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Letting Go

Letting Go

We all deal with issues in our lives where we want to hold on to someone or something. Sometimes we want to hold on to the past because of what it represents, especially idyllic memories of childhood. Then of course there are things in the past that were hurtful or harmful to us, yet we still hold on to those memories as well, rather than moving on. We hold on to the stories we’ve told ourselves about who we are and our place in this world. We hold on to grudges and refuse to relinquish them without a fight. We seem to feel we are entitled to hold onto things, no matter what they are or whether they are good for us or not.

 

How many times have we prayed for something to come true for us? How many times have we claimed we need a certain thing to happen before we can be happy? In western culture we cling to our material possessions as if our very lives depend it. They don’t. We work ourselves to the exclusion of all else in an attempt to gain more stuff, more recognition, more power over others, yet continue to feel empty and lost.

 

But what would happen if we simply let go? What if we let go of our determination to own the future, own more things, insist on forcing our point of view on others? This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue to strive to better ourselves as human beings. Far from it. It doesn’t mean we should simply accept the subjugation of our will to others, or let others determine our path in life. Far from it.

 

It means letting go of expectations for the future. It means letting go of expectations from other people. It means letting go of the intense desire to control everything around us. When we expect something, we become disillusioned and disheartened when things don’t turn out as we want them to. We give our expectations such importance that it can affect our relationships with others, and our relationship with ourselves. How sad. What a waste of time and effort.

 

As a writer, I’ve begun to learn more about letting go of things and expectations than I ever dreamed. I know I can do my best, but at some point, I have to let go and allow things to unfold as they will. I cannot make others understand why I write. I cannot make readers want to read my stories. At some point, I have to let go and allow the universe to unfold as it will. In the meantime, I continue to do my best. I continue to write, to query, to connect with others on various levels. I continue to believe in myself and what I am attempting to accomplish; which is to connect with others via any medium open to me. Writing is just another form of communication for me, and I love it. I love hearing that people have enjoyed what I’ve written. I enjoy hearing from people from all over the world on social media, through this blog, family and friends who take the time to tell me they’ve liked my work. I’ve loved teaching the creative writing workshop classes I held at a local art centre this summer, and look forward to doing more in the coming months. I find great pleasure in talking to groups of people at book readings, public speaking engagements, and so on.

 

But at some level, I always have to accept that each of these endeavours leads to a point where I have to rest my expectations and step back. The work I’ve done will have to stand on its own. The talk I’ve given will either be well received, or not. I can continue to learn and grow as a writer, a speaker, and as a human being, but I cannot own the outcome. No one can. That’s a hard lesson to learn, because we are hard-wired to try to control as much of our environment as we can.

 

Writing has taught me many things, including the necessity for letting go. I want so many things for my life, and I’ll do my best to ensure the best shot possible at my dreams. I can only control me, my reaction to situations, my relationship with others, and my own determination to continue walking this path. I control nothing else. As my mother has often said, “Let go, and let God”. Its one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received, because it allows me to relax and trust that things will work out exactly as they are supposed to, and that whatever happens, I’ll be just fine.

 

Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

If we allow it, letting go and believing in the great, unknown possibilities is the greatest gift we can give to ourselves.

 

 

 

 

 

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Teeter Totter of Life

Teeter Totter of Life

Anyone who has been following my blog over the past few weeks knows I’ve been in a state of transition as I try to find a balance between life and work. My husband and I took a chance on new a job, moved to a new   city, then discovered very quickly, like within weeks, we’d made a mistake. The job simply didn’t suit us or what we were looking for at this time in our lives. Not only that, but the long hours and exhaustion kept me from my writing for almost a full month. This separation from my passion caused me more than a little anxiety.

 

I once heard Oprah advise; let every experience teach you something new. I learned a great deal about myself and my personal needs through this most recent venture.  I learned to appreciate what we already had, the importance of spending time with family and friends, and my need to find time to write daily. I also learned I don’t need a lot to be happy, or comfortable. I learned my time has real value to me in ways I’d never considered before. It also confirmed for me that making mistakes is all right, so long as you learn the lesson(s) and move on.

 

I know the company that hired us wasn’t thrilled with our decision to leave so quickly, but my husband and I both felt strongly that it was better to cut our losses, and theirs, sooner rather than later. No need to flog that horse. Moving twice in one month took a tremendous physical and emotional toll on us both, but it felt like the right thing to do. I was reminded to trust my instincts, and my instincts were telling me to re-group and get back to being “me”. That job didn’t feel like “me”.

 

Whenever I’ve tried to do things that didn’t feel quite right, I’ve made mistakes and been unhappy. I should know that by now, but I guess we all discount that niggling voice that whispers, “this isn’t right for you”. We rationalize all the reasons to discount that voice, and too often move toward, not from, the source of negative energy. For me it felt like wearing an overcoat that was two sizes too large. It felt bulky and heavy. It didn’t warm me, or make me feel secure. But that’s okay. Sometimes trying new things allows us to discover what we don’t want, which is as important as discovering what we do want. I knew that, but apparently I had to be taught – again.

 

Being Me

Being Me

Now, I’m back where I belong. I’m close to family and friends again, and I don’t regret taking a chance on something new. It has taught me much, and reminded me of more that I already knew. It confirmed for me that writing is my future, and for now, if I take on another job to help pay the bills and fund my writing career where needed, that’s okay too. I know I’ll get where I’m going, and I’ll meet some really great people along the way.

 

In the meantime, I’ve been working diligently with my publisher on the release of my second book, In The Spirit Of Forgiveness to get it released. We finally hit on the right cover art, which was so exciting, but it’s been a long process. It should be up on the website within a couple of days, so do stop over there and check it out. I’m not a particularly patient person, so I guess I’m having to learn the importance of patience as well.

 

I’m also in the midst of working on the next project, a fact-based historical fiction that I’m really, really excited about. Writing this book is teaching me so much about the past, about people who made a difference in their time, and about the tremendous importance of love. I didn’t think I’d enjoy doing the research which would allow me to blend fact and fiction, but I’ve discovered that I love it. Researching facts about the people in the story, the political and social climate of Europe in the 1800s, and breathing new life into a story that was destined to be told has infused me with a new level of excitement. I’m now pulling together the pieces of lives of real people who defied conventions of the day and were determined to see their vision for themselves and the future of their country realized. In doing so, it hits home once again how important it is to hold true to my beliefs, and fight for what I know is right for me.

 

A Journey Worth Walking

A Journey Worth Walking

It’s been said many times before that writing is a journey, and it’s leading me down paths I’m eager to explore. Around each corner I wonder, what next? There is so much work ahead, but I can’t wait to share what I’m discovering with my readers. Excitement and challenge are important to me. They drive me as nothing else. I’m grateful to my husband, who listens patiently while I go on and on about people and places from over a century ago. I’m grateful to my mother, who encourages me to seek and delve even deeper into myself and my work, and shares her own memories of a place I’ve never seen, her homeland of Denmark.

 

So, I’m continually learning what’s important to me, to my life, to my career as a writer. What have you learned recently about what’s important to you and your life? Please do take a moment to reply in the comments section, and share this post on social networks.

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Beauty of Cover Art

Beauty of Cover Art

I love working with my publisher on cover art design. It’s a fun way to express creativity and bring a concrete vision to potential new readers. But book covers are more than just a pretty face. They have a message to convey. Book covers portray an image of what the book and/or characters represents. The font, colours, photos/drawings, are all vitally important to catching a reader’s attention and enticing them to read the back cover blurb, then hopefully, purchase the book.

 

It’s also a marketing tool. This is why top companies spend literally millions of dollars creating the right packaging for their product. The packaging says a lot about the company, just as a cover tells a lot about the writer and publisher. This is our first introduction. It’s also a little like being sure to wear your best outfit to a job interview, making sure your hair is combed, shoes are clean, and personal appearance is as pleasing as possible. It’s our virtual handshake and “hello” to the world.

 

It’s also how we remind past readers that we’re still here and have a new story they’re going to love. This is why there are some elements of the book cover you may want to keep consistent, like font, over-all colour scheme, tag line, etc.

 

This is really marketing 101, but most people who will buy our books don’t care about that. They want to pick up a book that intrigues them, and gives them a reason to pay their hard-earned money out for our stories. Huffington Post recently posted an article on this very subject, entitled, Yes, We Really Do Judge Books By Their Covers, written by Terri Giuliano.

 

Ensuring the cover art is as close to any descriptions we have in the book is vitally important. After all, you can’t describe a brunette heroine, then show a blonde on the cover, or a cover model with brown eyes when you describe a main protagonist with blue. It jars the reader and shows you don’t care about the details. I know they won’t realize it until they purchase or read the book, but do you really want to set them up for disappointment? Oh, and negative comments will definitely start popping up if the cover doesn’t match the narrative or story line. Trust me, people notice!

 

With my first book, In The Spirit Of Love, my publisher and I went back and forth many, many times to find the right overall look, then again in choosing the closest male model depiction for Sir Richard. With the locket we chose to feature on the cover, I actually had to go back into the manuscript and alter the description to ensure it matched what we were showing on the cover. Simply put, it matters.

 

High Five!

High Five!

As we continue to work on putting the final touches to the sequel, In The Spirit Of Forgiveness, again, we’ve been working hard to find just the right look. So when readers compare the story line, they can see we’ve taken care to match the cover to the narrative.

It’s a lot of work, and yes, it may cost extra money to get it right, but it’s an expense that’s well worth it. Once the print version is out there, it’s out there for all time. Yes, you can update and change it later, but somewhere an original will still exist. You want to be proud of what you’re putting out into the world. It’s your baby.

 

For the writer, this is even more important, since readers identify with the author, not the publisher or cover artist. In fact, few people pay any attention at all to who the publisher, editor, or cover artist are. Unless it’s poor job, or on the flip side, a really great one, most people don’t care. They’re going to judge the writer on the entire package. Is it fair? Possibly not, since we don’t always have final say, but it is what it is.

 

Personally, I want to be proud of the finished product. I want to be beaming with pride when I attend a book tour, or public speaking event where my book is going to be centre stage. It’s my name that’s on the front cover in big, bold letters, not anyone else’s. It’s my face they’re going to associate that book with.

 

In the talks I do at libraries, bookstores, schools, etc. I talk about the importance of cover art, and use one of my books to demonstrate the different aspects of it. Can you imagine how that would go over if I hated it, or was disappointed in it? I’ve been in marketing and sales for years, so I know that I can’t “sell” something I honestly don’t believe in.

 

No Mirror Images

No Mirror Images

You also don’t want your book covers to look so similar in style that readers are going to think they’ve already read it. This is especially important when selling ebooks, since all the e-venues use thumbnail sized covers, and if your covers look too similar, you’ve got the problem of someone passing it by and thinking “I’ve read that one”.

 

That’s why some authors include the words “sequel”, or “Book Two”, or even just roman numerals to indicate the subsequent books in a series. You want to make book selection easy for potential readers. I know if I’m standing in my favourite book store, I don’t want to have to scrutinize too closely whether or not this is a book I will like, have read before, or, in the case of a gift, is something I think the recipient will enjoy. The old rule of K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid) definitely applies here.

 

Conversely, cover art that tells a potential reader nothing about the story will often have them passing over it. Unless you’re writing non-fiction, straight text is rarely a good idea. Cover art doesn’t have to be so elaborate that it confuses the reader, but it does have to intrigue them, and by intrigue, I don’t mean be obscure. This is why certain genres have evolved to include easily identifiable elements. For example, romance books usually depict lovers, a male or female protagonist, or some romantic element that tells the prospective reader exactly what they’re getting when they buy that book. Other genres have certain elements on the cover art that readers expect to see too, and if it’s not there, or is so elaborate the intent is hidden, you risk readers putting the book down and moving on to something they can identify with.

 

The cover of a book can also form part of an author’s branding. It might be as simple as using the same font for each title in a series, or the author’s name, a tag line that follows the author with every book, or an over-all look in terms of colour and layout. It’s what helps readers identify the author at a quick glance. Well-known writer and blogger, Joanna Penn, addresses the issue of author branding in her article, entitled, Branding for Writers: An Essential Step to Building Your Author Platform. I would say that cover art is an important part of an author’s branding and platform.

 

So, now that I’ve shared my thoughts on the importance of cover art, what do you think? Have you ever purchased, or not purchased, a book based on it’s cover?

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