reader. You don’t need to write it into the dialogue. “Ya’ll keep comin’ ’round now, hear?” is just going to annoy me after twenty pages.

Can you relate to any of my pet peeves? What peeves you about novels? Giving away an Amazon gift card and signed book at the end of the month. Would love to hear your thoughts!