Published in the Rains County Leader on September 1, 2022:
Last week I wrote about the connections I make through my writing – but this week I’m going to share some of my least favorite aspects of being an author. As strange as it may seem, authors tend to be shy and introverted. Who else would spend hours alone, scribbling or typing words that they are afraid no one will read or that someone will read and not like! And we live in fear of several other things as well.
Writer’s block is a dark cloud that hovers in the mind of anyone who ever sits down in front of a blank sheet of paper or a white screen with the intent of filling it with words. At some point we all think something like this. I don’t have any idea what to write! What if my ideas don’t make sense? What if each writer is only allowed a certain number of words in their lifetime, and I’ve already used mine. The thoughts don’t always make sense, but there are plenty of companies and individuals who are willing to offer techniques and cures for fighting or ending these blocks – all for a price, of course. My bouts of writer’s block are usually short-lived, but there are times when my screen is still blank as a deadline looms, and those questions pop into my head.
Once you get past the writer’s block, complete a project, and hit the Send button, you face another dark cloud – REJECTION! Whether you’re submitting a proposal for a doctoral thesis, a short story for inclusion in an anthology, or the manuscript of the great American novel to an agent or a publisher, the process is the same. You beat yourself up because you didn’t edit it one more time – even though you’ve been through it fourteen times already. You check the submission guidelines again to be sure it really said the average response time is six weeks, but you check your inbox every five minutes anyway. After thirty minutes, you sink into a depression, wondering why you ever put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, vowing never to do so again. As the days and weeks drag on, you begin to work on your next project, and you only check your inbox a dozen times a day instead of fifty. When the email finally comes, it says Thank you for your submission, but…, and you add it to your collection, telling yourself you’re one step closer to success.
Published in the Rains County Leader on August 25, 2022:
One of my favorite aspects of being a writer is the connections I make with people through my columns, my blogs, and my books. Many of the connections come electronically through email or social media, and some even come by snail mail. I’ve also met lots of people at book signings, meet-the-author events, and vendor fairs. In May of last year I wrote a column about some of these connections, but I thought I’d share a few more interesting encounters I’ve experienced
In the previous article I shared about the teacher who used my first novel to get two teenaged non-readers interested in the written word. Several years ago another teacher reached out to me, asking if I would answer a list of ten questions her 5th grade class had about being a writer. It’s interesting how, when you help someone, you sometimes end up helping yourself even more. Answering their questions was fun for me, and their questions were so relevant that I often use them as the basis for my presentation when I’m asked to speak about writing.
Some people, however, are more interested in my subjects than the writing itself. In 2017 I received an email from a lady named Becky who was a devoted Kitty fan. She was 80 years old at the time, and her husband was 82. They had recently lost their beloved cat, and reading about Kitty’s antics was a comfort to them. We continued to correspond occasionally for the next eighteen months, but my last email went unanswered. Maybe she lost interest in my columns when Kitty matured and provided less writing material.
Published in the Rains County Leader on January 27, 2022:
The last two weeks have seemed like a mini shut down, at least in my little corner of the world. The schools shut down two extra days over the Martin Luther King weekend for deep cleaning and because one hundred staff members and teachers were absent. The prayer lists grew longer as one family after another reported cases of COVID/Omicron, Cedar Fever, and other forms of upper respiratory distress, and the lunch crowd at the Senior Center was barely into double digits. The Believers’ Baptist Friday Night Home Group was canceled two weeks in a row, Wednesday morning Bible study was canceled last week, and church attendance on January 16 was about half of normal. Then, just about the time David and I were getting back to the gym after his back issues, we missed two weeks while we experienced alternate bouts of sniffles, congestion, and lots of fatigue that led to many unscheduled naps. Some shelves at Brookshire’s were unusually bare, and there were no harried workers in the aisle restocking them – and I began to have flashbacks to the fall of 2020.
It wasn’t all bad, though. During our mini-isolation I made some progress on the to-be-read stack of books on my bedside table, and for those of you who are Tatia fans, I added several chapters to the rough draft of the next book in the series. I caught up on the laundry – although I think I’m now behind again – and did a little bit of early spring cleaning. I didn’t have the energy for anything elaborate in the kitchen, but thanks to my Crock Pot and Instant Pot, we had some really good comfort food and some not-so-good-for us snacks. We watched lots of TV – some good movies and some real stinkers – and Kitty enjoyed snuggling with David on the couch on the really cold days.
Published in the Rains County Leader on May 25, 2021:
Writing is all about communication – about sharing thoughts and ideas through the written word – and about the connections that are made through that sharing. A writer often doesn’t know when those connections happen, but one of my favorite parts of writing is when a reader reaches out through a review, a comment on a blog or Facebook post, or an email to let me know about a connection.
An early connection happened when I was just beginning to be active on social media. Facebook groups had not yet popped up, at least not in the numbers that exist now, so I contributed occasional articles to several independent websites. One article was about my anger as a caregiver. I admitted lashing out in frustration and anger at my Mom when I first began caring for her only to realize later that my anger, and the underlying fear, were really about the Alzheimer’s that was taking her away from me in a way I could neither understand nor control.
Shortly after the article went live, I received a comment from a young woman whose mother had suffered a fatal heart attack many years before when she was a teenager. The older daughter had driven them all to the hospital, and the teen was confused by her sister’s apparent anger at her mother. After the mother’s death, the sisters were not completely estranged, but they never talked about the situation, and their relationship had not been the same. After reading my article, the younger woman approached her sister, and they talked. After exploring their feelings and reactions on that night that had changed their lives so many years before, healing began and their relationship was restored. Although we exchanged a few more comments, we didn’t strike up a friendship. Still, those written words established a point of connection based our similar experiences.
Published in the Rains County Leader on September 10, 2019:
Knowing a writer can be dangerous. You never know when you’ll see yourself in print. I learned that when my son Christian wrote his first novel at 16 years old. I recognized myself in the over-protective mother who woke her son each morning with a cheerful Good morning, sunshine. Over the years I’ve seen my politics and religion displayed to the world. I’ve cringed as my failed marriage was discussed, and I’ve cried when he thanked me in one of his first published books for showing him what it means to be a person of faith. There’s always payback though. He showed up a lot in my memoir and even more often in my blog. Maybe that’s why I started to write. As the saying goes, don’t get mad, get even.
When I began to write my first book, I worried about what people would think if I wrote about them. That’s part of being a co-dependent, always wanting everybody to be happy. My memoirs aren’t of the Mommy, Dearest type, but the people in my life aren’t perfect. When writing about real people, I never write in anger, and I write gently but truthfully, following the Apostle Paul’s admonition to speak the truth in love.
That kind of writing can be difficult when the subject is caregiving. Dad would have been mortified to know that I wrote about his hygiene issues, and Mom would have been embarrassed for people to know that she sometimes put four socks on one foot and two on the other. But that was part of the truth about caregiving, and I told my stories in hopes that other caregivers would be encouraged to know they’re not alone, inspired to continue living in spite of hardships, and maybe even be amused by some of the ridiculous situations that dementia causes. Based on the responses I’ve received, those hopes have been realized.
So far I’ve not had any complaints from people who have become part of any of my books. Hopefully, that means I haven’t offended anyone and not that they are quietly plotting revenge. As I’ve expanded my writing platform to include frequent blogs and a weekly newspaper column, I’ve received much more feedback from people who recognize themselves in print. Responses range from an excited I made the paper to an increased discretion in my presence. One particularly long conversation at the Senior Center about what kind of screws one of the guys was going to purchase at Hooten’s after lunch ended up as a City Girl column. For a while after that, any time someone started to say something interesting, the speaker would look at me with caution and say, “Don’t write about this.” One of the most direct confrontations I’ve had, though, came one evening several years ago.
“It’s for you,” David said as he held his cell phone out to me.
I knew who it had to be. It was our RV friend who always calls just as we’re sitting down to dinner. But why did he want to talk to me instead of to David?
“Hi,” I said. “What up?”
“Shame on you for quoting me in your blog,” he said.
“But I didn’t use your name,” I said.
“Right, but I know what I said.”
I heard a smile in his voice and laughed with him.
“I was just reading your blog and had to call you. Go enjoy your dinner, and I’ll talk to you later.”
I’ve continued to write about what I know and who I know. And to my dear RV friend, here you are once again – and no, I’m not ashamed. I’ll make you a promise. If you decide to become a writer, feel free to write about me as long as you speak the truth in love. I promise not to get mad – but I might get even. And one more word of warning – since I’ve expanded my repertoire to include fiction, I have other weapons in my arsenal. If you make me mad, I’ll write you into one of my books as the main villain, and I’ll kill you off!
Today I have a visitor – Alice Patron, author of Rachel’s Valley. She stopped by to tell me and my readers a little bit about herself and about her book, released by Anaiah Press under their Romance imprint on February 26. Here’s a picture of the beautiful cover, a link where you can find the book, and a little bit about the story.
Not long after saying “I do,” Rachel Wood finds herself abandoned by her husband in a mining town in the West. After a year and a half of waiting for his return, she needs to move on. She responds to an ad in the newspaper and becomes the caretaker for two girls in the small town of Breckenridge, Colorado.
The moment he sees the beautiful young woman climbing into his wagon, widower Clint Harvey second-guesses his decision to hire someone to teach his daughters. But Rachel Wood is just what his girls need. And it doesn’t take long to realize that she is exactly what he needs, too—if only she didn’t keep holding him at arm’s length.
Clint is the only man who has ever shown Rachel true love and friendship, and it becomes almost unbearable to not let herself fall for him. But she doesn’t want to cause a scandal in such a small town, so she keeps her marital status under wraps. But when she finally receives a threatening letter from her “husband,” she begins to question whether her marriage was even legally binding in the first place. Now, she must unravel the status of her supposed marriage before her chance of happiness with Clint has passed—and follow God’s law no matter that outcome, which just might be the most difficult thing of all.
Welcome, Alice. Your cover is beautiful, and your story sounds intriguing. Now let’s talk about you. When did you first begin to write?
My sister published a regency romance novel about four years ago, which got me thinking about how much I’d love to write. A few of us in the family started meeting weekly to write together. Rachel’s Valley came about because of the support and encouragement of family and friends, but especially from those I’ve been meeting with.
That’s an interesting way to begin a writing career. Is Rachel’s Valley your first book? And do you have other books in progress or in your head?
I wrote a YA fantasy novel before starting on Rachel’s Valley. It was a fun learning experience. I’m not sure if I’ll get back to that book someday, but I also have a couple other stories floating around in Google docs. One of those is a novella that’s a modern retelling of the Daddy Long Legs story. One story I’ve started is another historical romance set in the west. I’m also collaborating on a WWII romance. I’ve got plenty to keep me busy!
It certainly sounds like it! What inspired you to write Rachel’s Valley?
I love hiking in the west, and I love the history and geography of the west. In my opinion, it’s a very romantic setting! I can look up and see the Rocky Mountains every day, so my inspiration was all around me.
Having traveled in the mountains quite a bit, I can understand how you feel about them. Who has been your favorite character, and who was the most difficult to write?
Rachel’s sister Edith was probably my favorite character to write. The most difficult was probably Clint – I wanted his voice to be his own, but it was hard to put myself in the shoes of a widower.
Yes, I imagine that would be difficult. Did you have to do any research for Rachel’s Valley?
I did have to do a little research for Rachel’s Valley. From geography, to history, to railroads, ranching, and mining, I had to consult Mr. Google several times while writing. I actually didn’t mind the research aspect too much though – I learned some interesting things!
I’ve had similar experiences – and I wonder how authors managed to complete a project without the Internet! In spite of research and planning, scenes sometimes don’t go where you expect them to go, and characters don’t act the way you intend them to act. Have you experienced anything like that in writing Rachel’s Valley?
This is a frustrating aspect of writing for me. I’d love to make a very detailed outline then flesh it out. I still make outlines, but they inevitably change. The picnic scene, for example, didn’t end how I originally planned.
Now I can’t wait to read the picnic scene! When is your favorite time to write and where is your favorite writing place?
I don’t get to write when and where I would like. I’m usually writing on my phone when I have a spare minute or two. Apparently, kids need lots of attention! If I could have my way, I’d love to write in the mornings while snuggled up in bed with a laptop and yummy snacks.
Writing would be easier if we lived in a bubble, wouldn’t it? What do you hope your readers will take away from Rachel’s Valley?
Life is hard and messy, but the hard things we face can build our faith and strength. I wanted to write strong characters with faith that overcome hard things and in the end find love and happiness. I want readers to feel like they can get through hard things and hope for the good things to come.
From what I know about Rachel’s Valley, it seems like you have achieved your goal. What is your next project?
I’m hoping to finish a rough draft by the end of the year on a WWII romance.
Best of luck with that project and with Rachel’s Valley, and thank you so much for stopping by for a visit.
About the author:
Alice Patron grew up in a small town in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. During college she served for her church in Chile, studied abroad, and did an internship for the forest service. She worked as a pharmacy technician until becoming a stay-at-home mom, her favorite job of all!
Published in the Rains County Leader on January 29, 2019:
This past week was pretty busy for a retired lady. The one thing I did notice is that the days more or less ran together. Several people had told me to expect that phenomenon, but I didn’t expect it so soon. If it hadn’t been for several appointments and a couple of regular events, I might have lost track of time altogether.
Monday was a holiday, so the Senior Center wasn’t open. David and I spent the day in house pants and sweat shirts and watched a lot of TV. I did clean out one kitchen cabinet where an avalanche of koozies and “go” cups threatened to fall on my head every time I opened the door. I filled a box with the extras and took them to the Good Samaritan Thrift Store later in the week, and we still have plenty to choose from. In the process, I found several measuring cups and a funnel that I didn’t know I had. Later in the week I cleaned out my side of the closet. I’ll spare you the details, but I can now stand in the closet without kicking empty hangers out of the way, and I have to make another trip to the Thrift Store. (more…)
Published in the Rains County Leader on January 21, 2019:
Thursday was my last day of work at Believers’ Baptist. Actually I hadn’t been doing much work since the week before when I began training my replacement Lissa Grady. On her first day it was obvious that she was highly qualified, and all I had to do was point her in the right direction and get out of the way. By last week, I was going into the office for only an hour or two each day to answer questions. After spending about thirty minutes with her on Thursday, I knew she didn’t need me anymore.
“My work here is done,” I announced dramatically. “I’ve taught you everything I know.” (more…)
Published in the Rains County Leader on December 18, 2018:
I opened my Facebook account ten years ago when one of my friends sent me an invitation. I didn’t really know much about social networking, but my friend lured me in with the promise of pictures of her grandchildren. After looking at those sweet faces, I was hooked.
I was working on my first book at the time, and when I was told by those who know that it is imperative for the modern author to be active on social media, my future was set. A decade later, I am not only active on Facebook, but I also have a blog and accounts on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, and several other sites. (more…)
Published in the Rains County Leader on September 4, 2018:
I tried to think of a topic other than my health for my column this week, but there’s little else going on in my life right now. I’m almost three weeks post-surgery, and the worst of the initial trauma has past. Over-the-counter pain meds and a gel cold pack take care of most of the pain, and physical therapy has settled into a manageable routine. It’s still painful and hard work, but I’m making progress, and I’ve cancelled the contract on my therapist. Still, I have almost four weeks until my next appointment with my doctor when he will hopefully release me from my sling, and the little inconveniences of having my dominant hand bound up are driving me crazy. (more…)
The story of a lonely, innocent girl who gets tangled up in the sex trafficking trade in a small Texas town. It’s about her relationship with Eric, a slick suburban pimp; Jesse, a Christian tattoo artist and motorcycle rider; and Mrs. G, a compassionate but tough attorney and foster parent.