cosmic chaos

cultivating calm & creativity in my corner of the world

Archive for the category “Goals”

Sooner or Later, We All Sing the Blues

I’ve been in a funk for the past few months.

It seems like at the end of December/beginning of January, I always get excited about the possibilities of the new year. It’s the new calendar syndrome — a blank slate just waiting to be written.

Except, this year I just can’t seem to pull it all together. Instead of  tapping into vast creative opportunities, I have found myself lost in Netflix and Bejeweled Blitz marathon sessions.

I tried to trick myself into becoming productive.  I decided to really focus on my art again.  I had squirreled away canvases and paints just waiting for the day I could start experimenting.  I bought a tabletop easel.

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And there the canvas sat, on my kitchen table, mocking me. I stared it repeatedly but could not muster the courage to pick up the paintbrush to start.

I decided to go for something less intimidating — sketching. So with a very inexpensive sketch pad and a No. 2 pencil, I began to draw.

I am a little out of practice, but the whole point was to just do it and hopefully get better along the way.

So I started.

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My wolf cub did not turn out very well.  But I was drawing.  So I kept going.

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The picture of my son turned out a little better.

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At first I was not happy with my wolf sketch, but the longer I looked at it the more I liked it.

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My lady is not perfect but better.

Tonight, after sitting ignored for a month, I picked up the paint brush and added paint to the canvas.  It will need a lot of work so I am no where close to showing it. My first images where totally wrong so I had to paint over them and start over. But that was ok.  In fact, I realized that this first canvas is  learning process.  Whatever I do is ok because and I am doing something new and creative. Hopefully, it will be what I need to break out of my funk.

From time to time, we all get the blues.  Maybe it is because we are overwhelmed at work or at home.  Maybe it is because life just got hard and we don’t know what to do. Or feel helpless to do anything.  Maybe it is when we compare ourselves to others and find ourselves lacking. We feel down and move to avoid feeling or thinking. So we do something mindless like zoning out in front of the TV or computer. And then we beat ourselves up for wasted time and opportunities.

Every journey starts with one step. Sometimes our path is blocked and we have to back track before we can move forward again.  The important part is making that step. Then keep stepping.

 

 

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Lessons Learned – Part 2

“If You Build It, They Will Come — Not!”

After many years of writing, re-writing, and querying I finally published my novel Blood Adversaries as a both an e-book on Kindle and in print.  As I pressed the publish button, I imagined my book traveling through the internet to find its way into the hands of eager readers.

I had done enough research to know that I would need to promote my book.  I created an author page on Facebook. I announced the release on my blog and on LinkedIn.  I outlined ways to promote my book.  I thought I had a solid promotion plan.

What I found was that it isn’t all that easy and sometimes life just gets in the way of committing all the time necessary to promoting.

The majority of my marketing plan centered on social media.  I had read tips on using Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Goodreads as conduits for creating an author platform and promoting a book.  So I created author pages, shared links to my book and blogged about my book release.   I contacted friends who liked the paranormal/horror genre and asked them to share my link with their friends.  I scheduled a free giveaway of the Kindle version of my book on Amazon.  Then I sat back and waited for the likes to come in and books sales to happen.

Except — it didn’t.

Just a few weeks after releasing my book, my husband was sent out of state for a four month work assignment.  My time was consumed with taking care of my sons with their very active schedules and our home. Then my work position changed increasing my responsibilities threefold.   There was not a lot of time for promoting my book.  Before I knew it, a year had gone by and my book sales were minimal.

My takeaways on promoting a novel?

  1.  Authors absolutely need an electronic presence.  Social media is a key element to promote authors and books.  But social media alone is not enough.  Authors still need to have face to face meetings to promote themselves.
  2. You have to get out of your comfort zone.  Talk to people.  Plan a book signing.  See if you can be part of another event.
  3. Keep at it.  Rarely is there a true overnight success.  Read about some of the best know breakout authors and you will find years dedicated to writing and self promotion before they become household names.
  4. Really, keep at it!  Promoting a book is an on-going process.  Add new things.  Build on what works.
  5. Stuff happens.  Things don’t always run smoothly.  If you stall, don’t let it stop you.
  6. Just do it!

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Lessons Learned – Part 1

“It’s Not as Easy as You Think”

Twenty years ago, snippets of a story started swirling in my head.  I jotted them down and kept asking myself what happens next.  On and off, I worked on my little story until I knew the characters intimately.  I thought about these characters all the time.  About five years after I had started, I had a complete story.  My first novel was done.  I set it aside to rest.  I needed a break from my story.

A few months later I read my novel. My excitement melted away as I realized that it was horrible.  There were holes in the plot, cliche scenes and bad transitions.  It didn’t work. But I loved my characters. I knew they had a story worthy of telling and was not willing to give up on them.  A couple of months later, I decided to started all over.  I tore my novel apart and re-wrote everything.  This too took a number of years to complete.  But finally, I finished.

I began the query process, convinced that it would only be a short time  before I landed an agent and soon after that my book would be in bookstores all over the country.  Except, it didn’t happen.  I started getting rejection letters.  In fact, all the queries I sent were rejected.  There is an old adage that if you continue to have the same issue with people over and over, maybe you are the problem.  Once again, I re-read my novel with a critic’s eye … and I found it lacking.  Back to the drawing board.

I took some time and re-wrote my entire novel. I studied writing magazines and updated my query letter.  Then I started the query process again.  This time I actually got some interest.  Several agents asked for partials (the opening chapters of the book) to read. Alas, those too ended up being rejected.  But I felt really good about my novel. Several people who liked the paranormal genre test read my novel and the feedback was very positive.

I decided that if I truly believed in my book, I needed to self publish.  So I released Blood Adversaries as an e-book through Amazon Kindle.  E-books are great.  They are easy to obtain and convenient.  Storage is not a problem.  But book signings are a little difficult with e-books.  When I went to my writer’s guild meetings, I couldn’t help being a little envious of my fellow authors who had print versions of their books they could actually hold in their hands.  At a book festival I attended, I learned about Create Space.  It wasn’t long before I had a print version of Blood Adversaries available.

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My takeaways from this process?

  1.  Writing a novel is both art and skill.  You can be a gifted writer but you still need to take time to learn the writing process.
  2. You have to be critical of your own work.  You can love your story but to make it publishable you have to be willing to make changes to improve your novel –changes that sometimes alters your original characters and story lines.
  3. Rejection is not terminal.  If you put your work out to the public, some people will love it, some people will be ambiguous and some will hate it.  You have to be confident in your own work (and yourself) to face rejection and keep on going.
  4. Where there is a will, there is a way.  Today more than ever you can get your work published.  Research the options and know what you are paying for.  At Create Space, I was able to use their templates to upload my manuscript.  I edited my own work and designed my own cover.  The only costs I had were the printed proofs I purchased.

10 for the Win

I have always struggled with clutter.  As a girl, I remember going to friends’ houses and their rooms were neat and orderly.  I never seemed to be able to accomplish that.  I just didn’t know what to do with my stuff.  I also hung on to every little item that reminded me of someone or someplace.

As an adult, I’ve had “junk rooms” in the places I’ve lived.  As my children got older, the “junk room” became “junk areas”in main rooms of the house.  At some point, things got out of control.  When there was going to be company coming over, items got swept into boxes that were hidden in closets.  At some point, there just wasn’t a place to put stuff and it got left wherever.

Last year, I got to the point where I decided that enough was enough.  The things I was holding onto were stressing me out, not making me happy.  I decided it really was time for a change.

I’ve subscribed to different blogs and Facebook pages for tips on becoming organized and decluttering.  Then I realized that my life didn’t always fit into someone else’s schedule or plan of how to get organized.  Often I would become overwhelmed and avoid doing anything at all.

The thing is, nothing changes without effort.  And with some effort, I found a method that is working for me.

Everyday I commit at least 30 minutes to an hour for cleaning my house.  First, I maintain the areas that are already straightened.  I very quickly go through the house picking up stray items and putting them away.  I sweep or vacuum the rooms that need it.  I make sure dirty clothes go into the utility room. Then I go through 10 items in each room and decide if the item is trash, recycle or keep.  If it is keep, I put it away in it’s permanent home.  Ten items don’t take long to deal with.  Because I know it is a limited amount, I can tackle it and move onto the next room.  I am not doing anything in my sons’ bedrooms at this point.  Eventually, I will but my attention is on areas that other people may see.

I’ve been using this system for a couple of months.  There are days I get off track, especially if there are school, sports or Boy Scout events going on.   But I have seen great progress.  I have thrown away a lot of items that where clearly trash, but just kept getting moved from one place to another.  I have recycled a huge amount of paper, especially junk mail that never got sorted.  I have gone through clothing and donated bags of things that I realized I didn’t want or need anymore.  Some days, I have extra time and I am so happy with my progress that I do multiple rounds of sorting 10 items the rooms.

I don’t think I will ever be a minimalist.  There are things with sentimental value like cards signed from loved ones now deceased that I choose to keep.  But I’m being more selective in what I keep and with what I choose to bring into my home.  I’m constantly asking myself “Do I really need this ?”  Quite often, the answer is no.

 

Hello 2015

January — the month of new beginnings.

For years now, my family has gone to Sullivan’s Island (SC) on January 1st to celebrate the new year with the Dunleavy’s Polar Bear Plunge.

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A couple thousand people attend the event, some as plungers and some as observers. I have been the latter, holding towels and dry clothes as my husband and sons have taken the plunge. When asked about running in with them, the answer was “One day.”

Well, January 1, 2015 was the day.  For some reason, everything just clicked and in the ocean I went.  It was a wonderful day and a great beginning to 2015.

I belong to a knitting group (even though I am a beginner-level crocheter, they let me join) that meets about once a month.  These women have taught me so much about living life fully.  We are at different stages with a variety of life experiences, which has helped us form a close, supportive group.

During our January get-together, the knitting circle created vision boards.  We picked out images and words for what we wanted in 2015.  Here’s my board.

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Then on January 11th, I achieved a much anticipated goal.

When I was in college, I saw the band Concrete Blonde in concert.  From that moment on, Concrete Blonde was my favorite band.  I’ve listened to their albums hundreds of time.  The band has gone their separate ways, but lead singer Johnette Napolitano is touring.  Her set list includes songs from Concrete Blonde as well as from her solo career.  Johnette has been my muse for years.  As I write, her music often plays in the background.

On January 11th, Johnette played at Eddie’s Attic in Decatur, Georgia – a venue a few hours away.  I got tickets to the show for my Christmas present.  Finally, I was going to hear Johnette Napolitano sing in person again.

My husband and I arrived in Decatur early enough to walk around.  We found an interesting store …..

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…. full of eclectic art work featuring lots of goats and other farm animals as well as unique gift items.  We stopped for coffee, where I got a “new” name.

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Then it was on to Eddie’s Attic.  I posed under the “Playing Tonight” sign.

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I thought this was as close as I’d ever be to my ideal.  On entering the venue, I found a seat about nine feet away from the stage.  Opening act Laurie Sargent was great!  Then Johnette Napolitano walked directly in front of me as she made her way to the stage.  It ended up that I had the best seat in the house for the performance.  The show was AMAZING!

After the show, I got to meet Laurie Sargent in person.

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It was an incredible evening.

It has been a wonderful start to 2015 full of family, friends, fun and fulfilling goals.  I having a feeling that this is going to be a fabulous year.

Small Steps

Years ago my in-laws introduced me to a round tuit. In case you’ve never seen one, here it is:

I’m beginning to wonder if maybe I need to get my own round tuit.

I’ve been working on decluttering my study.  What I’ve found is that I have been holding onto a lot of stuff until the right time comes to go through it. I found a stash of writing magazines from 2009 that I planned read.  I have folders of five year old print outs on submission requirements from literary agents’ websites which may or may not even exist at this point. I have a pile of other magazines that I’ve been meaning to look through to see if I want to query for potential articles.

Then there is all the non-writing items in the study.  Collections of my children’s school work that I planned to put into scrapbooks or memory boxes.  Photographs waiting to be placed in albums.  Yarn and arts supplies for projects yet to be started.  The boxes of stuff that was on the kitchen table before company came that was just hidden out of sight to be gone through later.

I have plans — big plans — of what I want to do but I tend to overestimate what I can achieve in the time I have.  Even though I know I should be writing daily, I have let days go by without writing anything.  So I am trying to carve out small increments of time to tackle a few things.  Hopefully by using small steps each day, I can make a big impact on those things I need to get “a round tuit.”

A Little Inspiration

Labor Day weekend is the unofficial end of summer.  The long holiday weekend gave me a chance to catch up on some items I’ve been putting off.

First I tackled some regular housework.  With two teenage athletes in the family, there is always an abundance of laundry to wash.   A few months ago, my dear friend Amy Alley posted a recipe for homemade laundry detergent on her blog Pan Pan Studios.  I decided to try my hand at making laundry detergent.  I have to admit, there is something satisfying about using your own homemade items.  You can find Amy’s recipe here.

Last summer I released my first novel, Blood Adversaries, as a Kindle Edition e-book.  It is thrilling to see my book listed on Amazon.com.  However when my author friends would bring print copies of their works to events or book signings, I felt a pang of regret that I didn’t have a print version of my book that I could hold in my hands.  So I decided to pursue some avenues to bring my works to print.  I’ve been working on CreateSpace to self publish Blood Adversaries.  In July, I received the printed proof for my book.  I was sooo excited.

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Then something unexpected happened.  I was at a point where I was feeling overwhelmed by things happening in my life.  So my proof just sat.  I would edit a few pages and then put it down for a few days.  I pushed myself to finish the edits over the Labor Day weekend.  The edited version is uploaded.  I’ll proof one more time and then my dream of having my novel in print will be a reality!

I also wanted to work on some crafts.  A while back, my husband had asked me to decorate a birdhouse for him.  I finally got around to it.

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Finally, I worked on some decorations for fall.  I had seen pictures of Halloween luminaries on Facebook that were adorable.  Since I had a surplus of glass jars, I decided to try my hand at it.  I found the directions on the website Crafts by Amanda.  It was pretty easy.  Here’s my first batch.

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After being in a creative slump for a few weeks, it appears an extra day off is just what I needed for  a little inspiration!

Oops, I did it again!

Ok, it was a very conscious decision.

I entered my second novel in the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.

Last year, I accomplished two of my goals. 1) I entered my first novel, Blood Adversaries, in the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.  I actually made it through the first round.  Alas, that is as far as I went.  But it was thrilling that out of 10,000 entries, I made the cut to be among the 2,000 who moved to the next level. 2) After the contest was over, I released Blood Adversaries as a Kindle Edition on Amazon.com.

Since then I have been editing my second novel and trying to decide when I should release it.  The end of the editing process coincided with the opening of the contest.  So I decided to try again.

Unfortunately, my entry was not selected this time.  However, I decided it was time to release it as a Kindle Edition on Amazon.com.

So I’m happy to announce that my second novel, Family Vows, is now available. cover3I have also created an author page on Facebook.  Please take a moment to like my page.

Oh, the possibilities

A few days ago, I bought a 2014 calendar.

I love picking out a new calendar.  I like seeing the different designs and colors, trying to decide which reflects me.

There is something about opening up a new calendar that is totally blank with pages just waiting to be filled.

New calendars are a physical representation of the new year.  You can actually see the blank slate just waiting for you to complete.  I always feel a little excited about the possibilities of the new year.  Now is the chance to make changes you want to make, to schedule activities you forgot to set aside time for, to mark off time for new adventures.

Thankfulness

For the past couple of years, I watched as friends posted their 30 Days of Thankfulness on Facebook.  Sometimes I would post a blanket thanks for my overall blessings, but that was as far as it went.

I have several friends who regularly keep a Gratitude Journal or Journal of Abundance.  In fact, it seems like I’ve been seeing almost monthly articles — both on-line and in print — about the power of gratitude to make a positive impact in everyday life.  I thought why not give it a try in November.

So this year, I participated in the 30 Days of Thankfulness, dutifully posting on Facebook my daily thoughts of appreciation.  I tried to tie each thanks to something that happened that day — a meaningful church celebration, time spent with family and friends, thoughts about love ones.  What I found was that once I started thinking about things to be thankful for, I kept finding more.

November was an interesting month for me, full of changes in my work and home life.  Whenever something would happen that could have made me upset or depressed, I weighed it against the good things and told myself not to dwell on it.

In my profession I work with several counselors, so I have learned some points about different therapy models over the years.  In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, there is a triangle that is used to explain an aspect of this module.

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(Image from psychminded.files.wordpress.com)

Basically, the triangle illustrates that how a person thinks affects how that person feels which affects what that person does which affects how that person thinks.  Someone who focuses on negative thoughts feels negatively which influences her to act in negative ways and reinforces the negative thoughts.   Focusing on positive thoughts can lead to positive feelings and positive actions, reinforcing positive thoughts.

I think this is the benefit of expressing thankfulness, gratitude and abundance — a way to reinforce positive thoughts, feelings and actions.

Now that November is over, I won’t be posting my thanks every day.  But I do plan to take time to reflect on my blessings.  My foray into thankfulness gave me some perspective.  Even on my worst day, there are many people in this world who would be willing to change places with me.  My problems would still seem like blessings to them.

So this season, instead of longing for what I don’t have, I plan for concentrate on all the things to be thankful for.

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