I decided to write about determination today since, in my humble opinion, it’s critical for any writer (and also for any parent). As a writer, I can find a million reasons not to sit and write. Too tired. Not motivated. Having a bad day. Can’t think of what to write. Have other things to do (just nine more rounds of Monkey Wrench on my iPhone, right?). No one likes my writing anyway (this thought usually comes on the heels of a rejection). The thing is, if you want to succeed in writing, you have to be determined. And when you feel determined, it’s a whole lot easier to sit down and do the work.
So, determination. A good feeling, eh? As I was contemplating “D” feelings, I scoured a few websites to look at lists of feelings, emotions and traits. This is a rather common activity, actually. These kinds of lists are great brainstorming tools for writers – that and a handy dandy thesaurus. So, as I’m perusing the lists, I realize that “D” has a definite disadvantage (there it is, did you see it?). A lot of negative prefixes start with “D” including –de and –dis. As a result, the majority of “D” feelings tend to be the negative. I can feel dejected, disappointed, despondent, dismissed, disoriented, disrespected…the list goes on and on. I got a little dismayed as I read the “D” list, but it also made me feel defiant! Yes! I would write about determination to transcend negative “D” syndrome. It was a daunting task, and at first I was dubious, but feeling decisive, I plunged forward until I felt delighted by the silliness of the result. OK, you get the picture.
Back to determination. I’m determined to have two complete first drafts done by the end of the year, to enjoy the beautiful weather and to learn a few more words in German before I embark on my honeymoon this summer.
What are you determined to do?
Oh boy, oh boy! Monday is in full swing as I write this post. I wouldn’t consider myself a morning person by any stretch of the imagination, but for several years I worked as a contractor for the federal government and my start time was 6:30am. That, plus an hour-long commute, taught me to perk up before facing my co-workers and employees. (It also taught me to set my alarm on the bus, just in case I fell asleep on said commute) As a result, I’m not a complete ogre in the morning, Monday included. It helps that I’m a cheerful person by nature, and I’ve managed to extend that to the wee hours, despite my desire to stay tucked under my covers.
Now, my children on the other hand…yikes! Crankiness is the word of the day every Monday morning. It’s not surprising, right? After a weekend of staying up late and sleeping in, facing the new week is just no fun. I remember being a kid and being intensely cranky. Of course, my dad woke us up every morning for school by singing a loud and off-key version of “School Days” so I might have been a teeny bit justified in my mood.
So, in order to keep the Monday crankiness at a dull roar, I’ve developed a system. I wake my kids up half an hour before I need them dressed so they can play, dally, moan, groan…whatever it takes to make that second pass through their rooms less traumatic. Generally, it works. No matter how cranky they are on my first pass, they’ve perked up by round two and we can conquer the morning routine without (much) resistance.
Are you cheerful or cranky in the mornings? Is Monday different than the rest of the week? Is your caffeine consumption higher on Mondays?
Looking forward to hearing from you. Happy Monday!!!
Boredom is not something that I feel terribly often. This is mostly due to the fact that I keep my to-do list REALLY long. And if I have some down time, I pick up a book. So, in honor of boredom, and as a recommendation on how to curb it, I thought I’d dedicate some space to another B words – books. Here are some of my favorites.
Mystery / Thrillers / Suspense
These are my primary source of entertainment. I’m currently reading through the D.D. Warren series by Lisa Gardener. I also enjoy Gillian Flynn and Mary Kubica for psychological thrillers. And I love me a good detective novel. The Prey series by John Sanford is wonderful and for a little serial killer action, Tami Hoag’s Liska & Kovac series provide hours of gruesome entertainment.
Can’t go wrong with Isabel Allende for something beautiful and full of emotion. I started with The House of the Spirits and went from there. Allende’s tribute to her daughter Paula is so touching, it’ll bring you to tears. And there’s nothing like the classics. For romance, a little dose of Jane Austen. For drama, Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina was already on my list of favorites before it made it to Oprah’s list.
I have kids so I read a lot of kinds books. My son is a voracious reader and we just finished the Harry Potter series. It had been years since I read those books and it was even better the second time through. We’ve also read every book Rick Riordan ever wrote. He’s turned my son into a mythology nut and the books are just plain fun. Some of my other favorites from my childhood including Lloyd Alexander’s Book of Three series, Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising series and, of course, C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia.
What are your favorites?
April Fool’s Day for me this year is April 3. This morning I woke up and realized it’s the 3rd day of the month and I’d completely spaced – and I mean, entirely forgotten – to get started on the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Luckily, I’d decided to talk about feelings this month and guess what? A is for anxiety. A perfect segue into today’s blog. Yippee!!
I suffer from anxiety. Not the passing “roller coasters make me nervous” (though they do) or “ack! I have to sing in front of how many people??” (I get this one every single time I perform) anxiety. My anxiety is chronic and has made it difficult, at times, to function normally. After my daughter was born, I realized I was having crippling panic attacks every time I breastfed. As it turns out, there’s an actual reason for this having to do with fluctuations in lactation-related hormones. Unfortunately, I didn’t know that at the time and the anxiety was so bad that I had to lie down so I wouldn’t pass out (not exactly ideal when you have a newborn to tend to). People with anxiety are faced with many choices. During my daughter’s infancy, I chose to give up breastfeeding so that I could function more normally as a parent. I wasn’t thrilled, but given the information and resources I had at the time, I think it was the right decision.
Over the years, I’ve thought quite a lot about how my anxiety has affected my choices. For instance, I love to travel. But for a while there, I wasn’t sure I could fly again. On one flight, I spent the entire time in the air with my head pressed against the seat in front of me, struggling to regain control of my insane thoughts. And because I come from a long line of anxious women, there were moments when I resigned myself to my fate: a quiet life keeping my anxiety in check.
Fortunately, I crave adventure. As I get older, and my kids grow up, I realize that there are a million things I want to do, both on my own and with them. And as a writer, I need and want to have adventures. To experience new things that I can write about. To put myself out there in the world and see what happens. And in order to do that, I need to conquer my anxiety. Actually, I’m not sure I believe in “conquering” my anxiety as much as I believe that I must learn to work with it and around it. The truth is, I still experience anxiety daily. I have a whole arsenal of coping tools and I use them faithfully, but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel anxiety. I’ve just learned how to deal with it more effectively.
What I find interesting is that, the more I share about my experiences with anxiety, the more I hear similar stories. Anxiety is one of those conditions that makes you feel isolated and alone, and yet, it takes almost no time to find lots of kindred spirits in the fight against anxiety.
Feel free to share here. You (WE) are not alone.
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia walks into a bar in Heaven, looking forward to a quiet glass of wine after a long and busy life. He orders his wine and as the bartender pours, he says:
Bartender: Can you believe how political Supreme Court appointments can be? When do you think they’ll get around to appointing your replacement?
Scalia: (sighing) Yes I can. The Framers of the Constitution made the process explicitly political by putting the Senate in charge. But they can’t avoid it forever either. I wish they’d just get on with it. There’s important work to do.
Bartender: But aren’t you an originalist? If the Constitution allows for the politicization of the appointment process, shouldn’t we just stand back and let it happen?
Scalia: Sure, but we don’t have to like it. And those Senators have to do their jobs…they don’t have to like it.
Bartender: Isn’t there anything the People can do to make the Senate get on with it?
Scalia: (smirking) Two words: Seventeenth Amendment.
Categorizing my work gives me a headache. When I think about it, I always get this scene from The Princess Bride running through my head:
The Battle of Wits
"You guessed wrong! That's what's so funny!!"
Picking the right category for your book is important if you want people to read it. Why? It comes down to marketing and targeting your audience. For instance, if you wrote a romance, it wouldn’t be a natural fit for horror readers, right? That’s not to say that a horror reader wouldn’t like your book. It just means that, for the purposes of selling the book, you want to put it in front the readers most likely to read it. Write a romance, market it to romance readers. Pretty simple, right?
Wrong! It actually gets really tricky, especially when you’re writing fiction that is aimed primarily at a female audience. General fiction vs. women’s fiction vs. chick-lit. Oh my! Ok, so here’s how this story pans out in my head.
When I started writing Wallflower Blooming, I wasn’t thinking about where it would fit on a bookstore shelf. I was thinking about the characters and what happens to them. I knew a few things. 1) I wanted to have a female protagonist, partly because I think women are awesome and partly because, well, I am one and so it’s a point of view I understand pretty intimately. 2) I wanted to avoid getting all romantic. I never set out to write a romance, not because I don’t love romance, but simply because I’m such a romantic sap that I wanted to challenge myself not to make it all about love. (those who know me will be chuckling here…don’t worry, I understand).
So I wrote the book. About half way through an unexpected thing happened…my characters took over. The book went in a completely different direction than I’d planned and guess what, it got all romantic! But here’s the thing...I like it! I like the way the book turned out. At the end of the day, my characters felt real to me and their struggles, believable. So I was happy.
THEN, on a whim, I entered my manuscript in a contest. I didn’t win (but the feedback was so immensely helpful). What DID happen though was that the judge called my book women’s fiction. Having come from a background working with victims, most of whom were women, I have strong feelings about the way gender is used to differentiate things and I resisted the label. Yes, my book is about a woman, but it’s still just fiction, right? Well, that explanation only works if you never want anyone to pick up your book. I, however, wanted to find an agent. And part of finding an agent entails understanding where your book fits in the overall scheme of book marketing. As an often light-hearted book about a woman character who finds herself romantically involved, I could see why that judge labeled it women’s fiction.
But the situation only got more complicated. One of my beta readers called the book chick-lit! And I sort of scratched my head and thought, “wait a minute, I’ve finally accepted women’s fiction, can’t we just stop there?” So, I had to consider whether my book is actually chick-lit. And this led me to the question: “What the heck is the difference between women’s fiction and chick-lit???”
There are about a zillion articles on this very topic, which made me feel a little less clueless. Here’s one I liked. http://agencygatekeeper.blogspot.com/2010/07/romance-womens-fiction-or-chick-lit.html So, the gist seems to be that chick-lit and women’s fiction both focus primarily on situations involving women. But chick-lit tends to be more light-hearted and appeals to a younger audience. Women’s fiction tackles deeper issues and appeals to a broader range of women.
Well, that didn’t help and I’ll tell you why. Wallflower Blooming tackles women’s issues...some lighthearted and romantic, some deeper. It’s an entertaining read, but still thought provoking. It’s got some romance going on, but it also deals in family struggles and personal growth…and, oh yes, small town politics. It’s been read and enjoyed by women ranging in age from 18-86 (so far). So you tell me. Women’s fiction or chick-lit? Maybe both. I guarantee that it's fiction and there are women in it. So go forth and enjoy!
“He who toots not his own horn, gets his own horn not tooted.” – Madge Stenger (1900-1986)
Wise words from a wise woman who I often wish I’d had the pleasure of meeting. Having just published my first novel, I’ve been thinking a lot about self-promotion. As a self-published author, it’s unavoidable. And even going through a traditional publishing house, more responsibility is falling on the author to promote his or her work these days. In my previous life doing marketing for a living, I actually helped promote several authors – both traditionally and self-published. I feel very grateful for those experiences because they gave me a preview of what I’d be doing.
The other night, my fiancé and I were chuckling about something my daughter says at dinnertime. Every night, we each share our favorite part of the day. One day, when my fiancé’s favorite part included an activity with my daughter, her response was an eyelash batting and very charming, “it’s about me!” Because we all laughed, this performance has been repeated nearly every night. We encourage it and she, the talented drama queen, does not disappoint.
Anyway, we were talking about this as part of a conversation about self-promotion. Many people hate the idea of having to talk about themselves, especially to sell themselves. But I think self-promotion gets a bad rep. There’s really nothing wrong with promoting ourselves and our businesses – small businesses would never survive without it. And with the sheer volume of books for sale, an author is going to have a hard time being seen without employing some strategic marketing techniques. That being said, I think it’s possible to promote your work without being perceived as a narcissist and it’s really not that difficult. After all, as writers, what do we want? People to read our work and to connect with it. So as we focus on promoting our works, we simply need to stay focused on the people we’re hoping to reach.
By my estimation, the key to successful self-promotion, that won’t make an author feel like a creep, is engagement. Being engaged with your audience can be as simple as responding to emails and comments on social media positively and in a timely manner. Giving readers a glimpse of your life and views, and showing interest in theirs creates a lasting connection. A few months ago, I was fortunate to have a chance to chat with Pretty Baby author Mary Kubica online. We talked about the challenges of being a mother and an author. Her words and her attitude resonated with me and, though she was already an author I enjoyed reading, she’s now on my radar in a much more personal way.
So on that note, dear readers, you’ll be hearing a lot from me as I promote my new book and other writing I’m doing. I appreciate your support and I look forward to hearing from you. Don’t be shy. Send messages. Ask questions. Leave comments. We’re in this together and my work as a writer and author isn’t just about me. It’s about you!
The kids and I walked out to the bus stop this morning in about 2 inches of beautiful, undisturbed snow. My daughter was studying the snowflakes landing on my jacket and dancing around trying to catch falling flakes on her tongue. My son was creating tracks in the snow, kicking around as much as he could while waiting for the bus. It was a magical morning.
Growing up in southern New Mexico, snow nearly always meant school delays and closures. I remember seeing a few flakes in the morning and getting all prepared for some snowy fun. The funny thing is that we often only ended up with ½ inch of snow on the ground. But in New Mexico, that was enough to stop life as we knew it. We’d spend all day in that tiny layer of snow, building all manner of snowmen and forts, having snowball fights and freezing our rear ends off.
When it snows here in Boulder, I just stuff my kids into coats and snow boots and send them on their way. I can’t help but picture The Christmas Story where the little brother Randy is so bundled that he can’t put his arms down. It’s not quite that old here and I’m not too prone to over-reaction when it comes to being out the snow, so my kids can move freely. But I admit, I always chuckle a bit when they come running inside, freezing cold, peeling off wet, frozen clothes and begging for hot chocolate.
I kind of like the snow.
Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve, the last day of 2015 and my birthday. I’m a New Year’s Eve baby, which means that all my life people have asked me if my parents were happy to have me as a tax deduction. I’ve spent the last few weeks working on my 2016 writing strategy and I’m getting really excited. But before I let go of 2015, I thought I’d share a few of my New Year’s Eve / Birthday memories.
They say that when your birthday is New Year’s Eve, the whole world is partying with you. But growing up in a family-owned business meant that the one thing I could always count on every year for my birthday was inventory. I spent more birthdays counting office supplies than I can count on two hands. And I admit – I loved it! I’m an office supply freak and proud of it. My cousin and I used to team up and eventually we’d be so loopy we’d start making up songs and giggling like crazy.
On my 21st birthday, I was visiting my hometown during winter break and I did what many people do – I bought my own alcohol (woo hoo!). Unfortunately, I was so sick that I didn’t get to drink any and all I really remember from that birthday is throwing up around midnight.
The year before I had my son, my husband and I spent the holidays with his mother in Washington D.C. She surprised me with tickets to see Wicked at the Kennedy Center on New Year’s Eve. We dressed up, enjoyed the show and then a champagne toast with hundreds of other D.C. theater-goers. That was one of my very favorite birthdays.
Then, a few years ago, I spent several hours at our nearby prison facility negotiating a service contract to care for inmates who’d been raped. The warden and my liason surprised me with a delicious cake. I’d never met these people before but something about working together on such an important issue created a strong bond. I’ll truly never forget that kindness.
So, these are just a few tales of birthdays past. I’ve been blessed with wonderful friends and family who’ve shared experiences with me and helped me to create memories that will last my whole life. I’m grateful for all the wonderful opportunities I’ve been given this year and am looking forward to an exciting and productive 2016. By the end of next year, I’ll be looking back on travels, a wedding and all the wonderful things that life has in store.
Happy New Year!
Yesterday was a busy Seattle day. I told my son I’d take a picture of the Space Needle for him, so I rode the Monorail over to Seattle Center. I decided to bite the bullet and ride up to the top of the Needle. I also visited the Chihuly Garden and Glass Exhibit which is just breathtaking. It’s fun to tourist around Seattle on my own. I miss my kids and my honey, but there’s a lot of freedom in taking it all in solo. After returning from Seattle Center, I decided to walk down to see the Seattle Great Wheel. I’ve wanted to go on it since it was built a few years ago. But I’ll admit, the trip up the Space Needle elevator made my heart race so I wasn’t feeling super confident in my ability to make it through the wheel ride. In fact, I was picturing getting about 10 feet off the ground and throwing up.
So I took a picture of the wheel and hiked back up to my hotel, feeling pretty okay about the decision no to attempt the wheel on my own. (Literary side note: The Seattle Great Wheel reminds me of reading about the original Ferris Wheel in Erik Larson’s Devil in the White City – another World’s Fair reference to make my trip even more complete). I’m sitting cooling off in front of the A/C when my best friend calls and asks if I want to go on the wheel. Oh crap! Well, of course I do, I say and they head up to meet me at my hotel. We park near the waterfront and I can feel my anxiety on the rise. As fate would have it, my friend’s son suffers from anxiety as well so he was not too pleased about the idea of going on the wheel. In fact, we were both scared out of our wits. But I think I had him convinced that we should have an adventure together AND his mom bribed him (you know, for good measure).
I’d like to tell you that we both laughed at how silly our fears were, but the truth is, I closed my eyes through most of the first rotation and held my little buddy’s hand for the entire trip. I didn’t throw up, though I won’t say the urge wasn’t ever present. And my little friend kept speaking my mind, saying things like “don’t take any more pictures, you’re wiggling,” and “don’t talk, it rocks the car.” I was able to open my eyes for most of the last two rotations and then they threw in a fourth time around. My friend’s son cried the whole time, so frustrated that he’d been duped into a non-disclosed trip. And I can’t say that I blame him, though I tried to put on a really brave face. The view is spectacular and I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world but I’m glad I’m safely back on the ground!
It’s Fleet Week for Seafair so the waterfront was teaming with guys and gals in uniform. With all the talk of Worlds Fairs and such, it felt a little bit like stepping into another time. Of course I wanted my picture with every last one of them! My bestie took my first picture with Chris, a very dashing young man who corrected her when she suggested that he was a “seaman.” I got my picture and walked away, embarrassed for having hijacked this poor guy but satisfied nonetheless. As we were walking to catch up with her husband and son, I noticed that my little 8-year old friend had commandeered a whole group of white clad Navy boys and was pointing them in my direction. All the blood rushed back to my face as he organized another group photo. I ended up surrounded by half a dozen good-natured troops, their pristine white uniforms in shocking contrast to the red that was taking over my face and body. I shook their hands, thanked them for their service and made my little buddy promise not to talk to any more uniformed men. He just smirked!
I'm generally pulled in a million different directions and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Here's a glimpse of my life - hope you enjoy it! And if there's a big lapse between posts, well, that's the way life goes in Amy's world.
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