Writing

It’s The One-Room Schoolhouse’s Fault

Blog Title It's the One-room Schoolhouse's Fault with pick of prairie flowers and a one-room schoolhouse by Denise M. Colby

I have this thing for historical one-room schoolhouses. I don’t know why. They are cute, inviting and have history that is yearning to be told. Ever since I visited the one-room schoolhouse in old town Sacramento during my oldest son’s 4th grade Sacramento trip, I have wanted to write a story about one. 

  • How specific some of the rules were.
  • How students were separated with boys on one side, girls on the other.
  • How each student had to stand at the side of their desk to speak.
  • How lashings were given for the most interesting infringements.
  • How a female teacher had different rules than a male teacher.
  • How for some of these students, it was the only education they would ever receive.
  • How children of all ages were taught in the same room.
  • How one measly stove in the center of the room provided heat.
  • How lunch was carried in a bucket.
Quote from Blog by Denise M. Colby - Maybe it's the influence of Little House on the Prairie, but i find the history of the one-room schoolhouse a little romantic

Maybe it’s the influence of Little House on the Prairie, but I find the history of the one-room schoolhouse a little romantic. And so, when I went on the same trip with my second son two years later, the same curiousness came back, a few characters formed in my head, and a story screamed at me to write it. 

So I did. 

My story is about a town across the river from Sacramento that has a brand new schoolhouse. This schoolhouse seems to want to match-make for its teachers. Their first teacher got married before she set foot in it. The next one, my heroine Olivia, wants to remain a teacher her whole life. But God, the one-room schoolhouse, and Bert the rooster, all have a different plan for her.

It will be interesting to see how long she lasts, and who else might come to teach at this match-making one-room schoolhouse.

Quote from Blog by Denise M. Colby - Who else might come to teach at my match-making one-room schoolhouse

To find out more about the story I’m writing, go to the Going West Series page in the books section of my website. Or if you’d like to see the photos of one-room schoolhouses I’ve posted go here.

Writing

When “The Plan” Does Not Go According to Plan

Blog Title on wooden fence background by Denise M. Colby When the plan does not go according to plan

I think this title says it all! When “The Plan” does not go according to plan. Have you ever felt this way? I have. I’m a planner at heart, so I run into this, A Lot! So here’s my story right now.

I have had many “plans” over the past year for my website, my blog, and my writing and most of it has NOT gone according to plan.

  • I had plans to update my website
  • I had plans to have more blog posts each month
  • I had plans to have my newsletter completed and emailed out to a list of willing readers

Don’t get me wrong. I still have those plans. And that’s the thing. For me, right now, it’s not necessarily the plans I wrote down, but the timing of those plans that changed. And honestly, I’m okay with that. Now. But I wasn’t at the time. I’ve been frustrated with myself for not being able to get them done when I wanted to get them done.

Recently, I have realized that those were “my plans” and in hindsight, I can now see the way things have unfolded may not have been my plan, but very much “God’s Plan” for me.

Recently, I have realized that those were “My Plans”.

Denise M. colby

Several reasons, that I only can see now, include all the other “things” that needed to fall into place before I got to the things on my list. (And also the fact that I had too much on my plate, and my health and my family needed to come first.) For a long time I couldn’t see that. But now…

That’s what hindsight is all about

Something we can learn from.

So, what’s the lesson?

Something I’m still learning (and will continue to do so because it is one of the hardest things for me to do) is to let go and trust God when things don’t go the way I want them to.

Let go and let God be in charge, quote by Denise M. Colby with old wooden fence background

Ironically, this is actually one of the themes in my book I’m working on. We all make plans. And we think we are on the right track with those plans. But we sometimes run into road blocks or challenges that prevent us from making progress or change the outcome of some of those plans.

That’s what my heroine, Olivia, runs into over and over.

She has a lot of stuff happen to her. So much so, she has to let go of her past and reinvent herself and plan out a new future. And she’s doing it all without any help from God. At least, that’s what she believes.

But just like in our own lives, God is behind the scenes orchestrating something so much bigger and beautiful for Olivia. Something she would never be able to do on her own.

Sometimes we have to learn to get out of the way and trust God. We may not know what the future holds but by trusting in Him we can have faith to take things one day at a time and know we are where He wants us to be at that moment.

God's way of going about it is so much better than our own, quote by Denise M. Colby, text over wooden fence background

Sure it’s good to have goals and plans of the things we want to work toward. I think that part is important. But I also think that sometimes God’s way of going about it is so much better than our own.

And we don’t know that until our plans have to change

So here I am, many many many months later finally posting a blog post. And I have plans. Big plans. To write more. To post more. And to share with you more. Words of encouragement to help inspire and give you hope. Words of enrichment to learn new things. And words that we can engage in so that we can support, uplift and show love to one another.

If you are interested in signing up for my nonexistent newsletter to receive in the near future (hopefully) go here to sign up. You will receive a free poem I wrote, titled When God Calls, Go.

And for the novel I’m still editing? It has had several different titles over the past few years all related to plans changing, so I’ll leave you with a few verses from the Bible on the topic:

A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” – Proverbs 16:9 (NKJV)

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29: 11 

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.

Hebrews 10:36 36

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21 text on background

I am part of a writers blog called A Slice Of Orange. I have been writing blog posts monthly now for over a year. My particular blog posts on the 12th of every month. You can find links to those posts here, or for all my archived posts click here. In my August post, I wrote about real life turning points and how big ones have impacted me this year. The topic dives into the “why” my plans didn’t quite happen the way I planned and a first-hand view as to what plans are emerging now. It’s titled Tracking Real Life Turning Points

Writing

Time Flies When You Are Writing!

writers journey blog

I can’t believe it’s been so long since I last posted on this blog.  Of course I haven’t been stagnant.  Life keeps moving, or as the phrase suggests…time flies when you’re having fun.  And I have been having fun. Both in my personal and professional life.

I’m still writing…

Slice of Orange Blog

…I’m now writing a monthly blog over at www.sliceoforange.net.   You can see my posts on the 12th of every month.  If you are interested you can sign up to receive the daily posts from a large group of authors.  Here’s my September post: http://www.asliceoforange.net/face-your-fear/

Writers conference southern california…I attended the SoCal Christian Writers Conference in June and met some wonderful people within the industry.  I also picked up new tips and information to help me on my journey, including some blogging lessons.

…I’ve taken two online classes over the past few months, both on editing and revisions, since that is what I am currently working on.  I’ve learned a lot and am now applying those lessons to my manuscript.

…I rewrote the entire beginning of my book.  I’ve learned so much since when I started that it was easier to rewrite it with new words and phrasing rather then continue to change what I had originally.

…I have a title for my first book that I’m completely happy with.  I had been going round and round with a handful of them, but one stuck out I really liked and after asking a few publishers and agents, I’ve decided it’s the one (I’ll have to reveal it in another post).

…I have met a wonderful new author friend who is now my critique partner and together we’ve exchanged a few scenes and gotten to know each other.  I’m really looking forward to working with her.  I’ll have to introduce her in a future post.

…I’ve been revising and editing my first book and adding words to book number two.  I can see my writing has improved tremendously, but it’s not quite where it needs to be.  So I keep working at it.

…I have a logo my middle son designed and created for me.  I need to finalize the last bit of detail before I put it on my website, but it’s been great working on it with him.  I’m super excited to share it with you.

Wow….I really haven’t been stagnant.  It feels good to write out what I’ve been doing.  I can see the progress.  Daily I don’t feel like I’ve done much because sometimes the progress is itty bitty, but all in all I can see the progression in my writing journey.

Looking ahead…

…I’m considering renaming this blog ‘my journal’ since that’s the style I have chosen to write in.  I guess an official “blog” post is more instructive and has a call to action.  Here I share my thoughts, feelings and encouragement as if I’m writing a diary entry. 

Do you like this approach?  I would love to hear your opinion.

…I hope to have revisions done by the end of the year for my first book.  The process is slow, but as I apply things from my new tool box, I can see it taking shape.

And My Family Keeps Me Busy…

With three teenage boys in my house, there is never a dull moment.  This year we have celebrated a high school graduation, an Eagle Scout, lead roles in musicals and plays, choir performances, track meets, dances, backpacking trips, college classes and lots of pizza movie nights (our weekly tradition) and so much more (including my 22nd Anniversary to my amazing hubby).  It seems daily I’m running somewhere, but I wouldn’t change any of it.  I love my family dearly and enjoy watching them get to do what they love and cheering them on.

So there’s the fun I’ve had while my time has flown by.  I encourage you to write out some of the things you’ve accomplished this year so far.  I bet it’s more than you think.

And hopefully I won’t take as long before I post something again.

Blessings,

Denise

Writing

Celebrating Progress

Denise M. Colby's Orange County Chapter of RWA Badge with Pins and Rose

It might be slow, but I’m making progress.

A great part of being involved in writing organizations are the opportunities to get your material in front of published authors, agents and publishers through contests. The feedback they provide are valuable and instructional.

My local chapter of RWA – the OCCRWA – hosts the Orange Rose Contest every year for unpublished authors. You send in the first 35 pages and a synopsis of your story.

The first time I entered was in 2015. I took all the feedback and made several changes and decided to enter again in 2016 to see if those changes made a difference.

First Place Certificate from Orange Rose Contest for Unpublished Writers
I Won!

What a shock to find out I won 1st place in the inspirational category!

I received this really pretty certificate and got to stand in front of my peers who all cheered me on.

Then a month later I found out that those who placed first receive an engraved award at our Annual Birthday Bash.

Here’s a picture of me Denise M. Colby receiving her awardgiddy with excitement after being presented with my award (yes I had to give a little speech).

OCCRWA Orange Rose Contest for Unpublished Writers' award

And then I found out,

my name was listed in the Romance Writers Report Magazine

Denise M. Colby's name in print for winning awardSeeing my name in print made it even more real.

I still feel as if I’m on cloud nine.

And, it gave me the confidence boost I needed to continue moving forward with my goal of publishing.

And what was the next step?  Turning Pro!

For an RWA member to turn Pro, you need to submit your complete manuscript to show proof of your work. In January of this year, I uploaded my document and held my breath. I received word they accepted it and voila! My status was updated to Pro.

What I didn’t know at the time – and I was jumping up and down when I found out – I would receive a rose from my Orange County Chapter for going Pro.

Denise M. Colby receiving her Rose for turning PRO with RWA
Receiving my rose

What’s the big deal about the rose?

Every month at our meetings, authors receive roses for selling books, novellas, and other stories. Each color rose means something – Red=Novel, Pink=Novella Length, Purple=Self-Published, Yellow=Non-Fiction, White=Articles, Peach=Turning Pro.

I’ve been watching everyone receive roses for a few years and couldn’t wait to receive one. I even purchased a vase a while back to hold my roses in. So when I found out I would be receiving one for going Pro, it was difficult to contain my excitement (just ask my husband!).

Not only that, I received a PRO pin to wear on my badge with pride AND I got my name printed in the RWA National Magazine on the PRO page.

It feels like all of this happened quickly, but I’ve been working up to this point for a while. It’s nice to be able to see progress in my work. I’ve included pics – I have to document it all – it helps encourage me when I have those days I don’t like my writing.

Now with these goals met – I have my eyes set on new ones for the rest of the year; Find a critique partner, edit Book #1 and finish writing Book #2.

As a writer, there is never an “I’ve arrived” moment in our career.

It’s not about the end result. It’s all about the journey!

Thank you for letting me share mine with you.

Blessings, Denise

Writing

So Long 2016, Hello 2017

Another year, another beginning.  I love to be able to reflect on the previous year and see all that occurred over the last 12 months.  Parts were bumpy and other parts inspiring.  In my writing I had many ups and dowsign with the words faith, dream, believe - words that encourage me on my writing journeyns, wondering if the fruit of all my labor would really be anything worthwhile.  When I chose the word BELIEVE for my word of the year in 2016, I had no idea how applicable it would be. 

I found the word everywhere.  At the gym.  In a quote on the wall at the doctors.  On a t-shirt.  On a charm holder which I had to buy and now holds my keys within my purse.  Every time I saw it, I was reminded of two things.  I believe in God and His Word.  To keep believing in my writing.

This was my second year to enter the Orange Rose Contest from my local chaptefirst place certificate for Denise M. Colby from Orange Rose Contest for unpublished authorsr of RWA.  The first year I received such valuable feedback that I wanted to enter again to see if the changes I made would be received any better.  I was so surprised when it was announced that I won 1st place in my category!  First place!  Me!  And it was then that my word took on a completely different meaning – someone else believed in my writing too. 

That gave me the shot in the arm I needed to keep editing, keep rewriting and moving to the next step. 

As 2016 turned into 2017, I had some new goals for the year.  Never thought I would accomplish them all in January, but I did. 

In the RWA world, turning PRO is one of the steps in getting closer to being a published author.  You have to upload your entire manuscript for proof of your writing and then they review it and approve it.  When I completed my first round of full edits, I sent it in and was so excited when I got the email telling me ‘it passed’.  I also decided to enter the national contest for unpublished authors – the Golden Heart.  Even if I do not final, actually sending it in was a huge milestone for me and already helps me push ahead for more this year.

I have a new word for 2017 and I will write about that in a different blog post.  But let’s just say I am super on fire for what can happen in 2017.  Stay tuned as I will hopefully have more news to share throughout the year.

Blessings, Denise

Writing

#Writeastorychallenge

One of my writer friends issued an August writing challenge to create a short story using one word prompts and writing just 1-3 sentences daily.

Anyone participating posted on their Instagram account and copied the two authors who sponsored it.  I found it short enough to do in my notes app while I worked out at the gym.   

Since these words were more 2016 then 1869, I found it fun to try something completely different and I allowed myself to write whatever came to mind.  I decided not to edit it, but leave it as it is.  Each day I had to veer the story to fit the word.  Some days fit better than others, and I think it turned into a cute, silly story and I wanted to share it with you.

So without further ado – here is my August #Writeastorychallenge.  The bold words are the daily prompts.

“Would you like to go get a cappuccino when you are done?”  He asked.

“Um.  I don’t drink coffee.” Liz responded.

She continued to trim his hair, watching his expression at the same time, seeing the determination on his face and realizing he wouldn’t take no for an answer. She hurried through the appointment, applying gel last, the slimy substance cool in her fingers as she massaged it into his scalp.

Her suspicions were affirmed when he asked her again.

“How about even a glass of water?”

She decided not to provoke him further. “Okay, I guess.”  Trying not to show too much enthusiasm.

If there was a God in heaven, this drink date won’t last too long. It wasn’t because she didn’t like him-No, it was very different from that. In fact, her fear was she liked him too much and felt he was way out of her league.

She considered herself as simple as a square and him, well, she saw him the interesting shape of a star, shooting off charm no matter which direction he pointed.

As they walked out of the building together, he held the door for her, then led her to his car, a Dodge Charger. Of course it was shiny and new, the moon reflecting off the black paint.

His phone rang before they made it to their destination. He answered it by pushing the button on the dash, putting the call on speaker. “It’s time.” was all that was said.

And then she heard the most wicked laugh, ever.  

To her horror, it didn’t come from the speaker. No, it came from the person sitting beside her, dominating the entire inside of the car.  What did she get herself into?

Before she answered her own question, date guy reached across her lap and pushed a button. She didn’t know whether to scream or fight.

Cheese?” Was all he said.

Perplexed she looked to where he pointed and there sitting on a mini-shelf sat a plate with cheese and crackers.

“It’s Colby Cheese. Try some. I made it myself.”

Liz started to reach out to try some then yanked her hand back, wondering if it was a trap. Just at that moment, her stomach rumbled reminding her she hadn’t eaten dinner yet.

She looked longingly at the cheese which looked heaven-sent. Slowly she reached for the cheese and tried a bite.

Liz didn’t consider herself an exuberant person, but the taste made her shout out, “wow!”

“You like it? Good.”

She looked at him, questioning his response.

“I’m entertaining some bigwigs and serving this cheese as well as a few other delicacies. You confirmed this was a good choice.”

She wasn’t sure what to say, so she unscrewed the cap off the water bottle he handed her.

Fabulous. She thought as she took a sip, laughing on the inside as she drank the water he offered her. Her date was now complete.

Her original plan was to reject any other advances, but his odd behavior intrigued her.

“What makes the cheese taste so good?”

Herbs.” He replied.

“I made a spread too. Smother some on a cracker and let me know what you think.”

She did as he asked. “You could sell buckets of this stuff. It’s really good.”

“I’m glad you like it.”  Appreciation laced his words, so she looked over at him and caught him staring at her, a smile from ear to ear. His voice sounded both pleasant and alluring. She was a goner.

And just like that she was filled with disgust for how easy she fell for him.

He pulled the car back into the parking space he occupied when they first left. True to his word he took her for a drive and water. She chuckled a little louder than she planned.

“What’s so funny?” He asked.

“How educated you are on making cheese. I had no idea.”

He smiled, his appreciation apparent. “There is a lot of things you don’t know about me. I’d like to change that. I’m  glad you agreed to come with me tonight.” He paused and looked out the window. ” I wasn’t going to take no for an answer.” He looked back at her, his blue eyes sparkling. “Although I think you knew that.”  

His smile locked her in place and all she could do was nod. It was in that moment something connected them and drew them together.

Their lips were almost touching when a knock on the window startled them both. There stood her coworker Robbie holding a broom.

“What are you doing Liz? He chastised. Stunned all she could do was watch him open the car door, no clue with how shallow he was being. Didn’t he know she was on a date with an amazing guy and just about to be kissed.

Writing

When It All Clicks

laptop keyboard represents the writing and editing process

Being new at all this writing stuff, I admit I had no idea what I was doing when I started my book, so I wrote individual scenes mostly, almost as if they were mini individual stories.  Some scenes connected into others, while others were an idea I wasn’t too sure about, but wrote anyway to try different dialogue, character arcs or action sequences.

I think I was afraid of defining how my characters would act since I didn’t know what I wanted them to do yet. I found creating characters a scary responsibility, but I will dig into that part of my writing journey in another post.  All in all, let’s just say, with my first draft complete, I know my characters more and what they are doing.

And so, with my first draft complete, I’m on to a completely new skill called editing.

This is when I read the mumble, jumble of what I originally wrote and remove unnecessary words and find better words to communicate the story.  It also means I now need to connect all those individual scenes to tell a cohesive tale, turning it into something someone else would want to read.

Some of it is challenging as I have to really figure out particulars.  However, the parts us writers constantly search for is when it all clicks together.  When everything falls into place and connects scenes in a way the scenes wouldn’t mean anything on their own.

And I’m finding this part to be a lot of fun.  It seems when the details fall into place, when everything clicks, it becomes a real story.

So now, I write for those aha moments, no matter how much work it is.  Doesn’t mean it’s easy.  I still have to make myself stay seated in the chair at times with my fingers on the keyboard to work through it.  Sometimes I’m a pushover to get up and find something else to do because I’m not sure what to write next.

All in all, I’m thankful for these moments when I’m able to connect the dots and the writing clicks.  It’s one more step in my journey, helping me get another step closer to my goal of publishing my book.

Writing

Taking Time to Reflect…

black and white photo of clock face showing time to represent it's important to take time to reflect

Sometimes I look at my manuscript and feel I have so much to learn still, so much to do, before my work is print worthy, and this awful feeling of hopelessness overcomes me.  What am I really doing?  Will I ever get it right?  And then I start telling myself other authors don’t run into this same problem, do they?  Maybe I’m not cut out for this.

And then I go to one of my writing groups and realize I’m not the only one to feel this way.  Writing is such a solitary experience, yet when you get together with other writers you share all the same questions, concerns, and thoughts.  I love the writing groups I’m a part of. In person and online, I’ve met so many wonderful people and have learned so much. When I think about the meetings, online classes, and notes I’ve taken over the last two years, it makes me realize how important it is to take time to reflect back from where I started and see just how far I’ve come.

I knew nothing of the writing world terminology, yet I now can have a conversation and understand most of the lingo, spouting off terms such as ms, dialogue tags and gmc. I know now, authors don’t get it perfect the first time, sometimes writing through three to four edits after the rough draft.

I’ve learned about understanding your characters more, figuring out what the hero/heroine goals, conflicts and motivations are. I can throw stuff at them to see how they will respond. I’ve seen a character take a life of their own and get themselves into a whole heap of trouble. And how fun it is to watch it evolve on the page.

I’ve learned how to set up my website, social media accounts and write my author profile.  I’ve figured out my author brand, audience and the genre I prefer to write.  I’ve read several new authors, expanding my knowledge both as a reader and a writer.

I’ve entered contests and learned what “on the nose” dialogue is, that passive voice does not mean the same thing as past tense, and to be really careful not to tell but show action and how hard it is to do. I’ve learned my initial writing is full of data dumps and I now can delete words without panicking. I’ve survived receiving constructive feedback and now know, it’s not the end of the world.

As I reflect back, I realize, even though I have so much still to learn, I have come so far and that is something to be really proud of.  It’s nice to know I have made many new friends who are rooting for me each step of the way. 

I am so thankful for these writing groups and all the wonderful writers who have opened their hearts and minds to share what they’ve learned to us newbies.  I look forward to someday being able to do the same in return.

Writing

I did it!

I created my website.  I’m so excited to be working on this next step in the journey.  I’ve thought about it for a long time.  The conversations in my head went something like this:

I need to create my author blog – but what would I write about? and who would want to read it?

I know, I know.  Being an author I should want people to read everything I write.  But I find myself completely guarded.  I don’t want to make a mistake.  Offend someone.  What if what I write about isn’t any good.

And as I wrote a few sample posts from my heart, I found that I wasn’t writing opinion or an article.  I was writing what was in my heart.  And the light bulb went on.  So even if nobody wants to read it, I have a place to write what God is placing on my heart.  My feelings, fears, thoughts.  So here I am.

Of course now I have a new question?  Now what do I do?

Blessings, Denise