Monday, October 20, 2014

Writers Support Writers ... by Carol Strazer

Writing is like kayaking. It takes courage for a writer to shove one’s craft into the icy waters of self-doubt.

Encouraged by a writers group, one’s trust and talent grow. Fears are overcome and the challenges of both giving and receiving critical feed-back are skillfully maneuvered like a Class V rapids. A writer, like a kayaker, deserves support from like-minded adventurers. One need not go it alone.

Writers groups offer connections, structure and skill building for aspiring writers. Seven years ago, the Red Feather Lakes Writers Group in Northern Colorado was formed to encourage writers from surrounding communities to express their talents, to improve their craft and to support other writers.

Since then, various professional writers have driven the steep mountain roads to Red Feather Lakes and shared their talents with the group. In addition to sponsoring classes presented by authors and poets, the RFL Writers’ Group has offered public readings and book signings.

Generally, writers are both passionate about their work and enjoy helping other writers to navigate and succeed in the world of publishing. There is an old saying that to truly learn a skill, one must teach it.

Personally and professionally, I have learned a great deal from my membership in writers groups. In addition to organizing the RFL group, I am a member of Northern Colorado Writers and have attended most of their conferences. During our winter stay in Arizona, I developed the Sun City West Writers Group.

Many readers of this blog may already belong to a writers’ group or maybe their participation in social media already satisfies their artistic needs. If not, I recommend joining or creating a writers association. Key elements to look for in a group are: membership, rules and goals. Like-minded members who are not only committed to their own achievements but to facilitate the group’s and its participants’ successes are to be prized.

To learn more about Northern Colorado Writers, visit the website. For information about Sun City West Writers Group contact RH Johnson Library at (623) 544-6130. Call the RFL Community Library at (970) 881-2664 for more information about the Red Feather Lakes Writers Group. All groups are open to new members.

It took me seven years to publish my first novel. I doubt I would have persevered without other writers’ encouragement. To verify the amazing WWII story of a Prussian Mennonite family forced to flee from the brutal Russian army and who escaped to Denmark, I obtained an out-of-print German book. This book and another were German translations of Danish authors who were the only writers that I could find who wrote about the Danish refugee camps. Since no other information about the camps was available in English, I paid a translator who translated by phone while I typed. The broader, largely untold story was that as a result of the Allies’ Yalta and Potsdam agreements some 12 to 15 million ethnic Germans were expelled from their homes.

My story of Barbed Wire & Daisies is fiction based on fact. As the Russian army advances on war-torn Prussia, part of Germany, at the end of WWII, Marike Wiens gathers her four young children and flees. The family boards an overcrowded, disease-infested ship bound for Denmark. On arriving at the Danish refugee camp, though, Marike’s hopes for a safe haven are dashed. Behind the barbed wire, she and her family face starvation, illness, ill treatment and heart-breaking conditions. Marike struggles to keep her family alive while holding onto their Mennonite faith.

I have published numerous articles in local and regional publications and edited a local newsletter. Four of my stories were in Chicken Soup for the Soul books. My essay was a winner in the Woman’s Day and American Library Association’s contest in 2009 and was published in Woman’s Day. Barbed Wire & Daisies is available in eBook and paperback on amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com. My deepest thanks to Patricia Stoltey for this opportunity to share both my passion for the craft of writing (and kayaking) and for those individuals and groups who support writers.

Carol is giving away one signed paperback copy of Barbed Wire & Daisies to a U.S. or Canada reader who leaves a comment on today's post before midnight Mountain Time, Saturday, October 25th. The winner will be announced here on Sunday.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Tales in Firelight and Shadow

Getting my first short story published in a commercial anthology was just as exciting as getting my first novel contract. I'm still doing my little happy dance from the ebook release, and I'll probably dance a real Irish jig (even though I'm mostly Norwegian) if/when the anthology is released in print.

Here's the cover art for Tales in Firelight and Shadow:



Contents:

Prologue
Mary A. Turzillo - "Pigeon Drop"
Jason Parent - "Moody's Metal"
Patricia Stoltey - "Three Sisters of Ring Island"
Joseph Michael - "Nuckelavee"
Tenea D. Johnson - "Sugar Hill"
James Morrow - "Spinoza's Golem"
Christina St. Clair - "Green Cat"
Alfonso Arteaga - "La Planchada" ["The Woman in the Ironed Dress"]
T.J. Weyler - "Keepers"
Ceschino - "Tailed"
Alexandra Dairo-Brown - "Mercy and the Mermaid"
Novella Serena - "My Bogeyman" montage - "Sans Lake"
A.J. Maguire - "The Nano-Fisherman's Wife"
F. Brett Cox - "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean"
Jennifer L. Julian - "Dance"
Alexis Brooks de Vita - "The Savant"

The opening paragraph of the prologue:

In the dark night of the human soul, a fire is lit and a tale is told, stirred from a chthonic pottage of dirt, blood and terror: the folktale. The flame that simmers our earthly supper does double duty as light through black hours toward the brave sun of day. We feed the body and the faltering spirit with hearth fire, campfire, candlelight, and electricity: flames promising that we are not alone.

The anthology editor and contributor (and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers member) Alexis Brooks de Vita includes this mention of my story:

Oh, but where is that folktale world so fondly recalled from childhood? Right here in Patricia Stoltey's sun-spattered "Three Sisters of Ring Island," a familiar story scraped to its bare bones-so to speak.

You can read the rest of the prologue at the Double Dragon website.

The Tales in Firelight and Shadow ebook is also available from other online booksellers. The links are on the Double Dragon website.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

I Will Take My Heart With Me on the Journey ... by Sarah Reichert

When Pat so graciously invited me to be a guest on her blog, I was excited and nervous. After all, she is an amazing storyteller and I’m a bit of a hack. I’m a mere neophyte in the writing world. So, I began to think about what I could write that may help those fellow novices out there, who are floundering for steady shore.

Like much of what I’ve done in my life, when I started writing (or at least writing with the end-goal of being published in mind) I believed that all I needed was to study all of the books, manuals, and how-to guides I could find. Surely, filling my brain with reference material would elicit the desired result. Like other skills I’d acquired, it was just a matter of following rules and proven methods. And to some extent, that is true. There’s no limit to the varied resources that exist for writers. From writing dynamic dialogues, to outlining solid plot structure, to marketing your self to agents, it’s all out there in unending waves of information.

When I started with this “book learning,” I could see a long road stretching out before me. An overwhelmingly long road. Contradictory advice and constantly changing methods from differing ‘experts,’ and the fast pace of the current information age made my head swim.

All of the inspiration and function were tripping my brain up. I would go into a blank page with ideas of proper sentence structure, character and plot arcs, and deadly sins of first time novelists rushing into the small spaces of my creativity, damming it up like sticks in a creek.

Then one day, I made myself a promise to just write one page a day. The content didn’t matter. Whether it was a journal entry, a poem, an essay, or a first chapter, was of little consequence. It just had to be words. Not even well written ones. I dared to be bad at it. And I met that dare on several occasions. But occasionally, without the constructs and the preplanning, something beautiful would happen.

For all the form and function that is necessary, we must never forget that writing is also an art. It takes a certain amount of intuition, of daydreaming willfulness to cast a story onto the page. It takes gumption and fearlessness to create a character who is not ourselves, and live through them as they would, in a world that’s not our own. It takes the ability to walk hard miles in another’s shoes. To crawl inside the minds of the sick and confused and appreciate their point of view, without losing our own sanity.

Writing requires us to be empathetic to even the most lost of souls, and find their paths to redemption. Sometimes it calls on us to stand idly by while our characters ignore the right choices and suffer through consequences. You cannot learn from any book how to take a reader by the hand and lead them willingly down the path of your story. You can’t be taught how to make them care as deeply as you do for the outcome. That is something that springs up from experience and creating something you love with such terrible ferocity that it seeps through the pages and infects those who read it. Good writing is the unique balance of both function and feeling. It is a heart that leads a reader down paths that are devoid of distraction. This path cannot be shown by reference alone. It must be explored and felt.

I have plenty of paths to trod down still. I’ll have more than my fair share of obstacles along the way. I will always have to look up examples of query letters, and keep “The Elements of Style” handy. But I will take my heart with me on the journey and remember that the soul of a story, whether it sells or not, is the part that makes the writing itself worth the trip.

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Sarah Reichert is a free-lance writer and novelist in Fort Collins, Colorado. A Wyoming native, she’s been writing for over 22 years and recently published her first paranormal romance novel, Fixing Destiny. She is a blogger for the Northern Colorado Writers group, has been featured in The Fort Collins Coloradoan, and recently was published in the Summer 2014 edition of “From The Depths.” Sarah lives with her husband, daughters, a pretentious Siamese, and two lazy hounds in relative and unending chaos. She is currently working on a sequel to her first novel, and hopes to have it available by January 2015.

You can find out more about Sarah at her website and at The Writing Bug blog. She can also be found on Facebook. Her first novel, Fixing Destiny, is available in print and ebook atAmazon.com.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Stop This Treadmill....I'm Getting Dizzy

That's how I feel on a treadmill at the gym. I'm not sure when that started, but it's scary because the dizziness gets worse when I step off the equipment. It's a lot like finally disembarking after being out on the water a long time.

However, the treadmill I'm talking about is the current "try to promote a new book, finish writing another book, and do all that other stuff I agreed to do in moments of craziness where I thought I was superwoman" treadmill.

You know what I mean, right? Sometimes you take on too much? Sometimes you think you're Superman or Wonder Woman and your response to all requests for help gets stuck on YES and it keeps replaying over and over while you slowly drown in your commitments?

Well, maybe you don't do that.

I do.

And I think I like it.

If I quit doing all the stuff I do now, I'd end up a being a retired person.....who takes on projects and volunteer work and serves on boards and runs for office fosters abandoned cats and ends up on another treadmill.

Some of us humans are like that.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Letting Go of Self-Doubt ... by J. C. Lynne

Khaled Hosseini said in an interview, “Good writing days flow with tempo and cadence, on the bad days I sit and bleed.” Letting go of self-doubt is a writer’s daily struggle, best seller list or no. Natalie Goldberg, in Writing Down The Bones says great writing is a moment passing through you. A moment the writer’s awake enough to capture. Even on my good writing hours, days or weeks, my personal investment in the words clings to me. The Esau Emergence, my first published book, released July of last year. I finished the final edit, cutting 8,000 words this April. The sequel, The Esau Convergence, will be done in December.

Declaring my status as a writer comes with ease. I’ve heard from terrific people who enjoyed the book and can’t wait for the next one. I’ve sold copies to folks on my book tour. Readings, signings, and workshops are planned without anxiety. I’ve had a couple of harsh reviews, a scathing one from a guy named Wurst. True story. I still make jokes about it. It’s the people I know best who present the obstacle. The physical act of handing over a book terrifies. I feel the urge to cling to it, hands locked in a vise grip. I sent copies to my extended family, but I don’t ask if they’ve read it. The most passionate of readers among them are busy. I imagine they tense up when the subject arises. I don’t think my family has read it. It’s the safest tack. They can’t hate it if they haven’t read it. Win win. Sometimes the question pops out. Recently, I was in L.A. for a family thing, my uncle asked how my writing was going. The words escaped me, “Great. Have you read it?”

“I’ve meant to get a copy,” he said.

We were trapped. I don’t know what possessed me, but I handed him one of the two copies I carry for such an event. People, usually, pay me for them, but hey, he’s my uncle.

Okay, I didn’t hand it to him. I tossed it. I may have, sort of, thrown it at him. In fairness, I did sign it. I realized later I had been throwing my book at almost everyone. Not random everyones, just folks I know. People who purchase a book from me can tell you, I didn’t hurl the book at their head. My colleague, Rich Keller, mentioned he was going to read my book. I tossed him a copy. My friends, Sarah and Chad, reminded me they didn’t have a copy. I slid it across the table. I’m sure there’s a scene in a movie with one character clinging desperately to a book while the other character pries it out. I’m avoiding a scene.

My id is circumventing my ego. I have no problem selling my book or talking about my writing career. I’m inspired to be living my dream with the support of wonderful people, readers and writers alike (Wurst is still on my list). The good reviews continue to increase. Chad, not a passionate reader, said, “I didn’t know what to expect. I thought it might be a romance or chick lit, but WHAM, I’m in a military assault in Afghanistan. I love it!” That’s high praise.

I’m not a Hemingway fan, but he beat Hosseini to the blood bank. “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” We not only bleed but offer our blood to others. How’s that for ghastly? I have more deeply personal stories waiting for their moment, but everything I write contains a glimpse into my spirit. It’s a gift of sorts, but there’s no receipt for returns.

I hope by the time I’m done with the third book in the Esau Continuum, I’ll be at peace with the process. I’ve counted. I have six single novels in the works. I’m a writer. Good thing I can’t pitch worth a darn. I’m happy to sell you a book, but promise to duck.

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JC Lynne taught Literature and Language Arts for ten years. Her first novel, The Esau Emergence, was published July, 2013 by Ngano Press. The sequel, The Esau Convergence is coming soon. In addition to fiction, she writes creative non-fiction. Most recently, The Girl I Walk By, a short story, is available in Pooled Ink, 2013. She lives in northern Colorado with her husband, two teenage boys, her pups, and cats.

Find J.C.'s author page at Facebook or follow her blog about balancing writing with a houseful at her website/blog.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Coming Next Week....

I have guest bloggers Julia Lynne on Monday and Sarah Reichert on Thursday. Julia and Sarah are local authors from my home territory of Northern Colorado.

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I have my first appointment with the pre-hab physical therapist to prepare for my mid-January total knee replacement. Yay??

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The winners of my advance review copies of Dead Wrong on Goodreads will be selected by the Goodreads giveaway gods and I'll be putting those five ARCs in the mail. The deadline to enter is midnight Tuesday according to the Goodreads calendar.

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And I will be trying to pare my To Do List down to something manageable which means:

1.  I must stop playing Spider Solitaire. Cold turkey. Just stop it.

2.  I must stop watching television this whole week, EXCEPT FOR SURVIVOR. I love that show. The first year it was televised, I desperately wanted to apply. However, because of my really bad knees, I knew I couldn't hack the physical challenges without hurting myself....or suffering the humiliation of being the first voted off. So each new season I watch and live the experience vicariously.

Hopefully, those two adjustments will give me the extra time I need to get caught up (if I really can resist watching the recordings of Grey's Anatomy and Nashville and Scorpion and How to Get Away with Murder and Manhattan and The Amazing Race and 60 Minutes and Madam Secretary). 

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By the way, I finally got around to watching The Butler last night. That's an amazing movie. Highly recommended.