Jan 23, 2023 | Uncategorized |
Late last year Denise and I were chatting at a California Writers Club – Mt. Diablo Branch meeting about the challenges we writers face. She gave me some advice that worked for me. Recently I was able to convince her to write an article for the blog.
Before we jump in to that, here is a little about Denise..
Denise P. Kalm, BCC, was trained as a personal/executive coach at John F. Kennedy University and as a creativity coach by Eric Maisel. She has been practicing as a coach for over 10 years; her client base includes many IT professionals, engineers and scientists. Her 30+ years of experience in IT, as well as her experience with numerous life transitions informs her work. She earned her MS in Biochemical Genetics at the University of Michigan, and though she hasn’t worked in the field, keeps up on the latest research.
Where I Started – Just like many of you, I loved the idea of writing and seeing my name in print. I wanted to see what people thought of my work and to keep creating it for the rest of my life. But then, there’s that blank page staring at me. Whether you still enjoy writing on paper (I do, when not near a device) or prefer to write on a device, the emptiness of an unfilled page is intimidating.
I tried a variety of tricks. If I didn’t finish a story or a chapter, I could come back to a non-blank page. I tried writing prompts, no success. Even when I had a clear idea in my head of what I wanted to say, once I sat down, my brain said, “not today.” I’m a big Natalie Goldberg fan, but couldn’t seem to get the words to flow on demand.
The only exception came when I did some writing for newspapers. The challenge is that news has a short shelf life. If you want to respond to an issue, you need to get it done quickly. It also has to be short. All writers know the truth of Blaise Pascal’s famous words, “I have made this longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter.” Writing tight is tough and often takes more edits. And yet, when I worked on these kinds of pieces, writer’s block simply didn’t happen.
The Great Insight – I confess I didn’t analyze or understand why the newspaper work just flowed. As my career shifted from being a super-techie, I found a niche doing a variety of writing for software companies. White papers, articles, public relations, customer success stories, product briefs, etc., became a staple of my workday. At work, there’s always a deadline, so I didn’t have the luxury of sitting around for days, simply thinking about it. I had to write.
Some of the pieces were easier, because they were based on templates. You just followed the “script, putting in the specifics of a product. But most of the work was highly creative. Part of the competitiveness of a software company is in the attractive reading on the website or in print to hand out at conferences. If people don’t read about what you sell, you aren’t going to sell as much of your software.
At first, I struggled a little. But whenever I got stuck, I would take a short walk, just to clear my head. I never focused on what I was working on and just let my mind drift. But inevitably, I would come back with a clear idea of how to construct the piece. Often, I would come up with a great title at the same time.
In a shorter time than you might expect, I could get to work and just start writing. Even when I was crafting a long article or a talk, I had begun to craft ways of approaching it. Who’s the audience? What’s the message I need to convey? Have I narrowed it down to fit in the allowed word count?
As I got better (and faster) at this kind of writing, more assignments came my way. The fun part is I could swap writing for something I didn’t want to do.
When asked to take on blog writing for the company, I felt the same way I did when I wrote a short story that turned out well. Exhilarated, happy, in flow. And the numbers of readers slowly increased, giving me immediate feedback and reward.
Writing ALL the time makes a difference. You need a deadline. You need to craft rules for each type of piece. Just like with cooking, it matters if you’ve done your mise en place – your preparation. Even if you aren’t writing for an employer, you can define those rules and ask the right questions upfront. This serves to get you grounded. If you struggle with your “assignment,” go for a short walk. It has to be outside, in nature. I’ve found a treadmill doesn’t spawn the same creativity.
I hated hearing that the best writers write every day. It seemed too tough an obligation. But they’re right. Just as Malcolm Gladwell noted, it can take 10,000 hours to achieve excellence (and we can all get better). If you only write a few hours a week, you may find it hard to keep improving.
Challenge yourself to write something every day, even if it’s just some of the planning and strategy for your writing. Letters, fleshed out ideas, stories—it all counts if you put in your best effort. I NEVER have writers block anymore! You can do it too.
She is a published author
Lifestorm, – A novel
Career Savvy – Keeping & Transforming Your Job,
Tech Grief – Survive and Thrive Through Career Losses (with Linda Donovan)
First Job Savvy – Find a Job, Start Your Career
Retirement Savvy – Designing Your Next Great Adventure
All are available on major sites as paperbacks and e-books.
Web site: www.denisekalm.com
Blog site: Right on the Left Coast | Denise Kalm | Substack
Jan 5, 2023 | Uncategorized |
Not long ago, Vicki published the tips below in the Public Safety Writers Association’s newsletter. She previously posted the tips on her blog (https://vweisfeld.com). The purpose is to help all of us in “reader relations.” I can’t think of a better way to start the new than by sharing her words.
Readers may be quite willing to help an author but may not know how or may need to be reminded (possibly more than once). You can use these tips in your own promotion—take copies to readings, put them in your own blog or newsletter, etc., etc.—or, if you’re a reader who wants to give a boost to your favorites.
I developed this list around the time my mystery/thriller, Architect of Courage (reviews are great, btw) was published. But I saw it could be a generic product others could use—just a small Thank You for all the support the writing community has given me.
I hope you find it useful—reprint it freely! And customize it with a picture of you or your book (instead of the blue box), and links to your content in #s 8, 9, and 10.
Friends and family members can be incredibly patient when they ask an author solicitous and innocent-sounding questions—like “How’s the book coming?”—and are met with blank looks, or, worse, groans and sighs.
Most authors today—OK, James Patterson’s an exception, and so’s JK Rowling—find that reaching “The End” is just the beginning of their work. Now they have to let the world know about it.
If you have a sense of how much time and effort authors invest in their books, maybe you’ve wondered “What can I do? How can I help?” Yes, indeed, there are things you can do that will help! And, whatever you find time to do, you can be sure it will be greatly appreciated!
Ten ways you can help promote an author or book you admire:
1. Buy your friends’ books. They may have written it with readers like you in mind.
2. Don’t be too quick to pass around a book; instead, encourage others to buy it. Amazon (or book stores), and the author’s publisher keep most of the price of the book. If a book sells for $16, the author receives $2 to $4.
3. Remember, books make great gifts! Maybe a friend or family member needs a thank-you or has a special day coming up.
4. Word of mouth is the most powerful form of book marketing. So, tell people about a book you’ve loved. Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself. Marketers say it takes 13 to 15 repetitions before a message “sticks.”
5. What you say about the book in an Amazon or Barnes & Noble review will influence other would-be purchasers. No need for cringy flashbacks to high school book reports. Just say the two or three things you’d tell a good friend who asked, “Read any good books lately?” Reviews are vital to a book’s success.
6. Share a few words about what you’re reading on social media—GoodReads, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.
7. If you enjoyed a book, your book club might too! Many authors are willing to participate in book club discussions in person or by Zoom, etc. People who’ve read my book have invited me to their book clubs, and it’s a fun change-of-pace for me.
8. You can “follow” your favorite authors on Amazon. Search for one of their books, click on the author’s name, and if they have an author page, it will come up with a big “follow” button.
9. If your author has a newsletter, sign up! Author newsletters often include interviews, reviews, and favorites.
10. An author’s blog and website are other ways to keep track of new releases and to learn more about the authors you like to read. Remember, they create them for you.
Many thanks, and happy reading!
Vicki blogs at www.vweisfeld.com
Nov 10, 2022 | Historical, Memoir, Uncategorized |
Dr. Eve Sprunt is a prolific writer and consultant on diversity and inclusion, as well as the transition from hydrocarbons to cleaner forms of energy. She is passionate about mentoring younger professionals, especially women struggling to combine parenting and professionalism and those facing cross-cultural challenges.
Her over 120 editorial columns addressed workforce issues, industry trends, and cross-cultural challenges. In addition to authoring 23 patents and 28 technical publications, she is the author of four books: A Guide for Dual-Career Couples (Praeger), Dearest Audrey, An Unlikely Love Story, A Guide to Career Resilience (Springer Nature) as co-author with Maria Angela Capello with whom she authored Mentoring and Sponsoring: Keys to Success (Springer Nature).
During her 35 years in the energy industry, Eve acquired extensive experience working for major oil companies on projects around the world. She was the 2006 President of the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE), the 2018 President of the American Geosciences Institute, and the founder of the Society of Core Analysts. She has received high honors from SPE, the Society of Women Engineers, and the Geological Society of America. Her bachelor’s and master’s degrees are from MIT, and she was the first woman to receive a Ph.D. (1977) from Stanford in Geophysics. She speaks and consults on women’s and energy issues and is an active member of the California Writers Club Tri-Valley Writers Branch.
A Guide to Career Resilience (with Maria Angela Capello), 2022
Mentoring and Sponsoring, Keys to Success (with Maria Angela Capello), 2020
Dearest Audrey, An Unlikely Love Story, 2019
A Guide for Dual-Career Couples, Rewriting the Rules, 2016
Do you write in more than one genre? Yes, self-help and memoir/biography
What brought you to writing? It runs in the family. My mother (Ruth Chew) wrote and illustrated 29 children’s fantasy chapter books. Mother’s first and best-selling book, The Wednesday Witch, sold over a million copies. My maternal grandfather was also a writer.
As a female scientist, when technical women were rare, documenting my work in writing (both within the company and in industry publications) improved my odds of getting credit for my work and enabled me to build my reputation.
I volunteered to serve as Senior Technical Editor of the Society of Petroleum Engineers for three years because the role included writing a monthly editorial column. I authored “edgy” articles on workforce issues. After my term ended, I continued writing bimonthly editorial columns for another seven years. I began writing books when I retired and was no longer subject to corporate censorship.
What are you currently working on? I am polishing a memoir/biography of my mother, Ruth Chew, who became a successful children’s book author/illustrator after I left home. Passionate Persistence is based on Mother’s 67 years of daily diaries and my memories. The Tri-Valley Writers critique groups and Lani Longshore (as a beta reader) have been tremendously helpful.
When the leader of my hiking group learned that I was receiving the 2022 Curtis-Hedberg Petroleum Career Achievement Award for outstanding contributions in the field of petroleum geology, she urged me to write a memoir about my career. I was astounded to be selected for that Geological Society of America’s award because my degrees are in geophysics, and I usually impersonated a petroleum engineer. However, my most significant technical contributions involved convincing the engineers that they had overlooked critical aspects of the geology.
How long did it take you to write your first book? The first book I wrote was the one I self-publishing in 2019, Dearest Audrey, An Unlikely Love Story. I found an agent for that manuscript, but in hindsight, I suspect she took me as a client because she was a fan of my mother’s children’s chapter books, which were out of print. Shortly after I signed agreements with the agent to represent both my work and my mother’s, an editor at Random House approached me about the republication of my mother’s books. The agent received a sizable commission on the agreement with Random House but never found a publisher for Dearest Audrey, despite representing it for several years.
That agent didn’t like my manuscript for A Guide for Dual-Career Couples but recommended that I go through the submission process for Praeger, which asked for an outline and sample chapters. Praeger accepted my proposal, and the agent spent months working on the contract, leaving me only about six weeks to get the manuscript completely revised if I wanted to have A Guide for Dual-Career Couples included in Praeger’s spring 2016 catalog. I realized that since I was working for myself, I could work 7-day weeks and long hours, and I met the deadline.
Eventually, I concluded the agent would never find a publisher for Dearest Audrey, so we agreed to dissolve our agreement. I hired a developmental editor through Reedsy, who guided me through the self-publication process. Dearest Audrey was published in 2019.
Self-help books like A Guide for Dual-Career Couples and my two books published by Springer, Mentoring, and Sponsoring, Keys to Success (2020) and A Guide to Career Resilience (2022), are accepted based on an outline and sample chapters. The writing and publication process can be very swift.
Passionate Persistence, The Life of Ruth Chew, which I hope will become my fifth book, may be a tough sell. I asked the developmental editor I used for Dearest Audrey to edit it and advise me on whether I should seek an agent or pursue self-publishing. After I left home, my mother was so focused on her successful career as an author my younger siblings ran wild. She wrote children’s chapter books, but her life was not a story for children.
About twice a week, I go hiking with a group of ladies. When the leader learned I was selected for the Geological Society of America’s lifetime achievement award, she said, “Who’s going to write your story? You need to do it.”
In A Guide to Career Resilience, my co-author and I share examples in which we successfully challenged the system. Both of us consider ourselves to be shy, but I don’t know anyone else who would. Our author at Springer objected to the concept that “forgiveness is easier than permission.” We included the concept and the examples but refrained from using the forbidden phrase. In our careers, my co-author and I leveraged that concept to surmount barriers.
My mother (the title character in Passionate Persistence) was an ambitious woman. She thought her older sister, Audrey (the heroine of Dearest Audrey), was afraid of her own shadow. Ironically, before writing Dearest Audrey, I accepted my mother’s assessment of Audrey despite ample evidence to the contrary – Audrey went on sabbatical to Pakistan in the mid-1950s, not knowing exactly where or what she would teach, and was traveling alone near the Khyber Pass when she met her true love.
Do you base any of your characters on real people? All the time. I always disguise their identity if I use them as a bad example.
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I plan to write about my life experiences but will weave them into a self-help book because those are easier to market than memoirs.
Do you have any advice for new writers? Join a writing group.
How do our readers contact you? Please contact me at www.evesprunt.com or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jun 30, 2022 | Memoir, Mystery, Thriller |
I was born in London, England, a few years after World War II. I watched London being patched back into a vibrant commercial center. Sights of bombed-out buildings and devastation still linger in my memories.
At age 26, I moved to Saudi Arabia to work for Aramco (an oil company.) I worked there for four years and traveled widely in the region. I grew to love and be intrigued by the local people and their culture.
Years later, as I neared retirement, my family requested I write down some of the many stories I had told over the years. One theme kept appearing in these pieces, my driving a Chevy Blazer from London to the eastern province of Saudi Arabia – a journey of 5,500 miles in 15 days. That became my first book, a memoir, Journey to Self, published in September 2019 – available on Amazon.
While working on that book, I said I had no idea how to write a novel. It seemed overwhelming. However, after one workshop, I saw I had the basic framework for a fictional story. Having never been one to shy away from a challenge, I started work on it. My story is set around a Syrian family and covers themes such as:
- most Syrians, most Muslims, like ourselves, want to live in peace – that is not fiction,
- how to counter a ruthless dictator,
- the roles of men and women in Syrian society,
- how to hold grief, love, and fear while fighting for your life,
- how people, despite their dire circumstances, can imagine a hopeful future.
In the past few weeks, I have received feedback from a group of beta-readers, and so far, there have been no show-stoppers but plenty of words of encouragement. While working through the multiple drafts of this first novel, I started work on the sequel: Syrian Rebirth – Ahmed’s World. This is now a completed initial draft. I have in mind the third and final book in the series, Syrian Rebirth – Fatima’s World.
Syrian Rebirth – Rashid’s World. Rashid wished his family to be safe. He joined the fight against Syria’s brutal president. How would that affect him, his family, and his country?
What brought me to writing: Writing is a way for me to purge demons that hindered me for too many years. I learned to read as a child, but I truly hated and, in some ways, feared it. I read my first book for pleasure when I was 26 years old. To many people, that may sound horrifying, but it was my world as a youngster. Numbers and logic were my saving graces. I became a computer software engineer for a career. Reading never became a pleasurable activity for me. I missed reading the classics, much to my detriment.
Over the years, I have displayed some competence in various artistic mediums: drawing, painting, woodcraft, story-telling, and cooking. Then I started writing, and it became a passion. I have taken many classes, and some teachers have had a profound impact on my writing.
Tell us about your writing process: I arise early each day and make my wife’s coffee (a survival technique I learned early.) Depending on the priorities of the day, I make time most mornings to review and edit what I worked on the previous day. I try to dedicate an hour or two each day to writing new material or making revisions to pieces that are my focus at that time. If I do not manage to find time, I do not judge myself but try to use my sense of frustration as an impetus for the following day.
Do I kill popular characters? Yes. My novels are thrillers. I think in my first novel, more characters are dead than alive in the end. And several of the dead are good/popular characters. One of my favorite characters in that first novel is among the dead, and I still grieve their loss. Reading that section still causes my eyes to tear up. A few beta-readers admitted they cried when that death happened.
How do you raise the stakes for the protagonist? One of my teachers frequently tells me to keep winding up the tension and never let it go. I understand this and try to do that. But I do find when a sub-plot comes to its termination, then along with that, some of the protagonist’s tension is released. So in my novel, the tension is more like waves with spikes along them. Even though some tension may be released at times, it still adds to the overall tension.
How did I come up with Character Names. Most of my main characters are Arabic. So names like Joan, Paul, Marge, and Randy are inappropriate. Thankfully, lists of Arabic names can be found on the web. I have selected names with which I am comfortable, and I hope readers will not trip over. I have tried to have each name start with a different letter for easier recognition. In the forward to each book, I have listed out the main characters and their relationship so that readers have a quick reference, e.g. Rashid is married to Fatima.
Do I outline, or am I a pantser? At heart, I am a pantser, but I will admit that I have my thoughts reasonably outlined in my head before I tackle a section. What fascinates me is how my mind conjures up a scenario that appears on the page/screen without me consciously thinking about it. Sometimes, as I fathom out how to write a section, I will realize in my wordy/ugly first draft I left a hook or a character that will allow for a smooth continuance of the current storyline.
Sources of Expertise / Advice. I have read posts, articles, and books about the book’s locations, particularly from current day journalists. Also, I found a local Islamic Center and talked with one of the leaders about these novels. He gave me some useful information and encouraged me to continue working on them. He agreed that, basically, Syrian refugees are people who have been forced out of their homeland by violence and intimidation. They are desperate to find a safe environment in which to raise their children. They are no more inherently violent than we are.
Going forward, I have plenty of work integrating the comments that I received from beta readers and improving the readers’ experience of the novel. After that, I will reach out to a few agents and publishers. If those connections raise no interest, I am prepared to self-publish, which I did for my memoir.
A reader of this post may be able to assist me with achieving one of my next steps. Does anyone know a Syrian or a person from the Middle East who may be willing to read the revised beta draft of the novel? I would be appreciative if anybody could suggest a female as the book addresses gender roles in Syrian society. But I am looking for any person from that region who may be willing to review the revised draft.
My website can be found at: www.BDHWrites.com
My blog can be found at: www.BDHWrites.com/blog
My email address is: BDHWrites@gmail.com
Apr 21, 2022 | Mystery, Thriller, Young Adult |
Ana Manwaring is a former newspaper lifestyle columnist. Her poetry, personal narratives, book reviews, and short stories have appeared in diverse publications, including the California Quarterly, KRCB Radio, Morning Haiku, and Mystery Readers Journal.
A graduate of the University of Denver (B.A.) and Sonoma State University (M.A.), Ana teaches creative writing, produces the monthly North Bay Poetics poetry event on Zoom, and operates her editing company, JAM Manuscript Consulting—“Spread Excellence.” She’s also the 2022 SinC-NorCal programs chair. In her “past life,” she has prepared taxes, taught ESL, worked for a PI, consulted brujos and out-run gun totin’ maniacs on lonely Mexican highways—the inspiration for the JadeAnne Stone Mexico Adventures.
Ana, husband David, ace gopher hunter Alison, and a host of birds, opossums, skunks, deer, fox, coyotes, and occasionally the neighboring goats co-habitat an acre of Northern California.
After earning her M.A., Ana finally answered her mother’s question, “What are you planning to do with that expensive education?” Be a paperback writer. (ebook and audiobook, too!)
The JadeAnne Stone Mexico Adventures: A missing persons case to locate an American gone missing in the resorts of Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo turns investigator JadeAnne Stone’s life into a nightmare of secrets, betrayals, and pursuit as she and her dog are ensnared in a web of trafficking. Who will she trust as loyalties shift and greed rules?
JadeAnne and I are thrilled to be back on George’s blog. Since our first visit, we’ve published books two and three of the JadeAnne Stone Mexico Adventures. And now we’re unpublishing them. Why on earth? Because I’ve been picked up by Indies United Publishing House who is re-releasing second editions of all three books and publishing the 4th this year. An Ambitious publishing schedule, but penance for taking 28 years from being threatened on a lonely stretch of the Pan American Highway in Michoacán (the inspiration and inciting incident) to publication of Book 1, Set Up. I’m paying my dues now with the new covers, more revision, and editing, as well as finishing Coyote—Pursuit and Terror Across the Border (there’s going to be an exciting chase, shoot-out, and lots of suspense), which will release in November.
Set Up re-released February 16, 2022.
People ask about my writing process. Unfortunately, I’m lousy at discipline and routine. The most challenging part of the process is getting myself to sit down at the computer to write. I always find pressing things to accomplish first. Today it was weeding. But I’m really fortunate to be blessed with a large, light-filled writing studio on the second story of a barn behind my house. I look into oaks and eucalyptus and can watch the birds, the play of light and shadow through the leaves, listen to the soft susurrus of the breeze off the coast, and, when I’m not distracted, write. I’m making good use of our wonderful Sisters in Crime write-ins (I attend 1 Pm and 10 Pm currently) and my M/W/F Study Hall with my writing students. I use the social writing time for outlining, revision, poetry writing, blogging, or brainstorming character names, which often come through reading my mail. In book 4, we’re going to have two new bad guys: Denver “Zeke” Stoner and Slim Killins. I have no idea who they are or what parts they’ll play yet, but when I went to mark my mail-in Recall ballot in the California recall election, there they were. The good news, I get to my desk every day since COVID and sometimes three times, even if I’m not specifically writing, but I’m most productive with high-intensity writing stints like NaNoWriMo.
A huge help in launching my writing career (besides retiring in January) is Sisters in Crime NorCal. I can’t stress enough how beneficial professional organizations and conferences can be to your development as a writer, marketer, and speaker. I’ve met many wonderful writers and readers who’ve helped me, taught me, and encouraged me. I’m a member of several branches of SINC, MWA NorCal, California Writers Club, and a Left Coast Crime attendee and participant. I’m looking forward to our LCC after two years without a conference. I’m excited about Albuquerque, too. The big chase scene culminating in the climax of Coyote will take place between Albuquerque and Denver, and I’m going to take a few days while I’m in the “area” to scout out locations. I try to experience my settings whenever I can. However, I’ll leave the shoot-out to vicarious experience and my imagination—but I’ll know what the air feels like and how the trees smell!
I write in more than one genre. I’m currently completing a memoir of my years in Mexico, and occasionally I write book reviews and short personal essays. I have two poetry chapbooks published, and I’m working on a third of “found” poems on climate change. I’m also writing the great American dysfunctional family novel told in three voices: the dying matriarch with dementia, the elder daughter who is deceased, and the resentful second daughter. Luckily the dead sister is pretty funny.
Two events brought me to writing: I’ve always loved reading stories and wrote a short story entitled “Me and My Dinosaur” instead of writing my third-grade dinosaur report. My teacher Mrs. Clancy loved it, and I got to read it to the class. (This trick worked again in Medieval History at University—I wrote a short story instead of writing a term paper, Another A, but no public reading). The second push toward writing was when I was 11 or 12, and a palm reader predicted I’d be a bestseller by the time I was 50. Isn’t 70 the new fifty?
I’m on my way! Set Up released on 2/16, The Hydra Effect releases 5/18, Nothing Comes After Z 8/17, and Coyote 11/16.
Find me at:
So true to keep writing! I hadn’t thought to use any kind of “assignment” just to keep pen on paper (or typing on computer). I used to work for a newspaper and boy do I work well under pressure! Writers, remember – deadlines and breaks are your friends. 🙂
You’ve given us some excellent advice about writing. Best of luck with your own projects.