Rules to Break

I was fortunate to find a wonderful publisher fairly soon after I’d reached The End of my first manuscript. To reach that point, version #1 went through multiple revisions by yours truly (some say the number of rewrites was close to a hundred. I say it was 142). Although I had a few interested agents, when the offer to publish arrived, I couldn’t sign fast enough. And my publisher (The Wild Rose Press) ended up being absolutely wonderful. Author friendly, all the way. And my editor? Well, she, too, is fabulous.

When it came time to write Book Two, I was in a state of constant activity – between my day job, and writing and promoting, my head rarely stopped spinning. In a good way, not the demon possessed way of The Exorcist. Marketing opens many doors and some of these doors led to meeting truly great authors who write mysteries. But I was also lucky enough to have a book signing at a wonderful bookstore that catered to fans of romance. I discovered that romance authors were just as fab as mystery authors! Life was good.

Although my heroine skates around a possible romance, her main focus is solving a mystery. My publisher’s main focus was on romance. So I got to wondering what it might be like if I’d had a publisher who focused on mysteries? Could I even change publishers when I had a series going?

“No way,” I was told by other authors.

Except that I discovered one mystery author who’d switched after Book Two in a series from one publisher to another. Don’t know why or how, but I knew it had been done.

Fast forward almost a year, and I’d completed writing Book Two (with fewer revisions, thankfully). I set it aside and submitted a short story (my first!) to a mystery anthology publisher. It just so happened my submission was accepted. And that same publisher just opened to publishing mystery novels. I sent a query for Book Two and voila! I signed up for my next in the series along with two more. Hooray!

The road to publication isn’t a straight one. It has many offshoots, which means many different possibilities.

Turning Negatives into Positives

Here we are, most of us filled with hope and possibilities at the start of a brand new year. The best way to start anything new (or old) is with enthusiasm and energy. A bright attitude always helps. But sometimes, things happen to drag us down. I’m a little late in writing this post because the area that I live in was beset with terrible disasters with terrible results. How can we keep up our hopes when things unravel around us? It’s a challenge writing my lightweight mysteries when my mind is troubled. How to overcome one’s circumstances when they’re not so pleasant?

I looked for role models. Examples of exemplary behavior and actions. Things to uplift my thoughts and mind. I thought of other writers. And one jumped out at me. A young one, whose short life impacted so many. Her inspirational writings shared hopes and dreams, memorialized in a little red and white checkered diary given to her as a gift on her thirteenth birthday by her parents.

Anne Frank spent much of her life hiding during Nazi Germany. She wrote while living in an environment where hopes and dreams had no right to exist. But her writings were mostly positive. Take a look at these quotes:

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

“Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.”

“Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don’t know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!”

These pearls of wisdom come to us from a youngster living in one of the most terrible times in history. Yet she was basically telling us to always look up. To seek out the positive. Can there be more inspiration than that?

So the next time you feel yourself sinking, think of these words from Anne Frank:

“Cheer up, keep your spirits high, things are bound to get better!”

Cleaning up for the Holidays

Recently, I slipped on gloves and a home-spun hazmat suit to clean out my storage shed. It was jammed with cardboard boxes that were crammed with stuff and spiders and tiny bugs who’d planted “Home Sweet Home” signs in every corner. I’m too embarrassed to show you an actual photo, but here’s a facsimile: My purpose was to find the angel that belonged on top of the Christmas tree. I didn’t find the angel, but I found so much more.

Each box held junk…and treasures. Stories woven by my children. Tokens from family trips. Letters from friends and family. Autographs from favorite stars. But what I found especially intriguing was a box marked, “Lida’s Writing Stuff.” I lifted the lid and looked inside. I rediscovered magazines and newspapers I’d set aside. I was clueless why I’d saved some. An old Readers’ Digest? Why? Others contained an essay or article I’d written. I’d also found loose pages and barely filled notebooks. False starts and feeble attempts at writing something. Anything. I’d yearned to write for so long. Only it didn’t always make sense to me.

I tossed some of the writings aside. But I also discovered other pages filled with words and sentences that were okay. I’d hoped they showed a wee bit of promise.

I didn’t know it at the time, but those notes were my writing practice. My learning experience. I’d written words and sentences, studied them, and then studied the words and sentences of authors I’d admired. This constant note-taking and reviewing helped me to try and understand what worked and what didn’t. It instilled a glimmer of confidence or maybe a small belief in some ability to string words together to form living sentences and, eventually, a novel.

In life we come across junk and treasures. Situations we’d like to forget immediately, and others we cherish. These others are what propel us forward, keep us going. So how about, this holiday season, we only hold on to our treasures and discard the rest? Those boxes filled with wonderful artifacts, recollections, and in the case of writers, notes and stories containing seeds of hope. When we lighten our loads, it frees us to pursue the more important things in life. By the way, I finally found the angel I was seeking.