The month of November gives us so many opportunities to reflect and be thankful for our blessings. Veteran's Day and Thanksgiving Day, for example, are great reminders of this, and I dare say it is no accident that they occur in the same month.
I took a picture to my mom at the nursing home this past weekend. The photo was of her in her nurse's uniform when she was a member of the Cadet Nursing Corp during WWII. Looking at the youthful woman with a full head of dark wavy hair, donning a white cap with a single stripe and wearing a white nurse's dress, she laughed and said, "I don't remember being that young." The photo of my dad in his navy uniform brought tears to her eyes as she ached for their life that once was -- so different from her current life of dependence on others. I am grateful to both of them for their service and the sacrifices that they made.
My father-in-law was a radar operator on a plane that flew rescue missions in Guam, a topic that he chooses to avoid for obvious reasons. He was particularly saddened this past week by the death of another soldier, except this soldier served in Vietnam. He was the husband of a good friend of mine. She has watched him suffer from numerous symptoms which were the result of exposure to Agent Orange. Over the past few years, he became good friends with my father-in-law while receiving dialysis treatments several times a week. They loved to discuss all things sports during their four hours in the chairs that they occupied side by side at the clinic. To these dear men, I salute them for their service, and for the ultimate price that one soldier has paid.
Because of these individuals and so many more, I choose to be grateful not only for family, health, and all that I possess, but also for the freedoms that I tend to take for granted. I would like to thank all service men and women who have fought in various wars throughout our history for these freedoms that our great nation provides. I am so grateful.
This will be a short blog, but I couldn't wait to congratulate the five winners of the Goodreads Giveaway who have won an autographed copy of Shards of Trust! They were among 890 entrants requesting the short thriller. I should be getting those copies out to you within the next week.
As for the 348 who have shelved my book on their "Want to Read" shelf, I sincerely hope that you get a chance to read it. I realize that for some of you, that shelf can get pretty crowded, so for those avid readers who select my novel, I would love to hear your feedback.
Enjoy the rest of your week, and thank you for your interest!
This time of year conjures up all things frightening and fearful in the spirit of Halloween. While some take delight in such "spooktacular" events such as haunted houses, scary movies, or reading thrillers (#Shards of Trust), others might dread these type of experiences that make their hearts race and sets them on the edge of their seats. What is a thrill for one may be anxiety for another.
That got me to consider the community of writers. How many of us enjoy every aspect of the writing journey? Do we look forward to the challenges that can cause us fright, or do we take flight when risks are required that seem too daunting?
Recently, a new author in an online writer's group was about to seek publication of her new novel. She confided that she became extremely anxious as she considered the marketing tasks that followed publication of her new novel. While she enjoyed writing, the thought of doing book signings or promoting her book, caused her so much discomfort that she sought help from her physician. Her fear of making mistakes was preventing her from moving forward.
I think we can all relate to some extent. Risks, or even fear of the unknown, can be downright scary. Taking risks can lead to mistakes, but what is the alternative? Of course, one could play it safe, but that is stagnating.
Perhaps it is better to take the pressure off of ourselves. I have decided that it is best to make mistakes, even to expect them. In fact, it is by making mistakes that I truly know that I am trying something new and taking risks; it is proof of forward momentum, not the other way around. Oh sure, my palms get sweaty with any new venture, and sometimes I want to run, but the sense of pride and accomplishment after working through it, is so worth it.
Let's support our fellow writers/authors and help them through their fright, because the world could end up missing a great gift if even one of our colleagues chooses flight. Have a happy Halloween! Now let's get out there and make some mistaakes!
(This article originally appeared in Lauren Taylor Shute Editorial's 10/4/17 blog Letters from the Editor.)
How many times have we, as writers, heard “write what you know” and you’ll do just fine? It almost becomes a mantra in many writing circles. I agree that it has its merits, but I think the definition of “what you know” can be stretched a bit, or maybe a lot, when it comes to fiction.
Allow me to explain myself. I recently authored the book, Shards of Trust, a short thriller set in the Midwest. I am comfortably familiar with this background having lived in both Indiana and Illinois my entire life. Check: “write what you know.”
But the plot includes numerous scenes involving a deep conspiracy in the medical field that puts profits over children’s lives. Which box do I check? Here is where the stretch comes in.
I do not, nor have I ever, worked in any medical field. That being said, I come from a family of nurses. My mom was a nurse, as well as two of my sisters. Another sister worked in the hospital lab. You can only imagine the indigestion I suffered from hearing the “shop talk” at the dinner table. Could I use this indirect submersion into the medical community? Why not? Of course, this would not be appropriate for nonfiction, but in fiction, all’s fair, because it’s a story created from some semblance of reality.
My neighboring communities include various prosthetic manufacturing companies, where competition and product secrecy is the norm. My brother worked as an accountant at one such business, and although there was never anything remotely sinister at these industries, I let my imagination run wild.
Then there were the relatives who suffered through the challenges of having a small child with serious medical issues, and all the fears and constant vigilance that comes along with such devastating circumstances. We all know someone like that who our hearts go out to in pain and sympathy.
I kneaded that third-hand acquired knowledge from the community and family as though it were a ball of dough, and mixed in constant “what if’s” to blend and twist it into my own fully baked story. I was definitely not an expert in the field, but it was very much a part of my interactions and connections. I look at it as kind of a payoff for listening to all those stories for so many years. Of course, there was also a tremendous amount of research required in order to blend fact with fiction, but it was simply another necessary ingredient.
That story spun around in my head until it grew into something that I couldn’t shake from my thoughts. To quote my editor, Lauren Taylor Shute, “You have a story, and that story will not rest until it’s told.”
Since my past writing experience was short stories, I tiptoed precariously into the book author’s pond by first writing a rough draft or outline of my story. By the time I had reached out to Lauren, I was knee deep in the water, and by the end of our phone conversation, I had taken the plunge. And as she says, “It’s a daunting task,” but with the help of her expertise, I was able to tell it.
With Shards of Trust, I stretched the definition of “write what you know” to “write what you know vicariously through others,” and research the rest. I believe that as writers, we can allow ourselves to take that little bit of knowledge and turn it into something dangerous, fun, or romantic. Why not? It is fiction after all!
Calling all avid readers and book lovers....! Where is that special place you long to escape to, with book in hand, where you can settle in for a few moments or hours, hoping to be transported to another place or time? I'm referring to that cozy spot, where mere thoughts of it can cause you to breathe deeply and do what meditation or yoga does for others. When you reach your reader's haven, your muscles begin to relax and a faint smile unfurls across your face.
Is your favorite spot propped up in bed with a fluffy pillow tucked behind you, while your cat or dog continually interrupts, vying with compelling characters for attention? Or is it that one chair that is close to the window by day, or near a reading lamp at night? Maybe you prefer a chair or hammock outdoors, where a breeze cools you, the sun warms you, or the shade protects you. Sometimes it's the chair itself that can be that special spot, enveloping you like a good book while luring you in and wrapping you in it's comfort.
Over the years, I consider myself fortunate to have found a number of such reading havens, including a grand oak tree whose main branches separated just so, cradling me, as a young girl, and my book du jour . Or there were those Saturday mornings when I would sink into the covers on my bed and read with relish one of my books from the book mobile that stopped in our neighborhood in the summers.
Now my favorite reading spot sits near both a window and a fireplace, with a newly purchased lamp to illuminate those evenings that are becoming dark earlier. I am content with this new spot. Add a cup of coffee or tea and what could be better? So search out that comfy, cozy reading haven of yours and send me a picture or write a comment about it, but most importantly, enjoy it!
Let's face it, the writer's journey is not always a smooth path to follow, even after you've successfully published your book. Since joining a number of writer's groups, I've seen varied frustrations from dedicated authors, especially when it comes to marketing their novels. This past week put me securely in this group, a group I had strongly hoped to avoid.
Missing books at one bookstore, difficulty placing orders at another, and a failed social media promotion all seemed to hit at once. I made the necessary phone calls and visits, then had to accept that the rest was out of my hands. But that got me to wondering about other authors, and how each of you handle that unexpected crisis. Do you become paralyzed with panic and anxiety, or do you do what you can, and move on to write your heart out, because that is something you can indeed control?
I find it heartening to know that other authors have dealt with similar incidents, and have survived. That is why I feel that writer's groups are essential. If you are experienced, you can mentor others; if you are a novice, you can seek counsel and comfort in knowing that you're not alone. I have chosen to join both online writer's groups such as promocave.com, as well as local groups such as Ft. Wayne Writer's Guild and Barnes & Noble Writer's Group. Each have unique qualities, with the online groups providing a broader spectrum of writers, and the local groups providing that physical connection with other writers in the community. I find both invaluable.
So how do you deal with those bumps in the writer's road? What gets you through your crisis du jour? Do you stop and check for damage, then drive on, or do you park it and get out? Can you find another route by tackling a separate marketing campaign? Whatever your response is, know that you're not alone. Writing is our passion, and who knows what's around the next bend.
Last Saturday I had the pleasure of doing my first book signing at Hyde Brothers Booksellers in Ft. Wayne. Sam, the owner, supplied light refreshments while the two store cats greeted guests and kept a curious eye on everyone.
While selling and signing copies of Shards of Trust, I was thrilled to hear from others who have that burning desire to write a book. Some had simply not found the time to begin, but hoped to soon, and others had specific ideas for that special story. I'm so happy if this book signing brought that glint back into their eyes! Maybe witnessing someone local, perhaps someone they know, pursue their writing dream, they too will weave those ideas into a beautiful story. I found myself becoming excited for them, and wish them well on their journey.
I couldn't repress a happy dance as I carefully slit the tape that sealed the top length of the corrugated box, and opened the pairs of opposing flaps. There they were, my crisp new paperback books in two neat stack with their glossy covers gleaming up at me.
Clapping my hands with glee, I gingerly lifted out each one. A burst of pride welled up within me. I did it.
It has been an enjoyable challenge, yet now I find myself anxious to hear feedback from the intended readers. That makes me, as an author, vulnerable. All writers take that risk, but will continue to write simply because it's our passion. It's what we do. Whether it's for a solitary person who enjoys the shared story or for many, we will spin our tales.
I know I will move forward with this writing passion. It's what I do.
As I anxiously await the arrival of my printed book, I can't believe how much has happened to get to this point. It's not that I had any pre-conceived notions of all the bridges that I would have to cross, but rather, it was the lack of realization of the amount of effort and length of time it would take to cross them.
Of course, as a novice book writer, there was a huge learning curve. I am happy to say that I was smart enough to acknowledge that I could definitely benefit from enlisting a guide on this journey. I chose Lauren Taylor Shute with LTS Editorial. (Check her out on her web site at www.laurentaylorshute.com )
I approached this developmental editor with much trepidation along with a very rough draft of my story. Lauren was adept at pointing out so many things along the way that I surely would have missed on my own, such as how to strengthen characters, plot structure and how to produce a clean manuscript.
The many references and resources she provided were like a flashlight whose beams illuminated my story's direction. When I faltered, Lauren was encouraging and patient with me. She was the main reason I did not give up, along with my husband, Tom, of course.
The writing journey can be a long one, so choose wisely who you take with you. It can make a difference between drifting aimlessly off the path or following it to your end goal.