Thursday, October 08, 2015

Why Do You Write?

A writer friend of mine is struggling. She's writing her first book. She's been writing that same book for more than twenty years. It's almost done. Her original goal was the end of this year. Sadly, she is sabotaging herself and her writing.


With fear. Fear that the book she's poured her entire life and work into won't measure up. Won't be the one that changes the world or lives. 

So she is frozen. Like that stature above. Paralyzed to drop his wheel and spin into the future,

Are you that writer? Have you considered why you started writing? Why you want so badly to produce a book and see it in print? Sure, I know you are going to say it's not about the fame. It's not about the numbers. It's because you want to make a difference. 

But how big a difference? How big an impact? 

What if only one person buys your book. Would all your sweat and tears and labor have been worth it? Would you write the next book? 

You better know your answer. I'm going to tell you what happened to me. I sold my seventh novel. Finally. Oh JOY! I had made it. It's been a little more than four months. I might have sold 350 plus books. Sure, some were given away in a marketing plan from the publisher. And yes it was a small publisher. And then I could have done more to push the sales...Are you listening? There will always be some reason we can come up with but the fact remains my first book was not a BestSeller. Yours might not be either. 

Does that mean you give up? Does that mean you don't write your book after hearing numbers? Or are you thinking but mine will be different. I hope so. I feel that way about my next book and the one after that. As I grow as I writer, I plan to improve my skills and my marketing abilities. 

So think again. Why do you write? Why do we waste time day-after-day turning out a book that maybe not a lot of people will read or buy? 

Here's my answer: Because ONE person might.

I can't tell you how many kind and sweet emails I received by readers who were touched by my words. They encouraged and comforted me. 

But is ONE enough for you?

It was for me. Once the reality of publishing washed over me and I came up coughing but alive--I found new resolve. One reader IS enough. Will I always dream for more? Of course. Hey, I'm human. But until then...ONE is always enough.

Want to impact a life with what you write? Then do it. Write it. Get it out there.

Someone is waiting.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Hobbies: Do you or don't you?

I always wanted to be an artist but lacked talent. So I wrote instead. I then needed a hobby to take my thoughts away from my writing projects so I could return energized. Last December, with my husband's persuasion, I purchased a camera and lens and bag. The works. I went to work reading every book I could get my hands on about taking good pictures.

You see, years ago, I had tried photography but it was before the digital age. For some reason, I couldn't figure out F Stops, Aperture, ISO, Bracketing, etc, When I finally sat down and read book after book, a light came on. I finally understood what it took to take a good photo.

Understanding and expecting results didn't come hand-in-hand. I have to practice and practice as much as I can. Just like my writing. I started writing small challenges for Faithwriters.Week after week. Studying the comments to improve. Eventually I submitted online to free forums. Then I challenged myself to submit for pay.

I'm following that same process with my photography. It may be years before I'm any good but I'm enjoying it as I go. Just like I did with writing.

But I also take my new hobby seriously. I carve time out of my schedule to make those practice shots. To push my creativity.

I'm still finding the kind of art I want to create with my photos but that's the joy in starting a new hobby. Anything goes

What new hobby have you taught yourself in the past years? Is there something you have been wanting to try but haven't taken the steps yet to do it?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

It's my day and I don't plan to waste it

The first thing I do each morning is open my curtains on the patio. I can't wait to see what the light looks like as it shines across my building. Part of that love is from being a photographer. I've learned that the best times to take photos are early in the am or just before dusk.

The other part of my love for that morning light is what it means about my day. A new beginning, Another chance to accomplish what I'd planned. Another day to correct the mistakes I made yesterday. Another day to enjoy. Another day to live.

Another reminder that I'm alive. 

And who doesn't want to wake up and see the sun?

I didn't always feel that way. I have had my share of dark moments where I rolled back over and groaned, wishing I didn't have to get out of bed and face the day. I'm trying now to live in the moment that God has given me. He doesn't promise us more than today. So today is here and I have a choice--how best to use it.

That gives me excitement. Anything can happen today. Something could change the course of my life with a phone call, an email, a letter. Yesterday I booked a trip to Seattle to see my family. It's been three years since I last went. Now I rise with thoughts of how much fun I'm going to have then. Later today, I might get an encouraging email from a reader of my book. Maybe I'll have the opportunity to congratulate someone on their day. Maybe I'll be able to lift my friend who's feeling down now. Maybe I'll step on that scale and finally see the number I have been shooting for!

What I do know is this day won't be wasted. Not a moment. Not a thought. Not an action.

It's God's gift  to me and I plan to open it. 

Hope your day is just as sweet!

Monday, September 14, 2015

My Daughter Says I Ruined Her

The other day, my daughter called earlier than usual. "My stomach hurts. I was up all night from something I ate. I wish I could call in sick."
"Call in," I said. "You've worked there ten years and have taken few sick days."
"I can't," she said with a sigh. "You ruined me."

When my daughter was ten, she asked to take tap dancing lessons. We gave in and bought the shoes and tights and paid the fees for a month even though it stretched our budget. We wanted her to have the opportunity to enjoy an activity like many of her other friends.

After two lessons, she came to me in tears. She hated it. She couldn't get the steps right. She wanted to quit.

It was the only time I let her quit anything. 

We had this rule. If you aren't throwing up or have a high fever, you go to school. My daughter had an excellent attendance record. We also had this other rule. If you start something, you finish it. That meant when she signed up for softball or field hockey or gymnastics or band or Awana, she finished the season whether she liked it or not.

She did.

Except for tap dancing.

A part of me knew that I'd encouraged tap dancing because it was something I'd always wanted to try but never did. She was fulfilling my dream not hers.

When we moved to Florida, she had to start a new school in her Junior year. She came to me that morning with tears in her eyes and pain in her belly. I knew if I said she could stay home, the next day would be harder. It broke my heart to drop her off  and watch her walk in alone.

I did what I thought was right even though it was hard.

It paid off. 

Today my daughter is married to a fine man, raising two fine children and works in a very good position with her company. She moved across the country the day she married and started over again in a strange city. She survived and blossomed.

I couldn't be prouder.

What more could a parent want who ruined their only child?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Why I won't throw my husband or marriage away like I did my eight-track tape player

Thirty-eight years I've been married. A lifetime. Pretty good considering I knew my husband only three months before he proposed. In less than a year, I said "I do" and moved to Virginia with him to start my dream of marriage.

Or should I say the nightmare. I blame it now on youth. Believing that fairytale lie that all will be perfect and beautiful without any work. It wasn't. By year two, I left my new husband for the longest two weeks of my life.On the wise counsel of my mother-in-law I returned.

My husband told me then that he had failed at other things in his life but he would not fail at his marriage.

He kept his word. 

Today we throw everything out that no longer appeals to us or doesn't work perfectly. I've chucked furniture, clothing and boxes of books on my many moves about the country. To be honest, my husband has given me many good reasons to chuck him as well. So have I for him.

Seven years into our marriage, I found we couldn't conceive. I wanted a child. We tried everything the doctor suggested. I became frustrated and depressed and made life miserable for my husband. With time, we were finally blessed. Then came the struggle to maintain our marriage with a toddler in our midst.

The ups and downs never steadied.

The dreaded seven-year-itch got me at about year nine. Was this to be my life? My husband worked long hours like me plus we had the added responsibility of raising a daughter. Life wasn't that promised bed of roses. It was filled with thorns.

I found myself wondering again if I'd made the right decision. I could be someplace else without these burdens.

That's when God appeared.

We'd never talked about our beliefs before. With a little divine intervention, we found ourselves in church for the first time together. Our marriage surged. We moved away from our home we'd known for years to start over in a new state for a better job. Yes, good money helped, too. But money doesn't keep a marriage together either. Nor the lack of it. When my husband lost his job, I  bolstered and supported him--until I thought I couldn't take it any more. He was too depressed and sad and angry. Did I sign up for this? Where was that strong man who cared for me? I wanted to pack and run.

I didn't. That's not what you do when the going gets tough. (I married a Marine, you know.) You stay by their side and together you dig the trench to save yourselves. He hadn't left me when I'd been just as sad. I couldn't leave him now.

Today we both wield a shovel in our hands. His hands wear the look of age--marred with scars of labor. Mine can't even open a pickle jar anymore. That's what he does for me. Together we weather the hard times and the good times as one.

Thirty-eight years. I'm counting on forty more.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015


Summer has ended for most people. Today my grandson starts second grade. A huge part of me wishes I could be there with him in Seattle, take his hand and walk with him into his new classroom. Well, I'm sure the take his hand part wouldn't happen. But maybe I would be allowed to take a peek at where he will be spending the next nine months. 

When I see all the ads for back-to-school stuff and see Facebook photos of kids standing in front of their front doors, smiles on their faces, it stirs memories. Memories we all have of first days. New classrooms, new friends, new beginnings.

For some reason, my memories pull up fourth grade. May, to be exact. I was extremely shy. Always would be right through college. So when my teacher, Mrs McMahon asked me to be a princess in the May Day court, I was shocked. I remember running home to my house to find my mother baking pies in the kitchen. She didn't go back to work until the following year so I was able to share with her my joy and excitement.

We remember those highs and lows in our lives. What I wonder about is the in-between times. Those memories that don't quite make the list. I see myself in kindergarten drinking milk and eating graham crackers and then in first grade learning to read. Then time skips and I'm in third grade with Mrs. Dawson, scared of the teacher they called Dogface Dawson.

What happened in second grade? I can't pull up one scene. No pictures of my classroom in the old brick building a few miles from my house. Nothing. 

How much time in our life is forgotten because something monumental didn't cause us to remember it? What else was happening then? 

I think about all this stuff and yes, it's just stuff, as the season turns. What will I remember about this past summer? What will lodge a permanent home in my memory to pull out some day and smile? Or cry? 

If anything over the years, I've learned to appreciate each day a little more. Grab onto it and find a purpose. Today started like any other day but I have a plan. A plan to make a memory. Do you?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Highs and Lows of the Writing Life

My husband snapped this picture of me with my grandson at a park in PA while on vacation in June. We're waiting in line for a ride. The guy behind us--a stranger. The way he's pictured gives me the shivers if I let my imagination run wild.

That's what I intend to do. That's what I want my books to do.

Last week was a turning point with my writing. Highs and lows. After reading the beginning of my latest work, my agent decided to shelve it.

I don't blame her now.

Her decision didn't sit so well with me at first. She said the story needed more 'sit on the edge of your seat' stuff. The opening dragged. Something every writer dreads hearing.

So I gave her the first three chapters of the story I'm writing now--suspense. She loved it.

She also took the time to show me through detailed edits how I could further improve it,

I finally got it. No more writing to impress the reader. Just write the story. Make it move. And make it a good story.

For a moment last week, in the throes of my poor me cry, I wanted to quit writing forever. Why should I waste any more time in my life creating something that ends up being worthless? I ranted and debated alone in my house, telling myself  I should just get a real job where my time meant something. If you're a writer, I'm sure you have been there. Many times. So have I.

You would think rejections would roll off me by now. They don't. They stick a little.

I finally took a deep breath and read her suggestions. It struck me by the second page what she was talking about. I needed to change my writing style if I wanted to keep a reader's interest.

So I ordered two more books on writing, plus delved into the pile of fiction I've been meaning to read. My agent not only turned me around but helped drive me to the place I should be headed.

Not every writer gets that chance.

There will be highs in writing and there will be those lows. It doesn't matter how thick our skin is or how well we think we are prepared.

Because this is writing. Can you relate?

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

THAT story. Are you writing it?

I'm writing my 10th novel. Having said that, I must admit that writing novels does not get any easier. Sure, I understand better about how to lay one out. I have improved my editing skills. I have learned the current trends in writing. I have an agent and one book out there already.

So what is the problem?

Writing a new story is work because you must come up with a good story. Not just a jumble of words. And more work when you push yourself into a new zone.

Have you ever felt like you want to write THAT story? The one milling around in your brain. The one you think you really aren't talented enough to write? Yes, that one.

Let me introduce you to my number 10. It's the book I have thought about for some length of time. It's the book that will require me to step outside of what I know and push myself deeper. But what better time than my 10th?

Why did I wait so long?

Why are you waiting?

For me, I wanted to learn what I could about novel writing. I wanted to practice with my words and process until my comfort level grew. I wanted those rejections to not sting so much before I dumped my full heart and soul into a work that might not ever evolve into a great story.

But it still isn't easy.

Where are you with your writing? Are you at that #10 where you are willing to take chances and risk your normal style for something more? Or are you at #4 or #6, still perfecting what your comfort level can take? Do you have THAT story working through your thoughts as you write a different story?

Are you ready to take a chance?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Writing Scars

This picture is a door on a barn we are purchasing next to our property in PA. You can tell by the marks and peeling paint it's gone through many memories. Battle scars. It stood up to a tornado that passed through years ago, riding it out without a scratch while dozens of trees fell around it.

My husband used to own a horse that resided behind these doors. When I first met Curt, I was ecstatic that he owned such an animal. I think that might have been part of his appeal. He lived on a farm. I begged him to let us ride Flash,

Being a young man who wanted to please, he saddled up the old horse, and he loaded me behind him. I clung to Curt's waist as we plodded up the back mountain. Unfortunately, it was a short ride. When he turned Flash in the direction of the barn, the horse lived up to her name. In a flash, the ride was over. Like a horse to the the saying goes.

I'm a lot like that barn door. 

I like peeling paint. Fingerprints. Erosion. Wear and tear. That tells me I've lived and loved. My writing is also like this door. It's been worn down over the years through rejections and harsh critiques. I've gotten a few bumps and bruises. Sometimes I imagine my work creaks when I open a new story. But here's the thing, my desire to write is still standing. I'm still writing, My door to my thoughts are still open.

 And like a horse to the barn, I can't wait to get to my desk and write each day.

If your writing has been tested through time, be proud of the wear and tear you've gone through as you grow as a writer, If a tornado tries to blow you over, hang on. You can come through it. We develop stronger skills the more storms we go through. 

My husband plans to paint these doors a fresh coat of white this fall. Part of me hates the thought of covering all that history. I like imaging the past. Conjuring up memories. 

But I also know I can do that only so long. I need to move forward. Pack the memories away--learn new skills. Stretch my muscles. My next book will be much different than my others. Maybe I'll be adding a few more chips to my door but  that's a writer's life.

Have you had recent writing battle scars?

Friday, July 24, 2015

Are you a risk taker?

In my last post, I mentioned my plan to create more of  a life here in Florida by reaching out to other women in the community. I received several responses. I met with a few women and am emailing with a few. The difficulty lies in the going forward.

Making friends involves a common interest. Finding that interest with another person isn't so easy. I just finished editing my latest novel called Winterheart. It should be in my agent's hands shortly. The main character, Penny, has to start her life all over again too. She tries everything just as I have. I wrote a happy ending for her. I'm hoping mine will go the same course.

Part of me has decided maybe I'm an introvert after all. I was one growing up. It wasn't until I became a mom that it hit me I had to be more vocal for my child's sake. My jobs required me to be more outgoing too but I haven't worked outside the home in awhile. It's easy to go back to my original personality.

It's also less battering to my ego and self-confidence. Ever try to talk to a stranger over a salad when you know nothing about them and they don't share much? You begin to wonder if you've lost all communication skills or maybe you are just plain boring. You leave feeling like you said too much or maybe delved too deep.

Then begins the battle in your head wondering if meeting others is something you really want and is it really worth what it takes.
It would be easier to hide out where you live all the time.

But as a writer, it's important to do life. It's one way we come up with plots and character traits for our characters. It's also a way to stay in touch with the pulse of people by hearing the issues people face.

And as a person, life isn't meant to be lived in isolation. Many of my best memories are with good friends.

My question today: when was the last time you put yourself out there with strangers and what were the results? Do you consider yourself to be outgoing and do you take risks?