Save Thyme & Avoid Common Mistakes — The Beginning

In my first article, Save Thyme and Avoid Common Mistakes, I discussed the importance of attending writers’ conferences and a common newbie mistake — pitching a book that was not written. This next article will focus on the beginning — the beginning of your book, your writing career, and essential tools of the trade.

Save Thyme & Avoid Common Mistakes — The Beginning

If you don’t take into consideration the two years my story brewed in my mind, this first writers conference was my beginning. If you can get into a clinic at a writers’ conference, I highly recommend it. It’s intense, and you get one-on-one assistance with an experienced writer, agent, editor… . This input is invaluable.

Because your application for a clinic typically includes the first 15 pages, you want to make sure those 15 pages are the absolute best they can be. Write, rewrite, and write again. Have others read it and see if you have a writer friend who can also give you input (more on writers’ groups and critique groups later). When you think it’s there, set it aside for as long as possible (I prefer a week) so that you see it with fresh eyes, and read it out loud. It’s amazing what your ears catch that your eyes miss.

CCWC: Estes Rock Banner 2016

Although my manuscript was not written, I did write the first 15 pages to apply to a beginners fiction clinic that was team taught by two well-known authors. The beginning is always critical to capture your audience, whether it’s an agent, publisher or your reader. I realized during this particular clinic that I was chosen not because of my story (the first 15 pages did not reveal much), but because of the mistakes I made in the beginning. Nothing I had grabbed my reader — not the title nor the first sentence, first paragraph, or first page. Nada.

supernatural, fog, night, writing, publishing, story, fiction, novel, mistakes, writing mistakes, Thyme for Writers, journey, Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado, agents, editors, craft, skills, writers conference, tools, titles
The Supernatural – Fact or Fiction? Night Fog …

This first clinic got my act together. At the start of this clinic, we went around the room reading our first sentences. The rule — NEVER begin a book with the weather. Most of us did. Think about how you choose a book, whether it’s your next library choice or book to buy.

Most people:
  • Check the title. Does it sound interesting?
  • Read the back cover copy. Still interested?
  • Open the book to the first page and read the first sentence. Still interested?
  • Read the first paragraph, and maybe even the first page. Getting it?
Writers’ Tools
writing, publishing, story, fiction, novel, mistakes, writing mistakes, Thyme for Writers, journey, Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado, agents, editors, craft, skills, writers conference, tools, titles
The Author Toolbox

 

This first conference also gave me a glimpse into what type of tools of the trade would make my life easier. Instead of sharing what I learned here, I recommend a more comprehensive source that’s tried and true — The Author Toolbox by Candee Fick.

 

 

The Title
Hidden Bloodlines, romantic suspense, Colorado Rockies, Karen Van Den Heuvel
Hidden Bloodlines

 

I needed a catchy and unique title. First, I brainstormed a list of 10 titles. Next, I did the research necessary to assure none of those titles were already taken in previously published works. I created survey sheets and waited outside each service at my church one weekend and asked people to choose and rank their top 3 titles. An overwhelming majority chose Hidden Bloodlines as their top choice.

 

I threw out my first chapter and started over. My first sentence went from the weather to:  “Victoria prosecuted the wrong man.”

What captures your interest?

The Wedding Planner — When Books Don’t Work for the Book Worm

wedding, wedding planner, books, Hidden Bloodlines, wedding budget, Stanley Hotel, Christmas, Christmas wedding, budget, checklist, timeline, organization, organization tips, library
Loveland Public Library
Author Showcase

In the first article of this series, When the Book Worm Is the Wedding Planner, we established that I am first and foremost a book worm, whether it be reading or writing books. It’s reasonable for the book worm to go to her local library, peruse the wide assortment of books, and select two of the most comprehensive books as a guide toward a successful wedding. Right? That’s just what I did, but as I was reminded, never assume anything. A noted law school professor wrote the word “ASSUME” on the board the first day of class and then added hyphens after the second “s” and the “u” and said, “That’s what assuming does.” And, that’s just what it did. Hence the title, “The Wedding Planner — When Books Don’t Work for the Book Worm.”

Why Didn’t the Books Work?

If I suffered from panic attacks (which thankfully I do not), I would have had a big one. Yes, these books were thick, detailed, and quite comprehensive, but that was just part of the problem. The other part was that according to the books, I was too late…

wedding, wedding planner, books, Hidden Bloodlines, wedding budget, Stanley Hotel, Christmas, Christmas wedding, budget, checklist, timeline, organization, organization tips, library, too late
The Wedding Planner — When Books Don’t Work for the Book Worm
Too late to book
  • the church
  • the ideal setting for the reception
  • the DJ
  • the photographer
  • the videographer

And, too late to

  • have formal wedding invitations printed.

Whew. What a downer that was. Next, I returned the books, but not before I made my checklist.

A Critical Tool

wedding, wedding planner, books, Hidden Bloodlines, wedding budget, Stanley Hotel, Christmas, Christmas wedding, budget, checklist, timeline, organization, organization tips, libraryThe books did prove helpful to give me an idea of what I was up against. As a business lawyer, checklists are my strength. Checklists are critical to make sure deadlines are met and nothing falls through the cracks. Since I already missed the boat for their timeline, I had to create my own and pray it would all come together.

Additionally, most of these books assumed (there’s that word again) an unlimited or large wedding budget. Since our focus was always education, I got creative in finding ways to get the best out of our limited wedding budget.

What’s your preferred organizational tool?

When the Book Worm Is the Wedding Planner

I confess to being a book worm, not a wedding planner. When my daughter announced her engagement and followed it with, “You’ll have to handle everything Mom, I trust you…,” my voice crackled and I had difficulty breathing. “Are you sure you want ME to handle it?”

wedding, time, medical student, white coat
Medical Student

As a fourth year medical student on rotations that kept her in the hospital most of each day, she had no time. My sister inherited those event planning skills from our mother, not me. The problem was that the wedding would be in Colorado, and my husband and I with our son were the only ones here. My daughter had no choice, and neither did I.

wedding, wedding planner, books, Hidden Bloodlines, wedding budget, Stanley Hotel, Christmas, Christmas wedding
Wedding Planners
                           My Sister and My Mom
A Little Background

So that you can better understand my dilemma, I’ll share a brief story of a time when my daughter was just 4 years old and I was the Senior Attorney for a national organization located in 33 states.

A Little Background

I typically wore a suit, however, on this particular day I wore a knit sweater/skirt set. Although my daughter and mother had spent the day together, my daughter was dropped off prior to us leaving for a family dinner at an upscale restaurant. When my mother left, my 4 year old turned to me and said, “Mommy, you’re not planning on wearing that tonight are you?” When I answered in the affirmative, she responded, “No, mommy. That won’t work. Follow me.” She led me to my closet where she picked out a suit for me and I changed. “That’s better… .”

When we entered the restaurant, the first thing out of my mother’s mouth was, “Thank God you changed that awful outfit.”

The Start of Planning a Wedding

This is the daughter that trusted ME with planning every detail of her formal wedding. “God help me!” I prayed… . The first thing I did was go to the library and check out 2 of their best books on planning a wedding — what else would a book worm do, right?

With the most popular month for weddings just 6 months away, I thought this was the ideal time to share those do’s and don’ts of planning the perfect wedding, even if things don’t go exactly as planned. And just as important, is planning that elegant wedding within a smaller than desired budget. Stay tuned for those essential tips, tricks, and money saving ideas…

wedding, wedding planner, books, Hidden Bloodlines, wedding budget, Stanley Hotel, Christmas, Christmas wedding
The Engagement
Photo by Laura Grace Photography

What do you think is the best month for a wedding?

Save Thyme and Avoid Common Mistakes

So many mistakes … so much time wasted. Save Thyme and Avoid Common Mistakes is the first in the Common Mistakes Series geared to help you save precious time getting that book published. I have first hand experience on making most if not all of them. With this new year upon us, my goal is to share my journey to make yours smoother and easier with quicker positive results.

The Story
writing, publishing, story, fiction, novel, mistakes, writing mistakes, Thyme for Writers, journey, Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado, agents, editors, craft, skills, writers conference
Save Thyme and Avoid Common Mistakes

As I mentioned in my article, Never Give Up!, I am a writer by profession. Although I have more than 100 published articles (most of which were ghost written), my heart’s desire was in the story. I yearned to write that novel and see it published. Even though I was an experienced writer, I quickly learned that fiction writing was a totally different “animal” and I set out to garner the necessary skills.

Hidden Bloodlines, romantic suspense, Colorado Rockies, Karen Van Den Heuvel
Hidden Bloodlines

Hidden Bloodlines started as a story triggered by a stay at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. After this story brewed in my mind for two years, I decided that the time was now and I attended my first writers conference.

A Conference Mistake

I successfully pitched my story to agents and publishers during that first conference, but made my first mistake as an conference newbie — I pitched a story that wasn’t written. It was in my head, but not on paper. Every single one of the editors and agents I pitched to, wanted to see a manuscript that did not exist. By the time I wrote it, revised it (I can’t remember how many times) and had it ready, 5 years had passed. Oops — a little late for that group of agents and editors who were either with different publishing houses or made career changes.

Colorado Christian Writers Conference

During those 5 years I worked on learning the craft and developing my skills as a fiction writer — essential if you want to be taken seriously and get published. I highly recommend attending writers conferences even if that story is not written. There are workshops and sessions geared toward honing your skills. Appointments are usually available with not just editors and agents, but writers, and other writing professionals. If you want to pitch a story idea, let the agents and editors know that it’s not written yet, then get on the horn and write it. They may be interested now, but not a year from now.

Do you have a story brewing?

The Stanley’s Infamous Room 217 and the Ghost of Mrs. Wilson

Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado, Room 217, side view of Stanley Hotel
Stanley Hotel Outside Room 217, Estes Park, CO

The Stanley Hotel’s Room 217 is one of the most popular rooms in the hotel, after all, the ghost of Mrs. Wilson will keep your clothes nice and tidy. Four presidents and Stephen King were among the many prominent guests who stayed in that room. Although Stephen King did not pen The Shining there, his stay did inspire it.

Mrs. Wilson
Stanley Hotel, Room 217, Estes Park, Colorado
The Stanley Hotel Room 217

Who is Mrs. Wilson? She was the chief chambermaid in 1911. On the day the hotel opened for the season, the hydroelectric plant went down. By the way, this hotel was the first hotel to have electricity. Mrs. Wilson was lighting the gas lamps when she was almost killed. Acetylene was pumped into the rooms, and in

Room 217, Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado
Room 217 – Stanley Hotel Estes Park, CO

Room 217 there happened to be a gas leak. When Mrs. Wilson went into the bathroom, it blew out the front of the hotel. She was blown through the floor into the MacGregor Room and survived. Almost forty years to the day, she died of a heart attack in that room. According to the tour guide, Mrs. Wilson is a permanent visitor here who will fold and put away your clothes.

Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado, Room 217, Bear-Clawed Tub
The Stanley Hotel
Room 217 Bear-Clawed Tub

My husband and I had the opportunity to stay in that room. Except for the bear-clawed tub and the view, it struck me as an ordinary room with an extraordinary history. Shortly after arriving, we had a few visitors just wanting to see it and take photos. We took a few photos of our own. One visitor who was clearly absent was Mrs. Wilson. I had to fold my own clothes and keep them nice and tidy.

Hidden Bloodlines, romantic suspense, Colorado Rockies, Karen Van Den Heuvel
Hidden Bloodlines

You may find some similarities between Room 217 and the honeymoon suite described in my book, Hidden Bloodlines. Check out Chapter 2 of the book and let me know what you think!

 

(C) 2016 Karen  Van Den Heuvel Fischer

The Supernatural — Fact or Fiction?

guardian angel, the supernatural, spirits
Guardian Angel – A Supernatural Phenomenon

Is the supernatural fact or fiction? Angels, demons, ghosts/spirits, the Force, God…anything that cannot be explained by science or the laws of nature. Don’t we all in one way or another believe in the supernatural? Books, movies, and stories abound. How many of you remember sharing ghost stories around the camp fire?

camp fire, stories, fun, laughter
Around the Camp Fire

Just look at some of the most popular television shows, both past and present — Touched by an Angel, Poltergeist, Game of Thrones … the list can go on and on. Prior to the political campaigns, the news was fraught with stories of successful exorcisms and exorcisms gone bad. Numerous reports of hauntings and sightings by ghost busters made headlines. It makes for great marketing potential. The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, featured as one of the most haunted hotels in the country, inspired the setting for my book, Hidden Bloodlines.

Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, CO
The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado
The Stanley Hotel
wedding
Our Wedding

It started with a weekend adventure at the Stanley Hotel for our wedding anniversary and we were definitely in for a treat. At the registration desk, a group of ghost busters, replete with the necessary equipment joined us. Their excitement was contagious as they discussed what ghosts they hoped to detect as well as when and where it would all start. We were even invited to join them. Although we declined their kind invitation, we heard them in the halls outside of our room trying to detect a spirit seen on a ladder going to the roof. Although they shared their disappointment with us the next day, it did not stop them from planning their next visit. They just knew the next visit would be THE visit.

supernatural, fog, night
The Supernatural – Fact or Fiction? Night Fog …

Solicitations for stories on miracles, angels, and other unexplainable happenings occur on a regular basis. I have received such solicitations more times than I can count. Many have either personally experienced miracles or know someone who has. I have. This is the first in a series featuring the Stanley Hotel and the supernatural.

What do you believe?

(C) 2016 Karen Van Den Heuvel Fischer