Tag Archives: Learning

Writing Forts

Nothing screams “summer blog post” more than a hulking, stone fort, am I right? Suuure. I can see the heads shaking. What you’re probably asking yourselves is: What does a fort have to do with writing? Well, let me tell you about that.

I’m always on the hunt for relevant writing-life ideas to blog about, things both useful and personal. I hope you learn something fun and different after reading my posts, that you engage in your own writing or reading in a new way, become inspired to change something in your writing repertoire or habits. See things from a fresh perspective.

So to find ideas, I check out the holiday calendars to see what’s going on, I read other author blogs (check out this list for some cool ones, but be warned, some links are out of date), I review Writer’s Digest and other online sources for inspiration.

And sometimes I simply walk outside and see what my imagination fires up. In the case of this month’s post, “Writing Forts,” my inspiration was two-fold: calendar spark and walkabout spark.

One of the many things I love about St. Augustine is its history. One big chunk of that history is the Castillo de San Marcos, a National Park, located at the northeastern edge of historic downtown. With July named as National Park and Recreation Month (the calendar spark), and me so enamored of this massive fortress—also a designated National Monument—I knew I had to blog about it.

Which leads me to spark number two, the walkabout. Because I’m fortunate to have this historic fort in my backyard, I’m free to wander the grounds for inspiration whenever I’m able to go downtown (and able to find parking).

Water in the moat of the Castillo de San Marcos
The Castillo at night, with visitors.
Canon fire at the Castillo

Those of you who’ve read my previous posts know how much I love being outdoors, love Florida’s warm, mostly sunny weather. I carry my notebook everywhere, and I love writing longhand outside. Weather permitting, naturally, but also in the rain. As long as I’m covered and my notebook is dry, I’m good.

Sometimes, writing in the rain is actually better, depending on the scene. A moody, rainy day can be perfect for stalking, murder, surprise attack, even simply an eerie feeling or two. I think you get my point. Writing outside or somehow exposed to the elements, exposed to the ambience of a historic space, imbues my writing with a vitality I can’t always capture when sitting at my computer behind a desk and gazing through the window. Kinda like life, you know. Sometimes you have to stop reading and writing about it and go out and live it.

Now, about this fabulous fort. I’m intrigued by history (I’m not a buff, mind you, but forever learning). Those of you who’ve read Emerald Obsession know that while it’s a contemporary mystery, it has its roots in history. The Castillo has survived over 300 years as the oldest masonry fortress in the United States.

Rambling over the fort grounds, reading the educational material the park rangers offer, climbing stone steps to look over the Matanzas River and all the way to the Atlantic Ocean, steeping myself in the environment and knowledge of its age brings the fort’s history to life, helps me imagine what living there centuries ago could’ve been like.

Being able to experience such a unique piece of history firsthand is extraordinary. When I walk through historic places, I feel the weight of time surround me. I feel the lives and deaths of those who passed that way before me. A quiet settles in, respectful and deep. I knew the fort would find its way into my writing somewhere, somehow.

And here’s where I get to tease a little info about Treasure Bound, Book Two in my Found Mystery Series. I’m so excited. This story follows up Emerald Obsession to continue Lexy and Jack’s treasure hunt, and part of the story takes place in St. Augustine. Surprise, there’s also a scene or two set at the fort. Hope I do it justice.

To learn more about the Castillo de San Marcos, click here. It’s one of my favorite places in St. Augustine. And don’t forget to take your writing outside! You may not have a fort at your disposal, but any outdoor spot will offer a new angle and enliven your writing.

As ever, to weigh in on this or any of my posts, please share, share, share in the comments section, or on social media. You can find me in all the usual places. Thanks again. : )

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Stress Management and the Zen of Journaling

People live with varying amounts of stress, and I totally admit I make my share too easily, despite my intention to simplify things. Is that ironic? No, probably just slow learning on my part. But what starts out simple often morphs into something complex faster than I can keep up.

Case in point: this is (one of) my April blog(s)—that’s a whole other story right there, the tale of my lost second blog of the month—and here I am, posting it in May.

Should I mention this post was prompted by learning that April is Stress Awareness Month? Well, there you go. Welcome, May; hello, Stress, I am aware of you; and, am I on the ball these days or what?

Despite the date, I wanted to share this post because I’m pretty damn sure everyone can relate to the stress in their lives getting out of hand now and again. Worse, perhaps way more often than that. And while I’m no police officer or doctor or someone who holds others’ lives in their hands, stress is real and evident in each person’s life to varying degrees, and that stress needs a release before it takes a physical, mental, emotional toll on a person.

Having said my little piece about that, life—as ever, it seems—has been a tad taxing, so I’d like to share how journaling helps me cope.

On one level, writing is stress-inducing because I’m striving to make my living with it. Learning the intricacies of publishing, marketing, blogging? Switching mental gears from the other aspects of everyday life to something creative? Creating compelling stories to share in the hopes readers will enjoy them? No stress there. ; )

On the flip side, writing is incredibly stress-relieving in another form. I’m talking about journaling, keeping a diary. Or in my world, AKA writing to a therapist without paying for one. ; )

I’ve kept a journal, diary or daily calendar for most of my life. Doing so goes back to my first real diary, which still lives somewhere in my mom’s basement in a dusty cardboard box with my name scrawled in black Sharpie on the outside. Prior to receiving that journal, I vaguely recall using cute, pink notebooks (Hello, Kitty, anyone?) for my scribblings. But being presented with that book—a most-cherished gift—was a turning point.

The perfect-bound book is small but meaty. It’s about 4 inches wide by 5 tall, an inch thick with lavender-lined, white pages dated for every day of the year. No year, though, just days, and I wrote in the diary for many years, on and off, when the mood struck and the need great. When I look at the pages now, I see the rounded loops of my childish cursive mingling with the flatter scrawl of my “grown-up” script.

The cover looks like bleached leather, off-white and semi-smooth, with the word “Diary” debossed in gold lettering.

But perhaps the best part of this notebook was the tiny lock and key that protected all my secrets. That lock freed me. Finally, I had a place to pour out my heart without fear of ridicule or retaliation. For a sensitive young girl like me, that was gold in paper form.

I didn’t understand at the time, but that diary would help me in immeasurable ways. Writing as a career can be exceedingly stressful, but writing for passion, for catharsis, is one of the best stress reducers I know. And a handy side effect: journaling is practically free.

For those of you who’ve not journaled yet, I encourage you to try. Maybe the best part is that you can (and perhaps should) write about anything. When I write in my calendar or a spiral notebook—my diary of choice these days because it opens flat—I’ll jot whatever comes to mind. Sometimes what happened during the day, what new food I made, or what errands I ran. I might segue into a mini rant on the bad drivers around me. Or a musing on the nice person in line who pointed out I’d dropped a five-dollar bill.

Journal and coffee

In its longer form, my notebook holds nighttime secrets, dream depictions that lingered until the next morning. Lots of folks are big into dream analysis; I’m intrigued by that, and I try to note my more unique experiences, either to try to decipher them or simply for later amusement. Whenever I die, whoever reads those dream notebooks will have a field day with my mental state, I’m sure.

Anyhoo, my point is writing in this manner is a release. Putting words to paper releases the emotion—good and bad—that fills my day. When it’s good, writing it solidifies the feeling and helps me enjoy it longer. When it’s bad emotion (stress), I’m able to channel it away to a large extent.

Remember Julia Roberts’s line from Pretty Woman? “The bad stuff is easier to believe. You ever notice that?” It’s always stayed with me because I feel like the bad stuff is also what really sticks with us. Too often, the good stuff falls by the wayside, easily forgotten or overtaken by some other worrisome feeling. So, writing the good stuff is how I enjoy and retain that happy feeling, how I focus on the good when all the mayhem tries to sneak in and overwhelm me.

And writing the bad stuff is how I expel my anger, alleviate the immediate pressure, vent my sadness and confusion and worry. When I need to, I can return to my spewage later to evaluate my reaction, to understand why I responded as I did. To view my stress from a safe distance and work through my problems with a clearer head. Wow, talk about handy.

So, readers, does any of this resonate with you? Who of you have journaled or written in a diary of any form? It’s a practice I’ll keep for my entire life, I’m sure. I hope you found something useful in this post, and that maybe I’ve offered a reason for you to start scribbling in a diary or notebook. It does wonders! Please share your thoughts below. Thanks, and have a brilliant day.

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Stability in a Whirlwind

I’m not one of those bloggers who writes articles in advance and has a stash ready to go at a moment’s notice, aided into the etherworld with the assistance of some tech-savvy social-media-managing app like Hootsuite. I’m one of those think-of-an-idea-then-write-it-when-I-make-time bloggers. Which is why—when generalized mayhem strikes as it did this lovely month of March (some good, some bad)—I found myself ill-prepared to post either of my two blogs-to-be this month.

Well, sort of, since—if luck/determination/the internet all cooperate with me—this post will hopefully go live on my website on March 31. Thereby letting me say at least one of my March blogs posted this month.

I’ve mentioned before how blogging doesn’t come easily to me, but that I enjoy it for the most part (best of all when I feel I have something fun and/or useful to share). But I like to take time to think over what I’m blogging about, make sure I feel it’s relevant to my readers.

So, why did I choose to add yet another serving to my already-full plate? Because that’s exactly what I’ve done.

In the form of starting a new part-time job in February. Man alive, I’m still shaking my head at myself, wondering whether adding such time-consuming madness to my life was smart to do.

So here I am, one(ish) month later, and going strong. For the most part. I’ll share a little bit about the decision without naming names because I’m still in the trial phase as far as I’m concerned.

Friends and readers, you know I like to learn new things. Pretty much all the time. So when I heard of the opportunity of a part-time job at a company I like, whose products I use often, and where I stood to learn a great deal about subjects of interest to me, I jumped. And by that I mean I applied, talked things over with my hub, aced the interview and was hired in a matter of a few days. Hello, whirlwind.

Whirlwind!

There are other layers of logic to my decision besides wanting to learn, though, not the least of which is dropping a few extra bucks in the bank. Having worked from home for the past four years, I also looked forward to a different job environment and new people. And I relished the idea of committing to a real schedule again, something that often proves difficult to maintain in the home-office world.

And that, dear readers, is proving the most challenging part of this. I enjoy the job, all that I’m learning, the people (most of them, let’s be honest), the environment. But the schedule … that leaves much to be desired. To say it’s random is an understatement. Erratic and changeable are better words by far.

Which leaves me with a potential problem. Those who follow my blogs and Facebook and Twitter posts know I’m struggling to complete the sequel to Emerald Obsession. I’m near the end of writing the first draft of Treasure Bound, but after that I have months of editing and other work.

Well, I’m someone who often reacts better to exterior deadlines than self-induced ones. My thought process behind starting a new part-time job included the belief a more structured daily routine would benefit my writing; it would super-charge my daily habits and keep my writing time regimented and productive.

Sadly, I’m not sure that’ll prove true. Though I’m game to keep working for a while longer. Five weeks isn’t enough time for me to feel I’ve gotten the entire job/schedule picture, so I’ll continue to test the waters. But I fear the inconsistent nature of the company’s scheduling, which I wasn’t clear on at the onset, won’t jive with what I need from a part-time job right now.

Either way, readers and friends, I’ll keep you posted on how things go. March had so many other things happening concurrent with starting the new job that maybe April will bring a settling down to life.

Either way, I’m a blessed person. My mom just left after a fun visit, today would’ve been Fodda’s 86th birthday; the sun shines bright in the morning sky, the hub smiles and things are right in my world. I hope they are in yours, too. Keep on, right? I’ll just keep on, keeping on. See you again soon.

Mellow rocks
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Book Club Brilliance

Every year, February’s brevity catches up with me, no matter how many times I remind myself it’s a short month. In my effort to keep on schedule, I’m squeaking in my second February blog with a few hours to spare. Whee! I’m lucky, though, because I have a fun topic for this post: book clubs. More specifically, my first invitation to attend a book club and to join the discussion as the author of the group’s chosen monthly read! What a freaking treat for me. : )

Through the most excellent graces of my friend Monika—she talked me up to her friend Melissa who’s part of this club—I was introduced to a wonderful group of authentic, candid readers who are in love with books.

As much as I appreciate book clubs, I haven’t participated in one before, even as a reader. And it hadn’t occurred to me to offer to speak to or participate in a book club discussion as a writer. Those of you who’ve followed my blog from the onset know I feel challenged by marketing and putting myself out there as an author.

And I’ll share this: discussing books and telling stories to friends is one thing, but stepping into the spotlight of this group felt so intimidating. It’s an entirely different experience to sit before a group of intelligent, time-pressed individuals who purchased your book on someone’s recommendation and then be held accountable for your words, creativity and entertainment value. I mean, what if these people hated my book? Or found inconsistencies? Or thought it too simplistic? I’ll say again, a tad bit intimidating.

That was, until I met this group of lovely people. Well-read, well-traveled, outspoken and outgoing, these women welcomed me and treated me like a friend while being honored I, “a local author,” joined their discussion.

And let me tell you, these guys do Book Club right: their once-a-month evening meeting begins with catch-up chats over a welcoming glass of vino and simple starters, is followed by a delicious, no-fuss meal (we enjoyed chicken chili, salad and fresh fruit; I’m hoping Natalie will hook me up with that recipe!), and culminates in the discussion of that month’s selected title. Their discussion format is straightforward and begins with the host opening with a book-related question or discussion topic to get the ball rolling. The conversation is free-form, with members commenting and asking additional questions until by consensus the evening ends. Simple, fun, effective, entertaining.

Vino
Cheese Platter

 

 

 

 

 

Every writer I know struggles with the desire to share stories but not to feel rejected by those who dislike, don’t understand or fear them. And we struggle with how to tell those stories the best we possibly can. The club’s questions were engaging and thought-provoking and even gave me ideas for a couple points I plan to work into the sequel I’m writing now, TB. Though a bit unnerving in the anticipation, in all ways, this experience was fantastic: the welcome, the interest, the engagement, the thoughtful and valuable questions and comments.

Bunch of Books

Though the group said they felt honored by my presence, I have to say I’m the one who was pleased and humbled by their invitation. They welcomed me and my story, Emerald Obsession, into their lives for a time; they allowed themselves to be carried away by my characters’ antics and transported to unfamiliar locales where they feasted on exotic fare. How fortunate am I?

Special thanks to: Melissa, Natalie, Leslie, Carolyn, Sarah, Kathy, Eleanor, Maggie, the fab ladies of (mostly) Davis Shores for their warmth, interest and welcome. Also, for your encouraging response to the vignette I read from Treasure Bound, my work-in-progress sequel.

You guys rock. Read on, ladies!

So, readers, do you belong to a book club? How does yours work? As I mentioned, I haven’t been in one before, but this experience really made me want to start. How about you? Let me know below or by email (carolyn@carolyngreeley.com). Thanks!

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3 Reasons to Find Your Writing Mentor

I discovered an interesting tidbit the other day as I scanned an online calendar of fun facts: January is National Mentoring Month. Okay, maybe you take that sort of online info with a grain of salt, as I do (Really, National Crown of Roast Pork Day? It’s March 7, according to some.), but now and then I run across a factoid that stays with me and spins the gears.

Such is the case with National Mentoring Month. This struck me because I’m an advocate of mentors (and not just recognizing their usefulness for a month). This past year, I’ve been talking about their importance with my husband, whose business is expanding. As it grows, I’ve encouraged him to reach out to friends and colleagues who’ve already traveled similar paths, so he might learn from their experiences.

Why take this path:

Foggy path

When you can travel a clear path with a trusted advisor and friend:

Path to follow

But to be honest, I hadn’t thought of a mentor for myself as an author before now. I don’t know why. It took that chance mention to make me look at my career and realize how critical a mentor could be for a writer. And many of the ways in which a mentor helps say, an entrepreneur, are the same ways one would help a writer.

So, as ever on my kick about continuing to learn and grow, I searched around for more information. 🙂

Here are three ways a writing mentor can help you:

1—Experience. One of the best things a mentor can do is share the wisdom of their experience. I love the expression “work smarter, not harder.” By finding someone who’s attained the goal you’re aiming for and having them mentor you, you’ll benefit from their knowledge and hopefully will avoid their mistakes. An established writer will counsel you on both creative and business aspects of writing and will guide you along your specific career path.

2—Connection. Another benefit of your mentor will be access to their broader network of contacts. Though writing is usually a solitary effort, if publication is one of your goals, then connecting with others—readers, publishers, agents, editors, other writers—is essential. As an author looking to grow and reach an audience, having a mentor to open doors and offer ways to connect with people will be invaluable.

3—Inspiration and Input. Inspiration can come from anywhere, but for me, it doesn’t happen on a consistent basis. With a mentor, though, you may be only a call, text or coffee chat away from the butt-kick motivation you need to flush out that sketchy scene that’s vexed you for a week. The right writing mentor will offer creative support and unbiased, constructively critical insights. And that’s huge for gaining confidence and thickening the skin to the rejection prevalent in the writing world.

So, readers, what do you think about writing mentors? I believe engaging with one is a great idea for anyone looking to grow their career or passion. Do you have one? Or would you consider mentoring someone less experienced? What would you hope or expect to gain from that association? Please let me know in the comments section. I’d appreciate your thoughts. Or feel free to email me at carolyn@carolyngreeley.com. Thanks!

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Resolutions and Revisions—A Writer’s Reality

With another flip of the calendar, I find myself staring at a relatively clean slate. And so I decided to jump on the January-resolution bandwagon this year. Why not? The fact is, the changing of the year is a great time for people to reexamine goals, and I’m no exception.

A clean, snowy slate in NY

Since this blog is about my writing life, I’ll let you in on my writing resolution for this year. I made a small-yet-large-for-me pledge that pertains to you, dear readers and fans: My objective for 2017 is to blog more often and about more writing topics of interest to you.

To that end, I plan to blog twice a month. Yeah, no great shakes in the world of blogging, but in my world of chaos and distraction, doubling my monthly output is a major thing. Especially now, when I’m trying to power through the first draft of my second novel in the Found Mystery Series, still lovingly referred to as TB. ; )

As you may know, I believe life should be a continual learning experience, and I feel the same way about writing. I always want to learn more, become better at the craft, and I enjoy passing on what I learn.

Blogging isn’t my passion the way storytelling is, but the more I write in all formats, the better writer I become (hopefully). So, increasing my post output helps two ways: to give the readers what they want, and to sharpen my skills doing what I love.

In this first post of 2017, I’d like to share a link about one author’s editing process. I found this courtesy of Mary Ann de Stefano on the Florida Writers Association Facebook page, and I think it’s fantastic.

People often ask what it’s like to be a writer. Well, there are as many different answers as there are scribblers, but there’s a common thread: to write is to edit. And so, to learn to write is to understand you must edit.

This author, Patrick Rothfuss, was asked what it’s like to revise his own work. I think his answer is spot-on as he details the challenges we face, large and small, to make our manuscripts the best we can. Please take a look and let me know what you think.

As with writing, there are aspects of editing and revising that I love and those that I can hardly stand. But they go hand-in-hand. To be a better writer, I need to become a better editor. I’m working on it. 😉

Happy New Year to you all. Here’s hoping your resolutions are both fun and productive. Otherwise, they’ll be a pain to stick with. 😛

And with respect to my goal of blogging about your writing interests, please share what you’d like to hear about, either in the comments section, or by email: carolyn@carolyngreeley.com. Thanks and looking forward to your input.

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Lucky Work

Every once in a blue moon, the stars arrange themselves and surprise me with something ridiculously happy. I’m incredibly grateful for those alignments, and I’m aware not only of their rarity but of their fleeting nature. I also realize those configurations often occur through more mundane efforts. This adage, often ascribed to Thomas Jefferson, is one I really get behind: I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.”

I consider myself very fortunate in this little life o’ mine. Plenty of less-than-good inhabits my daily world, but I’m one lucky SOB most of the time. I’ve learned, though, better things come from when I work hard to reach my goals.

That said, I try to remember to be grateful for all I have (especially when it’s hard to remember!), and I really try to share that appreciation with all those who have supported me on my somewhat-randomly chaotic ride.

So, where am I going with this? A big shout-out to all of you for championing my first mystery novel, Emerald Obsession.

The latest, brilliant news for me and my book is that we just won 2nd Place in the Royal Palm Literary Awards for Published Mystery!!!!

Emerald Obsession in print
Emerald Obsession in print
RPLA, 2nd Place, Mystery
RPLA, 2nd Place, Mystery

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wooo hooo. I am beyond over the moon! And still—a bit—in a state of disbelief. On a fun-factoid note, my win came on October 22, 2016, which is the one-year anniversary of Emerald Obsession’s publication! Unreal. October 22 also happens to be the birthdays of my Uncle John and Aunt Marge, so I think it’s a pretty fabulous day on many levels. : )

What a wonderful shock, a needed jolt for my next challenge. I’ll do my very best to keep up the hard work, to use this win as motivation to continue writing, especially when the brain spews sludge or simply dumbs down into temporary oblivion. ; ) (Don’t worry: I spew, therefore, I edit.)

Before I sign off and get back to writing EO’s sequel, TB, I’ll say one more quick thank you. Who knew where my novel would take off to all those years ago? In my wildest dreams, perhaps I’d thought of winning an award, but wow. In reality, all I’d like is for more people to enjoy my stories. I hope that continues. Thank you for helping make this ride possible. <3

I’m happy you visited. Please spread the word and tell your friends about my website, so they can sign up for my newsletter and read all the latest. See you again soon!

PS—Wishing you all an early, fabulous and Happy Halloween! Want to see what the hub and I are dressing as this year? Be sure to visit again soon. : )

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