Do You Want to Give Up? Don’t!!!

A friend of mine just hiked to Everest base camp. Pretty amazing! I’m sure I would have given up after the first day. Even on his days of acclimation, he had to hike. No rest for the weary. He posted his reflections on Facebook today and I think a lot of his reflections and philosophies outline the journey many writers are on.

1) Don’t give up your dreams or let them die from inactivity; pursue them until they become a reality.

This really happened to me. I wrote The Weaver back in 2008 and Ruby Slips and Poker Chips a year or so after that. There was one year when I didn’t have a full-time teaching job, so I only substituted. During this year I wrote like there was no tomorrow. It is a passion for me. And I worked hard to get an agent. I sent my query letters, chapters, and synopsis to agent after agent. I wanted to do the whole Stephen King nail on the wall thing, but stuck the rejection letters in a drawer instead. My dream seemed to slip through my fingers and it wasn’t until I saw my friend Dan Alatorre’s writing contest on Facebook last July that I started to have hope again (just a FYI, I didn’t know Dan before the writing contest – we’re friends now.) Winning that contest has me writing again. Have you stopped writing? What might give you hope again?

2) Set a goal; have a destination; make a plan.

We always have the best laid plans. I wanted to write during the summer, but there was a house to clean, or a vacation to go on, or time to spend with my children. You have to make writing a priority if it is a priority. We can waste our life away on meaningless stuff, or we can get intentional about what really matters. I know that I can easily get sucked into watching Netflix or checking Facebook.

I’ve started journaling. I’m not perfect at it, but I write down my goals. John Lee Dumas’s journal called the Freedom Journal can help you accomplish a specific goal in 100 days. Here’s a link: www.thefreedomjournal.com  

My goals might be overarching goals, or goals for that day, but I have them. Creating goals and thinking about the steps to get there is half the battle. After you do that, you have to execute. Back in 2015 I had the goal of losing 15 pounds. I weighed 152 pounds back then. I had to write down my anti-weight loss triggers. These were the things I had to avoid. These included ice cream, restaurants, the school lounge, absent-minded snacking, and cheese. Try writing down the anti-writing triggers for you. What keeps you from meeting your goals?

3) It’s important to have an experienced guide, someone who has taken the journey before and knows the way.

DON’T BE AN INTROVERT!!! Good advice from an introvert. I took the risk and reached out to Dan by entering his contest. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life (as far as my writing goes). But listen to what I just said . . . I reached out to him. He didn’t send me an email day after day reminding me to enter his contest. I had to do it. One of the things that kept me from self-publishing was I had no idea what to do. I kept telling myself that I was going to get together with my friend Allison who has had success, but as I said in #2, best laid plans.

Last week, I went to my first critique group. I read aloud a chapter from The Weaver and the friend I went with was amazed I could do that. Don’t let critique from an experienced guide bother you. They are helping! Because this group was mostly picture book and early reader authors, I hope to find a YA or novel critique group. Have you found someone to mentor you who has found success where you want to succeed?

Tomorrow I will give you my thoughts on my friend’s next three philosophies. Are you still pursing your dream? Do you set goals? Who helps you along the way? I’d love to hear your advice.

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Gifts Wrapped in Sandpaper

I was recently listening to Lisa Nichols and she talked about gifts she has had in her life that were wrapped in sandpaper. This is definitely something I’ve wrestled with in my life.

Winning a writing contest for my book Ruby Slips and Poker Chips was a gift wrapped in the most amazing, dazzling wrapping paper. It was covered with a gigantic bow. Kind of like those commercials that come out around Christmas where you receive a car parked in the driveway with the big, red bow. It was a blessing. It was an acknowledgment of the work I put into the story. It has been an amazing moment in my life.

But like Lisa, I have had gifts wrapped in sandpaper, but perhaps these are the greatest gifts of all. When you are going through a trial in your life it molds you into who you are to become. I’ve sent my writing to agents in the past and have received rejection letter after rejection letter. Sound familiar? I also had the gift of being able to send my entire manuscript of The Weaver to an agent in New York after she read my query and a chapter from the book. After waiting two months to get a response . . . I got one line back from her!! But I had faith in my writing and kept going.

Right now, my mom is a gift wrapped in sandpaper and I only recently discovered what the gift was that came with my mother’s dementia. For four years I’ve been yelled at, cussed at, told I was no longer her daughter, and had to go through the guilt of putting her in a nursing home a year ago. I’ve been living with that guilt all year. But recently I’ve discovered the gift of giving up control. I can’t make everybody happy. I can’t control my mom’s happiness because she wasn’t happy when she lived with us for three years. It’s the sad part of the disease.

I’ve learned through my gift wrapped in sandpaper that God is in control. If I’m meant to provide different care for my mom, He’ll provide the way.

What have you learned through your gifts wrapped in sandpaper?

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Ruby Slips and Poker Chips Blurb Release

Here is a preview of the blurb for the soon to be released Ruby Slips and Poker Chips.Thanks to my friends for the input that helped me revise it.

Second-grade teacher Dottie Gale lives in the tiny town of Quandary, Kansas, which is pretty much smack dab in the middle of nowhere. No mountains. No ocean. No life. Her ex-boyfriend and current school board member, Corbin Lane, cheated on her, making school functions more than a little awkward. But worst of all, a tornado named Maxine Westward rips through Dottie’s school as the new principal and has made her life at work a living hell.

When Dottie is chosen to go to a teacher’s conference in Las Vegas, she knows her life is going to change. Driving from Quandary to Vegas, three strangers enter her life. Through a string of situations involving poppies, flying monkeys, and a life-size sculpture of an iconic rock star the four soon become inseparable. So, when Westward arrives on her broom in Vegas, Dottie is ready for battle. Her boss black mails her with stories of incarceration, thievery, and a steamy relationship with her travel companion, but Dottie knows that those who hurl insults shouldn’t hold secrets of their own.

 

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Discipline – Do You Have It?

An instructor I had for The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People had each letter of the word DISCIPLINE tattooed on the inside of each of his fingers. I had to count the letters to make sure there were ten. His morning routine consisted of journaling, reading, and weight training. On the mornings when his alarm went off in the other room (so he had to get up to turn it off), but then he wanted to lie back down, he would hold up his hands in front of him. DISCIPLINE. He knew that he was able to get things done because of the discipline he had in his life.

I am trying to implement discipline in different areas of my life because otherwise I will just crawl back into bed and watch reality TV.

Health:

Today I drank 5 shakes as part of a detox that my doctor prescribed. The only other thing I’m allowed to eat is vegetables. So, right now I’m eating a nice plate of radishes and cauliflower. Jealous, right? I’m on day 10 of the 30 day detox and so far I have stuck with it because my doctor says I need to repair my leaky gut. My husband and I have been going on nightly walks after dinner and even attempted a bike ride for my daughter. Yes, I’m rolling my eyes.

Money:

A few years back, my husband and I went through Financial Peace University with Dave Ramsey. The course really motivated us to pay off our debt and start to save for major life events like emergencies, college, and retirement. We’ve paid off our cars, our credit cards, and are using a cash envelope to keep track of what we are spending.We’re doing ok with this, but not perfect like my detox so far.

Career:

I think the area of my life that has the most discipline is my teaching career. Working as a teacher for 21 years has provided me with the structure I need to work toward my goals. Right now, I’m trying to publish my book Ruby Slips and Poker Chips. This is not always and easy thing when I’m working full time. By establishing a structure to my evening: dinner, clean-up, walk, and then work in my office, I’ve been able to continue on the road to my goal of being published.

Spiritual:

We are community group leaders on Wednesday nights. One thing I have struggled with is time in my own personal study of the Bible. I found a podcast called The Daily Audio Bible where the Bible is read to me everyday in my car. I love this! It starts my day off the right way and I’m making huge connections in my life that weren’t there before I was in the Word every day.

A friend of mine quit smoking when she went through Financial Peach University. The reason? The same structure applies. She took what she learned from the class and applied it to her health.Don’t be discouraged. I’m not perfect. None of us are. Start with one area of your life where you can implement discipline. It will set you on the road to your goals.

Please comment below about an area in your life where you are creating discipline.

 

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Ruby Slips and Poker Chips Chapter 1

Ruby Slips and Poker Chips is coming out later in November if all goes well. Here’s the first chapter to give you a small preview. I hope you enjoy!

Chapter 1

A tornado blew through the small town of Quandary the night before Westward arrived. The slim, rope-like twister was a two on the Fujita scale, but the damage it caused seemed more like a five. I wondered later if the storm came to drop her off before moving further east. The very next day, the school board voted and named Maxine Westward the new principal of Quandary Elementary. That day changed my life.

Now you may be wondering what I have against a woman who gives her life to shaping young minds. It just so happens that I was born with a sixth sense called woman’s intuition. When Maxine first walked into the school for her interview with her briefcase and painted-on smile, it was easy to size her up.

As I raced around the corner to copy my students’ homework in the last minute of music class, Maxine and I nearly had a head-on collision. She wore a navy blue power suit, six-inch heels, and her hair short and red. I wondered if the state sent her to inspect the school’s records again. The Kansas Department of Education has a nasty habit of sending their cronies in at the most inconvenient times.

I held up a homework sheet and extended my free hand. “I’m sorry, trying to get this done before I have to pick up the kiddos. I’m Dottie Gale.”

The phony looked me up and down, frowned, and brushed past me into the office. Glancing down, I searched for the coffee stain on my satin shirt. She painted her smile on again for Miggy Samuels, the school secretary, while I made my way to the printer. Before I even knew why she was there, my intuition kicked in, telling me she was no good for my school.

“I’m here for an appointment,” she said, looking around the office like she was too important to set foot in it. I wanted to tell her to take her heels, and get back to where she came from, but instead, I bit my lip and continued my copying. I kept my ears tuned in, pretending to mind my own business. I wondered why the school board was all there, getting the royal breakfast treatment from Wanda Jo in the lunchroom. A day of interviews to find the new principal would have to start with bacon and a short stack.

*****

After school, I carried my stepladder out to the hallway to hang up my end of the school year bulletin board. The large, yellow butcher paper curled around me as I struggled to staple the first corner. One of the magazines my Uncle Embry subscribed to ran an article last year about the ten most hazardous jobs. I wanted to call the editor and give him a piece of my mind, because coal miners and structural construction workers have nothing on teachers. I could fall backwards and break my neck on the linoleum while hanging this stupid paper, not to mention the number of germs that attacked my body from the petri dishes on feet called second graders. Just as I ruined my fifth staple, I felt a hand lift the paper. Corbin Lane stretched it across the board, holding while I attached the students’ papers.

“So did you hire the witch?” I watched him out of the corner of my eye. Corbin was the youngest member of the school board, as well as my ex-boyfriend. His black hair hung adorably in his eyes in a wistful fashion that reminded me of one of the characters in a comic book.

“And which one would that be, dear?” I hated when he called me that. I slammed another staple into the wall, intent on taking my aggressions out on the bulletin board instead of Corbin.

“Which one? The red head, of course! She marches in here with her superior attitude and expects we can’t see through it.” I hopped down from the ladder, moving it to the center of the board. Climbing back up, I pounded my fist into the stapler, again concealing my emotions in a way that I’m sure the stapler didn’t appreciate.

“We haven’t made a decision, yet.” He smirked. “But I guess I know where you stand.” Corbin moved the ladder this time and applied the next staple.

I froze realizing my mistake. Ever since he cheated on me in high school, he was constantly trying to please me – to the point of being highly annoying.

I snatched the stapler from Corbin’s hand, but found it empty. “Damn stapler.”

“Here, let me take it.” He took my abused weapon and went to my desk to rummage for more ammo while I thought about how I’d now become the sixth person on the interview committee. I knew my comments would definitely influence Corbin’s decision. Looking back, I wished I had the sexual prowess to influence the other three men on the board. I guess I need a little more Ginger and a little less Mary Anne.

The summer came and went and I almost forgot about the impending disaster ready to take down Quandary Elementary. During the teacher workdays before school started, Westward went out of her way to impress the staff by buying doughnuts for the break room, taking us out to lunch, and sharing childhood photographs. By the end of teacher training, I was looking forward to the first day of school and the excitement of the children seeing their friends, everyone looking their best, and a chance for all of us to start over. Looking over my class, I knew I was ready to take on a the school year despite the she-devil in the principal’s office.

“Good morning, boys and girls. I’m Miss Gale. Please put your school supplies in your desk while I take attendance.” My students worked on their desks and I collected lunch money. Ms. Westward walked in, taking the time to frown in my direction before heading to the front of the class.

“Children, I’m the new principal, Ms. Westward. I moved here from Colorado last spring. I expect that as long as I don’t find you in my office, we will have a good relationship.” She glanced around the classroom, her lips set in a firm line. One of the boys, knee deep in school supplies, raised his hand.

“Yes, young man?” Westward sighed smoothed out her suit, ready to move her heels to another classroom.

“I’m Tommy.” The boy wiped his nose on his sleeve. A shiny line of snot still ran across his right cheek. Westward raised an eyebrow.

“Yes, Tommy.” Her face was frozen into a forced smile, only interrupted by a twitch that developed in her left eye. The degrading tone made me squirm, even though it would roll off the back of a seven-year-old.

“Mr. Rollins used to play soccer at recess. Are you going to play with us?”

A slight giggle escaped my lips, and the principal’s eyes looked directly at mine, shooting daggers. It was the first time that I noticed she wore contacts. Lilac? Possibly she had been a victim of a nuclear accident.

Maxine let out a long breath. “No, Tommy. Ms. Westward needs to dress in nice clothes for work, and I’m getting a little old for soccer. Maybe Miss Gale will play with you.” A smile crossed her lips that told me the game was on.

“How old are you? You look like you’re a hundred. That’s probably why you can’t play soccer.”

The students erupted into laughter, while Maxine quickly left the room. I pushed my lips together to suppress a giggle of my own, but knew I had won this battle, and I would win the war with the students on my side.

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Publishing a Book

I am in the process of publishing a book and it’s a bit messy, but exciting! I recently won the Dan Alatorre’s Word Weaver Writing Contest. There is a link to my winning piece in the previous post. Dan has been a huge help and very encouraging in the process.

Currently, my book is going through a critique before it is sent to beta readers. After that, the book will be cleaned up, put in the proper format, and given a shiny new cover. But the whole process started seven years ago with an idea.

When I get an idea for my writing, I go into it head first. With Ruby Slips, two different universes collided to take form into a finished work. The first was reality. I’m not going to deny that some of my ideas came from my life and what I was going through in my career as a teacher. The second was fantasy. I love The Wizard of Oz and the theme fit in perfectly into what I was trying to convey and added the humor and over-the-top characters I needed.

I have to admit, other than our careers, I am very different from Dottie Gale.

 

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Motivation

Seven years ago I read Stephen King’s book On Writing. One of the many things that stuck out in my mind from that book was the rejection he went through before he finally had someone say “yes”. He had a nail in the wall where he hung rejection letter after rejection letter.

It is like that for many of us as writers. Your masterpiece has to grab an unbiased agent or publisher who reads through hundreds of other masterpieces. Seven years ago I had an agent in New York ask for the manuscript of my book The Weaver after reading my query and a chapter from the book. I thought I had hit the lottery.

It wasn’t meant to be. She didn’t accept my book. This was hard on me. With life going on: children, a full time teaching job, a mother with dementia, and the many other things that life throws at you, I gave up on my dream. Everything else got in the way of writing, even though writing made me feel alive.

But throughout this time, my books, The Weaver, The Watcher, and Ruby Slips and Poker Chips sat on my computer. I’d play around with them once in awhile, but never really tried again.

A friend of mine that I worked with ended up self-publishing one of her books. I watched her go through the process and asked her a lot of questions, but still questioned whether it was something I could do. But I also knew that I wanted to share my characters with the world.

In July, I noticed a writing contest on Facebook called Dan Alatorre’s Word Weaver Contest. I was leaving in a few days for vacation with my family, but decided to take the leap and enter Ruby Slips and Poker Chips into the contest. While I was in Ireland, I found out I was a finalist in the contest. For the first time, I was given constructive feedback on my writing, but also high praise. A week later, I found out that I won the contest and will more than likely publish my book.

So, if you are in the throes, don’t give up. Don’t waste seven years like I did. Take the leap and find what motivates you to keep writing. For me, it is my characters and the worlds I’ve created for them.

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