Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Jan 2022: Of This and That . . .

Just exactly one year ago, relatively early in the days of Covid, Spokane was hit with a wind storm. Some 55,000 people were without power.  Our electricity was restored within 4 hours, but not for many others. Our daughter, son-in-law and the two grands stayed just overnight with us in our little downsized apartment. We set up makeshift beds and chattered away the night, grateful to be together.

Progress on Writing: I'm in that curious stage when Scattered Stones is nearly finished. Just deep revisions of two chapters and the story's ending tickle my imagination. I'm asking what would make someone walk away from a job when the rest of the family is depending on you? 

In the 1840s, laborers working the new railways faced uncertain pay, not enough food, physically demanding work, and sometimes death. Approximately 7 men died for every mile of track laid. Michael, my protag's brother, tells me that there comes a day when enough is enough. When it's time to leave all he knows to dream about what's possible tomorrow. Because today is without hope. Until he takes that first step to walk toward new possibilities.

I'm guessing his experience resonates with me partly because we are stronger than we know. Despite the continued cases of Covid, we have hope. We are adapting, finding strength in our families and friendships, and even being nurtured by Zoom conferences! Thank you, Linda Bond of the Inland Northwest Writer's Group!

Other progress: Yes, I finally organized my binder with marketing strategies and inspiration, a step toward building new connections with readers. And took the plunge (thank you, Liesbet Collaert, author of Plunge: One Woman's Pursuit of a Life Less Ordinary, a travel memoir) to run a promotion with The Fussy Librarian, who added my book to their newsletter out to about 400,000 readers. The results? 441 downloads of The Seventh Tapestry: An Art Crime Mystery, and reviews jumped up to 28. I appreciate each review that tells me readers are reading my stories and letting me know what they think! 

Note: If you read a book that you appreciate, consider leaving a review on Amazon or GoodReads. Your review -- even short -- can create a ripple effect to let others know about a book you've enjoyed.

About Quilting: Finished three quilts this month, one a quillow for a friend, warmth for the winter months, and two for the grands. One features cats and books for the seven-year-old, and the other the planets for the nine-year-old. I can't wait to see their reactions this Saturday! Another comfort quilt is pinned and ready for quilting. Here's the quillow!

PS A quillow is a curious kind of large lap quilt that can be folded up into a pillow when not in use. And when you open the quilt, you can tuck your feet right in that pillow pocket to stay warm. Here's a picture of the quillow folded into a pillow, with a nice little kitty to hearten my friend on these cold winter days.

What's next? Tune in next Wednesday for a little more of Shannon Alexander's Author Interview and writing journey to celebrate her release of The Business of Short Stories on February 1. We'll be in Tucson, enjoying 70F weather, maybe sitting outside on the patio, just taking in a view of palm trees, far from the slowly melting snow here in Spokane, where most nights dip down to 20-25F. For each day is a gift to cherish, cold or not. 

Stay well, creative, and connected to those you love. See you next Wednesday.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

2022: Too late for setting goals?

Am I the only one who feels like our world has changed -- and keeps right on changing? If I'm trying to set goals for 2022 (see below for my best efforts), why does it seem like I should only plan in 6-month increments? That the very floor beneath my feet may just shift again?

Will this be the year when we can meet with others without worrying about masks, vaccines, and boosters? My research for my current writing project takes me to the 1840s when many people didn't have jobs or homes or enough to eat. So I am grateful even as I know others face down these challenges still, every day.

With hope and commitment, here are my goals for 2022:

Writing. Finish Scattered Stones (final revisions now underway!). Begin research for book 2 in the art crimes series. Write 2-4 short stories. Write weekly in my blog, including a monthly Author Interview. Participate in two wonderful writing communities: the Insecure Writer's Support Group and A Round of Words in 80 Days. Meet locally with my small writer's group when possible. Write a poem a day for April's National Poetry Challenge. Work on that slow-growing family history (with photos). Evaluate progress monthly.

Marketing. Develop a feasible plan I can follow consistently to build connections with readers and build my audience. Evaluate monthly.

Quilting. Finish at least 6 comfort quilts by year end. Finish two quilts (nearly done) for my grandkids. Begin creating Jason Yenter's beautiful quilt, Enchanted Garden. Maybe restore my grandmother's quilt (see right) that she sewed in the 1950s and that I rescued from a very sweet German shepherd.

And that's all, folks. A simple list that will keep me busy! How about you? What are your goals for 2022? Yes, I'm taking names for future Author Interviews if you are interested. And, if you'd like an ARC (advance review copy) of Scattered Stones, please let me know. Just drop me an e-mail.

Meanwhile, may we all have a very good 2022!

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Author Interview: Shannon Alexander

Have you experienced the thrill of creating a short story?

This month’s Author Interview brings a special delight: Shannon Alexander talks about her love of short story writing – and what led her to write her new book, The Business of Writing Short Stories, a step-by-step guide that takes us through the entire process of writing, submitting, publishing, and marketing.

My own writing career began with a short story, so Shannon’s comments resonate with me – and I think they will inspire you!

Shannon, what led you to write The Business of Short Stories?

I've spent years watching writers think they have one path to success. A single journey: novels. That's simply not true. Yet I see a lot of curiosity about short stories. When I do a workshop, there's always a good showing. That means people want to try it out, to dabble, to learn. And I love talking about short stories and encouraging others to write them and to experiment with something different. A lot of people equate something like a chapter of a novel to being a short story, which also isn't true. In fact, I've seen that repeatedly when judging the short story category of writing contests. People send in a chapter of their novel and think they've submitted a short story. Those are two completely different things, and no one is fooling a judge with a chapter.

I want people to play in the sandbox with me. I want them to learn and see how wonderful the short story world can be. It's addictive in a way, the ups and downs. It moves significantly faster than the novel world, so there are more disappointments, but also more triumphs. Each publication is a world all its own, with a new experience for each story. It's fascinating, it's fast paced (comparatively), and it's worth trying out.

But I also wanted to write my book so people could get to the meatier parts a little earlier without having to learn everything on their own. Maybe others can have a quicker path than I did. Maybe others can make fewer mistakes. That, right there, is worth it. It can be hard to find short story resources, especially when compared to the sheer volume of aids for novel writers. I wanted to remedy that.

Most writers I know struggle to find a balance between writing and those three key areas your book covers -- submitting, publishing, and marketing. It's pretty easy for writers (especially beginning writers) to be intimidated and/or overwhelmed by identifying and choosing the next best step in any of these categories. What do you recommend writers should start with -- and why?

The writing is always going to be the most important part. If someone isn't writing, there's nothing to submit, nothing to publish, and nothing to market. We're creatives. We're meant to create, and that's where we soar. But in many ways, that's the part that comes easiest to us. Which is why my focus in the book is less on writing the story and more on everything that follows. My hope is that this allows writers to do their own thing with their writing and to then have a guide for how to submit, what matters about publishing, and how to market – as a bit of a shortcut. After all, the writing is the truly individual part, what each writer has to be true to. 

If you write when you're inspired (or when you're able), you're going to get words on paper. It doesn't matter how fast or slow you are. You go at your own pace. You should never compare that to someone else. As you're getting those words down and finishing those stories, you can set aside a block of time, preferably when you're not feeling the pull to write, to do all the other things. I can be doing other things when I'm submitting and marketing, but not so much while I'm writing. So I save my submitting and marketing efforts for when I'm relaxing in front of the TV. Others set aside a specific day of the week or a particular portion of the month. Each person has to figure out what breakdown works best for them, but for me, if I'm not writing when I have the urge to do it, it's going to stymie anything else I try to do instead, because I won't be invested in it, and my mind will be drifting back to what I want to write.

Short version: writers write. And then we muddle through the rest of it when we're able. Just like an artist putting paint on a canvas, there's more to do when the paint dries. We're not happy about having to do it, but as long as we fit it in around the edges, we can make a go of it. Whether that means playing it by ear and doing the other things when a chance presents itself or scheduling blocks of time, it does need to be done, but it can't take the focus away from the writing.

Thank you, Shannon, for talking with us today. Your comments make me want to start short story writing – as soon as I finish revisions on my latest novel, Scattered Stones, scheduled to be completed later this spring!

If you found Shannon’s discussion inspirational, you can preorder her e-book now.  Here are the details:

The Business of Short Stories: Writing, Submitting, Publishing, and Marketing by Shannon Lawrence.

ISBN: 978-1-7320314-5-6  Release Date: February 1, 2022

Book Description: Whether you're looking to add short stories to your repertoire as a solo pursuit or in addition to novel writing, The Business of Short Stories covers every aspect from writing to marketing. Learn the dynamics of short story writing, where to focus your editing efforts, how and where to submit, how to handle acceptances and rejections, what to do with reprints, and how to market yourself and your stories online and in person. 

The information in The Business of Short Stories has been distilled from over a decade of short story publishing experience so you don't have to learn the hard way. You'll find information on submission formatting, cover letters, querying a collection, sending proposals to writing events, how to create a website, SEO, social media, and so much more. This is an invaluable resource for short story writers. There's never been a better time to get into short stories!

About the Author: Shannon Lawrence has made a career of short stories, with over a decade of experience and more than fifty short stories published in magazines and anthologies. In addition, she's released three horror short story collections with a mix of new and previously published stories. Her true crime podcast Mysteries, Monsters, & Mayhem is going into its third season.

Podcast Website:

Please stop back by on Shannon’s launch date, February 1, for part 2 of her author interview, a more personal look at how she came to write short stories!

And thank you for reading Shannon’s interview. Have you written short stories. How was that experience for you?

Wednesday, January 05, 2022

IWSG: Ah, regrets . . . I have not these . . .

Today, or should I say tonight, is the first Wednesday of 2022. What a world of promise in this new year ahead. Don't we all hope for an end to Covid-related drama?

Today is also Insecure Writer's Support Group (IWSG) day. Here is our opportunity -- as writers -- to share our thoughts, struggles, and dreams, perhaps to encourage ourselves as much as we wish to encourage others!

Now for this month's question from IWSG: What's the one thing about your writing career you regret the most? Were you able to overcome it?

Thanks for the easy question this month, IWSG! 

Even as a teenager, I wrote. Poetry. Stories. For a very long time, my biggest regret was that I didn't start writing seriously sooner. Becoming a writer always seemed just a little outside of what was possible. I dreamed of 'some day' instead. Worked my way through school. Became a teacher. Married my dear husband. Our daughter, her DH, and two grands came along to enrich our lives. 

And then I retired! Was that only 15 years ago? Almost immediately, I began to write those stories that once I only dreamed of. Writing led to research into the 19th Century, travel to Scotland (just a beginning), and more writing. Today, I feel enriched by the whole writing process -- and by connecting with readers and other writers. 

Maybe everything that came before led me to this: Nearly every morning begins with settling down at my computer and writing my stories. Another novel is nearly complete, and a new story (planning, researching, drafting level) awaits. Regrets? Truly, not a one. How about you?

Why not join in with a monthly blog post for the Insecure Writer's Support Group? You could answer this month's question, go visit 10-12 other folks (see the links HERE), and celebrate your own writing progress! Why not visit our co-hosts for this month: Erika Beebe, Olga Godim, Sandra Cox, Sarah Foster, and Chemist Ken!

As our Ninja leader, Alex J. Cavanaugh says, Let's rock the neurotic writing world!

 And May 2022 be very good to you.