Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of

I'm going to see Rick Springfield in concert tomorrow night. I can't wait! As I sit here at my computer, I glance up to my right and feast my eyes on a lithograph showing the two sides of the man--a mature artist whose life experiences now influence his music; and the much younger, dream-driven teen idol I fell in love with so many years ago at the tender age of 14. As I stare at the photos for a moment longer, I suddenly realize why the younger Rick's picture is larger than the two older Rick images--because that's the way he wants to be envisioned by his fans. That's the Rick he wants people to remember--the Rick I remember. The man who chased his dream and caught it.

Back some twenty-plus years ago at the height of his career, he had it all. He was the steamy, dreamy Dr. Noah Drake on General Hospital, one of the most popular soaps of all time. His voice filled the airwaves as he coveted Jessie's Girl, and he tried his shot on the big screen as cocky rocker Jamie Roberts in Hard to Hold. After a few failed relationships with famous actresses (one of them being Linda Blair of The Exorcist fame),he found love with a record company receptionist, married, and had a son. His live-in-concert video, Beat of the Live Drum was flying off the shelves, and he took home a Grammy. His life was finally all he had hoped for. He dreamed big, and it all came true--simply because he never gave up.

We all have dreams, but how many of us actually pursue them? How many of us sit idly by and watch them fade away? I was blessed with a beautiful dream involving a man I call Mitch Tarrington. He came to live inside me, and by God's grace blossomed into a wonderful, beautiful part of my life that makes him so real I can hardly believe sometimes that he isn't. He drives me to be more than I am. He takes me to places I've never been before, to the very corners of my imagination. He fills me with such excitement that I just have to share him with everyone I know. He not only lives on the pages of my books, but in my heart. I'll never actually get a chance to shake his hand, give him a hug, or share dinner with him in a physical sense, but as long as I can dream him, I can be with him. I'll follow him wherever he wants to take me, as long as God is willing, and if you're up for it, I'll take you along, too.

Follow your dreams and let them take you into a whole new world full of possibilities. As the saying goes, if you can dream it, you can achieve it!

**Photo of Rick Springfield--still lookin' hot at 60!! (courtesy of Photobucket)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Take Time, Make Time

My writing career is starting to suffer, and it's all my fault. I can't remember for certain the last time I worked on my manuscript, scheduled a signing at a local book store, printed or mailed any promotional materials, or even updated this blog. Okay, I guess that last one was March 1, but only because the dashboard feature on the site told me so....

My excuse? Life. Like everyone else in the world, I have one--or try to, anyway. My life includes work, husband, children, pets, family, friends, and everything in between. Some days I feel as if I go non-stop from sunrise to sundown. I feel like there are so many demands on my time that I don't know where to begin or in which direction to turn. It's nonstop 24/7/365. With all these other things to do, how can I possibly find time to write?

The question really should be, if I truly love my craft as I say I do, how can I not?

When I really sit back and ponder my reasoning, it comes back to nothing more than poor time management. At the end of a long day, instead of losing myself in the world of Mitch and Dana Tarrington, I go into a vegitative state in front of some old Nick-at-Nite show on TV. In between loads of laundry, instead of cranking out a few phone calls to my local Borders or Barnes & Noble, I cruise my Facebook page. When I could be sending out flyers to groups for potential speaking engagements, I'm checking out the latest pictures of Chuck Wicks on y-Frog. So, it comes down to this--it's really not that I don't have the time to take, it's that I don't take the time I have.

Today I vow to work harder,bring my writing back to the forefront, and dedicate time to some aspect of it every day. Now, I will sign off so that I can pull up my manuscript--right after I paint my toenails.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sell Yourself First

In my almost six years as a writer, one of the most rewarding activities I've done is a book signing. Book signings are a fantastic way for an author to showcase his work and have the opportunity to meet with those who will be reading it. I have been honored and blessed to become acquainted with so many wonderful people who support my work and keep me knowing that what I am doing is worthwhile.

Something surprising I have found along the way, especially when participating in multi-author events, is that some writers don't share my views. They act as if the event is a chore, something they MUST do simply to get sales. Rather than interacting with patrons, they sit docile at their stations, stone-faced, delivering a greeting only if they feel it appropriate at the moment. When they do get a sale, they often give the feeling that they are doing the customer a favor by offering an autograph. There is very little, if any, appreciation involved in the transaction.

For the life of me, I don't understand why any author would convey that attitude toward the very people who are the lifeblood of his career. Why would people want to follow an author who treated them like just another dollar in his pocket? I know I wouldn't! While sales are important for any author, it is my opinion that readers are more important. Without them, what's the reason for our writing? I personally don't see a point in pouring myself into hours of work only to have the finished product collect dust in my garage. If an author hopes to get anywhere in his career, he needs to sell himself before he tries to sell his work--not the other way around. Readers who are made to feel special by an author are more likely to follow that author, purchase his books, and recommend them to others. If a reader likes you, he will be more enthusiastic about your work.

A few tips for your own events:

1) Greet all patrons who come within 2-3 feet of your signing table. Wear a smile, and invite them to browse your work.

2) Don't push for a sale, but rather tell them about the book and let them look through it. Simply let them know you will be happy to sign a copy for them if they are interested.

3) Give a sincere thank-you to everyone who takes the time to stop by, whether they purchase or not. It helps to have some type of printed information about your work for the patrons to take with them. (i.e. postcards, flyers, bookmarks)

I would love to hear what other tips you have, and why you feel you should sell yourself first.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Keepin' It Real

It came today! When I saw my son walking toward the house from the mailbox with the package, I got all giddy like a kid at Christmas. Cutting through the bubble wrap, I finally held in my hands what I'd been waiting the past ten days to receive. A virtual plethora of knowledge sure to boost my writing to the next level. A simple book entitled, The Writer's Guide to Places.

This outstanding work, written by authors Don Prues and Jack Heffron, provides authors with intricate details about 51 U.S. cities and 10 Canadian provinces. Its purpose is to help writers create realistic scenes, characters, and dialogue pertinent to the places their stories are based in. It's almost like taking a trip to the destination of your choice without leaving home. So far, I'm loving it! These men did an awesome job of researching every aspect of this book, making it an invaluable tool for the writer who wants the detail but may not otherwise have a means of obtaining it.

Being that I've already written two novels based in Philadelphia which contain very few actual facts about the city, I now feel empowered that I have some new knowledge to incorporate into future volumes of the Forever Love series. I can send Dana shopping at the Italian Market, and now appropriately place Gartano's on Philly's South side with the other quaint bistros of its kind. The boys in the band can enjoy a good hoagie while they dream of playing for a sell-out crowd at Veteran's Stadium. I love to keep my writing as real as possible, and this book will certainly help. However, there's still one thing I just can't quite bring myself to do.

I simply can't picture Mitch Tarrington saying, "Yo!"

I think I'll let Rocky keep that one.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Judge Not....

I'm a little ticked. Okay, more than a little because it seems this keeps happening over and over. This morning, a good friend directed me to a blog geared toward Christian authors. Thinking it was right up my alley, I eagerly scanned the site and soon learned that this group consists of several writers who share tips, blog about their work and experiences, and spread the word to readers in the market about new Christian book releases. Excited about the possibility of joining this group, I went to the page outlining membership criteria. There it was, staring back at me in bold black print:

(not verbatim)"We only accept works published through a traditional publishing company."

I was ticked!(I know, I already said that, but it bears repeating)Why are there still so many closed-minded individuals and groups in the literary world who look down on self- and independently-published authors? What makes an author who holds a traditional publishing contract any better or more qualified to write than those who chose an alternate route? In my opinion, and the opinions of many others I know, absolutely nothing!

Let's think about this. Self-publishing companies have made it easy for the average person to publish their work and take it to the marketplace. I am fully aware that there are many self-published works out which are poorly edited or not edited at all. As the saying goes, one bad apple spoils the bunch. But is that really fair to the rest of us who did take the extra time with our work to ensure its quality? Is it fair to say because "anyone can do it" (self-publish)that it's a sub-standard method or that all self-published works are sub-standard? I say, no, it's not fair at all. If anyone cares to do the research, many of our current, best-selling authors began as self-published. John Grisham sold his first books out of the trunk of his car. Nicholas Sparks kept his "day job" for three years after releasing his first book because he never thought he'd be successful at writing. Stephen King originally self-published as did Amanda Brown ("Legally Blonde"), William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White ("The Elements of Style"), and Christopher Paolini ("Aragon" series). I could list many others, but I think you get the idea.

I believe those who are so narrow in their thinking about alternatively published works need to wake up and take a look at what's really out there. At the risk of sounding vain, I'm self-published, and I personally have a proven sales record for my work, an established and ever-growing fan base, and two awards in a national contest judged by librarians and book sellers. My work is not "sub-standard" by any means. Neither are the works of the multitude of other self-published authors I know.

Now, as I close on my thoughts, let me state my disclaimer in that I don't mean to project that one publishing method is superior over any other, or step on the toes of those who hold contracts with traditional publishers. I am simply making a point that there is no reason whatsoever for self- or independently-published authors to be judged unfairly because of a few "bad apples." I've read plenty of traditionally published works that I personally felt should never have made it into print.

I say, forget about the publisher or method, and read a work before you judge it. Give it a chance. You may be pleasantly surprised.

What do you think?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Very Thought Provoking

Ever have writer's block? If you're an author between the ages of 1-200, then the answer to that question is most likely a resounding "yes." Ever wonder what you could do to get those creative juices flowing again?

I came across an article by Gretchen Rubin on Yahoo Shine about how to provoke the thought process to help produce ideas, solutions, and strategies. While it wasn't written with the author in mind, I still believe that we can apply her principles to guide us through those times when the muse takes a hike for the hills.

Go For A Walk--Nietzsche wrote, "All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking." Studies have shown walking increases alertness, focus, and energy.

Do A Headstand--Yoga buffs believe that ideas are stimulated by increased blood flow to the brain. (I'd recommend not doing this while sitting at your computer! HA HA)

Think About Your Problem Just Before Going to Sleep--Your mind keeps working while you dream and can often produce the solution you're looking for.

Try Touch--Touch or be touched--pet an animal, cuddle your kids, or get a massage. It helps you relax and can get your creative juices flowing.

Public Transportation--Looking out the window of a bus or train with the changing views and constant motion can stimulate your mindpower.

Shower--A long shower works for many people.

Talk It Out--Some people benefit from talking to others. Great ideas often come out of conversations.

I'd love to hear your tips for breaking through writer's block, and if any of these work for you!

Monday, January 25, 2010

All These Distractions!

With my sons off to school and a cup of hot decaf tea in hand, I sat down at my computer thinking, "Ah, yes--finally--the chance to do some serious writing."

Then, the phone rang. Youngest child got sick at school and needed to be picked up. Distraction number one.

Returned home, sat down once more (after reheating the tea)and poised my fingers over the keyboard. The timer on the dryer went off. Can't leave the clothes to wrinkle. Distraction number two. Clothes are out of the dryer--now, shouldn't I fold them and put them away? Distraction number three.

I could go on, but you get the idea. It's easy to become distracted from your work. You plan on writing that next great scene, that pitch to sell your latest article, thank you notes for your Christmas gifts, whatever. Your intentions are good, but there are just too many other things that keep you from completing the task. What can you do to stop this vicious cycle?

First, try to set aside a specific time each day to write. Dedicate that time to writing and nothing else. Unless there's a tornado heading straight for your office or you're being robbed at gunpoint (neither of which I hope ever happen to you!) don't let anything stop you. KBIC--keep butt in chair--and write. You might even plan specifically what you want to get written each day and dedicate yourself to not stopping until that day's writing task is completed.

Secondly, find a quiet spot away from things that may tempt you to stray from your seat. Don't sit where you can see the sink full of dirty dishes, or in my case, the basket of clean clothes. Believe it or not, those things will still be there (unfortunately) when you've finished your writing time.

If you have children, keep them occupied while you work by allowing them to watch a favorite video, draw on paper, or any other task that they can enjoy with minimal or no supervision from you. Be sure to set down "writing time" rules with children of any age; i.e. "I will be working in my office, at my desk, at the table, etc. You are NOT allowed to bother me unless it is an emergency." You can decide what constitutes an emergency in your home, and perhaps offer a small reward if they follow the rules.

What other distractions have you encountered, and how did you work through them? Please feel free to share your comments below. Thanks!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Hey, Look At Me!

I had an epiphany this morning. Contrary to any prior beliefs I may have entertained, I'm NOT the only writer in the world. In fact, I determined that there are somewhere close to ten billion others who have made the leap into the literary realm in one way or another.

Okay--so maybe ten billion is stretching it a little. But, I do know there are quite a few.

Ever-changing trends in the publishing industry are making it easier for authors to get their works into print causing those numbers to grow daily. Given this knowledge, how does one stand out in the crowd? What can a new author do to get noticed? Here are just a few tips to help you answer those questions:

1) Produce a quality product. By "quality" I mean everything from polished, carefully edited text to a catchy title and exquisite cover. Don't rely on your own abilities to catch manuscript errors, and stay away from cover templates. If your publisher doesn't offer these services automatically and your budget will allow for it, consider hiring professionals to help you proofread and custom design your book's appearance. If money is a factor, network to find people with some expertise in these areas.

2) Talk it up. Don't be afraid to tell people what you do and what you have to offer. Opportunities for networking are everywhere. I have become very skilled in bringing the words, "I'm an author" into virtually every conversation and situation. You never know when you will make a helpful connection! Remember the "3-foot rule"--everyone within three feet of you at any time should know what you do.

3)Find your niche market. What is your book about? Is there a specific audience that would benefit from its message? I write moral and tasteful fictional romance, and while there are men who have enjoyed my work, my actual target audience is women aged 15 and up. I have found success in speaking to church women's groups, ladies organizations, book clubs, and Christian-based groups. Take your work straight to those who will appreciate it most.

4) Advertise yourself. It's easy to talk about your work, but who are YOU? Believe it or not, there are many times when people are more interested in the author's story than the story the author has written. I can stand all day and tell a prospective reader what my books are about, but I find that when I share HOW the books came about, i.e, my personal story, I sell more of them. If someone likes, trusts, and values you as a person, they will naturally be drawn to what you've written.

5) Don't let them forget you. Seize every opportunity to promote yourself and your work, whether it's a simple book signing event, an appearance with a local group, or being a keynote speaker at a writer's conference. Seek out interviews with local media, volunteer to do readings at schools or assisted living communities (depending on the genre and age group of your book). Host a "Meet the Author" event at your local library. Even if you are far from finishing the next manuscript, keep your name and face out there promoting what you currently have to offer. It will only build anticipation for your future works.

What other tips do you have to offer new authors? What has worked for you? Please share!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Moving Right Along....

If you're an author, my heart goes out to you. I feel for you in the fact that, each and every time you finish one manuscript, you have to come up with an idea for another. Once you have the idea, you have to develop new characters, a plotline, a setting, and decide which "person" you are going to write from. Some work on a deadline which can add to the pressure. You may have to do research of some type. Occasionally writer's block sets in which can result in several hours, even days, of total brain freeze. And, let's not even get into the subject of editing....

While I don't mean to brag, I think I may have the upper hand by being a series writer. Each book in the Forever Love Series ends with a cliffhanger which serves a two-fold purpose: 1)it makes the reader eager for the next book in order to find out what happens (a clever marketing strategy!); and 2)it gives me the idea to work from for the next book. Because one book feeds off the plotline of the one prior, the characters remain the same. I need only to add one or two new ones per book to keep it all interesting, and that's only if I feel they will somehow be relevant to the overall theme. I use a James Patterson Women's Murder Club series style of both first and third person, so all the stories are told from the same POV. (and hey, if it works for him....) Being self-published eliminates the deadline issue, so that just leaves editing. Once again, we won't talk about that.

So, now that I have a third book in the making, I should be sitting pretty. Right? Not exactly. While being a series writer does have advantages, it comes with its own set of challenges that "individual" storytellers may not face. One of the biggest issues I deal with is to make sure my novels aren't clones of one another. For me, it's all about taking that cliffhanger ending and using it to build new, exciting, and entertaining circumstances for my characters to encounter. Its about being careful not to exactly duplicate scenes from the previous books even though my characters may find themselves visiting the same places or talking to the same people. I have to incorporate just the right amount of backstory into each book so that readers will be reminded of who someone is or why something is happening. Backstory also serves as a method to provide pertinent information to those who may not have followed the series from the beginning. Then there's always the task--once I get through everything else--in creating yet another cliffhanger ending that will be interesting enough to entice my readers into wanting the next book. After all that comes the tweaking, revising, more tweaking, rewriting, and yes, editing. Oh, and by the way, I'm not exempt from writer's block, either. There are many times when my muse decides to take a hiatus.

So, what's my point in all this? The point is that we as authors all seem to face the same obstacles in our writing regardless if we write all our novels individually or string them along as parts of a series. We all have those day-to-day issues that we strive to overcome in order to deliver that fresh manuscript to the publisher on time. The good news is, we do it not because we have to--after all, no one is holding a gun to our heads to make us write. We do it because it's in our blood. It's what we live for. And when we hold that finished product in our hands, that completed manuscript or published novel, we know it was worth it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Just Write

I have a confession to make--I am not a writer. Yes, I have written two books, and yes, I am writing another one. But in the official sense of the word, I don't qualify.

I didn't grow up thinking that someday I would be a writer. I didn't rush off to college and take classes in journalism or creative writing. I didn't pour myself into the 'classics' to see how others do it or study 'how to' books on style, grammar, or proper sentence structure. I've only attended a handfull of official writers' conferences, and that was only because I was one of the featured guests.

So, you see, I'm really not a writer. Or, am I?

Just what does it take to be a writer, or an author, or whatever title you want to give it? I was told by a few very wise people(both of whom are accomplished authors themselves) that all you really need to know how to do is tell a good story. I have encountered countless individuals over the past few years who have expressed to me their interest in writing. But the one thing I hear from these people more than anything is, "I don't know how to get started." The idea is in their head, but getting it down on paper seems to cause every nerve in their body to tense up. The connection between the brain and the fingertips just doesn't seem to be there.

So, what's the solution? It's really very simple. Just tell the story. Just pick up the pen or sit down at the keyboard and let the story come out. No doubt you have put the words together in your mind already, so just put them down on the paper or on the screen in exactly the same way. Don't worry if you have misspelled words, if the grammar isn't perfect, or you forget every punctuation rule you ever learned. When the story is finished, you can go back and take care of all the details.(or better yet, find a good editor to help you)

In writing my first novel, A Forever Kind of Love, that's exactly the way I did it. I sat down at my computer and just let the words in my brain flow into my fingertips. I didn't know--and at the time, didn't care--if I was doing it the 'right' way. I only wanted to tell the story, and I did. Everything else came after I had the manuscript completed. Because I took the initiative, I have not only been given the gift of a successful book, but I have built a fan base, made wonderful new friends, and am continually learning how to improve upon my newfound love. You will undoubtedly see the differences in the sequel, Waiting for Tomorrow. I have definitely grown.

And you know what? I told my story, and still have more to tell. Maybe I am a writer after all.

I'm All "Write"--How About You?

Some of us see images that others can't see. Most of us hear voices in our heads that others can't hear. All of us have what some might call an unhealthy obsession with our computers, pens and paper, and the written word. We spend countless hours making things up, scribbling down random thoughts and ideas, or combing through the research section at our local libraries. We're no strangers to critics, rejection letters, or red circles on our paperwork. We come from all races, backgrounds, and geographic locations. We share a common bond that separates us from the rest of the world. Despite what anyone may think, we really aren't crazy. We're writers, and I'm here to tell you, we're all "write."

Welcome to The Ink Spot. I undertook this blog at the prompting of two good friends of mine--Freelance Writer and Author Marie Cauley, and Freelance Writer Kristine Meldrum Denholm. Both are accomplished writers and fellow bloggers who felt that it was time for me to break out of my shell a little and share my personal knowledge and experience with the rest of the literary community. Now that I'm here, I hope to encourage, inspire, and support those who have published, are in the process of publishing, or still working toward making that dream a reality. As for those who simply wish to follow the blog as nothing more than good reading material, I hope you'll find a place here as well.

Once again, welcome. Take a look around, stay as long as you'd like, and come back often. I look forward to our times together.

Until next time...happy reading and writing!