16 July 2014

Long Way to the Top: Lynda Cox's Debut Novel

If you have a dream, don’t just sit there.
Gather courage to believe that you can succeed and leave no stone unturned to make it a reality.
~ Roopleen

The countdown to Kodiak begins! For the month of July and most of August, I’m concentrating on writing my memoir, so there won’t be as many blog posts.  Have a book-filled summer!



A
s I scribble down notes for yet another chapter idea, I wonder why the heck I ever thought I could write a book, much less one that anyone but my therapist would read.

It’s a common doubt that writers (and most artists) share: will anyone accept the work we have created?

It’s also one that should be locked away until the work is finished.  There is no magic formula, there is no easy way.  And the road to publication is long and filled with rejection potholes.

Today, Lynda Cox, tells us about her journey to publishing her first book, The Devil’s Own Desperado.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

Long Way to the Top
Lynda Cox guest blogging here. Give me a few seconds to make the introductions and then we can get down to brass tacks, as my grandmother used to say.

I’m a fifty-something grandmother raising one of the grandkids, and when I’m not writing romances, I show collies. I’ve been involved in the sport and insanity known as dog shows for better than thirty-five years.

I’ve been a Star Wars AND Star Trek geek all of my life. I grew up watching syndicated westerns, with a steady diet of John Wayne westerns thrown in. I’m also a huge Harry Potter fan.
The AC/DC song “Long Way to the Top” kept running through my head while I was thinking about writing this blog.

In my late thirties, I enrolled in college. My first day of classes, I looked around and realized that I was old enough to be the mother to almost every kid in the classes I was enrolled in. During my freshman year, I took a creative writing class. Maggie Wheeler, the instructor in that class, encouraged me to keep submitting.

So I did…and kept getting rejections.  But I didn’t stop writing or submitting.

It took almost twenty years to get published. I refined my writing, submitted my manuscript to an agent, and received countless form rejection letters.  Sometimes, I’d get a very personal letter that gave me hope to keep on trying.

There were times I stopped writing, but never for very long.

After my undergrad degree in English, I went back to work on my master’s. I concentrated in creative writing. One of the instructors I had as a grad student also served on my master’s committee and that man pushed me harder than I had ever been pushed. Aaron Morales told me after I’d defended my creative piece for the masters that the reason he pushed me so hard was he hadn’t seen the kind of writing talent I had in a long time. That was funny, coming from someone who’s almost twenty years younger than me.

But Aaron not only pushed me to go in directions I never would have thought I could go with my writing, he pushed me toward publication.

In a class of twenty five students, more than fifteen of us were published at the end of that semester.

Because I was concentrating in creative writing, I could take Aaron’s class more than once. Each semester, I found myself being published in a literary magazine: Blue Mesa Review, The Heartland Review, and Indiana English.

Those short stories opened the door for me to be published in novel length. I was better prepared to research where to submit. I now had publication credits in highly respected literary magazines. I decided I didn’t need an agent, that I’d work my way up through the slush pile. I submitted to The Wild Rose Press and waited. I received the standard form response that my query had been received and I should hear something in six to eight weeks. Almost twelve weeks went by without a word, so I sent an e-mail to The Wild Rose Press, asking if there was any news.

I received a very personal e-mail back, apologizing for the delay, and oh, by the way, if I would be willing to make some changes to the manuscript they were very interested in publishing my romance novel. I was working at Indiana State University at the time, directing the operation of the Writing Center, and I made my boss, the department chair, read that e-mail because I couldn’t believe what I was reading.

I made the changes that Susan—who then became my editor—asked for and within a week of submitting the changed manuscript, I had a contract for The Devil’s Own Desperado.

From signing the contract to release date was just a little under a year. I spent that year alternating between being so happy I was giddy to incredible self-doubt. The self-doubt grew worse when I thought about submitting a second romance to The Wild Rose Press.

What if I was only going to be a one hit wonder?

That doubt was removed when I was offered a contract for my second book, Smolder on a Slow Burn.

After The Devil’s Own Desperado was published, one of the professors at State asked me to come and talk to his Popular Literature and the Mass Media class, as one of the books read in that class is a romance novel. I was shocked to learn that Dr. Connelly was using my romance in his class. One of the questions the students asked was if I’m any different now that I have a published novel to my credit.

And the answer is, no. I’m still the same person I was before I signed my contract, before I saw the cover to my first book, before I held my first book in my hands. I’m just one of the lucky ones to have a romance novel published.

Yep, I’m one of the lucky ones. And, it’s still a long way to the top.

Lynda J. Cox will tell anyone who will listen that she was born at least one hundred and fifty years too late, and most definitely in the wrong part of the country. Her heart has always belonged to cowboys, the wide open spaces, horses, and Lassie. She grew up on a steady diet of cowboy movies, syndicated Westerns, and Lassie. All of those influences play a role in her life now. She writes western historical romance and raises and shows collies. She holds a master’s degree in English with a concentration in creative writing from Indiana State University after earning her BA from the same university as a non-traditional student. (Think being old enough to be mom to 90% of the students in her freshman cadre.) She’s kept busy with two spoiled rotten house cats, a 30 plus year old Arabian gelding who has been nicknamed “Lazarus” for his ability in the later years of his life to escape death, and quite a few champion collies. When she isn’t writing, she can be found on the road, travelling to the next dog show. She loves to chat about books, the writing life, and the insanity which is called a “dog show” and can be reached through her Facebook page.

Media and Web Links
lyndajcox.com

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26 June 2014

Falling Off the Writing Wagon (or No, My Brain Wasn't Eaten by a Zombie)

You must write every single day of your life...
You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders 
to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads...
may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. 
And out of that love, remake a world."
~ Ray Bradbury

June is the FLX/WordCount Blogathon!  Join us for 30 Days of blogging madness!



E
very time I thought about writing a post last week, I felt exhausted.  Tired, drained and unmotivated were the trending words in my little writerly bubble.

Basically, I had a six year old living in my head all week:

But I don’ wanna write!
No one reads my writing anyway!
I wanna read!
I’m bored!

Stomp! Stomp! Stomp!

A couple of sleepless nights didn’t do the little brat any favours either.  Add to that, severe adrenal fatigue, the possibility of Lyme, and an unhappy digestive tract (bet you saw that one coming) and you have a recipe for a writerly clusterfudge of epic proportions.

Also known as lethargy.
Also known as radio silence.
Also known as writer’s block.

I didn’t just fall off the Blogathon wagon, I rolled down the hill, through a cow patty, and into a haystack.

Where I stayed, on my back, staring blindly at a blank paper sky. 
Image credit: Quickmeme

Just Keep Writing, Just Keep Writing
But what is the one rule of writing that all writers must learn and re-learn? 

Just write.  Type until you can’t type anymore and your hands look like claws and your wrists fall off and your eyes are as “raw as meat in a butcher shop.”*

Even if it’s gobbledygook. 
Even if it’s  painful. 
Even if it’s messy. 
Even if it’s rough.

And don’t stop.

Because if you stop writing, you’ll start editing.  Erasing.  Cursing.  Eating things you shouldn’t (hence the rebellious digestive tract), and eventually, you’ll stop writing altogether.

The only time it’s acceptable to stop writing is when you’re out living and listening.  So you have something to write about.

Or reading.  So you have writing prompts that will kick start your writing.

Or if a zombie ate your brains.  Because then your thoughts would really be scattered and your writing wouldn't make any sense.

So you didn’t blog all 30 days.  Did you write every day or read something that you could write about later?  Yes?  Great!  Then it was a success!

The Three Rs: Rest, Reading and a little Rx
But my name isn’t Pollyanna or Bright Eyes, or Dorothy.   And sometimes, even the smallest task is simply too difficult when you are exhausted and tired and starting a new medication.

That whole myth about writers and artists churning out masterpieces while high or drunk is definitely a myth.  Not that I was high or drunk, but the new medication…oh wait, it was to help calm me down and make me feel happy. I think.

Nevermind.  Maybe it’s not a myth.  Still not really that interested in testing it out.  Oh, Mythbusters!  Yoo hoo!

Bottom line: I wrote abso-freakin-lutely nothing last week.   Instead, I threw myself a writer’s pity party.  Anne Shirley would have loved it.  I was in the depths of despair over my lack of talent and my shoddy consistency ~ blame it on the ADD. Wait.  Isn’t that a song? 

But I read.  A lot.  Some really good stuff.  Some gloriously trashy stuff.  Some books I laughed at ~ not because they were funny, but because they were just that awful.  Some made me cry.

And some…inspired the Muse.

Which is the whole point of reading when you can’t write and writing all the time even if it’s horse caca.  Because that fickle, beautiful Muse ~ she better not find you napping.  Or at the least, without some way of capturing the bones she throws you.

I mean, it looks like she was also able to get that inner 6 year old to shut up and go play in someone else’s head.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

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15 June 2014

How to Have a Healing Father's Day: Reblog from Leslie Leyland Fields

When my father would yell at me, I told myself someday I'd use it in a book.
~ Paula Danziger

June is the FLX/WordCount Blogathon!  Join us for 30 Days of blogging madness!



L
ove.

We learn it first from our parents.

And more often than not, it’s an imperfect lesson.  Because our parents are human.

Today is a tough day for some people.  Either because they had a rough childhood, or because their father has died without there being a resolution to the past.

 
Image credit: whatwillmatter.com
Today, I’d like to direct you to read a post by author Leslie Leyland Fields, author, Alaskan fisherwoman, and leader of the Wilderness Writers Workshop I’ll be attending this fall!  In her post on What Are Fathers For, she explores this often painful relationship and offers some advice on how to cope and live your life in the present.

Read and be moved.  And let’s talk some more on Monday.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

What will you do to celebrate Father’s Day today?

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14 June 2014

Tomorrow is Father's Day: Celebrate with a Nap!

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since:
"Whenever you feel like criticizing any one," he told me, "just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had."
~ F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

June is the FLX/WordCount Blogathon!  Join us for 30 Days of blogging madness!



T
omorrow is Father’s Day and a Sunday. 

Stop reading this and go sit with your father for a little while.

You don’t know how much longer you’ll have him.

It’s also okay if you’d rather have a steak and a beer by yourself because your father was rotten to you. 


Come by tomorrow ~ we’ll talk.

 
Yeah, I think I need one of these!

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

Father’s Day has become so complicated for many of my generation.  I think I’ll just go back to sleep.
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13 June 2014

Messengers of Healing: Drowning Out Negativity



Words are thought descriptors. They project thoughts from anonymity. They transfer thoughts into messages. Messages move the world.
~ William E. Jefferson

June is the FLX/WordCount Blogathon!  Join us for 30 Days of blogging madness!




M
essages bombard us every day.

Buy this now – so you’re just like everyone else!  Even though you’re already in debt and the economy has stalled.

Try this pill – it cures everything!  Even though it may cause death.

Eat this burger– it’ll make you feel better!  Even though it doesn’t look anything like that in real life.

Don’t eat that butter – it’ll make you fat! Even though everyone agrees poor body image is too prevalent and eating disorders are on the rise.

And those are just the messages we hear from the outside.  The ones we tell ourselves are often even more damaging:

I’ll never get that promotion.
Why am I always so stupid?
I can never do anything right!
I am unlovable / undesirable /untouchable / unworthy.

What makes this more damaging is that while we repeat them over and over to ourselves, we sometime end up repeating them to others.

Changing the Messages We Hear
You can’t give what you don’t have.  So if we’re filled with self-loathing or feel unworthy of love, we aren’t able to love as freely or as warmly as someone who is confident in their worth.  And so the cycle of negative messages continues.

It’s been said that we can never fully erase the hateful messages we tell ourselves, and it certainly seems that way in my experience.  No matter what positive things I tell myself or that my therapist or close friends tell me, the negative ones come back ~ and hit the positive ones over the head with a big, heavy stick.
Image credit: alyssaandbrianna.blogspot.com

And yet, the only reason the ugly ones stay is because they’ve been repeated, over and over and over.  So in order to get rid of them, we have to repeat the positive ones over and over and over.   

Until they play over top the negative messages.

This process isn’t easy and it takes time.  Most of us have heard these negative messages for years, some of us since childhood.  

You can’t overcome 30, 40, or even 60 years of emotional brainwashing in just a few months or even a couple of years.

The upside to healing?  You then become a messenger of peace and positivity and stop the cycle of negativity.

As for taking that death pill with that fatty burger in that new car you can’t afford – turn off the idiot box and get outside, read a book, or spend some time with friends and family.  You can always stream a show later - minus the negative commercials.

Your awesome body and your bank account will thank you.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

What messages hold you back?  What are you doing to drown them out?

Five Minute Friday is an ever-growing group of bloggers who write for five minutes flat each Friday on the same prompt that Lisa Jo Baker posts each Thursday evening. It’s five minutes to see what comes out: not a perfect post, not a profound post, just five minutes of focused writing. Those without a blog can post their five minute piece as a comment on Lisa Jo Baker’s blog. For more details, visit Five Minute Friday.


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12 June 2014

Inviting Perfection: Why Failing is Okay



I believe that we learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same. In each, it is the performance of a dedicated precise set of acts, physical or intellectual, from which comes shape of achievement, a sense of one's being, a satisfaction of spirit. One becomes, in some area, an athlete of God. Practice means to perform, over and over again in the face of all obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire. Practice is a means of inviting the perfection desired.
~ Martha Graham

June is the FLX/WordCount Blogathon!  Join us for 30 Days of blogging madness!




Y
esterday I talked about whether blogging every day in a challenge would overwhelm readers and inadvertently force the writer to post less than stellar work.

Then I tweeted it to Jeff Goins.

I got schooled…and told some really great advice. 

Writing every day is a habit every writer should cultivate.  And if being part of a blog challenge is how you do it (like me), then that is what you use it for.

We should always be putting forth our best work, but we shouldn’t be afraid to put our words out there at all.  Nobody is perfect; every failure is an opportunity to learn and do better next time.

This is a concept a lot of us struggle with.

The pressure to perform at your peak 100% of the time is ingrained in many of us from a young age.  Failure is seen, not as an opportunity to learn, but an embarrassment to be avoided at all costs.

But think about it.  What is the best part of watching your favorite TV show or movie?  Yes the action was realistic.  The CGI was elegantly executed.  The plot artistically written.  The actors were at their peak.  But all of that pales in comparison to. . .

The gag reel.

I love watching my favorite actors burst out laughing right in the middle of a line.  Or completely forgetting their lines.  And their co-stars doing outrageous things on purpose to mess them up?  Classic.



Tell me the Neutron Cream Prank during the filming of Star Trek: Into Darkness wasn’t just beautiful.

Do you know why we love this?

Because it makes these larger than life stars seem closer.  They make mistakes.  They don’t get it absolutely perfect the first go ‘round.  They love to goof off as much as we do.

They’re human. 

And so are we.  So fail! Fail brilliantly!  Because the important thing about any art is the act of making it.  It brings us closer to ourselves, closer to our destinies, closer to our audience.  And closer to our own humanity.

And doing so invites the perfection we desire.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

What are your daily writing habits?

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