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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Update and Blog Hop!

It is crazy to me to reflect on how important blogging was for me a few years ago. I spent hours reading blogs and writing my own every week. Now, I never get here. In a sense it's unfortunate, it was a great way to get into the thoughts of people who took the time to write about their lives. On the other hand, life ebbs and flows and things are always changing.

BUT, now and then a situation comes up that is worth blogging about. My readers have been due for an update and I've been quiet about what I'm doing after Sadie because it was new and different and I 1) Didn't want to take away from the excitement of my final Culinary Mystery 2) Didn't have a contract on my new project. But I have the contract now, signed and filed. And so this was a perfect opportunity for me to kill a few birds with one stone.

As stated in the title, this post is brought to you from a blog hop. Anna Elliott tagged me in her blog and I really enjoyed hearing about her projects and routines. Take a minute to check it out at www.annaelliotbooks.com. And thanks for tagging me Anna.

What are you working on?
I am getting my ducks in a row to have the final book in my Sadie Hoffmiller Culinary Mystery novel released this December. The series has been several years worth of work and as it came to an end I was ready to do something new. I had an idea for another clean mystery series, but when I tried to write it my main character sounded too much like Sadie. I decided, instead, to cleanse my palette and write something totally new. I submitted a few ideas to my publisher and the one they liked the most was a Regency Romance. If you go back in time with me to the very first story I ever wrote back in 1995, it was a Regency. It's terrible. But it was the first story I laid out on paper. I have long loved the genre and been really thrilled to see it revive these last couple of years. It was so fun to write something fresh, but in a genre and timeperiod I was already in love with. The title is "A Heart Revealed" and it will come out in May of 2015. I'm also working on a Regency Novella for one of the Timeless Romance Anthologies, as well as making progress on another full length Regency romance that will follow this first one through Shadow Mountain.

How does your work differ from others' work in the same genre?
In regard to my culinary mysteries, I think the biggest difference is the age of my protagonist--late 50's--and my focus on home cookin'. I'm not a gourmet, but I love having the "best" corn bread and the "tried and true" cookie recipe. I think both elements created a broader readership for the books and more relatability to kitchen-cooks like myself.
In regard to my Regency, I think my novel is different in that it is issue driven. Prior to my mysteries, my books were women's fiction or romance, but they were always driven by a modern issue. I guess when you're an author with lots of issues, you naturally put other issues into your stories. I can't give away the issue without giving away the book, but it's set in early 19th century London and Yorkshire and was so so so much fun to write. It is still first and foremost a romance, that's our main story, but I'm hoping that the women's fiction type of spin will be something my readers will both recognize and enjoy.

Why do you write what you do?
There are a bunch of answers to that, so I'm going to put them all down. I write what I write because: I love it (always important :-), the story builds as I think on it (many ideas fizzle out before I get to paper), I think readers will like it (both my mysteries and romances are clean), I think it will make money (I have a mortgage), it "feels" right, it appealed to me as a reader, and I think I can do it. Some days one of those reasons is bigger than the others--some days I'm writing for a check, other days I'm writing because it's fun, other days I'm writing because the story is getting so big in my head I have to let out some pressure.

How does your writing process work?
I am a work in progress when it comes to what kind of process works for me. Until recent years, I never outlined, but the last few mysteries required I make a plan to say on track with the series. I started the regency with just a synopsis, and then was able to stick to it pretty well--I've never done a synopsis before writing the book. I wish I knew what would work for me every time, but maybe that's what works for me--trying new processes and going back on old processes that work. My current process is a very basic outlining before I start and brainstorming sessions before each writing session. I'm writing about 3 days a week for 5-6 hours at a time. It sounds a lot more organized that it really is, but it's working so I'm going with it.

As for the author I'm choosing to tag, I hope you will hop over to the blog of my dear friend Nancy Campbell Allen. She is best known for her civil war stories and historical fiction series written under the name N.C. Allen, but is a multi-talented writer with some exciting things on tap. Please check her out at www.ncallen.blogspot.com

Friday, May 30, 2014

How Do You Overcome Lack of Confidence?

I received this question via Facebook and as I started to answer I realized it was a little more than a Facebook message, so I decided to blow the dust off my blog and post it here.

The actual question was "How did you get over (if you ever had it) the lack of confidence as you were writing?

First, LACK OF CONFIDENCE DOES NOT MEAN YOU CAN'T DO THIS.

I have lacked confidence throughout all fifteen of the years I've been writing. Over and over and over again I struggle to believe I can do what I've set out to be. I doubt my writing ability, I doubt my ability to find time, I doubt that people will be happy with the result. I read reviews that paralyze me, I face discouragements that make me wish I'd never started, I continually fear that my best ideas are already used up and whatever I do next will be lousy. Every writer I know faces it, so, yes, I have certainly faced with lack of confidence--I am right now battling a fear of being able to do something new and getting over a rather stinging rejection that took me away from my computer for weeks.


Second, THE ONLY WAY TO OVERCOME LACK OF CONFIDENCE IS TO SET YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS.

Start with very small goals you know without a doubt you can accomplish that is not tied to anyone else's efforts but your own. Some examples of the easiest goals would be "Write for 15 minutes" or "Read a chapter in that how-to-write book"or "Look up submission guidelines for one agent." It will feel silly, because you know that you can do it, but that's the point. Most of us (especially women) live in a world of not only "I'm not enough" but "I shouldn't be enough." We compare and criticize ourselves to ridiculous levels about most things in our life. In the process, we train our brain to feel successful only when we are failing. It's neurotic, but we do it. Someone compliments our dinner and we point out that we didn't put enough carrots in the soup. Someone tells us we look nice and we point out that our pants are too tight. My best guess as to why we do this is that we are afraid of appearing arrogant and so we put ourselves down and create an atmosphere where we are more comfortable with our missing pieces than our wholeness. When we then take on something big, like writing, our brain is stuck in old patterns. We've trained our brain to be more attentive to our shortcomings and that's going to be a problem because we need to do well at this if we're to reach our goal. If you stay in that place of comfortable regret, you will never make this writing thing work. You have to allow yourself to be successful, it is the only way to build confidence and without that inner confidence, the outer pressure will crush this dream before it gets off the ground. This applies to much more than writing--in every part of our life it's through the accomplishment of objectives that we grow in our belief that we can do well at things. Set yourself up for success by setting small attainable goals.


Third, CELEBRATE ACCOMPLISHMENT.

When we accomplish those small and attainable goals, we need to celebrate them. In this case it's not a party (though it could be cake) it's simply being conscious that you did what you said you would do. You can say it out loud "I just wrote for 15 minutes!" you can write it down, you can tell a friend. Don't simply set another goal, take a moment to celebrate the one you just accomplished. This conscious practice of celebrating success floods your brain with happy chemicals that help teach your brain what to derive pleasure from. It is pleasurable to succeed at things, but since we're used to "I shouldn't be enough" it takes some training to get your brain on board with this. Find people who will celebrate with you--not everyone will--and share your success with them while inviting them to share their success with you. Many times we surround ourselves with people who are far more comfortable with our whining than our winning. Find people who will allow you to share your excitement and let them celebrate with you.

Four, TAKE FAILURE IN STRIDE.

Failure is both powerful and inevitable. You will face it and it will hurt. There will be some people who will try to spin it into "That wasn't fair" or "They don't know what they're talking about" and while it's nice to have that kind of support, if we don't "listen" to our failures and find out what they can teach us, we won't be better for them. On the other hand, if we let our failures stop us, we are giving them too much power. For me, I have tried to find a balance of feeling the hurt and embarrassment and disappointment for a period of time, and then forcing myself to be objective about it. Look for the truth in the failures and rejections, but don't live there. Remind yourself over and over again that this is a journey. You are not taking it only to accomplish something, you are here to learn. It's been said that you can learn more from your failures than your successes, I think this is true but it's up to you whether or not you approach them that way.

Best of luck. Happy Writing.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Altered Perceptions

I have often said one of the best parts of my writing career has been the people I've met through my writing. One of the people I've met is Robison Wells. I knew him before he began publishing nationally, before he moved to my neck of the woods, and before he was diagnosed with his first mental illness (Panic Disorder), which led to--or revealed--some others (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Self Harm and some others.) In the years since his diagnosis his life has changed dramatically. Unable to use his education (MBA) because he is unable to function in the workplace, he has turned his efforts to full-time writing. It's gone well for him, he's been able to create schedules and networks that have made it work within the limitations of his circumstances, but writing  doesn't give the same kind of security as a day-job that comes with. We are subcontractors, not employees, so we can't get health insurance or 401Ks or have our taxes paid through our publishers. The pay is sporadic and dependent on making the right connections with publishers and readers. Our contracts are for limited projects or timelines and the success of our books are dependent on a lot of people other than ourselves. Adding mental illness to the balance of things and it becomes tricky to the extreme.

In hopes of helping Rob support his family and pay off rising medical debts related to the struggles he's had, several of his writer friends have come together on an anthology project kind of like the "Bonus Features" you find on DVDs. Here are some examples of the contributions: Ally Condie is writing the forward, Dan Wells wrote the Introduction. Brandon Sanderson is different 5 "altered" chapters from Way of Kings and Jessica Day George is offering a deleted scene from Princess of Glass. There are well over a dozen other contributions, each of them unique and never been seen before.

For my part, I submitted the original opening chapters of Tres Leches Cupcake (Book 8 in my culinary mystery series). I wrote the chapters a few years ago and loved the intensity until i realized that nothing else in the book matched it; it was like writing the climax for the opening, which is never a good idea. But now those chapters, which have been patiently waiting on my hard drive, get life and, in the process, get to help someone else's real life.

This project is called "Altered Perception" and it was launched on Kickstarter today (April 21) There are ebook and hardback versions of the anthology available for pre-order as well as "Perks" donated by the authors for additional fundraising. There is some impressive stuff being made available and it's for a great cause; helping Rob and helping raise awareness for people struggling like he is.

You can read more about the project here as well as buy copies and perks. I hope you'll take a minute to check it out, share it on your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and whatever other networks you belong to. We've all seen people come together and make a small contribution to a huge undertaking. This is the chance to do exactly that. I hope you will.