The Lonely Road

Several years ago, I followed my son-in-law home along a deserted, rainy Tennessee road at night. I was doing okay until he vanished around a bend in the road ahead. I couldn’t catch up because he was “headed for the barn” as we say in the South. No moon. Two lanes, no shoulder. Dips and hills, twists and turns, torrential rain and nearly continuous lightning.

lonely-roadSpookier than Sleepy Hollow

No state does back roads like Tennessee. No state does trees and cane on the verge of the asphalt like Tennessee. And certainly, no state does remote, shuttered church buildings with cemeteries like Tennessee. Lightning flashed, thunder boomed, and tree limbs whipped around like skeletal arms, reaching out to grab the vehicle and pull it into the ditch.

That abandoned, rain-swept back road was spookier than Sleepy Hollow. And I just knew that if my vehicle got a flat tire, I was done for. I’d vanish without a trace because the only place I could turn for help was that house with the blue light at the end of a dirt track.

It was just me on that lonely stretch, and even with my trusty GPS, I got lost twice.

 

We All Travel a Lonely Road

But don’t we all travel a lonely road? When it comes right down to it, don’t we actually travel alone? Maybe it’s just my INTJ self, but most days, that’s the way I feel. I have a wonderful, close-knit, loving family in my house, but they don’t sit with me while I write. They don’t hear the thoughts in my head. They don’t make my decisions or form the words I say. They don’t learn or practice new skills for me.

But I’m never truly alone.

Double Occupancy

Life seems like a solitary pursuit of purpose. Yes, people can come alongside us, but in the end, we know they cannot live inside our skin. The spiritual journey most people take through life is accompanied by an aching void.

Thank God, there’s someone who lives inside my skin with me. Those who don’t have a relationship with Christ simply will not understand this next part. His Spirit lives inside me, and I definitely feel his presence.

I didn’t start out to talk about Jesus, but if you want to know more, let’s talk.

Back to Writing

I was going to write about the lonely road as it pertains to authors because most authors work alone, and we often get lonely.

A point comes when it’s just the author and the page, the thoughts and the words. Sometimes, life is dark and rainy. And you’re lost on an unfamiliar route featuring spooky houses with blue lights. Just kidding about that last part.

Actually, you’re stuck 40,000 words into your story, your plot outline flew out the window three chapters ago, and you have no idea how you’re going to land this plane because you’re flying over the Himalayas without a paddle.

Wait. That didn’t make sense. But you get the picture.

Going to the House with the Spooky Blue Light

Your internal GPS is telling you to take roads that don’t exist. You keep circling back to where you started. Oh, it’s definitely time to get help.

This is when you have to get help, and it feels as if you’re walking up the dirt road to the shady house with the blue porch light. Critique partners aren’t as spooky as you think. Sometimes, they are the only folks who can help you get safely home.

Be brave. Get help.

I’m really happy to be part of the Scriblerians because I have other people trying to help me stay on the road. If you’re not part of a group already, then form one.

Have you ever reached a point where you had to reach out for help?

 


A1047webTexas author, Kathrese McKee, writes epic adventures for young adults and anyone else who enjoys pirates and princesses combined with life’s difficult questions. She is committed to exciting stories, appropriate content, and quality craftsmanship.

Learn more at http://www.kathresemckee.com

The Creative Person Versus The World

 

super-kid

 

“Man! The traffic was crazy today. Then, wouldn’t you know it, a cyclist whips by, cuts in front of a line of cars, and almost gets nailed!”

“Wow. Really?” I shook my head, while he continued on about how crazy some cyclists are.

I was listening to my husband recapping his trip home from the office

Honest.

However, I was also drawn to stare at a few whiskers on his cheek that he’d missed that morning, and was half listening to the news on tv about a Canadian Paralympic 1500 meter runner, (and wondering why we hadn’t heard more on the Paralympics) A quail sat on top of a bush outside, and I admired its plump little body perched so comfortably.

My hubbie stopped and stared at me. “Are you listening?”

“Of course. Just wanted to interject that dinner’s ready.”

“Right. Anyway, blah blah blah blah…”

To be honest, I only caught about a half of what he said. Does this sound familiar?

I’ve researched characteristics of creative people and found in many articles that ‘creatives’ are most often aware of a lot of irrelevant environmental stimuli occurring at any given time. And most often creative people need absolute silence to concentrate. Hence, writer’s retreats, and the popular suggestion for creative people to work at quiet times of the day, like early morning. (Shudder. Just how early are we talking?)

Interestingly enough, many characteristics of a creative person are similar to those of a person with ADD or Attention Deficit Disorder. They both are dreamers, unable at times to focus on just one thing, able to think out of the box, and often possess a very practical intelligence. And many articles have been written about the correlation between creativity and ADD. Of course, there are degrees of each, and the only reason I thought these articles were interesting was to be able to understand myself a bit better, and to learn how to deal with being distracted. It’s not really important to me whether I have ADD or am simply creative, but the vast number of articles written on both make me realize, I’m not alone.

So how do creative people concentrate?

I love the story about Victor Hugo, the author of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, locking away all his clothes to avoid the temptation of going out and socializing while completing his manuscript.

Apparently Einstein took long walks on beaches or merely gazed at a ceiling and waited for his imagination to take over.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart loved to take long carriage rides by himself, often in the middle of the night.

 

solitude

The people above, all insisted that solitude was paramount to being creative, but each of us has to know how to deal with his or her creativity and life’s distractions. It truly shocked me when I watched my son with headphones on listening to music and studying at the same time. Obviously that would not have worked for me, but somehow it did for him.

Our ability to use our brains to get outside our limited experiences and worlds, enables us to imagine far more than less creative people. The problem is to harness our minds and discipline ourselves in order to best utilize our God-given gifts.

In the book The Creative Brain: The Science of Genius, neuroscientist Nancy Andreasen confirms that creative people struggle with distractions more than others.

So, how do you create that zone where you are the most creative?

 

7 Sites where authors can list books FREE

BetterLateThanNeverWritten.meme

So your book is published, but you’re in charge of marketing it. It’s listed on the retail sites you or your publisher chose and on the reader review site Goodreads. Where else can you list it for readers and reviewers to find without spending your advance (if you received one) or your royalties before any are earned?

Here are some sites that allow you to list free at least one book, and some allow as many as you have published! Do check out their particulars thoroughly on your own, including any book-deal email subscriptions as well as requirements and rates for advertising on those. For some of these sites, it’s been a while since I listed my first—or first two—books. Their criteria or features may have changed.

Readers Gazette is for Kindle authors only and requires you wait to be accepted after you apply. Books must be at least 20,000 words and 80 pages. Novels, children’s books, books of poetry, and cookbooks are acceptable. No erotica. The great thing about Readers Gazette is that they Tweet my books’ listings regularly each week. Then other authors RT those tweets, and I RT theirs.

Readers’ Favorite Book Reviews and Award Contest allowed me to list both my books, and the first book was reviewed at no cost. When I did not pay for a review of the second book, that listing was eventually removed. Although the site lists some celebrities as award contest winners, I’ve read mixed opinions about the contest’s overall validity. The 2016 contest claims 650+ winners and finalists in 120+ categories. The contest is not free but boasts cash prizes and “chances” at other recognition. I’m going to keep my eye on Readers’ Favorite until I’m more sure about it.

YA Books Central describes itself as “one of the largest professional book recommendation sites targeted towards tween and teen readers.” List your books free, and then hope that one of the many teen reviewers on the site will want to read and review your book. If you would like to review a book, you must join the YABC Community to do so. I plan to email YABC and pitch one of my books for a review. An author can also request an ad kit containing advertising information and rates.

Clean Indie Reads does not take non-fiction except narrative non-fiction that reads like a novel and only takes clean novels for middle grades and up.  Take a look at their listing for my Bird Face series to see what’s included in a listing. The site states, “As long as your FB identity shows something to do with being an author (and it’s “clean”), expect to be approved within about 24 hours.” Information about submissions is there and on their group Facebook page, which also has cross-promotions info. Clean Indie Reads has members who are active Tweeters and RT other members’ tweets.

You can also get free listings on BookGorilla, UndergroundBookReviews, and Ripley’s Booklist, which offer reasonable prices for spots on their email lists and other advertising, last I looked. Ripley’s Booklist is rather new and specializes in Young Adult and New Adult, which I appreciate.

This is certainly not a complete list of all the sites where I’ve listed my books free, but these are sites that I will likely continue to use and may even be willing to spend money with.

Note: If you happen to be a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), look into adding your books to their Fiction Finder. Criteria for indie authors and for authors whose publishers are not on the recognized publishers list have recently changed.

If you’re an author, which are you favorite sites for listing your books? If you’re a reader, where besides the retail sites do you go to search for books and read reviews?

Pay the Toll

Pay the Toll

Recently, our family took a rare day trip together to mark the end of summer. We traveled to Austin, Texas to gawk at the Texas State Capitol building and Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum. Both places were well worth the trip, by the way. I particularly enjoyed seeing the reconstructed remains of La Salle’s ship, the La Belle. So cool!

On the dri4-IMG_9309ve to Austin from Houston, we were presented with a choice: use the old, traditional roads or pay the tolls to access the bright, shiny new highway to get out of town.
Let me tell you, Kids, sometimes it’s worth paying the troll . . . Um . . . the toll. We cut at least thirty minutes from the first stretch of the journey. That stretch always takes at least an hour to navigate at the best of times. When we reached Austin, we used their tollway and saved more time. We spent our extra time sightseeing and eating a leisurely lunch.

3-IMG_9279

La Belle

Fewer traffic lights. Less road construction. Fewer idiots. See what I mean? More time for what mattered. Totally worth it! Would I recommend taking the toll roads at every opportunity? No way. But it seems both wise and frugal to make that decision on a case-by-case basis.

Real Life

You knew I was going to apply this to real life, right? Well, here goes. I think it’s false economy to try to do everything yourself if there are experts around who can do the same task in a fraction of the time.

It’s false economy to spend weeks learning a new skill on your own if there are reasonably priced courses available to teach you the skill you need in a few days.

1-IMG_9234

Texas State Capitol

Sometimes, the toll road is worth the expense. You can putt-putt-putt your way to your goal, and you will eventually get there. What opportunities did you miss out on while you were doing it yourself or learning a new skill by cobbling together the information? That’s what is known as opportunity cost.

Don’t get me wrong; sometimes the hard way is the best way. Most often, though, the best way is a mixture of DIY and paying for help.

For Example

A couple of years ago, I bought the Scrivener software to help me organize my writing. A lot of writers buy Scrivener, try it out, and abandon it on their hard drives. It’s not that expensive, as software goes, so it’s not a big monetary loss. Most of those writers claim that it’s simply too hard to learn.

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The interior of the capitol dome; that star is eight feet across, y’all!

They work through some of the free tutorials, get lost, give up, and go back to using Microsoft Word. It works. I use Word almost every day. But is it really the best software for organizing a full-length novel? Those of us who have pushed through the Scrivener learning curve would answer no because it’s extraordinarily useful.

Scrivener has a steep learning curve because it has lots of bells and whistles. Some people can learn Scrivener on their own. That’s great. But I chose to take the toll road; I paid someone to teach it to me. And that investment saved me weeks of frustration and needless toil.

I Sound Like a Commercial

This isn’t a commercial for Scrivener; I just used my experience as an example. Take the long road when you can, but pay the toll when it makes sense.

Are we there yet-This is another installment in the column,  Are We There Yet?

Have you ever paid the toll to learn a new skill or get work done faster? Feel free to share.


A1047webTexas author, Kathrese McKee, writes epic adventures for young adults and anyone else who enjoys pirates and princesses combined with life’s difficult questions. She is committed to exciting stories, appropriate content, and quality craftsmanship.

Learn more at http://www.kathresemckee.com

A Late-Blooming Author’s Column

BetterLateThanNeverWritten.meme

You may notice that each of the Scriblerians is developing a  distinct and focused column on this site, complete with a lovely meme expressing the theme of the column.

We decided it was time that each of us took a more focused approach to our posts, so we searched our past work for patterns that could point us in specific directions.

For those of you who don’t know me as well as the Scriblerians do, I thought I’d explain the meaning of my meme (and thus my column) before I start writing its theme-driven posts. Just so you’ll know what to expect.

“Better Late Than Never Written” refers to the fact that I got a very late start writing fiction. My age was, well, let’s just say middle-aged.

My first novel was published (the first time) in 2014, over a decade after it was begun. To my thinking at the time, that book took so long to write and get published that I might not have enough decades left to write a second one and get it published before … you know.

It seemed like every fiction writer I knew had started writing at a much younger age than I, and if not yet published, had at least two or three manuscripts completed. The published authors my age had several novels to their credit. How would I ever catch up?

The writing, and then finding the right publisher, made up only half the problem. There was so much to learn regarding the marketing of books. A lot of tools for book marketing are free or of little cost, but finding them and choosing the right ones are not easy.

So that’s what my column will be about. I plan to share with you some of the things I had to rush to discover, to learn, and to accumulate. About writing. About publishing. About marketing. Stuff I’ve compiled that I hope will save you time, especially if you got a late start in life like I did.

So please stay tuned. And remember, it’s better to have written late than never to have written at all. Wait—should that have been the title of my meme?

How to Come Down from a Conference High

Tim, Lisa, Kathrese, & I just returned from Realm Makers. Next month a couple of others will be attending the ACFW conference. ‘Tis the (conference) season. So what do you do when you get home to come down from the conference high?

If you’re lucky, your firstborn will start football and junior high while your second born starts the “big kids'” elementary school. Bonus if it’s the junction of first of the month (status reports) and critical project milestones. Nothing like the outside world to pierce your enthusiasm like an arrow through a hot air balloon.

Even if your week is a bit nuts and especially if you have time to ease back in, do a few things to keep the spirit alive.

1. Post pictures on social media

You get to see the conference all over again. Also it allows you to tag people while your memory is fresh. This helps keep you in the loop.

2. Post highlights on social media

Same reason and purpose as above. If time is limited, set specific times or do this when you have down time.

3. Blog about it

Yes, everyone and their mascots will be writing them too. You may not get many views but then again you might. If nothing else, you have a record of your time there.

4. Make a to do list

Did you have appointments? If so, follow up with the materials each person requested. If the person you met with wasn’t interested, send a thank you anyway. They took their time to meet with you. It never hurts to be gracious.

Gather the business cards you received and enter them into your contacts list. Correspond with anyone who might not have your information. Organize your class notes.

You’re all rejuvenated and ready to write. Set goals and get to work. That’s why you spent the money to go.

Now I’m off to fill out permission slips and emergency contact forms.

“Title Talks” or How to Beg Your Writing Partners for Title Assistance!

I can’t thank my incredibly awesome fellow Scriblerians enough for their amazing assistance in helping me choose both a series and individual titles for my realistic contemporary YA series that, if plans continue to fall into place, will launch this summer.

Pieces of a Life storyboard

the “storyboard” for my YA series

I’m terrible at titles and had resorted to referring to the stories by the dreadfully generic “Book 1” and “Book 2” labels. At one point, I had a decently respectable title for book 1, but as the story evolved, the title no longer really fit. At least not in my mind.

And then the series title? That really stumped me. I wanted this all-important title to “fit” the series, to have the right sound to the ear as well as to sound YA enough to appeal to, you know, young adults.

Several of the Scriblerians know my story line and characters almost as well as I do. That’s why I knew I could count on them to pull me through this crisis. A lot of good ideas were tossed out and mulled over via an in-depth conversation on our private Facebook page and then further hashed over during a monthly video chat.

girl reading

Now it’s on to book cover decisions. Oh, my…

“Cover talks” with my Scribs took place briefly last year. Again, there ideas were great. Now that the title has changed, some of the ideas aren’t as fitting as they once were, still they fuel my thought process.

Apparently, a good “fit” for both title(s) and cover are my goals as that word keeps popping up. I have to admit reading a number of books over the years that I did not find “fitting” to the title. Does that happen to any of you? You finish a book, flip it closed, peer at the front cover and think or mutter, “I still don’t know where that title came from…”file000739253401

The same thing has happened concerning covers. I shake my head and murmur,  “What does that have to do with this story?”

I’ve never lost sleep over either a mis-fit title or book cover. But when it’s MY book title and MY book cover, I want it to fit and appeal to readers and create interest in the story and fit and encourage sales and be memorable and … fit.

So what advice can you, our faithful readers, give me on book titles and covers?

  • What do you look for in a title or cover?

  • What do you stay away from in a title or cover?

  • What was your all-time favorite title and cover package deal and why?

  • Can a title OR cover give away too much about the story? Why or why not?