Tag Archives: self publishing

Kill Them With Kindness

DelTacoGrumpy old Walter came in every day, and every day he ordered the same thing. Del Nachos no tomatoes. He never smiled. Never said think you. Just placed his order, waited for us to call his name and then carried his tray to a table facing outside the store to eat.

Walter didn’t know our names–we didn’t think–but we knew his because calling orders by name was a must.

I loved working at Del Taco, but I Did Not Love grumpy old Walter. I also did not love little kids that made big messes. Or people who came in one minute before close and ordered the whole menu. Or wiping my eyes after chopping jalapenos. Good God that hurt.

Sorry, got sidetracked. Back to Walter…and the kids…and those last minute people out to ruin life as we know it.

Before you could work for Del Taco, you had to train. And training was serious business. You had modules to study and tests to take, and our bosses were intense about those training sessions. To this day I can tell you the history of Del Taco. I can also tell you Del Taco took customer service seriously. Those lessons I learned about kill them with kindness have been life savers over the years. But MAN they were hard to follow through on. At least they were until one day after about six months of Del Nachos with no tomatoes.

Walter shuffled when he walked. And he had silver hair and deep set wrinkles like Walter Matthau in Grumpy Old Men. And he really liked those Del Nachos.

For some reason I set out to make Walter smile. Maybe my friends and I had a bet or something, I’m not sure. I just know I decided to do everything in my power to get him to like me. Pretty soon all of us were doing it.

Walker would walk in and we’d greet him like an old friend. “Walter!” And then we’d yell back “Del Nachos no tomatoes.”

Then that six month day of reckoning.

A mom with multiple children made a mess around the table next to where Walter sat. And by mess, I mean HOLY FREAKING COW, KIDS, did you eat anything or reenact nuclear war?

So I had the sweeper out on the floor when Walter came in and we all yelled Walter like he was our very best friend. By this time Walter had softened a bit. He still didn’t smile, though.

When his order I came up, I grabbed the tray and took it to him and made sure to tell him how happy we were to see him. To be honest it had kind of become true. Somehow in the effort to trick him into smiling, he’d become a character in the daily life at Del Taco. A character I’d miss if he skipped.

Walter took the tray and Then. He. Spoke. He said thank you.

It was incredible.

It was just the start.

Because once Walter started talking, he didn’t stop.

He explained

Why he came to Del Taco every day.

And ordered Del Nachos.

Without tomatoes.

Turned out Walter liked tomatoes. But his wife didn’t. So they ordered their nachos to share, and he sacrificed the tomatoes for her. And when she died, it was like this one thing would bring her back. If only for a moment.

And then he said thank you again. Because every day he came in and we greeted him with smiles even though he knew sometimes he could be surly.

Walter taught me a lot about life that day.

I use Walter in my classes pretty often to tell kids they never know whose life they’re impacting. I was lucky Walter told me. People don’t always tell you, but rest assured, every person you meet could be a Walter. ❤

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Angel Eyes, The Guardian Book 3 released this week. Yay! And Dead Girl Walking, The Guardian Book 1 is free for one more day. Get your kindle copy now.

 

 

 

 

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Release Day Tomorrow!

Angel EyesAngel Eyes, The Guardian Book 3 releases tomorrow on Amazon kindle. The paperback will be available everywhere books are sold soon. I hope readers will enjoy the third installment in the Sharlene Gallagher mystery series.

I’m starting a new book right now, and it’s sooooo hard to get back into the rhythm of writing new pages. I forget that sometimes. I forget that I have to write and write and revise and write and try different music until the perfect combination hits and then I write a draft Fast Draft style. That draft is nowhere near publishable, but it’s a start, a skeleton of the story that will be.

Earlier this week I read a post by a NYT bestseller that said the key to writing isn’t just writing. He’s right. Becoming a writer is about studying words and word craft. But he’s also wrong. I can study the craft all day long, but if I don’t sit down and write, it won’t make a difference.

I do love craft books. Donald Maass’s books are some of my favorites. Gary Provost’s Make Your Words Work is fantastic. The exercises are great for the classroom as well. The Artist’s Way is invaluable to releasing your creative spirit. I worked through The Artist’s Way with friend/colleague/former student Scotty Coppage the summer Sharlene Gallagher showed up on the page one day. The rest is history.

I’m looking forward to an amazing release week and a week of Fast Draft style writing. If you subscribe to my newsletter, you’ll get one tomorrow! If you don’t, you can subscribe here.

 

 

So You Want to Write a Book

TWO WORDS OF ADVICE:

Start. Writing.

Okay, I lied. Two more words of advice:

Start. Reading.

If you’re not reading, you can’t write. If you’re not writing, you’re not writing. It really is that simple.

If you think you don’t have time, you’re wrong.

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If you want feedback on your writing, find someone to give it to you. I can, other writers can, your mom can. If you want some guidance, check out local writing groups and books like On Writing by Stephen King.

Just remember, you can want to write all day. You’ve got to DO it for it to count!

*****

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Angel Eyes, The Guardian Book 3–Out July 20!!!!

 

Blink and They’re 24, Living in Ohio

katie 1stWay, way back when I first started writing, about the time this photo was taken of DD, I developed a writing schedule. Back then I never wrote before 9 p.m. when DD went to bed and I’d write until whenever.

When I was student teaching, my amazing cooperating teacher Jan Adams gave me some great advice. She said NEVER take your work home with you and to remember that teaching is a job not your life.

I don’t think it’s possible to truly leave your work at school if you’re a teacher. There’s just too much to do. But it is absolutely essential to remember teaching is a job, and teachers need lives outside of the classroom. If we don’t protect our time with our families and our time for ourselves, we’ll burn out. Burned out teachers are NOT good in the classroom. They can’t be. (This is all EASY, PEASY in the summertime!)

I have to believe my writing has helped keep me from burning out. I have friends who are artists, and I see the same thing there. When they practice their art, they are better teachers. When they cook or redecorate houses or play games or travel, they are better teachers.

I feel confident this is not just a teacher issue. Any job that consumes life is bad news. Writing kept my job from consuming my life. And it helped me remember family first.

Back in those days when DD was little, scheduling time to write was easy.

katie nowNow that she’s 24 and DH and I are empty nesters and DD lives 1300 miles away….

It’s a good thing I ingrained the writing schedule into my brain. Today, I still write more from 9 p.m. until whenever than I do the rest of the day.

I write more unless I’m intentionally taking time off. Time off like last week when DD came to visit. 🙂

*****

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Angel Eyes, The Guardian Book 3 releases July 20!

Dead Girl Walking, The Guardian Book 1 releases in audio this month. More info soon! (I love, love, love the book in audio!!!! I can’t wait to share.)

 

 

 

Angel Eyes, The Guardian Book 3 out July 20! Sneak Peek

I can’t wait to hear what readers have to say about Sharlene Gallagher’s new adventure!

Angel Eyes

I look at the doublewide trailer then back to Peter and wonder if this could possibly be real.
“No way.”
Peter squints at me like he can’t believe I think he jokes about this kind of thing, but he doesn’t say a word. Unless it’s sage advice about my Guardian duties, Peter’s pretty tight lipped.
I thought that would change after…another story, another time. Suffice it to say Peter’s my boss, he saved my life and kept me as part of The Guardian. We’re angels. We protect innocents who have somehow gotten sucked onto a path toward death before their time. I’m not supposed to tell my charges I’m their Guardian, but that never seems to work out for me.
I’m a different kind of Guardian. I think I keep Peter on his toes, which is a very good thing.
“Here?” I stumble and nearly fall into a hole in the gravel road big enough to swallow a small car.
Peter doesn’t say anything, and my heart plummets. My last assignment nearly got me killed, but at least I got to live in a mansion. I’m dead already, courtesy of the serial killer who bludgeoned me to death. If I die in the afterlife, there are no third chances.
Peter takes my hand, one of the perks of this job, and we’re inside the trailer, in a room that looks like a million other rooms. Hello Kitty posters fight for wall space with posters of rock bands and Twilight movies. A black nail polish bottle turned over on its side sits on a plastic table near the twin bed that’s covered in a princess bedspread. A child’s colored paper is tacked to the inside of the door. The only thing out of place is a hole in the wall at the back of the room near the small closet.
All I can tell for sure is my new charge is tidy and likes vampires and maybe princesses.
“How long do I have?” I ask, and Peter understands I’m asking how long until I’m corporeal not how long until I either win and save my new charge or death wins and she dies.
“Tonight. In the morning you’ll be moving in next door with your mother.”
My heart twinges. I’m surprised the word still has power over me. I wonder what the word does to him now. After.
I’d met Peter’s mother on my last case. Scary chick with mucho crazy powers. You know those goddess statues at Caesar’s Palace? She’s like one of them. The real deal though, not a statue. And as terrifying as I found her, I think I liked her a bajillion times more than my mother…a woman who had turned her back on her daughter instead of facing the truth of her abusive husband.
I wipe away the bitterness of my human past and the worry over Peter’s sacrifice and try to focus on the case.
“I have a mother this time?” My voice sounds normal. Score one for me.
The smile on Peter’s face should have warned me. I’m still learning the truth about Peter’s tells, though, so I miss it.
Especially since he doesn’t get a chance to say more because the door shakes and a raven haired waif pushes her way inside. Once she crosses into her room, she slams her door shut, throws her book bag on the floor and flops onto the bed.
Her hair is dark as night, obviously bottle black. The ebony polish on her nails is chipped. She’s wearing ripped black leggings, a jean miniskirt, black ankle boots and a red, white and black striped long sleeved shirt. She throws her arm over her face so I can’t see what she looks like other than the fact that she’s tiny.
“Dagan.” A woman’s voice sounds at the door.
“Go away, Mom.” The girl on the bed says.
“Dagan, you can’t just stay in there.”
The girl pulls a pair of headphones from a pocket sewn across the front of her shirt and loses herself in music so loud I can hear it. It sounds more like a bunch of screaming than singing to me, but she seems to like it alright. She doesn’t answer her mother, but she does drop her arm, so I can see her.
Her skin is too pale. The kind of pale from being sick or malnourished or using the wrong color foundation. Her eyes are way too dark from eyeliner that went out of style in the early 80s. When I look beyond the black smudges marring her skin, I see her eyes are actually amazing. Crystal blue almond shaped eyes that seem to war with being too big and perfect at the same time. She’s staring at the ceiling in a way I understand. She’s here in this room, but not really. I wonder where her mind is, where she’s escaped to.
She opens a drawer in the blue plastic table beside her bed and shoves a photo aside to grab a moleskin journal. She stares at the pages blankly for awhile then starts writing furiously. For an hour she pours her heart out on the pages until the words work themselves out. I’ll need to look at that journal. That’s what I’m thinking when she stops writing. But then she takes the pen she’s using and starts stabbing the notebook then drawing dark lines through the words until nothing’s left but a sheet of angry scribbles.
When she throws the journal it hits the wall and bounces back at the same time her feet hit the floor. A few seconds later she’s out the door without a word.
“Should we follow?” I ask completely unsure. I understand pain. I understand anger. But this is something different.
When Peter doesn’t answer, I turn to see what he thinks, but, of course, I’m alone in the room. Peter’s gone.
My charge, my case, my choice.
I start to head out the door but something in the drawer catches my attention. It’s the photo that had been on top of the journal. The frame is cheap, shiny metal. The kind you get at a discount store. The photo inside shows a gap-toothed elementary-aged child with eyes that match Dagan’s. And beside the frame a newspaper clipping. The headline stops me cold. Girl Goes Missing, Foul Play Suspected.
I can’t pick up the paper without Peter. Not until I’m corporeal, but I can read it.
Gentry Miller, 7, missing from a park near her home since Christmas. No witnesses. No clues.
Crap. A missing kid. Why on earth would Peter assign me to this case? I mean, I can help Dagan with her makeover needs and I might be able to help keep her alive, but a missing sister is way out of my newbie Guardian league. We don’t get to choose our assignments though, so I need to get to work.
I start to zap to wherever it is my new charge has disappeared, but I stop when her mother walks into the room. The woman wears the lines of pain around her eyes with a pretty kind of grace. Her blonde hair is pulled back in a tight ponytail. She’s sporting green scrubs with chunky white tennis shoes, and she looks way too young to be the mother of my charge. She sits on Dagan’s bed, runs her hand over the bedspread and bites her lip when she sees the photo in the bedside table. I think maybe she’s going to pull it out of the drawer, but she doesn’t. Instead she closes the drawer, then shuts her eyes and says a small prayer.
Please God, keep her safe. Please, keep her safe.
And I wonder if she means Dagan or the little girl in the photo.

The thing about summer

During the school year I write from 7-whenever I stop because I know I have to work the next morning, I watch TV one night a week, I plan my week with writing front and center and I say things like, “I can’t wait for summer,” and “It’s going to be like I’m a full-time writer.”

And then summer hits. And I take a nap. And another. And another. I try new recipes. I go to the gym (some years). I take another nap. I read a book, I listen to a book, I read the paper cover-to-cover, I Facebook and tweet and take another nap. I get hooked on a TV show I can watch from season 1 to season 7 in one week (The West Wing, y’all. I can’t even. It is simply magical. Yay Donna and Josh!). And I take another nap.

And I write about writing. And I read about writing. And I look at my Pinterest board For Writers. And I take another nap. And I watch my tomatoes grow and I look at my gardenia and say “bloom, baby, bloom!” and I play with Emmie–who really wishes I’d just leave her alone and go to the office.

And then I reach today and it’s 7 p.m. and I’ve taken naps and done all the rest, but I’ve spent about four hours editing total in four days and I realize if this is full-time writing, my dream of making this my full-time job in nine years is never going to happen because studying the dialogue of Gilmore Girls isn’t going to get any books written.

So this is me saying it’s time to get real. I can sleep later and watch TV later and mess around on Pinterest later.

If you need me, I’ll be in the office. Writing.

Another rough draft done….

…and now the real work starts.

I started writing for publication the fall of 1997. Back then I wrote religiously.

And after five years of rejections, I started fiddling around. I pretended to write. I wrote in spurts. I played at being a writer. But those rejections slayed my writing spirit. Another five years of rejections killed that spirit.

Honestly, even though I’d write a book a year–usually–, that book wasn’t heartfelt. It was almost fearful. I tried to write to the rules and to what I thought Harlequin would want because Harlequin was my dream.

Two and a half years ago (or maybe three) I put my thesis online. Honor and Lies was my heart. My professors loved it…which isn’t always a good thing. I mean, you don’t want an audience of professors to be your only fans.

But what did I have to lose? The book was sitting on my computer and in the MSU library. It was a tribute to my grandma, and I wanted to give it a chance to be shared by others.

A couple months later I published a couple romances and that was that. I figured I had a backlist of written works, I’d go through them and post them and whatever happened, happened.

Only I started The Artist’s Way with colleague Scotty Coppage and I started working again. It was bits and spurts at first.

The first book I wrote to self-publish was Dead Girl Walking, the first of the Sharlene Gallagher guardian angel mysteries. And since then I’ve written everything to self-publish.

Last summer I came up with a business plan and a publishing schedule. And my arm quit working.

If you know me in real life or kept up with the blog, you know I mean it quit working completely.

For a month I cried because all my plans were flowing away with every day the arm got worse. Not only that, but with each non-writing day I saw myself growing closer to the “writer” Mary Beth. The girl who wrote some, when the muse hit, when she wanted to, instead of the committed writer, working on her craft.

Right before NANO one of my former students Emma found out about my arm and suggested the Dragon software.

In two weeks I wrote an novella using spiral notebooks and dictating to Dragon. The arm wasn’t an excuse. Since then I’ve worked on novels and novellas. I haven’t worried about the business side. I embraced the creative side and the excitement of creating characters and worlds and conflicts.

I’m not writing for anyone but me.

And I’m loving every minute of it.

Suddenly I’m not okay publishing the books I’ve got lined up on my computer as possibilities just because they’re done. I’ll go over them later. I want them to be the very best they can be. Sexy, scary, heartfelt…whatever it is they’re supposed to be, I want them to be that times a ten million.

Self-publishing gave me this even though I haven’t published a word since August 25.

I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words since then. I re-discovered my voice, my art.

And I’ve learned to trust in my creative soul. To pray first then write and let the words work.

I’m not ready to publish the books I’ve written since August 25. They’re all in different stages of the revision or editing process, but I will be soon.

For now, I’m happy that I’m writing and creating and loving it and hating it and working the craft.

It’s so funny to think that because of self-publishing I’m writing more–and better, I think–even though I’m not publishing a word.

 

 

 

What I’ve Been Doing

August 2013

August 2013

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The last week has been one HUGE writing push. I’ve finished the copy edits for Sharlene Gallagher, Book 2: An Angel Earns Her Wings, and I’ve finished a round of edits on one of my romances. I’ve started the repackaging process on my print books, and I’ve made some business decisions.

I never really looked at my writing as a business, and that was a huge mistake.

Thank goodness for industry professionals like Kristen Lamb whose WANA blog helped me see the light. No more writing under three names. My YA and Inspirationals will now be published under the name Mary Beth Lee. The romances will continue under Liz Lee. I can handle publicity for two, but three…no way.

I’m working on a business plan now thanks to The Indie Voice book, The Naked Truth About Self-Publishing. If you are self-published and looking at your writing as simply craft OR you’re interested in self-publishing, get this book first. The Indie Voice authors walk you through their plan step-by-step, and the information is invaluable.

I’m working on increasing my word count thanks to the inspiration of critique partner Karen Kelley and The Artist’s Way challenger/former student/current colleague Scotty Coppage.

It’s been an interesting 18 months. Our empty house filled up, we built a house, we got a dog (and I love her so much) and our full house emptied. In the midst of that, I wrote, but I wrote into the mists with no real plan. That’s changed now. More on that later. I’ve got work to do, so I’m signing off!

Emmie: Rescue Dog, Life Lessons

DD rescued Emmie. We think she was used as a puppy mill dog. She’s still scared if we make loud noises. She finally started barking this week. She’s a sweet dog, and we love her. She’s teaching me A LOT!

Potty training a dog takes consistency and patience. It’s been over 20 years since I’ve shared space with a dog. I’m a cat person. I didn’t exactly plan this interlude in potty training. But it’s here, so I’m going with it. I’ve researched and we’re working, and it’s two steps forward, one back, which is WAY better than two back, one forward. We finally got to the flip side of that equation.

Emmie’s teaching me about the power of consistency. Every day we work, she gets better about going outside. Last night she even stared at me until I figured out that was her sign. She needed to go out. YAY!!!! There’s a sign. It’s a miracle!

I’m doing revisions on the second Sharlene Gallagher Guardian book right now. I figure the revisions will be significantly easier if I’m consistent about working on them! Same thing goes for working out and weight loss. Consistency and patience. The keys to potty training a dog AND life.  (p.s. Praying for those affected by the OK fires.) ###

Writing YA as Elizabeth Lee and Christian Fiction as Mary Beth Lee. Find out more about my books on my Amazon Author Page. Currently working on revisions for Sharlene Gallagher Book 2. Book 1 Dead Girl Walking by Elizabeth Lee available in kindle and print.

 

A Home for Every Heart

My parents are ministers. My grandparents were ministers. I was raised in the church. And still, in my early 20s I wasn’t sure I believed in God. I’d definitely turned my back on organized religion.

I went to church with my parents sometimes, and I took my daughter to church sometimes, but I could have argued with the best of them about how the church was created for two reasons: money and the subjugation of women.
The lifestyle I lived could be classified as humanistic, I suppose. I was a “good” person. Enough said.
When an elderly customer invited my boyfriend to church one Sunday, I’m not sure why we went. Probably because they were expecting a new minister and the church was by the mall.
Whatever the reason, we went. And from the moment we walked through the doors, the church motto, “A Home for Every Heart” rang true. We weren’t judged. We were accepted. Everything changed.
My church made a point to minister to people with a world of hurt in their eyes. I think Letting Go started way back then. An idea I had to grow into.
So many people hurt today. And so often we forget the role of the church as my minister today says is to Love God, Love People. We get so caught up in life or work or what we need, we forget about others. I’m certainly guilty of that. Or we get so holy and full of our “rules” we think we’re better than others. I’ve been there, too.
Thankfully, God doesn’t expect perfection, but he did give us direction.
John 13:34-35 (NIV)
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Today, I believe. I don’t clobber people upside the head with that belief. I don’t preach hellfire and brimstone. I don’t talk about the rules. I simply say God sent His son to die for our sins and He loves us unconditionally. He’s ALWAYS there, even when we don’t believe. ###

Find out more about my books on my Amazon author’s page. Letting Go by Mary Beth Lee available in kindle format and print.

***GUEST BLOGGER alert. Janet Brown will be guest blogging here tomorrow. Her story is so inspirational. Please stop by!