Life Ventures Rocks!

Do you ever wonder what you will do when you retire? There’s a great program called Life Ventures that has groups on the East and West sides of town. They’re learning programs for all ages and I had the pleasure of speaking to the East side group Oct. 28th. What a delightful group of folks came to listen and ask questions about writing family stories and my books in particular. Some came to hear me speak just because they had read my books and others were curious. I had a great time and hope they did also. East Heights United Methodist Church has a wonderful facility and I’m honored to have been asked to participate in this wonderful program. Thanks again!

reading books

The importance of “time off”

skaterWe all know that we need “time off” to recharge our personal batteries. From work, especially. Many of us wear many hats and have many jobs and never really get “time off.” We cook, clean, tend homes, groom yards, take care of our families (including the furry ones) all around the “day-job.” Most writers have a day job and then they write the rest of the time. In between laundry and preparing meals, among other things. Our lives are busy.

Many nights when my body says “enough” my brain just keeps right on going, keeping me from the much needed rest that will charge my batteries for the next day. The notepad on my bed table is filled with thoughts about my new novel, what I’m going to cook tomorrow, what I didn’t get done today, and what is on the list that I must not forget.

Often times we take a vacation and visit family outside of our home town, or we’ll take the weekend and just travel around the state to see what interesting things Kansas has to offer. (There are lots, by the way, but that is for another time.) This past year we’ve done “stay-cations.” I’ve gotten extra sleep on those days, read and wrote to my hearts content, BUT…I still had to do all the daily chores living requires. It’s nice to not wear a watch and only look when it’s time for a movie we want to see. It’s nice to know we have tomorrow to do whatever we didn’t do today and there’s no deadline to meet. But it’s not strictly “time off.”

mature_womanIn my day job I work for a global company and the Europeans understand the importance of Vacation. When they are on “holiday” they are GONE for two or three luxurious weeks, which they tell me is required to adequately unwind and refresh. They travel, ski, go to the beach, but whatever it is – they are taking “time off.” We need to take on that mindset as well if we want to enjoy nice long lives. Too many Americans work on their “holiday” and we are missing out.

Due to medical advances we’re living longer lives, but what about their quality? I’m slowly coming around to the realization that the dust will be there until tomorrow and it won’t hurt anyone if it stays another day. We don’t have to wear our favorite tee shirt or jeans, we can dig out the ones that are in the back of the closet and do laundry later. It’s okay to read one more chapter if you’re at a good part of the book. And if the muse taps me on the shoulder and says “listen to this idea” then I need to stop and write it down.

Making time. Making dreams come true. We “make” them happen, folks. No one else. We are the ones who make the choice. So, when the work day or work week is done, take some time for yourself and recharge. Eat sandwiches instead of a huge meal once in awhile. “Time off” is important. Don’t waste every minute on those lists, breathe, read, walk, write, whatever you need to do…DO IT.

Storytelling, art for all generations

storytellingHave you ever heard a storyteller? I’ve met several very impressive storytellers in my time. They were dramatic, physical, and so much fun. They brought their stories to life, with props, their voices, and their body movements. Basically, that’s what oral history is all about, and how families, warriors, and religion was shared across generations. Don’t forget, minstrels and troubadours were very popular in the middle ages. Cowboys around the campfires. Scary ghost stories at camp. And parables in the Bible.

Society is so enamored of stories that we have a plethora of ways to enjoy them. Audio books. Films. eBooks. Hardback and paperback books. Television and movies. Photography, music and art. Graphic novels. Stage plays. Even advertising tells us what we should be buying. Stories are EVERYWHERE. It’s how we relate to each other and the world around us.To Kill A Mockingbird

We all have favorite stories and mediums to experience them. I love them all, really. But reading a book is more interactive for me. When I’m watching a film or TV I feel passive – like I’m absorbing the experience, but not sharing in it. When I’m in a good book I really feel like I am there in the room, or outside, and I’m a silent partner in the story. My imagination works overtime!

Some of my favorite authors have a way of putting me in the story: Dorothea Benton Frank, C. Hope Clark, Diana Gabaldon, Stephen King (just to name a few). I smell the salt of the sea or the blood on the body. I’m transported back in time or to a place where monsters live. While films give you the audio and visual experience your imagination is put on hold. They give you the experience, and it’s not the same as taking it away from a book. Don’t get me wrong, I love movies, they make me laugh, cry, and shudder. I do experience the story.

But…it’s not the same as with a book. At least, not for me.dot_frank_cover

Now is an amazing time for storytellers. They have so many lovely ways to share their stories. Publishing is easier than it has ever been with electronic and self publishers on the web.

Do you have a story you want to tell? Tell it.

Do you have a story you particularly love? Share it.

But most of all – ENJOY stories.

Buzz revisited

Buzz is the sound of lots of people talking, sharing ideas, telling stories, laughing, crying and just plain communicating.  In the advertising/marketing/promotional realm the buzz is the ultimate result (hopefully, if everything is done correctly).  So, how do writer’s create buzz about their novels, poetry, plays, short stories, etc.?  By talking about it.kid with a megaphone

We have to forget what our parents said about “not tooting our own horn” and blow that bugle loudly.  Tell everyone about our writing.  Share our enthusiasm for what we do.  Nothing is more appealing than a person who is excited about something they’ve done or seen or read.  Share it!

My favorite instructors in college were the ones that were passionate about the class subject.  Most people enjoy learning when the person sharing is having a good time presenting it.  When I read a new book that I like, I tell my friends, my mom and put a review on GoodReads and/or Amazon.  I read so much that it’s hard to keep up, but I definitely rate them, so folks know if I really liked the novel or it didn’t resonate with me.

Don’t you just love learning about: A great shoe sale?  A plant that is easy to grow? A cool new musician? A yummy new recipe that’s easy to make?  An awesome place to go to eat?  A movie that is really funny or romantic or filled with adventure?  A GOOD BOOK? Telling someone about all those things and more is…BUZZ!  Create it by sharing.  Won’t our momma’s be proud we learned to share?!

 

“I believe!”

The Muse came to visit today and here’s what she said:  “Believe you can – and go for it!”

I imagine that all writers need this kind of advice from time to time.  When we’re kids our parents and teachers say this kind of thing, until we’re older, then caution steps in.  “Writing isn’t a job, plumbing will pay the bills.”  Sound familiar?  In this economy we must be crazy to live our creative dreams, but we’re compelled to do it anyway.

fairy

Remember in Peter Pan when Tinkerbell is about to die and they ask all the kids “to Believe”? Well. I believe! You’ve got to believe your manuscript is as good as it can be. You’ve got to believe you’ll find a home for it. You’ve got to believe people will enjoy reading it. You’ve got to believe and never stop believing in your abilities.

That doesn’t mean we can all give up our day jobs, but it does mean that if writing is important, then we should just do it.

I believed in my stories so much, that I kept editing it to make it as good as I could possibly make it, then I kept submitting until they found a publishing houses willing to print them.

I worked hard for that story and believed it would be published, and Feisty Family Values and Patchwork Family are a reality.

It feels good to fulfill those dreams, so don’t give up.

feisty families rock!

Do you have a feisty family? I do. Many of my friends do.

Are you wondering what the definition of a feisty family is then here’s what the dictionary has:

feisty: touchy, quarrelsome, spirited, plucky.

family: a social unit, a goup sharing common ancestry, members of a household.

Put those together and you have a spirited and quarrelsome household. At least, that’s what my definition would be (and is).tulips

The more I think about it the more I think every family has it’s share of feisty members. For example, a friend’s husband loves to drop a peanut into whatever pot of something is cooking on the stove when no one is looking. Peanuts don’t always go with whatever is in the pot on a given night and sometimes even causes some very unhappy diners when they bite into it unexpectedly. I’d call that feisty, wouldn’t you?

What feisty folks are in your life?

While doing some research for my next book I talked with some new acquaintances about what the families/community was like in their popular area of town.  “Mostly everyone gets along, keeps their yards nice, share their garden produce and watches out for each others kids. Except for one very old guy, who likes to urinate off his porch at dusk. He acts like he thinks no one can see him, so mostly we pretend we don’t.” Would you call that feisty or just plain weird?

I’ve always said families are messy and people are flawed, but that’s what makes them both so interesting. 

 What stories of feisty families can you share? (No names, please, let’s just keep it anonymous for now.)

Patchwork Family Update

snoopy happy danceI’m so excited I can barely sit still at work. Belle Books confirmed that PATCHWORK FAMILY is coming in March, final edits will be coming soon, and I get the opportunity to give input on the cover. How Cool Is That?

With FEISTY FAMILY VALUES I saw the cover in my head, or a reasonable facsimilie of it, anyway. This time, not so much. I love the cover for FFV, the Victorian house, the fall leaves, the roses…all of it put me back into the story and invited the readers to come in and join the family.

So, what kind of a cover will speak to PATCHWORK FAMILY readers? To me this family is like a crazy quilt my grandmother made when I was a little girl. The people in the story are the pieces, and while they don’t exactly fit together like an engineered drawing, they are bigger and of different shapes, somehow when you put them all together they make this beautiful creation – a family. What a lovely thing that can be, all be it, a bit messy.

crazyquilt2For those of you who do not know, PATCHWORK FAMILY starts about a year after the close of FFV. The teens are a year older and that much more unpredictible, having all sorts of hormonal fluctuations that teens are known to have. They are running Annabelle ragged, and her ticker starts acting up, too. Sam would love for Regina to marry him, but she prefers the relationship to remain as it is, after all it took her a long time to get to where she is now – out of the family home, and into the arms of real love.

Tillie and Joe still live across the street, keeping an eye on things, and lending a hand like friends will do. As usual, Tillie is the voice of reason and referee when needed. Don’t you just love friends like that? We all need them  now and then.

PATCHWORK is more Peggy (the eldest grandchild), Annabelle and Regina’s story. You’ll be glad to know there are a few new characters popping in, most notably Tom Malone, the missing father to Peggy, Tad and Megan. Yup, there’ll be some fur flying at the Riverside home, so stay tuned…

Holiday time flies…

My how time flies during the holidays. It seems like only yesterday it was Thanksgiving, and now it’s only a couple of weeks until Christmas.  Is your shopping done? Mine is, thank goodness. And mostly wrapped, too.

christmas_presentsAre you watching your favorite holiday movies? What is your favorite? I watch “White Christmas”, “Christmas in Connecticut”, “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Miracle on 34th Street” every year. Then I remember Christmas’ when I was little or my son was small.  It’s fun to travel to the past and you never know what will trigger a memory.  Smells.  Sounds.  Events.  People.  Places.  Things.

Baking? I haven’t been, but I remember how my grandmother’s sugar cookies smelled. Heavenly!cookies_for_santa

When you’re writing this season use those memories and senses to enrich your story.  And don’t forget to dredge up the tough stuff, too.  Holidays and families are always a mixed blessing, it’s wonderful to be with those we love, but tempers can flair or old hurts can come up and the tension mounts. Tension is important to a story, it’s one of the elements that make it real and exciting for the reader.  So, don’t forget to mine the past, present and imagined future to make your fiction great.  And have a Happy Holiday!

BD