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Archive for March, 2015

Today, I have a guest post I wrote appearing over at Sherry Peters’ blog, Stories of Perseverance to Inspire Struggling Writers. I talk about one of the most discouraging rejection letters I’ve ever received, along with an acceptance letter which followed about 2 weeks later.

Many writers could tell a similar tale. It’s hard to set aside harsh words of rejection and focus on the opportunities still out in the world of publishing — but if you’re determined to succeed, that’s exactly what you need to do.

Here’s the link to One Editor’s Opinion. Enjoy!

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Vonnie at Carroll County Farmer's Market When I started the writing journey, I thought I had a clear picture of the book publishing world. Wrong!

I slid into book publishing via my work as an illustrator. I was lucky enough to stand next to an indie author in aerobics class who’d lost her illustrator suddenly. She was telling me about her plight, and I mentioned I was an illustrator. Many hours and illos later, her book (with my illos) was picked up by a major publisher, and I ended up illustrating her 8 books with Prima Publishing.

When it came to my 1st book, Leprechaun Cake & Other Tales, again I slid into book publishing. This time, I was set to design, typeset, and layout a book for the Vegetarian Resource Group (an Indie Press). The author bowed out at the last moment, and my book project slipped into her publishing slot.

Nowadays, I slog along with the rest of the small press authors. A couple of things I’ve learned: few people know your books (even if you’ve sold thousands) and even fewer know your name. You can’t convince someone to like your book, and it’s difficult to convince them to buy your book unless they already read the type of book you’re writing.

A few more lessons learned about book publishing: Friends of friends or family members will ask you to read and critique their book (for free) on a regular basis. You need to find a nice way to say, “No.” Your writing time is valuable (and limited), so you need to focus on your own writing. I often suggest a writers’ group or class for peer input.

Countless people will talk to you at an author’s event or signing about the idea they have for a great book, then ask if you’d like to write it for them. Again, the answer is “No.” If the idea is worth writing about, they need to write their own book. They’re the person with the passion about the idea – not you.

Also, people want to learn the secret to getting their book published. To which I always answer: “Hard work, persistence, and a little luck.” I wish there was a secret I could share which would quickly get their book on a fast track to publication, but there isn’t one.

And remember, free candy will always attract potential customers to your book display at an event. 🙂

Lastly, librarians and Indie bookstore clerks are a small press author’s friends. These are people who care about books and readers.

An interesting article on the subject, 24 Things No One Tells You About Book Publishing, adds to my ideas and is well worth the read.

Find my books on Amazon and elsewhere. Happy reading!

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Re-use and Recycle are popular ideas for life. Why not add Re-write and Re-think to the list, and take a look at your writing? Some of my poems and stories have been reprinted, but usually not without a re-write. Why bother with re-writing? Because I often see places I’d like to change in my writing – maybe only a word or phrase, sometimes so many changes the story or poem needs to be re-named! As time passes and I gain some distance from my writing, it’s easier for me to find the flaws. Also (and thank goodness for this), I’ve grown as a writer, and I want to polish the poems, articles, and stories that were published in the past. I saw a wonderful article with lots of great suggestions recently. Lessons from an Overcoat by Ellen Cassedy is well-worth the read. How about you? Any other writing recycling suggestions or experiences?

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“If I had to choose, I would rather have birds than airplanes.” – Charles Lindbergh

I agree with Lindbergh. Yes, airplanes make long distance traveling easier, but for me, birds make my life richer. And today, the loud and comical antics of the crows made me smile. Then, I read this article about crows which is somewhat disturbing: 6 Terrifying Ways Crows are Way Smarter than You Think.

IMG_2395 The first way they list (actually #6 since they’re listing in reverse order): “The recognize your face.” This is true. When I lug the bread crumbs or seed or suet out to the birds, the watch-crow starts cawing, bobbing his/her head, and ruffling its feathers. Sure enough, within minutes, the rest of the crow family (or “murder” as a group of crows is called), arrive to feast upon whatever I’ve scattered about.

Which brings me to #5, “They conspire with one another.” True! If the watch-crow isn’t enough proof, the crows have shown excellent skill in chasing away squirrels.

#4 is “Memory.” As if facial recognition wasn’t spooky enough, it seems word gets around in the blackbird (I’m changing it from just crows here). Why? Word has gotten out in the red-winged blackbird, starling, crow, and bird communities that I feed birds. Every year, a migrating flock of hundreds (if not thousands) of blackbirds stops at my feeder for a few days each spring and fall before moving on to wherever it is they’re headed.

I witnessed #3 “Tools and problem-solving,” when I was in Anchorage, Alaska. A raven (larger cousin of a crow) was busily prying open a sun roof to get to someone’s groceries. He/she was using not only beak and feet, but also a stick. Clever bird!

#2, “Planning,” includes saving food for lean times and other thoughtful techniques. I’ve not witnessed that behavior (to my knowledge, but crows are tricky), but the whole watch-crow business seems like planning to me.

The #1 way listed in the article was “Adaptive behavior.” Well, knowing to check on sun roofs on cars seems rather adaptive to me, but the best example from my own life occurred years ago when we had a sliding glass door through which I used to exit to feed the birds. If the feeders were empty and I didn’t fill them promptly, a designated crow would come to the door and “knock.” The bird would fly to the porch railing or a nearby tree to caw his/her empty feeder alert. When I opened the door, the rest of the murder would alight in the trees and wait for their food to be served.

My kids say it looks like a scene from “The Birds” sometimes at my house. And it’s not just the crows —  blackbirds, starlings, chickadees, cardinals, jays, morning doves, etc. ALL seem to know my face, and fly close when I bring out the chow.

 

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Terry Pratchett is gone. Another sad death for those of us who’ve grown up on science-fiction and fantasy literature and television.

Life was too busy this week for a Wednesday quote, so I’ve decided to share 3 Terry Pratchett quotes today in honor of this wonderful speculative writer who created, among other fabulous places, Discworld.

I always tell writers to read. I encourage them to read inside their genre to see what’s new, but also to read out side of their chosen “type” of book to discover what else is going on in the world of books. It seems Terry Pratchett agreed: “If you are going to write, say, fantasy – stop reading fantasy. You’ve already read too much. Read other things; read westerns, read history, read anything that seems interesting, because if you only read fantasy and then you start to write fantasy, all you’re going to do is recycle the same old stuff and move it around a bit.” — Terry Pratchett

I like his logic for why you need to read out side your genre. I suppose if all you read were tales of super heroes, you’d end up writing a super hero tale that was quite similar to the books you’d read.

Another Terry Pratchett quote: “Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it.”

Okay, this quote rocks! It could have been written by Stephen King. Again, there’s a strange logic and a feeling of the great power and mystery to the darkness that was here before light, and will be most anywhere before light arrives. Horror and dark fantasy writers should rejoice in the idea. In fact, this is the basis of many a terror-filled tale.

Which goes quite nicely with a Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman quote: “Evil in general does not sleep, and therefore doesn’t see why anyone else should.” Terry Pratchett. Another marvelous quote for writers and readers of dark fiction to consider.

And lastly, I’ll pull another quote from Good Omens, this time from Pratchett’s co-author, Neil Gaiman: “If you want to imagine the future, imagine a boy and his dog and his friends. And a summer that never ends.”

And that is what I wish for Terry Pratchett — perhaps, adding in a cat, a hat, a pen, and an endless supply of paper on which to write.

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Techie Brain The word automaton sounds very futuristic, but these clockwork machines were first built hundreds of years ago. I began my speculative story collection, Owl Light, with a time-travel, steampunk story about an owl automaton. And the builder of my owl machine in “The Clockwork Owl” was officially employed as a clockmaker.

You can imagine my surprise when I stumbled on this video of an automaton, The Writer, built by Pierre Jaquet-Droz, a clockmaker, in Switzerland hundreds of years ago. It is a fascinating machine, but a bit creepy. Perhaps it’s because dolls in general give me the heebie-jeebies, but this little clockwork boy is both amazing and the stuff of my nightmares.

What do you think — is the automaton in this video genius or creepy or both?

 

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young robin Wood’s Edge seems to be forever white and icy this year. Just when I thought I saw grass, more ice and snow arrived. The heather beneath the front window made a valiant attempt at blooming last week, but its purplish blossoms were encased in ice, and I fear they’ll not flower again.

Though white themselves, the snowdrops usually make an appearance in late February or early March. Alas, I don’t think they’ll be able to poke their pale heads through the thick layer of ice on top of the inches of snow this year. Still I hope to spot their delicate blooms.

Hundreds of blackbirds descend daily to my birdfeeders and quickly empty its contents. Their loud chirping and astounding numbers chase away the blue jays, cardinals, finch, and woodpeckers who add just a bit of color to the white and brown landscape.

This winter, eight deer regularly wander through the woods and into my yard. As they browse the underbrush, their fur shines a golden brown when the late afternoon sun slants through the tulip poplars.

Still, my world seems colorless as children with their bright jackets, mittens, boots, and hats sled briefly, then go inside on such wet, slippery, cold days. And so, I turn to John Steinbeck for a cheering quote.

“How can one know color in perpetual green, and what good is warmth without cold to give it sweetness?” – John Steinbeck

How right he is! The bitter cold of this winter will make me appreciate the warmth of late spring and summer. And I would hardly notice the small heather blooms, nodding snowdrops, the brilliant patch of red on a woodpecker, the beautiful brown of a deer’s fur, or the brilliant blue of a hooded jacket in the lush green of June.

And for a writer on this bitter day, the arrival of an acceptance letter is all the sweeter because many rejection letters have preceded it.

 

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