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Indecision

Indecision

If you are a writer, or a reader who has a curiosity about writing, you might understand this dilemma. You see, I’m experiencing a bit of a conundrum in my writing. Having just sent off the draft edits for the sequel to my debut novel, I’m faced with that dreaded, “what next?”.

 

I’m torn between starting a new series based on the two previous books right away, or taking on an entirely new project in the romance genre, but very different than the first two. I already have ideas for both, but wrestle with which to tackle first. I’ve even considered writing the two simultaneously, but I’m not sure my old brain can do that.

 

The truth is, both hold equal appeal, I’m just not sure how or where to start. As a woman who has passed the age of fifty, this type of situation has happened many times before in my life, separate and apart from my writing. So I acknowledge the need to stop for a bit and let my heart lead the way. Unlike my personal life, if I make a wrong start, I can simply put the current work aside and make a new beginning.

 

But wait, isn’t life like that too, to some extent. We’ve all heard of people who’ve made some pretty horrendous mistakes in their lives, and for a variety of reasons, chose to take a different path to find the peace and happiness they seek.

 

Years ago I divorced my first husband and chose to seek my future without him. It was one of the most difficult decisions I’d made up to that point. I was barely thirty-two years old and the mother of two young children. I had no job, and things at home had reached a melting point. I didn’t know what my future would hold as a single parent with very limited financial resources, but I knew I had to make a new start for myself and my children. The relationship wasn’t a healthy one, and rather than stay, I chose to take on a new direction. I made the right choice.

 

Love rules

Love rules

Years later I met my second husband and fell in love. He had three teenaged children and by then my own children were teens. That made five teenagers that we were considering putting together as a family. No, insanity doesn’t run in my family; it seems unique to me. I didn’t know what the future would hold in this proposed new scenario, and I could see the pitfalls ahead. But I was in love with this man, I cared very much about his children, and so I followed my heart. Now, we have five grown children and five incredible, beautiful grandchildren. It certainly hasn’t always been easy, by a long shot, but I’m happier for having my husband and our combined children than I ever was alone. Together, we’ve created a family that bickers, and loves, much as biological families do. I made the right choice.

 

When I was fired from a job as a medical office administrator for standing up for myself against another staff member with more seniority, I came home devastated. I cried, ached and felt such shame for being fired from a job I’d taken pride in. Then my husband asked me if I’d ever wanted to do anything other than work in an office, as I had since I was seventeen. I was stunned. No one had ever asked me that question before. I took it seriously and really thought about it. I was forty-one years old, the kids had mostly grown and gone, and I was in a new space in my life. I’d always wanted to get into real estate, so I told him I wanted to take the required courses, obtain my license, and go with my gut. Keep in mind here that I hadn’t even finished high school, having foolishly quit school two months before graduation in order to marry my first husband. The thought of taking an extensive course and begin the formal learning process again was daunting, for sure. It was also exciting. I completed that course, got my license and thoroughly enjoyed selling residential real estate for the next seven years. I made the right choice.

 

After those seven years, I was tired of long days and nights and little time away from work. I realized I had started missing out on so many family functions and important personal time with my husband due to work requirements. I’d gotten disillusioned with real estate sales and the sometimes cut-throat attitude of so many of the agents I’d encountered. I’d also met some wonderful co-workers and clients whom I truly enjoyed. But I was unhappy, so I wondered again, “what next?”.

 

After serious consideration, and in talking with family and friends I trusted, I made the decision to move into residential mortgage sales. It seemed the ideal fit based on my years in real estate and my basic knowledge of mortgages etc. I still wasn’t sure it’s what I should do, but I went ahead and took the courses to obtain my license and went to work selling mortgages. I should have listened to my gut instinct. I’d grown weary of commissioned sales and had only shifted the focus from real estate to mortgages, with little to no real change in the type of work I was doing. After only three years I was left dissatisfied and unhappy with where my career was going.

 

So it begins

So it begins

I remembered my husband’s question all those years ago about what I wanted to do with my life. I had always wanted to write, but had put it off. It was such an “out there” thing to do, and I was afraid to tackle the commitment I knew it would take. I hummed and hawed. I agonized and chewed it over for weeks. Then one day while I was off for Christmas break, I decided to just go for it. I went upstairs to my computer and sat down and began to write a story I’d been mulling over, along with my indecision. Approximately eight hours later, I came downstairs beaming. I hadn’t written anything stellar, and most of it I would later re-write completely, but that wasn’t the point. The point was, I’d crossed a line. I’d taken hold of an old fear and once again chosen to go with my gut feeling. By the time I came downstairs from my office, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I had my, “what next”.

 

It’s been three more years since then, and during that time I continued to work. Last November, with the release of In The Spirit Of Love, my debut novel, I already knew I’d found my place, so decided to quit my job and write full time. In truth, writing is where I probably should always have been. I’ve learned so much this past year, and the years before it. I’ve learned to trust myself and listen to my instincts. I’ve also learned that, just like in writing, I can choose my path. If it isn’t right, I’ll stop, listen, wait, and go with my gut.

 

I know I still have so much to learn, and I’m still not sure what I’ll do regarding my next project, but that’s okay. What I do know is that I’ll keep writing. In movies I’ve heard characters talk about the possibilities “tomorrow” holds. I think of Gone with the Wind and Scarlet O’Hara, who vowed to go home to Tara and figure out her future. I think of Little Orphan Annie who sang brightly of “Tomorrow”, and I think of all the songs and films and talk shows that encouraged me take chances and dream big. It isn’t even all about “making it big” (although that would certainly be nice). It’s about finding myself and my true passion and letting it lead me to new experiences. I guess what’s next for me, is simply to write.

 

So, what’s next for you? What dreams or aspirations have you followed up on, or wished you had?

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Fire

Fire

I was reminded of a favourite song of mine the other day, Standing Outside The Fire, by Garth Brooks. The song focuses on the need for people to take chances in their lives and to create the destinies they want. I truly believe that. I always have. I guess that’s why that song, and others like it, strike such a strong chord within me.

When we write anything, an article, a song, a poem, a story, a letter, anything at all, we have to believe that what we have to say is worth others hearing. Some call that ego. Maybe it is, but maybe its also about sharing this human condition of living. I like to think it’s about connecting with others on a basic level.

When a writer writes a story, they create characters who have to DO something. The characters must have a purpose, needs, flaws and desires that readers can relate to, otherwise the story is boring. Plot lines and flow charts aside, it’s the characters who must echo humanity and human lives. Even in science fiction, horror or other genres where the characters aren’t actually human, the characters must exhibit a human character. They have to move the story along by their words and actions, just like we do.

A writer's space

A writer’s space

But by nature, most writers are introspective and can be a little more solitary than some people. We are happiest to sit at our desks and create worlds, characters and dialogues in our heads while putting them to paper, or on a computer screen. Then the book comes out. Now we’re supposed to be PR experts and marketing moguls. Uh, maybe not so much. But if we want our work to be a commercial success, and if we don’t that’s fine too, but if we do, we have to step outside our comfort zone. We have to push ourselves to get out there and promote our work and ourselves so people will know we, and it, exists. I write for two reasons, because I love it, and because I am hoping others will get some real enjoyment from the stories I’ve crafted. I hope the characters will come to life for readers and provide a measure of entertainment and escape. Oh, and yes, I would like some financial redemption for that work. No apology. If I have to make money somewhere, this is how I’d like to do it.

 That means having confidence enough to push myself beyond where I’d normally go. I’m not an experienced public speaker, and I don’t necessarily seek the lime light. I watch famous writers like James Patterson, J.K. Rowling and others who have learned how to reach out to readers and brand themselves to the buying public. Maybe they’re more extroverted than I am, but possibly not. They just know it has to be done, so they do it. I like to think I can too. I’m fortunate to have been blessed with years of watching both my mother and younger sister, Stephanie, in public speaking engagements. Each is amazing and inspirational. They speak about women, to women, and business professionals about creating the business and lives they want. I love listening to them. They are my inspiration. My middle sister, Melanie, runs a very successful business with her husband and has done for the past fifteen years or more. They’ve learned a lot along the way, and she’s definitely had to step out of her comfort zone to promote her business, on more than one occasion. My brother, Stephen, followed his dream of playing in the CFL when he was younger and now runs his own contracting company. He wanted to play in the Greycup, and damn if he didn’t do it! I’m so inspired by these people and their drive. I’ve always been the quiet one. The studious one. Now, I’m having to step outside my comfort zone and pull out all the stops in marketing and promoting the heck out of my book. I’ve been contacting local libraries to ask for book readings/signings, I’ve contacted local news publications to ask if they’d be interested in interviewing me as a local emerging author, I’ve had to start reaching outside myself in so many areas I feel my arms are growing (too bad my legs wouldn’t). It doesn’t feel natural to me, but it’s important. When I needed to have my book on Kobo because I’m Canadian and Kobo is a major venue in Canada, supported by major book retailers and libraries, I stepped in and liazed between my publisher and Kobo directly to encourage a working relationship. It worked and In The Spirit Of Love is now on Kobo, in addition to all the other venues it’s been on.

Each step I’ve taken these past months has been difficult, but also fun. I’m learning and growing and gaining confidence. My first public appearance was at a book reading/signing at a small local library. I had no clue how to proceed, and neither did they, but I went with my gut instinct and kept it light, easy and hopefully fun, for the attendees. I’d never done anything like it before, where I’d be the center of attention, and you know what, I liked it. I was fine, and I brought my mother with me for moral support, which was a great idea.

My point is this. As writers, we have to make our characters stretch and grow to gain the desired objective. As people, we do too. While recently talking to the manager of a local major book retailer who is considering placing my books on consignment and hosting a book signing, she told me flat out, “I want an author who will connect with my patrons and draw them in. If he or she just sits there, I’m not going to be happy, and I won’t invite them back.” Point taken, challenge accepted. I might bring my mother with me though, for moral support.

So, like Garth Brooks sings, “Life is not tried if it’s merely survived, If you’re standing outside the fire”.

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Dream Big

Never stop learning, dreaming, believing

I am continually amazed at the learning possibilities of life. A well-written book holds clues and insights never imagined before. A new place holds beauty and experiences never imagined before, and new people hold friendships and stories never encountered before.

On a recent business trip I was fortunate to travel to Clearwater/St.Petersburg, Florida. I thought it would hold little surprises for me. I thought I knew what to expect. I was wrong. While there I was introduced to people who met us with warmth and laughter, while fulfilling their roles as guides to the locale and places I was there to become more familiar with. Each of these people revealed expertise in their chosen fields of work and the properties they were proud to showcase, while making me and my team mates feel welcome and treated as honoured guests. Over the course of that three day trip, I learned I knew nothing of the area I was there to see. I had come with pre-conceived notions. I was wrong. Clearwater, St. Petersburg proved to be an incredibly beautiful destination with fabulous hotels, warm clear waters, wide sandy beaches and friendly, welcoming people.

While there we were introduced to Winter, the dolphin who lost her tail after being ensnared in a fishing trap. The movie, Dolphin Tale, is based on the remarkable story of Winter’s fight for survival and subsequent rise to dolphin stardom at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. After hearing the story and seeing Winter myself, I couldn’t help but reflect how much all of us can learn from animals like Winter and their tenacity for life. Even more fascinating to me though, is the story of the humans who went out of their way to help Winter and make a difference. The resulting rescue and ripple effect of the publication of Winter’s story continues to expand, changing both human and animal lives on a daily basis. In a society hell bent on consumerism and the attainment of surface beauty, the story of Winter, her caretakers, and those who stepped beyond their everyday lives to save a life, this is a much needed reminder of what can be accomplished – if we don’t give up believing in possibilities.

Writing a book is a little like Winter’s story. When a writer sits down to pen a new story, it feels a little like being wrapped up in that fishing trap. The heart of the story is there, it’s just all tangled up in a bunch of other stuff, and if left like that, it’ll die a slow and painful death. But unwrap it, rescue it, breathe life into it, work with it, and rehabilitate it to get it to where it’s whole and shiny, and you’ve accomplished a significant feat of faith and perseverance.

Oh, but then you have to sell it, market it to the world so others can share in the vision, and perhaps impart some value and entertainment. If you are really, really fortunate, your story will resonate with even one reader who will enjoy it enough to recommend it to someone else. If you are fantastically lucky, your story will sell enough to actually help you pay some of your never-ending stream of bills. Kinda like the movie they made of Winter’s story, Dolphin Tale. Because of the movie, the dedication of the entire crew, staff at the aquarium, and the unstinting backing of the people of Clearwater/St. Pete’s, this incredible story has a happy ending. Not only did Winter get her tail, but many other marine wildlife have also been rescued. Not only that, but public awareness of marine rescue and rehabilitation has increased exponentially, and continues to grow daily. On my recent trip our guide, John (an amputee himself), pointed proudly to the beginnings of a new building being constructed directly as a result of the revenue from the movie. The tremendous success of the film, along with the publicity generated, has resulted in enough funds to build a second, larger building to house and care for even more marine life.

This brings me back to the beginning of this post; because of a business trip, I learned more about an area than I ever dreamed I would, I learned that dreaming big and working hard result in outstanding accomplishments (look for my upcoming posts on a new blog site I’m developing with Strategic Incentive Solutions, about the people and places I am fortunate to visit), and that faith, tenacity, and gritty determination really can transform a dream into a reality.

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The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap

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