Thursday, March 31, 2011

Yeah, it hurts


Recently there was a post about rejection. About how we’ve all been there, 10, 20, 40 times or more (Well, rejection in regards to publishers and agents that is.) I’ve had query letters and manuscripts rejected over 100 times. Each. Aack! I’m the queen of rejection. And, add this to a house that may not sell, and a social life that’s often faces rejection, too. May opportunities for pity parties. And I have indulged in them—I just try not to let it show.

When I feel the worst—like—a nameless, faceless blob floating unattached in the universe of boredom and unneccessaryness, ( I made that word up, can you tell?) somehow, somewhere, it occurs to me……………..

I count. We all do. My faith in God gets me through to another day. I remember the miracles I’ve seen, supernatural occurrences that I wish everyone could experience, both good and bad. Stories that make people raise an eyebrow at…and then I realize…it’s really not all about me.

I may count for something, yes, and maybe it’ as a writer and maybe it’s as a friend, a mother, or even the person that always remember to feed the dog. But there is something higher. Even though I long for my writing and books to touch people, and, a lot of them if my pride gets its way, I really long to touch people just by being me. I want to give people a lift and encouragement just by existing. And that’s not always easy. But I want to try.

I’m still working on it!

Lori Lapekes

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Reality Check

I do believe reality is more interesting than fiction. The twists and turns, the ups and downs, the events we experience. As writers, we learn to take the good, the bad, and then incorporate these events into our writings.

When writing short stories, several of the characters I have created are based on people I know. I develop the personalities to fit into the story. Making sure there is a solid storyline is important, but then I use the idea and let the words flow onto the page slowly creating a masterpiece.

Writing what you feel sometimes works best. Other times, simply developing an idea is equally as powerful as emotions. Whatever works for you, the goal is to keep writing.

The past two months, I will admit I have not been the best at writing. There has been so much going on. But now that life events are starting to slow down, it is time to let the words start flowing and let the ideas develop.

Good luck with your writing! I'll be writing right along with you. :)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What's old is new again.

I know a lot of writers that read their books as soon as they get them in their hot little hands.

I'm not one of those people.

Mostly I'm afraid I'm going to catch mistakes that it's too late to fix. Or worse, I'm going to think it's the dumbest story ever, and I can't believe I wrote it. And worse still, that other people are reading it.

Hello, crippling insecurity, thy name is Bron.

However, I recently had the opportunity (read: was forced by my editor) to read the first book I ever published. It's being re-released by my current publisher and had to be re-edited and whatnot.

Now, I admit, there were definitely some newbie mistakes, but on the whole, I was delightfully surprised by how much I liked it. And, as an added bonus, I got to fix the mistakes, change the title to something I don't hate and I got to put the scenes back in that the other publisher made me take out. So win-win all the way around!

Tomorrow, the new and improved version of my first book comes out, and next month the next one in the series will be out, too. And to add more awesome to the pile, I have a gorgeous new cover, (created by the awesome and multi-talented Brynn Paulin) too!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Bookshelf



I was spinning around in my office chair searching for a topic to write about - no I didn't forget, I simply ran out of time before now - and I have a girl who does not have middle school angst or drama or boy issues right now. For which I'm very happy. But that leaves me topic less. Like many writers - well the ones I've met and seen the insides of their offices anyway - my house is teaming with books- which could be a reader things and not a writer thing - but I have a bookshelf - which is quickly needing to become a bookcase - of research books.

My current stack of books that I'm researching for my stories span 7 topics and stand about 3 feet tall in two columns lined up against the wall. They are also there so that I don't forget to take them back to the library (most are on my I need this book list which I give to my family when they ask for ideas for birthday and Christmas), since the library frowns on you keeping them permanently.

While I won't bore you with a list of topics, I will point out how highly amused some of my friends are when they see me reading about an ancient culture for a sci-fi set novel.

The more I'm writing, the more I'm learning that almost all writing requires research. Genre fiction is rife with the need for researching one topic or another. It might be something simple that only takes 20 minutes or it could take a year...but some part of most writing seems to require research.

Which means when I finally build my two story personal library, I'll have to have at least half a floor dedicated to research books. :)

Caley.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Reward of No Reward


This blog was going to be about layering your characters.  It would have been scintillating, brilliant, Tweet-a-licious!  But between work and Panera’s, my current location, I read something that compared writing to climbing a mountain - a lot of work and no guarantee you’ll get to the top. 
It struck a cord.  What drives me to write?  Why do I ostracize my friends and family to spend time with imaginary people?  Why can’t I overhear a phrase without wanting to incorporate it into a story?  What is wrong with me and the twenty-nine other women in GRRWG? (and thousands of others.)
The rewards aren’t that great, at least monetarily.  While we have a high rate of published authors in our group, each new book is a gamble.  The market is a fickle mistress.  Self-marketing is hard, hard work that takes time away from writing.  Rejection sucks.  Saying no to family makes us look like monsters.  Missing a day (or two or three) of writing casts us as hobbyists.
So why do we do it?  What drives us deeper into the insanity?
Because we can’t not write.  It’s part of the fabric of WHO WE ARE.  It is the browns and oranges and greens and blues woven into the core of our being.  Tell us to give up chocolate for Lent.  We can do that.  Tell us we’ll lose our house.  We’ll move.  Tell us our dog has to be put down.  We’ll drive him to the vet’s.  But never, ever, under any circumstances, tell us we can’t write, because THERE WILL BE BLOOD.
We grumble we don’t have the time/place/resources to write, but you’ll find us scribbling as we wait at the dentist’s, or on the sidelines at soccer practice or anywhere else we can snatch a few minutes.  Our desks are in our laps, in the kitchen, bedroom, hallway or furnace room. (yes, my first desk was next to the furnace.  My children thoughtfully wrote “Redrum” on the concrete wall I faced.  I don’t think it was in homage to Steven King.)      
What reward do we seek?  The standard answer is publication, but when it is always out of reach (“I’m sorry, your work isn’t for us”), we soldier on.  One manuscript after another, we tackle New York editors and agents.  When they don’t pan out, we broaden our range.  And if publication never comes, we still pursue the dream.
Pause a moment in this obsession.  Stop trying to find gratification through others.  Be proud in the passage you’ve written that NO ONE ELSE EVER WILL.  Enjoy the warm tinglies when you solve that incredibly complex plot.  Smile and accept compliments (or criticism) from your critique partner/group.
Don’t accept less than the best from anyone, especially yourself.
Find the reward in no reward.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Shameless Self Promotion

I woke up this morning with the alarm telling me "Must post to GRRWG blog!". Rat bastard. I have so much to do today. I'm leaving tomorrow for a trip to a writing conference in New York and I am completely, utterly, totally not ready. No exaggeration. I'm afraid to say that I don't have much creative mojo this morning left with to blog, so I thought I'd do some shameless self promotion instead.

I don't really like the 'shameless self promotion' title though. It makes it sound like you SHOULD be ashamed for promoting your work. Maybe I should call it "Strong Independent Woman Promoting Herself and Her Work" or SIWPHHW. Guess that doesn't really roll off the tongue though.

Here it is. My third book came out last month from Champagne Books, and it just got its first review. Romance Studio says: "Pepper Wellington and the Case of the Missing Sausage is a deliciously wicked, blackly comic little gem. Filled with a whip-smart plot and delightfully flawed characters, Tanya Eby provides her readers with a sinfully indulgent read that will have you laughing out loud one moment, and riveted to your chair the next. This is a must read for any fan of black comedy and mystery."

That is seriously the nicest review I could've hoped for. I double checked and read it to my mom. She cried. Score! Although maybe I shouldn't be so excited about making my mom cry.

To continue with my Independent Woman who is...aw, hell. What did I call it? I don't know. It's not shameless self promotion. It's me saying, here's my little book trailer about the mystery.

Next time I'm with you I will try to think of profound words of writing advice. That sounds like a lot of effort though...so...maybe next time I'll just write about cheese. I like cheese. A lot.

Love and hugs and smooches (but not in a creepy way),
Tanya



Last plug. I'm blogging from NYC starting tomorrow. Check it out at www.heyblunderwoman.com







Monday, March 14, 2011

They can't say YES...

if you don't send it out. 

Rejection can be so discouraging.  We read the single page letter or the curt email dismissing the epic we have poured our soul into and we are crushed.  Despite the encouraging, "It's a delightful story." or "You're a gifted writer.", we dwell on the "it wasn't right for us" part of the letter. It festers.  We believe it really means 'you can't form a coherent sentence and I tempted to fold your manuscript into origami cranes and set them on fire.' 

The rejected manuscript is carefully tucked away under the bed to collect dust mites.  And it sits. Occasionally we slide it out and brush away the dust and contemplate sending it out again. 

But we don't because 'maybe we should write the first chapter, so it's catchier' or 'maybe there should be a subplot with a singing dolphin' or 'maybe the whole thing needs to be rewritten.'

The problem is we'll never know whether this manuscript is good enough if it's collecting dust under the bed.  Sure, sending it out could mean more rejection, more people saying 'no, not for us.'

There are hundreds of stories of writers submitting manuscripts ten, twenty, even forty (raising my hand here) times before it is accepted.  There also stories of writers getting contracts offers on their first submission.  Everyone's story is different, but they all include one thing.  The writer had the courage to send their manuscript out.  

Because an editor or an agent can't say YES unless they can read the manuscript. 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

In light of conferences...

So, In light of the fact that we just completed our GRRWG meeting, during which we discussed our conference, I thought I should give you an example of what NOT to do, should you attend. That's right, folks, because I'm pretty good at "the awkward", and because I don't mind being the butt of an inside joke.

Don't believe me? This is what happened during last year's AAD conference in New Jersey, attended by Me, Bronwyn Green, Brynn Paulin, and Jennifer Armintrout (I believe there were others, however, these lucky few were privy to my foibles. Yay me.

Note: If you have trouble seeing the comic, click on it and it will blow up. Click the back arrow to return to the blog strip. :)
Also, I sent a link of this comic to Louise Fury who gave me an open invitation to submit anything I want. She tweeted it as the best submission request EVAR. See? Your embarrassment CAN pay off. I just don't recommend it.


Friday, March 11, 2011

Reality Check

Is truth stranger than fiction? Fiction, by its very nature, is not the truth but must be believable. That’s walking – or writing – a very fine line. Take a story that has some form of love in the plot line. Even if it’s not a memoir, it must still appear to be true. But happiness isn’t very compelling. A story about happy love is a long yawn. So unless, I’m a person who thrives on drama and conflict, a story of my love life will seem to drag on page after page.

Conflict! My critique writers group urges me to increase the conflict in my story of Rachel and Charlie. Make Rachel an alcoholic, or somebody interesting – the implication being that a woman falling in love with a man isn’t very interesting without drama. So the vise tightens.

My writing challenge is to create a story that appears to be true, as though mirroring real life, when in reality, fiction is stranger than truth.

And for those times when life gives me twists in the plot line, or tightens the vise – I need to keep my wits about me and remember each unfolding moment. Take the last couple months for instance.

Suppose I thought I’d been falling for a man who by all appearances seemed to be falling for me. (And since I am a fiction writer – this could have all been my imagination!) Then a couple of weeks ago, the well dried up. For the first week, I wondered what was going on. Was it something I said or did? But since the story took place in my head, there wasn’t much to go on. The emotional turmoil caught me completely off-guard. Thinking back, it had been almost ten years since I’d actually cried over a man, and now here I was, unable to make it through the day without something reminding me of the silence.

Golden writing nuggets.

Coincidentally, I’m editing a portion of my unpublished novel, Talking to Strangers, where Rachel and Charlie experience a stunning conflict. Armed with my recent experience, I added details.

Rachel stared out the window, lost in thoughts of Charlie. More than once.

While meeting for business in a coffee shop, she heard a song that reminded her of Charlie. She lost her train of thought, unable to finish her sentence for listening to the lyrics.

She was an emotional wreck at home, yelling at the dog, losing her temper with her son.

Her heart ached like a deep bruise. (I still haven’t gotten the rest of the heart quite right – that rushing feeling, similar to adrenaline but more like ice.)

Lost. Crying.

Poor Rachel. I didn’t expect her to be such a wreck because I didn’t expect it from myself. But as she goes on, full of questions but not regretting the chance she took to open her heart to the risk of heartache, so I go on.

Rachel will look in the mirror and remind herself who she is. Rachel Stevens. She will then smile at herself, remembering what she looks like when she’s happy.

I will take notes. And hope that my life is not stranger than fiction.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Back in the Saddle

Oh, it feels good to be writing and publishing again. I never really stopped, but I did slow down for a little while as I explored working in another area of publishing as an editor. Great experience, but it took me away from my own stories too much.

Since I stopped editing, I've got two stories in progress. I also had a book released yesterday! And another coming out next month!

Yes, it definitely feels good to be writing and publishing again.

Here's a little description of my latest release with Resplendence Publishing.


Moon Princess


Blurb:
As Celina Maddock leaves the office on a Friday evening, her coworker jumps into her car and demands she get on the highway and drive fast after their sizzling kiss in the parking lot. She never imagined she'd get the gorgeous Barrett Osborn ordering her around; however, when he starts talking about Shadows, werewolves, and werebears, she becomes a little worried about his mental health.

When Barrett's lover, Stan Varka, offers his assistance in escaping the Shadows, Celina goes along with their strange story about shapeshifters, because finding herself the center of their attention becomes extremely erotic.

Once they've finished their night of playacting, Celina doesn't think she could possibly have a future with these two amazing lovers...until they convince her that she really is the Moon Princess and the only hope for establishing peace between the wolves and the bears.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

My Weird Moment With Brainstorming

I recently completed the 2nd book in the Demons Unleashed series and sent it off to my publisher. With that comes the daunting task of plotting the next book. My heroine, whilst my mom and I were on our way to the grocery store, rather adamantly tells me she enjoys the pirate life. I furrowed my brow.

Then it came to me. Kalli, the heroine in book three might be a demon, but she still likes to have fun too. She enjoys getting into costume and reenacting famous pirate battles. Hey, if you can reenact a civil war battle, why not a pirate battle too? Don’t worry, no ships were damaged while brainstorming this novel.

Oops. Maybe one was...

I decided what they needed was some sort of shipwreck. Something cataclysmic to throw Kalli and her hero together. I wasn’t so sure about this idea, so I started a conversation with my mother. Once I told her my idea, I asked what she thought.

The radio answered for her. As soon as my question came out, the song changed. I cringed. It was CĂ©line Dion. If that wasn’t bad enough, it was “My Heart Will Go On.”

I kid you not!

Plotting a shipwreck when a song from a movie about one of the biggest shipwrecks in history starts playing? I’m torn whether this is a sign to scrap that idea or go ahead. What do you all think?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Past Ties

It's Monday. It feels like Monday too. Which really sucks today because I'm out of ideas on what to write about. I was tempted to cut and paste my blog post over at Writers Evolution here, but decided against that one. I could update you on my weekend, but that was all about writing, catching up on the Who Do You Think You Are episodes and genealogy, because watching a show about tracing your ancestors naturally makes me want to dust off my long neglected notes and start digging around to see what I can find. I didn't get to the Lionel Ritchie episode yet, but I'm working on it. Conveniently I can watch it online through NBC.

Looks like it'll be genealogy, since I keep coming around to it and it is one of my favorite hobbies, though I usually fail to include it in my list of hobbies. Not sure why. Starting a family tree is pretty easy. There are several inexpensive or free genealogy programs - there are some pretty expensive ones too. But start inexpensive to see if you like it. Ancestry.com offers a place to host your tree, which while convenient and easy especially with their hints and tips thing - you can't take your laptop into archive sections, so you actually have to print things out and well, it can get more complicated. But it's a place to start. There are other sites and places to search, which come in handy when the majority or even some of your ancestors are NOT British. Mine have a huge dose of Dutch in them, so some of the sites I need are in a language I can't read! But it's fun all the same.

Start with what you know, parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles. List them all and everything you know and then talk to them about what and who they know. Pay attention to the stories and legends or whispered myths, because they made hold information or kernels of truth. They may also hold the start of the book that is gnawing at you that you can't quite place or a way to twist something in a new way.

Things to consider -
- The way you pronounce or spell your last name may not be the original or only way that members of your family will spell/pronounce. Names like Haas become Houes and House for example. Even if it is, it could change over time.
- Don't assume that every name like yours is family.
- Watch for reuse of names. It was very common in some countries for children to have the same name as a deceased sibling. So you will have 3 or 5 John's in one family. And John is most likely the name of the father's father, but not necessarily. John could be the name of the mother's father, the father or a beloved brother or uncle.
- Proof is much better than guessing.
- Cemeteries have a wealth of information
-

Oh, and now I know what to write for April -just have to unearth it. :)

I have spent many hours in libraries looking at microfiche, but I have yet to travel to various archives or vital records offices to uncover more information. The forms most genealogist use are free and can be downloaded and printed off. I have binders full of forms, printouts, and assorted memorabilia because it all tells a story of the life of a person. Which in turn reminds me that my characters need the same kind of depth.

Simone.

Friday, March 4, 2011

In the beginning...

If you want to finish it, you have to begin it...somewhere, in someway, probably with a few words, maybe a little dialogue, toss in some description while you're at it, don't forget the internal thoughts, oh yeah, and the visceral reactions, readers like visceral reactions.

Oh, wait. Press pause for a second...one of my favorite songs just came on...Goo Goo Dolls - Not Broken. Quick! Turn it up! LOUD!!!!

Damn! Just dropped the new remote. Hope I didn't break it...nope, just the batteries fell out.

What is it about this song that makes me happy and sad all at once? You know another one that is like this is Miranda Lambert's The House That Built Me. You know that one? Here's a link.

Sometimes I think being a songwriter would be so much easier than writing books. With songs, you can manipulate listeners' emotions so easily with the sound of the music. Throw in a few short verses of words and you get a hit. Books? Much harder to get a reaction and waaaaaaaaay harder to get a hit...or even to get published.

Anyhooo, you're probably wondering what the point is in this post...not much of one.

Except you could look at this as an example of one way to work through writer's block. It's called the 'Just write any damn thing' method. I guarantee if you start writing stream of consciousness stuff like this, you'll eventually bore yourself so greatly, you'll be begging yourself to get to the story. Puleeeeze, get to the story or the point or something interesting.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Count Down to Your Celebration!

Have you been following the members of the Grand Rapids Regional Writers' Group this month as we've taken on the challenge to finish a book in one month -- well, technically in 28 days?  Did you decide to join the challenge and go gung-ho?  Are you coming around the final corner and heading into the home stretch, or have you lost steam somewhere around the the middle of last week?

If you're on track --- BIG CONGRATULATION! 

If you lost headway somewhere along the way, DON'T LOSE HEART!  You still have time  -- 9.5 days (if you count today and write furiously next Saturday morning, too) to pick up the threads and continue on.  You might not FINISH your novel, but you could still add a sizable chunk of writing to your story that otherwise might not have been captured.

Peg reminded us in her post earlier this week not to look at what we didn't do, but instead to celebrate what we have done.  Let's all learn a lesson from her granddaughter and be enthusiastic about life.  Do a happy dance, throw your hands in the air and shout "I did it!" and just give yourself half the praise you'd give to a friend.  Celebrate accomplishments and you'll achieve even more.

It's that Law of Attraction that's been written about in so many books (Robert Schuller's Possibility Thinking; Bruce Wilkerson's Prayer of Jabez; Barbara Fredrickson's Positivity; Rhonda Byrne's The Secret, to name a few).  These authors and hundreds more remind us of the incredible power of staying positive.

And isn't positive thinking really about believing in yourself?

Think back to your childhood or to the life of a child you know.  We are all born with an innate sense of positive thinking.  Toddlers believe they can do ANYTHING.  Whether it's dressing themselves, scaling the dining room table, or (in the case of my 5-year old granddaughter) giving themselves a haircut.  They don't think there is anything they can't do.  Somewhere along the road, this belief in our abilities gets detoured.  We start to doubt ("Oh, I could never do that.") or put limit on ourselves ("I could do that IF....) or otherwise let negativism block our true potential.

So, today, I challenge all of you to climb back on the NANO wagon.  Pick up your pen or open your word processor and start believing you can do this. Period.  No limits.  Enjoy your story. Take pleasure in your characters.  Let your love of words flow from your heart and fingers.

Then party with all of us on March 12 and celebrate what you accomplished.  You can do it!

~ Stephanie

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Hooray! I did it!

I have a two year old grand daughter who takes such delight in
each new thing she masters. She always throws up her hands and cries
"I did it!" Her face is sufficed with absolute joy in her
accomplishment. I love two year olds. They are so wise and funny for
their age.

Today, I did it! I remembered to Blog on my assigned day and I
managed to get to the right place to do it. No small accomplishment
for me, born way beyond the cyber age. So I'm feeling that same joy
and sense of accomplishment.

The place I don't always allow myself to feel that
accomplishment is with my writing. Many of us are like that. We
wouldn't dream of saying to a sister writer the things we say to
ourselves. Yet, by our very negatism towards our own work, we throw
up mental road blocks, emotional swamps in which we drown our
creativity. Eventually, by not acknowledging, by not celebrating our
accomplishes, no matter how small, we manage to shut ourselves down
completely. Writer's block! I've done that, big time, most recently
on the last book I finished. No throwing up my hands in exaltation
and exclaiming I did it!! No joy, no smiles and happiness. Instead I
thought, rather morosely, at last I finished the damn thing.
Certainly no sense of accomplishment, no urge to leap into another
book. No excitement, no anticipation.

I used to have that when I first started writing, but somewhere I
let it slip away. I needed constant publication and big checks to
feel validated, because I couldn't give it to myself. How wise a
little two year old who knows to value herself and to her mother who
taught her..

My resolve is to emulate my adorable grand daughter and pat
myself on the back, often. I'm going to forget false modesty I was
taught as a child. I'll cling to the sheer joy of what I can do,
which is put together words in a way that entertains the reader. In
doing that I pass along the joy! So today, I'm saying, I did it and
I'll do it again tomorrow. That should get me through Nano and
beyond~

Maybe I've gone through this bad time and crossed into a polly-
anna,petunia patch of color and light and grand accomplishment, but I
know it's only momentary. But I'm starting to know how to get beyond
those bad moments. First of all, I'm going to throw my hands in the
air and exclaim with absolute conviction. I did it!!!

By Peggy Hanchar

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Care and Feeding of a Writer



According to the calendar, spring arrives this month. According to Punxutawny Phil, it's coming earlier than usual. As I look outside my window, I'm not so sure. But this is the time when we start thinking about green grass, flowers, and other living things. It's the season of growth, and we are reminded of the things we need to live and grow.

Just as plants need certain things to thrive, we as writers have needs. Instead of water, soil and sunlight, we need a place, the time, and the inspiration. Most of us wear other caps in our lives: wife, mom, daughter, and employee (male writers can substitute their appropriate counterparts) to name a few. These other roles infringe on our writing time, and we tend to shortchange our own needs.

Since our group is in the midst of our Winter NaNo challenge, many of us are writing, writing, writing. There's a thin layer of dust accumulating around here, and laundry piles up higher before I take care of it. Fortunately, my family is tolerant about that stuff. But I need reminders to take care of myself. So I have a "to do" list that I check each day. I won't bore you with all the details, but a few items appear each day:

1. Remember to eat real food, not just snacks.

2. Go to bed at a decent hour (unless the muse strikes!)

3. Get up and move! Get outside and walk, go to the gym, or turn on the wii.

4. Have a conversation with a real person

If I'm not well, I can't write at all. Or do any of the other million and a half things I need to do. So I need to stay well, by taking care of myself.

Hey, if I don't take care of myself, who will?