Tag Archives: encouragement.

Happy Holidays!

I want to wish all of my loyal fans and occasional readers a very happy holiday! May the new year bring you closer to your heart’s desire.



If you’re looking for books to load onto your new tablet or ereader, LIGHTBRINGER: A Celestial Affairs Novel  is on sale for the next two days at only $.99. It makes a great gift, too. 😉

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Thinking like an Italian Race Car Driver

raul juliaMany years ago my husband introduced me to the movie “The Gumball Rally” (1976) about an amateur coast-to-coast road race. In it, the Italian driver, Franco, (Raul Julia) says what for me was a memorable line as he ripped off the rear view mirror and tossed it away. “The first rule of Italian driving: what is behind me is not important.”

Ah, if only it were that easy. When I haven’t produced enough new words I’m very adept at looking behind and torturing myself with what I haven’t accomplished, even if I’ve been doing other kinds of productive work like editing and marketing. I found Rachel Aaron’s book 2000 to 10,000 (which she recently updated) both helpful and daunting. I’m still working on regularly producing the 2000 words a day, let alone 10,000. That’s why I found Rachel’s post “Don’t Stomp on My Cake” from 8/22/13 so reassuring. (Thanks to Caroline Mickelson for telling me about it.)

Even someone like Rachel, who is very organized and is productive has days, or weeks, or even months, when other things get in the way of creating. Sometimes those things can be avoided or ignored, but some of them you just have to endure, or in some cases, enjoy.

In The Gumball Rally, Franco is very clear on his priorities. Have fun. Win the race. In that order. He was frequently distracted by beautiful women along the way, but he still came in second and he got the girl. Several girls, actually. Lamenting time lost while making love to a lovely woman wasn’t even on his list. Obviously, a certain amount of reflection is necessary to learn from the past so we don’t repeat the same mistakes over and over, but what constitutes a mistake is not always so obvious. Not every side trip is a mistake. Not everything that takes us away from writing is to be lamented.

Lamenting the past steals energy from the present. Don’t give it that power. Relax. Take a  a deep breath. Are those flowers you smell?

Now that you’re re-energized, get back to work. 🙂

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One Step

This is a great message. I’ve implemented it many times, but I seem to need to hear it on a regular basis.

One Step. It’s all it takes to begin to change your life. You have to follow it with another step, and then another, but it’s a law of physics: Bodies in motion tend to remain in motion. Once you take the first step–at anything–taking the next one is easier.

A little less than a year ago I took the first step of contacting a cover artist and an editor. Now I’m preparing my third manuscript for publication and having a blast.

A saying has been running through my head a lot lately:  “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll only get what you’ve already got.” Otherwise stated: “The definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

Take a step. Do something different. Enjoy.



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Pareto’s Law: The 80/20 Rule

Vilfredo Pareto was an Italian economist who observed in 1906 that 80% of the land was owned by 20% of the people.  He furthered his observation in his garden by noting that 80% of the peas came from 20% of the pea pods.

Why the heck am I writing about an Italian economist who liked to garden a century ago?

It has since become a rule of thumb in business that 80% of sales will come from 20% of the clients. Are you getting the idea now?

As self-publishers have to do it all:  writing, production, marketing. Our time is limited so we have to use it wisely. If we accept that 80% of the results will come from 20% of the effort, we have to determine which 20% of the effort is bearing fruit. Or peas, as the case may be.

I’ve written about spending money instead of my time for a cover. I spent a small amount of time finding an artist: evaluating the portfolios of several artists, choosing one, contacting her, then evaluating the three iterations of the cover she produced, requesting revisions. All of that took far less time than learning to do it myself and produced a cover that was better than anything I could have come up with in far less time.  Twenty percent effort=80% result.

Likewise, there’s the question of how much time to spend on self-promotion. Social media is free and there are many, many venues to use to get your brand out to the public. But it can be a HUGE time-suck.  Many authors make the mistake of suspending writing in favor of spending their time promoting. This is a mistake, in my opinion. There are multiple surveys that show that the two most effective ways to influence people to buy your books is

  1. Have a good reputation for writing good stories, and
  2. Have people recommend your book to their friends. How do you make that happen? See number one.

It follows that the best use of your time is to

  1. Write good stories, (80% of your time) and
  2. Let people in your niche know about them in a friendly, not spammy, way (20% of your time).

If this sounds so simplistic as to be insulting, please forgive me. It’s something I have to keep reminding myself of.  And in fact, I still haven’t quite gotten the hang of it yet.

Okay, so what about writing that good story? I’m a believer in the idea that my self-published books should be as good as I can make them, right now. I owe that to myself and I owe that to my readers. I owe us both a nice cover, clean formatting, clean prose, and most importantly, a good story.

I don’t owe anyone perfection.

The question is, how do you know when the story is ready?  When do you stop revising and editing and say it’s good enough?  Can you say, “It’s good enough”?  I think the words “good enough” raise the hackles of many a writer. “Good enough” implies to them that there’s still room for improvement, and if you stop short, before a story is as good as it can possibly be, you’re a slacker, a hack, a lesser being undeserving of sales.

Arithmetically, it’s not possible to achieve 100% perfection. Two iterations of the 80/20 rule will get you 96% of the way to perfection. Three will get you 99.2% of the way, etc.

Of course, we’re not talking about arithmetic, we’re talking about writing, and writing doesn’t add up in neat little sums the way numbers do.  I can’t tell you when your story is good enough. I can tell you that it’s possible to revise your first chapter over and over and never finish the book. It’s possible to finish your book and revise the spark of life right out of it. It’s also possible to put a book away for a year, come back to it and make it stronger. There is no right answer that works in all cases.

The point of this rambling is: Use your time effectively. Where you’ll be tomorrow is the result of what you choose to do today. I know from experience that it’s incredibly easy to scatter one’s efforts and achieve very little. Spend less time on FaceBook and Twitter and reading blogs, (except this one, of course :-)). Instead, write, revise, then send it out the door.  Tell a few friends about it, then write another story.


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My Decision to Self-Publish — The Emotional Component

I had half a post written and then scrapped it. It’s hard to write about being nervous. We do it to our characters all the time, but we don’t want to admit to it personally, except mabe to our closest friends. I think occasionally we ought to, just so others know they’re not alone.  Most of the blogs and books I’ve read about self-publishing focus on the changing face of tradpub and why that makes going indie a good choice for many. It worked for me.  I finally took in enough positive information that it outweighed the fear.

What fear?  The fear that I’d do it wrong, whatever that is. The fear that even with a professionally covered, edited, and formatted book, I’ll still only sell twenty copies to my friends and family. What if, despite the postitive feedback I’ve gotten from multiply published authors and professional editors, the readers don’t like it? What if, despite all evidence to the contrary, my stuff stinks on ice?  If I self-publish, everyone will know that I can’t really write. 

Irrational? Yes. Fear often is.

I don’t fear that anymore. It could still happen, but I don’t fear it.  But it took me a while to get there.  What helped?  Reading lots. Talking with people who’d already done it, and hadn’t died. Doing it simultaneously with a friend. A supportive and encouraging spouse. Recognizing that I was happy and excited about self-publishing. (Physiologically, anxiety and excitement are pretty much identical — it’s all in how you interpret events.)

What else held me back? Inertia. It’s hard to change trajectory even when the old path isn’t getting you where you want to go. Is it crazy to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results?  The funny thing is, sometimes the results are different. After collecting my share of rejections, I sold one of my novels, Veiled Mirror,  to a small press. Getting that external validation gave me that extra bit of confidence to go out on my own.

I know that every self-publishing effort isn’t a success story. My sales may be far less than I hope.  But not to try is to surely fail.

The funny thing is, now that I’m moving forward, I wish I’d started a year ago.


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Taking Risks and Telling Stories

I have a recurring conversation with a friend of mine about risk tolerance.  In most obvious ways, hers is higher than mine.  She’s been self-employed, flying without a net, for most of her adult life and she’s comfortable with that.  Her experience gives her confidence. I, on the other hand, was raised by depression era parents (I came along late in their lives) and the lessons they learned about security and preparing for the worst were taught to me in the cradle.

But risk tolerance is a relative thing, and I’ve been told by another friend that I’m the brave one. Boy, did that make me take a second look at myself!  Me?  The brave one?  No way! Until she reminded me of several things I’ve done over the years, risks I’ve taken, to get something I wanted.

I’d been telling myself the wrong story.

In a long conversation with J.A. Konrath, Barry Eisler (the author who turned down a two-book, half-a-mil deal to self-publish his next books) said that it’s very important for an author to have a good bio.  I’ve heard this before. Think how much it helped J.K. Rowling that her fans knew she’d been on the dole before selling the first Harry Potter book. We don’t begrudge her success because we know she earned it.  Likewise, Stephen King fans all know that Carrie was rescued from the waste can by King’s wife.  These are great stories.  They capture the reader’s imagination.

Similarly, the stories we tell ourselves are important.  We program ourselves for success or failure through messages we give ourselves.  Most people who ultimately succeed have moments of doubt, but they don’t stay in that dark place.  They remember that like the heroes and heroines of our books, they will eventually overcome their obstacles and will conquer their opposition.  That’s the story we have to keep telling ourselves:  I can do this.

The publishing industry is facing interesting times, in that old Chinese curse sort of way, and authors are feeling it.  I know writers who have had their publisher go belly up, or who haven’t been offered another contract because their last book didn’t sell as well as expected, or who haven’t been offered a contract at all because their book didn’t fit in a neat marketing box.  But all of them are still writing.  They didn’t stop taking the risk of putting their work out there.  They’re still telling themselves the story of their success, and working to make it reality.

What’s your story?


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Hyacinths for the Soul

Many years ago, when I was in the hospital I read a copy of Guideposts magazine.  Bored out of my mind (this was when they used to keep you in the hospital until you were nearly well) I was willing to read anything.  I came upon a short poem that really struck me, and so I memorized it.

If of thy worldly goods thou art bereft . . .
and to thee alone two loaves are left,
sell one, and with the dole,
buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.


This little poem has served to remind me over the years to keep things in balance.  The poet doesn’t suggest we preserve security by keeping both loaves.  Nor does he counsel us to throw all resources into pleasure.  But even when times are difficult, beauty is important.  Feeding the soul is important.

Yesterday I fed my soul by visiting a friend who has a litter of puppies.  It is simply not physically possible to frown when surrounded by six bouncing puppies.  You cannot be anything but happy when snuggling a soft, sleepy, warm little body in your lap.

What do you do to feed your soul?

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Staying Productive During the Holidays

A writer friend just asked me how I was going to stay productive and sane during the holidays.  After I finished laughing, I realized it was a good question, and gave it some thought.

As we’re all too aware, normal life doesn’t take a holiday during The Season.  There are still meals to be fixed, laundry to be done, and snowdrifts of dust to be blown off the furniture.  On top of that, there are (for some) excited children to be distracted, trips to visit family, holiday meals to be prepared, annual letters to be drafted, parties to be given and attended, decorations to  festoon, and gifts to be bought and wrapped.  For introverts like me, it’s both a wonderful and draining time of year.

So, how to stay sane and productive during all of this?

For me, the sanity and productivity are tied together.  Being even a little bit productive with my writing goes a long way toward keeping me sane when a million things are vying for my attention.  I have to be focused when I’m writing, and the noisy world falls away for a short time.  One way I get the writing done is by keeping my expectations realistic.  I’m not going to get twenty pages a week done.  There’s too much going on.  I’m aiming for one page a day, five days a week.  Just one page. I don’t care if it’s crap.  Crap can be revised.  I just want to write something.

I’ve done this before.  Often, I wind up writing more than one page, and that’s nice, but it’s not required and it’s not my goal.  It’s easier to sit down for half an hour, knowing that when I get my one page done I’ll have kept my promise to myself, than it is to find two hours at this time of year.

So set a modest goal.  One page.  A hundred words.  Half an hour.  Whatever seems doable.  Then do it.  When the new year rolls around we won’t feel like we’ve lost six weeks of productive time — and we’ll be sane.

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Guest blog: Charlene Teglia

Today’s post is taken from the Genreality blog.  It so resonated with me that I wanted to share it with you.  Second guessing is a family trait I share with my brother, and I spend far too much time on the hamster wheel.  I’m going to put this on the wall and read it when the squeaking gets too loud.

Charlene Teglia made her first novel sale in 2004. Since then her books have garnered several honors, including 2005 Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award for Best Erotic Novel, 2006 Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice nominee for Best Erotic Romance, 2005 and 2007 CAPA nominations for Best Erotic Anthology, and Romantic Times Top Pick. She’s a current Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice nominee for Best Erotic Paranormal Romance.

Don’t be Second Guessed — Charlene Teglia

Things are changing so fast right now I’d be surprised if any heads aren’t spinning. And inside, the mental hamster wheel spins with second thoughts, second guesses, what ifs, maybes, and should haves as we try to make sense of the changes.

Change is a constant and so are second thoughts. It’s so easy to kick ourselves from the vantage of hindsight. “Why didn’t I…I should have…” Or desperately try to predict the future in an attempt to avoid making a mistake. It’s only natural that we want to make good choices, avoid bad ones, be smart. The trouble is, you don’t know if it’s a mistake when you make the decision, and you won’t know until after you’ve followed through. Sometimes you won’t know until long after. But wavering over a decision until the opportunity is past or only half-committing for fear that it’s the wrong choice are great ways to self-sabotage, and that’s never smart.

Second guessing in novel writing leads to endless rewriting of the opening or the middle or the end or the whole fiddly thing until it’s been ten different books, none of them strong because none of them were fully committed to and fully realized, however bad or wrong the idea might have been.

I once had a fantastic music teacher, who said, “If you’re going to be wrong, be loud.” It’s better to commit to a mistake than to do something halfway. This is true in music and in books and in life.

Second guessing in career planning leads to pointless angst over paths not taken, or over the path taken that turned into a dead end and why didn’t I see that wall coming, or fear of taking any path because it means NOT taking any of the others and it might turn out to be the wrong one. It’s exhausting and unproductive, not to mention demoralizing.

The way out of second guessing isn’t easy but it is simple. It involves stepping back and getting some perspective. Most decisions aren’t life or death. Most career moves aren’t, either. And definitely no book is. We’re not brain surgeons; nobody is going to die if we make a mistake.

There is no way to judge how good or worthwhile a book is until after it’s written. There’s only judging whether or not you want to do it and can commit fully to it. There’s no judging whether accepting offer X or Z will turn out better in the future, there’s only knowing what matters to you now and which offer best accommodates that, and which direction your gut is pulling you.

Our gut instincts, our first reactions, are often much more trustworthy than our circular thinking where we confuse ourselves with fears and doubts and hesitations. Fears and doubts are not great tools for producing mental clarity, although being honest about fears can help clarify decision making. Mostly by getting better at contingency planning and thinking through the potential risks if things go wrong, mitigating the known risks, and asking if the potential benefits outweigh the risks.

It’d be wonderful to be sure of everything all the time. It would also be inhuman. We’re emotional and fearful and prone to second thoughts and regrets. But we’re also capable of committing whole-heartedly to an endeavor we judge worthwhile and accepting the consequences if we’re wrong. What’s the worst that can happen? An entire career is probably not really riding on the next decision. A mistake that lead to growth still got you somewhere, just maybe not the place you planned on. Unexpected changes can throw the most carefully considered plans into chaos. At the end of the day, the only thing we can know for sure is whether or not we spent our time and energy on the things we care about.

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Life is a Moving Target

I read several good blogs today.  One, The Idler had an article about cartoonist Kate Beaton. In closing, the author, Rosemary Van Deuren quotes Beaton, “I don’t know what I’m doing—nobody does.”

In another, The Single Supplement, the author references several motivational quotes including, ‘If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.’ – Anthony Robbins.

Bob Mayer started his Genreality post:

“I’m convinced fear is at the root of most bad writing.”  Stephen King

… Actually, fear is the root of most failure….  It’s insidious and tears away at people and it the main obstacle to success.  This works on many levels.  We’re afraid our abilities aren’t good enough to get published.  We’re afraid our voice isn’t strong enough to write what we really should be writing.  We’re afraid to take chances, to break rules, to break out of the norm.

(Which reminds me of another motivating quote: “Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.” Frank Zappa)

I also read a blog about “How to become an optimist” on 17000 Days.  Cara points out that optimists aren’t fearful, because they view set-backs as temporary.

And finally, I read a guest blog on Tim Ferris site by Tucker Max, where he shares his experience in making the New York Times bestseller list.

It was a wonderful constellation of information that came together to remind me of several truths:  Don’t let the experts bully you.  Learn from them, then find your own way.  Nobody else knows for sure what they’re doing either, no matter what they say.  Don’t let fear of making a mistake hold you back.  That’s just pride getting in the way.  So what if you screw up?  Learn from it and go on.  And keep learning. Life is a moving target.  You never know it all — or not for long, anyway!

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