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Archive for the ‘Reflections’ Category

Life BalanceFor those who’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ve likely noticed I’ve been suspiciously absent in my posts for some time. The reason is simple; life keeps getting in the way.

I didn’t set out to let this happen. Each day and each week kept getting busier and busier with so much stuff, and I told myself I’d get back to my blog next week. I didn’t. Then I realized I needed time to attend to life’s duties and the increasing demands to get my current WIP edited and in to my publisher. For those who aren’t writers, let me tell you, editing is a loooong, sloooow process that drives writers crazy. We can’t hurry it along (although we desperately want to), and we can’t take short cuts. It takes as long as it takes, and it’s not the fun part of writing. Still, it’s absolutely essential to creating something you want to put out there in a public format and ask people to purchase with their hard-earned dollars. In the end, it’s time well spent.

I’m also working with a new publisher, Books We Love (BWL). They are a Canadian publishing company that I have to say that I’m enjoying working with so far. They’ve been quick to respond to my emails and questions, and they’re diligent about staying on top of everything from editing to cover art and final preps for publishing a book. I like that, but it does mean I’m having to learn (and in some cases, re-learn) what I thought I knew about publishing, but that’s all to the good too.

The problem, as I was starting to see it, is that life kept getting in the way of my writing work. I started resenting not having the time to attend to my duties as a writer, or get the next blog posts written and published, or even breathing, it seemed.

Stumbling blockSo, I’m headed down one road when suddenly I’m tripping and stumbling over blocks in the road. I’m thrown on my ass, and it takes a while to figure out which way is up. We’re still dealing with the realities of aging parents and Alzheimer’s with my mother-in-law, a disease that we’ve all learned to hate (are there any diseases we don’t hate?). We’re coping.

Then I had a set-back with my own health issues. I have Sjogren’s Syndrome . The dry eyes and mouth associated with the condition worsened in about that same March/April time frame. Stress? Maybe. The problem really became a problem when my eyes became so dry, despite multiple applications of special eye drops a day, that my vision was impaired. For about two weeks I really couldn’t see well enough to drive. I had to have my husband drive me to a memoir writing workshop I was giving in a nearby town, and after the workshop I had to hightail it into the bathroom to insert more drops for the drive home. Eventually that issue resolved itself as well and I’m back to normal, whatever normal is for me.

I was actually going along pretty good for a month or so, until we put our park model home on the market so we wouldn’t be carrying two residences each month. Good news. We sold it. Woo Hoo! Oh, then I realized I would have to leave the wonderful area of Grand Bend and Port Franks, Ontario and live only in the city. That really bummed me out for a while. I also knew I’d miss the “mini house” and all the memories associated with it. I’d miss living up near the lake and being able to slip down to the beach at a moment’s notice. I was sad to be putting aside another chapter in my life.

Along with the sale came the stress of moving everything we owned out of it and figuring out what the heck to do with all the stuff we’d accumulated there over the course of five years! I’d just moved back to the city in December, remember? Now I was having to downsize yet again, and amalgamate, give away, or throw away more stuff. That all takes time. Time I wasn’t writing. Time I wasn’t editing. Time I wasn’t blogging, or reviewing books, or interviewing other writers.

ConnectionWhat I did do was stay current on social media through all of it. It kept my hand in the game, which kept me up to date on what’s been happening with who. I read writing related articles of interest galore. I wrote when I could. I edited when I could. I gave myself permission to do what needed to be done and not beat myself up too much over it. I also periodically vented to my husband. He’s an excellent listener, so his ears got a good workout. I’m grateful for his patience, believe me!

This past six months has served to remind me that I can’t control everything. I have to “Let go, and let God,” as I’ve heard the expression said. I’ve learned that sometimes good enough has to be good enough. I also knew that some things would just have to work themselves out. I consoled myself over the sale of my mini-house by acknowledging that it was a good, sound financial decision to sell. The single woman who bought it was thrilled to have her own little place with a good-sized garden and beautiful view of the wooded area across the street. I’m sure my old neighbours welcome her into their midst, and I sincerely hope that she’s able to settle in and make it her own.

Blue Starburst by Debbie McClure

Blue Starburst by Debbie McClure

Surprising, to me at least, is the fact that I discovered a new creative outlet. I began experimenting with acrylic abstract painting and I love it! I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler (my son, brother, and grandson can, but I’m hopeless). What I do have is imagination and a good eye for colour, or so I think. I’ve even started doing a few large paintings for family and friends who’ve requested them, so that’s pretty cool. I’m not a professional painter, by any means, and I’ve hated some of what I’ve created, but as with writing, I can go back and fine-tune, or erase what I’ve done and start over. It’s become a great stress reducer, and I believe it stretches my imagination in other ways I hadn’t encountered before. It’s also a great way to just zone out, and sometimes that means I’m able to work through writing issues, without having to actually work at it. I like that.

The King's Consort Cover ArtIn the meantime, I’m happy to announce that my most recent (bio) historical fiction novel is finally done! This book has been a long labour of love, since my mother tells me her paternal great aunt claimed we are related to Louise Rasmussen, Countess Danner. Whether it’s true or not, I became intrigued by Louise and King Frederik VII of Denmark’s remarkable love story, and knew I had to write my (fictionalized) version of it. For information and a brief synopsis of the story, head over to the Amazon link provided below.

The great news is that my publisher let me know that we’re looking at an e-book release date of September 10th, 2016 for The King’s Consort-The Louise Rasmussen Story, followed by a print release a few weeks later. For anyone interested in ordering their copy right away, it’s available for pre-order now (see link above). I’m so excited! I’m also extremely nervous (that’s another post). It has taken me two years to get this book to this point, and now I’m standing on the threshold of seeing all that hard work come to fruition. Yikes! I truly hope you enjoy it, and if so, please consider leaving an honest review on Amazon (it really, really helps the writer), email me, or drop me a line on the blog, and of course, share the news with your family and friends.

As for what’s next, well, I’m in the process of getting my first two books, In The Spirit Of Love and In The Spirit Of Forgiveness, re-released – complete with new cover art and titles (details to follow once I have them). My plan is to re-release these two books and follow them up with a new series that continues Sir Richard and Claire’s story, and adventures. I’m really excited about that too, so check my website periodically, or social media sites, for new information. I have a second (bio) historical romance novel I started working on several months ago, and am itching to get back to, so it’s in the works for a little further down the line.

I’ve settled into our city house and am loving my little courtyard garden. The weather has been hot and summery. My family are all doing well, and I have my life back—for now. I know life will rear its head again soon, but today I’ll celebrate the good things and not worry about what’s around the corner.

We all go through life challenges. How have you dealt with some of yours lately? Share ideas for what’s worked for you – you never know who might benefit from your insight and wisdom. Thank you for sticking with me, and I’ll talk to you soon. Promise!

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Why Bother?

Why Bother?

Well, there’s a question and a half! Every so often I ponder this question, and at the beginning of a new year, it’s extremely appropriate.

Life can seem like such an uphill battle that it’s easy to think, “Why bother?” After all, if whatever you’re doing isn’t getting you where you want to be, maybe you should just quit. I mean seriously. Quit. Or don’t quit. Only you can decide which path is right for you.

In a YouTube video I posted a few months ago, I remarked that I’d watched a video with Pastor Rob Bell and author Elizabeth Gilbert, where Rob commented that perhaps we don’t need to “find” our place in this world, so much as “create” our place in this world. Wow! That really hit home, since I’d spent most of my life trying to figure where I fit in. I’ve come to a conclusion; I don’t need to fit in. I can create my own place and thrive from there.

But what if what I’m doing is hard? Really, really hard. I’ve questioned this chosen path of writing so many times. I’ve cried, I’ve pleaded with God to give me a sign, I’ve meditated, and I’ve demanded. I’m still right where I’m meant to be. I’m still struggling. I’m still learning. I’m still growing – sloooowly. Maybe someday I’ll look back and wonder why I couldn’t see what was right in front of me, or why I even questioned who I am and what I want to do with this life I’ve been given.

Struggles Ahead

Struggles Ahead

In reflection it occurs to me that every struggle I’ve had to go through has brought me to this point in my life. I’ve hated the struggles while I was going through them, and I know I’ll hate the ones that are looming out of sight. After all, what if my choices lead me places I don’t want to go? What if I never reach my goals of making a living from my writing. What if all my family and friends never understand what I’ve been trying to do? What if I fail?

So why bother? I have the free will to change my course and do something entirely different. The next question is; do I really want to? What will I gain if I do? What will I lose? Every choice has pros and cons, and being a reasonably intelligent woman, I have to consider those pros and cons every single day. From the moment I open my eyes in the morning, to the moment I close them again at night, I have to choose how I spend my hours. Sitting here writing this blog post, I could be doing something else. But this question has been bugging me, so I’m better off getting it out in the open where I can see it. It’s a big question, and the answers are scary.

Do I have to answer today? Right now? Tomorrow? Next week – or next year? No, I don’t. I could just drift along and let life take me where it will, but knowing me, I won’t like that either. I know I need to feel I have goals and some measure of choice in what I do. I need to be intellectually challenged – Lord knows I’ve had life challenges enough. I don’t need any more “blessing in disguise”. I want them front and center where I can see them, so I know there’s a reason to bother. Of course what I want isn’t necessarily what I get. It isn’t always what any of us get. So, we choose to either bother, or not bother. There are consequences to both.

For me, I choose to continue to work at writing because I feel my most authentic when I do. I feel good at the end of the day when I’ve done the work, sat in front of my computer, slogged at getting the words down on the page of my current WIP. Even when I know it’s not perfect, it’s at least a start. I have that choice. Every day. Now, because I can, I choose to work five days a week at my writing, leaving the weekends for family, friends, errands and household chores. After all these years, I know this is when my brain functions best, so I’ve learned to go with what I know works for me.

Networking works!

But if I’m not making a wonderful living from my writing, why bother? If I’m not a famous author yet – after five, going on six, loooong years – why bother? I guess the answer to my own question is because not writing scares me more than failure. I’m afraid that if I stop, that’s where I’ll feel I’ve failed myself. I don’t know what the future will hold, but I do know that I love writing stories. I also love interviewing other writers from around the globe and getting to “know” them. Connections matter to me, so if I were to stop, I’d lose that. I also learn so much from other writers like Molly GreenAnne R. Allen, Ruth Harris, Christina Hamlett, Janna Graber, Deb Cooke (aka Claire Delacroix), Jeff and Alicia Rasley, and so many more I’ve come to know and enjoy through my writing and interviews. I think about the connections I haven’t made yet, and I don’t want to give those up either. For me, they are reasons to bother.

When I think about the question “why bother”, as it pertains to anything in life, I guess the answer is to consider what you’d do if you stopped. Are you okay with the consequences? Does stopping fill you with relief, or disquiet? If it would truly be a relief, then perhaps it’s time to try something else. On the other hand, if it fills you with disquiet or upset, then you aren’t done yet. Possible future or past failure doesn’t matter. It becomes a moot point, since that’s no longer why you do it. You do it because you aren’t finished with whatever your “it” is, or “it” isn’t finished with you. Simple. As. That.

So, I guess I keep writing. I can add to my repertoire of writing. I can explore new avenues of writing to add to my novel-writing, such as freelancing with articles, more interviews, or non-fiction. I can fall in love with the written word and communicating with others all over again and stop worrying about the what-ifs. What I choose not to do is stop. I choose to bother. Doesn’t mean I’ll never complain again, or worry, or agonize, or cry, or demand, or question. That’s not part of the bargain I have with myself or with God. I’ll just do my absolute best and see how it all turns out. It’s all any of us can do.

What have you chosen to bother, or not bother with for this new year?

 

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Lost

Lost

 

 

 

 

I’m about to admit something that’s very difficult for me, but maybe it will help someone else.

Four years ago my husband and I lost everything. Well, almost everything. Like so many of you, we’d been struggling with servicing our mountain of debt, and were quickly losing the battle. It wasn’t that we weren’t trying to pay our bills, or were reckless with our spending. After thirty years with the same company, my husband was informed that he, along with scores of others at his company, were being moved into early retirement. We weren’t prepared for such a huge financial hit. We told ourselves we’d be fine and started treading water.

I had written my first novel, and was working in a salaried sales job that was transitioning to a straight commission job within a few months. Knowing that my job really wouldn’t provide me with anything close to a regular paycheck, panic struck. We kept paddling faster and faster, hoping something would break for us, but with me at fifty-two years of age and my husband approaching fifty-seven, the prospects for full-time work were looking dim. After sitting down for some long, hard talks with a financial trustee, we were told our only reasonable option was to declare bankruptcy and walk away from our house. We simply weren’t bringing in enough money to pay all the bills, and even if we both got minimum wage, full-time jobs, we’d only continue to dig a bigger hole. This was devastating news.

That January we walked away from our home that we’d so lovingly put a great deal of time and money into. It was the place our children and grandchildren came home for Christmas to. It was a place of hopes and dreams now hopelessly smashed. By declaring bankruptcy, it meant we wouldn’t qualify to rent a decent home in a decent neighbourhood, so we moved in with my parents. My mother his highly allergic to cats, so I handed my beloved Charlie over to my sister to love and care for. That really tore me up, because losing my home and packing up most of my personal belongings to put into storage was bad enough, but to lose my cat?

My parent’s two bedroom, two bathroom home is a good size, and we were extremely grateful for their generosity in allowing us to move in, but it was certainly never designed to accommodate two couples – especially two women in the same kitchen. We made it work for a full year before realizing that if we wanted to salvage our close relationship, something would have to give. Throughout the bankruptcy we’d managed to hold on to our 40′ x 12′ trailer by continuing to make the small monthly loan payment. That trailer became our beacon of light. We moved it to a park that offered twelve month lot rentals and made it home. At a little less than five hundred square feet, it was a tight squeeze, but it was our own space. No, I didn’t have a dishwasher, or even a washer and dryer. If I wanted to blow-dry my hair, I had to first turn off additional lights and the furnace/air conditioner. The small tub came equipped with a shower, but wasn’t big enough for an adult to use as a bathtub, so I gave up the luxury of taking relaxing baths.

Now, I know that many, many others struggle with far more than I did, and I don’t mean to make light of people who are. My heart, thoughts, and prayers go out to those people, and I never lost sight of the fact that I wasn’t completely destitute. We still had a place we could call home that was safe and comfortable. We still had family, friends, enough food to eat, and decent clothes to wear. I knew I’d be okay.

Keep writing!

Keep writing!

I continued to write, and began meditating to help me deal with the anger and depression I was feeling over the situation (self-inflicted and otherwise) I found myself in. I became extremely embarrassed by the fact that I was living in a trailer in a trailer park, and other than close family, I invited no one over, and told even fewer people. Pride was strangling me. The truth is, I thought I deserved better, or more, or something. I knew I shouldn’t, and I knew I had a lot, so much really, to be thankful for, but it was going to take some work to get me back to where I needed to be.

Slowly I began opening my eyes to all the beauty of nature that was all around me. We lived in a beautiful, wooded area of the park surrounded by other full-time mobile homes. The neighbours were lovely and kind – many of them seniors, and our grandchildren loved coming to swim in the heated pools, play at the playground, and try their hand at the on-site mini-golf. I was still battling, but I was winning the war. One day at a time, more light came through my filters.

Then I was hit with an exacerbation of my Sjogren’s Syndrome, an autoimmune disease that causes extreme dry mouth and eyes, among other things. Up to that point I’d been dealing with it pretty well, but in the spring of 2014 I began to experience severe light sensitivity. I eventually went to an eye specialist, who said an ulcer – a hole – was forming in the center of my right cornea. If it wasn’t corrected quickly – like within days, I’d lose that eye completely (not just the sight, but the eye itself!)

Over the coming weeks and months, I wore eye patches and took various eye drops and medications to help stop the hole from growing, and eventually repair itself. You know, it’s amazing; the left eye actually compensates for the right one. Due to some scarring of the cornea, my eyesight in that eye never fully recovered, but it’s about 90% of where it should be, and to look at me, you’d never know. It’ll never get any better, but I can see, I can type, I can read, and yes, I can drive just fine. Throughout this entire time I continued to write, because writing is where I can lose myself. I wore the damned eye patch, I gave myself the necessary breaks from the computer screen, I put in the drops, took the medication, and I paced myself, but I never stopped writing. I was reminded that I am a fighter, and that writing mattered to me. It was worth fight for. I am worth fighting for. I became determined to keep doing what I could, when I could. I refused to be a failure.

Filtered Light

Filtered Light

Oddly enough, having come that close to such a serious health issue, I began to actually feel more hopeful and grateful for all I had. My meditations became more about giving thanks for what I have than asking for things I don’t have. I started to laugh more, and lost my insecurity regarding my living circumstances. I was finally at a place where I could see light at the end of the tunnel again. We still didn’t have much money, but my husband’s very small company pension and his willingness to go back to work seasonally helped fill in some of the gaps. Another blessing is that we were closer as a couple than we’d ever been. His willingness to go back to work at a time when I couldn’t work at all, reminded me how much I trust and admire him. In order to indulge my love of travel, we began house and pet-sitting for others throughout North America. We discovered people and places we never would have in the days when we went to resorts and hotels. We discovered a mutual love of history, museums, and unique places that cost little or nothing to visit and explore. We re-discovered each other and ourselves. There were so many small, unexpected blessings taking place all around us, that I couldn’t help but be moved to a place of gratitude.

Recently we moved into a three bedroom, three bathroom townhouse back in the city, and are in the process of selling that small trailer. We’re closer to the majority of our children and grandchildren, and I’m reveling in the small things I no longer take for granted; things like taking a long, hot bath, a dishwasher, my own washer and dryer (no more lugging laundry to the community laundromat at the park), real space to display my beloved personal items, unpacking favourite things that have been in storage for years now, and welcoming family and friends to our new home. The other night we put up the Christmas tree for the first time in four years, and I marvel at how far we’ve come. Our townhouse isn’t a fancy home, not nearly as grand or beautiful as some of my family and friends have, but it’s warm and welcoming, and home. As we approach a new Christmas and a New Year, I’m grateful for so many things. Whatever the coming months bring, I have more hope, more joy, and more daily gratitude than I have for a long time. Through the grace of God, life is good.

I guess all the good things have always been there, I just had to let in enough light to see them.

Just Enough Light

Just Enough Light

 

 

 

 

 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

What have you learned this year, and what hopes do you have for the new one just around the corner?

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Research is Important

Research is Important

I used to think that research would have to be the most boring aspect to writing. I remember actually making a similar comment at a book signing event I attended for another writer who wrote historical fiction. I was pretty smug in my assumption, but honestly, I had no idea what I was talking about. I’d just begun my writing journey, and I thought fiction writing, especially paranormal romance writing, wouldn’t require any research. I was wrong.

 

Not long into the process of writing my first published title, In The Spirit Of Love, I realized that I needed more information on a variety of subjects ranging from food to geography. Then I thought I should learn a little bit about the types of grand country estates that dot the English countryside, and period clothing. Oh, and I figured it might be a good idea to learn about some of the famous ghost stories surrounding those old English manor homes. One thing kept leading to another, and as I wound down the various paths of information, each new thing pointed to another interesting tid bit of information. I began making notes, book marking sites to return to, and generally getting right into the research behind the fiction story I was telling.

 

I had no idea I’d enjoy it so much! In fact, periodically I had to pull myself back into the business of actually writing the story. Now, I should probably have done all the research up front before even starting to write, but what did I know? I let the story tell me what areas to research. Each time I’d come up against a blank wall where I didn’t know something, I’d go off on a tangent and research it. That was actually fun, and it gave me some much needed breaks in my writing. In fact, some of my research became the germ of an idea for the story, or the sequel, In The Spirit Of Forgiveness, which followed.

 

History speaks

History speaks

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the research part of writing, but I suppose I shouldn’t have been. After all, I love learning new things, and the past has always fascinated me. It also made me yearn to visit the places I was researching. I came away with a deeper appreciation for people I hadn’t met and places I had never been. I developed a love of research I hadn’t expected.

 

After the small success of my first two books, I felt I was ready to tackle a much bigger project I’d been wanting to write for several years; a fact-based historical fiction novel entitled The King’s Consort-The Louise Rasmussen Story (not yet published), about a woman who lived in Denmark’s mid-1800s. Going into the writing of this story I knew I was biting off a good, sizeable chunk. It was a daunting task, because the people and places actually existed. So, armed with my new love of research, I began reading anything and everything about the main protagonist, Louise Rasmussen, and her love interest, King Frederik VII. From my experience in writing the two In The Spirit Of books, I knew the internet and library were my closest friends and allies. I couldn’t actually go to Denmark (not on this writer’s budget), but I could research to my heart’s content, and I did. I also talked at length to my Danish-born mother about the small details of Danish life, and some of the locations I was writing about. I made copious notes and bookmarked many pages to refer to time and again. I created a story outline, arc, and character profiles based on the information I retrieved. I began to see the characters and story come alive in my mind as I wrote, and any areas I became stuck on, I researched some more. As with the first two books, the research for The King’s Consort lead me down paths I hadn’t considered before, and helped me create a fictional world to surround the very real characters and places I was writing about. I don’t know if I got everything just right, and I’m sure there are areas I could improve on, but I write with my gut instinct. I let the story unfold, assisted by the facts I uncovered. I felt as if I were placing flesh on old bones and giving sound to voices long silenced.

 

I recently read a Writer’s Digest article written by Scott Francis, wherein he discusses “How to Research Your Novel”. Scott gives some excellent advice to writers, and reminds us that fact-finding and verification make for a much more believable story.

 

At The Centre for Fiction, author Helen Benedict talks about the importance of writers doing their due diligence when it comes to blending fact and fiction. As Benedict claims, it’s imperative that the writer not “cheat” and try to fool the reader. That’s not to say that every novelist gets it right every time, but the goal is to get it as right as possible and check the facts.

 

Freelance fiction editor, Beth Hill, addresses this issue in her post, Details and Descriptions-Getting the Facts Right and gives some concrete suggestions about where writers should focus their efforts when researching for a story.

 

While I’m in the querying phase for The King’s Consort, which is akin to long, slow torture, I console myself with hours upon hours of research for my next historical fiction novel. It’s a huge project, but it excites and enchants me. It also scares me, but I’m going to go for it anyway. The research for this novel is just as deep, the characters are just as complex to learn and understand, and the work ahead is tremendous. Still, I’m once again enjoying the process of learning the who, how, what, and where of the story. When I finally begin writing the chapters, I know I’ll feel the familiar thrill of bringing the past to life again. It’s a challenge I simultaneously welcome and dread, precisely because it’s a challenge.

 

Storytelling

Storytelling

I’m not an expert. I’m not a historian. I’m not a scholar. I’m a writer and story-teller, and I just do the best I can with what I have. Because of my fascinating research, I’ve learned so much about subjects I had no idea would appeal to me. I’ve also promised myself I’ll some day visit the many places I’ve written about, walking through streets, halls, and gardens my characters, both real and fictional, have tread. For now though, I’ll content myself with my imagination and the dusty old facts I uncover. Such is the life of a writer.

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Warning!Tsunami Ahead

Warning!Tsunami Ahead

I couldn’t have been more pleased to have been asked by writer and blogger extraordinaire, Molly Greene, to do a second guest blog over at her writer’s blog! Go here for the original post over on Molly’s site!

 

 

When I first started writing, about five years ago now, I thought writing was the hard part. It was a challenge to craft a story from beginning to end, applying the necessary discipline to get the story written, and edit, edit, edit the finished product.

That first leap of faith

With only a Grade 10 education, writing a novel was a major undertaking, and a leap of faith, but I decided not to over-think my path. I just wanted to start writing a story that came to me and get it down in print. That’s it. I didn’t tell anyone other than my husband what I was doing, and when I finally did, I made light of it. It was just a fun hobby. At first I didn’t even admit to myself how much I wanted to become a published author.

That was waaay too scary.

It was also probably a very good plan for me, since it took the pressure off just getting started. I had no idea what I was letting myself in for. It’s kind of like getting pregnant and thinking you know what life will be like after the baby is born. You have an idyllic view of the future, and that’s just as well. If prospective parents truly understood just how drastically their lives will change, no one would have children! Nature is kind and leaves the blinders on until it rips them off like a bandage to expose the reality underneath.

Learn to swim with the current

When I teach writing courses to beginner writers, I advise them not to think too far into the future. That way lies madness, fear, and self-doubt. Writing is supposed to be fun, cathartic even, so enjoy the journey for that aspect alone. Give yourself time to find your “voice,” and experiment to your heart’s content before worrying about all the how to’s to come. You just don’t need to go there yet.

Slowly, I began learning more about the business of writing, publishing, and marketing the finished product. Because of my background in real estate and mortgage sales, I knew the marketing and promotion iceberg was looming in the distance, so I started a slow, leisurely swim out to greet it. I use the internet for many, many things. It’s my best friend when it comes to discovering virtually anything I need to know. It’s proven to be the best research tool I could hope for, and when I find articles of interest, I create folders and bookmarks to house them so I can refer back to them. Perfect. I like simplicity.

Take on social media … slowly

Then I started hearing about how writers were using social media to connect with readers and other writers. Cool. I can do that. So I looked into Facebook. I’m no techie, but it was incredibly easy to set up a Facebook account, and I began “friending” family and friends who also use Facebook. I began to feel comfortable in using it on a personal level, and have become very proficient in using it as a marketing and promotion channel for all things book and writing related.

Then I read about other social media connectors, like Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, you name it. That terrified me. What the heck am I supposed to do with all this stuff? Why do I need it? What’s it going to do for me? I began to panic. I didn’t know what to do first, so I did what I always do; I researched the heck out of each of these platforms and chose a couple to begin getting familiar with. That eased the anxiety.

Choose a path and follow it

By this time I’d finished writing and editing my first book. Now what? Well, I went back to my most trusted friend, the internet, and researched “how to submit to literary agents.” I was thrilled by the amount of information there was on something I’d never heard of before; querying. I have a strong back ground in office administration (before the sales days), so writing a business letter, which is what a query letter is, was easy for me. I looked up examples of query letters online and set up a template to follow.

I was excited and nervous to begin this next step, but I’d made a decision to become traditionally published. That’s not to say I don’t like the idea of self, or indie, pubbing. I did and I do, but it sounded like a lot of work and I was too new to feel comfortable taking up those types of challenges. I figured I could get out there and find myself an agent and Bob’s-Your-Uncle, I’d land a publisher and my first book would appear on book shelves all over the world. Sigh. Yes, I was completely delusional. (It took another two years before I published my first book with a small traditional press, and learned even more along the way.)

Take one step at a time

Fantasies aside, I realized that I needed to take things one step at a time and not cross bridges I hadn’t come to yet (my father still tells me that all the time). So I took a deep breath and began sending out the query letters. I’d read that writers receive many rejection letters, but I was naïve enough to think I’d get maybe a few before I’d be swept up into the literary realms of success.

Wrong.

I received nothing but rejections, and eventually put that manuscript into the proverbial drawer. In the meantime, I began to write the next book. I’m not a particularly patient person, and I was beginning to understand that writing involves a lot of hurry-up and wait. I’m not great at waiting, so writing helped give me purpose. Turns out, that was a perfect way to get through that period.

I also started to hear about something called “blogging.” What the heck was blogging? I began reading many, many blogs on all kinds of topics, including writing. Wow! Here were all these writers who were a little further along the road than I was, and I could learn from them for FREE! I still didn’t want to blog, but I sure learned a lot from reading other writer’s blogs. Only when I felt ready did I step into the ring and start my own.

Let the journey evolve

There’s no doubt about it: writing has the learning curve of a tsunami. But the point to remember is that we don’t need to know everything all at once. In fact, I found it was better to allow the journey to evolve and focus on what’s right in front of me, rather than get caught up in what’s on the horizon. It lessens the panic and lets me swim with strong, confident strokes. It can seem completely overwhelming to realize that there’s so much out there to learn, that you want to simply give up and sink before you’ve even really started.

By learning from others (like Molly!), you don’t have to re-invent the wheel, which is a tremendous help. Bit by bit, you’ll feel comfortable sharing what you’ve learned along the way with others coming behind you, and that’s great too. I’ve said before that writers work in our own insular little writing caves. Stepping outside and facing the huge wave of what’s still to come can have you feeling like it’s all just too much. So, take a deep breath, start with slow, strong strokes, and just keep breathing. There is a shore out there, and if you don’t give up, you’ll be fine.

So what are you struggling with, and how do you handle it? Please leave a comment below or on Molly’s blog to share your thoughts. Thank you!

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The Writer's Cave

The Writer’s Cave

Writers often want and need isolation in order to work on their project. Even those who like to be surrounded by music while they write need private space in which to create their masterpiece. Painters, sculptors, musicians, and artists of any description need, even crave, solitary time to work productively. Some call this retreat into solitude a “cave”, because it can often feel like a retreat from people, distraction, and reality. Emerging from the self-imposed isolation can feel a little like stepping outside a cave and rejoining the rest of the world. For the artist this is a good thing. Even though we may be very social creatures, writers and other artists are typically solitary by nature. This retreat feels natural and comfortable. Again, this is a good thing, since we happily spend inordinate amounts of time alone.

 

The key though, as I see it, is balance. In order to be creative about our work, we must also live in the real world. I’m a writer, so I can only speak from my writing perspective, but it’s our experiences of life that allows us to tap into the imagination and write books, both fiction and nonfiction, that we hope will resonate with readers. Even the most fantastical of tales has to be grounded in some form of reality. The characters must possess human characteristics readers can identify with in order to be intrigued enough to make them turn the pages.

 

So for writers, isolation is good, but so are human interactions and the messy business of life. I live in a small town that’s about forty-five minutes from the nearest larger city. I like that. I like the peace and quiet of my chosen place of residence. I love living in a small town where you know your bank teller, the kid who pumps your gasoline, and the clerk at the local grocery store. What had become more apparent over time though, was that I wasn’t getting out and connecting with other writers or artists in my town. Family and friends who aren’t writers can’t truly understand what the writing experience is like, so I tried to find a local writers’ group to join. Oh, there were some in the larger cities, but forty-five minutes one way is still a long way to drive for a meeting.

 

Why A Writers' Group

Why A Writers’ Group

They say necessity is the mother of all inventions, and I guess it’s true. When I couldn’t locate a local writers group, I was encouraged by a friend to start one. At first I didn’t know if there would be enough writers in the area to form a group, but as I began talking to people, they recommended others. I emailed the few local writers I did know and asked if they’d be interested in joining a writers’ group, and I posted a notice on Facebook to widen my search. I was surprised by how many people started coming out of the wood work. Before I knew it, I had eleven writers who enthusiastically agreed we needed a writers’ group in our town. How exciting!

 

I love bringing people of similar minds together, and even though only five of the eleven writers were able to attend our first meeting, it was a tremendous success. We shared information about ourselves, our writing, our goals and aspirations, and our stumbling blocks while imbibing tea or wine, and homemade muffins one of the guys brought from his wife. The high of connecting with other writers had me buzzing all the way home. It energized and inspired me on many levels, and listening to the others talk, watching the heads nod in understanding, I knew we were on to a good thing. Before we broke for the evening, we set a date and time for the next meeting and hope to have some of the writers who couldn’t make the first meeting attend the second. So far, so good.

 

Diversity is Good!

Diversity is Good!

One benefit to forming this kind of gathering is the information sharing. Within days of that meeting, members of the group started sending out emails telling others of local writers’ events, workshops, readings, etc. We suddenly have a community of people who are interested in the same things, and are eager to share information freely. The diversity of the group is also a huge bonus, since it means even though we share a love of literature and writing, we are all coming at it from different angles. Some are poets, some fiction writers, some non-fiction writers, some who are playwrites, and others who write for magazines and other publications. Some are just starting out in their writing journey, while others have gained years of experience, successes, and failures. The key is that we’re all willing to share what we’ve learned, and are open to learning new things. Because I wanted this to be “our” group, not “my” group, I envision it evolving according to the needs of the people involved. More than that though, it’s a place to network and socialize with other writers. It’s a place to come together and share our experiences, have a few laughs, and appreciate other forms of writing.

 

As we come out of our caves, blinking at the light like little moles, we find ourselves stepping outside ourselves. We listen to other points of view and offer advice, critiques, and support to each other. In turn, we are supported and understood. To my mind, this is a win-win on all counts.

 

I look forward to getting to know each member of our group better with time, and welcoming new members as we discover them and invite them in. No man, or woman, is an island, and gathering together is an excellent way to remind ourselves of that fact. I don’t know about the others, but my mind is a-whirl with topic ideas and discussion points. Every time I come across a new piece of industry news or information, I want to share it with “The Group”. In the future I’m sure I’ll also be blogging about topics we discuss, areas of concern we face, and so on, so please do stay tuned. Don’t have a group in an area of interest you’d like to share? Start one!

Share the Excitement!

Share the Excitement!

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Soul Full Eye by Artist, Lisa Redfern

Soul Full Eye
by Artist, Lisa Redfern

I have to admit, I’m a lover of fantasy. I love the idea of going after the dream, wishing on a star, and clicking my heels three times to achieve my deepest desires. But that’s not gonna happen any time soon. So what am I left with? Reality. I’m left with the realization that I have to do something, anything, to make things happen. No fairy godmother is going to come along and wave her magic wand and make me or my life what I want it to be. Talking about it, planning for it, making lists, researching, none of these things really advances me toward my goals in a substantial way. Oh, they may be necessary aspects of beginning a new project or adventure, but they don’t have the same effect as getting off my duff and actively doing the nitty-gritty work necessary.

 

When I talk to groups of people who attend my writing workshops, I always start by asking where everyone is in their writing journey. At least half, if not more, of the class talks about how they want to write, how they have always wanted to write, which is why they’re in my class. Beautiful! Wonderful! But I then ask those same people, why they haven’t started to write yet? That’s when the excuses come into play. They’ll claim that they haven’t had time, or the self-confidence. Some will claim they need to learn how to write before they begin. I then ask if they know how to use a pen and paper, or computer to put words down into sentences. Everyone nods their head and laughs. Of course they do, but they want to learn how to begin. I tell them it’s really very simple. They just start writing.

 

babies walkingEver watch a baby learn to roll over, crawl, walk? Ever watch a toddler climb, begin to talk, feed itself, and all the other astounding things they do each and every day? No one teaches a baby or toddler to do these things. They just decide to do it, and they keep making mistakes and trying again until they get it right. Yes, they will fail, and they might cry in frustration, but then they’ll get over the tears and make another attempt, until they get it right. Then once they’ve mastered that feat, they begin to tackle another in exactly the same manner. Try, fail, fall down, cry, try again, fail again, fall down again, cry again, then get back up and do the whole thing over again, until success is reached. No one has to teach them any of these things. Oh, we as adults can encourage and praise, but that’s all. The rest is up to the individual child to discover what works for him/her and find their own way. So it is with writing. You can take all the courses you want, make incredible outlines, plan to your heart’s content, but until you actually plant your butt in the chair and begin writing, you aren’t a writer.

 

That doesn’t mean the learning curve isn’t huge, because it is. Yes, there are guidelines and things to learn, and tons of ways to fail, but the words on the page are what writing is all about. Nothing else. This writing gig is a loooong battle that never really ends. I’m learning that for myself the hard way. As I continue to slog through revision after revision of my latest WIP, I could get discouraged, and sometimes I do. If I’m to move forward though, I have to get back to the business at hand and write. It doesn’t even matter if what I write in the first or second draft (or third or fourth) is particularly good; that’s what edits and re-writes are for. The key is to sit down and write.

 

It has often occurred to me that life is exactly like writing, or anything we wish to accomplish in our lives. At some point, the rubber must hit the road for the car to move forward even one inch. It doesn’t matter what challenges you’re faced with, to move forward means doing something. It’s okay to stop and consider the options though, and in fact, it’s extremely advisable. We were given brains to use them in constructive, creative ways, so we might as well use them to figure out ways of getting what we want.

 

Interviewing Interesting Writers

Interviewing Interesting Writers

Everyone has different dreams and goals. Each person is unique unto him/herself, and we can all learn from each other. We can all be inspired by others and apply what we learn to our own lives, or just admire the doer for their innovation and creativity. Anyone who regularly visits this blog knows I interview other writers, primarily because people fascinate me. I began interviewing other writers from around the globe at various stages of their writing journey for another blog, Christina Hamlett’s You Read It Here First.

Through Christina, I’ve had the great privilege and pleasure of “meeting” so many incredibly talented people over the past year. People who are taking their dreams and running with them at full speed. People who seek new ways to express the deepest part of themselves, and help others along the way. Talk about inspiration! Each one of the individuals I interview shines a light into an area I had never explored before. Although I may never choose to climb a mountain, like fellow writer, Jeff Rasley, be able to create stunning pieces of visual art, like Lisa Redfern, take a love of animals and turn it into unique stories told from a dog’s point of view, like Carol McKibben, write wonderful, witty plays like Christina Hamlett, translate an admiration for another person into a series of books, like Tony Lee Moral, trek around the world and write about my adventures, like Janna Graber, or gather my family and head out to parts unknown to experience new cultures and ways of life, like my up-coming interviewee, Michelle Tupy, I can be inspired by them to keep playing my own tune and following my own dreams.

 

I find it reassuring to know that people can do literally anything they choose to, and do it with skill, finesse, and a lively sense of humour about trials and tribulations they encounter. I love knowing it’s okay to make mistakes, to fall down, and then get back up to try again. In fact, since I started writing, I’ve come across scores of people who are launching themselves forward into their lives with gusto, and with a look over their shoulder to see who they can help along the way. How cool is that? In talks with other writers, like ML Swift (watch here for his interview in the coming weeks), who chose to dedicate the last years of his mother’s life to helping her get through the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s Disease, then wrote about that experience, I realize that we all have something to give, and get, from other people. Perhaps we should retain more of the dogged determination of infants who watch, learn, internalize, then gather the courage to get out there and DO something, damnit!

 

So yes, learn all you can about whatever it is you want to go after, but at some point be prepared to put yourself out there, risk humiliation, overcome fear, and HAVE FUN with the whole messy business of living your life while going after your dreams! And if it helps to close your eyes and wish upon a star, cross your fingers, click your heels together, whatever, then go for it, because we can all use whatever help God, the Universe, Allah, Buddha, whatever you want to call it, can give us.

Wish Upon A Star

Wish Upon A Star

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