Motel 6 – 2014 Commercial

New world problems

I heard this 30 second spot on the radio the other day. It’s rare that something on the radio actually makes me laugh out loud. But this one did. Maybe it’s because every time my sisters and I text, there’s a misunderstanding because of the auto-correct feature. Yes, we know we can change it in the settings. But at this point, it’s become a part of what our message is and sometimes gives us a little giggle that is much needed. Like when I meant to say “G’nite” and it invariably corrected to “Ignite.” Well, we liked the idea of  telling each other to “Ignite.” So, now that’s our “g’nite.”

But it can be frustrating too, like this morning when I meant to say, “Suuuusan…” and it corrected to “Subhuman.” Yeah…not what I meant to say. Sorry, Susan.

Listen to this short audio, and then tell me…has this ever happened to you?

Motel 6 Commercial

 

Quotes on Writing, Life, and Dying

I love quotes. So, in the spirit of Halloween, here are a few about writing, life, and death. Enjoy and share! Karen

 

Don’t die with the music still in you. –Dwayne Dyer

Every morning, I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The landmine is me. After the explosion, I spend the rest of the day putting the pieces together. — Ray Bradbury

The meaning of life is that it stops. –Franz Kafka

Seattle’s Romance Writers conference

So, in yesterday’s post, I talked about going to the Emerald City Romance Writers conference in Seattle, WA. Well, technically it’s in Bellevue. So, what’s a nice girl like me doing at a conference like that? I’ll tell you what. I’d heard that it’s a great conference even for non-romance writers. And you know what?

2014-10-18 21.01.53

Me on left, friend on right

In fact, this conference ranks way up there in my list of favorite conferences. Below are a few reasons to go to this conference, even if you’re not a romance writer;

  • Many of the workshops are not genre specific
  • Encouragement and inspiration from fellow writers
  • Learn about plot
  • Learn about the intricacies of creating settings
  • Learn how to outline, revise, and polish
  • Learn about the business of writing
  • Learn how to write true-to-life crime scenes
  • Learn about subplot and secondary characters
  • Free books – Every time I turned around, there were free books!

And last but not least;

  • It’s fun!

On the fun scale, this one is definitely right up at the top. On a scale of boring to blasting over the top fun – this one is a BLAST! Seriously fun. On the last night, there was a retro cocktail party and sexy librarian contest. Guess who dressed up like a sexy librarian?

Seattle Romance Writers of America (RWA) conference – First impressions

I am not a romance writer. But I kept hearing great things about the Romance Writers of America’s (RWA) conferences. It took a few years, and probably a half-dozen Hanford-nuclear-plant-worthy glowing recommendations before I finally did it.  I spent this weekend surrounded by romance writers at the Emerald City Writers’ Conference in Seattle, WA. If you are a romance writer, I sincerely apologize for the following. I admit I had preconceived ideas about  what exactly these writers would look like. It went something like this;

  • Weight distribution/measurements: 45-25-35
  • Big hair -probably black…maybe red
  • Big, no huge … breasts
  • And clothing that didn’t hide a thing

If you’re a romance writer, you know how wrong I was. These romance writers were just as varied a group as participants of the more general Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association (PNWA) writers. There were young women with blonde hair pulled back in a pony. There were women who might be my mother’s age. There were vixens and innocents. There were writers of the sexually explicit and there were sweet cupcake writers….no, really! But what impressed me was the professionalism of each – the clear desire to further their craft. The other thing that surprised me – they were very, very serious about their writing careers. Some were traditionally published – most were not. A lot were hybrid authors – some combination of indie, e-book, self published and so forth.

The difference though was this; while there is still a lot of talk about whether to go self or traditionally published in the writing world, romance writers are ahead of the curve. They embrace it all. They’re just as proud to talk about their traditional books as they are their self-published. And I love that! What a breath of fresh air.

I am traditionally published. But I have ideas that fit the “other” category. And what I learned from these women is that it’s not only OK to go hybrid, it’s the smart thing to do!

While some write their hearts out – not getting paid to do so – and then wait for a publisher to accept their work and get an advance in the mail, others are doing various kinds of writing and publishing in-between, so they can actually buy a box of cereal and maybe even a quart of soy milk to have for breakfast, while they pursue it all. Yep…that just sounds wise to me.

Would I recommend this conference to non-romance writers? Absolutely! And I’ll tell you why in tomorrow’s post. ~Karen

Road trip writers!

Road trip writers!

 

Story Matters Newsletter: Big Announcement (with video)

Hi, Friends. You might have noticed the button on the Home page of this website. You can sign up for my newsletter by clicking that button. On a periodic basis, I share information with my e-list about promotions, upcoming books, and other author information. I promise I will not flood your inbox with junk. I only send an email when I have something to say. And I always share information with my e-listers first. Below is a copy of my most recent newsletter. Enjoy! (and then click on that “Newsletter” button).

Story Matters Newsletter

January, 2014

Welcome: Whether you’ve been with me since the beginning or just signed up for my newsletter – welcome! Happy New Year! I ended 2013 and began 2014 in pretty much the same way – with the flu. It can only get better from here, right? I hope your new year is off to a fabulous start. May it be the best year yet!

Current Book: Writing and publishing my first book, Breaking the Code: a Father’s Secret, a Daughter’s Journey, and the Question That Changed Everything (Sourcebooks, 2011), has been one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. What an amazing journey and a huge learning curve! When writers become authors, they quickly learn that there’s more to it than writing. There’s marketing, speaking, promoting, social media, teaching, travel, managing a website, and blogging – to name a few. It can be daunting at times. But what I love about it is that I get to meet people, hear their stories, and spread the message that’s so important to me; everyone has a story! 

What Those Three Words Mean: If I’ve signed a book for you, I probably wrote, “Your Story Matters!” in it. There’s a reason for that. When our book first came out, a WWII Veteran came up to the signing table and said he had a story too, but that nobody would want to hear it. He then said the words I never forgot, “My story doesn’t matter.” It broke my heart. So, when I sign my books, those three words I write are a reminder that yes, your story does matter.

Valentine’s Day: It isn’t just for teenagers and newlyweds. In my family, we’ve always given a small gift or card to each other; little box of candy or a stuffed animal; kids, parents, sisters etc. It’s a good time to share a book too. Breaking the Code is in its second printing and is a nice gift for anyone who enjoys family stories, memoirs, or mysteries. I often get letters from people who thank us for sharing a story that helped them understand Post-traumatic Stress Disorder – including veterans themselves. Breaking the Code is available online at places like Amazon. And while you’re there, please leave a review. It’s also available at independent and chain stores. If you’d like a double-signed and personalized copy, call my local bookstore, Book and Game at 509-529-9963. There’s still time to get it to you before Valentine’s Day.

Sneak Peek at Next Book: Many of you have asked about my current WIP – that’s Work-in-Progress in writer-ese. While I haven’t kept it a secret by any means, I wanted to have a good portion completed before I shared in a public way. And that’s where I am now.

The subject of this narrative nonfiction book is Michael G. Reagan, a talented portrait artist from the Seattle area. He is also a Vietnam Veteran who has found healing in the most unexpected way. But even healing comes at a cost. While enjoying a successful career as the official artist for the University of Washington, and a thriving private art studio, Michael was asked to draw the portrait of a Fallen Hero. The results of that portrait set his feet on a different path – one that would bring not only the fallen hero home, but that would bring Michael home as well. Soon, he gave up everything – fame, fortune, and prestige, to dedicate the rest of his life to bringing his military brothers and sisters home to their families – one portrait at a time. 

Michael is a humble man who doesn’t want any of the spotlight; his focus instead, is on the fallen and their families. The book, tentatively titled, Drawing Me Home, will tell the story behind his foundation, The Fallen Heroes Project, as well as the amazing stories of hope that have resulted from his portraits. Last week, Michael Reagan and his Fallen Heroes Project were featured on ABC News’ “Standing Up for Heroes” series. You can watch it by clicking here; Standing Up for Heroes: Michael Reagan .

If you know a Fallen Hero in your own community, please follow the link below to request a portrait. Michael does not charge families for these beautiful creations. Donations can be made through his non-profit, tax deductible, 501(c)3 foundation. http://www.fallenheroesproject.org/ .

Drawing Me Home is a multifaceted project. Readers of my newsletter are always the first to know any book news. Thank you for subscribing. We’re in this together – I appreciate your support.

Sincerely,

Karen Fisher-Alaniz

Writing When Life is Difficult: My Advice

As you read in my last post, 2013 has been a difficult year in many ways. It’s not the first time I’ve experienced hard times, and it certainly won’t be the last. It is what it is, no matter what crayon you color it with. Everyone has experienced it in one way or another. For writers it poses a particular struggle.

A few minutes old.

My greatest joy of 2013 – my first granddaughter!

Writers who are self-employed, as most of us are, can’t just stop writing whenever troubles come. We have to keep up a writing schedule. We have to keep writing, keep marketing, and promoting. We must continue to edit, rewrite, and revise. When we fail to do these things, we lose momentum – and that can be a dangerous thing.

 

 

When life’s stresses hit you like a ton of bricks, here’s my advice:

Take a Break – I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but your brain just might need a break. Plus, you probably need the time to deal with the stressful event, and time to take care of yourself as well. So, give yourself permission to take some time off from writing. Look at your current writing projects and what’s going on in your life. Plan to take off anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.

Set a Return Date – Mark it on your calendar, and then stick to it. This will keep your mind free to deal with life, while your calendar keeps track of when you’ll return to writing.

Start Back Slowly – Chances are good that the stress you’ve been going through will have lessened, but it’s probably still there in some way. So, start back slowly, increasing a little every few days.

Prioritize – Do the most difficult tasks first. If that’s sitting down and writing for an hour each day, do that first. If it’s answering emails, working with social media or book promotion – do that first. It’s kind of like cleaning the house – sometimes you just have to start at the back of the house, because you know you’ll always make sure the front of the house gets cleaned anyway.

Make Concrete Goals – When times are tough, weekly goals work better than daily. Weekly goals give you more flexibility to do less on some days, and more on others. Set goals that are measurable; instead of saying, “I’ll write more every day,” say “I’ll write for five hours this week.” Your goals should be clear and succinct.

It is possible to get back to the work of writing, while taking care of yourself and your commitments. So, give yourself a break, prioritize your goals, and get back to writing…one step at a time.

When you’re going through times that take you away from your writing, what helps you get back into the routine? Do share.

 

Crazy-Wonderful Year

What a year 2013 was! How can a year be crazy-difficult and crazy-wonderful all at the same time. I’ll tell you how. I’ll keep this brief, but hopefully it will explain my lack of presence in my online life recently.

My baby son graduated from high school in early June. Hard to believe. Who sneaked in and replaced my baby with that 6’4″ young man that sits across the table from me at dinner? Frightening how fast time goes by – and how it just smacks you upside the head sometimes – just to be sure you’re still paying attention.

On July 19, 2013 I became a gramma (yes, I spell it that way on purpose) for the first time! My beautiful daughter had a beautiful baby girl. I was in the room and I can tell you it was the most difficult experience of my life – seeing my daughter bring her baby into the world. It was also the most joy I have ever experienced – when our baby girl came into the world, I nearly crumbled to the floor with exhausted, yet energized emotion – tears flowing. That joy was compounded when Baby Charlotte Bettye met her namesake, my 84-year old mother, in the delivery room. As hard as it is to move from extreme joy to extreme pain, that’s where my story goes.

In August, my 30-year marriage ended in separation. Soon, the divorce will be final. What I tell people is that, “It was coming for a long time.” And while that’s true, it doesn’t even come close to what happened in our marriage. Our marriage was in trouble for a very long time, but we were masters at hiding it. I won’t go into detail. But I will say that the end, while painful, was also a relief. The separation found me lonely in the very house that once brought joy – but it also found me at peace and strangely feeling a sense of freedom I never expected to feel in my life.

To say that it was a tumultuous year would be an understatement. What does all of this have to do with writing? Well, everything. . . and nothing. More on that in a later post. On January 1, 2014 I began writing down one thing each day that I was thankful for. Similar to a gratitude journal, I write one thing I’m grateful for on a slip of paper and tape it to my full length mirror. My mirror is filling up. It’s a wonderful life. ~Karen

Using Quotes in Your Memoir

“Sometimes quotes come to you organically.” -Karen Fisher-Alaniz

Using quotes in your memoir draws attention to, and supports the truths you are writing about. For my narrative nonfiction book, Drawing Me Home, I’m using a quote from a famous person at the beginning of each chapter.

If you want to do something similar, here’s what I suggest;

Where to find quotes:

There are many websites where you can search for quotes on a particular subject. There are also websites that specialize in quotes by a specific individual. My favorite site right now is brainyquote.com, where you can search by topic, author, or even pictures.

As you narrow down the theme of your memoir, you’ll find that quotes come to you organically. Many of the quotes I have found, came to me that way. As your memoir’s subject becomes more and more focused, so will you. I’ve discovered quotes while watching a television show, on a church billboard, on social media sites – such as Facebook, and so forth.

There are a ton of books out there with quotes in them. Check out your local bookstore, your favorite online website for books, or your city’s library. If you’re ordering a book, without the benefit of holding it in your hands, take advantage of the option to look inside the book. This way, you’ll ensure that you’re ordering a book that is likely to have useful quotes for you. National online stores like Amazon.com as well as independent ones like Powells.com all have this option.

Create a file:

Dedicate a section of your notebook, or a file on your computer, to collecting the quotes you come across. Do not trust your memory. Don’t trust that you’ll remember what the quote was, or where to find it. Our brains just get too full to keep this information.

Recording quotes:

As you write the quote, make sure you verify it was written correctly. Unfortunately, people change quotes to fit what they’re trying to say, all the time – particularly on the internet.

After writing down the quote – double-check to be sure you’ve recorded it correctly. Cut-and-paste it, if possible, since there will be less chance of copy errors.

Jot down a few notes about the quote in brackets [like this]. Include things like where you think it might fit (if you’re that far in your memoir). You’ll also want to note where you found the quote – the name of the website and url (link), or the book title and author’s name. Just for fun, I’ve been doing this even with quotes I find organically. One of them says, “heard on CSI episode.” Seriously.

That’s it. You’re ready to begin collecting quotes. Have fun!

Using Quotes to Enhance Your Writing

Use quotes strategically

Hi. For my current Work-in-Progress, or WIP in writer language, I’ve decided to include quotes from famous people. I’m still working with the structure of the book, but my thought is to include a relevant quote at the beginning of each chapter.

My WIP, Drawing Me Home, is about a Vietnam Veteran and successful artist who gave up everything to dedicate the rest of his life to drawing portraits of Fallen Heroes for their families. It’s an incredible story.

One of my core beliefs about writing is that every word needs to deserve to be in the book. So, as I began looking for quotes, I’ve applied the same rule. Every quote has to deserve to be in the book. But I discovered some other truths along the way. My criteria for including a quote is this;

1. Quote must be relevant to the chapter it precedes.

2. Quote must add to the story in some way.

3. Quote must have a story of its own to tell.

4. The life of the person quoted must fit with the theme of my book.

That’s it. Simple rules and yet necessary. I’m a quote person. I like language and I like knowing what other people have discovered – that’s what quotes do. But to be included in my book, the quote has to be more than just a quote I like, or find inspiration from (and that can be so tempting). It all goes back to this; Every quote has to deserve to be there.

Example: “I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only love.” – Mother Teresa

Many have asked the subject of my book, Michael G. Reagan, how he does what he does from an emotional standpoint. Day after day, hour after hour, he puts himself back into the pain and trauma of war, so that he can give families of the fallen what he can of himself – a beautiful portrait of their loved one. As the quote above says so beautifully – when you give until it hurts, the hurt is lessened and only love remains. That’s what Mike is all about.

As a writer, I could spend chapters, maybe a whole book, explaining that. Or I can use a quote that says it so much better than I ever could.

So, my writerly friends, consider including quotes in your memoir. I’ll talk in another post about how to go about this. What do you think? Have you ever used quotes in your writing? What is your favorite quote?

Michael G. Reagan draws portraits of Fallen Heroes, free of charge to families. If you’d like to know more, visit his website at http://www.fallenheroesproject.org/ .

 

November is National Life Writing Month

That’s right! November is National Life Writing Month. What better way to celebrate than to begin (or continue) writing your life story or memoir. To get you started, here are a few things to check out;

First, check out Sharon Lippincott’s, The Heart and Craft of Life Writing website. In her recent blog post, she explains how Life Writing Month got started.

You may also want to check out Jerry Waxler’s, Memory Writers Network. The site includes a ton of information on memoir writing; a great place to gather inspiration!

And to top it off, head on over to the National Association of Memoir Writers website, where you can sign up for a free telesummit. But be quick about it because it takes place this Friday, November 8th from 10am to 3pm pacific time. Speakers galore – relevant topics. I signed up yesterday, and I can’t wait!

So, what do you say? What are you going to do to make this a great writing month?

 

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