Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Taking Back My Blog


I started this blog in 2006, almost ten years ago. Since then I've alternated between writing about what was going on in my life to writing tips and about the writer's life. I guess it was a natural progression as I became a writer during that time period.

I've found as time went by, I worried more about my words and wrote less about what I really wanted to write here.

  I think it's time for a change.

For example, what's really on my mind today? A woman who's marriage is broken. A woman I don't know but if I made one phone call, I'm certain I would be part of her life. For days, I've been teetering on calling her. We played phone tag for a few months. I'd decided I really didn't have time for this friendship. After all, I don't know how long I'll be living in this area. Why get to know someone and then perhaps move again?

But the other part of me tells me I'm so wrong. Wouldn't I want someone to reach out to me? Didn't I when my husband lost his job? I begged God to send me friends who cared.

So that's just one concern filling my mind today. The bigger one is I worry if I can pump out another book. I worry that I've used everything I had in me and that the last two books I wrote will never sell anyways so why bother.

My thinking is as gnarled as the roots in the above picture. 

I pray, I wait, I pray more. I have come to realize too not to make decisions until I'm positive it's God's plan and not mine. I wait for that peace to fill me before I do anything. Today I'm waiting. 

Meanwhile, I'm going to end with this declaration: I'm taking back my blog

I'm going to once again write what's in my heart and not because it might help my stats or my sales or is popular. I'm going to blog because blogging used to be fun. And I like fun.

 So hang on, I'm back.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Living Life as an Adventure

I've lived in 11 houses since I married 37 years ago. I've lived in 4 states. Florida twice. I married my husband 9 months after meeting him. I've had 5 good careers. Not including other jobs along the way. I've built 2 homes. I had 1 child. And owned 4 pets.

When I was much younger, I had this plan as to how I would live my life. I would go to college, get married, have children and a career(simultaneously) and travel. For the most part, my plan played out.

I didn't want to just live life--I wanted to live an adventure.

This week, I've spent several hours on the phone listening to friends and family share with me how disappointed they are with their current status-pro--whether it be their job, social life or lack of time to enjoy life. They don't want advice, they want someone to listen.

Their concerns made me think about the way I'm living my life now. I've always taken chances and was more than willing to risk careers and security for a chance at something better, Sometimes it has worked out, sometimes not so much. But at least I didn't play it safe when everything was stacked against me. I reached out for the next adventure and trusted that it was what God would have me do.

Now that I am 60, a number I'm still coming to terms with, I find myself questioning my current choices in life. How many more adventures are waiting for me to grab? How many more opportunities for me to live my life and not just exist?

I often say "Never say Never" because each day offers new promises. That thought gives me reason to get out of bed and open my eyes and mind to my surroundings.

I'm ready to add more numbers to my list. Are you letting your life play out or are you living your life as an adventure?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

What I Learned about Writing from Reading Mr Mercedes

The last Stephen King book I read took me forever. Not only was it long but it was one of his weirder ones.

I grabbed this book from our community library, determined to get in some reading between writing my books. Two nights ago, I stayed up much too late to finish it. I can't remember the last time a book made me give up my pillow.

Best of all, I learned valuable writing points that I hope to employ in my own writing,

  1. Create memorable characters. Not characters who are handsome or beautiful or have no defects or the perfect life. Backstory matters if done correctly. King's protagonist and antagonist were not your typical good guy/ bad guy. It really made me take a look at the character traits of my current WIP. How unique are they?
  2. Amp the Pacing. Not once did I find my eyes wandering from the page to wonder what I'd make for dinner, Instead, I wished my husband would cook while I read. And then when the final chapters bumped up the speed---yes--the right amount of pacing makes the reader keep reading. I was out of breathe in that last chapter but totally invested.
  3. Choose words that Count. King used words that created a sense of urgency as the plot evolved. He shortened his sentences and chose verbs that heightened my fear and intensified my anxiety as I read making me want to know the ending.
  4. Endings that Work. I spent days reading this book. If King had left me hanging or given me a less than satisfying ending, I may never have read another of his books again. I was that invested in the story line and characters. But he delivered. So should I and maybe I will gain another reader. 

You might not be a fan of King's writing. You might be a fan of another popular writer. Read their work. Study why you love or don't love a book. Then apply that learning to your own work. Stretch your writing muscles. 


Monday, May 04, 2015

3 Ps on the Path to Publishing

Ten years ago, I made the commitment to write toward publication. I told my husband it was a choice I wanted to follow, no matter how long it took. I never realized it would require ten years before my first book was published by a traditional publisher.

As I look back, I recognize three major behaviors I needed to succeed.

Persevere: It's easy to quit. It's harder to keep going especially when rejections fill your in-box. If you persevere, you will improve. Read craft books, books by talented writers, and seek critiques of your work.

Prioritize: Time has a way of sucking you in. For the good and the bad. If you choose to write, then you must make writing a commitment in your life. I tell everyone I work from home every day. That means limited phone calls and that I also schedule my writing time. I take writing seriously as my business. It is no longer a hobby especially when I have an agent waiting for the next book. 

Pray: All the time. I pray every day God would guide my writing and that my words might touch one person. I pray He gives me the ideas I need to write and gives me the stamina to finish and not quit. 

No one ever said writing is easy. When someone tells me they have always wanted to write a book, I ask, "What's stopping you?"

Add these behaviors to your life and your answer will be "Nothing!"

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Walls

Someone posted this on Facebook awhile ago. I shared it to my daughter's page. She didn't see it for another week or so. She was busy taking care of a scary situation at work. A situation no mother wants her daughter to endure.

But she made it through the interviews, the fears, the stress and the long hours. I prayed a lot during those days. Prayed for her safety and for God to see her through.

Then she hit the wall.

She called me with tears in her voice telling me she couldn't do this job anymore. Had she made all the right decisions? Had she taken care of the people she needed to? She couldn't sleep, she couldn't eat, she couldn't care for her family.

We've all hit those proverbial walls in our lives at sometime or another. Usually, like my daughter, it's after we've handled the crisis. I remember as a young counselor, going into an apartment to find my client covered in blood. I had to talk him out of his closet to get him to the hospital before he died from blood loss. I went home and cried and cried. But I returned to work the next day.

As I've grown older, the walls are harder to hit. My move to Texas almost undid me. Then the trip home to PA and the struggle with financial needs. Finally, the return move to Florida last year. Little by little, it seems as though the bouncing back and stiff upper lip I need to make it are disappearing.

Sometimes I wonder how many more walls I have inside of me to hit. How many do you have?

But I know the answer. Just like you do.

As many as it takes to live the life we are given.

My daughter pulled herself together that day and returned to her duties. I'll follow my husband to Florida and PA again if that's where we are supposed to go. I'm sure I'll hit that wall again hard but I always know I have someplace to fall when I do.

"I'll be there," God said.

Monday, April 13, 2015

How much information is too much?

We've selected the date. June 11th. Another trip home to work on our house. The last time were were there it was a chilly October. We managed to side almost the entire place.

It was also the time my father-in-law went home to heaven. We spent time with family and our close friends but still we had to finish the job we came home to do.

This time home, we will be working on the electrical. My son-in-law is flying in to help with the project. We are praying our daughter and our grandkids can join him as well. 

So why do I tell you all this about me? It's not to brag what an awesome guy I married who can build me a house. It's not to lament that the building is taking forever. (It seems like that!) It isn't to hopefully bore you to death. (Am I?)

Why I share what I do is to give you a glimpse of who I am so that when you read my books, you will feel as though you know me a little better. I don't know about you, but I like to know something about the authors I read.  

And having said that, I will post my final picture of what I will see when I drove down the road on June 11. 

There is nothing like going home.

How much do you safely share if you are an author? As a reader, what do you like to know about the author whose books you read?

Monday, April 06, 2015

Write Anyways

When I was in ninth grade, my English teacher accused me of plagiarism. It seemed my paper was too perfect. Of course, I didn't copy from anyone else. I would never do something like that. But her comment in front of the entire class of my peers could have changed the course of my current career forever. 

Writers won't always get the encouragement they seek. Critics surround us. Friends who tell us we should give up writing because it will take too long to get published. Parents who roll their eyes when they learn how little royalties we might earn for a book deal. Editors who say they want to throw your book against the wall because your structure is all wrong. 

All true stories.

What should keep a writer writing even when the odds are stacked against them?

Someone needs to read your words.

When my first book recently released, I agonized over the numbers. If I didn't sell many, I would be a failure, Maybe I should have taken up another career and leave the writing to the big guys--the authors with the big names and followings. Maybe I'd wasted too many years dabbling and should have kept my day job. 

I'm sure you've told yourself those same lies and more. 

Then it happened.

One reader. Then two. A few more. Each wrote me to tell me how much my story meant to them. Some wrote personal reasons why the story resonated in their lives. 

A line written late at night. Another line written through tears. All pulled from my own heart of experiences.  Each spoke to someone I've never met before.

That's why writers write.

That's why writers write anyways.

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Big Picture

Sometimes I need to get away. Sometimes writing and all that goes with it becomes more than I want to think about. Sometimes I need to be reminded that there's more to life than work.

This past Saturday, my husband and I took a drive north to Sarasota where we met up with good friends from Lakeland. We ate a huge Amish meal, followed by a stroll through the farmer's market and gift shop.

What I enjoyed most was the break from everyday concerns. Quite often life seems like a puzzle. I wonder how this piece or that piece fits together with what I already know. Lately, I have been making a huge effort to let God fit the pieces where they belong in my life.

But still. I can't help but have days when I wedge in a few corner parts myself. Or days when I can't find that missing piece and I search until I feel like screaming.

Breaks give me time to pry my fingers loose and wait. They also they give me time to appreciate the now.

Cause that's all we really have. The rest is a sweet bonus.

What was the last break you took from your busy life?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

5 Secrets Most Writers Don't Like to Share

1. We wish our hearts were encased in steel.  We think we are prepared for that first bad review or that one star rating or those words that say our book stinks. But we aren't. We wish our skin was thicker than the fat on a pig but it isn't. We wish we could reach for a chocolate bar and blow off the negative feelings as quick as we can devour our favorite food. But we can't. Writing isn't for the faint of heart. If we're going to put our hearts out there for anyone to stomp on, we have to be prepared. But honestly, we never are.

2. We wish all our friends, family and everyone around us were writers.  If they were, they might get us. They might understand why we enjoy talking about make-believe people and why we sob over our computers when writing an emotional scene. They might understand why we drool over the thought of going into a Barnes and Noble and stand for hours in front of the shelves dreaming that one day our book might sit there. 

3. We wish our name was Stephen King or Jodi Picoult. When our first book gets published, we dream of having an instant bestseller like the big writers do. We want to be on the NY Times' bestseller list before the book is even available. We pray. We hope. We cross our fingers. We watch the stats. And then reality hits us. We are a small drop of water in a big ocean. We learn to be content with selling that one book to a person who really needed to read it. 

4. We wish we didn't have to spend most of our lives online.  Most of our daily interactions take place over the computer. Some of us attend writer's groups but many of us live our lives with anonymous people we've met through some social site. If we do go to Starbuck's to write, we put in our earplugs and ignore the activity around us. Those few times when we meet an online buddy are better than gold. 

5. We wish we didn't have to beg for reviews. We've been told reviews sell books. We hate begging our friends and family and strangers to give us a good review. We want them to love our book and think of writing a review on their own. We want them to email us and tell us they loved it even if they have to lie. (Not really!) 

I'm going to throw in one more Secret just for the sake of it.

                          We would never change what we do. 


Monday, March 16, 2015

A Year Later

I find it hard to believe a year has passed since moving back to Florida. Sometimes I think my life is playing tricks on me. I'll wake up and be living in another state tomorrow. 

(Hope not!)

We left in a hurry, choosing with as much care as time allowed the items that would see us through in our new home. Snow waved goodbye to us and the sweet sunshine of Florida greeted us once again. 

Getting used to a new area is never a treat. New doctors, new churches, new stores. I've been given a lot of free time to reflect on our past years. Time to accept the changes and time to be thankful for them as well. 

I've come to realize that God places us where he wants us. We can fight it or we can go with it. For now, Bonita is my home. Next week? I really don't know. But today I'm here. For whatever reason, I'm here and I need to remain open and willing.

It's not the place I figured I would be when I walked into a new decade. I turn 60 this week. My definition of 60 looked a lot different than my reality 60. Sure I wanted less wrinkles (don't we all?) but I also envisioned a stable home with my grand-kids nearby.

God had other plans. 

So I'm hanging out here in SW Florida until we get the word to move again. I'm sure it's coming. I don't know when or where but like earth, this place is not my permanent home. 

Are you open to change? If you had to pick up and move tomorrow, would you go willingly or kicking and screaming?