Sunday, June 30, 2013

When Deadlines Loom and Procrastination Prevails

I’m a little stressed out.  Why?  Because I’ve had a deadline I’ve been working around and I’ve had to finally admit I’m just not going to make the deadline.
Procrastination isn’t the real culprit here; it’s the limited amount of time I’ve had to complete the tasks necessary to make the deadline.  That happens, of course, when there’s so much going on…but it doesn’t mean I have to like it.

I have a book event scheduled for mid-July, which I haven’t even posted about yet because I hadn’t received word that all my paperwork was in order or that a spot had been reserved for me but I finally received confirmation the other day that I have a tent space available for use during the event.  I had hope that once I received confirmation, the question about whether or not I had my ducks in a row would not be an issue because I thought I had plenty of time to prepare for the event.
Turns out I was wrong.  (It happens to the best of us.)  What has stressed me out is the fact that I had wanted to have the second book in the series ready for sale during this event.  Unfortunately, due to the length of time the edits have taken to finalize and the fact that the cover art isn’t complete, that won’t be the case. 
I have to say, to at least make myself feel better, this isn’t a completely terrible thing.  I’ll work around it and the second book will be available soon.  Instead, this event will be focused on those who haven’t yet heard about me and if I can add more readers to my fan base before the second book comes out, that’s always a good thing.  In that regard, I’ll look at this delay as a positive factor with the acceptance that it’s just another great way to promote the upcoming release.

For those who have been waiting for the second book, bear with me.  One plan I have factored in is the possibility of having an excerpt of the second book available for those who want to get a preview.  If I can make it happen, I’ll have them with me at the event for those who are interested in getting a sneak peek.

Capital Lakefair
So what’s the upcoming event? 
I’ll be taking part in Lakefair, the local event held in downtown Olympia every July.  This year Lakefair will be held from July 17th through July 21st, Wednesday through Sunday. Even if you’ve already purchased my first book, if you’re in the neighborhood, I hope you’ll stop by to say hello and grab a copy of the excerpt I’ll hopefully have handy (I’ll let everyone know once I’m sure they are available). 

What’s the saying?  When life hands you lemons, make lemonade?  Well, that’s what I’m doing and besides…lemonade tastes much better than plain old lemons so rather than focus on what can’t be, I’ll focus on what can be and go from there.



Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Creating a Positive Outlet when Misery Knocks

I’ll warn you right now…my mood can be defined as ‘sad.’
I had planned to write about the success of a self-published author I read about recently but I received some news which both saddened me and then ultimately took over my thoughts.  What subject can completely take over my thoughts?  Sadden me to the point that I disregard what I had intended to write about?

I’ll give you one guess…
You only need one guess.  It’s Death.  A difficult word to write and even difficult to say without a shutter. It is, by far, the most depressing subject.

So why bring it up? 
Because I need to.  This Blog is a way to purge myself, mostly about the challenges of writing while working as I learn to better my craft, and sometimes about the everyday life involving work and family, but then sometimes, a wrench gets thrown in the mix and you do what you can to remove what hinders your thoughts so you can grease the wheels and look forward to a time when everything will run smoothly again. 

We know the unexpected can happen but it’s so much easier to live life with the expectation that everything will remain the same.  We hope the status quo won’t change but, of course, that’s not how real life operates. 
For me, as with many authors, I’m betting, writing is a great way to release the toxins from my brain.  From what you see on television, hear on the news, are exposed to at work, might be dealing with at home or when you receive news a friend or family member has passed away, you have to find a way to purge the negative thoughts, feelings and fears. 

That’s what writing does for me.
What’s amazing as a writer is when the result of what you purge on paper reveals itself as something others can actually relate to, appreciate and enjoy.  You don’t have to write about negativity to release negativity, you just have to find an outlet to free your mind from the negativity so that something positive can come through. 

Sometimes, as with murder mysteries, death is the underlying subject.  How depressing that would be if we didn’t also add lightness and laughter, characters and crime solving and plot with a purpose.  With books we find a way to immerse ourselves in a world where we can tag along with others as they tackle what hinders them.  It helps when you set aside your own troubles for a spell and depending on the book you’re reading at the time, you might be pleasantly surprised to find just how good it can make you feel.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Where have you been?

That’s what Jorja would ask me…if she could speak to me, of course.  Okay, she does speak to me, in a way, but she certainly hasn’t learned to berate me yet!
I’ve been here…just very busy with real-life stuff, leaving no real free time to spend with Jorja, Taylor and the other characters in my books.  I will admit I’m glad to be back on my computer and back to my writing.  This week has been lacking in the writing department and I miss it dearly.

Some weeks are just like that.  This week was full of planning, preparation and errands for the graduation party we held for my son and his girlfriend yesterday afternoon.  As college graduates, they deserve the celebration and a showing of support from family.  It’s also never a bad reason to have a party! 
Although we had a terrific time yesterday, I feel I can breathe easy today, as it is full of available hours I can use to my advantage to get organized.  And I do love being organized.  Some might call it a talent, others might see it as compulsive…me?  I say it’s the only way to be when you’re a multi-tasker. 

So today I’ve been able to enjoy some time in the fiction world and it has been a wonderful way to spend part of the day.  Now I’m catching up with my Blog, with Facebook and I’m trying my best to catch up on what some of the other authors I follow are up to.  Looks like everyone is pretty busy…either too busy to blog or very busy promoting their most recent published book.

I hope to be fully promoting my second book soon but the editing phase takes awhile.  Sometimes it feels like forever but it is a necessary evil.  I can’t wait until the book is ready though…I am so excited to share the second book in the series with you and can’t wait to hear the feedback.  Even more exciting is what has developed with the third book – I’m very thrilled with where the story is going with my characters and I can only hope you’ll feel the same.  I know, I shouldn’t tease.  The most difficult thing about writing is not the writing itself but how long it can take to fully complete the book so that it can be shared with others!
One book a year.  Right now, that’s what I seem to be able to manage and I guess that’s pretty good, considering the fact that I’m also working full time.  A year between books is a long time to wait and I say this as a reader…but as a writer who also works, it’s the best timeframe to manage.  Someday, I’d like to publish a couple of books a year.  That way, I can write books in Jorja’s mystery series but also dabble with other works as well.  Right now, I have to choose between the mystery series or new fiction and that’s a difficult choice to make.  I have so many book ideas…too many to tackle if I can only write one book a year.  I look forward to the day when that will change.

Until then, I’ll manage to do what I can with the time available to me.  It’s all anyone can do, as long as they remember this:
“Stride forward with a firm, steady step knowing with a deep, certain inner knowing that you will reach every goal you set yourselves, that you will achieve every aim.” 
~Eillen Caddy~


Monday, June 17, 2013

School’s Out means Busier Days

I’m not sure if it’s ever happened before on a Sunday but I did not post yesterday. 
The earth didn’t shake.

Lightening didn’t strike me.
And I was even able to sleep through the night without any guilt or bad dreams. 

Maybe you noticed; and maybe you didn’t.  Like me, maybe you were too busy yourself to even get on the computer all day.  It was Father’s Day, after all.  And not only that, it was just one busy, hectic, calendar-stuffed kind of weekend.
We ended the school year on Friday so my youngest is now on summer break.  Good for him but I know soon enough he’ll get bored since he’s not yet driving.  Here’s hoping the summer weather comes sooner rather than later so he can enjoy swimming and other sorts of fun summer should be all about.  Not only was Friday the last day of school for my youngest, it was thankfully only a half day because the rest of afternoon was set aside to attend the college graduation for my oldest son and his girlfriend.  I cannot describe how proud I am of both of them.  With a degree in Criminal Justice and a good head start towards a degree in Nursing, they both have bright futures ahead of them and I look forward to what they will both accomplish as they continue to reach the goals they have set for themselves.

This is probably the busiest season for us as a family when it comes to graduations…not only did my son and his girlfriend graduate, but a nephew, a niece and also my sister-in-law all graduated from college.  On the same day!  I honestly can’t recall having so many family members graduate college at the same time.  Obviously, I didn’t make it to the other graduation ceremonies…once I figure out how to be in more than one place at one time, I’ll let you know.

The rest of the weekend didn’t slow down from there…with a birthday party, family gathering for Father’s Day and many chores completed around the yard to prepare for an upcoming party, there was barely time to take a breath, much less write a blog post.  I’ll do my best to keep up with my Wednesday/Sunday schedule but in anticipation of the upcoming party, the 4th of July, a book event, a vacation, an anniversary and various other things, not to mention writing and gardening, don’t be surprised if the days I post vary over the next two months.  I guess I could use this as an opportunity to try to plan ahead - - but doesn’t that mean I have to find the time to plan ahead?  Hmm, I’m not sure how to deal with that quandary.  We’ll see how it goes so just bear with me…summer days are often some of the busiest days. 
I hope you also enjoyed your Father’s Day weekend and made the most of it.  Until next time…


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

What I would do if I took Summer Break

Sometimes I wish I was a teacher.  Not because I love to teach…I’m more of a nonstop learner.  Not because I completely enjoy being around other people’s children…I adore my own but really can’t imagine entertaining twenty little ones every single day.  And not because of the pay…I’m sure most would agree teachers don’t earn enough for what they do.
So why would I want to be a teacher? 

Summer break, of course! 
Summer break is just two days away for my youngest…and I’m a tad bit jealous.  I remember looking forward to summer break when I was a kid…or a teen, really.  We’d go to the lake just about every single day.  We would swim and ski for hours and the time in the water only increased our appetites, making the homemade fried chicken taste that much better.  Now, as an adult, I have to say my dad was a trooper because he went to work in the woods as a logger every single day and I never heard him mutter a single syllable about how we got to play in the water all day while he slaved away in the hot sun.

Summer as a kid is a treasure but then…you have to grow up.  You graduate, get a job, go to college, get another job, find a mate, get married, have kids, buy a house (but not necessarily in that order)…and eventually, the memory of summer break just fades away.  You remember a time when you had all the time in the world but it’s just a distant memory as you scramble to get out of the house in the mornings so you can get your kids to school before you race to work with only minutes to spare.
But when your own kids are on summer break…those memories of summer freedom come back. The yearning takes hold.  I’m not as much of a trooper as my dad was because now that I’m no longer working for myself, I yearn for the summers when I could set my schedule around my summer plans and spending time with my boys.

If I were able to take summer break, it’s not difficult for me to choose what I would do.  I’d spend more time with my husband and my boys...more time with family, period.  I’d work in my garden religiously and enjoy every single piece of fruit, vegetable and herb with pure delight.  I’d plan more road trips or mini vacations (or maybe a big vacation!) and try to visit with friends or family who live a distance away.  I’d try to get caught up on my journaling and scrapbooking.  Maybe keep the house clean(er).  Read more, sleep more, laugh more and stress less.  And to my heart’s content, I would write, write, write!    
Of course, I can do all those things even if I don’t take the summer off but it isn’t an easy task to do everything.  It just takes more effort, planning and perfectly managing my time (not an easy task these days).  So how can I accomplish most, if not all, of what I would expect to do if I were able to take summer break? 

Simple.  I will take advantage of every moment not held captive by the office job and pretend they are what the summer is made of.  Whether they are enjoyed as a whole or in bits and pieces, savoring the moments and making them count is what a great summer (and life) is all about.    


Sunday, June 9, 2013

Why “America’s Got Talent” makes me Cry

Yeah, I’ll admit it…this show will sometimes bring tears to my eyes.  Why?  I guess it’s because I get choked up when I see someone take a chance, expose their soul and do their best not to fall apart as the judgment about how good or bad they are is about to be rendered.  It’s all about achieving the good ole’ American Dream.
That’s everyone’s wish, right?

The opportunity for prosperity and success?  A happy and successful life?  The ability to finally live out our dreams? 
Sure.  It’s what we all strive for...the question is when, or if, we’re ever able to muster up the guts to finally live out our dreams.

I think Susan Boyle is one such example.  Remember her?  She stepped out on the stage for her first audition on Britain’s Got Talent and the judges immediately judged a book by its cover, showing her smirks and disbelief that she’d even step out on stage believing she had any talent.  Then when she began to sing I Dreamed a Dream, their eyes widened, their jaws dropped and eventually, everyone had nothing but a smile on their face and adoration in their eyes.  They did not expect even the slightest what Susan had in store for them.  
When Susan stepped out onto that stage she was asked by Simon, ‘what’s the dream?’  Susan said she wanted to become a professional singer and the reason it hadn’t happened yet was because she hadn’t been given the chance before.  Even though the judges’ eyes and body posture showed their apparent disbelief that she’d provide them anything worthwhile, she did not back down as she belted out what is still certainly one of the most memorable first auditions in talent show history.  Even now, Susan’s first audition can bring tears to my eyes.  The reason is that I appreciate her because she took a chance, faced ridicule and rejection and exposed her soul as she finally reached out for the dream she had desired for so long.   

It is shows like America’s Got Talent, or Britain’s Got Talent, when we watch others put themselves out there and we think to ourselves…maybe I should reach for my dream.  Maybe I should take a chance and see what happens.  Maybe it’s not too late.  Maybe I should stop making excuses and not wait any longer. 
There are many who have a dream and are never given the chance to prove themselves.  But that’s the wrong way to think about it.  Too many of us wait to be “given” the chance when we really should be “taking” a chance.  Once you are given the opportunity, it is up to you to take a chance on yourself and show others what you’re made of and what you can do.  It is that kind of fearless attitude, that kind of belief in themselves even if they’re about to pee their pants in fear of exposing themselves, that makes me hope the best for those who try to live out their dreams.  And when they make others believe in them, it will likely bring a tear to my eye.  Dreams are not meant to be dreamt but are meant to be lived and fulfilled and any dream, if only you believe in yourself first, is very much a possibility.


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

When Book Characters Live in Real Towns

If you’ve read my first novel, No Mother of Mine, you know that the protagonist, Jorja (say “Georgia”) resides in a small town in Washington called Tenino (say “T-9-0”).  What you may not know, depending on what part of the country or the world you reside, is that Tenino is a very real town.
Many authors might choose to base their story in a fictional town because it’s just much easier.  There are more pros than cons, with the biggest pro being that you get to use your imagination when developing the town, the streets, the shops and no one can take offense because you’re not comparing your fictional world to that of a real one.

When it comes to using a real town, it’s a mix of pros and cons.  The pros involve letting locals feel more involved with the story and the characters because they know the locations discussed in the book.  The con, of course, is that you might be limited with your imagination when it comes to where shops can be located and those who know the area will be easy to critique or criticize should you draw them a mental map of the town that just doesn’t quite make sense.
So why did I choose a real town?  There are a few reasons…

I felt, in a way, that I might be able to give something back to the community I grew up in by letting others know, even in a fictional setting, just how wonderful the small town of Tenino really is.  A great place to live, raise your children and, after venturing out in the world to experience life-changing events, a great place to live during retirement. 
I also liked the idea of writing a book full of small-town characters.  You can find colorful characters where ever you live but small-town characters give me more to work with.  In a small town, it can be exasperating how everyone knows everyone else and their business but it makes a great place to solve a mystery.  How else can an amateur sleuth solve the mystery if not for those residents with useful tidbits of information who haphazardly toss them aside like bread crumbs for the sleuth to take advantage of?

Finally, I prefer the cozy setting of a small town and it’s much easier to write about a location you are familiar with and knowledgeable about.  Of course, the shops in my book are fictional even though they may be located where a real version is actually situated (I’m working on a visual map to help readers).  That’s just all part of the fun.
While only small bits of the town and its surroundings are mentioned in the series so far, I will share more of it with you as the series continues.  Some of it I will share here on my Blog in more detail, I think, as there is just not enough room in my novels to give real attention to what I find most dear about Tenino and its history, as well as the surrounding cities. 

In the meantime, if you find you have a free afternoon on any given Saturday, you might want to plan a little road trip to Tenino.  Do you like to shop for local produce?  Need any plants or decorative items for your garden?  Do you enjoy hunting for special finds at antique shops?  How about lunch or a relaxing visit as you enjoy a nice glass of wine?  If you do make the trip, start with the local farmers market next to the elementary as you come into town from the North.  Then check out the antique shops in the historical section of town (smack in the middle of town) and plan to set aside enough time to scour the many, many antiques just waiting for you to take them home.  A few doors down from the antique shops you can grab a tasty treat at Aunt Kate’s Chocolates and then head across the street to visit Scatter Creek Winery for a nice bottle of wine to take home with you.  Need a gift?  You'll find plenty of ideas at the wine shop where other goods from local vendors are also available.  Before heading home, don’t forget to visit Donna’s Eco-Scapes just a few doors down from the wine shop where you will not only find great plants and planting ideas but also some nice metal art for your garden. 
But wait...there's more!  If you’d like to visit a few attractions just outside of town, check out Wolf Haven…located on Offut Lake Road just to the North of Tenino, it is a must see if you love animal conservations.  If nothing else, make sure to check out their website...the wolves are absolutely beautiful.  Any plans during Father’s Day weekend?  You might want to take part in the Father’s Day fishing derby at Offut Lake Resort from June 14th through the 16th.  Or maybe you prefer noise over quiet and would enjoy watching the races.  If that's the case, head West out of Tenino to locate  South Sound Speedway, the "fastest 3/8ths mile on the West Coast!"

Whatever interests you, I hope you visit the area soon so that you can see for yourself why I chose to let Jorja and the other characters in my books reside in such a town as Tenino.


Sunday, June 2, 2013

My Summer Reading List

I have a confession to make…I haven’t been able to enjoy any good books lately.  Other than the writing books I read to learn more about the craft, it’s been very difficult to stay focused on any one book.  I thought it was because I was too busy writing…leaving very little time to read other authors.  But then I finally figured out what the problem was…
I wasn’t enjoying the books I’d been reading. 

How did I finally come to this realization?  When I finally began a book I wasn’t able to put down or that I continued to think about even when I didn’t have my nose stuck in the book.
That’s what makes a good book.

And it’s why I was having such a difficult time getting through the past few books I had chosen to read.  They weren’t holding my attention and I almost dreaded having to get back to them.  I tried a romantic mystery by a well-known author but it was more romance and less mystery except for the question as to why I was even sticking with the story at all.  I tried a police thriller by another known author who I’ve read before and actually enjoyed but I soon discovered this story was just like the others, only with different characters.  Not much fun when I feel like I’ve already read the story and know the general plot.  I also read a thriller by an author I really like but for some reason this story just didn’t draw me in like the others had.
I was beginning to think there was something wrong with my ability to stick with a book.  Was it me and not the books?

Turns out it was the books.  Even though these authors have years of experience on me and their writing is as polished as all get out, sometimes a story just falls a little flat.  Even the best authors have bad days.
I have to admit how relieved I was to figure this out.  As much as someone might critique the way I may write, I’m still learning the craft and will get better as I continue to write.  What I hope, more than anything, is that it is my story and the plots involved with the characters that keep readers coming back to my book in order to finish it and later wait impatiently for more as the series continues.

And who can I give credit to for this relieving insight?  I happened to pick up a book on sale at Barnes & Noble recently by an author I had not yet heard of:  So Cold the River by Michael Koryta.  I decided to give it a shot because the back cover promised that the novel was being compared to the writings of Stephen King and Peter Straub.  Well, I’m always on the lookout for a new author who can provide me with creepy stories so I was immediately interested.  I’m happy to say the review posted on the back cover was not giving me a load of bull.  It is an interesting story about sinister happenings in an odd little town and I’m completely sucked in.
I’m also happy with the fact that I’ve found a new author I can enjoy reading.  Rather than dread my reading time with a book that’s not holding my interest, I look forward to finishing the story so that I can read what else the author has written.

Again, that’s what makes a good book.
I’m almost done with the first book on my summer reading list.  From there I’ll move on to the rest of the books in my summer pile, a mix of mystery, thriller, fantasy, historical fiction, inspirational and…yup, even a romance.  I figured I needed to add a beach read for those days when I need a light read. 

What’s on your reading list?  What types of books keep you entertained during the warm summer evenings?