Give a little back…

There comes a time in your life when it’s important to not only take, but to give back.

As you reach certain levels of success, you need to take somebody under your wing  to mentor.  Give back to your community and, in a broader spectrum, give back to the world.

I was taught this as a young child. But, of course, my parents didn’t call it ‘giving back’ they said you’re doing ‘what’s right’. We helped the lonely and the elderly who lived in our neighborhood by making sure their lawns were cut, they got occasional visits to keep them company, and treats like plates of homemade cookies. We did our part for church, too, making sure we were there for every cleanup and event the church sponsored. And we gave back to the school in forms of being part of the PTA or helping on class activities.

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It was right after I moved to Florida, getting a job with a man who was a community leader, I learned about giving back to the business community. He taught us it wasn’t just giving back money to associations and good causes, it was about giving of yourself. Giving time was  sometimes more important than giving money. A perfect example was after Hurricane Andrew hit Homestead Florida, many of the large nurseries were destroyed. Nurseries unaffected in other parts of the state sent down representatives and supplies to make sure those businesses demolished could rebuild. The made sure families affected would have food, water and shelter. These nurseries that helped didn’t make any money from their efforts; it was simply good will, and it was the right thing to do. This example of giving back made a lasting impression on me.

When I started my gardening business, I made sure I got involved in the community by joining the Chamber of Commerce and other non-profit organizations. Even if I didn’t have money to help these organizations, I had my time and efforts and I gave freely.

Now, as I enter a new stage of my life as a writer, I’m determined to give back once again. And, although I’m not as knowledgeable as other authors with more experience, I freely give what I can to help new authors starting out. Sometimes a kind word of encouragement is all another writer needs. Another way I give back is to read other people’s books and write honest reviews.

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You can easily do this, too.  Or, become a beta reader when you can. And don’t be afraid to promote another author’s book. By promoting other books in your own genre, you will also promote your own books. As more and more people become interested in the same style of writing as yours, you’ll find the sales increasing.

It’s exciting to be part of the writing community, and I’m thrilled to give back. I know most of us are introverts and tend to prefer working from within our own comfort zone, but with the use of the internet you can easily help another writer get through a  tricking plot point . Plus, I’m amazed at how many great friends I’m making.

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So, as a result, occasionally you’ll find I don’t post a traditional blog. Instead I’ll help support other author’s by posting a promotion. This will give you the chance as a reader to have access to new books and new writers you might not have known. It also gives these authors more exposure, which we all need.

I hope you will enjoy these promotions and take advantage of them. Remember if you enjoyed the book take a moment and let the writer know. Send an email or, even better, write a review on Amazon.

I think you’ll find it feels wonderful to give back!

Use a bit of Sense

When developing a character, I like to think of everything. it’s almost as if I place my character on it examination table.   I go over him from limb-to-limb, cell-to-cell, wondering what makes him tick.

I recently wanted to create a new character and take away one of his senses, but which one which would he lose? Then I thought, well which one would I lose willingly – or, at least, miss the least.

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Would have been my sense of sight? Would I miss watching a morning sunrise or looking into the face of a loved one? Would I miss looking into a garden seeing all the flowers in full bloom or watching a child take his first step? How could I enjoy a quiet snowfall or a thundering storm? No, this isn’t the sense I could lose.

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Maybe I wouldn’t mind losing the sense of smell? Goodness knows there’s enough things to smell throughout my day; the sweet scents coming from my garden flowers or the spicy fragrance from the herbs. Or, that home cooked meal, made from scratch, that you know will stay with you for the whole evening. Or the aroma of the first cup of coffee in the morning, helping wake you up to face your day. No, the sense of smell helps me get through the day, so I don’t want to lose that one either.

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What about the sense of hearing? I have two ears – would it be so awful to lose the sense of sound, or diminish the ability, from just one ear?  Then I remember the beautiful music that gets me through the day, and the sound of laughter from my friends as we share a quiet joke. Or the voice of the newscaster as he tells us what went on during the day and, most importantly, the sounds of my loved ones. No, even though I have two ears, this is one sense I do not want to lose either.

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And what about the sense of taste? It goes along with your sense of smell, but the sense of taste can also protect by keeping you from eating something that is bad. Yet, the special flavor of certain ingredients can help you devour a whole chocolate bar and smile afterwards. Certain distinguishing flavors can bring back memories of food  you’ve had before, like a seasonal fruit. There’s nothing like biting into that first strawberry of the season, or the Christmas cookies only gets baked once a year. While I might lose some weight if I lost my sense of taste, I wouldn’t want to give it up for one pound.

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Then there’s the sense of touch. This is sense can offer us protection by warning you if you are near something too hot or cold. It allows us the luxury of feeling a soft cashmere sweater on your skin, the sweet kiss from your lover. Or the sensation of the smoothness of our baby’s skin and the silkiness of your dog’s soft fur. I wouldn’t want to miss out on the joys the sense of touch can bring either.

I ponder long and hard, finally deciding I don’t want to lose any of my five senses. And it would be cruel-hearted to make my character loose one of theirs. How could I relate to what they’re going through when I can’t experience it myself? Besides, it would make for one miserable character.

So, cherish each of your senses and remember them as you write.

Let your characters feel all they are capable of. Weave each of the 5 senses into your words, so your reader knows what the character is feeling and experiencing.

 

Write, Weather, Mood

Have you ever noticed how much the weather affects your day-to-day life?

 It’s not just whether it’s raining or cold; it’s the whole feeling of the weather.

On sunny days, you’ll find people smile more and they are more apt to greet you kindly and engage in conversation with you. If it’s one of those perfect weather days, we’ll even prolong the conversation to stay outside to enjoy the weather.

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On a cold rainy day, people barely even look up at you as you walk by. If words are exchange, the  conversation is grumbling about the weather.

As a writer, I’m amazed at how much the weather affects my mood for writing as well.

Seriously, it’s kind of hard to plan a deep dark murder or some villainous crime on a bright sunny day when you’re sitting by the beach. These are the days when I am more in the mood for writing a funny scene or even a romantic one.

However, if you’re curled up inside shivering because of the cold and it’s overcast and rain is hitting the panes of glass of your windows, well that’s different. On a day like this, it doesn’t take too much to put you in the dark mood to write a dark scene. Plots of murder and misdeeds are easy to put down on paper. I have no qualms about putting my main characters in a miserable situation. If I’m miserable, then they can be, too.

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Unfortunately, as a mystery writer, I can’t wait for dark rainy days to write about a murder. My imagination must work overtime to create the mood or scene I’m working on at that moment.  That’s when I often will use other stimuli to help me get in the right frame of mind. Music is a big component as I write, setting the mood for the writing I wish to accomplish. Often going online and looking at pictures (I love Pinterest!) will spark the needed thought process. After all, a picture of a lethal weapon can lead to thoughts of crime.

If these methods don’t work for me, then I find it best to go ahead and write a scene that will fit my mood. I will sneak it into my work in progress later. Or, maybe, put it away in a file to be used in another book.

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No matter what the weather ,as a writer it is important to take control of your work. You should write every day, 1 to 2 paragraphs or 1 to 2 chapters. And if that fails, pick up a book and read someone else’s words. You’ll be amazed at how much this will spark your imagination!

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It can be a lonely world out there for an indie writer. You can be lost or overwhelmed easily, but we have resources at our fingertips that can help us along. One writer went to the extreme to help other writers. I’m pleased to introduce Kathryn Bax (Pen name Kathryn McMaster) as my guest blogger for this week.

 I’m going to let Catherine tell you a little bit about her story and about the great website that she’s put together for writers and readers alike. I’m proud to be part of this website and of course you can find all of my books there. But it’s not just my books; there’s a vast number of writers from different genres. So, you be sure to go to the website and start picking out some great books to read.

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One Stop Fiction for Readers and Writers

We all like to read free and discounted books, don’t we? Who doesn’t like a bargain? I co-founded One Stop Fiction for two reasons. The first was to provide readers with quality books at discounted rates, the other was as an author I was frustrated at the lack of places I could be seen, other than my own author Facebook pages and website. How could I make sure that my book was on a permanent website, rubbing shoulders with books from my peers? Along came the idea for the website.

However, 9 months ago, the idea hadn’t even been born yet. I was still frantically trying to finish my first novel. Once I was nearly finished I realized that I needed some ideas on how to market it. There was no point in writing a book that nobody would see.

So I paid a squillion to join a course on book marketing only to be bitterly disappointed. It had not stated on sign up that the course was primarily for non-fiction writers. I took very little away from the course and felt rather disgruntled. I was not the only one. Other fiction authors were very unhappy too.

So, being the rebel that I am, I decided to break away from the group and start my own Facebook group where we could all learn from each other and share marketing ideas. The group soon grew to well over 1000 members. However, after listening to the feedback from the new group, there seemed a need to provide a platform where writers could connect to readers and vice versa.

I had built and run several websites of my own before this. I was no stranger to HTML and website jargon. However, I knew that we needed a site that would be more than a ‘mom and pop’ venture. We needed something slick and professional, easy to use and attractive to look at.

In the previous disgruntled group were two very special people; Shaun Griffiths, a Young Adult author who would become our Content Manager, and Alex Okros; an author of short stories (still unpublished) and the published author of a time-management book.

We fast became Internet friends. One day I said to Alex that I was thinking of starting up a website for authors. He said that he too had had the exact same idea. I said that it was all very well and good to have lofty ideas but website platforms did not come cheap. Who would we get to build it? He started to chuckle and said, “Oh, didn’t I tell you? I am a computer programmer and my girlfriend designs websites.” Sometimes, some things are just meant to be.

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http://www.onestopfiction.com

 

The website was released to the public on 8/8/2016 which we hope is an auspicious date – not that we are at all superstitious! Already hundreds of books have been added to the site and we are thrilled to see how many people have entered our monthly competition to win a Kindle eReader Paperwhite worth $119. The competition is open to all, no matter where you live. There is no joining fee, and to say thank you for your subscription you have a choice of 30 free e-books to read.

So please come and join us, have some fun, and be prepared to find some great books!

 By Kathryn Bax (Pen name Kathryn McMaster)

Co-founder and Business Development Manager

http://www.onestopfiction.com

 

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logo and head-shot provided by Kathryn Bax
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Watching for Inspiration

Sometimes you have to just push the chair back and walk away from the desktop.You can only stare at a screen for so long before your mind goes numb and you’re searching for inspiration.

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Some of the best inspiration that you can get is from watching the people around you. This is especially true at large public locations. I’m lucky to live in South Florida; between the place where the mouse lives and the place where the dolphins swim there’s plenty of attractions to go and watch people. I don’t know what it is about people who are on vacation, but it seems like they’ll do the most amazing things. It might be because they’re letting their inhibitions down, as ifthey have an “I don’t care” attitude. Or maybe it’s because they think no one’s watching: at least no one they know. Young or old, male or female, there’s plenty of inspiration to watch for.

 

I especially like to watch the interaction between people;  what they’re doing while they’re talking. There are so many hand gestures and movements a person makes without even being aware of it and if you incorporate those into your story line you can add a lot of interest.

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Here’s a perfect example…

We were at the place where the mermaids put on a show in the springs  by Tampa. Two little girls very close in age were excited to be able to see the show with the mermaids. They jumped up and down and chattered non-stop. Their parents kept exchanging looks as they tried to quiet them down. Finally it was time for all of us to go in and sit down in the auditorium to watch the mermaid show. The two little girls were overjoyed with excitement and chattered loudly.Their mother tried to quiet them down but to no avail. Rather than getting in the middle of an argument with them, their father simply took each   girl by  hand and led them to their seats.  Instead of letting them sit together, he conveniently put himself and his wife between the two of them. They weren’t able to feed off the excitement of each other and they settled down to enjoy the show.

In that same auditorium over in the corner there were three little girls in the front row leaning over the railing. They were so excited to see the mermaids that they were pushing their noses up against the glass. Instead of being loud and rambunctious like the other girls, these three little girls were in awe of the mermaids. They whispered back and forth to each other and when one of the mermaids swam over and waved at them they were so excited they just didn’t know what to say.  As the mermaid swam away, the giggling and the whispering started. Yet, it was a smile on the adults around the three girls that told the true story. We were getting more enjoyment out of the children’s joy then out of the show itself.

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Children of all ages are great to watch, because they held nothing back. Watching an adult is a little bit harder; you have to really pay attention, without appearing to stare at the interaction between them. It can be something as obvious as to couples fighting with raised hands and loud voices, to another couple so comfortable with themselves that words are needed. They let  their emotions show through actions;   the older man holds the woman’s hand to help her over a rough patch in the sidewalk. To me that action was louder than the arguments of the other couple.

So, when you feel like you’re stumped, or that you need a break, get out of the house and see what’s going on around you. If you can’t do that, flip on the TV and watch the interactions of the characters on the show. Be sure to pay closer attention to the side characters instead of the main characters. Sometimes what you see going on in the background is funnier than the comic one-liners the main characters have.

Feeling inspired? Good, now get back in that chair and start writing!

 

 

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A Deal For YOU!!

I love working on cross over promotions with other authors.

It’s great to be included with writers working together to help each other get the word out about our books.

Even better the reader (YOU) benefit!

So today and tomorrow take advantage of some great books at a great price!  Just click on the link below and then make your selections. Don’t forget to pick up the newest Citrus Beach Mystery at this low price. Look for Tank full of Trouble.

http://www.reneepawlish.com/promo

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AnOther Writer?

I think I have a budding writer in the family.

She’s not your typical writer. No, her work habits are lazy and hap-hazard. She tends to write only when inspired by seeing someone else working, and she  often falls asleep in the middle of a sentence.

You see my co-writer is a pretty little thing, with four legs and a lot of attitude.20160902_080826

Meet Miss Marple. She’s the quiet one of my three cats.and if I’m at my desk, so is she. To tell the truth, she should have been named Shadow, because she is like my shadow, always with me.

Miss Marple is patient and seems to know my writing moods. When things are flowing smoothly, she sits in her basket (how she still fits in it I haven’t a clue) and grabs a nap. When I need to sit and think about the story, she will sit on my lap, hands or keyboard and offer her support.

Of course things don’t always go this smoothly, after all, she’s a cat with a mind of her own. And one of three in the house. I swear, when she thinks I’ve ignored her long enough, she signals the other two for reinforcements!

The second cat is Fletch.  She was named Mrs. Fletcher, but my son insisted Fletch was more appropriate-he was right. If there is trouble to be found, Fletch is in the middle of it. And she is not so tolerant of being ignored while I write.

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When the reinforcements are called in, my desk becomes their play ground. Drawers are opened for stealing paperclips and rubber bands. The pen in my hand is  mortal enemy that must be attacked and defeated. Urgent secret codes are typed into my manuscript as they pounce on the key board. And the back of my chair is commandeered and transformed into a launch pad.

Then, just as I’m ready to give up and pack it in, there is peace. As if sent by a secret code, they both settle down.

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Did I mention my third cat, Speckles? She is the matriarch of the three, over 18 years old. She’s too old to jump up on my desk, now. Instead she sits in the comfortable chair next to my desk, or on a rug in a patch of sunlight and watches the antics of the other two. In her time, she was the troublemaker. I think I can see her smile as Fletch steals my pen.

I wonder…is she sending them a secret code?

Finally, all three are taking their afternoon nap and I can get back to my work in progress. At least until they wake up and it starts all over.

The Learning Curve

Where has the time gone?

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It’s hard to believe, but this week celebrates 3-year anniversary of the release of my first book! I thought I’d write a quick little blog about what I’ve learned from the beginning. Well, the first thing I need to tell you be; I’m no expert and I have tons more to learn, I’ve barely skim the surface.

When I first started my first book it was a challenge, I never expected to do another one, or another one (etcetera), but as anyone who writes knows, once you start you can’t stop. Writing becomes part of who you are.

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 I think the most surprising lesson I learned is writing a book is just the beginning. It’s  a business and if you want to succeed, you need to address the business end of the craft. Like any business, there are tools  you need to use to be successful, so I thought I’d let you know a few of the tools I use day-to-day. As I’ve grown in my writing, I found I can’t go without them.

Foremost is Scrivener. It is a writing program which helps you organize and keep your thoughts clear.   Plotter or Pantser– scrivener will work for you.

I also use MS Word because most documents need to be put into word and it’s easy. there’s no fussing. Word will allow you to add in editing programs, and these aids are essential for my writing process.  I work with 2 programs; ProWriting Aid or Grammerly. Either one of them will work. You need these programs to help you catch the many mistakes  your eyes will miss, know no matter how good you are.

I also use a dictation program called Dragon Naturally Speaking. I can’t tell you how my writing has changed using this program. The idea is to get the thoughts down on paper, and this works great. There is a learning curve to using it, but worth the time and effort you put into it.

Two other items  I use every day, without fail, and would be lost without them are Dropbox and Evernote.

Dropbox holds all my documents off-line. After losing major files because of a glitch in either my equipment or my backup practices, I found  this is the smartest thing I could have ever done. I wish I’d done it years ago, not only for my writing for my business. I use Evernote to help me to make quick notes from the thoughts racing through my mind as I go through my day-to-day routine. I can dictate into the program which is great for me. I can organize the notes into notebooks so  I can make notes on different books and projects  I’m working developing. Evernote is a good tool to use with Scrivener, too.

I’ve also found, whether I like it or not, social media plays big part in the writing. Facebook (www.facebook.com/CitrusBeachMysteryseries ), Twitter (Victoria LK Williams@CitrusBeachMyst), LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com/in/victoria-lk-williams), Instagram (vickilkw), and Pinterest (http://www.pinterest.com/vlkwcbm) are the ones  I actively use, some more than others. A word of caution about the social media sites; learn to turn them off and concentrate on your writing. It is best to set a  time that you allow yourself for social media so  you don’t waste writing time. Because, believe me, you can.

One important aspect not to overlook is an Author Website.(VictoriaLKWilliams.com) Give your readers another option to find you, to find out about your books; where to buy them and about your upcoming works. Personalize your website so  it sounds like you; don’t make it so professional that the readers are not intrigued. This is your opportunity to introduce your personality and maybe some hints about how you write and why you write it’s also a great place to post about upcoming books and their progress.

If, after all that work, you still have some creative juices left, try Blogging. It’s one more way for your readers to find out about you on a more personal level and for those search engines to find you. I have two blogs: this one and Gossip From the Southern Garden (gossipfromthesoutherngarden.cordpress.com)

Classwork

It’s been said loneliness comes along with writing, but it doesn’t have to be. Don’t seclude yourself, talk to other writers, if not in person than online. There’s many forums out there where writers share ideas, tips, and encourage each other.  Even if you don’t participate at first, there’s a lot to read about. Find yourself a Writing Buddy either online or in person. Everybody needs a shoulder to cry on, or a hand to hold. When you’re celebrating, your writing buddy can be there for you.They’ll understand you in ways  no one else can, because they’re going through the  same thing  you are.

The other word of advice I can give is have patience. Don’t be in such a hurry to push the publish button.  Invest in a good cover and an editor. Even if you need to hang on to your book for a couple of months until you can raise the funds to do so.There’s good editors out there and bad ones; make sure you send them a sample chapter. Ask them to look it over and tell you if it’s something they are interested in pursuing. You’ll get a chance to see their work, too. I would recommend you go with an editor who likes the type of books you write. If you’re writing a series of books, make sure your cover tie together so  readers can find them easier.

Keep track of your promotions. a book that isn’t out there for people to find will not get read. Even the best authors fall off to the charts with some of their older books.

And my last bit of advice it to take care of yourself, your family and friendships. Get up and walk around, eat healthy, drink lots of liquids and, if you can, take breaks to get some exercise. Don’t neglect your family or friends. Nourish those relationships, they’re the most important thing in your life. Besides, you might find inspiration from these same people.

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So here is my little tidbits of knowledge   I’ve learned over the last three years. It’s by no means is a complete, because I’m learning more every day. I make mistakes every day too.

The trick is to learn from your mistakes and keep writing!

Please note any programs or sites  I  mentioned,  I’m not endorsing them for any type of payment;  I’m simply stating what works for me.

Camp Time!

I’m going to camp!

Who thought that in my 50’s I’d be excited about going to camp? But, it’s not the kind camp you’re thinking of. There will be no tents for me, no campfires, no S’mores. I won’t be swatting at mosquitoes or telling tales late at night. At least not in reality.

No the kind of camp but I’m going to visit virtual camp. It is a camp for writers, and it’s called Camp NaNoWriMo (national novel writing month).

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What that means is that I have committed myself to writing at least a rough draft of a novel within one months’ time. Yeah, I know, sounds crazy doesn’t it?

So I’ve signed up for camp, been assigned my cabin, and have met my 12 cabin mates. It’s actually pretty exciting.

It’s also a big commitment, and one that I’m not taking lightly. There will no more TV for me for the month, or binge reading of an entire series. Well, at least not as much. I will be concentrating on getting in serious writing time, with little distractions and lots of productivity.

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It starts April 1. (Maybe it is a coincidence about that date- after all us writers just might be fools)
I have already stocked up on preserves to get me through the month. I stopped on my way home today and picked up a bag of candy kisses- got to have your chocolate! I’ve got tons of tea and coffee stashed and of course bottled water, we’re get serious here. My song play list is updated and waiting and I have informed my husband that I “have plans” for the evenings this month.

So please excuse me if I don’t blog as much during the month of April. I have some serious writing to do on this novel and I’m going to get it done.

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If all goes according to plan, there should be a new Citrus Beach Mystery to add to the series.

So, Now I Understand!

Respect and understanding

I guess it was about five or six years ago I had the pleasure of having client who is also a pretty famous writer. Vero Beach seems to be a hotbed for authors and this one was no exception- started Miami and worked his way up and I not to name drop, but his initials are C.H.

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At the time I was not writing myself although I had aspirations to begin. I can remember being impressed and a little bit awestruck by this man. He had a set schedule that he stuck to, and had his family stick to as well. He had an office set off in the house and when he went into his office during normal hours that he had set aside he was not to be disturbed under any circumstances. He stuck to the schedule just like in any other work environments and he made family stick to it as well. At the time I didn’t quite understand the need for this type of environment, but now that I’m writing I truly do.

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Now that I’m writing myself I understand why there is a need for your own special space. It may not be in office, it could just be a quiet little corner of your porch or in your bedroom with the bedroom door closed. But you do need to have a location where you can write and not have any interruptions in your thought flow.

Without an exclusive environment to write in, it’s easy to get distracted. I found that out myself; it’s easy to get up to run to get a drink and next thing you know you’re throwing a load of laundry in the washer or playing with the cats.

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You pick up the phone and the next thing you know, you’re answering emails. The distractions are boundless enough without anybody in the house, and add in family and friends? They see you at your desk and unless that door is closed you are soon caught up in family demands. Or, maybe you write outside and soon it is the neighbors who want to chit chat because they see you out on the porch. Before you know what you’ve lost hours of writing time.

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And then there’s the internal interruptions; the need to check your emails, to go on your favorite blogs or forums to just check out what’s going on. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, Tumbler; are all great things, but you need to set aside a time to do them away from your writing time. These are important things, because for many of us that is the way that we provide a social platform to make our name recognizable. But you need to set aside separate times to write and separate times to promote. It’s up to you to decide what order and the length of time that you need for each of these items

So, as I’m working on my third book, I understand and admire this author that I spoke of earlier with even more respect. He was able to stick to his regimen and pour out books, very good books by the way, and he still was able to do everything else in his life that he wanted to.
I’m taking my lessons from him. I’m going to start setting my own writing time and stick to it even if it’s only an hour at night from 10 to 11 when I have time to myself and can’t be interrupted. I will follow his example and build from it.

What steps are you going to take to make your writing career more successful and more productive?

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