Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Book of Opportunity...

“A New Year's resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other.” ~Author Unknown

As a new year approaches, the urge to take stock of our life bubbles up like a sip of fine champagne. Let’s lift a glass and toast our accomplishments, savoring the taste of our creative endeavors…the potential of the New Year sparkles like stars within our hearts!

We’ve all made goals… Some we’ve achieved and some still dangle like a sprig of mistletoe, just out of reach. The beauty is, no matter how far that finish line may seem, we’ve all accomplished remarkable things. I’m not yet published in fiction, yet I’ve written three books. No one can take that accomplishment away. Every page I’ve sweated over, every idea that’s seen fruition is an amazing accomplishment. We are Do-ers. We WRITE.

Now, we can shake off whatever frustrations we’ve battled and relish the opportunity to begin fresh.

“For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.”~T.S. Eliot, "Little Gidding"

The days stretch before us like pristine snow. It is up to us to step forward and forge our own path. How freaking exciting is this? A whole year to accomplish new goals, to wrap up ongoing projects, to meet the face of destiny and see that her face is our own. *smile*

“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day.” ~Edith Lovejoy Pierce

Now’s the time to choose how to fill those pages. How best to seize opportunity. How to celebrate our awesome career and relish in our gifts. We Are Writers. No matter how onerous the task can be, we are the luckiest creatures that exist. We Create Worlds. We Are The Magic Makers.

“We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives... not looking for flaws, but for potential.” ~Ellen Goodman

And while, at times, we may be tempted to chide ourselves or bemoan the days behind us, let’s make a pact to focus on the potential instead. Who cares if we didn’t plant a seed in time to catch a particular rainstorm 273 days ago! There are seeds a’plenty and a promise of sweet rain to nurture those budding plants to new heights. Plot out your garden and plant away! Harvest time will come, and we will be ready.

"A new year is unfolding—like a blossom with petals curled tightly concealing the beauty within.” --Anonymous

Let’s tease out the beauty within each idea. Breathe gently to encourage those petals to unfurl. Those ideas nestled deep within your soul are aching for release. We are the luckiest of all people… We Are Writers!

Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right. ~Oprah Winfrey

Write ON!

Let’s focus on goals and see what we can accomplish.

Wishing you all a New Year bursting with potential and the will, the determination and the passion to meet every goal.

Happy New Year!!

--Chiron O'Keefe

Sunday, December 21, 2008

One Page at a Time

“All great masters are chiefly distinguished by the power of adding a second, a third, and perhaps a fourth step in a continuous line. Many a man has taken the first step. With every additional step you enhance immensely the value of your first.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

What sets the successful author apart from the aspiring writer?

Perseverance. The determination to move forward no matter how many obstacles appear on the path.

The road to success is dotted with many tempting parking places.” ~Author Unknown

Staying true to our focus means we must recognize that the path that leads to success can be arduous. Ah, yes. Rejections or writer’s block tempts us to toss aside our dreams. If you feel frustrated, you’re not alone. All writers experience this.

To be a writer is to sit down at one's desk in the chill portion of every day, and to write; not waiting for the little jet of the blue flame of genius to start from the breastbone - just plain going at it, in pain and delight. To be a writer is to throw away a great deal, not to be satisfied, to type again, and then again, and once more, and over and over.... - John Hersey

During the holiday season time is at a premium. There’s last-minute shopping and presents to be wrapped, houseguests chatting and children underfoot, and for some, severe storms that threaten to knock out the power. What’s a writer to do?

My suggestion first off is this. Relax. Enjoy the holiday season. *smile* If you can squeeze in a page or two, by all means let those fingers fly! If you can’t… be forgiving to yourself. Trust that you will be pounding those keys when the craziness eases off. Every book is written one page at a time.

“The drops of rain make a hole in the stone not by violence but by oft falling.” ~Lucretius

Next week we’ll set the stage for the New Year so let’s consider what we intend to accomplish in 2009.

Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go. ~William Feather

Let’s “hang on” and remember… We Are Writers!!

Have a lovely holiday season, everyone!

--Chiron O’Keefe

Monday, December 15, 2008

Write Your Own Happy Ending...

"Argue for your limitations, and sure enough they're yours." --- Richard Bach, American writer and pilot, from his 1977 book, Illusions.

There are times when we honestly can't write. Awhile ago my back went out. My desire to write simply wasn't enough. Unable to sit up at my computer, I spent days with cold packs, ibuprofen and magazines, trying to distract myself from the pain. One thing I could do was read (though barely). I made it through a short story and spent the rest of the time considering how the author had deftly handled the emotions contained within the few pages and how I might too incorporate such brevity in my writing.

Yes, we do encounter obstacles, and when faced with such, we strive to get around them or to work beyond them.

Yet obstacles are not limitations. Limitations are the restrictions we choose to embrace. Many writers combine a writing career with a day job or family. Some who are juggling jobs and family duties still manage to carve out a few precious writing minutes every day. There can be physical obstacles too (like my backstrain), or even an unmet need for privacy or quiet. There are so many obstacles that we may face but none of these are limitations. Why? Because, quite simply put, it is a choice to be limited.

Another choice (and dare I say a better one?) is to believe in our dreams, and in our success. Why choose otherwise? Let's decide also to let go of any tendency to explain why we can't succeed or why we can't embrace our dreams. Let's instead perceive each obstacle as a river to be crossed, and get to work building a bridge.

"No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars or sailed an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit." --Helen Keller

To be pessimistic means that we focus on what we cannot do or worse, we put all our energy into noticing the problems and turn our attention away from the solutions. It's not realistic to believe in failure or to set yourself up to "avoid disappointment." It IS realistic to recognize that rejections may inevitable in life BUT a rejection simply means there's more to be done. Another dozen queries perhaps, or another book under your belt.

My good friend, author Misty Evans, faced many rejections. She could have given up but she chose to keep moving forward. Not only did she focus on sending out more queries but she also kept writing. When she finally made a sale, how fortunate was she to have not just one book to sell, but a trilogy to be polished and submitted. When she found her editor, the books she chose to write were now waiting.

Richard Bach's book Jonathan Livingston Seagull was rejected 140 times before getting picked up. Gone With The Wind was reportedly rejected 38 times. A Wrinkle in Time was rejected 26 times before being published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. The list goes on and on. Even Ray Bradbury said in an interview on Barnes and Noble that he was rejected over a thousand times!
To be successful requires an unwavering belief in yourself. A healthy dose of optimism is just the right medicine.

Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence. –Helen Keller

To be optimistic, we must throw open our hearts and believe. Despite the obstacles, despite any rejections, despite the times we want to heave that damn computer out the window and give up. Instead, we wish upon a star…

Instead of comparing our lot with that of those who are more fortunate than we are, we should compare it with the lot of the great majority of our fellow men. It then appears that we are among the privileged. –Helen Keller

How fortunate are we to recognize and act upon our desire to write! We know what we want to be… what we are… Let's say it together now… We Are WRITERS!

Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow. –Helen Keller

It's true… reality will reflect back what we believe. That's why so many successful people recount stories of optimism and faith. If you believe in yourself, in your success, others will believe it too. If you mark each day with a sign of your success, you establish a habit of productivity and positive thinking that leads you past the obstacles and to your own Happy Ending.

Let's stay focused, mark each day with a sign of our individual success, start off the morning with a reminder to ourselves in the mirror. "You, my friend, are a Successful Author!" Write ON!

The week before Christmas is a busy time for many. Write what and when you can. If the minutes slip away though, let's keep our thoughts positive! The new year is coming and we're like seeds in the frozen ground ready to burst into bloom. Let's keep our faces to the sun, and remember... We Are WRITERS!

Go-go-GO! Write-write-WRITE!

--Chiron O'Keefe

Monday, December 8, 2008

Keep Your Dreams Alive… Writing Motivation

"Keep your dreams alive. Understand that to achieve anything requires faith and belief in yourself, vision, hardwork, determination, and dedication. Remember, all things are possible for those who believe." -- Gail Devers

For those who believe… But what to do when your inner flame wavers? How do we persist when a cold wave of doubt threatens to douse our burning need to write?

First, recognize one irrevocable fact. All writers experience doubt and fear.

"Sometimes my life seems so insular and safe. There seems nothing worthy in it from which I might draw deeper meanings for my books and my characters. What am I doing pretending to be a writer?"Write Away by Elizabeth George.

Put away your judgment and cast off that self-recrimination. If you experience doubts and fears, take heart: You Are A Writer. It's a well-known affliction that we conveniently forget in our haste to blame ourselves. The source of our creativity is rather like a dark cave. Tucked back against the far wall are countless treasures. Magical, wondrous, amazing words cleverly arranged in the proper order. *smile* Stories wrapped up neatly and entertaining characters we can all relate to. *grin* You hold in your hand a single candle as you enter the wind-swept cave. Creepy-crawlies dangle from rocks overhead. Something rustles and moans in the shadows. What wild creatures might lay in wait to snatch this plucky writer as she traverses each obstacle on her way to the golden tale? Uh-oh. The tiny flame is wavering! And then a whispering sigh. The candle flickers once and darkness reigns. How do you find the light once more?

I'm trying to work for an hour each day. That's all I can demand of myself. When I was creating For the Sake of Elena, I became so incapacitated by fear that I was having trouble getting out of bed in the morning. I finally resorted to saying, "These are only words and I will not let words defeat me" in order to get up and work. Thus I struggled to the end of the novel. But now, nothing seems to work. I flounder…Write Away by Elizabeth George.

There is only one way to move forward… Faith.

Faith is the bird that sings when the dawn is still dark. ~Rabindranath Tagore

But where does faith come from? For that matter, where does this pesky fear come from? Obviously, she muses, if I knew where the light switch was, I'd flip it on in an instant!

Faith and fear, optimism and pessimism feel emotional but the truth is they are mental constructs. The emotional impact all stems from the beliefs we hold. Beliefs influence how we react to every situation whether we are aware of these core beliefs or not.

This is how humans are: we question all our beliefs, except for the ones we really believe, and those we never think to question. ~Orson Scott Card

Unfortunately, too many of us deep down believe we can't accomplish what we hope to. We may ultimately believe success is not within our grasp or that the obstacles we perceive are insurmountable. That's the bad news. The good news is those are beliefs, and All Beliefs Can Be Changed.

The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes. --William James

This is truth. It's what every self-help book will share. You can reprogram your mind, change your beliefs and create faith where doubt existed.


First off, let's replace that negative self-talk with some positive words and a more realistic view. Say it with me: I AM A SUCCESSFUL WRITER.

Oops. Did a nagging little fear just pop up? Let's repeat:

Now… close your eyes for a moment and visualize yourself happily typing The End. Carry it further. See yourself sending out the query and getting The Call. Imagine yourself jumping up and down and screaming out the words:

Keep your thoughts positive,
because your thoughts become your words.
Keep your words positive,
because your words become your behaviors.
Keep your behaviors positive,
because your behaviors become your habits.
Keep your habits positive,
because your habits become your values.
Keep your values positive,
because your values become your destiny. --Gandhi

Now, those pesky negative beliefs took so many years to build up (like mental plaque!) they will surely need some persistent scrubbing to clean up. We have three and a half weeks left in the year. Just the right amount of time to modify our frame of mind and begin 2009 with this belief:

I AM A SUCCESSFUL WRITER. I can do anything I want to and I want to write! I Love To Write. My writing is engaging, entertaining, insightful and exactly what agents and publishers are looking for. I AM A SUCCESSFUL WRITER.

Whatever a person's mind dwells on intensely and with firm resolve, that is exactly what he becomes. ~ Shankaracharya

For many of us, December is a busy month. The minutes slip away and we may find our yearning to write is not so easily fulfilled. Which means This Is The Perfect Time To Instill Positive Beliefs.

So… right now, let's make a commitment to just five minutes a day. It's lovely if we can do more but let's commit to five minutes a day. That's right. For 300 seconds *grin* sit quietly and visualize yourself doing exactly what YOU think a successful published author would do: Type The End. Get the call. Sign the contract. Promote the book. Then… Say the magic words… I AM A SUCCESSFUL WRITER. Woo-hoo! Now, go to your mirror. Repeat those magic words until you Feel That Tingle.

That's right, baby. You Can Do It. You Can Do Anything. Why? Because…

Now… let's make it happen. Go-go-GO! Write-write-WRITE!!

--Chiron O'Keefe

Monday, December 1, 2008

Mad Scientists of the Written Word...

“If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?”-- Albert Einstein

Hah! Nor would it be called “writing.” *wink* We are mad scientists of the written word. We start with the germ of an idea… “What if…?” and begin our process of experimentation. Set the stage, shove in the players and let’s see what dastardly circumstances we can conjure up. Pit falls and red herrings, misdirection and misconception, we’re more than ready to throw every obstacle in our character’s way. Happily Ever After becomes the cheese dangling at the end of the maze.

Yet strangely enough, the kinship we feel with our characters blossoms out of a shared struggle. Both fictional characters and author are racing down one blind corridor after another. The distinctions blur. It becomes impossible to discern who needs that Happy Ending more, the hero and heroine or the author herself. The struggle for a resolution is shared, and just as our heroes and heroines need an extra push, so do we. In our wacky experiment, the perfect ending is as enticing and as elusive as that fragrant end-of-the-maze cheese.

“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” –Albert Einstein

Deadlines, markets, editing and endless rewrites, all are obstacles that every author must face. Yet, it could be that our biggest obstacle is really our own damn selves. When the pressure of pushing forward becomes too intense we’re sorely tempted to pull away. To let go the effort. To even… *gasp* give up. And, if we’re going to be realistic, sometimes the only way to renew our faith is to retreat for a time. Retreat, rather than surrender. Approach the knotty problem from another direction, sometimes that’s all it takes to find the solution.

“You can never solve a problem on the level on which it was created.” --Albert Einstein

So writers then must balance between pushing forward and knowing when to pull back just enough to revitalize our spirits.

Plus, of course, there’s one nagging little issue. We’ve covered this before but it bears repeating. Writers Create Something Out of Nothing. And in the barest beginning of our experimentation, the idea may seem a little… well… Out There.

“If at first, the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.” --Albert Einstein


One of the trickiest dilemmas aspiring-to-be-published writers experience is to magically discover somewhere deep in the cavern of imagination The Utterly Brilliant and Unique Idea. No matter how agents will assure you that Great Writing Tops All, the truth is, unless you’ve dreamed up that one-of-a-kind twist and offbeat hook, they’ll toss your query aside without a qualm. *shakes fist* So… Give your imagination free rein! Imagine a world where the absurd rules. As actors are often told—Play it big, then pull back. When the story is being created, brainstorm first. Second-guess later.

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” --Albert Einstein

Questions will often take you farther than answers ever will. Which is why so many writers love techniques like the “character interview.” Remember, in fiction, there’s no handy answer guide. There’s no blueprint to follow. You’re soaring on wings of imagination and there are no limits. After reading an article on poltergeists and telekinetic activity being linked to adolescent girls, Stephen King’s mind lingered on his own experiences in school. How certain girls were singled out and picked on. Teased, bullied, pushed around… What if a young girl’s angst exploded in telekinetic activity? What might she do? Scary thoughts, yet the speculation led to a published (and bestselling) novel.

Yet sometimes we do worry. We wonder if it’s worth it. Wonder if we can write one more page, send out one more query, come up with one more idea. This is a quandary we all relate to. Writing is exhilarating but also exhausting. My idea is this… Remember the old saying that the journey is the destination? There’s something to that. What is our end goal here? I say that every story we write enriches our lives. Every page we finish and every idea we explore. We are stronger and more creative as a result. So… even if just for a week or even a day, let’s try something new…

“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” --Albert Einstein

Let’s recognize that our writing is valuable. Let’s open up each document and think how incredible a gift we have—we write. We Create. We are the Magic-Makers. We are writers…

How was everyone’s Thanksgiving? We had a veritable feast. Yumy-yum-yum. Now, after too much turkey and just one more slice of pie, I’m ready to get back to work. How about you?

Ready to set goals?

One more month until we begin a new year. Although many scramble to find extra time in December, We Are Writers. And what do writers do? We write!

So... let's Go-go-GO!!


Monday, November 24, 2008

Celebrate Writing...

“Why do writers write? Because it isn't there.” ~~Thomas Berger

Thanksgiving, for those of us in America, has grown and evolved like most holidays. Pilgrims, turkey (or Tofurki), football, parades, and pumpkin pie. Yet tucked within the basting and the touchdowns is the root of an idea. Thankfulness. For family and friends, for prosperity and health, and for life itself. And let me add one more item to the list… Thankfulness for creativity. I love being a writer. Don’t you?

“One nice thing about putting the thing away for a couple of months before looking at it is that you start appreciate your own wit. Of course, this can be carried too far. But it's kind of cool when you crack up a piece of writing, and then realize you wrote it. I recommend this feeling.” ~~Steven Brust

I love pulling out stories I have written. Even the fumbling attempts from several years ago (when POV was merely a suggestion *grin*). Is there a greater thrill than marveling over a sentence that you recognize is really damn good? Just like that gorgeous homemade pumpkin pie beckoning to your taste buds from yonder table, the story your eager eyes pore over started with a few simple ingredients. You stirred it up, baked it in a feverish oven of imagination, and after a suitable frame of time, produced a marvelous dish. Except one little difference. It’s all yours, baby. There are no other “pies” quite like the ones you bake.

We Are Originals.

How about that?

“The novel is an event in consciousness. Our aim isn't to copy actuality, but to modify and recreate our sense of it. The novelist is inviting the reader to watch a performance in his own brain.”~~George Buchanan

It’s astonishing, really. The courage and strength it takes not only to compose an entire novel (wow!) but to allow others to read it, well… that’s truly amazing. I’m thankful for the sheer audacity within my soul. Do you realize what a pioneer you are? How gutsy and innovative it is to even attempt share your thoughts, your dreams, your imaginings on the printed page? What an incredible career we have. We Are Writers.

“Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.”~~ Cyril Connolly

Yet one of the dilemmas we face (and with rare fortitude) is The Big Choice. I salute us all for taking the risk to write what we please. To recognize that success is measured by happiness and self-satisfaction. Persistence does pay off (ask any published writer) but they’ll no doubt agree that unless you write a book which pleases you, no worldly success will satisfy. So… if, when you read what you’ve written at the end of the day, you feel a rush of pleasure, my friend, You Are A Success.

“Forget all the rules. Forget about being published. Write for yourself and celebrate writing.” ~~Melinda Haynes

Celebrate and relish the joy that comes from this unique gift. To write is like nothing else. Nothing can compare. Harry Potter appeals to the masses because the stories tap into humankind’s deepest and fondest fantasy. To create magic. Well, dear friends, that’s exactly what we do every time we write a story or share insights or explore our hearts within the pages of a journal. We are magically creating something out of nothing but the barest wisp of imagination. We Are Magic-Makers. We Are Writers.

“I learned that you should feel when writing, not like Lord Byron on a mountain top, but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten - happy, absorbed and quietly putting one bead on after another.” ~~Brenda Ueland

Celebrate the joy, the exhilaration, the rush of pure pleasure as you write. This is a wonderful time to embrace this delightful opportunity of ours: to create magic on a regular basis. To be thankful for the gift, for the spirit, for the opportunity to express ourselves. Yay! We Are Writers!

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone…

--Chiron O’Keefe

PS… I also want you all to know, how thankful to all my readers. You’re like my family too. When I lift a glass in celebration I’ll imagine my online friends *clink*, as we all share a toast. *smile*

Monday, November 17, 2008

Your Day of Opportunity

Every morning is a fresh beginning. Every day is the world made new. Today is a new day. Today is my world made new. I have lived all my life up to this moment, to come to this day. This moment--this day--is as good as any moment in all eternity. I shall make of this day--each moment of this day--a heaven on earth. This is my day of opportunity. — Dan Custer

Last night, my husband and I were chatting about this and that when he gave me a suggestion for a writing project. Thinking about the idea, I felt a tingle of anticipation. A Fresh Beginning. I love that feeling. Something NEW. Yet how often do we lose that sense of wonder and exhilaration with the ongoing stress of Finishing a Book, Sending Out Queries or Meeting A Deadline?

Ever watch a child at play? Their sparkle and glow comes from a freshness of experience we now only carry in our hearts as a faint memory. We’re like the lazy cat watching amused in a distant sort of way as the kittens leap and tumble ecstatically in the air. Youth recognizes instinctively that every new day is a new life. After many years of patiently greeting my cat when she would arise from one of a dozen daily naps, I woke up to the fact that her enthusiasm wasn’t just because she loved me. To her, each new awakening was a Brand-New Day. “Good Morning, Good Morning,” she purrs. “Aren’t you thrilled? It's a Brand-New Day!!”

Imagine that. A dozen mornings in a scant twenty-four hour period. It boggles the mind.

When I read the above quote, I felt shivers. THIS is my day of opportunity. How might my world view changed if I chose THAT as my perspective?

Be willing to be a beginner every single morning.--Meister Eckhart

While the birds chirp out a vigorous salute to the morning sun, we too can celebrate each day as if our world was today newly born. I relish the experience and wisdom I have garnered with each writing year I tuck under my belt. Yet if I don’t remember to approach my work as a beginner, I may become complacent or worse, jaded. Somehow, I suspect, when I read a “NY TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR’S” work and become dizzy with a POV that jumps with erratic glee six times in one paragraph, that this is a writer who doesn’t care. Not anymore.

We all know such laxity would never fly while in the desperate process of seeking representation or publication. Perhaps there’s a sense of relief to reach a point of success where one can just phone it in. I hope that won’t be me. Or you. So many authors here sweat out the hours required to pore over each manuscript with a magnifying glass—smoothing out the wrinkles and sewing up the gaping holes. We may curse the effort required but what makes the work truly stand out is that willingness to be a beginner, every single day. And besides the obvious reward of having a manuscript that is blemish-free, something else occurs when you give that extra push. Something magical and wondrous.

Sometimes when you think you are done, it is just the edge of beginning. Probably that's why we decide we're done. It's getting too scary. We are touching down onto something real. It is beyond the point when you think you are done that often something strong comes out. --Natalie Goldberg (author of Writing Down the Bones)

Ah-ha! And it’s true. We all know it. Writing the “good stuff” takes more than effort. It takes courage. Tapping into that primal spot deep within your soul can be as pleasurable as… well… la petite mort. *wink* Yet sometimes it’s more like a damn root canal. Ouch! *heh-heh*

The result, though, is paramount. A story that resonates. That’s what we all yearn for, right?

So… touching down on something real, remembering to approach each page with a beginner’s eye, and seeing that This is our day of opportunity. What else could be left?

“You don't have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.”--Joe Sabah

Oh, yeah. *grin* There’s that.

Good Morning! Welcome to a Brand New Day…


Monday, November 10, 2008

Dressing for Success

I couldn't wait for success... so I went ahead without it. ~Jonathan Winters

Years ago, I moved to Hollywood—land of a thousand dreams. *smile* In love with an actor, these were heady times for me as we explored our mutual love of the performing arts. One adventure I remember fondly was my foray into student films. You see, Hollywood is abundant not only with eager stars-to-be but also many an aspiring filmmaker. Those who yearn to be the next Scorsese or Spielberg. A number of these budding directors study either in New York's film schools or in the land where palm trees sway and convertibles rule the road.

How does the next winner of the Oscar for Best Director learn how to create that mega-million blockbuster? By producing small budget mini-films starring just as eager actor-wannabes. *grin*

So there I am newly arrived in Hollywood, scouring the dailies for audition possibilities when lo and behold I spotted a notice for a student film!

Wanted: Business-woman-extraterrestrial.

Perfect! *laughs*

Now while the competition isn't as fierce for student films as blockbusters (go figure) there's still a crowd to contend with. Obviously, I wanted to stand out as The Perfect Candidate. So what did I do? I dressed in the business suit I used in my Kelly Services marketing jobs, put my hair in a tight bun and went in dressed as close to the description of the available part as I possibly could. In this case, I quite literally dressed for the part.

And nailed it. *woo-hoo!*

Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference. ~Winston Churchill

Now this ties in with last week's essay on visualization. Whatever "part" we aspire to, we need to approach our chosen new reality in a similar manner. In this case, dressing for success isn't limited to a wardrobe choice. As most people know, how we carry ourselves is more vital than the clothes we wear. In men's magazines, for example, the question is often posed, "What do you find sexiest in a woman—clothes or attitude?" The answer invariably remains the same. Confidence is the sexiest accessory one can wear!

Every thought is a seed. If you plant crab apples, don't count on harvesting Golden Delicious. ~Bill Meyer

I'm going to make a sweeping assumption here that everyone reading this essay desires success and happiness in life. We want but we may not yet believe that we can achieve our desires. Beliefs, as previously noted, are the tools our mind utilizes to manifest our reality. In essence, they are the "wardrobe" of our mind.

The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes. ~William James

By choosing to Act As If You Are A Success, you do two things. You send out a message to all you meet, and the universe in general, that You Are Indeed A Success. You also confirm to yourself this most vital message. Think about it. If today you had achieved your dream goal, how might you approach your day? Would you devote more time or invest more enthusiasm? Would You… Believe?

What a man believes may be ascertained not from his creed, but from assumptions on which he habitually acts. –George Bernard Shaw

Let's choose this week to reinforce our visualizations with action and attitude. Here's an exercise. Go to your mirror and pretend you've just met someone new. Looking yourself in the eyes say, "I Am A Success." Do this a few times and let yourself work up a good dose of enthusiasm. Anytime you shake someone's hand, or offer up a hug, repeat this phrase in your mind. You'll really be amazed at how this translates. It's almost spooky just how much our attitude affects others as well as our self.

Excellence is not a skill. It is an attitude. ~Ralph Marston

Remember, reality is flexible stuff. If you don't believe me, watch siblings compare notes about their childhood. *grin* Often people growing up in the same house, experiencing identical events nevertheless remember things completely differently. Rather than arguing for poor memory skills, consider how this reflects a vital truth: Reality is based on perception and perception is based on beliefs.

Reality is what we take to be true.
What we take to be true is what we believe.
What we believe is based upon our perceptions.
What we perceive depends upon what we look for.
What we look for depends upon what we think.
What we think depends upon what we perceive.
What we perceive determines what we believe.
What we believe determines what we take to be true.
What we take to be true is our reality. –Gary Zukav

Here's our affirmation:

This week I will remember that I AM a success. I LOVE Being A Success!
Let's make this November week shine. Through winter's rain, snow, and blustery winds, let's snuggle down with keyboards and legal pads and trek through lands of our imagination. Happy Writing, everyone! Ready to set goals?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I Love Your Blog Award!

Monday, Monday, time of new beginnings. *grin* Yesterday I was touched by an angel. Or so it felt. The lovely and super-talented Gillian Layne of the wonderful blog The Gentle Art of Conversation bestowed an I Love Your Blog award to The Write Soul. *happy dance*

*Bows* Thanks, Gillian!

Now there are some rules to follow here:

1) Add the logo of the award to your blog

2) Add a link to the person who awarded it to you

3) Nominate at least 7 other blogs

4) Add links to those blogs on your blog

5) Leave a message for your nominees on their blogs

Although numbered, each blog on the list has my equal devotion. So… drum roll please!

1. Miss Make A Movie defines itself as a pop culture peek-a-boo. *grin* A group blog, these authors explore the ins and outs of movies, television and the fine arts, and what I adore is they don't hold back. Check it out if (like me) you love to explore what makes pop culture Pop!

2. Adventures of the Road to Success. Kate's explorations intrigue me and I love how she shares little tidbits of writing.

3. Pumping Your Muse Prompts by Donna Sundblad is a delightful source of inspiration. This published author (of both fiction AND nonfiction) provides a constant source of get-up-and-go-Go-GO…

4. The blog, Me, My Muse, and I by Jennifer Shirk gives me a lift! Maybe it's how she includes recipes or the wacky pictures her kid draws *snort* but she makes me smile.

5. If you like blogs that realistically should come with a "spit-take" warning label, read The Last Word. CJ Redwine is hilarious. And I'm serious about the warning. *grin* Put down the drink lest your keyboard and monitor get soaked.

6. Fellow "The Sims" lover, Deborah Dale has a fun blog. Check out Gemini Musings and make sure you say hi. *Grin* Also... do try the yummy zucchini quiche recipe!

7. Although for the most part, I'm thinking this award should go to authors, there has to be one major exception. The BookEnds Blog written by the agents of BookEnds Literary agency is a must read. Most posts are penned by Jessica Faust. I've learned so much about the market and the crazy, hair-pulling, exhilarating path to publication through this blog. I just have to give a shout out and a reverent bow.

Thanks again, Gillian! And to all my readers, thanks for so many lovely comments and positive energy over the months I've been at this. And for those who've asked, maybe I will put these essays in a book someday! *grin*

Happy Writing…

Monday, November 3, 2008

Reprogram Your Mind Towards Success

"Success doesn't come to you…you go to it." --Marva Collins

A classic book on self-improvement was published in 1960 with the title, Psycho-cybernetics. The author, Maxwell Maltz, was a successful plastic surgeon who noticed a peculiar and discouraging phenomenon with some of his patients. Despite the removal of what they considered physical flaws, many still believed they were unattractive. Maltz realized their perception was distorted because of a flawed inner-view.

Bottom-line, self-image is based on inner beliefs, not outer appearance.

"Self-image sets the boundaries of individual accomplishment." ---Maxwell Maltz

This phenomenon also affects our basic interaction with life itself. Our core image determines how we will approach both goals and opportunities that come our way. To put it simply, You Are What You Believe.

"It's not who you are that holds you back, it's who you think you're not." ---Author Unknown

Now this is not new stuff, but the Dr. Maltz's approach may feel fresh, even nearly fifty years after its first publication. He likened the mind to a cybernetic "servo-mechanism". Pretty fancy, huh? *grin* The idea though is straightforward: our mind is like a computer-controlled missile heading to a target determined by beliefs. The self-image we possess is the result.

The target is determined by your beliefs. Think about that. Where have you painted your bulls-eye? How many times have you heard (or said) this common phrase: With my luck, THIS will happen…


"You have to expect things of yourself before you can do them." ---Michael Jordan

Since the publication of this classic (and I do recommend it to one and all) the idea of beliefs shaping the reality we encounter has become quite popular. Although, in fairness, the idea has existed for eons.

"The mind is everything. What you think you become." Hindu Prince Gautama Siddharta, the founder of Buddhism, 563-483 B.C.

Yet today we still struggle with beliefs that affect our behavior and our self-perception. Why do some people manage to accomplish so much while others clench their fists in despair? How can we achieve success and happiness in life? Obviously, effort must be made. Goals set and reached. But unless you believe you can and will achieve anything of value, you may unconsciously set yourself up for failure or just languish in procrastination hell.

"Low self esteem is like driving through life with your hand brake on."
---Maxwell Maltz

The good news is we can change our self-image. We can reprogram our brain to believe in success. One very powerful tool is visualization. By placing an image in your mind, you can reprogram your thinking. As children, we learn behavior by imitating others. We put a picture in our mind and strive to faithfully reproduce that image. We Form Habits.

How many here have to think before tying a shoe? Not many, I'm guessing. *smile*

Our mental habits are much more powerful than we realize. And those mental habits are part of our neural network. How we respond to a smile from a stranger, for example, is based on a series of beliefs. How we respond to rejection is also based on beliefs.

"It ain't what they call you, it's what you answer to." ---W.C. Fields

So… how do we use the power of visualization to change our self-image, to attract success and to become all that we long to be?

Form a mental image of something concrete. A writer can visualize herself typing The End or signing a contract with a coveted publisher. You can form a picture of yourself paying off bills, marking PAID IN FULL. Perhaps focus on the image of a confident, radiant YOU giving a lecture or shaking hands with strangers who welcome you warmly. Reinforce your image with an affirmation set in the present moment. Instead of saying you will be (fill in the blank here) say I AMThe mind will respond As If This Is Happening Now. You are restructuring your beliefs and setting a new target for your mind to lock onto.


Focus on this image for at least five minutes, perferably twice daily. Maybe in your morning shower (or even better, while looking in the mirror!) and once before bed. Suspend all disbelief and let yourself *feel* excited. Woo-hoo! I AM A Success!! Tell yourself firmly: This Is My TRUE Reality. Everything else is an illusion I no longer need. Stick to this for at least a month. If negative thoughts pop up during the day, remind yourself that the "illusion" took time to set-up and might take time to fade away. However… This Is My TRUE Reality. Everything else is an illusion I no longer need.


Take action. Every day do at least one thing to reinforce your visualization. If you're trying to finish a book, for example, write at least one page and then repeat your affirmation. I finished that page! I AM a writer!


Persevere. Stick to this and you'll be amazed at the results.

Only as high as I reach can I grow,
Only as far as I seek can I go,
Only as deep as I look can I see,
Only as much as I dream can I be.
~Karen Ravn

You Can Do It! Autumn is here and soon winter will sneak into our lives. As the leaves drip off the trees and animals hunker down to ride out the cold weather, the urge for retreat can swell. Let's utilize this time to pull energies that have been scattered all summer and refocus on our writing. This will be a productive month! I can feel it… Let's Make It Happen…

Goal setting time:

15 pages.
New essay.
How's about you?

Write-write-WRITE! Go-go-GO!!
PS... *grin* I also wanted give a BIG Thank-you to those readers who signed up to follow my blog. Smiles and hugs your way!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Finding Your Note

"You don't get harmony when everybody sings the same note." --Doug Floyd

A few weekends ago, hubby and I yanked out the guitars, plugged in the vintage amps and took the digital recording equipment out for a spin. One of the classic songs we worked on is a long-time favorite: "Wild Horses" by the Rolling Stones. I memorized this tune back at the tender age of nineteen *gasp!* and to this day relish the intricate chord changes and plaintive lyrics. Love it, love it, love it… Except for one pesky little detail. Singing in the dreaded key of G.

Now I could transpose the chords or slap on a capo but for the accompanying lead guitarist, that’s a pain in the arse. There are those too who would argue that the richness and depth of the original chords are compromised.

Flash back to a few days earlier. Sipping a fine glass of cabernet, we’d been listening to the "Rolling Stones Rarities" album. The version on this disc has a blues feel, more vibrant and intense. Something about the husky tone in Mick's wail reverberated inside my soul. I just *knew*. The urge to redo the song thundered in my veins. So after hubby patiently arranged the microphones just so, and we dashed through the chord changes a couple of times, we gave it a go.

"Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to." ~George Seaton

The first verse came out in a wobbly squeak rather like an adolescent boy pushing maturity. A sure sign of the frustrating inability to Find My Note. Yet when the haunting chorus came around, I somehow magically tapped in. Faltering at first, but I could *feel* the correct pitch somewhere deep within my bones. By the second verse, I miraculously clung to the note for a few more seconds, astonished to hear myself singing in this impossible key. What a wild, incredible, brilliant rush. Yet… Could I hold it?

"Trust your own instinct. Your mistakes might as well be your own, instead of someone else's." ~Billy Wilder

Each time I'd begin anew… The exhilaration would snatch me up, toss my soul into the wind and I’d thrill in a wave of ecstasy hearing the clear chime of My Note. Up until that fateful moment when I realized (with a rush of stark fear) what I was doing… *snort* At which point, my voice would once again wobble and squeak and my spirits would plunge down to the ground. *rueful chuckle*

The process fascinated me. As soon as I let my thoughts wander over to an observation of my actions I’d lose focus. An image popped in my mind. The classic Warner Bros. cartoons where, in his eternal quest to snare the clever Roadrunner, Wile E. Coyote would race off the cliff, legs windmilling wildly. His nimble feet would carry him several feet into the air until a tiny pinprick of awareness would nip his consciousness and, with eyes widening in realization, he’d sneak a glance down.



Life requires a certain amount of faith. Perhaps it’s most obvious in performance mode (or while chasing an elusive Road Runner), yet it’s clear that this axiom serves throughout every aspect of our existence. I know that when I’m typing, if I stop to think about the process my speed will slow. I’ll become self-conscious, wondering if I really know what I’m doing. I'll make mistakes and often begin an endless cycle of correction, which then leads to even more mistakes. Grrrr… And that last sentence is really the crux of the matter. While most of us (whether deliberately or not) work towards a measure of self-awareness, we also must step away from being self-conscious. Meaning, we must learn to not second-guess each decision or micromanage every step of our life. Which isn’t always easy.

"Faith is reason grown courageous." ~Sherwood Eddy

What I realized during the course of the night is that even the most impossible task can be accomplished if you tune in just right. Not to say that one can bypass the effort required to move past the blocks, whether it be learning the chords, striving to understand the process of plotting, delving into the particulars of mixing hues on a palette, or even distinguishing between an intrusive weed and potential bud in your soon-to-be-blossoming creation.

"Faith is a passionate intuition." ~William Wordsworth

Yet one thing remains clear. It is that initial “tuning in” process that carries us through. Whatever you dream, whatever you yearn for, can be accomplished. For writers, we must close our critical "mind's eye" and open our hearts to trust in the process of creation. Trust that the characters will spring to life and the light of inspiration will reveal an amazing story just waiting to be shared. We all have to have to trust that we can and will Find Our Note. Let the fingers fly and your soul sing!

This week I'm working on a scene that's been sticking a bit. Hope to nail it down and move on.


15 new pages.
Weekly essay.

How about you?


PS.. I also want to let you know that if you like my weekly essays and want the motivational boost every week, you can sign up to be a follower of my blog. Just click on the notice at the top of the page. You'll get a notice every week when the new essay appears. Thanks so much!

Monday, October 20, 2008

For Want of a Little Courage...

"There is probably no hell for authors in the next world -- they suffer so much from critics and publishers in this." --- C. N. Bovee

I got a late start on my essay this week due to the dreaded onslaught of cramps. Luckily, the day before they hit I got a call from my mentor. Nothing like a pep talk to keep your spirits up while stuck underneath a heating pad! *Grin*

On the phone, I let my worries spill out, and one by one each concern was addressed. Made me realize too, just how challenging it is for writers to keep that confidence high. Even one who writes motivational essays! *chuckle*

Concern #1:
I'm reading a novel by Author Who ROCKS and it's soooo awesome. I can't imagine how I could be that good. Wah!

"A great deal of talent is lost to the world for want of a little courage." --- Sidney Smith

Don't try to be like anyone but yourself. YES, you can be "that good" but only if you give up the notion you're like anyone else. Find your passion and let it consume you. Don't worry about markets or submissions or critics. Focus on creating an obsession with your story. You'll need it because no matter what impression you get while listening to others, writing is work. Hard work. Endless work. You Need Passion. And you'll never find it trying to be like someone else. Be Yourself. And take a chance.

"Originality does not consist in saying what no one has ever said before, but in saying exactly what you think yourself." --- James F. Stephan

Concern #2:
My book is taking too long. What's the point of even finishing it?

"I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by." --- Douglas Adams

Here's a tidbit to keep you going. Last night I dug out an old Time magazine from my ToBeRead pile and scored this little fact. Mark Twain took ten years to write Huckleberry Finn. TEN YEARS. Writing takes time. No getting around it. We must invest time, patience and energy in order to complete those manuscripts. Each stage requires patience. Writing, submitting, editing, promoting… So let's get busy. Stop staring at the clock and redirect your focus on the flame of imagination ablaze within your soul.

"The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair." --- Mary Heaton Vorse

Concern #3:
How can I get past the cycle of procrastination?

"Perhaps it would be better not to be a writer, but if you must, then write. If all feels hopeless, if that famous 'inspiration' will not come, write. If you are a genius, you'll make your own rules, but if not - and the odds are against it - go to your desk no matter what your mood, face the icy challenge of the paper - write." --- J. B. Priestly

Honestly, there's only one answer.


Unless you push yourself it just won't happen. There will always be an opportunity to avoid work. And writing is work. No matter how fun, no matter how rewarding, no matter how inspiring. It's work. Don't feel guilty for avoiding it! Just because it's a blast doesn't mean the effort isn't exhausting! Accept that because the act of creation requires tremendous energy a part of you will yearn to pull up that computer game or flip through magazines or surf websites or read blogs. *cough* Of course, the last can be forgiven if the blog happens to be mine! *heh-heh*

Yup, you can feel guilty. You can expend all kinds of energy beating yourself up. Or… you can write. In the end, which will be more fun? *smile*

"The only way to learn to write is to write." --- Peggy Teeters

Autumn leaves are falling. Ghoulish faces peer out from the Jack-O-Lanterns plopped on neighbor's porches. Breathe in some crisp fall air and then WRITE! *grin*

One sentence, one page, one book at a time. We Are Writers! Now, let's get to work.

Ready to set goals?

This week:

15 pages.
Crit of friend's book.

How about you?

Go-go-GO! Write-write-WRITE!


Monday, October 13, 2008

The Soul of The Story--Integrity...

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” --Joan Didion

I love this quote. While it certainly qualifies as a quote about writing, it speaks to much more. Everyone everywhere needs stories. We spin them in our minds, we daydream our way through monotonous activities, we conjure them up to provide a happy ending when life seems bleak.

We need stories just as we need heroes. Even more, we need to be the Hero of our own Story.

This urge drives us on. Sometimes with positive results. Sometimes not. If the need to be the “good guy”, the good daughter, the good wife, the good friend, means compromising your integrity or living an untruth, not so much.

What’s fabulous about stories, both writing and reading (or watching) is how the character’s words and actions are not limited to our own personal inhibitions. In fact, our favorites can speak volumes about the qualities we wish to embrace. Characters who reflect those qualities are especially close to our heart.

Here’s something I noticed… We thrive on integrity. Now, what I mean by that is not Honesty, Honor, or Ethics. Obviously, in our daily existence, those three are pretty darn important. *smile* But let’s look at integrity. Integrity means being true to yourself.

In our stories, we want our heroes and our villains to be True To Themselves. If that integrity is compromised, we pull out of the story. Not deliberately, but suddenly something doesn’t click. Whatever the character does has to make sense because we as the reader or viewer demand that the character have integrity.

The challenge, in both stories and real life, is to weave in the need for evolution and transformation. That, too, is an integral part of life. Another way to look at is to see it as consistency. A few weeks back, hubby and I watched a movie that made us want to scream. Not only was it riddled with clichés, there was no consistency. The “heroine” (and I use that term derisively) was supposed to be a top-notch reporter who had the brains of cottage cheese. The “villain” who apparently was harboring a secret obsession had a shrine behind a closet door, yet left his computer running with a voice-over (her voice, naturally) so when she used the key (Tucked Over the Doorjamb! In New York City!!) to enter his apartment, she followed the sound to discover his Secret!


*tears out hair*

We watched the whole thing, not believing our own stupidity because, let’s face it, the movie WAS consistently ludicrous from start to finish. D’oh!

What draws us to a story?

The hero’s quest for integrity. Usually our heroine/hero is not being true to her/his self. Because of this, there is an emptiness inside or a knot that needs to be untangled, although they rarely realize or acknowledge this. Throw in some unexpectedly challenging circumstances or an encounter with a person who pushes those buttons and you have the beginnings of a plot.

Why is this basic structure eternally appealing? Because it reflects life. We all are on a quest to discover our Self. To KNOW our selves. And we DO encounter circumstances and people who challenge us to face the inconsistencies in our life.

We all want to be a hero of our own story. Within a story, we learn how other heroines discover their own True Self.

Have stories helped you to discover your own true self?

For me, the quest is about courage and embracing truth over illusion. As I've said before, in childhood I devoured the Oz stories. Dorothy stood up for what she believed, she challenged others to be true their own selves. I don’t need the heroine to be a “kick-ass heroine” (very popular these days) right from the beginning. I do need to see an awakening of her spirit though. I love how Bridget Jones went from lusting after Incorrigible Rogue to falling in love with the Flawed But Sincere Suitor. She eventually chooses the guy who likes her “just the way she is.” Awwww!!

Stories help me too because the escape allows me to breathe. I learn, I laugh, I cry, I breathe…

A dear, dear friend sent me an email asking, “Have you hugged your story today?”

Truth is, this life we lead IS our story. Have you hugged Your story today?

So you tell me, how have stories helped you to discover your true self?


Monday, October 6, 2008

Finding Your Voice

People often say that this or that person has not yet found himself. But the self is not something one finds, it is something one creates. ~Thomas Szasz, "Personal Conduct," The Second Sin, 1973

When novelists began that dangerous and lonely trek up the Mountain Of Publishing Dreams, there’s one cry that echoes above the rest.

Find Your Voice.

Editors say it. Agents too. “I just fell in love with the author’s voice.”

Not to minimize the necessity of an original plot and decent writing, yet it’s the distinctive tone that sets the story above the rest. And some authors are so unique that you can literally hear the words as you read them.

Awhile back, I read a Spenser novel by Robert B. Parker. Now, for those who don’t know it, a few years ago, the Television Powers That Be produced a few Spenser movies starring Joe Mantegna. Perfect. The casting was so ideal that now, when I read one of Parker’s novels, I *hear* Joe speaking the lines.


The writing style is so unique to Parker that there can be no mistaking it. Casting such a role would be a joy, no doubt, simply because the Character is so finely drawn. Not by description. But by… voice.

When I was nineteen, and an eager and enthused musician-wannabe, a kind and talented performer took me under wing. He was quite the character. Wearing a bowler derby and puffy white shirt, the songs he performed were almost exclusively written before 1940. That was his “thing.” I still love (and play) the song he taught me—Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out. This was my first introduction to the plaintive blues of Bessie Smith.

One thing I’ve never forgotten is the advice he gave me as a budding singer. He told me that it mattered not how WELL I sang. Only how distinctive my voice was. Now, obviously, he wasn’t encouraging me to sing out of tune! It’s a given that no matter what your profession, you strive to be the best you can be. Yet that’s not the key to success in the entertainment biz, he reminded me.

“When you listen to the radio, and Mick Jagger comes on, you recognize his voice instantly. It doesn’t matter what the song is, you know it’s him.”

And when an author finds her voice, you know it. Janet Evanovich is a bestselling author. USA Today, Publisher’s Weekly AND NY Times. People love her books and buy them in droves. Why? There’s no mistaking her voice. It rings throughout every page. The plots, the characters, they all spring out in vivid Technicolor in Her Voice.

What strikes me too as I mull this over, is how pertinent this value is in all of life. Not just in singing. Not just in writing. It’s a universal thing. We all strive to find our voice. Friends read your letters or laugh over your jokes or listen to your stories because that’s So You. Voice is how we express ourselves and it’s not limited to the words we choose or the tone we use. Our every gesture, our favorite expressions, the way we laugh or roll our eyes, the tilt of our head or the teasing grin, it’s all part of our unique expression.

And now I realize just how vital this quest is and how it’s not limited to writers at all. This may be our most important focus, this personal quest to discover our unique flavor.

So just for today, no matter how long your To Do list is, no matter how many neglected To Do items nag at your weary soul, take a moment and acknowledge this incredible phenomenon. You’ve invested years without ever realizing it. Your loved ones cherish those special things only YOU can do. Your unique sense of humor, your exceptional contribution to life, your beautiful, wonderful, truly amazing WAY.

No matter what you THINK you SHOULD do (and trust me, I know that’s a never-ending list). The One Thing that every soul must do is accomplished on a daily basis with rarely a speck of self-acknowledgement. So, let me say it for you… For us all…

Congratulations! You Found Your Voice.


For us writers, let’s keep the faith and remember that no matter how many books it takes, that voice will take hold. It’s inevitable. We ARE the voice, and the Voice Rules.

And speaking of voice, if you have a moment, check out this review of Misty Evan's amazing book, Operation Sheba:


Monday, September 22, 2008

We are the Magic-Makers, the dreamers of dreams...

“There’s no place like home.” ~~ L. Frank Baum

Years ago, I read this wacky science fiction adventure. The characters leapt through dimensions, visiting parallel worlds, and … more. In short order, these savvy travelers figured out that some of the never-before-visited locales were strangely familiar. As comfortable as a well-loved book. *wink* Imagine if those beloved tales sprang to life in other dimensions of reality!

Every story exists… somewhere.

They quickly acclimated, drawing up lists of favorite books to see just where they might end up next.

When visiting Oz, our heroine is recognized and greeted as an honorary princess by a denizen of that magical land. When her companion raises an eyebrow, she explains.

“Pop and I moved so often when I was a kid, but Oz was always with me.”

Having moved often as a child, I related. My treasured series of Oz books went with me, and no matter how unfamiliar the school, I always could return to my dearest friends.

"Roads," observed the shaggy man, "don't go anywhere. They stay in one place, so folks can walk on them." ~~ L. Frank Baum

To be a writer… to create… worlds. Is there anything better? We’re creating magic. Portals into another world. Windows flung open so that tropical breezes can carry us away.

Sometimes we forget the magic simply because there’s so much to this writing business. One word, one sentence, one paragraph at a time. Hard to remember that once all the pieces are carefully pushed together there will be a panoramic view. A view to get lost in. Another world.

"Imagination has brought mankind through the dark ages to its present state of civilization. Imagination led Columbus to discover America. Imagination led Franklin to discover electricity. Imagination has given us the steam engine, the telephone, the talking-machine, and the automobile, for these things had to be dreamed of before they became realities. So I believe that dreams--daydreams, you know, with your eyes wide open and your brain machinery whizzing--are likely to lead to the betterment of the world. The imaginative child will become the imaginative man or woman most apt to invent, and therefore to foster, civilization."~~L. Frank Baum


We’re creating worlds here, folks! Think about your favorite books. The ones you get lost in. The world picks you up and sweeps you away. You manage to let go the worries, release the stress, you slip into a bubble of contentment and climb aboard the most incredible vehicle that could ever exist. All within the pages of a book.

And that’s what we’re creating here. When we’re meeting deadlines, counting pages, sweating out an outline, digging out a synopsis, or freaking out over the query, we forget the Big Picture.

Magic. We’re creating worlds here…

Let’s all pull out some of the writing we most love and just for a moment… forget the stress of getting published, of upping the numbers, of finding an agent, of getting the next idea, of polishing mania…

Instead… FEEL the magic. Get excited. Realize what you hold in your hand, in your heart, in your head. Magic. We’re creating worlds here!!

"That proves you are unusual", returned the Scarecrow; "and I am convinced the only people worthy of consideration in this world are the unusual ones. For the common folks are like the leaves of a tree, and live and die unnoticed."

Everyone wants to and needs to feel special. Yet so many of us don’t feel special at all. As children, we stress and worry because we’re different AND because we’re not. As adults, we don’t fare much better. Yet we all share a special escape… reading. We can cast spells, solves mysteries, have wild sex *grin*, or slip into another time. Through books, we are all special. The fears of being ordinary slip away as we eagerly turn each new page. We are blessed with a special gift, brought to us by each writer who has taken the time, made the effort, and pushed past the fear. Writers like us…

We’re making magic. We’re creating worlds. It’s worth it. And I’m convinced that each story we craft enriches the world. And to put a twist on the words of Arthur O’Shaughnessy, “We’re the magic-makers, the dreamers of dreams…”

This week, let’s remember the magic. Let’s experience the dream. We Are WRITERS!!

“I firmly believe every book was meant to be written.” ~~- Marchette Chute

We’re starting off with a lovely new week. A week filled with promise and potential. What’s your minimum goal? What’s your stretch goal?

Even as you read this, I'm flying in on the red-eye. *yawn*

My goals this week:

Jump back into my book full-force!
Ten new pages.
Weekly essay.
Unpack. *grin*

What are YOUR goals for this Magical Week?

Write-write-WRITE! Go-go-GO!!


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Choosing to Believe...

"I still believe in Hope -- mostly because there's no such place as Fingers Crossed, Arkansas." –Molly Ivins

In life, we have two clear choices, to believe in success or to believe in failure. It may seem as if there are an infinite number of perspectives available but it's simply not true. Each view slants one way or another, with all sorts of justifications for the core belief. We invest hours in explaining Why we will fail or why we will succeed. Often investing as much time in our justifications as we do with any action towards our goals!

"Optimism is the one quality more associated with success and happiness than any other." --Brian Tracy

All that time and energy to fuel our dreams. By golly, it certainly behooves us to know exactly Which Choice we're aiming for! Especially because our Choice will fuel our actions. Optimistic people tend to succeed more often because they Choose to believe in Success no matter what. By framing their perspective with optimism, they tend to look for solutions rather than seeing negative circumstances merely as a reinforcement of their failure. They Believe Success is Inevitable. And so it is.

"All who have accomplished great things have had a great aim, have fixed their gaze on a goal which was high, one which sometimes seemed impossible." --Orison Swett Marden

No obstacle is too great when one shores up a dream with hope, faith and optimism. Mary O'Hara was 56 when she wrote My Friend Flicka. Anna Sewell was 57 when she penned Black Beauty. What may be the world's longest running play, The Mousetrap was completed by Agatha Christie when she hit the age of 62! Not to be outdone, Laura Ingalls Wilder published Little House in the Big Woods, the first of the eight-volume Little House on the Prairie series at age 65.

You bet these incredible women didn't let setbacks discourage them for long. They had two choices. To believe they would succeed or to believe they would fail. Which choice do you think they made? *smile*

"No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new heaven to the human spirit." --Helen Keller

The stars were once the primary navigational tool. The heavens above and a sturdy compass to provide direction. Consider the stars to be our source of inspiration. Occasionally there will be clouds obscuring your view, but your heart is the compass. Trust your heart to guide you, to give you direction. Believe in yourself. Believe in your goals.

"Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant." -- Robert Louis Stevenson

Every day that we invest time and energy into accomplishing our dreams, we are a step closer to realizing our fondest hopes. The ones who reach the stairs don't rely on outside circumstances to validate their success. Success is in their hearts, in their attitude, and the world knows it.

Take a moment every single day to validate your dreams. Don't wait for the world or for outer circumstances to do it. You are a Writer! We Are WRITERS! Say it now and every day. Remind yourself and you'll find out a secret. Believing in success makes you responsible to achieve that success. What most don't realize is that pessimists are lazy at heart. By believing in failure, they have a built-in excuse to avoid the work. Hah! We have no such dubious luxury (thank Goddess). We believe in success and so we must Choose to Do The Work. We Are Writers!

"Light tomorrow with today." --Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Today's focus is what will fuel tomorrow's actions. And the next day, and the day after that. Let that flame burn bright in your heart, for the optimism will always light the way. Remember, We Are Writers!

I'm off to vacation in sunny Hawaii this week so I may not get a chance to check in at all. Keep that energy up and those fingers flying!!

Ready to set some goals?

Smiles to you all,

Monday, September 8, 2008

Becoming the Butterfly...

“A blank piece of paper is God's way of saying how hard it is to be God.” --Sidney Sheldon

I love this quote. *smile*

Authors are the Ultimate Creators of a Universe. A highly personal, crazy, wacky world where our characters are expected to ponder, giggle, exchange sloppy kisses, and live happily ever after.

So… why am I staring at a blank screen and tossing around potential plot points as if they were nothing more than soggy croutons in a limp salad?

“Creativity is a type of learning process where the teacher and pupil are located in the same individual.” – Arthur Koestler

I have three books under my belt. Another half-way through. Creating these manuscripts has taught me much. An unmistakable lesson is how writing fiction really is a lifelong learning process. It does create a split personality of sorts. After all, there are hundreds of techniques and “rules of writing” and yet there’s only one person who knows what method works best for you. And sometimes she’s at a loss as well, eh? *grin*

There’s no mistaking the rush of excitement when a moment of clarity sizzles inside the brain. The two sides of our being mesh and in that moment we become the creation we struggle to create. We Are WRITERS!!

“There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly.” --Buckminster Fuller

All we have to do is move past that “blank page.” Jeez-Louise! So… what do we do? How do we push past the frustration born out of our need to *see* the theme, the dark moment, the turning point, the inner conflict, the character arc, and everything we’ve decided is essential to making a good story?

"Life is trying things to see if they work." ~~Ray Bradbury

There’s really only one way. We experiment. We doodle out ideas in our brain. Mix and match possibilities. We take a chance.

Indecisiveness is my curse. My biggest stumbling block. What I realized is that I needed to let go of my debilitating fear of Making The Wrong Choice.


Here’s what I found. There are no wasted words. If I write a whole chapter and later decide that direction isn’t working, I can easily start over. The time I spent writing has strengthened me and helped to improve my craft. Had I invested the same amount of time staring at blank screen fretting and worrying over a blank screen, I’d be left with nothing. And here’s the rub—I would no doubt feel worse than if I had “wasted” time writing a discarded chapter.

“I learned you have to trust yourself, be what you are, and do what you ought to do the way you should do it. You have got to discover you, what you do, and trust it.” ~~Barbra Streisand

It all boils down to trust. Trust that we are writers. We experiment and explore the potential within. We take risks with our ideas and dabble in intricate possibilities. We dare to move forward knowing that sometimes the direction will need to be changed. We do it all and more because…


And what do writers do? Writers WRITE.

Summer's golden glow will soon fade as the crisp clear taste of Autumn sweeps in. Ready to get some work done?

Let's set goals!

My husband threw a wonderful surprise my way. He's taking me along on his business trip to Hawaii! Yay! Why not mix business with a whole lot of pleasure, right? So this next week will be a balance between unexpected vacation planning and writing.

Set up essays for posting while I'm away.
Write at least ten pages. *crosses fingers*
Plan, pack, clean, prepare. *grin*

How about you?

--Chiron O’Keefe

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Write What You Love...

Love. Fall in love and stay in love. Write only what you love, and love what you write. The key word is love. You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to live for. –Ray Bradbury

This week I pulled out some of the stories written at the very beginning of my foray into fiction. What started me on my journey as an author was a love of speculative fiction. Twilight Zone stuff. My passion for the eternal "what if?" drove me to create my own worlds where strange and wondrous things might occur.

On one of my many writing loops, an author had posed a question about Taboos in Writing. Along with penning New York Times Bestselling novels, Allison Brennan always has time to add her voice and provide inspiration and insight to her fellow writers. Her comments charged me up yet again, reminding me that writing must come from the heart or it's just words on a page.

I really believe that you have to write what you love, and if you hold back or water it down you're cheating yourself and your future readers. I also think that it's harder to sell, because the passion won't be in the writing. Almost every editor I've spoken to has said that they buy because they love a book. Often they can't articulate why they love it, but usually when pushed they'll say "voice and characters." Allison Brennan

In the feverish pursuit towards publication, some of us may find dangling before our weary eyes the temptation to shelve what we love in order to write for the market. For a scant few, this will work. For most of us, it's a dangerous path. Be wary of closing your heart to your true passion. Remember always… Write What You Love.

Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn't wait to get to work in the morning: I wanted to know what I was going to say. ~Sharon O'Brien

Unless your writing enflames you with a sense of wonder and passion, why bother? Let Writing Be A Path Of Self-Discovery. Push yourself to question your characters and let them teach you about life and yourself. Writing is an exciting adventure or it's merely chewing cardboard. *grin*

The writer writes in order to teach himself, to understand himself, to satisfy himself; the publishing of his ideas, though it brings gratification, is a curious anticlimax. ~Alfred Kazin, Think, February 1963

Push yourself beyond your limits as a writer. Push beyond the story, beyond the outline, beyond what you first wanted to say. When you do this, a curious thing happens. The story takes over where your intellect first began. You move from being a writer to being a listener. Your heart will guide you. Let it.

The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say. ~Anaïs Nin

Find your passion. Discover your inner dreams. And Write ON, my friend… Write on…

Let's set some goals!

Outline is finished so writing for me. I'm shooting for:

15 pages.
Weekly essay.
Rewrite of a short story.

How about you? Ready to share some goals?

Here's to a week of self-discovery!

Go-go-GO! Write-write-WRITE!


Monday, August 25, 2008

The Path of Persistence…

"I handed in a script last year and the studio didn't change one word. The word they didn't change was on page 87." --Steve Martin

There is nothing more eye opening to the Real Business of writing than handing over your manuscript to a professional editor. Or, even worse, entering a contest and having your entry trashed by an anonymous judge. Ouch!

We've all felt it. The sting of rejection. The reason this hurts so very much is because we become attached to our words. We slave over them, take pride in them, feel a special glow when we reread them. Every artist shares this. Once a well-meaning hairstylist gave me a 'do which she thought would absolutely make my singer-songerwriter persona. When she spun me proudly around to face the mirror, I saw my hair shooting out like spikes. I made the mistake of bursting out with laughter (to my credit, it did seem kinder than bursting into tears).

Yet we ARE writers. Real writers. Which means, once we experience that slap in the face (and it really does feel like that, doesn't it?), we pick ourselves up, collect our pages and start polishing once again.

"Real writers recognize the words they cut are as vital as the words they leave in." –Chiron O'Keefe

We get our hands dirty, so to speak. Real writers don't back away from the tedious and messy task of revisions. Some love this part (I'm one) and some would rather poke their eyes out with a burning stick. What fills me with awe are those writers who hate revising and still they tackle it without hesitation. Bravo to you, I say!! Take a well-deserved bow. Considering all the souls in the world dedicated to procrastination and avoidance, You Are A Winner.

"In going where you have to go, and doing what you have to do, and seeing what you have to see, you dull and blunt the instrument you write with. But I would rather have it bent and dull and know I had to put it on the grindstone again and hammer it into shape and put a whetstone to it, and know I had something to write about, than to have it bright and shining and nothing to say, or smooth and well-oiled in the closet, but unused." --Ernest Hemingway

Truth is, "natural born" talent is overrated. As a musician, I speak from experience. As a teen, I remember being awestruck by the talent of two girls. They could play music, write songs, and harmonize, everything I yearned to do. Well, decades later, I am the far superior musician. Why? Because they never went further than their initial talent took them. While I (who had NO TALENT to speak of) persisted and pushed to reach a level of expertise. Every week I keep learning more. As far as I'm concerned, I haven't reached my pinnacle yet! They skated on their fluency and stayed there.

Persistence, dedication and passion will take you further than "natural born" talent ever will. The passion must spring from a desperate need to for self-expression. It's not enough to want to write, you must burn with desire to Tell Your Story Your Way.

"A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us." --Franz Kafka

"You can't wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club." --Jack London

"Fiction is a lie, and good fiction is the truth inside the lie." --Stephen King

Axes and clubs! Writing is brutal stuff. As we scribble pads or tap keys searching for the truth in our story, we must persist. Take heart though, because the rewards are unparalleled.

You Are A Writer.

You Create Worlds Within Each Story You Pen.

"I admire anybody who has the guts to write anything at all." -E.B. White

So do I… *grin*

Here we are entering the last week of August. Summer will soon be a memory as the leaves transform into brilliant bursts of gold and scarlet, reminding us of autumn's approach. Enjoy those lingering rays of sunshine, my friends, then… Back To Writing! *smile*

Ready for goals?

I finally finished my tentative outline. *faints* Thank Goddess!!

So… writing this week. Shooting for fifteen pages.
My weekly essay.
Four chapter crit.
Might be pulling out my second book for revising too.

How's about you?

Go-go-GO! Write-write-WRITE!!


Monday, August 18, 2008

Creativity Requires Courage...

"Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties." –Erich Fromm

Yesterday, at the store I ran into an old friend from many years back. We hugged and shared tidbits of our lives. Her mom approached and my friend offered up introductions, adding, "Chiron's writing books now."

Her mom smiled as she gripped my hand, saying, "That's wonderful that you make yourself do that."

Laughing, I responded, "And I do make myself do it."

It takes courage, you see, to be a writer. Not just stamina and perseverance, but the courage to Boldly Go Where No One Has Gone Before.

"Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." –Helen Keller

Having the courage necessary to accomplish what we choose is not always easy. We tend to beat ourselves up not only for every mishap, *groan* but for every quiver of fear that sneaks into our hearts. We think, "real" writers wouldn't tremble and shake. Uh-oh. There follows the logic that we daren't admit those worries lest others sneer at us, as we sneer at ourselves. *sigh*

This tied in with a dream of mine. I was trying to cross a bridge that consisted of nothing more than a long plank and a wobbly cable on either side. Sheer terror gripped me. I backed away, explaining to my friend that I was afraid to fall. But I needed to get across! Finally, the solution came to me. I grabbed a bandana with the intention of tying it around my eyes, and letting my friend lead me across. Hah! Sometimes just pretending what we fear isn't there can give us the courage we need to cross that bridge.

With every book we write we're "crossing a bridge", and yes, the truth is, we might fall. Sometimes we have to close our eyes to what frightens us and move forward anyway.

"It's not so much that we're afraid of change or so in love with the old ways, but it's that place in between that we fear . . . . It's like being between trapezes. It's Linus when his blanket is in the dryer. There's nothing to hold on to." –Marilyn Ferguson

In my dream, I not only closed my eyes and refused to look at what feared me I also did what every writer should do when panic or discouragement strikes: I reached out to a friend. Writing is a solitary business; it's easy to feel we're all alone. Remember this, my friends. You Are Not Alone. Every writer experiences panic, discouragement, fear and trepidation. If you're reading this, you're already connecting with another writer who "gets it." *smile* If you're involved in a writing chapter or you have critique partners, reach out and say… "Help!!" The community of writers is a family and while there will always be a relative or two that makes you roll your eyes and duck into the corner, *grin* you'll find most of us are willing to help because We Understand.

"Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them." – (attributed to) Ralph Waldo Emerson

This week, I reached out to two of my most trusted compatriots. Their insights and encouragement helped me to "cross the bridge." Courage, my friends, is what being a writer is all about. Courage to face those empty pages, or yet another query. Courage to tackle a fresh scene that eludes us. Courage to revise, once again, a book struggling to come alive. Take just a moment now and consider just how courageous you are! You Are A Writer. This is scary stuff indeed. And here's something to think about… Daredevil stunts or taming lions, sure that's dangerous. *grin* However, once you've jumped out of an airplane, you pretty much know what do next time around. With writing, Each and Every Book Is New. You, my friend, are the ultimate adventurer. *wink*

"Yesterday I dared to struggle. Today I dare to win." –Bernadette Devlin

"To dare is to lose one's footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself." –Soren Kierkegard

The best part is that we aren't solitary adventurers! There's always encouragement or support when you need it. Only one catch—you have to reach for it. Extend a hand and let your fellow writers know when you need help crossing your own bridge.

Courage is the hallmark of every writer. Still, courage is not necessarily an inborn trait. We develop our bravery just as we develop our writing. Part of the process, of course, will be incidents that demand valor. Horrid contest reviews, anonymous rejections, or just the dread arising when you worry you'll never finish your scene-chapter-book. *gulp* Reach out and take a hand, my friend. Even the most courageous writers need to remember… We Are Not Alone…

"One isn't necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential." –Maya Angelou

Here's to a week filled with adventures in writing, eh?

I've got a new spin on my WIP, which means I'm eager to see how I can make the new ideas fit. So… Outline Week!


New essay.
Research on submission prospects for my last book.

How's about you? Care to share your goals? I'd also love to hear your own stories of courage… How have you handled fear or discouragement? Please share!

Now… let's get writing!! Go-go-GO!!


Monday, August 11, 2008

Success is in the Doing--The Power of Choice

“Never give up, never surrender!” ---Commander Peter Taggart (lead character in “Galaxy Quest”)

Whenever I’m feeling down, I love to put up my feet and sink my mind into an old favorite movie. The reason is obvious. A good story, whether silly or profound, lifts us out of our ordinary life and into a new perspective. And within each story is a kernel of truth that some reader (or viewer) takes to heart. Perhaps that is the essential ingredient we strive to discover in each of our own stories. That kernel of truth. This is what sets each story apart. For me, this new week, I’m quoting one of my favorite fictional heroes. And I want to urge each of us to Never Give Up, NEVER Surrender!

“Part of the issue of achievement is to be able to set realistic goals, but that's one of the hardest things to do because you don't always know exactly where you're going, and you shouldn't.” ~~ George Lucas

Ah yes, the challenge of balancing the need for realistic goals and the reality that because each story is an independent creation there are quirks and inevitable diversions. Not to mention the unavoidable distractions that daily living often presents. Like Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

We writers also face another challenge in our careers:
“You have to put in many, many, many tiny efforts that nobody sees or appreciates before you achieve anything worthwhile.”
--Brian Tracy

Time. Yikes. So many little revisions, hours spent on research or even just staring into space while searching for the exact right word. How many here have sweated over picking the Perfect Name for a character? *smile*

Obviously, these precious moments invested are worthwhile. We love being writers, which is why we write. Yet too often we spend just as much time chiding ourselves over the hours wasted or bemoaning the lack of substantial feedback. We all have end goals in sight. A beginning writer hopes to get a positive response from a query. A published writer yearns for a stellar review. A multi-published author strives to reach a particular sales level. And it’s almost certain that every writer will judge herself at each stage, certain that she SHOULD be doing better.

"Success means doing the best we can with what we have. Success is the doing, not the getting; in the trying, not the triumph. Success is a personal standard, reaching for the highest that is in us, becoming all that we can be." ---Zig Ziglar

Let us remember, and remind each other as often as we can, that while we should damn well strive to reach whatever far-reaching goal we set our hearts on, We Are Successful. Reaching for the highest, becoming all we can be… That is the best goal we can hope for.

Would we sneer at our best friend for her efforts, or judge her for not reaching her goals quickly enough? Of course not! We’d point out that the strongest trees grow slowly, sinking roots deep into the ground. A spindly sapling that shoots up too quickly might snap in a heavy wind.

“Trust, have faith, and keep doing the work,” we’d murmur with an encouraging smile. Part of the process of staying motivated is keeping your spirits high! As the marathon runners stumble past, the onlookers cheer and shout their support. Imagine if they offered up the kind of words we’ve been known to toss at ourselves when no one is listening. We’ve all done it. My personal favorite is to shout, “I’m a hack! My writing sucks!” while pacing around the room. *rolls eyes* Not very best-friendish, eh?

“Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes." - Oscar Wilde

The truth is, everyone must strive to reach heights that are unfamiliar. We need to keep in mind that even those blessed writers who do get published immediately have issues or personal struggles of their own. We all share the need to better ourselves, to reach our personal heights, to become the Best We Can Be.

Part of what makes the difference with writing is perspective. The more we put the pressure on, the more it seems like WORK (the dreaded four letter word) and less like PLAY. Yet this is what we want more than anything, right? We’re not digging ditches or scrubbing toilets. This is our life’s dream, our greatest joy. Sometimes I find that my whole attitude shifts when I make a few changes in perspective. Rather than saying “I HAVE to finish this book” or “I have to meet this deadline,” how about “I GET to finish my book!” “I get to meet a deadline!” How lucky am I? *grin*

“The more I want to get something done, the less I call it work." --Richard Bach.

And when you get right down to it, there’s nothing you HAVE to do. Really. Everything is a choice. Even breathing. Sure, the alternative is I’d suffocate *cough* but again, it’s what I choose to do. Sometimes we Choose to take on obligations. It’s easy then to believe we HAVE TO do this or that. But the simple truth is, we Choose. Each and every time. To be responsible. To be kind. To be mature (sometimes *grin*). To write our books.

So let’s make that choice and recognize the beauty and absolute pleasure it is to Have that choice. YAY!! We Are WRITERS!!

My choice this week is to…

Continue on with WIP—more pages, more scenes!
Weekly essay.
Begin submission process with last book.

How about you?

Have a fabulous week, everyone!! Go-go-GO!!