Gratitude…for All and for One

Bill Wilson

Sometimes I get so caught up in being the best at something I lose my focus on what’s really important. Of course, being the Type A that I am, I’m usually killing myself striving to be the best at everything. And it’s here that I get into trouble.

Striving to be my own personal best and striving to be the best is the difference between the scenic journey of healthy living and the fast lane to insanity.

When I’ve accomplished something in my writing career, I find I want to be better. After all, J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, Patricia Cornwell and J. R. R. Tolkien have all topped the lists, so why shouldn’t I be able to?

When I’m doing my day job well, I find myself thinking of those who make millions at their job and wonder why I’m not able to be that successful. (Think Oprah Winfrey, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg.)

When I see other blogs that have thousands of followers to my 354, I doubt my ability to be “good enough.”

And on and on and on…and thus begins the proverbial squirrel cage thinking, the squirrel being fed from comparing myself to others.

Gratitude, pure and simple, is the answer to putting the squirrel to rest.

Gratitude-2

Gratitude that I’ve accomplished something that I love to do so much, appreciating that I’ve been blessed with a talent that breathes life into me.

Gratitude for having a day job with work that I enjoy, and pay that allows to me live comfortably, while experiencing satisfaction at being able to make a positive difference to victims of crime at a time when their entire world has been turned upside down and inside out.

Gratitude for each and every person who my blog has touched, each one individually. As long as I’ve been writing, which has been since the age of four when I wrote “words” on the living room wall with crayon :), my goal has never been to make millions, but to make a difference. If even to just one.

Every life touched, every one, matters.

In the words of Spock, played by the late, great Leonard Nimoy (may he RIP):

The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.” — Spock, Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan

But may we never forget the needs of one for the needs of the few or the many.

Carpe Diem

Living With Compassion

 

Live Simply

If there’s one thing that can turn a bad day into a good one every single time it’s connecting with my Compassion kiddos. I can be having a terrible day at work, but if at the end of that day I come home to find a letter from one of my three kids in the mailbox, it’s like the dawning of a new and better day. I learn so much from them on how to be thankful for the smallest things in life, about praying for one another and asking for prayer for our families, and that less truly is often more.

I look at today’s kids with cell phones in kindergarten, people of all ages texting or otherwise immersed in phone or computer games and social media instead of connecting with one another in person and it makes my heart heavy. Trust me, there is no judging going on here. Me, my children and my grandchildren are all active participants of this movement. But it saddens me, nonetheless, to see that we’re moving away from personal contact with others, from living relationships with others, to cyber relationships.

I watch as we in this country become so obsessed with things, when my Compassion kiddos are simply trying to stay fed and clothed. And yet they’re happier and richer than anyone else I know. One of my kids, Alex Mandari, from Tanzania sent me a letter last week thanking me for his birthday money. With it he bought clothes, shoes and food. Buying all that with the small amount I sent him shows me he’s a master at making the most of a dollar. He tells me what he learns at the Compassion Center on Saturdays, about the goodness of God, how it’s important to listen to Him, and tells me every time he writes that he’s praying for me and my family. He’s a fifteen year old boy going on fifty in terms of wisdom and life lessons.

I began my sponsorship with these three angels wanting to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate. To share what I have with those who have not. However, what happened is that they are the ones who daily make a difference in my life. They teach me about faith, unconditional love, and the power of prayer. They teach me that giving is a gift to the giver. They give to me of their lives, their worlds, their enthusiasm and zest for life, and the best part of humanity I could ever hope to experience. They aren’t just my sponsor kids, they’re part my family. And I’m so richly blessed!

Alex M. Amede Mamounata

Alex, Tanzania, 15                         Amede, Togo, 8                      Mamounata, Burkina Faso, 10

I have come across criticism a time or two for sponsoring outside of my country when we have so much need here. My answer is that thank goodness there are so many people with so many different interests. My answer is that it doesn’t matter where you give and who you give to, only that we give to each other. My passion lies with these three children and the people who make up their worlds, and also the children of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. I’m so fortunate to have these passions laid upon my heart.

I would love to hear how you volunteer your time and support others and to hear how it has enriched your life, the giver of self, time and finances. It has paid me back far beyond what I’ve expended. :)

I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” -Mother Teresa

Carpe Diem

Tropical Fish and the Greek Alphabet

Originally posted on Rachel Carrera, Novelist:

Tropical fish and the Greek alphabet aren’t the only categories that include betas.  “What else?” you ask… beta readers, of course!

As writers, we need to enlist the help of beta readers to identify any potential problems before we unleash our story on the world.  For the months that we spend writing, we hear from others just how creative we are and what a cool idea our current work is progress is.  But when we ask for beta readers, we hear crickets.

Oftentimes, people really don’t have the time to commit to reading a book.  But for many people, I believe the reason they don’t volunteer is because they have no clue what is expected of them.  So for those people, I give you, this post.

A beta reader is essentially a test pilot (or unfortunately sometimes a crash dummy).  As a beta reader, you are not expected to be…

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Goodreads Giveaway

Goodreads

I’ve decided to become more active with Goodreads, “the” social networking site for bibliophiles. I’ve had an author page since my book was published last June, but I never took the time to do anything with it. In taking a tour of all Goodreads has to offer, I am so impressed! What a beautiful way to support other authors, connect with other writers and readers, join in on book clubs, find new books by exploring the pages and bookshelves of other readers with similar tastes, receive notifications of new releases and author events in the area, and enter book giveaways. Who wouldn’t want a free book? I’m just kicking myself for not taking advantage of this amazing opportunity earlier. I think in part it was due to Goodreads having so many possibilities that it was a bit intimidating at first. But once I took a little time to work my way around, what’s not to love about it? Afterall, “Risk” is one of my words for 2015. :)

So in the spirit of getting more involved with Goodreads, I’ve decided to host a book giveaway for my book, The Inheritance, from Monday February 16th – Thursday February 26th. Hop on over if you want to enter for a chance to win.

Helpful Tips

Do any of you have any experiences or helpful tips you would like to share about being a Goodreads user, whether author or reader? I would love to hear what you have to say.

Aha! Moment

It occurred to me the other day that the novel I’m working on wasn’t really…working. While I’m having a ball writing it, developing the characters, having fun with the dialogue and setting, it felt too shallow and like it was missing the mark. Like perhaps a riveting plot? Yes, that could be a problem.

While I was brainstorming and doing mental gymnastics about what to do and how to fix it, absolutely nothing came to mind. I decided to put the thinking to rest for a while and went for a run. And wouldn’t you know, in the middle of my run, it hit me. My brain connected the dots and the proverbial light bulb switched on in my head.

Aha Moment

 

 

 

 

As I continued running, the dots continued connecting, the bulb burned brighter, and by the time I got back home I had a whole new plot developed. The plot I had originally? It’s still there, but now a subplot. While it is an enormous amount of work, I know my novel will be the better for it. And in the end, that’s what I really, truly want, is to write the best novel I can write.

The books I’ve been reading on editing and revising are doing their job. (Here is where I want to put in a plug for three of my very favorites so far, Plot and Structure and Revision and Self-Editing for Publication, both by James Scott Bell, and Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne & Dave King.) I highly recommend all three.

In the meantime, along with this plot change came much research of several different poisons. Should anything ever happen to my husband and my computer is searched, I may be living a real-life mystery. I mentioned this to my husband and he laughed, telling me that kind of thinking is a hazard of our jobs. (We both work in the law enforcement arena.) Thank goodness he has a sense of humor.

Off to work–and re-work–my manuscript.   :)

“There’s nothing better when something comes and hits you and you think ‘YES’!”  –J.K. Rowling

Carpe Diem

The Inheritance – Prologue

The Inheritance

I want to share the prologue to my novel, The Inheritance. If interested, it can be found on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, and Old Firehouse Books.

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The stars shone brilliantly above, sparkling through the moon roof of the Mercedes, the countryside speeding by as the car hugged the road’s twists and curves neatly and tightly. The benefit event Victor and Vivian had attended, and hosted, had been a huge success, and they were both reflecting upon the amount of money they had raised for the cause of feeding the poor.  A cause they both cherished and held near to their hearts.  The outpouring of kindness from the hearts of so many strangers wanting to give to something other than their own bank account had astonished them.

Victor’s mind traveled to his beloved wife of 36 years.  The way she gracefully made her way through the crowd of those eager to get their chance to speak with her.  The way she so eloquently spoke at the podium, moving the hearts of everyone in the room as she spoke from her heart, creating a visual for them of her trips to third world countries to work with so many children living in such devastating poverty.

He had never seen her look more beautiful than she had that night in her simple black dress that fit her curves so perfectly, her shining black hair cut to a length just below her chin, shining radiantly in a halo of soft hues beneath the overhead lights that had been dimmed to create the perfect ambiance.

Vivian had been the love of his life since high school, and when she finally agreed to go to a movie with him in their junior year, it was based on the condition that her best friend and beau could go with them.  He had agreed, happy to have any opportunity to spend time with her.  He recalled how nervous he had been on his way to pick her up, the movie and dinner he had been saving for in anticipation of this event a distant thought.

His thoughts traveled to how far they had come from that day.  The journey their love had taken.  The private practice that had netted him more money than was even fair for one person to earn, Vivian’s love for art and her pieces she was able to sell for a handsome amount, their travels to other countries, visiting those so much less fortunate than they, placing into perspective what life is really about.  An experience that changed the entire way they lived their own lives.  They had managed to put away a considerable amount of money for each of their three children, but it was there that his thoughts became more clouded.  Stormy clouds after the brilliant sunshine.

Vivian studied the lines of her husband’s handsome face, noticed his furrowed brow, the seriousness, almost sadness that seemed to settle there.  She suspected he was thinking of their children and her heart ached for him.  She knew Victor assumed it as his personal failure that their children had become so estranged from them, from each other, and from God, each so lost in life, on a road that would surely carry them through so much heartache.

She placed a warm hand on his leg, simple, yet solid, assurance they were in this thing called life together.  Though it looked more like a deep valley than a mountaintop at times, especially lately, they were still in it together.  Good times and in bad.  Sickness and in health.  They had weathered a lot of storms throughout the years, and this is one they would survive as well.  As long as they had each other.

It was at that moment that Vivian and Victor looked at each other.  And it was at that moment Victor saw Vivian smile warmly at him and look forward, the headlights from an oncoming car illuminating her face.  He didn’t see the car itself that came careening around the corner, taking that corner entirely too fast.  Too fast to be able to stop.  What he did see was the look of surprise on Vivian’s face as she looked ahead, saw her reach for the dashboard in front of her, and as if in slow motion, turned his head to see the oncoming car right before it crashed into his.  The sound was deafening, metal on metal, screeching, sliding, Vivian’s screams and the feel of her hand grabbing his arm in panic, then a pain beyond anything he had ever known as his life broke into a million pieces realizing what was happening.  And just like that, there was nothing.  Nothing but silence in the dead of night.  The ink black that covered the night sky was now overtaking his mind and body, as he drifted away toward the most penetrating, whitest light he had ever imagined.  Something so beautiful it couldn’t possibly be real.  And he couldn’t possibly resist it.  Especially when he saw his beloved Vivian standing there, holding out her hand, beckoning gently, for him to join her.

 

 

My Workspace Blog Hop

Or as my friend Rachel Carrera calls it “The Monkey Wrench in the Works.” :) Rachel is also the one who tagged me for this blog hop, the purpose of it being to showcase our workspace, that special place we create and find the joy in writing, and to touch on our process a bit. If you haven’t visited Rachel’s blog you’re missing out on a whole lot. She’s one of the most fun, energetic, real people I know in the blogoverse. Hop on over to visit her. I promise you won’t regret it! :)

On with the tour of my “sanctuary” that doubles as my office…

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My humble little desk surrounded by my necessities–laptop (yup, I’m a laptop girl because I take it everywhere) and my things that motivate my creative spark and life in general–paintings of scenes from a lake as well as a tiny canoe made from birch bark, my lamp shade reminding me to “live, laugh, and love,” a cross reminding me of the utmost important aspect of life, and pictures of my kids when they were younger. There’s even a little of my stained glass obsession there. My printed manuscript is to the left of my computer, a current work in progress.

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All my files are right by my side within reach, my planner–which I use loosely, as life is always changing the plans I have written down, but that’s okay with me. Life is for living and going with the flow. Without flexibility we’re bound to miss out on a lot of opportunities.

The notebook with the typewriter on it contains anything and everything about the cozy mystery series I’m working on. It goes everywhere I do because new ideas for the series, new character ideas, plot ideas, etc., seem to pop up at the strangest times.

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And here is my comfy chair I retreat to when studying the craft of writing and when I do my ten-minute writing practice with good old-fashioned pen and paper. I’m reading two different books at the moment, A Writer’s Book of Days which has the best practical advice and awesome writing practice prompts and is the book sitting on my chair, and Revision and Self Editing for Publication by James Scott Bell. His books have quickly become some of my favorites for instruction on the writing process. On the table in the bluish can is my staple–Simply Balanced cucumber mint sparkling water. Can’t live without it.

Moving on to tag some of my writer friends. If you’re not following them already you may want to consider doing so. They’re awesome ladies! :)

Michelle @ http://wolffdenpress.com/

Teresa @ https://homeandspirit.wordpress.com/

Marie @ http://writingwingsforyou.com/

Angela @ https://authorangelachristinaarcher.wordpress.com/

So, curious…do you have anything you keep at your desk that gets your creativity flowing? What are you working on at the present moment? Are you a planner or a pantser? Do you ever write with good old-fashioned pen and paper?

Carpe Diem