Friday, April 1, 2016

How do you Rejuvenate your Writing Soul?

By facing the problem and moving forward.

This fall, I had to confront this type of problem when a health issue had plagued me for more than a year. I was miserable. I tried to deny its existence. However, when  I no longer could take it anymore, I gathered up my nerve and went to see my primary doctor who prescribed a medicine. I took it for almost a week, but after the pill gave me every kind of side effect mentioned on its side-effects sheet, such as dizziness and foggy vision. I called the office and they referred me to a specialist.

I eventually ended up seeing a woman doctor. One remedy she tried did not work for me thus that left surgery.

“Surgery,” the word hung on my lips. I had never had an operation. My hospital experience included four stays to give birth to my four sons. 

So fear struck me and I sought other avenues, which included a visit to a chiropractor. He was a nice man and tired his best, but my problem had deteriorated to such a point that this did not work.

A friend urged me to get a second opinion. I took her advice. The smiley doctor came in and examined me. His recommendation was the same as the first doctor's. However, this visit was very important since he relayed information about my long-term prospects. This frightened me and I returned home, calling the first doctor’s office to schedule the procedure.

February first was the day of my reckoning. We also face those days in our writing. What should I write and will this story sell? Is there enough emotion to make this novel moving and compelling? And, in nonfiction, have I made this information interesting?

As with my decision to do surgery, we also must confront our problems and see how  to move forward with our desires. In order to fulfill these, we seek recommendations from those in the field as well as our readers. This also means enlisting fresh ideas, rewriting and fine tuning our work. We do this because we know we are in control of our fate so we edge forward with our next great idea.

Where we will end up we do not know. However, if we do not take the plunge we will not know the outcomes just as with my surgery, I moved forward and can say I am no longer in misery. I again can enjoy life. Praise God!

So proceed forward. What do you have to lose? Nothing. This is your road of opportunity thus do not squander it. You never know what lies ahead. That alone should keep you moving onward. God bless.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Go Create

In the movie, "It's a Wonderful Life," the angel tells George Bailey, “You have been given a great gift.” Yes, you do and, if we are people of faith, we are called by God to not squander those.

In this picture, you see what I made for a romance group’s Christmas party where organizers challenged each member to bring gifts they created.

Some may not think my creative juices were that great, but I am proud of what I made, especially since many of the items I used came from materials my deceased mother had. To make the eyeglass case, I used her felt and sewed a flower she made onto the case. The small notebook I decorated with Mom's felt and a cross I had on hand along with trimming the book with rickrack. The larger notebook I adorned with my Courtships and Carriages bookmark and again trimmed the book with pink rickrack. I  would never describe myself as being "crafty," but I was proud of this achievement.

Be proud of your achievements, too, even though it is difficult at times. Readers have no idea how much work is required to produce a piece of writing we call our best. 

I recently wrote a nonfiction account about my husband’s mother – a mother he never knew. He never knew her because as a toddler she was committed to a mental institution. I had developed this article after attending a conference this fall. I submitted it to a publication, however, officials did not believe it was quite right for that publication. I am not giving up, though, I am going to submit it elsewhere. Never give up! Remember not everything we create is going to appeal to everyone. I will remind you that there are people who do not like Stephen King's work even though he has been successful and admired by many.

This gets me thinking about my craft items. I wonder if the receiver of my gifts liked it. I hope so but in reality it does not matter. What matters is if we like what we created. If so, smile and move forward.

Rejections are part of life. There are some people who never will like us, but rejections of any form are difficult to take. However, what we need to do is to persevere.

I market my book at a lot of craft fairs, and I can tell you responses vary from “I liked that book” to “I liked your other book better” to no comment at all. Some readers like  stories without much substance while others like substance. It is in the eye of the beholder. When people do make a comment about your book, it means two things -- they either did not like it or they have not read it, yet. I can testify to the latter since my bookcase still contains Bill O’Reilly’s book, Killing Kennedy, and he has had two books released since then.

However, remember no matter how discouraged you get (and we all do) salvage the fun and satisfaction of a finished product you created and loved. Now, GO AND CREATE! God bless, and it is good to be blogging again after a few months absence.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A Trip Inside a Police Cruiser, Made me Think

A couple of weeks ago my husband and I trekked to Grand Island, Neb., to attend the state fair. Little did we know by the end of the day we would be riding in a police cruiser.

No, we did nothing wrong. In fact, the policeman took pity on us. Below is my explanation.

Each year my husband and I travel to the state fair so I can sell my novels at the Nebraska Writers Guild booth. There we can sell our books and in turn we promote to writers we encounter the benefits of joining the guild.

There is a certain place where I park and that is what I did this day. However, you have to bring your own books. My husband and I had two luggage bags. I pulled one and he the other. We began our long walk to the 4-H/FFA building, when a fair volunteer, driving a golf cart, approached us and asked, “Would you like a ride?”

“Yes,” we answered, giving a large sigh of relief. The building was a long ways, and the offer of a ride was well appreciated. But in the end, it caused us a lot of grief.

How? It is one word, b e a r i n g s.

I lost my bearings. Not walking there, I could not remember landmarks to get us to the right entrance/exit gates so we ended up at the wrong exit.

We exited and I scanned the area, knowing in my gut nothing looked familiar. I yelled at an officer, who with other policemen were directing vehicles into a parking lot, and asked him if the road in front of us was Stollely Street. He came over to us and gestured to a street about a mile from us. He studied us, seeing our luggage. “That’s a long walk,” he finally said.

My heart sank, knowing we had walked around fair exhibits and buildings only to travel in the wrong direction. I was dumbfounded. It took minutes to even remember where I parked until the officer said the word, Roush Street. “That’s where we parked,” I replied.

He left and returned minutes later in his police car. He opened the door for my husband then joked, “You won’t be able to kiss in here,” as my husband slide into the tiny space between the plastic glass and the door. If you never have been inside a police vehicle (which we had not), you better not be overweight or you will be squished. The policeman opened the door for me. I sat down beside my husband. Yes with Plexiglas dividing us there was no way we could smooch. However, we were not in the mood anyway. I wonder why?

The officer drove us to our car and unloaded our bags. He placed them into my vehicle. We shook his hand in gratitude for having compassion on a dim-witted couple.

However, this made me think about writers, and how we too can lose our bearings. We forget to focus on our next undertaking and not fret about a past mistake or pet project that may not have done as well as expected.

What is the next hottest genre in publishing? Literary agents will say your guess is as good as theirs. If they cannot figure it out, how can you? Thus, the best thing to do is to leave the past behind you and do not give up.

What do the experts say? That the worse mistake authors make is to give up after disappointments. If people had given up on the movie, “Wizard of Oz,” we would not have this enduring classic since it initially flopped in the theaters when it was released. Television is what revived it and brought it into the living rooms and hearts of viewers for decades to come. My hope, though, that it does not take you that long to achieve your success.

So keep your powder dry, start your next venture and put the past behind you. God bless.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Having to Say Good-Bye

All of us have those years we wish to forget, and this year is one of them for me.
         This year began with a series of deaths. It started with my sister-in-law. Then my husband’s brother (who was married to the sister-in-law mentioned above) passed away along with the sudden death of a reporter colleague of mine and ended with the cancer death of a woman who did a lot for Special Olympics.
         She left behind a husband and two adult daughters – one has Down Syndrome. This mother hosted a wonderful dinner for the special education students before they went to the high school prom. I remember my youngest autistic son enjoying this meal and his excitement at seeing how lovely the girls looked in their Cinderella gowns.
        However, the good-byes continued when I learned my dear friend and writing partner was moving far away. We have done so much together not only in the writing arena but in trips to restaurants and just spending good times together. I will greatly miss her.
         But besides family and friends, good-byes also occur in writing. Years ago I had to learn how to transition from journalism to fiction writing. A writers critique group taught me techniques to do this. Also, I learned a lot by attending writing conferences, where editing and promotional techniques were taught as well as learning what a writer’s life really is like.
         One of the first things I learned was when an author receives an “advance” from a publishing house if that book does not sell out that “advanced” money, the author must return the sum for those not sold. I was shocked at that because I thought once your book was out there you were on easy street. Boy was I mistaken. I pictured authors typing out their stories in their pajamas. I also was surprised to find out authors actually had to promote their own work. This still happens in some cases but by in large in today's world most writers must do their own work. 
         When my first book, Seasons of the Soul, was released, I had a book signing at the local library. I envisioned lines around the library waiting for people to buy it. I had a good book signing but not what I pictured.
         Years ago I had lots of book signings at Barnes and Noble when my first book was out. The customer service representative was anxious to have me come. She encouraged me to stay as long as I wanted. However, years later when my historical romance, Lockets and Lanterns, was released times had changed. The representative actually told me to leave after a couple hours. What made the difference? The e-book revolution took its toll on Barnes and Noble’s profits. So I had to say good-bye to those days of the past.
         I will truly miss my dear friend. She, though, needs to go where God leads her family, and we still will stay in touch by phone, e-mail, write anthologies together and attend conferences. However, it will not be the same. So enjoy your time with others because nothing on this earth lasts forever. I turn to God to sustain me through these "life" good-byes.
         Now I must say good-bye. But God willing and the creeks do not rise, another post will appear next month. God bless.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Should Writers by an Open Book?

Should Writers be an Open Book?

Yes, you should be an open book at least to a certain point. Why? Because your readers want to get to know you, know your background and where you live and more.
         My first book, Seasons of the Soul, includes a spattering of personal accounts of my two different autistic sons. At book signings, people would approach me and express empathy for my situation, purchasing this book because of my handicapped children or the book’s uplifting message. Some individuals would say: “God gives special children to special people.” I smiled and thanked them. Expressions, such as these, warmed my heart. However, there also were those who thought they could get my nonverbal son to talk if only they spent 30 minutes with him. Again, I would smile and say thanks, even though I knew that was impossible.
         Readers want to form a bond with you. Think about why you purchase books. I buy many because I know the author either as a friend, an acquaintance or as a member of a writing group.
         Bonding is important and you can establish this in many ways. I know this since I sell my books personally so I meet buyers, and they will state the reason they are purchasing the book(s). Some read an article about me or bought my first book so purchased my newest release. But what do you do if you never or seldom do these kinds of events?
         Forums and social media are good avenues. Ruth Ann Nordin is good at this but I never have participated in one. Of course, I do social media because you must in this era, and you need to get acquainted with your followers as much as possible.
Patrons love meeting the authors they love, and we should return our love through special gifts for our loyal customers, friends and former and current co-workers. Recently, I sent someone a special token, a Seasons of the Soul journal, for purchasing my latest releases, Courtships and Carriages, Bride by Arrangement and Lockets and Lanterns. In addition, I inserted a personal note. No matter what they say about the Internet nothing is more valuable than a “handwritten note.”
         Readers also like to know something about your background, such as where you live. Several years ago, I was selling my first book in a town about 50 minutes from where I live. One person saw me there and bought my book since I live in the same town she spent her childhood. However, do not tell everything about yourself.
         I gave out too much data about myself when I started out. Most people are wonderful, but some will take advantage of you, such as “potential” writers. I have this book I want to write, they would say. Could you help me with it? They would ask. If you agree to assist them, remember your own work will suffer. It is better to connect them with critique groups and more so you can spend more time doing what is beneficial to you. However, this does not mean you should refuse every one of these just be wise about them.
         Also, do not provide too much information about yourself on the Internet. You do need to interact and get to know your followers, but I suggest not getting too personal with posts, such as printing your family’s names. We need to be cautious rather than regret it later.
         Do make comments on authors/readers’ blogs, Facebook pages, etc. This shows you find their posts important and care about them. However, do not go overboard or you will not be able to do your own work.
         So be an open book, but remember you need to watch telling everything about yourself and overdoing others’ wishes. Well, I hope this information has been useful and as always I will end with a God bless.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

With the New Year Came Changes

Last week, I awaited the installer of our new television and Internet provider to arrive. I did this with a lot of trepidation. It is interesting how these small changes can throw us. I wondered, for example, if what the carrier promised would be better than what our previous providers had given us.
         I awoke that day at 5 a.m. to a blistering-cold morning of one degree. I worried if he would show up as planned, but he did and got right to work.
He was a pleasant man who knew his business. Within a couple of hours, my living room was clear of wires which had stretched beside our couch for years, and another bonus was I no longer had to lock our downstairs-bedroom door to keep the cat from playing with the wires in there.
Also, the modem was a constant fret of mine since it sat beside by computer. I watched it continually since sometimes it prevented my Internet to work. Every day I would walk into my office and wondered if I would have to unplug it today. Relief swept over me. I never realized how much these items had given me anxiety. It took me a few hours, but soon I felt liberated and in the process I had better television with the program I missed and faster Internet.
         When the man grasped the wires, he said, “What I have in my hand is old technology.” He was right. This change was well needed.
         Authors also must make changes and try new things. Last year, I tried something new – the anthology, Bride by Arrangement, with Ruth Ann Nordin. This endeavor allowed me to reach a different audience through my story, She Came by Train. Ruth Ann Nordin and I plan another anthology – a follow-up on last year’s – and my goal is to write book two – a follow-up on Courtships and Carriages – in the Great Plains series.
         Now I am excited about writing again along with the busy Christmas activity being over. Winter puts me in the mood to write. Of course, you sure cannot go outside and enjoy the warm weather. Instead you sit by a fireplace, if you have one. I do but it is not close enough to curl up beside, but it does keep me cozy and my fingers warm enough to type even if gibberish is what appears at times. Ha! Ha!
         In addition, this is a great time to clean your office, get rid of old files or rearrange your office. I even got to clean my desk where the modem sat and that made me happy.
         You also get to throw away that old calendar in which you were tired of and hang up something new and inspiring. I replaced my office-wall calendar with a calendar portraying a variety of paintings, including January’s winter scene with gray skies, cardinal birds perched on a white fence with a church in the background. The scene filled me with peace and awe in the Creator’s majesty and prompted me to want to write again.
         As I come to a close, remember to embrace the future and the change it brings, and I wish you the best as you pursue your writing career. God bless.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Web sites: Keep them Simple

After just returning from a Heart of America Christian Network Writers conference in Overland Park, Kan., I took stock of what I learned during several workshop sessions. One great workshop was on how to create an effective Web site. The workshop was facilitated by Jim Watkins of Wesleyan Publishing.
    Pay close attention to detail and keep it consistent, he said, highlighting Rev. Billy Graham’s site as a good example of a well done Web site. What makes it a good site is its simplicity. It is not  cluttered with material, is easy to read and navigate, Watkins added. Here is a link to that site:
    A key to a good Web site is to define the blog or Web site's purpose, he said. Is its purpose for people to become acquainted with you through your author biography (which, according to him, is a must), get a taste of your work through reading samples of your material or is it have people buy your products, books or more? If your ultimate purpose is for visitors to purchase your goods then make sure no more than two clicks takes them there or anywhere else on your site, Watkins said.
    What you are offering? That needs to be shown on your home page, he said. Also, include a way viewers can search your site and contact you, he continued.
    The most important item is to keep the site simple without fancy colors and fonts, Watkins said. Black lettering on white background still is the best. Also, use easy to read fonts, such as Helvetica, and do not employ point sizes smaller than 10 to 11 points, he said. You can, though, utilize bold and italics to vary the font you chose. Also, he advised participants to never use all capitals.
    We read from left to right so place the most important item(s) there, he said. Size means significance. Thus, your largest lettering denotes prominence whereas each size degradation portrays lesser value, Watkins continued.
    You can add color to your Web site but try to find a color which represents you and when seen throughout media spectrums it becomes recognizable as "your color," he said. Through my experience, I would not use white lettering because when the item is printed out it will not show up on white paper.
    Do not overload your site with images, he cautioned. These take time to load and through my experience it is something which instead of be inviting to viewers could make them instantly leave your site. People are busy so design your site accordingly. 
    Yahoo small business is good. They have several templates you can choose and cost about $120 a year and are easy to use, according to a person familiar with this method. Most blog sites also are easy to use, and you can use your blog as your Web site.
    How do you promote your Web site once it is done? Ask questions on Facebook which provides interaction and visits to your site, Watkins suggested. In conjunction with this, I have a question for you. To those who have read Courtships and Carriages, what character would you like to see as my main character in Book Two of the Great Plains series? Please respond here. I will post this question at a later date on Facebook.
    Well, my hope is that this post was informative and until we meet again many of the Lord’s blessings to you.