Posts Tagged ‘writing life’

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. 

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



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. 

When you should change your ‘no’ to a ‘yes!’

imageI don’t write children’s books. It’s just not in my repertoire at the moment. I’m pretty busy writing for two different lines and keeping up with life in general. Makes sense that I’d say ‘no’ to the opportunity to write a children’s traffic safety book for our local school district. Of course, I said yes. Why? Because I’m a teacher at heart and we’ve lost precious young people in our district in bicycle related accidents. No, children’s fiction is not my genre, but yes, there are enough reasons to change my answer to a ‘yes.’

Did I mention I don’t write short stories either? If I’m asked to participate in an anthology, I say ‘no.’ So when my publisher asked me to write a short suspense to be used as a giveaway, of course I said…yes! Why? One, it was a wonderful promotional opportunity. Two, I love to give things away, it’s like party favors! Three, it was a professional challenge to write a twisty, edge of your seat suspense/romance in 10,000 words!

So sometimes it’s a good idea to rethink some of our decisions. Did you ever do something you’d previously promised yourself you wouldn’t? How did it turn out? Giving away some neato prizes this month.


Here’s the link to the online short story. It’s a free read on the Harlequin site.;jsessionid=5F995D6050EEE523F44015B85FD19EB5?articleId=1703&chapter=1

You can’t write about THAT….can you?

imageJust picked up a hardback tome from a bestselling author. It was an inspirational romance. Well written. Great characterization. Interesting plot. And I couldn’t finish it. Why? For the simple reason that the two love interests were raised as brother and sister in their young lives. They weren’t biologically related, and the sister moved away when fairly young. Still. They lived as brother and sister. That’s a deal breaker for me and I can’t get past it. I scanned the reviews of this book (some 200 or so five starred ones on Amazon) and it seems folks don’t have the same hangups I do. Only a few rated it down based on this “taboo” if you will.

Hmmm. Perhaps the rules which I thought were set in stone for romance novels are not so concrete in our ever-changing world. Here are some no-nos which I hold true for romance novels .

There cannot be an unresolved ending between the romantic leads. They gotta be in love by the end of the story, darn it, with a strong expectation of a happy ever after ending. If they walk away in the last chapter, that’s going leave an unhappy reader.

The hero can’t commit rape. Period. He cannot force himself on the heroine or any other human. If he does, he’s not worthy of being a hero.

The protagonists cannot have affairs. That’s just going to make me unable to root for them.

And finally, the love interests cannot have any romantic feelings for people who are their relatives (in fact or by proxy.)

So what do you think? Am I old fashioned and hopelessly out of date? Would love to hear what you can’t stomach in a novel. Since it’s August, let’s kick off a new contest. Giving away an Amazon gift card and your choice of a signed book this month.

Are the Amish hypocrites?


The Amish aren’t allowed the use of electricity on their properties, so they pay a neighbor to keep a large freezer on their nearby land. The Amish person will enjoy the benefits without having to pay the electricity company directly.  The absence of electricity does not mean that Amish people go without other conveniences in their homes. They power refrigerators and sewing machines using a variety of means from batteries, to solar panels to diesel generators. So are these “loopholes” if you will, a form of hypocrisy?

Perhaps, but consider that the Amish immigration to the new world began in the early 18th century when there was nary a thought about electricity, cars or the wonder that is the internet. As  different technologies came and went, the Amish have had to draw a line in the sand, so to speak. The line is a subjective demarkation that enables them to hold true to their faith while navigating the perils of this world. Does that make them hypocrites? If it does, then I am branded with the same label.

For example, I don’t want my children to become addicted to technology, yet I am guilty of purchasing them both cell phones. I don’t espouse pornography, yet I write for a publisher that produces some work I would not want my children to read. I desire to be close to God, but I struggle every day to stay focused on faith. I do not believe in abortion, but I am conflicted about the subject of capital punishment. Am I a hypocrite? Undoubtedly, because I am a flawed individual, struggling against temptation and sin every day. It’s why I need a savior. It’s also why I understand about drawing that shaky line in the sand.

What sort of personal rules do you use to keep yourself focused on the things which are important to you? I would love to hear your comments. Tomorrow is the drawing for the Dana Mentink and Alison Stone book) and the Starbuck’s gift card.


image Would you guess that this is the home of an Old Order Amish family?


Writing humor is no laughing matter.

imageHumor is hard to write and even harder to sell. This probably explains why so few comic television series survive. As someone who loves to write humor (I know, not what you expected from a gal who’s written 15 suspense novels) I can tell you it’s much more challenging than writing drama. Why? Answer the questions below.

1. What is sad?

On this, I’ll bet we can agree. The death of a child. Human suffering. The power of addiction. Violent crime. Are we together on this? These are all terrible and tragic. If I wrote a novel featuring any one of these themes, we’re all going to feel similarly when we read it, if I’ve done my job well.

2. What is funny? Someone slipping on a banana peel? Bathroom humor? Esoteric jokes? Lies and subterfuge? Hmmm. Now we’re getting into some disagreement. Do you think Woody Allen’s humor is funny? How about Dumb and Dumber? Case in point is the movie Anchorman. My daughter thought it was hilarious. I found it juvenile and crude. Am I wrong? Is she? Nope, we’re just not going to agree because funny is a moving target.

That is why many publishers will not take a chance on humor. It’s too much of a risk to guarantee the books are going to sell. I so appreciate Harlequin Heartwarming for allowing me to write a book which is truly penned in my natural, goofy, voice. I think it’s got some hilarious moments. Will readers think so? No guarantees!

Have you ever seen a movie that was supposed to be funny and you didn’t find it so? Or conversely, did you laugh through a movie and have others disagree with you? Would love to hear your thoughts. Giving away a gift card and two books this month.

Hard truths about writing and eggplant.

imageimageLet me just say the hard part first. If you want to be in the writing business, you’d better know that you’re going to fail. A lot. Take in the following two points, but be sure to read to the end. The bitter comes before the sweet!

1. If you want to be a writer, you’re going to feel rejection. Looking for an agent? You’ll no doubt query a ton of them before you get a nibble. I probably sent out a dozen agent queries a week for a while. I got some nibbles, but mostly just the form letters. Dear BLANK, Thank you for your interest in Skippy Doo Agency. Don’t take it personally, but we are not interested in representing you at the present time. Truth is, I published three books with Heartsong Presents before I even acquired an agent! Same is true with project proposals. You’re going to mail out a bushel of those babies and most will come back stamped “Thanks, but no thanks.”  I used to keep a binder to track my status and for many years the rejection section was bigger than all my published works stacked up!

2. If you want to be a writer, you’re going to experience criticism. It’s the nature of what we do. We write things, craft the very best product possible and send it out into the world. Some people are going to love it, and others are going to cut you to ribbons. Publicly. On Amazon and their blogs. And Twitter. It’s just the way of the world because consumers are very empowered by technology to share their thoughts. ALL of them.

Discouraged? Here’s the sweet part. Writing is like eggplant. Some people love it, and some can’t abide the veggie. Your book or article will find its way to the people who love it and need to hear it. Those are the people you write for, those eggplant lovers who need to hear what you have to say. You’re going to bless them, but you have to endure some rejection and criticism to do that.  It takes courage and commitment, but all good things do, don’t they?

What things in your life have required courage and commitment? Would love to hear your thoughts! Giving away a Starbuck’s card and two books at the end of the month!

I’m a professional writer…have you seen my socks?



I recently read a swell interview from a multi-published romance writer. She shared her writing routine which involves entering her office (complete with walls and a door) and exiting only for lunch and at 6 p.m., the end of her day. Such is the life of a professional writer…but it’s not my life, to be sure, and right now, I wouldn’t want it to be.

First, my “office” is plopped in the middle of the living room between the box turtle and a treadmill. It doesn’t have walls, except in my imagination (kind of like Les Nessman from WKRP if you remember him.) It’s a laptop, some file drawers and a bazillion sticky notes.

Second, I’ve got two teenage daughters so my “uninterrupted” writing time is often bisected by questions like, “Mom, have you seen my socks?” or trips to the craft store for poster board, or vet visits for sick parakeets or church related meetings or fitness walks with my husband.

So how do I get three books written a year? I get up extremely early and I do it every day (except Sundays.) I work in fits and starts, between the needs of my children, my husband, my church and everything else. Is it the best way for a “professional writer” to use their time? Probably not, but at this point in my life it’s the only way I can manage.

Soon enough my children will be grown, and they won’t need me to find their socks and shuttle them around, but at the moment, I will cheerfully  sacrifice my efficiency. There will be time later when my house is sadly quiet and I will be able write for hours at a stretch, but for now, fits and starts will do.

How do you handle interruptions? What things do you struggle to balance in your daily life? Giving away a Starbuck’s card and TWO signed books this month!

Authors collaborating…magic or mayhem?

Collaboration is a good thing…unless it’s not. Authors feel pressure to produce books quickly, and to widen their platforms (the number of people with whom they have contact.) A possible solution? Working together with another author. This is an odd concept for a profession that typically does its thing in lonely, dark rooms with only cold cups of coffee for company.

Actually, though, it’s been done for a while now. Some examples?

Neil Gaiman and Terry Prachett

Stephen King and Peter Straub.

Anne McCaffrey and Mercedes Lackey.

Of course, the hugely prolific James Patterson collaborates with many other writers and, to my surprise, I learned that the Ellery Queen mysteries were written by cousins Daniel Nathan and Manford Lepofsky.

I’ve considered collaborating on writing projects, too. My biggest obstacle? Uh, er, I like to have it my way, when it comes to writing. I get a little possessive and snippy about how I think the story should go. Sigh. I guess it’s best for me to stick to my solitary cave, for the time being.

What about you? Do you work best alone or with another? Did you ever collaborate on a project? How did it turn out? Speaking of collaboration… we’re giving away a DOUBLE PRIZE this month….a two book set of Love Inspired Suspense novels featuring myself and the lovely Alison Stone) and a Starbuck’s gift card this month! All comments get you entered to win!

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