Inspirational book: Greasewood Creek

I read a lot– at least 2 novels a week– but usually the books are just for fun and entertainment. I am a big fan of Swedish crime novels, for instance. But I just finished a slim literary novel that blew me away: Greasewood Creek by Pamela Steele.

Steele received her MFA in Poetry from Spalding University and her beautiful way with words shines through in Greasewood Creek. The story jumps back and forth in time to give you a powerful glimpse into Avery’s life, beginning on the terrible day of her younger sister’s death–which she is blamed for.

It is at times both a melancholy story and one filled with hope as Avery struggles with both her past and a current tragedy.

I was especially drawn to Steele’s description of light, as well as her ability to engage all the senses in her writing. Her background in poetry is evident.

This book was helpful for me as a writer because it showed me how to tell a story in tiny vignettes, without going in chronological order. This opened my eyes to the possibilities for my own work, since I envision my writing as scenes and don’t usually know how to connect these scenes into a smooth plot. Now I know how to jump around and tell my story one scene at a time.

Thank you, Pamela Steele for the inspiration!

 

 

 

 

 

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100 Good Things about Me

A few years ago I compiled a list of “100 good things about me” for a self-help group I attended (okay make that 101 good things for attending a self-help group!). I asked my best friends and my daughters for their impressions about me and I added my own points to the list.

Here is my list:

  1. Thoughtful
  2. Kind
  3. Honest
  4. Good communicator
  5. Great listener
  6. Very helpful
  7. Open-minded
  8. Confident
  9. Self secure
  10. Strong
  11. Patient
  12. Positive thinker
  13. Caring, empathetic
  14. Intelligent/smart
  15. Sensible
  16. Goal-oriented
  17. Pretty much raised three non-skanky kids singlehandedly
  18. Concerned for the well-being of others
  19. Work to maintain friendships
  20. Won’t stay in unsatisfactory relationships
  21. Willing to make sacrifices for others (regular blood donor, donated eggs, rescued “Elle” from the perils of the foster care system)
  22. Curious
  23. Supportive of daughter’s creative and artistic endeavours (musical instruments, piercings, hair colour etc)
  24. Could be easily mistaken for Michelle Williams
  25. Pick up on trends and styles quickly
  26. Beautiful, long fingers
  27. Persevere with your passion (writing)
  28. Great teeth and smile
  29. Doesn’t smoke
  30. Humble (not too proud to ask your friends for input on such a personal task as this one)
  31. Pleasant disposition
  32. Honest
  33. Warm
  34. Loving, affectionate
  35. Witty
  36. Well read
  37. Creative
  38. Dependable/Reliable
  39. Frugal
  40. Resourceful problem-solver
  41. Concerned about “well being”
  42. Loyal, committed
  43. Loving, affectionate
  44. Put others ahead of yourself
  45. Survivor/ Keep going even in tough times
  46. Talented writer
  47. Driven, motivated to succeed, unstoppable
  48. Not afraid to try new things
  49. Responsible
  50. Aggressive
  51. Outgoing
  52. Good friend
  53. Good listener
  54. Live by high standards/have good morals
  55. Easy to talk to
  56. Set high goals for yourself
  57. Intelligent
  58. Fun
  59. Take pride in your appearance
  60. Trustworthy
  61. Sensitive to others
  62. Great sense of humour
  63. Confident
  64. Modest
  65. Always willing to lend a hand
  66. Honest
  67. Authentic
  68. Successfully raised three daughters on her own
  69. Positive
  70. Peaceful
  71. Funny
  72. Youthful
  73. Great sense of style
  74. A devoted, loving mother
  75. Cautious and careful
  76. Perfect skin
  77. Cute feet
  78. Makes people smile
  79. Beautiful
  80. Encourages others
  81. Great at giving advice
  82. Introspective
  83. Great conversationalist
  84. Creative
  85. Makes others feel included and important
  86. Builds muscle easily (weight training)
  87. Survived 2 caesareans less than 2 years apart
  88. Passionate (emotional, feels a lot)
  89. Admits mistakes
  90. Always striving to improve
  91. Spiritual
  92. Appreciative, thankful, grateful
  93. Laughs easily
  94. Thick hair
  95. Life-long learner, self-taught
  96. Resilient, adaptable
  97. Happy
  98. Learns from her mistakes
  99. Dreams big
  100. Artist

I love it! Everyone should do this exercise. It’s a great way to see yourself in a new light.

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Fountain of Youth

I’m back with another poem. If you’re a parent of teenaged girls or you’ve ever been a teenaged girl, you may relate to this one.

Fountain of Youth

You are silent
Believing I could never understand your life
I am mother, a cold and ancient stone goddess
You are too young to realize that the passing
Years are nothing to the universe
I am still fifteen and thrilled with my power to make him swell
He is sixteen and tastes of tobacco and risk
This is yesterday, a lifetime passed, the present moment
I am eighteen, and thirty-three and seventy-two all at once
Each age eternal, my memories
Spill and
Overflow, the perfect
Fountain of youth

 

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Storm Warning

Poetry will always be my first love. I love the spareness of it, how each word has to fit just so. For me, a poem starts with a great splash of ideas on the page, then I go back and chop, chop, chop until the core of the idea is revealed.

Over the years, poetry has taken a back seat to my other writing but I found a box of my old stuff this past week when I was cleaning out my storage room and lo and behold there were all my old poems and short stories! I thought I had lost them forever in the midst of my multiple moves over the past few years.

Hmmm….I need to get back into writing poetry. It helps me sort out my feelings. Kind of like a journal but something you can share with others.

Here is one of my favourites.

Storm Warning

Gathering rain clouds remind me of
Hurricane eyes flashing lightning and
Jealous soul thunder
I smell the ozone of your anger
Taste friction in the wind
Tightairpressuresqueezingmoleculescollide
Rain drops acid heartache
I grab my umbrella and run
Avoiding the downpour

 

 

 

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Author Interview with Jonathan Gould

Wow, you never know who you’re going to meet on the Internet! Thanks to the power of Twitter (can you tell I am a rabid fan?), I have connected with today”s author, Jonathan Gould. who hails from Australia. If you’re looking for something along the lines of The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy, then Jonathan’s book is a must read!

Hello and welcome to Writing to Save My Soul.

Buy Doodling here

What is your book about?

Doodling is an absurd comic fantasy about a man who falls off the world
(because it’s moving too fast). He finds himself marooned in the middle of an
asteroid field where he meets a number of peculiar people. But just when it
seems he’s found a nice home at last, he gets thrown into a most unexpected
adventure in which the very survival of the asteroid field is at stake.

I like to describe it as Douglas Adams meets Lewis Carroll (with just a dash of
Gulliver’s Travels).

What was your biggest challenge in getting your book written and out for the
world to see? How did you overcome that?

My biggest challenge is always finding the time to get my writing done.
Doodling was written in dribs and drabs over more than ten years. The good
thing about this was it meant I’ve had a lot of time to come back to it and
refine both the storyline and the writing so by the time I got around to
publishing it I think it’s in really tight shape.

As far as getting it out, I’d been shopping it around to publishers (in Australia)
for years without success. They seemed to really like it but none was prepared
to take a punt. I think they were a bit scared away because it’s a story that’s
hard to pin down into one genre, and it also has appeal across a broad range of
reading ages (which I think is a good thing but which publishers don’t seem to
be so keen on it).

I eventually decided to self-publish it as an ebook late last year and I’m
really glad I did. While sales are still slow, I’m starting to get feedback
from readers and it’s wonderfully positive and encouraging

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever come across?

From Douglas Adams (one of my main inspirations) – Writers should not be in the
business of reinforcing stereotypes. I always think of this as I write and
check myself when I feel like I’m resorting to cliché and stereotype.

The quote is from a wonderful book called Last Chance to See – do check it out.

Who, or what, inspires you?

Lots of things. My friends and family. Things I read or watch (on TV or
movies). Current events. I try to always keep an open mind and think about how
I can turn the things I hear/read/watch/experience into stories

Have you ever read a book that made you think ‘wow’? If so, what book was it
and why did it have such an effect on you?

I’m constantly amazed by what other writers are able to achieve. There are two
that come to mind (if I’m allowed to mention more than one):

The Lord of the Rings – I know it’s a bit obvious – but as a kid it expanded my
idea of the scope that was possible within a novel

The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy – for showing how effectively you could
use humor mixed with great ideas and characters in a written form.

If you were going to mentor a new writer through the publishing process,
what pitfalls would you warn them against?

Be aware of the realities of how difficult it is to be successful as a writer,
whether legacy or self-published. Make sure your book is in the best possible
state it can be – get feedback, listen to the opinions of others and learn. And
then get networking – because your book isn’t going to sell itself, no matter
how great it is.

What kind of promotion have you tried? What do you find to be the most
effective?

I’m a real novice as far as promotion goes. My basic strategy is to get my book
out to as many readers as I can through giveaways, blog events and just casual
networking. The more people read my story, the more chance I have. My other
main focus at the moment is getting reviews. Word of mouth is the key and readers
are more likely to take a recommendation from someone who isn’t the writer of
the book.

In terms of how effective this is? Ask me in a year – or two – or five…

Tell us a random fact about yourself.

My main character, Neville is based on me, except he’s slightly taller and
better looking.

Sorry – that wasn’t about me, it was about Neville. But he’s way more
interesting than I am.

You can connect with Jonathan here:

Twitter: jonno_go
Blog http://daglit.blogspot.com
Book links:
Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004KSQVCO
Smashwords – http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/41101

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Stress and my Health

I had my physical earlier this month–my lube, oil and filter as I call it. Everything was great (blood pressure low, heart rate good etc.) until the issue of my weight came up. Seems I’ve put on almost 30 lbs since my last physical two years ago. Not good. It didn’t take the doctor’s scales to tell me I was overweight, all I had to do was look at my recent photos– or my lack of recent photos since I was avoiding the camera. Until I hit my 40’s I had been in good shape. Not skinny anymore since I have inherited the huge chest that both my grandmothers had, but I was curvy. Now I am definitely apple-shaped, which I know is risky.

My weight gain has been particularly hard to accept because I was a skinny kid. When I got married I weighed 107 lbs for goodness sake! Being thin was a huge part of my identity so trying to accept the new me has been very hard to do. I have been consciously avoiding visiting any friends from my past because I do not look anything like I did back in high school. This weight gain has totally filled me with shame.

I made a list of everything that has happened to me during the past 2 years as a way of figuring out what the hell happened to me. Once I had it all down on paper, I could see the tremendous effect stress has had on my body:

-middle daughter (aka Kay) left for college August 2009

-broke my left foot in November 2009

-lost my job 4 days later

-moved to a new house 2 weeks after that

-my youngest daughter (aka Elle) moved in with her father and step-mother July 2010

-I moved in with my beau August 2010 (changed cities)

-I started college September 2010

It’s clear to me that stress makes me gain weight. I know I have not been taking care of myself and have been eating crap all this time. I struggled financially being an unemployed single parent trying to make some extra money freelancing and eating too much as a way of relieving the stress. I know I was seriously depressed during that time but dealt with it on my own because I don’t like the side effects associated with antidepressants. I thought the weight would magically fall off me when I was back in school and happy but that didn’t happen.

Life is a little more calm now but I have had a very hard time adjusting to an empty nest. I miss my youngest daughter so much. Motherhood is a very big part of my identity and I still feel lost because she isn’t around very often. Add the stress of fitting into my beau’s home and trying to get along with doing things a different way and the stress of going back to school full-time, it’s no wonder I gained weight!

Now that I have this realization, I can work on the solution: self-care.  I have to make time to see friends, see my kids on a regular basis and think about what I’m eating and why. I’m not trying to diet per se but I am trying to do what’s best for me.

I hope it works.

 

 

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Author Interview with Glenn Skinner

Glenn Skinner is one of the terrific #pubwrite people I have met through Twitter. And
although we haven’t met personally (yet), he has always been a kind soul ready
to pour me a virtual drink and give encouragement.

Welcome to Writing to Save My Soul. What is your book
about?

Buy The Keya Quests here

My current novel, The Keya Quests: The Battle for Shivenridge is the second book
in my Keya Quests series. Let me quickly step back for background. Centuries
ago on a small island off the coast of Maine, elven priests from a parallel
world forged a sword of great power. Twenty years ago a warlord in their world
found the sword and waged a war not only to control their world, but ours as
well. In a last stand, both elf & man led by a young fairy queen waged a
final battle. During the battle, the queen was struck down and killed. In that moment the warlord let down his guard. A young soldier defeated him and gained possession of the sword. He left their world returning to ours ordering the portal sealed behind him. He vowed to find a way to destroy the sword.

Flash forward to modern day. A new warlord has risen to power in the land of the elves. He has learned of a young elven woman with a way to not only open the portal, but find the warrior who possesses the sword. He orders his armies to descend upon the shire of Shivenridge to find this girl, but unknown to him, she has been raised since birth to be a great warrior. She devises a plan of her own, to open the portal, find the great warrior, and convince him to return to free the people of Shivenridge. That woman is Keya Taylos.

Without introducing too many spoilers, the second book picks up where the first book ended with Keya, our heroine, returning with the great warrior to free the people of Shivenridge. Only Keya returns with a new reality, for destiny has revealed that all that
she knew, and held dear to be true were but illusions, three lost souls have been re-united and their lives changed forever. With this new knowledge, Keya struggles to overcome her fears and doubts while trying to free the people of Shivenridge. There is a curse that must be broken and a book that holds the key. Betrayal and fear abound, will she be able to complete her task or will the price of freedom prove to be too high? These are the tales of her journeys, her quests…

What was your biggest challenge in getting your book written and out for the world to see? How did you overcome that?

Writing was the easy part, the endless hours of editing, re-editing and when I was sure it was right, to re-edit again was brutal. I wanted to cut my wrists and end my misery. I knew I was unable to find and fix everything in my writing so I used as many options as I could find. I used online auto critiquing software, beta readers, and finally a proof editor. Each step brought me closer to where I needed to be. The editing phase actually took longer than the writing.The publishing part was easy, this being my second book, I’ve learned more than I ever wanted to know about publishing. Right from the beginning I knew I would self-publish. My hectic life leads little time for a traditional approach. I made that decision early on and do not regret it. I knew what I wanted done, where, and who was
going to do it, months before the manuscript was ready. I used the same publisher as my first book, and working closely together, we published 4 weeks ahead of my target date, this included the creation of two maps and an illustration designed for me by the publisher. This included the paperback, hardback, kindle and nook versions as well as a pdf ebook edition.

It was the knowledge I learned from the first book and the pre-planning, not to mention the understanding and great cooperation of my publisher (Thank you, Outskirts Press)
who bent their normal process and rules to accommodate my needs.

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever come across?

Honesty, the best advice and I can’t tout it enough is to just write. If it’s inside of you then write it, don’t think about it, over think it, reason it, just write. When it’s no longer fun then stop, you’re only cheating yourself and your work. If afterwards, you don’t like it then edit or delete, but let it out, writing is one of the few remaining pure and simple acts of enjoyment in this world. Don’t hold it in, embrace it.

Who, or what, inspires you?

Fireflies and things that bump in the night are my inspiration. A quick twinkle of light against a dark sky, or that faint noise that you just can’t identify releases the imagination.
It stirs the emotion or maybe brings out the fear that reminds one, they are alive. It takes you to a world of fantasy and mystery momentarily freeing you from the grey of everyday life. It’s that feeling that drives my writing, to bring color to the grey.

Have you ever read a book that made you think ‘wow’? If so, what book was it and why did it have such an effect on you?

Asking this question to a fantasy writer, I would be surprised if you have not guessed my response: The Lord of the Rings. It is an amazing piece of fiction. Tolkien not only created
this great middle world, he created an array of believable characters and settings right down to creating actual languages for the races. I was blown away by the attention to detail and a story so well written, that it is brought everything to life.

If you were going to mentor a new writer through the publishing process, what pitfalls would you warn them against?

Being a self published author, I can only speak from that perspective but first and foremost, I would recommend a new writer sit down and think about what they really want and why they are writing. Is it career driven or just for love. They need to decide on how they want to publish and then do their homework. If traditional is their desire, then research agents, and publishers, target those who are in your genre. Take the time to learn how to draft a query and take any rejections with stride. There is something positive to take back from everything no matter how negative they appear.

If self publishing, take your time and decide where you want to market your book. Are you publishing for just family and friends, or potentially to see your work in book store? Once
you’ve decided, explore all your options and read the fine print! If you are going to do it all yourself, don’t be afraid to seek out second opinions and assistance where needed. Copy edit, no matter how good you think it is, get a second, third and fourth set of eyes to look at it. Your public will crucify you if you don’t. It is not the place to cut corners or breeze over. Spend time with the cover, it will be the make or break purchase decision of many readers.
It has to catch them and draw them in. It should grab and hold them, yet not mislead.

Lastly I say it again, read the fine print!! Before you sign an agreement, purchase a service, commit to an agent or publisher, make sure you read and understand every detail. Know
what you are gaining and giving up. Make sure it is in line with your goals.

What kind of promotion have you tried? What do you find to be the most effective?

I’ve tried many things: press releases, website, blog (http://lostbowyer.wordpress.com),
interviews, Twitter (@keyaquests), Facebook, Goodreads, giveaways, contests,
word of mouth advertising and plain old groveling. I honestly have to say the
two most effective to date have been word of mouth and giveaways. The word of
mouth is a slow continuous process and is ever ongoing. The giveaways bring an
immediate attention, but proportionately a small yield for the instant attention, but worthwhile never the less.

Surprisingly, Twitter while it is my best networking source, is the least effective for sales or
promotions.

I don’t believe any one source of promotion is the answer, you need an entire package. it is a combination of all available resources that makes your promotion effective. 

Tell us a random fact about yourself.

I used to carve English-style longbows at the local renfair.

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