A Writer’s Life: Fall Fun!

While I’m furiously at work on the new novel, attempting to get it ready to release next year, for sure record breaking fall fun is all around us!

Gardens. How about this heirloom tomato? Measuring 6 inches long by 5 inches wide and 4 inches fat, it’s a gift from my next door neighbors and good friends. Jackie and Dennis cleaned out their 2017 garden and brought over this last luscious beauty. Bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches, anyone?

Bugs. Rick stopped over yesterday to power wash my house. “Mom, you’ve got a major infestation of box elder bugs!” Major understatement, my son. Can anyone say, “Guinness Book of Records”? If I had the patience to count these nasty nuisances, this year’s “crop” would make its record breaking pages easily. When I told Dave, who will spray my house and yard next week, he just laughed. “Not a one will be found when I’m done.” Oh well … so much for my chance to appear in the Guinness Book of Records.

 

Driveways. Isn’t the blacktop apron of my driveway pitiful??? The one good thing about it is that when the back tires hit that dip, I know my car is safe while I run across the road to grab the newspaper. And the good news? I’m arranging to have it fixed. Hopefully before winter.

Now admit it. You picture authors enjoying this cushy at-home job with a hot cup of coffee nearby while peacefully writing marvelous stories and witty social media. Okay, that’s what I thought until my first novel released. Now I know writers lead normal lives that need attention on a daily basis just like yours.

As for “marvelous stories and witty social media,” let’s not go there. We do our best and hope it delights you. Oh, and did I mention that <cringe> I never got into drinking coffee? (My apologies to all who love the this aromatic brew.)

All that said, I do love writing … and chatting with readers. Absolutely!

Your turn: What’s happening with you this fall as you prepare for winter?

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14 Murder, She Wrote Tips for Balancing Your Writing Life, Part Two

Believe it or not, it’s time to get back to “14 Murder, She Wrote Tips for Balancing Your Writing LIfe.” March 9, I shared the first half of those tips. I promised you seven more. So let’s not waste any time. Here is Part Two of …

14 Tips for Balancing Your Writing Life

Jessica Fletcher, best-selling mystery novelist in the fictional Murder, She Wrote television series, had to manage the many facets of her writing life just as we do,  That included not taking, but making …

  1. Time to write. We often saw Jessica sitting at the kitchen table of her home in Cabot Cove, pounding the keys of her typewriter. As she attempted to beat the publisher’s deadline for her new novel, she refused to be interrupted by all but dire needs. Later, in her New York apartment, she turned to writing at a computer  … and sometimes dealing with computer problems. Even Jessica had computer problems. Unlike us, they usually led to solving a murder mystery.
  2. Time for research. Do you remember Jessica poking around in the book stacks at a library? Or searching for information online? How about interviewing experts and visiting her novels’ settings to ensure the accuracy of her stories? I especially liked the scene where she made up a dummy to be the “murder victim” in her WIP (work in progress) and then acted out the scene to make sure the imaginary bullet’s trajectory was possible.
  3. Time for conferences. Every writer from beginner to published needs to spend time at writers’ conferences and seminars,and Jessica was no exception. Of course, when she showed up to network with other writers, or meet with her agent, editors and publishers, she invariably wound up involved in a murder mystery. I have to admit that with all the conferences I attended, not once was anyone threatened, much less murdered. So, you are not only safe going to a writer’s conference or seminar, you will love it. Here I am with three friends at Write-To-Publish, John, Cindy, and Kris.
  4. Time to teach. And how about those criminology classes Jessica taught at a college in New York? Or when she spoke at a writer’s conference? She not only became adept at writing and at solving crimes, she shared her knowledge with others. She also occasionally made time to read unpublished writers’ stories, offer suggestions, and encourage them to continue their pursuit of publication.
  5. Time for readers. No matter how famous  Jessica became, she made time for her readers. Time to autograph books. Time to speak to fans gathered at a meeting to hear her read from her newest novel and share some interesting facet of the writing of it. I loved the time she wound up involved in solving a murder mystery when she stumbled on a Jessica Fletcher fan club whose members had read all her books. Here I am, signing a book for Nancy who was kind enough to attend my novel’s book launch last year.
  6. Time for business. Yes, Jessica met with her editors and publishers, but she also had to stay on top of her investments. She was one of the authors who actually made a living writing her novels! No doubt she also had someone to take care of tax matters.
  7. Time to pray. Imagine my surprise at catching an episode in which Jessica prayed. You know the routine, Against a pressing deadline, we get stuck. There she sat at her typewriter, frustrated. Suddenly she folded her hands in prayer and looked heavenward. Yes, even Jessica had to pray to make progress with her WIP. I like to think that she, too, knew the importance of prayer to succeed in writing well.

And there you have it … the last of the “14 Tips.” I hope you enjoyed them. The truth is: fictional author or not, we all have to face similar challenges in our writing lives.

What biggest challenge as a novelist have you faced and, hopefully, overcome?

 

Missing in Action?

Missing in action? Yes, the last time you saw a post was the end of May, and I truly apologize. You are important to me.

But, sometimes life takes us by the hair and drags us wherever it wants. Have you ever felt that way? Well, that’s exactly what happened over the last two months while I was mysteriously ill. Finally, this past Sunday, whatever-it-was let go.

And I’m so glad to be back with you once again!

You all amaze me with your wonderful support. Within the past twenty-four hours, another five-star review of Her Deadly Inheritance appeared on Amazon: “Loved this book! The opening line to the last line keep you turning the page.”

What encouragement as I’m now physically able to work on the edits requested for the second novel by my editor at Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, Darla Crass. Once those edits are approved, LPC will set a release date for this novel. When that happens, I’ll be sure to answer your frequent question, “When is your next novel coming out?”

In the meantime, thank you so much for making Her Deadly inheritance a top-selling novel on Amazon since it came out last year, I’m so grateful to you and to the Lord.

2017 Selah Awards: Her Deadly Inheritance Is a Finalist

Exciting news! A few hours ago I received word that Her Deadly Inheritance is a finalist in the 2017 Selah Awards.

Eva Marie Everson, contest director for the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, wrote, “Congratulations! Your work was up against quite an impressive list of other works … but your work is a finalist for the Selah Awards.

We are attaching a seal for you.”Selahs_Seal_Finalist_2017 - HDI

Her  Deadly Inheritance will compete in the “Fiction Genres: First Novel” category, and I couldn’t be more honored. Winners of the contest’s sixteen categories will be announced at the BRMCWC dessert banquet in Spilman Auditorium on Wednesday, May 24 around 7:15 p.m.

Edie Melson (author and social media expert) and DiAnn Mills (award-winning and best-selling author) are the co-directors of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference.

Congratulations to all of this year’s Selah Awards finalists!

14 Murder, She Wrote Tips for Balancing Your Writing Life, Part One

Actually, all but one of the 14 Tips came from the beloved TV series featuring fictional mystery writer, Jessica Fletcher. I know–a strange source of wisdom. But when the flu hit, I was so sick I couldn’t read. So I resorted to watching re-runs of Murder, She Wrote and was surprised to pick up some hints on balancing my writing life–a subject I had been pondering lately anyway. So here is Part One of my …

14 Tips on Balancing Your Writing Life

Let’s start with daily life–things we often crowd out in the busyness of our lives. No wonder we get frazzled and bored! Something that never plagued Jessica. So let’s see how we’re doing in taking …

  1. Time to exercise and eat right–Okay now, don’t boo and hiss. You know we need to do these things–like it or not. And I noticed Jessica not only rode her bicycle around Cabot Cove a lot, but she also jogged regularly. I kinda prefer walking outdoors, a half hour of gentle exercise to a CD indoors, and working out at Planet Fitness. Now–if I could just get myself to do those things on a more consistent basis! (One of my goals this year.)
  2. Time for family–Like Jessica, I’m a widow. So family time is now relegated to visiting, attending weddings and funerals, holiday celebrations, camping, birthdays, and the like. Sometimes, like Jessica, it means boarding a plane to do these things with out-of-state family. At home, I host holiday celebrations and enjoy visits from my sons and their families. Family gives a sense of connection and belonging that we sorely need for good health.
  3. Time for friends–Busy as we are, it’s easy to feel we don’t have much time for this, but Jessica always made time for her friends. Whether coffee and dessert around her kitchen table, her famous clam chowder and lobster dinner for a dining room full of friends, or dropping by to visit Doc Haslett or the sheriff. And she always made time for a friend who stopped by for help or advice. Friends are a precious gift that enrich us emotionally. We need to make time for them. This is Susan Engebrecht and me enjoying a fun time at Green Lake Conference Center in WI.
  4. Time for neighbors–Where would I have been without my neighbors when Jim died? They were totally outstanding in providing meals and helping me prepare for out-of-town family as well as coming to his funeral. They watched over me in the weeks and months to come, helping with every need they noticed–even told me to call in the middle of the night if I needed them. But this didn’t happen by accident, anymore than it did for Jessica. It was the result of developing relationships through the years. Getting together for meals, helping with each other’s needs, taking time to chat and visit–even if only for a few minutes. Taking care of each other’s yards and homes while the other was away. Helping to celebrate special occasions. I’m so grateful for the blessing of wonderful, caring neighbors.
  5. Time for home and yard care–Oh, yah! Being a widow does not excuse me from these duties. I neither have a maid nor a yard man. Though I have to say that my sons help me a lot with my one-acre yard and doing house repairs as needed. Friends and neighbors help out at times, too. But, like Jessica, I do all I can to keep my house and yard neat and clean as well as decorate for holidays. (Right now I have my Christmas tree decorated for St. Patrick’s Day!) In warm weather, I like to putter in my flower beds and small garden, too. In winter, I snow blow my driveway and shovel my sidewalks–just like anyone else. Physical work is good for the body and mind. It always feels good to look on a finished job with a cheerful, satisfied heart.
  6. Time for hobbies–Oooo! This is hard for me. I’m more likely to cut back on time for this than any of the others. How about you? Spending time on hobbies totally unrelated to writing feels non-productive. But I’ve noticed Jessica often took a break from writing to go fishing. It’s not likely I’ll ever take up fishing–though I have no problem with someone else doing this, but I do like working jigsaw puzzles and singing while accompanying myself with my Q-Chord. We all need refreshing breaks that carry us with delight into a totally non-work activity each day. And I’ll keep reminding myself of this until I get it right. LOL
  7. Time for community events–All right, let’s get out that lawn chair and head for the Memorial Day (or other) parade that celebrates our country and community. Jessica even showed up for hometown political rallies, dedications of new firetrucks, charity efforts, and more. Being an active part of community events gives us a sense of belonging and is anything but boring. Especially when shared with family, friends, and neighbors. What can be better than allowing out minds and hearts to be stimulated by new sites and sounds that we’ll never experience at home?

And this ends Part One of my “14 Tips.” But come back in two weeks to see what Jessica and I share in Part Two which covers the “writing” side of a balanced life. You won’t be sorry!

In the meantime–Did ideas for balancing your own life surface as you read this post? Please share. (We can all use good ideas!)

 

 

Writer’s Life: A Funny Thing Happened

Does God have a sense of humor? Of course he does! But always in a kind way and for our good. Here’s the true story from an earlier writing year where the Lord played …

A Joke on Me!

“You called me to write, Lord, but nobody wants my stuff. I guess I’m just not good enough.” Releasing a heavy sigh, I pushed my manuscripts aside and grabbed my car keys. Maybe hanging out at the Christian Book Nook would cheer me up.

read-ing-a-bookUnfortunately, my downcast mood followed me to the store and dampened my usual enthusiasm. I drifted wistfully past the novels and began picking half-heartedly through the devotional books before one pierced my blue funk. I read the first devotional, sampled one in the middle, and turned to the end of the book. The last piece quickly pulled me in. I devoured it.

“Wow, Lord, if only I could write as well as this author, I’d really be getting somewhere!”

I flipped back a page to the byline. My eyes widened. I began to chuckle. The joke was on me. I had been admiring my own piece!

Yes, I still have a lot to learn about writing and marketing manuscripts. However, these days when I’m tempted to feel depressed about my progress, I remember how God once encouraged me with—of all things—my own writing. After all, if the God who called us to write believes in us, who are we to doubt?

Lord, thank you that you are the God who encourages us, who has great plans for us, who leads and guides us to success as we trust and obey you.

“Those who trust in the Lord will never lack any good thing” ~ Psalm 34:10, TLB

***

Dear Reader, maybe you, too, are guilty of being discouraged from time to time. About your.writing. About something else. Please know that as we trust in the Lord and continue to persevere, the God who called us also believes in us.

~ Beth

“A Joke on Me” first appeared in The Christian Communicator (August 2012).

he devotional book referred to in this piece is Sing a New Song complied by Mary Beckwith (Evergreen Publications, 1991–now out of print).

Debut Author: 5 Basics for a Successful Book Launch

dsc04050No matter how well prepared, you can easily be overwhelmed when your debut novel releases to the public. Suddenly you’re swimming in the deep, exciting, and unfamiliar waters of promotion. Not sure you can sustain the frantic pace. But absolutely certain you must keep up if your book is to succeed in a highly competitive marketplace.

Over time, I noticed the following had the greatest impact on the launch of Her Deadly Inheritance.

5 Basics for a Successful First Book Launch

Blog Tour: When my novel debuted on January 2 last year, the usual week-long blog tour had already been scheduled with a guest blog or review and book giveaway appearing each day. Either you ask or volunteer to be a guest on someone’s blog, or they ask you. The blogger gives you a topic to write on or interview dsc04063questions to answer. It’s fun, but be prepared. You may find, as I did, more and more requests and opportunities coming in.

Guest blogs have a big impact on sales and are a great way to connect with readers and fans. You not only write these blogs but follow up with any responses to them left on your host’s site. Though a lot of work, I didn’t refuse any and was astonished to find my first blog tour continue into February and beyond–every one a blessing. So I encourage you to “go for it.”

Facebook Book Launch Party: Just as Paige Boggs (assigned to me by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas) helped me with setting up the blog tour, she set up and oversaw and advised me with this online launch party. She also ran the prize giveaway portion. bubbles-fbGuests accrued points to win prizes. I couldn’t have done it without her.

My job was to:

  • invite the guests
  • come up with several fun discussion questions
  • set up the prizes for participation
  • and emcee the event.

The party became so lively that Facebook kicked me out three times, thinking I was spam. The last time I couldn’t get back in, so Paige took over and awarded the prizes while I stayed tuned in by e-mail. The 3-hour party went on without me for another hour-and-a-half–well after the prizes had been awarded. SO … make sure you have help and be prepared for surprises.

dsc04058dsc04053Local Book Launch Party: What an amazing event. This time family and friends pitched in to make it a success. My friend Deb Zarter helped me brainstorm the theme (“Fourth of July in January” because of the novel’s setting), and gather door prizes and decorations. I picked up ideas on how to run a party and what refreshments to serve by participating in one. Another friend, Susan Baganz, held a party six months earlier to launch Pesto & Potholes.

I designed and purchased a large poster for our church foyer, sent out announcements in my annual Christmas letter, posted info on Facebook, and let all my friends and family know.

Five days before the party, I fell horribly ill for three days, but the Lord provided. My dear friend Jackie Kotloski drove me around on Friday to order the cake and pick up other items I needed. On Saturday, flowers arrived from Sue Marlene Kinney and Becky McLafferty. I received them not only as love from these two dear and thoughtful friends, but as if the flowers were also a gift from the Lord & Jim in heaven. I cried for joy all the way to my hair dresser.

dsc04075Back home with the last of the needed refreshments purchased, I wondered how I would ever get the 100 star cookies frosted, the fruit and veggies cut … and again the Lord provided. The phone rang. My sister Shelly Zraik and her daughter Nicole had driven from the Toledo, Ohio area to surprise me. Before we went to bed that night, everything was ready.

The party itself was a great success. Even with 30 degrees below zero windchill factor, about 100 people showed up to celebrate and buy books. Everyone who received a door prize was delighted with it, and I was blessed to have someone from each of my family and friend groups represented. God is good. Expect him to help you prepare and celebrate, to bless and even surprise you

Social Media Scramble: In the midst of all this, I scrambled to answer every Facebook and e-mail message. Each of those who sent them was excited and encouraging. Acknowledging them was a privilege.

dsc04056Speaking & Book Signing: Not everyone enjoys speaking but it is a great way to connect in person with readers and fans. Yes, I get nervous before each event. Ask Deb Zarter or whoever else acts as my helper. But once I start sharing my heart with my audience I’m fine. I think it helps, too, to arrive about an hour ahead to set up my book table, freshen up, and then reserve the last half hour to greet guests as they arrive.

I usually speak and answer questions for 45-60 minutes and then Deb or another helper sells the books while I visit with guests as I sign their books. A helper can also act as a traveling companion–much nicer and more fun than driving alone.

***

Dear Reader, what fun, huh? And what a lot of work! But every bit of it is worth the time and effort invested. I hope I didn’t overwhelm you, and if you have any questions, I’d be glad to answer them if I can. God bless you all.

~ Beth