Sunday, December 29, 2013

Overcoming Hurdles for Newbie Self-Published Authors

Since the early part of 2013, when I decided to put more effort into my writing and more effort into sharing my writing with others, I have come across many hurdles along the way that every new writer will most likely have to face in their journey as a newbie author.

The intent of this post is to share some of the hurdles I have encountered in the beginning with you and give you a little advice on how to get through them in your trek to become known, more widely read and/or published.

Hurdle #1

What do I write about?

You have decided to take the first step and write something.  Whether it is a poem, a short story, a novella, or a full blown epic novel, you have no idea what to write about.  I had this same problem of not knowing what to write about in the beginning, so I attempted to just write about nothing in particular.

The actual action of writing - pen to paper or fingers to keyboard - is a great way to get your mind flowing with ideas.  It does not matter if the ideas are not good, the fact remains that writing them down will get them out of your mind and out of the way.  This step will also determine what your writing genre will be and what you like to write about. 

To get over this first hurdle, just simply write whatever comes to your mind. Once you have written hundreds of words, most likely the cream will rise to the top and you will have some very good words and sentences written.  If not, keep writing ... the good stuff will manifest itself once the bad stuff gets out of the way.

Hurdle #2

Who will be the "name brand" I  will promote? 

This seems like an identity crisis question to some.  But it was not something I spent much time on in the beginning of this journey.

One day, after submitting my work to several websites and literary journals, I realized that maybe I would rather use an alias or use my initials instead of my first name as my writing nom de plume. 

Google and other search engines have an annoying way of keeping whatever name you associate with your work attached to the search criteria for years to come - this is something that is not easily "undone" in the digital age.

My best advice on this hurdle is to figure it out what your name brand is before you submit anything to anyone. 

Hurdle #3

Where do I let others see my writing?

This was a daunting question for me as well, so after I determined my writing genre (short stories), I Googled "short story submissions" to see what would come up.

There are thousands of short story contests, as well as world-renowned literary journals that are currently accepting submissions.  I started with the lesser known ones and submitted several of my short stories to them. This was strictly to test the waters and luckily, one editor (at Midlife Collage) liked one of my stories and gave it a chance to be read by a wider audience.

Another great way to keep your short story writing skills polished and have a little fun as well is to write flash fiction stories and submit them to contests.  There are tons of websites that have flash fiction contests, but the one I like the best is Indies Unlimited.  This was the very first place that I submitted several of my flash fiction stories (250 words or less) to and actually won a couple of their weekly contests. (CAVEAT - Do not blindly submit flash fiction or any other items to them, please seem "How Indies Unlimited Works" for further details.

To get past this hurdle, the best thing to do is to find places to submit your writing to that match the genre of your writing.

(If interested, please see the right hand side bar of this blog for several websites currently accepting submissions for various genres).

Hurdle # 4

How do I keep the momentum going? 

This is very tough and is the one hurdle that I had the most problems with. 

This sounds simple enough, but once you have a couple of "wins", you may get stuck in the high of success (however small that success may be) and put too much of your energy into getting those first few stories read by more people.

Focusing on promoting your work is okay to do -  if you remember to keep writing while you are marketing your previously written short story/poem/flash fiction items.  No new singer or musician wants to be a "one-hit wonder" and this holds true for new authors as well.

In the end, the answer to overcoming this hurdle is simply this - Keep writing. Period.

Hurdle # 5

When do I self-publish?

This is one of the most important questions to an indie author and one of the most important steps in this journey. The absolute worst thing a new author can do is to rush to publish their very first piece.

If you have not taken the time or effort needed to make sure your work is free of grammatical errors and edited properly, it is very evident to the readers and reviewers.

Some readers or reviewers will be kind and give you positive feedback, but others can be very hateful or spiteful and give you a bad review.  Either way, it is up to you to present your very best work as a first impression to your audience.  There is no second chance at a good first impression.

For this hurdle, the simplest answer that I have is this.  Publish when you are ready, or rather when your work is ready - not sooner.

A Closing Note

My hope is that this post will help the newest writers begin their journey.

If you have more advice for beginners or comments that would help newbie authors who plan to self-publish, please feel free to respond in the comments section below.

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Year in Review - 2013

As I near the end of 2013, it is time for me to reflect on the past twelve months of writing, work and life in general.

I do this every year (you know, the year in review thing), so this year is not any different than previous years - except for one thing.  This year I became an author.  Or rather, I became a published author.

When it happened, there were no crowds cheering, there were no offers of a book contract and there were certainly no buckets of cash delivered to my front door. And honestly, that is perfectly okay with me. 

The reason that all of this is perfectly okay with me is that I really do not like being the center of attention.  I am an introvert by nature and writing is a solitary thing.  It is something I can do alone and away from the chaos and drama in the world.

Besides, the main goal of my writing is not to become famous or wealthy like most authors strive to be, but to have an outlet that makes me content.  I write because it makes me happy. Period.

One other thing that is different this year is that I stepped out of my comfort zone and decided (actually forced myself) to expose others to my writing.  As luck would have it, many people actually liked my writing and this led to publication of several of my short stories.

The first two short stories were winners of a weekly flash fiction contest through Indies Unlimited - a wonderful place for writers/authors/reviewers to gather  ideas.  They also produce a yearly anthology of the flash fiction weekly winners which will be available on Amazon in early 2014.  (CAVEAT - Do not blindly submit flash fiction or any other items to them, please seem "How Indies Unlimited Works" for further details.

The third short story I submitted was an essay accepted for publication on another great website called Midlife Collage.  I did not have much hope of acceptance when I submitted my short story, "Her Name was Half Calf" to the editor.  But, again, as luck would have it, the editor liked my story and decided to showcase it along with four other stories in a weekly contest.  I was thrilled to win the contest along with a $50 prize. 

After the hubbub of winning the first few short story contests had died down, I decided to try NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month)  in November 2013.

The main reason for attempting NaNoWriMo was to determine if I had a full-length novel inside of me.  By November 25th, it appeared that I did indeed have a book inside of me waiting to be written.  The working title of my debut novel is "Before the Rooster Crows" and I am currently editing the draft for publication in mid to late 2014.

Since the end of November, I have been "cocooning" and keeping to myself for the most part. Along with working 10 - 12 hour days in my normal job as a systems engineer for a major bank and taking care of many family issues along the way,  I have been writing several more short stories to be included in a collection that I plan to publish on Amazon in the spring of 2014.

Looking back on 2013, I am pleased with the progress I have made as a writer/author, corporate worker, spouse and as a human being in general.  I have learned a lot this past year about myself and about the writing business.

To sum up the year in one sentence, it would be my most used mantra in 2013 - these five simple words:


Thank you, my dear readers for a wonderful 2013 and I look forward to what is to come in 2014.  May you all have peace, prosperity and happiness in the coming year.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Taking a Break from Facebook 

Over the past few weeks, I have noticed that instead of writing or editing, I was spending way too much time on Facebook.

It started out, innocently enough, as a reward for writing the daily word count goal during my first ever attempt to write a draft of a novel within NaNoWriMo.

Soon after the beginning of December, after I patted myself on the back for winning NaNoWriMo, I would skip days of writing so that I could "edit" the draft of my NaNoWriMo novel.

When editing was not really going the way I wanted it to, I then rationalized that my writing muse was exhausted or that my day job was taking up all of my time or a myriad of other excuses to convince myself that it was okay not to be writing.

Instead of writing or editing, I would sit for hours and go through the motions of  mindless "Facebook-liking" of people and pages that I had not even really taken the time to get to know, let alone taking the time to even determine if I truly wanted to like or  follow them on Facebook.  It became automatic, robotic and a very bad habit within a matter of just a few short weeks. Soon, I was getting so many invitations to so many pages, I could not keep up with it all. I became overwhelmed.

Once I realized just how much time I was wasting each and every day, I made the ultimate, conscious decision to unpublish my Facebook author page and deactivate my Facebook account in a rather startling, "cold-turkey", "pull-the-bandage-off-quickly" fashion.

I felt a little guilty about it, so I left my hundreds of Facebook friends a post stating that I was deactivating my account for the holidays (possibly longer) and wished them a happy holiday season.  In response to this, only a handful of people responded to the post and a couple of people sent emails expressing their concern.  But they all understood my need to take a break from it.

I am not sure if this break from Facebook will be a permanent one or just for the holidays.  But, I can say  one thing is certain ...  I have been 100% more productive in life and in writing since I stopped using Facebook just a mere twenty-four hours ago.  I feel a bit more focused now and am living life outside of my writing cave and away from my laptop.

If you are a Facebook addict like I was becoming, why not give it a break for a bit?

Trust me, your Facebook friends will still be there when you re-activate your account.  In all honesty, you true friends will still keep in touch with you even if you are not of Facebook.

Happy Holidays to All of You!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

What Am I Thankful For?

It seems to be a simple enough question, yet so hard to answer at times.

The answers that immediately come to mind are that I am thankful for good health, a good job, happiness, a loving spouse and a caring family.

On deeper reflection, there is so much more to be thankful for on this day of Thanksgiving and all other days of the year.

Besides the obvious things, below is a list of other things I am thankful for:

I am thankful that the Sun rises every day.  There was a time in recent history (1800's) where a massive volcanic eruption (Krakatoa) blocked out the Sun for weeks, causing crops to fail and subsequent starvation of many people.  The Sun rising each day is a frequently overlooked and very important thing to be thankful for.

I am thankful for the abundance of food in America.  Many people in many countries do not have enough to eat. I have felt hunger many times in my life, but cannot imagine starving on a daily basis.

I am thankful for the clean water that runs to my house from a deep well in our back yard. Many people on this Earth do not have clean water and this simple necessity of life is out of reach for so many.

I am thankful that there is a drama-less, at times boring, routine to my daily existence. This helps me to see when there is indeed a true crisis to be addressed.

I am thankful for not being a parent, (hear me out on this one, please). Although I know I would have been a very good one, I find raising animals to be my calling over human parenthood. Anyone who really knows me, knows that my pets and farm animals are treated as my children and I will go the extra miles to make sure they are healthy and happy.

I am thankful that opportunities given to me early in life were acted upon and I had the discipline and patience to see those opportunities blossom into tangible results - personally and professionally. My "overnight success" took decades to accomplish with a lot of blood, sweat and tears in the process.

I am thankful that others do not always like me, are jealous or envious of me and at times have said and have done hateful things to me. These instances have only made me a stronger-willed person and have made me grow a thicker skin.  But, most importantly these negative things have spurred me on to acting upon the things that I am passionate about.

Lastly, I am thankful for having things to be thankful for.  This may sound like circular logic to some. But, in the grand scheme of things, if you have nothing to be thankful for, your time on this Earth is most likely nearing its end.

So, be thankful for everything you have each day - including  being grateful that the Sun rises, water is plentiful, food is available and that you actually have many things (if you look hard enough) to be thankful for.

Happy Holidays to Everyone ... And may all of you continue to have things to be thankful about for many years to come.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Day 24 - National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)

It has been almost two weeks since my last blog post on Day 13 of National Novel Writing Month and I bet you are wondering how I am doing in my quest for the elusive goal of writing 50,000 words in 30 days.

Without further ado and a drum roll, please ...  I sprinted to the finish line this past weekend and surpassed the goal with a final word count of  50,812.

This was a rather daunting effort and believe me when I say that I  had a tremendous amount of doubt of whether I would finish the remaining 8,000 words to complete NaNoWriMo 2013.

Despite the hurdles this past week, which included an insane amount of overtime at work and a trip to the Emergency Room for my husband, I was able to write those remaining words this past weekend.  All the while dealing with some other personal issues that I will not go into here.  Suffice it to say, life did get in the way, especially near the finish line.

I have had a day or so to digest what all of this means to me and frankly, it can be summed up in a few bullet points:

  • I set out on this journey to determine if a short story author like me had a full length novel within her.  I have successfully proven to myself that, yes, I do.  And even better than that, I have determined that I have several ideas for novels within me - many of which came to my mind during NaNoWriMo. These ideas have been added to my  list of what to write next.
  • There are some people who hate NaNoWriMo.  At times during the past 25 days, I hated it, too.  But, in the end, I absolutely loved where it brought me as a writer and as a goal oriented person who needed it to move forward in life and in writing.
  •  I have a rough draft of my very first book to show for this effort - to edit over the next few months.  That was the result I was looking for and that is the end result I have.  No more, no less.
  • Thanksgiving has not been cancelled.  I know many of you were very concerned about this.  So relax, I am going to eat, drink and be merry with friends and family on Thursday.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Day 13 - National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)

After thirteen days of this emotional roller-coaster ride called NaNoWriMo,  I have now made it through the "Week 2 NaNoWriMo Doldrums" and am over halfway to the coveted goal of 50,000 words.

The doldrums  in this context simply means -   a state or period of inactivity, stagnation, or depression. Not to be mistaken with the nautical reference of the doldrums -  a belt of calm and light baffling winds north of the equator between the northern and southern trade winds in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

But, what an awesome place to be -  to write your novel in November on a sailboat in the ocean where the winds are calm and the sound of the water is so relaxing... sorry, was really visualizing that scene for just a moment and was shamelessly emulating  Word Girl.

I am currently at 25,443 words!

I thought I would be so much more excited about this accomplishment, and I was for about five minutes.

Then reality came crashing down upon me and the thought of another 25,000 words to finish this crazy endeavor seemed like another humongous mountain to climb - after just having climbed Mt. Everest in the  first  two weeks (in the literal sense, of course).

Which led to the most horrifying thought ... that my best plot twists and turns were already written in the first two weeks.  <very heavy sigh>

Miraculously, the words of  my mother's many sayings flashed in my mind: 

"Pull yourself up by your boot-straps and dust yourself off".

"You can do anything that you set your mind to do". 

So, I took her sage advice and hammered out another 500 words last night for good measure.

I know you all have questions, so I will  attempt to answer the most pressing ones here, such as  - What have the first two weeks been like for a first-time NaNoWriMo participant and what is my plan for the remaining weeks?

  • First and foremost, I have learned to PACE MYSELF.  The jump out of the gate at the beginning of November is not an indicator of the normal daily average for word count that one will have after the first week.
  • Obviously, there will be bad days, mental blocks and distractions.  Write through these moments, even if the writing is total and complete rubbish.  You can edit the manure out at a later time.
  • Which leads to the next point. DO NOT EDIT in November.  No matter how hard you try not to, you will be tempted to edit your manuscript while you are writing. DON'T DO IT!  This is a slippery slope and will certainly  lead you into a doom loop of writing, deleting, re-writing and re-deleting words.
  • Apologize ahead of time for cancelling Thanksgiving. You know you will sneak away to write on this holiday, so own it and accept it before the day comes.
  • Let your friends and family know that you truly appreciate their support and encouragement.  Assure them that you will get back to household chores and social commitments starting on December 1st. 
  • Most importantly, try to HAVE FUN during the remaining weeks.  

If you do not reach the 50k goal, so what?  You are much better off than you were at the beginning of November.  You have dedicated time and effort to YOUR story and that is worth its weight in gold.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Day 6 - National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)

After five days of hammering out all the words my writing muse could spew forth, I find it very quiet in my head today.  So quiet that I can now reflect on the past few days since the start of this challenge.

Lessons have definitely been learned.  I look back and realize that each day started with just one word. Yes, one word which leads to another and so on - it is that simple.  It is just like putting one foot in front of the other - a journey of a thousand miles starts with one step.   It is the same with writing, but you must write the first word each and every day to keep the momentum going.

I consider myself very disciplined with writing and am a master of tunnel vision and focus, but I must say that it has taken NaNoWriMo to motivate me enough to reach the 11,700 words that I had at the end of the fifth day.  This is definitely not a feat for the faint of heart or anyone who cannot stay disciplined or focused for an entire month.

So, what has kept me on track, you ask?   Here are a few answers:

  • No editing allowed - okay, maybe just a tiny bit.  Need to keep reminding yourself that this is NaNoWriMo - not NaNoEditMo. Edit out superfluous words later on - not now.
  • Limit your daily time on social media.  This is the hardest thing for us social creatures to do. 
  • Turn off the TV and Netflix and YouTube.  Seriously, folks, you can live without seeing the latest episode of Big Bang Theory or Castle - DVR your shows and they will be there December 1st.  Better yet, use TV/Netflix/YouTube viewing as a reward for achieving your word count goal for any particular day.
  • Get up an hour earlier or go to sleep an hour later.  The recent time change has messed up my sleep cycle - so this is not a huge deal. Just an hour more a day can make a striking difference.
  • Get your family to pitch in on the home-front - not an easy task, I know.  But it is needed to free your own time up for writing.
  • Try to remember, you are not alone in this endeavor. When you do get stuck with your plot or characters, reach out to the multitude of NaNoWriMo support groups that are out there.  They are amazing in helping others get past these hurdles.

I think my writing muse is now awakening from her slumber. So, I need to get prepared to capture her gifts before she drifts off to sleep again.

Good luck to everyone in staying focused and disciplined during the next 24 days of NaNoWriMo.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Day 1 - National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)

If you have been following the author/writer/book blogs, tweets and Facebook pages as of late, you know that yesterday was the first day of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

For those who have never heard of it, NaNoWriMo is basically a competition to write a novel in the month of November.  Not that you would have a complete novel written in a month, but a good first draft to be edited at a later time. (At least, that is what I hope to have at the end of November).

This is the first NaNoWriMo that I am participating in and I was not really sure how to go about it.  So, I did what I normally do before undertaking any new endeavor or assignment - I panicked. Yes, it does seem silly to panic about a purely optional writing assignment, but let me explain why this was my first reaction in preparing for NaNoWriMo.

You see, I have a history of panicking at the first thought of trying anything new and outside my normal routine or comfort zone.  I know, I need to get over this, but the "deer in the highlights" reaction seems to be a genetic trait that is deeply engrained in my psyche and has been a life-long struggle to shake off.  It is no longer a debilitating reaction like it once was decades ago, it is now just a momentary pause where my subconscious mind screams, "No way!  You have got to be f'ing kidding me!"  To which I console my inner child with loving thoughts and calming words ... err, that sounds good on paper, but I  more often than not have to tell my inner child to "f'ng get over it" and move on.  Hey, whatever works, right?

So, once I was past  this initial "pause" in acting on my intent to dive into NaNoWriMo, the planning began in earnest.  Every spare moment, for weeks prior to the beginning of November, I would think about what I would be writing come November 1st - to the point of almost giving up before I even started.  But, alas, my inner child was placed in the corner for a time-out and not allowed to have a temper tantrum on the first day of NaNoWriMo.

Once my inner brat was safely placed (rather bound and gagged) in the corner of my subconscious, a wonderful thing happened - my writing muse appeared in a rather dramatic entrance.  She spewed forth sentence after sentence of well formed thoughts and ideas that had me breathless trying to catch up and record everything.  By the end of day one, she left me with 3,237 words - not a bad start to an endeavor I almost talked myself out of before it ever began.

Here's to a successful first day of NaNo and may the next twenty-nine days be as fruitful as the first one.

Good luck to everyone participating and may your writing muse continue to keep your inner child at bay for the next few weeks.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Signature of All Things

I have just completed reading the most wonderful book by a most wonderful author. The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert is truly an amazing story.

It is evident on every page that the author painstakingly researched and toiled for many years to write this sweeping, historically sound, epic novel of desire, ambition, and utmost need for knowledge. This novel is definitely in the category of literary fiction that ranks high on the list with such works as Bronte's Wuthering Heights and Austen's Pride and Prejudice.

Who would have thought that the subject matter of mosses would be so delightfully interesting and spectacularly entertaining? Apparently, quite a lot of readers (including me) do and are fully embracing this new novel from this amazing author.

Gilbert successfully makes the lead character, Alma Whittaker, moss-loving woman of the 19th century into someone the reader cannot help but like - I would even go as far as to say "adore".

From Alma's birth through the years right before her death, the author takes you on a world-wind tour of the Whittaker estate (White Acre) in Philadelphia across the oceans to Tahiti and finally to Holland - all the while narrating the sights, sounds, smells of animals and people that Alma encounters along the way.

Although the beginning of the book is very informative and provides much in regard to Alma's lineage and upbringing, the story becomes more interesting and fully unfolds at the midpoint of the book. Up to this point, Alma has dedicated her life to moss study and scientific reasoning, but then she encounters Ambrose Pike. Smitten with this new beau, one thing leads to another and the two wed shortly thereafter.

The events that take place after their exchange of vows are at times (psychologically) hard to read, but these events lead the story into the next phases of Alma's life. The first one being a phase of removing familiar surroundings one is accustomed to; then on to removing the "baggage" of life and finally to the last phase - one of discovery.

I whole-heartedly recommend this novel to anyone who appreciates literary, historical fiction. You will not be disappointed.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Gratitude Give-A-Way Winner is DEVORAH FOX                       

Visit Devorah at:

Facebook -

Website -

Thank you all for entering the contest and sharing it with others in your network.  

Monday, October 21, 2013

Gratitude Give-A-Way

As a writer, the past few weeks have been truly awesome.  So much so, that I wanted to thank all of  you for your continued support, comments, advice, blog readership, FB likes and everything else you have done to help me to continue on in my pursuit of writing.

As a token of my appreciation, I will be giving away a $10 Amazon e-card to ONE lucky winner on Monday, 10/28.  To enter, please go to the below link:

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Thanks and good luck to all of you. :-)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Regrouping and Preparing for NaNoWriMo

With all of the craziness surrounding my recently published short story a couple of weeks ago, along with supporting several other Indie authors through reading/reviewing/promoting their newly released novels and taking a much-needed, short vacation last weekend - now is the time for me to regroup and prepare.

Getting organized can be a daunting task, especially when trying to prepare for one's first ever NaNoWriMo  - which will commence on November 1st.

For NaNoWriMo, the writing must occur solely in the month of November.  It is okay to plan and outline your story before November, but any writing must be within the 30-day period from November 1 - 30.

Since I am already in the process of writing several more short stories for release in an e-book collection in March 2014,  my plan is to put those short story writings on hold and complete them after November 30th. 

So, where does one begin for NaNoWriMo?

For me, the very first (and easiest) thing to do is read everything I can from their website - NaNoWriMo. Once that is done, determining what will be written and naming the story are the next steps.  After that, I plan to prepare an outline of the chapters to be included along with details of the characters/plot/setting for the story.

As time goes on and I get more involved and closer to November 1st, I will get the hang of what this endeavor really entails. But, for now I will take baby steps and take one day at a time - learning as I go.

I hope to not get too wrapped up in the details of the process, but have fun with it and produce a good rough draft of the story for editing at a later time.

Wish me luck. :-)

And so it begins ... Preparation for NaNoWriMo.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Her Name was Half Calf - Award Winning Short Story

Winner’s Circle 

The winning story in the September 30 contest is “Her Name Was Half Calf” by S.A. Molteni. She has won a cash prize of $50 and is eligible for entry in a quarterly contest for a $100 cash prize. Congratulations!

In General

Our Contest Rules provide the winner is selected based on the combined placement in three categories:

1) The number of FB likes. This is the (only) quantitative or popular category.
2) The persuasiveness of high-quality comments. Unlike the FB likes, which is strictly quantitative, the judges look for persuasiveness in the high-quality comments following the stories in a contest. We are always very pleased when writers receive many comments and support from readers. In judging, however, we focus only on high-quality comments. Please see the FAQ page for this reference and examples of high-quality comments.
3) Opinions by visitors from the Closing Arguments page. To leave an opinion on the Closing Arguments page, a visitor must read all the stories in the contest and post comments to at least three stories in the contest. Visitors abiding by the terms of the Closing Arguments page become surrogate judges offering a top pick. A story cannot win first-place without at least one favorable opinion by a visitor from the Closing Arguments page.

No story in the September 30 contest placed first in all three categories.

September 30 Contest

Placement in Categories

At the closing time of the contest (noon PT October 6), “Her Name Was Half Calf” had 64 Facebook thumbs up (“likes”).  “Silver Linings” 26 and “The Winner” had 20. “I’m Approachable” and “Isn’t Half a Century Worth Something?” had single-digit FB likes.

In the second category, the judges look at the persuasiveness of the high-quality comments. (See the above explanation.) “Her Name Was Half Calf” and “The Winner” were in a virtual tie for first-place in this category. “I’m Approachable” took second place. “Silver Linings” and “Isn’t Half a Century Worth Something?” were tied for third place in this category.

In the third category, “Her Name Was Half Calf,” “The Winner” and “Isn’t Half a Century Worth Something?” were the only stories in the contest that received at least one favorable opinion from the Closing Arguments page. As mentioned above, a story must have at least one opinion by a visitor from the Closing Arguments page to win the contest.

“Isn’t Half a Century Worth Something?” received this one favorable opinion advocating the story for first-place:

[This story] should win because it is upbeat, well-written, and makes growing older actually sound like fun! I hope to get a shirt like the one the author described when I’m fifty — she made me see that there is humor in yet more birthdays!

The Judges determined that “Her Name Was Half Calf” and “The Winner” were in a virtual tie for first-place in the Closing Arguments category.

Here is one opinion for “The Winner” by a visitor favoring the story as the top pick in the contest:

[This] is a visual story. The author makes it visual from beginning to end. I laugh at “Glitter Eyes,” wondering if she’ll ever read it. It’s great when a writer can create funniness, and Robin has mastered at it. It takes all kinds to make the world go around. After reading Sterling’s story, “Glitter Eyes” had me off the earth and on another planet!

Here is one opinion for “Her Name Was Half Calf” by a visitor that favoring the story as the top pick in the contest:

[This story] is a powerful piece about the emotional connection between a human being and a calf. The author’s opening was very descriptive and caught my attention, immediately. Most people don’t write about a calf and how much it means to them, after all they are farm animals. Strong verbs moved the story along as we encountered the crisis as the animal became ill delivering its calf. I was very moved by the description. I could “see” the whole experience as tears fell down my own cheeks. The ending closed the story, allowing the reader to feel the pain the author is still feeling long after having had her pet put down. It was a difficult piece to read, but as we all know, some pieces really touch the emotions. This one sure touched me.


 The judges thought “Her Name Was Half Calf” and “The Winner” are both deserving of first-place. Both stories were in a virtual tie in two categories: high-quality comments and closing arguments. The FB likes category was decisive in choosing the first-place story because the placement of these two stories was otherwise so even.

“Her Name Was Half Calf” placed first in FB likes, and the story eked out a victory over “The Winner,” an equally worthy opponent, in the September 30 contest.

We hope all the writers in the contest are pleased with the many encouraging comments received by the readers. The stories are now on our Archives. Thank you to our visitors for their great comments.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Self Promotion and Lessons Learned

In case no one noticed, I have a short story being showcased this week on Midlife Collage. {{Sarcasm}}

I was so thrilled that it was selected to be one of five presented on their website this week that I neglected to think ahead to what this actually meant for me as a writer/author.

I am very thankful for the exposure and even more thankful that someone outside of my immediate circle of friends and family thought it was well-written enough to be given a chance to be read by many new and different people.

With that said,  I do not really know how much (or how little) I should promote this short story, as it is my very first one that has been published in a format such as this. I am learning the ropes as I go along on this journey - which has definitely been filled with peaks and valleys these past few days.

What I have learned so far this week -  in no specific order - is this:
  1. My friends and family really do care about me.  Or, at least, they put up with me fairly well.  :-)
  2. Facebook, Twitter and Blogger along with other social media tools are worth their weight in gold -  if used with care.
  3. My fellow writers/authors are a fountain of information and are a wonderful support system.
  4. Some people do not have nice things to say about my short story.  But I cannot judge them, since I do not know what is going on in their lives at the moment that the not-so-nice comments were made.
  5. Many new authors have faced exactly the same things that I have faced this week and have lived through them to write another story.
  6. Self-promotion exhausts me.
  7. I will continue to write, because that is something I truly enjoy and gives me a stronger sense of purpose.
The most important thing I have learned is that this short story has been nurtured, sheltered and protected by me long enough.  It is now time for me to release the grip I have had on it and let it fly on its own merit. 

Thank you all for the continuing support, the great comments and the wonderful words of encouragement this past week. I truly appreciate it and will cherish it for years to come.

In Remembrance of Half Calf
5/26/2010 - 2/15/2013

Sunday, September 29, 2013

First Rejection Letter

Well, the first of the rejection letters has come in.

Below is from Glimmer Train, which was one of a list of many  publications that I  have sent submissions to:

Dear S.A.,
Thank you for submitting "A Special Bull". While we won't be publishing this piece, we appreciated the opportunity to read your work! Because we read so many stories, it is not possible for us to give specific feedback, but, if you're a relative beginner, you may find something of interest here ...

Glimmer Train Press Reference#: 422655

This publication is a a huge publisher of short stories and gets between 30,000 - 40,000 submissions per year.  It was really not a place that I held any hope in getting one of my fictional short stories published.  But, my thought was, "aim high if your are going to aim at all".

Although they are not publishing the story I submitted, I feel that I have gained something valuable from the experience.

They also offered a few links to helpful hints that I thought would be of interest to other new writers/authors:

The bottom line is, there will be more rejection letters than acceptance letters. Which is perfectly okay with me. I will continue to write and if I feel strongly enough about a story, will pursue self publishing.

On to the next chapter of  And So it Begins ... 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


I have been doing A LOT of research for my first book which is planned to be released in the early part of 2014.  It is a collection of fictional short stories, which were inspired by several real life events.

Not only have I been revisiting some old journals and other earlier writings, I have also been reviewing a ton of pictures I have taken over the course of  my forty plus years.

Being my own worst critic, of course, I find something wrong with each and every one of them.  I am not a very good photographer and have a hard time "centering" subjects- thank goodness for editing software where I can crop the picture.  Invariably, I do not catch the light in the right way.  But, some of the shots are very good and others are some of my all time favorite pictures, which capture the beauty of the moment.

Below are a few of the best ones, which bring back wonderful memories of hiking in the Pacific Northwest:

The first  photo is of Wallace Falls near Mount St. Helens.  The second, of course, is Mount Rainier and the last one is Snoqualmie Falls which is east of Seattle.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Acceptance Letter

I had prepared myself for the worst.  With my ego checked at the door, I opened the email from one of the first publications that I had sent a "real" short story submission to.   Fearing it was the inevitable rejection letter from this one particular publication, I was hesitant to read the email.  It started with:

We think your submission “Her Name was Half Calf” is insightful, and we are considering your story for ...

After these first few words, I was so elated, it took me a few minutes to contain myself enough to continue reading the rest of the email from the editor of  Midlife Collage.

Continuing on with the first paragraph, it read:

We think your submission “Her Name was Half Calf” is insightful, and we are considering your story for entry in a contest. We edit for punctuation, spelling and grammar. We also touch up and make the wording concise where appropriate. There is a reason for every change. If you have any questions, please let us know.

The rest of the email contained some good pointers for me on how to improve my writing style and hints on how to reduce the length of the story, while still keeping the core voice of the story left intact.

In draft form, the story was originally over 1,500 words, which I had brought down to 1,450 words prior to submission.  The editor corrected a few places where punctuation was a problem (my comma usage can leave a lot to be desired) and reworded a few sentences to present a better view of the events in the story.  Overall, I was very pleased with what the editor had done to my story and I think it flows so much better now with the changes that have been made.

Less than twenty fours hours after I responded to the editor with my agreement of the changes, I received a second email that made me just giddy:


Great to hear from you. We will schedule your story, as shown below, for a contest within a month using your name S.A. Molteni. A few days before the contest, you will receive an email from us of the contest preview video and another email on the Monday your story is published. (To see a sample of a preview, go to our Video page.) ...

The rest of the email was rather long and had information  on what I needed to do in the interim to make the publishing day go as smoothly as possible.

... Thank you for adding your voice to our website.


I know there will be many rejection letters in my future as a writer/author, but it was a pleasant surpise to have this very first response be one of acceptance.

My new life as a published author ... And so it begins...

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Supporting Independent Authors 

Since starting this journey to become a published author, I have discovered a whole treasure trove of independent, self-published authors that I had no idea existed - until a few short months ago.  What can I say, I do not get out much.

Many thanks to by writer friend, Nellie and to Indies Unlimited for getting me hooked on self-published authors.

Being the book worm that I am, it is exciting for me to see all of these new authors in e-book form. I believe my spending will grow in the coming months, as I work my way through the list of all of the e-books that are out there and purchase those that I want to read.

I like the underdog and most always root for their success.  Grass-roots efforts also have a special place in my heart.  I firmly believe that independent authors should help other independent authors by reading their works, and also by writing reviews - whether good or bad or mediocre.

One must begin somewhere in both reading and writing ... Below are the first two reviews I have written on Amazon.  I hope these reviews help other readers to decide to purchase (or not -  if the book is bad).

Triple Dog Dare


Lastly, to all of my new found author friends.  Keep those e-books coming, I would hate to run out of things to read  - now that I am hooked on independent authors. :-)

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Getting Serious about Writing

It has been about three months since I decided to “get serious” about writing.   Not that I wasn’t serious before then, I had just never made the effort to try to get people to read what I had written.

I have been an avid writer since grade school, writing mostly poetry, songs and short stories.  Those words from long ago were really only intended for me and something I have tightly held on to.

I have rarely had any issue with writing technical manuals, emails, presentations, documentation and the like for my day job.   I have always been glad to give those written words to anyone who asked me for them – they were tasks to be finished and expected deliverables of the job.   So, why would personal writing be any different?

I realized that many times, the personal works I had completed over the years were just that – personal.  They were about my experiences in life, my accomplishments, my disappointments, my strengths and so many of my weaknesses.   Not really something I wanted to share or wanted the world to see.  

About fifteen years ago, a very good friend said to me, “You really should write a book, you have such fascinating views on life and other things”.   I shrugged it off as her being a good friend and just being nice, until I recently reflected back on the years since that comment.   

Over those years, others have mentioned to me that they love the way I write – succinct, to the point, and easy to understand.   These comments have come from friends, family and from business associates alike.  After much soul-searching, I decided to take the next step and pursue getting my work into the hands of readers.  

It has been a long journey to get to where I am comfortable with others reading my personal work.  Being the introvert that I am, this was not very easy to overcome and something I continue to work on every day.  But, I am happy to say that I am now actively writing new short stories with the intent to share them with those who wish to read them.  

I have submitted several of my older short stories to select publications, have engaged in some great flash fiction exercises and have finally created a Facebook author page. 

And of course, I started writing this blog …

Thanks for dropping by.  I hope you will come back again to see my progress.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Flash Fiction Challenge: Tough Stuff

My next submission is at  Indies Unlimited.

The beginning of the story was provided by the administrator of the website:

This is Oscar, the terror of the night, king of the alley cats. He’s sixteen pounds of fang and claw and fighting fury. He’s defeated everything from copperheads to Rottweilers.

Everybody knows he’s the toughest cat around, but that wasn’t how life started out for him. Oscar wasn’t born on the mean streets. In fact, he had it pretty soft for a while…

Below is the entry that I submitted:

Oscar was born into a privileged household filled with love and happiness.  His mother and father were from a long line of pampered felines who had trained their humans to cater to their every need.  

From birth, Oscar was fed three times a day with a variety of fish, chicken and beef entrees - lovingly prepared by his caretakers.  It was a wonderful life for a special kitty like Oscar, until that fateful day in the seventh month of the fifth year of his life.

It was Independence Day, the scariest day of the year.  In the past, he would cower under the bed until the chaos subsided.  Only then would he rejoin his family in the living room for soothing pets and reassuring hugs.

On this day, he made a grave mistake.  He scurried out of the door to the patio instead of into the bedroom.  He ran for what seemed like miles, looking for the familiar bed that would be his sanctuary during the thunderous light show.  But, he found no solace in the outside world.

When he awoke the next morning, he found himself in the middle of a turf war between the Snakes and the Hounds.  He was not met with caring or compassion, but with demands from both gangs to take a side or fight to the death.  After many taunts and insults from them, Oscar chose the latter.  

Today, Oscar rules the woods near his home - where no Snakes or Hounds dare to tread.

The Vote:

And the winner is ... Yours Truly:

Thanks again for all of your support during this week's contest.  It will be published in an anthology of other short stories in e-book format in the first part of 2014. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Flash Fiction Challenge: Shape of an Ape.

My next submission is at   Indies Unlimited.

The beginning of the story was provided by the administrator of the website:

Shape-shifting can be a tricky business. It doesn’t always go as quickly or as smoothly as I’d like.

It’s a tremendous help that humans share about 95 % of our DNA with other animals. That gives the elixir a jump start.

Whatever it is you change into though, it is very important to remember you have to get back to the lab to take the antidote, or you get stuck in your new form.

It’s also important not to get captured by zookeepers. I seem to be in a spot of trouble…

Below is the entry that I submitted:

You see, I have lost my keys to the lab and am in need of some assistance. I know you are just the night janitor, but if you would be so kind as to let me into the lab, I would be most grateful. You do understand what I am asking, don’t you?

It was apparent he did not comprehend my primitive vocalizations. He only understood that I was in his territory and may be a threat. I had to think of something fast, lest I be left to live out my days in this furry body.

Spying the keys hanging from his belt loop, I immediately lurched forward to grasp what must certainly include a master key to my lab. Down the corridor, I ran towards the science department. The janitor, being too overweight to catch me, gave up the chase a few hundred yards from my lab entrance.

According to my calculations, I had less than five minutes to find the key that fits the lock. Since none were labeled, this might be cutting it close. With just a minute to spare, the last key on the ring turned the lock and I was in the lab.

But, someone had already taken the last dose of the antidote. My college-aged lab assistant was sitting in my chair with the empty bottle in his hand. I really should have fired him a long time ago. Now, I think I will just kill him.

The Vote:

I came in fifth place.  Well, it really was not my best work.  Had a hard time getting into the groove of it.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Flash Fiction Challenge: Bird in the Water

My next submission is at Indies Unlimited.

The beginning of the story was provided by the administrator of the website:

The XD 880 was to be the first stealth passenger airliner. The idea was to make it harder for hostiles to use surface-to-air missiles to bring down civilian flights.

The technology was there. On some level, I suppose it only made sense.

After all, air control would still be able to track the plane locations from the transmitter beacon, right? They would have, as long as the transmitter beacon didn’t malfunction. But of course it did.

The rescue teams set out with only a general idea of the crash site from eyewitness reports. We were three days into the effort when team 12 found the first piece of flotsam. That was when the mystery began to unravel. Nothing was what it seemed

Below is the entry that I submitted:

“Roger that. Team 12 has located debris field. Over.”  The marine radio crackled.

The first piece of wreckage was very odd.  It was a dark gray tail panel with half of a white star barely legible on the rusted material.  It seemed to be from an older plane, nothing like the lightweight tail panels of the XD 880.

Team 12 continued their slow trolling towards more debris which bobbed aimlessly in the waters ahead of them.  Several other panels, similar to the first one were located just a few hundred yards from their bow. 

“Team 12 to base, we have a strange find here. Five tail panels found. No XD 880 debris. Over.”

“Roger, Team 12, proceed with caution.  Over.”

Team 12 wearily motored forward to an unusual spot in the water. 

The waves began to crash in a circular motion and pulled team 12’s rescue boat inward toward the center of the whirlpool.  The engine strained under the load, then could no longer power against the gravitational pull of the vortex. The boat became hopelessly caught in a downward spiral.

The next day, the news reported that rescue efforts for the XD 880 had been called off.  No survivors or wreckage were found after an exhaustive four day search. 

The news neglected to disclose that the debris from Flight 19 (the “Lost Patrol” from 1945) had been found in the same vicinity of the last known coordinates of the XD 880 – in the center of the Bermuda Triangle.

The Vote:

And the winner is .... Yours Truly:

Thanks to everyone who voted for my little story.  It will be published in an anthology of other short stories in e-book format in the first part of 2014.  

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Flash Fiction Challenge: Jump

My next attempt at writing something to be viewed by the public was completed last week.  It was through a website called Indies Unlimited.

The beginning of the story was provided by the administrator of the website:

The prison was on an island with vicious impenetrable jungle on one side and on the other, a 200 foot cliff that stood above a savage surf. The inmates called it the Freedom Jump.

No one had ever escaped from the island, but that didn’t mean it was impossible to find freedom. Death is, after all, a kind of freedom.

Ramone had managed to tunnel below the walls of the main prison and had made his way to the Freedom Jump. But he had a plan that involved something other than death.
He had dreamed of making this jump for years and planned every minute detail.  Nearing the ledge, he felt something change in the core of his being as his heart fluttered and his stomach did somersaults.

Below is the entry that I submitted:

An ancient potion passed down from his grandmother was sure to work.  He had tried it on the cockroaches that were everyday visitors to his cell and it had transformed them to butterflies just like his grandmother had predicted.  

With a quick gulp from his flask, the honey flavored concoction burned as he swallowed it. He felt a warm fullness in his heart and with that, sprung from the ledge like an Olympic diver attempting to capture a gold medal.  

As he spread out his arms into the oncoming sea breeze, the transformation of his body started to overtake him.  Just a few feet from the rocks and to freedom, the change was complete. Beautiful wings in shades of blue, black and yellow appeared where he once had arms and hands. He furiously flapped with all of the strength he could muster. But, not able to break the law of gravity, Ramone crashed into the jagged-edged boulders that lined the beach.

“Ramone!  Dude, wake up!”  Julio shouted.
“Man, you’ve been sleeping on the floor for hours, we thought you were dead.” His brother continued.

 Ramone woke to the sweet taste of honey in his mouth and the familiar aroma of his grandma’s biscuits and gravy.  Now to determine how to eat with wings …

The Vote:

Came in a very strong third place.  Competition is fierce, but I will keep trying.  Thanks to everyone who voted for my story.