A Clipping from Mother’s things

My grandmother was a bit of a hoarder. She wasn’t as bad as the extremes you see on TV, or in the news, or in random stories retold by those who “couldn’t believe the amount of stuff that was simply sitting in piles!”. Nah, my grandma wasn’t that bad, although she made a habit of keeping every scrap of paper in multiples, nestled in bags, stored in boxes, and tucked away in corners. She always told me growing up “you and your mother are have a big job ahead of you when I’m gone”, in reference to her century-old farmhouse that she’d lived in since the 1960’s, which also happened to be my grandfather’s family homestead.

In 2018, she passed, and our process began. My mother and I have spent the last year sorting, shuffling, and (don’t tell my grandmother) tossing  a few items away. The other day, I set off to sort though a pile of cards, letters, pictures, and other miscellaneous paper junk on a card table on the front porch. Among her organized chaos – a system I’m still trying to completely understand – was a plastic bag with assorted newspaper clippings. Opinion articles seemed to be the theme of the collection, however, there was a handwritten poem facing upwards. I recognized the handwriting immediately as my grandma’s, although she had as an afterthought wrote “Anoka’s” at the top, just in case I had my doubts who wrote the note. It read:

A Clipping from Mother’s things (Anoka’s)

I saw a thousand miles away
A house just out of sight.

The walls projected backwards
The front was round the back
It stood alone with others
The fence was white wacked black

It was moonlight on the ocean
Not a street car was in sight
The sun was shinning brightly
And it rained all day last night

It was summer in the winter
And the rain was falling fast
A barefoot boy with shoes on
Stood sitting in the grass

It was evening and the rising sun
Stood setting in the night
And everything that I could see
Was hidden from my sight

Mrs. Grace Martin – ILL

I have no idea where this “clipping” may have come from, and I suspect my grandmother didn’t either, else she would have meticulously written every detail somewhere on this scrap of paper. She was notorious for leaving beneficial notes that help us piece together where some of these items originated. While I never knew my grandma’s “Mother”, my mom did. I grew up hearing stories of her past that fascinated me, and I love coming across anything that once belonged to her (while my grandma was still alive, I discovered a memory box containing treasures dating early-1900’s. We had a wonderful afternoon sifting through it one day. I cherish these memories the most.)

Why either of them kept this poem is a bit of a mystery to me, and yet it also helps me see a different side of them both. I felt like finding this poem was my greatest accomplishment as far as ‘sorting, sifting, and tossing stuff‘ goes. I have to admit, I was a bit stuck there for a minute reading through the various clippings of that one tiny bag that accompanied this poem, in a stack of assorted papers on a card table full of stacks. Yet still I felt my time was well spent during my day at the family farm.


A Hiatus of Sorts

As a author, I don’t think we can just turn off the writing gene. What we do is more like a hibernation – we aren’t dead, we’re just sleeping. I suppose that’s the best description I’d use for my “Hiatus”, which isn’t a gap or a pause, but rather a slowing of activities.

I still plan to write; that much I’ve deemed important enough to keep in my life. However, I won’t be editing, since I also won’t be submitting. While I probably should have finished the last YA novel I was almost done editing, my focus is miles away, and I’m afraid it wouldn’t get the attention it needs. That goes for everything else in the writing business – it requires a ton of focus to properly edit a story or novel, then submit it exactly how a publication or agent requests it. It’s also extremely difficult to be a self-published author. “Published Author” is truly a tough career path and requires commitment  – don’t let anyone tell you any differently!

Sadly, I have to set aside the dream of ‘traditionally published’ so that I can properly focus on a new-but-old kind of business venture. I can still be reached by email (I am still waiting to hear from a few agents and submissions), and I’ll still peek in on Twitter from time to time. Yet for the most part, I have to step out of the role of ‘author’ and into the new persona of ‘business manager’ of my family’s century farm. It’s scary and new, and yet somehow familiar and comforting. It’s also extremely important this family business have my full attention.

Maybe it was time for a break, anyway. 😉


Recommended Reads: Nonfiction Books On Writing

I am a rabid reader of nonfiction in nearly any form. One day my teenage daughter caught me with a 1800s history book on a county in Iowa and commented ‘how boring!’. I suppose, but there is something exciting to me in non-bias, no nonsense facts, or the wild ‘truthful’ accounts of people that see their world much differently than we see our modern society. If you’ve ever read one of these seemingly dry genealogy records, sometimes you’ll find the most outrageous stories of Native Americans, natural disasters, and real-life wild frontier  incidents hidden between the boring bits. Truth can be far more entertaining sometimes, as it allows us to relate or reflect on a more personal level than an imaginary world can. Fiction is fun, but nonfiction can improve us as a person.

Over the years, I’ve collected my fair share of books on the topic of writing. I’ve come across a few that were promptly given to the local book trader after reading the first chapter, but most were worth keeping. Most likely this list looks similar to other recommendations, and that’s okay. It never hurts to see your favorites along side new additions.

The list is as follows:

On Writing
by Stephen King

This book appears on damn near every “greatest book” list, most likely because it’s half a memoir, half instruction, and full on mad-scientist-genius. If you are looking for a more technical book, this isn’t it. It’s barely organized and he doesn’t go too far into the editing process, however, there are several excellent examples of the technical aspects of writing sprinkled within the book and hiding in the entertaining stories. What makes it great is King shows us how he got to where he is without regurgitating meaningless educational tips. It’s not a manual, and should be used for inspiration and learning by example.


Gotham Writers’ Workshop

Technically this one is a college text book that I ‘borrowed’ from my 20-year-old cousin. However, it’s quite possibly the cleanest and least boring college text book I’ve ever read for fun. I found it to be well organized and offer a well-rounded perception of the process of writing without sinking you in dull topics of grammar and format. I think the examples in a variety of different types literature is what moves it along – you aren’t just being taught writing, but rather you see it in action. Oddly enough, this book was published around the same time as On Writing, and I did find some very different views on several aspects. The contrast adds to both of the books, as I love to see a variety of views and the reasoning behind it.

Zen in the Art of Writing
by Ray Bradbury

An old one, but a great one that’s extremely useful if you are struggling with finding and organizing ideas. It’s mentioned a few times in On Writing and classified as a classic with good reason. Like Stephen King, Ray Bradbury gives instruction from a place of experience. By showing the road they took to their own success, they aren’t suggesting we use it as a blueprint, but rather we find similar elements in our own life and writing.

The Emotional Craft of Fiction
by Donald Maas

This author also comes from a place of experience as a successful fiction writer with the added bonus of successful agent. I have to admit, I haven’t finished this one yet, but we all know within a chapter or two if the book is a keeper or not. This one is a keeper. The subtitle “How to Write the Story Beneath the Surface” sums it up well – Maass digs deep under the surface and into the emotion of the story to demand you write to make your readers feel something instead of simply reading a plot.  There are plenty of examples along the way to show instead of just teach as well.

Room to Write
by Bonni Goldberg

This small gem from the 1990s I must have picked up at a book sale somewhere along the way, and what a lucky find it was. It has little to do with the mechanics or elements of writing. Instead, the bulk of this book is designed to be a vast source of inspirational prompts. If you find free writing helpful to your creative process but don’t know where to start, you need this book.  I tend to be in the same school of thought as Stephen King when he says that story ideas are “found things” and we as writer just dig them up. It doesn’t take much for me to find inspiration for a story and run with it. However, I’ve owned it for over a decade and still haven’t read more than a few pages, simply because it’s that inspiring and gets me writing so quickly.


I feel I should mention that the books on this list focus on fiction writing. My library includes a few other titles that a bit more specific to types of writing, such as copy-writing and formal writing. Like I said, I’m a sucker for nonfiction and gobble them up!

What are your favorite nonfiction books, either on writing or other topics?

I’m Not An American, and I’m Not White

I’ve been thinking about this concept for awhile, and decided there was no better time to blog about it than on the 4th of July, especially in a year so riddled with conflict.

I’m not American, and I’m not White. I’m an Iowan.

What does that even mean?

Well, if our nationality is defined  by where we are born and where our ancestors come from, then that makes me an Iowan. “White” is a term I don’t understand, that seems to blanket a wide variety of nationalities and races, from Europe to Russia, to mixed ‘races’. It’s so bland, and doesn’t seem to address the individual traits and experiences and traditions a ‘white person’ is raised on that makes them who they are.

You could call me ‘white’, but I can’t confirm that 100%. When I look at my family tree in all it’s directions, there are branches I can’t trace for one reason or another. Sure, there’s plenty of English in my tree, but there’s also German, Scottish, Irish, and Canadian (and WHO KNOWS where they came from originally!). I’ve also heard rumors there are Native Americans in my family tree. Again, I can’t confirm, because genealogy records only go so far and we didn’t always keep track of where people came from or why we came here in the first place, especially in the case of biracial marriages and births. Am I, without a shadow of a doubt, 100% white? Probably not.

When I look around at what it means to be a ‘proud white American’, I realize I want nothing to do with it. My ancestors, those mixed Europeans and mystery individuals from who knows where, had one goal in mind when they settled here – to farm, to live, to survive, and to thrive. And that’s exactly what they did – they built a homestead, brick by brick, acre by acre. Their legacy still stands today, in a hundred-year farmhouse on a property that’s been in our family since the Civil War (where again, they weren’t apart of, because their dream wasn’t war, control, or politics – Iowa was relatively neutral, though supported Union efforts and gave a safe haven for fleeing slaves).

The progress of my Iowa ancestors are a far cry from the goals and motives of America today, who’s main goal is to segregate, hate, and kill. I want no part of it.

So again, I’m not American, and I’m not white. I am Iowan. I don’t always agree with what my state politicians are doing, or even what my town government is doing, but I will always be an Iowan. I am from here and still live here, my ancestors are from here, and we share the same goals – to farm, to live, to survive, and to thrive.

Finished Projects and WIPs – June 2018

Happy summer, my friends! Just a quick update on how far I’ve come and where I’m going…

Finished Projects

I’ve added a new page to the site here titled “Finished Projects” that I hope will be a helpful guide for any literary agents or publishers that happen to be stalking me (And yes, stalkers of that nature are more than welcome!). I’ll be updating it on a regular basis as I finish projects or as pieces find homes. I guess you could call it an author portfolio of sorts, or perhaps a constantly changing resume.  Either way, here’s the overview list thus far:

Kira’s Tale  (self-published)
Hope’s Journey (New Adult Fantasy, seeking agent/publisher)
Ghost at Grandma’s (Middle Grade Fiction, seeking agent/publisher)

Short Stories: 
“Wizard’s Task” – Children’s. (615 Words)
“The Price of Fine Art” – Literary. (2,200 Words)
“Home Sweet Haunted Home” – Horror/Paranormal/Suspense. (3,300 words)
“Revenge” – Horror/Supernatural. (1,100 words)
“The Banquet Hall” – Suspense/Horror. (1800 words)
“Worthy is the Lamb” – Suspense/Horror. (5,100 words)
“Train Wreck” – Suspense/Horror. (1500 words)

Not bad, I don’t think, especially because these are polished pieces I am proud of, not just half finished drafts. There are a few short stories not listed because they are ‘in the shop’ so to speak – they are waiting for me to get around to editing and revising, and not ready to be submitted anywhere.

WIP (Work in Progress) Projects

A writer never stops just because we finished a project. There is always something we’re working on, and most the time it’s about a hundred different projects all at once. It’s the beauty of being a writer, really – having the ability to wake up every morning and decide on the spot what you want to work on today. Like the majority of writers out there, I’ve given myself plenty of projects to work on, just in case I’m not in the mood for a specific one.

Here’s what I’ve got going on right now…

Horror/Adult Novel
I’m a sucker for a good old fashion ghost story. Over the winter, I satisfied a life long dream of writing a children’s ghost story like the ones I fell in love with when I was a child. Now that I’ve grown up, I love adult ghost stories, but again find the genre is lacking some ‘good old fashion’ ghost stories. It seems “paranormal” has been changed to “paranormal romance”, and I’d like to pull back the reigns on this merger. Ghosts rarely ever get the spotlight, either, and many stories are focused on the living people instead of the ghosts. I’d like to solve both of these problems, while also honoring a few of my deceased relatives by ‘bringing them back to life’ with mannerisms and speech that were unique to them.

Young Adult/Teen Fiction Novel
I haven’t touched this novel for months, yet I’ll mention it anyway. It’s a half finished story of a teenage girl who discovers her necklace has power. There is family drama, magic in a real world setting, some twists and turns, and no plan as to how/where it will end. I’ve got a few ideas, but nothing that I’ve been able to connect fully to the half that is already written. Maybe this is what other writers are talking about when mentioning ‘plot holes’. I’m sure I’ll figure it out soon, as I’m not ready to give up on the story. I just need to finish some other projects first.

Short Story – “Lost and Found”
Normally I wouldn’t have time to even mention a short story, since usually by the time I mention I’m working on it, it’s finished. This one is a bit different. It’s a rather long short story, especially for me. I expect it to be somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 words, which of course can be quite long for a ‘short’ story. This one seems more important somehow, probably because the idea behind it has been lodged in my brain for weeks. A girl from out of state is stranded, and she experiences… well, my community. We are a different kind of people out here. When someone is lost, they aren’t lost for long. If you are genuinely in need, we come out of the woodwork to help. This is the message I’d like to offer in this story – that my neck of the woods is a beautiful place to live, and places like this still exist in the world. I think what’s taking me so long is making sure my details are in order (I’m getting picky with it), and that the message comes across loud and clear.

Additional Short Stories and Publishing Projects
I have a few other projects on the back burner (some of them WAY in the back) worth mentioning because they are specifically for publications/contests.

The Sun Magazine is something I’ve recently subscribed to and absolutely adore. There is no way I’m prepared to submit a regular piece, however, they have something called “readers write”. I love this idea, and feel it’s less terrifying than submitting to ‘the real’ slush pile. I’m working on something that will need to be sent in before the end of the month.

Midnight Dreams/Midnight Nightmares will be an anthology of short stories. I love the idea behind it, and let’s be honest, what writer is going to turn down a paying market? I don’t believe any of my current pieces ‘fit’, so I’ll be creating something new to submit. The due date isn’t until November, but I’ve given myself until September to finish something, that way there will be plenty of time to revise and edit without overloading the editor too close to the deadline.

– Penny Fiction by Haunted Waters Press is an interesting concept. Basically the “stories” are nothing more than 18 words. What is published is a poster that features everyone’s “stories”. I love this because it’s like a writing exercise, but with the potential of being paid and published. Due date is the end of July, but I plan to submit my “stories” (you can send more than one as long as its on a single page) by the first of July. Almost finished with this one, since I have a specific number in mind that I plan to submit.

That’s all for now! Obviously the list will change, although this is what’s on my plate for June and July.

Happy reading and writing!

Author Beware: My Experience with a Bad Publisher

Disclaimer: This post is not here to “out” anyone or to point fingers. I don’t name names or publications. This is post is meant to show how important it is to research the publication, and outline the red flags I spotted along the way.

First let me say, I don’t claim to be an expert of the publishing world. While I’ve been writing for over 20 years, I’m also not a ‘best selling’ author or authority on writing. I have, however, written a few fiction novels, short stories, and poetry that I am quite proud of, but I am also still learning and perfecting my craft, as well as trying to find the perfect ‘home’ for all my pieces.

That said, I’m relatively new to the submission scene, or rather, what it has become since the last time I wrote fiction to submit a decade ago.

As I wrote the two novels I’m currently querying for, I also wrote a few new short stories to submit to publications. Why not? My thought was, the publication credits would be nice, as would ‘getting my feet wet’ with the submission and publication process before I started querying for novels. I understand and expect rejections, and even look forward to them sometimes (weird, I know, but it proves to me that I’m actively trying and constantly learning. Plus there is sometimes that random bonus of feedback that truly helps us as authors learn).

For several months I submitted short stories on a regular basis. My first acceptance came in January 2018, from a brand new publication I had decided to take a chance on. Again, why not? Everyone has to start somewhere.

I very soon found out why I should not have given them the benefit of the doubt, and should have dug deeper into the editors of the anthology.

My first red flag came when the editing process began. The story was given a major overhaul, and she attempted to more or less plagiarize a well-know author. I was horrified at the idea of my first short story having this association, and pointed it out. It took a bit of arguing, but she finally changed it. I gave her the benefit of the doubt when it came to her editing skills, assuming she had at least some professional experience editing. I found out later she did not.

The second problem of the publication became the launch date. All along, we expected a release of April 1st, 2018. The closer the date got, the more the problems compounded. There were too many submissions, the issue was being ‘split into more than one volume’. Then there were layout issues. Then there were page number problems. Then Createspace booted the publication out due to some type of issue (which, of course,was blamed on the authors, but also blamed on Amazon). By the time the publication finally made it to self-published market, it was TWO MONTHS past the original date.

Now thankfully, my piece (ironically titled ‘Train Wreck’, which is exactly what the piece was accepted into) was to be in one of those ‘next volumes’. I felt relieved, actually, that it wasn’t a part of their first release. But watching how they had handled all the missteps, seeing another editor step in to ‘take over’ because the first editor was having a mental breakdown or something, I decided I’d best contact them to have my story removed completely from their clutches. The final decision came when the original editor and headmistress of this hair-brained idea had spewed out all kinds of information about herself and reasons why she wasn’t ready to handle a project like this. She stated she’d been writing since May of 2017 (no that’s not a typo), had a handful of things published (which, you guessed it, you can’t find), and had a degree in economics that told her there was a market for this type of stuff.

At this point, I’m sad that I’ve left my short story be edited by someone that probably shouldn’t have. I contact the ‘new’ editor, a young pup who’s been ghostwriting for a whole 8 years (also, can’t see his stuff, ‘cuz you know, he’s a ghostwriter), and tell him to kindly do not use my story in future publications. I get zero reply. Concerned he didn’t get my email, I take to the Facebook group, under where he’s stated to ‘please email him for removal’ at his yahoo email address (another huge red flag, folks). His reply to my request was less than professional, and he proceeds to make a huge deal out of my method of contact and demanding to know why I’d need them to reply (So I can take my story elsewhere without concern, maybe?), then stating they purposefully didn’t ‘engage due to conversations like this’. Huh? Why would you be afraid to say “Okay we’ll remove your story from our files”?

As if the above wasn’t fishy enough, he proceeds to get even nastier, stating “your story would never have been accepted at this publication had I been the one to read through it, or any other for that matter. ” And then ‘muted’ me, so I would be sure to read his comment in the private group, but not be able to reply (and yes, mentions in the reply that I’ve been muted).


Rejections I can handle. Feedback I can handle. Constructive criticism I can handle. Unprofessional, childish, and rude behavior I do not tolerate. Especially from someone that claims to be a publisher. Every step of the way this group has been unprofessional, which is mind boggling to me if you are trying to BE a professional.

Now, authors, here’s my biggest issues with all this:

  1. They’ve wasted 6 months of my time
  2. They’ve held my story for 6 months
  3. They had no marketing plan AT ALL, and expected the unpaid authors to volunteer for marketing.
  4. They were unprofessional, unprepared, and are too stubborn to admit it.
  5. They have put the authors attached to this project at risk, because they have absolutely no idea what they are doing in relation to publishing or marketing.

Honestly, I think they all saw dollar signs and are lashing out because it’s not going according to plan, and publishing/marketing is a lot harder than any of them dreamed of. They had no experience with self-publishing before hand, and thought they would learn as they go.

What I learned here is to do my due diligence and RESEARCH those involved in any project or person I plan to trust with a piece of my writing. YES a bad publication can damage your reputation, especially if they are marketing poorly. YES the publishers need experience in editing and publishing (NOT JUST WRITING – I can’t emphasis this enough! Having a little experience in writing does NOT make you knowledgeable in publishing!).

NO you aren’t stupid for running as fast as you can from projects such as this. You don’t NEED that credit, nor do you need ‘the exposure’. You as a writer need paid, not ‘credit only’ and advertising duties for someone else’s publication. There are PLENTY of markets that either will pay, or actually provide you exposure and a recognizable credit without you having to market for them. And if all else fails, there is always the avenue of self-publishing and promoting yourself or your own writing.

Above all, authors, do not let a bad experience, bad advice, or bad people prevent you from writing. Let them sink in their own problems. Listen to the actual professionals in the publishing and writing world that have hands-on experience, research, and keep writing!

The Journey of Hope’s Journey

It started two years ago. I wanted to write a book. Or rather, I want to write another book, since I had already self-published a few times on Amazon.

That’s how the story of all books start, I realize. Yet there is no other good way to start out talking about a book. I had this idea one day, and it wouldn’t go away until I wrote, most authors will tell you. I am no different.

When I started Hope’s Journey, my intentions were to traditionally publish through an agent. That’s exactly what I did when I was finished with it – I started sending out query letters to agents. Not many, though, as I was still ‘testing the waters’ and making sure I was doing it properly. After a few queries, I tossed the project aside and began working on a middle grade book (which I’ve since finished and started querying for as well). That was in October 2017.

Directly after finishing the MG project, I thought about poor little Hope. When I got an email from Amazon about their “Kindle Scout” program, which is more or less a traditional publishing platform run by Amazon, I thought it would be the perfect home for my fantasy novel. The idea was, Kindle readers read your MS, vote, and you are potentially given a publishing contract by Amazon. Cool! Worth a shot, right?

I decided at the time, though, that I should do another read-through and revise the book, which is exactly what I did. I worked hard to polish the MS, making it as perfect as possible. I also hired an artist to do the cover, as I had a PERFECT idea for what I wanted it to look like. Just as he was sending me proofs and asking what size the graphics needed to be, I went to double check, and …

“We’re now closed to new submissions.”


Plans shattered. $100 spent on a graphic I may or may not use (which honestly, I’m not upset about at all – the price was obviously a REALLY GOOD one, because it was someone local I know, and if nothing else, I’ve supported his talent). What really made me freak out was having no idea where to go from here. What now!?!

I worked far too long on this project by now to simply abandon it, so I decided to dive back into the query trenches. I finished my revisions as planned, polished my synopsis, pitches, and descriptions, and made a huge list of agents to research. I took a step back, looked at the appropriate market, and decided on the target (New Adult Fantasy, ages 18-24). One by one, I wrote query letters for appropriate agents and sent them off, careful to follow each and ever one of their guidelines.

And now, we wait. (And write more in the mean time, of course). 😉