Product Planting for Writers

I am learning so much from my friends! This week author Michelle Weidenbenner helps keep Read Play Edit ticking over while I recover from that nasty hard drive failure—and brings a new way to think about book marketing. Read on!

Product Planting for Writers

Who wouldn’t like to sell more books? But how?

Maybe the answer isn’t something you work on after the book is written, but is actually in the plot planning, from the moment your start writing. Maybe you should partner with a local company and build your story around it.

Let me explain.

First of all, raise your hand if you know what product planting is. It’s sometimes called product placement. (Okay, you can put your hand down now.)

Just in case you don’t know, here’s the definition: “A form of advertising (usually not involving ads) in which branded products and services are noticeable within a drama production with large audiences.”

Think about the last movie you saw. What type of car did the protagonist drive? Did the main character wear Marie Claire stilettos? In the movie Gone Girl, Ben Affleck sits at the bar and orders a shot of bourbon from his sister. What was the name on the bourbon bottle?

Products in movies are deliberately planted. What about product planting in novels? Have you thought about this concept?

One author’s successful idea.
Melissa Foster, a contemporary romance author, created a character who is a jam maker and lives on Cape Cod. When she was writing her book Love in Bloom: The Remingtons, Melissa partnered with a jam maker on the Cape and developed a jam label with them. The jams are now being sold in stores, restaurants, and on Amazon—Luscious Leanna’s Sweet Treats. The jam company has followed the protagonist into the rest of the series (Seaside Dreams, Seaside Hearts, Seaside Sunsets, and so on).

Isn’t this brilliant? I haven’t read these books, but reviews are great—and the exposure she gets through the jam company is timeless. Both her brand and the jam company benefit. My guess is that she’s selling more books.

My personal brand idea.
When I found out that geocachers have trackable swag they carry from one site to another I wondered if I could make my book, Cache a Predator, a trackable?

A geocaching trackable is a tag number you attach to an item. Most trackables have a mission. You can follow the mission at Geocaching.com, where the item becomes a hitchhiker that is carried from cache to cache (or person to person) in the real world, and you can follow its progress online.

Since my novel is a geocaching mystery, I decided to ask friends at a Facebook geocaching page if they would be interested in planting my book in geocaching sites in their states.

Guess what? I received 650 responses. I never expected that! Out of those responses, I chose 50 people from varied states and provinces and mailed books to them. First, I purchased tracking codes to include inside the book. And I gave them all a mission to help spread awareness of child abuse (another theme in the book) by carrying the book to all 50 states and Canadian provinces. Some books have traveled over 5000 miles. Others have been to six different states. (And the journey only began a month ago.) The best thing is sales of the book have skyrocketed; a few weeks ago I sold close to 4000 e-books.

What’s even better? The books are bringing awareness to how child abuse affects victims, families, and communities.

What’s your idea?
As you’re writing your next novel, think of a local brand you can partner with to help you promote your book. Focusing on a local company will bring interest to your community. Think of how you can promote the brand in your book—but make the marriage genuine. If the “planting” feels forced, readers might revolt. It needs to be a win-win situation for both parties.

If you have ideas you’d like to bounce off of me leave a comment below. I love to brainstorm this fun approach!

Michelle Weidenbenner calls herself ordinary, but her novels are anything but. Check out her website for more about Cache a Predator and other works-in-progress. Michelle and her husband live an “ordinary” life in the Midwest, near their grown children and grandchildren.

Tweet: Who wouldn’t like to sell more books? But how? Here’s an idea.
Tweet: Products in movies are deliberately planted. What about product planting in novels?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Posted in Guest Posts, Miscellany | Tagged as: , ,

Short Saturday: Slang for the Ages

Oh, how I love slang. It’s fun, it’s inventive and interesting. Used in your fiction, it helps set a milieu or a characterization and is a source of incredible imagery. I love it as parts of speech and as syntax (because … amusing). See?

So I enjoyed this piece from the New York Times, in which the origins—and current usage—of some slang words you may know are discussed. (Including swag. There are several definitions here, none of them the one I know, which is “the freebies given to attendees at trade shows, conventions, and other events, usually donated by large corporations as a marketing ploy.” This sort of swag often comes in a reusable briefcase or bag, which I’ve heard called a swag bag.)

It’s an interesting article, showing how even slang morphs from one generation to the next.

Slang often falls prey to what linguists call the “recency illusion”: I don’t remember using or hearing this word before, therefore this word is new (often followed by the Groucho Marx sentiment: “Whatever it is, I’m against it”). At the heart of the illusion lies a misbegotten belief that English is a static and uniform language, a mighty mountain of lexical stability. Upon this monument, slang falls like acid rain, eroding and degrading the linguistic landscape.

It’s the wrong metaphor. English is fluid and enduring: not a mountain, but an ocean. A word may drift down through time from one current of English (say, the language of World War II soldiers) to another (the slang of computer programmers).

We’ll come back to that acid-rain metaphor in a few weeks. For now, check this out and have a good laugh.

Tweet: I love slang as parts of speech and as syntax (because … amusing). See?
Tweet: Oh, how I love slang. It’s fun, it’s inventive and interesting.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Posted in Words & Language | Tagged as: , ,

The Book Deal That Wasn’t

Welcome to the Read Play Edit Blog Recovery Plan! This is how it works: while I’m writing up new posts and trying to replicate the ones I lost, my friends are standing in the gap with original and repurposed posts to keep me going. (I’m planning to be up and running by the new year.) This week I have a fabulous post from a friend of mine, writer April Line.

The Book Deal That Wasn’t

I am either extremely lucky or extremely talented. I have a much easier time accepting that I am damn lucky. I’m not sure I believe in talent. I believe in sweat and blood and hard, hard, hard work; in dedication, doggedness, the will to go on despite all the elements in the universe banding against you.

The first time I sent stories out into the world, there were six of them, I was just finishing undergrad, it was 2005, one of them was published in Fall ’06 Sou’Wester. The first time I sent essays into the world, about a year ago, there were six or so of them, and I received three personal notes from editors saying, “We like this, but it’s not a good fit for us at this time.” The first time I composed a #CNFtweet, it got published in the ever-so-prestigious pages of Creative Nonfiction. And the first time I ever gave my manuscript to an editor who was not a friend or someone who was being paid to read it, he offered me a book deal.

The editor, who I met because I waited on him and his ladyfriend in one of my sixteen jobs—darlings, Jamie keeps telling you and I’m here to affirm it, most writers (even incredibly lucky ones who work very hard) do not make any money writing—gave me his email address which I wrote on the back of my order pad and I sent him my manuscript the next morning.

He replied quickly (within weeks) and with high enthusiasm. He said he had some people to talk with on his end, but he Wanted My Book!

I got this news while I was at one of the residencies for my low-res MFA program. I told my two best friends and swore them to secrecy. “Don’t jinx it!” I told them. “It’s not a sure thing yet!” One friend bought me a drink. The other friend gave me a high five. We writers are an energetic bunch.

Two months later, I was still waiting to hear whether he’d talked to the people on his end.

As I sat down to write him a gloomy (but hopeful, I’m an optimist!) email thanking him for his time and asking for an update, I got one from him. It said, “So sorry, I’ve been dealing with this flood at my parents’ house, I have no Internet, I still want your book, the interns loved it, I’m waiting for my boss’s go-ahead. Then we can get you a contract and get started editing in earnest.”

It wasn’t until the next residency, four months longer still, that I got the news he had the official go-ahead from his boss. He said, “The official contract language is on his desk. Waiting for him to approve it, then we can get going.”

At that point, I stopped feeling excited. I began to believe that these people were messing with me. Not the editor. He was never anything but lovely and apologetic. But the company, honestly, is not the kind of publishing company I want for my breakout book. It’s the kind of company that will publish you in eBook for free, but asks you to go halvesies, then sell the books yourself, if you want a print run. The kind of company who puts up notice at its old website that the new one will be up by a date that comes and goes and comes again before the new website is operational. The kind of company that has no professional affiliations and no paid employees. The kind of company that’s run by a professor as a hobby, and a hobby that retains very little of his persistent affection.

I changed my mind a lot about whether to take this deal. My mentor and friends kept saying things along the lines of, “You can do better. You are so talented!”

But my long-term goal is to be a professor, and my thinking was, that will be tons easier if I have a book from any source. Not that becoming a professor is ever easy. Not that it’s even realistic to do obtain a tenure-track professorship with only an MFA anymore.

Finally, because I am hard at work finishing my MFA, doing an internship, working two (and often three) part-time jobs, being a mom, partner, and laundry-doer extraordinaire, I just wanted this one thing to feel like it was easy.

Eventually, though, after another several months of waiting, and after having some of the above-mentioned good luck, I decided maybe my friends and mentors were right. Maybe I can do better. I wanted to begin re-circulating my essays and add some new ones to the collection. I decided to end my relationship with the strange house. I avoided doing so for several weeks—I really hate confrontation—but finally, when I couldn’t delay it longer, I wrote to the dear editor, who by then I thought of as a friend, “I’m really sorry, but I don’t want to wait anymore. I’m withdrawing my manuscript from your queue.”

He was nothing but kindness and understanding. He writes, “It’s been fun, Line. Let me know what happens next for you. I have no doubt you’ll be successful.”

And you know what? I shed zero tears. I don’t even think of this as a setback. I think of it as the universe holding out on me so that I don’t give in to the temptation to settle, to be lazy, or to rest on my laurels, as they say. I know writers, however, who would’ve been devastated, who would’ve held out despite their better judgment alarms going off because book deals are rare like Ghost Orchids. Who would’ve let this dumb thing that happened keep them from writing, at least for a time.

Talent is meaningless, luck is fleeting. Write your butts off, ladies and gentlemen. And do it without the expectation of lucre, kudos, or anything other than self-congratulation. Write for the love of it, and then book deals that fall through won’t stop you.

April Line is an adjunct English professor at a small liberal arts college in Pennsylvania, and freelance writer/editor, a blogger, a mom, and, oh, about to finish her MFA. You can learn more about her at her website.

Tweet: Write for the love of it, so book deals that fall through won’t stop you.
Tweet: The book deal that wasn’t — read it and weep. Or laugh.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Posted in Guest Posts, The Book Biz | Tagged as: , , ,

Short Saturday: Things You Should Know When Writing About Guns

This is probably not a post you would expect from me. I’m not a fan of guns in real life. (And that’s enough said; this column isn’t about politics.) However, I am a fan of learning, a fan of research, and a fan of veracity in fiction so I found this post from author Chuck Wendig funny and fascinating.

(This is where I pause and say Wendig uses strong language that may be offensive, so if you can’t deal, you should bail.)

He’s also hilarious and able to speak intelligently about this topic:

[I grew] up around guns (my father owned and operated a gun store — we were hunters, we had a shooting range at the house, I got my first gun at age 12, etc. etc., plus he was a gunsmith, as well).

As Wendig notes, lots of folks know a lot about guns, so if you get those details wrong, you lose credibility with readers. “You’ll get emails,” he says. He doesn’t mean warm and fuzzy emails praising your novel, either.

There are many points of advice here, but I particularly like the busted myths:

• No, the air did not stink of cordite. This is so common, it hurts me. Besides it being sorta dumb—I mean, it’s so needlessly specific, it’s like saying someone ate a banana and “tasted the potassium”—it’s also wildly inaccurate. Cordite hasn’t been in use pretty much since the middle of last century. Modern gunpowder is, like cordite, a smokeless propellant. (It’s also not very powdery; my father reloaded his own ammo and I was struck that gunpowder is more like little beads, like something a robot might eat atop its ice cream sundae. *crunch crunch crunch*)

• Silencers—aka, suppressors—are basically bullshit, at least in terms of what most fiction thinks. They do not turn the sound of your BIG BANG-BANG into something resembling a mouse fart. It carves off about 20-30 decibels off somewhere between 150-200 decibels. The goal isn’t stealth so much as it is ear protection. They’re frequently illegal in the US.

• Ragdoll physics are super-hilarious in video games, but someone struck by a bullet does not go launching backward ten feet into a car door. The recoil is largely against the user of the gun, not the recipient of the hot lead injection.

• Dropped guns do not discharge.

There’s lots more—and good links too. If you’re writing mysteries, thrillers, or action adventure of any kind, you’ll want to have a look at this post.

Tweet: Some folks know a lot about guns, so if you get those details wrong, you lose reader credibility.
Tweet: I am a fan of learning, a fan of research, & a fan of veracity in fiction, so you’ll love this.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Posted in Your Editor Says … | Tagged as: , , ,

What Do Monkeys and Manuscripts Have in Common?

Being off my regular blogging schedule—because, I’ll remind you, my hard drive failed and I lost a lot of work—has affected me in other ways. So while my friends are faithfully supplying articles for me to post, sometimes I forget which day of the week it is. :) This week, debut author Varina Denman talks about the evolutionary changes her novel’s been through.

What Do Monkeys and Manuscripts Have in Common?

Not everyone agrees on the science of evolution, but when it comes to writing, I’m a believer. Manuscripts tend to change gradually over the course of the editing process, and quite often the end result is something entirely different from the author’s original intention.

When a writer begins a fresh manuscript, be she a plotter or pantser, she usually has at least a general idea of the journey she wants her characters to take during the story. But weeks/months/years later, when the book hits the shelves, it may barely resemble the original draft.

I call this the book’s evolution.

Some writers swear their characters are alive, but honestly the entire manuscript is a living document from the moment the idea is conceived in the writer’s brain. My first novel literally breathed—swelling to a hundred thousand words, then exhaling down to seventy, and back again. As I edited and tweaked, the draft took on a life of its own, dictating to me what needed to be changed.

Much of its humanity spawned from my growth as a writer. As I read craft books and attended seminars, I would comb through the manuscript and apply what I had learned. If I were to go back and look at that original draft (I think I’ll pass), I would hardly recognize the story or the characters. I wrote the first draft in six weeks, and then took the next four years to clean it up. Here’s a few of the changes that were required:

• My story was originally set in the 1980s (For the most part, this won’t sell. Who knew?)

• My hero DIED, and the heroine had to find a second love interest. (This is against the fundamental laws of the romance genre in which I write.)

• My inciting incident and climax were not connected in any way. (Plot and structure was the toughest learning curve for me and would eventually prompt a total rewrite.)

• Many of my scenes had no effect on the story. (The pantser inside me should never be allowed to go rogue. I’m a plotter at heart.)

• Don’t even get me started on POV. (Countless blogs and books insist first-time authors MUST write in third person. Yet after switching from first to third and back to first, I discovered that a newbie author must find confidence in her skills—and experiment enough to find her voice and her strengths—so she can be bold enough to give the story whatever it requires.)

When I started my second book, I assumed I had improved to the point that my manuscript wouldn’t demand as much editing. And I was right. Sort of. At last report, the blasted thing isn’t going to take four years to repair, but so far it’s taken two months of intense structural editing from my agent, and is now under the scrutiny of my fabulous editor for several more weeks.

I find myself in the middle of the evolution process once again. So far I’ve added eleven chapters and completely changed the main character’s personality. And that’s only the beginning!

But I don’t mind all these changes. After four years of work on book 1, I no longer take critiques personally. They don’t hurt my feelings. For crying out loud, I just want someone to tell me what needs to be fixed so I can get busy and do it. I love my characters and my stories, but I really want them to find their way into the hands of readers, and I really, really want them to be captivating.

A non-writing friend recently said to me, “But those are your stories. How can the agents/editors/publishers tell you to change them?” Oh my dear, sweet, well-intentioned friend . . . believe me when I say I want them changed. Desperately. I want my stories to evolve into something better than I am capable of creating on my own.

For example, when my agent edits my work, her favorite phrases appear to be, “That’s kind of lame” and “Too cheesy” and “Just . . . no.” And by the time the manuscript gets to my editor, tons of repairs remain, and she says things like, “That plot twist is a little too convenient” and “That scene is a wee bit melodramatic” and “Might you possibly consider rewriting the ending?” And I appreciate those words more than any flattery or praise because . . .

WHAT IF I WENT TO PRINT WITH THOSE CHEESY, MELODRAMATIC SCENES STILL INTACT?

Eww. Heaven forbid.

So whatever the reason for the evolution of my manuscript—be it newbie ignorance, a slow learning curve, market trends, or just plain bad writing—this is one time I can definitely say I believe in evolution. I believe in changing my work to make it better. I believe in agents and editors and other professionals whose job is it to help me. And I believe in myself, even though my final manuscripts don’t always resemble the original.

Editorial evolution. It’s where the magic happens.

Varina Denman is currently working on a three-book Texas series, the first of which, Jaded, won the ACFW Genesis Contest for romance. (Watch for it March 1, 2015, from David C. Cook.) She lives and blogs in North Texas.

Tweet: What do monkeys and manuscripts have in common?
Tweet: I believe in changing my work to make it better, and agents & editors, who help me.
Tweet: Editorial evolution. It’s where the magic happens.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Posted in Guest Posts, Your Editor Says … | Tagged as: , , , , , ,

Short Saturday: Penguin’s Drop Cap Series

A friend of mine sent me a link to an article at BuzzFeed about some gorgeous new/old books. And since there’s always a gift-giving occasion right ’round the corner—and since surely you have a booklover on your list—I thought I’d tell you about these. And show you. Wow.

The designer, Jessica Hische, says:

There were obvious classic authors who are perennial favorites—Austen, Bronte, Melville—people own many editions of their works, they can’t help themselves, and such editions give new reasons to love the work. For other letters we had the great opportunity to publish earlier works of modern living authors. It was important for me to bring diverse writers to the mix, with novels that are modern classics. … The reaction to the series is first physical. People hold the books for a longer period of time, savoring the book as an object. Other times there is the glee of seeing a favorite work in the series.

I got caught up in noticing the titles and the quotes in the BuzzFeed article. Then I decided to visit the publisher … and I saw the covers side by side. OMG, the colors! (Look at them thumbnail size and you’ll see.)

Which one are you going to get?

Tweet: Penguin’s drop cap series—which one are you going to get?
Tweet: There’s always a gift-giving occasion right ’round the corner, so give a book!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Posted in Books You Might Like, The Book Biz | Tagged as: , , ,

The Creative Person’s Guide to Time Management

As you know, my computer had problem a month ago; I lost a lot of information, including blog posts and notes. You might say I’m a little under the blog weather. :) But I’m getting by with a little help from my friends. This week, author Judy Christie discusses time management.

The Creative Person’s Guide to Time Management

As a writer, I am drawn to creative people—smart, funny, interesting, innovative, and imaginative. Writers, editors, and other word artists explore and imagine and adapt to a dizzying rate of change, a combination that clogs schedules faster than a plateful of spaghetti clogs a drain (don’t ask how I know this).

Sometimes we give up creative activities because we are too busy—such as during this jammed fall season. Or, we let that nagging negative voice in our minds convince us that our project is just not that important or good, unworthy of our time and attention.

With eight novels published, I have observed that creative projects—even though they are often personal—take planning and organization, similar to skills used in business.

As people of imagination, we often see ideas and plans outgrow our calendars. We may feel as though we never do anything as well as hoped. We sacrifice sleep and fitness and nutrition in the name of creating. We juggle the balls of words on paper, marketing, bookkeeping, and more. On top of that we pile family responsibilities, community duties and logistics of daily life.

This is not the way it should be.

Consider these steps to manage time as a creative person:

• Focus on what gives you energy—because in this energy you are likely using your gifts to touch the world.

• Assess what’s most important, remembering that a long list of priorities is really just a to-do list. Narrow down to activities only you can do or that will have the biggest payoff for you and your creative goals.

• Remember this business is about more than work. It is about creative relationships—with readers, writers, agents, editors, and more. It’s also about enjoying this life we’ve been given—opening room for talents to flourish.

• For everything you gain, you will probably have to give something up. You can’t do it all. Use that creative mind to make tough decisions about what goes away.

• You could create 24 hours day, 7 days a week. Set a workable schedule for projects. You lose effectiveness if you stretch hours later each day, into every weekend, giving up vacations and days off—and snapping at your friends and family.

• Exercise. This is a proven stress reducer and creativity builder, but it’s one of the first things to fall off busy people’s schedules. Start small, if you have not been exercising, but start somewhere, even a walk around the block. This is a wonderful tool to help come up with ideas.

• Rest. You cannot go full tilt all the time and be creative and content with life and work.

How about you? What works best as you manage your time as a creative person? I’d love to hear your comments.

Judy Christie writes fiction with a Louisiana flavor and loves visiting on her old green couch. Her eighth novel, Magnolia Market, released last month from HarperCollins Christian Publishing. Publishers Weekly calls it “a delightful tale that entices readers with the aroma of biscuits, romance and new starts.” For more info, see JudyChristie.com.

Tweet: How do you manage your time as a creative person?
Tweet: Creative projects take planning & organization, similar to business skills. Here’s how.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Posted in Authors & Other Writers, Guest Posts | Tagged as: , , ,

Survive—and Thrive!

I’m starting to dig out of my Black Hole of Lost Work. Meaning I have a little bit of me left over at the end of the day to think about my personal writing, and have begun making notes. And writing. A little. While I work on more articles, I’ve got some lovely loaners. Here’s one that’s just tailor-made for my situation from my friend, author Cynthia Herron.

How to Thrive Despite the Odds

I love beautiful plants, flowers, trees, and shrubs. I’m in awe of the people who grow them. My mama is one of those people. She could transplant a brick and bring it back to life. (Well—she can raise a stick from the dead.) Despite the odds, green things thrive under her watchful eye.

As I surveyed our still motley-colored lawn this week, I gazed at the nine pine trees we planted fourteen years ago. (The tenth one was uprooted by the last tornado that came through.) Those trees have been through everything (two tornadoes, buckets of hail, multiple ice storms, frigid winters, and dry-as-a-bone summers) since we transplanted them from small twigs only a foot or so high in 1999. The tallest pine in our back field is now about twenty feet tall! Go figure.

I’ve wished countless times we’d purchased more of those scraggly white pines (like maybe a hundred—because we could have used them as a wind break around our property), but at the time, my husband and I had our reservations whether the little buggers would really grow. We paid $1.50 per tree. But other than some preliminary care and nurturing the first year, and some occasional mulching and pruning, those trees have continued to thrive despite everything Mother Nature’s thrown at them.

I’ve learned that to thrive, plants, flowers, and trees, need that initial care and nurturing. It will enhance growth and likely determine survival. And like our pines they’ll survive and adapt despite the odds.

But how do people thrive and flourish in spite of hardship, turmoil, or unforeseen life events? You may know someone who’s going through a rough patch. Illness. Divorce. Job loss. Relationship issues. It could be you.

If you’re a writer or a creative, perhaps, you’re disillusioned with the process. Possibly, you’ve had some hard knocks. Maybe you feel that the odds are against you. That life’s out of control.

While I don’t have the perfect answer, here are some practical tips. Things you can do to maintain some semblance of balance and not only survive but thrive—despite the odds.

1. Pick a new pot.
If your current location inhibits you, move! Okay, maybe you can’t relocate to a new home, but if your creativity is stymied by where you’re at in life–physically or emotionally (a specific room, a naysayer’s company, an uninspiring place)–go somewhere else. The library, a coffee shop, that shade tree out back. Someplace that’s bright, cheery, and loaded with positivity.

2. Choose sunlight.
There’s nothing worse than dreary, down-in-the-mouth folks. I once worked in a profession that was anything but positive. Because of the nature of my job, I dealt with sad situations and unhappy people. Worked in an office with some pretty miserable individuals too. The odds of burn-out were great. I endured my time in the desert for a season, but I soon developed a plan, and when the time was right, I chose a different path. A sunnier one. I found you can do anything for a season—and even thrive—when you know an end is in sight. But you can’t be lazy about it. You must be proactive.

3. Use the right fertilizer.
To thrive despite the odds, proper nutrition’s important. What works for someone else won’t be the right thing for you. A dozen “experts” will attempt to sell you the moon. Generally, there’s a reason for that, and it may not be what’s best for you. Try different methods. Sources of (healthy) energy that make a difference. If you notice marked improvement, odds are you’re onto something. Some things that work for me: protein bars (not the super-charged ones loaded with bad stuff), peanut butter, granola, and cheese sticks (in moderation unless they’re low-fat). Also—a word about skipping meals. Don’t! You’ll just end up eating more later. Oh, and my personal philosophy: If bad ingredients (in addition, negativity) are the only things on the menu that day, I opt for the least unhealthy choice OR a different alternative. I rarely eat hot dogs, processed lunchmeats, or fried, greasy foods that shout “heart attack!” And if given the choice, I prefer eating with upbeat people because atmosphere is huge for me.

4. Hydrate.
If you know a drought’s coming, don’t rely on Neighbor Nelly to share her well. Stockpile water, Powerade, juice—smart choices to quench your thirst. I’m a firm believer in drinking (no pun intended). My energy lags when my system’s depleted. My pines have survived hot-as-blue-blazes weather and water-deprived days. There’s no way we could physically water them all. Not enough buckets with drainage holes, no in-ground sprinkler system, and our hoses don’t stretch that far. Somehow, those trees have beaten the odds. I’d like to think it was because we gave them a good start. Sometimes we must work with what we’ve got. And if that’s not much, we pray. And adapt. And soak up the downpour of blessing as it comes. And give thanks.Remaining in a thankful mode during seasons of drought is crucial. It combats fear and unleashes hope.

5. Pay attention to detail.
Sometimes, to encourage new growth and ensure survival, it’s necessary to do a little pruning. I think my little pine trees survived (and thrived) over the years because of the preliminary measures we took when we transplanted them. We estimated a good location, dug the correct size holes, fertilized, watered often (when they were little trees they required less), and sprayed for pests. Now that those trees are ginormous, about the only thing we’ve done in recent years is prune back some of the lower branches and trim undergrowth.

Over the years, I’ve learned in order to thrive details are important. I can’t adjust the big picture until I fix a couple of the small details first. When I re-center my thinking, I’m more likely to succeed.

In the grand scheme of things, thriving despite the odds isn’t so much about the circumstance as it is about mind-set.

It requires effort.

Sometimes patience.

Resilience.

Tenacity.

Prayer.

Thriving despite the odds makes the conscious decision to refuse defeat.

Cynthia Herron writes Heartfelt, Homespun Fiction from the foothills of the beautiful Missouri Ozarks. She has a degree in psychology with a background in social work. She’s a member and vice president of ACFW MozArks, a member of ACFW and RWA, and is represented by Mary G. Keeley/Books and Such Literary Management. She has a fondness for gingerbread men, miniature teapots, and all things apple! Cynthia would be delighted to visit with you at her cyber home where she blogs MWF.

Tweet: Survive and thrive: sometimes we must work with what we’ve got.
Tweet: How you can thrive when the odds are against you.
Tweet: How do people thrive & flourish in spite of hardship, turmoil, unforeseen life events?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Posted in Guest Posts, Miscellany | Tagged as: ,

The Comparison Devil

I’m still catching up, y’all, but my friends are helping me out with new and recycled posts of their own. Today? A great post from YA author N. K. Traver, which ran on her own blog earlier this year.

The Comparison Devil

I read an article some time ago wherein the author said she knew she wouldn’t be a best seller as soon as the offer came in on her first novel. Because it wasn’t a six-figure advance and she wasn’t going to auction.

This bothered me a lot.

First, let’s roll back to a not-so-happy place in my past, last spring. To be as brief and honest as possible, I’d let some things get out of control in my life and had lost all focus of the good things going on. I realized I was in a bad place. I sought the help of a counselor at work. And he tricked me.

In the best way, of course. During one session, he targeted my writing dream and made me list everything that was bothering me. Every fear. Every rejection. Every disappointment. Then he made me write down the good things that had happened. Actual words from people who had read and responded positively to my work. I tried to counter with, “Yeah, but if I was any good this wouldn’t be so hard.” He pointed to my fears, which were things like I’ll never get published. I’m not good enough. I don’t know if I’m even supposed to be doing this. Then back to the Good Things list. “Which of these has actually happened?” he asked.

(See? Tricky.)

Which brings me back to the article about trying to read into your publishing future based on what’s happening to other people. We always want to compare our experiences to try and figure out what’s normal. Is it supposed to take this long? What if I don’t get multiple offers from agents? What does it mean if I didn’t get a three-book deal? And I’m telling you (and also telling me): 
STOP.

There is no magic formula. There is only one example I need to give here to prove it: J. K. Rowling received a £1500 advance (or about $2400) for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Couple that with her own editor’s advice that she get a day job because she “had little chance of making money in children’s books,”* I think you’ll start to get my point. And for heaven’s sake, if you’re sitting there worrying your five/six-figure advance means they’re overconfident and you’re doomed not to sell because how could anyone really know what the bestsellers will be, I’m shaking your shoulders right now. SHAKING THEM.

I don’t know the future. But if you’re in that place right now where the comparison devil is whispering in your ear, using your “failures” and “shortcomings” to bury all sense of hope, trick yourself like my counselor tricked me. There are two sides to every story, and you are not allowed to block the good side out.

“I’m getting a lot of rejections … but I know so much more than last year.”

“A top-choice agent just told me my book made her cringe** but another just requested the full.”

Capisce?
If you’re going to do any comparing, that should be it.

* These quotes/numbers pulled from Wikipedia.
** Yes, this was an actual rejection I received.

 

N. K. Traver—Nat—pursued an information technology degree in college because she wasn’t sure she could get a job with an English degree. Then she started writing books. And in short order she got an agent and a contract and her first book, Duplicity, releases on 3 March 2015 with St. Martin’s Press. You can find her at her website and on Twitter.

Tweet: The Comparison Devil—don’t listen to it!
Tweet: We always want to compare our experiences to figure out what’s normal.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Posted in Guest Posts, The Book Biz | Tagged as: , , ,

Location, Location, Location

In this week’s guest post (’cause I’m still struggling with that pesky computer failure), author Norma Horton covers two topics dear to my heart: writing and exploring foreign countries. If you can call it research and write it off, so much the better!

Location, Location, Location

Today, I walked through Rome. Not in my mind (which I’ve been known to do), but in real life. Down the Spanish Steps, along the via Condotti, around the obelisk in the middle of the Piazza del Popolo. Whereas I used to stroll these streets as a tourist, I now walk as an author. Which means I walk with all my senses.

Fall is mushroom, truffle, and zucchini season. These aromas—especially the mighty truffle!—hang in the air from 2:00 p.m. until long after a late Italian supper. Coffee is in season year-round, so my morning cappuccino is inhaled as well as ingested. These scents are inextricably woven into the fabric of my days in Rome.

And the tastes! Yesterday, under awnings at a spot on the Via Bocca di Leone, I split a plate of fettuccine laced with freshly foraged mushrooms in a light cream sauce, generously topped with thinly sliced black truffle. The earthiness of the truffle, saltiness of the Pecorino cheese in the heavy cream, and mellow mushrooms were a culinary triumvirate. This wasn’t just a plate of pasta, it was a plate of details my readers would love.

Despite a reputation to the contrary, car horns aren’t the dominant sound in Rome. It’s bells. Church bells. They chime and peal throughout the day, and I’ve spent more than one serenade standing at the terrace door, smiling. Children race up and down the streets and alleyways, their footsteps and laughter humanizing this big city. Plates clatter and scooters zoom, tangling into the Roman symphony.

I feel rough square cobbles under my shoe soles, so unlike the rounded ones in Paris and Prague. I see the setting sun brightly illuminate “the wedding cake” (the Victor Emmanuel Monument) in a way so unlike the gray tones of a Parisian sunset on the Eiffel Tower.

The point is, good writing is about the characteristics that enable a reader to recreate a place in his or her mind. I argue that it’s an in-person experience for the writer, who can then sketch in shadows from Internet research. To be fair to my readers, I have to have “been there, done that” before I can accurately portray the Middle East or Western Europe or Peru. (I draw the line at shooting someone like my protagonist, archaeologist Grace Madison, did in When Camels Fly.)

The bond between writer and reader is one of trust. I trust them to buy my books, and they trust me to entertain them. I cede to Hemingway when he said to write about what you know, and write one true sentence, the truest you know. The intimacy I owe a reader starts here, in Rome.

NLB Horton returned to writing fiction after an award-winning career in journalism and marketing as well as earning her Master of Arts degree in Biblical Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary. From her home in the Rocky Mountains, she writes, cross-country skis, gardens, and researches ideas for her next novel.

Tweet: Traveling with my author’s hat on, I notice things that will show up in my novel.
Tweet: This wasn’t just a plate of pasta, it was a plate of details my readers would love.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Posted in Guest Posts, Miscellany, The Writing Craft | Tagged as: , , , , ,