Sunday, October 1, 2017

Carrying on with calm – another book event under my belt

The month of September was not lacking when it came to how busy life can get in a single month.  My head is spinning a little when I look back at the past 30 days. When it comes to my personal life, my day job and my writing, there has been a lot going on lately!

While the days are busy, much of my attention has involved making changes so that I can more effectively focus on my writing career. That includes getting myself back out there as an author. The first part of September I attended a writer’s conference – a much-needed day out to mix and mingle with other like minds and to meet and learn from seasoned and bestselling authors. And then a few days ago I had my first book signing in…quite some time, now that I recall the last book club meeting I attended as a guest speaker.    

I had at first only called this most recent event an author meet and greet. My expectation was that maybe only a handful of the attendees would have heard about me or even read any of my books beforehand. The exposure, as well as the practice of speaking in front of a group, can only be a good thing, so I was more than willing to take part when one of the residents wanted to schedule an event so that other residents of the community could meet me.

I should have been more nervous before arriving but, honestly, I didn’t have much time to think about it because I had worked at the office that morning, taken a long lunch to attend the Celebration of Life for my great uncle who had passed away a few months ago, and then spent a few more hours at work before heading to the venue.

When I arrived and entered the room where the event was to take place, I barely had time to prepare myself because the room was already full of people! Apparently there was a snafu with the time and many of those who were present thought the event was set to begin a half hour earlier than the agreed upon time, so that when I arrived to get set up, they were all waiting for me to begin.

This is where my lessons in life come in handy. I just had to go with the flow…you know the saying: keep calm and carry on.

Since two different times may have been posted and there were others who were still likely to arrive, the host asked me to hold off until our agreed time, just in case. My husband was with me and he took it upon himself to entertain the early attendees with stories and humor about the two of us and his perspective as the husband of an author. I wasn’t able to listen to all of what he said, but based on the amount of laughter I heard, I could tell he was doing a fantastic job.

When the time came to begin the event, and even more attendees had arrived, I was humbled by the number who had come to meet and hear from me. My husband told me that there were close to 40 attendees present, which is a terrific turnout for someone who is still at the beginning stages of getting their name out there. I shared with the group my journey as a writer and while I couldn’t recall now exactly what I covered during that hour, I pretty much spoke from the heart. I had a great time and afterwards, as I met some of the attendees on an individual basis, I felt good about the fact that they appeared to have enjoyed themselves as well.

With another book event under my belt, and the number of chances I was given that entire day to lose focus or falter, I feel great about the fact that I was able to keep calm and carry on. I’m still learning as I go, but what’s great is that I’m paying attention and able to make use of what I’m learning.  J

Until next time, carry on and have a great week!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

When social media “speaks” to you

I have a love-hate relationship with social media and I’m likely not alone with my feelings. Over the past several years, as I’ve continued to grow as an author, I’ve read many posts and books about how or why we should use social media in our endeavors as we try to get our name out to readers. 

For me, it’s still a work in progress and since the “rules” and available media tend to change on a regular basis, a WIP it will always be. 

I’ve stuck with Facebook, not because I particularly like it but because it’s what I know. I have continued to use this blog, although I’m still trying to figure out what I’m doing right when some months have a huge spike in interest above others – which means trying to figure out what I’m doing wrong the rest of the time. I have not dabbled with Twitter, at all, because I honestly don’t have the mental energy for it. Pinterest interests me, because I like the concept, but if I ever try it, it will be for my own use to pin what helps me with my stories. And I thoroughly enjoy Instagram, but only personally, as I have yet to become daring enough to use it for my author self.

There are more options, but who the heck has the time to keep up with all of them while also writing and publishing books? Some authors do, I’m aware, but possibly because they have a team of people helping them. It’s too much for just one person to tackle on a regular basis and any attempt to do so will eventually result in major burnout.

When I think about the above options, I realize Instagram is my favorite because it is the only social media I take part in that never irritates me. I enjoy the photos, videos and quotes all shared by those I follow. Other than some new ads that now pop up every so often that I may not be interested in, Instagram has been quick to figure out what I like or don’t like so that even the ads aren’t rubbing me the wrong way. Hopefully, that won’t change.

Facebook, on the other hand, is a different story. And I’m talking about my personal page, not my author page. There’s just too much when it comes to drama, opinion, politics, anger, belittling, negativity and photos or videos shared that I don’t particularly wish to see. The world can be an ugly place and I’m not saying we all need to hide our heads when it comes to what’s going on around us, but FB is all very subjective and I’m tired of using any social media that embodies that ugliness as a whole. Some might say I need new friends, or I should follow more positive pages; but that’s the point…my friends and pages I follow aren’t the issue. Since FB tends to pick and choose what you get to see, I’ve seen more of a trend of the ugly over the inspiring. I guess it’s what FB believes followers like to read.

So I was surprised this morning when I decided to view my FB news feed. After scrolling through a few updates from friends and family, there appeared before me posts with a more positive theme…one after another, again and again, these were the types of messages I was reading:

To be happy let go of what’s gone, be grateful for what remains and 
look forward to what is coming next

Life should not be a journey to the grave… (basically, make it a life worth living)

8 things to remember when going through tough times…

Let it go…

...breathe – don’t quit

Life is beautiful – soak it in and be grateful

Find yourself again

Now, I don’t require a pep talk from FB every day, but it was nice to scroll through my news feed and see these types of positive messages over the more negative ones. I’ll be making some serious changes in my life soon and it was a breath of fresh air – a positive push, even from random feed on social media, can help you feel you’re headed in the right direction. 

Will this change how I use Facebook? I won’t quit my FB timeline, but monitoring the news feed still won’t be a daily habit since I doubt this positive feed trend will continue. My timeline and my Instagram feed are more than enough for me right now. 

So did my social media “speak” to me this morning or was I just on the lookout for what might inspire me and answer some internal questions?  I’m not going to admit to my computer or any social media having that much power over me…instead I’ll chalk it up to pure coincidence.  One of my favorite quotes about a coincidence is:

Coincidence it will be.  J

Happy scrolling – and have a great week!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Always a student, in life and in art

Life is full of lessons, along with a number of sides you look forward to or hope to avoid, and topped with promises and regrets. Regardless of the lessons we experience, we will usually learn something from them, whether about others or about ourselves and hopefully any change we go through is only for the better.

I’ve had my share of life lessons the past few years and while I’m not exactly sure how someone else might describe how these experiences have changed me, I would say that the lessons I’ve learned have brought about an intense desire to switch things up so that I can experience life differently. It’s been a work in progress, with some bumps and bruises along the way, but I am eagerly moving toward making those changes happen.

When we experience a change in ourselves, it may be immediate or gradual, or we may not notice it at all while others around us do. What we can only hope for, really, is that we don’t remain stagnant or unwilling to learn or refuse to understand how an experience has affected us.

That’s the way it is in life.

And that’s the way it is in fiction.

When life is hard, for readers anyway, we enjoy escaping by reading. Taking part in the lives of characters who are going through possibly similar experiences, or even if they aren’t, who are going through some sort of adversity which will help us take our mind off our own problems for a bit.

Characters we read about, with needs, fears, issues and family drama, jump off the page when we read about them, and if the book is written well, they appear to us as real individuals we continue to think about even when we aren’t reading. Books are truly magic and a great break from reality. 

As with real people, characters should not remain stagnant.  Readers appreciate changes in a character; it makes them more believable. As a writer, I get lost in the story I want to tell and might not always appreciate the fact that my characters, who are like real people to me, may not be showing the reader how much an experience has changed them. Or are they changing, but I’m not aware of it as much as I should be in order to express it on the page? I need to have a serious conversation with my characters, if that’s the case. J As an author, I’m continuing to learn the tricks of the craft and the art of writing and while I continue to learn, I trust it will benefit my characters and beyond that, those who enjoy my books.

This bit of insight, which I knew but might have gotten off track from, is the result of my time spent at a writer’s conference yesterday.  Attending these conferences never fails to increase my desire to continue to learn because I am reminded there is so much more to writing than just writing. It may seem daunting, I certainly won’t ever know everything, but while I continue to learn I’ll become a better writer and continuous learning will only feed my desire to live a creative life during my journey as an author.    

It's time for me to get back to being creative. Have a great week and keep reading!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

One of the most difficult posts I’ll ever write…

Hi everyone – I had thought that my update for the month of September would be to fill you in on my book status and when the fourth book in the series might be available, or how the writer’s conference went or even how my own book event turned out.

But I’m writing now, sooner than I expected to, in order to share the saddest news to you from my author self. I’ve suffered another loss, and this time it has affected me in a way I hadn’t put any thought in to when I first began to write my mystery series.

Piper - using her paw to get my attention
I’ve shared with you in previous posts about my dog, Piper, who has dealt with some health issues the past few months. Piper is also the only “real” character in my mystery series and I have thoroughly enjoyed adding her cuteness to the personality of her fictional alter ego. 

Sadly, the issues that continued to plague Piper came back with a vengeance this past week. We attempted another surgery to remove the infection, and a new mass in her neck, but I’m heartbroken to share that a few days after surgery, complications arose and there was nothing more we could do. I was with her when she passed, I’m so thankful for that, but saying goodbye was gut wrenching for me. She was my little shadow, my muse, my writing buddy (always lying on the floor in the office with me when I was plugging away these past five years) and her absence will be felt…Every. Single. Day.

When I first began writing this series and decided to add Piper as a character, I never thought about what it would mean to me if something ever happened to her. Whether or not I could continue to write about her, no longer having her by my side. Whether I could continue to share her personality traits or quirks in the series, when I wasn’t around her to see them firsthand every day. 

Whether I’d want to continue to share parts of her with others, when I couldn’t have her here for myself.

These thoughts had never occurred to me…

Admittedly, as I review my latest novel and read over what I wrote about Piper in the story, it’s difficult. I want her here, with me. Admittedly, it’s only been two days and I need some time to heal. However, when I sat down today to work on my book, and as I let myself become immersed in the story, something happened I did not expect. It felt good to read about her. It felt good to imagine her healthy…hanging out with her owner, going for walks, playing outside, riding in a vehicle. Doing what dogs do, rather than how I’ve seen her the past few months due to her illness.

And I felt her here, with me. 

She’s no longer physically here with me, but she will always be by my side, in spirit at least. As a “character” in my series, the memory of her will continue to live on through my books, and because of that, she will live forever.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

August antics as summer winds down

Seriously, this summer is just flying by – how about you? Are you finding it hard to believe the month of August is already half over?

The past few weeks have just been a continuation of a very busy summer – with no rest for the weary!

This month I’ve been working through the edits on the fourth book in my series, and preparing the book for a final run through. I’ve really enjoyed the feedback from my editor and as much as I dislike editing my own work, I’m remembering how much fun it is to work through edits from my editor.  It’s also such a great learning tool for me – and feedback from a professional is so helpful when it can make you sit back and review your work from the viewpoint of another.

Ocean Shores sunset
In between writing/editing, there have been a number of other distractions this month involving my day job (we have a new boss after being in limbo for over five months), my health (my back, on-going the past six months…ugh), Piper’s health (yes, still), and just getting away here and there to enjoy what the PNW has to offer before our weather turns on us. One such trip was to the beach where my husband and I celebrated 26 years married this month. I’ve wanted to get to the beach all summer but haven’t had time, so I’m glad it worked out for our anniversary. The month of August also marked the one-year anniversary of my mother-in-law’s passing; it’s always the “firsts” that are the most difficult to get through after a loved one passes away. I saw a quote on Instagram recently from “The Walking Dead” that kind of hit home for me…“The pain doesn’t go away. You just make room for it.” Sad, but so very true.

I also agreed to commit to an author event for the first time in…quite a while. I won’t call it a book signing, really; more like a meet & greet, since I’m not sure how many of the attendees will have actually read any of my books when I come to meet them. What is cute, though, is the woman who is putting the event together. I sent her a copy of No Mother of Mine in preparation for the meet & greet. She’d heard about me and wanted to plan an event with me, but apparently hadn’t yet read any of my books. The book was mailed on a Monday and by the end of that week, she called to say she had already finished the book and really enjoyed it. Again, although I’m a reader myself, it still amazes me how quickly readers get through my 400-page books! I still pinch myself because it is surreal when I take in the fact that readers are enjoying my work and literally devouring my books when they get them. 

The meet & greet isn’t until next month, which is probably a good thing considering how busy August has turned to be. Which means September will be a fun month, not only with the author meet & greet, but also an upcoming writer’s conference, and time spent finalizing the fourth book in the series in preparation for publication. And soon I’ll have the fourth book in the series published, so that I can finally complete my young adult novel and also get to work on another book before the end of the year. 

But I need to get my focus back to August – there’s too much to be done yet this month.

That said, I’m taking a blogging break the rest of this month and I’ll post another update in September. 

Enjoy the rest of your summer!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

What I did this summer…so far

One more day in the month of July and then we’re sliding right into the last real month of summer. This week, everyone in the PNW will be preparing for a real heat wave expected to hit us mid-week, so I guess many will be sliding into the new month on their own sweat. Temps nearing or over 100 degrees…not optimal for many who don’t have access to A/C because these high temps just aren’t normal around here. If this continues, our summer weather will be holding out until September and beyond. Some will love it, others won’t but Mother Nature doesn’t tend to care what we think.  J

How has your summer been so far? Mine has been a mixed bag, really it has, but I guess that’s what’ll keep the summer interesting.

If you’ve kept up with my posts, you know I’ve had some difficult moments with Piper during the months of May and June. I wish I could say we were all through it, but unfortunately, she has been struck yet again with another infection and she’s back on antibiotics as of last week.  We’ve been in and out of the vet a dozen times over the past two months…I’m sure if she could speak she’d say she hopes this time will be the last. Even with everything she’s gone through, she’s been such a good girl through all this; it’s probably obvious, but I really can’t say enough about how special she is to me.

Home from Hawaii!
June also marked my oldest son’s return home from Hawaii – funny enough, on one of the days when I had to take an unexpected trip back to the vet because Piper had pulled out her drain tube after surgery, I returned home from the vet to find a bunch of luggage in the front hallway. Nothing can eliminate the anxious feelings of a parent better than the knowledge that their kid is finally home safe and sound after a long trip.

Steps while in Orlando!
June was also busy with preparations for a family vacation to Florida where we visited all the theme parks at Disney World over a four-day period, as well as Universal Studios for two days.  

Just a sneak peek...

While my absolute favorite place to “be” was Diagon Alley at Universal Studios, my favorite ride by far was at Disney World, in the newest addition of Animal Kingdom. Avatar’s Flight of Passage is nothing like any ride I’ve ever experienced since we first began going on theme park vacations more than ten years ago. I really can’t put into words how absolutely amazing the Flight of Passage is, but if you ever get the chance to experience it, do it. You won’t be disappointed.

Very alert & just about ready to fly

Let’s see…what else? 

Oh yes, birds. 

This summer has been quite the experience with birds. Not just the normal characters who visit every summer, although I would like to see more owls than I have so far. No, this summer we’ve been treated to quite a few baby birds. The first family was a nest of robins in a shrub in our front yard – one we had planned to cut way down because of how large it had gotten. But once we realized there was a nest of babies, we had to put that plan on hold. When the babies finally left the nest, the plan to cut down the shrubs was halted yet again when we discovered a new nest with more baby robins in the other shrub. 

Cheez-it B&B for birds

And baby robins weren’t our only guests this summer; we also had some swallows who decided our porch would be a good place to start a family. Their home was probably like no other, but it worked for them and all six babies thrived in this odd-looking nesting box. It was seriously fun to watch them grow as they received food from their parents, and then watch as they learned to flutter and fly and finally move on. We don’t have cats right now, or this situation would have made me very nervous!

The month of July has been busy with family events just about every weekend – to include a wedding reception, an outing to the zoo with my two great nephews, hanging out at the annual Oregon Trail Days and a family reunion at our house just yesterday. 

I think I’m ready for some free weekends during the month of August, if I get my way…I have a book to complete! 

I hope your summer so far is a fun one to write home about – carry on and stay cool!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Christmas in July, and other distractions

The weather we’ve been enjoying in the Pacific Northwest has made this an enjoyable summer, so far. Other than the 97 degree heat I was treated to my first day back from Florida last month, our weather here has been pretty outstanding. The burn bans are starting and soon there will be talk about the lack of rain, but we’ll be subject to wet weather soon enough. I’m in no hurry to see it just yet.

We’re hosting a family get-together the end of this month and about the end of June and beginning of July, I figured I better stock up on some items I thought might be good to have on hand for some summer kid-friendly fun. I also needed a new umbrella for one I had accidentally broken. When I went shopping, I was shocked to see that the summer items were either completely gone, or were down to a limited quantity tucked away in a clearance corner. In place of where they had been were school supplies.  Kids hadn’t even been out of school a month yet! I visited a couple of different stores looking for items on my list and also discovered the appearance of fall and Thanksgiving items. Good grief. By the time parents finally decide they should shop for school items (those who don’t know better), they’ll probably be shocked to find Christmas items instead.

I eventually found an umbrella, which I discovered was broken when I got it home. Ugh. I had to take it back, only to learn that the color I had chosen was no longer available. I was left with the choice of a bright lime green, light brown and dark brown. I settled with the light brown and called it good - and it had been marked down even lower since I purchased it so that I also received some cash back in return. J Finding the other summer items I was looking for was a challenge, but I finally crossed off all but one item from my list.

I’ve also noticed that there have been quite a few Christmas movies on t.v. lately. I happened to notice them one day when I was scrolling through the guide to see what was on. Eventually, when I saw more Christmas movies on the guide another day, I realized they have been playing more often than not this month on some channels. I guess people really do enjoy watching movies with a Christmas theme in July. 

We’re technically only, what, a month into summer? I don’t want to think about the holidays yet, or the change in the weather we’ll be heading towards, or the thought of having to wear coats or sweaters to keep warm, or worrying about driving to work in the snow. 

Do you ever frequent the magazine racks at the bookstore?  Do you notice a new trend that has been receiving wider audiences?  It’s the art and practice of mindfulness. However, in order to achieve that required mental state, part of it includes focusing on the present moment. That’s a difficult task when stores constantly pull us from the moment by thoughts of what’s to happen months and months away from today. For some it may be easy to ignore that pull, but for others, like those with children still in school, they are forced to focus on that future moment or risk missing out on the items they’ll need and which won’t be available when they finally go out in search of them. Unfortunately, the offering of seasonable items a season or two in advance is a tactic the stores will likely never change since it appears to be a competition of who can get their items on display first.

So I bought my umbrella and other items I needed for the gathering, I ignored the school supplies, and I quickly perused the fall and Thanksgiving items, before shaking my head and telling myself I did not need anything from those shelves at that moment.

Then I drove home, took off my shoes, and walked barefoot in the yard out to my gardens to check on my veggies and herbs while listening to the sound of the birds around me. The sun is warm and inviting, the smell of the herbs is invigorating, and beyond the birds and a slight breeze, the quiet of the woods around me is relaxing. Grounding myself in this way reminds me to keep focusing on the present, to enjoy these moments, for soon enough the clouds will constantly cover us, the gardens will be gone and going barefoot will not be an option if I want to keep warm.

I’ll enjoy fall and the upcoming holidays when it’s their time, but for now, I’m going to thoroughly enjoy these beautiful summer days. I hope you do too!