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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Milestones in My Life As an Author

First but not acted upon, or even thought of AS a milestone, was my mystery short story, a homework requirement for a junior high English class.  (It wasn’t called middle school back then!)  My teacher singled out my work as an honorable mention in front of the whole class.  The only one, too.  I thought, yeah.  And moved on.  I didn’t even save a copy of it.  Where would my writing career be today if I had taken the gift I had from the beginning of my life and started working on developing it and marketing it right away?  Well, I’d be further along.  Still no reason not to continue on now. 

This one event proves how dismissive we are about our unique skills and talents.  Don’t do that with yours.

However, I am not sure my writing career would have done too well back then, before the advent of the Indie-publishing avalanche we are in now.  Timing.  My time seems to be 2011 and into the future.  I am one happy woman to participate in, to belong to, this inventive and creative amalgamation of authors who have additional freedoms to invoke.

In my twenties, in the interim between that first and the upcoming second milestone, I wrote some short stories (or more correctly, I wrote stories that stopped at page twenty-five, not ended, but stopped)—none of which I saved apparently, ARGH!—and I was also reading like crazy.  Couldn’t get my fill of other peoples’ books.  But I often had the response to these stories, “I could do that too” or “I could do that better” or even more amazing and hypnotic, "I don't want the story to end yet.  I want to live in it.  I want to be surrounded by these people and call them friends."  I yearn to write those kind of books.

Second milestone was when I finished a short story and submitted it to a contest.  My one and only contest submission.  I did not win.  Still, I finished a story.  Do you know how many people wish to write a story and never do?  It may be the number one career goal out there (per one goals coach whose uplifting emails I receive daily).  I wish I had written down the exact date of that contest.  I may have it somewhere.  My best guess is March 1997.

Third milestone for me was finishing a novel-length book in NaNoMo 2009.

Fourth milestone was finishing a second novel.  That feat erased the fleeting worry that I was just a one-book wonder.

Fifth milestone was uploading my two nonfiction books to Amazon on March 27, 2011.

Sixth was uploading both nonfiction books to Barnes & Noble on April 27, 2011.

Seventh was receiving my first royalty check on May 27, 2011.

I am working on my eighth . . . .

You should be working on yours as well.  Time passes whether you reach for your goals or not.  The difference is, just during the first six months of this year, I already have accomplished three milestones.  How fantastic is that?  By the end of 2011, I hope to add a few more. 

Join me.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

This Author’s Partial To-Do List re Indie Publishing

This blog spot is as much for me as it is to share with you.  The following is a compilation of ideas I’ve garnered from my reading.  I read A LOT.  And I can see one line out of a whole newsletter that spurs me to activity or to capturing an idea on paper.  Being Indie-published, I am the sole person in my publishing company.  Therefore, I have lots to do.  It helps to write stuff down.  Here goes.

If you are like me and have uploaded e-books for the Kindle and Nook, have you considered recording an audio version of your book “as read by author”?  I understand all you need is a computer-compatible microphone and you can create an MP3 (maybe some software is involved).  Like I said, this is on my To-Do List.  I don’t have the experience yet.  But I need to add that knowledge to my base.

This idea works for me currently as all I have e-pubbed to date are nonfiction How-To books, so I can read it well enough to entertain my readers while they are driving to work or cleaning their kitchens.  However, when I get to the novel productions, I am not the one to create the different voices required to distinguish all my characters.  Someone more gifted in that area would need to read my taped novels.

How about a vlog?  Create your own video and upload it to YouTube?  Great marketing tool.

When I go to print books, I want freebies.  I like theme-based pencils, erasers, bookmarks and such.  Start thinking of what promos you would like to help market your creative works.

Even now, with my e-books, once I start uploading my novels, I intend to have bookmarks at the back end that the reader can print out on plain card stock (or heavy white paper) and cut apart with a paper cutter.  This is all a work-in-progress, but my current thinking is to have my book cover on each and maybe one of four or five great one-liners from my story per bookmark, since I should be able to put five per 8-1/2x11-inch page. 

I love the idea of giving more, so this works well, even for e-book versions.  I already have my Lagniappe page at the end of each current e-book, which “success formula” is printed on the reverse side of my business cards as well. 

I was reading a bio about a local author who will be speaking at an event soon and checked him out on Amazon and was surprised to see his blog compilations for sale for a monthly fee.  I use Blogger.com for this site and it seems to offer the same option for providing a book of your blogs.  Worth checking into.

 Best wishes in ALL your endeavors. 

And My Thanks Goes Out to . . .

First, to Margie Lawson for her Class Notes version of The (Deep) EDITS System©.

I’m an author who happens to freelance as a copy editor for one major NYC publishing house.  So I deal with spelling, sentence structure, adverb placement, noun-verb agreement and other basic grammar rules plus some not-so-basic as set forth in the Chicago Manual of Style.  Webster’s and I have become great friends as well.

So what I do and what Margie Lawson does are TOTALLY different.  Think of her like the Big Editor at the Big Publishing House you are trying to impress with your writing.  Now multiply that by twenty-five.  To the nth power.  I know.  It’s the how-do-I-eat-the-world’s-toughest-mammoth problem.  One bite at a time.  Trust me.  After you finish reading her over three-hundred pages of notes from this one class, your pulse rate should return to normal.

You can find her Class Notes on her website at www.MargieLawson.com.  I purchased the first one for $22 and even before I finished her Deep EDITS class, I bought the notes to two other classes.  She’s amazing.  I recommend every author take her classes or buy her notes.  Your work product will soar afterward.

While I’m sending out my thanks and kudos to her, I may as well mention a few other people I have never met who have helped hone my writing career.

David Farland.  Go to www.davidfarland.net/ and sign up for his Daily Kick in the Pants newsletter.  (Check out his author community while you are there.)  Although with his time constraints and writing schedule amped up even more, his Daily Kick is more of a weekly publication at the moment.  Still he gives wonderful detailed advice to authors.  I’ve been following him for years and feel like I’ve been taking a free writing class from him.  Which I have.

Randy Ingermanson at www.advancedfictionwriting.com/ezine/.  Sign up for his monthly newsletter.  You will not be deluged with email from him.  He has great content (and humor) in his e-zine and I’m a fan of his Snowflake software, too.  Check out his website and his blog and other features.  He has this hilarious recurring short-short series about his plumber Bob, if memory serves.  Find it.  Read it.  Laugh out loud.  Several times. 

I have also been blessed to take online courses from Laurie Schnebly-Campbell (see her Enneagrams book at www.amazon.com/Believable-Characters-Creating-Enneagrams-ebook/dp/B0040GJHU4 for Kindle and www.amazon.com/Believable-Characters-Enneagrams-Laurie-Schnebly/dp/0930831039 for print).  Plus Carol Hughes’s DEEP Story class is marvelous.

Authors are a fantastic group of folks—giving of their time and advice.  Mentoring newbies.  Uplifting.  Encouraging.  Exhorting.  These wordsmiths personify core values that enhance our lives and our careers.   I am proud to be among them.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Courage Entails Taking Just ONE Step

We have all heard “take it one step at a time” or some variation, like “inch by inch, life’s a cinch.”  Yet I don’t believe that picture is clear enough when you first hike up your foot to enter the unknown, effectively transforming your routine life into your dream life.  For you may see only one step.  One.  That’s it.  You are standing on the only patch of earth and surrounded by air.  Bottomless air.  For those of you who are acrophobic, like I am, it can be terrifying.  Yet, you know what?  My fear of heights is lessening.  Just another proof that we should face those fears and prove them false.

So how do you plan your dream life, set into action all those goal-setting articles and self-help DVDs you’ve read and listened to?  You already know the basic steps to becoming what you know you were born to do—which is anything that lights you up, that has you animated, that you could talk about nonstop, whatever “that” is should be what you do for a career.

For someone wanting to teach at the university level, you know you will need a Master’s degree.  To get that you need a Bachelor’s first, and for that you will probably need to graduate high school (or get a GED or credit through home schooling, etc.).  For that example, I worked backward and found three milestones.  You plan with what you know.  You revise as needed, as you go along.

For me, being an author, I can tell you a little more about that career as I am living it.   I needed to write at least one book.  I needed to sell some of them.  But the overall reality is the same.  You ask yourself, What should I do now?  What one step would get me nearer to living my ultimate career? 

If you step out in faith, taking the one and only forward-moving action that you see at that nanosecond, I believe another step will be revealed to you.  I love that quote that says, paraphrased here, the teacher/mentor appears when the student is ready.  Meaning you made the decision.  You WILL go after that dream career.  Or the quote that reminds us that the Universe will supply us with all manner of goodies once our foot lands in the unknown.  I trust in a God that rewards people who follow their heart's desire, make a decision and forge ahead to make a better world one person at a time, starting with themselves.

So step out there.  It is not so scary after all.  And the benefits . . . well, they will have you smiling.  All day long.

Changes Needed in Operating Traditional "9 to 5" Businesses in 2011 and Beyond

The main overall topic for this blog spot is encouraging self-respect, knowing who we are, where we came from and where we are going.  Spurring on successful endeavors in all the arenas of life.

In this particular blog, I am not exhorting individuals to believe in Self and thus implement this inspiration in their own lives, as much as I am showing how it could be put in action on a grander scale at the work level.

I am an author now.  My dream job.  However, I spent three decades working mostly in high-rises in downtown settings.  So I speak from experience.  If I could have the ear of personnel managers everywhere in those traditionally “9 to 5” jobs, this is what I would say.  Plead even.  Beg, if need be.

  1. Want to get rid of the expense of overtime?  Have your people work overlapping schedules.  Some, the early-bird risers, would opt out for the 6-3 shift.  The alarm-clock-hating group should work the midday shift of about 10-7.  The night-owl sector would take the 2-11 shift.  You effectively have your office “open” from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. which negates the need for overtime—as long as you have each boss paired up to two people, one from two of the three shifts (ideally, one from the early-bird shift and one from the night-owl shift) so that each boss has a go-to person no matter the time of day.  All within the realms of safety.
  2. Want to contribute something to the go-green movement?  This overlapping shift thinking will get more people out of the normal rush-hour traffic, thereby lessening the stress of too many cars on too little pavement for those dreaded two hours in the morning and two again that evening.  Commuting traffic would become spread out.  Especially if more businesses opt to put this into praxis.  Saves gas from all that idling time, improves the health of all because we are not inhaling the fumes from the car in front of us.  Saves time spent commuting, so your employees are away from home less time.  Makes for happier and less sickly coworkers.
  3. Want to give a nonmonetary raise?  Just offer the floating shift idea at the next staff meeting and I guarantee you smiles.  In a big enough company, say twenty or more employees, I dare say that all shifts will be covered just by letting them choose their own shifts.  No mandatory assignments from on high allowed.  Try it yourself and see.
  4. Want another idea for a nonmonetary raise?  Pay your employees to take lunch.  So the above floating shifts would become 6-2, 10-6 and 2-10.  Your employees gain an hour and you are still paying them the same.  They are so thrilled to be going home an hour earlier that they are more productive.  Some may even work through lunch, eating at their desks.
  5. Want happier employees/coworkers?  See all of the above.
  6. Want less absenteeism?  Open a daycare within your company.  You can run it by hiring some new people to manage it daily—good for the present economic slump--or you could offer those positions to a few good employees you lost last year to stay at home with their babies. 
  7. Want more enthusiastic employees?  Figure out a way that each and every one can work from home—at least one day a week.  Try to work it out so that three days a week they can be home working.  What a boon to our planet and its resources, not to mention employees that feel like they have more say in their jobs.
  8. Want less-stressed-out employees?  Go casual dress attire.  (Of course, I do not mean dirty clothes and/or those that expose too much and can lead to jail time.)  I know I feel more comfortable in yoga attire than I ever did in belted outfits with pantyhose and three-inch heels.  You are paying for the use of the brains of your employees.  Show them that.

I offer these ideas as an alternative to the staid routine of old.  Think about it.  Discuss it.  Mold it to fit your business concern.  It is time to update our business models for the twenty-first century. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

No Speeding Required, Just Consistency

I am hard on myself.  I am a perfectionist.  I have multiple To Do lists that I want to check off each item as completed.

My life is already full of deadlines.  Some set by me.  Goal-oriented deadlines.  Self-determined publication deadlines for my (near) future indie-publishing novels.  Some set by others.  Deadlines related to my freelance copyediting job.  Deadlines surrounding my day job.  Today I found myself dictating a clothes washing mandate.  Setting the timer for thirty minutes.  Which is no big deal.  Not really.  But I had all day.  Why was I pushing myself?  Why was I interrupting my train of thought (whether reading or writing) with a harsh, monotonous, irritating tone every half hour?

Granted, self-direction and self-motivation are great tools for an entrepreneur or author to have.  Just not too much of it.

I am also blessed with determination, consistency, stick-to-itiveness (yes, that is the way Webster’s spells it—I am a freelance copy editor and, by habit, check these things).  Some call me stubborn for embodying such tenacity of spirit.  If “stubborn” is what gets me to beloved bestselling author status, much less any of my other goals, so be it!

So, for today, each time you set a time limit on yourself, ask:  Is this really necessary?  At all?  Or at that interval?  Is it making my day easier or harder?  Is it getting me closer to my dream goal or just weighing me down?  Because it may not be a task that you need to accomplish.  Not today or any day.  Your time could be wiser spent doing other things.  And enjoying it more. 

One more thing.  We all run at different speeds.  My speed is not yours and vice versa.  Be happy with your own speed.    

Sometimes it doesn't feel like we are much in charge of our lives.  However, the decisions are truly ours.

So, decide.  It is your life after all.

Take Away at Least One Nugget . . .

Take away at least one nugget, one good idea, from each book you read, each seminar you attend, each audio you listen to.  I initially heard that from a Tony Robbins tape or book.  Whoever said it first, or thereafter, were all wise folks.

Take one nugget.  I like that.  The distillation of it.  Works well in today’s electronic culture.  Also blends in nicely with my hectic schedule, and the mountains of facts already lodged in my brain.

I am a voracious reader, reading 150 to 365 books a year, a healthy mix of fiction and nonfiction.  However, having too much information can be just as bad as too little, as any good suspense movie or detective series will prove by responding to a subpoena for documents with truckloads of bankers storage boxes.

So it is with knowledge.

I like to reread my books, sometimes every word from beginning to end.  Other times, just the underlined and/or highlighted portions.  My personalized version of CliffsNotes.  I have begun adding a date to the front page to show when I read each book last.  In some cases, with paperback novels, I’ve just dated them upon receipt and left a blank for when I actually read it.  That way I know which ones I have not yet read.

Therefore, from time to time on this blog, I will share my insights from books I have read and enjoyed and garnered a gem or fifteen worth sharing.  Today it is from John Assaraf’s book entitled The Street Kid’s Guide to Having it All.

Of course, the title says it.  Having it all.  I think we do want it all.  Life shouldn’t be about either/or, not in the context of:  you can have a successful career or a successful marriage, but not both.  No.  Sorry.  I don’t buy into that.  Now, I do understand that a man with a career that ensures he will be traveling 360 days a year who is married to a stay-at-home mother of two or more children--and who wants a 24/7/365 two-way relationship--is doomed in one area or the other, or both.

I think the either/or part comes in when we choose, “Yes, I want more time with my spouse, and therefore, I need another career.”  That first decision DOES NOT MEAN that we choose any old job to bring home a few dollars.  Don’t sell your soul for the bottom line.  There are tons of jobs that offer much more valuable commodities than paper money.  Freedom.  Creativity.  Independence.  Or if you are not inclined to be an author, you may prefer these three:  Interaction.  Industry.  Intercontinental. 

This either/or topic reminds me of that designing show on the home and garden channel where a married couple had disparate styles, something like a cowboy bunkhouse décor at odds with Manhattan chic, yet somehow, someway, this designer melded the two seemingly opposing sets of decorating sense where both parties loved the final outcome.  Amazing.

Well, that’s what you need to do with the supposed “either/or” circumstances in your life.  Look them over really hard and see where you can keep both.  Again, this is not meant in the line of thinking, “Should I give up my mistress or my wife?  Naw, I can have both!”  No.  Again I say No.  I could name names here, straight from the news, but I will restrain myself. 

This is meant to stir up your creative genes to get you thinking how you can do your current job yet stay home.  Video conferencing.  Virtual book signings.  Vlogs.  Or maybe you just find another niche in the current company where you feel even more useful and satisfied than doing that traveling gig.

My blogs tend to be more than one page and I cannot seem to write shorter, being more inclined to longer verbose documents.  So, I’ll stop here.  More on Assaraf’s Having it All in a later blog.  Or maybe a couple.

2011 - My Quantum Year

I have no reason to explain the sudden, intense, quantum focus on my dreams or the shift in my thoughts to what I want, nonjudgmental thoughts, the I-can-have-anything thoughts that have been with me since the start of 2011.  The best way I can describe it is:  “The Bermuda Triangle of unidentified good forces has conjoined to spur me on.”

Let me explain.  I have always been a workaholic.  Thinking “work comes before play”--which of course means I rarely stop to play.  Other than those wind-down moments before sleeping at night.  Of course, I'm a book lover and movie addict, so what looks like play in these areas, I have labeled "research" or "study of an author's process."  So maybe it looks like I play more than stated here, but that's because I'm in such a cool career.

To say I have now taken my condition and multiplied it by three would still not adequately correspond the depth of that bulls-eye viewpoint and the height of its fancy.

In one way, it is totally directed on my new career:  as an author.  Fiction and nonfiction, but primarily fiction.  Even though my first two works out in e-book format are nonfiction.  Yet that footstep into one future part of my whole unknown has unleashed so many other tentative inclinations in other areas.  Success begets more success, no matter where that specific success is found in the pie chart called Life.

Examples of my success-oriented thinking involve:

My house.  REALLY getting it organized.  Taking itty-bitty baby steps there, for I wear three hats (author, copy editor and daytime jobber), but any progress is a milestone within my limited “off from work” time frame.  Making a list of all the repairs and improvements it needs, inside and out.  Not a wish list, mind you, but a written To Do reminder.  Like it’s really gonna happen.  Because it is.

My looks.  I’m not a fashion maven and my makeup leans to the natural look.  So for me to focus on hair, eyeshadow and blush, plus new clothes is out of my usual spectrum—especially with the career shift and simultaneous change in earnings.  But in the back of my mind, THIS YEAR, I am considering a haircut that I didn’t give myself, girly yet casual dresses (think French), painted nails, taking the time to don jewelry.

Menu plan.  I don’t think I’ve ever done that consistently.  Not even sporadic attempts, other than a few vacations spent at home where I wanted to play around with cooking.  Now I am so much more attuned to seasonal fruits and veggies, to what I am craving, to the local Farmers’ Market.  You can add grateful and thankful, too.

Sunshine.  Outdoors.  Since I am both an author and a freelance copy editor for one major NYC publishing house, you can imagine how comfortable I am being indoors reading (or writing).  My gift to myself is spending at least fifteen minutes outside in the sunshine daily, other than the weekly (sparse) lawn maintenance.  Besides the Vitamin D it gives me, I believe there are undiscovered emotional and physical benefits as well.  Not to mention other presents Mother Nature bestows on us:  dirt, grass, flowers, trees, butterflies, etc.  I read somewhere that people exposed to large animals (horses, for one example) are healthier than the rest of us.  Just from my limited experience of being around horse people at the traditional workplaces, I can confirm that they didn’t get sick whereas I did.  And I consider myself very healthy.

Learning New Things.  I want to be fluent in French and Italian.  I would love to take a layman’s cooking class, as compared to one to teach me to become a chef.  I can think at this present moment of seven areas in which I would love to earn a degree:  French, Italian, Creative Writing, Philosophy, Seminary (not to become a member of the clergy but for the sheer knowledge of it), Architecture, Gardening.  That didn’t touch on my love of painting or cooking or my long-term desire to make my own quilt(s).

This year is my quantum year.  Everything is multiplied this year.  Good or bad.  So shoot for the BEST, for it will be compounded.  I wish this for you.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Oh, The Freedoms Writing as a Career Brings

Aside from the total creative free reign of being an Indie e-pubbed author, there are other elements to be grateful for.  Such as, all I need is a pen and a notebook to manifest my imaginings.  That was a supreme shock when I was doing a goal-setting projection many many years ago and thinking that I would have to invest in a desktop computer and a home version of word processing software and a printer and a mouse and a scanner and . . . then it hit me.  All I need is a plain old No. 2 pencil and some paper—even scrap paper would do.  Which I had both.  Plus I already owned an electric typewriter (that’s how long ago this was, and yet, not so long ago).  I could type up my handwritten notes.  After all, that’s what Jessica Fletcher does in Murder, She Wrote, right?

Major moment that was.  Money was not stopping me from living my dream of being an author.  Back then, I was blaming my lack of funds for not catapulting me into the career of my choice.  Of course, now, I have that desktop and various bells and whistles of a small home office.  But if the electricity goes out, I can still create.  I can even edit if I have a hard copy of my latest work to review.

And locations.  I am not locked into my home office.  Which does not just mean I can take my laptop and work in the kitchen too.  No, it means I could be anywhere in the world and writing a new novel with paper and pen—on a beach, on a mountain, in a cave with torchlight as my only illumination, in a tent, in a villa, in a shack, in Africa, in a limo (as long as I’m not the one driving—ha!), camping along the Nile, in Egypt staring at the pyramids . . . you get my point.

Aside from the immense freedom of just being my own boss, there is freedom of movement, of locale.  If I want to work outside in the sunshine on my patio, I can.  If I am meeting my author group, I can work in a café, sipping coffee and inspired by the collective energy of such a creative eclectic group of folks I am proud to call friends.

Everything I need to create is within me.  Another light-bulb moment for me, as well.  To document those quickly evaporating ideas into words, I can use old-fashioned means or newfangled trends.  I can grab my purse and go, writing-ready, or add my laptop carrier and use voice-recognition software to type in my own words for me.  It’s my choice.

And I am SO loving the freedom.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Wisdom Can Be Found Anywhere: Interesting Thoughts from Books and Movies

As a curious and studious seeker of wisdom and knowledge, I find evidence of both everywhere.  Plus I’m a movieholic so it is not surprising that I find pearls of universalisms in big screen productions.  One of my all-time favorite flicks is Sweet Home Alabama which has a great line that goes something like this:  You can have both roots and wings . . . .  I love that line.  Why do we have to choose between the two?  Why can’t we have both?  Why can’t we have it all?

These are not just kernels to create a novel from, although that is something I am likely to do.  However, learning in and of itself is useful.  It adds to our confidence level, can improve the quality of our lives and our world.  Who knows which one of us will assimilate a random collection of facts and come up with something new from that combination’s synergy? 

A new philosophy perhaps.  Ayn Rand did it with her books, novels Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, not to mention her nonfiction works about objectivism.  How about a cancer cure or a new fuel supply?  What about something so basic like learning to understand and communicate effectively with the opposite sex, or just our siblings and other family members or even coworkers?

We each have such a unique fingerprint—and I’m not only talking about what is under our nails, but more of a soul print.  Something so vast and complex and special and whole, in and of itself, so as to not need 
repeating.  That describes every one of us.

For the record, when the Bible speaks of the beginning of wisdom is the fear of God and that we were fearfully and wonderfully made, I question the translation from the Hebrew that led to the usage of the word “fear” in both these instances.  I find “respect” would be a far better choice.  Regardless, that is my opinion and I’m off on a tangent here.

So back to my original thought:  finding gems to live by or, in the case of us creative types, some topic to paint, research, study or write about whether in a textbook or a paperback novel.  Can you guess where these paraphrased snippets or actual quotes came from?

-         …made everything beautiful for its own time.  [Note:  I particularly believe that this means you and me.  If we are alive in this time and era, we are beautiful as THIS is our time.]
-         Sex should only be delayed by mutual agreement of the married couple and only for the purpose of prayer.
-         A new husband shall take on no public responsibilities but shall instead stay home for one year to make his wife happy.

If you guessed that all three came from the Bible, you would be correct (Ecc. 3:11, I Cor. 7:5 and Deut. 24:5, respectively).  I share this for two reasons.  One, you never know where a good idea can come from, and can be put into praxis in your actual everyday living or in an imaginary work of art—or both.  Two, I think the Bible can scare people away from it sometimes and I want to illustrate that it is full of great stories, humor, poetry and all the possible human conflicts that we depict in movies and books.

So, here we are, roundabout to the beginning of this blog.    Revering the written words found in bookstores, libraries, schools, churches, homes--or resident in our minds until unleashed--as well as the works on film or DVD or Blu-ray or whatever new technology someone else is sure to invent.

Wisdom can be found anywhere . . . you just need to focus your sights on finding it.  And the addition of YOU may be all that is needed to create something amazing.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Where do I get my novel ideas? And other mental wanderings . . .

As a novelist, I know it may not seem like “work” when I watch a movie, read a book for pleasure, study an author’s work by reading and rereading and dissecting and evaluating and diagramming, or while flipping through a catalog or magazine.  Or just by staring out my window at the beauty of nature.  But it is.

However much my career is not “work” to me but pure pleasure, the above motions feed my imagination.  I fall in love with a movie and I want to know:  Why?  What about that movie touched my soul?  I need to know this so I may replicate that emotional pull on my readers in my own stories.  Ditto for books I read that move me and engage my feelings.

Studying the masters or having a mentor is key to learning, improving.  I happen to be an avid J.D. Robb / Nora Roberts fan.  In more than one of my personal library’s How To books on writing, a common homework assignment is to take your favorite author and actually copy down by hand a passage from his/her book.  This is NOT to endorse plagiarism.  This is to get your mind and fingers in tune to great writing.  Sometimes I have to listen to an audio book twenty times before I begin to see a little glimpse into Nora’s patterns in her usage of the English language, because no matter how often I read her stories and know them by heart, she swallows me whole into her tale and I’m lost in it.  I yearn to be able to do that with my writing.

As far as catalog cruising or magazine meanderings, I get great ideas for characters that way as well.  Same goes for people watching wherever you are.  I remember taking the DART express bus downtown to work one day and an athletic-looking young woman in an open Jeep dressed in safari gear drove by with the sunshine raining down on her flawless natural tan.  THAT book that she initialized is still percolating in my mind.   One story idea of mine came from a paper ad with a full-page photo of a woman in a flannel shirt sipping coffee in front of the open door of her cabin high in the snowcapped mountains. 

Sometimes I just write about people I would love to surround myself with, in a world that I would like to inhabit.  It is okay to let your imagination run wild and consider various scenarios.  I also love mysteries and will write at least one in my lifetime.  Research into Stonehenge or the Holy Grail or the Bermuda Triangle would be great fun and I would love to tackle any of those subjects and see what kind of a tale I could wrap around those wonders.

Anything that interests me is fair game:  cell memory, transplant recipients taking on new habits and loves, our sixth sense, other dimensions, powerful forces we cannot see—just to name a few.

Speaking of powerful things not visible to us, I am overwhelmed with a sense of good tidings coming my (and your) way.  It’s been with me for three days.  I can’t wait to see what it is . . . .

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Additional Thoughts re "I AM"

Thinking about yesterday’s blog made me remember two items I would like to add.

One, the Bible.  I seek answers from a multitude of sources.  Yet the Bible remains my personal ken on life.  In fact, when I read most self-help books, I can match up many, many, many of their foundational messages to a paraphrase of a verse in the Good Book.  It remains a resource for me, a benchmark, the raised bar to reach for.
Two, the “I am” statements.  I wanted to clarify that you may speak your “I am” statements LONG BEFORE anyone else “sees” them in this current reality of space and time.  Take me for example.  I am an author.  Prior to March 27, 2011, you would not have found any online e-books or print paperbacks bearing my name.  Yet years before that I was creating tales of fiction.  While my first remembered piece was a short, short mystery written as a homework assignment in seventh grade and I have written some other pieces since then, I first called myself an author about ten or twelve years ago.  I had submitted a finished short story to a contest.  I did not win.  Nevertheless, that was a major event in my life.

Even so, my actual career shift and serious writing mode began years later in 2007 where I penned eight works-in-progress totaling over 350,000 words by October 2008.  Only in 2011 did I later add my (currently) three nonfiction works.  I continue to manifest new novels and self-help checklists as we speak. 

Everything is created twice:  first in the mind, then in physical form.  That dressmaker’s pattern, that architect’s blueprint, that city planner’s projected new highway—all of them were "secrets" hidden away in your gray matter first, then a two-dimensional or 3-D model or pattern to go by that a few people were privy to before existing in the very public arena of reality.  In that same way, I would suggest keeping your goals to yourself at first while you are incubating that new idea and then expose it only to a select few of the supportive people you know who maintain positive can-do outlooks.  Then once it is a fait accompli, you can share your successful finished creation to the public.

So, keep in mind you must initially decide who you are, state your "I am" as your first step to becoming the new improved you and continue to act on that declaration.  All that foundational work is unseen by onlookers.  Like the roots of a plant are developed first before the blossom and fruit.  Thereafter, once you are reaping the harvest from the thoughts and idea "seeds" you have planted, enabling you to grow into the fullness of your declared “I AM,” then other people will see it too.  Don’t feel like a fraud for deeming it so initially. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

At the Heart of It All

I'm an author of both fiction and nonfiction, but I started out as a lover of books, a voracious reader from a very young age.  I still consume hundreds a year.  And whether I'm reading about self-improvement or studying the Bible or cruising through Bios of my favorite celebrities or pleasure reading detective stories or romances where I fall in love with or want to be one of the main characters, I see a single continuous red thread that traverses through all my assorted readings.

There is an underlying psychological component to success.

Self-confidence.  An awareness of self. 

Not to be confused with ego or an out-of-control Id, but a grounding sense of self, of where we come from--whether you are looking at your family tree or the Word of God.  There is something about confidence that stirs us to greatness.  Plus it does not seem to matter which area of our life spurs on this self-satisfied waterfall of good emotions.

Life can be broken down into various categories and here is just one sample:  Family/Friends, Career, Hobbies, Health/Fitness, Money/Finances, Personal Improvement, Community/Contribution.  Since success begets more success, pick one slice of life in which you excel and focus on your accomplishments in that area.  It fuels more motivation to act in a way that you continue to excel  in that and/or other areas.

For example, think of falling in love.  What euphoric sensations THAT does to our body and our feelings and emotions.  It amps up the senses.  And it draws people and things to us as well as our attention on things unseen before.  Just think of how many more people seem to be interested in you when you already have someone special in your life.  Don't you attract more people in that highly charged state?  Think of applying that force to your career--the one you were meant to enjoy, where you are rewarded for your natural gifts.  Or any of the other facets of your life.

The Bible speaks of thinking only on good thoughts and I reiterate that promise here.  Of course, the Good Book does not always tell us why we should or should not do certain things.  I personally contend that such negative thoughts or memories lead us to be consumed by unpleasant emotions and that all such actions lead to disease, an unhealthy physical state.  Cell memory is alive and well and can influence the whole body.

This study could be and has been for me a lifelong research project.  So necessarily this short blog spot can only hint at all this subject entails.  Suffice it to say, knowledge is awareness.  Notice the negative self-talk and stop, halt the derogatory words, replace them with a positive reinforcing thought of a past success, even if you have to go back to age five or revert to a generic prayer of thanksgiving and gratefulness to our Creator.

I am not preaching or intending to preach here, yet I will give scripture to support my hypotheses as needed.  However, my current point is not a debate over spiritual values or religions, but to encourage us, me included, to promote a healthy love of self.  It helps us to be better individuals which contributes indirectly and directly to our neighbors and beyond.

Final take-away thought:  The Bible speaks of God as being "I AM."  Watch what you say about yourself when you start any sentence with "I am" for those two words, coupled with any that follow, contain the power to create.

What do you want to create in your life?

So here's my toast to Self:  May you ever grow in universal knowledge and wisdom and awareness with a specific focus on those gifts that inhabit each and every one of you and were given to you to be shared with the whole world.  May you enjoy your many successes!