Tag: writing (page 1 of 9)

Five Reasons Authors Abhor Publishing

I love this photo. It reminds me of the days when authors bled ink and angst onto parchment pages, when printers painstakingly placed each letter and line of type until an entire tome took shape.

When readers took the time to hold books in their hands, smell the aroma of the ink and paper, immerse themselves in knowledge and verse.

Now, I’m old, but I’m not that old. I wasn’t REALLY there. And this photo doesn’t quite capture the essence of Gutenberg’s press. (I swear, I’m really not that old.)

But I can picture it. I feel the texture of the vellum, smell the tang of the ink. (Probably not as good as those purple dittoed pages we used to get in school—you know, the ones that were warm from hand-cranking and smelled sweet from the alcohols in the ink—but I bet it was a close second.)

But this photo evokes something in me. Something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.

Publishing.

medici protectorateI’ve been thinking about it because my next novel, Bleeding Heart, the first in the Medici Protectorate Series, is about to be released. August 11, 2015, to be precise. But I’m not talking about the publishing industry—or rather, I’m not talking only about the publishing industry—I’m talking about a writer sending her work out into the world.

The Briefest History of Publishing

Ages past, a writer had things to say and either he or a scribe recorded these messages. While cave paintings and hieroglyphs aren’t considered “literature” in the conventional sense, people have been recording stories for centuries. Tales exist from as early as the Sumerian version of Gilgamesh before 2000 BC, and there are reports of innumerable texts lost to us forever, like those of the Library at Alexandria. Traditionally, however, fictional tales were dispersed to the people through oral traditions. Many people couldn’t read, nor did “books” exist. And if they did, the majority of people wouldn’t have been able to afford them, anyway.

Enter Gutenberg and the printing press. First used for the Bible, the printing press is still used today to distribute messages to the masses. Not the same technology, of course, but the end result is the same. Just on a faster, cheaper, and more massive scale.

Oral traditions held favor for quite a while, though. Shakespeare had his work performed live on stage. Dickens read his work to audiences. Even today, audiobooks have become a viable option for people who want to hear the stories without sitting and scanning text. Authors sometimes give readings when they release a new work.

Printing/publishing wasn’t for fiction in the beginning. You see, as early as 1472, publishing houses were popping up in Europe. At first, they were basically printing companies, doing nothing more than reproducing work. Nonfiction work. The Church, however, was the head of the publishing company. They controlled the messages being distributed, making them the first gatekeepers of literature. (It’s a safe bet to assume Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey wouldn’t have made the cut back then.) And controlling gatekeepers still stand today. Although, with the advent of eBooks and self-publishing, those gatekeepers have lost much of their say regarding the works people publish. Now, anyone can publish a book. The gatekeepers now only have their reputation behind their works. Kind of a “we’re the experts and we vetted this content for you” kind of thing. But that doesn’t keep readers searching for only vetted material, which seriously hampers the power of those Powers That Be.

Reasons Authors Abhor Publishing

Every author will tell you that writing is both fun and difficult. And every author will have a different reason for feeling each way. But one thing is certain—the act of writing and the act of publishing are two very different things.

[tweetthis twitter_handles=”@stacitroilo”]Blog post, a short story, or an epic saga… doesn’t matter. #Publishing is scary. [/tweetthis]

It doesn’t matter if you’re publishing a blog post, a short story, or an epic saga. Publishing is scary. Often exhilarating, but scary.

Why? Well, readers, let me let you in on a few secrets. Five, to be exact.

  1. Writers Have Feelings.
    We have feelings. I know when you finish reading a novel and proceed to make fun of it with your friends, you’re just having a laugh. But someone worked hard on that. If a writer is worth her salt, she’s written and rewritten, revised and edited, designed and labored for longer than you’d guess. Some people take more than a decade to get their work in shape for the world. We hate publishing because we put so much in only to (sometimes) be ignored or panned. And I don’t know which is worse, really.
  2. Writers Work Hard.
    It doesn’t matter if an author is self-published or traditionally published, he or she has a lot of time and effort invested. Not just the actual book, but all the marketing that’s involved. How much is enough? How much is too much? We don’t want to spam, but we don’t want to get lost in the shuffle. Our words and stories matter to us, we want to share them, not scare folks away. For every person with a book to sell, there are millions more competing for the same audience. It’s daunting. Almost crippling.
  3. Writers Fear Rejection. Never having shared a story is easy. You can tell yourself people would love it if they heard it, but you don’t have to face reality. Once you’ve published something, it’s out there. Receiving no comments at all or negative comments hurts. Completely pierces your heart. You doubt your message, you doubt your calling, you doubt your worth. It’s crucial to get positive feedback. Let me back-track a bit. Maybe I should say constructive feedback. I’m not advocating trading favorable reviews with other authors or buying reviews. But I am saying reviews—good reviews—are necessary. They help get your work in front of other readers, and they help validate your efforts. But only honest good reviews will make a difference. And figuring out how to get them is really hard. Even if people love your writing, they have no real motivation to tell you or others. If they hate it, they might want to rant about it, though. That’s why negative reviews are more powerful than positive ones. And that’s why writers fret over it.
  4. Writers Aren’t Business Experts.
    Well, let me amend that. Successful writers have to learn to become business experts. But chances are, if you write fiction, you’re a creative-type. And, being one myself, I know that creatives aren’t necessarily the best at corporate minutiae. But these days, writers have to be. Writers write because they want to share stories with the world. But writers have to learn marketing, merchandising, distribution, bookkeeping… and every task on the business end takes them away from what they really want to do. Write. It’s a demand on the time and resources that no writer wants to sacrifice but every writer must endure.
  5. Writers Aren’t Patient.
    This last one deals with the traditional definition of publishing. Not hitting “post” on a blog article, but actually working with a publishing house to get a book released. Did you know it can take two years from when you submit your work to when it actually hits the shelves? Then you’re supposed to develop an audience for it, market it (even though you don’t have it yet), and all the while you should be creating new content. If you miss a deadline, your work can be delayed. If the publisher misses a deadline, your work will be delayed. The next time you’re complaining about an author not releasing book 12 in her series exactly nine months after book 11, remember it might not be her fault. That book was probably written years ago. It just hasn’t made it through the queue yet.

So what can you, the reader, do to make your favorite authors feel better? Chances are, if you have a favorite author, it’s because he or she has delivered more than one or two good works, so you think you don’t need to show your support.

Sorry, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Writers need reviews so their work has the potential to reach other readers. They need to know what you liked and what you didn’t like so they can better serve your needs/meet your expectations in the future. They need you to recommend them to friends and family… a personal recommendation goes so much further than an offhand comment from a random stranger. They need you to share their posts and Tweets. They need your help.

thank-you-391055_1280

And what do you get out of it?

Other than more good content, that is?

How about our undying gratitude and respect? That two minutes you spend on a share, review, or comment will garner you a lifetime of good will from us.

And I know, because I’m grateful to each and every single one of you.

My challenge to you—support an author today. Leave a comment on a website, a review on a sales page. Type a comment on Facebook or retweet an author’s content. It will cost you no money and next to no time. But it will make a difference in some author’s life.

Have a great day, friends. I plan on spending the day writing.

Remembering Spring Fever

timeGrowing up, this was the most difficult time of year. You might think that because I grew up in the north, any time after Christmas break was over and before the spring thaw hit had to be the most difficult time of year. Sure, snowy winters were cold and inconvenient, but they were also fun. For every sidewalk shoveled, there was a mug of hot chocolate. And there were also sled rides and snowball fights and just general fun building snowmen and snow forts. Continue reading

Finding the Good in the Sad

by Staci Troilo

First, an announcement. Soon you will have to type the address: http://stacitroilo.wordpress.com to access my site. This will only be temporary while I am in the process of switching over to a new host. Please make note of this change. I’m sorry for the inconvenience, and I hope it won’t be a lengthy one. Now, on to this week’s post.

Yesterday was Palm Sunday. For Catholics, it’s the day the Passion is read at Mass. As a kid, I always had such trouble just listening to that gospel reading, let alone participating in it. Then when I was an adult, I watched Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. Now I really have trouble getting through that gospel. It really makes me feel completely…well, unworthy is the only word that comes to mind, but it really doesn’t come close.

But I have other, happier associations with Palm Sunday, too. For one thing, I was born on Palm Sunday. Not on the thirteenth, but on a Palm Sunday, waaaay back in 1971. I don’t remember that day, but I’m pretty happy about it, nonetheless.

Palm Sunday crossesBut my favorite memories of Palm Sundays gone by are the tying of the palm crosses. When I was little, my grandfather would come to our house and take all of our palm fronds and tie them into crosses for us. We would then have one for our bedrooms for a whole year, until the following year, when we would get a new one to replace it. (Most churches collect old palm before Lent starts and burn it for the ashes that they use for Ash Wednesday.) I remember him teaching me that the palm was special—it was blessed by the priest—so if I dropped it, I had to kiss it. As he tied the crosses, I scrambled to pick up any little pieces that fell and put them in a pile to be buried or burned. He taught me that was the only way to properly dispose of the blessed palm. He taught me so many things.

I loved being his little helper.

When I got a little older, he taught me how to make the crosses myself. It took me a few years to finally memorize the process, because there weren’t that many to tie. It’s not that complicated once you get it, but you don’t have many to learn with. It starts with a series of folds to anchor the knot in the center, then there are a series of loops to make the post and the cross pieces. Finally, a set of two tiny loops hold the middle together. I finally mastered it in 1985. No one else in my family ever took the time to learn it.

My grandfather died in February of 1986. He never tied another cross. I still have the last one we made together. It’s pretty delicate, but I don’t want to let it go.

I don’t have grandchildren yet, but I do have children, and I’m trying to teach them how to tie the crosses. I think it’s important to pass the traditions along while I’m still here to enjoy sharing my time with them. I’ve already taught my niece, I even taught my husband, and my kids are learning. My son actually did really well this year. My daughter isn’t doing too badly, but she actually is more interested in tying crowns of thorns. She saw one on television once, and has been doing her own version ever since. Maybe she’ll start her own tradition of tying crowns of thorns with her kids. It doesn’t matter to me. Right now, at least we’re all together, at Mass and afterward, as a family.

The gospel is such a tragic—albeit necessary—part of Palm Sunday. It’s nice to have some good memories to add to the day as well.

For Writers:
Fiction is nothing without conflict. Is there something in your WIP that has a negative connotation? Can you think of a way to add an activity and put a positive spin on it?

For Everybody:
Are you having this issue in your WIP? Did you do anything for Palm Sunday? Let’s talk about it.

When Everybody’s Irish, And Should Be

by Staci Troilo

I’m part Irish, although I know more about my Italian heritage than the other side of my family. But today, I happily claim my Celtic roots. Happy St. Patrick’s Day, one and all!

Happy St. Patrick's Day

I don’t know much about how my dad’s side of the family celebrated this feast day. I’m pretty sure there was beer involved. (There was beer at all Smith family functions, so that’s a safe bet.) But I can tell you how my mom’s side of the family celebrated it: with Italian food. My grandmother made all sorts of Italian meals for my grandfather. St. Patrick’s Day wouldn’t have been an exception.

I make an effort to expose my kids to all cultures (yes, I’m partial to our Italian heritage, but I’m not rigid). My children studied martial arts for several years (my son holds a second degree black belt and my daughter a first degree), and on Chinese New Year one year, their Master had them participate in the dragon dance… a smaller version re-enacted in their school, but the parade was still something to see. We also had traditional dishes that I still make every Chinese New Year at home. On Cinco de Mayo, I make enchiladas suizas and tres leche cake. And of course I make something Italian on Columbus Day.

It probably goes without saying that I’d make an Irish meal for St. Patrick’s Day. (What can I say? I teach in the kitchen.) We have friends who grew up in Ireland. (You should hear them speak. Such lovely brogues!) We’ve learned a lot about Ireland and Irish history just from their stories.

Last year we were blessed to have my husband’s parents here with us. They are full Italian, just like my mother. Not only did we get to enjoy their company that week, I got to share a little bit of my heritage with my in-laws.

irish mealI didn’t just have my kids in the kitchen with me, I had my mother-in-law, too. We made Irish soda bread, Guinness stew, mashed potatoes, and cabbage. Dessert was Irish coffee, which the kids didn’t get, but it was Lent, and we all have to make sacrifices. The meal was delicious, and the company was even better. As we ate, we discussed the fact that just a generation earlier, a meal like that would have been difficult to have. When my parents started dating—an Italian Catholic girl and an Irish/German/Scottish/Swedish Lutheran boy—some in our hometown frowned on mixing cultures. Luckily my grandparents could see past the labels to what great people my parents were. Are.

If they hadn’t, I might not be here today.

And my kids wouldn’t be here, learning about the Irish culture.

Today, my in-laws aren’t here. Our meal will be smaller, less festive, but just as poignant. We’ll discuss my heritage—my children’s heritage—and how important it is to celebrate our differences. And accept them.

St. PatrickSt. Patrick was kidnapped from Scotland as a youth and after escaping, went to Ireland where he lived in poverty, worked many miracles, and preached and converted the people for forty years. His tool of choice? The shamrock (three leaves on one stalk), which represented the Holy Trinity (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit all in one entity). St. Patrick wasn’t always accepted, not even in his own country. I’m grateful to live in a land of tolerance and diversity, and although we’re celebrating a day when everybody is Irish, I’m proud of my heritage, proud of my differences. We shouldn’t be afraid to show who we are or where we came from.

It’s our differences that make us unique, make us interesting, make us inimitable. (like that? tweet it)

We should all be Irish today, and then we should all celebrate our heritage, because then we’d be celebrating what makes us who we are.

For Writers:

Just as we as families have different heritages we can draw from for different experiences, as authors, we need to capitalize on different incidents in our lives to get the most out of our writing.

It’s time to stop playing it safe. They say “write what you know,” and that’s fine, but that doesn’t always mean “write what you’re comfortable with.” (like that? tweet it)

I’m not necessarily telling you to change genres, or switch from fiction to nonfiction. But is there some hidden story, some dark truth in your past that you’ve been itching to explore? Something that you want to talk about, a story begging to be told that the world needs to hear, but you’ve been putting it off because it’s ugly, or uncomfortable?

Now’s the time.

If your writing seems ho-hum, it’s because you aren’t being true to yourself, to what you really want to say, to what’s really inside. (like that? tweet it)

Open up that cookbook and see what it has to offer. There’s a whole world of palates to explore, flavors to discover.

Rise to the challenge. You might surprise yourself.

Irish Soda Bread and Other Traditions:

irish soda breadHere’s something, literally from the family cookbook.
If you’re looking for an easy Irish recipe to celebrate with today, here’s one to try. It’ll be gracing our table tonight.
Maybe you’d like to share a tradition or a recipe in the comments below.

Irish Soda Bread:

Ingredients:
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for the dried fruit
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 3/4 cups cold buttermilk, shaken
1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 cup dried currants, raisins, or cranberries

Directions:
1) Preheat the oven to 375° F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
2) Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is mixed into the flour.
3) With a fork, lightly beat the buttermilk, egg, and orange zest together in a measuring cup. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture.
4) Combine the dried fruit with 1 tablespoon of flour and mix into the dough. It will be very wet.
5) Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and knead it a few times into a round loaf.
6) Place the loaf on the prepared sheet pan and lightly cut an X into the top of the bread with a serrated knife. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. When you tap the loaf, it will have a hollow sound.

Cool on a baking rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Getting to the Heart of A Different Matter

by Staci Troilo

Hello. If you’re stopping by hoping to read another anecdote about my family or my friends, you’re going to be disappointed today. Or maybe not.

We’ve been discussing my relationships for a while now. I’ve told you stories about my grandparents, my parents, my siblings. You’ve read about my husband, my kids, my friends, heck, even my dogs.

What we haven’t discussed much lately is my work life. And we should. Because as far as relationships go, we have professional ones as well as personal ones. And if you’re as lucky as I am, you’re as passionate about your career as I am about mine, which means your professional relationships have the potential to be quite powerful, meaningful.

writing conferenceThis weekend I attended the Northwest Arkansas Writers’ Workshop Annual Conference in Fayetteville, Arkansas. It’s been a while since I saw some of the attendees, some of the people I only knew from online and I got to meet in person for the first time, and some people were complete strangers to me but became new friends and colleagues. A great time was had by all, and there was some valuable information presented.

greg campThe day started with Greg Camp, Publishing Director of
Oghma Creative Media doing a presentation on
editing for publication.
Greg’s talk covered the importance of a few key points
in fiction writing in order to avoid getting rejection letters. Well, to avoid getting as many as you would otherwise, anyway.

  • Grammar—You must have no grammatical errors if you want to be considered for publication.
  • Research—You have to do your homework. Historical inaccuracies are a sure way to get your manuscript tossed.
  • Pacing—You can’t do an “info dump” and tell the reader everything within the first five pages of the novel. Action needs to be revealed through the POV character interacting with other characters at a measured rate throughout the novel.
  • Conflict and Motivation—You don’t have a story unless your characters are at odds with something or someone and are motivated to change their situation.

I’ve known Greg for a few years and we have a lot in common. We both taught at the college level (he still does), we both write fiction, and we both edit for a living. I can tell you two things about his presentation: He knows his stuff and his advice was spot on.

casey cowanThe next presenter was Casey Cowan, President and Creative Director of Oghma Creative Media. Casey’s presentation was all about the seduction and allure of book covers. He said four things sell books:

  1. Word of mouth/peer pressure
  2. Big name endorsements
  3. Eye appeal of the cover
  4. Author effort/interaction with readers

When Oghma Creative Media designs covers, they consider the demographic of the readers and the genre of the book, then they look at the book’s message or theme and work with the author to design a front cover and spine that has the appropriate appeal for the audience. Then they work on the back cover to design not only the right color, but also taglines, teasers, and endorsements so that the back works with the front and works with the genre, creating a comprehensive package.

Duke PennellKimberly PennellThen my bosses, Duke and Kimberly Pennell from Pen-L Publishing, did a presentation on the relationship between authors and publishers. They discussed author expectations, publisher expectations, and the importance of the two getting in sync for a rewarding relationship. Some points covered were:

  • Personality—It’s really a matter of chemistry between author and publisher. If you don’t like each other as people, you won’t trust each other and you won’t work well together.
  • Vision—What are you expecting for your book? Your promoting efforts? Your career as a writer? Talk about it and be sure your plans mesh.
  • Marketing/Promotion/Reviews—Publishers used to send books to reviewers, issue releases, handle the promotion efforts. Now the shoe’s on the author’s foot to handle the marketing. These plans should be agreed on in advance so there are no surprises or disappointments.
  • Editing—Typically work is done in Microsoft Word using “track changes.” If a different method is preferred, it should be discussed.
  • Distribution—You need to know where your books will be available for purchase, how much you can buy them for, if you can buy them at wholesale price, etc. Learn the details in advance.
  • Support—Support shouldn’t end when the book is released. If you have questions or concerns, you should be able to call your editor. If you are doing a marketing tour, it’s not unreasonable to request a media packet be sent on your behalf. Make certain you have this support in place. Remember, your publisher doesn’t make money unless you do. They should be on your side.

velda brothertonAfter lunch, one of the founding members of the group, Velda Brotherton, discussed her twenty year writing journey. She encouraged us to hang on to everything we write, even our early work, because while we might not find a publisher for it immediately, years later we might. She’s finding success with some of her work twenty years after she wrote it. She offered a lot of advice, applicable to novices and experienced writers.

  • Write the best book you can (This involves more than just writing; it means studying the craft, joining critique groups, going to conferences, writing every day, editing ruthlessly, and having your work edited—with a thick skin.)
  • Build your platform so people can find you and follow you—Promote!
  • Publish your own work if you have to so your tribe can start reading your work
  • Avail yourself of small publishers
  • Use Createspace
  • Look into audiobooks
  • Then go for broke in New York (This is where conferences are so important. You’ll make connections with agents and editors there to get your foot in the door.)

Dusty RichardsWe ended the day with the other co-founder, Dusty Richards. Dusty discussed everything and anything you’d want to know about writing.

  • How to measure page count (1 page = 250 words)
  • How to structure a novel (1st quarter, hero’s lost. 2nd quarter, hero’s alone. 3rd quarter, hero gets support. 4th quarter, hero becomes hero or martyr.)
  • How to end a chapter (with some teaser to keep readers turning the page)
  • How to analyze the experts (Read every other page; you’ll see their structure. Or read one scene in the middle of the book and pick it apart.)
  • How to get experience (Work on short stories first, then work on single person POV.)

It’s been a privilege being in Dusty and Velda’s group for the last several years. Between them they have close to two hundred books published and decades of wisdom that they willingly share. All of the speakers were full of knowledge and quite entertaining. It was a really good day.

But I think my favorite part was the people. I used to be intimidated by conferences, but now I love them. I like meeting new people and catching up with old friends.

conferenceThis was the first time I set up a book table. That was a new experience for me, and it was a blast. It’s always a shock to me when someone wants my autograph, and this time someone even wanted to take my picture! I even had one woman come up to me and say she saw my book cover from all the way across the room and she just had to come over and see what it was about. That was a real honor. Yes, I met a lot of new people, made some new friends, and had a really good time.

So this post wasn’t about family, but it was about relationships—professional ones. And I’m just as passionate about them and treasure them just as much as I do all the other relationships in my life. What about your professional relationships? Have you recently been to a conference? Are you in sales? Do you have a funny work story to tell? Share it with us here.

Even Heroes Sometimes Fall

by Staci Troilo

OlympicsI didn’t think I was going to watch the Olympics. Not because the athletes and the games don’t interest me. They do. I’m a sucker for a good competition. I’m just not crazy about the coverage, and I haven’t been for the last several games. The announcers try to make drama where there isn’t any (and we all have too much of that in our lives as it is, especially those of us with teenagers in the house), and this whole tape delay business is annoying. I already know the results; why bother watching?

Because I love the competition.

And because these athletes deserve our support. They worked so hard for such a fleeting chance at glory, why not give them their fifteen minutes? After all, these are the heroes of our generation, the ones we tell our children to emulate.

When I was a child, I saw Nadia Comaneci score the first perfect ten in gymnastics, and I was hooked. (Yes, I know she wasn’t then an American citizen, but I was young at the time, what did I know, or care for that matter? Her performance was amazing!) That same winter, when Dorothy Hamill took gold in figure skating, I was begging for her haircut, along with the rest of the girls in America. *Clears throat* years later, my kids share that fascination with the Games and the athletes, waiting to see which of their heroes are going to climb the podium and claim the gold.

The thing is, heroes don’t always win. (tweet this)

Shaun White trained for the last four years for the Sochi Olympics. And for many years before that. Everyone expected the “three-peat” in the halfpipe. Shaun was the reigning champion, having won the gold at the last two Winter Games. He had stiff competition, sure, but come on, he’s Shaun White. He’s untouchable.

When you lift your heroes to lofty heights, they have a long way to fall. (tweet this)

Sochi Olympics

Shaun White mislanding during finals in halfpipe via Reuters/Mike Blake

White came in with high expectations on his shoulders, placed on him by the world and by himself. That’s a lot of pressure. He was prepared, and he continued to train while he was in Sochi. Maybe he trained too much. He doesn’t usually show up as early as he did. Maybe breaking his routine messed him up. Maybe the conditions of the pipe (less than stellar) conspired against him. Maybe he psyched himself out. Maybe his competitors were just better than him on that given day.

It really doesn’t matter. The event is over. Our lives go on.

It matters to Shaun White, who placed fourth.

It matters to Iouri Podladtchikov, who won gold.

The rest of us realize that sometimes, heroes fall. Sometimes at the worst possible time. (tweet this)

In the Olympics, there are no second chances. Just a lifetime of if only and what if.

In real life, there are second chances. If our heroes fall, we can watch their reactions and see if they get back up and rally (true heroes) or give up and go home (fair weather facsimiles). Everyone falls at some point. Let’s make sure we’re only emulating people with the courage to get back up.

For Writers

You’re going to face adversity in your journey. You’ll hit writer’s block, you’ll get rejection letters, you’ll receive bad reviews, you’ll be ignored. What are you going to do about it?

You can give up. Obviously you weren’t supposed to be a writer.

Not.

You are a writer because you have a passion for the craft, a burning desire to share your stories with the world through the written word. If you stumble, if you fall, you don’t stay down. You get back up and keep going, clawing your way if you have to. I know, because I’m a writer, too. I’m with you. And if you can’t get up on your own, let me know. I’ll help you.

And this desire to succeed? Don’t forget to instill it in your fictional heroes, too. To be interesting, characters have to face adversity. To be realistic, they have to fall. But to be heroic? They have to get back up again.

Today Americans “celebrate” Presidents’ Day. What used to be a celebration of two presidential birthdays has been consolidated into a day to honor all US Presidents. Love them or hate them, agree with their policies or not, this “holiday” began because of our first president who fought to establish this country and our sixteenth president who fought to keep it together as a single nation while liberating all its citizens. These are true heroes, and we shouldn’t forget or belittle their contributions.

Athletes, leaders… maybe family members, military personnel, or public servants. We all have heroes. Would you like to share a hero’s story here? Or maybe you’d like to discuss your favorite heroic moment of the Olympics? Let’s chat.

Need Motivation? Look No Further

snowWe’ve been having the strangest weather. My kids have missed eight days for snow already, and we’re in the south. I’m told that’s not unheard of for this area, but come on. What’s the point of living in the south—far from family and good Italian food—if not avoiding snow?

But I digress…

Gramma never complains about crappy situations. She just digs in and deals with what life hands her. And life has handed her some tough situations.

Her family, looking to escape harsh realities in a weak and oppressive Italy, immigrated to Colorado in the early 1900s. She was a young girl running errands for her mother when she encountered one of those tough situations.

When the Going Gets Tough, Gramma Gets Going

She was walking to the general store by herself to obtain a few provisions for her family. It wasn’t far, but the road was deserted for a stretch. She heard a horse and buggy behind her. Horses were her favorite of all animals, so she turned around to admire the animal.

It wasn’t a local farmer, or even a neighbor child.

It was a “gypsy” family.

Her parents had warned her about such wanderers. They weren’t to be trusted.

She stopped staring at the horse and turned her focus back to the road, picking up her pace just a bit.

One of the men sitting in the cart called to her, “Hey, little girl!”

She ignored him. She could see the buildings on the main street of the town, but she wasn’t close enough to yell for help.

“Girly! Wait a minute!” She didn’t know if it was the same man or his partner, and she didn’t turn to find out. They were getting closer.

She broke into a run.

To her utter dismay, she heard the crack of a whip.

They were giving chase.

They were still pretty far behind her, but she knew she couldn’t outrun a horse. She’d never make it all the way to the general store.

Her only chance was to run to the first building she came to.

She ran for her life.

The first building in the street was the post office. She darted inside and, completely breathless, ran behind the counter, ducking down, out of sight.

“Hey! You can’t be back here!” the postmaster said.

She could only shake her head, completely unable to speak. She pointed at the door just as two men and a woman flung it open and dashed inside.

“Can I help you?” the postmaster asked them.

“We’re looking for… our niece,” one of the men said.

The woman spoke up. “She ran away from us.”

“I thought I saw her come in here,” a man said.

The postmaster was silent for a moment.

My grandmother didn’t breathe for a whole other reason. She was terrified he was going to give her up.

Instead, he said, “You’re mistaken. She must have run behind the building. Did you check out back?”

“Maybe if we could just check behind your counter?” one of the men said.

The postmaster held up his hand. “No, you may not. No one is allowed behind this counter unless he is authorized by the United States Government.”

Gramma released a soundless sigh.

“I suggest you be off,” the postmaster said. “You need to find your niece, and it gets dark early in these parts.”

The gypsies left without another word, and soon my grandmother heard the horse and buggy headed away from the post office.

“It’s safe now,” the postmaster said, and helped her out from behind his counter.

“I don’t know how to thank you,” my grandmother said. “How did you know I wasn’t with them?”

“You can always tell good from bad,” he said.

Certain Universal Truths

I always love it when my grandmother tells that story. You can tell good from bad, if you look hard enough. And you can do anything if you set your mind to it. Even get away from potential kidnappers. Or get out of a winter’s funk.

I’ve been feeling the winter’s blues. A lot of my writing friends have, too. But thinking about the hardships my grandmother has overcome is quite motivating to me. I’ve never had to escape anything so daunting as potential abductors. I don’t know if they were really “gypsies,” but I do know the threat was real. And I know she’s been through other tragedies in her life, too.

writer's blockI just had a minor bout of writer’s block. Not quite on the same scale, hardship-wise. Still, it’s nothing I want to keep banging my head against.

But overcoming any obstacle requires digging down deep to find that inner kernel of strength and determination that will see us through to the other side. I’d like to think I get that from my grandmother.

When you’re feeling a little out of sorts, who do you look to for inspiration? Why don’t you share that story here?

Guesting at WritersHelpingWriters.Net

writers helping writersI am honored to be a guest at WritersHelpingWriters.net today. Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi (formerly known as The Bookshelf Muse, and authors of the well known and invaluable work The Emotion Thesaurus as well as the newly released The Positive Trait Thesaurus and The Negative Trait Thesaurus) recently hosted a week long Amazing Race to help writers with log lines, queries, book promotions, etc. in conjunction with the launching of their new website name and their two new book releases. I was one of the ‘racers,’ or the writers who helped other writers. It was a great experience. I even met someone who lives in France who has since not only become a friend, but who has volunteered to become a tour guide should I ever make it over there for a visit!

mysteryToday, I’m not in France, however. I’m over at WritersHelpingWriters.net, talking about the basics of mystery novel writing. I hope you stop over, read the post, and check out Angela and Becca’s new site.

Giving Thanks for the Mental

thankfulIt’s week two. As I said last week, I’ll be spending the month of November writing my Monday posts talking about things I’m thankful for. I talked about a friend of mine who does daily Facebook posts in November, which got me thinking about doing this. That prompted a follower to tell me about Twitter’s #ThankfulNovember. I’ve started doing that too. It’s good to count your blessings once in a while.

So daily this month you can find me on Twitter under the above hashtag. And here on Mondays this month, I’ll be covering the things I’m thankful for by breaking them down into four categories: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.

**DISCLAIMER** Things covered this month are in no particular order.

Week two covers mental things. I’m grateful for:

  • My five senses
  • My memory
  • The ability to write
  • Editing skills
  • Technological advances
  • Being able to read books both critically and for enjoyment
  • My aptitude for learning to play musical instruments
  • My (admittedly meager) artistic abilities
  • Design and special relationship capabilities
  • Critical and strategic thinking skills

I know there are so many more mental things that I’m thankful for but they aren’t springing to mind because I’m trying to think of them. Why don’t you help add to the list? What mental abilities are you grateful for?

Military with FlagTwo more things… I didn’t forget it’s Veteran’s Day, and I do want to say that I’m eternally grateful for the military and their service to our country.

anniversaryIt’s also my parents’ anniversary, and I want to say to them Happy Anniversary. I love you. I’m grateful for you and all you’ve done for our family, and I hope you have a great day and many more wonderful years together.

On Your Mark, Get Set…

Writers Helping WritersHow many of you are familiar with Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi of WritersHelpingWriters.net (formerly The Bookshelf Muse)? Many of you, I’m sure. They’re the multi-talented authors of The Emotion Thesaurus, and they’ve just released two new books, The Positive Trait Thesaurus and the Negative Trait Thesaurus. I’ve already obtained a copy of both, and I can’t wait to dive in.

Angela and Becca, in their usual helpful fashion, are doing something truly wonderful this week. They are hosting an Amazing Race to help writers with 10 specific items. Many writers (myself included) have volunteered to help them with their project. And not just any writers, experts in the field. You don’t want to pass this opportunity by. Go to their website (writershelpingwriters.net) to sign up for one of the categories and someone will help you with one of the following:

  • a first page critique
  • a one paragraph hook critique
  • a query letter critique
  • a twenty-five word pitch critique
  • a tweet about you
  • a mini blog review
  • book exposure on someone’s blog
  • requesting a future guest post
  • having a question answered
  • social media handouts (Becca & Angela will handle these personally)

I hope you take advantage of this wonderful opportunity. There are also giveaways every day! Come on! You’ve got one week! Click on the link above or the badge in my sidebar to access their site, and I’ll see you there!

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