Why You Need To Do The Tough Stuff

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I was having a conversation with Noodge 2 the other night. She told me about a friend of hers, let’s call her Carolann, who has a bad habit of sucking face in the hallways at school. Carolann can’t seem to control herself when she’s with her boyfriend. Others aren’t pleased with her. I can’t same I blame them. I’m not a big fan of tongues, spit, and slurping sounds while I’m present. (Unless I’m the one doing it, with the Coffee King, in a very private place, and preferably in the dark.)

More importantly, no one is telling Carolann to knock it off. At least to knock it off in public. Do what you want behind closed doors. (Not that I’m condoning fifteen-year-olds make a habit of sucking face.) When I suggested someone take Carolann aside, and in a nice way say “Yo, keep your tongue in your mouth for crying out loud.” Noodge’s response was, “easier said than done.” Yes, true.

But nothing changes if you don’t make yourself uncomfortable once in a while. How can you expect to grow and learn about life if you always take the easy way out? You don’t want to be the person who watches life go by because you couldn’t stretch yourself out of your comfort zone. I’m not just talking about speaking your mind here.

Easier said than done sounds a little like a cop-out. Like there’s no point in really trying since whatever is easier said can’t be done without effort. “Well, since it’s easier to say I should quit smoking than actually doing it, I don’t really have to.”

 

Writing novels isn’t an easy thing to do, though there are plenty of people who think it is. They are wrong. Trust me. Those that sit down to write an entire novel and complete it will feel uncomfortable a lot. Writers can feel so badly while writing that suddenly cleaning the concrete of your sidewalk with toothpaste and an eyebrow pencil becomes appealing.

As writers, we are told to make our characters sweat. That’s what I tell my creative writing classes. The more uncomfortable your character is, the better. In fact, give your protagonist two choices neither of them with perfect outcomes and force her to choose. You bet your character is going to feel uncomfortable. In fact, the writer should feel the same way putting the words on the paper.

I’m working on the first drafts of book two in my Heritage River series, (book one, A Second Chance House, is in edits) and my heroine has a choice to make. She doesn’t like her choices and wishes she didn’t have to make one, but if she doesn’t hurry up and decide, fate will decide for her. I feel badly for her. I’d like her to have it all, and since I’m kind of in control of her world I’m going to attempt to give her what she really wants. I don’t know if I can, though. Neither choice has a good outcome.

Nothing happens in a story if the characters take an “easier said than done” approach. Sure, make-believe people aren’t the same as real life fifteen-year-olds trying to navigate through life. I understand why a teen would rather say nothing to the friend who’s tongue performs acrobatics during study hall. Who likes confrontation? Well, except me, maybe. But characters on the page, even teenage characters, shouldn’t get the same pass. Not if you want the reader to keep turning pages.

It’s interesting to me how people shy away from confrontation in real life and how authors shy away from confrontation for their characters. When I edit, I often find myself saying, don’t let them out of it so fast!

You can’t grow as a person if you don’t do the tough stuff. Someday you will have to say the words, “please stop.” You’re also going to have to say, “I’m the most qualified, the best choice.” You can’t grow if you don’t ever ask, “what could I have done better?” Even my character has to come to terms with the fact she was too afraid to tell the truth. Speaking up is always easier said than done. But it’s well worth it.

 

What Do You Dream For?

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We dream. The Universe provides us with those dreams, but they don’t always look the way we imagined them. That’s okay. Often times, the dream turns out better.

Somewhere along the way of leaving the Charlie’s Angel’s Hideaway House behind for makeup, I decided I wanted to be an author. Not any author. A famous one. With tons of readers. I wanted a huge publishing deal (not that I totally knew what that was back then) with a publishing house in New York City, the publishing capital of the world. I did know who McMillan was if only because they had a hand in publishing text books.

My dream to be a famous author isn’t looking exactly like I thought when I was 12 then 15 then… never mind the numbers. Publishing is a very different animal than when Stephen King signed his first contract for Carrie. That’s okay.

I indie published my middle-grade fantasy adventure series and coming to that decision wasn’t an easy or quick one. That looks nothing like my first dream.

Recently, I announced on my Facebook page, another new adventure in my publishing dream. (If you’re kind enough to follow me in both places, pardon my redundancy. If you don’t follow me on Facebook and want to, I love seeing friendly faces over there.) I signed a three-book deal with a traditional publisher for my women’s fiction series. Now I’m a hybrid author. No one even knew what that was ten years ago. Times change.

I’m very excited about this opportunity. Every author desires for their work to be wanted and liked. (We know we’re not supposed to read the reviews, but still get bummed when there’s a less than favorable one. It’s like picking on our kids.) I’m glad my new publisher believed in my work the way I do.

Even though I have and will have books in two different genres all my books have a united theme: Family are those who love you when you need them whether you’re born to that family or find them along the way. All my main characters seek to belong, to be loved, want a chance to fit in somewhere.

The first book in the new series, A Second Chance House, about a woman who is given the anonymous gift of dilapidated house in a new town, is in edits. I’ll announce a release date when I have one.

I don’t have the fame of my beloved Stephen King. (yet) The dream to be an author has most certainly come true and for that I’m grateful, humbled, and thrilled. I didn’t have any idea how hard it would be to find my readers, but I am, one at a time. The process might take longer than I thought, but it’s very rewarding when I get an email from a reader who saw me speak four years before, finally read my book and loved it enough to drop a line. Or when an eighth grader draws me a picture of one of my characters and has his teacher mail it to me. Or when a book club turns the woods behind one of their houses into Kata-Tartaroo and goes on a scavenger hunt. (That’s one of my favorite stories.)

I couldn’t make my dream come true without my readers. Thank you for being a part of my journey. I appreciate you reading my books, your continued visits to the blog and the comments you leave behind.

What was your dream back when playgrounds and sidewalk chalk were a daily existence? What does that dream look like now?

Where Does Inspiration Come From?

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I am often asked where I get the ideas for my books. All stories start with an idea, right? The idea is the thing that gets you excited about writing. It’s the thing you need to remember when you’re 30,000 words in and you can’t remember why you started that stupid book in the first place. I know, I’ve been there. In fact, I’m there right now.

When my son was about ten he said to me, “Mom, I had a nightmare. I was trapped in Hell and I had to answer math questions to get out.” And the idea for Welcome To Kata-Tartaroo was born. When I wrote the second book in the series, Welcome To Bibliotheca, I wanted to revolve the adventure around a quirky character trait of my main character. He’s a kid that loves the library. And that story was born.

Inspiration can come from something someone said. In 1967, Smokey Robinson was shopping for a Christmas gift for his wife with Motown producer Al Cleveland. Mr. Cleveland meant to say, “I second that motion.” A very common phrase. Instead he said, “I second that emotion.” The men went home and wrote a song around that misspoken phrase. It was a #1 R& B hit.

Inspiration comes from stories on the news or life experience. But be careful about the life experience thing. I hear a lot, “you should write my life story.” Yeah – No. Not everyone’s story is interesting enough. Sorry. Hard truth. That adage, write what you know, doesn’t mean tell your life story in a book. It means write what you know and if you don’t know something research it. But we all take pieces of things from our lives or from people we know and incorporate that into our books. That’s perfectly fine.

Inspiration can come from anywhere. What’s really important is what you do with that spark. Do you breathe life into it or do you let it burn out?

Any questions?

 

 

How To Handle Rejection: “It’s not you, It’s me.”

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If you’re writing books, you’re probably going to decide at some point to take a gigantic risk and query an editor or agent to find out if your writing has any chops. What will you do if it gets rejected? Because, it will. Sorry. Hard truth.

I attended the NJRW Put Your Heart in a Book Conference this past October. Great conference. I pitched my women’s fiction novel, A Second Chance House, to four editors and agents. Three of them loved the premise. I had read my pitch, perfectly acceptable way to pitch, and one agent said she loved my writing! Hot dog, things are looking up. Nah. I’ve been down this road a few times. I know the drill. She liked my book, but not enough to rep me. At least that’s what she said after she and others in her agency read it.

I received another rejection yesterday. From an editor. And though she said some nice things about my writing she felt the book wasn’t for her and passed.

Getting rejected in the publishing industry is the equivalent to breaking up a relationship. “It’s not you. It’s me.” That’s what I heard (and have heard with other books) from these two rejections. Not right for me. Not a fit for me. It’s not you. It’s me.

Where does that leave me? Besides standing in the snow without a coat and holding only my wet and soggy manuscript?

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There are many choices when the rejections hit. Eat tons of peanut M&Ms. A serious possibility. Hide under the bed until your computer battery runs out and you can safely walk past it without torturing yourself by rereading the rejection. Or dust yourself off and keep going. The last option boarders on insanity, but hey, who said authors had any sanity? (As if hiding under the bed states normal psychological behavior? Of course it does! What? You haven’t done that?)

What do you usually think when someone you’re dating says, “It’s not you. It’s me.”? (I can’t answer that because I haven’t been on a date since 1990 and he didn’t say that. We ended up married with two kids and a dog. He said something funny and I laughed. The rest is history as they say.) Anyway, if I were dating and someone said it’s not you, it’s me, I’d probably say, “Hmph. What do you know. It’s not me, It’s you!” Yes, very mature, I realize.

But that’s exactly what I’m saying to these rejections, because it isn’t me. Now, having said that, there are times when it is your book. Never you, but your book and it takes time and lots of writing practice when to know it’s time to let that book sit in a drawer and rest and when to keep going. If you’re not sure which one you are, email me, we’ll talk.

But I’ve been around the block a few times and have a decent idea that my novel is worth publishing. My critique partners won’t let me embarrass myself. They’re good like that and I love them for it. Another reason why critique partners are invaluable, they won’t let you walk around with your dress stuck in your underwear.

So, where are you in the publishing process? Are you ready for an editor, ready to pitch or ready to shove that book in a drawer and start a new project? Or is time for M&Ms?

Any questions?

 

 

 

 

Ten Ways To Screw Up The Book You’re Writing

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  1. Wait for the muse. Yup, just sit there and wait. Your muse will show up dressed in pink satin and waving a wand. The muse will tap you on the nose three times then spin in circles spraying glitter everywhere and your novel will come spilling out of your fingers onto your keyboard at a rapid rate. You’ll write the best book ever, sell millions of copies, and be adored by fans world wide. Not.
  2. Do not set a daily writing goal. If you write one word or ten thousand, does it really matter?
  3. Only write a first draft. Your mother loves your writing. Who needs to edit?
  4. Never read a book on the craft, never attend a workshop on the aspects of creative writing. You read a fiction book in the seventh grade about a girl detective. What else do you need to learn to write that book?
  5. Believing all stories are worth telling.
  6. Only give your book to your parent, spouse, best friend for feedback. They know you take anti-depressant medication. They’ll be honest.
  7. Forget everything about grammar and punctuation. That stuff just clutters the page anyway.
  8. Rely on spell check to fix misspelled words. Does anyone really know the difference between there, their, and they’re?
  9. Put your hero in a jam and have a gun magically appear to shoot the bad guys with.
  10. Spend the first fifty pages telling the reader about the hero’s life before the book begins because the reader isn’t smart enough to understand your book without your long winded explanation.

How To Make Me Read Your Book – ETT

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I don’t write reviews about books I don’t like. I don’t think it’s good karma since I’m an author too and I know how hard this person has worked to write the book even if it needs more work. Instead, I come here and tell you what not to do when writing your books.

The thriller genre is one of my favorites. I’ve said that before. I read a lot of thriller novels. I’m okay with the book starting out with a killing. In fact, the book probably should start out with the very least a dead body. But the trick is making the reader care so early on. They don’t know these characters yet. There has to be a reason for the reader to keep turning pages. I don’t recommend starting in the killer’s point of view especially if we know right off the bat it’s the killer and he’s about to make a kill. I just put down a book that did exactly that. Right away the killer is on the prowl. He bashes his way into a professional establishment and starts swinging an axe at people. My first thought was, why should I care about this? Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not so cold-hearted that I don’t care about people dying. This is a work of fiction, I hope, and my editor brain never sleeps.

The reader isn’t invested in the story on page two to have the killer describing what the axe feels like in his hands. I’d say if you’re going to be in the killer’s point of view so early on, get right to the point. Leave out the sensory details, blinding lights, smooth handles, the clothing of other people. All the inner thoughts of how he’s moving around the room or perhaps he pulled a muscle while swinging the axe. (I don’t know, maybe the author has a weird sense of humor?) The killer is crazy, he breaks in, swings the axe, the victims try to get away, but fail. Done. Now, get me to the protagonist whose going to stop this madman but not before the end of the book.

All that other stuff? Nobody cares yet. The reader isn’t sympathetic to your villain yet. Remember what I said about three-dimensional villains. You can’t pull that off on page three. I promise. But I tried a few more pages hoping it would get better.

Here’s another tip: Your protagonist, the main character, isn’t going to think about her beautiful hair and how she doesn’t have to fuss with it upon waking up. Do you ever think about that in the morning? Not me. My first thought is usually, why the heck is it so early? Followed by who has to be where at what time? Thoughts of my hair, like do I have time to wash it, are further down on the list. An author needs to hold off on fancy descriptions of hair until there’s a better way to let the reader know what the character looks like. Heck, here’s an idea, let the reader make it up for himself. And if you’re going to tell me your protagonist doesn’t fuss with her appearance, she isn’t mentioning her lovely locks.

I gave up completely a few pages later. The author tells us it’s early winter. On my calendar, that’s December. Anyone else’s calendar have a different date? Okay, the hero, the detective, and his partner and getting in the car. The partner is yapping about a professional baseball game he watched the night before.  NOT IN EARLY WINTER. Major League Baseball finishes in November except for 2001 when a few lunatics flew planes into buildings in this country. Where is this woman’s editor?

I checked to see who published this book. She’s an indie author. That’s okay. I’m an indie author and know plenty of very good indie authors. But if you are going to be an indie author I can’t stress enough the importance of hiring a professional editor. We could argue in circles all the stuff about point of view, caring about the characters, description of appearances, but a professional baseball game in early winter is just too big of a mistake to miss. You’ll lose all credibility if you don’t check your details. A professional editor would’ve red flagged that sentence. And if the editor wasn’t a hundred percent sure when the baseball season was, an editor worth her salt would’ve checked.

I closed that book. I will never recommend it and I will never read another book by that author. Don’t be that author. Be better. Learn your craft. Make me want to read your book until the end.

Any questions?

A New Adventure

I’m always up for an adventure. Well, almost always and it depends on the adventure. I’m not sleeping in the woods for all the chocolate in the factory. But when it comes to writing adventures, I’m pretty much in.

Pull up a seat. I’m going to tell you a little story. A long time ago, in a place not so far away, I worked for a mobile DJ company. It was one of my favorite jobs. I got to play music, dance, and eat at the weddings of total strangers and they paid me to be there! I worked with some fantastic people and have kept in touch with a few of them over the years. Decades, in fact. I am eternally grateful for that opportunity.

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So here I am with the guys I DJ’d with circa 1994. Yes, I was the only girl. It was cool. And yes, I took a picture of a picture. This one is framed. Wasn’t even going to try and remove it. 

Recently, I was asked to be a part of NJs Best DJs owned and operated by my friend and amazing DJ, Dave Nase! Dave has asked me to come on board and handle the writing of his blog. This was an adventure I couldn’t pass up. I’m thrilled to be included.

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Dave and I hanging out, present day, and getting the blog ready. Excuse my deer in the headlights look. 

NJs Best DJs offers a very personal approach to event entertainment. The blog will be dedicated to not just information about DJs and music, but help and advice on all areas of the wedding industry. And of course, we’re going to have a little fun while doing it.

Once the blog is live, I hope you’ll stop by and say hi just so I can see a few friendly faces even if you aren’t planning any event at the moment. (I’ll let you know exactly when that’s happening.) But if you or someone you know are in those planning stages, poke around. We might just have the information you’re looking for. And between you and me, you won’t find a better entertainer than Dave.

I’ll still be blogging here with my editing tips and adventures in motherhood. And don’t forget, my next book, A Second Chance House will be out soon. I won’t be neglecting my editing clients, but like I said, I couldn’t say no to Dave.

Are you ready for a new adventure? What’s on your bucket list for the new year?