"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." - Walt Disney

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Memorial Weekend Writing

It's the start of Memorial weekend in the USA, and the last opportunity to prepare a submission for a few anthology calls:

1) Southeast Missouri State University Press and the Warriors Arts Alliance have joined together once again to create the sixth volume in a series of anthologies about military experiences. The JUNE 1st due date is fast approaching. For more information: http://www.semopress.com/events/proud-to-be-writing-by-american-warriors/

2) Southern Writers magazine is hosting it's 6th annual short story contest. There is a $15 entry fee, but you have a little more time with this one since it's not due until JUNE 15th. Complete details can be seen: http://www.southernwritersmagazine.com/shorts.html

3) Chicken Soup for the Soul is seeking submissions for five different anthologies. The first is due MAY 31st, but if that's too soon for you the other four are spaced between now and October 31st. More information can be found: http://www.chickensoup.com/story-submissions/possible-book-topics

I'm not sure I'll be submitting to any of these since I'm currently finishing work for a few magazines, and working to meet my personal flash fiction goals (see previous posts last week for more information on this).

I hope you all enjoy a wonderful weekend with friends and family. Happy Writing!

What projects are you trying to complete? Any big plans for this holiday weekend?

Sunday, May 21, 2017

8 Habits for Becoming a Prolific Writer

I recently gave a talk to a writers group about becoming a prolific writer. Prolific may have different meanings to different people. After all, what number do you assign to prolific?

Is it someone who has written over 100 stories, but never shown them to anyone? Is it someone who has sold over “X” number of books? Or is it someone who can write in a variety of genres, for a variety of publications?

The truth can be any of these. However, if you are pitching an idea to an agent, editor, or publisher, they are going to want you to answer three very important questions.

1)      How does this project meet their needs?
2)      What have you published before?
3)      What other projects do you have in the works?

You don’t have to be the best in the business, or even a full time writer to become prolific. Keep these eight tips in mind on your journey to becoming, or remaining, a prolific writer:

1)      Volume - The best way to get published is to write – A LOT. Write EVERY day. You must commit to getting something new down each day. Set a goal, and increase it over time. The more you produce, the more you will submit, and the more you can publish. Sure, some writers have hours of uninterrupted time to devote to their craft, but those writers who produce the most volume don’t wait for those continuous blocks of time. They squeeze in ten minutes while waiting for an appointment. They draft a quick thought or idea on the paper they keep at hand, or on their phone while waiting in lines. Any time or place you might otherwise be idle can turn into moments of productivity.
2)      Outline – I’m a pantser at least 50% of the time. I always start with an idea, feeling, character, etc and write from there. Once I’ve gone as far as that inspires me, I know it’s time for a set of goals for the story, if not a full outline. This can help eliminate wasted time, detours, and full on writer’s block. Curious how the professionals do it? Review these notes and diagrams showing how some of the most famous authors of all time prepared their work: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2326630/Notes-diagrams-famous-authors-including-J-K-Rowling-Sylvia-Plath-planned-novels.html
3)      First Draft – give yourself permission to write the story YOU want, without worrying about editing, publishing, trends, or readers. Complete your whole idea before worrying about mistakes.
4)      Rewrites – it’s rare that I share anything I haven’t gone over at least FOUR times to check for clarity, believability, and fun. Then, I may have several others go over it before submitting. Even the best editors often need another set of eyes to offer feedback.
5)      Inner Turmoil – we are often our own worst enemy. Internal debates, concerns, and downright fears can take over and prevent us from moving forward as professionals. This can happen whether you’re a beginner, or a multi-published award winning author. The cure is to keep writing, have faith, avoid distraction when possible, and socialize with other writers for support.
6)      Read – A LOT! Gather inspiration, learn techniques, and find pure enjoyment for writing again when you read every day.
7)      Multiple Projects – too often we get caught up in focusing just on our book, or our current article, but the true sign of a prolific writer is someone who writes in multiple formats for multiple paychecks. Remember, the more places you’re seen, the more likely you are to get hired by others.

8)      Marketing – it’s all up to you! Social media, branding, and public speaking. Writers may be shy, solitary creatures by nature, but you can also be your own best proponent for success. Need some guidance on this front? Check out Hope Clark’s The Shy Writer Reborn.

So, what are you doing to become a prolific writer? Any other advice on this topic that you would like to add?

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Goal Update

Last week I mentioned my new goal. Taking a spin off of Bradbury's famous advice, I want to write 20 flash fiction pieces by June. I thought I would share an update for the past week.

As of today, I have:

- 2 COMPLETED flash fiction pieces ready for submission.
- 2 completed drafts ready for final edits.
- 3 extremely rough drafts needing a LOT of work.

That's seven total for the last week. While I'm proud of that, I would be prouder if all seven were ready for submission. However, I'll take what victories I can, and keep plugging away. I still hope to have 20 pieces before June 1st.

If you want to read about my original goal, see my first attempts at flash fiction, or read some thoughts on setting goals - click here.

How are your goals and WIP's coming along? What victories are you celebrating?

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

New Goals

I won't be posting here as much for the rest of this month; certainly no where near the 26 posts I had for April. However, I am still writing. 

In addition to the work I'm producing for several other publications, I have set myself a new goal this month. I'm taking Ray Bradbury's famous advice: "Write a short story every week. It's not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row."

However, instead of writing 52 short stories in a year, I am going to attempt to write 20 flash fiction pieces by June. I don't have much experience with this length, but I have attempted a few. If you have time, and wouldn't mind offering some feedback, you can read those here:

Romance - Madame Tooshkas Spell
Romance - Masters in Love
Romance - Love's New Beginning

Horror - I've Had a Great Time, But...  

I've talked before about goal setting, new experiences, and how both can help not only your writing, but your life overall. To read more:

Take A Chance
New Experiences

Goal Setting
Reevaluating the Plan
5 Ways to Become a Better Writer

My article in this months Thrive magazine: 8 Tips to Control Blood Pressure Without Medication

How about you? Are you setting any goals, or trying new things?

Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Heart-Shaped Life and Devoted

I have not finished reading The Heart-Shaped Life, but I have enjoyed it very much so far. This is beautiful, hardback, and full of high-quality gloss pages. Every page is a devotion specific to each day of the year. I have found this book to be a beautiful love centered reflection of God and His will for our lives. While I have never before ready anything by Karen Moore, I am now very interested in getting my hands on one of her other books. This would make a good gift for yourself or a loved one.

I love that Devoted: A Girl’s 31-Day Guide to Good Living with a Great God is written by a nineteen year-old. Too often, books for young girls are written by mature women who become preachy towards teens and new adults. Jacksons book is written by a young woman experiencing the same issues as others her age, and sharing why she has made decisions for a God centered life despite the pressures, popularity, and even ease of other choices. As a bonus, each chapter features personal and group questions, challenges, and hand lettered art pages that readers can enjoy coloring. I highly recommend this for the young lady in your life.

I received a complimentary copy of these books from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.

Friday, May 5, 2017

15 Books for Cinco de Mayo

May 5 is Cinco de Mayo, a celebration of the Mexican army’s defeat of French forces in the Battle of Puebla. In addition to celebrating the day with chips, salsa, guacamole, and cerveza why not spend some time reading about the culture this holiday represents? Here are 15 suggestions:

El Perro Con Sombrero: A Bilingual Doggy Tale - By Derek Taylor Kent (author) and Jed Henry (illustrator)  Ages: 3–7
If you want to familiarize your kids with some easy Spanish words, there’s no better way than through the story of Pepe, a street dog who becomes a movie star when he acquires a snazzy sombrero. But Pepe, aka El Perro con Sombrero, has to watch out for his rival enemy, El Gato con Zapatos! Each page includes the story in both English and Spanish, so kids can see the relationship between the two languages.

Viva Frida - By Yuyi Morales Ages: 4–8
Frida Kahlo is the most recognized female Mexican artist, and her exceptional life is portrayed in an unusual way in this book,, in which Yuyi Morales combines ultra-short bits of text (“I see”) with mixed-media artwork that portrays bits of Kahlo’s story. Viva Frida was the winner of the American Library Association’s 2015 Pura Belpré Illustrator Award, which is presented annually to a Latino/Latina illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth. It also received a Caldecott Honor.

Salsa: A Cooking Poem - By Jorge Argueta (author) and Duncan Tonatiuh (illustrator) Ages: 4–8
Make sure you have some chips on hand before you open this picture book, in which a brother and sister go through the steps of making their own homemade salsa. After reading it with your kids, you can see if you can replicate the book’s success in your own kitchen.

Papa Gave Me a Stick - By Janice Levy (author) and Simone Shin (illustrator) Ages: 4–8
From delicious foods like paletas and salsa, move on to music, and the tradition of the mariachi. In this book, Antonio wants nothing more than a guitar so he can join a mariachi band, but his father only gives him a stick. He takes it and sets off on a series of trades that’ll hopefully end with him receiving his coveted guitar. After reading it, see if you can make your own maracas or other instruments from materials you have at home.

Finding the Music: En Pos de la Música - By Jennifer Torres (author) and Renato Alarcão (illustrator) Ages: 6–10
Another look at the mariachi for slightly older children, this story follows a girl named Reyna who breaks her grandfathers guitar-like instrument called a vihuela. As she travels throughout her neighborhood to try to get it fixed, she learns more about her abuelito and the kind of music he used to play. After this and Papa Gave Me a Stick, see if you can look up some mariachi videos on YouTube to show your kids the real thing.

Sage Carrington: Math Mystery in Mexico City - By Justin Scott Parr Ages: 9–13
This book has everything: a smart and savvy heroine, STEM puzzles and a tour of some of the greatest sites in Mexico. To solve a math-related mystery, tween detectives and best friends Sage and Isabel traipse across Mexico with their families, stopping at sites like the pyramids at Teotihuacan, the temples of Chichén Itzá, the Olmec ruins of San Lorenzo and the island of Cozumel. This is the second volume in Sage Carrington’s adventures, which start with Sage Carrington: Eighth-Grade Science Sleuth.

Eddie Red Undercover: Mystery in Mayan Mexico - By Marcia Wells (author) and Marcos Calo (illustrator) Ages: 9–13
If Sage Carrington whets your kids’ appetites for Mayan mysteries, go for another round with this mystery starring seventh-grade sleuth Eddie Red. Red has a photographic memory, but while his parents are at a conference in Mexico, he needs to team up with a local girl name Julia to set him straight about Mexican history in order to solve a mystery. Like Sage Carrington, this is Eddie Red’s second adventure; his first took place in New York City for Eddie Red Undercover: Mystery on Museum Mile.

Gabi, a Girl in Pieces - By Isabel Quintero Ages: 14+
For teens, Gabi, a Girl in Pieces tells the story of a Mexican American 16-year-old in crisis. Her diary entries explain how she deals with her drug-addicted father, her pregnant best friend and her ultra-religious aunt. The novel has won a slew of prizes, including the Young Adult Library Services Association’s 2015 Best Fiction for Young Adults award and the 2015 Tomás Rivera Book Award, which honors authors who create literature that depicts the Mexican American experience.

Across A Hundred Mountains, by Reyna Grande Any
The realism of this story of a young girl traveling from Mexico to the United States to find her father can  be credited to to author Grande’s firsthand experience: she entered the United States from Mexico as an undocumented immigrant to join her parents in 1985 when she was 10 years old. The tale of Juana’s crossing, told in spare, clear prose, won Grande an American Book Award.

Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros Any
Cisneros previous work, which draws on her experiences growing up in a Mexican immigrant family in Chicago, is still a top choice for students and readers of any age. But in Cisneros’s 2003 novel Caramelo. young Lala is growing up in a Chicago-based Mexican American family when her parents decide to move to San Antonio. Written in lively language and infused with vibrant culture, stories, and humor, Caramelo is about as close as you’ll get to finding a fiesta in a book.

Before the End, After the Beginning -  by Dagoberto Gilb Adult
Gilb, who grew up in Los Angeles as the son of a Mexican immigrant mother, worked as a construction worker before beginning his literary career, sharing with readers a slice of life not often seen in contemporary literary fiction. This most recent story collection includes a brave, funny, and fierce fictionalized account of a man who wakes up in the hospital after suffering a stroke, inspired by Gilb’s own medical crisis.

What You See in the Darkby Manuel Muñoz Adult
Muñoz reimagines the filming of 
Psycho in Bakersfield, California, a town not far from Dinuba, where he grew up. He intersperses chapters from the perspectives of Alfred Hitchcock and Janet Lee with the story of the murder of a young Mexican American woman named Teresa by her white lover, events that play out at the same time Hitchcock is creating his fictional horror masterpiece.

Still Water Saints, by Alex Espinoza Adult
Espinoza’s debut novel tells the story of Perla Portillo, the owner of the Botánica Oshún, a store selling saints candles, herbs, and charms to help ease the problems of the residents of Agua Mansa, a fictional Southern California town. And boy do they need their good luck potions—their problems escalate throughout the book, which keeps readers turning the pages.

Night at the Fiestasby Kirstin Valdez Quade Adult
Her debut fiction collection, 
Night at the Fiestas, is set mainly in Mexican American communities in New Mexico. She writes unforgettable stories of characters at a crossroads, from an unmarried, pregnant young woman trying to maintain order in the office of a Catholic church, to a Stanford-educated daughter of field hands seeking some respect, to a down-on-his-luck man who portrays Jesus in a reenactment of the crucifixion in a New Mexico town.

The Miniature Wife And Other Storiesby Manuel Gonzales Adult
This is a smart, and funny, debut story collection which includes a story in which a man returns from work to find his wife “shrunk to the height of a coffee mug,” another in which a man who feels like a zombie from years of office work in a cubicle actually becomes a zombie, and one in which an airplane circles the Dallas airport for decades without landing.

How are you celebrating today? Have you read any of these?

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Star Wars Day: May the Fourth be With You

What started out as a pun has become an international day of celebration for Star Wars fans across the globe.

Many book, movie, and music stores celebrate by offering discounts on their Star Wars merchandise. Check out http://www.starwars.com/may-the-4th

Fans are taking to social media and festivals to celebrate their love of all things in the special universe. Check out Wookieepedia: http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/May_4

Since purchasing the rights from Lucasfilm in 2013, The Walt Disney Company has officially observed the holiday with several Star Wars events and festivities at Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

How about you? Are you a Star Wars fan? Are you celebrating today?

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

IWSG: The Weirdest/Coolest Thing

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh. Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs. You can also join us on twitter using the hashtag #IWSG, or on the Facebook page.

Now, IWSG hosts have changed up the format in an effort to make it more fun and interactive.Every month, they will announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say. 

Don’t forget to visit others that day to see their answers. Want to join, or learn more? Visit our - Sign-up List.

What is the weirdest/coolest thing you ever had to research for your story?

My Answer: In my short Story "WIN" I created a society that relied heavily on neural chips following a Biological War. When the idea first occurred to me, I had no idea what the history of biological weapons creation and use was so I began researching. I found out that in 1972, the ‘Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction’ met. They later became known as the BWC or Biological Weapons Committee. Obviously, that was not the end of biological weapons development. This became the backstory for my society in "WIN". While I still like the concept for my story, you have to admit many people will find it strange that I researched this topic.

What about you? What is the weirdest or coolest thing you've ever researched?

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Release Day: Hero Lost

Hero Lost
Mysteries of Death and Life

An Insecure Writer’s Support Group Anthology

Can a lost hero find redemption?

What if Death himself wanted to die? Can deliverance be found on a bloody battlefield? Could the gift of silvering become a prison for those who possessed it? Will an ancient warrior be forever the caretaker of a house of mystery?

Delving into the depths of the tortured hero, twelve authors explore the realms of fantasy in this enthralling and thought-provoking collection. Featuring the talents of Jen Chandler, L. Nahay, Renee Cheung, Roland Yeomans, Elizabeth Seckman, Olga Godim, Yvonne Ventresca, Ellen Jacobson, Sean McLachlan, Erika Beebe, Tyrean Martinson, and Sarah Foster.


Monday, May 1, 2017

A to Z Challenge Survivor

Thank you to everyone who participated in, or stopped by to visit during the challenge this month. I hope you enjoyed it.

If I didn't make it over to your blog, or leave feedback, I'm sorry I missed you. Life happens as you well know.

If you missed any of my posts this month, and are interested in learning more about Scotland or my trip there: click here for 26 Days of Scotland

What are your plans this month now that "A to Z" is over?

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Zell and Zeitgeists

Zell - Sophia Zell married her cousin George, Elector of Hanover, who became king in 1714. Unfortunately, they were only married from 1682 until 1694 when he divorced her for adultery and had her thrown in prison. She remained locked up in the castle of Ahlden until her death in 1726.

Zeitgeist - the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time. I hope I’ve been able to provide you with a brief glimpse at the history and life in this amazingly complex and beautiful country. For a look at several types of zeitgeists in Scotland:

As a thank-you to the blogging community, and to celebrate one year since its publication, I am offering FREE e-pub copies of my western short story “Broken Angel” from now through April 30. If you would like to receive a copy, simply email me at writinginwonderland(at)gmail(dot)com

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Yeoman, Yolande, Youngs, and Yule

Yeoman - Louise Yeoman is twice a graduate of the University of St Andrews, she has been curator of early modern manuscripts and cataloguer at the National Library of Scotland since 1992. Prior to that, she worked for a year at the National Archives of Scotland and for a short time at Glasgow University Library. In 1996-97 she was seconded to BBC Scotland as writer and presenter of the BBC TV series Stirring Times. She is currently a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Scottish History and a co-director of 'A Survey of Scottish Witchcraft, 1563-1736', as well as a frequent contributor to Scottish radio and television. http://www.shca.ed.ac.uk/Research/witches/lyeoman.html

Yolande - Yolande of Dreux was a sovereign Countess of Montfort from 1311 until 1322. Through her first marriage to Alexander III of Scotland, Yolande became Queen consort of the Kingdom of Scotland. http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/usbiography/d/yolandededreux.html

Young - Andrew Young (1885–1971), poet and Presbyterian minister, later Church of England cleric

Young - Douglas Young (1913–1973), poet, scholar and translator

Yule - Sir Henry Yule (1820–1889) Orientalist, writer of travel books, compiler of the Hobson-Jobson

As a thank-you to the blogging community, and to celebrate one year since its publication, I am offering FREE e-pub copies of my western short story “Broken Angel” from now through April 30. If you would like to receive a copy, simply email me at writinginwonderland(at)gmail(dot)com

Friday, April 28, 2017

X - Roman Numeral 10

During my visit to Scotland, I was surprised at how much Roman influence and evidence still existed.

Scotland had been inhabited for thousands of years before the Romans arrived. However, it is only during the Greco-Roman period that Scotland began being recorded in writing. In honor of the Roman numeral X, here are Ten Top Roman-Scotland Sites worth visiting.

Here is a map to more Roman-Scottish sites.

As a thank-you to the blogging community, and to celebrate one year since its publication, I am offering FREE e-pub copies of my western short story “Broken Angel” from now through April 30. If you would like to receive a copy, simply email me at writinginwonderland(at)gmail(dot)com

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Walking, War, Weather, Welsh, Writers, and Writers' Museum

Walking – People say Scotland is a paradise for ramblers, and I wholeheartedly agree. Some of the best times we had during our visit were spent traveling trails, both hidden and waymarked for the public. Beautiful scenery, variety of terrain, and magnificent coastlines make it difficult to imagine a more beautiful country to explore. Local tourist information centers are always a good place to stop if you are looking for advice or suggested routes.

War – Southern Scotland is a blend of attractive landscapes and historic houses, castles, and abbeys. Sadly, many of these ancient buildings exist only in fortified or ruined form due to the frontier wars that dated from the late 13th century mostly against the invading English. You can read more datails: http://www.bbc.co.uk/scotland/history/articles/the_wars_of_independence/

Weather – We visited Scotland in mid May which is the beginning of the peak travelling season there. Most visitors come to Scotland from May to August, when they can enjoy the best weather, and longer hours of daylight (the dark only lasted about three hours while we were there). Many people ask me about the rain, and a good joke many share is that “if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes”. Temperatures, sunshine, and storms all fluctuated throughout our stay, but it only added to the charm and mystery of the country. Out of season, a good winter snowfall in the Highlands can provide great winter sporting opportunities such as skiing and snowboarding.

Welsh - a Scottish novelist, playwright and short story writer. Irvine Welsh is recognized for his novel Trainspotting, which was later made into a film of the same name. http://www.irvinewelsh.net/

Writers – From medieval poets through Robert Burns to Irvine Welsh, writers in the three languages of Scotland – Scots, English, and Gaelic – have created a body of literature expressing both their place in the Europeans mainstream and the diversity within Scotland. I’ve only mentioned a handful of the greats in this months’ posts. There are so may more you can find here.

Writers’ Museum – This fine Old Town mansion was built in 1622 on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. In the 1720s it was acquired by Elizabeth, Dowager Countess of Stair, and has since been called Lady Stair’s House. Its official title reflects its role as a museum of memorabilia of three of the foremost Scottish writers: Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson. I found this location to be a surprising and delightful hidden jewel. Many of the pavers outside building hold quotes from various authors. To learn more: http://www.edinburghmuseums.org.uk/Venues/The-Writers--Museum

As a thank-you to the blogging community, and to celebrate one year since its publication, I am offering FREE e-pub copies of my western short story “Broken Angel” from now through April 30. If you would like to receive a copy, simply email me at writinginwonderland(at)gmail(dot)com

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Victoria, Vikings, Vocabulary, and Votadini

Victoria - Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837 until her death. From 1 May 1876, she adopted the additional title of Empress of India. She reigned for 63 years – the second longest monarchy after Elizabeth II. Her reign has become known as the Victorian era a period of industrial, cultural, political, scientific, and military change within the United Kingdom, and was marked by a great expansion of the British Empire. Statues and portraits of her can be seen in most places open to public tours in Scotland. http://www.biography.com/people/queen-victoria-9518355

Vikings – Politically, militarily, and culturally they had a profound effect on the unstable kingdoms becoming Scotland. Their incursions into Scottish territories began in 795 and by the end of the 9th century the Vikings regularly came to Scotland to raid and settle. These raids as well as the culture they created by intermarrying has led to the creation of many stories, including their own set of myths and legends. http://www.scottish-history.com/origins3.shtml and https://www.transceltic.com/pan-celtic/ravens-celtic-and-norse-mythology

Vocabulary – the Scottish can often use a unique set of vocabulary quite different from even other parts of the UK. There are several sources on the internet to help aid your understanding.

Votadini - were a Celtic people of the Iron Age in Great Britain. Their territory was in what is now south-east Scotland and north-east England, extending south of the Firth of Forth and extended from the Stirling area down to the English River Tyne, including at its peak what are now the Falkirk, Lothian and Borders regions of eastern Scotland, and Northumberland in north east England.

As a thank-you to the blogging community, and to celebrate one year since its publication, I am offering FREE e-pub copies of my western short story “Broken Angel” from now through April 30. If you would like to receive a copy, simply email me at writinginwonderland(at)gmail(dot)com