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Writing Tips

I’m not a planner. I like to go with the flow and see how things unroll. I am like that in life, and I’m like that with writing. I know many writers who outline their entire novel – chapter by chapter. The aspect of this terrifies me. Before I begin a novel, I have a general idea of what the novel is about and where it’s headed (beginning, middle, and ending) but the rest happens as I write. By the same token, I’m sure my method  would frighten the Type A’s out there. To each her own. What works for some won’t work for others. And my pantser style works for me.

On various occasions, I’ve been asked to speak to writers groups. This is one of those instances when I can say with all sincerity, “It’s an honor to be asked.” There are lots of writers out there, and to be chosen out of many to offer some advice, well, like I said, it’s a compliment. That said, I don’t plan what I’m going to say before I go. I’m not a list maker. I know what the crux of my statement will be, but beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess.

I’ll be speaking to a young writers group later this week, which got me thinking (insert lightbulb and angelic music) that I should have some tips for them to refer to if they need advice in case I forget to address it since I won’t be outlining my speech. Of course when I say “advice” all I can picture is Lucy from Peanuts in her cardboard booth offer Chuck advice for five cents. Geez, I hope my advice is worth more than that. With the invention of self-publishing tools such as Amazon, IBooks, Nook, Kobo, Wattpad, etc., the market has changed significantly, and stories which would have only been seen by a few set of eyes are now available to the masses. Potentially, these aspiring novelists I will be speaking to will become authors thanks to these outlets. How awesome! How exciting!

I’ve been an Indie author (sounds so rogue, doesn’t it) since 2012. These are some things I’ve either learned or observed the past five years. Take these tips and do as you wish.

1) If you plan to self-publish, hire an editor. Your friend of a friend who knows where to insert commas isn’t enough. Hire a professional. Before you hire them, do some research. Ask for a list of writers who have used their services. Ask for a sample of their work to see their editing process. Comparison shop. Just hire an editor.

2) Pay a graphic designer to design your book cover. Don’t think that taking one measly class in Adobe Photoshop is enough to make you a book cover designer. It’s not. A poorly designed book cover sends the wrong message. Your novel could be a work of art on the inside, but it won’t translate as such if the cover isn’t designed well.

3) Find beta readers who will offer you constructive feedback and won’t sugar coat things. These beta readers should read your genre. They should be readers who can offer you an honest opinion about your novel. They should want to help you not hurt you. There is a difference.

4) Don’t use social media as a tool for “Me! Me! Me!” There’s nothing more annoying than people who talk of nothing else but themselves. Socialize. It’s okay to tell others about your book, but don’t make it your only message. Share things about yourself other than your writing. Let people get to know you and get to know them, too. Think of it as a first date. Imagine if the other person was talking only about themselves and how great they were at writing the entire night and didn’t ask you one question. Annoying, right? Don’t be that person. Share the love. If you discover a great read, tell others about it. If you have an Indie author friend with a new book release, share that with others. Sharing is caring.

5) Make sure your inner-circle is supportive of your efforts. Writing is a lonely business. You need to be around people who will lift you up.

6) Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Do not compare yourself to others. So what if they’re getting more reviews or selling more books. It doesn’t matter what they do. What matters is what you do. Are you writing from your heart? Are you proud of your novel? Did you enjoy writing it?

7) Critics exist. Sometimes a critical review can make you a better writer. I’ve learned from a few. Sometimes you just have to let the criticism roll off of your shoulders. Never, and I mean this, never engage in dialogue with a reviewer. This is tacky and unprofessional. So they didn’t like your book, move on. It happens to the best of us:)

8) Trolls exist. Don’t let them get to you.

9) Appreciate your bloggers. Send them some love. Write them a thank you note. Send them a signed copy of your book. Bloggers receive countless review requests. The fact that they chose to review your book should make you feel special.

10) This is a personal decision, but I don’t negatively rate or write negative reviews for books I’ve read that I didn’t love. Just because a book wasn’t right for me doesn’t mean it isn’t perfect for someone else. I realize the blood, sweat and tears the author put into their work and don’t want to diminish that. To me, it’s professional courtesy. But, like I said, this is a personal decision.

11) Do your research on self-publishing. Read! Read! Read! You can ask other Indie authors about their experiences, but make sure to do your own research.

12) Write and read all of the time. Even when you don’t feel like writing, write. Something. Anything. Just write. Read. Reading makes you a better writer. Read books by authors you admire. Read for fun. Read to learn. Just read.

I won’t have a 13th tip because I’m superstitious. I hope this advice helps. Feel free to contact me if you have other questions, and write on!

Goodbye, 2016. Hello, 2017.

I recently emptied out the blessings jar my friend had given me last year. It was a thoughtful gesture on her part, but I’m not one for this kind of sentiment, so the things I was “thankful” for probably aren’t the norm. Here’s a prime example: “I’m glad I know to say specifically instead of pacifically.” Psst… that drives me crazy. Or: “Thankful I don’t work in a chicken plant.” So true. There is a plant about five miles up the road from where I live, and anytime I drive near it, I’m greeted with a pungent bouquet. Plus, I like meat and working there would most likely steer me in the direction of becoming a vegetarian, which wouldn’t be much fun since I live in BBQ country. I also delved into politics: “Thankful I don’t live in North Korea.” (I was obsessed with watching North Korea documentaries.) So, as you can see, I was a bit tongue in cheek. A few were more sentimental, but I won’t share those. They’re private.

2016 has come to an end. For many, it’s a time of celebration. From what I’ve read on social media, you’d think this was the worst year of many people’s lives. A year is a year is a year. Personally, celebrity deaths don’t affect me, and politics are politics. They’re never changing. Guess what? I don’t care where you stand politically, what your religious beliefs are, and what your personal sexual preference is, I still like you!

If I had to reflect on this year and say what I’m truly thankful for, it’d be that I live in a country where I have the freedom to write what I want to write. I love to write – it’s fulfilling, it’s cathartic, it’s something I need to do, not just want to do. Having people like you read my books and then share your love for them is what keeps me going. Writers write to be heard and to be read. Knowing that there are people like you who are reading the things I’ve written and have been touched by my words means so much to me.

Sometimes, we (all of us, pointing to you, too, don’t try and cower out of here) don’t take the time to sit back and think of our true blessings. I know I sure don’t. Just the other day, I was griping about there being nothing to eat in the house and my husband said, “We have money to buy all kinds of food at the grocery store and you’re complaining?” It was one of those aha moments, where you realize you’re being a jerk or a tool or some adjective in that category. He was right. How can I complain about not having any food to eat when there are so many who are starving? Rarely, do we look at what we have right in front of us.

This past summer, my husband and I fulfilled our long-time dream of going out west and seeing Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, and Rocky Mountain National Park. It was a trip of a lifetime, and one I’m truly thankful to have gone on. When I was in Yellowstone, I was deprived of the internet (which was surprisingly refreshing) and chai tea (which wasn’t so good – gotta have my caffeine). I didn’t have tea for days. Thankfully, while were traipsing around the park,  we found a restaurant (because there are several in the park, believe it or not) that served chai tea. Yes! That tea was one of the best cups I’ve had in my life. No joke. It’s because I’d been deprived of it and having it again made me truly appreciate its taste and flavor. I didn’t gulp it down. I took my time with it, truly relished in tasting nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, pepper, and of course, honey. (Winnie the Pooh and I are besties. I love honey and tea isn’t tea without it). In a society where everything is “Gimme, Gimme, Gimme and Instant, Instant, Instant!” it’s not often that we find ourselves unable to have something we want at our disposal. That was a teachable moment for me: stay present-minded and be thankful for what I have when I have it.

Okay, not trying to sound all Zen Guru on you. I am human and have lots of flaws. I guess I’m just hoping you’ll read this post and realize that you are blessed and have lots of things to be thankful for.

Wishing you a happy, healthy and blessed year to come!  Thanks for reading what I’ve written.

Coping with Grief

Our sweet angel passed away on September 26, 2015. Nothing, I mean nothing, can prepare you for that kind of heartache. She was an integral part of our lives for fourteen years. And even though she was old, her death was unexpected.

We could never see tomorrow, no one ever said a word about the sorrow.” The Bee Gees

There’s no easy answer for how to deal with grief. No magic pill. No special words. You just….cope. You drift, moving through your day, hoping today will be better than the day before. You try to stay busy, occupied, so that you don’t dwell. But sometimes all you can do is think about what you lost because it’s no longer within your grasp.

I’ve experienced loss in my life—losing beloved grandparents, acquaintances, and special friends. And those losses were hard. But this, this was and is…heartbreaking and utterly painful.

I still see her everywhere, yet she isn’t with us anymore. In spirit, in memory, she is there. Early in the morning, when I’d leave for work, I’d always say to her and my husband: “Bye. I love everybody in this household.” I’ve caught myself saying it now, only there isn’t an “everybody” in the house, it’s just my husband and me. The first time I let it slip, I winced, realizing the brutal truth that I wouldn’t leave the house and find her there when I came back. I can’t hug her, love on her, have her cuddle next to me. I can’t call her name or talk to her. I can’t be with her.

There are five stages to grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I’m teetering between stages. One day I’m fine; the next day I’m a sobbing mess. The other night, my husband and I were at Fuddruckers (if we’re friends on Facebook you know this is my weekly ritual. I should own stock in this company). I started crying while I was eating dinner. Why? Because earlier that day on my travels home from work I saw a woman on a walk with her two dogs.

People ask me, “Are you going to get another dog?” I know that they mean well, and really, in my opinion, I don’t think they don’t know what else to say. Death is an awkward conversation topic. It’s uncomfortable, even though it’s part of life. To me, asking if I’m going to get another dog is like asking a widower if he’s going to get married again. “Gonna get in that dating pool again? I hear Match.com works.” Sorry to sound cynical. I realize for some that getting another dog immediately after the death of their dog is comforting, but not to me. My answer to them is always the same: “I need time. If I got another dog now, I’d just compare them to her, and that’s not fair to the new dog.” She’s not replaceable.

I’ve received an outpouring of sympathy, from fellow pet owners and friends, and strangers who love their pets. I’ve heard sad stories of losing beloved pets. Some more tragic than others. Some more devastating than mine. I’ve heard about cherished dogs and cats who made an imprint in their lives, who were part of the family, whose death brought emptiness. And I know that I’m not alone.

We all grieve. Maybe we all grieve differently, but we’ve all experienced loss, and it feels the same for all of us – like our hearts have been ripped out, like it seems as if the sun will never shine again. I know I will get through this. Because it is the truth that is a part of life. I can’t have happiness without sadness. I can’t have life without death. It just takes time. Like all things – it just takes time.

Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

I lived thirty plus years in Florida and in the same city where I was born. I even went to college in Central Florida. It was all I ever knew. I figured that I’d grow old and die there, but then something happened. Something in me changed. Read more →

Roller Skating – a Metaphor for Life

I used to roller skate. What child of the 70s and 80s doesn’t know how? Actually, I was surprised to find there are quite a few people my age who’ve never been roller skating. How did they miss out on this while growing up? Didn’t their school have a “Skate Night?” Didn’t they skate while listening to tunes on their walkman? I know I did. Read more →

What’s Your Definition of Success?

“How many books have you sold?” I get asked this question a lot. Yeah, it’s an impertinent question, and I usually reply by saying, “I don’t know; I don’t keep count.” Which, is true, by the way. I don’t. I quit counting years ago. But the thing that gets me is that the focus seems to be on money and not the fact that I wrote a book. Maybe that’s where we are as a society? The headlines in your favorite magazines are mostly related to wealth and beauty, or the downfall of others. They’re not highlighting accomplishments or altruism. A real bummer if you ask me. (Maybe I’m reading the wrong headlines?) Read more →

Sorry, not sorry, if this article offends you.

I was recently at Fuddruckers and asked the woman in front of me if she’d already ordered. “Yes, sorry,” she replied. Sorry for what? I’m the one who should have noticed you holding the huge styrofoam cup with Fuddruckers’ logo on it. But this isn’t the exception. As women, we tend to apologize way too much and for things that don’t require an apology. Read more →

2014: The good, the bad, and the ugly.

If you’re a fan of the Spaghetti Western you’ll appreciate the above title. When I was a little girl I used to watch westerns (mostly John Wayne films) with my dad. Well, that and musicals like Annie and Grease 2. Yep, Dad enjoys a good musical, and we watched many together as I grew up. That seemed like yesterday but in reality it was ions ago! And now another year has passed and soon it will be 2015.

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