Okay, so it's not really mid-winter. Not here in Minnesota, where winter doesn't end until July. Doesn't matter. I'm done with snow. So, what better way to live in denial and focus on something other than cold and ice than doing a giveaway?
Answer: There is no better way.
So here's your chance to win a signed copy of one of my books.
(and if contests aren't your thing, then just pop over to Amazon and cough up $0.79 for a screaming hot deal on THE CAPTIVE HEART)
There's a trendy concept being passed around. I mean besides the throw-it-all-out-and-live-simply concept. I've got too many books that I don't want to part with to even consider that.
I'm talking about "One Word." Ever heard of it? It's kind of like a super-short New Year's resolution, or an abbreviated mission statement for the year. The idea started several years back with the book My One Word: Change Your Life With Just One Word by Mike Ashcraft and Rachel Olsen.
Here's how it works . . .
You brainstorm and choose one word that will be your focus for the next twelve months. It could be anything from encourage, to pursue, to believe. The blurb for the book is:
The concept of My One Word is simple. Lose the long list of resolutions―all your sweeping promises to change―and do something about one thing this year instead of nothing about everything. Choose just one word that represents what you most hope God will do in you, and focus on it for an entire year. This single act will force clarity and concentrate your efforts. Growth and change will result.
This idea is one worth pondering. Sharpening your focus across all the areas of your life can't help but keep you moving in a positive direction (if you choose a positive word, that is). As a writer, teacher, wife, mother, daughter, believer, sinner, craze-o-maniac choc-o-holic, my word for the year is going to be TRY.
It's cold. The days are short. Your pants dig in at the waistband from the pounds you gained over the holidays. Yes, indeedy. The January blahs are here. How are you going to stay motivated to pump out some writing?
Never fear, I've got a few words of encouragement for you . . .
You can do this. It doesn't need to be perfect. It just needs to be.
Don't set out to write an epic bestseller. Set out to write. Period.
Even a little writing is better than no writing.
Get your words out of the way as soon in the day as possible so no one or nothing gets in the way of your progress.
And if that's not enough to keep you going, here are a few sites for you to visit for even more inspiration.
Hey, newbie writer. I see you there, curled up in the corner, cowering and whimpering from a doubt whoopin'. You think just because you didn't land an agent, or sign a contract, or whatever it was that kicked your heinie that you are not a for-real writer. It's also your belief that once you do accomplish those items, not only will you be legit, you'll never have to weep in that corner again.
Uhh . . . nope. Sorry to rain on your pity-parade, l'il pardner, but that just ain't so. You will always feel doubt.
And that is a very good thing.
Why? Several reasons:
Doubt keeps you from puffing up with pride.
Doubt forces you to keep trying harder.
Your doubt gives hope to others, because if you can deal with it in a constructive fashion, it's a model for them to be able to deal with it.
Doubt makes you question things, like why you're writing, which is always a good core value to reevaluate.
The pain of doubt often prods you to set new goals because it's a motivator.
I know lots of authors, big names, that still deal with doubt even though fame has knocked on their door. How do they deal with it? How should any of us deal with it? There are ways besides rolling over in defeat.
5 Ways to Deal with Doubt
1. Focus on the positive.
Yeah. I know. This sounds like some lame-oh Sally Sunshine type of platitude. The thing is, though, that it really works. What you allow your thoughts to dwell on directly effects your mental health. There is always something good in your life, I don't care how awful you have it. Did the sun rise today? Are you breathing? Start there and work your way up to acknowledging bigger blessings.
2. Stop comparing.
Most often the reason you (or I) feel like a loser is because we're comparing ourselves to others. Stop it. Don't make me come over there. Your writing is not at the same stage of the journey as someone else's -- and never will be. Your stories will sound like you, not Superstar New York Times Whoever. You are not meant to write like them because you are not them. Write like you because no one else can.
3. Take a break.
Sometimes a doubt fest happens because you're burnt out. Give yourself some time and space to do other things. Experience life and love and sunshiney days. Stepping back has a way of giving you a different perspective.
4. Seek out community.
The flip side of misery loving company is that there is safety in numbers. Other writers have and are going through the same thing as you. There is counsel and comfort in the artist community. Don't shut yourself off.
5. Take baby steps.
When doubt beats you over the head and you're laying on the floor bleeding, it's not so easy to get back into the swing of things. Set small goals then reward yourself for making those goals. And what if you don't? Make the goals easier. It's okay. All you need to do is put one foot forward today. Tomorrow you can worry about another step.
You are not alone. Everyone deals with self-doubt and always will. It's part of the human condition. And remember, when all else fails, reach for the chocolate.
Also remember that this is the kick-off week for the new Writer Off the Leash schedule. I'll be posting Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
This coming year I'll be writing more than ever . . . which means something's got to give. Don't panic. I'm not ditching Writer Off the Leash. I am, however, going to be writing fewer posts. Instead of posting every weekday, I'm slacking down to 3 times a week. Monday, Wednesday and Friday will be post days. But if that's not enough words for your daily consumption, there will be books galore to keep you entertained.
COMING SOON TO BOOKSHELVES NEAR YOU
Of Rags and Riches Romance Collection Pre-order Now
Release Date: July 2017
Journey along in nine historical romances with those who lives are transformed by the opulence, growth, and great changes taking place in America’s Gilded Age. Nine couples meet during these exhilarating times and work to build a future together through fighting for social reform, celebrating new opportunities for leisure activities, taking advantage of economic growth and new inventions, and more.
My story in this collection is A House of Secrets. Here's a blurb: Ladies Aide Chairman, AMANDA CARSTON, resolves to clean up St. Paul’s ramshackle housing, determining to renovate the worst of the worst: a “haunted” house, but when she enlists the aide of her fiance, city attorney JOSEPH BLAKE, they uncover secrets neither expects—which may mean the end of their relationship . . . or their lives.
This is the first in a series of 3 tales in the Once Upon a Dickens Christmas trilogy. Here is a blurb:
Imprisoned unjustly, BENJAMIN LANE wants nothing more than freedom and a second chance to claim the woman he loves—but how can CLARA CHAPMAN possibly believe in the man who stole her family’s fortune and abandoned her at the altar? Brought together under mysterious circumstances for the Twelve Days of Christmas, each discovers that what they've been striving for isn't what ultimately matters . . . and what matters most is love.
The Regency Brides Collection
Release Date: November 2017
Love Regency? Love some awesome authors? I am honored to be in this collection. My is The Gentleman Smuggler's Lady. Here's a blurb: When a prim and proper governess is called home to her ailing father's bedside, her ship is ravaged by smugglers and her heart captured by the leader of them all -- the local lord of the manor. It's within her power to reveal the gentleman's secret . . . and within his to cast her out of town.
COMING OUT OF MY HEAD AND ONTO MY COMPUTER The Innkeeper's Daughter
A full-length novel --and-- a sequel of sorts to Brentwood's Ward (yes, you'll hear snippets of news about Emily and Nicholas). You've also already met the hero, Alexander Moore, in Brentwood's Ward because he's one of Brentwood's sidekicks. Not sure when this one will release, but the manuscript is due in by the end of June. Here's a blurb:
Honorable ALEXANDER MOORE goes undercover as a rogue gentleman to expose a traitorous plot against the king—and a master he is with his disguise, for JOHANNA LANGLEY believes him to be quite the cad. But when Johanna is swept up in the intrigue, Alex must choose between his mission and the woman he’s come to love.
The Captured Bride
This one is a full-length novel that may or may not be part of a series (it's not actually contracted yet) but whether or not it is, this story simply must be written. Theoretically it's due by November. Here's a blurb: A war-torn countryside is no place for a lady—but Mercy Lytton is a lady like none other. Raised amongst the Mohawks, she straddles two cultures, yet each are united in one cause . . . to defeat the French. Born with a rare gift of unusually keen eyesight, she is chosen as a scout to accompany a team of men on a dangerous mission. Yet it is not her life that is threatened. It is her heart.
Condemned as a traitor, Elias Dubois faces the gallows. At the last minute, he’s offered his freedom if he consents to accompany a stolen shipment of French gold to a nearby fort—but he’s the one they stole it from in the first place. It turns out that the real thief is the beguiling woman, Mercy Lytton, for she steals his every waking thought.
Can love survive divided loyalties in a backcountry wilderness?
A Teardrop for Christmas
This is the 2nd in the Once Upon a Dickens Christmas series. I'll have it finished by the end of the year for a release date of the following September (2018). I'm not entirely thrilled with the title, so that will likely change. But in the mean time, here's a blurb: Pleasure seeker WILLIAM BARLOW needs a wife immediately to gain his uncle’s inheritance, and MINA SCOTT is just the girl to make him look respectable—too bad she turns him down. Ought he give her a second chance?
Whew! There you have it. That ought to keep me and you ought of trouble for the rest of the year, eh?
When I'm first introduced to people and they find out I'm an author -- and a fiction one at that -- I invariably get one of two responses . . .
Either an opportunistic quirk of the brow which is quickly followed by, "What a coincidence. I'm a writer too. Can you help me get published?"
Or more commonly I get "The Look." You know the one. The curled upper lip. A slight rearing back of the head. Sometimes a stifled gasp as if breathing the same air as me might infect the listener with some dread disease. This is most often followed by an, "Oh," and then the topic is switched at lightning speed to something more important. Like the volatility of cattle futures. Why is that?
Because there are judgmental people out there who think writing fiction is a complete waste of a life.
I would argue that it is not, for many, many reasons. Here are four:
1. Writing fiction connects the author to the Creator in a way that is sacred.
Granted, this could be construed as kind of nebulous, but for writers who work out their theology via the medium of story, it's a very tangible reason. Sometimes it takes make-believe to understand a world that often makes no sense whatsoever. There is something deeply spiritual about language, for it is the way we connect with the Creator of that language. In this sense, for some, writing fiction is an act of worship.
2. Fiction communicates truth in a non-threatening format.
No one likes to be preached at. It's uncomfortable at best. But who doesn't turn their head to listen to a tale that captures their imagination? Fiction is a great way to get into someone's brain with their permission and possibly expand or change their mind on wrong thinking.
3. It makes the author a better person.
Writers must meditate. Calm down. I'm not talking monotone chanting while sitting in a lotus position. Considering how to take complex moral issues and break them down into bite-size story nuggets uses a lot of thought. It's that thought, that consideration, that changes an author himself.
4. It makes the reader a better person.
There are studies galore on how reading fiction affects the brain of a reader--in good ways. It creates a compassion, an empathy toward the characters, which in turn transfers over to real life in small but very good ways. Here is just one of them.
Jesus was the greatest storyteller of all, often teaching with fictional stories. Would you say he wasted his life?
I hear voices. Loud. Incessant. And very real. Which basically gives me
two options: choke back massive amounts of Prozac or write fiction. I chose the
latter. Way cheaper. I've been writing since I discovered blank wall space and
Crayolas. I seek to glorify God in all that I write...except for that graffiti
phase I went through as a teenager. Oops. Did I say that out loud?