What Will You Do in 2018?

loveprintstudio.blogspot.dk

Few people recognize the symbolic value of the blank slate, the clean page, more than writers. Whether looking at our characters, our projects, or the actual blank page in front of us, we know that possibility is a magic few recognize in all its potency.

The idea of  ‘New Year’s goals’ has acquired a cynical sheen in today’s society — many of us make them either in bad faith or we softly snicker at those who create such plans and count down the days until that donut is eaten, or that new project is abandoned.

It is easier to laugh at our human shortcomings than to embrace the profound weight of our enduring strengths. Because, as Spider-Man says, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

I love that responsibility. I love the power you and I have to create a 2018 for the ages. A year from now you can be in disbelief about how much you have accomplished, and so can I. The question then is: How much do you love the beauty you have been given?

We are storytellers, artists, wordsmiths and teachers, and within us lie worlds undiscovered and un-shared. Be like your heroes and write the words coursing through your soul, share the stories and lessons shining from their private and scared alters, and act in the manner of the glorious and the gladdened. Whether you create for yourself, the world, or a host of angels, this year take up the actions of your heart — and take them seriously.

 The next 365 days are yours. You may dance in them, adventure through them, cry at their indescribable beauties and at their searing sorrows. Be challenged by them, taught by them, confounded by them — but they are yours.

They respond to you, to your beck and call, to your intentions and your actions. Under hard work, they bloom. Sprinkled with inspiration, they sparkle. Blessed with your faith and fanaticism, they will turn the next year into a paradise, a wonderland of exhaustion and excitement, of hard work and amazing victories, of goals sought and revelations found. There is nothing trivial — no meat for the cynic — in the land you and I are envisioning.

We see the beauty that is but the reflection of the seeker.

Diply

The successes of this new year will be built with strength, for inspiration, by dedication. The victorious will be the passionate and purposeful. They will illumine the Earth, and set the stars to jealousy.

Their work will realign the cosmos. Their journeys will become legend. The statues built in their honor will tower for a hundred years.

They will be you and me. We will be the prototypes of a new renaissance.

And when you share your vision with the world, the every one of us will see the beauty of this existence a little clearer.

I can’t wait.

B. Lovely Events

Upward and onward,

Katherine Cerulean

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What’s Your ’10’ Career?

Just a couple of days ago I sat down to make a business plan while waiting in a Chinese restaurant for my takeout order to cook (tip: if you can’t figure out a surefire plan for your business in ten minutes, then why bother? 😉  The only thing I had time to do was make a list of 11 money-making ideas related to writing, and then rate each idea on a interest/excitement level of 1-10 (ten being screaming-at-the-ceiling-excited [so what, I scared a few patrons]).  I put down the numbers as fast as I could, with a minimum of thought.  The idea here was to get an almost subconscious feeling for how much I wanted to pursue these options.  That idea may sound touchy-feely, but I believe that what draws you in is also where you have your greatest potential.

from AhteesDesigns on Etsy

from AhteesDesigns on Etsy

As I wrote down the numbers, I was surprised — there were strong feelings, and no hesitancy, in my actions.  When I looked back at the list, the path — usually so muddied by my indifference as to HOW I earned a living writing — was suddenly crystal clear.

My List:

  • Novels: Self Published      — 3
  • Novels: Traditional            — 10
  • Screenplays                         — 9
  • Self Improvement Books   — 7
  • Articles                                 — 1
  • Teaching                              — 2
  • Teleplays                             — 1o
  • Greeting Cards                   — 1
  • Editing                                 — -1
  • Web Site Design                 — 3-5

The truth, however scary, was right before my eyes.  I might enjoy writing articles (like this one!) and teaching for free, but my soul blanched at the idea of doing that as a job.  The problem with this ‘revelation’ was that I already was making plans to push it this fall and write for Huffingtonpost, set up paid classes, etc. etc.  But my list said (since I already have a ‘day job’ that pays the bills) that I should only really be working on four things — novels, screenplays, teleplays, and self improvement books.

Woah.  That IS what I want to be doing, but is it also what I SHOULD be doing?  To answer that, I need to go back and introduce you to a book that absolutely changed my life.

from mariongundersonart.com

from mariongundersonart.com

What are your strengths?

The online Strengthfinder test (which you get a code to take when you buy a NEW copy of the book ‘Now, Discover Your Strengths), has 34 themes or ‘talents’ that a person can have, like Includer, Intellection, Input, Positivity,  or Responsibility (those are actually my themes).  You get your top five revealed and for me, it was a life changer.

Like never before, I was able to see my positive qualities laid out before me.  These talents are so integral to who I am and come so easily to me that I took them for granted. They are the traits that, when praised, make us say with a dismissive wave of the hand, ‘Oh, everyone thinks like that’, but other people are drawn in and in awe of your abilities.  And we ALL have talents, but often we can’t see them without help — we’re just too close to their source.

Talents like ‘Intellection’ (the ability to think deeply about things), when combined with knowledge (like how to build a story) and skills (hours upon hours spent writing) equals a strength (fiction writer).  It’s soul-level compulsion meeting a thing you love to learn about and do on a regular basis.

from Huffington Post

from
Huffington Post

How does this fit into your life (and mine)?  Well, I highly (HIGHLY) recommend buying the book, just in case it gives you a fraction of the joy it’s given me.  But for now, look at the list of talents and see if any jump out at you —

Now, any talent can help any job — ‘Self-Assurance’, say, is helpful everywhere.  But, when combined with your personality and passion — your talents can push you in certain directions.  If you look back at my list of money-making writing ideas, you’ll notice that teaching rated quite low.  I’ve done it from time to time, and even enjoyed parts of the experience, but it’s also nerve-wracking, exhausting, draining.  I love the results — happy students and a chance to think more about a topic (that ‘Intellection’ again) — but the idea of doing it all the time for money sounds tiring.  Also, none of my talents involve people except ‘Includer’, so a ‘Maximizer’ or ‘Developer’ might be more at home in a teaching setting.

On the other hand, take novel writing.  I’m as happy as a pig in slop.  Oh, the work is still hard, but I want to be doing it all the time.  And it makes sense when you look at my talents:

  • Includer — I love to look at the misunderstood, broken, forgotten characters and try to understand them and pull them into the story
  • Intellection — Thinkin’ about stuff 24/7/365
  • Input — Learning about Victorian England, old-fashion carriages, the experences of orphans, the periodic table –everything’s interesting!
  • Positivity — Novels take a long time, but faith that I can finish and finish well keeps me going
  • Responsibility — Doesn’t tie in exactly, but it helps me manage myself and get the work done (sometimes)

 

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Now, doing what you love and enjoy can sound like an overly simple answer.  But if you think about it, even now, at whatever job you’re doing, there are facets of your job that draw you in and others that repel you.  Try doing what you love a little more and the things you dislike less.  Seriously.  Stop doing the junk you hate and see if anyone notices.  I did this at my ‘day job’ and now our department has risen to be ranked in the top ten out of over 1,000 stores.  I didn’t do it alone, but I’m sure spending time on the things I was more passionate about helped.

The risk in not following your talents and passions is that you can work very hard and not really get ahead or have anything to show for it.  You can give your life away to the ‘supposed-to’s and only end up with the ‘oughta-haves’.

But if instead you make your own list, and write down — real quick — your own 1-10s, you may discover what you should be doing with your life.  And if you find a way to use your universe-given talents in service of your passion?  Well then, we should all get out of your way, because you might just be about to take off like a rocket.

from Etsy

from Etsy

And now, I’ve got to get back to that screenplay.  And that novel.  😉

The Audacity of Fantasy; or Why I Still Fall in Love

I am in love again.  It’s only the fifth time in my life.  It is with a person I don’t really know, I only know of.  It’s not a celebrity (though no shame if you are — they’re probably someone who’s worked hard to achieve their dreams and entertain others) — he’s just someone I’ve talked to a little.

Pin by Florence and Joseph McGinn

My sister doesn’t like it when the fantasy part of my personality runs away with me — she’s afraid I’ll get hurt.  And true enough, I think I cried for two days (at least it felt that way) when the first guy I loved when I was 20 said he liked me as a friend.

But I am confused about how I feel about daydreams, fantasies, and the assorted imaginings that this guy I like will show up at my Best Buy one day, a beautiful smile upon his face.

Also, as a writer, imagining things is very important to me.  The difference between two characters having a conversation (in my head) and me imagining me talking to this guy is indescribably small. And love, true indescribable love, is a big part of my storytelling —

“Did love exist?  Love as Shepley saw it?  Yes, he knew it did.  He had experienced it, but he could not now remember if he had seen it in others in real life or only in dreams and novels.”

— A Caged Heart Still Beats

That’s probably the truest thing I’ve ever written that expresses my feelings on the subject.

But outside of books, I get the feeling that fantasies can be very harmful, and even become a substitute for working hard and going after your dreams.  Take the lottery: is it harmless fun to buy a ticket and for a dollar envision what you would do, where you would go, and how exciting it would be?  On the surface no, but I know people who have played for years then had to awaken to the reality that their real life wasn’t what they wanted, and it probably hadn’t been for a long time.

Found on hercampus.com

Also, I’m a big believer in action — the ability to make it so.  So if a fantasy ignites your dreams and causes you to make goals and move forward, that’s great.  And a lot of motivational leaders believe in the power of affirmations and envisioning yourself in the place, shape, job etc that you desire.

So dreams that become action = great.  And everyday five-minute-fantasies, where you and a friend tease about what you’d do on your yacht or how you’d choose between Channing Tatum or Ryan Gosling are probably healthy ways to bond and joke in a fantasy context.

But — what about the gossamer dreams, the ones that seem real as life, the love stories that I believe in my heart of hearts could come true?  My dreams about work and jobs I think can happen, if I work hard enough.  But this lonely orphan of a dream about love, what to do with him?  Will, in time, he just be buried out back, next to his four brothers?

I still fall in love because I still believe in happy endings.  I need very little from my beloved, just them to continue rockin’ out the world with their awesomeness.  For them to be kind and thoughtful and amazing and give me space and hold me close.  I know these things are possible because I would offer these things.

So I’ll keep my fantasies, and keep falling in love.  But I’ll also keep working to make my life even more exciting than my dreams —

Found on coffeeinthemountains.tumblr.com

 

 

A History of a Writer

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I’ve been making up stories for as long as I can remember and, as I’m turning 35 in a few months, it looks like the odds are good I’ll be telling them for the rest of my life (not just gonna yell ‘That’s it!  I’m done!’ as I blow out my birthday candles).  But how did I grow into the writer I am today?  Here’s what I remember (note: these ages may be off a little) —

423440_10150723496996095_1852258631_nAge 6 — Some of my first memories were playing with He-Man figures, though I remember liking the villain Skeletor better than the hero.  We also had an Apple computer and played ‘Choose Your Own Adventure: Cave of Time’.

Age 7 — Loved listening to stories but couldn’t hardly read at all till one summer my sister and I got excited about the Athens Regional Library’s Summer Reading program.  I think I read about 50 books including my first ‘big’ novel — Black Beauty.

Age 10 — Wild Ponies! Wild ponies everywhere!  I loved The Black Stallion, The Island Stallion, Smoky, and all those horse stories and so I made up a lot of tales of wild horses while running around a 50 acre property my mother care-took.

Age 12 — Huge TV fan.  We never had cable (still don’t) but for a while I’d watch 2-3 hours a night and tape many programs (tape, ha ha, the memories!).  I once even pretended I was the head of a network and invented 50 series (each with a log line) and then rolled dice to see which were successful and got ‘high ratings’).  Few of the people who call me intelligent and thoughtful today know just how many episodes of The Nanny I’ve seen.

Age 13 — ‘Sisters’ the TV show premieres.  I’ve watched better shows with my sister and mother (Quantum Leap!) but something about this show makes me start telling stories about people instead of horses (mostly just Teddy & Falconer [a young George Clooney!]).  Adolescence has begun.

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Age 14 — I’m reading a lot of Stephen King and Dave Barry.  Also, SeaQuest DSV and The X-Files debut followed by Earth 2 a year later.  My sister Sarah and I spend untold hours playing out ‘episodes’ of the shows that we ‘write’ (as well as Chicago Hope).  We even have props, like a bicycle tire gage that serves as a syringe.

Age 15 — I start my first book, pretty much called ‘If Dave Berry Had Written Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’.  I write a few chapters, enjoy it, and still remember a scene where a road crew is placing giant, brightly-colored fish in the highway, like stones in cobblestone.  My adventures in literary greatness have begun.

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Age 16 — I make an epic sci-fi / fantasy love story called Move to Fathom about the assistant to the president who is destined to be the soul mate to an invading alien king.  Strangely enough, I only write down the dialogue, not the whole story.

Age 18 — I decide I’m serious about screenwriting.  Later, when asked why, I said, “I was just enamoured by Hollywood I guess.”  I take a 2 day workshop lead by Michael Hauge.  As a home-schooled-off-the-radar person, it is my first formal training.  I go on to complete two feature length screenplays — ‘Murder in the Movies’ which is about a murder on a murder mystery set, and ‘Divining Grace’, which is about an angel earning his wings by helping a human girl.

Age 19 — I get first job just so I can buy an amazing desktop computer with my sister for gaming.  It was AWESOME.  Suddenly, Duke Nukem 3D, Unreal Tournament, Arcanum, X-COM, Civ II, and Myst start to inspire me.

Age 21 — Watch High Fidelity and then start reading Nick Hornby.  My favs (in time) become About a Boy, High Fidelity, and Slam.

417713_10150723505716095_955974438_nAge 22 — I take a three week trip to England to watch the world’s largest dog show (why do other people go?).  I also fall in love for the first time (well, first time recipatated) with a handsome English bloke.  I come home determined to finally start my story ‘Other Gods’.  I try it as a novel instead of a screenplay because I want to flesh out the world and make it deep and meaningful.  I fall instantly in love with novel-writing.  I also join my first critique group and learn about the evils of -ly words.  And I started watching LOTR and the reading the book for the first time.  Yowza!  I realise I have to take my writing to a whole new level.

Age 23 — Go to my first Writer Conference.  I have a fifteen minute session talking to Patrick LoBrutto, who ruins me for talking to any other agents/editor/etc types — he’s so sweet and nice and helpful.  I’m probably here today because of him (at least partly)!  Also see 28 Days Later — the era of my modern movie love has begun.  Suddenly Rain Man and Titanic just don’t seem quite as great.  Hello (in time) Danny Boyle, Zack Snyder, Guillermo del Toro, Neill Blomkamp, Darren Aronofsky, and Alfonso Cuarón.

Age 25 — Shadow of the Colossus (PS2 game) comes out. DA-mn.  Never gonna forget that world.  Time to up my game again.

Age 27 — I watch Deadwood, my first cable show.  I know it only as ‘That show that won all those awards and people curse a ridiculous amount”.  After watching the first episodes, I know it as the show that changed my idea of TV forever.

Age 29 — I finally finish my first novel ‘Other Gods’.  The story of two servants of the god of Darkness (one willing and one unwilling) on a journey to destroy all of the gods on a desert planet.  It clocks in a 140,000 words but I’m very proud — my first book!

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Age 31 — Start my second novel ‘A Caged Heart Still Beats’.  I had been trying to write a sequel to ‘Other Gods’ but the timing just wasn’t right.  So I decide to pick a short, sweet idea, and ‘Let my romanticism off the hook’ for the first time.  A love triangle starring a man trapped in a cage is born.

Age 33 — I start People Who Have Come Alive, to inspire others to live their dreams.  I also met Rob White, an Athens-area writer who has inspired me in many ways including founding the Athens Writers Association that year.  I also wrote my first non-fiction book ‘How To Come Alive: a Guidebook for Living Your Dreams’ and self published for the first time.  Yow!  Things are getting busy!

Age 34 — Finish and self publish ‘A Caged Heart Still Beats’.  Will finish (soon!) 12 year project — ‘Fall Street’ novel.  Am writing a teleplay.  Soon to start next novel …

Taken on day #5

Still crazy after all these years.

 

How to Start Living the Life of Your Dreams Today

quotablecards

quotablecards

This is about to be a huge cop out because the answer to the question above is to remove the first two words from the title of this piece — there’s your answer.  But hopefully my explanation will be more satisfying.

There’s a lot of dithering, planning, dreaming, whiteboard and index card use, and fantasizing that goes into planning the life of your dreams.  And that can be good, but even better is the day you take action.  And the best kind of action (to me) is just acting like you’re already living the life of your dreams.

It’s easy to get fixated on the crack, crevice, Grand Canyon-sized hole between where you are and where you want to be.  But when you jump, you don’t look at what you’re jumping over, you look at where you want to land.

For myself, it’s hard to believe that a little over a year ago I had published no books (now I have two), there was no Athens Writers Association (which I founded) and all my dreams of being a professional writer felt like wispy clouds on a distant horizon.  But today I feel like I’m on an express train zipping toward my destination.  How did I do it?  How does anyone?  Without further ado, here’s what I’ve learned so far —

10 Tips for Living the Life of Your Dreams

  1.  ‘Fake it till you make it.’  I use to dislike this idea, like somehow you were lying to the world.  Instead, I’ve come to see it as a powerful technique to re-train your brain to see you as a winner.  Instead of seeing yourself as out-of-shape and wanting to eat a donut, imagine yourself as your perfect weight — you feeling amazing in your body, you go for runs, and maybe donuts have lost some of their appeal.  See yourself as a winner making a choice rather than as a loser denying themselves a treat.  This also means you have to starting talking about yourself, your dreams, and your talents in positive terms.  You’re not lying to anyone — you’re just remembering that ‘I just published my first book, and I’m very excited!’ is as true as ’50 agents turned me down so I finally made up a copy and self published it.  I keep them in a box under my bed.’  You’re the hero of your own story, and you’re on a journey —  honor how awesome you are for even trying to make a big change.
  2. Start today.  No one expects perfect; in fact my current favorite saying is ‘Progress not perfection’.  Instead, see what you can do on this day that will echo in eternity.  I’m not kidding — a simple walk could be the start of a lifetime of health and fitness.  Picking up that guitar and playing for five minutes does get you closer to being a master.  No matter how small the action, do it.  But the trick is to see these actions as the beginning of long term habits, not as one-offs that should change everything.  But know this, when you make the time everything does start changing.
  3. Realize that even small actions can put you in elite company.  Now I am not saying you don’t have to work damn hard to get to the life of your dreams, but believe me, you would be shocked how little time it takes to become an inspiration to others.  Most people have un-achieved dreams and just seeing you eat right for a month, or write one book, or even get up on a stage for five minutes can make you someone who’s done what some others never will.  It’s a good feeling to inspire others — and you’ll find yourself inspired to ever-greater heights.
  4. “Say yes, and you’ll figure it out afterward.” — Tina Fey.  Just being willing to do something you are unsure about is a surefire way to start astounding yourself.  In the Athens Writers Association, there have been some big, even scary, ideas — like doing our first public reading or publishing an anthology — but that willingness to say “Yes, we can” translates into action and confidence.  People love solution-finders, and they tell others (including your dream-job boss) what bold, great things you are doing and how you were willing to put yourself out there and learn something new.
  5. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.   Truth is, the road to your dreams is scary, often unmarked, and filled with the sensation that you’re going the wrong way.  And that’s when you’re on the right path!  Everything you’ve been doing in your non-dream life is probably stuff that’s been working ‘okay’ for years, but as Jack Canfield says ‘Everything you want is on the other side of fear.’  If you’re serious about living the life of your dreams, be prepared to feel like an out-of-it, loser, miscreant for the next five to seven years.  Then all your dreams come true.  I think it’s a pretty good deal, but damn, it’s not going to be comfortable.
  6. Work hard.  Sorry, but that’s the price of admission.  You have to find something you love so much you’ll give untold hours, weeks, and years to it and still want to give more.  The great thing is, being willing to work hard is all it takes to separate you from the ordinary masses.  And trust me when I say you can work so hard and do great things.  You just need to break free of the feelings you learned in school or in that job you hate and recognize that working hard at something you love is already ingrained in you.  Just remember being a little kid building forts, chasing bugs all day, playing with your friends — back then play was hard work, and you loved every minute of it.  Reclaim your awesomeness.
  7. Let go of what others think. Their life path is not yours.  If you know you’re going in the right direction, then that’s all that matters.
  8. “Do good work and share it with people.” — Austin Kleon.  Part of the ‘living’ vs. ‘planning’ is being willing to share your work (and hopes and dreams) with the wider world.  Now, that doesn’t mean trusting your innermost secrets to the person who always poo-poos your every idea at work.  Dreams are precious things — find like-minded people and get excited.  Take a class, join a group, and then start putting your talents out into the world.
  9. Feel the momentum.  Writing a page a day can mean writing your first novel this year.  Losing a pound a week is losing 52 pounds by next spring.  Don’t worry about falling off or having a bad day, just look for forward progress week to week and month to month.  Using the weight loss analogy above, you could have 70 ‘off’ days between now and next May and you’d still lose 40 pounds.  You could fall off for two months and still come out of the year an amazing champion.   Now you want to be on track as much as possible, but know that keeping going, not being flawless, is the secret to success.
  10. Power though.  When I was writing my nonfiction book last fall, I would sometimes feel tired, out-of-sorts, and like I might not be doing my best work.  But I keep pushing forward — edit if I was too tired to write, work on a cover if I was too distracted to edit.  I looked at it like a football game: it’s great to have a long run and score a touchdown, but even if a play only gets you a few more yards down the field, you are still better off and closer to the goal.  And by the end of the year, magically, I had a real book I was proud of.  No one (not even me) could tell what I’d written when I ‘didn’t feel like it’, or what parts needing to be rewritten five times — in the end it was a great, unified piece.  But it would be easy to still be writing it, waiting for the perfect moment, letting myself off easy when I was tired or busy.

Just dedicate yourself to doing something you love, to achieving some great end, and then put in the time and hard work to make it happen.  Stop planning and start living today.

And . . .

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Who’s Inspiring You Right Now?

As I get excited about 2014 and living the life of my dreams I was thinking about the quote —

And that got me thinking, which five people in my life are doing what I want to do more of?  i.e. who’s inspiring you right now?

So, without further ado, here are the five people who are doing what I want to be doing (since these are people from my own life that most of you don’t know, and since I don’t know how they’d feel about being the subject of a blog — I have made them into archetypes for us).

THE ARTIST

This person inspires me by living the artistic life every day.  He’s a writer who’s sharing himself online and by reading, teaching, etc around town.  He’s doing more and more work, and getting better and better all the time.  The world at large hasn’t caught onto his brilliance yet, but he has, and he’s happy to follow his words into places (and genres) he’s never been to before.  I don’t know what his day-to-day life is like, but he makes you believe in the dream of writing in cafes and small apartments, soaking in the cities and breathing out genius.

THE ENTREPRENEUR

 

 This woman has transformed a rocky past into a rock-solid future, and found obvious peace, joy, and prosperity along the way.  She’s very successful, has three businesses, and a staff that loves her.  She’s selling well without selling out.  But the thing that really sticks in my mind is when a similarly middle-aged woman told her about a ‘fantasy’ dream life and business.  The Entrepreneur told her it was possible and told her a few first steps she could take.  But the other person laughed and put it back in the ‘fantasy’ box where her dreams likely would stay.  But the Entrepreneur is a person who’s pulled their dreams into the open and done the hard work (but oh so worth it) of making them come true.

 THE HERO

This woman has had some hard knocks; her body and her brain chemistry would be a challenge for any of us.  But she continues to fight, look for answers, improve herself, and vanquish her fears.  And she does all that while being one of the kindest, sweetest, and best people I know.  Whatever size problem I’m dealing with, I try to remember to tackle it with the cheer and grace this woman brings to every day of her life.

THE HARD WORKER

This man recently got the ‘dream job’ handed to him on a silver platter.  Lots of money, living in a big, exciting city, and getting to do what he loves every day.  I guess some people are just lucky, huh?  Wait a minute though — this guy also makes plans and goals all the time, spent his own money (and time) to better himself, and spent years before this ‘breakthrough’ honing his talents and turning himself into a dream hire for the company of his dreams.  Then he applied, risked rejection, and flew himself out there for interviews.  Oh, and all that money?  He was willing to ask for a little more and they happily gave it to him.  And yes, among the many things he’s taught himself, one was how to negotiate.

 THE STAR CREATURE

This woman doesn’t belong to this Earth, and I mean that in the best way possible.  She doesn’t connect to much of the rabble of our modern world but instead she’s inspired by the greatest artists in history, the most profound thinkers, the most beautiful moments of nature.  Life may overwhelm her senses, but only because she sees everything, feels everything.  And believe me, when you see everything, you miss nothing.  And when you miss nothing, you become a hell of a creative force.

So, that’s mine.  Now tell me, who’s inspiring you?  And what are you going to do about it today?

How to Make February the New January

“Get your hero up a tree, throw stones at him, then get him down.” — old saying in playwriting

So, a month ago, I was real excited.  And then what happened?  Life.

Those who know me know I haven’t been myself lately.  I have been quiet and tired.  Since January, my sister and I have had pipes burst, the well’s power shut down, a longer run of low temperatures here in Georgia than I can remember in my lifetime, snow, no indoor water, and the top third of a dead tree fall to the ground 30 feet from us — which was funny (especially since we were on our way to fix the well) but it was really close too.

None of that matters.  Or more precisely, none of that’s slowing us down.  It’s February now, time for us to re-find those 2014 goals and enthusiasm and I challenge you to do the same thing.  This is going to be the most frekin’ exciting year yet of our lives and that all begins by picking back up those goals, dusting them off, and saying —

We OWN this year.  Let’s prove it.

My 2014 goals —

  1. Cycle 50 miles in one day
  2. Publish my novel ‘A Caged Heart Still Beats’
  3. Publish my novel ‘Fall Street’
  4. Be in the best shape of my life (hard not to be with goal #1 😉
  5. Go Paleo for two solid months
  6. Write something new that is the best thing I’ve ever written
  7. Do yoga every day of the year starting now
  8. Make my home the most inspiring it’s ever been
  9. Do 12 adventurous things I’ve never done
  10. Get rid of 1/3 of my possessions

Are You Selling What I’m Buying?

If you’re an author today (or any sort of entrepreneurial business person) this is truly a wonderful time to be alive.  The freedom and power given by the internet is unprecedented.  But for authors, all that power comes with great responsibility.  How to you make yourself heard, rise above the masses, and sell books without becoming a ‘MY BOOK IS NOW .99 ON AMAZON!!! RT THANKS!’ jerk?  Good question.

For myself, this is the simple formula that seems to work best (inspired by Austin Kleon) —

  • Do good work
  • Make it interesting
  • Put it in front of as many eyeballs as possible

In a moment I’ll explain each of those parts in more detail, but for now let me give an example of how this was recently successful in a RL event.

The Athens Writers Association had its first ‘Writers Read’ event and I wanted it to be a big hit.  So I picked good people and they (and I) practiced our readings and worked hard to bring our best (‘Do good work’).  Then I made flyers, put stuff up on the website, etc — all with the idea to make it alluring and exciting to people (‘Make it interesting’).  Lastly, I contacted local papers, and spent a whole day going to nearly 30 places around town to distribute flyers (‘Eyeballs’).  It was exhausting.

But it was SO worth it.  We had a giant crowd, and everyone who came seemed to love us and wanted to hear more in the future.  The excitement was palatable.

So what does that mean for you (and me) online?  I think the same rules apply.  Allow me to explain —

Do Good Work

People, this is the catch.  Right here, right in the beginning.  You want to put out good work, really good work if possible.  All the other time and effort you put into to advertising and marketing is pointless (in my mind) if you’re not pointing people to something they are going to love.  You’re just the matchmaker — you believe your book and this reader are destined for each other and you just want them to meet.  And just as you wouldn’t set up a good friend with someone you thought was unworthy, don’t set your beloved reader up to fail by giving them a bad book.

‘Bad book?  Wait a minute,’ you say, ’My book’s not bad’.  No, maybe not.  But you want great.  Not flawless, not perfect (because we are human and what have we touched that we could not imagine more perfect somehow?), but great — really fucking great.  As good as we can make it.

 Make It Interesting

This is where some ‘Mad Man’ magic mojo can help (by writing copy, not by sleeping with models BTW).  The simplest way to think about this is just to remember what made you in love with the world of your book, be interested in that character, or want to know more about a topic than you were finding (think: ‘Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask’ or Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing).  Also check out my Amazon description posts for more suggestions.  It the end of the day, my advice is to spend a medium amount of time (more than five minutes but less than five years) on advertising, make it fun, and be confident.  Since I’ve release my first book, I’ve probably apologized to no less than five people — it’s too short, I usually write fiction, this book is just to ‘test’ self publishing for a future ‘real’ book.  What the hell?  These weren’t people who were unhappy, mind you.  Meanwhile, the people who have read it all love it.  Point is, I need to be more confident, and so do all of you.  If you have made a really good book, your advertising should (honestly) be able to confidently recommend your book to people.  They’ll love it; they’ve been waiting for it.  Now you just need to —

Put it in Front of as Many Eyeballs as Possible  

I’m still working on this part, but I think paid advertisements are one of the least important parts of the puzzle.  Sure, you have to spend money to make money, but be careful how you’re spending money.  To reference back to the title of this piece, I can tell you for a fact that I’ve never bought a book because I saw an ad for it online.  No FB little side ads, no banners, nothing.  Now, I’m sure a lot of people do buy that way, but my audience is probably more people like me, and ads turn me off pretty hard.  So is this the fall of capitalism?  No way; let me tell you how I do buy books (and games, music, etc) —

  • Heard the person speak (either in person or on the radio)
  • Read their blog and loved their ‘voice’
  • Read a review
  • A friend recommended something they love
  • Had met the person in real life
  • Searched Google or Amazon and the key words brought me to the perfect book (i.e. Self-Printed by Catherine Ryan Howard)
  • Was given a gift by someone who loved the author

One of my favorite shops in Athens, GA is The Native American Gallery.  I only go there five or six times a year, but I’ll happily spend a lot (for me) when I do.  I probably just wandered by the first time, looking for presents for others, and just fell in love.

On the internet, the challenge is that no one in a hundred years is just going to ‘wander by’ a URL.  The great news is that there are billions and billions of paths, leading people from one place to another.  And there are billions of people.  So start making connections — start a blog, guest on others’ blogs, send books out for review, contact sites to do interviews, and even put flyers all over your home town.

I really believe being an author today is summed up thus —

So do the great work I know you are capable of, make it interesting, and start sharing it with the world.  There are readers who just dream of books like yours.

49 Days (and ways) To Be Amazing By New Year’s

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  1. Spend half as much on Christmas this year
  2. Give twice as much to Charity
  3. Start that blog
  4. Get a ‘walking buddy’ and walk three times a week
  5. Make a party plan, and only go (and eat and drink) when you really want to
  6. Start your novel
  7. Write a love letter to yourself
  8. Go to a dance — and dance
  9. Find a new favorite song
  10. Plan to make 2014 amazing
  11. Picture who you want to be in 49 days (and make it happen!)
  12. Get on the Paleo diet
  13. Start Cycling
  14. Go on a blind date with the idea on finding a new best friend
  15. Do something nice for a stranger
  16. Visit your oldest relative
  17. Make a homemade gift
  18. Take a class
  19. Make a Christmas playlist that makes you want to dance all day long
  20. Make Christmas cookies with your best friend
  21. Write a love letter to your dream boy/girl (even if you haven’t met them yet)
  22. Invest in bath bubbles
  23. Buy a new comforter — super soft
  24. Volunteer
  25. Clean out your least favorite room — make it your favorite
  26. Write down one hundred people you are grateful for and tell them about it
  27. Make a ten year plan
  28. Make a five year plan
  29. Make a one year plan
  30. Don’t plan everything
  31. Pick three days between now and New Year’s to be ‘do nothing’ days — and have Ferris Bueller fun
  32. Watch a ‘Reign’ or ‘Blacklist’
  33. Buy a Frank Turner song
  34. Visit this Pinterest page
  35. Watch a TED talk
  36. Visit a state park
  37. Write a poem
  38. Buy a Christmas ornament that speaks to your craziest, awesomiest self
  39. Make your own Christmas cards out of memes
  40. Send Thanksgiving cards
  41. Become an adventurer
  42. Be kinder than necessary
  43. Spend a full day cleaning your house
  44. Smile more
  45. Give away everything you don’t love
  46. Stop apologizing
  47. Start to awe people
  48. Try a new genre of music
  49. Buy Lady Gaga’s song Christmas Tree

from ThinkGeek.com

Grab a Little Magic For Yourself

‘I Still Believe’ by Frank Turner

Last night my sister Sarah and I saw Frank Turner in Atlanta and he was AMAZING!  Frank has been a huge influence on my journey to  live the life of my dreams.

Sarah first heard an interview with Frank on NPR a few years ago and we’ve been addicted ever since.  ‘I Still Believe’ has 601 plays on our itunes account and ‘Photosynthesis’ has 553 plays.

Frank is someone who has taken the path less traveled and is now living a life of destiny.  His live show is funny, passionate, and so full of energy you wouldn’t believe it.  I’m SO inspired.  And I want you to grab a little of that magic for yourself, buy a few Frank songs, and make the most of these last 51 days in 2013.

LET’S ALL START LIVING OUR DREAMS AND REMEMBER —

‘Photosynisis’ by Frank Turner

Buy Frank on Amazon

Visit his website

Listen to my favorite Frank Turner song —