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.

 

 

 

 

“OH, WHAT A NIGHT!”

Midnight in Malamulele won 2nd place in the Fiction/Mystery/Detective category in last night’s 21st Annual Colorado Independent Publishers Association 2015 EVVY Book awards.

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It may have felt better to win 1st. You’d have to ask my friend, Susan Paturzo, who writes as Merit Clark. After our announcements, we both stood up front hugging and laughing and having pictures taken. It was a moment to remember. We may have been a spectacle, but the audience didn’t seem to mind.

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If it weren’t for the Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America and the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers groups, it would have been impossible to have written this book.  FYI, that’s where Susan and I became acquainted and chatted frequently about Killing Streak, her book, and of course Midnight in Malamulele.

Both of us are working like crazy on our second books. We have lofty goals and the wonderful thing that I loved about it was that before that final night, we both said as long as one of us gets a win, it was like both of us winning. Who knew we would both win. What fun!

My Denver family came and were so supportive!

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Left to right: Two daughters, Stacy Baugh and Anne-Marie Braga. Me. Ariana Trujillo, my niece, and her mom Benjie Blase, my dear sweet sister!

(When I saw this picture, I wondered when did I get so short! But honestly, they all had heels on!)

Oh, what a night!

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.

 

 

A WORRY CONTEST !

FIVE WORRY CONTEST

I come from a long line of worriers.

My mother worried about everything. When I was small I solved one of my worries by deciding there was no such thing as a real vampire.

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Thanks Pinterest, Sergiu Naslau and Wabbaly.com.

After that worry went away, I said: “Now what will I worry about?” As if it were my life’s destiny to become a veteran worrier. Or perhaps an obligation to carry on the family tradition by taking up the mantle of being a lifetime worrier.

And is it any surprise that one of my five children decided to mimic Mom?

If I could undo this role, I would.

It occurred to me that I should share what I worry about and maybe that would rid me of future worries.

Then I wondered what if my worries aren’t big enough to worry about? Just empty illusions of worry. A sham all the way around.

What if your worries are more substantial than mine? What is your biggest fear? What keeps you up at night?

Full disclosure. Here are mine:

1. I worried since I was in grade school that someone would find out I had a ringing in my ears. Tinnitus before its time.

2. I am worried I am writing or thinking about writing all the time and may be staying indoors too much.

3. I am worried that the built-in microwave is going to drop on the eyes of the counter top and break.

4. I am worried that the heating pad will somehow cause a fire.

5. I am worried about my friends in Sierra Leone who have to deal with serious issues like avoiding Ebola.

Are all of these true? No. Figure out which ONE IS NOT TRUE. I’ll draw one from the lot of correct guesses and send you my new book! The real deal. Send your answer to me by March 1 at darlabartos@gmail.com.

Enjoy!

Snow Lessons

Snow is easy to love.

I awoke at 2:15. An hour later I gave up. Meandering down the hall, I stepped into my small office and glanced out at the night from the double window. Filled with the loveliness of the wonder before me, the moon, full and high in the sky, created a countryside spectacular with light bouncing off snow drifts. A stream of a cloud lay gently across the night sky. The roof sparkled with brilliance and I wanted to stay there forever. Truly a moment I will forever remember. A moment of inspiration.

Thanks Pinterest!
Thanks Pinterest!

Yesterday, Two grandchildren and I left the Old Chicago restaurant and walked into the beginning of a late afternoon snow storm. I couldn’t help myself. I belted out “Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but it’s so delightful ….” Quickly my eight year old granddaughter corrected me. “It’s ‘Dear it’s so delightful.'” And we began the song anew and while we were singing at the top of our lungs, a hatless woman busily sweeping snow off her grey vehicle finally glanced up. I was hoping our enthusiasm would get through to her so she might enjoy herself more. Although she didn’t say a word, I saw the crack of a smile, as I helped the three-year-old up into his car seat.

We can’t make the world different always. But it’s important to never stop trying. We can’t hit the mark always. But it’s important to never stop trying.

There’s nothing quite like those soft enormous flakes floating down to earth. It stirs the soul and triggers imagination.

Remember that it’s important to enjoy yourself where ever you are. To put yourself right out there. To relish the moment. For all you writers out there, it is important for your craft. How can you write when you haven’t experienced?

Enjoy this new beginning of the year 2015.

Live it.

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.

Happy Days …

 

 

FINAL COVER
Midnight in Malamulele,my long awaited breakout novel is now on Amazon and Smashwords ready to be downloaded to your Kindle, Nook or your PC.  The book is a South African murder mystery which begins with the death of a religious nun in a locked down convent in Malamulele. American crime reporter Annabelle Chase joins local Detective N.F. Baloyi to search for the killer, leading them into a savage and unexpected world of intrigue.

This is the first book in the Mamgoboza Trilogy. The second book will be out early February 2015 with hard copies to follow.

Enjoy and watch for the next blog about my journey to publication.