Friday Feature: Facing Challenges

vickyMy Name is Vicky Mclellan, since I was young I have always wanted to be an author.  But I have also faced many challenges in my life, I am Physically Disabled; my mother gave me up at the age of nine. I was raised by my Grandmother and Aunt.  Even though I cannot walk, I do not let it stop me from chasing my dreams, I have Graduated High-School, and I have become a published author.

I think my motivation comes from my heartbreaks as a child. Being left behind, feeling like I was different and out of place, I want to prove that just because a person is different and has different kinds of challenges that others cannot understand, they are still worthy, they still have a voice that deserves to be heard. No matter how many tears I’ve cried through-out my life, I have never given up, because I know that I matter, others like me matter. I want other people to feel like they can reach for their dreams, no matter what walk of life they have had, or what they face. They can fight for the life they want, as long as they never give up. Waking up in the morning is half the battle – I know those words have been said many times, and it sounds like I’m just trying to fill up space, but take it from me, a person who has felt unworthy and useless many times in my life, the will to wake up everyday, sometimes takes true strength to find.  

My motivation to write also comes from wanting to give others an outlet and show them that they are never alone, their dreams matter, it does get better, and there’s always somewhere constructive to vent – The Page. And that is truly my motivation. That’s what pushes me, and feeds my drive – Pushes My Pen – if You will.  

I have always tried to spin my bad situations into a positive learning experience; I find writing helps me do that. Even when I write fiction, I find it helps me put things in perspective and see a situation from all sides because most of the characters I write about have a little piece of my personality in them.  There’s something about seeing something written down, staring at the words, seeing part of me on that page, really helps me find myself on days when I feel lost.  vickey1

   I find that writing in general, has inspired me to become more creative and kept my heart alive. When you’re not mobile, its hard to find things that stimulate the mind, The world kind of gets small, and writing has opened so many doors for me, it has really helped me to open up.  I hope that when others read my material, they feel that emotion and openness.  My motivation as a writer is to not only show people that there is more to me than just a metal wheelchair, but to let them hear my voice and to show others that they can speak too.  My message to the world is to never stop creating. 

Vicky Mclellan

Bath Time

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Thanks for sharing, Vicky! Much luck!

noreen

Friday Feature: Kerrie Flanagan’s Two are Better Than One.

Two are Better Than One; Tips for a Successful Co-Author Partnership

KerrieFlanagan_blue_PhotoCredit_SuzetteMcIntyre_CloseupWhen you meet the one, it all falls into place. You no longer have to carry the burden alone. The workload is shared, you encourage each other through the tough times and celebrate successes together. With the right partner, co-authoring can be an incredible experience that fuses the synergy and talents of two writers into creating one cohesive book.

About a year ago, I was talking with my writing friend Chuck. One of us (I don’t remember who) brought up the idea of writing something together. We both got excited and started discussing what we should write. He typically writes fantasy novels and I write nonfiction, short fiction and children’s books. Even our writing styles were (and still are) worlds apart, but that didn’t stop us. We both felt this could work. Not because of what we had written in the past, but because of us. Or personalities, work ethic and most of all our ability to trust one another to get the job done right.

We took a strategic approach when choosing a genre to write and researched the top selling creating cohesive self-published books. According to Author Earnings, in 2017 romance had the second highest number of ebooks sold, right below literature & Fiction. We also learned that romance readers go through books like potato chips, self-published authors in this genre do well and series sell better than single titles. It wasn’t long before we decided to commit to a three-book romantic comedy series, under the pen name, C.K. Wiles, to see what would happen.

We fell easily into a system that works for us. Chuck and I would brainstorm the story Kerrie and Chuckidea together, which is a fun, creative part of the process. Chuck then creates a detailed outline of the story that we then go over together to make sure everything is there. He then takes off and starts writing. After he gets a few chapters completed, he begins sending them to me. I then go through to add more emotion, fill in any holes in the storyline and tighten the writing. Once he has sent me everything, I send the edited chapters back to him so he can make final adjustments and we talk through any areas that need more work. We both read it through one more time before sending the finished manuscript to a copy editor.

While our writing system made the process smooth, we found many components that make a co-author partnership successful.

Know Your Strengths

Each writer brings his/her own strengths to each book project. Figure those out early and embrace them. This is less about making sure tasks are equally divided and more about working with your strengths to ensure you publish the best book possible. Chuck is a fast fiction writer and not a fan of developmental editing. I am a slow fiction writer, but I love taking a rough draft of a manuscript and molding it into a great story. This works well for us and we can typically get a book finished in a little over two months. When it comes to the publishing aspects, I take the lead on that since I have experience in that area. We hire out the covers and copy editing, but I am able to format the books (print and ebook) and upload them into the various platforms.

 Trust Each Other

Find someone who you respect as a writer and are confident in their skills. Chuck and I knew each other for years and provided feedback and critiques on each other’s work. I value his opinion and suggestions with my writing, so I knew before forming this partnership that I could work with him and vice-versa. When it comes to co-authoring, this trust is crucial. You have to be confident that you and partner have the same goals and visions for the book. Then allow each other the freedom to make changes and adjustments to produce the best book possible. There will be times when you disagree, and that’s ok. Talk through them and come up with a solution you can both live with.

Leave Your Ego at the Door

Curtain Call Romance Series (1).pngWhen you are working with a co-author, you have to let go of your ego. The whole goal is to create a book you are both proud of and you are happy to have your name (or pen name) associated with it. Chuck and I have different writing styles, but with our co-authored books, our writing melds together to create a new, unique voice. It is not about, “this is mine” and “that is yours,” it is seeing it as “ours.” If we got caught up in claiming different parts as our own or not being willing to work as a team to create the best book possible, we wouldn’t get anything finished.

Because of our effective partnership, we achieved our goal of publishing three books in our Curtain Call series. We have enjoyed our co-author experience so much, we are moving forward together with other writing projects as we work to market our series and get those books into the hands of readers. Co-authoring can be amazing with the right person. If this is something that interests you, take the time to find another writer you trust, one whose strengths and weaknesses compliment yours and one who is ok checking egos at the door. Then you will enjoy a synonymous relationship where you can create literary art as one.

BONUS: As a thank you, click here for a free digital copy of, Showtime Rendezvous.

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Kerrie Flanagan is an accomplished freelance writer with over 20 years’ experience. She is thrilled to be writing romantic comedies with her favorite writing partner, Chuck Harrelson. Together, under the pen-name, C.K. Wiles, they are the authors of Showtime Rendezvous, Stage Bound and Bared Secret. In addition, Kerrie is the author of, Writer’s Digest Guide to Magazine Article Writing and 8 other books published under her imprint, Hot Chocolate Press.

You can listen to this episode of the Stark Reflections Podcast where Chuck and Kerrie talk more about their co-author experiences.

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Thanks, Kerri!

noreen

Writer Wednesday: Can the Can’t!

cantI don’t like the word “can’t.”

I don’t like people telling me I can’t do something. I’ve experienced some person  or another throughout my whole life telling me I can’t do this or I can’t do that. For too many years, I believed them.

Now, it just annoys me.

I made a goal to write six short stories in a month. Someone, another writer, said, “You can’t do that.” Their point: writing must organically develop from inspiration, forcing it unnaturally would create work which was unpublishable.

Three of those six stories have already been published. Can’t? HA!cant2

I spend time on photography, just because I like it. Unasked, another person inserted their opinion: “You can’t do that!” They had the idea that a person can only be good at one creative pursuit and I shouldn’t waste my time on another. I took up photography for the pure joy of capturing visual beauty, but I’ve had a number of photographs published now too!

Why are people so wrapped up in “can’t”?

Some people judge themselves based on how they know you. When you change or move forward or do something they never thought you would or could, it changes how they see you and, therefore, how they see themselves.

cant1Others have limited views of what they can accomplish and, therefore, what anyone can accomplish, so they believe their guiding you away from an upcoming failure.

Whatever their reasons, never let anyone keep you from spreading your wings, doing what you want, need, must do to achieve what you want.

Writers must be brave. Depart from the naysayers and live your fullest life. Travel. Love. Experience. Write. Try something new.

Do not listen to the “can’t”!

cant3

Friday Feature: Timothy Savage on Going Places

time3When people ask where I’m from, I give my prepared answer. ‘Not really from anywhere. Seems like I’ve lived everywhere.’

And that’s true. Over my half-century of time, I’ve lived in Nebraska, Chicago, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Kansas (Overland Park and Lawrence), Seattle, back to Minneapolis/St. Paul, Providence, San Luis Obispo, and the city where I currently reside, Fresno, the fifth-largest city in California (behind Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose and San Francisco, in that order) and the largest city in the United States disconnected from the Interstate Highway System.  I like to claim that at this point, I’ve made nearly one lap of the country. Map it out and my path becomes a curious zig-zag that seems to alight nowhere and puts down roots only in memory.

That current spot Fresno isn’t exactly scenic. We’re kind of flat and agricultural, and if it tim5weren’t for triple-digit summer heat, certain sections would be indistinguishable from the desolate wilds of North Dakota. It’s so non-scenic that literature has more or less left it out, too. Need proof? A Goodreads count of books set in California is nearly 600. But books set in Fresno? Three. One by William Saroyan, better remembered here as ‘That Famous Guy Who Used to Ride His Bike Through Fresno’s Tower District.’ The second is ‘The Abortion’ by Brautigan, destined thanks to the area’s politics to be a non-seller. The third is by a guy who teaches journalism at Fresno State.

But despite being a setting apparently unworthy of literature, Fresno does have one advantage: It’s a quick two-hour drive from legendary settings. Yosemite. King’s Canyon. The majestic Giant Sequoias. Beaches along the Pacific, including my favorite, Avila Beach.  If you’re feeling ambitious, you can invest an extra hour in that drive and — traffic willing — be in the Bay Area waiting for the ground to shake, or in Hollywood practicing sidewalk astronomy. So Fresno tends to be one of those places people pass through on their way to places far more interesting.

tim1But I suppose I’m grateful that living here encourages travel, even if it does so in a backhanded, better-off-getting-outta-here sort of way. That urge to hop in a car and see something else, that desire to book a plane ticket and go even farther, is not only great for the soul, it’s great for my writing.

I’ve lived here for more than 12 years, and aside from an occasional drive to Avila for some seclusion in a hot tub, full-time work-at-home Dad Duty kept me from traveling much for those first seven years. I’ve made up for that drought over the last few years, though. First a memorable trip to see the sights in Chicago with my son when he was only eight, where we braved the Willis Tower’s ‘Ledge’ and walked the Magnificent Mile together. Then a three-generation trip to Washington D.C.  — myself, my son, and my father, where we explored the sights of true democracy while plugging our ears to my father’s Faux News talking points. Next, two very memorable trips — one solo — to a place I find more inspiring than any other: the southeast of England, where people very dear to me make me feel more welcome than anywhere else, to the point where I call them ‘my English family’ most sincerely.

Being a shutterbug, my other travel trick is to photograph everything. You know that guy tim2with the DSLR strapped around his neck, taking shots of everything from the loo signs to the historical plaques set across monuments managed by the National Trust? Yep, me. Those photos come in handy during the writing process, too. Need the feeling of ‘being there’ recreated? Go visit the photo album. Need to check a historical detail? Dig out the plaque pics and read the answer. Need to remember exactly what order the Roman gods appeared on a bas-relief at the Adler Planetarium? It’s right there in the photo.

time4As a writer I carry those places with me, and whether I want them to or not, they find their ways into my writing. My Nebraska origins find a home in my writing as Kolej, a small town with a big dark secret in my coming book ‘Lillie Augustine.’ Minnesota and Providence figure prominently in my memoir about full-time fatherhood, titled ‘One Ugly Mother.’ That memorable Chicago trip finds itself in another draft titled ‘Fortunate Consolation,’ where a father leads his special-needs son on a journey to escape the trickster Goddess of Fate. Two very special places — West and East Hills in Hastings, East Sussex — will soon find themselves adapted as different worlds entirely in a collaborative science-fiction epic. That Pacific hamlet of Avila Beach was the setting for my published novel ‘Davey’s Savior,’ an intimate story set next to the pier on a very small stretch of an epic beach. And Fresno? While the city itself may make me want to be elsewhere, its agrarian nature still found its way into a draft my editor promises will be a moneymaker: the saga of ‘Lifeboat.’

You take your rewards where you can get them, right? So, until I have a best seller, it seems my challenges come in recreating places dear to me in words, and rewards through memories made in unforgettable places. With a little luck, I’ll make them equally memorable for my readers. Because after all, what is a good book if not a zig-zag journey that takes root in your readers’ hearts?

 

Timothy Savage – Author of Davey’s Savior

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Thank you, Timothy. I wholeheartedly agree!

noreen

Writer Wednesday: Bored? Good!

boredom2Chatting with my students, I reminded them I didn’t have google nor a cell phone and, if I needed to look up information, I had to walk to the library and figure out the card catalogue. (Of course, I added the obligatory “walk ten miles in the snow up hill both ways”).

One said, “Wow, you must have been so bored.”

I smiled a moment, thinking back. “Actually, I wasn’t.”

While I’m sure there were times I spent an afternoon whining about boredom, we learned to do things to entertain ourselves. And, well, mostly mine was writing.

I don’t think I’d be a writer today if I had a cell phone, a computer, and google. Play At Work. Low Angle Of Dreary Female Freelancer Using PaperI think I would be, like many people today, too distracted to focus on creating other worlds and investigating the motivations of people/characters.

I worry my students are too distracted to become the best people they can be or do the best work they can do.

I’m not a troglodyte by any means; however, will we ever be as productive as we can be if we don’t learn to look too quickly for outside entertainment instead of within ourselves to be creative?

boredomI guess I’m saying, boredom can be good for you. Daydreaming, thinking, and spending an afternoon lounging without distraction can be helpful to a writer. We need to allow our minds wander sometimes, see where they go; keep your mind from distraction, turn off the tele, the cell, the computer, and be inhibited by the lack – your mind will rebel and it will begin to create.

 

Writer Wednesday: Sharing is….?

climbing helping  team work , success conceptIn a writer’s group, I asked a specific person how one would use a certain program. They responded with, “I’d be glad to show you; my rates are very reasonable.”

I was shocked into silence. I asked a simple question, and they wanted to charge me for their answer?

But, then again, they have the right to earn a living by selling their knowledge.

How often have I given my knowledge for free? I could charge, I thought, for all the information and skills I’ve accumulated over the years.

But – wait a minute – writers really don’t make that much money, and we’re all strugglingshare3 in the same boat of trying to get our books, articles, short stories, or other out there to larger audiences.

Think of being on a life-raft and you are the one who has the clean water, or maybe the secret to cleaning the water, would you really sell it to another passenger? Some people would.

There’s a story from a Gladwell book about how post-its came about. (To simplify:) One worker in the paper department bumped into someone from their glue department, they both talked about what they were working on and the problems there were having. If only we could….   and boom – two collaborators came up with an idea worked together to bring that to fruition by sharing their expertise and invented something we all use (and made billions for 3M!).  Companies like 3M, Apple, Google, and others now use that theory to come up with new ideas, products, and solutions for every day problems!

shareWhen we all work together, we all become better humans. I want to share my ideas and experiences and share other writer’s with you, other ideas with everyone who desires to listen.

I have a job; I have many jobs. I’m not about to take advantage of others who are students in life or in writing and try to make a buck from them. I’d rather share my knowledge. I’d rather help my fellow passengers on this journey.

Thanks to all who have shared their knowledge with me. Thank you to those writers who give of themselves and their resources to make a better writing community.

When we work together, we can all benefit.

share1

Friday Feature: Waiting is NOT the hardest part….

I’d hate to disagree with our dearly departed master musician, Tom Petty, but the waiting is not the hardest part – That’s a myth.

waiting2Waiting is the easy part.

If I haven’t lost you yet, let me explain.

Some people spend their lives waiting. They dream of doing more, but they create excuses of why they can’t or why they haven’t yet. They’re waiting for…. fill in the blank…. the right time, the right place, until they finish this, until that happens.  It’s an excuse.

When you’ve moved forward and accomplished something, the waiting becomes the easy part.

 

The hardest part is jumping over every damn hurdle that life puts in front of you.

The hardest part is avoiding those people who want to limit you.

The hardest part is not buying into the self doubt that holds many people back.

The hardest part is doing the work. And then doing more work.

The hardest party is putting yourself out there and face the possible criticism.

The hardest part is never giving up.

Magnifying Glass - Action

 

Rejection is not the hardest part – it’s just part of the whole. The whole world is not going to love everything we do.

Waiting for the results is not the hardest part – that’s part of the whole.

Motivation or inspiration is not the hardest part – not even sure that’s part of the whole, but it helps.

 

Action is what is required to be successful.

Sometimes, action makes others around you uncomfortable. They’ll try to criticize your forward movement as wrong action. I can’t tell you how many times people have harped on something I’ve done as if I’ve ruined my chances at success, when in fact it was a step in the right direction.

I’m unclear if it’s a fear of rejection or the fear of success itself that keeps people stagnated in excuses. If they become successful, their lives will have to change. They’d have to continue to work, to duplicate their success.

waiting5I consider it is not a fear of failure – because, by not trying, aren’t they failures already? Or maybe that’s it – they can claim they never “got their chance,” when, in fact, they never actually took a chance. That’s the true failure.

Success follows action. Action takes work. As long as their is forward movement, there is no failure. As long as one doesn’t quit, doesn’t give up, there is no failure.

Don’t wait. Move forward. Slowly. Consistently. Misstep and get up again. Keep moving forward.