Wednesday, August 29, 2012

It’s a...Book!

This post will be the shortest post I have written in the past six months…the day I’ve been waiting for is finally here:
I’m published!

If you want to check out my book (as an eBook for the Kindle), click here for the link to the Amazon site if you would like to see No Mother of Mine
If you do not have a Kindle, you can download the free viewer at the Amazon site here.    

The book will also be available on the Barnes & Noble website soon (next day or so) for those who use Nooks and the paperback edition will be available in the near future.
I am very excited to share this news with you! 

To everyone who has followed me during the past few months, I want to say Thank You.
Now, off I go so I can keep this post short and no longer prevent you from checking out my book.  If you like what you see, make sure to tell your friends and family.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Weekend Family Fun

There are those days when nothing else matters but the time you get to spend with family.  This weekend was one such weekend.  My brother and his family will be moving out of the country very soon so at this point there is nothing more precious than the time I get to spend with them before they leave.  My nephew is only 5 and I will miss him more than words can describe.  I will be thankful for the Internet, e-mail and Facebook, as they are the only way I will easily keep up with his new life as he starts school and makes new friends in a foreign land but he is off for a great adventure with his mom and dad. 
The visit is not yet over so this post will be very short so I can get back to visiting.  In the meantime, here are a few photos I’d like to share from a local attraction we visited with my nephew today.  It’s called the Sand in the City and these are just a few sand sculptures that were on display:

All the work people put into the sand displays is pretty awesome.  Overall, the event was a terrific time for families and it was, I think, a treat for my nephew.
It’s time for me to get back to visiting.
I hope you also enjoyed your weekend and have a great start to your week. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Dare I envy the Powerball Winner?

Envy is not a good feeling.  Wanting what someone else has is just a waste of time.  Wishing something might happen to you after seeing someone else get a quick fix to the high life is just a waste of wishes.  The desire for what you do not have is a thankless way of living.
But we all seem to do it anyway, at least once in a while.

Why do we envy others?  Why do we wish to get rich quick?  Why do we desire what we don’t have instead of being thankful for what we do have?
Jealously is a common feeling; it just has to be reined in and controlled.  But too many of us wish to get rich quick, rather than work for what is rightfully ours.  Sure, I’d love to win the lottery or the Powerball drawing.  Who wouldn’t?  But does hundreds of thousands of dollars or even hundreds of millions of dollars solve everything?

It might. 
But it might not.

So why would I envy the Powerball winner? 
The real reason is how good the past few days have felt.  I took three days off this week in order to have a five-day weekend and it felt wonderful.  I miss the days I worked from home, was able to easily schedule work around my boys’ activities and take time to just sit in the sun, read a good book or go for a mini road trip whenever the mood struck me.  Based on that, the idea of winning a bunch of money so I can do whatever I want to do is certainly very appealing. 

But it is not the way we live.  We work in order to live.  We appreciate what we earn.  We are thankful for what we have and we try our best not to spend wasted time wishing for what we don’t have.  If we truly want something, we work towards a goal and we appreciate it even more after everything we did to get there.  People often squander what is given to them for no reason but are less likely to lose what they worked so hard at to achieve.
So we plug away at our day jobs and in reality, having a busy day job makes taking time off more enjoyable (even if it does make you wish for more time off).  You tend to appreciate something more when you get it less often.    

And I really did appreciate the time off. 

It gave me extra time with my family.  We enjoyed a mini road trip and time at the beach.  I worked around the house when I felt like it and relaxed when I wanted to.  I easily found the time to write and I did not feel forced to find time between this and that, work and sleep, or chores and kids.  

Taking the time off also heightened my desire to focus on what it is I wish to achieve.  I have hopes and dreams I dare to come true and the daily grind is not going to stop me from making my own lottery a reality.


Sunday, August 19, 2012

The eBook is coming soon!

It’s been a week since my last post because I just did not have the time to post.  I’d love to say it’s because I was taking advantage of our beautiful summer weather, but that’s only partly true.  It was actually due to the fact that when I wasn’t working and I was finally able to get some alone time with my computer, it was to work on my book.  The eBook has been converted and was returned to me mid-week for approval and some suggested edits.  I spent two evenings reviewing the suggestions and making changes.  It’s not that there were that many changes; it’s just that I wanted to make sure I was happy with the changes I made.  I probably could have made more changes but this book has got to move on.  It was born from my imagination, raised to the best of my ability as a new author and while I will always worry about how ready it is for the real world, I am optimistic it is a good example of what kind of story and characters I can create.
While two evenings were spent on editing, another evening was spent working on my author bio.  I don’t know about you but it is a bit difficult for me to write about myself.  You might question why I am blogging if I don’t like to write about myself.  Well, it’s not quite the same thing.  The purpose of this blog is to share with you my journey as I write, move towards publication and beyond.  An author bio is used to promote, to sell, and to make people want to buy your product.  Okay, I guess this blog helps promote, will eventually help sell and hopefully does make others want to buy my book but an author bio provides information on a much smaller scale and also has to attract interest and keep it.

Try it yourself.  If you are a writer, put together a bio and see what others think.  If you aren’t a writer, you can still try to put together a paragraph or two about who you are, what you’ve done and why others should be interested in what you are trying to sell.  Trying to sum up interesting points about yourself and providing the highlights of your life in 200 words can be a bit difficult.
Here’s my stab at an author bio:

P.J. Howell grew up in a small town in Washington State and has always called the Evergreen State her home.  She continues to reside in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two sons, as well as three spoiled dogs and two cats.  While writing has always been a passion, P.J.’s desire to write books transpired after years of working in a law firm as a legal assistant and then as a criminal defense investigator when she opened her own private investigative agency.  P.J.’s interests in criminal law, investigations and mysteries, combined with her desire to bring characters and stories to life, inspired her to put the stories on paper and share them with others.  ‘No Mother of Mine’ is the first in a series and will introduce you to life in a small town, characters you can relate to and what it takes to unravel the mysteries of life and crime.  While P.J. chose to use her nickname for this book series, she also uses her given name in other forums.  To learn more about her, be sure to visit her blog at 
That’s just one version of many.  Try your own and see what you come up with.

Now that the eBook has been finalized and approved, I have a short wait for the final edition of the eBook to be returned to me so I can upload it and make it available.  In the meantime, I am also working on the printed edition (what you can hold in your hands), so the printed book will be available shortly after the eBook is released.  However, in the publishing world, I think the word “shortly” is defined differently by many involved.  Let’s just say it will be available as soon as the process allows it.
Again, I confess the publishing process is difficult for someone who does not have a lot of patience.  But I found a quote which helps me when I feel my patience is wearing thin…

“I am extraordinarily patient, provided I get my own way in the end.” 
~Margaret Thatcher~


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Go Play Outside.

I remember when I was a kid and it was nice outside, my mom would always tell us to go play outside.  We never dared say we were bored, or she would just put us to work.  During the months we were in school, we could usually find things to do outside on the weekends if it wasn’t raining but during our summer vacations we had to learn to avoid being underfoot every day.  To avoid extra chores, we soon learned to find things to do before it gave our mom any ideas about how she could put us to use.

Now, if you were born within the past 20 years you may not have had the same upbringing.  Parents work more often, the world is not really a safe place and parents don’t necessarily want their kids wandering all over just to find something to do.  Kids are generally happy staying inside, playing on their phones, their video games or their computers. 
I’m sure I’m dating myself (and I’m really not that old!) but when I was a kid, we did not have access to all the fun devices available now.  We only had five channels on the television…4, 5, 7, 11 and 13…and while we did watch Saturday morning cartoons, watching anything on t.v. was usually saved for evenings.  I wasn’t a teen yet so never had much use for the phone to call friends, which was a good thing because we had a party line.  When I did have to use the phone, instead of a dial tone I would often hear one of the talkative elderly ladies on our hill catching up with her friends or family.  A party line…can you imagine dealing with that now?  Having to wait until someone else was done with their conversation before you could use the phone? 

Eventually, we did have Atari and the video games offered via that console.  I can’t even imagine what my boys would say if they saw the types of video games we played back then compared to what is available now.  We were also provided more options for television channels and then MTV made its debut when I was just a teen.  Yes, it’s true there was a day when MTV’s daily content was just music videos.  MTV was fun to watch back then, especially music videos from the 80’s.
But rather than watch t.v., talk on the phone or play a video game, as many kids do today, if the sun came out to play, we went out to play.  No question.  We were fortunate in that we resided on a farm with hundreds of acres at our disposal and not many neighbors to worry about.  We would catch crawdads and salamanders in the creek.  We enjoyed the time of year when we could find frog eggs so we could keep them in a bucket and watch them hatch before returning them back to the creek.  We would walk so far back on to the property we likely put ourselves in harm’s way considering what could have happened should we have come across a mother bear or a cougar.  We were just fortunate never to have crossed paths with them.  I think the scariest animal we came across was a skunk and we were lucky to see him first so we could run away before he saw us.  Sometimes I wonder how my mom never went crazy with worry because we would be gone for hours venturing out around the farm and attached properties. 

As an adult, when it is nice outside, we don’t often get to play but rather, we get to work.  The yard needs to be mowed.  A garden needs to be planted.  Flowers need pruning.  The garden needs weeding.  A fence needs fixing.  Potholes need to be filled.  As with the inside of the house, the chores outside can be never-ending, especially if you live in the country.  Of course, now that I have children, I see why my mom would put us to work if she were trying to complete chores with us underfoot.  Many hands make light(er) work.
Even with all the chores we need to keep up on, it is nice when we can actually make the time to just “play” outside.  Enjoy the yard or garden.  Smell the flowers.  Go for a walk.  Ride a bike to see the sights around you.  Soak up some sun while reading a book.  Play a game of horseshoes.  Visit with friends while sipping iced tea. 

The sun is only here for a short visit before the days get shorter and cooler.  I think I will listen to what mom used to say and just go outside to play. 
I hope you do too.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Patience…it is a virtue.

I have never really been a patient person.  It is a bad trait, impatience, but it has always been a part of my personality.  And the process of publishing certainly has not helped me with my not-so-great trait.    

*heavy sigh*
I thought writing the book was a challenge but it really did not involve much impatience.  I enjoyed getting to know the characters as I wrote and I was surprised whenever my story took a turn or my characters did something I had not expected.  I can’t wait to see what happens in the next book.  Like the first, I’ll have an idea of what I expect is going to happen but as I write, the characters will generally have their way with me (or my fingers, anyway) and will therefore determine their own fate.

Once the book was done, I had to move on to the editing process.  It was definitely not something I enjoyed at first.  I have a love/hate relationship with editing.  While I enjoyed reading my story again, and again, and again, the editing bit became too much work and not enough fun.  Writing is fun.  Editing is work.  But it is also a necessary chore to be completed before moving on to the next phase. 
Of course, the next phase is publishing.  What category does publishing fall under?  I would not call it fun, even though the whole concept of having a book in print is certainly exciting.  It is also not entirely work when others are completing many of the necessary tasks.  I guess it is more in the category of business.  Once it is time to publish, you have to consider marketing and sales.  You have to objectively consider the name of the book, the cover image and anything else the potential reader will use to judge the book.  You then hope the marketing pays off and the sales reflect your efforts.

But with the publishing process comes the feelings of impatience.  After all the time writing, researching, reading, editing, fearing, hoping, and praying, this period of the process is an odd place to be.  I feel in limbo.  I imagine it is how I would feel if I were a sprinter in the Olympics.  I know I shouldn’t compare a turtle to a cheetah but I’m thinking more about what it must be like for the athletes to spend years in preparation for one of the biggest moments in their lives.  Now, imagine after years of hard work and dedication, you are finally a part of that moment.  You stand in the lane you have been assigned; you bend down, plant your shoes and hands in their place and hold your position, ready for the beginning of the race.  The pivotal moment is the time you wait, crouched and ready to sprint ahead towards the finish line where all your hard work will finally show results.  You believe in yourself, knowing what you have done to get to this point and you stay focused so as not to give your competitors any gain over you.  And you wait.  The seconds feel eternal…

Until finally you are free to run, to race ahead towards the finish line, to finally show to yourself and to others what your hard work has accomplished.  As long as you don’t falter while you wait during those seemingly long, excruciating moments as you tense up for the race to begin, everything will fall into place.  This takes focus.  But it also takes patience.  The finish line is the goal.  What it takes to get there is the key.     

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Writers with Day Jobs

Many writers have day jobs.  Actually, most writers have day jobs.  From the various books and articles I’ve read, there are only a small percentage of all writers in the U.S. who earn enough money from their writing to actually support themselves.  You know who they are…their newest books are always on the shelves and they are able to continuously provide books one after another.  Other writers either work full time, some may work part time and the lucky few might have a spouse with an adequate enough income and benefits which allows them to work and write from home.

Most writers would love to quit their day (or night) jobs in order to spend more time writing.  I myself am in that category but I realize I may be in this category for quite some time, if not for the rest of my life.  However, if you want to write, if you feel the need to write, if you can’t spend a day without writing or thinking about writing, no day job will stop you.  You don’t do it for the money, or to get quick rich.  You do it because it feels like you were meant to do it and because there are stories inside you that you have to put on paper.

As many of you know, I have a day job and a side job.  I am a legal assistant and also a private investigator.  I have always been curious about the day jobs of other writers.  I enjoy reading about them and the types of jobs they held while they wrote on the side and how their working experiences might have helped them with their writing.  You might believe many writers are teachers, librarians, journalists or a similarly related field but you might be surprised.  It is my belief writers are born, not bred.  Here are just a few examples:

Not surprisingly, I will start with Stephen King.  I know, he was a teacher, but before he could get a teaching position, he worked for a laundry business and during one summer, he also worked as a janitor at a high school.  It was the janitor position, while cleaning the girls’ locker room, which soon gave him the idea for Carrie, the story about a teenage girl with physic powers.  The rest, as we say, is history.

Agatha Christie, the Queen of Crime Fiction and also a Dame of the British Empire, did not receive formal school but was able to teach herself how to read and worked as a nurse in a hospital during WWI.  She wrote 66 books before she passed away, among other short stories and screenplays, and she is the most widely translated author with books translated in more than 103 languages.  That fact is just amazing to me.
John Grisham, of course, was an attorney.  Not every attorney can write well and not every writer could pass the Bar Exam but his talent and legal background have made him one hell of a story teller.

Charles Dickens was forced to work in a factory at the age of 12 to help support his family after his father was imprisoned for being in debt.  You heard me right.  I did not know about this little bit in history either but apparently back in 1824, being in debt could land you in jail.  Imagine if that were still the case now?  Who wouldn’t be in jail?  Anyway, you can imagine what a difficult childhood he must have had but he was able to draw from his experiences while writing books he will always be remembered for.
Mary Higgins Clark had various jobs including a secretary position at an advertising department, a flight attendant and a radio scriptwriter.

Nicholas Sparks, whether you know his books or the movies based on his books (The Note Book, The Last Song, Dear John), dabbled in publishing, law school, real estate, even waiting tables and also pharmaceuticals. 
Nora Roberts is one such wife and mother who did not apparently have to work.  After graduating high school she married, had children and spent the bulk of her time with her children while doing crafts.  She eventually came up with the idea of writing when she was housebound in a February blizzard and had nothing else to do.  That choice to finally put her ideas on paper obviously worked out very well for her.

And one of my favorite stories of all involves Harper Lee.  While you may not recognize her name, I’m sure you will recognize her work, even if it was only one book.  She studied law but after four years decided she would rather write so in 1950 she moved to New York, began her career at an airline as a reservation officer and attempted to work on stories in her spare time for eight years.  Apparently, as the story goes, a friend offered her a gift of one year’s wages and the opportunity to take a year off from her job to write whatever she pleased.  Harper Lee then wrote her book, To Kill a Mocking Bird, and has done more with one book than most authors have been able to do with a lifetime of writing books.  The book caused her to instantly become a literary legend, eventually won the Pulitzer Prize and was later made into a movie which won an Academy Award.
Wouldn’t it be something if we could all have a friend like that?  But that type of circumstance is rare and last time I checked, fairy godmothers weren’t real.  If nothing else, these examples show that even some of the top selling authors had to start somewhere and for most, it was on the bottom where they had to climb their way up.

But it is a climb they were willing to take, regardless of how steep that climb might be.  When you have a dream and you desire something more of yourself and more for yourself, that climb is exactly what it takes.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Shoot for the Moon

I’m really pleased with the feedback I have received regarding my book cover and blurb.  I appreciate everyone who has reached out to me to offer their feedback, their comments, an expression of their confidence in me and their excitement for what is yet to come.  I agree it is all very exciting.  But it is also a bit surreal.  It is, for a writer, a dream come true.

I’ve heard from others that I inspire them and I will admit it is a wonderful thing to hear.  The fact that I can inspire anyone to take on and tackle their own dreams is an achievement all its own.  I truly do hope I inspire and motivate others to do what has frightened them, challenged them or what they thought they had little time for in the midst of their crazy daily lives.  Life is just too short not to at least attempt to accomplish something you truly wish to do. 
What if you attempt something only to fail?  I guess that depends on what your definition of failure might be.  To fail is to be unsuccessful in your attempt to do something.  While the attempt may prove to be unsuccessful, the fact that any attempt was made at all does not necessarily mean to fail.  With each unsuccessful attempt, we learn from the mistakes we have made.  It helps us to move on, to do things differently, so that eventually we will succeed.  That does not spell failure.

“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.” 
~Ralph Waldo Emerson~
We can all play it safe and never try anything so we can say we never failed at anything.  Or we can live our lives to the best of our abilities and take on what we are passionate about, regardless of others’ expectations or our own fears of failure and disappointments. 

“Men’s best successes come after their disappointments.” 
~ Henry Ward Beecher~
Of course, we must include women in the above quote, but you get the drift.  We learn from our mistakes, even our disappointments, and it makes us that much better.  If everything were just handed to us, we could never really appreciate it as much as we would if the sacrifice did not also involve our own blood, sweat and tears.  It may take more than one effort but once any difficulties faced are overcome, there comes with it a true appreciation for the confidence your own achievements have instilled in you.     

 “Difficulties mastered are opportunities won.” 
~Winston Churchill~
Each difficult step leads to another and another until eventually, you do get to the place you want to be.  It may take time, many attempts, many mistakes and many lessons, but remember this: 

“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off the goal.” 

~Henry Ford~

I have just begun my journey and while it is exciting, I realize there may be obstacles I must clear as I move towards my goal.  However, this is a journey I will not regret because it means I have turned away from the fear of disappointment and instead moved towards the idea of possibilities.  Possibilities include potential and promise and for anyone who needs encouragement and motivation, there is no better reason to move forward.  Besides, no attempt is a failure when it comes to working towards your goals:
“Shoot for the moon.  Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” 

~Les Brown~