Monday 29 August 2011

Know Your Strengths (and Weaknesses)!

I’ve come to terms. I’ve realized that I can’t do it all. And if I try to do it all, there’s a big mess to clean up later and I feel like a failure. I had to learn to leave well enough alone, and just do what I do best. Most people know their strengths – what they’re good at, what they excel at. We try to hide our weaknesses under the rug, like an unwanted part of ourselves that we’re ashamed of. But our weaknesses are part of us, and should be acknowledged. This is what makes us human, and allows other people to carry the ball for us by using their strengths.

When I was checking out all there was to learn and digest about uploading my books as ebooks to on-line bookstores such as Amazon or Smashwords, I didn’t realize the work involved in doing the task. It was daunting, but I was determined. Too much information filtered through my mind until my head was ready to explode. I knew what I was good at – writing. I loved all the aspects of storytelling – the researching, planning, preparing, setting up, creating characters and organizing the content of a story. I realize writing (at least if you’re looking to get published) is a business. I also know that there are many hats to wear during the publishing process. Editing, cover book art, marketing, formatting and conversion, financing, proof reading, fact checking to name a few, are all part of that process. And I know what I’m good at, and what I’m not good at enough to know when to pass the baton to the next person who can help me get my book(s) in the hands of readers. I guess that’s really why I decided to submit my manuscript to a publishing company who handles both ebooks and traditional books. I realized I couldn’t take on more than I could handle or my productivity and quality would suffer. In the long run it was better for me to delegate responsibility wisely in order to get the job done. I owe it to my readers.

So remember to acknowledge your strengths and embrace your weaknesses. Trust me. You’ll feel so much lighter and happier for doing so.

Thursday 25 August 2011

Blowing My Own Horn!

I’ve got lots to smile about these days. My manuscript, THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS AND THE ARCH OF ATLANTIS, has been requested for review by an up and coming publishing company who just open their doors for submissions the beginning of August. Woo hoo! Sorry couldn’t resist blowing the happy horn again. From the sounds of it, this new breed of publishers seem to put the author first – which is why I submitted to them in the first place. Imagine that – a publishing company who puts the author first! Woo hoo!

The company is aptly called Musa Publishing. The name stems from the seven muses in Greek mythology. I was invited by the head editor for ‘Euterpe’ (pronounced You-terp-Ay), the Young Adult imprint of Musa Publishing, to submit my full manuscript. She also wanted to know my vision for future books. And believe it or not, I had one. For over a year, I’ve been planning the series, writing down the next nine books, each with a title and a premise, plus worked on the prequel to the series during the Muskoka Novel Marathon in July. Talk about being a good girl scout and being prepared! Swing by Musa’s website and check them out if you have a chance.

Now before I go dotting my ‘i’s and crossing my ‘t’s with visions of a signed contract, I know there’s a period of waiting. After which the editor will accept you or say thanks, but no thanks. I’ve been there and done that on the latter, and yes it’s hard, but looking back I see I was ill-prepared for the journey. Now things are different. Now the publishing game has changed drastically. Now publishers are starting to put the author first. Woo hoo!

So, as I wait patiently for a reply, I would like to add one more thing before I sign off. Woo hoo!

Monday 22 August 2011

Think Big. Act Small

Writers have something to say or they wouldn’t write. I remember coming out as a ‘writer’ – actually saying to someone that I wanted to write a book. You know what the response was? “Ah, you have something to say.” No, I thought. I just have a great story in my head. Plus I wanted to earn some extra money. That was back in 1995. How little I knew then. How naïve.

Writing, the process of writing, getting a book out, seeing it published, is not about the writer. It never was, never will be. Originally, I had made it about me. About the kudos, the book tours, the fame, the fortune. That is the farthest thing from the truth. The truth is it’s never about the writer. It’s about what the writer has to say – the extraction of words forming into sentences, then into chapters, then finally into a story with a beginning, middle and end.  Writers are just channels for something bigger than us. The story is the end product. The author’s baby. It’s the journey of writing the story – the blood, sweat and tears -  the push, push, push, that gives it life and gives it a voice. It’s carrying around something of value inside of you until you’re ready to let it go, let it be. Authors are the keepers of stories. They come to us, and we must care for them. Then, we must give our stories away when they are needed.
This is thinking big, but acting small. Knowing you’re only a  humble channel, as vessel to hold a story inside of you for a little while, until it grows big enough and strong enough to come out. The point is a story never really belongs to us. It belongs to everyone. And it should be shared.

So, if you think have something to say. Chances are, you probably do. Share it.

Thursday 18 August 2011

Lost and Found

Calling all animal lovers! My local animal shelter is in dire straights. They need donations – as little as thirty-three cents a day on a monthly basis. That’s $10 a month. As an ex-employee of the animal shelter – which BTW is a ‘no kill’ shelter – I know the work and cost involved in taking care of lost, abandoned or surrendered cats and dogs, plus paying a handful of dedicated employees. A lot of elbow grease, kindness and generosity go a long way for a furry friend.

I left the animal shelter to pursue my writing career. The payoff from leaving my job was a novel. The book – Lost and Found – is part of my teen psychic mystery series ‘Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls’. It’s about a fifteen-year-old girl named Meagan Walsh, an animal communicator, who hasn’t used this gift since she was a little girl. She is forced to serve community hours at the local animal in Fairy Falls where her aunt works. There, an old calico cat named Whiskey befriends Meagan, and gets her to open up, listen and use her voice to talk to the shelter animals. The Fairy Falls Animal Shelter is in danger of closing down because there are not enough funds to support it. Sound familiar?
I urge any of my readers, followers or anybody that passes by this blog to visit the Animal Shelter for Huntsville website and see how you can help. ANYTHING you choose to do will be of great assistance, even going on your Facebook page or Twitter about the animal shelter will bring awareness to others. And if you’ve got a local animal shelter in your area, I hope that you will support it any way you can, even as a volunteer to walk the dogs or socialize with the cats.

Remember: “An animal’s eyes have the power to speak a great language.” – Martin Buber.

Monday 15 August 2011

Know Your Why - Part 2

I subscribe to a blog by CJ Lyons entitled, ‘NoRules, Just Write’. She’s an author who not only writes fiction, but has developed a series of non-fiction books to help the aspiring writer. Her blog is packed with interesting and interactive advice and information for authors and would-be authors and I highly advise anyone writing or thinking about writing to check this blog out. Even if you don’t write, swing by CJ Lyons’s website and see if you might be interested in reading her books.

Lyons’s latest tidbit of advice offers three secrets to success. Vision. Passion. Commitment. That’s it. Broken down, Vision is to know what you want to achieve. Passion is to know why you want it. Commitment is how you get past any obstacles blocking your path to success. It sounds straight forward, but like any journey, writing needs reflection before taking action.
I know what I want to achieve. I want to get my book(s) in the hands of readers. I want to make a difference in the lives of others by passing on what I know and have learned. In other words, I want to write books that will influence and empower people – especially young people.

I also know why I want it. Yes, I do want to earn a living by writing books, but money is an end result. What lives on is my voice – the voices of my characters – as they brave new worlds (or old in the case of my time travel books) which hopefully takes the reader on an incredible journey. And, as cliché as it sounds, I want to be the change I want see in the world.
And those obstacles? Yes, that takes lots of commitment to push through the tough times and soldier on. It’s those who have strength in reserve who end up being a success. I know I’ve had many obstacles in my path – a slew of rejection letters and a healthy dose of writer’s block to name a couple. But, I kept going around those obstacles and found new doors to open.

If you understand that the secret to success is your Vision, your Passion, your Commitment, then nothing is impossible.

Thursday 11 August 2011

Know Your Why!

Do you know your ‘Why’? This ‘Why’ I’m talking about is your passion – the reason you get up in the morning, your reason for living. I have a huge picture on my writing studio wall of a whale breaking the surface. The caption underneath is as follows: “Passion is powerful … nothing was ever achieved without it, and nothing can take its place. No matter what you face in life, if your passion is great enough, you will find the strength to succeed. Without passion, life has no meaning. So put your heart, mind and soul into even your smallest acts … this is the essence of passion. This is the secret to life.” And you thought that the ‘Secret’ was just about the power of attraction! Ha!

After the ‘Why’ comes ‘How’. How do you communicate your passion to your audience, listeners, readers, workers, clients or customers? By forging connections, that’s how. People need to feel what you feel, believe what you believe and want what you want. Once you forge the right connections, you’re halfway there.
Then the ‘What’ follows. This is your end product; in my case it’s a book, but I’m talking about anything you’re passionate about. It’s the actual vehicle where your audience will interact with you. The possibilities are endless. It could be a song, a movie or a painting. What about an organization you’ve desperately wanted to start? Or a club you’ve wanted to create based on your favourite hobby? Don’t be afraid to connect your dots and make it happen!

Remember, everyone’s ‘Why, How and What’ is different. What you do, How you do it and Why you do it are the keys to finding your unique ‘voice’. Find yours.

Monday 8 August 2011

Write the Story First!

Write the story first. Then fill in the details. Author John Locke said that. He’s one of the first ebook millionaires – an author who sells his ebooks for an astounding 99 cents. Yes, you read that correctly – under a buck. Even the so-called ‘dollar’ stores are pricing items $1.25 and above, so that’s a steal. I don’t really agree with his pricing procedure, but that’s another blog post set for another time.

What I do agree with is his advice. This is how John Locke writes a novel in 7 weeks. He doesn’t worry about the details of the story, only the story itself. Stuff like clothing, cars, weather, food, etc. is penned or typed in later. He just concentrates on getting the story out of his head. Write now. Research later. How poetic. How true.
These two sentences have given me great freedom to just flow with the story, instead of getting caught up in all the snarls and tangles of the river of details. Yes, you have to have an idea of structuring your story, but you can’t let that slow you down. I realize now that this was my problem at the recent Muskoka Novel Marathon I participated in to write an entire novella in three days. I was too caught up in the ‘writing stuff’ – the colour of the hair and eyes, the type of clothing, the setting – to just write the story I had so carefully outlined on paper.

I also have a bad habit – or maybe good in other people’s eyes – or rereading what I have just written. Like this blog. I’ve been over it a few times already. Wasting time, when I could be writing. Like now. It’s freeing, this feeling of writing from the seat of your pants, not know where this will lead, until something happens that sets you on another course. Opps, I stopped to check over what I’d just written. Damn. Busted. This is going to be a hard habit to break!
Maybe, from now on, I should just write what’s in my head, and then go over it when I’m done. It’s sage advice for sure, but it’s easier said than done!

Thursday 4 August 2011

Everything Counts!

“Everything you do is either moving you toward your goal or moving you away. Everything is either helping you or hurting you. Nothing is neutral. Everything counts.”

Those are the words of Brian Tracy, a self-help guru with an on-line dynasty that teaches you everything from how to sell, to making millions, to time management. I personally signed up for his time management newsletters that are packed with some great information, along with sales plugs for his books, DVDs or courses. I believe his above statement, which is written in a free download called, ‘Taking Action’.
Every writer knows that every action in a story must lead to more action – bring the reader closer and closer to the climax, until the story has a fitting end. Or sometimes doesn’t in the eyes of the reader. It takes a great deal of energy to plan a story out, from start to finish. I personally take my time with my characters get to know them, their likes and dislikes, and so on until they seem to develop naturally as the story unfolds. In everything you do, preparation is the key. That, and a healthy dose of self-discipline.

I also try to outline as best as I can, but sometimes (actually most times) the characters take hold of the reins and go their own way. As a writer this is either amazing or annoying. My characters are improvising! WTH? Then, I realize with great vision (ahem) that that’s exactly where this character or that character needs to go. My character not only grows, but the story grows and I grow as a writer. Each action my character takes moves the story toward my ultimate goal – the finish, the end, the COUP DE GRACE.
So, when you’re struggling so hard to stay on track, it might help to review your plan, goal or map. You may just be heading in the wrong direction. That’s the time to take a U-turn.