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Winter is Winding Down

My daughter, Jordyn, shoveling snow

My daughter, Jordyn, shoveling snow

This has been the view outside our window all too often this winter. I’ve lived in Indiana all of my life and have never experienced anything like this season. Normally we get one or two large blasts of winter storms and then call it an end. This year we have had those winter storm blasts almost on a weekly occurrence. We have broken weather records in total snow accumulation, frigid air temperatures, and wind strengths that have stood for close to or over a hundred years. Just a few days ago, I was driving home in blinding blowing snow and watched the sky light up numerous times with lightening. I’ve heard of “thunder snow” before, but it is awesome to experience the ferocity of nature.

To put it mildly, we are all weary of the weather and ready for Spring, which, according to the calendar, is only a few days away. But as I look back over everything we experienced, I can’t help but feel proud and blessed because we conquered every challenge nature threw at us. Our home remained warm and cozy. Our vehicles, though we did get stuck a few times, always got us to our destination, safely, one way or another. I don’t mean to sound ridiculous, but lets face it, the Great Lakes area has faced a colder winter than Alaska thanks to the arctic circle pushing down over our area. This is definitely a winter we will remember for the rest of our lives.

Now, as the warm air pushes through and the snow quickly melts, leaving the ground and roadways wet and muddy, we look forward to seeing the world awaken from its winter slumber like a present slowly unwrapping. I can’t wait for the warm evenings when I can sit under the stars and watch the moon slowly meander across the sky. I want to open my windows, put the top down on my car, and soak up the clean fresh air. Normally, half way through March, Spring has already begun for us. It will take a little longer before the remnants of the cold air finally push through this year, but it’s coming and we are all eagerly waiting for it. This will be the first year I can remember where we can paint the snow green for “St. Patricks Day”!

 

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Adaptations

file861264123573I have often written about how life occurs in cycles. The older I grow the more evident it becomes. There are many factors that cause these cycles to continue to repeat throughout your life. The simple and most obvious is the fact that you live what you know. You work, play, focus, and avoid the things you know are good or bad for you. What you know is based upon your past experience, education, and events you have witnessed. Everything and everyone around you impacts your cycles. The majority of our life is solely dependant upon what cycles we consciously decide to repeat. Many times we find ourselves repeating cycles we simply because we did not learn from our past mistakes. Sometimes we find ourselves repeating cycles we didn’t realize were exactly where we were meant to be.

For me, these continuous cycles have become a lesson in adapting. I have lived most of my life with the personal goal of putting my full focus on something and doing the absolute best I can at whatever it is I’m doing. In essence it sounds like a good goal, but it comes with a huge amount of downfalls.  It doesn’t leave much room for focusing on anything else. While all that focus is being placed on one aspect of my life, all the other aspects are neglected. The quality of my life becomes dependant upon the success of that one thing I’m focusing on rather than my life as a whole.

When I seriously started writing, my life revolved around that. I wanted nothing more than to become a successful writer that could earn a living doing what I love. In the process of writing four novels, with dreams of success and financial freedom for me and my family, my family and home fell victim to my neglect. It became more of an obsession than a means to better myself and my family’s life. I was forced into reevaluating my life as a whole this past year in ways I never dreamed I would have to face.

So now I find myself at the beginning of a repeating cycle. I am now working full time doing a job that I have long devalued.  When my children were small I was forced into quitting my job because of the expense of daycare. This caused me to look down on the job I was doing because it couldn’t supply my family with the necessities it needed and we have struggled ever since in finding that balance in my working versus giving my family the quality of life it deserves. When I started writing, I thought I had finally found the solution to our problems.  I could work at home and be productive, helping with supporting my family. Unfortunately, like my previous job, it wasn’t enough. Something had to change.

As I sit her now, I look at my life and realize that I need to learn to adapt in a way that allows me to focus on everything I love. I love my new job and it has helped my family’s finances tremendously. I love my family, but now my time is very limited because of my new job.  I love writing, but it has now fallen into one of my lowest priorities. I can’t tell you how many times my mind fights the urge to go find a quiet corner somewhere to write down some nagging story idea that invades every quiet moment between all the other necessities biding for my time. It often feels like I’m standing in a hallway facing several closed doors and I have to decide which one to enter based upon what I feel is the most important. Once I walk through the door of choice, I have to leave the others closed.

I know it doesn’t have to be that way. There are people all over the world that are successful at being everything they need and want to be. If you know anything about successful writers than you know that most have other means to supplement their income. They are not known for their success based on one singular title. It is my goal now to learn how to incorporate all the dimensions of my life and find my own personal success and fulfillment. I don’t have to give up what I love to care for the ones I love. I simply need to learn how to adapt and incorporate the cycles that bring happiness to my life by removing the cycles of bad habits and unproductive thought processes.

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2014 in My Writing Journey

 

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The State of Our World

Angel StatueI was sitting with my, soon to be, eleven year-old daughter last night watching the “So You Think You Can Dance” finale. She and I both love watching these amazingly creative and outstandingly talented people pour their hearts out in every movement they make simply for the pure joy of entertaining and touching our hearts. Then came the interruption of the program as President Obama made his address to the United States concerning the horrific events taking place in Syria and our possible military involvement. It reminded me of when I was sitting at my grandmother’s watching something on television and the first President Bush interrupted the program declaring war in the Persian Gulf. I wasn’t much older than my daughter at the time. I remember the fear that settled in as he spoke those words and the multitudes of questions I barraged my grandmother with. My greatest fear was whether or not our own family members were going to be called to war. At that time, we didn’t have any family active in the military. But we have a long line of men that have served and witnessed the horrors. My fathers’ father was an ambulance driver in World War II. My mother’s father served in the army during the Korean war. Neither of which I was ever aware of until my late teens. I knew they were in the military, but the wars were never spoken of. I grew up sheltered from the horrors of war. All I knew of was what we had studied in school and the images from movies of past wars.

My parents grew up during the Vietnam war. In fact, every generation before me knew the impact of war that I never understood. Thank God the Gulf War did not last long and we moved forward to living in relative peace. I moved forward to adulthood, marriage, and motherhood. September 11, 2001 began as every other day. My husband and I worked at the same little factory.  We dropped our son off at daycare.  He was three at the time and the light of my life. I’ll never forget sitting in my office, half listening to the radio as I worked when the announcement came on saying that a plane had crashed into the side of one of the World Trade Center buildings. I’ve never been to New York, I had no idea what buildings they were talking about. I remember thinking it was a horrible accident and I said a prayer for the victims.  Never once thinking it was anything beyond an accident. Then it was followed by the second plane and the real horror began to set in. I rushed out of my office to tell my husband and, like me, he didn’t realize the full impact of the situation. As the fear coursed through our nation with known hijacked planes still in the air, all I thought of was my son and getting to him as quickly as I possibly could.

We forced ourselves to continue on in our daily lives while the people of New York, Pennsylvania, and the Pentagon endured a nightmare only those that witnessed first hand will ever fully comprehend. Then came the next President Bush declaring war once again.  Only this time, there was no program interrupted because we were all glued to the news coverage with hopes and prayers of some good news of survivors being pulled from the rubble. The declaration of war was still frightful, but it was overwhelmed by the sense of retribution and anger towards those that could do something so senseless and horrific. Our children poured into the military recruiters offices with this rage coursing through their blood. For the first time, my generation fully understood the meaning of sacrifice.

Since that moment, our country and our allies have been pouring our youth into two separate wars. We have witnessed regime changes with the assistance of our country and allies. And for what? Egypt is now a lawless region full of murderers killing people simply because they don’t share the same religion. Pillagers are destroying museums filled with priceless artifacts found during excavations funded by people and organizations from all over the world. The region is supposedly the cradle of humanity. Now it is nothing more than a cradle of insanity and murderous rage. The horrifying regimes we overthrew are now replaced with an even worse horror.

Now we face another horror in Syria. Images of men, women, and children lying dead fill our screens once again. As a country that thrives on the passion for freedom and peace to all mankind, we feel the responsibility to do something to stop these unimaginable horrors. But we take caution because every step we have taken has not resulted in anything remotely close to peace or freedom for anyone. It simply feels as if we are tightening the noose that threatens our own. We now face a reality where there is no right or wrong answer. Do nothing and the horrors will continue.  Attack and face the repercussions of possibly releasing the holds on something even more frightening.

As a Christian, I look to my bible for comfort and answers. I pray when I cannot find the answers I need. I struggle with patience and faith. Anyone that has studied the Holy Bible knows that times such as these have been prophesied. Everything that was once mocked in the bible and deemed impossible is now possible. Human kind possesses weapons that can destroy our precious world. The more the anger and hate is fueled around this world, the closer we come to those realities. It is not my intention to preach. There are similar prophesies shared in almost every religion around the world. We live in a day and age where the importance of the material and physical world far exceeds that of the spiritual world. People openly mock the idea of our possessing spirits in the first place, let alone the concept of there being a supreme being. This idealism is fueled by the fact that it is people using their manipulated version of religion as their reason for continuing these acts of malicious hatred.

There is one truth that stands above all when it comes to fighting any war. You simply cannot win a war unless you possess a strength that is equal or greater than your enemies. We are fighting enemies that use tactics that no weapon can prevent. We are dealing with people that find no value in human life, not even their very own. They look beyond this world to an afterlife filled with treasure equated to the sacrifices they make in this life. This form of faith leaves no room for sympathies in which can be used for diplomacy. There is no sympathy, there is no fear. If there is no fear there is reason to bow down to another.

If we are to succeed against this enemy, we must fight with the same drive that feeds the drive of our enemies. You cannot fight evil with evil. It only perpetuates the evil. These people will continue to fight whether they have a weapon in their hand or not. They kill indiscriminately.  This is not a war to gain material or worldly benefits. Our government has insisted this is not a war of religion. But to our enemies it is. They have had no qualms when it comes to making that more than clear to the entire world. If we are to succeed in the war that continues to grow, we must strengthen ourselves with the weapons that truly matter. It is the spirit of our enemies that drive them. We cannot fight this if our spirits are weak and purposeless. We cannot fight simply because one man or group of people order us to fight. There must be a drive within each and everyone one of us to fight for something much greater than ourselves. Unlike our enemies, we must fight for life and the freedom to live life to the fullest. Regardless of what faith you follow, life is a blessing that must never be taken for granted. The whole world was reminded of that on September 11, 2001.

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2013 in Random Thoughts

 

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Reading Preferences

expresswayDo you prefer the expressway or scenic route when reading?

When I used to go to bookstores to buy books, long before Amazon entered the picture and the whole Ebook phenomenon began, I would enter the store with a set of standards in which I used to determine whether or not a book was for me. One of the standards that was always on the top of my list, was the thickness of a book. I considered books an investment. I wanted something that was going to be worth the time and money I spent on it. I wanted to go on a journey that took me someplace I have never been. I didn’t want a quick evening joy ride. Books that were short and sweet left me unsatisfied and wishing the author would have taken more time to dig deeper into the story. But that doesn’t mean the short and sweet books were not worth reading, it simply meant I preferred books that took me on the scenic route.

Not everyone shares that same preference. Some people lead much busier lives, and prefer reading books that are quick getaways that do not require a lot of their time to enjoy. Some people simply have shorter attention spans. It is all a matter of what you prefer. While there is nothing wrong with either type of books, it is a huge determining factor in whether or not you will truly enjoy a book. In this day and age, where book reviews are now a huge determining point in whether or not to buy a book, this is a factor that can make or break a book before it is given a good honest chance.

One of the trends I have personally noticed, not only as an author, but as a reader, is that there are a lot people giving reviews on books that are judged upon their preference rather than the quality of the book itself. I have read some really bad books that were given high ratings they didn’t deserve. I have read books that were given low ratings that were incredible books, but they took a while to marinate on your senses, and those reviewers obviously had no interest in giving the book the time it deserved. I find myself now doing the same as I used to do when walking into a bookstore.  I hated looking at book covers that gave the story away too much. What frustrated me the most was when there were pictures of characters on the cover that did not match the characters in the book. I also avoided reading the book synopsis. I didn’t want to ruin the story before I even had a chance to read it. I only read just enough to give me an idea of whether or not I was interested in the topic.

To me, book reviews have gone far beyond their original intent and now ruin more books than they help. Not only do people leave their opinions of books, but now some reviewers are giving you their own synopsis of the books and often spoiling the story by giving away too much info. But once again, perhaps this is another preference in which I find myself having that many others do not share. I suppose you can compare it to the reasons why you choose to take the expressway or the scenic route. People that take the expressway tend to do so, not only because of the speed it takes to finish the journey, but they also have a good idea of what to expect on the journey before they even begin. Their whole purpose of the journey is to enjoy what is on the other end. Those that take the scenic route, do so because they want to take their time to enjoy all the little surprises along the way. The journey itself is just as important as the destination.

What kind of reader are you?

 

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2013 in My Writing Journey

 

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# Showcase

# Showcase for Authors and ReadersUniting Authors and Readers with #’s

Most of us who use Twitter are familiar with using #’s.  If not, I’ll give you a quick rundown. When you post something on Twitter that has a common topic of interest to others, you include a “#” in front of the key word. Your post will then be included with all the other posts that include that particular “#”. You can then search for that topic (ex. #AuthorPage) and a whole stream of posts of that topic will result.  It is a very useful tool for reaching and meeting new people on twitter.

Did you know Facebook is now utilizing the # search as well?

This opens a whole new avenue of connections for Authors and Readers to meet. A simple search in the Facebook search box using a # will give you a list of every post that includes the topic you are searching for. Let’s face it, Authors and Readers are struggling to navigate their way through the constant influx of new material being published every day. But we can make things much easier by utilizing free tools already available to us all.

Introducing “# Showcase” for Authors and Readers

Authors – Showcase your various pages and profiles on the appointed day of the week. You will be included in lists that will be seen by people wold-wide.

Readers – Are you tired of not being able to find a good book to read because all you hear about is the latest blockbusters.  With the “# Showcase”, you can now find a directory of current Authors and Books straight from your Twitter and Facebook profiles.  Simply search for the day’s appointed # and you will find a wealth of current authors and books from a wide variety of genres.

Help us spread the word and make these lists as amazing as they can possible be. For more information, visit http://authorstephanielaws.com/hashtag-days.html You will also find links that will take you directly to the lists for each day.

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 28, 2013 in My Writing Journey

 

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New Direction

New DirectionI’m taking a new direction for my blog!

Since I began this blog a year ago, my posts have been primarily focused on the technical aspects of being a writer. But it is now time to transition from being a “writer” to the role of being an “author”. I have written books, now it is time to put the focus on them. But don’t worry, I’m not leaving my fellow authors behind.  Most of you that have subscribed to my blog are authors, and you came here in the hopes of learning more about your craft. I cannot tell you how incredibly grateful I am for each and everyone of you and how much I value your comments and encouragement. All of my posts that pertain to the craft of writing are still here and are now categorized in a section called “For Authors”.  You will find the link above in my blog menu.  I hope to continue to add to that section as I learn and gain more experience. I’m not giving up on it, I am only creating a new course for my blog to venture into. It is my hopes that you will find inspiration from this venture to carry your career down the path of success as I seek my own.

So you are asking what is the big deal?

You simply cannot survive as an author if you remain trapped in elementary stages of your career. Your readers do not want to read about how frustrating it is edit and convert your manuscript in order to make it available to them. They want to know the inspiration behind the story they have fallen in love with. They want to know about the creative mind that wrote a story that pulled them into the story and held them captive to the very end. When you publish a book, you are no longer a writer learning the craft.  You are an Author that has crafted a piece of art, and it is time to  share your masterpiece with the world.

Ok, I’m getting a little dramatic. But in all honesty, if you are not wholeheartedly in love and entirely devoted to your book(s), then why should anyone else be? You must give the results of all of your hard work the attention it deserves, and that is my goal from this point forward.

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2013 in My Writing Journey

 

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Remember Me?

file0001597083839“Exciting introductions may open doors, but it takes gentle consistencies to keep them open.”

Being a writer requires much more than writing compelling stories. In fact, writing, editing, illustrating, and publishing your book is only the beginning of a long process in order to get your book into the hands of readers. You have to market your book, and marketing is one of the most difficult processes you will ever experience.

Too much marketing will push people away. Too little marketing will get you no where. Most people start off with a big explosion of marketing campaigns, and then they simply fizzle out. The truth is, most books, especially from new authors, take a while to get noticed. Statistics say that most books will sell the most quantity within the first few months of publication. But I honestly believe that is a result of the marketing fizzle effect and the practices based on traditional publishing.

As an Indy Author, you are not limited by a contract or a timeline created by a publishing house. You are the maker of your success. Don’t allow your success to fall to the wayside by not continuing good marketing practices.  For every door you open, you must work to keep them open.  You do that by consistent, timely, gentle reminders.

Tweet and post on your Facebook and/or Google+ pages at least a few times a week; daily if possible.  Blog about interesting topics that draw new audiences. Share your accomplishments, awards, special mentions, interviews, events, and anything else that shows your fan base that you are still here. You need to make yourself a figure in their life, that they not only relate to, but are excited to share you and your work with their friends.  Yes, you may be selling books, but it is your mind that created the books and people want to know the mind behind the work.

Engagement is the key. With that being said, make sure you offer your fans as many ways to engage with you as you possibly can. Place social site share buttons on the important pages of your website and blog. Fans love to have that “special personal moment”, so be sure to have a way they can contact you directly through email or a snail mail address (preferably a P.O. Box to assure your privacy).  Then encourage them to use the various ways of engagement. You would be surprised how many people see all of these share buttons, but really don’t understand what they are all about or how much it helps you. Remember, “Ask and you shall receive”.  Don’t ever assume people know what to do. It’s like expecting people to read your mind.

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2013 in My Writing Journey

 

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