Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it." ~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Guatemala City AIRPORT and Buying ART

This will be a long post since it's the Insecure Writer's Post of the Month and also the first one of the A to Z Challenge, and I'm covering several topics.

What I am most insecure about this month is Time. Wasting my Time. Not using it effectively. Avoiding Work. If all I had to do as a writer was Social Media, I'd have no problems with work because I love social media. I love Twitter and Blogging and Facebook and all aspects of social media marketing. I could do it the entire day. Compared to the writing it's easy. Not as satisfying, but easy, yes.

Writing a novel is hard, laborious, difficult, detailed WORK. I tend to avoid it, which makes me insecure about my priorities. Writing is a priority yet I push it to the back of my schedule, day after day after day. Not good. I'm working on doing better. After this month, I think I will do better. Okay, now that I have that off my chest, on to the big event of April, the A to Z Challenge:

First post in the A to Z Challenge:

When people fly in to Guatemala, the first thing they see is the airport. For such a large city, it's a very small airport. You come in, are directed to your luggage pickup at one of several carousels, then guided through customs. It all takes about thirty minutes before you're steered through the door where a crowd is waiting, people watching for whoever they're waiting for.

We wait with a shuttle van parked nearby, the driver loads in the guest's luggage, and then we hand you a water bottle and head off. It's a three hour drive from Guatemala City to Panajachel, with beautiful mountain scenery.

This is where tourists will catch their first view of the Mayans, people who have lived among these mountains and villages for thousands of years, still wearing the traditional clothing, often speaking the ancient languages. The ones in the mountains live much as their ancestors did, growing corn, bean and squash, cooking over open fires, gathering wood from the forests for daily use.

One of the items that immediately catches the attention of tourists when they get to the Lake Atitlan region is the art. The Mayan people are very artistic, even the children seem to have natural talent at drawing and creating things.

When you buy the art, the vendor will remove it from the wooden framing and roll it securely for packing. Even the small paintings must be removed because U.S. Customs will not allow the wood from Guatemala into the country.

My sister and I pose with the artist of the piece she chose to purchase. It cost Q350 or about $75.

The woman in the photos below lives and works in San Juan, one of the smaller villages along the lake. I truly love her work. When I'm ready to select a painting for my home, I'm buying it from her.

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Road to a Dream

Besides having the blog tour for Afraid of Everything this month, I'm working on a new book, in the difficult early stages of drafting and figuring out what's what. As I work I've got to fight myself, especially those intruding, annoying thoughts of "what's the point?" "no one cares" "you can't write" and the one I tell myself constantly "this is boring to read" until finally one day I realize it isn't boring, someone may enjoy it, and with a few more tweaks I might have something to be proud of.

Do you have persistent, intrusive thoughts that plague your progress and block your joy? The road to our dreams is paved with these bothersome things. How do you deal with your stumbling blocks?

Today I'm visiting Ava Louise on her blog "The Road to a Dream"--don't you just love that phrase? Saying it aloud brings to mind all kinds of possibilities. It opens the imagination.

Ava is offering an excellent giveaway: one lucky commenter will get a $10 Amazon card. Come on over!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Another Chance to Win a Print Copy of AFRAID OF EVERYTHING

Nearly every stop on my blog tour has a giveaway for my book. If you want a free print copy, you'll be almost certain to win one along the way. The latest giveaway starts today at Hott Books.

If you'd like to go back to previous sites or follow along this week with more giveaways of Afraid of Everything, the link for all the tour stops can be found here at my website.

There's a case of books waiting to be shipped out one by one to lucky winners, so don't hold back!

"...a book about self-discovery, love, acceptance, and trust. While it is a work of fiction, as a reader, I walked away from this book with an open heart and the desire to live life to the fullest." --Hott Books

"...enlightening, inspiring book of fiction." --Create Write Now with Mari

“Wanting a quick fix to her life, Helena finds the path to solving her anxiety problems has some amazing twists….Spellbinding, a story that will capture your imagination.” –Thoughts in Progress

“Gowen explores some important themes in this well-written novel: living life to the fullest, seeking professional help when life is overwhelming, appreciating your family, risks, and love.” –The Lit Ladies

“What lies on the surface of this novel is only the tip of a deeply, gratifying story.” Audry Fryer, author, Going Barefoot in Greener Grass and Secrets, Lies and Apple Pies

Saturday, March 7, 2015

What Makes a Success?

Writer Teri Tiffany posted a link to this article on Facebook, about the idea of success and failure in our world today.  Teri recently had her first novel published and is struggling with the mixed ideas authors get from people.
Trajectory is the flight path an object takes after force is applied.
Every writer will have a trajectory to their writing career and will affect the lives of certain number of people.
- See more at:

You know the questions and assumptions:

How many copies have you sold?

Have I heard of it?

Is it at (name a bookstore)

And the inevitable comparisons to whatever bestselling books are now being talked about

As writers, it is vital if we are to continue doing this work we love, to ignore whatever landmarks of success others, or society at large, may impose on us. We must set our own goals, take joy in reaching every accomplishment, even if it's a very small step, and keep moving forward.

In my blog tour this week, authors Madeleine Sharples and Mari L. McCarthy post about their own fears and what reading Afraid of Everything meant to them. When one of my books touches another person, then it's all worthwhile, and I feel like a success at what I do, even if my sales or book rankings don't show it.

When I was young raising my family, I'd feel like a success when one of my children would say, "I love you, Mom."

What are the simple pleasures in your work or daily life that make you feel successful?

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Insecure about Getting Reviews

I really need to go sign up for Alex's Insecure Writers Support Group. I love reading everyone's posts on this first Wednesday of the month. I need to join the crowd since I'm settled in my new home and blogging more regularly. So yes, I'll finish this post and go sign up.

Today I'm insecure about reviews, knowing this is my blog tour and the reviews are coming in for Afraid of Everything...Fortunately so far I've been extremely happy with them, and today is no exception. Audry Fryer at All Things Audry starts her post today with this statement:

"If I told you I read this fascinating page-turner about a woman who spends the first half of the story in a therapist's office analyzing her anxiety disorder and the second half in a coma, you might think I was in need a therapy session or two. Yet, what lies on the surface of this novel is only the tip of a deeply, gratifying story."

Which gives me a chuckle since I know I tend to begin my novels slowly. Unfortunately, that often leads to bad reviews from people who have no patience with it. But Audry kept reading and has given me a fabulous review, thankfully.

I don't think there's a writer out there who isn't insecure about getting reviews. We want them, we need them, we crave them. And sometimes they're great, like Audry's, and then they can be heart crushingly awful. I've gotten quite a few of those, especially for my first novel Uncut Diamonds.

How do you deal with bad reviews? Have you learned a way that works for you?

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Character-Driven or Plot-Driven? Grown up or Young Adult?

Today I'm over at The Lit Ladies where they accused Afraid of Everything of being a character-driven, well-written, thematic novel in their review. I'm happy with that because when I write, I start with people. The plot then develops due to the motives, flaws, choices of the characters.

These are the kinds of books I like to read, and they're the ones I write. I also write about adults, not kids. I don't read much YA. Even when I was a teenager I read adult novels. Not risque "adult" novels, although I did sneak the most talked about book of the day Peyton Place into the house. Back then, it was considered lurid; it would be quite tame compared to what's out there now in the lurid department.

I like literary, character-driven novels about grown up people dealing with grown up issues. What about you? What are the kinds of books you like to read? And if you're a writer, are they the same ones you like to write?

Monday, March 2, 2015

Thoughts on Blog Tours

The blog tour concept has been around for quite awhile. It was really big when I first started blogging, with the idea being this was THE way to sell books. Well, by now I think most of us realize there is no THE way to sell books. A book connects to readers or it doesn't. However, visibility helps, and a blog tour is a great way to get visibility for your work.

I finally did it-- signed up for an official blog tour for my new novel, Afraid of Everything. Always before, I did unofficial blog tours for my books but this time I wanted to utilize Women on Writing. I've heard such good things about them, and believe me, it was sure great to hand all the organizing over to someone else!

I was assigned to Crystal Otto, and she is amazing! Organized, personable, available-- everything I'd like to be but aren't haha! I requested that most of my stops would be reviews, because a review is the gift that keeps on giving...long after the tour end, blurbs from reviews can help sell a book.

My first stop is at The Muffin, the blog for Women on Writing, if you want to stop by, say hello and sign up for a free copy. print or ebook, of Afraid of Everything. There's also an interview and book giveaway at Romance Junkies blog.

Those of you with books out, what are your thoughts on blog tours? Did you hire someone to set it up or do it yourself? What was the experience like, and who would you recommend?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Creating a Classic: Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction

Twenty-two years later, the film Pulp Fiction still has the power to take one's breath away. I saw it in 1993 when it came out in theaters, several times in fact. It's that kind of movie. You can't watch it just once.

The making of Pulp Fiction is an amazing story in itself, how a high school drop-out, video store clerk who lived off others, rarely showered and wore nothing but old tee shirts came to write and direct this film that went on to gross over $200 million at the box office.

Last night when it showed up on Netflix, my husband and I looked at each other. We had to watch Pulp Fiction! It had been two decades since we'd seen it, yet the power, intensity, and story-telling genius of that work has not diminished.

Whenever an artist creates a work, whether it's a film, a novel, a play, whatever--there's the feeling inside that this is special-- the hope, the desire others will see it too. There's the dream that one's creation might connect with an audience and make magic.

In reality, however, this rarely happens. Sure, there's plenty of fine entertainment. There's blockbuster movies, best-selling novels-- the movies that make money and win awards, the books everyone is reading.

Until one day, out of nowhere it seems, will come the creation of something so different, so amazing, brilliant and radical it changes everything. This was Pulp Fiction. This was also Harry Potter. When it happens, it inspires every artist with a dream to continue working.

Most of us don't expect to ever create anything of this magnitude. Still, it helps to know if we do, there are people out there who will find it. Even if comes in the form of a messy script full of typos and grammatical errors, written in spiral notebooks, about a couple of chatty hit men in Los Angeles.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Am I on Vacation or What?

My sister came to visit last week and we had a fabulous time. I showed her around, we walked and walked and walked, she took loads of memorable pictures.

Half way through our holiday together I realized what my theme will be for the A to Z Challenge!

Last year it was Living in Guatemala. Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of when my husband and I arrived at the Guatemala City airport, carrying all our worldly possessions in our luggage. This is us-- the day after we got to Panajachel--looking tired but happy. We had made it! Let the adventure begin!

 We had a lot of family visit during the year, giving me the ideal theme for this year's Challenge:  

Visiting Guatemala

It is super fun when family visits and we get to see things through their eyes. It's great to show them around and share in their discovery of this amazing land. Like seeing my sister taste a licuado for the first time!

Haha, I love this shot!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Hang On to What You've Got

A recent post here on Book Marketing Buzz states that WordPress has 65,000,000 blogs (!!!) with 100,000 new ones created daily. Tumblr has over 102 million blogs. LiveJournal has 63 million. Weebly, 12 million. Blogger isn't mentioned in the article, although surely it would have similar numbers if not higher.

Lately, people are saying they're burned out on blogging and blogging is dead and what's the point and it's no fun anymore. I've wondered the same things myself. The numbers, however, say blogging is not dead. The big question remains: is it dead for you or for me personally?

In 2014 with all the changes going on in my life, I let this blog slip. I have an author website as well and I figured if Coming Down the Mountain languished it wouldn't be any great loss. People could find me via my WordPress site, and I could still post there whenever I felt like it.

After settling in a different country away from friends and family, I got more active here as part of my need for social interaction with English-speakers. Visiting and commenting on posts, even when I wasn't posting much myself, I realized how many of you on Blogger are my friends. I don't want to lose track of you.

Sure, anyone can find out about me and my books from my website. Sure, there'd be no great loss in the world if I stopped posting on Coming Down the Mountain. Life goes on. Only the truth is, I need blogging. It connects me to people who love to read and write like I do.

So whether it's for a writing outlet, or to have an online presence for marketing purposes, or because blogging can be an enjoyable, effective way to keep in touch with other people--if you've started a blog and kept it up for years, why stop now?

I think it's definitely worth hanging on to what you've got. Then again, if the purpose of one's blog has ended, perhaps it's time to move on. What do you think? Is maintaining a blog worth it to you, or not?