A blog update from Denise M. Colby dated September 17, 2018
General, Writing Journey

An Update From Me

A blog update from Denise M. Colby dated September 17, 2018It’s been a while since I’ve written for my own blog.

Life is always busy in my household with three teenage boys and all their activities so I’ve been focusing on more simpler posts such as the First Line Fridays and on writing magazine articles and a monthly blog over at A Slice of Orange.

I jumped into the First Line Fridays scene at the beginning of the year and enjoyed sharing and commenting on all sorts of books—some old favorites and some new here on my blog. You can check them all out here or the latest one here.

I was looking forward to the summer

and hopefully a slower schedule with more time to write, but that didn’t happen.  I started the summer with a wonderful conference.  SoCal Christian Writers Conference was held June 21-23 at Biola University and it was wonderful to learn and be filled with encouragement and writing ideas.  I came back with a long list of things I wanted to do to pursue this writing career.  And then the week I got back I got a call about my mom not doing well and left to go spend an unknown amount of time with her and my sisters.

When my mother passed away in early July, I found it challenging to sit still and write. 

So even though I met my obligations to others (magazine articles and blog post), I took a break mentally from my own expectations. It was a good move for me to regroup and give myself some grace. And my list from the conference has sat there waiting patiently for me to get back to it.

But even during all that time off, ideas kept brewing in my mind.

It seems a writers mind never stops working….oh the joys of being a writer.

So now, the kids are back in school. We had a beautiful Celebration of Life for my mom over labor day weekend and I’ve gotten a handle on the laundry and the cleaning (for now). So I’m working on my routine again.

So here’s an update:

I’m editing my novel. Still. The main draft is done, but learning about all the layers that go into a novel – plot, grammar, correct point of view, balance between dialogue, narration, and action. That takes time. For me…since it’s in between being a wife, mom and daughter as well as any outside paid jobs…it’s taken a lot of time.

But I feel like it’s been worth the time. All the online classes and monthly workshops, I believe it has been good to not rush through the editing process. I have learned much and am excited to put all that learning into practice. I’m excited to be moving forward again.

I appreciate all the support everyone has given me. 

I’ve enjoyed the friendships I have made along this journey. And a journey it is! I look forward to connecting more with you, my dear friends and hopefully have more for you in the near future.

Blessings,

Denise

General, Writing Journey

Celebrating 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
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 writing awardgiddy with excitement after being presented with my award (yes I had to give a little speech).

 

And…

my name was listed in the Romance Writers Report Magazine

I still feel as if I’m on cloud nine. It gave me the confidence boost I needed to continue moving forward with my goal of publishing.

And what was my next goal?  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.

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

General, God Inspired Musings, Writing Journey

Where Is Your Confidence?

This morning I was reading in 2 Corinthians and the following verse made me stop and pause, so I wrote it down on my handy 3×5 index card for future reference:

Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.     2 Corinthians 3:5

I want to be a writer. Notice I said I want to, not I am. I’ve only been writing things for over twenty years – either marketing copy or fiction stories. No matter which, the reality is I struggle with believing in myself. My takeaway from this verse is God’s telling me if I believe in him, I need to believe in myself.

After getting the kids off to school, I took a walk and the verse rattled around in my head. But for some reason the key word competence turned into the word confidence (I wonder who put that there?). As I mulled around thoughts about confidence, I knew I needed to come home and look up the word in the dictionary.

I love words. Definitions, synonyms – all of it. I also love seeing connections words have with other words.  So here’s what the website http://www.dictionary.com says about

CONFIDENCE: full trust; belief in oneself and one’s powers or abilities; self-confidence; self-reliance; assurance:

And I love the example they gave in a sentence: His lack of confidence defeated him.

Is my lack of confidence in my abilities as a writer defeating me? I think about my writing and the nudges I have had over the past five years and I know without a doubt God wants me to do this, otherwise doors would’ve closed on me long ago. However I’m not fully doing what he wants me to do because I have not had the confidence to just do it.

I’ve been saying for a while now, I would like to write devotionals. I have this strong innate desire to share hope, encouragement and God’s Word with others. What I haven’t been sure about is the how and what. So I haven’t done it, period.

When I took my walk this am something clicked and I couldn’t wait to get back home because I needed to do this right now. God has confidence in me. He has given me the desire. He’s nudging me to do this. Why have I not done this? Why?

I’m afraid – that’s why. What am I so afraid of? Putting myself out there? Looking like an idiot? Is that confidence then? I know I’m not looking for accolades, not looking for stardom. I just want to write and share my heart. But I’ve been too scared to do that.

Then I saw the Synonyms for confidence – 1. faith, reliance, dependence.

And the Antonym – 1. mistrust.

Wow! In a nutshell, my lack of confidence in myself (lack of faith) and the abilities God has given me (lack of faith, dependence) are holding me back from sharing something he wants me to share. I’m not really trusting God then, am I? If I have faith, I should have confidence in what he’s asking me to do. And I need to depend on Him when I do it.

So here I am today. Writing a devotional and setting up a specific devotional page on my website. Only God knows what will happen. I just need to have the confidence to do it (already the nagging doubts are creeping in). I must rely on God with the rest.

But wait, there’s more. When I grabbed my Bible to write in the verse, I realized I made a mistake (was it really?) and the word was competence not confidence. Oh no! Do I scrap what I just wrote? Does it even relate? See maybe I shouldn’t be doing this after all. I paused for a moment then decided to look it up:

COMPETENCE: having suitable or sufficient skill, knowledge, experience, etc., for some purpose; properly qualified:

And the Synonym: 1. fit, capable, proficient.

No antonym. Interesting. There is no negative/opposite of being competent.  You either are or you are not. I may not be the best writer, but I know I am proficient. So what am I waiting for?

Then I looked at 2 Corinthians 3:4 Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God.

If God has given you skills – you are capable to use them for his glory. You just need to have the confidence through Him to do it. 

What abilities (competence) has God given you?  Where do you put your confidence?  In your own efforts, schedule, skills, voices in your head? Or do you trust God?  Do you have the confidence to put yourself out there with whatever it is?

God has given us all skills. We are all competent in something. Being competent does not need to mean you are the best at something. Being competent means you are proficient. You can get the job done. We let our own voices tell us we are not competent because we think we need to be the best or someone does it better than us and we let it affect our confidence which in turn affects what we do.    

Everyone’s path is different and God has one he wants you to follow. He has given you these skills for a reason. You just have to have confidence in Him that He is with you every step of the way.

God believes in you and I believe in you too!

General, God Inspired Musings, Writing Journey

Finding Strength

Life is hard, crazy and stressful and in those moments when we search for answers, sometimes God connects things in a way that makes me stop in awe.

The last two years I have chosen a word to focus on.  Hope was my first word in 2015 and Believe was my word in 2016.  For this year I have chosen – STRENGTH – and in searching up verses I am amazed to see how many fit where I am. In my walk with God.  My daily struggles of life.  My writing career.  Everything.

I know I need strength as I begin showing my work to agents, publishers, critique partners, you name it.  I need to be able to take criticism and suggestions and have strength to really hear the recommendations to make me a better writer.  I also want to lean on God’s strength in all aspects of my life.  As I get older, I realize that I can’t do life without him.

There are so many I want to highlight so for me to pick just one is really challenging.  So throughout the year, I will share different ones on my Facebook and Twitter accounts.  Here’s one though, I want to share:

Psalm 119:28 My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.

I love this last one personally.  Many days I feel weary dealing with everyday life.  And I know I’m not alone. I hope that these verses can offer you some comfort as they do to me.

So now that I firmly have my word set for the year, I look forward to seeing how God will use this word to encourage me, bolster me, show me things.  And He will.  Not even a week after I selected STRENGTH, imagine my surprise when my Bible Study book I ordered – Priscella Shearer’s Gideon – came in and the cover had these words: your weakness. Gods strength. Oh how God knows things before we do.  The fact that I’ll be spending six weeks studying God’s strength?  I’m so excited.

I would encourage you to consider selecting a word to focus on.  Write down 3 or 4 that pop in your mind and then look up verses to them.  As you ponder each one, God will let you know what the right one would be.  And I hope that it gives you infinite encouragement in all aspects of your life, just as mine have done for me.

Blessings, Denise

General, Writing Prompt

#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.

General, Writing Journey

When It All Clicks

keyboard

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.

General, Writing Journey

Taking Time to Reflect…

clock

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.

General, God Inspired Musings, Writing Journey

What Word Represents 2016?

Word?

Over the last several years I’ve read articles about people selecting a specific word or phrase that represents the year for them. It could be an area to focus on or something God has put on their heart to study and live out daily throughout the year.

Last year was the first year I selected a word and after several days of listing out different words, I selected the word Hope. It summarized for me where I was in my life – both writing and personal.  I had hope for my writing and where it was leading me, that I wanted to write about hope to offer hope to others, hope for how God would provide for my family, hope for the future and so much more. Several times throughout the year I found myself leaning on that word knowing God wanted me to never lose Hope, making sure it was in the words I wrote and in my actions.  It really did sum up my year when I reflect back. 

So this year I was excited to see what new word would fit me and my life.  I prayed about it and wrote down several words that I felt my heart leaning towards, but one kept coming up more than the others, so for 2016 I selected….. BELIEVE. 

First and foremost I need to BELIEVE in God, believe he will meet my needs, and so on.  I also need to believe I can become a published author, believe I have something worthy to say, believe in this journey God is taking me on, believe in my family and their support, and so much more.

I looked up the word Believe in the bible and there are too many verses to count with the word believe in it, but as I read different ones it became even more clear that this was the right word for me this year.  So many of them spoke to me, specifically: 

Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”  Mark 5:36

“If you can’t?” Said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”  Mark 9:23

Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!  Luke 1:45

Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.  John 7:38

I know without a doubt that this is the word for me this year. The year I’m going to believe in myself to show my work to agents, editors and hopefully become a published author. I just need to believe

I encourage you to take some time to reflect and pray about a word for you for 2016. When we take time to listen to what God wants for us it is amazing how he can encourage and strengthen us in our journey through his Word. 

Let me know what word or words you choose for your focus word this year. 

Blessings to you throughout 2016. 

Denise

General, Writing Journey

Obstacles

download

There are always obstacles that seem to get in the way of what our real intentions are.  Interruptions such as phone calls, a computer that keeps freezing, kids who must find something right now or else,  or the dog who barks at you because he wants to go out again for the 12th time.  Maybe while you are driving across town, you hit every red light sequence making you even later than before.  It’s at that moment, I feel God is trying to get my attention – that it’s time to slow down.  Of course I don’t realize it until I feel like I want to scream.

Whatever it is, obstacles can take a day that looks promising and make it very frustrating, so we have to find a way to refocus and get back on track so we don’t lose the entire day.

Anything can distract us – like the phone that’s now ringing (I’m laughing as the phone keeps ringing while I’m writing this).  So what if you took those distractions and saw them as God’s way of rerouting us.   That’s when I can take a step back and see that some obstacles are a blessing in disguise.  A chance to evaluate what’s most important to spend my time on.   An interruption that makes you pause and refocus, especially when you have less time and you need to pick the one thing that needs to get done first.

I can feel it even now.  I’ve had this idea for this blog topic all day and due to a variety of things, it’s now 5pm and I’m finally writing it.  But I didn’t want to not do it.  So many times I have an idea and I don’t go for it and then later I can’t remember what it was I wanted to write down.  In a way, the frustration forced me to say if there is one thing I do before I start dinner, what is it?

So when you feel obstacles getting the best of you – do not give up.  Walk away and focus on something else for a bit.  Write a list of what’s on your mind.  Go drink a glass of water.  Whatever it is, you need some sort of momentum and progress in order to help overcome the moment.  Don’t stop.  Keep pushing forward.  Don’t give up!  Even 15 minutes on task is 15 minutes more than before.  And the determination that comes from refocusing can help you gain greater progress.

Take a deep breath, say a prayer and ask God to help you.   That’s what I did and I really think this message is more from him than me because of it.

Blessings,

Denise

General, Writing Journey

Journey with me…..Faith, Hope and Love

Welcome to my author blog.  I’m so excited about this journey God has taken me on.  I’m also very nervous and unsure.  But mostly I’m excited as I feel his presence and know that his hand is leading me every step of the way.

I love to read.  I enjoy a story that inspires me to be a better person.  I love the journey that characters go on from looking at themselves as unlovable to finding someone who loves them for who they are.  And they become a better person because they are loved.  The more I have read the more I have been interested in writing my own stories.  The idea has been burning inside of me for a long time.

As I have taken steps to move this what seems to me impossible dream forward, several times I’ve come across roadblocks that I have since realized I have put up myself.  I consider myself a positive person, however it’s amazing how negative my thoughts can be about how much work it is, I am not good enough and so on.  What’s even more amazing is the people God has put in my path to encourage me and help me push past these roadblocks.  It’s then that I truly see God’s hand in this.  I still don’t know where He is taking me on this journey, but I’m focusing on trusting Him with the whole thing.  And for that I am truly excited.

I’m not sure yet where exactly this journey is going or how long it will take, but I would love for you to come along with me on it if you are interested.  We can learn and grow in this journey of faith, hope and love together.

Blessings,  Denise