Flash Fiction Friday: Love and Writing

corinne-kutz-211251-unsplash

Photo by Corinne Kutz on Unsplash

 

Julie rushed through the library clasping her folder to her chest, tears stinging the backs of her eyes. As she burst out the library doors, she gulped the warm fresh air, relieved to be rid of the feeling of suffocation. She fast-walked toward home, longing for the safety and solitude of her bedroom.

As she walked, the dam broke, and tears gushed forth. Why are people so mean? Why are they so critical and judgmental? Hadn’t anyone ever taught them that “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”—words Grandma Rose had drilled into her head?

Julie’s family’s house came into view, and Toby Jefferson, her best friend for the past three years, sat on the top step of the large front porch. She slowed her pace and scrubbed her tears away with one hand, while retaining her tight grip on her folder. She hoped her eyes didn’t look too red and puffy.

Julie turned onto the gray stone walkway leading to her house. Her eyes met Toby’s, and he grinned. She offered a small smile.

She stopped before him, and he patted the porch floor next to him. “Have a seat.”

When Julie was seated, Toby turned to look at her. “So, how’d it go? What did they say?”

One look into his kind, encouraging, chocolate brown eyes and she came undone. Sobs shook her slight frame.

Toby wrapped an arm around her and stroked her long black hair. He just held her until her sobs subsided, then she sat up, looked at him through watery blue eyes, and sniffed. “Oh Toby, I don’t think I can do this. Apparently my writing isn’t any good. They hated it—said the characters aren’t developed enough for them to like them, let alone care about them. They said I have no idea how to write a story people will want to read, and I shouldn’t waste my time.” Another tear spilled from her eye.

Toby, one arm still around her, rubbed her shoulder. “Didn’t they offer suggestions on how to do the things they think are missing?”

Julie shook her head and sighed. “Don’t ever suggest another writers’ group to me again. The people in those groups are mean and cruel. First, it was the two groups you suggested online that said I shouldn’t write again until I take a college creative writing class, and now this. Maybe I’m not really cut out to be a writer after all.” She laid her head on Toby’s shoulder and leaned into him.

May I see the piece you shared?” Toby spoke into her hair.

Julie sat up and looked at him, tears, once again, pooling in her eyes. She shook her head and wrapped both arms around the folder.

Come on, Jules. You’ve let me read your stuff before. You know I’d never be like those other people.” He gently brushed a few strands of hair from her face.

She lowered her gaze. “I’m sorry. I can’t. Not today.” She rose to her feet. “I’m going to my room. I’ll talk to you later.” She turned toward the house.

Toby got to his feet. “Jules…”

His pet name for her always made her breath catch in her throat. She wondered if he knew, that six months ago when he became the champion for her writing, she’d fallen in love with him. She turned to look at him.

Aw, never mind. I’ll talk to you later.” He turned and walked down the porch steps.

The next day, Toby met Julie at her locker at lunchtime like he did everyday. She greeted him with a large smile.

He quirked an eyebrow at her. “Didn’t expect to see such a bright smile on your face.”

Oh Toby, you’ll never guess what’s happened!”

Well, don’t hold me in suspense … tell me.”

Do you remember I told you, Miss Wilson, my English teacher convinced me to enter one of my short stories in a contest a few months ago?”

Toby nodded.

Well, today she informed the whole class that my story won first place!”

Toby wrapped her in a hug, lifted her from the floor, and spun her around. Then he set her down and looked into her eyes. “That’s great, Jules! One day you’ll have a bestseller.”

Heat crept into her cheeks, as he still had his arms around her, and other students stared. She nodded, looking up at him, his face so near to hers. “Miss Wilson also said she’s part of a very good writers’ group, and she wants me to go to the next meeting with her … this Saturday.” She bit her lower lip.

Are you going?”

She nodded.

Toby grinned and they walked to the lunchroom, his arm around her lower back.

Street Teams Uncovered

I’ve been exploring marketing ideas and strategies so that I can plan ahead for when my book is ready to be published and marketed. I came across this interesting post from J.M. Hackman. If you’re interested in marketing your book(s), click the Source link to read the entire article.

What exactly is a street team? Many people don’t know what they are or what they do. Street teams started back in the 90’s with urban record labels. Super-fans would pass out demo tapes…

Source: Street Teams Uncovered

What’s So Great About Self-Publishing? Guest Post by Jeannette DiLouie

Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by guest blogger and author/editor, Jeannette DiLouie.  Jeannette is an independent thinker, author of ten books, currently, in genres of Historical Christian Fiction, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, and Political Thriller. She is an avid reader and book collector. Check out her blog and website at https://www.innovativeediting.com/blog/

What’s So Great About Self-Publishing?

I went the self-publishing route, and I don’t regret it one bit.

This particular adventure began back in 2013, when I gave up on getting a Big 5 contract and decided to take authorship into my own hands. Since then, I’ve published 10 books through Amazon’s CreateSpace, and I plan on doing the same with another two novels this year.

Additionally, as a book coach, I’ve helped other writers take the same journey. It’s an authorial choice I’m willing to stand by, both personally and professionally.

Why do I think it’s such a good idea though? Let me count the ways…

  1. You have total independence throughout the writing process.
  2. You have total independence throughout the editing process.
  3. You have total independence throughout the designing process.

Whatever publishing step you’re at, you’re free to run your business as you see fit. And that doesn’t always happen with traditional presses, as I’ve seen one too many times.

One of the first books I read this year was an utterly phenomenal young adult fantasy novel put out by a Big 5 publisher. The plot was striking, the characters were stellar and the setting was 100% believable. I devoured that book and bought up the second in the series just as soon as I could justify it.

But its sequel wasn’t nearly as good. There were too many new subplots thrown in, too many new character perspectives added, and the setting expanded into something far more complicated.

Book 3 was even worse, to the point where I won’t even bother buying Book 4.

Since the author can obviously write and write well, it begs the question of what in the world happened after that debut novel. Yet I truly believe her deteriorating story line is the publisher’s fault. It felt like she was pressured to just get something out on the market after her initial hit, with truly disconcerting results.

As a self-published author though, that’s not a problem I’ve ever had to deal with.

I also don’t have to worry about a rushed editing job, while many book presses – particularly the smaller ones – don’t seem to care about quality control. Once again, they’re interested in getting a book out to market. Toot sweet.

People complain about self-published novels all the time, and I understand why. Too many of them are poorly edited, to say the least. But my counter argument is that I see the same thing on the professional end of the spectrum.

Missing words, scattered sentences, dangling plot points: You’ll find all of those and worse.

Self-published authors, however, get to choose their own editors. While this does cost me money, I don’t care if it means I can actually be proud of the books I put out there.

Then there’s the issue of my front cover designs, which I put together myself. Did you know that authors are sometimes told to change their stories in order to fit pre-selected pictures? They’ve had to alter character details or rework plot points just to suit their publishers’ dictatorial decisions.

Self-publishing, on the other hand, allows a creative liberty that, in my opinion, can’t be beat. I’ve designed each and every one of my front covers by using Shutterstock, Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator; and I adore nine of them.

As for that 10th? Well, they say you can’t have everything in life and I guess it’s true.

None of this is meant to trash talk everything about traditional publishing. There are plenty of books by small presses and the Big 5 that are well-written, well-edited and well-designed.

Plus, authors who choose to unfurl their full individuality also have to handle their own marketing. And as I always tell the writers I coach, that can be a very tough job to fill.

But I still believe that’s a fair trade-off for the certainty that someone else won’t try to take over my story. My authorial independence is something I guard fiercely, so unless some other company can offer me realistic deadlines, thorough edits and a say in my cover art, I’ll stick with self-publishing.

That’s just the way I like it.

 

 

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Do We Have a Responsibility in Regard to Our Entertainment?

Entertainment surrounds us — social media, movies, music, books, DVDs. It invades our sight, our hearing, our minds, and our hearts. Therefore, don’t we have a responsibility to be careful about what entertainment we allow to invade us?

The book of Proverbs in the Bible is a book of wisdom and in that book it says, “Pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to a man’s whole body. Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.”  (Proverbs 4:20-27)

Also, in the book of Philippians we read, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)

Therefore, it is my understanding that we are responsible for whatever we fill our senses, our minds and our hearts with.

So, why am I talking about this? Because of a brief conversation I had with some friends recently. These friends are also believers, and we were talking about writing and one mentioned the writings of Diana Gabaldon, especially her “Outlander” series, to which I commented, “that’s garbage”. Two of my friends responded with, “No, it’s not. Her writing is fantastic.”

Now, I will admit that I have not actually read any of Diana Gabaldon’s works. So maybe she is a very skilled writer. However, I do know that her Outlander series has a lot of explicit sex in it, and a lot of it is rape, which she romanticizes.

In my opinion, that is wrong, and it certainly isn’t something I want to read and invade my mind and heart with.

Whenever I’ve made these comments about Ms. Gabaldon’s writing, I’ve heard the same thing from both Christian and non-Christian women who read these books, “That was the way it was in that place and time period.”

To which I must say, “I’m sure that NOT EVERY male/female relationship in that place and time period involved rape, just as I’m sure that EVERY woman who has ever been raped has experienced a violent, invasive, traumatic event and would not find it in the least bit romantic. Therefore, I find it irresponsible that a writer would have women romanticizing and fantasizing about their rapist(s) and the act of rape.

I find it disappointing and disheartening that Christian women are reading such things and finding them great entertainment. I refuse to read that type of so-called entertainment.

I am also very careful with what I write because I do not want to be responsible for leading someone down a crooked path. I don’t write preachy stories or stories that will have a strictly “Christian” label, but I do write with the same responsibility with which I read, and though my characters face temptation and sometimes yield to it just as any human, they will also grow and learn and find redemption.

 

 

The Great Debate: Traditional vs. Indie (Self) Publishing

I’ve been back in the writing world for three years and seven months being part of a local writers’ group that meets monthly and has critique groups that I have participated in, and an annual writers’ conference. I’ve also attended two writers’ luncheons, put together my own little group of writers who meet weekly, and in the past two years have been involved in an online writers’ group as well as being involved in a critique group for the past two years that meets every other week. I have also been reading books on the writing craft.

During the past two years, I have been researching and exploring the publishing possibilities, and I have found, as the title of this post suggests, that there is a Great Debate among writers: to publish traditionally or indie (self) publishing.

I have found that many older people are quite adamant about traditional publishing but when asked why can’t really give me a satisfactory answer. I have also found that many writers who have already published books seem adamant about starting with a traditional published. However, I have also heard some of these already published writers talking about their desire to switch to indie publishing. (For the sake of simplicity in the rest of this blog post, I will only refer to traditional and “indie” publishing because, though “indie” and “self” publishing are quite similar, “indie” publishing is publishing completely on your own and most of these writers are determined to put out their best writing, whereas “self” publishing includes the writers who just want to put out their writing as quickly as possible and don’t spend enough time on edits, as well as those who publish through vanity publishers (these are publishers who allow you to keep all of your rights and maintain all decision making, but you pay them a fee to help you publish and do some marketing). “Indie” writers/publishers have a better reputation than “self” published writers.

I have found it quite confusing to speak with published writers about the publishing options because they stand firm in telling me that I should seek an agent and go the traditional publishing route first. But, when I ask why, they offer no real good, solid reasons.

I even know of a writer who insists on the traditional route, but after trying that route for a few years, and even gaining an agent, is preparing to self publish the book through a small publisher, which is what the agent found for this writer. To which my question is: will this writer still have to pay the agent for this?

Okay, so here’s what I have learned about traditional publishing: the first step is to acquire an agent who will most likely have you make lots of changes, and, possibly, rewrite your entire manuscript. Then the agent will help you find a possible publisher, who may require you to make more changes and, possibly, rewrite your entire manuscript yet again, and even change it for a different target audience, and then, that publisher may or may not actually publish your manuscript. The entire process can take two to four years for your manuscript to get published, maybe even longer, if ever. If you are blessed enough to get the manuscript published, first of all, it may not be the story you originally intended in the first place. Secondly, your agent and the publisher get a cut of your sales, and you will be extremely blessed to receive even 10% of your sales. Also, you will be required to do as much of your own marketing as possible, which used to be the traditional publisher’s job. Finally, if your first book is part of a series, depending on the sales of the first book, the rest of the series may never get published, and if it does, traditional publishers stop publishing and remove your book from the market after just four years.

Now, here’s what I’ve learned about indie publishing. Yes, you must do ALL of the work yourself. You write the manuscript, AND, if you’re devoted and committed to doing the absolute best work you can do, you will have it critiqued; you will make appropriate changes based on those critiques; you will self-edit and do several rewrites; you will hire a professional editor to give you feedback and then rewrite yet again; you will have beta readers (if you don’t know what beta readers are, read this post), then you may make changes again. Then you will finally publish it through an indie publishing venue like Amazon’s “Create Space” or “Book Baby” or one of the other indie publishing outlets. While you are still working on your manuscript, you may want to begin to think about building a group of followers who would be interested in reading your writing. A good way to do this is to start a blog and share things about your writing and about yourself, as well as becoming active in other social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Instagram, etc. When your book is published, it’s a good idea to do a Book Launch (next Monday’s post will be about Book Launches). You will also want to put the information out on your social media, do book signings and/or speaking engagements. Get creative about how and where you can promote your book, but don’t over-saturate your social media or you will turn people off because they will think the only reason you’re on social media is to promote yourself and your writing. Your readers want you to be real and to care about them.

Another thing I want to share with you here is some interesting information one of my writing friends recently shared with me on this subject:

One of my other writing friends has also been researching these options and questioning other writers about their opinions. She shared with me that she recently spoke with some writers who have had books published through traditional publishers and tell newbie writers that they should go the traditional publishing route. She began to ask them: “How did you find an agent or publisher?” She said that most of them said that they found their agent or publisher through a friend. What she realized is that all of these already published writers are telling newbie writers to go the traditional publishing route, but they aren’t offering to introduce you to an agent or publisher. They don’t even tell you that they found their agent or publisher through a friend unless you specifically ask that question. Her thought is “so these already published writers are telling all of us newbies to go the traditional route while they are trying the indie route, like they want us to try the traditional route while they flood the indie market with their works.”

I apologize for such a lengthy post, but I hope you have found it informative and that it gives you something to think about and consider in your own writing journey. If you have any thoughts or questions, please leave them in the comments section and I’ll do my best to answer or point you to where you can find the answer.

Reading and Writing

Reading and Writing are my two most favorite things to do. I spend as much time as I possibly can doing these two activities, which as long as we have child(ren) still living in our home, is not as much as I would like, but the fact that I have lots of friends who love to read and write as much as I do is a huge plus. It allows me to share with other like-minded people, which is great, because even my husband doesn’t really understand my artist/writing ways.   🙂

Reading and writing go hand-in-hand. To be a good writer, it is imperative to do a lot of reading, and not just books on the writing craft. Actually, sometimes you can learn more about writing from reading a fiction or nonfiction book than from some of the books on writing.

I’ve been told that I must spend a lot of time reading the type of books that I want to write because that’s extremely helpful. However, I love so many different genres that I read from a wide spectrum, which I think is also extremely helpful in many ways.

Since reading and writing are solitary activities, it’s important to be purposeful about getting out and spending some time with people. After all, that’s one place a lot of story ideas come from. Also, to just spend time with other reader/writer people helps to feed our creativity and helps us to be encouraged because, let’s face it, writing is hard work!

If you visit my blog regularly, then you’ve probably seen many of my Monday posts that are reviews of books I have read, so you know that I read a wide variety of genres and stuff that’s been published recently as well as many years ago.

What about you? What do you like to read?

Increase Your Creativity

Saturday, February 24th, I went to a writers’ retreat at one of my writer friend’s home. It was with a group of ladies whom I got to know through Lancaster Christian Writers. We always begin with a devotion and opening prayer. We follow that with a creative writing exercise, which, besides the free writing time, is my favorite part of the retreat because someone leads a creative writing exercise, and they have never failed me. They have always gotten my creative juices flowing and given me a wonderful day of writing.

Of course, lunch is always fun, too, because we get to know each other better and share lots of things about writing, healthy eating, and our lives in general.

Anyway, back to the creative writing exercise. This time, Mandy led the creative writing exercise, and she played three different pieces of music, one at a time, for a few minutes each, and we were to just listen and let our imagination flow and write whatever the music brought to our creative minds. I totally LOVED this exercise because I’ve always really enjoyed music, but I’ve never used it with my writing. But this exercise really worked.

The three pieces of music were all quite different, and have given me three new story ideas; not ideas for full-length novels per se, but they could very easily show up on one of my Friday posts as either a flash fiction or short story.

And, even though each of those gave me three completely different story ideas, it put my creativity in high gear and even helped those juices flow into my work-in-progress!

Therefore, if you ever feel stuck or think you’re suffering from the dreaded writer’s block, try listening to some music and start writing whatever thoughts, actions, scenes, etc. that start going through your mind.

By the way, these were all instrumental pieces.

So, if you’re a writer, I know you’re probably an introvert, as most of us are, but I highly encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and attend a writer’s retreat, critique group or conference at least once because I am sure you will find value in it, and it’s always fun to connect with others who share your struggles and/or successes; who have things in common with you.