Archive for the 'motivation' Category



New Adult Fiction

Just when I thought I knew so much about publishing, I find out I’ve missed an entire genre. Thanks to a comment by Brinda Berry on my previous post in which I suggested that more adults are reading YA fiction than young adults, I have been turned on to New Adult fiction. What is NA?  JJ from St Martin’s Press says that,”New Adult [fiction] is about young adulthood, when you are an adult but have not established your life as one (career, family, what-have-you).”

Click for a great blog on the subject of NA fiction as it’s own genre.

Generally, NA protagonists are 18-26 years old. So maybe there’s an audience for my 18 year old main character after all. Though I’m still not sure there wouldn’t be a lot of older adults reading it. Now I’m off with Kindle in hand to download some examples of NA fiction.

Who is Really Reading “Young Adult” Fiction?

“Young Adult” fiction is a hot market. Big-time adult fiction authors like James Patterson and Harlan Coben wouldn’t be writing in this genre if they weren’t selling books. Lots of books.

Still, I have to wonder who is really reading all of these young adult novels.

Last week I went to the bookstore twice. On Saturday, after dropping my foster dog off at an adoption event, I camped out in the store’s coffee shop to work. My little bistro table had a pretty good view of the young adult section. Though the section saw a regular stream of traffic, in the nearly six hours I spied on shoppers, only one pair of teenagers stopped to look at the books, and they walked away empty-handed.

The biggest shoppers/buyers? By far, women who appeared to be in their thirties and forties. A couple of men also stopped by, but bought nothing.

Perhaps these results aren’t so surprising, I told myself. After all, women are by far the bigger book-buying crowd. And they were probably buying the books for their kids, right?

As I left the store, I saw a young adult book that picqued my interest. I didn’t buy it then, but went back on Sunday to get it. Again, no kids in the young adult section. But there were three women. I struck up a conversation, as two of them were looking at the same book that had interested me. Yes, it sounded interesting. No, they weren’t shopping for their children, but for themselves. They liked the young adult books.

Lightbulb moment. I like them, too. These days, I’m probably reading two young adult books for every adult book I pick up.

Last spring I wrote a proposal for an adult fiction novel with an eighteen-year-old main character. I was told that young “heroes” (it wasn’t a romance, so let’s call him a protagonist, okay?) were a tough sell. Now I am sure that this industry professional whom I trust implicity was correct — a young protagonist would be a tough sell. To a publishing house. I’m not so sure it’s such a tough sell to readers.

Publishing houses, in my opinion, are notoriously slow to react to trends in the rest of the world. Part of the problem is the length of time it takes to move a book idea from proposal, to manuscript, to book on the shelves. By the time the novel is out, the world has changed again. The rest of the problem is a reluctance to take risks in an industry which is already challenged financially (print books).

The trend I see is that many adults really like stories about young people. Who doesn’t like to relive their youth in some way?

Look how many adults are reading Harry Potter, Twilight. Look how many are Glee TV fanatics. How many were 90210 fanatics back in the day? How many millions of copies did The Lovely Bones sell? (note: The Lovely Bones was not a young adult novel, but did feature a young (and dead) protagonist)

Young adult novels these days deal with deep, real-life issues, yet imbue a simplicity of story that is very appealing to many adult readers (including me). Sure, vampires still dominate the shelves, but there is plenty of variety. Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series is dark and delicious. Rosemary Clement-Moore’s Texas Gothic is fun with a dash of spooky. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is creep-tastic.

So I ask you, my friends, have you tried young adult fiction? Do you know any young adults who actually read it, or is it really just another genre of adult fiction?

Recipe for Life

Admittedly, I came to cooking late in life. My parents put solid meals on the table for me as a child. In college, the dorms provided 24X7 food service. My young adulthood (and much of my not-so-young adulthood) was spent in fast food drive-thru lines and popping boxes into the microwave. I was well into my forties before I finally got fed up (more appropriately “unfed” up) and tried my hand at cooking. I became enamored with the slow cooker, which I still love and use frequently, and eventually ventured out into meals requiring more skillful preparation. I’m actually a pretty good cook now. I don’t have an extensive list of dishes at which I excel, but my favorites, the ones I make often, are quite tasty.

I have learned one thing about myself in the process, though. I can’t follow a recipe to save my life. See, not having grown up cooking, I didn’t have that intuitive understanding of what flavors work together or which ingredients will overwhelm a dish if you add a tad too much. 

So, in an attempt to minimize the number of meals best served to the garbage can, I tried to follow recipes. I really, really tried.

Huh-uh. Ain’t happening.

3/4 teaspoon of salt becomes, “Oh, look. I have garlic salt. Maybe that would be good.” Or, “Ick, I don’t like celery in soup. I’ll just add twice as much onion instead.”

A little of this and a little of that. Experimentation and failure. Substitution success (sometimes).

I’ve finally given up following recipes exactly. I dutifully write them down…and then do what I please.

But none of that is really the source of my enlightenment. What I have recently come to understand is that I live like I cook. A little of this, a little of that.  Experimentation. Substitution. And occassionally I take a big investment and chunk it in the garbage can–and feel good about that.

I don’t want to be bound by measurements and timers. I love to ride horses and write and read and train dogs and be in the thick of disasters. I love spur-of-the-moment lunches with friends and dropping in on family. I love to cook and eat and enjoy a glass of good wine. Schedule-schmedule. I like to do different things on different days in no particular order. I’ll get wherever it is I’m going in my own time.

That’s my recipe for life.

Stand and Deliver

Years ago, during my lengthy stay in Purgatory (also known as corporate management) I had a boss who insisted we all stand during meetings in which an important decision needed to be made, especially if that decision would require compromise.   His premise was that people are much more motivated to solve a problem after an hour on their feet than they are after four hours (or days) sitting on their asses pontificating. 

Instead of “standing their ground,” people are more likely to “stand and deliver.”

I’m thinking we need to send someone to remove all the chairs in Congress.

What do you think?

Scent – the pathway to the subconscious

Those who study the brain have long said that scent is a powerful memory trigger. One whiff of snickerdoodle cookies baking, and we’re five years old, back at Grandma’s kitchen table.

I believe scent is also a strong creativity trigger. The right aroma can put us in a thunderstorm, a rainforest, a field of wildflowers or between linen sheets. I know a lot of people carefully create a new music playlist before the start a book, selecting tunes that create the proper mood and tone for the work. I have been known to do that, but honestly, I spend more time selecting the perfect scents.

Let me stop a moment to interject that I am NOT a salesperson for the product I’m about to endorse. I am, however, a big customer.

I use the Scentsy warmers to create scent in my workspace–you know, those little pots that warm scented wax with a low-wattage light bulb. It’s part of my writing ritual to pick out just the right scented wax, and to turn on the warmers before I sit down to create. Right now I’m working on a book set in a fictional south American country. I found the most delicious rainforest scent. It’s heavy, and green and moist, if you could attribue those adjectives to an odor. As soon as the wax warms, the jungle surrounds me, grounds me in my story.

I’ve used homey scents like apple pie for those hearth-and-home scents, linen and cotton for love scenes, peppermint when I worked on a sub-plot with a bright, active child character. The possibilities may not be quite endless, but they number in the hundreds, if not thousands. New scents are introduce each month, and I love to peruse the catalogue.

As for the more practical aspects, Scentsy warmers are less likely to start a fire in the home and more eco-friendly than candles. And as someone with a houseful of dogs and cats, they’re a necessity even on my non-writing days. I have one for the living room, one for the kitchen/dining area and one in my bedroom.

Here is my living room Scentsy (I live on a ranch in Texas, remember):

So if you’re having trouble finding the flow in you current work-in-progress, consider using scent to put your head in the “write” space.

Endings

There is an old saying among authors: The beginning of your book sells that book. The ending of a book sells your next book. A plethora of information can be found on the web re: writing a great beginning. Advice on how to write that great ending is a bit more scarce.

I sail through the beginning of my books. I march through the middles. But endings often leaved me stumped. I ponder. I procrastinate. I try a scene out in my mind…and then I change it…and then I change it again…and then again…

Endings are hard. Endings are messy. No matter how clever the resolution, so much is left unsaid. Promises are left unfulfilled, dreams left to wither. Friendships are strung like fraying rope bridges over a chasm.

Yeah, endings are hard. But they are necessary.

This morning I ponder a real-life ending in my own life. Not to the whole book, of course–I plan to be here living and loving and learning for many years to come–but to a chapter called “Search One Rescue Team.”

More than nine years of service will likely come to an end today.

Yeah, endings are hard. Endings are messy.

Like any good writer, I’ve played the scene out a thousand times in my head. Should the character take the strong, direct approach? Play it with a softer, more wistful tone? Perhaps shag back to the carefree fool or hit the truth hard with a maniac rampage and see how long it takes people to start walking out of the room?

In the end, it won’t matter. People will do what people will do, including me.  What matters is that in my years of service to Search One Rescue Team I’ve had hundreds of experiences I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. And I have only one regret. That’s not a bad ratio.

Today won’t be about endings, it will be about taking one small step to right that regret.

Whatever the outcome, I’m at peace. Because as a writer I’ve hit on that one jewel that will make it all okay. I’ve stumbled on the Best. Exit. Line. Ever.

Sorry, but you’ll have to stay tuned to see what it is. After all, the rest of the scene hasn’t been written yet!

The Quiet Mind

There’s no avoiding the truth: some days it’s darned hard to sit down and get started writing, even though I love what I do and (usually) love the story I’m working on. It’s hard to jump into a fantasy world with all the real-life worries vying for attention in my mind. Did I pay the electric bill? What time is that dentist appointment? Will my editor call today with news about that new contract I’ve been waiting on? The dogs are fighting. The kids are fighting. Hubby is pouting because I spend more time with my manuscript than with him.

Sometimes I think what we writers call procrastination, or even <gasp> WRITER’S BLOCK is really just an inability to hear our stories above all the other clattering and chattering going on in our minds.

Over the years I’ve tried multiple techniques to achieve the quiet mind and hear my story, all with varying degrees of success. As my tip today, I offer a few of these to you.

1) Trained Yoga or Meditation. Take some classes at the gym. Learn to do it. It helps.

2) Poor Writer’s Meditation. Buy a guided meditation recording and practice it. Usually this involves sitting still, focusing on breathing, then visualizing a scene or series of scenes as the guide talks you through it. Focusing on that one scene washes all the other junk out of your brain.

3) Even Poorer Writer’s Meditation. Record your own guided meditation. Talk yourself through sitting still, breathing evenly and deeply. Then take yourself on a trip through some calming places and into your story world. I actually did this during a rough patch a couple of years ago. My first scene afer the breathing part was on a beach. I felt the hot sand between my toes, the sun in my eyes and then on my shoulders. I turned off the beach into a tropical jungle where it was cooler and darker. I walked down a path to an ancient stone ruin with high walls. Inside those walls was my story world. As I walked on the beach and into the jungle, I consciously left outside concerns behind. Inside the ruins, I watched my story play out for a few moments (the part I’d already written). By the time I finished the meditation, I was firmly grounded in my story world, other cares were banished behind the wall, and I was ready to write.

4) Breathing exercises. At a minimum, learn to do this, and practice before every writing session. Just Google it. You’ll find pleny of instructions online.

5) Stretching exercises. Feel oh-so-good and help clear the brain. If you take a break during your writing day and feel your mind wandering before you sit down to start again, do some stretches. It gets the blood flowing. Again, many instructions online.

6) Scents. Scientists say our sense of smell has great ability to impact our brain. Light a scented candle before each writing session. Pretty soon you’ll have trained your brain that when you smell that odor, it’s time to write.

Hope that helps!

100-day challengers, how are you doing??????????????????????????????

Publishing Industry Turning Itself Inside-out

Borders announced this week it would file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. A statement from management said they did not have enough capital to continue as a viable competitor in the industry.

This doesn’t mean all the Borders stores will be closing their doors, as far as I know. But it certainly doesn’t bode well for brick-and-mortar bookstores, and that is such a shame. What if they were to fail in the restructuring attempt? Barnes and Noble would remain as the last man standing, a virtual monopoly, and how long would they last against the online sales markets?

I guess the good news is that books aren’t going the way of the dinosaurs (yet) just bookstores.

I love bookstores. I could easily lose a whole Saturday or Sunday afternoon perusing the shelves, skimming through opening chapters and backcover copy to decide which were worth purchasing and which went back on the shelf for someone else. Online outlets like Amazon.com just aren’t the same. Sure, they provide easy home access and huge selection, but I can’t run my fingers over the spine. I can’t turn to a random page and read to see if the exciting opening holds up for the rest of the story.

I can’t smell the paper and ink.

Then there’s the e-book revolution. We knew years ago it would come, and it sure has. More titles are available. Sales are skyrocketing. Last week the New York Times even started publishing an e-book bestseller list.

Authors can publish without spending tens of thousands of their dollars on a vanity press or going through the traditional publishing house system, which has been killing whole forests to make enough paper to print the tons of rejection letters they send each year. Literary agents are unnecessary middlemen when a writer can upload her book and sell it herself a major outlet like Amazon.com, right?

Maybe, maybe not. There are still plenty of kinks to work out in the business model.

But it does seem as if the whole publishing industry is turning inside-out.

What remains to be seen is, when it’s done, will the new being be a beauty, or a beast?

The 8-letter word that could change the world. And you.

How could one word change the world, you ask?

Because it can, I answer.

So what is this word?

K-I-N-D-N-E-S-S.

If all of our hearts were filled with kindness, there would be no crime. Hell, there would be no wars.

If all of our hearts were filled with kindness, there would be no homelessness, no hunger.

If all of our hearts were filled with kindness, there would be no animal abuse, no unwanted pets.

If each of our hearts were filled with kindness, we would all be happier people.

Be kind. To yourself, as well as others. And animals.

And that’s all I have to say on that.

Taking care of yourself — mind, body and spirit

In my last post, I expained my theory on the positivity quotient and the connection between mind, body and spirit. What we think about (mind), affects our overall outlook on life (spirit). An unhealthy outlook on life can have devastating physical consequences (body).

But this is not just a one-way process. The flow also happens in reverse for some people. Obesity, disease and illness (body) can affect our outlook on life (spirit). It’s hard to be happy when you’re hurting, or you body tells you that you just can’t do the things you used to do. An unhealthy outlook on life makes it hard to think positively (mind) –lowering the positivity quotient.

In fact that backwards and forwards flow can become a self-sustaining cycle of despair that seems impossible to break. Your negative thinking impacts your health; your bad health makes you think even more negatively. That increased negativity makes your health worse, which makes you think even more negatively, and so on and so on, ad nauseum.

Maybe you loyal blog readers (all two of you, and Dad, you don’t count) are starting to see that Vickie Taylor’s 100-day challenge of 2011 is about more than just writing. It’s about having the life you want, the life you deserve, and living it to the fullest. That means you have to take care of your mind, your body and your spirit.

We’ve talked about taking care of the mind some–more to come in the weeks ahead. Today we start on taking care of the body, specifically, what you eat. I  know I’m not going to convince most of you to go vegetarian or vegan. I do hope that at least a few of you will take the initiative to educate yourselves about what you’re putting in your bodies. 

Much ado is made about the health care crisis in America. Is it any wonder we’re a fat, sickly lot when McDonald’s has become a staple on the family dinner table (if families even still have dinner tables)? When our school lunches count the ketchup that kids drown their French fries in as a vegetable? And that doesn’t even touch on the issues of genetically modified crops, pesticides in produce, artificial sweeteners, factory farming practices, etc.

I’ll leave you with a couple of resources I found enlightening and which started me on my journey to eating healthier (and yes, I still experience potato chip and diet coke cravings–and still give into them on occasion):

  • Food, Inc. — DVD — where our food really comes from
  • Skinny Bitch — book — no, it’s not a diet book, though it sounds like one. Just good information on why we shouldn’t be eating a lot of what we’re eating

Until next time — keep writing!


Available Now!

western romance novel boxed set

7 men as tough as the West. 7 women ready to Cowboy Up

Available Now!

Psychological Suspense short story with a bonus inspirational short story included

Coming Soon from Vickie Taylor

Fantasy Romance Novella

What am I reading today?

GOOD OLE BOYS - Denise Barker - Just started, but I'm intrigued so far!

Last five books read:

TEXAS GOTHIC - Rosemary Clement-Moore - Awesome! Great fun and spooktastic at the same time!

MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN - Ransom Riggs - Really creative idea. Enjoyed it very much!

BOOTSCOOTIN' BLAHNIKS - D.D. Scott - Very enjoyable, fun book!

THE GOOD DAUGHTER - Diana Layne - Awesome! Get it now!

GOT YOUR NUMBER - Stephanie Bond - Fun little mystery!

What’s on my TBR List?

GOOD OLE BOYS - Denise Barker

Reader’s Guide to E-publishing

Find your next e-book here!

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