A Writers Life #1

A Writer’s Life: I’m living the dream

Living as a writer. That’s the dream. A book or two out there being read by real people, a multi-book contract with a real publisher. It all sounds so exotic, surreal. To die for, daahling.

Here’s the thing… I’m living the dream but my life somehow missed the memo. Or maybe it didn’t. Maybe it read it, had a good chuckle, scrunched it up and aimed at the bin. And missed. 

So my plan is to throw back the curtains on just what an average #writerslife looks like. Here’s #1.

Slept 5 hours last night. Chasing words, you ask? Er, no. Gluing sequins and bathing in glitter to make a mask for my 15yo’s school dance tonight. My hands won’t come clean. Look-

You should see my lounge. Kiddo is happy, so it’s all good.

What happens after you sign a 3 book contract

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I’ve just signed a contract with Pelican / Watershed for a 3 book YA series called Spirit Walker. *Pinches arm* I keep checking just to make sure that the contract is real and not one of those so-real-you-can-smell-the-coffee dreams. Each time I look, there it is, all signed and beautiful. It is truly the stuff that I hardly dared dream of way back when I first had the crazy thought that I should try writing books.

So have you ever wondered what an author does after signing something like that? Exotic things involving corks and fine crystal? Nope. Painting the town red, hiding from the hordes of screaming fans? Uh, not quite. I went to my little girls room (that’s her up there on the beach) and finished cleaning up dirty dishes and clothes. There you have it. Exciting stuff, hey? Hehe.

But the fact is, now the truly exciting bit starts. You see, a contract is a beautiful thing because it comes with a deadline. The beauty of a deadline is that it gives me permission to get lost in my head. It gives me permission to  hide away in my room and hunt words. It gives me permission to say no to some things because I seldom have the guts to do that all by myself.

How about you? What is your big dream and what’s stopping you from going for it?

 

 

 

 

I’m grateful to…

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In the big scheme of things, getting one book accepted by a publisher does not mean that I’ve arrived as an author. I’m fully aware of that. But it is a milestone worth celebrating and as part of that, I’d love to acknowledge some of the people who have helped me along the way. One of those key people, is a lovely writer that I met online. She beta-read the first chapter of Finding Mia way back when I was still floundering through the early stages and hauled out two big no-no’s that I wasn’t even aware of in my writing – adverbs and passive voice. (How did I not see them before?) I am super grateful to her for the time she took and am delighted that she agreed to be with us on Doodles today. Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen… Meet my friend, Jennifer Owenby!

Jennifer Owenby

When you write fiction, is there a strong message in your gut that you want your reader to come away with? Or does this vary with each story?

Each story is different, but I tend to bring attention to difficult real life issues, the one’s that stay behind closed doors and no one talks about. “Tears in the Sun” is about mental illness, I have one traditionally published story concerning a woman running and hiding from an abusive husband and my story in progress deals with physical abuse in high school.

I love hearing about life defining moments, especially to do with understanding that you are a writer. Did you always know, or did it dawn on you? Tell us about one of your life defining moments.

I’ve “written” since I was able to hold a pencil in my hand. When I was 6 my family moved from St. Louis Missouri to the country in Arkansas. We had no neighbour’s only cows in the back yard. I was lonely. The days that we would have thunderstorms I’d pull my little rocking chair up to the window, listen to the rain and make up stories.  To this day, I write when it rains. That’s why I love living in Oregon. So, I don’t think there was a defining moment, I think moments defined me and nurtured what was already there.

Where do you find inspiration for your writing?

My inspiration comes from life and people that have crossed my path.

Are you comfortable weaving portions of your own life & experience into your work, or are there some things that you keep to yourself?Tears in the Sun

Yes, I am. I read somewhere that in every piece of fiction there are nuggets of truth. I’ve had many questions concerning “Tears in the Sun”, and regardless of where that nugget is, people suffer from mental illness everyday and loved ones have to make horribly difficult and painful decisions.

If you look back over your writing career, is there anything that you would change or do differently if you could go back?

Yes, I would have worked with an editor/teacher sooner. I wrote my first full length novel and gave it to and editor. I thought it was great, my writing group had helped me and I just knew it would have record sales. She gave it back to me and said “You’re not ready. I can tell you didn’t outline…” that feedback hurt, but what she did was offer me another route where she could teach me in intense bursts before I tackled a novel again. I took her short story class and wrote “Tears In the Sun”. By the time I completed the class the story was written and fully edited by an editor at Writer’s Digest. “Tears in the Sun” was also the last story I worked on with my editor. She passed away a little over year ago. So the story is special to me on several levels.

Give us the one piece of advice that you would want every newbie writer to know…

Ah shucks, I can’t give just one.

As a writer I see each scene in my head. I’m there, living and breathing every moment of it. In fact, I’m so deep in it I can’t see what needs to be fixed. So, here are a few things I highly recommend whether you are self publishing or traditional publishing:

  • Writing can be learned so study the craft. It’s not all about talent. Get your hands on books, articles and attend any conference you can.
  • Don’t publish any work unless you’ve worked with an editor. Don’t short sell yourself by not putting your best work out there. There’s many forms of editing not just grammer, it’s also voice, character arc, plot points, turning points and more.
  • And, here’s the hardest part, when an editor gives you changes and feedback, LISTEN. So many people disregard an editor’s advice even when the editor has been in the industry for years. Even Stephen King has an editor.  The beautiful thing about writing, you never stop learning. Be true to yourself and even though the feedback might hurt, embrace it and grow!

 There are two distinctly different sides to you as a writer. Tell us more about your resume service?

Dianne, you’re the best. Thanks for allowing me to share about this as well.

I, as most writers do, need income. Our dream is to write stories full time and strike it big like J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer. We all see our stories showing on the movie screen. But, then hard reality sits in.

I have a background in writing, I’ve been traditionally published and “Tears in the Sun” was my first go around at self publishing, but I needed income. I also have a background in staffing and recruiting. My second love is helping people find jobs. So, I combined the two. Resumes are a form of writing and creativity. I talk and work with people for a few hours, and then I create and form them on paper. It’s not easy. In fact the ongoing education and certifications are extensive. I have found that it’s truly helping me write tighter with fewer words in my fiction as well. It’s a great character development tool as well.  As a professional resume writer, I combine both passions.

Thank you Jen, for letting us into your head and heart, and for the nuggets of valuable info.

Jennifer Owenby can also be found on Twitter and WordPress.

 

 

Cover Reveal … Finding Mia

I clearly remember meeting my Hayley for the first time. Labor took 4,5 hours (short compared to most), a few pushes and some tugging. Then they handed me this squishy bundle of wrinkled skin – pale, blueish and not too charmed at facing the big world. I was smitten. To me, there’d never been anything more beautiful than this shivery miniature person in my arms and I couldn’t wait to show her off to anyone who cared to spare a moment. The other two arrived slightly differently, but the feeling was the same. An overwhelming love unlike anything I’d felt before. Fast forward 16 years and look how they’ve grown… From the left Carmen (my niece – well done Barbs!) and my Bronwyn (6), Hayley (nearly 16) and Nikita (13).

My girls

Many writers use the whole pregnancy/baby/birth analogy to describe the process of getting a book out. I don’t think of my books as my babies, but I do love them and opening the Final Cover Art email from my publisher was nothing short of terrifying. What if it misrepresented my story? Or the designer picked all the colors I detest? Don’t forget, I’m a writer. I live in a world of worst case scenarios.

I took a deep breath, double-clicked and found this:

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Wow, what a moment. I love it! From the slip-slops (they put in the slip-slops!) to the way the beach sand trails off into the distance, the color of the water offset against the sky and most of all the little girl in her too-big shades – just like my girls used to.

I am smitten and I can’t wait to show it off. Thank you for having a moment with me!

 

I’ve waited 10 years for this email…

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A decade ago, I started writing. I practised my signature thinking it wouldn’t be long till I found myself tucked between Peretti & Decker signing my books. Then I heard  Jesus clearly whisper, “You’re going to have to trust Me more than you ever have before.”

NO! Surely not! My insides squirmed even as my heart settled in next to my big toe.

For ten years I’ve lived in hope. Sometimes successfully – believing in what I understood myself to be created for, other times barely hanging on by a fingernail. Some days, words slip from my fingers as if my hands have been dipped in oil, other days I haul each word out by the ankles, clawing and screaming defiance till I’ve pegged it to the page. I’ve cooked and cleaned, done homework and played taxi.

Through it all, Jesus kept me from giving up. Nothing short of a miracle.

So after ten years of working and hoping, I’m delighted to announce that my second novel, Finding Mia, has been accepted for publication by the Pelican Book Group. (In case you’re wondering, I’ve read the email 100 times and it has said the same thing every time.)

And I’m rather speechless.

 

 

 

 

 

2014: Syncing and Downloading

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I’ve had this post regarding new years resolutions brewing for weeks now and I thought it would be best to get it out before January is over. Good plan, yes? Did you make any? How is that working out for you?

I don’t do resolutions for the simple reason it’s like drawing a line in the sand. The moment that groove appears, I am filled with an overwhelming urge to slap my big, hairy toe over it. It’s not that I’m a rebel. I’m just genetically bent towards sabotaging myself.

So I had this discussion with Jesus about 2014. All the normal stuff – what should I get involved with, what needs to be priority… what time-suckers should be hacked off and destroyed as hazardous radioactive energy-zapping waste. I want this year to be different. One thing that already is (different), is that I’m a proud owner of a Kindle. A friend (you know who you are!) bought me one and I’m smitten. I love that it has a little line on the menu for ‘syncing and downloading’. Click on those words, and you have whatever books you’ve ordered at your fingertips in seconds.

That’s when He switched the lights on. It’s got nothing to do with deciding my priorities using my brain and limited knowledge of what this year holds, and everything to do with getting in sync with Heaven and downloading His latest blueprints. The access is instant and the download, immediate. And the best part? You can hit that little line 20, 50… 100 times a day. The Kindle doesn’t mind and neither does God. If there is anything new, you’ll be on the receiving end. If not, He won’t get irritated with you for asking.

Here’s to a year constructed according to His perfect blueprint!

 

 

 

Na-NOOOOOOO!-WriMo

 

 

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I signed  up for Nano again this year. Can you read the stupid tattoo on my forehead? Yeah, thought so.

You see, I write slowly. For a slow writer to sign up for Nano is like being lactose intolerant at an all-you-can-drink-milkshake bar. Sooner or later there will be pain and suffering. Right now I’m about 6K behind where I should be and feel the belly punch when all my eager Nano buddies (check out the awesome Jamie Raintree *secretly turns green cheers wildly*) skip around boasting 5K days… and ‘being ahead’ of where they’re meant to be. You go, buddies, you go!  I’ll just keep plodding.

I’m always hoping to find a way to speed up. Looking at it analytically, there are many factors.  I suspect my biggest issue is more about brain-space than writing ability. 3 kids, 2 jobs… I get talked at for a large part of each day. Not too much ‘quiet soil’ for ideas to germinate in. Not that I’m about to lay down and surrender to that excuse either. There has to be a way.

I have taken to planning more before I start writing than what I used to … I outline in the broadest sense the opening and closing, key events along the way. I live with my characters in my head for weeks, watching them under different circumstances, figuring out what makes them buzz. But even then, I have writing buddies who can plan entire novels, chapter by chapter and scene by scene, all the way from chapter 1 to those two lovely words – The End. I can’t do that.

For me, starting a novel is like standing outside an unfamiliar house. There are certain things you can tell from the outside – how many stories, is it a mansion or a hovel, built from cardboard boxes or fine marble… but the real adventure starts when you step through the front door. You discover that there are many doors leading off the passage. You get to open those doors and meet the characters, explore settings that make your work come alive.

My conundrum is this – writing the way I do works for me. My story has time to breathe itself into full-blown life. I write clean, my first drafts are never train-wrecks. And yet I feel strongly about increasing my output, which means I need to speed up.

What do you think?