Friday, July 18, 2014

Please Join Me


This blog is no longer being updated, but if you enjoy short essays about life, come join me at
http://www.julieluek.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Finding a Place For Your Words

Hi, allow me to take a few minutes of your reading time and reduce the complexity of your life to a mere circle.
This is your life (well, at least for the purposes of this post).

Actually this is a visual I employed when I was a career counselor at a college. The idea of the circle goes something like this: In your life there are many dimensions, sometimes they all are manifested in varying degrees, sometimes only a few pieces may exist.
Now let’s take a look at what those pieces may be:
Career:  Most people place a lot of emphasis on their career, and with good reason. If you work full-time, you probably will be spending 40+ hours of your life, per week, here. You want it to be a fulfilling and a good match for your interests, values, and skills. The problem is, we can place so much importance on the all-mighty career being our source of fulfillment, we sometimes place impossible expectations on this piece and forget there are other aspects to our life.
Family: For some people, a big chunk of their life-pie is family—immediate family, relatives, partners, children, etc. This section of our life may come and go in importance depending on where we’re at in our life, and can be our mainstay in relationships, a source of joy, or sometimes a source of angst.
Community: This is an area in our life where we get the chance to be involved with our community. Here is where we might serve as a volunteer, or participate in politics, or a grassroots project—almost anything with a community outlook and a way to contribute to the greater good.
Avocation: An avocation is like an intense hobby or maybe even a second career. For example, I know a man who is a pastor by vocation, but a terrific caricature artist as an avocation. He’s so good, he has a side business selling his portraits. This is more than a hobby—drawing pictures—and yet it’s not his main career. It’s his avocation.
Hobby/Leisure: This is the area most of us are familiar with—the activities we pursue because they give us pleasure.
Spiritual: I won’t attempt to define this for people, but suffice it to say it can take many forms and meanings for different people.
When I’m working with someone struggling to choose a major or career option, I remind the student that a career was never meant to fulfill all our needs; it just can’t bear that burden. That’s why it’s important to understand there are other avenues to feed our sense of fulfillment.

So why am I devoting an article about writing to this little career tool? Because the joy of writing is that it can fit into so many different areas in our lives! 
Writing has always been a part of my life, sometimes as a hobby--keeping journals and experimenting with creative writing--other times, as an avocation—publishing articles and actually getting paid. Recently, I volunteered with our local literary journal, produced by our arts center, as a co-editor (community). Writing is even a form of meditation and prayer for me (spiritual).
A few years ago I had the opportunity to “take the leap” and try writing as a full-time career. I threw myself into finding my voice, getting published where and how I could, earning money from my writing (not a living, mind you), started blogs, learned the whole platform gig, and made the declaration, “I am a writer!” It was scary and exhilarating and very exciting.
Life's journey, as it will sometimes do, is taking me on a new path. It’s time to reexamine the circle of my life and where and how the pieces are fitting together. It’s time to look at shifting the role of writing out of the career spotlight and into other areas of my life. I’m so excited to find out where and how my writing will show itself now because I know this: I love to write. It will always be a part of my circle. And who knows? It may even find its way into a career position again when I’m older. (One of my writing heroes published her first book after retirement!)
One of the manifestations of the life change I’m making is that I will no longer keep A Thought Grows as a blog. I’m so honored to have been a part of your journeys and thankful you have walked with me on this road. It sure made the trek a lot less lonely.
No matter where writing fits in your life-- and it may shift and change throughout your life--keep the joy, and whatever you do…
Keep Writing!
Julie

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Meet Anna Soliveres, Author of "Violet Storm"

This is Anna Soliveres. Yes, she really is this beautiful.

I don't want to brag or anything, but I've been friends with Anna for almost three years. Not only is she a talented writer, but she's an amazingly sweet, smart, caring, creative, and fun person to know. I pride myself on excellent discernment when it comes to fine human beings.


Anna is ambitious and determined too. She wrote and self-published this:

VIOLET STORM follows the story of a gifted athlete, struck down by lightning on the eve of her biggest championship victory. What comes next is the unraveling of a post-apolocalyptic world already on the verge of bedlam as they fight against a deadly disease known as vaincre. The only cure against vaincre is a procedure known as Modification--turning humans into artificial beings called Modi's. But the brilliant surgeon who developed this technology has gone rogue with his procedures and the Monarchy is desperate to shut him down. That's where Aeva comes in. Aeva is the surgeon's secret weapon against the Monarchy. After reconstructing her body to become a Modi unlike any he's ever created, Aeva is forced into a fight against all odds. She'll have to break loyalties, hurt family, and turn her back on newly awakened love. Thousands of lives hang in the balance in a battle that will set forth a new era. Join Aeva on her quest to see whether she's got what it takes to go up against the most powerful humans ever created.


Join Aeva on her quest to see whether she's got what it takes to go up against the most powerful humans ever created


Sounds awesome right? You should buy it at Amazon because it's only $4.99 and a must-read for summer for the "in crowd".

Anna will be famous someday, probably doing interviews on Oprah, but I swooped in to be the first at an exclusive interview with her. Oprah-Shmoprah. You can read this interview and see for yourself how fantastic she is and then feel smug that you "knew her when" too.

Anna's Tell-All (OK really, Tell-Some) Interview


What is your ideal writing setting—music, silence, coffee shop, pajamas….?

My ideal writing space is at home on my favorite desk, listening to music, with my legs propped up. At home, I have an endless supply of coffee, and a bed nearby for when I’m ready to collapse after a good, long writing session. 

Oh my gosh, look how neat she is! She has CLEAN desk space.


Your current book and also your future planned YA series focus on wonderfully rich fantasy worlds. Where have you found inspiration?

I have found inspiration everywhere, from books to movies, and anime. My mind watches and reads and my imagination just runs wild with how these worlds might look like if I had the chance to create them. Now that I’ve grown as a writer, I’ve begun to understand more of the elements needed to fuse together a story full of intrigue set in a vibrant world.

Your current book, “Violet Storm” features a strong woman lead. Over the years, having known you, I find you to be one of those strong, beautiful women.  How do you hope readers view Aeva?

Aww, thank you Julie! (Smiles widely.) Aeva is a reflection of me in my teens. Back then I was a jock, playing tennis and softball, winning MVP awards, and becoming team captain. I was a victim of bullying most of my early elementary years all the way through middle school, and finally in early high school. But it stopped once I became a focused athlete. I had a confidence that stemmed from physical strength and a feeling that I had something unique, and finally, I was stronger than the bullies. But what I deeply lacked, I wanted to give to Aeva: an unparalleled command of her sport. Unlike me, Aeva doesn’t choke when it counts, she exceeds on a level I could only have imagined as an athlete. I want readers to see themselves in Aeva, to root for her above and beyond sports, that although she’s one heck of an athlete, she’s paid a terrible price for it.
This is Anna smiling widely. She just lights up, doesn't she?
She doesn't know I lifted this picture from Facebook. Shhh... don't tell her. 


I’ve known you for several years (three?) and know you have been on quite the personal journey. Without getting too revealing or intrusive, how much did the emotions you experienced and your own happy ending influence your story and characters?

Yes! And I can’t thank you enough for your continued faith, for your friendship, and encouragement all these years. Truly! I’d have to say that I’m thankful for the hardship these last few years. I finally began to ask myself who I was. And as I transitioned into my new life, I have found a wealth of human understanding. From anger, to resentment, to joy, and unconditional love. To lean on faith and to communicate beyond words to a God I’d only ever seen as an imaginary being, and to finally believe in him and in me. I feel like the characters I’m creating have so much more depth because I have a better understanding of their motives, their passions, and their psyche. I now have a wider range of characters and the philosophy I’ve learned from my experiences gives them an intellect I hadn’t known prior to the challenges in my life. 

What is the part of writing that you most enjoy? What aspect is your Achilles heel?

I enjoy the creativity in it. I enjoy seeing a “film”—a scene playing out in my head where there was once nothing. Finishing each chapter makes me whoop with excitement! A feeling of I can’t believe I just came up with that! It’s so much harder now that I have to ask so many more questions of my characters and of the story: where it needs to go, where my characters need to be. Ahhh, the challenge is on a whole new level. My Achilles heel is when life gets tough: jobs, relationships, and health. Worries end up eating too much of my creativity and the problem solver in me, won’t let me rest until it’s fixed. I am at my writing best when the world around me is mostly free from complications. A happy life makes of me a happy, productive writer.

And just because it’s fun to get to know you a little more, what is your guilty pleasure (or at least one you’re willing to share)?

My guilty pleasure includes: chocolates, Disneyland, international traveling, bottles of wine, and did I mention chocolate?
I lifted this sans permission, too. But proof positive she loves chocolate. Just look at that face!


What is something on your bucket list?

My bucket list is long. But my biggest wish is to start my own family. Mr. Right finally found me, and I intend to have my happily ever after, complete with little Anna’s and mischievous monsters…Soon! Perhaps in two years. J There’s no greater pleasure I can imagine, than being a mother. I already feel like one to my fictional characters, but I can’t exactly hug and squeeze them, or blow raspberries on their tummies…

Mr. Right (Yup, downloaded from Facebook...why start asking permission now?)

Thanks, Anna, for letting folks get to know you and allowing me to take liberties with your Facebook photos!

Now, go buy her book. 


About the author: Anna Soliveres has always been a storyteller but it wasn't until her early twenties when she began writing novel length works. The result was an enthusiasm to get better at the craft until her work could be shared with the world. Releasing in March 2014, Violet Storm is her debut novel. Anna is currently working on another young adult science fiction series, titled Snow Dolls, set to release in late 2014.

To learn more, please visit her at www.annasoliveres.com.
Connect with Anna on Facebook!
Connect with Anna on Twitter!






Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Margo L. Dill: Staying True To Your Story

I've had the pleasure of knowing Margo Dill for several years through WOW's (Women On Writing) blog, The Muffin., where she regularly contributes. I also follow her over at The Literary Ladies, where she teams up with a group of talented writers sharing their hearts through their posts. Margo's latest book, Caught Between Two Curses, is recently released and an ideal read for young readers (and, ahem us "older" readers too). 

I'm delighted to host her today as she shares her publishing conundrum: how much do you compromise your story to have it published? Thanks, Margo!


Writing the Story In ME VS Wanting to Eat

By Margo L. Dill

I’ve never been at the point where my writing solely had to provide food for my family. But writers are known to be dramatic, so just bear with me as I share with the choices I made with my newly released young adult novel, Caught Between Two Curses (Rocking Horse Publishing, March 2014).

I wrote this novel to explore several topics: teenage sex, peer pressure, friendship, high school cliques, baseball, the Cubs Curse, family relationships, destiny and fate. Once I wrote the story, I had it critiqued several times by two critique groups, and I took part in a slush pile read at a writing conference, too. I learned a lot! The novel was revised multiple times, and then it was finally ready for an agent or big New York editor.

Here’s the part where I had to decide: Do I want to tell the story in me or make money? Caught Between Two Curses is the story of 17-year-old Julie Nigelson whose long-time boyfriend wants to have sex, but she’s not ready. It’s also the story of how Julie must break the two curses on her family and save her uncle from death before his 35th birthday. It’s also the story of Julie trying to find love and negotiate through family relationships, including with an estranged and illiterate grandmother.  Is there baseball in it? Yes! Is it a baseball story? No.

But I couldn’t seem to get agents and editors to understand this. One told me, “Your plot makes no sense. How can curses be connected? What does this have to do with the Cubs? Does anybody know about the Cubs? Do girls read about baseball?” Ummmm. . .well, clearly you are not the one for this book.

Another agent told me that I needed to 1. Not kill Julie’s parents before the book starts (which they are actually killed by the curse) 2. Not have Julie question her feelings toward her best male friend (Isn’t this realistic and pretty common?)  3. I can’t even remember all the other plot changes this girl told me to make; but in the end she said if I did them, she would consider taking a look at my book. Ummmm. . .okay, so I want to eat, but I don’t want to write your novel.

So, what did I do? I started another, completely different novel—actually two more—and kept going to conferences and revising chapter one of Caught Between Two Curses, making it shine. Then I met a publisher who did understand my book and wanted to publish it! Yes, I get to eat now.

What did I learn? A career in writing takes hard work, improving my craft, revising my manuscript, evaluating feedback. But once I’m sure of my project, then I’m not changing it for anybody. I will keep working to find the right person to publish it, so that I can be proud of the story I WANT TO TELL—the story in me.

Has anyone tried to change your story? How does your career/salary affect your writing choices?

To check out Caught Between Two Curses, visit Amazon.com where it’s available as a print or e-book OR Indiebound.org and Barnes and Noble, where it’s a print copy.  

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 


Margo L. Dill is a children’s author, freelance editor, and workshop leader, living in St. Louis, MO. She is also the author of the historical fiction, middle-grade novel, Finding My Place: One Girl’s Strength at Vicksburg (White Mane Kids, 2012) and the forthcoming picture books, Maggie Mae, Detective Extraordinaire and the Case of the Missing Cookies and Lucy and the Red Ribbon Week Adventure. Caught Between Two Curses is her first young adult novel. She promises that she is a Cardinals’ fan at heart, but the Billy Goat curse on the Chicago Cubs is too irresistible for a plot line.  Find out more: http://margodill.com/blog/

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Power of Words

When I first started writing, I had goals: start a blog, be published, build a platform. Sure as writers, we are focused on our latest or next project—the book we want to complete, the idea that is tumbling in our heads finding its polish, or the article we want to query.  But it’s not all about us, all the time. Many writers I know are also very aware of giving back. They believe there is a way to use their words--their gift--to help others.

A few writers I know have donated short stories or articles to anthologies where the proceeds go towards a cause. One such example, Overcoming Adversity: An Anthology for Andrew, is a collection of short stories, poems, and essays all about facing life’s struggles. The proceeds were donated to the college fund of a fellow writer whose son struggled with the devastating effects of cerebral palsy. Unfortunately although the young man lost his battle, the sales will continue to help others.  

Another example is the anthology, Beyond the Binding: Composers for Relief Companion Collection, a collection of stories written by 29 writers across the globe. This time the money generated is all donated to the ongoing relief efforts in the Philippines.

I am fortunate to know many of the writers in both collections. No one had to twist their arms to donate their time, talents, and words. They gave because they knew their ability and love of writing were gifts to be shared, not just horded for their own gain.

Over the past several weeks, I have been donating my time towards a local literary journal. It will never see a web page in Amazon or raise money towards a cause. It’s just a small magazine, put together by local artists in my small, mountain town. This year, the journal partnered with our local headwaters grassroots organization to promote the value of water conservation. I contributed a short essay, but more important to me, I had the honor of helping with the editing tasks.

It was such a fantastic experience. Instead of just reading dry reports on the water levels of our valley or attending a lecture on the issues of declining rainfall and increasing population and irrigation needs, readers will get to experience and feel the importance and beauty of the rivers, lakes, and irrigation needs of our valley and beyond. Gorgeous, lush photographs captured rafters, kayaks, fly fishing, icy rivers snaking through snow, a sunset glancing off the mountains and mirrored in a lake. Poems described the soul-renewing value of the river, the joy of catch and release, the music and magic of rushing water. Essays spoke of farmers, boaters, dogs splashing in water, fly fishing metaphors, and silently paddling through still waters.  

Art does more than inform: it engages emotions, thoughts, and imagination. This is why it is such a vital ingredient to change

Not all the writing was professional, but it didn’t matter.  We did our best to include at least one selection from everyone who contributed. The end product will be a loving collection by local talent. Not only did I get first glance at submissions, but the experience taught me a lot about pulling a layout like this together and allowed me to hone my sorely lacking editing skills (yes, I flipped through my Strunk and White more than once).

There’s an old Sunday School song about shining our light. One of the verses says:
Hide it under a bushel, no!
I’m going to let it shine!

So my writing friends, in the midst of making sure you’re getting down your 3000 words for the day, editing for the umpteenth time those stubborn chapters, or crafting a carefully worded query, I challenge you to think about how writers have the power and influence to change thoughts, events, and to truly make a difference.

Let your talent shine.



Note: This post will also be published on She Writes

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Mac Wheeler And The Release of Book 24!


This is not the first time I have featured Mac Wheeler here. The first time was for his visually lush blog featuring his photographs of his walk-abouts in Florida.  

This time, however, I'm focusing on the release of his 24th book. That's right, 24th! 

Amazingly, besides penning 24 books, Mac designs all his own covers. I know he's very particular about the design and font used, so I asked him to share with all of us who might be, or who have ever self-published, to talk about his cover design process. Thanks, Mac!

Available here!

One Indie's Cover Process

One Indie's Cover Process

If you can afford it…find someone with a good record putting together stellar covers for your genre. 'Cause DIY covers ain't for everybody.

I'm an Indie who has transitioned from using the services of designers to doing it all myself. Hey, there ain't much money in authorin', so I can't spend a ton on covers, and after penning 24 novels, my wallet would be flatter than it is already if I didn't start studying. So, if you're really cheap like me:

Stock: Expect to spend a lot of time scouring the ether for art and photos. Dependent upon the genre, not just the tone, theme of your writing, and the age of your reader. I think
http://www.deviantart.com/ and canstockphoto.com open by themselves when I start my browser. There are actually shutter bugs out there that will allow you to use their photos for free. There are tons of sites…I've found connections on Flickr. The good news, if you write a genre that requires more dynamic covers like horror or SF…there are artists you can commission for about two hundred bucks. That's a deal.

Tool Set: If you don't have some graphics/art savvy to start with, this will be your biggest hurdle. Because of my technical background, I rely on Visio a lot. I've been doing photography for a while, so I've had an excuse to play with the photo tools out there. I prefer Corel's PaintShop Pro. I've tried Adobe's Elements. I find the X6 version of Corel's product the easiest to use. Getting to a point where these work for you takes loads of time.

Typography: This isn't as easy as you'd think. You'll need some studying…take a lot of time comparing fonts, sizes, bold, italic, serif, sans…all tied to the genre. (I'll refer you to
CreativeIndie blog on the topic) Get familiar with http://www.dafont.com/. Typography is as hard as finding the right stock. It takes time to find what combinations work together, for the particular genre and mood. I have seen so many bad combinations I can't even tell you. (My earliest were probably the worst put on an e-book.)

Composition: Simply stated, it is all art. Not as much science as I wish to this element. Do you have an artistic eye? Position. Color schemes. White space. Color bleed. Making it work in thumbnail. I could blather on. My earliest attempts were so stinking campy…I can't even tell you. Find stock and art that fits as-is in the space. Most of the collages I've seen did not sell the piece. Keep the composition as clean as possible. The first glimpse a possible reader will have of your book will likely be as a thumbnail.

A real designer could expound upon these four elements and add a dozen more. I frankly don't recommend DIY. Being cheap like me is bad. You wouldn't want your house to burn down because of your poor wiring skills…so it ain't great to step in as your own cover designer. But if you're independently minded…expect to spend months putting together the skills to make it work.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

R. Mac Wheeler lives in Florida where there are sane winters. He writes speculative fiction, fantasy, SF, suspense, and paranormal with a twist, including eight series from YA with ogres and trolls, grittier vampire and werewolf noir, and a traditional family saga. Two stand-alone novels are screaming for their own series, with outlines waiting to be fleshed out. Visit him here:






Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Interview At Chiseled in Rock

This man:
Gusto Dave Jackson

Who Wrote this:

(Which is a really, REALLY, good read, by the way- you should buy it here.)

...invited me over to his blog Chiseled in Rock to talk about my essay in: 



(Which, OK, you can buy here, just in time for Mother's Day!)

Thanks Dave and CIR friends for your kindness and support.