Thursday, April 10, 2014

Setting boundaries

I'm not leaving the house today. Maybe tomorrow too. I'm dressed in gym shorts and a T-shirt. My bottle of water is nearby, on the table. My TV is off and my phone . . .well, my phone has caller ID so I will answer when my daughter calls me in about one hour.

But that's it.

What's wrong with me?

We moved here about a month ago. I'm unpacked, settled in this villa and made a few acquaintances. But I haven't gotten organized with my writer life. I scanned a few blogs this am and noticed many other writers struggling with the same problem.

We work at home and home calls us, friends call us, the beautiful weather calls us---all during the time we should be hard at work writing.

I'm in the middle of edits for a book I would love to see published some day. I finished it last fall and then all this move stuff happened. My plan is to send it off to a freelance editor by mid-summer. Maybe sooner if I can get my writing partner to critique it before then.

That's my goal. To accomplish this goal I have to make some major decisions--like treating my time at home more like work. (It isn't easy telling your one and only daughter who lives across the country in another time zone to not call me three times a day.)

I checked my time on Tuesday and noted that five hours had passed and all I had accomplished was a run to the grocery store, mopped one floor and prepared supper. Two hours of that times was spent on the phone with friends.

Sure we need that time with others. I need that time with others. But I also need to treat my writing with more commitment.

How about you? What takes you away from writing and the goals you've set?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Changing the way we look at life

I've lived many places in my thirty-six years of marriage. Today I call Bonita Springs, Florida home--a gift from God.

When we started building last spring, we never dreamed we wouldn't finish by this year. I had hopes of seeing my cabinets completed and inviting my first guests over for dinner. I saw myself planting a garden this spring and painting my porch furniture to match my front door.

Today this street view is what greets me every morning. It's nothing like the two acres we own in a small town in Pennyslvania. They call this development resort style living. People ride bikes and jog and swim in the two pools or work out in the fitness center that overlooks one of many lakes. Every day at two, I walk across six bridges to the town center post office to check for mail. If I want I can get my hair cut, my toes painted, pump gas, plan a vacation, do banking or dine in one of their many ammenities.

It's different. But then I knew different would come with this territory when we made the jump. Different will face me many more times as I find a new church, a new doctor, a new stylist and new friends. Being open to different will help.

Being open to what God wants from me will help too.

You know that feeling when you wonder what God is doing with your life? I'm there. I've always been a homebody type of person. I like stability. I thrive on it. For some reason, that part of me needs to go away because change seems to be the norm now.

Who knows when we might move again?

So I'm riding a  twenty-year-old bike, working out in the gym, saying hello to new neighbors and driving around unfamiliar territory in search of a great thrift store.

I'm opening my heart to the change in my life. Are you?

Thursday, February 27, 2014

For I know the plans I have for you...

It's happening again. I'm moving. Not to the home we've been building but back to Florida. The questions are already being asked in my small town. "You're moving again?" and "What about your new house?"

What about my new house...

What about being home finally...

I guess God had other plans.

If I've learned one thing over the past seven years it's that change happens when you least expect it. Out of the blue my husband was offered back his dream job. In Florida. Managing the building of million dollar homes.

Of course we had to say yes even if it means delaying the finishing of our home. Who wouldn't when you haven't had a decent paycheck in months? Who wouldn't go south after one of the worst winters on record?

Thankfully, God changed my heart after I saw where we would be living. Immediately, I felt a strong connection to the area. But as we returned to PA to begin the packing, my heart teetered. How could I start over again? Why didn't the dream job happened here?

For I know the plans...

My new book talks about searching for God's plans in your life. I've been faithfully reading this verse for months now, hoping and praying for direction and a plan that would work for us.

I didn't realize it would mean moving again.

So by March 15th, I will be writing to you from sunny Naples. And watching the next phase of my life unfold.

Friday, January 24, 2014

My Cover Reveal and the Story Behind the Book

When my publisher sent me the file for my cover, I waited three hours to open it. Would it show my story? Would it stand up to a former bookbuyer's eye? Would it draw anyone in?

I wasn't disappointed. Seeing The Mulligan on the cover gave me an extra thrill. They used my title. Then I read the blurb and smiled again. Yes, they kept what I sent them.

But there's always more to a cover than the design in this writing process. There's the story behind it.

For my friends who have followed my blog over the years, many of you might remember that after my husband lost his job in 2007, he couldn't find work anywhere in Florida. His inactivity around the house drove me nuts and I knew he needed something to occupy his time until he found work.

One day I suggested he take up golf. What followed was a volunteer job at a local course and eventually he went to PGCC for his degree in Golf Management.

He was in a class of men--all ages--and one woman. When I heard about this young girl who had decided to attend a mostly all male golf school, my imagination went wild.

But that's not the end of the story. My husband never made a huge use of his degree--preferring to return to his original path of employment. He lamented going to school but I argued at least he has a good hobby now. Before golf, he didn't.

Today when I saw the cover, I also saw God's hand in our lives when he led my husband to that school and allowed us to learn about the sport. Maybe it wasn't all about my husband staying busy and gaining a new hobby.

I think God had a bigger plan and that was to allow me to write a book about a topic I previously knew nothing about. Sometimes we get to see the answer to why.

Isn't He amazing?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The end of the book

Do you ever read the questions that some writers put in the back of their book for you to use in a book group or Bible study?

That's what I'm working on now. Or trying to. I was surprised to see that writing these questions was  part of creating my book. I had to ask my editor what that task meant. When she told me, I understood immediately because I've looked at a few of them from time to time and tried to answer them.

I'm grateful today for a writing partner who has written Bible studies from books. You see, this part of writing is not my thing. I guess though when you write a book, soon you are writing things that you never have before. They call that stretching yourself.

I'm doing that. I tore out several back pages from favorite books and stacked them in front of me. Then I read and reread them trying to figure out how to take what I've written and put it into sensible probing questions.

Here's where my writing partner came in. I told her what I had to do and she immediately got it, created a few and a light bulb went off in my head. Yes, I should be able to do this.

So I'm sitting here on a Sunday afternoon mulling over where to begin.

Kind of like I did when I wrote my first story.

Have you ever felt as though you were starting over? When you did, what did you do to get moving again?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Embrace the Adventure

Quite a few writers have talked about finding their word for the year. Some have done it for many years but I've never jumped in and chosen mine.

This year I decided to choose a phrase instead: Embrace the Adventure.

I'm not sure the exact moment my dismal situation hit me. Maybe when I started noticing a pattern of complaints in my journal. Maybe when my good friend joked that after seven years, yeah, maybe she was a little tired of my whining. (I'm a slow learner.)

I guess it doesn't matter when but more importantly that I do recognize how I'm taking my ups and downs in life. Sure, I'll say it. I whine. Maybe a lot. It depends on what's happening. Don't make me tell you how low I can go. Envision the limbo.

Instead of embracing the changes God gives me in my life, I run screaming and moaning from them. I can imagine His reaction. I pray and pray for something and when He allows it to happen, I whine because it isn't exactly in my timing or the exact way I'd imagined it. I really don't trust too well.

So today a new mantra goes up on my refrigerator. Embrace the Adventure. Fall full into God's arms when He gives me a new situation. Take it on and be grateful for the experience. Watch and learn from it. Be thankful.

But most of all. Don't whine.

Disclaimer: This change might come slowly but it's the effort that counts.

Friday, January 03, 2014

The first edits from my publisher

I didn't know what to expect when my first edits arrived for the book that is about to be published. My editor emailed me when my book was contracted to tell me she would be working on the edits. Last week, her email arrived in my mailbox with that paper-clip thing letting me know something was attached.

I have always read blogs from new writers and heard them say they are on deadline and working on their edits. I always wondered about the kind of edits. Were they entire rewrites or what?

So when mine arrived, I didn't know what to expect.

My editor is someone I respect even more because she is a writer too. Her encouraging words in the past when she accepted my submission always gave me the confidence I needed to move forward.

In her email, she suggested a few changes I should make that could make the book stronger. She also told me she had changed other words because of editorial guidelines that each publishing house has of their own. I tended to use "okay" whereas "OK" is the acceptable format for this publisher.

All in all, her email to me sounded doable. Then I opened the attachment. Fortunately I was familiar with Track Changes and after a little trial and error found that when  I made changes, my text came out brown, a different color than the changes the editor already made. Probably most writers know this but honestly, I never used the program this way before.

Last week, I read through the entire book and addressed the small changes.Today I worked on  parts that required longer editing. Over the next couple of weeks, I plan to read the book several more times to be sure anything creative I want to add, I do now.

What hit me most as I read my words and see the changes that have been made, is the acute awareness that others besides my Beta readers, editor and writing partners will be reading this book. I now look at every word much differently than I might a blog post or Facebook post. People will pay money to read my book and I want them to feel they got their money's worth.

Question:  Do you think about paying readers as you write?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Why having Facebook friends who pray blows me away

I hadn't planned to write another post--so close to Christmas as we are. But I needed to share what happened yesterday. I think it exemplifies the holiday more than anything else.

Most of my readers know that my life has been a huge roller coaster event ever since 2007. My husband and I are still waiting for what we hope can be a normal life again. I'm starting to doubt it may never happen but still you hope and dream for it.

We are in the middle of building a home here in PA with the proceeds of the house we sold in Florida. We'd hoped to start last fall when we returned but everything with building has changed here. Permits and rules and of course the costs kept skyrocketing. So we never broke ground until April of this year. That means that my husband has been building it himself for the past nine months so we can move in before winter.

More setbacks happened--we couldn't find a block layer, for one. We laid 2000 blocks ourselves but that took the entire summer.

Now winter has descended upon us. Without heat in the house, it's impossible to work in there. It's also impossible to find work elsewhere at this time of year so our financial burden grows.

The weight of my life's situation sometimes gets to be too much. Yes, you go on and trust that God has a bigger better plan, but we are human. You can't help but feel overwhelmed.

That's when I wrote a Facebook post and asked for prayer to get through the day.

I was blown away by the response.

Each time I went on Facebook, someone else had prayed. My spirits soared. God's people lifted me when I needed it most. My down-in-the-dumps life-is-horrid attitude changed as the hours passed. I once again wait eagerly on the Lord to show us what to do.

The prayers of faithful friends do change lives. Often we don't see the results of our prayers. Well, yesterday, friends,  your prayers changed my world.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Have you planned how to market your book?

I don't have a clue when my book will be released but I know one thing. I don't want it to be lost in  the thousands and thousands of books that come out.

We all hope our book will sell but realistically I know that if it is to sell, I have to do most of the work.

I've watched many friends market their first book and I've wondered what I would try. What did they do that made me want to buy their book or at least remember the name of it? What annoyed me and what surprised me? What one market ploy did they do that stood above all the rest?

When I opened my bookstore eons ago,  I read every book on guerilla marketing. I wanted everyone in town to come to my store and purchase our goods. Some of my tactics worked--some flopped.

I expect the same will happen with my book marketing. Already I've had people offer to host a blog tour for me and another person offered to host a booksigning in their store.

Will  these methods really make a difference? Or will the difference come from the contacts I've  made over the years?

When I've bought books it's usually because I know the author already. I like who they are and want to support them. But what about the people out there who don't know me? Do they really want to read what came out of my head?

Writing the book was easy. The job of getting a reader to read it is much harder. I have my work ahead of me.

I would love to hear what marketing methods annoy or delight you!

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Who looks at a book cover? Every person who reads.

Part of my task as a new author is to answer some questions about what I would like on the book's cover.

For me, the cover design makes or breaks a book. As a former book buyer, I know how important it is for a cover to stand out. It has to speak to me and make me want to read the blurb. So you wonder how I'm feeling about having this chance to make comments on my cover design?

I'm calmer now but initially, (and I promised to tell it the way it really is on this blog) I panicked thinking this: What if this is the only book that is ever published with my name on it? What if I suggest something horrible and it comes out horrible? What if...

I do that a lot. Say what if, you know. But it's true. This could very well be my one and only book. I sure hope not but it is at the very least my first. So I want the cover to convey the story.

The publisher asked me what one element I wanted on the cover.

One. Not fourteen or a split page with two elements or an insert  of a necklace in the corner.

One element.

So I tried to think quick. What always comes up when I tell people about my book?

Then they asked me to describe the mood of the book and to give suggestions of other cover designs I like that would work.

Let's say this... Amazon is really big.

But I narrowed it down. Just haven't clicked Send yet.

Like I do with writing, I made a goal. By the end of Friday, I will quit agonizing and send what I have chosen. That's it. I'll live with it and yes, trust God that he has the perfect image and design in mind for me.

Have you gone through this process before? What did you find helped most in cover selection?