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CELEBRITY DEPRESSION August 12, 2014

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suffering        I was deeply struck by the suicide of Robin Williams. I recall feeling this same confusion when I heard about Bruce Springsteen’s bout of depression and Thomas Kinkaid’s death. These are men who have made a mark in the world and have bank accounts stuffed full of more money than most of us can imagine. Their work is lauded, awarded and held up as an example for others, yet they felt unfulfilled. How can that be? A change of perspective is the best cure for depression, so I question why Williams couldn’t have gone on a spiritual retreat or worked with a charity or great cause to boost his spirits and give his life a new sense of meaning. But then the voice of my life coach cuts in and rings in my ears. She told me, “You can’t judge your insides by other people’s outsides.” No matter how successful or entitled somebody else may seem, we all suffer from having to live with ourselves. We all house doubt, insecurity and occasional self-loathing. There are others who may have looked upon my depression a couple of years ago as just as ridiculous and unfathomable. I am a prolific novelist, I have a home with acreage that is paid off, a pension, a good husband and I get to travel frequently. I am fed, sheltered and own more clothes than I can wear. So what else do I need? But that elusive else, that something more that we feel is missing is what sends us into the gloomy depths of depression and nobody can assign happiness and fulfillment to anyone else, especially based on a bank account balance and/or whatever front that person is projecting.

Have we always been so unhappy, or is it just through media that we are now being made aware of how miserable people are? Are longer lives working against us because we are now outliving our wills to live? I am happy again, but it took a lot of work. Once that grey cloud formed over my head and followed me everywhere, my mind was my worst enemy and actually seemed determined to fabricate my destruction. But from somewhere within arose a gratitude for this life and I somehow kicked off that dark cloak and emerged again into the sunlight.

It’s very hard to control unhappy thoughts, but it can be done. The most important tools are to not compare yourself to others and to learn to eject those negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones. If ever there was proof of Satan on this earth, it’s hanging there in the thick fog of depression that descends upon us and causes us to see ourselves as worthless.
Here’s hoping that the afterlife does not punish those who take their own lives. I sincerely believe that there is no penalty – that life in its entirety is a learning experience and that hell lies not in the afterlife, but in life right here, where we suffer and watch others suffer.

Achieving Clarity June 5, 2014

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ClarityThis is the second article in my series about working with a life coach to reach my goal of becoming happily published through clarity, focus, ease and grace. After one coaching session I have realized that even though I know I want to make my living as a novelist, I am mentally wavering and not always being 100 percent clear about what I want to achieve.

 

There are times that all I am clear about is that I want a change. Reading about amazingly successful people, I’ve seen that they always had a very clear goal in their head. They may have had to work other jobs to be able to get there, but their eye was always on that ultimate achievement and they had no doubt that they would reach it. But while striving to make my life change, it’s so easy for me to formulate a number of plans in my head. One day I may read a job posting and decide that’s the way to go, but the next day I find myself back to fantasizing about my ultimate dream job – writing. A TV commercial or driving past a company may spark other imaginative alternatives, and it’s possible for me to decide on a different direction each day. But this is not clear thinking – it’s indecisiveness. The first step in my hitting that seductive bulls eye is for me to simply recognize it and have complete faith in my ability to reach it. It’s essential I do what I can each day to work toward it, and in the meantime, remain grateful for my life just as it is. I have turned my thinking around from what I don’t like about my present situation to all that I do like. And it’s a lot. I have found ways to incorporate steps into my life each day that will lead me closer to my highest aspiration. By focusing on doing this, my head has become clearer and much of my indecision has been erased.

 

Clarity is not only recognizing what goal we want to achieve, but also gaining a clarity of who we are and what we’re thinking. I thought back to times I was surprised by a compliment. Surprised that someone saw me in a very flattering light. My insecurities, just like yours, don’t show; we’re masters at masking them. The person we present ourselves to be on the outside is not that same being who dwells within. If we could see ourselves the way other people see us, we would all probably be very happy with who we are. I learned that I can’t look at the front someone else projects and know the turmoil and problems they are experiencing internally. This is why I am determined to stop judging my insides by comparing them to others’ outsides. To get mental clarity of who I am, it’s important I stop internalizing negative things. I am determined not to drag problems and slights inside to simmer; rather, to find that bright, warm, wonderful spot within me and radiate all that vigor and charm outward. Positive attracts positive. Expecting problems and complications have often made them materialize, so why wouldn’t anticipation of the best bring it to my doorstep?

 

I am trying to be constantly aware of what I’m thinking. I vow to dwell on the good that comes to me each day and forget those insignificant rebuffs and discourtesies. I think I’m a bit clearer of who I am and who I want to be and have formed a mental image of that successful person I strive to be in my head so it is always there to intercept negative thoughts and melt them in glowing yellow rays of warm optimism. Now I am clear about what my dream is and am doubly clear that I deserve it and am quite capable of grasping and holding it.

 

I now have a successful vision, a clarity about what my ultimate goal is and I am concentrating on the one path I want to take. I have learned not to compare myself to others, and to embrace and exude the creative and accomplished person that I am. My next step will be to work on focus.

What is Even Considered a Rejection? May 26, 2014

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rejection Today the submission process for books is very different than it used to be. It’s a blessing for writers because email submissions make it easy to query, but maybe too easy. Agents receive hundreds of queries every day and sorting through them is an epic task. Where your query lands in the pile is sure to make a difference. But often it isn’t even the agent who rejects a query. Many have assistants or even interns who sort through the piles and zip back a response that the project doesn’t sound like something that would fit their list – sound familiar? I send out a lot of queries, and far more often than not, I don’t hear when an agency is not interested in seeing my work. But no response is not a rejection. I only count rejections of those who have actually reviewed my work and decided not to represent it. I once sent the same query, months later, back to an agency from whom I had gotten no response and they asked to see the book, so perhaps a different assistant or intern reviewed it that day. Maybe the agent was less rushed that day or in a better mood, or perhaps it wasn’t as close to quitting time when it was considered by the assistant.

We all heard about “Carrie” being rejected 30 times, and “Watership Down” and “A Wrinkle in Time” receiving 26 rejections each. “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” seems to hold the record at 121 rejections. If I counted all the submissions I have made as rejections, I could easily top this record, but they aren’t truly rejections. A rejection sent with little to no thought or consideration cannot be taken personally by the recipient, and it certainly should not affect your outlook or belief in yourself as a writer.
Consider the process of browsing for a book in a library or bookstore. If you don’t have a particular title in mind, you may have to read quite a number of book jackets to find one that appeals to you. Sometimes the jacket sounds good, but while reading the first line or thumbing through the book, the voice just is not appealing. Keep this in mind as you face a short and not so sweet rejection on your query. You, too, reject a number of books before you take one on, and the ones you are rejecting are published, maybe even best sellers. It’s all a matter of taste, mood and luck. So don’t give up — it only takes one of the hundreds of agents out there to choose your book and rocket you to success. Zoom!

Journaling for Future Generations May 21, 2014

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images        Journaling is something people do for many reasons. Some want to leave a record of their lives for future generations and others claim to journal only for themselves, as a form of therapy. The more you write, the better you get at it, and journaling is a great way to make yourself write regularly. Writing helps the memory, inspires creativity, and makes us aware of our actions and behaviors. But if you are taking the time to record your days, why not bring them vividly to life?

The best way to breathe life into your writing is to think about the five senses. How did things look, taste, smell, sound and feel? When describing an experience, such as a family gathering, leave a record of the day by appealing to the senses. Don’t just report what was eaten. Describe the colors, the presentation, the aromas. Talk about your sticky fingers as you sampled the barbecued chicken leg and report on the tang of the coleslaw that had just a little too much vinegar in it. Even if you write just for yourself, it might bring a smile to your face rereading it and remembering that the past weekend when you had Aunt Martha’s coleslaw and it still made your cheeks pucker. Your observations are the basis of your work; you are presenting the world from your point of view, so take the time to include what you feel as well as what you see.

Include national and historic events for reference. If it effected you, record it. It adds dimension to the time in which you lived. Who knows, your journal may one day become another writer’s reference work, so give them some great material. Fill your journal with those small life details that we think will never change, because they will.  Be honest, because this is the record of you; admit when you’re lonely, depressed, jealous, opinionated, overwhelmed or lazy because it’s the dark times as well as the good ones that will truly reflect who you are and make your life feel real. When we report on everyday tasks, we can easily picture them being done while talking about the present. But future generations will have a greater gift in your journals if they can compare how they do things to how they were done in the past, so throw in those details you take for granted to create a graphic picture for others.

If something impresses you, share it. Describe that cloudy sky and the feel of the wind as it shifted from warm to cool. Did the wind howl as it picked up? Did the dresses and shirts look like dancing phantoms as you hurried to pluck them from the clothes line and get them inside? There is a thrill for both writer and reader when words strike a chord and bring vivid pictures to mind, and using lyrical sentences can bring the past back into the present. But remember that you don’t always have to use prose. Draw a picture, create a map or write a poem.

Taking just a little extra effort to include more details will round out your journal. It will help you by forcing you to see things you might not otherwise notice, thereby instilling feelings of wonder and gratitude. For future generations, it will bridge the years and make them realize, all at once, how much things have changed and how much they haven’t changed at all.

Achieving Goals May 18, 2014

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA We all have goals. You can call them aspirations, dreams, hopes or ambitions, but all those words represent the same thing – a place we want to get to. Many of the most successful people in the history of this world have attributed their achievements to persistent, raw determination and an unshakable belief in their ability to reach that ultimate destination.
My goal is to be a successful novelist. I am already published but my agent had his own goals, and they didn’t include my success, so I had to move on and am presently looking for a new agent. Today major publishers don’t work directly with writers to acquire books, they work only through literary agents. The publishing industry was hit as hard as any other by the recession, so fewer books are being published and agents are being extremely selective about the clients they take on. I have been on the agent search for about two years, which sounds like a long time, but it isn’t when you consider that an agent can take months to respond to a query and even longer to review a full or partial manuscript. Agents can get hundreds of queries a day and it’s anyone’s guess how huge their reading piles are.  workshops, conferences and book fairs, and their first responsibility is to their existing clients, so patience is a must. I once read a blog where a writer said that in the submission process, three months feels like three years to a writer and three days to an agent.
Recently I have advanced a bit in the process; from receiving just rejections to receiving rave rejections. My latest novel is getting personal comments from big agents in the industry about how lyrical my writing is, how good my plotting and character development is, how exciting the story is and even how marketable it is. Then comes the “but” – the reason they chose not to accept the book. This is the cryptic part, as the reasons can range from “It wasn’t what I expected,” to “It doesn’t fit my list” or “I didn’t connect with it as I had hoped to.”
These rejections can’t be taken personally. All art, including telling stories, is very subjective. Think of the best sellers you’ve read that you didn’t finish or wondered how they got such terrific reviews. How many times has your favorite television show been cancelled while the one you couldn’t sit through even one episode of went on for six or eight seasons? Consider that Herman Melville, Franz Kafka and Edgar Allan Poe were all considered failures in their lifetimes. Great artists such as Van Gogh, El Greco, Cezanne, Manet, Gauguin and Vermeer suffered the same fate. So was the difference between them and those who knew success in their lifetimes simply how they directed their determination and the way they felt about themselves?
My goal is to get those “buts” I am receiving eliminated and find the perfect agent to represent my books. I feel I have been doing everything I can to accomplish that, but we all sometimes need outside help. Timing and luck are also factors so a writer needs every advantage they can get. I have turned to a  life coach to coach me so I can achieve clarity, focus, ease and grace. She says she can help people grow beyond their normal stopping points and navigate the obstacles that might be in the way. She will give me the tools to achieve my goal, but I’m the one who will have to put the energy and time into using them. She will keep me and my mind focused so I keep my eye on the end result and don’t drive myself crazy with those self-limiting conversations that filter so easily into my head. She will give me support when I need it and make sure I think and act in a positive manner. She will help me see things differently and, most importantly, she will show me how to fully believe in myself and my work. In my first meeting with her, she already made me realize I must appreciate the achievements I have already made and that writing a novel, in itself, is a great achievement.
Life coaches aren’t cheap, so I lucked out. I am being coached in return for writing articles about the experience in the local paper I write for, and I will be posting them all here as well. It’s a pretty rural publication, so will give you city folks a chuckle. You can check it out at http://www.middlefieldpost.com. (That’s me, the little shit, in the photo above in a publicity shot for the publication with two coworkers.) I hope, that through these articles, I can inspire others to not only define their loftiest dreams, but to reach out and act toward achieving them. We all deserve to be the best we can be and to feel great about ourselves and our lives. We already have the power to do so within us, but the trick is to learn how to release and utilize that power.

Death Dance of the Frog May 10, 2014

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASpring unearths all sorts of odd and amazing things. This little guy wins the award for amazing spring find of 2014. I found him while walking around the pond with my dogs. He is underwater, floating and enrobed in a scum. When the wind blows, the water ripples make him look like he’s dancing.

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Finding an Agent for Literary Fiction March 22, 2014

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Whale tail mug       I have been looking for an agent for my latest novel, a story about the boyhood of Captain Ahab. I studied Moby Dick and Herman Melville extensively and interjected a peppering of Melville’s phrases and many of his themes into my work. While sending it out, I got a few very strange replies from agent asking to see a partial or complete manuscript. The oddest comment was, “This isn’t a thriller. Wasn’t Moby Dick a thriller?” I began to realize that a lot of agents who said they represented literary fiction have no idea what serious literary fiction is. So when I got good comments about how beautiful my writing is or how with the right agent my career and I could go far, I savored them. The rest I discarded.
Presently I have received positive responses from eight agents including one of the biggest in the U.S. and one of the biggest in the UK . They were both taken with the partial they were sent and asked for the entire manuscript. I am convinced this is my breakout novel that will launch my career.

It took time and patience, but I didn’t give up on my book. I took early comments to heart, put the work aside for a while, then went back and rewrote the book. Now that it’s finished, I’ve gone back to work on another I had completed some time back. I’ve finally learned that it’s important to let the work sit, digest feedback, and go back to it fresh. I probably would have given up on this book by now, but received some very strange messages from the universe. My brother and I don’t exchange gifts anymore, so I was surprised when I suddenly got a package from him. Bear in mind he had no idea I was writing a book that referenced Moby Dick. I opened the package to find a whale tail mug. (See photo.) The handle came up and attached to the mug in a whale tail. My brother knows me and he knows I love color, but the mug is white. Spooky, huh? Then, everywhere I turned, there were Moby Dick, whale and Ahab references. In crosswords puzzles, comics, commercials, magazines, and every time I turned on the TV. I even found a whale tail charm at a garage sale I had no intention of stopping at. The car just turned in without me even thinking about it. The strangest was one day when I was feeling down and asked for a whale sign. I turned on the TV and Moby Dick, the opera, was on. I can’t help but think this is all positive and means something.

Stay tuned, I’ll let you know how things turn out. Is the universe just screwing with me (again) or is it guiding and helping me?

The Value of Christmas Ornaments December 9, 2013

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA    They’re pretty homely and probably would be overlooked at even a really crappy rummage sale and wind up in the trash pile. But to me they are beautiful and they bring so many wonderful holiday memories flooding into my mind whenever I look at them. They’re my favorite Christmas ornaments salvaged from my childhood, and it’s nothing short of a miracle that they’ve survived all these decades. They’re worth absolutely nothing if you care to place a monetary value on them. Styrofoam and pipe cleaners simply haven’t gone up in value like gold and silver. These four little men have Styrofoam balls, adorned with sprigs of tin paper holly, for heads. Glass ornaments are stuck in them to act as eyes and noses. Their mouths and bodies are pipe cleaners. What is especially magical about them is that they can be placed on the Christmas tree, but can also be twisted to sit on a lamp or dangle from a dresser mirror, or even a kitchen cabinet knob. They were a lot like the Elf on the Shelf to me, watching carefully to report back to Santa about my behavior. I still hold my breath every year as I take the top off the tin in which they are stored. Then I have to grin, and, yes, have even been known to giggle aloud, as I pull back the tissue paper to find those familiar faces smiling up at me. I now hang them on one of my big plants where they can cavort among the Christmas cards received that year.

You just can’t put a price on some things. I have no idea if anyone is going to want them once I pass on from this earth, but these silly little ornaments have made my Christmas year after year. Just looking at them reminds me of how special this season is and I feel transported back to those wonderful, simple times in which I was so fortunate to grow up. I recently e-mailed a picture of the ornaments to my brother and he couldn’t believe I still had them. Sometimes I can’t either. The presence of these goofy guys is just a little more proof of the pure magic of Christmas.

Some Really Big Fish June 10, 2013

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Fishing ChampsMy husband (extreme right) was in a fishing tournament yesterday. His team not only won, they set a new weight record. I’m a bleeding heart when it comes to animals, but am still proud.

IT’S TIME TO STOP FOLLOWING THE FOLLOWING April 9, 2013

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       poe We sat on the edges of our seats while FOX counted down the days to the start of THE FOLLOWING, which we were told would be very different and exciting. The concept of a cult following a serial killer and the Poe references were so exciting in the previews  that I can confidently pronounce this show the biggest disappointment of 2013.
       

        I think one problem is the lack of chemistry between characters and how weak they are. Agent Parker is supposed to be Hardy’s boss, but she’s not the one who is calling the shots. And plausibly, Hardy would never be on this case at all since he is having an affair with Joe, the serial killer’s wife. That alone, was almost enough to make me stop watching immediately. Bacon’s character also would not be on this case because he wrote a book about the killer. He might be a consultant, but he wouldn’t be the one chasing down Joe with gun drawn. He certainly wouldn’t be calling all the shots while his superior gnaws her manicured nails waiting for him to give the word on what to do next.

     Show after show, three hot-dogging agents run into situations with no backup. Then once the bad guys have escaped, there is suddenly a SWAT team dissecting the site. It seems to be the same old crap episode after episode. A bad guy escapes and a good guy is captured or in grave danger. Unfortunately, that is what has come to be expected and last night I actually yawned when Agent Parker was captured. The writers are lazy and must think their audience is a band of idiots.

     My biggest question is, where is all the cool Poe imagery? They seem to have forgotten that. I keep thinking how they magnificently could have murdered while using some of Poe’s storylines. But there’s still hope — maybe they’ll brick Parker up into a wall. It’s a good thing Poe isn’t around to see THE FOLLOWING. I think he’d be very insulted that he was used merely as a tool to gain viewers instead of the icon I had expected him to be in this show. I am torn. There are only a few episodes left, but I’m not sure I can sit through more inane, predictable and very disappointing plots.

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