Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Watching the Olympics

Pictures from OK, USA
I have so enjoyed watching the Olympians perform in their various competitions over the last few days. What an inspiration it is to see all their hard work and perseverance pay off as they win their medals. But none of them just happened to get there just by their talent. If you do a little research, you will see that they have worked for most of their lives, starting as young children and working through one event at a time.  The number of wins if often counterbalanced by plenty of losses, forcing them to reevaluate and improve their routines over and over again. 

So, whatever it is you do, continue to improve your craft and don't be discouraged when you face a loss, it's just a step for improvement.


Monday, July 30, 2012

Dealing with Criticism

Picture used from Leadership Freak
One of the important parts of life is learning to deal with criticism. Anyone who has tried to do anything knows that a critique of our efforts is a good thing when we use it to improve ourselves. On the other hand, if we take a critique personally, the result is usually that we end up hurting ourselves by becoming bitter or resentful or discontinuing our efforts. 
There are many forms of criticism - grading in school, job advancements or demotions, being picked or not for sports teams are just a few. Of course, we all want our efforts to be loved, but learning to take the criticism and then improve our shortcomings will make us an improved version of ourselves. An important part of writing or any other creative process is receiving reviews or critiques from impartial persons. They help us see how what we do affects them.

Picture from Cameron Chapman
I had a friend who used to say that she needed to expand her neck so she could swallow the judgements that people handed out to her, and I never forgot that metaphor. If I can learn to not just get over what people say about me, but to make myself a better person because of their input - then I am the winner. 

How about you? Are you struggling with a critique that just seems to irk you?

Friday, July 27, 2012

Heat Wave Continues...

This morning, I woke up to foggy windows from the contrast between the cool air indoors and the warm humid air outside. Thankfully, we had a nice rainfall last night and the plants were all watered. But that combined with the 95 degree sun creates a sauna-like atmosphere around our home. So today, other than a few morning chores, is going to be spent inside where I can live without sweating myself into dehydration. Writing for me is a perfect indoor job when the weather causes the outside air to be almost too heavy to breath, so write I will. Maybe I will let my words carry me away into a cool and fresh surroundings where the pests of summer can't irritate me - you know like the mountains of Maine or the islands off of the western coast of Washington State. 

Now that I have had a few days away from my computer, I am looking forward to doing some imagining...

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Expanding My Sales

Did you know that Amazon offers unique Author's Pages in France, Germany, the UK as well as here in the US? My personal page can be found here: France,  Germany, United Kingdom, and of course the good ole USofA
Now live on Amazon

I also added a translator button to this blog on the right hand side for people who would rather read my writings in their native tongue. Pretty fun stuff!

Also, I published another story last night, The Man in the Brown Shirt. It's a bit of a romance for those of you who like that sort of a thing.

Monday, July 16, 2012

History Lives On...

I am just back from visiting extended family in upstate New York and we did a lot of story telling. No they were not fictional stories, although some of the facts have probably been altered over the years. They were accounts of great-great grandfathers who immigrated to this country in the 1800s and their families and what they went through, both good and bad in living their lives. It is quite fascinating to hear the different accounts as told through relatives who put their own slant on the events. We tend to pass judgment on others when they don't follow the ideals that we think are right. One such tale was of an uncle who left the family flock and moved far away to the Philippines after a stint there during WW2. The stories were that witch doctors performed their rituals on him and he died, when the official records from the Navy state that he had a heart attack and died. Now whom should I believe?

You can create wonderful fiction based on family stories. Sometimes they need a little embellishment to make them more exciting, or maybe a little adjusting to save family members from embarrassment. One of the treasures I brought home was a stack of travel logs from my husband's grandmother who traveled the world on cargo ships with her husband, staying in foreign ports for weeks at a time. I am really looking forward to reading them and maybe gleaning some story material from them.

What kind of family history do you have? Is it story-worthy?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Inspiration in Walking

One aspect of the writing career as well as any other creative outlet is keeping your mind in shape. The simple act of getting your pulse moving faster than normal clears out the doldrums or cobwebs or writer's block or whatever else you want to call it. I think the simplest way to do that is by walking, but others prefer swimming or running or biking. Whatever your preference, don't forget to take that time and keep your neurons blinking.

The rhythm of walking seems to force my brain into thinking about topics in a logical way, helping me to find solutions almost easily. Besides that, I get the benefit of sunshine and fresh air.

Here is what the Weight-Control Information Center says about walking. It may...
  • Give you more energy and stamina and lift your mood.
  • Tone your muscles and strengthen your bones.
  • Increase the number of calories your body uses.
  • Lower your risk of health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes.
According to Psychology Today, consistent walking at least for 40 minutes three times a week for one year, increased the size of the participants'  hippocampus (the brain's short-term memory center), and spatial memory (the ability to remember patterns).

I don't know about you, but I have no interest in my brain becoming more and more sluggish as I get older!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Complaining Effectively

I was out for lunch today and listened to various people complaining about their relations and business problems. Then, later back at home I got online "socializing" reading some complaints on a web site when I realized I was really enjoying the complaining. Usually, when people complain, they speak from under the problem - if you could visualize that, and it ends up being discouraging for the rest of us listeners since there is usually not much we can do to help them. However, when I hear or read effective complaining, it is usually presented with a sense of humor. This perspective is so different as the complainer is basically poking fun at the problem instead of whining.
Listen to this quote from a talented writer as she complains... "There's a young woman over there with a laugh that, to quote the great Wodehouse, you could use to open shellfish at 50 feet."
You can't help but smile as we have all heard the annoying laughers that seem to forget the decibel levels of normal listeners.

How about this complaint..."The local teenagers and summering college kids have hit the streets tonight. It is extremely disturbing, since I do not approve of summer even when things are quiet."
At first, it sounds like another complaint from an 'older citizen' until you read the last phrase and you see that she was already disapproving of things before the kids came out. You can almost hear the smile in her voice.
The next time you want to effectively complain, try adding a little humor and see how much better people listen. By the way, I was quoting Anne Lamott, a prolific writer.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Success!

A Bluff Overlooking the Northeast River
After tallying up all the Amazon downloads between the United States, Germany, Spain, France, Italy and the UK, I found out that I had about 550 downloads of my stories on Sunday. I would call that a definite success.

Today, I tried submitting a couple of stories to magazines, one being the New Yorker. You have to give me credit for just trying - even though I know I will probably be rejected.

Also, for my local friends, a shop in the town of North East, MD - Kathy's Corner Shop is also carrying my book, The Meanderings of a Pen, so  you can see a hard copy there.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Benefit of Writing Today

I was thinking this morning about one of the best things about writing today is the ability to communicate with people freely from around the world. Sure, we have had phone systems in place for about a century, but the internet has made communication free and easy. The ability that we have to read the works of someone working out of their home in say, England or Ireland and then being able to correspond with them personally is amazing. 

I have written with people from Russia, Australia, England, Sweden in the last couple of months and it's as if they were across the street from me. It's a real benefit that opens our writing market to include countries across the world. Think about that when you write and realize it's not just other Americans reading your work.

Who are you corresponding with from other countries?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Fantastic Fiction

Alfred Hitchcock
Last night I watched the Alfred Hitchcock movie, The Birds, for the first time. I know, it's been out forever but I just never took the opportunity to watch it. Like most of Hitchcock's movies, it was well-written and very believable. It made me think about how many times we say, "the book is better" because writing about a fictional event is easier than trying to recreate the scenes in a movie. This story was based on the novelette by Dauphne du Maurier, in the book, The Birds and Other Stories. The written version is much more detailed and chilling in its account of the imagined incident.
 I can write something fictional that will sound as though it is totally true, but to try to make it come to life on a screen is almost impossible to me. Thanks to computers, the movie producers can do a much better job, but even then I am sure they face a challenge since we watch movies on large television screens in high definition and can usually tell when something is not real. 
Only in dreams can fiction seem so real because we are experiencing it 'live' in our heads. Pretty interesting...

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

An Engagement

http://c0472851.cdn.cloudfiles.rackspacecloud.com/4th-of-jiy-fireworks-art-museum-philadelphia-600.jpg
Philadelphia
The beginnings of so many good stories start with an engagement. Last night my oldest son asked his girlfriend to marry him in front of his siblings, all my family and friends. Happily she agreed after a few tears and choice words. We popped the champagne and cheered and then proceeded to reminisce of all of our individual stories of our engagements.

So happy Independence Day! Another story is beginning in our family...

Monday, July 2, 2012

Violent Weather

North East River
Violent weather left many people in our area without power. The good thing is that although this is a nuisance, it is temporary. Unfortunately, some people lost their lives as a result of the storms. The grief their families are going through must be unbearable. My heart goes out to them. For the rest of those people trying to survive in the sweltering heat,  I guess they just have to try to look on the bright side and be glad that they are not freezing. Homes are not built like they used to be before air conditioning when good air circulation was critical as well as shade trees, so now without power for even a fan, the homes heat up to unbearable temperatures.

What do you think forced characters like Tom Sawyer out onto the Mississippi River? It was the heat. Every kid knew where the closest swimming creek was and that's where their summers passed by in comfort. Sitting under a shade tree is a great opportunity for imagining stories...