Monthly Archives: September 2014

You Are Unique (and a Progress Bar)

Three kids Sept 1969 2When I was a child, I had a few tough years. We lived in a tiny town in eastern Iowa. There were twenty-three kids in my class and I didn’t fit in with those girls. There was one ‘clique’ of girls that weren’t terribly friendly, with a few stragglers around the edges – and there was me. I got along great with the boys, they didn’t expect me to live by some strange ‘girl’ code and allowed me to just play games on the playground whenever I chose to do so. They competed academically with me without any jealousy and we had great fun together. Except … that made the girls jealous. Oh, and then there was the whole ‘your father is a preacher and you won’t be in town that long anyway’ thing going on. And by the way, your hair is curly and you don’t fit in … oh, and you’re getting attention because you nearly died from a heart condition, you always have the right answers in class and you’re the teacher’s pet in music class. More often than not, I went home from school in tears because they’d ganged up on and made fun of me. Those were rough years.

But every time I encountered that garbage from those girls, Mom would sit down with me and tell me how unique I was. She would remind me of the many talents I had and that she and Dad were always proud of me. She never allowed me to dumb myself down to fit in with them, talked to me about being myself and being proud of myself, and told me to stand up for what was right. I learned that it was my responsibility to make sure that the other girls who were being bullied and ridiculed felt safe. And in all things, I was expected to never lower myself to their behavior, because I was their daughter. They loved me. That’s all that mattered.

That encouragement from Mom continued throughout the rest of her life. She always told me that I was unique, I was special, I was more than what the world thought of me. No matter what came at me, I heard her words over and over and even today, it is those words that allow me to do things differently than others expect and be confident when I move forward.

Too many people have never had that person or managed to forget that encouragement. The world has a tendency to beat us down, to tell us we are nothing special, to remind us that we are common. We are constantly told that we can’t do things. That information is reinforced when we make errors in judgment or make poor decisions regarding life decisions. We come to believe that we have gotten ourselves to a point in our lives where we can no longer lift our head out of the mire.

While your talents and unique characteristics may not affect the world on a profound basis, do you know how amazing you are? Do you have someone in your life that tells you over and over that you are special and talented, that you are unique and there is no one like you?

Or have you let the world tell you that you are common and boring, destined to live a life of quiet desperation?

Throw those things off!

God did not call you to be bland, boring and lifeless. He has endowed each of us with His gifts and His life. To be anything less is to reject the gift of creation.

So, not only does God tell you every morning that you are special and unique to Him, I’m telling you … you have a gift that you are to give this world. You are here because God needs you here. You are here because your life is incredible.

And because it’s the beginning of the week AND I figured out how to do the progress bar chart – here it is, in all of its glory. Polly – Book 8 is 40% written! I’m a little excited about that. I just keep plugging away.

Progress – 09/30/14
Progress Bar 093014 a

Progress

My writing progress stunk last week. We’ll get to that in a minute.

Signed BooksI actually had a lot of fun signing and shipping books. I gave away more paperback copies than ever this time and that was exciting for me. There is nothing I love more than knowing my crazy stories are out there in the world.

The truth is, though, that I can distract myself from actually writing words with many different things and all of those hours spent creating mailing labels, signing, packaging and shipping books was a fabulous distraction. It had to be done, right? Of course it did. There were people waiting.

Justifying all of the busy work that I create is pretty easy to do.

Then the week got hot and I got stubborn. I was NOT turning the air conditioner back on. No way. So, I quit sleeping well at night, figuring I could just as easily take a nap during the day and be awake to write late at night. Naps didn’t happen either. Night after night of no sleep crept up on me and I’ve discovered that there is no creative focus with no sleep.

Here’s hoping that with the onset of fall and winter, my sleep habits return to days of yore. The cat will sleep soundly and consequently, so will I.

The last night of the horrible heat (nights around here aren’t supposed to have a low of 70 degrees in September), I pulled my Kindle out to try to lull my brain back to sleep and encountered a wacky screen. Huh. I re-started the thing, re-set it, anything to make the screen clear up. It only took seconds for me to realize I was fighting a losing battle. Bright and early Friday morning (4 am), TB had been fighting off the heat, was wide awake and playing. He knocked it to the floor and I didn’t even think about it. The drop was less than eighteen inches onto carpet. No big deal. Until it was a big deal. Apparently, I hadn’t wrapped the cover around the front, it must have hit a corner of something and damaged the e-ink underneath the glass. What a mess. There was no reading on the Kindle.

KindleI got out of bed, ordered a new one and read my book on my phone’s screen … a tolerable response to an intolerable situation. I was right in the middle of a good book.

My new Kindle showed up today and I’m giddy. With several thousand books in my account, I’m going back to the beginning and start reading favorites, things I’ve missed and will fill it up as fast as I can.

Does any of this help my writing progress? Nope. Not at all.

Well … good sleep does. I slept eleven hours Saturday night and Sunday, voila … chapters unfolded at my fingertips. Now, trust me, even when I’m not physically typing words into the computer, the stories flutter around my mind, strengthening connections and plot lines, fleshing out characters, developing the path and keeping me awake. When I take those days off from writing, I return to my keyboard with a stronger foundation as well as fresh ideas.

So … progress.

I’m still looking for creative word count progress bars. Heck, at this point, I just need to figure out how to create a few of these Excel. And I will. But for today – here’s where I am:

Bellingwood Book 8. Goal: 90,000 words. Written: 21,082
Andrew’s Short Story. Goal: 12,000 words. Written: 2,693
TB’s Short Story. Goal: 12,000 words. Written: 2,218
Naomi’s Story: Goal: 17,000 words. Written: 5,908

Time for me to get busy. I need to make those numbers crawl up a little faster. Turtle … hare … I’m turtling right now.

Anniversaries

FrankMargielimoI generally let my calendar remind me of important dates, but there are several that have gotten stuck in my mind and will never leave. Today is one of those dates. It was my parent’s anniversary.

Now, honestly, I don’t write this to get all sentimental about them, because the reason I have this date stuck so soundly in my head is that my father was absolutely awful at remembering these things. My poor mother spent a lot of years in tears because special days just weren’t important to him.

I have to tell you – the older I get – the more I understand that. Max is so much better about our anniversary and birthdays than I am. It’s not that I don’t care … well, I suppose that’s part of it, but really … just tell me you love me and let’s move on. My birthday? Honestly … what I love the most is an acknowledgment of the day. A simple ‘happy birthday’ goes a long way for me.

But back to today’s date. When I finally got old enough to help my parents deal with this, I kicked right in. About a week or so prior I started showing up in Dad’s office on a regular basis. “Do you remember that the 20th is your anniversary? Have you thought about what you’re going to do for Mom?”

And just like clockwork, Dad would grin at me and ask, “What is she going to do for me?”

I wasn’t getting sucked into that one, so I would just ask if he’d like me to go up to Corner Drug and purchase a card and gift for him. All he had to do was give me some money. So, Mom started getting nicer gifts and the special days in her life came and went without tears and frustration. I even got to the point where I would call Dad at the office to let him know that he needed to just say the words to her when he walked in the door for lunch.

Yep … shake your head. He was awful at this.

Now, when Dad tried to give her a gift on his own, things went from bad to much, much worse.

We call those horrible gifts “wheelbarrow gifts.”

Mom’s birthday was in July and one summer, apparently we desperately needed a new wheelbarrow at the cabin. So … Dad bought a very nice, green wheelbarrow and presented it to Mom as her birthday gift. Wanna talk about tears and a tantrum? Oh … he had one of those on his hands. She was so mad at him. He was going to buy the stinking thing anyway, why in the world did he think it was appropriate to pass it off as her birthday gift?

As I recall, he had proudly told me that he had her birthday taken care of that year. Uh yeah … we never did that again. It took a while, but Mom finally decided to see the humor in the gift and we laughed about it for years and years.

Carol and Jim probably have their own memories of trying to help Dad purchase gifts for Mom. Dad was a great guy, but this was not one of his strengths. All three of us kids are great gift-givers though, because he was so bad.

On September 20, I always wake up and smile as I think about the fact that it’s my parent’s anniversary and it always had the potential to be great or absolutely awful. It was never just a day.

Writing and More Writing

When I get busy with a million other things, I find that it’s difficult to keep writing. For the last several weeks I’ve been editing like crazy. I worked with my brother on his book, Parley. Then, on Bellingwood Book 7 – Tomorrow’s Promises. Once that was delivered, I had a big marketing promotion coming up and wanted to ensure that the first three books were where I wanted them, so I spent hours and hours re-working those. Wow, have I learned a lot in the last couple of years.

Anyway …

072614 TB sleepyEvery night when I went to bed, I lay there thinking about the stories I was working on. There are several and they tend to float around as I flesh out the characters, the plots and the bits and pieces of stories that are the structure for what I will write when I finally sit down at the computer. Thank heavens I have Evernote on my phone because rather than get up and sit down at the computer again, I simply swipe it open, write out enough of my thoughts to satisfy my brain and then I can go back to sleep.

I do the same thing when I wake up in the morning. It’s not easy crawling out of bed when a small black and white cat is attached to the back of my legs, so I often just give up and drift in and out of sleep. I understand myself well enough to know that this is often a perfect time to allow my imagination to run wild. As I drift into sleep, my brain relaxes and amazing things happen for me. Since I’m not trying for deep sleep, I can usually come awake enough to get a few notes down before drifting off again.

Next part of the thought …

Over the last years, I’ve watched as highly organized authors set word count goals for their various projects and then, to keep themselves accountable, they have a gauge of some sort on their website that is regularly updated as they work. What a great idea, right?

Well, I don’t know that I can be that organized about it. I like numbers a lot and I spend a lot of time playing with them … page counts, word counts, chapter counts … on and on. But to be that disciplined. Nah.

But for today, I’ll let you in on some of what I’m working on. It’s really not a secret, though I do love to surprise you with fun things. And I hate to disappoint when I step away from a project. It’s much easier to just not say anything until I’m finished.

So …

Bellingwood Book 8. Goal: 90,000 words. Written: 10,139
Andrew’s Short Story. Goal: 12,000 words. Written: 1,211
TB’s Short Story. Goal: 12,000 words. Written: 2,218
Naomi’s Story: Goal: 17,000 words. Written: 4,126

Those numbers don’t look very strong yet, but it’s exciting for me to see them in one place. These are goals in front of me and the world is wide open. Anything is possible and I’m ready to go!

There are several other things happening in the background, but right now they’re kind of up in the air. If they require the amount of work (re-structuring, re-writing) that I think they will to make them worth my while, word count will mean nothing yet. All in good time. Right? And let me tell you, having a brother who is writing all the time is a wonderful motivator. We might not be in a race, but I certainly can’t let him win!

I haven’t spent enough time writing all of the short stories / novellas that I want to write. These little things offer me an opportunity to explore different genres and styles. At the same time, they will also allow me to reach new audiences. That’s fun for me.

So, here’s my deal. I will try to regularly let you know where I am in the writing process. It definitely won’t be every day, but it will keep me honest and keep me focused on the goals that I’ve set. And I’m ready to settle back in and focus on writing rather than the busyness of publishing and selling books.

Three Books – $3.98

3 Days ~ 3 BooksI love hanging out in Bellingwood! I’ve spent the last week going back over the first three books – just making sure that they are up to snuff. I’ve learned a lot in the last two years. It was time to apply that learning to the early books.

It was fun! I had a blast spending time with Polly as she made new friends and started her life in a little fictional town in the middle of Iowa. These first books build the core of the story. As I look back at those stories, I realize how much work I put into those structures. But as I was getting to know Polly and fleshing out the community, I fell in love with everything. Relationships are the focal point of these books, even though dead bodies tend to show up when Polly’s around,

There is nothing more fun for me than to share Bellingwood, so this weekend I’m doing a big promotion for Treasure Uncovered (Book 3). While I was at it, I realized I could make the series easily available to new readers. Book 1 – All Roads Lead Home is only 99 cents and Book 2 – A Big Life in a Small Town is only $2.99.

Tell friends, download the books, enjoy your time in Bellingwood.

Happy Birthday

090914 Max print of TBI spent yesterday by myself and had a wonderful day because I wasn’t alone. I didn’t get nearly as much work completed as I’d planned, but that was fine. I heard from old friends and new friends all day long and those words brought me an immense amount of joy. A few words – sometimes even just two, and in those few moments, I thought about the person who had written them and how they are part of the fabric of my life. It is an incredible gift to know so many terrific people.

I had to chuckle, though, as I thought back to one of the worst birthdays I’d ever thought I would have. What a crazy whiner I can be. It was my senior year in college. Something weird happens when your birthday occurs around the first of September. Classes have just started up and you are getting settled in, learning where all of the classrooms are, figuring out who everyone is on your floor, and re-establishing friendships that had gone latent over the summer. Everyone has too much to think about to really care whether or not you are celebrating a birthday.

The fact was, I felt really sorry for myself. My sister was a freshman that year and she barely knew where things were on campus. September 8 landed on a Monday and my family had already been to Cedar Rapids to drop us off. There was no way that with Dad’s busy schedule, they were coming back to town for this. Carol promised that she and I would eat supper together and I wasn’t to worry. But I was feeling pretty darned sorry for myself. I was going to have to wait for the next weekend to celebrate with gifts and cake. The day was going to stink, so I sat in my room and sulked a little bit.

My phone rang and it was Carol, just checking to make sure I was where I was supposed to be. She was coming over to get me. Yep, what else did I have to do? I was a most miserable, selfish, self-centered girl. My friends had all gone to supper without me and no one cared.

After a few minutes, there was a knock on my dorm room door and I pulled myself off the bed. My goodness, I was glum. By this point I’d worked myself into a complete dither … so close to tears it was ridiculous. Mom hadn’t called me. No one had wished me ‘Happy Birthday’ and poor Carol had no idea what she was going to have to deal with.

I opened the door and then the tears really did flow. Mom and Dad were standing there with Carol, their arms filled with my gifts and big grins on their faces. What a silly fool I was.

Honestly, I don’t remember anything else about that evening. I don’t remember where we ate or what the gifts were. All I remember is that they were there for me.

Carol, Emma and Max were at the cabin this last weekend. It was crazy. Completely crazy, but Saturday night we went out for a great dinner in Webster City and I got a lot of hugs and birthday wishes. Jim and Janet were in Boone on Saturday while Jim and I signed books in front of Susan (Bower) Schafer’s bookstore, The Book Shoppe, as the community celebrated Pufferbilly Days.

090914 Star Wars lunchbox - Carol giftNow when Monday arrived, I was by myself and this time there wasn’t any feeling sorry for myself, because my friends and family said hello and Happy Birthday. That’s all I could hope for – more than I could ask for. It was amazing. No matter what the nasty naysayers out there talk about, birthdays on Facebook are fantastic. Silly trolls and haters … who needs ’em.

Thank you for taking a moment to say hello.

Max gave me a gorgeous print of the photograph he’d taken of TB earlier this summer. Carol gave me several things, but I love the Star Wars lunch box! Yes, my day was filled with Star Wars, a cat, even some M&Ms and a lot of love. A girl couldn’t ask for a better day.

Book 7 – Tomorrow’s Promises

Book 7You’d think that after publishing books and short stories for the last year and a half, I’d be used to it by now. Maybe it would become mundane and not quite so exciting.

That just isn’t my reality. I still get fluttery in my stomach when I hover over the “publish now” button and then want to do a happy dance and celebrate once I discover that everything has gone live. I hope this never changes.

Book 7 – Tomorrow’s Promises – kind of happened. I intended to write a short story and get it out within a month after finishing A Season of Change, but all of a sudden there was more story! My brother told me that was going to happen. I hate it when he’s right. I planned to write a sweet story about Henry and Polly’s honeymoon, then things happened and there was no way they could leave town. No honeymoon this time. It’s a good thing Henry is patient.

Be sure you read the “Thoughts and Thanks” page this time. I just want to put that out there.

The Kindle edition is live right now (Wednesday morning) and the paperback should be available later today. The Kindle edition has already climbed to #1 in Kindle > Mystery > Detective. How fun is that? I did a search and saw the #1 Best Seller button attached to it and nearly came unglued all over again.

#1 Best Seller - Blog

I’ve started writing Book 8 and have several other things I’m working on. It’s a fun life. I can’t imagine doing anything else. Thanks for playing along with me!

P.S. Here’s the link to Tomorrow’s Promises.

P.P.S. By the way, my brother’s third book is available for pre-order (Release date – Sept. 5). It’s amazing. If you like action, adventure, pirates, sci fi, or fun, you’ll love this story. Parley is a great book!