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Friday, May 30, 2014

Celebrate May 30, 2014

It is time to celebrate again (wonderful how celebrations come on each others' heels, isn't it!).  This lovely Blog Hop is the idea of Vikki at VikLit.  The hop is still open if you want to join, and there are lovely people involved in posting, remembering, celebrating and being just generally awesome - rather like yourself, don't you think?

The information on the hop is below.  Why don't you join?  Or, at least, visit the various posts and smile.

Today I am celebrating the fact that the weekend is coming, thatI may actually get some writing done, and I can sleep in tomorrow.

I am at that frustrating and yet delicious stage in a manuscript where I am, as I say, 'filling in holes' and also polishing.

The story is set, the plot twists, which seem to come of their own accord, are in place, and I can start pruning my notes to myself, which I have in situ to remind me where things are going and items I need to remember, such as the fact that the character in the scene met the deceased during a riot where she found him injured and nursed him back to health.

Now I'm adjusting the flow, muttering to myself, and wondering if my editor will mind if I send him a 'rough-finished draft' and deciding that since I'm paying him (and her and her), they shouldn't.

My story is set in Paris, and remembering the time I spent there is something to celebrate.  I went during a time of uncertainty, where my job was going away and I didn't have another lined up.  But it was research for this story that I am finishing (part of a trilogy) and I decided that I was, for once, going to go with my heart.

Peach Rose
It was a wonderful trip. I went alone, took scads of photos, walked all over the place, had an encounter with Michael the Archangel (hint: he's the patron saint of Police officers - I'll post about the experience this weekend), and among other things encountered two beautiful roses in the flower market near Notre Dame.

I went there most mornings, and brought back flowers for my hotel room.  These were the loveliest:

A New Rose (for me)
I had never seen a peach rose.  The edges of the petals were lacy, and there was such a sweet, rich scent, too.  It perfumed my hotel room for days.

I had never seen a rose like this one.  Deep, velvety red on the inner part of each petal, almost pure white outside.  And unlike most roses of this shape, it, too, had a wonderful scent.  I did not see another like it for years.

We'll always have Notre Dame...
Going there by myself, doing my research, staring in awe at the inside of La Sainte Chappelle, strolling through les Jardins des Tuileries, biting off a swear word as the hotel's toaster hurled my toast through the air and onto the floor - all were the foundations of a wonderful trove of memories that I can savor as I write about Paris in my WIP that will (God willing!) come out in December.

It's all worth celebrating.

So what are you celebrating?  (I'm looking forward to reading everyone else's this evening...)

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Small Celebrations, May 23, 2014

Welcome to Friday and the Small Celebrations blog hop, started by VikLit.  We all sit back, take stock (Fridays are good for that) and notice the little things that make our lives happy, that make us smile, or that give a moment's joy.

The information on the hop is below.  Why don't you join?  Or, at least, visit the various posts and smile.

Today I am celebrating two rather small things.  Aside from a soft, spring rain that is making the grass green (and, unfortunately, making it grow!)

Shining Brightly
The photo of the spring rain did not turn out well.  It looked rather like the view you get through your reading glasses after handling them with hands that just boned a roasted chicken (smeary, I mean).

So we are celebrating two other things.

This is a hydrangea of a particularly bright pink.  It is bright even on a rainy day.  I forgot I had it, since I don't generally go in my own front door.  Imagine my surprise when I saw this beautiful plant glowing in early twilight:

...and doesn't the pink go beautifully with the handmade pot? 

Once it is gone by,  I will be putting it in the ground by the front door.  With any luck (and some good feeding) it will bloom again next year.

...And I am posting about a small celebration.  I've mentioned her before.  I think I called her an attractive nuisance.  She answers to 'Princess', though her name is 'Frida'.  She is also referred to as 'Little Miss Mess'.  And she is a very sweet illustration of a bit of poetry by Katherine Lee Bates:
Little Miss Mess, the Attractive Nuisance

Dawn love is silver
Wait for the west
Old love is gold love -
Old love is best

Frida celebrated her tenth birthday this month.  She is healthy, lively, in good flesh - but she is more than half the maximum age she is likely to reach.  (Burmese cats tend to be long-lived)  The time has passed so swiftly, and she is my best little girlfriend.

So what are you celebrating?

Finding The Write Path

Today I have the pleasure of participating in a Blogfest  hosted by Carrie Butler .  

Carrie had the idea of having us talk to the people we once were when we first started writing in earnest with the object of being published.  What did we learn?  What advice can we give?  What encouragement? 

Carrie has joined with her co-host, PKHrezo to compile those posts and put them out as a free e-book.  It's a wonderful idea, and I'm delighted to be on the Blogfest.

 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Dear Diana, 

So you've decided that you like to write and you like entertaining people with your writing.  Now you are getting ready to do what it takes to be published.  It's pretty exciting, isn't it?  I remember how it was.  And I remember, too, how slowly things happened, how much waiting there was.
There are a lot of lessons to learn, and experience does tend to be the best teacher, but let me give you a few pointers that will help smooth things: 

* Cultivate Humility / Drop Your Arrogance
You may have ability, talent and drive, but so do a whole lot of other people.  If you keep shouting about it, they will (choose one metaphor): pull out their earphones/ switch channels/ cut you dead/ dismiss you as a pain in the neck/ actively hate you.  

Years ago, just out of college, I sent around a manuscript.  I received a rejection note that said that the manuscript needed work.  I am embarrassed to say that I wrote back a long, angry letter saying that I didn't need to improve the thing. (Did I say I was very young?)  I came to my senses not long after that.  I have never gone into a tirade with anyone.  (And I have never queried that agent – who was very nice to send me a detailed comment) 

* Don't be Shy
Yes, I know I wrote the paragraphs above.  Odd as it sounds, while some writers seem to be arrogant, I think many of us have a fear that people will read our work and find it lacking.  Well, maybe someone will.  You have to deal with that.  But if you don't ask for advice, for input, for guidance, you will never know how you are perceived, and you will never know how you can grow. 

* Don't put all your basques in one exit – er, I mean – Don't put all your EGGS in one BASKET. 
Ideas for other stories will occur to you: write them down.  Make some notes.  You will have something to fall back on when you finish your current, engrossing project.  Believe me, the sense of futility when you have nothing to turn your energy to can be crippling.  This helps avoid it. 

* Carry a notebook and jot your ideas. 
You will also end up jotting grocery lists, phone numbers, the name of that wonderful recipe someone made that you plan to look up.  That is all right.  The presence of a notebook where you put your jotting is crucial.  Otherwise you'll be writing on napkins, on the back of dinner receipts, on brochures, and what you don't end up throwing out unintentionally will be crumpled beyond retrieval and all your magnificent notions will be lost.  (The magnificence of a notion increases in direct proportion to your inability to locate and capture it, by the way.) 

Not in one single location.  Remember when your hard drive crashed?  If you hadn't heeded that advice you would be in the soup now! 

*Do your research
This is a piece of advice that can be taken many ways.  If you're writing about history, make sure it's accurate, or else give reasons for any deviation from the facts.  In this case, though, I am talking about researching the steps you have to take to meet your goal, and the players along the way.  www.pred-ed.com is not a bad place to start.  I would never have had all my work sidelined by a dishonest agent if I had done that years ago.  To be honest, Pred-Ed did not exist, and I was not on the Internet, but I could have curbed my wishful thinking and taken the time to check things out. 

*Write a working Pitch, Synopsis and Blurb for each project. 
Seek advice on them.  As a story evolves, they will change, but you can't publish without them, whether you self-publish or go the Traditional route.  It is an excellent idea, as well, to have a condensed pitch, 300 characters or less, to put in online submissions as well as a super-short twitter pitch that you can throw into the mix when there is a 'Twitter Pitch Frenzy'.  Tweak them regularly. 

* Improve yourself:
You're a good writer.  You know it, people you respect have been telling you so.  You can feel the talent you have, and you find nothing so satisfying as finishing a scene and knowing that it works.  I have some news for  you: if you do things right, you will be a far, far better writer in a few years than you are at this moment.  

I'm not saying you're bad.  I'm saying that if you do things right, you will continue to improve.  Read other books.  Listen to people.  Keep notebooks.  Let yourself grow. 

I wish I had attended more workshops and conferences.  I'm doing that now.  No one is going to look at you and voice your secret fear: that you are a phony.  If you write, you're a writer.  And you'll gain confidence and comfort associating with other writers.  You will also get some fabulous ideas and tools.

*Roll with the punches
There are two or three bestselling, quality authors whose work I really don't like.  It doesn't mean they are bad: it means that they are not to my taste.  Apply that thought to yourself.   You are writing stories.  Some people will love your work and some will declare that they would rather have their teeth pulled than read anything you have written.  Even the nastiest expression of dislike can have a grain of helpfulness in it, if you look at them the right way. 

*Associate with other writers. 
You learn a lot by listening and paying attention. And  you can share what you know.  It's rare that even the most green newbie doesn't have something I haven't thought of.  And other writers make great beta-readers.

*Contribute (or, 'Give as well as take')
If someone does you a favor, return the favor.  Do a beta-read.  Offer a line edit (just make sure you're good at grammar and punctuation) or a character critique. 
*Appreciate your readers
*When you are contacted by a reader, take it as the compliment it is and respond promptly and pleasantly.  You wrote your stories for your readers.  They are your customers.  Never, ever, ever respond to a review, especially an unfavorable one.  

*Be accessible. 
If someone is interested in  your writing, that person is also interested in you.  An online presence is crucial.  And be selective about what you put there.    

*Stop viewing other writers as adversaries. 
As Hart Johnson said in an interview I posted, we are not in competition.  The more good stories are out there, the more people will read them and want more.  Sincere compliments are always a good idea.  And if someone says something nasty about you, ignore it. 
And the most important advice is this:

Just keep writing.  Even if you think it won't go anywhere, write.  Edit your work, jot ideas, fiddle with plans if you like – but at least once a day write something.  It is odd how putting forth effort actually strengthens you.  I learned this after a years-long dry spell.  It was wonderful when the log jam broke.  The dry years were very hard.

Those are my thoughts.  I hope they help you.  

Much love and a smile,


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"I give permission for my entry to be included in the e-book compilation without royalties and/or separate compensation." 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Small Celebrations, May 16, 2014

It's Friday again, and we're stopping, taking stock of things and celebrating the small, things that you don't think merit an entire bottle of Champagne...  Until you get started thinking.

So, today.

I'm looking out the window and seeing that my next door neighbor mowed her lawn.  That is a good thing.  She does it regularly, right down the rather steep hill to my lawn.  What's worth celebrating about this?

Well...  Dare I confess it to the world this Friday morning?  The fact that she was mowing down the side of the hill is a triumph worth celebrating.  I think it was celebrated with some champagne, now that I remember it.

Neighbors: mine are nice, most of them.  In this case, however, the neighbors there got it into their heads that the side of the hill to their house was ours.  I guess they did not read the specs of the property.  With that supposition, they did a number of things.

1.  They talked 'at' me about how the large oak just up the hill from the hill needed some work.

2.  When a windstorm blew branches of the oak down, their landscapers piled the branches on my fence and broke it.

3.  They stopped mowing the hill and let it get terrifically weedy.

All of this was without directly saying to me that the hill and tree and whatever else were on my property.  It was, in fact, a textbook illustration of passive aggression.

I mulled over the best way to approach things. I don't like conflict.  Smiles make me happy.  ...and then a survey team appeared on the property.  And they politely asked me if I minded if they went on my property.  I did not.

And now that hillside has been mowed.  It took a lot of effort on a hot day, t'other day.

They still haven't come to me to say who owns that tree that is right-smack-over-the-property-line-by-a-good-twenty-feet.

I'll mow my lawn tonight when I bring home my new mower, another thing to celebrate.

...and if they actually ask me, I'll suggest we chip in together to get the tree dealt with.

OH! - and I'll be reading everyone else's posts, too.  Thank you, VikLit!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Imagination Making a Picture Come True...

For some of us, stories start with a picture.  I remember having an image in my mind of a group of people camped by a great river, in the shadow of a ruined city.  They were waiting for ships to arrive with supplies.  The reason for their presence there, and the mystery behind the ruined city, are the puzzle-pieces that grew into the first volume of my series, The Memphis Cycle.   

Another story began with a man standing on a hillside overlooking Paris.  A battle is being fought, though the sporadic firing below him shows that the fighting is paused for the  night.  The man looks up through the drifting skeins of smoke, up toward the stars that mirror the lights of the city below him.  In that moment he falls in love - and my stories set in Paris grew from that image.

I design my own covers, so I know how it is to have an image in my mind that expresses the story, and the sort of struggle that comes when I try to capture that image and that story.  Sometimes I succeed.

But what sort of image do you get when your read a description of a story?  If, say, you read this passage:
Valentine's Day means one thing at Stanton Middle School: students will send each other chocolate roses. Each year, Mia Hartley watches while the same group of students gets roses and everyone else is left out. This year, she decides things will be different. As the student assigned to write names on the cards, Mia purchases 25 roses and writes her own cards, designating them to 25 people she's personally chosen. But she soon learns that playing matchmaker is much more complicated than she thought it would be.
Is it possible to compose an image that is as whimsical, amusing, charming and (I suspect) touching as this story promises to be?

I think it is  quite possible, and I think you may agree.  This week, you see, Stephanie Faris, the author of 30 Days of No Gossip, has revealed the cover of her new book, due out next year. 
Click  Cover Reveal and see what you think...

...And prepare to be amused,  to smile and, maybe, be charmed.  (I suspect the book will be even better...)

Here's her website, too...  http://www.stephaniefaris.com/