Thursday, December 19, 2013

Coming Home For The Holidays by Guest Blogger Caryn Ritchie

Just in time for the holidays - we welcome recently retired psychotherapist Caryn Ritchie. This is our gift to all mothers with kids returning home from their first semester at college. Take heart, they are still your kids, despite how different they may seem after just a few short months out of your nest.

Holidays take on a special meaning for those of us who have children (adults?) coming home from college for the holidays. The exciting part is that you never know who is going to walk through the door. The only thing certain is that whoever walks through is not going to be the person you dropped off at the dorm just a few short months ago. 

The key to enjoying the holidays with this person is taking the time to get to know them, like you would a stranger. Because in some ways, they are now a stranger to you. In the short time that they have lived away from home, they have managed to make more changes than in the entire eighteen years at home. They have completely changed how they look, what they eat (Didn’t I tell you I’m a vegetarian?), how they think, and what is important to them. Your preconceived ideas of the past are no longer relevant. 

You can try and fight this, and you can mourn the loss of “my little baby”, but the best thing to do is to try and understand them and enjoy the ride.

As parents you will have some major adjustments to go through. You will go from empty nest to full house and back to empty nest again in a few short weeks, although sometimes it will seem forever, and others like a blink of an eye.   

The roller coaster is all part of the ride. You now have a house of adults, not really children and adults anymore, so some of the rules may change. You still set the house rules, but strive for a happy medium. Be clear when you set boundaries, and be flexible with your limits. Remember as always in life, pick your battles, and usually three is enough.   

I find that mutual respect goes a long way. I try not to get involved with things that are trivial to me, such as hair, clothing, music, and eating habits. At the same time I do let them know what my expectations are in areas that do matter to me, such as class attendance, drinking, safe driving, and casual sex.  

Even though I know my children may now have some different values from me, I am firm about setting up house rules that reflect my values while they are in my house. There will be no underage drinking. I don’t need them to have a curfew, but I do need to know whether or not they are coming home. That is just courtesy. I set the sleeping arrangements if girlfriends are staying over, no matter what they do at college. At home it is my choice. We may not always agree, but things do not have to turn into a battle. I try to be nonjudgmental of their lifestyle while having them respect mine.

Once your children leave home and come back, it’s like having extra people in the house when they’re there. As much as we miss them, we do adjust to a quieter, less complicated routine when they’re gone. Now it’s time to talk about sharing the car again, and sharing any house chores while they’re home. Your bedtime is now earlier than theirs, you enjoy different TV shows; they no longer eat meals at regular times. You need to adjust to this, without losing yourself in the process.   

It is Ok for you to go your separate ways at times. Actually, it’s a good thing. Too much togetherness can be hard to take. Your children will probably want to spend a lot of time with their friends anyway. Don’t feel hurt by this. They missed them as much as they missed you, and they all have a lot of catching up to do. The kids should make sure they do put some time aside to see Grandma and Grandpa, but you can’t expect them to spend all their time visiting extended family. Don’t make this an issue, or you’ll all be resentful.

The best time for me when my kids are home, are the quiet unexpected moments when we actually sit down to talk and share. This is a great time to find out who they are now, and what they are thinking. But, you have to cultivate this conversation. Don’t expect it to happen as soon as they walk in the door.

First everyone has to get used to each other again, and the seeds need to be planted. Then you need to show that you are worthy of having this conversation by showing them empathy, and accepting their feelings. You may agree to disagree, but do it in a respectful way. As a parent you need to LISTEN, a lot, before talking. Encourage their sharing with you, again don’t be judgmental. You need to look at the total picture of who they are, not just the parts that make your hair stand on end.   

As different as they are now, in many ways they are still the children you dearly love and would give your life for.  Look beyond the piercings, and the long hair. Listen past the casual swearing. Share their passion and their enthusiasm for life. Let them light up your house with their new ideas. And most of all, love them for who they were and who they are now.   

Peace and Happy Holidays.


Caryn Welz-Ritchie is a recently retired psychotherapist and columnist for The Register and Gateway Publications under the tag line Free Thoughts. She is currently working on publishing a book of her writings.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Adventure of Getting Published - by Guest Blogger Maer Wilson

We are delighted to welcome Maer Wilson, author of Portals, (Book 2 in The Thulukan Chronicles) whose latest book launches December 14th. Maer shares a little wisdom gained from her experiences in getting published, writing the dreaded query letter and the importance of working with an editor. 

So you’ve written a book and your friends all tell you it’s great and you want to get it published. Yay! First off, congratulations for even finishing! That right there is an awesome accomplishment, and you should be very proud of yourself.

Now you should get yourself some objective beta readers. Join a critique group, preferably with experienced writers or at least discerning readers who will be honest with you. Because a common misconception is that if Mom says it’s brilliant then it is. Nope, you want people who will tell you where the problems are. And believe me there will be problems!

I was done with my first book and out querying it to agents. I had a couple friends read it and had worked over a few things. But I got nothing back from agents…zip, zilch, nada. So I went looking for more experienced writers to help with my query letter.

Convinced the problem lay with the query, I went through about thirty versions of it at Absolute Write. Finally, another writer basically said something like “The problem with your query letter is your book. The chances of you, as an unknown writer, getting a book published with a cliffhanger ending are not good.”


Back to the drawing board…or computer…I went. I took out the second half of the book, revised the first half and wrote a brand new second half. My new version could stand alone and tied up major plot lines, while leaving the door open for a series.

I found some beta readers – folks who read the genre, had writing experience and would be brutally honest. I revised and reworked it according to their suggestions.

Back to AW I went and put forth a new query. It took something like 50 additional versions before I finally had a letter I liked. Believe me. Writing the book was far easier than writing that letter!

And after all that, I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t even sure I wanted an agent! The more time I spent with other writers the more I discovered about the publishing industry. And going the traditional route takes a lot of time. Even once you have an agent, the agent then has to shop that book to publishers. Once you get picked up by a publisher you go into their queue. You go through a series of edits. It’s an extremely slow process.

Oh sure, there are exceptions, but you can’t count on those. So you need to decide how much time you want to invest. Obviously going the traditional, or trade route, with a Big Five publisher has a lot to be said for it. You can get advances, marketing help, lots of support. But it isn’t all that easy to break into. And even if you do, I have a lot of friends who have agents and contracts and they still work very hard marketing their books. And it seems to me it gets harder every year for authors to break into trade.

I felt a small publisher would be my best bet, so that’s the route I chose to go. I was lucky and got picked up very quickly after sending out new query letters, slanted for publishers rather than agents. The advantage of a small press is that they usually publish a lot faster than a big house will. Some even offer advances and marketing help. Those are the special ones.

Another alternative is to self-publish. That has a very steep learning curve because it’s all on you to get everything done. And I do mean everything.

You need to hire an editor – and yes! Everyone needs a good editor. Self-publishing without getting an experienced editor is a major mistake, in my opinion. Why? Because an author sees what they think they wrote, not necessarily what they actually wrote. And because there are going to be typos, errors, plot holes, and lots of other things that you need that objective eye to find. 

You will also need a cover artist, unless you are handy with artistic type stuff. I can’t draw stick people. Working with programs to do even simple graphic tasks takes me forever. Something that a friend can throw together in a few minutes takes me hours. 

The next piece of the puzzle for self-publishing is to hire a formatter. Now a lot of people do this part themselves. I just know if I try it, I’ll mess something up. So I hire a professional formatter to get my books ready for publication. That means you have to know where you plan on marketing your book because different places have different requirements.

Marketing is a whole other can of worms that has been the subject of tons of posts, books, etc. So I won’t even get into that here.

Please remember this is just the surface, folks. There’s a lot more involved, but this gives you a little overview for self-publishing.

I’m currently self-publishing some of my work and it’s been such a fabulous learning experience! I’m very fortunate that I have an awesome editor, Jen Ryan at Imagine That Editing, for my self-published work. I also have some great beta readers who catch so many things I miss. Ida Jansson at Amygdala Design has done all four of the covers in my series The Thulukan Chronicles. She “gets” me and what I want and that makes for a great collaboration. 

But at the end of the day, you need to decide which route is best for you, or perhaps a combination of them. I know authors who do all three – trade, small press and self-publish, depending on the project.

I’ve only covered writing for novels, but there are a lot of other kinds of writing. And I’m a neophyte still learning my way around. So, as a beginner, I wish much success for those who set out on this wonderful journey. It’s hard work, but it is so worth it.

Happy Holidays! 

Thanks so much for having me here. J

To learn more about Maer Wilson and her books visit her website at or visit her Amazon Author Page.

Praise for Portals

"Juggling angels, psychics, and a myriad of other magical folk (and their problems), Thulu and La Fi return in Portals to find a kidnapping victim, and maybe just save the universe as a side job. Maer Wilson does a beautiful job of painting their world, weaving a mystery, and sprinkling on a touch of humor in her sophomore fantasy. Such a fun escape!" 
                 LynDee Walker, bestselling author of the Headlines in High Heels Mysteries.