Lois Lane? Really?

Today I blog about my relationship with Lois Lane over at rebecca-grace.blogspot.com.

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Guest blogging is fun. It’s like visiting someone. So drop on by and check out my blog there and peruse the site. It’s the first time I’ve ever written anything so personal about how I got into this writing business. Leave questions. Also, if you’re a new writer, you can find great stuff on that site.

But today what’s really on my mind is the weather.

Yesterday a young woman asked, ” Why are you wearing all black. It’s summer!” She had on shorts. But I was the clever one because Colorado does not have summer until it’s officially June. It teases you and sends a few warm days. People rush to their closets and do the reorg thing. Not me.

Growing up in Texas, I always heard, “Wait five minutes and the weather will change.” Yesterday Colorado was at 88 and today snow is in the forecast.

This morning, I hear not one chattering bird but a choir outside as the dark is about to give it up to dawn. Lovely beyond words. Those precious little darlings are ready for spring. They’re in for a great disappointment. I do enjoy spring, but the first couple of years  in Colorado we had a blizzard … in late May. Now I’m snow shy. And skeptical. I’ll believe it when …

Enjoy today. And by that I mean look at the person you love. Grab that face and look into those eyes. Say “I love you.” Don’t do it only to their backs as they walk out the door. Live in the moment. And have a Happy Easter.

MARRYING WEBSITES

Forever I’d wanted to simplify my online presence by joining my two websites into one. The website can be reached by clicking on darlabartos.com. Taaa-daaa-aaa!

Thanks to a wonderful web designer in Florida, my site has become what I have always imagined it to be. Major mobile friendly and easy to read with additional content.

Hopefully, my blog will entertain, inform and educate. My passion is helping other writers navigate the forest of trees out there and giving them short cuts to becoming published in fiction and non-fiction, which consumed twenty-five years of my life.

My blog is devoted to helping writers reach their goals. I hope to entertain from time to time and entice other authors to guest blog about their journeys. In addition, there may be days I blog about anything that comes to mind. And when I have something to vent about, expect it.

FAV articles are my favorite five. Take a quick look. It was a tough selection process. I was a columnist for several newspapers and so many of those articles were dear to me. But, I had to pare down my list. Tough. You should have seen me perusing file folder after file folder.

Photo album mostly includes pics I snap myself. For instance, a good many of them will be from trips to South Africa. Plus, I threw in a photo of my parasailing. (Best Selfie ever, right?) Thank goodness my daughter was able to get that shot. I wanted proof!

When I said the web designer and I created the website, it was a true collaborative effort.

I culled information from tons of files, and we negotiated what we both agreed was most important. I listened to him. Very important in a collaboration. He created the online look, but I supervised. It was give and take all the way! Important. When you select a long distance web designer, make sure you like the person. Have a chat of introduction, interview several. Make sure that person is highly recommended and make sure your personality is compatible with his or hers. Because, if you’re lucky, that person is like family by the time you’re finished.

As the reader of my blog, if you have any ideas to offer, please go to the contact page and leave a message! I would love to hear from you! This is intended to be a conversation. And it takes you to make that happen. Let me know how you like my new site!

Thanks for reading.

Darla

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.

LOOKING FOR THE GREEN LIGHT

Are you really blowing caution to the wind?

Think about it. Sometimes caution is a good thing. Sometime you need to regroup. There is a reason for the yellow light between stop and go.

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Last night  I woke up at 1:30 a.m. and couldn’t sleep. I watched TV for five minutes and clicked it off.  I picked up an article. Went from one thing to another. Tried to fall asleep again. Never happened. Then I decided to go work out at the gym a good 25 minutes away. I was dressed in sweats and headed to the car at 3:45 a.m. I felt excitement at my being able to check off one of my daily goals so early!

I was amazed at how easy it was to fly through the empty dark streets at that hour of the morning, I had passed right through several lights marveling at how astute some programmer of lights was when finally I was confronted with a red stop light.

Interesting though, I could see the next five stop lights lying in front of me up the hill and they were all green.

I considered how often we take a red light, or even a yellow light, as a negative. We’re in a hurry. A light slows us down. It’s stopping us from getting somewhere, from reaching a goal.

I realized that if I  had gotten through the red light, I would have had clear sailing for miles. That reminded me of how we writers deal with rejection.

What if when I pulled up to the red light I had decided it wasn’t worth the effort and had driven back home because it was easier and too much trouble to have to wait, never finding out what would have happened if I’d stayed and carried on.  Maybe I would have hit lots of red lights.  OR, maybe I would have found out that all green lights lay ahead.

And so, right there in the very dark early morning I considered the times I had quit. One in particular.

I quit writing for five years in the early 80s to teach skin care classes. And I was successful. But then I realized cosmetics didn’t have the interest that mystery writing did.  I still  had that burning desire to write. So I got back on track. And this time I created a support system of writers by joining writing groups and attending writing conferences.

I often wonder if I hadn’t stopped writing those five years, would my novel be published, instead of finished and making the rounds?  Sometimes life happens. Disappointments occur. We keep on. That’s what we do as writers.

That early morning I encountered a blinking yellow light and paused, realizing that the smaller bumps are like yellow lights.

Something occurs to make us as writers re-access our approach to our work, your query letters or the selection of publishers we’re approaching.

Who knew even a mere yellow blinking light, a caution light, could be so important?

Whenever your writing is not working,  think of the blinking light, and if it reaches red light status,  remember all those green lights waiting on the other side.

Thanks Pinterest for photos.

CATCH THE WRITING WAVE

Once upon a time…

Trained as a journalist with a dream of living abroad, I married, produced my first three adorable children and figured that had squelched any plans of living overseas.

But no.

As it turned out, when the universe wants to help you, by golly, it helps you.

My spouse received a wonderful offer from his company that we could not refuse. Both of us were from small Texas towns and had always wanted to go somewhere.  We packed up our three kids and headed to Africa for what we knew would be the biggest adventure of our lives.

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I had written for newspapers and magazines in the states, creating news and feature stories from my observations. And so, when we hit Africa, I wrote several stories for The Star.  I also had our fourth beautiful child.

In Africa, though, my writing took a turn.  I discovered fiction.

I had the flu and tiring of the bed, I stumbled into the study and rummaged through bookshelves where dwellers before us had left behind Agatha Christie books. How had I not discovered her before?  I devoured several in a very short time. These murder mysteries began lighting a spark inside me.

Fair Lady in South Africa published my very first short fiction (though not a mystery yet) while I tended an infant and shuttled three children back and forth to their two schools each day. Plus I was out and about with my new daughter talking to people and  checking the pulse of a nation growing politically uneasy as the days passed.

A few months after I narrowly escaped conflict in Alexandra township, we were transferred to the Netherlands where our fifth and last fabulous child was born.

Now I had a newborn and a preschooler and three who went to the American International School in Rotterdam. My children had gone from living with apartheid to a school with 125 different nationalities. I was deliriously happy for their experiences!

Living in a skinny duplex I sent story after story out to various publications from the third floor while watching storms most of the season and becoming depressed with each rejection.

WOE IS ME WOE IS ME WOE IS ME!!

Life progressed. We returned to the states. Children grew up and I would later find myself on my own and that was when it clicked.

I began where any writer begins. With the first word.

I would write day after day, every morning from the moment I put my coffee pot on. Most times I would sit and write and never turn on the lights because I was more focused with no distractions. (I was an early riser.)

I can now say I’ve written in Midland, TX; Tyler,TX, Mesquite,TX; St.Louis, MO; Cleveland, Ohio; Johannesburg, South Africa; Zevenhuizen, the Netherlands; Colts Neck, N.J.; Conway, AR; Little Rock, AR; New York, New York; Denver, CO; Sterling, CO; Denver, CO; Littleton, CO. And, many other places as well.

That has worked for me. I’ve completed several books and with each one, I have become a better writer.

Having been published in The New York Times, The Plain Dealer, The Asbury Park Press and The Star, Johannesburg,  South Africa, it’s tough to be working on fiction and not have reached publication with my mysteries.

But this is what I’ve discovered.

I began to realize there were networks out there I’d never had before. I began joining organizations like the Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, Sisters in Crime, and others. And I am on the cusp of being published. I can feel it.

Querying agents brought me 75 rejections. But apparently, that’s nothing, which, most writers will tell you. Do I believe them?  I must.

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Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way:

1. Every agent, editor or publisher doesn’t have to like your book. Just one person who will believe in you.

2. Attitude is everything. Keeping yourself upbeat despite rejection is a journey and it can be a joy, demonstrating your determination. Plus, that can be an inspiration for others no matter their goals. So win-win!

3. It’s important to keep writing on other projects, as well as that gem you have so much faith in.

4. Attend writing conferences. You will  receive feedback there and make connections with other writers and editors and publishers and hopefully agents. The Gold Conference sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers is in Denver September 20-22. You can sign up at www.rmfw.com.

5. Blog. What tremendous joy I have felt from connecting to others. Instant feedback and gratification to spur the writer on.

So stay tuned. I will keep you in the loop.

If you’re a writer, just begin!

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