Tue Cent Twosday – The Toolbox

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“Success doesn’t come to you, you go to it.”

– Marva Collins

It’s easy to lament the things we don’t have yet. The media bombards us with images of more successful, more slender, more athletic, more successful people every day. New media come online every day, methods of distracting us from ourselves: even the dollar store as the “dollar store radio network” to talk to you while you hunt for bargains. Is it any wonder we feel bombarded? Or, worse, bad about ourselves because we’re not where we want to be?

I offer a thought for a beleaguered mind: gratitude.

Give thanks for the good that exists in your life, right now. Even if there doesn’t seem like much you could possibly be grateful for, the fact that you are alive and reading this newsletter is enough. Imagine if you were in Baghdad right now, sitting in the bombed-out shell of your temple, trying to pray with the sounds of mortars booming in the distance? What if one hits your neighborhood? The fact that we live in relative peace and calm, pursuing making a living and our hobbies, is a subject we can offer much gratitude for. Sure, not everything is perfect. But much of it is good.

Try numbering a sheet from one to ten, and write down ten things you’re grateful for. See if you can’t go past ten. How do you feel?

Now I propose that we become pilgrims on the path to self. We will do this together, side by side, shoulder to shoulder. Our tools are our bright minds and our love for each other. The first item in our toolbox is Gratitude. Learn to say thank you with an open heart. If you need ideas for how, go grab a copy of Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Simple Abundance, one of the best books written in the last two decades. Try her Gratitude Journal. Select a small, pretty book. Each night, just before you go to sleep, write down five things you are grateful for from the day. That’s all. Just five.

Originally posted on my Noonsense blog, 06/22/2010.

Tue Cent Twosday: Bird, a Poem

Image from Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons free license.

Bird.
I see you, bird. Black feathers. Shiny.
Beak. Black beak like jet, hard and grooved along the length.
It’s longer than I expected. Long and sharp.
“Once there was food here.” Tatiana Tolstaya.
The forest. Mass graves, running for miles, between trees.
I like trees. I don’t feel death when I’m in the trees.
Death is probably there, I mean, it has to be.
Death is everywhere. That’s the whole point.
But in trees, the sense of life overwhelms all that.
I think that’s why I liked hiking so much.
Outside the reach of her voice.
Stay where you can hear me.
God, that used to piss me off.
I’d push at it, silently, in my stomach.
The ulcers are a reaction to using magic, I think.
Maybe it’s improper grounding. I wonder.
But birds are hard to find in trees.
My father said he’d piss off the other people in the Sierra Club.
He’d find the birds faster than anyone else.
He was smug about it, too, which I think is part of the problem.
If not all of the problem.
Meat hook on your face, bird. Weapon. Knife.
Are you carnivorous? You’d have to be, with that beak.
We didn’t have crows in that forest.
Stellar jays. Nasty birds, steal other birds’ nests.
But no crows. Maybe ravens, though I don’t remember them.
I saw a crow at the zoo. He was enormous. Pretty, but huge.
Not a wimpy bird.
Birds in England sound different than birds here.
How many different varieties of crows are there?

A To Z Challenge: Reflections and Tue Cent Twosday

It’s May. How did April go by so fast? And yet, it didn’t: it went by fully.  It wasn’t so much the velocity as the content. Here’s what I mean; my ten things list of what I learned from the April 2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge:

  1. Challenges stretch you. They push you to do better.
  2. I adore participating with others. As much as writing is a solitary activity, I’m a group-oriented thinker and this suited my approach to writing, and life, perfectly.
  3. Daily discipline leads to changed habits.
  4. Sustainable growth is preferable to sudden expansion, because the latter is followed by the inevitable contraction.
  5. There are some damned fine bloggers out there.
  6. Optimism takes work.
  7. You’ve got to give to get.  Social media is less about the media and more about the social.
  8. One blogger complained that it was too much work, she didn’t really gain new friends, and that her sales didn’t improve. I think this misses the point. To me, the Challenge is about the collective outpouring of effort focused around a common, shared, goal – to see if we can write 26 posts in a row and witness each other’s birthing pains. It’s not about “gimme,” it’s about “let’s.” Together, we are stronger: but together begins with me, reaching out of myself and visiting other places, other blogs, even other countries.
  9. Cultural sensitivity is key when blogging.  I’ve met folks from India, New Zealand, Africa, Europe, North America, South America, the Middle East…  The world is a big place, but the internet builds bridges.
  10. I am so grateful to the unsung heroes that did the early work of the internet, from 1969 and its beginnings as ARPANET/DARPANET, to the development of the Network Information Centers at places like Stanford Research Institute, to CERN and the World Wide Web. We stand on the shoulders of giants, my friends, and we are the better for it. When I feel down about the state of the economy or world peace, the internet quite literally reminds me that life will find a way. We humans are communicative creatures and the internet brings me hope that we will stumble on a way to find peace with each other, a common understanding and respect. Yes, even with lolcats.
What did you learn from participating in the Challenge, either as a reader or also as a participating blogger?

Tue Cent Twosday: The Three Answers

In publishing, (I suppose I should clarify that to be in traditional publishing and not self-publishing), there are three answers one can receive when one submits one’s book for publication:  Yes, No, and Maybe.  Here’s my thoughts on each of them, based on questions folks have asked me over the years.

1.  “Yes.”

Ask yourself if you really want to work with this house, though you probably should have already decided that before you submitted to them.  But if you’ve got simultaneous submissions out, is this your preferred house?

Read the contract!  For Heaven’s sake, don’t just swoon, say something equivalent to, “They want me! They really want me!” and sign away your project.  Chances are, this novel, novella, or other book-length manuscript took a large chunk of your life energy to write – some folks labor for a year or more on theirs, especially in the beginning.

The contract is in legal language, since it’s a legal contract.  While it’s not required, it’s recommended that you have an attorney or your agent review the contract with you.  Failing that, you should talk to others who are familiar with contracts and get their input.  Keep in mind, you’re signing a binding legal agreement to which you will be subject for a period of time.  You want to make sure that you don’t regret it down the line, to the best of your current ability.

2.  “No.”

Don’t just delete the email!  The “No’s” can be instructive.  If it’s a form letter, then perhaps not, but if it’s a letter from a real, live, human being you may be able to find out why they rejected it.  Remember:  they’re rejecting the BOOK, not YOU.  If you’re very lucky, their letter will say why they rejected it:  they just published something similar, or it’s not a good fit for their house, or the plot isn’t tight enough.  Whatever the reason, digest it and think hard about it.  Do you agree with the criticism?  Is there something you can do to improve the manuscript?

3.  “Maybe.”

In the publishing world, a “Maybe” is known by its letters, “R&R,” and doesn’t mean “rest and relaxation.”  It stands for “Revise and Resubmit.”  This is not the end of the road, not at all, and can work out in your favor if you are careful.

In an R&R, what the editor is telling you is, they like the project.  Pay attention to what they say they like.  It might be the voice, or the plot, or something else that caught their eye and made them want to spend their valuable time offering you the chance to fix it.

They will also tell you what they want you to revise before they see it again.

Stop and think for a second here.  You don’t want to just blindly rush off and do the equivalent of “Yes, sir, No sir.”  Do you agree with their changes?  Will the changes make the project stronger?

I know it’s tough to contemplate changing your project.  You’ve labored long and hard and it’s how you like it.  Here’s the thing, though:  publishers are in the business of selling books.  They know their market, and they know what their market wants.  If you agree with their changes, it will mean a book that will appeal to their market, readers whom you, presumably, want to reach.

That said, if you don’t like the suggestions, then you don’t have to take them.  You can always take your project and submit somewhere else.  Maybe the changes will make it weaker, in your mind, or you just don’t want to take the project in that direction.  Be very careful here that you’re letting your Best Self and not your Ego drive here – with humility, you might find yourself with a fantastic editor at the house of your dreams.

If you do like the suggestions, then by all means make the changes.  Many times, the editor will clarify things for you as you work so that you can hit the bullseye.

Note – if you decide not to accept the R&R, by all means thank the editor for their time.  This person clearly saw something in you, enough to take time and offer suggestions to improve your project so that they could work with you.  Respect that professionally.  Editors talk to each other.  Snubbing someone because your ego got its feelings hurt is rarely a smart move for your writing career.

Tue Cent Twosday

I have two posts for your pleasure today!  First up, have you ever just talked about the weather?  Really?  Me too!  Small world.  Come on over and join me – they’ll be pictures!  more

My heroes, the Nine Naughty Novelists of legend and bestseller lists everywhere, opened their blog to guests posts again and I jumped at the chance.  These authors are talented, funny, and share their knowledge freely.  They presented at RT in 2012 and I was so excited, but I missed their panel due to a conflict.  ~howl~  If you haven’t yet, check ’em out – and in the meantime, Get In Mah Belleh!

Tue Cent Twosday – Empowerment

I remember where I sat at 9:00 in the morning on that fateful Tuesday, Central Daylight Time. Work began as usual, with a whirlwind of tasks. The entire Executive Committee headed for Europe; in fact, half already waited “on the ground” (the term for having arrived at their destination) and the other half staged to leave for the airstrip in an hour and a half.

The news already came of the first tower. I couldn’t get my head around the news of the second one, no one could have predicted it. I knew in my gut that this day wasn’t like any other day. I went to one of the managers to ask him to start the evacuation of our building, but he laughed it off as premature, the worry of a young and inexperienced admin. But I wasn’t; I’m a trained triage officer from the crucible of Silicon Valley and quakes like Whittier and Loma Prieta.

Then the events sped up. The second tower. People leaping out windows. The CIO showed up in my office and said, “It’s time to start the evacuation. Call the boss.”

Relief. I could do something.

Over the next two hours, the entire Executive Committee met to review our company’s disaster plan. Ten thousand employees worldwide, and a flagship office building in the third largest city in the United States, meant that we couldn’t act on a whim. Our behavior must be calm and reasoned. People watched us.

It wasn’t until one of the Senior Directors drove me home that morning at 11:30 that I heard on NPR that the towers fell.

No one in that room thought to tell me.

I learned something important that day from the smoke and twisted metal, the lives destroyed and hope rekindled by a mayor who rose to the occasion and a President who did not. In times of crisis, it is critical to remember one thing: focus on what you can control. Communication is key. Keep your head and breathe. Feelings are not facts, but they are necessary. Respond, don’t react.

On the anniversary of those terrible events, I want to remind myself that I can control how I respond to events. I can write. I can talk. I can cry. I can work. I can take positive steps on my own behalf, even if that means cleaning out the sock drawer or petting my cats. The news media wants to sell us advertising, which means they must induce us to watch – and empowered people act, they don’t spectate. Remember that. The motive of the news media is to have a passive audience. For our own sanity, we cannot afford to be passive. That’s true for the awful days like Tuesday, September 11, 2001, as well as ordinary days like Tuesday, September 11, 2012.

Remember. Act. Write. Breathe. Claim your own reality. In all the world, there is no one just like you. Your gift to the Creator is your use of that creativity you were given.

Write on.

Tue Cent Twosday – In Defense of Learning to Type

If you’ve been reading my recent series on writing by hand and the pen vs. the keyboard, you may get the impression that I’m against typing or using a computer to write. Nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve been employed since the age of seventeen in some form of office work, all of which involve typing – with the possible exception of the job I had as a gardener, though I did do some freelancing for my client when he needed some office work done on the fly.

I love typing. I learned to type in my freshman year of high school on a manual typewriter, then graduated to the Selectric typewriter (a fancy electronic typewriter) and then onto the word processor. In fact, a bit of trivia that no one except my mom cares about anymore: in tenth grade, I was California state champion in keyboarding and won $500 from Bank of America for college. I even got a special certificate bound in leather when I graduated high school.

I didn’t want to be a secretary, though. I knew I’d need typing because of college, and had quite a chip on my shoulder about all the vocational training my high school offered. In hindsight, it was a very good thing they had it, since the first five or ten years of my working life involved skills I learned not at university, but in those vocational training classes. Since then, I’ve observed that others have also had a chip on their shoulders about not wanting to “waste time learning to type.”

This is silly, folks. If you’re one of the folks who doesn’t want to take the time, then put on your big girl or boy pants and sit down. You need to learn to type. You can’t afford not to.

Look. The internet is not going away. Keyboards are not going away. Maybe in twenty years, we’ll start to have more widespread voice-activated systems. But twenty years ago, they predicted that today we’d have paperless offices. How many of you actually have a paperless office? In the meantime, much time is wasted not knowing how to be efficient with the keyboard.

If you have no clue where to go to get better, check out the Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing program.  You can also do it the old school way and get a typing book out of the library. Here’s a useful website that talks about typing and learning to do it.

In short, you can become a better writer if you know your tools better, and any practice with typing will serve you well.

Next time: “How To Use the Pen More Effectively – Suggestions”.

Looking for more reading material? Stop by Taurus and Taurus for Tasty Tuesday.  Find out how the romance is in the mayonnaise.

Tue Cent Twosday – In Defense of the Pen

Diarists know what many of us have forgotten – people have been chronicling their own stories in diaries and journals for more than a thousand years. In order to better know themselves, or to express their own truth in the face of a public reality, or just for the fun of it, people have been writing for longer than some civilizations have been around.

All that changed in the last 30 years with the advent, first, of the personal computer and then of the internet. We are seeing the first generation in the history of our planet that does not need to use the written word as it’s traditionally meant. In another generation, it will be unthinkable that some folks don’t know how to type – and it will, some predict, create a huge culture gap between those who have access to the internet and those who do not.

But that’s not my purpose today. No, today I have a humbler calling. I simply wish to defend the simple, humble, pedestrian pen. Once known to by mightier than the sword, it is now relegated to the place next to the buggy whip: a beautiful piece of craftsmanship, but obsolete.

But is it?

I argue it is not. When we write, we connect ourselves to our physical or kinesthetic truth. The study of penmanship, or graphology, can tell us quite a bit about a person and, it follows, the practice of writing can therefore tell us a lot about ourselves. We cannot get a feel for the emotion of a typist unless it is through their word choices and syntax. Yet we can know at a glance the emotional state of a writer by whether the letters are calm and even or erratic and out of control. Did the writer tear the paper with their emotion? Are there teardrops on it? Lipstick? Did the writer press hard on the paper and leave ridges on the back, or did they leave barely an impression of themselves behind?

Writing by hand can inform us of our shifting moods the way the tide can inform us of the moon’s gravitational effect on us. Subtle yet powerful, writing by hand connects us to ourselves and to our subconscious. Try writing with your non-dominant hand and you’ll see what I mean.

There is beauty in writing, even that of an untrained hand. Lovers have known this for centuries. The personal, intimate handwriting of a loved one can bring comfort in dark times, solace to the lonely. When’s the last time you sent a letter through the mail? For less than half a dollar in the U.S., only a little more if you’re sending outside it, you can bring a smile to the face of someone for whom you care. In my group of friends, we call that “Non-Bill Mail.” If you save these letters, over time they become like a scrapbook, reminding you of moments in time encapsulated in an envelope.

What would you preserve by hand if you had the time?

Next time: “In Defense of Learning to Type”

Tue Cent Twosday – A Guest Post by Moira Keith

I was asked to share my tue cents and I’m not sure that my darling host realized what she was opening her blog up to. Then I had to come up with something brilliant to share tue cents about. Did I have enough of an opinion to offer up on any one given subject? Of course! I’ve got many passions and it was difficult to decide which would be selected and put on a pedestal today. I managed though, after much deliberation, and will blog about tue of my favorite things—drawing and writing.

My mother and sister are quite fond of saying I took all the creativity in this branch of the family. When I was younger, I would sketch for hours. In my senior year of high school I took art for three hours. That was my escape. My chance to let my pencil move across the page and erase the small aggravations of the day. While I don’t draw as often as I did in the past, having allowed writing to take its place, it is a hobby I find myself giving to some of my characters. For example, in my new book Blood and Moonlight my heroine Kiara tends to pick up a pad and pencil, it helps her think, ease stress, or even at times, helps her remain connected to parts of her life that she is no longer a part of.

I think working in some of your own passions into your writing and through your characters really helps bring them to life, make them easier to connect with. We all have things that we are passionate about. Perhaps your passion is cooking, or singing, or maybe you are a sports fanatic. My question to all you fantastic readers and writers out there is this:

To my fellow writers out there – what passions have you incorporated into your stories?

For all the lovely readers out there – are there particular passions that endear a character to you?

One lucky commenter will receive an e-book copy of my new release Blood and Moonlight!

Tue Cent Twosday – A Guest Post with Kimberley Troutte

Speeding Down the Road to Digital Publication

a Guest Post by Kimberley Troutte

Thank you for having me here today. Noony asked me to talk about how much digital publishing has changed the publishing industry for romance writers. Boy, where to begin?

One great place to start is at the top with RWA (the Romance Writers of America). Every summer RWA has a big conference to discuss the industry, network, eat good food…you know, regular stuff. When I went this time I was struck by how different this conference was from the first one I attended in 2006. All because of a little invention called an ebook.

A mere six years ago, there was a sense that a book not published by the traditional NY Big Six Publishers was somehow inferior. Self-published books were rarely considered by editors. Most writers needed an agent to get to the big houses and finding an agent to represent a new writer was tough. Being a budding romance writer, I dreamed of one day achieving that lofty pinnacle–publication at a big New York house. I thought it was my only road to success.

And it was a rough road full of bumps, sinkholes and heavily manned gates.

In those days (gosh, I feel like I’m talking about the Dark Ages) the journey started when a writer completed a manuscript and sent letters (by snail mail mostly) to agents and editors to try to sell the story. The wait time to hear from one of these professionals was painfully long as the writer trucked pages back and forth and paid a small fortune to the Post Office. If a writer was lucky enough to score a good agent who then sold the work, the wait was a year or two before the book hit the shelves. A year or two.

That was only six years ago–before Kindle, Nook, Facebook, Twitter, and email submissions. We’ve come a long way, baby.

At the 2012 RWA conference, all the buzz was about authors who found success by publishing through small digital-first publishers or on their own. (Fifty Shades of Gray, anyone?) The publishers heard these success stories too and, well, they freaked out a little. Imagine the big New York watching a corner of the publishing market slip through their fingers. Not only that, many already established authors were self-publishing their own works and making , gasp, more money.

New York houses are now in a rush to catch up to the Digital Age by opening Digital lines. Editors are looking for authors to fill new spots for various genres and story lengths. Some agents troll through ebook lists looking for clients to represent. Publishers look for hot-selling indie books to publish.

Wow, what a difference six years can make.

What about those long waiting periods? Well, a writer can self-publish her own book in a matter of days. Days, not years. Publishing houses have had to reduce publishing times in order to compete with Amazon and to woo authors who don’t want to wait years. In Anaheim, Kensington said that they can publish an ebook in about six months. I heard another house say 10-12 weeks! The rush to ebook publication is on.

What does this mean to writers?

Opportunity. Faster publication. Getting books into readers hands that have previously languished on a writer’s harddrive. Possibilities.

I’ll tell you what it means to me personally.

I used to suffer from stress dreams. Sometimes in my nightmares, I’d drive an out-of-control car at top speeds straight downhill. My kids screamed in the back seat while I stomped the useless brakes and tried to steer away from the ocean looming at the bottom of the road. I had that stupid dream five or six times and understood what it meant. My desire to be published was butting heads with gatekeepers who were tough about letting a genre-mixer storyteller like me through the gates. My goal to be published was as out of my control as that darn car was. What could I do?

One day Carrie Underwood sang “Jesus, Take the Wheel.” And I realized that I shouldn’t spend so much time trying to steer that car. Instead, I needed to let go of the things I couldn’t control and focus on what was important.

Writing is one of those important things. I stopped worrying about how I was going to get published and focused on writing the best books I can. Learning, growing, digging deeper, I let my passion and love fill the pages. I found pure bliss. My stories were infinitely better.

And now there are more roads to publication. My car is zipping along and whether I’ll park at a small press, Amazon, or a big house, who knows? I have more control. One way or another, my beloved stories will be read thanks to all those indie-authors who were brave enough to pave the way and to the awesome readers who buy books.

No more nightmares, only sweet dreams and well-paved roads from now on.

Biography

Kimberley Troutte has been a substitute teacher, caterer, financial analyst for a major defense contractor, aerobics instructor, real-estate broker, freelance writer, homework corrector and caregiver to all the creatures the kids/hubby/dog drag in. She lives with her husband, two sons, one dog and four snakes in Southern California.