Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Writing the Know of Motherhood by Julie Kieras


I’m thrilled to have Julie Kieras here today addressing whether she believes there’s a Golden Rule of Writing. I met Julie through a local book club and instantly enjoyed discussing characters and the stories with her. She’s intelligent, driven, kind, and passionate. Exactly what I look for in a friend. ;-)

I had the honor of visiting her blog not long ago. I’m grateful our paths have crossed and today I’m excited you’ll get a chance to get to know Julie better.

~*~
 
There was a time when reading "how to write" books was my passion. My shelves are stocked with the wisdom of Ralph Fletcher, Anne Lamott, Natalie Goldberg, and even Snoopy! (Oh yes, that spotted doggy has a lot to say about the art and craft of writing!).

I always felt there was some "other" great secret to be found about how to write well...if I could just read one more book.

Maybe it's the Type A in me that liked hearing maybe, just maybe, there was a Golden Rule of Writing and if I followed it, fame and fortune (or at least a published book of some sort) might follow.

So here I am seventeen years out of college as a Creative Writing major, with no books to my name (but a few articles!). It's funny how now as a stay-at-home-mom, Im busier than ever, but finding myself writing more than when I had what, in retrospect, was gobs of time on my hands.

As a family life blogger, I've written over 1,500 posts on my main site. Looking back on these recent years, I see how all this writing has taught me the truth behind the advice of my favorite mentor authors.

One. Writers write. In the past I READ about writing more than I actually wrote. I waited for lightning strikes of inspiration that seemed to come far and few. Now, I'm writing daily. Maybe not always the literary canon kind of writing I'm passionate about (poetry and creative nonfiction), but I'm constantly exercising my writing skills. The result is my confidence and body of work has grown. Something that wasn't happening while I just daydreamed about becoming a published author.

Two. Write what you know. This advice used to puzzle me. I went to school to become a writer. I studied writing. I became a teacher who taught writing. What did I know? Writing. I knew writing really really well. But that didn't leave me much to write about.

When I started my parenting and family life blog, my early posts were very hesitant. Brief. I labored over them. What did I know about parenting and raising kids. (Okay, truthfully, four years in, what do I STILL know?! Ha!).

As a new mom, I went through six months of struggles with breast feeding. And my writing reflected that, with a mini-series helping breast feeding moms feel supported. Suddenly, knowing a LOT about breast feeding gave me a passionate voice on that topic.

Fast forward a year, and I was constantly entertaining a busy toddler...and writing a series of "toddler exploration" posts.

As I flip through my posts, I realized the truth behind "write what you know." Four years ago what did I know about breastfeeding? Virtually nada! About toddler play? Definitely nothing about the rhythm and beauty of keeping up with an active boy!

But now? Now my life informs my work.

I'm writing what I know about parenting and motherhood as I experience it. Sure, other people write about similar topics, but nobody with my voice and my personal experiences.

My writing changes as our family changes and grows. I reflected aloud to my husband recently about how I probably won't write my annual breastfeeding series this year. I've said most of what I have to say on that topic, and were just not experiencing that phase anymore.

However we have launched into the world of homeschooling, travel with kids, and miniature homesteading and I'm excited to write about these new experiences as they come.

When we as writers simply write what we know, we will never fall short of ideas, our writing voice will ring strong and true, and we will connect with the heart of our readers.

Of course, some things never change....after all, look at me here... I'm writing about writing, aren't I?

 

Julie is a mom of two energetic boys and wife to her brainy and green-thumbed husband. She writes for her parenting and family life blog Happy Strong Home, and her pieces can also be found on the Melissa & Doug blog and Ergobaby blog. She dreams of one day publishing a lyrical childrens book illustrated by one of her favorite artists, or a book of poems on motherhood.
 
 
*Just a note that I won't be posting next Wednesday. See you in a few weeks.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Hearts Full of Dew

 
 
 
 
 
“I prefer by far the warmth and softness to
 
 mere brilliancy and coldness. Some people
 
remind me of sharp dazzling diamonds.
 
Valuable but lifeless and loveless. Others, of
 
 the simplest field flowers, with hearts full of
 
dew and with all the tints of celestial beauty
 
reflected in their modest petals.”
 
~  Ana├»s Nin
 
*Reminder to let me know if you'd like me to visit with or Skype with your book club. Also, if you've read my latest, THE FLOWER GIRLS, I'd love for you to leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads. (Thanks to those who have already done so!) Finally, keep posting those beautiful photos of the cover with the latest blooms and/or THE FLOWER GIRLS on your vacation.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

#MyWritingProcess Blog Tour


When Leesa Freeman, then Anne Mateer invited me to participate in the #MyWritingProcess blog tour I jumped at the chance. I love promoting fellow authors. After answering my questions, I’ll introduce you to three quality writers. And just a heads up, I probably broke about twelve rules completing this process, such as linking to posts that have already gone live. I apologize. I can get a little wild & crazy like that.

The questions…

1.      What am I working on? 

 I’m hard at work drafting a new book club novel. This particular work has quite an emotional punch and comes with a major twist, which makes this one of the hardest books I’ve worked on to date. The characters in this crew are some of my favorites so far.

Setting is crucial in this story. Sorry to be so evasive, but the development process is a vulnerable one and I tend not to offer too many details as many of them come as delightful discoveries to me as I write.

 I can share that it’s women’s fiction, the characters are waking me up at night, and I go back to the impetus of this work whenever the plot or characters start getting all elusive on me. The impetus has been a faithful compass.

2.      How does my work differ from others of its genre? 
I’ve learned from some incredibly talented women’s fiction writers. This said, one of my favorite aspects of writing novels is crafting something unique and fresh. I gravitate toward writing stories with characters living with some sort of brain anomaly, or something that makes them perceive the world quite differently.

My novels also take place in New England, where I grew up so I find myself often reconnecting with my roots. And I like exploring issues related to pregnancy and parenting as evidenced in the two books I recently released, THE FLOWER GIRLS and THE DISAPPEARING KEY.

Finally, I’m told all of my novels have the tendency to leave readers craving to discuss them—the story, the characters, etc. which is exactly what I hope for as I sit to write.

  3. Why do I write what I do? 

            Because my characters won’t let me write non-fiction. And I figured out a few years ago I have a freakishly abnormal sense of empathy toward any and every one. At some point I realized maybe there’s a way to channel that empathy. And that’s how I turned into a novelist.

  4. How does my writing process work?

 I’m still trying to discern if it does work. Triage. That’s what it is. I write when I can. I edit when I can. I do the can-can if my words turn into a novel and people make sense out of it.

 Seriously, I work hard. I take myself seriously and despite the accolades or public rejection, I continue to believe in my core that there’s something worthwhile for me to pursue as a novelist. A story to chase.

 Off I run now.

~*~

And now to linky link and let you know who I asked to answer these questions…

Bree Combs
(I met Bree years ago serving in unique capacities for our church moms group. Sweet soul and burgeoning writer!)

Bree is married with three children and earned a degree in elementary education from Campbellsville 
University. She’s a stay-at-home mom, involved with teaching, speaking, & writing at her church. She takes her faith seriously, but tries not to take herself too seriously, because it only leads to more wrinkles!

 She'll be answering these questions next Wednesday here.

 

Anne Mateer
(My editor extraordinaire and seriously wise friend.)

While Anne has been writing for what feels like her whole life, she began seriously studying the craft in 2000. Since then she’s completed five novels, had several pieces published in local periodicals, attended six writing conferences and managed to final in ACFW’s Genesis contest in 2006, 2008, and 2009. Anne currently has three historical novels published: Wings of a Dream, At Every Turn, and A Home for My Heart. Playing by Heart will release in the fall of 2014. But writing is only a piece of her life. - See more here.
Anne already answered these questions here.

 
Leesa Freeman

(Leesa and I have recently connected, both pursuing our writing dreams. I’m grateful our paths have crossed.)

A native Texan, Leesa Freeman enjoys escaping the chill of New England, if only in her imagination, often setting her novels in the places she loved growing up. She lives in Connecticut where she is also an artist, a self-proclaimed music snob, and recovering Dr. Pepper addict. Visit her website

 Leesa also already answered these questions here.

 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

New Ebook Price for THE FLOWER GIRLS & Tagg Is It Today


 
The Flower Girls has a new price ($4.99 for ebook) & I’m thrilled to be visiting Melissa Tagg’s place today sharing which twin in The Flower Girls I identify most with & more!
Hope you’ll click on over!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Not Losing Face

I’ve received a lot of positive feedback about my cover for THE FLOWER GIRLS. First, I have to thank my cover designer, Sarah Thompson. She was phenomenal to work with, quickly catching on to my vision regarding what I wanted the cover to convey. Second, I’m grateful I had a keen understanding of my audience, the theme of THE FLOWER GIRLS, and a strong grasp on the characters. Knowing each of these helped me to pinpoint what type of look I wanted.

I thought long and hard about certain elements before I even began looking for a stock photo to purchase.
I’ve read a few articles suggesting that publishing houses encourage their designers to steer clear of portraying faces on covers because the consensus is that readers like to envision characters without a preconceived image. I get this. But I knew more than anything, despite those articles, I didn’t want to lose face.

Why?
My book is about a woman with face blindness.
Sure I could have gone for the been there/done that back of a woman’s head, but I wanted Daisy to “speak” to women who love reading books about sisters and book club readers, with her expression—to invite them to read her story. And her twin, Poppy’s story.
I knew it the second I saw the photo (after scanning hundreds), bought it quickly, then trusted my cover designer extraordinaire with my vision.
Not only does Daisy’s expression suggest there’s a story to be told, I found the fat Gerber daisy covering her left eye to be quite symbolic. She’s a flower girl, a floral photographer who struggles intensely to distinguish one face from the next. I loved both the feminine appeal of this photo combined with the mystifying nature of it. Also, her hair is red which falls wonderfully in line with her Irish heritage.
Last week, during my virtual launch party someone asked which actress I could envision playing Daisy. Even though my characters come fully alive to me, I tend not to attach them to Hollywood actors without a prompt. I went with my gut and avoided putting too much thought into my answer. Within seconds I settled on Kate Winslet.
A few days later I looked Kate up on Pinterest. Go figure. I really do see Daisy in Kate. Do you?


Do you have any questions about the process of creating a cover? Had you given any thought to the significance of the flower covering Daisy’s eye on the cover before I mentioned it?
 
 *As a side, I thoroughly enjoy hunting for pictures I feel will capture the heart of a book. If you’re an independent author and this is a struggle for you, please feel free to reach out. I’d love to help!
**Also, don't forget to have fun trying out your photography skills when your book arrives (via kindle or paperback). Capture some shots with your favorite budding flowers & post online or send them my way.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

A Night I Will Never Forget



A Night I Will Never Forget—Recap of My Virtual Launch Party
Several nights ago I got to be a part of something that I’ll never forget. I hosted a virtual launch on FB and was overjoyed when people from all seasons of my life began showing up. We had a blast. In case you missed it, I want you to feel included, too. Here are some of the questions that were asked and how I answered them…
 
Julia Reffner asked:

Who are some of your favorite authors?

My answer:
Got a second? Lisa Genova. Elizabeth Berg. Liane Moriarty. Barbara Kingsolver. Wally Lamb. Vanessa Diffenbaugh. Anna Quindlen...to name a few.

Sarah Blake asked:
Are there any flowers you don't like? The only flower I don't like...and I mean REALLY don't like, is the Easter Lily because the smell reminds me of funeral homes.

My answer:
Carnations. Blech.

Sarah also asked:
The woman on the cover of your book is a perfect face for Daisy and Poppy BUT if your novel was turned into a movie, what actress would you see portraying them?

My answer:
O my word, that's a good, hard question! Kate Winslet. Went with my first instinct.

 Ashley Clark asked:
How long have you had the dream to write in your heart? Is it turning out the way you expected?

My answer:
Turning out TOTALLY different than I expected & I'm finding that's okay. Sort of like life! ;-) The dream seeded in me in college.

Meg Bauer asked:
What really gets you excited to write? What gets you in your creative mode?

My answer:
A character that I feel deeply for--her story bleeds into mine.

Leesa Freeman asked:

Your baskets are beautiful! I would love to know where you came up with the ideas of what to fill them with.

I had so much fun thinking about what to give away. I made a list of all the things related to the characters in THE FLOWER GIRLS. Then I went to TJ Maxx, my go-to for just about everything.

Abby Shaffer asked:
Do you see any of your children in your fictitious sisters? Or even your own sisters? I would think it would be hard to separate your own life from your book all the time.

My answer:
It all blends in. Like one big pot of stew. In this book I see more of my sisters swimming around in that stew. I'm still getting to know my girls--giving them room to become who they'll be.

Bree Combs asked:
When you write, where does the idea for a story generally begin for you
-a character (or group of characters)
-the general plot
-a setting
-something totally different


My answer:
Character + a what if question that won't let me sleep. I'll expound more if I get a chance b/c I happen to love this question.

Sarah Forgrave asked:
Do you prefer silence while you write, or music in the background? If music, what's your style/artist of choice?

My answer:
Absolute silence. Which is super easy with three kids and a puppy (and a semi-working dishwasher).

Emily Boucher asked
How did you decide on Dylan and his "Bob" eccentricity?

My answer:
I notice kids like this and I'm drawn to them. I happen to think they're adding so much to this world.

 Karen Sweeney asked:

Sounds like an amazing book...Do you provide a book club section?

My answer:
Yes, there's even an Enhance Your Book Club section at the back of the book where you're encouraged to toast everyone in your book club.

Karen Glass asked:
When you started The Flower Girls did you know how it would end?

My answer:

No. And I love that freedom.

~*~
I loved the thought behind each question and interaction. I also tackled questions about the extensive research I did on flowers and prosopagnosia and what I’d name my twins, although I still haven’t come up with an answer for that one. I revealed whether I ever had a crush on one of my sister’s boyfriends.

After a flurry of activity and excitement after announcing the giveaway winners, I concluded the virtual launch with a toast.

This message goes out to you as well…

I lift my glass to you, my readers. The ones that make me do this through the most humbling moments. The folks who make me believe there is something to this to keep pursuing, to not give up. The ones who feel my characters and know my stories. A toast to you! For changing me. For inspiring me to write and do what I love, what I'm on earth to do. You call the words forth from me. You invite the story. Cheers & good night!

*Jill Kemerer is hosting me on her blog today. Come by & say hello!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Five Fun Flower Facts


 
Bert Goose, a secondary character and expert gardener in my newly released novel THE FLOWER GIRLS, enjoys feeding Daisy O’Reilly intriguing flower facts.

I thought I’d share a few fun flower facts with you today.

 
Tulip bulbs were more valuable than gold in Holland in the 1600s.

Sunflowers move throughout the day in response to the movement of the sun from east to west.
The English name of dandelion is derived from the French dent de lion which means “lions tooth” due to it coarsely toothed leaves. Its flower petals are used in making dandelion wine while its roasted roots are used as a caffeine free dandelion coffee.

The Underground Orchid lives entirely underground! Unlike other plants, this unique orchid cannot use sunlight to obtain its energy, and instead gets its food from the decaying stumps of another plant, the broom honey myrtle. The orchid attaches to the roots of the broom honey myrtle through a special kind of fungus that is believed to be essential to the orchid’s survival.
And as we learned recently, lilies are poisonous to dogs. Trip to the vet & $100+ later and thankfully all is fine with our Panda pup. She got into the irises, which can cause stomach trouble, but not to the same extent as lilies.

Have any fun flower facts to share?

*Fetched info. from here, here & here
**Keep an eye out for my Countdown to Summer FlowerGirls Giveaway on Goodreads!
***Don’t forget to post a picture of your copy of THE FLOWER GIRLS next to blossoming flowers that catch your eye to social networking sites. Here’s the latest one I’ve seen. Sarah Blake’s copy. Gorgeous!