Sunday, May 31, 2015

Taking A Much Needed Moment Away

I got away for the first time in nearly a year this weekend. It was relaxing to get out in nature as I explored a few hiking trails in Cathedral Gorge State Park on the eastern edge of Nevada. Having the ability to get away from the day to day grind was extremely freeing. I am now able to sit down once again with a much easier time focusing on what I need to accomplish.

Because I live in Las Vegas, one of the busiest cities in the world, I am constantly surrounded by people and the things they are doing. It is wonderful for inspiration yet at times can become overwhelming for the exact same reason. I will hear snippets of conversations, see outfits people wear, give directions to shows and clubs I myself have never experienced all the while my mind is locking away information that translates into stories later on. It is fun but there must be down time as well.

I am overly ambitious most of the time. I am always trying not only to use the information inside my head but I am writing a novel, revising a short story, editing and rewriting another novel at the same time. On top of that I am gathering submissions to my charity series, working on setting up signings and live events such as the one I am working on for Domestic Violence Awareness in October. Of course I have my day job I must go to when scheduled and then just for well-rounded god measure I am taking part in a four hundred mile biking challenge to raise money and awareness for childhood cancer in June. It is enough to make your head spin.

With all that happening it is important to me to make sure I get away from everything. I need to do so more often. I was able this weekend to get away for a day and a half to hike in a state park as well as explore the historical town of Pioche Nevada. It was great to take some time looking at the old buildings, checking out the records in the original courthouse and museum. I got the chance to talk to a man that retired from teaching here in Vegas and now does tours of the opera house there. He told tales of the wild west while showing the stage upstairs and explaining the history of the tunnels on the main floor.

I am renewed by the chance to catch my breath while also now being inspired by the town to create a few new stories set in the historical western town. It is shocking how much we allow ourselves to get bogged down the the everyday monotony. I, like many I know, just need to remember to take time for ourselves. Take a walk, go camping, even go to an amusement park. Do something that will give you the chance to smile and forget about what you have to do in order to support what you want to do. I often forget that I work to support my fun but that work is worthless if I forget to have the intended fun after all.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Social Media Rules

A few nights ago while flipping through channels I came across a late night talk show where an actress, Anna Kendrick, was talking about some of her social media rules. One of the big ones and the one that stood out to me was about promotions. She said that she believes for every promotional post you create and share that you should also post a few funny posts and pictures. It is important to be well rounded and to make sure that it isn't about promoting yourself and your work all the time.

It struck me because I know it is most definitely a rule that I can understand but have violated almost constantly. I find it difficult to follow others that are continuously sharing their own things without trying to connect and yet here I have been doing the same thing. It is a major point I need to work on. Both with my author page as well as my charity series I want to find a way to reach out more. I am just not sure how exactly to do that.

I am going to try and include more pictures of the animals for Rescue Me and that should not be a difficult task. I am hoping people will interact more with the page so that I can learn more about them and I have extended the offer from my publisher to be a featured author of the week through them. The hardest part is that I am such a social media novice. Yes I know how to post but I do not know how to create teasers or do any graphic art. I am still learning how to even create interesting content with just the words.

I feel like there is a generational gap because so many of the people I talk to in the writing community are between teenagers and early twenties which gives them at least a decade of technological immersion ahead of me. That is not to say that there are not hundreds or thousands of people my age and older that have pursued the writing and designing dream for years and are still leaps and bounds ahead of where I am even aiming to get one day. It can be overwhelming. I am trying however.

I am better with live events. Shaking hands and making conversation, public speaking as well as demonstrating my work have always been a stronger point for me. Online events are the norm now but I am still clinging to the face to face time hoping to grow through the physical audience I encounter along with learning each and every day how to improve my online visibility and personality. I guess the next step will be working with a web designer to create a website for everything and then I can keep taking small steps as I learn about them. What are the rules you use and the parts you struggle with?

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Being Accountable

Someone once told me that one of the marks of a true professional is accountability. Not only to complete projects by meeting deadlines but also to simply do what you claim you will do. This is an area I have struggled with my entire life. There are numerous causes for my failures to live up to the accountability but ultimately it circles back to only one thing, me. Whether it is a fear that halts my progress or writers block preventing me from finishing a book, it is something I am unable to do.

I hated several subjects in school and that made it extremely difficult to finish my homework so even though I would tell myself I was going to buckle down and do it when the time came I always found an excuse not to finish. In many cases I found reasons not to even start. As I got older it became more difficult to get away with things like that because my job would depend on me doing what was needed or I would be fired. When I had a deadline that was given by someone else with a more serious consequence on the line I would mostly be able to follow through.

Then I hit too major hurdles. Both of them were tied to my PTSD in one way or another but again it was a crutch that while a huge struggle and legitimate concern was still just a reason to not work harder and do what I set out to do. These two items were my writing and my health, specifically my weight. I know that it doesn't seem like the two would be related but the fight for both was so deeply tied together for me that a minor setback in one could be catastrophic to the other.

I started gaining weight little by little after high school. I kept telling myself it was under control even though I knew it wasn't but I just couldn't seem to get the motivation to do anything real about it. Whenever I was emotional at all I ate. Ice cream was my best friend when I cried. A hard day at work meant an extra serving of mashed potatoes, and no serving for me was small to begin with. Fast food was simply a way of life. Even happy occasions were celebrated with a dinner and dessert out somewhere. Food was my constant. There was one particular day I remember, and I rarely share this but it is a perfect demonstration of my loss of control. Right near the end before I finally began to find myself and work on a solution I ate enough that remembering it still makes me sick. I had an entire box of cereal for breakfast. On the way home from college I went to Wendy's and got three junior bacon cheese burgers with two large fries and a large frosty, I ate that on the way home but I was still hungry so I ordered a large cheese pizza and made a box of macaroni and cheese eating both for lunch as well. I sat in a recliner working on my homework while eating from a five gallon ice cream container of fudge ripple with mini m&ms. Then for dinner I made hamburger gravy which is just a pound of ground beef mixed with beef gravy poured over the ten pound bag of mashed potatoes I had made to go with it.

Obviously I was well over two hundred pounds. I hated myself. I got so scared of people after being attacked that I had believed if I was fat and unattractive no one would bother me anymore. But I hated living like that. It wasn't living, it was only existing. That was when I turned to writing. I thought if I could prove that I could finish my book that I started when I was twenty then I could feel like I had some control and could start losing weight. As I gained confidence I could do more and more things. It was a good idea. It was much harder than I had planned for. The feeling of being no good and unwanted made it hard to believe I had what it took to finish the book.

I started so many times but would end up getting frustrated which would in turn make me eat. When I saw myself in the mirror or took a chance on the scale the next day I would become so upset I wouldn't even want to try and write. Because I allowed it to it became a vicious circle. I failed again and again because I let myself. I had no hope inside so I gave up.

Not long after I gave up I lost my father. Losing him sent me into a downward spiral like I had never experienced before. The stress from my loss along with the terrible condition I had gotten my body to took its toll and I ended up in the hospital for almost a week. That was when things began to change. I learned my dad had left me some money so I decided to dedicate myself and finish college. Yes I still struggled with the eating because that day I described did happen after my trip to the hospital but it was the last time I ate like that. I did complete my degree and finally felt like I had accomplished something.

Then I did the best thing I have ever done. I took a volunteer trip overseas and met some incredible friends as well and met myself again. I realized who I was and what I was capable of. I came back a changed person. I moved to Las Vegas and that first year I took part in Nanowrimo. I completed my book after a decade of stalling. While I had been overseas I had begun losing weight and still to this day am more conscious of my health. I am doing so much better and while I still have to push myself I am happy to say that I am succeeding in my goals, finishing my projects and feel like I have much better accountability.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Lending A Helping Hand

Two days ago I took part in an obstacle course for charity. While raising money and awareness for the organization Autism Awareness I tackled challenge after challenge. I pushed my body further than I have in years and completed tasks that worked not only on my stamina and physical abilities but also taxed me psychologically. I made it across the finish line however and could not be more proud of myself for making it.

So why for this as well as the last post in a writing related blog have I been discussing fitness goals? Why am I saying how excited I am to cross the finish line in a difficult challenge that has nothing to do with writing? It is because I was reminded of a very important fact as I ran the course. It is very difficult and at points can be impossible to get past obstacles in our lives and to be successful on our own.

Having friends that support us is vital to the success of our endeavors. Whether there is someone lacing their fingers for a step up to climb a wall or hands reaching down to help pull you from a long pipe at the end of the line my friends got me across the finish line. I have friends in the writing world that are there for me just as much. They like my author page and share my posts. They encourage me when I get frustrated and push me to carry on.

All they ask in return is that I do the same back. I share posts and comment on their activities. I let them know about events that could be interesting for them. Most of all I do everything I can to participate in their projects as a way of saying thank you for them doing the same for me. It is just like the course as we would reach down to pull others up hills and catch them as they descended over walls. We cheered one another on as we slide through the mud and hauled our tired dirty bodies up cargo nets.

The writing world is exactly the same as what I just went through. It was a fantastic metaphor for the writing life I love so much. Paying it forward and assisting people I have never met before and knowing that a few challenges later they would be there to either pull me up or I would see them catching another new person as we all pushed on toward the goal.

In life we all need that network of support but we have to remember that it is just as important that we  are there to support those that help us just as they have taken the time to be there for us.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Overcoming Obstacles

Coming up in two days I will be physically doing something I have spent half my life trying to do emotionally, overcoming obstacles. This Saturday I will be participating in the Badass Dash Obstacle Run in Las Vegas where I live. It is a physical challenge to be sure and honestly not one I am positive I am ready for. It is also however a representative measure of dealing with my PTSD and all of the challenges I have had, those self induced as well as those give to me, in the past sixteen years.

Half my life ago I went through one of the most traumatizing situations of my life. It forces me to to have a disorder I would never wish on anyone. It causes me nightmares and flashbacks I would give anything to escape. It has put a voice in my head that tells me every single day that I can't, I won't and I am not good enough. Life is hard enough to deal with when you don't have a voice inside you making it more difficult, but for those of us that hear that voice I will be representing all of us on Saturday.

I have been training though not as hard as I wanted nor needed for the event but like everything else in my life I have faltered. As I would get into a rhythm at the gym I would have something come up either the ten day flu that kept me tied to my bed or the excuse of needing to write to get caught back up. I not only was held back by some legitimate reasons but I managed to create more to sabotage myself. It was not a conscious decision but it was my doing nonetheless. I have the same issues with my writing.

I finish a novel for Nanowrimo but then I am unable to push past the fear that comes along with the part after. All I have to do is revise it and get it ready to either submit or publish but I am paralyzed by fear of rejection for submitting and of utter failure if I self publish. The voice inside that says I am not good enough really enjoys those moments. The frustrations it causes, the pain of not fulfilling a dream that voice has a party overtime I back down from a goal. Well I am doing my best to fight that voice.

I am finishing the revisions on Breathe and I don't care if I have to submit to a hundred or more agents and publishers I am determined to take the chance for a traditional contract. I will do the same with Sharing Strength. Survivor will be self published and I will hold an incredible event with my other writer friends in order to make it a success. I will get healthier and I will complete my fitness challenges. It is a fight but it is worth it.

For anyone that this may help I am glad. If not I understand we all face our own issues everyday. But for those of you out there that have that voice of doubt and fight against the feelings of fear and frustration that you cannot control. I am running in your honor and every time I take down an obstacle it will be for all of you. It will be our collective strength that will get me across the finish line and though only in spirit I will celebrate with you all at the end.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Writing Outside The Comfort Zone

When I first began writing I was most into poetry. I found inspiration in almost everything around me. I wrote about my pets, flowers, the weather, even the buildings we drove by. I found a way to turn everything into some form or rhyme. Of course I was just a kid. I just figured writing was a hobby I would grow out of since I had explored more than a dozen different interests by the time I was ten.

In elementary school there was a competition for fourth and fifth graders called Calbury. I am not quite sure of the spelling of the award anymore but I remember taking part both years. I do not pretend to be an artists so when I entered an illustrated children's book in fourth grade I was disappointed but not surprised when I came in second place. My poetry book in fifth grade however took first easily and if I had listened to my parents about the importance of not just the work but the presentation I would have been in the running for the city level award.

My poems were praised but the hand made book left a lot to be desired. It didn't stop me though. As I entered junior high I joined clubs and teams but always maintained a time for my writing. In fact by that point I was determined to be the next Shel Silverstein. I liked the playful imagery as well as the more whimsical topics instead of stuffed shirt sophisticated poetry. I wanted to share with people my own age and inspire kids the way I had been. While many of my classmates in second grade were reading Three Billy Goats Gruff I was reading David McCord's This Is My Rock. It moved me and as I grew up I wanted to write something that would move others the same way.

School progressed, junior high became high school. Suddenly I was incorporating short stories in with my poetry and my teachers were asking me to share with the class, to stay behind to discuss my work. I loved it. Still though the writing almost always involved me and my life in some way. I was scared that if I branched out to write something totally based on my imagination it would fall flat. Three years ago I wrote my debut novel Never Give Up. Again based in part on my life. Two years later thoughI wrote Breathe during Nanowrimo and that one came from my imagination in whole.

I sent it to my mom to beta read for me and she had a comment that shocked me. Not only did she not expect to like it much if at all but as it turned out she enjoyed it better than Never Give Up. Now as I finish revising Breathe and write Sharing Strength, which is based on me, I am getting excited about my ability to create and gaining the confidence to keep pushing my own boundaries to new and exciting places.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Learning From Previous Experiences

This time last year I was scheduling my first book signing. It was an exciting yet terrifying time because I was going to be sitting there at a table with my debut novel hoping against hope that someone was interested in buying it. I set up the event at a wonderful small sweets shop, contacted the local paper, had a sign made for the store to display and created a Facebook event announcing the signing. It was originally scheduled for a Saturday afternoon but due to an unforeseen conflict I was  forced to change to the previous day. I figured a Friday would still be a rather successful day.

After contacting the paper, changing the time and date on social media and having a new sign made I began the rest of the preparations such as ordering the books and gathering supplies for the table. I met with the owner to discuss the treats that would be offered and pick a spot to set up. I reminded people online as often as I felt comfortable and waited for the big day to arrive. When it finally came I couldn't sleep at all. My mom had flown in and she ran around town grabbing last minute supplies before we met up with my boyfriend with the sign announcing my event at the shop.

I did sell a few books that day but because of a miscommunication about the sign in store it was almost invisible. The weather did not cooperate with the outdoor sign and the people on Facebook that came were a handful of my real friends that happened to not be working that day. It was nice to see my friends and have family there with me but it is always the hope that you can entice someone unknown to come in and check out your work. I of course enjoyed signing the purchased copies and my mom even gave me a special pen she bought just for the event. I had just wanted a bigger turnout. I am sure that is how everyone feels though.

Now I am pushing to complete a short story and start submitting two full length novels while I plan another signing. One would think that because I learned so much from the first signing last year as well as the following mini book tour I did in the midwest last fall that I would be feeling more confident but somehow I am almost more nervous. I still have so much to learn and I wonder if I will ever feel totally confident. What experiences have made you feel more nervous as time went on?

Friday, May 15, 2015

Excerpt from Sharing Strength

                  Dr. Kurtsman stood up and grabbed Kyle’s shoulders. He held tight as Kyle tried to shrug him off  but he did manage to get the pacing to stop. Jasmine stood and faced the man calling her out. He was nearly five inches taller than she was but that didn’t stop her from doing her best to look him directly in the eye. “I have nothing to say Kyle. Sit down.”
                  Dr. Kurtsman let Kyle go and took his seat again. Kyle and Jasmine stood staring each other down. Craig looked at Brian out of the corner of his eye and was startled to see the shock written on his face. He figured Brian would know his friend and be able to predict his behavior but He seemed just as lost as the other two men. The strange standoff went on for a full two minutes before Jasmine eventually backed down. She turned to find her seat but Kyle grabbed her from behind holding her tightly against his chest.
                  She screamed and fought but he held her with a strength she never imagined he possessed. Dr. Kurtsman jumped up but when Kyle shot him a glance it made him stop in his tracks. “Tell us what happened Jas! If we really are the family Rachel said we were then we deserve to know!”
                  “I have actually wondered what your deal is.” Brian stated. “Why don’t you stop being such a baby and tell us what’s up? Or maybe nothing is really wrong with you at all and you just want attention.”
                  Jasmine finally slipped form Kyle’s grasp and she turned  to face the rest of the group. “Fine. You want to know my story? You want to know what happened to bring me here? Here you go!”
                  With tears streaming down her cheeks she unzipped the heavy hooded sweatshirt she always wore and let it drop off her skinny shoulders. No one would have ever guessed just how thin she really was beneath the oversized hoodie. It fell to the ground behind her revealing the ragged tank top she had on underneath. No one was looking at her choice of clothing however. Her arms, hands and chest were covered in long red scars. The men couldn’t help but turn away. It broke their hearts.
                  Brian jumped up facing her. “So you cut yourself?”
                  “What?” She snarled, rage overpowering her shock at the accusation.
                  “You say you had a bad relationship. I am guessing he ignored you and you cut yourself for attention. He didn’t like it, I mean how could he? So he broke up with you and now you are here crying to us. Well there are people here with real problems not just being a baby like you.”

                  Jasmine couldn’t respond she was so taken aback. She was shaking as her anger built more and more threatening to explode. She looked at each of the men settling finally on Kyle. He was still standing his ground in the middle of the circle but he was looking at the ground. “Don’t you dare look away from me! You wanted to know my story, well here it is. Written all over me!”

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Dealing With Lost Time

Writers, like anyone with a small business, must get their names and their work out in front of our desired audience. We are, in fact, in business. Once we hit publish or sign the publishing contract we are officially taking the leap of faith that we can sell our product which for us is our writing work. We have to not only be able to be creative, weaving together interesting characters with captivating storylines, but we must also be master marketers, highly motivated sales people and the public face of our work as well.

We flood social media with our cover reveals and release parties. We spam groups along with our family and friends endlessly asking for support and shares. We even make public appearances on occasion to promote and *fingers crossed that someone wants us to* sign our books. We hold our breath as we obsessively watch the numbers fluctuate on Amazon. We order copies to show off to our friends and pray we sell at our signings and events. Some of us are multi talented showing off not only our creative writing styles but also our unique artistic visions with self created cover art.

We work daily to grow our fan base pushing our names to the outer reaches of our known universe then hope it catches someone that will become a supporter helping to drive our work even further on down the line. It is tedious and sometimes extremely frustrating but we do it because we believe in ourselves and our writing. So what happens when something comes up that pulls you away from the constant promoting?

What happens when you lose faith, or get sick? When your day job gives you so much time you can barely make it through that job let alone go home and start another? What do you do when your personal life falls apart all around you and you cannot focus on writing let alone promoting? It is arguably one of the most difficult parts of what we do because all the hard work you put in until that point can be undone in just a few short days or weeks if you have not established yourself strongly enough.

This is where determination kicks in. For me I had to take a step back for nearly a month and that caused me to lose twitter followers, Facebook likes and worse I lost my momentum for my writing projects. It was my stated goal to have Survivor ready for beta readers by the end of this month and the draft of Sharing Strength completed as well. However after working six days in one week then following it up with a ten day flu and then a potentially relationship ending fight with my significant other I have been unable to write.

I have managed to keep working on my charity series but there is the concern of not having enough stories for any one book to go to print yet. I am trying but I am not there yet. I refuse to give up however. I will get back to promoting, make to writerly to do list so I can keep myself on track and accountable as well as finish my current projects preparing for my next appearance that right now is scheduled for October.

Life knocks us down but we have to get back up no matter how much work the lost time may have erased. If we believe in ourselves then it is worth it to continue to try.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Emotions Reality vs Imagination

I had a topic all picked out for today involving building an audience and the importance of consistency in promoting your work but after dealing with a rather painful situation personally it got me thinking about the emotional connections we make in life. We bond with our families, our friends and of course the relationships we get involved with are a connection that can be very important for our happiness.

I am dealing with the other side of that connection right now, the loss. A bond that is very close to my heart is dissolving and that pain is currently consuming me. It make it hard to concentrate on anything from my day job to my exercise routines. I hurt constantly and the only way I can deal with it aside from curling up with ice cream and crying is to write. Of course it doesn't help that both my current works are emotional as well but at least it is something to focus on.

What about our characters though? As writers we walk a fine line between reality and the world in our imagination. We create not only the characters that make up the lives within our imagined worlds but we form a very real bond with them as well. We hear them as they talk to one another, we join them on their quests and most importantly we feel their emotions as they experience new things. We laugh at their jokes and cry along side them when things don't go their way. We understand the frustrations that they endure, sometimes our own doing. We even do our best to comfort them when they experience heartbreak.

Why is it then that we are unable to turn to this world and share our own defeats and triumphs. I feel for my characters every single day but when I am hurting, when I cry out in anguish there is nothing in that world to comfort me. It is frustrating and I believe that is the motivation of some writers to kill off characters. It is a control they do not possess in reality so they take it out on the created worlds. I wonder if it works. I could use some control therapy right about now. How does the literary world help you in times of emotional frustration?

Monday, May 11, 2015

Finally Back In Action

I have written before about the frustrations when you struggle to find a topic to write about. I have covered how irritating it is when life gets in the way. Both of those have been happening recently causing me to feel very disconnected. I lost my way through some personal issues which took all of my focus tearing me away from the one thing that has always brought me back to center, my writing.

While those issues are ongoing I have found my inner peace again, at least to a point, so that I can rejoin my literary world that means so much to me. I have started reading again trying to catch up on my reading challenge I took on this year. I have fallen drastically behind but I am just happy to have returned. As for the writing I should be jumping in feet first where I left off but that is still a sticking point for me.

As most writers will attest it can be difficult to get into the zone sometimes and when you are not there it seems as if the words are simply lost. My books play out for me like movies in my head and at times it can feel as though someone stepped in and cut the reel short stopping the story halfway through. It isn't until I can clear the clutter and repair the film that I can continue. Music is an excellent healer for those types of situations but it has to be the right music. For Sharing Strength I have an fantastic playlist and I though that because Survivor is the background of one of the Sharing Strength characters that the same songs would suffice but I was wrong.

It wasn't until I was driving and heard Fight Song by Rachel Platten that the movie began to play again. I am revising the story, going through the editing process so in theory the story was complete and all I had to do was clean it up. There always seemed to be something missing though and it was when I heard that song I knew it was the ending. Now that I can see it clearly I am so eager to get into the story.

I may still be dealing with my own drama and of course like many people I have to go to my day job when scheduled. I train for physical challenges like bike rides and obstacle courses for my health but when I sit down at my computer I can finally get focused and do what I love most, share my stories with the world. It is so good to be back.