Friday, February 26, 2010

Slipping Between Life Phases

I was reading a post by Dorothy Sander on her Aging Abundantly blog titled Midlife Shadows. She talks about Midlife being a time when we become who we are meant to be. I like that. It reminded me of a conversation I'd had with Mr. Tom Murphy, former Drama teacher at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, AK. I did not have the honor of being taught by Mr Murphy, however, we are now FaceBook friends and I do enjoy that greatly.

In one of our first connects I commented to him that I was now entering into the complexities of "the aging woman" and attempting to do whatever it was I needed to do to leave my mark on the world. He informed me that in a few years I would be "a woman of a certain age" and I would find that a good thing. He told me "When you get to be of a certain age, man or woman, you can do whatever you think you should do, and woe to those who say you nay! As "the aging woman" you still have responsibilities that will have vanished when you get to be "of a certain age". I know this because I have been "of a certain age" for years now."

I liked that as much as I did Dorothy's post. In fact, Mr. Murphy's comment led to a story. I'd like to share it with you now.....

A Woman of a Certain Age by Linda Boulanger

When I was a child, I spoke as a child…then it came time to put away those childish things. As I packed them away, slowly over many years, I tried to figure out who I was. I became the teenager who thought she was all that; though underneath she really wasn’t sure at all. She was followed by the young lady who tried to be all things to all people and never really succeeded at being any one of them.

I finally settled into the mature woman and was becoming pretty comfortable with her only to find I was moving into yet another phase; the aging woman. I wasn’t so sure about her. She didn’t look familiar or feel familiar. She tormented me so with her aches and pains and sags and dimples. She developed laugh lines and wrinkles around the eyes. She was no longer confident that her tilted head, crinkled nose, and award-winning smile would get her what she wanted. She bought pretty little bras that could cinch things back into place with just the slightest twinge of pain but only when she breathed, and pants long enough to cover those nasty little spider veins that appeared more prevalent on a daily basis. Yes, I called it fashion; said whatever it took to make myself feel better. But I didn’t like her.

And then a wonderful thing happened. I became a woman of a certain age. Oh that was a glorious day because on that day, I finally became the woman I was meant to be. I arrived.

I can’t tell you how it happened. It simply did. I awakened one day, my nest was empty, and the only work I had to do was that which I desired. I got out of bed with my head held higher on my wrinkled neck, ran my hands through my graying hair and decided I would not color that day as I’d planned. I rather liked the fringed look even if the color did knock a few years off. Who was I kidding? The only person who cared about seeing those years disappear was me! My friends had all let theirs go years before and they were all happy, so it seemed. Much more so than I had been!

I turned to spread up the covers and decided not to. I’d be crawling back into them in a few hours anyway because I’d already planned a luxurious afternoon nap followed by a late night indulgence of eating popcorn in bed and watching movies I’d missed over the years. I’d been told that the fact that I hadn’t seen Beaches made me borderline criminal and an affront to womankind. I didn’t care about that but I did want to see the movie just the same. I made a list so I could run to the video store later. I hadn’t been since my kids were home. I wondered if I still had a membership. Well, they could jolly well set me back up if not!

With a smile, I realized I could do whatever I thought I should do and woe to those who said any different because I was now a woman of a certain age. She was strong, stood for what she believed was so, and no longer did only for others. In fact she didn’t ponder so much on what others thought. Oh I really liked her. I felt as if I had grown up at last.

I’d been told one time that some people are ready for different adventures at different times in their lives. I believed that now and, as a woman of a certain age, I could respect that; enjoy it actually.

I dressed, choosing my gardening bra; used for maximum breathing ability as I crawled among the foliage. It really didn’t look all that bad. I wondered what my kids would think of their mother in a pair of bike shorts. The grandchildren would love it. It made me laugh.

I entered the world that day seeing through eyes that were far younger than they had been for many years. I was thankful for this transformation to a woman of a certain age. I would enjoy her for as long as I could. I also realized, as her, I was no longer fearful of the phase yet to come: the old woman. She was the one who would teach me to enjoy where we had been. As her, I would truly cherish my life.

That story makes me smile. It's a great reminder of where we've been and where we have yet to go. It also won a second place in the FaithWriter's Challenge! I was happy...happy enough to include it in my collection of faith-based short stories: Becoming... Thanks Dorothy for a lovely post and thank you, Mr. Murphy for helping to ease the pain of slipping from phase to phase. You always bring about your own special blend of perspective.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Absolutely Positive -- Writing as Therapy

My dear friend author/illustrator/blogger Chris Janzen has written a wonderful piece on Writing as a form of therapy in her blog. I'd like to encourage you to hop over there, read the post, comment as desired, and become a follower. You'll be glad you did. Chris created ABSOLUTELY POSITIVE as a place to get away from the chaos that has become our lives. It is a place where you will find articles, opinions, and ideas for simplifying and enjoying life more.

In the post titled "Writing The Storm Out", Chris says "Writing can be a wonderful form of therapy. It is no secret that keeping a journal is a tried and true method for getting your thoughts and feelings on paper so you can sort them out. When you write things down in the middle of whatever cruddy thing you are going through, you can look back later, with a healthier perspective and gain a depth of understanding. Writing is a valuable tool." She discusses the use of social media and other outlets as well as journals as forms of therapeutic writing. It's a worthwhile read. Jump over....

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How many stories do you work on at a time?

I often scratch my head when I see the pile of books on my daughter's bedside table, not because it's messy but because she will read 4 and 5 books at a time! That just doesn't make sense to me although I am finding more and more people who partake in the activity of multiple-book-at-a-time reading. As I pondered how she does it, I heard that little voice inside asking me one of those questions in that tone that I know is going to make me say "duh" to myself. The voice simply said "what about you writing more than one story at a time?" Well, of course I had to counter that my multiple story writing is somehow different. Not exactly able to pinpoint how it is different, I decided to drop the whole questioning of the multiple book reading issue. Instead I began to focus on why/how I often work on more than one story at a time.

We all know I am working on my novel A Marriage of Necessity, which is somewhat the focus of this blog...or the process and thoughts that go along with writing a book anyway. But, you may not know that I do additional writing at the same time. I write this blog for one thing. I do website content writing. I have to answer the never ending stream of emails that come in every day and that is writing as far as I'm concerned. I often answer a simple email with the return of an email the length of a small book. Although I have not taken the challenge in a few weeks, I almost always enter the weekly writing challenge on which requires a work of 750 words or less in response to a simple prompt. Their prompt for this week is "shhh" which I have not yet decided if I will do.

I'm also working on additional books of short stories. I have my Love With A Twist Of Lime that was to be a trilogy of stories (actually, it started out as all short stories and has continued to evolve). The "story" with the same name as the book title (handwritten :( at the moment, of course) ended up being too long for a short and then was to be the anchor of the trilogy. The other two that were to go with it then ended up being too long; one being A Marriage of Necessity! I let my stories tell themselves. I CAN force them into a certain word count but I prefer not to. So, I continued to write these twisty lovey limey stories (as co-writer Pat likes to call them) but they will mostly be hosted in a book titled Echoed Heartbeats: when you feel his heart beat next to yours. I've already designed the cover for that one even! I'm excited about those stories because they are love stories and we all know that's right up my alley. The difference is they all have a twist or something unexpected thrown in. They've been fun to write and I'm pretty sure that comes through. Sometime I'll have to post a couple here on the blog to give you a feel of what they will be like.

So now back to multistory writing....I REALLY want to get finished with A Marriage of Necessity. Thankfully, as a self-publisher, I have the luxury of changing my timelines though one must be careful about not following through with self-mandated goals....another blog entry idea, perhaps? I will say I have actually written the ending of Marriage and am now writing to that ending from where I left off when the ending demanded to be written. I'm anxious in a good way for everyone to read it. Considering the fact that this story was to be part of the Twisty Lovey Limey stories, the ending is unexpected but good. I love happy ever after. Is that too much to give away? I hope not! Scroll down and read my profile. It says, in part, "Her stories almost always have a happy-ever-after ending and leave you feeling satisfied that the characters have had or are walking into a life of complete fulfillment." A Marriage of Necessity will be no different. I don't like sad....or sad endings, I should say. There are certainly sad parts in many of my stories. And I am constantly reminded by my husband that I did, in fact, have the dog die in my first children's book. BUT Sadie has a wonderful life and the book concentrates on the good aspects of her life as well as educating on the benefits of rescue organizations. Her death is also depicted as a wonderful reunion with her friend Sami as she crosses the Rainbow Bridge to meet her. (How Sadie Learned to SMILE).

Tangents....that seems to be the way my day is going. BACK to multi-story writing! I was NOT going to multi-story write while working on Marriage. I told myself I would buckle down and work on nothing else (hence the reason I have ignored FaithWriters and other challenges as of late). Last week, guessed it....another story began knocking. I tried, I REALLY tried to ignore it. It won and over the weekend I began writing on it. Good news.....I was having a bit of a block on Marriage. That was part of the reason I decided to give in to this new story. Guess what? The block went away and what is pouring forth is, in my opinion, better than what it would have been. Sometimes creativity frees one up for greater creativity. Bottling myself in and mandating a one-story regimen simply wasn't working....for me. Writers come in all different shapes and sizes and genres and styles. You may not be able to work on more than one or, like me, you may find that limiting yourself clogs your brain instead of focusing it.

How many books do you read at a time? How many stories do you write at a time? How does this affect your work? I'd love to read your side.....

Friday, February 19, 2010

What Our Characters Teach Us

What do our characters teach us? Do they teach about falling in love and making that relationship work in a world where saying I love you really means just jump in the sack with me and we'll fall out of love in about 15 minutes, baby? Did I get your attention with that line? Well, it does play in here, so read on.... :)

I have been blog hopping this morning, reading and catching up with those blogs I "follow" (wishing I had more time because there is some really good stuff out there). Mary Verdick's post intrigued me. Mary is an ex English teacher and the author of both children’s books and several adult novels. (intriguing since I too want to write more than one "type" of book though you don't seem to see that very often). On her blog, Mary's Wednesday post was "Sometimes the Story is Right in Front of You" dealing with the question of inspiration. I get that question a lot (especially on my more off-the-wall stories). Her last post dealt with age being a number and not an indicator of our ability to take care of the things in life that need taking care of. I commented to her today that I believed her last post went hand in hand with the inspiration post because as we age we experience more experiences! It truly is a wonderful teacher. It is much easier to write about something we've experienced first-hand, however, I've found at times I get an idea for a story that I have no experience in at all....or maybe I do but it has been a good many years and I have to update myself to make it more timely. Those are fun times of writing too as I get to learn... I love being taught by my characters, which you'll probably agree with me that we are taught whether they are walking through something we've previously experienced or not.

Although I have answered the question on inspiration (you can read it on my website: Linda I'm intrigued with this thought today: what we're taught by our characters. Obviously when a writer writes about things they do not know they have to (or should) do research to learn all they can about the subject. I have a future novel (actually all written out....but it's in one of my lovely notebooks awaiting its turn for electronic transformation) about a 17 year old pop starlet. It deals with her transformation from a successful but not over the top singer to Megastar status. Weaved within the story of her walk to fame are the issues of handling the stardom while not losing herself and dealing with the issues of right vs. wrong, as well knew this was coming because it's me :) ... falling in love and making that relationship work in a world where saying I love you really means just jump in the sack with me and we'll fall out of love in about 15 minutes, baby.

Now, I'm more than a few years past 17 and, event though I went to a few concerts during my college days, I'm sure they've changed a bit. I also had no experience with the music of today's youth.....had pretty much stopped listening to anything other than cds from my favorite musicals. Truth be told, I'm not even in a position to actually experience any of those things. I have 4 kids that need my attention most of the time and live in a town that really doesn't offer a whole lot of access to such, not to mention I can't exactly turn back the clock of aging!

Thank goodness for internet! I ask myself daily what I would do without that funky little "i" thingy that tells me I'm hooked up. It allowed me to get busy. I started listening to the "tunes" of the day (totally offended at first and had to turn them off after about 3.7 minutes), befriended, via email, a couple of DJs from the most popular radio station in Tulsa playing that music and attending concerts backstage, watched A LOT of music videos, interviews, concert clips, etc. as well as researching tons of behind the scenes info. It was work and I wasn't really sure I wanted to do it. But that character begged to be created. She plagued me until I relented and I LOVE HER just as much as I do the 15 year old near-prostitute character that my own 15 year old can't stand or the unwanted wife or the wildly successful screenplay writer......

Some of those characters take a lot of research, though most of my characters - like the ones Mary talked about in her blog - I can relate to from life and the fact that my stories deal mainly with love and the roller coaster ride that comes along with it. Still, they teach me because I experience differing emotions. I place them into situations I do not have first-hand knowledge of and explore all the aspects of the emotions and reactions. That's what I like to read....that's what I like to write. Hopefully it will be what you like to read too.

So, what do characters you've read about or written about teach you? I'd love to know. By-the-way, that 15 year old, I didn't research THAT. Thankfully she is rescued prior by none other than an aspiring attorney at an elite law firm whose father just happens to have been a client of her mothers (no they aren't brother and sister.....they fall in love, of course). It's a tender story of her coming of age and being taken out of a life that she wants no part of but had, up until he "kidnaps" her, seen no way out of, and learning who she really is as well as helping him answer that same question. The name? The Selling of Ellie Carr. When? Don't press yourself here! Tell me what your characters teach you instead...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Link over to A Place For Writers

I have stumbled upon a fantastic blog that will make my need for further postings unnecessary. I won't stop, of course, but I would like to encourage all of you to link over and read the posts at The first couple actually hit upon topics I've discussed and I commented to her that I wish they'd been up when I wrote my articles. They weren't. We simply weren't synced and I have no idea why! Oh, yes. Because I just discovered the blog today. Still, I will say again....jump over and read them. I think you'll find them very worthwhile.

Friday, February 12, 2010

How much love....

It's almost Valentine's Day and I have to confess I'm feeling quite aaaahhh. That's partly due to the fact that I'm getting an awesome birthday/Valentine's combo gift from my husband that makes me feel he truly believes in me and what I'm doing. That's always nice. I've also been working on a "love scene" in A Marriage of Necessity and, being the queen of fluff, I love love.

Having worked on the book quite a bit, yesterday I sent my pre-readers the most recently typed-in portion. There's so much more that I've written in my notebook that needs to get typed in! Still, as I do get the typing done I send it along. Christina Janzen, author/illustrator/friend extraordinaire, responded in this way:

It was all so glossed over and vague....SURPRISING for you. I understand you want it to be all about the romance and the feelings and not the details of the sex. But much build up, and all those pent up feelings... I think that scene needs more attention and description...not pornographic or anything, but of their rush of feelings and her fear and trepidation melting away into passion and desire. MY humble opinion...

And I so appreciate her "humble opinion" as well as the fact that when I send something to her I know she will tell me the truth. And the truth....she was right. I knew it but have been battling with the issue of how much "love" to show (evidenced somewhat by a previous post). Now don't get me wrong. I CAN and have written some very provocative scenes. However, as I go forward with this book, I keep asking myself how much I want to show. This is going into print!!! Unlike a story written in my notebook that no one will see but me....this scene will be put out there for the public. It's not much different than spoken words. Once you speak them, they can never be taken back. It's caused me to ask myself some pretty interesting questions like how much does it take to show love?

Lisa Shroeder, an author of children's and teen books, had some interesting comments in her post yesterday called Writing Romance (Lisa Schroeder's Journal: Writing Romance). According to Lisa's blog, "All three of my YA novels have some romance in them. Not a ton. But some. And not the rip-your-clothes-off-and-fall-into-bed kind of romance. The kind where it's the little moments that show you the love between the two characters." She talks in the same post about a letter from her editor where he talks about the reader needing to see the characters falling in love even before the characters do. It's a great, thought-provoking post, especially for me as I continue to question.

Well, I'll tell you, I did rework the love scene. I took Chris' comments to heart concerning showing the feelings and her fears melting away into desire. I think her return comment sums it up nicely:

OKAY! Now THAT's what I'm talking about. Much more emotionally charged, and I was really hoping there would be "tear filled eyes." I kind of figured she would be really torn and want to and give in, but be all mixed up about it and weepy for multiple reasons. It's complicated, no doubt. I think you did a beautiful job on the re-write. Wouldn't change a thing!! Oh, and when a guy whispers a woman's name like that...very sexy, especially if he is looking intently into her eyes. Good job!! And not smutty in the least!!!

I'm feeling pretty happy with that! I can't wait for the rest of you to get to read it so I can get your opinion. I'm sure I'll continue to question myself as to how much "love" is enough. But for now, I'll bask in the aaaahh of this scene and the season as well. Happy Valentine's Day!!!

Read Chris' Blogs: and

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Writer Simply MUST Write

I am a Fan of Wheatmark on FaceBook. Wheatmark is “a team of publishing and marketing professionals who teach authors about achieving publishing success.” (quoted directly from their FaceBook Page). I also follow Wheatmark on Twitter and peruse their website from time to time. They offer some great information.

An individual on Wheatmark’s FaceBook page posted a thought provoking comment after a posting from Wheatmark on a note titled Why Did You Write A Book? This individual more or less said you don’t become an author and that you can’t be stopped in your quest to write if you are. Wheatmark asked for clarification which was not given so I felt inclined to post (of course I did). I said perhaps the individual was saying that an author “is” and you don’t become one. You might recall my post on What is An Author from not so long ago.

Still, the commenter’s statement stuck in my head. It’s definitely one to ponder and Wheatmark reminds us to remember why we’re writing or wrote the book as much as how to market it and such. I thought it was a great reminder and one I needed to hear considering I've been making myself crazy with all the research on marketing.

I took a few days off….sort of. I pondered questions such as the one from the Wheatmark commenter and I still wrote because that’s what I do. I also played on the computer which is partially social marketing. And, drum roll please, I went to a movie! Yep! 15 years and only twice have I been inside a theater…..not for not wanting mind you. Life simply kept getting in the way. Well, I sucked it up, begged my husband to watch 3 of our 4 children, paid my $6.75 ticket price and bought the world’s largest coke for another $4.50 (I had birthday money in my pocket! – notice I said “had”). The movie was Dear John. I loved it. Of course I did….was it not a love story right up my alley with the twists and unexpecteds resolved into a happy ending? It was a perfect me movie and I thank my 12-year-old for dragging me along.

But what I loved most about it was the sense of hope it brought forth within me. Not the inspiration to be a better person because the female main character truly was good. I didn’t get the urge to join the army or collect coins or help people with autism. All great things….but for me, personally it was an inspirational revelation because of where the idea for the movie came from. It came from a novel! A novel by Nicholas Sparks….just one of many novels written by Nicholas Sparks and made into movies…..and basically, his novels are about everyday life and not so different from mine. Okay, they are different because his are actually typed in and turned into real hold-in-your-hand books instead of handwritten in notebooks (but that is changing!) and he is a multimillionaire because of them but overall, not so very different story-wise.

I came home intrigued and began to research Nicholas Sparks. He’s got a FaceBook Fan page that I’m pretty sure someone else mans. He has a website that’s very professionally done although it appears he wrote much of the content. I found out his first two novels went unpublished and he worked a string of odd jobs while writing The Notebook in his spare time. It was picked up from the slush pile of a new-to-the-business literary agent; a find that garnered him a million dollar advance and the book made the New York Times bestseller list in its first week of release.

I wanted to find something magical that told me why Nicholas Sparks and his books about everyday life were such a phenomenal success. Why is it they’re being made into successful movies at every turn? Why was he able to donate close to $10 million to help fund the start-up of a private Christian school? Why was he offered a million dollar advance for his first book? I didn’t find a magic formula except….to be a writer, you have to write. He has a section for writers on his website ( where he pretty much says you can’t be a writer if you don’t write which might appear to be in contrast to the Wheatmark statement that authors “are” and don’t become. I’m thinking they’re actually saying the same thing but you decide that for yourself.

The main point is Nicholas Sparks never stopped. He didn’t give up when his first books weren’t published (I’m not actually sure he even tried with them but he kept writing….because he “had” to because writers write, perhaps?). He has a gift and he had a dream and he continued to write. I hate to admit it but I don’t think there’s a magic formula. I think there are a lot of Mr. Sparks out there who write fantastic books; myself included (okay, so I’d be a Mrs. and not a Sparks but you get the idea). We write because that’s what we do, whether we have an audience awaiting the latest release of our novel turned into a movie or not. We dream of life for our characters beyond the confines of our heads and, like Nicholas Sparks, we don’t give up on the dream that someday, just maybe, our books will be the chosen ones…..provided we continue to write.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Portrait of a Written Snapshot

Last night I had the honor of attending the play Picnic with my oldest daughter. I hadn't intended to go simply because the logistics of getting out of the house without my other 3 children is nearly unfathomable. However, when my oldest (15) explained to her dad that she wanted to take me as an early birthday present and that her drama teacher has specifically said I should come to see the performance, how could he resist? So, I got a "night out" with my daughter.

The play, written by William Inge in 1953 is set in a fictionalized town near Independence, KS. My family and I just happen to spend many Saturdays in Independence. It is a nice 45 minute drive North from Bartlesville and my husband's grandparents used to reside there so he has fond memories of the place. It's a nice town to visit. They have a lovely park, a free zoo, a little train that takes you around the track twice for a quarter and a carousel that offers rides for just a nickel! I have a deep fondness for the old buildings and the newer statues that garnish the city in different places. I like to make my children pose by them. They look awesome on our Christmas cards :)

The play? Oh yes, the play. It was the High School Drama production which, I have to say, was quite impressive. Under the molding of a teacher I believe to be exceptionally skilled at her profession, Ms. Susan Crabtree, the cast performed wonderfully (I don't have to say that either. My daughter has an A in the class!). Just as I was with their portrayal of the Helen Keller story in The Miracle Worker in the Fall, I watched in awe as the cast and crew unfolded the story with an ease that made the task seem simple. Undoubtedly they put in a lot of hard work which paid off and was greatly appreciated by those of us observing.

In 1955, the play was made into an Academy Award winning movie by the same name. According to, the film is "sometimes cited as a richly detailed snapshot of life in the American Midwest during the 1950s"; a statement which got me to thinking....isn't that exactly what I'm trying to do in my books and stories? Am I not offering my readers a snapshot?

Sometimes writing feels more like a play-by-play and the little details seem mundane or unnecessary, like when it takes 3 lines to let the reader know Terry has a mass of curls that she tucks behind her ears when she's nervous. Just like a fluttering hand to the throat of the main female character in a play right before she smoothes her skirt, however, these details may seem small but they are very telling and oh so important in the sculpting of that character. Each detail goes into the building of that snapshot.

I'm very glad I went to see this play. It took place in a short amount of time; the morning and evening of Labor Day as well as the next morning. Yet in that short span of time the character of these characters were brought out, explored, and exposed for who and what they truly were. We saw their past, their present, and their future. Not only did I enjoy the performance through the laughter and the tears (yep, I admit it! I was one of the ones with my tissue in hand) I believe it helped me to refocus in my goal as a writer. I realize now more fully that I must define the snapshot I want to create and compose the details in a compelling fashion that will evoke emotion in my readers just as the play did in its audience. The words are important, however, it is the snapshot those words create in the minds of my readers that will truly make the book a success worth telling others about. Thank you Susan Crabtree and the Bartlesville High School students. Bravo!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

BookBuzzr's Book Widget

You might have noticed a new box on the left hand side of the blog right under the name and what the blog is about. Right above the box it says Becoming... and in the left top corner, it says BookBuzzr. There's also a bright yellow/orange box that says "Read Free Sample" which I hope you will click on and read. It's an interesting display of my latest release, Becoming...

I'm not pitching the book at this point (though I might add that you can order it via my website for FREE SHIPPING through February 9th). I want to focus on that little box and the "look inside" feature that it offers. If you've read any of my blog or converse with me in the world of FaceBook or Twitter, then you know I've been throwing myself into learning about marketing and social marketing in particular. One of my Twitter connections led me to the website I was skeptical because of this one simple word: FREE. Now that word shouldn't scare a person but we all know free usually isn't. Just like with my free shipping, you still have to buy the book to get the free shipping. I guess I could ship you an empty box and then the shipping really would be free though it wouldn't serve either of us very well and I don't want to do that so don't ask me to. Still, I was intrigued by what I saw in my hopping around on the site and I'd like to briefly share that experience with you (Brief from me? Yeah, right!).

According to the The Story page of the site, that little box is an (and this is a direct quote) "embeddable book-widget that's shareable across multiple social networks. And with book-pages that look and act like pages from a real book." I personally liked the widget and decided to try it out on Becoming... although I'm truly thinking toward the marketing end of A Marriage of Necessity and how it will look as a widget :) Anyway, I decided to give it a test run. It was actually fairly easy to use. Of course, being a self-published author and doing my own formatting and POD publishing submissions, I have direct access to my pdf files. The site does, however, give you a link to an easy pdf converter. I may try it even though I don't have to since OpenOffice has a one-click converter for the inside of the books and I already discussed in a previous post how I use PhotoShop to convert my covers to pdf.

The upload was simple. They do ask some questions along the way that go toward building your profile. All pretty simple. I liked the fact that I got to pick the pages that went into the widget and did not have to choose pages that were all right together. They also provide you with a marketing checklist and suggest that you follow at least some of the listed suggestions to create a base level of presence on the Internet. I've done a few though not all.

All-in-all I'm intrigued by this little tool they call a book-widget. I'm going to create them for the other books I've written as well as for a couple I've published for others and we'll see where we go with it. In the meantime, make sure you click on that "Read Free Sample". At the very least, it will automatically post something about my book on Twitter :)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Creating A Book Cover

You know the old cliche about not judging a book by it's cover. Well that was obviously not written by the person who came up with "you never get a second chance to make a first impression." That's exactly what a book cover has to do; make an impression that will either make the reader pick it up or, at the very least, take a second look.

I love cover creation. Not bragging or saying I've made the best (yet :) but, I truly do enjoy it. For several years I created customized specialty greeting cards through my Awesome Messages company so I have a bit of graphics design experience. Again not wanting to toot my own horn but the cards were really awesome! I painstakingly designed around each and every photo that was sent to me....very time consuming and not overly profitable. Still, I enjoyed it and it showed through in my work. I actually still do cards on a request basis. In fact, my friend Bridgette - nominated for teacher of the year at Madison Middle School here in Bartlesville, OK and well deserving of the title - emailed last night and said she needs new cards. "We" usually design around photos of her three awesome dogs. She gives me free rein and gets back cards that are uniquely hers.

Anyway, the card creation has helped me greatly in book cover designing. While Pat did a wonderful job of creating the cover for our Time Out On A Roller Coaster book, I have designed the covers for the rest of my books as well as all the books published through my TreasureLine Books Publishing company; a part of I use an old graphics program, the same one I used for my cards, called PictureIt. Some of you may know it. It's an old Microsoft program that I have no idea why they did away with except that PhotoShop came on the scene. I have PhotoShop too but have yet to learn to use it much. Not exactly true. I use it as a pdf converter! Kind of expensive for that but we do what we must, right?! :) I'll learn to use it...eventually.

It's no secret that I self-publish using's CreateSpace. I have no complaints thus far about using CreateSpace. They're reasonably priced, quick, give a direct line into the sales channels and they have templates and modules to help you along the way. They'll even do it all for you....for a hefty price, but if you're a do-it-yourselfer or can find someone like me who can and is willing to help you or hire out at an affordable price to do it for you, then you can be on your way to a hold-in-your-hand book in a snap. It's exciting to hold that first book in your hand though I have to say, just like children, you don't love the ones that come after any less. You'll find yourself looking it over, caressing the cover as you proudly display it before friends.....

Ah yes, back to the all-important cover..... I don't want to discuss what makes a cover stand out as much as I do the actual creation of a book cover. What makes a person take a second glance is most likely personal preference. I might look at a book and love the cover and it do nothing for you. All authors would love to have their books catch the eye of everyone that walks by. Most likely, that's not going to happen. I spend a lot of time going to websites and looking at covers trying to determine what I like; what would make me pick it up if I could. My friend, author Melinda Richarz Lyons, recently published a young readers fiction novel through my TreasureLine Publishing (then AM Publishing) titled Murder at the Oaklands Mansion. I created a couple of different covers for her, fell in love with a wrap around cover I did and she chose a different one! That's okay. Ultimately, the author is the main marketer of his/her own book and has to be comfortable with it. You can see both of those covers on the Cover Creations page of my One Stop Publisher website. She chose the basic layout. I loved the blended cover at the bottom.

CreateSpace allows you to download a template for the cover. You can create your own from scratch as well and they will give you the dimensions. Don't get confused here, the template also allows you to completely create your own design. It merely provides you with guidelines such as where the front and back cover meet the spine, bleed area, etc. They also offer free cover designs but I found them extremely limiting and frustrating. If you've used them and liked them, I'd love to know!

CreateSpace allows for users to download their cover templates in a couple of different formats. I use the png because that is what my graphics program accepts and I am comfortable with it. Once you download, the designing begins. My latest book release is a collection of faith-based short stories exploring pivotal times and journeys in our lives called Becoming... (now available on my website at reduced Birthday savings until February 9th, btw!). The cover for Becoming... is a simple pink rose against a brown rock background. Simple is an understatement because that cover has 19 levels! That means there are 19 pieces that make up the cover of that book and each one has to be placed and worked in.

The cover of my first children's book titled How Sadie Learned To SMILE, illustrated by friend and awesome artist Christina Janzen, has 18 levels. I consider it a Basic Cover as opposed to the more intricate Blended covers though, as you can see, it still has lots of pieces. The cover for A Marriage of Necessity has 12 levels. I'll try to post some of those covers though you won't be able to see all the levels, just the finished products.

I'm sure there are a lot of different ways to create a book cover and I KNOW there are tons of businesses out there willing to create them for you (most charge an arm and a leg that you may or may not make up through the sales of your book). Most importantly though, it all boils down to creating or having a cover created that you'll be proud to hold up before people and say "this is my baby" and that you are comfortable with. That goes for all covers because books truly are judged by their covers though it's good to remember all eyes won't look at that cover exactly the same.

Now let's see if I can get some of those cover samples on here....the front covers, at least.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

What Is An Author?

First, I would like to say I am thrilled to have heard from all three of the book authors I mentioned in the post on Saturday, January 30th. Thank you John R. Erickson, Robyn Harding and Steve Weber. All three of their books will be reviewed/discussed at some point on this blog in the near future. I did start Robyn's book during my bike riding yesterday and must admit I laughed out loud several times. I felt bad, of course, because the poor MC (main character) is going through a truly trying ordeal. However, Robyn tells it in such a manner that the reader can feel the pain yet laugh at the same time. I'm excited to read more!

Yesterday I posted a comment on my FaceBook page that I needed to "go type on my story or there won't be any reason for me to continue... That sounded a bit dramatic. I meant, I can't be an author without a book!!!" That is the exact comment. My friend, blogger and avid reader, Kristen commented back "hey, just exactly what IS an author? I mean does being published mean you are an author or does it just mean you are writing a book or story or what???" and added "Do you have to actually have completed something written to be an author?" I thought these were valid and thought-provoking questions and wanted to take a bit of time exploring the answer. Well, MY answer anyway :)

The Farlex Free Online Dictionary describes an author as follows:
1. a. The writer of a book, article, or other text.
1. b. One who practices writing as a profession.
2. One who writes or constructs an electronic document or system, such as a website.
3. An originator or creator, as of a theory or plan.

Merriam-Webster says an author is: 1 a : one that originates or creates b: the writer of a literary work (as a book)

So what does that mean? Let's push the other definitions away and concentrate on Book Authors. Do you have to be published to be an author? It doesn't say that. It merely says the writer of a book in both definitions. Does the book have to be completed? Good question. Is this an answerable question? Another good question!

Want to know what I think? Well, it's my blog so you have to listen or hit the X which I hope you will not do. I think an author is anyone who writers, regardless of what they write or whether it is finished. You may spend a lifetime working on a story that never gets finished. Does that make you any less an author? I don't think so. I love this quote by Jules Renard, author of "Diary". It says "The story I am writing exists, written in absolutely perfect fashion, some place, in the air. All I must do is find it, and copy it." Everyone has a story, therefore, might we say that everyone is an author? Perhaps in their own way. Perhaps...

Thank you Kristen for the journey of this frame of thought. My conclusion: I believe it is a question one must answer for oneself. Anyone care to give their 2 cents????

Monday, February 1, 2010

Everything Old Is New Again....writing the same story differently

I had a brilliant thought this morning concerning a missing zinger for the novel I'm working on. (I borrowed that "zinger" part from my friend Kristen who just so happens to be celebrating a birthday today...Happy Birthday!). I LOVE this book I am writing. I LOVE the characters, I LOVE where it's going...but, it needed a pop; that bit of the unexpected. There has been so much intensity from point A to point B. I didn't want to lose that for those who will read it as I head to point C. And I GOT IT! I won't tell you where I was when I got it. Okay, I the bathroom. That is the best place ever because, even if I'm not doing anything in there, I can shut the door and no one bothers me until I come out!!! I ALWAYS take my notebook with me to the bathroom :) Keep in mind I'm the mother of 4 children, with 2 cats, 2 dogs, and a husband. There's no such thing as privacy here!

Anyway, I can't share what "IT" is yet but hopefully your mind is flowing and you're beginning to wonder, especially if you have read the first part on my website ( under Preview Page). Just know it's going to be worth the wait and then you'll be unable to put it down :) It's a hibernation book: find a comfy place and don't come out until you're done.

When I first got the idea for this book, A Marriage of Necessity, I was concerned because it's kind of a book about an arranged marriage. They didn't marry for love. In fact, they met for the first time and agreed to get married within a 30 minute time span, I would say. I loved the idea and the possibilities that began to spin in my head, but I wondered how I could make something that had been done before different enough to make people want to read it. In reality, and we've talked about this before, everything has been done before. Think about the books you've read and the movies you've seen. How many tackle something that's completely different?

When I reconnected with my friend and co-writer, Patrick Sipperly, he was very much in the throws of writing a screenplay. It's a great screenplay, by-the-way, and I have faith he will pitch it and it will get picked up and you'll get to enjoy it on the screen someday. I was blessed with a pre-read as well as a great lesson as Pat pointed me in the direction of a book by Blake Snyder called Save The Cat! This book deals with screenplay writing, however, I read it and found so very much of it pertains to novel writing as well. Blake devotes a whole chapter, 26 pages, to giving a twist to the same old theme. According to Blake, you can run right up to the same old same old but then you'd better give them something just a bit different. I've kept that in mind with everything I've written and tried to put that fresh spin on things. Not always easy when one is in the thick of inspired writing. Oftentimes, just as it happened today, I will be writing only to get that spark (perhaps the truly inspired part?) and know I've got IT!, that one bit that will make it the same only different.

So keep in mind that everything old can be made new again with the proper twist. Our job as writers is to create that tension and add the turns that will keep our readers interested all the way from A to C including the coast through B. Once this book is finished I'll expect feedback as to whether I've managed to accomplish that very thing. Not intending to be cocky here but I'm feeling pretty good about my success rate on this one :)