Sunday, July 31, 2011

Writers, market yourself

I dreamed of writing novels since I was in grade school. My first book, Searching for Spice, released in 2008. When I became serious about my goal of publication, I joined a writers' group, ACFW, and began to become a part of the publishing community.

I soon realized that you have to start thinking of marketing long before you ever get a publishing contract. You have to start marketing yourself -- to agents and editors. And to market yourself, you need marketing materials.

My point is that I took my goal seriously enough to present myself as a professional. I think it not only helped to make me look professional to agents and editors, it helped to give me confidence that, yes, I

was a writer in a professional capacity.

I know not everyone can afford to have professionally designed business cards, and in all honestly any card with your image and contact info will probably do. If I had to choose between a homemade photo and a homemade business card, I'd choose the card. A professional image is worth the price. If you can't afford it, barter it. You are a writer, right? Write advertising copy, and trade words for images.

Eventually I hired a designer and printed new business cards. Here's a picture of my cards. (I couldn't decide on which I preferred, so I bought two different sets.)

I purchased my cards at Check them out--they'll even send you free samples. I chose the card with the matte celloglaze finish. It feels nice to the touch, doesn't smudge, and you can write on it with a pen.

If you're an unpublished author, start thinking of yourself as being president of your own writing business. Invest in your business with time and well-crafted marketing pieces. I thought of my writing as a (potential) business, and thank goodness my husband thought so as well. To be honest, there were times when I felt it was fiscally irresponsible to spend the family budget on my writing dreams. But my husband believed in me and encouraged me to keep working. Believe me, I know it's not cheap to buy books, create marketing pieces, and attend conferences. But what business doesn't have start-up costs?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

An eight-hour writing vacation AKA The 2011 Broadmoor write-out

As a writer, it's important to spend time with other writers. Their support and camaraderie are keep you on that sometimes-difficult path. It's also helpful to go to beautiful places and soak in the atmosphere. Being amid beauty unleashes creativity and fires the imagination.
Every year my local writers' group spends the day at the beautiful Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs. They are very gracious and allow us to take up space on their
patio by the lake, the mezzanine, and the upper lobby.

This year about 25 writers met to spend time together. We wrote, brainstormed, encouraged, plotted, and enjoyed the company of creatives.

It was heaven, writers, writers, everywhere . . .

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tripping across scene and story ideas

I made an interesting discovery a few years ago – artistic people have the same urges, but they’re manifested in different art forms.

It seems writers are not the only ones who in the course of their lives trip across creative ideas. (Duh!)

I was driving with a photographer friend when we came upon a beautiful scene. As I often do, I quietly thought of how I would describe the scene with words. After a few minutes my friend said she couldn’t stop thinking of how she would capture the light in that lovely setting. I imagine if a musician were in the car, she’d comment of creating music that would depict the scene.

And of course, two writers who see the same scene will describe it in two unique ways. We all filter what we see through our personal experiences. Two writers who see a bee tripping from flower to flower on a beautiful sunny morning might paint the mood in entirely different ways. One would comment on the sweetness and beauty of the moment, but the other writer might be highly allergic to bees and could write the scene as a prologue to a horrific incident of extreme discomfort or fear.

Yesterday I was weeding in the front yard and thought of the beginning to a murder mystery/suspense novel. The foundation of our house is landscaped with river rock. While I was weeding I passed around the window well. My author’s mind kicked into gear, and I imagined the beginning of the book – a lady was weeding the foundation of her house, and sunlight reflected off something in her window well. When she leaned over to see what it was, she saw . . .

A dead body!

Just a few thoughts. Have a pleasant day, everyone. BTW, the photo above was taken last year in Colorado Springs when I attended the Glen Eyrie Writers' Workshop. Isn't it lovely?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Read a good book lately?

I have.

And I'm reading a good one now.

It's a debut novel from Cathy West called Yesterday's Tomorrow.

Here's a description of the book: She's after the story that might get her the Pulitzer. He's determined to keep his secrets to himself. Vietnam, 1967. Independent, career-driven journalist Kristin Taylor wants two things: to honor her father's memory by becoming an award-winning overseas correspondent and to keep tabs on her only brother, Teddy, who signed up for the war against their mother's wishes. Brilliant photographer Luke Maddox, silent and brooding, exudes mystery. Kristin is convinced he's hiding something. Willing to risk it all for what they believe in, Kristin and Luke engage in their own tumultuous battle until, in an unexpected twist, they're forced to work together. Ambushed by love, they must decide whether or not to set aside their own private agendas for the hope of tomorrow that has captured their hearts.

I'm about halfway through the story and really enjoying it. One of the reasons I like it, other than because it's well written, is because it's set in the 1960s--and that in itself is unusual. The setting, Vietnam, 1967, sucks you in, becoming a character in the story. You can feel the simmering heat and the buzzing insects, feel the humidity hanging in the air.

I get the impression Cathy wrote this book with passion, and as a reader, I love that. So if you're still looking for a good summer read, pick it up!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Sun-dried hair and writing novels

I dried my hair in the sun yesterday. Not exactly front-page news, but it was a moment that gave me fodder for writing novels. I’m of the no-moment-wasted camp of writers who tuck memories and ideas into my head like a robin picks up string and scraps for her nest.

Drying my hair in the sun was a gift—time to sit and be still and enjoy a truly simple pleasure. The day captivated me with birdsong and sunshine and newly blossomed hollyhocks resting against the fence.

Other than sitting poolside or on a beach, drying my hair via sunshine is something I haven’t done in decades. I’m usually mindful of schedules or errands or tasks to complete, so I pull out my trusty dryer and blast my hair until it’s dried and tamed into something resembling a style.

But yesterday I left my dryer on the shelf and stepped outside. While I enjoyed the gentle embrace of morning sun, I thought of other simple moments that are locked inside my heart—moments that symbolize something precious, pure, and sweet. Moments that can be incorporated into fiction.

My sentimental journey transported me to times in my childhood when I was unrushed and without a schedule. Like when my mother would urge me to sit outside and let the sun dry my hair. Like moments spent clutching crayons and scribbling in a coloring book beside a blue northeast lake while listening to water lap against a wooden dock and blue jays squawking in spicy pine trees.

Like that one time I can never forget when my auntie took me for a walk, and we came upon a stream that tripped over moss-covered rock as it journeyed downhill toward a valley. My aunt told me to take off my sneakers and walk down the “stairs” that were covered with soft, thick water-sod. I can still recall the feeling of icy water clutching my ankles as I walked like a fairy princess down a magical staircase.

Using these actual moments aren’t as important as making the reader associate with the pleasure extracted from the moments. My readers may never have walked down a wet, mossy staircase, but they have enjoyed a pure, simple pleasure, and that’s what I want to make them feel when I write a scene.

Do you have any special moments from your past that make you recall the wonder of childhood?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Crime Scene Investigation

The other day while walking through my neighborhood, I saw that a nearby house had some beautiful daisies blooming. It made me think that my daisies should be flowering too.

When I arrived home I took a look. There are usually about 15 or so stems in my plant, so when I saw only a few long stems about to bud I knew something was wrong.

Something has been gnawing at my daisies! Most of the stems had been chewed off about a foot off the ground. Can you see the damage?

Many of my neighbors complain about the bunnies roaming our subdivision as though they're enjoying the all-you-can-eat flower buffet. (Note: 17 years ago when we moved here there were no bunnies--but there were plenty of coyotes.) But I have a fenced yard and a Jack Russell Terrier. Any bunny who dares to slip under my fence has got to be one dumb bunny. I can't recall seeing any in my yard.

But I think I've determined who the culprit is. It's those crazy squirrels that have been walking the fence around the perimeter of my yard. Here I thought they were innocent little woodland critters happily living their lives. But apparently they were just casing my yard out for a banquet of daisies.

And then these criminal squirrels have the gall to leave some stems laying about as if to taunt me!
And the next time my little dog barks are the furry squirrel, I won't be reining her in.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A chat with Janice Hanna Thompson

Let's chat with novelist Janice Hanna Thompson, author of Love Finds You in Groom, Texas (Summerside/Guideposts, June 2011).

Please tell us a bit more about the plot of Love Finds You in Groom, Texas.
Always the groomsman, never the groom… It’s 1914, and Jake O’Farrell has gained an unusual reputation among the locals: He’s played the roles of groomsman and best man in all four of his older brothers’ weddings, but he’s never been able to find the woman to capture his heart. And now with the upcoming wedding of his best friend, Jake will become the last single man in the town of Groom.

Anne Denning has made the difficult decision to move with her sisters to Texas, but a train derailment forces them to seek shelter in Groom, near Amarillo. Mrs. O’Farrell, hopeful that Anne will catch her youngest son’s eye, invites the girls to stay at her home until the train is repaired and ready to pull out. Anne has no idea of the blissful chaos that lies ahead!

Why do you like writing comedies with strong take-aways?
Comedy is a great outlet. We comedians can get away with a lot more than authors who play it straight. Want the reader to walk away with a little nugget of truth? Couch it in something humorous. I’ve found that light-hearted writing not only suits my personality, it’s the perfect vehicle for sharing the gospel.

I know that you enjoy teaching. Can you tell us about your online courses?
Thanks for asking. I enjoy teaching almost as much as I enjoy writing! For many years I taught creative writing at a school of the arts. These days I teach through my online courses. They’re audio/video driven, which is great fun. I get to go into a recording studio to record them! My courses are, as follows:
Becoming a Successful Freelance Author
Fiction Writing Master Course
Navigating the Business of Freelance Writing
Magazine Article Writing Master Course
Creative Writing
U.N.I.Q.U.E. – Finding Your Unique Place in the Writing Industry
Non-Fiction Book Writing (coming in August, 2011)

Where else can readers find you online?
I love to connect with my readers at the following places:

Where can I get the book?
Love Finds You in Groom, Texas can be purchased at any number of online stores, as well as my website: (front page). Readers can always join my VIP bookclub and get the locked in price of $11 (no shipping) by contacting me directly at

Thanks for spending time with me! I had a blast!

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Birthing a new fictional character

I'm usually percolating a novel for quite a while before I start writing it. Currently I'm editing a completed novel, eager to get back to a started novel, and beginning to think about a future novel.

In a recent post, Expectations and Disappointments and Novels, I discussed tripping across an idea for a new novel. The idea would be that not every beautiful, desirable, or useful thing will live up to our expectations. Often when we least expect it, something (or someone) will be a huge disappointment.

I happened to run across a woman the other day who fired my imagination. She was a drive-thru bank teller. Our interaction was brief--I deposited a rebate check, and she cashed it.

When the envelope with the cash was returned to me I stuffed it into my purse and went about my business. Later I noticed she'd written a message on the back of the envelope:

Note that she wrote the message in purple ink and highlighted it in pink ink. Then she signed it and stamped a smily face.

And when I got home and opened the envelope I found she had put a shiny star on the receipt.
A day later I had lunch with a friend and showed her the envelope and receipt. We decided that this teller must be the happiest, most optimistic person or she surely has too much time on her hands.

This might not seem like much, but it's the beginning of a personality for my main character. So far she's a content, happy, and optimistic person who has led a charmed life. That's until . . .

And that part I haven't figured out yet.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Where's the shame?

For quite a while I've believed that our culture is lacking in shame. This isn't the first time I've discussed this. People strut around doing all manner of awful things without even a twinge of shame. If there was more shame, there would be less bad behavior. People simple don't care that they act inappropriately. And for a more civilized society, they should care.

The latest example is Jesse James admitting that he has forgiven himself for repeatedly cheating on his former wife Sandra Bullock. As he says, "Oh, yeah. I'm cool."

I hope I'm not the only person who's disgusted with this immature, self-centered jerk. He said only the media portrayed his behavior as negative and justified himself by saying, "Yes, I cheated on my wife, but so do a lot of other people." Blech!

Last week a Facebook friend posted a link to a story that discusses something our culture needs to give some thought to. The article's called The Death of Shame. Take a look.

What do you think?