Monday, June 12, 2017

Writing & Hockey - 5 Things They Have in Common



"You'll always miss 100% of the shots you don't take."

Wayne Gretzky



Most of you know that I like hockey. My sons played ice and roller hockey in their teens, so I got hooked while doing the hockey mom thing. Was thinking recently how the game is similar to the writer's life, and since The Stanley Cup Finals just concluded, I thought it a good time to explore the similarities. 


1) Practice is Imperative

If a hockey player doesn't practice, he/she won't improve. No getting around that fact. Skating, shooting, scoring, and learning the rules of the game elevate their skills and level of play. The same applies to writers. If we don't make time to write, edit, revise, learn new things and polish our skills, we'll never communicate as effectively as we might have, had we invested practice time.

2) It's a Team Effort

A lone hockey player has never won The Stanley Cup on his own. It takes a talented group of players working together to achieve this coveted goal. Likewise, although writing is a solitary activity, dedicated scribes need support and input from fellow writers, teachers, editors, and others in the industry.

3) Taking a Shot Can be a Good Thing

When my husband coached our sons' hockey team, he'd often tell the players to "pick up the trash around the net". He wanted them to be alert - a loose puck was an opportunity to score. As writers, are we mindful of the opportunities around us? Or do we allow fear, procrastination, or other obstacles to keep us from expanding our horizons? We gain nothing when we don't take a shot on occasion. Wayne Gretzky's words come from years of experience. He's one of the greatest scorers of all time.

4) The Fans 

A hockey player once told me how important supportive fans are. He cited an instance where his team faced elimination in the playoffs, and cheering fans spurred them to rally and win. Even better - they went on to win the series' championship. Writers' fans, of course, are readers. While many writers would still write even if they didn't have an audience, readers can play an important role. They motivate us to educate, inform, meet a need, entertain, or fill a niche. Readers also can provide valuable feedback - whether positive, negative, or simply constructive. The satisfaction of a job well done, our success in writing something worth reading, this is what our fans offer us.
 
5) Eyes on the Goal

No matter the obstacles, whether it's defensemen hindering the offensive line, or a goalie blocking shots, a hockey player's ultimate goal is to score and win. A writer faces similar obstacles, from undeveloped skills or well meaning family (When will you quit writing and get a real job?) to rejections and bad reviews. Dedicated writers need realistic and attainable goals in order to move forward and succeed.


Even if you're not a hockey fan, these similarities can teach us to persevere, grow, and push forward. The writer's life is a journey. It's a marathon, not a sprint. And one worth investing the time and energy to reap great results.

What do you think? Do you agree with Mr. Gretzky? Are you a sports fan? 

I'm taking a break until June 26. See you soon!

Happy writing,
Karen

Monday, June 5, 2017

More Timeless Writing Advice



You'll notice a theme on timeless writing advice these last few weeks (see May 22nd's post here)...I hope you don't mind. Figured you can't go wrong with this topic, right? :) 

About 10 years ago, I asked Brian Ianieri, staff reporter from The Press of Atlantic City (in New Jersey) what advice he'd share with my teen writing students. Upon reviewing it recently, I was reminded of how it applies to writers of all ages and stages. This was his reply:

 "From my standpoint, the key to writing is rewriting.

Our first drafts are never perfect.

We often use too many words.

This is referred to as “dead wood.”

Chopping those words and using precise terms clarifies writing.

The rewriting stage offers the best opportunity for this.

Often, we view rewriting as a quick check for spelling mistakes.

Devote time to this process, and it becomes a much more important tool for writers—even for reporters on strict (and I mean strict) deadlines.

I suggest “The Elements of Style” by Strunk and White. It’s a thin, easy-to-read book that provides practical advice for sharp writing.

My only other advice is – tell your students to have fun." 


Do you agree with Brian? What advice would you offer my teen writing students? What's the best writing advice you've ever received?

Happy writing,

Karen 


Photo credit: Free Images

Monday, May 29, 2017

Happy Memorial Day






Happy Memorial Day!  


For those who have served/currently serve in the military, 

thank you for your service and sacrifice. 

My family and I appreciate it! 


Do you have any Memorial Day plans? 

What projects are you working on this summer?

Have a great week!  


Happy writing, 

Karen 



Photo credit - Free Images

Monday, May 22, 2017

5 Classic Writing Tips





 
Good writing advice is timeless, and especially treasured when it comes from a wonderful friend. Nancy Plent, one such friend, came to mind the other day. I met this inspiring lady about 28 years ago. She fostered my writing journey even before I knew I was headed that way. We met when I was searching for homeschooling info. (She was the founder of Unschoolers Network, New Jersey's only state homeschool organization at that time.)

Since we lived 2 hours apart, we got acquainted through phone calls and emails, and before long, Nancy had me writing articles for the Network newsletter and helping with parent support services. Working with her was great fun; not only did she become a good friend, she offered more opportunities to write and build other skills. The experience was priceless. 


Nancy was the one who encouraged me to self publish a booklet for homeschool parents. She offered advice on content, formatting, and marketing. I would not have taken that step had it not been for her support. The booklet eventually became my first book published by a traditional publisher. 

Her advice, back in the days prior to the social media explosion, was spot on. I believe that its classic elements still apply to most any type of writing.

Nancy's Advice

1) Be real.  Authentic, down to earth, approachable - people relate to these qualities. Nancy's friendly, encouraging, and conversational writing style was worth emulating. 

2) Give readers something they need. Content must be appealing, target the right audience, and be user-friendly. Take away value is crucial - readers must be able to apply it to real life. 


3) Use examples. Well chosen illustrations nail your point. Help readers say, "Yes, I can do this!" 


4) Use words efficiently. Well written, concise content is appealing; clutter, rambling, and disorder distracts.  


5) Employ digestible blocks of text. Large sections of text can overwhelm and potentially lose readers. Not that they must be spoon fed a few sentences at a time, but a nice balance can help readers process content. 

Even though Nancy passed away in 2011, it makes me smile to think of the influence she still has on my journey. Timeless, treasured, and worthy of passing along.

Did you have anyone influencing your writing journey before you knew you wanted to write? Do any of Nancy's tips resonate with you?


Happy writing,

Karen 


Photo credit - Free Images

Monday, May 15, 2017

A Visit with Susanne Dietze


Susanne Dietze joins us this week to share a little about her latest book, My Heart Belongs in Ruby City, Idaho. It's a delightful historical set in, you guessed it, Ruby City, Idaho. 


Welcome back, Susanne - Congratulations on your latest book!  How did this story come to life? Did it start with an image, a concept, a dilemma or something else? 

Thank you so much for having me, Karen! I love hanging out with you and your readers. 

I am a huge fan of mail order bride stories, and one day I was brainstorming ideas along those lines for a future story. As I was thinking of ideas, I imagined a road-dusty blond woman and a dark-haired fellow getting married in a rustic office, googly-eyed for each other, only to realize once the ring is on her finger that they've married the wrong people. Then I had to think about how something that ridiculous could even happen! I had fun creating a scenario where it could, but of course, the problem can't be easily remedied for the newlywed couple, Tad and Rebecca. 

It's a great idea! The twists and turns that ensue are complicated and rather humorous, for sure. Was there any special knowledge or research necessary to write the book? 

The My Heart Belongs in line of books are all set in real places, so I had a lot of research to do. Ruby City doesn't exist anymore, so to learn more about it, I ordered books, studied maps, and called the Owyhee County Historical Museum and Library. A woman there graciously answered my kooky questions. The story is set right after the Civil War, and my son, a walking talking teenage encyclopedia on the War, helped me with those aspects of the story. While doing my best to be historically accurate, I nevertheless took several liberties while writing the story, mainly with things like stagecoach routes and placing businesses where I wanted them, staffed by my characters instead of real people. Not a single person in my story ever existed.

That's fun that your son was able to aid in the research about the Civil War. Who are your main characters? Can you describe them a bit for us? 

Madge the mule isn't a main character, but I love her, so I have to give her a shout-out.

Rebecca Rice hails from Missouri. She's struggled to survive since the death of her lawman father and through the hardships of the Civil War, which is why she became a mail order bride. Her intended, Theodore Fordham, is a shopkeeper in an Idaho mining town, and he's promised her a secure life, which sounds wonderful to her! She doesn't expect love, but when she meets her Mr. Fordham at the stage coach stop, they click, and she's grateful for the man she believes God gave her as her husband.

However, Rebecca realizes something is terribly wrong after they've swapped vows and the justice of the peace calls Mr. Fordham "deputy." Turns out she's just married Thaddeus "Tad" Fordham, Theodore's cousin, a lawman who also runs the local livery with his father. Tad is supposed to marry a mail order bride named Rebekah Rhys, who's long overdue to arrive in Ruby City. Now Tad has a wife-in-name-only and a missing fiancee, not to mention an angry cousin. Things are already rocky between Tad and Theodore, and marrying Theodore's fiancee wasn't exactly the best way to work toward reconciliation!

Theodore makes a very good living off the miners in town. He's a smart businessman, but he's lonely. His relationship with Tad and Tad's dad, his only remaining family, has been strained for several months, so he's ready to start his own family. And when Rebecca finally arrives to marry him, she marries his nemesis cousin instead! He finds it impossible to find any humor in the situation, though the town finds it hilarious.

Rebecca, Tad and Theodore are all good-hearted folks, but like all of us, they have their flaws and struggle with putting things above their trust in God. Rebecca cherishes security and control, which isn't necessarily bad, but she doesn't want to relinquish control to God if it means taking a risk. Theodore holds grudges and hoards God's gifts, and Tad sometimes charges into things without looking at the whole picture. Like a lot of men, he wants to jump in and fix things, when maybe it would be more helpful if he just listened. 



 

i enjoyed all the characters, including Madge. I liked Ulysses too (he's not pictured). But if I had to choose, Rebecca and Tad were my favorites. Were any of these characters challenging to create?

In all honesty, the characters were some of the most enjoyable to write that I'd ever had the privilege to spend time with. I had a blast with the secondary characters, some of whom are "characters" in every sense of the word! The most challenging character for me to write, I suppose, was Mr. Wrong (I won't reveal his identity here, but I will say the book is not a love triangle. It should be pretty evident to the reader who Rebecca ends up with at the end.) Mr. Wrong isn't a villain; he's just not Mr. Right. All the characters have faults and quirks, but Mr. Wrong's attitudes and behaviors needed to be such that he was clearly not a good fit for Rebecca. At the same time, I didn't want the reader to loathe him, because Rebecca certainly doesn't loathe him. She cares about him. No matter who she marries, the other man will be part of her family forever. 

I can see where it would be a lot to keep track of as you wrote and the story unfolded. The result is a lovely and entertaining story. Thanks so much for visiting with us this week. Wishing you continued success with your writing! :) 

Thank you, Karen!


My Review of My Heart Belongs in Ruby City, Idaho

I loved this book! Susanne Dietze knows how to tell a story filled to the brim with adventure, mystery, and yes, even a good dose of romance. This happily-ever-after tale will warm your heart while providing an entertaining ride through the old west. A marriage mix-up - that's what faces mail order bride Rebecca Rice upon arriving in Ruby City, Idaho. Things couldn't get much more tangled up in the matrimonial department for Rebecca and her real intended husband, Theodore. Accidentally marrying Theodore's cousin Tad gives her a rocky start to the quiet life she'd expected. But as in real life, things have a way of sorting themselves out, and this story, I'm happy to report, ends well. Susanne's characters, so caught up in doing the "right" thing, miss what's happening right under their noses. This book is the total package - great characters, fun and engaging plot, and a happy balance of romance and history. Looking forward to reading more of Susanne's stories soon. :)


Find Susanne

Website 
Books 
Blog
Facebook


What are you reading this week? Do you enjoy historical fiction?

Happy reading and writing,

Karen





Monday, May 8, 2017

Meet the Blogger with Jan Cline





I've known Jan Cline since my early blogging days. Her blog is a lovely source of wisdom and encouragement. She is a kind and dedicated writer whose talents are far reaching. Jan's organized writer's conferences, is a popular speaker, and has published at least a half dozen books, including A Heart Out of Hiding, Simple Devotion, and The Emancipated Heart.

 

Welcome Jan! It's great to have you visit. Tell us, why did you start blogging? How long have you had your blog?


I started blogging several years ago as an extension of my passion for writing. Like many bloggers, I had a lot of ideas rolling around in my head, subjects I thought would be nice to connect with other people on. I also liked the idea of actually getting my writing out there for others to read and give me feedback. My current blog I have had for about five years. It has changed and morphed over those years as I change and pursue my writing career.


I think we've all changed our blog focus at some point, even in small ways. What is your blog about?


I have been told by some blogging experts that I should be blogging in accordance with what I write about in my books. But since I never have been good at doing what I’m told…I write about what is on my heart at the time. Sometimes I blog frequently and then I will go through a “dry spell” with post being less often. I think it’s important to blog about what’s important to you, and that may encompass many diverse topics.



That's good advice, and apparently is working well for you. :) What benefits have you gained through blogging?


Of course connecting with readers and receiving encouragement has been a great joy. I think blogging also sharpens my writing skills. I also have learned so much by checking out the blogs of my friends and acquaintances. There are so many great bloggers out there with fascinating topics and insights. There have been many times when I have passed along a link to a particularly good post to someone I know would enjoy it or be blessed by it.  


The blogging community is wonderful, isn't it? I doubt we'd have met without it - so I'm very grateful! What are you working on now?



As for blog posts, I have hopes of putting together a series on how history, mostly our family history, affects us, and how we can preserve our family history. I think it would be fun for my readers to know some of the things that have happened to me as I did research for a novel I’m writing based on a time in my mom’s life. I wish so much that I had gleaned more information from her while she was alive. I hope my readers might benefit from my experience. 



I released my first published novel, Emancipated Heart, in March of 2016 – a story of a family living in a Japanese American internment camp during WW2. It’s available on Amazon. A friend of mine designed the book cover and I was so pleased with how it turned out. My daughter-in-law now does book covers and she will likely do my upcoming projects. I’m currently working on a three book series starting with a 1930s women’s fiction, moving through WW2 with the story about my mom that I mentioned above.





It looks wonderful. Love the cover. I added it to my wish list. :) The series sounds interesting too. Please keep us posted. What might people be surprised to learn about you?


That I’m a great-grandmother. Very proud of that!


I'd never have guessed that. Congratulations! What advice would you share with a new blogger?


I’m sure they have heard lots advice on “write what you know”. I disagree with that philosophy. I believe in stretching your wings and exploration of topics that interest you but you might not know much about. I suppose that comes from my love of research, but sticking with only what you know doesn’t give you the opportunity to grow and share more with your readers.


That's good advice. There's much potential to learn and grow as writers. Thank you for visiting with us this week. Wishing you blessings galore, writing and otherwise!

Thank you!


More About Jan


Jan is an author, speaker, and former writer’s conference director. She speaks at women’s groups and writer’s groups and conferences in the region. She published her first novel in 2016, a historical/women’s fiction set in a Japanese American internment camp during WWII. She is currently working on another novel, the first in a series, set in the depression era during America’s Dust Bowl devastation. Jan is the mother of 3 and grandmother to 8. She loves teaching, crafting, golf, and remodeling their cabin on a lake in Idaho. 


Find Jan

Twitter
Her Books
Website
Facebook

What are you reading and writing this week? Do you have any questions for Jan? 

Happy writing,
Karen 



Photo credit: Free Images