Sunday’s Scenes From the Trail

Here are some of my favorite shots from my recent hikes:

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Because days like this are priceless.
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Because this campsite looks like it should be in a fairy tale.
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Because a river runs through it.
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Because this guy sang the sweetest song.

 

If you enjoyed this week’s photos, check back next Sunday for more Scenes From The Trail.

Authors Killing It On Social Media: Twitter Edition

Even though Instagram (find Authors Killing It On Instagram post here) is my favorite social media platform, Twitter is the one I find most entertaining. It’s like everyone downs a few drinks, spins around until they’re dizzy, and then types the first thing that comes to mind before they can think better of it and censor themselves. The result is a steady stream of chronic twitterrhea, and as long as it’s not political, I dig it.

And just like some authors kill it on Instagram, others find their excellence on the twitterverse. So, for those of us writers who need a little direction, or those of us readers who enjoying seeing their favorite authors in their element, I thought I’d share some of the profiles I’ve discovered of authors who I think are killing it. (The names are hyperlinked to their accounts.)

Maureen Johnson: Maureen’s feed makes you think of that one friend we all have (or need) who knows how to get the party started. Her tweets are consistent and entertaining. Not only is she an awesome writer (if you haven’t read the Truly Devious series, you don’t know what you’re missing!) but she seems like she’s a lot of fun. I think most of her 147.2K followers would agree!

Libra Bray: Bray is a frequent tweeter who balances promotion, love for her fellow authors, and the side of silliness you want when you log onto Twitter. Bonus points for using a scene from The Shining as her background pic!

Jen Malone: Jen is fun! Her tweets are more about making you smile than making you buy one of her books – and you’ll smile a lot! How can you argue with that?

Suzanne Young: Suzanne was great fun, then took a hiatus. Then she came back. Then the corona virus made her go into quarantine when she was supposed to have a book launch and now . . . IDK. I’ll be sad if she’s gone, because if you look back in her feed, she was good at the tweeting.

I admit that I am an infrequent tweeter. I’m more of a creeper who lurks in the shadows, watching what everyone else does and liking it. Guess maybe I need to down a few shots first. 🤪 If you want to check out my rather bland feed, you can find it here.

Are you on Twitter? What do you post, and what do you most enjoy seeing in your feed? If you follow an author who you think is killing it, I want to know!!!

 

 

When Your Dog Learns To Spell & Other Methods Of Mayhem

My 13 year old rescue, who I’ve had for the last 11 years, loves to play. With the exception of a couple of teeth that will be removed soon, he appears to be in wonderful health, squeaking his toys incessantly, running at full speed around the house and yard, and developing the definition of the term he-diva.

But there’s a problem . . .

With the exception of his life companion, who we unfortunately lost to a brain tumor last year, he hates everything with fur. And he screams his hate from the top of his lungs in his best warrior princess cry.

And I worry . . .

He needs exercise. Companionship. Another member to his little lone wolf pack. As much as he disagrees, I can’t help but feel that I’m doing him a disservice by allowing him to have his way.

When I adopted him all those years ago, I was told that he got on well with all other animals. (Not true.) I was fortunate that he got along with my other dog, but he didn’t have much of a choice. She was a boss in the way only Jack (or Parson) Russell terriers can be. An overconfident little girl who knew that her way was the best (and only) way.

Yet he screams at every other creature . . .

I spent months sitting with him along the side of the road, giving him chicken or porkchop or some other delicious treat whenever another dog walked by as ‘positive reinforcement’. Each time he’d spit the food out to yell (what I imagine are) obscenities. I hired a trainer, who worked with him for one afternoon before advising me to, “Just keep him away from other dogs.” Easier said than done, especially now. Even a walk around the neighborhood is a nightmare of epic proportions.

See the source imageDon’t get me wrong – he loves to walk. Nothing makes him happier (besides food) than racing full speed like the wild wolf he is, conquering the world and claiming it as his own. Until he sees, hears, or smells another dog. (And we live in a neighborhood where almost everyone has a dog.) When that happens, my little angel shouts his hate with the endless wrath of a hell hound. A demon who can break glass and shatter eardrums with his high pitched notes.

See the source imageThe other day when we were walking, someone asked me what breed he was. “A Singapore Shrieker. They’re used to hunt parrots and monkeys. Their high pitched calls make their prey fall right out of the trees.” While complete BS, it’s possibly believable, and I wanted to say it so bad because it would explain a lot, but instead I hung my head and said, “Schnauzer mix,” which translates as my dog is horribly behaved in public while we both winced at the sound of the little man’s madness.

Needless to say, there’s no such thing as a casual stroll when it entails enduring a headache and humiliation. My husband and I do our best to make sure we’re both up for the walk of shame before pup knows it’s on the table.

Only, there’s been a new development . . .

See the source imageA few nights ago, after dinner, we discussed a W-A-L-K. Spelled. And pup went to his leash. Then proceeded to bounce his front paws off the door like the he-diva he’s become. Several experiments have confirmed it. There’s no mistaking it. He’s learned to spell (at least that word, but who knows what will follow next).

This. Changes. Everything.

In a sheer panic we texted (while in the same room). We’ll use code words. Nonverbal communication. Sign language. Anything to hold on to the last shreds of control that we have, but who knows how long that will last. All the while, pup smiled at us, rather smugly.

I had a brief flashback to my childhood, to my parents spelling the things they didn’t want me to hear, and the day I cracked the code. My own feeling of triumph at having leveled the playing field. Did I (smugly) spell back to them? Do I deserve this? Ugh, I think maybe I do.

At the end of the day, I’m incredibly grateful to have such a smart, healthy pup, but still . . . if anyone has any suggestions, please, send help. And if not, and you see us coming . . . cover your ears and run!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Letter To My Possible Future Literary Agent

Dear Possible Future Literary Agent,

There are some things you should probably know about me.

I love words. I love reading. I love writing. I write for myself but also because I hope to entertain people and help them to escape the reality of life from time to time. Awards are good, I have nothing against them, but I have no desire to win a Pulitzer. If you’re looking for the next Toni Morrison, it probably won’t be me.

Image result for cheeseI’ll listen to what you say, because I’m well aware that I don’t know everything, but there are some things I do that you might not like. Sometimes I get bound by the bonds of alliteration. I can’t stand the way a properly executed em-dash looks, so I use spaces around it. And I like to do things in a series of three for emphasis. Why? Why? Why? I don’t quite know, but if you tell me to stop, I will try.

I’ll need to know your favorite treat, because I believe in celebrating everything, and if you give a Shannon a contract, she’s going to want to send you a cookie food. I’m not going to assume it’s chocolate, and hope you’ll do likewise. I enjoy chocolate like most people, but sometimes the sugar doesn’t make me feel so great, plus my husband will probably eat most of it before I get a chance.Image result for cheese

But don’t worry, because I also like cheese. Said husband likes cheese, too, but I believe I can eat more cheese quicker than him, plus, I’ll take the best cheese, the tastiest one, and put it in the hidden part of the refrigerator, the secret vortex that keeps things hidden from the husband’s eyes. There’s a reason our vegetable drawer is always full – so no one can see what’s at the back.

But, if a treat for you is hot yoga, I can arrange that too. I understand that while it may not be my thing, it might be yours. I have nothing against hot yoga, it’s just that it’s hot. And sweaty. And sweaty leads to stinky. Then you’re in a room full of hot, sweaty, stinky people, and the teacher wants you to move around and stuff, which means you’ve got to breathe. Deeply. If you’re into all that, it’s cool. But I’ll stick with the cheese, please.

Image result for cheeseYou should also know that I’m not afraid of hard work, and I won’t give up. I’m not just saying that. I’ve got proof.

I get out of bed every day, even the days meant for staying in bed, like rainy Sundays when I’m in the middle of a book I don’t want to put down. On those days it’s mainly because a girl’s gotta eat, and said husband is willing to exist on things he can dip into mustard and salsa (with a side of cheese) if it allows him to maintain his claim that he can’t cook. That, and I’d have to get out of bed to open the window for the delivery driver, anyways, so I might as well just stay out of bed.

Also . . . I know SO many ways to dispose of a body, which makes me the ideal person to be that friend everyone should have on hand. Unless that offends you. Then you can be that bastion of levelheaded wisdom friend for me. We don’t even have to be friends if you don’t want. I’m not very social, anyways. You’ll probably have to do most of the work. So, I’ll let you decide.Image result for cheese

My point is, I’m well aware that I need you more than you need me. Everyone and their uncle’s a writer. Not everyone and only some uncles are agents. I’ll do my best to make you proud. And if you’re having a hard day and feeling blue, I’ll do my best to cheer you up with a song I create just for you. (Actually, I might re-appropriate one of the ones I sing to my dogs, but I’ll change the name to yours and throw in a couple of other details to make sure you feel special.)

My songs, by the way, are delightful, engaging and entertaining. (There’s that three thing again!) And you’d like more tempting, tasty tidbits about me? (Score once more for alliteration! Do you see what you’re missing out on?!?!)

I love horror movies and have a tendency to laugh at the worst parts. I bar-tended through seven years of college, and not just how most college students bar-tend, but professionally, so I could cater all your lunches with acquisitions editors and make them super strong drinks that taste like candy. And what else . . . oh, yeah. I like cheese.

Most Sincerely,

Shannon

 

 

 

 

Fieldwork For Fiction

Write what you know. It’s common advice for writers. But how does it apply to you and your writing?

I recently overheard a fantasy writer remark that they couldn’t “write what they know” because they “create worlds and make things up”. I get what they’re saying, but I don’t really agree with it, because all fiction writers make stuff up, right? And beyond that, all people, writers or not, know and recognize certain things.

I walk hundreds of miles a year. I’ve walked over mountains, through swamps, across beaches and scrubland and pine forests and oak woods and grassy plains . . . and plenty of habitats inbetween.

I’ve had wild boars run across the trail ten feet in front of me, seen a snake mating ball writhing in the grass, and wandered upon a ginormous alligator sunning across the path. I can describe the difference between sweat from stifling heat from that of frigid cold and that of fear. I can tell you that pines just below the timberline on a summer day in the mountains smell like Christmas. Or that the sulfuric stench of a river has briny undertones, while that of a swamp has a ‘meatier’ rotten egg odor.

While walking, I love taking photographs of interesting trees, but I can also use those different trees to help set the mood of a scene. A palm trees with spear-like projections stabbing into the air from it’s trunk, (the kind you can imagine mangled bodies impaled upon), is very different than a majestic oak with sun limned ferns growing atop a sweeping bow. I’ve seen trees with actual thorns, mangroves with spindly witch hands, and trees with gnarled limbs like knotted arthritic fingers.

 
Pay attention to all of your senses. What sounds do you hear when you go outside? Birds, insects, frogs? Traffic, sirens, jackhammers? What would you feel if those sounds suddenly stop and all you hear in the silence is your own heartbeat and the slosh of your spit as you swallow?

I guess my point is this – writing what you know isn’t just subjects you know about. It’s including sensory descriptions and emotions you can invoke, and for that, you have to get out and actively experience your life. Next time you’re at the mall, pay attention to how the smells change as you go from store to store. If you’re at a restaurant, pay attention to how the noise level varies throughout – is it louder at the bar, when you walk past the table with three kids under five, or near a group of rowdy friends?

I think most of us observe more than we realize during the course of our daily lives, and I know that, as a reader, when a writer includes something – no matter how mundane – that makes me remember an experience of my own, it draws me that much deeper into the story.

Only a small percentage of my fiction is set outdoors, but I do a lot of fieldwork to bring those scenes to life, and what I observe on the trail can apply to other fictional settings as well. (But don’t go seeking out a giant alligator so you can catalogue your body’s fear response 😬. Safety first!)

Writers – what fieldwork do you do for your fiction? And readers – what has an author done to really make you connect with a story?

(All pictures my own, most featured on my Instagram account

A Festival For Our Furry Friends

 

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There’s a lot of sad, depressing, and enraging news out there, but every once in a while, I stumble upon an article that makes me happy. Quite often said article is satirical or entirely BS. This one, I am thrilled to report, is not. So if you need a lift today, if edits or life or the weathers has you down, I present to you this: 

Source: In Nepal, There Is A Festival Every Year To Thanks Dogs For Being Our Friends

Litsy 7 Days 7 Covers #CoverCrush challenge

post imagepost imageIf you spend any time on Litsy (and if you don’t, you should!) one of the highlights of the past couple of weeks has been the #7covers7days #CoverCrush challenge. It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like – for seven days you post a book cover you love, no explanation needed. I love seeing post imagepost imageeveryone’s favorite covers, and I think this could be especially helpful for #indie authors who design their own book covers.

I thought I’d share the covers I chose with you. (Even though 95% of my books are in storage, I still had some great picks on hand!)

IMG_20190922_160800

IMG_20190922_160855Litsy is an awesome community of book lovers, kind of like if Instagram and Goodreads collided. They’ve also recently created a web version for anyone who doesn’t like relying on their phone to post.

So there’re no excuses anymore – if you love books and reading, this is the social media app made just for you! (The link will lead to my profile IMG_20190922_160622– if you sign up, add me so I can welcome you to the community and introduce you to other book lovers!)

What I love most about Litsy is that you don’t have to worry about being popular or what to say to people because everyone there has a common interest – they’re passionate about reading!

A Twist To The Plot

It seems that each year just keeps getting busier than the next – and this one’s been no different!

We’ve finally gotten settled after our huge move from the north woods of New Hampshire back to our home state of Florida, and boy does it feel good! The sunshine, the sea air, and salt on margaritas instead of driveways (who can argue with that?).

After years of having no window in my kitchen and an office that overlooked the driveway, the first thing I did was plant a butterfly garden. I’ve only broken two dishes so far, and only one resulted in an injury needing medical attention, so it’s definitely been worth it. (The pup’s definition of irony – when the human plants a garden so they can chase butterflies, then yells at him for chasing the butterflies. Pursuing a butterfly with a camera versus fangs is simply a lack of fun on the human’s part.)

I turned a new leaf in my writing and started penning YA mysteries! It was a plot twist I didn’t see coming (but should have). My first is finished and currently in the query process. My second is just around the halfway point of the first draft, and I’ve got more ideas than I could possibly develop, so I think I may have found my new niche! (Which means all the adult manuscripts I’ve written over the years may turn up free on Amazon – if you’re interested, sign up for my newsletter.)

I’m just about back in the groove of things, so regular blogging should recommence soon.

For those of you who don’t know, my main website www.shannonhollinger.com is no longer on WordPress. Stop by and check out the new look or sign-up for my newsletter so you don’t miss any important updates. Better yet, do both!

When Your Health Steals Your Words

Several years ago, my writing was going strong. I had a schedule. I wrote most days. I had a couple of completed novels, and was querying agents. I had a dozen requests for  full manuscripts. I was so close to fulfilling my dream as a traditionally published author that I could taste it.

Then, I lost my momentum. I lost my energy. I lost my words. Literally.

I put on almost forty pounds with no explanation. No amount of diet or exercise managed to make the scale budge. I couldn’t keep my train of thought, and oftentimes, in conversation, I simply drew blanks. I couldn’t think of the words I was looking for. Not a great feeling for someone who wants to be a wordsmith.

I’m no stranger to health issues. I was hit by a drunk driver almost twenty years ago, and have a laundry lists of ailments that cause chronic pain. But this time was different. You can force your body to work to some degree. You can’t force your mind.

My acid reflux got so bad that I barely needed to chew my food – it practically dissolved in my mouth my saliva was so acidic. Obviously I was somehow related to that dinosaur in the first Jurassic Park – the one with a frilled collar that spit on the guy from Seinfeld, blinding him with his acid spit. As much as I love dinosaurs, I don’t really want to be one! 🦖🦖🦖

I’m going to take a very long story and make it short.

I was on twice the maximum daily dose of Prevacid. They thought it was Celiac, and although I initially got better on a gluten free diet, the relief was short lived. Multiple invasive, expensive tests revealed no answers.

Then my mom discovered a food sensitivity test you could order online from EverlyWell. I took the test. And while it turns out I do have a mild sensitivity to gluten, I have an extreme sensitivity to yeast – both bakers and brewers – which is still in many gluten free products.

Going yeast free meant saying no to almost all breads. No wine, beer, or alcohol other than vodka, which supposedly uses all the yeast added during the fermentation process. No fruit other than berries. No vinegar, nothing pickled, no fun.

I immediately avoided all foods and drinks with yeast, while still eating some of the ‘by-products’. (Even ranch dressing and mustard have vinegar.) And I dropped over 30 pounds in six weeks. My energy started coming back. My confidence. And then, finally, my words.

It’s been about four months now. I still slip sometimes. Mainly unintentionally, when I eat out. My stomach will blow out to about seven months pregnant, but it goes back down in a day or two. I get foggy, but it clears. I forget the word I’m looking for,  but it comes eventually. When I sit down to write, the page no longer remains blank.

I’ve gone back and forth about writing this post, but sharing is caring, and I hope this helps someone else. Not to mention that I’m so grateful that I’m able to write it – look, words!!! And I wrote them! I feel so much better, and I truly hope this reaches at least one person who benefits from this post.

(I’m not getting any kickbacks for sharing the name of the company that quite literally changed my life. There’s usually coupon codes online if you do a Google search for them.)

(If you or someone you know has a yeast sensitivity, make sure to check vitamins and supplements for the nasty little addition – it’s everywhere!)

#Thriller in the Woods #Book Signing and #Author Event

thrillerinwoods1-e1539282021408.jpgI’m fortunate enough to live in an area with an incredible indie bookstore and some fantastic local authors who are kind enough to indulge the local readership with awesome events.

When I heard that White Birch Books was sponsoring “Thriller in the Woods: A Night of Conversation with Lisa Gardner and Lisa Unger,” I knew I couldn’t miss it.

Lisa Gardner launches her book tour in North Conway, NH each year. She’s a great speaker, super personable, and pens thrillers guaranteed to keep you on the edge thrillerinwoods.jpgof your seat! I try to attend any event where she’s featured, because it’s sure to be a blast! This time, the event was held at Theater in the Woods, and she brought a friend!!!

Lisa Gardner and Lisa Unger are both internationally best selling authors. They both write suspenseful thrillers. They’re both named Lisa. Put them in a room together and let the adventure begin!

thrillerinwoods2The event was in celebration of the release of Lisa Unger’s newest novel, Under My Skin, and the paperback release of Lisa Gardner’s novel, Look For Me.

The two authors had an incredibly interesting discussion touching on everything from their different writing processes, where they get their ideas, how they perform their research, how they got their start, and so much more!

Both women are wonderfully dynamic, and the conversation flowed with the natural ease of two old friends having a casual chat. I really enjoy attending book signings and author talks, and have met my fair share of bestselling authors in the process – I cannot stress how genuinely friendly and engaging these ladies are! If you get the chance to see either of them speak, do it! You won’t regret it! #TeamLisa

 

 

 

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