The Importance of Story

Do you remember your mother or grandmother reading stories to you when you were small? When my son and grandsons were little I read to them before bed. As they grew I encouraged them to “read” their favorite stories to me. Since we read Dr. Suess and Paddington Bear over and over again, they knew what happened on every page and could almost recite the words before they could read.

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There are quotes from books or films (stories) that stick in our minds and never go away. They speak to us. They make us laugh or cry or think. “Everything looks better with pearls,” is one of my faves. I don’t wear pearls but I remember watching Audrey Hepburn and Doris Day in films and they always had pearls on and looked beautiful and confident.

These days superheroes are very popular, everyone wants to be a hero, save the day, have superpowers. Imagine it? Of course, you can, we all can. Stories about ordinary people who find out they have extraordinary gifts inspire us to be greater.

Everyone has stories in them. Our lives are vignettes, scenes that play out every day. Sometimes they are boring, but they can just as easily be exciting, frightening, or romantic. Share your stories. If you don’t want to write them down, speak them to others, take photographs that tell a story, paint a picture, write/sing a song. We all love a good story.friends_n_rain

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2017 – What will you bring?

Last year was challenging for many, but there were lots of good parts, too. Family. Friends. Good Memories. Good conversations. Good books. Good food. See, it’s not all been bad.

We have a new year upon us. How is it going so far?

With ignited enthusiasm, I’m writing and editing like crazy. Hopefully, that will translate to a new book out soon. I tried the agent search method the past six months with nibbles but no bites. So, again I will adjust my path back to the smaller, independent publishers out there. I’ll let you know how it goes. I’m going through “Every Move You Make” and doing what I hope are final edits, after sharing it with my critique group and other writing buddies, whose opinions I respect.

For those of you readers who are looking for another book in the feisty family series, I will resume working on it next. I have a good start beginning five years after “Patchwork Family” ends. The kids are growing up, Peggy has her own cafe business with Tom in the kitchen and Tillie supplying the desserts. Tad is in college and Megan is in high school and thinking college might not be what she wants. But we all know she is the most book-smart of the kids and Peggy is concerned her little sister is going on the wrong track. Oh, and did I mention Megan may be in the midst of her first crush?

That is all for later.

Let me tell you a little about “Every Move You Make, I’ll Be Watching.” Just like the song Sting sang in the 80’s, someone is watching Amanda Cook – at work, at home, at school, everywhere she goes. At eighteen she’s a bit oblivious since she has her own inner struggles with the departure of her parents, the relationships with her best friends Sarah and Andrew, as well as her first love, Mitch Roman. Even though Amanda has the adorable Great Aunt Faye to live with she feels lonely and afraid of the future. I’d better stop before I spoil the surprises in store for readers and Amanda in this New/Young Adult novel.

Sorry, I haven’t blogged much the past year. (I’ve been really busy editing and looking for an agent.) You can find writers advice from me and other talented authors on Author Expressions blog. I post there once a month. It’s a good place for writers to hang out and find support.

Readers, I hope you enjoyed the two feisty family novels I’ve published so far and will be patient while I make my next stories even better.

Good luck to us all in 2017.

Writers are Readers, too.

You’ve no doubt heard this one before, good writers – READ.  It’s true!  I write mainly women’s fiction, so I do a lot of reading in that genre.  I also read chick lit, mainstream fiction, mysteries, thrillers, romance and much more.  Check out my Goodreads.com books and you’ll see that I am a diverse reader. If there’s a book review in the paper or a magazine I have to read it and if the story sounds good, then it goes on my list of things to read.

 

man_looking_thru_binocularsWhen I find a particular author I enjoy I tend to read everything they’ve ever written, but reading debut novels is enjoyable.  Sharing any new found book treasures is a must.  Many of my friends and family like to book swap, and if we’ve gotten the book from the library we make sure and email the title and author around the group.

Occasionally films will come out about the lives of authors or based on one of my favorite books.  It’s fun to get a group of writers together to see a matinee and then get coffee and hold a discussion.  We writers have such an interesting way of viewing things.

There are lots of book clubs out there that get together and discuss their favorite stories. reading books(But, you have to read them first.)  Kansas has a statewide reading event each year that is fun to participate in.  You will overhear book conversations in the grocery store and all around town.  It is like being a part of a really BIG book club.

Many of us have a library of unread books that we have collected from friends, book sales at the library, yard sales, and those bought with coupons from the local bookstores.    When I’m finished reading and sharing a book, I donate it to the library so others can partake of its pages.  The bottom line is – you can never read too many books.  And reading good books will help you become a better writer – I PROMISE!

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Life is not a straight line…

Life is not a straight line. We bounce around and find our way through.

forget me notsIf you follow your “curiosity” it will give you clues. Be aware. Be open. Listen. Trust that every place you go is where you are supposed to be in order to gain experience, wisdom, grace, humility, discipline, faith…

This was especially true in my twenties. But I have to say that even at my current age I must not fall into the pit of focusing so hard on one outcome that I miss opportunities to grow. How about you?

When I’m writing a story and think I already know the ending it’s surprising what can happen along the way. New characters appear. Old characters change. Assumptions made no longer apply. And sometimes the ending morphs as well. Follow the path, wherever it leads you.

I love when I’m reading and the story surprises me. Occasional unpredictability can be inspiring – emotional – even educational. But writer beware of throwing a huge rock in the soup, it will totally change the flavor and splash not only the broth, but the reader right out of the pot.

snoopy happy danceI’m a fan of satisfying endings. Who wants to read about a total loser who never ever wins? Totally depressing. You want readers to feel hope for the characters, satisfaction that the story ended as it should and they didn’t waste their time.

I hate to see a cool character die or an antagonist that can’t be redeemed (even just a little bit). In life, those things happen, so they have to occur in story as well. What is story, but the telling of a life experience (real or imagined)? A path taken that resulted in certain consequences that the reader can relate to, utilize as a lesson learned in their own lives, or imagine and enjoy.  which way signLife is not a straight line…so the story can’t be either.

Enjoy the journey, my friends. I plan to.

 

 

 

Live and Learn and Pass it on

“Live and learn and pass it on” is a good motto, and one that hopefully will stay with me well into the new year.

So, what have you learned in 2015?

I’m going to give this a try myself and see what lessons I’ve learned this past year.

  • You really are only the age that you feel. (Some days I feel younger than others.)bonnie_jan_50s

 

  • Keeping your teeth healthy (brush, floss, don’t grind) is super important, unless you want to only eat soft foods after your teeth fall out. (Had two root canals this year.)
  • Most really good accomplishments started out with the thought that it couldn’t be done. (This includes skills that you thought you had to pay for – installing light fixtures, tearing up old carpet or wallpaper or ceramic tile. I learned how and saved some bucks.)
  • Exercise will keep you fit and feeling younger. (So will manual labor, but walking and yoga are more fun.)
  • Wcchipcookiesarm cookies from the oven are far superior to cold ones from the cookie jar. (Therefore, I only bake a dozen at a time and enjoy them fresh each day or until the dough runs out.)
  • Good cooking is all about the seasoning. (As is a good life.)
  • Enthusiasm is catching, not something you can teach.
  • Even when I have pain, I don’t need to be one.
  • When you drop a slice of bread it always falls jelly side down. (It happening to my grandson was a good reminder.)happy_person
  • There’s nothing more attractive than a smile. (It improves your face value.)
  • We can’t be lovable all of the time, but when we’re not is when we need love most.
  • Doing something in anger usually makes more work for later. (Especially when you’re stripping wallpaper.)
  • You find out who your true friends are when you have a terrible job that you need help with. (And help might be in the form of prayer or a hug, or extra hands to do the work. It all counts!)
  • I’ve learned that you don’t always get what you pay for. (Contractors is a perfect example. If they are called “Affordable” they do a cheap job.)
  • Receiving (and sending) cards is a fabulous way to reach out. (I love getting and sending surprise notes in the mail.)
  • An un-watched pot will either boil over or boil dry. Every time.
  • Laundry is never “done.” (Unless you are in a nudist colony, I guess.)
  • reading_lotsReading a good book on a rainy day with a quilt and fuzzy socks is awesome. (And I do this as much as possible, with or without the rain.)

 

  • The value of human touch is priceless, especially when the touch is filled with love.
  • Not seeing your kids or grandkids for a year is TOO LONG.
  • I’ve learned that storytelling is what helps us touch, teach and support one another.
  • You can learn something from everyone you meet.
  • Be generous with praise. It costs nothing and reaps huge rewards.
  • You can find anything through Google. (My husband does it all the time.)
  • Don’t wear white if you’re planning on eating salsa or tomato sauce. (Nuff said)
  • Moving is really hard physically, emotionally, and financially. (Sometimes it’s worth it!)
  • Pick your battles. Not everything is worth fighting about.
  • Nothing is more delightful than a baby’s laugh. (Toddler giggles are up there, too.)baby_kissyface
  • Be kind. Always.
  • Make time to do the things you enjoy.
  • While humans plan, God laughs.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. I’m sure before I drift off to sleep tonight I’ll think of another lesson learned. The point is living and enjoying the days we have on this earth. And taking care of each other, too.

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BOOK REVIEWS ROCK

The best gift for an Author is a Book Review. Did you just finish a good book? Then do not pass go, do not collect $200, get on Goodreads or Amazon and write a review!

Don’t forget that Readers also benefit from book reviews. That’s why I have shelves full of books to read – someone wrote a great review. bookshelves

It doesn’t have to be detailed or long. “I love this book.” or “I liked this book a lot.” or “These characters are so real!” give just enough information to others to tantalize them into checking out the book.

I’m writing my first mystery. I’ve never written mystery, but I’ve read hundreds of them. I’ve written two full length novels. And I had this cool idea for a story. Reader reviews are so important, to new writers and experienced writers alike, so I’m anxious to read the reviews once my mystery is published. (Date is yet to be determined.)

Authors learn from reviews. Personally, I get a kick out of the reviews that are very detailed and tell me just what the reader liked and didn’t like. Everyone is different and certain things appeal to some and not others, but I understand that not every reader is comfortable expounding on their impressions of a book. Sometimes we just don’t know why we liked a story, it just worked, that’s all. That’s part of the reason why I read lots of different genre’s. I never know what will strike a cord and pull me in.

I love to read new authors, as well as authors that I’ve read for years. Bottom line – we all enjoy a good story. So share the experience and write a review. We authors will appreciate you even more than we already do. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

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Location, location, location

Everyone is from somewhere and I just happen to be from Kansas, so that’s the location I write about. It is home. It’s where most of my family lives. It’s where I grew up. It’s a place that knows all seasons.seasonsoflife

When I first started writing fifteen-years-ago I was told that nobody was interested in stories about Kansas. You know, that’s not exactly true – look at the Wizard of Oz. Many times I heard, why Kansas? Nobody famous is from Kansas. Ha. President Dwight Eisenhower might beg to differ. There have been many notables, for example: Nobel Prize winners, actors (Dennis Hopper, Dee Wallace…), authors (Langston Hughes, William Inge…), artists (like Gordon Parks…), musicians (Melissa Etheridge…), athletes (George Brett…), aviators (Amelia Earhart…), journalists (John Cameron SwayzeWilliam Allen White…) and so many more. I’ve only listed a few of the many amazing people who were born in Kansas.

kids_icecreamEvery location, no matter how mundane seeming has Stories. Secrets. Families. Intrigues. History. People are born, live and die in Kansas and relate very well to stories about their home. The Midwest has its special qualities. The sunrises and sunsets in Kansas are amazingly beautiful across the vast flatness, as well as the Flint Hills.

couple_sunsetThere was a time when writers were told to only feature exotic places in their novels. All those who has lived or visited exotic areas raise your hands! I’m sure there’s quite a few, with remarkable and ancient things. But where can you find a place where you belong? Do you want to read about places you may never see? Okay, yes, I do – sometimes. But the stories that touch me deepest are the ones I can plop myself down on the couch and live there.

I’ll admit it. I love reading about other cultures. They are fascinating. But I never quite “feel” like I’m a part of the action. I’m only an observer. There are times to be an observer and times when you want to be in the middle of things. For me, Kansas is the middle of everything. That’s why I write about it.

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What location resonates for you? What stories have you read that “took you there?”

“The Crossroads” is here!

During the great depression jobs were scarce and the hope for a bright future even more so. For Sylvia Gray her life of poverty, cleaning, cooking and taking care of her three brothers is about as bleak as it can get. With her father out of work and nipping at the jug, her mother has to wait tables at the diner to make ends meet. All the family puts their support to the eldest of the brothers. There’s nothing more for girls living in the back hills of Arkansas in 1935. But Sylvia wants to finish high school and get a job so she can make her own way.

THE CROSSROADS novella available on Amazon.com

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