Tag Archives: Authors

How to Succeed as a Writer (or Anything Else)

“The failure to comprehend a problem is sometimes the best way to transcend it.”

—C. A. Newsome, June 2015

I spent some time talking to a literary genius recently. Someone who can write rings around me while juggling Mom’s china. I’ve known this person all my life, and he could do this before he went to two prestigious schools to obtain degrees in English lit. He’s devoted his life to books. Yet, as far as I know, he has never published anything except some brilliant reviews he wrote for  his college newspaper. I expect the world will discover thousands of pages of priceless prose after his death. I am hoping he will leave them to me in his will.

“The problem is, you either have to have a one-in-a-million lucky stroke, or you have to spend years rigorously refining your writing until you’ve perfected your pandering.”

—literary genius on achieving success as an author

My literary genius is paralyzed by too much knowledge: too many stories about iconic books that were rejected dozens or even hundreds of times before they were printed, passed over again and again while the best seller lists teemed with barely-literate fluff; the DNA-deep understanding that it takes ten years or more of banging your head against the door before someone will let you in, and once they do, they will take the child of your heart and do with it what they will while tying you up with a contract that says they own you.

You would think the explosion in self publishing would have oppressed literary types like my genius at the forefront. Instead, they are suffering their own form of Stockholm syndrome, still seeking approval from the brutal and draconian system that rejected them all their lives.

There are many stories of first time hacks (like me) who said, “Writing a book would be fun. I can publish it myself? Cool!” who blundered into self-publishing and quickly turned it into a full-time business. My favorite example, Colleen Hoover, became a millionaire and hit the NYT bestseller list in six months.

Random House takes 18 months to turn a manuscript into a book. It took me five months to earn enough from my first book to quit my job. That’s why I penned the pithy and profound saying above. All us newcomers did not know that publishing was supposed to be a path to failure and humiliation. We didn’t see what the problem was, and for us, there wasn’t one.

So, take everything you’ve ever heard about succeeding at anything and scrap it. Here’s my philosophy:

Not everybody is going to like what you do. Some people will. Some people won’t. Your job is to be yourself, the best ‘you’ you can be, and create the most authentic, book, painting, or widget you can. Then go find those people who do like and want what you do.

That’s it. Seriously.

It’s not complicated, but It takes work, flexibility, and the willingness to get up off your ass when life knocks you down. You’ve got to get rid of your preconceived ideas of what help, opportunity and success look like. You need to be determined to learn what you need to know and able to look at your stuff with an unbiased, critical eye. You must do all this with a smile on your face and a song in your heart.

Or you can hang out in obscure little coffee houses, waiting for the Book Fairy to sprinkle stardust on you.

#FurbabyFriday – Corrie Fischer

Russell In Corrie’s own words:
Tucker’s Tale
With cash in hand, I drove over two hours with the intention of making my dream a reality. I was bound and determined that I would own a yorkshire terrier. After weeks of searching, I found a listing online for yorkie pups within my price range. When I arrived, all of the puppies were cute, but I struggled to choose one. Something about the whole situation just felt off. However, I had invested too much time and effort to turn back empty handed. I choose the smallest male puppy there.

I took him home for a few days and all was well. He was a sweet little guy and cleaning up after him while potty training wasn’t much of a mission (that was a bonus). A few days passed and at the urging of a friend, I went over to their house for the night and brought my puppy, Russell, with me. The friend had a few other people over that I had not met previously. We all had a few drinks and enjoyed our night. The strangers were primarily women and they gawked over my little puppy. That night, I feel asleep on the couch with Russell snuggled up in my arms.

When I awoke the next morning, my puppy was gone and so were the strange girls. The front door to the country home was wide open. Not wanting to believe the worst, I awoke everyone in the house and we started a massive search. We trekked around for hours, calling his name, “Russell!” Finally, my mind led me to one conclusion. One of the girls had taken him. It broke my heart, but was still more comforting than the thought of my helpless little puppy running around in the woods alone.

In case I was wrong, I put up ads on Craigslist, posted flyers, and did all I could to find my lost puppy. My friend also called the girls to ask if they had seen the puppy. They replied that they had not. In my heart, I hoped it was a lie. Why, you may be wondering. Well, if they were willing to steal and lie to take my puppy, they must at least have wanted him fairly badly (and would hopefully provide him with a good home). To this day, I do not know if they were telling the truth or a lie.

Several weeks passed with no sign of my lost puppy. Since he had been the first dog I had gotten on my own, it drove me to completely question my responsibility level as a potential pet owner. One day, I decided to search online and came across a website with local shelter listings. I figured if I got a mutt then other people would be less inclined to steal him/her from me. The idea gave me a small spark of hope as I searched through the pages.

Then, one little, black puppy caught my attention. He had been given the temporary name of Trek. I called the shelter to ask some questions about him and the adoption process. The woman on the phone apologized and said he was already pending adoption. She insisted they had other great puppies needing homes, but I took it as a sign. Okay, it just isn’t meant to be.

Approximately two weeks later, I was driving around randomly as I sometimes do to relax. I realized I was close to the shelter. I thought to myself, “screw it, why not just look?” I walked down the aisles and saw several older dogs. I felt bad, but I really wanted a puppy. I wanted to raise him or her and teach them from the beginning. I wanted to know I could do it and be a good pet parent. I asked the receptionist if they no longer had puppies and she directed me to a separate part of the facility.

I walked past several pens containing numerous, adorable puppies, but none of them truly caught my attention. Then, as I approached the last pin, one stood out. He was a small black puppy with eyes that stared directly into mine. It was almost as though he was saying, “Me. Pick me.”

If you have never experienced this, there are no words to explain it. As a child, I have had many dogs I loved dearly, but none ever immediately connected with me like this. It was incredible. I turned around to look at the postings on the wall to identify this pup’s name. I searched and searched, but could not find it. Then, it dawned on me.

There, in the center of the wall, was a picture of a small black fur baby with the name Trek. The photo was cute, but he had his ears back in it and looked like a completely different puppy. I nearly broke out in tears of joy at the realization.

I walked to the front desk and asked to start the adoption process for Trek. The woman handed me a clipboard while typing away on her computer. “Oh dear, it looks like he is already pending adoption. He has already had his first shots, gotten neutered, and they have paid for him.” My heart sank. I wanted to start bawling my eyes out right there, but then she continued. “Actually, the family was supposed to pick him up last week. We’ve tried calling them several times, but they have not answered or returned our messages.”

I think she could see the tension on my face. I wanted that puppy more than words can express; there was something about him and he was the one. He was my intended to be my fur baby. “I’ll tell you what, go ahead and fill out the paperwork. If we can’t get a hold of them by Saturday, then I’ll call you and he’s yours.” She smiled brightly and I did the same before completing the paperwork.

Walking out, I felt my nerves screaming at me in every way. I wanted to embrace the elation, but I was scared. What if they did call? What if they came to get him first? I knew they had the right to do so. They had found him before me after all, but my heart hoped they would not.

Saturday morning rolled around and I checked my phone like a mad woman, every five seconds. I longed for the call that would say he was mine. Then, it came. “Miss Fischer, this is the ____ Animal Shelter, the previous adopters for Trek have not arrived. If you’d still like to adopt him, you may come get him.” I wanted to jump up from my desk for joy. I could not have been more excited!

Now, I will admit, it was not all fun and games. Like any other puppy, Trek who was renamed Tucker, had his rebellious streak. I lost more than one piece of furniture throughout the training process, but I wasn’t about to give up on him. I loved him from day one and decided I would do anything to provide him the best home possible. After months of training from me and with the help of those close to me, Tucker became an obedient, nearly perfect dog.

Today, Tucker is three years old and knows a multitude of tricks, including sit, shake, lay down, speak, talk (he growls in a way that sounds like “Uh huh”), wait, and can even balance treats on his nose. His favorite toys are balls and he obsesses over them. He will still obey the command to stay/wait even if the ball is thrown. He doesn’t go after it until I give him the release command. He also loves to snuggle under the blankets by my feet each night and that is where he loyally sleeps.

Though losing Russell was a major heartache, it could not even compare to the joy I have now owning Tucker. He is my dog, my best friend, and my child. He is my fur baby and I will continue to love every day I am blessed by his existence.

Corrie’s Book

Three young women are all confined by the same enchantment. It is an ever powerful, eternal demon that rests within their very hearts and minds. It is fear. The feeling consumes each one of them like a plague, influencing their every decision.

Renee, a thirteen year old girl, is the first to attempt freedom from this internal curse. She embraces the tinge of courage within her and allows her feet to drive her far away from her small town life of entrapment. Little does she know her journey against the unseen terror has only just begun.

The older, questionably less mature, Emily is blinded to her own imprisonment. Instead she allows guilt to cloud her mind while hiding under the cover of meaningless socialization. It is only when Emily finds herself in a strange land that she must finally confront her demons. Will she bow down to the nightmare before her? Or alas will she defeat the monster within?

Unlike the other two, Ms. Morrison has finally gotten her life in order, or so she believes. A professional, strict school teacher, she stands proud in all she has accomplished. Despite her success, terrors of a life long forgotten still torment her mind.

When all three women are forced to confront their inner horrors, their paths cross in an unimaginable way that will leave you breathless!

About Corrie
Corrie Fischer was born in Fort Oglethorpe, GA but only lived there the first three days of her life. The daughter of a military chaplain, her life of travels continued on for many years. She has lived in eight different states and over fifteen homes. When she was sixteen years old, Corrie started attending college. At the age of eighteen, she was accepted as a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. In 2013, she graduated from Northwest Arkansas Community College. She currently resides in her Fayetteville, Arkansas home with her dog Tucker and a leopard gecko named Spike.

Corrie’s Website: http://www.corriefischer.com


#FurbabyFriday – Author Jill Yesko

JasperJasper – In Jill’s own words:

The Michael Phelps of Basset Hounds
How may times have I heard the refrain “bassets hounds are fat and lazy dogs.”If only people knew the truth…Behold Jasper, my five-year-old basset hound. Jasper belies every stereotype of the couch potato basset who only moves when he hears the dinner bell ring.

Jasper is a dogathlete, a remarkable houndie physical specimen. He swims, runs, jumps, and would probably ride a bike if his legs weren’t three inches long.

It began when Jasper he was a wee puppy. Walking along the shores of a reservoir he nearly yanked my arm off pulling me into the water where he immediately began paddling away.

Bassets aren’t supposed to be swimmers. That’s the province of labrador retrievers, right?

Well, guess who loves to swim? Don’t even get me started about how Jasper jumped out of the canoe in the middle of the lake and began swimming away like a doggie Michael Phelps. This basset never met a body of water he didn’t plunge into. One of my favorite bonding activities is to walk in the creek with Jasper splashing his way beside me.

And then there’s my theory that Jasper is part kangaroo.

He’s been know to leap onto the highest beds and scale the tallest boulders in the dog park so he can bark his head off at all the doggies at his feet. Those well-muscled back legs mean he can bunny hop through two-foot-high snow drifts with his Dumbo-like ears flowing behind him.

Since Jasper has come into my life I’ve lost five pounds trying to keep up with him as sprints across the field after squirrels, robins, and whatever imaginary critters his nose mandates that he chase at top speed.

Yeah, that’s my lazy basset hound!

Jill’s Book

DogSpelledBackwardsPrivate investigator Jane Ronson suffers from oppositional defiant disorder–the uncontrollable urge to punch first and ask questions later. When a rabbi with a shady past offers a bag of cash to spy on a rival rabbi, Jane jumps at the chance. To succeed, Jane must infiltrate a black market kidney ring in Baltimore’s Orthodox Jewish community by impersonating one of its members. Between Russian gangsters and double crosses, Jane is No. 1 on everyone’s hit list. To get the bounty–and stay alive–Jane forms an alliance with a rabbi’s wife and confronts a dark family secret.

Excerpt from “Dog Spelled Backwards: An Unholy Mystery”

Jerome stood before me with his hands clasped together as if in prayer. He was swaddled from head to toe in a dark blue robe. On his head was a foot-tall white turban and his eyes were outlined in dark khol. Green sparkly loops dangled from his ears.

“Get your butt outta the car,” he mouthed through the glass. “I need you to give me the once over before our meeting with your Rabbi and his mobster rent boy.”

I stepped out of the car. “I told you to dress conservatively, not to wear a damn burqa! Didn’t you look at the pictures I emailed to you? You can’t go into a kosher restaurant looking like Cleopatra!”

Jerome put his hands on his hips. “This is the best I can do on short notice. It’s an abaya, not a burqa. I borrowed it from a Muslim friend. And another thing Miss Know-It-All, Orthodox Jewish women and Muslim women obey the same rules of modesty. So zip it.”

I held the restaurant door open as Jerome wiggled his hips and butt like a fashion model striding down a runway. I counted to ten and hoped for the best.

Author bio:
Jill Yesko is the author of the acclaimed crime fiction novels “Murder in the Dog Park” and “Dog Spelled Backwards: An Unholy Mystery.” Before becoming a writer, Jill was a cartographer, bicycle racer, and mate on a water taxi. Jill patrols Baltimore’s dog parks with Jasper, her red and white basset hound.

Author of:
“Murder in the Dog Park: Bad Girl. Good Cop. Bad Dog”

“Dog Spelled Backwards: An Unholy Mystery”
Available in bookstores and on Amazon.com

Twitter: @Jillyesko

Tempering Those Great Expectations

I was talking to Jessica today about everything I’ve been doing for the past week, preparing to launch Maximum Security – as I spoke, this familiar tide of excitement rose up in me along with visions resulting from the thought, “I could get a gazillion guests at my launch party, and . . . .”

And I squashed it. Like a cockroach.

Why? I’ve been doing this a long time. I’ve only been writing for 3 years, but I’ve been painting for 40, and put on countless art exhibitions. I’ve learned one thing: God rains down sudden abundance on people like Colleen Hoover mostly to test the faith and commitment of everyone else (Okay, maybe Colleen being really talented and nice and totally awesome and deserving had a little, teeny bit to do with it).

My progress comes in inches and any big leap is followed by a setback. I feel like I’m doing the Cha-Cha-Cha. This is typical. Jack Canfield, author of Chicken Soup for the Soul, talks about the many obstacles he had to overcome to get the book published (144 rejections? A gross of rejections? Sheesh!) and then get it noticed.

The excitement I was talking about is that lottery ticket moment, when they call out the numbers and the first one matches your ticket. Then number two matches. All of a sudden, all things become possible and you feel like you might burst.

Then the third number doesn’t match.

When I buy lottery tickets, I put them in my wallet and forget about them until the next week. When it’s time to buy a new ticket, I pull out the old one and let the machine scan it. That way the anticipation is minimized and the let down is miniscule.

I try to approach launches the same way. Do the best I can to promote the book and don’t think about the results. Today it snuck up on me. Why did I squash it? It’s fun to think about having a runaway best seller and having the Big Six duking it out over you, and movie rights, and, and . . . .

Save your fantasies for your books. Fantasizing about personal success is like a drug. It sets you up for a crash when things don’t play out the way you imagined, and it keeps you from appreciating the results you do get. And like any drug, you always want more.

I read something many years ago that always stuck with me. You know how Van Halen (remember them?) got their record contract? One day this record producer (I think it was a record producer. It was someone important, anyway) wandered into an almost empty bar. There was this band playing their hearts out like they were in front of 1,000 people instead of 3. He knew right then and there that they were the real deal and he had to have them.

Imagine if the band had been focused on how they wanted a big crowd? Then nobody shows up and they get bummed, and their playing shows it, and the VIP isn’t impressed and heads out the door, leaving a half-full beer on the bar. Instead, they had an attitude that was something like, “Hey, this is so cool because we’re musicians and we’ve got a stage and we get to play music,and we love playing music.”

What if someone told them someone who could make their careers was in the audience? Ever blow something because you were putting too much importance on it? Ever focus so hard on winning big that you couldn’t enjoy what you were doing or the success you did have?

Remember Sarah Hughes? She won the Olympic Gold Medal in women’s figure skating the first time she competed. I’ll never forget her. Her performance was amazing. Why? Because she entered that competition in fourth place and thought she didn’t have a skating rink’s chance in you-know-where to win against her idols. She later said she decided to just appreciate skating in the Olympic finals and enjoy herself. I don’t think she was more talented than the other skaters. The three world-class veterans ahead of her were too grimly focused on winning. It showed in their tense and mistake-riddled performances. Sarah focused on skating and radiated pure joy during a perfect performance.

Pretending success isn’t important isn’t a tactic to get the money men knocking on your door. If Van Halen didn’t get the contract, if Sarah Hughes hadn’t won a medal, they would have still enjoyed that moment for all it was worth. It doesn’t hurt that being relaxed and in the moment is likely to result in better performance, and a better performance is more likely to attract attention.

Enjoy what you’re doing. Do the work, but focus on the process and leave the results to come as they will.

Social Media for Authors: Adding Value

I’m trying to become more active on Twitter. For the past few days, I’ve been scrolling through my feed, checking things out. I’m following 800 people. Surely there will be something interesting, right?

Wrong. Unless you like hundreds of promotional tweets shoved in your face.

Much of Twitter is wading through truckloads of spam. It’s slightly classier than Viagra ads. Then there are those pithy quotes, from famous people and from books authored by the Tweeter. One step up are tweets of interesting articles, some of which I’ll look at. But it’s not what I want.

Finally, I spot a real, live human being (Nat Russo) who mentions losing weight this week. I tweet him back. “Good for you,” I said. Nat responds. OMG I feel like Robinson Crusoe finding Friday. He assures me that there are actual people holding conversations on Twitter and recommends a few (BTW, Nat has a whole series about Twitter on his blog, A Writer’s Journey, which I intent to gobble up as soon as I get a chance).

I’m thinking about those hundreds of writers and others, spending all those hours tweeting, whose promotions I skimmed over because I had no connection with them.

So, Rule 1: Be authentic and share yourself, connect with people. Hugh Howey and Colleen Hoover (follow Colleen on Facebook, her posts are hilarious) are extraordinary at their ability to share themselves with the public. I hunted up Nat’s blog because he talked to me.

Rule 2: People are either looking for information (otherwise known as “help”), or they’re looking to be entertained. That’s why they buy your books. This is called “adding value,” and that’s what will help them connect with you.

Rule 3: Put Rules 1 & 2 together. Connect in an authentic way while being helpful or entertaining. Or both.

Rule 4: Telling people about your book is neither connecting nor is it helpful or entertaining. Promotional posts, shares and tweets should be about 1% of your social media output.

So what exactly does this mean?

The new mantra in marketing is “Something for Nothing.” I just made that up, but savvy marketers like Tim Grahl of Your First 1000 Books say it is vital to give away your content.

If you write non-fiction, it’s easy. Give away valuable bits from your book. Tim says to be sure to give away your best stuff. Make it immediately useful. His mantra? “Be relentlessly helpful.” He says not to worry about giving away too much. It makes sense. If I like what someone has to say, I’m going to go buy their book rather than waste time digging through hundreds of archived posts or waiting for them to put it all on the internet.

If you write fiction, you can post free short stories on your site. If you post an excerpt, make sure it is a complete story in of itself, or the reader is going to be turned off. Find ways to connect with your target audience. Fiction writers typically blog about writing, post book reviews or post about subjects dear to the hearts of their target reader.

I’m still figuring this out. I’m in the process of making this site more attractive to dog owners, my target audience. I’m now creating dog memes for #WoofWednesday, and I have a gallery of my real-life four-footed muses. This is a work in progress.

Oh, but wait, there’s one more rule!

Rule #6: Give the people on your mailing list a gift they can’t get any other way, and keep giving them unique content.

This needn’t be onerous. For my emails, I send out my dog memes in addition to any notices. I add a line or two of back story about the dog or the meme to make it special. As for that special gift, be creative. I give members of my mailing list access to a drop box folder with deleted scenes from my books (Okay, there’s only one in there so far, but I have lots to add!).

For more about this, check out Tim’s book. To see if he puts his money where his mouth is, sign up for his mailing list and get his free 30 day course on building your platform.

How Thick Is Your Skin?

Yesterday, I was watching a video by Jack Canfield, and he said Chicken Soup for the Soul was turned down 144 times before it was published. I thought, “Wow, he must have really thick skin!”

We all get dissed. Our family and dearest friends don’t read our books. Maybe they think it’s silly we write them, or that we’ll never make any money doing it. I hear this over and over again in my writer’s group. Those of us who self-publish still get treated like our money and sales don’t mean anything by authors who publish by ‘legitimate’ means. My mother STILL wants me to look for a ‘real’ publisher. I keep running the numbers for her and she says, “Oh.” Until next time, anyway.

And you thought it was only your family, your friends and your colleagues who were unsupportive?

The one thing that derails success for creative folks more than any other is a thin skin. Every big project I’ve ever done has had naysayers, no matter how great the idea was, or how well it worked out, and it was vital to be able to keep my focus and look for people who did support me.

I wrote my first book as a lark and did not tell anyone about it until the first draft was done. I didn’t have to listen to any critics, and I think a lot of writers operate like that. There’s only one problem with this strategy. It’s essential to gather partners to your success before you’re ready to publish, and it takes time to do that. Thus exposing you to criticism during those crucial early days of developing your dream.

Forty years of creative work have taught me a few things:

  1. Criticism is more about the critic than the thing being criticized. They don’t believe they could pull it off, so therefore, you can’t either.
  2. People who diss you today will forget all about it when you turn out something great.
  3. You have to be 100% behind your project first. Are you willing to invest your time, your money and whatever it takes to make it happen?
  4. People like to be part of the crowd. Get your most likely supporters behind you, then go after the tough sells. List the people they know who are behind your project, and they’re more likely to jump on board.
  5. If they thought it was a great idea, they’d be doing it. If your idea is truly original, NOBODY is going to think it’s brilliant, at least at first. You’re going to have to sell the idea, over and over.
  6. If the criticism is specific, consider it. If it’s valid, use it to improve your project and thank them for pointing it out. Because your detractors will be your best source of information about improving your project. And it will piss them off.

Grab some Kevlar, pour another cup of coffee and keep on keeping on. If nobody gets what you’re doing, you may be onto something wonderful.

For Hugh Howey

My response to Hugh’s latest blog post:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA