Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A personal note

I've been blogging since 2006. Shortly after I started, my life took a definite turn in another direction. We packed up our belongings and started moving across the country--west and north and south again in search of stable employment.

My blog went from writing about writing to writing about the journey I was taking to trust God with the plans for my life. In March, once again, we landed back in Florida for work. Never did I plan to return here.

At the start of 2014, I captured my phrase for the year--Embrace the Adventure. I'm doing it. I've actually not called my daughter once this year in tears. Well, maybe only once. But settling, however temporary this home is for us, doesn't mean we embrace everything well.

Christmas is coming in less than two weeks. The memories of past ones pull at my soul hard. I try not to remember but with all the pictures, and lights and festivities it's difficult not to remember past holidays spent with my daughter as a family. We used to put up a tree, and set the table with red and green napkins. I'd dig out my favorite recipes and pack away surprise gifts. I love Christmas. I love the time spent remembering the meaning and the time spent telling friends and family you love them. When your life and circumstances change, so do some of those rituals and remembrances.

This year has also brought changes in my writing life. I now have an agent, a book coming out and responsibilities I didn't have in the past.

What I fear is my blog and the changes I've seen in it. I like to write about the day-to-day challenges we all go through. Maybe this seems insignificant but I don't want my blog to become another tool to self-promote. I want it to be where I get real, tell you that sometimes life is a pain but that with time, God does answer prayer. I want to be able to say that I miss my home, I wish I was with family this Christmas and I want to bawl every time I hear a Christmas carol.

Yet, I know this is where God wants me. And I will not move until I am positive it's His will no matter how many Christmases I spend here.

So I'm taking a deep breath. Embracing life's challenges. Embracing the adventure.

Are you?

Monday, December 15, 2014

A picture is worth a thousand words

I  love to write. Thankfully I do. But I decided I needed another outlet. So I bought myself a much-wanted camera that I could take better shots with for my blog etc. That's what I told my husband when he suggested one for my Christmas present.

Instead I've discovered that I'm in love with photography as well. A writer friend of mine told me good photos should capture the essence of that particular event. I like that thought. It makes me want to think more about what I shoot. Like I do when I write a scene for a book. It's also a great outlet to rest my brain and learn to look around me since I write about life.

So watch closely.

There might be a story closer than you think.


Monday, December 08, 2014

Three Ways to Give Back as a Writer

We've all been there. A newbie. Going to our first writer's group. Telling our family members we want to write. Calling ourselves writers to the IRS. Joining a critique group. Sending out our first query. Getting an agent response...published for the first time.

You might be somewhere on that timeline. Or you might already have a book published and are working on the next one. But at one time we've all been at the start of our writing careers.

How often do you give back to the writer coming up through the ranks like you did?

We get busy in our career. We can barely send out emails let alone write those tweets and blog posts. Answer a phone call that comes on a Monday? Forget it.

But as I sit here and remember what I've been through as a writer, I also remember how so many other writers helped me along the way. I also remember being afraid to ask but when I did, how I was overwhelmed at the kindness sent my way.

Maybe now it's your turn to give back.

Here are three ways to encourage others on this rocky road to publication.

1. Offer to do a short critique for a new writer. Point them in a direction they can submit their work. (Several published authors gave me critiques and helped me tremendously.)

2. Start a writer's group. You don't have to lead it--just be willing to share what you've learned. (My writer's group in Florida gave me so much information to push me forward.)

3. Encourage them through social media. (I love it when a published author takes the time to say something on my blog or Facebook.)

These three points are not the only way you can encourage a new writer. What's vital is to pass and share information and maybe lend a hand to someone who needs it.  Who knows? You might be helping the next great Stephen King.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Yes, New Writer, there really is joy in writing

I love to meet other writers. So much that tomorrow I've set up my first writer's group here in the new community where I live. At two o'clock, I'll take a notebook, a book to read and set myself down in a group room and wait.

Five ladies have contacted me. Several told me they would come and see if what I had to tell them interested them.

How does one convince someone to write?

I don't believe you do.

But I do believe you can encourage them by sharing basic beliefs about the writer's life.

Here's what I plan to do:

1. Ask if they read and what reading does for them. Does reading change their thoughts, encourage, give hope, entertain, lift moods?

2. Do they believe they are never too old to learn a new skill?  Laura Ingalls Wilder first published in her sixties.

3. Are they willing to take risks and share what they know so others might enjoy? Everyone has stories from life experiences they like to tell.

4. Is their skin thick enough to take feedback in order to improve their skills? How much of themselves are they willing to put out there? Can they take rejection?

5. Finally, I will ask them to dig deep about why they thought about writing in the first place. What  is it about writing that excites them, motivates them to seek more information, and to publicly say why they want to write. Everyone will have a different reason--but it's that reason that will make the difference if they write or not.

I may sit for a half hour tomorrow without anyone showing up. That's OK.

I know why I write . I also know the joy. Hopefully I can share that with others.

What made you first write?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Defining my Normal

I don't usually write two blog posts in one week. But something is nagging at my mind today to write another one. A real one. Not a writer's one. Or a marketing one. But the kind I used to write.

We've been in Florida now since March. I spend much of my time alone, thinking about my life and where the past few years have taken me. My husband turned 60 in August. I'm next. I can't help but count my future years and wonder how I'll fill them.

A few weeks ago, we flew home to PA to say good-bye to my father-in-law. During that week, we sided the home we've been building since the summer of 2013. We were supposed to live there forever and restart our business. Instead, we ran out of money and the jobs dried up over the winter. We got desperate and when my husband heard about work in FL, he jumped. We like to eat and pay our bills too.

So I sit here and think about when I'll live a normal life again. Never in my dreams did I imagine I'd not be in my own home at age 60, surrounded by close friends, attending a church I love and watching my grandchildren grow. Not once.

But God did.

I try to accept that this life in Naples is the new normal for me. Saving to finish our home. Creating friendships with people who have totally different lives than I do. Trying to find where I fit in.Trusting God to lead me along in this newness. Taking my hand and tugging me in the right directions when I want to run home, despite having the means to do it. Oh yes, I want to run home--to familiarity, to friends, to my house full of memories, to the future I once envisioned.

But how many other people planned for a specific future and didn't get it? My brother-in-law lost his life when he was in his early 40s, leaving behind two children and a widow. I'm sure they envisioned a different life than the one they were handed. A good friend got cancer. Another woman lost her husband to Alzheimer's.

Maybe that's my mistake. Thinking I knew what normal is.

So for today my new normal  is defined as moving around the country, building memories with my husband, and watching how God will use us in each setting. That's how I'm going to fill my remaining years. Living God's normal.

Have you been living under a description of normal you've created for yourself?

Monday, November 10, 2014

3 Reasons to stop Dreaming about Writing and Do it.

I've been writing stories since the fifth grade. Most writers can tell you with blinding accuracy when the writing bug bit them. Others only dream about writing.

Yes, they dream about writing. Maybe they've started a short story or scribbled in a journal somewhere that's packed away in the attic at their mom's house. Their children might stumble on it after they die and ask "Why didn't she write more?"

Three Reasons You Need to Pull out the Computer, Pen or whatever you Use today to Write

1. You have a unique story that begs to be told. I didn't live the life you did. You didn't live mine. But I bet something you experienced might help me with a life struggle.

2. Your writing muscle grows the more you practice. You can't use the excuse that you don't know how to write. With all the how-to books out there, writing groups and online workshops etc, that excuse doesn't work. Everyone writes badly when they first write. No one writes a great first story. We all learn as we go.

3. You will experience a joy like none other when someone reads your words and gets them. I can't  describe that deep satisfaction you receive when a reader reacts to a story you write from you heart, but it makes all the work worth it.

And I'll throw in another reason for free: You will please God. And isn't that what we want to do with our lives?

Monday, November 03, 2014

Doing the dreamwork.

Last summer, my husband and I built our dream home in PA. Mostly by ourselves. But it isn't finished yet. It's a work in progress. I especially remember this day. Truck after truck of concrete arrived and he and a few helpers rushed to smooth the messy stuff out before it dried. A lot stress, prayers and sweat that day.

Writing a book is like building a home. Stress, prayers and sweat. You lay out the story much like you do the blocks for the home's foundation. The pages grow and grow until you come to a successful conclusion. Your dream story. But like a home, if you don't get everything level in the beginning, by the time you add the siding or outside coverings, you could have a mess.

I'm there with my current WIP. I thought I knew where it was going but my story changed someplace in the middle. I'm finding I want to add extras and pick up the pace. It can be a grueling process. It is probably the part of writing most writers don't like.

We do it anyways.

I wish my home was finished. I wish I could spend a few weeks there, decorating the inside with my favorite colors and wall coverings. Sadly it's not ready yet. Just as my book isn't ready to pass to my critique partners or beta readers. It needs to be completed and edited a zillion times.

So I stop wishing and do the work. We rent a place here in Florida to earn money to finish our home. I don't always like being away from my friends and family but the plan works. In October, we flew back and sided the the house.

With writing, I schedule my hours, open my computer and type more words. Every day. I have a plan to finish this book by January. To get there, I must be diligent.

What are you dreaming about doing today? Do you have a plan? Do you have a partially finished book waiting to see daylight? Do you have a bucket list without any checks yet?

 Dreams don't happen by themselves. But they can begin today. One step at a time.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Getting the Call

If you are a writer, you know how much I liked typing my title today. It's been years coming--waiting on God to fulfill one of my dreams. I've often wondered what I would say and how I would feel when that moment arrived when an agent wanted to represent my work.

Today's the day. And I feel great.

The first time I met Linda Glaz face-to-face was in the bathroom at the Montrose Writer's conference in PA over a year ago. I know, say it. We aren't supposed to track down agents in the bathroom. I actually didn't, it's just that's where I first had the chance to introduce myself. In my defense, I'd already known her online and she'd already been kind enough to look at my work in the past.

We had the opportunity to sit at lunch together that week so I was able to observe her personality, too. I also took her classes and discovered her amazing teaching skills.

That's when I decided she was the kind of person I wanted to represent my writing. Trust me, I do my homework when looking at agents. She's also an author herself and knows her stuff.

The problem was I had to write a book she'd like.

So I dusted off one I'd started years ago and decided I would finish it, get it edited and send her a proposal.

Imagine my excitement when she emailed and said she wanted to call me and talk about the book.

So now I'm part of Hartline Literary Agency. What that means to me is my responsibility as a writer just increased. I want to keep my part of the contract and write books that might sell and market those that do harder than I have before.

But the best blessing for me is I have an experienced individual on my side who cares about her clients and knows her job.

Yes, God's timing is perfect.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Inspirational Fiction--to preach or not to preach

When  I started writing inspirational fiction, I struggled most with how to incorporate God into my stories without sounding as though I was preaching. As time passed, I've learned that I don't need to hit my reader over the head with scripture and strong passages of preaching to get my point across. Instead, I've found less is more.

Think about the times when you wanted to share with others what God has done in your life. When my husband and I first started attending church together in the 80s, we were excited and so gun-ho about our choice that we rammed our opinions down others' throats. It didn't go so well. We had to learn to share with grace and share when the opportunity arose because we wanted our friends and family to experience the same joy we were.

I've had the pleasure of critiquing friends' books over the years. When I suggest taking out long passages that preach, I often run into resistance. I try to explain that you can show how God works without adding a pastor in the book who preaches every other page. I often use a pastor as a character in my books but their dialogue is kept real, as though I truly was talking to them.

My goal in writing inspirational fiction is to point others toward God and open doors that might have been kept closed for years. In my debut novel, The Mulligan, I share how trusting God to lead us is better than pounding off on our own. I hope I've showed that truth through my story.We never know who will pick up our books and the last obstacle we want to throw in their path is a book filled with words they can't understand.

Keep your story real.

Has anyone else run into this challenge when writing inspirational fiction? I'd love to hear what you've done.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Perfect Timing

My sweet father-in-law went home to heaven last week. The call came five minutes before we were leaving for the airport to fly north. Our plans to side our home in PA quickly changed and turned into well-spent time with family consoling each other. I like to think of this perfect timing as a God-coincidence.

We encounter many such incidents in our lives. If my husband hadn't lost his job and attended golf school, I wouldn't have found my topic for my debut novel. If we hadn't moved to Florida in 2001, my daughter might not have met her great husband. If I hadn't gone to a bar that night in 1976, I wouldn't have met my husband and eventually gotten my life on track. I could go on and on.

Then there's the flip side.

As writers, we wonder why those first five books won't sell. Why it takes so long to get an agent or find a publisher. Where is  the perfect timing then? Why is getting published so frustrating?

I've come to believe and accept that God's plans are much better than mine. In my case, I had to write seven novels before I understood the craft. I needed the time to read craft books, meet critique partners and find what genre suites me best. I also had to settle down and not get so emotional about my writing. Learn to take rejection and realize it isn't the end of my world because someone doesn't like what I write.

For I know the plans . . .

Can you look back and see the perfect coincidences in your life? I would love to hear one!