Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Staying Positive in a Negative World

How do some people do it? 
You know the ones…the individuals who always seem to have a smile on their face.  Or the ones who have the strength to continuously fight against adversity no matter how many times it tries to brutally hit them over the head.  The ones who don’t dwell on the negative but always find a way to look at the positive.  The ones who wake up happy as soon as their feet hit the floor in the morning, even if they don’t wake from a bed of roses.
Do you ever wonder what their secret is?  What is it that makes them focus more on the positive or the promise of possibilities rather than the negative or the fear of the ‘what if’s?’  Do you enjoy their cheerful character?  Wish you could be more positive and upbeat like them? 

When it comes to positive and negative attitudes, you might be on one end of the spectrum or the other; or maybe you’re right in the middle.  I guess the trick is finding a way to always look at the positive or at least finding a happy medium so we aren’t constantly adding to the negativity around us.  And we are, without a doubt, surrounded by negativity.  Just listen to the news in the morning or the evening and I bet the negative news could be counted on both your fingers and your toes while the positive news might not take up a whole hand. 
Unfortunately, we can’t completely avoid negativity.  What we can avoid is letting negativity breed more negativity.  But that may be easier said than done.  What we need is to be more positive, to act more positive, to feel more positive.

Acting or being positive is one thing. 
Actually feeling or thinking positive is another. 

It is those who both act and feel positive and are able to constantly demonstrate this attitude often to others who amaze me.  And I’m not talking about people who live stress-free lives.  It’s easy to be happy and positive when you have nothing and no one to worry about.  I’m talking about those who deal with some of the hardest issues each of us has to ultimately face but who somehow do so with grace and composed acceptance.  They continue to show strength, a true gratitude for life, unselfish generosity towards others, and bright optimism over those who offer only doubt or opposition.
I am thankful to know family and friends who have these outstanding qualities and traits.  I am especially thankful to them when my attitude is not so positive.  They never fail to offer me an easy smile, unwavering patience, understanding, kind and generous words, sound advice and always a positive attitude to lift my mood.  It is loved ones like these who are the wind beneath my wings.

So how do we stay positive in a negative world? 
We can do our best to learn from those who have maintained the ability to remain positive.  We can surround ourselves with those who are positive thinkers.  We can learn to pick our battles.  Learn to let go of the past.  Learn to ask for help rather than stand alone.  We can try to remember to look on the bright side of things; no matter how difficult the day gets.  Eventually, we might not only act in a positive manner but we might also begin to feel positive without having to reflect on what staying positive requires from us. 

Of course, this could take time; more for some than for others.  We are creatures of habit, after all, whether the habits are good or bad.
I don’t know about you but as I continue to learn from those who I aspire to be like, I am forever grateful and appreciative to family members and friends who are always there to provide a positive outlook to any distressing day.  They lift my spirits, provide helpful feedback and brighten any dull day, which certainly breeds positivity in the best sort of way.


Sunday, January 27, 2013

How did January Treat You?

Another weekend has come and gone…don’t you wish they lasted longer?
What did you do this last weekend in January?  Did you relax?  Spend time with friends or family?  Watch a good movie?  Read a good book?  Write one?  J

So what did I do this weekend? 
Well, if you’ve read my Blog posts or my Facebook updates, you know I had another book signing yesterday.  This time it was at a wine tasting room and gift shop.  It’s a cute little shop, new to our little historic section of town, and a fun place just to hang out.  It was a nice, comfortable atmosphere for a signing.  I enjoyed myself and I also enjoyed meeting new people and readers who were excited to read my book.  I’ll admit; I’ll never get tired of hearing that from people.  It is very surreal but extremely pleasing to hear such comments; I doubt I will ever get used to it but I doubt I’ll ever get tired of it either.  I also enjoyed very much the opportunity to speak with others about books and about writing in general.  It is a subject I will never tire of and I am thrilled to meet others who have an interest in both.

After the book signing, I spent the evening with my family, which is a very nice way to end a fulfilling day.  Today, with the rain and cloud cover, was a perfect day to stay home to catch up on writing and take care of a few household chores.  I would have loved to spend the day writing and forget the chores but unfortunately, the laundry just can’t seem to figure out how to take care of itself.  
As I look at the calendar to plan my tasks and goals for the upcoming week, I am reminded we’re almost through with the first month of the year.  The month of January has been full of the regular distractions, plus a few, while I have also worked towards completing my writing goals and prepping for events such as the recent contest and the book signing.  If this month is any indication, it is only the first month of what I know is going to be a very busy year.  It will be a busy year but it will also be a good year. 

How about you?  Has the month of January given you any indication as to how you expect the year to turn out?  I hope so.  I truly hope the month has been good to you and has provided you with a sneak peek at what’s to come, including positive change and new opportunities.
Have a great week!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

An Author’s First

There are many firsts when it comes to being an author, with many unchartered mountains to climb and conquer:
·         Completing your first book

·         Publishing your first book

·         Holding your finished book in your hands

·         Entering your first contest

·         Joining National Novel Writing Month

·         Getting your first review

·         Holding your first book signing

·         Making your first sale

·         Learning your book is chosen for a book club

·         Getting your first contract

·         Seeing your book for sale in bookstores

Eventually, these firsts will start again but with a second book and it will be just as exhilarating as before.  It’s like when you have children…you enjoy the firsts with the first child as much as you do the second and beyond. 
So far, I have been able to conquer many of these firsts and someday I may conquer them all.  If anyone had asked me what other firsts I could add to this list, I’m not sure I could have come up with any on the spot. 

And then recently I was reminded of yet one more author first.
I stopped to check the mail after work one day and inside was a key, which meant I had a package too large to fit in my mail box waiting in one of the larger boxes.  When I opened the box, I discovered a large envelope addressed to me but I did not recognize the person listed on the return address.

I took the envelope home before I finally opened it and I was admittedly confused when inside the large envelope, I found a smaller envelope addressed to the mystery person with my name listed on the return address.  The smaller envelope was not sealed and inside I found…
My book!

Someone was sending me a copy of my book?
Okay.  So, I’ll admit, it had been a long day at work and I wasn’t feeling very well due to my recent illness which was obviously affecting my ability to stay mentally on task.  However, I finally became wise to the whole concept of why someone would send me my book when I saw a card attached to the front of the book.  Opening the card, I read a very nice note from a woman I met briefly on a day trip down to Oregon.  Apparently, her daughter bought her No Mother of Mine for Christmas and she was sending me the book with the request that I autograph it for her.

This was definitely a first.  I never thought I’d receive such a request, especially this soon in my writing career.  But it was certainly nice of her to ask and I was very pleased to oblige. 
It’s funny because I read a post or an article recently, by who I can’t recall, commenting on whether or not they should continue to return autographed books when requested.  It would appear this had become a fairly common occurrence or at least took up time the author no longer wished to give away.  His idea was that he would sign his books when requested but only if the reader sent him something in return.  Not money and not an item worth very much but some sort of gift that showed him the reader was serious about wanting his autograph.  His reasoning was that he had come across an unsettling trend; he would sign the books only to discover that someone was trying to sell his autographed book online for an increased price.  I guess there are those types out there.  This author figured he would weed out those types by requesting that they take the time to put together some kind of offering for him before he would take the time to sign and return the book.  Maybe the types he hoped to avoid did not wish to bother with this sort of exchange and gave up on the request rather than put forth the effort.  But then again, if someone wants something bad enough, they’ll have no problem jumping through a few hoops.

Either way, it was a curious way of looking at this sort of issue when it comes to being an author.  When your name becomes a household name, I can see limiting how often you give your autograph away.  However, there is a long distance between a new author and a household name; years and years of distance or possibly between now and never.
For me, for now, I don’t mind the request for an autograph; especially when the postage is prepaid.  If there ever comes a time when I am concerned about others abusing the request, it’s something I’ll deal with at that time.  In the here and now, though, it’s just an exciting first as an author and it gives me more of a reason to feel proud of my work and my accomplishments.       

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Where Does the Time Go?

This weekend we celebrated the birthday of my oldest son, who will be turning 20 years old this week. 
Wow.  That’s all I can say.  My son is turning 20!

Okay, you know me better than that.  I just can’t stop there.  What I’m really thinking is…where the heck does the time go?  How does it slip through our fingers so quickly?
It really doesn’t seem like 20 years ago as I can clearly remember the day he was born.  Actually, I also remember the day he was supposed to be born, which was 20 years ago today.  It was the day of the President’s Inauguration and it also became the day we were visited by the Inauguration Day storm.  It was a devastating storm and apparently only the Columbus Day storm of 1962 was able to exceed its violence.

My husband and I were at the hospital and I had already been checked in, placed in my room, in a hospital bed and was very prepared to move ahead with the birth of my first born son.  Ah, well, Mother Nature had it planned another way.  The storm hit, trees toppled, the power went out in the hospital and after running the facility off generators, we were told to go home because we were not considered an emergency.  My contractions were minimal and my water had not broken so we were sent on our way.
You can only imagine how we felt when we had to leave that place with no baby in our arms.

And then we walked outside.
Again, wow.

We had no clue how bad the storm had been after having been inside the hospital for some time.  We were amazed at the destruction and the force of the winds still at work.  Yes, it was an amazing storm which left us with no baby and no power but eventually we did return to the hospital a few days later where we were soon greeted by the cutest newborn boy I had ever seen.
And life goes on from there…

I remember how little he seemed. And then how chunky he got.  How cute he looked when he smiled for the first time.  The first steps he took.  The Woody Woodpecker laugh he had when he was learning to really laugh hard at something that tickled his funny bone.  The first time he actually enjoyed a Disney movie with me and I was in heaven to finally have someone enjoy watching cartoons with me.  Who can forget the first day of school?  Not me.  You really don’t want to let them go but you can’t help the excitement you feel as you watch them enjoy their newest experience.  T-ball when he was only four years old turned into Babe Ruth and Little League.  Then there were many hours of butt time on bleachers as we sat through numerous basketball and football games over most of his teenage life.  Middle school and high school included more memories than I can count and many, many memories he’ll always cherish with his friends.
Twenty years ago, I would not have even been able to guess what I’d feel right now.  It is a bit surreal.  How can it seem just like yesterday when we were staring in awe at this perfect little person who would change our lives forever?  And now…Poof! Suddenly this little 8 pound 14 ounce baby (not so little, huh?) is a grown up preparing himself for his own career, his own family, his own life. 

It is an amazing thing, how fast time flies by.  You really have to enjoy the time you have with your loved ones when you can because the moments are just mere particles in time that will easily slip by you if you don’t grab them when you have the chance.  And as we gratefully and joyfully celebrate another birthday with our son, we try not to think about the passage of time because before we know it, we’ll be celebrating his next birthday soon enough.

Friday, January 18, 2013

A Week to Test my Patience

Some weeks stand out more than others, whether the reasons are good or bad.  This has definitely been a week designed to test my patience…
First, the late posting this week is due to the fact that I’ve been ill.  I hate being sick; it cuts into the time I need to spend on more important things.  When I get sick, it causes me to have to slow way down…which is not a speed I’m used to.  I’ve been fighting what I thought was a cold for over a month.  Actually, I’m sure it just started out as a cold but eventually my immune system was reduced so that the cold morphed into an unexpected illness.  I finally went to see the doctor the other day and when he entered the waiting room, do you know what his first words were? 

He said, “You must really be a patient woman!”
Obviously, he doesn’t know me very well.

Actually, he really doesn’t.  My doctor retired last year and I’m still looking for a good replacement.  So when the doctor made that statement to me, which really didn’t make any sense considering he hadn’t made me wait in the little room as long as I thought he might, I could only look at him with curiosity as I asked him “why?”  His reply was that he couldn’t believe I’d been sick for over a month and was just now coming in to see him.
While I did fight the urge to see the doctor, because I was sure I had only a cold, I’m very glad I finally went in.  The diagnosis actually surprised me and it turns out this was not a condition I would have been able to make go away on my own. 

Another setback this week involved my vehicle.  I guess the health of my vehicle wasn’t much better than my own because the darn thing decided it did not want to parade me around any longer.  The only good thing about this was that it decided to die basically on the door step of an auto shop owned by someone we know.  The bonus is that we avoided a tow bill; the not-so-good news is that the vehicle needed some TLC badly.  What can be worse than your vehicle breaking down?  The cost of getting it to run well again.  Ouch.
And that’s on top of having to take time off without pay while I’m sick because I have run out of leave.  Double ouch.

Are you ready to ask me if I’d like some cheese with my whine?  Well, my patience may have been tested in one way with regard to the worries about my health, money and the condition of my vehicle but the fact that I am actually able to find patience has also brought about good prospects with regard to my writing: 
Just this week I entered No Mother of Mine into a breakthrough novel contest after spending many patient hours working on the submissions required for the contest.  However, the true test to my patience will occur as I wait for the results.

As I have from the beginning and will continue each week from now until I know it all (which will be never) I will continue to learn and improve my knowledge in marketing and publishing techniques.  This is only possible as I patiently research and read what works or doesn’t work for others. 
I’ve made promising relationships with local business owners, which takes time and patience as I get them to believe in my capabilities.  This week I am preparing for and looking forward to another book signing I have scheduled at one of those very businesses the end of this month.  If you are interested, come by the Scatter Creek Winery in Tenino on January 26th between 2p and 6p.  It is a charming wine tasting room and gift shop with owners who will make you feel at home while you taste their homemade wines. 

As this week and many like it have shown me, my patience may be tested but I’ve also proven what I’m capable of when I test my patience.  I’m sure there will be many more weeks lining up to give me the opportunity to prove myself and as always, I look forward to the challenge.        


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Pitch Perfect

Never knew I was fond of singing? 
Well, I’m not…at least not when I know anyone is listening.

No, the definition of a perfect pitch here is what is necessary to enter into a contest.  This is a big one…by Amazon for new writers and their “breakthrough” novels.  The contest offers big bucks, contracts, a trip to the venue for all finalists where the ceremony to name the winners will take place and also other smaller prizes for those who make second and third place.
This contest is limited to a certain number of entries…in the official rules it just states 10,000 entries but on the signup form I used it seemed to indicate 10,000 entries per category…that would mean 50,000!  There are five categories and they include general fiction, mystery/thriller, science fiction/fantasy/horror, romance and young adult fiction.  Of course, my entry will be for the mystery category.  I’m curious which of the categories will receive the most entries first.

I have been preparing my pitch to submit with an excerpt of my book along with the whole manuscript.  You might think the contest is based on the book but in this case, it all starts with the perfect pitch.  The pitch can be no more than 300 words and must relay enough information to pique the judge’s interests because only 400 from each category will be chosen.  If I can get past the first round of judging, I would then move to the second round which involves a review of an excerpt of my book.  This excerpt includes only up to 5,000 words of the book.  The amount of 5,000 words may seem like a lot but it really isn’t.  From the 400 entries for each category, only 100 will be chosen to move on.  That’s a bit scary.  Even if the pitch caught their interest, you really have to hope that the excerpt you send will keep the judges interested enough to move you into the next round. 
As a writer, it can certainly cause some worry if you fear the rule about too much back story in the beginning of the novel.  Whether it comes back to bite me, only time will tell but I will have to stick by my story as I wrote it no matter what happens.  Because this was the first in a series for me, I wrote the book as time progressed for the characters, knowing those who have read the first novel won’t need the back story as they continue to read each book in the series. 

Hopefully, the judges won’t use it against me.
From there the fat is really trimmed as only the top five from each category can move to the semi-finals.  From the top five, only one semi-finalist is chosen for each of the five categories.  So how is the grand finalist out of those five chosen?  By none other than Amazon customers.  Yes, they’ll offer up the manuscripts for people to read and vote on.  The finalists will be wringing their hands as they wait for the final count to be determined.  I can only hope I’ll be one of them.

The grand prize is awesome and the four first-place prizes are pretty good as well, all involving contracts and royalty advances.  Whether I’m knocked out at the beginning, become a finalist and enjoy a free trip and a few smaller prizes or actually make it to the end and wind up with one of five contracts, my plan is to enter the contest and keep an optimistic attitude. 
As I keep my optimistic attitude, all I can do is wait to see what happens.  I made a resolution to get my work out there and seen by publishers.  This is one way to do it.  In the meantime, it is time to get back to writing my second book.

Have a great week!



Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Does the New Year = Change?

It’s only been a little over a week since we all made our New Year’s resolutions.  Ok…maybe some of you haven’t made any resolutions but for the most part, I think we all think about making resolutions after some acknowledgment that there might be something we can change for ourselves if it did not work the year before.
Some of you might not wait until the New Year to actually make resolutions.  If that’s the case, good for you.  If you see a problem that needs to be fixed or something that needs to be changed, why wait until the New Year to do so?

So for those who have made resolutions, how are you doing so far?
I think it is very easy to begin the first week high on a plan and what needs to be done to stay on task.  It is also very easy to put it off for just a few days because there are, in fact, 31 days in January.  If the first week doesn’t pan out, there are literally three and a half weeks remaining when we can get our butts in gear.

And then just as quickly, we’re deep into the second week and feeling guilty if we haven’t quite begun to check off the to-do list of our New Year task plan.  But we should not so easily beat ourselves up - the New Year is not all about January…it includes all twelve months. 
As much as we’d like it to be so, we certainly can’t make resolutions and expect to have completed what we hope to strive for in only the first month.  New habits and completion of goals take time to form and we must give ourselves the time it takes to form the habits and goals, rather than expect overnight success.

For someone like me, who is not the most patient person, making and keeping resolutions can sometimes be difficult.  But then again, I like a good challenge.  When it comes to resolutions, they are often time-consuming and difficult, making them the best sort of challenge.  However, whether a resolution is considered easy or difficult, the best reason for even making a resolution is to make a change for the better. 
Some of my resolutions are pretty generic but very important to me:  stay positive, eat better, spend more time with family and laugh more (when all else fails…watching an old episode of Friends is a terrific way to end the day).  If I can realistically distance myself away from unnecessary negativity, that’s a true bonus. 

I also made more specific resolutions when it comes to my writing:  keep myself on a writing schedule, stay motivated, keep the focus, seek out those who can help motivate me, finish my second book, jump in feet first as I take part in upcoming events to promote both books and make my work more available to publishers as I continue to market my work.  
When it comes to making a resolution, you are resolving a problem, you are making a firm decision to do something, you have a purpose and you are determined as you work towards a solution or goal.  Whether you make your resolution on New Year’s Day or sometime in the middle of July, it really doesn’t matter.  What matters is that you know change is sometimes necessary and with a bit of work as you form new habits and reach new goals, the results are most likely a wonderful prize.


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Always Ready to Move Forward

Do you feel the change in the seasons? 
When it comes to the weather, we’ve had some snow days and some rainy days but we’ve also had some beautiful days complete with blue skies and sunshine along with a few gorgeous sun rises and sunsets.  I know we’ll have rain for a few more months here in the Pacific Northwest but I can already tell it’s staying lighter a bit longer and there’s a certain feeling I can’t ignore of what’s to come.

And what is to come?

Although it is still only winter, there are many changes I look forward to.  I look forward to no longer driving home in the dark after work.  I look forward to the early spring flowers which will begin to poke out of the ground soon.  I look forward to seeing more birds and other wildlife around our property.  I especially look forward to when I can finally plant my garden again.  I look forward to walks on a beautiful spring day, taking my dogs to the creek to play, sipping coffee on my front porch as the sun rises and finding any excuse just to sit outside to write as I soak up some afternoon sunshine.
It may be a little soon to wish for spring flowers and sunshine but it will be here before we know it.  Even today, with overcast skies, it was actually a beautiful day in the mid 40’s with no breeze whatsoever.  It was a perfect day to just get outside and find something to do.

I have always enjoyed the change in seasons and can’t imagine living anyplace where the seasons are not marked by the change in foliage in the fall, the rain and snow filled months in the winter, the burst of bright colors in the spring or the long beautiful days of summer.  There are days in the winter or spring when we might curse the amount of rain we receive but no one can deny the Evergreen State is a beautiful place for that very reason. 
With the change in seasons comes with it a change in attitude and objectives.  At least for me.  The change in seasons brings me to a thoughtful place where I examine my days and what I too may need to change in order to prepare for what’s in store for the coming months. 

This is the time of year when I think ahead and look forward to longer days, blue skies and more time outside.  These are always positive changes which help affect my overall mood, which is great because I’ll need the positive energy to accomplish a lot in the next few months.  As I move forward with the completion of my second book, I will also be entering a book contest as a new published author, working with local businesses who are selling my books, preparing for another book signing for my first book and making necessary arrangements for what will be a big selling event for both books in the summer.  These events all have the possibility of bringing about many more positive changes and I look forward to them all. 
So what do you look forward to as we move into this New Year and the season moves towards change?  Whether this time brings about expected or unforeseen adjustments, I hope you also have many positive changes in store for you.



Thursday, January 3, 2013

What Would We Do Without Distractions?

Well, that’s a loaded question.  What would we do without distractions?  Get a lot more done, I suppose.  We’d pay more attention…be more focused…mange our time more wisely…and possibly have no need for to-do lists.  We’d also all be much better drivers.
But distractions aren’t always a bad thing. 

How about an unexpected phone call or e-mail from a friend or family member who lives far away?  Or a spontaneous request by your spouse to take a short drive to a local park so you can walk around the falls?  Or maybe a request from your child to hang out and watch a movie or play a game?
No, some distractions are more good than anything and are likely more important than whatever you had at first planned to do.  There are times when you just have to set aside what you think you have to do, in order to do what is really good for you.  Even playing fetch with your dog on a nice afternoon is a distraction that can be good for the soul.

Sometimes you may be distracted and not even know it.  I will admit I was unaware I was very distracted yesterday.  I was so distracted I didn’t even know what day it was.  I don’t know if I thought it was Monday or Tuesday but I know I didn’t realize it was actually Wednesday.  My defense is that I worked Monday, took Tuesday off and then was back to work on Wednesday; except that it did not feel like a Wednesday.  Not once did I think to myself that I had to post on my Blog because it was Wednesday.  When my husband asked me if I wanted to watch a movie after dinner, I immediately seized the opportunity to spend time together.  So rather than get on my computer after dinner in order to write, or blog, I watched a movie with my husband instead.  (If you are curious…it was The Dark Knight Rises).  We always enjoy our time together and in my book, it’s time well spent.  Would I have said yes if I had realized it was Wednesday and I thought I should blog in order to stay on my schedule? 
That’s a good question. 

When I went to sleep last night, I was still clueless to the fact that it was actually Wednesday.  When did I finally realize what day of the week it was?  This morning, when I was informed today was Thursday.  I could only shake my head and wonder how I had gone a whole day without knowing what day of the week it was.
I can’t say distractions are good if they make you forget what day of the week it is but an unusual work schedule and spending extra time with your spouse is a decent excuse, I think.  I’d never fault anyone else if those were their reasons for being distracted.  Even if I had finally recalled it was Wednesday when my husband asked if I wanted to watch a movie, you may be happy to hear I would still have chosen to spend time with him rather than my computer.  It’s just one of those times when I will set aside what I feel I have to do (for me, it is to write) in order to do what is good for me (spending time with my husband).

I’m sure you know what I’m talking about when it comes to distractions.  It’s just part of our busy lifestyle, good or bad, but they are part of our life just the same.  We might not be able to choose how often or how we are distracted but the days can take a positive turn if we take advantage of the good distractions because in the end, those are the moments that can really count.