Follow Me!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Editor/Encourager/Promoter/Organizer—Where Are You?

multitaskI’ve been thinking about the whole left/right brain thing. The left side is our logical side while the right is our creative side.

Needless to say, writers as a whole seem to be more right brain oriented. On the other hand, editors seem to be left brained.

This is a problem for many who self publish. Some are so right brained that they do not have the ooomph to organize all their tasks properly.

I’m probably different than many writers because I am equally right and left brained. I often think that makes me good at many tasks, yet master of none. Even though I have that left brain side working to a certain extent, I still long for someone more left-brained than me to help me out.

I know many free-lance editors who might fit the bill. However, I think self publishers need more than that. They need someone to partner with them in many areas. Time usage, writing process, editing, promoting are all areas we need help with. 

I wonder if there is anyone out there, besides some traditional publishers and editors, who will help in all of these areas?

I suppose that’s why we all need a support group made up of people who will hold our noses to the grindstones, who will encourage us to hire editors, who will point us in the right direction to promote our books.

For right now, this task seems  overwhelming at times. I just need to remember that saying: How do you eat an elephant?

Answer: One bite at a time.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Instant Success? The Myth of the Rowlings, Konraths, and Hockings

This is my article that was posted at Readers’ Realm last week.

Many people today are afraid of hard work. I have an aversion to some types myself—like scrubbing toilets. However, I get to scrub the toilet because I have a toilet. In many areas of the world, people are not so lucky. When my mother was growing up, she used an outhouse.

With a slight attitude change, I may not enjoy scrubbing the toilet, but at least I understand it’s all part and parcel of having a clean bathroom!

Many writers today have the same aversion to hard work as I do to scrubbing toilets. Some writers, believe it or not, do not even like to read. I think these people just want to throw a bunch of words onto their computers and pray for instant success. Kind of like the instant soup I have in my pantry. Throw it in a bowl, add water, and you have soup. abcsoup

Yes, you have soup. But do you know what instant soup tastes like? The soup would be much tastier if I weren’t so doggone lazy. I could cut up tomatoes, potatoes and carrots.

Or, better yet, I could grow fresh vegetables and harvest them to make the soup. And, I could search for the very best soup recipes.

Making a truly gourmet soup takes time and effort and sweat.  soup

When you are not a reader, when you have not read the very best books, when you have not learned your craft, you really have no idea what gourmet soup a good book tastes like. Perhaps you are satisfied with instant book because that is all you have ever tasted, but will your readers be?

On my personal website, my most popular post to date has been What's J.K. Rowling's Secret to Success? I believe its popularity is due to writers searching for the easy way to success. That’s not what they find when they read the article. To quote myself: J.K. Rowling worked hard to learn story, theme, and character development and implemented what she learned. We forget that she studied French and Classics at the “Ivy League” University of Exeter and was a Hemione-like student, according to her own words.

Yet, Rowling is not the only one some people believe achieved instant success. Many point to successful self-published authors and believe it can be achieved sans work.

One blogger had this to say about that notion:

We live in a world of instant gratification, where you can upload a video to Youtube on a Monday and be on the Today show discussing it by Friday. We don’t want to work for things anymore. We are not interested in staying the course, building character or perfecting our craft. We are just interested in money and a fan base. Even people, who do work hard and struggle for years end up being called an overnight success. Take two very successful self-published authors, J. A Konrath and Amanda Hocking as examples. Both have been ridiculed for writing a crappy book, slapping it up on Amazon and just “Getting Lucky”. What people don’t know is that J. A Konrath has been submitting his work to publishers since the early eighties. That’s longer than a lot of his naysayers have been alive, but we never hear about that. People put down Amanda Hocking for being a young girl in her early twenties who “Got Lucky” writing a book while working a fulltime job as a caretaker. No one ever mentions that she has written books her whole life and completed 17 novels before she ever started self-publishing. How many people can say that? Plus, everyone likes to breeze over the fact that while most of us sit on the couch channel surfing after work, she was up all hours of the night writing books and going after her dreams. Never mind that the so-called “Crap” they write has been loved around the world by millions of adoring fans. Let’s just put them and their work down to stroke our own egos, while we stair longingly at J.K. Rowlings picture on our wall. ~ Why Are We So Afraid of Hard Work?

There is no easy way to make a great soup write a great book. There is no secret to success—except that of hard work.

Are we willing to settle for instant book that readers may spit out when they get a taste? Or, are we willing to work hard to garner success?

The choice is ours. We still may not like scrubbing toilets the hard work of learning our craft, reading, reading, reading, and buckling down to write, but we can learn to be thankful for the opportunities we have.

Writing is hard work, but I still prefer it to scrubbing toilets.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

My Writing Epiphany

I’ll have a post over at Readers' Realm tomorrow. It’s about how writing involves hard work. And, writing that article brought me to a realization—an epiphany.

I am fifty-eight years old. No, that’s not the epiphany.

However, before I continue, let me give some background. Those of you who are regular readers probably already know this about me—I love to learn.

I said many times, if someone would pay me, I would attend college forever. No one would take me up on that deal.

So, although not a full-time college student for the past 40 years, I have still studied. A lot.

I’ve decided—and here comes the epiphany—that it’s time to graduate. UntitledNo, that doesn’t mean I will quit learning. I hope that as long as I’m breathing that I continue to learn.

But now it’s time to turn my focus from sitting at the feet of mentors to actually getting my work out there. I have learned the craft of writing. Now I need to put into practice the things I have learned.

Even though I have published two books, I feared I had not quite gone from apprentice to craftsman.

Am I perfect? No. But I do believe I’m proficient. Proficient enough to be confident in my work. Proficient enough to think people actually can learn and/or be entertained by the things I write.

Up until now, I have been needy. I needed encouragement, pats on the back, critiques, and prodding from family and friends. But, now, and this is part of the epiphany, I am ready to see writing as my job—a job I may not be perfect at, but a job I can do.

Free Falling

cypresssprings2

My son took his children to Cypress Springs the other day. Tied to a tree branch is a rope you can use to swing out over the water.

Yep, we’ve all watched America’s Funniest Home Videos and know what’s coming next. One of my grandsons swung out on the rope.

He didn’t loosen his grip.

My son and others shouted at him to let go as he swung back toward the shore and the large tree.

The tree loomed larger as he headed straight for it. He decided to let go. When he did, his foot became entangled in the rope. He hung upside down with his head below the water before my son rescued him. He came up, sputtering and angry.

Poor fellow!

My other grandson had a different experience. At the rope’s highest point, he let go, falling backwards with his arms outspread.

He hit the water so hard, he went completely under, despite his life jacket. He bobbed back to the surface laughing.

And, that is so much like life, isn’t it? We want to hold on tightly to things we think give us security. When large problems loom before us, then we decide to slowly let go. And what happens? Our foot becomes entangled in the rope, our heads dip under the water, and we emerge angry at God for doing this to us. We often turn our backs and walk away.

But what if we were to let go—right at the top? Then we free fall and joy rushes in to replace the fear.

That’s where joy comes from. Fully trusting God, fully trusting we will fall safely.

Fully trusting that no matter the dangers lurking beneath the surface, no matter how far we fall into the water, God will bring us back to the surface.

cypresssprings1

Let’s learn to fully trust God and discover the joy that awaits!MM900283889

Monday, April 16, 2012

Busy as a Bee But Too Blessed to Stress

I was in a hurry this morning. I had to run errands and made a stop at the pharmacy An elderly man walked in.

The clerk smiled and said, “How’re you doing?”

“Finer than snuff and not half as dusty,” he answered.

I chuckled along with the other people standing in our vicinity.

He looked around at our smiling faces and shook his head slowly. “You know the doctor told me I have less than five years to live. I told him he was wrong. The doc said, ‘Oh, you’re one of those, eh?’ I told him he was second. God was first. When God gets ready to call me home, he will. I’m just too blessed to stress.

I left the store repeating his words to myself—too blessed to stress!

Today and every day! bee

Friday, April 13, 2012

How Does My Garden Grow? How Does the Church Grow? How Do Book Sales Grow?

My garden is growing. Here’s my garden a few weeks ago: garden in MarchHere’s my garden now:009

006          007

I have been keeping the plants pruned. Someone told me that the plants only needed a few leaves to receive the sun and produce the fruit. Too many leaves and energy goes into the leaves, not the fruit (and by fruit, I mean the squash, eggplants, and tomatoes—and they are all fruits, btw). For our garden, Carl and I added the soil, planted the seeds, and kept the plants watered. But I did one more thing to increase the yield (hopefully) and that was to prune.

I started thinking about the words of Paul. We may plant the seeds, we may water, yet God gives the increase. How? By sending the sun. The leaves from the plants take the sun’s energy to produce the fruit. We must do our jobs of planting, watering, and pruning. And, then, it’s up to God.

And, then, once the fruit is formed, we must remove it from the plant so that more fruit may be produced. Fruit that clings to the plant will keep other fruit from growing.

Church keepers (our leaders) must also prune to produce the greatest yield. That’s their job, along with the planting and watering. And, they need to figure out the most effective ways of doing so by studying God’s word. Also, they need to harvest the fruit—send the fruit out to produce more of its kind.

And this got me to thinking. My family has been trying to “prune” me lately. I fought off the attempts for a while but have finally realized it’s for my own good. I have too many leaves and must say goodbye to many of them.

I’m unsubscribing from some groups I belong to—the ones that are not producing fruit. I’m limiting my time to those “leaves” that I feel, right now, are fruit producers.

A fruit I produced was my book. As many know, I self published Thundersnow, and I’m so thankful I did. It has been so rewarding. I have since worked on promoting it. Now, it’s time to pluck the fruit. It cannot remain on the vine and keep other fruit from forming.

Thundersnow has gone out to people across the United States, and I have received positive feedback from those who have read it. I have many people working on my behalf (and I thank you!). It is so much like a child who you do your best for. The day comes when you have to let go and let the Sun do the rest.

Besides letting go of my fruit, I’m also pruning--unsubscribing from groups and also severely limiting my time online. By doing so, hopefully the Sun will help me produce more fruit.

I will still continue my blog for I pray it is one leaf that helps produce fruit!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

How Titles May Bore, Confuse, or Anger Readers (and Ways to Prevent It)

This is an article from Readers' Realm that was up over there yesterday—in case you missed it!

by Sheila Hollinghead

Titles are the first impression a potential reader receives of your writing ability. Attention-grabbing titles sometimes elude even the best authors. If not done correctly, titles may bore, confuse, or even anger potential readers. Let’s examine how.

 

Boring!

If the title is boring and mundane, readers will likely think the book is also. A glance at Amazon’s best sellers shows the importance of titles. One of the most popular books isThe Hunger Games. Even if nothing else were known about this book, the title still intrigues. What if the title had been The Panem Games? Would that elicit more than a yawn? (As an added bonus, the title, The Hunger Games, works on more than one level. The hunger to be loved and accepted and the subterfuge used by the main character to obtain this acceptance may also be inferred from it.)

Stephenie Meyer used Forks for a title until her agent insisted on a change and they finally decided on Twilight. The title is the first meeting we have with potential readers. We don’t want to blow it by boring them.

 

Confusing

Another problem is that the title may convey something the writer did not intend to convey. For example, Steven Tyler is enjoying a boost in popularity right now.  His band, Aerosmith, had a hit song entitled “Walk This Way” that deals with sexual themes. A book with the same title might deal with pornography or, at least, graphic sex. A Christian seeing the title may believe it portrays the Christian walk.

Real-life examples of such unfortunate titles are The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice and Still Stripping After 25 Years (a book about quilting).

Confusion abounds when readers see such titles. It’s best to ask opinions, and listen, to ensure there’s no misunderstanding.

 

Angering

Similar to the second problem, but done intentionally, is the title that takes advantage of something already popular. An example might be a children’s book called Rudolph’s Journey. Seeing this emblazoned on the cover, children will think the book is about Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer. Imagine their surprise when the book has nothing to do with reindeer or Christmas. Let’s not rip off titles to help our sales. The writer who does so will run the risk of disappointing or angering readers.

 

How then does a writer come up with an interesting, eye-catching title?

Let’s look at some common sources for book titles. One place to find book titles is within the book itself. Several aspects of a book may serve as a potential title. For example, a character’s name may be used, such as in the case of Jane Eyre. Or, the setting of the book, The House of the Seven Gables, or even the setting combined with the character’s name, Anne of Green Gables.

An event central to be book’s plot may also be used, such as an Agatha Christie book, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Or, something that pertains to one of the characters, i.e., The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans or The Godfather by Mario Puzo.

Although it’s best not to be blatant, the book’s theme may also become a title. Pride and Prejudice and Gone with the Wind (that contains a double meaning) are excellent examples of titles showcasing the themes of the books.

Sometimes objects of special significance may serve, such as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The juxtaposition of two seemingly unrelated words will also make for interesting titles. The Lovely Bones is a prime example.

Another source of book titles would be other literary works. For example, many well-known books are titled from lines of poetry. For Whom the Bell Tolls is a line from a John Donne poem. The Catcher in the Rye was derived from “Comin’ thru the Rye” by Robert Burns. Even simple poems, such as nursery rhymes, may serve, such as another Christie book, One, Two, Buckle My Shoe.

Another source of great titles is the Bible. Kane and Abel by Jeffrey Archer, Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison and Exodus by Leon Uris are three well-known examples.

And, of course, Shakespeare has been the source of many book titles. Another Christie book, Taken at the Flood, comes from Act four of Julius Caesar. The entire quote is:

There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.

In other words, pilfer titles from other written sources, especially well-known classics, but be sure to do so with care. The title must convey something essential about the book. Remember, don’t use another book unethically simply to gain notice.

Dig deep. Look for the underlying theme of the book. Play with words. Search other well-known books or poems to give you inspiration. Above all, do not bore, confuse, or anger potential readers. After all, you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. And, it could very well be, the tide in the affairs of men. Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune!

###

Sheila Hollinghead is an eclectic OCD, ADD, and LOL (lots of letters) author. She has started her series “In the Shadow of the Cedar” with Thundersnow. Follow her blogging adventures at Rise, Write, Shine!

.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

If I Share Your Post, Are We In Agreement?

The short answer is “NO.”

The longer answer is this: Very rarely do we find someone we entirely agree with. As a matter of fact, I do not believe I’ve ever met anyone I agree with 100%. My husband comes close. However, even we do not agree all of the time. (Our views do closely coincide—in case you were wondering.)

There are times when I believe a writer makes a good point, and I may share those words. Sometimes I share simply to get people to think outside the box.

Many of us confine ourselves within certain parameters and are suspicious of anyone else’s views. I say to never be afraid to examine what someone else believes. Hold it up to the standard of the Bible. See if it agrees. If so, it should change you.

If it does not measure up to God’s word, you need to point out the incorrect teaching so that others will not be led astray.

Sharing the words of others leads us to think more deeply about the truths we hold.

And that’s a good thing.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Sprucing Up My Office

For a while, I’ve been trying to make it back into my office. Way back in September 2010, I talked about my office. (Writing Life Wednesday) The funny thing is that I’ve never been able to get much writing done here.

And, then, my husband made a serious mistake when he let me borrow his laptop while I recovered from sinus surgery. 

I started out in bed and then migrated to the recliner in the living room. I set up shop there.

However, there was a problem. I didn’t have room enough for all my books and papers. Finally, I decided I would move back into the study. Only one problem. I hated it.

I’ve been feeling claustrophobic in here. This is the way it looked originally:

bookcaseThere was a large bookcase against the short wall between the closet and door. My l-shaped desk takes up a good portion of the room:

desk

 

And, then, I had this large bulletin board—a good idea in theory—against the back wall. trace 002The idea was to use it to keep track of the plot of my WIP plus all the characters’ names, physical characteristics, etc. Did I tell you about the time I gave two characters identical names? Possibly confusing for the reader. LOL

I thought the board would really help me out. Sadly, I just didn’t want to use it.

So, I thought about why I liked working in my living room. The living room is open and the colors are light. I’ve set out to impart the same feeling to the study. I started by painting the bulletin board white. 016

And, I added some inspirational doodads to it. I also got rid of the large bookcase and replaced it with a smaller one that I also painted white.

030I moved the desk around. 021

And, I added some of my favorite pictures to the wall. Now, we’ll see if any of this helps. Oh, I also got the new desk chair with the back support.

019

One other thing was to add a new light on my desk to brighten the place up.

Now to just to shed some light on my thought processes. Off to work in my new workspace!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Christian Symbolism in the Hunger Games?

*SPOILER ALERT*

As I mentioned the other day, my blog posts are mainly going to be written quickly (by the seat of my pants). So, this is just a quick summation of some things that stood out to me after reading the book.

First, the name “Peeta.” Right off the bat, I thought of the apostle Peter. And, isn’t it significant he is a baker’s son who offers her bread? Of course, we know Christ is the bread of life. Katniss even call Peeta “a rock” at one point.

Furthermore, could “Peeta” not actually symbolize Christ? He lay at death’s door in the cave for how many days? Yes, three.

And, then, what’s up with the “pearl”? Instead of coal being transformed into a diamond, it is said to be transformed into a “pearl.” Pearls are symbolic of the treasure of God’s word.

The most obvious “Christian” symbolism is how the materialistic world changes people into thrill seekers without compassion.

Hence the title—Hunger Games. There is of course the obvious—the winners will not have to worry about hunger nor will their families. How about a deeper meaning? The people in the richest districts hungering for more and more thrills while watching the games. The hunger of the president for more power that he wields by controlling the country’s “appetites”—for actual food in the poorer districts and for entertainment in the richer districts.

Are the rich hungering to fill the void in their lives by substituting emphases on physical appearances, romance, clothes, entertainment, and, yes, even food? Instead of on God who is the only one who can fill that void?

Of course, this may not have been what Suzanne Collins had in mind when writing the story. As I have said many times, that is neither here nor there. What the author has in mind is not of importance. What the reader takes from the story is the reason we read. And, in most cases, it is much more than to be simply entertained.

If entertainment is our only reason for reading, how are we different than the viewer of the actual Hunger Games?

How’s your hunger being filled?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

How Does My Garden Grow?

Everything is growing in our raised garden—everything except the collards. The turnips came up in abundance, but the collard seeds are still hiding. We got a drenching rain the other day. If that doesn’t help the seeds to sprout, nothing will.
We gave away one of our inside cats. The cat came back. I’m ready to give them both away! They are hyper and badly need to be on Ritalin. Simon's Cat must be a littermate.
Their latest trick is to take their paws and splash all the water out of the dog’s bowl.
They're beautiful cats, females, and both spayed! Really they are beautiful cats! Anyone want a cat or two?



Monday, April 2, 2012

The Hunger Games, Book One

While everyone else is flocking to the movie, I just read The Hunger Games, Book One.

Suzanne Collins had to do research for this book. I wonder which episode of Survivor she was on??

The book was good, and I’ll give my thoughts on why it became a bestseller soon.

hunger games

Sunday, April 1, 2012

System of a Down

I do not listen to System of a Down for obvious reasons. One simply because I’m old. They do have an interesting song, Aerials, I ran across.
As I’ve said before, once an artist puts the words out for public consumption, the interpretation is up to the people reading or listening—no matter the extent the writer of the words disagrees with said interpretation.
And, your interpretation may be entirely different than mine.
Another thing I’ve mentioned before is how a longing for God or heaven is evident in many songs. So, I see that in these words. waterfall
Life is a waterfall, we’re one in the river. This reminds me of John Donne’s “No Man Is an Island.” We’re all part of the stream of humanity—however much we long to escape it. All humanity has similar experiences. Birth, life, death of loved ones, and our own impending deaths.
And one again after the fall. If life is the waterfall, then after the waterfall comes death. We are one in death. Death is the great equalizer.
Swimming through the void –Here I picture the waterfall again with this line. Within the waterfall, we are in empty space, all is chaotic. Our lives are meaningless. This life is not the reality.
We hear the word As Christians we know the Word was Jesus. When we accept him. we stop all our useless flailing against the water—for none can swim in a waterfall, no matter how frantically we try.
We lose ourselves, But we find it all And that sums up the Christian life perfectly. We surrender to God, give up all our puny efforts, and it is then that we receive it all.
Cause we are the ones that want to play, Always want to go, But you never want to stay, And we are the ones that want to choose, Always want to play But you never want to lose. To give up our puny efforts takes fortitude. We want to play. We do not want to think of what lies beyond the falls. In other words, we want to have our cake and eat it too.
Aerials, in the sky, When you lose small mind, You free your life. It’s when we lose our small minds that we free our lives. What small minds? Our minds that dwell here on material things, the things in this earthly realm. If we want to be set free, we forget self, forget all except God. He gives us the peace that passes understanding.
Life is a waterfall, We drink from the river, Then we turn around and put up our walls. Life is a waterfall, and we drink from it. The waterfall is the stream of humanity, and we often try to find meaning in relationships with our fellow humans. We attempt to put up walls, to stop the flow of water. Again, a futile effort. All humans are flawed and cannot fill the void within us.
Aerials, in the sky, When you lose small mind, You free your life. Aerials, so up high, When you free your eyes, Eternal prize.  So, when we turn our view heavenward, we free our eyes, along with our souls and, thus, receive the eternal prize, heaven.
And, my ears, my eyes, my mind may choose to see this song in my own context. For I have lost myself to find it all.

Spruced Up My Blog for the Spring

I made some changes to my blog—mainly a new header and background. Another thing I did was add buttons. As you scroll, a bar appears, and you can share the post to Facebook, Twitter, etc. I also added a set of buttons on the left side. By clicking on these, you can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Another thing I’ve been working on is a book cover for Moonbow: Conception. This book is about Gisa, a woman who is impregnated with an embryonic clone she wishes to abort. A mysterious group pursues her, intent on bringing the pregnancy to term, no matter the mental or physical anguish Gisa must endure.

This is the image I’m working on:

dewdropwithmoonbow2