You know the disclaimer you see at the beginning of books:

This story, all names, characters, and incidents portrayed in this novel are entirely fictitious. No identification with actual persons, places, or things should be inferred.

It’s bullshit.

If you show up in my books, I’m sorry. But I’m pretty sure most writers make use of people, places, and things from their own life. When I write, my characters are filled with parts of me, parts of my husband, parts of other people I know. So one character might have some of my husband’s characteristics or several characters might be an amalgamation of him.

A lot of writers walk around with little notebooks to jot down funny little incidents they see taking place in their lives. They might write down the way the sunset on the lake makes them feel. Or they might write down how some lady sitting next to them at their son’s ballgame was using numerology to plan birthday parties—random things like that. Those scenes make it into books. We are, after all, part of the human experience. In order to make characters seem like actual human beings, writers sprinkle them with characteristics of people we may know or the stranger who did something shocking, funny, or weird.

When I wrote my first book, No Turning Back, which is still on Amazon I wrote about my past. I wrote about a relationship that hurt me and continues to plague me today. People who are/were close to me who read the book probably knew that. My sisters figured it out anyway. They say an author’s first book is always about herself. I’d say that most authors’ books are probably about themselves, the things they’ve seen or felt, or the people we know. Authors write for various reasons.

Here are the reasons I write:

  1. To Try to Answer Existential Questions
  2. To Deal with a Dilemma I’m currently facing
  3. To Deal with a Trauma or Pain from the Past
  4. To Deal with Depression – put the pain on the characters or have them solve the problems.
  5. To Try to Describe my Human Experience
  6. To Connect with Other People in a Meaningful, Deliberate Way

The more I get to know other writers, the more I think this is what writers do. They use their characters to deal with their life. It’s no wonder that writers often get described as tortured souls. The very thing that drives them can be torturous. The very thing that nurtures their creativity often threatens to suffocate them or pull them down into the darkness, the depression, the alcoholism—whatever the vice.

I find in myself, and you can see it in my pattern of writing, that I am driven by my restlessness. I write better and more often when I’m searching for an answer, when I feel unfulfilled, when I feel like the whole world might come crashing down at any moment. But at the same time, that work starts to provide meaning. It starts to provide a light. It starts to create hopefulness inside of me. It shows me my purpose, and aren’t we all striving for purpose in our lives? Ironically, the very thing that makes me feel better, creativity, often disappears once it has done its job. The plight of a writer.

Perhaps the hardest part of being a writer is feeling misunderstood. I’ve lived my whole life thinking too much, and writing eases that to a certain extent. All writers want their work to resonate with people. When the writing comes from a place of emotion, the characters often reflect that. And sometimes those characters come from real life, no matter what the disclaimer at the beginning of the book says.

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The Flaw of Perfectionism

This weekend, I sat on the bench and watched my son compete in a gymnastics meet in Roswell, GA. He’s been in gymnastics for years, and he’s good. He’s generally a hard worker. But he missed about five months last year due to a dislocated shoulder, and he still holds himself to the standards of the boys who are in their second year as level 5s.

He did well at the meet. He messed up on the floor, and that was his first event, so I think that led him down a dark wormhole in his mind. But after rings, he started crying. He was so upset. He scored a 10.1 on rings (not bad by any means), but he felt like he should have been scored higher. And he hyper-focused on it, getting more and more upset. At one point, he even walked off the floor. I tried to calm him down, but he wanted to be by himself. By the time he made it to his last event, high bars, he’d calmed himself down and he managed to pull an 11.2, first place for the event.


Watching him struggle was hard for me, and I recognized myself in him. How many of us quit when it gets tough? How many of us quit when we feel like our best is not our best? I sat and watch my son beat himself up, because his rings weren’t perfect and that’s hard for a parent to see. Mainly, because he inherited this trait from me and probably from the way we parent.

I’ve done a lot of reading over the years on perfectionism, because having struggled with it I know it can be debilitating. The thing about perfectionism is that it doesn’t spur you on to bigger and better things, it actually holds you back from being all you can be. It takes all the positives of a motivated individual and turns them into negatives and all the what if’s pop up: what if I fail? what if I don’t win? what if? what if? until the what ifs make the person stop doing what they love. The “what ifs” seem to become the driving factor in making the perfectionist feel trapped by their own perceived lack of achievement.

I haven’t been writing lately, and I know this is from self-doubt and perfectionism cropping into my mind. I haven’t been putting the time in, because I still don’t know if I’m good enough. But doing what I love should be good enough for me. I tried to emphasize this to my oldest son over the weekend. “You love gymnastics, right? Then keep working hard, and don’t get so bent out of shape over one meet.” This is a hard lesson to learn, and it’s a hard lesson for me to teach. I’m sure he’s seen me give up when things get tough, or when I don’t think the writing is just right, or when life gets too overwhelming

So how do we overcome perfectionism?

We need to teach our children that good enough is good enough. Winning isn’t everything. Hard work matters, but it’s okay to fail. In fact, learning how to cope with failure leads us to success later on and gives us the tools to know how to succeed.  We need to stop being afraid to let our children fail.

Celebrate victories. When my son didn’t do as well as he wanted in the meet, he said that the first place on high bar didn’t even matter. I told him he was nuts. He had scored 1st out of 61 kids. That was something! I told him not to focus on the negative, but to look at the overall picture, to learn what he could work on for the next week, and to look at the fact that he tried hard and did well.  I pointed out that he came in 5th overall in his age group (top 20 out of the 6o kids), and that last time we’d done this meet he had come in 9th. I showed him his progress. We celebrated his victory with a trip to Starbucks, and as the day went on he became excited about winning his gold on high bar and the feelings about the rings began to dissipate.

Love and respect yourself. Perfectionist tend to be mean to themselves. Self-blame. Self-critical. They’re often meaner to themselves than anyone else in their life. This leads to depression. Love yourself and all your flaws, and learn how to let go of the need for perfection.

Don’t give up. Persistence pays off. As a writer, this is something I’ve had to learn. Giving up gets you nowhere. Learn how to roll with the punches without assigning blame to yourself or making yourself feel guilty for failures, work hard, and keep at it.

Perfectionism is something I’ll have to work on controlling for the rest of my life. I’ll fight the feelings that come with it, and it seems like my son will too. But I know with mindfulness, I can let go and learn how to be happy with my best.


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Persistence in the Face of Fear

Hey Lovely Readers! I’m fessing up as a slacker once again. With this short and busy week, I feel like I’ve been behind the 8-ball. But before I get to the point of this post, I don’t want you to slack and miss the opportunity to get The Devil Within for 99 cents! The sale ends on October 17th, so there’s not a lot of time! If you like Southern literature and coming-of-age novels with some grit then you’ll like this book.

The Devil Within Cover

Enough of my shameless plugs. Now back to slacking. Over the weekend, I started writing a new piece. Yeah, I know. I was supposed to stick to rural Alabama and Anna Kate. But I was stuck–seriously stuck. And then I wrote a short for the class I’m taking through University of Iowa (Go DUCKS!), and it begged to be expanded. And people in the class really liked it. And as a writer, I seek to serve my readers.

I also ran a lot this weekend, and when I run I think. And sometimes I overthink. As we all know from the post that’s circulating around Facebook, overthinking is a sign of being a creative genius (or so some article says, and I’d like to believe that over just thinking I’m nuts). Overthinking can also cause some issues. My thought process revolved around solving problems in both books when I ran, but pretty soon it turned into: Why am I writing? Does anyone even want to read my books? Why does it have to be so hard to land an agent? Will I ever finish editing Little Birdhouses? Can I even write a query letter? Is it worth it? And fifty thousand other rhetorical questions I could throw out of you. Rhetorical questions are a no-no in writing too, but if you know me you know I LOVE to break the rules.

Every writer questions themselves and what they’re doing and whether it matters. They want to hide behind a rock in the face of fear. Instead of facing the wolf, they’d rather curl up in their bed and be eaten. Do the brave thing and write the words, because if you don’t you’re going to be more unhappy than if you do. If you’re a writer then you have to write for sanity. If you’re a writer then you have a driving force and you need to write. If you’re a writer, I’m here to tell you DON’T GIVE UP! I have thoughts that my writing sucks and no one wants to read it. Everyone has those thoughts. Taking this online class has boosted my confidence as a writer ten-fold. I’ve received such great and positive feedback on my work. It’s nice to receive that after receiving tons of rejections for agents, because at least I know if I keep trying I will some day make it.

And what does making it even mean? It means making writing a priority in my life every day, editing my stuff, putting it out there and making a few bucks. Sure, I’d like to be rolling in the dough like Stephen King, but I know it’s not realistic. Maybe some day–we can all hope to dream. But the important thing is: Don’t give up! Don’t give into the fear. If you give into fear you’ll never know how far you can go (I even wrote a blog post about that not so long ago).

Now, if you want this same post with more colorful language go read Chuck Wendig’s post over at Terrible Minds. He knows what he’s talking about.

And I promise I’ll stop slacking (maybe). And I’ll write a blog post tomorrow morning before I succumb to fear in the Maze of Terror (that’s another story).

What do you do when you’re slacking or procrastinating (in anything, not just writing) and how do you get back to the task at hand? I play Civilization or binge watch Netflix.

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What Is Writing?

This week I was in a funk. Down in the dumps. Not writing. Woe-is-me. Then, I changed my attitude. I started writing again, and I felt a huge wave of relief run through me. I’m a writer. I’m meant to write. When I don’t write I become morose.

I read an article the other day. It was an article from the New Yorker called Is Writing Torture? A young new writer/waiter in a cafe presented his manuscript to the Philip Roth, and Roth apparently told him “I would quit while you’re ahead.” Elizabeth Gilbert author of Eat, Pray, Love was upset by this advice and said writing is a “fucking great” job.

Their different viewpoints on writing don’t surprise me. Look at Roth’s writing. It’s dark. Look at Gilbert’s. Love is magical and wonderful. Life is amazing. Some people think Roth was only kidding. Being the older mentor who threw a curve ball at this kid to see if he would flinch. And some people think Gilbert is not realistic. Writing is not great: it’s hard as fuck!

I think both contradictory views are true. Writing is torture and writing is a “fucking great” job. I need to write. It’s not a want. It’s not a hobby. It’s something deep inside of me. When I don’t write I’m unhappy. Writing’s explicit job in my life is for me to be able to verbally throw up all the shit from inside my brain onto the computer so I feel like I’ve dealt with the crap swirling around in my mind and can move on. Writing is cathartic. Writing is therapy. Writing is a way for me to deal with ideas and thoughts I can’t quite wrap my mind around.

And, no, this does not make writing easy. Nothing about writing is easy. Hey, No Turning Back, my self-published book is currently sitting at a rank of 1,000,000 on Amazon, and I have no idea how to market it to get to more readers. It’s not easy. It’s hard. It’s hard to get your name out there. It’s hard to find readers. It’s hard when you write something and you think it’s amazing, and someone else tells you it sucks. But that’s the job just like any other job and you have to roll with the punches and move on. A writer isn’t someone who is going to quit because it’s hard. A writer doesn’t really have that option, because the need to write always rears its ugly head.

The thing about writing I find most difficult is not the writing part. A writer has to wear many hats: editor, marketer, public speaker, etc. Marketing is somewhat of an enigma to me. The point is to have other people spread the word about your work, but I haven’t gotten there yet. And I think a lot of it is a time management problem. With three kids, a day job, and a busy life I simply don’t have as much time as I want to put into it. If it was up to me I’d put a huge amount of time into finding more ways to market my work. But, I’m confident one day I’ll get to the point where I can devote all my time to this job.

So is writing torture? No. It’s a way of life, and life is full of ups and downs.

Booktrope, who are they anyway?

In my last blog, I told you I was publishing “The Devil Within” through Booktrope.  Now I’d like to tell you a little bit about Booktrope, why I chose them, and what my experience with them has been like.

In the beginning, I took the path of many other authors before me. I hemmed and hawed, and I didn’t want anyone to see my work.  If you’re an author you probably know about the anxiety of showing others your work. I have a fear of criticism (don’t most people?) and for a while I let it hold me back. Last year I had a revelation. I had been complaining for far too long that I wanted to be an author without actually doing anything an author does.  I set goals. I began to write, and then I set long term goals. My first long term goal was to self-publish a book in January 2015.  Okay—this is a fib—originally I wanted to self-publish in November 2014. We all know how I love procrastinating right? Plus November and December are crazy holiday months, and I had some important family/personal things crop up that took precedence over my writing.

I published No Turning Back in January 2015. I only published it in digital format on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo. I intended (and still do) to go through Createspace to produce paper books, but then my life took a turn when Booktrope accepted The Devil Within.

Woo—this story is longer than one of my novels. Anyway.  A few months back, I became part of a group called the Writing Wenches. One of my wenches (and I mean that as sweetly as possible), encouraged me to submit to Booktrope since she is as a project/book manager for them.

I didn’t know if The Devil Within was ready. I had slowly been putting it out on Wattpad, but didn’t have a huge audience, because let’s face it, Southern Literature is not their biggest thing. I had great feedback from friends, and so I thought Heck, why not give it a shot. Honestly, I didn’t think I would ever publish The Devil Within because the story is tragic and can be hard to read. I wasn’t sure there was a market for it, and after my failure of marketing No Turning Back and then reading about how Booktrope provides a book market manager, I thought it was worth a shot.

So what makes Booktrope different? First of all, they’re considered a hybrid publisher.  They do not take every book submitted to them, but they do take a lot of books because they have open submissions. They’re less concerned with taking a book of literary genius than giving talented writers out there a chance to showcase their work.  You could say they’re quantity over quality, and maybe that’s how they make the majority of their money, but they do produce quality work, and they have talented writers.  Plus, they give an author a chance to have their book published when their queries aren’t turning agents’ heads, or when they’ve been rejected for the million-cajillionith time, or when they think they’ve written something good or great but they’re unsure of what agent to query because maybe it doesn’t fit in a nice, tidy genre box.  Booktrope is not a vanity press.  Booktrope gives authors the opportunity to pick a team, to work with that team to make their book as good as possible, and then each team member gets a cut of the royalties.  Nothing is spent upfront, unless you want to do some specialized marketing, i.e. a blog tour. That said, even though there’s a marketing manager, the author is still responsible for a shit ton of marketing. Shortly, I will be producing a newsletter, calling newspapers, and promoting my work. This is the same in almost every publisher of today.

Overall, I’ve been happy with my Booktrope experience. When I first signed on, I was a little lost in their system because it’s a learning curve. I do feel there should be some formal training for authors so they don’t have to figure it all out themselves. There are some documents on their homepage for authors, but it would be nice if Booktrope would set expectations for authors and book managers together, so they know what to expect from one another. I found all the people I worked with to be courteous and professional. I also had the opportunity to meet other authors and help promote their work, which I’m always glad to do for fellow fledglings.

Will I use Booktrope again? That has yet to be determined. I’ll see how this release goes. I’ll figure out if they address some kinks in the system that really need to be addressed, and I’ll make the decision at a later time.

Until then, stay tuned for more news on how The Devil Within came to be!


Q? What am I going to write about for the letter “Q?” Maybe I thought I’d have quit by now. I’m not generally a quitter. I could be described more as wishy washy. I make up a decision, and then sometimes I change my mind. Sometimes it’s too late at that point to actually be changing my mind. But quit–no, not me!

I’ve thought about quitting writing. Several times. I have all the usual author complaints.

But it’s hard

I don’t want to rewrite. 

My first draft is awesome, do I really have to put more work into it? (Said nobody ever!)

I put hours and hours of work into something and only 20 people read and review my books! 

Plus, the doubt. I’ve written about that before. Let me tell you something, writers don’t become successful by quitting. They become successful by coping with lots rejection. They become successful by plowing through the edits, even when looking at their piece one more time makes them want to vomit. They become successful by submitting over and over again, until someone accepts their work and believes in as much as they believe in themselves.

It takes ONE person to make a writer successful. The writer, herself.

Don’t quit!

No Doubt

No Doubt is a band formed in 1986. Vocals by Gwen Stefani. They have had several hiatuses, but the band is still producing music.

When I was in high school, I loved the song “Spiderwebs.” The song is actually about someone stalking her, or not giving up on pursuing her.  I had one of those. I ignored his phone calls for two weeks, because I was afraid to confront him and tell him I didn’t want to date him. My poor college roommates had to make up lies and excuses for me, because I simply wouldn’t face the conflict that I was creating.

Instead of no doubt lately, I’ve been having loads of doubt. I’ve been doubting my writing talent. I’ve been doubting whether I’ll be able to make it one day as a successful writer. I started a new novel, about a month ago. I wrote about 7,000 words, and I abandoned it. I thought I’d try my hand at outlining, because I hear it works so well. Well, I couldn’t figure out where the book was going. My books are character-driven not plot-driven, and I think this is why I tend to be a “pantser.” My characters take me where I need to go. I usually have a good idea of beginning, middle and end in my books, but not a full outline. I think outlining made me doubt my abilities, plus medical issues I’ve been having have sucked energy from me, and going over the edits from my editor on “The Devil Within.” I know she’s trying to help, but jeez, it’s hard to have someone pick apart something you’ve worked so hard on.

I had never had such crippling fear when it came to my work before. Okay–I shouldn’t say never. For years, I wouldn’t finish a story. For years, I wouldn’t let anyone read my stories. My fear right now is more related to success or maybe lack thereof. Or maybe, I’m scared of success.  Deadlines, editing, sending it back, proof-reading, formatting. Writing is not an easy job, and it doesn’t just involve writing. It’s a lot of work on top of my day job, my three kids, and life in general. When I’m writing, I feel happy though. I feel like the voices inside my head are quieter. I can write dilemmas into my characters, and stop questioning my existence so much.

I’m going to shut the door on my doubt, and walk away from my stalker, fear.  And I just want to give a quick shout-out to my friends over at Writing Wenches. They listened to me whine and complain yesterday about how blah I was feeling, and gave me tons of support.  What an amazing community I’m part of!

Write What You Know

What’s the mantra you hear the most in the writing world? Write What You Know. The more I write, the more I find this is true. Writing what you know is absolutely necessary. Little snippets of conversation you listen to, the aura of where you live, all of these items need to be included in your books. We, as human beings, are shaped tremendously by our environment.

I’m reading Ron Rash’s Something Rich and Strange right now. As I’m reading this wonderfully woven short stories of Appalachia, I’m finding in myself more and more the knowledge that I need to write about the South. What an amazing backdrop to be raised in: tumultuous, redneck, Christian, genteel, country, city, beautiful, history being lived over and over again. There aren’t enough words to describe Alabama in all its glory. It’s a place constantly misunderstood and ostracized–all the people thought to be back woods. But they’re not. There are writers and artists, scientists and doctors, living in these backwoods. And there is pain and history and love and hope.

My stories have slowly started to take on a southern feeling. Not all of them, since I still can’t pick a genre, but a lot of them have. It’s even showing up in my Flash Fiction. The Southern characters, as different from each other as anyone who lives here.  I think that’s what makes Ron Rash’s short stories so beautiful. He’s a poet who can describe the people and the place where he lives as no one else can, because he’s been there and he’s seen it with his own two eyes. The South is part of me–it runs in my blood, and so it must run through my fingertips on to my computer screen as well.

It’s Spring Break here, and I took a whole week off (I haven’t been getting much editing done either, unfortunately). The family and I have been driving all over ‘Bama soaking up history. We saw this beautiful house in Tuskegee.  They are looking for donations for restoration.


When I saw this house,  I knew it was it. This was the house I’d imagined William Hill living in. Who’s William Hill? He’s the character of “The Devil Within,” my book coming out in early May. He’s nine years old when he loses his mother and siblings in a car accident, and he’s left in the hands of his overly religious father who doesn’t know how to cope with the boy. Stay tuned for more teasers, including a photo of a southern landmark that will be included in the book.