Monday, April 30, 2012

Z is for Zig Zag

Zig zag
zigzag - an angular shape characterized by sharp turns in alternating directions
a shape having one or more sharp angles
zigzag - travel along a zigzag path; "The river zigzags through the countryside"

I’ve zig zagged through my entire writing career. The first thing I ever got published was a prayer in True Story magazine. It was called A Prayer from a Divorced Woman. I was paid $25.00 for it. That prayer was the first thing I’d ever mailed out so naturally I thought, “Getting published is easy!” We all know it is not easy.

Sometimes (in my life and in my writing) I feel as though I’ve zigged when I should have zagged. I’ve wandered off on little trails that have taken me to odd places. In 1976 I started the Longview Writers Association which is in Northeast Texas. When I started the group, I wrote short stories and poetry. I submitted faithfully. My writing goals have changed a lot since then. Through the years I’ve zig zagged my way into teaching leisure learning and/or continuing education writing classes, being an editor/writer/photographer of a regional publication, co-editing a literary magazine, writing for newspapers, being president of a writer’s group in Louisiana, writing (and selling) a novel, blogging, being a staff writer for a magazine, encouraging, proofing, editing others and …

I’m still zig zagging my way to a writing career. Doing it all. No, trying to do it all. Every now and then I stop and ask, “Have I accomplished those writing dreams?” Truth is--I have and I haven’t because my dreams are ever changing. When I try to pinpoint why I zig zag, the only thing that pops into my head is that I’ve never taken my dreams too seriously. I stop way too often to smell (and pick) roses along the way, running wildly in other directions when a fresh crop of wild flowers pop up.  

This year in Oklahoma is supposed to be a year of focus for me--a year for some serious accomplishments. There will be: No zig zagging allowed.  

Friday, April 27, 2012

Y is for Yukon (a little town in Oklahoma)

. . . because that’s where I am. Yukon was founded by A.N. Spencer in 1891. Spencer was a cattleman from Texas who turned railroad builder. He was working on a line from El Reno to Arkansas when he decided to build the town. Wouldn't you love to look at your brother and say, "Hey, let's build a town!" Spencer and his brother, Lewis, named the town after the Yukon Territory of Canada, where a gold rush was booming at the time.

I went to a Friends of the Library book sale yesterday.  I've been looking forward to this sale for a month--ever since we got here. It took hubby and me three weeks to find the library. I kept pulling up the wrong address on Main Street in downtown Yukon. When I decided to put more effort into it, we finally found it in an old grocery store. This is what it looks like now:

Next door to the library is the Dale Robertson Senior Citizen Center where they play games, exercise, belly dance … among other things. To the right you can see the picture they have of Dale. I thought maybe I’d check it out since I’m a senior citizen now. When I went to the book sale, I peeked inside where a bunch were playing cards. When they say senior citizens, they really mean senior-senior. I’m not there yet. I doubt if Dale attends any of their functions; if he did, I'd do a little hanging out there too.
The book sale was good and very crowded. The parking lot was packed and people brought plastic crates on wheels. I thought, “Serious shoppers in Yukon, Oklahoma.”

I restrained myself and only bought $10.00 worth of books--as if I really need to own one more book.  I concentrated on cook books this time and wow! I hit pay dirt. Nothing 100% vegetarian but some very expensive, clean beautiful books. I’m excited. I found two novels by Tabitha King called The Trap and Caretakers. I’ve been wanting to revisit her since I’ve only read one of her books  and that was many years ago.
I also found a book on Feng Shui. I’ve always wanted to learn more about Feng Shui since sometimes I feel like I’m sleeping or sitting in an awkward position. Did you know you aren’t supposed to sleep with your feet pointing to the door? That’s called the death position. I probably shouldn’t have bought the Feng Shui book. 

I'm excited that I found a little book called The Bean Cookbook. It's from the Northarvest Bean Growers Association.  How about we try this simple recipe called Northarvest Three-Can Chili ?
1 - 15 oz. can pinto beans
1 - 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 - 15 oz. can  of corn
2-3 tsps. chili powder
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. cumin
2 tsps. onion powder or one sauteed onion
My version of the mixing method: throw it in the pot, simmer for 10 minutes, taste, add more chili powder 1/2 tsp. at a time. Serve with corn bread or crackers or your favorite chips. I've even been known to wrap it in a soft corn tortilla and add black olives, jalapeno olives, shredded cheese and avocado. Yum!
For more servings than the 4 1/2 just toss in another can of beans! Okay, so now you know what kind of cook I am and what I'm doing in Yukon, OKlahoma.

X is for Grandpa

I love genealogy and the NBC Friday night show called Who Do You Think You Are. Tonight actor Rob Lowe discovers an ancestor who battled against George Washington during the American Revolution.

I joined last year after watching the season.

That’s where I first saw draft cards, registration and enlistment papers belonging to some of my ancestors--and what their signatures looked like. Sometimes the signature is an X.

When I first saw that X signifying a relative’s name, I felt incredibly sad to know that he couldn’t read the Bible or the newspaper, that he couldn’t write his name.  If I couldn’t read, I’d feel helpless, at the mercy of others.
My grandfather couldn’t read. I remember mom saying he was too mean to learn how. She was the oldest of 10 kids; the first born usually gets all the discipline. I don’t know that I ever witnessed any helplessness in Grandpa but he sure was at the mercy of others when it came to reading. He made his kids read the Bible to him, scripture after scripture, over and over again, and he listened to preachers on the radio. He was born in 1900 and when he was five years old, his father was murdered.

I have two cousins (twins) who can barely read. Their mom was pregnant with them when their father had emergency surgery and died. Who knows what they experienced inside the womb when she was told her husband was dead?  She never re-married. Being close to these two guys, I see how being unable to read or read well has affected their lives. They don’t use X for their signatures, but they struggle.
I wonder if growing up without dads played some part in my cousins and my grandfather's ability to learn. I know their lives would have been different--so much better.

X marks the signature of many people--even today. I find that sad.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

W is for Woman's World Magazine

I have just completed Part II of a class called Selling to Woman’s World taught by Kate Willoughby and offered by the Colorado Romance Writers. These two classes were fantastic. I learned a lot and I also won a free critique from the instructor on my own WW Short Story. Kate will be teaching these classes again in the future so if you have any interest in writing short romance, check out the descriptions of the the classes and make a note to watch the Colorado Romance Writers website for dates.

Here’s Kate's description of each class:
Part I: Woman’s World, one of the last remaining periodicals to publish short fiction, pays $800 for an 800 word romance story, and if you sell to them there’s a good chance over a million people will read your story. Nice work if you can get it, right? Well, you can. My class, “Selling to Woman’s World Magazine—Beyond the Basics, Part I,” will give you the tools you need to break into this tough market. Each week we’ll examine one or more key story elements that occur over and over in Woman’s World romantic fiction. These story elements enhance submissions and give them that certain something unique to the publication. Students will complete simple assignments designed to help pinpoint strengths and weaknesses in the stories they’ve been submitting and stories they have yet to write. We’ll also deconstruct three of the most popular plots. Then, I’ll guide you through the plotting process so that by the end of the month, you’ll be set with numerous plots and ideas, all ready to go. Industrious students may even have finished stories.

Part II: In this continuation of Selling to Woman’s World Magazine—Beyond the Basics I, we’ll examine eight more story elements and five plots in our quest to understand just what it takes to sell to Johnene Granger, the discerning fiction editor at Woman’s World.
Instructor Bio:
Kate Willoughby’s Woman’s World (WW) expertise comes from six years of analysis, writing, and submission to the magazine. In that time, she’s sold eight stories to them at a success rate of about 28%. Her blog, “Writing for Woman’s World,” is a resource for those who want to break into the WW market, and through the original “Secrets of Selling to Woman’s World Magazine” class she’s helped at least six writers sell to the magazine. (Click on testimonials below). She has also published eleven novellas, print and electronic, with Ellora’s Cave and Liquid Silver Books.

You can also learn a lot from Kate's blog where she dissects and analyzes stories. It's the one blog I've found that is truly PRICELESS!
Kate's website is HERE (this site promotes her novels - content warning!) and check out some of the testimonials HERE.

Keep abreast of what's happening with the Colorado Romance Writers Online Workshop Series!  They have a wonderful lineup of topics (craft, industry, inspirational, etc.) and speakers HERE.

BTW, men write for Woman's World too under their own name. WW also publishes a short mystery piece in each issue. Don’t mistakenly believe these stories are easy to write. Short doesn’t mean easy.
 I'm sure I don't have to tell you to READ THE MAGAZINE! That goes without saying, doesn't it?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

V is for Vegetarian

Yep, that’s me! My husband and I became vegetarians about a year ago. (Daughter was first.) You would have thought we were slapping our friends and family in the face. I’ve never seen such outrage or heard sarcastic remarks. My goodness, you’d think they all raised beef and their farms were threatened.
Really, there are many kinds of vegetarians and hundreds of very good reasons to be one.  (I'll keep my own reasons to myself.)There are an estimated 7.3 million people who follow a vegetarian-based diet and 1.5 million more say they follow vegetarian-inclined diets. Believe me when I say, they don’t all live in California.
I do eat some dairy products and fish. I’ve completely given up beef and chicken.  If you entertain thoughts of becoming a vegetarian, check out this wonderful book. It’s the best cookbook I’ve found for vegetarians and it’s called The Vegetarian Bible. There’s not one bad recipe in this book--they’re ALL delish!

Here’s my own variation of one of the recipes. I think you’ll love it even if you’re a meat eater.

Taco Rice and Beans
2 TBS olive oil
1 cup water
1 packet taco seasoning mix
2 cans black beans, drained and washed
2 cups cooked brown rice
1/4 cup thick & chunky salsa (your favorite brand is fine)

Heat the oil over medium heat then add seasoning mix and water. Cook and stir until combined and slightly thickened. Stir in beans, rice and salsa. Cook 5 minutes longer or until heated through.

For a great meal fold Taco Rice & Beans into a soft flour tortilla. Add shredded 4-cheese Mexican blend, black olives, jalapeno olives, and sliced avocado. Serves 4 to 6.

Note: The first time our daughter treated us to this meal, I was so overcome with delight, I was absolutely speechless! If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to email me.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

U is for Unconvincing, Unfinished, Uninspired and Unique

Sometimes my WIPS (works in progress) come across UNCONVINCING to contest judges and/or editors. I take that to mean they aren’t buying into the plot, the conflict, that the entire story is flimsy or implausible or just downright lame. Most of the time I tell myself, that’s just their opinion but I have to admit their comments affect me--probably way too much.  I end up with an UNFINISHED partial manuscript because I’ve become UNINSPIRED.  My writing is suddenly bland, dull and uncreative to me.  I doubt myself because of something they’ve said. Just like you, I’m sure, I long to write a novel that’s UNIQUE. Yeah, I know, there’s nothing unique in this world, but there are books that are distinctive, exceptional in their own way, extraordinary compared to a lot of other books.  

Flipping through my Flip Dictionary, a book for when you know what you want to say but can’t think of the word, I’ve listed words that we can use instead of Unconvincing, Unfinished, Uninspired and Unique. I’ve used some of them above.

Unconvincing: flimsy, implausible, lame, questionable, suspect, unbelievable, weak.
Unfinished: crude, immature, imperfect, incomplete, raw, rough, rude, sketchy, unassembled, undeveloped, undone, unfulfilled, unpainted, unpolished, unstained.
Uninspired: bland, boring, dull, lack-luster, stodgy, uncreative, unimpressed, uninteresting, unmoved, unoriginal.
Unique: Alone, distinctive, exceptional, extraordinary, incomparable, individual,


How do you revise if you have a storyline that comes across UNCONVINCING?
How many UNFINISHED manuscripts do you have on your hard drive or in a desk drawer?
What do you do when you feel UNINSPIRED?
Have you read a book with a really UNIQUE plotline lately? Share!

Monday, April 23, 2012

T is for Tornado

In the past, any time I thought of Oklahoma, I’d think of tornados. I wondered how people could live in the state when, according to the news, it seemed like tornados popped up out of the blue and from every direction. I never dreamed one day we’d be living here.
Since mid-March, we’ve only been in the closet once. Hubby had to rouse me awake because I didn’t hear the alarm warning go off at 2:30 a.m. Once in the closet (for only seconds) I realized we didn’t have any of the supplies we need in there: pillows, flashlights, a weather radio,snacks. Snacks? I’m still not sure what one takes to a closet to wait out a tornado.

We’ve had several tornado threats since we’ve been here. On April 14, 2012, an EF-3 tornado struck Woodward, Oklahoma causing 6 deaths. Approximately 150 miles away from us. We watched it in action thanks to the local news and storm chasers. I say we watched it in action but not really. We knew it was going to happen because storm teams gave us up to date, minute by minute plays. It’s frightening to hear/watch them. It’s like witnessing something horrific happening but being totally helpless to do anything about it.

If I get on twitter during these tornado warnings, I see people tweeting: Take Cover Now. Tornado on the ground in Norman!" or "People in Enid, take cover-twister on the ground!" It’s enough to make me want to tear my hair and shriek, “Ruuunnnnnnnn!”

In 1947, Woodward was hit hard by a tornado with devastating results. Read about it HERE.
But citizens of that small town dealt with more than the devastation of a tornado. Watch this video to see the mystery that evolved.
The case of JoanGay Croft aired on May 22, 1993. She was never found.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

S is for Swamp Lily Review

When I was a kid my mom and dad would take off downtown to window shop. I didn’t think that was fun. I’d follow along or run ahead, stopping now and then to press my nose to dark windows. To me, it was pure misery. Why were they looking at things they couldn’t have? First because the stores were closed and secondly because they didn’t have the money anyway. I’ve never liked window shopping, though I admit, I do browse occasionally through catalogues, circling every item I’d like to buy.

 I tell you this so you’ll understand … I always felt exactly this way while reading literary magazines because I always wanted one. All through college and most of my adult life, I fantasized about starting one, discovering great poetry and short stories--becoming an editor, a publisher, speaking at conferences, discussing writing with young (or old) wannabes. Or great Pulitzer winners.
My friend Jan Rider Newman had the same dream and we decided to go for it. We met in coffee shops again and again and again planning, dreaming, creating our roadmap. We didn’t want to embarrass ourselves and we wanted the experience (the magazine) to be … wonderful, perfect. I would have backed out at any time. I was pretty much “window shopping” but Jan challenged me to step forward.

Check out Swamp Lily Review HERE.
We accomplished our dream because we did it together. We encouraged, challenged, worked hand in hand to grab something we both truly wanted. We made it happen even though, along the way, we had fear and doubt. It wasn’t easy and it still isn’t. We cringe every time we have to send a rejection slip to a friend. We panic every time we miss a deadline because we don’t have enough material for an issue. We’re still brainstorming and dreaming.

I’ve left Jan pretty much holding the literary bag since I’ve moved to Oklahoma but then she did most of the work anyway. She designed the site and continues to tweak. She posts all the work. I’m more her first reader, who probably way too often asks, “what does he mean by that line? Doesn’t make sense at all. If he'd cut that word, that sentence, that paragraph, it would be great."
I’ve learned that owning a literary magazine is responsibility because while we’ve accomplished our dreams, every time we read a poem, a short story, view a photograph or receive some creative nonfiction, we’re “judging” someone elses dream. I’m not sure I’m  having fun yet … but I sure do like the title I toss around.  I’m co-owner/co-editor of Swamp Lily Review - a beautiful literary magazine with some fine work inside its digital pages.

Thanks Jan! And thanks everyone who has submitted and continues to submit. Never, never give up your dreams.

Friday, April 20, 2012

R is for RWA

I’m a member of Romance Writers of America and until I have a good reason to quit, I always will be. It’s a great organization for writers and has much to offer.

It all began when thirty-seven writers met in 1980 to support each other and grow their writing in romance fiction. Those 37 writers became Romance Writers of America® (RWA). In The Woodlands, Texas, a suburb in NW Houston, June 1981, they held their first writers conference that focused  specifically on romance. That first conference was total chaos and exceeded their expectations. I know because I was there.
I was living in Houston at the time and a couple of friends drove in from Longview, Texas to attend the conference with me. I can’t remember if we had pre-registered or if that was even an option but I do know the small community had never seen the likes of a conference like that one. It was a madhouse.  And there was a room shortage at the hotel. A  friend and  I shared a room with one of the Harlequin editors. I remember a twin bed in a dark space--for all I know I could have been sleeping in a closet. Rooms weren’t that important; we stayed up late and got up early. The head man from Harlequin blustered through early the next morning.  I was standing in my slip, brushing my teeth. I  heard a muffled ‘pardon me’ but I don’t think he even saw me in his excitement. This kind of conference, so many romance writers in one place, was as different and exciting for them as it was for all of us wannabes.

Janet Dailey flew in for the conference. She looked fantastic, all decked out in denim, with beautiful turquoise jewelry. I stood in line for her to autograph books. She said, “Jessica--you’ve definitely got the name to write romance.”  Today, Jessicas are a dime a dozen.
This event was so huge, newspapers and TV stations from everywhere sent photographers and reporters.  They filmed, snapped pictures, interviewed and flirted and hit on young romance writers. Looking back, it seems like a circus. I can’t remember any of the sessions I attended--just chaos. Of course, the media made all kinds of cracks about romance and romance writers. Sometimes they still do but it doesn’t matter so much anymore because RWA and romance writing are here to stay.

The expected attendance for that first conference was 150 people but it turned into over 600 attendees. Over 65 romance manuscripts were sold during the event. Mine was not one of them--but a few months later, I did get an agent.
In 1991 RWA joined the fight for literacy by hosting the first "Readers for Life" Literacy Autographing as  the kick-off event of the 1990 Annual Conference in San Francisco. The 2011 Literacy Autographing held at the New York Marriott Marquis in New York City raised over $60,000. Each year the autographing event raises thousands of dollars which are donated to ProLiteracy Worldwide. Since 1991 RWA efforts have raised over $700,000. 

To this day, RWA hosts a conference each summer in a different U.S. city. There are more than 100 workshops, publisher spotlights, chats with best-selling authors, appointments with editors and agent, awards ceremonies and so much more. RWA conferences are big, big deals and well organized--not as chaotic as their very first one. Future conferences are scheduled for the following cities:

2012 - Anaheim, California
2013 - Atlanta, Georgia
2014 - San Antonio, Texas
2015 - New York City, New York
2016 - San Diego, California

I love Romance Writers of America. I’ve learned a lot from their conferences and their classes. I belong to the following RWA Chapters:

Faith, Hope and Love, Inc., the Inspirational special interest chapter of Romance Writers of America®. Sometimes known as FHL, this chapter provides support, education, and encouragement to published and unpublished writers of fiction written from a Christian worldview

The Kiss of Death Chapter of Romance Writers of America is committed to promoting and supporting mystery/suspense fiction with romantic elements by providing and supporting education, and committed volunteers who champion good writing and marketing of mystery/suspense works.

Outreach International (OIRW) is an on-line chapter of Romance Writers of America®. We are a non-profit organization dedicated to reaching out to all authors, regardless of where they live. Our goal is to reach across the boundaries of all countries and unite them, making Outreach an international unified writing community.

Scriptscene RWA offers support, encouragement, and information to our members who want to write a screenplay, use screenwriting techniques for their novels and storylines or adapt their romance novel into a script.

OKRWA - the Outlaws in Oklahoma City. I'll finally attend my first meeting Saturday. Wish me luck!

Go HERE to learn about RWA Chapters in your state.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Q is for Quotes

I love quotes and like many writers, collect those that speak to me. I even collect some that are so silly I'll never forget them. Like this one by American Idol judge, Stephen Tyler. He told one contestant, “Crows crow and hens deliver the goods.”  Yeah, ‘nuf said.

Last night Jennifer Lopez said, “Part of being an artist is bearing your soul.”  I went to the library in Yukon yesterday, picked up a book by Stephen James (I’ve never read him) and as I read several pages, I thought: this author really cares; I can feel it. I guess he was bearing his soul.

Other quotes I like:

“And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.”  ~Kahlil Gibran

I’m trying to keep this in mind since the wind is constantly blowing in Oklahoma.

Don't let a single day go by without writing. Even if it's garbage, if garbage is all you can write, write it. Garbage eventually becomes compost with a little treatment. ~Anonymous

“[The writer] knows he has a short span of life, that the day will come when he must pass through the wall of oblivion, and he wants to leave a scratch on that wall – Kilroy was here – that somebody a hundred, or a thousand years later will see.” ~William Faulkner (1897-1962)

Everyone is gifted - but some people never open their package. ~unknown

 The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true. ~John Steinbeck

Put weather in.  ~Joseph Hansen

Do you have a favorite quote that stays in the forefront of your mind as you write or live your life?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

P is for . . .

Pollster Frank Luntz has been testing TV ads with various focus groups around the country. Last night he reported their feedback: “What was so frustrating here is that these people in Washington are behaving, in their words, they’re behaving like pigs when we’re trying desperately to pay our bills and to do the right thing … The anger, the agitation is real.”

I wonder if there has ever been a politician who didn't lie--one who didn't act like a pig at a trough?

by Jess

Wind carries odors

Faint smells that wrap around life

Choking truth and joy

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

O is for Opposition

OPPOSITION - To be in contention or conflict with: oppose the enemy force. To be resistant to: opposes new ideas.

Seems like I’m always racing against time--rushing to and past most deadlines. I have no problem with deadlines set by magazine editors. Those are a cinch, and that's business. What about those other deadlines, the ones I set for myself--the ones that actually mean something to me? Those are the ones I miss because of my Opposition: the person that seems to oppose my success, the person I’m in competition with … the person that holds the key to my dreams. That would be ME. I’m the opposition.
I can focus like nobody’s business, but too many times, I don’t. I get side-tracked by a paragraph in a how-to book or a chapter in a popular novel, or a great talk show on TV showing me how to spot a liar or a con man. I tell myself it’s research and kill an hour watching, then another and then another.

I have heated disagreements with myself. They usually go like this:
Me: I need to attack chapter 14 today. I can edit, add some sensory detail and move on into chapter 15.

Opposition: There was a great article on sensory detail in The Writer last month. You need to read it. You’re extremely weak when it comes to using the senses.
Me: You’re right. Let’s see … where is that magazine? There it is.

Opposition: What a great short story contest. The theme is fun. You could revamp your short story on dancing turtles to fit this theme perfectly. You should give it a try.
Me: You're right. That would be fun. Now where is that short story ...?
And so it goes. The opposition brings me in contact with things that distract me from my real dreams and goals. Or fills me with discouragement.

Opposition: Sally Jo sold her novel about the woman who was murdered by her great grandson’s daughter. You have a book just like that. You probably could have sold it--if you’d taken the time to finish it. You really don’t have what it takes to finish a novel; you need to try beading. Of course, you probably wouldn’t be too good at that either. You don’t know half as much as you think you do… what makes you think you have talent, anyway?
And so it goes with my old pal, Opposition. I just can’t shake her. Share some opposition in your own life--is it procrastination, jealousy, insecurity and doubt? Are you your own worst enemy? Be careful what you tell me. If you have no opposition in your life, then MY old pal will use YOU to get to ME. That’s a promise!

Monday, April 16, 2012

N is for Novel (writing, that is)

I went to bed last night thinking that N is for Neighborhood. I visualized an entire Neighborhood of writers. Woke up thinking “there’s no way we could all live together” so I’ve changed my topic to novel--as in writing tips.

I have so many ideas floating around in my head these days, I just want to get them on paper. I thought I’d share how I go about it. Below is what I put on the first page. I want to keep these things in the forefront of my mind. I think this ABCDE info came from Anne Lamott.






Here's my Note to Self:
I need characters that are larger than life; a heroine who can fight for herself and still be likeable. The story should be filled with emotion and the plot must be plausible with motivation and conflict.

Then I lay out the potential novel like a three-act play and I start filling in the info which makes it a lot easier than you might think. Basically, this is brainstorming with yourself.

Beginning: (I jot down notes, my hook, motivation, hero/heroine’s goal, the problem, anything to do with the opening.)

Middle: (A few notes will grow the the middle. This is the most difficult for me. I list any obstacles or complications my characters face; sometimes scenes begin to form. I jot them down even though they’re vague.)

End: (Last quarter of the book. How it ends, the black moment. Have the characters changed? How? Anything I know about how the novel ends.)

When I go to bed at night, I “play” my story in my head and watch it until I fall asleep. Usually, I have new ideas/scenes the following morning:

If there’s one thing I know about myself, it’s that I need structure and specifics to keep me on the right path. I have several completed novels that I’ve written SOTP (Seat of the Pants) and they STILL have problems. Sometimes I’ll cut and paste the publisher’s guidelines on the page to keep me on track. As I develop the story, it spills onto page two, page three and page four. I love seeing the story grow.  The other day I came across a great plotting device by author Linda Goodnight. Check it out HERE, click on For Writers then, Plotting In A Circle.

Do you have any novel plotting tips to share?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

For Your Info

A to Z Challenge takes a break on Sunday. I hope I'm correct about this. :)

I just ran to Hastings in Yukon, OK to pick up the latest Writer's Digest. It's fantastic and you all need to trek over to your nearest bookstore and get the May-June issue if you don't subscribe. Because we were moving, I didn't renew so I'll have to make sure I don't miss an issue.

This issue gives some valuable information about epublishing and how it works by Jane Friedman. Jane is a former WD publisher and honestly, I think every word that comes out of her mouth (or from her fingertips) is valuable and brilliant. If you aren't familiar with her, you should be; make a point to follow her blog. Check her out here. After reading her article, you need to flip the page to Joel Friedlander's piece on Best Strategies for Savvy Self-Publishers. He gives you a list of resources to help you on your way to indie publishing. You can also follow him HERE. To top it off, the icing on the WD cake is that it lists 101 Best Websites for Writers and they are G-R-E-A-T.

Don't let this issue sell out before you get your hot little writer-hands on it.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

M is for Markets

Markets for your writing are everywhere. You just have to search for them. Make certain you always follow the magazine's submission guidelines. If you're entering a contest, follow their rules to perfection. Here are a few markets you might be interesting in.

Pockets magazine teaches 6- to 12-year-olds about God's love and presence in life. Pockets accepts freelance submissions of stories, puzzles and games, activities, recipes, and poems.
Send to: Lynn W. Gilliam, Editor; Pockets; 1908
Grand Avenue; P.O. Box 340004; Nashville, TN 37203-0004. No email submissions but go HERE for more details.
Alive Now is a devotional magazine that nurtures the spiritual lives of individuals
hungry for God. For themes and deadlines, go HERE.

For writer's guidelines and theme lists for Homeschooling Today Magazine, go to
FlashFiction Online - They are open for submissions and usually open year round. They publish stories from 500 to 1,000 words in length. They are publishing audio versions of their stories, approximately one year after they appeared as text online.

FirstLine Literary Journal Every story starts the same. The first line: Rachel’s first trip to England didn’t go as planned. Deadline 5/1/2012. Be sure to look at the upcoming first lines.

Delta Sky Magazine is looking for expertly executed stories about travel, lifestyle and business. Features range from 600-2,000 words. Departments include very small 100-word pieces to longer 500-word columns.
Go HERE for guidelines and where to send submissions.

Entangled Publishing is adding historical romance to its lineup of offerings. The new imprint is called Scandalous. These 60,000 to 70,000 word romances may be set any time between 1900 and 1950, in almost any setting. The stories are bold, sexy, and heartfelt, and can be funny, action-packed, mysterious, or dramatic. They should feature a classic romantic trope and an Alpha male hero. Stories should be historically accurate and may contain light paranormal elements, though paranormal elements are not required. Stories should be sexy and sensual, but they’re not looking for erotica. Find out all the details here.
Children’s Writer, a monthly email newsletter, is sponsoring a Middle Grade Mystery Contest. Write a mystery short story that appeals to 9 to 12 year-olds — no longer than 900 words. First prize is $500 and publication in the newsletter, second prize is $250 and third, fourth and fifth graders will each receive $100. Subscribers to Children’s Writer may enter for free: all others pay $15. The deadline to enter is April 30. Get all the details here.

Harlequin Heartwarming is a line that started as a reprint program of older titles. Editors are now accepting original manuscripts for this imprint, which focuses on warm, romantic stories with no sex and no religion. The guidelines characterize these as “Stories readers can feel comfortable sharing with their daughters and granddaughters.” The books are 70,000 to 75,000 words, are contemporary, with emotional conflicts, and focus on home and family. You do not need an agent to submit to Harlequin Heartwarming. Find the guidelines HERE. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

L is for Letters (hand-written!)

When is the last time you received a letter from a friend? A long, handwritten letter with lots of fun, juicy news. I used to write letters all the time and had quite a relationship with my mailbox.

I’ve also written a letter of resignation when I quit a job and a letter of recommendation for a boss. There are also welcome letters, letters of appreciation, letters of apology , collection letters, letters of invitation, marketing letters, letters of rejection (all writers know about those), letters of inquiry, and poison pen letters.

When I’m beginning a new manuscript and need to write a synopsis or outline for my own benefit, I’ll write it in letter form, as if I’m telling my story to a friend. It might go like this:

Dear Lynn, I’m working on a story about Laura Majors, a women who is agoraphobic. She got that way because she witnessed her best friend being attacked outside her apartment in the parking lot. Laura grabbed a plant stand and ran outside to beat the guy off her friend. Now she won’t leave her apartment and her heart pounds every time she peeks out her window. When the newspaper reports another attack, Laura always wonders if it’s the same guy.
Yes, I’m working on this story.
Sometimes I'll write letters from a character's point of view telling me things I don't know about him or her. You might be surprised the things that come from your characters in letter form.
I love getting letters and didn’t realize how much I miss writing them until I met Lynn O. by visiting her blog. Now, Lynn and I handwrite letters to each other. She’s a born letter-writer! Explore her blog here: 

Do you write letters? Want to write me one?


Thursday, April 12, 2012

K is for Kindle

I’m not a Kindle lover. I own one because I won it in a contest. And yes, I rush to Amazon when friends tell me they have a new book available or I see a FREE book that sounds promising. The few books I’ve read and finished on my Kindle (okay, four or five at the most) have kept my interest and have been well written. And I have to admit, I seem to read faster using the Kindle than if I’m holding my beloved print books. But, I’m kicking and screaming. I hate change. I’d rather own a print book--no matter how long it takes me to read it and no matter how much it weighs. I like having real page-turning paper in my hot little hands. I like seeing bookmarks and flyers hanging raggedly out of my books. I like taking a pen or pencil or marker and making notes in the margin,  underlining beautiful passages or quotes. I’d rather spend the money for what’s often referred to as a real book, than a couple of bucks for a book I can’t prop up on my shelf and admire.  I like flipping back and forth and viewing the cover any time I want. I like knowing exactly what page I’m on and exactly how many pages I have left--with no effort.  Silly? Probably--because change is coming. Rather, it’s here.

It breaks my heart to spend ten or twenty bucks for books I can’t stack on my bedside table. I refuse to do it.  It has to be a mighty special friend/author/story for me to spend more than $5.00 in the ebook world. Does that sound mean? Maybe so, and here’s more meanness from me. There was a time I didn’t place much value on book reviews--after all, we have our own personal taste when it comes to reading material.  I’m sad to say now I do.  If reviewers complain about typos, ramblings, bad grammar, plot holes, I pass on purchasing.  If we’re going to put our books out there ourselves, we have a responsibility to do it right.  And you can take that to the bank!

Do you own a Kindle or another book reading device? How do you feel about finding typos and poorly constructed sentences in your books? Do you want the author to put forth some effort to learn his/her craft? Does it really matter? Am I just being mean? Let me hear from you.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

J is for Jewelry-Making

Sometimes I get so discouraged with my writing that I threaten to quit and make jewelry. One birthday, my husband and daughter gave me a lot of jewelry-making supplies. I got all kinds of chains, ribbons, twine and turquoise--my favorite--and a plastic container with little compartments to keep it all neatly inside. I even visited a jewelry making  group. That’s the closest I’ve come to actually making good my threat.
I love jewelry fixings of all kinds. 

I’m not a shopper. No matter what I’m looking for, I end up at the jewelry counter of the store, perusing the jewelry. This is known as escape. Yes, I recognize it.

Even though I love the idea of creating one-of-a-kind bracelets, necklaces and earrings, and have several books showing me how, step by step, I don’t have the patience.  I wouldn’t be any better at making jewelry than I am at sewing.  Put a needle and thread in my hands and I'm disastrous! The idea of jewelry making is my escape.

What’s your escape when writing gets tough?