Oh Florence, you are so sloooow.

As I write this, the slow-moving behemoth called Florence is slouching our way. My youngest son and wife and my only granddaughter live in Wilmington, N.C., where the hurricane first hit land. Was I worried when I watched the news coverage of that rain and wind? You bet I was.

Even with the power out almost immediately on the coast, due to the marvels of modern technology, we were able to text back and forth. Although several trees came down on their street, they are safe. Bored, too hot (with no A/C), but safe.

My heart goes out to those who weren’t so safe, particularly around New Bern. Thank God for people who have boats, will travel.

Frenchy and Jack were watching the rain come down until I came into the room with the camera.

I’ve heard thrilling rescue stories and heart-breaking stories of rescue come too late.

We will have some wind and a lot of rain. I have tall trees on the back and one side of my property and I am hoping none of them decide to fall. And we will no doubt have power outages. My power went out at 10 p.m. last night as I was watching Season Two of “Ozark”. I wisely decided to go to bed since it was pitch dark anyway. I have grumbled about the security light out back and the street light out front, but when they are gone — it’s really dark.

Then at 11 p.m. the power came back on, accompanied by all  the lights I’d forgotten to switch off, and the security system loudly declaring it was baaack!

Seems funny in retrospect, but I have gone without power for extended times before — Hugo in September 1989 and the big snow in January 2000. So I know what it is like to grope for matches and candles and eat cold food for a week. At least we had the gas fireplace logs during the snow so we were able to stay warm.

Just how long will our neighbors to the east have to do without basic necessities such as lights and running water (not to mention phones and television) and simply being able to get out of their neighborhood what with all the downed trees is anyone’s guess. I hope it isn’t for too long. I think of Puerto Rico and shudder.

So I will take a little rain and wind and hunker down. If worse comes to worse, I have an LED lantern and lots of library books.

And snacks.

 

 

 

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If you can’t say something nice…

I bet everyone at one time or another had someone say to them, “If you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all.”

I’d like to paraphrase that to say, “If you can’t write something good, write nothing.”

Anyway, that’s my excuse for not blogging last week. I had nothing, profound or otherwise, to say. Rather than fill this page with nonsensical meanderings, I chose to wait a week and muse on what my writing journey has been like so far this year.

It’s been a year of disappointments. I failed to make the finalists in two contests. I don’t enter contests often and only when I think I have a chance of at least getting to the semi-finals. That didn’t happen.

front cover 200 width

My first published novel and still a favorite because it came from the heart.

It’s also been a year of rejections, albeit kind ones. I got to the point I didn’t want to send another query letter.

Worse, I didn’t even want to start another story. I kept busy with yard work and filled my leisure hours with reading and Netflix.

Now that autumn is nearly upon us, I hope to find new energy and again treat my writing as a career and not a hobby. That means making a plan for marketing,  for querying, and for starting a new story. That’s going to take discipline. I’ll find out  if I have the courage to keep on plodding, even though it seems to be getting me nowhere.

Or maybe not. My books have fans, not in the  thousands, but loyal and encouraging. Their encouragement gives me strength. It takes only “When are you going to publish a new book?” to nudge me out of my lethargy and sit down at the keyboard once more.

They not only had something nice to say — they said it.

 

 

Weeding and writing

I am trying to write this with one eye covered by a patch. I put a wet tea bag on it  in hopes it would reduce the swelling of poison ivy.

Yep, I did it again. Thought I was pulling out English ivy vines. And yes, I know the difference (after repeated bouts with the poisonous vine) but there were no leaves on them so …here I am again, itching and miserable.

Summer is winding down, though, and soon enough my only yard work will be raking leaves. Time to start on something new. Or maybe something old. I have some manuscripts that are (gasp!) typed on paper. I wrote them before the advent of computers, that is to say very early in my career.

Now, have I learned anything since I wrote those stories? Or am I going to keep making the same mistakes, as I do with pulling vines?

Delia Owens and David Joy at McIntyres Books.

My hope and belief is that I have honed my craft enough so that I will be able to look at these old stories and spot trouble points. I need to be sure there is theme, not just a plot; that my characters are identifiable and relatable; that I balance narrative and dialogue; and most of all, that the story is not boring.

So there is that. And somehow I plan to finish that memoir I started for the grandkids, who are now adults and maybe more interested in their shared history. Our writers’ club is holding a workshop on writing the memoir in November, and  I’m looking forward to learning just how to approach this.  It is a great opportunity, and timely.

Opportunities to learn abound. Last weekend a friend and I drove two hours to hear two novelists (David Joy and Delia Owens) read from their works and talk about writing. Well worth the trip. What I learned: it is okay if your first book is crap. Keep writing.

I hope you all take every chance you get whether it is attending author talks, reading, going to workshops or conferences, or just getting together with other writers to share your dreams.

And if someone out there is trying to deter you ( and there are naysayers whose mission in life is to pull you down) just carefully root them out of your life. They are poison ivy.

Enter Title Here

I’ve been involved in a round-robin of editing. I’m editing a friend’s new book and another friend is editing my latest endeavor. If she ever writes a book and asks friend #1 to edit it, we will come full circle.

I feel it important to ask another pair of eyes to look over any manuscript. My years as a newspaper reporter and editor taught me that our own mistakes often go unnoticed because we “see” what ought to be there.  The friend I mentioned is good at catching misspellings and typos. I am going to ask another friend to read for clarity, flow, plot holes, etc.

And of course, I ran spellcheck and took its advice 90% of the time. It has no sense of humor and doesn’t catch dialect.

Meanwhile … oh, meanwhile. I was asked for a full back in June and have been checking every day for the verdict. And, I am still sending another work out and getting really nice rejections, even a suggestion of another publisher that might take a look. I don’t want to give up hope, so I keep sending it out. I got to thinking lately that the title might be part of the problem (although I have heard editors reserve the right to change a title, I never have had one to do that).

Anyway, on reflection, it doesn’t really say what the story is about. So I brainstormed and came up with about ten alternate titles.

Here’s where I need your help.

The blurb:

Marcie Wicker is the only person, including the police, who doesn’t believe her husband, Stan, is sunning himself on a tropical beach somewhere after withdrawing every cent from their joint savings account. She refuses her father’s advice to seek a divorce and her mother’s advice to move on, and grieves that her college-age twins are letting their anger sully the memory of their father.

With the arrival of the new pastor, Adam Shepherd, Marcie realizes that she is ready to love again, but as neither wife nor widow, she is torn between accepting that Stan left her or stubbornly clinging to her belief that he has come to harm. Adam, a divorcee,  is struggling with regaining the confidence of his rebellious 13-year-old daughter and wonders if he is ready for another relationship.

When the truth is finally revealed, families are not only turned upside down, but also are made stronger.

The working title is “Wherever You May Be.”

Her are my alternates:

Missing, Presumed Alive

When He said Goodbye

When He Disappeared

Without a Word

Looking for Answers

Holding On/ Letting Go

Maybe Today

Gut Instinct

A Wife’s Heart

No One is Listening

The Stubborn Wife

Okay, no none of the above are stellar. Any suggestions?

I’d love your input! And if I choose your title, I will give your name to one of the characters in the novel!

 

 

What’s your process?

I had just wakened when the phone rang. It wasn’t too early to call, but I’d slept late because of binge-watching “Longmire” the night before. So the question took me by surprise.

“What process do you use when you write?”

“Huh?”

My mind clicked into gear and I said, “Well, I don’t outline. I tried it once and it didn’t work for me.”

So what do  you do when you first start writing, the caller asked. Do you begin with dialogue? Narrative? Action?

I had to think a minute. How do I start a new work? A song went through my addled brain: “…start at the very beginning, a very good place to start…”*

I just start writing I said. I tried to explain that before I sat down to write, the entire story is laid out in my head. I have spent months going over it at odd times, three a.m when I can’t sleep, standing in line, driving … the scenes get worked out, I imagine what the characters will say, I know what’s going to happen and how it ends. I don’t worry about jotting down fragments on stray sheets of paper or in a notebook (although I carry one because I read somewhere that’s what writers do).

It’s as if the entire novel is already written in my mind and when I sit down at the computer I am not writing so much as taking dictation. I begin by setting the scene in a specific time and place, introducing the main character, and describing the goal or problem that must be reached or solved.

Then I tell the story. I try to limit narrative as being a “tell” rather than “show.” Sometimes it’s unavoidable, but I’d rather let the reader find out through action and dialogue. Narrative is limited to describing the scene where the action takes place. I’ve been told dialogue is my strong point, so I use it more often than narrative.

My caller asked how I handed the second, third, and consecutive drafts.

I stumbled over that, being still only half awake. What I should  have said was that I look for problems in pacing (using shorter sentences and paragraphs when the action heats up), flow, plot holes, repetitive narration or description, and other stumbling blocks that might make a reader stop and scratch her head in confusion. I also believe it is important to pay attention to white space on the page. Dense paragraphs are off-putting. Again, crisp dialogue helps balance the longer, necessary descriptions.

Then I edit for grammar and construction. And finally, look for typos.

When I’ve done all I can, I ask trusted beta readers to read the manuscript. I take their feedback and make any changes I find applicable.

Only then does it get submitted to a publisher, where an entirely new process begins.

So that’s my process. What’s yours? How do you begin your story?

We all want to know.

* “Do-Re-Mi” from The Sound of Music

 

Good news — I guess

I am so near completing my work in progress that I can envision myself writing “The End” and sitting back with a happy sigh.

But I also know it isn’t finished. As every writer has discovered, there is more to the process. I still have to do the final edits, send it off to Beta readers, and then make any corrections they suggest (and that I agree with). And after that, decide whether to make the round of submissions or to self-publish.

So the good news is, I am almost there as far as one goal is concerned, tempered by the fact that there are more goals to reach before the process is complete.

As of this writing, I have two novels in the submission process. One publisher asked for the full manuscript, so I am biting

Jack is ready to go outside if someone will just open the door

my nails waiting for the verdict. So in between working on my current novel and researching unsuspecting agents willing to take on new clients, my mood and expectations have been as up and down as a Ferris wheel.

And of course, aside from writing, I have the usual stuff going on. No one can write 24/7, because in addition to my imaginary lives, I also have to cope with my real one.

I decided to get a security system and talked to reps from two different companies. I decided on the second and now every time I open a door to let a cat in or out, a disembodied voice says “Back door open.” At first, on hearing it, the cats refused to come inside.

Now they ignore it, just as most pets learn to ignore the radio or TV as not being real, therefore not requiring their attention.

And so it goes. I will post when and if I hear anything about my submissions, that is, if one of them gets accepted. No one wants to hear about rejections, least of all me.

Hope you are having a great summer as we slide into August. Let’s hope it is not as hot as July has been.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back into the fray

I had a wonderful birthday week. My sister came to visit from Pennsylvania and together we drove to the Golden Isles in Georgia to visit my oldest son and daughter-in-law. My second-oldest son flew in from California, making my birthday wish to have all my family together almost come true. (My youngest son and wife couldn’t make it.) Of course, none of the teenage grandkids could come because of summer jobs and/or school. So it was an adult gathering … very relaxing and enjoyable.

Since I have returned home, I’ve been busy bouncing back from yet another rejection and sending out queries and submissions. If the rejections hadn’t been so positive I might have given up, but the encouragement to keep trying is very persuasive.

And, working on my WIP. Isn’t there always a WIP? If not, there should be. It”s the only way to stop worrying about the submissions — did they get it? did they like it? when will I get a reply?

And keep dreaming and hoping for a “yes” this time around.

If writers didn’t dream, there would be no stories. Oh, they might still write them, but the results would be

These daisies didn’t succumb to the dry weather and heat while I was gone and were a welcoming sight when I returned home.

hidden in a box under the bed, read only by trusted friends and then returned to dust and darkness. So we dream up stories and then dream of them finding a home on someone’s bookshelf.

And if we’re honest, on many, many someones’ bookshelves.

This writing path has had many twists and turns since I had my first acceptance after years of writing and submitting. My first two books were accepted and published, only to have the publisher close their door.  I got my rights back and self-published, figuring all the editing and formatting had already been done, so why not? Then I self-published another because it was fairly easy and let’s face it, instant gratification.

 

My next three were accepted by a publisher, which was and is thrilling. The series was fun to write. Then I wrote another book and self published it because I was too impatient to do the necessary round of submissions.

It seems my sales are about equal for the traditionally published and self-published novels. I think there is more of a sense of satisfaction when you get that acceptance letter, but today there is no real downside to self-publishing, either. I think either way is perfectly legitimate. So if you are wondering which path to choose, it depends on how quickly you want to see your book in print. But if you do self-publish, it’s very important to have your work proofed, edited (there is a difference), and professionally formatted. See Mark Coker’s excellent guide (Smashwords) if you decide to format it yourself. And don’t forget your cover, which is the first thing a potential buyer looks at.

My, I’m full of advice! Some gleaned from reading books on getting published and some from my own experience. And, in my opinion, real-life experience is the best teacher.

Write on!

 

 

 

 

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