Sep 21, 2017

The Main Thing I Took Away From the ANWA Writers Conference

I've been home from the ANWA conference nearly a week. If you recall from my last blog post, one week prior to the conference, I was running around screaming and waving my arms in the air. Okay. This is not unusual for me, but there was a sense of urgency the last time around.

Now I'm home, the deed is done, and the pitches complete. I cannot undo what has been done, and quite frankly, I don't want to. I'm happy.

Not because we got one full and one partial request for our non-fiction, or because they wanted the first fifty pages for my YA novel.

 My happiness doesn't stem from my little sister and I getting first in our respective genres for the BOB (Beginning of Book contest), or from the new writerly friends I made, or even the dozens of pages of notes, ideas, and inspiration I gained while I was there.

I am happy because I took a huge, monumental, earth-shattering (for me) risk and put myself and my writing out there. Nearly every writer fears sharing their work; giving it to someone and risking rejection.  It's almost as scary and walking up to the person you've secretly adored for years, looking the in them eye, and declaring your love to them.

Your heart stutters, stomach clenches, knees wobble, and a cold sweat forms all over your body as you scrutinize every nuance of their body language, mentally screaming for them to love, your work. What if my writing isn't strong enough? What if I misspelled something? What if they don't like the storyline? What if there's a giant, gaping plot hole? What if...?

The what ifs can eat a person alive, bit by bit, piece by piece, until we're crippled with fear. Horrified by the self-perceived shortcomings of our work. We grip our pages tightly to our chest, afraid to show even a scrap of it to those around us. Heaven knows rejection runs rampant in the publishing world.

Writing is painful, at times tedious and, at least for me, the learning curve was much like climbing Mt. Everest. But so is losing weight and/or getting healthy, striving for the Celestial Kingdom, and any other truly worthwhile endeavors in our lives. To grow, we must be willing to endure a certain amount of discomfort or pain.

I've discovered 'no' from one person may be 'where have you been all my life?' from another.  No two people's tastes are alike. And, much like the dating game, we need to be willing to kiss a whole lot of frogs to find our prince (or princess).  But we still have to put ourselves out there and kiss 'em.

So, in a long, winding, convoluted way, I'm trying to say the main lesson I took away from the ANWA Writers Conference is to look fear in the eye and take the leap. The answer will ALWAYS be 'no' unless I ask. And to ask, I must put myself and my writing out there.

Last year the answer was, "not yet." Time will tell what the publishing world currently thinks of our work.  But I have a story to tell, and by golly I'm gonna tell it!

I hope you will join me on this journey and put yourself out there. Somebody is waiting for your story, wishing it would be told.  You don't want to disappoint them, do you?

Sep 19, 2017

Characters & Floating Thoughts

by Terri Wagner

I must confess up front...I am terrible about writing like this. I seem to like writing about what's in my character's head. I like "I" POV. However, I read this article that made me rethink my writing preference. Floating Thoughts makes Jonna Penn's five most common writing mistakes. She is both a writer and an editor.

As I have said numerous times before, I love sci-fi/fantasy. And my favorite are epic stories that span a wide arc. In my most favorite series, the characters often communicated through "thoughts" to each other in times of stress or battle. Better than a cell phone! Their observations to themselves gave me insight to their motivations, especially when they seem to make a decision that appears out of character. So it is a great writing device that makes the characters more real.

Ms. Penn warned in her guest post that drawing out the "thinking" for a surprise ending is not a great way to hook a reader. I am sure we have all read a story based on the character's perspective only to discover later they are in a hospital bed. She suggests finding a better way to jump into action. I realize many stories are based on the fact that it has the surprise ending. They use this technique quite often in teaching manuals because the perspective might be someone with autism, ADHD, is blind, etc. And it helps teachers and fellow students to get inside the head of a person with challenges. I prefer challenges to disabilities because it really is a better description. Think Little People Big World.

Although Ms. Penn's article is short and sweet the way a blog post should be, she has opened my eyes to a bad writing habit of my own. Never ever underestimate the value of action over a lengthy monologue leading to a surprise.

Sep 16, 2017

Sometimes I can see better in the dark with my eyes closed.

Sometimes I can see better in the dark with my eyes closed 

Deb Graham                                                                                                                                                                                             I noticed the other night, as I was wending my way back from the bathroom about 4 AM after drinking too much grape juice before bed, that I was walking with my eyes closed. Odd, so I questioned mySelf.

“Self, why are you walking with eyes closed?”

Without an eyelash’s hesitation, mySelf replied, “It’s dark. I can see better with my eyes closed.”

Well, that was worth thinking about, so I sat down in the dark hallway and pondered for a minute or six. I realized I often close my eyes in dark see better. Outdoors on moonless nights, I often walk with eyes clamped shut. On nights when I need a bathroom run and feel too polite to wake Husband by turning on a light, my eyes don’t open, and I manage to powder my nose, wash my hands, and make it back to bed with toes unstubbed. I’ve mentioned before I often write notes in the night, and I don’t turn on a light for that, either. Hmmm. What does my Self know that I don’t?

Can I really see better with my eyes closed? Yes, I guess I can. In dim light, I strain to make out the outlines of the hotel dresser or the rock in my path. Just before dawn, my eyes ache, trying to suck in the faint light so I can dodge the trees. In the evening, as darkness falls, I scramble to pack up my reading materials so none get left out overnight. If I try to see when there’s just not enough light to take in, my eyes quickly fatigue from being asked to accomplish what they cannot.

But once I’m in full and total darkness, I automatically shut my eyes and rely on my other senses to protect me from falling or crashing into things. And they step up to the task. With my eyes closed, I can sense or feel doorframes, shoes left on the floor,  furniture, even in unfamiliar places, and I noticed I’ve been doing that for years. My inner self guides me, and for the most part, my shins remain unbarked. I don’t like the dark, but I seem to have figured out a way to navigate in it.

How does this relate to writing? I’m constantly running ahead, flipping on lights, researching frantically, drowning in copious notes and ideas and outlines. Maybe relying on self-imposed deadlines, plot lines, charts, and keeping close track of book sales and advertising plans and All Of It is getting in the way of why I started writing in the first place.

I wrote my first book (Tips From The Cruise Addict’s Wife) because I realized I just plain knew more than most people. I’m no brighter than anybody else, but I’m a compulsive reader and have a fear of missing Something Wonderful, right there, when I travel. My first novel (Peril in Paradise) came about because of a question. How could a Bad Guy make use of the fact that immature Hawaiian sea turtles have a predictable migratory path? I had a story to tell!

I write rather a lot; I published two books this summer alone. I’m aware of at least four more brewing in there; there could be more. Am I blocking my own path by not allowing my senses to guide me? By straining to see what lies ahead and get in front of every possible contingency, am I missing the joy in writing? If I get out of my way, would I do better and be happier? Sure, there’s a risk of “failing,” whatever that looks like, or at least flailing, but so what? 

I may occasionally smack my head on a low-hanging shelf I couldn’t see in the dark, but mostly, I get along just fine. Sometimes I can see better in the dark with my eyes closed. With regard to writing, it’s worth a try. 

Sep 12, 2017

I'm back!

by Marsha Ward  @MarshaWard

Month after month I've been forgetting my turn to post. That's a crying shame, because, yanno, the blog is named after me, sorta, kinda. I'm the founder of ANWA, and I blog with a few of my friends.

Maybe I'm burning out. I've been writing a white-hot streak of fiction for several months, and often find myself with no words of wisdom to share at the end of the day.

I've produced ten (10!!!) projects this year, including a brand new short story that was released last Friday. Scandalous: An Owen Family Story is my first venture into the exclusive program at Kindle called Select.

You can find Scandalous on Amazon for purchase, or read it free if you subscribe to KindleUnlimited.

Here's the blurb:
Young Julianna Owen didn’t think flirting with Parley Morgan at the barn raising would lead him to put his hands where they ought not to be. But worse yet, her sister discovers them and Parley abandons her, running off into the woods.
Julianna’s strict father has found where she is hiding, and her world on the Colorado frontier is crashing down around her ears. She thought love and romance was only about going on picnics and holding hands, not rough kisses and hurtful pawing.

Now the consequences of her actions might be beyond what she can bear.

In the 1860s Owen Family universe, Scandalous shines a light on teen hormones run amok during a trying time in the family’s story, as it ties up a loose thread from the novel, Spinster’s Folly.

This edition contains bonus material at the end, an excerpt from the Shenandoah Neighbors story, Bloodied Leather.

I've also been going-going-going this year and I have three more places to go before year's end: The ANWA Writers Conference, where I'm doing a two-hour presentation; an epic road trip to the Northwest, and the Mesa Book Festival. Maybe I can relax during the Christmas holiday?

That's not likely.

I'm just hanging on and hoping to be more consistent with my blogging turn here. So, I certainly will try to be here in two weeks.

Happy reading!

Sep 7, 2017

Jumping Into the Fire

I don't know what I was thinking. If' I'd stopped for even a moment and considered what I was signing myself up for, I would've screamed and run the other way. Apparently, I wasn't thinking. That part of my brain must be defective.
Why do you ask? Because I'm planning on pitching two books at the ANWA conference.  A non-fiction with my sisters, and a YA novel I've written myself.  

Remembering back to last year, I should've known this was a bad idea. The stress of pitching one book can be staggering.  But two? Just shoot me now.  Or at least tie me to a post and walk away.  Apparently I'm out of my mind. 

Not only is it two books, but the submission process is completely different, so I'm learning two things at once.  A non-fiction involves a query, a proposal, and a few sample chapters. A YA novel involves a query, and a completed story.  Even the query formats are different! Ugh. 

And yet I persist.  Sleep is highly overrated, right?  I'll catch up when I die. Which, at the rate I'm going, may be sooner than anticipated. 

Here I am, one week away from pitching, and I'm running around with my hair on fire, screaming like a banshee, wondering how I'm going to pull it all together.  Or if I even can.  

Check on me in ten days. If I answer, you'll know I survived. If I'm huddled in the corner sucking my thumb, you'll know survival is a highly subjective term. 

Sep 2, 2017


I chuckle when people accuse me of being Organized and Efficient. If they only knew-! I also get comments on always being on time; that, I understand. I’m basically shy, and I’d skip a lunch date with my favorite celebrity before I’d mosey in anything.

But the efficient part? I often feel like the Wizard of Oz, one step ahead of being found out, distracting attention over there, away from the curtain. Whatever you do, don’t look behind the curtain!

Credit, if anything, bright little pieces of paper. They’re everywhere, and they help me keep up the illusion of being on top of things.

My mind races like mice on a hamster wheel (why isn’t that a mouse wheel? Everybody knows mice are more active than hamsters; see, there it goes again), juggling a dozen topics at a constant breakneck pace. If I fail to write them down, they skitter away.

 I keep a blank paper in my car, on my desk, in the kitchen, by the calendar, in the bathrooms, in every jacket pocket, in my journal, on the counter by the mugs, the note catcher over my computer, beside my bed...well, just about any place I go in a day, I’m mere inches from paper.

I write down thoughts, appointments, reminders, inspirational snippets, clever phrases I may use in an upcoming book, interesting turns of dialogue I overheard, news I mean to tell somebody, a brilliant idea for a birthday gift, a reminder to check that website for discount tickets.

 I keep an ongoing grocery list, too, a hastily scrawled, sometimes illegible reminder of what I need to buy next time I’m at the store. A recent one read:

6 oz umbrella
bald guy
graham crackers
chicken (on sale)

 I didn’t say they made sense.

I see order when I glance at these little papers, and I appreciate not having to strain my brain to recall what Julie said to tell Jenn, or what that shade of paint for the bedroom is called. Efficiency.

Husband, a few years ago, decided to Do Something Nice for me, and in his mind, that looked like detailing my car. He had it washed and waxed and buffed, and threw away all those scraps of paper inside and vacuumed and it looked so good, he decided to clean the kitchen, too, at least get rid of those pervasive little notes on the cupboard door.  

Besides not feeling as appreciative as he expected, I was dead in the water for about two weeks. I missed a doctor visit (and a dentist), I was lost at the grocery store without my list; plus, I had no idea what was on sale that week, I forgot a birthday, I neglected to send that box my daughter asked me to get for her, I didn’t pick up the prescriptions or photos I had ordered, a friend was annoyed because I forgot a lunch date, the deadline to mail those forms in came and went ....It was a long two weeks.

I find writing an idea down in the moment captures it while it’s fresh, and I can flesh it out later if needed. I admit not all of the little papers make sense; I’m still not sure what “lemon Volkswagens” or “call caramel cookies” means, but until I find out, you can bet I’m going to be keeping them at hand!

Efficient? No, just held together by little bits of colored paper.