Another Year In The Bag

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I have completed another revolution around the sun. And while I am fighting a head cold, I’m pretty happy.

Birthdays are a time of reflection, I’ve come to find out. Sometimes it’s New Year’s, but birthdays are more personal and conducive to looking behind to see where I am now. To see and appreciate the journey so far. Because life is all about the journey, not necessarily the destination. So far, it’s been a wild ride, and I don’t see that changing.

I never really had any idea of where my life would go. To be honest, the majority of it I’ve spent in survival mode, and it was all I could do to keep my head above water and just…well, survive. These days I’m looking to thrive. There’s a big difference, and thriving takes just as much effort, but with better returns. It can be difficult to change that mind-set, but I can tell you it’s worth it.

I was never able to imagine my life at this point, but now that I’m here, I can’t imagine it any other way.

This year, I turn eighteen with forty years experience. I still have a lot to learn, but this is what I’ve learned so far:

1. Listen to your head, but follow your heart. And when your gut speaks, it trumps all. LISTEN TO YOUR GUT.

2. Erase the word “can’t” from your vocabulary. If you want it bad enough, you can make anything happen. Even magic. ESPECIALLY magic.

3. “Failure” is not a dirty word. A mistake is not a failure. You will learn more from your failures and mistakes than you will from your successes. Embrace them for the valuable lessons and then move on.

4. If you think it sounds mean in your head, it will sound meaner if you say it out loud. Think long and hard, then err on the side of kindness. Kindness doesn’t cost a thing but meanness will extract an expensive toll. By the same token, if someone is mean to you, that’s their problem, not yours. Don’t take it personally. It says a lot more about their struggle and character than it does yours.

5. Self-care is not selfish. It is necessary. When you love yourself, it’s much easier to love other people, with all their faults and magnificent humanness. Still, don’t be afraid to walk away from toxic relationships. Yes, it includes family. Sometimes the only way to treat an infection is to cut and cauterize. This is part of self-care.

6. Depression lies. Fear lies. THEY ARE DIRTY LYING LIARS. Do not buy what they are selling. They are straw soldiers and you are a warrior.

7. Create, create, create! It is the heart of life, no matter what form it takes. It could be writing, painting, sculpting, coloring…it could be cooking, keeping house, anything.

8. If it doesn’t work out, your life wasn’t meant to go that way. Instead of focusing on what you haven’t achieved, train that focus on the opportunities ahead.

9. Don’t worry about what other people say or what other people think. It is none of your business, and you have better things to do. Do them.

10. Pay it forward, in any way you can. Even small deeds can make a big difference.

I’m ready for another year. In fact, I’m really looking forward to it.

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Writing and Wrangling

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Words, words, and more words. Life is good!

The second edition of Not Nice and Other Understatements is on track to release October 15th. Wheeeee! She’s all polished up, and I’m beyond happy about this. People who purchased the Kindle edition in the past will receive the update at no charge, with a new print edition available for those who are interested. I’m hoping to offer signed copies through this website. She’s so PURTY now!

Hopefully Still Not Nice, or The Strange Planet Inside My Head will be close behind.

It’s a juggling act, between editing and writing. I have a lot of balls in the air.

Sometimes it's more like juggling FIRE. No lie.
Sometimes it’s more like juggling FIRE. No lie.

Flash Fiction Challenge

A couple of months back, a Very Good Friend pushed encouraged me to enter the Flash Fiction Challenge 2014. At first I was like, nah, I’m so out of practice and where am I going to find the time? But hey, it’s flash, my first love, and what would I have to lose? It’ll be fun.

Basically, there’s a field of over a thousand writers, broken up into 25 groups. Each group is assigned a genre, a location, and an object. The goal is to write a 1,000 word story to incorporate those three things in 48 hours. In the first two rounds, a score is given to the top fifteen stories in blind judging, meaning the name of the author does not appear anywhere on the work. After two rounds, the top five in each of the twenty-five groups moves on to the third round, which narrows the field to 125 writers.

The groups are then reassigned, given new genres etc., and the top five in each group moves to the fourth round where a winner is chosen.

I completed the first round and won my group with fifteen points. The genre was ghost story, the location was a museum, and the object was tracing paper. The story, Mosaic, came out creepier than hell and I scared myself. Heh.

And now the pressure is on.

The weekend of October 3rd, my group was assigned crime caper, a hunting lodge, and a notebook. After much angst and hair-pulling, it was Sally Mae Riddley and Becky Jo McFee to the rescue in The Antler Caper-A Sally Mae Riddley Adventure. It was so much fun hooking up with the girls again–they crack me up.

Results for that round will be given November 5th. I’ll find out then if I get to move on to the third round.

I’m just trying to have fun with it and I will tell you I have missed writing flash fiction something fierce. I still maintain it is the BEST training ground for writers. You have strict parameters, but the universe is at your fingertips. You have to chose each and every word carefully; you have to know your story structure inside and out. There is just no wriggle room at all. Beginning, middle, end. Problem, climax, resolution. There’s a cadence, a flow. In my opinion, it is the most challenging form of fiction you can write.

Whether I move on or not, I have two stories of which I’m very proud and a reminder of how much I love flash.

I’ll keep you updated how things work out. Wish me luck!

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Independence

Until then, I'll keep on my dancing shoes.

Please note: the website is currently under renovations. Don’t mind the dust. Work progresses as time allows. There’s missing studs and holes in the walls, but we’re getting there. Thanks for your patience!

 

I have been an indie from the get-go, since I was a tiny person. It’s in my nature and I can’t help it. I’ve always cavorted to a tune it seems no one else could hear; independent to a fault, some might say. It has its ups and downs, pros and cons, highs and lows. During my lifetime, I have been both rewarded and punished for it. I was raised to be independent, and my life’s journey has trained me to be independent.

And while you might be able to teach an old dog new tricks, it’s much more difficult to change an intrinsic part of your personality.

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I’m always ready to learn something new. But it better be good.

When I started my writing career, it was a no-brainer for me to go independent. I might be a bit of a control freak, and when it comes to my fiction, I want to be the one in charge. After all, fiction has been and always will be a gigantic part of my life. It means so much to me I can hardly bear the idea of handing off something into which I’ve poured my life’s blood and soul to someone else.

But in the changing tides of today’s publishing, it makes good business sense to keep your options open.

I have come to realize everyone’s circumstances are different. What works for one writer may not work for another. I’m not built to follow the road most traveled, anyway, and most of my close personal friends would scream, “HALLELUJAH” to that statement. I have to make the best decisions for myself without looking to see what other people are doing. I’ve lived most of my life that way, and it hasn’t turned out too badly, despite some spectacular failures. Hey, go big or stay home.

I have also discovered if something scares me witless, it’s probably the thing I need to do the most. I live with a lot of fear—but I never let it stop me. I was scared to go freelance when writing non-fiction. BOOYAH. I was scared to dive into fiction. Double BOOYAH. I was terrified to venture into editing. HAH.

So when I contemplated my next business move, I considered sending a novel to a traditional publisher. I almost talked myself out of it. Was I scared of rejection? Nope. Been rejected on several levels, many times. What I am scared of is success.

Which told me I needed to do it.

So I sat my happy ass down and took a few hours to do something for ME. I wrote a synopsis, put together the first three chapters, and wrote a cover letter. As we speak, my little package is winging its way to a traditional publishing house to see what we can see. I’m not even worried if they don’t like it. I’m worried that they WILL.

Then what?

Well then, we’ll just go from there, won’t we?

Until then, I'll keep on my dancing shoes.
Until then, I’ll keep on my dancing shoes.

 

Photos courtesy of morguefile.com. 

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Organizing the Freelance Way

Andy Containment Facility
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One of the biggest challenges of a freelancing career is organization, at least in my experience. There’s a fine line between being organized yet flexible; after all, flexibility is one of the best perks of being self-employed. However, if you don’t stay focused on some level, all kinds of things can fall through the cracks and become lost and wandering. This, friends and neighbors, can cost you money and inspire a level of frustration in which you invent scathing swear words not fit for human ears.

There are some things to keep in mind when you’re embarking on a freelance career. It’s not as simple as just reaching for a pen, keyboard or crayon and scribbling away. You have to think about an online presence; marketing; pricing; accounting; prospecting, and at long last, writing. (And you thought you were just going to be writing, didn’t you? Hah. A freelancer must wear many hats.)

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Tuesday Round-Up of Worthy Links

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Sub-title: Traveling Around the Blogosphere

I run across so many great sites, I thought I’d list the best of the best here every Tuesday. Some of them are helpful, some of them are inspiring, some are just quirky. They might be writing-related, and they might not. A good freelancer and flasher is a well-rounded person, and you can learn a lot by wasting time visiting other sites.

A combination of the useful and the quirky, I highly recommend Mercenary Writer’s Press. “All the writing without the pretention” is their mantra — their Kung Fu is strong, even though their preferred torture device is plural gerunds. You might need to invest in Depends Undergarments, but it’s worth it.

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Wearing the Many Hats of a Freelancer

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As a freelancer and budding entrepreneur, it’s a fact that you have to multi-task and wear a lot of different hats. The tasks you have to accomplish in one day resembles a juggling act of Olympic proportions. The flexibility required is enormous, and if you can’t adapt, you’re likely to pull great swatches of greying hair from your head. As you become more successful, you can outsource some of these necessary evils, but in the meantime, you’re the one in charge. Scary, isn’t it?

These are just some of the duties you’ll be undertaking in the Wild World of Freelancing:

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The Best Laid Plans

The writer, the written and the writing tool
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Like I was saying, making a list (no! please dont’ sing it again!) is a great way to maintain your motivation, work flow and inspiration. However, life can really knock one out of the park when it wants to. Thus, the deviation from my semi-regular blog posting. I have recovered from 48 hours in a coma to drag myself to the keyboard to post, in case you thought I fell into a black hole.

Because I have been keeping a list, I’m only a wee bit behind, and hopefully will be able to catch up and maybe even get ahead. Hey, a girl can dream.

The moral of this little story? Make plans, and the Universe laughs. Still, make them anyway. Amusing the Universe can’t hurt, right?

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My Ruminations of the Week (discuss amongst yourselves):

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The Naked Writer

Night Call, Collect*
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To be a freelance writer, you have to possess the skills of a juggler, the flexibility of a contortionist, and have the thick skin of a rhinoceros. Oh, it’s a circus, make no mistake.

The definition of a writer, according to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary:

Writer: (noun) One that writes.

That’s it. That’s all it says. It doesn’t mention the hours of work, the gallons of blood, the oceans of tears and sweat. One that writes. It doesn’t mention the fact you have to market yourself, that you have to have a working knowledge of the internet, how to run a blog, how to drive traffic or how to optimize your presence on the web. These all important skills we need as writers in order to be successful writers. (By “successful” I mean making a living. Even Stephen King has had to do book signings and promotional work.)

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Filling Your Basket

Blood Roses
Image by Pablo Moran Jr. via Flickr

Today’s economy sucks, and we all know it. The daily news is rife with information about how difficult it is to work in ANY profession, and freelance writing is just one of them. Freelancing as a writer is difficult under the best of circumstances. Situations change on a daily, almost hourly, basis. What can you do to ride the waves?

Two words – flexibility and persistence, my friends. If flexible and persistent aren’t part of the vocabulary, it might be time to think of another profession. Work opportunities will come and go as fast as blinking your eyes. What might be a great paying gig today could be gone tomorrow. The competition is fierce, reliable job opportunities scarce, and staying motivated and focused can seem impossible.

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Essential Tools For A Writer

NGK spark plug (type BP6ES).
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Just like you wouldn’t open the hood of a car with a vegetable peeler in your hand and expect to change the spark plugs, there are certain tools that are essential to your writing career. Sure, you might be able to get the spark plugs out and changed, but it would take a lot longer and you won’t do a good job. Here are some must-haves for embarking on a writing career:

1. Computer , website and internet access. Although this may seem like a no-brainer, the truth is the writing profession has undergone many changes as technology has erupted. It’s much easier to send articles and manuscripts via email; many places offer online submission; some won’t take them any other way. Often, employers will want samples of your work, and the easiest way to showcase these are on your very own personal website.

Investing in a state-of-the-art computer is a must. Get as much as you can afford — this is an investment that will pay off big-time. To start with, the only software you need is a good word processing package. Websites, or blogs, are easy to set up and can be done at low or NO cost. You’ll need a reliable internet service provider with an email address you can access several times a day.

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