Tag Archives: writing

Here’s to Bob

Bob just published his first novel! Yay!

And I had the pleasure of taking that journey with him, from the minute he sat in my Advanced Creative Writing class with at least one completed manuscript and a whole lot of determination.

To be a writer you need those three things: determination, some pages with words you wrote upon them, and a tribe. That’s my tribe, above: I’m sitting next to Bob, next to Tom, next to Vernie.

That writing class was Bob’s tribe for the moment. We writers move around. I don’t even teach college anymore; I write full time now. Neither Bob nor I were published when we met.

How Bob Baker became a friend of mine is pretty straightforward. I recognized his talent. I encouraged him. I was apparently nice enough so that he felt okay emailing me after our school semester was over. I was confident enough in his talent to invite him into my writing group, and he was confident enough to accept. Thus, a tribe was formed.

My writing group–it’s a small group, just four of us–came about through many offers for participants on my part and much comings and goings on the part of others until we settled into a fine quartet. We’ve been meeting there or four years now once a month with 10-20 pages each. We spend five hours tearing each other’s work apart giving each other constructive criticism and talking about writing in general. Publishing, too.

When the group began, we had two published writers and two unpublished. Bob has rounded it out so that now with the advent of Hiding Tom Hawk we are all published, all quite pleased with ourselves. And my best advice to any writer is to find your tribe. There’s no mystery to getting published. Practice and show your work to a few trusted souls and follow the well worn path that the internet is very happy to set out.

Here's to you, Bob!

Here’s to you, Bob!

I’ve got a book about it. I wish I could give every one of you a copy but it sold out in print although there’s a newer edition of Your Words, Your Story anyway with the whole scoop on indie publishing, and whether you are published by a traditional press or as an indie, (and I’v been both) nothing will ever feel better than holding your first book in your hands.

To help say congrats to Bob, I will send free copies of both e-books, mine and his, to the first three people who comment today. And thanks for reading about my lovely band of merry writers.

Sacha’s Awards

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I voted, did you? Had to tip my hat to the lovely and talented Ali at A Woman’s Wisdom. This woman created a true community and I met so many people in the short time I wrote reviews for her. She didn’t just do reviews. She interviewed with verve. She wrote hilarious Tales From the Manor about her hectic and heroic home life. She tirelessly promoted indie authors for absolutely no compensation and introduced me to worlds of books and some wonderful women I never would have known if not for her.

I voted in all the categories and have my faves but for best blog it had to be her. And I just want to encourage you to vote. Sacha spent a great deal of time on this award project and I hope it has the success it deserves. Whoever wins!

Vote! Vote! Vote! It makes these bloggers who win incredibly happy. They work for free and they work tirelessly, all of them. I could make special mention of some others but I’ll stop here and just post the link so you can go right now and vote for your faves before it’s too late. Only a few days left!

http://sachablack.co.uk

Happiness Encore

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Today seems a good day to review those ten happiness booster tips from Mindful magazine and UC Berkeley that I’ve been posting about:

1. Savor Life’s Joys

2. Drop Grudges

3. Get Moving

4. Give Thanks

5. Keep Friends Close

 I’ve been off the market for a few months owing to some injuries, and yesterday was my official day to release the crutches and walk unfettered in the world again. Yay! I had lunch with a group of friends, made plans with another friend to see an art exhibit tomorrow, and had a neighbor over for a glass of wine at cocktail hour.

Was I feeling cooped up? You bet. I’m so ready to be social and this is the weekend for it. We have a party with good friends on the 4th and then my Seattle family comes in next week. Al and I have been planning for a big party and some smaller “just us” time too. Then we’re going to visit his dad. Seems I’ll see almost every member of my family and some of Al’s in the next few weeks and all happy occasions.

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#6 “Get With the Flow” and I can see some of what that will mean to me beginning on July 15 when I receive my edits from The Wild Rose Press. I also have another book contract to sign with Amazon Encore, something pretty exciting I need to look more closely at today. With book contracts and edits come writing and promotion and this is the flow I’ll be entering after a long winter of writing, writing, writing. Of course I’m still writing…just needing to fit more of the big picture into my flow.

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#7 “Practice Kindness” is a big one for me. I always have love in my heart, but it doesn’t always translate into action in the real world. So I’ll be working on that too and letting you know next post some practical steps I took to practice kindness. And of course I hope to finish out those final three tips in my next few posts.

Happy Birthday, USA

Plotting a Thriller

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I’ve had the idea for a psychological thriller for almost a year now. The minute I finished my latest novel (on my editor’s desk as I type this) I started planning the new one. I quickly realized there would be a LOT more research than usual. I had a new genre, a new setting, a new profession, which has since turned into several new professions. I almost said “maybe not.”

But my critique group meets next week, and a month ago I’d promised them a first chapter of the new book. I’d already done quite a bit of research on the setting and I knew the character since I’d written about her in two previous novels. Also, I had read How to Write a Damn Good Mystery by James N. Frey when I wrote Sweet Melissa, so I knew some stuff. Enough for a first chapter.

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I had also done “research” of a sort when I attended Sleuthfest in Miami last month. I picked up a few books, read a couple of them, skimmed the reference text I knew I’d wear out before the WIP is finished. I’d attended workshops and even had an enlightening talk with an editor who gave me some names of agents who might be interested in the type of story I was planning to write.

Sometimes writing gets interrupted by social media. Occupational hazard. I “somehow” saw a post by Tim Baker yesterday, a writer I follow on Twitter.

Tim’s guest post had the word “research” in the heading. Because I finished my first chapter and realized I had a lot more research to do, I clicked the link. And learned a lot. Inspired, I got out James N. Frey’s How to Write a Damn Good Thriller and started taking notes. It turns out that a thriller does not have to be a mystery! It ONLY has to be “nonstop action, plot twists that surprise and excite, settings both exotic and vibrant, and an intense pace that never lets up until the adrenaline-packed climax.”

I sort of knew I wanted to write an action packed page turner. I wanted to challenge myself to write at that intense pace. I have the exotic and vibrant setting (just hope I can bring it to life). I didn’t know I’d need a high concept that can be contained in one sentence, not more than thirteen words. So I thought about all that and got some ideas. I actually wrote my high concept sentence! And then outlined a few of the twists coming up.

I found out that some high concepts are cliches. Like 9/11 terrorist stories. Oh. That was one of my first ideas…because of my setting. But I had another idea, so I went with it. James N. Frey says the goal of a mystery is to catch a killer, but the goal of a thriller is to stop evil. Makes sense; the page-turning thing would be easier to execute if the stakes are higher than just “catch a killer.”

So thanks for giving me some timely reminders to do my research, Tim, as it is already paying off. And thanks to Sonya for hosting Tim on her blog. It takes a village (of authors) to write a book.

Sauntering Into 60

Every day as I sit at my desk, I high five this guy. His arm swings. He’s my good luck charm. I need him because change is scary and the only thing that doesn’t change is that everything changes.

The internet changed publishing so fast people in the book biz still find it difficult to catch their breath, find a rhythm, secure a spot at the table. Me, I’ve given up on all that. Well, today anyway. Taking it day by day for a while until I get myself sorted. April is revision month and after that I’m just not sure. I know I have a book due, an editor waiting and a publisher willing today.

But then the world could turn upside down tomorrow.  There’s an eclipse coming April 4 that is sure to shake up everyone’s life in out-of-the-blue unexpected ways big or small. People born on or close to that day will feel the effects more than others, according to Susan Miller at Astrology Zone.

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Social media changes even faster than the internet. I do my best to keep up but I’m done running. I’m 60 and sauntering. You’ll see some changes here on the blog soon, and maybe notice a difference if you follow me on Twitter or are a Facebook friend. I’m getting rid of the Fan page. I’m the last to know but the Facebook Fan page has outlived its usefulness as a free site. The latest thing is to let everyone be your friend, which was what I did before, but everything old is new again.

So…my FB updates will change as I seek to guard my friend and family’s privacy a little better than before. I am so open online, and it has never hurt me, or not much anyway, but not everybody is like me. Also, you might not know this, but there are private pieces of me. No really! Also, some of my friends who are not on Facebook have asked me not to post pictures or updates that include them on the site. I have to respect their wishes.

I’m slowly evolving into my “Fourth Twenty” in other ways too. Taking better care of my health. This is a scary thing because if I lose all the weight my doctor says I need to, my face is gonna be trashed. I mean, more than it already is. I like being a little plump because it means less wrinkles and sag. But I’m 60. Vanity is not going to take me to the plastic surgeon or even an injectable party, thank you very much. I look to letting that go. I think it will be interesting not to be interested in my looks.

The other thing is my blood sugar, which I have battled for years. It looks like giving up sweets is not going to be enough to bring my numbers down. I cut carbs and calories, but it looks like grains are going to have to go, at least until I’m stabilized. So how exactly does a vegetarian get her complete protein, the full amino acid chain, without combining beans and rice or pasta and pine nuts? Could a bigger change than I ever anticipated be afoot?

Why Write?

People write books for mysterious reasons. They think they “have an idea.” But for me, it turns out to be a bit more complex than that. My latest release, at least in part, was written as a do-over. I was once a single mom. I keep the true story of that time here. It won a local award and was published in a national anthology because being a single mom is not easy and overcoming hardship makes good story.

I got the idea to write a novel about divorce and how difficult it can be on children (and the adults who are supposedly the mature ones). It would have a happy ending like my own story did, but it wouldn’t sugarcoat the devastation of divorce. When I added an addiction subplot, my publisher wisely decided to market the book as “contemporary fiction” and not romance like my other books.

Divorce is not romantic. Neither is addiction.

Before I embarked on this project I asked permission from the men in life: my husband and two sons. Not because there would be one true detail in this novel but because there would be an eventual husband and two little boys figured prominently in the single mom’s life. That is where reality stopped and imagination took over.

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The relief of writing a better journey than my own was immediate and lasting. Healing, even. Of course fiction needs conflict and the small problems of the lovers were supplemented by an equally fictional ex-husband, who I made a terrible addict. That was not something I’d wish on my own ex-husband, who hardly takes a drink of alcohol let alone any other substances. Sure, the real guy, the father of my children, might not like the fictional ex-husband’s role in my book, but it had to be done for the sake of the story.

I’m pretty sure my ex does not read my books anyway. And no, I didn’t ask his permission. This is fiction I’m writing, although in the thick of it, it feels very real. I used real feelings. My own and and those I could clearly read on my sons’ sad faces those many years ago. Writers use emotion the way actors do. It’s a tool and we manipulate it.

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That doesn’t sound very nice, but then there are zillions of articles that talk about how writers aren’t good people, that they’ll use anyone and anything if it serves their story. I take exception to that idea. It’s because I don’t want to hurt the real people in my actual life that I don’t write memoir. I make up the people in my novels.

So why write? For the pleasure of a do-over. For revenge. For absolution. To right wrongs, to dive deep into my peculiar fascination with the human psyche, to create order from chaos, to control the actions on the page so I can let go in real life, where there is no such thing as control, or anyway very little of it. And maybe, to walk a mile in somebody else’s shoes and learn, through this exercise in empathy, how to love a little better.

What about money and fame and glory?

Nah. I wouldn’t bet on those things if I were a young writer. They may come, but the odds are not in your favor. The odds of becoming a happier person, content in a world of your own building, now that is a distinct possibility.

Something(s) New!

I’m so excited about my writing life right now. Bubbling over, actually. Vacation helped me wipe the slate clean as I transition from teaching college to doing other things. Mostly writing things. I’ve got plans in the works and have made a new page listing my writing-related public and social media appearances, all which have come about through serendipity and no work at all on my part. The new page is called, what else, “news” — check it out here. Of course it’s always in the header, too, now.

When it flows, go. When it blocks, stop.

Not sure where I read that…I’ve been reading a ton of psychology and neuroscience lately as I prep for a new book and a new genre. In addition to Unrequited, Letting Go, mindset, The Power of Habit and Mindwise, I am also reading 400 Things Cops Know and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Private Investigating. Also Detroit: An American Autopsy. And those are just the non-fiction titles I’ve finished, am in the middle of, or have stacked in my TBR pile. I also read several novels on vacation, and I’m savoring Charles Baxter’s new book of short stories There’s Something I Want You To Do. Baxter is one of my favorite authors and I’ve read everything he’s published because he is brilliant, funny and a role model.

Charles Baxter

While I do read a fair amount of non-fiction, novels remain my favorite reading form with short stories a close second. I’ve read thousands of novels and story collections in my life and yes, I know that’s a little bit strange. Sometimes I feel like I don’t inhabit the real world as much as I should because I’m so wrapped up in the world of books. Other times I feel so very comforted by the way novels and stories help me make sense of a sometimes senseless world.

I owe a huge debt to authors. I’m only a writer because I read hundreds and hundreds of books growing up. And then as an adult (and having been a professional book reviewer for a number of years) I’ve read thousands of novels. Eventually, if you read as much as I do, you tend to want to see if you can do it, too. So I owe my own writing career to my love of the written word and the people who made me fall in love with their stories.

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This is a perhaps long-winded way of saying that I am about to embark on a new adventure with a favorite friend. As mentioned, I’ve been a professional book reviewer in the past, staff writer for a couple of trade magazines, and I still post reviews on Amazon and Goodreads once in awhile. I used to review informally here on the blog, too, but I’ve never officially been a book blogger before…until Ali asked me if I wanted to write a weekly review for her. Because I love books and her fabulous book blogging on her awesome website, A Woman’s Wisdom, I said YES.

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