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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Snow Here!

It's exciting, because we hardly ever get snow. Here in the Willamette Valley snow is rarely seen. The climate is usually just too mild. But every once in a while, we wake up to discover snow on the ground! It's only a half inch, but it makes everything so beautifully white. While it is mostly raining now, off and on we get big fat snowflakes coming down. School openings are delayed. Drivers are being extra cautious, because many have little experience driving in these conditions, and the town does not have much equipment to deal with the snow. It's early, but soon I'm sure I'll see neighbors out and about walking in the snow, maybe a few of the younger children will build snowmen. It is so nice to have this reminder of the beauty in the world.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Top Ten Reasons Why I Write

 ...and why you should too, if you've ever "thought about writing some day."

10. I have stories to tell.
  9. My head is so full of ideas, characters, etc., that they'll leak out of my ears if I don't write them down.
  8. If I don't write, I'll kick myself in the morning.
  7. It's a wonderful escape from politics!
  6. Having written feels good.
  5. It's a simple and easy way to work out all kinds of issues.
  4. Writing is way more fun than housework.
  3. I know how to write!
  2. My books will (I hope) still be around even after I no longer am!

And the #1 reason is:
  1. People actually read what I write and sometimes even let me know they enjoyed it/learned something/laughed/cried/had fun.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Holiday Cookie Memories

Cookies are one of my favorite things about the holidays, and they bring back so many memories...

My grandmother used to bake several kinds of cookies for Christmas (along with several kinds of candy!), and I loved to help her make them, eagerly awaiting the first batch. Candy-cane cookies were my favorite, but I also liked Pinwheel cookies (vanilla and chocolate rolled together, sliced and baked). Dream bars were also delicious as were sugar cookies, lemon bars, etc. My grandmother made plenty for the family, and also made batches that she gave to the neighbors on plates that she made from old Christmas cards.

I have special memories of making cookies with my mother too, though the funny thing is the two that stand out were both "disasters."

One year we made cookies where we had to press the dough into the cookie cutters so that when we slammed them down on the board they came out with 3-demonsional shapes of Santas, sleighs, stockings filled with presents, etc. We decorated them carefully with all the sprinkles, chocolate bits, etc. They looked so pretty when we took them out of the oven--and they tasted so bad! I think now that it was probably a recipe for cookies made to hang on the tree, but we didn't know that at the time. :O

Another year we made some chocolate cookies. They were totally delicious! Crispy, yet melt-in-your mouth and just so, so tasty. The disaster part of these cookies? The next year when we decided to make them again we couldn't find the recipe! We looked everywhere, but never, ever found it!

I made cookies with my daughter when she was growing up, using some of the recipes my grandmother used. Now that my daughter is grown, I make only the Candy-cane cookies, my favorite. Every time I do, I think of the Christmases when I baked with my grandmother, my mother and my daughter. And then I sit down and have a nice, warm cookie.  :)

Monday, November 26, 2012

I am not a Robot

So why is it so difficult to prove it?

I post on various blogs and most of them have the word boxes where I have to prove I'm not a robot. Trouble is, it's getting more and more difficult. The letters are squeezed togther more than ever and are blurrier than they used to be. Thank goodness there doesn't seem to be a limit to the number of attempts, but there have been times when I have had to try 5 or 6 times to get the right words and numbers!

A newer feature is having a photo of a number that appears to be a house number. These are often the blurriest. (And, yes, I wear my reading glasses!) What is the purpose of making it SO hard at times? I've known people who have tried to post a comment and they've given up, because they just can't match the words and numbers.

All I and my friends want to do is post a nice/funny/insightful comment. It shouldn't be so difficult!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Reviewing the Reviewers

Reviewers review books, but who reviews the reviewers?

Lots of people, it turns out!

Authors often take issue with reviews (something I do not recommend, unless there is an out-an-out error, something major, such as the book review refers to the wrong book!). It is understandable, that an author would want to comment on reviews, be they glowing or totally snarky. But the book has been put "out there" and reviews are part of the game.

Readers often comment on reviews, whether to agree or disagree, to praise or to chastise. People have different tastes and readers can be fiercely loyal to a book they like, or strongly opposed to a book they don't like, and some readers don't hesitate to challenge a review.

Sometimes reviewers respond to what are essentially reviews of their reviews. Some responses are thoughtful and measured, some are, well, not. Is it fair to "review" a review? It is someone's writing, after all.

But a review is not a story. It's an opinion. It might be an opinion with which one strongly disagrees (or wholeheartedly agrees), but, still, it is just an opinion.

My feeling is that as long as reviews of books or of reviewers are thoughtful and polite, okay. While it's fair to comment negatively, I don't think snarky, mean, backstabbing and/or nasty comments are okay. But that's just me. Others may enjoy a rousing give and take!

What do you think about "reviewing reviews?"

Monday, October 8, 2012

Group Therapy (for writers)

Sometimes the best way to deal with writing issues is with a group of fellow writers.

I recently attended a local meeting with the regional advisors of our area SCBWI. The main purpose of the meeting was to meet the advisors, but one of the benefits was the camaraderie and encouragement one gets from being with other writers.

Writing is a solitary occupation, and it is all too easy to get discouraged. Interacting with others in the same profession can really provide a spark. If you are stuck in the middle of a story or have put aside writing altogether for more than a short time, other writers know what to say to generate ideas and nudge you into getting back to your story or book.

Group therapy for writers doesn't have to be in person. It can be online too. There are webites and message boards for all kinds of writing. It's a great way to meet and converse with people who know what it's like to work alone, to struggle over one sentence for hours, to blank out just when you're reaching what should be the major turning point in your story.

They are also there to share in the good news, be it major or minor. Just today I found a new four-star review for one of my books on Amazon and a four-star rating for another of my books on Goodreads. The fact that the rating on Goodreads was by a 14-year-old in Portugal made seeing the rating all that much more fun. And when those less than stellar reviews appear, who better to turn to than a group of writers who will know exactly how you feel and how to cheer you up?

So, find a group (or groups) that fit your needs and get (and give) all the therapy you need!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Find the Right Writing Class for You

It's important to make sure a class is a good match for you.

Whether you take a class in person or online, find out the style of the class. How often does it meet? You need a time frame of 6-12 sessions to really develop as a writer.

Make sure the class teaches the kind of writing you're interested in. Non-fiction? Children's novels? Short stories? Check out the class syllabus. If you can, talk to people who have already taken the class and find out what they got out of it.

What are the instructor's credentials? Look for someone with experience in writing (and selling that writing) in the area of your interest.

Size matters. In this case, the smaller the better. You'll get more individual attention and nuturing in a class of, say, 12 than in a class of 35.

And remember, as with any class, what you take away from it depends a lot on what you put into it.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Special Edition Collection

I'm happy to announce that in the Ann Herrick Special Edition collection you get three of my ebooks for only $5.99!
 
The Real Me - Will a change in lifestyle, a friend, a tormentor, and a dream guy help Mattie discover her real self and find romance along the way?

Snowed In Together - What happens when 6 teens get snowed in at school for on the weekend?

Hey, Nobody's Perfect - Insulting a guy in a wheelchair--is that any way to start a romance?

These books are regularly $2.99 each, but you get all three for only $5.99 in this Special Edition!
 
 
 

Monday, August 27, 2012

My Very First "Date"

Okay, I was only 8 and clueless, but we did go to a movie together.

"Chad" (not his real name, to protect the innocent, not that we were anything but innocent at the time) and I knew each other since we were babies. Our mother's were good friends and for several years we lived on the same street. Thus, we played together often and got along well.

Looking back, I think Chad had a bit of a grade-school crush on me, but I was oblivious to that at the time. Anyway, one day he asked if I wanted to go to a movie with him. I said, "Sure," in pretty much the same way as if one of my girlfriends had asked me.

Well, I mentioned this to my mother and next thing I knew, on the day of the movie my mother had me wear a dress! Now, in those days girls had to wear dresses to school, but outside of school I wore jeans, peddlepushers or shorts, depending on the weather. But, I was a girl who did as my mother said, even though I was thinking, "Dress? Why a dress?" When I was ready, she handed my a tiny red purse with a little hankie in it, and I think maybe a dime for whatever. I had no idea what the purse, hankie or dime were for (well, maybe I used the dime to buy candy), but Chad and his mother arrived and off we went, I toting the itsy-bitsy purse and still wondering why I needed it.

Our big date was to see the movie "To Hell and Back." Now, if I'd been 15 instead of 8, maybe I would have been unpleasantly surprised at the choice of movies. But I was thrilled! Wow, all that action, and I was not too young to appreciate that Audie Murphy was good looking in the most sweet and innocent way.

I remember the movie, but not much else. The movie was great! I still enjoy it when I see it in re-runs. But that was it for dating Chad. The next time we got together we hunted for turtle eggs in the woods in back of his house.

We remained friends and when we were 16 went on a triple date, and my date was the guy who is now my husband, and it was our first date. Yes, I married my high-school sweetheart. :) 

Years later I still hear from Chad every once in a great while. Our date didn't lead to anything more than an extended friendship, but even after all this time it has remained a treasured memory.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

11th Free “Dear Lucky Agent” Contest (Middle Grade Fiction)

Enter this FREE contest for the opportunity to have your MG manuscript judged by a literary agent!

Top 3 winners all get: 1) A critique of the first 10 double-spaced pages of your work, by your agent judge. 2) A free one-year subscription to WritersMarket.com.

Find out all about it and how to enter at:
http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/11th-free-dear-lucky-agent-contest-middle-grade-fiction?et_mid=575716&rid=3118739

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Research for Fiction

In The Farewell Season I included a lot of talk about food. Readers noticed. I received many comments about mouths watering and hunger pangs for blueberry kakar or ableskivers. Many assumed I'm good at Scandinavian cooking and some have even asked for recipes.

The truth is, it was all research. I scoured Scandinavian cookbooks at the library and sampled the tasty treats at the Scandinavian Festival in Junction City, Oregon. But I never baked a single crumb mentioned in the story. I do cook, and I and my husband are happy with the results. However, I stick to a collection of familiar (and easy) recipes, because I'm not all that fond of cooking. The enthusiasm for cooking must have skipped a couple of generations, because my grandmother loved to cook and so does my daughter. But my mother and I have cooked because we want to eat.

Non-fiction writers have to do a lot of research, of course, but so do fiction writers. I didn't know all that much about football before I wrote the book, but after reading a few books and attending many football practices, where I asked a lot of questions, I knew enough to write about it for my purposes. I also did research on grieving and grief counseling. For another story, I read an entire book about a minor league baseball team so I could write a couple of scenes where one of the main characters talks to a baseball scout.

Just because a story is fiction does not mean that "anything goes." The details need to ring true. Even in science fiction, fantasy and paranormal adventures things have to make sense to the reader. An imaginary world has to seem real. Anyone writing a historical novel or one set in an unfamiliar locale must get enough facts to be accurate and make the period or place come to life for readers.

It's easy to get lost in too much research. Some writers get so bogged down that they never write the story. Or they add details that are unnecessary just because they couldn't resist including them. Too much information is no better than not enough. The research must help advance the story.

The easiest way to do research, of course, is the internet. But visiting the library can yield nuggets not found online. Sometimes traveling to the location where a story takes place and talking to locals will yield color and details the internet or books can not. Interviews, as scary as they can seem to some writers, can be valuable. If you don't know a doctor, teacher, banker, architect, or whatever you need, ask a friend to introduce you or call, write or email explaining that you are a writer and tell them the basics of what you need to ask. Most experts are more than happy to share what they know.

So get out there and do your research. It can be time-consuming, but it can also be fun, and it will make your story more real.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Dare to Dream

Dream the vision of the writer you strive to be.

Start by writing just one sentence. Then one paragraph, one page, one chapter, one book.

Submit one manuscript.

Lather, rinse and repeat as many times as necessary.

Keep going and one day you will achieve your goal. It all starts with a dream.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Bucket List

An email about The Bucket List has been making the rounds.

While it's kind of fun to check off the things on the list that I have done, it isn't really my kind of list.
I can't check off "been bungee jumping" or "hang gliding" or "camped in a tent," and the thing is I don't want to do any of those things!

Oh, there's nothing wrong with doing any of those things. They just aren't anything I want to do.

The kinds of things I would like to do while I still have time are to read more books and write more books. To make at least one person smile every day. To laugh and make others laugh. To savor my quiet moment in the morning when I open the door when it's just getting light out. To really enjoy each minute I have with family and friends.

So let others look forward to climbing that mountain or tossing a football around with Peyton Manning or being an extra in a blockbuster movie. I'd rather just look forward to enjoying more of the "little" things in life.

(But if someone wants to give me their box seats  for the Kentucky Derby one year, I'm game. ;D  )

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Second Day of Spring? And it is Still Snowing? What is This?

Here in the Willamette Valley of Oregon it hardly ever snows. At all. A few flurries are cause for excitement. An inch closes the schools (because the city has very little equipment for taking care of snow).

So to wake up to seven inches of snow, and it is still coming down, is quite a shock! There are several branches down in the neighborhood, some of them large. I went out and knocked the snow off of shrubs and lower branches of the trees and those branches sprung right back up. Of course, I am soaked now, lol!

Kids are out playing and sliding in the snow. The birds sound bewildered (I can hear them, but I'm not seeing any). I think we have enough food for the day if I can't get to the store as I had planned.

I hope the plum tree in the back yard, which had already started blooming, will recover and bounce back up again.

Meanwhile, I watch out the window and enjoy the beauty of snow while also wishing that it stops falling really soon!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Create a Character

Stories need characters readers will care about.

Writers need to get to know their characters, so the readers will also get to know them. Start by describing as much as you can picture. What is the hair color, eye color? How tall? Fat or fit? What is your character's favorite food? Sport? Music? Or does your character hate sports? Or like ancient chanting, while everyone around him loves bluegrass?

Pick a character from a book you love and describe him/her. This will show you the kind of details you need to know about your character to make him come to life.

You won't know your character all at once. You'll learn about him as you write, discover things you never thought of. Once you really know and care about your character, the odds are your readers will too.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Love is Grand!

Love is grand!
Divorce is a hundred grand. *************************
 Time may be a great healer,
 But it's a lousy beautician.
 *************************** 
 Conscience is what hurts
When everything else feels good.
 ************************* 
 Talk is cheap because supply exceeds demand.
 *************************** 
 Even if you are on the right track,
 You'll get run over if you just sit there.

 ***************************

 In just two days, tomorrow will be yesterday.
 *************************** 
 I plan on living forever. So far, So good.
 ***************************

 Practice safe eating -- always use condiments.
 ***************************

 A day without sunshine is like night.
 *************************** 
It's frustrating when you know all the answers,
 But nobody bothers to ask you the questions.
 ***************************

 The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right time,
but also to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.
 ***************************


 Age doesn't always bring wisdom.
 Sometimes it comes alone.
 ***************************

 Life not only begins at forty,
 It also begins to show.
 *************************


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Getting Your Work Critiqued

After you've written your story, polished it and think it's "ready to go," that is the time to have your work critiqued.


Find at least two, better yet, three people who have experience in the same area of writing, be it picture books for the very young or non-fiction for the most serious adult readers. You might find these people in person or online, through writing groups, word-of-mouth or online searches. They might be other writers (aspiring or published) with whom you can do a manuscript exchange.

Or you can find a former editor or agent or author who does professional critiques. You'll have to pay for these, maybe as little as $30, maybe more than $300. Again, check with friends, writing groups and/or online searches.

Be open to the criticism, but remember that it is feedback and the story is yours. If everyone says your main character is weak, you'll really need to consider that. If you get three widely different opinions, you need to decide which, if any, resonate with you and your story.

It takes courage to ask for criticism, but it will help improve your writing.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

In hot water--I wish!

At first I wasn't worried. I wasn't getting hot water, but no big deal, I figured. Just go out in the garage and push the reset button on the water heater. I undo the panel, pull aside the insulation and press the button. Fine. But as I put the insulation back in place, I notice that it is slightly damp. Not a good sign...

I start looking at the bottom of the heater for water. I don't see any. But just to be sure, I run my finger along the bottom. In addition to ending up with a dusty finger (sorry, I don't usually dust around my water heater), I felt a trace of water. Hmmm. Time to call the plumber.

He says it is time for a new water heater. Fortunately, this is a plumber I have called many times, he does great work and I TRUST him! Since it was late afternoon and not an emergency, he asked if he could come at 8 the next morning. That was fine with me. He told me to turn off the water at the top of the water heater and to go in the house and turn on a hot water faucet to relieve some of the pressure.

After I did that, I noticed I could now see a little water under the water heater. I put a washcloth there. A couple hours later it was all wet, so I replaced it with another one. That one got soaked, so before I went to bed I put an old beach towel down and hoped for the best.

In the morning only about half the beach towel was wet, so it had done its job. At 7:45 I pulled my car out of the garage and parked it on the street. Just as I got out of my car, the plumber pulled into the driveway. 15 minutes early!  :)

The plumber is now draining the old water heater and will install the new one, which he had picked up. It is precious indeed to have a great plumber  to call, and I am so glad I have one!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Distractions from writing outside my window

Everyone wants a writing office with a window with a nice view, right?

And that makes sense. Who wants a crummy view, or worse, no view at all? But that nice view can have its downside when trying to concentrate.

I mean, who can't help but pause when seeing the 5-year-old from across the street is learning to ride her new two-wheeler? Dad holds the back of the bike, girl peddles happily. Girl notices Dad is no longer holding onto the back of the bike. Girl panics momentarily, wobbles, then peddles harder. Girl realizes she can do it on her own! Now that was worth a break from writing.

Birds are good distractions, too. It's always fun to spot a finch or flicker or woodpecker coming to the feeder. Their chirps and colors brighten any day. One blue jay likes to peck at the roof of a small popout addition that I can see from my window. Even if I couldn't see him, I can hear him!

The weather can be a distraction, regardless of what it is. A beautiful blue sky can trigger daydreaming. A few snowflakes in an area where it rarely snow sparks excitement. It's easy to take notice of even the rain. It's raining so hard! Or, ah, rain, we've been needing some rain. Or, rain? Again?

I suppose I could pull the shade, or place my desk where I can't see the window. But what fun would that be? Sometimes a little distraction is just what I need to return to my writing full of energy and inspiration.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Turning Points in My Life as an Author

People often talk about THE turning point in their lives, but I feel I have had several when it comes to writing.
Some will sound small, others large, but to me they are all important.

One of the first "turning points" came early on when one day the (all too common) form rejection letter for a short story arrived, but scrawled at the bottom was "Sorry, nice effort," followed by the initials of the editor. Now, that may not sound like much, but editors are very busy people and they don't take time to write on every rejection!

Not too much later I got a note that was a couple of sentences long from the same editor on another story I had submitted. Needless to say, I kept trying at that magazine! Unfortunately, I never did sell to that editor or that magazine, but it kept me going.

Then there was the day I received a letter in response to a status query I'd sent about a short story. Instead of the by then usual rejection it was a "mea culpa" for "taking so long" and the news that my story had been accepted!

The next occasion came absolutely unexpectedly. I had sent off a manuscript for a novel on a Thursday and Tuesday I got a phone call. Yes, it was an offer to publish! Talk about a major turning point! That was "Practice Makes Perfect," published by a YA imprint of Harlequin. The book has since been reissued by HSWF as "Summer Replacement."

Since then, EVERY sale has felt like a turning point. The second book felt like validation that the first book was not a fluke. I have never taken subsequent story and book sales for granted. They are all turning points, because in the world of publishing there are no guarantees.

So keep an eye out for those first, small turning points. You never know where they'll lead.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Read to your kids on Day One!

When I do booksignings at fairs and other events, I find something interesting happens when I try to pitch my books for younger children to parents who are strolling by with a child who is one, two or three years old. Too often they say something along the lines of, "Oh, he/she is too young for books!"

I, of course, smile and respond that kids are never too young to be read to. Sadly, I usually don't convince *those* parents. Fortunately, grandparents often stop by and get books for their grandkids. I have books that aunts, uncles and grandparents gave to me when I was just a baby, then a toddler, and so on as I grew up. I loved those books back then and I love them now.

The more words babies hear, the more language they will develop. The more young children read, the more they will learn correct spelling, grammar, etc. Now, I confess, I didn't start reading to my daughter on Day One. We were both too exhausted. :) But I started soon after that. She loved listening to me and gazing at the colors in the pictures. She loved being read to so much, that my husband and I kept reading to her until she was ten, even though she'd been reading herself well before that.

Reading to your children establishes literacy as a priority at home and at school. Reading is one of the best (and most fun) things parents can do for their children.