Tag Archives: writing

Sometimes the Browse Button Loses

withinI love to listen to Within Temptation when I’m writing the Guardian books. I read online that the sound is called symphonic metal. That fits. The female power vocals with the metal background work together to create a feeling that fits the Sharlene Gallagher universe…especially when she finds herself in heaven.

In an effort to recreate the feel of the music for a different book, I browsed through Spotify and let it pick music for me.

BIG MISTAKE.

One minute I’m writing along to power vocals and metal guitar and the next some guy is screaming in a voice terrifies the crap out of me.

I stumbled on to Within Temptation through Grooveshark after listening to Angtoria’s What the Wise Woman Said. I’m glad I did because the music has inspired three books so far. I guess I’ll stick to what works for sure instead of looking for something new. ❤

*******

If you haven’t signed up for my newsletter, you can here. I send one a month at the most, so no spam.

Angel Eyes, The Guardian Book 3 released this week. Yay!

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.

 

 

Where Do You See Yourself in Six Months?

question-63916_640I asked a friend that question yesterday. It’s an important question.
A question I ask myself regularly. I don’t want to tread through the water of life. I want to live intentionally, with a purpose. I want to hold on to my dreams and to work to achieve them.
I used to sell Mary Kay, and I remember listening to this National Sales Director on a tape. She said every day she went to work she was surrounded by friends who said, “I’m so tired,” “I’m so tired,” “I’m so tired.” And one day she said, “Well, I’m not.”
She was hugely successful at that job and went on to be hugely successful with Mary Kay.
I love those stories. I love that successful people have so many traits in common. Living intentionally is one of them. Having a goal is another. Surrounding yourself with people you want to be like is another.
The thing about success: I don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Successful people like to share their success stories.
That’s a lesson I did with my seniors this year. I don’t know how many of them actually followed through with the end of the lesson, but I had them make a five-year plan and then I told them to find someone who was where they wanted to be and ask them how they got there.
Success isn’t a secret.
It’s also not one size fits all.
Knowing the answer to the question where do you see yourself in six months (1 year, five years…) helps measure success.
I don’t sell Mary Kay any more, but the lessons I learned listening to the success tapes have been invaluable to my life.
Do you have a plan? A vision? An answer to the question?
I highly recommend the book The Success Principles: How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be. It’s easily one of the best books I’ve read.
Can you answer the question where do you see yourself in six months (1 year, five years?)
I can.
And I’m going to live intentionally to reach those goals.

*********
Don’t forget to sign up for my author newsletter here. I only send the newsletter out when I have new releases, so no more than once a month!
legs 1600by2400smallAngel Eyes, The Guardian Book 3 releases July 20!

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.

Screen-Shot-2013-11-11-at-6.44.50-PM-1024x768

 

 

 

 

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!

*****

legs 1600by2400smallDon’t forget to sign up for my newsletter here. (Giveaways and more!)

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

 

Teenagers Do

It’s easy to complain about “kids today.” That’s been the beginning of many a tirade over the centuries. I can imagine the conversation after Jesus stayed back at the temple and Mary and Joseph realized he was gone.

But here’s the deal.

Teenagers today DO. More often than not they give of their time to help others, they encourage others, they want to be more and do more and see more. They are so freaking smart! It sucks big time that they’ve been brought up in this age of standardized testing where they’ve been encouraged to do less and think less by our government, but even though they’ve been conditioned to bubble, they still THINK BIG.

They understand collaboration, and they can multi-task like nobody’s business…not as good as they think but a heck of a lot better than me.

And they do all this in a world where distractions are a constant.

CAMP 1I saw all this at the publication camps I’ve been to with my students this summer. In Dallas my yearbook editors came up with an amazing theme and worked together to bring the idea to life. They did all this while keeping up with the World Cup soccer coverage.

Camp 2Then we went to the second camp last week with newspaper, photographers and other staff and HOLY COW. They scrapped their original idea even though it meant so much more work and created a whole new concept.

I’m so excited to work with this amazing group of kids. I’m excited to see what they do next in life too.

It’s easy to gripe about kids today, but the truth is they haven’t changed. They’re as awesome as always.

*****

Don’t forget to sign up for my author newsletter here!

legs 1600by2400smallAngel Eyes, The Guardian Book 3 comes out July 20! I can’t wait to hear what readers think!

 

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. 🙂

*****

legs 1600by2400smallClick here to sign up for my author newsletter! Giveaways, free reads and more!

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.)

 

 

 

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.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Weird.

It took 47 minutes of trial and error to get to one word of good revision on the Sam and Patty story tonight.

47 minutes.

And that word was glorious. No, really, it was “Glorious.” A one word sentence. That led to 1638 new words. All of them desperately needed to help flesh out this story with decent characters.

Thank God I found the words. Or they found me.

Three hours later, it’s time to call it a night.

I don’t want to.

I want to sit and write and write and write to the Ennio Morricone and Yo-Yo Ma playlist I’ve got loaded on Spotify. I never would’ve guessed those spaghetti westerns I hate would lead to great words. Unforgiven and Pale Rider? Sure. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly AND Hang ‘Em High? No way.

I didn’t realize what they were right away. I just typed in cello music and dragged a ton of songs over to the queue. I’m addicted now.

It sure makes writing easier when you want to listen to the music that moves the soul of the story.

 

Stop Yer Whining….

Okay, I KNEW this revision was going to be tough. I’d done a quick pass once. Sent the work to some friends (even though I know better than to do that in the throes of I finished a book! adrenaline.

My friends who read the work were sweet. They said things like “I really like Sam and Patty but…” and “It seems like you could use a little more something….” and “you know, I can’t really see anything in the story. It needs some fleshing out maybe.” and…. “Your end conflict…completely unbelievable.”

So I put Sam and Patty’s story aside to look at later. And I drafted another book. And I came back to Sam and Patty and I loved the story still. I mean so what that it’s just a bunch of dialogue with some paint swatches thrown in for color every once in a while. I agreed totally with the end conflict cliche I’d written, so I fixed that. But something wasn’t right.

So I put Sam and Patty’s story aside to look at later. And I drafted another book. And I came back to Sam and Patty and OH DEAR GOD. I’ve written some awesome dialogue. For paper dolls. This poor story couldn’t be more flat. It isn’t a real story at all!!! It’s a detailed outline. A beginning. But nowhere near done.

And so the revision work…the real revision work not editing work…starts.

That’s my self-publishing word of warning. It’s easy to hit publish on a book that’s not ready. Find people you trust to give you feedback on whether the story is ready. And read a ton. I know the books I’ve read the last three months helped me see the gaping holes in this story. I mean the whole time I was reading and making notes tonight I was thinking What Would Jill Shalvis Do? AND Where is the Karen Templeton Emotion? And write a ton. Those other two drafts I’ve written are drafts…I know that. The second one is better than this one, but it’s still a draft. The third one is waaaayyyyy better than this one and the next, but it’s still a draft.

I’ve got a lot of work to do.

Friends who so kindly let me know this book wasn’t ready without totally killing my writer soul…thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!

 

 

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.