June 2014

EVENT: Writers’ Campfire – July 14th at Golden Gardens in Seattle

campfireCome to the writers’ campfire!

Monday, July 14th at 7pm

Golden Gardens beach in Seattle

(Here’s a map.)

Sign-up to read or bring things. << Do it!

Hooray for summertime! I invite you all down for a campfire on the beach. This event is hosted by the Seattle Daylight Writers and open to everyone.

We’ll cook various edibles on sticks, take turns at an open mic (um, no actual mic), play low-pressure writing games and watch the sun set.

PLUS, Seattle-based singer-songwriter Rachel Wong will be playing some songs for us half-way through. What’s a campfire without a song?!

What to bring: Yourself. Friends. A five-minute or less piece to read. Food to eat or share. Pen and scratch paper. Perhaps a chair.

How to find us: Look for the tiki torches! Fire pits are first-come, first-serve. A few of us will arrive early to save a spot, but we won’t know exactly where we’ll be until we grab it. We’ll erect tiki torches so you know which hoard to head for.

Parking is free. (Yipee!)

While there is no need to RSVP, you’re free to do so at the Daylight Writer’s Meetup event page.

cowboy_heaven

Cowboy Heaven: The Passing of a Patriarch

cowboy_heavenI drafted this piece four years back, just found it in a neglected folder and cleaned up the rough patches. Mostly.

My grandfather didn’t die on my shift. I was back in the city. He died in the ranch house, horses milling about just outside his bedroom window. The aunts stood around him, hands on his ankles, his cheeks, weeping softly, making strange, tight faces, or so I imagine. I’m told my grandmother held his hand, curled up on the bed beside him like a cat.

Two weeks before death, when I entered the scene, he looked bad enough. My giant beast of a grandfather shrunken into the body of a frail old man. Low grumbling voice. Eyes of Caribbean blue darting glances sharp as icicles. Smiling at me. Barking at his daughters.

The aunts are four varieties of neurosis. I came often to relieve them of their posts.

“Get some sleep,” I’d say. They’d pile into pick-ups, Volkswagens, or jeeps and fly down the hill, finding even a trip to Safeway to pick up a prescription or to the sub shop for sandwiches more enticing than spending another slow minute in the quiet house.

My grandmother transformed into a whirlwind of energy, watering plants, feeding the horses, sorting piles of bills and hospital paperwork. My mother sat outside in a plastic lawn chair, smoking cigarette after cigarette. Drinking coffee. Not making sense. Both women jittery and over-tired.

I brought my daughter to float among them all like a wild hummingbird. She talked about dogs. She ate some of the cookies that had been dropped by. She stalked around my grandfather’s bed to jump out by his pillow with a giant boo and make him laugh so hard his oxygen tubes would come askew and the aunts would descend in a flurry of deliberate hands.

Another week into the glorious countdown, I tucked daughter away with other family. My grandfather no longer laughed. Nor did he eat or drink or even open his eyes. An army of cousins paraded through his bedroom, the color draining from their faces when they approached his bedside. The aunts stood around like sentries. Twisting necklaces. Timidly reaching out to touch his arms or legs, then pulling back quickly, unable to forget a lifetime of terror in final moments. All business, they could roll him, dress him, wash him without hesitation. But not one could bring herself to place a loving hand on his brow.

I was not his daughter. I was never struck. His berating bounced easily off the thick shield of love and assurances my mother had woven around me. When in my youth I did win his tirades, whether from running the nags too hard, or leaving a gate not quite closed, he would redeem himself with magic tricks and utterly adoring looks when I came to cry in his arms.

I called in to my city job. Told them not to miss me for a while. I hung my leather jacket in the closet, stood my heels by the door between all the pairs of muddy pasture boots and silenced my phone. I sat in the ranch house for long hours and did what the aunts could not do. I held his hand and stroked his face. I mashed up the white pills, mixed them with water and slowly dripped them into the soft tissue of his inner cheeks. I talked about when he pushed me off the hill to teach me how to ride a bike, about that night we all slept on top of the camper in Yellowstone, about how he gave me the name for my daughter. I sang cowboy songs and talk about sufferin’ and down by the river.

The aunts hovered behind me. Crying. Not crying. Trying not to cry. Crying. So desperate to touch him, to sing his name. My grandmother flitting in just long enough to fluff the pillows, adjust the blanket, then rush out again.

“I didn’t know you remembered those songs,” she said to me, quietly, in the kitchen. “We haven’t had a campfire since you were ten.”

My grandfather didn’t die on my shift. I was down the hill, back in the city, checking in on my daughter. The aunts stood around him, hands on his ankles, his cheeks, weeping softly, making strange tight faces, or so I imagine.

 

VIDEO: How to Throw an Amazing DIY Book Release Party

A book release party can be a celebration of all the blood, sweat, and tears you put into your book, or it can be a nightmare of bad timing, SNAFU logistics, and low turnout. The trick is to plan well. For the Writer.ly community, Scott James detailed exactly how to plan, promote, and throw an amazing book release party without losing your mind or breaking your budget.

  • Crafting an Event Story: Why should people be excited about your release?
  • Choosing a Location: What makes a good party venue?
  • Presentation: Make your event special without breaking the bank.
  • Support: What kind of assistance can you ask for?
  • Promotion: How can you get your fans and new readers there with you?

While I hosted this webinar, I focused also on recording Scott’s suggestions for my own use. These are some of the best ideas I’ve ever heard for a successful book release party. Scott is one of those that gets it.

RECORDED WEBINAR: How to throw an amazing DIY book release party

Scott’s bio: Scott Andrew James is a marketing ally for authors. Through the Redhat Publishing Project, he coaches authors on social media and marketing outreach and speaks about marketing, Kickstarter campaigns, and time management throughout the country. He blogs daily at DIY Author (http://klat.com/blogs/diy-author) about marketing tips and tricks. As San Francisco Community Manager for Writer.ly, he thrives on connecting authors and freelancers to help get better books out into the world. Find Scott at @scottandjames and http://redhatproject.com.

In SIX WORDS or fewer, write a story about your life after gaining superpowers

6superpowers

In SIX WORDS or fewer, write a story about your life after gaining superpowers.

(Leave your story in the comments below.)


What the heck is this? Based on the response to my six word challenges on twitter, I decided to move the prompts to my blog so that you may all enjoy the responses. Hemingway was the first to write a six word story, though the truth of that is up for debate.


 

summer-of-boys

My Summer of Boys

summer-of-boysThe clock hits noon. Time to wake the dragons. With a deep sigh, I do my best to wrap-up whatever contracting project I’m working on and close my laptop. Fortified with a big gulp of cold coffee, I start my rounds with a knock on the 15-year-old’s door. Though his alarm has sounded every nine minutes for the past two hours, my knocks and gentle greetings are met with deep, moaning growls.

“Good morning,” I say. “Time to get up and go have some fun.”

“Grrrr, hmph. Agh.”

On to the next…

This summer, I volunteered to play ringmaster to our extended brood of kids. My daughter, plus my husband’s three sons. The youngest kid is eleven, the oldest fifteen. I work from home and convinced myself I could complete all required contract work by noon each day, leaving us the rest of the hours for grand adventures and happy family bonding experiences.

These are amazing kids. Smart, funny, remarkably conscientious, they arrest my attention and affection with ease. For the summer, I constructed grandiose plans. Perhaps we’ll start our own reading club, or volunteer two days out of the week, or maybe decide on a subject we all find interesting and spend the summer visiting museums and experts to learn all we can about it.

We’re one week in.

What a week it’s been. I have learned that the boys’ beautiful empathy and manners extend to everyone but each other. Two meals out with this hungry crew drained my entire entertainment budget for the week. My goal yesterday narrowed to simply getting out of the house before 3pm and to convince them to stop referring to each other as retards.

Now I review with great skepticism the activities I planned for next week. A trip to the museum. Yeah, right. Cross that one off. Wild Waves? Even if I can find the money to afford the entry and snacks, how will I possibly manage to keep them from shoving each other off one of the slide towers to splatter on the cement below in gory spectacle?

I haven’t written in my novel for five days. I’m tired of explaining how deriding your brother by calling him gay diminishes us all. I’m tired of passive aggressive tactics meant to stall our departure so someone can spend just twenty minutes more on their online game campaign. I’m tired of constantly trying to find food to keep the boys full while working within the confines of their incredibly limited palettes.

Did I mention we’re just one week in?

Most of my difficulties boil down to the fact that despite having lived part-time with these bonus boys for the better part of six years, I still don’t know them very well. When we first started dating, their dad and I waited a full year before we started “blending” our kids for joint activities. Even when we eventually moved in together, I still treated them cautiously, with removed respect and interest.

My father shuffled through an entire deck of girlfriends. Some of them I loved, some I reviled. He even married a few of them. These women drifted in and out of my life with every passing season. I learned to keep my heart closed, guarded, least a bit of leave me as well at their hurried departure. When I first met these boys, I promised myself that I would not hurt them. I would not court their affection and loyalty when I was uncertain about the permanence of my place in their father’s life. I would be a friend, and not a very close one. Yet always nice and welcoming.

While this may have been a good approach in the beginning, it doesn’t work anymore. These aren’t my boyfriend’s kids. These are my step-sons. My family. Yet now that we’ve spent years establishing remote relationships, building greater trust and intimacy proves difficult.

Without trust, my disciple is timid and rare. I still worry about them “not liking me” and hold back in moments when I should be calling out bad behavior and shutting them down. These brothers act out complex power struggles every moment they’re together. When I fail to intervene, these battles may become horrifying ugly and destructive.

My daughter and I are reduced to gawking. How can people treat each other so mean? As I am one of six sisters, I actually know this is normal. My daughter, an only child for many years, regards the boys as though an invading alien species.

In thinking through this post before I wrote it down, I came to the realization that not only did I remain aloof to protect the boys and spare myself the guilt of breaking young hearts, I did so to protect my own heart. Did I mention that these kids are amazing? If I love them a little, I can’t help but love them truly, madly, deeply. Nothing is ever certain. If I lost my husband, I’d suffer three more losses in the same terrible moment.

The time for hesitation and reserve has past. These kids are my kids now. I open my heart. How they respond is up to them. I’m leaving the museum off the list, but I’m keeping the volunteer work, hard-labor if I can find it. We’ll ask their grandma to come to Wild Waves with us. Reinforcements.

Noon tomorrow, I’m going to do the rounds once more. “Good morning,” I’ll say. “Get up. I can’t wait to go have some fun with you.”

In SIX WORDS or fewer, write a story about brothers.

6brothers

 

In SIX WORDS or fewer, write a story about brothers.

(Leave your story in the comments below.)


What the heck is this? Based on the response to my six word challenges on twitter, I decided to move the prompts to my blog so that you may all enjoy the responses. Hemingway was the first to write a six word story, though the truth of that is up for debate.


 

The Most Inspirational Self-Publishing Success Story I Have Ever Heard

self-publishing-success-storyPublishing success is something that happens to other people – people with MFA’s from Iowa, people who dine with agents in New York, people sprinkled with fairy dust and set apart from us mortal writers. Right?

Not so much.

The most inspirational self-publishing success story I have ever heard begins with two parents facing an incredible family crisis. Jack and Jasinda Wilder were just 30 days from losing their home. They stretched the one small salary between them to the breaking point while supporting their five young kids. Their wildly daring solution? Start writing – and publishing!

In just six months, the husband and wife team published 20 titles, including many romance and erotica. Then, their fast-paced and deeply felt novel “Falling Into You” zoomed to #4 on the New York Times Bestseller List and hit #1 on Amazon.

Through Writer.ly, I had the great luck to talk to Jack and Jasinda about their amazing publishing journey and ask what tips they have for authors seeking such success. Open, intelligent and incredibly real, these authors shared some gems. Watch the video and just try not to feel inspired, I dare you.

~~~~~~ About Jack and Jasinda Wilder ~~~~~~

Website: www.jasindawilder.com
CBS video: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50149108n
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Jasinda-Wilder/e/B0095HTK0A
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6521173.Jasinda_Wilder
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorJasindaWilder
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jasindawilder

 

How to Write a Query Letter That Will Have Agents Begging for More

how-to-write-a-query-letterThis post was first published on Writer.ly.

Do you want to get a publisher to pick up your book? First, you likely need an agent. To get an agent, you’re going to have to write a query letter. I recently sat in on a PNWA presentation by Marilyn Allen, a respected agent and remarkably engaging person. Here’s what I learned from Marilyn on how to write a query letter that will have agents begging for more.

First impressions matter. The three most important things to include in your query letter are the hook, the book, and the cook.

  • The hook: Why would someone drive across to the city to buy this? Grab attention. Make the agent want to read more. This can be what you do for a living, an award, a creative line, or a scientific fact.
  • The book: Include a couple of lines about your book. Don’t write out your whole synopsis, just enough to get the agent interested. Show your passion and energy. If your book is fiction, write the setup, conflict, and resolution.
  • The cook: Tell them why you are the perfect person to write this book. What are your qualifications? What do you do for a living? Degrees? List the three to four most important things on your author platform. Bullet points work well here.

Double check for dumb mistakes. We are all overwhelmed with emails and submissions. You need to stand out and not give one reason for dismissal. As soon as an agent sees typos, attachments, or mistakes with her name, she moves on. Be smart and sharp.

Tell us about your platform. How will you help your publisher announce your book? Speeches? Organizations? Clubs? Start your own newsletter? Can you have 40,000 people on your newsletter?

Describe the audience. What is the age range? Gender? What kind of person would buy your book?

Provide smart comparisons. My book is like [INSERT SIMILAR, WELL-KNOWN BOOK NAME HERE]. Be careful here. Don’t be too ambitious or obscure.

Include genre and categories. Where does your book fit? Where will it be shelved? Have focus. Publishers want one proper home for your book. Understand the competition.

It’s a good idea to have your query letter reviewed before you send it out. Get a writerly friend (or five) to read it over and look for any mistakes you missed. Consider hiring a professional to critique your query and help you bring out the most compelling, salable aspects of your book.