Beauty in Brokenness

Nature in its Perfectness

I spent a lot of time in nature this past weekend and marveled, as usual, in all of its splendor. The perfect creations as well as the stunning beauty in the broken.

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And I started thinking…wouldn’t it be wonderful if we appreciated people as we do nature, in all of their brokenness and all of their flaws? If we truly accepted people exactly as they are, broken and bruised, and simply admired them for what they have to offer the world?  After all, we’re all a little broken, but each of us is so unique, so beautifully and wonderfully made.

Next time you see glass that’s broken or cracked, hold it up to the light. It’s those cracks in the glass that lets the light shine through. It’s not the perfectness, but the cracks, that create a brilliant light show you otherwise wouldn’t see.

“There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” –Leonard Cohen

Broken and Beautiful

This week may we look for the broken and choose to love them exactly as they are. Don’t judge or try to fix, just accept. Acceptance is the key to greatness and that greatness unlocks the door to bountiful love. And love, pure love, is what the world desperately needs.

“Finding beauty in a broken world is creating beauty in the world we find.”                   –Terry Tempest Williams

And now it’s off to the final week of Camp NaNo with its virtual cabins, campfires, and s’mores, and 30,000 words into Shear Murder, book 3 in the Melanie Hogan cozy mysteries.

Camping

 

And in the Beginning…

Beginnings

For those who have read my bio, you know my writing years began at the tender age of four. I took my fat little crayons in my fat little fingers and decided to experiment with words on the knotty pine walls of the living room. My parents were not impressed! But even back then, I had something to say and writing was the natural way for me to say it.
As the years went by, that didn’t change. The only thing that did change is that I graduated from crayon on walls to pen on paper. For that, my parents were grateful.

In my teen years, it was writing that helped me work through the tumultuous teen emotions and heartbreak. Many summer days, I lay in our little fishing boat, tied up to the dock, rocking as waves rolled up against the shoreline and lapped the bottom of the boat. I clutched my pen and paper and wrote poetry like there was no tomorrow. The words flowed endlessly. When I wasn’t in the boat, I was perched on the end of the dock, my feet dangling in the water, or plopped on my bed in my basement bedroom, crafting more poetry.

Fishing Boat
Fast forward a few years. I was still writing when I got pregnant with my first son. I penned 2 ½ novels (yup, not just 2, but 2 ½), which are still in boxes in my home office. I took a few writing classes, too. Then came my second son. The writing stopped. There was no spare time.

When my second son was in high school, I got my Associates of Applied Science in Paralegal Studies, and graduated with a 4.0 GPA. While everyone else was impressed, I knew it wasn’t what I was meant to do. My heart longed for the days when I was a writer.

When my second son graduated from high school, I followed my dream. I got back to writing and haven’t looked back. While I still maintain a day job in the legal field, my true calling, my avocation, is writing.

As I think about the journey to where I am now—five published books, two more in the works—there are three suggestions I have for beginning authors.

1.) Find a writing community, or even one or two other writers. Non-writers, family and friends included, think we just sit down, write and voila! A book appears. A non-writer can’t possibly know the blood, sweat, and tears that go into a piece of creative fiction—or non-fiction. And if that’s the only mindset you’re subjected to and hearing on your writing journey, you’ll start believing it yourself. Eventually you’ll start to think of yourself a failure when you’re unable to just sit down and magically produce a novel.

Additionally, the non-writer can view writing as a waste of time unless the writer is making a lot of money. You may hear that you should be spending your time on something more worthwhile, something “important,” whatever that means. “Important” means different things to different people. Writing is hugely important to me. And if you’re a writer, it will be to you, too. It’s not about how much money we make (though, I imagine you wouldn’t catch any of us complaining if we made a dollar to two), it’s about a need to express the creative side that’s burning inside of us. And it’s work. Hard work. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

“To labor in the arts for any reason other than love is prostitution.”
― Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles

That being said, not all non-writers think this way. And if you feel they are, it’s important to ask yourself if there’s any validity to your feelings or if it’s your own insecurity and self-doubt that makes it feel that way. We writers are frequently tormented with self-doubt. It’s what many of us do best. Either way, let it go. If you don’t already, you’ll soon have a writing community reminding you you’re not alone. 

2.)  Plan your week and schedule in writing time. When first starting out, set a timer and just write. Don’t get up under any circumstance. Not for anything. This exercises your butt-in-chair muscle, even if it’s only for 15 minutes at a time. And don’t open the Internet to check anything. Your email will still be there when you’re done with your writing session, and your Facebook likes will still be there waiting. Even hard-core social media addicts can stay away for 15 minutes. If not, invest in Freedom. After you’ve created a habit of writing, play around to discover which method most accommodates your lifestyle—continue with timed writing sessions, decide on a set number of pages per day, word count goals, etc.

3.)  Don’t compare yourself to anyone else in the writing industry. We all have mentors and people we admire in the writing industry (think Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, Joanna Penn) but don’t strive to be just like them. You are you. And you are fabulous. You have something unique to contribute to the reading world. And it would be a waste to deprive the world of that because you’re trying to be like someone else. As well, comparing yourself to other writers is the kiss of death. I struggle with comparisonitis as much as the next person, but I recognize it for what it is and kick it to the curb as soon as I realize that it’s trying to sink its fangs into my writing life.

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

And now it’s back for week three of Camp NaNo and more virtual camping.

Bonfire-Brainerd

Carpe Diem

Book Launch Partytime

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This past Saturday was my book launch for not one, but two books. Finding Abby was released in November. Life got in the way and I didn’t advertise, promote, nothing. With my recent release, Shear Malice, book three in the Melanie Hogan cozy mystery series, I decided to have a double release. And better yet, sharing it with a fellow author, Donna Schlachter and her alter ego, Leeann Betts. What a better way to celebrate literary success than with a fellow author!

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In each Melanie Hogan mystery I include a recipe from Nana’s kitchen. The recipe for Shear Malice is Nana’s Scrumptious Chocolate Zucchini Brownies. To stick with the theme, I made some for the launch party. While baking a recipe from scratch takes longer than opening a box, the results were amazing and well worth the time!

Next up? An author event in October with some cozy mystery authors. The planned theme is Cozy With Tea–a variety of hot teas, scones, a fire in the fireplace, and books, books, books.

And now it’s back to Camp. Camp NaNo, that is. A time for relaxation and fun, with virtual bonfires, smores, and campfire chatter with other campers. I’m sharing a virtual cabin with several fellow writers from the Longmont and Boulder area, and creating book four in the Melanie Hogan cozy mystery series, Shear Murder.

More to follow…

Camping

See you next week. Until then…

 

Carpe diem

Mining for Ideas

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I’m confident that everyone who writes has been asked on more than one occasion, “Where do you get your ideas?”
Even when I expect it, that question always makes me freeze. When I finally thaw, I hem and haw, shift from one foot to the other, scrunch my face, followed by a long exhale…you would think I was in pain. And I kind of am. Because try as I might, I cannot for the life of me come up with a good, concrete answer.

The truth is, ideas are literally everywhere. My fear is not having enough time to write all the stories that pop into my head. All the scenes I want to flesh out, all the characters through which I want to live vicariously, all the things I want to research to put into a book…well, you get the idea. I’ve had people tell me, “Hey, I’ve got this fabulous idea for a book. You should write it for me.” I give them a blank stare and then I cough, buying some time before I’m finally able to speak. “Uh, yeah,” I say, “as soon as I finish with all of the ideas I already have.” In other words, not in this lifetime.

Writers are day dreamers, night dreamers, creative thinkers, even when we’re not aware of it. I will sometimes hear something or witness something seemingly unimportant, but then remember it days or weeks down the road when it’s making its way into my WIP.

My ears perk up when I hear people squabbling in the grocery store line, Starbucks, or any public place. I listen to husbands and wives interacting with each, siblings of all ages, and words between friends. The best of all? Two strangers who strike up a conversation as they’re waiting for time to pass, whether in line somewhere or in a doctor’s office waiting room. It’s amazing what two people will tell each other in a public place when they’re oblivious to the fact that they’re surrounded by others.

Now, I don’t so much care about the words these people say, but rather the way they say them, their tone. I also try to sneak a peek (sneak, so I don’t come across as being a creeper) at their facial expressions and body language. It’s those moments captured, incorporating them into a character, that makes a character believable and come to life. It’s those nuances that give characters necessary layers.

Another thing I do is carry a little Sony digital recorder when I’m running, walking, or driving. Or any other time it isn’t possible to carry a notebook or safely write. It’s then that ideas pop into my head and I need to capture them before they disappear. I’ve learned a long time ago that even if the idea is so monumental I think there’s no way I could ever forget it, it still escapes me nearly every time. I get busy, life happens, and the idea is a whisper in the wind.

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So, go exercise that creative brain, take advantage of those night dreams and daydreams, and be careful what you say the next time you’re standing in line at the grocery store. If there’s a writer anywhere in the near vicinity, you’ll end up in a book.

“Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.”
—Virginia Woolf

Traditional Publishing vs. Indie Publishing

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Indie publishing used to hold a certain stigma, but that’s no longer so. It’s become more widely recognized as a legitimate publishing option, and rightly so, as there’s a lot of work that goes into it. An indie author doesn’t just throw words on the page and hit “publish.” Well, they shouldn’t anyway. Not if they want to truly respect the writing and reading community and want to attract a readership. Readers are smart and savvy. They will catch, in a heartbeat, a work of art that’s not art at all.

Writers who travel along either publishing road start out the same way—words on the page. After the initial draft, each must edit to make it the best they possibly can. It’s that simple and that hard. From there the road forks and each individual writer must decide which scenic drive they want to take.

Country Road
Below are some of the pros and cons of each. This is certainly not an exhaustive list, so a little homework might be needed in order to make a fully informed decision.

Traditional Publishing Pros:

  • You won’t have to pay for editing or cover art. That being said, it’s still a splendid idea to pay someone to edit your piece before submitting it to an agent. At least if you want a positive response.
  • Validation—some writer’s may need (or simply want) someone to recognize their work and desire to represent them. Writers, in general, are an insecure group. We’re always looking at others’ successes and wonder if we will ever get there. “There” is something you will want to spend some time thinking about. Where is your “there” that you would like to eventually like to be? Search those authors who are at your “there” and find out how they got “there.”
  • Some help marketing. I say some because these days even traditionally published authors are held responsible for their own marketing.

Traditional Publishing Cons:

  • Much lower royalties—some authors get an advance and their royalties work against that advance. Once they’ve earned royalties that add up to the amount they received in said advance, they begin to earn additional royalties. If they reach that point. Many do not. It’s not uncommon for small presses not to pay their authors an advance.
  • No Control—authors have little to no control over their cover art or even the manuscript itself.
  • No rights—traditionally published authors sign away the rights to their work. It no longer belongs to the author, but to the publishing house.
  • Lengthy process—Once it’s been acquired by a publisher, it could take several months, sometimes even years, to finally see your book on the shelves.

Indie Publishing Pros

  • High royalties—by publishing your eBook on Amazon, you will net 70% royalties if your book is priced from $2.99 and up.
  • You maintain all rights. You can do whatever you want, whenever you want, with your books. You can price them to your liking, give them away in contests if you wish, and anything else that strikes your fancy.
  • Total control—your content and cover art are completely yours. You call the shots. It’s a great deal for those of us Type A’s who need control.
    Once you hit publish, (after you’ve gone through the necessary editing, that is) it only takes hours to a few days for your book to be out there for the world to read.

Indie Publishing Cons

  • Many contests will not accept indie submissions.
  • Solo marketing—Marketing is yours. It’s a learning curve, as is the indie process in general. And once you think you’ve mastered it, there is something new that comes out. The bonus, however, is there are numerous sites out there to help you. My absolute favorite is thecreativepenn.com.
  • You foot the cost for editing and cover art – Neither of these are things you want to skimp on. That being said, as I mentioned earlier, even if you aim for traditional publishing, you would do yourself a huge favor by paying for someone to edit your work before you submit to an agent.

If you’re on the fence about which road is right for you, take the time and make a list of the pros and cons. Not a mental list, but an actual written list. It helps to physically see it in front of you. Find as many pros and cons of each as you can. Then make a list of the top five of which are most appealing to you, those that define what success means to you. Still can’t decide? You don’t have to choose just one. There are many authors who have chosen the hybrid model, which is both traditional and indie.

I, personally, love the indie route. I love the team I work with, having control of my product, and maintaining my rights. Would I like the validation of being accepted by an agent and a publishing house? Of course. But that’s not at the top of my list. And at times when I do yearn for that validation, I remember a line from the movie Cool Runnings:

“Derice, a gold medal is a wonderful thing. But if you’re not enough without one, you’ll never be enough with one.” -Irv (Cool Runnings)

 

Detour Home

Country Road

A while back I mentioned my new online home, where I’ve also transferred my blog. That being said, I neglected to include a sign up/follow button on my new site. It took me a while to get around to doing that, but it’s now done. I would absolutely love to have you visit me over there. So, despite taking a detour in my return to blogging, alas, I’m back, at my newly located blog home, ready to roll. Next week I will begin weekly Wednesday blog posts there. See you on Wednesdays, just around the bend.

Until then…

Carpe diem