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

Camp NaNo 2016

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Coming into the game late, I still made it! Because of sheer stubbornness, of course. I can’t stand to lose against myself. 🙂 I didn’t decide to participate until April 8th when I decided it would give me the extra encouragement and push I needed to get the revision done on my novel, Finding Abby. Now I have the momentum going to finish by the end of this month and get it to amazing editor Rachel Overton! 🙂

Write on!

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A Little of This, A Little of That

My novel, Shear Madness, Book One in The Melanie Hogan Mystery Series, gets shipped off for a final edit this week. The planned release is in July. 🙂 The rest of this month I’m going to focus on the revision of Book Two, Shear Deception. And then July 1st it’s off to Camp again for Camp NaNo, where I plan to “pen” the first draft of a YA mystery series I have tumbling around in my brain.

My morning run was spent absorbing not only the wisdom by Sol Stein in his audio book Stein on Writing (The chapter on dialogue is among the best I’ve ever read/heard) but also absorbing the brilliant warm sunshine and nature’s beauty. Thought I would share a couple of snapshots with you.

In our not-yet-acknowledged secret garden lie the seeds of some of our best not-yet-written stories.” -Sol Stein

Have a beautiful week, my friends. Seize each moment of every day, and make every one count!

Carpe diem

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The Power of Words

 

Words

A while back I posted on this topic and this morning it was brought to my attention again.

While I was on my morning run, enjoying some moments strung together without rain or snow, I met up with an older couple, each with their own garbage bag, picking up trash along the river trail. The river trail is my favorite place to run–when I’m not being attacked by big dogs–because it’s serene, lined with green trees and the river on one side, and wildlife from turtles to turkeys to coyotes. When I saw this couple I stopped, took out my ear buds and told them what they were doing was so nice and thank you. They stopped and looked at me, the woman sighed and smiled, her eyes bright. She said:

“That’s the nicest thing you could have ever said to us, is thank you.”

Wow!

The power of words. How easy it would have been to keep in my own world, listening to my music, being absorbed with me. How many times do we get busy living life that we forget to notice others around us. I know I do. The janitorial staff that comes on shift as I’m leaving the office, the paper delivery boy, the person who has a cart full of items at the grocery store and yet gets in the twenty items or less line and lets me go ahead when s/he sees I only have a few items. How easy it is to scowl that they’re in the wrong line anyway.

What I’ve learned as I travel my journey is that what comes out of my mouth affects the listener as much as the speaker. Not saying thank you to the person in the grocery line leaves my heart hard and burdened, my attitude dark, as self-righteousness grips me. That, in turn, shapes the way I treat others the rest of the day. When I say something kind, regardless of whether or not the person is doing something I perceive as wrong, it makes the person experience joy and it lightens my own heart. It feels good from the depths of my soul to be kind to someone.

When I carried on with the rest of my run after my encounter with the couple, my steps felt lighter, my heart glad, the day brighter.

Whether spoken or written, words carry enormous power. How easy it is to fire off that email or snail mail letter. Or how easy it is to speak something negative or derogatory about someone in the name of defending yourself after they’ve wronged you. I used to tell my kids when they were growing up, “Choose your words carefully. Words are like toothpaste–once it’s out you can’t get it back in the tube no matter how hard you try.”

Those are words I, as an adult, need to remember.

This week as I communicate with others and as I work on my writing, I’m going to work on remembering the power of words. Especially the two seemingly small words that carry great weight–“Thank You.”

And now I’m back to using my words at Camp NaNoWriMo. 🙂

But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.” — George Orwell, 1984

Bonfire-Brainerd

 

 

 

Pearls of Wisdom

Genrefest 2015

This weekend I was fortunate enough to attend Genre Fest 2015, an event organized by the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, Rocky Mountain Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, and The Colorado Authors’ League. The speaker for the morning was David Morrell, creator of Rambo –as well as numerous novels (both fiction and nonfiction) and short fiction–and to say I was impressed is a serious understatement. While I expected great pearls of wisdom coming from such a successful author–and he certainly delivered, what I didn’t expect was his level of humility. What an incredible man. Would I go see him again if he’s in the area? In a heartbeat! I realize I just used the dreaded exclamation point, but that’s how strongly I feel about it. I would recommend anyone who has the opportunity to grab that sucker. You won’t be disappointed.

While I couldn’t possibly mention all of the golden nuggets of advice, some of the ones that I’ll always remember are:

His five rules for writing mystery/thrillers (and could fit with any genre) are:

1.) Know why your writing what you are. If you’re writing what you are simply because it’s popular at the moment, you may want to re-evaluate writing that genre. What you’re writing should be personally meaningful; because you can’t imagine not writing it; because it should be worth spending a year (or more) of your time on.

2.)  Know the history of the genre you’re writing. He states, “we can’t recognize when a plot is hackneyed if we don’t educate ourselves about the best that has been done in the genre.” He suggested that if you’re writing a specific genre, you should know enough about the history that you could give a lecture on it.

3.)  Do your research. Your research can come from interviewing experts, reading non-fiction books on the subject, physically visiting the place you’re writing about as well as doing the activities you’re writing about. This last one, in particular, opens all five senses to the experience. The Internet is another deep well to gain knowledge. What not to do is to get your research from TV or movies. The details are not reliable. (Think courtroom and police dramas.) My husband and I both work in the law enforcement arena, and trust me when I say real life is nothing like it shows on Law and Order, CSI, The Good Wife, etc.

4.)  Be yourself. His exact words are worth repeating over and over and over. And over again. “Be a first-rate version of yourself rather than a second-rate version of another author. Innovate rather than imitate.” Wow! (Yup, another exclamation point.)

5.)  Avoid the genre trap. What we write should be the most exciting and moving novel that we can write. Our job is to write a genre novel that doesn’t come off as a genre book.

Other notable mentions:

  • There are no “odds” on whether you will succeed, get published, etc. What happens to you happens 100%.
  • One thing all of us writers are prone to is daydreaming. In fact we can’t shut it off. Children are often told to “stop wasting your time daydreaming” as if it’s a negative thing. In reality, daydreaming is not a waste of time at all. It’s where ideas come from. The key is to be aware of your daydreams. Too often they’re mini narratives that we dismiss.
  • Don’t write what you’re supposed to. Write what you’re meant to.
  • Don’t chase the market because you’ll always be looking at the back side.

I had David Morrell’s writing book, The Successful Novelist: A Lifetime of Lessons about Writing and Publishing, on my bookshelf at home waiting to be read. I bumped it ahead of all the others I want to read and I’m not regretting it.

And now it’s back to the world of Camp NaNo for campfire stories, connecting with my most awesome cabin mates, s’mores, and writing by the light of my lantern.

Bonfire-Brainerd

 

Happy Easter!

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Happy Easter to all! I hope everyone has a most blessed day!

I sat on my deck for most of yesterday afternoon finishing the book Twenty Eight and a Half Wishes (which I would highly recommend as it’s a most entertaining read), but, therefore, got behind on my Camp NaNo word count. So after a prayer run this morning before going to church to thank My Father for the Risen Christ, dinner with family and a nice long walk until I can breathe again from eating too much 🙂 I’ll be working on my word count.

Enjoy your day whatever you plan to do! 🙂

Easter Lily

God Bless You and Yours.