Every Ebook–FREE TODAY (Yeah, you read that right.)

One year ago I started this blog with the intention of focusing most of my posts on writing and Michigan. If you want to know why I chose those two subjects, just click on “Home” up above the blog header. A year later, I’m happy that my passion for both writing and Michigan has not waned. In fact, I get the distinct feeling that I’m truly just getting started.

For those of you who have been along for the ride from the beginning, I thank you for reading. For those who have just found A Beautiful Fiction, I thank you for joining us on this journey toward better writing, more appreciation for the natural world, and more intentional noticing.

We’re now nearly six months into my one-short-story-per-month experiment (I’m thinking June’s story will just make it on time). I’m in talks with a couple agents about my first novel, I’ve begun another that I’ve put on pause, and I’ve begun a third for which I’m in gung-ho mode. I’ve also sketched out another project—a three book series.

I have many lovely travel plans, the first being Interlochen next week, where my husband is taking me to see Brandi Carlile in concert—part of his Mother’s Day present to me. I. Can’t. Wait. Then camp, Mackinac Island, and hiking.

So I imagine this summer you will find this space filled with photos of some lovely places and people. And I’ll keep those short stories and posts about the craft of writing coming as well.

If you haven’t already, consider following me on Twitter (@ErinLBartels) to get links to lots of interesting articles about Michigan, writing, publishing, and more.

First Five

And as a special thank you to all of my readers, I’m making all five of my short stories FREE TODAY ONLY for Kindle and Kindle apps. So snap them all up today and tell your reading friends to do the same. You can find them all on my Amazon author page or on the My Books page on this website.

Happy summer, and thanks for making me part of your longest day of the year.

Breathe Writers Conference Schedule and Speakers Announced

The line-up for the Breathe Christian Writers Conference workshops is taking shape. Click here to see the incredibly awesome array of topics and speakers. This year I’m afraid I’ll have too many things I want to attend!

This year’s conference is to be held October 18th and 19th at Redeemer Covenant Church in Caledonia, Michigan. Check out the website for lots more details and plan to join us!

A Little Ray of Blogging Sunshine

sunshine-awardYesterday I was the happy recipient of the Sunshine Award for “bloggers who positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere,” which was bestowed upon me by a gentleman who blogs at A New Writers Life and Times. I think awards between bloggers are a nice way of telling others that we value their writing, their contribution both to the blogosphere at large and to our individual lives. It’s nice to know not only that there are people out there reading, but that some of them are benefiting from what you’ve written.

And in the end, I think that is one big distinction between different types of blogs. Some very clearly exist to enhance the “project that is me” and some exist to bring joy and help to others. In the past I’ve had to count myself as part of the former, but I am happy to be part of the latter now.

As is customary with blog awards (though I’m not sure how these sorts of traditions get started) I’m supposed to answer some personal questions and nominate some others (10 for this award, though I’m not going to be a slave to that number).

The Questions:

Favorite color: Nearly the full range of blues and blue-greens, with a few exceptions

Favorite animal: I can’t say I have one, though I am particularly fond of birds and particularly disdainful of mosquitoes. Everything else, I suppose, falls in between, but the reality is I love all animals (with the exception of the aforementioned mosquitoes) including the creepy ones most people would instinctively kill on sight or run from in terror.

Favorite number: Really? People have favorite numbers? I can’t tell you the only ones that come to mind to answer this question, because you’d be that much closer to hacking all of my passwords.

Favorite non-alcoholic drink: Dark roast coffee, milk, water, tea

Facebook or Twitter: Facebook (though I must admit my news feed is feeling more and more like just getting a bunch of drivel forwarded to my email). I’m on Twitter and I tweet links to interesting articles regularly, but honestly, I don’t automatically follow back in order to boost my follower numbers and I don’t read much of anything on there anyway. I think Twitter was kind of a neat idea but that it has turned into a constant stream of commercials for people and products. And I really, really hate commercials. In fact, this guy has articulated all the things I loathe about Twitter, smartphones, and the social media culture in which we (unfortunately) find ourselves.

My passions: books, literature (honestly, I can’t truly make myself believe these are equivalent), nature, Michigan, writing, great photography, creative and artistic expression in many forms

Giving or receiving gifts: I love giving the perfect, unexpected gift. But I like getting the perfect, unexpected gift as well.

Favorite city: I’m a big fan of many Michigan cities, including Grand Rapids, Detroit, Petoskey, Mackinac Island, and Lansing. But most of my favorite places are not cities. They are places like Camp Lake Louise, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, and any of the tens of thousands of lakes, rivers, beaches, wetlands, and fields you can find in our beautiful state. I’m also a huge fan of Boston.

Favorite TV shows: currently Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey, Mad Men, Arrested Development, How I Met Your Mother

The Blogs:

These days I read comparatively few blogs. I find that I am using my limited time in other ways–writing short stories and novels and living in the “real world” with my family and my home more fully. But there are those I have followed, some for a rather long time and others just recently, that would certainly fit the bill. I’m not going to contact each of these people, because I know for sure some of them don’t deal in blog awards. Instead, I’ll let the pingbacks speak for themselves.

One upon a time I would have nominated The Sew Weekly, but it seems to have ceased existing in 2013 (though, if you sew or are interested in sewing, all the posts are archived there and you could spend weeks going through them all). And I have enjoyed the personal blogs of many of the contributors (you can still find them linked off the Sew Weekly site) but I’m spending much less time sewing this year than I did in 2010-2012.

These days I am still enjoying Pleasant View Schoolhouse and Mabel’s House, both of which I have read for the last several years. Anna and Liz are people who feel like good friends, though I’ve never met either of them and had limited personal interaction over email.

I still check in at Couture Allure for interesting vintage fashion news and information and just to smile at the lovely and odd photos, ads, and fashions of yesteryear.

But more of my time is spent reading blogs and articles on writing and the publishing business. One of the best new ones is Chad R. Allen’s blog. He has great tips and ideas for writers and those of us in the publishing biz. Chad is the editorial director for one of the imprints at the publishing house at which I work. He uses his blog not only to inform writers but to encourage them, so if you’re in need of a good word, go see Chad.

I am also finding much to love about Anne R. Allen’s blog. As far as I know, Chad and Anne are not related.

But the blog I read religiously and from which I have gained much good advice and through which I have enjoyed much excellent writing is Writer Unboxed. There is a whole slew of great contributors and anyone who writes fiction should be following this blog.

I guess that’s that. Happy blogging, folks.

Getting Over Myself and Getting Scrivener

scrivenerlogoLast night I downloaded the trial version of Scrivener and went through the very lengthy but mildly entertaining tutorial. Then I started fiddling. A day later I have a huge and growing character list with descriptions, a few settings drawn out, and an entire novel outlined with chapter synopses written.

Oh my goodness, I love this program. When I wrote my first manuscript I wrote it start to finish, no outline to speak of until I was halfway through writing it and finally knew where I wanted it to go (and where it wanted to go, frankly). The thought of conceiving of an entire novel and outlining each scene struck me as very difficult. Maybe impossible for me, despite the fact that I’m a fairly organized person (stop laughing, Mom). Hence, though the program sounded intriguing, it also sounded daunting and pedantic.

But here I sit, book one of a series completely outlined and waiting to be written. Books 2-4 have been loosely sketched out (like we’re talking major plot arcs, nothing detailed). And I feel great about it.

If you’ve never given Scrivener a try, I urge you to check it out. You can try it free for 30 days (non-consecutive, meaning 30 real days whether taken all at once or stretched out over 10 years) and it’s only $40 to buy. A super cheap tool to help you get your story organized (or organised as they, being British, would spell it) and get yourself a large part of the way down the road to having actually written out that book.

It has a ton of features to help you, including tools to organize and access your research; format your work depending on what it is (nonfiction, novel, screenplay, short story, etc.); track characters, themes, and keywords; and tons more I can’t remember because that tutorial was so dang long.

Still unconvinced? Joanna Penn wants you to use it too.

Guess who’ll be presenting at a writers conference this fall…

It’s official: I will be presenting a workshop at this year’s Breathe Christian Writers Conference October 18-19, 2013. I’m quite excited to be doing my first presentation on a topic that is important to me and I encourage all you writers in the great state of Michigan to attend the conference. Last year it was refreshing and helpful and I’m sure this year it will be even better (not necessarily because I’m presenting, but, you know…because that’s what you say when you’re trying to make something sound great and worth your time, which it totally is).

I will be sure to keep you all updated as the list of presenters and speakers is finalized and released. In the meantime, I’ll be putting together an ebook to support my talk and further develop the concepts I’ll be presenting. Look for it by the end of the summer.

Introducing Understory Press

I realized as I was formatting Beneath the Winter Weeds for Kindle that I really ought to have a publishing imprint of my own to put on the title page and the back cover of the whole collection at the end of the year (as well as my novel) because I plan on making those longer books available in paperback as well.

After a quite a bit of thought on Saturday morning, I decided to call it Understory Press.

Understory Press

The logo is my own concept and design (largely drawn at the mall bounce house on Saturday while my son ran wild with about 100 other children). Wondering about the name? Here’s my explanation…

Most of the trees that make up a forest are towering giants that form the canopy. But beneath those behemoths is the understory. Slender and subtle, these graceful trees use fewer resources, but they also put forth spectacular shows of spring blossoms and provide fruit for wildlife in the fall.

Understory Press is like one of those trees. We’re small in size, committed to subtle and compelling storytelling, and occasionally we may surprise you with something spectacular.

As I was developing the logo and the name, I was reminded that Virginia Woolf and Leonard Woolf were self-published authors. They both wrote, revised, and edited their work, then Leonard set the type and printed the pages with Virginia’s help (and later with the help of some employees) at their Hogarth Press. Virginia’s sister Vanessa designed Virginia’s book covers. And this was not strange to people at the time.

It got me thinking about how self-publishing used to be respectable, then it was derided as what people do when they aren’t talented enough for “real” publishing, and now it’s coming back around. I’m really excited to start down this self-publishing road and I hope you will enjoy my creative endeavors as well. Understory Press is strictly a vanity press at the moment, but who knows what the future may bring…

This, That, and the Other

In my non-literary life, I spend a lot of time sewing, often using vintage patterns, sometimes vintage pieces of fabric, and sometimes both. A recent creation of mine was featured on The Sew Weekly, to which I am a regular contributor. And I was happy to receive a nod from the lovely Jody at Couture Allure, who was the source for the vintage flapper dress pieces that made their way into my 1920s dropwaist dress.

I did a lot more blogging about my sewing on my previous blogs, but I thought I’d mention this particular project as a jumping off point for a new feature I’m developing called Destination Lansing. In 2013, I will do a weekly blog post highlighting the many things that make living in or visiting Michigan’s state capital a treat. One of those places will be Potter Park Zoo, where I recently wore this dress. Why would someone wear a flapper dress a la The Great Gatsby to a zoo? Well, it will all make sense if you read this.

And though F. Scott Fitzgerald was not from Michigan, he was born in the midwest, so there’s a loose tie-in there with the real purpose of this blog (to champion the region and, eventually, feature more content of Michigan authors, books set in Michigan, and my own literary efforts, which are ongoing but as of yet mostly private).

Beyond that, sewing occupies a prominent spot in my next work in progress, so it’s not completely unrelated to my writing. Anyway, I guess since this is my space I don’t really need to justify what I decide to write about here, do I?  😉

As the rottenly hot summer winds up today and cool autumn begins tomorrow, I anticipate the return of my poetic muse (who rarely visits in the summertime) and I’m looking forward to sharing the beauty of this bittersweet season with all of you.

When Passion Meets Purpose

There are times in life when our disparate passions may cross paths through no design of our own. When a talent that often seemed to us a pointless exercise can suddenly be put to great use in the service of a cause or mission. In that moment of connection, we may find our voice.

Such a connection came about for me over the past year.

I have always enjoyed writing, and, in fact, write for a living. But when it came to my own creative writing I often felt aimless or even uninspired. Projects started then abandoned when I felt no compulsion to go on. Ideas tinkling through my brain like water over rocks but with nowhere to land. Yeah, it was frustrating.

I also live in a beautiful state made up of two peninsulas bordered by the Great Lakes and peppered with more than 11,000 inland lakes, as well as many rivers, streams, wetlands, and ponds. The landscape ranges from urban decay to vibrant cities to rural hamlets, from flat farmlands to rolling orchards to deep forests, from stony and sandy beaches to fantastic rock formations to rushing waterfalls. I have a fierce love for Michigan, despite her faults.

Then in July 2011, I began writing a story set on a fictional lake in northern Michigan. And the fateful intersection of two passions came to be. That story, A Beautiful Fiction, lends its name to this space. I’m currently exploring the possibility of publishing that novel. In the meantime, I’ve carved out this online space to continue to pursue my passions, to bring them together in service to one another and to you.

If you love to read, if you love to travel, if you love to live in or visit Michigan, if you love beautiful photography, if you love history, if you love the Midwest, if you love water and woods and city and country . . . please come back often. Because I love all those things too.