Category Archives: Creativity

Beautiful Pictures of Sydney from Neville Crombie

My friend Neville Crombie takes the most beautiful pictures! I love them, and asked Neville if I could share them with you. He lives in Sydney, Australia, and he recently took an afternoon to ride the ferry to Cremorne Point just to relax and take pictures. I hope you enjoy them!

For those of you who are interested, Neville uses his iPhone 5 for all the panorama shots and some of the others, and a Nikon D80 with an 18-135 zoom lens. He also takes still shots from his videos sometimes, shot with a Sony HRE12.

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Get a Mentor For Your Small Business

rbbp-coverSix months ago, I heard about Jennifer Lee and Artizen Coaching after reading her book, Right-Brain Business Plan. Jenn was just starting a new mentorship circle and it sounded ideal for start-up one-person entrepreneurs who could use some guidance in growing their business. I signed up.

I didn’t even know what I needed when I began. I wanted to get more accomplished, but I also needed to know what needed to be done. Over the last six months, along with a group of like-minded small business owners, I’ve learned a lot from Jenn about how to grow my business quicker and smoother than what I was doing on my own.

I recently signed up for another eight months of mentorship. I’m bringing out new products and figuring out how to market my products and services better. I’ve gotten so much help from my “Cohorts” in my mentorship circle that I want to continue in the program.

If you’re at all interested in this sort of thing, I’m going to be on a LIVE free video chat broadcast today on this Livestream channel from 11 a.m. to noon, Pacific Time. Several of us who have been in the mentorship program these past six months are going to be chatting with Jenn about what we’ve gotten out of it and why we signed up for the next eight months. Should be fun to hear all the excitement and energy!

You can also check out the Right Brain Business Plan web site to find out more about all the different products and services and other free webinars that Jennifer offers. Details on the mentorship program are here. (Early bird pricing ends June 6.)

Her most recent free webinar is called Embracing Ease. It was a great reminder that you can often get more done by taking a break than by pushing yourself to exhaustion. You can sign up to watch the free replay here. Watch it and see if Jennifer’s style and way of doing things might be helpful to you.

And maybe I’ll see you “live” online tomorrow when I talk about how my business has grown!

Fame, Fortune, and Ferraris

I wrote this article for my local Romance Writers of America chapter to encourage people to enter our contest for unpublished writers. I really enjoyed writing it, and I’m told a couple people laughed out loud when they read it, so I thought it’d be fun to share it with you. Enjoy!

Imagine… You’re sitting by the ocean on the coast of France, sipping a little wine, nibbling on a platter of fresh breads, cheeses, and luscious fruits. Your latest book is coming easily and you’re ahead of deadline.

writer at workYou type, you nibble, you sip, you stare out at the ocean. Then you type some more. Life doesn’t get any better than this.

This could be you. Perhaps it will happen because of Scenario A. You’ve heard the call for entries for the Orange Rose Contest for Unpublished Writers. You went through your usual list of excuses – my first 35 pages aren’t ready, I’ve entered contests before and only gotten helpful feedback but no book contract, my pet giraffe ate the cloud where my files were backed up.

And yet…something whispers in the back of your mind, “This could be your year. This could be the year that all the other entries suck rocks and yours could rise to the top  by default.”

You remember buying a book by some smart aleck writer who signs “Listen to your voices” before her autograph. You decide to listen to yours, you enter the contest, and you win! Both your favorite agent and the editor who would be the perfect fit for your book judge your entry and offer you representation and a multi-book contract.

You become the next thirteen-year-overnight-success. Everyone wants to read the book you’ve been ranting about for years as being the next Twilight for senior citizens who love dogs. Turns out you were right and there was a market there.

You buy a house, travel abroad, and buy another house. You come up with a smart aleck signature line, too. Sink your dentures into this one, Grandma! You sell even more copies.

And that’s when it hits you – this all started when you entered the 2013 Orange Rose Contest. Wow. Good thing so many people encouraged you to enter. You owe them a lot!

You may also come by fame, fortune, and a Ferrari via Scenario B. You are a brilliant published writer. You have deadlines and commitments and a cat who refuses treatment from the cat shrink you hired. But you have a heart of gold.

You remember how difficult it was to get your start in this business. You hope helping unpublished writers will take your mind off the fact that you can’t seem to help your cat. You sign up to be a judge in the Orange Rose Contest.

The quality of the writing is better than you expected. You enjoy reading most of the entries, though a few of them suck rocks. You give each of your entrants valuable feedback that will surely help those writers become almost as good as you.

Years go by. You’re heralded as the most significant writer in your age group – and not just because you’ve outlived your peers. Then one day, a year before you lose your driver’s license due to failed eyesight from old age, you get a delivery.

A red Ferrari is in your driveway, and the keys are in your hand. You maneuver your walker so that you can fall into the driver’s seat. There’s a note.

“Thank you for helping me achieve such astounding success. I’ve tracked you down because I know now that I couldn’t have gotten here if you hadn’t been willing to judge the Orange Rose Contest for Unpublished Writers way back in 2013. I already have four cars I don’t drive, so I thought you’d enjoy this one. Best regards, 2013 Orange Rose Winner.”

You drive the car for a couple weeks until your kids find out. They make you sell the car. On the way home, you notice a bumper sticker that reads, “I’m spending my kids’ inheritance.”

You suddenly act all sweet to your kids and thank them for thinking of your safety rather than your happiness. You shoo them out the door with more kisses and hugs than usual, then run (as fast as your walker will go) to your room and start packing.

IMG_0029You arrive on the coast of France exhausted but happy. You sip some wine, nibble on a platter of fresh breads and cheeses and exotic fruits, and realize this is the life for you. You die happy.

So you see, whether you enter the Orange Rose contest or volunteer to judge it, you have a shot at fame, fortune, and a Ferrari. All you have to do is sign up before April 13 at http://www.occrwa.org/orangerosecontest/.

The voices in your head are telling you the time is now. Listen to them.

Fall Colors

If you like the way the foliage changes color in some areas of the world, you’ll love this video of New York City’s Central Park changing colors. It’s extraordinary!

I have lots of other interesting things to tell you, but I just started my annual writer’s retreat with Lauraine Snelling and Kathleen Damp Wright, so I need to see when I can make time to write to you as well! 🙂

Little Miss Lovesick Is In Print!

Finally!! LOL!!

I have been looking forward to this day for years! And now it’s arrived! You can buy a print copy of Little Miss Lovesick now by going to my CreateSpace store page on Amazon. It will take a few weeks for it to filter through to other web sites, but it’s available now in my store. Yay!!

Just for fun, I thought I’d share some silly trivia with you about the book. 🙂

  • I came up with the idea in 1998 when I was chatting with an editor from Tyndale House Publishers about some upcoming anthologies they were getting ready. I sent them the first few chapters, and they liked my writing but chose someone else’s story.
  • I tweaked the idea when I went to my first Romance Writers of America (RWA) regional conference in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1999 or 2000, and pitched it to an editor at Silhouette Books. By the time I had the proposal ready for her, she’d moved on to another publishing house.
  • I tried working on it again when I was at a writing retreat with my friends Lauraine Snelling and Kathleen Damp Wright. They responded neutrally, which was the kiss of “boring” to me. Then Lauraine asked me if I’d heard of “chick lit,” which was still rather new. We went out to a bookstore and I nearly screeched, “This is what I would write if they didn’t tell me to write ‘their’ way!” I was so excited! That was the beginning of me relaxing and writing the way I want to write. I think that was a turning point for both me and Kathleen. 🙂
  • On that same writing retreat, I rewrote the first chapter and read it to Lauraine and Kathleen again. This time they were cracking up. Score! Lauraine called her agent that day and asked her to read it. A few months later, I’d signed with her and felt like my career was finally getting some traction.
  • I took a research trip up to Ontario, Canada, where I planned to set much of the book. My mom came with me and we had a great time, saw so many interesting things. More than I could’ve ever put in one book. 😉 I’ll have to use some of that later. In fact, I had to move the heroine Sydney’s fly fishing vacation to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan instead of a few hours north in Canada. There were several “logic” issues that weren’t working for the story if Matt was in Ontario.
  • I wrote the rest of the book at night, on the weekends, and at lunch time in the NBC cafeteria in Burbank where I worked. I sent it to my agent in the summer of 2004, and she sent it to several editors at the big name publishing houses in New York. Best. Day. Ever.
  • But just as I was figuring out what my “voice” was, the publishing industry began to feel chick lit was on the way out and they didn’t want to buy any more. The same summer that it seemed everything was beginning for me, everything seemed to end.
  • The next few years I tried to figure out what to do with my newly discovered writing voice now that people were telling me that that style of writing was no longer popular. This was not a good time for me. I almost quit several times, and once I did quit. But within a few months, I couldn’t help myself, and I started writing again. 🙂
  • Then we moved to Sydney, Australia, for John to work on Happy Feet. I put this book on the shelf and wrote the first draft of Unexpected Superhero. (Look for it in 2013!) I loved it, but my agent didn’t think it fit in the current market.
  • We moved back to California. I started and stopped a couple different projects, but I couldn’t find something that interested me that also interested my agent. Eventually, we parted company as friends. I mentally wiped down all the white boards in my mind and started again with a blank slate. What was I going to write? And what would I do if no one wanted to read it?
  • We moved back to Sydney again for Happy Feet 2. (Note: a lot of moving and packing and waiting months for your things to arrive is not an easy way to have a home-based business.) I applied to graduate school and was accepted into the Master of Arts in Creative Writing program at University of Technology, Sydney. I was so excited because I’ve always wanted to go to grad school – since I was a freshman at University of Pennsylvania and met a grad student who worked with microwave technology. I know, weird. LOL!
  • I wanted to go to UTS over other writing graduate programs because it sounded very hands on, very creative, and the program seemed to be aimed at taking you to the next level in a writing career, not just studying Shakespeare. I was disappointed that on the one hand, it was just another academic program. We didn’t delve deeply into the nuances of writing that really make your work stand out from others. And it seemed that I knew more about how to get published in a global market than most people. (Thanks to the Romance Writers of America! They are all about teaching their members how to have a career in writing.) On the other hand, I’m still glad I went. I have a better credential now for teaching, which I love to do. 🙂
  • The morning after my last grad school class, I flew from Sydney to New York to attend the annual RWA conference. I told myself that if no one was interested in my romantic comedies, I was going back home to Sydney and publishing them myself. No one was interested. I went back home and published Little Miss Lovesick as an ebook! Yay!
  • Then we moved back to California. Then we moved again. Then my mom died. This has not been a good year for getting work done.
  • Finally – I don’t know what happened – everything in my world lined up so that I suddenly started getting a lot of work done! (Thank you, God!!) I finished Unexpected Superhero and sent it to Harper Voyager. I wrote a book proposal for a romantic suspense book. And John and I got to work on the time-consuming process of turning Lovesick into a print book.
  • John did the cover design, and created the template I used for the interior. He did a great job! I received the hard copy “proof” on Friday (I about exploded from excitement when I held my first book in my hands!) and went through it looking for errors. None! So I hit “approve” on the CreateSpace site and voila! A book was born!

There it is, the whole story. If you have any friends who like funny love stories, or friends who live in Michigan who would enjoy a book set in Traverse City, you might be able to check a few more people off your Christmas shopping list now. 🙂 Maybe you want a copy for yourself, too! I hope it makes you laugh. Then I’ll know I did a good job. 🙂

Thanks for sharing my adventure! More adventures ahead!

What Are Your Goals For the Rest of the Year?

I wrote what turned out to be a very long post over on Routines for Writers today on goal-setting. More specifically, it was about setting up a system for meeting your goals. I thought it might be useful to share it here, tweaked a bit so that it applies to almost any area of your life.

Routines

You already have some routines in your life – you eat, shower, brush your teeth, sleep several hours a night, and spend many hours each day similarly (work, taking care of kids, writing, etc.). If you have a personal goal – like, for me, running a half marathon in January – you have some routines that are helping you reach that goal.

These routines are good. They help wire your brain in such a way that the things you do become easier, and sometimes they don’t even require much thought. (Though I did nearly put face soap on my toothbrush because I was thinking so hard about something else!)

Your self-talk is also a routine. What are you saying to yourself? “I’ll never be able to do this”? Then you probably won’t succeed. “One step at a time”? There’s a good chance you’ll make it.

Think about the routines you have, and the routines you need to accomplish some of your goals, then write them down.

Periodic Reevaluations

Writing down your goals is an important step. Occasionally reading what you wrote down and checking to see how far you’ve come is another great step. Are you closer or further from your goal today? What can you do differently?

I decided that I wanted to lose 20 pounds before my next race in January. We don’t have a scale, so part of my routine is checking out the size of my belly every day and wondering/hoping. Another part is to step on a scale when I’m near one. One scale said I’d lost a pound; later a different scale said I’d gained four.

What I really need is to use the same scale at the same time of day with the same amount of clothes on. But I can tell you for sure that I’m not even close to the 20 pounds yet. That leads to the next point.

Willingness to Change

I wrote down that I wanted to lose 20 pounds, and I periodically checked to see how far I’ve gotten. I found that I needed to make some changes in order to make my goal. I know what some of the changes are because I’ve been successful in the past: eat smaller portions, eat less sugar, chew gum or drink water when I feel the need to stress eat, drink water when I feel like snacking for the sake of snacking.

But now I need to change. I need to not only be willing to do the above, I need to follow through and do it.

This may mean going back to Step 1, Routines, and making the changes there. I’ll make a routine out of what I eat for breakfast and lunch, then routinely ask myself if I’m actually hungry at dinner, and routinely cut my dinner in half and only eat the second half if I’m still genuinely hungry. I know this because I’ve done it before and it worked. I just have to be willing to do it again.

Decide Now to Keep Going Later

Sometimes the toughest thing to do is not quit. I felt that way about my writing when my mom was sick and then died. I wanted to keep up with my career even as I was feeling lost trying to find a new “normal” in life.

When it comes to weight loss, I have allowed too much self-talk to tell me I’m not going to succeed – even though that’s crap and a lie! I know I can lose weight because I’ve done it before. I know I can run a half marathon because I’ve done it before. So I have to decide in advance what I’m going to do when I feel like not running, or like eating ice cream.

If you have a plan, you will be less likely to be completely derailed. Since John and I began Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, we have found it much easier to stay on track with our budget and say no to non-budgeted items because we have a plan. Even if we take a step backwards in money management or running or weight loss, we know how to get back on track.

What goals did you want to accomplish by the end of this year? Try going through these steps to get on track and stay on track. Or for more detailed examples, check out my longer post on Routines for Writers. And good luck!

Beauty Makes the Heart Feel Rested

There’s something about being outside in woods and trees and mountains that makes me happy. Really happy for no additional reason. John and I had an opportunity to take a driving vacation to Utah for cheap so we went. I, for one, desperately needed a break from the last several months.

Here are some of the pictures I took on my iPhone. They don’t do the beauty of the area justice, but I hope you enjoy them. They’re only for the first half of the week because in the second half we spent all our time with our friends Kathleen and Fred and I didn’t want to stop having fun to upload the pictures here. 🙂

Our first view of Utah - wow!

John pretends to fall asleep driving

I couldn't believe how pretty the drive was

Park Silly Markets on Main Street last Sunday

John's happy because we found Centennial Park again - just not in Sydney

A few minutes later, we found The Centennial house for sale - Happy Kitty

So happy to be out walking in the forest, even if it's a maintenance road. Didn't mean to, but we ended up walking almost to the top of the mountain behind me.

Beautiful wildflower along the path - part of the reason I love to go hiking

Farther up the mountain, John still has plenty of energy. Deer Valley Resort in the background became our final destination, about 2 hours up and an hour and half back down to our hotel. Legs hurt for days! LOL!

Made it to the top without passing out or quitting - the view was totally worth it!

Park City, a former silver mining town - whatever this is, it says EXPLOSIVES above the door. Pretty cool looking.

John was so excited to find an original Banksy street art piece!

We really enjoyed visiting Park City. The two Banksy pieces that John found might be his favorite part of the visit. Walking around woods and forest was probably my favorite part. But a very close second to me was being able to see and hang out with my writer friend Kathleen. (Her new book The Great Cat Caper just came out!) I don’t know if we’ve ever just had fun together without being on a writing trip. That being said, we of course had to do a little writing and brainstorming together – for fun! LOL!

I Miss Erma and I’ll Miss Nora, Too

It’s been almost a month since Nora Ephron died, but I still think about her. I loved some of the movies she made – Sleepless in Seattle is arguably my all-time favorite movie – but I didn’t realize she was an essayist and humorist, too. I have to go find and read some more of her work.

Meryl Streep said of Nora that she always looked at situations and asked herself how she could make it more fun. I think that’s a wonderful way to write – and to live. That’s what I want to do with my stories.

When reading that article about Nora, I saw things that I want to emulate in my life, like writing about everyday things with humor. (How do you write about cabbage with humor, Nora? I’ll have to read that one.) I write stuff like that in everyday emails to my friends and in Facebook posts. I should really do more on-purpose humor writing to make people laugh or feel connected. It’s something I’ve always loved, thanks to Erma Bombeck. Erma is another writer whose words and wisdom have stayed with me ever since I read her as a kid. (I read her newspaper columns over my mom’s shoulder.)  Because of Erma, I burn up my pretty candles rather than letting them melt in the safety of the storage unit. 🙂

From http://www.stockfreeimages.com/

At the end of the article about Nora’s life and death, the writer says Nora concluded a collection of her writing, “I Remember Nothing,” with two lists – one of things she wouldn’t miss when she died, and one of things she would. I love that idea so much that I’m going to start those lists right now. I’ll post them over the next two days.

What about you? Have you made lists like this? I think it’s the sort of thing that helps you remember what’s important to you while you’re alive. It’s a way to get closer to living with no regrets. And that’s something that really appeals to me. 🙂

Write It Down

I just wrote my post for Routines for Writers and I want to share it here with you. You may or may not consider yourself a writer. Maybe you journal. Maybe you play around with words sometimes. Maybe you prefer to read what others have written.

Don’t let the fact that this post was originally directed at “writers” distract you. If you are going through something amazing or horrible or historic, find a place to write down what is happening, what you are feeling, what changes are taking place and how they affect you.  You can write in a journal or a notebook or in a file on your computer.

Here’s the post…

I’ve been sitting in front of my computer trying to figure out what to say to you. I have little in terms of writing advice except this: write it down. Don’t forget the things that are important. Write them down even if no one else ever reads your journal, even if you never read what you wrote ever again. Don’t forget. The advice I’ve been giving myself lately is – write even if it hurts.

I haven’t been taking the advice, but I think it’s sound. I don’t want to forget any of the time I spent with Mom in her last weeks. I don’t want to ever forget the one-on-one time we had when she told me how proud she was of me, how she knew I’d go far with my writing, how the best writers are older because they had to live their lives first in order to know what was important enough to say, to remember.

I don’t want to forget how we laughed so much while she was in dialysis for three hours that we had to wonder if that’s why her blood pressure cuff broke that day.

I want to remember how she made me laugh when she whispered in my ear on one of the bad days, “He watches me while I sleep.” I was sure I hadn’t heard her correctly, and she had such a hard time breathing that it was hard to understand her. I leaned my ear next to her mouth, and asked her what she said. “Your brother. He watches me while I sleep. It’s disconcerting.” I pulled back to look at her face and realized her wheezing was laughter. She was in the final week of her life, could barely breathe, and she was joking around about how my brother wouldn’t leave her side, even while she slept.

This is the stuff I want to write down in my journal so I’ll have it forever, but it makes me cry. (And it takes so much longer to write things out longhand.) I’m already tired of crying, tired of the mood swings. But from what everyone tells me, this is the beginning of a long road. Great.

Of all the reasons why I’m forcing myself to move forward, even a little bit at a time, with my writing and my writing business, it’s Mom’s last private words to me that push me to work. My mother believes that there is a future that includes people reading my work and laughing or crying or feeling better or having hope. She believes not just in my writing, but in my ability to make a life out of words. I don’t know how long she’s felt that way, but this month is the first time I really heard it.

So, as much as it hurt, and past my deadline this week, I wanted to write that part down for you. You need to believe that it’s important to write or you may let it slip away from you. If it does slip away and you don’t feel a void, that’s okay. Maybe writing was only for a season in your life and you are or will be ready to let it go, to let something better take its place. But for as long as you believe your words and thoughts and feelings are important, write them down.

 

Retreat to Move Forward

I had the best week!!! My friends Lauraine and Kathleen invited me to a writing retreat, just the three of us, and we had a great time!!

We brainstormed until our brains hurt. We helped Lauraine work through a new idea she came up with, adding some really cool twists to it. We helped them both finalize the storyline for the third book in The S.A.V.E. Squad series, and it’s gonna be fun! (Check out the web site! The first book, Dog Daze, came out March 1.)

We also went through my ideas for Love at the Fluff N Fold and made it into both a better book and a far better series than it had been. The series name is The Strays of Loon Lake. Every book will be a romantic comedy where a man and a dog both get rescued, and all the characters are connected. I can’t wait for the first book to come out!

When we were too tired to do any more brainstorming, we did a few fun things. Kathleen read aloud to us one night the first few chapters of Dog Daze. It’s great to hear a book read by the author with all her inflections!

Sometimes we went down to the Lazy River and walked or floated around and talked about whatever. But every time, we’d end up brainstorming again because of something that caught our attention. For instance, on our last poolside trip, we ran into two characters from The Strays of Loon Lake! 

Kathleen elbowed me and said, “Hey, isn’t that Danny standing there?” I looked over her shoulder and, sure enough, this guy was exactly Danny from Love at the Fluff N Fold!

Then as we were going around the Lazy River and waiting to get a second peek at him, we started talking to Tabitha, who will be in books 1 and 2, but will have her own story in book 3. The Tabitha in the pool is from Oregon and I’ve already forgotten her real name – because she’s Tabitha!

Another day we needed a brain break, so we went to Staples. Lauraine has this amazing notebook system from a company called arc. You can pull the pages out of one section and put them in the other section without having to unclasp any binder rings. Just pull up and push down. She loves it so much she offered to buy one for me and Kathleen, too. I LOVE IT!! I used it all week and my three books are totally organized instead of having stuff from all three books all jumbled up in one section. Here it is in a picture of my workspace at the dining room table.

We spent quite a bit of time writing in addition to brainstorming. Lauraine worked on A Place to Belong, book 3 in her Wild West Wind series. Book one of the series, Valley of Dreams, is already out. Kathleen finished the final edits on The Great Cat Caper, book 2 in The S.A.V.E. Squad series. It will be available in September. And I finished the edits on a short story called “Hero in Disguise” that’s set in my superhero world. It’ll be published in an anthology later this summer.

Brainstorming about marketing was more difficult. What works? What doesn’t? How can you tell? I know I have to do a lot more to help romantic comedy readers find Little Miss Lovesick. It’s not only hard to figure out what to do, but how to balance your time between marketing and writing. This week was a writing week, though, so I worked on the second draft of Love at the Fluff N Fold. As a writer, it feels good to write! 🙂

On the last day, we went out to The Cheesecake Factory for my birthday! It was so good. (It’s always good there!) But better than the chocolate and raspberry cheesecake, better than the complimentary hot fudge sundae with a candle and the waiters singing “Happy Birthday” for the whole restaurant to hear, the best part is hanging out with friends you love, who love you back. 🙂

It was an amazing week! God was so generous in every way, blessing us all with so much love and laughter and fun – and helping us get lots of work done!! (Thank you, God!!) I’ll let you all know when Love at the Fluff N Fold comes out. And if you’d like to read more of Lauraine’s and Kathleen’s books, you can go to Lauraine’s web site or The S.A.V.E. Squad web site where Kathleen hangs out, or follow Lauraine on Facebook or Kathleen on Facebook. You know you can click the button on the top right to follow me on Facebook. 😉

P.S. Guess what?! Lauraine’s book, Ruby, the first in her Dakotah Treasures series, is free on Kindle right now! I just downloaded it. Yay! If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download the Kindle app to your phone or tablet or computer. Enjoy!