Shit Happens

After a writers’ meeting and a family commitment, I was looking forward to getting home and knocking off a few items from my list of writing things to do. I owed my new cover designer (I parted ways with the first one, but that’s another story) some information. I also needed to address some feedback I’d received earlier in the week on a short story I’m going to give my e-mail followers for free in another couple of weeks. That was just for starters, I also had other business items to take care of.

Well, I arrived home to find that one or both of my dogs had diarrhea and couldn’t wait for me to get home to go potty. I’ll leave it at that. While dealing with this situation, I turned on the tv because I’d heard we may have bad weather, and yep, it was coming. So, immediate situation taken care of, I crank on my laptop and started bringing up the files and sites I needed to do my writing tasks. Before I could get anything even started, I realize just how fast the storms were coming my way and decided I’d better just shut down and get ready to head to the shelter. Lap top had to be ready to go. Even if I didn’t make it, I was heaving the laptop down (shelter door was already open, just in case it got to that). It’s backed up every way imaginable, but hey, I still wasn’t taking any chances of losing all that writing. Sure enough, just as I slipped the laptop into its bag the sirens started blaring and off we went. Me and two dogs almost as big as I am (with active “situations”) climbed down into a shelter about the size of a shoebox.

A tornado did hit not far from me, but we were spared and eventually crawled out of our hole. I tried to get some work done, but by then it was late and I was tired (and did I mention I had a monster of a head cold?). So, around midnight I gave up and went to bed thinking I’d get a good night’s sleep and get an early start the next morning. Enter stage right—the “situation.” There was no good night’s sleep to be had. I still made it out of bed relatively early and typed this while shoving French toast into my mouth and bringing up the files and websites that never ended up getting touched the day before.

My point in all this is that shit happens (sometimes literally). Keeping up with a writing life (or any passion) on top of a “day job” and other obligations can be tough on the good days. Give yourself permission to have a bump or two without letting it get you down. You will reach your goals, whatever they may be, as long as you don’t allow setbacks to cause you to give up.

#YouCanDoIt!

Traci

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Just Breathe


If you follow my blog or social media accounts (or know me in my non-electronic form) you see/hear me say “never give up” all the time. It’s my thing. Never give up on your dreams. I’m a firm believer that persistence can get you any place you want to go. BUT, I’m slowly realizing, sometimes it’s okay to take a breath.

I set lofty goals on how much writing I’m going to get done on a particular day and dig in. I’ll sit in front of my keyboard until my brain turns to pudding. But I keep on going, spinning over the same thing without much forward motion, because, damn it, I’ve set a goal and I’m going to meet or beat it. So, I keep rewriting that paragraph, not liking it anymore on the tenth version than I did the first. Or I’ll rearranging a sentence over and over wondering if I repeated a word or just think I did because I’ve read the same sentence twenty-five times in a row now? I tell myself don’t give up, you have five more pages left to write/revise today and I push through.

I usually make or exceed my already sporty goals, but fall into bed like a zombie way past any decent bedtime not always happy with the way I ended and with nothing accomplished around my house. I’ve found that when I come back to my writing the next day I go back and whip right through whatever I’d been spinning on. So, my stubborn side is slowly accepting that taking a breath has some merit, too. I’m trying to be more aware and when I realize I’m in the throes of a spin, I make a note to reword this or rearrange that—if I’m not sure what’s bothering me, I’ll just make a generic note to review or reassess—and walk away. I’ve usually accomplished quite a bit by the time I hit a wall (i.e. get tired) and have the problem fixed first things the next day. When I give my brain a rest, my dogs get an extra round of frisbee, or I get a load of laundry or dishes done before I run out of clean things, or I get to read a few more pages of a book before I fall asleep (YAY). I still say never give up on your dreams, but I think you can also be kind to yourself in the process.

Only a few weeks in to this new way of approaching my writing, I’m finding it easier said than done. But I’m trying. I continue to tell myself, that it’s all right, I’ll get there. Just breathe.

Happy Writing (and Breathing)!

Traci

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AND THE (LOGO) WINNER IS…

Back in March, I asked my friends on social media to help select a final logo for my publishing company. This is the one you liked best (me too). Thank you all for helping! Now here’s a little background, in case you’re wondering.

The company was officially established January 7, 2017, as a Limited Liability Company operating in the state of Oklahoma. The name was suggested by my son-in-law during a brainstorming session between me, him, and my daughter. Inkana means friend (or friendly) in the Chickasaw language. As soon as I heard that, I knew we’d found the perfect name. I started  with zero knowledge or experience on how to write a book and have spent the last seven years grabbing every bit of knowledge I could. I’d love to pass that on to others just starting out–be a “friend” to any who might benefit from what I’ve learned, not only about writing, but about the business of writing as well.

The design itself is a mix of things I find interesting and, therefore, write about. My first novel, The Anuan Legacy, is a science fiction book partially set in space. I’ve always loved space. So much so that my friends used to call me Spaci (the “i” dotted with a star, of course) instead of Traci when I was younger. Thus, the star. It’s swooping in like “here I am!” And here I am–or rather my book–finally, after 7 years. Longer by the time the novel is actually published. The pyramid is because I find anything about ancient Egypt fascinating. I already have a work-in-progress partially set in ancient Egypt. You’ll see that sometime in the future. The color scheme was inspired by the death mask of King Tutankhamun (originally named King Tutankhaten, but better known simply as King Tut). The logo colors aren’t yellow and blue. If you look closely, you’ll see they’re actually photo images of gold and lapis stone, which are both components of King Tut’s death mask.

Choosing to self-publish under my own label is just one of many paths to publishing these days. It’s the one I feel most comfortable with and I’d like to thank you all for coming along on this wonderful journey with me.

Happy Publishing!
Traci

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Editing – That’s What I Meant


Have you ever found yourself telling somebody that’s what I meant or that’s NOT what I meant? Well, that happens all the time in writing. The entire story is in the writer’s head, but what comes out isn’t always clear, just like in conversations. That’s why it’s so important to get fresh eyes on your drafts. No matter how great or successful a writer you are, your work has to be looked over by other people who can catch all the things you meant to say but didn’t (outside of your own mind, anyway).
I started my first novel, The Anuan Legacy (coming fall of 2017), from a place of zero knowledge or experience on how to write a book. Therefore, it may have spun around longer than a seasoned writer’s work would have, but nobody should ever scratch together a draft and immediately send it out the door without putting it in the hands of qualified reviewers and editors first.
My critique group (The Plot Sisters), does a great job of being my first round of fresh eyes, and sometimes my second and third rounds, as well. But after a while, they don’t have fresh eyes anymore, either. They know all the things that have been cut and may no longer recognize when something is missing that should have been included. 
For The Anuan Legacy, after I wore out my Plot Sisters, I hired a trusted and reputable professional to give a critique as both a reader and someone who knows the current dos and don’ts of novel writing. (These change over time.) This resulted in more revisions. I then passed the manuscript on to beta readers. Beta readers are volunteers who have never seen the story before and are willing to read it and give feedback. Of course, this drove another round of revisions. Once those were complete, I ran the updated draft through a second professional critique. More revisions. Then my Plot Sisters graciously agreed to review the manuscript yet another time. The material had morphed enough since they’d last seen it that their eyes were fresh again. Of course, I received more revision suggestions. Next, more beta readers and, you guessed it—more revisions. My manuscript went through so many revisions it barely resembled the original draft anymore and the time had come to bring in the heavy hitters. I sent it off to an editor who gave it a good content edit. And, yep, I had more revisions to make. 
I might mention that after every set of comments, whether it be from my Plot Sisters, a professional editor, or anybody in between, I wanted to kick myself for not catching those things on my own. It always seemed so obvious after someone else pointed it out, but “tired eyes” just miss things. 
This process can go round and round and round. So, where do things stand now with my debut novel? I just received the manuscript back from line editing. If you guessed that will result in more revisions, you’re right. But hopefully soon, it will be ready for proofreading and publishing—with a million other steps in between like blurbs, cover art, formatting, reviews, launch activities, and so on. 
Suffice it to say that when this book finally reaches all of you, it will not just be made of paper and ink, but of my blood, sweat, tears, heart, and soul. I hope you enjoy it. 😊 
Happy Reading!
Traci

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My Turn

My entire life I played a supporting role in my own world. A daughter to a single mother who could use all the help she could get, a wife to a husband trying to climb the ranks of a challenging career, a mother to an active daughter, a granddaughter in a sandwich generation that skipped a layer. Every time I see my daughter thriving, or remember a smile on my Granny’s face when I did something special for her, I know everything I put into those supporting roles was well worth it. But, now it’s my turn.

Yes, writing had reared its head a few times in my life. I ignored it. Because, you can’t pay bills by writing. Right? (I suppose some can.) But when I discovered my love of reading, and ultimately writing, in my forties, I learned it’s not about the money. It’s about doing something you love to do.

So, I’m letting the worlds and words inside me leak out through my fingers onto paper and keyboard, and don’t plan to stop them. I highly recommend you let your own passions out, whatever they may be. Don’t stifle the fire in your soul.

Happy writing (or whatever fire-building you do)!
Traci

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Stop the World. I Want To Get Off.

Does anybody else feel like their life is out of control? I can’t seem to keep up or find enough time to do what I really want to do–write (some reading would be good, too). I recently received my manuscript back from my editor and I’m so anxious to dig in full-blast! I have managed to get through 71 pages (pats self on back) but want to give it so much more time than I’ve been able to. The immediate future doesn’t look any better. My family will be arriving tomorrow for a visit (yay for that one!); one of my dogs has an ear infection (so vet visit); in the next few days I’m scheduled for a hair cut (already rescheduled once), allergy shot, annual female checkup (about an annual overdue), and a mammogram. I also need to pick up my dry cleaning, pay for my car registration and pick up some things from the grocery by tomorrow or my visiting family will starve. I’m trying to squeeze all that around extra hours at work settling into a new job. I’m sure I have other things to do, but my “to do” list vanished. My e-mail was hacked which caused a domino effect that included all my notes disappearing from my iPhone, not to be recovered. They contained every note I’ve ever taken about books, writing, publishing, and even had bits of manuscript that I’d jotted down until I could get it onto my laptop. I can’t even count the other information that was lost never be reconstituted from this tired brain of mine. But, I’m on this side of my expiration date, which is good. Things will settle down, or maybe they won’t. Either way, I need to do a better job of putting everything on pause for just a moment here and there to breathe and take in the beauty of this Earth that I pass by everyday without notice. Who’s with me?

Happy Writing (or Pausing)!
Traci

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What’s Your (Query) Number?

Querying for a literary agent can be a long and arduous process. Rejections are plenty, so get used to that if you decide to take the traditional publishing path and are in search of a literary agent to represent you to one of the big five publishing houses—Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Macmillan Publishers, Penguin Random House (a fairly recent merger between Penguin and Random House), and Simon and Schuster. Even the best, most successful books can be rejected multiple times before finally being published. Here are examples of some best-sellers, along with the author and number of times they were rejected:

Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling, 12

A Time to Kill, John Grisham, 16
M*A*S*H, Richard Hooker, 21
Dune, Frank Herbert, 23
The Notebook, Nicholas Sparks, 24
The Time Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger, 25
A Wrinkle in Time, Madeline L’Engle, 26
Carrie, Stephen King, 30
The Thomas Berryman Number, James Patterson, 31
Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell, 38
The Help, Kathryn Stockett, 60
The Eyre Affair, Jasper Fforde, 76
The Lost Get-Back Boogie, James Lee Burke, 111
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig, 121
Chicken Soup for the Soul, Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, 134
Roots, Alex Haley, 200

Always assess and re-assess to make sure you’re giving the best query you can and that your story is truly ready, but don’t get discouraged and don’t give up. These authors didn’t and look what happened.

That being said, the traditional path might not be right for you. Only you can decide that. I was determined to follow this traditional publishing route and query agents for as long as it took to find that just-right agent who connected with my story and would help my book’s world find its way into your world. But, as I queried, I also researched and ultimately came to the conclusion that I’m too much of a control freak to publish traditionally. I want to have more involvement in the process and decisions than I feel I would have with traditional publishing. I write because I can’t not write (you writers out there will get that), and that’s all there is to it. I don’t need a deal with one of the big publishing companies for that. It just happened to be the only way I knew to share my story with others, and at the time I started querying, it was really the preferred path. But things have changed (or maybe I’ve just become better educated) and many publishing options are available, including self-publishing. With print on demand (POD) now well established, self-publishing has become a very viable choice, one that is quickly growing into a legitimate and respected publishing path, and the path I’ve decided to pursue. I’ve learned to never say never, but right now, that’s the plan.

Granted, there are still those who throw a half-cooked book out there via a self-publishing avenue just because they can, giving self-published books as a whole a bad reputation. But, more and more, authors are doing what it takes to put out a great self-published book and turn that negative perception of self-publishing around. I have a lot to learn in order to do this right, but I’ve never shied away from a challenge and I’m not going to start now. I’ll tackle this one step at a time, with the first step being to make sure the book is the best it can be. So, that’s where I’m at. After multiple reviews and revisions prior to this self-publishing decision, I feel I’ve taken the book as far as I can on my own (which included lots of critiquing eyes) and have now passed my manuscript off to a professional editor (for probably only the first round of edits). I’ll share all about that journey in a future blog.

So, are you wondering what my query number was? Drum roll please…61. Anybody else want to share how many queries it took them to get published by whatever means – big publisher, small press, indy press, vanity press, self-published, etc.? Go ahead, tell us, what’s your number? Feel free to share even if you are still on your journey (example – 61 and counting). And remember, every rejection puts you one query closer to a published book and no matter the number, you’re in some pretty good company. YOU WILL GET THERE, just like they did!

Happy Writing!
Traci

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The Sandwich Occupation

You’ve heard of the sandwich generation. An entire generation (and generations to come) squeezed between taking care of aging parents and their own children. Full loads on both sides of running their own lives, including (usually) working full time jobs. They’re sandwiched between multiple slices of life, pressing down on them from every direction. A triple decker life sandwich, or more. 

If I had to give the occupation of writing a moniker, it would be the sandwich occupation. Let’s face it, this occupation (for most) does not afford us a life of luxury. And, even more realistically, often times, does not even pay the bills. Many aspiring writers have yet to make any money at all. But the call is still there, the drive, the passion. So we write. We don’t do it because we expect it to provide that life of riches, allowing us to live in huge houses and drive different fancy cars every day of the week. We do it because we love it. We do it because we can’t not do it. To not do it, would be like not breathing. Even though we don’t get paid to do that either, it must be done. So, we continue to slog to our “paying jobs,” squeezing in whatever precious time we can to devote to our true calling. Sandwiched in between all those other sandwich generation things, but adding one more layer, squeezing in the thing that calls to us most. Writing.

So, to all my fellow slices of ham, Tofurky, tomato, lettuce…may the thing calling to you like lungs call for air someday be the slice of life that pays your bills. 

Happy Writing!
Traci

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Living the Dream (Temporarily)

I’ve been living my dream, truly, for the past week or so. I took time off work to give my writing undivided attention and loved not having to work it in around my “paying” job.

A normal, paying-job-day consists of trying to avoid interruptions during lunch long enough to at least get a new paragraph or two written. At times I’ve even slipped away to a closet where no one could find me. That worked, until they found me. In the evenings, I’ll squeeze in an hour or so between the suppertime and bedtime rituals. Weekends are tougher, things need caught up at home by then. Yet, I’ll usually huddle up at Starbuck’s or Barnes and Nobel with my laptop and a hot chocolate so I’m not tempted to dive into cleaning up the dust bowl that my home has become or I don’t get pulled away by my dogs and their Frisbees and miss out on a precious full day devoted to the dream. The home and the dogs get squeezed in between the suppertime and bedtime rituals on weekends. My poor dogs. I owe them more exercise. I owe myself more exercise.

Oh, I’ll tease my co-workers that I’m living the dream there, but the comment is always accompanied by a sarcastically tone and an eye roll. The dream lives in this laptop, in those other worlds I’ve created. Worlds I can’t get back to fast enough, worlds I can’t wait to share.

On this, my last dream day before returning to work, my mood will drop lower and lower following the setting sun into a pit of darkness. First thing in the morning, I’ll be back to the grind and to grabbing whatever precious time I can find to live my dream, if only in temporarily patches.

Happy Writing!
Traci

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Not a New Year’s Resolution

Many people make resolutions at the beginning of each year. Setting goals is a good thing (“spoken” by a list-checker), but why wait until the first day of a new year? I set goals all year, no matter what the date. On the top of my list for a while now has been to polish my manuscript, A Special Project(working title), find an agent and get that manuscript published. I’ve been challenged for over a year now to stay focused on that goal, but still managed to keep it in the crosshairs. The challenges? I’ve dealt with a nightmare government move to a new state and a new job, where I had to find and adjust to new everything. On top of that came the loss of my first grandbaby, which made all the rest seem like nothing.

On my first day in my new home in Moore, Oklahoma, after living in a hotel for a few weeks, the movers unloading my life into this new house couldn’t finish fast enough. A storm boiled on the horizon and they didn’t want to be anywhere near that city when it hit. I thought they acted a bit silly, it was only a storm, with some hail, maybe. But, I’d barely gotten the garage door closed when my daughter, who’d been there to help manage movers and box count, received a call from her husband saying a tornado had been confirmed to be on the ground in Moore. Everything I owned, my weather radio, my flashlights, everything, lay trapped in boxes somewhere in that house.

But, no problem, at least I had a shelter. Well, maybe one problem. I couldn’t figure out how to get the darn thing open. So, as the storm raged outside and the lights flashed on and off inside, my daughter, my two dogs and I huddle in the bathtub. Luckily, the tornado missed my new home by about a mile and no damage occurred—that would come from a tornadic storm in another couple months. That’s how my new life in Oklahoma began. And so it went.

As you can see, there have been challenges. Some greater than others, like the loss of little Lawson, but the goals remained: polish my manuscript, find an agent, get said manuscript published. After a re-write that started before I left Ohio and a couple rounds of critiques, the querying has begun. The timing just so happened to fall at the beginning of a new year, but querying has been on my radar for a while, just like the other goals mentioned. So, look out 2016, the culmination of these goals has been waiting for you!
Happy Writing!
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