Guess what time it is??

“I went to my son’s graduation this weekend, and I heard a great quote I’ve never heard before from Albert Einstein. It was that the greatest danger to the world is not the bad people but it’s the good people who don’t speak out.”  -Hamilton Jordan

It’s commencement speech time, that’s what. My son is graduating next week, the son who I gave birth to at fourteen, and so it’s a tad bit emotional around here, these days. If you know me (and even if not I’ve blogged about them a ton) then you know I have a very deep affinity for commencement speeches. Partly because I’m a lover of words and partly because I didn’t graduate from higher education (which makes me appreciate them all the more) but also because it’s typically a certain type of person who gives them, and I swear I could watch for hours upon end.

Most times the only thing that has gotten me through the “struggle”and over the hump (that’s what growth is, right?) has been learning from others who’ve survived struggles of their own. And, really, who hasn’t? Whenever I’m having a particularly tough time and it feels as though I’ll never “get where I’m going” I hit up Youtube and watch commencement speeches, because not only do I know that will they lift me up, but there’s a lot wisdom to be garnered within them. Below are two of my favorites this year. I love what William McCraven, U.S Navy admiral, says here on the top 10 lessons he learned from basic seal training–from making your bed– to standing your ground with sharks. I also loved what Sandra Bullock says about dance parties– dancing before you leave the house, that it changes how you walk out in the world. All true stuff, and it’s good to be reminded of all that we’re capable of, from time to time. It’s easy to forget that we have power, and to take that power back–to remind ourselves that the choice is ours, to choose how we react in any given situation. Oftentimes, it feels better (and safer) to play victim. I’ve certainly been guilty of it, but let’s not do that, ok.  :)

Lastly, a few weeks ago I blogged about a story I told  my husband about  how making your bed leads to overall greater happiness, and while at the time I said it (though I understood it to be true) I was mostly joking. Later that day he asked me if I noticed that he’d made the bed. He said he’d considered that I was right about people who make their beds being more successful. Funny, I had actually used the word “happier” but he’d heard successful. Anyhow, he told me he wanted to put my theory to test (he’s the last one out of bed, to be fair) and let’s just say ever since that things have been even happier than they were before. ;) That said, when this commencement speech crossed my desk, it made me smile. I always say: thoughts are things–and what we put out, shows up in return. And just like is said below, about changing the world, perhaps I won’t get around to that (today)—but maybe, just maybe, someone out there needs to hear this as much as I did. And who knows? Maybe watching it will change their day. If I know anything, I know that by changing one persons day, you create a ripple effect, which has the power to effect a lot of people’s day. And hey, you gotta start somewhere, right? As it turns out, making the bed, just so happens to be not a bad place to do it. :)

 

 

The Creative Process.

“A story is not like a road to follow … it’s more like a house. You go inside and stay there for a while, wandering back and forth and settling where you like and discovering how the room and corridors relate to each other, how the world outside is altered by being viewed from these windows. And you, the visitor, the reader, are altered as well by being in this enclosed space, whether it is ample and easy or full of crooked turns, or sparsely or opulently furnished. You can go back again and again, and the house, the story, always contains more than you saw the last time. It also has a sturdy sense of itself of being built out of its own necessity, not just to shelter or beguile you.” ― Alice MunroSelected Stories, 1968-1994

The creative process has always been something that amazes me. It’s just so interesting how something comes from “nothing.” I want take it apart and dissect it, understand the who, why, what , where and when of it, as is my nature, but the truth is that one really can’t. The interesting thing I find, also, is that in most of my “negative” book reviews the issue the person has is over a decision a character did or didn’t make. At first I took personally as until one really “understands” the writing process it’s difficult to explain that the things the characters might’ve done (or might not have) is not a reflection of myself. Part of what is fascinating and albeit at times extremely maddening about the process, is that the characters have a life and a voice of their own. I relate it to parenting a bit, because like children, characters may be “of you” but they are not you, so to speak. They come with a mind, and habits, and a voice–all their own. And just like in parenting as writer I think the real trouble comes when one isn’t able to make that distinction. Some say being a writer is like having multiple personality disorder but (most of the time) I don’t see it that way. I think it’s more like seeing life in 3D verses two dimensional. In Technicolor versus black and white. It’s like the way the Buddhists describe enlightenment in many ways.

Starting/writing a new book for me is always a thrilling and yet terrifying time which I akin to dating someone new. Or falling in love. It’s terrifying to think that you’re starting over, from scratch. And thrilling for that very reason, all the same. You’re getting to know your characters in a very raw, real, and interesting way, but first you have to sift through “all the stuff.” It’s like a Tootsie Pop, I guess. It takes a while to get there…but the good stuff is underneath.  :) I think the key is enjoying the entire process, the getting there, and recognizing it for what it is.

Right now, I’m exploring a new protagonist and sifting through my own “stuff” in order to find her voice. At first, it typically starts as a little whisper, something that makes you go “hmmm” and then as the process continues it grows louder and louder, until you can’t ignore it, where it’s almost a part of you–and yet it isn’t. This morning I watched my half-sleeping husband laying in our bed the I turned and called over my shoulder : “Hey when you get up, make the bed. I read somewhere that people who make their beds are 62% happier, than those that don’t.” I said it in an extremely annoyed and “over it” tone, which surprisingly couldn’t have been any more different from what I was actually feeling in the moment.  I then left the house to deposit my multitude of children at their various schools and as I was driving I wondered just when and how I became a person dreadful enough to make that kind of statement, specifically in the kind of tone I used–and then I realized that it wasn’t me at all. I was partly living someone else’s world, where she thinks and speaks in that way. When I arrived back home, my thoughts now on other things, I walked into my bedroom and noticed the bed was made. I paused and thought to myself: so this is what it’s like to be her. Then I smiled because I realized I am at that point in the process where I know it’s working. It’s just starting to take shape from “nothing” into something a little more recognizable. And it’s a damn good feeling, I must say. After all, as the saying goes: “variety is the spice of life.” Truth is, it certainly doesn’t hurt ones marriage either. ;)

P.S. This is what I’m running and writing to this week: http://youtu.be/sE5WscjdNZs
 

 

 

They All Said No. And It’s Personal.

“Today if you come up against rejection, remember: This does not mean “no.” It just means “not this way.”

Last Friday, this was a part of what I shared at the BookPeople signing and I wanted to share the story here as well:

I’ve always been an avid reader and for at least the last decade or so every time I’ve read a great book or maybe one not so great I’d make the comment that I was going to write a book of my own someday. After one of these comments my husband looked at me and said  “So why don’t you do it, already?” or something to that effect. I remember deadpanning, stopping whatever I was doing at the time and staring at him, strongly considering slapping him. I mean, couldn’t he see all of these kids running around everywhere? Where was the time? Couldn’t he see how hard I was working at work? But after the initial sting of what I perceived to be his abruptness wore off I realized I knew in my heart that he was right. A few short weeks later, I lost my only sibling, my brother who was sixteen months younger than I am, very unexpectedly. So unexpectedly, that I clearly remember sitting in his dinning room staring at his half-eaten dinner as the coroner photographed his body. Perhaps it was the (literal) shock–but I all I could think about in moment as I sat there was how it could possibly be that one minute you’re here, eating and conversing, and the next you’re just…well, gone. His death really made me evaluate my life, all of the things I was focusing my attention on and where and how I was spending my time. Things and places, it turned out, that would not get me what I ultimately knew I wanted.

Then, five months later, I found myself in a hospital with my Grandmother whom had raised us (so for all intents and purposes she was like my mom) and I had to make the decision to take her off of life support after what we thought would be an in and out hospital stay. Her death and the aftermath only further made me contemplate what we’re here for and what we leave behind. In fact, although I didn’t know it at the time, my last conversation with her was about me publishing my first book. She said she was proud. One thing I know, for sure, is that I will be forever grateful that we had that conversation and that she knew that I was going for what I wanted.

As of May 2nd, it will be a year since I decided to independently publish. Since that time I’ve published three novels and the latest, Somewhere With You, is probably the most personal. In it, both characters lose their parents very young. Amelie, loses her father very unexpectedly in a car accident while Jack loses his mother after she succumbs to a battle with cancer. In the story we see how these losses and the circumstances surrounding them shape the characters. Jack’s mother has the foresight to know that she isn’t going to make it. So, she makes the decision to write letters to her son to be opened at key points in his development. As a mother, this has always been my greatest fear, to die before my children are grown. And so I’ve always had the idea to write them letters in case that were to occur which is where the idea came from for Jack’s mother to write him. At the signing last week, one of those letters (an excerpt from the book) was part of my reading and I’ll share it below.

That said, I’m not writing this to say “woe is me.” Because it’s not. I am actually happier than I’ve ever been and I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished within the past (almost) year, even if I’m not where I want to be, yet. Yesterday, I had the pleasure of seeing my books on a Barnes and Noble bookshelf, which is no small feat for an indie author. I hope that changes but either way, it was a dream come true. Also, I am told that Somewhere With You will be featured next week on BookPeople’s Best Seller Shelf in their store.

But my actual point here is that going for what you want, for what you know you’re meant to do, is NOT easy. Every single agent I submitted to told me no. To be fair, my book was already published, so yes, this fact probably played into that. Still, two marketing firms that work with indie authors both turned me down saying that I wasn’t what they are looking for. And…I uh… would’ve been paying them, so that’s kind of really bad, the suckiest of all sucky things. :) Of course, there have also been the bad (and the just plain mean) reviews, in addition to the uphill battle to try and get my work out there in the world. But none of this has stopped me from keeping on, keeping on. Sure, just two days ago I wrote author friend of mine and told her I wanted cry, scream, and punch something. Simultaneously. But that is part of it. I was almost at my wits end when yesterday, a pretty significant opportunity came about, I saw my books on the B&N shelf, and scheduled a conversation to speak with a publicist who is interested in taking me on as a client. So…I write this to share my experience but also in hopes that if you have something you’re going for that you’ll push through. Because sometimes it is the only thing you can do. Sure, from afar it may appear that others have it easier than you do, but that’s only because you don’t know their story. Anything worth having takes work. Rejection and heartache and all the rest just come with it. Keep going. It’s probably worth it. ;)

And the excerpt from Somewhere With You:

My Dearest Jack,

If you’re reading this, then you’ve probably just had your heartbroken for the first time. Or at least it feels that way, anyway. But I want you to remember, son, that this isn’t the first time (nor will it likely be the last) that you’ve felt this way. You’ve been through so much already, and if you’re reading my letter, then obviously, you’ve survived thus far. And while it may not feel like it just now, you’ll survive this, too.

There are so many things I want to tell you about love, Jack. Oh, how I wish I were there to tell you this in person, to hug you, and hold your hand. Though,I’m guessing at this age, you might not like hand holding so much anymore. I try to picture you, what you look like now, where you are as you’re reading this, and it brings me so much joy to think of you all grown up. I looked in on you tonight as I’ve done every night since the day you were born, and as I watched you sleep, I pictured the man you’ll become. It’s hard not to feel a little bit bitter knowing I won’t be there to see it all. Oddly enough, though, it is with that sentiment that I want to tell you about love. If you are reading this and your heart is broken, you are lucky, Jack. I want you to pause a moment and let that really sink in. You are so damned lucky. Feeling this way, it means that you are living and more importantly—that you are loving. You cannot know how lucky you are to love until you’ve felt the immense pain of having to let that love go. It is a part of life. And as I am learning, it is also a part of death. Do not waste it. Do not play small. Lick your wounds, but then get back out there. Love harder next time. Most people don’t do that, you see. They get hurt once, and they hide behind it. They use it to excuse themselves into living guarded lives, never quite feeling the passion, the love that they are capable of. But not you, son. Don’t make that mistake. And I hope that if you consider taking that route, you’ll think of me and you’ll feel my love and know that even though I may have lost my battle, that I didn’t go down without a fight.

Neither will you, my love.

Neither will you.

I love you always,

Mom

P.S. Tips for healing a broken heart: time, above all else (don’t worry, you won’t feel this way forever), ice cream, and meaningful work. Now is the time to start a new project, Jack. Try something new, throw yourself into it, and let yourself get lost in it. You’ll come out all right in the end. You always have.

On Editing…books, but more importantly, life.

“Mistakes are, after all, the foundations of truth, and if a man does not know what a thing is, it is at least an increase in knowledge if he knows what it is not. ” ― C.G. Jung

This week I’m working on edits the editor sent back for Somewhere With You. There’s something both freeing and frightening about seeing your work all covered in red and the realization that on page 144 that you’re still making the same damned mistakes you made on page 14. And then on page 145 you SWEAR to yourself you’ll never make that mistake again, because damn it you’ve just spent two days (or two weeks, or two months) of your life rectifying something so ridiculous.

But here’s the thing, or the lesson for me anyway: we make mistakes and hopefully we learn from them– but that doesn’t mean they all of a sudden stop showing up. Oftentimes, they do so over and over, and for what?  Just to make sure we really got it, this time? :) Your guess is as good as mine. It’s a funny thing, life’s way of testing us.

And while this may sound negative, it’s really not. I figure, if we aren’t messing up, we aren’t trying anything new, and if we aren’t trying anything new, we aren’t learning, and if we aren’t learning…well, in my opinion, we aren’t really living.

Speaking of that, recently, I did a little “spring cleaning.” I wiped my calendar (mostly) clean, removed several things that no longer felt right, in order to make room for those that are a little less “certain.” One of these things happened to be joining an indoor soccer league– which as it turns out, is, um, no joke. The last time I played soccer was 20 years ago and I clearly remember leaving the team due to my inability to take organized sports seriously. It seems not a lot has changed. :) It also turns out there’s a difference between having a competitive nature and a serious one. For me, the two do not appear to be mutually exclusive, :) Always a fun lesson to learn, for sure. So yeah, fail forward, I say. It’s pretty fun, pretty freeing, and pretty fucking scary. But scary trumps boring any day of the week.

“In life, there are no mistakes, only lessons.” ― Vic Johnson

Thoughts In A Coffee Shop.

“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” ― Dr. Seuss

It’s Friday evening and I’m sitting in Starbucks–well into the final chapter of my upcoming novel. From here a final proofread and final edits on my part and then it’s off to the editor so she can work her magic. Victory is so close– I can almost taste it.

I’d like to mention that despite what the cover might suggest (with all its warmth and beauty) that Somewhere With You is not exactly a light and fluffy, feel-good read. It’s fun and charming in places, yes, but that’s not the whole of it. I’m just not sure I’ve mastered the art of light and fluffy–yet.  :)

In the meantime…below, is a little insight into the way a writers my mind works. It’s probably proof that it can be a scary and yet a thrilling place–always down the rabbit hole, so to speak. :)

As I sit here pondering my characters and the issues they face and how to wrap it up and tie it all together a van from an adult rehabilitation hospital pulls up and ten or so patients and their caretakers file out. I observe from a distance as they enter the coffee shop, place their orders; and suddenly I’m struck by the beauty of this life and all we take for granted. I’m struck by how self-centered we can be as human race, how we complain about anything and everything, not stopping often enough to be thankful for all that’s worth being thankful for. I type a sentence about this very thing and look up as one of the patient’s stops in front of me. He asks me what I’m working on, about the specifications of my computer, and we spend a few minutes chatting. He wishes me a good night and I think about chance conversations and how much they add to our lives. I think about the man who is walking away and all of the adversity he must have faced in his life–yet here he is finding pleasure in such small things, coffee and a conversation with a stranger. And I hope the conversation brightened his day as much as it did mine. I think about the aunt who helped raise me (she had muscular dystrophy) and how much her adversity has shaped my life. I recall the time she picked me up from kindergarten and fell as we were walking back to my house. I think about what it felt like to watch someone struggle to do something I considered so basic and yet feel so helpless, unable to do anything about it. I think about how she managed to get back up and how she still kept showing up day after day. Then, I consider my lack of tolerance for people who make excuses about why they “can’t” or “haven’t” and consider for the first time in a long time that maybe it’s ok to feel that way.

I watch the barista, how patient and kind she is and how she knows the patrons orders by heart and I’m suddenly a mess thinking about all the good there is to seen in this world—if only one looks for it.  I think about how sometimes we focus so much on the big things that we loose sight of the joy that can be found the seemingly insignificant.

I put my head down and go back to work. Three hundred or so words later I glance up and see a man coming up the street walking past the coffee shop towards the strip center. I realize then that this man is my father. And I wonder how it could be possible that the person responsible for putting me on this earth could be so close–and yet so far away. I do not leave the coffee shop to speak to him. I simply observe and get back to it. I type this and I contemplate the confluence of joy and pain. The paradox of beauty and heartache. I think about how it can be that a stranger can suddenly not be (a stranger) and one that shouldn’t be is…

Time Marches On.

Today marks one year since my Grandma died and quite frankly I just want to say that anyone who says it gets any easier is lying. It doesn’t get easier, not at all. Just different. For the past 365 days there hasn’t been one of them that I haven’t wished I could pick up the phone and call her or drive to her house and soak up all the advice I hadn’t asked for. Not one. My five year old daughter dreamt of her a month or so ago and I swear that the dream was so like my grandma, the things she would’ve said and things she would’ve done that it admittedly made even me go hmmm.

Anyway, I had intended to write something “eloquent” to mark the occasion (<–that’s my best shot at sarcasm) I really don’t have anything eloquent to say on the matter. That and I’m so close to deadline on my third novel that even if I did, there isn’t time. Which is probably a blessing, really. Any (eloquent?) thoughts I have on how bad it sucks to miss someone can be found in the book. ;) Speaking of time, I don’t know what it is about me…I give myself three to six months to write a book and then try to crank it out in three weeks. It’s almost as though I need the pressure. I try really hard not to beat myself up about this um…”process” I’ve created but…in the end I know myself and I’ve decided that maybe this just is my creative process. For me, I always find the story is in the story. It reveals itself when it reveals itself. It can’t be forced. It just is, if
that makes any sense.

To be honest, there has been so much fear around this book– although I’m not sure why. Since its inception I’ve so doubted my ability to pull it off. And I know, if I understand anything at all about marketing that I probably should not be telling you guys this. ;) But, I also know that fear and pressure push me. Tell me I can’t do something and…I’ll work ten times harder to do it. I’ll always be my toughest critic, anyway. The betas are loving it, so there’s that.

Lastly, there’s a PR book/cover reveal scheduled for sometime in March. Since you’re all so great I’ll announce it here first– sooner rather than later. In the meantime, I’m hiding out. Writing, writing, writing. And panicking. I’d forgotten how much I love this space. So, SO very much pressure. It’s fun, irrational, served up with a side of moody. And it seriously gives the term “March Madness” a whole new meaning. ;)

“I’ll Take Creativity for $200 please, Alex.”

“I never made one of my discoveries through the process of rational thinking” ― Albert Einstein

First off, in book related news be sure to check out this week’s giveaway.

Speaking of creativity, perhaps the most creative endeavor I’ve ever undertaken has been parenting. Trying to raise creative and innovative human beings. In my house my kids aren’t allowed to say they’re bored. They’re encouraged to write and draw and read and tinker and to question why things are the way they are. But complaining you are bored is not allowed. It’s always been important to me to teach my children to come up with solutions to problems creatively and independently. So I’m really careful not to “over parent.” My philosophy has been that if you build trust with your kids by being open and honest with them while instilling a sense responsibility– that you’re pretty much golden. :) This may sound simple and it is and it isn’t. There’s a fine balance of knowing when to step in and when not to.

That said, there isn’t a topic or question around here that’s off-limits. I bring up the “uncomfortable” stuff (to the extreme, my kids would probably say) so that it doesn’t stay uncomfortable.  I want them question things and feel comfortable in doing so. I don’t nag them about homework or projects or taking care of their business because I’m ok with them “failing.” How else are they supposed to understand the repercussions of doing so AND develop an inner drive to succeed? It’s been my experience that when you give kids the space to question the way things are done and why, make decisions for themselves, and then question those decisions (together the younger they are and then on a  need be basis as they grow older) that they’ll usually surprise you with their intelligence. This also allows builds confidence by forcing them to trust themselves and their own intuition about things.

That said, my children know I have high expectations of them and that the freedoms (privileges) they have do not come without a price. I trust that they’ll come to me when they mess up and/or need advice and they do. In turn, they  not only hold themselves to a high standard but each other and those around them. It’s hard to explain but I’ve always found that people will generally rise up to meet the standards you expect of them.

Still, I’m pretty sure that there are probably about twenty percent of things involved with this whole parenting gig that I’m doing wrong… but every once and a while something pops up and shows me that I’m doing at least a few of things right. The letter below was one of those things. :)

It’s from one of my kids to the other after he was called out for not making the best decision and in turn lost some of his hard-earned freedom. It’s creative, I’ll give him that. :) But if you read between the lines a little (and use your imagination a lot) you’ll also see that it’s a very brotherly way of taking responsibility and admitting that you were wrong. Important life skills, I tell ya. :)

For those of you a little more on the “rational thinking” side of things the letter is meant to be a joke not taken literally. 

photo-1

Speaking of creativity, I found this video on the neuroscience and process behind it fascinating and well done.

In case you’ve forgotten, busy is a four letter word.

One of the common themes I heard last week during the women’s network event I hosted was that there are a lot folks are struggling with being overwhelmed because life has become “so busy.” I get asked often how I “do it all” and I always laugh because…uh, I don’t. If I had a nickel for every time someone said “I don’t know how you do it with five kids, I can barely manage with two” I could retire, yesterday. While, I’m more work-in-progress than expert on any of this, it seems to come up often so I thought I’d share what has worked for me. I’m not suggesting that my way will work for you. But I’m also not exaggerating, not even a little, when I say it changed my life.

I, for one, am really over the whole “busy” thing and have been for a while. Grief has been an excellent teacher in that regard. Maybe you get this a little more so when you lose people you love and have to process that death is not a destination. It’s not somewhere, down the road, waiting for you to get there. It’s coming for us all. So, yeah, it’s cliché to say but… life is short. And I found myself in a place where I had to ask what was most important that I got out of it. The result has been (dare I say it) that I’m immeasurably happier now. I spend time doing more of what matters: I read more, I play more, I laugh more. And I love more. The best part of it all is that I also do “nothing” more.

Unfortunately, it’s popular in our culture and even celebrated to be “busy.” You know how it goes, ask someone how they’re doing and they’ll usually respond by telling you how busy they are. And while I have nothing against hard work, I believe busy is possibly the worst four letter word there is. “Busy” gives us an excuse to say someday to the things we really want. We’re too busy now, so we say next time, later on. Busy becomes an excuse for not doing what we know we should be doing.

The lie we tell ourselves is that we’re busy now so we can “have it all” later. When the truth is, it’s impossible to do it all and do it all well. If you aren’t enjoying the journey, my guess is you’re sure as hell not going to enjoy the destination. When I realized this, which like most lessons was learned the hard way, I realized that it was imperative to determine what my priorities were, say no to the rest, which meant letting go, and trust that I was doing the right thing. At first, it felt really strange. I even wrote about it this time last year. 

If you want to get around the bullshit, cut through the red-tape and really get to know someone, try this, it blows minds. The next time you’re in a conversation ask the person you’re speaking with what they really want out of life. BUT only if you really care. And I do mean really care. First, this person will look at you like you’re crazy, then after you assure them that, yes, they heard you right and yes, you’re serious, they’ll usually offer up something arbitrary. But if you don’t let them off the hook, they’ll usually end by saying, well… in a perfect world_____. But since we’re most likely not ever going to live in a perfect world and because you’re going to need an answer when they turn the question back around on you (and they will) you’ll want to first ask yourself what it is you really want. And then begin each day by honestly answering whether or not what you’re spending you’re time doing is getting you there. It’s not easy. Being brutally honest, is scary. But so worth it, I think. For me, doing a few things really well feels a whole lot better than struggling to do many “just good enough.”

One of the greatest lessons I’ve ever learned was that if you take on more (and more and more) no one is going to stop you. They will let you do it. Have at it, they’ll say. This goes for bosses, spouses, children, and so on. The majority of people are not going to say “No! Wait! You know what…you have too much on your plate as it is. Let me handle that.” They’re just not. It’s up to us to set those boundaries. And it’s very hard to set them if you don’t know what your priorities are, if you don’t know what it is you want, what you’re working towards.

For example, this is how I determine what gets done on a daily/weekly/yearly basis. Every decision I make is made with my top three priorities in mind. Obviously, your priorities will likely be very different than mine– but I want to give you an idea nonetheless of how I broke it down to figure out what made most sense in my life. My top three are: my health, my family, and writing books. In that order. Health comes first because obviously if I’m not taking care of myself…I can’t very well take care of anyone else. For starters, exercise is very important to me. Not because I really like it but because I know that if I want to feel well (mentally and physically) and have the energy level I need to accomplish what it is I want to accomplish, I have to workout. I surround myself with people who are better, faster, stronger than myself (it’s motivating) and I schedule workouts like an appointment, an hour each day, at the same time, first thing in the morning. This way nothing else has the chance to interfere. Because if I let it, and I will, then it will. :) But this hour is my time and I’d be really annoyed with myself (and honestly everyone around me) if I couldn’t even take an hour for myself.

My family is my second most important priority, for me this means being there to pick up my children from school each day, spending the afternoon, evening, and weekends. This time is spoken for and comes before anything else I put on my calendar. Clearly, this may simply sound like motherhood in general–but what I’m trying to get across is that I (typically) don’t schedule work after 2:30 (at least not until they’re asleep) or on weekends. This way I don’t feel guilty over competing priorities. Work stays firmly in the work category. It also means that I have to be fairly smart about and extremely protective of the time that they’re in school.

Lastly, are my writing goals and running AWN. As far as writing goes, I have an idea of how much time it takes me to finish a book and I schedule writing time daily. Nothing else happens during this time, but writing. Unless it’s of greater importance–meaning it’s one of my first two priories. What works best for me is setting a daily word count goal by reverse engineering the number of words I need until completion and not letting myself quit until I’m there. Because there’s marketing and all the rest that goes along with writing–it’s too easy to do something else that is oftentimes less painful.

In terms of AWN and networking in general, unfortunately there’s a lot I have to say no to these days. It’s not fun– but I simply can’t have coffee with or accept every lunch invitation that comes my way, as much as I’d like to. The solution has been opening up a few time slots each month for this (typically before an event) and by attending at least one other large-scale event and inviting others to come along. It’s more fun that way. :)

The other thing I want to suggest, if you’re like me, and have found that you don’t have enough time for the number of people who want to meet with you and “pick your brain” then you may need to find a more effective way to meet their needs. Don’t be afraid to make it work for you, too. If you know me, then you know that I’m all for helping people. That is after all, why I believe that AWN has been as successful as it has. But again, this is where boundaries come in. You have to know where to draw the line, so to speak. If you find that you’re coming up against the same issue, the same questions, then it might be worth asking yourself if there’s a need (a market) for what you’re offering. Don’t be afraid to charge for your time. This could mean charging a consulting fee, it may mean setting up a seminar, or writing a book.

Long story short, it becomes a whole lot easier not to fall into the “busy” trap when you establish what is a priority and are ruthless in making sure what you’re doing is in line with that. It’s easy to say no if you understand that when you say yes, you’re often essentially letting something else go. And sometimes, there’s a higher price to pay than you realize…

P.S. In writing related news, I get asked a lot what is happening on the agent/publisher front (which probably deserves a whole blog post in itself) but for now I’ll just say that after really evaluating my options, my current and future goals, and then weighing all of that with the amount of freedom/flexibility I want to have, I decided to forgo the agent/publisher route and stick with what I’ve got going. :) In addition, the publishing landscape is changing so rapidly right now. But I won’t go in to all of that here. If you’re interested there’s a plethora of mostly decent information you can find on the interwebs starting here.

On The Importance of Truth-Tellers and Booking It.

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.”
― Rumi

Excuses. I can make them with the best of ‘em. Being a writer–and by that I mean using my imagination on a daily basis to make stuff up, seeing things as I want them to be, well, I’ve always been pretty good at believing the stories I tell. Even the stuff I know doesn’t serve me well. I am the queen of buying my own bullshit.

Thankfully, I’ve gotten really good at surrounding myself with people who are willing to tell me the truth. Especially, when they know (and I know) it needs to be heard. Case in point: “Change isn’t supposed to be easy, Britney,” he tells me. “If it were easy, if accomplishing this came easily– don’t you think everyone else be doing it? Don’t you think you would’ve succeeded already? You want what you want. So, quit making excuses about it. You know what it is you need to do…do it. Start by putting the energy you’re expending now…whining to me to better use by just getting to it. YOU have to believe you can do it. Not me. Not anyone else. You’re right that it takes seeing what isn’t there. But you know how to do that.”

Hmmm. Hard to argue with that. ;)

It would’ve been pretty easy to call up someone who I knew would let me play small. Someone who would pacify me, tell me that it’s all right, that there’s always next time, next year…sometime in the future. But these days, I know better. And that has been the greatest gift. My hope is that you also have truth-tellers in your life. It’s liberating, that’s for sure.

Now, on to book news… I’m really pleased with how things are going since the release of Breaking Bedrock last month. It was a little nerve-wracking to write a sequel, seeing that many sequels aren’t received well. It was also different knowing that there was an expectation, something I had to live up to. But thus far, both books are selling well and the reviews have been favorable. Thank you all for making it what it is.

Next week the blog tour kicks off. I’m excited to see what folks have to say as many of the bloggers are reading Bedrock for the first time. Also, I’m told there will be giveaways. Keep an eye out for those via FB and Twitter.

Speaking of giveaways…I’m starting a new “Friday thing” called BGIF (Be Glad It’s Friday or Britney’s Glad It’s Friday, whatever ;) where I’m giving away my books as well as spreading the love by giving away books I’ve read and enjoyed. The first one is Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. I think this book may be one of my all-time favorites. I read it in a day and it caused a (book) hangover for weeks. I still think about it. More on that, here.

As for what I’m working on now, a third novel, (perhaps a series, I’m still deciding) well…I’m not going give too much away just yet…but the photographer and cover designer have been booked…so, more details soon.

Seek and Ye Shall Find…

“It is my belief that love is mostly about showing up. It’s about showing up in the good times. And especially in the bad. It’s about being there, showing up, and continuing to show up. If you can do these things day in and day out, no matter what life brings you, you’ll find that love is there for the taking. In time you might come to find that while it’s not in the form you may have imagined—or necessarily the way that you thought it would be—it’s there nonetheless.”– Britney King, Breaking Bedrock 

First of all, I finding quoting myself quite odd, it’s the first time I’ve ever done it… and I’ll probably never do it again. :) Still, I couldn’t really think of a better quote for what I wanted to write about today. After my last post, having received so many thoughtful, kind responses I’ve struggled a little with the words; how to say that yes, loss sucks. And yes, there are sad days. But…at the same time there’s still so much joy. In fact, I’m not really sure if it’s possible to know such extreme joy and as much love– without having known loss.

Obviously, we all want to suffer as little as possible in this lifetime so I guess what I’m struggling with is how to say that there’s beauty, joy, and love even in the most devastating of times. That’s it’s not all black and white. And not only that, but the joy, and the love is magnified that much more when you’ve dabbled in the opposite.

Which is why I think it’s important to save up for those times when the pain outweighs the joy. It’s why I believe investing in people, places, hobbies…all the “things”, whatever and whomever bring you joy is so important. I think in our day-to-day lives it can become too easy to focus on “surviving”, on getting ahead, keeping our head above water, that we overlook the people and the “things” which bring us true happiness. We take these things for granted and we become pretty good at saying “someday.” Someday I’ll get to that. Someday, maybe tomorrow, I’ll make that call. Someday… I’ll get around to taking that art class or making that trip. The problem with this, I have found, is that someday, though hopefully not soon, you may need to spend that currency which you’ve put off saving up. It’s unfortunate, but I know a lot of people tend to think of currency solely in terms of money. I’d like to counterpoint that currency is a lot things: energy, love, joy… and not that I know personally;) but I’m guessing that all the money in the world will not buy you what it is you’ll need when you’re at your worst.

Anyway, with the holiday’s approaching, I really wanted to give thanks. I consider myself one of the luckiest girls in the world to be surrounded by so many wonderful people, doing that which brings me joy everyday. So…while, yes, this has been a difficult year in terms of grief, it’s also been one of the best years of my life. I’ve lost a lot. But I’ve gained a lot, too.

P.S. This short (15 minute) film perfectly encapsulates everything (and more) I’m trying to say here. Not only is it incredibly moving but it’s further proof, that if you just look hard enough, amidst the pain, the chaos, and the mess there is beauty. And so much love. You should watch it. Really, you should. Today…not someday. ;) xx