When Less is More

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I reread the blurb for the flash fiction writing contest several times. It was the perfect antidote for the lingering writers’ block that was preventing me from moving forward with the sequel to Between Land and Sea. The entry fee was a bargain— three flash fiction stories for only $15—and the $500 prize added to the contest’s appeal.

After some reflection, I decided to resurrect two unpublished stories I had written last year. Only one problem—both were close to 1500 words and the rules for the contest specifically called for flash fiction of less than 500 words. While some writers may balk at the idea of trimming almost 1000 words from a short story, I welcomed the challenge of revamping both manuscripts. But before starting the whittling down process, I decided to research this style of fictional literature.

Continue reading on the Savvy Authors Blog.

The Evolving Mermaid

9491775_sWhen I announced the release of Between Land and Sea, a novel about an overweight, middle-aged mermaid, I was surprised by the subsequent comments.

The typical male response was a Duchenne smile followed by a puzzled expression and several pointed questions…

Why is she so old?

Just how overweight is she?

What happened to her?

The men had preconceived notions of what a mermaid should look like—wavy auburn tresses, mesmerizing green eyes and a curvaceous twenty something body.

Continue reading at Kate Wyland’s blog.

Visiting Sarah Hoss

11838450_sThe lawyer shook his head. “I still don’t understand why your mermaid has to be old and fat.”

“Fifty-three is not that old.” I ignored the weight issue.

He persisted. “It is when it comes to mermaids. Why couldn’t you just let her be young, thin and beautiful?”

Thankfully, the conversation was interrupted by the facilitator’s call to resume the workshop. A few minutes more and I might have lost patience with the annoying lawyer who simply wouldn’t accept my vision of an older mermaid.

Continue reading on Sarah Hoss’ blog.

How to Celebrate Rejection…

rejection

I’m always on the lookout for unique word combinations, but this one took me by surprise. I couldn’t imagine a more unlikely word pair than “celebrate rejection” and an even more unlikely source: an interview with Susan Sarandon.

How does one of Hollywood’s most talented leading ladies celebrate rejection? Whenever Ms. Sarandon didn’t get a role, she’d go out for dinner or buy herself an album. In leaner times, she treated herself to an avocado. But more importantly, she did not dwell on it. She had a knack for replacing the negative self-talk with positive and affirming statements such as, This means I’m now available for something else.

Continue reading at MindBodyGreen.

Reinvention and Baby Boomers

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, Beth Carpenter is talking about transitions and introducing her new book, Recalculating Route.

Here’s Beth!

beth1“And they lived happily ever after.” But what if they didn’t? Maybe the marriage didn’t work out. Maybe their career paths led them to a dead end. Maybe everything went just as planned, but now they are retired and need to reinvent themselves. “Happily ever after” isn’t a destination, it’s a journey.

Often, life feels less like a bed of roses and more like a tree on a riverbank, growing from the rock. While the river keeps washing the ground from underneath it, the tree is putting out roots, desperately trying to hang on, to keep from toppling over. Over time, that tree develops a certain grace, a sense of purpose that the pretty roses will never achieve. The struggle creates the beauty.

beth2

Baby boomers everywhere are making transitions. Many, after years at one career, are making the decision to move to another, either to fulfill a lifelong dream or from necessity as their old job disappears. Sometimes, they’re starting their own business from scratch. Others are making that jump to retirement, structuring their days and their lives without the framework of a career to shape them.

Sometimes I think it’s absurd that we expect eighteen-year-olds to choose a college major that leads to a career path. What do they know about life, about the possibilities? On the other hand, a person has to start somewhere, and maybe where they begin is less important than taking that first step.  Knowledge is seldom wasted. Many people move from one career to something completely different, and yet the lessons from that first career shape the person and help him or her succeed in the next. I recently read Confessions of an Instinctively Mutinous Baby Boomer and her Parable of the Tomato Plant. In that book, Marsha Roberts tells of the parables she has experienced in her life. She was a nurse, but later became a successful producer. The two careers seem to have little in common, but her compassion, organizational skills, and experience working with people in difficult situations undoubtedly contributed to her success in her second career.

All our experiences make us who we are, and sometimes life seems to circle around, bringing us back to our roots. A few years ago, my brother agreed to help organize his class reunion. One of the other members of the committee was a woman he’d known in high school, but hadn’t seen since, who lived in a completely different part of the state. They’re happily married now, and they’re not alone. I’ve known of several couples from the same hometown who reconnected after years of living in different parts of the country. It makes sense. They have that common ground, that rootstock from which their life took shape. This gives them something to build on as they make their transitions.

bethTransitions can be fairly smooth. My own path from stay-at-home mom and avid reader to writer felt like a natural progression as my children grew up. A combination of life experience and those thousands of books I’d devoured over the years gave me a base to build upon in writing that I wouldn’t have had at twenty-five.

Other times, it’s not so smooth. In my newest book, Recalculating Route, the main character, Marsha, was happily married and had retirement all mapped out when her beloved husband died. That left her without a clue on how to spend the rest of her life. She meets Ben, who is also rudderless after selling his company and retiring. The two of them have to figure out what happens next.

As we make our transitions, whether by choice or by necessity, we need to keep in mind that we are in charge of our own “happily ever afters,” and happiness involves growing and changing. Enjoy the journey.

Where you can find Beth…

Blog: www.BethCarpenterBooks.blogspot.com

Blog Tour schedule: http://www.bethcarpenterbooks.blogspot.com/p/blog-tour.html

Goodreads : http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6443339.Beth_Carpenter

Amazon link: http://amzn.com/B00F4KL1WM

Barnes & Noble link: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/recalculating-route-beth-carpenter/1116892125?ean=2940148565888

iTunes link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/recalculating-route-choices/id685079206?mt=11

Link to Blog Tour Schedule and Prize Description: http://www.bethcarpenterbooks.blogspot.com/p/blog-tour.html

Joanne here!

Thank you, Beth for sharing your wonderful advice and insights about transitions. I just finished reading Recalculating Route and highly recommend it. Leave a comment for Beth and you could win a giveaway package valued at $50. Check out the link to the Prize Description.

Eden Mills Writers’ Festival–2013

It’s hard to believe the Eden Mills Festival is celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary. This annual literary picnic does not disappoint, even when the weather fails to co-operate. As the temperatures dropped and the rain fell yesterday, jackets were donned and umbrellas were opened, but very few people left the grounds.

Inspired by such internationally acclaimed writers as Linwood Barclay, Andrew Pyper, Cathy Marie Buchanan, David Bergen and Elizabeth Ruth, I also welcomed the opportunity to sit in on up-and-coming writers from the MFA program at the University of Guelph. I was impressed by the passionate and evocative voices of the 2013 Guelph Poetry Slam Team and not surprised to hear they are the current provincial slam champions.

Linwood Barclay photographed by Patricia Anderson

Linwood Barclay photographed by Patricia Anderson

Andrew Pyper photographed by Patricia Anderson

Andrew Pyper photographed by Patricia Anderson


The Right Excerpt

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It’s not as easy as I thought it would be.

For years, I heard my writer friends complain about having to select, and in some cases, create appropriate excerpts for guest blogs and readings. I would politely listen, sympathizing but wondering what could possibly be the problem after countless rewrites and edits.

As I prepare to write a series of guest blogs and read at my first Open Mic, I realize that picking the right excerpt can be a daunting task. What looks good on paper does not necessarily work in a live situation, especially a small, cramped café with unreliable air conditioning.

Continued on Savvy Authors


Exploring, Changing, Dreaming

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today we have award-winning author Jacqui Nelson reflecting on her multi-act life.

Here’s Jacqui!

jacquiAct 1 – What to do when your life is a blank canvas? 

Start exploring. I spent the first eighteen years of my life in one place—one community, one farm, one house. Most of what I knew had come from reading books. My first real challenge was to decide what I wanted to study, what I wanted to be. At the time I was reading Jean Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear series. I enrolled in a geology/zoology double major at the nearest university. I was going to be a paleontologist.

 Act 2 – What to do when you don’t want to dissect a cat? 

Be open to change. I love going to school, but I dreaded that dissection class. And how many jobs are there in paleontology anyway? I decided I should be practical. Computers seemed popular even if I hadn’t used them more than a handful of times. Note: this was in the latter part of the 80s. I took a two-year computer systems college course, got a job immediately upon graduating, and worked for seven years as a computer programmer/systems analyst.

Act 3 – What to do when you want a job you adore?

Go after your dreams. I’ve loved animation for as long as I’ve loved reading. My theory became—someone’s doing that dream job, why not me? I went back to school, found my first animation job in Germany, worked there for two years, and then worked one year back home in Canada and four in England. I was pursuing my dream.

Act 4 – What to do when you burn out at your dream job?

Be crazy enough to give it up, then lucky enough to clear you mind and remember a previous dream– writing a book. I researched writing groups, discovered a Romance Writers of America chapter nearby, became a member, and started learning again…but slowly this time. I still need a day job to pay the bills. I’ve worked as a fund-raising assistant and in a variety of retail shops.

Today I work in a bookstore.

Seems like a good place for me. For now.  For as long as I’m able to write in every free moment that presents itself.

And what advice can I give anyone planning to pursue a new act in life? Work hard at whatever you choose to do. The following anonymous quote has been with me (and kept me going) since the day I left my childhood home: The race is to the driven, not the swift.

As long as I push forward, as long as I keep exploring and changing and dreaming and even on occasion being a little crazy—I have faith that I can accomplish whatever I desire and that the best acts in life are yet to come.

Bio

Jacqui Nelson writes historical romantic adventures set in the American West and Victorian London. Her love of Western stories came from watching classic Western movies while growing up on a cattle farm. Her passion for Victorian London wasn’t far behind and only increased when she worked in England for four years and explored the nooks and crannies of London on her weekends. Jacqui currently lives in Victoria on the west coast of Canada where she works as a book seller. Her previous jobs have included animator, systems analyst and fundraising event coordinator.

Her debut release, Adella’s Enemy, is part of the Passion’s Prize anthology and the Steam! Romance and Rails series. She is a Romance Writers of America® Golden Heart® winner and three-time finalist.

Blurbs

adella

Adella’s Enemy (a novella in the Passion’s Prize anthology)

Can the pursuit of an old enemy lead to a new love?

Five years after the War Between the States, a Kansas railroad race heats up as former Rebel spy Adella Willows receives her mission from a Washington senator—play havoc with the Katy Railroad and derail its bid to win the race. The senator craves wealth. Adella craves revenge against the man responsible for her brother’s death. But her plans crumble into chaos when she matches wits with the railroad’s foreman, a handsome Irishman torn between two desires: winning the race or winning Adella’s heart.

passion

The Passion’s Prize anthology (in the Steam! Romance and Rails series) features three interlinked Western historical romance novellas revolving around the true story of a cutthroat construction race between two powerful railroads.

Outlaws, soldiers and spies bedevil the Katy Railroad as crews rush to reach the Indian Territory border before the rival railroad. The stakes are just as high for three women whose lives hinge on the outcome.  

In Adella’s Enemy by Jacqui Nelson, a spy pursuing an old enemy must choose to live for revenge or die for love. In Eden’s Sin by Jennifer Jakes, a woman with a soiled past must trust the one man who could ruin her future. And in Kate’s Outlaw by E.E. Burke, a railroad heiress abducted by outlaws must escape before her Cherokee captor steals her fortune—and her heart. Passions rise. Fortunes fall. In a race for riches, anything can happen.

Where to find Jacqui…

Website: www.JacquiNelson.com

Amazon: www.amazon.com/author/jacquinelson

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/JacquiNelson

Facebook: www.facebook.com/JacquiNelsonBooks

Twitter: www.twitter.com/Jacqui_Nelson

Joanne here!

Thank you, Jacqui for sharing the long and winding path that led to your successful literary debut. I’m certain this post will inspire many readers to start exploring, changing and dreaming.

I Hate to Be Pigeonholed

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have Debra H. Goldstein talking about a childhood promise, high-powered careers, and writing.

Here’s Debra!

debraWhen I was a child, I spoke so quickly I couldn’t be understood.  My parents dragged me to professional speech therapy supplemented by reading poetry aloud every night. My favorite poem was John Greenleaf Whittier’s “Barefoot Boy.”  It inspired me to never want to be confined in my thoughts or actions.

My resolution to think outside the box resulted in choosing to graduate college a term early, determined to immediately go to New York to try to accomplish two goals:  landing a publishing job and getting on Jeopardy.   Lest you not think me pragmatic, by day I looked for a job while at night I applied for admission to law school. Eight months later, my two goals fulfilled, I started law school.  I figured down the road, I would mesh writing and law.

My first job out of school was as a corporate international tax attorney.  I hated it.  A year later, I gave up my big salary and benefits to become a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Labor.   I loved litigation and kept my hand in writing by producing a number of boring legal articles and continuing legal education pieces.  After a few years I reached a fork in my legal career—continue as a litigator or seek a federal administrative law judicial appointment.  Many people advised me not to get my hopes up as I was in my thirties and the average age for a federal Administrative Law judge was fifty-eight, plus only thirteen women held the position in the country.  I applied anyway.  In 1990, whether because of luck, having tried an equal pay case of first impression, or I don’t know what, I became one of the youngest people ever appointed as an Administrative Law Judge.  During the next twenty years, I carried a heavy docket, raised four children, was a wife, volunteered in the community, and continued to write legal articles and decisions.  I also was the go to person for party skits, but other than occasionally commenting that I’d like to write, that was as far as my creative writing went.

Maze in Blue Front CoverIn 2009, two friends challenged me to stop talking and actually write.  One went so far as to loan me a beach condo for a weekend.  I left that condo with eighty-five hand-written pages and the confidence I could write a book.  Maze in Blue, a mystery set on the University of Michigan’s campus in the 1970’s, was published in 2011.  It contained four or five pages from the original eighty-five.  Between juggling promotional appearances, signings, my continued responsibilities as a judge, and making a consistent effort to write non-fiction and fiction pieces, the next two years flew by. I found myself joking that I had a day and a night job.

I started to feel I only wanted to do one of these jobs.  When I announced that I was stepping down from the bench, my colleagues thought I was crazy.  They pointed out that the last three judges to retire from our lifetime appointments were 89, 86, and 79.  I responded that I had been on the bench twenty-three years and that with luck I might have the opportunity for my new career to last as long or longer.

Will I write the great American novel?  Probably not, but I’ve been enjoying a very diverse new career.  It includes writing non-fiction, fiction, and beach or bedside fun pieces like my 2012 IPPY Award winning novel, Maze in Blue, and the book I now am shopping, Should Have Played Poker:  A Mah Jongg Murder Mystery, which recently won an Alabama Writers Conclave First Chapter Award.  Whether this is my final act or an interim one, I know the variety of things I have done and people who have influenced me can all be tied back to the decision I made in childhood to never be pigeonholed.

Bio

Judge, author, litigator, wife, step-mom, mother of twins, civic volunteer, University of Michigan grad, and transplanted Yankee are all words use to describe Debra H. Goldstein. Her writings are equally diverse. Her debut novel, Maze in Blue, a murder mystery set on the University of Michigan’s campus in the late 1970’s received a 2012 Independent Book Publisher (IPPY) Award. Even though Maze in Blue is a murder mystery, it is a safe bet that when it comes to her writing, “It’s Not Always a Mystery.”

Where to find Debra…

Website:  www.DebraHGoldstein.com

Blog:  http://debrahgoldstein.wordpress.com

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/DebraHGoldstein

Joanne here!

WOW! Thank you, Debra, for giving us glimpses of the beautiful life tapestry you have expertly woven.

Second Act Reflections

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today we have Lynn Chandler Willis reflecting on forgiveness, redemption and second chances.

Here’s Lynn!

headshotprofileI knew early on I wanted to be a writer. I thrived on junior high and high school writing prompts. I wrote short stories, misguided novels, song lyrics, poems, greeting cards, journal entries, newspaper articles…you name it, I wrote it.

So when the opportunity to pen a True Crime book came about, I jumped at it. I was familiar with the crime – it happened in the small town where we lived. I even knew the suspects. I had covered the story for the local community paper and knew it inside and out.

I pitched the idea to a True Crime publisher and they wanted it. The book, Unholy Covenant, was published in 2000. It would be thirteen years before I published another.

It wasn’t the dreaded sophomore slump that prevented the words from flowing. They flowed fine. I just couldn’t bring myself to pursue having anything else published. It took me many years to figure out why. The publisher of Unholy Covenant wanted more. He really liked my style. But, I kept remembering something he had said early on in our publishing relationship – True Crime has to have a murder. Someone has to die. And as cold as it seems, the bottom line was the more sensational the murder, the higher the profits.

I just didn’t have the backbone for it. Knowing people in my community thought I was profiting from a neighbor’s tragedy made me re-think the whole writing gig. Yes, I gave the victim a voice, and I told her story…but still…the reality was always there. A family lost their daughter in the most horrible way. No amount of pretty prose would ever change that.

But, like I said, during my thirteen year hiatus I never stopped writing. I just stopped submitting for publication. Until I ran across a call for submissions from Pelican Book Group. I read over it, and read over it again, and within the hour, The Rising was on its way to Pelican. It’s a story involving forgiveness, redemption, and second chances. It was a perfect fit, for us both.

The Rising was released through Harbourlight/Pelican Book Group in July. This time around comes with no mixed emotions. I’m very proud of the work that went into bringing it to life and humbled by the welcoming it has received. Is it my story? Not really. I’ve never dated anyone as handsome as Jesse.

Bio

Lynn Chandler-Willis has worked in the corporate world (hated it!), the television news business (fun job) and the newspaper industry (not a fan of the word “apparently” and phrase “according to”). She keeps coming back to fiction because she likes making stuff up and you just can’t do that in the newspaper or television news business.

She was born, raised, and continues to live in the heart of North Carolina within walking distance to her kids and their spouses and her nine grandchildren. She shares her home, and heart, with Sam the cocker spaniel.

She is the author of the best-selling true crime book, Unholy Covenant. The Rising is her debut novel.

 TheRisingcoverBlurb

A little boy, beaten and left to die in an alley. A cop with a personal life out of control. When their worlds collide, God intervenes. Detective Ellie Saunders’s homicide investigation takes a dramatic turn when a young victim “wakes up” in the morgue. The child has no memory prior to his “rising” except walking with his father along a shiny road. Ellie likes dealing with facts. She’d rather leave all the God-talk to her father, a retired minister, and to her partner, Jesse, a former vice cop with an annoying habit of inserting himself into her life. But will the facts she follows put Ellie’s life in mortal danger? And will she finally allow God into her heart forever?

Excerpt

“Jack told me you were at lunch. Caper’s is one of my favorites, so I thought I’d take a chance.” He winked at her then sidled closer. “Anyway, I was thinking about your dead kid—“

“He’s not dead.”

A waitress slammed a sandwich down in front of Ellie, and Jesse helped himself to a homemade chip.

“OK, so he’s not dead. You have sent his picture to the National Center for Missing and Exploited

Children?”

She huffed. “Did Jack send you?”

“No, Jack didn’t send me. I was just thinking if the center didn’t get a hit, I’ve got a few connections with the FBI, and they’ve got some really cool equipment.”

Ellie pulleda piece of bacon from her sandwich and chewed on one end. “Thanks, but no thanks. I really don’t want the Feds involved.”

Jesse snatched another chip and shook his head. “No black suit with shades is going to swoop in and take your case, Detective Saunders.” He grinned and helped himself to another chip. “I thought we could get them to run his picture through the facial recognition scanner. Maybe we’ll get a hit.”

What was with all the we stuff? The case was complicated enough. The last thing she needed was Jesse involved. She didn’t need a constant reminder of her downward spiral.

Where to find Lynn…

Website: http://lynnchandlerwillis.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Rising-by-Lynn-Chandler-Willis/326832037448082?ref=hl

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LCWillis

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/438147.Lynn_Chandler_Willis

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/lynncwillis/boards/

Joanne here!

Lynn, thank you for sharing your extraordinary journey and reminding us that pauses can be powerful and lead to breakthroughs.