Why Should I Care About Your Story?

Writing can be a difficult endeavor to navigate. Spending hours at the typewriter or computer or even the trusty note pad throwing words left and right to carve out a story in hopes of making the reader feel something. In doing so, there are so many things to consider. It’s not for the faint of heart and definitely not for the easily distracted. Maybe you’ve been at it awhile and haven’t had the kind of success you envisioned. It isn’t an easy vocation.

Think about it.

We have to come up with a gripping story, one that hasn’t been told before which holds the reader’s interest until the end. It can be as daunting as it is rewarding. We have to do things like incorporate the five senses throughout to make sure we have the reader engaged and come up with an intriguing setting as a wonderful back drop for all the character interactions. What about creating a narrative crackling with possibility? Snappy dialog. We certainly need to all of those things. They are important. They truly are.

But the question remains, why doesn’t anyone like my stuff?

Why am I not getting published?

In some cases it could just be the harsh reality that everything we write doesn’t strike a chord with publishers or friends. In other cases it can be the writing isn’t strong enough yet and we need to hone our craft a bit more. But other times, we might have everything in alignment–the setting, the narrative, the writing, the story–but something is missing. In many cases it can be the characters themselves.

The characters can make or break the piece.

If the characters are one dimensional it makes it hard to relate to them. Think about it. If you have an accountant, named Barry, who is happily married and lives in an affluent neighborhood with manicured lawns and a three bedroom house with a lovely supportive wife, where’s the fun in that? Where is your conflict? Where is the draw to that character? I personally want to punch the guy just to give him something to worry about.

Now, if we use the same Barry, but change a few things, we can make him more interesting. Let’s say he hates working with numbers, but only got his degree in accounting because his father wouldn’t pay for anything else. His father wanted Barry to cook the books for his butcher shop because he’s into drug trafficking or maybe it’s prostitution. And maybe Barry’s a recovering alcoholic because he despises what he does for a living and is miserable. His home life is crap. His troubled second marriage is on the rocks because of his drinking. His wife’s wandering eye has made her distant and more attentive to the men in the neighborhood than to him. He likes to think he doesn’t care, but he does. Barry’s thirty-five pounds over weight and a chain-smoker who is stretched thin with spousal support payments and child support payments to his first wife and is looking for a quick fix. He’s bought a gun he keeps in the locked glove compartment of his car and takes it out and holds it in his lap while driving to and from work. He’s thought about killing himself but is too chicken to pull the trigger. He hasn’t even bought bullets for the gun because he’s too afraid he might use it. One of his high school buddies has come to him with a business proposition which is questionable in the eyes of the law but would take care of his money problems. All he has to do is sign a few papers and file the paperwork anonymously and he’d be on easy street with a cool two hundred grand. He hasn’t made up his mind yet.

That’s a lot of meat to chew on, right?

Think about the conflict and the intrigue and the minefield the character has to navigate each and every day. The second Barry is far more relatable than the first. No one wants to read about perfect characters.

Make them imperfect.

Make them real.

Make them like us.

Give them flaws and hopes and fears and have them make mistakes and deal with the fallout.

If you add flawed characters to the mix, it will make your writing more relatable. Give it a try.

Never give up and always remember to…

Write ON!

Rejection? I’ve Got Your Rejection, Right Here

Rejection at any level sucks, right?

You see someone you’re attracted to and ask them out, and you get the thanks but no thanks response. You interview for your dream job, and they go with someone else. You raise your hand to give a high five and you’re left hanging. All of it sucks. But the kind of rejection I’m talking about has to do with writing.

Your writing.

Your creation.

Your soul.

We, as writers, are an odd flock. I mean, surely you’ve realized that by now. And if you haven’t, you will. There is no denying it. No other vocation requires people to spend hour upon hour in solitary confinement locked away inside their heads, their own worlds, talking with people who don’t exist anywhere else but on paper.

Dutifully, we pound out words and sentences to bring these people, places, and things alive. We agonize with our characters, don’t we? We feel them at the worst and champion them at their best. At times, we will them to make decisions, but once fully evolved, they have minds of their own, becoming unwieldy bits of bothersome fodder to our tale. (It is magic, by the way, when that happens)

For some writers, it is enough to begin writing.

For others, it is enough to finish the first short story.

And others still it is enough to finish their first novel.

But for others, there is a need to be published, to let the world judge their work.

And it’s to the last group, I’m speaking. Writing is incredibly personal. Why? Because it’s flecks of ourselves, our pain, love, hopes, dreams sprinkled across the page for everyone to see. It’s a glimpse into our innermost secrets, the locked inner chambers of our minds and hearts.

And that’s why it hurts in a very personal way when we have our writing criticized and rejected. It matters not if it comes from our fellow contemporaries, our writers in arms, the ones who are supposed to be helping us improve and grow as writers. It hurts, even more, when our writing is rejected by the insurmountable wall of the publishing industry.

It is important to realize how brave we are as writers. It took a lot to bleed on the page for the sake of our art, to agonize over the wording, the tone, and mastering the proper voice. It took even more courage to submit a story to a publication with the hope we would earn the right to appear in print.

Some writers might say, “Oh, that’s such a shame.”

Others might say, “Tough tittie, deal with it.”

I’m kind of in the middle. I’ve been on the receiving end of brutal rejections, which stung for quite a while. I have amassed quite an impressive array of rejection letters from magazines, journals, anthologies, agents, and publishers alike. If you’ve been wading through the trenches of fiction publishing, I’m sure you have too
The important lesson learned–and it’s a hard one to swallow–is rejection is part of the writer’s growth. It truly is.

Think of the rejection as the publication saying right now, at this point in time, with this story, in this shape, the answer is no. It doesn’t mean you can’t write. It doesn’t mean the story sucks. It means, right now, it’s a no. So, leave the story to simmer, go back over it with a fine-toothed comb and submit it again.

The first rejection is always the hardest. For me, it took me about a week to get back to it. The writing I mean. Submitting again took me a little longer. But it became a rallying point. Other writers get rejected. Everyone does. It’s part of the game.

I’m incredibly stubborn. Ask anyone who knows me. I have Scottish, Irish, and German blood running through my veins. The only person more stubborn than me is my mother, the daughter of a U.S. Army Colonel. I didn’t let it deter me. When the rejection came in, I took it to heart and buckled down. It drove me to write better and to come up with better ideas. I began to read books on writing and incorporate things to improve. I read about how to better focus my query letter and how to word it so they would have a hard time saying no.

I began to submit more pieces, and although I received even more rejections, they didn’t sting as much, and I started to wear each one as a rite of passage.

Don’t let rejections get in the way of what you love.

So, join me. Wear your scars proudly and keep writing and keep submitting. The acceptances will start coming.

Never stop.

And always remember to write ON!

Sorry, No Shortcuts Here

A lot of people say they want to be writers.

Typically, these are the people who have taken a creative writing class in high school or a course or two while in college. Maybe they’ve watched movies, or read books, where the writer’s life is romanticized and fluffed into something unwieldy and unrealistic. No, we don’t all live in an oceanside estate, sipping brandy from a sifter, beside the fireplace, writing bestsellers. It just doesn’t happen that way.

If truth be told, most writers cannot make a living from their craft. Many times, they don’t make any money. The people who say they want to be writers have visions of writing the next bestseller at their seaside estate or mountain retreat. The people who say they want to be writers don’t understand what it takes to be one. You see, they envision the muse flitting about their head, whispering the next lines of their book. That’s not how it happens. It’s a wonderful notion, but unrealistic. They don’t see the late nights, the agony of each rejection, or the torture of wondering whether you can do this or not with every word you get down.

For the true writer, the ones who add words to blank pages every day, there is no romance to it. There is nuance but not romance. There is no magic muse whispering sweet nothings in our ears and no seven-figure contract waiting once our manuscript is complete.

It’s just us against the blank page.

We grind out words each day–sometimes painfully, sometimes effortlessly–but it’s a commitment like no other. It’s a commitment to ourselves that we can fill another page, write another story, and make another sale.

So, why do we do it? If there’s not much money in it, why do we write?

For me, it’s a need. It’s undeniable. I have to write. Even when I had a day job, I still had to write every day. I had to get words down. Even now, on those days when I can’t write until late, my fingers get itchy, and I get restless. There is something wonderfully cathartic about creating something out of the blank space of a white page. Characters, dialog, places, and events. All at my fingertips. All mine.

For those of us lucky enough to make a living as writers, there are no shortcuts. There are just words to create and stories to conjure.

For those out there who say they want to be writers? Stop talking about it and start doing it. Put the words down and fill the page.

And then another.

And then another.

You get the point.

Never give up. And always write ON!

It’s Not Your Muse’s Fault

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It isn’t your muse’s fault.

I know some authors would completely disagree and, that’s okay. It’s their opinion and ultimately their loss.

The authors blaming their muse for their inability to continue writing are missing the point. They are overthinking it. Maybe they lack self-confidence. They worry they can’t finish the story. They struggle to put pen to paper to fill the empty spaces. Maybe they don’t believe in their abilities as a storyteller or as a writer. In short, they don’t trust themselves.

I used to be one of those writers.

After all, it’s romantic to think of a muse whispering the most incredible things in your ear as you frantically fill page after page of beautiful prose, right? Who wouldn’t want something as cool as a winged fairy to help them write?

I used to think the same way. I’d say I was stuck while writing a particular piece because my muse wasn’t talking to me. I’ve come to realize the muse is nothing but a romanticized excuse, a notion that isn’t true. It’s a crutch brought out when the writing gets tough. Blame it on the muse when the section of your book isn’t going as smoothly as you originally planned.

Stop giving some imaginary make-believe thing all the credit. The muse isn’t whispering the story to you. You are the one breathing life into the work. It’s your mind creating something magical out of nothing.

I once complained about my muse not cooperating. I said I was stuck and an author friend said, “Choke the bitch and put her out of YOUR misery.” Hearing that struck something inside. Once I took control of my muse and pressed the mute button, my writing output increased tenfold. I no longer doubt I can write the story. I sit down and write every single day. It’s liberating not having to rely on some pixie to open the story for me.

So trust me. Throw away the crutch and stop using the muse as an excuse. You need to trust yourself as a storyteller and as a writer and write the story.

Stop making excuses.

Take back your superpower.

It’s you writing the story.

It’s you that’s the author.

It’s you.

Write ON!

Do I Need to Read in Order to Write

Well, the obvious answer is no. You can certainly write without reading a single word, but I don’t recommend it. There is something to be said about ‘research’ when you write. And no, I’m not talking about research into a topic you’re writing about. I’m talking about ‘research’ as in reading other authors and recognizing their differences in style, delivery, and voice.

If you’ve been writing for a while, then you probably have found your voice and your style. You’ve learned what works and what doesn’t in your writing. Is dialog a weakness or a strength? Are your characters well-rounded or flat? Does your setting add anything to what is happening? Our writing always gravitates toward our strengths.

Well, believe it or not, so does our reading.

Most writers read what they write. That might sound stupid but think about it. Romance novelists tend to read more romance than anything else. Horror writers read more horror than anything else. Why is that? It’s a level of comfort. We want to see how other people are doing it. How do they write their dialog and how do they describe certain aspects of the story. How do they paint the landscape in a way to draw us in from the first sentence?


It’s research people.

We are doing ‘research’ every time we pick up a book and read it. The beauty of it, at least for me, is I get to enjoy a new book at the same time I’m researching. I’m enjoying a new world and escaping with the author. The other bonus? When I read, it always inspires me to write. I get the itchy fingers, and the need to get some words down on paper is overpowering. So, while you might not need to read to write, it is strongly recommended. You might not even realize you’re doing it, but you are subconsciously taking notes on the author’s work. And when your fingers are flying across the keys, or madly scratching a pen across paper, or even banging it out on a dusty manual typewriter, those notes, those thoughts, those memories of what you’ve read will come to life. You can incorporate the things you liked about what you’ve read and avoid what you didn’t.

So, in short, while it’s not a requirement to read to write, it is highly recommended.

I think it’s time to do a little research, don’t you?

Happy reading, and always remember to Write ON!

Mad Maggie Dupree Revisited

With books five and six due out in the next year, I thought it might be about time to see where Mad Maggie came from and where she might be going. She is definitely one my favorite characters to write. Headstrong and brimming with confidence on the outside, she’s just like the rest of us on the inside, nervous and unsure. She’s in constant turmoil over doing what’s right when the incredibly vivid world of the Stillwater Psychiatric Hospital comes to life around her. With friends and little brother in tow, Maggie stumbles upon one mystery after another.

Book five which is entitled ‘Mad Maggie Dupree and the Stillwater Rapids’ follows Maggie into the first days of middle school. Coming face to face with Darla Bigsby, she has to combat not only the bullies living next door but the mean queen of the cafeteria.

Let’s see what kind of trouble she’s been getting herself into up to this point.

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Book 1 – Mad Maggie Dupree

Book 1 – Angry at having to leave her friends, baseball team, and everything she’d grown to love in her old neighborhood, Mad Maggie Dupree is anything but happy moving to the Stillwater Psychiatric Hospital grounds. Her family’s new home sits in the shadow of the patient dorms and the idea of crazy people living so close is disconcerting no matter what her father says.

Settling into her new home isn’t easy for the headstrong, slingshot-toting twelve year old girl. Her temper and stubbornness not only get her into trouble with the mean brothers living on one side of her but also with the nerdy boy desperate to be her friend living on the other.

She stumbles across something incredible left behind by the patients discharged from the hospital years ago things begin to spiral out of control. Uncovering a decades old secret proves terrifying, taking Maggie and her new friends on an incredible journey.

With the first book in his new series, award winning author, David J. Gibbs, takes the reader into the exciting world of Mad Maggie Dupree. The temperamental young girl leaves an indelible mark with every mistake, success, and struggle to find her place in the strange and wonderful world around her.

 

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Book 2 – Mad Maggie Dupree and the Wood Witch

Book 2 – While exploring the skeletal remains of the ruined greenhouse, Mad Maggie catches a momentary glimpse of one of the enduring legends of Stillwater Psychiatric Hospital. Pale, dressed all in white, the wispy figure of a woman wanders the cemetery.

Delving into the heartbreaking story, Maggie discovers the lost journals of three women detailing terrible secrets and incredible loss. She has no choice but to seek out the truth, coming face to face with another horrifying legend lurking in the surrounding woods just beyond the hospital grounds.

A fast paced story for all ages and compulsively readable, Mad Maggie Dupree and The Wood Witch, the second book in the Mad Maggie Dupree series, is an emotional rollercoaster following the headstrong, slingshot toting, red head and her friends on another harrowing adventure.

 

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Book 3 – Mad Maggie Dupree and the Lost Gifts

Book 3 – Finding a decades-old newspaper article detailing a tragic bus fire, which killed four tuberculosis patients, Maggie is fascinated by the reported sounds of disembodied spirits lurking around the accident site.

Discovering the burned-out shell of the bus, in a forgotten corner of the woods, Maggie discovers something inside which dispels the notion that those killed were patients. They were actually students participating in a gifted-child program sponsored by the hospital. It also suggests, the fire was purposely set. Why were they killed?

Buried on the grounds, their graves are exhumed only to find the fourth coffin empty. Where was the fourth student? What happened to them?

On a dare, Maggie and Jackson race down the infamous body chute. In the darkness, they both witness the wispy remnants of disembodied spirits lingering in the tunnel, fingers pointing to a section of the tunnel wall. Maggie has no choice but to push onward, coming face to face with the dark and twisted past of the hospital and truth behind the fire.

A compelling mystery for all ages, Mad Maggie Dupree and the Lost Gifts, the third book in the Mad Maggie Dupree series, is another engaging adventure.

 

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Book 4 – Mad Maggie Dupree and the Darke County Fair

Book 4 – While setting coins on the train tracks, letting passing trains flatten them, Maggie and her friends are startled when a man, dressed in rags, races from a deserted box car into the woods. Wondering if he was homeless, they decide to follow him and see if he needs help, noticing a fifty-dollar bill on the ground. Why would a homeless man have a fifty-dollar bill?

Moving through the woods, trying to track him, they come to a boarded-up train tunnel wedged into the hillside. Pulling some of the loose boards free, they explore inside, the tunnel damp and dark. While exploring, they stumble upon three empty, half-buried Stillwater Bank bags.

But that’s not all.

They notice a spray-painted mark glowing on the wall and find a silver necklace along the tracks. Maggie remembers one of the Darke County Fair workers wearing the exact same necklace. Was he involved? Where was the homeless man? What did the mark on the wall mean? And more importantly, where was the money?

Compulsively readable, Mad Maggie Dupree and The Darke County Fair is the fourth book in the Mad Maggie Dupree series. Looking into yet another harrowing mystery, the head-strong, slingshot toting redhead leaves an indelible mark with each mistake and every triumph as she and her friends look out for each other while always seeking the truth.

 

 

When Are You Finally A Writer?

It’s a weird question, isn’t it? If you ask ten writers, you’ll probably get ten different answers. And who’s to say who’s right? Maybe they all are. If you’re a writer you probably have your own opinion about it.

Thinking about it, there are definite qualifiers. Is it the first time you finish a short story? What about the first time you finish a novel? What about the first publishing credit? Is it the first PAID publishing credit? (There is a difference as we all know, lol) Is it the first time someone other than a family member reads a manuscript and likes it? Is it the first time anyone via social media comments on a story you’ve written? Is it the first time someone comes to a book signing and loses there mind watching you sign your name in the dedication?

All of those are great milestones and are important for writers to grow and to gain confidence but I don’t think any of those qualify you as a writer.

Now calm down. I’m not saying those DISqualify you from calling yourself a writer. All I’m saying is those things don’t make you a writer.

No, my friend, you’re a writer far before that.

Calm me stupid, and many people do so join the club, but you became a writer the moment you put pen to paper and began to write. Creating wonderful characters and well crafted narratives out of the infinite white of the blank page is when it happens. Sure, the other stuff is great to experience but the writer, the one who chews on stories late at night, banging out words on a crappy manual typewriter or the truly hardcore, old-school enthusiasts who use actual paper and pens (yes, I’m talking to you freaks who do it the hard way lol)

All of you are writers.

TypewriterLampWriting and calling yourself a writer begins from word one, day one. And don’t worry about the publishing credits, they’ll come soon enough. Worry about writing.

So, stop reading this post and start writing, you idiots.

Write ON!

 

Being a writer isn’t about trying to win

Being a writer isn’t about trying to win.

So why do so many writers act like it is, guarding their experiences, both good and bad, like they are state secrets? Or worse yet, piling on unwarranted criticism on fledgling writers trying to find their ‘writer legs’.

Whether I’m editing a piece for a client or a friend, I’m always encouraging. Writing is a very solitary volition, hours invested in discovering the proper voice for the piece, getting the dialog to crackle, and bringing the setting alive with engaging characters. All of us, no matter how vast our publishing history is, need some kind of validation, whether from a friend’s comments after giving it a read or a family member. But nothing compares to those comments from contemporaries, the other solitary souls wringing out their fears and dreams within the pages of their manuscript just like we are.

Think about it.

When you were growing up and your mom and dad said you’d done well on a test or in a game, it didn’t mean the same as hearing those things from a teacher, a student or a fellow teammate or coach. Those people toiling with you day in and day out knew what it took to produce on the field and in the classroom. They were there with you in the trenches.

It’s the same for writers.

Hearing your mom say what you’ve written is the greatest thing ever, is not the same as a fellow writer saying those same words, particularly if they have some publishing credits to their name.

All of us, who take up the pen to pour ourselves on the page, should help each other. There is nothing more rewarding then helping a fellow author by leaving a review, editing a piece, or providing encouragement.

Doesn’t take much.

A few words.

A few minutes.

It can mean the world to a struggling author.

 

 

 

Cover Reveal – Mad Maggie and the Wood Witch

Just over two weeks from now, the second book in my Mad Maggie series will be released. Entitled ‘Mad Maggie and the Wood Witch’, this story follows Mad Maggie Dupree and her friends as they investigate a legendary spirit haunting the grounds of the Stillwater Pyschiatric Hospital.

CleanReads sent the cover this past weekend!

 

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Help Please!

I’m writing the fourth book in my middle-grade mystery series ‘Mad Maggie Dupree’ and need help with a title.

Maggie Dupree lives on the grounds of the Sillwater Psychiatric Hospital. Her dad is the new hospital administrator. She and her family had to move and live on the grounds as part of her dad’s new job.

While placing coins on the railroad tracks, waiting for the train to run over them, pushing them flat, Maggie and her friends stumble across a homeless man living in a nearby abandoned box car.  When they try to follow him, they find a $50.00 bill scattered by the railroad tracks. Following him into a dilapidated supply tunnel, they find a necklace that looks like the same kind a mean spirited carny at the Darke County Fair had worn a few nights before along with empty money bags from the Stillwater Bank.

As they begin to investigate, an odd looking young boy starts to appear at random times. Always wearing the same brown striped shirt, his face pale but marred by dark smudges, he never speaks, only watching them.

Ideas on a title?