Get Out of the House

Sometimes the same old writing space just isn’t stimulating your creativity any longer. If you’re staring at your walls waiting for inspiration, try shaking things up by getting out of the house and trying a new writing spot.


Here are 10 places you might try (plus a bonus):

  • The Library – yes, it’s still everybody’s go-to spot for out-of-the-house working. There’s usually free Wi-fi and the librarians will be happy to help you with any research questions. No eating or drinking, but if you just want a few hours of quiet time, you can’t beat this spot.
  • A coffee shop – this is a writer’s classic choice for several reasons. Caffeine is great for stimulating the brain, and there are snacks and sometimes even meals available. They usually have free Wi-fi as well. Just be mindful of the business end: if they’re really busy, don’t monopolize a table for more than an hour, and if you do stay longer on a quiet day, do order frequently and tip well.
  • A Museum – sitting in front of an inspiring painting or sculpture can be stimulating, so consider an annual membership to your local museum. Or, if you’re not planning to visit that often, see if they have discount tickets or free days.
  • An Aquarium – sitting in front of a relaxing underwater scene can be equally stimulating. Look into that annual membership, or ask about discounts.
  • The Zoo – similar to an aquarium, only you’ll probably be outside. See if they have a reasonable annual membership or discounts.
  • The Mall – just as many people head to the mall for exercise, writers can find a quiet spot to work – or head to the food court for a table. Many malls offer free Wi-fi.
  • A Station – bus, train, subway … the idea is to plant yourself in a corner and get some work done while you people-watch. Just don’t get too distracted.
  • A train – you know I can testify to this one! Even a short trip can result in a great deal of work, and the “roomettes” offer privacy and electrical outlets.
  • Parks – if you’re lucky, your town or city has at least one decent public park or garden where you feel creatively stimulated. You can get some sun while you work, too.
  • Your Local College – campuses offer literally hundreds of nooks for studying or working. Investigate your local university to locate an under-utilized spot or to borrow their library.
  • Rent an RV – if you’ve got some spare cash, think about renting a camper and doing a mini-retreat somewhere nearby. Just park, sit at the table (or outside), and get some work done.

What’s your go-to writing spot?

Handling Rejection

My story didn’t make the cut for the Malice Domestic anthology, which sort of bums me out … but at least they were polite enough to email me and let me know, which is refreshing.

Writing (6 of 30)

In response, I’ve decided to do a short piece on handling rejection. Here are some good tips:

  • DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY – note the capitals. This is the Number One rule of rejection, and one that almost every new writer falls prey to. It’s not about you, but about your story not being right (for whatever reason). Stories can be improved or submitted elsewhere. You, as an author, need to learn to see rejection as a tool for improvement rather than a rejection of yourself.
  • Learn from it – If you can, find out why your story was rejected. If there are issues you can correct or improve, then do so, especially if you get similar rejections from more than one editor or publisher. Again, this is another tool to help you learn to be a better writer.
  • Change your thinking – If you believe that you “deserve” fame and fortune, or that you’re somehow owed a spot in the limelight, you need to think again. Rejection is the norm, not fame. Most manuscripts are just not suitable for publication – and wouldn’t you rather know (and work on improving) than be treated like a “special snowflake” that deserves to be promoted just for showing up? I’d much rather feel I actually deserved something than to just have it handed out to everybody.
  • Talk about it – Rejection hurts. Sure, every author experiences it, but that doesn’t mean you should suck it up and pretend nothing happened. Commiserate with friends and fellow writers. Announce it on your social media platforms. Get the hurt out of the way so you can move on to the improvement part.
  • Celebrate your courage – It takes guts to put something you’ve created out there for people to reject. Celebrate that courage and pat yourself on the back for trying. If you never fail, you’re not pushing the envelope. Keep putting yourself out there and keep pushing.
“This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it ‘to the editor who can appreciate my work’ and it has simply come back stamped ‘Not at this address.’ Just keep looking for the right address.”
                                                ~ Barbara Kingsolver

Writing Retreat, Part 2

You’ve probably figured out that I’ve finally scheduled a vacation. Yep, getting a bit burned out at the day job, so it’s time to recharge those creative batteries so I can get back to working 12-hour days and writing before bed. Sometimes even I wonder how I do it …

Beach Life - colorful towels drying on the porch

Beach Life – colorful towels drying on the porch

Of course, before you leave for any vacation, there are chores:

  • tidy up all the clutter that accumulates because I’d rather write than do housework
  • make sure all those last-minute items find their way into the bags and boxes
  • pack the rental van … it’s rather like a giant Tetris game

I’m nearly done with Book 2 … my goal for this vacation is to finish the first draft and start Edit 1

Where is your favorite recharging destination?

Planning a Writing Retreat

You can’t always afford a week-long writing conference, nor can everyone get away for an entire week at a time. Here’s how you can plan your very own writing retreat to match your time and budget!


  • Carve out the time – pick a period that suits your schedule. Try to make it at least a full weekend, if not longer. You might spend half the first day sleeping in and winding down from all the stress of your normal life. Schedule this time just as you would any vacation: put it on the calendar, tell your friends and family you’re going away, and let your boss know you’ll be incommunicado for that time.
  • Check your budget – if you can’t afford a week at the beach (or a 4 day railroad trip), look into a few days at a local hotel or B&B, or break out the camping gear and plan a solo trip somewhere. Try to get away from the house if you can, because those chores and family/friends will be too tempted to interrupt with their little “emergencies” if you’re just camping in the backyard.
  • Plan your project – have a definite goal in mind for your retreat, even if it’s just “write 1,500 words a day” or “edit three chapters a day.” If you treat this as a professional retreat, you’re far more likely to get the results you’re hoping for. You can even check out those writing books from the local library and schedule some “classroom” time in between writing sessions.
  • Stick to your guns – unless a true emergency arises, avoid the temptation to get a few chores done, chat with your brother, meet a friend for coffee, or finish that last report for work. Again, treat this as a professional retreat. This is work of a different sort, and it’s just as important as that load of laundry.

If you plan ahead, you can enjoy a mini-retreat almost any time. You can even schedule several in a year. The important thing is the word “retreat” – get away from normal life and live in your imagination for a few days. You’ll return refreshed and ready to get back to your routine.

A Writing Retreat

As most of my followers already know, I’ve just gotten back from a “working vacation” where I spent most of my time writing Book 2. I got somewhere around five chapters done in just over two days.


Here are some ideas for planning your own (not too expensive) writing retreat:

  • Take the train – this is what I did. Just book a short train trip, either round-trip or one-way and fly or drive the return trip. There won’t be any WiFi to distract you, and cellphone coverage will likely be spotty as well, so you’ll be forced to knuckle down and get that writing done.
  • Get a room – splurge on a local hotel you’ve always wanted to try out. Even just a weekend away from the usual setting can be enough to stir your creative juices, and you won’t have to cook or make the bed.
  • Rent an RV – just drive somewhere fairly scenic and park. Stay as long as you like. The downside is that you have to do your own cooking and cleaning.
  • Go off season– you can often get a private cabin, condo or other location for cut-rate prices during the off season. Visit the beach during the winter, or the ski lodge during summer. You’re not going there for the socializing, anyway.
  • Set your alerts – most of those travel-booking sites have alerts you can set up to email you when there are special deals or when prices drop below a certain level. Keep an eye on your favorite spots and book a retreat when prices are low.
  • Go off the grid – if you can’t afford any of the above ideas, you can have a retreat at home if you steel yourself and shut off all the distractions. Set a time and shut off everything except the essentials. No internet, no cellphone, no TV or video games. You might even consider going whole-hog and writing longhand on paper, just to avoid temptation.

I recommend a retreat for every writer, even if it’s only for a few days, as mine has been. Just getting away from the routine can result in a great jump-start for your project. Oh, and  that train trip? Going to do it again next year – you can bet on it!

ZephyrArt2015 (2 of 34)

Hillerman Convention: Day 2

Here are some of the highlights of today’s convention:

Claim It, Rename It, or Throw It Out – Steve Brewer

“Your manuscript is not ready – go look at it some more. You owe it to your agent, your editor and your future self.”

“We’re all in love with our books while we’re writing them.”

“Come in late and get out early – all we really want is the drama in the middle.”

“Everything you write teaches you something.”

“If you’ve written the best book you can write, roll the dice. Try to get an agent and sell it in New York.”

“It’s a typical newbie mistake to think of writing a trilogy or a series – just write one freaking book!”

“Write what you want to write, what you’d like to read.”

“Are you eager to start the next book? You’re probably a writer.”

Hillerman2015 (17 of 23)


C.A.R.V.E. Your Platform to Snag Agents, Publishers and Readers – Bill O’Hanlon

You have three audiences: the agent, the publisher and the reader.

C = channels. How many places can you get the word out?

  • social media connections
  • blog views, readers and subscribers
  • podcast listeners and subscribers
  • email list open and click-through rates
  • media appearances and interviews
  • public speaking
  • partners
  • where your book’s audience hangs out or pays attention

A = accomplishments.

  • previous publications and sales
  • previous media experience
  • previous public speaking experience
  • academic degrees or positions
  • awards
  • life accomplishments
  • partners

R = relationships.

  • within the publishing industry
  • other authors, agents or editors
  • well-known people for blurbs
  • people with large followings for getting the word out
  • co-authors
  • media people and podcasters

V = visibility.

  • regular activities to get your book or yourself seen or heard about
  • website visitors
  • social media followers and connections
  • media appearances
  • reviews and bestseller lists

E = evidence. Keep everything to prove your claims.

  • take screenshots of Amazon ratings or email lists or followers
  • collect records of appearances
  • scans or photocopies of reviews
  • keep programs from your speaking engagements
  • keep previous publications, magazine covers, etc.
  • no lying or exaggerating!


Photo Shoot: Stone

Here are some ideas for “Stone” Kirkham’s looks:


Stone’s proudest feature is his fine mustache…



Stone is a serious fellow … hard working and ambitious



He wears the latest fashion … only not perhaps as fine as Chance’s outfits




Stone is a bit proud of his achievements…





He’s a bit too straight-laced for the lads…


Photo Shoot: Chance

Here are some of the character ideas I’ve checked out for Chance:

Chance_Idea1His hair is this curly but the bangs hang down into his eyes most of the time

Chance_Idea2More curly hair

ChanceIdea6This is his baseline expression … might even be Chance with his hair slicked down under control…

Chance_Idea6He’s kinda cute…

Chance_Idea5 Messy but cute…Chance_Idea4Love the curls, David!