When You Write is as Important as What You Write

When you write is as important as what you write, but as many writers know, time is often an elusive commodity in the writing life.

I’ve read a couple of writing books that address the issue of time, and the one thing that always annoys me is that the author is writing from a place of success, i.e., he/she is financially stable enough to do nothing but write. And that’s great for him/her.

The rest of us, however, still have regular jobs as spouses and parents, not to mention careers that take us outside our homes. Of writers who comprise this group, I extend much grace to the parents, especially if their children are still young. But hear me, O Potential Writer parenting babes: those little ones won’t be little for long, so enjoy them now.

In the meantime, jot your fabulous story ideas into a notebook to be revisited upon your child’s/children’s growing independence. Right now, the best thing you can do is raise them with love and devotion. This also applies to the writer caring for elderly parents or children who will always be with you due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control. Grace and peace to you as you set aside your dream for just a little while. I promise it will be waiting for you when the time is right.

Probably everyone who reads this post is old enough to remember his/her childhood when the days seemed endless, and sometimes, they even became boring because we exhausted all the great, fun things we wanted to do. Of course, we also know that the days aren’t any shorter now. We’re just busier with all the activities vying for our time and attention.

Gaining time at this stage of the game is a matter of prioritizing activities. I find that a calendar helps. Start by blocking off chunks of time when you’re required to complete non-writing activities (outside-the-home job, shopping, mowing, laundry, bills, cooking, etc.) and see what’s left. Analyze how well you’re doing some of these tasks and strive to do them better. Example: instead of running to the grocery store every time you need something, make a list and shop all at once. It really is that easy, and the minutes you’ll gain add up.

You’re going to have to sacrifice to make time for yourself, too. The first place you can do this is by cutting the amount of time you spend on social media. It’s crazy how much time we give to scrolling through nonsense that adds nothing of any value to our lives. Yes, it’s fun but pay attention to how long you’re actually on social media. It follows us everywhere, and like slaves, we attend every beep on our cell phones as if we absolutely must respond to that cute kitten picture or comment on the recipe for a triple-stack burger with peanut butter and jelly.

In fact, because writing is such hard work that requires a large amount of focus, you may need to separate yourself from technology for awhile until you have established good writing habits.

Giving up television is another way you can gain large amounts of time. TV has become as invasive as social media in that it’s possible to watch your favorite shows everywhere. I include the endless quantity of videos watched on YouTube in this category. Now that we live in the age of on-demand viewing, TV/YouTube/any streaming service needs to be monitored lest it continue to consume our lives.

Another time saving/time gaining measure is the ability to say, “No, thank you.” By this I mean choose what invitations you allow to take you away from your writing. This one requires some tactful maneuvering on your part, especially when the invitation is to a family function. Grandma’s 99th birthday party? Yes, you must go. Uncle Jimmy opening the pool for the season? You can miss that.

You may need to be strong with friends who don’t understand your commitment to writing. Multiple coffee dates, long phone chats, and just hanging out can chew through your writing time faster than hungry teenage boys through a pizza. Instead, schedule a dinner date with a group of friends to maintain your relationships.

So, you’ve bought back some time for yourself, but guess what? There’s still more to be had!

I find travelling with a single-subject, college-ruled, spiral-bound notebook and pen to be a lifesaver. This is especially true when I must leave the house in the middle of a fabulous writing session and I don’t want to lose the flow of the story. My husband drives and I write.

I also keep pens or pencils and notebooks around the house for the same purpose. While working in the basement, I’ve maintained the flow of my story by jotting down details in between folding t-shirts.

Enlist the help of others toward building your writing time. Politely explain your need and work out times when you can create uninterrupted. Even fifteen minutes a day can go a long way to building your writing confidence. To minimize the amount of time it takes to get back into the groove for your next session, quickly note the next idea in your chain of thought. You can use it as a launching point rather than scrambling to remember what you intended to write next.

There’s always getting up half an hour earlier or going to bed half an hour later, but I urge caution here because sleep is so essential in our 24/7 world. Then again, if you’re at the age where you’re awake for long periods of time through the night, grab that notebook beside your bed and jot something down. Remember to be considerate of the person who may be sleeping next you to.

Make good use of the recording feature on your cell phone while walking the dog or rocking the baby to sleep. Your speaking voice will soothe both.

Ask someone to take dictation when you’re elbow deep in a sink full of dishes or while your grease-stained hands are working under the hood of your vehicle. This is a great way to get words on the page as well as draw loved ones into your writing process. Not only will they come to understand your vision, but they’ll also get to spend time with you in a way that is productive rather than interruptive.

So, you see, there are many ways to accumulate time for your writing passion. Again, writing is hard work, and one way in which you may feel as if you’re wasting your own time is when you find yourself staring at the blank page or computer screen without having produced a single word. In this instance, you’re going to have to extend yourself some grace. It happens to every writer.

I will caution you against believing that it’s writer’s block. In truth, you haven’t found your groove yet, the muse isn’t speaking, or you’re a little unfocused. Don’t beat yourself up and don’t stop writing. Try again the next time you’ve scheduled yourself to write or the moment presents itself.

The Artist’s Corner – Author Cari Dubiel Stands Out in the Crowd

About a year and a half ago, I was invited to join an informal meeting for members of Sisters in Crime at a fellow writer’s home. Although I don’t write mysteries, the meetings were, and still are, extremely beneficial as we talked craft and industry across the genres. The feedback has been wonderful, and the friendships are invaluable.

I met author Cari Dubiel at these meetings, and right from the start I could tell she was an articulate, intelligent woman. Being a librarian, book lover, and writer definitely scored Cari high marks in my book, but since that first meeting, she and I have had the opportunity to discuss the joys and woes of the writing life in some detail. Imagine how pleased I was to find a kindred spirit who shared my passions and concerns. In fact, much of what Cari said precisely mirrored what I had been thinking and feeling and I realized she would be the perfect candidate for an Artist’s Corner interview.

So, without further ado, allow me introduce you to genre-bending author Cari Dubiel.

Tell me a little bit about yourself.

I’m a lifelong Ohio resident, married with two young children. I’m the Adult Learning and Information Services Manager at the Twinsburg Public Library in Twinsburg, Ohio. I’ve worked there for 11 years, though not always as a manager. Prior to TPL, I worked for a few other public libraries in Northeast Ohio, for a total of 20 years in libraries. I also speak and write in the library field, and I adjunct at Kent State University.

When did you develop your love of writing?

I was a very early reader – I don’t remember it, but my mom said that I could read fluently by the time I was three. She used to take me to her work, open a magazine, and watch all her friends’ jaws drop when I was able to read any sentence she pointed to. And, of course, I loved to read. So by the time I was in third grade, I wanted to write my own stories. My first story was called “Trapped in a Video Game,” and it was complete with illustrations of Mario and the Princess.

Did your position as a librarian play into your career as a writer?

Well, I don’t do any writing at work, and I’m not allowed to use my position to promote my books. But there is a natural correlation. A woman I worked with years ago introduced me to her husband, who was an avid mystery fan. He introduced me in turn to Casey Daniels, who got me involved in Sisters in Crime. So I guess I have Bob Burke to thank for my connections so far! I also regularly host authors at the library, and I read and review their books. And of course, we have a fantastic collection of craft books that I’ve cultivated. I think it’s the best in our consortium.

Have you ever worked as a freelance writer?

In library land, I’ve written for Library Journal, Booklist, and several professional blogs. Occasionally, I also take on freelance editing jobs, but I only take those that I am really passionate about, as I don’t have a lot of extra time! I’ve had a few short stories published online and in anthologies as well.

In what genre(s) do you enjoy writing?

I love to experiment with genre. I don’t like to feel boxed into one specific type of story. My writing is mainly focused on the characters and their arcs, but I also like to have a solidly structured plot to keep the reader guessing. I like pseudoscience – taking existing scientific concepts and playing with them, saying “what if?” I also like to have a mystery aspect to everything I write. It may not always be a “whodunit” – sometimes it’s a “whydunit.” And sometimes both.

Which genres do you enjoy reading?  Who are your favorite authors?

I pretty much read everything. I’ll go through phases when I’ll be in the mood for just one thing, and then I’ll switch gears to a totally different genre or type of book. Right now I’m in a sci-fi groove, particularly funny sci-fi. My other favorites are literary fiction, psychological thrillers, traditional and cozy mysteries, and nonfiction of all kinds. I tend to pick up whatever strikes my fancy – working in a library definitely enables my reading habit – but I always look forward to new books by Ernest Cline, Peter Swanson, Jennifer Weiner, Jonathan Tropper, Kate Racculia, and Ann Patchett. I love to support my writer friends as well – I’ll read and review everything they send me, or I’ll buy their books after pub date if I can’t get a review copy.

How have your favorite authors shaped your writing?

I think each one brings me a different strength. Tropper and Weiner have strong male and female voices, respectively, with smart, flawed protagonists. Patchett writes so beautifully and subtly, and Swanson writes highly readable killer thrillers. Cline is the master of sci-fi intrigue. I can’t wait for the Ready Player One movie. Kate Racculia is a fabulous literary writer, but she also has a strong focus on plot and character that really drives her fiction.

Tell me about your novel, How to Remember.

I often have intense, realistic, bizarre dreams. I also sleepwalk, so I wonder if there’s something weird going on in my unconscious mind. I woke up from one where I had lost exactly one year’s worth of memory, and it took me a while to figure out what was going on. In the dream, my phone had been wiped, and I couldn’t find my computer, so there were no clues to what had happened. My protagonist, Dr. Miranda Underwood, starts off the novel in that situation. Through the course of the book, she has to find those clues and follow them to the answers she needs.

Miranda narrates from 2017; secondary protagonist Ben Baker narrates from 2016, helping to fill in the blanks. He encounters Miranda in her job at a company called MindTech, where she helps patients deal with past trauma by looking at their mental maps and providing them with targeted therapeutic solutions. Ben’s mother has died under mysterious circumstances, and he’s looking for answers of his own. The two narratives dovetail to show the reader what happened.

The book is available for pre-order at Inkshares: How To Remember

Are there any comparative titles?

The concepts are similar to the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but the style is completely different from that film. With its focus on suburbia, the setting is reminiscent of Holly Brown’s This is Not Over or Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies. In that way, the book is strongly domestic suspense. There are strong themes of parenthood and exploration of the relationships between parents and children. However, it also has the science fiction component with a lot of nerdy appeal, which fans of Ready Player One and The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak would enjoy.

What has the editing process been like for you?

Not bad so far – I’ve had some reader input, as well as a professional critique from author Lori Rader-Day through the Hugh Holton Critique Program. That critique program spurred me to enter the Hugh Holton Award competition with the Midwest chapter of the Mystery Writers of America. I won that award in December 2017, so that was a great experience!

I’m looking forward to a professional edit, although I’m also nervous about it since I’ve never been through one before. I do edit for other people, so it will be strange to be on the other side of the screen.

Describe your journey to publication.

I’m hoping the answer to this will be a lot more complete in the future! Right now I’m campaigning for a publication deal. I need to sell at least 250 copies of my book as pre-orders for the deal to be funded. I’m lucky that this book has won an award, and it’s also been backed by two syndicates on Inkshares, which means that it’s been endorsed by many interested readers. But it’s still not a guarantee.

I have many friends who are in this business, who run the gamut from straight indie to hybrid to traditionally published, and there are so many setbacks and trials for all of them. Every person hits different roadblocks and trials along the way. Mine is no different, and it’s not done yet.

Why did you decide upon Inkshares?

I read The Punch Escrow by Tal M. Klein, which was a fabulous sci-fi story with great character development. As I usually do when I’ve read a book I like, I checked to see how it was published. The concept of books being published by reader interest was intriguing, and when I logged onto the platform, I was impressed by its sharp look and user appeal.

At first, I wasn’t sure if I had done the right thing, but now I regret nothing. I’ve met so many cool authors on the platform, who are smart, warm, and kind, and their books are astounding. I’m writing an article for IndiePicks magazine in March to highlight my favorites. I love “selling” books I love to library patrons.

What is crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding is a business model that relies on user interest to develop a product. Most people will be familiar with it from platforms like Kickstarter or Indiegogo. When a user sees an item they like, they pledge money towards it to help the product become a reality. On the Inkshares platform, it’s a little different: readers pre-order copies, so they don’t have to spend more than $10 for an e-book or $20 for a physical copy. If they want their name in the back of the book, they can spend $60, and they’ll also receive 3 copies of the book.

What challenges have you faced in your writing and with publication?

Honestly, my biggest challenge has been due to my own fault. I haven’t been able to choose a direction. And that comes from my deep love of reading everything. With my writing, I want to echo and amplify other authors, and it’s impossible to put everything I love into one book.

My friend Amanda Flower gave me the best advice, which finally helped me focus. She said to write what you love, what speaks to you. The rest of it is all business. It may not be the right market for the story at the time, but eventually, if it’s a good story, its time will come.

How can interested readers assist your efforts?

Pre-order at: How to Remember! If I make that 250 mark, readers are guaranteed a copy at publication. If pre-ordering isn’t possible, share the link freely. Inkshares does occasionally publish titles that they determine to have organic popularity, and that comes from liking, sharing, and clicking on the link.

I’ve also released a short story collection for free at “Lost Memories.” I’m posting these stories as I write them, so if you follow me on Inkshares, you’ll get alerts when I add the new content.

What is your marketing plan?

I’ve already done two giveaways, and I’m planning more. I find that even if readers can’t afford to purchase the book, they’re grateful if they win, and they’re more likely to follow me and keep up on my work. With each giveaway, I’m hoping to spread the love of books and reading, and I want to get to know my potential readers.

My awesome graphic artist is developing new covers for both How to Remember and “Lost Memories.” I also have another fabulous artist who is working on line drawings of the main characters. Prints of those will be released in a giveaway as well.

I’ve done some video content, too. The book trailer is on YouTube: How to Remember

You can follow my channel for more updates.

Where can one find you one the Internet?

Inkshares: Cari Dubiel

Goodreads: Author Cari Dubiel

Website: www.caridubiel.com

Facebook: Cari Dubiel Author

Twitter: @caridubiel

Instagram: @cb1281

Email Newsletter: Sign Up

Thanks for reading!

Undercutting the Competition

June of 1925 was an exciting time in the life of John Welles. He had graduated from high school with honors and been accepted to the University of Maryland for his pre-med studies. With his Aunt Prudence’s help, John was one step closer to achieving his dream of becoming a doctor.

undercutting-the-competition-3For the occasion of his graduation party, Prudence guided her nephew on the decision of clothing and haircut. She had her reasons for showing off John to his peers, their parents, and most importantly, John’s own family. While the lanky teen bore the new look well, his appearance and success drove home Prudence’s self-serving point better than she could have predicted, and the results were disastrous.

undercutting-the-competition-2I always pictured John with undercut hair for this scene. The style, popular in Edwardian times, the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, resurfaced in the 2010s. Soccer star David Beckham sports the style as do actors Brad Pitt, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Michael Pitt when he portrayed Jimmy Darmody in Boardwalk Empire. Unfortunately, the style was also favored by the Nazis, but don’t allow that to deter you from considering it.

undercutting-the-competitionThe haircut is defined by long hair on top, parted on either side or down the center, with the back and sides buzzed quite short. Originally, undercut hair was considered a sign of poverty because one could not afford a barber capable of blending the back and sides with the top. The style, popular with working-class men and especially street gangs, was held in place with paraffin wax.

undercutting-the-competition-5Throughout the years, the style enjoyed slight variations. One such disaster was the result of combining undercut hair with a centrally-parted bowl cut, which was favored by fans of new wave, synthpop, and electronic music in the 1980s, and curtained hair, an atrocity worn in the 1990s. In England, some schools banned undercut hair because it was reminiscent of the cut worn by the Hitler Youth.

undercutting-the-competition-4Today, a myriad of products, including wax, pomade, gel, and mousse, exist to keep one’s undercut hair looking slick. There are also tutorials on YouTube for everything from how to cut the style yourself, what to tell a stylist when requesting the undercut, and how to achieve the look you desire for the long top portion. I do have to wonder, though, what the men and boys who originally wore the style, and wouldn’t use anything other than a comb and wax, would think of the inclusion of hair straighteners, hair dryers, and curling irons to the routine of maintaining an undercut.

Sounds Travels for Your Mind

UnearthedI’m a huge fan of television and movie music, so a couple of years ago I surfed YouTube in search of the theme from the show, Cold Case. I had become a fan of the reruns and the song used for the opening credits. My hope was to find a video of the song, uploaded by another fan, that I could add to my list of favorites. What I discovered was even better.

E.S. Posthumus is the name of the group responsible for the ethereal music used as the Cold Case theme. The actual title of the song is “Nara,” and it is featured on the 2001 album, Unearthed.

Helmut and Franz Von Lichten are the brilliant creators behind the music. The group hasn’t been active since 2010 due to the passing of Franz Von Lichten, but what they left behind is remarkable.

Their music has been listed in the genres orchestral, ambient, modern classical, and symphonic rock. All are accurate. If you’ve never experienced E.S. Posthumus, I recommend starting with their first album, Unearthed. The tracks are titled after ancient cities no longer in existence and have been featured in movie trailers and television shows.

Cartographer

Cartographer, their second album, is a two-disc collection featuring vocals by Luna Sans. All pieces are stories telling a fantasy tale about the imagined creators behind the ancient “Piri Reis” map discovered in Constantinople. The made up language sung by Sans is beautiful and haunting.

The third and final album, Makara, seemed the most different to me with pieces that are intense and power driven. I find it great for driving or housework because of the high energy quality whereas Unearthed and Cartographer are more suited to writing for all for the inspiration they lend.

Whichever album you start with, I highly recommend listening to all three. They are timeless classics one will return to again and again.

Makara

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