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
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"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

Sunday, July 9, 2017

My Good Old-Fashioned Blogging Style

In many areas, I've tried to move with the times. Like my mother before me, I want to keep on learning, growing in interest and curiousity about the world and what's going on there. But I think where this blog is concerned, nothing significant will change. I really don't want it to.

When my husband and I owned a home with lawn and gardens, I'd go outdoors to pull weeds, plant flowers, shrubs or trees, water, tend to my vegetables. These close to the earth activities would calm my soul as I connected with the natural cycle of life.

But now we live in an apartment and my only garden is a pot of basil on the patio. I'm okay with that. Neither of us want the responsibility of home ownership right now. We relish the freedom of knowing we can leave the country for years if we want, without worrying about a house. Or maybe just leave for a long weekend, with no weeds taking over while we're gone.

I rather enjoy the fact that blogging the way I do has become a relic of sorts. All the rage, the big new thing a decade or so ago, many were started then abandoned for the ease of other social media. I use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram-- they're fast and easy but not as comforting as the good 'ol blog. It's like my big untended garden.

 I'll come back to it when I feel like things are moving too fast and furious everywhere else. And the old-fashioned blog awaits. Here I can ramble on and putter around and say hello to the neighbors who pass by.

I'm not at all interested in adding links or ads or "making money with my blog!!!" or getting listed anywhere up and coming or being relevant. I don't plan on changing a thing. I quite prefer my out-dated, go nowhere blogging style, thank you very much.

And thanks for stopping by, neighbor. I made cookies, help yourself!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Do You Check Comments Waiting for Moderation?

On the Blogger Dashboard, when you click Comments, it shows Spam, Published, and To Be Moderated. I have comments older than 2 weeks requiring moderation. This keeps spam comments from popping up unnoticed on old posts.

I've also requested an email when I get a comment that's waiting for approval. More often, they just go to the file "comments waiting for moderation" without sending me the email notification. I finally realized how often this happens when I checked the file the other day and saw nearly a dozen really great comments on older blog posts. There were even comments from last year!

I quickly hit "publish" , feeling bad that I'd missed them at the time. I've been on Blogger nearly ten years and still it seems there's always something new to learn!

Do you require older comments to be moderated? I highly recommend it, to avoid sick crap from showing up on past posts. I also recommend checking the file regularly so as to not miss them!

Monday, May 22, 2017

If Your Choice is to Quit Then Own It

The stories are everywhere: why a once-enthusiastic and committed writer stops writing or doing anything further for their career. They may share online or just quietly disappear. Anyone involved in a writing community at all, online or otherwise, has seen it happen over and over.

Sometimes it's because things change in one's life and writing takes a back seat. Sometimes it's because the hoped-for success is too slow in coming, so slow it's no longer possible to believe it ever will. Lately, I've seen posts about jealousy, and how comparing one's own success or lack of it to others is too discouraging to even continue trying.

There's the one book that gets finished, it's pretty good and finds an agent but never sold to a publisher. It would be tough to get to work on the next book when that's happened. Or maybe it gets published with disappointing sales. Again, no motivation to write another.

Or maybe they try it on their own with self-publishing. The hope rises as they see other self-pubbed authors and the success they are having. But then when it doesn't happen, discouragement hits again. Why bother?

As a publisher, I've seen writers with stellar marketing plans and excellent books give up promoting after barely 30 days.They go back to writing the next book, since that's more comfortable than blogging or reaching out on Facebook or trying to set up author events or any of the other things they said they'd do in their promotion plan. But without committed and regular promotion, the next book won't fare any better. Eventually, they give up on the writing dream altogether.

As a writer who follows other writers online, I've seen the cycle played out on writer groups, blog posts, frustrated Facebook complaints:

"I can't compete with the success of others. This is making me miserable and I'm giving it up."

"I'm too introverted to market. I don't feel comfortable with that part of it."

"Writing is hard work. I can't fit it into my schedule."

"Amazon's algorithms and buy buttons and Kindle Unlimited have hurt my sales. I'm making half what I did a few years ago."

"I hate social media. If that's what it takes to sell books then forget it."

"Trolls who leave hurtful reviews have poisoned everything for me."

"My publisher went out of business and ruined my life."

"My publisher doesn't do anything to sell my book."

"Blogging is dead, and that was the only thing I liked to do to keep my name out there."

"My family isn't supportive."

Meanwhile, Stephen King has written nearly 100 books. Neil Gaiman has written 66. Agatha Christie wrote 69. Barbara Cartland probably tops the record at 722 novels published. I'm pretty sure these people all faced the same kinds of challenges that any other person does who tries to make a living as a writer.

Everyone has personal trials. Everyone has petty jealousies. It's human nature to condemn others for our failures rather than suck it up and figure out how to do better. It's easier to blame outside forces than to look within ourselves, accept responsibility, and make real changes.

I can identify. I'm fully aware of what it takes to make a success at this, and it is extremely difficult. But at the same time I think if someone decides to quit writing, to give it all up, that's fine and dandy-- just own it and don't put it on any outside forces. Writing comes from within, and not writing comes from within, too.

Am I being too harsh? Have you been seeing these kinds of complaints and "why I'm quitting" writer posts? What's your response? Can you identify, or not?

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Crazy Book Publishing Business

Today I'm one of three publishers featured on the Insecure Writers Support Group. We answer a few questions about the business of submitting and publishing one's book. I really appreciate being included in the post, as I never get tired of talking about this fascinating business, and about WiDo's mission to publish books that are:
  • Readable but not formulaic.
  • Entertaining without being fluff.
  • Uplifting without being preachy.
  • Literary but not obtuse.
  • Realistic and thought-provoking
  • without being graphic.
  • Above all, books that tell a darn good story!

Ten years ago WiDo was born, July 2007, with the publication of  Farm Girl. And as wonderful as the experience has been, a company that's in business for that long will upset a few people. This usually happens when someone feels disappointed in book sales, and they'll blame the publisher for not doing enough. I can understand the frustration. One's book is near and dear to the heart, like a child, and authors can get extremely protective about what happens or doesn't happen with their written offspring.

Recently, there was an unsettling situation with a new editor I'd signed on. She had emailed me, seemed personable, eager, and proficient. However, against my usual practice, I didn't ask for a resume or research her at all. I sent her a sample manuscript to edit and, liking her work, followed it with a contract, which she promptly signed and returned.

Then things got weird. Constant emails containing requests for more money. Questions about why she wasn't getting more money. Comparisons with how WiDo pays compared to the indie authors she had edited for. Asking for the work to be sent in a different format than what we'd agreed on.

It felt like I was being stalked! But I answered her emails as thoroughly as I could. Then came one saying unless we paid her more, she'd request the contract be cancelled. I said, Sorry, this is the agreed on price, and she replied saying this was her resignation and please cancel her contract.

I was happy to do so, since her unprofessional conduct had escalated since she turned in her contract. Mistakenly, I figured that would be the end of it. Two or three emails a day started coming in, asking for a second chance. She was wrong, she'd listened to indie authors who had influenced her, she wanted to try again.

I ignored the emails for about four days, until finally I decided okay, I'll answer and maybe that will end the stalking. I wrote and told her we will let things stand, sorry it didn't work out and good luck with your future career.

Her response stunned me: I was selfish, cold-hearted, cruel, and nothing good ever deserved to happen to me. Because everyone deserved a second chance and how could I be so mean. Oh, and by the way, she wrote, don't respond to this or write me again because I will delete your emails without reading them.

Anyone who deals with the public for any length of time will make a few enemies, upset a few people. But still, there's a stunned sensation that lingers long after the last vitriolic email comes into the inbox. Did that really just happen?

Have you ever had to deal with an unhinged individual in your personal or professional life? How did you handle it?

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

On Having Too Much Stuff and Getting Rid of It

There's a link going around Facebook to an online article titled: "Sorry, Nobody Wants Your Parents' Stuff."  Since I've been through it, both on the daughter/ daughter-in-law side as well as the mother/homeowner side, I could totally relate.

My mother and my mother-in-law were worlds apart regarding stuff and how to deal with it. Both were widows, and that's where the resemblance ended. My mother chose to downsize as much as she could, while my mother-in-law bought a larger house with more room for her possessions.

Being my mother's daughter and admiring simplicity, I am still fascinated with how my mother-in-law collected, stored, added on until it seemed she was buried under her stuff. Not that she was a junkaholic or hoarder. Her things were nice, often expensive, and usually well-organized. She had an entire room of her house for fabric, arranged like a retail fabric store. Another similar room for crafts and the supplies related to whatever crafts she'd done or planned to do. Another room for storage of food and household supplies. Two freezers held hundreds of pounds of cheese, butter, nuts and other deliciousness that would take two families a lifetime to consume.

On the contrary, my mother had as her goal to live in such a way that her daughters (the four of us) would not have to agonize over her possessions when she passed. The more she could get rid of, the happier she was. When she died, my sisters, nieces and nephews who lived nearby were able to completely empty Mom's two bedroom apartment in less than a week. My mom would have been pleased by that.

When my mother-in-law died, she had a 4000 sq foot house filled with furniture, family history documents and photos, and of course the many years worth of food storage. It took my sister-in-law a decade to completely go through everything and dispose of it one way or another.

I'm not saying one way is better than another. I think in a way my sister-in-law enjoyed her task, as she was able to spend this time going through all these things related to her mom's life and that of her family going back generations. And getting all the butter, cheese and nuts would have been nice.

But as for me, I'm more like my mom, taking pleasure in simplicity and knowing my kids won't be burdened with having to deal with piles of stuff when I'm gone. I've already done that job for them.

My husband and I currently live a very downsized existence. We got rid of nearly everything so we could leave the country three years ago. Now that we're back, neither of us want to start collecting again. Our goal is to stay free and unattached so we can pack up and go again when we feel like it.

This is our living room, a spare space furnished at very low cost. The most expensive thing we bought was the couch for $25.

I have a couple of antique wall hangings I plan on getting framed for those two bare walls. I know once we leave, my daughter will be happy to take them for her home. She's already told me where she would hang them.

We did buy the TV cabinet. My husband needed a place to keep office supplies so we got it for $15 at Restore. It's one of those brown things that nobody really wants anymore. And if they did, they'd paint it. Since painting stresses me out, I'm okay leaving it as is, although I admit it's too dark for my taste.

I paid $3.00 for the basil plant on the table. It's going to get repotted and put on the patio. And basil isn't permanent, except in beautiful Guatemala where it grows up into a year round tree of abundance. In Utah, it dies with the frost.

This was a pretty long blog post to talk about living simply. Clearly I have more words than I have stuff, which is exactly the way I like it.

Friday, April 7, 2017

And the blog is still here....

It's been six months since I posted. Isn't it nice how you can ignore the blog for such a long time yet when you come back, it's like you never left. Everything is in its place. Nobody moved a thing while I was gone. Nothing changed.

I woke up this morning thinking, Time to write a post! My last one was about our visit to Palenque, in Mexico.

Shortly after that trip, my husband and I realized it was time to return to the U.S. Our business, WiDo Publishing, has been expanding and needed closer attention. We needed to get in all our medical visits using our familiar doctors and insurance. And of course, to be closer to our family!

So we are back in Salt Lake City, Utah. We both found it strange that adjusting to the U.S. culture after being away for three years was more difficult and time-consuming than expected. I may go into more of that in later blog posts.

For now, I just wanted to come back to the blog and make sure it was still working!