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!

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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?

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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.

Hearts

I was about to update my website when my phone rang. It seems that my mother-in-law has had a major heart attack and is not doing well.

Take care of your health. Call home and tell your parents you love them.

I’ll post my planned update in a day or two. For now, I have things to tend to.

Keeping up

So much has been going on lately. I am not used to the fast pace my life has taken since I resigned from 4RV Publishing to focus on building my writing and editing career.

At the moment, so much is going on that I am having trouble keeping up. I hope you’ll forgive me for not posting more often.

Watch this page for some great info over the next week or two. I have a LOT to share.

Also, keep your eyes on my other website: JesPiddlin’s Books

Meet the Publishers! this Thursday!

It’s that time again, folks. Can you believe this is the fourth year? This Thursday, March 15th, at 6:00 PM, a panel of publishers will address your questions, followed by an opportunity to visit and view their products. Learn about different types of publishing: traditional, hybrid, vanity press, and self-publishing.

This year, there will be two publishers from Arkansas, two from Oklahoma, and two self-publishers. There will also be swag bags containing helpful information for your publishing needs.

As always, this free, informative event is sponsored by Designing the World with Words and Tulsa Area Children’s Book Writers. For more information, please visit the event website at http://www.jespiddlin.com/publishers-2018 or contact Renee’ at meet-the-publishers@jespiddlin.com

For those who don’t know, I resigned from 4RV Publishing in January. After four and a half years with the company, it was time for a change, I suppose. We took on a lot of extra medical bills last year, due to my husband’s heart attack and having both his carotid arteries cleaned out. I needed more freelance editing jobs to help us out. I am a firm believer that everything happens the way it does for a reason. So, this is part of my forward momentum. I have been very pleased at how fast new jobs have come in. Thank you for your trust and support.

Not too long ago, I pitched and submitted a children’s picture book to a publishing company in Arkansas. I was offered a contract and I’ll have more info on that next time I write.

This year, I won’t be offering as many workshops, but I will be available for mobile workshops and as a speaker for writing-related events. Find my full conference schedule and become one of my Conference Stalkers at https://reneelaviness.com/events.

Are you planning to submit your story to a publisher, soon? Have you put it through a critique group to get their input? What about a beta reader or an editor? Here is a little help. Click here to download my two-page Story Checks file and use it to tighten and polish your story before you submit it. Good luck with all your contest and book submissions, this year!

Don’t forget to drop in at 6pm, this Thursday… (Click to visit website.)MeetPublishers-2018-BusCardAd2-mini

 

A Movie Review?

I’m soon to write another post here, but I left this on my Facebook page and decided to share on my website, as well. I seldom ever write any kind of a review, but I have waited for so long to see this movie.

I went to a friend’s house on Wednesday, and we watched The Man Who Invented Christmas. Here is my review of that movie.

Knowing this was supposed to be a portrayal of potentially real events gave me the hunger to see what Charles Dickens did in his writing (or how someone else perceived it) that I might learn from.

If you are not a writer, this is a great movie, because it shows very much how intense a writing project can get, especially when you are under pressure. We find our phrases, words, circumstances, and people in everyday life. Sometimes, a complete stranger has a look that sparks an entire story. When we get so absorbed the rest of the world needs to just leave us alone, we never mean any negativity to those we love. Well, we really do mean, “Leave me alone!” or, “I don’t have time, right now!” but usually, that’s only temporary, as the movie points out. It does occasionally happen, though. It’s just that we get so connected with our characters. We have to get connected to see every little quirk and interpretation that make our characters who they are. We have to see, feel, and convey these things to convince our readers the characters are real. And, we need to stay in the story until it is complete. Even stopping to sleep or go to the bathroom is a huge and unwelcome interruption.

If you are a writer, this movie has a fantastic manner of bringing those scenes and actions we see in our heads into his life, very much like the ones that play through our heads as we feverishly write what we are seeing. It also shows how we often like to enjoy life, probably a bit too much, at times. It serves as a good reminder to pay closer attention to our attitudes when we get to that intense place with our stories. If you’re a serious writer–especially if you’re a pantser–you know exactly what I’m talking about.

The main character is charming, fun to watch, full of entertaining pockets of personality. I love the different faces he makes throughout the movie.

The little snippets of info at the beginning and end of the movie are very helpful in understanding the full weight of Charles’ position.

I enjoyed the story within a story, how the writer(s) gave him his own demons to conquer as he drove himself to the end of the story he was writing, and how HIS main character played into helping him conquer those demons.

I loved the message Charles wanted to convey with A Christmas Carol. I, too, believe he achieved his purpose.

The one thing I liked least was the purple lipstick he wore. I realize it helped emphasize his facial shifts that were so cute, but the color was maybe a touch too noticeable. However, when he is portrayed as a child, you know it’s him, thanks to that ugly lipstick.

Another thing I did not like was studying over this in a political manner. I didn’t like how the story line might be used politically (in today’s twisted views), so I abandoned those thoughts early on.

Overall, I really enjoyed the movie. It wasn’t the most outstanding I’ve ever seen, and it could have been much more intense, but I still felt connected because I’ve written in a similar manner and found my inner beast can be almost as ugly as his may have been. I’m certain none of my works have been quite as earth-shaking as Charles Dickens’ masterpieces, but I’m thrilled to know that what he went through was very much like what I go through as a writer. It’s nice to feel such a connection to someone who made such an impact in our world.

If you watch this movie, I’d suggest making your atmosphere as theater-like as possible, so you can focus all your energy in the story line. Today’s world creates way too many interruptions. For that reason, I believe the theater is where this movie would be best viewed.

And, there is the question of whether to allow a child to view the movie. As many others have said, I believe children should be at least 8 to 10 years old and have recently seen and understand the movie A Christmas Carol, or even better, have the story read to them and discussed with them, so they can understand the events of this movie.

I plan to watch this movie again–very soon–with my wonderful, writer husband. I’d love to gain his insight and interpretations.

If you saw this movie, please tell me what you thought of it. I’m curious to learn the views of others.

Coming soon…

I apologize for being so slow with my next blog post. I’ve been trying to help my husband through some major health issues and I’ve got a couple of announcements I want to make. I just have to get a couple more things lined up and taken care of, then you’ll see some great things mentioned here.

In the meantime, why don’t you check out my website? On the Schedule page, I have a list of all the events I plan to attend, this year. On the Links page, there are links to some terrific writing groups and conferences in this area. (If you know of any others, please let me know.) And, on the Edits page, you’ll find lots of great books I’ve helped edit over the past few years. Some were for the publishing company and some were for individuals.

Keep a close watch on this page. Lots of news coming soon!