Guest Post: D.R. Grady

DeAnnD.R. Grady lives with her husband near Hershey, PA. She adores chocolate, laughing, collecting bags, books, and shoes, and writing stories that resonate with others.

Website: www.drgradybooks.com

Amazon Author page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B007HR0ULS

Twitter: @drgradybooks  https://twitter.com/drgradybooks

Facebook Page: D.R. Gradyhttps://www.facebook.com/drgradybooks

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/drgradybooks/?hl=en

Google+:  D.R. Gradybooks   https://plus.google.com/u/0/114138197846185543554/posts

The Nerd Who Spied Me 

TheThe Nerd Who Spied Me covery’re confident in their secret operative abilities, but maybe not so much in their relationship goals.

Cian Hunter is tasked with the impossible: find Verity Wellington and bring her home safely. His survival is not guaranteed.

Everyone in their business knows Verity is perfectly capable of getting herself home, since she’s the gut-them-first-and-ask-questions-later type of operative. She also has the advantage of knowing where she is, which would be helpful.

He accepts the assignment, aware two operatives are better than one when dealing with the nebulous factions who lurk in the shadows. Plus, the chance to get close to Verity to see if his attraction to her is more than a fleeting interest is too good to pass up. Provided she doesn’t gut him first.

Cian is confident in his secret operative abilities, despite wishing to leave them behind. However, his relationship goals leave something to be desired. If he can figure those out… he might stand a chance of getting them both home alive.

About the book:

In the manner of a smattering of her de Leos relatives, Verity Wellington was born a warrior. Unfortunately for her, she also inherited a full dose of her mother’s femme fatale woman magic.

I’ve enjoyed the dichotomy of a warrior saddled with femme fatale genes. All men notice her. None of them forget her, and for a secret operative, this obviously creates trouble in the field.

For Verity, the heroine of THE NERD WHO SPIED ME, she has to work that much harder, and is limited in the types of jobs she’s assigned. This concept is nothing new for women the world over. A quote from the late former Texas Governor, Ann Richards, applies. “After all, Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards and in high heels.”

This sums up Verity’s life as a secret operative. She is every bit as capable as any of her male counterparts. Yet she’s got a couple of major disadvantages, but still exceeds expectations.

Being a woman in any society that we know of appears to be fraught with perils many men have never encountered. But what if the woman in question is tough and scary in her own right? She’s wrapped in a delectable shell, but she’s got skills to rival any Navy SEAL or Army Ranger.

Verity is altogether different from our previous woman warrior, Janine Morris from SHADOWS AND SPICE. Janine became a warrior due to her circumstances—which she overcame by becoming an impressive warrior in her own right. However, Janine is first and foremost a healer. Verity was born a warrior, and would love to remain unassuming and invisible so she can do her job.

She is faced with these conflicting genes and must come to a compromise between them before she can perform to the full extent of her expertise. Impressive abilities she can’t fully stretch and expand because of the come-hither vibes she wishes she could permanently turn off.

Join Verity and hero Cian Hunter as they combine forces to return to her native Rurikstan. Their only task is to arrive alive. It’s too bad that can be difficult for some people.

This story is a wonderful romp with plenty of the Morrison family members who make an appearance so I hope you’ll pick up a copy of THE NERD WHO SPIED ME to enjoy.

Kindle: https://goo.gl/MbpEDU 

Barnes and Noble: https://goo.gl/MBDoBQ

Google Play: https://goo.gl/8CVPwd

Smashwords: https://goo.gl/UBapdj

Createspace: coming soon!

Other works by D.R. Grady:

The Morrison Family Series:

The Nerd and the Marine

The Corpsman and the Nerd

The Nerd and the SEAL

The Nerd’s Pocket Pets

Shadows and Spice

Macy’s Parade

Bad Nerd Rising

Bad Nerd Falling

Nerds on Fire

Nerds Unite

The Trouble with Nerds

The Nerd who Spied Me

Free Short Stories:

Math Nerds and Mechanics

Tall Golfs

The Me Series:

Treasure Me

Save Me

Trust Me

Heal Me

Love Me

The Dragon Chronicles Series:

The Dragon Chronicles Book 1: Learning

The Dragon Chronicles Book 2: Shifting

The Dragon Chronicles Book 3: Healing

Please visit my website for updates on these series.

http://www.drgradybooks.com

 

 

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Guest Post: Vicky Burkholder

Many times authors are asked “Where do you get your ideas?”. The simple answer is… everywhere. The hard answer is…everywhere.

A little explanation. An author is open to possibilities from everywhere. A newspaper headline. A bit of a song. A snippet of an overheard conversation. A beautiful sunrise. The ideas are everywhere. It’s what you do with them that makes you an author…or an artist…or a musician…. And no two authors (artists, musicians) will do the same thing with the same idea.

For most authors, once we’ve gotten that snippet, we start playing the “What if…” game. Take my first series, “Gambling on Love”. I took a bit of a news story – the horrific practice human trafficking – and played “what if…” What if this was still going on a hundred (or more) years in the future? What if the low lifes that do this are in outer space, on space stations and other planets. What if a friend or relative of a cop was taken? And so on. And thus, Gambling on Love was born.

The story I’m working on right now – a romantic suspense – is based on the titles and lyrics of two songs from Sarah McLachlan: “I Will Remember You” and “In the Arms of an Angel”. I love her music and the emotions it evokes. And the ideas it gives me.

For my Pride series… What if there really were people who could change their shape? They’d have the same problems humans do, but they’d have the the additional problems of keeping their animal selves hidden from the world (or risk becoming lab specimens). What if…they purchased a large tract of land somewhere remote and developed their own town(s)? What if not everyone who lived there was happy with the setup and the rulers? Thus… “Lion’s Pride” series. Currently it’s only two books, the the third will soon be coming. 🙂

And that is where authors get their ideas. From everywhere.

lionsheartLION’S HEART – Book 1 in the LION’S PRIDE series.

Facing a lonely existence after the death of her mother, Healer Selena is startled when two strangers show up on her doorstep. One is badly injured, beyond her help. It is the injured man’s companion who draws her notice. She wonders how much her mother had to do with bringing him here. After all, Selena’s mother was a witch. The ruby she enchanted before she died is glowing, telling Selena that this man is her chosen mate. But he’s a shapeshifter, a being she has learned to distrust.

Tristan had been against the journey with his godfather, Jacob, but a promise is a promise. An attack by outlaws sealed his fate. Injured and on the run, they come upon a secluded cabin and a beautiful woman. When she shows powers that go beyond the imagination, he is certain he’s been bewitched, but for some reason, he doesn’t mind as much as he thought he would. When he finds out she is actually the daughter of his mentor, he knows there are forces at work that go beyond the realm of normalcy. His lion recognizes her as his mate, it takes the man a little longer.

from Amazon                                                                From Liquid Silver Publishing

LION’S CHOICE

Stefan the Black, alpha of the northwestern territories, needs a strong mate. It’s the only lionschoice600x900way the prides and packs will continue to follow him, but he hasn’t found the right one yet. Then Dr. Malena Troutman literally runs into him and he and his beast know that she is the one.

The problem is convincing her.

Malena wants nothing to do with prides or packs. As a half-breed—part witch, part shifter—she’s been shunned by both shifters and witches alike. But her beast wants Stefan, and so does the human part of her. Still, can she trust him not to turn her away, especially once he learns her secret?

But Stefan has more than a few secrets of his own, not the least of which is … he’s also got magic running through his blood. It’s up to him to convince the packs and prides that their prejudices are hurting the prides. Ruling a large area of multiple packs and prides takes a lot of balancing—funds, people, emergencies, and more. But with Malena by his side, Stefan turns things around and both beasts find contentment.

From Liquid Silver Publishing

Amazon

Grammar Rules and when to break them

As many of you know, in my day job, I’m an editor. Yes, I’m that evil person who tells you where to put your Oxford commas and how to correctly use their/they’re/there. There are rules for grammar and The Chicago Manual of Style is an expert at giving us these rules. But, as in most things, there are times when rules are made to be broken. This is especially true in fiction writing.

When I do an edit for an author, I rarely change anything outright (re: incorrect usage of their/they’re/there and other homonyms), but I make suggestions for the author to use as he or she sees fit. For instance:

Sentence fragments: This often happens when you start a sentence with a conjunction (and, but, etc.). But why not do this? It’s a purist thing. The “But” sentence I used here could just as easily be written as “Why not do this?”. Unfortunately, that’s not the way most people talk. People speak in fragments all the time. I wouldn’t advise writing this way in a formal essay or something for a grammar class, but using them in a popular fiction novel? Go ahead. It makes the reading flow better and is more understandable than formal writing. But… don’t use them all the time. Sprinkle a few in here and there for emphasis or dialogue, just don’t have every sentence be a fragment. Then it becomes the problem instead of a solution.

Ending a sentence with a preposition: Again, why not? This rule originally comes from Latin construction but we’re not talking Latin. We’re writing plain English and that is an entirely different kettle of fish. Forcing us to move words around so there’s no preposition on the end of a sentence makes the writing sound stilted and way too formal. Go ahead and end it with one. I give you permission to do so. But… if you can reword it differently as in: That’s something I won’t put up with. vs. I won’t put up with that. Go for the clarity and brevity unless you’re making a statement about the character.

Split infinitives: When I edit for these, most people say “huh?” What in the world is a split infinitive? It’s a two word phrase that expresses one thought, usually with the word “to” involved: to walk, to go, to see, to…whatever. A split infinitive occurs when you put another word–usually an adjective–between the two words: to boldly go; to quickly walk; to really see, etc. A purist will tell you that you should never split these two words. I say… maybe. Yes, sometimes you can reword the sentence: I wanted to really see him. vs. I really wanted to see him. And it works fine. But there are other times when moving the word messes with the meaning of the sentence and it just doesn’t sound as good: To boldly go where no one has gone before. vs. To go boldly where no one has gone before. While the second one is correct, it doesn’t have the same impact as the first one. So go ahead and split those infinitives if necessary. Just don’t do it all the time, please.

That vs. Who: True grammarians will know the difference between that and who: I’m going to see the man that/who gave me my dog. The correct usage is “who”: I’m going to see the man who gave me my dog. “That” is for things; “who” is for people. But… very few people use it correctly. I rarely edit a writer who has used this correctly. In dialogue, I might let it go because that’s how people talk (unfortunately), but in regular prose? Nope. This is one rule I do stick to.

There are a lot of other rules I can discuss, but we’ll stop with these for today. Just remember, kind of like the pirates in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies – “The code is more what you’d call ‘guidelines’ than actual rules.” – substitute “rules” for code and you have it. Follow the rules when possible, but don’t be afraid to break them every now and then. Just be sure you have a good reason to. 😉

You only fail when you quit trying…

My self-confidence was gone. My writing prospects were gone. My job was gone. I could have curled up, quit, and gone back to being a librarian, but jobs for cataloguers were few and far between those days as most libraries were going to centralized catalogues. So I read, and became a reviewer for a couple of magazines. At least it kept my name out there. And I learned more as I read for critique rather than for pleasure.

Then I got an email one day from another friend who was working for a small publisher who needed another copy editor. Leery (I can be taught), I asked what the payment would be. This time, it would be a flat rate, plus royalties. Okay, the flat rate wasn’t great, but at least it was something. So I agreed. And I kept on writing, though not submitting. I’d been burnt too badly. I worked for her for nearly a year. And kept learning the craft.

I joined RWA and my local RWA group. And that was all I needed. It was a small group of about twenty people, but they were so full of enthusiasm. Some of them were published, some not. But all had experience in rejections. And they all had stories that wanted to be told. They understood me. They understood how I felt. And I understood them.

With their help, I started submitting again. And writing. And learning. Though I kept getting nothing but rejections, they were now coming with handwritten notes and encouragement to submit something else. And I was winning contests.

Then I got “The Call” from a publisher who is no longer in business for a story I’d submitted less than a month previously. And that was followed just a week later, also from the same publisher, but a different editor, for another book I’d submitted eighteen months previously. They wanted both books. I’d done my homework on this one. They were relatively stable, had a good reputation and the authors I’d talked to who were already writing for them had good things to say. So, heart in hand, I accepted.

And I was off and running.

The journey: when a dream goes bad

About the time I was getting frustrated with being a newspaper journalist, two things happened in my life as a writer. A friend of my husband had started his own computer services company and needed someone to edit policy and procedures manuals for a contract. He asked if I would be willing to take on the job – and I could work at home. He’d load up my little computer with everything I needed and pay me a ridiculous amount of money to work at home. How could I say no?

At the same time, an acquaintance of mine from an online group I’d joined was working for a new e-publisher. They were looking for copy-editors and she knew my background (that Master’s Degree came with a 4.0 average). Payment would be a percentage of the royalties for each book I edited. Of course I said yes.

Oh, how little I knew. And how much I learned. The policy and procedure job was a piece of cake. I did 240 of those boring little documents over the space of a year. Plus wrote other ones for other agencies as well. I got a good reputation for accuracy and quick turnarounds. But, oh my goodness, was it boring. Still, the money was good. It helped get the last of the kids through college. The contract lasted a year, but it was a good year.

The novel editing, on the other hand, was exciting. Over the course of two years, I edited thirty-five novels for that company. And learned a lot. Enough to write my own novel. I submitted it, like every other wannabe writer, and lo, and behold, it was accepted! I was going to be published! Okay, it was going to be an e-book, but still. I was going to be published!

The day I received my contract was one of the happiest of my life. And it just happened to be my dad’s birthday. Unfortunately, he had passed away two years before this so I could not share the incredible news with him. But I know he had something to do with it.

So I continued to edit other books while working through edits of my own. I learned about cover art and blurbs and tag lines. I learned about dedication pages and promos. I learned about how much I still had to learn. In the background of all this, there were some rumblings in the company. My friend who had gotten me into the job left the company. As did some of the authors I’d edited for. When I asked my “supervisor” about it, I was told it was just internal issues and nothing I needed to worry about.

How naïve I was. But I was too excited about my book coming out to really worry. My book did come out and it was grand. I sold copies – I know this because people wrote to me to tell me how much they enjoyed the book. And a week later, the company closed its doors and went belly up.

What? I now had no book. No royalties for my book, or the other books I’d edited. Nothing. All that work for nothing? Hours spent doing edits for others only to find out they sold their books to other publishers and were making successes there. Hours spent doing my own edits only to have it tied up in limbo. I eventually found out that the owners were basically scammers who had done this before under different names. But they’d crossed the wrong people this time as several of the top editors broke off, formed their own company and took the scammers to court. The break-out people did well-enough for themselves, but they were a very small contingent of the larger company. And because I was so new, I wasn’t one of the “in” people. So I was left hanging, though I did get my rights back (I have that in writing). With no book, no editorial job, no contract (since that had ended). I saw my fledgling writing career as a major failure.

(the story continues…) (next week)

Guest Author: KG Fletcher

KG Fletcher is the author of the contemporary romance novel, The Nearness of You released in October, 2017. She has also penned romantic suspense novels, Love Song released in April, 2017 and Unexpected released in December, 2016. She is an active member of RWA and the Georgia Romance Writers Association. She was a singer/songwriter in Nashville, TN and a recipient of the “Airplay International Award” for “Best New Artist” showcasing original songs at The Bluebird Café. She earned her BFA in theater at Valdosta State College and has traveled the world professionally as a singer/actress. She currently gets to play rock star as a backup singer in the National Tour, “Remember When Rock Was Young – the Elton John Tribute.” (www.almosteltonjohn.com)

KG lives in Atlanta, GA with her husband Ladd and their three gorgeous sons. She is a hopeless romantic continuing her work on her original cabaret act called, “The Novel Romantic – an unexpected evening of sweet & spicy love” to help promote her romance novels.

TheNearnessOfYou_v4-AmazonThe Nearness of You

By KG Fletcher

ISBN: 978-1-945910-33-3 (ebook)

(Print) 978-1-945910-34-0

3.99

BUY LINKS:

AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B073MPWGHS

KOBO: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-nearness-of-you-5

 

Lounge singer, Lauren Rose lived her comfortable life in Atlanta always dreaming of making it in show biz. When she unexpectedly meets British male super-model, David Randle at a gig at the posh St. Regis Hotel, she is swept away by his striking good looks and lilting cadence.

In town for his sister Catherine’s nuptials to NASCAR driver, Brian Brady, David invites Lauren to the wedding on a whim. The two instantly bond over music, fashion and family. They continue their new relationship in New York City when David invites Lauren to see him in action at a high profile fashion shoot for his debut fragrance, “Drive.”

Sparks fly when his assistant, Sabrina Watson is none too happy that his new girlfriend has interrupted his grueling, fast-paced schedule. She becomes fixated on separating the happy couple who are falling in love.

Traversing the East Coast and Europe with the paparazzi in hot pursuit, David and Lauren navigate the precarious path of fame, fashion and fate.

 Her wildest dreams were coming true. Would she ever truly believe that his desire was to be near her – always?

 

EXCERPT:

“Excuse me, miss.”

Looking up with a smile, ready to accommodate another song request, she was taken aback, her breath catching in her chest. The man was tall, dark, and handsome and he looked very familiar. She started to panic, trying to place him in the shadowy light.

“I didn’t mean to startle you. I wanted to ask… that last song you just sang. It sounded so familiar. Who is the artist?”

The molecules in her brain shifted, and she was suddenly aware of who was standing before her. In an effort not to faint or start screaming, she placed her hand on her heaving chest and tried to breathe again, all the while his steady gaze penetrating her entire being. She swallowed hard, trying to get some moisture back into her throat so she could respond, but it felt as if her entire mouth had been force-fed a bucket of sand. The gorgeous man was holding a martini glass and looking like he had just stepped out of a high-class advertisement, his designer clothing obvious.

“Umm… that song was….” She cleared her throat. “It’s a Richard Rodgers, umm, song.” She eyed his drink and without thinking, took it out of his hands. “Do you mind?” She didn’t wait for his response, anxious to send moisture onto her hot tongue. She threw the drink back in one gulp before choking on the alcohol that burned going down her throat. “Oh my god! What was that?” she asked, her face scowling.

He gently took the empty glass back from her, his index finger brushing her hand slightly. “Well, that was my gin martini. May I get you something more to your liking?” He tried not to smile but his blue eyes tinged with humor and gave him away.

Lauren held the back of her hand to her mouth and stared. “I know who you are,” she whispered, wide eyed. “You’re the super…” He interrupted her quickly by abruptly grabbing her by the elbow.

“Let me buy you a drink.” He started to lead her to the mahogany bar where her friend Tim was bartending.

“Hey Lauren. How’s it going?” Tim asked as he wiped down the polished wood in front of them. Could he tell that she was coming undone being in the presence of one of the most stunning, sought after male models on the planet? She recalled a recent trip to New York with some of her girlfriends. They had stood in the middle of Times Square taking several pictures of this man’s famous image plastered on a giant billboard, his gorgeous, half-naked body on display for all the world to see, wearing designer underwear. She started to swoon thinking about it.

“Good, Tim,” she replied a little too quickly, her voice three octaves higher than normal. She glanced at the illustrious man who was standing mere inches from her, not sure if she would be able to continue a conversation. Her entire body felt like it was buzzing and she thought she might hyperventilate. She sank onto the leather barstool, hoping it wasn’t obvious that she was coming undone.

“Sparkling water for you?” Tim asked knowingly. Lauren never drank while she performed, a lesson she’d learned many years ago when she had made the mistake of going to happy hour with friends before a show. She couldn’t remember the lyrics that night because of one too many shots of tequila. She was lucky the manager hadn’t fired her.

“Yes, please,” she squeaked.

“And for you, sir?”

He leaned his strong arm against the back of her bar stool and reached for a cashew in a crystal bowl, his bulging bicep almost grazing her breast. “I should like another gin martini, Tim. Hendricks please, with a cucumber garnish.” His British cadence was sophisticated and debonair, accentuating his high-class image.

Tim placed a green tinted bottle of sparkling water in front of Lauren and proceeded to mix the martini. She tried to open her drink with her trembling hands, but the cap wouldn’t budge.

“Allow me, Lauren,” he said, taking it from her, the “L” of her name sounding beautiful with his lilting articulation. He effortlessly turned the cap just once and handed it back to her, his chiseled features dangerously close to her lips. She offered a polite smile before taking a sip and almost choked when he started to speak, palming her back with his hand.

“Feeling any better?”

She licked her lips and placed the bottle back on the bar. “Yes, thank you.” She felt her cheeks flush, surprised when he leaned in and whispered into her ear.

“It’s nice to meet you, Lauren. You have a lovely voice.”

His warm breath made her insides tingle. She inhaled deeply before answering. “Thank you. It’s nice to meet you too… you have a lovely… face.” She forced herself not to roll her eyes after the words came out of her mouth, pursing her lips. What a stupid thing to say.

Lauren & David’s Playlist

The story of Lauren and David was heavily influenced by music from days gone by. These are a few of my favorite versions I hope you might check out – several of these songs are also featured in my cabaret act, “The Novel Romantic – an unexpected evening of sweet and spicy love.” (www.kgfletcherauthor.com/cabaret.html)

Where or When – Harry Connick, Jr.

The Nearness of You – Norah Jones

If I Were a Bell – from the musical, Guys & Dolls

Claire de Lune – Debussy

Fly Me to the Moon – Tony Bennett

Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy – The Andrew Sisters

The Way You Look Tonight – Frank Sinatra

Stand By Me – Ben E. King

At Last – Etta James

Don’t Rain on My Parade – Barbara Streisand

Sleepwalk – The Brian Setzer Orchestra

New York-New York – Frank Sinatra

Find KG online:

Website: www.kgfletcherauthor.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/kgfletcher3

Instagram: www.instagram.com/kellyf9393/

Facebook: www.facebook.com/kgfletcherauthor

Amazon: www.Amazon.com/author/kgfletcher

Cabaret Act: www.kgfletcherauthor.com/cabaret.html

In the beginning…

I’m going to try a little experiment. For the next few weeks, I’m going to tell you how I got started in this business called writing. Each week will be a different leg in my journey. So join me and we’ll see what happened along the way.

Day 1:  Hi! My name is Vicky Burkholder and I’m a writer. Gee, that sounds like an intro to a 12-step program of some sort. And it might as well be, because being a writer is not something you can help. You may get away from it once in a while, but if you are really a writer, you’re going to write, no matter what.

I could tell you I started writing stories from the time I could hold a crayon, and that would mostly be true, but I didn’t become a lover of books and the written word until about the third or fourth grade. I was what was referred to as a “slow reader”, which meant that no matter what cutesy name you put on it, I was in the bottom level of readers. And back then, we didn’t have “special” help. You either sank or swam on your own. So my dad decided to help me.

Let me explain something to you. Though my dad did graduate from high school, he skipped a several grades (back then, you could test out of a grade), so he missed out on some of the finer points of education. But he was a huge reader. He never went anywhere without a book or a crossword puzzle in hand. So when he took on my reading problems, it was very hands on. We did crossword puzzles together. We read books. When in the car, we played word games. We played Scrabble®. He made reading fun for me. And he had me write down my “stories”. The fun translated into my jumping from the lowest level to the advanced level in less than a year.

And I was hooked on writing.

I’d like to say that love translated into jobs and books and a writing career as I went on to and graduated from college (the first in my family), but unfortunately, life doesn’t always work out the way you planned.

There was marriage, and moves, and more moves (23 in all so far with one more on the horizon), and jobs and kids (4) and more school. But even with all that, writing was always in the background as I filled notebooks with my stories. I even won a couple of contests over the years, but it always took a backseat because “I was too busy.”

And that’s what happened on my way to being a novelist. Life. With four kids (two of whom were older foreign adoptees who spoke no English), going to school full time working on my Master’s degree, working part time as a TA, and a substitute teacher, I had no time for anything else. And yet, that was the year I won first place in a state contest for a short science fiction story I’d written.

While writing definitely took a back seat, I followed other creative outlets. Thanks to the activities of those four kids, I did a lot of sewing, learned to do natural cloth dyes, went on field trips (as a chaperone) where I learned about a lot of things. I can grow my own food, bake bread (and other things) from scratch, make natural dyes, know about first aid, and so much more, all of which I use in my writing. So, though the time was not spent writing, everything I did and learned has a place in my writing.

The year I decided to follow my dream was an interesting one. I was in a full-time job I hated. The oldest two were leaving for college, the middle one getting ready, the youngest just a year behind him. And hubby was going to school full-time as well as working full-time. It was the worst possible time for me to quit, but the family sat down and we did some figuring. If I stayed in my job just one more year, we’d be able to make things work. So that’s what I did. And with an end in sight, the job wasn’t quite as bad (that’s not true, but it sounds good!). When I had my exit interview with the company, they asked why I was leaving. Rather than give them the list of grievances why I was, I gave them the other truth. I was leaving to follow a dream. The head of personnel studied me, then smiled with a dreamy look in her eyes and said, “I wish I could do that.”

And thus began the next chapter in my writing life.

The journey begins…

I’d love to say that I immediately wrote volumes and sold. I’d love to say that it was all so easy. But it wasn’t.

It was a challenge. I had nobody near me who was a writer. I knew no writers. I knew nothing about writing groups or organizations or anything else. So I started studying. I bought books on writing. On submitting. And I wrote. A lot. Mostly short stories, but it was writing. I started several novels, but, like most beginners, I had no idea how to get through the middle. I didn’t know what a black moment was. What I didn’t know would fill a book. Actually, most of the books I bought.

I started submitting my little stories to magazines and newspapers, most of which got rejected. Each one hurt more than the last. I was certain I was doomed to failure. Then the local newspaper called. They liked a story I’d written and wanted to know if I would be willing to work for them as a stringer. Gulp. Would I???? Definitely. And thus, I became a newspaper writer. I wrote the human-interest fluff that fills up the spaces when there isn’t any news. And in a very small town, there wasn’t much news so my stories often became front page pieces. As a stringer, I was paid a flat fee for each piece, no matter the length. But once I sold the piece to them, I had no say in how they edited it. And that sometimes hurt more than outright rejections as I saw my beautiful prose cut down to short, choppy sentences. Now, granted, the editor has to cut because of space limitations. But some of that chopping was downright horrendous. Often sentences ended in the middle of a thought or entire paragraphs were deleted – paragraphs that tied the beginning to the end.

In that year, I learned a lot. A lot about writing. A lot about editing. By the time I left there, I was a better editor than the sitting editor as very few of my last pieces got edited at all. I had learned a valuable lesson. As writers, our words are gold to us. Each one a nugget of value. As an editor, it’s mostly dirt and you have to cut away the grime to get to the good stuff.

Which led to the next step on my way to publication.

In the beginning…

I’m going to try a little experiment. For the next few weeks, I’m going to tell you how I got started in this business called writing. Each week will be a different leg in my journey. So join me and we’ll see what happened along the way.

Day 1:  Hi! My name is Vicky Burkholder and I’m a writer. Gee, that sounds like an intro to a 12-step program of some sort. And it might as well be, because being a writer is not something you can help. You may get away from it once in a while, but if you are really a writer, you’re going to write, no matter what.

I could tell you I started writing stories from the time I could hold a crayon, and that would mostly be true, but I didn’t become a lover of books and the written word until about the third or fourth grade. I was what was referred to as a “slow reader”, which meant that no matter what cutesy name you put on it, I was in the bottom level of readers. And back then, we didn’t have “special” help. You either sank or swam on your own. So my dad decided to help me.

Let me explain something to you. Though my dad did graduate from high school, he skipped a several grades (back then, you could test out of a grade), so he missed out on some of the finer points of education. But he was a huge reader. He never went anywhere without a book or a crossword puzzle in hand. So when he took on my reading problems, it was very hands on. We did crossword puzzles together. We read books. When in the car, we played word games. We played Scrabble®. He made reading fun for me. And he had me write down my “stories”. The fun translated into my jumping from the lowest level to the advanced level in less than a year.

And I was hooked on writing.

I’d like to say that love translated into jobs and books and a writing career as I went on to and graduated from college (the first in my family), but unfortunately, life doesn’t always work out the way you planned.

There was marriage, and moves, and more moves (23 in all so far with one more on the horizon), and jobs and kids (4) and more school. But even with all that, writing was always in the background as I filled notebooks with my stories. I even won a couple of contests over the years, but it always took a backseat because “I was too busy.”

And that’s what happened on my way to being a novelist. Life. With four kids (two of whom were older foreign adoptees who spoke no English), going to school full time working on my Master’s degree, working part time as a TA, and a substitute teacher, I had no time for anything else. And yet, that was the year I won first place in a state contest for a short science fiction story I’d written.

While writing definitely took a back seat, I followed other creative outlets. Thanks to the activities of those four kids, I did a lot of sewing, learned to do natural cloth dyes, went on field trips (as a chaperone) where I learned about a lot of things. I can grow my own food, bake bread (and other things) from scratch, make natural dyes, know about first aid, and so much more, all of which I use in my writing. So, though the time was not spent writing, everything I did and learned has a place in my writing.

The year I decided to follow my dream was an interesting one. I was in a full-time job I hated. The oldest two were leaving for college, the middle one getting ready, the youngest just a year behind him. And hubby was going to school full-time as well as working full-time. It was the worst possible time for me to quit, but the family sat down and we did some figuring. If I stayed in my job just one more year, we’d be able to make things work. So that’s what I did. And with an end in sight, the job wasn’t quite as bad (that’s not true, but it sounds good!). When I had my exit interview with the company, they asked why I was leaving. Rather than give them the list of grievances why I was, I gave them the other truth. I was leaving to follow a dream. The head of personnel studied me, then smiled with a dreamy look in her eyes and said, “I wish I could do that.”

And thus began the next chapter in my writing life.

PSA: Houston and Harvey

To all the folks in Houston, my heart goes out to you. This includes my brother and his family, and my niece and her family. They are safe for the moment, but… Please, I ask you to keep them, and all the people of that area, in your thoughts.

So why didn’t they leave, you ask? The areas where they live are considered “safe”. Other people were actually being evacuated to their areas. But who ever heard of getting over four feet of rain in just a couple of days? Yes, they are dry for the moment, but the water keeps rising and now… there’s no way out. All the roads are flooded. So they sit. And wait. Knowing there is nothing they can do to stop it.

For the rest of us, we sit and watch. But there is something we can do. We can donate to those organizations who will help these people. They will provide food, shelter, comfort, and, eventually, help rebuild. I urge everyone to donate what they can to these organizations. BUT BEFORE YOU DO… make sure it is a legitimate organization. Do your homework. There are leeches out there who prey on the woes of others. They will take your money and do nothing. Below are just a few places where you can donate and it will do some good:

The Mennonite Disaster Service: http://www.mds.mennonite.net

National Organizations

The American Red Cross is accepting donations on its website. You can also text HARVEY to 90999 to donate $10.

AmeriCares takes medicine and supplies to survivors.

Catholic Charities provides food, clothing, shelter and support services to those from all religious backgrounds.

Donations to the Salvation Army can be made online, by calling 1-800-SAL-ARMY (1-800-725-2769) or texting STORM to 51555.

Local Organizations

The Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund of Houston’s mayor, Sylvester Turner, which is administered by the Greater Houston Community Foundation.

Houston Food Bank and the Food Bank of Corpus Christi are asking for donations.

Carter BloodCare covers hospitals in north, central and east Texas. To donate, call 877-571-1000 or text DONATE4LIFE to 444-999.

To help animals suffering from the disaster, visit the Houston Humane Society or the San Antonio Humane Society.

The Texas Diaper Bank in San Antonio is asking for diapers and wipes, which can be dropped off in person or mailed to 5415 Bandera Road, Suite 504, San Antonio, Tex., 78238.

Check out this article by the New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/28/us/donate-harvey-charities-scams.html?mcubz=1

And this one by Business Insider: http://www.businessinsider.com/best-charities-hurricane-harvey-2017-8

Thank you.