Everyone has a book in them

You’ve probably heard this before, right? Maybe from an English teacher or a counselor or a friend. They are right, you know? We all have minds and imaginations and experiences that we can use to write a story. We tell stories all the time, so why not write them down? We tell our friends about the nice (or nasty) person at the store who stole your parking place or crashed into your cart or took the last bag of chocolate chips. That’s a story.

Often I hear, “But I’m not sure where to start.” That’s the cool thing about writing, you can start anywhere. The beginning. The middle. The end. It doesn’t matter, really. Just start. You can put the pieces together later.

Everyone has a different “process” and no one way is the only way to go. Some writers are more comfortable on a computer, some with a pen and paper. There have been times I’ve even used a recorder and transcribed the content later. Whatever method you use is fine. The key is to try different ones until you find the right one for you.

We all have unique lives, but share many common types of experiences. When you write them down and then share them you find just how many people “understand” or “relate” to your story. Everyone knows someone who has fallen in love, lost a person close to them, experienced illness and despair. Writing about it is cathartic, it really can be!!

I’m not saying you have to pour your sadness on the page, but you can use those emotions to write a rich story that other people can feel in their own way. And I promise you, they will.

This year I met a lovely young woman who had been through a lot of physical trials and illness. Most days she’s a bright shining light in the room, but she has her troubled times, too. We all do. She loves to read and write, but like all of us has a bit of trouble getting started. So I bought her a brand new pink notebook and pen. When she wants it bad enough, she’ll do it and I know we will all be richer for her sharing.

You see, storytelling is not only communication but giving. We have to open up ourselves to let the words come out. We have to tell the inner critic to shut up until it’s time to edit. And don’t be fooled, we all edit, lots and lots. It’s how we mine the jewels from the garbage. That’s a quote from my first writing mentor and I’ve never forgotten them. (Thank you, Emily Hanlon.)

Share your stories, my friends. Share your ideas, your dreams, and your sadness. Share with the human community the conditions that are uniquely human and you’ll see how good it feels to give.

Holiday Gifts

Santa readingEvery year I make a list of those folks (family & friends) who I’d like to give gifts to and what that item might be. If I have no ideas, then I reach out and ask. If that doesn’t bring any helpful hints then I ask their closest family member. If that doesn’t help, then I ask them to go to lunch and look for hints or just take them shopping. This can be a whole lot of fun.

Not very scientific, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard of any foolproof method. If you have one, I do hope you’ll share it. The budget is generally about the same each year, depending on age and the cost of their holiday dream gifts, which most people can’t afford. No Lexus from this century is affordable, no matter how much I want one.

Getting older means I have most things I need and holiday gifts are more for things that are “wanted.” No one likes a gift with a cord unless specifically requested. No vacuums or irons, please. However, today’s tech gadgets are an exception, we just need to know there is a teen around to help us program or set up said tech gadgets. Am I right or am I right?

I love going to arts & craft fairs and book festivals this time of year. You can get the coolest stuff that someone has put their heart and soul into. And I am so unable to create many of the wonderful things that others have made. For example, I can’t for the life of me make a circular scrubby. Now you know.

There’s ALWAYS a book out there that will appeal to others, depending on their genre preferences and situation. Even the occasional reader will enjoy a book that you have picked out just for them. I like to pair up stories or characters (feisty people love the feisty family series) that I think my giftee can relate to, and it usually works. The other nice thing about books as gifts, you can pass them on to other eager readers when you’re done reading them. Share the joy!

Christmas TreeI hope you have a happy and healthy holiday season.


I thought you might want to meet the inspiration for my new novel, the working title is Finding Grace. It’s set in 1893 during the Oklahoma land rush. This woman homesteaded, alone, and built a life for herself as an entrepreneur, artist, teacher, shop keeper, and photographer. She’s my husband’s great grandmother. Meet Minnie Hoopes and her class of pupils.

Minnie, the teacher, is in the middle of the back row.

Where do I find inspiration?

In a word, EVERYWHERE. I’m not making fun, honest. Some days it is as simple as a sunrise. A snippet of music on the radio. A painting or photograph. A line of overheard conversation. The smell of fresh flowers. A kaleidoscope of fresh vegetables stacked at the store. A little girl with ringlets trying on pink shoes with sequins. Birdsong in the morning. Bugs singing at night. The quiet after a snow storm. Sun sparkling on ice crystals.

See what I mean? I never know what will inspire me. Dreams can get your subconscious going big time. The trick is remembering them when you wake up. Thus, I keep a handy dandy notepad and pen by my bed. I’m pretty good at writing in the dark.

That’s the key really – writing down the idea the moment it hits you. Having pen and paper at hand wherever you are so you can capture the muse as it flies by. Julia Cameron’s method: Morning Pages gives you fifteen minutes to unload whatever is stacked in the mind, clogging up the way. I used to think I had to write perfect prose in those fifteen minutes, but it wasn’t happening. It turned into a data dump, and truly that’s what I needed to do.

The main thing is to clear the roadblocks in your mind. Don’t worry about writing anything perfect. Write. Write anything. Don’t worry about the grammar of repetitive words, that’s what editing is designed to do. I heard an author once liken it to vomiting on the page. That’s vivid and not something I like to think about, but not writing can sometimes make us feel off. Sick, almost. It’s who we are and what we do.

So, if you can’t find inspiration where you are, go somewhere else. Walk in the park. Visit a museum. Sit in a cafe and eavesdrop over a cup of java. If you usually write with a computer, take a notebook and pen – mix it up! Make time for writing. Make an open space in your mind to allow the words and images to come. Like Nike says, Just Do It. There’s a slogan I can get behind. Enjoy the journey!

#4 The Writer’s Journey…

Never really ends.

Once you’ve put your book out there, do regular marketing, then the next step is tostart another story.

If you don’t have any ideas, then go for a long walk and see if something doesn’t pop for you. Inspiration can come from anything and everything, just be open to it.

If you’ve got more ideas than time to write them, pick one and get started. Keep an IDEA NOTEBOOK handy and jot down the other ideas, just in case your memory is iffy like mine.

If you’re a linear thinker, then plot, plan and outline. If you’re like me and are easily distracted, the start where the story started in your head. Write a scene. Then another and another. You may have to fit them together like a puzzle, but that can be fun.

The point is there is no perfect way to write a book. There is your way, and you will have to discover it for yourself. Authors will generally share their experiences, but each of us have our own individual path to follow.

Find like minded writers and create a critic group or book club. Brainstorm, commiserate, and celebrate with one another. No one truly understands the writer’s journey unless they are on it.

Writers Journey Goes On…#4

You’ve written a novel. It’s published. Now what, do you ask? I hear the echoes of the Carpenter’s singing “You’ve Only Just Begun.”

How do you let people know THE BOOK is out there? Does any one care? Word of mouth is a pretty good start, tell everyone you know. Social media is a good way to get the word out there. Visiting libraries, offering books in exchange for reviews on Goodreads.com, shout it from the roof top?

Okay, maybe that isn’t the best way to do it, but you get the idea. “Get the word out.” Ways to do that might include bookstores, retail establishments that feature something that might be in your book. Clubs or special interest groups your story would appeal to. For example, if your main character is an avid knitter you have a built-in niche audience. Contact knitting shops or knitting groups and talk to them about your story. You may have to donate a book or two in order to get things started, but that’s a good way to get it out there.

Enter your novel in contests. The fees are generally reasonable and the audience is potentially huge and if you win, you get to talk that up, too.

Marketing is time consuming and expensive. You are not only marketing your new book, but you’re marketing yourself. Do you have a built in audience somewhere? Think about it. Does your book appeal to a certain age, gender or group that you can share it with? Ask around. Think outside the box. We are involved with people at work, at play, at church, at school, everywhere. How can you reach them?

One of my personal favorites is bookmarks. Everyone needs a bookmark and they are an inexpensive investment. There are lots of online printers that will help you design one with your cover and tag line front and center. Hand them out where people like to read – bookstores and libraries, especially. I’m always losing and picking up new bookmarks. Gone are the days when I use the receipt or a ribbon to hold my place. I have a stack of bookmarks and they are generally for books I read and enjoyed.

Talk to other authors and watch what they are doing. One of my favorite authors, C.Hope Clark has an amazing newsletter (Funds for Writers) and built a huge audience for her fiction with that. She gives great advice, too.

Genre fiction will appeal to genre readers, for example, sci-fi readers will try new sci-fi novels and share.

Also, I can’t emphasize enough the power of a book review. I review every book I read on Goodreads, Amazon, etc. Whether I liked it or not, I share my experience. Readers look at reviews to find their new favorite book, believe me. And once they find their favorite author they will read everything they publish.

More next time.

The Journey Continues, #3

You’ve written your manuscript. You’ve edited it more times than you can count. You’ve found a publisher. You’ve edited again. What’s next? Cover art and jacket blurb.

Many publishers request input from the author for the cover. What is important in the story? The house? The battered kitchen table? The lace curtains billowing in the breeze? The publisher chooses the art, folks, 99% of the time. If you are lucky, you can give them suggestions, but in the end it’s out of your hands.

Do covers always represent the story? I’ve been lucky. A friend of mine who writes romance told me a story about getting a cover for her book that represented absolutely nothing in the story. I seem to remember cowboy boots were central and here were no cowboys in the book. She brought it to the publishers attention, but they didn’t change it. Someone really wanted those boots on the front, no matter what. If I recall, the book didn’t sell well.

The outside of your novel will hopefully grab the reader’s attention. It’s interesting and represents the story. The Victorian house that the ladies lived in was a character in Feisty Family Values. There were roses in the yard and it was fall. The cover was fantastic. It made you want to peek in the windows for the characters inside.

If the artwork gets your attention, the blurb pulls you in. What will happen to whom inside? Why would someone want to read this book? A short tag line, created from the text can be catchy. Frankly, blurbs are hard for me. I want to tell too much. So all my blurbs have been shortened by the publishers. Short excerpts have also been used, as well as professional reviews. I was honored to have the NYT Bestselling author, Dorothea Benton Frank review Patchwork Family. It was prominently displayed inside the first page.

Both pub houses have done things just a little bit differently. I’ve loved the result. The last two novels I have published myself and hope that I successfully chose the art and blurbs that make folks want to read them. Don’t forget the art is the first impression. Make a good one!!