Ship Ahoy!

21 06 2011

Hard to believe it’s been so long since I’ve blogged, but a five-book contract with deadlines a month apart has been grueling.

But I just received word that Pirates 
Through the Ages  is on the way. Yay!! Can’t wait to see how it looks. The editor said it turned out terrific, so I’m excited about holding it in my own two hands. Here’s a mock up of the cover.

Looking back, I wondered while I was immersed in it if I’d manage to get it done by the deadline, but I did. Now I’m wondering the same about my latest assignment. What is it about writers that they’ll put themselves under this much pressure and agree to practically impossible deadlines, then slog through long hours day after day to produce a book? What is it about this profession that’s so compelling? It’s obviously not the money. As most writers discover, this isn’t a lucrative profession. So what do we get besides the pleasure and excitement of holding a book in our hands?





Making Time for Writing

18 05 2011

I stumbled on a new blog today that has some great tips for writers. Called Literary Crush, it’s by a fellow Vermont College (can’t help plugging my alma mater) grad, Bethany Dellinger.

I particularly enjoyed her Guiding Principles. If you’re struggling to find time to write each day, you’ll want to check these out.





The Secret to Publication

5 07 2010

Now that I’ve been published, people often ask me how to do it. Learning your craft is important, of course, and so is having creative ideas, but the most important tip I can share is to connect with other writers and form a critique group.

Years ago, when writing was only a glimmer of an idea in the back of my mind, I sat at a banquet table next to an author who was receiving an award. During the meal, I listened with awe as she discussed the members of her critique group–all famous authors.

No wonder she got published with connections like that, I thought.

When I suggested that she was lucky to have such stellar critique partners, she laughed. “We all started out as unpublished writers. After we’d been together about five years, one by one we each got a book contract. Then over the next few years, we started winning awards. Now most of the group members have gone on to become famous, but we actually learned to write together.”

Little did I know that I was soon to follow her path. Last weekend I had the joy of attending a book signing at the Midtown Scholar in Harrisburg, PA. It brought tears to my eyes to know that the members of my very first crit group were there signing their books too. In fact, all of us have more than one book published. And, yes, we did it together. I’d venture to say that without sharing our combined knowledge, we would never be where we are today.

But the story doesn’t end there. I moved to a new state and a new crit group. Of course, I didn’t leave my old group behind. We still crit each other’s work via mail. But I’ve been with my new crit group for several years, and now that group is on the path to publication as well. One of my friends from that group joined me for this Harrisburg booksigning with her first novel in a series of three. And as for the other members of that group, all of them are close to publication. I’ve watched in delight as the submissions for each crit meeting move to ever higher levels of quality. I know that soon all of us will be doing group signings together.

In a few years, some of my CPs (or many of them) may be household names. Then I can say I knew them when. In fact, one member of a crit group I belonged to made the NY Times Bestseller list for a book I helped to critique.Very cool! And other CPs are now winning writing awards and contests. So it won’t be long until I’ll be able to say the same thing as that famous author: “We all learned to write together.”

Moving up the ladder of publishing success often seems to be a painstakingly slow process–one rung at time. Many times you wonder if you’ll ever get high enough off the ground, but when you look down, you can see how far you’ve come. Even better, though, is watching those around you reach that pinnacle of success.





Stimulating Creativity

1 07 2010

Picture by Clare Bloomfield

Whew! Back from ALA and glad to be surrounded by trees and green again. Guess I’m not a city person. I found the heat, humidity, and press of the crowds draining. I suppose many people find the city exhilarating, but if I lived there for any length of time, I’d miss the black sky spangled with stars, the treetops swaying in the breeze, and the laundry-fresh air after a rain.

Quite a contrast to the city, where neon lights pulsed all night, concrete towers hemmed me in and obscured the sky, and rain swirled oily puddles into the gutters and made the air stink of old urine. I admire those who can live amid the clanking, banging, and exhaust fumes and still remain creative. I wonder if the city sparks a different kind of creativity–a pulsating, in-your-face kind of story. Perhaps my writing needs a jolt of that high energy.

What setting stimulates your creativity?





More About Jill…

24 05 2010

So yesterday I posted about Jill Williamson being up for the Christy Award.

You can find out more about Jill at her website or her Amazon page, where I lifted the opening sentences of her bio to whet your appetite:

“Jill was raised in rural Alaska. Alone with her thoughts and the moose, daydreaming was a favorite pastime. As was reading…”

And now she’s turned her passion for reading into a passion for writing, and a fine job she’s done of it. Here’s her latest book cover from Marcher Lord Press:

You can get a copy at Amazon or at the Marcher Lord site.

And if you’re wondering just how good this book is, here’s a review about Book One:

“This thoroughly entertaining and smart tale will appeal to fans of Donita K. Paul and J.R.R. Tolkien. Highly recommended for CF and fantasy collections.” —Library Journal

And the praise continues for Book Two:

The second installment of the Blood of Kings series will thrill, surprise, and delight readers just as much as the first. With stellar craftsmanship, the author continues to thrust her characters into a myriad of plot-driven obstacles that will have readers biting their nails late into the night.”

Christian Miles (Amazon review)

With her first book up for a Christy and her second garnering well-deserved praise, you’ll want to grab a copy quickly before they all sell out. And if you want to get an autographed copy, you can get one at Jill’s website.





Writing a Bestseller

23 04 2010

by Darvin Atkeson

All speeches need an inspirational takeaway. So I asked my Muse for something eternal, unique, and beautiful. In what way could my life or my words be inspiring?

One of the greatest inspirations is hearing how others overcame the odds to reach success. That’s why author talks are so successful (and why people clap even if you mess up–most attendees have always dreamed of being a famous author). But that success is ordinary, although it may not seem so.

Anyone can become an author if they study hard, learn the craft, put hours of sitting in a chair and spilling their guts, keeping submitting in the face of rejection, and never, ever give up. But that’s so NOT what people want to hear. They already know that. And many of them have given it a shot. They want a magic pill they can take that transforms their idea into a runaway bestseller.

And so what do I, an author who has written for 20 some years have to share that will inspire the audience eager for pearls of wisdom? Persistence and perseverance are the keys? Never giving up? OK, let’s be honest: maybe published authors are more stubborn or perhaps more thickheaded?

So that won’t make my speech inspiring. What will? I decided to talk about how I overcame obstacles in my path and went on to conquer them. Some seemed insurmountable at the time, but I have a secret that keeps me on track. I’ll share that secret and the source of my inspiration in Friday’s post.





I Survived… I Think

21 04 2010

So, one day after the event, I can look back with equanamity. If you read my public speaking post, you might have gotten the impression I don’t like to speak in front of groups.

That’s partially true. And I’m a procrastinator who avoids thinking about the presentation until the last minute, then…gulp!…realizes that it’s time to go out the door, and I have no time left to prepare. Why do I do that? It means I panic as I rush to pull some thoughts together as I drive to my destination and pray that I’ll come up with an interesting and inspirational topic. Yes, I was asked to talk about myself, but every talk should be structured like a story, with a beginning (inciting incident), middle (rising action), and ending (dramatic conclusion).

Luckily for me, my muse works well under pressure. I came up with several exciting (at least I hoped they were) events in my life and made them steppingstones, using an underlying theme of how I jump into careers, then learn on the job, often after I being forced to change directions by a tragedy or a roadblock. That helped me choose my anecdotes.

But I also like to give each audience a takeaway, something meaningful that they can apply to their own lives. My muse, my creative mind, my subconscious didn’t fail me. It dredged up a wonderful idea–one I’d heard years ago in someone else’s speech that had a powerful effect on my life…

Stay tuned for: Seeing the Other Side