Thursday’s Thoughts On Writing ~ Getting Real About Rejection

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been rejected as a writer, but over the years it amounts to hundreds. Hundreds of times that my work, and by proxy, myself, was not good enough. Thanks to my Duotrope stats, I know I’ve been rejected by Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine ten times, twice with a personalized letter of rejection from the editor. Thanks to QueryTracker, I know my last novel was rejected 14 times, 7 of those times by agents that requested the full manuscript. My current manuscript has already been rejected 8 times, once by one of the agents that requested the full.

Now let’s look at Churchill’s quote. Have I lost my enthusiasm? Honestly? At moments, yes, but for the most part, no. I love writing. Of the 8 rejections I’ve received on my current novel, two were personalized emails saying that while this particular novel wasn’t for them, my writing was strong, I have a good novel, and some agent is going to want it. Is that success? During my good moments, yes. During the others . . . not so much.

Usually, when I write a post, that’s it. I read it over for typos, then schedule it. Not this time. Not this post. This post found me in the dark place writers sometimes go, that nasty little spot somewhere between self-doubt and city razing rage. (I suspect Godzilla must have been an aspiring novelist.) The unhelpful, ranting parts of this post were deleted. Rewritten. Deleted again. Because I know the game. I choose to play the game. But that doesn’t mean I always like it.

Sometimes those near misses feel even harder than the outright rejections. It’s like getting the candy bar out of the wrapper and into your mouth, tasting its chocolately goodness against your tongue before having it cruelly yanked away. No chocolate for you. Just the hint of it, that’s all. It’s a special kind of torture (especially when put in terms of chocolate!).

Believe me when I say that I understand that rejection is part of the process. Even all those manuscripts that find agents and publishers and homes on the shelves of major bookstores still get rejected by readers and reviewers and people who pass them over for reasons as odd as the cover being the wrong color. There’s no escaping rejection, I get that.

Sometimes I stare at my computer screen, wishing I’d self-publish and offer my books for free on Amazon in exchange for constructive criticism from the readers. Wouldn’t that be a more proactive way of developing my craft than stacking another abandoned manuscript on the dusty pile growing in the corner? Sometimes I Google masochism words trying to find the perfect one to describe the torture situation. And sometimes, I type away lalala all smiles and grins and faith that it’ll work itself out simply because I’m writing, which is (in my opinion) the best of all superpowers and as far as evil villains go, rejection isn’t that bad.

On those dark days, though . . . send chocolate and puppy memes. And tequila. Lots and lots of tequila.

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Thursday’s Thoughts On Writing ~ Head Space And Mind Frames

Writing takes you inside your own mind. Like, deep inside, into the dark nooks and shadowed crannies where the wildest parts of your imagination are free to roam. It’s the place where monsters are created – both figuratively and literally.

As much as I love immersing myself in the land of make believe, in toiling over my craft and creating new works of fiction, I have to ask myself – what happens when you spend too much time in any dark place? Imagine a plant without sunlight. An animal penned in a small cage. A writer chained to their desk.

What do all these things have in common?

They don’t grow.

And a large part of writing, the biggest part, perhaps, is drawing on your experiences to infuse your work with connections that your readers can identify with. An experience or an emotion that they share with your character that makes them sit back, take notice, and invest themselves in the outcome of the story.

I totally understand needing to be in the right frame of mind to write, or having to clear your head space to work out how to successfully pull off that devious plot twist you’ve dreamt up, and I’m SO guilty of zoning out of a dinner conversation while planning the chapter I’ll write the next day, but every writer has to find a way to turn the facet off (and on) at will.

If you have trouble shutting down with your computer, try establishing a pre- and post-writing ritual. Something that you do every time you start and finish writing. Developing healthy writing habits can help prevent against both writers block and long, sleepless nights spent crafting the most perfect sentences that you’ll never remember.

Because it’s cold and lonely on the dark side of the moon.

 

Bad Moon Rising . . .

I’m thrilled to announce that my story, “Bad Moon Rising,” is available in the July issue of Mystery Weekly Magazine! Mystery Weekly is, in my opinion, the more approachable, hipper, sassier younger cousin of Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazines!

If you like short mystery and crime fiction, you should give this magazine a read. If you’re a short fiction writer, this is a market you need to check out! (FYI – it’s a qualifying market for the Mystery Writers of America – so if you’ve got your eye on active membership or that Edgar Award, definitely consider submitting!)

Thursday’s Thoughts On Writing ~ The Scene Of The Crime

Image result for scene of the crimeWhen writing fiction, how much thought do you put into your setting? Do you craft scenes drenched in atmosphere? Do your places drip with detail, oozing menace, gushing romance, shining with delight? Or is your setting simply the place where your fascinating characters bring your stellar plot to life?

TreeI have to admit that while I occasionally focus on developing an atmospheric setting in my short fiction, in my novels the settings tend to simply be the trunk on which my plot branches and my characters grow their leaves.

My goal this year is to take more care in creating my settings. By skimping, I’m missing out on a vital opportunity to further flesh out my writing. To take my characters to the next level by allowing them to evolve over the course of the story.

Ask yourself – do your characters feel the same way about certain environments at the end of your story as they did at the beginning? Mine certainly don’t, and by sharing this evolution with my readers, I can make my characters more three dimensional.

Seize any opportunity you have to make your readers care for, identify with, and become invested in your characters!

How do you bring your scenes to life?

Back in the Saddle . . . Again

It feels like it’s been forever since I’ve posted, and looking back, I see that it’s been almost three months. In three months, you can hike the Appalachian Trail if you trek fast. A cougar kitten can gestate and be born. Or, like me, you can move across country and acclimate from one extreme (New Hampshire) to another (Florida).

It’s been a happy homecoming, rejoining our family in the land of sun, where feet of snow can be a distant cold fond memory. While I didn’t keep up with my writing as much as I’d have liked during the transition, I have gotten back to work, and am pleased to announce that I’ve had short stories purchased by Mystery Weekly Magazine, to be released later this summer, and Dual Coast Magazine, out this month. I look forward to picking up my discussions on the different aspects of the craft of writing with my Thursday’s Thoughts on Writing series and sharing my experiences of the rejection agent process 😛 . I hope you’ll join me along the way!

 

 

When Your Health Steals Your Words

Several years ago, my writing was going strong. I had a schedule. I wrote most days. I had a couple of completed novels, and was querying agents. I had a dozen requests for  full manuscripts. I was so close to fulfilling my dream as a traditionally published author that I could taste it.

Then, I lost my momentum. I lost my energy. I lost my words. Literally.

I put on almost forty pounds with no explanation. No amount of diet or exercise managed to make the scale budge. I couldn’t keep my train of thought, and oftentimes, in conversation, I simply drew blanks. I couldn’t think of the words I was looking for. Not a great feeling for someone who wants to be a wordsmith.

I’m no stranger to health issues. I was hit by a drunk driver almost twenty years ago, and have a laundry lists of ailments that cause chronic pain. But this time was different. You can force your body to work to some degree. You can’t force your mind.

My acid reflux got so bad that I barely needed to chew my food – it practically dissolved in my mouth my saliva was so acidic. Obviously I was somehow related to that dinosaur in the first Jurassic Park – the one with a frilled collar that spit on the guy from Seinfeld, blinding him with his acid spit. As much as I love dinosaurs, I don’t really want to be one! 🦖🦖🦖

I’m going to take a very long story and make it short.

I was on twice the maximum daily dose of Prevacid. They thought it was Celiac, and although I initially got better on a gluten free diet, the relief was short lived. Multiple invasive, expensive tests revealed no answers.

Then my mom discovered a food sensitivity test you could order online from EverlyWell. I took the test. And while it turns out I do have a mild sensitivity to gluten, I have an extreme sensitivity to yeast – both bakers and brewers – which is still in many gluten free products.

Going yeast free meant saying no to almost all breads. No wine, beer, or alcohol other than vodka, which supposedly uses all the yeast added during the fermentation process. No fruit other than berries. No vinegar, nothing pickled, no fun.

I immediately avoided all foods and drinks with yeast, while still eating some of the ‘by-products’. (Even ranch dressing and mustard have vinegar.) And I dropped over 30 pounds in six weeks. My energy started coming back. My confidence. And then, finally, my words.

It’s been about four months now. I still slip sometimes. Mainly unintentionally, when I eat out. My stomach will blow out to about seven months pregnant, but it goes back down in a day or two. I get foggy, but it clears. I forget the word I’m looking for,  but it comes eventually. When I sit down to write, the page no longer remains blank.

I’ve gone back and forth about writing this post, but sharing is caring, and I hope this helps someone else. Not to mention that I’m so grateful that I’m able to write it – look, words!!! And I wrote them! I feel so much better, and I truly hope this reaches at least one person who benefits from this post.

(I’m not getting any kickbacks for sharing the name of the company that quite literally changed my life. There’s usually coupon codes online if you do a Google search for them.)

(If you or someone you know has a yeast sensitivity, make sure to check vitamins and supplements for the nasty little addition – it’s everywhere!)

Publication Announcement!

Recent cover image or website screenshot for Tough

I’m pleased to announce that my short story, “The Heat”, has been purchased by Tough: Crime Stories.

“The Heat” will appear on the ezine in February 2019, and in their published anthology in April!

This piece is a suspenseful mystery, part police procedural, part something more – I’ll let you decide what! I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

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(I promise I won’t spam you or send updates more that quarterly!)

Thursday’s Thoughts on Writing – Crime Baked

New England Crime Bake

This past weekend I attended the 2018 New England Crime Bake, which was my first writing conference. For a while I’d been reading about how important it is to network with other writers for both support and to establish a writing community, so I decided to give it a try.

I met so many AMAZING people there that it was worth going for that experience alone!

scoreI also met the authors of these three fantastic books and got them signed, which was a major score because they are all wonderful, yet very different, stories, and I cherish the opportunity to let a writer know how much I enjoyed reading their book. The authors are absolutely awesome, too! How awesome? Let me count the ways. . .

Walter Mosley was the guest of honor of this year’s conference. The author of more than 40 book and a multiple award winner, he’s probably best known for his Easy Rawlins mysteries, yet he contributes to many genres and writes for TV and film as well (ever heard of the series Snowfall?).

Mosley is hilarious, but he’s also a very insightful, eloquent speaker who doesn’t mince words when sharing his experiences in the publishing industry. If you get a chance to hear him speak, don’t miss it – you won’t regret it!

As both an agent and a writer, Munier considers herself a “storyteller and storyseller”. She is a huge animal lover, which is all I need to know to turn into a super fan! She is also incredibly nice and friendly, a very genuine person.

Her latest release, “A Borrowing of Bones”, was inspired by the “hero working dogs she met through MissionK9Rescue”. I really enjoyed the mystery and recommend you give it a try!

 

Image result for hank phillippi ryanHank Phillippi Ryan is a firecracker! So much energy and enthusiasm and with personality for days, Ryan knows how to keep an entire room enthralled! I took a master class with her at the conference, and she was definitely one of the major highlights of the weekend!

She may be best known for her day job as an investigative reporter who has won over 34 EMMYs and dozens of other awards, but she hasn’t done too shabby in the writing department. “Ryan’s also an award-winner in her second profession—with five Agathas, three Anthonys, two Macavitys, the Daphne, and for The Other Woman, the coveted Mary Higgins Clark Award.” Her schedule is PACKED full of events for her latest release, “Trust Me”. This is an author that you have got to see for yourself! #TrustMe

Was it perfect? No. #CrimeBake wasn’t everything I had imagined or hoped for. I don’t feel like I learned very much, but as an event for both readers and writers, it wasn’t as instructive as conferences that focus exclusively on writing and craft development. (I learned that at the conference!)

I did, however, have a truly memorable and enjoyable time. Talking with other writers, hearing about their experiences, the other conferences and events that they had attended, was truly priceless.

Was it worth it? Yes!

Would I do it again? Absolutely!

The bottom line is that I was there to meet other writers, and that’s exactly what I did. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and most authors don’t get an agent or a publishing contract overnight. (While #CrimeBake does have a pitch option, I did not partake. This time.) To me, the important thing is that I took some time for myself and spent it immersed in my passion. What more can I ask for?!?!

 

Upcoming Publication Announcement!

I’m thrilled to announce that my short story, “Dying Print”, has been purchased and will be appearing in an upcoming issue of Wild Musette Magazine next year!

Image result for detectiveThis is the sixth mystery featuring the character Detective Shaw to see publication. There are several other Shaw stories kicking around the slush piles out there – my plan is to eventually compile a FREE anthology collection of all the “Shades of Shaw”. If you’re interested in receiving a copy, sign up for my newsletter here so you don’t miss out!

(I promise I won’t spam you or flood your inbox – I know how annoying that is! My newsletter is never sent more often than quarterly, and only when there’s enough great new info to make it worthwhile.)

#Thriller in the Woods #Book Signing and #Author Event

thrillerinwoods1-e1539282021408.jpgI’m fortunate enough to live in an area with an incredible indie bookstore and some fantastic local authors who are kind enough to indulge the local readership with awesome events.

When I heard that White Birch Books was sponsoring “Thriller in the Woods: A Night of Conversation with Lisa Gardner and Lisa Unger,” I knew I couldn’t miss it.

Lisa Gardner launches her book tour in North Conway, NH each year. She’s a great speaker, super personable, and pens thrillers guaranteed to keep you on the edge thrillerinwoods.jpgof your seat! I try to attend any event where she’s featured, because it’s sure to be a blast! This time, the event was held at Theater in the Woods, and she brought a friend!!!

Lisa Gardner and Lisa Unger are both internationally best selling authors. They both write suspenseful thrillers. They’re both named Lisa. Put them in a room together and let the adventure begin!

thrillerinwoods2The event was in celebration of the release of Lisa Unger’s newest novel, Under My Skin, and the paperback release of Lisa Gardner’s novel, Look For Me.

The two authors had an incredibly interesting discussion touching on everything from their different writing processes, where they get their ideas, how they perform their research, how they got their start, and so much more!

Both women are wonderfully dynamic, and the conversation flowed with the natural ease of two old friends having a casual chat. I really enjoy attending book signings and author talks, and have met my fair share of bestselling authors in the process – I cannot stress how genuinely friendly and engaging these ladies are! If you get the chance to see either of them speak, do it! You won’t regret it! #TeamLisa