Friday, October 27, 2017

Sacrifice For Art

Sitting in a Facebook group for writers the other day I saw the same questions followed by the same answers flowing by that sen to crop up each week. As I scrolled down I was about to find a different group to lurk in when I saw a post asking how dedicated we all were to our art. What would we be willing to sacrifice in order to further pursue our chosen art forms. It got me thinking again about the decision I have recently made to downsize.

There are a number of advantages to living a more simplified life but one of the biggest selling points for me was that by saving time and money I could put more effort into my writing. My boyfriend and I are now working hard to prepare for an eventual move to a tiny house / RV lifestyle. We would be able to pick up and go anytime we wanted and the lower bills, maintenance and energy, as well as the flexibility would allow me to eventually write full time. That was all that needed to be said for me to start examining the cabinets, drawers and closets for items I no longer need in order to make downsizing easier when we reach that point.

Giving things up can be difficult, that is why we call it sacrificing. The fact of the matter is, for me at least, it isn't a sacrifice. It is a determination that something else is more important. I talk to people all the time who hate their jobs. However when I ask them, why not just leave, they scoff at the idea. How could they ever dream of giving up their paycheck, their benefits, their schedule, etc? Look for a different job with similar money and benefits and think about the long term effects of less stress by doing something you enjoy is always my answer. I am told I live in a fantasy land.

I have said my entire life that I would rather do something I love for 8.00 an hour than something I hate for 100.00 an hour. Those are obviously extreme pay differences and like everyone I would be willing to compromise in some places but the overall fact remains, life isn't about money to me. I want to be happy, do something that fulfills my heart and soul as well as cover my obligations. Keep in mind I said obligations though, I don't care about being rich. I don't need fancy cars, a big house, or flashy jewelry. I want to write, travel to see the world, and share my adventures with my friends and family. I am choosing a lifestyle which allows me to do exactly what I want. Some might fear sacrificing the current for the unknown but I cannot wait for the adventure to begin.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Making Your Point

I recently read a book about minimizing your life. In fact I stayed up late last night in order to finish it. It touts the benefits of simplifying and removes many narrow definitions of what it means to live a simplified life. The chapters are broken down in a progression of how the idea was brought to the author's attention to things he did to start his transition. It moves on to give practical advice on ways to remove clutter from your home then makes even more radical suggestion for downsizing house, vehicles, and everything right down to the applications on your smart phone. The last few chapters talk about removing intangible things like hours of television watching or frivolous items from your daily schedule. Finally it turns the tables and suggests ways to take your new found time and money you have saved to put it to good use.

I agree with the overall premise of the book. I have already put into motion a number of the suggestions into practice. My biggest problem with the book is the way the author presented his ideas. Because he is a man of strong faith and spending more time at the church was part of his motivator, the book comes across very preachy. At the end of the book he discusses using your newly acquired savings of money and time to devote to volunteering. Again I agree, to a point. He spends more than half the book talking about how minimizing will allow your dreams to come true, that you will have resources you never knew you had before, and how they can be used to fulfill your dreams of travel, spending time with your family, or whatever other passions you may have.

At the end however he proclaims loud and long that doing anything for yourself is basically a waste of these new found resources. Over and over he drills in his belief that time, money, and anything else gained by your newly minimized life should be spent solely in the pursuit of bettering others. I am not against volunteering. I spent two days following the tragedy that happened in my beautiful Las Vegas building a park for the victims and survivors in order to give people a chance to grieve. I work with a number of animal organizations and donate time and items to a local domestic abuse shelter. All of these things are passions of mine and I wouldn't dream of giving them up. I also have my toys such as skis and a kayak. I also go out with my friends and spend entire days in coffeeshops working on my own pursuits. I don't feel guilty about any of it.

I guess the point I am trying to make is that giving advice is one thing but preaching your ideas and trying to force people to see things from your perspective is entirely different. Strangely enough I think many of the suggestions presented in the book are wonderful and I am thrilled to be making changes to move forward in my goals. I will struggle to recommend the book however, because I honestly feel put off by the forcefulness of his methods. You can make your point without holding people hostage to it. Present the ideas and let people use them as they see fit instead.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Changing Tides

One of the biggest things we have to work on as writers is our marketing efforts. This subject has been on my mind a lot recently following the Las Vegas Book Festival last weekend and then having a conversation about it again today. There is a sign on the wall in the heart of the building that reads "The Life Behind The Luxury". It shows some of the people that work in our hotel and casino and is an advertisement meant to inspire us to get to know the people around us that help bring the luxury to our guests.

One of my fellow dealers quipped "Maybe someone should tell the players that this is a luxury hotel". He was referring to the change in clientele we have all noticed over the years. We no longer see people dressing up to play cards or saving up for that once a year special vacation. Trips aren't about spending hours gambling or shopping for the high end toys and accessories to add to the collections of possessions when they get back home to their regular lives. Now we see people flood the casino with name badges from their conferences and trade shows, pool party fanatics in their swimsuits and sandals, and of course the sports lovers crowding the sports book every weekend to root on their favorites teams.

In the opinion of some of my co-workers the casino has fallen but I see it differently. I see the marketing trend for my location as it heads toward the conventions. We are a destination for meetings and conferences for all sizes. In that way the marketing is working splendidly. There is also the matter of people viewing "Luxury" in a completely different way now than they did twenty years ago. Those with disposable income tend to be younger and have a focus more on experience than on things. This makes those in jobs like table games dealing less needed.

Writing can be viewed similarly in that we need to look at trends like ebooks, social media marketing and useable swag as ways to connect with our readers. We no longer send newsletters through snail-mail, it now needs to be online and interactive in order to secure the attention we aspire to. I understand the frustrations of my fellow dealers and those writers who, like me, began before Amazon was even in existence. The fact of the matter however is that in order to stay relevant you must change with the times. I am working in both my writing and my day job to do exactly that.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Saying It Differently

I was flipping through Facebook when I happened on a post in a writer's group. In honor of Halloween this month the person wanted people to post what they do for a living but make it sound scary. I told people I rob people as the voluntarily hand over their money. I manipulate their minds and drive them to alcohol fueled bad decision making before sending them off to beg for the chance to be a victim once more. As many here know, I deal table games in a casino on the Las Vegas Strip. There is nothing honestly sinister about it but it made me stop and think about the way we say things and how the words we choose can have a strong effect on how we are perceived.

I write a number of different genres and it can be difficult when I am editing a romance to work on getting a few thousand words in on my current thriller then jump to working on the synopsis for my historical fantasy and finally move on to t-shirt design with humorous themes. I can be hard to come up with different words to use but sometimes it isn;t the words at all but how they are arranged. Most of us have used or at least heard the phrase, "It isn't what you said, it's how you said it." That one little phrase could be a mantra for writers.

We are always so careful to pick just the right words to express our meaning but at times we forget about the tone of the story, the mood of the character and all of the non-verbal cues that can be used to help demonstrate our message even more effectively than the words themselves. In many ways this falls back to the term "Show, don't tell". It is better to take the reader along n an emotional rollercoaster ride and have them experience what the character is going through then to simply state what is happening. I personally prefer a combination of the two.

I am working on the showing part. Whenever I find myself explaining things to my reader I step back and ask if there is a way I can demonstrate it instead. I also do my best to find words in dialogue that lead to visceral reactions. I want those words to have wight. It is my goal for the reader to see the character driving down the highway on that windy, rainy night. I want them to feel the rumble of the engine as the character pushes the accelerator a little too far for the weather and the way the tires slip just slightly on the slick turn. Hear the howling wind outside the windows and know the heat inside the car isn't the air blowing from the vents but the white-hot rage as the guy behind the wheels mutters half finished thoughts of revenge. I don't want the reader to take an aerial view of this scene but sit in the passenger seat and grip the dashboard for dear life.

Sometimes it is easy to get caught up and forget that words are a writer's friend in every sense. We have so many options when using them and it is fun to refresh some of those styles now and then.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Changing Lifestyle

I have participated in Nanowrimo for six years and as I prepare for yet another year of reckless writing abandon I decided to read No Plot, No Problem! It was written by the creator of the Nanowrimo and I wanted to read about the origin of the annual challenge hoping to learn something new. Instead I was simply refreshed on the things I have learned by participating. Seeing things like the fact that the time management you learn during the month long noveling adventure is something that can carry over into the rest of normal life confirms that I absorbed all the lessons of the program by taking part.

This morning I began reading the next book on my reading list, The More Of Less. This book, unlike the last one, has taught me several things already. The topic of the book is learning to live a minimalist lifestyle. I admit that the word minimalist always brought on depressing images of stark rooms, single swinging lightbulbs over rooms stripped of warmth. In the first three chapters I have started to see a new version of what it means to live minimally.

One of the things I took in as I read was a series of questions about what I wanted out of going minimal. What would I do for work if money weren't an issue? What causes in the world are important to me? Who am I inspired by and what about them would I want to emulate? Honest answers to these questions didn't surprise me. I have always been passionate about animal rescue and in the past few years I have become much more vocal on the subject of domestic abuse. My parents are both inspirations to me from their adventurous spirit and giving nature to the work ethic and desire to put others first, both have been my hero my entire life. There is no question if money weren't an issue I would travel the world and write for a living.

As I read through the book, I began to see how reducing my unnecessary possessions and having additional time could afford me the chance to volunteer for the causes dear to my heart. My boyfriend and I have been discussing downsizing our home to save time cleaning and upkeep. It would also save money on utility bills and other aspects of everyday life which could allow me to work on writing more. I have a goal of pursuing a full time freelance career and writing my novels in order to allow myself the freedom to travel and work on my own schedule. Going minimal is a path we are planning to look into in order to help make my writing dreams a reality.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

One Genre Or Multiple

Yesterday I talked about how I was advised when I began writing to work only on series. I was told stand alone books would never sell and I would never find a readership base without making people want the next book in a series. After they got done making me feel small for choosing to write Never Give Up which is, in fact, a stand alone book, they started in on branding. I was told it is impossible to market myself without have a specific genre. I had to tell people I was a horror author, or a romance author, or a children's book writer.

The truth is, that just isn;t true. I began writing a contemporary drama and the next book follow suit but then I got into a book I am still not sure what genre it is. I have a thriller series, a historical fantasy series, a stand alone romance, and an entire children's picture book series. I was told again I was making all the wrong decisions. Because I write so many different styles I was told I would never be able to find a brand as any kind of author unless I used a different pen name for each genre.

Instead of trying to keep track of my multiple personalities writing I decided to turn myself into the brand. My website just has links to all of my books, when the series get published the pages for each will have a dedicated theme. If I attend a specific type of show like a comic con I will only take the books that apply but I have found that becoming the brand and allowing myself the creative freedom to be whoever I want to be is much easier than stifling certain aspects of my writing.

I guess the entire point of the last two days of my rambling is that people give advice and whether it is meant to guide or control your next actions it doesn't matter. We can take what people tell us and add it to our current information but in the end we have to decide for ourselves what is best. Just because something didn't work for someone else or it hasn't been tried yet doesn't mean it can't be done. It may not work or it might be groundbreaking. The key is taking the chance, trusting yourself and allowing your creativity to find the home it's meant for.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Stand Alone Vs Series

When I first started writing I had one idea for one book. There was no plan for a series of any kind and honestly, I had put off finishing the book for awhile out of fear I would never have another idea after that one. As it turned out I had nothing to be worried about. I have more ideas and more outlines than I will ever have time to write. Creatively I am set for life.

I was so excited when I finished writing Never Give Up I couldn't wait to send it off to the agents I knew would drool over it, I was already planning the cast for the TV movie it would be turned into and plotting the perfect location for my launch party. After months of rejection letters and disappointment I finally got a response other than a flat-out NO. Someone asked what happens in the next book. I was dumbfounded. There was no next book. Never Give Up was not written to be part of a series. It was a stand alone book, that was all. When I decided to go the Indie route I had a beta reader ask me if I would be writing another book about Sabrina, the dance instructor from Never Give Up. I hadn't intended to but once the seed is planted it is difficult to stop the growth.

As it turns out there will be two books but I am not calling it a series. Both will be books that are complete stories on their own but chronologically will tie together and have a progressive storyline. Sort of a passing of the torch. The advice I was given over and over is that series are better because readers get to know the characters and begin to get excited about the next book coming out. It is a longer journey and the readers feel themselves being pulled deeper with each book.

I understand why series are easier for the reader to fall in love with but I have always had concise story ideas so expanding them seemed unnatural. I want my books to be as authentic to the characters as possible so if the book is one that stands alone then so be it. Breathe is a stand alone book and I have no problems with that. I have four different series, one of which is undetermined in length while the others range from one novel and four novellas, four full length novels, and seven full books. As a writer you cannot cut off a book meant to be longer nor can you force it to be more than it is. I know there are those that would advise a new writer to focus on series but I want people to know it is fine to write either or both. The important thing is sharing our stories with the world.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Finding Time

I love to read and just as I have done the last few years I have created an intended reading list for the challenge I always attempt but have yet to successfully do. There are fifty categories with fifty-two books on the list (one category is a trilogy). As I made my list I was in the middle of reading one book and when the list was finished I had only one book in my current pile not used for a category so simply added those two for pleasure reading.

Because I started making my list earlier than usual this year, and because I plan to work on improving myself as well this time around, I also have a list of thirty books on different elements of the writing craft. One of the books on that list, and the one I am currently reading, if called No Plot, No Problem. It was written by the creator or Nanowrimo and with that particular challenge coming up in a few short weeks I thought it was appropriate timing to read it.

One of the things the book mentions is finding the time to fit your writing into your schedule. There was something he mentioned that stuck with me. I have participated in Nanowrimo five times and successfully crossed the finish line each and every time. Last year I had to be done two days early since I had family coming to visit, another year I started a week late and another I was working two jobs. Each and every time I have made it to the 50K word goal before the deadline though so obviously it is a priority and I am capable of finding the time. He mentioned that this mentality can carry over into regular life as well.

When Nanowrimo finishes up at the end of November I am always ready to go for another challenge, finding more book shows, setting up time to get things done, and just being more productive in my everyday life. As the year goes on I find that motivation and productivity faltering. The deadline, as he mentions, is a tremendous motivator and I think what I need in order to stay on track and keep that spirit of productivity alive is more goals and deadlines throughout the year. That is something I am working on today. I have the books and projects I would like to accomplish but I need the deadline and smaller, milestone goals to check off and keep pushing me. It will be interesting to see over the next year if I manage to get more done or if I find myself sitting in the same situation at the beginning of Nano next year.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Creative Therapy

This morning I dragged my body from the comfort of the blankets and forced myself into a hot shower. It was the first long, relaxing shower I have taken in the past week and a half. Every other one has been a quick ten minute max, get clean and get out situation. I put a brand new blade on my razor, I massaged the shampoo and conditioner into my hair and wrapped myself in the fragrant lather of my body wash. I stepped out renewed as well as full of ideas.

There is something rejuvenating about a hot shower. Being reborn in that cloud of steam can give a fresh outlook to the day. It got me thinking about how something so simple can help when dealing with recovery either from being sick or stress. There are so many people that struggle to find ways to deal with the stress side of things and for me I am lucky to know I have creative outlets. I was speaking with a woman the other day about using art as a form of therapy. She runs a pottery studio and does events helping people do team building and therapeutic art including after the recent events here in Vegas.

My writing has always been my escape. Like musicians I find channeling my energy into creation can be a great way of coping with feelings simmering under the surface. I watched a video by country singer Eric Church as he talked about how something in side him broke the night of the shooting and the only way he knew to fix something broken was with music. For many artists I think that period of creation, where we lose ourselves in the project and can allow a different part of ourselves to take control is the best form of therapy available.

I discovered my need to use my writing when I wrote Survivor. As I recounted the days I endured under my controlling and abusive ex I found not only the nightmares and fear I had spent so many years burying but also a tiny glimmer of strength I never knew I had. By taking the time to share my story it was no longer my private hell or personal shame. It didn't own me, I owned it. What happened to me wasn't fair or good or my fault. I kept it hidden away for a decade and a half but when I decided to share it, to let the world know the true meaning of the "I'm just clumsy" scars on my body, it couldn't be in charge any longer.

I want to find a way to help others keeping there scars in the dark to find a way to show the world. Those scars are signs of being weak or defenseless, they are battle wounds that signify a fighter willing to defend themselves and what they know is right. Whether through painting, pottery, sculpting, writing, music or dance. There are so many forms of art out there that can help someone hurting to tell and show their pain in a safe and creative way. It is my goal to help develop such a safe space.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Dealing With Tragedy

Ten days ago my beautiful city of Las Vegas was put on the world stage for something different than our exquisite food, dynamic shows and being a top tourist destination. The events that unfolded on the night of October 1st rippled around the world and put us under a microscope as the planet tuned in to see what the next development would be. With nearly six hundred people injured or killed it is difficult to find someone that wasn't involved or knew someone that was when you walk down our streets.

I work on the Strip for my day job. I see the security guards and police patrolling everyday, doing their best to keep us safe. For the first responders I will be eternally grateful. I was in the area when everything began and like most Las Vegans, as well as the rest of the world, I was glued to my television as the rest of the night unfolded. I not only witnessed, first hand temporarily, but live on camera, the carnage happening but I saw the slew of conspiracies forming from the onset of the shooting.

There were 58 victims the night of the shooting but there was a large, unmentioned 59th victim, the city of Las Vegas. We are all grieving, coping and finding a way forward as much as possible. I am proud to be a part of a community that has come together so well in the wake of such a terrible event. People waited for hours to donate blood, found money to donate bringing contributions into the millions of dollars for the victims and their families in mere days, we even came together to hold vigils and build a memorial park which I am honored to say I was a part of creating.

Last night I stood in front of the 58 crosses so lovingly made and brought to the Welcome to Las Vegas sign. I read the names and wept, not only for the one I knew personally but all those that lost their lives and even more for the gratitude of someone caring enough to make such a dedication. The pain will live on and the world will forever be changed just as it is every time a tragedy like this occurs. I just want to take the time to thank everyone that has stood up for us. Thank you will never be enough for those that rushed in whether first responders or everyday people that just wanted to help. We are a city the world watches but until now I doubt anyone has ever known our spirit. I am proud to call Las Vegas home and look forward to doing my part to help us heal.