Friday, December 20, 2013

Watching It's A Wonderful Life tonight, I've been reminded of how often life presents us with forks in the road and how our life can change depending on which path we take.
While I may not have achieved the success or been recognized for the achievements that many that I admire and respect may have, my life is filled with a wealth of blessings.
Just a few days ago my mother in law were discussing how we'd both, despite our best intentions, went over our Christmas giving budgets. We also, mutually, agreed that it was a price we were willing to pay for having such a large, loving family
So, for all of you, during this holiday season and throughout the year, I wish for you many years of family, friendships, and the satisfaction of pursuing whatever dream you cherish.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

This past Saturday, at my writing chapter meeting, I had the honor of being recognized for my first sale. 

I would be lying if I didn't admit I've thought of, and planned, for this moment numerous times over the years. That very morning, as driving to the meeting, I considered what to say. Once I got to the front of the room, however, my mind went blank.

With this room full of people I know, adore, and who have supported me in various ways over the years, suddenly I was overwhelmed. I managed a few words, not nearly as adequate or eloquent, as I would have hoped. 

The reality is beginning to set in.

While I'm thrilled to have the label "Published Author" now included on my name on my Facebook page, there is a responsibility now to earn that label beyond this first book.

Luckily I have an amazing Critique Partner who encourages me, has faith in me, someone that I consider as a friend as much as an integral part of my business plan. More importantly, she helps me brainstorm.

For the past two days she and her delightful husband, stopped at our house mid-way through their adventure of re-settling their daughter at college. Yesterday we spent the day working out some back story and scene ideas for the beginning of the new manuscript.  We also managed to work out a few kinks in her upcoming novella idea and decided on when next we'd get together for another brainstorm/writing/goal setting weekend.  We are also going to try and start an every-other-week phone call dedicated to our current project. In between those calls, we'll no doubt have others, just to chat.

So, I find that while I'm nervous about managing this new phase of my life, along with all that will come with it, I'm comforted by the knowledge that I'm not alone. 

Who do you rely on when facing something daunting?

Monday, August 12, 2013

August has always been a busy month in this household. 

In our immediate family we have 4 birthdays and The Craftsman and I celebrate our anniversary.  Add in all the back to school busy-ness and there's little time to slack off.  This year we've also had one wedding shower, a baby shower, and good friends coming to visit for a couple of days. And all of that is on top of housecleaning, cooking and summer yard work.

I've had the added pleasure of celebrating good news, in the guise of several friends learning they are a Maggie finalist.

In the meantime, I've come down -- sort of -- from the high of having sold my first book and have faced the dark tunnel of producing another book.

This should not be a problem.  After all, I didn't sell the first book I wrote. I've written many others so this should be a simple matter of coming up with new characters and ways to make their lives conflicted and difficult before they enjoy that happily-ever-after moment.

However it feels different this time.

I admit the fear kept me paralyzed for a few days. But like most fears, if voiced aloud, it loses much of the power it held over you. I won't go so far as to say I've conquered the fear. I can even rationalize and say I believe the fear will help me stay on task. In my opinion, the fear rarely, if ever, goes away in the life of a writer.

I have also, this month at least, given myself permission to enjoy the blessings of my life and family.  I work on the new manuscript, or try to, every day. Granted some of that work is not putting actual words on the screen but could be little more than mulling. Eventually that mulling will pay off.

For now, however, the laundry awaits.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A week ago my life changed.

Last Wednesday more than 2000 authors and industry professionals gathered in Atlanta GA for the National Romance Writers of American conference. It had been several years since I'd attended a national conference so I was a bit anxious about my attendance. My angst was compounded by the fact that a week before the conference I received an email from an editor to whom I'd submitted a revised, complete manuscript, asking me if I'd have time in my schedule to meet her for coffee.  Needless to say, I made sure I had the time!

One appointment I looked forward to was having dinner with a dear friend. I'm blessed to say this is the kind of friend that, while there are times when life sometimes keeps us from keeping in contact as frequently as we'd like, once we talk or see one another, we pick up right where we left off.

So, after a delightful dinner off-site, we returned to the hotel and made our way to the lobby bar, where, let's be honest, is where everyone congregates. There I re-connected with a couple of people, including one of the Publishers/Acquiring Editors of BelleBooks. Following a little more conversation she invited me to submit a manuscript that was rejected by Senior Acquisitions at another Publishing House.

My original intention was to forward the manuscript the week following the conference. However, the next afternoon I found myself with a window of time and I decided why wait? So, in for what was for me, a gigantic leap of faith, I forwarded the manuscript.
Boy am I glad I did!

On Friday evening -- yes,  a little more than 24 hours after submitting the manuscript! -- BelleBooks made an offer for the sale of my very first book!  Courting The Coach is scheduled to be released December 2014.

Needless to say, this development was unexpected, long-hoped for and dreamt of, and all the more exciting because it took place at the conference so I was able to share the news with so many of my writing friends and collegues.

Frankly, a month before the conference I was ready to toss in the towel. I had been working toward this dream for so long that I had begun to despair that it would remain that - a dream and little more. I can admit there were times in the past when perhaps I didn't give the writing my entire focus and dedication. But I always came back and continued to try.

I have no idea why or even how I continued to pursue this dream of a writing career.  Just as I know one contract does not a career make. But I have every intention of continuing to write and publish books now as I did before this amazing development.

There are so many people to thank for believing in me and supporting my dream with their words of encouragement and faith. First and foremost is The Craftsman and our children. They have always been my best and biggest cheerleaders. Other family members and friends have supported my endeavor, so many that it would take an entire blog to list them all.  For right now, I hope that all of you know how much I appreciate everything you've done to assist, mentor, believe and encourage me in so many way.

Last but not least, I have to thank my critique partner, Christine Glover. It's a little ironic that the first book I'm having published is Courting The Coach.  You are without a doubt, the biggest blessing in my writing career and could neither imagine nor want to continue on this endeavor without you.

I'll keep you posted with all developments as we all continue on this new direction in the publishing world. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Using every tool

The Craftsman is a bit of a perfectionist. You know the kind - he measures the wall from every conceivable angle before he hangs a picture. Me? I hold it up, decide whether or not it 'looks good', then drive home the nail. That's just one of many reasons why he makes beautiful furniture and I stick to words that can be changed, altered, or revised. 

That's not to say everything made by The Craftsman has come effortlessly. Quite the contrary. Once or twice I've seen him improvise and deviate from his original concept.

I try to remember this whenever I find myself at odds with a character or plot that isn't working the way I had envisioned. Believe me, I know how hard it can be to face that blank computer screen and pound those keys until you have something that flows and falls in line with what you had planned. All while keeping in mind that you also need to be flexible enough to be open to possibilities.

In other words, it takes work, YOUR work, to find the right path, to add a new plot twist, depth to the characters or emotion to the conflict. That's where the work really begins. It's actually quite easy to come up with an idea, a set of characters, conflict. The hard part is sustaining it through all the trials and tribulations that keep the reader turning pages.  

If you're as lucky as I am you have a terrific critique partner that will help you through these rough spots where you question your direction. If you're as lucky as I am, that critique partner will be honest and tell you what you need to do to improve the story.

I recently experienced this when I sent my last chapter to my critique partner. She was as supportive as always but she also didn't hesitate to tell me she thought a different approach to the last scene would be more powerful.

It would be easy to ignore her, after all these were MY characters, MY story idea. But I took a lesson from The Craftsman and looked at the project from another angle, measured all the components using different tools. And have a much more beautiful project as a result.

A writer uses every tool at her disposal.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Learning by doing

Last night I tugged the final stitch on the latest quilt. It was a good feeling, I have to admit, as life often got in the way of being as productive on the quilt as I would have liked.

I should probably qualify my part in this quilt by pointing out that I'm what I've been told is a 'topper'. What that means is I don't actually cut and piece together the squares, rectangles, triangles, strips, etc that come together to make the quilt. My good friend does that and she amazes me with her color choices, exacting assembly and devoted study to the art of quilting. What I do is the decorative stitching that not only adds to the design but also serves the purpose of binding the quilt together.

I'm completely self-taught. Mistakes have been made but also, hopefully, lessons have been learned.
It feels as if just about everything I'm learned in my life has been by the seat of my pants. By doing rather than studying.

When I decided to try my hand at quilting, did I study and learn the way my friend had? No. I simply took needle and thread to material. It appears I've learned as I've received a couple of ribbons for my stitching.

I've taken much the same approach to writing. Granted over the years I've taken classes, attended workshops, read instructional books. But for the most part, I've plunked my rear-end in the chair and wrote. Oh, the mistakes I've made! But I have also learned along the way. Well enough that I've won a few prestigious writing awards.

People have told me that I'm an 'instinctive' writer and I'm flattered by the compliment. Trust me there are many days when I wish I was one of those writers who compile detailed plots and character sketches. But it just doesn't come natural to me. So if I've learned nothing else, it's that writing by the seat of my pants is my process. 

What's your process?

Monday, March 25, 2013

When in doubt

The form of excercise I utilize the most is the treadmill. I know most people dislike them or find the repetation of walking and staring at a wall an unwelcome prospect. I on the other hand enjoy the solitude along with the convenience of having one in my home. Yes, I am vain enough that, if I went out side to run or went to a gym/workout place, I would have to shower before hand and make sure at the very least that my hair didn't look as if I'd just rolled out of bed. Plus, I like being able to put on my earplugs and listen to music as I traverse the treadmill track.

Or at least I used to.

Lately, I feel as if I'm on an endless treadmill loop, getting nowhere, accomplishing less little and generally unsatisfied with the view. Except for the fact that I'm currently not finding the wherewithal to get on that treadmill. Instead it's as if I'm sinking in a rut of my own making.

I'm not sure what's the cause of this funk I've allowed myself to become mired in. Some of it has to do with the constant waiting/uncertainty of knowing what's going to happen. But then I think "Well that's not anything new nor is it likely to change anytime soon". I can't seem to find the motivation to do much of anything lately.

It worries me.

While my motivation seems to be missing in other areas of my life, the center of the issue is the writing. Let's be honest, when you've been pursuing this field of endeavor for as long as I have, I suppose it's inevitable to reach the point where you question if you should continue on or give up the good fight. My critique partner is encouraging. My family is supportive. My writing community believes in my eventual success.

I still enjoy the process of writing. I love meeting new characters, learning their backgrounds, watching them meet and fall in love. I've come to tolerate if not entirely accept that my writing process includes little plotting and writing mostly by the seat of my pants. I even trick my mind into believing it's more engaging and exciting this way because hey, I so didn't see that scene coming! I've also, through the tremendous help of my critique partner, become more comfortable with my ability to revise.

I've faced the blank page down before. Why am I struggling so to do it now?

Is it because it feels as if there's more at stake now? Does it have something to do with the amount of time invested vs the rewards? Could it stem from trying to decide which alternative publishing thread to tug? Or is it little more than the nature of the beast to question and doubt?

I'm not sure of the answer anymore than I'm sure of what today, or tomorrow for that matter, will bring when I sit down at the computer to wrestle with my work in progress. What I do know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is that I am a better person in addition to an improved writer for having traveled down this path, for having met the people I have had the privilege of getting to know.

So, while this morning I did not make it upstairs for the treadmill run before I came into the day job, I hold out hope that tomorrow I will find that missing motivation. I will manage to stay one single, stingy step ahead of the doubts.

I will, to paraphrase a verse from Philippans: Forget what lies behind and strain forward to what lies ahead.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

     One of the first things I did after returning from my critique/brainstorming trip last weekend was get my hair cut. In the way that usually happens, the beautician and I started chatting about jobs, families, and all the other subjects that tend to crop up between women. She related the story of how she and her husband married because the only way he could leave Vietnam with her family was if they were married. But that was after she’d taken two weeks to pray and consider carefully if she was making the right decision. Obviously she had, as she told me they would soon be celebrating their 34th anniversary.

     Even before I started writing romances, I loved hearing stories of how couples met. It’s one of my favorite past times.  

     The Craftsman and I met on a blind date.  It is the one and only blind date I ever went on.  Less than three months later I found myself engaged and married a short four months after that. I’ve never considered myself the impulsive type but I took that leap of faith. I’ve never regretted it. Well, maybe once or twice when tempers have flared, feelings have been hurt or I’ve been exhausted after being up all night with a sick child – just saying. :)
     I’m so blessed to have a husband who believes in me, supports and encourages me along this journey toward publication. This journey, like a marriage, is not always smooth sailing. There have been detours, hurt feelings and doubt when reading a rejection, the thrill and excitement of winning a contest.
     All of it, the marriage and the journey, have been worth everything they have required.

     How did you meet your significant other?