Listen

A funny thing happened the other evening.  I was playing Trivia Crack and my turns suddenly were gone and the game was over.

“Ohh, I thought I had a lot more time.” Those were the very words out of my mouth.

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The jolt I received made me realize that one day that might well be my last sentence.

The shock of it hit me so hard that I sat up in bed, despite being drained of energy, and wrote down those very words on a small 2 x 3 Thought Pad from the Hampton Inn I had visited recently.

I decided I would read those words every single morning to encourage me to be more productive with my writing, my life. The words could apply to any project you’re working on, but since I am a writer, I’m talking about writing.

So far, hearing those words over and over is working. I have found myself working more diligently, walking farther, staying up later.  It seems to apply to all areas of my life. It has given me energy when I was ready to take a nap.

For self inspiration, we need to listen to ourselves when we offer advice to others who need a boost.

All of the familiar words — “You can do it, you just have to believe you can do it. And then you have to work like crazy.” That type of remark? Sound familiar. Even as I say it to someone else, I am thinking how powerful those words truly are.

Be aware of what you say to yourself and what you say to others. You are your own personal motivational speaker.

 

 

 

 

I NEED A HERO …. !

Finding a hero in the midst of becoming a better writer is gold.

David Morrell, a top best-selling New York Times author, took the audience into his hands, as he described his personal journey in writing, how he wrote for years, sought people to show him how to become a better writer, then finally righted his rudder and sailed into publishing. He is the father of “Rambo.”

I wish I could reiterate his complete spiel at Genre Fest in Westminster, Colorado at the Front Range Community College where he took the microphone and literally mesmerized the audience with how to continue learning about our craft, how to deal with personal tragedy and the importance of caring about our work.

Morrell’s commitment over his lifetime was the most impressive of all. He held the audience in his grip, left us laughing and clamoring for more. It was the second time I’d had a chance to shake his hand and express my gratitude for his assisting me in my journey. The first time was at the Hillerman Conference in Santa Fe this past November.

Here are a few jewels he gave us, but of course, this does not do the man justice. He was incredible and if any of you ever get a chance to hear him – make sure you don’t miss that opportunity!

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Morrell alerted the attendees to not follow the market. Not follow the trends. “Don’t chase the market – you’ll always see the backside…” Simply because the trend by the time you get your book out, will probably have changed. So stick to what you want to write.

“Every plot I ever had came from a daydream.” Morrell said that daydreams are spontaneous and personality specific, adding that most people dismiss daydreams. Some people never have them.

He reminded the crowd that you should pay attention to you, not mimic anyone. “You,” he told the audience, “are miracles of uniqueness.”

Before he begins each book, he writes a letter to himself. “Why is this book important enough to take a year or two or three to write?”

“Reading my books in order, you are reading the autobiography of my soul.” Check out his website at http://davidmorrell.net.

Thanks to the Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and Colorado Authors League for sponsoring Genre Fest.

Gearing Up for Left Coast Crime 2015

Left Coast Crime 2015, a writing conference in Portland, Oregon is touted as being one of the very best for those of us who love to write fiction with a touch of crime. I’ll keep you posted next week as I check it out beginning March 10 – 15.

Of course, any of you who know me know that I always show up early.

A quick sidebar. My father Lloyd Prudom always gave himself a 30 minute window so if he had a flat tire, he’d be okay and could still arrive on time. Showing up early is awesome for most people, with the exception of possibly my five children. To me, showing up early illustrates you are interested and you prepared to come early. But, mainly I’m arriving early for the conference because I’ve paid extra for a full day workshop before the conference starts. Why? You never know where you will learn that one nugget that will help you improve.

 If it’s between yes and no, say YES!

It is my belief that a writing conference is an education.

If you’ve a writer at any level, you can always learn more about the ins and outs of publishing. Also, you can learn to write better, become more colorful using interesting images in your work, more metaphors or similes.

Meeting people is the most fun of all. You can become inspired and even more enthused about what you do. The highlight is you’ll be amazed at how helpful you can be to others by inspiring them. It’s a give and take situation. I especially love that.

Learning how to meet people is a plus. Most of you have that ability already. And if you need practice, a conference is the best place I know of to meet other writers.

How to talk about your book is important. Writers are taught to have a :30 spiel, often called the elevator speech, about our most recent work. Of course, that elevator speech comes from various accounts of writers actually snaring an agent while riding on the elevator. And it has happened!

It’s easy to talk about your own book, right? Not always. I’ve found through experience that I am often at a loss because I didn’t organize my thoughts or practice. I will be going to the New Author’s Breakfast where I will have a full minute (sounds like a snap, right?) and I am working on coming up with a spiel that will get my book out there among my peers. A lot of people know about MIDNIGHT IN MALAMULELE, but talking about it is something I have to be ready to do at a moment’s notice. All you have to do is work at it – prepare and practice.

If you get a chance to attend a conference, I say go! And watch this blog next week for updates.

 

 

Blurbs From 2014 Tony Hillerman Conference

S T E V E H A V I L L

WRITING A SERIES: JOYS AND PITFALLS

Be yourself – don’t copy.

Create a large world. Stress setting.

“Once you create a character, he is forever that character.”

Once you mention a knife, there’s no need to describe it. “When she has to use it, we’ll know.”

Write a character driven story.

Beware of endearing habits or pets. “If there’s no reason for the pet, shoot the dog.”

A trilogy shows the writer has a plan.

Rule: Be hard on your heroes.

Map your book.

P.S. These notes were mine – don’t blame Steve for anything but the quoted material — and even then, there was plenty of context. And I’m sure he loves dogs. You get the idea. These are the highlights. Use them if you can.

Write What’s Inside You!

 

Returning from a writing conference takes a day of reflection.

Non stop classes, workshops and meet ups wind you up with inspiration, sending an urgency for you to produce more, expect more and then you hit home brain dead with sterilized, brand new input. You need to incubate.

From the first morning where new authors gathered for a celebratory breakfast, it was like letting a calf out of the rodeo chute. So much to learn, to do, to tweet, to Facebook, to LinkedIn, to change, to write, to write, to write.

A mass of business cards await my attention. Needing to say thank you to so many for their generous comments, ideas and inspirations.

Anne Hillerman and her business partner, Jean Schaumberg, head up the Tony Hillerman Conference in Santa Fe, NM, which is an extension from Tony Hillerman’s legacy.

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Approximately one hundred people came, gleaning information from those who came before them, with top-notch authors headlining the event. David Morrell, John Sandford, Joseph Badal, Steven F. Havill, Sandi Ault, Melinda Snodgrass and CB McKenzie to name a few.

The beauty of this conference was the easy access to thriller writers. Unique. Whether it was following a panel discussion, dinner or catching someone in a hallway of the Hilton Santa Fe Historic Plaza.

The main thing I garnered from the experience was:

Write what you have inside you.

And … don’t follow the market.

 

 

 

 

Making Stuff Up

You could write a book on this topic. Writing fiction … from the beginning … to publication …
But hopefully, my personal journey will reassure you, perhaps a beginning writer, that it’s possible. I had been a non-fiction writer, a free-lance journalist for over 25 years raising five amazing children on three continents. I was a stay at home mom endeavoring to keep my skills honed by freelancing articles. Moving often, it seemed prudent to be on tap to help children adjust to new cultures in Europe and South Africa. But that’s another book waiting to be written.

For now, suffice it to say that switching to fiction seemed in the beginning to be a piece of cake.

Who wouldn’t enjoy sitting down and making stuff up.

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I started years ago, but I got serious ten years ago, attending writers conferences, joining writing organizations, interviewing writers and participating in a welcoming critique group through the Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America. Never before had I had that kind of support.

Which leads me to say this: If you think you can’t do it, stop reading. But if there is a part of you that wants to find out if you could do it, you’re who I am looking for.

When an idea hits you — like creating another world, or putting a new story into a world you’re familiar with, enjoy. But, if you aren’t having fun, then go knit or start an aquarium or find something else that turns you on.

Above all else, don’t tell me “I think it would be fun but I just don’t have time right now.” You can search the web and read writers’ experiences and comments on that topic. Finding time.

Perhaps the turn on will be a moment when the right person at the right time says the right thing.

“If you write one page a day, in a year you’ll have a book.” Something so simple. But that was the moment for me. When I heard the lack of time commitment, the simplicity, I was hooked.  I had five children under my roof in New Jersey and simply decided to get up earlier and write one hour every morning. My whole day went better. Why? Because my personal goal, my passion for writing would be fulfilled first before my hectic day ever started.

Tons of people who work full-time write their stories while traveling to work on the subways or trains or planes. You do it where you are. When you can. You have to figure it out. Make it happen. I promise you a great ride.

Let your imagination soar. Find your passion. If it’s raising fruit flies, begin there. You hate commuting? Write about a world where teleporting is available. If you have a place where you left your heart, start there.

One last thought. Don’t expect your book to stay within your original parameters. It will take on legs of its own.

During an online class from Gotham Writers, with my book well on its way to being finished, the professor gave us an assignment. “Spend two or more hours researching, discovering information you’ve never seen before.” That research led me and eventually my readers into a world of muti killing, where innocent women and children become victims when their body parts are sold. The final product supposedly brings good luck. Not so much for the victims. And this practice continues today in South Africa.

So my point is do not presume to know what your book is about. There’s more. Much more. Look for it.

FLATTENED DAYS

My novel is finished. My birthday is finished. This morning my body decided it was finished. It simply crashed. My body didn’t want to do anything I wanted it to do.

I texted my friend in Africa and told her I’ve been going in circles with nothing accomplished today.

My nun friend from Sierra Leone texted me back:

“Even in circles something is done.”

 

Whoa! Sounded like a Zen Master. I took a deep breath, resigned that my body had the right to take a break. It over rode my desires. It shut me down. It’s got a grip that won’t let go and so I befriended it. What else can you do?

It’s amazing that we women, American women in particular, feel we cannot stop for anything but our own personal day-to-day agendas, many of which we have no control over. Unless, of course we come down with the flu. I distinctly remember when my own children were growing up I looked forward to my annual sinus infection because it gave me an excuse to be a slacker for a week. That’s if you can be a slacker with five children.

Now that I look back at that, I continue to be astounded that we women feel pressured to perform, even out perform, to get it right, to get it perfect … whatever “it” is … to pick up kids, to work in the marketplace, to volunteer if you’re not holding down a full-time job. We never feel comfortable to take down time. It’s like we have this insidious virus inside us that propels us into this constant state of frenzy.

One of my problems is I have a desk littered with things I need to do. Contacts to contact, bunches of stuff to put away, file (yes, I still file a few things), including a Wonder Woman notebook to help me think I can do it all. And you notice in the picture she is sitting right next to St. Jude.

 

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On the back of the St. Jude card it says: “when one seems to be deprived of all visible help….” St. Jude inspired Danny Thomas early in his career and then Thomas built St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in gratitude. If it was good enough for Danny Thomas …. And then we all know about Wonder Woman. (Should I have switched that around?) St. Jude has been around longer than Wonder Woman.

It all goes back to what it is that gives us peace in our minds, encourages us to feel optimistic and grateful. What about you?

What do you do to help you through the flattened days?