Sunday, April 28, 2013

A Special Book Club Meeting

I attended another book club meeting the other night and it was what will probably be one of my favorites for awhile.  This particular book club has members who are housed in an assisted living facility so the bulk of the readers are up there in age.  I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect when I attended but I was looking forward to it either way.
The facility was very nice; someplace I’d like to live if I were at an age where assisted living was a necessity.  Terrie, the Life Enrichment Coordinator, set up the evening with me and while we had good conversations on-line before the meeting, it was a pleasure to finally meet her in person.  She is someone I would define as a “kick” to be around.  Very funny, very personable and I can easily see why she’s so good at her job and why all the residents just love her.

The meeting was taking place hours past when the residents have their usual book club meetings so Terrie alerted me to the fact that she wasn’t sure how many residents might actually attend.  I should have realized many of the residents had early bedtimes and had I thought about it beforehand, I might have tried to schedule the meeting at an earlier time to accommodate them.
I guess many of the residents decided meeting me was worth getting to bed late and I was pleasantly surprised by the attendance.  Overall, I believe there were close to 20 of us once a few who were running late also joined the group.  The group was mostly women but there were also two men who attended.  While one of the men had not yet read the book (but I believe he will be reading it now that he’s met me), the other had and was very sweet when he held up his hand to say he’d read No Mother of Mine and was looking forward to the next book in the series. 

The residents were undeniably delightful and they were all very attentive and appeared to really appreciate my work.  As I think back on some of their comments and questions, I smile as I reflect on the evening but I’m also saddened by the fact that my own grandmother passed away before she could see what I have accomplished.  She would have gladly sat in a chair in the front row alongside the residents of the assisted living facility where she had been residing had I been able to speak about my book at the facility where she lived.  I know she would have been very proud of me. 
Before I left the facility for the evening, I met a resident who is the aunt of a Seattle-based author who recently made it in this business with the publication of a zombie book which was recently made into a movie.  This young author is certainly one of those Cinderella stories we hear about.  He’d only self-published three books before someone picked up the fourth book, published it and just a few years later it’s on the big screen.  Where the author goes from here is up to him but it’s heartwarming to see someone so young take on the dream to do what he has a passion for and be rewarded with such wonderful results.

It just goes to show, there is no perfect age for doing what you were meant to do.  Some get their chance in their 20’s while others put off discovering their passion until their 40’s or maybe even their 60’s.  Once you do realize you have a passion for something, don’t let life rule your passion because life is precarious and results not typical.  What one might be rewarded with after only a short time, someone else may have to work longer for but in the end it is through hard work, perseverance and true dedication that you will be rewarded if what you’re putting yourself into is what truly brings you joy rather than what you hope or expect to gain as a result.
And for those who decide to embark upon a journey doing what they’re passionate about, there are certainly those in your life who will stand by you and enjoy supporting you as you endeavor to reach your goals.  I have earlier stated that I began writing when it was the right time for me but there are times when I wish I had begun just a few years earlier, if for no other reason than to allow some of the most important people in my life who are no longer with us a chance to see me achieve so much with something that brings me so much joy. 

While taking part in a book club meeting at an assisted living facility made me miss my grandparents who have already passed, it also brought me joy and fulfilled my day in a way I hadn’t thought possible.  The residents may have enjoyed spending time with me but what they cannot realize is that I benefited from the time I spent with them just as much, or possibly more.  It was a special evening with special people and will remain an everlasting and special memory.   


Thursday, April 25, 2013

“Resting” is not Required to Recharge

Unbelievably, it’s already the end of April and there are less than two months before the kids are out of school for the summer.  It just amazes me how quickly time can fly by.  Summer is still two months away, which will be here before we know it, but the little sneak peak of summer we’ve had the past few days has done nothing but make me wish that the enjoyable, warm summer days might come sooner rather than later. 
The way time does pass by, I know I’ll get my wish soon enough.  I just have to remember to look up every so often so I don’t miss it.  It’s easy enough to forget to take a breather when my focus is largely on what needs to be accomplished to reach my goals for the future.  I’ve been so busy lately with work, with writing, with my family and all the busyness that family life brings and very recently, I’ve started a new project which will offer a great opportunity for me in my profession as an investigator.  So much to do with seemingly so little time but yet, there are those days when I have to remind myself that not everything has to be accomplished today; there is, arguably, always tomorrow should I decide to just rest today. 

Problem is I have to remember to take a step back, take a deep breath, and know that it’s okay to just relax.  Now, if you really know me, you know my idea of relaxing is not quite the same as what that term means:  to spend time resting.  I’m not very good at just resting.  I’ll always find something to do.  It’s just the way I am and I really can’t apologize for it.
Even though I may not completely relax in order to regroup, refocus and recharge, I do find a way to accomplish those tasks in my own way.  Writing is one way I relax.  So is gardening.  I love to read a good book.  Or spend time with my family.  My dogs are a great distraction and I look forward to the summer months when I can watch them play in the creek.  I am hopelessly into scrapbooking for the sake of keeping organized books for all my memories.  I enjoy road trips.  I also really enjoy taking photographs.  I keep my camera with me every day just in case a photo opportunity comes my way.  You can see things so much differently through a lens and it helps to take note of the details around you. 

If I am able to relax in my own way, I accomplish so much when I’m able to take the time to focus on the details whether I’m taking photographs, putting together a new page in a scrapbook, enjoying time with my family during an outing or even pulling weeds in my garden.  Even as I focus on the details while I enjoy each distraction, it somehow opens the floodgates of my imagination so that I begin to think of new ideas for my books or my characters.  I am then rewarded with the energy I need to regroup, refocus and recharge so that I am able to put so much more into my daily writing and professional goals.   
Of course, the trick is remembering when to work and when to relax…but I'm working on it!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Waiting for Bloggers who Fizzle…or even Burnout

Ever since I began writing my first manuscript and finally started this Blog, I was ecstatic when I learned how much free advice was out there and available in the blogosphere.  I even provided a list of my top 10 favorite Blogs back in February 2012.  I can’t believe it’s been almost two years since I began heavily researching what others had to say about writing, blogging, marketing, and everything else in between. 
But I’ve noticed something lately with some of the bloggers I have been following on a regular basis:

·       They don’t write as often as they used to;

·       It’s been awhile since they’ve even updated their Blog at all;

·       They write but aren’t offering advice or helpful tips so much as what their work has to offer you if you buy it; or

·       They don’t write often themselves but instead offer up guest posts on a regular basis.
Looking at it from a blogger’s point of view, I do understand the burnout.  Eventually, for those bloggers who have made it a habit to offer regular advice, you just might not find something clever and life-changing to say on a regular basis when you feel as if you’ve expelled all you really know about a subject.  I can’t blame them for having a life of their own and for taking care of themselves by focusing on their work rather than plying me with inspirational words and very likely redundant pieces of advice.   

But from a reader’s point of view, it’s almost like losing the morning coffee chats with a good friend.  You look forward to hearing from someone, speaking with them, learning something new from them, and you discover they just don’t have the time for you anymore.  It can make you kind of sad.

Ah, the struggles of growing pains.  It happens even as an adult and even in the professional world.  We just have to learn to roll with the changes…not the punches.  No punches here.  The idea behind a blog is to offer yourself, your experience, your opinion and even your advice but if you decide to change things up, it’s your choice and everyone else just has to deal with it.
My expectations have changed somewhat since I first began scouring the World Wide Web for resources.  Before, I was looking for advice on writing and preparing myself for the possibility of publication.  Now, while I will always continue to research and learn the tricks of the trade behind the craft, I also tend to focus more on research about the business itself when it comes to publication, marketing and sales.  It’s a never-ending task because this business seems to be changing on a daily business and you really need to stay on your toes.

Based on my newfound needs in the marketing and sales world, I have found other bloggers who I follow regularly and they add to the mix of those who may or may not blog as often as they did before.  I thought I would share with you a few additional bloggers I read on a regular basis and why I like them:

·        Catherine, Caffeinated is easily one of my all-time favorite bloggers who has offered a wealth of information with regard to self-publishing but who also retains her own voice and always makes me smile and feel as if I’m sitting with her as we chat over a cup of coffee.
·        From the Write Angle offers multiple views on writing and publishing – here I don’t have to rely on just one voice to give me tips or advice and it’s helpful to read about these issues from different perspectives.
·        Jane Friedman has offered helpful advice from the very beginning and I enjoy the fact that she continues to serve up useful posts with regard to writing and publishing.
·        Toni and Shannon, who dub themselves the Self-Publishing Team, have been wonderful with the wealth of information they have provided on writing, branding, publishing, marketing and promotion.  I can’t remember when I first ran across their blog but when I did, I was like a kid in a candy store.  I don’t remember reading so many archived posts during one sitting but I just couldn’t stop reading.  I had found a treasure trove of information and I knew it.   
·        Wow! Women on Writing is another blog with multiple contributors who offer writing tips, advice and inspiration to writers.  It’s like getting together with a group of girlfriends on a regular basis who completely understand where you’re coming from and what you might need to hear to get you through the week. 
Reading blog posts by other bloggers is a great way for writers to stay on track and feel like they’re not alone so it’s hard when your favorite bloggers decide to take a break, change course or completely go off track.  But as readers, we also have to give bloggers a break and know that there does come a time when the fizzle or the burnout may occur.  If that happens, we can’t give up on them.  We just need to give them some space, visit often to see how they’re doing and be ready to take part when they’re ready for those morning chats again.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Birthday Wishes are Never a Guarantee

I’m a day late, I realize but I didn’t post yesterday for two reasons:  first, it was my birthday and I decided to take the night off and second, I received news I wasn’t quite sure I was ready to share at the risk of saying something I’d later regret.
From the beginning when I started this Blog, I said I would share my writing journey with you, good or bad, and now that I’ve had a day to really digest the news, I’m ready to share it with you so I can move on.  While I did enjoy my birthday, my day fizzled a bit after I also received the much anticipated news on the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest.  It was what I expected in one sense but also a surprise in another. 
But not in a good way.
As everyone knows, I made it as a quarter-finalist in the contest, which really is a big deal.  Moving on as one of the semi-finalists would have been awesome, to say the least, but I knew the odds were against me when the numbers were being cut from 100 to only 5 in each category.  One can certainly be hopeful but you also have to be realistic.
The prize I was really shooting for was the consolation prize each quarter-finalist would receive, whether they moved on as a semi-finalist or not.  That prize was a review by Publisher’s Weekly.  As a new author, gaining that sort of review as an indie author is a hot commodity.  As it turns out, I was wearing rose-colored glasses with no real idea of the potential for creative growing pains should the review not be what I was hoping.  Not that I expected a completely glowing review; if that were the case I’d expect to be one of the top 5 remaining in my genre.  But I did expect a review somewhat consistent with the combination of positive feedback and constructive criticism I received with the first tworeviews at the beginning of the contest. 
Unfortunately, that was not the case.
After reading my review, I’ll admit I was very disheartened and somewhat dumbstruck.  I don’t expect everyone to like my book, my writing or my characters but when it comes to a professional review, especially in light of a first novel, I would certainly expect a critique that can help me learn from the process rather than leave me crushed with hurt feelings.  And that’s exactly how I felt.  I wasn’t quite sure the reviewer even read the whole book, based on some of the comments, and I very much doubt the reviewer even likes the genre my book represents.
But then, that’s my opinion.  And that’s my point; this is a very subjective world, the world of books and writing.  But it takes a very tough skin and stubborn attitude to remember that fact.
I’ll admit I was troubled by the review and even spent some wasted time as I doubted myself and my book.  That is NOT what an author should ever do.  Instead, we have to remember there are critics out there who only wish to cut rather than cure, hinder rather than help and create adversity rather than provide opportunity. 
Here’s a quote I found from the author of one of my favorite books, The Lord of the Rings:
“Some who have read the book, or at any rate have reviewed it, have found it boring, absurd, or contemptible, and I have no cause to complain, since I have similar opinions of their works, or of the kinds of writing that they evidently prefer.”
~J.R.R. Tolkien~
Not everyone loves the story involving all the characters in Tolkien’s fantasy world of Middle-earth.  Not everyone has to.  What matters is that Tolkien wrote the story anyway so that he could share his fantasy world with those who would enjoy it.  And I’m certainly glad he did.
While the art of writing, as well as the author, can and will get better with age, it is from experience, knowledge, research and constructive criticism that we learn and grow from.  Negative reviews which are provided in such a way as to destructively criticize or provide absolutely no worth whatsoever are not worth crying over.  I will say I was disappointed with the review and while this is one review I thought would really help me with marketing, I guess I learned very quickly that I cannot put all my eggs in one basket.  Instead, I had to remember all the positive feedback I’ve received so far and also the great reviews I’ve already received on Amazon, as well as the positive reviews and constructive feedback I received from the Expert Reviewers from the contest.  It’s been over six months since I first published No Mother of Mine and this was my first negative review.  Should I really discount what so many others have said just because I received a negative review from the love child of Cruella DeVille and Simon Cowell? 
It took me awhile to chew on the notion but after I simmered for a bit, I finally realized the answer to that question is a definite and very firm ‘NO.’


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Taking a Break for the Weekend

Happy Sunday. 
I hope everyone has enjoyed their weekend and possibly tackled a few things on their to-do lists or spent extra time with family or friends.

For me, today was a day to catch up because of getting behind on one very important task, other than my writing, that is.  What could be more important?  Taxes, of course.  I should have had them done already but with so much else going on I kind of put that task off until literally the last minute.
So I’m taking a break from blogging this weekend, except to say hello.  Enjoy the start of your week and I’ll be back on Wednesday where I will hope to be sharing some sort of update with regard to the writing contest.  The question will be whether it is semi-good news or extremely good news. 

Until then…I will follow this rule:  create, inspire, dream.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Name of the Rose

Ever heard of the book titled The Name of the Rose?  It’s the first novel by Italian author Umberto Eco and it was later made into a film in 1986 starring Sean Connery.
The Name of the Rose is a type of book that might not be everyone’s cup of tea.  In all honesty, I might not have actually watched the movie had it not been for Sean Connery himself.  Yes, terrible, I know.  I might miss a good many films if I decide what to watch them based on which actors play the characters.

Even though Sean Connery’s portrayal of William of Baskerville gave me reason to enjoy the story, I have to say I did enjoy this film based on the original historical murder mystery set in a monastery in 1327.  
But it’s not the movie or the book it was based on which are really on my mind.  It’s the name of the book that intrigues me.  If you have seen The Name of the Rose, you may question, as I did, what the name had to do with the story at all.  I thought I was missing something and I didn’t quite understand why the name had been chosen for that particular type of story.

And apparently I’m not alone.  According to Wikipedia, the title of this book and what it might refer to has received quite a bit of attention.  The author has apparently been said to admit he wished to find a “totally neutral title” and beyond that, there are two versions of how he came up with the name.  In the first version, he came up with ten titles and asked his friends to choose one.  In the second version, the original title Eco had chosen was dismissed by his publisher and so the author apparently came up with The Name of the Rose by chance. 
However it happened, the title is in fact completely neutral.  If I saw this name on a book in the store, I doubt I’d give it a second glance.  The only reason the book would have drawn me in is if the cover gave me the impression it was about a good ole’ murder mystery at the abbey.  I’ve seen different variations for this book as far as covers go and I can’t say any of them really draw me in.

So you might be wondering where I’m going with this. 
Well, right now I’m focused on how a book earns its title, which I believe is one of the most important elements of any book besides the cover art and the story inside.  Until I read about the history behind The Name of the Rose, I’d never heard of an author who took such a blasé look at choosing a title.

I don’t have it in me to show such a nonchalant attitude.  I’m only a few short months from when I anticipate the second book in the series of No Mother of Mine will be published but I’ve hit a snag when it comes to the title of the book. 
How can I not have a title?  Read on…

As with No Mother of Mine, I had a name for the second book right from the beginning.  It’s the name I’ve used to save the drafts, it’s the name I used when I joined National Novel Writing Month in November and pumped out the first 50,000 words of the book, and it’s the name I thought I would see in print when I was finally able to finalize the perfect cover.
And then one day, as my husband and I were browsing through the books at Costco, my husband came across an unexpected sight.  There, perfectly nestled between hundreds of other books, was a new book with the exact same name I had chosen.

My heart dropped.
Don’t get me wrong.  There are many books out there with the same name.  Some titles have even been overused to the point of a gag reflex when I see them.  But I don’t wish to publish a book with the same title as another book which has been published within a few months of my own. 

To clinch my decision, I also saw an entry in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest with the same title.  It’s also a mystery and it too has moved ahead in the contest the same as No Mother of Mine.  If by chance his book were to be chosen as a Finalist, I certainly would not want my book to mimic his with the same name, even if the name recognition might help direct readers to my own book.
Back to square one, I’ve been mulling over the issue of what title might work and I’ve played with a handful of possibilities.  I believe I may have finally found a title that will work and which actually corresponds in some fashion with the first book.  If I could echo Eco, I might just chose a name and stick with it, regardless of how neutral it may be.  Or, maybe I’ll throw a handful of names out to my friends and ask them to choose. 

“Let us instead exercise our brains and try to solve this tantalizing conundrum.”
William of Baskerville, The Name of the Rose

Or maybe not.  I doubt I could go Eco’s route so I’ll just mull over this tantalizing conundrum a bit longer before I finally decide that the name I’ve chosen is the right name for my book. 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

When Dreams help you Write

No kidding.  Dreams can be a helpful part of the writing process.  The trick is remembering what you dream!

Actually, it happened to me this weekend.  My dreams have helped me before but there was a certain issue with a plot point in my second book that wasn’t quite coming together the way I wanted it to.  I’ve mulled over the issue now for a month or two but with each edit and revision, I wasn’t sure I liked the reasons behind what this particular character was doing. 

And then a dream came to me.  Well, I don’t actually remember the dream but when I woke up, I was seeing the character and my mind had an intense memory of what actually drove her to do what needed to be done. 
I woke up to an ‘Ah ha!’ moment…I absolutely love that feeling.

And then I lost it once I rolled over and fell back to sleep because I didn’t do what I’m supposed to do…reach over, grab my notepad and pencil and quickly write it down.
When I woke up again, my book was on my mind but with no specifics about the dream.  I just knew I had to get back to the book as soon as I had a good amount of caffeine in me.  At the time I didn’t realize I’d completely lost a memory that would help make sense about a critical motivating factor behind a character’s actions. 

So I went through my regular morning routine and was on my second cup of coffee while having a conversation with my husband when something hit me.  I’m not quite sure what it was…a word or a phrase maybe, but it suddenly struck me and my mind left the conversation completely.  BAM!  All of a sudden the memory flooded back to me, I felt that ‘Ah ha!’ moment again and there was no way I would let it slip by another time.  I jumped up, ran for the nearest notepad and began writing down everything that came to me. 
After that there was no going back.  I made another cup of coffee, grabbed my writing notebook and headed upstairs to my office with both Mandy and Piper on my tail (the two pups, who really aren’t pups anymore).

I’ll admit it’s funny how this works sometimes but I’m now very happy with the fact that I can move forward with that part of the story and finally away from it because the questions have been answered.  I’m now satisfied that I have been able to close a gap in the story with regard to what was motivating that particular character.  I might pretend to know what’s motivating my characters but the truth is, there are times when I have to let them tell me before I can really make sense of it.  What makes writing so interesting is how and when characters finally do give you the answers you need and yes, when life gets so busy you have a hard time hearing them through the noise of the daily grind, eventually they’ll have no choice but to tell you in your dreams.
Have a great week and here’s a great quote to finish off the post:
“Dreaming is an act of pure imagination, attesting in all men a creative power, which if it were available in waking, would make every man a Dante or Shakespeare.”
~H.F. Hedge~




Wednesday, April 3, 2013

April…my favorite month

I adore April.  Not only is it my birthday month, it’s also the month we enjoy spring break and around this time we get to enjoy Easter.  It also marks the beginning of a season I really enjoy.  The days are getting longer, the evenings aren’t as cold and the flowers are taking notice as they blossom and offer us their own cheerful hello. 

I enjoy the daffodils and other spring flowers but I always look forward to the Easter Lilies.  Not what you can buy in the store…I’m talking about the wild lilies that come up in various spots throughout the woods. To me, they are what represent the true beginning of spring and the changing of the seasons. 
When that happens, I know it means I can look forward to many things, such as planting my garden soon.  Last weekend when we were having some incredible spring weather, I was inspecting my garden and saw that my rhubarb is coming up. The sight of the new growth was a delight but I have to contain myself because it is much too soon for me to think about planting.

But it is getting close to the time I can get my hands dirty so that I can later enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of my labor.  As the days get warmer, it also means there will be evenings to come when we can eat meals outside, enjoy a game of horse shoes and also a late night bon fire.  There will be more walks with the dogs down to the creek so they can refresh themselves in the cool water.  And there will be more opportunities to just soak up some sun.
I’m probably getting ahead of myself because it is only April.  After all, we still have April showers to contend with.  But it doesn’t take away from the longer days, the warmer nights and the fact that we’re moving ahead towards days filled with sunshine.  Even my dogs sense the change and easily get excited when they know I’m going outside to take photos, walk around the property or do some yard work.  They love hanging out with me when I go outside.  So what happens when they think it’s nice enough and expect that I’ll be heading outside soon but I don’t?  They may pout, as dogs can do so well.

And when a dog pouts and gives you a look like this, how the heck could you ever say no? 
Piper is pouting
I know I can’t.  These spring days are numbered so I’ll take advantage of them when I can.  I hope you get to do the same as well.