Morning Coffee: Positivity

RevisionsThe power of a smile was stressed in my business classes. When you answer the phone, smile. If the caller is angry or frustrated and you speak with a smile on your face your voice will reflect that smile and the problem is unlikely to escalate. If it’s a cold call from someone looking for information, your smile will make you sound friendly and will reflect positively on your company.

The same can be said about your choice of words, your attitude. When I’m feeling uncertain about my writing, beginning to question whether or not I can succeed at becoming a published author, I always smile and tell people I know it will happen. I explain that that particular agent or editor turned out to not be the right one for me and my book, but there is someone out there who is and I will eventually find him or her. Even if internally I might not believe it myself at that moment, if I say it with a smile on my face I will believe it. Then I move on to a new submission. Or perhaps I take another look at my manuscript and fix some of the things the previous rejection mentioned as not working for them, should they have been kind enough to give a little feedback. I want my agent and/or editor to LOVE my book.

Sounding positive leads to feeling positive; and feeling positive leads to the persistence that leads to success. The only thing negativity leads to is more negativity. If you believe you are incapable of doing something you will not be able to do it. If you believe you are a failure, you will be a failure.

So, believe in yourself. I do. Last week I participated in my first Twitter pitch party. It was quite the experience and at the end of the day I walked away with a submission request from an editor. Naturally, I immediately sent her the synopsis and my first three chapters. Within a few days I received a reply asking for a full manuscript. They wanted to read more! This is definitely a positive response and I’m hoping it will lead to success. It’s a response I never would have received if I’d let myself believe the occasional negative thought that tried to push its way into my brain. Instead, I listened to the positive thoughts, believed in myself and my book, and went for it.

If not this one, then perhaps the next one. I know there’s someone out there who wants to read my book; and I know there’s a publisher who wants to sell it to them.


Morning Coffee: March In Like A Lion, Out Like A Lamb

winterWe’ve all grown up with the old adage if March comes in like a lion it will go out like a lamb…or vice versa. Of course, the former is more likely to be true merely because it would make sense that as spring approaches the weather will gradually improve.  As for the former, that could easily happen, too, because March weather is so volatile. Warm fronts from the south begin pushing north while those cold Canadian fronts continue to push south. When they meet…well…that’s why we have some of our worst winter storms in March.

This year March came in like a lamb. I wrote last week how the mild temps were teasing us with the smell of spring in the air. But we were less than a week into the month and we were hit again with a whopper of a storm. It started the morning of the fifth with the hard winds that blew in advance of the front. Our yard quickly became littered with branches, both large and small. I watched knowing that once the snow melted we’d have to go out and collect them. Hard gusts rattled the pipe leading down to the gas fireplace in the living room and shook the windows. In the afternoon we had sleet one minute, snow the next, and then back to sleet. The icy pellets danced on the back deck, reminding me of the styrofoam beads that spill from a beanbag chair if it’s ripped. By evening the snow won and the wind blew it into white-out conditions. A soup supper and card game night planned with two other couples had to be cancelled due to hazardous driving.

Then the next morning it was all over. The sun was out and so were the shovels, snow blowers, and snow plows…again. I spent two hours clearing about four inches of very heavy wet snow from the driveway. The end with all the waterlogged deposits from the plow was the worst. I’m hoping this will be the last time I have to do this, but I wouldn’t put any money down on that bet. At least the temperature wasn’t all that bad, or maybe it just seemed that way as I heated up from the shoveling. It definitely helped that the wind had died down to a gentler breeze. And now it’s cold again.

But this is what March is like, every year, and it’s just another sign that spring is coming.

Morning Coffee: Spring Tease

Mockingbird2Spring tease kind of sounds like strip tease and, in a sense, that’s what it is. Winter slowly peeling back one layer at a time to give us a glimpse of what is to come; what is hiding underneath. Spring! Flowers, song birds, and light jackets!

Last week we woke to 6 inches of new snow. Then two days later, 6 more inches. It wasn’t unexpected. For once the forecasters got it right. I’m not a big fan of snow. It has its place, namely, the holidays. It isn’t Christmas or New Year’s without snow. Then, in my mind anyway, it can go away. But, I will say this, there is nothing more beautiful than a fresh white snowfall before the plows and passing cars start turning everything dirty again. This snow had enough moisture in it to stick to all the bare trees around us, glittering in the morning sun. Very pretty!

But spring is not far behind. Daytime temps have been in the low 40s. If this was June we’d be complaining how cold it is. But it’s March and the sun feels amazing, welcoming. Those new but now dirty snow banks are fast receding. I went for a long walk yesterday, no gloves and no hat, my coat unzipped. The smell of wet earth was the smell of a promise. The promise that, while there is no doubt more snow to come, spring is almost here; and after spring, summer. Even the birds are singing a little more joyfully.

I’ll go out again, as often as the weather allows. It’s a much needed mood boost after the long cold winter. Not to mention, I need to start thinking about that winter hibernation weight. Can’t ignore it any longer.

My daughter calls from North Carolina to tell me her daffodils are blooming. My son calls from south Florida to complain (gloat?) that it’s 91 there! Then they laugh when I tell them about the snow on the roof and piled along the driveway and street. I tell them I hate them, then we all laugh because they know that’s not true. I’ll be seeing them in a few weeks and look forward to sharing some of that warmth. I’m hoping by the time I get back our snow will be gone and I can start to watch for an open sign on the golf course.

Spring is coming. Winter is almost over. In the meantime, all these warm days and cold nights mean the maple sap will soon be running. Syrup season. Another sign of spring.

Morning Coffee: Contests

Healing HeartContests can be a great way to get feedback on your work-in-progress. I say “can be” because not all contests provide feedback. Either you win or you don’t. So, unless you’re alright with that, you need to do a little research first to be certain you’re getting what you want out of your entry fee. It’s why I’m generally picky about which contests I enter.

But I know I’ll get more than my money’s worth out of anything sponsored by RWA (Romance Writers of America) or any of their chapters. I’m currently entered in The Golden Heart for unpublished authors through RWA. I’ll learn mid-March if I’m a finalist in the category for mainstream with romantic elements. I will not receive any comments from the first round judges, but if I do make the final round my book will be read by both a publisher and an agent. That alone makes the entry fee worth it because I could end up with a contract even if I don’t ultimately win.

I have also entered WisRWA’s (Wisconsin chapter of RWA) FabFive competition for unpublished authors for the third year in a row. With that one I will get my score sheets and comments from the first round judges, and, if I make the finalists, as I did in year one, I will again be judged by a publisher and agent. AND I will receive their score sheets with comments.

It’s too late for The Golden Heart. If interested, you’ll have to wait until later this year to enter. However, the deadline for FabFive is one week from today, so there’s still time. Check it out online or see the flyer below. You have until 11:59pm central time on March 1st. So dust off your romance novel and see what the judges, your peers, have to say. Who knows what can happen from there.

FabFive Flyer

Morning Coffee: Rejection


“I love my rejection slips; they show me I try.”

Sylvia Plath



Rejection is a big part of being a writer. No matter how many books you’ve published, or how many devoted Twitter or blog followers you may have, you will never be immune from rejection. I received another one myself this week.

As I’ve written in the past, I pitched “Mary Bishop” to two different agents at the WisRWA conference last May and both asked to see a synopsis and partial manuscript. By the end of October I finished the suggested revisions and eagerly sent it out, hoping for at least one of them to request a full manuscript, and ultimately sign me. Within a couple weeks the first one replied with a kind but short “no thank you”. My story didn’t fit her current list needs. Okay. There was still agent #2.

This week, three months later, I received the long-awaited email. After careful consideration, and while she felt my story had a lot going for it, agent #2 didn’t “fall in love” with “Mary Bishop”. Was I disappointed? Of course, but I also understand what she was saying and was happy that she made sure and start with a positive statement about my writing. I wouldn’t want to sign with an agent, or editor, who didn’t “fall in love” with my book. It’s that love that drives the passion needed to promote it. I want, need, them to love it at least as much as I do.

The question is, what do I do now? Do I toss the manuscript into a drawer to rot? No! It’s a good book and I’ve been told by a few editors that, while it didn’t suit their current needs, they knew there would be someone who would want it. So I keep going.

It’s currently an entry in the RWA’s annual Golden Heart competition for authors who have a completed novel ready to market but have not sold one yet. I will find out in mid-March if I’m a finalist in my category (mainstream fiction with romantic elements). If I final, then I continue on to the final round where I will be read by both an editor and an agent. Whether I win in the end or not, I get exposure and the possibility of a contract. The winners will be announced at RWA’s annual conference in Denver in July. I will be there, a finalist or not, and I will also be signing up to pitch to the many agents and editors who will be attending in search of new blood.

I also plan on participating in what Twitter calls a Pitch Party in March. I’ll have a chance to post three pitches at #PitMad in the hopes that an editor or agent will be interested in seeing more. Pitch Parties have become very popular and a door-opener for many writers.

After that? I don’t know. We’ll have to see. But I do know I won’t be giving up until I’m picked up by someone. I know there are readers out there just waiting for my book.

writer encouragement

There’s also book #2, “The Healing Heart”. I’m currently about 1/3 of the way through my first draft. By next year I’ll be pitching that one.


Morning Coffee: Taking Risks

Healing HeartI’ve never thought of myself as a risk-taker. In fact, I’m much more of a worrier, someone who’s often too cautious. I tried skiing once but that was enough. Strapping two wooden sticks to my feet so I can careen down a mountain strikes me as crazy. It was years before I drove my husband’s pick-up truck, and then only because I was forced to drive it. My car was in the garage and I had to get to work. You can forget about me ever jumping out of a plane with nothing but a sheet to slow my fall. Yet, I realize I take risks every day with my writing.

Every word I type puts me out there for others to see. Even if I never send a single manuscript for publication, there’s a good chance one day my children will read them. And every time I do send one of my stories to an editor or agent I risk being rejected. Some will do so kindly, some will use a form rejection that leaves me wondering if they even bothered to read my work, and some won’t respond at all.

I also share my writing with my peers. I’ve belonged to several critique groups over the years and if I want honest feedback, and I do, then sometimes I have to hear some not so glowing comments.

One day I hope to publish novels and, just because my publisher likes them, and just because some other people like them, it doesn’t mean everyone is going to like them. I expect I will have reviews on sites like Amazon that range from five stars to one.

So, why do I put myself though this over and over? Why do I spend so much of my time creating worlds and characters on paper when more often than not I will face some form of rejection? You got me! I frequently wonder myself. Perhaps I am a risk-taker at heart.

You see, I can’t help myself. I need to write just like I need to breathe and eat and sleep. When I don’t write for a while I feel lost and the voices in my head begin to pester me ever louder, insisting I put their stories on paper. So I keep writing and I keep sharing my stories with others and I keep pushing aside the rejections while paying attention to the successes. Some of you may never understand, but I know many of you will. Replace my need to write with your need to quilt or paint. Perhaps you’re never happier than when you’re in the woods or out on the lake, even if you don’t get off a single shot or hook a single fish. And, yes, I understand that some of you probably think skiing is exhilarating and can’t wait for winter, even though you know you might spend more time picking yourself up than successfully completing a run. And one of these times you’re going to break something other than a ski or the cell phone in your pocket.

We are all risk-takers in some form or another. Embrace it. Accept it. Own it.

Morning Coffee: Technophobia

RevisionsThe fear or dislike of advanced technology or complex devices. That’s me. I’d prefer things stay the way they are. Don’t fix what’s not broken, that’s what I say. The fear of change is called metathesiophobia. It sounds like there might be a little of that at play here, too. Last week an old friend wanted to talk via video chat. My response was to just use our cell phones. I suspect I will need to give in to this one eventually…but maybe not.

However, I am learning. I know I have to be able to do any PR if I want my book to be published, so I have a Facebook author page, I’m learning to use Twitter to my best advantage, and, of course, I figured out how to set up my WordPress page so I could do this weekly blog. In a couple weeks I’ll attend an event in Eau Claire where Karissa Zastrow will speak on social media for writers.

I’ve taken an even bigger step this week. I’m learning a new software. Scrivener has looked intriguing to me for a while. I received the software for Christmas, and I also bought myself a guide book to supplement the tutorial; still, it has taken me several weeks to actually click on that taunting icon on my desktop.

What was I afraid of? I’m not completely certain. Both the tutorial and the book assure me transferring my work-in-progress (WIP) is only a copy. It will still exist on my hard drive so there’s no risk. Should I mess things up first time around I can delete the new Scrivener project and start over. And, of course, there’s my printed copy and my removable hard drive with the backup copy. So, within the next couple days I WILL take that step and copy my WIP to Scrivener and set it up. I promise.

What is Scrivener? It’s organizational software for writers with templates for novels, stage plays and screenplays, and academic papers. I will be able to write and save in sections so I can shuffle scenes/chapters, make changes in one that affects all the others, split the screen to refer to one chapter while writing another, and then when I’m finished I can compile the sections in any order I wish to save as a whole. I can even format for self-publishing, should I choose that route. I can save all my research and bring that up on one half of the split screen for easy reference. One of my favorite features is the “corkboard” pinned with virtual note cards, one for each character, a brief synopsis, and any notes for the chapter I’m currently working on. No more flipping through scraps of paper or searching through a binder when I need a specific historical reference or can’t remember the color of my hero’s eyes. There are far more features than I will ever need but I have played with the idea of doing a stage play and now have no excuse as Scrivener will automatically format it for me.

There will always be a lot of things I can’t, or won’t want to, do. There are plenty of things out there that have no real purpose other than to time-suck. But every now and then, when needed, I do manage to learn something new.