The Last Laugh

I have a big problem with what I watch on TV or Netflix: it’s almost exclusively dramas.

It’s not that I don’t like comedies.

But far too often, comedies are difficult for me to watch. I identify a little too much with a character, or maybe I don’t, but when I watch, and a character is in a sticky situation, I’m embarrassed for the character. I can feel what they’re feeling a little too much…and it’s uncomfortable.

I noticed this over a recent weekend. I was busy knitting, and needed a half hour more of TV time after binging on Marvel’s Daredevil so I could finish the row I was on. So I flipped through Netflix, decided I didn’t want to start anything long or involved, so I turned on The Andy Griffith Show. I recently started letting my kids watch it because it’s wholesome, I don’t have to worry about them hearing words I don’t want them knowing yet, or worry about the situations being too graphic. At 1 AM, probably a pretty good choice to accompany some knitting when I’m just trying to get to a stopping point.

The episode was really sweet. We’re still in the first season, and Andy & Barney were on a double date with Ellie May and Thelma Lou. The power went off for a couple minutes at Ellie May’s house, and when the power came back on, it was obvious Andy and Ellie May had taken advantage of the situation. (Get your head out of the gutter, this was the late 1950s, after all!) But Barney and his date had sat through the momentary outage with their hands in their laps.

As the episode went on, Andy teased Barney about not getting a kiss from Thelma Lou, and eventually Thelma Lou turned things on their head by trying to make Barney jealous by suggesting that Andy was after her now. Things progressed from there, but as the episode went on, I couldn’t help but feeling badly for…really, all of the characters at some point.

I don’t know if all people react to comedies like this. It could just be me. But I watch very few of them as a result. One of the few I’ve glommed onto is The Big Bang Theory. I do enjoy it, but probably because there are references to most of my fandoms throughout. And I can identify more with the characters than probably any other show on TV, at least as far as comedies go.

But still, it doesn’t make it any less painful to watch most comedies.

Maybe the old adage about laughing with someone, rather than at him, holds some truth?

I know for me, it does.

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Taking a Deep Breath

As I alluded to yesterday on my Facebook page, I’m feeling a huge sense of relief now thaCompilation Cover Template v 1t the Darby Shaw Chronicles box set is out.

It really feels as though since Emergence was published last July, I’ve been working my keister off. Publish Emergence, only to jump into finishing Retaliation and publishing it, only to jump immediately into work on Capitulation, then the short story Pursued which is in the back of the box set. So much work, but it’s been so worth it.

I can’t wait to get my hands on a physical copy of the box set! 😀 It’s going to be so cool.

Anyway, I digress. As usual.

It’s important to take some breaks and breathers when I’m writing. I have a bit of an all-or-nothing approach, and I’m either an extreme workaholic, writing into the wee hours of the morning, or I’m procrastinating.

As in serious procrastinating.

Which reminds of a verse in the Bible, from the book of James. I’m paraphrasing here, but it says that if one knows what they’re supposed to be doing and they don’t do it, it’s a sin. That one always gets me.

I mean, I’m sure that me not writing isn’t a sin, but it does convict me a lot on things that I should be doing, on days when I’m far lazier than I’d like to admit.

Or when I’m using writing as an excuse not to do something, say, cleaning my kitchen (also not a sin, but it sure can feel like it when I get sad looks from my husband.)

Anyway, I’ve seriously taken this post in a completely off-the-wall direction, and if you’re still reading, just know this is how my mind works. 😉

Me at Helen Hunt Falls in Colorado Springs, Colorado

Back to breathers.

I was really fortunate to get to take a short breather right before publication (at probably the worst possible time, but it was already scheduled, so there wasn’t much I could do!) My family and I adore Colorado, and we were able to go out there for a few days around my taking our son to Seattle for a follow-up on his bone marrow transplant (two years!)

I think I’m still hanging on to that feeling from once I got back to Colorado. I was able to relax for the first time in what seemed forever, definitely since the fall, probably earlier. I know vacations are supposed to leave you refreshed, but this one seemed especially important this time around. I’m still feeling the result after being back home for more than a week and a half. Sure, my kids have had days where they’ve gotten on my nerves (I won’t even go into what happened yesterday!) But I’m still feeling more relaxed than I have in forever.

I don’t know if this is because of the trip, or because I’ve finally fulfilled my first goal from when I signed with Splashdown Books more than a year ago.

But I’ll say one thing:

I’m glad that I’m feeling more like myself. Hopefully that means I can be a better wife, mother, friend, and writer. Until the next time I’m able to go to Colorado at least.

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The box set is available now through Amazon, Kobo, Nook, iTunes, and several other stores thanks to Draft 2 Digital. While prices vary internationally, a US edition is $14.99 for a paperback, and $4.99 for an e-book. Keep an eye out on Facebook & Twitter as I’ll be giving away copies in the next few weeks!

Goodbye to a Season

Last week, I boxed up about 20-odd books, slapped a shipping label on them, and sent them on their merry way to the southeastern U.S.

All the books in the box were books I was supposed to read and review for Christian Children’s Book Review. Many of them I’ve had for two years. Sitting. Collecting dust. Some went from Kansas City to Seattle and back again with me. I feel a little sorry for the woman who will open the box this week (maybe today) and find dust on many of the covers.

I first started reviewing for CCBR when my daughter wasn’t yet a year old. The founder and managing editor I count as a friend, and we were both delighted to meet each other when I went to the Pacific Northwest two years ago for my son’s bone marrow transplant.

Since transplant, it had become increasingly obvious that the time I had for CCBR was basically nil. During transplant, my son spent 70 days of the roughly 160 days we were there in the hospital. After we returned, my time and energy was devoted to putting out the fires associated with his care, growing more determined that my books were publishable, and reestablishing a normal relationship with my daughter and husband.

But I wasn’t ready to declare defeat.

I tried putting weekly reminders on my phone to do reviews. They were ignored by yours truly, other than having a guilt trip every week, at least once.

I tried moving the books so they were accessible, only to have my husband gripe about the piles of books everywhere. (Admittedly, we live in a tiny house, and there’s just not enough room for everything.) So back to the bedroom they went, where I only really saw them when I went to bed around midnight, or later.

Until a couple weeks ago, when my editor asked me what was up, and I admitted I just couldn’t figure out how to fit CCBR in with everything else I had going on. I’ve published three books in the last eight months, with a fourth in the works, and three more in the pipeline for (hopefully) by the end of the year. I’m a homeschooling mom. And my son still sees multiple specialists and therapists, with appointments at the minimum of once a week. We both agreed that it was probably best if I passed along my books to another reviewer.

You can’t imagine the sigh of relief I had. A burden had been lifted.

I’m incredibly grateful for the time I spent with CCBR. Kristina, the founder, has helped me figure out a few nuances in grammar that I, admittedly, still screw up a lot. And she has been a truly good friend throughout the last several years. I don’t regret the time I was there in the least, although I do regret that my pride kept me from throwing in the towel much earlier.

Goals Make the World Go ‘Round

I disappeared again.

Sorry about that.

But, it was for a good cause. About the time I did my last post, I had started in on a short story–and I blew through 21,000 words in about 3 weeks, including having two days straight where I wrote 4,500+ words (one of those cleared more than 6,000!) I’ve been working very hard on the project, hence the absence. My focus was just really intense there for a couple weeks.

Photo by Kazarelth

As I’ve been moving forward in these writing goals, I’m really finding how much I’m solidifying my long-term goals. I’m pretty sure I mentioned when I got back that I’d shifted my goal towards self-publishing in the next 18 months. It’s hit home that that number has now dwindled to 15 months!!! That means I have a lot of work ahead of me.

So, I’ve also been getting some critique partners reading, thinking about others I’d want to ask to read some of my projects, and building up the nerve to ask them. (I do have that problem–I lack the nerve a lot of the time to simply ask for help!)

And, I’ve also been thinking about how to handle certain aspects like cover design. I do not have any formal training as a designer, but I love to play around with programs. (Several years ago, I asked my husband for a home design program for my birthday. I love opening it up now and then and playing around with it, even though I’ll probably never be able to design a house that we’d actually live in!) So, I did spend a significant amount of time playing around with GIMP to design some mock-ups. That’s been a lot of fun, and I’m improving my skills. Not sure if I’ll ever be able to do a full-blown cover without Photoshop and a couple of classes at my local junior college (which I am contemplating for writing and non-writing reasons, like being able to get student-priced tickets to the opera!) But, I can at least make mock-ups and point someone else in the right direction!

A lot of this has been pushed by the fact that one of my acquaintances locally who works in the hematology office where my son goes is a self-published author… and he has his next book releasing in a couple of weeks. That, and all of the self-publishing podcasts I’ve been listening to lately. All of this has really motivated me, and I’m practically chomping at the bit to get something, anything up on Amazon.

Even though I’m eager to do so, I know I need to wait. My stories are not ready yet. They need to be polished. I’ll get there, and maybe sooner than the 15 months I’m targeting now (maybe as soon as next spring!)

In the meantime, keep watching this space for updates.

Until next time… well, you know. 😉

Structuring Your Novel: A Review

As a “pantser” writer, me and structure/outlining don’t necessarily go together naturally. Oil and water, we are.

However, every writer should continue to learn about her craft, and that’s where K.M. Weiland‘s new book, Structuring Your Novel, comes into play. I was absolutely delighted, I must say, when K.M. asked me to be an early reader, as I was for her last nonfiction book, Outlining Your Novel. Even so, being in a bit of a hectic time of life, I’m getting to the actual reviewing a bit late. But, that old adage is true: better late than never.

Being a pantser means I don’t usually pay attention to structure, whether it’s outlining or otherwise. I’ve only actually ever used an outline with success once, and that was for NaNoWriMo back in 2009. Yet, K.M.’s previous non-fiction book left me thinking, and while I’m still not an outliner, I can honestly say I recognize the merits of outlining, and when I’m stuck, will sit down and outline the next few chapters to get me going again.

I approached Structuring in much the same way. I’m a pantser: what can this book do for me?

Well, a lot, I’ll say that. Not so much a “how to” book, more a “these are the qualities of a strong book” book, Structuring Your Novel uses examples from familiar books and movies to describe fundamentally how all successful stories are arranged, what readers and viewers expect. Surprisingly enough, if you’ve read enough quality books or watched solid movies, you probably intuitively know a lot about story structure. But, K.M. lays it out perfunctorily so you can understand why you need to do XYZ by a set point in the story, for instance, having all your major characters introduced by the first plot point, around the 25% mark in your story.

What I learned most: I don’t have to outline my novels, but I should sit down and at least figure out if my drafts are in line with what typically happens in a book. Is my first plot point too early? Too late? What can I do to adjust its timing?

Additionally, I really enjoyed the second and third parts: Part Two is on Scene Structure, and Part Three is a short piece on Sentence Structure. Some of “Scene Structure” will be familiar if you’ve been following K.M.’s blog, Helping Writers Become Authors, but it’s nice to have the refresher in an easy-to-snag spot on my Kindle. Sentence Structure really is a crash course in many do’s and don’t’s common in early novels: repetitiveness, ambiguity, pompous words, etc.

Who needs this book: Every fiction writer who wants to get a better handle on the elements of storytelling, outliner and pantser alike. While newbies especially would benefit, those of us who are old-hands at story (whether published or not) can use the refresher, and gain new insights into how to tell a superb story. Maybe we will realize we need to move some bodies around in our stories because of Structuring. (That’s a little murder mystery writer humor!)

Structuring Your Novel is available through Amazon.com (and other booksellers) for $2.99 for Kindle presently, however, the list price is $12.75. Paperbacks cost $10.42, also at the same list price. Whichever version you pick up, it is well worth the cost. Getting a solid grasp on structure–even if you’re a pantser like me–will help make you a better writer, and in the end, isn’t that what all of us writers want?

Until next time,

On Meeting "Strangers"

While I was in Seattle, and even on the way there, I was able to meet some “strangers”. All of them were WRITERS!

Honestly, one of the highlights of my five-and-a-half months in Seattle was being able to meet some pretty cool people I’ve known online, some for upwards of seven years, a few of which are familiar commenters around these parts!

Today’s post is more of a “travelogue” as I’m just going to share some pictures of yours truly with those I was finally able to meet in person.

Author K.M. Weiland & Liberty Speidel
It was a very brisk March night when we
met over cheesecake.

Five Christian writers gathered at Starbucks
Left side, front to rear: Lynnette Bonner, DeWayne
Ruggles, Steve Mathisen
Right side, front to rear: Janalyn Voigt, Liberty Speidel
Liberty Speidel & Kristina Seleshanko
I was so grateful that she & her family opened their
home up to my son and me for a day!

In addition to the writers, we also met a bunch of fellow Shwachman Diamond parents and patients… too bad I didn’t get any pictures that I can post to here!

Until next time,

Welcome Back! — an Update and a Re-Evaluation

Tap, tap, tap! Does this thing still work??

Ahem.

Yes, I’m back after a much extended break. So, let me catch you up on what’s happened in since I did a serious post back in January.

My little man +121 after transplant, feeling great!

In early February, we were told that we were ready for transplant, and March 1 found my husband and I driving from Kansas City to Seattle, WA, where we proceeded with my son’s bone marrow transplant. It  was slated to happen the last week in March, but he got a virus (which he wasn’t symptomatic for!) and forced a delay until May 1. From May 1 until July 23, we were outpatient for only 2 weeks, 14 hours! My little boy kept getting sick for various reasons, so we never got more than a week and a few hours out the two times we were outpatient.

However.

He has done AMAZINGLY well, and we were able to leave on his day +101 to come home!! We arrived home on August 12, which ended up being a bit of a whirlwind for us. We got home at 12:45 AM, rushed to make an appointment with our KC BMT doctor, then went to see my grandmother who was dying… and who passed away while we were with her.

I am so glad I got to come home and see her one last time.

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So, whirlwind 5 1/2 months means no writing, right? 

Nope. 

While I didn’t do near as much writing as I’d hoped to do in those five and a half months, I did more than I think many people expected I would. I finished the third draft on my suspense-in-the-future book, Reprisal, and moved further along with the first draft of my police procedural with a Sci-Fi-y twist, Dead Before Arrival. I also began drafting a short story that will be a prequel to Beyond Dead and Dead Before Arrival–and am actively brainstorming ideas for a series of shorts that could very well lead up to the publication of both books, plus the third book in the trilogy, which I’ve yet to name or do more with than have a few ideas for scenes that could or should happen in them. 

Which brings me to the re-evaluation phase of this post.

Something in me snapped last fall where publishing is concerned. Most of you who regularly read this blog will remember I’ve said repeatedly that I’m only interested in getting an agent and going the traditional route. I’m not sure what changed, but something has. Maybe it’s watching so many of my friends succeed in self-publishing, maybe it’s the further success of e-books, or the fact they’re now outselling physical books, but I’ve been re-evaluating what my desires are for publishing.

Over the last several months, I’ve been listening to podcasts like Self-Publishing Podcast and Joanna Penn’s The Creative Penn with regularity–maybe even being on the brink of being a bit obsessive about it.  In the many hours of listening while driving or doing house chores, the things the hosts and their guests have said struck a chord with me, and I’m beginning to see how it’s possible for lilol‘ me to be successful in self-publishing. I’ve got a few hang-ups I’m working through, but thankfully, I’ve got friends whom I can pick the brains of. 

Currently, I’m formulating a plan to begin publishing in the next 18 months–maybe even sooner. We’ll have to see how that goes. I’m starting to chomp at the bit in order to make this happen, so if I can keep up that level of enthusiasm and have things come together, you may be seeing my name in print very soon!

As for this blog, I’m going to keep trying to plug away at it, though as I think I’ve said in the past, it’s going to encompass more of what interests me besides writing, so you may hear about kitchen disasters, anecdotes about my kids, or whatever else floats my boat. I’m also considering doing a non-fiction book about my experiences during transplant, although I’m not really sure about the direction of the project yet.

Until next time,