All Good Things

snowI’ve started a Good Things Jar this year and thought I’d pass the idea on. The idea came from my friend Milka. When she mentioned it on her blog a few years ago, I thought it would be a lot of fun but didn’t get around to doing it. Now that so much in the news is focused on the negative, it seemed to be a good year to start.

The idea is that you designate an empty jar as the Good Things Jar. You put it out somewhere in the house. Then whenever a good thing happens, you write it on a piece of paper and put it in the jar. At the end of the year, you sit down with family or friends and read through all the pieces of paper as a way of celebrating the past year.

It’ll be interesting to see if there will be good things in there that are forgotten by the end of the year. Who knows, maybe doing this will get anyone who tries it to get out there and do good things more often.

snowSo far one of the good things revolved around a snowstorm that happened in early January. After shoveling the driveway for a while, we somehow still had the energy to go cross-country skiing. The snow was perfectly slippery for gliding adventures around the park.

There hasn’t been snow here since then, but we’re expecting six to twelve inches tomorrow. Snow always means the possibility of more time for reading and writing. So I’m looking forward to more good things…

Are you doing a Good Things Jar this year or something like it? Do you have any suggestions for snowbound reading?

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NanoWriMo Insanity and a Giveaway

cape-cod-oceanI’m visiting Jill Weatherholt today to talk about the writing process for Ocean Echoes and we’ll be doing a giveaway over there. The picture above has nothing to do with that, unless the boardwalk could take us from Cape Cod to North Carolina, but it’s probably easier to go there virtually.

It’s always fun to visit Jill because her posts remind me of all the good that can be found in everything. One of her posts about childhood even made me remember the fun of Pop Rocks. If you’re not familiar with her blog, make sure to follow for inspirational, fun, and nostalgic posts. I always leave there with a smile.

She’s participated in the NanoWriMo insanity a few times now, including the one that just ended. Her debut novel, Second Chance Romance is scheduled to be released by Harlequin in February 2017.

So, I’ll close comments over here and will hope to see you over there for a chat and a giveaway…

Five Things I Learned from My Editor by K.C. Tansley

The-Girl-Who-Ignored-Ghosts11I’m honored to take part in the blog tour for The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts, a best selling young adult novel combining mystery, romance, ghosts, and time travel. If that sounds as good to you as it does to me, click on the cover to find out more about this exciting new novel.

Thank you K.C. Tansley for stopping by to share what you’ve learned on your publishing journey.

Five Things I Learned from My Editor
by K.C. Tansley 

1) Nothing is final until the book is actually in production

You will tear your book apart during editorial revisions. Major plot points will change. Entire chapters will go away. Scenes you spent years revising and polishing will get cut. You’ll move into line edits and think this is all about polishing and fine tuning, but some new things will still be laid down and old things will still be tinkered with. That’s the nature of revisions. Anything and everything can change right up until the final deadline.

2) What you thought was essential to the story may not be needed

There are so many things you needed to know to write the book. Unfortunately, you may have taken up valuable space on the page figuring them out. Sometimes scenes aren’t needed in the book. They might be useful to you as the author, but if they don’t advance the plot and develop the characters, they probably need to be cut. Even if they survived several rounds of revisions, if they interrupt the reader’s flow or the focus of the story, they should be cut.

3) You have to trust the people you work with

Your editor wants to make your book better. Believe that and it’s easier to swallow all the feedback. Especially when she asks you to rework the first 100 pages. It hurts. Your pride smarts. Your ego aches. Being critiqued is never easy. But know that everything she says comes from a place of wanting to get your book to readers and wanting them to have the best reading experience they can. Editors care about their books and their authors. Trust yours.

4) There are five stages of grief to an editorial letter

When you receive it, politely thank your editor so she knows you received it and let her know you plan to review it and respond with questions within five days. Then take three to five days and process it.

You need to privately go through the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. And by privately, I mean offline. Complain to your friends on the phone. Talk to your loved ones over dinner. Rally against it all verbally to your nearest and dearest. But never ever publicly or in writing. Because by day five you will see that most of your editor’s points are valid. And you will be so grateful to have her guiding you through this process. Feedback is always hard to process. Give yourself the time and space to do it.

5) Publishing is a tremendous amount of hurry up and wait

If you’re a planner, you will go nuts. Things are dropped on you with no warning and then (bam) the contract deadline ticks down on due dates. Editorial revisions in two months. Line edits in two weeks. It’s very hard to live your life when you can’t manage your work queue. My editor was great about giving me a heads up whenever she could. In return, I always stuck to my deadlines and stayed in touch with her. Communication is a two-way street. When you want someone to communicate, you have to make sure you’re giving that person information too.

About the Book: In The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts, prep school junior Kat Preston accidentally time travels to 1886 Connecticut, where she must share a body with a rebellious Victorian lady, prevent a gruesome wedding night murder, disprove a deadly family curse, and find a way back to her own time.

Bio: K.C. Tansley lives with her warrior lapdog, Emerson, on a hill somewhere in Connecticut. She tends to believe in the unbelievables—spells, ghosts, time travel—and writes about them. Never one to say no to a road trip, she’s climbed the Great Wall twice, hopped on the Sound of Music tour in Salzburg, and danced the night away in the dunes of Cape Hatteras. She loves the ocean and hates the sun, which makes for interesting beach days. The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts is the first book in her YA time-travel murder mystery series. As Kourtney Heintz, she also writes award winning cross-genre fiction for adults.

Social Media

K.C. Tansley WebsiteBlog / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads

Blog Tour Stops

To learn more about K.C. Tansley and The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts, take a look at these blogs and articles:

“Five Ghostly Discoveries” featured on J.M. McDowell’s blog.

“Five Things From My Life That Trickled Into My World Building” featured on Fresh Fiction.

“Spell Casting and Ghosts: Researching The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts” on Harvesting Hecate.

“Five Things You Didn’t Know About Kat Preston” on Jill Weatherholt’s blog.

“Trope Twisting: Something Familiar But Different” on Small Press Reviews.

“Why I Wrote a Time Travel Novel” on Authors to Watch.

“Five Reasons The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts Should Make Your Summer Reading List” is scheduled to be published on 4 AM Writer’s blog this Saturday.

Summer Reading Giveaway

beach reading spotIt’s about time for some beach or patio reading in the sun. I’m looking forward to diving into these books almost as much as the ocean: The Shell Collector (because Letizia reminded me of that one), Slaughterhouse Five (after reading this review by Ste J), Tinkers (because of reviews from Goodreads friends), All the Light We Cannot See, and a million others.

I’m grateful for the friends I’ve found and I’d like to thank everyone for taking the time to stop by and visit. So to celebrate you and the summer reading list, it’s time to do another giveaway. If you comment on this post by Wednesday, June 24, your comment will put you in the running for a $25 Amazon gift card. The winner will be announced here on Thursday.

In case you’re hunting around for a few more beach or fireside reads, take a look at these books written by blogging friends. Just click on the book cover for a description of each:

seneca-scourgeeverything theory      sixtraincover

btsg-sidebar-cover     nola-fran-evie-cover-large     enb_sidebar_cover

     2-SecretKeepers_ebookRGB_2     3-HandsOfMercy_ebookRGB_2

tgwig     the_artemis_effect    comebacktome-amazon51vfLeJncVL     lauren     lauren2

licia    11question     soul

Books are by: Britt Skrabanek, Carrie RubinDianne Gray, Kourtney Heintz, Charissa StastnyKasia James, Coleen PatrickLauren Scott, K.C. Tansley, and my friend from UMass Amherst Licia Sorgi.

There’s also a Goodreads giveaway going on for K.C. Tansley’s The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts. And don’t forget to nominate Eating Bull on Kindle Scout within the next four days for the chance to win a free e-book.

What’s on your summer (or winter fireside) reading list?

Climbing Up a Sleeping Bear

Sleeping Bear Dunes

Tackling the dune climb at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore feels like mountain climbing. But these mountains made of sand are tricky. With every step up, climbers sink back down again by almost the same distance.

Sleeping Bear Dune ClimbersBecause of this, it takes a while to climb up the 100-foot bear but it’s worth it for the views of Lake Michigan and the surrounding sand dunes. When it’s time to go Sleeping Bear Dune Climbershome, another reward is to bounce or roll down the dune to the ground below.

The highest point in the park is 450 feet straight up from Lake Michigan. Anyone attempting to climb that dune might be forced into crawling, but that’s forgotten once the top is reached. From there, it’s easy to see why Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore was named the “Most Beautiful Place in America” on ABC’s Good Morning America.

According to the National Park Service, the Chippewa Indians once used the bear-shaped dune as a landmark. The bear rose about two thousand years ago and has seen its share of changes. It no longer looks like a bear. In the late 1800s, it was covered with trees and shrubs, giving it a dark shaggy appearance. For now, the bear has gone into hibernation and his sand dune looks more like a cave. With all the wind-swept changes, the bear may rise again or disappear.

Sleeping Bear Dune Lookout

Because these dunes feel so much like mountains, I was surprised to learn that Adelie from Artfully Aspiring had gone sledding there. I’ve been known for a few sledding feats, including barreling right into a raging polluted river, but I don’t think I’d be brave enough to sled down steep mountain dunes like these. Though you never know. If I find myself there again when there’s enough snow, I might be tempted.

Instead of sledding there, as a teenager I climbed up and bounced down the dunes while listening to Pink Floyd’s “The Dark Side of the Moon.”

Sleeping Bear Dunes View

Do you have a favorite National Park memory?

Watching a Prompt and a Parrot Come to Life

parrotJust a quick note to let everyone know about Minuscule Moments of Inspiration. In a recent post, Kath Unsworth challenged readers to come up with a children’s book prompt. Her daughter chose my silly prompt of a parrot that gets into trouble for repeating things.

Take a look at the illustration and story

I love how this talented writer, artist, and friend came up with such a fun scenario while showing her daughter how true it is that stories are everywhere.

Loving Life and Visiting Friends

flowerThere are so many things to love about life that it can be overwhelming when we stop to think about it.

When Britt Skrabanek asked me to be a life enthusiast, my mind whirled with all the possibilities. Britt is one of those easy to love people and her Life Enthusiast series reminds us of all there is to love. If you’re up for an adventure, let’s hop on over to Britt’s site for my Life Enthusiast guest post. While you’re there, I highly recommend following Britt if you haven’t already. Her posts always make me smile. I’ll close comments here and will hope to see you there for some fun while we stop to inhale the flowers.

Collaboration: Pavement and Paint

Today I’m collaborating with a wonderful photographer from Ireland: Meticulous Mick. He sent this image along with the challenge of putting words to it. The photo is filled with so much feeling that I’m not sure I can do it justice but here are a few thoughts that came from staring at it:

photo by John Grant/Meticulous Mick

plodding pounding
searching
for something
other than
pavement
and paint

there are doors
that could lead
away
but they are always
closed
so I keep
plodding pounding
searching

I don’t even try
to open the doors
anymore
nothing can lead me away
nothing
but my own mind

For more Ireland scenes and photos filled with feeling, visit Meticulous Mick. If you’d like to collaborate with him, visit his collaborations page.

What does this photo make you think of?

Author Interview: Britt Skrabanek

Britt Skrabanek and Downtown MilwaukeeI’m excited to introduce Britt Skrabanek, author of Beneath the Satin Gloves and Everything’s Not Bigger. Thank you for trudging through the snow to visit and for bringing Aphrodite and Hazel, your cat editing team. I’m sure they’ll help keep us warm while we talk. 

I loved your descriptions of Berlin in Beneath the Satin Gloves. Have you lived there?

One summer in college I studied abroad in a sleepy town near Stuttgart, then my husband and I traveled to Berlin a few years after that. People were surprised we were only going to Berlin for ten days and blatantly encouraged us to do the usual tourist fail. You know the one – trying to squeeze in the entire continent of Europe, never stopping to absorb the experience. That’s not our thing at all, so we scooped up an apartment in former East Berlin and lived there for a bit. I had started Beneath the Satin Gloves right before we left, so being there fueled my creativity. Berlin is not a pretty city in the usual sense, but her scars and stories, the way she not only survived but evolved, is insanely beautiful to me.

Beneath the Satin Gloves coverYou also described a restless night and powerful dreams perfectly. Do you sleepwalk or wake up in strange locations like the closet often?

The intensity of my dreams has been a gift and a curse throughout my life. The gift being the creative inspiration. The curse being the bruises. Of course there are some memorable sleepwalking stories, like waking up in closets or the time I sprinted across our loft in Dallas, blanket in tow as my cape. My husband chucked a pillow at me, I woke up in a crouched fighting position, bewildered and buried underneath a blanket, then I laughed my ass off. Now I don’t really have any episodes. Yoga, meditation, and a tiny bedroom with nowhere to run are real lifesavers.

Using your blanket as a cape sounds like fun, but it would be scary to suddenly wake up like that. Beneath the Satin Gloves also mentions the possibility of past lives. Do you believe in past lives?

And, this is where I freak people out. That is, if they’re still reading after the sleepwalking reveal from earlier. To the outsider I’m a skeptical person, but I love the romanticism of past lives. To think that our natural tendencies, skills, and talents aren’t just learned but instilled from another life we once lead is a fascinating concept to chew on. For as long as I can remember I’ve been obsessed with spies, which is not a girly thing (so I’ve been told). In addition, I have these strange survival reflexes. One time I almost hit my husband over the head with a dinner tray when he came in through the front door and I thought he was on the balcony. I didn’t think twice about protecting us at all costs, even if that meant sacrificing a dinner tray. In other words, please don’t ever sneak up on me.

What do you love about the time period shown in your novel?

I’ve been a World War II junkie all of my life, since I first read The Diary of Anne Frank, a story that really resonated with me when I was a young girl about her age, and also a writer. Being a hippie at heart, my fascination with WWII often confuses people I meet. However my interest in this war doesn’t revolve around the militaristic aspect, but the human one. It was a turning point in history, when the world became a much smaller place, when atrocities and destruction almost overshadowed our existence. The stories of bravery and unity during this time continue to astound me. And on a lighter note, 1940s music and fashion are exquisite in my eyes. This was the final era before advertising and technology invaded, but somehow the world was in sync, looking dapper and swaying to jazzy tunes. Despite the war, I feel it was an eloquently sensual time.

It’s great that you were able to work that music into the novel with Alina as a lounge singer and a spy. One part that made me smile was your reference to “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” What are some of your other favorite movies?

I was always a fan of Jessica Rabbit, which is why Alina takes after her so much. Looks and smarts…lethal combination. When she said: “I’m not bad. I’m just drawn that way.” Yeah, that’s a brilliant line. As much as I love books, I’ve equally been captivated by films. Perhaps it’s the Southern California girl in me or the passion my dad always had for films, but I just love them and feel they have impacted me greatly as a writer. In the WWII genre, and a big influence on Beneath the Satin Gloves, I would have to say Shining Through with Melanie Griffith and Michael Douglas. And on the foreign front, Black Book, a dutch film about a lounge singing spy. I can go on and on, but Lost in Translation is probably one of my favorite movies ever. I can watch it over and over without getting tired of it. Otherwise anything by Woody Allen, Quentin Tarantino, or Cameron Crowe. Also, Audrey Hepburn movies make me obscenely happy.

 Everything's Not Bigger coverYour second book, Everythings Not Bigger, takes place in Texas and Prague. What gave you the idea for that novel?

Um, my life. Just kidding, I was never in the witness protection…or was I? Everything’s Not Bigger is a huge departure from my first book, and possibly the only modern day novel I will ever write. My second book, rather than a form of entertainment, was more like therapy for me. Though I spent most of my life as a California girl, I was born in Texas and visited family there every year until eventually living in Dallas for seven years. I’m half Czech, my grandmother was from there, and that’s where my unpronounceable last name stems from. For Jaye in Everything’s Not Bigger, she is a young woman who gets caught up in a bad situation and ends up in the witness protection program. She struggles to find herself, to piece her life back together. Ditching the fabricated life she’s trying to lead by venturing off to Prague is how she returns to herself. No matter where our lives take us, I strongly believe it is important to remember where we came from. Our roots are vital during self-exploration and if we acknowledge our pasts instead of conveniently sweeping them under a rug, we can grow into better versions of ourselves.

What are you working on now?

The Bra Game, a throwback American romp which takes place in Chicago during 1954. I love buying vintage fashion and made an incredible discovery after purchasing a handbag here in Milwaukee a couple of years ago. Hidden in the folds of the interior were two baseball tickets from 1954 and a voting receipt with a shopping list on the back that read: chocolate, fly swatter, shoes, film, loan. For a history lover like myself, this was comparable to opening a treasure chest. My imagination went into overdrive, picturing three distinct women who might have owned the handbag during that time. Because of the baseball tickets, I decided these women would have played in the All American Girls Baseball League during WWII and the story would follow their lives after the league disintegrated, when the boys came home and the women were expected to return to making pies and babies. Call this one a deeper, sexier A League of Their Own. (Shameless plug…The Bra Game releases Spring 2014.)

I’m already excited to read it. What made you decide to go the indie route?

You know, I tried the traditional route for a bit with Beneath the Satin Gloves. I came close to landing a big-time agent in New York, but then he tossed me aside. After countless rejections I pretty much said…to hell with this! The indie author movement was on the rise and I felt like it was the right fit for me. Is it hard work to market yourself and pave your own way? You bet your ass it is. But to have complete artistic control, to provide an organic work of fiction, whether it be imperfect or swimming against the mainstream, is something I am proud to be a part of. Am I making a living as an indie? No, not yet. But I have hope that one day I will.

Any other advice for writers out there?

Do it for the love. Nobody else will ever feel the way that you do about your words. Not your best friend, not your spouse, not your mom. Know that you are a writer if you write, not just when you finish a book or get paid for it. And know that there is no pot of gold at the end of the writing rainbow, whether you put one book out there, or a hundred. As long as you stick with your true passion for writing, you’ll be just fine. I’ll say it again. Do it for the love.

Connect with Britt through her blog A Physical Perspective, Facebook, or Twitter.

Snow Days and Catching Up On Old Resolutions

snowy house

I’m hoping for more snow. It’s much more fun than rain and dreariness. I love to read while glancing up every once in a while to see the snow fall. I love the excitement of wondering how deep it will get and the silence that comes along with it. Snow is magic. It changes everything, if only for a little while.

Besides, if we get buried in snow maybe I’ll be forced into staying home and that means more time for writing and revising. I love all the possibilities of a snow day so much that it makes me wonder how anyone could ever curse the snow away.

My new year’s resolutions will pretty much be the same as last year. I’m used to recycling resolutions but with some of them I actually accomplished the opposite this time around. Instead of moving more (a scaled down version of exercising more), I moved much less than usual. The only resolution I did keep was to eat more chocolate. When combined with moving much less, the results could be called pretty scary.

And so in a final attempt to move more often while finishing everlasting novel revisions, I’m going to take a little extra time for those things this holiday season. I’ll be back to my regular Wednesday postings in mid-January with more Cape Cod photos and maybe even a few alpacas or goats. I’ll also be doing some new things here like author interviews. Until then, I’ll be on Twitter @SheilaHurst11.

Wishing everyone a new year filled with laughter, happiness, and snow days!

snow, photo by Sheila Hurst

Do you love or hate the snow? What are some of your new year’s resolutions? Is there anything else you’d like to see here next year?

Great Blogs and the Winner Is…

trumpeting statueIt’s about time to add to my list of great blogs. I’m thankful for the friends I’ve found here and this is just a small sampling of a few in alphabetical order. Many of you already know each other, but just in case there’s anyone out there who hasn’t visited these people, you’re missing out.

Carrie Rubin – Very funny observations on life, health, and writing from the author of The Seneca Scourge

Found in France – Photography and observations from a small town in France

4amwriter – Thoughts on writing and life and the balancing act between the two

I Have a Voice – Beautiful, inspirational poetry

JMMcDowell – An archaeologist and writer with serialized fiction posts and author interviews

Joy in the Moments – Posts on writing, author interviews, traveling, and all the joy that can be found everywhere from the author of Eyes of Light and Secret Keepers

LScott Thoughts – Beautiful, fun, inspirational poetry and thoughts

Milka Pejovic – Nature photography from the San Diego area

Miniscule Moments of Inspiration – Observations on life and nature from a writer and picture book illustrator living in Australia

Reading Interrupted – Inspirational posts on the love of books

The Vibes – A talented graphic artist’s collection of photos and artwork

Two Black Dogs – Photography and observances from travels through Europe and at home in Australia with two black dogs

I’ll be adding to this list with future posts. You can see others through the Great Blogs category listed on the home page.

Now it’s time to announce the winner of the $25 Amazon gift card. I plan on doing more of these giveaways in the future. I know we’re all busy so this is just a way of saying thank you to everyone.

All Twitter followers for @SheilaHurst11 were entered to win. Commenters on the last post were also entered to win. And the winner is….

Rebecca Belliston@rlbelliston

winner

I’ll send you a message for your gift card. As you can see from the photo, I used a very high-tech method for this madness. I printed out my list of Twitter followers, cut each one into fortune cookie strips, added commenters from the last post, and mixed them all together in a bowl before selecting the winner. Just in case you wanted the recipe.

Thank you all for visiting, commenting, and following, but most of all thank you for your friendship. I’m looking forward to laughing together through the winter.

Thank You and a Giveaway

November oceanWriting can be a lonely thing to do. We’re observers of life so it does help to get out there every once in a while, but we also need to lock ourselves away as often as possible if we’re ever going to get any writing done.

These days, we’re not writing alone. Thanks to blogging and Twitter, we can find other writers, cheer each other on, and commiserate together. If you’re doing NanoWriMo, you know what I’m talking about and I hope you’re locked away somewhere with a fresh supply of chocolate.

The road to publication is filled with potholes of self doubt. We wonder if anyone will hear our words. We wonder if anyone will care. Maybe they’ll laugh at us or think we’re horrible writers. Still, we take that risk and put ourselves out there. Because we’re hoping someone somewhere will care.

I’m amazed by the friends I’ve found here and I just want to say thank you. So it’s about time to start doing some random giveaways. If you leave a comment on this post, I’ll put your name in for a $25 Amazon gift card. If you already follow me on Twitter, I’ll put your name in again. Finally, if you follow me @SheilaHurst11 by Monday, November 11, I’ll put your name in for the gift card and I’ll make sure to follow back. The winner will be announced here on Wednesday. In the meantime, just think of all the books you’ll be able to get to last you through the winter.

November is a good time to look back at the year and give thanks. I’m thankful for the beauty of the ocean, the joy of finding and reading that perfect book, friends that are more like family, and family that’s more like friends.

What are you thankful for? Which books are you thinking of reading next? If you’re doing NanoWriMo, how’s that going so far? 

To Tweet or Not to Tweet

Cape Cod seagull

Seagulls don’t tweet.

I know this is ironic after my last post about the distractions of technology, but I just joined Twitter. And yes, I’m laughing at myself.

It took me this long to join because I always figured it would take too much time away from writing. There are already too many things that do that, so why add another one into the mix?

Well, it’s another way to connect with people. People who want to talk about things like books or the ocean or crazy dogs. It’s also a fun way for some quick entertainment because tweets are short. So far, it hasn’t taken up much time but then I haven’t done much on it either. I’m guessing blogging will still be my main time-sucking diversion. Unless I become a tweeting addict, that is.

So far it’s been a little like changing the point of view in a novel. Twitter can provide another perspective. As long as you open that window, all kinds of things will come flying in. Sometimes you can catch them and throw them back out into the world. Or you can sit and listen to the cacophony of other tweeters. Mostly, all I’ve done on there is laugh at myself.

If you’d like to laugh along with me, I’m @SheilaHurst11.

How much time do you spend on Twitter? What do you like or dislike about Twitter? Anything else I should know before making a fool of myself out there? Oh wait, too late for that…