GCLS Conference

joy and beth at con 2018My partner and I got married two days before conference, so the whole thing was kind of like a working honeymoon. Despite that, the Golden Crown Literary Society this year felt like a homecoming. Perhaps that sounds odd, with over 100 new people this year, but it felt intimate, loving, and welcoming.

We had a diverse crowd, different ages, different races. It was wonderful to see so many young people. The board is getting old (I mean that lovingly – I’m part of the board) and we need young, fresh minds to shake things up for us and keep us relevant.

beth readingI read from my soon to be released novel, Coming Around Again. Incidentally, my publisher had copies of the book at the conference as an early bonus and it sold out. I’m sure it had nothing to do with me promising to write naughty things in the books that people bought.

The writing academy was a shining star this year. The whole 2018 graduating class was there and they were amazing. Such a great group of talented and smart women. I was proud of them in every way. The WA also donated a free year’s tuition to the GCLS raffle and it was won by a woman who had been in the writing academy presentation, excitedly asking lots of questions. I have a feeling she is going to do great things.

The GCLS board works tirelessly to put on this event. (Okay, not tirelessly – we are all exhausted.) This is a labor of love as the board is all-volunteer. We all put so much time and effort into bringing the best conference experience to every participant. And our reward, other than the happy faces and awesome hugs, is coming back and doing it all again for next year.

I hope to see a huge crowd in Pittsburgh next year. We just keep getting better every year and I can’t wait to see how incredible the next one will be.

 

 

Karelia Stetz-Waters – Guest Post

Karelia is one of my favorite people. She is a brilliant writer, yes – but she also has that incredible ability to teach people how to be brilliant writers. (Or at least, better writers than they were before she taught them.)

I’ve learned a lot every time I have taken a workshop by Karelia and I’m excited that she agreed to guest blog on my page this month. Please take a look at her blog and check out her books. You will not be disappointed. You can find her website here. 

 

A long journey is a million baby steps.

Four Ways to a Good Character

By Karelia Stetz-Waters

My creative writing students were working on character development. They called out ideas. I wrote on the board as fast as I could. Then we stopped and looked at our work.

“These are all traits we don’t like,” one student said.

“It’s harder to write good people, isn’t it?” I said. “Think about someone good. Describe them.”

I immediately thought of Beth Burnett. If you don’t know her, hold out your virtual hand and shake hers because you won’t meet a kinder, cooler member of our community.

And that’s why I’m so honored to write a guest post for her blog.

I write romance novels. Romance novels are all about good people. Write a thriller—I’ve written a few—and you can load up on serial killers like chicken wings at the KFC buffet. And that’s fun, but good people are better. We have to love our protagonists. Then, in my opinion, every protagonist must have at least one good friend. Then you need a place that’s almost a character itself. Someplace beautiful. Someplace your readers want to go. (I nailed it with my Out in Portland series. Apparently Portland is the seventh most moved-to city in American!)

“So how do we write a good character?” another student asked.

I love teaching creative writing because the students ask the questions I want to answer.

I have four traits, that make a character good.

Good characters care. They care about something bigger than themselves. They care about justice or animals or hungry children or the mill workers who got laid off. In my upcoming romance, a closeted TV star worries about coming out, not because she cares about losing her job, but because she’s worried about all the people who have taken comfort in her show. She doesn’t want them to think that all those years were a lie.

Good characters honor their debts. I mean debts with a capital D, debts like the debts in the Lord’s Prayer. It’s not enough just to care. Good characters act with compassion.

Good characters strive. It’s our responsibility to try to reach our full potential. Now some characters’ full potential is like my full potential for going to the gym—I bought a membership in January, and I still haven’t gone, but tomorrow…. As challenging as things are, good characters do everything they can do in this moment. After all, a long journey is a million baby steps.

Good characters see the world in a new way. A likable character shows us the beautiful world in a way we haven’t seen before.

And here’s the thesis, class. The most important character is you.

I hope I’m good. I know I care about you, whoever you are, reading this in your living-room or on your phone on the subway. I’m thinking about where you’re going and what you’ll face today. I’m thinking about how many good people there are in the world and how I’d like to gather you all up in my arms.

Leave a comment and tell us what makes you uniquely good.

 

***

Waters_WorththeWait_Cover

Karelia’s next novel, Worth the Wait, comes out June 19th.

For fifteen years, Avery Crown tried to forget her best friend Merritt Lessing. The late nights studying, the whispered confidences, and the little touches that never turned into something more. Unfortunately, her efforts have not been as successful as her TV career as the queen of home renovation. So when she runs into Merritt at their high school reunion, Avery asks for one night with the woman she’s always wanted…

Merritt spent high school pining after Avery, but never made a move—their friendship meant too much. The one time it seemed things might change, Avery chose her budding career. So Merritt did the same, throwing herself into her remodeling business. Now Avery’s back, and while Merritt still hasn’t forgiven her for walking away the first time, they can’t keep their hands off each other. But when their professional paths cross, and it seems like Avery is choosing her career once again, Merritt will have to decide if she’s willing to let go of the past and give herself a second chance with her first love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A New Way to Commune with Readers

Beth Patreon Flier

My patreon platform is going well for the first week or so. I have four patrons so far and I have posted quite a bit of content that others won’t get to see – short stories that will only be posted on Patron, rough drafts with editing notes, cover reveals that others don’t get to see yet – even blurbs from current WIPs.  The engagement so far is fun…. the readers seem to enjoy the content and they like having a say in what I post.

This upcoming week, the patrons are getting a video-reading from my upcoming novel, Coming Around Again, release date fall of 2018.

There’s even a rumor I may post some of my poetry, heretofore only seen by myself and my cat.

And no one has to wear pants.

 

 

Excerpt from Eating Life

From my novel Eating Life. It’s one of my favorite moments because I think it is the exact moment Ben chooses to stay alive. ❤

 

Casey knew that nothing she said could ease his pain. She waited, occasionally putting her hand on his head or his shoulder. Finally, his sobs subsided and he started breathing more normally. Casey reached across him to the counter and grabbed the bag of chocolate chip cookies.

“Here,” she said, handing it to Ben.

He laughed a little. “Chocolate chip cookies to save the soul.”

Casey shrugged. “Look at me,” she said, smiling. “Obviously I turn to food for comfort.”

Ben snorted. “You look great. Don’t disparage yourself.”

“I’m not. I’m being honest. I do turn to food for comfort.”

Ben shoved a cookie into his mouth. “So do I,” he said around a mouthful of half-chewed cookie.

“Yeah, but you’re skinny,” Casey said. “When you have food issues and you’re skinny, people are sympathetic. When you have food issues and you’re fat, people are just disgusted.”

“Jerky people.”

Casey patted Ben on the head and smiled. “I don’t know if I’m the right person for this, Ben. But I’m going to try to keep you alive.”

He reached into the bag of cookies and looked up at her. “These cookies are a good start.”

 

***

 

Casey woke up wrapped in her sleeping bag with Dakota stretched out at her side. As bad as his hips were getting, he could usually find a way to jump into her bed when he wanted comfort. She stretched thoroughly and got up to go outside. Dakota followed her out the door, immediately lifting his leg on the nearest tree. Sadly noting how his leg barely came off the ground anymore, Casey watched him make his rounds of the trees and bushes. Noticing a break in the trees, Casey stepped over some tangled vines and headed for a small clearing. When she stepped out of the trees, she found herself looking down over the edge of a cliff at the Pacific Ocean. She thought about Ben throwing himself over the side of the cliff. What did it take to end one’s own life? Sad as she had been at so many points in her life, she could only remember one time when she was low enough to consider ending it. It was during the worst of the days with Ally, after the emotional abuse had turned physical. It was after Casey had already cut Megan out of her life because Ally hated her. Those were days when it felt as if she would never feel happy again. Once she had gotten out of that alive, she knew she would never take life, or Megan, for granted again. Sure, there were still a million little moments of sadness over the years. Megan had stepped in on several of those occasions, walking her through the deepest of her heartaches. She closed her eyes, calling up the strong and beautiful features of her most cherished friend. Megan could build a rocking chair and cook a soufflé. She had just enough mechanical knowledge to avoid getting ripped off when her car broke down. She could build a campfire, and she looked great in a suit. Casey wondered if Megan was happy now, working for the advertising company and supporting a partner. Dakota came up beside her and she rested her palm on the top of his head. Together, they stared at the waves.

A branch snapping behind her startled her out of her thoughts.

“Morning, early riser,” Ben mumbled, rubbing his eyes as he came up beside her.

“Hey. This is an amazing view.”

“What are your plans for the day?”

Casey shrugged. “I thought I’d wrestle some coffee out of my old percolator. Once that’s done, I’m going to take everything out of the car and repack. Hopefully I can make some more space. I didn’t organize it when I left Sedona, just threw everything in and left what wouldn’t fit.”

Ben smiled. “You’re a wanderer. Little pieces of you are all over the country. What happens when you decide to settle down?”

“I don’t know.” Casey sighed. “Some days, I think it would be nice to have a permanent home. Then I get to a place where I think I’ll stay for a while and after a few weeks, I start to get anxious that I’m missing something somewhere else.”

“You’re welcome to stay here as long as you want,” Ben said.

“With or without you?”

“I’m still thinking about it,” he answered.

“I’d like to stay for a few days. The woods are my friend. But then I need to head out. It’s been far too long since I’ve seen Megan and I’m suddenly missing her like crazy.”

“Where does she live?”

“Memphis.”

“Memphis. I’ve never been,” Ben said.

“Want to go?”

“To Memphis?” Ben took a step back, laughing.

“Why not?” Casey shrugged. “Dakota likes you. Megan would probably adore you. What else do you have going on?”

“Nothing. Absolutely nothing.”

“Well then.” She scritched Dakota behind the ears and turned to walk back toward the cabin. “I need some coffee. I’ll hang here for a couple of days and you can decide if you want to go with me to Memphis.”

“They make Krispy Kreme doughnuts there,” Ben said.

“Yeah. Warm off the line,” Casey laughed. “Dakota loves them.”

“Can we go to Graceland?”

Casey stopped, looking back over her shoulder. She stared at Ben, who looked back at her, expressionless.

“Graceland?”

“Yeah.”

“What the hell? One more overpriced tourist trap won’t kill me.”

 

Eating Life Cover

 

The Winter Blahs

It always hits around mid-January, doesn’t it? The holidays are over, you’ve shoveled way more than you want to, you’ve debated moving somewhere warmer for the fifteenth time, and there’s nothing left to do but sit inside in seven layers and wait for spring.

I like to write during this time. I’m not going to be leaving the house much anyway, so I might as well make some productive use of my captivity. I wrote three books in 2017, and a great deal of that work happened in January and February. (And again late in the year in November.) In the spring, I like to be outside, and in the summer, there are conferences and road trips and camping. Winter is a good time to write.

Except  – it’s January 14th and I’ve only put about five thousand words down on paper. But I’m not beating myself up. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to not be hard on myself. I’m going to follow the same advice I give my students. Sit down and write for at least fifteen minutes a day. No matter what else happens, you can make time for fifteen minutes. You’ll be amazed at what you can do in fifteen minutes a day.

It’s my commitment to myself and my readers. Fifteen minutes a day. I may not write three books this year, but I will definitely write at least one.

 

What is giving up?

I sold 91 copies of my most recent novel, Eating Life. 91 copies of a book that took two years to write, countless hours of rewriting, several pass-through revisions with an editor, and, figuratively, a lot of blood and sweat. (The tears were sometimes literal.)

91 copies of what I consider my best work yet.

91 copies of the book that made the most rabid fan of my first novel, Man Enough, the person who read my next two books and said, “Excellent, but no Man Enough,” finally, finally say, “And now I have a new favorite Beth Burnett book.” And it got excellent reviews. Read them for yourself here. And if you have read this book and haven’t reviewed it yet, why not?

91 copies. Enough money to pay the electric bill. For one month.

I know I don’t know how to market. I know I don’t do enough for my books to give them an audience. I know I’m not out there pounding the pavement looking for bookstores that will sponsor readings or repeatedly asking my library to carry my books. I don’t like it, it makes me anxious. I know sitting around hoping someone will set up an event for me and tell me to be there is not going to sell books. I get that.

But I have to admit that I really wish there was someone that did that.

The thing is, I fell in love with Eating Life. I fell in love with the characters. I thought one of them, Ben Stagg, was one of the best characters I have ever invented. So much so that he is going to come back in another book. I love him and the rest and I wanted everyone else to love them, too.

91 copies and I’m finally beginning to wonder if maybe this is not supposed to be my career. I know money isn’t the whole point, but it is part of the point. And it’s a special kind of sadness that comes when my alter ego, who writes short and easy little erotica stories on Amazon, makes more money from those little hour-from-start-to-finish stories than I do on the novels I’ve worked so hard on. Long ago, when I was complaining to a friend about my books not selling as well as I wanted, she said, “Write for yourself, not for an audience.”

Well, if that’s the case, why bother publishing? If the goal is to just write what you love and not let it matter whether or not anyone is reading it, why share it at all?

I’m still writing. I finished an excellent YA fantasy during NaNoWriMo. I have a completed lesbian love story that just needs some revision. And I have a women’s fiction book that is, in my opinion, funnier than much of the bestselling women’s fiction I’ve read.

I still love writing. But I don’t have the heart to deal with everything that comes after. I can’t seem to make myself  research publishers and agents or send out query letters. I think I just need to take a break from it all. Not from writing – from writing for reasons other than to just write.

I’d love to know how other writers deal with this. What do you do when you don’t sell? How do you reconcile marketing versus writing versus deciding to just go get a day job? When do you decide to stop seeing writing as your dream and relegate it back to a hobby?