The Internet Rule Book

Did you get the memo? It was delivered with the Rule Book.

No, not that old dating gimmick, The Rules, but the “The Internet Rule Book.” It was written sometime after “Everything You Need to Know You Learned in Kindergarten.” “The Internet Rule Book” addresses social media. You didn’t learn that in kindergarten.

Rule #1: If you have a blog, you must do an End of Year Reflection. So here goes.

My novel, A Reasonable Price, didn’t sell in 2014. Boo hoo. Question is, why not? If I knew that, I would have fixed it. Then again, maybe I did and we just don’t know yet. Over the past twelve months, I worked diligently to find my novel a home. I received excellent feedback from major lit agents (who shall remain nameless lest they be embarrassed that they passed on a future bestseller) and my instructor and fellow classmates at a novel workshop at the ISWF. Incorporating their best suggestions, I spent September through November doing a major rewrite, then sent out a few queries in early December. I will send out more as soon as the holidays have returned to work days. At times it feels like I’m navigating my little ship through cyberspace—with no certainty of ever finding a place to land. Or, maybe I did make all the right changes, and will soon query the right agent who will snatch it up and sell it tout de suite!

Rule #2: No whining.

GeorgieThis is why 2014 saw so few posts here on your favorite website. They say, “Write with authority to gain readership.” Well, believe you me, I’m an authority on a lot of things … just not on being an author (apparently). For instance, in late June, I got a new puppy. She is George Eliot, a Havanese. I’ve become an authority on her, but I didn’t want to confuse things by writing about my dog on my writer’s blog. Sure, I could have posted an update every day of the year, but “Didn’t Sell Novel Again Today” and “Wrote Some, Deleted Some,” both qualify as whining. I thought it better to stay silent until I have real news.

Rule #3: Be Kind to Others

This rule was stolen from Ellen Degeneres, but I doubt she’ll mind. Only Stephen Hawking could explain how the Internet is both endless and intimate. You can search forever in less than one second. Bullying, name-calling, whining … they will all come back to haunt you. So, as you did learn in kindergarten, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. Just go back to your novel and work harder. The harder you work, the luckier 2015 will be.

With that, cheers to 2015, friends! Let’s all play by the rules and make 2015 the best year ever.

Fiction Writers Unite: Jane Friedman For President

In these times of turmoil, when the definitions of words such as “marriage,” “employed,” and “publishing” are all in flux, we fiction writers must unite and find a leader.

I nominate Jane Friedman.

For the past several years, I have called myself a writer. Truth be known, I am a “retired” art dealer who picked up a laptop and tapped out a novel, then a second, a third, and now a fourth novel. I wasn’t an English major. I don’t have an MFA. I guess you could say I’m trying to sneak in the back door of publishing—and I’m holding out for a traditional publisher. But, I have read a mountain of books on WRITING. I have read a mountain of GOOD LITERATURE (and some not so good). I have attended a WRITERS’ CONFERENCE in the mountains. And I have read blog post after blog post after blog post on query letters, blogging, publishing, networking, grammar … You name it, I’ve tried to absorb it. I am that determined to teach myself the art of good writing.

Then, about a year ago, I had a long conversation with my son, Elliott, about sifting through all the contradictory advice that’s out there. (Did I mention he is getting his MFA at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop?) He suggested that I stop reading everything I can get my hands on, and narrow myself to two or three trusted sources. Huh. Not bad advice.

The name Jane Friedman popped to the top of my list.

Jane Friedman is the straight-talking, walking-Wikipedia of publishing. I trust what she says above just about anyone else in the industry.

[For the record, I am crossing my fingers that Ms. Friedman—if she reads this—considers me a fan, not some creepy stalker. I did meet her once, at a Writers’ Digest Conference, but she wouldn’t remember me. I tried to make some ice-breaking joke about Bourbon (which she loves, and I know absolutely nothing), so she probably thought I was a little odd, but really I was just nervous about making a good impression. Yeah, no.]

My current campaign was inspired by one of her latest blog posts on Writer Unboxed, another helpful writing source. Friedman writes, and I happily quote: “If you’re a totally new, unpublished writer who is focused on fiction, memoir, poetry, or any type of narrative-driven work, forget you ever heard the word platform.” Yes, that’s right. She tells writers who are working to publish their first book of fiction to STOP BLOGGING. I might be inclined to say she buried her lead by sticking this gem in the center of a long post, but the article is chock full of great advice.

(Stop blogging? Okay, logically, I would end this post here, but because I call myself a writer, I have the uncontrollable urge to type out another 200 or so words.)

After I finished my first novel, I followed the rules and sent out beaucoup query letters. I got one request for a partial, but now I am grateful that it didn’t get published. It was crap. I did learn, however, that I had “no platform.” Any agent who tried to look me up would have seen a lot of dead links to my former art gallery, but nothing about me as a writer. So I started a blog. Then I wrote my second novel, and joined Twitter and Goodreads. I had one request for my complete manuscript, but no offer. Next, I wrote my third novel, and started a Facebook Author Page. Still—not quite there. I now have hundreds of blog posts, 676 Twitter followers, 379 Goodreads friends. A modest but decent platform. My numbers are not staggering, because I always felt lost when it came to blogging.

As a non-published fiction writer, what the heck was I supposed to blog about? My fictional characters? My struggle to get published?


The blogging experts say, Keep a tight focus. They say, Offer advice. They say, Blog three times a week. They say, Above all, don’t whine!

I suppose a lot of great coaches never made it as superstars of their chosen sport, but still, I felt a bit like a fraud offering advice as an unpublished fiction writer. Yes, I know a good book when I see one, but wouldn’t most of us rather take advice from someone who has succeeded? Exactly.

More importantly, as Ms. Friedman says, imagine how much more I could have accomplished if I had spent all those blogging hours writing. I might be published by now!

And so, dear followers, I will keep blogging—sporadically, as always (I’ve never been good at that three times a week rule)—but from now on I will NOT feel guilty about NOT blogging! I am getting closer and closer to my dream of being a published author. (The details are a secret; you’ll just have to trust me on this.) (Okay, I can give you this hint.) Until then, I will dedicate my time to writing unputdownable stories.

Meanwhile, Jane Friedman for President of the United Fiction Writers!

Define “Writing”

When people ask me how many hours I write in a day or a week, I tend to stumble through my answer. My sweet husband will often jump in to say, “Sixty hours a week, at least.” I look at him askance and smile at his generosity.

But it all depends on one’s definition of “writing,” I suppose.

Write, writing, wrote… def: the activity or skill of marking coherent words on paper and composing text.

1. Adding new words to a page (and apparently they’re supposed to be coherent words)
2. Editing those words: cutting out the weak or superfluous ones (read: adverbs); exchanging the boring words for non-boring words (read: verbs).
3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 until your fingers bleed.

But there’s more. What about the planning stages? Parents and teachers used to scold children for daydreaming, but would any great book have made it into print if authors weren’t allowed to daydream? Many days I’ll curl up on my sofa with paper and pen and scribble down ideas and thoughts, but some of my best ideas come to me in the shower, or in those sweet, sweet moments of hypnagogia. (Look that one up; it’s worth remembering.)

And here’s the big one: reading. Could anyone write a decent novel if s/he had never read one? And if a person wants to write a memorable story, mustn’t s/he read a plethora of good books? (Where else would we learn the meaning of plethora?)

Blogging! There’s another necessary element to “writing” in the Twenty-first century. (Okay, I don’t think Ann Patchett has a blog, but… )

So, if I add up blogging, reading, daydreaming, editing, and writing… carry the one… From now on, my response to the question, “How many hours a week do you write?” will be: “A thousand, give or take.”

But then, I am a pseudologist, right?

The Best Laid Plans

So, how is your TBR list? Gone? Did you at least make a dent?

Two weeks ago today, I offered directions on how to drastically shorten your To Be Read book list to make room for some of the 2012 Top 100 books. And I boldly stated that I would take my own advice the first weekend of December, and report back on my progress.

Yeah, about that…  I read only one book.

You know that saying, We make plans; God laughs ? Well, I don’t think God is laughing, but he certainly through a monkey wrench into my family’s life. However, because this is a public forum and I am a (relatively) private person, I can’t elaborate other than to say sometimes life has a way of rearranging one’s priorities. Zap! Just like that.

Okay, Peeps, back to real life.

Meanwhile, I am formulating ideas for my next novel. And my next book to read? All the Pretty Horses, by Cormac McCarthy. Let me hear from you. Have you tried to zip through your TBR list? How’d you do?

WordPress Experts

Hey, WordPress bloggers, there’s a company right here in Des Moines, Iowa that specializes in WordPress blogs. Anyone needing help should contact them—you know, with those impossible widgets and plugins.

They are 8/7 Central, or eightsevencentral, either way.

I work with Justin Meyer who’s not half as grumpy as his picture makes him look. In fact, he’s quite nice. And SO smart.

They also make T-shirts… but that’s not as weird as it might seem. A lot of restaurants and businesses need a website and also t-shirts for their employees or customers. 8/7 Central can help you with both!

Look ’em up. I highly recommend them.

The Itinerant Techie

Here I go again… literally. I’m moving my website… again.

I’d be happy to give you my online presence history, but I doubt you care that much.

It’s still at, but now it’s hosted via WordPress. In the transfer, I lost a lot of photos and links, so I’ll work to get those back asap, and any other kinks should be fixed soon. Sorry for any confusion.

The brilliant guys, okay, Justin, at 8/7 Central in Des Moines did the hard work. The fun part—the blogging—is all me.

I think it’s fair to say that I love Apple more than they love me.

Aspirers vs. Emergers

If any readers of my blog are not yet aware of Kristen Lamb’s blog and book, We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide To Social Media, here is a strong recommendation to make yourself aware.

Aspiring Writer: one who sits alone for hours, typing her bleeding heart through her keyboard onto a blank page while dreaming of her novel being displayed on the front table of her local Barnes and Noble, or better yet, the one on 5th Avenue.

Emerging Writer: one who sits alone for hours typing at her computer but has learned not to use words like “bleeding heart”; one who follows sage advice, creates a platform, interacts with professionals and constantly works to become a better writer.

At any stage of the writing game—and according to Paul Auster it just gets worse as one becomes more successful—it seems vital, despite JD Salinger’s approach, to maintain active and healthy communication with other people. Writers, readers, agents, publishers, friends, they all play a part in sanity. (That’s sanity, not insanity.) Kristen Lamb is a no-nonsense guide to getting one’s name out there and preventing the feeling of being a lone writer. (That is, a writer who’s alone, not the only writer in the world.)

One of my core values is persistence. Kristen’s blog post today is about luck vs. persistence. This ought to separate the “aspirers” from the “emergers.”

Getting My Groove Back

Today I opened the files for my fourth novel for the first time in two months. It’s a little like reconnecting with old friends on Facebook. In other words, who the heck are these people and what the heck is going on in their lives?

For the past two months, I was finalizing (researching, rewriting and polishing) my third novel, Honorable Lies, which is now in Queryland with 13 agents. Well, I sent letters to 13 agents (because that number has always been lucky for me), but two have already said they are so proud of me, and pleased that I would give them the chance, but that they are unfortunately unable to represent my work. Hmmm. That’s okay, I only need one, and he/she is still out there.

You know the sage advice, “Write every day”? That’s so you don’t forget your own children characters. I had written 20,000 words of A Reasonable Price before I went back to finish up my last novel, and it’s going to take a while for me to remember exactly what these peoples’ demons and goals are. Fortunately, I have this novel outlined, start to finish, and I have copious notes to use as reference. This is the first time I’ve been so thorough on the outline, and I’m very glad to have all these notes to suck me right back into the tempest I have brewing in my hard drive. If you’re one who’s not able to write every day, this might be exactly the tack to take so you can re-immerse yourself at a moment’s notice.

Or maybe I’ll switch things up a bit now that I’m older and wiser. Either way, it’s good to be back.


Liebster BlogLove Continues

Wow, how nice is this? Big thanks to Katianne Williams for sending me the Liebster BlogLove Award. 

Katianne’s Blog is very entertaining and right-on. You can also find her on Twitter, of course @Katiannewill. She’s represented by Jenny Bent so we know she’s talented!

So what’s the Liebster Blog? Part of what I call the Twitter Circle of Love.

Here’s an explanation of this award:

Here are the rules:

1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
2. Reveal your own top 5 picks (the blogs you love with less than 200 followers) and let the bloggers know by leaving a comment on their blog or twitter.
3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
4. Have faith that your followers will spread the love to other bloggers.
5. And most of all – have bloggity-blog fun!

Check out some of my favorite (smaller) Blogs:

1. Alison Lockwood: 
2. Hallie Sawyer:
3. Kelcey McKinley:
4. Ann Napoltano:
5. Tess Hardwick: