Susquehanna Valley Writers Luncheon

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While many people shied away from group gatherings on Saturday, due to the coronavirus, one of my friends and I drove two hours to attend the Susquehanna Valley Writers Luncheon. Our speaker, Roseanna White (pictured above), did an excellent job with the two presentations she gave.

Before lunch, Roseanna shared about the importance of having a good relationship with your editor. Even editors know how precious your writing is to you. Your stories are your babies and you like to think and want to believe you wrote your story perfectly the first time, but this is not the case.

You need to realize editors are not the bad guys. They don’t want to ruin your story. They want to help you make it better, to help you please readers and make them want to keep reading your stories. Editors do not make suggestions on changing things in your story to “change” or “destroy” your story. Their suggestions will strengthen and improve your story. You need to build a relationship with your editor, and you need to trust your editor.

Getting defensive and justifying the way you wrote something and refusing to “fix” or “improve” it, isn’t going to enable you to learn, grow, and improve your stories. If you really want to be a good writer, maybe even a great writer, it’s important to humble yourself, build a relationship with your editor, and trust that your editor knows what he or she is doing and that their suggestions will make your stories better.

Roseanna shared that when we are “called to write”, if we don’t write, or we don’t release our writing into the world, we are stealing from our readers. If we have something that needs to be written, it’s because someone needs to read it. Therefore, it is our responsibility to write it and get it out there.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

After lunch, Roseanna shared a presentation about marketing. She talked about the importance of connecting with your readers. She shared that a weekly email newsletter is a great way to connect with readers and that, when done well and faithfully, readers miss your newsletter if it doesn’t show up in their inbox on the day it’s supposed to.

She also shared that that it is important that we give our readers what they need, whether that is encouragement or hope or something else, we need to give our readers what they need.

Marketing isn’t all about us and making sales. Marketing is about serving; giving our readers something they need.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

It was a good day with a good speaker, good messages, time with friends I hadn’t seen for a while, and making some new friends.

As I listened to the speaker, then spoke with my friend on the two-hour drive home, I realized I had taken a wrong turn, made a wrong decision in my writing. If you read my November post titled, “My Writing Life”, you know that I began working as a freelance writer in November. Well, I found it to be very hard work and much of it was frustrating. In addition, it took me away from my fiction writing, which hadn’t been my plan. I thought I could do both.

However, I realized about three days before this luncheon that I needed to make a change, but wasn’t sure what that change was supposed to be. I considered trying freelance writing on my own but decided that wasn’t the answer.

Saturday, it became clear to me that I need to return to my fiction writing because that is what I have been called to do. Because that is what I have always wanted and dreamed of doing. But with one difference — with looking at it like it is a job that I need to devote time to everyday. Therefore, I will be keeping the schedule I created for myself to do freelance writing and use it to write my blog posts and my novels. I will also attempt to write historical articles to submit to places, so as to use my research for more than just my novels. I will also start a newsletter soon, and I hope many of you here will be interested in being part of that. I am also thinking of starting a Facebook group.

So stay tuned and join me on this journey.

Author Interview with Jessica Marinos

Jessica Marinos 3-7-2020

I am excited to share this interview with Jessica Marinos today. She is a fairly new author who has just released the second book in her Trimont Trilogy.

Jessica, thank you so much for taking the time and allowing me to interview you for this blog post.

Q: You became a writer at a fairly young age. When did you first know you wanted to become a writer?

A: When I was 22, I began seriously writing Traiven’s Pass, thinking that it would be one book which may be the only book I ever write. Strangely, I never grew up thinking that I wanted to be an author, though I always enjoyed writing throughout school and possessed a natural knack for it. Once it was evident to me that Traiven’s Pass would be a trilogy, I knew for certain I would at least see the trilogy through to completion. Now that I am on the final book, other story ideas are seeping in, and I know that I want and am called to be a writer.

Q: Did you take college level classes for writing? If so, did you attend college or do online classes, and what types of classes did you take?

A: Besides other college classes, I did take online college writing classes such as: English 1 & 2, Literature, History of Theatre, which had me reading lots of plays. I also widely read how to write good fiction books.

Q: I read your first book, Traiven’s Pass, and enjoyed it immensely. I was extremely impressed with the quality of your writing–your descriptions and character development, your ability to draw me into the story and keep me turning page after page. I always say that the best books make me laugh and cry, and Traiven’s Pass did both. Therefore, I have been excitedly awaiting the second book in this trilogy, King’s City, which you have recently released. However, you had some trouble getting this book out to your readers. It was delayed for quite some time. Will you share a bit about that journey and how your readers reacted to the extended wait?

A: I do not think I will ever predict when a book is going to be released again. King’s City was delayed for several reasons: 1) Our family had an unexpected gargantuan move from Tennessee to Pennsylvania. We moved our entire auto restoration business and a house from Arizona to Tennessee all to Pennsylvania. With everything that goes on with such huge transitions, I set aside my writing for nearly a year. 2) I have learned that excellent writing takes time because it takes much thought. My writing does not come out perfect my first draft. It is worked and reworked many times over to achieve just the right flow of plot, character, description, and prose. 3) The most recent setback was with the printing company we chose to print King’s City. The quality we received did not meet the quality we had been led to believe that we would receive. We, therefore. had to find another printing company, which we now have, and things are back on track after the upheaval.

My readers responded to the delay of King’s City most graciously–with much understanding and encouragement. I never want to take their kindness and patience for granted.

Q: Has your first book, Traiven’s Pass, been a success in your eyes?

A: Yes, I view Traiven’s Pass as a success. I cannot say financially, but from those who read it, they love it–all ages, men and women, boys and girls. Families have also highly enjoyed it as a read aloud.

Q: You have one book remaining to complete and release in the Trimont Trilogy and I know you’ve already begun work on it. Do you think this book will see better progress and a quicker release than King’s City?

A: I am not going to attempt a prediction, but I do think that the third book will be completed and released faster than book 2, King’s City. I have discovered the right method of writing for me, which is writing really sloppy drafts and running them by mom sooner, rather than later, so that the content kinks can be worked out before my good writing comes. So far, progress has been faster than anticipated on the third book. There are no foreseeable big events to take me away from writing. As of now, the runway is clear.

Q: Every writer dreams of being able to make a living from their writing, but few accomplish that goal. Is that your dream? Do you see a possibility of accomplishing that dream? Do you have other work that you currently do in addition to your writing?

A: I hope I can make a living through writing; however, my original aim was never to seek after a career. If I could get books out faster, which I am going to try, I do see the potential, in the future, of making a profit. But like you said, it is a very tall, expensive ladder to climb.

In addition to writing, I am the assistant office manager of our family auto restoration business.

Q: Do you have a favorite writer whose books inspired you?

A: George MacDonald is my favorite writer. I am constantly in the middle of one of his English or Scottish novels (Edited by Michael Phillips). Like C.S. Lewis considered MacDonald his literary master, so do I. George MacDonald’s description is breathtaking. His characters are so true, deep, and good role models. His spiritual insight is unparalleled in fiction. I’ve learned so much for my own soul through his stories. It is my desire that my books could also have such a lasting heavenly fragrance upon the heart.

Q: What is your writing routine like?

A: I get up at 6 a.m. and spend an hour alone with Jesus and His word and then I work on my book for another hour. After breakfast, I begin writing again, but I also shift between writing and my accounting work throughout the day.

When I get writer’s block, I switch from writing on my laptop to writing in a notebook. And when I feel stuck in writing in a notebook, I move back to a laptop. I’ve noticed that going back and forth helps loosen my mind so that I can progress forward. The notebook is my free flow, and I then use the laptop to clean up my mess, keep what I want and leave out what I didn’t like so much.

Q: After the Trimont Trilogy is completed, do you have more stories waiting to be written?

A: Yes, indeed! I’m pondering writing more books based off the Trimont Trilogy. Also, I am amped up to write a historical fiction which takes place during the Revolutionary War. As far as non-fiction, I’d like to write a fun how to write creative fiction book, as well as a Biblical Christian book based on Romans chapters 6-8.

Q: Where can people purchase your books? Do you do book signings and if so, can you give us some dates and locations of any upcoming signings?

A: My books are available on Amazon. I will be at the Great Homeschool Convention in Greenville, SC, March 19-21; the Great Homeschool Convention in Cincinnati, OH, April 16-18; NCHE Thrive Convention in NC, May 28-30; and CHAP Homeschool Convention in Lancaster, PA, June 11-12.

   

Jessica, it has been a pleasure getting to know more about you and your writing. I wish you the very best. I have my copy of King’s City and cannot wait to dig into it! I will also look forward to seeing you at the CHAP Convention in Lancaster in June.

Readers, if you haven’t read either Traiven’s Pass (read my review here), or the recently released King’s City, I highly recommend that you do.

 

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Photo by Heather Barnes on Unsplash

Honey Lavender
by Kelly F. Barr

Elaina sat at a small corner table in the ice cream parlor eating her honey lavender ice cream.

“A pink shirt isn’t too bad, but I wouldn’t be wearing pink shoes to go with my pink shirt.” A young man’s voice drifted to her from a nearby table.

“Well, the way he’s showering affection on that woman leaves no question as to his masculinity.” A young woman’s voice responded, drawing Elaina’s attention to the line of customers at the counter. As she scanned the line of customers, her eyes landed on a tall, muscular, good-looking man with caramel colored skin who had his arms around a short woman with ash blond hair. He bent to place a kiss on the top of her head, but the woman paid no attention to him.

Elaina couldn’t take her eyes off the pair. How could that woman ignore the gentle, loving attention that handsome man was showering on her? Elaina’s gaze remained upon them until they received their ice cream and moved out of her line of sight.

Elaina sighed, her thoughts turning to her desire to find someone who would pay her such sweet attention. She certainly wouldn’t be so apathetic toward a man like that. Instead, she’d be basking in his attention and showing her appreciation by giving him her full attention.

She finished her ice cream, tossed the napkins in the trash and walked toward the door. As she neared the exit, her gaze swept toward tables to her right, and there, at a small table for two, sat the couple she’d been watching in the ice cream line. The woman was looking at her cell phone while the caramel skinned man ate his ice cream. His eyes met Elaina’s and she  averted her gaze and stepped through the doorway to the outside.

* * * *

The following week, Elaina turned a corner in the bookstore and collided with a tall, muscular man. She gasped and raised her eyes to the man’s face. “I’m so sorry.”

“It was completely my fault. I wasn’t watching where I was going.” A smooth as velvet voice spoke and dark brown eyes met hers. It was him–the same man she’d seen with that woman at the ice cream parlor. Then he turned the corner and was gone.

Elaina picked up the latest book by J.P. Robinson and headed for the checkout line. As she approached the line, the same man stepped from an aisle and moved in front of her. She looked around but didn’t see the short woman, who’d been with him at the ice cream parlor, anywhere. She stood staring at the cover of the book she planned to purchase.

“I see you’ve picked up In the Midst of the Flames. Have you read In the Shadow of Your Wings?” The smooth as velvet voice addressed her.

She looked into his dark brown eyes. “Yes. It kept me turning pages from the beginning to the end, and I stayed up quite late one night to finish it.”

“Then I’m sure you’ll enjoy In the Midst of the Flames. I just finished reading that one two nights ago. That’s why I’m here. I needed something else to read.” He held up a copy of Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger. Then stepped to the cashiers’ desk to make his purchase.

* * * * *

Three days later Elaina took a walk in the park, then sat on a bench to watch the children playing on the playground, when a shadow fell across her face.

“Mind if I sit here?”

Elaina looked up into the caramel colored face and dark brown eyes of the same man. He held out a small dish of ice cream. “Honey lavender, right?”

Elaina’s lower jaw dropped but she realized it in a fraction of a second and asked, “How did you know that?” She took the dish from him with one hand and motioned for him to have a seat on the bench with the other.

“I saw you watching me at the ice cream parlor about a week and a half ago and, even though it was at a distance, I thought it looked like you were enjoying a cone of honey lavender ice cream. Today is a bit warm so I thought you might prefer it in a dish.” He smiled and his eyes sparkled as he lifted a spoonful of honey lavender ice cream from his own dish.

“I see. Well, thank you.” She made a quick scan of the area.

“She’s not here. As a matter of fact, she’s not a part of my life anymore.”

A mild flush heated Elaina’s face as she realized he had noticed her looking for the woman who had been with him at the ice cream parlor. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. Your expression, when you spotted us at the table on your way out of the parlor that evening, opened my eyes. I saw compassion in your eyes when our eyes met and realized you understood there was a problem between Jill and me. That made me realize something needed to change.” He slipped another spoonful of ice cream into his mouth and swallowed. “I tried talking to Jill about it after you walked out, but she was too busy on her phone to pay attention. That night was the last time I saw her. She never even texted me when I didn’t call to see her again.”

“I’m so sorry.”

“Again, don’t be. I’m glad I came to my senses before my relationship with Jill got too serious.” He ate a couple more spoonfuls of ice cream. “So what about you? Every time I see you, you’re alone.”

She raised her last spoonful of ice cream to her mouth and took her time savoring it as she considered her words. “I guess I just haven’t met the right guy yet.”

He held her gaze for several moments. “Would you be willing to give me a chance?”

“Yes.”

Tea and Poetry Tuesday

Today’s Tea Quote:

“Tea, though ridiculed by those who are naturally coarse in their sensibilities will always be the favorite beverage of the intellectual.”  — Thomas de Quincey

Melancholy Lady
by Kelly F. Barr

When her heart breaks
and her soul aches
and the loneliness sets in,
she longs for a tender touch,
a warm embrace,
and a passionate kiss.
An inviting smile
is all it would take
to make her feel alive again.
But none can be found
and she cries alone,
longing for home and rest.

The Difference Between Editors and Beta Readers

I’m not sure why, but lately it seems there is confusion in regard to editors and Beta Readers. I have been an editor for about two years now and have been a Beta Reader longer than that.

Therefore, I’ll talk about Beta Readers first. Whenever I’ve been asked to Beta Read a book, I have always been given a polished manuscript, meaning it has been through a thorough edit and has been revised by the writer and is now close to publication quality. What the writer wants to know from Beta Readers are the answers to questions like:

  • Did the first sentence/paragraph grab your attention/interest and make you want to keep reading?
  • Are the characters realistic? Can you relate to them?
  • Are the characters emotions and reactions believable?
  • Do the minor characters add to and/or support the story line?
  • Does the story have conflict and tension?
  • Does the story move at a consistent pace?
  • Is there anything that slows the story down?
  • Is there anything that seems too rushed?
  • Do you find anything that seems unnecessary or unrelated to the story?
  • Is there anything you find confusing?
  • Do setting descriptions give you a clear picture of the story’s world and is it realistic?
  • Is the dialogue natural?
  • Is each character’s voice distinct?
  • Is there a good mix of narrative and dialogue?
  • Does the writing “show” and not “tell”?
  • Are the changes of point of view clear and handled well, with page breaks or chapter changes, consistently?
  • Is the writing good quality, allowing you to focus on the story and not be distracted by writing errors?
  • Is the story unique and interesting?
  • Does the story deliver on its premise?
  • Does the story fit the genre?
  • Did you enjoy the story?
  • Are there any scenes you think should be shortened or cut?
  • Who is your favorite character and why?
  • Who is your least favorite character and why?

As you read over the above questions, you should get an understanding that a Beta Reader’s job is to focus on the story and the characters. It is not a Beta Reader’s job to find grammatical, spelling, or other technical writing errors and point them out. They should only be giving feedback on what they liked and didn’t like about the story and why — the types of things they would discuss with other readers when discussing books both have read or suggesting the book to a friend.

Now, the editor’s job is very different from the Beta Reader’s job. A good editor will be looking for and pointing out ALL of the writing errors — wrong word usage, spelling, grammatical, punctuation, passive vs. active voice, better and/or stronger word choices, etc. In addition to all of this, the editor will also be looking for weak spots in the story — areas that need to be shortened or lengthened, more intense or less intense, the pace of the story, how well the characters are developed, do setting descriptions appeal to the senses, is the time line accurate, is the order of the story correct; is the language in the dialogue appropriate for the ages of the characters, for the setting, and for the time period of the story, and so much more.

As you can see the editor’s job includes some of the same aspects of the Beta Reader’s job, but it’s very important that the editor’s job come first because the editor is the one to help the writer produce their best possible work.

The Beta Reader is like a “test reader”. Their job is to read the manuscript before it is published, as a reader, in order to offer feedback on what they think of the story, setting, and characters from a reader’s perspective without having to be bogged down by lots of writing mistakes.

When the writer gets the Beta Readers’ responses, they can run through the manuscript one more time to fine tune it and be sure it will now be published in the best possible quality it can be. It should be ready for a multitude of readers before it is published and released to the world.

Flash Fiction Friday: The Friendship Contract Part 2

Brett knew from the moment Isabel ran away like a frightened kitten that she was the one for him.

Her fearful dark chocolate eyes pricked his heart. She’d obviously been hurt. He longed to comfort her and promise no one would ever hurt her again.

He would have to move slow to prove that he could be trusted—that he wouldn’t hurt her like those before him. That was fine with him. It would give them time to really get to know one another without the emotional complications.

He stood in Griffin Park by the water fountain watching for her.

There – the girl with chestnut hair pulled back into a pony tail, eyes darting around, hands sunk deep in her jacket pockets, shoulders raised giving her the appearance of a turtle cautiously peeking from its shell.

Her eyes connected with his. He smiled and waved.

When she was near, he took two steps and fell into stride next to her. “Good afternoon Isabel.” He pulled a tri-folded sheet of paper from his pocket and handed it to her.

She looked into his eyes, then took the paper, unfolded it and read it. Then her eyes met his again. “You really did it.”

“Of course I did. You said you wanted a contract … and now you have one.”

“Do you have a pen?”

He quirked an eyebrow at her.

“I need to add my signature. Do you have your copy with you? We should each have a copy with both our signatures … to make it official.”

“Of course.” He stifled a smile. He pulled another tri-folded sheet from his pocket, along with a pen. Things were off to a good start. He had predicted her need to make the contract “official”.

They stopped by a picnic table and she added her signature to her copy as well as to his. “You need to sign your own copy.” She looked at him, lips in a pinched line, as she handed his copy back to him.

He took the sheet and added his signature above hers, then refolded it and placed it, and the pen, back into his pocket.

They walked along the river that ran next to Griffin Park. Isabel kept her hands in her pockets. Brett’s fingers tingled with the desire to hold her hand in his. Remember, go slow. Don’t frighten her away.

They stopped to watch a couple sailboats float by on the breeze. “Have you ever been sailing, Isabel?”

She shook her head. “I … I can’t swim.”

He barely heard the words as she mumbled with her head down.

“You don’t have to know how to swim to go sailing.”

Her head whipped up and she stared at him through wide eyes.

“You can wear a life jacket. I wouldn’t let you fall overboard.”

Isabel shook her head, and they continued to walk.

They stopped at the park concession stand. Isabel ordered a cheeseburger, fries, and a coke, and promptly pulled money from her pocket to pay for her food.

Brett forced himself not to frown, then ordered his own cheeseburger, fries, and coke, and paid for his order.

They took their food and drinks to a picnic bench and sat down.

“Isabel, do you work?”

She finished chewing her bite of cheeseburger and swallowed before answering. “Yes, I am a freelance writer.”

“So you work from your home?”

She nodded. “Do you work?” Her eyes met his as she waited for his answer.

“Yes, I am an artist, and I teach art classes in my studio.”

He watched a spark light her eyes, but just as quickly as it came, it disappeared. “Do you like art?”

She nodded but did not meet his gaze.

“Would you like to see my studio?” He held his breath as he awaited her answer.

“Maybe someday.”

He released his breath, a bit deflated. Oh well, at least it hadn’t been a “no”.

When they finished their lunch, they continued their walk around the park. Upon returning to the fountain, Isabel said, “I need to get home.”

“Isabel, I enjoyed our time together today. I hope you did too. Should we meet at Mario’s Pizza Palace next week?”

She looked up at him and he’d have sworn the corners of her lips tipped up just a bit. “Yes.”

Then she turned and walked away.

He watched her until he couldn’t see her anymore, but she never looked back at him.

* * * * *

As weeks passed and turned into months, Brett’s heart longed for the day when Isabel would finally feel secure in their relationship. When she would truly know and understand that he wouldn’t hurt her—that she could trust him.

Through the months, she did start to open up. But they were baby steps.

His heart warmed and a smile stretched his lips as he remembered the first time she’d smiled at him. Then the first time he’d heard her laugh out loud.

It was their fourth visit to Mario’s and he wanted to make her smile again. “I read your texts the moment you send them to me, and the other day I received one of your texts. I was reading it, and I walked into a pole.”

Her laughter had bubbled forth like water from a spring and he loved the sound of it.

* * * * *

Today—the one year anniversary of the day they signed their “friendship contract”–they plan to have dinner at Mario’s Pizza Palace.

Brett’s gut was in knots. One year was a milestone and Isabel had opened up to him quite a bit. Tonight he’d be picking her up and they would drive together in his car. They’d done this about half a dozen times now. He’d held her hand each time they walked through the park for the past four months, but what did it mean to her?

His nerves were on edge the moment she got in the car. She chattered about her work on the way to Mario’s, but he only half listened. He parked the car and they walked into Mario’s hand-in-hand, his heart thumping like it wanted to break out of his chest.

They took a seat in a booth near the back of the restaurant. “So, what are we having tonight?”

She looked at him with a gleam in her eyes he’d never seen before. “How about spaghetti?” She giggled.

He grinned. “Are you serious?”

“No, but I’ll never forget the look on your face as I caught you slurping a noodle the last time.”

He chuckled. “That was the first time I ever heard you laugh.”

Isabel reached her hand across the table and touched his. “You know, you really have helped me during this past year.”

“I’m glad.” He gave her fingers a gentle squeeze.

“You know, I’ve been thinking about our relationship and our contract.”

He raised his eyebrows but didn’t say anything. He held his breath to hear what she would say next.

“I think it’s time for a change.”

Brett sat up, leaning harder on the table, every nerve and muscle in his body tensed.

Isabel slipped a hand beneath the table, reached into the back pocket of her jeans and pulled out a folded sheet of paper. She opened it and showed him her copy of their “friendship agreement”. She folded it again as her eyes held his gaze. Then she ripped the paper in half and in half again and again, until it was just a pile of small pieces on the table between them.

Brett’s heart pounded and his palms sweated, but his eyes were locked with hers.

“Brett, I think it’s time this relationship moved to the next step—something more than friendship.”

The breath he’d been holding burst from his mouth and he breathed normally again. “Are you sure?”

“As long as we can continue to take it one step at a time.”

Brett reached and brushed a thumb across her cheek. She clasped his hand and kissed his palm, and his heart leapt for joy. It would take a little more time, but one day he would make Isabel his wife.