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Whew! Just made it! And I’m going back for more in July. Anyone care to join me? The more in our virtual cabin the more support we have for one another and the more fun it is. 🙂

Until then, I’ll be working on finishing up the editing and revisions of my WIP and begin the editing and revisions on my second WIP, while relaxing at an imaginative beach–and my imagination can be quite vivid–with a good book and revel in the fact that despite cutting it close, I persevered, didn’t give up, and finished what I set out to do.

Have a beautiful weekend.

beach chair

Denim Day

Denim day

I feel compelled to take a moment out of my time spent at Camp (NaNoWriMo) to give a shout out about something that’s near and dear to my heart.

The fourth Wednesday of April marks Denim Day. What is Denim Day you ask? It’s a day people across the nation are encouraged to wear jeans to bring awareness to rape and sexual assault.

The history of Denim Day began in Rome when in 1992 a 45-year-old driving instructor raped an 18-year-old girl after he picked her up for her first driving lesson. He told her that if she told anyone he would kill her. Thankfully, she told her parents which resulted in charges being pressed against the man.

He was convicted and sentenced, but when he appealed to the Italian Supreme Court, the conviction was overturned in 1998. Are you ready to hear why?

Because she wore tight jeans.

The Supreme Court ruled that, “because the victim wore very, very tight jeans, she had to help him remove them…and by removing the jeans…it was no longer rape but consensual sex.”  The Supreme Court stated in its decision, “it is a fact of common experience that it is nearly impossible to slip off tight jeans even partly without the active collaboration of the person who is wearing them.” The Italian Supreme Court has since overturned their findings and the denim defense to rape is no longer used.

In the last several years, Denim Day has been organized as an international symbol of protest against misguided attitudes about rape and sexual assault. As of this writing, there are 5,027,843 registered participants according to the Denim Day website. Maybe you want to make it 5,027,844?

Consider wearing jeans with me on Wednesday, April 29th, 2015, to raise awareness and educate others on rape and sexual assault.

I know I, for one, will be proudly sporting jeans on Wednesday. Join me?

bluejeans

 

 

 

Productive Thinking

Running

When I’m running or biking is when ideas for new work, or my work in progress, flows. It’s then that life seems to teach me what it wants me to learn, and when my thoughts are somewhat productive. Not only does running and biking exercise my body, but my mind as well. This morning I was listening to the audio book of Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.

Some of the words of wisdom that I heard while listening to this book I’ve heard before, but today I really heard them. And those words and thoughts took on a life of their own as I processed them. Here they are:

1.)  “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” -E.L. Doctorow

I’ve used that analogy for other aspects of life, but when it pertains to writing, it makes me realize the importance of writing in scenes. Beginning a new writing project, especially a long one like a novel, can be intimidating and daunting. Especially when you look at the blank screen/piece of paper, and realize all the work that has to be done to complete the novel. That can be paralyzing to the point of making one want to give up before getting started. If we think of taking it one small piece at a time, writing just one scene, no matter how small that scene is, and then the next after that and the next after that, pretty soon you have several scenes to work with. By only focusing on one scene at a time, you can make the whole trip to the end of your novel without fear.

2.)  “Life is 10 percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it.” -Lou Holtz

How do you respond when things don’t go the way you want them to? When I spend a lot of time on a piece of writing, or if a lot of time goes by without seeing any fruits of my labor, I begin to question my ability to produce something worthwhile. Last month I only sold four books and I have to admit I was feeling a little down and out. This quote by Lou Holtz boosted my mentality into another stratosphere. Selling four books last month means I reached four people I wouldn’t have had I not published the book. That in itself makes me grateful. And the fact that I published a book is an amazing feeling of accomplishment. (More on that below.) The reminder that I don’t write to sell books or quite honestly, even to make a living from it, but because I can’t not write. It’s as much a part of my existence as breathing. I’m a much better person when I write because then the rest of the world makes more sense to me.

3.)  And though this next one didn’t come from what I was listening to, it snowballed from the others. As my thoughts and ideas frequently do when I’m running or biking. I realized the battle for writers, self publishing vs. traditional publishing, doesn’t have to be a battle at all. One of the books I read by James Scott Bell, and whose books on writing I would recommend to anyone and everyone, seemed to shame self-published books. What I know now is that his words held a ship load of truth, but the way I heard it at the time was a reflection of what I was feeling within myself. I self-published my first book, The Inheritance, and at the time was battling whether I was going to self-publish my Melanie Hogan Mystery Series or try the traditional route. How we perceive things is more often than not due to where we’re at within our own head, usually when we’re completely unaware of it. For instance, if everyone around you seems to be having a bad day it’s probably your perception based on the place you, yourself, are at in that moment. We hear what people say and how they react based on where we are in our own heart and mind.

That being said, when I read those parts in James Scott Bell’s book, I was insecure about self-publishing a book and if people would take that as a sign that I wasn’t successful at traditional publishing. That I wasn’t good enough. Good enough for whom or for what I didn’t even know and quite possibly it didn’t matter. Just plain ole’ writer’s insecurity of being good enough. The fact of the matter is, I had decided not to go the traditional route because I wanted my first novel to be done completely by me. I wanted to experience the entire process, and I have not a single regret. Not. One. In fact, I’ve decided to self-publish my Melanie Hogan Mystery Series as well, the first of which is expected to be released in July if all goes according to plan. The cover reveal will be coming in the next couple of weeks. 🙂

Now the revelation that came to me yesterday (drumroll….)

Making a difference

There are a lot of crappy traditionally published books out there, with missed typos and loose ends that were never tied up, with plot holes and poor character development, as well as with self-published books. The difference being that since e-books have become such a huge development and will only grow as time goes on, it makes it incredibly easy to self-publish work, and many are doing it without any editing, the goal being to just to get their work out there. What I’ve realized is as long as you’ve taken the time to make your work the best it can possibly be, without doubt, self publishing or traditional publishing is irrelevant. Whichever method you choose, you can hold your head up as the amazing author you are, regardless of what anyone else thinks. That, my friends, set me free from the insecurity that plagued me. And what a feeling that is. 🙂 If you’re out to please people, it will only lead to disappointment. If you’re out to touch people’s lives, to simply make a difference, by doing what you love to do, you can’t go wrong.

See you after Camp NaNo. I’m almost to the finish line.

Bonfire-Brainerd

 

 

 

 

 

Appreciate the Struggles

doves

I heard something so profound today that I had to share it.

Where I work we had a White Dove releasing ceremony this morning for National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. The released doves represented and honored the victims we serve. The man who owns the doves told us that when he first began this work, when he saw the baby doves showing signs of hatching, he would often help them by ever so gently cracking open the egg-shell. The next day, those assisted doves died.

What he discovered is a lesson for living–and succeeding in–life.

He said that in order for the baby doves to survive, it’s necessary for them to go through the struggle and the work of pecking away at the egg in order to strengthen their muscles, particularly their neck muscles, to survive once outside the egg.

How true that is for all of us, not just the doves. While we all need assistance from time to time, there’s a difference between helping someone who cannot do it–whatever “it” happens to be–on their own and doing for another what they can do for themselves with some hard work. Taking that away from them is taking away an opportunity for growth.

It’s the struggles in life that give us insight and strength, that teach us perseverance and that give us the skills and knowledge to assist those who truly need help, so that they, too, may gain skills and knowledge during their struggle to assist yet another.

napoleonhill152854

May our struggles not go unappreciated. Let’s recognize them for what they are–an opportunity to strengthen our spirituality; an opportunity to strengthen our muscles that we may thrive; an opportunity to use them for good, to help one another become the best person, community, country, we can possibly be; an opportunity to learn surrender which leads to freedom; and an opportunity to learn appreciation. After all, what we acquire by hard work holds more significance that what is simply and easily handed to us. It’s through the trials that we learn, and what we learn is where we acquire growth and strength.

And I’m off on the last leg of the journey to the Camp NaNoWriMo finish line. 🙂

Bonfire-Brainerd

 

The Power of Words

 

Words

A while back I posted on this topic and this morning it was brought to my attention again.

While I was on my morning run, enjoying some moments strung together without rain or snow, I met up with an older couple, each with their own garbage bag, picking up trash along the river trail. The river trail is my favorite place to run–when I’m not being attacked by big dogs–because it’s serene, lined with green trees and the river on one side, and wildlife from turtles to turkeys to coyotes. When I saw this couple I stopped, took out my ear buds and told them what they were doing was so nice and thank you. They stopped and looked at me, the woman sighed and smiled, her eyes bright. She said:

“That’s the nicest thing you could have ever said to us, is thank you.”

Wow!

The power of words. How easy it would have been to keep in my own world, listening to my music, being absorbed with me. How many times do we get busy living life that we forget to notice others around us. I know I do. The janitorial staff that comes on shift as I’m leaving the office, the paper delivery boy, the person who has a cart full of items at the grocery store and yet gets in the twenty items or less line and lets me go ahead when s/he sees I only have a few items. How easy it is to scowl that they’re in the wrong line anyway.

What I’ve learned as I travel my journey is that what comes out of my mouth affects the listener as much as the speaker. Not saying thank you to the person in the grocery line leaves my heart hard and burdened, my attitude dark, as self-righteousness grips me. That, in turn, shapes the way I treat others the rest of the day. When I say something kind, regardless of whether or not the person is doing something I perceive as wrong, it makes the person experience joy and it lightens my own heart. It feels good from the depths of my soul to be kind to someone.

When I carried on with the rest of my run after my encounter with the couple, my steps felt lighter, my heart glad, the day brighter.

Whether spoken or written, words carry enormous power. How easy it is to fire off that email or snail mail letter. Or how easy it is to speak something negative or derogatory about someone in the name of defending yourself after they’ve wronged you. I used to tell my kids when they were growing up, “Choose your words carefully. Words are like toothpaste–once it’s out you can’t get it back in the tube no matter how hard you try.”

Those are words I, as an adult, need to remember.

This week as I communicate with others and as I work on my writing, I’m going to work on remembering the power of words. Especially the two seemingly small words that carry great weight–“Thank You.”

And now I’m back to using my words at Camp NaNoWriMo. 🙂

But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.” — George Orwell, 1984

Bonfire-Brainerd

 

 

 

Pearls of Wisdom

Genrefest 2015

This weekend I was fortunate enough to attend Genre Fest 2015, an event organized by the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, Rocky Mountain Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, and The Colorado Authors’ League. The speaker for the morning was David Morrell, creator of Rambo –as well as numerous novels (both fiction and nonfiction) and short fiction–and to say I was impressed is a serious understatement. While I expected great pearls of wisdom coming from such a successful author–and he certainly delivered, what I didn’t expect was his level of humility. What an incredible man. Would I go see him again if he’s in the area? In a heartbeat! I realize I just used the dreaded exclamation point, but that’s how strongly I feel about it. I would recommend anyone who has the opportunity to grab that sucker. You won’t be disappointed.

While I couldn’t possibly mention all of the golden nuggets of advice, some of the ones that I’ll always remember are:

His five rules for writing mystery/thrillers (and could fit with any genre) are:

1.) Know why your writing what you are. If you’re writing what you are simply because it’s popular at the moment, you may want to re-evaluate writing that genre. What you’re writing should be personally meaningful; because you can’t imagine not writing it; because it should be worth spending a year (or more) of your time on.

2.)  Know the history of the genre you’re writing. He states, “we can’t recognize when a plot is hackneyed if we don’t educate ourselves about the best that has been done in the genre.” He suggested that if you’re writing a specific genre, you should know enough about the history that you could give a lecture on it.

3.)  Do your research. Your research can come from interviewing experts, reading non-fiction books on the subject, physically visiting the place you’re writing about as well as doing the activities you’re writing about. This last one, in particular, opens all five senses to the experience. The Internet is another deep well to gain knowledge. What not to do is to get your research from TV or movies. The details are not reliable. (Think courtroom and police dramas.) My husband and I both work in the law enforcement arena, and trust me when I say real life is nothing like it shows on Law and Order, CSI, The Good Wife, etc.

4.)  Be yourself. His exact words are worth repeating over and over and over. And over again. “Be a first-rate version of yourself rather than a second-rate version of another author. Innovate rather than imitate.” Wow! (Yup, another exclamation point.)

5.)  Avoid the genre trap. What we write should be the most exciting and moving novel that we can write. Our job is to write a genre novel that doesn’t come off as a genre book.

Other notable mentions:

  • There are no “odds” on whether you will succeed, get published, etc. What happens to you happens 100%.
  • One thing all of us writers are prone to is daydreaming. In fact we can’t shut it off. Children are often told to “stop wasting your time daydreaming” as if it’s a negative thing. In reality, daydreaming is not a waste of time at all. It’s where ideas come from. The key is to be aware of your daydreams. Too often they’re mini narratives that we dismiss.
  • Don’t write what you’re supposed to. Write what you’re meant to.
  • Don’t chase the market because you’ll always be looking at the back side.

I had David Morrell’s writing book, The Successful Novelist: A Lifetime of Lessons about Writing and Publishing, on my bookshelf at home waiting to be read. I bumped it ahead of all the others I want to read and I’m not regretting it.

And now it’s back to the world of Camp NaNo for campfire stories, connecting with my most awesome cabin mates, s’mores, and writing by the light of my lantern.

Bonfire-Brainerd

 

Victim Power!

 

SAAM Ribbon

April is an important month where I work and one that makes me proud to be doing the work that I do. National Crime Victims’ Rights Week is April 19-25.

Today was the day the County Commissioners read a Proclamation recognizing Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and the ADA (Assistant District Attorney) gave some powerful statements and scenarios I would like to share with you. He urged those in attendance to change the way we view sexual assault. Society’s focus is frequently on the victim–what could the victim have done differently, what was the victim wearing, if the victim was drinking, etc. You get the picture. Following are some of the scenarios he gave:

Scenario #1:  You’re at a football game, standing in line to get a beer and wearing your team’s jersey. Someone comes from behind and tackles you. What if the answer to your call for help was, “Well, you were drinking and wearing your team jersey. What did you expect?”

Scenario #2:  You’re house is burglarized and destroyed, your personal items trashed and thrown around. You have a nice welcome mat on your front porch. The cops are called out to your house, but they respond with, “But you had a welcome mat outside your door. You invited this.”

Scenario #3:  You’re in a diner having coffee with a friend and engaged in good conversation. The waitress comes over and asks if you would like more coffee. You tell her, yes, you would like more and engage in conversation with her while she pours the coffee until it’s overflowing, dumping scalding hot coffee all over your lap. You jump up and complain, but the manager says, “I’m sorry, but you weren’t clear enough on when you wanted her to stop.”

As one who has been a victim of sexual assault, these scenarios empowered me and gave me a sense of victory. And for one who works with victims of crime, they gave me pride to be doing the work I do. We can rise above our circumstances and life events. Tragedy doesn’t have to beat us down, but rather we can use it to shape and change the world in which we live. As a society, let’s change how we view crime and stop victim blaming. Change begins with just one. Won’t you be that one?

I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.” –Edward Everett Hale