Friday, January 11, 2019

Snowflakes In a Blizzard

Unless you're named James Patterson, Stephen King, or Janet Evanovich, chances are nobody has heard of you or your books. Publishers place the majority of their eggs in high profile baskets. It's not personal; it's business. Big names means big book sales. Meanwhile, the rest of us struggle for an audience.

Bloggers such as Darrell Laurant understand the need to inform readers of great books that deserve more attention. "Each week we feature three books -- novels, non-fiction, poetry, short-story collections -- in individual posts that go out to over 3,000 blog followers, many of whom then share those posts on their own social media. Some of the authors we embrace are obviously in need of more exposure. In other cases, the inclusion of a book is simply an effort to get unique writing out to our blog followers.

"I'm doing this because I enjoy doing it, and because my own experience as a published author ("Inspiration Street," "The Kudzu Kid") has opened my eyes to the challenges facing today's writers. Beyond that, I am trying to expose potential readers to original work they might not learn about otherwise."

This week my novel, BREAKFAST WITH NERUDA, is featured on his site. I hope you enjoy reading his blog and find a few buried treasures there.

Learn more about Darrell, his books, and his page here.

Happy Reading and Writing.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

A community of Soloists

A few months ago I shared a book event with a writer I've "known" online for more than a year, but had never met in person. We met at a book event at Mother Foucault's Books in Portland, Oregon.

It turned out Sheryl Scarborough and I had more in common than just being YA writers with a ton of mutual writer friends. While my book is contemporary YA and Sheryl's is a YA mystery, the protagonists in both our recent books were searching for their missing fathers.

I love the odd confluence of  bringing our similarly themed books books together.  We writers tend to work alone, yet occasionally we convene and share our work. Within my critique group (there are four of us) we occasionally have a "mind melds" where a couple of us will use the same locations in our books. In a funny coincidence, two of my peers had characters nicknamed "Boo."

So while we are soloists, we writers are also part of a larger choir. We share similar dreams of getting our books published, making appearances, and perfecting our craft. Yet ultimately our goals are to engage readers and build an audience. So even though Sheryl and I had not met in person, we eased into a conversation as if we'd been friends for years. It reminded me of times I've heard musicians walk on stage and "jam, "producing extraordinary music without ever having met before.

In another odd coincidence Sheryl and I both had surgery on our right knees, so we're both learning how to walk again without pain..

Happy holidays.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Characters vs. Author: The Battle Ensues

When BREAKFAST WITH NERUDA came out in 2016, I thought I was finished with the book..But my imaginary friends had other plans. Shelly and Michael appeared in my dreams with more scenes, locations and plot ideas. They have tortured my imagination, so now it's my turn to torture them back with more conflict, obstacles, and antagonists.

Yet with each arrow I sling at them, they exact revenge by taking the plot wayyyyy off course, causing me to write thousands of unnecessary scenes. Why did I like these people in the first place?

Each day I face the computer I think, I have no idea what I'm doing. Yet I pound the keys anyway. I tried taking the advice of planning things out, but I'm a 'pantser,' through and through. However, I do have a log line, which acts as a beacon. So I'm not paddling a canoe in the ocean. More like a tub boat low on fuel.

Friends don't let friends write novels.

Enter to win a FREE autographed copy of Breakfast With Neruda.

Happy Writing.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Stop and Smell the Flowers

Finding a decent parking spot in Edmonds, Washington, is about as likely as winning the lottery, so finding one so sinfully close to downtown felt like a win. Instead of the usual half mile or more trek to my destination, I was a little over two blocks from the Louvre Cafe for a meeting. Not only was the parking fortuitous, I discovered a store I hadn't seen before: Pelindbaba Lavendar.

The store is dedicated to a variety of products made from lavender. Known for its calming properties, several products use lavender, such as lotion, soaps, and room spray. As soon as I walked in, I bathed in the aroma of the flower. Lavender possesses one of the most luscious scents in nature.

On a trip to France, I had come across lavender chocolate, and this store sells bars of it in milk and dark chocolate. I'm surprised by the number of other items made from lavender, such as tea. I was immediately offered a sample of lavender tea. Expecting it to be flowery and scented, the tea had a slightly spicy flavor and a mellow aroma.

Walking through the store I recalled the lavender shrubs I planted between my roses when I still owned a home. My goal was to deflect the deer. Deer still ate my rose blossoms, but they left the purple flowers alone, so my yard always smelled nice in the summer. I periodically snipped sprigs from the bushes and placed them in vases throughout the house.

Aromatherapy specialists agree that spraying one's bedroom and sheets with lavender aids in reducing stress. Note: use real lavender, not something concocted in a lab. You can smell the difference. Lavender is one of those scents that pairs well with others, such as mint or rosemary, which can boost its medicinal properties.

One of my favorite recent discoveries is goat's milk soap made with lavender. The goat's milk makes the skin soft as a baby's butt, and the aroma lasts until the bar is gone. This shop offers several varieties of bar and liquid soaps scented in lavender. The store also carries cosmetics, honey, jams and jellies, diffusers, candles, jewelry, and home and pet products, all made from locally grown lavender in the San Juans.

As I stroll through the shop, the subtle aroma feels like a calming hand on a sunny day. If you're feeling a little stressed, stop and smell the lavenderat this locally owned establishment.

Happy Spring!.

Monday, March 5, 2018

My Frankennovel Tale

You may have noticed my absence these past four months. I've been steadily working on what I believed was the final draft of my follow up novel to BREAKFAST WITH NERUDA. For nearly three years I've been accumulating words, adding scenes and chapters, moving things around, and rewriting the beginning. An earlier draft was rejected by my editor at Merit, with the comment the stakes weren't high enough. So I examined the book again, chapter by chapter, and reordered scenes and re drafted from the beginning.

At 72,000 words I thought the book was finished. Yet I accumulated more rejections. While most of the agents I sent this to complimented the writing and the well developed characters, they couldn't relate to the story.

And that was the problem. When people asked me what my book was about, the best answer I could come up with is "about 300 pages" because I had no story.

Had I wasted three years on writing a book going nowhere? Yes and no.

Yes, because I spent 3-4 hours every day, including holidays, on this set of characters and their journey. I worried about Michael, Shelly and the others. In addition, I spent many hours researching environment and oceanography to provide authenticity to one of my characters. (The result of that is I now know how precarious our future is. Dystopian novels are within inches of being reality.)

Yet no, the time was  not wasted because I know everything about my characters-- much more than the reader will know. Most of the 72,000 words are unusable. At least in this story. I may be able to use some scenes in a subsequent story.

So I set aside what I called my Frankennovel, and with the help of a few writer friends' suggestions, started over. The last chapter of my 72,000 piece became the first chapter of the novel that seemed to write itself in three months.

How was this possible? First, I stopped working on the Frankenovel for a couple of weeks. Instead, I read. STORY GENIUS, WIRED FOR STORY, THE ANATOMY OF STORY, and TAKE OFF YOUR PANTS. While reading the first three books listed I learned I had no sense of story, and my book had a theme, but no concept All of these guides include exercises to question what is at the core of my story. The fourth book helped me see how being a panster vs. a plotter is an inefficient ay to write. all these books taught me if you can't define the truth behind your tale in a sentence, there's a problem.

It took me 72,000 words to find the inciting incident. Once I isolated that final chapter from the Frankennovel, I was able to move the real story forward. Same characters and location, but only about 15,000 words of the Frankennovel survived, written in as flashbacks. Other than what is now Chapter One, the rest of the tale is new.

The new manuscript weighs in at 76,000 words. My critique group is helping point out where the book sags and where it sings. The best part is I can now sum it up in one sentence. (which I won't tell you yet...sorry.) Having that logline is a beacon to keep me on track so I don't invent great scenes (like the funny one in Costco) that have nothing to do with the plot. Like Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars film, my mantra has become "stay on target."

Stay tuned. Once this baby is ready to submit, I'll let you know more details. Meanwhile, back to revision.

Happy Writing.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Anonymous Is My Biggest Fan

I welcome comments on my blog. Anonymous is my most faithful commentator. He regularly chimes in with gems like "More and more actresses and singers are going thick like Sofia Vergara" and "it will have two of you smiling, which will have everyone wandering reason for so happy in the end of this time." It was in response to a guest post by Judith Works about finding an old reader's journal. On a piece about finding articles on the back pages of Google, Anonymous said, "just desire to say your article is as amazing."

Sometimes Anonymous responds in Spanish, such as this response to writing about my white cat. "Se alguem desejos pora ser altualiz mais recentes technologias." Granted, I had called the blog post El Gato Blanco vs. Los Humanos.

Anonymous is also concerned that I find the cheapest car insurance possible.

Sometimes my heart bleeds for her. "The other day my sister stole my iphone wile I was at work and tested it to see if it can survive a 25 foot drop, just so she can be a Youtube sensation. My ipad is now destroyed and she has 83 views. I know this is totally off topic but I had to share it with someone!

So I tip my hat to you, Anonymous. Thanks for all the accolades, advice and anecdotes.
Meanwhile, enjoy the photo of my book's fraternal twin.

 Happy Writing all you nanowrimos out there.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Little Do We Know

Yesterday I attended a memorial celebration for someone I knew when he and I were kids. We weren't exactly friends. Floyd was a year ahead of me in my brother Paul's class, but we all attended a small American school, so even if we traveled in different circles, everyone knew each other's names. Floyd was quiet and bookish and not prone to mischief like the rest of us in 7th and 8th grade. I don't recall him being bullied; he just flew under the radar.

Fast forward more than forty years. His younger sister Susanne and I have been Facebook friends for awhile and even though our families moved to various spots on the globe, we all ended up in the Pacific Northwest. It turns out Floyd has been living in Seattle for the past 30 years but he and I never got together, but now that I have met his friends and heard stories about him, I wish we had.

His two sisters hosted the memorial in Floyd's apartment, which is tastefully decorated with Asian art he collected over the years. Rather than it being a somber occasion where everyone wore black, the party was a festive dedication to Floyd's life. On a corner table Susanne had set up a continuous slide show with photos from Floyd's baby years up to his recent demise. Each guest saw moments from his life where they recalled him best.

At one point in the party Susanne and their other Kate invited friends to tell tales about Floyd. Most of these were funny, such as the man who said he met Floyd thirty years ago at a local watering hole. "This guy bumped into to me, wearing a pink shirt, and announced himself as "Pink Floyd." We've been friends ever since."

The quiet kid I barely noticed in school had developed into a well read person with a litany of interests. His walls contained framed art, carefully placed on the walls, that he bought from his many journeys. His furniture was worn, but complemented the space. The friends I met recounted having many great conversations in Floyd's living room, and it was a place, with its balcony view of woods and several glowing the lamps, that welcomed visitors.

As the party was ending Susanne asked guests to feel free to take a small remembrance of Floyd. She had set some items on the credenza to choose from.  Later, in the kitchen, she and I talked about my writing, and my being active with local writing groups. She asked if I knew children's book author and illustrator Kevan Atteberry. I said I did. She reached above the sink and pulled a small painting off the wall. "I want you to have his, then." It was an Atteberry she had bought for Floyd as a gift.

Even though I didn't know Floyd well, it's nice to see he had an interesting life, and now something he enjoyed looking at is now hanging above my own kitchen sink.

Happy Writing.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Where have I Been?

I have not vanished from the face of the earth. Figuratively perhaps, but not technically. I've been engaged in major revisions on my latest novel, writing query letters and synopses and querying to literary agents. Plus I'm still doing a weekly podcast .

But I have not forgotten about my blog. My writing partner-in-crime Christine Kohler and I are planning to guest blog on one another's blogs, so stay tuned.

If you're looking for a great book recommendation on building your novel or short story, read Lisa Cron's WIRED FOR STORY . She's also the author of STORY GENIUS.

Meanwhile, enjoy Pablo the cat as he tries to figure out how to get out of the laundry basket.

Happy Writing.

Friday, July 14, 2017

A Guest Post from Judith Works

Everyone loves a good story, even when parts of that story are missing. That's when writers step in and fill in the blanks with nonfiction, or create the what if? in fiction.

This piece, by my author friend Judith Works, tells of her discovery of an old reading log (from the 1880s and beyond) in a used bookstore. It was in a pile of books to be discarded, yet this leather bound ledger, barely held together by a cracked spine, drew Judith's interest.

We can surmise a lot about a person from their reading list, and in Ellen B Churchill's case, we can only imagine the reasons for a 20 year gap. Enjoy!

Friday, April 7, 2017

Found in the Back Pages of Google

I Know, I know, I shouldn't Google myself, but occasionally I am trapped under a cat and I'll grab my smart phone and see what's happening in Laura Moe World.

Last night I made a couple of wonderful discoveries.

This blog is maintained by a public librarian who specializes in Young Adult literature. In her podcasts she gives insightful analysis of the books she reads, and mine just happened to appear on her list of favorites for 2016.

The other gem I discovered is sort of a mean tweet about my cover.

This site is monitored by a twenty-something librarian named Christina Megan who reviews fiction and also posts snarky comments about book covers. Here's what she says about mine: "And to think this could have been a picture of bacon."

I'm lucky she hasn't reviewed my books.

Okay back to working on my rejection...I mean query letters
Happy Reading!