Summer Progress

Each summer turns out a little different than I expect. Sometimes, I feel like I can conquer the world, but I’m lucky to survive a two-week visit with one grandchild before I get to rest a few days and have another one over for a visit. Other times, I surprise myself with how much we accomplish. We always try to spend time on some of their projects and do some of mine, if we are able. This year has been moving along rather nicely, so far. We’ve made lots of progress.

I hope your summer (or winter?) is being good to you, also.

Advertisements

Dangerous Storms Cross the Nation

Tornado-Purple-1000x288Tornadoes are sweeping across the nation. When the number of tornadoes that dropped out of the clouds on Wednesday are finally determined, I wonder what those numbers will be. It’s not going to be just 5 or 10, and, unfortunately, there’s going to be a lot of damage displayed on every news show and then some. They may make special TV shows about it, maybe even a movie. Some of the tornadoes have been huge and violent.

And there are the floods. Northern Oklahoma has been inundated with heavy rainstorms overfilling lakes, ponds, rivers, and reservoirs. So many of our lakes are nearly at their peak containment levels. That water has to be released and will flow southward. Hundreds, probably thousands of residents have been evacuated; told to grab what they can and get out. Their homes will be damaged or completely destroyed by floods. No way to save them. Just get out. Some homes are washing into the rivers and lakes as the rushing water claws and etches new boundaries along its southward path.

And the runaway barges… When and where will they settle? If they crash into the dam, they could cause massive destruction and more flooding downstream. But, where are they? Why haven’t they already reached the dam? Did some cowboys lasso them and prevent them from making their way there? Could we be so lucky that such superheroes might possibly exist? We need such a dream to come true, right now.

A lot of people will either sleep lightly or not at all, tonight. My heart goes out to those who have damage they are trying to deal with and nobody knows about it, yet. Nobody knows to come to the rescue, because the storms have refused to let up long enough to allow us to share such news.

When the sun rises in the morning, we will see thousands of photos of damage and destruction. We will hear unbelievable stories of people who stood in doorways or lawns and watched rotating storms pass them by, or others who barely escaped floods. We may even learn of lives lost. I sure hope not.

God bless those who are able to help others put their lives back together in even the smallest ways.

Conference Season is HERE!

I’m excited! Today, I’m leaving for the Read.Write.Share! Writer’s Weekend in Little Rock, Arkansas. We have a great schedule planned. Visit my SCHEDULE page for the link.

Another wonderful event about to begin is my very own short story writing contest! I have the website started, and I’ll add more details when I return home from my weekend trip. Check out the website and sign up for updates on the contest HERE.

This week, I received exciting news that one of my stories won SECOND PLACE in the Friends of Tulsa City-County Library Adult Writing Contest. What an honor!

If I don’t see you this weekend, I hope I’ll see you soon at a critique meeting, or another upcoming conference. Again, check my SCHEDULE page for clues on where I’ll be attending or speaking and when.

Conferences, Workshops, and More

It’s that time again, folks. Spring brings lots of great opportunities to meet other authors, publishers, illustrators and editors when you attend the conferences around the nation.

Check out my LINKS page for many of the area conferences within a six to eight hour drive from Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Some of those conferences offer opportunities to enter writing contests and win some cash. Visit their websites to learn more. Find out how your writing competes with others!

If you’re looking for a chance to actually meet some area publishers and learn more about the industry and how it’s changing with self-publishing, traditional publishers, and more, don’t miss the 5th annual Meet the Publishers! event in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Saturday, March 30th.

If you’re interested in following me through the year, check out my SCHEDULE page.

Got questions? Send me an email from my ABOUT page!

Have a wonderful conference season!

Gifts for Writers

If you have a family member or friend who is a writer, and you want to give them gifts—for birthdays, holidays, or just because—but don’t know what to give, you’re not alone. Even writers have trouble offering ideas.

Most writers use and keep the inexpensive basic supplies listed. Listen for them to mention they are almost out or need to buy more, soon. Some don’t use all these things, so you do have to familiarize yourself with your writer’s preferences.

On the more expensive end of the list, you will find items we need—like conferences and workshops, or things need done but don’t always remember to do—like fixing the car, or things to help us get away from the desk, once in a while.

Below are some good ideas. They start small and move up in price. Free or almost free ideas are at the bottom.
Erasers – Hand-held erasers or pencil-tops?
Pens – Plastic, wood, metal? Ink or gel? Ink color(s)? Clip on side? Rubber pads around the middle?
Sticky Pads or Stickers – Color? Size? Design?
Paper Clips – Color? Size? Design?
Staples – Color? Size? Design? Brand?
Stapler – Color? Size? Design? Brand?
Highlight Markers – Color? Size? Design? Brand?
Permanent Markers – Color? Size? Design? Brand?
White-out – Color? Design? Brand?
Spiral or Other Notebooks – Wide ruled? College Ruled? No lines?
3-Ring Binders – Color? Size? Design? Brand?
Copy paper
Printing paper – Some of us use colored paper or cardstock, too!
USB/Thumb Drives – Do they prefer small or large capacity? Is there a preferred brand or style?
Earbuds or Headphones – Color? Size? Design? Brand?
Yarn – Some writers crochet or knit while conjuring stories. Know their brand, color, type preferences before you buy! There are other needed items, too, such as needles, hooks, etcetera.
Desk Organizer – Color? Size? Design? Brand?
Chair Pad – For more comfortable sitting.
Business Cards – Only order these with your writer’s approval. You can reorder their normal ones or help them design new ones.
Pamphlets – Only order these with your writer’s approval. You can reorder their normal supply or help them design new ones.
Books – Hardcover? Paperback? Ebook? Audio Book? Listen for wished-for book titles.
Magazine Subscription – Ask which ones they really want.
Ink Cartridges – This is a great gift! All writers need these! Buy the cartridges their printer/copier requires.
Light bulbs – Type – CFL, LED, Halogen?  How many watts? Brand?
Haircut/Hairstyle – Great when the writer has an event coming up.
Manicure/Pedicure – Do they have a preference?
Bus Pass – If they ride the bus a lot, buy a season pass to help them get from Point A to Point B.
Taxi Pass – Is there a way to pay some taxi time in advance?
Turnpike Pass – Some writers use the turnpike. Apply some cash to their stash.
Computer Program or App – Which ones have they been wishing for?
Clothing – For desk time or public events. You’ll need sizes, colors, styles, brands, etcetera.
Cozy socks or houseshoes – Color? Size? Design? Brand? Style?
Photo Shoot for Author Picture
Cover Art / Illustrator
Carry Bag – For laptop, luggage, books, and more.
Gift Cards or Prepaid Credit Cards – For specific stores (print shop, gasoline, restaurant), or whatever they wish. These would be extra welcome just before a trip.
Advertising – Help them announce their new book, new project, etcetera.
External Hard Drive – Is there a brand or style they prefer?
Display Rack – for book signings and sales. Color? Size? Design? Brand?
Author Poster – for books, events, etcetera. (Design should be discussed with writer.)
Easel – to Display Posters. Color? Size? Design?
Computer – They will use this a LOT and need one that is up-to-date and suits their specific needs. (So, please learn their needs before purchasing one.)
Professional Edit – Is the work almost finished? Pay for a professional copyedit to polish the story.
Desk/Table/Chair – For office, or travel? Color? Size? Design? Brand?
Bookcase – Color? Size? Design? Brand?
File Cabinet – Color? Size? Design? Brand?
Video Camera – For book trailers and more. Color? Size? Design? Brand?
Webinars – Listen for subjects your writer wants/needs help with.
Workshops – Listen for subjects your writer wants/needs help with.
Study Courses – Listen for subjects your writer needs help with.
Gym Membership – Staying healthy can be hard for a writer who spends much of her time in a chair.
Writer’s Retreat – Alone or with a friend or friends, it’s nice to get away and write.
Conferences – Pay their way to a conference they want to attend.
Online Conferences – There may be an online conference they wish to attend.
Travel – Pay for a plane trip, rental car or other transportation to get to conferences or other events.
Hotel – Pay for their hotel costs to attend a conference or other event.
Research Trip – Would it help them to be on location? Send them there, or help them afford it!
Automobile – Upkeep, repair, or replacement.
Home – Upkeep, repair, or replacement.

A fun get-away is always a good idea for a writer who stays shut in a lot.

Day/Night Out – At the fair or carnival, concert, movies, swimming pool, skating rink, bowling alley, pool hall, learning to ride a horse, or?
Hiking, Fishing, Camping – Take time away from the writing to enjoy some of their favorite down-time hobbies.
Cruise – Where do they want to go? Is there something to celebrate, or would a cruise help them get away from all the interruptions of daily life?

Other ideas which are shareable:

Walk – Walk or jog together, or walk the dog(s).
Drive – Take a drive to nowhere in particular. Just hop in the car and go away for an hour or two.
Join them at a conference. Some writers want to attend a conference or other event, but won’t drive there alone. Just having someone along is a blessing. Take something to occupy your time while they’re at the event, or sign up to attend with them!

There are many more I could add, but these are items we use and/or need. And, if you’re reading this, you care enough to buy your writer something useful. Thank you for that.

If this list helps you find a gift for your writer, or you have other ideas, please share. I’d love to hear from you.

Have a Very Merry Christmas!

(Watch for more about the FREE 5th Annual MEET THE PUBLISHERS! event in Tulsa Oklahoma. The 2019 date is Saturday, March 30th. Mark your calendars!)

We interrupt this program…

Yes, I was supposed to post a list on this page a few days ago. However, I went to a fabulous conference and totally wiped out when I returned. I’ve slept a lot and not had any brains most of the time, so I seem to have lost my next blog post. No worries. I’ll find it in the next day or two, I’m certain. I took it with me to the conference, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find.

In the meantime, celebrate with me, if you will. At the conference (Ozark Creative Writers), I won three awards:

2nd Place (romance)
3rd Place (another romance)
1st Honorable Mention (a romance gone bad).

For what it’s worth, I don’t write romance. I’m starting to consider it, though.

My wonderful husband, Gene La Viness, did one better and won 1st Place in the Oxbow Award. He’s a very good writer. I’m proud to be his wife for many reasons.

I’ll try to get that gift list for writers on here real soon. Thanks for understanding!

If you’re looking for me on Facebook, here’s my author page: Author – Renee’ La Viness

Gene also has an author page on Facebook: Author – Gene La Viness

Give us a LIKE and follow us there. Thanks!

The Ins and Outs of Writing

If you’re interested in writing, or recently found yourself sucked into it, here are some important things you need to prepare for. Old-timers may also find a gem or two below.

Being a successful book author is a “whole life” plan. It’s nothing like being a machine shop operator or assembly line worker, or even a desk jockey, although you will spend much of your time at a desk. You are not doing the same thing over and over. You can’t survive on knowing how to do only one job. It requires learning as much about the whole industry as possible and keeping up with the constant changes that happen as the internet molds our way of thinking, buying, selling, and communicating. Before long, the daily challenge to be a successful author consumes your whole life.

So, what does an author really do?

Renee-Office-BlogPic

Along with writing, many other skills are required to be a successful author. One must know how to use a computer writing program, most of all. Manuscripts must be formatted to the requirements of different publishers and contests.

We also have to join online and offline groups, purchase programs/memberships that will be helpful in one manner or another. Before long, we’re also attending conferences, workshops, and webinars. If we do not buy into the most popular plans and products, we may be left behind when the writing industry moves forward. Then we scramble to catch up.

It is important to have some understanding of the skills others do for us. This often requires knowing whether we plan to self-publish, use a hybrid publisher, or be traditionally published. Do we need an agent? Some need illustrators or cover artists. Others might need formatters or marketing specialists. Many authors use a video or audio specialist, or both. Learning your publisher’s schedule also alleviates unnecessary frustrations.

Regardless of how you plan to be published, critique groups and beta readers are important for polishing manuscripts. And, all writers need to learn how to work with editors.

We need to determine whether our work is for newspapers, magazines, anthologies, or books. Different publishers have different writing rules, style manuals, and different submission preferences. We even have to learn how to pitch our work to a publisher during a short elevator ride!

Once we learn how to write and submit our stories, we have to learn more about selling them. Most of us start out selling to family and friends. Then we join a plethora of social media sites, schedule multiple book signings, speak at events and purchase advertising online, in printed publications, etcetera. If we’re smart, we also have a “street team.”

If we don’t have a website when we start our writing journey, we soon will. Learning to blog is also important.

During all this shuffling of skills and knowledge, we adjust our schedules again and again. Our family lives can easily be hindered or lost to our careers.

Just when we think we have mastered most of the skills and sit back to draw in a nice, long, relaxing breath, a new skill is required, we see something we missed along the way, or some fantastic new product, group, or idea comes along. Being the good authors we are, we must learn this new thing. And, so we get after it before we can exhale that beautiful breath we just took.

Somewhere along the way, our health comes into play. For many authors, health doesn’t become an issue until something serious happens or the doctor gives an ultimatum. Or both. So, we find ways to fit healthy foods and almost daily exercise into our plans. By this time, many of us already have physical limitations, so this can create a downhill domino effect if we do not take it seriously. Ultimately, most of us learn that a health plan of some sort must be added to our busy schedule. (If you’re just now starting out, please take this into consideration and plan ahead.)

How can you find your place in this constantly shifting field?

If you are an aspiring author, prepare to take on these challenges. Learn what you can about each stage as you move into it. Although many things different as times change, so try to stay in touch with the writing community.

If you’re a trailblazer, find your area of expertise and create new paths for other writers to follow.

If you’re a friend or family member, try to imagine what your writer is going through. Share their successes with your friends and family. Writers NEED your support. They can get overwhelmed in this craziness, and it’s nice to know someone close to us is paying attention. One of the best things you can do is acknowledge their career choice as a real job and help them set aside time to meet their daily challenges.

Need some great gift ideas for a writer? That’s my next post, so stay tuned!

Young Writers

Kids will be kids. Kids love to read good stories. Kids love to hear good stories. Some of them love to write good stories, too.

Over the past two or three years, we have taken a couple of our grandchildren (ages 10 to 13) to area writing conferences. They enjoy learning more about the writing industry.

Conferences create opportunities. They offer a chance to meet publishers, editors, illustrators, formatters, and many other writers.

At conferences, our writing youth can learn what publishers want and how other writers overcome their problem areas. They learn that support is a huge, important part of the writing industry, which is largely a solo career.

By meeting publishers and others while they are young, they will feel more comfortable approaching them in the future. This is very important.

This is a rapidly changing industry. Getting the younger generation involved is a wonderful way to encourage future success. If they are brought up seeing what conferences have to offer, they will be more likely to continue such educational experiences as they grow older and more independent. They will be less intimidated by the process and more willing to be involved.

I was so pleased to see a twelve-year-old win an award at the White Country Creative Writers Conference, recently. For such a young one to do so well, he is going to be a great challenge at a very young age. I hope to see him win many more awards in the future.

NaNoWriMo is right around the corner. It is a great challenge for adults and youth. It is the opportunity to write a novel in a month. Learn to write without editing, then go back and edit after it’s finished. What if you don’t want to write a novel? Then write a bunch of short stories you can enter into contests. Or, write a whole lot of children’s books. Maybe you can write down all the stories you’ve heard from your loved ones as you great up. Just write.

Tonight, I met a fourteen-year-old writer at a monthly writers’ meeting. I look forward to watching her grow as a new writer, too.

It’s all so exciting!

Autumn Events

It’s almost here! Autumn is days away and we are looking forward to a serious reprieve from this summer’s heat wave. I’m sure it will return in another eight or nine months, if we just hang in there.

A lot of things have been in the works, lately. Wonderful changes are taking place. We have managed to get one of our most important domain names back after years of watching it be trashed by someone who was trying to get us to pay a large sum of money to get it back. We decided to wait it out. We are glad to have it back and will hopefully have it up and running around the end of the year, although it’s going to be a little longer before we start making pool cues, again. We have felt like life was pressing us down for a long time and this seemingly small change has given us a huge emotional boost.

I have two new books coming soon. They are part of the Diary series. It is hard to contain my excitement.

I’ve also been working hard on some old and some new short stories for conference contests. I have some new stories that have surprised even me.

My computer finally decided it was tired of the flack Windows 10 was giving it. When it finally refused to start Windows, I took it to the shop. I was so scared I’d lose all my stories and other stuff I’ve collected in here for the past five years. Yes, I back everything up, but it had been a good month since the last big save. When it choked, I was in the middle of writing one of my best stories, yet. There was only one serious problem. I had to send that story with the next day’s postmark (contest deadline), so I was a bit frantic. The guys were awesome. They saved practically everything on my computer AND got that story file to me, so I could finish writing it and get it submitted on time, too. After all that, I sure hope it wins something!

Anyway, here’s a SHOUT OUT to the guys down at Same Day Computer Repair of Tulsa. Thanks so very much for saving the day and not breaking the bank! You guys are my heroes!

I’m excited about this Saturday, September 1st. A few years ago, Gene and I took a trip to Searcy, Arkansas for the White County Writers Conference. We had a wonderful time and wished we could go back. Well, this year, I’m not just getting to go back, but I’m also one of the speakers scheduled for the event. There will be three of us: Best selling author Robin Caroll, who will share some insight on writing suspense and mystery; President & Creative Director of Oghma Creative Media, Casey W. Cowan, will help authors have a better idea what publishers want; and I will be giving away secrets on writing dialogue and emotions, first thing in the morning. So, be there early, if you want to know what I know!

In October, we’ll be at the Ozark Creative Writers Conference, again. We always look forward to seeing our friends out there. I won’t be representing 4RV Publishing, this year (since I resigned in January), but I’ve been told they are planning to be on Publisher’s Row, again. I will be glad to meet up with my fellow authors from Oghma Creative Media.

Another school year is upon us and I will soon be having lunch with my grandchildren and reading for their classes, again. I am looking forward to it.

I will be back with another update as soon as I can. Things are moving along and life is good.

May your lives be as blessed as mine.

Time keeps on moving along

A couple of weeks ago, my mother-in-law passed away. But, time kept moving along. Everything she stood for lives on in those of us who loved her. My husband is the last survivor of that immediate family. We almost lost him more than once last year, so I feel very, very blessed. I’m probably also a bit over-protective of him. I hope everyone will keep that in mind as I try to relax that mode.

In about a month, we’ve also lost a good friend in the pool/billiards industry, three cousins, and a long-time friend’s dedicated husband.

Another friend lost her dog who helped her through some of her toughest days, and a very close friend (one of our classmates) within a couple days of each other. My heart breaks for her huge loss. She needed one to help her deal with the other, but she lost both. I hope to always be present when she needs a friend.

This has been a year of great losses. If you are also dealing with the loss of loved ones, my sympathies go out to you. It is not easy to lose someone, even if you have known they were suffering and moving in that direction for a long time.

But, life moves on. The world keeps on turning. Nothing stops just because of our losses. I once had a best friend whose heart sank every year during the holidays because he lost his grandparents at that time of year, when he was young. It was very hard to be a close friend and have his intentional depression looming over all of us during a time when our family was supposed to be cheerful and thankful for what we did have. We were thankful for him, as well, but he did not see that. I tried many times to help him feel better and to find a way to be LESS focused on his childhood losses and MORE focused and thankful for having the rest of his family and friends to enjoy during those months. But sadly, but we weren’t that important to him. He purposely focused on his loss, because he was afraid he would not be properly acknowledging his grandparents if he did not keep their memories and his loss constantly in his mind.

Most people would never want you to lose your happiness in order to remember what they stood for. You can honor their memories by being what they wanted you to be, or succeeding in what they did not expect. That would make them proud. And that can help you smile. Focus on doing that and be the happy person they loved.

Focus is the key. We have to intentionally FOCUS on the good of here and now, even if we can’t see it, yet.

It is not easy to let the past go. So many of us worry we will forget those who left us behind. Don’t forget to appreciate those who are still here and present and NEED us to be present, in return.

I HOPE, as I lose more of the people I am very close to, I will always be able to focus harder on those who are still here with me. I also hope that if I have trouble focusing, someone will care enough to help me along to that place. It is where I want to be.

Hmmm… This is not what my blog post was supposed to be about, but it seems to be what is on my mind. Maybe I am having to work a little harder on my own focus, right now. So, I’ll go do that and come back later to post the blog I intended. In the meantime, I hope this helps someone else, too.