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.