Wednesday, September 5, 2018

September IWSG

I'm so glad I checked my email today. With school set to start tomorrow and my daughter performing in a program for the district teachers at 8 a.m. this morning*, I'll admit it: I forgot about this month's IWSG! (Hangs head.) Anyhoo, thank you to our host, Alex J. Cavanaugh and the wonderful co-hosts who have volunteered their time to help out this month: Toi Thomas,T. Powell Coltrin, M.J. Fifield, and Tara Tyler!

September 5 question - What publishing path are you considering/did you take, and why?

I'm still pursuing the path of finding an agent (stop laughing) and then getting published with a traditional publisher. (Okay, I know, I know. For my next trick, I'll win the lottery.)

I have self-published a collection of short stories and had several short stories land in various anthologies by smaller publishers. Those were all great learning experiences with supportive people. So why torture myself?

I blame the acknowledgement pages in the back of some of my favorite books. The authors tend to thank a ton of folks from marketing, to reading early drafts, and the awesome cover artist. Most intriguing, they usually credit their editor with pushing the story to heights (or depths) that the author never thought they could accomplish. 

I want that. 

Now I have no clue if this is entirely accurate or for what publishing houses, or if I could even find it by hiring my own editor, somewhere. But I do know that when I hold a traditionally published book in my hands, there is a certain quality in the materials, the reading layout, and cover art that I would love to see featured with my writing. 

However, it would probably be easier to win the lottery and foot the bill for all that lovely stuff myself. 

And then there's that dream of seeing your book on the shelves of a store...


Happy Trails, writers, wherever your publishing takes you!

Would you rather win the lottery or land an agent/publishing contract?

*She was in a show choir piece singing and dancing to "This is Me" from The Greatest Showman. YouTube video: You can't see her until about the 3 minute mark when she's dead center, red feather on headband, red top, black and white striped skirt, incredibly long brown hair. Great job, kiddo.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

August IWSG and Celebrate the Small Things

Good Morning, Insecure Writers! What's new and exciting? It's time to spew forth our worries about all things writerly. Thank you to our host, Alex J. Cavanaugh and his merry band of co-hosts: Erika Beebe, Sandra Hoover, Susan Gourley, and Lee Lowery.

August's optional question: What pitfalls would you warn other writers to avoid on their publication journey?

Pitfall #1: Thinking publication is a good idea.

Chester Zoo

Do you have the emotional skin of a rhinoceros? The patience of Job? Absolutely no expectations of success? 

If you can answer "yes" to these questions you are a liar might be ready to attempt publication. 

But why? Why put up with the heartache and headaches of querying agents who, for some odd reason, always start their rejection with "Thank you...". Instead of cushioning the blow, I'd prefer a succinct "Nope", unless they have a specific nugget of advice, which is rare. 

Why agonize for hours how to "personalize" a query that will most likely get rejected? Why spend eons pondering the mind-numbing options for self-publication/marketing plans?

STOP NOW, BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE! Go back and edit you story again. Stay in your happy place. 

Pitfall #2: The query letter

Nothing Beats a Fountain Pen

You've spent weeks writing the thing. You've had it proofread by at least three, eagle-eyed fellow writers. Should you hit send? NO. FOR THE LOVE OF CHRISTMAS, DON'T DO IT!

The second you do, you'll realize you misspelled the agent's name, or forgot to change the agent's name from the last version of your query, or that somewhere in there is a "to" where you need a "too". The second you think a query is done, put it to bed for 24 hours. At least. 

Pitfall #3: The Twitter Pitch Event

Twitter icon fluffy

I've mentioned this one before. At least 3 times. So let me repeat it again. Twitter Pitch Parties often involve agents and publishers. Getting a "like" is so exciting, you'll want to send off your query/partial/bio the absolute second you get noticed, just in case the "liking" party comes to their senses and realizes their mistake.

Don't do that. 

Research your "liker(s)". (Hmm. That sounds vaguely dirty.) If you want an agent, query them first. If you want a publisher, make sure your book fits their requirements. Decide if you're cool with their quirks--like an upper word limit of 85K or possibly raising a sum of cash via GoFundMe to pay for publishing costs.

A Little Luck

Good luck. (You'll need it.) 


This weekly blog is an opportunity to share the good things in life, be they big or small. It's hosted by the amazing Lexa Cain and her co-hosts L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge and
Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits Blog.

This week I'm celebrating:

1. An Awesome Read:

Gill Sims wrote this hilarious take on parenthood that will make you believe she's been secretly watching your family and taking notes. I brought home a copy from the library and every time I turn around, my husband has spirited it away to a quite corner to read. Grr. Give it back, now. MINE!

2. Completing a big project.

My mom gave my daughter a bit of cash for her birthday with the suggestion that she might like to start a succulent garden. Yeah, right. Like that was ever going to happen. 

Then the row of holly bushes on the side of my house up and died on me. So my daughter demanded asked if we might put in a garden there. 

And we did:

It's a big area. The entire project took about a month.

The most expensive part was a pallet of flat rocks. We found the stumps and curling bits of bark at a recycling center. 

This was my daughter's idea: a pallet garden. Yep, the very pallet the rocks came on.

Another of my daughter's creations: the broken pot planter. She broke it (and glued parts back, oops) by herself.

This hidden staircase is my favorite contribution.

That's not water, it's plastic wrap and polyurethane. 

White sand and glass beads plus more polyurethane make a sparkling faux river. Apologies to the environment.

Requisite fairy house.

My back is killing me and I may never get the dirt out from under my fingernails, but it was totally worth it. Now if I could just get the chipmunks to stop destroying everything... I swear, they must think we did all this just to make them a fabulous playground. Come on, garden supervisor, go get 'em!

Chipmunk? What chipmunk?


Have you published your writing yet? Good or bad experience? How do you relieve the stress of parenting? Alcohol or chocolate/sugar? Like to garden? Know how to get rid of chipmunks?

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

July IWSG and Celebrate the Small Things

Happy 3rd of July! Are you planning something fun tomorrow? Love fireworks? First let's thank our dazzling host, Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavannaugh, and his merry band of co-hosts: Nicki Elson, Juneta Key, Tamara Narayan, and Patricia Lynne!

July 3 question - What are your ultimate writing goals, and how have they changed over time (if at all)?

Novice writing goals: Get an agent, secure a 3-book deal with major publisher, and publish a bestseller once a year for a long, glorious career in which one or more books are made into major motion pictures. Extra bonus: meet Stephen King in the green room of the Tonight Show before big interview.

Mid-level writing goals: Get an agent to request a full, research the differences between independent and small publishers, rate different marketing strategies on the anxiety scale from slightly terrifying to puke-inducing panic level

Veteran writing goals: Get an actual rejection from agent instead of soul-crushing silence after six weeks, figure out how to self publish without embarrassing yourself, debate the pros and cons of starting a newsletter, stop watching movies long enough to write anything

Keep your writing goals alive, people! On July 19th, prepare those amazing tweets for #IWSGPit. It's an easy way to get your pitch in front of the eyes of publishers and agents. But realize these are two different groups. My advice? If you really want an agent, then work with them first. Don't try to send queries to publishers and agents at the same time. Their time tables are different.


This fun weekly blog gives you the opportunity to celebrate anything you want and is hosted by the awesome Lexa Cain and her co-hosts: L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge
Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits Blog

This week, I'd like to celebrate:

Crystal Light

1. A wedding anniversary! This Thursday marks 15 years for my husband and I. Wow. Where did the time go? Did you know what the traditional gift for the 15th anniversary is? Crystal. The modern gift is a watch. Hmmm. Considering that everyone had a cell phone, they might need to update that again.

Phantom of the Opera at MasterCard Theaters 2013

2. A play. We went to Toronto this past weekend to see The Phantom of the Opera and it was fantastic! 

I"ll stick out my tongue but I won't say 'AHHH'

3. Animals. On our Toronto trip, we went to the zoo on Sunday, Canada Day! Did you know that July 1 is the day Canadians celebrate their independence? The weather wasn't the best: high nineties. When we went to see the camels, one of them had it's tongue hanging out--I didn't blame him. The poor polar bears were flopped face-down on the concrete in the shade. I was so tempted to jump into their pool. 


How's writing going for you these days? Have you ever seen The Phantom of the Opera? Seen an animal do something interesting at the zoo or elsewhere? 

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

June IWSG and Celebrate The Small Things

Well, it finally happened. I missed an IWSG post (May). But before I delve into that, let me thank our host, Alex J. Cavanaugh, and his awesome band of co-hosts: Beverly Stowe McClure, Tonja DreckerTyrean Martinson, and Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor!

June's question: What's harder for you to come up with, book titles or character names?


That would be character names, for sure. In my first novel, every main character ended up with a name starting with the letter J: Jody, Janie, John, Jasper, and Jahoshaphat. Okay, maybe not the last one, but you get the idea. 

Come to think of it, that first novel also went through three title changes (Black Days to A Glass Half Full to The Destiny Thief), so maybe I have trouble with both. I've come up with some humdingers of titles for stories that have yet to be written. I'd tell you some, but I'm afraid you might steal them I'm saving them.


In this weekly blog hop, we express our thanks for the small (or not so small) things in life with our wonderful host, Lexa Cain, and her cohosts, L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge and Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits Blog.

1. New releases by writer friends, specifically this one by C. Lee McKenzie:


By C. Lee McKenzie

Pete’s stuck in medieval England!

Pete and his friend Weasel thought they’d closed the Time Lock. But a young page from medieval times, Peter of Bramwell, goes missing. His absence during a critical moment will forever alter history unless he’s found.

There’s only one solution - fledgling wizard Pete must take the page’s place. Accompanied by Weasel and Fanon, Pete’s alligator familiar, they travel to 1173 England.

But what if the page remains lost - will Pete know what to do when the critical moment arrives? Toss in a grumpy Fanon, the duke’s curious niece, a talking horse, and the Circle of Stones and Pete realizes he’s in over his young wizard head yet again...

Release date – May 15, 2018
Juvenile Fiction - Fantasy & Magic/Boys & Men
$13.95 Print ISBN 9781939844460
$3.99 EBook ISBN 9781939844477

C. Lee McKenzie has a background in Linguistics and Inter-Cultural Communication, but these days her greatest passion is writing for young readers. When she’s not writing she’s hiking or traveling or practicing yoga or asking a lot questions about things she still doesn’t understand.

2. EyeMart Express

If you're curious about how one completely misses IWSG day, here are the gory details:

eye of Horus

Last month, my dear daughter came home early from school on a Tuesday (before I could compose my IWSG post), because her contact was irritating the busakas out of her eye. (Don't ask me to define busakas, although shockingly, there is a Twitter account @busakas. Dang it. Why are all the good made-up words taken? Why?) Anyway, when it didn't resolve over the next hour, I took her to the eye doctor and discovered she had an infection. Off to the pharmacist we went to fetch the drops to be applied to the eye every couple of hours. For two weeks. (Did you read that in iambic pentameter? Bravo.)

One problem solved, but another soon reared its head. You can't wear contacts with an eye infection. So did we pull out her backup eyeglasses? Nope. She didn't have any. Why? Because one stubborn teenage girl refused to even consider buying glasses once contacts came into the picture. Grrsniks. Learn from my mistake, parents of self-conscious teens.

The next day,Wednesday (IWSG day), we went back to the eye doctor for a follow-up exam and then off to EyeMart Express. They were awesome. We picked out two frames, and the girl was posting a Instagram poll on which ones looked cooler in less than 2 hours. (My pick lost 17 to 0. Sigh.)

On Thursday, daughter number two had, by complete coincidence, an eye doctor appointment, which dragged on for almost three HGTV shows, due to some extra tests they needed to run. (Man, I miss cable.)

3. Ryan Plumbing and Heating

In addition to our magical opthalmalogical marathon (say that three times fast), we had the usual overload of homework, instrument lessons, and oh yeah, the air conditioning died. This prompted not one, not two, but three different visits by our local air and heating guys plus a major repair job, which necessitated a quick and dirty clean-up of a very cluttered basement, not to mention a fascinating discussion on the pitter-patter of little feet.  


Oh no...

Computer time? Forget about it. June will be different, I'm sure...

One week after writing the above post: Yep, so far it's much worse, but I'll save that for later.


Have you ever missed an IWSG post? Life ever steal your writing time away when you really needed it? Any new book releases to share? Made up any words like Grrsniks? (FYI, it's available as a Twitter handle. You're welcome.)

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Insecure Writer's Support Group and Celebrate the Small Things

Join the fun here.

Good Wednesday morning, y'all. What's new? Are you tackling the A to Z challenge? Thrilled to see Vilanova win? But first, a big shout out to our host, Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh, and his merry band of cohosts: Olga Godim, Chemist Ken, Renee Scattergood, and Tamara Narayan!

(That last one isn't exactly merry as she piles up used Kleenex around the keyboard for the fourth time since Christmas. AAAA-CHOOO!)

April 4 question - When your writing life is a bit cloudy or filled with rain, what do you do to dig down and keep on writing?

Image: barnimages

When your blank screen and mind are in perfect sync, "Om" is pronounced "Ummmm."

1. Tell myself I will write, every day, for at least an hour an hour and a half, no matter how much I hate the words spewing across the screen. I can edit the swill to greatness later. Then get hit with a crisis (see below for example) and put the writing on hold, again.

2. Spend time on research. You can never do too much of this, right? Wait, does this mean I'm supposed to research topics relevant to my novel, or can I just surf at will? I mean, how can you not watch cute cat videos all day when one of your characters might need to own a pet? It's all good.

Image: Viv Lynch

3. Take a long, long, long-long-long walk and try to get into a scene, work through a plot point, or find a character's voice. This can be tough if it's less than thirty degrees outside. If you don't own a snow suit, long showers are also good places to think. It helps to have a water heater big enough to hold Shamu though. 

I interpreted this question as a colorful way to ask what to do about writer's block. I suppose, though, it could also mean: What do you do when your queries go unanswered, book sales are nonexistent, or reviews aren't stellar? Well, my husband likes to put things in perspective. As a math professor, a bad day might mean a run-in with a difficult student, a lecture that went wrong, or a grant that didn't get funded. He consoles himself by thinking, "At least I'm not a surgeon. A bad day for them means someone died."

Alrighty, then.


It's time to celebrate the small things in life with our host, Lexa Cain, and her co-hosts: L.G. Keltner and Tonja Drecker. 

This has been a challenging week for two members of our family and I'm celebrating the fact that they are okay.

1. Fruits and vegetables are really, really good your health

 This past Wednesday, my mother-in-law survived a brush with gun violence in a N.C. Walmart. After picking up a prescription, she was about to head out the door when she decided to check out the produce aisle. Moments later, gunfire was heard outside and the shoppers were herded to the back of the store until the police arrived. Apparently, two people got into an argument inside the store first before moving it outside. One of them had a gun in his car and decided to use it. Two people were injured, but thankfully, there were no fatalities.

2. Mr. M gets a hair cut.

Last Thursday, Mr. M came in from our back deck, dragging one of his hind feet. The foot was bleeding, so I took him to the vet, thinking he must have gotten into a fight with some critter in the back yard. The vet later told me I was right, but the fight most likely occurred several days earlier. A wound on his foot got infected, formed an abscess filled with blood and pus, and this abscess broke open Thursday morning. 

While under sedation, they shaved Mr. M to get rid of several bad clumps of matted fur. Otherwise, he would have torn them out with his teeth. So he may look strange, but the shaving saved him from months of painful tearing.

Today (Tuesday), his wounds are healing and he is almost walking normally. 


If you're a writer, have you experienced rough patches in your career? Has gun violence affected you or your family? Ever nursed a pet back to health?

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Blue Sludge Blues or Why You Should Hold It

blu eyes

Today, I am helping celebrate the release of a horror story collection titled Blue Sludge Blues and Other Abominations by Shannon Lawrence. What's more terrifying than a rest stop toilet? I can't wait to find out. But first, a little tale of terror from my past.

Many years ago, I took up jogging to get a break from the insanity that is staying at home with two toddlers who hate each other's guts at least 50% of the time. How bad was it? Well, let's just say I preferred dragging my butt through the dark, snowy streets of our neighborhood with temps dipping into the 20s to dealing with another minute of "She hit me first. No, she hit me first!" 

Standard question my husband would ask before I left: "Are you running away from home?"

Me: "Yes." 

Husband: "Are you coming back?"

Me: "Maybe."

Snow and Christmas Lights in HDR

In the months leading up to Christmas, it was kind of fun with all the different lights, inflatables, and even music ushering me along my slippery route.

Then one night, with the snow dulling the streetlights' glow to a dim blue, I saw movement about thirty yards ahead. At first, I couldn't understand what I was seeing. My first impression was legs. Lots of legs, long and not human. Too many for a single dog, I slowed down, worried I had run afoul of a pack. Which was ridiculous, right? Then the long, thin legs made me wonder if they were greyhounds. Equally ridiculous. But the bodies were too large. I stopped in my tracks. OMG, were they wolves!? 

Walla Walla wolf
Who's afraid of the big, bad wolf?

Then the critters trotted under a streetlamp and I realized they were not dogs at all, but a family of deer. Oh, dear!

Without further ado, let me present: Blue Sludge Blues:

Blue Sludge Blues And Other Abominations
by Shannon Lawrence

Release Date: March 15, 2018
Horror short story collection

A collection of frights, from the psychological to the monstrous. These tales are a reminder of how much we have to fear: A creature lurking in the blue, sludgy depths of a rest area toilet; a friendly neighbor with a dark secret hidden in his basement; a woman with nothing more to lose hellbent on vengeance; a hike gone terribly wrong for three friends; a man cursed to clean up the bodies left behind by an inhuman force. These and other stories prowl the pages of this short story collection.


From Know Thy Neighbor:

"She could tell he enjoyed her pain, and she grew determined to not show him anymore. She would bear this quietly, staring directly into his eyes."

Buy the Book

Also available from Apple and other countries through Amazon

About the Author

A fan of all things fantastical and frightening, Shannon Lawrence writes mostly fantasy and horror. Her stories can be found in magazines and anthologies, including Space and Time Magazine, Dark Moon Digest, and Ember: A Journal of Luminous Things. When she's not writing, she's hiking the wilds of Colorado and photographing her magnificent surroundings, where, coincidentally, there's always a place to hide a body or birth a monster.

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